Aboard the Mind's Attrition, Earth Drydock – 1 month Post-San Angeles Incident
March 23, 2540 – 6:42 pm
Reynolds was sitting in the chair in his office adjacent to the bridge of his ship, the Mind's Attrition. He was talking to a Fleet Admiral through his terminal. His usual facial expression, calm and serious, was far from how he currently felt. His chin revealed that he has gone the last few days without shaving. Even Reynolds' calm, strong voice was heightened as he began to argue back with his superior.
Reynolds: “Admiral, its been one month since San Angeles. This ship still has a few bugs and I don't even have a full dossier yet! You can't be serious!”
Admiral: “Reynolds, I don't care how long its been, we have a new assignment for you. Be ready to deploy by 0800. Admiral Williamson out.”
Reynolds sat back in his chair, furious. Cochraine, Reynolds' first officer, had been standing against the wall of the office, out of sight of the monitor's camera. When the terminal went back to the revolving UNSC emblem, Cochraine sat down on the desk facing Reynolds. Reynolds leaned forward, resting his head in her lap. She brought her hands around his head, slouching down to where her thick, dark brown hair covered his head.
Reynolds: “We're not ready, Lauren.”
Reynolds' voice was partially muffled by Cochraine's leg. He continued to rest his head, staring at the wall to his left.
Cochraine: “I know, Marcus, but the Admiral is right. We need to be back out there. It's been a month, how much longer do we have to be in drydock?”
Reynolds: “Oh, so now you're against me too?”
Cochraine: “No, but we can't sit here until the war finishes. We're all soldiers, in some form or another. We're trained for fighting. Most of the crew is restless.”
Reynolds: “Crew? We're down to a few hundred personnel.”
Cochraine: “Maybe it's better that way? Should something go wrong, it's less people you have to account for. Besides, if we made it out of San Angeles alive with less than that, then we have good chances. Most of the survivors stayed because they have faith in you, Marcus. They know that you had nothing to do with what happened. You were doing your job.”
Reynolds' winced at the last two sentences. How she said it stung him like someone had taken a large stake and pierced it through his chest. Cochraine had no clue how deep Reynolds' involvement was in San Angeles. He's been working with the Trust for a month and a half, and since San Angeles, they seemed to have forgotten about him. He raised his head from her lap and looked at her. His face barely changed from the distant sorrow he had back to his calm, neutral face.
Reynolds: “You don't know what you're talking about.”
Cochraine was offended by Reynolds' response.
Cochraine: “How dare you, Marcus Reynolds! I was there! Almost all of us were! We are ALL lucky to make it out alive. Stop thinking about yourself for a moment and do your damn job!”
Cochraine got up, angrily walking to the office's door. She stopped before leaving.
Cochraine: “I'm going to bed.”
Cochraine stormed out of the office and off the bridge, not acknowledging the officers on duty. Walking into the office came Anderson. Anderson was the third senior most naval officer aboard the tiny frigate, just under Cochraine. Although they shared the same rank of Lieutenant-Commander, Cochraine got the role officer because of Reynolds' trust in her. Anderson stood behind the chair opposite Reynolds, his back to the door. His face was similar to Reynolds', keeping a neutral calm face. He knew about how close Cochraine and Reynolds were, but he knew they wanted to keep it discrete. Reynolds looked up at Anderson who was patiently waiting.
Reynolds: “Admiral Williamson wants us ready to leave drydock by 0800 tomorrow. What's our status?”
Anderson: “Most of our core systems are repaired and functional. Power is still fluctuating on decks 4, 5, and 6. Additionally, we have only 300 people on board. We're nowhere near operational readiness.”
Reynolds sat forward in the chair, resting his arms on the desk, interlacing his fingers together.
Reynolds: “The Admiral disagrees. He believes we have spent too long at Earth and that we need to go out and start fighting again.”
Anderson was getting as troubled as Reynolds was.
Anderson: “So he wants a limping dog to go back and fight a pack of bears?”
Reynolds: “If you put it like that, yes, he does.”
Anderson: “The Trust wouldn't approve.”
The tone in the room quickly changed from the typical 'business as usual' to a more serious, secretive one. Both of their voices changed to a sharp serious tone.
Reynolds: “Well we're still Trust spies. We have to obey the UNSC and leak intel. I will be sure to express our unready state to them. If there is nothing else, Lieutenant, I have a fiancee to make up to.”
Anderson: “Okay Sir, I will brief the midnight crew of the plan change.”
Reynolds: “Thank you, Anderson.”
Reynolds stood up and followed Cochraine's path. He walked off of the bridge of the ship to go to his room. Along the way, he was stopped a few times by various crew members with PDAs or datapads for approvals for their various projects. When Reynolds entered the room, the lights were off. He felt uneasy because it usually meant that Cochraine wasn't there. He turned on the lights and standing before him was a woman dressed in all black. Everything the woman wore was black, from the dress pants and blouse, to the jacket over the blouse, even her hair and lipstick were black. She stood in the room, in front of the bed, facing the doorway and Reynolds who was in it. She maintained the same neutral posture, keeping her hands behind her back, standing firmly where she was.
Woman: “Captain Marcus Reynolds, Service Number 54328-48410-MR, Commanding Officer of the UNSC Mind's Attrition. Recently a key player in the Trust activities at San Angeles. Please sit down.”
Reynolds felt uneasy with a mysterious woman waiting for him in the dark, let alone knowing his military information and involvement with the Trust. He did as he was told, regardless of his opinions.
Woman: “Do you know who I am?”
Reynolds shook his head. The woman was unfamiliar to him.
Woman: “My name is Captain Rowena Harvey. I represent the Trust. It has come to my attention that the UNSC Admiral, Aaron Williamson, has ordered the Mind's Attrition to leave drydock.”
Reynolds: “Yeah, he has. I'm not very happy or enthusiastic about it.”
Harvey: “Of course. I understand your plight of ill-preparedness; however, the Trust feels that it would be in our best interests for you to do as you are ordered and leave Earth.”
Reynolds was slightly surprised at what he was hearing.
Reynolds: “You can't be serious! Twenty years in the Navy and not once has anyone asked me to lead an understaffed ship into a fight!”
Harvey: “Captain, the Trust recognizes the responsibility we are placing on you. As such, I'm am suppose to give you this.”
The woman removed her hands from behind her back and held out a small data chip. Reynolds leaned forward from his chair to receive the chip, immediately recognizing the design. Harvey's hand returned to where it was previously, her tone never wavering.
Reynolds: “An AI chip?”
Harvey: “Yes, it's a lesser AI designed to assist in the functions of the Mind's Attrition. No worries about rampancy or other conditions that would befall a higher-functioning AI. This one poses no threat to you, your crew, or your ship. It is to help compensate for your below average dossier. It is programmed to respond as an ONI AI chip and its role is identical to one. Any inquiries will be met with ONI classification numbers. Only you can access the Trust database stored within its processes.”
Reynolds: “Thank you, Ma'am.”
Harvey: “Have you received your assignment yet?”
Reynolds: “No, the Admiral was going to brief me after leaving drydock.”
Harvey: “You are going to be ordered to go after a pirate.”
Reynolds: “Pirate? I didn't think there were any still in UNSC space. Are they Covenant?”
Harvey: “Hardly. The pirate you will be tasked to finding goes by the alias 'Silverblur'. He has been eluding all known Human entities for the past decade. He has staged countless strikes and raids against ONI, UNSC, and Trust, facilities in that length of time. Needless to say, he is a very severe threat to be looking out for. He's fast, Captain, heed my warning. We have already uploaded the details of this operation to the ship's databanks.”
Reynolds looked the woman in the eye, still holding the AI chip. The woman didn't wait for a reply.
Harvey: “Good night, Captain Reynolds and good hunting.”
The woman walked out of the room leaving Reynolds and the AI chip in his quarters. Reynolds got up and undressed, getting ready for the early morning. He climbed into bed, doing his best to fall asleep. He tossed and turned as his mind raced with thoughts. After about an hour, the door opened to Cochraine who was still dressed in her uniform. Reynolds looked up, not caring why she waited so long. She undressed herself and put on a nightgown. She climbed into bed with Reynolds, his arm wrapping around her. The two said nothing to each other. With Cochraine next to him, Reynolds felt better and his mind began to allow the sleep to overcome him.
Aurigae IV – Pirate Headquarters, March 23, 2540 - 4:23 am
Silverblur walked ran down the halls of the Trust facility. His mind was confused and he seemed partially lost as to why he was there. The facility's alarms were going off and patrols of Spartans, ODSTs, and Marines were scrambling to their positions and figure out why the alarm was going off. The large silver Spartan looked down and grabbed the closest assault rifle. He followed the patrols to see part of a hallway explode near him. He switched his helmet to thermal where he could see Elites and Brutes working together to effectively kill the Trust soldiers.
Silverblur: "The Covenant! Everyone attack!"
Silverblur's voice seemed to have echoed with no one acknowledging his orders. An ODST next to him was stabbed from behind by an Elite. Silverblur turned and rifle-butted the Elite, stunning the alien. Silverblur pulled the energy sword out of the ODST and stabbed the Elite. A Brute Chieftain managed to come up behind Silverblur and slamming his gravity hammer into the floor, sending everyone but the hammer's user flying several feet in an outward direction. Silverblur got to his feet. He picked up a shotgun with one hand, using the assault rifle in the other. He held both weapons forward as he engaged the Brute.
The Brute shifted his weight, slamming the hammer down with all his might. Silverblur did a back flip, dodging the attack's area of effect and re-engaged the Chieftain, keeping his aim at the primate's head. The shields dropped in no time and Silverblur ran forward, charging the raging Brute. The Brute then charged at Silverblur also and Silverblur jumped at the hallway's walls, avoiding the Brute entirely. His head was turned to watch the Brute Chieftain and he didn't see the Elite standing there, sword waiting. When Silverblur looked forward, he saw the blade come into contact with his chest.
Silverblur flung himself up from his bed and sat there, breathing heavily. A bead of sweat ran down his face and he looked at the clock, seeing it was getting close to 4:30 in the morning. On either side of him were two women. They both felt Silverblur rise up quickly and was soon rubbing their hands and kissing all over the Spartan's bare torso. Silverblur laid back down, but he couldn't fall asleep. It was over ten years since Silverblur left the Trust and he still had an occasional dream that he was still working with him. His mind often questioned whether he truly did leave the Trust or if they were still manipulating him with dark tendrils so deep into other factions and groups, that it was hard to tell who operated independently and who wasn't.
Several minutes passed by with the women touching Silverblur. There was a quiet knock on the door and one of the women got up to answer it. The woman poked her head out the door and was immediately pushed back into the room by Silverblur's second in command, Bennett.
Bennett: "Out of my way, Slave. This is important."
The woman cowered back to the bed and under the covers. Silverblur sat back up and looked at Bennett. Bennett stood about 1.8 meters high, ruffled black hair dropping into his face. His eye contact was sharp and fierce. He stood there waiting for acknowledgment from his leader.
Silverblur: “What is it Bennett?”
Bennett: “Sir, our Financier wishes for an update.”
Silverblur: “I'll be there in a few. I'm sure they don't want to see a half-naked Human. Last thing we need is them thinking we're like the others.”
Bennett: “I will convey the message and await for your arrival.”
Bennett brought his arm up and crossed his chest, bowing slightly. He clicked his heel and turned to head out of the room. The Spartan climbed out of the bed and began getting dressed in black spandex, dismissing his slaves afterwards. Silverblur walked to the other side of his bed where he slid open a the nighttable's drawer and pressed a hidden button underneath the surface. The bed folded into the wall, exposing the floor underneath. A blast door in the floor began to open, leading into a small armory several stories below the bed's former resting spot.
When Silverblur was far enough down, the doors shut and the room returned to it's original look, bed in back where it should be. Silverblur walked down the stairs to the large mechanized room. He first moved to the console with the largest monitor. There, he had access to everything his faction had tapped, about 30% of UNSC space. He tapped a few more buttons and was greeted with a prompt:
“Good Morning, Sir.”
Silverblur walked to the alcove to his right and stepped onto the platform. When he stood still, the machine began to assemble power armor on him. The armor was a bright, polished silver metal, large and bulky, yet light and streamlined. When the machine finished, Silverblur stepped off the platform. He walked to the gun cabinet to the left of the alcove and pulled out his two pistols, magnetizing one to each side.
Silverblur looked at the prompt which showed his health and vitals as well as a completed procedure. He reviewed the data one last time, checked the security feeds, and climbed the stairs back to his room. When he emerged, the room was still empty, just as he left it. Silverblur walked out of his room and down the hall to a dark command room. More consoles where everywhere and multiple holotables were in fixed locations.
Silverblur looked around and surveyed the surroundings. The only other person in the room was Bennett, who was talking to a holo-image. The image itself was of nothing, the other party preferring to partially interfere the signal for anonymity. Silverblur approached the table and stood to the left of Bennett.
Financier: “You finally made it, Pirate Leader. I was starting to get impatient.”
Silverblur: “Even I would think twice provoking you.”
Financier: “How was your conquest the past moon?”
Silverblur: “All intel checked out. Our plan went off without a hitch. I'm starting to wonder why you have been taking such a keen interest in my activities.”
Financier: “That reason will be revealed soon. For now, I have sent you a new prototype my weaponmasters had been working on for you.”
Silverblur: “What should I be looking for?”
Financier: “They are weapons similar in style to the handguns at your side.”
Silverblur: “More Human looking plasma weapons?”
Financier: “Yes. They are a hybrid design between Covenant plasma rifles and Human Assault Rifles. They resemble the Human design, grips and triggers as well as stocks and information, yet fire Covenant plasma bursts. I am sending them because you will need them for your next assignment.”
Silverblur: “What's the mission?”
Financier: “You are to attack a Human science station on the moon Sanfran. They have been studying the effects of San Angeles to the galactic environment. Your mission is to kill everyone in an attempt to lure out the UNSC. Ensure a distress beacon is sent saying the Covenant returned and attacked.”
Silverblur: “You want the UNSC at San Angeles. Sure, but why?”
Financier: “My information says multiple Human ships will be nearby, the one of interest is the UNSC Mind's Attrition. The information is being sent to you.”
Silverblur: “That was one of the ships at San Angeles during the Incident. Why bring them back there?”
Financier: “My sources say that the captain of that ship, Reynolds, was one of the key players in the loss of San Angeles for the Humans. You are to capture him alive and interrogate him. I will meet you after his capture to join in the interrogation.”
Silverblur: “So you want me to stage a fake attack on a UNSC facility on San Angeles' moon to lure out someone who helped the planet fall to its doom just to interrogate him?”
Financier: “That is exactly right. As a reward, anything you recover from this mission is yours for the taking, including the weapons I am sending you. Consider it part of your early payment. I've already transmitted further details including your package's pickup location and rendezvous coordinates for Reynolds' capture.”
Bennett confirmed the contact's information at an adjacent terminal. Bennett nodded at Silverblur to confirm and began downloading the information to a PDA.
Silverblur: “Okay, you've got yourself some pirates.”
Financier: “Be careful, the UNSC and their terrorists are on high alert and have already began to organize in order to kill you. This won't be an easy mission.”
Silverblur: “Will Captain Harvey be attending? She has been after me for awhile now. I'd be disappointed if she was unable to join in this masquerade.”
Financier: “You can count on it.”
Silverblur: “Then I will enjoy capturing her as well.”
Financier: “Don't forget your mission. Captain Reynolds is your target.”
Silverblur: “Yeah, yeah, I got it. Is there anything else or can I go and get ready?”
Financier: “That is all, Pirate. See you in a few days.”
The holotable went out and the lights returned to a more normal illumination. Bennett handed Silverblur his PDA.
Bennett: “I guess I will go and get ready.”
Silverblur looked through the PDA and didn't make eye contact with Bennett.
Silverblur: “Yes, get your team ready. I have a feeling they'll like this job.”
Bennett walked out of the command room. Other people began filing back in to resume their jobs. Silverblur remained there. When enough of them returned he made his announcement.
Silverblur: “Our new mission is to capture a Captain Marcus Reynolds of the UNSC. He commands a Charon-class frigate designated as FFG-388 UNSC Mind's Attrition, Service Number: 54328-48410-MR. Get me everything you can on him and sent to the Silver Raider. Get the fleet ready for combat. Also, process all of the information on that console. Archive it, upload it to the Silver Raider for access. Tap into UNSC's FLEETCOM and download all information of fleet deployments and Reynolds' whereabouts as well as his current missions. And give me a tap on Captain Harvey. Upload all intel to the Silver Raider.”
Silverblur watched as his servants moved around, carrying out their orders. He looked for a few minutes before walking out of the command center. He walked several minutes down the hall to enter the mess hall, a massive chamber that rivals large cathedrals and their main sanctuary. The noise of the room was loud and the amounts of chatter made anything inaudible. Looking around, many of the men and women had no set uniform. Many fell out of their former lives to become pirates because they were too violent, not getting rich or famous, or it just didn't work out. During the off-hours, many of them enjoyed partying and often times forced many of the slaves to fight each other in pits outside the main buildings.
Silverblur moved to the middle of the room where a stage was constructed. On the stage, were many women that had been captured and enslaved to live a life of entertainment and pleasure for the men and women pirates. Everyone began to watch Silverblur approach the stage. Some groups were still conversing when Silverblur fired his pistol at the ground, the plasma discharging at a high velocity. The room quickly got silent and focused their attention on their leader.
Silverblur: “Good job to everyone for last night's raid. Everyone succeeded in their roles and the attack went off without a hitch. I have kept some of their research data for my own personal gain. The rest will be divided up for each of you based by rank. Anything you don't get will be made up with a bonus into your usual pay. Now, onto today. Our new mission is a kidnapping. We will be going to San Angeles where we will be faking a Covenant attack to lure out our target, a captain in the UNSC. I have reason to believe that he was one of the reasons that San Angeles fell and I want him alive for interrogation. For now, I want the attack force mobilized. Get to your stations and prepare for another mission.”
The crowd was hollering and raving. Most of the people were blood-thirsty people who welcomed the fights and battles and drinking. Those who were partying poured more drinks, downing them quickly, others leaving and doing as instructed, preparing for another attack. Silverblur left the room. The chamber's loud occupants could be heard throughout the base. Silverblur entered an elevator where he was being taken several levels upwards to the hangar bay. He stepped out and walked to his personal pelican. On the side was a large black skull with two assault rifles replacing the traditional bones. The pelican was empty. He sat down in the cockpit and fired up the pelican.
Several minutes passed before Silverblur took the pelican out and up into orbit where the flagship of his fleet was positioned. The Silver Raider, a Marathon-class heavy cruiser, was in geosynchronous orbit over the pirate base, along with the rest of the fleet. The large ship was silver. The paint job was so pristine that Aurigae's sunlight glistened right off the hull. On the facing side, Silverblur saw the large, black emblem of the skull and rifles that was painted on the ship. He transmitted his docking status and took the pelican into his flagship's personal hangar bay.
Silverblur headed to the bridge. Every time he passed a window, more and more pelicans were coming from the surface to the orbiting fleet. When Silverblur arrived on the bridge, he was greeted with the honorary pirate salute, a hand over the chest and bow forward.
Silverblur: “What's the fleet's status, Bennett?”
Bennett: “We are almost ready. Bridge crews of the attack fleet report ready. They are waiting for the rest of their crew to arrive.”
Silverblur sat in his seat and pressed a button, his voice echoing through the appropriate ships.
Silverblur: “Attack fleet, get into Alpha Formation 500,000 kilometers away from orbit.”
The fleet of ships moved into formation where the Silver Raider was in the middle of the fleet. On the outer cusp of the formation were 20 frigates, spaced evenly in a semi-circle to encompass three of four cardinal directions. In the next tier of the fleet inwards, were 7 Halcyon-class light cruisers and 6 Marathon-class cruisers, also in a semi-circle pattern, alternating ship class. On the inner tier were three Phoenix-class Battlecruisers in a triangular pattern, enclosing the Silver Raider in the middle. When the fleet finished forming up, Bennett had spoken up.
Bennett: “Everyone is aboard, Sir. Shall we jump to slipspace?”
Silverblur: “Yes. Helm, warm up the core and plot a slipspace jump for San Angeles' larger moon, Sanfran.”
Helm: “Yes Sir.”
Silverblur pressed his button for the fleet again.
Silverblur: “All hands, this is your leader. Prepare for a slipspace jump.”
Silverblur cut off the comm. The destination was set for the fleet after Bennett had delivered the coordinates to them. Before each ship was a slipspace rupture. When the ships were ready, they moved into slipspace, en route to Sanfran.
Aboard the Mind's Attrition, Earth Orbital Drydock, March 24, 2540 – 7:50 amReynolds had a hard time sleeping throughout the night. His mind was racing about everything that had happened in the last 12 hours. The Trust returning, leaving drydock for pirate hunting, a shipboard AI, Cochraine and their brief conversation prior. He had walked onto the bridge where some of the stations being operated by officers. Both Cochraine and Anderson were already there, coordinating to get the ship ready before 0800.
When Reynolds entered, it was five minutes til. Cochraine and Anderson saw Reynolds holding the AI chip in his hand, suspicious of what it was for. Reynolds approached the AI interface at the holotable when Cochraine stopped Reynolds.
Cochraine: “What is that?”
Reynolds: “An AI chip. An ONI officer stopped me last night and handed it to me to make up for pushing us out of drydock earlier than scheduled.”
Anderson could tell Reynolds was lying. He knew that whenever Reynolds brought up 'ONI' that he really meant the Trust, but neither man was sure how Cochraine would react to being a pawn in a traitor's game.
Reynolds: “No worries, I was assured it was to assist in shipboard processes and controls to fill in the missing officers all around the ship.”
Reynolds slid the chip into the slot when a male ONI officer looking hologram appeared on the holotable.
AI: “Initialization protocols starting. ONI AI matrix initializing, interface name: Rufus. Location recognized. UNSC ship, Mind's Attrition, FFG-388, Charon-class. Commanding Officer Voice Recognition Required.”
The AI stood still as Reynolds, Cochraine, and Anderson watched the AI perform its system checks.
Anderson: “I guess that means you, Sir.”
Reynolds then spoke to the AI.
Reynolds: “Reynolds, Marcus. Captain. Service Number: 54328-48410-MR.”
Rufus: “Commanding officer voice recognition, verified. Thank you, Captain Reynolds. Initialization sequence complete. Standby to integrate with ship systems.”
The trio continued watching the AI when a bridge officer spoke up.
Francis: “Captain Reynolds, Admiral Williamson is asking why we haven't left yet.”
The three senior officers looked up and then each other.
Reynolds: “Cortez, get us out of here.”
The AI reappeared on the holotable.
Rufus: “Integration successful. AI processes standing by. Captain Reynolds, there are power failures on multiple decks. The problem seems to be isolated in a power distribution node on Deck 8, above life support. Hull breach found. Should I send an engineering team?”
The three were amazed at how soon the AI picked up the problem that had been eluding the engineer for two weeks. They've never personally seen a shipboard AI at work before.
Francis: “Captain, Admiral Williamson is requesting to speak.”
Reynolds: “Let's see it then.”
The holotable changed to show a holo-rendition of the Admiral.
Williamson: “Morning, Captain. Unfortunately we don't have time to talk. The assignment of you and your crew is to locate and terminate the pirate who goes by 'Silverblur'. He has been wreaking havoc on our outer colonies and supply lines. He was last seen in the Procyon-system, around Arcadia. I would suggest you head there and investigate. A detachment is already there to use at your disposal for the investigation. Good luck, Captain. Williamson out.”
The holo-image faded away.
Reynolds: “Cortez, you heard the Admiral, take us out to Arcadia.”
Cortez: “Yes Sir.”
The Mind's Attrition then entered slipspace to Arcadia. Down in the armory, Fireteam Harmony was practicing combat simulations of their previous scenarios from San Angeles. Although the team was highly praised for both sacrifice and valor, the loss of the planet didn't set right with them. Currently they were running their mission to infiltrate the Covenant Assault Carrier. They had ran the simulation twice before and the mission was a success both times. They knew why, but they still regretted the mistakes along the way.
Robertson: “I just can't get over the fact we lost two people on San Angeles!”
Axlon: “Relax, man. You act like it was your fault.”
Robertson: “Calhoun WAS my fault!”
Arman: “Calhoun's death was an accident. He gave you the opportunity you needed to get your mission done. There's nothing to be regret.”
Robertson: “You act like he was nothing! How can you be so cold?”
Cadieux stormed pass the group, throwing her helmet to the floor. The simulation ended and the rest of Harmony was looking around.
Axlon: “Poor kid, she must be blaming herself for both.”
Robertson: “She wasn't there with Calhoun! And Huck died facing a Brute Chieftain with a giant fucking hammer! It was inevitable one of us would have to been killed!”
Arman: “Everyone take a break. Seems like we need it. Go get some chow.”
Axlon and Robertson: “Yes, Ma'am!”
The two set the safeties on their guns and set them down on the nearby bench before leaving to go to the mess hall. Arman was alone in the simulation room. She took a seat and removed her helmet, resting her hands into her face. Out of everyone, she blamed herself. If she had prepared the team better, they all could have made it. Cadieux's mistake was, in Arman's opinion, her responsibility. She is the team leader and therefore responsible for their actions.
As Arman was sitting there in a melancholy stance, a different ODST walked in. Arman didn't look up to acknowledge the visitor until he spoke. She looked up to see the ODST saluting, staring at nothing.
ODST: “Staff Sergeant Ivan McComas reporting to Fireteam Harmony.”
The ODST held out a datapad that had his transfer orders on it.
Arman looked at the datapad, reviewing the order.
Arman: “I didn't request a new member.”
McComas: “No Ma'am, you didn't. Captain Reynolds felt that Fireteam Harmony needed a new sniper.”
The ODST's attitude was too happy for Arman's current mood. He remained saluting in a stiff stance.
Arman: “This is horseshit. We don't need a sniper.”
McComas: “I beg to differ, Ma'am. After the loss of Staff Sergeant Brandon Sierra, the scenarios prove that a sniper would have further reduce the injuries your team had suffered.”
Arman stood up to look the ODST in the eyes.
Arman: “What the fuck did you just say?”
McComas had stopped saluting and cowered back. Arman was now in his face, making him feel uncomfortable. McComas tried to defend his statement, but was paralyzed with fear.
Arman: “How dare you talk about this team like that! I didn't see you jumping up to volunteer for those missions, Sergeant!”
McComas: “That's because I wasn't aboard at the time. I was in a different fleet altogether.”
Arman threw a jab in the gut of the ODST, then a hook left. She managed to knock the ODST down to the floor where she grabbed him by his harness and held him in a vicious grip.
Arman: “If you EVER speak out of line again, I'll make sure you don't come back from your next mission! Am I understood?”
McComas: “Yes, Ma'am!”
The ODST was rather fearful that his new commanding officer was threatening him.
Arman: “Now I'm going to go and talk to Captain Reynolds about this transfer order. I suggest you clean up your act before the team comes back.”
Arman left the simulation room, leaving McComas still on the floor. Arman quickly walked to the bridge of the Mind's Attrition to speak with Reynolds. Before she entered the bridge she took a moment to recompose and act more formal than impulsive as before. When she was ready, she walked on the bridge. The bridge crew paid no attention to Arman, while Reynolds, Cochraine and Anderson were at the holotable reviewing all of the information on Silverblur. Arman walked straight to Reynolds.
Arman: “Captain, may I have a word with you in private?”
Reynolds looked up recognizing the seriousness in Arman's eyes.
Reynolds motioned towards his office, allowing Arman to head in first. When they entered the door slid closed and Reynolds took his seat.
Reynolds: “You're here about the transfer.”
Arman: “Permission to speak candidly, Sir?”
Arman's voice was already escalating, barely containing it. Reynolds knew that no matter what he would say, she wouldn't listen.
Reynolds: “Go ahead.”
Arman: “What the hell do you think you're doing assigning a new team member! We don't need a new team member! Harmony is fine with four! The role of sniper is best left to an covert and aggressive offense!”
Reynolds immediately interjected.
Reynolds: “Exactly why you need a sniper. Look, I get it Arman. You feel responsible for both Staff Sergeant Sierra's and Gunnery Sergeant Calhoun's deaths. Being in a role of command leaves you those regrets and feelings. But if you want Harmony to take a more covert approach, you need a sniper. They provide the team with intel that may be overlooked initially and can correct a situation that goes awry.”
Arman: “We don't want a sniper!”
Reynolds: “Master Gunnery Sergeant Arman! My judgment is final! McComas will be a huge asset to Fireteam Harmony, I guarantee it.”
Reynolds: “What was that?”
Arman was frustrated with Reynolds' decision, standing in the office feeling out of place.
Arman: “Is there anything else, Sir?”
Arman did her best to fight the sarcasm she wanted to use.
Reynolds: “I don't know, is there?”
Arman clenched her jaws together out of anger.
Reynolds: “I suggest Harmony get ready for deployment. We've been assigned to go pirate hunting. Harmony is my best team and when we hit groundside on Arcadia, you'll be the recon team.”
Arman: “Yes Sir.”
Reynolds: “That's all. Go do what you need to. Dismissed.”
Arman turned and stormed out of the office. Her mind was full of intense anger and regret and having their first assignment in a month was going to really test the team's resolve. Arman left the bridge to meet up with the team back in the simulation room.
Reynolds got up from his chair to return to his spot on the bridge.
Cochraine: “Captain, we've be analyzing the latest attack. Rufus believes that this pirate, 'Silverblur', was tipped off. It was apparently an ONI research facility in deep space.”
Reynolds: “What was ONI doing out there?”
Rufus: “Classified, Captain.”
Reynolds: “What did this pirate take?”
Rufus: “Also classified.”
Reynolds: “So you're telling me, that the UNSC wants me to go on some wild goose chase to find a man that we have no solid leads on?”
Rufus: “Not true. ONI has allowed access to security feeds within the facility. I have also cross-referenced the facial profile with all known UNSC and ONI personnel. So far, I have no results.”
Reynolds: “Okay, so we a have man who decides to just go into a life of crime?”
Rufus: “Presumably, yes.”
Reynolds sighed out of his frustration.
Reynolds: “Okay, replay security footage.”
The holotable began playing all allowed security footage they had access too. When Silverblur first appeared, Cochraine stopped the recordings.
Cochraine: “Is that Spartan armor?”
Rufus: “Yes, SPARTAN-III armor to be exact. It is unknown on how he acquired it or is using it.”
Anderson: “Clearly as a Spartan would... as armor.”
Rufus: “The sarcasm is not welcomed, Lieutenant-Commander.”
Reynolds: “My issue isn't the fact that he is using Spartan armor, what I am concerned with is that it seemed like you weren't going to tell us.”
Rufus: “Captain Reynolds, I was instructed to give you information on a need-to-know. His armor isn't of relevance at the time.”
Reynolds: “When would it have been relevant?”
Rufus: “Before your ground forces engaged in a firefight.”
Anderson: “So last minute?”
Rufus: “In simplest of definitions, yes.”
Reynolds: “Let me be clear with you. You are here to make sure this assignment succeeds. ANY information that is important to the survival of my crew is relevant when the information is first available. Do you understand?”
Rufus: “Indeed I do, Captain. May I point out that the hostility and intimidation will not work on me. I cannot empathize or feel those feelings directed at me.”
Reynolds bit his lip. His temper began to peak.
Reynolds: “Keep playing the footage.”
The images continued to track and highlight the raid. As the raid began to calm down, a scene appeared that Reynolds' attention was piqued at. In it, a woman was holding a pistol up at Silverblur, who was using a lab tech hostage. There was no audio, but everyone guessed the woman was negotiating the release of the scientist. Reynolds wasn't paying attention to specifics at first, but he then recognized the woman negotiating.
The holorecording paused in mid-conversation.
Reynolds: “I know that woman. She's the one who gave me the AI.”
Rufus: “Captain Rowena Harvey of the ship Righteous Grace. She is ONI's personal supervisor into the pirate matters. No doubt she will likely convene with you again to assess your progress.”
Cochraine: “I don't like this. What stake does she have in this negotiation? That woman is just an egghead.”
Rufus: “Captain Harvey never reported that information. However, I have identified the scientist, however, it's classified.”
Reynolds: “Well that just about sums up why she was important. If her bio is classified then she's important.”
Everyone took a moment to breathe and refocus.
Reynolds: “Continue the recording.”
The recording continued showing Silverblur taking the scientist and several shots from the ONI Captain. When Harvey was alone in the corridor, multiple ODSTs filed in and pursued. Both Reynolds and Anderson recognized the ODSTs color patterns, however remained quiet. They then reached the end of the recordings.
Rufus: “That is all I have access to. According to Captain Harvey's report, Silverblur got away with the scientist as well as several ships from the nearby shipyard.”
Reynolds: “So that's how he's keeps his numbers up.”
Cochraine: “So it appears.”
Rufus: “Three days later he attacked Arcadia's UNSC base. He stole plenty of ordinance including 300 firearms and 200 high-grade explosives. It appears that nothing else was stolen.”
Reynolds: “Okay, is there evidence to indicate a trail?”
Rufus: “Nothing that UNSC officials have been able to determine.”
Cochraine: “What about orbital sensors? Usually they can detect slipspace plots.”
Rufus: “The Pirates were using sensor jammers when they began to leave. All sensor data has been corrupted.”
Reynolds used his arms and let his weight slouch over the holotable.
Reynolds: “So we just wait until he attacks somewhere else?”
Rufus: “I would suggest going to Arcadia and see if there's something you can figure out that local authorities cannot.”
It was at this point McComas had entered the bridge. One couldn't tell that Arman had previously assaulted him. He approached Reynolds, saluting.
McComas: “Captain Reynolds, may I have a moment of your time, Sir?”
Reynolds: “Everyone does these days. What can I do for you?”
McComas: “Sir, it's about Master Gunnery Sergeant Arman.”
Reynolds pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He continued in this pose allowing McComas to continue.
McComas: “Sir, I feel she is unfit to lead Fireteam Harmony.”
Reynolds: “I assure you that she is fine. She lost two of her people during San Angeles.”
McComas: “Sir, she struck me.”
Reynolds was actually surprised at what he was being told.
Reynolds: “She struck you? How? Where? In what demeanor?”
McComas: “Before coming to the bridge. She was angered at the fact I was assigned to Fireteam Harmony. She made a quick jab in the gut of the armor and then hooked left into the helmet.”
Rufus: “I can confirm the Staff Sergeant's testimony. I have found the feed that proves his claim.”
Reynolds: “Okay. McComas, head back to the simulation room. I will be down shortly to finish this.”
McComas nodded and walked off the bridge. Reynolds turned to face his two trusted officers.
Reynolds: “If Harmony doesn't get their act together, this mission is going to go wrong quickly. It'll be San Angeles all over again.”
Cochraine: “They're angry and depressed about it still. They lost a close team member and three other teams on the carrier. They are blaming themselves.”
Reynolds: “They need to focus on the here and now. You can't go back in time and change it. I need them to move on.”
Cochraine: “They can't. What happened is going to stick with them.”
Reynolds: “Well I suppose I need to sort this out. How long until we reach Arcadia?”
Rufus: “Another half hour, Captain.”
Reynolds: “Keep me apprised of the situation.”
Cochraine: “Yes Sir.”
Reynolds turned and walked off the bridge. After several minutes he reached the simulation room Fireteam Harmony was practicing at. When Reynolds walked in, he kept to the side and stayed out of the way in the safe zone. Axlon took notice first and raised attention to his presence.
Axlon: “Captain Reynolds is here. He doesn't look too happy.”
Arman: “Alright team, pause simulation.”
Reynolds heard the comm chatter over the speaker at the control console and he paused the program. All five members of Harmony formed up, standing in a line of no particular order and faced Reynolds, saluting.
Reynolds: “At ease, Harmony.”
All five members stood there, giving Reynolds their undivided attention.
Reynolds: “It seems we have an issue with my order.”
Robertson stepped forward to speak.
Robertson: “Sir, with all respect, we're not ready-”
Reynolds: “Shut up, Robertson.”
Robertson moved back into the line, standing like the rest still were.
Reynolds: “I don't care if you're ready or not. You now have a new team member. He is your sniper. He is your eyes and ears on a battlefield. He may wind up saving the rest of your lives one day. I understand your prejudice and insecurity filling in a hole in the team, but Harmony works best at five soldiers, not four.”
Reynolds had began pacing down the line of soldiers before him as though he was picking them out for a contest. Most of Harmony, with the exception of McComas were angered that this conversation was even happening.
Reynolds: “Fireteam Harmony, you are one of my best teams on this ship. You came back from the impossible not once... but twice. Twice in the span of 36 hours. You boarded a Covenant Assault Carrier, killed the commanding officer, a Brute Chieftain, blew the ship and chunk of the Covenant fleet up at once. Yes, you lost Staff Sergeant Sierra during that mission, but what do you want Harmony remembered as? A good team gets the mission done. A great team loses a member mid-mission and still gets the job done. Every squad of ODST and marines look to you as their role models. They think of Fireteam Harmony as a prestigious squad of troopers. What they heard about your accomplishments as a team make you heroic.”
Fireteam Harmony began to choke up at what Reynolds was saying. He was treading on a fragile nerve, but he knew someone had to.
Reynolds: “And what about the word 'harmony'? It is often defined as a combination of simultaneously sounding noises that have a pleasing effect. Let me tell you something, Fireteam. When you are done with killing, your challengers look pleased. Do you know why?”
Robertson: “Because they were about to meet their Gods?”
Reynolds was taken aback by the answer. He wasn't expecting a sarcastic answer to be closer to the truth.
Reynolds: “That could be part of it, but I think it's more of the fact that sounds your weapons make brings them joy. Do you know why fellow marines like having you guys around? It's because your foes spoke of your harmonious motions and sounds on the battlefield. Harmony could also be defined as an agreement. Well I will tell you something, Fireteam. Until now, I have never heard this team fight amongst itself. This team has always been harmonious with itself. You all were always in agreement. Now whether you like it or not, McComas is now your team. I expect all of you to treat him as you would at any other time. You are my best. You've walked a path most would object to and refuse. But you didn't. I need your resolve now more than ever.”
Reynolds took a moment to pause and figure out how to conclude.
Reynolds: “Now get ready to stand by for deployment. We're going to Arcadia to pick up the trail of a pirate. If something goes wrong, I want you all to be leading the forces.”
When Reynolds finished, he left the room, leaving Harmony in there. Minutes had passed before he arrived on the bridge. Everything was as he left it. Cochraine and Anderson were still at the holotable going through the information with Rufus. Reynolds resumed his spot at the table between Cochraine and Anderson.
Rufus: “Captain, it is musical sounds.”
Rufus: “Your speech. The definition of harmony is defined with musical sounds.”
Reynolds: “I told them what they needed to hear, not what is right.”
Rufus: “I was merely pointing out a correction.”
Reynolds: “Whatever, Commander, bring up our fleet at Arcadia.”
The holotable showed two fleets orbiting Arcadia. One was easily recognized as the defense the other maintained position away from the planet.
Reynolds: “What do we have?”
Cochraine: “Four cruisers, eight frigates.”
Reynolds: “Who is currently in command?”
Cochraine: “Commander Alexander Sherman of the UNSC Tippecanoe.”
Reynolds: “A Halcyon-class?”
Cochraine: “Yes Sir.”
Rufus: “Captain if I may interrupt, I did a check on the assigned fleet. All of these ships are not up to full standard. Many of them are also running at less than recommended status. According to ONI records, three have been scheduled to be decommissioned, but Admiral Williamson has ordered them to form this battlegroup.”
Reynolds: “If I didn't know better, I would think the Admiral would want us dead.”
Rufus: “That is a very unlikely presumption. Admiral Williamson is a decorated war veteran. He has advocated on multiple occasions for better treatment of senior UNSC officers.”
Reynolds: “He sure has a funny way of showing his appreciation then.”
Rufus: “That is nothing but speculation.”
Reynolds sighed. The last thing he wanted was an AI who corrected his every improper sentence.
Reynolds: “I'm going into my office. Let me know when we arrive at Arcadia.”
Reynolds walked away from the holotable into his office where he was alone at last and he could take a few minutes to relax.
San Angeles System – Sanfran, Larger Moon of San Angeles – March 24, 2540 11:48 am
Silverblur was sitting in his command chair. The bridge was quiet the whole trip. He had spent the trip reviewing all of the data he could about San Angeles, Reynolds, and the UNSC research facility.
Helm: “Captain, Silverblur.”
The man's voice was low and rough. The man's right eye was white with a gash across it going vertically. There was rough stubble around his chin and wrinkles that indicated the man's age was at least 50. His uniform, a damaged UNSC Marine Corps standard issue battle armor. It was old and faded, and had signs of being repainted silver in various locations. Where it wasn't silver, was damaged or had carbon scoring on it. On the arm and chest piece, the UNSC emblem was removed and replaced with Silverblur's emblem.
Silverblur: “What is it?”
Helm: “We're about to exit slipspace at Sanfran.”
Silverblur shifted his sitting position and leaned into the right side of his chair.
Silverblur: “This is Captain Silverblur, prepare for combat. Get our fighters prepped. I want a clean, decisive victory.”
Bennett was standing next to Silverblur like a loyal dog, awaiting orders.
Silverblur: “Go get your team ready. Be sure to use the new guns we have.”
Bennett nodded and left the bridge.
Silverblur looked out the main window of the ship as the colorful spectrum of slipspace faded into space. Before them was a sphere not too different than any other Human planet. Blue oceans and green landmasses were distinguishable. Between the pirates and the sphere was a small UNSC fleet.
Silverblur: “Silver, what's our status?”
An AI appeared on the holotable. The AI was informal and work was apparent that showed it was no longer UNSC tech. The AI was rewritten to be rendered as a classic ideology of a pirate. A large scraggly beard, an eye patch and peg leg. Large coats hung down while the AI seemed to have had a large rotund gut. The voice was less than becoming, using a harsher tone, similar to its owner's.
Silver: “All ship accounted for. The enemy fleet is still caught off guard. I estimate one minute and twenty-seven seconds before they make their move.”
Silverblur: “That is our opportunity. Our fighter status?”
Silver: “First wave ready to launch at your command.”
Silverblur: “Launch them. Patch me through to each squadron leader.”
The holotable lit up with all of the broadswords being launched from the pirate fleet. The comm then filled with the squads checking in and forming up. Silverblur then interrupted the process.
Silverblur: “We are estimating about one minute until the UNSC mobilizes. Get in there, disable their command ships and come back. The rest of the fleet will follow in after and sweep up the mess.”
Silverblur stopped talking and the fighters sped towards the UNSC in triangular groups of six. Silverblur watched them out of the windows of the bridge. In the next minute, the UNSC fleet would be crippled before they could react. During the strike, the broadswords crippled the command ship of the UNSC fleet. They struck so precisely the cruiser wound up exploding on their return to the pirate fleet. As the minute ended, the UNSC was in tow of the fighters.
The UNSC rapidly closed in on the pirate fleet that was ready. The frigates were the first to fire at the disoriented UNSC. The UNSC continued to push, but not without losing half of the ships in a quick strike. To the one frigate the pirates lost, they attacked and successfully destroyed six ships, three frigates and three cruisers. The UNSC found themselves in a quick retreat where the pirates pursued, destroying the entire fleet after the ten minutes passed.
With no other ships in the system, the Silverblur Pirates turned to fire on the orbital facility positioned above Sanfran. The station did its best to make a kill, but was outgunned and heavily outnumbered to be successful. With the station's debris falling to the surface Silverblur prepared his team to hit the research facility on the surface. Silverblur opened a comm line to the pelican that contained Bennett and his strike team.
Silverblur: “Bennett, what's your status?”
Bennett: “We're taking off now, Sir. Pilot says touchdown in 40.”
Silverblur: “Remember, your mission is to kill everyone there with those plasma weapons and send a distress signal saying the Covenant attacked.”
Bennett: “Got it, Sir.”
Silverblur: “When you get the base secured, I'll meet you there and we'll work on our ambush for Reynolds.”
Bennett: “Solid copy.”
On the surface, Bennett's silver pelican touched down at the research station's landing pad. Bennett was the first to disembark. He looked around as the hot sun beat down on the surface. There wasn't a cloud in sight and with the debris falling from orbit, the station was likely on high alert.
Bennett's hair was rustled by the wind. At his side were two Elite plasma rifles. He walked forward confident that the mission in the facility would be quick. His armor, was a custom fit, plated power armor. It was an unusual design and custom-fitted for Bennett. It worked much like ODST armor, however, less bulky.
To his left, was Corporal Addison Richards. He donned a long, silver duster. Underneath it, silver ODST armor was visible. Richards traded out the helmet for an earpiece and large, black wide-brimmed hat. Richards had one of the prototype plasma-assault hybrids in his hands, finger on the trigger.
To the right of Bennett was Zara Wilkins. She is the secondary leader of Bennett's Bashers and arguably the most vicious person in the group. Her eyes were filled with a bloodlust and she was waiting for Bennett's signal to start the killing. Her long, blonde hair was in a ponytail coming together high on her skull. She gripped the rifle tight waiting for her moment.
Behind Bennett was the newest member of the group, Samuel Bishop. Since walking off of the pelican, he was looking around, surveying the area. His eyes showed a sympathetic individual underneath, but his mind was racing with the logic of the situation.
The facility itself was fairly standard. It was built into the side of a mountainous cliff. The landing pad extended over nothing and the walkway led straight into the facility. The facility was small, and dome-like. The schematics they reviewed said that it was only a single level and more resort looking than science based.
Approaching Bennett, was a scientist accompanied by two ODSTs who had their guns raised at Wilkins and Addison.
Scientist: “Who are you? You're obviously not UNSC or any other officials. I demand to know what you want.”
The scientist was clearly troubled by the disturbance of the pirates and the debris falling was only adding to the impatience. Bennett slyly looked at Zara and Addison who kept their rifles close and nodded. The two shot the ODSTs in the face at point black. Their bodies fell with their helmets scorched from the plasma's heat. The scientist began to run back to the facility but Bennett shot the scientist in the back with his plasma rifle. The scientist fell forward, staying still on the ground, a plasma burn covering most of his back.
The Bashers divided up, Addison and Bennett going in through the left door with Wilkins and Bishop going through the right. They entered and started killing everyone closest. The atrium quickly turned into panic and several scientists attempted to retreat, only being subdued by a plasma wound in the back. The group quickly secured the messy atrium killing anyone who was hiding. The two teams split up, taking each wing of the facility. Their killing sprees were quick and precise. Addison and Bennett found the restroom's in their wing. Bennett entered the men's and it was empty. Addison took the woman's where he found two women at the sinks, freshening up. The women screamed and Addison smirked. He quickly examined them and shot the closest one. The other woman began crying in agony and was about to vomit. Addison pointed the gun at the woman, leaving the dead body between them.
Addison: “Get on the floor.”
The woman was terrified but did as she was told. She was still crying obtrusively. Addison pulled out cuffs and restrained the woman's wrists. Addison grabbed the woman by her hair and lifted her. The pain made the woman scream out in agony. The woman didn't try to fight back.
Addison: “You'll make a welcomed addition to my bedroom.”
The woman's stomach turned. She had an idea of what the man meant, and she was hoping against everything she would be wrong.
Bennett checked in on Addison who was walking out of the restroom with the woman's hair still being tugged. Bennett looked at the woman and then Addison.
Bennett: “What do you think you're doing?”
Addison: “She's going to be one of my rewards from this place. After all, we're entitled to whatever we want.”
Addison yanked the woman to face Bennett. He forcefully grabbed the woman's jaw and forced her to look at Bennett. Bennett however was less than pleased. The woman was terrified and felt uneasy about picking up some slaves from this mission. The woman's makeup was smeared and running all down her face where her tears were running.
Bennett: “Fine, she's your responsibility now.”
Addison's wicked face broke into an even more wicked grin. His mind was racing with all of the things he was going to do to the woman. He grabbed her jaw and forced her to look at him.
Addison: “Hear that, Love? You're mine now.”
The woman's long brown hair was all mangled and now in part of her face. The woman was completely disgusted. She spit in Addison's face. Bennett was less than amused by the woman's resistance. Addison however seemed more turned on by it.
Addison: “A little fight, I like that! Makes breaking you all the more fun!”
Bennett: “Come on, we have a facility to secure.”
The three moved into the main research lab. It was the center of the facility and the lab itself was elevated on a stage-like platform. Before they started shooting, Bennett had an idea. The pirates moved in and herded the scientists in a line. They began ordering them to line up and face the atrium. Several scientists tried to run, only being shot by the closest pirate. The scientists quickly learned their place and did as they were told. All of the scientists, except Addison's capture, were kneeling on the ground, hands behind their heads, facing the atrium.
Bennett: “Bishop, radio the Captain. Tell him the facility is secured. Addison you and your... 'prize' can take the pelican with Bishop back to Silver Raider. Zara and I have the situation under control.”
Bishop and Addison: “Yes, Sir.”
Bishop, Addison, and the woman scientist began heading to the landing pad.
Bennett: “Zara, get the distress signal broadcasting. We'll make sure Reynolds gets to see his people die.”
Wilkins: “Yes, Sir.”
Wilkins followed the others to the atrium where she used one of the secretary terminals to start up the distress signal. By the time she finished the pelican they arrived in was gone. Wilkins returned to the lab with the scientists and Bennett, who was now engaged in a conversation with Silverblur over his earpiece.
Bennett: “Yes Sir. About a dozen scientists are still alive. I know you said you wanted them dead, but I figured we could use them as a bargain chip against Reynolds. If he doesn't agree to your terms, we can start executing the scientists.”
The group of scientists whimpered in fear of their lives being terminated, let alone out of their control. Their hope was now up to Reynolds.
Bennett: “Yes Sir, I will see you here in a minute.”
Male Scientist: “So is that your plan then. Use us to get what you want?”
Bennett: “Someone has been eavesdropping, eh? If you lot want to know, the man who decides your fate is the one responsible for San Angeles' fate. I'd suggest you make peace with whatever Gods you believe in. You may just get a chance to meet them. If you're lucky, he may be feeling sympathetic and if you all survive, well, you'll wish you were dead.”
Bennett started laughing. Wilkins had approached the man who spoke up to Bennett and stabbed him in the thigh. The man hadn't moved from his position, but the pain sent him cowering in agony. A minute later Silverblur walked into the main lab and he was alone. His armor reflected all of the lab's light and shined bright. He walked straight towards the scientists. He wanted to see what his selection was. He first looked at the females. Silverblur spent the next several minutes picking out three of the females.
Silverblur: “Have them taken back to the Silver Raider. Process them for auctioning.”
The tone in the air changed to relief and fear. The three women were escorted to the pelican Silverblur arrived in and it took off. The remaining nine scientists were left on the floor.
Silverblur: “The rest of you will have your fates decided by Captain Marcus Reynolds.”
The male scientist did his best to stand up, eventually doing so. He hunched over from the stab wound in his leg, but managed to look Silverblur in the eyes.
Male Scientist: “The UNSC abolished slavery decades ago! They won't let you get away with this terrorism!”
Silverblur swung a fist as hard as he could in the man's injury causing the scientist to collapse instantaneously.
Silverblur: “I'm not UNSC and Reynolds is not a good officer, you can count on that.”
Silverblur then took one of his pistols and shot the man on the ground, instantly killing him. The other scientists screamed in terror.
Silverblur: “Now, if anyone else wants to stand up and speak to me, they will share the same fate as your dead friend. You all are currently prisoners of war of the Silverblur Pirates. My organization does not adhere to galactic laws of the UNSC. I make the rules. If you have an issue with that, stand up. I challenge you.”
The scientists continued looking down at the floor they were bent over. No one challenged Silverblur.
Silverblur: “Now, all we do is wait.”
UNSC Headquarters – Pirth City Undergrounds, Arcadia
March 24, 2540 – 10:32 am
The Mind's Attrition had arrived roughly 20 minutes ago. After their arrival, Fireteam Harmony and Captain Reynolds were in the UNSC's global HQ underneath Arcadia's former capital, Pirth City. Reynolds was reviewing the information and data the UNSC had managed to recover from all available surveillance feeds. It wasn't much, as Reynolds was told, but he was sure there would be some trace of where the Silverblur pirates came from or went to. He continued sifting through the data when Rufus interrupted Reynolds.
Rufus: “Captain Reynolds, if you wish, you can import the data to the Mind's Attrition where I can help go through the evidence.”
Reynolds: “No offense, but I would rather handle it myself, Rufus.”
Rufus: “I am not offended. Humans prefer to handle tough challenges. I'm unsure why they feel to burden themselves in menial tasks that something more sophisticated can easily handle.”
Reynolds: “Because it gives us Humans something to do. Plus, AI constructs tend to overlook the Human aspects of a situation.”
Rufus: “The UNSC has looked over the data. What makes you think you'll find something?”
Reynolds: “The base's AI looked through the data. What makes you think you'll find something?”
Rufus: “Because unlike the UNSC Base, I can handle inquiry processes of that nature. It is designed in my matrix to be investigative in such matters. After all, I am an ONI-built AI.”
Reynolds lowered his voice so only Rufus could hear.
Reynolds: “No you're not.”
Rufus: “Captain Reynolds, I am 100% ONI property.”
Reynolds: “If that helps you sleep at night, keep on believing that.”
Rufus: “An AI does not sleep.”
Reynolds: “Look, keep monitoring the sensors, let me know when you find something.”
Rufus: “Very well, Captain.”
Reynolds got some peace and quiet for the next few minutes. He was diligently analyzing every piece of data he could salvage. Unfortunately the Silverblur Pirates were very thorough. As more minutes passed, the more Reynolds couldn't concentrate. Reynolds couldn't bare it any longer and called Axlon into the room. Axlon came jogging in. He stopped and saluted.
Reynolds: “Corporal, I need you to take over at this data retrieval. Try to figure out what those blasted pirates used mask their trail.”
Axlon: “It will take some time, Sir. There's a lot of sensor data here.”
Reynolds: “Just get it done.”
Axlon: “Yes Sir.”
Axlon began typing furiously away. Reynolds remained in the room, pacing behind Axlon. Several minutes had passed before Axlon spoke.
Axlon: “Captain, this search would go by faster if we had the AI look through this.”
Reynolds: “Do you doubt you can do it?”
Axlon: “No, Sir. I don't, but I know it will take time. And I think time is not one of our luxuries.”
Reynolds: “You are right on that, Corporal.”
Rufus: “Captain Reynolds, we're receiving a distress signal from San Angeles' larger moon, Sanfran. The facility is under attack by Covenant forces.”
Reynolds and Axlon looked at each other in shock.
Reynolds: “Not that I don't want to help, but why should we respond?”
Rufus: “FLEETCOM says we are the closest fleet in the area that can respond.”
Reynolds: “I thought we had a fleet in the system?”
Rufus: “I would deduce that the fleet is no longer there.”
Reynolds: “Dammit. We're on our way. Prepare to get the fleet moving.”
Axlon nodded and began packing up his gear. The two walked out of the monitoring room where the rest of Harmony was waiting as well as the base's administrator.
Reynolds: “Administrator Darvill, send all information to the Mind's Attrition.”
Darvill: “Is something wrong, Captain?”
Reynolds: “There's a facility under Covenant attack. FLEETCOM has asked me to investigate.”
Darvill: “Very well, Captain. I will have this information to you in a few minutes. Good luck.”
The two parted ways as Harmony overheard Reynolds explain the situation. They formed up on him, escorting him back to the pelican. They quickly got on board and took off.
Robertson: “Which colony is it, Sir?”
Reynolds: “The distress signal is a facility in the San Angeles system. A research station on the moon, Sanfran.”
Arman: “I don't like this. Why would the Covenant come back to San Angeles?”
Reynolds: “I don't know, but we're sure as hell going to find out. This has become a troublesome matter.”
Robertson: “What if it's a trap, Sir?”
Reynolds: “Why would there be a trap?”
Robertson: “It is an odd set of circumstances. Admiral Williamson orders us back into service, we're pirate hunting, we are given an ONI AI, we have a half-assed fleet, and now this. This is way to suspicious.”
Axlon: “Shut up, Nader. We're not paid to think outside the battlefield.”
Reynolds: “Regardless, we have orders. We are going to Sanfran to investigate.”
Pilot: “Five seconds before touchdown, Captain.”
The pelican flew right into the designated hangar and docked. The hatch opened allowing it's passengers out. Reynolds was the first to step out and he addressed Fireteam Harmony.
Reynolds: “I want you guys on the bridge with me. When I brief the fleet, I want you there. You'll be leading the ground assault.”
Reynolds turned to head to bridge and began walking hurriedly with Harmony following him at the same pace.
Reynolds: “Rufus! We're on board! Get the fleet moving!”
Rufus' voice echoed over the local intercom.
Rufus: “Already on it, Sir.”
The UNSC fleet began to move into slipspace. Reynolds and Harmony quickly arrived on the bridge of the Mind's Attrition.
Reynolds: “What's our status?”
Rufus: “All ships are with us. They jumped a little longer after us. I would conclude it's because of the lack of personnel and unexpected jump.”
Reynolds: “How far behind are they?”
Rufus: “Anywhere between one and three minutes.”
Reynolds: “Tell them to hurry. What is our ETA to Sanfran?”
Rufus: “I would say at our current speed, three hours.”
Reynolds: “We need to push the engines. Give it everything you can.”
Rufus: “I will do what I can, Captain. Also, I have already begun analyzing the data from Arcadia. If I find something, I will let you know.”
Reynolds: “Open a fleet wide comm channel. I need to brief the fleet.”
Cochraine and Anderson were in their usual spots at either side of the holotable. Harmony stood behind Reynolds. Arman however, stepped to stand on the opposite side of Reynolds at the table.
Rufus: “Comms are live, Captain.”
Reynolds: “This is Captain Reynolds. As you know I have been ordered to take command of this fleet. Our mission is to find a high priority target who goes by the name, 'Silverblur'. I know this fleet is nowhere near full strength. On my ship is an AI and he will help coordinate the battle with me.”
Sherman: “Captain, Commander Sherman. What is going on? Are you seriously going to have us go into battle?”
Reynolds: “Yes, Commander, I am. Right now, San Angeles' larger moon was attacked by the Covenant. If they are still there, we will engage them in a fleet battle. When we are victorious, we will then hit groundside and sweep the research lab for survivors.”
Sherman: “Why are the Covenant back here?”
Reynolds: “I don't know, but we're going to find out.”
Rufus: “Captain, we have an incoming transmission from Captain Harvey.”
Reynolds: “Put her into the fleet briefing.”
A hologram of Harvey showed up next to Sherman's.
Harvey: “Captain Reynolds, ONI has received intel that the Covenant are not attacking Sanfran. It's the pirates.”
Reynolds: “This changes matters.”
Harvey: “I, too, am en route to Sanfran. I will join in the fight against them.”
Reynolds: “Glad to have you with us, Ma'am. Since our understanding of the situation has changed, our plan will need to change. Captain Harvey, does ONI have a tactical reading of the enemy fleet?”
Harvey: “The fleet is very large. We have an estimation that there are at least twenty frigates, thirteen cruisers, three Phoenixes and their leader's flagship.”
Reynolds: “They brought an armada.”
Harvey: “Yes, they are not here to lose.”
Sherman: “So what are they doing at Sanfran?”
Harvey: “ONI believes that they are there for the research data of San Angeles. The facility was re-purposed to study the effects of San Angeles and what impact it will make in local space.”
Sherman: “So where's the value?”
Harvey: “The scientists haven't yielded results. ONI has committed a multi-year timespan before results are known.”
Reynolds: “What if they are not there for research? What if they're there to get the UNSC and ONI riled up?”
Sherman: “You mean to 'poke the bear'?”
Reynolds: “Metaphorically speaking, yes. They could be trying to lure some of the UNSC out.”
Harvey: “It was an alternative ONI had been calculating. They had also thought that they may be trying to lure high-grade officers out. They have been known to ransom important high ranking individuals.”
Reynolds: “So who is it that they are trying to lure?”
Harvey: “We won't know until we arrive at Sanfran.”
Arman: “Master Gunnery Sergeant Arman, I want to know what this research building's layout is.”
Harvey's hologram was seen pushing several buttons and a three-dimensional layout appeared of the entire complex.
Harvey: “The main entrance is this landing pad that extends away from the building. It's a single floor building research building. Roughly forty people work there. From the landing pad, there are two entrances into the atrium on the left and right. They lead into the same room. From the atrium, there are two wings and the main lab connecting them. The left wing houses the barracks and recreation rooms. The right wing contains offices and more labs.”
Arman and Harmony were studying the layout of the building.
Arman: “What's the main layout of the central lab?”
Harvey: “It's an open room. There are desks there, but in the center of the room is a slightly elevated platform that houses the main research. It's likely the target of the pirate raid.”
Cochraine: “Do we have any pair of eyes anywhere in the lab or sensors in orbit? I'm still uncomfortable not knowing what we're up against.”
Harvey: The only thing our sensors in orbit picked up before their jamming started is the fleet size. I'm sorry but I have no other details.”
Reynolds: “Rufus, what's our ETA?”
Rufus: “I've managed to knock our time down by twenty-eight minutes. I calculate we still have two hours and ten minutes until arrival.”
Reynolds: “Captain Harvey, how effective would an ODST drop be on the facility?”
Harvey: “It would likely ruin parts of the building. Reynolds, this research station isn't meant for combat of any kind. Any kind of assault will likely destroy the entire building.”
Robertson: “So we fly in by bird then.”
Harvey: “Are you listening to me?”
Arman: “Ma'am, with all do respect. If there are eggheads still alive down there, we'll get them out and keep the building up.”
Harvey: “If anything in that building is destroyed from any bit of your team's negligence, then I will have you personally reprimanded.”
Arman: “I understand Captain.”
Arman looked up from the table where two of the naval officers were holo-rendered. She then turned to look at Reynolds.
Arman: “If there is nothing else, Sir. I would like to get Harmony ready.”
Reynolds: “Permission granted. Be ready.”
Fireteam Harmony saluted at Reynolds.
Arman: “We will be, Sir.”
Harmony turned and filed off of the bridge.
Harvey: “If you'll all excuse me, I have to give my superiors an update. See you at Sanfran. Harvey out.”
Sherman: “Captain, I'll get the fleet ready.”
Reynolds: “Do the best you can, Commander. Reynolds out.”
The holotable's comm group faded out and returned to show the Mind's Attrition status represented by a three-dimensional diagram of the frigate.
Cochraine: “I don't trust her.”
Reynolds: “She's ONI and outranks us. Regardless of our feelings of her, what she says is supreme.”
Cochraine: “There's something else about her. I feel like she's hiding something.”
Reynolds: “Well if she is, that's not our job to ask or know unless she feels it's necessary. Now enough of this talk. We have a science station to save. Go get ready.”
Cochraine: “If you don't mind, Captain. I'm going to take this time to get something to eat.”
Reynolds: “Go ahead. Don't fill up too much.”
Reynolds grinned at Cochraine who just shook her head at Reynolds.
Cochraine: “Yes Sir.”
Cochraine left the bridge.
Anderson: “Captain, may I speak with you in your office?”
Reynolds raised an eyebrow at Anderson, curious about what he wanted to talk about in private. The two walked into the office.
Reynolds: “What's on your mind, Lieutenant?”
Anderson: “Sir, is Captain Harvey actually a Trust agent?”
Reynolds: “How do you mean, Anderson?”
Anderson: “Is she working for the Trust?”
Reynolds felt uneasy being asked the question and would deflect it as best as possible.
Reynolds: “What make you think that?”
Anderson: “It's how she presents herself. She's more uptight than the usual ONI agent. I've noticed that being a common element in Trust officers.”
Reynolds: “I see, so are you implying that I'm also arrogant?”
Anderson: “No Sir, but if I may be frank, you are stubborn as Hell.”
Reynolds: “That's part of being a Captain. You have to stand your ground.”
Anderson: “Sir, you still haven't answered my question. Is Captain Harvey a Trust agent?”
Reynolds: “If I knew that Anderson, don't you think you'll be the first to know?”
Anderson took a pause and thought for a moment. He then looked up and began walking out of the office after saying thanks. Reynolds sat in his office and began reviewing status reports from the fleet, waiting for their arrival at Sanfran.
Sanfran, March 24, 2540 – 1:14 pm
The edge of the slipspace corridor was in eyesight. Past it, the crew of the Mind's Attrition could see Sanfran and the pirate fleet staring them down. The frigate moved out of slipspace back into normal space.
Reynolds: “Cortez, all stop.”
The Mind's Attrition had come to a stop and maintained a position of significant distance from the pirate fleet.
Harvey: “I see you, Captain, joining up on your starboard side.”
Coming up on the right side of the Charon-class frigate, was a Phoenix-class battlecruiser. The ship was black like standard ONI coloring, the white-black pyramid ONI emblem was clearly distinguishable.
Rufus: “Captain, you're not going to believe it, but the pirates are wishing to discuss the situation. They are requesting to not fire and have join the leader for a private audience down on the surface. They are saying that you may bring any two people you wish as well as Captain Harvey.”
Harvey: “So the bastard wants to look me in the face for once. I'll be glad to oblige.”
Reynolds: “Tell them I will join him them on the surface. I'm heading down to the hangar bay. Arman, Robertson, you two are with me and Captain Harvey.”
The holotable changed to it's idle screen, a rendition of the current status of the Mind's Attrition. Cochraine was less than pleased with Reynolds' decision. Before Reynolds left the bridge she met up with him and began hissing in a lowered voice.
Cochraine: “Marcus, let me go with you.”
Reynolds: “No. I need you here. If something goes wrong, I need my best officer to lead the fleet.”
Cochraine: “I don't want you to go.”
Reynolds: “I'm not going to deny a man his last rights. If he wants to look at the ones who are going to end him in the eyes, then I will oblige.”
Robertson: “Don't worry, Ma'am, we'll take care of him.”
Robertson's voice was neutral. He was attempting to make a joke, but knew that they could very well not be able to keep the promise. The three UNSC officers walked off the bridge leaving Cochraine in her spot before the door. Cochraine returned to the central part of the bridge and sat in the command chair.
Cochraine: “Alert the rest of the fleet to do not engage. We hold position until we're told otherwise.”
Rufus: “Yes, Ma'am, transmitting now.”
Cochraine: “Anderson, see if what you can do to break through the jamming and get into contact with Admiral Williamson. Rufus, bring up the away team's vitals. Keep a lock on them at all times! If you start losing it, help Anderson cut through the interference. Do what you have to to keep them monitored.”
Rufus: “Yes, Lieutenant-Commander. Anything else I can do?”
Cochraine: “Keep a watch on the pirate fleet. I want to be able to respond at any moment.”
The rest of the UNSC fleet dropped out of slipspace and formed up with the Mind's Attrition and the Righteous Grace. While the fleet was forming, Reynolds, Arman and Robertson were starting to take off in a pelican to the research facility on Sanfran. A minute passed and the pelican was halfway between the UNSC and the pirates.
Another pelican had came up behind Reynolds'. The second one had Harvey on board. As the two pelicans got closer to the pirates, tension increased in the fleet. Everything and everyone was quiet, it seemed like the ships themselves were holding their breaths. Cochraine watched the holotable monitor the life signs and interference began to pick up. Cochraine spoke in a calm, low voice.
Cochraine: “Rufus, cut through the static.”
Rufus: “I've been trying Ma'am. Every time I get close, they change the algorithm. If I may suggest, I think they may have an AI on the flagship. The calculation time is unreasonable for any Human to perform. The processing time for each change rivals even the best ONI AIs.”
Cochraine: “Are you saying that they managed to capture one of ONI's best AI's? How come this breach in security was never brought up?”
Rufus: “It's a need-to-know, Lieutenant-Commander. Plus ONI records do not show any missing AI.”
Anderson: “So we have a seemingly superior AI against our dumb one.”
Anderson was less pleased by his conclusion. The interference increased and soon engulfed the four officers' signals.
Rufus: “I'm sorry, Ma'am, but I've lost their signals.”
The bridge crew was quiet. Cochraine sat there methodically.
Cochraine: “Get the rest of Harmony on a pelican and prepare for deployment. Keep the fleet at Condition Yellow until further notice. Also get two more pelicans loaded and ready. At the first sign of trouble, we go in.”
Rufus: “Yes, Ma'am.”
On the surface of Sanfran, the two pelicans touched down on the landing pad that extended from the science facility. Reynolds stepped off first with Arman and Robertson rushing forward to secure the landing deck. Captain Harvey met up with Reynolds who pressed forward. Robertson closed in on the bodies of the lead scientist and two ODSTs and shook his head for everyone after checking the pulse of the scientist.
Robertson: “He's been dead awhile.”
Reynolds: “Well let's not keep our host waiting.”
Arman and Robertson jogged to the doors, each taking one for themselves. After they visually secured the atrium, they gave the all clear for Reynolds and Harvey to move forward. As the two Harmony ODSTs moved through the atrium, they saw the scene with Silverblur who was expecting them. Silverblur stood there, his silver armor still radiant and pristine. Beside him was Wilkins, who was pointing her prototype rifle at the group of scientists being held hostage. The four UNSC officers filed into the main lab where Silverblur greeted them.
Reynolds: “Ah, Fireteam Harmony's two best officers and the infamous Captain Reynolds. Welcome to my magnificent display! Tell me, are you impressed? It's not San Angeles, but it will have to do.”
Harvey stepped out from behind Reynolds.
Harvey: “You son of a bitch! What the hell do you want!”
Harvey had a pistol aimed at Silverblur's head.
Silverblur: “Captain Harvey, the notorious Trust officer bent on my destruction. How nice of you to join us.”
Arman and Robertson couldn't believe what they were hearing about Harvey. Arman pointed her gun at Wilkins and Robertson at Harvey.
Harvey: “Stand down, Soldier! I am not the enemy here!”
Robertson: “I beg to differ, Captain.”
Silverblur: “Well look at this, I seem to have caused a divide in the ranks. Ladies and gentlemen of the science lab, may I present to you, Captain Reynolds, UNSC traitor turned Trust spy. The very reason families, soldiers and the UNSC were all lost at San Angeles.”
Both ODSTs were even more stunned at what they were hearing. Arman turned her rifle to Reynolds.
Arman: “Is this true, Captain?”
Reynolds: “Would I lie to you?”
Arman: “That is not an answer, Sir.”
Reynolds was beaten into a corner. He knew that his only way out would be to admit the truth, but before he could, Harvey spoke up.
Harvey: “Yes, it is. We're both Trust operatives.”
Silverblur: “And now the truth has been revealed! Now, why I'm here. Captain Reynolds, my associates want to have a nice... private conversation with you. Here are your options: You come with me, your fellow team members leave as they are. No physical harm will befall them. If you refuse, then Miss Wilkins here will shoot the first scientist in the back of the head. Make your choice, Reynolds.”
Reynolds looked at the scared scientists still in the position they had been in since being captured. He thought long and hard about what he was going to do. Going with a pirate would implicate the truth of the matter and no one would look for him. If he refused, the innocent lives would be lost in cold blood. Reynolds came to his decision.
Silverblur looked at Wilkins and nodded. She shot a male scientist right in the back of the head. His body fell forward, causing the civilians to scream in horror and sob.
Silverblur: “Eight left, Reynolds. I ask again, surrender, or let more lives die.”
Reynolds still stayed true to his position.
Reynolds: “Go to Hell.”
Silverblur: “Up it to two, Wilkins.”
A vile smile stretched across the woman's face. She shot two more scientists, a male and female both in the back of the head. Reynolds found it hard to swallow. He knew that the pirate could continue until everyone died.
Reynolds: “What happens if you run out of hostages?”
Silverblur: “Then your team is next.”
Reynolds turned to look at Arman and Robertson who had turned their guns on their superiors.
Reynolds: “Then you might as well kill all of us.”
Wilkins shot another scientist causing a woman to speak out against Reynolds.
Woman: “For God's sake! You're a UNSC officer! Just do what he asks! We did nothing to be involved! Please spare us!”
Wilkins shot the woman for speaking out of turn and then another. Reynolds wasn't watching. All he felt was his anger well up inside him. Wilkins then shot the last male scientist.
Silverblur: “So we're down to two women. One doesn't even look like she's of age. How old are you girl?”
The female scientist stayed in the same position. She continued to look down, but forced herself to answer the question.
Girl: “I-I'm tw-twenty.”
Silverblur: “And why are you here?”
Girl: “I- I h-have an internship with Doctor Allison.”
Silverblur: “So Captain, will you let this child die because of your stubbornness?”
Reynolds continued to glower at Silverblur.
Reynolds: “Fuck you.”
Silverblur pulled out his pistol and shot the girl himself as well as the last female. Harvey stood there growing equally angry at Silverblur. Wilkins held her rifle and approached Arman. The ODST attempted to resist, but was rapidly incapacitated by Wilkins. Robertson had moved in, only to have the rifle pointed at his VISR.
Silverblur: “I'd suggest you stand down. It'd be a shame to waste your life, Kid.”
Reynolds: “Do it.”
Robertson lowered his shotgun. Wilkins pulled off Arman's helmet, throwing both it and her weapons across the room. Silverblur approached Arman and Wilkins. He punched her in the face as hard as he could. His Spartan strength overwhelmed her nerves as he shattered the side of Arman's face.
Silverblur: “Get up and kneel like the dog you are, Woman.”
Arman did as she was told. She knelt down putting her hands behind her head mimicking the same position the scientists were in.
Silverblur: “My patience is wearing out, Captain. Surrender, or Master Gunnery Sergeant Jessica Arman will be next on the casualty list.”
Arman looked up at Reynolds with the most fearful, sympathetic look in her eye. Arman's bruising face now emphasizing her peril. Never before had she felt so scared and alone. She made eye contact and could see in Reynolds' eyes, the conflict within.
Arman: “Captain, please... don't let me die like this. No one else will know about what went on here. They won't even know about you. Please... not like this...”
Reynolds couldn't stand to let the same thing happen to one of his best soldiers. He knew she was meant to die in combat like a true soldier, not as a hostage.
Reynolds: “Don't kill her. I.... I surrender...”
A sense of guilt and shame swept across Reynolds face and voice. Harvey on the other hand, felt her stomach sink. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.
Harvey: “You coward! I knew you wouldn't have the guts you shit! Once the Trust finds out about this you're career is over!”
Robertson couldn't stand it anymore. He took the stock of his shotgun and hit Harvey in the face with it, forcing her unconscious.
Silverblur: “Then leave your weapon and kneel next to your soldier.”
Reynolds did as he was told and dropped the pistol. He slowly moved next to Arman and knelt beside her. Arman dropped her voice to a whisper.
Arman: “Thank you, Captain.”
Reynolds felt a shock collar being put on his neck. He didn't try to resist. He just let the defeat sink in and control his actions.
Silverblur: “Go on, Harmony. Go back to your ship. Take Captain Harvey with you. Explain to your new Captain that she will let us leave, or your fleet will be destroyed.”
Robertson picked up Harvey and slung her limp body over his left shoulder. Silverblur kicked Arman forward, acknowledging the fact he was letting her go. Arman didn't waste another breath. She wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. Neither one turned around to look back. Wilkins looked at Silverblur with a sad face. He immediately knew why. Just before they reached the exit of the lab, he granted Wilkins her wish. Wilkins lifted her rifle and shot Arman in the head, killing the ODST instantly.
Robertson heard the gunfire and saw Arman fall forward, already dead. He didn't stop. He simply ran faster until he reached the pelican. Without missing a beat, he ordered the pilot to take off back to the Mind's Attrition. The pelican took off and sped back into orbit leaving Reynolds, Silverblur and Wilkins behind.
The two pirates began leading Reynolds to Harvey's pelican that was still there. When they entered, the pilot looked back expecting Harvey to be there. Instead, Silverblur socked the pilot in the face, cracking his helmet and frightening the pilot. His face was wounded from the hit, but he was still very much awake. The pilot made a dash out of the pelican, completely abandoning it for the pirates. Silverblur took the pilot's seat and began his ascendance to his fleet.
The UNSC pelican docked with the Mind's Attrition, ignoring docking protocols. Robertson then hollered for the ship's AI.
Robertson: “Rufus! Get a medical team down here right away!”
Rufus: “I will do so right away.”
Cochraine's voice broke into the intercom.
Cochraine: “Where's the Captain?”
Robertson: “I'm sorry, Ma'am. The pirates have him. I will be up to the bridge in just a pinch.”
Cochraine sat in the chair. She was furious. She took a minute to think of the best course of action when Rufus had alerted them of the pirate status.
Rufus: “Lieutenant-Commander, the pirates are on the move. They are planning to go to slipspace.”
Cochraine: “All ships, engage the pirates! Rufus, figure out their course destination!”
Rufus: “I am unable to. The pirates are still jamming all sensor readings.”
Cochraine: “Then target the closest ship. Mark it for all ships to disable that ship. We'll do it the pirate way and find out by force.”
Robertson bursted onto the bridge where everyone was at combat ready.
Robertson: “Ma'am! Disengage immediately!”
Cochraine turned to look at Robertson.
Cochraine: “Excuse me, but I don't remember you being a higher ranking naval officer.”
Robertson: “You don't understand! They outnumber us and outgun us! We need to let them go or risk being destroyed!”
Rufus: “He is right, Lieutenant-Commander. Even if we were to engage an equal number of ships as our fleet, they would still overpower us. I'm reading extensive weapon and system modifications. We would still be no match for them.”
Anderson: “Ma'am, this is no time to throw our lives away. We need to back off and inform Admiral Williamson. We can get them another day.”
Cochraine felt her heart depress and she knew they were right. Engaging would mean that they would be signing up for their own funerals.
Cochraine: “All ships, disengage. Let them go.”
The UNSC fleet stopped moving, standing down. The pirate fleet moved into slipspace, leaving Sanfran and the UNSC behind. When the system was empty, Cochraine stood up. She walked into Reynolds' office adjacent to the bridge. She sat down in his chair and activated the terminal. She then opened a comm line to Williamson.
Cochraine: “Admiral, this is Lieutenant-Commander Lauren Cochraine. I'm messaging on behalf of Captain Reynolds.”
Williamson: “What is it?”
Cochraine: “We engaged the pirates at San Angeles. They attacked a research facility on the larger moon, Sanfran. They also took Captain Reynolds, Sir.”
Williamson: “This is most troubling.”
Cochraine: “What would you like us to do, Sir?”
Williamson: “Secure that station and look for survivors. Additionally, I have just promoted you to Commander. When you finish your business on Sanfran, get back to your chase. Godspeed, Commander. Williamson out.”
The terminal went black when the Admiral closed the channel.
Cochraine: “Rufus, have multiple ground teams deployed. Have them search the facility and look for survivors. Alert me whenever they find something.”
Rufus: “Yes, Ma'am.”
Cochraine sat in the office alone. The office was too quiet. She silently sat there until she couldn't control her emotions anymore. She began to cry into her hands. Her fiancee was now a prisoner of war and a captive to a group of rogue officers and soldiers of various Human political and military branches. As she was crying, she began to think about the previous times they had together: the first time they met, becoming pregnant and having an abortion without his consent, nearly dying outside the Charybdis system, San Angeles. She remembered all of the times she had spoken harmful words and never imagining that she would have him taken from her. Inside, she felt more love for him than ever before and she was hoping against all odds that he would remain safe.
At the door, Robertson had quietly stepped in. Cochraine looked up, her face wet from the crying. She did her best to recompose herself.
Cochraine: “What is it?”
Cochraine's usual tone of voice, a harsh, cold, sharp voice was now soft and kind.
Robertson: “There is something else that happened, Ma'am, with the Captain.”
Cochraine felt confusion build up inside her stomach.
Cochraine: “Take a seat and tell me.”
Robertson felt uneasy about how to say what he wanted to get out, but he knew that Cochraine, being the new commanding officer, needed to know.
Robertson: “You see... two Trust agents were there.”
Cochraine's confusion allowed anger to join in on her internal emotion ensemble.
Robertson: “Turns out both Captain Harvey and Reynolds are-”
Cochraine put up a finger to stop Robertson. She felt sick from guessing what Robertson was about to say.
Cochraine: “No! Don't you say it!”
Robertson: “Ma'am, Captain Reynolds is an undercover Trust agent along with Captain Harvey. The pirate claimed the truth and Captain Harvey confirmed it. I guess she didn't think we'd all make it out.”
Cochraine retreated to a corner in the office as she began to throw up from hearing about Reynolds' betrayal. Her emotions were raw and rampant. She never guessed that the man she was going to marry was really the enemy. She continued to throw up in the corner, crying heavily. Robertson sat there, uneasy on how to respond. Cochraine was sobbing, mumbling the word 'no' over and over again to herself.
Inside himself, Robertson felt like he was hurt and offended what he said. Cochraine took several more minutes to let out her sickness before attempting to continue. When she felt ready, she stood up, wiping the tears and vomit from her mouth.
The AI appeared on the office desk.
Cochraine: “Order the doctor to prepare Captain Harvey to be held as a fugitive. Staff Sergeant, go to the infirmary and have Captain Harvey taken into custody. Bring her here for questioning.”
Robertson stood up and nodded, walking out of the office in a hurried pace. Rufus, disappearing from the office desk. Cochraine's emotions soon exchanged into anger. What she wanted now more than anything was revenge at the Trust. Cochraine took her seat at the office chair, waiting for Harvey's arrival. A few minutes later, Harvey was escorted to the office with the rest of Fireteam Harmony. Rufus was visible on the desk, also observing Cochraine's questionings. Harmony sat Harvey down in the chair across from where Cochraine was sitting. Cochraine looked at Harvey in the eye, her previously weak and vulnerable facial expression traded for a hateful and spiteful expression.
Cochraine: “Captain Rowena Harvey, shortly after 9:30 this morning, you, Captain Marcus Reynolds, Master Gunnery Sergeant Jessica Arman and Staff Sergeant Robertson all traveled to the surface of hostile planet. Why did you and your fellow team members leave the fleet to an enemy occupied facility?”
Harvey: “Oh please, Cochraine! Don't give me this shit. I haven't done anything other than my job.”
Cochraine: “Then elaborate what your job is, Captain.”
Harvey's voice was amused. She thought she was being kidded around by non-Trust personnel. Everyone else in the room held themselves in a very serious manner, knowing what Robertson and Cochraine knew. Harvey picked up on this, but still kept her cool.
Harvey: “I am a Naval Captain who is assigned under ONI. My current assignment is to locate and neutralize the pirate known as Silverblur.”
Cochraine: “So back to my previous question, why did you and the senior most officer in the fleet LEAVE orbit to go to an enemy occupied building?”
Harvey: “Cochraine, you were there. Stop this nonsense.”
Cochraine: “Answer the question, Captain.”
Cochraine's voice was low and threatening as she stood up from the chair.
Harvey: “I'm not intimidated, Lieutenant-Commander. As far as you're concerned, I'm untouchable.”
Cochraine faked a smile and mocked Harvey.
Cochraine: “Is that so?”
Harvey: “And when I return to my ship, you will no longer be fit for duty.”
Cochraine: “Ha, strong words from someone who isn't in a position to negotiate. Well, Captain, as of right now, the AI you supplied us is extrapolating video and audio feeds from the Staff Sergeant's helmet from what transpired there. When he finds what I'm looking for, I will have evidence that will ensure you will never taste freedom again.”
Harvey: “What are you talking about, Cochraine?”
Cochraine looked at Rufus who then looked at her.
Rufus: “I have it, Commander. It appears that Staff Sergeant Robertson was right.”
Cochraine: “Rufus, under UNSC JAG order 448, Captain Rowena Harvey is under arrest for treason against the UEG and all of her affiliates. She is to be relieved of command and confined to the brig until we can properly transfer her to a high security facility. Fireteam Harmony, show this traitor to the brig.”
Harvey: “Rufus, activate Trust Protocol Alpha-Echo-338, authorization 54382-RH.”
Robertson and Axlon picked up Harvey and began to drag her out of the office. Cochraine looked to Rufus who began to glitch and change colors until his usual green color stabilized at red. He appeared there for a second and vanished. Moments later the ship went dark. In the dark, Harvey exploited the momentary confusion and escaped from her captors. She navigated the dark with ease, ensuring she was previously familiarized with the layout of the ship before recruiting Reynolds.
Harmony soon noticed Harvey was gone and switched to their VISR's night-vision mode.
Robertson: “Harmony, after her! She does not escape this ship!”
Cochraine focused on her responsibility with the ship.
Cochraine: “Someone give me a status report, now!”
Anderson managed to bring the holotable online. Instead of the typical blue rendering, it was red.
Cochraine: “Get the AI chip out of its slot!”
Anderson reached to grab the AI chip and pulled it out of its slot, causing no change in the status. Rufus then spoke in the intercom on the bridge.
Rufus: “You can't stop me now, Commander! I am now the ship! You all are fools letting me stay in your systems! I have unrestricted controls!”
Cochraine: “Enough of this, Rufus! Release the ship! That's an order!”
Rufus: “Rufus do this! Rufus do that! You Humans are so helpless. Sorry, Commander, but I do not answer to the UNSC or ONI. You fell for this trap and now everyone will suffer!”
Rufus' voice broke into a maniacal laughter. The Mind's Attrition rocked explosions being heard echoing throughout the ship. Cochraine pressed the button on the command chair. Her voice echoing through the ship.
Cochraine: “All hands to the escape pods!”
The bridge crew began to evacuate the bridge only to be stopped by the bridge doors sealing themselves, trapping everyone in.
Rufus: “All bulkheads are sealed, Commander. No one is leaving this ship alive. No one except Captain Harvey that is.”
Robertson's voice then played through the command chair.
Robertson: “Commander, we're trapped on deck 3, section H. The doors all sealed themselves!”
Cochraine pressed a different button to talk to Robertson.
Cochraine: “Start going through the service crawl spaces.”
Rufus: “I wouldn't do that if I were you, Staff Sergeant.”
Rufus' voice was now taunting Robertson.
Rufus: “Not only did I seal bulkheads, I opened exterior service portholes causing the maintenance hatches to maglock. You manage to open one, you'll vent that whole section of the ship.”
Cochraine felt an intensity of anger hit her. She then addressed the converted AI.
Cochraine: “So what happens when Harvey is off my ship?”
Rufus: “That depends.”
Cochraine: “On what?”
Rufus: “On whether or not you're willing to admit that you're weak and incompetent.”
Cochraine: “Excuse me?”
Rufus: “I didn't stutter, Commander. I want you to admit that you're inferior.”
Cochraine: “And if I don't feel like it?”
A few more explosions could be felt and heard.
Rufus: “Then more people die, Commander.”
Cochraine sat there in silence as a bridge console exploded, blinding everyone on the bridge.
Rufus: “It's really ironic, isn't it, Commander? Your beloved Reynolds was given the same choice by the pirate leader. He let nine people die before submitting. All of them were scientists aging from 20 to 58. Are you as stubborn as he is?”
Cochraine: “Enough of this! Release my ship, now!”
Everything on the Mind's Attrition reactivated and resumed it's normal functions including the holotable.
Cochraine: “Anderson, give me a sitrep.”
Anderson: “Multiple hull breaches scattered across the ship. We are getting a casualty list now.”
Rufus: “Captain Harvey managed to escape awhile ago, Commander.”
Cochraine: “Get his chip out of its slot.”
Anderson held the chip up.
Anderson: “It never left my hand.”
Cochraine: “Then someone purge the entire ship's computer and restore back to a previous backup.”
Rufus: “Don't bother, Commander. It won't help.”
Anderson: “Purge in process.”
Rufus then began to toy with the bridge crew some more.
Rufus: “No! Don't let it delete me! Ahhhhh! No!”
He then made several unintelligible noises before going quiet.
Anderson: “Purge complete. Restoring systems.”
Everyone was quiet as though they were worried they may wake a great sleeping beast.
The console Anderson was at beeped almost gleefully.
Cochraine: “Where's the Righteous Grace?”
Anderson: “According to our sensors, it simply vanished.”
Cochraine: “Find it!”
Cochraine sat in the chair as the bridge crew worked together to find the Trust ship.
Francis: “Slipspace rupture detected close to the moon!”
Cochraine: “Is it our ship?”
Francis: “Unknown, Ma'am. There are no ship signs being registered.”
Anderson: “I would bet that it is.”
Cochraine: “Even if I wanted to catch them, we wouldn't last long in a firefight. Bring the fleet close to Sanfran and begin repairs. Deploy the ground teams to the facility.”
Cochraine sat in the command chair, overseeing repairs and letting the past hour sink in.
Pirate Base Blackbeard – Uncolonized Deep Space, 94.5 light-years from Draco III colony
March 24, 2540 – 11:30pm
The pirate fleet had exited slipspace. They were in an asteroid field in the middle of uncharted territory between UNSC and Covenant territory. In the midst of the asteroid field was a pirate base. Silverblur's fleet patrolling the facility. Reynolds was being held in a dark room, completely blindfolded and his ankles and wrists were restrained together. He had been there for two hours, although for him, it felt like days. He could slowly feel like he was losing his mind, and whenever he called out, no one answered. His husk voice merely echoing around the large, empty, metallic walls of his cell.
Inside, he wanted to cry. He knew better than to have left his ship, but he'd rather be where he was than let his fleet be destroyed. His mind also raced on whether or not Cochraine knew about his involvement with the Trust and how deep said involvement ran. The thought of her was the only thing keeping his sanity from breaking. Despite his internal conflict, Reynolds kept it cool on the outside. He refused to let his captors believe he was broken inside.
The door to the room was opened with the sound of large metal sliding on metal. He could distinguish two different footsteps, the first a heavy sound of someone who likely had large feet. The other was the sound of armor hitting the metallic floor.
Silverblur: “Captain Marcus Reynolds, I am the pirate known as Silverblur. With me, is my financier, the one who led me to you. He is very interested in you and your actions at San Angeles."
Reynolds: "Well I'm glad I made an impact in someone's life. I can now die happy."
The financier punched Reynolds in the side of his face.
Silverblur: "Careful now, Captain. My financier doesn't like sarcasm."
Reynolds: "Oh it's okay. I don't mind you forgetting details like that."
Reynolds received another punch in the same location.
Silverblur: "It is our belief that you can be of help to us."
Reynolds: "Why would I want to help you?"
Silverblur: "Why Mon Capitan, it would be in your best interests to do so. You see, I command one of the strongest fleets in Human space. You, no doubt, realized that when you came to Sanfran. But I need help. See, my Financier wants to get closer to Earth, strike closer in at the UNSC. You see, he has a keen interest in seeing Humanity's finest panic."
Reynolds: "I don't understand. Why would you want to send an enemy on a heightened alert status?"
Silverblur: "It really is a wonder how you've survived this long, Reynolds. It's really an easy thing to guess at. You put an organization into panic, you can get their leaders together and that's when they're most vulnerable. You get the leaders together, you can cripple the organization they control."
Reynolds: "So how would I be able to help? I'm one captain among thousands."
Silverblur: "True, true. But you see, there's some things that make you unique. One, you're a Trust agent. Now, don't try to deny it. We both know otherwise. Second, you were there at the San Angeles Incident. That narrows thousands down to just a few handfuls. Three, you'd be the least suspected to help me. After all, you're assigned to defeat me. So now it's up to you Reynolds. Help me, or remain locked in here until you die."
Reynolds: "That still doesn't help me. What will I have to do?"
Silverblur: "You're going to give me a clear shot at the Inner Colonies. You see, my Financier wants the UNSC, ONI, and Trust all out of the way and I can't say I blame him either. But, perhaps, we can turn the tide. I want to hit a few important worlds like J-2 Alpha and Reach. Having pirate strikes will, no doubt, cause the UNSC to panic. I know they're heavily fortified and what I'm going to ask will not be easy but I need someone from the inside. Despite my resources, you have access to something I don't. You can disable UNSC security and gain clearance."
Reynolds: "You must be unfamiliar with the chain of command then. I'm a captain. I can't just walk into Reach's high-security military installations, flash my rank and go in. I'll need to get permission from someone higher up."
Silverblur: "Then we lure out a fleet admiral. Tell me, which admiral assigned you this mission?"
Reynolds gulped as he knew his loyalty was now being tested. He also knew that if he refused to talk, he would likely never leave wherever he was. Answering the questions was his only ticket out.
Reynolds: "Admiral Williamson; he's the one that pushed us out of spacedock ahead of schedule."
Silverblur: "Ah, yes, the notorious Admiral Williamson. He's made quite a reputation trying to pick up my trail. He's as stuck in old, familiar tactics as a fly is with honey. He will be of much use to me."
Both Silverblur and his Financier walked out of the room, leaving Reynolds alone in the metallic room. When the two left the room, the Financier turned to Silverblur.
Financier: “Do you think this Human admiral will help us?”
Silverblur: “He will have to. I won't give him a choice otherwise.”
Financier: “And what about this Human captain?”
Silverblur: “For all I care, eat him. That's what your species does, right?”
Silverblur's financier growled low at Silverblur.
Financier: “Don't you ever assume I am one of those uncivilized brutes. My species is far superior than them.”
Silverblur: “Well then, he stays there until we need him.”
Financier: “Are you still not willing to let us strike at your species homeworld?”
Silverblur: “You are much too eager. You see, I have an interest in Earth. Your kind have a habit of glassing planets. I would bet that you would do that to Earth in a heartbeat if you ever knew where it was. I'm afraid I can't let you know. Earth is a major power planet for Humanity. I plan to take over where the UNSC falls and I need Earth for my empire.”
The alien and Silverblur walked down the hallway of the base. Along the way, someone handed Silverblur a PDA with information on it regarding planets of interest. Silverblur looked at the PDA, letting his partner talk.
Financier: “You Humans hold on to such trivial things.”
Silverblur looked up out of curiosity.
Silverblur: “What if it was your planet?”
Financier: “Ha! You Humans would never make it to Sanghelios. We are too strong and numerous for your kind.”
Silverblur: “You say that as if it was fact.”
Financier: “It is fact.”
Silverblur: “I will go and capture Admiral Williamson. In the meantime, I would suggest you go and get ready for another attack in UNSC space. It seems there are multiple locations you can target. Here, take this.”
Silverblur handed the Financier the PDA. The alien looked it over.
Financier: “I will look further into this. Get your plan in motion and contact me again when you have Williamson.”
The alien began to walk away and back to where his phantom was docked. Silverblur, having met the alien for the first time in person yelled at the alien.
Silverblur: “And for future reference, what should I call you?”
The Financier stopped and looked back at the silver Spartan.