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Old [Halo] New! STB - 2520
Default 02-07-2012
Naked Crook
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Naked Crook is going back in time

Achievements Three Red LightsMan of the PeopleRehab is Needed
User Title: TNO God
Posts: 27,497

This Solo Thread Backstory Takes place in 2520. This is a no-participation story, posted simply to read, and not to respond or participate in.

This Solo Thread Backstory is considered 100% canon to the NHRPG, so it should be read and appreciated as such.


Words: 40 650
Pages: 139

Major Characters:

Name: Preston Joseph Vernette
Rank: Commander
Age: 30
Sex: Male
Affiliation: UNSC / ONI Section 0
Weapons: Two M6C Magnums
Physical Description: 6'0", 190 lbs, physically fit.
Backstory: Preston J. Vernette Wiki Entry

Name: Jeffery Skinner
Rank: Vice-Admiral
Age: 51
Sex: Male
Affiliation: UNSC / ONI Section 0
Weapons: M6B Magnum
Physical Description: 5'11, 200 lbs, Semi-fit
Backstory: N/A

Name: Brandon Yates
Rank: Rear-Admiral
Age: 37
Sex: Male
Affiliation: UNSC / ONI Section 0
Weapons: M6D Magnum
Physical Description:
6'3", 200 lbs, Moderately fit.
Backstory: N/A

Name: Marshall Winters
Rank: Major
Age: 39
Sex: Male
Affiliation: UNSC / ONI Section 0
Weapons: M6C Magnum, MA5C Assault Rifle
Physical Description: 6'2", 200 lbs
Backstory: N/A

Name: Dylan Everet
Rank: Lt Colonel
Age: 42
Sex: Male
Affiliation: UNSC / ONI Section 0
Weapons: M6C Magnum, MA5C Assault Rifle
Physical Description: 6'3", 215 lbs
Backstory: N/A

Name: Cameron-Z091
Rank: Senior Chief Petty Officer
Title: Spartan II - Class 0
Age: 20
Sex: Male
Affiliation: ONI Section 0
Weapons: M6G Magnum, MA5C Assault Rifle
Cameron-Z091 Wiki Entry

Name: Nikolai-Z035
Rank: Chief Petty Officer
Title: Spartan II - Class 0
Age: 20
Sex: Male
Affiliation: ONI Section 0
Weapons: M6G Magnum, MA5C Assault Rifle, M45 Shotgun
Backstory: N/A

Name: Lucien-Z002
Rank: Petty Officer
Title: Spartan II - Class 0
Age: 20
Sex: Male
Affiliation: The Trust
Weapons: M6B Magnum, MA37 Assault Rifle
Backstory: N/A

Name: Constantine Spender
Rank: Vice Admiral
Age: 55
Sex: Male
Affiliation: ONI Section 0 / The Trust
Weapons: M6D Magnum
Physical Description: 6'1, Thin but fit build, 180 lbs.
Backstory: N/A

Name: Black 1
Rank: Colonel
Age: 35
Sex: Male
Affiliation: The Trust
Weapons: MA5C Assault Rifle, M6C Automag
Physical Description: 6'4" 220 lbs
Backstory: N/A

Name: Black 2
Rank: Colonel
Age: 33
Sex: Male
Affiliation: The Trust
Weapons: M90 Shotgun, M6C Automag
Physical Description: 6'4" 200 lbs
Backstory: N/A

Name: Black 3
Rank: Colonel
Age: 39
Sex: Male
Affiliation: The Trust
Weapons: Sniper Rifle, M6C Automag
Physical Description: 6'3" 210 lbs
Backstory: N/A

Name: Black 4
Rank: Colonel
Age: 41
Sex: Male
Affiliation: The Trust
Weapons: Rocket Launcher, M6C Automag
Physical Description: 6'6" 225 lbs
Backstory: N/A


Last edited by Naked Crook; 06-29-2012 at 12:05 PM.
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Default 02-07-2012
Naked Crook
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Naked Crook is going back in time

Achievements Three Red LightsMan of the PeopleRehab is Needed
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Posts: 27,497

Current Date: June 2520

UNSC Marathon Class The Ulterior Motive - Currently in orbit of Reach

A man sat at a large desk. He had four ODSTs standing in front of him. All four of the ODSTs wore the rank insignia of Colonel.

The man took a drag of a cigarette and looked at the ODSTs.

Spender: Were you able to find him?

Black 1: Oh yes...we found him.

Spender: Where is he?

Black 1: He is currently on Midnight, under the supervision of Section 0. According to the records that we were sent to recover, ONI Section 0 has him on standby in the city of Tribunal, inside of Operational HQ Omicron.

Spender: Midnight? That is actually quite close.

Black 1: Close? It is basically next door! It was actually kind of irritating that we had to go all the way to Reach, to find out that our target was on the planet that our base is orbiting...

Spender: Life is full of small irritations...

Black 1: Clearly...

Spender: All of this aside, getting close to Tribunal is going to be...very difficult. ONI Section 0 has basically turned that small city into a fortress...and HQ Omicron sits right at the dead center. I want you to go down to Midnight...find a way to get to our target.

Black 3: You want us to break into HQ Omicron? Find a way passed their defenses, all so you can have a chit chat with a deranged psycho? With all due respects sir...this is a lot of work for one man.

Spender: I believe...I was giving an order Colonel...not making a request. I may be mistaken about that though. If you would like, I can repeat exactly what I said, word for word, and then we can spend some time evaluating the syntax of every word. Would you care for this?

Black 3: I apologize sir...

Spender: Rightly so...

Spender paused as he took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: Find me a way to speak to our prospect. Find a way in. Even my clearance with ONI will only get me so far...defiantly not far enough to speak with our target. ONI has deemed him very volatile...and as such, for everyone's protection, has him under lock and key. How they have managed to keep someone like him under such restriction is beyond me.

Black 2: If he is so volatile...why are we recruiting him?

Spender: If I have said it once Colonel...I have said it a dozen times...this prospect is...very unique. He posses talents that are far outside the range of his desired skill set. He is, without a doubt, highly skilled. For us not to recruit someone like this into The Trust...would be a very stupid move to say the least.

Black 1: Very well. We will find you a way in. We will be back ASAP!

Spender: there anything else?

ODST Black Team was silent for a moment.

Black 4: Just out of curiosity...what about that other guy?

Spender: I am not familiar with someone named "Other Guy".

Black 4: Vernette...

Spender: Ohhh...him. We will get to him. Right now, I am more interested in our current assignment. Vernette should not be too difficult to recruit. All he wants is to be taken seriously. We can do that with considerable ease.

Black 4: Very well.

Spender: Good. Dismissed.

UNSC Frigate Lunar Eclipse - Currently en route to Harvest - Two Weeks Later:

Several officers were sitting in the conference room. They sat around a large oak table that was rectangular in shape. One of the officers spoke up.

Yates: really believe that this guy is worth it? Do you honestly believe this guy is more valuable then ALL of our current assets? Section 0 has extensive expertise in every field...and you are saying that ONE MAN is better than all of them put together...

Skinner: I do...I know it! We all saw the reports...this guy is brilliant! This man has an understanding of concepts and theories our best people are only scratching the surface of! This guy has what it takes to advance so many of our projects...and what is he doing? He is sitting around...on the most remote boondock planet within arms reach of our civilization! Hell...we might even be able to dodge the bullet with Korman Industries if we recruit this guy! I am sure this guy could do whatever Korman Industries could do!

Yates: Personally...I think Korman Industries would be perfect to fill our needs. We don't need some...low level Commander who doesn't even know we exist! There are better people for the job...

Skinner: Name me one person more suited than Preston Vernette!

Yates: the top of my head...I can't

Skinner: can't name ANYONE? I expected as much! This guy has two...DUECE...double PhDs in Cybernetics AND Electronics. To top it off...he adds a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics...for fun! This guy could LOOK at our prototypes and make them work out of his sheer willpower alone!

Yates: You give this guy way too much credit...

Skinner: Credit he deserves.

Yates: You know what...fine. Let's find this guy...let's hope he has the magic touch to do everything we want him to do! When he falls through, and proves to everyone that he ISN'T "all of that"...then we can get back to business that matters...such as policing internal affairs...and assassinating rebels...

Skinner looked at Yates. He raised an eyebrow. He was going to rebuttal but stopped when he heard a voice speak over the intercom.

Helmsman: Excuse me...Admiral Skinner? I am sorry to interrupt, but you request to be informed when we are nearing Harvest?

Skinner: Yes I did Lieutenant.

Helmsman: Well sir...our total ETA is 10 minutes. We will be dropping out of slip space just outside the system in about two minutes.

Skinner: Thank you Lieutenant. Skinner out!

Skinner closed the comm line to the bridge.

He looked at the officers he had gathered in the observation deck.

Skinner: Report back to your stations. Dismissed!

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Residential District:

Vernette was sitting in his private study room, a room he usually used as his office when he was at home. He was busy typing away on his laptop. The room he was in was dimly lit by a lamp. His desk was clutter with various PDAs and data plans. Behind him was a large 90 inch holoscreen with several design blueprints on it.

He did not take his eyes off of his laptop as he continued to work away. However, he was forced to stop when he heard a knock at his already opened door. He looked up to see a woman.

Diana: What are you doing?

Vernette: Working...

Diana: Yeah...I can see that. You said the same thing an hour ago.

Vernette: I know...

Diana: Are you ever going to STOP working?

Vernette: I cannot answer that at the moment...get back to me in an hour.

Diana: Preston...just take a break. One hour...then you can go back and do...whatever it is you are doing.

Vernette: I would love to...but I have a meeting with HIGHCOM in three days...and I have to get this proposal done. I swear to God...those people are nothing but bureaucrats. All they ever want is more "proof on concept" and more "proposals" and more "detail". I have given these people enough detail to last them a lifetime...and they still cannot move forward with my proposed armament bill. All I am trying to do is usher in the next weapons grade technological revolution...and these assholes are too short-sighted to see that. They would much rather stay with the current military equipment they are using now! The only way to get these Insurrectionists under control is to hit them with better weapons then they can muster!

Diana: Perhaps they are worried that your equipment will fall into their hands?

Vernette: I don’t know...but that should not be a reason to delay these new designs any longer!

Diana: I can only imagine how frustrating it must be...

Vernette sighed. He placed his elbows on his desk and face palmed.

Vernette: I have put forth a lot of solid designs for HIGHCOM...but they are failing to implement any of them. I hate to admit it...but even if I finish this round of proposals and design concepts...they are going to brush me off again. I think HIGHCOM believes that it can beat the insurrection by using what they have now. I don’t think they are willing to part with the expense.

Diana: You cannot say that for certain...

Vernette: I don’t know...I have kind of lost faith in HIGHCOM's ability to make rational decisions.

Diana: Look...I think you need a break.

Diana walked into Vernette's office. She walked behind his desk, and continued to walk until she was behind his chair. She draped her arms over his shoulders until her hands met halfway down his abdomen.

Diana: You need to relax...and I know a great way that I can help you...

Vernette: You don't say? What do you have in mind?

Diana: Well...that's a secret. Let's just say...this kind of relaxation is reserved for the man lucky enough to put a ring on my hand.

Vernette:'re talking about sex right? I can do that...if it weren't for the fact that our two children are still in the house...and it's not like we can throw them out...

Diana: The door to this room locks...

Vernette: You're does lock...

At that moment, Vernette heard the doorbell chime ring.

Vernette: Son of a bitch...

Diana: Forget it...ignore it...

Vernette heard the doorbell chime again.

Vernette: I better answer that...they won’t leave if I don’t...

Diana: Fine...don’t be long...

Vernette grinned as he walked out of his office. He walked to the front entrance and opened the door. He looked at the two men in black trench coats that stood before him.

Vernette: Hi...can I help you?

One of the men cleared his throat.

Skinner: Commander Preston Vernette?

Vernette: Depends on who is asking...

Vernette tilted his head. He saw the Military insignias that were hidden by the large coats. He could see Skinner’s rank insignia as well. Vernette also saw the ONI Insignia on the necks of both men.

Vernette: You guys are with the have military rank insignias on your uniforms. But...saying you are with the UNSC is too guys are ONI...

Skinner: May we come in? We would like to speak with you.

Vernette: Look...with all due respect gentlemen...this is my home. If you wish to meet with it at a time when I am officially on duty. It’s late...and I don’t like late night visitors. Have a wonderful evening.

Vernette stepped back to close the door. Skinner put his hand forward and stopped the door from closing.

Skinner: Commander! This is important!

Vernette frowned. He reached to his side and pulled out his magnum, however, this action went unnoticed by Skinner and his associate as Vernette held the gun behind the door.

Skinner: It is VITAL that we speak to you! We know about you...and we know about how long you have been trying to get HIGHCOM to approve your designs! We want to help you!

Vernette stopped. He put his magnum back in his holster and opened the door again.

Vernette: How? No...I have a better question...who the hell are you people? I want names!

Skinner: My name is Vice Admiral Jeffery Skinner...and my associate is Rear Admiral Brandon Yates.

Vernette: Wait...since when does it take TWO Admirals to recruit one man?

Skinner: We are not just Admirals...we are a very interested party...and we are interested in your designs. We are interested in your expertise...

Skinner paused.

Skinner: Please...five minutes...

Vernette hung his head.

Vernette: Five minutes...but I will give you 10 if you wait here for a moment...

Skinner: Fair enough...

Vernette closed the door. Vernette walked back to his office. He saw his wife sitting on the couch. She was reading a book that was on one of Vernette’s shelves. She looked up at him and smiled.

Vernette: I am going to need some privacy...

Diana: What? Why? What’s going on?

Vernette: I don’t know...but I have two high ranking members of the Office of Naval Intelligence standing outside...and they are very adamant about talking to me. I promised these guys 10 minutes. I have to hear them out...these guys are interested in my work...and I cannot pass this up.

Diana: don’t need to explain...I understand...

Diana stood up. She walked up to Vernette.

Diana: Take your time...I know how important this is for you...I can tell.

Vernette: I really don’t deserve you...

Diana: don’t...but you got lucky all the same.

Diana grinned as she walked out of Vernette’s office. Vernette turned around and walked back to the front entrance of his home and opened the door. He saw Yates and Skinner standing outside.

Vernette: We can talk in my office...follow me.

Skinner and Yates walked into Vernette’s home and followed Vernette back to his office. Vernette sat down behind his desk. Yates and Skinner stood, facing Vernette. Before Yates or Skinner spoke, Yates turned and closed the door to Vernette’s office.

Vernette: Alright...what is it?

Yates walked towards Vernette’s desk and put a data pad down on Vernette’s desk.

Yates: Sign this...then we will answer ALL of your questions.

Vernette: What the hell is this?

Yates: A non-disclosure agreement. Sign it...

Vernette: What the hell are we discussing?

Yates: Sign it...

Vernette: I demand SOME explanation!

Yates: You want the general scoop? Fine. Yes...we are with ONI...but everything we do is HIGHLY classified. What we are discussing is HIGHLY classified. As a matter of fact...WE are HIGHLY classified. The only thing you are signing is a gag-order not to discuss what we talk about...that is it that is all!

Vernette: Fine...

Vernette placed his thumb print down on the signature area of the data pad. The data pad flashed green.

Yates: Now...was that so hard?

Vernette dropped the data pad onto his desk.

Vernette: Indulge me...

Skinner: Tell me Commander...have you ever heard of ONI Section 0?

Vernette: You mean that non-existent branch? I have heard rumors about it. It is supposedly some internal affairs division that deals with UNSC security and ONI stability. I think its bullshit to be honest.

Skinner: I assure you Commander...Section 0 is not bullshit...Section 0 is very real.

Vernette: Says who?

Skinner: Says the two men who are standing right in front of you...both of whom WORK for Section 0.

Vernette was silent.

Skinner: I know exactly what you are thinking. You want us to prove it.

Skinner grinned.

Skinner: Have you heard of the Spartan-II project?

Vernette: I have heard of it...not much...very little...close to none. I may, or may not have caught a glimpse at something that was classified. All I know is that the Spartan Program is not finished. Anything else on the subject is…a mystery to me.

Skinner: The Class-I Spartans are not finished. However....Section 0 maintains full control of Class-0.

Vernette: Section 0 has its own group of Spartans?

Skinner: Our very own. In fact...we have two on our ship right now. Would you like to meet them? Of course this would be to set aside all of your doubts.

Vernette: As a matter of fact...I would! I am very interested in seeing this!

Skinner: We can have a pelican ready to pick you up at the spaceport in 2 hours. Please be prompt! When you arrive...just go to the courtesy desk and give them your name...and be sure to tell them that "perpetual security is eternal vigilance". I am sure you will be able to figure out the rest.

Vernette: Understood...for the most part.

Skinner nodded.

Skinner: Good. We will see ourselves out. Have a wonderful evening.

Skinner and Yates turned and walked out of Vernette's office. They left his home without saying another word.

Vernette, on the other hand, sat at his desk in total awe.

Vernette: I have to see this for myself. If these guys are for real...and they are interested in helping me...this could change everything!

Vernette was silent for several moments. He broke out of his daze when he heard a knock at the door. He looked up and saw Diana again.

Diana: I saw those two men leave...and you look like you have seen a ghost! What happened!?

Vernette: I think my luck has turned for the best. Those two guys were indeed from ONI...and they are very interested in my work. They want me to meet with them in 2 hours...and I am considering going.

Diana: ONI? You have always distrusted ONI for their secretive nature. You always told me that ONI was obscure...too opaque.

Vernette: This was before they have actually proven to be collectively smarter than HIGHCOM! This is my chance to actually get my designs implemented. I doubt I will join them...I could never see myself working for them...but I will collaborate with them to get my ideas off the ground! These guys have influence...and I want to capitalize on that!

Vernette stood up.

Vernette: Look...Diana...I have to do this. I have to meet these guys. I doubt I will be back by don't wait up!

Vernette grabbed his naval uniform jacket that was hanging on a hook behind him. He put the jacket on and began to do up the buttons.

Diana: Just be careful...and keep your wits...this is too good to be true!

Vernette pulled his magnum out.

Vernette: Don't worry...I always have my wits with me...and my wits are fully loaded!

Diana: It is all I can ask.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Downtown District - Highway 912 – 1 hour and 45 minutes later:

Vernette was driving his car down the highway, heading to the downtown spaceport. The traffic was moderately light due to the time of the evening nearing midnight.

Vernette: How the hell do these guys operate without gathering any attention? Surely SOMEONE at HIGHCOM knows about Section 0. The fact that it is REAL...I cannot believe it. How do they have Spartans? Where did they come from? How the hell do they keep that from the rest of the UNSC? How the hell do these guys have something that the rest of the UNSC has not even finished?

Vernette shook his head. He had so many questions. He looked at the highway exit signs, and followed them towards the Spaceport. He took the next exit.

It was not long until Vernette had pulled his vehicle up to the Spaceport. He parked his vehicle in a handicapped parking spot. As he stepped out, one of the spaceport officers walked up to Vernette.

Officer: Excuse me can't park are going to have to move your vehicle!

Vernette looked at the officer and reached into his jacket and pulled out a small leather wallet and opened it. He showed the officer his UNSC credentials.

Vernette: My credentials beg to differ.

The officer took a deep breath and walked away.

Vernette: walk away. I am sure they brewed some fresh coffee in the staffroom.

Vernette put his credentials away and walked into the spaceport. He looked around and saw a lineup at the courtesy desk. Vernette sighed and walked past the line-up, cutting right to the front. Vernette looked at the receptionist, and then at the man speaking to the receptionist.

Vernette glared at the man.

Vernette: Take a walk Copernicus...

The man looked at Vernette and frowned.

The receptionist also frowned. She looked at Vernette.

Receptionist: Excuse me are going to have to go to the back of the line...

Vernette rolled his eyes and pulled out the leather wallet from his jacket again. He showed his UNSC identification.

Vernette: Commander Preston J. Vernette...I am allowed to cut the line.

Receptionist: I am sorry sir...I did not know this was a military concern. How can I help you?

Vernette: I was told to come here...

Receptionist: One moment sir...

The receptionist began to type.

Receptionist: Yes...I have an administrative notice in the system. However...

Vernette: Yeah, yeah... perpetual security is eternal vigilance...

Receptionist: Thank you sir...

The receptionist turned and walked away to a small staffroom that was behind the desk. She came back a moment later with small rectangular black box.

Receptionist: Here you are sir. Have a great day!

Vernette nodded and walked off with the black box in hand. He walked to a secluded part of the spaceport and found a table. Vernette placed the box on the table and opened the box. Inside was a black keycard with the ONI logo on it. There was a note inside that said Gate 21.

Vernette took the card and the note and pocketed them both. He closed the black box and left it on the table. Vernette walked further into the spaceport and found Gate 21. Waiting by the gate was two men in black suits. They were unmarked suits.

Vernette walked up to the men and looked at them. The men looked back.

Without saying a word, Vernette pulled out the keycard and showed it to the two men.

One of the men pulled out a PDA from his pocket and gave it to Vernette. Vernette inspected the PDA and saw a card slot at the bottom of the PDA. Vernette inserted the card into the PDA and the PDA flashed green.

Vernette handed the PDA and card back to one of the men.

Covert Agent: Commander Vernette...please come with us.

The two men led Vernette into Gate 21. Vernette followed, eventually being led to a Pelican with two Marines guarding it.

Covert Agent: We will be taking you to the UNSC Frigate Lunar Eclipse. Please step aboard the Pelican.

Vernette nodded and walked onto the Pelican. The two marines and two Covert Agents followed. Vernette sat down and watched as the rear hatch closed. He could feel the Pelican lift off. Vernette patiently waited as the Pelican made its way to the UNSC Frigate.

It was not long until the Pelican was docked in the hanger bay of the UNSC Frigate Lunar Eclipse. Vernette looked at the rear hatch open. Vernette stood up and walked out of the Pelican. He immediately saw the difference of the interior ship design. The walls were a matte black, with the floors being a glossy black tile. Vernette paced around the hanger bay, taking in the sight.

Vernette: Classy...

Vernette turned when he heard a familiar voice behind him.

Skinner: I would say fitting.

Vernette walked up to skinner and extended his hand.

Vernette: Admiral...

Skinner: Commander...

Skinner shook Vernette’s hand.

Skinner: To be honest...I am surprised you showed up...given the circumstance.

Vernette: There is no way I wouldn’t show up!

Skinner: Well...we have much to discuss...

Vernette: Sir...if I may...

Vernette paused.

Vernette: The Spartans...I need to see this.

Vernette shrugged.

Vernette: I really need to see this.

Skinner: Very well...first stop is the armory then.

Skinner and Vernette walked out of the hanger bay. As they walked, they discussed other matters.

Skinner: Commander...while we are walking...I just want to ask you a few things.

Vernette: Fair enough. What is on your mind?

Skinner: Your extensive is it?

Vernette: What do you mean?

Skinner: I have read your weapon proposals Commander...and they are nothing short of amazing! Our best minds were unable to make heads or tails of anything you put forward to the UNSC, specifically to HIGHCOM.

Vernette: Yes...HIGHCOM has been blocking everything! They find excuses to deny my proposals the green light.

Skinner: What if I told you that I could green light ALL of your proposals RIGHT NOW...if all you had to do was tell me that the contents of your hardware upgrade proposals is NOT the upper limit of your expertise.

Vernette: I would high do you need that upper limit to be?

Skinner: Well...that all depends. There is a lot we want to do...and how much we can do is limited by what you can give us in terms of your expertise. Look Commander...I have been in this game for a long time. You are hiding your hand. You have a poker face on right now. You have your foot in the water. Your mind is busy assessing the pros and cons of giving Section 0 your expertise.

Vernette: Let me put it this way...chances are...whatever you need, I can do. I have learned never to tip my full hand when dealing with people. The question is...why does Section 0 need my expertise? I am sure there are other branches of ONI that are interested...and sooner or later the UNSC is going to allow me to proceed when they realize the insurrection is not to be trifled with. You have made it clear you value what I can do...but what can you offer me in return for my expertise?

Skinner: Whatever you are making, whatever your annual salary is...I will quadruple it on the spot...and that is for starters. Section 0 has a very...VERY large war chest. I can give you your own staff...your own command...your own resources, assets. I can give you the finest labs, the most brilliant minds, the most skilled Agents...all at your beck and call. Hell...I can give you whatever you want! Are you in the market for a new sports car? It can be yours...and you can drive it to the most prestigious bank, as fast as you want, where you will deposit your insanely large pay checks! All I want in return is your expertise.

Vernette: Hmmm...

Vernette paused.

Vernette: I do fancy the notion of driving sports cars to deposit insanely large pay checks in the bank...but...I care more about doing good rather than doing bad and being handsomely rewarded for it.

Skinner: I am pleased to hear this. I am very pleased to hear this! I can assure you...your work with us will help us usher in a swift end to the Insurrection! I can have some contract drafts drawn up, and I can have you instantiated into Section 0 by the end of today!

Vernette: Hold on...I did not say that I have accepted...just that the offer interests me.

Skinner: Are you going to accept?

Vernette: I want to see more of your ship...I need to think about it. But first...I need to see that you guys are the real deal...

Skinner: You want to see the Spartan?

The duo stopped in front of the armory.

Skinner: They are both in there. You are free to check them out.

Vernette nodded and walked into the armory. He saw the two Spartans conversing with each other. They both stopped and looked at Vernette when they heard the doors open.

Vernette: No way...unbelievable...

Skinner: Yes way...and very believable...

Nikolai: Admiral Skinner...

Skinner: Nikolai...I want you to meet Commander Preston J. Vernette...he is an exciting new prospect in ONI.

Nikolai looked at Vernette and nodded.

Nikolai: Commander...

Skinner grinned. He then looked at the other Spartan.

Skinner: Cameron?

Cameron: Yea Admiral?

Skinner: Are you going to greet the Commander?

Cameron looked at Vernette. Cameron nodded.

Cameron: Commander...

Vernette: Incredible!

Skinner: Class 0 is our pride and joy...perfect in every way!

Vernette: How many of them are there?

Cameron: There are 75 of us...each of us capable of what the next is. Each of us is capable of feats hundreds, if not thousands of times beyond what a normal human is capable of.

Nikolai: In all respects...we are simply better than most normal humans.

Vernette: Is that so.

Nikolai: is. We are faster...stronger...more versatile...we can survive environments that could kill you...

Cameron: are talking down to your superior officer...if I were you...I would be careful. Don’t let your training go to your head. The Commander is here for a reason...and that means that he is better then you at show a little bit of respect...

Nikolai scoffed and walked off.

Skinner: Well...he is in a fine mood.

Cameron looked at Vernette.

Cameron: I apologize sir...I take full responsibility for his actions.

Vernette: You are apologizing for him?

Cameron: I am...well...I am considered to be their leader. I proved to be the best of the Class 0s...I had the best leadership skills...and the coolest head. The brass picked me to keep the others in line. They all report to me.

Vernette: Ohhh...well...don’t worry about it. I can’t please everyone all the time.

Cameron: Nikolai is one of our most skilled...but he has always been a little short with people. ONI sometimes calls it a character flaw.

Vernette: Character flaw?

Skinner: it is not that big of a is not that important.

Vernette looked at Skinner.

Vernette: I think it is important. If I am going to be working with these guys...I need to know what the deal is.

Skinner: We can discuss it later...

Vernette: With all respects sir...I think we need to discuss this now.

Cameron looked at Skinner.

Cameron: Sir...I think it is fair that the Commander knows...

Vernette: Need to know what?

Skinner sighed. Skinner looked at Vernette.

Skinner: Class 0 Spartans, some of them anyway, have a minor character flaw. Some of them can very aggressive...very confrontational. Section 0 was more concerned about genetic compatibility and less about mental stability. There are a few that turned out essentially perfect...but a majority of them can be uncooperative at times.

Vernette was wide eyed as he looked back at Skinner.

Vernette: That is a pretty disturbing design flaw...

Skinner: Not so much considering that Class 0s, when unleashed on an enemy, are very effective and willing to follow orders. A bit of aggression can be tolerated.

Vernette: That is very careless. Something as big and as fast as a Spartan should not be allowed to take matters into his own hands...and they certainly should not be allowed to run around totally out of control.

Cameron chimed in, and looked at Vernette. As he did, Skinner and Vernette looked at him.

Cameron: I have always been forced to agree with that stance Commander...

Vernette looked back at Skinner.

Vernette: See?

Skinner looked at Vernette.

Skinner: Commander Vernette...whatever your feelings are here to elevate the current state of military technology...not play commentator to all of our executive decisions. Let me just be clear about this.

Vernette nodded.

Vernette: Very well Admiral, consider the matter dropped.

Skinner sighed.

Skinner: This little meeting took up more time than it should have. Commander, I have much work to do. I can contact you later with further details about your recruitment. For now...I have much to catch up on. If you could be so kind as to see yourself in...see yourself to the hanger bay and return to would be very much appreciated.

Vernette raised an eyebrow.

Cameron: Admiral Skinner...I can continue to show the Commander around...

Skinner looked at Cameron and shook his head.

Skinner: No Cameron...that will not be necessary. However, if you wish to walk and talk with the Commander back to the hanger are free to.

Cameron: Very well.

Skinner: If you will excuse me...

Skinner turned away and left Vernette and Cameron by themselves.

Vernette looked at Cameron.

Vernette: Is this typical for your working conditions?

Cameron: More often than not...yeah...

Cameron paused.

Cameron: Between you and I sir...Admiral Skinner can be quite...short...with people. He is like that with everyone. If he needs you, he will be nice...but once you fall under his command...he can be...what’s the word? Both you and I have one...

Vernette nodded. Vernette proceeded to walk out of the armory and proceed back to the hanger bay. Cameron followed.

Vernette: You don’t seem so bad Cameron...not unlike Nikolai...

Cameron: I turned out is why I am the ranking Spartan for Class 0.

Vernette: Interesting...

Cameron: Not is not hard to stand out when the general level of competence is beneath you.

Vernette: I would not call a Spartan incompetent...short tempered perhaps, but not incompetent.

Cameron: Nikolai, and most of the other Class 0’s are…disturbed. There are problems with Class 0 that ONI hides. They are not the perfect soldiers ONI intended to be. They are close, but they are not perfect...and this disturbs me. Someone as powerful as a Spartan...needs to be perfect...or there is going to be trouble.

Vernette: Cameron...there is something else...isn’t there?

Cameron: saw how Nikolai was...he isn’t all bad, when all things are considered. There is one Class 0 worse than he is...and I am very concerned about him.

Vernette: Who is it?

Cameron: His name is Lucien...Lucien-Z002.

(Z as in Zed)

Vernette: Zed?

Cameron: Zed...

Vernette: North American Union?

Cameron: Greater Toronto Area...

Vernette: Canadian AND a Spartan? Strange...didn’t think you guys were like that. Being a weapon of war isn’t a very passive-aggressive way of life...

Cameron: Sir...about Lucien...

Vernette: Sorry...continue.

Cameron: Lucien is a little different. His methods are...unsettling...and his ambitions are...out of line...but with very good reason.

Vernette: Clarify...

Cameron: Lucien knows he is a Spartan...but...some of the things he does...

Cameron paused.

Cameron: A few weeks ago...I was running drills with Lucien...just a standard sweep and elimination simulation, with Insurrectionists as our targets. Lucien was killing them with his bare hands...and he was enjoying it...a lot...he was enjoying it too much. This is but one example of such behavior. I have reported this to Skinner, but it has been dismissed as an “acceptable level of hatred for the enemy”. Section 0 refuses to even touch this.

Vernette: Wow...

Cameron: That’s not all. Remember those ambitions I told you about? Lucien fancies himself as a naval commander as well...and I would be lying if I said that he didn’t have the aptitude for it. In fact...he is far more qualified than any other naval officer I have seen in my life. It is simply natural for him.

Vernette: How could you make such an evaluation?

Cameron: because...on his spare time...he ran the command officers exam simulation...

Vernette: Oh yes...the simulation with no apparent way to win. I don’t believe in that crap...there is always a way to just need to find it.

Cameron: Yeah...well...he almost won! He scored a 98 percentile on it. We checked the logs, we checked every system...he did not cheat, and he did not alter the system! He simply figured it out. We don’t know how!

Vernette: Hold are complaining about this guy because he is good at command?

Cameron: No...I am complaining because he posses skills and attributes that are being coupled with psychotic behavior! If Lucien ever went rouge...could you imagine the fallout?

Vernette: I see your point...

Cameron: But...none of this concerns you and your situation...

Vernette: Well...I may be the new guy on the block...but I already have a few cards in my hands. If ONI wants me...then I can force a re-evaluation of Lucien...I can have whatever I want!

Cameron: You would do that?

Vernette: You seem concerned about it...might as well help you...after all...if I am going to join Section 0...we need to be able to work together and help each other...what better way to prove this to you?

Cameron: Commander...I appreciate this...

Vernette: I will talk to Skinner ASAP!

Vernette and Cameron, at that moment, walked into the hanger bay. The duo was met by Rear Admiral Yates.

Yates: Commander...

Vernette: Commander...what can I do for you?

Yates: I am just here to inform you, that we are going to contact you...

Yates looked at his watch as he spoke.

Yates: Later on today it seems...

Vernette looked at his watch and saw that it was long past midnight.

Vernette shrugged and looked back at Yates.

Vernette: What will this contact concern?

Yates: We will have your official recruitment documents. We will ask to meet with you to seal the deal.

Vernette: Any specific time?

Yates: 2:00 pm...local time...on the dot.

Vernette: Understood.

Yates nodded and walked off, leaving the hanger bay. Cameron looked at Vernette.

Cameron: I look forward to seeing you again sir!

Vernette: Likewise Cam...can I call you Cam?

Cameron: Sure! No harm in that.

Vernette: Perfect. Also...FYI...most of my friends, especially in the military, usually just call me by my last name...I don’t really have a short name...kind of hard to shorten the name Preston I find...nothing really sounds usually am fine with people calling me Vernette...without the rank prefix...

Cameron: it is not really in my nature to address my superior officers in a social fashion...but I will keep it in mind.

Vernette nodded. He stepped onto the waiting pelican. The Pelican hatch sealed, and after the pre-flight sequence, took off, passing through the security barrier, of the hanger bay door, and proceeded to take Vernette back to Harvest.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Residential District - 2 hours and 30 minutes later:

Vernette’s car pulled up to the front of his house. He stepped out of his car and walked into his home. All of the lights were off, as the entire house was asleep. Vernette walked through the house, proceeding to his office. He walked into his office and turned on a desk lamp. Vernette sat down at his desk and leaned back in his chair. He sighed.

Vernette: A Spartan...I actually saw a full...a complete and ready Spartan. What have I got myself into? Why do I feel so anxious?

Vernette gazed off. He looked around his room, eventually stopping when he saw a book on his couch. The book was open, with its spine facing upwards. Vernette stood up and walked over to the book and picked it up. He turned it around and saw that it was a blank page with a single title.

Vernette recognized the book. He recognized it as a book that he used to read when he was in the orphanage when he was young. He took it with him when he left the orphanage.

Vernette read the title out loud.

Vernette: La Vita Nuova...

Vernette turned the page. He read the passage out loud to himself.

Vernette: In that book...which is my memory, on the first page, of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you...appear the words “here begins a new life”.

Vernette paused. He put the book down on his desk.

Vernette: I must have read this book a thousand fascinating that something written over a thousand years ago can have such...relevance...

Vernette put both of his hands on his desk and leaned forward. He sighed. He closed his eyes and hung his head.

Vernette: I totally need to sleep on this decision...

Vernette took his holster off his hip and hung the holster up on a hook that was in a wardrobe closet in his office. He walked back over to the sofa and collapsed on it.

Midnight – ONI Section 0 Operational Headquarters Omicron - ONI Section 0 Military District of Tribunal:

A Spartan was sitting in an armory, an armory located in a high security military installation used for training Class 0 Spartans.

The Spartan had a magnum in his hands. He kept ejecting the clip and inserting it again. He repeated this processes, slowing speeding up until he crushed the gun in his hand and tossed it aside. The damaged gun hit the ground and broke into several pieces. The clip that housed the bullets had broken and the bullets scattered on the ground.

The Spartan was breathing heavily in frustration. However, he stopped when he hears a door open behind him.

The Spartan turned and saw an ONI Naval Officer, accompanied by four ODST enter the armory. The officer looked at the Spartan. The Officer took a long drag of a cigarette before he said anything.

Spender: Lucien-Z002?

The officer exhaled the smoke as he spoke.

Lucien: Yes?

Spender: My name is Vice Admiral Constantine Spender...

Lucien: Good for you...

Spender: I have come a long way to see you.

Lucien: Have you now? How nice. Are you interested in how effectively...and violently...I dispatch enemy combatants?

Spender: As a matter of fact...yes...

Lucien: You...and the rest of ONI. Some complain, some praise...which one are you?

Spender: Praise...

Lucien: Than you are no different than Admiral that respect I have met you before...and I am now disinterested in this meeting.

Spender: You are very to the point. Tell me...did you apply such ridged authority during the command officer’s exam?

Lucien stood up and looked down at Spender.

Lucien: You have my interest again...tell me what I want to hear...

Spender: Hmmm...

Spender took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: Such a fantastic mind...obscured behind such a devastating weapon...

Spender laughed a bit.

Spender: You are capable of so much more...

Spender paused.

Spender: I trust you agree?

Lucien: I do...I do agree...

Spender: Do you feel satisfied in Section 0? Do you feel satisfied in your role as an attack dog?

Lucien was silent.

Spender: I don’t think so. Your anger...your is palpable...

Spender grinned.

Spender: That is a very powerful emotion. You truly hate it here...

Lucien: I do...

Spender: You want something else from want want to exceed the boundaries placed before you by bureaucrats and doctors...

Lucien: What are you getting at?

Spender: I represent an organizational division of Section 0 that...prefers...members like you. To will be more than a Spartan. All you need to do is walk away from Section 0...righty here and right now.

Lucien: This must be some sort of test...

Spender: The only thing being tested is your commitment to what you think is important. So...what will it be? Keep doing what you are doing now...or grow as a person? If you say no, I will walk will never see me again.

Lucien: So my options are to ditch ONI...or stay with ONI?

Spender: Essentially...yes.

Lucien: And if I ditch ONI...I will be allowed to grow beyond a simple-minded killing machine?

Spender: Yes...

Lucien: Then the choice is obvious...

Lucien paused.

ODST Black Team all looked at each other. They didn't say anything, but they all knew this guy was, in no uncertain terms, nuts.

Lucien: Lead...and I will follow...

Spender: Good...very good. I am pleased to hear this!

Spender paused. He grinned.

Spender: I have a ship in orbit...waiting to take us away from Midnight. Once we depart...we can begin our new co-operation.

Lucien: When do we leave?

Spender: Immediately.

Lucien: Where are we going?

Spender: Well...I will need to make a detour. Some news has come to my attention...only minutes before I arrived here. The news concerns someone that ONI has recruited...his skills are something we desire to have. First we go to Harvest...we find this individual...and then we return to our dry dock.

Lucien: Fair enough. If I may ask...who are you trying to recruit on Harvest?

Spender: His name is Preston Vernette...Commander Preston Vernette to be more precise. From what I understand about him, he has a very creative mind...and a way of thinking that flies circles around anyone else in ONI. If Section 0 feels the need to hunt someone down by name...there MUST be something interesting. I want to get to him before Section 0 does.

Lucien looked at Spender. He tilted his head to the side.

Lucien: You said you work for some...division of ONI. Is it normal for a division of ONI would be competing for talent? guys are all on the same side.

Spender: It is very complicated...but I can, and will, explain on our way to Harvest.

Spender looked at the exit to the armory, and then back at Lucien.

Spender: Shall we?

Lucien: Lead the way!

Spender nodded. He walked out of the armory with Lucien in tow.

Lucien: So...tell me more about this Commander Vernette you are after.

Spender: Commander Vernette is a specialist in weapons technology, cybernetics, and electronic engineering. This guy knows what he is doing when it comes to weapons technology. Recently...he has been trying to spearhead some sort of armament ill to the UNSC...proposing experimental upgrades to several ships, all in the name of combating the Insurrection. I used some of my UNSC connections to analyses some of this guys weapon proposals...and these proposals are quite good...but the only reason the UNSC cut them down was because of the cost associated with the upgrades. To use a metaphor...Vernette is trying to pull the teeth from a bear’s mouth and replace them with machine guns...and he cares very little for how difficult it will be for the people involved.

Lucien: So why would you want to recruit someone who cannot budget himself.

Spender: Because we have a very large budget...and it goes unregulated.

Lucien: Why do I feel that this guy is going to be a problem?

Spender: I do not know why you feel this way...but I feel this way as well, and that, I know why...

Lucien waited.

Spender: Preston Vernette is a very stubborn man. He has...misguided principles which make him hard to sway. His stubborn nature makes him very difficult to predict and control. Lastly...he can be a real asshole at times. He is arrogant at times...and not a people person. We really have nothing to offer least nothing that ONI Section 0 has not already offered.

Lucien: This sounds familiar...

Spender: Oh?

Lucien: This Preston Vernette strikes me as the kind of man that is brave with his own life...but can be moved when dealing with the lives of others.

Spender: Go on ...

Lucien: Men like Preston Vernette have one, and only one weakness...their loved ones...their friends...the people they care about.

Spender grinned.

Spender: You are good with strategy! I did not think about this. Hopefully...Preston Vernette has SOMEONE we can use against him...

Lucien: I suggest we learn of this possibility ASAP...

Lucien and Spender left the Class 0 training facility and walked into a courtyard where a UNSC Pelican was waiting. Lucien looked at the Pelican. As Spender walked into the Pelican, he turned as he did not hear Lucien get on the Pelican. Spender looked at Lucien with a confused look on his face.

Lucien: Before I leave...I need to know for working with you...I am totally ditching Section 0? Never again will I be under the command of Section 0.

Spender: In the short my long term goals involve a position of power in Section 0. You may find yourself in Section 0 again sometime in the future...but it will be my Section 0.

Lucien: Fair enough. So long as I answer to someone who recognizes my potential...I can work with them.

Lucien stepped onto the Pelican. The rear hatch closed and the Pelican lifted off, returning to orbit, and docking in the hanger bay of a UNSC Frigate.

Spender: Like I said...our destination is Harvest. Getting there won’t take long...but learning Preston Vernette like the backs of our hands will take some time. We must be patient.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Residential District - 7 hours later:

Vernette was lying down on the sofa in his office, asleep. He awoke to someone shaking him.

Vernette saw his wife standing over him.

Diana: You know...the bed is usually more comfortable than a couch...

Vernette sat up. He groaned.

Vernette: What time is it?

Diana: Quarter to 10 in the morning...

Vernette: I got back home just short of 3 am...

Diana: Really? How did it go?

Vernette: Well...these guys are for real. Some of the things I wouldn’t believe me...on the other hand, I shouldn’t say anything...chances are that stuff is really classified.

Diana: Hmmm...I bet.

Vernette: While we are talking about ONI...I have a meeting with them today at 2:00 pm...

Diana: So I am guessing you are going to be pre-occupied with that?

Vernette: Yeah...story of my life...

Diana: Hmmm...well...I will leave you to that. I, on the other hand, have to take the kids to school in about half an hour. We can talk more later...

Vernette: Yeah...defiantly...

Diana walked out of Vernette’s office. Vernette looked around and rubbed his eyes. He was still slightly tired, but he knew the morning fatigue would ware off.

Vernette: Alright...ONI...

Vernette thought about his upcoming meeting with ONI later on in the day.

Vernette: Do I want to join Section 0? Do I really want to work with these guys? It seems so good...gaining everything...losing nothing. These guys want the Insurrection done with, and I agree with that. HIGHCOM has done nothing but put up walls...and have done nothing but push me back and deny my proposals.

Vernette chuckled.

Vernette: I look at how well armed Section 0...not to mention those damn Spartans...they must limitless resources. The increased pay is nice...the knowledge that I am actually contributing something is nice. Yeah...I think I like these guys...I think I am going to like this job. I cannot wait to draft my letter of resignation to the UNSC R&D Department...I am going to love writing that letter...

Vernette sat down at his desk and turned on his laptop. He began to draft a letter of resignation from the UNSC R&D Department. He spent quite a bit of time perfecting the wording of the letter, ensuring that it said everything that he ever wanted to say to his superiors, both at HIGHCOM and in the R&D Department.

Vernette spent a few hours writing the letter, only because he had so much to say. When he was fully satisfied with what he had written, he looked over at his clock.

Vernette: Shit...10 to 1...ONI should be contacting me in a little more than an hour. I should be ready to get the hell out of here at a moment’s notice.

Vernette rubbed his chin. He felt that he had a morning’s growth.

Vernette: Better clean myself up. I would rather not look like a totally unkempt drunk.

Vernette stood up and left his office. He proceeded to clean himself up, making himself look more professional and kempt. It was not long before Vernette returned to his office, in full uniform. He walked over to the wardrobe cabinet and grabbed his holster and strapped it on around his waist.

Vernette looked in a mirror and straightened up his jacket and touched up his hair a bit. He stopped midway through when he heard his communicator on his desk beeping.

Vernette turned to look at the communicator. He then turned and looked at his clock. It was 2:00 exactly.

Vernette: Never early...never late...simply on time.

Vernette walked over to his desk and grabbed the communicator. He put it on his ear and tapped the button to activate it.

Vernette: Vernette here.

Yates: Commander Vernette...

Vernette: If I am to make a guess...Admiral Yates?

Yates: Correct.

Vernette: You guys are really on the ball about this whole...”we will contact you at 2:00 pm sharp”. It is like you were waiting by the uplink...ready to transmit.

Yates: I assure...that was not the case. We are simply VERY good at delegating the correct amount of time to everything, being sure to stay 100% on schedule. Precision is our game.

Vernette: Well...with that said...where do you wish to meet to...finalize my obligations?

Yates: We have an ONI listening post on Harvest. Are you familiar with outpost Stalingrad?

Vernette: Yes...I am. You mean...Section 0 uses Outpost Stalingrad as a beachhead?

Yates: Very astute. Be there in 1 hour. Security will be briefed on your impending arrival. Yates out.

Yates closed the comm. Line. Vernette shrugged.

Vernette: Fair enough Admiral...see you there.

Vernette scoffed.

Vernette: What a charming man.

Vernette shrugged and left his office. He proceeded to leave his house, and proceed to the car that was in his driveway. Vernette pulled the car out of his drive way and sped down the street, anxious to get his business with Section 0 started.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard – Military District - 1 hour later:

Vernette’s car pulled up to a large metal gate. Vernette look at a large metal sign that stood near the gates. It said “Fort Loki – UNSC Military Base” There were several UNSC marines standing guard. One of the marines walked up to Vernette’s car and tapped on the window.

Vernette rolled down the window and looked at the Marine.

Marine: Credentials...

Vernette reached into his jacket and pulled out an identification card. The marine took the card and put it into the bottom of a PDA. The PDA beeped and the Marine nodded.

Marine: Commander Preston J Vernette?

Vernette: Yes.

Marine: You are being expected it seems.

Vernette: That is what I was told.

Marine: Are you currently carrying any firearms?

Vernette: Two M6C Magnums...and an M90 in my trunk. Care to see?

Marine: That won’t be necessary sir.

The Marine paused.

Marine: Are you currently in possession of any electronic devices or aides?

Vernette: I have my PDA with military issued comm uplink, and my augmented reality sunglasses...

Marine: May I see your glasses?

Vernette: Certainly...

Vernette took his sunglasses off and handed them to the marine. The marine looked at them. He then held them close to his eyes and looked through them. He saw that they were currently active, and tied directly into the GPS system that was equipped on Vernette’s car.

Marine: Very good...thank you sir.

The marine handed the glasses back.

Marine: Make and model of your PDA?

Vernette: Iconia Digital Assistant 8600 series...

Marine: 8600 series?

Vernette: Correct.

Marine: May I see?

Vernette nodded. He pulled his PDA out of his pocket and handed it to the marine.

The marine inspected the PDA.

Marine: Sir, for security reasons, I am going to have to ask you to keep this device disabled while you are here...that is, unless I received clearance from my CO. You will have to speak with Admiral Skinner about that.

Vernette: Fair enough.

The marine turned the PDA off. He handed it back to Vernette.

Marine: Thank you may proceed.

The large metal gate opened.

Vernette drove his car into the military base, around the building, and right into the parking lot.

Vernette: Geeze...have not seen security this tight since my honeymoon...

Vernette walked towards the main entrance. He walked inside and walked down the main hallway. He walked into the main commons area and was met by Yates and Skinner, as well as several ONI Agents who were dressed in black.

Yates looked at Vernette.

Yates: One minute and 13 seconds...that is precisely how long we have been waiting for you to show up.

Vernette: I would have been here one minute and 13 seconds earlier had your butler known that a game of 20 questions has a time and a place.

Yates: Excuse me?

Vernette: The Marine out front was not briefed on my arrival.

Yates: Ohhh?

Vernette: I thought precision was your game? I guess even the best scalpel has imperfections.

Yates: Are you questioning my ability to properly delegate tasks to the people under my command?

Vernette: I was just interrogated at your front

Yates frowned. He stepped forward and was going to speak but Skinner stopped him.

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Skinner: Brandon...take a walk and cool your jets.

Yates frowned. He looked at Skinner.

Yates: Aye sir...

Yates turned and walked off down a different corridor.

Vernette: What was that about?

Skinner: He doesn’t like you.

Vernette: Ohh? So I am doing good?

Skinner: He really doesn’t like you. He thinks you...LACK...behind some of our other potential candidates.

Vernette: Other candidates?

Skinner: We were originally going to get Korman Industries to develop our cutting edge technology. Yates wanted Korman Industries...I overruled him. Yates does not believe you have compete with Korman Industries.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: To be honest...we are in the process of forging a contract with Korman Industries...

Vernette: Then why am I here? I thought...

Skinner: Everything I said was true. We do want your expertise; we want everything that you have to offer. All the promises, all the all stands. BUT...Section 0 wants to see what Korman Industries can dish out...AND they want to see what you can dish out. I believe you are better than Korman Industries...but Section 0 wants to see all possibilities.

Vernette: man verses the full resources of a fortune 500 planetary company.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: I trust I will be given the resources, man power, talent, and funding necessary to do what I need to do against Korman Industries.

Skinner: Of course...but I would not worry. Korman Industries has a legal department with a number of employees greater than the population of the Island of Grenada, back on Earth. 70% of their corporate income goes to the legal department. ONI’s biggest problem with Korman Industries is the amount of lawyers they have. It was exceedingly difficult to contract them. We are still in negotiations...but our front men hear from their lawyers EVERY day, with new demands! You are here to give us a good reason to nullify, or even stop that contract completely!

Vernette: Right...

Skinner: The most likely scenario I see is you trying to out-do Korman Industries. I doubt you will have anything fully ready in the next few months. Nobody expects you to...but the sooner the better...and sooner is ideally before we finalize with Korman Industries. If, by some chance, we finish with Korman Industries before you get something off the ground, it is not the end of the world...just ensure it is better than anything Korman Industries can develop.

Vernette: That won’t be too hard. Have you ever seen Eugene Korman...Korman Industries CEO?

Skinner: Yes...

Vernette: That guy is on death’s doorstep! I doubt he has a single brain cell that DOESN’T have Alzheimer’s...

Skinner laughed.

As he laughed he led Vernette down a corridor. The ONI agents followed.

Skinner: Let’s get your recruitment finalized...shall we?

Skinner led Vernette into an office. Skinner sat down at a desk that was in the office. Vernette sat down at the other end of the table. One of the agents gave Skinner a briefcase. Skinner opened it and pulled out a data pad.

Skinner: This is your contract. Read it. If you agree to it...sign it at the bottom.

Vernette took the data pad and took about 10 minutes to read through it. Skinner waited patiently for Vernette to finish it.

Vernette eventually nodded and placed his thumb print on the data pad sensor. The data pad beeped. Skinner grinned. He stood up and extended his hand to Vernette. Vernette stood and shook Skinner’s hand.

Skinner: Commander Vernette...welcome to Section 0.

Skinner saluted. Vernette saluted back.

Skinner: have work to do Commander. You should get will keep you busy while we have your car shipped here.

Vernette nodded.

Vernette: Understood sir!

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Residential District – 1 month later:

Vernette was in his office. He was sitting behind his desk working on a new weapon design for the M6G Magnum.

He stopped working when he heard a knock at his door. He looked up and saw Diana.

Diana: Still busy?

Vernette: Always busy…but loving it!

Diana: Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? You have been working non-stop…I barely see you these days. I am sure ONI can wait a day.

Vernette: I guess…and yeah, now that you mention it…I need to get out more. I have been seriously cooped up for too long!

Diana: Yeah…you don’t need to be glued to your work 24/7…

Vernette stood up and stretched.

He then walked over to his wife and looked at her.

Vernette: Well…what’s the plan?

Diana: I don’t know…we could do anything really.

Vernette: How bout dinner? We could go out…

Diana: Hmmm…Not in the mood…

Vernette: A movie then?

Diana: No…

Vernette: Not much to do otherwise. We could go for a drive or something…

Diana: We could stay in.

Vernette: I guess we could…

Diana: Have some alone time…

Vernette: Ohhh…I know where this is going now.

Diana: So you are not totally lost on the world. That is good to know.

Vernette: Where was this excitement a few nights back?

Diana: I don’t know...wasn’t there…now it is. You know how it comes and goes.

Vernette: Yeah…

Vernette shrugged.

Vernette: I guess I can take the night off. No harm in that right?

Diana: No harm what-so-ever.

Diana turned and left the office, speaking as she walked.

Diana: Don’t keep me waiting…

Vernette raised an eyebrow.

He laughed to himself.

Vernette: I have it made…I don’t know anyone with a better deal than I…

Vernette grinned. He walked out of his office, but stopped when he heard the doorbell ring. Vernette frowned as he looked at his watch. He saw the time was 11:25 pm.

Vernette: Who the hell visits this close to midnight?

Vernette walked to the front door and opened it. He saw two men standing at the door. Both men were dressed like ONI Agents. They were both in black uniforms, as well as wearing long trench coats over their uniforms. Both men were also wearing leather gloves.

Trust Agent 1: Commander Preston Vernette?

Vernette: Who are you people?

Trust Agent 2: We are with ONI Section 0…please come with us.

Vernette was very skeptical. He did not see any insignias on the uniforms of the two men. He was unable to identify them.

Vernette: I want to see some credentials…

Trust Agent 1: Very well…

Both agents opened their trench coats and revealed that they were both armed with M7 SMGs.

Trust Agent 1: Satisfied?

Vernette inhaled a deep breath. He now knew that these men were defiantly not with ONI. However, he was unsure, as they seemed to know about ONI Section 0.

Trust Agent 2: Commander…we will not ask again.

Vernette saw that the two men had arrived in a large SUV. There three other agents by the SUV. Vernette surmised they were armed equally as well as the two in front of him.

Trust Agent 1: Commander Vernette…be reasonable. You are a family man; two children and a wife. We know what you are thinking…and anything you do will result in a shootout right outside your house. Are you so stubborn that you would endanger your family? We have no problem with a firefight…and we are cleared to invoke civilian causalities if need be.

Vernette was silent for a moment.

Vernette: Very well…you win.

Trust Agent 2: We knew you would come to your senses.

The agents stepped aside as they led Vernette out of his house. One of the Agents closed the door to Vernette’s house, as the other walked him down to the waiting SUV.

Trust Agent 3: Check him!

The first Trust Agent grabbed Vernette by the back of his neck and pushed him into the car. He proceeded to pat Vernette down. The Agent found both of Vernette’s Magnums and took them away. He also took Vernette’s PDA.

Trust Agent 3: Good…put him out!

The fourth Trust Agent pulled out a small needle and stuck it into Vernette’s neck. He injected Vernette, and Vernette began to quickly lose consciousness.

UNSC Marathon Ulterior Motive – Currently in orbit of Harvest – 2 hours later:

Vernette began to hear voices as he was slowly regaining consciousness.

Trust Agent 2: Sir…he is waking up.

Spender: Leave him be…we do not want to damage the goods.

Vernette groaned. He began to get his bearings. He was aware of the fact that he was sitting down, but he was not bound to the seat. He did notice however that his hands were cuffed together.

Spender: Commander!

Vernette opened his eyes as wide as he could. He saw a man standing before him.

Spender: Ahhh…there you are. I was beginning to think you were never going to wake up!

Vernette was silent.

Spender: Clearly…you are in no mood for chit chat at the moment. The drugs will dissipate in a few moments. Just give it a moment Commander.

Vernette looked up at Spender. Vernette forced the words out of his mouth.

Vernette: Who the FUCK are you people?

Spender: I am a potential employer.

Spender grinned as he took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: I go by the alias “Cigarette Smoking Man”…sometimes…“Cancer Man”…call me what you will.

Vernette: How ‘bout I call you “The Fucking bastard”…

Spender: I don’t like that name…Cigarette Smoking Man will do.

Vernette: Fuck you….

One of the Trust Agents stuck Vernette with a Humbler.

Vernette groaned in pain. He was breathing heavily as he looked up at the Agent who struck him.

Vernette: Fuck you asshole!

Vernette looked at the Agent to the left of the Agent that struck him.

Vernette: Fuck you…

Vernette looked at the next Agent to the left.

Vernette: Fuck you…

Vernette looked to the Left again and saw a Spartan with his arms folded.

Vernette: I don’t even know you…but if you were here to help, you would have done so by now…so fuck you too!

Spender: Such a temper…such anger. I bring you here to converse as friends, and you berate my associates and you berate me.

Spender paused.

Spender: I will no longer bore you with details Commander. I will get to the point. Roughly one month ago…you joined The Office of Naval Intelligence Section 0 division. You agreed to provide them with your expertise in weapons hardware, technological design, and your general aptitude for innovation.

Spender took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: With ONI…you are simply a man…a numbered officer who just so happens to be good at something. Work with us…and you will be more powerful than God…except you will actually have the added bonus of doing something.

Vernette laughed.

Vernette: Buddy…

Vernette shook his head as he laughed. As he did this, he saw his guns and his PDAS sitting on a table. Vernette noted this and looked back at Spender, trying not to make it obvious that he saw his equipment.

Vernette: You are seriously delusional.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: If you wish to put yourself on the level of God…you go ahead and do that. I do not dare to walk that path.

Spender: Out of fear?

Vernette: Out of wisdom. Neither one man, nor a million men can simply displace a being that they cannot even begin to understand the nature of, nor can man displace a God when his existence still baffles the greatest of our minds. Even I am humbled in this domain.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Something tells me you enjoy meddling with power greater that either of us. Whether it be God…or something more…man made.

Vernette paused again.

Vernette: You lack boundaries. That is unwise…that is dangerous.

Spender: So humble…it was be refreshing if it were not many times more pathetic.

Spender frowned.

Spender: I am giving you an opportunity to be more than a pawn!

Vernette: No…you are giving me the opportunity to be your pawn. Please…you are an open book. Your God analogy said it all! All you want is power…and people to bolster it. You don’t give a damn about me, or anyone else in this room for that matter. Drop the pretense smokey…I am not stupid.

Spender: You are free to believe what you wish about how I run my organization. I have made my offer…and it is up to you if you wish to accept it or deny it. Let it be known…that to deny my offer…is a requiem bell. Nobody says no…to me.

Spender walked around Vernette.

Spender: I will not be denied. Accept my offer…or you WILL pay the price for your narrow vision.

Vernette thought for a moment.

Vernette: Just looking at you…you are a repulsive man. I am not going to sell my soul to save it. You go ahead smokey…do your worst. You will get NOTHING from me!

Spender: You want my worst? Very well little man. You shall have it.

Spender looked at the Agents.

Spender: Get this self-righteous fool out of my sight. Let him sit in the brig for the next week to think about his position.

Two of the ONI Agents grabbed Vernette’s arms and dragged him out of the interrogation room. They dragged Vernette to the brig and tossed him into one of the holding cells. They closed the bar doors and activated the security field around the cell. They walked off as Vernette struggled to get to his feet.

Vernette’s hands were still bound by the metal cuffs.

Vernette: Was it something I said?

Vernette looked around. He saw he was in a pretty dire situation.

Vernette: Alright…so I think I am in trouble.

Vernette managed to get to his feet. He walked up to the bars and security field and looked around the outside of the brig.

Vernette: Hmmm…

Vernette looked around the room. He looked above all of the cells and saw power conduits running into the wall next to each cell. His cell had the same conduits. Vernette followed the conduits across the roof and saw a small device mounted to the ceiling.

Vernette recognized the device.

Vernette: So…Smokey or one of his buddies at least, does a bit of on-again off-again shopping with Korman Industries. A CL900 security barrier…standard issue.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: Lucky me. Of all the shitty places to be stuck…the only thing stopping me is a bit of titanium and a crappy security barrier.

Vernette looked at his hands. He saw his hands were bound such that his right wrist was on the top part of his left wrist, position perpendicular to each other. He examined his binds. He grinned.

Vernette: Hmmm…standard issue. You know…Had I NOT been a criminal bastard when I was a kid…I might have been fucked here…but alas…

Vernette managed to pull one of the medals off his jacket. He managed to expose the pin of the medal. Vernette twisted his hands, and began to prod at the electronic lock on the underside of his cuffs. He managed to short the lock, releasing the cuffs.

Vernette: the hell do I get out of here?

Vernette walked over to the security barrier and touched it. He pulled his hand back after getting a jolt.

Vernette: Oww…fuck.

Vernette turned and looked at his bed. He saw it was a metal bed. It did not look sturdy, nor did it look comfortable.

Vernette: Hmmm…

Vernette walked over and pulled the mattress off and tossed it aside. He saw about a dozen metal bars acting as supports for the bed. The bars were not thick. Vernette knocked on one and discovered that the bar was hollow. The bars had a 1 inch diameter. Vernette grabbed one of the supports and tried to pull it out, but to no avail.

Vernette then raised his foot and tried to stomp the same support out. This worked a little better. He managed to bend the bar a bit. He stomped on it a few more times until he broke it free from the rest of the bed. The bar fell to the ground, with about a 20 degree bend in it.

Vernette: Good enough…

With the bar in hand, Vernette walked around the cell. He looked at the walls, and saw they were made from metal plates.

Vernette: Oh my God…

Vernette walked back to the security barrier and looked at the cells across from his, as a point of reference. He saw that there was a substantial amount of space between each cell. He estimated no more than 2 full meters that separated each unit.

Vernette: The conduits are running behind the damn walls…

Vernette walked back over to the wall. He used the metal bar to begin hitting one portion of the wall, denting it in. After a few minutes of this, Vernette had managed to dent one of the plates inwards, giving him the room needed to use the metal bar as a make-shift crow-bar. He began to ply the metal plate, next to the one he had damaged, right off the wall.

Using the angle in the bar, Vernette pushed his entire weight into the bar, which eventually managed to snap the plate right off the wall.

When the plate snapped off, Vernette stumbled forwards right into the wall.

Vernette: Alright…

Vernette looked at the wall he damaged and saw another wall behind the plate he had pried off the wall.

There was a steel bulkhead behind the large plate.

Vernette: Shit…

Vernette looked at the bulkhead.

Vernette: Alright…how the hell do I get by this? Think Preston…think!

Vernette paced back and forth.

Vernette: This is a solid wall…

Vernette stopped when he heard the doors to the brig open. He could hear two guards talking.

Trust Marine 1: Whatever that idiot is doing…make him stop!

Trust Marine 2: Right…just give me a moment.

Vernette realized there must have been a camera in the brig somewhere, and that his actions were seen. Suddenly…Vernette had an idea.

One of the Trust marines approached Vernette’s cell a few moments later and saw Vernette on the ground, near the security barrier, with the metal bar even closer to the security barrier.

Trust Marine 2: Shit…Mack! Lower the barrier on cell number 12…I think our Naval Commander might have inadvertently electrocuted himself. Looks like he was trying to short the security barrier…and it back fired! Get a medical team down here!

The security barrier fell and the Marine opened the cell and walked in. He knelt next to Vernette and checked Vernette’s pulse.

Trust Marine 2: What the hell…that is way too regular for someone who was just…

Vernette opened his eyes and reached up and grabbed the Marines knife from his chest sheath.

Vernette slashed the Marines throat, and then jammed the knife into the marines jaw. The marine fell back. Vernette got up and grabbed the marines MA5C Assault Rifle.

Vernette walked out of the cell, readying the Assault Rifle.

Vernette raised it and took aim at the other Marine and gunned him down from down the hall.

Vernette: Bastards…

Vernette ran to the entrance of the brig where the first Marine was. Vernette grabbed the Marines comm set from his ear, as well as the Marine’s PDA, and walked out of the Brig.

Vernette: I get my PDA…I get my Magnums…and I get the hell out of here! I cannot leave my designs in the hands of these people.

Vernette ran into the main corridor of the ship. He managed to get a schematic of the ship on the PDA. Vernette followed it back to the interrogation room, which was not far from the brig.

Vernette began to approach the interrogation room. However, he was forced to stop and hide when several marines emerged from the interrogation room. They had Vernette’s PDA and his Magnums.

Trust Marine 3: Take the Commander’s things to the lab. I am sure they can make better sense of this stuff.

Three other marines nodded to the third.

Trust Marine 4: Aye sir!

The Marines went their separate ways. Vernette began to shadow the Marines who had his equipment. It was not long until Vernette found himself outside of the research lab. He watched the Marines walk in.

Vernette took cover in a small service junction and waited a few minutes. He eventually saw the same Marines leave the lab.

Vernette watched the marines walk down the hall. After the coast was clear, Vernette walked into the lab, with the Assault Rifle ready.

Trust Engineer 1: Alright…lets crack this PDA open. Admiral Spender wants this unlocked ASAP! He wants the data that is on…

The engineer stopped when he saw Vernette aiming the Assault Rifle at him.

Vernette: Get your greasy fingers off my stuff!

The other four engineers in the room turned to look at Vernette. One of the engineers reached for his side arm. Vernette turned and shot the engineer down. The other engineers then reached for their weapons and Vernette just swept right across the room and shot them all down.

Vernette looked around the room and saw his Magnums and PDA on a table near the Engineer that was talking. Vernette walk over and reclaimed his equipment.

Vernette: Admiral Spender…that guy said Admiral Spender…

Vernette put his magnums in his holsters, and pocketed his PDA.

Vernette: I wonder if they meant that smoking guy. Well…right now it does not matter. I need to get out of here!

Vernette ran out of the lab.


Admiral Spender was on the bridge of his ship. He was typing on a data pad.

One of the bridge officers turned and spoke to Admiral Spender.

Trust Officer: Sir! We have reports of gunfire on deck 7.

Spender: What?

Spender paused. He looked at Lucien.

Spender: Do you think…?

Lucien: Vernette?

Spender looked back at the office.

Spender: Check the holding cell cams! Is Vernette still there?

The officer turned back to his terminal. He issued several commands to the computer. After a moment, the officer turned back to Spender and shook his head.

Trust Officer: No sir…the cell is empty…and there are two dead marines in the brig!

Spender turned to face Lucien.

Lucien: Don’t even say it…I’m on it!

Lucien turned and walked off the bridge.


Vernette ran through the corridors. He stopped when he heard the alarm going off.

Vernette sighed. He picked up the pace. As he ran, he could hear Spender talking over the comm.

Spender: Commander Vernette…do you honestly believe you are going to escape this ship alive!

Vernette stopped. He looked at the PDA that the Trust marine was using. Vernette saw he was coming up on the hanger bay.

Spender: You are meddling with the wrong man…Commander. Do you honestly believe you are any threat? Do you believe that you actually have the ability to leave? Any ship you launch from the Hanger Bay will be shot down! Gracefully surrender…and your punishment will only be crippling!

Vernette: Yeah…real fucking incentive…

Vernette stopped. He knew he would be shot down if he tried to leave in a Pelican.

Vernette: There is no way I can offline the weapons long enough to escape in a Pelican…

Vernette began to think.

Vernette: Longswords are not fast enough…they would still be in firing arc…

Vernette then snapped his fingers.

Vernette: A HEV pod…they deploy from underneath the ship. I can escape that way!

Vernette looked for the ODST HEV bay on the Trust PDA. He saw that the HEV pods were located on deck 15. Vernette immediately ran for elevator that was at the end of the hallway, but saw that the lift was out decommissions due to the fact that he had escaped from his cell.

Vernette turned to the stairwell door that was down the hall and saw that it had also been sealed.

Vernette: Shit…

Vernette sighed.

Vernette: Wait a minute…

Vernette looked at the Trust PDA and swiped it next to the locking mechanism that was located next to the stairwell door.

Vernette: Of course…security teams need to be able to access the stairwells during an emergency…

Vernette entered the stairwell and began to run downwards. He ran down towards the door leading to deck 15 and opened the door like he did the other. Vernette pocketed the PDA and had his Assault Rifle ready. He knew that the HEV bay would be crawling with ODST.

Vernette approached the main HEV bay doors. He had his Assault Rifle ready. He opened the door and popped out from behind the other side of the door. He immediately saw two ODST standing over a holotable turn their heads to look at him. The two ODSTs drew their Automags, but Vernette had shot them both down before either of them could get off a shot.

Vernette walked in. He took cover behind the holotable as another ODST came into the briefing area of the HEV bay. The ODST was armed with a shotgun. Vernette popped out the side of the holotable and fired off the last of his Assault Rifle, fully depleting the weapon, but killing the third ODST.

Vernette: I cannot believe this…killing my own people…just to escape this house of horrors alive!

Vernette drew both of his Magnums and made his way towards the HEV pods.

As he approached the HEV pods, a fourth ODST emerged from behind the cover of one of the docked HEV pods and took aim with an SMG. He fired off a burst, forcing Vernette to jump behind a small supply crate.

Trust ODST: You are going to pay big time for taking out my squad buddy…

Vernette rolled out to the side of the supply crate. He was lying on his back, arms stretched back beyond his head, aiming at the ODST. Vernette emptied his clips into the ODST, killing him.

Vernette: Yeah…you sure showed me.

Vernette ejected the clips from his magnums as he stood up to his feet. He reloaded his magnums and began to walk towards an open HEV pod. Vernette holstered his magnums as he prepared to climb in.

Suddenly, a pair of hands grabbed Vernette by the shoulders and pulled him back, tossing him onto the floor with such force that his magnums flew from his holsters.

Vernette raised his head from the ground and saw a fifth ODST. He was cracking his knuckles.

Trust ODST: You didn’t really think there were only four of us…right?

The ODST laughed as Vernette stood up and backed away.

Trust ODST: What’s the matter Commander? Not tough enough to face a man without your precious guns?

Vernette took a deep breath and raised his hands.

Trust ODST: Not very smart…are you? Do you have any idea how highly trained we are? I am going to break you!

The ODST lunged forward, jabbing forward with a right hook.

Vernette managed to block the attack, but the ODST followed up with a cheap shot to Vernette’s abdomen. The ODST followed up with a right hook to Vernette face, and a knee to the gut.

Vernette stumbled back.

Vernette raised his guard again and looked at the ODST. He took a few deep breaths.

Trust ODST: What’s the matter? Getting tired? Is that all the fight you have?

Vernette frowned.

The ODST lunged forward again. This time the ODST moved forward with a shuffle sidekick. Vernette moved to the side and drove his fist right into the head of the ODST. Vernette pulled his hand back after impact, as he had punched the helmet of the ODST.

Trust ODST: Is that the best you can do?

The ODST kicked to the side and impacted Vernette right in the chest. Vernette was pushed back against the wall. Vernette coughed.

Trust ODST: This is pathetic!

Vernette frowned again. He was getting irritated with this ODST.

Trust ODST: I am going to enjoy this. I am not going to kill you…just beat you to an inch of your life!

The ODST lunged forward again, throwing a left hook at Vernette. Vernette blocked the attack.

The ODST followed up with a right hook and Vernette blocked that as well.

The ODST stepped back and attempted to kick Vernette with a roundhouse kick to the head, but Vernette recoiled and dodged.

The ODST grunted as he pushed forward with a haymaker. Vernette ducked and drove his right fist into the ODST’s side.

The ODST was staggered, but he attempted to drive his knee right into Vernette’s face. Vernette raised his hands and stopped the ODST’s knee and pushed it to the side, staggering the ODST once again.

Vernette got back to his feet and quickly raised his hands.

Trust ODST: Lucky hit…

Vernette backed up towards the holotable. The ODST walked forward. He threw a left, and then a right hook. Vernette blocked both of the attacks.

Trust ODST: Son of a bitch!

The ODST threw a right hook again. This time, instead of blocking, Vernette redirected the ODST’s attack away by grabbing his wrist and forearm, and spinning the ODST around such that he slammed the ODST, chest first, into the holotable, such that he was bent over the table. Vernette had the ODST pinned down by his arm. Vernette then proceeded to snap the ODST’s arm.

The ODST screamed in pain, as he shot upwards, standing straight up. Vernette crouched and drove his fist into the back of the ODST’s knee, breaking the patella ligament.

The ODST screamed again. He fell to one k nee, but Vernette lifted him by the back of the neck back into a standing position and proceeded to smash his head down into the edge of the holotable, shattering the visor.

The ODST screamed again.

Vernette lifted the ODST up by the back of the neck again and proceeded to slam him down in the same fashion, with full force.

The edge of the holotable smashed the bridge of the ODST’s nose, and causing fatal head injuries. The ODST fell to the ground, dead.

Vernette looked down at him.

Vernette: That’s what happens when you back a brilliant scientist into a corner.

Vernette caught his breath.

Vernette then heard voices outside the HEV bay.

The voices were faint, but he heard them.

Lucien: I want C4 on this door…blow it down!

Vernette looked at the main door.

Vernette: Fuck!

Vernette ran back towards the HEV pods and recovered his Magnums. He put them back in his holster. Vernette approached a wall-mounted terminal to prepare a HEV pod for deployment. It was not long until Vernette found that the HEV pods had been locked from the bridge.

Vernette looked back at the door.

Lucien: How long until you have those charges set up?

Trust Marine: This is a heavy duty door…we need to get the placement of the C4 just right…or we won’t break through. 60 seconds…tops!

Vernette looked around the HEV bay. He knew that if he didn’t have that pod launched in less than 60 seconds, he would have another fight on his hands.

Vernette walked towards the briefing area of the HEV bay and found a laptop belonging to one of the ODSTs. Vernette saw the laptop was still functioning, but lacked a mainframe connection.

Vernette looked at the holotable and knelt down beside the service hatch. Vernette pulled the hatch off and looked for the DCE (Data Communications Equipment) connector to plug into the laptop.

Vernette pulled the DCE connector out of the holotable and plugged it into the laptop, giving the laptop terminal access to the ships mainframe. Vernette began searching through the ship’s command profile.


Spender slammed his fist down on his arm rest.

Spender: How the HELL did Vernette get super user access to our mainframe so quickly?

Trust Officer: I don’t know…but this guy is burning through our firewalls like they are not even there! He is trying to reactivate the HEV pods…and he is succeeding!

Spender tapped his earpiece and contacted Lucien over the comm.

Spender: Lucien!

Lucien answered the comm.

Lucien: I know what you are going to say…we are almost there!

Spender: He has almost escaped! Work faster!

Lucien: Understood!

Lucien could be heard talking to the marines through the comm. Spender listened.

Lucien: This door comes down now! Detonate it now! Whatever does not come down, I will push it down! GO!

Spender nodded in approval.

The officer turned to look at Spender.

Trust Officer: Commander Vernette has reactivated the HEV pods.

Spender: Just shut them down again!

Trust Officer: I can’t sir…he has disconnected the pods from the local network. I’ve lost access to them!

Spender: Do it remotely!

Trust Officer: We can’t…he just deleted the super user binary. We cannot administer, initialize, shutdown, or change any system without that system binary…he crippled our system. Before you say it…no…we won’t have the time to restore it from the protected archives. It’s down to Vernette and the Spartan now.

Spender: I don’t care…begin a restore immediately. The sooner we bring it back up…the better.


Vernette walked away from the laptop, and moved away from the briefing area, but was knocked to the ground when the HEV bay door exploded. Vernette fell right on his chest.

Vernette crawled back to his feet, his ears ringing. He looked at the door, it was barely intact. He could see Lucien breaking the door down.

Vernette turned and began to run towards the active HEV pod.

Lucien broke the door down and walked in. He grabbed his Magnum from his side and took aim at Vernette.

Vernette ran for the HEV pod as Lucien lined up his shot and fired. The bullet was on a direct trajectory for the dead center of Vernette shoulder blades.

The bullet, however, impacted Vernette’s right arm. The reason was because Vernette had turned to the left to jump into the pod.

Vernette sat in the pod as he cradled his wound. He could hear Lucien walking towards him. Vernette looked at the HEV controls and hit the green button. The front door of the HEV pod closed as it began its release.

Vernette could see Lucien through the front window of the HEV pod.

Vernette looked at Lucien.

Lucien stared back, but raised his Magnum and took aim at Vernette’s head. Lucien fired.

However…the bullet bounced off the window because the window was not made of glass, but rather, a transparent metallic alloy intended for harsh atmospheric entries.

Lucien began to speak. Vernette could barely hear Lucien through the window.

Lucien: I will be seeing you again very soon…Commander. I guarantee it!

The HEV pod launched from its bay, and shot down towards Harvest.

Vernette felt the HEV pod shake. He could feel the thinness of the air in the pod. The pod was speeding down towards Harvest. Vernette watched the guidance terminal as his pod rapidly counted down the numbers until he reached ground.

Vernette remembered back to his early navy classes on how the HEV pods worked.

Flashback – Harvest Naval Academy – 13 years ago:

Naval Instructor: Can ANYONE tell me WHAT this is!?

The Naval Instructor pointed to a holoimage of a HEV pod being displayed at the front of the classroom.

Naval Recruit: It is a HEV pod sir!

Naval Instructor: No points for partial credit! I want the actual name of this device!

The recruits were silent.

Naval Instructor: If you people cannot name this thing…there is going to be serious hell!

Vernette straightened up in his chair. He cleared his throat.

Vernette: Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle. For the record…HEV is an unofficial naval abbreviation for Human Entry Vehicle...I have no idea why it was nicknamed a HUMAN Entry Vehicle…it is not like small animals are being put inside of it.

The naval instructor looked at Vernette.

Naval Instructor: Correct…and correct! For the record…I don’t care what you call this thing when you are commissioned officers…you can call it a shopping cart for all I care. However, for now, I expect you ALL to refer to this vehicle as a Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle! I want the full name every time!

The Naval Instructor paused.

Naval Instructor: Can anyone tell me how it works?

Vernette: Well…the…Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle is dropped from the underside…

The Naval Instructor interrupted Vernette.

Naval Instructor: I have no idea what an underside is recruit! Put it in terminology that I can understand!

Vernette sighed.

Vernette: Ventral side…sir.

Naval Instructor: Continue!

Vernette: Once the Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle is deployed from the ventral side of a ship, the Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle has breech the atmosphere at approximately 3000 feet, the upper exterior panels will separate and deploy into a drag-type chute designed to slow the descent of the pod. At roughly 50 to 100 feet from ground level, depending entirely on the force of gravity acting on the pod, the computer-controlled braking rockets engage to slow the pod to a slower speed…the end result being a survivable, but non-graceful landing.

Naval Instructor: Very good…I am impressed.

The Naval Instructor paused.

Naval Instructor: So…it sounds like these things work perfectly!

Vernette: On the contrary. Fatalities can be semi-common for various reasons. It is possible that the re-entry will destroy the pod. If the ceramic skin that composes the pod is damaged or poorly maintained…death is a certainty. Additionally, it is very possible for the braking rockets to fail…resulting in a very horrible death.

Naval Instructor: Bravo. I should point out…that the law of averages suggest that everyone in this room will take AT LEAST one trip in one of these pods in their career…for whatever reason! If you can walk away from that one drop…you are pretty much in the clear of never having to do it again!

Vernette: I hope I never have to do this crap…way to dangerous for my tastes.

End Flashback:

Vernette: Son of a bitch….he was right.

Vernette looked at the NAV computer and saw that he has already broken through the atmosphere. He watched as the numbers counted down to 3000.

Like clockwork, the drag chute deployed as the distance fell below 3000 feet from the ground.

Vernette: I think I SHOULD have done the simulations…I am regretting that now!

The pod was shaking mildly as it quickly sped to the ground.

Vernette could feel the air was thin inside the pod due to the heat. He felt like he was burning up.

Vernette: I think I should be wearing some sort of protective gear or something…

Vernette tried to slow his breathing. He watched as the counter fell below 1000.

Vernette closed his eyes. He did his best to brace himself, to try to situate himself such that there would be as little movement as possible.

Vernette then heard the braking rockets engage. A few seconds later, the pod came crashing down to the ground. Vernette shifted in the pod from the sudden stop, but he was unharmed.

Vernette began to breathe heavily.

Vernette: I am never going to ridicule an ODST for as long as I live. These joy rides take serious balls…

Vernette hit the door eject button and the door hatch blasted off. Vernette felt light headed, and his legs were weak. He felt like vomiting.

Vernette: Where the fuck am I?

Vernette pulled out his PDA and looked at the GPS readings. Vernette saw that he was on the other side of the planet from where he started.

Vernette: Great…

Vernette took a second look and saw he had landed in a very remote region, at least 100 miles from any human life.

Vernette: I guess the HEV pod wasn’t the best idea…

Vernette looked back at his PDA.

He then had an idea.

Vernette: Hold on…these HEV pods have transponders on them. That means…the…people that captured me…they may be tracking me.

Vernette then looked at his PDA again.

Vernette: If those guys altered the transmission frequency of the transponder…the UNSC would technically be unable to detect it. If I could change it back…I might be able to use it as a homing beacon for the UNSC to find me!

Vernette grinned. He looked inside the pod for the service panel. He managed to find it in the back of the seating area. He pulled the service panel off and saw the various pieces of equipment. Vernette looked at the design. He pocketed his PDA.

Vernette: Alright…let’s see here…

Vernette began to analyze the layout.

Vernette: This is our communication system here…this feeds into the comm….so that isn’t it.

Vernette continued to visually scan the layout.

Vernette: Discrete Arithmetic Logic Unit…scalar chip…

Vernette continued to analyze the layout.

Vernette: There we go…this looks like the transponder here!

Vernette pulled out the small module that was held down by two metal pins.

Vernette pulled out his PDA again and looked at the bottom of the device. He pulled a small console cable out from under the device and attached it to the transponder.

Vernette: All I need to do is upload a new transponder ROM…I can just copy the one on my PDA…and I should have myself a home-made UNSC homing device.

Vernette copied his own transponder ROM from his PDA and flashed the ROM onto the HEV transponder. After doing this, Vernette took the HEV Transponder and put it back into the HEV pod.

Vernette sighed as he sat down next to the pod and waited.

Vernette: Now we wait. Hopefully the UNSC can scramble here in 20 minutes or so…

Vernette sat by the pod and waited patiently. He watched the skies for any sign of the UNSC.

Eventually he saw two UNSC Pelican circling the skies. He sat and watched them for a few minutes before they started to come down. One of the Pelican maintained an aerial position while the other landed. Several marines hopped out and looked at Vernette.

Marine: Sir? What are you doing out here?

Vernette: Long story! Are you guys with the UNSC?

The Marine looked confused.

Marine: Of course we are sir! Who else would we be with? We don’t look like Insurrectionists.

Vernette: That’s good enough for me. You think you guys can get me back to Utgard?

Marine: Utgard is on the other side of the planet! How did you get out here…if you don’t mind me asking?

Vernette: Long story…very long story.

Marine: Well…no matter. Come on sir…let’s get you back to Utgard!

Vernette nodded. He stood up and walked to the Pelican. The Marines followed him in. Vernette sat in the Pelican and sighed.

UNSC Marathon Ulterior Motive – Currently in orbit of Harvest:

Admiral Spender walked into the medical bay of the Ulterior Motive. He looked around at the amount of corpses that had been covered.

Spender shook his head and disgust.

The doctor who was tending the medical bay saw Spender. The doctor approached Spender to give him a report on the situation.

Spender: Doctor…what is our current situation?

Doctor: Well sir…we have 12 dead. 5 engineers, 5 ODSTs, and 2 Marines are confirmed dead. We are still searching for others…but we think this is all the damage that he did.

Spender: How the hell could one man cause so much trouble?

Doctor: I think we may have under estimated Commander Vernette…

Spender: I never underestimate ANYONE! Keep your flawed observations to yourself Doctor.

At that moment, Lucien approached Spender from behind.

Lucien: Admiral…

Spender turned to face Lucien.

Spender: Lucien…

Spender sighed.

Spender: Did you manage to find out where that HEV pod landed?

Lucien: As a matter of fact, I did. Unfortunately…ONI Section 0 was able to dispatch a team of UNSC Marines to recover Vernette from the LZ. Vernette is back with ONI…no doubt telling them everything that happened here.

Spender frowned.

Lucien: Sir…I think it would be advisable at this time to fully escalate. Commander Vernette is not someone who is going to be reasoned with…nor will he be scared into working with us. Someone like this…needs to be actively controlled.

Spender: I am guessing you have a suggestion?

Lucien: As a matter of fact…I do. Preston Vernette has a family…a family which e cares deeply for no doubt. Men like Vernette are very courageous with their own lives…but become cowards when dealing with the lives of the people they love.

Spender: Yes…this is very true.

Lucien: I can form a team…brief them on what they need to do. We can force Vernette to work with us…even if it means locking his loved ones in 10x10 cells for the rest of their miserable lives.

Spender: Very good Lucien! Make it happen!

Lucien nodded. He left the medical bay. Spender grinned as he thought about the results.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard – Military District - 1 hour later:

Vernette was sitting in the infirmary of Fort Loki, the same UNSC base where he officially signed his Section 0 contract.

Vernette was sitting on a bed. He looked up at the door when he heard it open.

He grinned.

Vernette: David!

Burke: Preston…what did you do to yourself!? You look like you went 10 rounds with a striped snow grizzly!

Vernette: It’s classified.

Burke laughed.

Burke: Classified you say? What did Section 0 ask you to do?

Vernette was taken aback by the question. He had no idea how Burke knew about his position in Section 0.

Vernette: I’m sorry…who?

Burke: Preston…you are a brilliant man…which means you suck at playing dumb. I knew since the moment it happened that Section 0 recruited you.

Vernette: How do you know this?

Burke: How else do you think I know? I was recruited by Admiral Skinner just as you were! I have been part of Section 0 for the past year now. Who do you think sees to the medical needs of the Class 0 Spartans?

Vernette: You?

Burke: Yep…

Burke paused.

Burke: So…what happened?

Vernette: Well…these guys showed up at my door last night and they basically strong armed me into going with them…or they would take their frustrations out on my family…

Burke: My God…what did they want?

Vernette: They knew that I had joined Section 0. They wanted me to work for them…to give them what I was giving Section 0.

Burke: So you declined?

Vernette: Of course! My loyalty is to the military first and foremost. Besides…even the worst of turncoats could see that these guys were serious assholes! After I declined…they threw me into the brig. I managed to escape.

Burke: Go on.

Vernette: I forgot to mention that they took my PDA from me. I guess they wanted the information on it. Thank God for Cloakware! Anyway…after I escaped…I went to go and retrieve my PDA. It turns out they were having difficulty getting past the Cloakware on my PDA.

Burke: Cloakware? I am an MD…not a…whatever it is you are.

Vernette: The term is cyberneticist. I am skilled in the computer sciences and engineering. Hardware design, code, network infrastructure, security, encryption…you name it. I also had a passing interest in Astrophysics…but that shit was not interesting enough to make a doctorate out of.

Burke: Right…but what the hell is Cloakware. I have heard of software, firmware, hardware…

Vernette: Cloakware is the encryption that exists on the hardware…as opposed to the encryption that exists on software. For example…take your laptop. When you power it on…you provide a user name and password. That encryption key and token is stored in the software, or on software located on a remote domain. Software encryption can be broken. Cloakware, on the other hand, is semi-readable, non-writeable, non-volatile encryption, physically encoded on hardware at a nanoscopic scale. By comparison, 1 nm can store 4096 bytes of encryption. Cloakware expands far beyond 1 nm. Once encoded…it can never be broken. If the decrypted password is lost…the entire device is lost…forever.

Burke: Wait…if Cloakware is so unbreakable…why doesn’t EVERYTHING use it?

Vernette: Simple…I designed Cloakware exclusively for my own use.

Burke: YOU…designed Cloakware?

Vernette: Yep.

Burke: So…these guys were never going to break your encryption…so why recover your PDA?

Vernette: I did not want them learning about the existence of Cloakware. Cloakware allows me to hide everything I do from every eye in the universe. My ideas will forever be mine so long as I have Cloakware…

Burke: Well…you told me...I now know about Cloakware…

Vernette: I know. I told you because I know that everything I said just flew over your head. You lack the ability to comprehend the total complexity…so you will simply not remember.

Burke: That’s true…

Burke paused.

Burke: We totally got sidetracked…

Vernette: Long story short…I killed some guys…killed some engineers…killed some ODSTs…and I was nearly killed by a Spartan…a Spartan working for my captors. I think it was a Class 0.

Burke was taken aback.

Burke: No, that’s impossible!

Vernette: Believe it.

Burke: Why would a Class 0 Spartan be helping these guys? That does not make any sense!

Vernette: I don’t know...but…He was wearing this…navy blue armor…black visor…

Burke: Oh no…

Vernette: What is it?

Burke: We have a serious problem…

Burke turned away. He tapped the communicator that was in his ear. He accessed the communications network and attempted to contact Cameron.

Burke: Cameron…do you copy? This is Dr. Burke…respond!

After a few seconds, Cameron answered over the comm.

Cameron: What can I do for you Doctor?

Burke: Where are you right now?

Cameron: I am currently onboard the Lunar Eclipse…why?

Burke: Find Admiral Skinner…find Admiral Yates. I need to see them immediately! Tell them it is absolutely vital that I speak with them! Tell them that I will not take no for an answer! This is an emergency! Tell them that I am going to be coming up to the Lunar Eclipse…and to meet with me on the Observation Deck! I will be there in 20 minutes!

Cameron: Understood.

Burke: One more thing Cameron. I want you to contact ONI Site Omicron and check to see if Lucien is still there!

Cameron: I will see to it immediately. Cameron out!

Burke turned and looked back at Vernette.

Vernette: What is going on David?

Burke: I have a feeling that the Spartan you are describing is a Spartan named Lucien.

Vernette: Cameron told me about him! Cameron said something about how he…nearly aced the command officer exam…something which is not possible.

Burke: I wish that was the worst of it.

Vernette was going to ask what else was wrong with Lucien…but he stopped.

Vernette: Wait…Correct me if I am wrong, but were you not brought here to make sure I was physically fit to return to duty? I was shot…in the arm. Are you not going to take a look at it…to make sure that the Medic that treated me did a good enough job?

Burke looked at Vernette, from head to toe. Burke shrugged.

Burke: You’re fine…let’s go!

Burke turned and walked out of the medical room. Vernette hopped of the bed and grabbed his coat and put it on. He grabbed his holster and ran out after Burke, putting it on as he moved.

Vernette: Ignoring the fact that I my medical care was just brushed aside…I need to know…what the hell is going on? What else is wrong with Lucien?

Burke: Lucien is psychotic…no…wait. I am sorry…I say he is psychotic…ONI says he is “acceptably psychotic”.

Vernette: I did not know someone could be acceptably psychotic! Shit…I better remember that one. I could go and commit a double rape-homicide and claim that I am acceptably psychotic.

Burke: This is not a joke Preston! This is very serious!

Vernette: Honestly…who jokes about a double rape-homicide?

Burke: To the point…Lucien is very dangerous! The armor he has, the drugs that were used, combined with his ambitious nature, his deranged personality, his disregard for the safety of others, his irrational behavior, and proficiency with weapons…this is not someone you joke about.

Vernette: Shit. So…how did this happen?

Burke: It was the drug…the Class 0 drug.

Vernette: What drug? I knew nothing of any drug!

Burke: The Class 0 drug was a formula used to physically enhance the Class 0 candidates. Without going into more details, it bolstered the muscular and skeletal structure, increased perceptual awareness, cognitive senses, and hand eye coordination. When the drug was first synthesized, ONI had no idea that the main chemical compound in the drug, conflicted with several others. This conflict caused…malfunctions in the brain…malfunctions that varied in degree from Spartan to Spartan.

Vernette: Wait a minute…if the Class 0’s used a drug…then would Class 1 use the same drug?

Burke: No. Remember how I said that a main chemical compound was in direct conflict with several other compounds?

Vernette: Yeah?

Burke: That compound was removed, classified, and what was left of the drug was handed to Section III for use in the Class 1 project.

Vernette: What exactly was this vital compound anyway?

Burke: The vital compound that was removed was the very same compound that prevented metabolic failure. As a result…Class 1 Spartans do not suffer from any…mental side effects…but more than half of the Class 1 Spartans died before they were even finished.

Vernette: That is…unbelievable.

Burke: I know…it is a shit show…

Vernette: You know…now that you mention it…Skinner mentioned something about a character flaw. Skinner was very vague when he talked about it. Now that I really think about it, Cameron said they were disturbed. He told me about Lucien and his…desires. He told me how Lucien took an unhealthy enjoyment out of killing people in the most gruesome ways. Cameron also said that most Class 0 Spartans are like this.

Burke: I will say that every Class 0 Spartan exhibits a different level of “disturbed behavior” There are some that are perfect, with no behavior problems at all! There are some who can be a bit trying at times. There are some who need a very firm hand. Then there is Lucien. Lucien is the worst of the Class 0, in the sense that he has the most problems.

Burke and Vernette walked out of Fort Loki. They walked towards a Pelican that was waiting for them at the landing pads.

Vernette: Let’s just hope ONI does something about this…

Burke: First and foremost…we need to make sure that Lucien was the Spartan you saw.

Burke and Vernette stepped onto the Pelican.

Burke: If it is him…we will be forced to do something about it. It would be too dangerous to let someone like Lucien operate rouge.

The rear hatch of the Pelican closed and the Pelican lifted off.

The Pelican made its way up to the Lunar Eclipse. Once the Pelican had docked in the hanger bay, Vernette and Burke made their way up to the observation deck.

They stepped into the observation deck and it was empty. Burke looked at his watch and saw that they were a few minutes early.

Vernette: I guess we need to wait.

Burke: Yeah…

Burke rolled his eyes.

Burke: You would think when I tell them it is an emergency…they would be here before we would be.

Vernette: I guess they do not take this sort of thing seriously.

Vernette shrugged. He turned to face the door of the observation deck when he heard it open. He saw Nikolai, Yates, and Skinner enter the room. There were also two officers Vernette did not know.

Skinner: Dr. Burke…Commander Vernette…what was SO IMPORTANT that you felt it necessary to drag me away from some VERY important work!

Burke: It is about Lucien.

Vernette: We have reason to believe that Lucien has gone rouge…

Skinner: Oh…please! Not this again. Dr. Burke…we have been through this. We have been through this in the past. There is nothing wrong with Lucien! He has a few anger issues…but nothing more!

Vernette: With all due respects sir…you are burying your head in the sand as far as this matter is concerned.

Skinner: Commander Vernette…I believe I have already told you in the past NOT to play commentary on our affairs.

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Vernette: Admiral…I was just captured by a group of crazy people who were working with a Spartan who could possibly be Lucien! They threatened to kill my family if I did not cooperate with them! I have every God damned right to play commentary on this matter!

Skinner: Commander…just remember one thing…

Vernette: No…YOU remember one thing…You need me, you need my talents, and you need my skills! Not the other way around!

Skinner: You also signed an agreement with us Commander…

Vernette: If you are totally unwilling to do anything about a psychopathic super soldier on the loose…then I guess I have nothing to worry about. Besides…surely someone who defaults on a contract is so much less of a problem then a classified soldier gone rouge.

Skinner was silent. He had nothing to say.

Vernette: I expect you to do something about Lucien! I at least expect you to actually give Dr. Burke the time of day! This IS his area of expertise after all!

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Well?

Skinner: Very well…

Burke looked at Vernette and nodded, as if to say thanks.

Burke: Admiral…in the past I briefed you on the problems with the Class 0 drug…and just recently, I have briefed Commander Vernette on the same information.

Skinner: I remember.

Burke: I believe that what has happened proves my point, whether or not our mystery Spartan is, in fact, Lucien…we still have a rouge Class 0. I have no doubt that this Spartan has gone over the edge. I believe our only viable option is to terminate this Spartan.

Nikolai: Hold on…you cannot honestly expect us to Kill Lucien!

Skinner: I agree. There must be an alternative.

Burke: We do not know if it is Lucien or not…it may be him, but it may not be.

Cameron walked into the Observation deck.

Cameron: Dr. Burke…I believe we have our answer.

Burke looked at Cameron.

Burke: What do you mean Cameron?

Cameron: I contacted ONI Site Omicron on Midnight. Roughly one month ago, Lucien was transferred to the UNSC Ultimate Glory under the command of Commander Fredward Harrison.

Skinner: Fredward Harrison? That guy is not even part of Section 0!

Cameron: Naturally Commander Harrison was contacted when I told ONI Site Omicron that such a transfer had not been approved by ONI…and that Harrison was not Section 0. ONI Site Omicron contacted Harrison…and Harrison had absolutely no idea who Lucien was…and he was equally irritated at the fact that someone had made this transfer and attributed it to his orders.

Skinner: Have we confirmed Harrison is on the level?

Cameron: Yes…two ONI Agents aboard the Ultimate Glory verified Harrison’s claims. Lucien is not aboard the Ultimate Glory. Harrison is clean…he didn’t do anything wrong here. I do not believe further investigation of Harrison is necessary.

Skinner: Yes…he may just be a victim of circumstance.

Nikolai: So I guess we have confirmed that Lucien is missing. So…where the hell is he?

Vernette: Ohhh…that is easy. Lucien is with the bastard that kidnapped me.

Yates: We need to find Lucien! We need to find him now! We need to know where he is!

Yates looked at Vernette.

Yates: Commander Vernette…I want you to meet two of our best officers.

Yates turned to look at the two officers that Vernette had never seen before.

Yates: I want you to meet Major Marshall Winters and Lt. Colonel Dylan Everet.

Everet: Commander…

Winters: Commander…

Yates: These men have been with the UNSC Marine Corps for a very long time. They have worked with the ODSTs, they have been ODSTs, and they are now trusted ONI Agents. They are highly qualified. Section 0 is personally charging you, Preston Vernette, with the task of finding and dealing with Lucien-Z002.

Yates paused.

Yates: You are to work with these men to find Lucien. Section 0 will work to get you more resources in the coming days.

Vernette: Hold on…I was recruited to make weapons…not hunt down and eliminate 7 foot machine people who have been augmented many times beyond normal human capabilities!

Skinner: Very true Commander. This is why I will assign Cameron and Nikolai to you as well.

Burke: I might as well tag along as well. You guys will defiantly need a doctor if you are going after Lucien.

Skinner: Very well. Effective immediately…you are all placed under the command of Preston J. Vernette! Find Lucien…and do what you must! Dismissed.

Vernette: Whoa, whoa, whoa…hold on. There is something else that comes to mind.

Skinner: And…that would be?

Vernette: While I was captured…I managed to track my PDA down to a lab that was being run by several engineers. I heard the engineers mention someone by the name of “Spender”. They made the claim that Admiral Spender wanted what was on my PDA.

Skinner: Constantine Spender?

Vernette: All I heard was “Spender”.

Skinner: Fascinating.

Vernette: Who is Constantine Spender?

Skinner: Constantine Spender is one of our best Officers. He is a skilled tactician, accomplished diplomat, and a very strong willed man. Without going into too much detail, Admiral Spender is currently in command of a large branch of our Agent division. He oversees various high profile missions that require a silent touch. I believe he commands the infamous ODST Black Team.

Vernette: And…who are they?

Yates: ODST Black Team is…well…

Yates paused.

Yates: Dangerous.

Vernette: Dangerous?

Yates: Yes.

Vernette: How dangerous?

Yates: You know…this is going to sound really Cliché…but…it is the Truth. ODST Black Team has a file folder 5 inches thick of targets that they have killed. They are so highly classified, that their names are not even disclosed. There are four of them…all named Black 1 through Black 4. They answer to Spender and only to Spender. ODST Black Team can be recognized by their uniforms. They wear a lot of black...have black visors. You know...that sort of thing.

Vernette: I did see some ODSTs when I was captured...but...nothing like what Yates described. What else do we know about Black Team and Spender?

Everyone was silent.

Vernette: Really? Nothing else?

Cameron: It is difficult to say...these men are very illusive...

Skinner: Commander, is there anything else you can tell us? Even the most subtle thing could help us.

Vernette: Well…there was a guy who smelled like cancer, looked like death, and sounded like Satan. This guy had an eye patch...worse a lot of black.

Cameron: Ironic…seeing how Admiral Spender is notorious for his rampant, uncontrollable chain smoking.

Nikolai: Also…he does sound like Satan…

Cameron: And he looks like death. Perhaps that is who you see when you die…you see Spender.

Nikolai: That is a terrifying thought.

Skinner: Let’s stay focused!

Skinner looked at Vernette.

Skinner: Vernette, it sounds like you are describing Admiral Spender to the letter. I will check on Admiral Spender…see what I can dig up on his whereabouts. I want you to get started on finding Lucien. If this situation is as bad as it can get…then we will find both Spender and Lucien together. I want you all to get started! Dismissed!

Everyone nodded. Vernette, followed by his team, left the Observation Deck.

Cameron: So…Commander…what is our first move?

Vernette: We are going to need to prepare for this. Cameron, Nikolai…I need you two to prepare us some equipment. Using your best judgment, as well as what you know about Lucien and his weapons of choice, prepare us an arsenal that would be ideal for combating him.

Nikolai: Yes sir.

Vernette: David…I need the full psychological profile on Lucien by tomorrow.

Burke: Aye…

Vernette: Everet, Winters...I want you two to keep in touch with Yates and Skinner. Work with them and prepare us a team of Marines and ODSTs that are most suited for this type of mission. The more people…the better. If you can score us an additional Spartan on this assignment…that would be even better!

Everet: Yes sir!

Vernette: I am going to talk to ONI. We are going to need a ship. I will see if I can get us one for the mission! Chances are…we may have to leave Harvest for this mission. I want the ability to do so if the need arises!

Vernette paused.

Vernette: You all have your orders. We will reconvene tomorrow at 18:00 hours at Fort Loki!

Everyone nodded and parted ways. Vernette and Burke walked together back to the hanger bay.

As the two walked, they conversed with each other.

Vernette: I think before I do anything else…I may go and see my wife. She must be worried to high heaven.

Burke: I guess that would be a good idea.

Burke paused.

Burke: So…how are you going to get a ship?

Vernette: I may talk to Skinner. I am sure he has something! He must have something!

Burke: I am sure they do. I would hope they do.

Vernette and Burke returned to the hanger bay and entered the same Pelican that they arrived on. The Pelican’s rear hatch sealed and the Pelican returned to the surface of Harvest.

Vernette: I don’t know…I have a really bad feeling about this Spender guy. That is too coincidental. Someone involved in black ops like Spender is…something is not sitting right.

Burke: Very true.

Vernette nodded.

Vernette: Yeah. It is disturbing to think that people like this still exist. This group makes the insurrection look tame!

Burke: I am confident we will find these guys and put an end to them!

Burke paused.

Burke: Speaking of which…what kind of ship were you held on?

Vernette: Given the size and layout…defiantly Marathon!

Burke: Big ship…

Vernette: Yeah. With that said…we are going to need a big ship if we are going after them!

Burke was silent.

Vernette: David?

Burke sighed.

Burke: What happened to Lucien, Preston? I feel like there is something we should have done to try and prevent this from happening. He had so much potential…and now it is going to be wasted. We should have paid closer attention.

Vernette: Yep…but it is not your fault. I blame this on ONI for not listening to your warnings. You gave ONI every chance to do something…and they failed. ONI failed Lucien…not you. Hopefully…this will make ONI pay closer attention to warnings given to them in the future.

Burke: I hope so.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Residential District – 1 Hour Later:

Vernette’s car pulled up to his house. He drove into the drive way and approached his front door. He reached into his pocket and found his keys. He unlocked the door and walked into his home.

As he walked in, he was met by his wife.

Diana: Oh my God…

Vernette was silent.

Diana: What happened?

Vernette: Well…some assholes thought they could mess with me. They thought wrong.

Diana: I heard the exchange between you and those men…I heard it all. I thought they…

Vernette stepped forward and grabbed his wife.

Vernette: Hey…relax. Nobody is going to put me six feet under…alright? I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Diana nodded.

Diana: Right…

Vernette wrapped his arms around his wife.

Diana: I was just so worried. The kids were asking where you were…I dropped them off at school earlier today…I told them you had to go into work. I was worried I would have to tell them…that you…I…I was worried I wasn’t going to see you again.

Vernette: It is going to take more than a few guys with guns to put me down.

Diana was silent.

Vernette: ONI and I are looking into everything! We are going to deal with these guys…we are going to get them.

Diana: I am just worried…what if they try something like this again? What kind of people are you dealing with that can just walk into someone’s home, and threaten to kill their family if they don’t cooperate.

Vernette: Obviously we are dealing with dangerous people. I assure you…they are not going to get away with anything like this again. I am going to personally put these guys away. I promise…

Vernette then stopped himself. He heard the sound of tires squealing outside.

Vernette: God damn it…what now?

Vernette looked at Diana.

Vernette: Tell you what…why don’t you go and out some coffee on…or something. We will sit down…alright?

Diana: Alright…

Diana walked off towards the living area. Vernette waited a moment. He then turned to the main entrance of his home. He walked to one of the front windows and saw a large black van sitting out front.

Vernette placed his hand at his side and felt his sidearm. He grabbed the handle.

Vernette: What the hell is going on out there? Who the hell are these guys?

Vernette then saw the side door of the van open. His eyes opened in sheer terror when he saw two ODST’s jump out of the van, followed by his two children.

Vernette felt like his heart was going to explode from his chest. He could feel his heartbeat slamming against his chest.

Vernette: My God…

Vernette caught his breath. He looked at the ODSTs. One of the ODSTs tapped his helmet, as if he accessing his comm.

Vernette then heard his own comm. Piece beep. He tapped the comm. That was in his ear to answer the call.

Trust ODST 1: Commander Vernette? You wouldn’t happen to be inside that lovely home of yours…would you?

Vernette didn’t answer.

Trust ODST 1: Ohhh…come now Commander. Surely you must be in there. At the very least you can answer. I can hear that heavy breathing of yours.

Vernette: You listen to me…whoever the hell you are…you let them go!

Trust ODST 1: Ahhh…there we go…now I can hear you.

Vernette: Did you hear me…I said let them go!

Trust ODST 1: Commander Vernette…do you honestly think we are in the business of harming our future? I love kids…I wouldn’t hurt a hair on either of their heads. We just felt that…since you were preoccupied…we thought we would do your…precious little upper-middle class family a favor…and pick your adorable children up from school, just for you…to show that you can…TRUST us…

Vernette: Well…I cannot say much for your timing…but I appreciate the gesture…now let them go…

Trust ODST 1: Not before you come outside and say hello…

Vernette: After you let them go…not before…

Trust ODST 1: What message would that send to the young ones? We are both adults Commander. Let us shows our children how two adults converse…come and be neighborly. If you come out and talk…we will let them go. All you need to do is stand face to face with us…and they walk away…unharmed.

Vernette paused for a moment.

Vernette: Very well…

Vernette took a deep breath. He then walked outside and stared down the two ODSTs

Trust ODST 1: There we go!

Vernette stepped forward. He kept his eyes pinned on the ODSTs. Vernette stopped about 3 feet away from the ODSTs.

Vernette: Let the go…

Trust ODST 1: Hmmm…

Vernette glared at the ODSTs

Trust ODST 1: Hmmm…no…

Vernette shifted his eyes to his two children behind the ODSTs.

Trust ODST 1: I think they should stay a bit longer. You seem to cooperate when they are watching. You seem less…violent…when they have their eyes on you.

Vernette: We had an agreement.

Trust ODST 1: I have just decided to alter the terms of that agreement. The new terms are as such. You have no say in the matter…and if you fail to comply with out wishes…you will bury your children…and it will be closed casket.

Vernette was silent.

Trust ODST 1: I was always good with diplomacy.

Vernette remained silent.

Trust ODST 1: Now…Commander…let’s talk about your new career…a career that involves working for us.

Vernette: You people…are so profoundly evil…I cannot even wrap my mind around it. Do you, or those you work for, value anything?

Trust ODST 1: We value authority, power, and control. We do not value life…we do not value anything that does make us more prominent.

The ODST paused.

Trust ODST 1: In fact…I may put a bullet in one of your children’s head…just to prove I am serious. I don’t give a shit if it is a soldier or a child…it’s all the same to me. Besides…how many people did you kill earlier Commander? How many people died because you refused to cooperate? If you do not know…let me enlighten you.

The ODST pulled out his Automag.

Trust ODST 1: 12 people…12 friends…12 colleagues. You killed 12 people because you refused to cooperate. These are 12 people who needlessly died.

The ODST pulled the stock of his Automag back.

Trust ODST 1: This more then makes up for it.

Vernette looked at the Automag. He then looked at the ODST.

Vernette: Do you really have what it takes? Do you really have the stomach to gun down a child in cold blood?

Trust ODST 1: After what you did…oh yes.

Vernette: Murdering one of my children is not going to bring back the people I killed in self-defense.

Trust ODST 1: No…but it will make you think twice before denying a request from us…

Vernette: And who, might I ask, is “us”?

The ODST laughed.

Trust ODST 1: Wouldn’t you like to know?

The ODST turned to looked at Vernette’s two children.

Trust ODST 1: I wonder…which one do you like less?

The other ODST that was watching the entire exchange kept his eyes on Vernette.

Trust ODST 1: Well…I am just going to have to pick…

The ODST raised his Automag and pointed it the younger of the two.

Trust ODST 1: What are their names?

Vernette: Steven and Bradley…

Trust ODST 1: Such wholesome names…I bet they look nice carved in stone.

The ODST took aim.

The Second ODST had his SMG in hand.

Trust ODST 1: Don’t worry kid…there might be some momentary discomfort…but only for a moment.

Vernette now knew that in no uncertain terms that whoever he was dealing with, were beyond any sort of remorse or redemption. He knew that if he did not do something in the next few seconds that he would, in fact, be burying one of his children.

Vernette’s mind raced analyzing every possible situation in his mind, considering every outcome, every decision, and every variable. There was nothing he could come up with that did not involve some risk, some danger.

Vernette watched the ODST extend the Automag. Without thinking, Vernette jumped forward and tackled his son out of the ODST’s line of sight. However, this was done while the Automag was in a state of discharge.

As Vernette tackled his son, he could feel a sharp pain in his back, near his left shoulder blade.

Vernette winced from the pain. He knew that any second now those ODSTs were going to take another shot. Vernette rolled to the side, right on his back. The agony from his gunshot wound was unlike anything he had ever felt. He maintained his focus and grabbed his magnum from his holster.

Vernette took aim at the second ODST and fired, putting a bullet right through the visor. The first ODST then raised his Automag and aimed at Vernette, but Vernette quickly turned and fired off several rounds into the ODST’s chest. The ODST fell back.

Vernette then heard the door to the van opening. He saw a pair of boots hit the ground on the other side of the car. He realized that there was a third ODST in the driver seat of the black van.

Vernette sat up and knelt down. He looked at his two kids and gestured his hand for them to get down on their stomachs and lay low.

Vernette heard the ODST ready his SMG. He looked under the van and saw the ODST slowly stepping sideways around the front of the van. Vernette took aim under the van with his Magnum and shot the ODST in the foot.

The ODST stumbled backwards.

Trust ODST 3: Fuck!

Vernette got up to his feet and took aim at the ODST and put a round right in his head.

Vernette sighed. He then turned and saw the first ODST on the ground. He saw the ODST was still breathing. He saw the ODST slowly reaching for his Automag. Vernette stepped over and kicked the Automag away.

Vernette then knelt over and pulled the ODST’s knife out of his chest sheath and tossed it away as well.

Vernette glared that the ODST.

Vernette: Take that God damn helmet off…

The ODST struggled to get his helmet off, but managed to get it off after a few moments.

Vernette: You held a gun to my son’s head…

The ODST was breathing heavily…

Vernette: That is unforgiveable…

Vernette turned to look at both of his children.

Vernette: Brad…Steve…go inside…wait with your mother…I’ll be there in a moment.

Both of Vernette’s children got up from off the ground. They ran inside.

Vernette looked back at the ODST.

Vernette: Do you have any idea what you have done?

The ODST coughed.

Trust ODST 1: Yeah…I know exactly what I did. I was only following orders.

Vernette: No…that is not what I am talking about.

Vernette knelt down and grabbed the ODST by the scruff of his neck and dragged him back. He slammed the ODST against the side of the van, such that the ODST was sitting upright.

Vernette: Let me describe to you what you did.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: You made me kill two men in front of my two children. These are grade school children…7…and 5 years old. They watch their father kill two men…out of sheer desperation.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: You held a gun to my youngest boy’s head. You held a gun to the head of someone who still wakes me up in the middle of the night because he had a bad dream. You held the gun to the head of someone who still anticipates Santa Clause on Christmas. You held a gun to the head of someone who pesters me non-stop to take him to see Santa Clause at the mall.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: That is the most heinous fucking crime I can think of…but that was but one of your crimes here today.

The ODST was breathing heavily.

Vernette: You took away the innocence of two people. You ushered a dark and frightening reality onto my children…the likes of which I am now FORCED to explain to them…at a time when they are not ready to hear it.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: You did all of this…in the name of what?

Vernette looked at the ODST.

Vernette: Answer me.

Trust ODST 1: Wouldn’t you…like to…know…

Vernette: Yes…I would like to know…

Vernette reached down and grabbed the PDA belonging to the ODST with his left hand. The ODST tried to get up to grab it back from Vernette, but Vernette punched the ODST right in the face with his right hand, knocking him back.

Vernette: The last PDA I stole from you guys really had nothing on it. It was damaged during my escape…and what we could recover was pretty useless. A few personal logs, and some stock information like who it was assigned to, and a map of the ship I was on. I am sure your PDA has orders on it…orders from whoever you call “sir”. I am sure it has a gold mine of information I could use. In fact…I have three whole PDAs at my disposal.

The ODST frowned.

Trust ODST 1: This isn’t over! You might get a bit of information…but never enough to take us on!

Vernette: You are right…this isn’t over. This little skirmish has just begun…but your role has ended.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: I am going to put a gun to your head…and blow your fucking brains out.

Vernette then paused. He hesitated.

Vernette: No…I killed your two friends the same way. That would imply that your actions were just as bad as theirs. No…you did much worse!

Vernette paused again.

Vernette: You need a special death. Something that will tell the world that you really paid for what you did. Unfortunately…I only have two ways of killing you…one of them involves shooting you.

Trust ODST 1: Let me guess…the other…is you…talking me…to death?

Vernette: No…

Vernette tossed the ODST’s PDA to the side. He then cracked his knuckles.

Vernette: That was a hint…

The ODST became wide eyed.

Vernette: Tell me…do you believe that there is a God?

Trust ODST 1: No…

Vernette: No? I do believe that there is a God…a higher moral authority the likes of which we all answer to someday. What I love about God is that…even if you were lucky enough to escape judgment from your fellow man for your crimes…you don’t escape the eyes of God. Everyone answers to God one of the days.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Everything that you ever did in your life…he knows the motives behind it. He knows if you were doing something for noel or malevolent purposes. You know…he also knows that shooting a 5 year old child in the head could NEVER lead to a greater good of any sort.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: My only hope…is that when you are standing in front of God, and he, with unmitigated wisdom and grace, is reading your judgment, that he, with his unlimited and endless power, sentences you to an eternity of the most…venomous and unending suffering the likes of which your mind will never fully comprehend. I hope your hell is unending.

The ODST was silent.

Vernette frowned as he used his right hand to grab the ODST’s neck. He began to squeeze. The ODST could not breathe. The ODST tried to break free, but he was too weak from his previous injuries.

Vernette continued to squeeze harder and harder. He could feel every muscle fiber in the ODSTs neck. He could feel the ODST desperately trying to take a single breath. Vernette kept his eyes locked on the ODST’s

Vernette: There might be some…momentary discomfort…

The ODST began to pound on Vernette’s arm, trying to make him let go. However, the ODST was in such a weakened state, that his efforts were in vain.

Vernette: Whatever your name is…I am sure it will look nice carved in stone…

The ODST’s eyes glazed over, and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. The ODST fell limp. Vernette could no longer feel a pulse. He knew that he had strangled the ODST to death.

Vernette stood up and looked at the ODST.

Vernette took a deep breath and exhaled. He grinned. He walked over and picked the ODST’s PDA up off the ground and examined it. This PDA contained much more valuable information. The PDA had comm frequencies, mission briefings, and ship identification.

Vernette: This is what I need.

Vernette looked around at the ODSTs one final time. Vernette turned and walked back into his house. When he walked inside, he was immediately confronted by his wife.

Diana: Who the hell were those people? What they hell did they want!?

Vernette: They want me…and they are willing to go to any extent to get me.

Diana: Including killing our children!?

Vernette: Ohhh…you saw that…

Diana: Yes! My God Preston…this has to stop!

Vernette: Yes…I know! I plan on making it stop!

Diana: When? These people are relentless! When are you going to put an end to this?

Vernette: As soon as I possibly can! I just can’t snap my fingers and make it stop! These people need to be hunted down…that takes time! If I could just kill all of these people right now…I would!

Diana: Preston…just please hurry! I don’t know how much more of this I can take!

Vernette: How much more you can take? I have just been shot for the second time in two days.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Now that I mention it…it is starting to kill.

Diana walked around to Vernette’s back and inspected the bloody hole in his uniform.

Diana: Oh my God…

Vernette: Yeah…I bet it looks bad…

Vernette raised his hand to his ear and tapped his communicator.

Vernette: Vernette to Burke…do you copy?

Vernette waited.

Burke: Burke here. What can I do for you Preston?

Vernette: I just got another courtesy call from my would-be employers. I am in need of your medical services…

Burke: Good Lord…

Vernette sighed.

Vernette: You know what…perhaps I should just call ONI on this one. This situation is quickly escalating…and if something is not done soon…well…I don’t want to go into it.

Burke: Sit tight…I will make the calls. We will be there ASAP! Just…wait…I guess.

Vernette: Right…Vernette out.

Vernette sighed as he closed the comm channel. He looked back at his wife.

Vernette: I am so sorry…

Vernette shrugged.

Vernette: Ever since I started working with Section 0…thing have been so difficult. We have had no time together for…too long. We are forced to deal with…killers…coming to our doors and threatening our home life. You know…had I just stuck with the same old business that was providing quite well for this family…we would not have these problems.

Diana: You are right about that.

Vernette: After this is all said and done…I think I may resign from ONI. It is one thing if I have to deal with the stress and the difficulties. It is a totally different thing when you guys have to. I am not willing to subject you guys to this any longer.

Diana: Well…we did marry for better or for worse. That vow has to mean something…

Vernette: I am sure there are limits.

Diana: I don’t think so. You took this job to provide even more for us. Sure…things can get tough…but I am not about to let you turn tail when things get tough.

Diana paused.

Diana: A few goons showed up at our door. Do I want it resolved? Yes! Do I want you to quit a meaningful job because things are a little tough? No! I know you are going to take care of this…so I have nothing to worry about.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: I promise…I will get this resolved…

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard - Residential District – 1 Hour Later:

Vernette was sitting down in an ambulance, facing out the rear doors. Burke was behind him stitching up his wound.

Skinner and Yates were in front of Vernette. They looked at him.

Yates: How are you feeling?

Skinner: Yeah…that wound looked pretty bad!

Vernette: I’m fine. Tell me…do most people in Section 0 get treated as well as I do?

Yates: I assure you…it is not common!

Vernette: Well…in the past 2 days…I have taken quite a bit of punishment.

Skinner: What exactly happened?

Vernette: Well…long story short…some ODSTs pulled up to my house in a black van holding both of my children as hostages. These ODSTs were planning to use them to force me to cooperate with them.

Skinner: Good Lord!

Vernette: It was not longer after that…I learned that they were totally intent on killing one of them to “teach me a lesson” for crossing them.

Yates: Sounds like the mob…

Vernette: I know. Anyway…shit hit the fan…I took a bullet for one of my kids…and proceeded to kill all three ODSTs.

Burke: Speaking of those ODSTs…one of them had serious bruises on his neck…as if he had sustained some sort of trauma. The bruises were consistent with a hand mark.

Vernette: That was the ODST that nearly shot my son. Like I said…I killed the ODSTs.

Burke: Yeah…killed.

There was an awkward silence.

Vernette: Did you guys get that PDA I gave to one of your ONI guys?

Yates: Yes. It is currently in the possession of my division. We are decoding and recovering the data as we speak. If all goes as planned, we should have the encrypted files very shortly. As for the saved comm frequencies…we are currently running them through our system now. We should know everything there is to know in a few hours.

Vernette: What about Cameron and Nikolai?

Yates: They have gathered up a vast amount of equipment for the mission to apprehend Lucien.

Vernette: What about Everet and Winters?

Yates: I have spoken with them…I have given them a list of all available personnel. They are preparing a team to complement the amount of weapons and resources that Cameron and Nikolai have prepared.

Burke: I should point out that I have almost fully composited Lucien’s psych profile into a single easy-to-read document. I need a few more hours on it.

Vernette: Good…so that leaves one thing.

Yates: Oh?

Vernette: I need a ship…

Skinner: Why?

Vernette: Do you honestly believe that Lucien is on Harvest?

Vernette shrugged.

Burke: Don’t do that!

Vernette: Unless I missed the part where I was told that the investigation was limited to Harvest, and that anything off world is out of bounds…I am going to need a ship.

Skinner: Very well…I will see what can be spared. You can meet us at the Boneyard later…and we can find an available ship.

Vernette nodded.

Yates: In any case…like I said earlier…we should have everything on those PDAs decoded in a few hours. Report to Fort Loki in three hours, and we can get you fully briefed on everything…and we can finally put a name to our rouge element.

Vernette nodded again.

Yates and Skinner walked off.

Burke sighed.

Burke: I was just about to recommended some R&R for you Preston…you have taken a beating these past few days. You look tired…you look worn out.

Vernette: I’ll live.

Burke: I know…but…as a friend…I am concerned about your state of being. I don’t want you getting yourself killed over this.

Vernette: David…I appreciate your concern…more than you will ever know. However…I am not going to delay the capture and/or elimination of these assholes. Whoever the hell these people were…they almost killed my son today. I cannot let that go! I can’t stop thinking about it! As far as I am concerned…there is no injury that can be done to me, or for that matter, no power in heaven or hell that is going to stop me from bringing justice to these people.

Vernette frowned.

Vernette: I am going to fucking kill these people!

Burke: Well…that is a very healthy attitude.

Burke applied a bandage to Vernette’s wound.

Burke: There…al done. Go easy on it. Too much stress will tear the stitches.

Vernette: Right…thanks.

Vernette grabbed his shirt and put it back on.

Burke: So…you are going to go and meet with Yates and Skinner later?

Vernette: Yep…I am going to find out who has been tormenting me these past few days…and I am going to stomp a mud hole in their ass so deep and so wide…

Burke: I get it…I get it…

Vernette put his jacket back on.

Vernette looked back at Burke.

Vernette: Thanks again!

Burke nodded. Vernette and Burke parted company.

Harvest - Capital City of Utgard – Military District - 1 hour later:

Vernette walked into Fort Loki. He walked right into the war room and found only Yates there.

Yates: Commander…how is your shoulder?

Vernette: Fine…for the most part.

Vernette paused. He looked around.

Vernette: I assumed everyone would be here…where is everyone else?

Yates: They are all busy. Burke is still putting the final touches on his psych profile, Cam and Niko are still preparing their end, and Winters and Everet are currently interviewing candidates. Admiral Skinner is currently at the bone yard…trying to work out some transportation for you.

Vernette: Fair enough. What did you guys find? Was there anything game changing in that PDA?

Yates: Commander…we found the Holy Grail. We have the name of the individual pulling the strings of Lucien. I reviewed the findings myself, not permitting any of my staff to do it for security reasons. You may want to take a look.

Yates slid a PDA across the table towards Vernette.

Vernette picked up the PDA and shifted through the information. He stopped when he saw who had been giving the orders.

Vernette: Admiral Constantine Spender…

Yates: It seems Constantine Spender has gone rouge…

Vernette: This is bad…

Yates: Yes it is. The scary part is…we would have been none-the-wiser had he never had taken an interest in you. This guy commands a massive amount of authority. His resources were unchecked and unmetered for a very long time. This guy could potentially have unlimited resources. I do not envy your task Commander…you are going up against a very dangerous man.

Vernette: I don’t really care. These are just stats…nothing more. In the end it is going to boil down to who has more willpower. After everything that this guy has pulled…I am not going to let him win.

Yates was silent.

Vernette: So far…I have been up against these guys twice. I have emerged victorious twice.

Yates: Well…you know what they say; the third time is the charm. Besides…Admiral Spender commands a Marathon Class Battleship. His ship is known as The Ulterior Motive. That ship is heavily armed and it is not to be underestimated.

Vernette scoffed.

Yates: Do you want to hear another interesting piece of information? Based on what I have observed from this PDA…Spender’s organization refers to itself as The Trust.

Vernette: The Trust?

Yates: Yes. I have no idea why. This is simply the name they have chosen.

Vernette: Whatever their name is…it is not going to change the outcome.

Vernette reached out to grab the PDA, but Yates stopped him.

Yates: Hold on…that PDA is going to be put away for safe keepings. We are going to need it to prosecute anyone you capture. I will hold onto it.

Vernette frowned.

Vernette: Why? I am going to need it to deal with Spender. I need all the information I can get!

Yates: This PDA is all we have. We can copy some of the information off of the PDA for your use…but I cannot give you the PDA. We do not want to risk losing it.

Vernette: Very well…just get that information to me ASAP!

Yates: There is another thing you should know. You can inform your team on whatever you feel they need to know, such as confirming that Spender is a rouge element, but keep everything on a need to know basis. Even though Spender is a traitor…Section 0 likes its privacy. We do not like too many people knowing too much about other divisions.

Vernette: Very well.

Yates: Now…I was instructed to accompany you to the Boneyard to meet with Admiral Skinner. We can take the Pelican that is waiting for us out back.

Yates collected the PDA and pocketed it.

Vernette nodded and followed Yates to the Pelican.

Harvest – Axion Boneyard – Utgard City Outskirts - 1 hour later:

The Pelican carrying Yates and Vernette landed on a landing pad. Skinner was there, waiting for the two to arrive.

Vernette stopped out and looked around.

Skinner: Gentlemen…

Vernette: Admiral Skinner…why are we getting my ship from a Boneyard? Yates said to ask you…

Skinner: Ohhh…that’s simple…The Axion Boneyard is Section 0 property.

Vernette: Section 0 owns a yard of decommissioned ships?

Skinner: No. These are not decommissioned ships. These are classified ships. The Axion Boneyard is where Section 0 stores its ships that are currently under construction. All of these ships are used, or are going to be used, by Section 0.

Vernette: So you guys hide ships in plain site?

Skinner: Precisely.

Vernette: Ohhh…

Vernette shrugged. He then began to follow Yates and Skinner.

Skinner: Commander…you will be happy to know that I have a ship for you.

The trio entered a building and began to walk through observation corridors. These corridors had glass windows so people could view the ships.

Vernette: Excellent…

Skinner: It was not easy…but I managed to convince one of our captains to hand it over to you for the time being.

Vernette: By convince…you mean order him?

Skinner: Yeah….

Vernette nodded. He kept following Yates and Skinner. The trio eventually stopped in front of a glass pane. Vernette looked at Skinner.

Skinner: Here we are…the UNSC Frigate Melbourn.

Vernette was silent.

Skinner: One of our fastest ships.

Vernette shook his head.

Vernette: No. This isn’t good enough.

Skinner: I beg your pardon.

Vernette: I said “No. This isn’t good enough.”

Skinner: You should consider yourself lucky that you even got your own ship for this assignment Commander!

Vernette: Admiral…Spender commands a Marathon Class Battleship. I will be damned if I take the SS “Piece of Shit” into a battle with a Marathon Class.

Vernette pointed to the UNSC Frigate Melbourn as he said this.

Vernette: I need something bigger!

Skinner: That is the only ship available!

Vernette turned away. He looked out the window on the other side of the corridor

Vernette: What about this one? A Halcyon Class would give a Marathon Class a run for its money!

Skinner: That one is not available!

Vernette: Why?

Skinner: It is not done! We are still clearing the sawdust! Some of the systems still need to be installed! We need another week just to get it up to spec!

Yates: Not to mention that The King Raven is my ship!

Vernette: The King Raven? That ship sounds like a winner! I want it!

Skinner: Are you not listening? I said that ship is not finished! It needs a whole week just to finish.

Vernette: I can have it going in 24 hours.

Skinner: Impossible. We have our best engineers working on it.

Vernette: Your best engineers cannot even touch my expertise. Besides…you are obviously not working them hard enough! A full 24 hour shift under my supervision…I can have that ship going! Once I have it going…I plan on taking that thing into battle with Spender and The Ulterior Motive…right over Harvest if necessary!

Skinner and Yates looked at each other.

Yates: No!

Skinner: Actually…yes.

Yates: But…

Skinner looked at Yates.

Skinner: No buts. If Vernette can get it going…then he can use it against Spender.

Yates frowned.

Skinner: Get that bird airborne Vernette! You have 24 hours!

Skinner walked off. Yates looked at Vernette.

Yates: Bring that ship back in one piece Vernette!

Vernette: No promises…but I will try for at most three.

Yates frowned as he walked off after Skinner.

Yates caught up with Skinner.

Yates: How could you give him my ship!?

Skinner: If he can get it working again…then he deserves to take it out for a spin. Fair is fair Brandon. Besides…you have had your engineers working on that ship for quite some time now. If Vernette can speed run that thing to completion, I am all for it. Consider it a test of his skills.

Yates: The King Raven is mine…you could have tested his abilities on someone else’s ship.

Harvest – Axion Boneyard – Bridge of The King Raven - 24 hour later:

Vernette was at one of the diagnostic workstations, running a check of The King Raven

Vernette: What is the status of the Archer Pods?

Operations Officer: All Archer pods report operational!

Vernette: Engines?

Helm Officer: Online and green!

Vernette: Sensors?

Operations Officer: Operating at 100% resolution!

Vernette: Auto Cannons?

Tactical Officer: Fully armed and operational!

Vernette: Life support systems?

Operations Officer: Green!

Vernette: Slipspace Drive Core?

Helm Officer: Online and fully operational.

Vernette nodded.

Operations Officer: All primary systems are green sir!

Vernette: Run a diagnostic of all secondary and tertiary systems. Make sure they are good to go.

Operations Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette stepped away from the diagnostic terminal and sat down in the command chair. He looked around the bridge of the King Raven, very pleased with the work he had managed to accomplish.

Vernette turned when he heard the door to the bridge open. He saw Burke walk onto the bridge.

Burke: I must say Preston…this is an impressive ship. Have you seen the medical bay? Damn…that is a work of art! State of the art equipment!

Vernette: I am glad you approve. I must say…this ship is something else. ONI really knows how to lay down frameworks.

Burke: Yeah…

Burke looked at Vernette.

Burke: I see you made yourself at home.

Vernette: David…I have commanded ships in simulations. I have served on small frigates. Now I am commanding a real life battle cruiser. It is surreal.

Burke grinned.

Vernette: It is kind of like…the first time…the first time having sex…except this is much better!

Burke: Interesting comparison.

Vernette nodded.

Burke: Well…you should know that Cameron and Nikolai are currently stocking our armory…and Everet and Winters are designating teams and squads.

Vernette: Good…

One of the officers interrupted Vernette and Burke.

Operations Officer: Sir…we have a transmission from ONI…it is Admiral Skinner.

Vernette: Open a channel ensign!

Operations Officer: Open sir!

Vernette: Admiral!

Skinner: Commander…I trust The King Raven is ready to leave the nest?

Vernette: Ready and willing!

Skinner: Good to hear Commander. Our current Sat Link scans shows that the Ulterior Motive is currently in orbit on the far side of the planet relative to your position.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: You are hereby authorized to utilize whatever means at your disposal to deal with Spender. Do not hold back…

Vernette was silent for a moment.

Vernette: Understood.

Skinner: Good luck Commander…God’s speed.

The comm line closed.

Vernette was silent for a moment.

Burke looked at Vernette.

Burke: Showtime.

Vernette nodded.

Operations Officer: All stations report ready sir. We’re ready.

Vernette: Disengage docking struts, engage atmospheric thrusters, and prepare to bring the engines to full power!

Helm Officer: Docking struts disengaging, atmospheric thrusters powering up!

The ship shook a bit as the struts pulled away from the ship.

Helm Officer: Atmospheric thrusters firing.

The thrusters could be heard firing. Vernette watched out the front of the bridge as the ship began to climb into orbit.

Helm Officer: Optimum altitude will be reached in 10 seconds.

The officer paused.

Helm Officer: 5 seconds.

The officer paused again.

Helm Officer: Optimum altitude has been reached. Disengaging atmospheric thrusters and bringing main engines to 100%

Burke looked at Vernette.

Burke: What if the engines fail to fire.

Vernette: Shut up and don’t jinx it…

Burke rolled his eyes.

Helm Officer: We have established orbit. All stations are nominal!

Burke looked at Vernette.

Burke: So…let’s define the rest of your military career. This is your first command position. You have just taken one of ONI’s ships out for the first time. What is your first order?

Vernette: All hands…Battle stations!

Burke: Ohhh…good choice.

Burke shrugged.

Burke: I will be in the medical bay.

Burke left the bridge. Vernette looked at his communications officer.

Vernette: Open a communications channel to The Ulterior Motive.

Operations Officer: Open sir!

Vernette waited a moment.

He then spoke over the comm. to The Ulterior Motive.

Vernette: This is Commander Vernette in forward Command of The UNSC Battleship King Raven. I am ordering you to power down your engines and surrender your ship. All hands will stand relieved of their stations…and you will prepare to be boarded. You have 10 seconds to comply.

Vernette waited.

Harvest – The Ulterior Motive

Spender sat on the bridge of The Ulterior Motive. He heard Vernette’s demands.

Spender: Does he honestly expect me to accept those terms?

Spender laughed.

Spender: All hands to battle stations!

Spender looked at the helmsman.

Spender: Helm, take us about…get us the hell out of here!

Harvest – The King Raven

Vernette watched The Ulterior Motive turn away.

Helm Officer: Sir…they are moving off!

Vernette: Pursuit course!

Vernette looked at his tactical officers.

Vernette: Open fire…all weapons! Target their engines! Don’t let them move off too far! I don’t want them running!

Tactical Officer: Sir…enemy ship is returning fire! They have dispersed Archer missiles.

Vernette: Take evasive action!

Vernette paused. He braced for impact

The ship shook as the Archer missiles impacted the hull.

Tactical Officer: We have an outer hull breech on deck 13! Emergency bulkheads are responding!

Vernette: Status of enemy vessel!

Helm Officer: There is an energy buildup in their power grid. They are preparing to jump to slip space! They are trying to run!

Vernette: Like hell! Commence rapid fire on all Archer pods. Disable their engines!

Tactical Officer: Aye sir!

The King Raven fired a barrage of Archer missiles, all intending to impact the engines of The Ulterior Motive. The Archer missiles pelted the hull of the Ulterior Motive, ripping the hull apart and causing moderate damage to the engines.

However, the damage was not severe enough to stop the slip space transition. The Ulterior Motive managed to make the transition to slip space and escape.

Vernette: Get a destination solution on them!

Helm Officer: Sorry sir…there is not enough time…they’re gone.

Vernette clenched his fist.

Vernette: Damn it…

Helm Officer: However…

Vernette looked at the officer.

Vernette: However?

Helm Officer: There are two things. First…before their jump, our sensors indicated a 21% reduction in their engine power. Where they jumped, they are limping there.

Vernette: And the second thing?

Helm Officer: I managed to get their exact trajectory and heading.

Vernette: That…is very good!

Helm Officer: Well…it does not help very much…

Vernette: On the contrary Ensign…I can find out where they went! Transfer all data to my office. Inform all senior personnel to meet on the Observation deck in 15 minutes!

Helm Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette walked into the CO office and sat down behind the desk. He saw his laptop sitting on the desk. He opened it and saw the data being transferred.

Vernette accessed the data and displayed it on a large screen that was mounted on the wall.

He looked at the sensor data and began to calculate the possible destination solution.

Vernette began the calculations. He saw that the course heading brought The Ulterior Motive next to several UNSC controlled Star systems. However, he knew that even if the trajectory was close to a star system, it would still be too far away to move there at sub-light. Vernette knew that when plotting a course for a star system, the trajectory needed to line up perfectly.

Vernette: It isn’t Madrigal, it isn’t Arcadia, it isn’t Bliss, and it isn’t Chi-Ceti.

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Vernette then stopped. He had found a perfect match.

Vernette: Midnight…he is going to Midnight! It is the only match!

Vernette ran back onto the bridge.

Vernette: Helm, plot a course for Midnight! Maximum speed!

Helm Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette: What is out estimate ETA?

Helm Officer: 3 weeks - 1 day. Sir...that is a massive jump. That would be a very time consuming venture if we are wrong.

Vernette looked at the officer. He nodded.

Vernette: I know...but I am certain that is where they will be. Reguardless of that fact, Did you make the call to the senior staff?

Helm Officer: Yes sir…hopefully…they are on their way.

Vernette: Good.

Vernette walked across the bridge to the Operations Officer.

Vernette: Now…Lieutenant…very important; I need you to access the UNSC Information Net and get me the Sat Link recordings for Midnight. I specifically need recordings that contain the following CID and IFF

Vernette began to type on the Lieutenant’s workstation. He entered an IFF and CID signature.

Vernette: Those signatures are consistent with The Ulterior Motive. Find me the recordings that logged this information.

Operations Officer: Aye sir.

Vernette: As soon as you get them…inform me. I don’t care what I am doing; you have permission to interrupt me.

Operations Officer: Understood!

Vernette walked off the bridge towards the Observation deck. He saw that his senior staff had already assembled.

Cameron: Commander…

Vernette: Alright…our first engagement with Spender…could have gone better. Ideally…I would have loved to capture him, and Lucien for that matter, but they managed to give us the slip.

Cameron: What now?

Burke: How do we find them?

Vernette: Well…long story short, I managed to extrapolate their destination by using the rules of Slip space travel.

Everet: I am sorry sir…but could you educate those of us who are not experts in that area?

Winters: Yeah…

Vernette: There are two very important rules when calculating destination solutions. The first rule is that you cannot move left or right in the Slipspace. The second rule is that you maintain your current speed in the Slipspace.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Meaning…their speed and trajectory when entering the Slipspace transition remains constant until they return to real space. Knowing this…they have only one destination.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: They are going to Midnight!

Cameron: Midnight? That is where Lucien was posted before he was recruited!

Vernette nodded.

Vernette: The only reason they are going back is because they must have some interest there. They must have base of operations…

Winters: It could also be a trap.

Vernette: That is also very possible.

Everet: Someone with the resources of Admiral Spender no doubt has cohorts willing to help him. I almost expect more ships waiting there to help him.

Burke: This is a Section 0 base of operations we are talking about! You make it sound like Spender has a fleet of ships at his whim!

Everet: I did not say that. I said he might have a few loyal ship commanders on his side. We need to be careful.

Vernette: I agree.

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: But this also works to our advantage. You see…Spender, if he has allies at Midnight, has no way of informing them of what has transpired until he reaches the Midnight system. With damage to his engines, our ship can out pace his. We are already on route, and I have no doubt we will arrive before he does.

Cameron: It sounds like you are planning an ambush.

Vernette: As a matter of fact…I am. By my estimates, we will arrive 42 minutes before he does, give or take 2 or 3 minutes. In that time, I plan on taking up optimal positions to initiate the ambush.

Vernette paused.

Before he could speak, he was interrupted over the comm.

Operations Officer: Commander Vernette…I have the Sat Link recordings you requested.

Vernette: Very good…transfer them to the Observation Deck.

Operations Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette walked over to the terminal that was at the end of the large briefing table. He displayed the various recordings on the large wall mounted screen.

Vernette looked at the recordings. He was confused at what he saw.

Vernette: Hmmm…

Burke: Preston? What’s the matter?

Vernette: It seems the Ulterior Motive has no interest in Midnight…but rather…one of the natural satellite moons. Look…

Vernette paused as he made one of the recordings full screen.

Vernette: The ship in grid 1-4-8 is The Ulterior Motive. It seems to be in orbit of the moon Tesla…

Vernette began to think.

Vernette: This is interesting…

Cameron: How so?

Vernette: Tesla is habitable…but we have yet to colonize it. Spender clearly has something located on Tesla that the rest of ONI, or the UNSC for that matter, may not know about!

Vernette paused.

Vernette: This explains how he has operated for this long without being noticed. This also explains how he gets so close to Section 0 interests.

Vernette rubbed his chin.

Vernette: I am terrified that he may have a ground operation on Tesla. If he does…out workload has just doubled.

Cameron: It won’t be a problem sir. Niko and I can handle it. We can lead a full team of Marines and ODSTs and we can clean that place out. All you need to do is focus on The Ulterior Motive and we can be home by dinner.

Vernette: Alright…this is how we are going to do it folks, so listen up.

Vernette walked around the briefing table until he was at the head of the table again.

Vernette: As soon as we get to Midnight, we are going to take up position over the northern pole of Tesla, in an Extreme Low Orbit. We are going to deploy every long sword squadron we have and have them wait in grid 1-7-9…and area of space that is occupied by part of the system’s asteroid belt. Our Longswords will maintain a grey-ode to avoid detection. Once The Ulterior Motive shows up, the Longswords will engage from the flank, and the King Raven will take them head on.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: These Marathon class Battleships have two major points of interest. On both the port and starboard sides of the vessel, roughly between decks 9 and 10, there are two major power conduits that run the length of the ship to the Slipspace core. With enough damage to these two areas, we can disable the Slipspace core by cutting its power feed. In order to do this, our Longswords need to divide into two squads and take both power conduits out at the same time. We can pull that off…we can prevent anymore retreats…and we will be able to face The Ulterior Motive down.

Vernette paused again.

Vernette: As for this ground assault…I am going to need all hands involved in the plan to go at a moment’s notice if need be.

Vernette looked at Cameron and Nikolai.

Vernette: Cameron and Nikolai have volunteered to lead a possible ground op if need be. We are unsure of this phase of the operation, but we are going to prepare for it none-the-less. As soon as we arrive in system, we are going to take detailed scans of Tesla. If we find a base down there…I am going to deploy ground troops. The first thing I want done on the ground is the establishment of a beachhead…and area where we can deploy troops and set up an operational command on the surface.

Everyone nodded.

Cameron: I will see to it sir!

Nikolai: As will I.

Everet: Winters and I will work with Cameron and Nikolai on preparing teams.

Winters: Sir…might I recommend a two tiered attack?

Vernette: What do you have a mind Winters?

Winters: Well sir…if we split up, Say, for example, Cameron and I, and Winters and Nikolai, along with a detachment of Marines, we could hit any possible ground operations from two sides.

Vernette: I would prefer a single operational base…but when it comes time for an assault…then that is an excellent idea actually. Cameron…Nikolai…do you two have any objections?

Cameron: None what-so-ever…

Nikolai: I am fine with it.

Burke spoke up after Nikolai.

Burke: I guess I might as well stay here, in case anyone gets injured or wounded.

Vernette: Correct Doctor…

Burke: I will expect various kinds of injuries from this engagement. I feel that my time will be better spent at this time briefing my medical staff on what to expect in a triage situation.

Vernette: I agree. Doctor Burke, but…give me one moment.

Burke nodded. He stood where he was.

Vernette looked at the rest of his team.

Vernette: You know what I am expecting from all of you. I know that each of and everyone of you are capable soldiers…the best that ONI has to offer…and I believe, that with a bit of teamwork…and effort…we can bring this son of a bitch down.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: I will admit that I don’t know all of you as well as I should. However, I know enough to know that my faith in your abilities is well placed.

Vernette paused again.

Vernette: We all know what Spender has done…he has twisted the mind of a Spartan to the point of no return. He has used his power and authority for evil purposes. He has willing opened fire on our ship, and endangered all of our lives by refusing to submit. He is beyond remorse…and beyond redemption.

Vernette paused again.

Vernette: We all know that what we do today…is unavoidable…but it is for the greater good. It will be our next battle where we will be forced to kill our own to preserve our way of life. However…conflict is in our nature…and we are no strangers to it.

Vernette paused one final time.

Vernette: So…for the record…I will say that it will be an honor fighting alongside all of you in the upcoming battle. But…do not let my words put any of you into a false sense of security. We will reach midnight in 22 days. I want that time use to run around the clock battle drills. I want to be ready for the upcoming battle!

Everyone nodded and left the Observation deck.

Vernette stayed behind. He turned and looked out the window. He watched as the ship went through Slipspace.

Vernette sighed. He decided to rest his mind and focus on the battle ahead.

Harvest – Midnight – Bridge of The King Raven - 23 days later:

The King Raven had managed to make its way to the Midnight system. The crew had spend the last 22 days preparing for a very likely engagement against Spender and The Ulterior Motive. The crew was battle ready, and they were at full alert. Vernette sat on the bridge. All of the crew was at battle stations.

The King Raven had taken up position over the moon of Tesla, allowing the pole of the moon to obstruct the planet from sensors.

Vernette: Are the Longswords ready for deployment?

Operations Officer: Longswords are standing by!

Vernette: Any sign of the Ulterior Motive?

Operations Officer: No sir…The Ulterior Motive is still en-route. According to the numbers we ran, assuming they managed to repair their power loss, they should be showing very shortly.

The officer paused.

Operations Officer: Sir...I am detecting a spike in Cherenkov radiation! It's The Ulterior Motive. They are dropping out of slip!

Vernette: Engage the subspace scrambler code! Signal the Longswords to engage! Helm…move us forward and prepare to draw fire away from our fighters.

The King Raven engaged forward towards The Ulterior Motive.

Midnight – The Ulterior Motive

Spender: How the hell did Commander Vernette find us!?

Spender looked at his helmsman.

Spender: Prepare for another Slipspace jump! Get us the hell out of here!

Trust Helm Officer: Yes sir!

The Ulterior Motive shook as it took a direct hit.

Trust Operations Officer: We are taking fire from The King Raven!

Spender: Return fire! Cover our escape! All batteries open up!

The Ulterior Motive shook again.

Trust Helm Officer: Sir…a large squadron of Longswords has damaged the power conduits leading to the Slipspace core. We have lost the ability to jump!

Spender: Damn it! Take us about…all weapons target The King Raven!

Spender frowned.

Spender: We may have a bit of battle scarring…but we still outclass that ship! I want that Halcyon crushed!

Trust Helm Officer: Sir…we are receiving a message from two of our ground based ships. The UNSC Frigates “Silent Spectator” and “Legitimate Paranoia”. They have been monitoring the situation…and they are en-route to assist.

Spender grinned.

Spender: Looks like fortune does NOT favor the bold today Commander Vernette…

Midnight – The King Raven

Vernette: Report!

Operations Officer: We have sustained damaged to the outer hull. The secondary hull on decks 8 and 9 in sections 29 through 31 is buckling.

Vernette: Hard about to starboard…

Helm Officer: Sir…we have two more ships closing in…

Vernette: Hostile?

Helm Officer: Negative…they are locking weapons on us…they are hostile!

Vernette: Classification of new contacts?

Helm Officer: Two Frigate class cruisers. CIDs register as “Legitimate Paranoia” and “Silent Spectator”.

Vernette: Hard about…reverse course…

Helm Officer: It’s no use sir…they have us boxed in!

Vernette: All vectors…fire at any target of opportunity!

The King Raven shook as it was impacted by Archer Missiles and Autocannon impacts.

Operations Officer: Sir…we have moderate damage on port and ventral sections. The outer hull is breached in multiple locations. The damaged areas have been sealed off by emergency bulkheads…but we are venting atmosphere in two locations.

Vernette: Helm, take us about…plot a course directly for the nearest frigate. Commence a rapid fire attack pattern on the frigate.

Helm Officer Aye sir!

The King Raven came about on a direct course for the Silent Spectator.

Vernette: Target their bridge!

The tactical office looked at Vernette.

Tactical Officer: Aye sir…

The King Raven unleashed a barrage of firepower on The Silent Spectator. The Archer missiles pelted the bridge of the Frigate. After two dozen impacts, a missile broke through the armor plating surrounding the bridge and drive right into the command center of the ship. The entire command deck exploded.

The UNSC Frigate Silent Spectator began to drift downwards, as there was no control of the ship.

Tactical Officer: UNSC Frigate Silent Spectator has been critically damaged!

Vernette: Bring the MAC gun up to bear! Finish the job! They still have life pods. The last thing we need is life pods hitting the surface and making life difficult for our ground teams! Target the exact center of the ship and fire!

The King Raven lined up the MAC gun and fired it right at the disabled frigate. As soon as the round impacted the Frigate, the entire frigate exploded.

Tactical Officer: Direct hit…

Vernette: Yeah…no shit!

The King Raven shook from further weapon impacts from The Ulterior Motive and the Legitimate Paranoia.

Midnight – The Ulterior Motive

Trust Operations Officer: Sir…we just lost the Silent Spectator. It would appear that the King Raven is also armed with a MAC gun!

Spender: Is that so?

Spender paused.

Spender: Well, it just so happens that we ALSO have a MAC gun! Let’s give the Commander a taste of his own medicine.

Trust Operations Officer: With pleasure sir!

Spender: Helm, bring us into optimal firing position!

The Ulterior Motive moved into position, lining up its MAC gun with The King Raven.

Spender: Bring the MAC gun to full power! Target the King Raven!

Midnight – The King Raven

Operations Officer: Sir…I am reading a massive power spike in The Ulterior Motive’s MAC gun. It looks like they are preparing to fire!

Vernette: Helm, break us off! Emergency hard point turn to starboard.

Helm Officer: Sir…we do not have sufficient power in the auxiliary reserve to perform that maneuver safely. Our reserved have dropped below 40% and we need at least 60% to perform the maneuver! The auxiliary reserves are recharging…but not fast enough!

Vernette: If we do not evade that shot…there won’t be a ship left to recharge those auxiliary reserves for. Emergency hard point turn now!

The King Raven performs an emergency turn, breaking off from The Ulterior Motive.

The Ulterior Motive fired its MAC gun. The round discharged, but the King Raven had Partially moved out of the way. The Round skinned the underbelly of the ship, causing serious damage the hull, and widespread damage.

Vernette: Damage report!

Operations Officer: Decks 17, 18, and 19 – sections 12 through 19 have been completely destroyed! Emergency bulkheads are not responding…and we are venting atmosphere. The outer hull in the surrounding decks is beginning to buckle, and we are losing structural cohesion in those areas! We have lost power on decks 12 to 16 – all sections. We have lost power to the Slip space core and our MAC gun.

Vernette: DO we still have weapons?

Tactical Officer: Affirmative!

Vernette: Helm, bring us back about…target both enemy ships and fire at will!

Vernette looked at a display next to where he was sitting. He saw that the King Raven was bleeding power from the damaged sections.

Vernette: Evacuate decks 12 to 16…and shut down all power to those decks. Disengage emergency bulkheads, and shut down life support on those decks!

Vernette looked at the power consumption of the damaged Slip space core and MAC gun.

Vernette: Cut power to the Slipspace core and MAC gun!

Operations Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette still saw The King Raven was losing power at a constant rate. Vernette rubbed his chin as he tried to find out where the power drain was coming from.

Vernette then saw that there were broken conduits throughout the ship as a combined result of the battle damage and MAC impact.

Vernette: We have broken conduits on decks 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11

Vernette looked at the operations officer.

Vernette: Get some repair teams on that! Lock them down and stop our power hemorrhage!

Tactical Officer: Sir!

Vernette looked at the tactical officer.

Vernette: What?

Tactical: We are detecting another power build up from The Ulterior Motive. They are preparing to fire their MAC again!

Vernette took a deep breath.

Helm Officer: Before you say it…we do not have the power for another hard point turn! We are sitting ducks!

Vernette nodded.

Vernette: Divert all power to engines…

Helm Officer: Sir…even with all power to engines…we cannot perform another hard point turn!

Vernette: I know. I want you to plot a collision course…

The helm officer looked at Vernette.

Vernette: You heard me…a collision course!

Helm Officer: Aye sir…

The King Raven charged at full speed directly at The Ulterior Motive.

Midnight – The Ulterior Motive

Trust Operations Officer: Sir. The King Raven is on a collision course!

Spender: He’s bluffing…keep charging the MAC. He is simply making it far too easy to get out shot off.

The Ulterior Motive continued targeting The King Raven.

Trust Operations Officer: Sir…they are still coming. 20 000 Km and closing.

Trust Tactical Officer: 20 seconds until full charge!

Spender looked at the King Raven on the bridge display.

Trust Operations Officer: 18 000 Km and closing.

Trust Tactical Officer: 15 seconds until full charge!

Spender took a deep breath. He felt a knot in his throat

Trust Operations Officer: 14 000 Km and closing.

Trust Tactical Officer: 10 seconds until full charge!

Spender bit his lower lip

Trust Operations Officer: 6 000 Km and closing.

Trust Tactical Officer: 5 seconds until full charge!

Spender began to breathe heavily. He shook his head.

Spender: Helm…break off…hard to port!

Midnight – The King Raven

Operations Officer: Sir…they have broken off their position and terminated the targeting sequence.

Vernette: Helm…hard to dorsal!

Vernette looked at the tactical officer.

Vernette: Fire everything we have…first point of opportunity!

The King Raven began firing all of its Archer missiles and Autocannons at The Ulterior Motive. The Archer missiles tore the top of the Ulterior Motive up, causing massive damage to the hull. It was as if The King Raven was carpet bombing The Ulterior Motive.

The King Raven flew passed the now heavily damaged Ulterior Motive, and directly towards the Legitimate Paranoia.

Tactical Officer: Sir…UNSC Frigate Legitimate Paranoia directly ahead!

Operations Officer: They are opening fire…Autocannons and Archer missiles!

The King Raven shook from the impacts of the Archer missiles.

Tactical officer: We have hull breaches forming on the port and starboard side. The hull is starting to buckle! They are hitting us with everything they have!

Vernette: Direct all Autocannon fire on their Archer missiles! Use the targeting sensors to lock onto the thrust emissions from the missiles. Commence a fighter-point defense firing pattern!

Tactical Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette: That should deal with the Archer missiles. With the Autocannons stopping their missiles…commence a full attack pattern with our own missiles! Target their offensive systems!

Operations Officer: Sir…The Ulterior Motive is right on our tail. They are targeting us with their MAC gun again!

Vernette then stopped. He thought for a second.

Vernette: Cease fire…all weapons!

Tactical Officer: All weapons halted!

Vernette: Helm, plot a course directly underneath the Legitimate Paranoia…

Vernette looked at the operations officer.

Vernette: Ops! What is the MAC power levels at for The Ulterior Motive?

Operations Officer: Sensors indicate 53% charge. I estimate 18 seconds until they are fully charged and able to fire!

Vernette: Helm…this is going to take some finesse…but right before The Ulterior Motive fires…we need to turn to dorsal…bring the ship up, and put The Legitimate Paranoia right in the line of fire…but we need this timed perfectly!

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Cut to one-half engine power…that should keep us close enough to the frigate to give us a wider window of opportunity!

Operations Officer: 5 seconds!

Vernette: Helm…NOW!

The King Raven turned upwards. The targeting sensors of The Ulterior Motives MAC gun maintained the lock on the King Raven, ignoring the fact that the UNSC Frigate Legitimate Paranoia was in the direct path of fire, essentially shielding The King Raven.

The Ulterior Motive fired its MAC gun, but instead hit the Legitimate Paranoia, and destroyed The Frigate.

Operations Officer: I don’t believe it! The Ulterior Motive actually hit their allied ship! The Legitimate Paranoia was just destroyed!

Vernette grinned. Secretly, he was very relieved, as he thought the plan was not going to work.

Vernette: Helm…brings us about.

Vernette looked at the tactical officer.

Vernette: Target their main reactor…fire at will!

Midnight – The Ulterior Motive

Spender looked at the amount of damage that had been done to his ship on one of the computer terminals. The ship continued to shake as The King Raven hit Spender’s ship with everything it had.

Trust Operations Officer: Sir…we cannot take much more of this! Our reactor is reaching critical mass, and we are losing structural cohesion across the ship.

Spender frowned.

Spender: Get the weapons back online and return fire!

It was at that moment that Lucien ran onto the bridge.

Lucien: Admiral…there is widespread damage across the ship. I barely made it here in one piece!

Spender: Lucien! What are you doing here? I thought I told you to get to the surface!

Lucien: I came back to get you sir! There is nothing left here…we should all evacuate this ship! There is no point in dying here!

Spender: I am not going to let some punk, ONI Commander, scare me off my ship!

Lucien: Sir…to be frank…live to fight another day! Staying here is suicide…and it will accomplish nothing!

Spender looked at Lucien.

Spender: I hate to admit it…but you are right…

Lucien: We still have one more frigate on the surface. IF we can get to it, we can get the hell out if here. We can regroup, re-strategize, and come right back at this situation!

Spender: You’re right Lucien…you’re right.

Spender walked over to the communications terminal. He accessed the ship’s comm.

Spender: All hands…this is Admiral Spender…abandon ship! Repeat, abandon ship! All personnel make your way to the life pods and evacuate to the surface. We will regroup on the UNSC Frigate “Sleeping Grizzly”.

Spender stepped away from the comm terminal and looked at Lucien.

Spender: Let’s go!

Midnight – The King Raven

Operations Officer: Sir…The Ulterior Motive has lifeboats launching…

Vernette: They are running like rats…

Vernette paused to think.

Vernette: What is the status of The Ulterior Motive?

Operations Officer: Their reactor is losing containment…it is starting to go critical. Estimated time of critical mass is 45 seconds! I recommend backing the ship off to at least 150 000 Km.

Vernette: Helm…back us off!

The King Raven engaged its reverse thrusters and began to move away from The Ulterior Motive.

The Ulterior Motive’s reactor had reached critical mass, and began to break down. Life pods continued to launch from The Ulterior Motive.

Vernette watched as the Ulterior Motive exploded. He felt a sense of satisfaction.

Vernette: How many life pods made it to the surface?

Operations Officer: Sensors indicate that 52 life pods managed to escape The Ulterior Motive. I have been tracking those life pods…and they are all converging on the same location that our ground teams are currently attacking.

Vernette nodded.

Vernette: Open a comm link to the surface.

Operations Officer: Channel open sir!

Vernette: Cameron? This is Commander Vernette…do you copy?

There was a brief pause, and a bit of static.

Cameron: Commander! Good to hear you guys are still up there! How are things on your end? I was a bit worried when I saw the life pods.

Vernette: Those life pods belonged to The Ulterior Motive. I destroyed their ship. I am unsure if Lucien and Spender escaped though.

Cameron: I see.

Vernette: How are things down there?

Cameron: Well sir…we have been met with heavy resistance. Nikolai and I have been able to break through the infantry resistance quite easily…but there is also quite a bit of heavy armor down here. Their tanks have been inflicting serious causalities…and as a result…our progress has been slowed.

Vernette: Well…with the situation up here under control…I plan on dispatching reinforcements. What do you need?

Cameron: More air support! Pelicans, Hornets, Vultures…anything to help us break through their heavy armor!

Vernette: Alright…sit tight Cameron. I will get those reinforcements down to right away. Vernette out!

Vernette closed the comm.

Vernette looked at his Operations Officer.

Vernette: Get some damage control teams on the most critically damaged areas of the ship. Have the focus their efforts on trying to get the Slipspace core back online! Also…scramble whatever personnel we have left on this ship and tell them to meet me in hanger Bay 1. I am going to need air support pilots and ground teams. If you cannot find enough Marine pilots…fill the ranks with naval personnel if you have to!

Operations Officer: Aye sir!

Vernette stood up and walked towards the exit of the bridge.

The Operations Officer looked at Vernette.

Operations Officer: Sir? Where are you going?

Vernette: I plan on leading the reinforcements personally…

Vernette stopped and looked back at the Operations Officer.

Vernette: This is a little personal with me Lieutenant…

Operations Officer: Understood sir…good luck.

Vernette nodded and walked off the bridge of The King Raven. He made his way through the damaged corridors, avoiding the corridors that had serious damage to them.

As Vernette made his way to the hanger bay, he saw his crew working on the ship, trying to keep it together. Vernette thought about all of the men and women who died on The Ulterior Motive. Vernette tried to take solace in the fact that these people where cut throats and killers, people who would just as soon as kill innocent people as they would an enemy combatant.

Vernette did not feel bad for the decision he made to destroy The Ulterior Motive. In his mind, they were all equally guilty for the trouble that he was out through.

Vernette walked into the hanger bay and saw the last of the Marine and ODST forces.

The Marines and ODSTs looked at Vernette.

Vernette: Listen up Marines! We have some traitors on the surface of Tesla. Right now, UNSC Marine forces are down there, engaging the enemy. Our enemy…is a deadly one. They look like we do, they talk like we do, they act like we do, they dress like we do, and they march like we do. Our enemy could be someone you know, or even someone you possibly care about. However…our enemy is without mercy…and they are commanded by venomous men who prefer the shadows of deception as opposed to the light of honesty. These men prefer treachery as opposed to loyalty. These men prefer murder as opposed to justice.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: I have news for you Marines…we are the moral imperative! We prefer the light of honesty and scorn the shadows of deception. We are loyalists…not traitors. Most importantly…we believe in justice.

Vernette paused again.

Vernette: I think it is time we bring justice to those traitors on the surface!

The Marines all cheered.

The Marines and ODSTs ran to Pelicans. Each of the Pelicans had a Hornet attached to the rear of the ship. Vernette was walking towards a Pelican when he stopped himself and saw that a single Vulture was sitting in the hanger bay. Nobody was using, and it was sitting idle.

Vernette walked over to the Vulture and looked at it.

Vernette: I think I am going to take this to the surface.

One of the UNSC Pilots had overheard Vernette.

Pilot: I hate to say it sir…but there is no UNSC Marine or Pilot on this ship qualified to fly one of these things. It is why we are not using it.

Vernette looked at the Pilot.

Vernette: Wrong…I am qualified to fly these things.

Pilot: You are?

Vernette: Yes I am. It was one of the first things I learned at the naval academy.

Pilot: I did not know they taught naval personnel how to fly these things. Usually that is the Air Force…

Vernette: I am mostly self taught…I also attended a few of the seminars to get the basics. It isn’t too hard if you apply yourself.

Vernette walked around back of the Vulture and opened the rear hatch. He walked in and the lights turned on. He walked into the cockpit and sat down in the pilot’s seat.

Vernette engaged the pre flight sequence. The engines ignited and the ship slowly came to life.

Vernette: Pilot, find me some gunners!

The pilot nodded and ran off.

Vernette examined the control interface. It all started to come back to him. He had not piloted a Vulture in a few years, so it took him a moment to get his bearings.

Vernette started to remember every little control and what it did.

Vernette turned around when three Marines entered the Vulture. They each took their positions at each of the gunner stations.

Vernette contacted the bridge when the Vulture was ready for departure.

Vernette: Bridge…this is Vernette. All teams down here are ready. Keep an eye on the skies and make sure no more of Spenders lapdogs show up to help save their asses.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Keep the ship intact while I’m out.

Operations Officer: Aye sir. Good luck down there.

Midnight – Moon of Tesla – Trust Military Headquarters

Spender and Lucien, along with several dozen Trust Marines stood in a large vehicle hanger.

Spender: What is our current situation?

Trust Marine: Sir…Commander Vernette’s ground forces are closing in, they are slowly gaining ground. We have confirmed that there are two Spartans leading their forces.

Lucien: Which ones?

Trust Marine: We have not been able to determine that. All we know is that there are two of them.

Spender thought for a moment.

Spender: What about The Sleeping Grizzly?

Trust Marine: Last time I heard; our engineers were getting ready to get it into the air. They need another 30 minutes.

Spender: We do not have 30 minutes…

Trust Marine: We are doing our best to hold ground. Every life pod that came before yours…we have out everyone on the front lines! However, they have heavy vehicles…and they are able to cut through our fortified locations with relative ease. We have tried countering with heavy ordinance…but they brought a lot of tanks to the fight.

Spender turned away. He was deep in thought. Lucien followed him.

Lucien: Should I get out there?

Spender: No Lucien…I am going to need you here. If Vernette does managed to break through our lines…and he does, in fact, make it here…you will be the only thing standing between him and I. It may not come to that…but I would rather play it safe at this point.

Lucien: What about ODST Black Team?

Spender: Yes…I also have them…they could prove to be valuable assets.

Spender thought for a moment.

Spender: They should be here…we should go and find them. Let’s go!

Midnight – Moon of Tesla – UNSC Beachhead

Cameron and Nikolai looked at a holotable that had been set up. The holotable displayed an overview of the battlefield.

Cameron: Their numbers have really clustered inwards. They have completely fallen back…shortening their lines and lengthening ours. That is a pretty solid strategy on their part…

Nikolai: I am sure we can break through. When Vernette arrives with our reinforcements…we can make one final push, break their lines, and send them scattering.

Cameron: I hope you’re right Niko…

Everet: My sniper teams have been able to pick off stragglers…and even force them away from certain areas. However, we are now getting counter-snipers…so we won’t gain any ground from sniper assaults.

Winters: I have run into a similar problem with the tank brigades. We have started running into heavy weapons, such as rockets and mines. I do not dare push forward any further without reinforcements or air support.

Cameron: I agree.

Nikolai: I still think a small strike team sneaking in there is the best idea. I could lead half a dozen soldiers behind their lines…and we can inflict serious damage on everything that is impeding us.

Cameron: We are not that desperate yet Niko. We are still going very strong for our numbers. Besides…I do not want to risk you running into Lucien by yourself.

Nikolai: We are still assuming Lucien survived the destruction of The Ulterior Motive.

Cameron: Ts is Lucien Niko…he is still alive.

Everet: I hate to interrupt…but how the hell are we going to stop Lucien? I have read this guys’ file cover to cover…and this won’t be easy.

Winters: Lucien is an expert at pretty much everything…but he lacks self discipline. As good as he is…he doesn’t know when to back off. We might be able to use this to our advantage.

Cameron: All I know is that whatever we do, it must permanently stop Lucien. The best we can do is prepare for what we know of him…

Cameron looked up and saw dozens of UNSC Pelicans incoming.

Cameron: Hold that thought…I think these are Vernette’s guys.

The Pelicans began to land. As they landed, they disengaged the Hornets from their transport docks. Vernette’s Vulture was one of the last vessels to come into view. The Vulture did not land.

Cameron looked at the Vulture.

Cameron: Damn…this guy delivers…I think we can make it back in time for dinner!

Cameron saw that he had an incoming message on his comm. He answered it.

Cameron: Cameron here…

Vernette: Cameron…I see you down there.

Cameron: Commander? Are you…

Vernette: In the Vulture? Yes I am. I plan on taking command of this phase and leading the assault from here. Once we reach their HQ…we are going to sweep and clean that place out!

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Get resupplied. We are going to get all of these Hornets and Pelicans in the air…and we are going to move on their HQ. Take no prisoners…and shoot to kill.

Cameron: Understood sir!

Vernette: For the record…if it was within my power to MAC blast them from space…I would. We lost our MAC gun in the battle with The Ulterior Motive.

Cameron: Where is the fun in that? That would be too easy sir!

Vernette: Get your forces ready Cam. Contact me again when you are ready to go.

Vernette closed the comm.

Vernette began to look over the sensor data that he was receiving from The King Raven in orbit. He saw The Trust troop movement. He saw that The Trust had positioned itself very close to their HQ. Vernette knew they were forming a turtle defense…but he did not know why.

Vernette: It is like they are protecting something…but what?

Vernette continued to analyze the data, and he could not make heads or tails of what they were doing.

Vernette: This is so odd. What are they planning? This is not a normal defense. They can retreat…they are not surrounded…they have avenues of escape…why have they not moved?

Vernette did not know. He knew The Trust was planning something, and that he had to wait and see what it was.

Vernette then saw he had a message from Cameron.

Cameron: We are ready to go sir. Nikolai and Everet have taken a large detachment of Marines and they are going to attack from the east. My team will attack from the south. On your order we will move out.

Vernette: Alright…let’s make it happen Cam!

Cameron began to organize his forces. Vernette waited for the ready signal from all of the teams before moving. It was not long before every team reported in and was ready to begin the final push on the Trust Military Headquarters.

Vernette’s Vulture was surrounded by air support, as the entire UNSC task force moved forward. Vernette could hear the comm. chatter from the UNSC Marines.

Marine 1: I think they see us! We have turrets at 11 and 1…

Cameron: Sniper teams…keep an eye out for counter snipers.

Niko: Cam…I am with tank brigade 1…we are closing in on the target. We should be engaged in 3 minutes.

Cameron: Alright…don’t be late. We are moving in now. With their attention on us, you have a clear vector,

Marine 4: We have AA…air teams, watch the ground below.

Vernette looked back at one of his gunners.

Vernette: Keep your finger on the chaff deployment! If one of those rockets comes at us…be ready to deflect it.

Gunner 3: Aye sir.

Vernette: Gunners 1 and 2…open up!

Vernette’s Vulture began to fire off the main canons at the Trust lines.

Cameron: Air teams…move forward! Follow up on those Vulture strikes and clean up the stragglers.

Marine 2: Shit…Scorpion-04…pull back…there is a rocket lock on you!

Marine 3: No use…we lost Scorpion-04.

Hornet-16: Hornets 16, 17, and 18 moving to fill the offensive gap.

Cameron: Commander…we have enemy contacts in grid 14…do you see them?

Vernette: I see them? Want them cleared out?

Cameron: Would you kindly?

Vernette: On it!

Vernette’s Vulture moved forward. The two main guns targeted a small batch of gunner nests. The Vulture opened up and blew each nest right out of the ground.

Vernette: Grid 14 clear.

Cameron: All teams…converge on grid 14…there is a gap in their defenses. Let’s move!

Nikolai: This is Nikolai…we have reach target and we have engaged. Resistance is light on our side…we have having very little trouble breaking through. Hopefully I will see you guys inside.

Vernette: Negative Nikolai…wait for us. We should breach their facility as a single unit. We have no idea what is in there!

Nikolai: Understood…we will provide support for you guys instead.

Vernette’s Vulture continued to fire its cannons at the soldiers on the ground.

Vernette turned back to his gunners.

Vernette: Gunner 3, I want you to prepare air to surface missile barrage. Let’s tear that wound open!

Gunner 3: With pleasure sir!

The gunner prepared the missile barrage and commenced fire. The surface to ground missiles tore the defensive line apart.

Cameron: That got em! We have a clear. Commander…we are moving in!

Vernette: Understood Cameron. Secure the entrance then await my arrival.

Midnight – Moon of Tesla – Trust Military Headquarters

Spender and Lucien looked at ODST black team.

Spender: Gentlemen…as we speak…the UNSC are on our doorstep…literally…

Spender paused.

Spender: You four are the best of the best. Any UNSC Marine you see…kill them.

Black 1: I assume the same goes for Commander Vernette?

Spender: That goes double time for him!

Black 1: We will deal with him if we get the chance.

Lucien: Just remember…your job is to protect Spender.

Black 1: Where will you be?

Lucien: Dealing with the Spartans Vernette brought with him. I am the only one here that can do it. Just make sure Spender escapes on that Frigate.

Spender looked at Lucien.

Spender: Good luck Lucien.

Lucien: Same to you sir…same to you.

Lucien and Spender parted ways. Spender, who was accompanied by ODST Black Team, made his way towards the Frigate while Lucien went in search of the intruders.

As Lucien moved through the base, he encountered some UNSC Marines that had been sent on ahead to scout out the area.

Marine 1: Shit…look…that’s the Spartan that Vernette is after!

Marine 2: Radio for backup!

The Marines raised their weapons. However, Lucien was quicker on the draw and he took the team of Marines down without going through the entire clip of his Assault Rifle. Lucien continued onwards, dispatching the recon teams as he found them.

Lucien: Vernette better have something more substantive…or this is going to end very badly for him.

Lucien ran across a second level catwalk, but stopped when he saw some more UNSC forces below him. Lucien had come upon Vernette, Cameron, Nikolai, and several teams of Marines. Lucien fell back to cover and listened in on their conversation.

Vernette: Have you been able to reach Recon Team Bravo, Charlie, or Whiskey yet?

Everet: No sir…I have just lost their signals…they are not responding. They must have encountered some form of resistance.

Winters: I cannot imagine there being many ore enemy combatants here…

Lucien saw Vernette from his vantage point. He raised his assault rifle and took aim at Vernette.

Lucien: One shot is all it takes.

Lucien shifted his focus and saw Cameron and Nikolai. He then lowered his rifle and looked at them. He contemplated the decision of killing both Nikolai and Cameron. He felt divided on this issue now that it was staring him right in the face.

Part of Lucien wanted to secure Spender’s escape, to protect Spender, but another part of Lucien was telling him not to kill his former compatriots, despite their current status of being “enemy combatants”.

Lucien concluded that despite his personal feelings, his place was no longer with ONI, but with The Trust.

Lucien once again took aim at Cameron.

He was about to take the shot when several marines who were now walking along the same elevated catwalk that Lucien was on, took shots at Lucien with their SMGs.

Lucien took aim at the Marines and fired. This drew the attention of Vernette and the others, as they looked up and all took aim at Lucien.

Lucien had just dispatched the Marines that attacked him, when he looked down and saw his previous targets taking aim at him. Lucien shouted out to them

Lucien: Well, well…they sent you of all people…Cameron. As for you Niko…I never expected you…

Cameron: Lucien…I don’t want this to end with you in a body bag…I don’t want your record sealed for treachery. Put your weapon down…surrender…and we can work this out!

Lucien: Cameron, with no respect, go to hell!

Vernette: Lucien…this is your last chance.

Lucien looked at Vernette.

Lucien: Do not speak to me…little man. I could break you so easily…anything you say means nothing to me. Save it.

Vernette: I have no qualms in order my men to gun you down Lucien…

Lucien looked around and saw that he was surrounded.

Lucien: Even if you kill me…what will it accomplish? Nothing that’s what! The root of all your problems is escaping as we speak. If you really think about it, this can end one of two ways.

Lucien laughed a bit.

Lucien: If you ignore me, and go after Spender…I will kill you the moment you turn your back to me. Alternatively…you can waste your time killing me…and Spender escapes…and everything that was done today…will have all been for nothing!

Vernette glared at Lucien.

Vernette: What is Spender giving you to earn your loyalty to the degree that you would die for someone who would leave you behind so he can save your ass!

Lucien: He gave me more personal liberties and respect in a day than ONI Section 0 ever did in my lifetime! That is worth something to me. I am still human, you know…and I still deserve these things…despite what ONI might think!

Cameron: Lucien…we may not of agreed to this way of life…but it has been the only thing we have known…and, even though out existence is rooted in shadows and secrecy…we still have a purpose…and that purpose is the defense of our established Government from people who would threaten to tear it down!

Lucien: You make it sound so nice Cameron…almost as if ONI cares about the little guy…

Vernette: This is so pointless…

Vernette looked at Cameron.

Vernette: We are getting nowhere. Spender has twisted his mind, he is beyond helping…

Vernette looked back at Lucien and started firing his Magnum.

Several marines followed suit, firing at Lucien.

Lucien was forced to fall back, as the hail of bullets would have overwhelmed him.

Vernette: No more talk! Cameron, Lucien…kill Lucien…do whatever you need to do to nullify him as a threat! The rest of you are with me…we are going to find Spender and put a bullet in his head!

Everet: Yes sir! Let’s go Marines!

Vernette and the team of Marines ran off to an adjacent hallway. Cameron and Nikolai gave chase to Lucien.

Cameron and Nikolai followed where Lucien had fallen back. They had followed his path right to an empty vehicle bay.

Cameron and Nikolai looked at Lucien. All three Spartans raised their weapons.

Cameron: Don’t do this Lucien.

Lucien: Like I said before…go to hell!

Lucien fired his Assault rifle. Cameron and Nikolai went in opposite directions and fired their SMGs at Lucien. Lucien ran as he fired his Assault rifle. All three Spartans put great distance between each other. All three Spartans took cover and exchanged fire, neither Spartan ever scoring a hit that was fatal, or even distracting.

It was not long until all three Spartans had run dry on their weapons.

Lucie shouted from behind cover.

Lucien: I say we settle this the old fashioned way…

Cameron: You mean…like the way we did in training? Bare hands?

Lucien: Yeah…I like that way.

Lucien emerged from cover. Nikolai and Cameron did the same. The two sides looked at each other.

Lucien: I will break both of you.

Nikolai, after hearing this, wasted no time in going after Lucien. Lucien threw a punch at Nikolai, but Nikolai deflected it, and drove is knee into the gut of Lucien. Lucien stumbled back, but quickly dashed forward and hit Nikolai with a right hook. Lucien grabbed Nikolai and tossed him into Cameron.

Cameron and Nikolai fell back.

Lucien: I know your fighting styles like the back of my hand. You two do not have a prayer against me.

Cameron and Nikolai both got up. They both ran at Lucien. Lucien took up a defensive stance, but was over-powered by both Cameron’s and Nikolai’s attacks. Cameron managed to break through Luciens’ defensive stance with a left hook, followed by a kick to the stomach. Nikolai followed up and an elbow smash to Lucien’s face.

Lucien stumbled back. He looked at the two Spartans.

Cameron: We all know that this can go on for a very long time Lucien…we are just going to destroy each other! You have to end this!

Lucien: Whether this fight takes days, months, or years…I am done with ONI. I am NEVER coming back! I will never put my life in their hands…and I refuse to surrender to them!

Lucien paused.

Lucien: If this fight destroys us all, then so be it!


Vernette and his teams ran through the corridors. They encountered the occasional ell of Trust resistance, but it was nothing they could not handle.

Vernette: We have to be getting close. These guys are becoming more numerous!

Winters: I am sure Spender is around here somewhere…

Vernette took point, his magnum in hand. He turned a corner and saw a very long corridor. Vernette and his team followed the corridor. At the end of the corridor was a large metal door. Vernette pressed a control panel n the wall and the door opened. The door led back outside, to a sealed off rear section of the large compound. The entire area was a very large courtyard, complete with a room. Vernette saw a Frigate inside of this courtyard.

Vernette: That’s where he is going!

Everet: They are hiding an entire frigate in here?

Vernette: It looks that way!

Winters: How do they plan on getting it out?

Vernette looked at the roof covering the large courtyard. He saw a seam running along the room.

Vernette: I think the roof opens…kind of like a hanger bay door. Once opened, the ship just goes…right up.

Everet: That explains why he is here, and why the Trust never retreated.

Winters: No kidding!

Vernette then looked into the distance, and saw Spender on the other side of the courtyard. Spender was standing on an elevated platform that looked like a Pelican landing pad.

Vernette: Look…its Spender!

Winters: What the hell is he doing out here? Why is he just waiting there?

Vernette: Well…let’s go ask!

Vernette and his team ran forward. They saw that four ODSTs were with Spender. The ODSTs turned and took aim with their weapons when they saw Vernette and his team approach.

Spender turned when he saw his ODSTs raise their weapon.

Black 2: That’s far enough Vernette!

Black 1: Put your weapons down!

Spender stood behind the ODSTs…grinning.

Vernette: I have no idea who you people are…but I am not interested in dealing with you right now! Put your weapons down, and give me a clear shot of Spender.

Spender: That is not going to happen today Commander…

Spender paused.

Spender: They won’t let it happen.

Vernette: They? Let me guess…ODST Black team?

Spender: The one and only!

Vernette looked at the ODSTs.

Vernette: I won’t ask again…put your weapons down!

The ODSTs raised their weapons.

Black 1: Do you honestly believe that you and your band of rookies are any match for us?

Vernette and his team had taken aim at the ODSTs.

Spender: This can only end one way Vernette. Do not lead these people into a battle that you cannot win!

Spender frowned.

Spender: Consider the lives of the men that you will be leading into a hopeless cause…

Vernette grinned.

Vernette: If the cause is just and honorable…they are prepared to give their lives, as I am. I expect no less of myself.

Vernette paused.

Vernette: Are you prepared to die, here, today Spender?

Spender was silent.

He looked at ODST Black Team.

Spender: Kill them! Kill them all!

The ODSTs fired off their weapons. Vernette ducked and fell back behind the cover of a supply crate. Several of the UNSC Marines were hit from the initial fire.

Vernette looked to his side and saw Winters.

Winters looked at Vernette.

Winters: Sir…ODST black team is very dangerous! We should fall back!

Vernette: Negative! Spender is right there…we can’t let him escape. Order our teams to push forward!

Vernette popped out of cover and fired off his magnum at the ODSTS. He then saw that one of the ODSTs was armed with a rocket launcher.

Vernette: Shit…

The ODST fired a rocket at a group of tree marines and killed all three of them. Vernette went back behind cover.

Vernette: Those guys are like a small army!

Winters: I guess it is why ONI says they are the best!

Vernette looked around. He knew that a brute force attack would not work. The ODSTs were too heavily armed. What he needed was an indirect approach. He looked around and saw that there were many piles of supply crates scattered around the courtyard, all divided up into what they were used for and where they were destined to go. Vernette managed to make a path of cover to make his way around to the side of the Pelican landing pad.

Vernette: Winters…I need suppressive fire…

Winters: Are you honestly thinking of going up there?

Vernette: No…but I have an idea on how to get us up there. Do you have any grenades?

Winters: Yeah…why?

Vernette: Hand them over!

Winters handed Vernette two grenades.

Winters: What are you planning?

Vernette: Cover me…

Vernette ran out from behind his cover, dodging to the side, making his way around to an unprotected side of the landing pad.

Winters: Damn it…

Winters fired off his SMG at ODST Black Team, trying to draw their attention.

Vernette, in the mean time, managed to approach the base of the Pelican landing pad from the side. He took the two grenades that Winters had given them, activated the charges on both of them, and tossed them both at one of the support legs for the landing pad.

Both grenades exploded, causing the support leg to snap, and the Pelican pad to topple over to one side. The ODSTs and spender fell off and were all separated, but nearby, on ground level. Spender got back to his feet first, and saw that the UNSC Marines were on approached.

Spender: Get up your idiots! The UNSC is coming! Hold them off!

The ODSTs grabbed their weapons and took cover behind some supply creates. Spender himself, not want to take any more chances, ran off, fleeing back inside the compound.

Vernette saw Spender run, and took chase after him, dodging from crate to crate to avoid being hit by the gunfire from the ODSTs

Black 1: Where the hell is Spender going?

Black 3: Who knows…just keep shooting!

Vernette snuck around the ODSTs who were distracted by the UNSC Marines.

Vernette gave chase to Spender. Vernette ran inside the facility via the same entrance that Spender used. Vernette saw Spender turn a corner.

Vernette: SPENDER! Stop running you coward!

Vernette took chase, with his magnum in hand. Vernette turned the corner but was quickly knocked to the ground when a large lead pipe was slammed into his gut. Vernette fell to the floor, dropping his magnum. Spender used the lead pipe and slammed Vernette in the back, knocking him on his stomach.

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Spender: I am right here Commander…I am no coward. You wanted to pick a fight…well…let’s fight shall we?

Vernette tried to get up, but Spender kicked him in the side.

Spender: Stupid fool…you should have known better than to come after me. Nobody crosses me and lives to tell about it.

Spender walked circles around Vernette.

Spender: You are going to pay for destroying my ship…little man.

Spender raised the pipe again and slammed it into Vernette’s back. Vernette yelled out in pain.

Spender: Do you know how many good men and women were lost in the destruction of The Ulterior Motive?

Spender slammed the lead pipe into Vernette’s side, swinging it as if it were a golf club.

Spender: I offered you everything! You spat in my face…now I will reduce you to nothing.

Spender walked away. He took a few steps away from Vernette. He looked down at him. Spender drew his side arm and pointed it at Vernette’s head.

Spender: I am going to enjoy killing you…

Spender grinned. His grip on his magnum increased as he prepared to pull the trigger. He then stopped himself.

Spender: No…this is too easy. Clubbing you to death is far more satisfying.

Spender holstered his magnum.

He walked back towards Vernette and looked down at him.

Spender: You know Commander…the more I think about it…the more I realize what a pain in the ass you have been! I think about what you have done…and it boggles my mind!

Vernette tried to get back to his feet, but Spender slammed the lead pipe into Vernette’s back again. Vernette fell again.

Spender: You destroyed three of my ships…

Spender hit Vernette with the pipe once again. Vernette groaned in pain. Vernette was breathing heavily.

Spender: You inflicted well over a thousand causalities. You launched an attack on one of my top facilities, and you have eluded and defeated my attempts to force you into The Trust.

Vernette tried to get up again, but Spender hit him in the side. Vernette fell over onto his back.

Spender: You have remarkable willpower Commander…

Spender grinned.

Spender: You would have made a fine addition to The Trust…you would have gone far!

Spender walked circles around Vernette.

Spender: Your aptitude is impressive…I will give you that…but you have used your abilities for the wrong people. Men like us are destined to rule society. Sadly…you have decided to serve society as oppose to control it.

Spender shook his head.

Spender: How short sighted.

Spender placed the pipe next to Vernette’s head, holding it like he would a golf club.

Spender: Such potential wasted. I do not know what the greater shame is; the fact that I need to extinguish it, or the fact that it was wasted in service of The UNSC and her Government.

Spender raised the pipe.

Spender: Goodbye Commander…

Spender swung the lead pipe at Vernette, but at the last second Vernette raised his hand and caught the pipe in his hand, just before it struck his head.

Vernette looked up at Spender and frowned.

Spender scoffed and pulled the pipe away, stumbling back.

Vernette got back to his feet. He stared Spender down.

Vernette: You made three mistakes Spender…

Vernette walked towards Spender. Spender charged forward and tried to strike Vernette in the head.

Vernette ducked, and rose back up and struck Spender in the side of the head with his elbow. Spender fell to the ground, dropping the pipe.

Vernette turned to look at Spender.

Spender got back to his feet and stumbled back again.

Vernette: First…you wasted your time talking to me.

Vernette walked forward. Spender turned to run, but Vernette grabbed him by the back of the scuff of his jacket and pulled him back. Spender fell to the ground and rolled.

Vernette: Second…You didn’t kill me when you had the chance…

Spender tried to get back to his feet, but Vernette reached down and grabbed spender by the neck and lifted him back to his feet. Vernette held Spender by the throat with his left and drove his right hand into Spenders face. Spender fell back against a wall.

Vernette: Third…you have underestimated my unrelenting willpower…to your own peril!

Vernette grabbed Spender by the scruff of his jacket, pulled him away from the wall, and then slammed Spender right back into the wall.

Vernette: My entire life has been a test…

Vernette pulled Spender back and slammed him against the wall again.

Vernette: I have been tested many a time by a power greater than either of us.

Vernette pulled Spender right into a knee to the gut. Vernette then slammed Spender into the wall for a third time.

Vernette: My life has been merciless, grueling, and utterly destructive…but I overcame every single test of resolve put in my path since day one!

Vernette pulled his right fist back and punched Spender right in the face.

Vernette: My parents were killed…

Vernette punched Spender again.

Vernette: I grew up practically alone, with my brother as my only ally…

Vernette slammed his fist into Spender’s face again.

Vernette: I spent more nights starving and sleeping in subway stations than not!

Vernette punched Spender again.

Vernette: I grew up, as a child, without the love of parents telling they loved me before I went to bed…

Vernette punched Spender again.

Vernette: Nobody ever told me they cared about me…or that they were proud of me…or that they were blessed to have me. No…I never got that! Everyone else did…I didn’t!

Vernette slammed Spender into the wall again. Spender began to spit up blood.

Vernette: I was only 6 years old when someone decided to fire a handgun at me for stealing a bit of food from a restaurant so I wouldn’t starve to death! The fact that my head wasn’t blow off that day was a fucking miracle!

Vernette glared at Spender.

Vernette: It is my personal belief that I have had the unrelenting, unending attention of a God who wanted to forge a man from nothing but the fires of adversity and anguish…

Vernette glared at Spender.

Vernette: Do you honestly FUCKING believe that there is ANYTHING you can do that will break me?

Vernette spun Spender around and tossed him to the ground.

Spender looked at Vernette, with a terrified look on his face. Spender sat on the ground; he looked at Vernette stand before him.

Spender pulled out his Magnum and aimed it at Vernette.

Spender: I can send you back to God…that is what I can do…

Vernette walked towards Spender.

Spender pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.

Vernette stepped forward and kicked the gun from Spender’s hands.

Vernette: You didn’t take the safety off…

Spender was totally silent. Vernette charged forward and kicked Spender right in his face. Spender’s head flew back and slammed onto the ground. Spender was knocked out cold.

Vernette looked down at Spender and spat blood out of his mouth, right on Spender’s uniform.

Vernette: You’re under arrest…you son of a bitch…


Cameron and Nikolai looked at Lucien. They were both tired, but Lucien was untouched, as if he had not even been in a vicious fight.

Lucien: What are you two waiting for? Are you both THAT tired? It is two on one…surely you should be able to at least make me stop and catch my breath ONCE!

Nikolai ran at Lucien.

Cameron: Niko…wait!

Lucien grabbed Nikolai by the throat and tossed him into a wall. Nikolai fell to the ground, as he was exhausted. Lucien approached Nikolai, with full intent to kill Nikolai.

Lucien: I grow tired of this Russian. You have failed to impress me…as a result…you die. Hopefully the Canuck can impress me in the slightest.

Cameron ran at Lucien and tackled him to the ground. Cameron head butted Lucien.

Lucien retaliated with a punch to Cameron’s helmet, knocking Cameron to the side.

Lucien jumped to his feet, and slammed his fist right into Cameron’s back. Cameron groaned.

Lucien: This is going to go on for a very long time Cameron…one of us is going to die…and it is not going to be me!

Lucien stepped on Cameron’s back.

Lucien: Why do you fight for them? They do not see your humanity…

Cameron: We were created…

Lucien: Yes…we were created…not manufactured! We are not weapons! We are people…but ONI doesn’t understand that!

Cameron: We have our place…

Lucien: Yes…we do…

Lucien fell silent.

Lucien grabbed Cameron’s helmet and pulled it off his armor. He tossed the helmet aside. Cameron’s right eye was bleeding.

Lucien: You look human…but you have been convinced that you are a weapon…nothing more.

Lucien grabbed Cameron by the back of his neck and threw him into a broken down warthog.

Lucien: See? I told you I could take both of you…

Lucien looked at both Cameron and Nikolai.

Lucien: Do either of you have any fight left? Nothing?

Cameron began to climb back to his feet.

Lucien: Ohhh…Cameron…you try too hard.

Cameron: I am going about this all wrong…I should have seen this earlier. As skillful as Lucien is…he has one fatal weakness…a weakness that I should have seen before…

Cameron got back to his feet and looked at Lucien.

Cameron: I am not going to let you get away with this Lucien. I am not going to be defeated by…

Lucien: By what…Cameron?

Cameron: A second rate Spartan…

Cameron laughed. Lucien clenched his fists.

Cameron: You heard me Lucien. You are second rate. You don’t even have a proper head on your shoulders. When it comes to killing people smaller than you…you are the best…no doubt. Too bad you need to be many times stronger than your opponents to feel strong…

Lucien ran at Cameron. Cameron drove his palm right into Lucien’s visor. Lucien stumbled back. Cameron kicked Lucien back several feet, right onto the ground.

Cameron: Let’s face it Lucien…you will never be normal. You will forever be some deranged little man in a suit of armor. What makes you so great? Is it the fact that you are good at giving orders? Please...I know a lot of people who gives orders. None of them are special.

Lucien got back up and ran at Cameron. Cameron grabbed Lucien, and using Lucien’s momentum, lifted him up and, and tossed Lucien into the busted Warthog.

Lucien crushed the side of the Warthog.

Cameron: You are just messed up in the head...and you enjoy working for people who are just as deranged as you are!

Lucien: You know nothing Cameron! I am not a tool…I am not a weapon!

Lucien got back up and ran at Cameron again. Lucien was losing his mind. Cameron kept his cool, and deflected every single one of his blows. Lucien began to become disorganized and sloppy.

Cameron grabbed one of Lucien’s arms, and twisted it behind his back. Cameron applied pressure to Lucien’s arm.

Cameron: You are defective Lucien!

Lucien began to lose his mind.

Cameron: You are imperfect…

Lucien pulled his head forward and slammed it back, slamming his head into Cameron. Cameron released Lucien’s arm, and Cameron stumbled back against a balcony. Cameron looked back and saw that he was on the edge of a balcony, directly overhead the lower level of the vehicle bay. Right below him was a broken Scorpion Tank.

Cameron looked back at the raging psychotic Lucien.

Cameron grinned.

Cameron: Lucien…

Lucien was breathing erratically, and heavily…

Cameron: You are defective…it is time to put you away…

Lucien ran at Cameron in a fit of blind rage. Lucien was completely unaware of his surroundings, as the only thing he could coherently focus on was Cameron. As Lucien neared where Cameron was, Cameron ducked and lifted Lucien over his head and tossed Lucien over the balcony. Lucien fell below, smashing right into the Scorpion tank.

Lucien was totally motionless below.

Cameron looked at Lucien below. Nikolai walked up to Lucien.

Nikolai: What did you do to him?

Cameron: I did nothing…Lucien was the architect of his own destruction.

Nikolai looked down at Lucien.

Nikolai: I am still getting life signs from him on my visor…

Cameron: He is alive? We can put him into cryo and take him back to ONI in that case!

Nikolai paused.

Nikolai: Do you think he would be opposed to that idea?

Cameron: I am sure we can convince him…

Cameron paused.

Cameron: Lend me a hand…let’s get down there and nab him.

Nikolai nodded. He paused when he heard a call from Vernette over the comm.

Vernette: Nikolai, Cameron…do you copy?

Nikolai looked at Cameron.

Nikolai: Vernette is on the horn…

Cameron: Answer it…let him know our status.

Nikolai answered the call from Vernette.

Nikolai: Commander Vernette…we have captured Lucien!

Vernette: Did you now? What a coincidence…I managed to capture Spender. Unfortunately…ODST Black Team escaped in a Pelican, and the UNSC Frigate that was docked here managed to take off and escape.

Nikolai: What Frigate?

Vernette: Ohhh…that’s right…you guys were unaware of that. We found out that this installation was housing a third UNSC Frigate that Spender was going to use to escape. Unfortunately…we were unable to stop it…and the King Raven was in no shape to stop it either. All that matters though is that we have Spender.

Nikolai: Sir…Cameron wants to know if we can Lucien in cryo…to bring him back to Section 0…this is very personal for him it seems…

Vernette: Very well…let’s contact The King Raven…we can get a cryo pod sent down here, we can lock Lucien up, and let Section 0 deal with him.

Nikolai: Thank you sir…we will meet you at the insertion point!

Vernette: Understood…Vernette out.

Nikolai closed the comm. He looked at Cameron.

Cameron: So?

Nikolai: Alright Cam…let’s go get Lucien!

Midnight – ONI Section 0 Operational Headquarters Omicron - ONI Section 0 Military District of Tribunal – Two Weeks Later:

Rear Admiral Yates was looking at Lucien who was asleep in the cryo pod.

Yates was alone, he was deep in thought.

Yates: How the hell are we going to fix this guy? Do we even plan to fix him? Makes me think that we should have listened to Cameron and Burke…perhaps we could have saved him…

Yates shook his head in disappointment.

His thoughts were interrupted by an officer.

ONI Officer: Sir…I know this is getting old…but …Admiral Spender is still asking to see you. He says it is vital that he speaks with you!

Yates: How many times have I said no?

ONI Officer: He won’t let up. He claims that it is urgent…

Yates: Very well. Do me a favor…keep an eye on Lucien…

ONI Officer: Aye sir…

Yates turned away. He walked out of the cryo prison, and down the corridor, towards the holding cells.

Upon entering the holding cells, Yates walked directly to the cell that had Spender confined. Spender was in an orange jumpsuit, and his hands were bound in front of him.

Spender: Rear Admiral Yates…how nice of you to entertain my request.

Yates: Spender…or should I say…Ex-Admiral Constantine Spender…

Spender: I have merely been suspended from active duty…not stripped of rank yet…

Yates: Ohhh…so I guess the jumpsuit is a fashion statement?

Spender: Let’s cut to the chase…shall we? We both know that the evidence against me is very compelling…to say the least. A lot of events, that just so happen to coincide, have been stitched together to form a very nice collage. That collage is now your prosecution.

Yates: That is one very messed up way of putting it.

Spender: Yes it is…

Spender paused.

Spender: How is The King Raven? Are repairs underway?

Yates: Why do you ask?

Spender: Just curious. What a find ship…

Spender paused.

Spender: I assumed it was who was in command of that ship when it first approached us in orbit of Harvest. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Commander Vernette, a clearly inferior officer, was placed in command of YOUR ship…

Yates looked at Spender. His frown turned into intrigue.

Spender: Do you still believe that you will have command of The King Raven?

Yates was silent.

Spender: I don’t think so. I think Skinner is going to give it to Vernette. A shame…

Yates: What?

Spender: Oh yes…I think Vernette is going to get it. You deserve it more than he does Brandon…

Yates: What…?

Spender: Vernette is going to get The King Raven…and you will have nothing. What do you think happens to officers who never get their own command? They tend to drift off into mediocrity…they tend to be forgotten.

Yates: Vernette is getting The King Raven?

Spender: Yes…

Yates: But…Skinner said…


Spender grinned.

Spender: If only I still had authority…if only…somehow…I managed to escape this cell…to be pardoned of these…false accusations made against me…

Yates raised an eyebrow.

Yates: If only?

Spender: Well…I have taken enough of your time Rear-Admiral Yates. I am sure you have to go and gather the evidence to use against me in my trial...that is coming up in…2 hours.

Yates took a step back.

Spender: I would salute…but my hands…

Yates turned and walked away. He left the holding cells without saying another word.

Midnight – ONI Section 0 Operational Headquarters Omicron - ONI Section 0 Military District of Tribunal – Two Hours Later:

Spender was walked into a court room, escorted by several Marines. Spender looked ahead and saw the military judges. There were 5 judges. The head judge was Skinner, and the four other judges were lesser military officers.

Spender was sat at a table, next to a lawyer. Spender looked to his left and saw Vernette, and Yates.

Skinner: This military Tribunal is now in session.

Skinner looked at Vernette.

Skinner: Is the prosecution prepared?

Vernette: Yes.

Skinner: Does the prosecution wish to make any statements?

Vernette: Not before the accused.

Skinner: That is within order.

Skinner looked at Spender.

Skinner: Constantine Spender…you stand accused of multiple counts of Treason, conspiracy, negligent homicide, misappropriation of UNSC equipment, personnel, and ships, abuse of administrative power, and falsifying mission data for ulterior motives, as well as responsibility for the destruction of three UNSC ships, including The Ulterior Motive, The Silent Spectator, and the Legitimate Paranoia. How do you plea?

Spender: Not guilty.

Vernette’s eyes widened in total disbelief of what Spender had just said.

Skinner: With the amount of evidence against you…that is a grand claim Admiral…

Spender: I would like to see this evidence…your Honor. This court seems to be doing a very good job at making accusations, listing crimes…but has thus far done a poor job of actually proving any of it.

Skinner looked at Vernette and Yates.

Skinner: At the prosecutions convenience…

Vernette looked at Yates and nodded.

Yates looked back at Vernette. He had a blank expression on his face. Yates then looked at Skinner.

Yates: We have nothing of substantive value to offer against Constantine Spender…your honor…

Vernette stood up and looked at Yates.

Vernette: WHAT!?

Vernette was totally confused.

Vernette: Where are the PDAs that we salvaged…the sensor records you took from The King Ravens computers, the HEV pod black box that was salvaged from the drop pod I used to escape from The Ulterior Motive…the ODST transponders that were recovered from the ODSTs that were killed outside my house, the same ODSTs that were in possession of the PDAs that your department salvaged. The names of those ODSTs appeared in those PDA records, and they were linked to the command of Spender! Where is all the evidence we gathered against this guy!? Yates…where is it? Where did it go?

Yates: I have no idea what you are talking about Commander. This is a court of law…you cannot just…make things up!

Vernette: I don’t fucking believe this…

Spender: I do. I never did anything wrong. I was arrested under false claims from Commander Vernette. He fabricated stories about me, and managed to convince UNSC Marines to arrest me. Marines he no doubt bribed to help him in his…attempted coup d’état of my position.

Skinner: Prosecution…where is the evidence?

Vernette looked at Skinner.

Vernette: Skinner…you saw everything!

Skinner: Actually…I never did…I was only told that these things existed…I never saw them with my own eyes. Granted, I was on hand to witness…odd situations…but I cannot convict a man of wrong-doing simply on the basis of assumption and innuendo.

Vernette looked at Yates.

Vernette: This isn’t funny Yates…where is the God Damned evidence?

Yates: There never was any Preston. You are trying to convict a man on nothing more than personal feeling and gut instinct.

Vernette: Why are you doing this?

Yates: The only thing I am doing…is my job. We all have to do…what we simply have to do. I must be fair in my job…and if you have nothing to present against Spender…I am officially withdrawing all charges.

Vernette: I still have witnesses...

Spender: Witnesses that witnessed me doing the things you said I did? Or Witnesses that witnessed you telling them that I did all these horrible things to you, with no proof to your claims?

Vernette was totally silent.

Yates stood up and looked at Skinner.

Yates: In light of the Commander's clear deception of this court...I hereby submit that the Prosecution withdraws.

Skinner: Very well. Constantine Spender…you are hereby cleared of all charges. Let the record be cleared to reflect this. Case dismissed.

Yates looked at Vernette.

Yates: It’s just good business Preston…I hope you understand…

Vernette watched Spender and Yates leave the court room. Vernette was so infuriated…he simply did not have the words.

All of the judges left, with exception to Skinner. Skinner looked at Vernette.

Skinner: What were you trying to pull here Commander?

Vernette looked at Skinner.

Skinner: Well?

Vernette didn’t answer. He simply left the court room. He had nothing to say…no words could describe his anger.

Reach – The Sleeping Grizzly – In Orbit of Reach – Six Weeks Later:

Spender sat on the bridge of The Sleeping Grizzly. He was doing work on a PDA.

Spender then received a call from the hanger bay.

Black 1: Admiral Spender? This is Black 1…we have recovered our VIP...without being seen.

Spender answered the comm line and responded.

Spender: You have him?

Black 1: Yes sir…the intel Rear-Admiral Yates gave us on the facility was very accurate…down to the letter! However…there was one minor problem…

Spender: Minor problem?

Black 1: His armor was…taken away. We just have the man…no armor. We were unable to find it. ONI Must have put it into storage.

Spender: No matter. Did you carry out the mission as requested?

Black 1: Yes we did. His listing was altered to indicate that he was terminated…as per request from ONI.

Spender: Good…bring him to the medical bay. I will meet you all there!

Black 1: Understood. Black 1 out.

Spender grabbed several data pads that he had beside his chair, and he left the bridge, making his way to the medical bay.

Upon entering the medical bay, Lucien already had two doctors examine him. ODST Black team was also there.

ODST Black Team all greeted Spender with a nod.

Black 1: Admiral…

Spender: Gentlemen…

Spender looked at Lucien. He was silent for a moment, and then looked back at Black Team.

Spender: Excellent work!

Black 2: It’s what we do…

Spender nodded. He walked towards where Lucien was laying. Spender looked at the Doctor.

Spender: How is he?

Doctor: Not the best shape…but he will recover for sure. ONI never treated his injuries. Why should they when they were just going to kill him?

Spender: Why has he not regained consciousness yet?

Doctor: He was heavily drugged before being out into cryo. His suspended state prevented the drugs from breaking down. This is usually a safeguard done in case a cryo tube fails, and the occupant is exceedingly dangerous. I have already injected him with a counter agent…and the drugs are breaking down rapidly. He should be awake in a few minutes.

Spender nodded.

He stepped back and looked at ODST Black Team.

Black 3: Sir…I do not understand…what is he going to do without his armor?

Spender: Lucien has other talents…

Black 2: You mean…his amazing naval command abilities?

Spender: That is but one of his abilities…

Black 4: Correct me if I am wrong sir…but even without the armor…this guy is like…still dangerous. This could outpace and outfight anyone on this ship...possibly even us…

Spender: Yes…this makes him valuable…versatile.

Black 1: I guess it does.

Spender: He may need a bit of honing…but I believe he can be made into a very dangerous asset. A Multi-talented officer…capable in every aspect of military command! He will be a real asset to The Trust!

Spender grinned.

Black 1: We could even try to acquisition another piece of MJOLNIR for his use…it would be tough…but…it would be worth it.

Spender: Well…I will have to keep your willingness to carry out such a mission in mind…in case…down the road…something pops up…

Spender looked at the data pads.

Black 1: Have you read those yet?

Spender: No…these are for him to read…him alone. He deserves that much. This is his life…

Black 2: Fair enough…

Spender turned when he heard Lucien waking up. Spender walked over and looked at Lucien. Lucien opened his eyes, and he quickly sat up, but he was still injured, and he winced in pain.

Spender: Careful! Not too fast!

Lucien: Where am I?

Spender: The Sleeping Grizzly…we rescued you from ONI…they were about to terminate you.

Lucien: How long…since Tesla?

Spender: Eight weeks…

Lucien: Eight weeks. I was captured…what happened? How did it end?

Spender: We lost Tesla. The UNSC overran us. The Sleeping Grizzly managed to escape…even I was captured. Thankfully…I managed to convince Rear Admiral Yates that I am a better friend than ONI…he destroyed all of the evidence that the military tribunal was going to use to prosecute me. I got off the hook…

Lucien: Yates? He helped you?

Spender: And he now continues to do so. He has proven quite valuable. His recruitment has precluded the need to recruit Vernette. With Yates watching Vernette…we have eyes on his work! We will have the services of Vernette…whether he knows it or not.

Lucien: So it all worked out?

Spender: Almost…could of worked out better…but…c’est la vie…

Lucien: Such is life…

Spender: Speaking of life…I did some digging…and I found yours…

Lucien: What?

Spender: The life ONI buried…and the life ONI fabricated are two different, although similar, lives.

Spender handed Lucien a data pad.

Spender: You may recognize this…

Lucien: My…ONI service profile…most of the information is blacked out…

Spender: Yes. Do you wish to see the uncensored version?

Lucien thought for a moment. He was unsure. After a minute, he looked at Spender.

Lucien: I…suppose…yes…I want to see it!

Lucien tossed the first PDA across the room. The data pad flew past Black 1 and 4. They had to step apart to prevent themselves from being hit by it. Black 1 and 4 looked at each other.

Black 1: Was that necessary?

Black 4: I guess so. Though…why am I being asked?

The two ODSTs looked at each other. They then looked back at Lucien. They saw Lucien looking at the data pad.

Lucien: I was born on Paradise Lost…

Lucien paused. He kept reading…

Lucien: My parents…they are still alive...

Lucien looked at the name.

Lucien: I do not recognize the name…

Spender: Really? What does it say?

Lucien was silent.

Lucien: This is…all of this is…

Spender: Lucien? What was your name?

Lucien: Why do I have three names? I was only given one…

Spender: Typically…a first, middle, and last name is given. What does yours say?

Lucien: It says…

Spender waited…

Lucien: I have siblings…

Spender: Lucien…your name?

Lucien: Two sisters…three brothers…

Spender: Lucien?

Lucien: I was cloned…my clone died…when he was 9…I was buried in Mother of Mercy cemetery…

Spender: Lucien…what is your name?

Lucien dropped the data pad on the ground.

Lucien: My name…as it so appears…

Spender waited.

Lucien: First, middle, and last…

Lucien paused.

Lucien: Lucien…Acastus…Kolya…

Lucien looked at Spender.

Lucien: Happy now?

Spender grinned and shrugged.

Spender: Very…my only question was answered.

***The End***

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I hope you guys enjoyed it. If you have finished reading, then won't you kindly Leave some feedback in the form of replies.

I have already started my next STB. The feedback will help me know what I should improve upon.

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Very nicely done. Gripped me at edge of seat. But what happens to spender

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Spender is a very shadowy man. The very notion of not knowing what happened to him is what his character is about.

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