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Old New! STB - Tyber Vernette - 2515
Default 06-04-2014
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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This Solo Thread Backstory Takes place in 2515. 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: 199 762
Pages: 505


A Note from Naked Crook:

There is something that has to be said about this STB before people start reading it. As the author, I feel it is my responsibility to WARN people that this STB is very graphic in nature. The subject matter dealt with in this STB is very dark and it is very graphic. I have made no attempt to edit this STB to reduce the graphic nature in the content below. I have gone - full on - adult audience with this. This is intended to portray a very grim and very tragic course of events which could potentially be offensive to someone who may have dealt with some of the issues in this STB.

In no way do I make light of the real-world happenings of some of the tragedy in this STB. I take all of the subject matter seriously.

Major Characters

Jonas Prescott
Character Sheet

Evan Wolfe

Character Sheet

Archimedes Drake
Character Sheet

Kraven Vance
Character Sheet

Eli Decker
Character Sheet

Tyber Xavier Vernette
Character Sheet

Constantine Spender
Character Sheet

Robert Novak
Character Sheet


Character Sheet

Minor Characters

Francis Davidov
Character Sheet

Bruno Smith

Character Sheet

Emmett Hoffman

Character Sheet

Natalia Spender
Character Sheet


Character Sheet

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killerrabbit213 is is Iron Man
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User Title: Killer Rabbit
Posts: 14,539

oh shit here i am sapping your stb thread

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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

Before I start posting the STB...there is something I want everyone to keep an eye out for.

The box with the red border is known as an STB BREAKING POINT. These will be scattered throughout the STB. They are basically interrupts in the story, sorta like a commentary track to provide more insight. These breaking points will take place during San Angeles. I suggest reading these.

STB Breaking Point

The box with the blue border is simply a flashback. We all know what these are. Again, I suggest reading them.

STB Breaking Point have to press the buttons to reveal the content.

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STB Breaking Point

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Observation Deck - Currently in Orbit of the Fourth Planet in the APX-449 Star System - Center of Trust Activity known as The Apex - 1400 Hours - March 13th 2515

Several high ranking UNSC officers were sitting around a conference table. There was a heated discussion going on between them concerning their ongoing field operations and the general lack of success carried out by The Trust Syndicate.

Commodore Davidov: Members of the Board of Chairmen...we have a serious problem on our hands, and it is getting worse by the day. I am, of course, talking about the various boondoggles that The Trust has been allowing past the drawing board, including, but not limited to, but most notably, Operation Blind Eagle - otherwise known as The Trust Syndicates surreptitious goal of placing our operatives into high ranking position of political, economic, and military authority in the effort to expand our influence over current and future events, increase the resource allocation of The Trust Syndicate, and make-up for the various losses caused by other less-than-promising projects. As you all know, I have been a rampant opponent to Operation Blind Eagle, due to its resounding failures to meet expectations, catastrophic drain on resources, misappropriation of manpower, and the overall obscuring of our founding principles.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: What we have been trying to do, for the past 5 years, is illegally usurp power that does not belong to us. This is not what The Trust was formed to do. This organization was not created to engage in nefarious backroom operations which results in the abrogation of the checks and balances that hold our society together. Our power was limited to prevent us from overstepping our bounds...but here we are...trampling that very idea...and for what?

Davidov was pacing around the room. He continued to speak to the board, as each member watched him.

Commodore Davidov: So that men like Constantine Spender can turn The Trust Syndicate from an oversight body...into clandestine, rouge, quasi-paramilitary that is a law unto itself and whose only goal is to siphon resources from the rest of the industrial complex for its own selfish desires.

Constantine Spender, who was sitting at the table, simply rolled his eyes and sighed.

Spender: That is such BULLSHIT!

Rear-Admiral Hoffman thought for a moment, and then spoke.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: you said, you have been a rampant opponent to the initiatives put forward by Constantine Spender, particularly Operation Blind Eagle. However, there HAVE been results to speak of.

Commodore Davidov: They are not good results!

Rear Admiral Smith: To be fair Davidov, we have managed to place a total of 39 new operatives into various positions...most notably ONI, The UNSCMC, and various banking and financial institutions. We have even managed to place one of our operatives in the UEG's senior ranks. Those are good results.

Commodore Davidov: Only when we ignore the cost that has been associated with those particular successes. Let's take a look at the facts, shall we? Let's reexamine Operation Blind Eagle, and other projects that have been put forth by JUST Rear-Admiral Spender in the past 10 years alone.

Davidov walked around the table, and picked up a tablet that was on the table, and he selected a pre-compiled data file which detailed the expenses that The Trust has gone through in the past 10 years. As Davidov selected the file, it appeared on a large screen on the wall.

Commodore Davidov: Let's take a look at the biggest offender in this list - Operation Blind Eagle. Accounting for tangible property expenses, such as hardware, credit expense, resource expense, transportation costs, and lost or damaged property, combined with intangible expenses, such as manpower hours, training, time spent in transit, delays, and shortcomings, and further multiplied by exasperating factors, such as risk assessments, exposure factor, and potential breaches of confidential integrity, it has been estimated that a total of 29.867 trillion credits, that is TRILLION...with a T, has been spent on Operation Blind Eagle ALONE! Be advised that intangible assets and exasperating factors have been marginalized to conservative and underestimated numbers. I believe that the damage has been much worse than my projections.

Spender: You sound like an investment banker. We are not talking about stocks and bonds; we are talking about the future of humanity. Making money is secondary to securing our future into the years, decades, and centuries to come. The only way to ensure human prosperity is to establish the Trust’s dominance over ALL human affairs. Besides…you have to spend money to make money.

Commodore Davidov: We are not making money off of this! We are making close to nothing on this. We are taking losses on this, and what we have managed to achieve has not met expectations nor has it delivered on the promise.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: We all know what the purpose of Operation Blind Eagle was. We all know that the ultimate goal was to leverage assets, intel, and manpower in an effort to remove strategic and important officers from the UNSC chain of command, and replace them with Trust Operatives. Whether it be by direct assassinations, or public political scandals, the whole idea was to decrease NSC influence and increase Trust influence. However, our efforts have produced some pretty crappy results. Our initial projections estimated that by this time, we would have placed approximately 20 to 35 MORE officers into strategic positions in the UNSC chain of command, throughout various nodes, including, but not limited to, NAVCOM, FLEETCOM, R&D, Armed Services, and ONI. However, we have only managed a total of 7 replacements.

Spender: This is a long term procedure. We have to be patient for our payoff. As we continue to leverage resources, more and more UNSC Officers will find themselves in the hot seat. We just need to apply enough pressure to the officers in question to run them out of their positions. We just need to maintain our commitment to the task at hand until we have achieved the desired result.

Commodore Davidov: And how long will that take exactly? How long will it be before we see your so called "desired result"?

Davidov paused. He glared at Spender.

Commodore Davidov: With every day that passes, with every credit that we waste, with every piece of information we utilize...we run the risk of catching the attention of The Office of Naval Intelligence. If you seriously think they will never catch on to us, you are sorely mistaken and you sorely underestimate them!

Hoffman and Smith looked at each other. They both knew that this was a very heated issue at the moment, and they had to diffuse.

Rear Admiral Smith: Gentlemen...this is not getting us anywhere. Throwing accusations and innuendo back and forth will not help us solve the problems at hand. It is clear that recent expenditures need serious re-evaluation. Personally, I am in agreement with Davidov about how poorly managed recent projects have been.

Spender: Poorly managed?

Rear Admiral Hoffman: The expenditures are very shocking Spender...even you must see that. What we saw was merely the tip of the iceberg, and it is clear that Davidov has done a very full and thorough audit of your activities. Reevaluation of our priorities is a necessary next step.

Spender: Gentlemen...if I may...

Rear Admiral Smith: Spender...the entire Board of Chairmen, save for yourself, is now abundantly aware of your mismanagement and your reckless use of our assets. I don't speak for the rest of the Board...but I am confident that I would have full agreement and compliance when I recommend a second, though independent, audit of your ongoing activities and projects. W expect full cooperation and disclosure from you in this regard.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: I am in agreement with this. I second a second audit of all of Spenders activities.

Davidov grinned.

Spender: If I may ask...what happens if your audit paints a very grim picture of my activities?

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Chances are...we will cut all funding of all projects spearheaded by you, and we will kick you off the Board of Chairmen...and have YOU replaced. We cannot have you in a position of authority which would allow you to cause harm to The Trust Syndicate.

Spender winced and frowned.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: It is not personal Spender...we are just looking out for the best interest of The Trust Syndicate.

Spender: Your so called "audits" are all flawed. Whether it is Davidov's witch-hunt or your will never be able to accurately predict what may happen as a result of our continued investments. The safest course of action involves sticking to our guns, and making the best with what we have invested in. If we start withdrawing from, and cutting funding to, the various ongoing projects that I have spearheaded...we will lose everything! We cannot afford that.

Rear Admiral Smith: You are assuming that we able to afford your ongoing boondoggles. Can we?

Spender: Yes...we can...because those "boondoggles" will eventually pay off and we will reclaim our investments in the form of useable returns.

Rear Admiral Smith: That is not good enough Spender. So far, we have received almost nothing in return for the amount of resources we have invested. The Insurrection is stronger than ever before, and your projections have fallen short. We have run out of patience Spender, and we are now very concerned that you have totally mishandled this situation. We are going to audit everything you have done, and we are going to see exactly how much damage you have done to The Trust as a whole. No matter the result of our findings, we are going to get to the bottom of this. The only question that remains is how long we are going to need to actually get to the bottom of this fiasco?

Commodore Davidov: I would estimate eight weeks to cut through the red tape and follow the paper trail.

Rear Admiral Smith: Eight weeks sounds fair. Very well. We will suspend for the next six weeks, and reconvene back here, at The Apex. If there is nothing else, I motion for immediate suspension of this meeting, pending out next rendezvous.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Agreed.

Spender watched as the other three officers stood up, and left the Observation Deck. Spender simply remained sitting, with a frown on his face, filled with rage. Spender closed his eyes and began to think. Spender went deep into thought.

Spender: Short sighted fools...totally unable to see the long-term potential of ANYTHING I am doing. They only care about the short term and the immediate. An organization that has lasted THIS long did not survive by being short sighted and of extreme narrow vision. They simply do not understand

Spender sighed. A few more minutes passed in silence, before he was interrupted on the comms.

Novak: Rear-Admiral Spender? Do you copy?

Spender sighed. He tapped his ear piece and accessed the ships comm.

Spender: Spender here. Go ahead.

Novak: Sir...I must see you in the medical bay immediately.

Spender: Understood...I am on my way. Spender out.

Spender closed the comm line. He stood up and left the Observation Deck, making his way through the corridors and towards the medical bay. Upon arriving at the medical bay, Spender was greeted by Dr. Novak.

Novak: Sir...I have...bad news.

Spender: And very bad timing as well. This better not be about what I think this is about.

Novak: I am sorry sir...but...CRF revision 29 has failed. All 5 subjects suffered complete neurological failure. The last subject died only moments ago.

Spender was generally unmoved by this.

Spender: Doctor...I have allocated hundreds of millions of credits to this research under the promise that you would be able to give me results. You have only presented failures. I do not broker failure.

Novak: There have been some results. I have proven that the formula does work. This last batch of subjects did respond to the cognitive re-evaluation. I was successful in effectively brainwashing these people into a completely different way of thinking. However...the caused cerebral brain death. It seems to be too stressful on the subjects. They seem to be dying days after administration.

Spender: Clarify on the concept of Brain Death.

Novak: Well...cerebral brain death is...essentially death of the brain. What effectively happened was the Medulla Oblongata, the lower half of the brain stem; the most basic terms...released control of the respiration system. Their lungs stopped. When you stop breathing, oxygen no longer reaches the brain; the brain suffocates...brain death follows. It seems, in my efforts, to improve their autonomic responses with this drug, I…killed the Medulla Oblongata.

Spender: Let me make it clear...I don't care how these people died. All I care about is results.

Novak: Well...if results are all you care about, then I can simply drop these bodies in the furnace. However, I will need more test subjects...and a bit more time to revise the formula. I assure you...Cognitive Re-evaluation Formula 30 will work.

Spender: Be sure that it does Doctor. I am getting sick and tired of my ship being turned into a mobile crematorium. I demand results. Am I clear?

Novak: Perfectly...

Spender grinned.

Spender: Good...get back to work.

Novak: Sir...wait...

Spender glared at Novak, not saying anything. He looked impatient.

Novak: I had an idea a while ago...but I shelved it, hoping to perfect the formula, not wanting to take shortcuts.

Spender: If there is a point doctor...make it fast. I don't care about the ethics or the morality of anything you do.

Novak: I have no problem setting aside my ethics...the problem is practical. Sir...are you familiar with the ORION Project?

Spender: Defunct super soldier program, now known as the Spartan I project to the highest level of the military, originally known as the ORION project, still known as the ORION Project to the candidates that were part of it, and depreciated by the Spartan II Project. I know of it, yes.

Novak: I believe that if I use "Spartan Is" or "ORIONS" for this experiment...I will yield better results. ORIONs are highly resilient. Their biological augmentation may be what is needed to allow them to survive If they do survive, and they prove to be successful, I will be able to use this formula on a larger group of people, provided they undergo prior augmentation.

Spender: Let me get this think this formula will only work on individuals who have undergone prior augmentations?

Novak: Yes.

Spender: So that means, if we want to "convince" someone to work with us...they will need to undergo prior augmentation using the ORION drug?

Novak: Hypothetically speaking...yes. This is only so if my theory of ORIONs being strong enough to survive the brain-altering chemicals.

Spender: This is an interesting development. I may be able to track down some potential candidates.

Novak: There is no need for that. I have already screened potential candidates...and I already have 5 in mind. I have their dossiers if you wish to see them.

Spender: Is that so? I would like to see these dossiers. I am interested in knowing what I need to know about our candidates.

Novak grinned and walked towards his office. Spender followed Novak. Novak entered his office with Spender in tow, and sat at his desk. He began to type at his computer, calling up the service records of the 5 potential candidates.

Novak: Alright...these are the 5 men I have in mind. They are all currently still active in the UNSC, all serving as ODST strike team leaders, all currently based on Harvest, save for one of these individuals, who is currently stations on Madrigal. It should not be hard to reassign each of them under your command.

Novak turned one of the large screens on his desk to face Spender. The five UNSC service profiles on the screen were visible to Spender.

Novak: Captains Jonas Prescott, Evan Wolfe, Archimedes Drake, Kraven Vance, and Eli Decker. According to their service profiles...they were highly efficient and skilled field operatives.

Spender: Go on.

Novak: Each of their service records makes note of multiple instances where each of these soldiers went above and beyond the call of duty to achieve their designated missions. None of these men fall short of the best of the best. They are all highly skilled in the use of various weapons. However, each of these men do have their preference to say the least...but don't we all?

Spender: We certainly do.

Novak: I have checked the current posting for each of these men. Right now, Captain Eli Decker is currently on Madrigal. He is the commanding officer of a UNSC Training Camp Lambda.

Spender: What about the other four?

Novak: The other four are currently on Harvest. They were assigned there after Orion was shut down to act as "Security Consultants" for UNSC forces stationed there.

Spender: What a waste of talent.

Novak: I agree. It is a total waste of their talents.

Spender: Well, for what it is worth, I can have The Ulterior Motive make a stop at Harvest to pick these men up. I can draft their transfer orders very easily, and have them brought here with little trouble. However...I need to know one thing before I do.

Novak: That is?

Spender: How sure are you that CRF 30 will work?

Novak: Very sure...

Spender: I need a percentile estimate...

Novak: Well...I could speculate.

Spender: Since when?

Novak: Look...all that matters is that the ORIONs would have a far greater chance at surviving than any normal human. However...there may be one problem...

Spender: Only one?

Novak: If the ORIONs are able to resist CRF 30...then we MAY have a potential problem if they find out what we are trying to do.

Spender: Well...we will just have to be sure they don't find out what we are doing.

Spender paused.

Spender: I better start making those calls.

Novak nodded. Spender turned and left the medical bay.

Madrigal - UNSC Military Outpost Lambda - Exterior Training Grounds - Four weeks later - 1300 hours - April 10th 2515

A UNSC Captain had been making his way around the large military base that was UNSC Military Outpost Lambda, going from training site to training site. He had been observing and inspecting UNSC Marines in combat drills, as well as observing their adherence to operations and procedures. The UNSC Captain continued his rounds, until he approached an area of the base that was strictly reserved for special warfare and tactics. The UNSC Captain saw one of his Lieutenants instructing the some of the more promising candidates in Special Warfare and Tactics. The UNSC Captain watched for a bit, as he watched his lieutenant instruct the recruits. When the recruits had finally started to scatter to get back to their drills, the UNSC Captain summoned the lieutenant.

Eli: Lieutenant! Hands on station!

The UNSC Lieutenant turned around to face Captain Decker.

Tyber: Sir! What can I do for you?

Eli: Well...I am just checking in on the trainees. How are they doing?

Tyber: Well...they seem to grasp the basics of SPECWAR. However...some of them need to do a lot more work if they are going to tackle the more advanced stuff.

Eli: How much more work?

Tyber: Well...until they can do this stuff without making any mistakes and without need to pause and think about any of their decisions...more work is needed. Not to worry sir...I can get these ladies up to spec.

Eli: I am sure you will get it done Tye. Keep at it.

Eli grinned.

Eli: At the way.

Tye relaxed his posture.

Tyber: Now that the formalities are out of the way, there are a few things I want to discuss with you.

Eli: What is it Tye?

Tyber: While I am the guy you want instructing these greens special warfare and tactics...I think I would be better suited for actual combat training. Things like CQC, elimination...up close and personal know?

Eli sighed.

Eli: If you are up to it Tye...I would be more than willing to let you teach these kids some more advanced stuff.

Tyber: Well...the UNSC has been really good at resupplying our ammo reserves...but we are still missing some essential equipment. I was wondering if you could place an order for me. Some of the stuff I need is pretty high grade...and I am going to need someone with the clearance necessary to get some of this stuff. You have that clearance.

Eli was silent for a moment. He then nodded.

Eli: I will get in touch with the UNSC as soon as possible...just give me a list of everything you need.

Tyber: Thanks Eli. I really appreciate it. This will go a long way it getting these soldiers up to spec. Once these guys and gals get their boots on the ground…they are going to be the meanest SOBs that have every been sent face to face with The Insurrection. The Insurrection will have no damn clue what just hit them.

Eli nodded in approval.

Eli: Well, that is very good news Tye. I like to hear how soldiers coming out of Lambda are the meanest SOBs going. I like to hear how The Insurrection won't have any clue of what just hit them.

Eli paused.

Eli: After the reports that I have been reading...we need it.

Eli gestured his head for Tye to follow him.

Eli: Have you read the reports on our so called "Insurrectionist Media Darling"?

Tyber: You mean The Insurrectionist known as VIxen?

Eli: Yeah...Vixen. What a name right?

Tyber: Not the worst name I have ever heard.

Eli: Well, it is the only name we have for this lady. She has been causing a lot of shit, and we have been unable to catch her. A lot of the brass in the UNSC seem to think that she is one of the major ring-leaders in one of the larger Insurrectionist rings. She was responsible for the bombings on Arcadia against several UNSC facilities, the bombings on Madrigal against the UNSC Frigate Howler, the assassination of several UNSC officers on Green Hills, and dozens of other attacks against UNSC training facilities in the outer colonies. She has been a major thorn in our side.

Eli stopped outside a large building which housed his office.

Eli: To be frank...there is nothing I would love more more than to catch this bitch and skin her alive. Cut her up into little fucking pieces.

Tyber: It would be nice to put an end to some of these high-profile raids she has been running.

Eli nodded.

Eli: The funny thing that it actually would put a dent in Insurrectionist activity. It would put a huge dent. Personally, I believe she is responsible for the success that the Insurrection has been having, as of late. We need to take her down.

Tyber: No argument here. There is nothing I would like more than to put a bullet between her eyes.

Eli paused.

Eli: It is a shame though...

Tyber: What do you mean?

Eli: Well...with a name like have a pretty good idea of what her attributes are.

Tye grinned and nodded.

Tyber: A tragic waste for sure.

Eli: Tragic indeed.

Tye shrugged.

Tyber: wouldn't be AS tragic if one of us managed to infiltrate the Insurrection.

Eli: Why is that?

Tyber: I don't think The Insurrection has the same rules of conduct as the UNSC does when it comes to armed service. Quarters have to be close...right?

Eli: I see what you are going for.

Eli laughed.

Eli: You could always request to be planted as a mole in the Insurrection.

Tye shrugged with a bit of interest.

Tyber: I just might...

Eli: Either way...I have to get a bit of work done. I have to finish the day's paperwork and get it submitted to the brass.

Tyber: Alright. Have fun. I am going to check on the recruits.

Eli nodded, as he turned and walked into the large administration building, with intentions to return to his office.

Once Eli had returned to his office, he froze when he saw a Naval Officer sitting behind his desk.

Eli: Excuse me Sir…but can I help you?

The Naval Officer looked at Decker, and took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: Captain Eli Decker…

Eli nodded.

Eli: Last time I checked. Can I help you Sir?

Spender: Yes…Captain Decker…I wish to speak to you about…future career opportunities…

Eli looked at Spender with an expression of doubt.

Eli: Future career opportunities? Sir...if I may be so bold to ask...what branch of the UNSC are you with? Something tells me you are ONI. That Uniform is not something someone wears when they have the spotlight.

Spender grinned.

Spender: I represent a branch of ONI...yes. I guess you could organization within an organziarion.

Spender paused.

Spender: I have been reviewing your service record Mr. Decker...

Eli: Captain...Captain Decker. I have worked very hard for that title sir...I would appreciate it if you used it.

Spender grinned.

Spender: Captain Decker...I like you. You have gumption. You say what needs to be what needs to be done...and you let nothing stop you. Novak chose very well...

Spender paused.

Spender: You are a perfect candidate...but you must be used to that...

Eli frowned.

Eli: Who are you? What do you know about me, exactly?

Spender: Everything...

Eli: Is that so?

Spender: It is so. I know that you were a perfect candidate for the ORION project. I know that you were a perfect candidate for high risk field operations. I know everything...

Eli: have me at a disadvantage. I know nothing about you. Who are you?

Spender: I am Rear-Admiral Spender...Upper Half...

Eli: I guessed you were a high ranking officer. That suit you are wearing isn't anything I have seen before.

Eli sat down and faced Spender.

Eli: Admiral Spender.

Eli nodded.

Eli: said I was a candidate for something. If I may ask...what exactly am I candidate for?

Spender: An elite strike say the least. I don't want to sound cliché...but that is the truth. There are qualities about you that make you...special...unique. You are capable of far more than training simple marines. You can be much more!

Eli: So...I am guessing...counter terrorism? Counter insurgency? Someone to fight the Insurrection?

Spender: That...and much more....things that would challenge your very definition of "top secret"

Eli: Interesting...very interesting.

Eli began to think.

Eli: When I first got this assignment...I put in multiple transfer requests to do something However...I was ignored.

Spender: UNSC High Command was very foolish to ignore those request. Section 3 was foolish to put you into this posting. They are squandering your talent.

Eli looked at Spender.

Eli: So I am guessing you are Section 1?

Spender laughed.

Spender: No...

Eli was confused.

Eli: Then...who? What division are you with?

Spender: That is classified. Captain, for now, you do not need to know who I am with. All you need to know is this...

Spender looked down at the desk. There was a data pad on the desk that Decker had refused to take notice of before. He then noticed it. He then picked it up and began to read it.

Eli: A transfer request...

Spender: Yes...and all it needs is your thumb print...and a signature...

Eli sighed. He was deep in thought.

Eli: Well...Admiral...I would be lying if I said I had no interest in such an assignment. needs consideration. To be honest...I have grown to like where I am now.

Spender: But you said when you first got this tried to get put in multiple requests...

Eli: That was before I got used to this position. I like it here...I can train the future of the UNSCMC...

Spender began to wince his eyes.

Eli: I am sorry sir...I formally refuse this request. I am needed here.

Spender had a clear look of annoyance on his face. He sighed.

Spender: Very well Captain...if that is your wrong as it may is yours to make.

Spender stood up and walked right out of the office without saying another word.

Decker rolled his eyes. He then sighed, and walked around to the other side of the desk; the side that Spender was sitting at. Decker then sat down and began to sort out his desk.

Eli: Some people...

After a few moments, Tye knocked on the door and poked his head in.

Tyber: Eli? I just saw some Navy guy storm out of here. Is everything alright?

Eli looked at Tye.

Eli: Some tip top secret Naval Officer wanted me for some special task group or something. I declined.

Tyber: Really? Interesting...well...not really...

Tye paused.

Tyber: Glad you declined though. A lot of the people here respect would be a shame to lose you.

Eli laughed.

Eli: Despite the fact I am a hard ass most of the time?

Tyber: Someone has to be.

Tye shrugged and laughed.

Tyber: I think people here respect you. You know what you are doing...and you run this place well...

Eli: Well...I like to think so...I am glad someone agrees with me...

Decker sighed. He looked back down at his desk at the transfer order. He shook his head.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Hanger Bay 1 - Currently in orbit of Madrigal -1400 Hours - April 10th 2515

Spender stepped out of a Pelican that landed in the hanger bay of The Ulterior Motive. He was furious as he stepped out of the Pelican and walked across the hanger bay. As he left the hanger bay, he was met by Dr. Novak.

Novak: Where is Captain Decker?

Spender scoffed.

Spender: He refused...

Novak: Really? The other four did not!

Spender: Which is what troubles me. Decker should of accepted...but he didn't. This annoys me...

Spender paused.

Spender: We need a way to convince Decker to join us. I will not accept a "no" from him! Nobody says no to Constantine Spender.

Novak: Do you have anything in mind?

Spender began to think. He was silent for a moment, then spoke up.

Spender: At the However, I do not believe that direct intervention in this situation is necessary.

Spender paused.

Spender: Unless I am mistaken...there is an Insurrectionist presence on Madrigal.

Novak: I believe so Admiral.

Spender: And...did ONI not recover intel which SUGGESTED the possibility of an impending attack?

Novak: Several weeks ago...yes.

Novak and Spender walked towards the bridge.

Novak: Sir...if I may be so bold as to ask...what exactly are you getting at?

Spender laughed.

Spender: Patience. Nothing more. What we need is for Mr. Decker to be reminded about what he was created to do; and that was fight the Insurrection. We simply need to wait for that Insurrectionist attack. It may take days, or even weeks...but we must wait. It is the only way to recruit Mr. Decker. Once he is thrown into the line of fire against The Insurrection, and his resolve is withered by the intensity of battle, and his own human empathy for the civilian lives lost in whatever attack is to transpire...we can get him when he is most vulnerable. It is what we do Robert.

Novak: Excellent idea sir.

Spender: He will be sure to join us.

Novak: As much as I hate to say it, but the more casualties that the Insurrection inflicts...the better our chances.

Spender: Very astute Doctor...I think you missed your calling as a tactical planner!

Novak: What if Mr. Decker is still unconvinced?

Spender: Then we leverage his loyalty to the rest of his team. Once he sees that the rest of his previous squad has signed up, he should cave to peer pressure.

Novak: And what if he still doesn't?

Spender: If he still refuses...well...we will just abduct him. Nobody says no to me twice, let alone once We take him by force, and we make him do this, whether he wants to or not. I will only go so far before I just make someone do something, whether they like it or not.

Spender paused.

Spender: In short...I get what I matter what.

Spender sighed.

Spender: In any case...Doctor, I want you to start making all the necessary preparations. ODST Black Team must happen!

Novak: Understood.

Spender turned and began to walk away, as he left the hanger bay, and returned to the bridge.

Madrigal - Insurrectionist Facility 13 - Main barracks - 1430 Hours - April 10th 2515

Several Insurrectionist insurgents were sitting around a crate of supplies, tossing cards down, playing a card game.

Insurrectionist 1: I heard Vixen is doing a few last-minute revisions to our attack.

Insurrectionist 2: I heard she was changing the entire plan.

Insurrectionist 3: What for? Why change the entire thing at the last minute?

Insurrectionist 2: I have no clue.

Insurrectionist 1: She never said why she is doing this. This was totally out of the blue.

Insurrectionist 3: I heard she got all excited a while ago about some UNSC Ship in orbit. Just between us…I have never seen her so...

The Insurrectionist paused. He bit his tongue when he saw Vixen walking his way. He gave a slight gesture of his head to his friends as Vixen walked in their direction. The others simply sat still, and they all kept quiet. As Vixen walked closer, they could hear her barking orders to several Insurrections following her.

Vixen: Murphy…I want you and Hedgehog Squad on support. You guys are one of our best support teams, and we are going to need your skill.

Murphy: Yes Ma’am.

Murphy broke off, and went to go and regroup with his squad.

Vixen: Bradshaw, I am going to need your sniping expertise. I want you to review our new battle arena, and I want you to situate yourself where you can do some serious damage.

Bradshaw: Will do.

Vixen: The topographical maps can be accessed from the war room.

Bradshaw: I will check them out now.

Bradshaw broke off, and began heading towards the war room.

Vixen stopped as she neared the three Insurrectionists that were playing cards.

Vixen: What the hell are you three doing? Why are you sitting around!?

Insurrectionist 2: We never got orders, ma’am…

Vixen: No orders? No Orders?

Vixen stepped towards the insurrectionist that spoke, and she punched him right across the face.

Vixen: I gave a general order to all personnel here…we are to regroup and reassign all assets to converge on UNSC Outpost Lambda.

One of the other Insurrectionists spoke up.

Insurrectionist 1: Ma’am…you have yet to explain why we are changing targets on such short notice! What is so important about this “Lambda” place?

Vixen: Military Outpost Lambda…recently got a very high profile visitor. One of our spies tipped us off about this, and we confirmed it when we checked the satellites in orbit. Whatever the reason that Lambda attracted a UNSC big wig, it is reason enough to wipe Lambda off the face of this planet.

Insurrectionist 3: We have had run-ins with high profile officers before. What makes this one so special?

Vixen: This one is personal. It is so personal…that I will be leading this assault myself in the hopes that I get a face to face meeting with this officer. I want to put a bullet in his fucking skull. He has A LOT to answer for...and he is going to answer to me.

The Insurrectionist only nodded. As he did, the Insurrectionist that Vixen had punched, started to get back to his feet.

Vixen: I don’t want to hear excuses gentlemen. I plan on hitting Lambda tonight, and killing everyone there. Whatever and whoever is there is not going to make it out! Not tonight!

Madrigal - UNSC Military Outpost Lambda - Senior Officer’s Barracks - Tye’s Private Quarters - 2330 Hours - April 10th 2515

Tye was in his private room, laying on his bed, getting some rest. He was unable to fall asleep, though, he was fatigued to some degree. He simply laid under his covers, looking up at the ceiling, not really thinking about anything. Tye had a blank mind, trying to relax himself to sleep. He was nearly asleep, but his efforts were all for not when an explosion nearby.

Tye jumped up out of bed and rolled to the other side of the room. He into his gun holsters which were hanging on a chair, and he pulled out two Automags.

Tyber: What the fuck was that!?

Tye looked around, and then peeked out his window. He could not see anything.

Tyber: We must be under attack. Eli never does drills like this.

Tye reached over and grabbed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He slipped the cloths on and ran out the door, barefoot, without and boots, or military BDU.

Tye ran outside, and took cover behind a few large ammo crates. He could see a large fire lighting up the night sky, as he heard gunfire. Tye got a good look at some of the people firing their guns. They were not military, but rather, they were dressed as civilians.

Tyber: Insurrectionists...

The Insurrectionists had hit the outpost in the dead of night, catching everyone off guard. There were screams as UNSCMC recruits were gunned down in their beds.

Tye emerged from cover and ran towards one of the bunk houses. He took aim with both of his Automags and shot down four Insurrectionists who were in the middle of the Outpost, walking along a paved walkway, before tossing himself right through a window in one of the bunkhouses. As soon as Tye hit the ground, and the sound of shattering glass had dispersed from his ears, he could hear the sound of heavy boots hitting the floor, as he got back to his feet.

He threw his body right up against a corner wall, as he peeked around and saw two Insurrectionists, getting ready to kick a door down. Tye turned the corner and show both of them dead.

Tyber: These fuckers are everywhere!

Tye stepped over the Insurrectionists and walked up to the door they were about to kick down. Tye then yelled out his authentication code to the occupants of the room.

Tyber: Lt. Vernette - Authentication code Charlie Lambda Lambda 7...

Tye waited a moment, then the door opened. About a dozen UNSC Marine recruits looked at him.

Recruit: Sir...what is going on?

Tyber: Insurrectionists...they don’t seem to be taking prisoners. They walked right in with explosives and machine guns. They are tearing this place apart.

Tye paused.

Tyber: Listen very carefully guys...I want this door barricaded...and you are to shoot anyone who cannot give you a military authentication code. Remember when I said it is very important to memorize the authentication codes of the people you serve with...well...this is a time when you need that information off the top of your head. It could mean the difference between life and death...friendly fire and enemy fire...

Tye walked over and disarmed the dead Trust Agents. He grabbed two SMGs, a Shotgun, and an Assault Rifle. He handed the weapons to the recruits.

Tyber: Do Barricade it...lock it down...keep it shut...understood?

Recruits: YES SIR!

Tyber: Good...

Tye stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. He walked over to the main entry way to the bunk house and peeked out the door. He could see several recruits with Assault Rifles in a firefight with six Insurrectionists.

Tye took aim with both of his Automags and began to lay down fire on The Insurrectionists. He managed to take down the six Insurrectionists, and the Recruits were able to move back to superior positioning.

Tye moved out of the bunkhouse, running across the courtyard, in the open, keeping his head down. He ran towards the Administration building.

Tye kicked the door down and took cover inside. He could still hear gunfire, and he knew that he needed to raise the general alert.

Tye ran towards the main security office and knelt down next to the door. He peeked in and saw it was deserted, save for three Insurrectionists, two men, and a women. Tye gripped his Automag, as he took a breath, and broke the door down, charging in. Tye put a bullet in the head of two of the Insurrectionists, but the female managed to duck into cover before Tye could hit her.

Tye himself was forced into cover, when the female fired off her weapon blindly over cover. As Tye ducked into cover, the gunfire stopped, and he could hear the woman talking.

Vixen: You just made a fatal mistake you prick!

Tye laughed, as he began to reload. However, his laughter was short lived, as he took aim, from behind cover, only to have his weapon kicked right from his hand with great force. Tye was taken aback by how aggressively Vixen has disarmed him, and he was even unprepared for her follow-up attack, in which she kicked him right in the side of the head, knocking him to the ground.

Tyber: Holy shit...

Tye shook his head, as he rolled to his side, and started to get back to his feet. As he did this, Vixen jumped over the cover that he was behind, and she charged him, intent on kicking him while he was down. However, Tye managed to counter, as he used a leg sweep to trip Vixen, and bring her to the ground. Vixen hit the ground, landing on her back, as Tye jumped on top of her to pin her down. However, As Tye jumped on Vixen, Vixen raised her foot, and placed it on Tye's chest, as she pushed him back as hard as she could. Tye was sent backwards, not expecting such endurance and flexibility from Vixen.

Tye hit the wall, as he watched Vixen roll backwards, and get back to her feet. He had to admit to himself that Vixen was a very good fighter.

Tyber: Not bad...for a lady...

Vixen: You could be better...for a guy...

Tye scoffed, as he charged forward, and threw a left hook at Vixen. However,, Vixen managed to evade the strike, and move to the side. Tye followed up with a right hook, but Vixen dodged once more, and then moved backwards.

Vixen: You have to be faster than that...

Vixen ran forward and kicked Tye right in the chest, causing Tye to stumble back a bit. Tye grabbed his chest, as he looked at Vixen. Vixen gave a grin, as she charged again, running at Tye. Vixen turned her body as she prepared to give Tye a shuffle side kick to the head, but Tye moved to the side at the last minute, as he grabbed Vixen's foot, and pushed Vixen back, causing her to fall to the ground. Vixen fell hard, as she groaned in pain.

Despite this, Vixen got back to her feet, and started at Tye. The two of them circled around each other, but it was Vixen that lashed out first, and attacked. Vixen threw a right hook at Tye, but Tye grabbed her arm, and deflected the blow. Vixen rcoiler, and then went for a left hook, but Tye deflected the blow once more. However, before Vixen could recoil, Tye gave her a swift headbutt. This caused Vixen to stumble back, and hit the wall. She shook her head and looked at Tye.

Vixen: Looks like I misjudged you. A rare mistake. You are a better fighter than I thought you were.

Tyber: ain't seen nothing yet!

Tye grinned, as if to mock Vixen. Vixen was getting ready to attack once more, but she stopped when her comm came to life, and the voice of one of the Insurrectionists came through.

Bradshaw: you copy? We need to fall back. UNSC reinforcements are inbound, and they are coming in hot. Vixen...we have to fall back!

Vixen glared at Tye, but her eyes also darted around the room. She noticed a window on the far side of the room, and made a break for it. However, Tye managed to grab Vixen's left arm, stopping her in her tracks.

Tyber: Not so fast!

Tye pulled Vixen back, but Vixen had drawn a combat knife, and slashed at Tye, giving him a very superficial cut across his chest. Tye winced in pain, as he instinctively released Vixen to cradle his wound. However, that brief moment gave Vixen the leverage she needed to escape, as she jumped right through the window, to the exterior. Tye ran over to the window only a moment later, but as he looked outside, he saw that there was absolutely no sign of Vixen.

Tyber: Where the fuck did she go?

Tye looked around, but Vixen was long gone. It was at that moment that Tye had heard footsteps approaching the room he was in. Tye turned, but he stopped when he saw someone point an SMG at him.

Eli: Don't move!

Tye stepped back.

Tyber: is me! Hold your fire!

Eli was already in the process of lowing his weapon, as he had recognized Tye.

Eli: Tye...what are you doing here?

Tyber: Came here to raise the base alert. I found Vixen here. She escaped, however.

Tye paused.

Tyber: I guess backup came anyways, in spite of the fact that I was unable to raise the base alert.

Eli: I managed to activate it from my office.

Eli paused.

Eli: UNSC is coming in hot, but it will be a few minutes before they land. We should get back out there and put down as many of these fuckers as we can.

Tye nodded, and followed behind Decker, leaving the Administration building.

Eli: I saw about a dozen contacts up near the obstacle course. A few recruits have them pinned down. If we head up there...we can assist the recruits.

Tyber: Sounds like a plan. Lead the way...I got you covered.

The duo made their way up towards the obstacle course, keeping their heads low. It was not long before they saw about three recruits laying down suppressive fire on 12 Insurrectionists. Tye and Eli made their way around, so they could catch the Insurrectionists in crossfire. It was not difficult for the duo to pick off the Insurrectionists who were in cover. The Insurrections had very little recourse or means of escape. As a result of this, they were picked off one at a time.

Eli: That's all of them.

Tye nodded.

Tye then turned when he heard the sounds of Pelicans landing close by

Tyber: I think the UNSC is here. They should be able to mop up and secure the perimeter.

Eli: Sounds like it...

Tye and Eli could see groups of Insurrectionists falling back. The Insurrectionists knew that the UNSC had sent backup.

Tyber: Should we go after them?

Eli: No...we are in no shape to go after them...besides...

Eli paused.

Eli: I don't think either of us are sporting the right gear to do it...

Tye sighed, but he nodded.

Tyber: Those bastards hit us when we were sleeping. They have never done that before!

Eli: I know...Tye...I know...

Tyber: Eli...give the order and I will go and get those SOBs...

Eli: Tye...I need you to have a cool head...alright? We will get these guys...just a matter of time...

Tye nodded.

Eli led Tye towards a Pelican that was landing in the middle of the outpost. Four ODSTs hopped out of the Pelican. One of the ODSTs stepped forward and looked at Eli.

???: Eli! Eli Decker!

Eli looked at the ODST, with a confused look on his face. He had a strange feeling, as if the ODST speaking to him was familiar in some way.

Eli: Do I...know you?

???: I would hope so...

The ODST took his helmet off.

Jonas: I would really hope so!

The other three ODSTs took their helmets off.

Eli: Jonas! Evan! Archimedes! Kraven!

Eli extended his hand and shook Prescott's hand.

Jonas: Good to see you again long has it been?

Eli: Too long...too long...

Decker laughed.

Eli: How have you guys been doing? Obviously you guys have had some pretty decent success in the military...

Evan: You could say that. We have recently taken up a new pays well...

Eli: Is that so?

Evan: Special ops...

Eli: Who are you working for?

Jonas and Evan were silent. They looked at each other. They remained silent.

Jason: That is classified...but from what we understand...there are openings...

Eli paused. He began to think.

Eli: You know...I have a feeling that the guy you are working for is Rear Admiral Spender...Upper Half...

Jonas sighed.

Jonas: Good call on that one Eli. How did you know?

Eli: I got an offer from Spender earlier today. He wanted to recruit me into an "elite" special operations group to combat Insurrectionists. I should of taken the offer...

Tye looked at Eli and Jonas talk.

Jonas: It is not too late Eli...

Eli: Had I known you guys were onboard with Spender, I would have taken the job. Given recent events...I am very inclined to reconsider.

Tyber: Eli...what are you saying?

Jonas looked at Tye.

Jonas: Who are you?

Tye looked back at Jonas.

Tyber: Lt. Tyber Vernette...UNSCMC Special Warfare and Tactics.

Evan: Vernette? Not too long ago I watched a Dr...

Tyber: Dr. Preston Vernette...

Evan: Related?

Tyber: My younger brother.

Evan: Really?

Tyber: Yeah...he has a PhD in Cybernetics and Applied Mechanical engineering...and I think he has a Masters Degree in Physics or...something or other. Keeping track of his qualifications is tough. All I know is that he designs weapons for the military. That is a scary thought, to be honest. Anyone who knew him like I did...would not let that man anywhere NEAR the basic components of a nuclear weapon...or any weapon that could cause bodily harm.

Tye sighed.

Evan: Well…I have seen some of his work, and it is pretty impressive. The guy knows his stuff, for sure. I would kill to meet him. I would love to discuss his ideas on expanding VISR functionality through the use of direct AI acceleration.

Tye rolled his eyes.

Tyber: Doubt you would like him. He was a bit of an asshole. We didn’t part on very good terms.

Evan: That’s too bad. Sorry to hear that.

Kraven: I think what Evan means to say…is that he is disappointed that he won’t get to meet your brother so he can talk nerd to him.

Evan: Kraven…for the last time…it is not called “talking nerd”. It is called postulating.

Kraven: Ohhh…Evan is taking nerd again.

Tye paused. He watched the exchange between the two. It was not long before Eli interjected.

Eli: Let’s stay focused.

Eli looked at Jonas.

Eli: Jonas…I want you to talk to Spender…get him to get me aboard and on your team. I want to find these rat bastards and kill them all…

Tye frowned.

Tyber: Whoa…Eli…hold the phone here. I just wanted to go after these guys, and you told me to keep a cool head. What happened to cool heads?

Eli: I said keep a cool head because we were alone, without backup. Now we have backup. The time for cool heads has ended. The time for hot barrels has started.

Tyber: I see…

Tye paused.

Tyber: I guess…

Tye paused. He sighed.

Tyber: So I am assuming that you are going to change your mind about Spender?

Eli: Yes. I do plan on going with Spender. If he needs me on a team that is going to hunt these SOBs down, I plan on joining him. After what those Innie bastards pulled…I would be dumb to turn this offer down.

Tyber: Well…in that case…if you are going to go and join Spender, I am going to join Spender as well. There is no way in hell I am going to let you head off to get even with these bastards, and leave me here to sit around.

Tye nodded.

Tyber: That is, with all due respect…sir.

Decker folded his arms.

Jonas and Evan looked at Decker.

Jonas: I doubt this guy meets the qualifications that Spender is looking for.

Tye frowned.

Tyber: Yeah? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Evan: That is classified…

Tyber: Classified my ass…

Evan: Classified my ass…sir!

Tye clenched his fist. He stepped forward but Decker stopped him.

Eli: Tye…chill…seriously…chill…

Decker paused. He glared at Evan and Jonas.

Eli: I have known Tye for some time…and he has proven to be the best here in a variety of combat scenarios. I am sure we can get Tye onboard with our group if we talk to Spender. The decision is Spender’s anyway so…we should reserve judgment.

Jonas and Evan shrugged. They turned and walked back to the Pelican.

Jonas: Very well. You should know we are heading back to go and see Spender now. If you want to tag along and see if you can score a spot on our team, you are more than welcome. Make up your mind now…

Jonas paused.

Jonas: And you might want to get changed. I doubt the Admiral wants to entertain someone who has bare feet.

Jonas, Evan, Archimedes, and Jason all walked back to the Pelican.

Eli looked back at Tye.

Eli: Let’s get geared up.

Tye nodded. He was going to turn away, but he stopped himself.

Tyber: Eli…what did that guy mean by classified? What is so classified about...whatever it is they were doing?

Eli: I will tell you later Tye. For now…all you need to know is that at some point before being stationed here…I was part of some pretty tip top secret black ops stuff…and I have feeling it is coming back to get me back into the game.

Tyber: Hmm…fair enough…

Tye nodded. He turned away and went to go and get geared up.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive Bridge - Currently in orbit of Madrigal - 0200 Hours - April 101h 2515

Spender was on the bridge of The Ulterior Motive. He was reading a data pad while smoking a cigarette.

He sat in silence, reading over the dossier of Eli Decker. His reading was interrupted by one of the bridge officers.

Trust Officer: Sir…our Pelican has returned.

Spender: Is Eli Decker with them?

Trust Officer: Yes…

Spender: Good…mission accomplished.

Spender paused.

Spender: See to it that all five of them are brought to my office.

Trust Officer: Yes sir…

Spender got up and left the bridge, proceeding to his office, awaiting the arrival of Eli, and the others.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive Hanger Bay - Currently in orbit of Madrigal - 0210 Hours - April 11th 2515

The Pelican landed in the hanger bay. Jonas, Evan, Archimedes, Jason, Eli, and Tye stepped out.

Evan: So…Lt. Vernette…what have you got under your belt in terms of spec-ops?

Tyber: I have been the mind that has planned about a dozen high risk operations against Insurrectionist leaders, all of them successful.

Evan: No actual missions?

Tyber: I participated in a few of those missions…as my expertise in field operations, various weapons, and special warfare was needed.

Evan: Only a few spec ops missions?

Jonas: So basically…you are a rookie?

Tyber: I wouldn’t put it like that. If anything…I would be the guy who would plan your missions, tell you what to do, how to proceed, what weapons to use, and when to use lethal force.

Tye paused.

Tyber: In short…that is the military way of saying that in any operation…I would call the shots.

Evan turned. He had a very scornful looks on his face. Jonas, Archimedes, and Kraven then turned as well. They all glared at Tye.

Evan: You call your brother an asshole. Looks like that runs in the family.

Tyber: Perhaps to some degree.

Evan: You better be careful Vernette…we out rank you…

Tyber: Good for you. You outrank me. I guess someone was feeling generous. A soldier involved in special operations is worthless without the ability to formulate a plan. I form the plans. In fact…I dare you to try anything, right here…right now. I have a plan for anything you could do.

Eli stepped in between Tye and the others.

Eli: Guys…relax. We are all on the same side. Save it for the bad guys.

Eli pulled Tye back. As he did, he looked at Jonas.

Eli: We will catch up.

Jonas nodded. Jonas walked away with Jason, Archimedes, and Evan in tow.

Eli turned back to Tye and sighed.

Eli: You never make it easy…do you? That was pretty out of line, what you said.

Tyber: What I said was simply my way of instituting the concept of two-way disrespect.

Eli: Damn…

Decker sighed.

Eli: Tye…I am going to explain to you why these guys are so condescending. There is something you must know.

Decker paused.

Eli: Those four guys…we were friends some time ago. We were part of a black ops group that was highly classified.

Tyber: I gathered as much. They talked about black ops…

Eli: Yes…but we were special…

Decker paused.

Eli: You see…the five of us…we are genetically and physically augmented…

Tye let what Decker said sink in. He then began to laugh.

Tyber: Right. Did you know that I am a host body to a parasitic life form? I watch Sci-Fi as well Eli…

Decker shook his head.

Eli: I am serious Tye…the five of us were part of a program called The ORION Project. The entire goal was to create genetically and physically augmented soldiers intended for high-risk missions against The Insurrection.

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Decker paused.

Eli: This is true Tye…it is all true.

Tyber: You are serious…

Eli: Yes....I am very serious.

Tye rubbed his forehead.

Tyber: Alright…let’s pretend that everything you just said is totally true. I have only one question for you…

Tye paused.

Tyber: Why the hell did you never tell me this? Why did you keep this a secret? Why did this never come up? Why are you telling me now? What does this have to do with anything?

Eli: Tye…you said one question…that was five questions.

Tye sighed.

Tyber: Eli...why was I never told that you were part of secret soldier program?

Eli: was top secret, for one. Secondly...the program was disbanded. There was no reason to talk about it or bring it up...

Tye sighed.

Tyber: How...augmented are you?

Decker was taken aback by the statement.

Eli: What?

Tyber: What I mean is...what did they do to you?

Eli: By “they”...I assume you mean the people who augmented me. Those people were ONI Scientists...Section III. While the CMA officially was charged with the administration of The ORION Project.ONI Section III was the brainchild behind it all. The ORION project was eventually discontinued due to...various reasons.

Tyber: That does not answer the Question Eli. Are you stronger, faster, more agile?

Eli: That is the tip of the iceberg. As well as physical augmentations, such as strength, speed, agility, respiratory improvements, and motor skills, we also have enhanced cognitive functions. We learn faster, we are able to adapt faster, and generally we are smarter. In could say we are...more advanced humans.

Tyber: That explains why the others were so condescending.

Tye paused.

Tyber: That explains a lot...

Tye and Decker both nodded.

Eli: You should know that these guys think you would be…the weak link…so to speak. They are very arrogant…given the fact that they are basically beyond the normal scope of humans…

Tyber: Yeah…I guess that makes them better…pfft…

Eli sighed.

Eli: Well…you are going to have to prove to them that you can keep up and push yourself just as hard…

Tyber: That won’t be a problem.

Eli: Believe me will be a problem. What is normal for them will be above and beyond for you. I hate to say it...but what is above and beyond for simply unattainable for you. I don't want to count you out, but the odds are HEAVILY stacked against you.

Eli Nodded. He and Tye continued walking, until they made it up to Spender’s office. Tye and Eli walked in, to see the other four, as well as Spender, talking amongst themselves.

Spender: Well well…look what we have here…

Spender looked at Tye.

Spender: I was not expecting you. My initial goal was not to recruit you…but here you are…standing here with the people that I wanted to recruit. Go figure that…

Spender was silent for a moment.

Spender: Lt. Vernette…I did not read the intel on you…I am not prepared for what you bring to the table. I don't like being unprepared.

Tyber: Then that works in my favor…

Spender: So it does. However, Mr. Prescott has informed me of your desires to be included in this little club, for whatever reason. Do you know what will be expected of you? Do you have any idea what you are getting into?

Tyber: Well sir…I am to understand that we are going to hunt The Insurrection…something I want to be a part of. After what just happened…expect the best from me sir…

Spender: I like the enthusiasm, but enthusiasm alone won't cut it. You lack very specific skills.

Tyber: Skills?

Spender: I do not believe you are as physically capable as the other five. I doubt you will be of any use to us.

Tyber: With all due respects sir, you have misused the word "skill". Skill does not come from a laboratory. Skill is not engineered in a sterile room, by men and women in hazard suits. Skill is not injected by a needle, nor does it come from a treadmill hooked up to heart-rate monitors. Skill is derived from experience...and I do have experience to fall back on.

Spender nodded.

Spender: You know more than you should. You know WAY more than you should. However...I think you have a point, to a degree. Very well Lt. Vernette…you can have a shot at this. My original goal was to form a black ops team consisting of 5 members…but now it is going to be a black ops team consisting of 6 members. Win-win.

Spender nodded.

Spender: I have taken the liberty of having private quarters set up for all of you…

Spender looked at Tye.

Spender: Except you…I will have something set up for you immediately!

Spender paused. He took a breath, and then reached into his coat and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

Spender: You all have your own armory, equipment, weapons, and resources. You have your own ops room on the lower deck in the HEV bay. That is where you will conduct your operations and planning.

Jonas: Very good sir!

Spender: Some custom designed armor is currently being constructed to fit your specific needs. Your armor will be ready by tomorrow morning at 0900. Until then…I will require that all of you undergo a series of medical tests to verify your optimum health.

Tyber: Understood sir…

Spender: Dismissed…

The six ODSTs left Spender’s office, and began to make their way to the medical bay. As they did, Spender returned to the bridge, and spoke to his helmsman.

Spender: Helm...take us away from Madrigal. Take us outside of the planetary navigation beacons, into patrolled space. Once we are out of range, plot a course back towards The Apex.

Helmsman: Aye sir. plotting a course away from Madrigal. I will begin our calculations for Slipstream Space, and jump as per requested.

Spender nodded, and returned to his office.


ODST Black Team were en-route to the medical bay to meet with Doctor Novak.

Archimedes: So…Tye…hopefully you can keep up with us…

Tyber: I was just about to say that I will slow down for the rest of you.

Archimedes laughed.

Archimedes: Well…you get full points for being ambitious. If you are as good as you say you are…you will make a fine addition to this team.

Jonas: Arch is right…Despite my reservations; I think if Tye brings good skills and a good attitude to this…he can be a valued member of our team. He deserves a shot…and until he blows it, he deserves respect. At the very least…we have to respect his gumption.

Jason and Evan both nodded.

Kraven: Agreed…

Evan: Fair enough.

The six ODSTs made their way to the med bay to speak with Dr. Novak.

Once the group arrived in the med bay, they were instantly greeted.

Novak: Gentlemen! Welcome! Please…have a seat!

Novak watched as all six ODSTs entered the med bay. He was taken aback when he saw Tye.

Novak: Excuse me…who are you?

Tye sighed.

Tyber: I have been getting that a lot. My name is Lt. Vernette…I have been tacked onto this team.

Novak: Is that so? Are you an…?

Tyber: ORION? No.

Novak: You are not paid enough to know that word. Whatever. You are here, and no doubt with Spender’s approval. Have a seat

Novak knew that if he tried to administer any of the medication to Tye, the results would not be good…and there would only be questions if Tye were to die so suddenly. Novak knew that if he made a single slip-up that the other 5 ODSTs would become suspicious.

Novak: Well…I will start by checking all of your vitals…I need to run a few tests…and make sure you are all in peek physical condition before your training begins.

Eli: Training? There has to be a mistake…

Novak: No mistake. As good as you all are…we want cutting edge perfection. The grueling training regiment you are going to go through for the next 4 weeks is going to hone you all into the perfect weapons to use against The Insurrection. We are going to make ODST Hardening look like The Paraplegic Girl scouts of Harvest.

Jonas: So…you are going to push us harder? Good luck…we are as good as we are going to get…

Novak: We will see, won't we? Now…if you don’t mind…please have a seat so I can begin.

Madrigal - Insurrectionist Facility 13 - Main barracks - 0300 Hours - April 11th 2515

Several speeding Warthogs stopped in front of The Insurrectionist base. Vixen, along with half a dozen other Insurrectionists jumped out of the Warthogs and ran inside of the facility. As Vixen ran in, she began to shout out orders to the few remaining Insurrectionists that had stayed behind, as well as the Insurrectionists that had returned with her.

Vixen: Listen up! Our attack on outpost lambda failed. We have to get the hell out of here! We have to get the Pelicans in the air, and we have to get back to The Hades Eclipse!

Vixen paused, as she adjusted her earpiece's communication frequency to a secured frequency.

Vixen: Hades Eclipse...this is Vixen. Contingency Amber is a go. We need immediate extraction. Prepare for liftoff from the bone yard, and approach Facility 13 in ELO. We are going to approach The Hades Eclipse in pelicans. Keep a docking bay open for us, and as soon as we are aboard, prepare to get us the hell away from Madrigal.

Vixen waited for confirmation from her Insurrectionists aboard her ship.

Comm Officer: Copy that Ma'am...contingency Amber is engaged. Our ETA to Facility 13 is 7 minutes.

Vixen closed the comm line, as she made her way towards one of the Pelicans that was waiting. As she walked, she could see her soldiers loading up guns and supplies into Pelicans, franticly moving to make sure that they met the deadline.

Vixen: Shake the lead out! Move faster! Our ride is going to be here any minute, and we HAVE to be in the air!

Vixen entered the Pelican, and entered the cockpit, taking a seat in the co-pilot's seat. She situated herself, and waited for her Insurrectionists to finish packing. It was not long before Vixen got the call from her Insurrectionists that they were ready to abandon Facility 13.

Vixen: Vixen to all points...get to your designated Pelicans...and await my orders to depart. If you are not on your Pelican when I give the go down with the facility.

Vixen adjusted her comm frequency, and contacted her demo teams.

Vixen: Demo Team..this is Vixen. What is the status of our parting gift?

Vixen got a reply over the comm from one of the demo teams.

Insurrectionist: The parting gift is active and primed for remote detonation. I am keying the activation signal to your

Vixen: Perfect! Get to your Pelican...double time!

Vixen sat in the co-pilot's seat of her Pelican. Her heart was racing as she waited for the call from The Hades Eclipse to inform her that the ship was in position. EVentually, she did get the call froM The Hades Eclipse.

Comm Officer: Hades Eclipse to Vixen...we are on approach. Disengage from Facility

Vixen sent the signal to all of the Pelicans at Facility 13, as each Pelican began to take off, one by one. As the Pelicans took to the skies, they saw The Hades Eclipse closing in on their position. Vixen once again opened communications with her Pelicans

Vixen: All points...The Hades Eclipse is dead ahead. They are cleared for docking all hanger bays. Approach your designated hanger bay and dock!

Vixen muted the comm line, as the pilot spoke to her.

Insurrection Pilot: Ma'am...we are cleared for docking at Hanger Bay 1. We will dock in 15 seconds. I should point out...that I have never docked a Pelican in a moving ship for a rough ride.

Vixen shrugged, as she held onto the dashboard of her seat, She half closed her eyes as the Pelican flew towards hanger bay 1. The Pelican shook a bit as it entered the hanger bay, but overall, the docking procedure was a complete success. Vixen sighed, as she released her seatbelt, and ran off the Pelican, and made her way up to the bridge. Upon her arrival on the bridge, she was immediately given a status update.

Operations Officer: Ma'am...all Pelicans have returned home safely. Hanger bays are secured...and we are green to get the hell out of here.

Vixen: Have we been detected by the ship in orbit?

Operation Officer: It looks like it. I have been watching that ship...and they are moving in on our position.

Vixen: We need altitude! Get us out of ELO and into orbit!

The Hades Eclipse began to gain altitude, as it escaped the atmosphere of Madrigal. Once The Hades Eclipse had reached orbit, it was receiving a transmission.

Communications Officer: Ma'am...we have an incoming transmission from that UNSC ship.

Vixen: Give me an IFF on that ship!

Communications Officer: The ship's IFF reads as The Ulterior Motive.

Vixen tensed up. However, she hid her nerves well.

Vixen: Helm...begin plotting a destination anywhere but here! Comms...let's buy some time and have a chit chat.

Vixen turned as she sat down in the command seat. She looked at one of ther large displays on the bridge.

Vixen: Alright...put this fucker on screen.

The comms officer nodded. He issued the necessary command, and within moments, Spender's face could be seen on the large display.

Vixen scowled at Spender, who she could see was smoking a cigarette. SPender, on the other hand, simply grinned, and let out a chuckle.

Spender: is so good to see you.

Vixen: The feeling is not mutual. I would have preferred to never see you again. Unfortunately...I am never so lucky.

Vixen paused.

Vixen: And for the last time...stop calling me that.

Spender: But...that is your name. Just because I erased that from the record books...does not mean that I have forgotten.

Vixen: The only reason you erased that name was because it would have been tied back to you. You needed to frame someone.

Spender laughed.

Spender: That I did. You were the perfect fall person. I couldn't have asked for more.

Vixen scowled.

Vixen: What the hell are you doing here?

Spender: I could ask you the same thing Kathryn.

Spender paused.

Spender: I have every right to be here. You, on the other hand, have no right to be here. You are a terrorist. I don't answer to you. I don't have to explain to you why I am here. However, you better start explaining before I start shooting.

Vixen remained silent.

Spender: I would hate to kill someone who would have such high potential within The Trust.

Vixen: I would rather die than join The Trust. I saw what The Trust did to you as a person, and I want no part of it!

Spender: The offer has always been open. I will still take you in Kathryn. Do you think it brings me some sort of pleasure to see you wallow in the dirt with The Insurrection? You are capable of so much more. I would like nothing more than to see you as one of us. I could give you whatever you wanted.

Spender paused.

Spender: If you can keep the ship you have. Hoffman is a huge fan of the Phoenix class of ship. I am sure The Hades Eclipse could give The Devastator a run for its money!

Vixen laughed as she shook her head.

Vixen: The day I join The Trust is the day that never comes. Give it up. I will never join you or The Trust. You could never make me if you had all the time in existence

Spender: Don't count on that.

Vixen: What the hell does that mean?

Spender: Join us and find out!

Vixen scoffed. She was going to rebuttle, but she saw her helm officer give the thumbs up. Vixen looked back at the screen and spoke to Spender again..

Vixen: Drop dead asshole.

Vixen was about to give the order to cut the feed, but Spender got one final word in.

Spender: Kathryn...I will always be watching. Remember that the next time you decide to try bomb another Trust facility. Watch there you step.

Vixen: The only incentive I need to bomb a Trust facility is the knowledge that you have a chance of being among the dead. I am, also, always watching. You, should watch where you step.

Vixen gave the order, and the feed was cut.

Vixen: Helm...get us the hell out of here!

Just as Vixen said this, she reached for her PDA, and she initiated the bomb that was left behind in Facility 13. Vixen pocketed her PDA once more, as The Hades Eclipse made the transition to slip space.

STB Breaking Point

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive Simulation Deck Observation Room - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 2 Days Later - 1400 Hours - April 13th 2515

ODST Black Team was following behind Novak, as he led them through the corridors.

Novak: Today is the big day gentlemen. I just got word this morning that all off your gear is ready and good to go.

Kraven: Our gear? Are we getting new equipment?

Novak: Yes you are. You are all getting the latest and greatest, most cutting edge equipment available.

Evan: Cutting edge is a double edged sword. New stuff is usually inundated with bugs, glitches, and errors.

Novak: Very true. I am sure we will find some bugs in the new hardware we will be giving you. However, there is no need to worry. This gear will not see any live-fire situations for some time. It is all going to be tested in safe and low-risk simulations first and foremost.

Evan: Well...I guess that's fair enough. The last time I tried a new weapon system with my gear, I couldn't enable the VISR settings. It is a real pain in the ass when running an operation at night.

Archimedes: I remember that were so pissed.

Evan: I literally had to take the helmet off, and go without any sort of tactical hud.

Tyber: You know...military personnel didn't always have the tech we take for granted these days. If anything, you went in retro.

Evan: Well, I am not the kind of guy who likes "retro". Retro sucks.

Jonas: Let's keep the chatter to a minimum. We can reminisce when we are off-duty.

Everyone sighed, as they quieted down.

Novak: As I was are all going to be given cutting edge equipment to compliment the training you will undertake, the tactics you will refine, and the training you already have. Our goal is to make you six the BEST of the best, unmatched by any and all.

Novak paused.

Novak: The most elite group of soldiers in the history of mankind.

Jonas: Doc...are you going on the assumption that we are not ALREADY the most elite group of soldiers in the history of mankind?

Before Novak could respond, Jonas cut him of.

Jonas: We already are the most elite group of soldiers. Am I right Black Team?

All of the other members of Black Team gave a ooh-rah, with the exception of Tye.

Jonas: Damn right.

Tyber: I have yet to see that for myself.

Jonas: Yeah...just you wait Tye.

Tye shrugged, and Jonas looked back to Novak.

Jonas: In any case Doc...what can we expect from this new gear? How is it any different than what we have been currently using?

Novak: There are a ton of innovation that we have worked into the framework. We have managed to produce more study material, without compromising end-user flexibility or maneuverability. We have a whole new line of integrated tactical systems for the HUD which will revolutionize field combat.

Novak stopped walking, and stopped in front of a door that was marked RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. Novak placed his hand on a biometric hand scanner. After a moment, a light above the door flashed green, and Novak walked in, with Black Team in tow. Novak led Black Team through the R&D labs, not saying a single thing, knowing that Black Team was taking in the sights.

Novak eventually stopped in front of six large display cases, each housing a custom set of the ODST BDU inside.

Novak: Gentlemen...may I be the first to introduce to you...the armor that will carry you into battle...The Phantom Class ODST BDU.

Jonas: Ohhh...sounds interesting. I like the color.

Novak: We decided to go with a full Black on you ARE ODST Black team.

Tyber: Holy shit. That is impressive.

Novak: Like I said...those suits represent the most cutting edge technology ever developed.

Evan: I know that you mentioned a few things a few minutes ago, like a more sturdy framework, and new tactical systems. Can you go into any more detail?

Novak: Well, the new tactical systems, for starters, all work in conjunction with the pre-existing VISR functionality. These suits are able to do retroactive threat assessment, on-the-fly tactical readjustments, and real-time physiological monitoring.

Eli: These suits monitor our health?

Novak: Correct.

Eli: Doesn't the current BDU do that already?

Novak: Not to the extent that these suits will. These suits can go as far as transmitting your real-time health status to medical teams back to medical crews so they can have up-to-date information on your current status, giving them more time to save your life by ensuring that they don't waste time trying to figure out exactly what is wrong with you in the first place.

Tyber: That's pretty slick.

Novak: Yes...slick.

As Novak said this, ODST Black Team, save for Eli, approached the display cases, as they began to examine the minor differences between each set of armor. Black 5, on the other hand, had ventured off to look at some of the other gear that was in the R&D lab. One thing that caught his eye, was a very unique helmet and sword that were currently being worked on by a few engineers.

Eli: Well, well...what do we have here?

Eli began to take a closer look at the helmet and the sword. Novak noticed that Eli had wandered from the group in order to check out one of the other most high profile designs currently in the lab. Novak began to laugh as he walked towards Eli.

Novak: Mr. Decker...I see you have taken notice of something else in this lab.

Eli: Yeah. I am really taken by the Sword over here. What's the deal with that?

Novak: Ohh yes...CQC Weapon System 386. This is a very new design. It is a new take on a classic.

Eli: What is this used for?

Novak: Stealth. Silent, quick kills.

The other members of Black Team heard Novak and Eli talking. They all turned, and began to approach the two men. It was when they did this, that they took notice of the Sword and the Helmet.

Eli: I guess it would be more quiet than a shotgun.

Novak: That is the idea. However, it has many more applications than a shotgun does.

Evan: Oh, please. It is just a sword. Guns beat swords any day of the week.

Novak: Not this sword.

Evan: Oh yeah? Why not?

Novak: This sword has various built-in tactical systems which help facilitate easy infiltration, maintain stealth, and remain largely undetected by enemy forces.

Evan: How so?

As Novak spoke, Eli gave closer examination to the blade. He could tell that the weapon was very sharp, and there was a very distinct heat coming from the blade itself.

Novak: This weapon is capable of fooling radar and sensor systems, as well a Friend or Foe scanners, such as the ones built into the VISR.

Jonas: How is that possible?

Novak: It is quite simple actually. You see, inside the hilt of the blade, we have managed to integrate the same technology used in our IFF tagging hardware. When in use, the blade can be configured to capture surrounding IFF transmissions, and replicate them. The replicated IFF signal is then transferred to the accompanying hardware...

Novak gestured to the helmet that was next to the sword.

Novak: This, in turn, can be used to override your own IFF transmission. You can essentially pretend to be one of your enemies.

Novak paused.

Novak: It is also capable of scrambling ambient sensors and radar as well.

Tyber: CQC and stealth...all in one weapon. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Archimedes: The question is...who would ever use a weapon like this?

Kraven: Arch is right. I see no reason to ever take this into battle. When all your enemies have guns, using a sword could be pretty dumb.

Novak: You say that now...

Novak grabbed the sword from off the desk, and held it in his right hand.

Novak: Come with me.

Novak walked past ODST Black Team, and ODST Black team then followed in tow. Novak led the six men towards a firing range, where there was an assortment of weapons. Novak walked into the firing range, still holding the blade. Black Team was confused at what Novak was doing.

Kraven: Doc...what are you doing?

Novak stopped, as he turned around.

Novak: Patience Mr. Vance.

Novak gripped the blade in his hand, as he raised it, and pointed it sideways.

Novak: Mr. are skilled with The Assault Rifle, are you not?

Jonas: Yes.

Novak: You can maintain close to perfect accuracy in fully-automatic mode?

Jonas: Yes.

Novak: Good. Grab one of the Assault Rifles off the weapon rack...and shoot me.

Each member of Black team looked at each other in total shock. Jonas then looked back at Novak.

Jonas: Could you repeat that?

Novak: Grab an Assault Rifle. Aim it at me. Shoot me.

Jonas was talen aback by what he heard. However, he shrugged, and grabbed an Assaut Rifle from the weapons rack. He then took aim at Novak.

Jonas: Are you sure about this?

Novak: Mr. Prescott...I am ordering you to fire.

Jonas:'s your funeral. Goodbye.

Jonas took aim, and he pulled the trigger, taking aim at Novak's center of gravity.

Novak tightened his grip on the hilt of the blade, as the bullets began to ring out from Jonas' Assault Rifle. The bullets all sped towards Novak, but none of the bullets had managed to hit their target, instead, every bullet hit an area around Novak's immediate area. When Jonas' clip had run dry, and he ejected the clip, Novak lowered the blade, and looked behind him. Novak grinned as he saw precisely 32 bullet holes in the wall behind him.

Jonas: You're joking.

Novak: We never joke about our work Mr. Prescott.

Novak then saw the rest of Black Team grab Assault Rifles off the weapon rack. He then saw Jonas begin to reload his Assault Rifle.

Novak: Alright...if you think six times the amount of bullets will make a difference...

Novak raised the blade once more.

Novak: As they say...come at me.

Novak raised the blade once more and pointed it to the side, as all six members of Black Team took aim at Novak, and began to fire. Each member of Black Team fired until their clips ran dry. When each member of Black Team had stopped firing. They each lowered their Assault Rifles.

Archimedes: That is the craziest shit I have ever seen in my life.

Eli: No...that is the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life.

Novak lowered the blade, as he walked back towards Black Team, exiting the firing range.

Novak: We are very proud of Experimental CQC Weapon System Revision Number 386. It is one of the greatest innovations to ever come out of this R&D unit. Oh, and FYI...the official name is pending. We are having trouble thinking of a good name. We could name it after a stupid animal...but I think the world has seen too much of that.

Eli: That's a really long name.

Evan: Forget the name. How the hell are you deflecting bullets like that?

Novak: This weapon is equipped with cutting edge technology that can create, what we call a "Low-Intensity Defensive Magnetic Attenuation Field".

Jonas: What?

Kraven: A shield?

Novak: No...not a shield. More like the an outside force acting on another. You see, this weapon can alter the flight path of bullets and projectiles by creating a magnetic attenuation field in front of the user, we can effectively the velocity and inertia of said bullet or projectile, causing it to veer off course and off target. In cannot be hit when using this weapon.

Tyber: That is fucking brilliant. Is that feature included in the suits?

Novak: No...we were unable to incorporate this feature into the BDU's...due to various limitations and...collateral damage issues.

Jonas: What kind of Collateral damage?

Novak: During our testing...the magnetic fields were interfering with our ability to discharge firearms at hostile targets. Additionally, we were having problems with the magnetic field redirecting bullets into...friendly contacts.

Novak paused.

Novak: It was doing more harm than good. We decided to repurpose the technology into this weapon.

Novak held up the sword.

Novak: Alas...even with the tech inside of this blade...we lack the personnel who have the required expertise to actually use it as a what it was intended for.

Eli grinned.

Eli: Not any more you don’t. If you are looking for someone who can handle that weapon with both skill and grace…I am your man!

Novak: Is that so Mr. Decker?

Eli: It is, in fact. Back in my academy days, I was top of the league, every year, in fencing, sparring, and the other sword fighting methods, such as classical, western, feudal, oriental, and modern era styles. Not to mention I was essentially raised on the sport of sword fighting. It was the only thing my father and I had in common. I have been wielding the sword since I was 4 years old. In short…I am a master bladesman…and I back that up with a lifelong commitment.

Novak: My, my, my…that is impressive.

Novak grinned.

Novak: Alright…if you think you can handle the blade…it is yours to use. You will want the helmet to go along with it. The helmet and the sword work in close conjunction, and they require each other to maximize the others performance.

Eli: Is that Helmet compatible with the new BDU?

Novak: Of course. All of our gear and equipment is designed to function with all of the other hardware. It is all built to the same specifications – save for the class specific tweaks.

Eli grinned, as Novak handed over the sword. Eli felt the blade in his hands. The blade was very light, almost weightless. However, it felt durable in his hands, and the perfection of the blade was very obvious.

Novak: All I ask is that you are careful where you swing that thing. We have not found anything it cannot cut through. That blade is very sharp, and it has been laser sharpened to a very fine point. The added heat that is generated by the blade makes this already sharp blade, even more deadly, precise, and clean.

Eli: Don’t worry Doc. Like I said…I am a master of the blade. I know damn well that fucking around with a weapon like this…is a recipe for disaster. I will be very careful.

Novak: It is all I ask.

Novak clapped his hands together, with a grin on his face.

Novak: Now…let's do what we came here to do; let's get the six of you acclimatized to your armor…shall we?

Each member of Black team nodded, ready to receive their new gear and equipment.

Novak: And remember...look after this equipment. It is part of you now. You will need it in the best of shape. This armor will be with you throughout your entire training...and it will be with you when you are deployed to the field. Know this armor. Care for it. Keep it safe. I cannot stress this enough!

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive Simulation Deck Observation Room - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 5 Days Later - 1200 Hours - April 18th 2515

Novak was in the observation room of the simulation deck. He was watching the now dubbed ODST Black Team carry out a simulation clean sweep of an insurrectionist base. As he observed ODST Black Team run "Warehouse Simulation 13", he was taking notes.

Novak: Captain Jonas Prescott…AKA Black 1. Black 1 is a natural leader who is skilled with assault weaponry and hand to hand combat. Without motivation he had assumed command of the entire squad…and they listen and follow. Despite the drugs radically hyper stimulating the Hypothalamus…Black 1 seems unusually calm…and very collected…but his aggression is there, and it is potent.

Novak paused.

Novak: Captain Evan Wolfe…AKA Black 2. Black 2 seems to have an uncanny skill with field technology and infiltration of electronic systems. This was not known at time of recruitment…but it is a valued skill to add to the team. Black 2 seems to prefer close range weaponry. It should be noted that Black 2 has proven to be the most aggressive of the subjects. I surmise there is a direct correlation between his preference for destructive close quarter weaponry and his violent outbursts. This will make a fascinating topic to write a paper on. However, his outbursts must be subjugated into a more controlled fire if he is to be perfected.

Novak paused again.

Novak: Captain Archimedes Drake…AKA Black 3. Black 3 is highly skilled with the Sniper Rifle. He can tear an entire platoon apart without batting an eye, if I could see his eyes behind that visor. According to the suit monitors…Black 3 seems to attain a very stimulating sense of satisfaction in his killing. It should be noted that Black 3 seems to be the fastest of the six…he can move as if he were lighting. This was also unexpected, but again, a valuable asset.

Novak looked back at his datapad and paused again.

Novak: Captain Kraven Vance…AKA Black 4. Black 4 is a demolitions expert and a payload expert. He is skilled with various heavy weapons, including the Rocket Launcher, Galilean Laser Rifle, and Missile Pod…but prefers the Rocket Launcher. Black 4 is the most physically imposing of the group…standing at 6’5”…this is not a man you want to be in the way of. I can only thank God that he has more control over his anger than Black 2.

Novak sighed.

Novak: Captain Eli Decker…AKA Black 5. Black 5 prefers the use of the DMR He excels at mid to long range, as well as support and neutralization. I have noticed that Black 5 has demonstrated the lowest levels of aggression. I will have to increase his dosage in order to further deteriorate his...mental barriers into something more malleable. However...I have noticed that Black 5 has a keen dislike of Insurrectionists. I decided to further check his background to see if there was a reason for this, and I discovered that Black 5's parents were BOTH insurrectionists. Both of his parents were killed quite a number of years ago in a UNSC raid of an Insurrectionist stronghold on Arcadia. His life was not an easy one from what I understand. I surmise that Black 5 may have a...pathological dislike of Insurrectionists as a result of his parents. It would not be unheard of. This could an issue...and it must be addressed. I cannot allow any member of Black Team to have psychological weaknesses.

Novak folder his arms and grinned. He was very interested in Tye.

Novak: Lieutenant Tyber Vernette…AKA Black 6. I was not expecting this one. After giving it much consideration, I decided against administering the CRF Formula to Black 6, in its current state. Instead, I resorted to a modified version CRF 30, which I will refer to as CRF 30 Beta. The only major difference between CRF 30 and CRF 30 Beta is that the Beta variation lacks the protein structure necessary for improvements to the Autonomic system, which is what was killing all of the non-Orions in previous trials. CRF 30 Beta still has the same protein strains responsible for increasing active neural activity, but his autonomic system has remained untouched. So far…there have been very promising results. Black 6 seems to have adapted to the situation, and he appears to be pushing himself very hard to keep up with his teammates.

Novak paused.

Novak: There is no doubt he will struggle to keep pace...but he has tenacity. I have never seen "the average man" push himself this hard before. His tenacity is...something to be admired. The mental discipline necessary to elevate oneself to higher levels of success is truly a testament to his already sharp and keen mind. I look forward to seeing what future clinical trials can do to Lieutenant Vernette. With that said…the one thing that I simply have to make a point of is his weapon choice. His choice is…very perplexing. I have never seen anyone wield dual Automags on the field before. Black 6 is certainly impressive, in every way. However...I worry about Black 6...his future is uncertain...and his death could cause unacceptable interruptions to this team. His survival is important to the success of this least in the short term.

Novak paused.

Novak: All of the subjects are responding well to the first wave of treatment, with acceptable margins of error. Phase 1 of treatments seems to be a success. I am confident that when Phase 2 of treatment starts they will show even more improvement, with less deviation.

Novak paused. He made one final statement, to wrap up his entire report.

Novak: CRF 30 - Clinical Phase 1 has proven to be a 100% success in all six of our test subjects. According to bio scans, all six men are showing increased aggression, reduced apprehension, increased collectivity, increased alertness, and increased brain-activity in targeted areas. All Black Team members save for Black 6 show positive autonomic improvements.

Novak continued to watch as the six soldiers carried out the simulation below.

Down below, in the simulation Deck, Black Team was moving through what appeared to be a large warehouse. The scope of the simulation was simple; sweep and clear. The primary objective was to clear the entire warehouse of active hostiles in less than 2 minutes. The simulation was structured in such a way, that the primary targets were Insurrectionists, but they were not in active combat gear, but rather, looked like civilians.

Black Team began to move forward, toward the warehouse. They each lined up against the main entrance of the warehouse. Black 4 moved forward, and placed demo charges on the door hinges, in rapid succession. In a matter of seconds, Black 4 had deployed the demo charges, and moved back, and then detonated the charges, blowing the door right off the hinges.

Novak watched from above as Black Team moved through the simulation. He was very impressed, and watched intently at every move the men made.

Novak: Ohhh...this is excellent.

Novak relished in the results of his work, but he silenced himself when he heard someone enter the room. He turned to see Spender.

Novak: Admiral Spender...come and behold ODST Black Team...they are performing as expected...

Spender took a cigarette out of a small case as he walked to the large viewing window. He looked down at ODST Black Team running the simulation below.

Spender: They move fast...I like that.

Novak: They have been storming through these simulations with great efficiency. They have been eliminating targets with ease. The drugs I have used to lower inhibitions, increase aggression, and mitigate the pain receptors have created highly effective soldiers. I dare say that I nearly have a successful batch of soldiers ready and willing.

Spender shook his head.

Spender: Let’s not jump the gun. There is still much work to be done...and we must be careful. We must keep close tabs on these men and make sure they stay the course. We cannot risk losing any of them for any reason.

Spender paused.

Spender: I am curious are they dealing with the treatments you are giving them? I am surprised they are not asking questions.

Novak: Well sir, it is simply misdirection. I have been telling them that I have been giving them things like...booster shots to improve blood flow to the muscles, or cardiac regulators to increase oxygen in their blood. Thankfully, none of them have specializations in medicine, so as long as I keep it very general, they won't ask questions. As far as they know, they are simply undergoing another round of intensive training.

Novak paused.

Novak: For instance; I recently administered a series of psychotropic agents specifically tailored to lower certain inhibitions. In so few words, I have managed to dull their perception of morality by almost completely stopping certain sensory input and neuroactivity associated with states of minds, such as remorse, guilt, sadness, and the perceived moral and ethical judgments. In effect...I have all but eliminated their sense of right and wrong. This goes for all of them, Black 6 included. That sort of stuff is not that hard

Novak grinned.

Novak: For the record, by lowering basic inhibitions with the psychotropic agents, they have become far more agreeable to treatment plans. They tend to be very cooperative, because they don't have that little voice in their head giving them the sober second thought. When they get an order, they follow it to the letter.

Novak paused.

Novak: But that is just for starters. I have also managed to hyper stimulate a part of the brain known as the Amygdala. The Amygdala is responsible for what we perceive as our emotions, and our emotional responses to situations. You see, what we perceive as friendship, loyalty, and all comes from the Amygdala. By hyper stimulating it, I have made these men more sensitive to these ideas. I have been making an effort to place great emphasis on concepts such as team cohesion, loyalty, watching each other's backs...that sort of thing. I have also instilled the value of the chain of command, and how utterly important it will be to their success. I have been very careful so as to associate following orders with success. To put this another way, their brains are more inclined to form positive connections with the people around them, both to the ones they serve with…and the ones they take orders from. However, there is a slight risk to this, as this can have the opposite effect, and it could result in the formation of hyper-negative associations as well.

Spender: Hyper-negative associations?

Novak: The opposite of the desired result. It is very possible, although a slim possibility, that any member of Black Team, or any number of them, could begin to associate what we are doing as bad, or something they do not agree with. They could become conditioned to accept opposition to the more...immoral aspects of what we will ask them to do. The Human psych is highly complex in this fashion. We can easily tear down, or build up, mental barriers - to the point of absolute complicity or absolute stubbornness, respectfully, in response to any kind of environmental or psychological stimulation.

Novak paused.

Novak: In short, I have increased the contrast between the two extremes. As long as we keep them loyal to us, and each other...everything should be fine. As long as we can get them on the right track in the immediate short term, we should have no issues in the long term.

Novak paused.

Spender: You have essentially brain washed them. Well done Doctor. I am impressed.

Spender paused.

Spender: With that said...what can I expect to come?

Novak: Phase 2 of the overall training and treatment program, I will be hardening their physical attributes with further use of the CRF to improve their stamina, durability, and overall response in combat situations. Furthermore, I will be aiming to hone their tactical and militaristic attitudes. This will involve intense physical training, training in multitudes of hand to hand combat forms, weapon training and proficiency, and even the strategic operation of all military and civilian grade vehicles and equipment. Phase 2 will be less about breaking them mentally, and more about giving them a vast array of skill sets that they may or may not have at the moment. They are all but ready to move onto Phase 2…save for a few minor deviations which I will be correcting retroactively.

Spender: What kind of deviations?

Novak: Well...I have noticed a few...anomalies with phase 1 drug testing. For example...from time to time...their physiology will try the change in brain try and revert them to their earlier state of being. It is a normal human response to physiological and psychological changes. Basically...the bodies are trying to resist. This can manifest in several ways. For one moment, they may be acting within our established parameters, but in the next moment, they may undergo a serious spike in stress, or some other form of massive mood swing. This results in a massive shift in neurotransmitter and hormone levels in the brain. This shift seems to undermine my attempts to control their brain chemistry, if only for a moment. It is like...the physiological moment of clarity. I have seen it happen several times already, but I am not too concerned. These are problems that can be corrected and weeded out with targeted attention during Phase 2.

Novak paused.

Novak: This will all be corrected by the end of the second phase, however. I simply have to up their doses of their medication, and give it to them more frequently, and with increased potency. This should further help to correct minor deviations, and ensure that there is no regression either.

Spender: Good.

Novak: In the tertiary stages, I plan on doing serious psychological manipulation in an attempt to...dehumanize them to the, shall we say, horrors of our day to day operations. This will involve subconscious manipulation, auditory manipulation, and the basic exploitation of the passive abilities of the human brain. In effect, as they live their day to day lives, and even while they sleep, they will be continually exposed, harassed, and bombarded with psychoactive techniques to alter their perception of reality. I will be using various psychotropic agents to make them more vulnerable to subliminal and subconscious conditioning. I took the liberty of outfitting each of their private quarters with a low-level auditory system which I will be using, in conjunction with the drugs, to implant ideas and concepts into their subconscious while they sleep. The ultimate goal would be by the end of phase 3; these men are stone cold killers, with no emotional or mental anchors preventing them from doing their jobs.

Novak paused.

Novak: In the fourth and final stage...I plan on using cybernetic implants to stimulate, suppress, or completely destroy certain aspects of their humanity to even further push them beyond their limits. I may even consider cybernetic implants to augment certain physical attributes. However, I cannot say when this will be, as this is a huge step in their improvement.

Spender: Fascinating. Truly, this is fascinating. I never expected cybernetic augmentation! It will be a glorious sight to behold.

Novak: Indeed...

Spender was deep in thought.

Spender: Tell much longer will it take to finish this training?

Novak: Well...I can assure you that this may take up to another month. That is, a month if you want this done right. We are already done week 1, and I am preparing phase 2. Week 2 will be used to analyze their performance. Stage four manipulations is an optional objective, and not required to clear them for field work. However, the first three stages are absolutely vital to their development. I cannot stress enough the danger so of exposing them to the true nature of our work before phase 3 is complete. Any exposure would be disastrous for this training program.

Spender: I see...very well. Keep up the good work Doctor. You are doing God's work.

Spender turned and left the observation room for the simulation deck. Novak then turned to one of the computers and entered in a few commands to end the simulation. Novak then spoke into a microphone on the desk.

Novak: ODST Black Team...that is enough for today. Weapons down. Come and see me in the medical bay, and then take the rest of the day off!

Novak collected his notes, and he left the observation room, and headed to the medical.

Down in the Simulation room, ODST Black Team all exchanged looks.

Black 1: We are cutting it short already? Damn…things were starting to get good!

Black 3: Major understatement with that one…major understatement.

Tye sighed.

Black 6: Well…still tiring for me. I could really use a break.

Black 1: I bet…it is not an easy task to keep up with us Tye…but you did a hell of a job. I am impressed. Good work!

Black 6: I appreciate that…it means a lot. At least I am not slowing you guys down.

Black 5: I can’t speak for the others…but not once did I ever think you were slowing us down.

Black 2: Have to agree with Eli…didn’t see a single instance where you slowed us down.

Black 4: I agree.

Black 6: Well…I am glad that this is working out. I can’t wait to get my hands on the real Insurrection. I could stand to wipe out that entire organization. Killing training decoys is starting to lose its luster.

Black 5: You said it…

ODST Black Team left the simulation room and proceeded to head to the medical bay. Each member of ODST Black Team removed their helmets and set them aside.

Tyber: So Novak has to check our vitals? Why is he always checking our vitals?

Jonas: I guess…he was not very specific. I am going to assume he wants to make sure that all the training we are going through is not having any adverse effects on our health. I don't know if you guys noticed or not…but the gravity in the simulation room was unusually high. I guess he needs to measure that kind of stuff.

Evan: Yeah…I noticed that too…

Tyber: So did I…I was just unsure if the extra difficulty I was having was a result of me hauling serious ass for the entire simulation…or the fact that the gravity was much higher…

Novak then walked out of his office that was located in the medical bay, and entered the main medical bay.

Novak: For the record gentlemen…the gravity was increased by 20%. I wanted to make things as tough as I could. I want you six to be the most tried and tested soldiers in the UNSC…and the only way to do that is to throw curveballs at you and see how you do. Expect something new every day.

Kraven: Damn Doc…will we ever get a break? How long is this training going to go on for?

Novak: A few weeks…a month and a bit if need be.

Archimedes: What is going to happen after our training is done? Are we going to be deployed?

Novak: As a matter of fact…yes. You will be sent on high risk missions to eliminate targets of interest.

Novak was preparing a few injections for ODST Black Team. He walked over with a tray with 6 syringes on the tray. They were each labeled with the numbers 1 through 6…a specific syringe for a specific ODST.

Archimedes: These must be very high risk missions if we need further training of this magnitude.

Novak: Yes…the men you will be going after are incredibly dangerous…the odds you will face will be very steep.

Kraven: Good…I like a challenge…

Jonas: No…you just want to see body parts fly…

Kraven: That too…the more the better.

Novak sighed as he injected Jonas with the syringe that was marked “1”

Jonas: Geeze doc…that shit stings…what is in that thing? Acid?

Novak: No…just a cardiac regulator…allows your cardiac system to work better…allow oxygen to travel through your body more easily…keeps you going. I want to force your bodies to work at a much higher level than the average human. This will help you on the battle field with endurance and concentration.

Jonas: Damn…you guys don’t screw around…

Novak: I take my job very seriously…

Novak moved onto Evan. He grabbed the syringe that was labeled “2” and injected it into Evan.

As Novak did his work, Tye watched what Novak was doing.

Tyber: Hey doc…why are the syringes labeled?

Novak: Well…you each have different needs…and I tailored these injections for each of you specifically. It is to get you all on the same level of physical performance.

Tyber: I see…

Novak: It is nothing to be concerned about…

Novak then moved onto Archimedes.

Eli: So what is next on the training scenarios?

Novak: That is up to Admiral Spender…he is the one that designs the scenarios…he is the one that works out the tactical aspect.

Eli: So it is a surprise?

Novak: In a way…yes. Get used to it…most of your missions will require you to fly blind, or with very little intel.

Novak continued his rounds until all six ODSTs had their injections.

Tye, however, didn’t feel so great after his injection. He started to feel a bit light headed. However, he did not say anything.

Tyber: Doc…what was in that syringe?

Novak: It was little more than a simple cardiac regulator. I am just trying to improve your peak physiological performance. I am trying to force your body to perform at higher levels that the normal human is typically used to. I am trying to get your body used to these increased levels.

Tyber: I see. Well…that makes sense.

Novak: If that is all, you are all free to go.

ODST Black Team all nodded, and saluted, and they left the med bay. They began to walk through the corridors. They had no real destination.

Tyber: Well, I don’t know what you guys are planning to do, but I think I may go and disarm, and catch some shut eye.

Jonas: Tired?

Tyber: A bit, yeah.

Eli: That’s too bad. I was going to grab a drink at the lounge. Drinks are on me for anyone who tags along.

Tyber: Tempted to join you, but I really need to catch some shut eye. I will see you guys tomorrow.

Eli: Fair enough. See you tomorrow.

Tye nodded, and walked off, heading back to his quarters.

Eli: What about the rest of you? Are you guys in or out?

Jonas: I’m down.

Evan: Same.

Archimedes: I’m in.

Kraven: Lead the way!

The other five members of ODST Black Team made their way towards the lounge. As they walked, they began to talk about the scenarios.

Jonas: So, what do you guys think about these simulations that we are running?

Kraven: To be honest? I find them to be a little strange. Sometimes, they have the weirdest rule set; increased gravity, low gravity, no automatic weapons, CQC only.

Archimedes scoffed.

Archimedes: That is your problem with them? I am, finding them to be ultra-realistic! I have never run a simulation where the training drone’s head explodes when they get hit with a .50 Cal from a Sniper Rifle in the head.

Kraven: Yeah…there is a hell of a lot of gore. What’s up with that?

Evan: I have been wondering the same thing myself. What is with all the gore?

Jonas shrugged.

Jonas: Realism. The human mind knows when something is not real. I guess ONI has been working on the cutting edge stuff…to increase the effectiveness of these simulations. I guess it needs to look real to really make an impact on the people that are being trained.

Jonas paused.

Jonas: Then again…we are no strangers to the nightmares of conflict. We have all seen men get cut down by gunfire. We are all veterans to that sort of stuff. So, simply based on that, I am forced to wonder why we are being subjected to it.

The rest of Black Team looked at each other.

Eli: Keep us sharp, I guess? I guess you can never see enough. I guess they want our minds sharp. They want us to spit in the face of horror.

Archimedes scoffed.

Evan: Alright, fair enough. Gore and realism aside, let’s talk about those Counter-Operative simulations we were doing? Disabling and destroying UNSC warships, sweep and clears of UNSC training facilities, assassination and elimination of high profile officers, hijacking UNSC ships. What is up with that? Realism and treason, all wrapped up in one simulation? That shit is out of this world!

Black Team stopped in their tracks.

Jonas: You know…speaking of the simulations…and the enemy contacts in them…was anyone else NOT batting an eye when we ran that simulation where all those teenagers had picked up arms to fight with The Insurrection? Was anyone else here just…mowing them down without a second thought…just to bolster their kill count?

Jonas paused. He let out a slight laugh.

Jonas: I was. Hell…I had like…20 killing sprees. I must have broken a record!

Eli: I got a triple kill on two women and like…a 5 year old kid with an SMG. That kid could barely hold the SMG he had. I don’t even think he knew how to use it…but sure enough…the moment I put a bullet in his head…the triple kill medal pops up on my HUD!

Eli began to laugh as well.

Kraven: Yep…and here we are…laughing our asses off about it. Jonas guns down teenagers, Eli pops the head of a 5 year old kid, Evan is getting his kicks from gunning down UNSC personnel, and Archimedes praises the attention to the brain-splattering detail.

Kraven paused.

Kraven: As for me...I never thought blowing up terrified people could be so much fun.

Kraven laughed.

Kraven: Anyone else looking forward to the next simulation?

Black Team looked at each other, as if they had just had some sort of epiphany, or revelation about what they were doing. The fact of the matter was, is that they were all in agreement, that despite the odd nature of the simulations they were running, they were not concerned at all about the moral or ethical implications of what they were doing. In fact, they were enjoying the simulations.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Tye's Private Quarters - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1500 Hours

Tye had returned to his private quarters. He was lying down on his bed. He looked at the digital clock on his nightstand, and saw that it was only 3 in the afternoon. However, despite this, he felt like he had not slept in days. The last training exercise had taken a lot out of him.

Tye rolled onto his back and was now staring up at the ceiling, thinking to himself. He was recalling past experiences in his life, thinking back on his relationship with his brother, the falling out they had, and the fact that he had not spoken to is brother in so many years because of one difference of opinion.

Tyber: That bastard…that selfish, son of a bitch, bastard. He hated my guts because I wanted to actually make something of my life…to actually move past what I had on Harvest and actually move on…

Tye paused.

Tyber: He wanted me to sit and rot on Harvest…well...fuck him! That prick can drop dead…

Tye was clearly very furious about what he was thinking about. In the back of his mind, he knew that he had never felt this way…he had never been this harsh on his brother.

Tyber: All because I wanted to join the military. He didn’t want that…no…Preston wanted to stay on Harvest…not willing to go out and start a new life and leave all the crap behind!

Tye sat up on his bed.

Tyber: it was always about him…what he wanted…never what I wanted…

Tye paused.

Tyber: He never wished me good luck…or hoped I succeeded. No…he wanted me to fail…to screw up…to amount to nothing. But then what does the bastard do? He goes and joins the military himself…to what…just to smite me? He wanted me to forget my own goals, look after him, then he wanted to ditch me when he was good and ready!

Tye frowned.

Tyber: I never realized what a selfish bastard my brother was.

Tye sighed. He simply laid on his bed, glaring at the ceiling. His thoughts continued to dwell on the past. For the first time in his life, he had started to look on his past and actually find fault with many aspects of his life. This was something he had never done before.

Tyber: Now...I am actually making something of myself. I am actually with a group that will actually be making a difference, taking the fight to our enemies.

Tye continued to think, but, he eventually surrendered to his own fatigue, and he drifted off to sleep.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Constantine Spender's Office - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1500 Hours - April 18th 2515

Spender was in his office. He was looking through The Trust's information network, at all the previous reports and mission logs filed by all of the members of The Trust over the years.

Spender was looking for something very specific.

Spender: Where is it...I know it is here somewhere…

Spender was shifting through all the logs and reports. He finally found what he was looking for.

Spender: Here it is…report #00921727…

Spender opened the file over the network and began to read what was inside. He read through the entire report with a lot of attention and intensity. He was about half way through the report when he heard a knock at his door. Spender looked up at the door and cleared his throat.

Spender: Enter!

The door to Spender’s office opened and Novak walked in. He looked at Spender and dropped a datapad on his desk.

Novak: Here are the most recent medical results for ODST Black Team. Black 6 is of great concern at this moment. He is…not responding to treatments. The other five seem to be doing exceptionally well though.

Spender: What do you mean Black 6 is of great concern? What is wrong with him?

Novak: Black 6 is an unknown variable sir. I am shooting in the dark with him. Don't get me wrong, but if he can make it through the first few weeks, and make it to the final stages of my proposed augmentations, he will be a very viable asset. However...he is in great danger. He is currently undergoing something that I have never able to complete successfully. I don't think he is going to survive this.

Spender sighed.

Spender: This is very bad news Doctor. I let him in on this group under your assurance that you could make him work out. It would be very bad if he were to suddenly die in the middle of training. What can be done about this?

Novak: I don't think there is anything that can be done...unless...

Spender: Unless?

Novak: Unless Black 6 is augmented using the same methods employed in the ORION Project.

Spender: Interesting. How easy would it be to do such a thing?

Novak: Honestly? It application would be very easy. However, synthesizing the necessary drugs to do it would prove to be more difficult. ONI has kept it under wraps for some time now, and they are very vigilant of illegal and unauthorized augmentation. ONI killed the program. They do not want splinter cells continuing the program without their blessings.

Spender: ONI may have far-reaching sight...but they cannot be everywhere at once. Assuming we wanted to augment Black 6...I believe we could without anyone finding out.

Novak: should know that synthesis of the ORION formula would take time. However...that is not the issue, so much as the dangers of doing so are. You have to understand sir...If anyone finds out that we are attempting to illegally augment a soldier for military purposes...the consequences could be dire.

Spender shrugged.

Spender: Hmmm. Perhaps we can put a pin in this idea...FOR NOW.

Spender paused.

Spender: I want to monitor and observe Black 6. I want to see how he performs. If he is able to push himself to a degree which allows him to keep up with the rest of Black Team...then he would make an excellent candidate for augmentation. On the other hand...if he slows them down...well...he will just be another gun...and taking a risk for another gun would be unwise.

Spender grabbed a cigarette from his jacket pocket, and lit it up.

Spender: I will only risk augmentation if he proves to be highly valuable asset...above and beyond the others. With that are the others doin?

Novak: The others are responding quite well. They are on track and developing along the path that we have established for them. Like a train on tracks…there is really no way they can get around what path they are going down. They are oblivious to any ulterior agendas on our part. They have not become suspicious of the psychological conditioning either.

Spender: Excellent. I am very pleased to hear this. Keep up the good work Doctor.

Spender paused. He looked back at the report that he was reading.

Novak: What are you reading?

Spender: A mission report…filed by the Trust some years ago. This mission report details The Trusts' long-term efforts to infiltrate higher into the UNSC chain of command. The process is still ongoing, and progressing as expected. I dug it up to...reaffirm my knowledge of the assignment. Recent events had me thinking…thinking about what I am going to do with ODST Black Team, and how they can help keep this mission from failing.

Novak: Recent events?

Spender: The Board of Chairmen…I feel that they are losing confidence in my abilities to lead. They say that they are confident in me, yet they question my every move. I have never trusted them…I have always felt they had a knife at my back. For some time now…I have considered killing them all, and replacing them with people loyal to me.

Novak: The Board of Chairmen is very powerful Admiral…

Spender: Black Team…is powerful…Doctor…

Novak: I am engineering special operations soldiers…not an army condensed into 6 men. You have 6 powerful men…perhaps 5…but The Board of Chairmen has an army!

Spender: Then perhaps we need to expand on Black Team…make them an army condensed into 6 men...or perhaps 5 men.

Novak: What you are asking…it is impossible. These men are only capable of so much!

Spender: Then tell me doctor…what is their fundamental upper limit? When can they no longer become better than they already are? When is there no more room for improvement? At what point do I have to tell them "you cannot be improved"?

Novak: I do not know. This whole project involving Black Team is unlike anything I have ever done in my life. Everything is new ground…everything. I cannot even begin to guess what their upper limit is. They could have so much more potential...or they could be hitting the glass ceiling. I cannot say for sure.

Spender: Then that is all I need to know. I will take my chances Doctor. My only alternative is to sit on my ass and wait for The Board of Chairmen to take me out when they see fit. I plan on getting them before they get me!

Novak: This could splinter our organization…

Spender: It could…it very well could. However…I subscribe to the notion that power flows from the barrel of a gun Doctor. All I need is enough guns to flow enough power…and I can keep The Trust intact…without the thought of my impending doom clouding everything I do.

Spender paused.

Spender: Doctor…I am sure you have noticed that over the years…The Trust has become far too complacent in its job. This organization was founded on the principle of ensuring the future of humanity. However, as we grew, we came to realize that the greatest threat to the future of humanity is the present of humanity. We decided that the select few must control and direct the human race to ensure that it has a future. We are the ones with the vision…we are the ones with the foresight…we are the ones with what it takes to ensure that this society does not fracture due to political stress or different ideologies.

Spender paused again.

Spender: However…in the recent years…more and more do I see the leadership of The Trust moved away from its mandate to control, and has moved more towards a mandate to standing idly by. We care less about controlling where our civilization goes…and more about just knowing what chaotic road it is on. This is unacceptable. I have not spent my life working for The Trust just to watch it become a second-rate power in the grand scheme of history. The Board of Chairmen has become weak…and they cannot be allowed to continue on.

Novak: So killing The Board of Chairmen is the answer? Admiral…that plan is suicide. The Board of Chairmen has extensive influence. They have unlimited resources, enough manpower to wage a small war. In every respect…you are out-gunned!

Spender: Perhaps…but you are forgetting one thing Doctor…

Novak: Oh?

Spender: I have access to information that can point me to every single base of power The Board of Chairmen could use to fight me. I know everything about them. I know how they think, how they would act, and what they will use to fight me. Secrecy and discretion are powerful weapons in the hands of those who know how to use them. I know where to hit them…and I know how to kill them…

Novak: Then what? Let’s say you kill the ENTIRE Board…what then?

Spender: I will appoint new members onto The Board…members who are loyal to our ideologies…my ideologies...ones who are willing to lead, and not follow…ones who are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure the human race has a long and prosperous future.

Novak: With The insurrection hanging around…I doubt there is a prosperous future. Remind me again why we are supplying them with weapons and intelligence?

Spender: Well, Doctor, as you know…The Trust has always had goals set on infiltrating the highest levels of government, military, and private industry, if only to expand our influence and sphere of power. As of late…we have been trying to infiltrate the military more than anything due to the constant shifting of power towards the military, given the current crisis with The Insurrection. We concluded that if we supply weapons and intel to The Insurrection, to allow them to become a larger and larger threat…The Military will garner more power, and they will become desperate for more leadership in their ranks. This opens them up to infiltration from Trust Operatives.

Novak: Let me guess; after you have placed the desired amount of operatives in The Military…you strike The Insurrection down…and the military is left with far too much power, and a roster full of Trust Operatives?

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Spender: Exactly! Right now we are still in the preliminary stages of infiltration and expansion of the UNSC Military. However, this operation is proving to be very risky. The UNSC is aware that The Insurrection is receiving outside help…and The Board of Chairmen has become worried. They are worried that The UNSC will discover The Trust Syndicate, and they are worried The UNSC will lash out at us and wipe us out. In my opinion, The Board of Chairmen simply cannot take the pressure…and they are starting to buckle. They are inching closer and closer to a total withdrawal from this operation. This would mean that we would have invested considerable resources and manpower…for nothing. I am unwilling to cancel this operation…but The Board of Chairmen is just about to collectively pull the plug.

Novak: You are worried that a withdrawal would cripple us…leave us without any gain…and total losses?

Spender: Exactly.

Novak: I can see where you are coming from. This could be very bad for us. If we cannot reap any potential gains from our investments…it could cripple our organization! However, at the same time…if you try to eliminate The Board of Chairmen…our organization could be fractured. Either way…we are looking at the destruction of The Trust.

Spender: It is why I need ODST Black Team…I need them to stop The Board of Chairmen...I need them to act as the Sword of Damocles to any soul that would threaten The Trust from the inside!

Novak: Sir…what you are suggesting is outrageous. Do you honestly think you can fight The Board of Chairmen? Do you honestly think you can beat them?

Spender: I do believe I can fight the entire Board of Chairmen. I believe I can get The Trust back on track to becoming what it was intended to be; an organization that shapes the future of mankind.

Novak: In that case sir, I will do my best to develop Black Team. However…we are on a dangerous path sir…the future is very uncertain. I have always had confidence in your ability to lead...and so long as you think you can get us back on will have my support. However, like I said...the future is very uncertain.

Spender: Let me worry about that, Doctor. Leave all of the complicated planning to me. I have been through much worse in the past.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Tye's Private Quarters - 16 Hours Later - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 0700 Hours - April 19th 2015.

Tye awoke in his room. He had started to wake up from one of the deepest sleeps he had ever fallen into. His vision was blurry, and he felt very light headed. He looked around the room. He knew where he was, and who he was, but he could not remember how he got here.

Tye managed to climb back to his feet. He winced because he still had a splitting head ache.

Tyber: God…I feel like garbage.

Tye shook his head.

Tyber: I better go and see Novak. I hope he knows what is going on with me…

Tye walked out of his room, and walked through the corridors of The Ulterior Motive. As he walked, he noticed that the halls were very quiet. There were no officers in the corridors. Tye reasoned that most of the officers on the ship may have been at their stations.

Tye eventually found his way to the medical bay. He walked in, and he found Novak at his desk, working.

Novak looked up at Tye.

Novak: Lt. Vernette…what brings you here?

Before Tye could answer, he stumbled forward, and collapsed onto the ground.

Novak: Shit…

Novak jumped up and ran around his desk and knelt down next to Tye. The first thing he did was check his pulse.

Novak: His pulse is erratic…something is terribly wrong!

Novak grabbed Tye and lifted him back to his feet, and dragged him over to one of the beds. Novak lifted Tye up onto the nearest bed, as he checked for breathing, by lifting his chin and tilting his head, to clear the air ways. Tye was no longer breathing. Novak immediately knew that Tye was going into cardiac arrest.

Novak then tapped his earpiece.

Novak: All medical staff the med bay…we have a Code Blue. All medical staff…we have a Code Blue!

He could see Tye still had his BDU on, as he had never taken it off. Novak sighed, as he began to tear open the BDU, and pull it off. Novak managed to expose Tye’s bare chest. Novak immediately hook up the heart rate monitor.

Novak: Damn it. Hang in there, Lieutenant. The last thing I need is to have your death on my head.

Novak moved around the bed and grabbed a shot of adrenaline. He hit Tye up with the shot, but he did not notice any change in his condition. Novak watched Tye’s heart rate continue to fall. Tye was rapidly going into cardiac arrest. His heart rate was falling at an erratic pace.

Novak turned and grabbed the defibrillator from beside the bed. He began to charge the paddles. He applied the paddles to Tye’s chest, and allowed the defibrillator to analyze Tye’s heart rate, and calculate the correct voltage. Novak hit Tye with a jolt from the defibrillator unit, but Tye was still unresponsive.

Novak then watched as Tye flat lined.

Novak: Oh no…

Novak began to charge the paddles again, as he once again hit Tye with a jolt from the defibrillator unit. Tye was still unresponsive.

Novak: God damn it kid...common…

Novak hit Tye with another jolt from the defibrillation unit. This time, Tye’s heart rate began to normalize, and he began to breath.

Novak: Thank God…

Novak stepped back as Tye began to breath, and his heart rate began to stabilize. Novak shook his head in disbelief.

Novak watched Tye for several moments, as Tye slowly came back around. Tye tried to sit up, but Novak stopped him.

Novak: Hey, hey…chill…take it easy Lieutenant. You just had a really rough ride.

Tyber: What the hell happened?

Novak: You collapsed…you nearly died. I managed to…well…keep you alive.

Tyber: What?

Novak: You walked into the med bay…and you collapsed…

Tyber: I…I did…I was feeling like crap…so I came here…

Novak: And you collapsed…

Tyber: I collapsed…cause I was feeling like crap…yes…

Novak: Lieutenant, are you alright? You seem a little...distant. You don't seem like you are all here.

Tye shook his head.

Tyber: No…I am not alright…I am far from it. I nearly died just now…that is not alright!

Tye’s voice had a tone of anger and frustration. He was starting to get angry. Tye’s then closed his eyes as he laid back down, as his head started to hurt, and his heart began to race.

Tyber: What the hell is going on with me?

Novak thought for a moment.

Novak: Lieutenant…what were you doing before you came in here? Be very specific.

Tye tried his best to think. He recalled that, before he passed out, he was raging against his brother.

Tyber: I was…I was…

Tye sighed.

Tyber: I was…thinking back…remembering something that was…very unsettling. I was angry…upset. I was not in the best of moods.

Novak: You were angry?

Tyber: Yes…I was really angry…I was livid…I felt like I just wanted to…to fucking kill him. It was…really satisfying…but…it wasn’t right.

Novak: Him?

Tye didn't answer. Instead, Tye sighed. Novak began to think. He rubbed his chin, and he turned away to hide a look of concern. He thought for a moment, and then turned back.

Novak: That is very odd Lieutenant.

Tyber: Doc…I started feeling this way when you hit me with that…cardiac regulator…that stuff you injected me with yesterday…the syringe that was labeled with the number “6”. It started almost immediately. What happened? Did I have a reaction?

Novak: Perhaps. You might have taken a reaction to it. I am not sure. It may have been stress related or it may just be something you were never able to handle that we never knew about. Either way, we will get to the bottom of it.

This was a lie. Novak knew exactly what was wrong with Tye, he was just not allowed to admit it for fear of disrupting the project and his efforts.

Novak: Let me run some more tests on you. I need to narrow down this problem before it gets serious.

Tyber: I cannot operate like this! Whatever is going on…you have got to fix this. Otherwise…I am useless to this team. If I can't cut loose and do my job on the field...

Novak: Don't worry Lieutenant. We will figure it out.

Novak nodded, and walked off. Tye, on the other hand, stayed where he was, and laid back down on the bed he was on.

Novak returned to office, and sat down behind his desk. He called up Tye's medical files on his laptop. Novak began to think to himself.

Novak: It seems the Lieutenant is reacting in a very negative way to his current treatment plan. While it is clear the desired effects are there...there seem to be side effects that are manifesting. It is very clear what happened to him; his body is rejecting the drugs. Everything was fine in the first round of treatments...but the second round was just...a complete failure. Perhaps I will forego any further drug trials for him, and strictly focus on the less intensive psychological conditioning. My best bet is to keep him under observation until his own body is able to purge the rejected drugs out of his system. However...I think he is past the worst of it now...

Novak paused in his train of thought.

Novak: I think I should also check on the rest of Black Team. Hopefully they are still on track. However...I will let them come to me. They should be due within the hour, and I would prefer not to leave with Tye on the mend.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - The Mess Hall - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 0800 Hours - April 19th 2515.

The rest of Black Team was sitting in the mess hall. They were busy eating breakfast, and they were discussing the coming day.

Jonas: So...what do you guys think the good Doctor has in store for us today?

Evan: I don't know...but it sure as hell is going to be another trip through hell…or paradise depends on how you look at it.

Archimedes: I would call it paradise. It gives a chance to cut loose.

Jonas: I still don't understand why we need further training. That still gets me.

Eli: Well, you know what the brass said; we will be going up against steep odds. They want us to be prepared.

Jonas: We are prepared! We were in The ORION Project! It does not get any more prepared then that!

Eli: To be honest...I think it does.

Kraven: What do you mean Eli?

Eli: Do you guys ever wonder why they canned The ORION Project? I was successful. The ORION Projected created a whole generation of amazing soldiers with amazing talents and capabilities...only to be canned. Why?

The other four remained silent.

Eli: That is just it...isn't it? We were never told why. We were cut loose, separated, we were all assigned different jobs in different parts of the military...and that was that.

Jonas: What are you getting at Eli?

Eli: I am saying...there is something we don't know. We were replaced...we just don't know by what.

Evan: Replaced by what? We were the apex. You can't get better than ORIONs.

Eli: I seriously doubt that.

Evan: Why? Do you think that because Doc Novak thinks he can make us better?

Eli: Doc Novak doesn't think he can make us better. He is convinced he can make us better. Someone that sure...KNOWS...SOMETHING...WE...DON'T!

Evan stopped to think.

Evan: have a point Eli.

Jonas: I have to admit...I agree.

Archimedes: Yeah...that is kind of hard to ignore.

Kraven: Well...that makes four of us.

The four men exchanged looks between each other.

Jonas: Should we ask?

Eli: I think we all know the answer we would get.

Evan: Classified...

Eli: Exactly.

Decker sighed. He continued to eat.

Eli: least we are getting a second chance…the chance to actually serve the way we were supposed to serve.

Kraven: Here, here!

The group continued to eat, eventually finish their meals, and leaving the mess hall to check in with Doctor Novak, as was the routine every day.

When ODST Black Team had entered the Med Bay, they immediately saw Tye laying on one of the beds.

Eli: Tye!? What the hell happened?

The entire group walked over to Tye. Tye sat up on his side and looked at the rest of Black Team.

Tyber: Well...funny things actually...I...well; I walked in here...and I...

Tye was interrupted by Doctor Novak, who had heard Black Team enter the med bay.

Novak: The Lieutenant is feeling a bit under the weather.

Tyber: Under the weather my ass. I almost died.

Jonas: WHAT!?

Evan: How?

Eli: What do you mean?

Novak: It is not of any serious concern. My analysis showed that Lieutenant Vernette was simply over-exerted yesterday. We pushed him a little too hard, and so his physiology pushed back.

Kraven: So...what does that mean? Is he going to be alright? Is he going to be removed from the team?

Tyber: Fat chance in hell.

Novak sighed.

Novak: No. It means that I have to re-evaluate how much I am pushing The Lieutenant, and at what rate I am doing it. I cannot expect him to double his peak performance in a week. It cannot be done...and we found that out the hard way. We just need to scale things back for him, and push him slower, over a greater amount of time. Remember...he is not augmented like the rest of you.

Jonas: Are you saying that we are going to have to slow the training regiment down?

Novak: Well...yes. It will. Things will have to slow down...or we run the risk of causing serious harm to The Lieutenant.

Jonas sighed. Evan and Kraven didn't react. Archimedes, on the other hand, spoke up.

Archimedes: I don't think Admiral Spender is going to like that too much. He seems like the type of person who expects results, and does not tolerate setbacks. Has he been informed about this?

Novak: For your information, Mr. Drake...that is not something you need to worry about. The fact of the matter is we are simply going to have to adjust the training regimen.

Jonas looked at Tye.

Jonas: Look...I think I speak for the entire team when I say that I don't want things to slow down. I don't think Tye wants that either. We knew, right from the start that Tye was going to have trouble keeping up. We all knew that things were going to be tough on him. However, he accepted that challenge, and I think he wants to stick with it!

Tyber: I could not of said it better myself! I can do it. Believe me...there won't need to be any slowdowns. I can handle it!

Tye forced himself back to his feet. His footing was a bit uneasy, but he got his strength back in very short order.

Tyber: I'm ready.

Jonas: You see Doc, that is dedication! If Tye was unwilling to stand up and face the challenges that he brought down on himself, I would argue that he has no place here. he is, getting back on his feet, ready and willing to resume working with us. That is dedication Doc. That has to be respected!

Tye nodded.

Tyber: I am not going to let one isolated incident stop me!

Novak looked at Tye, and then spoke up.

Novak: You nearly died Lieutenant!

Tyber: Yes...and you were here, saving my life and doing your job! I nearly died...but I didn't die! I pulled through. That should tell you a thing or two about me, and my own resiliency!

Tye paused.

Tyber: This was a minor setback is all. I can do this! Give me another chance! Don't change anything about what we are doing! Don't make it easier! Don't change a damn thing! I can do this!

Jonas stepped back. The rest of Black Team looked at Tye. Their facial expressions were ones of surprise. They did not expect this level of resiliency from Tye.

Novak: Lieutenant, are you sure about this?

Tyber: Yes. I can do this! I will shake this off. This will not affect my performance! I am ready!

Novak: Lieutenant...

Tyber: Doc...

Novak sighed.

Novak: Very well Lieutenant. Your next training simulation begins in an hour.

Novak sighed. He looked at Tye.

Novak: However, there are risks, and there are dangers. In the grand scheme, the risks and dangers are mine to evaluate, and yours to take. Perhaps this was an isolated incident, and perhaps it wasn't. We are going to find out for sure in the coming weeks. We will proceed as planned with no change. Report to the armory, get suited up, and report to the Simulation Deck at 0930 hours. Dismissed!

All of Black Team nodded, and saluted.

Jonas: Yes sir.

Jonas turned, and walked off. The rest of Black Team followed behind him.

Novak sighed, as the six ODSTs left the Medical bay.

Novak: That was a close one. There were too many close calls in one day. I have lies to cover up more lies. I cannot wait for this to be over and done with. I am telling these men one thing, to cover up another thing that I am not telling them. It is enough to give anyone a head ache...

Novak sighed again, as he returned to his desk, and began to look over Tye's medical records. He knew the situation with Tye was only going to get more complex. He knew he was now in rocky waters. One mistake on his part could blow the lid off of the entire process.

Black Team, on the other hand, was on their way to the armory.

Tyber: Thanks for the support guys!

Jonas: No problem Tye.

Kraven: Well, the fact that you are willing to keep with us despite what just happened to you...that takes serious guts. That is exactly what this team needs!

Evan: Exactly.

The six men entered the armory, and began to gear up.

Eli: I knew from the start that you had what it took to be on this Team Tye. I never doubted that you had the metal to be here.

Tye nodded, as he continued to gear up.

Tyber: Well, I need to walk the walk if I am going to talk the talk.

Tye laughed as he continued to suit up. He was in the process of strapping his boots into place.

Evan: Well, let’s just hope you don’t run into any more problems. It would be a real shame if you had to drop out becomes of some stupid limitation.

Tyber: The only thing that is going to get me off this team is death. There is no way in hell I am going to let something as tiny as a near-death experiences keep me down.

Jonas: Famous last words.

Tyber: Put them on my tombstone!

Tye was still in the process of suiting up. He had just finished putting on his chest and shoulder gear. The only thing he was missing was his helmet, and his weapons. He was ahead of the others.

Tyber: You know…just out of curiosity…how are you guys finding your overall performance? Novak has been drugging you guys in order to increase your “physiological performance”. Have you guys noticed any real change?

The other five team members looked at each other.

Jonas: Well…I have not really noticed.

Evan: Ummm…now that I think about it…not really.

Archimedes: No.

Kraven: Nope. The only thing that is different is how much we are enjoying these scenarios. We talked about this yesterday, and we all agreed that killing these simulated guys can be kind of fun. When it comes to actually putting these guys down...there is nothing to think about. Point and shoot.

Tyber: What do you mean?

Kraven: Exactly what I mean. These simulations that we are running are fun. We don't think twice about pumping holes in these simulated bad guys. To us...this seems like a very elaborate and sophisticated target practice, with objectives on the side.

Tyber: You guys never get pause at all the...realism? Just...point and shoot?

Kraven: Nope. The strange thing is, is that it is not the fact that we are fighting simulated soldiers either. I have done these simulations before, and I have always felt something. I have always taken that breath before making that kill. I have always flinched when I heard the sound of a bullet breaking the skin, or the sound of a man dying as the agony of his wound overcomes him.

Kraven paused.

Kraven: Now…I feel nothing, nothing at all. Now it is just point and shoot, and then move on. No flinching, no second thoughts. I have to admit…whatever Novak is doing to make us act this way is…incredible.

Tyber: That is very odd. It makes me wonder what Novak is doing.

Kraven: Who cares? As long as it works.

Evan: Well…Kraven isn’t the only one. I am the same way now. I never think about the people I kill anymore. I just don’t care. Before, I used to think about their families, their friends, the people they leave behind. Now…none of that matters.

Jonas: I also feel like this. It seems cold…but…I just don’t care about the repercussions of taking a life. I can always remember boot camp instructors yelling in my face about how taking a life is like playing God. The decision to end a life is one of the biggest we will ever make, and it never becomes easier. However...I am not so sure about that anymore..

Tye looked at Archimedes.

Tyber: What about you?

Archimedes shook his head.

Archimedes: Before I was taking lives. Now…now I am just doing a job.

Tye then looked at Eli.

Eli: Same thing with me Tye. This is just business now. I have no idea what has prompted the change…but…I find it to be far more liberating not having to wrestle with my conscious at night.

Tye looked at his team mates with a hint of concern.

Tyber: No offense guys…but that is REALLY screwed up! How are you guys going through these simulations without any second thoughts? Simulations or not…they are very real…very life-like. I have never done simulations where the training drones bleed to death in front of you! I have never done simulations where the training drones communicate, where they express such divergent personalities, or express such realistic emotion. It feels real…and you are all telling me that you feel nothing.

The other members of ODST Black team looked at each other. They then all looked back to Tye, and nodded.

Tyber: Damn…

Tye face palmed.

Tyber: I don’t know if I should be jealous or concerned. Perhaps I should be both?

Jonas shook his head.

Jonas: I would not worry Tye. We have already seen shit hit the fan in more ways you have. I am sure we are just more used to it.

Tyber: Perhaps. Perhaps not. All I know is that I don’t eat before coming in here. I made that mistake on day 1.

Tye shrugged, as he holstered his weapons. He then reached over, grabbed his helmet, and snapped it into place.

Black 6: Still…for people who have seen “shit hit the fan” in more ways than I have…you guys are sure as hell bloody slow gearing up.

Black 6 shrugged.

Black 6: I will meet you outside the Simulation Deck.

Black 6 gave an impromptu salute, and then left the armory. He proceeded to make his way towards the Simulation Deck. The rest of Black Team nodded, and continued gearing up. It did not take them much longer to finish gearing up, and report to the Simulation Deck.

Black team fully reunited outside the Simulation Deck, as they waited for their green light to begin.

Black 6: About time you guys showed up. I was worried I would have to make today’s run by myself.

Black 3: I wouldn’t go that far. There is no way we would let you have all the fun.

Black 6: Fun? That is an interesting choice of words Mr. Drake.

Just as Tye said this, all six members of Black Team were contacted over the comm. By Dr. Novak.

Novak: Black Team…do you copy?

Black 1: Affirmative Doctor. All points are present and accounted for.

Novak: Good. Today’s simulation is going to be an exciting one. Today…we are doing a mirror match.

Black 6: A What?

Novak: Lieutenant Vernette…are you familiar with the function of a mirror?

Black 6: Who isn’t?

Novak: I am glad to hear that. However…humor me. What does a mirror do?

Black 6 sighed.

Black 6: A Mirror shows a reflection of whatever is in front of it.

Novak: Precisely. Expand on that and think about what the notion of a mirror match could involve.

Black 6: One of two things; either we are killing a group of enemy contacts in a hall of mirrors, in which case, our scores will represent the compounded years of bad luck we will have from our rounds shattering mirrors left right, and center, or, we are looking at a six on six combat simulation, and our opponents will be each other. Both of those options sound pretty messed up.

Novak: You know...I like both of those descriptions. Remind me later to create the scenario that you are NOT doing today.

Black 5: So…which one is it? Which scenario are we running?

Novak: It will be a six verses six combat simulation. ODST Black Team…verses the newly created, and from this point known as, Black Sims. These Black Sims have been custom tailored to mirror each member of Black Team. As such, they have been aptly named Grey Team.

Black 2: To what end?

Novak: A baseline comparison to see how far you have come. The six simulated opponents have been outfitted them with skills and abilities that match what you were capable of when we first recruited you. They use your exact weapons, they will use your tactics, they will sound like you, move like you, they are as smart as you, and they even look like you. They can even lie to you and deceive you. You are, in essence, fighting your own past life experiences. I will not tell you how to beat them. I will not tell you what to expect. I will not even tell you how to anticipate and counter them…as you should know this already. Just know this; your Grey Team double will do what you do, they will follow you and do everything they can to take you down. There is no hiding from them...your double will find you no matter where you are on the ship.

Black 5: This is defiantly a nightmare come true.

Novak: You think that is bad? You have not heard the worst of it.

Black 4: It gets worse?

Novak: I have disengaged the safeties. It is now time for ODST Black Team to dance with death in a situation that is NOT in your favor, and that will NEVER be in your favor. Let’s see how good you six really are.

Black 5: Yeah, that did get worse.

Novak: It gets even worse.

Black 6: There is something worse than being killed by a simulated copy of myself?

Novak: The environment will be constantly shifting to put the situation in favor of your opponents. This simulation has been actively designed to kill you, and work against you. Just when you think you have the upper hand, you might find that, out of nowhere, the gravity in the room will double, and hinder your efforts. Hell…the gravity might even turn off, and you will find yourself in a situation where you are floating right out of cover in the middle of a fire fight.

Black 1: Shit…

Novak: But I am not done yet.

Black 3: Really? How much worse can it get?

Novak: Your simulated opponents have been outfitted with customized weapons. You will find that there are no ammunition drops available for you, but there is plenty for your opponents. Your ammo is finite…theirs is not.

Black 6: No big deal. All I need is to get my hands on one of the guns those simulated baddies are using.

Novak: You go ahead, and you try that. Let me know how that works out for you. Actually, on second thought, your vitals would tell me everything I need to know about how well that tactic worked out for you.

Black 6: Doc…you are trying to kill us!

Novak: I am simply following orders Mr. Vernette. I was ordered to create this scenario, and I was ordered to put you through it. I take no pleasure in this.

Black 6: Could have fooled me.

Novak sighed. A moment later, the door to the Simulation Deck opened. ODST Black Team looked inside, and they were met with an exact replica of The Ulterior Motive’s bridge.

Novak: Today’s map…is a new one we just finished. You will be fighting on a full scale simulation of The Ulterior Motive, and the surrounding space around it. Watch out for the hanger bays…they might just leave you breathless.

ODST Black Team all exchanged looks.

Novak: I am now ordering all six of you to enter the Simulation Deck…and begin the scenario.

One by One, ODST Black Team walked into the Simulation Deck. When they had all entered, the doors closed, and locked behind them, and the door vanished.

Black 1: Alright guys…standard formation. Black 2, Black 5…on point with me. Black 3, Black 4, provide support cover. Black 6, you are covering our six.

Black 1 raised his Assault rifle. ODST Black Team followed suit, and raised their weapons.

Black 1: Let’s move. Report anything out of the ordinary!

Black Team had left the bridge of the simulated Ulterior Motive, and began to move through the corridors. As they moved, they began to converse amongst themselves.

Black 2: This is so unreal. It is very eerie. It is unnerving.

Black 3: I think that is the point.

Black 4: No…the point is to kill us.

Black Team fell silent.

Black 6: We should try to stay focused. Distracting ourselves with this nonsense is counter-productive. We need clear heads if we are going to get through this.

Black 1: Agreed.

Black 5: With that said…does anyone have any suggestions for possible courses of action?

Black 6: I have been giving that some thought. We are fighting our own military experience. I don’t know about the rest of you…but my own military experience always told me that strength was in numbers in a hostile and uncertain situation.

Black 1: Same thing with us.

Black 6: So…we should not split up. We need to keep our cohesion if we are going to get through this. We need to be able to reply on each other, and trust one another. If we cannot do that, we are going to die.

Black 4: That is a good point. We need perfect chemistry and perfect cohesion. We need to work together.

Black 6: Exactly!

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: It is also safe to say that there are two people on this simulation deck that know each of us PERFECTLY…down to the slighting idiosyncrasy.

Black 5: Our simulated duplicates.

Black 6: Yes! We should try and take advantage of that! We can predict ourselves best. That is the key here!

Black Team nodded in agreement. They had their plan of action, and they were inclined to see it through. Black Team continued to move through the ship, keeping their eyes open for their opponents. However, minutes began to pas. Minutes turned into a quarter hour, and still, they were met by nothing...not even a single sound.

Black Team stopped when they reached the mess hall.

Black 1: We have yet to find any trace of these guys. So far...nothing.

Black 3: If they are as good as we are...then I am not surprised we are not finding any trace of them.

Black Team kept their eyes sharp. They feel silent, and they kept their wits. However, at that moment, they heard something.

Black 4: you hear that?

Black Team fell silent. They could hear the feint sound of footsteps. The steps were moving slowly, and very cautiously, as if trying to avoid being heard. Black Team knew that this HAD to of been the simulated opponents they were told about.

Black 1 started to give out hand gestures to direct the rest of Black Team to take up position in the mess hall. Black Team was about to ambush their simulated opponents, and make this a quick a decisive kill. It only took Black Team a moment to take up defensive, and well concealed positions in the mess hall. They spread out, almost evenly, to avoid any potential collateral damage from explosive weapons.

All of Black Team waited. They heard the footsteps stop just outside the mess hall, but they could not see anything. The situation got tense, and their breathing began to slow, as the anticipation started to drill into their minds.

Just as Black Team started to get nervous, they saw several smoke grenades get tossed into the mess hall.

Grey 1: Smoke out! Move, move, move!

The Simulated members of ODST Black Team started to move into the mess hall. They were fully prepared for this type of combat environment, with their thermal imagining already enabled, and their weapons primed.

ODST Black Team had to break their focus to enable their Thermal Imaging. This slight distraction cost them a valuable advantage, as each member of Grey Team had moved in to engage their counter parts, and only their counter-parts.

Grey 1: Take your targets! You know which ones you are assigned to. Take them down!

Each member of ODST Black Team saw this, and they immediately found themselves in close-quarter combat with their counter parts. Grey Team had every intention of getting up close and personal.

Each member of ODST Black Team found themselves to be outmatched by their simulated counter parts in multiple ways. The Simulated counter parts were clearly moving faster than ODST Black Team was capable of. The reaction time of the simulated counter parts was better, the power behind their hits was greater, and ability to anticipate attacks was better. ODST Black Team found themselves in a situation where they could not capitalize against their opponents simply due to the fact that their simulated counter parts had perfectly executed their attack, their subsequent assault, and were able to anticipate every move that their respective originals could make. It was as if the reflection had jumped out of a mirror, and proved itself, in every way, your better.

Black 1 was the first to realize this, and he knew that a change in tactics was required. He knew that this was a losing fight, and that if something was not done, then they would all end up dead.

Black 1: ODST Black Team...fall back and re-group! Situation is deemed unattainable!

However, despite the order, Black Team found themselves having a vast amount of difficulty getting away from their opponents, as they were given no quarter, no breathing room. The simulated counter parts of ODST Black Team were many times more aggressive and unrelenting.

Black 5: Having a little trouble with that order! I can't get away from this guy! He just won't back the fuck off!

Every attempt that Black 5 made to try and hit his simulated counterpart was blocked and redirected. Black 5 was unable to land a single hit.

Black 2, on the other hand, was able to get away from his own simulated counterpart. Black 2, being the highly proficient with CQC, had very little difficulty dealing with his opponent. Black 2 was able to catch his simulated counterpart off guard, and trip him to the ground.

Black 2: Hold on!

Black 2 reached to his side, and drew his automag. He took aim at each of the other simulated counterparts, and fired a single round at each of them, impacting them right in the chest, knocking each of them back, causing them to stumble. This break in Grey Team’s attack, allowed for ODST Black Team to recover, and regroup. As each member of ODST Black Team found themselves with more room, they took aim with their weapons and laid down suppressing fire, forcing each of the simulated opponents into cover.

Black 1: Keep the fire up. We have to keep the hostiles in cover long enough to formulate a strategic retreat!

The rest of Black Team nodded, as the continued to fire. They started to back up, slowly moving out of the mess hall, as they continued to lay down suppressing fire.

Black 4: popping smoke!

Black 4 pulled out a smoke grenade, pulled the pin, and tossed it into the mess hall. The mess hall began to quickly fill up with smoke, as Grey Team was both under persistent fire, and now blinded by the thick grey smoke.

ODST Black Team, on the other hand, began to fall back, as they retreated, keeping tabs on the six. ODST Black Team managed to give their simulated opponents the slip, getting a much needed reprieve from their first encounter. However, ODST Black Team never stopped moving. They kept on the move, staying ahead of their simulated opponents.

Black 3: Did you guys see that? Those things were unbelievable. I do not remember being THAT aggressive.

Black 4: To be honest...I am not surprised. You heard what Novak said; he has stacked the deck against us. He has deliberately designed this scenario to test our limits.

Black 1: Yeah, well, how the hell are we going to beat these guys. They know our every move.

Black 6: Wait...hold on a second...

Black 1: What?

Black 6: Wouldn't that be their Achilles Heel?

Black 5: How so?

Black 6: Think about it. When we first engaged these...simulated soldiers...what was our first reaction? Naturally...we engaged our mirror. That is just human nature. We engaged the enemy we knew best, and that was ourselves.

Black 2: I have to agree with that.

Black 1: So, what do you suggest?

Black 6: Mix it up. We should change our targets. We should not be fighting ourselves, but rather, fight someone else on the team…someone else that we would have an advantage against in some way.

Black 4: I don't see how that helps. We go from fighting an enemy that knows everything about us, to an enemy we know nothing about.

Black 6: Exactly...that is where our advantage comes from. Think about it; we can either fight enemies that can counter our every move, or enemies who won't know what is coming at them. We know nothing about them, and they know nothing about us. Every man has his secret tricks of the trade that he never shares with anyone. This is the time to lay them all down on the table and pit them up against our opponent.

The rest of Black Team thought about it. One by one, they each nodded.

Black 6: There is only one thing we need to figure out...who takes who?

Each member of Black Team began to exchange looks. They each began to think about who would be best suited to take the other down. Each member of Black Team chimed in on this.

Black 1: Well...we have to take a very good look at where we are. We are in closed quarters, and some of us are geared with long range weaponry, or weapons not suited for close quarter combat.

Black 2: So are our enemies. These simulated versions of us are geared in exactly the same way as we are.

Black 3: This evens the playing field in that respect.

Black 1: Right. So, the trick is...we have to get to the one place where long range weapons are actually practical.

Black 4: The Hanger Bay. It is the most open area of the ship. Lots of room to move around and lots of places to take cover.

Black 1: Exactly.

Black 5: Are you suggesting that we agro these simulated guys down to the Hanger Bay?

Black 1: No, but now that you mention it, that would seem like a good way to catch them in a trap.

Black 6: I would agree. If we lure them into the wide open hanger bay, we could do some serious damage with a well placed trap.

Black 5: Alright, that sounds good and all, but, how are we going to draw them down to the hanger bay. Remember...these guys think like we do. They know all our tactics. They will be able to sniff out a trap at a moment's notice.

Black 4: Five has a point.

Black 6: Well, not really. Like I said...we have to mix and match opponents. Don't you guys remember what Novak said?

Black 1: Novak said a lot of things.

Black 6: Do you remember, near the start of the briefing, when he said that our doubles will hunt us down, and find us no matter where we go?

Black 1: Yeah.

Black 6: Put some thought into that...and ask yourself; how the hell would our doubles know where to find us?

Black 5: That is a good question. With that said, how literal do you think he was being? Do you think he meant they know where we are at all times or that they are just quick on their feet and know our habits enough to know where we would hide?

Black 6: I think our simulated doubles know where we each individually are at all times. I suspect that the simulation is cheating, and providing our opponents real time data on our location. If we split up...they will split up. It would be the only way to keep us all on the defensive at all times.

Black 3: Wait...if that is the case, how the hell are we supposed to take separate targets if our double will always come after us?

Black 2: Well...there is one way. You see, as you all may know, we are each equipped with subcutaneous transponders that allow us to be pinpointed by other naval forces that are looking for us. This also doubles up as an IFF transponder which allow our HUDs to isolate our position and identify friendly targets and hostiles. It might be possible to rewrite our own transponders and change the IFF to someone else on the team. It is a complicated procedures, but I have done it once, in the field with nothing more than a PDA. If Black 6 is correct, and our transponders are being used to relay information to our simulated counter-parts...then it would be very easy to confuse them in such a way to allow us to mix and match targets.

Black 1: How long would it take to do?

Black 2: Not long...perhaps 5 minutes for each of us. The question is, however, who takes who?

Black 6: That's easy. We take the person we would have the best chance against.

Tye paused.

Black 6: Black should take Grey 2. You have the range advantage. Lead him down to the hanger bay, and smoke him in the most open area on the ship.

Black 3: Agreed.

Tye paused.

Black 6: Black should take Grey 4 in CQC. If there is no way in hell he would dare use a Rocket launcher in closed quarters, such as corridors. That shotgun of yours will also help in tearing through his heavier gear.

Black 2: Good call.

Black 6: Black should be assigned to take Grey 3. Black 3 has the lightest armor, which makes him the most vulnerable to high explosives.

Black 6 paused again. He looked at Black 5.

Black 6: Black 5...go after Grey 1. You will be able to out range his Assault Rifle him in the corridors with your DMR.

Black 5: Right...good idea.

Black 1 looked at Black 6.

Black 1: What about you and me?

Black 6: Black take Grey simulated counter-part. You have the most weapon specializations out of the all of us. You know every weapon in the UNSC like the back of your hand, and you can make music with the Assault Rifle. On top of should be facing an opponent who is neither as fast or as strong as you. Remember...I was never augmented...and if the simulation is a true reflection of our abilities...well...he should not be as strong or as fast as you are.

Tye paused.

Black 6: Which leaves me with Grey 5.

Black 1: Are you sure that is a good idea?

Black 6: Of course. I know quite a bit about Black 5. We have run ops together, and I know him better than I know the rest of you, which is saying a lot seeing as how I just spent the last minute or so running off who should fight who.

Black 2: Alright...let me see if I got this straight; Black 3 and Grey 2; me and Grey 4; Black 4 and Grey 3; Black 5 and Grey 1; Black 1 and Grey 6; and finally Black 6 and Grey 5. Is that right?

Black 6: Perfect.

Black 2: Alright...give me a bit of time to work my magic.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck Observation Room - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1015 hours - April 19th 2515.

Novak had been watching the combat scenario play out. He had watched the entire conversation between Black Team. He had never seen anything like this before in his life. He began to take records of what he had seen.

Novak: Project Black Team - entry 41. The mirror match simulation is currently underway. The initial skirmish with the simulated opponents yielded an expected result. ODST Black Team was unprepared for the level of difficulty that they were hit with. However...they managed to regroup, reform, and retreat in order to analyze their engagement and plan for a second encounter. They seem much more prepared this time around...with a very interesting plan.

Novak paused.

Novak: It seems that Black 2 posses the technical ability to modify UNSC Transponder information. This fact was not known by either myself, or anyone else for that matter. It is clear that Black 2's technical expertise is vast, and has been seriously underestimated. Black 6, on the other hand, seems to have figured out that their simulated opponents Do have real time location data on them via their transponders. For what Black 6 lacks in his...enhancements...he makes up for in sheer tactical prowess and his situational awareness. The kid has a sharp mind. Very little seems to get by him.

Novak paused again. He began to think.

Novak: With that seems that Black Team has discovered a way to turn the tables in their favor. I did not anticipate that they would do this. They have completely changed the outcome of this scenario. I must admit...we underestimated Black Team. When they are together...they posses such a wide variety of skills and abilities, to the point that they seem to be prepared for almost anything we can throw at them. It will be interesting to see how Black 2 managed to circumvent the security on the Subcutaneous Transponders. I have never seen it done before.

Novak watched Black Team on the monitors for some time. Roughly 25 minutes passed before Novak's attention was broken by the sound of someone entering the room.

Spender: Dr.

Novak turned to see Spender walk into the room. Spender was reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and lit one up.

Novak: Well...I have been observing ODST Black Team in the simulation deck. They are currently running the program that you know...the one that pit them against copies of themselves?

Spender: Yes, yes. How are they doing?

Novak: Well...I think they are going to beat it.

Spender: The program was not designed to be beaten Doctor. Can you please explain how a program intended to match Black Team in every way, and outperform them, is going to be beaten?

Novak: Well, as you know, the simulation was designed to push them to their fundamental limits Each member of Black Team would be met with an adversary that knew them better than they knew themselves. However...this is no longer the case. It seems Black Team has found a way to circumvent a large portion of the simulation.

Spender: How?

Novak: It seems...nobody knew that Black 2 had the technical know-how required to hack UNSC Transponders.

Spender: What?

Novak: Black 2 has almost finished re-writing the transponder IFFs for the entire team. He has changed each member's IFF to identify as a member of Black Team that has any kind of tactical disadvantage against the person in question.

Spender: Clarify?

Novak: For example...Black 3 specializes in long range, hence, the use of the Sniper Rifle. Black 2 changed Black 3's transponder IFF to trick Grey 2 into taking chase after Black 3, as opposed to Black 2. The end result is that Grey 2 will be walking into a combat area that is tailored to Black 3's specialty, and allow Black 3 to quickly do away with, and kill, Grey 2.

Spender: Fascinating.

Novak: It is very fascinating.

Spender: They are very resourceful it seems.

Novak: It is because of this, is why I think they are going to win.

Spender grinned.

Spender: Black Team is going to be phenomenal. I can say that for everything that we have done...ODST Black Team is going to be the best thing we will have ever created. Truly...they are a monument to the sheer determination and willpower of The Trust. You have done excellent work Doctor. You have exceeded expectations with Black Team.

Novak: I am sure that this is just the start of what we can expect from them.

Spender took a drag of his cigarette, as he watched the computer monitors, and observed Black Team.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck - Simulated Deck 5 - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1030 hours - April 19th 2515.

Black 2 had finished making the modifications to the transponders for the entire team. He placed his PDA back into his holster.

Black 2: Alright guys...we are good to go. We can now split up, isolate our targets, and take them down.

The rest of Black Team nodded.

Black 1: Good luck everyone.

Every member of Black Team went their separate ways, putting as much distance between each other as possible. Their goal was to separate their simulated opponents as much as possible, and pick them off one by one.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck - Simulated Hanger Bay 1 - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1045 hours - April 199h 2515.

Black 3 was the first of the group to reach his destination. As he walked into the hanger bay, he looked around. Every step he took echoed in the wide open bay. There were piles of boxes everywhere, as well as a few Pelicans.

Black 3: No doubt that those Pelicans do not work.

Black 3 kept his eyes open, but he did not see anyone or anything in the hanger bay. The only thing he could hear was his own footsteps. After sweeping the hanger bay, Black 3 decided to set up a sniper nest in the hanger bay. He looked around and saw a ladder, leading to an upper catwalk. Black 3 climbed this ladder, and situated himself on the upper catwalk. He drew his sniper rifle again, and took the safety off.

Black 3: This is as good of a place as any to set up. Just have to keep an eye open for any hostiles...

Black 3 held his sniper rifle close, scanning the hanger bay from the upper level. Several minutes passed and Black 3 was yet to see any sign of his opponent. Black 3 sighed, as his impatience was starting to mix with his anxiety. Black 3 felt that something was seriously wrong, in the sense that he felt like he was the one just waiting to be killed. Black 3 knew that he had been stationary for too long, and that he needed to relocate. Just as Black 3 pulled away from his scope, he was attacked from behind by Grey 2. Grey struck Black 3 in the side of the helmet with the butt of his Shotgun, knocking Black 3 to the ground, and causing Black 3 to drop his Sniper Rifle over the railing, onto the ground below. Grey 2 had come from an access hatch that was located on the upper catwalk. As it turned out, the positioning information Grey team had on the real Black Team was highly precise, allowing for more sophisticated and stealthy approaches.

Black 3 looked up at Grey 2. This was the first time that Black 3 managed to get a good look at who he was fighting. Grey 2 looked very much like the real Black 2, in terms of the armor he wore. However, Grey 2 had some very important differences. The visor of Grey 2 had a red hue on the edges of the visor, and the BDU that was being worn was more like the standard issue BDU, as opposed to the darker BDU that had been assigned to Black Team.

Grey 2 looked down at Black 3, as he readied his Shotgun.

Grey 2: Very are not Black 2. Black 2 does not use a Sniper Rifle. No matter...I am confident that you will die all the same.

As Grey 2 took aim, Black 3 reached for his side arm with his right hand, and pushed Grey 2's shotgun barrel out of his face. The weapon discharged just as Black 3 finished pushing it out of the way, causing the buck shot to tear apart the catwalk just to the left of Black 3's head. This caught Grey 2 off guard, thus giving Black 3 enough time to raise his feet, and thrust both of his feet right into the gut of Grey 2. Grey 2 stumbled backwards, and dropped his shotgun. Black 3 knew he had a very good chance to put his simulated opponent down for the count, so he drew his Automag from his holster, took aim, and fired the full clip into the chest of Grey 2. Black 3 watched his opponent stumble back with each bullet that he fired, but Grey 2 did not go down. In fact, Grey 2 remained standing, as if nothing had happened. Black 3 look on, in total shock, as his entire clip had run dry, and his opponent was still standing.

Black 3: Holy shit...

It was at this moment knew that the simulated opponents they were up against were defiantly more durable than the average human, and that the amount of effort needed to take one of these simulated opponents down would be more than was initially expected.

Black 3 knew he had to up his game fast, because his opponent would give him no quarter. Black 3 quickly got back to his feet, and charged at Grey 2, and tackled him right over the guard rail, right down to the hanger bay below. Black 3 was on top of Grey 2, as both of them came crashing down to the lower level. Black 3 was jolted from the fall, but Grey 2 was not phased in the slightest. This became very apparent to Black 3, when Grey 2 pushed Black 2 off with little to no effort. Black 3 slid across the floor, as he watched Grey 2 get back to his feet.

Black 3: Oh man...this idea was way better on paper than in practice...

Black 3 forced himself back to his feet. He backed up as Grey 2 ran towards him. Grey 2 had drawn his knife, as he slashed forwards and to the side, trying to kill Black 3. Black 3 kept on evading and dodging the CQC experts attacks, but was quickly losing ground.

As Black 3 backed up, he could see his Sniper Rifle on the ground, behind Grey 2. He knew he had to get to his weapon, but with the constant pressure from his opponent, finding the time to get by, grab his weapon, and take aim, would prove to be very difficult. However, despite this, Black 3 knew he had to try. Black 3 waited for Grey 2 to thrust his blade to the side, so he could take advantage of an open area to duck under, to get behind Grey 2. After only a moment, Grey 2 thrust his arm from left to right, slashing sideways at Black 3. This gave Black 3 the chance to slip by his opponent, and retrieve his Sniper Rifle.

As Black 3 picked up his Sniper Rifle, he turned, and was faced with Grey 2 slamming his arm down, with the blade of his knife pointing down. Black 3 raised his Sniper Rifle, and met Grey 2's forearm with his Sniper Rifle. Black 3 took advantage of this, and used his right foot to kick Grey 2 back. Black 3 then raised his Sniper Rifle, and fired a round right into the chest of his opponent. Grey 2 stumbled back. Black 3 then took aim right at his opponent's head, but Grey 2 evaded, and jumped out of the way. Black 3 began to back up, keeping his scope up, and keeping his lock on Grey 2. Grey 2 seemed more inclined to stay behind cover where Black 2 could not hit him. However, Black 3, being as proficient as he was, did not necessarily need a clean view on anyone to be able to hit them. Black 3 took quick looks around the hanger bay, taking note of the contours and the angles in the room. As Black 3 looked around, he managed to formulate the needed angles in order to perform a trick shot that would allow him to hit Grey 3 behind cover. Black 3, in one swift movement, aimed upwards, and fired at the wall at an angle. The bullet from the Sniper Rifle ricocheted off the initial target point, impacted a supply crate on the second level catwalk, and ricocheted downwards, right into Grey 2’s head. The round went right through Grey 2's head. Black 3 simply grinned as he heard the fatal impact, and the sound of the visor shattering from the bullet going right through the helmet casing.

Black 3: So...all it took was a round between the eyes. Well...that's one down. Hopefully, the rest of Black Team is faring well.

Black 3 reloaded his Sniper Rifle, and left the hanger bay, going out to search for the rest of his team.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck - Simulated Deck 9 - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1105 hours - April 199h 2515.

Black 2 was walking through the corridors on Deck 9. As Black 2 as walking, he began to notice that the lights in the corridor started to shut down, section by section. As the lights turned off, Black 2 toggled his night vision mode on his VISR.

Black 2: Alright...this adds an unwanted element to the situation...

Black 2 continued to walked through the halls. He was coming up on a 4-way junction. Black 2 hugged the wall as he hunched down, and started to pick up the pace. As Black 2 approached the 4-way junction, he checked his corners, only to find that the area was clear of any hostiles. Black 2 sighed, but continued on. Black 2 walked for a few more moments, keeping his eyes forward. Black 4 could see that was coming up to a corner, about 40 feet ahead. Black 2 kept his Shotgun raised, ready to fire.

However, Black 2 was forced to hit the deck when he saw Grey 4 turn the corner, and fired off both rounds from his Rocket Launcher. Black 2 heard the rockets go right over his head. The rockets impacted the wall of the corridor roughly 20 feet behind Black 2. The resulting explosion disorientated Black 2, allowing Grey 4 to take the first offensive opportunity. Grey 4 walked towards Black 2, reached down with his left hand, and grabbed Black 2 by the back of the neck, and proceeded to lift him upwards, and toss him into the wall, all in one fluid motion.

Black 2 slammed into the wall, but did not fall back down to the ground. Instead, Black 2 remained standing, but his knees were weak, and his chest was to the wall. Black 2 slowly turned around, but was met with Grey 4 slamming his Rocket Launcher into Black 2's gut like a baseball bat.

Black 2 fell to the ground again, and he had the wind knocked out of him. He could see the feet of Grey 4 pacing back and forth. Black 2 was unsure why Grey 4 was walking back and forth.

Grey 4: You are Black 2.

Black 2: Very astute...

There was silence from Grey 4. He simply continued to pace back and forth.

Black 2 didn't know why his opponent was unable to make a decision. Despite this, Black 2 used this time to try and formulated a counter attack to help him put this simulated ODST on the ground permanently. Nothing immediately came to Black 2's mind, however. He was in no position to retaliate, let alone, take control of the situation in such a way that would allow him to deliver a fatal strike. However, Black 2 was given an opportunity when Grey 4 lifted him up once again.

Grey 4: In the end, it does not matter who you are. After I finish you off...I will just go and find the real Black 4, and finish him off.

Black 2 had no intention of being killed by little more than a computer simulated. Black 2 managed to break free from Grey 4's grasp, and push him away. Grey 4 stumbled and dropped his Rocket Launcher, as Black 2 ran forward and jumped, kicking Grey 4 right in the head. This knocked Grey 4 back once again. Black 2 knew that he had to keep the pressure on his opponent, but he was not expecting how fast he could recover.

Black 2 was almost caught off guard with a retaliatory strike from Grey 4, in the form of a swift left hook. Black 2 managed to duck, and dodge this attack, and follow up with a swift right hook to the side of Grey 4. This caused Grey 4 to stumble sideways into the wall. Black 2, on the other hand, stood up straight, and gave Grey 4 a roundhouse kick, connection his boot with the side of his opponent's' head. This caused Grey 4 to fall to the ground.

Black 2 knew that he had a moment of reprieve, which he used to try and retrieve his Shotgun. Black 2 stepped away, and grabbed his Shotgun, which was laying on the floor not far from where Grey 4 had gone down. As Black 2 picked up the weapon and turned to take aim, he was tackled into the wall by Grey 4. Once again, Black 2 was taken aback by how quickly Grey 4 had managed to recover. It was becoming very clear to Black 2 that his opponent was very capable of exceeding his own physical limits. Black 2 had to keep this in mind if he was going to manage to emerge victorious.

Grey 4 had pinned Black 2 to the wall, as both of them wrestled for control of the Shotgun. Black 2 was losing the struggle for the weapon, but he was not prepared to give up. Instead of pulling, Black 2 used Grey 4's own strength to his advantage, and pushed forward, pushing Grey 4, to the other side of the corridor, and slammed Grey 4 into the wall. The force impact managed to loosen the grip Grey 4 had on the Shotgun, and Black 2 was able to retrieve his weapon. Without hesitation, Black 2 put the Shotgun right up to Grey 4's chest, and pulled the Trigger, discharging the weapon at point blank range. Grey 4 flew back, but was not out. Black 2 cocked the shotgun, as he discharged the weapon again at point blank range, tearing apart Grey 4's BDU. Black 2 repeated the processes until he had discharged all six shells right into the chest of Grey 4.

Grey 4 fell to the ground, motionless. Black 2 looked down, as he reloaded his Shotgun, content in his victory.

Black 2: Well...that is one down. Hopefully everyone else fares just as well.

Black 2 backed away, then turned to walk off. However, as he did, he heard Grey 4 shuffle, and get back to his feet. He then heard Grey 4 begin to run. Black 2 turned at the last second, and took aim right at the head of Grey 4, and pulled the trigger, removing the head of the simulated ODST.

Black 2: Resilient little a Zombie.

Black 2 sighed, as he watched Grey 4 hit the ground for the second time. Black 2 then hefted his Shotgun, and turned to walk off, intent on finding any one of his team mates to see if he could lend a hand.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck - Simulated Main Armory - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1125 hours - April 199h 2515.

Black 4 had entered the armory portion of the simulated Ulterior Motive. He took a look around the room, and noticed that every rack was empty. Black 4 knew this was going to be the case, so he was not shocked by this. He walked further into the armory, checking his corners as he moved. He knew that at any moment, he was bound to be attacked by Grey 3. Black 4 knew that Grey 3 was going to perform a range attack. There is no way someone who was an expert with a Sniper Rifle would want to go CQC on anyone. Black 4 knew that as long as he stayed with tight corners, and smaller rooms, Grey 3 would have no chance at winning.

As Black 4 began to rig the area with traps he could use to surprise Grey 3, a sniper shot rang out from around a corner, and ricocheted right into the armory. Black 4 instinctively hit the ground, for had he not, he would of taken the sniper round right in the head.

Black 4: Damn it…that’s right…Black 3 can trick shot.

As Black 4 tried to get back to his feet, another shot rang out, and another bullet came ricocheting into the armory. Black 4 dropped down again to avoid being hit. Grey 3 had been firing trick shots into the armory to avoid getting close, and the shots were coming incredibly close to hitting Black 4. Black 4 began to roll on the ground to try and get out of the way. However, as he rolled, he continued to come under fire. Grey 3 somehow knew that Black 4 had been trying to roll out of the way, and the adjusted angle of the ricocheted bullets proved that.

Black 4: How the hell does this guy know where I am at any given time? This is nuts!

Black 4 was unable to get back to his feet, as he was pinned by sniper rounds that had ever increasing accuracy. Black 4 knew that if he did not think of something quickly, he would find himself picked off, by a sniper, who was around the corner. Black 4 analyzed the room. He reasoned that there was something in this room that was allowing Grey 3 to take such precise shots. Sure enough, after a quick analysis of the room, Black 4 noticed that there were several security cameras in this room. Black 4 reached to his side and grabbed his sidearm, and while still on the ground, took aim at every security camera in the room, and shot them out one by one. After Black 4 had done this, he noticed that the sniper fire had stopped. Black 4, however, was not sure if this was because he shot out the cameras, or if Grey 3 was trying to trick Black 4 into a false sense of security. Either way, Black 4 had to make a move. His only choices were to stay on the ground, or move out and fight back. Black 4 chose the latter.

Black 4 immediately jumped up from the ground and charged out of the armory. However, as he did, he took a dive forward, and rolled out of the armory. As he did, a sniper shot rang out, but missed Black 4. The bullet from the sniper had impacted the wall exactly where Black 4’s head would have been had he not of rolled. Black 4 recovered from his roll, and took aim at Grey 3, and fired his weapon off, emptying the entire clip. Several of the rounds from Black 4’s Automag had impacted Grey 3’s chest, while a few others had impacted Grey 3’s Sniper Rifle, causing Grey 3 to lose the grip on his Sniper Rifle, and drop it.

Black 4 saw this, and began to reload his Automag. At the same time, Grey 3 pulled out his Automag, and began to fire. Black 4 was forced to roll back into the armory, and into cover. As Black 4 did this, Grey 3 tried to pick up his Sniper Rifle, but Black 4 took aim, around the corner, and fired again, hitting Grey 3 once more. Grey 3 stumbled back, and was unable to recover his sniper rifle. Black 4 saw Grey 3 stumble, and he knew this was his moment to strike. Black 4 emerged from cover and took aim, but as he did, Grey 3 had decided to fall back, to try and put some distance between himself and Black 4. Black 4 took chase after Grey 3. Black 4 knew that he had his opponent on the run, and that sooner or later, he would have Grey 3 cornered.

Black 4 took chase after Grey 3. Both men bolted through the corridors. Black 4 had his Automag raised, as he fired it off while in pursuit of Grey 3. Due to the intensity of the speed that Black 4 was running at, his aim was a bit off, and most of shots missed. However, one of his shots impacted the leg of Grey 3, thus, causing him to stumble to the ground. Black 4 was able to catch up, and the first thing that he did was deliver a running kick into the side of Grey 3. The force of the impact caused Grey 3 to roll a bit in the direction that Black 4 had kicked him.

Black 4 knew that he had this fight in the bag.

Black 4: For all of the trouble you put me through…you went down rather easy.

Black 4 aimed down with his Automag, and aimed right at Grey 3’s head. Black 4 scoffed at Grey 3, as he pulled the trigger. However, nothing had happened, save for a clicking sound coming from the gun. Black 4’s clip was empty. The instant that Grey 3 had heard this, he jumped right up, and knocked the gun from Black 4’s hand. Black 4 was taken aback by the burst of stamina on the part of Grey 3. Black 4 tried to retaliate, but Grey 3 had managed to deliver a kick right to the chest of Black 4, sending him backwards, and onto the ground.

Grey 3: You should have counted your bullets.

Grey 3 jumped up into the air, and came crashing down on the chest of Black 4. The knocked the wind out of Black 4, and injured his midsection. Grey 3 simply laughed, as he jumped up again, and reached to his side and grabbed his sidearm.

Grey 3: Let me show you how it’s done…

Grey 3 took aim at Black 4, and turned his gun sideways for vanity reasons. Grey 3 did this to taunt Black 4. Black 4 saw this, and knew he had to act quickly. In one fluid motion, Black 4 reach to his side, pulled out his combat knife, and threw it upwards, hitting Grey 3 right in the neck. Grey 3 dropped his Automag, and he began to stumble back. Black 4 knew that he could finish this fight. Black 4 got back to his feet, and began to back up. As he did, he drew his rocket launcher from his back, and took aim at Grey 3, who was now roughly 25 feet away. Black 4 took aim, and then fired his Rocket launcher, aiming for the wall that was just to the left of Grey 3. The rocket hit its target, and exploded with a fury that Black 4 knew all too well. The explosion propelled Grey 3 to the side, right into the adjacent wall, nearly incinerating Grey 3’s armor, and killing him on impact.

Black 4: That’s how it is done…

Black 4 sighed with relief, and put his Rocket Launcher back on his back. He then turned away, and went to search for his compatriots.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck Observation Room - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1150 hours - April 199h 2515.

Spender and Novak continued to watch the simulations play out. Novak and Spender were both astounded by the tactics and the methods that ODST Black Team had been employing to beat their opponents.

Spender: Black Team is very good at what they do. I have to admit…I am very impressed.

Novak: They have certainly exceeded expectations on this test. Based on what I have seen thus far, I am prepared to project that we will continue to see cunning and advanced tactics from them from this point out. They are really coming into their own…and their performance against opponents that are clearly superior to them in every way tells me that I have been successful in pushing them beyond their limits…expanding their limits.

Spender: A step in the right direction, for sure.

Novak nodded.

Spender: With that said…I am excited to see what Black 6 will do

Novak: Why?

Novak had a look of curiosity on his face.

Spender: He is not as advanced as the others…yet he clearly has skill. I am curious to see if he will supplement what he lacks in physical performance with mental performance. If he is able to devise a way to survive this, through sheer tactics alone…I would consider him as the viable leader of the team. Leaders need not be the most physically capable, but they must be mentally capable. Leaders must have vision, foresight, and most of all…a superior tactical mindset. A brilliant mind is unstoppable…a force to be reckoned with. If someone can out-wit and out-think their opponent…then the battle is already theirs.

Novak: You would consider Black 6 as the leader of Black Team?

Spender: Yes.

Novak was unsure about this.

Novak: This could upset the others. I know for a fact that Black 1 has a keen eye on the leadership role.

Spender: He may have a keen eye…but I have the all-important final say in the matter.

Novak paused.

Spender: If Lieutenant Vernette prevails…he will have won my respect, and defiantly the respect of his peers. It would go a long way in justifying the decision to establish him as team leader. It would also go a long way in securing his loyalty to us. If we put him into a position of command…he will be far more likely to remain loyal to us in case of any…unforeseen circumstances. We both know that Black 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are going to be very susceptible to our ongoing conditioning. Their loyalty is assured. However…Lieutenant Vernette will have no such conditioning, at least, not to the extent that the rest of Black Team will eventually undergo. We need everything we can use to keep Vernette on our side.

Novak shrugged.

Novak: If you say so sir. I just hope you are right. I would hate for something like petty jealousy to dissolve all of our work.

Spender: Take it from me, Doctor…I am an expert in this matter.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck - Simulated Main Barracks - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1200 hours - April 199h 2515.

Black 5 had entered the main barracks. His DMR was raised, and he moved slowly through the barracks, each step was a silent one. Black 5 had his eyes scanning the room, non-stop, looking out for any trap that had been set, or hostile that was waiting. Black 5 knew that he was to expect an attack from Grey 1. He knew Black 1’s tactics well enough to be able to anticipate what Grey 1 would try to do. However, Black 5 felt a degree of uncertainty. He kept Novak’s warning in mind. He remembered how Novak said that anything could happen to tip the balance against Black Team. Black 5 had to remain mindful of this.

Black 5 had done a full sweep of the barracks, but found no trace of Grey 1. Black 5 resolved that Grey 1 had either not caught up yet, or that Grey 1 was doing a very good job of waiting, and hiding. Either way, Black 5 had to move on. As Black 5 moved towards the exit of the barracks, he noticed a shift in the deck plating. He then realized that the gravity on the deck had nearly doubled. Black 5 was caught off guard by this, but he didn’t want to let this stagger him for too long. However, just as Black 5 began to regain his footing and balance, he saw a frag grenade roll into the barracks, coming right for him.

Black 5: Oh…shit!

Black 5 turned and jumped back, dodging the brunt of the blast, but being thrown backwards. Black 5 was able to put enough distance between him and the grenade in order to ensure that he was not seriously injured. However, Black 5 was still very much dazed and winded from the explosion, and subsequent impact with the ground. Black 5 found himself to be partially incapacitated by what he assumed was Black 1’s sneak attack. Black 5 struggled to get back to his feet. However, before he was even able to climb back to one knee, he felt a hand grasp him by the throat, and lift him to his feet. Black 5 could clearly see Grey 1 in front of him. Black 5 could see himself in the reflection of Grey 1’s visor.

Grey 1: It seems I was right…

Grey 1 paused for a moment.

Grey 1: I knew you were not Black 1 the moment I began to take note of your movement patterns on the ship. The sensors said you were Black 1…but your tactics said you were something, or someone else.

Grey 1, holding Black 5 by the throat with his left hand, punched Black 5 in the gut with his right hand multiple times, eventually culminating in Grey 1 tossing Black 5 across the room, into the wall. Black 5 hit the wall and fell to the ground. Black 5 was still dazed and injured from the grenade explosion, and combined with the difficulty breathing as a result of the heavier gravity, Black 5 was having a difficult time composing himself, and getting himself back into fighting shape.

Grey 1 gave Black 5 no quarter, as he continued his assault. Grey 1 attacked Black 5 on the ground, by sending hard left and right kicks into the sides of Black 5. Black 5 groaned in pain with each kick.

Grey 1: This is so pathetic. I almost feel bad for you. Part of me just wants to put a bullet in your brain and be done with it.

Grey 1 paused for a moment.

Grey 1: However…the other part of me wants to literally beat you to death with my bare hands. I have to admit…beating you to death with my bare hands seems a whole lot more interesting.

Grey 1 grabbed Black 5 by the back of the neck, and forcefully dragged him back to his feet, and then proceeded to toss Black 5 into the nearest wall, with as much force as possible. Black 5 hit the wall, and slide to the ground. He could not believe how hard Grey 1 was hitting. Black 5 felt like he was being hit by sledgehammers as opposed to fists and feet. Black 5 knew that if he did not think of something fast, he was going to end up dead.

Grey 1 paced back and forth, watching Black 5 on the ground. It was almost as if Grey 1 wanted Black 5 to retaliate, in order to have some challenge.

Grey 1: Come on…get up!

Black 5 simply waited. He decided to bide his time and take as much time as possible to rest as well as think of a plan of action. Grey 1, on the other hand, began to quickly run out of patience, as he once again grabbed Black 5 by the throat, and lifted him back to his feet. However, Black 5 was prepared to retaliate, as he pushed Grey 1 back with as much force as he could muster. Black 5 then moved forward, and hit Grey 1 with several left and right hooks, culminating in a fluid motion that enable Black 5 to kick Grey 1 right in the chest, knocking Grey 1 right into a wall.

Black 5 watched as Grey 1 slammed into the wall. Black 5 moved forward again, but was met with a swift right hook from Grey 1. Black 5, however, was able to evade by recoiling quickly, and then following up with catching the wrist of Grey 1. Black 5, holding the wrist of Grey 1, pushed back, and pinned Grey 1’s wrist to the wall. Black 5 then used his other hand and grabbed his combat knife from its sheath, and then proceeded to slam it through the hand of Grey 1, into the wall, effectively pinning Grey 1’s right hand to the wall with the knife. Black 5 then took a few steps backwards, and charged at Grey 1, and jumped into the air, and slammed his right foot into the chest of Grey 1, and then propelling himself into a back flip, pushing himself backwards, and landing right where his DMR was. Black 5 then picked up his DMR and took aim right at the head of Grey 1, and fired the rifle, killing his opponent in a single shot.

Black 5 simply grinned behind his helmet as he stood victorious.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck - Simulated Engineering Deck - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1230 hours - April 19th 2515.

Black 1 had been sweeping the main engineering deck. He moved around the tight spaces, around the large machinery and numerous control consoles. Black 1 had his Assault Rifle at the ready. Black 1 was not as concerned about his opponent, as he knew that Black 6 lacked most of the training and augmentation

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that the rest of them had. Black 1 knew that his key to victory was to simply outpace Grey 6. If he could do this, then he knew this would be a quick and decisive battle. However, Black 1 felt a bit dismayed. He had been searching for Grey 6 for some time now. Black 1 even went as far as to brazenly walk around the corridors in order to trigger a confrontation.

Black 1, despite his self-assurance that he could easily beat Grey 6, he did feel uneasy about not being able to find Grey 6. Despite this, Black 1 was resolute to see this through, and he knew he needed to have patience. After a few more minutes of sweeping the engineering section of the ship, Black 1’s patience paid off, as he came under fire from Grey 6. Black 1 was immediately forced into cover as a hailstorm of two SMGs rained down on his position. Black 1 was shocked that Grey 6 would take such a direct and aggressive approach. He expected Grey 6 to be more conservative in his tactics, to only strike when he had a definite advantage. However, Black 1 now knew that he was not correct in his initial assumption, and that he was need to change his plan of action if he was to take down his opponent.

Black 1 simply waited behind cover until he heard the sound of Grey 6 reloading his weapons. As soon as he heard this, Black 1 emerged from cover, and charged at Grey 6, firing off his Assault Rifle. Grey 6, as a result of Black 1 firing at him, ducked into cover, behind a large computer terminal, away from the gun fire. Despite Grey 6 being in cover, Black 1 continued to move forward, occasionally laying down suppressive fire in order to move forward. As Black 1 approached the computer terminal that Grey 6 was hiding behind, he circled around the terminal to get at Grey 6, only to be tackled to the ground. Grey 6 had lunged upwards and tackled Black 1 to the ground, separating him from his Assault Rifle.

As Black 1 hit the ground, he could see Grey 6 pinning him to the ground. Grey 6 was holding a combat knife on his right hand, ready to lunge it down. As Grey 6 began to slam the combat knife down, Black 1 raised his arm, and let his own forearm meet the wrist of Grey 6, effectively stopping the knife before it could stab Black 1. Grey 6 began to fore the knife downwards, while Black 1 resisted and pushed upwards. The struggle went back and forth for a few moments before Black 1 managed to finally push Grey 6 off of him, and get back to his feet.

Grey 6 also got back to his feet, and the two stared each other down.

Grey 6: I was hoping to get a shot at you…I just did not expect it would be before I killed Black 6. It is funny how we can get what we want sometimes.

Black 1: Yeah, well, lucky you I guess.

Grey 6: Yes…lucky me…

Grey 6 charged at Black 1. Black 1 drew his own combat knife, and the blades of both knives hit each other, cancelling out the force of the other. Black 1 and Grey 6 pushed back and forth, with neither side losing or gaining any quarter. However, the two men were separated when Grey 6 kicked Black 1 back. Black 1 stumbled backwards, as Grey 6 walked forwards with a vicious resolve.

Grey 6: I expected more from you Black 1. You fight like a novice.

Black 1 was none too pleased with the comment. He could not believe the audacity. Here he was, fighting a simulated of a man who, in every measurable sense, was nowhere near as trained as he was. Black 1 had to shrug off the comment, or else he faced the possibility of becoming distracted. Black 1 kept himself ready as, once again, Grey 6 charged at him, ready to attack with his combat knife. Black 1 met Grey 6 head on, as the two were once again locked in a struggle. This time, Black 1 managed to gain the upper hand. Black 1 was able to push Grey 6 back a bit, and follow up with a swift elbow to the side of Grey 6’s head. Black 1 watched as Grey 6 stumbled to the side. Black 1 took advantage of this, and charged at Grey 6, and gave him a swift kick right to the side. The force of impact pushed Grey 6 right off his feet.

Black 1 watched Grey 6 hit the ground, getting separated from his combat knife. Black 1 was confident that he had the advantage, but he needed to be weary. He knew that these simulated opponents were very unpredictable. Black 1 began to step forward, keeping his eye on Grey 6 as he worked his way back to his feet. Once again, the two were face to face, except this time, Grey 6 had only his bare hands to rely on. Black 1 lunged forward a few times, swiping his combat knife at Grey 6, only to be met with recoils and evasion on the part of Grey 6. This went on for a few minutes, with Grey 6 demonstrating amazing dexterity and flexibility, as well as excellent reaction times.

The tables began to turn when Grey 6 managed to disarm Black 1. When Black 6 had taken another lunge and another swipe, Grey 6 managed to grab the arm of Black 1, and punch the forearm of Black 1, causing Black 1 to drop the combat knife, as a result of nerves in his forearm being hyper stimulated. Grey 6 proceeded to follow up with an Elbow right to the face of Black 1, followed by a shuffle sidekick right into the gut of Black 1. Black 1 stumbled back and slammed right into a wall.

Grey 6: Come on Black 1…I know you can do better!

Black 1 clenched the combat knife in his hand, as he recovered. Black 1 pushed himself off the wall and lunged forward, once again, taking an offensive against Grey 6. Black 1 began to slash his knife at Grey 6. However, Grey 6 was ready for this, and once again, began to evade and recoil at every move Black 1 made. Grey 6 took his time, and waited, eventually finding a tactical opportunity to disarm Black 1. Grey 6 managed to catch Black 1’s arm and pull it down, slamming Black 1’s arm into his knee. This caused Black 1 to drop his combat knife. Grey 6 then followed up with a head butt to Black 1. The head butt delivered by Grey 6 knocked Black 1 back.

Grey 6: Pitiful…very pitiful. The mighty Black 1…pride of the ORION Project…can’t even handle ONE man…

Grey 6 laughed.

Grey 6: You should resign. You are an embarrassment.

Black 1 was even more furious when he heard this…but he had to stop himself and think. Black 1 began to realize something; he started making mistakes when he allowed Grey 6 to get into his head. Grey 6 had managed to throw Black 1 off his game with words and taunts. Black 1 realized that he had to tune out the taunting, and get a hold of himself if he was going to turn the tables.

Black 1, now armed with his new found knowledge, cleared his head of everything except the task at hand; survival. Black 1 readied himself, and he moved forward, with nothing more than his bare hands, and his desire to survive. Black 1 proceeded to throw a left hook, but Grey 6 managed to recoil back. Black 1, this time around, instead of following up with a right hook, simply lunged forward, and gave a swift right haymaker punch to Grey 6, placing his fist square in the abdomen of Grey 6. This caused Grey 6 to keel over. Black 1 then took the opportunity, to used his forward, and place it in the throat of Grey 6, slip behind him, and drag his opponent back, into a headlock. Black 1, in one swift movement, then proceeded to snap the neck of Grey 6. A very loud and rather satisfying snapping noise filled the engine room, as Grey 6 fell to the ground, dead.

Black 1: Well…killing him was more of a snap then I thought…

Black 1 grinned, and began to catch his breath. He proceeded to recover his weapons. After Black 1 had recovered his Assault Rifle and combat knife, he left the engineering deck to go in search of the rest of his team.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck Observation Room - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1300 hours - April 19th 2515.

Spender and Novak were still observing the ongoing simulation. Novak was busy monitoring the rest of Black Team, while Spender had his focus set exclusively on Black 6.

Novak: Sir…Black 1 has prevailed. Grey 6 is dead.

Spender: Hmmm…fascinating.

Novak turned and looked at Spender. He could see Spender keenly focused on one set of monitors.

Novak: Sir? What are you doing?

Spender: Observing Black 6.

Novak: Still?

Spender: Still…

Novak: May I ask why?

Spender: I already explained it. I am considering Black 6 as leader of Black Team. I need to pay close attention to him. Something tells me that this he is at an important stage of development. I need to observe his every move, his every decision, his every thought process. I need to see what he is made of…I need to see what is going on in that brain of his.

Novak: I still don’t get it…why Black 6?

Spender: Black 6 is smart! Black 6 is cunning! Black 6 has foresight! Black 6 is…

Spender paused.

Novak: Is…?

Spender: He is a blank slate…more malleable than the others. The others are set in their ways. We are limited to expanding upon what they already know, and honing that. Black 6, on the other hand…he is capable of so much more. We could refine our best methods with him; build him around our methods, as opposed to building our methods around the man.

Novak: Sir…he is not even an ORION. Our methods require that he be an ORION! We both know his limits fall much shorter than anyone else on Black Team. Granted, Black 6 can push himself harder than any other man I have seen…but…

Spender: But nothing Doctor!

Spender paused.

Spender: We both know that without ORION augmentation…he has crippling limits. We both know that very well. However…if he pulls through on this simulation, and he survives…I think he will have earned a shot at being improved. I think we should augment him in the same way that the other members of Black Team were previously. We should make him an ORION.

Novak: Sir…the ORION program was disbanded. When ONI canned the project, they made it very clear that any unauthorized continuation of the project was illegal.

Spender: I am aware of this Doctor. However…we have the information required synthesize another treatment plan to initiate augmentation…do we not?

Novak: We do…but…if ONI finds out…

Spender: Doctor…ONI has no jurisdiction as far as The Trust goes. We do not answer to ONI, nor do we care about what they have deemed illegal. ONI, and the UNSC for that matter, are means to an end; the end being the continued advancement of our interests. We may wear the uniform of UNSC Naval Officers…but we are Trust Operatives…first and foremost. Remember that Doctor.

Novak: I am very aware of this sir. However, my opinion does not change. If we attempt to synthesize the drugs used during ORION au8gmentation, I fear we may garner unwanted attention…from either ONI or The Board of Chairmen. You said it yourself sir…you fear that The Board of Chairmen is losing faith in you, and they fear that the existence of The Trust may become known if we become far too progressive in our tactics. If they find out what you are doing…they will use every means at their disposal to take you down…to take us down! They will kill us just to keep things quiet!

Spender: Doctor…I dare The Board of Chairmen to try and stop me.

Novak: You are serious…aren’t you?

Spender: I am very serious about this Doctor.

Novak paused and sighed.

Novak: Alright…if Black 6 survives this…I will begin to synthesize the drug that was used to augment soldiers in the ORION project. However…I stand by my claim that we are going down a dangerous path. If Black 6 is augmented and if ONI or the rest of The Trust finds out…our heads will be on pikes. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Spender: I understand the risks Doctor.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Simulation Deck – The Bridge - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to The Apex - 1315 hours - April 19th 2515.

Black 6 had walked onto the bridge of the Simulated Ulterior Motive. He paced around the bridge, giving it a sweep, and ensuring that it was clear. Black 6 took a walk around the bridge, checking every corner. After he had finished his sweep, and ensured that there was nobody on the bridge, he lowered his weapons and sighed.

Black 6: Still no sign of the bad guys.

Black 6 looked around the bridge; inspecting all the details on the ship. He had to admit to himself, that there was a great deal of attention paid to the facsimile. Black 6 then began to think to himself.

Black 6: How the hell did I get here? Why the hell did I put myself here? Here I am…training for a special ops squad, my team mates are genetically enhanced soldiers, and I am just a normal guy trying to fit in with a team that is superior to me in every measurable sense. How the hell am I ever going to match their pace? I am pushing myself at 120% every day, and I am barely keeping up.

Black 6 sighed.

Black 6: I am stuck in a combat simulation that is just as real as field deployment, with the same lethal threats that I would find in the field. I am fighting simulated opponents who are superior to my team mates, and somehow, I am supposed to prevail and survive.

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: Do I seriously belong here?

Black 6 looked out the window on the bridge. He stared at the stars for a few moments before he heard the sound of a weapon chambering a bullet. Black 6 turned and he saw Grey 5 standing at the entrance of the bridge, holding a DMR. Black 6 and Grey 5 exchanged looks.

Grey 5: Black 6…how fitting that the two of us should square off.

Black 6 did not acknowledge Grey 5. Black 6 simply raised his two SMGs from his sides, to his chest level, ready to draw. Grey 5 saw this, and he readied his DMR, mirroring Black 6 movements.

Grey 5: I know everything there is to know about you Tye. I know your tactics…I know your methods…I know every idiosyncrasy. You are WAY out of your league…

Black 6: Perhaps…

Black 6 took the safety off his SMGs. Grey 5 did the same.

Black 6: You may have a ton of advantages in this fight…but there is one thing you don’t have over me. There is one advantage that I have, that you do not.

Grey 5: And what would that be?

Black 6 paused. He laughed.

Black 6: That is for you to find out…

Black 6 jumped to the side, raising his SMGs while he was in mid-air, and he began to fire a fully automatic discharge. Grey 5 was hit several times by the spray and prey, and found himself stumbling from the hits. Black 6, on the other hand, had landed behind a bridge workstation. Grey 5 shook off the impacts, and raised his DMR. He stood his ground, and took aim, looking around the bridge. However, Black 6 was currently behind cover, so Grey 5 had no clear shot.

Black 6 remained behind cover, as he began to reload his SMGs. Black 6 knew that Grey 5 had a range advantage with his DMR, and that if he was going to best Grey 5, he needed to stay in close range, and take every opportunity available to lay down fire. Once Black 6 had reloaded his SMGs, he raised one of his SMGs over his head and began to blind fire in the direction of Grey 5. Grey 5 saw this, and ducked down into cover to avoid getting hit. As a result of Black 6 blind firing from behind cover, Grey 5 was able to identify Black 6's exact position. Grey 5 kept his head down, moving in prone, as he moved across the bridge to where Tye was in cover. Grey 5 moved around the bridge terminal that Tye was covering behind, and proceeded to strike Tye in the side of the head with his DMR. The force of the blow knocked Black 6 to his side, and right on the ground. As Black 6 fell to his side, Grey 5 got back to his feet, and took aim at Black 6.

Grey 5: This was too easy...

Just as Grey 5 was about to pull the trigger, Black 6 wrapped his feet around the legs of Grey 5, and tripped him down to the ground. Grey 5 fell hard, getting separated from his DMR. Black 6 was not about to let himself be taken down so easily. He was going to fight as hard as he could to ensure that he got out of this alive, and as the winner. After Grey 5 had fallen to the ground, Black 6 rolled to the side, and got back to his feet. However, the rapid recovery of Grey 5 ensure that both combatants got back to their feet at roughly the same time. Grey 5 wasted no time in charging at Black 6, and knocking the two SMGs from his hands with a very swift and very strong roundhouse kick. Black 6, realizing how easily he was disarmed, decided to put a bit of distance between him and Grey 5. Black 6 realized that Grey 5 was very well versed in martial arts, in the very same way Black 5 was. Black 6, for all intents and purposes, was also trained in CQC, but he had no doubt that he would need much more than just his training if he was going to beat Grey 5 in hand to hand.

Black 6 took a few steps back, and watched the movements of Grey 5. He made note of how Grey 5 moved, and how he preferred to situate himself. For the most part, it was nearly identical to how Black 5 would move. Tye then realized that Grey Team were much more than simple replicas of Black Team. Black 5 realized that there must be extensive detail in these simulations. Black 5 had no doubt that if Novak and Spender cold replicate little idiosyncrasies, such as movement, that they no doubt went the extra mile and even replicated personality. This gave Black 6 the edge he needed.

Black 6: Pathetic. You should of been able to land the killing blow Eli. You are not as sharp as I thought you were.

Grey 5: I thought it would be far too anti-climactic to just kill you so quickly.

Black 6: Now you are making excuses? You should know better than that. Soldiers don't need to make excuses to do their job...unlike Insurrectionists...they had to convince themselves they were doing the right thing. You strike me as more of an insurrectionist.

Grey 5: Watch your mouth...

Black 6: Or what? You will ravage me?

Black 6 laughed.

Black 6: Ravage the UNSC ravaged the stronghold on Arcadia?

Grey 5 snapped, and charged at Black 6. He threw multiple left and right hooks, trying to hit Black 6, but Black 6 continued to move back, and dodged each strike. Grey 5 was clearly angry, and it was very clear by the way he was moving. Grey 5 was swinging with much more force, but with much less grace. Black 6 knew that he was throwing off Grey 5's concentration, and that the only thing he needed to do was fight a defensive battle. Black 6 simply continued to dodge and evade, and did not make any effort to try and retaliate.

Black 6: You are getting slow Eli! I expected better! Stop trying to hit me and hit me!

Grey 5 yelled in anger as he began to charge forward with every swing. Black 6 did not expect a simulated duplicate of Black 5 to become this angry. Black 6 had to admit, that the level of realism that had been introduced with these simulated copies was incredible. However, Black 6 had never known Black 5 to become this violent...ever. Black 6 never thought that Black 5 could turn nearly psychotic with only a few words. It was because of this, that he had no explanation for how angry Grey 5 was. This almost seemed out of bounds for a simulated personality of Black 5.

However, despite all this, Black 6 was finding it more and more difficult to evade and dodge each attack from Grey 5. In fact, it was not long that Black 6 was hit with a very devastating left hook, which put him on the ground in a single blow. Black 6 felt like he was just hit by a car. The force of impact was very disorientating. Grey 5 looked down at Black 6.

Grey 5: Not so smug now hmm?

Black 6 shook his head, trying to shake off the impact.

Grey 5: Come on...get up!

Grey 5 proceeded to slam his foot right into the chest cavity of Black 6. Black 6 had the wind knocked out of him when Grey 5 kicked him. Black 6 was now breathing very heavily.

Black 6: There is no way Eli hits that hard...

Before Black 6 could even begin to catch his breath, he felt a pair of hands on the back of his neck and his shoulders. Black 6 then felt himself lifted up to his feet, and tossed across the bridge, right through a pane of glass that acted as a divider between two separate bridge stations. As Black 6 flew through the glass, he could feel the force in which he impacted the glass, and he immediately knew, that he must of been thrown through a pane of tempered reinforced glass. The very fact that he went right through was all he needed to know about the force at which he was thrown.

Black 6 simply laid on the ground, unable and unwilling to move. In no less than 30 seconds, he felt like he had just been subjected to 30 minutes of non-stop beating. Black 6 felt drained of all his energy. His body was one more hit from screaming in pain and agony. Black 6 had no idea how he was going to fight back in this condition. However, he had to find a way. His life was on the line, and he needed a plan this very instant.

Black 6 could hear Grey 5 slowly walking towards him. The heavy sounds of boots hitting the deck plates echoed in Black 6's ears. Black 6 then felt a hand reach down, and clench his throat, and squeeze. Black 6 was then lifted right off the ground, and into the air, right off his feet. Grey 5 held Black 6 in the air, with a full arm extension. Grey 5 looked up at Black 6, as he squeezed Black 6's throat.

Grey 5: Mouthy little SOB...capable of talking the talk...but got walked all over when he had to walk the walk. Some soldier you are. This time...I will deliver the killing blow...

With one hand holding Black 6 in the air, Grey 5 made his other hand into a fist, and drove it right into the gut of Black 6, as hard as he could. Tye screamed in pain, as the sound of ribs breaking complimented the impact of Grey 5's fist. Grey 5 simply laughed, as he punched Black 6 again, the sound of ribs breaking could be heard again. BY this point, Black 6 was so far past his pain threshold that he simply could not vocalize any type of outcry.

Grey 5: What's the matter Black witty comeback?

Grey 5 proceeded to toss Black 6 across the bridge once more. Black 6 hit the deck plating had, and slid across the ground, right into the wall. Grey 5 was clearly capable of throwing Black 6 around like a rag doll, and Black 6 was incapable of moving in any way that would be significant. Black 6 simply watched as Grey 5 began to approach him again. Grey 5 repeated what he had previously done, and lifted Black 6 into the air, and slammed him against the wall. With his free hand, Grey 5 grabbed Black 6's helmet, and tore it right off his head, and tossed the helmet aside. Grey 5 looked into Tye's eyes and laughed once again.

Grey 5: I wanted to see the face of the man I am about to finish off. Do you have any final requests?

Tye nodded.

Tyber: Yeah...I have a request for you...

Tye paused.

Tyber: Go fuck yourself...

Grey 5 laughed.

Grey 5: I was willing to make your death an easy one...I was just going to break your neck...but you are an impudent little fuck right to the bitter end. Little pricks like deserve to be beaten to death...and I am now just going to beat you to death.

Tyber: Do your worst!

Grey 5 didn't respond. Instead, he simply spun Tye around and tossed him across the bridge again. However, as he did, Grey 5 heard something rather odd as he threw Tye. He had no idea what it was, and it could be best described as the sound of someone shaking a pair of keys. Grey 5, not knowing what made the sound, decided to dismiss it. However, just as he did, the grenades on Grey 5's belt exploded all at the same time, killing Grey 5 in the process, and seriously damaging the side of the bridge that Grey 5 was on. Tye, who had been thrown across the bridge, was sheltered from the blast.

When Tye heard the blast, he simply grinned, as he looked at his hand, and saw the pins from the two grenades on Grey 5's belt wrapped around his index and middle fingers. When Grey 5 was occupied with his taunting, while holding Tye against the wall, Tye was able to lower his hand, and place his fingers in the pins of the grenades. When Grey 5 had thrown Tye, the momentum allowed Tye to easily pull the pins from both grenades.

In only a few moments, a voice could be heard over the intercom.

Ulterior Motive: Simulation Complete. Final Score - ODST Black Team - 6 - ODST Grey Team - 0 - Winners - ODST Black Team.

Tye listened to the announcement, and sighed.

Tyber: nice. We won. That's good...that is...that is...

Before Tye could finish his sentence, he felt his eyes get heavy, and his vision became blurred, as he felt the room starting to spin. It was at that moment that Tye blacked out.

STB Breaking Point

Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Observation Deck - Currently in Orbit of the Fourth Planet in the APX-449 Star System - Center of Trust Activity known as The Apex - Six Days Later - 1100 Hours - May 8th 2515.

Spender was in the observation deck with the other member of the Board of Chairmen. Much like their previous meeting, all four men were gathered around a large conference table.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: This meeting will come to order.

Spender, Davidov, and Smith all looked at Hoffman.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: As previously agreed upon, we have reconvened here, after a six week period, to discuss Rear Admiral Spender’s ongoing projects, and to discuss findings from follow-up audits. As we have already discussed previously, the audits undertaken by Commodore Davidov of Spender’s projects she a very uncomfortable light on a troubling situation; is The Trust misappropriating resources, or are we correctly investing our assets into the correct areas to better oversee Human affairs. It is the belief of Rear Admiral Spender that we are on the right track, and the contention of Commodore Davidov that we are misappropriating. We are here to discuss that. Now, before I get into my findings, I would like to hear from Rear Admiral Smith about his findings from the audit that he ran.

Rear Admiral Smith: Thank you Admiral.

Smith paused as he cleared his throat.

Rear Admiral Smith: I will be blunt; this looks very bad…for YOU!

Rear Admiral Smith looked at Spender when he said this.

Rear Admiral Smith: Spender…what the hell have you been doing? What the hell have you been spending our assets on? The numbers that my team found were…large, to say the least. You are blowing our assets faster than we can take them in…and you have very little to show for it. You have literally operated with what I like to call…the carte blanche…or the blank cheque. Your spending is out of control. Your asset utilization is TOTALLY out of control! In fact, I decided to see how bad this was, and compared current asset utilization against the multitudes of decades that the Trust has operated…and this is the FIRST time we have ever been running in the red!

Commodore Davidov: Sounds about right.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Spender…these men are right. We found the same thing. What are you doing that is costing this much of our asset allocation? You are breaking our bank.

Spender sighed as he took out a cigarette from his jacket pocket. Spender then lit up his cigarette.

Spender: You people…you fucking bureaucrats. You three are the most short-sighted people I have ever met.

Commodore Davidov: How dare you…

Spender: Oh, be silent Davidov! You are the worst of the three. You are a dissenting snake, trying to weaken The Trust by painting the illusion that we have limitations, boundaries, withdrawal limits, monthly bills, morals, and ethics. You think The Trust is some…law abiding business. I say The Trust is a clandestine military power that is waiting for the right time to thrive and expand its influence!

Spender paused.

Spender: To hell with you, to hell with your view of The Trust, and to hell with what you think, and everything you think. You are what is wrong with The Trust. All of are the ones who will be the death of The Trust. Not I, not my views, not my way of doing this. It will be all of you that will preside over our destruction.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: You are out of line Spender!

Spender glared at Hoffman, giving him a look that sent sent a chill down Hoffman's back.

Spender: You people have no idea what The Trust is capable of, because you refuse to acknowledge that we are more than capable of doing anything! The Trust has endured for roughly 400 years, and we have play a vital role in the development of Human history because we were among the best and the brightest who were willing to take risks.

Spender sighed and shook his head.

Spender: If you cancel my ongoing projects, if you back out, and allow everything we have invested to go to will kill this Organization.

The other members of the Board of Chairmen looked at each other.

Commodore Davidov: Nice try Spender. You almost had me for sure. There was only one problem with everything you said...

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: It was all just a pile of bullshit! You have no credibility as far as I am concerned. I don't speak for the rest of the board, but I can say that you are human garbage. You are the worst thing that has ever happened to The Trust. You have polluted the original vision of who we were, and you are taking us down a road that would never come back from. To be frank...I would rather see The Trust destroyed than watch it turn into what YOU want it to be.

Rear Admiral Smith: Davidov is right Spender. You have corrupted this organization. You are turning The Trust into something it was never meant to be, simply because you have ambitions that the most treacherous villains in all of Human history had; the desire for unreasonable amounts of power and control. You are dangerous…and you, quite frankly, are a very twisted man.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: There seems to be no argument about this. Spender…YOU are the problem here. Not us, but you. We all agree that you are out of control. You have ambitions that ARE disturbing! You make no effort to conceal what you want; and what you want is to turn The Trust into your seat of power that presides over Humanity. You want to control every facet of Humanity. You want to control the military, the economy, commerce, and even private enterprise. You are a dictator, not a leader. You are the kind of person The Trust was created to oppose.

Hoffman stood up, and looked at Spender.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: But…it is more than that…isn’t it? There is much more to you than meets the eye. Just by looking at you…I can tell that there is malevolence in your eyes, and malice in your voice. You are more than just a power hungry aspiring dictator. You are the very definition of evil.

Hoffman scoffed. Davidov looked on with a very smug sense of satisfaction.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: I seriously doubt we need to take this to a vote. Believe that I can speak for the entire Board of Chairmen that the best course of action is your immediate dismissal from The Board of Chairmen, and your discharge from The Trust. You are too dangerous to be allowed such a prestigious position Spender.

Spender: You cannot do this to me!

Rear Admiral Smith: We just did.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Effective immediately…all ongoing projects which have been spearheaded by Constantine Spender are hereby terminated. Once we have informed The Apex of your dismissal…you will no longer be a threat to our survival or our identity.

Hoffman looked at Davidov.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Davidov! You are more knowledgeable of Operation Blind Eagle than anyone in this room, save for Spender himself. When is our next scheduled delivery of weapons and supplies to The Insurrection?

Commodore Davidov: three weeks from now, in Sector 4493, near the Biko Star System. We were scheduled to rendezvous with one of their ships, and then meet with one of their leaders on Biko to deliver the supplies. If we depart immediately, we should be able to make it in time.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Seize that ship and execute all of the Insurrectionists aboard.

Commodore Davidov: I will see to it personally.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Smith!

Hoffman looked at Smith.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: If I am not mistaken, there is also a large Insurrectionist HQ on Draco III?

Rear Admiral Smith: That is correct.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Go to Draco III…and destroy that facility as soon as possible.

Rear Admiral Smith: That will be easier said than done. I will need to plan an assault on that facility, and I will require a significant amount of manpower.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Do whatever you must. Just get it done! As for myself…I am going to remain here, at The Apex, where I will inform the entire Trust Syndicate of Spender's dismissal.

Spender frowned.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Spender…I will give you a shred of dignity to walk away with. You have one month before I have you removed from command of this vessel, and replaced. You can use that one month any way you like. In fact, it will be better for you if you use that time to assist us in shutting down your failed projects, by providing us with every piece of logistical information that we may lack. You may just walk away with a bit of respect if you do help us.

Spender: I will do no such thing.

Rear Admiral Hoffman: Suit yourself. You had your chance to walk away with dignity. If you want to spend your final days on this ship being an uncooperative asshole…that is your choice. However, if you refuse to cooperate, we will refuse to let you have any dignity in this process. In the end, if you choose to fight us on this…we will escalate the situation, and we will become violent.

Davidov and Smith both stood up. They both looked at Spender, and then to Hoffman.

Hoffman, on the other hand, glared at Spender. He didn’t say anything. Instead, he simply turned and left the Observation Deck, with both Smith and Davidov in tow.

Spender, on the other hand, simply sat in total silence, in a state of total irritation and rage. He felt as if he was just betrayed by officers who could be best described as snakes. He knew that if he did not take immediate action, he could be thrown out of The Trust, and totally disavowed. Spender needed to act quickly if he was going to survive

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Medical Bay - Currently in Orbit of the Fourth Planet in the APX-449 Star System - Center of Trust Activity known as The Apex - 1300 Hours - May 8th 2515.

Tye began to slowly regain consciousness. His vision was blurry for a few moments, as his eyes shifted around as much as they could, trying to take in the surroundings. After his vision started to clear up, he felt life coming back to the rest of his body. Tye slowly sat up, and realized that he was in the medical bay.

Tyber: The med bay…

Tye paused for a moment. The last thing that he could remember was fighting Grey 5, and then losing consciousness, and even then, the memory was fuzzy.

Tyber: Doctor?

Tye called out to Novak, to see if he was anywhere in the med bay.

Tyber: Doc? Are you there?

Tye heard a bit of shuffling in the CMO’s office, and then saw Novak emerge from the office.

Novak: Lieutenant…you are awake!

Tye groaned.

Tyber: Is that your professional opinion?

Novak rolled his eyes, as he approached the bed that Tye was resting on.

Novak: How do you feel?

Tyber: Well…I feel a bit stiff for sure. My sides hurt a bit, and my head hurts, and I feel a bit dizzy. Other than that…I am fine.

Novak: So…your recovery is ahead of schedule. That is good.

Tyber: Recovery?

Novak: Five broken ribs, a fractured collarbone, a severe concussion, about a dozen bruised muscles, trauma to your larynx, about three completely torn muscles, a torn rotator cuff in your left shoulder, a minor fracture in your ankle, and a bruised tailbone. You were in brutal shape son. The very fact that you can sit up on your own power is very promising.

Tyber: I guess I was a handful.

Novak: Oh yes, you were for sure. It was touch and go for a while…but you pulled through again. That is twice you have surprised us all.

Novak paused.

Novak: Speaking of surprises…your performance during the combat simulation was…exemplary. Admiral Spender watched your fight with Grey 5…and he spoke very highly of your performance. He was very impressed with your tactics, quick thinking, and resiliency throughout the entire scenario. The very fact that you were able to go toe to toe with Grey 5, an opponent that was intended for one of your augmented teammates, was…very impressive. When you pulled that little maneuver at the end, by pulling the pins on the grenades…that was incredible.

Tyber: I am to please.

Novak: Well…you did way more than please, Lieutenant. You stole the God damn show!

Novak paused.

Novak: In fact…you can say that your performance was so good, that Admiral Spender has considered you to lead ODST Black Team. He has yet to make an official announcement. However, if my last conversation is ANY indicator of which way he is leaning, you can bet that you will be leading up Black Team.

Tye was taken aback by what he was hearing. He did not expect to hear something like this.

Tyber: Are you pulling my leg here? Is this a test? Are you testing to see if I have memory loss or brain damage?

Novak shook his head.

Novak: I am being totally honest with you. In fact, I was under orders to inform the Admiral when you fully regained consciousness so he could tell you himself. Before starting this pleasant conversion, I took the liberty of informing him. He should be here any minute now.

Tyber: Wow. I still find it hard to believe. To be honest…I am shocked that Jonas or Eli were not considered.

Novak: Mr. Prescott was the early favorite, and he was going to be crowed leader. However, like I said, your performance pushed you right to the top. You proved to be more than muscle. You proved that you had a thinking brain that could dish out amazing tactics. While the other members of Black Team are smart in their own respects, a good leader must have a keen tactical awareness and a mental prowess to match it.

Tyber: What about Evan? That guy is smarter than all of us combined!

Novak: He is a smart man for sure. However, he lacks a certain polish on his tactical awareness. He has the propensity to over-analyze a situation. While an over-analysis could lead to the best course of action, he is simply not quick enough to bring it into practice. He lacks the ability to quickly cut through the bullshit, and make the best decision.

Tyber What about Arch? That guy can make split second decisions.

Novak: Yes, but he only makes good decisions…not the best ones.

Tyber: Well, Kraven has a boom tube. That requires the best decision making you can get to use that thing.

Novak: He is very blunt in his approach. Blowing something up isn’t always the answer.

Tyber: Surely Eli strikes a balance?

Novak: Mr. Decker has other limitations which could jeopardize the team. I believe you are aware of them…you made reference to it during your fight with Grey 5.

Tyber: The fact that his parents were insurrectionists?

Novak: Exactly. Mr. Decker is stable in every other way, except when faced with the reality of his parents. There is a clear physiological disturbance when dealing with Insurrectionists. This precludes him from leadership.

Tyber: So…what about Jonas? You said he was the favorite.

Novak: Mr. Prescott…has a malevolent streak to him. While his authoritarian and domineering nature combined with his quick thinking, quick reflexes, and commanding presence make him the perfect candidate for leadership. He honestly has no shot comings.

Tyber: Then why am I being made leader?

Novak: Because Mr. Prescott is set in his ways…you are not. There is so much room for you to grow as a soldier, and Admiral Spender wants to mold you into the perfect leader of Black Team.

Tyber: Doc…I don’t think there is any more room for me to grow. I am at my peak.

Novak: No…you are not at your peak.

Tye was confused.

Novak: Lieutenant…we are prepared to make you a once in a lifetime offer

Tyber: A once in a lifetime offer? What would this offer be?

Novak: Well…that is something that Rear-Admiral Spender will discuss with you. He wants to be the one that makes the offer. I won’t tell you what it is, but I will tell you that if you accept the offer…your life will be different, and your career will take on a whole new direction.

Tyber: In other words…good thing will happen to me if I accept?

Novak: In so few words…yes.

Tyber: Well, that is not enough to convince me right off the bat. I need to know what I will be getting into before I agree to anything.

Just as Tye had finished speaking, the door to the Medical Bay opened, and Spender walked into the room, approaching both Novak and Tye.

Spender: Lieutenant! It is good to see you alive and well. The last time I saw you, you were a mess.

Tyber: Still not 100% yet Sir, but in a few more days I will be back on my feet and ready to go.

Spender: That is good to hear.

Novak interjected between Spender and Tye.

Novak: Sir, just prior to your arrival, I briefed the Lieutenant on recent changes that have been discussed with Black Team.

Spender: Ahh yes…recent changes to Black Team.

Tye nodded.

Tyber: The Doctor told me that you were considering ME to lead Black Team. Somehow I think he is pulling my leg.

Spender: Nobody is pulling anyone’s leg. Novak was totally honest with you. He and I have discussed it at length, and we believe that you would be the perfect candidate to lead Black Team. You have a very important quality about you Lieutenant; you have the ability to analyze strengths and weaknesses very quickly, and take appropriate action. The way you fought with Grey 5, as well as the way you delegated Black Team to fighting opponents that they would have an advantage against was brilliant. You managed to recognize a weakness in the simulation, and you used the skills of the team to turn the tables to your advantage. That is leadership material if I have ever seen it.

Tyber: So, you are serious then.

Spender: Very serious.

Tyber: Well, as much as I appreciate the high praise…there are a few things that confuse me. For starters, how am I supposed to lead a team of men that officially outrank me? Second, how am I supposed to lead a team of soldiers who are, in every way, physically superior to me? Third, what would make them respect me as a leader?

Spender: Well Lieutenant, to answer your first and third question, you must understand who is in charge of the entire project. I am the one who is ultimately in charge of what Black Team does and does not do. If I order Black Team to follow your orders, they will do it. If I order them to respect you as the leader of the team, they will do it. All you need to realize is that while you lead them in the field, and you lead them in their autonomy, I will lead you in your overall direction. I give you the orders to give to the rest of Black Team.

Spender paused.

Spender: As for your second question…well…the solution to that is simple.

Tyber: What is the solution?

Spender: I am willing to authorize your immediate augmentation. I am prepared to allow you to undergo the same procedures that the rest of Black Team underwent during their time with the ORION Project. Your augmentation will be complete and absolute. There will be no half-measures. You will be granted the exact same augmentation that the others have.

Tyber: You can do that?

Spender: I can do many things.

Tyber: Is there any danger to this?

Novak stepped forward to answer the question.

Novak: Close to none. Any problems or deviations can be easily corrected. Overall, the procedure will almost be as simple as slipping on a pair of shoes. There will be several clinical trials needed, as well as persistent and ongoing observation.

Tyber: In other words…you are going to pump me full of drugs and pharmaceuticals.

Novak: That is one way of putting it.

Tyber: There has to be more to it. Nothing this big is that simple.

Spender: Well, you are right about that. You see, ORION Project candidates underwent special training which enabled them to take full advantage of what was given to them. While the training itself is valuable, it is, by all standards, obsolete to newer methods. To put it another way; the training that the other members of Black Team got during their days with ORION, while still valuable, falls short of what I expect Black Team to be capable of at its prime

Spender paused.

Spender: In so few words, Doctor Novak and I would construct a new training regiment for you, one that is based on what the ORIONs underwent, but more up to date with current military standards, and my standards. We want to prepare you for the unique challenges you would face, both as leader of Black Team, and the tip of the spear against new and unique challenge the likes of which you have never seen before.

Tyber: Sort of like a sudo gen 2 ORION. A revision to the program, designed to incorporate what you think would be beneficial to my role.

Spender: Precisely!

Spender grinned. He then looked at Novak.

Spender: The Lieutenant is a sharp one!

Spender looked back at Tye.

Spender: However Lieutenant, there is just one problem with all of this…

Tyber: What would that problem be?

Spender: Your willingness to take the big step. This is a life altering decision. You are being asked to step into a whole new world. When the ORION Project was run, and men like Eli Decker and Jonas Prescott took that step, they did so knowing that they could handle their new found abilities and obligations. Will you be able to handle the changes?

Tye thought for a moment. He considered what Spender said. Part of him wanted to step up his game. Part of him wanted to be on the same level as the rest of Black Team. However, part of Tye was indeed hesitant. The hesitation stemmed from the fact that if he allowed himself to be augmented, would he still be the same man? Would he change in any way that would be unfamiliar to him as he is now? Tye liked who he was, and he was confident in who he was as a person. He was secure in his own identity. Tye did not know what the personal effects of undergoing augmentation would mean for his sense of self.

Tyber: I…

Tye paused.

Tyber: I could handle the responsibility and the obligations that came with it. However…the one thing that does trouble me is the question of what would happen to me, personally? This may sound cliché…but I am just a regular man, and I am very comfortable with that identity. I have my goals, and I have my challenges. What happens to those things when I become someone who never needs to try to achieve better, or strive higher?

Spender grinned and laughed.

Spender: Think of it this way Lieutenant…the goals you have now would no longer be worthy of your attention or effort. You will find new goals, and new heights to strive for. You will find new challenges, new difficulties, and new heights that are VERY worthy of your attention. You will be the same man, for all intense and purposes. The only difference will be your scope. You will broaden your own horizons.

Tye felt better after hearing what Spender had said. As long as he had something to strive for after it was all said and done, he felt confident in the decision to undergo augmentation.

Tyber: What about the rest of Black Team? How will their training proceed? It is safe to assume that my augmentation will not be an overnight thing. I surmise this will take time. How will you keep my training and the rest of Black Team’s training in sync?

Novak: Well, that answer is simple. While you undergo augmentation and specialized training, the rest of Black Team is going to spend the time focusing on improving their own weaknesses. The rest of Black Team will use the down time to correct mild errors and deficiencies in their performance.

Tyber: How long will my augmentation and training take?

Novak: Well, in the interest of time, I believe I can condense fundamental training into a three to four week period, based on performance and setbacks. The first week will involve normalizing your body to its new physiological peak, along with light conditioning. The subsequent two to three weeks will involve heavy and uninterrupted training. Normally, the typical and full training regimen of an ORION would be 2 months. However, there are some tactics and methods from the original program which we now consider depreciated in the face of newer tactics. Combined with the fact that you have already undergone intense training already which has incorporated much of the newer tactics, as well as the fact that you are also carrying over a lot of your own personal training, as well as the ongoing training you will receive with Black Team, I believe that a two week period is all we will need to get you the fundamental framework you need to rapidly elevate yourself to the same level of training that the rest of Black Team had time to complete.

Tyber: Close to four weeks of intense and condensed training?

Tye shrugged.

Tyber: Alright...I'm game. Let's do it. When can we begin?

Novak: We can begin immediately...provided Admiral Spender gives us the green light.

Tye and Novak looked to Spender. Spender simply gave a slow nod.

Spender: Do it.

Novak grinned.

Novak: Splendid!

Spender looked at Novak.

Spender: Keep me apprised of every development.

Novak: Aye sir!

Spender then looked at Tye.

Spender: I look forward to seeing you when it is all said and done. I expect great things from you.

Tye nodded.

Tyber: Likewise sir.

Spender nodded again. Without another word, he turned and he left the med bay.

Spender: This just gets better and better. Hopefully, Novak can get the Lieutenant’s training done in that three week window, and I can finally put Black Team to use in the field...and I know EXACTLY who my first target is going to be!

Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Constantine Spender's Office - Close Proximity to the Biko Star System - Three Weeks Later - 1500 Hours - May 30th 2515.

Doctor Novak and Admiral Spender had both met to discuss Tye's progress over the past three weeks. Doctor Novak had spent the entirety of the last three weeks working closely with Tye, and carefully observing his development.

Novak: Sir, as you know, for the past three weeks, I have paid special attention to Black 6 - Lieutenant Vernette - in order to ensure that his development stays on course.

Spender: Yes, of course. I am aware of what you have been up to.

Novak: Well, in that case, I will cut right to the chase; Lieutenant Vernette has shown remarkable progress. I have carefully monitored his vitals, his simulation scores, and his overall combat effectiveness. I have concluded, that there is an overall 318% improvement to his combat effectiveness.

Spender: That is quite the improvement.

Novak: You should actually see his performance. Boiling it down to a number is very underwhelming.

Spender simply nodded. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small tin container. Spender opened the container and drew a cigarette. Spender placed the tin back into his pocket, and from his other pcket, pulled out a lighter. Spender proceeded to light his cigarette.

Spender: As much as I would enjoy going over three weeks of documented footage of Black 6 in action, I think the numbers tell me enough.

Spender paused.

Spender: Where is Black 6 now?

Novak: He is currently in the gym, sir. Last I heard he was...taking advantage of his new found abilities.

Spender: Fascinating.

Spender paused for a moment. He then took another drag of his cigarette.

Spender: What about the rest of Black Team? What have they been doing the past three weeks? I want specifics on Black 1 through 5.

Novak: Well, as I stated earlier, I outlined a program which Black Team would follow. In a nutshell, I would gradually push them beyond physical and mental limits, using a combination of mind altering drugs, mental conditioning, cybernetic augmentation and subliminal conditioning in the consorted effort to break inhibitions and moral boundaries.

Spender: Yes, I recall this conversation.

Novak: Well, the rest of Black Team is currently on Phase 3 of their training. During their last physical, I implanted each member of Black Team with a small transmitter located at the base of their brain stem. It was a simple case of microsurgery. Essentially, the micro transmitter is being used to...manipulate their perceptual senses. They are hearing things, smelling things, tasting random intervals, for no apparent reason. Their sense of reality and perception is being withered down. You would be surprised how that can cripple and weaken a man. Furthermore, during REM sleep, they are being subjected to controlled stimulation which triggers extreme nightmares and other forms of hypertension during the sleep cycle. Inducing them to high level of stress can do wonders in breaking the psyche of a man by introducing extreme levels of stress. So far, they have responded quite well, and they are very unaware of any action on our part, though, they are aware that something is not right. Their frustration with the idea that they are under stress, that they are losing their minds, the idea that they are slipping from their peak…it is being reflected on basic simulations I am sending them through. They are escaping into their work, spending overtime hours, on their own accord, in the simulation room, running some very intense training programs just to try and tune out their…broken perceptions.

Spender: Fascinating.

Novak: I also talk with them, on a daily basis. They have...begun to admit things that they never would of before.

Spender: Like what?

Novak: Well, when they first started, they felt out of place, worried, and even confused by some of the training scenarios they were engaging in. Now, by their own admission, they actually enjoy what they are doing, and they have even started to make recommendation as to future scenarios. and, ever since Phase 3 training, they have had a longing, even a need, to bury themselves in their work.

Spender: Go on.

Novak: They have also begun to face their vulnerabilities…and their weaknesses. They admit fear, terror and anxiety. They are coming to terms with a very vulnerable part of their psyche…and it angers them. They never wanted to see this, yet, they are subjected to it…non-stop. They are rejecting what makes them vulnerable…what makes them Human. They want nothing to do with it.

Spender: Pretend I know nothing about what you are talking about…and break it down for me in simple terms. What does it mean when you tell me they are rejecting what makes them vulnerable? How does this benefit the project?

Novak: In the simplest of all terms…each member of Black Team is in the process of dehumanizing themselves. They are rejecting what is left of their morality, their sense of right and wrong, and anything else that they could attribute to weakness or indecisiveness. That is what I call their Humanity. We have brought them down from their peak, exposed their weaknesses, their fears, their inhibitions…and they are doing away with these things to bring themselves back up again.

Novak paused.

Novak: We are passively reconditioning the human psyche of Black Team. This is, what is traditionally called…brainwashing. We are brainwashing them, erasing who they were, and creating perfect killing machines.

Spender grinned.

Spender: Halleluiah. That is what I wanted to hear.

Novak, however, had to interject.

Novak: Well, sir…Black 6 has not undergone this procedure yet. However…rest assured…he will undergo the very same process as the rest of Black Team.

Spender: See that he does. The last thing we need is an inconsistent member of the team.

Novak nodded. He paused for a moment, and then changed the topic.

Novak: Have you heard anything else from The Board of Chairmen?

Spender: No, they have been silent on the matter. It appears they chose silence when they decide to betray someone.

Novak: Have you thought of what you are going to do?

Spender: I have given much consideration to a plan of action, and I believe that I have come up with something very solid, and very proactive.

Novak: Oh?

Spender: I plan on murdering every single member of the Board of Chairmen.

Novak: Oh…

Spender: Too direct?

Novak: No. Well…perhaps. How are you going to murder them?

Spender: I am surprised you don’t know.

Novak: Should I?

Spender: Yes…you should. Think about it Doctor…

Novak then realized what Spender was referring to.

Novak: Black Team. You are going to send Black Team after them.

Spender nodded.

Novak: Sir…Black Team is not done. I have not finished with them. They are at a crucial stage of development that, if disrupted in any serious way, COULD have terrible results, and WILL have unpredictable results.

Spender: We are out of time Doctor. The Board of Chairmen is making their move, and they have the sword on my neck. We need to act now. We need Black Team…NOW!

Novak: I understand that. However, I cannot stress enough how careful we must be with them at this time. If you are going to send them into a real scenario, you are going to need a pretense. Flat out telling them that they are being sent to murder people for you will possibly screw them up! I cannot say for sure what will happen. All I know is that if they close their minds to what we are trying to do...then we will lose them, and they become unwilling to cooperate.

Spender: Noted. I will keep that in mind when I talk to them.

Spender paused.

Spender: In fact...I think I will go and talk to them now.

Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - The Gym - Close Proximity to the Biko Star System - 1600 Hours - May 30th 2515.

Tye was currently in the gym. He was doing a headstand, pushing himself up and down using his arms, as if he was doing pushups. Tye had been at this for roughly 20 minutes, seeing how far he could push himself. However, despite his best efforts, he was unable to tire himself out, or do something that would physically exhaust him.

Tyber: This is FUCKING amazing! I never DREAMED I would ever be THIS built! I am a fucking tank.

Tye pushed himself up, and flipped back to his feet. He looked at himself in the reflection of the mirrored wall. He could see that he was now in the best shape of his life. He could see that his body mass had clearly increased, and he was defiantly bigger than he was before. Tye began to flex, looking at himself in the mirror. There was a very obvious increase in his muscle mass.

Tyber: Damn…I look good. Why the hell is not everyone in the UNSC using this augmentation stuff? The Insurrection would be a thing of the past if every marine was sporting these kinds of guns.

Tye sighed as he walked over to a punching bag that was hanging from the ceiling. Tye began to punch into the large sandbag, thinking to himself as he did.

Tyber: This is too good to be true. Like…what are the odds that ANY of this would happen to me? The odds are zilch! This was more than luck…this was an act of God. This was divine intervention that I managed to get this far, get as many chances as I did. Is this too good to be true? What the hell did I do in my life to earn this…gift? This is a gift! I am using this gift…to punch a giant bag of sand in a sterile gym. Why the hell am I still here? Why am I still being trained? What am I being trained for? I am being trained to kill other UNSC Marines and other UNSC personnel. There is a reason so few people have undergone the type of augmentation I was put through. What did Eli call it...The ORION Project?

Tye continued to punch away at the punching bag, hitting harder than he was before.

Tyber: He mentioned how the ORIONs were intended to fight Insurrectionists, and partake in high-risk missions. Novak said the same thing about Black we would be engaging in high risk missions against the Insurrection. If Black Team is composed of ORIONs, who have already been trained to run high-risk missions against The Insurrection, then why does Black Team need more training to run more high-risk missions against the same Insurrection? This does not add up...

Tye stopped punching the punching bag, and he stepped away. He found himself confused by the logic of his situation. He did not know where his sudden clarity came from, but it was very apparent, and it was now bothering him. Tye was so distracted by this, that he did not hear the doors of the gym open.

Tyber: Why did I not think of this earlier?
It was at that moment Tye turned when he heard someone talk to him.

Jonas: Think of what Earlier?

Tye turned around and saw the rest of Black Team. They were standing at the threshold of the gym. When Tye saw the rest of Black Team, he grinned, as the sense of familiarity was a welcome one. Black Team approached Tye, and they all exchanged a greeting.

Kraven: Ohhh...Tye...looking good. You look...bulkier.

Eli: So the rumor is true. They gave you the same drugs they gave us hmm? That is very surprising.

Tyber: Yeah...three weeks ago. Spender and Novak made the offer after our little fight with Grey Team.

Tye paused.

Tyber: It was pretty welcome...

Evan: Well, it is about time they let you perform on our level. It is good to see that everything worked out. We were kind of worried after not seeing you for a whole three weeks. We thought you were dead.

Jonas: Yeah...what was the deal with that? Why did they separate us? Novak didn't want to answer that.

Tyber: Novak said it had something to do with "preserving the integrity of the training I missed out on". They wanted to make sure that the outside involvement of the rest of the team did not taint the tests.

Kraven: Yeah...that makes sense. I remember how the instructors used to keep everyone separated for the physical evaluations.

Tyber: So wait...why are you guys here then? Are you even allowed to be here talking to me if the intention was to keep us separated?

Evan: Well...whatever. We wanted to see how you were doing. We got sick of waiting.

Tyber: Oh...oh well.

A silence fell over the group, as if they realized that they may have violated directed orders.

Jonas: was it?

Tyber: You mean the augmentation and the training?

Jonas: Yeah. Everyone handles it a bit differently.

Tyber: Oh, was pretty good. No real problems. The first few days were a bit tough when I was trying to get used to the improved physical abilities. I found myself either underestimating or overestimating what I was capable of. Took a few spills, and a few nasty wipeouts...but I eventually got used to it. I was so used to working within a pre-defined limit that was set by my own limitations. Now that I have broadened my scope...I sort of need to relearn how far I can push myself.

Eli: Yeah...we all had that problem at first. You will pick it up REALLY fast.

Eli paused. A look of terror shot across his face.

Tyber: Eli?

Eli shook his head, and found he was short on breath, as if he just had the life scared out of him.

Tyber: Eli...are you alright?

Eli took a deep breath, and then responded.

Eli: is just...these past few weeks have been very stressful.

Tye looked at the rest of Black Team, and all saw that they all had a look which projected the fact that they were hiding something.

Tyber: You guys look scared out of your wits. What the hell have YOU guys been doing these past few weeks?

The other members of Black Team looked at each other. They all then looked back at Tye.

Eli:: Tye...we have had a pretty rough three weeks.

Jonas: has been pretty rough.

Tyber: What happened?

Jonas: What didn't happen? We have been stressed out, tired, bent out of shape, and flat out mentally exhausted. We have had almost no sleep, and when we do sleep, it is not for long. Some of the dreams we have been having could turn a black man pale white.

Tyber: That is a little disturbing...

Evan: On top of that, for the past few weeks...we have all felt like...

Evan shook his head.

Evan: It is like...we are not alone. The best way I can describe it is if you were by yourself...and every sense was telling you that there was something in the room with you. It is a feeling of...almost paranoia...fear...sheer terror.

Tyber: That sort of sounds like PTSD. Have you guys talked to Novak?

Eli: Yeah...we did. He said the same thing. He has been giving us some sleeping aides to try and help us sleep, to try and help us mitigate the symptoms...but...they are not really working.

Tyber: And I assume he knows that?

Jonas: Yeah...we told him they were not helping. He simply told us that this was temporary and that this will pass.

Tyber: He seems to be taking your condition very if he is not even concerned. And since when does PSTD pass without treatment. It is not like the common cold, you know? He should know this.

The rest of Black Team exchanged a look of confusion.

Kraven: That does not make sense...why would he do that? Why would he not care about what we are going through?

Tyber: That is a good question. Have you tried asking him that?

Jonas: No...we haven't. We have never thought of it like this. We have no reason to believe that Novak would be with-holding anything from us. He has not done so yet. He has been nothing but a help to us. I am sure if there was something he could do, he would tell us.

Tyber: Hmmm...if you say so.

Tye was very suspicious of what had been told to him. Things did not seem to add up...and more and more he was starting to realize it.

Tyber: Don't you guys find it odd that all five of you are experiencing the SAME problems, at the SAME time?

The other members of Black Team did not respond.

Tyber: I have never known you guys to be this docile about something.

Archimedes: Well...we don't really have time to worry about it. We are just burying ourselves in our training. You would be surprised how therapeutic it is when we are re-running the old simulations, beating our time records, beating our kill records, taking on new challenges, getting better at what we do, and being told how we are a credit to the uniform. It gives us a sense of relief.

Eli: Worth...

Jonas: Satisfaction...

Evan: That we are still useful...

Kraven: And not a bunch of insane lunatics who are slowly losing our minds.

Each member of Black Team had a very cold look in their eyes.

Jonas: It gets easier when we bury ourselves in our training. It makes us feel so much better. We forget about our problems...and we remain focused on our task. As long as we have an enemy in our sights...everything is just a hell of a lot easier.

Tyber: An enemy in your sights?

Jonas: Not just an could be anyone. Even that is sufficient. As long as anyone is looking down my barrel when I pull the trigger...

Tye had a horrified look on his face. He could not believe what he was hearing. He now knew that something was terribly wrong. The kind of behavior that was being exhibited by the rest of Black Team was very unusual. They sounded more like deranged killers than trained soldiers. However, Tye didn't want to say anything that could potentially upset the situation. Tye decided to say nothing, and keep this to himself for now.

Tyber: Well...whatever helps you guys sleep a night.

Tye felt very awkward about the situation. He could see all five of them looking at him, as if they were aware of his attempted evasion.

Tyber: As long as you guys can do your jobs, we won't have a problem.

Eli: That is the idea. We just have to do our jobs.

Tye was starting to feel very uncomfortable by his present company. He did not expect this sort of behavior. However, much to his relief, Spender and Novak entered the gym.

Spender: Lieutenant Vernette!

The rest of Black Team stepped aside. They gave Spender a clear line of sight with Tye.

Spender: How are you feeling son?

Tyber: Different, sir...very different.

Spender: Good different or bad different?

Tyber: Good different. I am feeling at the top of my game. I have never felt this good before in my life.

Novak: That was to be expected Lieutenant.

Tye looked at Spender and Novak, and then his eyes shifted to Black Team. There was nothing Tye wanted more than to get out of this room. He just felt like he was surrounded by the sketchiest people in the galaxy.

Spender: Well, there are a few matters of business that we have to attend to, and it is fortunate that every member of Black Team is here, present and accounted for.

Spender paused.

Spender: First matter of business is the finalized structure of Black Team.

Tye knew what Spender was going to say, but the looks that the rest of Black Team gave Spender was one of confusion, as if this had not been discussed with them before hand.

Spender: As you all know, you have all been trained to go above and beyond the call of duty. Quite frankly, you have the best training that the UNSC can muster at this time, and there is no question that the six of you are the finest soldiers produced by the industrial military complex. When you are together, you are the epitome of the perfect team. However, like any team...there must be a chain of command. The responsibility falls on my to begin that chain.

Kraven: Sir...are you saying that you are about to pick a team leader?

Spender: That is exactly what I am saying...

Eli: So...who is going to be the team leader?

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Spender: After evaluation, consideration, and debate...Doctor Novak and I both agree that Lieutenant Vernette would be the best candidate for the job. He has shown he has a knack for improvisation in a tactical situation, and is not afraid to assume command of a situation where no clear leader is present.

Jonas: Sir...with all due respect...I assumed that I was going to be given that position! After all...out of the six of us, I do have a history of command.

Spender: And we are very aware of that Mr. Prescott. However…the challenges you will face in the future are much different than the ones you have faced in the past. ODST Black Team may have benefited from you leadership in the past…but the future demands a new leader…a leader who can make something from nothing. That leader is Lieutenant Vernette.

At that moment, Novak stepped forward, and looked at Jonas.

Novak: However…it is important to remember the fact that we still place high value on your experience Mr. Prescott. It is because of this that we have decided to make you second in command of the team. As second in command, you would have the prerogative to voice your opinions, and suggest appropriate courses of action to the Lieutenant. We are not devaluing or discrediting your experience…it is simply being used to supplement your team as opposed to guide it.

Jonas frowned. He did not like what he was hearing.

Jonas: I outrank him…

Tye looked at Jonas. He knew that there was some very hard feelings about this.

Spender: And I outrank you…and I am ordering you to fall in line with the chain of command that I have set up.

Jonas thought about what Spender said.

Spender: You know better than anyone Jonas that officers who answer directly to senior flag officers, tend to have a special seniority, regardless of rank. This situation is no different. Vernette answers to me and me alone. He gets his general orders from me, and he then relays them to you. The only extra job he has is that he carries the flag for Black team. He leads the team.

Jonas shook his head. However, he knew he had to concede.

Jonas: Fine.

Jonas looked at Tye. He extended his hand to Tye.

Jonas: Congrats…buddy…

Tye looked at Jonas. He saw Jonas extend his hand. Tye thought for a moment, but ultimately decided to shake Jonas’ hand.

Tyber: Thanks…

Jonas looked Tye right in the eyes. His gaze was very stone cold and very unfeeling. Tye felt Jonas squeeze his hand, in an almost aggressive fashion, but before he showed any signs of possible discomfort, Jonas broke the handshake.

Jonas turned away, and then looked back at Spender.

Jonas: You said there were other matters of business?

Spender: Yes…your first mission.

All six members of Black Team looked at Spender with a sign of interest.

Spender: I realize that it is short notice…but…something of extreme importance has come up. I have discovered that there are traitors in the upper brass of the UNSC.

Eli: Insurrectionist sympathizers?

Spender: In so few words…yes. I have recently received confirmed reports that several UNSC Flag Officers have turned rouge, and are actively helping the Insurrection. I have the names of these officers, and I have their probable locations. While all of these Officers represent a danger, the biggest threat, at this moment, is Commodore Davidov. Davidov commands a Halcyon Class cruiser known as the UNSC Nemesis. Based on my intel, he will be meeting with a large group of Insurrectionists, on his ship, in Sector 4493, near the Biko star system. He is currently dealing in small and medium scale weapons; rifles, explosives, vehicles…that sort of thing. The UNSC does not look very kindly on this sort of treachery…and ONI takes a very grim view of it. With that said, I don’t need to tell you what I expect of you all. I should not need to tell you what you must do.

Tyber: You want us to stop the deal, and arrest Commodore Davidov?

Spender: Arrest him? No…

Spender grinned, as he reached into his pocket for a cigarette.

Spender: I want you to kill him, and his entire crew. They are all traitors. They have all gone rogue. They must all die.

Evan: You want us to clean-sweep an entire ship?

Spender: It is what you are trained to do.

Evan: What about the ship itself? Do you want us to destroy that too?

Spender: Yes.

Evan: Is there anyone we are not killing or anything we are not destroying?

Spender: The main computer core. I want his files and his records. I want to see if he knows where I could possibly find the other traitors I mentioned. Retrieval of the main computer core is not optional. Consider this a primary objective, alongside killing Davidov and his entire crew.

Tyber: I am guessing you want us to kill the Insurrectionists on his ship too?

Spender: Kill them all. Kill everyone. Leave nothing alive.

Spender paused. He snapped his finger.

Spender: Ohhh…and before I forget…

Spender grinned.

Spender: Davidov also has a pet Husky named Chika. I would consider it a personal favor if you killed Chika in front of Davidov BEFORE you actually kill Davidov. I hate that dog…it growled at me on multiple occasions.

Tyber: That’s…pretty harsh. It’s just a dog.

Spender: That is also an order Black 6.

Tye sighed.

Tyber: Alright, if you say so.

Spender nodded.

Spender: Good. We are currently on a direct course for Sector 4493. Our ETA is 2 hours, and I expect ODST Black Team to be ready to deploy. This is your first assignment, and I have very high expectations of all of you. Do not disappoint.

All of the members of Black Team gave each other a look, and nodded.

Tyber: Rest assured sir...we will get the job done. That son of a bitch is as good as dead...he just doesn't know it yet.

Spender: Good. That is what I like to hear.

Spender nodded.

Spender: Go get suited up gentlemen.

Tye nodded.

Tyber: Yes sir!

Tye turned to the other members of Black 6.

Tyber: You heard the man...let's get suited up.

Black Team all nodded in unison, as they left the gym, and headed to their operations room, where their gear was stored.

Spender and Novak watched as Black Team walked out. Spender grinned, as he lit up a cigarette.

Spender: You have done excellent work Doctor. Black Team is going to go far in this life. They are perfect specimens.

Novak sighed.

Novak: I still worry about them. They have not finished their training and their reconditioning yet. I stress caution with what you tell them at this stage of the game. Need to know basis and half-truths only.

Spender: Very well Doctor. We will do it your way...for now. However...sooner or later I want these men to be aware of what they are fighting for...and I want them to know that we trust them enough to operate without us having to watch over them.

Novak: In time, it will be that way...but for now...we must be careful and we must be patient.

STB Breaking Point

Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Main Hanger Bay - Close Proximity to the Biko Star System - 1800 hours - May 30th 2515.

ODST Black Team was fully geared up, and awaiting deployment in the hanger bay. They were each checking their weapons, waiting for the call from the Bridge which would inform them that they were to depart.

Black 6: Alright guys, let's go over our tactics. I want this done by the numbers. The nature of this mission is confront and engage. We are there to clean this ship out of every living soul, and that is what we are going to do. This is what we have trained to do. We all read the intel package, and we all know that we are going to be boarding a Halcyon Class cruiser. Halcyon Class cruisers are very large, and they tend to have a high compliment of soldiers. All we need is for one thing to go wrong before we are swarmed with traitorous motherfuckers.

Black 1: We are aware of this Tye. This is not our first rodeo.

Black 6: True, but this IS your first rodeo against fellow UNSC soldiers. These men and women have had much better training than the kind a civilian gets from a paramilitary camp in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere on some planet tucked away in the stars. The soldiers we are going up against are organized, and armed with military grade hardware. It is better to respect your enemy than dismiss them.

Black 1: Hmmm. Fair enough.

Black 2: Tye does have a point. As good as the simulations were; we should still expect the unexpected.

Black 5 laughed.

Black 5: Who would have thought that the team's outcast would be leading us on our first mission, right guys?

Black 5 nudged Black 6.

Black 6: So...I was the outcast?

Black 5: I am just joshing you. You have done good have earned this.

Black 6: I would like to think so.

Black 5 was going to verify this, but stopped, when he heard someone enter the hanger bay.

Novak: A good leader has faith in all of his abilities…even the ones he pretends to have to trick his enemies.

Every member of Black Team looked at Novak. They were all silent.

Novak: A bit of advice I picked up from Rear-Admiral Spender.

Black didn’t respond to this either, but they did notice that Novak was carrying a briefcase in his left hand.

Black 6: Going on a business trip Doc?

Novak: No…this is a special delivery…for the six of you.

Black Team’s interest peaked when they heard this.

Black 1: What is it?

Novak: Specially tailored firmware upgrades for each of your BDUs.

Black 4: Aren’t you cutting this upgrade a little close?

Novak: Allow me to elaborate.

Novak lifted the case up, and opened it, revealing 6 data crystal chips.

Novak: Firmware unlocks. These data crystal chips contain special unlock keys which will enable previously locked features on each of your BDUs.

Black 2: Why were these features locked in the first place?

Novak: We wanted to exclude these features from your training. However, now that you are in the real world…you may find them useful. Go on…take them and insert them into the data port on the back of your helmets. The chips are self-executing. The moment they interface, they will begin the unlocking sequence. It will only take 15 seconds…tops.

Each member of Black Team shrugged as they took the data crystal chips that were specifically labeled for each individual. One by one, they inserted the data crystal chips into the back of their helmets.

Black 3: Whoa…something is up with my HUD…it just shut off.

Novak: That’s normal…give it a second.

Black Team waited a few moments as the upgrade applied.

Black 3: Ohhh…here we go…I got something.

Black 4: Same here. Everything is up and running.

Black 1: Same here.

Black 2: Yep.

Black 5: Got it.

Black 6: Good to go.

Novak: Excellent. Let me give you a quick rundown.

Novak paused.

Novak: First off, we have unlocked the functionality for your poly-alloy microfiber kinetic muscle weaving. You may have noticed when your suits came back online, you felt a bit of tightness in your extremities. This was the weaving coming online. The weave won’t turn you into super humans…but it will allow you to do simple things, such as hit harder, run faster, jump a bit higher, withstand the rigors of sustained weapon fire for indefinite periods of time. It will even retroactively keep tabs on your health monitor to assist in correcting minor injuries, such as dislocated joints or help set broken bones in preparation for corrective surgery and repair.

Black 2: So this BDU is sort of like a field medic?

Novak: Calling it a field medic is being VERY generous. Think of it as a first aid kit with an attitude.

The members of Black Team shared a laugh.

Novak: Next up…and this one is my personal favorite.

Novak paused.

Novak: The boys at the lab call it the “Adaptive Magnetochromatic Material”.

Black 3: What?

Novak: “What” indeed. Knowing that “what” would be your response…we nicknamed it “The Chameleon Skin”

Black 4: We are still lost…though I may have an idea of what you are getting at. I really hope I am right about this.

Novak: If you were thinking “the ability to change the color scheme of your BDU in real time for tactical, environmental, or infiltration purposes”…then yes. You would be right.

Black 4: Nailed it.

Black 6 stepped forward, and looked at Novak.

Novak: Wait…are you saying that we can CHANGE the color of our armor…at will?

Novak: That is exactly what I am saying. You should be able to make the changes in real time from you HUD menu. You will notice that you have a number of preloaded setups, including jungle, desert storm, arctic tundra, aquatic, urban cityscape, brushfire, and even the standard ODST pattern.

Novak paused.

Novak: These are all patterns that are currently in service right now. You may find use for them, or you may find that you prefer your current all black setup. However, you may find yourselves in a situation where a change of color might be to your advantage.

Black 1: I could think of a ton of situations where this would have been handy back in the day.

Everyone except Black 6 nodded.

Black 6: Any other neat features that we should know about?

Novak: Just one more that you should all know about. Each of your suits, as you know, is equipped with sophisticated health monitoring tools. One of the features that I just unlocked for you guys involves this feature. Your suits are now capable of administering various combat stimulants at your command. These stimulants will provide short term enhancements to your physiology, such as adrenaline boosts, blood-oxygen amplifiers, neural stimulants which can be used to counteract other compounds which are designed to incapacitate you. You even hyper-coagulants to suppress bleeding and critical wounds, both internal and external.

Black 6: Another feature to keep us alive and ticking and keeps us kicking. I like it.

Novak: This stuff is cutting edge and totally proprietary to our own R&D here on the Ulterior Motive. We have managed to round up some of the best and the brightest to develop this stuff.

Black 1: Damn. I have to admit…this tech is pretty slick. I have never seen anything like this.

Novak: We currently have more technology and improvements in development, but not yet ready for deployment. We should have more upgrades for you all in a few weeks.

Black 6: Understood. We look forward to seeing everything you have.

Novak: Well, I better get back to my posting. Good luck men.

Black 6: Thanks Doc.

Just as Black 6 said this, they heard Spender’s voice over the intercom. Novak didn’t wait around, however. He left the hanger bay, and returned to the medical bay where he would be needed in the near future.

Spender: Get tactical Black Team. Our target is dead ahead. Be advised, that there is a second ships belonging to the Insurrection along side of your target.

Black 6: Classification of the Insurrectionist ship?

Spender: Civilian Class Freighter. It is no threat to us, as it has limited defensive and capabilities. We will make a pass and destroy it while we open a hole for you in the Nemesis’ hanger bay for you to land in. Get loaded up on that Pelican, and get ready to deploy on my mark.

ODST Black Team complied with the order, as the six ODSTs boarded the Pelican, and awaited the order to launch.

Spender, on the other hand, was busy coordinating his preliminary attack on the bridge of the Ulterior Motive.

Spender: Helm, push engines to max, and take us in!

Trust Helm Officer: Aye sir. Engines are at max, and we are on an intercept course.

Spender: Tactical, charge the MAC gun. Target that Insurrectionist ship…and prepare to fire on my mark.

Trust Tactical Officer: Aye MAC Gun is online and ready to fire. Standing by, awaiting further orders.

Spender: Commence firing pattern Bravo-3. Target the auxiliary hanger bay and the communications array with all forward facing weapons, rapid fire dispersal.

Trust Tactical Officer: All forward Archer missiles and deck guns locked onto designated targets. MAC Gun is locked onto the Insurrectionist ship.

Spender grinned, as he lit up a cigarette. However, before he could give the order to engage, his communications officer began to speak.

Trust Communications Officer: Sir, we are being hailed by the Nemesis. They are requesting to know why we are here.

Spender laughed.

Spender: Let’s give Davidov an answer, shall we?

Spender paused, as he took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: All stations…engage! Commence fire!

With that order, The Ulterior Motive came about, and began to fire on both the Insurrectionist ship, and the Nemesis. Both enemy ships were stationary, which resulted in heavy damage to the Nemesis, and the total destruction of the Insurrectionist ship.

The Ulterior Motive’s effort to break a hole in the Nemesis’ hanger bay was largely successful. The Ulterior Motive was able to destroy the hanger bay doors, and the security barriers that were protecting on e of the hanger bays, which effectively granted a clear area for ODST Black Team’s pelican to land.

Trust Tactical Officer: Sir…we have managed to breach one of the auxiliary hanger bays on the Nemesis. However, readings indicate that the entire section is venting atmosphere and that artificial gravity has been knocked offline. I would recommend that you inform Black Team to utilize the mag locks and pressurization systems on their BDUs to counteract the Zero-G environment.

Spender: Understood.

Spender then looked at his helmsman.

Spender: Helm! Take us in as close as you can! I want the trip between both ships to be as minimal as possible.

Spender contacted ODST Black Team.

Spender: Spender to Black Team…do you copy?

Spender waited for a response.

Black 6: Black Team here sir. Black 6 reporting.

Spender: We have managed to breach one of the auxiliary hanger bays on the Nemesis. We are moving in close to enable a rapid insertion of your Pelican.

Black 6: Understood.

Spender: You should be aware, that you will be dealing with a Zero-G environment with the definite possibility of no atmosphere being present in a portion of the ship. It has been advised that you ready the mag locks and pressurization features on your BDUs to ensure that there is no interruption to your mission.

Trust Helm Officer: Admiral…20 seconds until we are in optimal position to deploy Black Team.

Spender: Black Team, get ready for launch. In less than 20 seconds, we are going to clear your Pelican for launch. Your pilot will be executing a rapid insertion deployment from the hanger bay. Brace yourselves, as the speeds can be very intense, and the inertial dampeners may not be able to full compensate.

Black 6: We hear you loud and clear sir. We are ready.

Spender switched his comm to ship wide.

Spender: All hands, this is the bridge. Prepare for an emergency hard point turn to port.

The Ulterior motive closed in. As it got closer to the Nemesis, Spender prepared to give the order. When the moment was right, Spender spoke up.

Spender: All points…execute NOW!

The Ulterior Motive made an emergency hard point turn to port, as it pulled off what could be best described as a power slide, as it radically altered its course. As the Ulterior Motive hit its hard point turn, the Pelican that was carrying ODST Black Team shot out of the hanger bay with great speeds. It did not take very long for the Pelican that was carrying Black Team to reach the Nemesis. As the Pelican got closer, it engaged its reverse thrusters to slow its approach, as it navigated into the damaged hanger bay.

Pelican Pilot: Alright Black Team…get ready! We are going in.

As the Pelican pilot said this, the door to the cockpit sealed and pressurized, as the rear compartment began to depressurize. Each member of Black Team engaged their mag locks and the seals on their BDUs. Each member of Black Team stood up, their weapons at the ready, as the rear hatch of the Pelican opened, and Black Team stepped onto the damaged floor of the Nemsis hanger bay.

Black Team used their numbers to do a very fast visual sweep of the hanger bay. Each member of Black Team signaled the all clear. It was at this point that Black 6 gave the signal for Black Team to move forward. Black Team moved across the hanger bay, towards the main access way which led into the ship.

As Black Team got closer to the access way, they noticed that the door had been sealed to prevent further venting of atmosphere from undamaged parts of the ship. Black 6 looked at Black 2, and motioned towards the door. Black 2 nodded, and approached the door, took a look at the control panel that was beside the door, and pulled the panel of the wall. Black 2 began to bypass the door locks in order to open the door. It didn’t take more than 30 seconds for Black 2 to circumvent the locks, and open the door. As the door opened, Black Team that was there was a security barrier in place as an additional stop-measure to prevent venting in case the door had failed. Like most UNSC security barriers, larger objects could pass through the barrier, but air was contained. Black Team stepped through the barrier, one by one, and stepped into the pressurized and gravity controlled corridors of the Nemesis. Each member of Black Team released their mag locks, and their suit pressurizations, and readied their weapons.

Black 6: Alright…we’re in. Let’s move. Engage hostile contacts on sight. Shoot to kill. Black 4…holster the boom tube, and draw your side arm. We don’t need anything exploding yet.

Black 4: Copy that.

Black Team began to move through the corridors of the Nemesis with great haste. They made no effort at subterfuge or stealth. Black Team was there to kill, and they were going to make that fact known to everyone. Each member of Black Team had their weapons raised with their fingers on the trigger.

Black Team was moving in pairs of three. Black 6, Black 4, and Black 2 were in front, with Black 1, Black 3, and Black 5 in the back. It was not long before Black Team encountered a corridor full of Nemesis personnel. From duty officers, to Marines standing guard, the corridor was full of Nemesis crew members attending to whatever duty they were assigned in the area.

A few of the Nemesis Marines who were guarding the area noticed Black Team. The Marines stepped forward, and approached Black Team.

Nemesis Marine: Hey…who the hell are you guys!? Identify yourselves!

No member of Black Team responded. Instead, Black 6, Black 4, and Black 2 knelt down, which allowed for Black 1, Black 3, and Black 5 to have clear shots. With the front three members of Black Team kneeling down, all six members of Black Team began to open fire, first on the Marines that approached them, and then on every else in the corridor, cutting everyone down in a matter of seconds.

Each member of Black Team started to reload as they looked at all of the people they had just massacred.

Black 6: These traitors deserved it. Keep moving.

Black Team once again resumed moving through the corridors. They walked past all of the crewmen they had just gunned down, not even taking a second look at their handy work.

Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Nemesis, Commodore Davidov was directing the counterattack on The Ulterior Motive.

Commodore Davidov: Helm, take evasive action. Push the engines to max, and keep as away from The Ulterior Motive. Keep us out of the firing arc of their Deck Guns. The last thing we need is to have our hull pummeled by the supporting fire of their Deck Guns.

Nemesis Helm Officer: Aye sir…taking evasive action.. Breaking off and putting distance between us and The Ulterior Motive.

Commodore Davidov then looked at his tactical officer.

Commodore Davidov: Cycle the Archer pods, and resume fire. Keep a target lock on The Ulterior Motive and hit them with everything we can muster.

Nemesis Tactical Officer: Sir…our Archer missiles have having a reduced effect againt that ship. Based on what I can tell, it seems that the hull plating on the Ulterior Motive has been reinforced with a type of kinetic absorbing material. We simply are not inducing the type of hull stress that we should be.

Commodore Davidov: What do you mean “upgraded”?

Nemesis Tactical Officer: At best guess, I assume that Spender had work done on The Ulterior Motive some time ago and refused to inform the rest of the Trust Syndicate. Without more information on their hull configuration, I will not be able to establish a firing pattern to optimize the damage to weapon output ratio. I have also noticed that The Ulterior Motive seems to be able to cycle their Archer missiles faster than we can. We are simply being out gunned, out armored, and out classed.

Commodore Davidov: I am not going to let a little disadvantage like THAT stop us. The Halcyon class is known for its highly durable and efficient super structure. As long as we keep the Nemesis together, there should be no problem what so ever!

Davidov looked at the holotable on the bridge of his ship, and watched the attack pattern of the Ulterior Motive, trying to devise a counter which would best enable The Nemesis to strike back. However, as Davidov did this, he was interrupted by one of his officers.

Nemesis Operations Officer: Sir, we have reports coming in from Deck 10. It seems we have intruders. They are currently moving through deck 10, and they are inflicting heavy casualties on our personnel.

Commodore Davidov: What? Who are they?

Nemesis Operations Officer: We have n o idea. We cannot get a positive ID on them. However, if I was to fathom a guess, I would say that these could be Spender’s people.

Commodore Davidov: Where are they headed? Which direction are they moving it?

Nemesis Operations Officer: It is tough to say. It is too early to tell. There is a number of vital areas that they could reach from their current position, including, the bridge, the engineering deck, and the medical bay. They would have the most direct routes to those areas.

Davidov paused. He then walked over to the comms station, and contacted the barracks.

Commodore Davidov: Davidov to the barracks. Additional security is to report to the bridge. We have intruders on the ship.

Davidov closed the comm.

Nemesis Operations Officer: Sir…we may need more than that. Spender’s ODSTs are moving through our marines with tremendous ease. We have already lost contact with a dozen platoons, and dozens of duty officers.

Davidov thought for a moment. He considered his options. Davidov knew that he had to make a decision, and he knew the wrong decision would cost him his life. Given the circumstances, Davidov knew that there was only one good choice.

Davidov accessed the comm. Controls again, and this time, contacted the cryo deck.

Commodore Davidov: Cryo deck…this is the bridge. Do you copy?

After a moment, the cryo deck officer responded.

Cryo Deck Officer: Cryo deck here sir…Ensign Brewer reporting.

Commodore Davidov: Ensign…listen very carefully. I need you to thaw cryo pod 0401 immediately.

There was a moment of silence. Davidov could hear the ensign typing on his keyboard over the comm..

Cryo Deck Officer: Sir…it says here that cryo pod 0401 is NOT to be opened until we reach The Apex. These are standing orders from Rear-Admiral Hoffman.

Commodore Davidov: I am aware of our orders not to open the cryo pod until we reach The Apex. However, that cryo pod will NOT make it to The Apex if we do not open that pod NOW!

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: Ensign…I am giving you a direct order. I am ordering you to thaw cryo pod 0401…and send the occupant to the bridge…ARMED! Is this understood!?

Cryo Deck Officer: Understood sir.

Commodore Davidov: Good. Davidov out!

Davidov closed the comm line, as he returned to the holotable to continue to direct tactical action against The Ulterior Motive.

Meanwhile, on the lower decks, ODST Black Team was still moving through the corridors, fighting The Marines stationed aboard The Nemesis, every inch of the way. ODST Black Team was highly trained. They were simply out pacing and outperforming the Marines on the ship. It was a no-contest.

Black Team was perfectly synchronized in their attack patterns. They had a perfect firing rotation going on which the Nemesis Marines simply could not keep up with. The pattern was very simple; Black 5 and Black 3 were on point, with the long range precision weapons. Black 1 and Black 6 were on suppressing fire with their Assault Rifle and SMGs, while Black 2 and Black 4 were on supporting fire with automags.

Black 5: Suppressing fire on the left!

Black 1 and Black 6 heard the shoutout, and both ODSTs took aim, and laid down suppressing fire, forcing Nemesis Marines back into cover.

Black 3 and Black 5 continued to fire, as they picked off Marines one by one with highly precise shots.

Black 3: Reloading. Supporting fire, take aim!

Black 3 knelt down to reload, as Black 2 and Black 4 took up position behind Black 3, and used their automags to shoot down any Nemesis Marines that tried to take advantage of Black 3’s temporary vulnerability. It only took Black 3 about 5 seconds to reload his Sniper Rifle, before he stood up again, and continued moving along side of Black 5.

Black 6: Eyes right. Black 1, we have a Marine setting up a turret.

Black 6 and Black 1 both took aim, and fired their automatic weapons, cutting the Marine down who was trying to set up a turret.

Black 6: Contact down. Keep moving!

The superior tactics of ODST Black Team was virtually unmatched, and before long, the Nemesis Marines were in full retreat, having suffered incredible losses at the hands of ODST Black Team.

Nemesis ODST Sergeant: Fall back…fall back! Reform at Junction 13! We make our stand at junction 13!

Black 1 jogged forward, firing his Assault Rifle as the Nemesis Marines retreated.

Black 1: That’s right you mothers…RUN!

Black 1 laughed as he put his Assault Rifle into full auto and fired his entire clip down the corridor where the Nemesis Marines retreated down. When Black 1’s clip ran dry, he rejoined Black Team, and shook his head, as if disappointed with the challenge.

Black 1: That was FAR too easy! These guys suck something awful!

Black 6: You said it. They were no match for us! We cut those guys down like it was nobody’s business.

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: How are you guys doing on Ammo?

All of the members of Black Team gave a prompt nod to indicate that they were fine.

Black 6: Alright. Good.

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: The crew of the Nemesis is consolidating everything they have in junction 13. Fighting through that will be very costly to our ammo supplies. A firefight like that could go for a very long time, and we could run dry before it ends. We will need to play this extra smart.

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: Do you guys remember what Novak told us about the Chameleon Skin on this BDU?

Everyone nodded.

Black 6: Well…I think we should give it a shot.

Black 6 pointed to a dead ODST in the corner. His armor was grey in appearance, and his visor was orange in color.

Black 1: Are you hoping to sneak by?

Black 6: Sneak by…and then cut down all those assholes from behind their own defensive line.

Black 3: I like it…that sounds like a winning plan. We get to get out kill streaks on and we do it the easy way. It is like fish in a barrel.

Black 6: Exactly. Alright everyone…nab those colors and apply them.

Each member of Black Team scanned the armor configuration of the dead ODST on the ground. The VISR managed to scan each part of the armor, and save the necessary color configurations for each piece of armor. After the scan had completed, the color of the BDU for each member of Black Team began to change to match the color scheme of the dead ODST they scanned.

It took less than 10 seconds for the scan to complete, and for the armor to take on its new color. Each member of Black team looked at the others, their minds totally blow by the fact that they had just taken on new colors with such little effort.

Black 1: I heard it, I just saw it, yet I simply cannot believe it. Did you guys see that? Even the polarized color of our visors changed. Our armo just repainted itself. That is so sick!

Black 2: I will admit...this is pretty cool. I have never seen anything like this.

Black 6 interjected.

Black 6: Guys...focus. We can mess around with the armor perms later. For now, we have a job to do. We have taken on the enemies colors, and we should be able to sneak right by with no problem. We can hide right in plain sight.

Black 6 then gestured his head for the others to follow. Black Team all nodded, and began to jog through the corridors. Black 6, however, stopped, before he turned the corner to head down the corridor where the Nemesis Marines and ODSTs had set up their final stand.

Black 6: Hold your fire! Friendly contacts coming through!

Black 6 turned the corner, and the Marines and ODSTs all looked at him. The rest of Black Team followed.

Black 6: The intruders are coming this way. We barely managed to evade them.

Nemesis ODST Sergeant: Get the hell back here. Take up positioning! We are going to hold the line here. We cannot let them get past this point. If they do, they will have a clear shot at the bridge.

Black Team broke out into a sprint as they ran past the line, and continued moving towards the back. None of the other Marines or ODSTs broke their focus, as they were all waiting for ODST Black Team to try and turn the corner, totally unaware that the ODSTs that they had just spoken with were, in fact, the hostiles they were waiting for.

Black Team, on the other hand, simply walked by, totally unnoticed and unrecognized. They had moved all the way to the back of the line, passing roughly 50 hostiles in the process. When they had reached the back they all exchanged a glance and nodded. Black 1 and Black 6 took aim with their weapons, and began to lay down fire, sweeping left to right on the corridor, cutting down the Nemesis Marines and ODSTs. Black 5 and Black 3, began to take precision shots on the Marines and ODSTs who had the most distance from Black Team. Black 2 took shots at any surviving Marine or ODST who was in close proximity.

However, the ambush was promptly ended, when Black 4 raised his Rocket Launcher, and took aim for the center of the defensive line that had been set up. He fired ff both of his rockets. The explosions from both rockets had finished off, and killed, every Nemesis Marine and ODST. With the launching of the rockets, Black Team had effectively managed to cut down roughly 50 Marines and ODSTs with little to no effort.

Black 1: Good plan. Those guys had no idea what hit them. That was almost effortless.

Black 6 laughed.

Black 6: We are really cutting through these guys. I almost feel bad...almost. Too bad they are all fucking traitors.

The other members of Black Team didn't respond. However, Black 2 looked at the elevator at the end of the corridor.

Black 2: Hey, guys...look!

Black 2 approached the elevator.

Black 2: I think this is the elevator that leads directly to the bridge. This is why it was so heavily defended; they combat personnel on this ship knew that this was the most direct path to the bridge.

Black 2 walked over to the control panel that was on the wall. He pressed on of the button, and the door opened.

Black 2: What are we waiting for? Let's go get this prick and put an end to him.

The rest of Black Team nodded.

Black 6: Alright...let's do it.

Black Team walked into the elevator. Once all six members of Black Team had entered the elevator, Black 2 pressed the button that would take them right to the bridge.

Black 6: Alright...remember everyone...Spender wanted access to the data core on this ship. That means we need to make Davidov hand over the command codes to access the main computer core. If we can do that, we can upload all of the information from here, to The Ulterior Motive.

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: After that...we kill Davidov. We put a bullet square into his head.

Black Team could feel the elevator slowing down. When the elevator had stopped, they all took aim at the door. When the door opened, they were met with a large corridor. At the end of the corridor was a door, with the words COMMAND DECK written above.

Black Team started to move forward, their weapons raised and ready. However, about halfway down the corridor, Black Team stopped when the bridge to the door opened, and someone had walked off the bridge, and stood between Black Team and the entrance to the bridge.

Black 2: What the hell is that!?

Black Team looked at what was standing in front of them. It stood at around 7'6"...fully clad in what appeared to be armor.

Black 1: I have never seen anything like that before in my life.

Black 6 looked at what stood before him. The one feature that stood out most to Tye was what appeared to be a serial Number inscribed on the chest, in an industrial white text.

Black 6: Z-028. What the hell does that mean?

STB Breaking Point

UNSC Halcyon Class – The Nemesis - Corridor Outside the Bridge - Close Proximity to the Biko Star System - 1900 hours - May 18st 2515.

Black 1 stepped forward and scoffed.

Black 1: Who cares what it means...and who cares what it is.

Black 1 raised his Assault Rifle, and the rest of Black Team then raised their respective weapons.

Noah: You should care about who I am.

Noah glared at Black Team.

Noah: I am the soldier who puts an end to you...right here...right now.

Black 6 scoffed.

Black 1: Just give the order 6. Give the order to put this fucker on the ground.

Black 6 wasted no time in giving the order.

Black 6: Open fire! Put this SOB in the grave!

All of Black Team began to open fire. However, as they did, Noah flipped to the side. As he flipped in the air, he drew an Automag and an SMG from his side holsters and began to fire.

Each member of Black Team scattered, throwing themselves to the sides of the corridor, into small doorway cubbies for cover.

Black 3: Holy shit...did you guys see that!?

Black 1 and Black 6 turned the corner and began to fire their weapons, but they had to quickly fall back behind cover due to the rapid response of Noah being able to take aim at both members of Black Team at the same time.

Black 1: Yeah...we are seeing it.

Black 3 turned the corner, and took aim with his Sniper Rifle, he fired off all four shots at Noah, but Noah managed to doge each and every single shot. Black 3, however, had to retreat back to cover because Noah began to return fire.

Black 3: That fucker dodged every shot!

Black 4 holstered his sidearm, and then reached to his belt, and pulled two grenades from his belt. He held one grenade in each hand. Black 4 activated both grenades, and started to cook them. After a second, Black 4 jumped from cover, diving to the other side of the corridor. As he flew from one side to the other, he threw both grenades at towards Noah. As the grenades flew towards Noah, Noah took aim with his Automag, and shot both grenades in mid air, blowing them up before they reached about half way.

Black 4: Son of a bitch! That prick has a perfect shot! He picked off two grenades in mid air!

Noah could be heard having a laugh.

Noah: If that is your best gentlemen...then your best won't do. This is a no-contest if you cannot even land a shot.

Noah could be heard walking down the corridor, towards where Black Team was in cover.

Noah: much as I would enjoy making you six look like rank armatures...that is not what I am here to do. I am here to extend the same military courtesy that you six extended to nearly a hundred Marines on the decks below.

As Noah marched closer, Black 2 emerged from cover, and put the barrel of his shotgun right up to Noah, and pulled the trigger. The blast knocked Noah back a few steps. Black 2 cocked his shotgun, as he walked forward, and fired again. He once again pushed Noah back. However, as Black 2 cocked the shotgun a second time, Noah lunged forward. As Noah lunged, he knocked the shotgun right from Black 2's hands, and then grabbed Black 2 and slammed him right into the wall, and then followed up by tossing Black 2 down the corridor, towards the bridge. Black 2 hit the ground hard, and rolled on the ground.

The rest of Black Team looked at Noah. They were in total shock and awe of how physically strong Noah was. They could not believe what they had just seen. They watched as Noah shrugged off two direct shotgun blasts, and they watched how easily Noah had manhandled Black 2.

The rest of Black Team began to ready their weapons as Noah rapidly got closer to where they were taking cover. All five active members of Black Team exchanged a look, and they all nodded, as they all emerged from cover and took aim at Noah. Black 1, Black 4, Black 5, and Black 6 all fired their weapons at Noah, but Noah charged through the gunfire, and used his immense size to push each member of Black team back, save for Black 3, who had moved back to give himself some room to use his Sniper Rifle.

Black 3 watched as all of his comrades were down on the ground. Black 3 began to back up, as he looked at Noah walk towards him, walking past the downed members of Black Team. Black 3 knew that if he tried to fire, Noah would simply dodge like he had before. Black 3 needed an idea, and he needed it quick.

Black 3 continued backing up, watching Noah’s steps. As Black 3 neared the elevator that Black Team had come up, he had an idea. Black 3 wasted no time in raising his Sniper Rifle to take aim at Noah.

Noah: You have missed 100% of your shots with that weapon. What makes you think you will hit me with your next four shots?

Black 3 laughed.

Black 3: Well…that is simple…

Black 3 turned his rifle to the side, and shot the left wall of the corridor, and banked a shot off the wall, and hit Noah right in the chest. Black 3 then took aim behind Noah, and fired at the wall on the right, near the end of the corridor. After several ricochets, the sniper round hit Noah right in the back. Black 3 then took aim to his near immediate right, and fired once more, banking a shot off the wall, and into Noah’s chest again. The third shot is what dropped Noah to one knee.

As Noah went down to one knee, the other members of Black Team started to recover. Black 6 was the first to get back to his feet, as he looked at Noah.

Black 3: A little help here would be great boss!

Black 6 saw that Noah was on the ground, on one knee. Black 6 knew that he had to act fast. Black 6 ran at Noah, and grabbed Noah’s helmet, and began to pull at it, trying to pull the helmet off. However, before Black 6 could pull Noah’s helmet off, Noah pushed back, and sent Tye flying backwards.

As Black 6 flew backwards, Black 1 got back to his feet. He saw Black 6 get thrown off, and he watched as Noah was getting back to his feet. Black 1 patted his sides, and found out that he was still armed with his taser. Black 1 drew the taser, and ran at Noah, jumping on Noah’s back. It was at this point that Black 1 noticed the auxiliary data slot on the back of Noah’s helmet. Black 1 looked at the data port, then looked at his taser. Black 1 knew what he had to do. Without any hesitation, Black 1 stuck the taser right up to the data port, and pulled the trigger. Black 1 sent a very intense 50 000 volts right into Noah’s data port. Noah began to scream as he felt himself being electrocuted.

Noah’s armor began to smoke as Black 1 kept the taser applied to Noah’s data port.

Black 1: Black 3…shoot this asshole!

Just as Black 1 said this, a feedback jolt shocked Black 1, and knocked him off of Noah’s back, and Black 1 was sent backwards. Noah, on the other hand, shot back to his feet, and stumbled around. Noah’s armor had been critically damaged as a result of Black 1 tasering the exposed data port. Noah began to stumble around, totally disorientated. Noah began to stumble towards Black 3, but Black 3 ducked around Noah, and rejoined his comrades.

As Black 3 regrouped with the rest of Black Team, Black 2 had recovered, and was now back on his feet. All six members of Black Team looked at Noah, as he leaned on the wall, weakened from the electrocution.

Black 6: Alright boys…weapons up. Put this fucker down!

Noah groaned as he lunged at Black Team one final time. However, the hail of gunfire from Black Team began to shred Noah, as the Spartan was cut down, bullet by bullet, shell by shell, round by round. By the time that all of Black Team had run dry on their clips, Noah was laying dead in a pool of his own blood.

Black 6: Good work men. Now…if there is nothing else we have to kill…time to get Davidov.

Black Team began to reload their weapons as they headed right towards the bridge. As Black Team entered the bridge, they saw several officers sitting at their designated stations, and they saw Davidov, standing over the holo table, with his back turned to the entrance.

Each member of Black Team took aim at a different bridge officer, and began to open fire. Black Team cut down every officer on the main bridge, save for Davidov, who was still standing over the holo table.

A silence came over the bridge, as Black Team could not understand why Davidov did not even flinch.

Black Team began to spread out, but as they did, Davidov spoke.

Commodore Davidov: You six are something else. You cut through the Marines and ODSTs on this ship like they were butter. You even managed to kill Noah. Noah was a super soldier who was specifically engineer to spearhead a whole new generation of military force...and you six brought him down.

Davidov turned and looked at Black Team.

Commodore Davidov: There is a special place in hell for all of you.

Black 6 scoffed.

Black 6: The people we killed were traitors. You are a traitor. You will be in hell long before we will be…

Davidov frowned in confusion.

Commodore Davidov: Traitor? Son…who do you think I am? Do I look like a traitor?

Black 6: You are helping the Insurrection!

Commodore Davidov: Helping the Insurrection? The only thing I was doing was helping the Insurrection die! My ship was dispatched here to wipe out the local Insurrection on this planet! My orders were to lure out their leadership with a supply shipment of weapons…then I was to kill them all, impound their ship, data mine it for intel, and wipe out their bases on Arcadia! I am here to STOP the Insurrection. I am NOT helping them! I can prove it! I can show you my orders; I can even show you my navigational logs to correlate what my orders say.

Davidov shook his head.

Commodore Davidov: I am not the enemy here!

Black 2 stepped forward.

Black 2: But Spender said…

Davidov interrupted Black 2.

Commodore Davidov: Spender? Constantine Spender? That man is the devil! He is a fucking liar! He is the traitor…not I or anyone on this ship.

Black Team looked at Davidov. They didn’t say anything.

Commodore Davidov: Whatever he told you about me…I am willing to be that it was all a pile of lies.

Black Team was still silent.

Commodore Davidov: What did he tell you? How much did he say? What exactly did he say?

Black Team all exchanged a look. They all shrugged.

Black 3: he said you were helping The Insurrection, that you had been supplying them with weapons and equipment. He said that you and several other officers were traitors.

Commodore Davidov: Several other officers? Did he say who?

Black 3: No. He only mentioned you.

Davidov sighed.

Black 3: But that doesn’t matter. We have our orders.

Each member of Black Team began to raise their weapons…except for Black 6.

Commodore Davidov: Please…put your weapons down. Do not kill me. There are things I can tell you…all of you…it will explain everything. Please…

Black team was not listening. They each took the safeties off their weapons.

Commodore Davidov: Please…do not do this…

Davidov began to back up.

Commodore Davidov: Listen to me!

Black 6 then stepped forward. He raised one of his hands.

Black 6: Black Team…

Each member of Black Team looked at Black 6.

Black 6: Hold your fire…

Black 1 looked at Black 6.

Black 1: 6…what are you doing?

Black 6: I said hold your fire.

Black 1: Are you insane!? We have orders to kill this scum!

Black 6 and glared at Black 1. His voice became stern, as he began to shout.

Black 6: You now have new orders to hold your God-damn fire unless I say otherwise!

Black 1 began to back off. As he did, Black 6 looked at Davidov.

Black 6: You better start explaining yourself Davidov. You better tell me everything you know. The moment I feel that you are yanking my chain…I will shoot you myself. You better lay down some Book of Revelation or “end time events” type shit…or I will NOT be pleased!

Davidov sighed.

Commodore Davidov: Thank you…please…just hear me out.

Davidov approached the holotable. He was about to turn it on, but he heard Black Team shuffle. Davidov then looked at Black 6.

Commodore Davidov: May I?

Davidov gestured to the holotable.

Black 6 nodded.

Davidov nodded, and then activated the holotable. However, before Davidov could say anything, Black 6 spoke up.

Black 6: Hold on…before you say one word…

Black 6 held out his left hand, with his index finger raised, giving the “one second” gesture. Black 6 held his hand in place, as he used his other hand, to contact The Ulterior Motive.

Black 6: Black 6 to Ulterior Motive. Do you copy?

Black 6 waited a moment, and then heard Spender over the comm line.

Spender: I read you Black 6. What is your status?

Black 6: We have secured the bridge. We killed everyone here. However…we have hit a snag. Davidov isn’t here. He must have fled the bridge before we got here. We have a general idea where he is going, and we are chasing him down now. However…I recommend that you cease your fire on this ship. The internal damage is critical, and any further damage could hinder our efforts. I recommend diverting available fire power to defensive stance, and target only escape pods and other small crafts fleeing The Nemesis.

Spender: Recommendation noted, and agreed with, Black 6. We will keep an eye out for small crafts fleeing. Find that traitor…and take him down. Spender out.

Spender closed the comm line, and Black 6 did the same. Black 6 then lowered his hand, and looked at Davidov.

Black 6: Alright Davidov…proceed.

Davidov activated the holotable. Davidov had inserted a datachip into the holotable, and began to download information on to the data chip. As this happened, Davidov looked back up, and looked at Black Team.

Commodore Davidov: Alright…now…before I say anything...I need to know how much you guys ACTUALLY know about Spender?

Black 6: The man is ONI. He is senior brass, obviously. That is really all we know.

Commodore Davidov: He has told you six NOTHING. He has you all totally in the dark. Classic Spender.

Davidov sighed as he walked back and forth.

Commodore Davidov: Alright…listen very carefully; Spender and I, we both have one thing, and only one thing, in common. Both Spender and I are members of a clandestine organization called The Trust Syndicate. The Trust Syndicate was born shortly before the Jovain Moon Campaign of 2160. We were created to ensure that the UEG had proper funding and military support to prevent the Koslovic Supporters and Frieden Movement from gaining and serious headway. This was accomplished by a group of people known as “The Board of Chairmen” or The Board for short. The Board was the leadership of The Trust. It was the direct oversight for our planning and activities. The Board was responsible for directing everything concerning The Trust. They led us since our inception. The Board was typically composed of financial, political, and military leaders. The Trust always kept The Board diverse in its assembly to ensure an equal balance of power in the main sectors of society.

Davidov began to walk around the bridge, pacing back and forth.

Davidov: As Time went on, The Trust grew in both scope and influence, though always remaining a closely guarded secret. As Humanity expanded beyond the Sol system, The Trust began to adopt new roles…roles such as ensuring that planetary colonial prospects that had high value were guaranteed to succeed. The Trust, in so few words, was created to ensure human prosperity and advancement, and to halt any deterrents or derailments during the course of Human expansion.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: Fast forward to the modern era – 2494 – the birth of The Insurrection. With the onset of The Insurrection, The Trust was faced with a grave situation. We wasted no time in preparing ourselves, our assets, and our resources to combat this threat. The Trust began to pool its resources through the right channels, and we gave the UEG the funding and supplies it needed to fight this so called Insurrection. For a while, we were doing an amazing job. We had then Insurrection contained, The UEG was winning, we had round-the-clock propaganda campaigns that were swaying public favor towards the UEG…we had everything going as planned. Little by little…the outer colonies began to see the wisdom of the UEG…despite what The Insurrection had been saying. We had every single media source under our fist. We had censures on The ChatterNet and each Colonial Internet. The Trust even went so far as to censure data on Shipnets. We used every resource imaginable to smear The Insurrection in the public eye.

Davidov sighed.

Commodore Davidov: Fast forward again. The year is 2500. The Trust recruits a prominent officer into the ranks. That officer’s name was Captain Constantine Spender. He was a decorated ONI Agent. He was skilled, deadly, ruthless, cunning, charismatic, charming, graceful, and absolutely unstoppable in all that he did. He could pick up ANY weapon and he could make it sing and dance…blindfolded. He could take any person, and convince them of his point of view. He had a perception that was unlike anything we had ever seen. Someone even called him “The Arm of the Lord”. When The Trust got Spender into the ranks…it opened up a whole new field of operations and tactics that we had NEVER considered…and that we were NOT prepared to handle. Spender gave us the ability and the courage to carry out our own operations and we were able to strike directly at our enemies without the use of a proxy. He changed The Trust from a passive organization into an active one. We became the tip of the spear. He changed who we were just though his actions alone. He militarized The Trust. His influence corrupted The Trust. We began to turn our assets and resources inwards, directing them to R&D and expanding our active capabilities. We began to train our own soldiers, develop our own tactics, build our own ships, even research and develop our own weaponry.

Davidov shook his head.

Commodore Davidov: Spender’s stardom rose at an astronomical rate. In less than five years…Spender had managed to entrench himself into The Board of Chairmen, and from there, he used his charms and charisma to replace every sitting member of The Board with a military officer. However…Spender was not done…not by a long shot.

Davidov scoffed.

Commodore Davidov: Spender began to change our policy on The Insurrection as well. He began to change offensive plans, into assistive ones. He began to express an interest in helping The Insurrection grow in strength. Of course…with his charm and charisma…nobody challenged him. This entire series of events climaxed in 2510…when he proposed Operation Blind Eagle.

Black 6: What was Operation Blind Eagle?

Commodore Davidov: It was a consorted effort on the part of Constantine Spender to place Trust operatives into high ranking military positions with the goal of gaining control of vital military branches. The basic ideology was to grow the threat of The Insurrection, which would force military expansion of The UNSC – which would create more command positions and availability for insertion of Trust Operatives. The plan did work…but it fell catastrophically short of expectations. Up until this point, The Insurrection has grown exponentially in strength…and Spender only has managed to place a few dozen Trust Operatives in the UNSC. Despite the shortcomings…he has maintained his stance, and continues his efforts.

Davidov hung his head in defeat.

Commodore Davidov: I have been trying to stop him. I have been trying to stop his military expansion, and I have been trying so hard to return The Trust to what it used to be. While I do owe my current position on The Board of Chairmen to Spender…I simply cannot allow him to do what he wants to do unchecked. I am so close. I so desperately want The Trust to go back to the way it was, the way it used to be – and that was a peaceful oversight committee that accelerated and expedited positive action against negative forces that threatened our very way of life.

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Davidov shook his head in defeat.

Commodore Davidov: I do not like what The Trust has become. We have become…thugs…killers…and backroom dealing con artists. We have become an unaccountable paramilitary. We have become the evil that we were founded to route and destroy. We have fallen from grace. We are the fallen Angle of Light…the Lucifer of the modern era. Vanity was found In the Trust…and that vanity was Constantine Spender. We lost our way...

Davidov frowned.

Commodore Davidov: And now…that vanity is going to have me killed…because I held steadfast to what I believed in, to what The Trust believed in. This is not how it is supposed to be. This is wrong! This is immoral! This is not what or who we are! The Trust is better than this! History proves this assertion as true! It is why we are called The Trust. Trust was placed, in us, to ensure that humanity stays the course. We were trusted with the future of mankind. We were trusted that we would lead, guide, and direct with honor and integrity. We were trusted to safeguard and secure our great society, our values, our principles, and our system against anything that would threaten it.

Davidov began to raise his voice in frustration.

Commodore Davidov: We have FAILED!

Everyone on the bridge was silent. Black 6 simply looked at Davidov for a few minutes. He soon found the will to speak.

Black 6: I think I am going to be sick…

Black Team looked at Black 6.

Black 6: I cannot believe what I just heard. I am still wrestling with it.

Black 6 shook his head, and shrugged.

Black 6: What the hell am I supposed to do now? Commodore…we were sent here with orders to kill you. Now…those orders are not as easy to accept. Things are not as black and white anymore.

Black 6 then looked at Davidov.

Black 6: If I kill you…I will seal the fate of The Trust…and will NOT help the situation. If I let you live…

Davidov interrupted.

Commodore Davidov: If you let me live…son…you will die in my stead. Spender does not tolerate failure. He will kill you. I guarantee it. You will die.

Black 1 had his interest peaked when he heard this.

Black 6: So, then, what do you suggest? We seem to be stuck.

Davidov paused. He sighed.

Commodore Davidov: Realistically…the most viable solution would be for you to complete your mission. As much as it pains me, and even wounds me, to say…I feel that my time is at an end. It would be very unfair for me to ask you to lay down your life, or jeopardize it, on my account.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: I need to know about everything you were sent here to do.

Black 6: We had two objectives…kill you, and upload the Nemesis’ main computer core to The Ulterior Motive.

Commodore Davidov: I see.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: Then there is only one thing to do then; you must kill me…and upload the data to Spender. I am willing to let this happen. I will not fight my fate…one ONE condition.

Black 6: Name it.

Commodore Davidov: The one condition is that you start asking questions. Challenge Spender. Force the truth out of him. Hear it all from him. Make him admit what he was doing. Do not let him hide the truth from you. Do not be his lackeys. Do not be his right hand. Do not allow him to use you to do the dirty jobs he would rather not touch. Do not let him use you as his own personal guns.

Every member of Black Team, save for Black 6, scoffed. Davidov shook his head. However, Davidov looked at the holotable and issued several commands to the main computer.

Commodore Davidov: I have unlocked the main computer access core on the engineering deck. You can upload this ship’s information from there. However…I implore you…ask questions. You six…you all deserve to know who he really is.

Black 1 was tired of hearing Davidov speak.

Black 1: I am getting sick and tired of hearing this guy talk 6. Can we put a bullet in his ass?

Black 6 turned to Black 1.

Black 6: Black 1…take the rest of Black Team to the main computer core…and begin uploading the entire contents of the main computer core to The Ulterior Motive. I will deal with Davidov.

Black 1 glared at Black 6.

Black 6: That was not a request Black 1. That was an order.

Black 1 glared back at Tye, but eventually, Black 1 stood down. Black 1, without saying a word, led the rest of Black Team off the bridge, leaving Black 6 alone with Davidov.

Davidov watched as Black Team left. When the bridge door had closed, Davidov let out a sigh of relief.

Commodore Davidov: Thank God you are in charge…Black 6 was it?

Black 6: Actually…

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: Yeah…Black 6.

Commodore Davidov: You seem to have a firm control of your team.

Black 6: I would like to think so.

Commodore Davidov: However…you are much different than they are. You gave me the chance to talk. I have a feeling if any of the others were in charge…I would have been killed long ago.

Black 6: You had a right to explain yourself. You had the right to tell us what we needed to know.

Commodore Davidov: And I thank you for that.

Davidov turned away. He walked towards the front of his bridge. He then turned, and looked back at Tye.

Commodore Davidov: Black 6…I left something for you in data port 3 on the holotable.

Black 6 walked over to the holotable, and pulled out the data chip that Davidov had put their earlier.

Commodore Davidov: That information there…is what Spender is after. That information is why he wants my computer core. I transferred all of that data off my computer core and onto that chip because I want to keep it away from Spender.

Black 6: Then…why would you give this to me? I work for Spender…technically.

Commodore Davidov: I gave it to you because you are a good man. I see it in you. I hear it in your voice. You were not like the other five. You are different. You have not been tainted by Spender and his methods. You may work for Spender directly…but you are not one of his agents. The other five you were with…they have become his agents. They have been indoctrinated by Spender and his methods.

Black 6: What are you saying?

Commodore Davidov: Trust nobody! Do not trust your team. Do not trust Spender. Trust yourself, and only yourself.

Davidov paused. He walked towards Black 6.

Commodore Davidov: The information on that data chip is…your salvation. It is mankinds salvation from what The Trust has become. It contains tactical and logistical information on Spender and his activities. It is the full documentation of everything that I have told you today, and then some. It contains his entire service record, every mission, every kill, and every order. That chip also contains documented proof of everything I told you. It contains extensive agendas that details all of the little side projects that he started working on since his rise to power in The Trust.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: It is too valuable to destroy, too valuable to have multiple copies of, and too valuable to fall into the hands of Spender. You must keep it for yourself…or hand it off to someone else so they can use it. However…it must never fall into Spender’s hands. Do you understand?

Black 6 was unsure of what to say. He was at the precipice of this issue. His next words would affirm loyalty, or confirm treason. He didn’t know if this was a test, or if this was legit. He had no clue what to say.

Commodore Davidov: Black 6…do you understand!?

Black 6 was nervous. However…he let his conscious prevail.

Black 6: I understand. I assure you…Spender will never know about this data.

Black 6 took the data chip and held it in his left hand.

Davidov then sighed, as he closed his eyes. He shook his head.

Commodore Davidov: Ohhh…this mortal coil…

Davidov threw his arms up, but let them slam down on his sides, as he shrugged.

Commodore Davidov: You know Black 6…I have always believed one thing; If The Trust cannot exist to be a force for good…then it cannot exist at all. The Trust has stopped being a force for good, and it has become a force for evil. The Trust no longer deserves to exist. The Trust has lost that right. If Spender is successful...then The Trust must be destroyed. It will no longer be capable of altruism...only sadism.

Davidov put both of his hands to his own neck, and pulled the rank insignia off of his jacket collar. He tossed both of his rank insignia aside.

Commodore Davidov: Effective immediately…I am tendering my resignation from active military service…and I disavow any and all loyalty to The Trust. I die…a free man…a man with a soul ready for judgment. I have done all I could to explain myself…to testify to The Trust’s existence, both in its present and past state.

Black 6 looked at Davidov.

Commodore Davidov: I am prepared to die now. My life is complete. You may fire when ready.

Black 6 looked at Davidov for a moment. Black 6 watched Davidov. Davidov simply glared at Black 6…waiting for the inevitable conclusion. Black 6 knew what he had to do…but he hated himself for it. Black 6 was killing what seem like a good and honest man…for no good reason.

Black 6 fought the urge to shoot Davidov…but the look that Davidov was giving was enough to guilt Black 6 into convincing himself that he was committing an egregious and heinous crime. Black 6 eventually snapped, as he grabbed the handle of his Automag, and began to raise it.

Commodore Davidov: Do it. Carry out your orders…BLACK…6…

Black 6: I don't think I can shoot an unarmed man.

Commodore Davidov: Is that so? How terrible for you Black 6. How utterly terrible.

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: Black 6...this needs to be done. You HAVE to pull the trigger. I don't want to die...but sometimes what we want, is not always what is best. Sometimes...the greater good must be served. You may see this as shooting an unarmed man...but I see this as the catalyst to galvanizing the last bit of decency The Trust has, and unleashing it upon Spender and his one final effort to preserve what is good about Trust. You must do this...everything depends on it. must...

Davidov paused.

Commodore Davidov: Black 6...pull the trigger.

Black 6 simply looked at Davidov. Eventually, Black 6 gave in…and pulled the trigger. Black 6 had put a bullet square in the forehead of Davidov. The bullet went right through Davidov’s forehead, and out the back of his head, as Davidov fell to the ground dead. Davidov hit the ground, as total dead weight, as he lay on the ground, in a rapidly forming pool of his own blood.

Black 6 had never felt so sick in his life. He had just murdered an innocent man. His gun was still raised, pointing at where Davidov was standing before being shot down.

Black 6: My orders…

Black 6 paused.

Black 6: I carried out my orders…

Black 6 then holstered his automag, and looked at the hand that he used to pull the trigger.

Black 6: What have I become? What have I done?

Black 6 simply stood in silence, trying to answer his own question. matter how hard he tried...he could not find the answer.

Black 6 then looked at the data chip that he was holding in his hand. He knew that this data chip contained answers and information that only he had possession of. Black 6 knew that he had information that Spender WOULD kill for. Black 6 had to keep this information a secret, and he had to keep it safe. Only he could know about this information.

After Black 6 had recomposed himself, he left the bridge of the Nemesis, and he went in search of the rest of Black Team. As Black moved through the corridors of the Nemesis, he saw dead Marines, ODSTs, and crew members everywhere. He knew, just by the way the bodies had fallen, and the location of the exit wounds, that Black Team had swept through like a hurricane, and killed everyone in their path. Black 6 knew, for a fact, that the death toll that they had inflicted was defiantly in the several undred range. Black 6 finally managed to find Black Team in the engineering deck, in an area reserved for the main computer core. Black 1, Black 3, Black 4 and Black 5 had various crew members lined up against a wall, and they were executing crew members half a dozen at a time. When Black 6 saw this, he nearly flipped out.

Black 6: What the hell are you guys doing!? Stand down!

However, just as Tye said this, the four members of Black Team executed the last batch of crewmen.

Black 6: I said stand down!

Black 1, Black 3, Black 4 and Black 5 looked at Tye.

Black 3: Is there a problem.

Black 6: Yeah...the problem is that you are executing unarmed people!

Black 1: We have our orders.

Black 6: Your orders? Executing unarmed people was NOT what we were ordered to do!

Black 1: We were ordered to sweep this ship. If you mean executing unarmed are damn right those were our orders!

Black 6 scoffed.

Black 6: Right now...I do not give a damn about our orders. After what I just heard...our orders can go straight to hell and burn for all eternity.

Black 1 laughed.

Black 1: What's the matter...BOSS? Can't handle the stress that comes with leadership?

Black 6 stepped towards Black 1. HIs tone was very aggressive.

Black 6: Watch it Black 1. You don't want to push me.

Black 1: Look...all I am saying is that if you are having a hard time with something as simple as a sweep and clean...then I seriously doubt your ability to lead this team.

Black 6: We just ran a sweep and clean op on a ship and crew that did not deserve it! We were ordered, by Spender, to wipe out his direct opposition under false pretenses!

Black 1: So what?

Black 6 was taken aback.

Black 6: So...doesn't it bother you that you were used and lied to so you could be used to carry out someone else's dirty business?

Black 1: To be is no different than my previous posting with the ORION Project. Same dance...different tune. To be honest Tye...I really do not give a rats ass who is in my iron long as they bleed, fall down, and die. I can sleep at night knowing that I am still useful, that I have fulfilled my duty, and that I have proven my loyalty.

Black 6 shook his head in total disbelief.

Black 6: I cannot believe what I am hearing. You have absolutely no ethical qualms about what we did.

Black 6 then looked at Black 3, Black 4, and Black 5.

Black 6: Do any of you care? Are any of you bothered, in even the slightest degree, that you were used to murder God-knows how many people?

Black 3, Black 4, and Black 5 all shrugged.

Black 5: Orders are orders Tye.

Black 3: We had to finish what we started.

Black 4: It wasn't personal...

Black 1 laughed.

Black 1: Yes...orders are orders...Tye. We had to finish what we started. It wasn't personal.

Black 6 was totally speechless. He could not believe what he was hearing. How were these the same people that he trained with? They were...different. Something was terribly wrong. These were not the men he met when he first joined up with Black Team. They were different.

Black 6 took a few steps back, but stopped, when he heard Black 2 behind him. Black 6 then turned to face Black 2.

Black 2: Alright...all the information on this side is being uploaded to The Ulterior Motive. With pretty much the entire crew dead, we can return to The Ulterior Motive, and then Spender can shoot this piece of shit out of the sky, killing anyone we missed.

Black 1 nodded.

Black 1: Alright...let's move out! Let's check in with Spender.

Black Team looked at Black 6 for a few moments. They were expecting him to make the call.

Black 5: What are you waiting for? Contact Spender.

Black 6 looked at Black 5. Slowly, Black 6 raised his hand to the side of his helmet, and then contacted Spender. As Black 6 spoke, his voice was cold, and very monotone.

Black 6: Black Ulterior Motive. Do you copy?

After a moment, Spender responded over the comm line.

Spender: Ulterior Motive here...what is your status Black 6?

Black 6: The Nemesis has been secured, with most, if not all of the combat personal dead. Davidov is dead. We are currently uploading the main computer core's entire contents to The Ulterior Motive. Awaiting further orders.

Spender: Well done Black Team. I can confirm that the upload is in progress. With Davidov Dead...that should put a serious dent dissident activity.

Black 6 scoffed.

Spender: We should have the full contents of Davidov's computer core in very short order. After the upload has finished...I plan on destroying the Nemesis. I want Black Team to return to The Ulterior Motive...and take the rest of the day off. Well done Black have performed admirably. You have done well...and performed as expected.

Spender paused. Black 6 remained silent.

Spender: Make your way back Black Team. The mission is over. Return to your point of insertion...and return using the Pelican that you used to get there.

Black 6: Yes...sir. Understood.

Black 6 closed the comm line. He then looked at the rest of Black Team.

Black 6: Return to The Ulterior Motive...we're done here...

Black 6 turned away, and began to walk off. The rest of Black Team followed in tow. The six ODSTs proceeded to their original point of insertion.

STB Breaking Point

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – The Officer’s Lounge - Close Proximity to the Biko Star System - 2300 hours - May 18st 2515.

All of Black Team, save for Tye, had completed their mission, and had returned to The Ulterior Motive. As they had successfully eliminated Davidov, inflicted heavy casualties on the Nemesis crew, and uploaded the entire computer core of the Nemesis to The Ulterior Motive, Black Team was given the rest of the day off for exemplary work.

Jonas: Cheers boys! We got the job done! We came, we saw, and we kicked ass like it was nobody’s business!

Jonas raised his shot glass. Evan, Archimedes, Kraven, and Eli all raised their shot glasses, and they all drank at the same time.

Eli: Damn Jonas…how many times do we need to toast that?

Jonas: Until we are so drunk that we forget how many people we killed!

Jonas looked at Evan.

Jonas: Evan!? Have you forgotten the number yet?

Evan: Nope. 521 is still hanging around and it won’t leave my brain.

Kraven: You know…we could have killed a hell of a lot more than 521. We went easy on them. Seriously…we were cutting those guys down like they were grass on a Sunday.

Archimedes: Why didn’t we kill everyone?

Evan: Ammo limitations, higher priority targets or time constraints…take your pick.

Archimedes: Last time I checked…our bare hands had infinite ammo.

Evan: Time constraints then. Believe me…as much as I would of loved to thrash the life out of every Tom, Dick, and Harry on that ship…it would of taken too long.

Archimedes, Jonas, and Kraven began to laugh. Eli, however, simply looked around.

Eli: Guys…where the hell is Tye?

Everyone shrugged.

Jonas: Who knows? He screwed off after we got back from the Nemesis. He didn’t say a word.

Eli: That is very odd. It is sort of concerning. Why would he just skulk off like that? Honestly…he parted ways without a single word.

Jonas: To be honest…I don’t think he can handle being the leader of Black Team.

Eli: I have no clue what firefight you were watching Jonas, but Tye knows how to handle himself in a firefight. There is very little that can shake his aim.

Eli Paused.

Eli: He got wacko when he talked to Davidov. I think Davidov may have gotten to Tye a bit. I will admit…even I was floored by what Davidov was saying, and I am used to the tip top secret stuff. Tye, on the other hand, isn’t as experienced with the whole “Black Ops” thing. As good as he is with a gun, it takes time to wise up to how the system really works.

Jonas: Well…if you ask me…we need a leader who can handle the scary stories. I don’t know about the rest of you…but I don’t give a flying fuck about which Syndicate is running which society or tugging at whatever strings. All I care about is the amount of damage I can do with an Assault Rifle, how many assholes I can put six feet under, and how much I get paid doing it.

Jonas paused.

Jonas: If Spender grew horns and a tail, and called himself the Angel of Light, the Father of Lies, and the Prince of Darkness, I would not give a damn. As long as my pay stays the same, and I am kept busy...I couldn't care less if Spender is unpopular.

Evan, Kraven, and Archimedes began to laugh.

Archimedes: Damn Jonas…that is pretty messed up.

Jonas slammed his glass down on the table.

Jonas: I am not kidding guys. I really do not give a damn. All that crap that Davidov went right over my head. Truthfully and honestly...I fail to see what he gripe was about.

All of Black Team began to quiet. They all looked at Jonas.

Evan: What exactly do you mean? What are you saying?

Jonas: What I am saying is that when I take into consider EVERYTHING that Davidov told us...I believe that Spender has the right idea.

Kraven: Really? You think?

Jonas: Think about it. Think about what Davidov was saying. Spender is one of the most senior officers in this so-called "Trust Syndicate". Spender wants to militarize this organization, expand its power, and become far more self-sufficient. What was so wrong with what Spender wanted?

Archimedes: Well...the "unaccountable paramilitary" bit was a bit spine chilling.

Kraven: Spender was also helping The Insurrection to grow in strength.

Evan: And...and...Spender made it very clear that he had plans to MURDER Davidov for being a dissenting opinion.

Eli: I have to admit guys...this really portrays Spender in a shitty light.

Jonas shook his head and laughed.

Jonas: Guys...listen to yourselves. You are nitpicking at such tiny issues.

Kraven: Helping The Insurrection is a tiny issue?

Jonas: It was a strategic move to get what he wanted. He wasn't allies with The Insurrection. He proved that when he blew up that Insurrectionist ship that was meeting with The Nemesis. So what...he made The Insurrection a little bit more powerful than it was. It was all for the purpose of expanding the interests of "The Trust'.

Kraven: I don't really know. That seems a little inexcusable. Help The Insurrection? Are you really going to defend that?

Jonas: I understand why he did it.

Kraven: Look...Jonas...we built our careers from killing Insurrectionists. How do you understand how someone could help The Insurrection? What are we missing here that you seem to have figured out? You hated The Insurrection more than any of us. What's changed?

Jonas: Nothing has changed. I still hate The Insurrection. have to admit...the only reason The Insurrection is still an issue is because the UEG lacked the balls to take unilateral action against The Insurrection. Don't you guys remember how long it used to take to get a single deployment going? DO you remember how much red tape and bureaucracy there was? If Spender has shown me one was that he has what it takes to take the unilateral action that is needed when it is needed most. You guys have to admit...that is very liberating and refreshing.

Kraven sort of nodded in agreement.

Kraven: Yeah...I guess you could say that is a plus. does not excuse helping The Insurrection.

Jonas: are not listening. This was never about helping The Insurrection. This was about solving the problem. I can imagine some of the logic behind it. Think about it...Spender was helping The Insurrection in order to force the UEG to expand military power. Expanding military provides expanded opportunity for men like Spender to introduce his unique brand of problem solving and authority to solve the problem.

Kraven: That way to think about it. I never thought about it that way.

Kraven nodded, and he began to think further about the issue.

Kraven: I can really understand how that be honest. Perhaps...perhaps Davidov was wrong. Perhaps he was far too liberal in demonizing Spender.

Jonas: My thoughts exactly.

Archimedes watched the two talk. He then had to interject.

Archimedes: Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. I have to stop you two right there. We all heard what Davidov said. Spender is essentially creating his own private little military by changing the objectives of The Trust. This MAKES Spender a power unto himself. With his own paramilitary...he is not answerable to ANYONE. He can do whatever he wants.

Jonas: Your point?

Archimedes: My point? The point should be clear! Spender can do whatever he wants if there is nobody left for him to be accountable to. Nobody should have so much power where they essentially have a death squad at their beck and call. That makes him exactly what The Trust was founded to oppose.

Jonas: Perhaps. Or perhaps that simply makes him far more effective at his job.

Archimedes looked at Jonas with a look of curiosity.

Jonas: It is clear that Davidov equates the notion of paramilitarization with the concepts of corruption and unaccountability. That is simply not the case. Davidov made a false equivalency because on a very skewed way of looking at things.

Archimedes: How?

Jonas: With Spender being the only voice required to initiate a paramilitary strike against Insurrectionists, or any other threat for that matter, response time is reduced, bureaucratic overhead is eliminated, and overall combat effectiveness is improved. Davidov was a bureaucrat...plain and simple. He placed higher value on solving problems from behind a desk than actually doing it with a barrel of a gun.

Archimedes: Well...

Jonas: Archimedes...You, more than anyone, have expressed frustration and disdain to the total incompetence of the UEG and the military. At least, with The Trust Syndicate, you have a chance to actually make a difference.

Archimedes paused. He was unsure.

Archimedes: I...have no idea. I will admit that The Trust does offer us a chance to something instead of being sidelined by ONI.

Jonas: Exactly...

Evan: REALLY do not care that Spender had us kill Davidov, and a shitload of his crew?

Jonas: Not in the slightest.

Evan: So you agree that what Spender is doing is right?

Jonas: Yes.

Evan sighed.

Evan: Well...I will admit...that Spender is a pretty sketchy officer with some pretty messed up goals. However...being back in action, going through all this training, and actually seeing how effective his methods are at getting the job done has been...exhilarating. I have to be honest...before coming here...I felt like the military had abandoned us, like we were not useful anymore. The feeling of being useful know that we are actually making a difference...and doing what we were created to is very appealing.

Jonas: Yeah...that's another thing. We have purpose again. You all remember Noah...don't you?

Eli: You mean that giant soldier we fought outside of Davidov's bridge? Yeah...that thing was huge. I have never seen anything like that.

Jonas: I remember a number of weeks ago...we were all discussing why the ORION project was cancelled. Have you guys ever considered that perhaps the ORION projected was canned because ONI had THINGS like Noah in mind?

Eli: You that you mentioned it...That thing we fought on Davidov's may of very well been the reason the ORION project was canned. Perhaps...perhaps those were some sort of soldier?

Jonas: It is possible. It is very possible.

Eli: When I really think about all of it...the training, the conditioning, the scenarios we were running, the battle hardening...perhaps it was so Spender...and Novak by extension...could get us up to spec to fight those things if need be. That last mission put everything into perspective. We were trained to fight UNSC Marines. We were trained on how to sabotage ships, engage in CQC aboard UNSC ships, advanced infiltration and tactics...all of it. Everything makes sense now.

Eli paused.

Eli: It is possible that Spender anticipated everything that we would be faced by. He knew that ORIONs were being phased out, and forced into either retirement or total obscurity. He did give us a renewed purpose. he gave us the chance to be useful again. He gave us the chance to do the jobs we were created to do.

Jonas: Now...where would the five of us be without Spender? Where would the five of us be if Davidov was calling the shots?

Everyone on Black Team looked at each other.

Evan: You are right Jonas.

Archimedes: I have to are defiantly right about this.

Kraven: Oh yeah. I have no doubt that we would be rotting away behind some desk had it not of been for Spender.

Eli: It is true. Spender has done more for us than anyone else has.

All five men began to nod.

Evan: The one thing that we need to ask ourselves is...can we trust Spender? Can we work with him, knowing that we will matter to him on a continual basis.

Jonas: I think if we make ourselves useful, show our commitment, and our loyalty above all else...I think Spender will show the same to us.

Archimedes: Well...I know that I don't want to go back to what I was doing before. I like it here. If unconditional loyalty is what it will take to stay here and continue to matter...then my unconditonal loyalty Spender will have.

Jonas: I could not of said it better myself.

Kraven: Hear, hear!

Eli: Amen!

Jonas nodded and grinned.

Jonas: I am glad we are all in agreement on this.

Eli: Well...not all of us...yet.

Jonas: What?

Evan: Did you forget about Tye?

Jonas sighed. He then shook his head.

Jonas: To be honest…I doubt Tye would agree with us. He is simply a different breed of solider. He comes from the stock of soldier that believes in regulations and rule books. We come from a stock of soldier that believes in getting the job done, at any cost. We were called in as the desperate measures. We are used to a methodology that is beyond his understanding. You see…there is a reason we have the rational to come to terms with the whole…Spender vs Davidov situation. Tye, on the other hand, was sympathetic to Davidov. Tye would never be convinced that Spender is doing the right thing, not just for us, but for everyone. Tye does not know what it means to be sidelined and sent into total obscurity. He has no idea what it means to no longer be useful or valuable to the very same military that trained you.

Eli: Jonas…

Jonas interrupted Eli.

Jonas: Don’t try and defend him. We all know that you two are friends, and have been for some time now. However, no amount of friendship should convince you that he would be a good fit on any team that operates by Spender’s rulebook. Perhaps he could work for someone like Davidov…but not Spender. The only reason he has made it this far is because we have been operating under false pretenses. Now that we know Spender has been less than honest about his intentions…Tye is going to feel less and less like he belongs here…because he won’t want to play by our rule set.

Eli: Perhaps you are right Jonas…

Jonas: Eli…there is no perhaps about it. You know I am right. Ye will never fit in here. We all saw how he got cold feet on The Nemesis. I seriously doubt he is up to the challenge.

Jonas paused.

Jonas: And if Tye is not up to the challenge of serving under Spender…then he CANNOT lead this team. We need a new leader.

Evan: Do you have someone in mind Jonas?

Jonas: As a matter of fact…I do. Me. It should have been me from the start.

Kraven: Well, no offense Jonas…but it sounds you are slighted. It sounds like everything you just said about ye was a smokescreen for the fact that YOU want to run this team.

Jonas: I should have been the leader. The only reason Tye became the leader was because he survived that stupid simulation.

Archimedes: A simulation that was designed for ORIONs…not normal people.

Eli: Yeah. Tye impressed the hell out of all of us. He also proved he had excellent leadership abilities when he rallied us and devised that plan.

Evan: Well, let’s not forget who executed the main aspect of that plan.

Jonas: And let’s also not forget that we all did an equal amount of work in killing that simulated group of soldiers. Tye just got lucky, and he had a good idea at the right time. That does not make him a leader. Experience is what makes a leader, and experience is something he lacks.

Everyone looked at Jonas, and they all gave sheepish shrugs which turned into nods.

Jonas: Also…let’s not forget that when ORION was active and Black Team was operating under ONI, through the CMA, I was the leader of the team. Hell, I founded the team.

Jonas scoffed.

Jonas: I led you four through hell dozens of times over. We had some of the most high-risk missions going…and we were the envy of the entire Project because it was my tactics and leadership skills that made every suicide run look like a walk in the park. Most teams only ran ONE suicide missions. We ran 15 of them, and we are ready to start 16 now. However, we will NEVER see 17 if I am not calling the shots on this team. Gentlemen…when the time comes…I need your support on this. Vouch for me. Tell Spender that I am the leader Black Team needs.

All the other members of Black Team began to look at each other, and then they all looked back at Jonas.

Evan: Well…Jonas…you speak the truth about everything you say. Personally, I will vouch for you if the need arises.

Archimedes: To be frank…until Tye screws up…he has my support. However, the moment Tye proves to be unreliable…you have my support Jonas.

Kraven: Same here. I will keep my stock options open. I will back Tye as well. However, when Tye is no longer an option…I will back you, Jonas.

Eli: I think we are making a mistake. Tye has proven he can lead. You guys should not be so quick to doubt it. Give him a chance.

Archimedes: We are giving him a chance. Well, at least Kraven and I are. Evan seems to be pretty sold on Jonas.

Eli: It is still early. Yes, I will agree that Tye is a bit greener than we are…but he has potential. We were all like him at one point…or have you all forgotten that!?

Kraven: Eli…we have not forgotten anything. I wish we could forget things. However…we were not that lucky to be given the ability to forget.

Eli: All I am saying is that we have to give Tye a chance. He may turn out to be skittish at first, but may turn out to be far more zealous than all of us combined. He may be a bit nervous about the whole concept of Spender and his vision of The Trust…but we have to give him time. He deserves a fair shot.

Jonas: Eli…you are far too nice of a guy. You have got to learn to be a prick sometimes.

Eli: That is not who I am Jonas. I am a fair man, not an asshole. Now, I may be the nicest guy here…but I am warning you guys…no funny business.

Eli stood up.

Eli: Perhaps Davidov was right to a degree. Look at us…sitting here…discussing how we are going to oust our team leader because ONE man here thinks that he cannot get the job done. We are sitting here…like backroom dealing con artists…planning the expulsion of a team mate because he isn’t of our “stock”.

Eli looked at Jonas.

Eli: Don’t make me second guess your reasoning Jonas. If what we are doing now is the tactics and methods we want to adopt…then we are going to have problems. Be very careful…all of you. We are on a VERY slippery slope.

Jonas looked at Eli.

Jonas: Eli…sit down.

Eli glared at Jonas.

Jonas: Please?

Eli continued to glare.

Evan: Eli, sit your fucking ass down, man.

Eli rolled his eyes as he sat back down.

Jonas: Look, Eli…let me be clear; I fully understand that you and Tye have history. However, we cannot let that fact get in the way of the success of this team. If I am wrong, and TYe [roves that he can handle the truth of what we will be doing...then we have nothing to worry about. However...if I am right, and he cannot handle the reality of what we will be doing...then we will have problems.

Eli: All I can ask is that we give him a fair chance.

Jonas: Of course we will give him a fair chance. We would do no less. However...if he screws it up...

Eli: If he screws it up...then yes...we will put serious consideration into replacing him as team leader.

Eli and Jonas looked at each other, and nodded.

Jonas: Sounds fair to me.

Before Eli could say anything, each member of Black Team had their attention captured by Spender's voice on the ships intercom.

Spender: ODST Black to the bridge on the double.

Without any hesitation, all five men stood up, and left the officer's lounge, as they headed towards the bridge.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Tye's Private Quarters - Close Proximity to the Biko Star System - 2300 hours - May 30th 2515.

Tye had spent the last four hours in his private quarters while the rest of Black Team was in the Officer's Lounge, looking over the data chip that was given to him by Davidov. Tye was shocked by how much information that he had been presented with. It was clear that Davidov was no novice when it came to record keeping, investigative research, and speculative analysis. Davidov had managed to detail almost every single aspect of Spender’s life, activities, and dealings. For all intents and purposes, it was a near full accounting.

Tyber: This is incredible. The amount of information here is staggering.

Tye continued to read through. He started to read about some of Spender’s personal initiatives, such as Operation Blind Eagle. Tye was taken aback by the scope and complexity of Spender’s operations. In Tye’s mind, this cast serious doubt on Spender’s integrity as an officer.

Tyber: I cannot believe this. Spender…he is totally rouge. He had long since betrayed the UNSC…and he even betrayed The Trust. This guy is a monster!

Tye began to skim the vast amount of information. However, one of Davidov’s files caught Tye’s eye.

Tyber: “Trust Syndicate – Constantine Spender’s Illicit Activities”?

Tye opened the file. As he did, he was met with a ton of information that had detailed accounts of very recent and very suspicious activity being carried out by Spender. Tye began to read an entry written by Davidov.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 1 – January 12th 2515. Something is terribly wrong with The Trust. I feel like everything is just falling apart. Ever since Spender joined our ranks…I have felt a different wind in The Trust. The climate of The Syndicate is changing into something very unfamiliar. More and more, I am hearing about Trust Operatives, under the command of Spender, engaging in behavior that is utterly repugnant in. I have seen reports come across my desk of Trust Officers killing civilians, stealing UNSC and ONI assets, and even going so far as to murder fellow officers in the attempt to cover up crimes that were discovered. The senior brass is not taking this seriously enough. They tell Spender to be more careful…but they never reprimand him. It has got to the point where I am worried that Spender is up to something big. I have to keep a closer eye on him.

Tyber: Davidov defiantly had his share of worries.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 2 – January 30th 2515. Spender is defiantly up to something. During his last major ship maintenance at The Apex…I managed to get access to his main computer for a brief period of time while the shipyard techs were tuning up the Slipspace Core. I managed to do some digging, and it seems Spender is doing some rather…draconian experiments on his ship. There are progress reports and logs which seem to indicate that he is doing some sort of experimentation with the personnel on his ship. This is a terrifying notion. I didn’t have much time, but I managed to install a few backdoor policies on his main computer which can enable me to gain access to his computer systems when I need to. Hopefully…this will help me keep tabs on the bastard.

Tyber: Davidov was spying on Spender this entire time!

Commodore Davidov: Entry 3 – February 4thth 2515. I managed to download quite a bit of information from Spender’s ship over the past few days, and I have been taking a look at everything I managed to grab. Some of it seems to be personal logs from the crew. I took a look at a few, and they all seem to mention that several Officers and fellow Marines have gone missing over the past month. Their disappearances were explained as transfers…but there seems to be a high level of mistrust on Spender’s ship. Could these missing officers be failed experiments perhaps? I know that Spender is conducting experiments...and perhaps he needs fodder for his tests. That bastard! I can’t wait to nail him for this. He is going too far!

Tyber: Experiments on his crew? Was he experimenting with the combat personnel?

Commodore Davidov: Entry 4 – February 8thth 2515. I downloaded a progress report from the ship’s CMO, Doctor Robert Novak, to Spender. It seems Novak is meeting with limited success with what he called CRF. He seems to only use this acronym in any reference. I have to find out what this acronym stands for. Perhaps I need to start snooping in on Novak’s personal files. Whatever this CRF is…it is killing 100% of its subjects…like clockwork. Novak gave his assurances that he could eventually make it work…but he said it will take more time than anticipated. Novak says he is close. I am running out of time. Perhaps Novak is helping Spender in some way. CRF is linked to the disappearances…but is all of that linked to a possible Coup D’etat on Spender’s part? I will not rule out anything yet. If there is a Coup attempt…Spender is behind it. Addendum - I should try to sound less like a conspiracy theorist.

Tyber: Davidov really hated Spender. He was ready to accuse Spender of everything and anything. Davidov thought that everything bad in life was because of Spender. Davidov seems a little obsessed…sorta like a conspiracy theorist.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 5 – February 16thth 2515. Novak seems to be making progress in his work. He is reporting better results than before. He says that his CRF is not causing instant fatalities…but rather…delayed ones. Novak also seems to be stating objections to Spender’s decree that he is no longer permitted to experiment on top personnel. It seems that Novak disapproves of being forced to experiment on civilians…as they are inferior “livestock” as compared to trained combat personnel. The immorality of it makes me sick.

Tyber: Novak was experimenting on civilians…and calling them LIVESTOCK!? What the fuck!? He was killing civilians!? What the hell was he doing!? How the hell were they dying!?

Tye could not believe what he was hearing. He felt sick to his stomach, but something inside of him compelled him to read on.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 6 – February 21st 2515. Novak’s last report contained a slip up. He revealed what the acronym to CRF was. It seems that CRF actually stands for “Cognitive Re-evaluation Formula”. I can only speculate what this could be used for. If I was to guess…it could be a form of brain washing or manipulation. It could be a subset of brainwashing, sort of like drug-induced paranoia or psychosis. This would seem to fit with the possibility of a Coup D’etat by Spender. Spender may be trying to manipulate people, possibly against their will, by brainwashing them. He may be trying to indoctrinate them into his way of thinking and doing things. This is very troubling. It could very well be possible that Spender COULD try and build support for his position by exploiting the results of Novak’s work. I feel like I should inform The Board of Chairmen about this…but…I do not have enough proof yet. This is all speculation at this point. I need more information on this “Cognitive Re-evaluation Formula”. I need to know exactly what it does.

Tyber: If Novak was experimenting with brainwashing people…then it is possible that ODST Black Team was part of his experiment…or possibly…the end result. Which means…oh no…I just hope to God I am wrong.

Tye sighed, as he ran his hands through his hair. After he did this, he looked at his left arm. Using his right hand, he pulled up his sleeve and looked at his antecubital space, where had been receiving his injections. He could see the markings that the holes had left.

Tyber: What the hell have they been doing to me? What sort of experiments have they been running on me? What have they done to me!?

Tye was furious. However, he quickly composed himself, as he looked back at his laptop. He continued reading.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 7 – February 28th 2515. I have found more evidence to suggest that Novak and Spender are trying to brainwash people. I have done more digging, and it seems that Novak has managed to actually turn passive civilian colonists, with backgrounds ranging from farmers to bank workers, into militarized combat personnel. I managed to download the Psych profiles of all the people that he had experimented on…and these were some of the nicest people imaginable. However…there are still problems. Novak seems to be unable to resolve the issue of his “patients” dying shortly after the procedures. He seems to be stuck. This may prove to be good news for me…and everyone else.

Tye simply kept reading onwards, not stopping.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 8 – March 9th 2515. The Trust had a meeting at the Apex yesterday. I tried to call Spender out, but I did not get exactly what I wanted. I managed to however, get a full audit done on Spender. I guess this will have to be done in baby steps. In any case, The Trust should be looking very closely at Spender now. This should give me some time to figure out what the hell this bastard is up to. Now, with that aside, I am pleased to note that Novak seems to be unable to get his methods to work long term. He seems to be unable to progress past a certain point in his experiments before he begins to kill his patients. According to his personal logs…when he reported this to Spender…Spender was less than pleased. However, Novak seems to have another working theory on how he could continue his experiments…and complete them successfully. Novak seems to think that ORIONs hold the key to his success. He believes that the physical, genetic, and psychological hardening of the ORION project is what is needed in order to prove that his methods and his drugs do, in fact, work.

Tyber: That is why I was augmented. That is why they turned me into an ORION. They were trying to manipulate me, brainwash me. My God…I was so close to becoming one of their lab rats. I was so close to becoming some…husk…

Tye paused. He then came to a very disturbing realization.

Tyber: The rest of Black Team. Jonas…Evan…Archimedes…Kraven…Eli…they were all ORIONs before I was. There was a three week period in which…I had no contact with them. Oh my God…what if Novak and Spender got to them while I was busy “training”?

Tye began to think about the very apparent change in the attitudes that he had been seeing from Black Team. Tye could not escape the idea that his team mates had been…”indoctrinated” by Spender and The Trust.

Tyber: My team has been compromised. They are not the same men that they used to be.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 9 – March 16th 2515. I have been discovered. Spender and his crew are aware that I have been spying on them. They found the Trojan that I had surreptitiously placed on their computer core. I have lost access. I have no doubt that Spender is thinking worst case scenario, and he is no doubt going to use this intrusion as an excuse to come and get me. I have to talk to the rest of the Board of Chairmen about this. I have to try and convince them that Spender is conducting unethical experimentation. They have to know. I am going to contact Hoffman in the morning.

Tye continued reading.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 10 – March 17th 2515. Hoffman is a fool. History will look back on him and say “this man was a fool”. Hoffman had the nerve to tell me that he is not totally convinced that I did not “forge” this information. He also said that there are rules and regulations to intrusive spying, like what I was doing. I was ordered to cease and desist what I was doing. Hoffman says that it is not our way to convict and accuse someone based off of stolen information. What an idiot he is. Who cares that I stole it. The fact is…Spender IS doing these things. Hoffman is going to get bitten in the ass because of this. In any case…I need to find another way to track Spender. I will update when I have something of value.

Tye sighed. He was all too familiar with the rampant bureaucracy that ran the military. He could understand Davidov's frustration in the matter. Despite this, Tye continued to read onwards.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 11 – April 10th 2515. It has been close to a month since my last update. Without my uplink to The Ulterior Motive's main computer, I have hit an impasse. Spender's trail has gone cold, and I am unable to find another way to track him. Spender has proven to be very illusive and cunning in his evasion of my efforts to track him. I have no idea how to proceed in this matter. I know that Spender is up to something which involves the manipulation and indoctrination of military personnel. The only thing I can do is try and prepare as much as I can for the inevitable. I will make another entry if there is anything new of relevance.

Tye moved onto the final entry.

Commodore Davidov: Entry 12 – May 14th 2515. The ship is under attack by Spender and The Ulterior Motive. Spender somehow managed to dispatch a boarding party onto my ship. They have moved through my crew like a hot knife through butter. They are closing in on the bridge as I make this entry. I don't know what to do. There is nobody left to help me stop Spender. I think this is the end. My only hope is that someone finds this datachip...and learns the truth. However...this is very unlikely.

Tye lets out a sigh as he had finished the last entry. He shook his head in total disbelief. However, before Tye had any chance to contemplate what he had read, he heard Spender over the ships comm.

Spender: ODST Black to the bridge on the double.

Tye frowned, and waited for a moment. However, he eventually complied with the order, as he stormed out of his private quarters, and headed towards the bridge. As Tye was on his way, he bumped into the rest of Black Team.

Eli: Well, well...look who it is. Tye, we missed you at the lounge.

Tye didn't answer.

Eli: Are you alright Tye?

Tye scoffed, as he stopped and looked at Eli.

Tyber: No...I am not.

Black Team stopped next to Tye, and looked at him.

Evan: What's the matter?

Tyber: It''s nothing.

Evan: Obviously it is something. You look like you are in a seriously shitty mood.

Tyber: Well, yeah, I am in a pretty shitty mood. To be frank...I am starting to second guess both Novak and Spender. Those two...I have serious doubt about their intentions.

Jonas: This isn't about Davidov, and what he said, is it?

Tyber: is about Davidov. I have been racking my brain about what we did...and I cannot justify it in my mind. I have never been able to NOT justify my own actions in my mind. I have always been comfortable with the decision making process, and I know how to live with the notion of taking lives...but only when the reasons and ideals behind it are both just and sound. Guys...I think we made a mistake!

Jonas rolled his eyes and scoffed. Evan, Archimedes, and Kraven followed Jonas. Eli looked at Tye for a moment, then shook his head.

Eli: Tye...let it go! I'm serious! Let this go!

Tyber: Eli...

Eli: No...Tye, stop right there! You HAVE to drop this crap. Move on...for fuck's sake.

Tye was taken aback by the tone that Eli had taken with him.

Tyber: have never spoken to me like that before. What the hell has got into you?

Eli looked at Tye, and tried to answer. However, he could not find the words, and simply shook his head.

Tyber: Eli?

Eli: Tye...take this as a friendly warning; if you cannot lead this team...someone else will. If you want to lead this team, then you have to QUIT IT with the moral thought process bullshit! Stop lecturing us about how wrong things feel when you are carrying out your orders. Jonas has made it very clear that he thnks you were the WRONG choice to lead this team. He thinks you are a weak leader, and he wants to replace you. If you cannot grow a damn backbone, and suck it up, then you are going to be ousted from the leadership of this team.

Tye scoffed.

Tyber: Who the hell does he think he is? He has no right!

Eli: Tell that to Jonas. DO you know why he talks the most? Do you know why he thinks he is the voice of the team? DO you know why he is the FIRST one to voice his objections? Jonas has a very powerful personality. He has charisma, zeal, and an ego. He is so full of himself, that it has reached a point where his own self-perception of greatness is all that guides him in every decision he makes. What is worse, is that he has the skill and the ability to back up his talk. This is a guy that shouts the talk, and runs the walk. warned...if Jonas sees a chance to eat you up, chew you, and spit you out...he will do it. He is looking for a way to climb up on top of this pack, and he will take his first chance, and every chance, to do it. If all you can do is whine about your feelings...then you are going to be eaten ALIVE by Jonas! Now man up, grow a pair, and do your job ruthlessly. It is the only way you will have a chance at keeping your job.

With that, Eli turned, and walked off, continuing on his way towards the bridge.

Tye watched as Eli walked off, in total disbelief at how Eli had spoken to him. Tye had never heard Eli speak like that before in his life. Suddenly, Tye felt totally alienated and alone in this situation. Tye sighed, as he closed his eyes and shook his head.

Tyber: Something is wrong with Eli. I have never seen him act like this before.

Tye paused, and thought for a moment. He knew that the only way he was going to get to the bottom of this was if he started snooping around. Tye needed to find out exactly what Novak was up to, and what he had been doing to Black Team. However, Tye also knew that now was a very bad time to do anything of the sort. With that realization, Tye continued on his way to the bridge.

Upon his arrival on the bridge, Tye was greeted by Spender, who was standing at the head of the bridge’s holotable. Novak, and ODST Black Team were also gathered around the holotable..

Spender: Lieutenant Vernette…so nice of you to finally join us. I was starting to suspect that you had gotten lost on your way here.

Tyber: I’m…sorry sir. I was momentarily sidetracked.

Spender: No harm, no foul. Be sure to keep these “momentary sidetracks” at a minimum.

Tye had noticed the formation that everyone had taken around the holotable, so Tye followed suit, and stood at the opposing end to Spender. Tye felt very uncomfrtable. He knew more than he should. He knew more than even Black Team knew. Tye was unsure how much he should tip his hand, or if he should even say anything at all. However, if he kept silent, he would lose an excellent chance at illuminating the secrets that were being kept. As Tye though tto himself, Spender began to speak.

Spender: First thing is first, Black Team, I would like to make special mention of the work you did on Davidov and The Nemesis. The nullification of this traitor was of paramount importance, and you acted with grace and skill to complete your mission. Well done.

Tyber: Well, sir, I think I speak for all of Black Team when I say…that it was a transcendent experience. It was very illuminating.

Spender: Illuminating? How so?

Tyber: In the interest of transparency, sir, I will say that we know that Davidov was no traitor, at least not in our present context. He was more of a ideological rival, to you, than a traitor.

Spender winced at Tye, unsure of what Tye was trying to get at.

Spender: What are you saying?

Tyber: I am saying that Davidov told us everything. He told us about The Trust. He told us about you. He told us about what had transpired between you and him. We know full well that you and he were ideological opponents, and we also know full well what each of you stood for. To be frank, sir, I do not like false pretenses. I know for a fact that you are no longer involved with ONI directly. You once were, but you are not anymore. You dropped that flag a long time ago in favor of “The Trust Syndicate”.

Tye paused.

Tyber: All of this, from the reason we were trained, to the reasons why we killed Davidov…it was all a lie…wasn’t it? It was all for "The Trust"...wasn't it?

Spender: Lie is a very strong word Lieutenant. I prefer the…digression from honesty.

Tyber: And that makes it sound so much better.

Tye rolled his eyes. Spender looked around at all six members of Black team. He could tell my their expressions and their posture, that they knew more than they should. Spender considered his options, weighed them carefully, and ultimately decided to shed some light on what was going on.

Spender: However…as much as I would of preferred a continued digression from honesty…it seems that it is no longer possible. I feel that given the circumstance that you should all be made aware of what has been going on.

Novak interjected.

Novak: Sir…is that wise?

Spender looked at Novak, and nodded.

Spender: The charade has gone on long enough. It dawns on me that the longer it does the more harm it could do.

Spender looked back at Black Team.

Spender: In all honestly Black Team…we did mislead you on a great many things. However, this was done to protect you, and to protect us as well. It was important that both parties be protected from the fallout and repercussions of anything that may have gone wrong.

Evan: What do you mean?

Kraven: What could have gone wrong?

Eli: Why did you mislead us?

Spender raised his hand and stopped Black Team.

Spender: Gentlemen…please…let me explain everything. For starters…yes…I am a member of an organization known as The Trust Syndicate. I am one of The Trusts' highest ranking members. I do not deny this fact. I am among several other men who lead The Trust. This echelon of The Trust is known as The Board of Chairmen.

Jonas: Who is on this Board of Chairmen?

Spender: Obviously myself. Commodore Davidov was also a member of The Board of Chairmen. Other notable members include Rear Admiral Hoffman and Rear Admiral Smith. Typically The Board of Chairmen is no less than 3 people, and as many as 10. We manipulate that number based on our specific needs. If we need more micro-specific management, we grow the number. If we require broader strokes, we shrink it.

Jonas: Interesting.

Spender: Generally there is very little contention about who becomes the next member of The Board of Chairmen. While the position does carry a fair share of power, we try to only put relevant people in such positions. We determine membership based on our current need, and the person who was pre-determined to be the senior-most operator for that specific field. For example...I am the senior most tactical advisor and operative in The Trust. I have a combat history which makes me the most qualified for our current need to expand The Syndicate through the use of military tactics and engagements. Davidov was a senior analyst for The Trust who specialized in breaking down numbers and states to give us necessary time tables and stats to fall back on. Davidov was gifted in the art of information management as well.

Jonas: What about Hoffman and Smith?

Spender: Hoffman is an administrative member. He deals with the bureaucracy of what we do. He seems to have the patience to deal with the dozens and dozens of meetings that take place with just about EVERYONE. That is a gift in itself. As for Smith - he has extensive military contacts who can provide him with information on what may or may not be coming down the pike for the cumulative armed services. He lets us know when The UNSC, as a whole, is planning a major shift in policy.

Novak: With that said...does anyone see the problem here?

Jonas: What problem?

Novak: The entire board of chairmen is composed of spineless assholes, pen pushers, and accountants. These are not people who are suited for our future goals.

Archimedes: Future goals?

Spender: We will get to that shortly.

Archimedes: Alright, fair enough. Another question then; why did you never tell us? Would it not of been easier to tell us all of this on day 1?

Spender: It was not important at the time of your recruitment. You were recruited so you could be trained in the mastery and execution of new and specialized methods and tactics that were beyond anything the UNSC, or ONI for that matter, is used to…in terms of brutality. We knew that if you could master these methods, that telling you about The Trust would have been no issue. We compartmentalized information for security reasons.

Archimedes: That makes sense.

Evan: So, what was the REAL reason you trained us then?

Spender: We were mostly honest with our reasons. Black Team, you were trained to engage in counter-operations against anyone who would threaten everything that Humanity has worked so hard to build. To a large degree…that was honest. Realistically, you six were only left in the dark about who your enemies would be. However, with that said, I am sure you six must have noticed that the simulations you were running were indicative of what you would be fighting.

Evan: We noticed a great many things about those simulations…including our opponents.

Spender: So, you see…we were mostly honest with you about that. The fact is…our intentions for you were only good. We wanted to prepare you…hone you…train you. Can you all honestly say that you are worse off for having this experience?

Evan: I could think of worse things. However…I for one do not like being lied to.

Spender: There will be no further lies from this point out. The time for honesty and transparency has been forced upon me…and I will oblige.

Eli: So wait…whose side are we on? I am still unclear on who our enemies are.

Spender: Honestly Eli…your loyalty is to The Trust...that vision of The Trust. Loyalty to my vision of The Trust is loyalty to mankind.

Eli: So that means our loyalty is to you then?

Spender: I guess that is one way to think of it.

Kraven: So…what is your vision of this so called “Trust Syndicate”?

Spender: My vision of The Trust is quite simple. I want The Trust to grow, in both scope and horizon. The Trust, as it is, is simply an oversight entity. We play no direct role in the way things unfold. As we are, we give the right nudges in the correct directions. We act as a roadmap for what needs to be done. I do not believe that this is the future of The Trust. I see a future where The Trust is the one dictating the terms, not watching them fly from the mouth of an incompetent. I see a future where The Trust takes control, and does what must be done to ensure that our great civilization remains strong and unified.

Tyber: Yet, you have us killing our fellow soldiers and comrades in arms.

Spender: Wrong. I had you killing traitors and cowards.

Tyber: What are you talking about? Care to explain that leap of Logic?

Spender: It is quite simple, if you think about it. The results speak for themselves, Tye. Can you honestly stand there and deny the fact that, as a result of escalating violence on the part of The Insurrection, that The UEG has not expanded the role of The UNSC, both in terms of military power and military scope? Can you honestly say that the vast increase in procurement, recruitment, and weapons spending has not been good for The UNSC, as a whole? The UEG, and the UNSC has NEVER been stronger than it is now. Partly as a result of what The Trust has done, the boundaries of Humanity have been expanded. Never before in Human history has our current might been matched. Our combined might exceeds the combined might of EVERY empire, republic, dynasty, tribe, and terrorist organization that has ever existed in the cumulative history of mankind. We have seen the peak of our potential…and even then, we continue to strive. Can you honestly argue these kinds of results?

Tye shook his head in defeat.

Spender: However…as good as that sounds…without The Trust…it will be doomed to regress into a dark age. It is why my vision for The Trust is the correct one! We need The Trust to start injecting direct influence into EVERY facet of our great civilization. If we don’t…we are doomed to wither down, and regress.

Tye shook his head again. He was clearly irritated, but he had no words to rebuttal.

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Spender: I love our great civilization. I love what it has accomplished. I love what it is capable of. We have achieved greatness beyond greatness. However…if history has taught us one thing, it is that complacency is the Achilles heel of all great civilizations. If The Trust does not act, if we remain as an oversight entity, if we continue to act as benchwarmers…The UEG will join the greatest empires and dynasties in total obscurity…and mankind will once again regress, and we will stand divided by petty differences…turning our colonies into nation states and re-establishing borders and territories. We will be fractured…and we will be a dim echo of what we once were. We were already fracturing. We had outer colonies fighting inner colonies. As a direct result of our actions, and our intervention, we have managed to stabilize the UEG, galvanize the UNSC, and turned a slow and hemorrhaging issue that was The Insurrection, into the unifying catalyst that it is today. As a result of The UNSC expanding its mandate and scope, The Trust has managed to strategically place operatives into the ranks of the UNSC to ensure that the military AND the Government stays focused on the task at hand - which is keeping the colonies united in their fight against The Insurrection.

Tyber: So you are telling me that Insurrectionist attacks on Military bases and shipyards is what you wanted?

Spender: Of course not. However, that did work in our favor. The Insurrection got bold...and it grew a very large pair of balls as a result of Trust intervention. However, that only expedited the demand for a UNSC response. The UNSC organized, the civilians got scared. What better way to restore faith in the UEG and the UNSC...than to have the UEG and UNSC save scared civilians from evil Insurrectionists? Let me tell you...when the UNSC responded in force against The Insurrection, confidence in the UNSC went up. The mistaken idea that the UEG didn't care about the outer colonies began to lose credibility. As a result, more people believed in the UEG and the UNSC...and support began to rise. We began to unify the prevent a fracture. Even now, support continued to rise as The UNSC fights the good fight.

Spender paused.

Spender: Sometimes...the price of peace is very high. Sacrifices must be made. We must not be afraid of taking a few hits in order to strengthen our resolve. Even a boxer must take a few punches to the face when he trains. Even the marathon sprinter gets a few blisters when he endurance trains. The Trust was created to know what was best for mankind. It takes exceptional people to do this job. It is never easy...but what we fight for is worth the effort and the strife.

Every single member of Black Team was silent. They each looked at each other. Spender sighed, as an uncomfortable silence overcame the room. The silence went on for a moment, before Novak broke it.

Novak: ODST Black Team…you have to understand the whole point of what we did. We needed a front line team that could handle the rigors of everything you just heard. It is not an easy task to have this much responsibility. However…after watching you guys grow these past few weeks, watching you learn to work together, fight together, and win together…I have never been more sure of any fact in my life, as I am about the fact that the six of you are EXACTLY what The Trust needs to ensure that The Human Race remains on-track for a continuously prosperous future. We have devoted tremendous resources to turning the six of you into the finest soldiers The Trust has ever seen. We need the six of you to fight our enemies. The question is…can we rely on the six of you to help us?

Evan: You can count on me.

Archimedes: Count me in.

Kraven: I'm in.

Jonas: I couldn't agree more with what I am hearing.

Evan, Archimedes, Kraven, and Jonas looked at Eli and Tye.

Kraven: What about you two? In or out?

Eli and Tye looked at each other. Eli was the first to speak.

Eli: I am in. You have my support, Sir.

Tye was shocked. He could not believe that the rest of Black Team were so willing to go along with The Trust, even after what they heard. It was like the rest of Black Team was totally null to everything they just heard. Tye knew that if he said no, he would be disavowed by not only Black Team, but by The Trust. It was either walk away...or try and Stop The Trust from what they were trying to do.

Spender: Well, Tye? What is your decision? We need to know where your loyalty lies.

Tye looked at Spender, and sighed.

Tyber: I'm in.

Spender grinned.

Spender: You have all made the right choice. I am proud of all of you.

Tye looked downward, ashamed of himself. However, he knew that he had to keep his head up, or the others would become suspicious.

Tyber: Well can count on us.

Spender: I am glad to hear that. I am glad that you ALL have the foresight and the wisdom to see and understand what I am trying to accomplish.

Spender sighed. He paused for a moment to collect himself. He then spoke again.

Spender: Now that we have cleared the air...I think it is time we touch base on the exact reason I called you six here. We need to discuss your last mission, specifically, the results of your efforts. As you all know, I sent the six of you to The Nemesis to accomplish a few tasks. First off, you were to kill Novak. You did that, and did an exemplary job of it. Your second task was to sweep their ship, and inflict considerable casualties on the crew. For the most part, you accomplished this with great zeal, and you met expectations. Our supplementary teams managed to clean the rest of the ship out. Your third objective was to data mine the ship. Again, you did this and met expectations. However, something went wrong in your third task.

Evan: What could of happened? I only ask because I was the one who oversaw the procedure.

Spender: Vital information was missing. There was very obvious gaps in the ship's main computer core, which held large portions of data which had gone missing. I can say, with total certainty, that the most mission critical information was where those gaps are now.

Evan: Sir...I uploaded EVERYTHING back to The Ulterior Motive.

Spender: Yes you did Mr. Drake. Our engineers confirmed that those gaps were created at roughly the same time that we began our attack on The Nemesis. There is a high degree that Davidov managed to send this information to the rest of The Board of Chairmen.

Tyber: What information did he try to send?

Spender: Classified Intel concerning Black Team. Information on my activities. Information that could harm, and even jeopardize everything that I am working towards.

Tyber: How could the information be used against you?

Spender: The intel in question detailed information concerning many of my ongoing operations. If Davidov managed to get that information to the rest of the Board of Chairmen, then it can be used against me to try and put the axe to my current goals and objectives.

Spender paused.

Spender: I strongly believe that The Board of Chairmen is in possession of this intel, and they have already taken steps to use what they have against me. With that said, there is a high degree that The Board of Chairmen are going to make a move against The Insurrectionists on Draco III.

Tyber: Why Draco III?

Spender: Draco III is one of the most vital components to one of my ongoing operations known as Operation Blind Eagle. Remember how I stated that I seek to expand Trust Influence in the UNSC by means of expanding the need for increased UNSC mandate? Operation Blind Eagle is the name I give to that cumulative effort. As a result of the escalation of The Insurrection, Draco III has one of the largest Insurrection facilities in the outer colonies. It was with my intervention that The Insurrection was able to so heavily entrench on Draco III. I also happen to know that The Insurrection has one of their leaders at this base...known only to me as The Vixen. That is her code name anyway. I have never met the women...but from what I gather...she is a feisty one.

Tyber: Care to elaborate further?

Spender: Draco III is where I put a majority of the resources into what I called Operation Blind Eagle. Many of the weapons, resources, and intel that I handed over to The Insurrection was at Draco III. If we lose The Insurrection on Draco III...then we put Operation Blind Eagle in great jeopardy. If Operation Blind Eagle is halted by the destruction of The Insurrection on Draco III...then all that I have worked lost.

Tyber: Why would it be in great jeopardy?

Spender: Like I said...The Insurrection on Draco III is where I invested a large amount of resources. Those resources were invested with the expectation of the payoff NOT being stopped. If there is no payoff, then we would be looking at catastrophic losses for The Trust...and major setbacks.

Tyber: I do not understand. If The UNSC wipes out The Insurrectionists on Draco III...would that not be a huge moral and confidence booster? Does that not accomplish what you set out to do...which is unifying the colonies with the blood of Insurrectionists?

Spender: would have a desired result...but we would be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. You see...Operation Blind Eagle would come to a premature halt...and many of our goals would fall short. We can either defeat The Insurrection once, and see limited growth in The UNSC...or we can defeat them 100 times, and see massive growth in The UNSC. DO you see the logic?

Evan: Sir...are you saying that you need The Insurrection on Draco III to survive?

Spender: That is correct Mr. Drake.

Evan: It stands to reason that if the survival of THe Insurrection on Draco III is in peril...then there is someone there trying to eliminate them.

Spender: You are correct once again Mr. Drake. Rear-Admiral Smith is currently at Draco III...leading Trust forces loyal to him, against The Insurrection...with the sole intent of eliminating every last insurgent on the planet.

Evan: I see.

Spender: With that said, your next assignment will see the six of you deployed to Draco III...with the sole purpose of preserving The Insurrection presence on the planet, and halting any effort by Rear-Admiral Smith to destroy The Insurrection, and cripple Operation Blind Eagle.

Eli: But Sir...would this course of action not damage The Trust?

Spender: Not to the degree that the failure of Operation Blind Eagle would.

Eli: What if The Insurrection turns on us while we are fighting Smith? What if we are forced to engage The Insurrection to survive?

Spender: If an engagement with The Insurrection is unavoidable, then you do what must be done to survive...but nothing more.

Spender paused.

Spender: Remember gentlemen...I am NOT ordering you to fight The UNSC. I am ordering you to fight a very flawed branch of The Trust. We need to stop rouge elements of The Trust from destroying The Trust, as a whole.

Tyber: No, what you mean is that we must save the Insurrection so they can continue their campaign against the UNSC, so you can expand your influence.

Tye scoffed as he rolled his eyes.

Spender: Stow the attitude Mr. Vernette. As complex as this sounds, and as bad as you make it sound, it is the truth. While I do not fancy the idea of infighting in the Trust, or providing military support for the must be done. As I said...this takes exceptional people to do this job...and I believe that the six of you are exceptional people. I believe that the six of you can get this done.

Eli looked at Tye, and then looked at Spender. Eli knew that Tye was defiantly holding back a degree of displeasure with everything he heard.

Eli: can count on us...ALL of us.

Spender: Good. I am glad to hear that.

Evan: Sir, if I may ask, how long is it from our present location to Draco III?

Spender: It should take us roughly 4 days to get to Draco III from our present location.

Jonas: Do we have any intel on who is going to be dealing with the situation on Draco III?

Spender: As a matter of fact...yes, I do. I have extensive intel on both The Insurrection and Rear-Admiral Smith. You can review all of this information in preparation.

Jonas: I have to admit...I respect Smith for taking on this assignment personally.

Spender: Smith is a ranking officer, who posses sufficient knowledge of Operation Blind Eagle, which would be required by anyone looking to bring The Insurrection on Draco III down quickly and efficiently. He has done nothing extraordinary.

Jonas: So the ultimate goal would be to kill Rear-Admiral Smith?

Spender: That is one of the goals. That is something that I could do, using the resources of The Ulterior Motive. Your ultimate objective would be to route and destroy any forces that Smith has set up on the planet-side. The planet-side Insurrection is what we need to preserve, as that will be the largest chunk of their force.

Evan: Do you have any idea what we could face planet-side...seeing as we will be going up against an opposing branch of The Trust?

Spender: Not specifically...but as long as you are aware of everything that The Insurrection, and Smith, is capable of, you should be fine.

Kraven: seems that we will be forced to comb over intel the next few days.

Archimedes: Not the best part of the job...but an important one. Perhaps with enough intel under our belts, we can design and run some simulations.

Evan: I could easily design one.

Tye was silent. He simply watched the others talk. He was deep in thought, thinking about what was so casually being discussed.

However, everyone began to notice Tye's silence.

Eli: Tye?

Tye looked at Eli.

Eli: Is there a problem?

Tye sighed. He then shook his head.

Tyber: No. No problem at all.

Everyone looked at Tye, as if skeptical of his answer. Jonas, most of all, was very suspicious of Tye and his answer.

Tyber: Yeah...we can run simulations. Simulations would be good...

Spender was silent for a moment, as he looked at Tye.

Spender: Ok then...get to it. If there is nothing are all dismissed.

Tye wasted no time in turning away, and walking right off the bridge. He did not even salute. The other members of Black Team watched as Tye left. They knew that something was wrong just based on the way he stormed out. Spender and Novak each exchanged a look, as they had both noticed Tye's behavior.

Eli: Alright Black Team...let's get going. Come on, this is no time to dilly-dally. Shake the lead out.

Each member of Black Team turned and began to walk off the bridge, save for Jonas, who stood his ground.

Jonas looked at Black Team, and spoke up.

Jonas: I will catch up with you guys. I need to have a word with The Admiral.

The other members of Black Team nodded. As they left, Spender looked at Jonas.

Jonas: Sir...I don't know if you noticed or not...but...

Spender: Stop right there Jonas.

Jonas stopped talking.

Spender: I know what you are going to say. You are going to mention that Lt. Vernette was acting very strange.

Jonas nodded.

Jonas: Sir...I have a very bad feeling that Vernette has been compromised.

Spender looked at Novak, and then back at Jonas. He gave a look of interest.

Spender: Compromised? In what way?

Jonas: Ever since our last mission...he has been acting odd. In the interest of transparency...I feel that it is my place to inform you that Lt. Vernette was unaccounted for during a set period of time.

Spender: Why was this not mentioned sooner?

Jonas: It did not seem overtly important at the time. However, the situation mandates that I come forward with this new information.

Spender: Where was Vernette during that "period of time"?

Jonas: He was with Davidov. They talked at great length. During the mission, Tye dismissed us, and he spoke with Davidov in private. We were not privy to the exact details or specifics of the conversation, but I can speculate.

Spender sighed. Novak then walked forward, and spoke directly to Spender.

Novak: Davidov could have told him ANYTHING!

Spender scoffed.

Spender: I KNOW Doctor...

Jonas looked at Novak and Spender, confused about the exchange. However, he simply remained silent.

Novak: We may have serious damage control on our hands! If he found out...

Novak looked at Jonas, and then back at Spender.

Novak: You know what will happen...

Spender scoffed, then looked back at Jonas.

Spender: Jonas...listen to me VERY carefully. Lt. Vernette may very well be compromised. Upon consideration of what Davidov might of said to him, Tye may be very confused and delusional.

Spender paused.

Spender: You must keep an eye on him, monitor him, and track his movements. Make sure that he does not do anything out of the ordinary or strange. If he is just acting a bit shaken due to the last mission, we can dismiss this. However, If he starts acting...treacherous...he must be captured, and detained ASAP. We cannot risk letting him out of our sights. You are the only one I am going to trust with this Jonas. You are the only one who spoke up, so you are going to be the only person I can rely on.

Jonas nodded.

Jonas: Thank you sir. I am glad that you have faith in my loyalty. You can count on me.

Spender: Very good Jonas. Very good.

Spender paused.

Spender: You should catch up with the others, say nothing about what we talked about, and keep an eye on Vernette. Dismissed.

Jonas nodded and saluted, as he turned and left the bridge to catch up with the rest of Black Team.

Spender then turned to Novak.

Novak: I know what you are going to say. You want me to get Tye caught up with the others, and you want the same level of manipulation done to Tye, as we did with the others.

Spender: From your mouth to God's ears. Get it done!

Novak nodded.

Novak: I will...I will. I assure you sir, I will make sure that this is corrected in very short order.

Spender: In the mean time, I may try to do my own evaluation of Tye. I will try to get some one on one with him...she what is going on in that brain of his.

Novak: Actually...that is a very good idea. If you could get some idea of where he is at, mentally, I can be more precise in treatment. If you could have a talk with him, and gauge his mental state, you could increase the chances of successful and seamless indoctrination.

Spender: Well, I guess now that you mention it, it is a good idea. I just wanted to get inside his head. However, I like your idea more. I will try and talk with him ASAP.

Novak: Good idea. I will return to the med bay, and see what I can prepare.

Novak began to back up, as he turned and bolted off the bridge. He was intent on making his way back to the medical bay to get back to work as quickly as he could.

Spender watched as Novak left. Spender shook his head and sighed. He was frustrated that no matter what he did, he was constantly met with curve balls and complications. Why couldn’t things just go as planned, for a change?

Before Spender left the bridge, he turned to face the helmsman.

Spender: Helm...plot a course for Draco III. Maximum speed!

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Firing Range - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to Draco III - 0015 hours - June 1stth 2515.

Tye had made his way to the firing range to try and blow off some steam. As he walked into the range, he saw that the lights were off, and the entire area was silent, with nobody around. To a degree, Tye preferred it like this. This allowed Tye to be alone with his thoughts to examine his predicament and evaluate his options without having to deal with the hustle and bustle of anyone else moving about.

Tye had drawn his sidearm, as he activated one of the advanced practice programs. Tye watched as the targets began to deploy in the range, as he took aim, and began to fire.

Tyber: Davidov was right…Spender is a traitor. This entire ship is run by rouge officers. What is worse is that ODST Black team has been groomed by these bastards to do the dirty work. Spender has been using us this entire time. He has been withholding the truth from us, training us under false pretenses. He likes to think that he was honest with us to a degree, but withholding parts of the truth is just as dishonest as not telling the truth.

Tye began to reload, as the targets shifted position.

Tyber: The rest of Black Team seems to be down with what Spender has going. None of them seem interested in the moral or ethical repercussions of what is being done. These are not the people that I met all those weeks ago. Black Team has changed…they have all changed. What has happened to them? What did Spender do? What did The Trust do to my team?

Tye began to reload again as the targets shifted position one final time. He began to fire as he continued to think to himself. Like before, most of his attention was on his own thoughts, with nothing more than muscle memory and reflex guiding his shots.

Tyber: Perhaps I am over thinking this. Perhaps I am just over reacting. Sure, I have a right to be a little peeved about being lied to, and I have the right to be really peeved at the fact that I lead a boarding party against an allied ship, and killed most of the crew…but…is that really worth throwing away everything that I have worked for these past few weeks? I have worked so hard…pushed myself past the brink. Do I really want to walk now?

The firing range program ended, as the targets moved closer to Tye so that he could examine his results. Tye saw how with almost no attention, that all of his shots were bull’s-eyes and headshots.

Tyber: Incredible…absolutely incredible…

Tye looked at his results, deep in thought. He nearly jumped when he heard a voice behind him speak up.

Spender: What’s incredible?

Tye turned as he looked at Spender walk towards him. As Spender walked towards Tye, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out a pac of cigarettes, and placed one in his mouth. Spender then put the cigarettes back in his pocket, and then pulled out a lighter. Spender lit his smoke, as he looked at Tye.

Spender: Well? You were obviously impressed by something. What was so incredible?

Tye stepped back a few steps, then spoke up.

Tyber: I have never been so good with a gun…to the point that 100% of my shots were either in the head, or in the bull’s-eye range…using nothing more than reflex and muscle memory. It is as if a master with firearms.

Spender: We trained you well Tye. I am sure that your augmentation is also helping.

Tyber: There has to be more than that sir. When you train someone well, they become a good soldier. When you augment that soldier, they become something more. These results…this isn’t good. This is not even deadly. These are perfect results. Being here, on this ship, under your administrations, has turned us into perfect killing machines. You did more than train us in tactics and field operations. You hardened our minds and our psychology, built up mental barriers to the horrors of what we would be doing, and you radically and fundamentally changed the other members of Black Team into people that I hardly recognize anymore. You turned them into…weapons; weapons that will indiscriminately kill with no ethical qualms or struggle. Black Team holds very little regard for the standards and practices that they once adhered to.

Spender listened intently. He knew Tye was troubled.

Tyber: Is that my fate as well? Am I to be some mindless weapon, killing everyone who you disagree with? Is that what I am now?

Spender sighed.

Spender: You ae thinking far too literally Tye. You are very correct that you, and the rest of Black Team, have been honed into perfect soldiers, but you are far more than just mere weapons. I do not think you any member of Black Team as little more than a weapon. You are all highly skilled and well-trained soldiers who have exceeded their potential. It is true that we did perform many psychological tests on you to both verify and strengthen your psychology. However...these things were necessary to ensure that you could handle what was being given to you.

Tyber: But it does not change the fact that you have been going above and beyond typical training, and messing with our minds. You are changing us! You are warping us into...your idea of the perfect soldier.

Spender: We have not been messing with your minds, Tye. We have been battle-proofing your psychology. We have been honing your tactics. We have been strengthening your resolve. Novak and I both knew that Black team would be faced with unimaginable hardship and difficulty in the course of their missions. We had to make sure that you were mentally and physically fit to undertake these challenges. You said that you watched your team turn into weapons. I will admit, that they have been elevated to the point where they may seem like weapons…but I do not see them in that way, I do not think so low of you or the rest of Black Team that I would reduce you to little more than a simple weapon. Black Team is my greatest achievement. Black Team represents a reimagining of the backbone of human military might. You are more than just are the future of human resources in armed conflict. You are progress!

Tyber: You call us the future of human resources in armed conflict. If that is the case, what do you call that THING that we fought on The Nemesis?

Spender: What thing?

Tyber: It called itself Noah. I was some...armor clad...7 foot soldier.

Spender: A Class 0 Spartan II? Davidov had a Class 0 Spartan II on his ship?

Tyber: If that is what you call it. Yeah, he was guarding the bridge. We had to take that thing down before we were even able to GET at Davidov.

Spender: You killed a Class 0? Incredible! Amazing!

Tyber: Uhhh...

Tye was confused by Spender's reaction.

Spender: The fact that ODST Black Team, in its combined state, was able to take down a Class 0 gives me hope; it tells me that my expectations of Black Team do not exceed the sum of what you are all capable of.

Tye looked at Spender for a moment. Part of Tye wanted to believe Spender, but Tye didn't feel right about what was going on. He turned away, and took a few steps.

Tyber: good as your intentions are for isn't right. You can turn us into exceptional soldiers, but nothing will change the fact that it was done without our consent, and our input. You acted unilaterally, without consulting us about what you were doing, thinking that you knew what was best for us. The fact of the matter is, you had no right to do this to us. I do not care what the end result has been. I do not care if the end result has been overwhelmingly had no RIGHT to subject us to what we went through. The ends do not justify the means in this case.

Tye paused.

Tyber: You justified your actions by saying that we were to fight threats to Humanity's future and prosperity. However, I ask you, how much is a future worth, in which one man can decide the fate of everyone around him, in which men are not given the chance to realize their own potential, where a potential is thrust unto them, and forced upon them. How much is that future worth? A future where self-determination means nothing? Is the Insurrection so much of a threat that it justifies what you are doing here?

Spender: Yes...the Insurrection IS a threat. The Insurrection is a threat to our safety, our prosperity, and our future. That has been clear since the moment of their inception.

Spender paused. Spender looked at Tye, and thought for a moment. Tye was not convinced, and his facial expression showed it.

Spender: You may not believe me Tye, so let me try to put it another way; Black Team, for all of the sins that surround its creation, is our best chance to ensure stability. Black Team will serve as an example and as a precedent and as a deterrent. What we have accomplished with ODST Black team will pave the way for a new generation of soldier, a new era of soldier, unlike anything we have seen before.

Tyber: To what end? Last time I checked…we were doing pretty good when it comes to how well our soldiers are performing. We did not need your intervention, nor did we need your...deranged methodology.

Spender: Do not judge by the methods...but by the results.

Tyber: The ends do not justify the means Admiral. They never have, and they never will. Nothing you have said has convinced me, in the least, that what you have done, here, was worth it.

Spender sighed. He thought for a moment. He knew he needed to take a different approach.

Spender: Did you know that 2500 years ago, on Earth, a Roman citizen could walk the face of the known world, free of the fear of molestation. He could walk across the Earth, cloaked only in the words "Civis Romanus"...or "I am a Roman Citizen". So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as CERTAIN, should any harm befall ONE of its citizens.

Spender paused. He began to pace back and forth. He then frowned.

Spender: Where is our protection? Where is the protection for the Citizens of the UEG? Where is the retribution for the marines and soldiers that have been killed in the conflict with The Insurrection? And where the warning to The Insurrection, that citizens of the UEG shall walk our worlds unharmed, less the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of mankind comes CRASHING down on their house? In other words Tye…what the HELL are WE doing here?

Tyber: We are behaving the way that a “mighty military force” should behave.

Spender: Well, that behavior has produced some very crappy results. In fact, I am not 100% sure that it has not INDUCED those crappy results.

Tyber: What are you talking about?

Spender: I’m taking about the UNSC Callisto. I’m talking about 286 UNSC Marines killed on Ballast. I’m talking about terrorist activity on Mamore. The Insurrection must be stopped, and The UNSC is not acting fast enough. Every time The UNSC does act, they are so ineffective that they create more enemies than they eliminated. Their policy of half measures is doing nothing to stem the creation of further insurrection activity. The Trust exists to ensure that issues like this, are resolved…but The Trust ca only act when it has the power and the leverage to act!

Tyber: Am I to guess that THIS is your ultimate justification for everything that you have been doing? You think that our response should be racking up the body count to biblical proportions by means of your own private elite para-military?

Spender: You’re damn right!

Tyber: Oh, then you are just as stupid as those idiots who think that the only way to deal with The Insurrection is through talk and reason, as if The Insurrection has not already heard enough of the political bull crap.

Tye paused.

Tyber: So…SIR…if you want to start using UNSC Military strength as the ARM OF THE LORD…you can do that. The UNSC is the only super power there is. You CAN conquer the Insurrection, and anything else that comes after it, like a modern day Charlemagne. However, like Charlemagne, you better be prepared to kill everyone to do that, and you better start with me, because if I do not like what you are trying to do, I will raise up army against you and I will defeat you. I will not stand by as you throw our core values under the bus to be trampled and destroyed...all in the name of security. There is no security so dear and so precious that it can be purchased at the expense of our souls.

Spender paused.

Spender: The UNSC is doing nothing. ONI is doing nothing!

Tyber: We are NOT doing nothing.

Tye paused.

Tyber: We have ALWAYS met The Insurrection with the appropriate force. It's proportional, responsible, and reasonable force in response to their actions. It's not nothing. A few months ago, The UNSC launched FOUR high rated attacks on major Insurrection facilities located on Harvest.

Spender: Facilities which The Insurrection will rebuild in a few months flat.

Tyber: Then we will blow them up again in a few months. We are getting really good at it.

Spender: "We"...that's the problem. Who is "We"?

Tye was confused by the question.

Spender: You seem to think that The Trust is somehow inherently connected to The UNSC as a whole. You are wrong. There are many things that you do not completely understand about The Trust Tye. We are not a Subset of The UNSC. The UNSC did not spawn the Trust. We are not a branch of the UNSC, or a division. We are our own autonomous entity. The Trust is an idea, a set of ideas, ideas that have always existed since the inception of nationalism and collectivism. The Organization itself is just the physical manifestation of those ideas. The UNSC, ONI, and the UEG...they are all pawns of The Trust, tools to be used to advance our prevailing idea, and our prevailing idea is the preservation of all that we have worked for. Ever since The Jovian Moon campaigns...The Trust has been there to ensure that our ideals persevere over all others! The Men and Women who formed The Trust, were of the same minds that formed all of history's greatest empires! The idea has never changed. We have never changed. We have come too far to have everything we have built be torn asunder by insurgents.

Tyber: Quite frankly, Sir, we have also come too far to have our Humanity and dignity torn asunder. What good are the things we have built if there are no values to act as their foundation? When we have reached the point where we can begin tossing out centuries of evolved sensibility and restraint, in favor of flat out domination and conquest; we have lost the right to exist.

Spender: You simply do not understand why The Trust exists. You do not understand our purpose...your purpose!

Tyber: Davidov told me enough. You filled in the rest. I know enough and understand enough to know where this could end up. I was not born yesterday. The fact is...I do not believe that your intentions are entirely honest. You have hidden to much up until this point...and it would be stupid to assume that you are not hiding more.

Spender folded his arms.

Spender: I have nothing to prove to you.

Tyber: On the have everything to prove to me. You have to prove to me that what you did to Black team was worth it. You have to prove to me that you know how to best deal with The Insurrection, and any other threat for that matter. You need to prove to me that your intentions are on the level, and that you only have other people's best interests in mind. If you want my need to prove a lot to me. So far...the only thing you have that you are a morally bankrupt individual.

Spender: You honestly believe that...don't you?

Spender laughed.

Spender: I will are bold. That is a quality that I like to see in my subordinates. However, you also come off as very insubordinate. I do not like that.

Tyber: I am prepared to walk on this. There is no way you can keep me here. If you can't prove yourself to me, I will simply refuse to cooperate with you.

Spender paused. He then thought more about what Tye said.

Spender: If you refuse to cooperate, I will be forced to take action.

Tyber: You do what you have to do, but I will not be a pawn in your schemes.

Spender: You do not have a choice in the matter!

Tyber: No, I think I do. Unlike the rest of Black Team...I do. I am choosing to not be a part of your twisted little side show.

Tye gave Spender a dirty look, as he stormed off, leaving the firing range.

Spender: Don’t turn your back on me! I made you what you are! I own you! I created you! You belong to The Trust!

Tye stopped, as he turned to face Spender.

Tyber: Go to hell where you belong, you prick!

STB Breaking Point

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Firing Range - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to Draco III - 0030 hours - - June 1stth 2515.

Spender watched as Tye left. Spender frowned. He did not like what had just been said to him. As the doors to the firing range closed, Spender began to speak.

Spender: Ulterior Motive - current location of ODST Black Team, excluding Black 6?

Ulterior Motive: ODST Black Team localized to Operation Barracks Alpha - Deck 12.

Spender then tapped his ear piece.

Spender: Spender to Novak, do you copy?

Novak: I read you sir. What do you need?

Spender: Lt. Vernette is not cooperating with orders. Something must be done about this immediately. He seems be too fargone.

Novak: Well, sir, I have prepared the necessary pharmaceutical that we have been giving the other members of Black Team. However, my concern is that if Lt. Vernette is no longer cooperating with us...administering this drug could prove to be very difficult. However, if we are successful in administering this...he should become a LOT more compliant. I have this refined to a near perfect science now.

Spender: I had a feeling you were going to say that. Do not concern yourself with that problem. I already have an idea. Lt. Vernette is not going to have a choice in this matter.

Spender paused.

Spender: Remain in the med bay. We will bring Lt. Vernette to you.

Novak: Understood.

Spender: This should not take too long. Spender out.

Spender then closed the comm line, as he left the firing range. Spender wasted no time, as he rushed down to Operations Barracks Alpha, so that he could instruct Black Team on what they had to do. Spender had no doubt in his mind that what he was about to ask Black Team to do would be done without hesitation or question, and that it would be done with the expertise and the precision that he had instilled in Black Team through their training.

Upon entering Operations Barracks Alpha, Spender was greeted by a fully geared and prepared ODST Black Team, with all members present, with exception to Black 6.

Black 1: Sir...what brings you down here?

Spender: We have a change of priorities gentlemen. Your services are required, not in the simulation deck, but in the real world.

Black 1: What would you ask of us, Sir?

Spender: Black 6 has gone rouge. He no longer deems it necessary to comply with orders. As you can possibly guess, I am none too pleased with this development. However, despite my irritation, Black 66 must be subjugated so that he can be re-processed and brought back into line.

Black 5: You can count on us sir.

The rest of Black Team nodded, with exception to Black 1.

Black 1: With all due respects Sir…Black 6 has lost the right to be on this team. He has failed his test of loyalty. It has become clear that he lacks the mental discipline to comprehend and participate in the intensity of this line of work. Is it a good idea to try and re-incorporate him?

Spender: I believe so. For starters, a great deal of time, effort, and resources were invested into Black 6…and The Trust is not prepared to so easily dismiss him. He has come too far, and we have come too far with him to mark him as so easily dispensable.

Spender paused.

Spender: Additionally, Black 6 is far too knowledgeable of our operations. Simply allowing him to leave would be a gross violation of internal security for The Trust. If Black 6 were to share what he knows with someone in the UNSC or even other parties in The Trust…it could have dire consequences. We cannot allow that to happen.

Black 5: Then why not just kill him?

Spender: Again…that would be a waste of resources. I am not yet prepared to just terminate Black 6 in any sense of the word without first trying to bring him back around to our side. I admit that there may be a time that we may need to terminate Black 6…but now is not that time. We have to try and restore his loyalty. Is this understood?

All five members of Black Team nodded in unison.

Spender: Good. Then by that I can infer that it is understood that you five will do EVERYTHING in your power to CAPTURE Black 6…not kill him.

Black 1: Yeah…we understand.

Spender: Good. Do whatever you must to subdue and capture Black 6. Once you have done that, bring him to the med bay, and Novak will be able to take it from there.

Spender stepped to the side

Spender: Black 1…you are in charge. Make sure that this plan does not deep six. You have your orders. Now go! Carry them out!

Black Team all loaded their weapons, and they walked in unison, following behind Black 1, as they left the barracks and entered the main corridors of the ship.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Deck 3 - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to Draco III - 0045 hours - June 1stth 2515.

Tye was roaming the halls of The Ulterior Motive, thinking to himself about the discussion that he had just had with Spender not too long ago. He had no real destination. He was, more or less, touring the ship. Tye had always derived a bit of mental calm from talking walks, and touring the ship was the best thing to a walk. Tye had lost track of the time that he had spent roaming the corridors, but he knew that it was late just by how fatigued he was feeling. Tye had decided to make his way back to his quarters.

Tye was not far from his quarters when he turned a corner, and found that his path was blocked by ODST Black Team. Tye looked at Black Team for a moment, confused as to what they were doing.

Tyber: We had a training sim...didn't we? Honestly guys...not tonight. We can do it tomorrow. I am not in the mood tonight.

Black Team was silent as they glared at Tye. Tye started to feel a bit uneasy at this rather odd behavior.

Tyber: there a problem?

Black 1 stepped forward, and raised his Assault Rifle.

Tyber: Whoa...pointing a gun at your squad commander is no way to earn points.

Black 1: Tye...come with us.

Tyber: What's going on?

The other four members of Black Team began to spread out, as Black 3 and Black 5 circled around Tye, taking up position behind him.

Black 1: We have orders to take you into custody.

Tyber: What the hell is going on?

Tye then heard weapons raise behind him. He knew that both Black 3 and Black 5 had raised their weapons.

Black 1: We won't ask again. Come with us.

Tyber: Where? Where are we going?

Black 2: You will find out soon enough.

Tyber: I hate to say this...but I get the feeling that I will NOT find out where I will be going. I demand to know where you are taking me! I am ordering you to tell me at once!

Black 1: You are no longer in command. We no longer have to follow your orders. Whether this becomes that status quo, or if this reverts is up to you.

Black 1 paused.

Black 1: We will not ask again Tye. Come with us willingly...or we will take you by force.

Tye knew that he was outgunned and outmatched. He knew that if he did anything other than what they asked, he would be taken down in a heartbeat.

Tyber: I have no idea what the hell has got into you guys…but this only proves my point.

Tye raised his hands and put them behind his head. He knew that whatever was coming, he was not going to like it. His every instinct told him that something bad was coming.

Black 2 then stepped forward, and grabbed Tye by the shoulder, and turned him around, and then started to push in order to make Tye walk. Tye obliged and stepped forward, as he was directed down the corridor. With each step, Tye kept his eyes open for any opportunity that would give him the chance to break free and make an escape. However, corners were tight, and there was only so much room to maneuver. Tye knew his options were limited and that if he passed up even a decent chance, that he may not get another.

As Tye was directed down the corridor, he could hear the sound of an elevator slowing down, as if it was stopping on this deck to let someone off just down the corridor that he was being led down. Tye knew that this could be a good chance to escape. Just as Tye had guessed, as he moved down the corridor, the elevator door opened, and two crewmembers with data pads stepped off the elevator. The crew members stopped when they saw Tye and Black Team, as if they were shocked at what they were seeing.

Black 1: Clear the way!

The two crewmen began to step aside to each side of the corridor, one on each side. However, as they did this, Tye broke away from Black 2, spun around, and slammed his pal right into Black 2's neck. As Black 2 fell to the side, Tye reached down and grabbed Black 2's automag, letting the momentum of the falling ODST, pull the gun right out of the holster. Tye then spun around, and grabbed one of the crewmembers and used him as a Human shield as he began to back up.

Black Team responded immediately, as everyone except Black 2 raised their weapons and pointed at Tye. Tye held the Crewmember close, one arm wrapped around the crewman's neck, and the other arm extended, taking aim with the automag.

Tyber: Get the FUCK back!

Tye started to back up. Black Team, however, continued advancing.

Tyber: I mean it...back OFF!

Black 1 stopped, as he began to laugh.

Black 1: Black Team...

Tye continued to move back.

Black 1: Shred that meat shield...then take aim and fire at any non-critical area on Tye's body.

Tye became wide eyes, as he watched Black Team open fire into the crewman that he was using as a shield. Tye could feel his cloths soak with the crewman's blood as each bullet entered the crewman. The crewman drowned in his own blood, as the sound of gurgling blood came out of the crewman's mouth. Tye knew that he didn't have long, only a few seconds, to get to the elevator, and attempt his escape. As Tye lined his body up with the door to the elevator, he released the crewman and jumped into the elevator. Tye slammed against the wall of the elevator, but proceeded to kick the control panel in the elevator, intent on going anywhere besides where he currently was. The elevator doors quickly closed before Black Team could resume their firing.

Black 1 grunted in anger as the door closed.

Black 1: Damn it!

Black 1 then stepped back as he contacted the bridge.

Black 1: Black 1 to Spender...Lt. Vernette is on the move. He managed to elude us. I recommend a full lockdown of the ship until we can apprehend him.

Black 1 waited for a response. It took a moment for Spender to respond, such that all of Black Team could hear him.

Spender: Agreed. I will move all points to full alert. We will lock down all escape pods, weapons lockers, and hanger bays. I am giving you every advantage Black Team...find Vernette and capture him!

Black 1: We're on it.

Black 1 turned to the rest of his team. He saw that Black 2 had rejoined them, and was ready to proceed. Black 1 then gave a firm nod, as Black Team bolted off, intent on finding Tye.

Tye, on the other hand, had moved up several decks. He was breathing heavily as he could not believe what had just happened.

Tyber: They fucking turned on me. They fucking turned on me.

Tye ran his hand through his hair, unsure of what he was going to do.

Tyber: I called Spender out...and he sent my own team after me...

Tye then stopped himself. He then came to a stark realization.

Tyber: His never was my team. He has been pulling the strings the entire time. The moment I turned on him, he cut me loose.

Tye shook his head, as he felt the elevator slow down, as it got ready to open.

Tyber: Davidov seemed to have an idea as to exactly what Spender did to them. However…Novak knows EXACTLY what he did…and he should know how to reverse it.

Tye looked at a small screen on the wall of the elevator and saw that he was now on deck 6. He was one deck below the med bay.

Tyber: I have to get to the med bay. I have to find out if there is a way to reverse what Novak did to the guys.

The doors to the elevator opened, as Tye darted out. However, only moments after stepping out of the elevator and moving through the corridors, he was noticed by the Marines which were stationed on that deck.

Trust ODST Sergeant: There he is! Open fire with high impact kinetic rounds. We want him incapacitated, not killed. Aim for the chest cavity!

Ye moved into cover right away as he hear the high pitched sound of the kinetic rounds whiz by.

Trust ODST Sergeant: Private…radio Black Team and report our position!

One of the ODSTs fell into cover, as he radioed ODST Black Team.

Trust ODST Private: ODST Black Team…this is Private Allan…we are on Deck 6, section 14…we have engaged Lt. Vernette, as ordered. We are attempting to subjugate.

Tye could hear the chatter from where he was. He had no intention of letting these ODSTs broadcast his every move. When the fire had died down, Tye raised his automag, and leaped from his cover, to the other side of the corridor. As he did, he took several well placed shots, landing a headshot on the ODSTB Sergeant, and critical wounds on the private, and two other ODSTs. The fire immediately died down, as Tye easily eliminated the immediate threat.

Tye emerged from cover and began to move down the corridors again. As he walked, he could see the ODST Private crawling away, talking into his comm. line.

Trust ODST Private: This is Private Allen…my team has taken heavy casualties…we need backup!

As Tye walked, he began to put a round into the heads of each ODST that was still alive, making sure that they were wall dead. Tye didn’t even look at the men he was killing, he simply walked by, and shot them square in the heads. Tye even did the same to the ODST Private who had been calling for help.

Just after Tye had put the bullet in the private’s head, he gave an angry sigh.

Tyber: Running low on ammo. It would be nice if I had a bigger weapon.

Tye then had a thought. He turned, and knelt down next to the ODST Private, and grabbed his sidearm. Tye checked the clip, and saw that the sidearm still had live rounds. Tye then noticed that all of the ODSTs were all equipped with side arms.

Tyber: It’s better than nothing.

Tye moved between each of the ODSTs, grabbing their side arms, and taking the clips of ammo from each of the guns. Tye moved quickly, knowing that at any moment he could be swarmed by more hostiles. Once Tye had finished, he bolted off down the corridor, trying to throw Black Team, and the rest of The Trust, off his trail. Tye moved carefully, such that his feet made as little noise as possible as he ran.

As Tye approached a junction, he stopped, as he leaned forward, checking his corners. Tye quickly pulled back when he saw that a larger team of Trust ODSTs were converging on his position. This team was about 12 ODSTs in size, and they did not display any kind of timid behavior. Tye knew that the body language screamed the fact that these guys meant business.

Tye held his automag up to his head, as he pinned himself up to the wall. Tye then took a breath, and spun out of cover, and took aim at the large group of ODSTs.

Trust ODST Sergeant Major: Contact Sighted. Open fire!

Before the ODSTs could mobilize and carry out the order, Tye began to open fire, landing precise headshots on several of the ODSTs, causing them to scatter as they fell one by one.

Trust ODST Sergeant Major: Take cover!

The Trust ODSTs began to move back, as they took cover in doorways. Tye, on the other hand, had moved into cover once more, sticking behind the corner. He knew that these diversions were wasting his time. However, if he was to try and run, he would only be chased, and he could put himself into a much worse situation.

As Tye stuck to cover, he did his best to keep track of the firing pattern of the ODSTs he was up against. Tye had managed to narrow this down, and emerged from cover once more for another assault. Tye fired off half of his clip, and managed to hit several more of the ODSTs in the arms, managing to his them despite their own efforts to stay in cover.

Tye could hear the Leader of the ODST Team calling for backup, and reporting his situation.

Trust ODST Sergeant Major: This is Sergeant Major Kane...we need backup on Deck 6, Section 19. We have engaged Lt. Vernette...but he has put up an incredible amount of resistance.

Tye grinned, as he emerged from cover once more, and took aim, and managed to place a round right into the visor of the Sergeant Major, killing him instantly. The other ODSTs saw this, as they ceased their fire, and began to fall back.

As the ODSTs fell back, Tye took this chance to continue onwards, as he continued on his way, going the opposite direction of the ODSTs that he had just engaged. Tye knew that as long as he was up against hostiles that were armed with non-lethal rounds, he would have the advantage, but he knew that ODST Black Team was still armed with live rounds, and that they currently posed the largest threat.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Deck 5 - - Currently in Slipstream Space en-route to Draco III - 0100 hours - June 1stth 2515.

ODST Black Team had made their way to Deck 5, one deck above where Tye was. ODST Black Team had been in constant contact with Spender, who was on the bridge. Spender had been giving Black Team up-to-the-second updates on Tye's movements, and Black Team had reasoned that Tye was going to make his way to Deck 5.

Black 1: Alright Black Team...listen up. We are going to situate ourselves near Section 21...which is located around the med bay. We have all agreed that Tye is going to make his way here sooner or later. Engaging him head-on will not work, despite our superior numbers. We must surround him, and engage him from multiple vectors.

Black 5 nodded.

Black 5: That is his biggest shortcoming; Tye excels at head-on engagements, but he often fails to account for his other vectors. If we can hit him from at least three sides, he WILL go down.

Black 1: Agreed.

Black 1 paused.

Black 1: The challenge in this will involve using non-lethal means to take him down. Multiple other teams have engaged Tye with non-lethal kinetic training rounds, but they have all been killed, or nearly wiped out. We do have live ammo, but we cannot use it so liberally.

Black 2: Sir, I recommend we use non-lethal shots. We should take shots at his arms and legs - attempt to cripple him and slow him down.

Black 1: That could be a viable choice if the situation starts to break down further than it already has.

Black 3 then interjected.

Black 3: Sir...what if Tye DOESN'T come here? There is a chance that we could be wrong about this.

Black 1: We could be wrong...but everything we know about Tye suggests that he will come here of his own accord. Remember...he doesn't know that this is where we wanted to take him. Second - he is going to want answers for what is going on. If his conversation with Spender was any indication of what is going through his mind right now, he no doubts puts all the blame on our training. There is only one place on this ship where he will get the kind of detailed answers his mind needs right now...and that is here, at the medical bay.

Black 3 nodded. He then fell silent.

Black 1 looked at each member of his team.

Black 1: We have our work cut out for us. Let’s get this prick under control!

Just as Black 1 had said this, all of Black Team could hear a muffle comm. communication.

Trust ODST: This is Private Rye…Lt. Vernette has broken through our line…and he has entered Deck 5…section 24. Vernette will NOT go down…repeat…he will NOT go down!

The comm. line went dead when the sound of the Trust ODST getting shot could be heard over the comm..

Black 1: Black Team…we have to get into position. Black 2…take up position down the corridor to the left, near the auxiliary supply room. Black 3…take up position at the far end of the corridor to the right. Keep your sights on Tye, and only fire if you ABSOLUTLY must…and only hit him in non-lethal areas.

Black 1 turned to Black 4.

Black 1: Black 4…take up position just down the main corridor, inside of the wiring room. Keep tabs on the comm. line. When we give the sign, we want you to emerge, and use that upper body strength to put Tye on the ground.

Black 1 then turned to Black 5.

Black 1: Black 5…you will be here…to meet Tye head on. You and he have history. If you can get inside his head, and get him off his game, we can converge on him and take him down.

Black 5: What about you Black 1?

Black 1: I am going to take up position opposite of Black 4. We are going to have this prick surrounded.

Black 5: Fair enough.

Black 1: Good luck!

Each member of Black Team went their separate ways, taking up their respective position. Black 5 simply waited, in front of the main door to the med bay, for Tye to enter his sights. It was not longer before Black 5 spotted Tye at the other end of the corridor. The two men exchanged a look from down the corridor, exchanging no words, but making it very clear that they were at direct odds.

Tye raised his weapon, and aimed at Black 5, as he stepped forward.

Tyber: Eli…get out of the way!

Tye continued to step forward.

Black 5 held his ground.

Tyber: Eli…I swear to God…I will shoot you if I have to.

Black 5: I am sorry to hear that Tye…I really am. However, it gives me hope that you have decided to give me the ultimatum. Were you so generous to the men that you killed to get here?

Tye scoffed.

Tyber: Eli…do not push your luck.

Black 5: Do not push you luck Tye. You think you actually stand a chance at getting off this ship alive? Do you think that Black team is going to make it easy for you to just waltz right past us, steal all of the information you want, and then just leave without incident?

Black 5 paused.

Black 5: You are pushing your luck…big-time!

Black 5 watched Tye. He saw that Tye was still stepping closer, but very slowly.

Tyber: Eli…get out of the way!

Black 5: I cannot do that Tye! If you want me to move…you are going to have to kill me!

Tyber: Eli…for the love of God…we are better than this! We have never been at odds like this before! Look what Spender has done to you! He has poisoned your mind!

Black 5: No…you are wrong. He has done no such thing. Spender has opened my mind to new ideas, new methods, new ways of thinking, and new ways of doing things. He gives me the freedom I need to do what I need to do to get my job done! He has liberated me!

Black 5 paused.

Black 5: Can’t you see? We are facing a very real threat Tye! Humanity is self-destructive. Only The Trust can save Humanity. I realize this now…I understand this now! The Trust IS the future of Humanity!

Tyber: I cannot believe what I am hearing…from you…of ALL people. I don’t know who you are anymore! I do not know what you are…but you are no longer the Eli Decker that I have come to respect. The Eli Decker I knew would NEVER say that!

Black 5: Cut the melodrama Tye. I am still the same Eli Decker that you knew. The only difference is that…I have been improved.

Black 5 paused.

Black 5: You too can be improved if you just put the gun down, surrender, and allow The Trust to open your mind to new ideas. Let us help you…we want to improve you as well!

Tyber: I don’t want your fucking improvements!

Black 5: One way or the other Tye…we will find a way to help you. You are confused...and we want to help you.

Black 5 raised his weapon and aimed at Tye. Tye tightened his grip around his weapon in response. Both men were ready to pull the trigger.

Tyber: I’m sorry…it didn’t have to come to this…

Black 5: No…it is I who should be sorry. I failed you. I failed as your CO. I failed as your friend. I failed as your mentor. Had I have done a better job guiding you…we would not be here…taking aim at each other. What a terrible way to end a friendship. the one who is sorry.

Black 5 showed no further signs of hostility, though he kept his aim on Tye. Tye, on the other hand, was seconds away from pulling the trigger. Just before he did, however, Tye was struck down from behind, by a swift blow to the back of the head. Tye dropped his weapon, as he fell to the ground. Tye rolled over, as he saw Black 1 behind him, holding his Assault Rifle.

Black 1: You should learn to cover your Flank Tye. It seems to be your biggest flaw.

Tye looked up at Black 1. Tye rolled to the side to reach for his sidearm, but before his hand could reach the gun, a foot slammed down on his wrist. Tye cried out in pain, as he looked up and saw Black 2, with his boot on Tye’s arm.

Black 2: Let’s not be hasty.

Tye frowned, as he pulled his arm out from under Black 2’s boot. Tye then rolled to the other side, but his momentum carried him right into a kick from Black 3. Black 3 had swung his leg, kicking Tye right in the mid section. This stopped Tye mid-roll, as he cried out in pain again, as he held onto his midsection, cradling his injury. Tye did not have long to cradle his injury, as he felt someone grab him from behind, and lift him up off the ground. As Tye was lifted to his feet, he was tossed into the wall, his back slamming into the wall. Tye saw that it was Black 4 who had picked him up and tossed him into the wall.

Tye was weakened and in pain…but he was not about to just give up. Tye pushed himself forward, towards Black 4, but his efforts were in vain, as his attack was countered by Black 4, giving Black 4 the perfect chance to drive his knee right into Tye’s chest. Tye fell to one knee from the force of impact, and he found himself struggling to keep his balance, and to get back to his feet.

Black 5: put the prick under! If we can knock him out…he should be much easier to work with.

Tye looked up at Eli, and then turned his head to the side. As he did, he was met with the sight of Black 2 slamming the butt of his Shotgun right into his face. The butt of the Shotgun hit Tye in the side of the head, as Tye immediately lost consciousness, and fell to the ground.

Black 1 looked down at Tye, on the ground, and laughed.

Black 1: That was far too easy. It is laughable to think that HE was the leader of this team not but a couple of hours ago.

Black 1 shrugged. He then looked at Black 4 and Black 3.

Black 1: Pick him up and bring him to the med bay.

Black 2 and Black 4 nodded, as they grabbed Tye, lifted him up, and dragged him to the med bay. Black 1, on the other hand, turned away, and contacted Spender via the comm.

Black 1: Black 1 to Admiral Spender...I can confirm that we have managed to subdue Lt. Vernette, and we have taken him into custody. Black 2 and Black 4 are currently taking him to the med bay as we speak, as you requested. Do you copy?

Black1 waited for a response from Spender. After a moment, Spender had responded to Black 1.

Spender: Solid copy Black 1. Well done. With Lt. Vernette under control, we will have one less prblem to deal with.

Spender paused.

Spender: Black 1...I want you, and the rest of Black Team to be on hand at the med bay while Novak does what he has to do. I choose not to underestimate Lt. Vernette in this matter. If, by some chance, Lt. Vernette tries to mount an escape...I want Black team to put him down again. Is this understood?

Black 1: Copy that Admiral. Black Team will be on hand in case anything goes wrong. You can count on us. Black 1 out.

Black 1 closed the comm. He then turned around, and saw Black 3 and Black 5. Black 1 gestured to the two men, instructing the two to follow in tow. Black 1 led Black 3 and Black 5 to the med bay, where they saw Black 2 and Black 4 helping Novak secure Tye to a series of restraints.

Black 1: is it coming?

Novak: I have just administered a very heavy sedative to Tye. He is going to be out like a dead light bulb for hours. I can assure you that he will not pose a threat.

Black 1: Be that as it may...Black Team is going to remain here...just in case.

Novak: That will not be necessary. I have Tye under control.

Black 1: The decision is not up for debate. My offer was not made because of any sort of charity or generosity. I am under orders by Admiral Spender to remain on hand...just in case you lose control of the situation.

Novak sighed.

Novak: Fine...just try and stay out of the way. The last thing I need is for something to go wrong because of an unwanted intrusion.

Black 2: What could go wrong?

Novak: You would be surprised Black 2…you would be surprised.

UNSC Halycon Class - The King Raven - Medical Bay - Currently in the San Angeles Star System - 0630 Hours – January 30th 2540

Jennifer: Wait…are you saying that The Trust actually took the time and gave the effort to capture you?

Tyber: That’s correct. The Trust was very insistent on having me as a member of ODST Black Team.

Jennifer: What I do not understand is what would they gain from capturing you? You had already made it clear that you were going to have no part in what they were doing!

Cameron: Captain Frost…you seem to be forgetting that The Trust had already demonstrated that they had very powerful means of persuasion.

Burke: Cameron is right. If I was to guess…the point of capturing Tye was so they could do to him what they did to the other members of Black Team. They wanted to finish what they started.

Tyber: You are correct Doc. I was captured for that exact reason. I was captured so Novak could finish what he started, and turn me into what I was supposed to be…a husk for The Trust.

Nighthawk: So unbelievable…but so in line with what The Trust would do. Part of me is not surprised…but another part of me…well…I can only imagine what you went through.

Tyber: I went through hell…I think.

Anaconda: You think?

Tyber: It is the weirdest thing…but I cannot remember exactly what they did to me to MAKE me work for them. There are huge gaps in my memory. I can faintly remember images…sounds…feelings…even a few faces. I can remember small details...such as moving through obstacle courses, combat simulations...but the context is so blurry.

Tye paused.

Tyber: However…most of the exact details I experienced are lost to me.

Jennifer: I have heard of this before. You see…when we experience something traumatic or…downright terrifying…our minds have been known to block out certain memories. It is a defensive response to things that we could otherwise not handle normally.

Anaconda folded his arms and looked to Jennifer.

Anaconda: Why would that happen? What is the value in forgetting something?

Jennifer looked at Anaconda.

Jennifer: The Human mind is very timid, yet very cunning and resilient when it needs to be. When we find ourselves in a state where our memories or state of mind is causing us distress beyond our ability to handle it…we block those memories as a defensive measure, to keep our sanity, to keep our peace of mind, and to help us cope.

Burke: Let’s not forget the inherent self-defense principles that come into play. Memories can be very powerful. To recall and remember something so traumatic has the ability to drive us insane. The resulting insanity can do a lot of damage, and hurt a lot of people. Our minds can almost literally purge memories as a defense mechanism.

Cameron: Actually…I have heard rumors that some of ONI’s top field agents have been trained extensively to make themselves forget information in the event of their capture. It is a form of self-hypnosis that some agents have been trained in. From what I have heard…it becomes a valuable skill in the event of their capture.

Anaconda was still unsure as to why Tye would want to forget something like this.

Anaconda: I still find this to be very odd. I cannot imagine myself ever forgetting something, no matter how terrible it was or how important it was. To me…memories are experience. To bury a memory is to destroy an experience. Yeah…I have forgotten things in my life…but never intentionally.

Tyber: It was a pretty shitty experience. There is very little I could ever salvage from what they forcefully did to me. Whether it was intentional or not…the events of my life from that small period of time are lost to me.

Anaconda: But it was an experience none the less. It may be a painful memory…but you could have always turned that pain into a fuel for your desire for revenge and retribution. Do not be so quick to abandon your pain and suffering. Embrace it…use it against your enemies.

Tye sighed.

Tyber: Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Anaconda was going to respond, but Nighthawk nudged him in the arm. Anaconda looked at Nighthawk, and Nighthawk looked at Anaconda. The two exchanged looks for a moment. After a moment, Anaconda looked back at Tye.

Anaconda: I may not fully understand the reasons behind your situation…but I can respect your strength for living through it. I mean no offense.

Tye nodded.

Tyber: Think nothing of it. It’s cool…don’t worry.

Anaconda nodded at Tye.

Nighthawk: So…you just established that you have a memory gap. What is the next thing you remember after all of that?

Tyber: Well…my memory starts to clear up as I was being briefed on my next missions. It was defiantly a few days after the lapse began…so there is not very much lost time.

Nighthawk: Do you recall what the mission was?

Tyber: Yeah, I recall the details of what the mission was…and I even recall a majority of the mission itself.

Nighthawk: So what were the exact details of the mission? I know earlier you mentioned Draco III…but…the details were sketchy at best.

Tyber: The mission was to report to Draco III…and stop a branch of The Trust from wiping out the largest Insurrection cell in UNSC territory. Our orders were to help The Insurrection survive so that Spender could continue to use them as pawns in his little coup. How fucked up is that?

Anaconda: Very manipulative. Very deceptive.

Nighthawk: At least his tactics do not change.

Tyber: Believe me…they have not changed a bit.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Main Bridge – Draco System - Currently on course towards Draco III - 0800 hours - June 5th 2515.

Spender and Novak were both on the main bridge of The Ulterior Motive, as the ship had just dropped out of Slipspace in the Draco system.

Trust Helm Officer: Sir…engines are now cold. We have returned to normal space.

Spender: Do we have any sensor readings on Draco III?

Trust Sensor Officer: We are getting something on sensors…standby.

Pender and Novak looked at each other and then back at the sensor officer.

Novak: Ensign…what do you see?

Trust Sensor Officer: The UNSC Marathon Excalibur is currently engaging Insurrection Retrofits. The Excalibur is holding steady against five old UNSC Medical Frigates….that seem to have been haphazardly upgraded by The Insurrection for combat.

Novak: Medical Frigates?

Spender: Well…not just Medical Frigates…combat retrofitted Medical Frigates.

Novak: Medical Frigates have limited armor. The Excalibur has to be shredding those ships.

Trust Sensor Officer: I think The Excalibur IS shredding those ships. I am detecting a number of debris scattered around the planet which seem to be consistent with smaller civilian class colony ships. Based on what I am reading in the debris…there seems to be ordinance and what appears to be light deck guns in the debris. Sir…The Excalibur is pounding The Insurrection. The Insurrection is not going to last much longer?

Novak: Helm…ETA to Draco III?

Trust Helm Officer: 15 Minutes. We dropped out of slip a bit further than we should have.

Novak turned and looked at Spender.

Novak: They are not going to last that long. Those Insurrectionist ships are a write off.

Spender: Agreed. However, we should endeavor to take advantage of this situation. I have no doubt The Excalibur has sustained battle-damage, even to the smallest degree. We have a chance to get an early upper hand…and destroy The Excalibur.

Novak nodded in agreement.

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