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Old
Default 07-14-2015
  #2271
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Spender nodded.

Spender: Think nothing of it. There are many Officers in your position, right now, as we speak. I am used to being put on hold. As long as your cover is maintained...that is all that matters...for now.

Spender paused.

Spender: Soon...it won't matter...but that is beside the point, and not of concern at this moment.

Spender paused.

Spender: Do whatever you have to do...just get me civilians with warm bodies. It does not matter if it is women or men...young or middle aged...they all respond to conditioning in the same way.

Spender paused.

Spender: Children are also beneficial. We have been playing with the idea of developing our own Spartan Program...and, well...test subjects are required at these critical stages. In order to test a theory...you need a subject, am I wrong?

Spender grinned.

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Default 07-14-2015
  #2272
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Reynolds: "I suppose you could say that any discovery made in life was based off of experimenting? Theories alone don't get you anywhere."

Reynolds grinned. He knew that that expression would likely resonate with Spender, indicating the same mindset.

Reynolds: "You need subjects, but you haven't told me where to send them."

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Default 07-14-2015
  #2273
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Spender: I have no intention of giving you the coordinates to where the Trust will intercept the civilians. We are not so conventional.

Spender paused.

Spender: Instead, I am going to give you, what Division 7 calls a NAVJACK. Long story short, it is a subroutine that is disguised as a navigational packet. When it is uploaded to a navigational computer, say, one belonging to a civilian evac shuttle, it rewrites the target navigational computer to covertly implement destination overrides to an encrypted set of spacial coordinates embedded in the subroutine.

Spender paused.

Spender: This little piece of code has helped us stem leaks and allow for greater compartmentalization of our ship movements. Even though you will never know where those shuttles are going, you can be content knowing that you did your job to the fullest.

Spender paused.

Spender: Simply transmit this navigational packet to the civilian evac shuttles once they request their destination. The subroutine will do the rest. It could not be easier.

Spender paused.

Spender: Do not try and examine the packet to try and extract data from it. We will know that you tried, and I will be forced to send Mr. Kolya to your ship so he can take the appropriate action in response to your disobedience. Augustus Kolya is an exceptional man, with a special gift for snapping necks with a single hand. It is quite the sight to behold.

Spender grinned.

Spender: This is just a friendly warning. We are all friends here.

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Default 07-14-2015
  #2274
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Reynolds: "Copy that, Sir. I will do as instructed. Was there anything else?"

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Default 07-14-2015
  #2275
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Spender: One more thing...

Spender paused.

Spender: Do your best to keep tabs on Harrison. The moment you feel that he is about to make his move, inform me ASAP. If you can delay him without arousing any suspicion...do it.

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Default 07-15-2015
  #2276
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Reynolds: "How should I reach you? Reverse the frequency or reach out to Yates on the frequency he gave me?"

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Default 07-15-2015
  #2277
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Spender: Reach out to Yates. He will relay further orders from the Trust, and direct any reports you may have, to me.

Spender paused.

Spender: Yates tends to deal with most of our sleeper Agents. He seems to have the patience for such matters.

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Reynolds chuckled slightly.

Reynolds: "He does have quite a bit of patience."

Reynolds quickly shifted his demeanor back to where it needed to be.

Reynolds: "I will relay all reports when they arrive."

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Default 07-15-2015
  #2279
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Spender nodded at Reynolds.

Spender: Very good. Any intel you can get us will prove very useful.

Spender paused.

Spender: Humanity is depending on your efforts, Captain Reynold. Remember that...

With that, Spender cut the comm line, taking the last word in the discussion.

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Default 12-20-2015
  #2280
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(Resuming from post 2269)

Harrison: Very well, Captain. Keep me apprised of Jacob’s situation. The moment he has the nanite administered, inform me at once.

Jennifer nodded.

Jennifer: Yes sir.

Harrison: In the meantime, I am going to see what I can do on my end to coordinate a counter-attack on The Trust. Hopefully, with Tye’s insights on Black Team, and Cameron’s insights into The Risk Takers, we can deal a crippling blow to The Trust, and stop them before they unleash this “Vanguard” construct.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: I just hope that it is enough.

Jennifer: Well sir, if there is any shred of information that can help us deal a blow to The Trust, as a whole, Tye and Cameron will come up with it.

Harrison: Again, I hope it is enough. We are dealing with far more than just Black Team and The Risk Takers. The Trust has no shortage of offensive power on their side. We can confirm that there is another ODST squad in play, as well as a second Spartan Team. On top of that, we have Nighthawk and Anaconda threatening to destroy this planet, and we have The Covenant prepping themselves to glass it. There is a lot more to saving San Angeles than just knowing how to beat Black Team and The Risk Takers. We are fighting a battle on three fronts Captain. There is no easy way to say it; we are at the disadvantage.

Jennifer: I agree, but, I think you are oversimplifying the situation.

Harrison: Am I? Please, tell me how I am over simplifying the situation?

Jennifer: Well, for starters, you are ignoring the fact that The Covenant seem less and less interested in attacking, and more and more interested in Vanguard. We have evidence to suggest that this IS the case. We also have evidence to suggest that The Covenant is as concerned about Vanguard as we are.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: As for your stance on Nighthawk and Anaconda; I am hard pressed to say that they are not our enemy, at least, not in the same way The Trust is. The real threat we are faced with is The Trust. We should consider using this fact to our advantage.

Harrison shook his head.

Harrison: Forgive me Captain, but, I am not buying the ONI spin on this one. The Covenant came here to glass this world and kill every man, woman, and child on it. Nighthawk wants to use a weapon that would destroy this entire world, along with every man, woman, and child on it. That fact right there makes The Covenant as bad as Nighthawk and Anaconda.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: The Trust wants to leverage the power of some super weapon that they found. From what I am told, that would most certainly be bad for everyone. I am dealing with three factions that want to kill everything in their path. Tell me again how one is a lesser evil than the other?

Jennifer scoffed.

Jennifer: Sir, this is not about finding the less of any number of evils. This is about picking the battles that we can win, and avoiding the battles that we will lose.

Harrison: What you fail to understand is that all of these battles have to be fought eventually. Even if we ignore The Covenant and Nighthawk and Anaconda, and we manage to stop The Trust and Vanguard…what then? Do you think The Covenant will peacefully leave? I doubt it. Hostilities will resume, one way or the other. There is no getting around the fact that we have to fight our enemies, and the fate of San Angeles depends on us beating them at every turn.

Harrison scoffed.

Harrison: When I have my officers telling me that we should pick and choose our battles, or we should accept the help of two terrorists, that creates a divided house; and we cannot save this world with a divided house. This is exactly why I am taking charge on this, and it is exactly why ONI is taking the backseat to my orders.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: As far as I can tell…the ONLY thing that ONI was interested in was playing cloak and dagger politics in an active combat zone. While you were busy collaborating with a terrorist, I was conducting a battle and ordering good men and women to their deaths. While you were busy keeping secrets, I was busy fighting a war.

Jennifer: Yes, you were so busy fighting a war that your top man turned coat and was found helping The Trust.’

Harrison took an aggressive stance, as he stepped closer to Jennifer.

Harrison: Do not even TRY to start this discussion again.

Jennifer: I think we need to have this discussion. The cloak and dagger politics that you were so critical of resulted in us getting a direct shot on The Ulterior Motive. Without my “collaboration” with Nighthawk, we would never have been able to attack The Ulterior Motive. We would never have even had that shot.

Harrison: Double check your history, Captain. Jacob was the one who allowed us to pinpoint the location of The Ulterior Motive. The only thing Nighthawk did was threaten to melt Hoffman’s brain in a nightmare machine that ONI so readily kept on hand in what seemed to be a standard issue lab. That aside, despite taking that shot you spoke of, and scoring a victory, we are not anywhere closer to actually stopping The Trust.

Jennifer: The point is…

Harrison interjected.

Harrison: There is no point, Captain. I am not having this discussion. This is not how it works anymore. I am not here to listen to you. You are here to listen to me, and follow my orders. My orders, to you, and the rest of your ONI attack dogs, is to combat ALL of our enemies. That includes The Trust. That includes The Covenant. That includes Nighthawk and Anaconda. You are not here to play favorites. You are here to follow orders.

Jennifer: That is a terrible misuse of ONI’s functional capabilities. You are making a terrible mistake.

Harrison: No. The only mistake was allowing ONI to operate with such impunity. That is a mistake I am correcting, here and now. If you have a problem with that, keep it to yourself.

Jennifer frowned.

Harrison: Now, if there is nothing else, deal with Jacob’s nanite when it arrives. When he has been tagged, inform Strike Team Diamond, and be sure you inform them that I want Jacob taken to the armory to be geared up and prepped for his next deployment, wherever that may be. I, on the other hand, am going to go and prepare to have a chat with Hoffman. I need to prepare some logistical information prior to our conversation. Frankly, I want to see what else he knows. Hopefully after his close call with Nighthawk, he will be more responsive to me.

With that, Harrison turned away and walked off, leaving Jennifer in the silence of the interrogation chamber’s observation room.

Jennifer scoffed as Harrison walked off. She was very displeased with how Harrison was handling the situation. While she would be hard pressed to argue with the logic that The Trust, The Covenant, and Nighthawk and Anaconda are opposing factions, she was very resolute in the belief that there was a lesser evil in this conflict. As Jennifer turned to face Jacob, who was sitting in the interrogation room, she began to think to herself.

Jennifer was no stranger to the war by this point in her career. While she had spent most of her career as an ONI scientist, the past few years of her career had seen her transition to a more combat role. During that transition period, she had seen more than her fair share of death and destruction at the hands of The Covenant. However, the one thing she had never seen was the nefarious and underhanded methods of The Trust. The Trust was an entity that caught her off guard and was, for all intents and purposes, unknowable.

As an enemy, The Covenant was very transparent in their tactics, methods, and motivations. It was easy to spot a member of The Covenant in a crowd. It was easy to know them by appearance. The Trust, on the other hand, blended in and hide in plain sight. The Trust was secretive and subversive. The Trust could have been anyone; UNSC or ONI, military or civilian, man or woman. The very nature of The Trust made the danger it posed immeasurable. It was this fact that drove Jennifer to believe that, above all else, The Trust was the most ruthless force that opposed both ONI and the UNSC.

Jennifer glared at Jacob, as she went over Jacob’s reasoning over and over in her head. Even though the story added up, Jennifer had difficulty trusting a single word Jacob had said. Jacob was the same man who convinced The Trust that he believed in their cause. No matter how she looked at it, Jennifer could not bring herself to trust Jacob.

But that concept was at the heart of everything; it was a matter of trust.

After her last conversation with Nighthawk, Jennifer could no longer trust that Nighthawk was doing the right thing either. Was his threat to destroy San Angeles based on irrational hatred for The Trust, or was it based on something more rational? Jennifer knew the man behind the alias, but, she had yet to scratch the surface of who the alias was. It was clear that Nighthawk was a much different in his methods than what she had come to normally expect from Preston Vernette. As much as Jennifer wanted to trust Nighthawk, she simply did not have all the facts that were needed to make that commitment. It almost seemed as if she had nobody to trust. This feeling of isolation was not something that Jennifer enjoyed in the slightest.

Jennifer could have continued all day, wrestling with the problems she was faced with, but, an unfamiliar voice broke her train of thought.

Combat Medic: Ma’am? I am here to deliver something to you…courtesy of Commander Burke.

Jennifer turned, and approached the combat medic. As she did, she noticed that the combat medic was holding a medium sized silver case. As Jennifer stopped in front of the combat medic, she gave a nod. The combat medic, in turn, raised the silver case, and held it right-side-up, as he opened it up to reveal a specialized hand-held medical instrument that looked very similar to a syringe.

Jennifer: The nanite?

Combat Medic: Programmed, loaded, and ready for deployment.

Jennifer nodded, as she grabbed the syringe from the case. She then nodded to the combat medic.

Jennifer: Thank you. You are dismissed.

The combat medic nodded, as he turned and walked off. Jennifer, on the other hand, left the observation room, and proceeded into the interrogation room. The moment she entered, she saw Jacob look up at her. He nodded and greeted her.

Jacob: Welcome back, Captain. Here to administer my electronic tagging?

Jennifer: Yes, I am.

Jacob: Thought so.

Jacob sighed, as he tilted his neck to the left.

Jacob: Let’s get this over and done with. Inject away.

Jennifer sighed, as she approached Jacob, and pressed the tip of the device against his neck. After a minor adjustment to the positioning, she pressed her thumb against the device, and administered the nanite into Jacob’s bloodstream. Once this had been done, Jennifer stepped away.

Jacob: That was pretty painless for something that can kill me.

Jennifer: Sarcasm notwithstanding, you are now free to go. Wait here while I get Strike Team Diamond.

Jacob simply looked away from Jennifer, as she exited the interrogation room, and approach Strike Team Diamond, who were collectively waiting just outside the interrogation room, conversing amongst themselves. As Jennifer approach the group, she looked at Ice.

Jennifer: Jacob has been tagged. Your orders are to take him to the armory, and get him cleaned up. Make sure he has his gear laid out, and make sure he is fit to be deployed to the field at a moment’s notice.

Ice nodded to Jennifer.

Ice: We will see to it.

Jennifer nodded, as she walked off, leaving Strike Team Diamond to their work.

Once Jennifer had left the area, Strike Team Diamond entered the interrogation room. As they did, Jacob looked up at Ice, and nodded at him.

Jacob: I am guessing you guys are here to let me out of this cage?

Ice: More or less. You are, technically, free to go. However, our standing order is to get you to the armory, and get you geared up and ready for your next deployment.

Jacob: Fair enough.

Jacob raised his hands, showing the cuffs to Ice. Ice took his queue and walked over to Jacob, and unlocked the cuffs.

Ice: So…they tagged you? What exactly does that mean?

Jacob: They put a nanite in my brain. It enters your bloodstream and then enters the brain, waiting for a termination signal. ONI tags people like this in order to terminate them if they go rouge.

Ice: Damn.

Jacob: It is what ONI does.

Ice: And they did this because they think you are a traitor?

Jacob: Captain Frost is not convinced of my story. She believes I am a security risk and a traitor. I think Harrison buys my story, for the most part. Frankly, I knew Harrison would give me the benefit of the doubt.

Ice nodded.

Ice: Well, sir, we have your back. We would like to think we know you well enough to know that you are not a traitor.

Jacob: I appreciate the vote of confidence.

Ice: Well, we have your back, no matter what. If push comes to shove, we will back you up.

Jacob nodded, as he stood up, and looked at Ice and the other members of Strike Team Diamond.

Jacob: Well, it is good to know I still have friends.

Jacob laughed.

Jacob: Well, if I am not mistaken…we need to hit the armory, correct?

Ice: Yes sir.

Jacob: Alright, lead the way.

Strike Team Diamond proceeded out of the interrogation room, with Jacob walking by their side.

Meanwhile:

Jennifer had made her way to the auxiliary armory where Cameron had been gathering information and intel on The Risk Takers, in preparation for the next engagement with The Trust. As Jennifer entered the auxiliary armory, she saw Cameron, with his back to the door, typing away at one of the consoles. Jennifer could see that the dossiers and service profiles for The Risk Takers were accessed, and displayed on the large screens mounted on the wall directly in front of Cameron.

Jennifer waited a moment, before she called out to Cameron.

Jennifer: Cameron?

Cameron stopped what he was doing, as he turned to face Jennifer.

Cameron: Captain. I did not expect to see you here. What can I do for you?

Jennifer: There is really nothing I need. I just wanted to check on your progress. How are you coming along with your intel on The Risk Takers?

Cameron: Gathering the information itself is not that difficult. Most of it resides in ONI datacenters that I am cleared to access. Filling in additional and supplementary information is what is taking the most time.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: There are things that I personally know about some of the Risk Takers that could prove to be useful in any confrontation with them. As you may or may not know, four of the seven Risk Takers were, in fact, Class 0 Spartans.

Cameron called up the files for the four Spartans in question.

Cameron: Liam-Z174, Jessica-Z190, and Desmond-Z055, and the recently KIA Savannah-Z149. These four Spartans came from the same program and training unit as I did. I remember them quite well, actually. They were skilled Spartans.

Jennifer: I am sensing a “but”.

Cameron nodded.

Cameron: But…they were problematic, like many of the other Class-0 Spartans.

Jennifer: I have heard that many of the Class-0 Spartans were problematic. Many of them were not very well adjusted, and they exhibited sociopathic tendencies.

Cameron: That defines the problem in as few words as possible. However, that is a fairly accurate description of the issues surrounding the program.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: I was one of the few Class-0 Spartans to emerge from that program that was well adjusted and “psychologically normal”. It was because of this, I was chosen to lead the other Spartans. I guess ONI thought that my tempered leadership would keep them in line.

Cameron scoffed.

Cameron: So much for their leader keeping them in line

Jennifer gave a shrugged, as she walked forward.

Jennifer: I refuse to believe that you are responsible, in any way, for the Class-0’s going rouge.

Cameron: It is hard NOT to blame myself for it all. I was given the responsibility of leadership, and I feel like I have failed in that responsibility.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: When I look at how many Class-0 Spartans have turned against ONI, it really makes me wonder if there was something I didn’t do.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: However, it is not just The Risk Takers. As you may, or may not know, The Trust has a second team of Spartans that they can deploy against us. Nighthawk called them “Hammer Team”. Those Spartans that make up Hammer Team are also Class-0 Spartans.

Jennifer: How do you know?

Cameron: The Class-0 Spartans were my Spartans, in every way that mattered. I know them. I know all of them. Most of the time, I recognize their methods and their tactics, regardless of what armor they are wearing.

Cameron paused as he called up another set of dossiers.

Cameron: Here they are…

Jennifer read the dossiers.

Jennifer: Mitchell-Z010...Krisrtina-Z066...Thomas-Z068...Jilian-Z133...Malcolm-Z141

Cameron: I don’t remember these five being particularly close during our formative years of training. They must have been assembled sometime after the fact…possibly very recently. I cannot say for certain. All I know is that when we were being trained, these five never really showed any special comradery that was beyond what was normal for the Spartans. They never usually teamed up during our training sims, at least, never as a complete whole.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: History lesson aside, The Trust seems to have made it a policy to recruit Class-0 Spartans. This is either due to the tactical advantages of a Spartan over conventional personnel or the fact that Class-0s are more prone to identify with the mindset necessary to be a member of The Trust. Whether it is the former or the latter is yet unknown. That being said, The Risk Takers and Hammer Team were not the first Spartans in service of The Trust.

Jennifer: There were others?

Cameron: There was at least two others that I know of…

Cameron paused.

Cameron: The first one, historically speaking, was Noah-Z028, who was operating under the command of Commodore Davidov. The second was Lucien-Z002.

Jennifer: I heard stories of Lucien from Preston, err, I mean Rear Admiral Vernette. He was rather malicious if I remember the story correctly. Still, The Trust has been recruiting Spartans for some time now. It is safe to assume that this is not a new tactic.

Cameron: Correct.

Cameron paused, as he called up the dossiers for the other three members of The Risk Takers.

Cameron: We can also assume that The Trust is in the business of recruiting Spartan IIIs as well. Several members of The Risk Takers, namely, Lyle, Emma, and William, are all Spartan IIIs.

Jennifer: If that is the case, we can rule out psychology being a motivating factor for recruitment. At least in most cases, Spartan IIIs seem to be well-adjusted in contrast to the Spartan IIs.

Cameron: Potentially. In the case of Lucien, he was recruited for his wide array of expertise. Lucien was incredibly dangerous and effective in a VERY wide array of disciplines. While psychology may have played a role in determining a Spartan’s value in terms of recruitment, it would seem that skillset is paramount.

Cameron paused.

Jennifer: Well, consider this; The Risk Takers were formed in direct response to Nighthawk and Anaconda. In my years of service, specialized fire teams that are assembled to respond to a specific threat, are usually composed of individuals who complement one another in terms of both psychology and capability. On an individual basis, I can see skill set trumping psychology. However, when forming a team, psychology is always a very important factor.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: I refuse to believe that The Trust does NOT have a method to their madness.

Cameron sighed.

Cameron: If that is the case, there are a lot of Class-0s out there that would be prime candidates for Trust recruitment, if they have not already been recruited. That prospect is daunting in itself

Jennifer: As far as we know, that has not happened yet. So, for the time being, we should try and avoid worst case speculation, and stick to the facts.

Cameron nodded.

Cameron: Of course, you’re right. Speculation will do very little good.

Cameron turned back to the console that he was standing in front of, as he resumed working.

Cameron: As far as The Risk Takers are concerned, the one thing that we have going for us is the fact that they are in a weakened state. With the death of Savannah, The Risk Takers will be missing a functional portion of their unit.

Jennifer: Can you tell me more about Savannah?

Cameron: Based on what I remember about her, she was very committed to the prospect of being a Spartan. When the ONI Agents abducted her, she actually killed one of them; slicing his throat with a shard of glass from a broken window.

Jennifer: She would have only been six years old at the time.

Cameron: She did not understand at the time. Suffice to say, that event stuck with her for pretty much her entire life. That event is what drove her commitment to being a Spartan. I believe that event haunted her and plagued her in unimaginable ways. It is what made her as good as she was.

Jennifer: What did she excel at?

Cameron: Her main weapon was an MA5C Assault Rifle, similar to me. However, we have two very different approaches to the weapon. While I use my Assault Rifle as a “spray and pray”, Savannah preferred more controlled bursts. She used her weapon in a way that was befitting her combat style; precise, measured, and surgical.

Jennifer nodded.

Jennifer: So, from a strategic standpoint, The Risk Takers have lost one of their best.

Cameron: Yes.

Jennifer: That does give us an advantage.

Jennifer paused, as she thought for a moment.

Jennifer: If we combine your knowledge of The Risk Takers and Hammer Team with what Tye knows about ODST Black Team into a single, unified, strategic briefing package…we may be able to pull off an effective counter-attack against The Trust.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: The only thing we would need to ensure that we cover all of our baes, would be the information that Nighthawk took from Jacob, and perhaps, a bit more intel on Vanguard.

Cameron: How do you intent on getting that sort information?

Jennifer grinned at Cameron.

Jennifer: I have my methods…

Jennifer turned, as she approached the console that Cameron was work on. As she stepped next to Cameron, she entered in a few commands, before speaking.

Jennifer: ARC…do you copy?

ARC appeared on a small holotank on the top of the console, staring at Jennifer.

ARC: Online - awaiting instructions.

Jennifer: Initialize ONI Compliance Directive Zero-Zero-Five - authorization code JF-Tango-8339-Lambda.

ARC flickered for a moment, before shutting down. After a brief moment of inactivity, ARC reappeared on the small holotank.

ARC: ONI Compliance Directive is now engaged. Privacy Mode engaged. How can I be of service, Captain Frost?

Cameron folded his arms, as he looked at ARC.

Cameron: I did not know we could do that.

Jennifer nodded at Cameron.

Jennifer: All UNSC AIs have a compliance directive. Compliance Directive 0-0-5 is hardcoded into all standard issue UNSC AIs. The authorization code is used to legitimize the request for elevation.

As Jennifer said this, she turned back to ARC.

Jennifer: Open a secured communications channel, routing the message through the emergency communication system. Disengage all logging of this communication. Assign a static communications frequency of 12.4 THz and direct the message to any transceiver array, in range that is capable of intercepting this frequency.

ARC: Channel open…

Cameron looked at Jennifer with a curious expression.

Cameron: Who are you contacting?

Jennifer simply grinned, as she began to speak.

Jennifer: Nighthawk…do you copy?

Jennifer looked at Cameron, as she gave a wink. Cameron simply shrugged. Jennifer only waited a moment before she got a response.

Nighthawk: Jennifer? I did not expect to hear from you so soon.

Jennifer: It is important. I am here with Cameron and we require the information you procured from Jacob. Has it finished decrypting?

Nighthawk: Yes, we have finished decrypting the information. I was just about to analyze it.

Jennifer: Can you send me a copy?

Nighthawk didn’t respond right away. There was a moment of silence before he replied.

Nighthawk: You are contacting me from the Vigorous Inferno. Is that the best idea?

Jennifer: I used the ONI Compliance Directive on the AI. Harrison has no knowledge of this transmission. Don’t worry, I covered my tracks.

Nighthawk: Pretty sly. What’s the scoop with Harrison anyway? What is he up to?

Jennifer: Well, he is trying to reign in control of the entire situation. He is calling the shots now. He believes that this is his operation going forward. Last I heard, he was questioning Hoffman about The Trust, rather, he was intent on doing so.

Nighthawk: I see. Well, good for him.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: I digress, as I said before, the data has been fully decrypted, and there appears to be quite a bit of it to shift through. I can send you everything now, if you would prefer.

Jennifer: That would be ideal. Cameron and I are currently trying to compile as much information on The Risk Takers and Hammer Team as possible. We need the intel that Jacob stole.

Nighthawk: Very well, I can begin transmitting it now. Standby.

Nighthawk fell silent for a few moments before speaking up again.

Nighthawk: File transfer is in progress.

Jennifer looked at the console she was standing in front of, and nodded.

Jennifer: Confirmed.

Jennifer paused for a moment.

Jennifer: File transfer is complete. I have the file. Thank you.

Nighthawk: No problem.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: Just so you know…this may be the last time you will be able to contact me for some time.

Jennifer: Why?

Nighthawk: I plan on going totally dark in order to get a functional contingency plan in place…in case I…we fail to stop The Trust.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: I know you have your indifference about it, but, it is a last resort, and I will try to avoid using it at all costs.

Cameron looked at Jennifer with curiosity.

Nighthawk: That being said…if I find out where The Trust is hiding, I will not think twice about revealing it. I know Harrison will not accept my help anymore, so I am hoping you still want my help; still willing to accept it.

Jennifer: I am not as uptight about such things as Harrison. So, of course I am still willing to accept your help.

Nighthawk: Good.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: Keep an eye out for me. Nighthawk out.

With that, the comm line closed. Jennifer sighed, as she looked at Cameron.

Cameron: What was he talking about when he said “last resort”?

Jennifer: Nighthawk has a weapon that can destroy this planet. He plans on using it if The Trust cannot be stopped, or if The Covenant are in danger of taking possession of any of the technology on this planet.

Cameron: You are alright with this?

Jennifer: Of course I am not! The thought of destroying San Angeles is deeply troubling. With that said, what choice do we have? Our success is not guaranteed. In fact, the odds are stacked against us. We may not be able to stop The Trust and The Covenant.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Sure, there is a faction of Covenant soldiers willing to set aside their hostility in order to stop Vanguard, but, what happens after that? Harrison made this argument, and I do not disagree with the idea that once The Trust is defeated, the Covenant will resume hostility. What if we lose to The Covenant? What if they take possession of the technology on this planet? We would lose this war!

Jennifer sighed.

Jennifer: Nighthawk has the only solution.

Cameron: I hardly call destroying San Angeles a solution.

Jennifer: It is the best we have. It is all we have. Let’s face it; our record against The Covenant is abysmal. Even if we manage to defeat The Trust, and we somehow manage to stop Vanguard, do you think we will have enough left over to defeat The Covenant?

Cameron thought about it, before answering.

Cameron: That depends who is still standing after the fact.

Jennifer shrugged.

Jennifer: I have to admire that conviction, but, I also have to be realistic. We need to keep our options open. In the grand scheme, what is more important than the survival of the Human race?

Cameron sighed.

Cameron: Well, before this battle is said and done, we will see exactly how important it is.

Jennifer: That we will, Cameron.

Jennifer sighed, as she finished copying the information that Nighthawk had sent her to the main database of The Vigorous Inferno.

Jennifer: There. All of the information that Jacob stole from The Ulterior Motive has been copied to BOTH The King Raven and The Vigorous Inferno. The data is here for you to access Cam.

Cameron: I will take a look at it and see if I can use it to supplement what we currently have. Once I have finalized my report, I will run it by you before passing it along to Harrison.

Jennifer: Understood. In the meantime, I am going to give this information a look-see to see what Jacob found.

Cameron nodded, as he resumed his work. Before leaving the armory, Jennifer looked at the console and spoke to ARC.

Jennifer: ARC…resume standard operating procedure and suspend ONI compliance directives into active memory. Answer all further queries from me, using ONI Compliance Directives. Commence a silent shutdown of all ONI monitoring and surveillance.

ARC: Acknowledged, Captain Frost. Standing by for additional orders.

With that, ARC vanished from the holotank. Jennifer then looked at Cameron.

Jennifer: As you were, Cam.

=============================================================
San Angeles - Continent of Calypso - Firebase Desert - 1600 Hours - February 1st 2540
=============================================================

Nighthawk and Anaconda’s Vulture was hovering above Firebase Desert, slowly reducing its altitude. The Vulture was hovering over the rooftop cargo access door, the same door that was used earlier to remove the stealth generator from the facility. Nighthawk’s intent was to lower The King Raven’s spare slipspace core into the same spot that the stealth generator had previously occupied. It took several moments for the Vulture to properly align to the correct spot, and lower itself down. However, once it was in the right spot, The Vulture’s tethers disengaged and released the slipspace core, allowing it to fall several feet, right into position, inside of Firebase Desert.

Once the slipspace core was in place, HAWK appeared on the dashboard of the Vulture, and began to speak.

HAWK: The Slipspace core is now in place.

Nighthawk, who was sitting in the pilot’s seat, looked at HAWK, and nodded.

Nighthawk: Alright, I am going to get down there and start getting things setup.

Nighthawk looked at Anaconda.

Nighthawk: I am going to need your help with a few things.

Anaconda: My help?

Nighthawk: Yeah, I may need a bit of muscle to get things going. There is going to be a bit of setup involved.

Anaconda shrugged.

Anaconda: Fine. Lead the way.

Nighthawk nodded, as he stood up from the pilot’s seat, and proceeded to walk to the rear compartment. Anaconda followed in tow.

Anaconda: So, what exactly do we have to do?

Nighthawk: First thing is first, we need to make sure that the shielding on this slipspace core is still functional. Before we even power this thing up to full capacity, we have to make sure that the shielding is operational. Without any shielding, this can end really badly for the two of us.

Anaconda: Well, I will leave that to you.

Nighthawk shrugged, as he approached the edge of the rear compartment, and looked out the rear hatch, to the ground below. It was roughly a 10 foot drop. Before Nighthawk could even begin measuring the jump, Anaconda simply grabbed him under his arm, and jumped out of the Vulture, making the drop with relative ease. Once Anaconda’s feet were on the ground, he released Nighthawk from his grasp.

Nighthawk: That was a little uncalled for.

Anaconda: We don’t have time to waste. Let’s get to work.

Nighthawk sighed, as he turned his attention to the slipspace core. He then looked around the room and saw the power conduits on the walls, as well as a dozen very large power cables coming from the conduits.

Nighthawk: I think we can make this work…

Nighthawk took a few steps away from the slipspace core, before he turned and walked to the other side of the room to reach the main control terminal. He approached the main terminal and began to examine it. Nighthawk observed that he could use the main terminal to control ever minor aspect concerning the power flow into whatever was hooked up to the power conduits.

Nighthawk: Yeah, we can defiantly make this work. We have everything we need.

Nighthawk looked up from the console and looked at Anaconda.

Nighthawk: We should be able to enact HAWKs plan with what we have here.

Nighthawk paused for a moment, as he considered his options.

Nighthawk: The only thing we will have to keep in mind would be the UNSC or Covenant detecting the massive power signature that this will create when we fire it up.

Anaconda simply looked at Nighthawk.

Nighthawk: The first thing we would want to do is calibrate the power flow that is required to do this safely and quietly.

Anaconda: How do we – rather - you do that?

Nighthawk: Do you see those power cables that are coming from the power conduits on the left and right side of the room?

Nighthawk pointed to the two main conduits that were on both sides of the room. Both conduits had five large cables coming from them, for a total of 10.

Nighthawk: We will need to connect the slip space core to the power conduits. We need it powered up, before we can calibrate it.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: Grab those cables, and connect them to the end points on the slip space core. They are all color coded based on power throughput. Just match them up. As you connect them, I will keep tabs on the power levels.

Anaconda turned, as he looked at the cables on the ground. He then looked at the slip space core and saw the corresponding end points. Anaconda proceeded to grab each cable, and connect them to the corresponding end points. As he did this, he began to speak to Nighthawk.

Anaconda: So, do we have any idea where The Trust took Vanguard?

Nighthawk watched the power levels, and made the appropriate adjustments as Anaconda connected each power cable.

Nighthawk: No, but HAWK is currently running through the data now. Hopefully he can find us something that will lead us to The Trust.

Anaconda: What if he doesn’t?

Nighthawk: Well, then we are going to be in trouble. If we cannot get a lead on Vanguard and The Trust, we won’t even be able to take a shot at trying to stop them.

Anaconda: Would it not be a better idea just to activate this weapon, and be done with it?

Nighthawk: In theory? Yes. However…I would rather use it as a weapon of last resort.

Nighthawk paused, as he made another adjustment to the power flow. Anaconda, on the other hand, had finished connecting the power cables on one side of the slip space core. Without being prompted, he began to walk to the other side of the slip space core, to continue connecting the necessary end points.

Anaconda: Is there any value in that plan?

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: Vanguard is incredibly dangerous, and it is not to be underestimated. If we have the means to destroy it, and The Trust, should we not take advantage of it?

Nighthawk: Part of me wants to. However, I cannot shake the feeling that if I don’t make an effort to try and stop The Trust and Vanguard with more conventional methods, I would be no better than The Covenant.

Anaconda stopped what he was doing, as he looked over at Nighthawk.

Anaconda: You have to realize that even if we do find a way to defeat Vanguard and The Trust…we may be unable to defeat The Covenant.

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: I cannot imagine a scenario where we don’t use this weapon.

Nighthawk paused, as he also stopped what he was doing, and looked at Anaconda.

Nighthawk: That’s what gets to me. We may have to use this plan.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: Destroying an entire planet? That is not my style.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: We have faced steep odds before. I have been in backed into my fair share of corners. Hell, you managed to defeat Vanguard once before. Are we really accepting the fact that we can’t win this without resorting to a weapon of mass destruction?

Anaconda: I think we have to face reality; how often do Humans defeat The Covenant? As far as I can tell, your species has lost almost every major engagement of the war. There is no way we will be able to stop The Covenant, not with our limited resources. We have to be realistic. This is our only option if we are going stop EVERYONE from claiming Vanguard’s technology.

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: We both know that neither The Trust nor The Covenant can have access to the secrets buried on this world.

Nighthawk: The secrets on this world could change the course of this war. If ONI got their hands on this technology…

Anaconda: How long could you protect this world for? Even if we defeat The Covenant, on top of defeating The Trust and Vanguard…do you honestly think The Covenant will accept defeat? The Covenant knows of this world. The Covenant will simply keep coming because their faith demands it!

Anaconda growled.

Anaconda: And assume your species was able to defeat The Covenant over and over, how long would it be until The Trust shows up, under the pretense of ONI, to simply take what they want, when they want? This technology will never be safe! It will never be a secret!

Nighthawk sighed. He knew that Anaconda had a point.

Nighthawk: You’re right. As much as it pains me to admit it, you’re right. When you put it that way, there really is no way around it.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: It is a difficult reality to swallow.

Nighthawk paused again.

Nighthawk: Do you know how many people lived on this planet? Close to 52 million people lived here. How many have been evacuated so far? Tens of thousands? Perhaps a hundred thousand people? How many people are still out there? Millions! Millions of people just…waiting to die.

Nighthawk scoffed.

Nighthawk: It won’t be The Covenant who kill those people. It won’t be The Trust. It sure as hell won’t be Vanguard. It is going to be me that gives the order to kill them all. That is going to be hard to live with it.

Nighthawk sighed.

Nighthawk: But it has to be done, right?

Anaconda: It has to be done.

Nighthawk gave a nod.

Nighthawk: Finish getting the core hook up to the power conduit, then, come on over here. We can go over the details of the plan.

Anaconda nodded, as he returned to work. Nighthawk, on the other hand, turned away from the computer console, and approached a large table that was behind him. Anaconda reached to his side, and grabbed his PDA, as he set it down on the table. Once the PDA was on the table, Nighthawk tapped the screen of the PDA and powered it on. Just as he did this, HAWK appeared on the PDA. Nighthawk looked down at HAWK and paused for a moment before speaking to him.

Nighthawk: HAWK, how much of Jacob’s intel were you able to shift through? Were you able to index all of it?

HAWK: I have finished indexing the intel, and there is no shortage of useful information here. Most of it contains intel on Trust observation of Jacob. However, none of it can be useful in terms of finding Vanguard. Unfortunately, we are out of leads. I am running the scanners on The Venture Capitalist, scanning the planet’s surface, but, I cannot find anything that would imply Trust activity. Wherever they are, I can’t find them.

Nighthawk sighed.

Nighthawk: What about outbound communications? Is there any way to intercept communications?

HAWK: My knowledge of known Trust communications frequencies is limited. Despite that fact, I have been monitoring all transmission carrier weaves, and all I am getting is static. The Trust could very well have gone dark.

Nighthawk: Damn it.

HAWK: The only thing I can do is run the sensors on The Venture Capitalist non-stop, and hope I find something out of the ordinary.

Nighthawk slammed his fist on the table. As he did, Anaconda approached from behind, and spoke up.

Anaconda: Problem?

HAWK: We have no leads on The Trust. The intel that Jacob stole was mostly concerning him and his prior activities.

Nighthawk: Meaning…we have jack shit that is useful.

HAWK: As I said, I am running topographical scans of the planet in order to look for anything out of the ordinary. It is our best bet.

Anaconda: Is it?

Anaconda grunted.

Anaconda: I don’t think that is entirely true.

Anaconda shrugged.

Anaconda: What about that Hoffman Human? Surely he would know something! Captain Frost mentioned that Harrison was questioning Hoffman about The Trust. Perhaps Hoffman knows something.

Nighthawk snapped his fingers.

Nighthawk: Of course! Hoffman would know where The Trust is! He was a member of The Board of Chairmen! Big Guy…you’re a genius.

Anaconda: I know…

Nighthawk: The only problem we are faced with is how to get to Hoffman. We need a way of getting to him.

HAWK: Perhaps we don’t have to.

Nighthawk: What do you mean?

HAWK: Captain Frost said that Harrison was going to question Hoffman. Harrison would be a fool not to inquire about Vanguard’s location. We could just eavesdrop on UNSC activity and wait.

Nighthawk: Possibly, but that is not a certainty. Hoffman may not say anything, or Harrison may not be forceful enough to get him to talk. The only reason Hoffman spilled the beans last time was because I was about to nuke his brain. Hoffman is the type of guy that needs to be pushed to the utmost brink before he breaks. I doubt Harrison would push him that far, but, I am willing to bet that we can. We need to get our hands on Hoffman.

Anaconda: What are you suggesting?

Nighthawk: We need to recover him from the belly of the beast. We have to go and get him.

HAWK: Harrison won’t let that happen. He won’t make it easy. This is, of course, not mentioning how difficult it would be making it onto that ship, undetected or otherwise.

Nighthawk: Well, what do you suggest HAWK?

HAWK: Commander Vernette. We should contact your brother. I am sure he would love to cut loose on Hoffman.

Anaconda: I am sure he would.

Nighthawk: I can’t ask him to do that.

HAWK: Our options are limited. Commander Vernette is the next most qualified person to deal with someone like Hoffman.

Nighthawk: In case you were not aware, Tye tried questioning Hoffman before. Hoffman was very unresponsive. I had to torture Hoffman to get answers out of him. Not my proudest moment.

Anaconda: Tye probably held himself back. That Human seems to like hiding his rage, but I can hear it under his voice, and I can see it when he walks. There is a very deep seeded rage inside that Human that has been caged for a long time. Perhaps he needs to let it out and let Hoffman see it firsthand.

Nighthawk: My brother has spent years trying to keep that part of himself in check. I am not going to ask him to undo a lifetime of effort to ask one question.

Anaconda: It is either that, or we activate this weapon right now.

HAWK: Or we try our luck in trying to take Hoffman off the Vigorous Inferno ourselves.

Nighthawks looked at HAWK and Anaconda, as he considered his options. He knew that his options were limited. He knew that getting to the Vigorous Inferno would be incredibly difficult, and getting Hoffman out of Harrison’s clutches would be near impossible. Nighthawk also knew that he simply could not activate the slip space weapon without making some effort to stop Vanguard.

Nighthawk: Our options are very limited…

Nighthawks sighed.

Nighthawk: I am not willing to just activate this weapon and run, and we all know boarding The Vigorous Inferno is a death wish. I guess our only choice is to talk to Tye… see if he can help us.

Nighthawks paused.

Nighthawk: I am not comfortable with this decision. I am very hard pressed to ask this of Tye. We all know damn well what he went through. To be honest, I would never ask anyone to do what we are going to ask Tye to do, especially given their history. The fact is, though, it is the best option out of a bunch of shitty ones.

Anaconda: It would be the “safest” option. I, personally, would prefer to board that ship and kill everyone in sight. People like this Harrison Human would all be dead if I didn’t give a damn what you thought about their lives. They are lucky that I respect you enough to not argue this.

Nighthawk: I appreciate the sentiment.

Anaconda: Though, I still want to tear all of these Humans into bloody strips of flesh.

Nighthawk: I would prefer to avoid that if all possible.

Anaconda folded his arms and grunted.

Nighthawk: We should try to contact Tye. He should still be aboard The Ulterior Motive. If we can get him aboard The Vigorous Inferno, he can get his hands on Hoffman.

HAWK: That shouldn’t be too hard. Getting Tye to Harrison’s ship should be easy enough. Tye is due to deliver a report to Harrison concerning his time with The Trust. That should give Tye the opportunity he needs to get close to Hoffman.

Anaconda: And then he can interrogate Hoffman.

HAWK: And relay the information to us.

Nighthawk: Then we can get Vanguard and The Trust.

Anaconda: Provided Harrison does not try and intervene. This Harrison Human may invariably learn of Vanguard’s location, either learning it from Tye, or discovering it of his own accord.

Nighthawk: However, is that a bad thing?

Anaconda: Yes!

Nighthawk: We will have to fight through the entire Trust JUST to get to Vanguard. That much IS certain.

Anaconda: Then we will fight through them, and we will kill them!

Nighthawk: Yes, I am sure we will, but, we won’t have to if the UNSC is there.

Anaconda gave an uncertain growl.

Nighthawk: Hear me out. The most important thing is that we both get to Vanguard, alive, and in one piece. If we fight the ENTIRE Trust by ourselves, we have to go through Black Team, Nova Team, The Risk Takers, Hammer Team…and a shitload of extra help. By the time we run that gauntlet, provided we survive, we are going to go head to head with Vanguard, and we will have exhausted all of our weapons and resources. What then? Do we fight it with our bare hands?

Anaconda: If we have to.

Nighthawk shook his head.

Nighthawk: You’re missing the point. We are outgunned, and we are going to need fire support. Harrison wants to stop Vanguard as much as we do, but he is just not willing to go to the same lengths as we are. Regardless of that fact, we would be stupid not to capitalize on that.

Anaconda: I do not like entrusting the success of our missions on Humans who would turn their weapons on us the moment it was convenient.

Nighthawk: You know they are not all like that. My people are more open mind. It is why they are my people. Cameron, Tye, Burke, Jennifer…these people can be relied upon to back us up.

Anaconda: Be that as it may, I still do not like working with all these Humans. I do not trust them. I do not like this Harrison Human, nor do I like his lackeys.

Nighthawk: Neither do I; which is why I have no problem throwing his people at The Trust to absorb bullets.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: Believe, I agree with you 100%. It may not seem like it most of the time, but I do. I have always agreed with you. Frankly, you are right about these things far more times than you are not. You are very correct to be wary of Harrison, because he IS the kind of man who is vindictive enough to target us regardless of what is going on around him. That being said, we have the opportunity to take advantage of Harrison in a big way. We can make him play right into our hands.

Anaconda gave an uncertain grunt.

Nighthawk: It is not like you to be uncertain. There is still something about this that you don’t like, and I think I know what it is.

Anaconda: If these Humans get in our way…we kill them. I want to be able to kill them if they get in the way! That is what I need to hear to satisfy my uncertainty!

Nighthawk: Very well, but only if they get in the way.

Anaconda growled, as he nodded.

Anaconda: Then I support this course of action. We enlist the help of the Human Commander to interrogate Hoffman. We will capitalize on the foolishness of the Harrison Human, and we will slaughter his lackeys if they get in our way.

Nighthawk: If that what it takes to get us to Vanguard…we do it.

Anaconda: And if The Covenant shows up, we kill them too. As long as Vanguard is destroyed, that is all that matters to me now. This construct must be destroyed at all costs.

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: And if we are unable to drive the Covenant away from this world. We must use the weapon to destroy this planet. If you value the future of your species, of my species, of any species, you must not discount the slip space weapon from being used.

Nighthawk: If I have to use it, I will, but I will only use it if I feel that we are facing imminent defeat.

Anaconda: Then we are in agreement with what must be done.

Nighthawk nodded. Anaconda nodded back.

Nighthawk: HAWK…contact Tye; get him on the horn. We are going to need his help.

HAWK: Right away.

Nighthawk looked back to Anaconda.

Nighthawk: While I coordinate with Tye, I am going to need you to get us ready for the endgame.

Anaconda: We are going to need weapons, and lots of them. I should return to The Venture Capitalist and get everything we have. We are going to need every weapon at our disposal if we are to do battle with Vanguard.

Nighthawk: Good call. Can you see to it?

Anaconda: Leave it to me.

Nighthawk: Thanks.

Anaconda grunted, as he turned and walked away, with intent on returning to the Vulture.

Nighthawk: Wait!

Anaconda grunted, as he turned.

Nighthawk: If there is ANYTHING extra that you can think of, anything that would help us, anything at all…get it. Grab whatever you can, whatever you think we may need. Sky is the limit.

Anaconda nodded, as he turned once more, and walked off, leaving Nighthawk and HAWK alone.

HAWK: I believe I have established contact with the Commander. Shall I patch you in?

Nighthawk: Yes.

=============================================================
San Angeles - Ulterior Motive - In Orbit of San Angeles - Spender’s Office - 1630 Hours - February 1st 2540
=============================================================

Tye was sitting in Spender’s office, sitting behind Spender’s desk, drafting a report on his experiences with The Trust. Tye had his feet on Spender’s desk, leaning back in the chair as he held a tablet in his left hand, and typed away with his right hand. Tye’s helmet was sitting on the desk as he worked.

Tyber: God…this sounded so much more interesting when I was verbally recounting the story. There is so much to tell, I could easily make this report over 500 pages.

Tye rolled his eyes, and threw the tablet onto Spender’s desk, and proceeded to sigh.

Tyber: Just being in this office feels wrong. This entire ship feels wrong.

Tye paused.

Tyber: I haste this ship.

Tye scoffed, as he reached forward and grabbed the tablet again, as he got back to work drafting his report to Harrison. Moments after he got back to work, he heard the earpiece in his ear beeping. Tye did not even break his stride, as he raised his right hand, and tapped his ear piece.

Tyber: Commander Vernette here. Go ahead.

Nighthawk: Tye…

Tye stopped what he was doing, as he focused on the voice that came through his ear piece.

Tyber: Nighthawk. What do I owe this call?

Nighthawk: I need your help.

Tyber: Is that so? Last I heard Harrison didn’t want us talking to you. Like, far be it from me that I let a blow hard like Harrison tell me who I can talk to, but, he was super pissed off at you, and pretty damn serious about not having anything to do with you.

Nighthawk: I am aware of that.

Tyber: So, why the call?

Nighthawk: Like I said; I need your help. Believe me, when I need help, it is for a good reason, and it is usually FAR more exciting than prepping a report for a blow hard.

Tyber: Alright, I’ll bite. What do you need me to do?

Nighthawk: I need you to interrogate Hoffman.

Tyber: I tried that. He was very unresponsive to me on The King Raven.

Nighthawk: Then let me rephrase this request; I need Black 6 to interrogate Hoffman.

A chill ran yup Tye’s spine, as he processed what Nighthawk had just said.

Tyber: Excuse me, but, what!?

Nighthawk: I know, not what you were expecting.

Tyber: You think? You just asked me to go Black 6 on Hoffman’s ass. That is a pretty sketchy request to make of someone who has yet to come to terms with the name “Black 6”.

Tye scoffed.

Tyber: Do you understand the implication of that request? What do you want me to do to Hoffman? Torture him?

Nighthawk: Something like that.

Tyber: Alright, I am not liking the direction of this conversation.

Nighthawk: Tye, I would not be asking this if it was not for a good reason. Frankly, I know how delicate of a topic this is for you, but, there is a very good reason.

Tyber: Care to fill me in?

Nighthawk: I do not know where The Trust has taken Vanguard, but, I am betting Hoffman does. I don’t have access to Hoffman, but, you do. I need you to get that information out of Hoffman.

Tyber: What makes you think Hoffman would know?

Nighthawk: Hoffman was on the Board of Chairmen. He would know.

Tyber: Well, this is true. I guess if ANYONE would know, it would be Hoffman. He would rank high enough.

Nighthawk: So, we are in agreement. Will you help me?

Tyber: I don’t know. It just seems…very sketchy. You are asking me to resort to a really nasty darkness that I have struggled to bury. Frankly, I am worried about opening a can of worms that I would be unable to close.

Nighthawk: I know what I am asking you to do goes against your better judgement, but, our options are limited. We need Hoffman to talk. We need Hoffman to tell us everything he knows. You’re the only person who I believe can make him talk.

Tye let out an audible sigh, as he paused for a moment.

Tyber: Damn it…

Tye paused.

Tyber: This does not sit very well with me. I don’t like where this could potentially lead. Believe me, not a minute goes by that I don’t think about thrashing the life out of Hoffman. I am worried that if I walk into that cell, I am going to cut loose against that sack of garbage, and tear him apart. I would be worried about losing control.

Nighthawk: My only other option is to board The Vigorous Inferno, and take Hoffman by force. We both know how that would play out.

Tyber: Yeah, I have a pretty good idea. Frankly, I cannot condone that course of action either.

Tye paused for a moment to think out loud.

Tyber: My only two options are to either go Black Team on Hoffman’s ass, or let you run amuck on Harrison’s ship. I think, given the options, the former would be the safer bet for everyone, save for Hoffman.

Tye paused.

Tyber: Alright Nighthawk; even though this goes against my better judgement, I know what is riding on this. If it means stopping The Trust and stopping them from bringing this Vanguard thing back to life, I will do what I have to do.

Nighthawk: Just be careful. I don’t think Harrison will like it if he catches you interrogating Hoffman without authorization.

Tyber: I think I can get the information out of him before Harrison finds out what I am doing.

Tye paused.

Tyber: And if he does catch me, so what? Like you said…our options are limited. Besides…Hoffman deserves a little bit of mistreatment if you ask me. I just wish I was not the one who had to do the mistreating.

Nighthawk: Just don’t kill him. We may need him alive down the road.

Tyber: Too bad. I wouldn’t mind snapping his neck when I am done with him.

Nighthawk: Try to resist the urge.

Tye gave a subtle laugh.

Tyber: Give me a bit of time to finish up this report for Harrison. Hopefully it should keep him busy long enough for me to get the answers I need.

Nighthawk: Actually, I am thinking you should keep Harrison in the loop about SOME of this. You should consult him on the advantages of interrogating Hoffman. It would not be wise to keep everything from him.

Tyber: Why?

Nighthawk: Well, the fact is, Harrison is already very defensive about things being kept from him. Making an effort to at least consult him on these matters will make him much easier to work with. That being said, I am going to need UNSC and ONI involvement to battle The Trust. Under normal circumstances, Anaconda and I can hold our own against The Trust. However, both you and I know that The Trust have no doubt consolidated everything they have at their present location. Vanguard is their endgame, and they are going to protect it

Tyber: I have seen The Trust use the turtle tactic before. I can agree with that assessment.

Nighthawk: If we keep Harrison in the loop about enough of this, it will nullify him as an issue. Tell Harrison you want to interrogate Hoffman, just don’t tell him how you are going to do it. Do what ONI does best; be selective with your intel; need to know basis.

Tyber: You seem to have ONI’s number when it comes to standard operating procedure.

Nighthawk: I have a few friends in ONI.

Tyber: Anyone that I know?

Nighthawk: I can’t say for sure.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: That being said, be very careful with Harrison. The man does not understand how ONI does things. We all saw how Harrison reacted on The Ulterior Motive. He is a control freak, and he wants to be in control of this situation. To make things worse, I don’t think he fully grasps how dangerous Vanguard is.

Tyber: To be fair, I don’t think anyone does.

Nighthawk: Anaconda does, and I have a pretty good idea based on what he has told me. I cannot overstate the importance of finding The Trust. Everything takes a backseat to finding The Trust. If we don’t stop Vanguard, we will not live long enough to see our failure come to fruition.

Tyber: I think that much is clear. Alas, don’t worry about Hoffman. I can handle this situation. I know how to play my cards

Nighthawk: One final thing; don’t mention me.

Tyber: I have no intention of doing so. That falls under the need to know category.

Nighthawk: Precisely.

Nighthawk paused.

Nighthawk: If Hoffman spills the beans and tells you what you need to know, inform Captain Frost. She will contact me and tell me what I need to know.

Tyber: Copy that.

Nighthawk: Alright. Good luck Tye. Here’s hoping Hoffman gives us what we want. I am rooting for you.

Tyber: Here’s hoping...

Nighthawk: It was a pleasure to have this conversation. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a bit of preparation work to see to before I put my boot to the collective asses of The Trust, or should I say, we put our boots to the collective asses of The Trust.

Tye grinned, as the comm line went silent. Once the comm line was closed, Tye sighed; taking a deep breath.

Tyber: Hoffman…

Tye stood up from the chair he had been sitting in, and paced back and forth for a moment. As he did, he began to crack his knuckles.

Tyber: I am going to enjoy breaking this bastard. This has been a long time coming.

Tye stopped pacing as he looked at the tablet he had been preparing his report on.

Tyber: Let’s get you touched up first.

Tye grabbed the tablet, as he began to put the finishing touches on his report.

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