Chapter 3: Dishonorable Discharge

Ethan walked at a purposefully slowed pace as he continued down another hallway, toward the Administrative Sector of the Tarsus training facility. Any new visitor to the station could have easily gotten lost in the long and winding hallways, all a mixture of steel and grey concrete, but he knew his way around, especially the way to where he was going now. He'd had a great many visits to Cryton's office, and wasn't looking forward to another one. The station's layout had always been confusing, a neverending mix of offices and landing platforms.

The base was broken into four total floors, the lower three decks built for business, the top for the civilians. The 'business' floors each had there own unique purpose in aiding the station. The lowest floor had been built specifically for the engineers, 02 recycling and distribution, the power supply and gravity units, and everything else that made the station a livable environment. The second floor, mainly barracks for the privates and officers, was fully stocked out with all the basic equipment and weapon reserves needed, not to mention the extremely entertaining holographic weapons and combat training coarse, something Ethan hadn't went through in quite some time. (He made a mental note to stop by the coarse later and take his newly formed aggression out on a few rainbow colored holos.) And then there was the third floor, the floor, where most of his time was spent. Completely equipped with everything important that a station should have, the 'Military Deck,' as it had been called, was centered completely on the war. All four flight decks were located there, save for the civilian platform, and each was labeled A through D depending on the rank of the soldiers who occupied them. A was for the private ships of the admirals and generals who frequented the facility, while D was reserved for the police division on the station, Tarsus Control. Everything in-between was strictly reserved for the pilots, dock B for the fighters, C for the dispatch carriers used to transport supplies, bodies, and smaller travel aircraft from Edumea to the station and back. All the secretarial and private offices were located there as well, including Cryton's of coarse. The floor had a small but locked-down brig, plus comms and the main bridge, which was equipped with all turret consoles and the primary orbital controls.

The only important thing that wasn't located on the 3rd floor was the newly implemented Electron Discharge Laser, a fusion weapon that was capable of destroying any orbital or ground threat that showed up. The famed weapon was constructed directly into the bottom of the station, and was controlled from the upper most level of Tarsus, basically the 5th floor, but being that it was nothing more than one locked-downed room, only accessible to the highest security officers, the title had been left out. The revolutionary weapon had started as a prototype drill used for boring diamond supplement in the mining colonies, but had quickly been confiscated after the Federation had realized how destructive it was. A few tweaks and fusion coil implants later, and the Electron Discharge Laser was born, a deadly alternative to ground and orbital warfare. The laser was capable of delivering a more than effective bolt of energy at any target within a 400 mile radius of the station, and had done an extremely good job of keeping the Allied Nations away. It's only downside was the incredible amount of energy it used, and the fact that the entire station's power went out for at least fifteen minutes after every blast, only the life support units remaining powered on. The laser had only been used once however, to destroy a Beltway fleet before the main transport craft had had an opportunity to land in the Edumean capital, so all the variables of the weapon hadn't truly been tested. But since that one time, no Allied Nation ship had come anywhere near the station, making the laser an effective scare tactic as well. Unlike the Lurium base, Tarsus had never been breached, and the Electron Discharge Laser was going to keep it that way.

Ethan's footfalls stalled for a moment and his random thoughts completely ended as he entered a large windowed lobby lined with several variants of potted ferns and cushioned chairs. The entire right side of the high-ceilinged room seemed to be nonexistent as a window gave a clear view out of the station, Edumea shining like a blue-green sun through the synthetic opening. Ethan didn't stare at the beautiful view for long; he'd already seen it many times. He instead, shifted his gaze to a dark-haired woman dressed in a blue jumpsuit who sat at a large black desk in the middle of the room. Allie was her name, if he recalled correctly. He couldn't be sure; all the secretaries in this sector seemed to look exactly the same, especially when such a beautiful blonde goddess was working in the loading sector. He gave a quick grin at the women before casually walking passed her. If it was Allie, she already knew why he was there.

A quick sprint up a set of intricately designed steel stairs and he was officially in the Administrative Sector. All the important people's days were spent in this overly-large hallway, where Admirals made bullshit decisions and life-altering plans were drawn up. Ethan looked mockingly at the extravagant architecture surrounding him. It was no wonder so many people had died in the war, all the people making the decisions were apparently more worried about having a nice office than saving lives.

He quickened his pace slightly as he spotted a dark grey door near the end of the hall, anticipation overtaking his disregard for whatever Cryton wanted him for. Who knew? Maybe the general had finally realized how stupid he was, and how wrong he had been to keep Ethan Wyeth out of the top sectors. Unlikely, but whatever their meeting was for, Ethan hoped it would be their last. He'd rather be kicked out of the entire Federation than have to put up with Cryton one more time. He stopped as he came face to face with the door to the General's office, the title "General Samuel Cryton" crafted into the cold metal surface. He sneered at the name, and quickly pressed his index finger against the small console at the door's side. His entire genetic make-up was instantly fed into the system's main computer, and in a mere second, the door hummed open and Ethan stepped inside.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Ethan casually walked into the dark office with an uncaring hue, feeling tired of seeing the same room once again, the same black furniture and dim lighting, seeing the same creepy grey walls and sensing the same smell of cleaner and polished leather. His eyes immediately connected with the figure at the low lighted desk in front of him. The broad man was crouched over, staring at several documents on his desk with fixated attention. Cryton never looked up as Ethan continued forward, his feet connecting quietly with the dark concrete floor, slowly taking him closer to the center of the room. He stopped as he reached the front of the General's metallic desk, and stood proudly as he stared blankly at the crystalline back wall, eagerly waiting to be yelled at. The smooth glass structure, though not as large, was identical to the one in the lobby, and gave a clear view to the only visible edge of the asteroid belt. Ethan stared at the rebel colonies, at their closeness to the far side of Edumea. So many cities on that side had been destroyed, so many people killed because of the Federation's carelessness in controlling the boundaries of the war. When this whole thing had started 15 years earlier, the Federation had deemed the inner beltway colony rocks the only place that the fighting would take place, but since then, the war had spread to the surface of Edumea, destroying countless cities, towns, and most devastatingly, the mining colonies.

When a mining town went down, not only civilians died, but the entire production of diamond abstract was completely shut down- one of the reasons that the Allied Nations had always hit the miners the hardest. The more diamond supplement that was destroyed, the farther behind Covenant Industries got in their production of armor, weapon, and hull plating. And when Covenant Industries fell behind, the top distributer of all things war and military, the Federation fell behind too. But that wasn't a big deal for Ethan. He had a more personal connection with the mining colonies; he'd grown up in one. Him, his brother, his mother and father, had once compiled to be one of those innocent families, and if is wasn't for his dad, they'd have all been nothing but a pile of bones buried in a mine field somewhere. His father was a hero, and not only to him, but to hundreds of innocent civilians who would have been killed in the horrible Beltway attack that had happened only eight years ago. He smiled as he remembered his dad, a mere miner who had had the courage to stand up and fight, to take charge when the Federation had left them all to die. His father was praised for the incredible bravery he had shown on that day, and was later awarded with the rank of Admiral, not just for the sake of the title either, but one who later became of the highest influences in the Federation. Ethan had always vowed that he would end up just like his father, even if he didn't get there by means quite as clean and innocent. "And if dad was still alive, this would probably be my office."

His smile quickly disappeared as he remembered where he was, and he blew with impatience and annoyance. He shifted his gaze wearily to the figure in front of him, Cryton. The cold and ridged man was still studying the group of papers on his desk, completely ignoring the private in front of him. Ethan curiously eyed the documents, forgetting his hate with curiosity; something that could merit so much attention had to be important. The papers seemed to be a schedule of some kind, docking and take off plans maybe. Setting beside them was a map of the facility's 3rd floor. The initials DB were printed boldly at the bottom of the top paper, stamped, with an intricate design around its outer edges, like a military insignia of some-

Ethan's trance was broken as a hand was slammed quickly over the top page. He eagerly looked in its owner's eyes, dark and anger-filled, deeply shining amongst the grey and black texture of the figure's hair, and the jagged and harsh features of his face. Ethan quickly looked away, again becoming fixated with the back wall, his arms placed tightly behind his back, military style. Whatever the General was reading, it wasn't his business. He didn't really care anyway.

"Sir," Ethan began again, "you wanted to see me?"

"Yes, Private Wyeth," the General's cruel and aged voice answered with sarcasm and slight anger. Ethan hated it, every part of its deceitful and arrogant tone, having to hear it again every time the General had demoted him. He'd have liked very much never to hear it again.

Ethan pushed the eager thought away as the General continued, "And in all honesty, private, I'm getting tired of seeing you."

"Yeah, Cryton," Ethan answered back, pretending to smile, "I'm sick of your face too."

The General grinned as he watched Ethan with amusement. "It's been a while though actually." He paused as the grin disappeared. "I think this is the eighth summons I've sent out in the past month. I'm glad you finally decided to show up for one of them."

Ethan lied, not trying to hide it. "Obviously sir, whoever you've been sending with these summons in unreliable. I haven't received-"

"Don't you toy with me Wyeth!" Cryton returned with anger and impatience as he slightly lifted out of his chair, his fists slamming forcefully into the top of his desk. "You know damn well you've gotten every order I've sent. I've had enough problems today without you trying to piss me off!" The man stopped as he slowly settled back into his seat, his voice softening only slightly, anger still present in his eyes. "Now, let's discuss your rather-lengthy stint on Tarsus."

A yellow and orange light quickly appeared from a small console on the surface of the General's desk. The bright streaks reached out and quickly angled before ending abruptly, making a perfectly shaped holographic screen. Words rapidly sped across its surface, and Ethan immediately knew it was showing his military record. He listened with slight disregard as the man began to read off his personal history of the facility.

"You arrived here straight out of the Military Academy at the age of 19, first in your class I might add," Cryton began, "and were immediately accepted into our piloting division, Sector C if I remember correctly."

"Yes, sir." Ethan listened with rising discomfort as the positivity in Cryton's voice swiftly changed.

"You showed a lot of potential, always on time at your briefings, beating out all others on the basic training and flight simulation courses," Cryton paused as he delivered a barely noticeable smile, "but then your attitude seemed to change, and you were moved out of the piloting division and into the basic sectors-"

"Hmm, right after you got promoted, if I remember correctly." Ethan interrupted with a solid stare. A silence followed.

The General ignored the statement with a slightly unpleased grimace. He quickly continued as though Ethan had never spoken, though a noticeable tick seemed to spawn within his expression. "You got lazy, always late, no longer even participating in the basic drills. Even your social status changed; you made enemies, had a few brawls, several drunken outbursts in the civilian center."

A slight grin appeared on Ethan's face. He tried his best to hide it.

"But worst of all Mr. Wyeth," the General continued, "is your complete and total disregard for my orders and the rules of this facility, and dammit Wyeth, I'm sick of it! Everyday I've got someone in here complaining about you, about your disrespectful behavior or your constant wandering and showing up in the wrong sector." He paused, his anger turning to sternness. "Things are going to change, private!"

"Well, I've been a little upset lately." Ethan's sarcasm easily bled through.

The General returned it, pretending to care. "Upset? Really?"

Ethan abandoned sarcasm, he was getting impatient, "Well sir, having to spend four years in the same sector for no apparent reason tends to piss a man off."

"Oh," the General smiled, a look of worry on his face, "so that's what your little tantrum is about."

A smile parted Ethan's lips as he began to laugh in a low and insulting manner.

Cryton stared with confusion as the laughter grew louder, "Is something funny, private?"

"Sorry Sir," Ethan began before his expression completely changed, the laughter fading and only hatred being left behind, "but it's just that you're acting like you didn't already know that."

"What exactly are you trying to say?" Cryton actually seemed surprised as he slowly stood from his chair, though Ethan knew he was faking. "The fact that you can't make it in the service isn't my fault."

"Bullshit!" Anger took Ethan completely, he couldn't hold in his suspicions any longer. "I know you hated my father, hated him because he got the job you wanted, got the title of Hero while you got left in the cold!" He paused as he stared at the General, hate consuming him as he finally accused him face to face. "You've never forgiven the service for what they did to you, and now you're taking it out on me!"

Cryton was quiet as he took in Ethan's words. He was trying to think of something to say, trying to hold in his anger at the accusation and trying to cover up his want to tear the private apart. He failed. "Your father was a disgrace to the Federation!" The words left his mouth swiftly, screaming with a rage he had longed to deliver. "He wasn't worthy to be called a pilot, much less Admiral of the fleet!"

"My father was a hero!" Ethan defended with anger.

"Your father was a fake!" The General returned, his tall stance never wavering as he continued his disheartening attack. "He might have saved one pathetic mining community from the Beltway attacks, but how many others died because of his carelessness!"

Ethan was silent as he stared. He slowly brought himself closer to the General, clenching his teeth as he came only inches from the man's face. "I know where you're going with this," he warned, knowing of the rumors the fleet had started of his father being a traitor, the lies of him working for the Beltway Colonies only to turn on them when their plot no longer suited him. "and I swear, if you mutter a word of it, nothing will stop me from jumping over this desk, old man."

A strong silence fell as neither of them breathed, no words were exchanged and no glances other than two of complete and total hatred. Ethan wanted to tackle him, beat him down for even thinking of breathing truth into the lies about his father, and he was sure that Cryton had is own reasons to do the same to him.

"General Cryton?" A delicate voice interrupted the silence as a familiar feminine face appeared on the holographic screen beside them. Cryton seemed angered by the disturbance, but tried his best not to show it.

"Yes, Allie?"

"The shipment of marines from the Lurium base has arrived and are waiting for conformation to land." Allie informed him, seeming slightly impatient. "We've already gotten ground conformation and are waiting for your permission to board, Sir."

All ships, whether boarding or leaving any orbital station, required clearance from two separate posts, one from the head Federation base on Edumea, and the other from the actual base that the ship was leaving or boarding. And from Allie's request, apparently even the marines were getting in on the action; guarding Edumea's top political leaders was big business, even though it was common knowledge that nothing was going to happen. Even the Allied Nation's weren't dumb enough to stage an attack during a campaign.

"I'll be out in a minute, Allie." Cryton spoke lowly, seeming embarrassed. He turned back to Ethan as the hologram disappeared completely. "We'll discuss this later, Private Wyeth." the anger returned to his voice as he slowly backed away. "You want out of the basic sectors? You'll get your wish." He stared with intense eyes as he paused, and then smiled. "Enjoy the next three days on Tarsus, private, cause they'll be your last as a Federation soldier. As soon as all this political bullshit is over with, you're gone. And you'll never see the controls of an Aircraft again!"

A/N: And that's Chapter 3! Sorry it took so long, and sorry I didn't have any action, I was planning to, but then the entire part ran long, and was 5 pages before I knew it! So the action will have to be held out until Chapter 4. I implemented a lot of little things from the game in this one, especially the whole diamond thingy. Before you say it is stupid, one of the civs in the 1st level was talking about it, and I needed something for them to mine, so...what better than diamonds? Also the bit about the women all looking the same, just a personal tiff I have with the game ;). Hope you enjoyed it, even without the action. I really wanted you to hate Cryton, and hopefully you do! And hopefully I'll have the next Chapter up in the next 2 to 3 weeks...hopefully.