I don't own Halo I'm just a fan.
This chapter is just a bunch of talking.
"No! Absolutely not! I'll never allow it!" Fleet Admiral Terence Hood, the highest ranking commander in the UNSC, shouted adamantly, banging his fist on his desk.
"Actually, sir, I think that's a fair compromise," Rear Admiral Margret Parangosky said. She was the head of ONI and one of the most powerful people in the UNSC. But she was still subordinate to Hood and he had just given her a major ass chewing for keeping the Spartan III program a secret from him. "After all, the Arbiter did return all the remaining Spartans survivors."
Hood shot her a piercing look and said, "You would think that, Margret, since you were the one who authorized sending these children to their deaths while keeping their very existence a secret from the rest of us. I pray that there's a hell for you to burn in."
"I did what had to be done to save our species from extinction, sir, and if I have to burn in hell for it then I'll do it with a smile on my face," Parangosky said unrepentantly.
"Your Spartan has killed our warriors, Admiral," Thel Vadam reminded Hood. "Like it or not, she is in our blood debt."
"She didn't know any better!" Hood protested. "The same reason you Elites almost wiped out our species!"
"I know that. It is why we did not execute her," Thel calmly said. Unlike Hood, he was not raising his voice at all because he was in control and despite all the Admiral's anger, there was nothing he could do about it.
"But you still want to force her to fight in your war, like she's some kind of slave?" Hood asked.
"She is not our slave," Thel assured him. "She is only in our blood debt and she will be free once she pays it off."
"Which is when, exactly?" Hood demanded.
"When we decide that she has done enough to counter the damage she has done to our war effort," Thel replied.
"You must be joking. Seven Elites?"
"I am also talking about the refit station and the hundreds of Engineers that we really could have used."
"But she's just a teenager, Arbiter, she shouldn't have even been out there in the first place!" Hood unsuccessfully tried to convince him. "Just look at her! Look at how young she looks!" He pointed to the life size hologram of Jaimie G127, which Thel had brought with him. She was wearing her SPI armor but was holding her helmet by her side. The visor looked cracked. Even though she tried to look tough, Hood could tell that the girl must have been so confused by everything. Being around so many Elites, just after learning they were no longer at war must have been very unnerving.
But Parangosky tried not to roll her eyes. Unlike Hood, she saw Jaimie for what she was. A lethal weapon who despite her age could easily tear apart a regular human with her bare hands and eagerly wanted to fight. If Jaimie was here with them right now, Parangosky knew that the Spartan would strongly disagree with Hood's assessment that she was too young to be fighting. Jaimie wanted a chance to get even with the aliens that killed her family and ONI had given her that chance.
"Actually," Thel said as he carefully studied the hologram then looked back at Hood, then looked back at the hologram, "I think she is slightly taller than you, Admiral."
Hood sighed tiredly and rested his head on his palms. "That's only because of her augmentations, Arbiter. Look, I don't know how long you Elites take to fully mature but fifteen Earth years is pretty young for a human. Technically she's not even considered an adult for three more years. Even the Spartan II's weren't that young when they went on their first mission. And to think this girl is actually one of the older ones in her company. Some of these kids are only thirteen." He shook his head in disbelief.
"Well if they are so young, why did you make them fight for you?" Thel asked.
Before Hood could say anything Parangosky decided to answer. "Because even at her age, she is powerful enough to fight multiple ODSTs and break them all in half. Need I remind you, sir, of the experiment with John-117 when he was only fourteen?"
"Shut up, Margret," Hood snapped angrily. That was yet another unethical test that ONI had done long ago by using the poor Helljumpers as guinea pigs. Those men had been accidentally killed by the young Spartan II just so that ONI could see how effective his augmentations had been. It was one of the reasons why the Helljumpers hated Spartans. He then turned to Thel and said, "I told you already, I didn't even know these Spartan IIIs existed. I thought the Master Chief was the last one left, although I think we still have a few Spartan II's that are legitimately MIA." Because of the UNSC's policy of labeling all killed Spartans MIA, it made it very confusing who was actually missing in action.
"But you are the highest ranking individual in your military!" Thel exclaimed. "How could you not know what your subordinates are doing?"
Hood sighed. "Historically, ONI have been given great latitude to do what they needed to do and as long as they helped the UNSC, the rest of us would just look the other way. They would often break our own laws and cross ethical boundaries. But not anymore. After you showed up yesterday with these kids it was the last straw. ONI is now directly under the control of CENTCOM and all their officials have been stripped of most of their power."
"A grave mistake which will only weaken the UNSC," Parangosky warned. "And, sir, it is strange that you are a big supporter of the Spartan II program despite the fact that all those children didn't even have a choice in their enlistment and more than half of them died from their augmentations when they were even younger than this girl," she pointed out. "At least the Spartan IIIs were volunteers and our augmentation procedures were much safer."
"Whatever the case may be, this young Spartan must assist us in our war," Thel insisted. "She is a very capable warrior. We need her help."
"That is not our problem," Hood snapped. "Right now we're focusing on rebuilding everything you Elites have destroyed for three decades. This Spartan lost her family because of your kind. Why should she help you?"
"Because by helping us, she is only helping you. I will not lie, Admiral. The war with the Brutes is actually not going well. The Prophets might be gone but the Brute Chieftains are trying to reconquer their empire. They have already made the Grunts their slaves. Eventually, they will come for you and you will not be able to stop them. Your orbital defenses are destroyed, you only have a small handful of ships left, right now you cannot even defend yourself from a mediocre size Brute fleet. We Elites, are the only race that still has enough military strength to stop them. But we are losing."
"Sir, can I speak with you in private?" Parangosky asked.
Hood's eyes narrowed with contempt for her. But he agreed to hear what she had to say. "Fine. Arbiter, could you please step out for a moment?"
"Very well, I shall let you discuss the matter amongst yourselves," the Elite said and exited the room leaving the two Admirals alone.
"Sir, there is a golden opportunity here, and we have to jump on it," Parangosky urged her superior. "These Elites seem to know absolutely nothing about their own technology aside from how to use it to kill us. But our own scientists have managed to successfully reverse engineer and make copies of this technology on numerous occasions, for example, the shields on the MJOLNIR armor."
"What are you proposing, Margret?" Hood asked.
"We can send ONI scientists to help them repair their ships. In the process they'll study and learn as much about their technology as possible and then bring that knowledge back to the UNSC. Soon, we can have energy weapons and energy shields on our own ships. If we ever go to war with an alien species again, we'll be much better prepared."
"That's actually a good idea," Hood agreed. "Right now, we're heavily dependent on them for protection and considering they are our former enemies we have to change that as soon as possible. But only non-combatants. The public has had enough of war and I don't think any UNSC servicemen would want to fight for their former enemy."
Hood called the Elite back in.
"Alright Arbiter, we'll try to help you out," he offered. "We'll send some of our scientists, technicians, and workers to help you repair your ships. At first they'll be totally lost with alien technology but I'm sure in time they can figure it out. But please, bring this girl back home, she's been through enough," he pleaded.
"I thank you for your offer. Your workers and technicians will be very helpful but we still need your Spartan," Thel said persistently.
"Look, Arbiter, she's not going to be like him if that's what you're hoping for," Hood said exasperatedly. "He was fighting the Covenant since Harvest. He's had decades of combat experience. And even among Spartans, he was something special. He was their leader. Compared to him, this kid is so new, so inexperienced. She's not going to meet your expectations. She won't be able to make a significant difference in your war, she'll probably just get killed. And we've lost enough children in this war."
"She might not have his experience but your men have trained her exceptionally well. Despite her inferior armor she managed to kill seven of our Elites before she was subdued. She has much potential and we will help her realize it. However, if you are that worried about her being killed there is something you can give her to greatly increase her chance of survival," Thel told him.
Many light years away, a Phantom drop sped through space from its ship towards the Shadow of Intent. On it were three passengers, a gold armored Zealot Fleet Master, and a black armored special ops Elite, and a special ops Grunt. They two special operatives sat in an awkward silence in the presence of their much higher ranking superior until the Zealot got so bored he decided to ask, "What is your name, young warrior?"
"Zakaree Vadam, Fleet Master," the special ops Elite answered. "And this is Hubbub."
"Vadam?" the Zealot looked surprised. "You are from the same clan as our Supreme Commander?"
Actually it was a lot more than that. When Zakaree was young, it was Thel who mentored him, taught him about honor, and trained him how to fight unarmed and with a metal blade. Elites were not allowed to know who their fathers were and Zakaree and all his cousins were raised together equally by the older Elites, who they referred to as uncles, but Zakaree always saw Thel as a father figure. But he didn't want to reveal all this so he just said, "Yes, Fleet Master. He is also the ruling Kaidon of my clan."
"Yes, I know he is. So what is your purpose on our flagship?" the Zealot inquired.
"We are being transferred to another team there," Zakaree told him. "Our old team was completely killed in our last mission. We are the only survivors. This team is short one Elite and Grunt. So we are being transferred to fill the gap." As he said this, the Zealot could see that he was embarrassed. In Elite culture, being the only survivor was not considered honorable because it implied that you were too cowardly to die with your team so you ran or hid while they fought and died. But this was definitely not true with Zakaree. Luckily the Fleet Master did not think any less of him.
"Do not be ashamed for living," the Zealot told him. "You cannot be a coward if you have been accepted into the Arm of the Prophets," he said sarcastically. The two Elites chuckled together at the old nickname for the Covenant's special ops. "So how long have you been a special operative?" the Zealot asked.
"I volunteered after our victory at Reach," Zakaree said. "But I participated in a few campaigns before that."
"I entered the service all the way back in the Harvest campaign," the Zealot said reminiscing. "I have been fighting the humans for a very long time."
"Fleet Master, forgive me for asking," Zakaree said bowing his head, "but now that you know that the Prophets had lied to us, do you feel regret for killing so many humans?"
The Zealot was silent for a while as he contemplated it. He then said, "A part of me knows what we did was wrong. But I have been fighting them for so long, and have seen so many of my friends get killed by them that I cannot truly feel sorry for them. Even though we are no longer enemies, I find that I still have hatred for them even though I do not want to. And I resent the fact that the Forerunners chose them as the Reclaimers instead of us."
Zakaree didn't say anything. The two Elites were silent for the rest of the trip.
Meanwhile, in the Shadow of Intent's medical bay, the wounded Grunt, Zamamo, was lying in a cot. He wasn't wearing his armor or methane tank but he was hooked up to a respirator which gave him his supply of methane. Next to him were his teammates, Tagbad and Flatyap and even Sel Fatham. The fact that an Elite cared enough about his Grunt teammate to pay him a visit highlighted how different this special ops team was to a normal infantry unit. Jaimie G127 was there too but only because she had to be. She could have cared less whether the Grunt made it or not. She was too busy arguing with the Ship Master Rtas Vadum who stopped by to congratulate them.
"This isn't fair. I thought you Elites cared about honor," Jaimie said, gritting her teeth and fiercely glaring at the Ship Master. "That Brute was like a five star General, he was way more important than those Elites that I killed!"
"I have already spoken to Sub-Commander Taham and I am aware that you played an important role in killing him," Rtas told her.
"Then why won't you just let me leave?" she asked. "I've done enough for you guys."
"Because it is not up to me, Spartan," Rtas said impatiently. "I do not have the authority to just let you go. I have to speak to the Supreme Commander."
"But you've been saying that for days! Where the hell is he?" she demanded.
"That is not your concern," Rtas said.
"Io, where is the Supreme Commander?" Jaimie asked loudly.
"He has gone to Earth to return the other Spartans," Io answered her from the ship's speakers. "Though I cannot say when he will return."
Jaimie smirked with satisfaction while the Ship Master grumbled something in his language. It felt good to piss him off.
In the cot next to Zamamo, another wounded Grunt, Baggag, was asleep and two of his friends stopped by to see how he was doing. Flapyip and Mawyaw watched Jaimie argue with Rtas.
"Look at how disrespectfully she talks to the Ship Master," Flapyip remarked. "You think we could get away with that? Of course not."
"Forget about talking disrespectfully, she killed seven Elites!" Mawyaw exclaimed. "But they still spared her life!"
The two Grunts were close friends who were conscripted together and were lucky enough to be in the same unit. After the Brutes' defeat at the Ark, the Elites declared the Covenant to be dissolved and the Grunts were finally free. However, this freedom was short lived because the Brutes quickly conquered and enslaved their race soon after. Flapyip and Mawyaw were forced to fight against the Elites until they escaped together. They then volunteered to fight for the Elites to liberate their race.
"...rukt...fist...merrycrisms..." Baggag mumbled behind them in his sleep causing Flapyip and Mawyaw to turn around. They watched him in silence for a while.
"Not to mention," Mawyaw continued, "she did this to Baggag. But of course the Elites don't care about him. He's just a Grunt."
"I hate Elites," Flapyip said a little loudly. "They treat us like crap, they use us just to give the enemy something else to shoot at, and they don't care if we die."
"You!" a voice barked from behind him. The two Grunts spun around and saw Sel Fatham looking at them. "So, you have a problem with Elites?"
All the Grunt doctors watched nervously as did the two Grunt teammates of the Elite. Flapyip's heart raced with fear. This Elite would surely beat him for speaking disrespectfully against his race. But then, nothing he said wasn't true. His people were oppressed by the Elites for too long. Even if the Prophets decided their place in the Covenant was at the bottom, that was all in the past now. The Prophets were exposed as liars and the Covenant didn't exist anymore. But the Elites still followed the old caste system and treated them the same. The Grunts just grudgingly accepted this because they were too scared to speak out. Flapyip looked at the sleeping Baggag and remembered how the Ultra Elite ordered them to leave him. Anger began to replace his fear. He didn't care what the Elite would do to him. He wouldn't tolerate this anymore.
"Answer me, Grunt!"
Flapyip looked the Elite right in the eye and said, "Yes, excellency, I do. We Grunts volunteered to help you fight the Brutes when we really didn't have to, yet you Elites still use us the same way and discriminate against us. A Grunt's life is considered to be worth less than that of an Elite. It is not fair. We might be physically weaker than you but we are actually not less intelligent like you have been taught to think. We can be much more useful than simple plasma fodder if you'll only let us. We are giving our lives to help you in your war and instead of appreciating our sacrifice you take us for granted. That is my problem with Elites."
The Grunt doctors as well as Tagbad and Flatyap looked completely shocked that Flapyip would just blurt all this out. Even the Ship Master overheard the conversation and watched with interest.
"What's going on? Why's everyone looking at him? What did he say?" Jaimie asked but no one answered her.
Sel Fatham, on the other hand was actually hoping the Grunt would say something like this. "So, you think you Grunts should be treated the same as us?" he asked. "Your physical weakness is not the only reason we consider you inferior. It is because you lack many traits that we value. Courage, loyalty, honor, tenacity and many others. Your species has shown time and again that you do not posses these traits. But like you said, you are volunteers. If you do not like the way we treat you then perhaps you should leave," he suggested.
"Pardon me, excellency," Mawyaw spoke up defending his friend. "But we are more than capable of showing all those traits that you mentioned. And for the record, the reason we volunteered is to liberate our race from the Brutes and until that happens, we are not going anywhere."
Sel Fatham looked at the Ship Master. Rtas nodded his approval. Sel looked back at the two Grunts. "You two think you have what it takes to be more than simple pawns? You think you have what it takes to kill a Brute?" he challenged.
"We do, excellency," Flapyip and Mawyaw said at the same time with more confidence than Sel had ever seen a Grunt show.
"Then I shall give you one chance to prove yourselves and make a difference instead of just being plasma fodder. My team just lost two of our Grunts in our last mission. I offer you the chance to be their replacements. In my unit there is no such thing as plasma fodder. Every member of the team depends on everyone else to do their part. Our training is extremely rigorous although for obvious reasons Grunts have lower standards than Elites. But even so, very few Grunts make it. If you are unable to keep up with Tagbad, Zamamo, and Flatyap you will not be allowed on the team. You have one chance. Are you interested in trying?"
The two Grunts looked at each other, looked back at the Elite and said, "Yes excellency!"
"Looks like you have found us two more Grunts to replace Padalo and Blacow," a voice growled behind them. Sel turned around and saw his team leader, Usze Taham accompanied by another special ops Elite and a special ops Grunt.
"Leader, they are highly motivated and eager to prove themselves," Sel told him. "It is your decision of course but I think we should give them a chance."
"Of course, we shall," Usze agreed.
"I take it, these two are Ntho's and Zamamo's replacements?" Sel asked.
"Yes. This is Zakaree Vadam and Hubbub," Usze introduced them to Sel and the Grunts. Zakaree and Sel nodded at each other while Hubbub got closer to his new Grunt teammates.
"This is Sel Fatham, my second in command," Usze said to the new arrivals. "He is our team sniper." Sel looked uncomfortable at being called a sniper. Usze pointed to the Grunts and said, "These two are Flatyap and Tagbad. They will be taking over the plasma cannons. And these other two are volunteers. But Sel must first see if they have what it takes to join our team. And we have one more teammate. That human over there..." his voice trailed off as he saw Jaimie. He sighed. "I see she is arguing with the Ship Master again. Hold on. I shall return in a moment." He began walking towards her.
"This is such bullshit! You can't just keep me here when I already...hey!" she cried out as she was suddenly lifted of the ground and shoved into the wall, although not that hard, by her team leader. "What the hell, put me down!"
"I understand that you are upset, however I will not let you speak that way to the Ship Master. As long as you are a member of this crew, you will respect the chain of command as if you are on one of your own ships. You are a Spartan and you will show some discipline. Is that understood?" Usze snarled threateningly.
Jaimie was too stunned from his words to struggle. She silently stared into his eyes as he held her up against the walls. She finally looked away, nodded, and said, "Yes I understand." Usze gently put her down.
"Spartan, when we Elites give you our word that we will do something, it will be done," Rtas promised her. "Now I am only a Ship Master so I do not know when the Supreme Commander intends for you to go home. But I do know that he is one of the most honorable Elites that I know and he would never just take advantage of your situation and use you indefinitely. You must to be patient. In the meantime, we have a war to fight so spend as much of your time training for your next mission. It would be a pity if you were to get killed before you earn your freedom."
"I will take care of that, Ship Master," Usze said. Rtas nodded and walked away.
"Come, Spartan, and meet your new teammates," Usze said as he led her to the rest of the team who saw the whole scene. As they approached them, Sel nodded approvingly at his team leader for his handling of the situation. The Grunts, however, were avoiding eye contact with her because they knew she would be pissed off right now and she was still strong enough to seriously hurt them. Jaimie noticed the new Elite and Grunts for the first time. "This is Zakaree and Hubbub," Usze told her.
Zakaree held out his hand as a greeting as per human custom. "It is good to meet you," he said in English.
Jaimie curiously stared at the new Elite then asked Usze, "Does he outrank me?"
Usze was unsure of what to say since technically the Spartan didn't have a Covenant rank. However, after her performance last mission, he decided she could be an honorary Special Ops Minor which was the same rank as Zakaree. "He is the same as you," he answered.
Jaimie turned to Zakaree, narrowed her eyes, and asked, "How many humans did you kill?"
Zakaree was completely taken aback by the question. "Many," he admitted.
"Then stay the hell away from me!" she snapped. "I might be forced to fight on your side but I damn sure won't socialize!" She walked away from them, fuming.
"By the rings, why must this child be so difficult?" Usze wondered out loud. "If she were an Elite I would just beat her until she learns her place but unfortunately the Supreme Commander himself ordered us not to do any such thing."
"Do not waste your time, brother," Sel advised the new Elite. "She will never forgive us. But it does not matter for she will not be here long anyway. She is only working off her blood debt."
"I would not forgive us either if I were in her place," Zakaree said. He began walking towards her. Sel looked at Usze and gave the Elite equivalent of a shrug.
Jaimie angrily glared at the new Elite as he approached her. "Look, maybe you didn't understand me..."
"I understood you perfectly, human," Zakaree interrupted her. "I know you will never forgive us for what we have done to you. But I do not ask for forgiveness because I know I do not deserve it. It took the death of those that I loved at the hands of the Brutes to make me realize that this is what I have been doing to your people. Since then, I have immensely regretted my part in the war against your people."
Jaimie shook her head. "It's way too late to apologize," she said bitterly. "And I'm glad you lost someone. I'm glad you know what it feels like."
"Yes, I do," Zakaree agreed. "It is a terrible feeling to lose your family, isn't it? But it made me realize the pain I have put you and many others like you through. Ever since that dark day I returned to my home in High Charity and saw my mate and child dead, my sole reason for staying alive has been to avenge them by killing as many Brutes as I can and I have indeed killed many Brutes. But my kin is still dead and will forever remain dead just like your loved ones will forever remain dead. Nothing I say or do can bring them back. I just want you to know that we Elites are not a race of evil, merciless murderers like you believe. We were manipulated into doing the Prophets bidding. We thought we were in the right. And as hard as it is for me to admit, those Brutes that murdered my mate and child were probably not evil either. They were also doing what they believed was right."
"That's no excuse," Jaimie said.
"Of course not. There is no excuse," Zakaree said sadly.
The two of them stood in silence for a while as Jaimie contemplated everything he said.
"You really loved them didn't you," she asked.
"On Sanghelios, my people have a tradition. We are not allowed to know who our parents are. I still do not know who my father is. But in High Charity where I moved, Elites do not always follow this tradition. My home only had three of us living in it, me, my mate, and my child. And my son knew exactly who I was. He knew that I was his father and he adored me. He would always recognize me when I came home to visit him. And it was truly, the best feeling in the world. But now, I know he will never come running up to me to greet me with an embrace ever again. And I cannot describe how much that hurts."
Jaimie didn't know if Elites were capable of crying like humans did. Maybe instead of shedding tears, they exhibited different symptoms. Maybe this Elite was crying right now and she couldn't tell. But she could definitely feel his grief. And to her total surprise, she found herself feeling sorry for him. She sighed and reached out with her hand. "I'm Jaimie," she said, not believing she was doing this.
The Elite shook her hand the way he had seen humans doing. "Jaymee." It was the first time she heard an Elite say her name. Usually they just called her Spartan or human or something else in their language that she couldn't even pronounce. "My name is Zakaree."
"Right. You know, I still hate your people and I always will," she told him.
"Just as I will always hate the Brutes for what they have done," Zakaree replied. "It is understandable."
"But maybe I don't have to hate you personally," she said.
"If you do not then it is good. But even if you do, I will understand," Zakaree said apathetically.
"No. You really do seem to regret what you did. And you're the only Elite I've met who actually apologized to me," Jaimie remarked.
"I am curious. How did you come across these Elites?" Zakaree asked. "I heard rumors of your capture on my old ship but I am still vague on the details."
"It's kind of a long story," Jaimie said.
"That is not a problem for me."
"Alright, I'll tell you."
So yeah, Jaimie might seem pretty undisciplined, acting more like a pissed off marine rather than a Spartan, but that's only because she hates the former Covenant with a burning passion and doesn't really see them as her superiors regardless of their rank. This will slowly change as the story progresses.