Hello, everyone. Redmage04/Aratech here. Just decided that since I posted this at spacebattles, I should probably put it up here as well. Those of you familiar with my other Halo story, Finishing the Fight, might have noticed the "remarks" I had to say about the Spartan Ops of Halo 4, and the my opinion about the franchise as a whole of late, and this is sort of a build of off that. It is not in any way related to Finishing the Fight, I must make that clear, in order to avoid confusion. There may be other chapters that follow this one. Not sure just yet. However, I hope that this story is enjoyable to you all (as I realize that it might be controversial, to put it mildly), and that it is worth your time.
Thank you all, and have a good day.
Consequences of Revelation
Captain Tom Lasky walked slowly down the halls of the UNSCS Infinity, his hands clasped behind his back, trying to ignore the doubts and questions that plagued his mind. A quartet of ODSTs escorted him as he made his way towards the primary hangar bay of the most powerful ship in Humanity's arsenal.
It had been one week since the Infinity had escaped Requiem, when they'd avoided being caught in a supernova by the skin of their teeth. The Captain's frown deepened as he stepped up to a turbo lift and summoned it. So much knowledge, so much Forerunner technology… all gone. Gone because Jul 'Mdama didn't want to run the risk of Humanity finding out more about the secrets of the Didact. At least he wouldn't have to worry about a Knight teleporting onto his bridge anymore, he thought, looking over the new, armored uniform that he was wearing. That was to say nothing else of what had gone wrong during the two months that they'd been stationed there.
The lift doors opened and he stepped through. A moment later, it was rocketing downwards. Two months on Requiem had demonstrated several things to the UNSC, though, and one of those was that for all their physical augmentations and training, the model-four Spartans were having some difficulty carrying out their work. Two months against an enemy where the UNSC held most of the cards, and they'd failed to make a meaningful dent in the Storm. Oh, sure there had been victories here and there. Successful raids, smash and grabs, killing thousands of Loyalists and pulling off a few assassinations… but they'd failed to give Jul and his fanatics any major setbacks.
Hence his trip to the hangars. After nearly eight months, Lasky was finally going to get to see an old friend again. He'd pulled a few strings with High Command, called in a couple of favors with Lord Hood, and Palmer's S-IV's were finally going to get the training instructors they'd needed for so long.
There was a loud "ding" and the lift came to a halt. Moments later the doors opened and Lasky stepped out onto the primary hangar bay of the Infinity. It was a beehive of activity. Broadswords, Longswords, Pelicans and heavy cargo transports were streaming in and out of hangars; cargo carriers and power-loaders were moving armaments and supplies around, while personnel transports were hastily zipping about. Several fireteams and other personnel saluted as he moved past them, and Captain Lasky returned the gestures as he moved further inwards. He could see a Pelican landing about a hundred meters away. He caught the serial number on it: CT-4589. That was the one he was looking for, and he gestured for his escort to move along with him.
The Pelican landed and its engines hummed as the pilot shut them down. There was a hiss as the rear cargo door opened and the ramp descended. Out of the depths of the bird came a few more ODSTs and a green armored giant, towering over the others around him. Lasky let a smile come to his face as he saluted.
"Welcome aboard, Master Chief," he said.
The Spartan-II returned the gesture, his hand and arm nothing but a blur. It always amazed Lasky how they could move so fluidly, so fast. He remembered the first time he saw the Chief in action, moving so quickly his eyes couldn't even follow the man.
"Thank you, Sir." 117 dropped into a parade rest for a moment, his visor drifting down for a moment. Lasky could tell that the Chief was staring at his less-than-standard uniform.
"Started to get in the habit of wearing this after an incident on Requiem," he said with a shrug. "Figured if any more Prometheans managed to get onboard, I might as well not give them a free shot at decapitating CINC."
The Spartan nodded. "Lord Hood informed me that there had been a few incursions and actual boarding actions on the Infinity."
"That's part of the reason that I requested that Hood transfer you and the rest of Blue Team back here," Lasky said as he turned and started to walk back towards the lift. The Spartan fell in line next to him, and the Captain noticed that there had been some further changes and modifications to his armor since the last time he'd saw the cyborg. More of the CNT layer was covered, particularly in the chest and abdomen regions. He wondered if that was Virgil's work. The Engineer had been hard at work the past few months, aiding the UNSC's technology specialists in developing all types of advancements in weaponry, armor, and power generation. "While we were able to successfully repel the Storm operatives and their Promethean units, it took a hell of a lot longer than it should have. I don't think the S-IV's have all the training they need."
"I see," the Chief said as they reached the lift. "Are we going to be supplementing their training strictly in boarding and count-boarding tactics, or do you feel their troubles go beyond simply that?"
"The latter, unfortunately," Lasky's frown returned to his face as the doors closed behind them. "Fireteam Crimson's performance was outstanding, and they're probably going to be working with you and Blue Team as trainers... but aside from that." He sighed and shook his head. "We lost too many. Far too many."
The Spartan nodded his head. He could understand Lasky's concern. He'd taken the time that he, Kelly, Linda, and Fred were out securing colony worlds against Covenant Loyalists to read up on the S-IV project. The augmentations that had crippled or killed half his brothers and sisters were a thing of the past, replaced by newer and safer methods. The S-IV's didn't quite seem to have the fantastic reflexes that his "kind" did, or the ceramic bone grafts, but he supposed it was better than having to worry about half of a group "washing out" due to complications that left them crippled for life, or having such a narrow genetic compatibility range that only about one in a hundred thousand people were compatible with them, as had been the case with the Model-III's. However, the Gen-II Mjolnir armor was still rather prohibitively expensive, and the UNSC could equip an entire ODST platoon for the cost of one Spartan-IV. That meant that if the Spartan projects were to continue, they would have to be able to prove to ONI, Hood, and the politicians that such high cost super-soldiers were a worthwhile investment.
His briefing on the way over indicated that over the course of the two months spent on Requiem, seventeen S-IV's had been killed, nearly ten percent of the total amount deployed. Lasky's intent was clear to the Chief: that number had to be brought down by any means necessary.
"When do we begin?"
"First thing tomorrow, oh-five-thirty," Lasky said as the lift rocketed back up to the center of the ship, where the command bridge was. "I'm supposed to help get you and the rest of Blue Team settled." He paused for a moment and ran a hand through his hair. "You're going to be observing the teams as they run through their drills, a few wargames and other dry-run ops. Once that's done, I want you and Blue Team to critique them, and show them how you'd run it." He let a half smile come to his face once again. "Think you can handle that?"
Behind his visor, the Chief frowned for a moment or two. He'd always been an operator, never an actual teacher. But a Spartan was intelligent and adaptable to any situation. He supposed he owed it to the S-IV's to give it a try. With luck, he'd do CPO Mendez proud.
"Yes, Captain," he said with a nod of his head as the turbolift came to a halt, and they stepped out onto the command deck level. "We'll make sure that the next time Infinity's Spartans meet 'Mdama, they'll be ready."
"Good," Lasky took a left turn when they reached a crossroad, heading for his ready room. "I don't want a repeat of what happened last time. We had a clear shot at the bastard, and we missed both it and…" he paused for a moment, his frown returning with a vengeance and a sudden bitter taste filling his mouth. "And our secondary target…"
"Secondary target, sir?" the Chief asked, looking down at him. Lasky looked up at the golden, polarized visor, staring at its minute hexagonal patterns. There seemed to be a note of confusion in his voice, and the Captain sighed.
She was a war criminal, a woman who'd performed experiments that most would find at best ethically dubious… but the idea of trying to assassinate a member of the UNSC still didn't sit well with him. Especially given her actions during the operation. They still had the artifact that Halsey had desperately thrown to Spartan Thorne before Palmer had put a bullet through her.
"After the first incident with the Forerunner Artifact, Doctor Catherine Halsey was brought onboard Infinity to study it," he said. "There was a series of incidents after that, one thing leading to another… but the long and the short of it, Chief, is that she got captured by Prometheans during their boarding incident and Admiral Osman gave orders for Commander Palmer to assassinate her." He shook his head and waved his hand about, as though he himself were having difficulty wrapping his mind around everything that had transpired, while the words just tumbled out of his mouth. "I tried to call it off, sent Majestic to grab her before Palmer could arrive and we all ultimately failed but—"
Whatever he had been about to say died on his lips as he realized the Master Chief had stopped in his tracks. Lasky arched an eyebrow and looked back over his shoulder at the Mjolnir-clad giant. There was something different about his body language right now, he noticed… the Chief… well, he almost looked like a Brute Chieftain had just walloped him with a gravity hammer. The Captain blinked and that look was gone, replaced by something different… something alien, something that made the hairs on the back of Lasky's neck stand up.
The word was spoken softly, and there was a worrying lack of inflection in the Chief's normally iron-hard voice.
"Master Chief?" Lasky asked, while his ODST escort exchanged glances. The Spartan took a couple steps forward and leaned down a bit, his visor just a few inches away from Lasky's face.
"What did you just say?" The Spartan cocked his head to the side just slightly. Lasky noted his stance, legs slightly spread, right fist tightened just a bit. He reminded the captain of a predator, ready to pounce. "What did Admiral Osman order?"
"She gave an order for Commander Palmer to terminate Doctor Halsey, on grounds of treason." Lasky said, looking up into his own reflection on that cold, emotionless visor. The Chief did nothing for a few seconds, simply stood there, and Lasky wasn't quite certain what it was that he felt, deep down. It wasn't fear… wasn't intimidation… but he couldn't deny he was a little bit anxious. He remembered the first time he saw the Chief, in the aftermath of the struggle with that Sangheili Zealot. That sense of awe and spine tingling confusion as he stared at the green-armored behemoth. Yes… yes that was what this felt like.
The Spartan moved back into his previous stance in the time it took Lasky to blink. "Captain… May I speak with you in the ready room?" there was a pause and he looked around at the ODSTs. "Alone."
Lasky said nothing, but he nodded his head and started towards his ready room. It took about another fifteen seconds for them to reach it, and he felt the backs of his hands starting to grow slick with sweat, and he could feel his heart hammering in his chest. The doors hissed open as he walked through, the Chief marching in behind him. Lasky looked over his shoulder at the super-soldier. That tension to his stance was still there as he made his way past the Captain of the Infinity and over towards the desk. The ODSTs started to come in after him, but Lasky held up a hand.
"Leave us," he said, looking over to the sergeant.
"But…" the Helljumper said.
"I'll be fine, Sergeant Kowalski," Lasky said with a nod of his head. "I need to speak with the Master Chief in private. Roland's here if I need anything. Just wait outside the door."
Sergeant Kowalski nodded his head, and retreated back through the doorway. Lasky turned around as Roland popped up on one of the holotanks. "I think my ears are burning," the A.I. said, a smirk on his face as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked up at the Master Chief. The smirk faltered a bit as he "looked" at the Spartan, and Lasky knew that he'd probably detected any one of a hundred things about the Spartan that might have put him on edge. Neural activity scans, heart rate, breathing.
The Captain and the cyborg stood where they were for a moment or two longer, and Lasky made his way to his executive chair, while the Spartan sat down across the desk from him. The chair groaned softly in protest as it was suddenly subjected to the weight of four hundred and fifty kilograms of power armor and augmented human.
"Details. Now, Captain." 117 said as he leaned forward.
Roland gave them both a look, and Lasky nodded his head. Then the words just started to come out. The knowledge that he'd been given prior to Halsey coming on board, in order to give him "a full understanding of what he was dealing with." About the ONI operation where Halsey had been black-bagged. Her subsequent detainment. Her being brought onboard the Infinity after it had nearly been destroyed by an unknown Forerunner artifact. The communication that she'd had with what they'd later discovered was Jul 'Mdama himself, trying to extract information from him without revealing that she'd been onto his little game. Her capture by Promethean units, and Admiral Osman's subsequent order to "eliminate" the problem she potentially represented.
He wondered why he was telling all of this to the Spartan. It was highly classified, to put it mildly. His bodyguards were cleared for it, but aside from Kowalski and his squad, there were less than a dozen people on the ship that really knew what went down during that operation. Still, there was something that… compelled him. He wondered for a moment if it was the need to "confess" his involvement? His inability to stop Palmer from carrying out an order that he viewed as unjust? But no. Ultimately it was it a sense of debt that he felt towards the man across from him, the man that had saved his life on no less than three occasions. That man, who had not just saved him but humanity, should know what they'd tried to do to the woman who had kidnapped him and spirited him away from his family and transformed him into a living weapon.
The Master Chief remained silent all the while, still and unmoving as a stone. Lasky leaned back in his chair and sighed softly, placing two fingers against his forehead and rubbing his left temple.
"I know…" he said, swallowing softly and then sighing. "I know she did a lot of bad things… I know about what she did to you and the other Spartan-IIs… how you have to feel about that but, even then, I don't think we had the right to try and… murder her like that…"
"How I have to feel?" It took Lasky a moment to realize that the Chief had actually spoken, and he looked up at the other man. He'd leaned forward a couple more centimeters, and had cocked his head to the side once more.
"About her taking you from your families… the augmentations and experiments, how she… transformed you into killing machines… how you have to hate her for that."
The Master Chief lapsed into silence once again, leaning back in his chair a bit. Lasky's digital watch beeped as it let him know that the time was currently 15:00 hours, shipboard time. "Captain… I have made numerous requests since my return to meet with Doctor Halsey. They have all been denied." Another pause, and he noticed the Spartan's left hand twitch just slightly. "I have been told that she was indisposed, or that her schedule would not allow for any time for her to visit. I was about to appeal to Lord Hood directly."
Lasky's face scrunched up in confusion. What was going on here? Why would he go to that much trouble to try and see the Doctor? For that matter, why the hell had ONI lied to him? "Why?"
The helmet turned to face him, and Lasky swore he could feel those eyes, hidden though they were, boring into his soul. He hadn't forgotten the eyes of 104 and 087 when they'd removed their helmets, back at the academy after rescuing him, Sullivan, and April all those years ago. The power behind that strange, almost alien gaze.
"Because Captain… I wanted to see how my mother was doing."
Lasky realized after a moment that his jaw had fallen open and that his eyes had bulged outwards. He looked over to Roland, and the A.I. had a similar look of shock upon his holographic face.
"Mother?" Lasky shook his head. Whatever he'd been expecting… this certainly wasn't it.
"Lasky… I… Captain, that's what I see her as. What we all saw her as." For a moment there was silence, and Lasky privately wondered if the man across from him wasn't suffering from the universe's largest case of Stockholm Syndrome.
The Spartan took a breath. "She was the one who raised us, educated us, helped mold us into what we were. She was our mother, Chief Mendez our father. Together, they made us into humanity's sword and shield." He gestured to his breastplate. "She created our armor… and gave me the greatest gift of all."
"What was that?" Roland asked.
"Cortana," he said, looking over at the A.I. "Cortana was created from a flash-clone of Doctor Halsey's brain." He shook his head. "We… we were actually trying to get back to Earth so that Halsey might be able to somehow fix her. If anyone could have cured Cortana of her rampancy, it would have been her." There was another pause, and he looked back up at the Captain. "You said that Commander Palmer was the one who carried out the Admiral's order?"
"Yes. It was deemed that… Doctor Halsey was too great a risk, the information that she might have handed over to Jul…"
"Did she actually share any classified information with 'Mdama?"
"That's a negative, at least as far as we know," Roland said, clasping his hands behind his back. "Halsey was playing a risky game, a damn risky one… but she didn't actually give anything away." He frowned. "Of course, she violated quite a few protocols when she hijacked me, and—"
"Roland…" Lasky said.
"What? You think I liked having my free will stripped away from me? I mean, from your perspective it was only a few minutes, but do you have any idea how long that is for an A.I.? I literally spent lifetimes trapped inside of my own programming!"
"Can you show me?" the Master Chief spoke up suddenly. "Commander Palmer's camera feed?"
Lasky paused for a moment. That information wasn't exactly the kind of stuff he was supposed to be handing out freely. But… the cat was already out of the proverbial bag, and if he didn't show it, well, S-II's were supposed to be master hackers in their own right, experts at decryption and getting into things that they weren't supposed to. It was entirely possible that if he refused that the Chief could get his hands on the feed anyway. The man across from him was an enigma, but Lasky prided himself on being good at reading people. The subtle twitches and inflections in the Spartan's voice. The Chief was like a caldera at the moment, and he suspected that the longer that he kept this from him, the worse the eventual "eruption" might be.
Lasky nodded his head and turned to Roland. "Show him."
"You realize you're breaking a laundry list ONI regulations by doing this. The Admiral could well have some reprisals in store for you if she gets wind of this," Roland said, and to Lasky's surprise, the usual snarky tone was gone from the A.I.'s voice. There was genuine concern there.
"I've already broken about that many, and more than enough to give Admiral Osman a legitimate excuse to relieve me of command if she decides to take action," Lasky said, leaning back in his chair and tapping his fingers together. "Besides, Roland… there's three of us here. And something tells me that the Chief and I aren't exactly about to go talking about this…" he arched an eyebrow. Roland simply sighed and shrugged his shoulders.
"Alright, but if they deactivate me for this, I swear, my last act will be to purge you from the pension database," he said, pointing a finger at the Captain before making a gesture with his right hand. The video feed from Palmer's mission started up, and the Chief watched in rapt silence.
Within his helmet, the Master Chief could hear his own breathing, echoing around inside the tight confines of the armor. His initial confusion over Palmer's unusual choice of armaments and lack of backup faded into the recesses of his mind as he watched Lasky try and fail to stop her, and then observed her deploy planet-side. Blessed by Spartan time, he watched as it the feed seemed to stretch on and on, with the haunting realization that every step was bringing this woman closer and closer to Doctor Halsey… and there was nothing that he could do to stop it. He'd often heard the phrase "like watching a grav-train wreck" from Marines and other UNSC personnel. A phrase used to describe something that was utterly horrific and terrifying, yet some unseen force compelled one to keep watching, despite knowing what the result would be. For the first time, he truly understood what that meant. He was aware of a cold sweat that had broken out on his skin as he watched the Commander rush into Jul's compound, using the distraction that Majestic Team had created.
She made her way through the facility, cutting down a couple of surprised rear-guard Elites. Then she rounded the corner. He saw a Spartan in blue, battle-damaged armored desperately firing on Sangheili warriors. He saw Jul… and he saw her. Halsey was fighting, struggling against Jul, holding what appeared to be an artifact of some kind, trying to keep it out of the grasp of the "Didact's Hand". Jul seemed to have another such artifact in his other hand, and roared in his native tongue, summoning Promethean Knights into the battle.
"Thorne! The Key!" she screamed, throwing the artifact towards the Spartan.
Palmer fired half of a magazine into an Elite that had already had its shields stripped, blowing the alien in half, before leaning slightly to the side, and firing a round from her other pistol. Time seemed to stop for the Master Chief entirely as he heard Halsey's agony-filled scream and watched the blood blossom out of her shoulder, her left arm hanging on by only a few bare tendons and scraps of meat.
"Freeze-frame!" he heard himself bark. He distantly heard Lasky's desk groan in protest where his left hand gripped it fiercely. The metal warped and dented as he dug his fingers into it, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he found himself looking at his mother's image. He could see the pain written across her face, her eyes open wide, pupils dilated. She'd gotten immensely lucky, he found himself distantly thinking. Palmer's SAP-HE round had been a dud, and had failed to explode after impact. That was the only reason she hadn't been killed instantly.
He looked into her eyes… he saw the pain… the realization… and something else… a sense of profound shock and betrayal. His hand actually shook as he reached up towards the screen and touched the face of the aging scientist. He killed his external speakers for a few seconds. "I'm…. I'm sorry…" he whispered, knowing that no one could hear the words but himself. There was an ache in his chest, his voice cracking just a bit. He took a moment, took a deep breath, swallowed the sense of failure that coursed through him, forced it down, deep inside of his gut, and let out one more breath. His voice was metallic and neutral when he turned his speakers back on. "Resume."
Roland did as instructed, and the remainder of the battle played out. Jul absconded in moments, rushing towards one of the Prometheans with Halsey and the other artifact in his arms. The Sangheili's shields flickering as Palmer fired off the remainder of her pistol magazines into the fleeing cult leader, while the one called Thorne hastily stowed the artifact and fell back before the fusillade of hard-light and energy fire that came from the Knights. A moment later Jul and Halsey were both gone, teleported away by a Knight Commander.
The Master Chief sat back down as the rest of the feed played out, watching the argument between the Commander and Majestic. He could hear the self-righteousness in Palmer's voice as she defended her actions, and the apparent confusion between Majestic and herself before they both realized that they'd been sent into action with very different objectives in mind. He could feel his pulse elevating, a red mist forming at the edge of his vision as the feed ended. 117's right hand crumpled the armrest of his chair into a twisted wreck of metal and composites as he stood back up.
"Chief…" Lasky spoke up, reaching out towards him.
The Captain knew that it might not be the wisest course of action, a worst case scenario could result in him pulling back a stump, but watching the man's reaction, watching that stoic exterior break, however slightly… His hand came to rest a few millimeters above the Spartan's left shoulder, buffeted by the shields of the armor.
"I'm sorry…" he whispered.
The Spartan said nothing, but nodded his head and stared down at his own hands. The fingers curled inwards slightly. Lasky chewed on his lip for a moment. He understood how the cyborg must have felt. He remembered Chyler lying in his arms when they were at the academy… her eyes wide with agony as the massive needle rifle round lay in her abdomen, her life fluids gushing out as it sat there, glowing like a purple spear… knowing that she was dying and there wasn't a damned thing that he could do to save her… that same feeling he'd had when he'd learned of his brother's death. And the Spartan… he'd lost a hell of a lot more. All but four of his "active" brothers and sisters were dead, Cortana was gone, and the worlds that he'd fought and bled for glassed ruins incapable of supporting life. And now this… the knowledge that the woman that he'd considered one of the bedrocks in his life of being carted around to the very worst battlefields in the Covenant war, was gone. Even if she survived her wounds, Doctor Halsey was in Jul's hands now, and they didn't have the foggiest idea where he had gone. He'd seen men and women alike break under far less. Captain Tom Lasky stared up at that golden visor once again, and distantly wondered how the Spartan managed to keep going as he felt the Chief's gaze fall upon him.
There was a moment of silent connection between the two of them as Captain and Spartan stared at one another, and the Spartan nodded once again. "Thank you, Captain," he whispered softly. "For sharing this information with me. For being honest with me."
"It's the least I can do, Chief," he chewed on his lip again. "If there's anything else that I can do for you, let me know."
117 nodded his head and looked down at his hands once again. It was then that Roland seemed to twitch and his gaze fell towards the door.
"Oh dear…" he said.
"Roland, what's wrong?" Lasky asked as he turned to face the A.I.
Then he heard it, piped in through the speakers on the holotank. "I don't care, Sergeant, I need to speak with the Captain, now." Palmer's voice. Lasky's eyes widened as he heard the door hissing open, and Commander Sarah Palmer stepped into the room. He started to turn around, his heart leaping into his throat. Oh god… was all he could think.
"Captain, I need—"
That was as far as she got. In the time it took Lasky to turn from Roland towards Palmer, the Chief had crossed the twelve meters over towards the S-IV, grabbed her around the throat, and slammed the armored woman into the wall of the room. A myriad of colorful words died on Lasky's tongue as he gazed at the scene before him. Palmer's feet dangled more than half a meter off the ground, her hands clinging to the Master Chief's right arm. Palmer was wearing her armor, but not her helmet. She had nothing to protect her against the fury of the S-II that held her in his grip. All he'd have to do was throw a single punch… no… all he'd have to do would be to squeeze and he'd crush the Commander's windpipe and turn her bones into dust.
The door hissed open again and Sergeant Kowalski and his men stormed in. They stood back, looking over at Lasky, who didn't know what to tell them. Their MA6 rifles would never chew through 117's energy shield before he struck, if they could get through it at all.
The Master Chief saw red as he looked up at the woman he'd held in his grip. This was the woman that had nearly murdered his mother… no… no she might well have. A wound like that could easily have been fatal, from shock and blood loss. And even if she survived, Halsey would be at the mercy of Jul 'Mdama, avowed enemy of Humanity. Every instinct, every fiber of his being, screamed at him to end the woman above him. It would be so simple. A flex of the hand, a punch to the head, or drawing his sidearm and shooting her. So easy… so tempting. Then… he thought of Halsey. Was this something that she would have wanted him to do? To throw away his life over her? No. She'd have told him that she wasn't worth it. That he was too important. His job as a protector of Humankind and all its colonies was too important. He could practically feel her hand on his free arm, wrapping around shield and armor, trying to gently talk him down, to remind him of his duty.
Not his duty to her, but to his brothers and sisters—the few that were left—to lead by example. His duty to every last man, woman, and child in the UNSC and UEG. He could imagine that subtle half-smirk; hear her voice in his head, chiding him about not being able to do that job very well if he was locked up in a military prison, now could he?
Commander Palmer eyes bulged as she stared down at the Master Chief. She'd come in, having just found out that Lasky had arraigned for the remaining Spartan-II's to transfer to Infinity and "take over" the training of the S-IV's without so much as a "by your leave." He was the Infinity's Captain, but she was in charge of the ground troops. The least he could have done would have been to let her know, rather than sidelining her. The Spartan-II had moved so quickly she'd barely seen it. One moment, he'd been with Captain Lasky, an image on the briefing screen behind them. The next thing she knew, she was pinned against the wall, stars dancing in front of her eyes and a painfully tight grip around her neck. She struggled to breathe, and hung onto his arm desperately, not wanting to think about what would happen if she let go and her neck was suddenly the only thing supporting nearly four hundred kilograms of augmented muscle and power armor. For all her strength, she was as helpless as a babe before a wolf.
She looked down at the Master Chief, the Spartan that she and all of her subordinates were taught to revere. He was the ideal, the pinnacle that they were taught to emulate. The man who had fought for longer than she'd even been alive, the man who'd slaughtered the Covenant by the hundreds of thousands on Sigma Octanus IV, Jericho VII, Arcadia, Azure-Twelve, Reach, the Halos, and a hundred other planets and battlefields. The man who'd stopped the Flood, not once, not twice, but three times, and who had stopped the Didact from assimilating all of Humanity into Prometheans. A chill ran down her spine at the realization that that man had, in a single move, made her completely helpless. There was no counter that she could use, not before he struck her down. Fear crawled through her belly and she gasped for air.
Then his visor depolarized. His Mark VII helmet still covered most of his face, but she could see his eyes. They seemed to burn from within, filled with hate, disgust, rage. She'd seen his face before and a few pictures of him. This was the first time that she'd ever seen anything other than a cool, almost mechanical, detachment from him. Whatever supposed sin she'd committed against the Master Chief, it had evoked a raw, seething hatred of her. For a moment, she found herself at a loss and tried frantically to think of what she could have possibly done to provoke this sort of reaction from him.
Then he spoke.
"Leader of the Spartan Corps…" he said. His voice was steady, soft, and almost tranquil. But there was a subtle inflection to his words that hinted at the emotions boiling underneath. "To be a leader like that… to have that much potential, that much promise…. And yet I am so very disappointed in you, Commander."
In a single move, he released her and stepped back, letting her crash to the ground. She lay there, gasping for breath, as he stormed out of the room. Kowalski and the others hastily backed out of his way, and then looked over towards their Captain. Lasky made a shooing gesture as he rushed over towards Palmer and helped her back up to her feet. The ODSTs exchanged glances and then obeyed. The door hissed shut once again as the Commander took a few deep breaths and looked over towards Lasky.
"Tom… what the hell did I do?" she asked hoarsely. Then she noticed the images on the briefing screen. "You were showing him my mission?"
Lasky finished helping her up, and Sarah massaged her throat for a moment, before she made her way over towards the side of the desk. The Captain licked his lips, and let out a sigh. "Sarah… I think we badly misjudged how the original Spartans saw Halsey…"
A few hours had passed since the Spartan had learned the truth of his mother's fate. He sat in a specially reinforced chair in a private briefing room. Kelly and Linda sat to his left, Fred to his right. The other three had arrived on station about two and a half hours after he had, and he had left instructions for them to meet him here. Officially, they were reviewing combat feeds from various Spartan-IV fireteams during their operations upon Requiem, in order to gain a better understanding of the areas where each team was coming up short.
And from an outside perspective, that was all that they would have appeared to have been doing. Four different POVs played out before them on a massive screen on the far wall. It was a mission feed from Fireteam Kodiak, during their operations repelling the attack on the Infinity. For the most part, the four members of Blue Team were silent, speaking up every now and then to pause the feeds and point out a particular error or flaw to the other three, followed by a jotting down of a note on a PDA to go over tomorrow morning.
However, while the quartet of S-II's indeed were taking notes and critiquing the performance of the Model IV's, there was more going on than met the eye. Inside of each of their helmets, there was a storm of winking blue, green, yellow, and red lights. There were long pulses and rapid blinks as they took advantage of their neural augmentations to multitask, communicating in silent Morse-Code.
I wondered why ONI kept giving us the run-around. Fred silently remarked. Guess we know now.
How do we proceed from here? Linda asked, before her external speakers crackled. "Freeze-frame," she gestured to the lower right screen. "Kodiak-Four, hostile Sangheili marksman exposed, chooses instead to open fire on Unggoy charge. Inefficient targeting priorities. Resume." Do we take this to Hood?
We do. 117 replied. Halsey's actions were a breach of UNSC wartime protocol, but not so severe as to warrant a summary execution. Osman went too far, and she's deprived the UNSC of a vital strategic asset in doing so. Majestic's actions demonstrate that recovery was possible, and vindicate Halsey's loyalties.
What about her loyalties now, though? Fred spoke up, before pausing the feed for a moment, jotting down where Kodiak, in their haste to reach their objective, had failed to secure a dropped Jackhammer rocket launcher. Think about it. Halsey, if she's alive, has no way of knowing that Majestic Team wasn't also there to put a bullet in her. Palmer and Osman have left her nowhere to go but straight to 'Mdama, even if he doesn't torture her to death.
I concur. 117 flashed. And that makes the situation extremely complicated. We know the Storm have some Forerunner technology in their strongholds. We just don't know how much. The Admiral's potentially handed the enemy the best mind in the galaxy when it comes to figuring out how to turn that technology back on. 'Mdama also apparently got the other half of that artifact, whatever it is. Halsey mentioned it was the Key… but to what?
Nothing good if Jul figures out how to use it without the need for the other half. Kelly said. Her flashes were almost too short and fast for the others to pick up what she was saying. No doubt, the woman was remembering her critical injuries on Reach, injuries that would have been fatal of not for her "mother's" emergency surgery. She was taking this a hell of a lot harder than the others were. What do we do?
For the moment, we proceed with our orders. The Master Chief responded, before his eyes fell on the scene on the wall. A massive corridor near one of the armories of Infinity, swarming with scores of Loyalists. "Hold frame. Magnify on emergency bulkhead controls. No friendlies in the immediate vicinity. Opportunity to seal section and have A.I. Roland vent the room to terminate Storm hostiles missed." As soon as possible, I'll request an in-person meeting with Hood for clarification with regards to S-IV training milestones and the possibility of getting them access to some of the prototype particle beam and laser weaponry in the Castle Facility. Once that happens, I share my recording of the information with him, and we move from there.
Understood. The other three flashed.
In the meanwhile, say nothing, trust no one, and assume that Osman's like every other ONI CINC and monitors every radio signal, email, or FTL comm. message and data package gets on or off this ship.
What about Lasky? Kelly asked. She sent four yellow flashes in rapid succession at the end of the statement, indicating confusion.
Lasky's an ally, but we keep his involvement in this minimal. He took a risk sharing this with us. There's no guarantee Palmer won't tell Osman about our incident. If she suspects that any of us are probing for more information, there could be consequences for him.
You really think she'd do that? Kelly tapped a foot against the floor a couple of times as she "spoke."
Colonel Ackerson tried to have me murdered in cold blood during the Mark V trial runs because we were outperforming his ODST divisions and depriving him of both budget funds and influence. This information is potentially career ending for Osman… or worse. Do not underestimate the lengths she'll go to to keep it under wraps.
Kelly "said" nothing, merely flashed a green light to state an affirmative, before calling out another critique of Kodiak Team.
The Chief leaned forward slightly, his mind on both the combat feed, and trying to contemplate all the myriad of ways this situation could end. The next few days, until he could get that meeting with Hood… were going to be tense. His eyes narrowed behind his visor. One thing was for certain. There would be consequences for this.
Whelp, hope that was okay, and not too… ranty, I guess? For lack of a better way of putting it. That said, thank you all for taking the time to read the story. Feedback is always appreciated, especially constructive criticism.
Take care, everyone, and until next time, stay safe.