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Fan Fiction

ODSS by Firerwolf

ODSS Chapter 1
Date: 3 July 2011, 2:52 am

Year 2552

12 pods slammed into the ground randomly through out the field. The hatches released and 11 marines in regulation ODST armor jumped out. A single soldier in a full set of Mark V armor leapt onto the hard broken street. The soldiers immediately opened fire on the covenant that were near by. The grunts that hasn't been killed by the initial impact were cut down by the hail of bullets. The area fell into silence as the gunfire stopped. The soldiers shouldered their assault rifles and grabbed a second SMG before gathering in the lobby of a near by hotel. The once elegant interior of the building was ruined. Burnt and destroyed armchairs were scattered about and the hotel check in desk was covered with plasma burns. The soldier in Mark IV armor moved across the street stopping at the corner. The soldier checked around the corner and then motioned the others forward. The marines moved up the side of the building. The Mark IV armored soldier took point as they rounded the corner. They moved down the street past broken down buildings and slipped into an alley. The Spartan motioned to three of the soldiers and then at the corner across the street.

Without a word the three marines moved across the street. One of the soldiers checked around the corner. The soldier s then opened a COM channel. "Park's filled with Covies. Not really active, mainly look like they're waiting on something." The solder reported.

The Spartan motioned to the three to return. They joined back up with the main group in the alley. "Peter, James, David, you're Red Team. Get that HAVOK in place. Everyone else is with me as blue team." The Spartan ordered and the marines nodded. The three marines grabbed the nuke and moved off to put it in place.

A marine, his corporal insignia freshly painted on the side of his helmet moved over to the Spartan's side. "What are we to do?" He asked.

"We are running the distraction," The Spartan replied. "Do you still have those explosives?" The corporal nodded. "You'll be with Emily. Gather round and listen up cause this is the plan."

Luke and Matthew moved into place at the side of one of the buildings near the edge of the park. Once they were sure that a patrol was passing one of the marines hurled a grenade and shouted. "Frag out!"

The two jackals that had been on patrol were caught completely off guard. They didn't even have enough time to turn on their shields before they were engulfed in the blast. Cries rang out through the gathered grunts and few jackals that were in charge. The vulture like creatures shouted and pointed in the direction of the marines. Three red acknowledge lights flashed on the marine's HUD and the soldiers ran down the street away from the grunts. They rounded the corner and the grunts scurried after them. Several of the jackals screeched at the grunts instructing them to go around the block to try to cut the humans off.

"Flood waters trying to make a side stream." Max reported over the radio looking down at the grunts from his roof top perch.

"Understood eagle eye." The Spartan replied The Sergeant switched channels. "Pyros, set off one though four."

"Creating a damn," Tym replied. "Light them up." She said turning to Emily. The female marine activated the detonator that sat ready in her hand. Just as the grunts were walking down the street the explosives went off. Two explosions ripped though a theater on one side of the street. The forces of the blast brought the front walls of the building tumbling down. The set of charges went off in the upper levels of the building. The large neon sign broke loose crashing to the ground. Several grunts were crushed under the sign and the following debris of the building. As soon as the wreckage has settled Tym turned back on his radio. "Damn created, flood flow blocked," He reported.

"Good," The Sergeant replied. "Ready the rest of the charges. I don't want those ugly bastards straying form the path." The Spartan ordered. The Sergeant then turned to the soldier closest. "How soon until they reach our location?"

"ETA is in one minute ten seconds," Edward replied.

The Spartan nodded. "Get ready to piss the little buggers off." Edward and Tobias nodded. They waited until the barks of the grunts were loud and clear before moving. The Spartan moved forward followed the by other two. They fired as they moved across the street shredding the front line of grunts. As the enemy reached the other side the soldiers tossed several grenades before turning and running down the street a bit and making a left around a corner. They jumped behind some chunks of rubble that were scattered around the area from the initial invasion. Luke, Matthew, and Pat were waiting for them. "Don't let them pass but don't fire until they are on the mark," The Spartan ordered as the marines ducked behind the rubble. The grunts came scurrying around the corner unaware of the waiting soldiers. The Spartan waited until the grunts were close enough. "Open fire marines," The Sergeant ordered. The eight marines stood up, took aim, and fired. The quick three round bursts found their marks, ripping though the grunts' heads and necks. The bodies started to pile up in a line. The grunts continuously tried to climb over their fallen brethren. Once the Sergeant was confident the majority of the grunts and jackals were in place the Spartan reestablished radio contact with Tym. "Spring the trap."

"Burying the trash," Tym replied setting off more explosives. The buildings at the corner came tumbling down on the covenant soldiers.

"Red team reporting that nuke is in place." Tobias reported as he moved over beside the Spartan.

"Good, tell them to head to the evac point. We'll meet them there." The Sergeant ordered.

"Yes ma'am," Tobias replied. He then moved off to tell the others and give the orders to red team. The marines moved off, out of the city and toward the shore of the large lake near the center of the forest.

The marines came to a stop at the edge of the forest around the lake. The Sergeant looked down the shore and spotted the pelican that was waiting for them. She motioned them forward and the marines moved over to the ship while staying under cover. The Sergeant moved out into the clearing holding her assault rifle above her head to show that she was a friendly. The navy pilot that was waiting turned toward her. "You must be petty officer Bardly," she said, voice filter making her words deep and threatening.

The pilot snapped to attention. "Yes sir. My girl's ready to fly as soon as you are." The solder stared up in awe at the sight of the Spartan.

"Good, cause we're dusting off in two," The Sergeant ordered. The pilot nodded and moved back into the ship. The Sergeant motioned to her team and they moved out of the bushes. Red team appeared a few meters away. The marines moved into the ship and the engines flared to life. The pelican rose into the air and away from the city. The Sergeant pulled an electrical pad from her belt and keyed in the activation code for the nuke. In a flash the city became a great ball of light. The Sergeant activated her radio and made contact with the ship above them. "This is Sergeant Major Kathleen-113. Mission has been completed."

ODSS Chapter 2
Date: 9 July 2011, 12:17 am


Kathleen stood in the waiting room uncomfortably. She was alone; she hadn't been alone in years. Not since she'd been kidnapped and become part of the SPARTAN program. Their last mission had been an utter failure, or so she'd been told. A technician had reported to hear that due to an error all of her fellow trainees had died. She'd been told it was a wonder that she had survived. She had never had reason to question what her superiors told her, but something didn't sit right. The area she was in was unfamiliar. For some reason she had been sent to the main offices of the marines. A door opened at one end of the waiting room and a man walked out. He was in his 30s and dressed in a crisp uniform. Kathleen noticed the Gunnery Sergeant insignia and snapped a crisp salute. The man walked up to her and looked her over. "As you were." He ordered and Kathleen's arm fell. He motioned for her to follow him into the office. She followed him into the office and stood before the desk as the Sergeant took a seat. "You are soldier-113?" He asked.

"Yes sir." Kathleen said glancing around the room. It was not overly messy but it wasn't as tidy as she had expected. His desk was littered with documents, files, and what looked to be letters. The chairs were in an odd pattern and from the floor it looked as though they were moved often. The couch had a pillow and blanket on it that was just randomly placed on it and she didn't doubt that he'd slept on it recently.

The marine looked at Kathleen and crossed his arms. "I am Gunnery Sergeant Bill Saran. After the miss handling of the SPARTAN program you are being removed from the care of ONI and placed in the care of the marine corps. The program is being scrapped seeing as it failed. You'll be taking part in the new ODSS program," The Gunnery Sergeant explained. "From now on you are under my command. You will report to the obstacle course to the west of the training grounds at 1400 hours. You will continue your normal morning exercises unless told other wise. Am I clear?"

"Yes sir," Kathleen replied. "Sir, where are my new barracks?" She asked realizing that she wouldn't be in the same area as before.

"You'll be housed in alpha barracks with the other soldiers that will be part of project ODSS," Saran answered.

"Other soldiers, sir? I thought the others died after the procedures." Kathleen was surprised by information.

"They are not the same soldiers you were working with before. These are marines, as you will be. They will be your teammates, so try not to make them hate you to much."

"Yes sir," Kathleen said, before saluting him and leaving the room.

~Next Day~

Things had not gone the way Kathleen had hoped the day before. There had only been one other girl in the group and the men didn't seem to like it. Kathleen had been fine with ignoring their comments but the same thing couldn't be said for the other girl. After about two hours of the comments from the boys the other girl, Emily, had had enough. She walked over to the boys and punched one of them in the face. She'd managed to knock him out and the other boys shut up. Kathleen felt a bit of respect for the other girl's actions but it seemed to have created a divide between the girls and boys. This meant that she hadn't learned anything about them. If she was supposed to work with them, it would be harder then she had thought for this team to work.

She was glad that he didn't have to do the same exercises as them. She figured that it would have only distracted her from her task. Now she stood at the start of the obstacle course as she had been ordered.

A warthog rolled up and Kathleen spotted the Gunnery Sergeant in the passenger seat. Kathleen stood at attention and saluted.

Saran looked to the single solder. "At ease," He said as he jumped out of the warthog. "Your mission is simple. Get to the other end of the obstacle course and ring the bell. You have to stay on the course. There is no time limit; you can take all day if you want," The Sergeant instructed. "Now get moving, soldier."

"Sir, yes sir," Kathleen replied before turning to the obstacle course. She had never seen anything like it. The first stage of the course as a series of crossing ropes, all of them covered in barbed wire. Kathleen started through the ropes having studied them and found the least dangerous path. There wasn't really a safe path. Even at her smallest on the safest path she still wouldn't get though without some scratches. The going was harder then she'd expected. After the augmentation she had had to relearn how to move. Her body felt like it wasn't hers. It ached most of the time and she'd become clumsy. She was readjusting quickly though, at as speed that seemed to have surprised the medics. At first she had feared that she wouldn't be able to fight again but after a little trial and error she managed to figure out how to maneuver almost as good as she could before the procedure, though she still lacked precision. She felt as she did when she first started training, like she wasn't as good as she should be, as she needed to be. It took Kathleen about 15 minutes to get through the ropes and she came out with scratches all along her arms.

The second part of the course was ten yards of gravel that had a series of bamboo poles sticking up. Kathleen looked it over carefully. She spotted a few thin wires hanging between the poles. The area must have been booby trapped by the instructors. She slowly moved forward and made her way though the area being even more careful then she had been before. It was more likely that there would be stun grenades. She managed to get though the area in pretty good time and without hitting anything.

Kathleen came to the final part of the course. It was a simple sprint across a field but something told her it wasn't that easy. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She spotted a auto machine gun, a pair of them. She didn't doubt that there was another pair on the other side of the field. She would have to waste any time and took off. She had never run this fast before, and it almost surprised her enough to trip her up. She managed to keep going, staying barley ahead of the bullets as they cut through the air behind her. She reached the bell and rang it three times and the gun fire stopped. The field fell silent, void of anything but Kathleen's deep breathing.

A warthog bounced over the grass and Kathleen turned toward it. "Get in the back," The Gunnery Sergeant ordered. Kathleen jumped in and the warthog took off. About 15 minutes later Kathleen found herself once more standing in the Gunner Sergeant's office. She was starting to feel like this would be a regular thing. "I hope you enjoyed how relaxed today was. Tomorrow you begin your real training." The Sergeant shifted around a few documents, moving them out of the way. He leaned forward against his desk, locking gaze with Kathleen. "From here on out you are to be the squad leader for the ODSS program. You will create a daily exercise regiment for yourself and the other solders. What you do is completely being left to you to decide. I will give you orders and you will hand the down. It will be up to you to make those other soldiers as good as you. They will be your team, your family, so train them well. That is all. Return to your barracks." The Sergeant motioned for her to leave.

Kathleen quickly saluted and left the office. As she made her way back to the barracks she thought over the new information. She had to make the other soldiers as good as her but that seemed impossible. She was a Spartan and they weren't. That was her task though, make them Spartans. She didn't know how she was going to do it. Once she hadn't even been a Spartan, but now she was and she would do the same for the others. First, though, she'd have to find a way to get them to listen to her.

ODSS Chapter 3
Date: 27 July 2011, 9:17 pm

Kathleen lay in the mud and leaves hidden in the undergrowth of the forest. It has started raining about an hour ago but it only helped the ODST hide from their enemy. They'd been dropped off about two hours ago with a simple task: get to the top of the hill. At least it seemed like an easy task when they started. That was until they found out there were two squads of marines waiting for them to keep them from reaching the top including several snipers and booby traps along the way. It caused the trainees to pause and rethink what their plan was. according to Peter and David's recon there were a total of five snipers set up in various places and, at least one row of possible land minds about half way up the hill, and another twenty or thirty soldiers waiting for them at the top of the hill.

It wasn't the kind of odds that Kathleen liked but they weren't more then the ODSS could handle. The team was currently hiding in the forest around the base of the hill. The forest only went to the base of the hill meaning they'd be out in the open the rest of the way up. On top of that they hadn't been given any weapons. It was a scenario that they hadn't faced before. In the past they'd always been given some sort of weapon even if it was just a knife but this time there was nothing. It was going to be one hell of a mission.

It had taken the last hour and the luck of the rain to make up their plan. From the clouds above the down pour wouldn't stop soon which would help. The cloud cover coupled with the rain made it poor conditions for even the best sniper. Kathleen was sure that they wouldn't have been ready for this much rain leaving weapons water logged and sniper miserable. If Kathleen could have secured that it would continue to rain she would have held off their assault a few days to let the soldiers get more annoyed and ready to give up but she couldn't control the weather.

The ODSS waited until night had almost completely fallen before they made their move. With the dim light and the rain still falling their black body armor would be adequate camouflage against the waiting snipers. Kathleen took David, Peter, and Tobias with her as they started to slowly crawl their way up the hill. It was slow going crawling on their stomachs slow enough that they wouldn't be spotted but for the thrill of victory they were willing to take the extra time and insure they didn't loose.

Half way up the hill they spotted the perches that the snipers were using along with the turned up earth that marked where the land anti-tank mines had been set up. They crawled along the edge of the mine field until they found the worn out path that the marines had used to bring their troops up the hill. They had come up by foot and had stomped down the dirt over a patch of torn up area. It would have been an idiotic move to place a mine under the area but Kathleen wouldn't have put it past the marines. She knew, as they all did, that the marines never liked loosing and were willing to try desperate measures to win. She took the lead slowly crawling forward keeping to the worn part of the path. She'd thought about waiting till they had to have supplies taken up to them but the Gunney had placed a time limit of three days to get to the top of the hill. Her SPARTAN training told her she needed more time but the part of her that was becoming more and more of an ODST told her they could do it in an hour if they didn't want to prove their tactic skills.

As Kathleen moved she listened carefully for the tell tail sound of a mine being tripped but there was nothing. She supposed the marines had known they would need a way down when they lost. Once all four were past the mine strip Kathleen motioned to David and Tobias and then to the east before motioning to herself and then Peter then the west.

The two teams split up heading in opposite directions toward the sniper perches. The snipers had chosen to construct camouflage tents to hide themselves on the green grass but they had been easy enough for Peter to spot. The two moved up the side of the hill a bit more coming around behind the sniper who was without a spotter. They must have figured that with the mine strip below nothing would get past their range. They would just have to learn the hard way not to underestimate the ODSS. Kathleen's fist made contact with the back of the marine's skull knocking him out. Peter quickly grabbed the sniper rifle grabbing all the TTR sniper rounds that he had. He then moved into position with Kathleen watching his back as he took aim at the next sniper in line on the hill. A swift and silent shot hit the marine in the head paralyzing him and making him dead in the combat. The two moved to his position making sure that he was out. Kathleen took the sniper rifle and slung it over her back taking the side arm from the downed marine and all the ammunition he had for it. If they made an assault on the top of the hill they were going to need ever bit of fire power they could get their hands on. Peter took out the third sniper and the pair again moved to check that he was out before raiding his weapons and ammunition. David and Tobias soon joined them having finished off the other two snipers.

"Couldn't see anyone higher up but they might all be bunkered in up there for all we know." Tobias reported. "We got two sniper rifles with rounds and two side arms from out kills."

"Same for us but three of each." Kathleen said leading the others back to the side of the hill they had started on. She flashed a red laser pointer that she'd stolen from one of the techs before the missions. The other eight ODSS moved out into the now deep darkness of night moving across the clear break in the mine strip and up to the others. The ODSS split up having a sniper take the spot of the old sniper but now facing up toward the hill. Not the ideal position but when your target was up hill you shot up hill. One ODSS covered each of the snipers while the two remaining slowly creeping forward. Kathleen sat back watching as David and Edward moved up the hill toward their enemy. They disappeared behind the top of the hill and Kathleen waited patiently for the sound of gunfire.

Oddly the shots never came. David reappeared and shouted down to the others. "There's no one up here. Are you sure this is the right hill?" He asked.

Kathleen moved up the hill to stand by David. For a moment she thought they must have had the wrong hill. There was no sign of anyone having even been up to the top of the hill. "You said there were soldiers up here," She said glaring at David.

"I said I thought there might be. I never said we saw anything or anyone actually up here. We couldn't get past the snipers to get a clear view," David defended.

"If this wasn't the hill then why were they protecting it?" Edward asked looking very annoyed with the prospect of another fight having been a lie.

"Maybe they were trying to throw us off. Are there even actual mines in that strip down there?" David asked.

"Tobias, check the mine strip for actual mines," She shouted down to the new confused soldier. He didn't question though and moved off down the hill. "If this isn't the hill then where is our target?" Kathleen asked.

A moment later there was an explosion and Tobias returned joining the other three at the top of the hill. "Yeah there are real mines down there."

"What was the point of all this then? What was the point of all of that? Fighting past snipers to find nothing, why make us do it?" Kathleen wondered aloud.

"Now what do we do?" David asked as the rest of the ODSS gathered at the top of the hill confused by the absence of people.

"We pop smoke and the pelican comes. There's nothing else we can do. We got to the top of the hill and that's what we were ordered to do," Kathleen replied. Emily tossed down the signal and the familiar bright orange smoke poured forth bright even in the dead of night. It took the pelican only minutes to come for them and take them back to base.

Kathleen once more found herself standing in the Gunnery Sergeant's office as he stacked papers on his desk. She stood still trying to understand the day's exercise when he finally spoke. "So how did the mission go? Got to the top of the hill?" He asked his face neutral. He should have already known the answer but he acted as though he'd been told nothing.

"I believe we did, sir," Kathleen replied. "We reached the top of the hill as you had ordered us."

"You sound unsure soldier. What is it that is troubling you?" He asked, as though the entire conversation was not between himself and a subordinate.

"Sir, there was nothing at the top of the hill," Kathleen answered. "No soldiers, not items, no nothing. Why did we need to reach the top if there was no point to it?"

"Are you sure there was no point to it?" Saran asked. Kathleen looked at him confused by the words. "Sometimes what your goal is, what you get from doing something, is not a physical or tangible thing. Sometimes where you expect there may be enemies you may not actually find any. Maybe you were just clearing a way for a team that was looking for something that you can't find because only they know where it is."

"I think I understand, sir. The purpose was to illustrate that the target or goal is not something we always understand but it is out goal." Kathleen replied.

"Something along those lines, yes." Saran agreed. "As ODST you are sent in to clear the way for ground forces. You are not always the main force of the task but rather the means by which to set greater plans into action." The Gunnery Sergeant replied. "That is all for now. Have your team be ready for a new challenge tomorrow."

"I assure you they will be." She said before saluting Saran and leaving the office, a new found understanding of her team's place.

ODSS Chapter 4
Date: 4 August 2011, 4:06 am

Kathleen sat in the meeting room surrounded by her soldiers. Saran walked into the room with an odd air of what Kathleen could only call nervousness around him. His walk was stiffer, his eyes were unfocused not meeting the gaze of any of the soldiers, and his hands seemed unsure of where to be or what to do. The marines stood and saluted the Gunnery Sergeant. "As you were," he said, before moving to the head of the room. He looked the soldiers over before he started. Something definitely seemed off to Kathleen. Saran had never acted this way before. He'd always treated them as though they were expected to listen, hang on his every word, sometimes not even looking at the soldiers when he gave orders. "Today's the day that you've been working for. I know you're all familiar with Victoria and its history. Three hours ago a rebel group attacked a small town just south of one of its larger cities. They killed every man woman and child there. It's a good distance from the city, almost 100 klicks. Intelligence believes that the town is a covert base and served as a training ground for the rebels before they headed toward the city. The alert came from a patrol group that was in the town when the rebels attacked. They managed to inform us of the situation before we believe they were wiped out. These rebels have a supply of weapons though how much they have is unclear at this point which where likely purchased from pirates. We know for a fact that they have battle rifles and pistols. According to the report we also believe they have rocket launchers. They aren't well trained from what knowledge we have gained but they are reckless and having successfully taken down one town seems to have made them cocky and more dangerous. This is where you will enter into the picture. A pelican will take you down and you'll parachute in between the rebels and the city. These soldiers will be using live rounds and as will you. This is no exercise, this is the real thing so shoot to kill. Keep in mind these people are not fellow marines, they are not instructors, they are murderers and a threat to civilians," Saran explained. "Any questions?"

Kathleen raised her hand. "Sir, what equipment will we be receiving for this mission?" she asked. In her mind this was all just another exercise. The Sergeant controlled every aspect. Where the enemy would be, what weapons they were given. In her mind she knew that he couldn't control the actual enemies. This wasn't an exercise and her soldiers would be in real danger.

"Standard battle rifle, frag grenades, M6C pistols, and standard issue combat knives are all you'll be given. The upgraded armor that's being prepared for your squad isn't ready yet, so you'll have to make do with the standard armor," When he saw there were no further questions, he nodded before turning to Kathleen. "As of this time you are promoted to Sergeant."

Kathleen stood and saluted. "The rest of you are officially promoted to the rank of private. I wish you all luck," Saran said before saluting the ODSS. They all stood and returned the salute. Saran let his hand drop and left the room leaving the marines in silence.

Kathleen turned to her soldiers. "I want everyone ready to leave in thirty. We'll gather in the hanger. I want all weapons secured, ammunition checked, and armor inspected. I don't want anyone loosing anything in the drop," she ordered. "Now get to it."

Within twenty-eight minutes the ODSS had gathered in the hanger. Every soldier had a battle rifle, pistol, frag grenades, and a combat knife, all secured to their armor. Kathleen looked around at them with mixed feelings of pride and nervousness. She had prepared them as best she could but there was still the risk that they could all die on the mission. The only thing they had risked before was failure but now they were putting their lives on the line. Failure would be much worse than just a day without food. Still, they all seemed eager to get moving. There was an air of excitement about as they secured their weapons and equipment. As soon as they'd triple checked everything the marines boarded the pelican. The ride down was silent, as though they were all holding their breaths in anticipation. Kathleen activated her HUD and VISR system. The VISR system that was in the armor was crude, the latest prototype of the upgrade that was being made to their personal armor. Despite its flaws, it still worked well enough for it to be useful in battle. The system tagged enemies and friendlies with different colors when they were in view and gave a readout of how far away they were. From what they'd been told of the upgraded version outlined everything from people to objects, making the world easier to see in the dark. But for now the dumbed down version would have to do. Though there had turned out to be problems with the system. The first time they'd tested it out they found that out in the sunlight there was too much ambient light for the system to help at all. The VISR was really only meant for use in dark areas. If they wanted to be able to use the system they'd have to carry out the assault in enough shade that the light wouldn't blind them.

The pelican slowed and the back hatch opened revealing the wide open field below it. Kathleen motioned and the soldiers moved forward one by one. In a matter of seconds the sky was filled with descending troopers.

As soon as they hit the ground the ODSS released the parachutes quickly gathering them up before moving into the tree cover. They gathered by a large rock in the center of the forest and hid their parachutes there. They wouldn't be needed for the rest of the mission.

"All right, there's a road that's about three klicks east of here. We know that for now they are taking that road. They have some vehicles which I suspect would be the warthogs the soldiers had been using. We should still have a bit of time before they reach us, which will give us time to set everything up. Did you bring the mines?"

"Managed to snatch two mines without anyone seeing," Tym replied, patting the extra pack he was carrying.

"Good, we'll need them. We don't want them to be driving past us after all," Kathleen said, taking one calming breath. "Remember, leave none alive. These people are criminals and murders. They're trying to kill us, but we'll kill them first. Move out."

Half an hour later the soldiers were crouched on either side of the road. The rumbling of what sounded like warthogs slowly approached. "Four warthogs about two point five klicks away," Edward announced.

"Wait for the boom, then open fire. You know what to do after that," Kathleen said, checking her battle rifle one last time. They waited patiently as the rumble grew closer and closer to their position. The noise started to pass them and Kathleen tightened her grip on her rifle. There was a large explosion caused by the lead warthog hitting the mine they'd buried. The marines popped up and fired at the second warthog in line. In less than a second the rebels were dead, slumped in their seats. The ODSS then slipped back into their cover and into the forest. As was expected, the rebels eagerly jumped out of the vehicles. Whether it was the want for revenge for their fallen fellow rebels or the pure blood lust, the rebels ran into the forest after the soldiers.

Kathleen switched on her VISR. From her spot in the shade of the trees the light was low enough to allow her to see as though she were out in the sun. Luke and Max, who were on either side of her, showed up on her HUD marked with green as friendlies. They were hard to see, though, as the plants they had used for cover blocked her view of them. They were crouched in the undergrowth in wait for the unsuspecting prey. The red dots that represented the rebels grew closer and closer. Kathleen aimed at the rebel in the center where the red dot was growing brighter and brighter. She flashed a yellow status light signaling her team to wait for their targets to get closer. When the rebels were within range and the dot was flashing a bright red Kathleen flashed her green status light. The marines opened fire cutting down the rebels. Kathleen ceased fire, and raised her left hand, causing the others to cease and lower their weapons.

She clicked on the radio. "Report," she ordered, coming out of her cover to check over the dead.

"Rebels neutralized," Tobias replied. "They had more than just battle rifles though. One of these bastards has a shotgun. Damn crappy intelligence."

"Collect it and return to your previous position," Kathleen ordered.

They checked the dead rebels and restocked their ammunition. Kathleen checked their guns looking for any trace of where they'd gotten them. She frowned as she checked the magazines in their weapons. They had so few rounds left in their actual weapons. Even if they'd gotten off any shots it wouldn't have been enough to do any real damage to her or the others. They either had no way to tell how much ammunition they had left or they didn't care. It concerned her. These rebels weren't just reckless; they were stupid.

Kathleen made her way back to their original hiding spot along the side of the road. She pulled out her pistol, moving slowly so as to not be seen. One rebel was left sitting in the driver's seat of one of the warthogs. He seemed nervous, like he was fighting to try to decide to stay or leave. He'd most likely heard the gunfire and, with his comrades not having returned, was getting worried.

Kathleen took aim and fired off one shot. She was rewarded with the driver slumping in his seat, slowly covering the steering wheel with his blood. She signaled to Luke and he slowly moved forward to the side of the warthog. He moved to the driver's side and checked the pulse to be sure the man was dead, though the large hole in the back of his head was just as good of evidence. Luke turned and gave a thumbs up, signaling that it was safe. After checking over the warthogs for any explosives they removed the dead bodies and lay them at the side of the road. The ODSS split up climbing into the warthogs before turning the jeeps around and heading down the road back to the town the rebels had come from.

They came to a stop outside the town. "It doesn't look like there's anyone here," Peter commented. "Though those thirteen guys couldn't have done all this," he added, referring to the bodies that lay in the street. The victim's blood soaked into the sand out of the bullet holes that covered the corpses.

"We'll go on foot from here. If they are still in the town they'll be in the buildings," Kathleen said, jumping out of the warthog. "We'll split up into three groups. Tobias, Emily, Luke, Max. You move along the left side of the town. Tym, Edward, Matthew, Peter. You'll go along the right side of the town. Myself, James, Pat, and David, will take the center."

The soldiers nodded and the teams split up going into different directions. The town was a virtual ghost town with nothing but dead bodies covering the ground. Doors had been kicked in and families slaughtered while others had been shot in their backs while trying to escape. Kathleen wondered if this would become a common sight for them. Would they always arrive just in time to see that they couldn't save the civilians?

"This is just carnage, pointless carnage," David muttered, looking over the bodies. It was hard to find reasoning behind the death of all these innocent people.

Kathleen ignored the comment pushing the thoughts of the dead around her from her mind as she turned on her radio. "Report."

"We haven't found anything but dead," Tobias replied, sounding disappointed. "Found the dead soldiers though. They must have been caught off guard. Probably having lunch or something when those bastards busted in," he said, with an odd tone in his voice that Kathleen could only guess was agitation. Anger would be understandable in this situation. Those soldiers were comrades, brothers in arms, and they'd been killed.

"We found the rebels," Tym reported. "They seem to have made themselves a nice little base of operations."

"Stay where you are. We'll regroup at your location," Kathleen made a few hand gestures and her team moved off.

The soldiers gathered outside a bar with boarded up windows. "How many rebels?" Kathleen asked.

"From what we can see there are about seven of them," Tym answered. "Three rebels standing guard while the other four just sit around at the tables."

Kathleen nodded and looked to the bar trying to figure out their next move. "Is the front door the only way in?"

"No, there's a door in the back. We could probably pick the lock in seconds," Tym answered.

"Good, take your team around back. Pick the lock and wait there. When you hear gunshots come to the front and kill the guards. Try not to shoot any of us though."

He nodded and his team moved off Kathleen then motioned to Tobias and he moved over to her. "Your team's with us. Aim at the ones at the tables. Don't worry about the guards."

The eight solders moved along the sides of the building staying low against the wall. They stopped on either side of the door and waited. Tym signaled that his team was in place in the back of the bar. After a few hand signals James moved forward and kicked the door open nearly breaking it off its hinges. Kathleen and Luke moved into the door way and opened fire, aiming at the rebels sitting at the tables. Unprepared and unarmed the battle rifle rounds ripped through the surprised rebels with ease.

The guards raised their guns, firing at the ODSS. The back door to the kitchen swung open, and Tym and Matthew came out of it, opening fire on the guards' unprotected backs. The gun fire stopped and a calm quiet filled the bar.

"Clear," Luke said, lowering his gun and letting out a long breath.

The others entered the building, searching it from top to bottom. They found nothing but the bodies of the rebels and the owner of the bar.

"There's nothing here," Emily reported, as she returned from checking the upstairs rooms.

Kathleen moved out of the bar making contact with the ship above them. "Star Fall, this is Seirra-113."

The radio was silent for a moment before a voice replied. "This is Star Fall, go ahead Seirra-113."

"All rebels have been neutralized. Town's been cleared," Kathleen reported. Once more she got that odd feeling that she couldn't quite place.

There was a pause before the voice returned. "Seirra-113, there is a pelican on its way."

"Understood." Kathleen turned off her radio, moving back into the bar. "Dust off in fifteen." she informed them. "I want one more sweep."

The soldiers moved off, checking over every building one last time. "All clear," Tym reported. Kathleen simply nodded staring at the road that led out of the town. "What are you thinking?"

Kathleen remained quiet and Tym feared he'd over stepped his bounds as her subordinate. It was fine to be casual in an exercise, but this was a real combat field; it was serious work. "Thirteen soldiers," Kathleen finally spoke. "What did they think they were going to do with thirteen solders against a big city with cops?"

"They aren't trained soldiers. Considering they probably had no trouble here they may have been overconfident and underestimated that the city would be much bigger. Bet they felt pretty big after killing solders," Tym suggested.

"But why did some of them stay behind? If they were finished here then why have some stay?" Kathleen asked, turning her attention to the other marine. "And on top of all of that why us?"

"I don't think I follow," Tym said, glancing back at the bar for a second. "What do you mean, why us?"

"I mean, why did they send us to do this? These rebels aren't skilled enough to require us to have to handle it. Why not send us after someone important like Watts?" she reasoned. Her team was the best and they were being wasted on rebels that any footsoldier could have handled. The ODSS should have been handling bigger tasks.

"Watts is the rebel leader. You can't expect them to give us something that important for our first mission out," Tym pointed out. "It's just a test, like those ones the Gunney always gave us."

"I don't know. Something feels wrong. Like we're not being told everything," Kathleen said, shaking her head. She turned her attention skyward as the familiar sound of pelican engines filled the air. The ship landed just outside the town in what had probably once been someone's back yard. The ODSS boarded the pelican and returned to the waiting Star Fall above.

ODSS Chapter 5
Date: 8 August 2011, 4:59 pm

Something felt wrong to Kathleen. Everything seemed fuzzy, unclear, as she looked around, scanning her surroundings. She vaguely recognized the area as the training forest on Reach she had worked in back with the Spartans. The familiar scent of fresh rain filled her nostrils as things slowly came into focus.

A heavy arm, heavier than it should have been, landed on her shoulder, slung around her in a non-threatening manner. She turned to look at the person beside her. The movements were out of sync, though, making her head spin for a moment. The world had passed by quicker than it should have, but her movement had felt sluggish. It almost felt as though she were trying to move through water. Her heart stopped for a moment and she felt like she couldn't breathe as she stared at the person beside her.

The face could be none other than that of a concerned Will, one of her fellow Spartan IIs. "What's wrong, Kat? You look sick," he asked, though the sound was all wrong, like he was miles away, though she could see him standing right beside her. She could hardly even understand the words that he said.

Anger shot up as she pushed him away, nearly falling over. Her movements were all mixed up. The young man's weight was too much and her movements felt sluggish while everything moved so fast. She had lost all her strength and she moved as though she had weights on all her limbs.

"I told you not to call me that. My name's Kathleen," she snapped, and the words came out muffled as well. She remembered it all clearly now. She remembered the way the others, like Will, had teased her about her full name. Her head started to hurt. She couldn't think straight long enough to concentrate on one thing. A part of her mind tried to focus on what was wrong with her body while the other part of her mind wanted to be swallowed by the memories of her fallen comrades. She hadn't thought about Will in so long, but it all came flooding back leaving her drowning in the memories. Her mind seemed to be as unable to focus as her body was to respond to her actions.

"I don't see why you won't let us shorten it. Kat is so much quicker," Fred argued, moving up on her other side. Kathleen hadn't even heard him move, something that unsettled her more than anything else. She hated when others got the better of her.

"Oh, leave her alone. She's allowed to be called whatever she wants to be called," Sheila said, coming up behind Kathleen. The other female Spartan smiled warmly at Kathleen as though it could smooth it all over.

"You're just saying that because your name can't be shortened," Joshua countered, walking up beside her. Kathleen flinched a moment causing the world to once more spin as it became uneven for a moment.

"Really, what's so special about your full name?" Will asked, as he removed his arm from her shoulder.

Kathleen frowned, trying to clear her mind enough to remember. For some reason she couldn't remember why her name mattered so much to her. She was reluctant to admit she didn't know the reason why it was important.

"I don't have to tell you why. I don't go around calling you Frederic and William, so don't call me Kat," she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. They'd had this argument plenty of times and it always went the same way. She almost missed the slight flinch of the boys when she said their full names. She knew nether of them liked their full names, which was why she only ever used them when she was mad.

"Get moving, Spartans," a voice shouted, drawing the attention of the five soldiers. Kathleen recognized the other Spartan right away but it took her a moment to remember the name. She had never been close to him but he was their squad leader, John or something. The other Spartans materialized like ghosts around him, staring at them. Kathleen felt like they were all staring at her. All ghosts of her past and the failed mission that left her alone.

"Yes, squad leader!" Fred shouted, back turning to Kathleen. "Come on Kat, don't want to be left behind," he said before taking off at a run toward the others. Will, Sheila, and Joshua followed, all moving like blurs as they and the others disappeared into the forest.

"Wait up," Kathleen shouted, taking a step forward to chase them down. She felt awkward, like her body moved out of line with her mind. Her foot didn't move when her mind told it to. The limb was heavy like it was encased in cement. She fell to the ground confused and alone. "Don't leave me," she muttered, letting her eyes close and her head fell to the ground hopelessly.

She never felt her head hit the grass. Her eyes opened and she found herself staring up at the ceiling of the ODSS barracks. The world was bright and vivid around her, even in the dark, while the quiet breaths of her team were crisp and clear in her ears. It had all just been a dream, though good or bad she wasn't sure. She felt a sorrow, the same she'd felt when the other Spartans disappeared, leaving her alone. She hadn't thought about the Spartans since she'd been given her own team and that seemed like an eternity ago.

Somehow seeing Will, Sheila, Fred, and Joshua again had reminded her how alone she was. Even in her own team she wasn't exactly one of them. Yes, they trusted and followed her but in the end she wasn't particularly close with any of them. Even John had been close to Kelly and Sam. She had to admit that she would always be a Spartan among ODST. She would have to live with their loyalty alone. In the end it would only hurt her more if she made friends with any of them. If one of them died on the battle field the pain of the loss of a friend may endanger their mission. At least that was the logic she was using in her head. She may not be an ODST but these soldiers were her ODST and she was going to lead them to hell and be sure they all made it back.

She sat up looking around at her soldiers. Everyone was an elite warrior trained to be more fearless and strong than any other. She was proud of what they'd become. Despite their physical limitations she was sure they could give any Spartan a run for their money. She noticed movement to her right and turned to look at the figure.

"Still feel like something's missing?" Tym asked, sitting up. After their first assignment they'd been sent out on mission after mission that seemed to under-utilize them. Every time they had been sent out, Kathleen felt like they weren't being told everything. She nodded to the question. "Any ideas what it might be?"

Kathleen shook her head. She wasn't even sure how likely it was that anything was being kept from them. The only evidence she had was a feeling, and that wasn't good enough reason to try to confront Sergeant Saran about it.

"You going to talk to Saran about it?"

Kathleen almost scolded the private for calling the Gunnery Sergeant by his name but she stopped. He had always been the kind of soldier that they didn't feel comfortable calling by his full but with her recent promotion to Sergeant they were reluctant to call him Sarge. He had trained them. He'd been the father figure that taught them everything that they knew. Calling him by his name seemed somehow disrespectful while calling him by his full rank seemed seemed to be too distant.

She shook her head again and Tym sighed. "I see you're in a talkative mood," he joked, trying to lighten things.

"Obviously not as talkative of a mood as you, shrimp," Kathleen shot back, knowing that he hated short jokes. Out of all her solders he was the shortest and they all teased him about it. "Go back to sleep," she instructed. He merely shrugged and lay back down.

"Maybe one day you'll be talkative enough to tell us when something's wrong without being asked," he muttered, as he pulled his blanked up and settled in.

There was a snort on Kathleen's left side and she turned to look at Tobias. From his breathing it was obvious to her he had been faking sleep. "It'll be a cold day in hell when that happens."

"Both of you go to sleep," Kathleen ordered, starting to get a bit annoyed by the jokes. She was serious, but mocking your CO was supposed to be something you didn't do. She scowled in the darkness. Oddly, she wasn't as bothered by it as she felt she should have been.

"Yes, Sarge," they said in unison.

Kathleen waited until she was sure they were asleep before she lay back down. She stared at the ceiling unable to stop her mind from racing.

For some reason she was sure the other Spartans had something to do with her suspicions. She'd always wondered why there had been no funerals for them, even though they gave their lives in the line of duty. She never got her chance to say goodbye to the family she'd spent eight of the hardest years of her life with. They had been her brothers and sisters, gone through all the training, all the hard times, even taken the big jump with her, though they hadn't survived.

Now the ODSS were her family, her brothers in arms. She couldn't stop herself from doubting how truthful the UNSC was being about it and couldn't stop the bit of anger the doubts created. She trusted the UNSC, they made her what she was, and she was doubting them. She hated herself for it, but in the back of her mind she knew it was possible that they would lie. She hated liars, though the reason for her hatred was another thing she couldn't remember, like why her full name mattered so much.

She slowly drifted off, her mind too tired to continue to think. She was again plagued by memories of the Spartans. Memories of Fred and Will teasing her, of Sheila and her mocking the boys when they couldn't keep up, of her and Joshua on the shooting range, and memories of days spent in the woods, and she enjoyed every moment of it.

ODSS Chapter 6
Date: 13 August 2011, 1:34 am


The whole bar smelled of smoke and Kathleen hated it. She'd never liked the smell, even when Chief Mendez had smoked. From the frown and slightly sick look on David's face she'd guess he didn't like it either. Edward seemed fine, as though he couldn't even smell it at all.

The only reason they were there was because they were waiting for Matthew. This mission was like nothing they'd really ever expected to be doing. They'd come to the planet on a commercial ship dressed as civilians. They'd had to smuggle their equipment in, making Kathleen feel like they weren't here to protect the people. It felt more like they were hiding from them, something ODST did not do. It all bothered Kathleen.

They were used to, and trained in, a more forward approach, but here they were waiting for Matthew to bring them their informant. Of course, the man didn't know that he was an informant. She and her team were playing the part of former soldiers that were looking to join the local rebels. If they knew that they were active soldiers trying to infiltrate the rebel forces to take down their leader he would never talk to them.

Kathleen would prefer to take the guy in a back room and interrogate him but they'd been working for several weeks to build up the credit to even get the guy to talk to them. The UNSC had crafted names and back stories including dishonorable discharges for weapons sales for each of them and she wasn't about to destroy all that work when the guy might not even know anything.

Matthew finally returned, sliding into a seat across from Kathleen. She had to admit that without the military fatigues her troops easily passed for normal. Matthew had been their choice to lure the man in because he had the ability to look the least threatening. His blond hair, green eyes, and charming smile just screamed that he loved puppies and would never hurt another soul, though she knew that wasn't true. Edward was able to look cool and natural but there was a hint of who he really was. His blue eyes were ice with a bit of human warmth to them but she knew from experience that it was just a way of hiding what was under. What was under was an Aryan race demon, a person that liked the job of killing. David seemed a bit between though. Somewhere between the harmless Matthew and the ice cold Edward, like a corporal that you can joke with at lunch but when you get to the battle he's all business.

A nervous-looking man took a seat beside Matthew, not even looking at the group. He checked over the entire room before he finally turned his attention to the soldiers. He sat in silence, stunned by the sight of the Spartan. He finally snapped out of it, looking at the others.

"So, you guys want to join the rebels?" He tried to play it casual as though he hadn't just been staring at one of them.

The man obviously didn't know how to be subtle. Any smart man would have been less forward and looked less scared. It would figure though that only the low on the latter would be willing to try to deal with ex-soldiers. Most likely the man thought it would raise him in the ranks of the rebels if he could get soldiers to become rebels.

To Kathleen all people that weren't soldiers were selfish at heart. They had their own desires and even if they hid it as trying to do what was right for the people, they were really in it for themselves.

"Got that right." Edward was playing the part of the leader as he was the best actor and the most able to pass off as normal.

"Your friend here tells me you were all soldiers. Why would you go against the UNSC?" The man leaned forward on the table. They'd thought of that question a long time ago.

"Being a soldier's a job like any other. Just because we worked for them doesn't mean we agree with them." Edward frowned, leaning back in his seat. "We've fought rebels and they were just normal people, and when you listen to them they really just want freedom. As people that were slaves to the military, forced to harm innocents, we can understand that want and want to help you gain that freedom. You can also say it's a bit of an apology for the past actions against the rebels."

He was a better actor than Kathleen had expected. Sure, he could walk the walk, but he could also talk the talk and make it believable. She knew he loved the UNSC and the freedom to kill. On top of that he'd made it clear before that he believed that the rebels were not innocent and deserved what they got. Despite that here he sat, and if she didn't know better, she would think he meant it.

"So what can you offer us? You know, weapons, what kind of training?" The man picked at his nails, sounding unsure if they would be of use.

"We're former ODST. Doesn't get better than us." Edward pulled up his right sleeve enough so that the man could see the flaming skull tattoo on his shoulder. It was one of the two that he'd gotten when the team had decided they needed tattoos.

Kathleen personally liked the other one better. It was a simple scythe between his shoulders with the words 'I am' above it and the word 'death' below it. It was better than the one that Emily had gotten. She'd gotten a cross on her left wrist with the word 'executioner' below it. It had never made since to Kathleen as Emily had no sort of faith but the ODSS had insisted it was an inside joke. It must have been one that was outside of the ODSS because no one else but Edward seemed to get it.

"All right, meet me at this address tomorrow night at nine." The man sliding a piece of paper toward Edward. He left without another word, leaving the bar trying, but failing, to look casual.

Matthew turned to Kathleen as Edward slid the paper toward her. "What do you think? Think we can trust him?"

She paused to think over the question. "We go for it and be ready for it to be a trap. There's nothing more we can do. If we don't show they'll think us weak and if we do and it's a trap we kill them."

They paid their tab leaving the bar to return to their hotel. The six solders that had come were staying in two hotel rooms in one of the more run-down hotels. They didn't really mind though, it kept up with the soldiers-scorned-by-the-UNSC appearance they were going for. They were small rooms with two beds and a couch, enough room for three people each. The dusty white walls and gold carpet seemed tacky to Kathleen but she wasn't expecting to like the room. A soldier never really liked the fox hole they were sleeping in either, but it was somewhere safe and somewhere to keep their stuff.

"How'd it go?" Emily looked up from the battle rifle she was cleaning. She'd been watching the news from the looks of it and the fuzzy news channel she was watching on the small TV that was in the room.

"We're meeting him again tomorrow night. We're not sure if it's a trap, so we'll have to be ready for anything." Kathleen took a seat on one of the beds. "You two will tail us. If shit gets bad we'll need the help. We can't afford to let this guy get away." Emily and Max nodded. "I want you two to scout out the location. Just pass it, I want to know what kind of area we're dealing with." She passed the address over to Max.

"You got it, Sarge." Max took the paper and looked it over. The two left and the room fell into silence with only the sound of the newscaster's voice informing them of the most recent case of an animal saving a human's life. The solders fell into their routine checking over their side arms until the others returned.

Matthew and David both lay one on the beds. Edward sat down on the edge of the bed that David was laying on and continued the cleaning of the battle rifle that Emily had been doing earlier. "You mess with her equipment, she'll kill you." Matthew looked over at him chuckling slightly at the idea.

"She won't kill him, she might threaten him but she won't kill him. They like to work together, remember?" David lay back on the bed, pillowing his head on his hands. He crossed his legs and took a deep breath relaxing. "It would be like Luke killing Peter."

"Well, now that would never happen." Matthew chuckled to himself at the idea of the best friends killing each other. "She might actually punch him. I'd like to see that, just to find out how it all plays out."

"I don't think I'd want to find out mainly because I think how it would end would scar me forever and I wouldn't be able to look at them without feeling shame," David sat up grabbing his knee when Edward slammed his fist down on David's shin.

David gave him a non-threatening grin, trying to calm down the killer marine. "This is your only warning, the next time you make a crack like that I'll hit you hard enough that you'll lose some teeth." Edward turned away from him and back to his task.

"I hear you loud and clear, good buddy," David sighed, glad that he had gotten away with a warning hit.

Kathleen was ignoring them, used to the soldiers fighting with each other, even more in close quarters while they had to wait for something. She instead was watching the news, a bit entertained by it. The current story was one of a science fair that had happened at a local school. The people all seemed so happy with the simple little event in their life. They acted as though it was a big event that would change the course of history. She sometimes forgot how mundane the lives of civilians were. Compared to their life it seemed so boring.

The room's door opened and Edward had the battle rifle pointed at it, only relaxing when Emily and Max walked into the room. Emily stormed over to him, snatching the rifle from his hands. "Who said that you could touch my weapon?" She clenched her fists, obviously struggling not to hit him.

"So, do tell. What's the place look like?" David holstered his weapon as soon as Max shut the door.

"It is just an old warehouse. I guess an ideal place to have a meeting, though it seems a bit old-school to me." Emily shrugged as she sat down next to Edward on the bed. "No real signs that it's being used for anything. Sign out front though said it used to be automations factory."

"Any signs there was anyone there when you passed it?" Kathleen leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "How many levels?"

"No signs of life, three levels." Emily looked up at the ceiling, drawing on her memories. "Though the higher levels look like they might not be stable."

"You could still fit a lot of people in there. We don't know how big these forces are or how well-armed they are." Kathleen looked down to the floor, mind going to work.

"I'm sure no matter how many there are we can take them. I'm sure they don't want to start a fight in the middle of town where people could hear and call the cops." Edward leaned against Emily, using her to prop himself up.

"Maybe they'll be nice enough to take us out to the country where we can kill them and no one will hear them scream," Emily leaned a bit with the man's weight against her. She had an oddly sweet smile that just made her look crazy.

"So are we not going to go? I mean it's still a really big risk of being caught." Matthew lay back looking up at the ceiling.

"No, we're going. We just have to be ready for this to get bad real fast. Let's all just be glad our orders are to kill not capture the guy." Kathleen looked up from the floor. "Now get some shut-eye. We'll have to be well-rested for tomorrow." The ODSS had a quick fight over who got what bed and who was sleeping on the floor they settled in for the night.

ODSS Chapter 7
Date: 26 August 2011, 2:12 pm

Kathleen hated cars, and for a good reason. They were just too small for her Spartan size. Here she was, though, crammed into the back seat of a car. The first location they had been given wasn't where they were heading now. When they'd arrived they found their informant and one other man present. They had crammed Edward, Matthew, David, and her all in the back seat of a car that only meant to carry three adults and, if you forced one in, a midget.

When the car finally did stop and they were let out, she couldn't get out fast enough. The cramped space gave her no room to move and it had left her feeling a bit stiff. She stretched out trying to loosen up her muscles. She looked over where they'd stopped and wasn't at all surprised. They had driven out into the country far away from the lights and people of the city.

What was odd was the building they had arrived at. The building was an old style mansion though it looked like no one had taken care of it in years. Paint peeled from the walls, shutters hung by a single hinge, and the door looked like it if you knocked on it too hard, it would splinter apart.

The two men led them to the house, pausing only for a moment to knock in some code before the doors were pulled open for them. One guard stood on the inside of the door though he didn't look like he was awake most of the time. The inside wasn't much better than the outside. The tables and chairs were worn and old and the floor creaked with every step. If you turned off the lights it would make a perfect haunted house.

Edward took the lead, playing the part of the guy in charge. There was a lack of security. It either meant that the rebels were off doing something, or it meant they were so few in numbers they didn't have the manpower. The UNSC had been trying to stop this group early so maybe it was the latter. To pose enough guards

The man led them down a hall of doors, a total of six which could all could be hiding danger behind them. For all Kathleen knew each room was a housing area for soldiers. They'd have to worry about it when the time came to get away. For now they had to focus on their main target.

They were led to a large oak door that had two guards standing on either side. One of the guards opened the door into what was the library. The shelves of books that covered the walls looked like they'd never been touched, all the books in perfect condition but covered with dust. Inside the room there were two more guards who closed the door behind Kathleen. Her attention, though, was drawn to the center of the room and their target.

His name was Benjamin Donal. He'd been part of the Colonial Military some years ago. He'd been under suspicion for some time for helping the rebels, and it seemed now that they had been right all along. Too many times supplies such as explosives went missing under his watch and it had been noticed. He'd left the CMA about half a year ago and that was when the group on this planet had appeared. This confirmed the suspicions as facts, but as she looked at him now there was no doubt in her mind that he'd been working against them for a long time. That he'd been responsible for the death of UNSC and CMA soldiers alike.

"So you're interested in joining our group?" Donal sat straight up in the red leather chair he was sitting on. He was obviously trying to make himself look like a strong leader, though he was failing to Kathleen.

His military uniform almost made him look like a soldier except it was a CMA uniform. To any real solider the CMA was like a joke. Their soldiers weren't properly trained, they had bad equipment, and because so many CMA soldiers were suspected rebels, they never got the hard jobs. Compared to ODST training the CMA training was a picnic on a perfect day. From the insignia on his collar Donal had risen to lieutenant, but in an army like the CMA even a private of the UNSC could be a Sergeant. Kathleen wasn't impressed, though she didn't let it show.

"Yes, we're interested in assisting you in your cause, sir." Edward stood at attention as, though the lieutenant insignia meant anything at all to him.

Donal seemed pleased to be called 'sir'. The damned pride of humans was usually their downfall. "So, I hear you're all former UNSC ODST." He motioned toward Kathleen. "Is she naturally that way?"

"Yes, we are all former ODST." Edward grinned a bit at the second question. "She's all natural."

Donal paused as if trying to tell if Edward was lying. As far as Edward knew, Kathleen had been born a giant with inhuman strength and reflexes. She'd never told them about the other Spartans; she had been ordered not to. Saran had blatantly called it a cover-up to a failed project.

Donal nodded. "My apologies for my suspicion. You can't be too careful with all the rumors about giant soldiers that attack rebels. Your friend fits the description," he explained, as he stood. He tried to look commanding and proud, but after having worked with Saran, Kathleen felt like he was mocking the role of leader. The Gunnery Sergeant looked like a rock hard leader all the time without trying. This man was trying way too hard.

"Oh, we completely understand." Edward put his hands up to show he was unarmed. "The world is a dangerous place and you can't always trust people right away anymore."

With Donal standing it was obvious he was unarmed. No gun on his belt and the way he stood was too straight for any sort of hidden arm. That put Kathleen at ease enough to make her move.

"Enough." Kathleen turned to one of the guards. "You should have taken our weapons."

She moved forward like a flash of lighting. She easily snapped the first guard's neck. The other turned to face her, but David's combat knife found the second guard's heart, and he crumpled to the ground. Kathleen turned to find Edward cleaning off his own knife, Donal lifeless in the chair, throat slashed open.

Matthew and David took the battle rifles the guards had been carrying but hadn't had the time to use. Kathleen and Edward drew their side arms.

"That was too easy." Edward slid a round into the barrel of his gun.

"It's the CMA. What do you expect, an operation like what Watts had?" David checked over his rifle, satisfied that it was usable.

"Not exactly, but more than this." Edward frowned as he glared down at the dead rebel leader. "I barely got to kill anything. Every rebel group should at least have a few things for me to kill."

"Well, it's not over yet. We still have to get out of here and back to town without our car." Kathleen pulled back the slide of her gun to load it. "We break out of here, kill the two guards outside the door and run for it. Kill anything that shoots at us if you get a chance. Once we get outside, Emily and Max should be waiting for us and we can use the dark to make our escape. On three. One, two, three."

The soldiers threw open the door, catching the guards by surprise. David and Matthew took out the guards with a quick three round burst to their chests, and the rebels dropped. The soldiers made a break for it, sprinting through the house. The sound of bullets firing through the air surrounded them. A few doors in the hallway opened to reveal what seemed to be unprepared rebels behind them. The soldiers fired toward the group, taking out a few of the rebels and forcing the others back into the room.

Kathleen ran ahead, slamming her shoulder against the front doors and knocking them off their hinges. She felt a single shot hit her left leg as the guard that had been posted at the main door opened fire. He fell a second later as a bullet from Edward's gun found his head. The soldiers dashed out across the yard, jumping over the untrimmed bushes that lined the walkway up to the mansion.

The rebels stopped at the threshold and opened fire after the soldiers that were quickly becoming shadows in the dark night. Shots echoed from across the lawn and two of the rebels fell as Max and Emily opened fire from their hiding spots at the tree line. As soon as the main group passed into the trees, Emily and Max followed after weaving through the trees toward the city.

Once they'd gotten closer to the city limits, the soldiers had stopped just long enough to bandage up Kathleen's leg. They disguised it enough to look like she'd just wrapped a bandana around her leg as a fashion statement.

The UNSC had preset their evac point and it meant crossing the city to get to it. Kathleen was just glad it would be through citizen covered streets rather than through the forest. The rebels wouldn't be able to open fire on them without alerting the cops of what was going on and that was too great of a risk.

They ditched the rifles before they made their way down to the city streets so they wouldn't be given away. Kathleen noticed that they were getting a few looks from passing civilians. "Loosely scatter and head to the evac point."

Max and Matthew moved to the other side of the street, starting up a conversation about what they wanted to eat for a late-night meal. David dropped behind Kathleen a good distance—behind, but still within sight. Emily and Edward moved a bit faster, pulling ahead, Edward putting his arm around Emily's shoulder and chattering nonsense about a movie that had come out not long ago. Kathleen had to admit that she'd somehow taught them how to blend in with a crowd, despite the fact that she felt like she stood out like a sore thumb towering over the other people.

It took them longer than Kathleen had hoped to get to their evac point. The streets had been crowded and there had been no direct path from one side of the city to the other.

They finally reached the waiting pelican, though it seemed like an odd place. It was sitting in a local park and the pelican was obviously out of place. It was a bit unsettling, but Kathleen held her tongue, not bringing up her worry. She wondered how many of her soldiers were doing the same thing. They filed in and took their seats, glad to be somewhere they considered safe.

Kathleen grabbed the com for the radio, making contact with the ship above. "Star Fall, this is Sierra-one-one-three."

She was surprised that rather than being answered by an unknown communications officer Saran replied. "Sierra-one-one-three, this is Star Fall, you done on the ground?"

"Yes, threat has been neutralized. We are returning to the ship." She kept the unease from her voice. Too much was different and wrong at the moment, and something was odd in Saran's voice. His voice was like ice over the radio and she could almost see his furrowed brow and deep frown.

"Good, 'cause we've got bigger things to do." Saran's voice was no longer hiding that something was very wrong. Whatever it was, it must have been very big. A nervous pilot, Saran directly answering the com, and on top of that the worried tone.

"Exactly what kind of bigger things do we have to do?" Kathleen bit her tongue as she waited for an answer.

"We made contact with alien life." Saran's voice made it evident that it wasn't a good thing like the science nerds always hoped. "They smoked our asses and whipped out the ships we sent. They're supposedly out to kill all humans. All UNSC personnel are being reassigned to face the new threat."

"Understood." Kathleen put the radio back in its place. What more could she say?

"New assignment?" Matthew sounded a bit excited. Kathleen supposed it was because the last mission hadn't been as fulfilling as they'd all been hoping.

"Like none we've ever had before." Kathleen's voice was as cold as Saran's had been, but tinted with anger. The others fell silent, anticipating the fight ahead.

ODSS Chapter 8
Date: 11 September 2011, 3:13 am

Kathleen checked over her gear one last time, making sure it was all there. Her team was doing the same thing before leaning back into their pods. The SOEIV pods made it much easier to follow right on the heels of the Covenant attacks. They would be dropping out of slipspace any minute and when they did the ODSS would be dropped onto the planet. Hopefully when they got there, there would be someone left to save.

Kathleen leaned back in her pod, closing the door. She double checked her HUD, being sure it and the VISR system was working. When all status lights turned green, she contacted the bridge. "Staff Sergeant Spartan one-one-three reporting ODSS ready to drop."

"Copy that Sierra-one-one-three. Drop in one minute." The communications officer was cold and distant as always.

Kathleen made sure that her radio was set to the team channel. "Be ready for hell on the ground. That means gas breathers, birds, and whatever else they decide to throw at us."

"I'm sure they'll have stationary guns. What else can they throw at us?" Luke didn't seem all that worried.

Peter seemed a bit annoyed. "Don't ask a stupid question like that. They might just answer it."

The ODSS hadn't had that much actual contact with the Covenant. They'd only been fighting them for about a month and a half, and most of the contact had been with grunts and only a couple jackals. Grunts were easy enough to kill, even easier when they were scared. Jackals were only a little harder to kill than the slightly shorter aliens. Peter could pick off snipers with ease, and as long as you could get past the energy shields of the others, their skulls caved in nicely. Still, there were so many of them, and soldiers were dying at their hands.

She shifted a bit, uncomfortable. The higher ups had insisted she wear different armor from her soldiers. They called it Mark IV MJOLNIR battle armor. It made her stronger and faster, like she needed it. Kathleen personally hated the armor. All her soldiers wore the signature ODST black body armor and here she was in her giant olive green MJOLNIR.

The light in her pod turned from red to green, and the world fell out below her, drawing her pack into the world. She watched the other pods follow soon behind her own pod. The shark-like Covenant ships hung in the air as she fell, reminding her of her enemy and how different they were from anything else that humanity had ever fought.

Kathleen looked down at the planet that she was hurtling toward. The surface was partially scorched already and she only hoped that there would be someone, or something to save. She'd seen planets that had been what the UNSC called 'glassed'. The life burned from them by fire from above like they'd been smitten by an angry god. She supposed that was sort of what the Covenant had been going for, the feeling that this was the work of a god, not mortals.

She hit the atmosphere and the slight rise in heat that she was used to was absent. The tech had mentioned something about climate control systems in the suit; seemed they worked. She looked out, glad to see all 11 of the other pods breaking through the atmosphere successfully. She closed her eyes, waiting for the final thud.

It didn't take long for the bone shattering hit. In this armor, though, it was dull as the armor took most of the impact. Kathleen quickly released her hatch, stepping out onto the soft sand of the Biko beach. Her M7S scanned the area before she ran out across the field. Yellow dots appeared on her motion tracker as the rest of her team followed toward their target.

There was a long list of targets that they were hoping to reach, though she doubted they'd get to half the list before the Covenant started glassing the planet. The first target on the list was a large building that quickly came into view, and from the looks it was going to have plenty of Covenant inside.

Kathleen skidded to a halt, hidden behind one of the burnt up cars that had been parked outside of the building. "What we got?"

Peter looked over each and every level. "I've got jackal snipers on three floors. Carbines, not the beam rifle kind."

"Turrets out front, little bastards manning them." Pat spoke quietly, though their voices couldn't be heard outside of their helmets. "Both are alert and awake."

"So, business as usual." Tobias chuckled to himself. "So what's the plan Sarge?"

"We find whoever's in charge and we shoot them in the face." Kathleen checked over her weapon and plotted out their next course of action. "Are the snipers on all sides?"

There was a long pause as Peter moved around the back of the building to check. "Yep, full 360."

"We're going distraction. Tym, Peter, and James will stay out front. When I give the signal, they'll snipe the front jackals and destroy the turrets. In the commotion, Alpha Team, Edward, Emily, Luke, Matthew, and I, will break into the back right side of the building. Beta Team, Tobias, Pat, David, and Max, will break into the back left side of the building. Each team will kill all threats." Kathleen gave the orders as quickly as she could and the teams all flashed their green lights.

The teams moved into place behind, being sure to hide from the sniper jackal's sights. Once they were in place Kathleen flashed her green status light. She didn't hear Peter's shots, but the snipers in the rear of the building turned. Less than a second later, there were two bangs as the shades in the front were destroyed.

With the snipers distracted, Kathleen's team crossed the distance between their hiding spot and the building. She easily leapt though one of the broken windows on the ground level. The four thuds behind her assured her that her team had followed. They moved through the building, their VISR systems making it easier to navigate the unlit halls and rooms.

They moved from room to room, dispatching any grunts or jackals they found, painting the rooms a nice mixture of blue and purple blood. Most of the enemies were caught off guard enough that the marines didn't fire their weapons, choosing rather to slam their guns into the alien's skulls. Kathleen had to admit it was a satisfying feeling to crush a Covenant's head. As far as she was concerned, they all deserved to have their faces caved in by having something forcefully slammed into their heads. Marines and ODST had died to the creatures and their energy weapons. Every dead alien meant one less plasma pistol firing at the soldiers that would follow her team.

They easily cleared the first five floors, filling the halls with the sounds of crushing skulls and fearful cries of grunts. The soldiers really only had to worry about the jackals that were partially occupied with trying to get the grunts to stop running away.

They did hit a problem when they reached the sixth floor. The aliens on this level must have heard the noise below and had been ready for the marines. Kathleen ducked back into the stairwell just in time to avoid being hit by a large blast of energy from an overcharged plasma pistol. The green ball hit the wall, leaving a large burn mark on the once clean white wall.

"We've hit trouble on the sixth floor." Tobias' grumbled something over the com. Kathleen couldn't make out the words but she knew that it was some sort of curse.

"Same here, damn jackals have a barrier made of their shields." Kathleen glanced out. "Have they seen you yet?"

"Don't think so. They seemed to be distracted by something." Tobias peeked out from his own position. "What's the plan for getting through them?"

"We'll have to make them give us an opening. Alpha will blast them back, and when they give the chance Beta will finish the job." Kathleen took one of the grenades from her belt. She lobbed the grenade at the feet of the jackals, and the explosive force of the grenade caused the jackals to stumble back. Luke and Kathleen moved out of the stairwell and fired. Rounds ripped through the jackals, causing the second line to turn to the new threat, shields now up to protect them from the bullets.

"Now!" Kathleen shouted to Beta team. She and Luke slipped back into the stairs as David and Pat moved out of the opposite stairs and opened fire on the jackal's unprotected backs. Purple blood splattered the shields as the rounds found the unarmored flesh of the aliens. The marines gathered in the center of the hallway in front of the doors that the jackals had been protecting.

They were just about to break down the doors when a force behind the metal threw them apart and out toward the soldiers. The bulk of a seven foot tall alien slammed into Matthew, forcing him against the wall. The alien was like nothing they'd seen yet. Its four-pronged mouth spread wide as it roared in Matthew's face, trying to crush him with pure force. David opened fire, but the bullets were deflected by an energy shield that surrounded the entire alien. It dropped Matthew, moving forward, and in a second rammed into David and sent the marine flying. The soldier was pinned to the ground by the weight as the alien grunted out something in its natural tongue.

Kathleen charged forward, slamming into the alien. It turned, righting itself to keep on its feet as it faced the enemy that dare attack it. It charged at Kathleen and she met it half way, surprised to find that the alien was just as strong as her. Even with her enhanced strength from the armor, she was finding it hard to hold it off. The two struggled; each trying to get the upper hand against their enemy. Kathleen couldn't seem to find an opening. The new alien wasn't just showing strength but strategy.

The loud blast of a shotgun resonated as Tobias fired point blank at the alien's chest. The shield flickered and then died, leaving the enemy vulnerable. Kathleen took her chance, pushing the creature away and drawing her M6C. She fired half the clip and the rounds tore through the creature's head and neck, splattering purple blood in a halo behind it.

The alien finally fell to the ground in a lifeless heap. Kathleen stopped to catch her breath and examine the alien. Even with the enhanced armor making her stronger and faster, the alien had been on par with her, and it was unsettling. The idea of her soldiers trying to take one on hand to hand was even more unsettling.

"What was that thing?" Edward looked down at the dead alien, nudging it with his foot to be sure it was dead.

"I don't know, but I'd have to guess that it was in charge. Damn, think the thing might have bruised me up some, or a lot." David coughed as Luke helped him up from the ground.

"How do you know that it was in charge?" Emily moved over to Matthew to check on him. The soldier was still gasping for air and trying to calm himself down.

"Well, I can easily crush a grunt's skull. Do you think that something that could have crushed my skull would take orders from a grunt or jackal?" David put up his hands, challenging her to come up with some logic.

"They might if they weren't smart enough to be able to take the lead." Emily smirked behind her helmet.

"Yeah, but that thing ambushed us. That doesn't really say stupid to me." Tobias moved over to them to join the conversation. "I say we just hope there aren't any more of them."

Kathleen finally managed to snap out of her thoughts. "Enough chatter, there's more work to be done."

The team nodded, and they left, leaving the new-found alien behind. They'd have to make a report about it later, but for now they had to worry about the rest of the buildings on their list.

They spend the rest of the day trying to clear all the buildings, and had gotten less than half-way through when they were called back, and had to watch helplessly as the planet was glassed.
Kathleen stood in Saran's office, her mind still on the lost planet. How many had just lost their home? How many had lost their lives there? Most importantly, how could she make the covenant pay?

Saran sat behind the desk, watching the footage of the earlier encounter with the elite. He looked lost in thought as he watched the footage in silence. Kathleen wondered what was on his mind, though she doubted that he would tell her unless she needed to know.

Saran didn't move his eyes from the images that were still playing. "And you only found one?"

Kathleen nodded, and Saran sighed. "All right, you and your team get some rest. I want you to be ready for some more of these if you find any. I'll make sure ONI gets this." Kathleen nodded and left, leaving Saran alone. Once he was sure she was gone he turned to the holopad in his office. "Maria."

An AI flared to life, her avatar filling the room with pure white light. "How can I help you Gunnery Sergeant?" She smirked and stood up a bit straighter. For an unknown reason she'd chosen the form of a woman wearing knight's armor. Every AI had its own look, though for many of them the choice of appearance was something rather personal and made no sense on the outside.

"Please erase all copies of this video." Saran motioned to the footage of the elite that was now paused, showing the alien crushing Matthew against a wall.

"Sir, shouldn't this be passed on ONI for analysis?" Maria frowned, unsure she had heard the Sergeant correctly.

"All information about the ODSS is top secret; therefore, sharing this with ONI would allow them to know of the ODSS and cannot be allowed. Besides, if they've met one I'm sure it won't be long until the other Spartans meet one." Saran tapped his finger on the desk. "Now delete it."

"Yes, sir." Maria paused for a moment, and the video he'd been watching vanished from the screen. "It has been done."

"That's all for now." Saran waved his hand, and Maria vanished, leaving the room feeling oddly dark. The Gunnery Sergeant leaned back in his chair, feeling unsure of his actions. He was following orders but that didn't make him feel better.

ODSS Chapter 9
Date: 27 September 2011, 4:50 am


Kathleen's pod hit the ground and she barely even felt it. After 19 years of fighting she'd become a bit numb to it all. Each one seemed to only be another lost battle. After a while you had to become numb to it all or it would become too much. Driven by her desire to protect her team and get back at the Covenant for every planet and soldier she fought through it all, enjoying every Covenant that she killed.

Her team was often dropped into the heart of a conflict for one reason or another, whether by pod or by pelican. That's what they were doing now. The ODSS were being dropped into the heart of the current conflict on Miridem. Apparently the ONI had some important people and information on the planet. Kathleen's team would make a distraction in the center of the city while a naval team extracted the personnel.

The hatch blew off of Kathleen's pod and she came face to face with five grunts that had gathered around, confused. Her M7S rose and in seconds she had cut down the grunts with a satisfying thud as each hit the ground. She slipped out of her pod, moving into the shadows. She melted into the darkness, moving through the streets, avoiding the patrols that she passed to reach the meeting point.

It didn't take long for the rest of the soldiers to gather to prepare to make final plans. "I saw the perfect place to hit." Tym sounded overly pleased. "They've got a dozen wraiths all in one spot. If we destroy those wraiths, the covies will have lost their big ground fire."

"Then that's our target. We should be able to make a big enough commotion there to give the extraction team a chance. We'll grab a couple for ourselves. Intel says there are hunters on the ground. Lead the way to their motor pool." Kathleen motioned for him to take lead.

They hadn't been told directly that there were hunters, but she'd recognized them from the images that she'd been given. They'd met the monstrous creatures once before and they'd nearly been wiped out by the cannons. It had taken several plasma grenades attached to the alien's head to kill it. Kathleen didn't really want to face one without a tank or a rocket launcher, but when in need a wraith was just as good.

Tym led the group to what had either been a park or a lot that was going to be developed. Whatever it was, it was nothing but trampled ground. The wraith tanks were all lined up perfectly so that they would be ready to be sent out. The layout would work better for the ODSS. Destroying one would damage the wraiths on either side.

"You know, if we wanted, we could just steal all of them." Matthew fidgeted for a moment and then chuckled nervously, hoping his hadn't taken it too far.

Kathleen shook her head. "We'll only take half of them. We'll take the back row and destroy the front row. The six not in wraiths will be needed to protect those inside the wraiths. They can use the ghosts to make it easier." She motioned to the lighter purple vehicles that were set up in groups around the area.

"Who's taking the wraiths?" Tym eyed the tanks hopefully. It wasn't often they got a chance to steal Covenant vehicles and they were very destructive.

"James, Matthew, Tym, Luke, Pat, and I will be taking the wraiths. The others will take the ghosts." Kathleen stretched out a bit, though she didn't really need it with the armor to mechanically enhance her.

The team that would take the wraiths moved across the street, hiding in a broken down apartment building, waiting for their chance. As soon as a patrol passed they sprinted across the street to the wraiths. To be sure there were no slip-ups, Kathleen had assigned each of the soldiers to a wraith, including which ghost would protect which wraith.

Kathleen slipped into her pilot's seat and it all felt familiar. She found that happened rather often with Covenant technology. A plasma pistol felt as normal to her as any regular gun. She'd never driven a wraith before but she felt like she knew what to do. She'd had the same thing happen the first time she'd used a ghost, like it was instinct. She powered up the tank and fired forward. The ball of blue stuck the wraith in front of her and almost as one the others fired lighting up the row in front of them in blasts of light blue as the wraiths were destroyed.

The Covenant didn't seem to know what to do. Kathleen brought the target arrow up for a wider shot. She fired again and the shot soared through the air, hitting a group of confused and startled grunts.

"Hunters coming up on your six," Edward alerted them over the com. Kathleen awkwardly turned in time to see the hunters coming up on them. The lead hunter was just about to fire when a wraith shot hit it dead center.

"Damn, I'm good at this!" Luke's voice rang over the team channel. "I make an art out of winging it."

Kathleen fired on the remaining hunter, leaving only charred armor as a reminder it had existed. "All right, teams of four, two wraiths, two ghosts. Clear out the rest." She turned the wraith down a street. She hit a few lamp posts but the wraith either knocked them down or the fins directed her away from it. She made sure James's wraith was following before she moved off down the street while Peter and Edward followed behind them, their ghosts weaving between the two tanks.

They met with little real resistance. No matter how many passes they made along a road, though, there always seemed to be something to kill. Whether a pack of grunts running for their life or a patrol with an elite urging the others forward to attack. They kept up the sweeps for almost an hour until they were contacted by the ship.

"Sierra-one-one-three, come in. This is Star Fall," the communication's officer called over the radio.

"Roger Star Fall. This is Sierra-one-one-three." Kathleen let off another blast and caused the elite to dive to safety though not for long as the ghosts moved into position to finish it off.

"New orders Sierra. Your team is to destroy the ONI facility." The officer was hurried and seemed on edge.

"Copy that Star Fall. Have all ONI personnel been evacuated?" Kathleen waited for the ghosts to get back into position before moving on.

"Positive, Sierra. You're doing clean up. Can't let the Covies have the knowledge that couldn't be removed." There was a bang on the other end and someone shouted orders in the background. The Star Fall must have been having a bit of trouble in its fight.

"Understood, Star Fall. We'll have the place destroyed ASAP." Kathleen switched to the team channel. "New objective. We're heading to the ONI facility to do clean up. Hope you brought a big enough bang."

"Oh, you know that I did. Not to mention we have the greatest detonators." Tym fell in line behind Kathleen's wraith.

"You're too excited." Emily moved into her place as a side guard for the wraiths.

The line of wraiths moved down the streets to the concrete structure that was the ONI facility. The wraiths lined up side by side outside of the building while the ghost team set up the explosives inside the building.

"Sarge, there's something here you might want to see." Emily's voice seemed nervous and Kathleen noted that the message was over a private channel. She and Edward were standing around what appeared to be a pile of metal. Kathleen exited her wraith and made her way over to the two other soldiers.

"What did you find?" She looked down at the burnt metal. Only part of it was actually metal and it had a distinct human form. Kathleen flipped the person and knelt stunned. The person could only be a Spartan. The Mark IV MJOLNIR armor and almost seven feet tall.

"I didn't know there were others like you." Edward watched his leader carefully, trying to read her, though it was hard behind her visor.

"Neither did I." Kathleen was honestly telling the truth. Had the UNSC tried again to make more Spartans? Kathleen removed the Spartan's helmet and felt surprise slap her across the face. She recognized the face right away as Sheila, one of Kathleen's friends from Spartan training. The UNSC had lied to her and it rocked the foundation of her life. The group she trusted the most had lied to her about the Spartans.

She pushed the thought from her mind. Now was not the time to be questioning the motive and actions of the UNSC. "Explosives set and armed." Tym dragged Kathleen out of her thoughts.

"Everyone behind the wraiths." Kathleen motioned toward the wraiths and the soldiers moved back behind the alien tanks for protection. Kathleen knelt beside the fallen Spartan and removed the dog tags from the body. She slipped them into a pouch on her belt before she moved to join the others.

"What about her?" Edward motioned to Sheila's body.

"Leave it. There's nothing we can do." Kathleen made sure that all her soldiers were behind the tanks. The wraiths would serve as a barrier between the ODSS and the explosion. "All right you little firebug, light it up."

"I like fire, but prefer explosives. They're just more fun." Tym primed the detonator. The ground below them shook as the explosives went off, demolishing the building.

"Should we have been this close?" Luke looked up at the nearly demolished wraith he was hiding behind.

"We're not dead, so it was far enough." Matthew ignored the ringing in his ear and slight vertigo.

"Arm the wraiths. When we leave I don't want any covies taking them back when we're done." Kathleen watched as Tym took Edward and James with him setting the vehicles with explosives. "Target destroyed, awaiting next orders," Kathleen reported, back to the ship above.

"Stay where you are, soldier. Pelican's on its way to evac you from the planet." The communication's officer sounded regretful of the orders.

"We're leaving already?" Kathleen tried to keep the surprise out of her voice, but it didn't quite work. They had really just gotten started with this planet.

"Covenant's glassing the planet. We're bugging out." Star Fall was silent for a moment as someone else spoke in the background. "ETA of two minutes for that pelican."

"Understood, Star Fall." Kathleen broke the connection.

"What's next Sarge?" Emily moved to the Spartan's side.

"We wait for the pelican to pick us up. Planet's being glassed." Kathleen heard a couple of her soldiers curse at the news. They'd already lost so many planets to Covenant glassing but there was nothing they could do. Kathleen stood looking between the wraiths to the carnage of the explosion. The once open area was filled debris and flame, Sheila's body lost in the wreckage. She had no doubt that the dead Spartan would be glassed along with the planet.

The pelican arrived right on time. Just as the ODSS boarded the distinct sounds of jackals and grunts echoed through the air. Kathleen watched out of the back hatch as the Covenant came out into the open. Kathleen stared as a large ape like alien followed behind. Its blue armor shinned in the light of the fires.

"What in god's name is that?" Tym looked to their Sergeant for answers.

"I don't know, but I don't like it." Kathleen bit her lip.

"Well, let's make it dead." Tym pulled out a detonator. He thumbed a button and the first explosive on the wraiths went off. It sent a chain reaction through the line of wraiths, engulfing the area in white and blue light. When the light faded there was nothing but scorched ground left.

"For now it's not a problem." Kathleen closed the rear hatch and took a seat. "Wish we could have gotten a better look, though. ONI would have liked to know about them."

"I'm sure there will be more." Peter frowned, realizing that wasn't a good thing.

"That's what I'm worried about." Kathleen took a deep breath and leaned back. "You saw that beast. It has to be near the level of the split lips."

"Well, they can't be equal." Edward leaned forward, letting himself be drawn into the conversation.

"Why can't they be?" Pat tilted his head to one side, eager to hear the theory. Coming up with theories was one of their favorite things to do while not in combat.

"Well, because the Covenant is a hierarchy, that's what everything we've seen tells us." Edward's voice was cold and logical. "It's subtle, but jackals are a bit higher then grunts. Grunts and jackals are obviously lower than the other two. The question is which one is above which."

"What about hunters? Where do they stand?" David crossed his arms.

"They are walking tanks, they're obviously on top." Luke put his arms out to his side then lowered them when he realized there wasn't enough room.

"I don't think so. Hunters are strong, but not super smart. They couldn't run the Covenant." Edward shook his head.

"So either the elites or whatever that thing back there was is on top, or there's another species that is strong enough to control the others and smart. Let's hope for door number one." Peter's voice was light, not acting as though the topic were all hypothetical and about their everyday enemy.

"Maybe the leader isn't strong, just smart." Kathleen didn't look up as all her soldier's attentions turned to her. "Politicians aren't physically strong but they lead us and not all generals and admirals are able to use force to make people follow them. Perhaps if there is a higher species they are just smart enough to convince the others to follow. We're dealing with aliens that say their gods told them to destroy us. Their weapons and armors may be advanced but they think like Crusade-era knights, easily swayed by religion and the words of priests and prophets. It's not our concern though. Let the spooks worry about it. You just worry about where you're aiming."

The marines fell silent for the rest of the trip. They were being taken back to Reach to try out some new tech that they'd eventually be field testing. The hope was that the new equipment would help ground forces. Kathleen didn't really see the point. The ODSS had victory after victory on the ground but they were losing the fights in the space above. What good could ground equipment do against the glassing of planets?

Kathleen's mind continued to go back to the image of Sheila's body. She wondered how many other Spartans had actually survived the augmentation. She wasn't sure what disturbed her more. The fact that the UNSC had lied to her, that Sheila's body proved the Covenant could kill Spartans, or the way she'd acted toward Sheila's body. She hadn't even taken a moment of silence for her fallen friend. She couldn't figure out a good reason why she cared so little. She had first thought it was because mourning a Spartan would set her apart from her team, remind them what she was, but she knew it wasn't true. When the war took them to Tobias' home planet they'd taken a moment to let him mourn over the ruins of the karate studio he'd learned and worked at before joining the forces. It disturbed her a bit to know she'd showed less sorrow for a dead person then Tobias had for a destroyed building. She had to just face the truth and that was that she'd grown so far apart from the Spartans that their deaths didn't affect her. The good old times with the Spartans had been replaced with the tough times with the ODSS. It hurt somewhere in her to know she was forgetting them, but she'd grown cold toward the hurt since she'd thought they'd died.

As soon as they'd returned to Reach, Kathleen went to Saran. She needed answers and he was the person she trusted to turn to. She stood before his desk, standing tall, feeling the weight of the new First Sergeant insignia on her shoulder. Saran entered the office, looking surprised to see her. "What brings you to my office First Sergeant? I know old habits are hard to break, but you don't report to me anymore." He took a seat behind his desk tossing down a few files he'd brought with him.

"I am aware of that, but I have questions and I believe you are the one that can answer them." Kathleen's words caused Saran to freeze.

"Is that so?" He leaned back in his chair. "Ask away and I shall answer as best I can."

"I turned in my report to the ONI because it contained information about a new alien species we saw and they seemed surprised at the mention of split-lipped aliens. You said that you passed on our encounter with them to the ONI, so why are they surprised?" Kathleen didn't bother to hide the tint of anger from her voice.

Saran sighed, looking away from the Spartan. "The ODSS project is considered to be a classified operation. To have passed it on would have violated that."

"That explains why they were unaware of our previous encounters." Kathleen frowned to herself. "I have one other question sir. Why did you lie to me about the other Spartans?"

Saran tried to keep himself calm. "What do you mean? What causes you to think that I've lied at all?"

"I saw a fallen Spartan on Miridem." Kathleen was rock solid as she spoke. Saran looked up and into her eyes. He didn't flinch at the anger that was obvious in her gaze. "Why did you tell me they were dead if they weren't?"

"We all have our orders, Sergeant. Mine were to tell you that you were the last Spartan." Saran looked away from her and frowned. She honestly believed that he regretted the orders. "I made the promise to myself, though, that if you found out I would not deny it."

"But why not tell me of their existence? Why make me believe they were all dead?" She tried to keep the frustration from her tone. It was hard though.

"That I am not sure of. Maybe they thought if you believed you didn't have Spartans to back up your soldiers then you'd train your soldiers better, or maybe they wanted to mess with you." Saran shrugged his shoulder. "Spooks aren't supposed to be understood. Most of the time you wouldn't even know they existed. That is truly all I know. How many other Spartans survived, I don't know. I don't know if they know you are alive, either, or if they ever will know."

"I thank you for your honesty, Gunny," Kathleen nodded to Saran before leaving. She moved through the halls, stopping as she looked out to the training grounds, where her soldiers were playing a more violent version of soccer they'd made up. It amazed her how they'd managed to find the time to play and perfect the game. She realized that Saran's assumption may have been correct. She had trained them harder when she thought there were no other Spartans. She still didn't feel it justified their actions, but who was she to question the ONI's choices? Some part of her still felt cheated. She knew about the other Spartans, but she doubted they would know about her. She knew Sheila was dead but her mind wondered about Will, Joshua…and Fred. She wanted answers that she'd never get. She would have to just be glad knowing that any of the Spartans she'd once considered family were still alive.

ODSS Chapter 10
Date: 21 October 2011, 9:01 pm

Kathleen was glad for, and yet unnerved, by the Spartan Program being made public. On one hand, thanks to public news articles and photos, she knew Fred, Will, Kelly, John, and Joshua were all still alive. It had also given her security that her soldiers didn't care about what she was. The only real reaction they'd had was an understanding of why they were called Orbital Drop Shock Spartans.

On the other hand, it meant they were losing the war. To her, it was a painfully obvious attempt to raise the spirits of soldiers who had watched as planets were glassed. If they'd had to risk the backlash of physically altering soldiers, then the UNSC spirits had really needed a lift. She was aware, though, that the full extent of the program was hidden from the public. The knowledge that six-year-old children had been kidnapped and the large loss of Spartans during the augmentations wouldn't have been received well. It would have only brought spirits down again and made it likely that people would resent the UNSC. That would only cause more people to become rebels and that was the opposite of what they were hoping for.

If someone looked past the hype, past the medals that seemed to be constantly getting pinned to the uniforms of Spartans, if they looked past it to the death numbers, the amount of ships destroyed, they would find that humans were losing the war. Super soldiers could give them victories on the ground, and they had, but with no way to win in space battles and fewer and fewer ships after each encounter, planets couldn't be saved from glassing.

She wondered if the Spartans were the reason why she was standing in the waiting area in the main base on Reach. She felt uncomfortable without her armor, as though she was walking around without her skin. Without the armor, she felt vulnerable, even as she stood alone in the room, knowing there was no threat.

She stood staring across the room into the mirror on the far side. It was there for those that wanted to double-check their looks before they'd see the committee, but that wasn't why Kathleen was staring at it. Her uniform was spotless, the metals brightly polished and perfectly organized on her chest. She was instead staring, trying to figure out if the reflection was actually her. She had never really been big on appearances, so she hadn't taken a real look at herself in a long time.

The blond hair that she'd once let grow long was cut short, giving her a tomboy look. The person who looked back at her looked like a statue unmoved by the world around her. She wasn't the girl that Kathleen remembered in her dreams nor did she seem like anything Kathleen had ever thought she'd be. The woman in the mirror was a leader, confident in what she knew and what she did. That wasn't at all how Kathleen felt. She still found it hard to believe that she'd been given her own team to control, and although she had managed to get used to giving orders, the title of leader still didn't feel like it fit her.

On top of all of that, the other Spartans were alive, meaning that the UNSC had lied and Saran had kept valuable information from ONI. Everything she thought she'd been sure of was shaken. The only thing she knew to be true now was her team and her duty.

The door slid open to her left and Saran came out. "They're all yours, Sarge." He walked past her. Kathleen watched him go before she took one last glance at the mirror. She looked calm and confident, on the outside at least.

She stepped through the door into the dark room, moving to the center of the room under the single spotlight that made it hard to see. She could make out the outline of figures but no real details.

A voice came from the darkness. "You are First Sergeant Kathleen one-one-three, correct?"

Kathleen couldn't place what figure had said it or who the voice belonged to. She supposed that it didn't really matter in the end. "That is correct."

The voice was cold and uninterested. "Are you familiar with this video recording?"

Kathleen recognized the image right away. It was the video from her own camera of her first encounter with an elite. "Yes, sir, I am familiar with it."

"What is your analysis of aliens? We do not yet have a name for them yet, so you can call it whatever you've been calling it." The second voice wasn't one that Kathleen recognized but it sounded as though it was from a rather old voice.

Kathleen returned their cold attitude. "We call these creatures split-lips, but recently we have started to call them elites as they are skilled soldiers and seem to be above the others. These elites are very strong, stronger than any average human. In my hand-to-hand combat with the elite its strength seemed to equal mine. It was the obvious head of the operations and of the ground troops that we faced. We have met very few of them in the battle field and they are always giving orders. While grunts and jackals are reluctant to follow each other's orders, both of these groups follow the orders of elites without a question as though they are above the others."

"And what of this creature?" The first voice brought up the more recent footage from Miridem, and the brute. "What can you tell us of this new creature?"

"I'm sorry to say not very much. We only saw it as we were being evacuated from the planet. It does seem to be a commander, though, of the lower troops. My team has been calling the creature bigfoot." Kathleen frowned, now regretting that they hadn't at least made another pass over the alien. "We did not face it in combat, so I do not know of its fighting skill."

A third voice spoke up and it was a bit familiar to Kathleen. "In many of your reports you have claimed to have observed a class system among the Covenant. Please explain what you've found and where all these species would be."

Kathleen clenched her fists. "Well, as I mentioned before, the grunts seem to take orders from the jackals but do not do so with any sort of pleasure. In the past we have seen veteran grunts taking orders from low ranking jackals, signifying that this is not their rank system but rather a class system. In order the grunts would be at the bottom with jackals just barely above them. Above both of them would be the elites, though whether the bigfoot is above or below the elites I cannot say."

"What other information would you need in order to tell where they are in this class system you are proposing?" The second voice seemed rather interested now in her theory.

Kathleen put her hands behind her back. They'd discussed this plenty among her team. "The information I would need is whether the hierarchy is based on strength or intelligence. If it is more strength, bigfoot has the obvious advantage. If it is intelligence, then the elites would have the upper hand and be above the bigfoot."

A fourth voice sounded skeptical. "How do you know this bigfoot is not smart?"

"The team that was with bigfoot was unorganized, didn't use cover to approach us, and didn't try to remain silent. Elites have proven to use strategy in our engagements." Kathleen had thought about this for a long time. It had come up when talking about if they would rather face the unorganized brutes or the skilled elites. It always came down to a question of speed of getting a job done, and how much fun they had fighting while doing that job.

"Very well then, let us move on." The first voice let out a low sigh, bored of the topic. "I am sure you are aware that the Spartan II program has been made public." Kathleen nodded and the voice continued. "The Spartans are still unaware of your team's existence; it needs to stay this way. Whenever the Spartans are on the ground you will stay out of their sight. To all other soldiers you are a Spartan working with an ODST group. It is up to you who would be acting leader of the rest of your soldiers in that situation."

There was a long silence before the voice spoke again. "That is all for now, you are dismissed."

Kathleen saluted and left without another word. She would never say it, but she was unhappy with their new orders. Staying out of sight of the Spartans was going to be hard. It would mean they would have to watch their backs all the time, or at least she would. The others could pretend to be normal ODST but she couldn't hide what she was.

It also meant she would have to promote one of her soldiers. She didn't like the idea of elevating one soldier over the others. She made a quick trip to the locker room, changing into more comfortable clothing and out of her dress uniform. She then returned to the barracks, not looking forward to informing her soldiers of their orders. As soon as she entered, the attention of her soldiers turned to her and they stopped whatever task they were doing.

Peter tilted his head to the side. "So what's the news?"

"ONI knows nothing about bigfoot." Kathleen let out a low sigh. "If we see normal soldiers, I'm a Spartan just working with this squad. If we see Spartans they can't see us, or at least me. If they see you, then you're a normal ODST squad and you have never met me. In either case…" She looked over the group deciding to make the promotion as a snap decision. Her instincts didn't usually fail her under pressure. "Tobias will be your leader. I'll put in the paperwork tomorrow for him to be promoted to Corporal."

"So let me get this straight. If we're around any other soldiers we have to act like you aren't part of our team. If Spartans find us, you have to vanish and we have to work with them." Tobias frowned, and Kathleen nodded. "That's bull."

"Welcome to the UNSC. Orders are crap, training's not worth shit, and you can't trust the intelligence as far as you can throw the satellites that produce it." Luke threw his arms out and fell back onto his cot.

Kathleen sat down on her cot, pulling out a box from under it. "Doesn't matter if they're bull, they're our orders, so can it." The soldiers went silently back to their tasks as Kathleen went to work sharpening her combat knife.

"Wait, shouldn't our lead soldier be a Sergeant?" Peter put down his rifle as he spoke. "I mean who the hell lets a Corporal lead a squad of soldiers?"

"I am not promoting him to a Sergeant. Corporal is far enough you can make up something if you have to. I'd prefer, though, that we just avoid them at all costs," Kathleen didn't look up from her activity. "Get creative."

"I think we can all agree with that. I mean if we were to have to follow them, then that would mean Sarge would have to take care of our mission on her own, and that just isn't right." David shook his head and frowned deeply.

"Got that damn right." Luke slammed his fist down on his knee. "Oh, we should come up with a code phrase for when there are Spartans around. Something like 'there are ninjas in the dojo'."

"We are not making a new code for this. Just saying there are Spartans around will do. We don't need to make things more complicated than they already are." Kathleen put away her knife and stood up. "Come on, time for our exercise. I know that all of you put it off and waited for me to join you. If you didn't, then I don't give a shit. I need to evaluate if you are failing or not."

"Yes, ma'am!" The soldiers all stood and quickly moved out of the barracks, toward the training yard where they would start their exercise plan.

Kathleen stood and paused for a moment, smiling slightly to herself, glad to see how quickly they followed her command. She followed behind them, ready to work them till they collapsed as she always did.

ODSS Chapter 11
Date: 5 November 2011, 11:18 pm


Kathleen checked her clock one more time, making sure that it was set properly. They only had an hour before the Spartans were to be deployed to the planet and they would have two things to worry about. After five years of fighting and working around the Spartans, Kathleen had gotten used to the time limits. Today their mission was just to go through a city, destroy the biggest and the baddest of the Covies, and make sure survivors were evacuated. It didn't seem too hard, but a one hour limit would make it a challenge. The pelican slowed as it neared the surface and landed. Kathleen stood doing one last check of her SMG before the back of the pelican opened and the marines moved into the dense forest. They didn't feel comfortable enough on the planet to stand out in the field with the pelican.

"Move to the evacuation point, Night Raven. If things get bad and the point has to change we'll radio you," Kathleen ordered the pilot.

"Roger that, Sierra. Just make it to the evac point in time." The pilot hit a few switches and the pelican rose and moved off over the trees.

Kathleen was in no mood to waste any time. "Keep your eyes open kiddies, this rain's going to make our motion trackers useless and because of the trees we won't have any satellite feeds. I want groups of three, I'm taking point. We don't have time to dilly-dally. We're heading straight to the city."

"I always like it when we get straight to the point." Luke moved over to make a trio with Peter and Pat.

Kathleen ignored the comment, taking the lead. She could feel Emily and Edward behind her. They moved slowly through the jungle, being careful to be as quiet as they could. They wanted to surprise the enemy as best they could. The less prepared the Covenant was for them, the quicker they could get the job done.

It was the sound of a jackal that got Kathleen's attention. She flashed an orange light and the marines froze. Two grunts appeared, unaware of the danger. They seemed more engrossed in their conversation than the world around them. A single jackal moved up behind them, scolding the two grunts. Kathleen gave a few slow hand signals and her team moved into position. When all lights were green Kathleen flashed a red light. She sprung forward, her SMG slamming into the back of one of the grunt's heads. David mimicked her motion with the second grunt, caving in its head. Tobias swung his shotgun like a bat, nearly taking the jackal's head off its shoulders.

"Was that necessary?" Max looked down at the dead jackal. "What happened to this thing's arm?" He examined the jackal's crushed arm.

"Does it really matter? It's an alien that has probably slaughtered civilians. I don't care if it was necessary or how it got its arm messed up." Tobias wiped the alien's blood from his weapon.

"Why are the grunts already this far away from the city?" James shook his head, trying to throw off the odd feeling he had. "They should still be in the phase where they are still clearing out civilians."

"Best case scenario, the civilians got away. Worst case, they've already killed everyone or the people got away and now are being hunted by the Covenant. Hunting seems unlikely though. It would be a waste of time as they'd eventually just kill them by glassing the whole place." Kathleen looked away from her soldiers. "For this mission their behavior doesn't matter. We're only here to kill and make it easier for the Spartans. There's no time to be standing around. Get your asses in gear."

They only met up with two more patrols before they reached the edge of the city. Several of the buildings showed signs of some sort of explosives being used.

"Those don't look like they're from frag grenades." Emily moved over and ran a finger over the mark, looking at the dust that was left on her fingertips.

"Looks more like monkey nades." Matthew gripped his gun a bit tighter. The ODSS had had a few run-ins with the creatures known as brutes. They'd found out about the unique grenades the barbaric creatures used. Kathleen would take spike grenades over the incendiary grenades the stealth brutes used, or the flash grenades that made seeing impossible.

"All right, from here we're splitting up." Kathleen stopped them and brought up a quick team roster splitting the teams up into two lists and sending them to the soldiers. "Two groups; Blue Team's Edward, Emily, Max, Luke, James, and myself. Red Team's Tym, David, Pat, Peter, Matthew, with Tobias leading. Blue Team will check down by the wharf, Red Team, you head to the business district. Report anything unusual or any of the really big baddies. VISRs on and move out."

The teams split up, moving through the shadows. They checked each building as they went. They checked the short few story building by exploration and the larger buildings with thermal imagery. The VISR systems had been recently updated. The world around them was now properly outlined making travel easier. They found nothing, though, and things were starting to look bleak.

Kathleen stood staring at a particular building that was unsettling to her. At one point it had been a convenience store. The front windows had been smashed in like a tank had run through them. The problem is it didn't look like it had been done with a wraith. The store was also filled with foot prints that were either from a new species of brutes or possibly from a hunter, though something seemed different about them. One of the humans inside looked like they'd been burned in half. The other had been crushed under the large foot before the living tank broke through the back wall. She could only hope that they wouldn't have to meet whatever it was, though she knew it was their duty to kill it before the Spartans arrived. If she had to guess, she would have guessed it was a hunter, but she'd never seen one do so much damage or crash through a wall as easily as it looked like this one did.

"So from what I can tell we've got grunts and jackals, not really our problem, maybe some brutes, and from that shop a hunter with no self-control and on steroids." Luke looked down at his SMG. "Oddly, I feel under-armed."

"That's why you've got me, and this baby." James patted the beta form of the Spartan laser that he hefted onto his shoulder.

"It's like they foresaw us coming across a walking tank that could crush us all like little ants." Max seemed a bit too cheerful.

Kathleen glared at her soldiers. "Stop calling it a tank, all evidence points to a hunter. It being excessively violent doesn't change what it is."

Emily looked down at a dead body. "Whatever it is it doesn't seem to care about what's under its foot."

"What makes you say that?" Luke looked over at Emily.

"I noticed it on the first jackal we saw. Max pointed it out and at the time I'd thought it had just been a war wound. The first jackal looked like one of its arms had been crushed and quickly healed. But this one, this one you could match a boot with." Emily pointed at the jackal's chest. Something large had left a foot print in the alien just as had happened with the humans in the shop.

"Whatever's made this hunter so violent and powerful has made it extra dangerous." Kathleen decided to warn the rest of her squad. Kathleen opened a channel with Red team. "Red leader, this is Blue leader."

"Blue leader, this is Red leader. You have perfect timing, ma'am." Tobias seemed rather pleased.

"Report what you've found, Red leader." Kathleen moved to the center of the room so that she would have her soldiers watching all her sides.

"No survivors, but we've got plenty of patrols. Seems to be a concentration at the museum, but I can't really tell why. Plenty of the little guys, a good number of jackles. There are these sort of pink blobs floating around, taking things apart and putting them back together. They seem to be Covenant equivalent of nerds, or something. They don't really fight, so there's no reason to kill them. They didn't even are that we were here." Tobias seemed rather happy with that news.

"Noted Red leader, is that all to report?" Kathleen glanced over her shoulder as she thought she heard something, but chalked it up to the wind.

"One more thing to report, Blue leader. Peter went up high to scout ahead. Said he saw something really big with spikes on its back heading your direction. Said it was odd, though, because the armor was an unusual color." Tobias' smile was evident in his voice. "I'll give you three guesses as to what it is."

"Hunters. All right, Red leader. Keep your eyes open for the big ones. From the handiwork here we guess it must be them. They seem to be having an extra bad day, so avoid them." Kathleen glanced over at James, suddenly very glad that he had the Spartan laser.

"Understood Blue leader, Red leader out." Tobias closed the channel.

Edward looked up from the dead jackal. "What have the others found?"

"Seems Peter spotted what might be our walking tank. Seems it's a new rank of hunter, and it's heading our way, so be ready. If you find any pink floating aliens don't kill them. They aren't hostile and are more of a waste of ammunition. Save it for the actual threats." Kathleen looked around and saw all her soldiers nod. "Let's get moving. If there are survivors they won't be surviving much longer if the hunter finds them." The others nodded again and they moved out back to work.

They hadn't made it half a block before the big baddies appeared. What wasn't expected was that there were two of them. Their deep gold armor was like nothing that they'd seen before. At first they didn't even notice the soldiers. They stood in the road looking around as though waiting. That was until a silver-armored elite appeared. It had no problem spotting the marines. With a loud shout and a point the hunters had their target. Their large shields moved into position as they charged their weapons.

James was ahead of them and at the ready. A crimson red laser shot along the road, hitting the left hunter and blasting through it. The second hunter got off its shot. The green ball hit James, melting away the Spartan laser and taking his arm with it. The hunter that was left roared in sorrow and anger while Peter and Max dragged James to cover.

"Draw their fire away from the others." Kathleen moved along with Emily and Edward. The three opened fire, causing the elite to take cover behind the hunter and its shield.

"I thought you elites could fight." Emily taunted the alien, easily dodging the hunter's next shot. She opened fire on the bit of orange that she could see. Kathleen moved up on the opposite side while Emily had the hunter's attention. With her SMG rounds and the rounds that Kathleen sent through from the other side, the hunter collapsed as a corpse on the ground. The elite opened fire, hitting Kathleen in the side and arm. The elite turned just in time to see Edward, who slammed the barrel of his M6C into the alien's mouth and squeezed the trigger. Purple blood sprayed forth and the elite fell to the ground, dead.

Kathleen fell to one knee to catch her breath. The plasma had burned through her armor. Emily moved over to her side. "You alright Sarge?"

"I'm fine, just a small burn." Kathleen forced herself to work past the pain. "Max, what's James's status?" She moved back toward the rest of her team.

"Serious, the whole arm's gone. If we don't' get him attention soon, it could become very fatal." Max's voice was unsteady as he worked.

"Luke, Max, take James to the evac point. The Spartans will be here any time and we have to get those ships checked. Emily, Edward, and I will take care of the ships." Kathleen looked over her soldiers who nodded.

Luke grabbed James and the trio moved off. "Blue leader, we have a problem." Tobias sounded nervous to her. The slightly quieter tone either meant they were in danger or he had found something really bad.

"What's your problem?" Kathleen tensed, ready to hear the worst.

"We got rid of the brutes but, we've spotted Spartans." Tobias paused for a moment before continuing. "They didn't see us, ma'am, but they are moving through the city."

"Spartans are in the city already?" Kathleen froze, unsure of what to do. They were ahead of the time line they had calculated.

"They're big seven foot tall soldiers in MJOLNIR armor, yeah they are here." Tobias' tone would be insulting to anyone else, but Kathleen let it go.

"Red leader, have Red Team head to the evac point. We'll meet you there." Kathleen slipped a new clip into her weapon.

"Understood Blue leader, Red leader out." Tobias cut off the channel to do as ordered.

"How did the Spartans get here so fast?" Emily glanced around the streets as though they would arrive at any minute.

"Doesn't matter, we'll split up to check the ships." Kathleen moved off toward the wharf. They checked over every ship on the wharf.

"I've got survivors." Edward radioed after checking a few ships.

"Did you make contact with them?" Kathleen walked out of the ship she had finished checking.

"No, spotted their heat signal. They didn't see me." Edward moved away from the ship carefully so he wouldn't be heard.

"All right, mark which one it is." Kathleen waited and once the ship was indicated on her own map she continued. "Both of you head to the evac point."

"What about the survivors?" Emily's reluctance to leave the people while they were in danger was obvious in her words.

"For once, the Spartans are going to do the work for us. I'm going to set a trail to lead them to the ship." Kathleen put her weapon up on her back.

"That's an awful big risk of them seeing you. Why not have one of us do it?" Edward made his way down the wharf and met up with Emily, who was waiting for him.

"Because I won't be caught and I know what would catch their attention. Now get to that evac point." Kathleen watched as the two reluctantly nodded.

"Yes, ma'am." The marines then turned and sprinted off through the city to meet up with the other soldiers and the pelican.

Kathleen moved along the wharf until she found the Spartans. The problem with their tactics was that any other Spartan could easily spy on them. She looked across the street from her hiding spot, confident that they couldn't see her. She was purposefully hiding from Spartans while they were on the alert for Covenant. She recognized their leader right away. There was no mistake that it was Joshua. This would make it all the easier.

Kathleen started to set her trail with a set of deep tracks in the mud that would be an obvious sign to any Spartan as they were out of place. She then grabbed the torn-up ODST flag that Max had been using to try to cut off the blood flow from James' severed arm. She attached the flag to a pole out on the dock leading to the cargo ships. She then used her combat knife to reopen the wound on her side, using the blood to draw a quick star that appeared to be made of five swords. She then jumped into the water to be sure she would leave no trail as she headed to the evac point.


Joshua halted his team. He moved along the side of the building to what had his attention. There in the mud was the deep imprint of a Spartan's armored foot. The Spartans hadn't been there yet, though, so there was no reason for why there should be a Spartan print there. It also seemed to be deliberate. It was not on the path a Spartan would take for stealth, fighting, or even wandering. It was also much too deep, like the maker had stomped into the ground to make it.

Red Two moved up behind Joshua. "What is it, Red leader?"

"Someone's left us a marking. Keep an eye open for anything out of the ordinary." Joshua started to look around for any other signs.

"Like an out of place flag?" Red Three moved up to the others. "There's an ODST flag down by the docks. Doesn't seem like that's the right place for it."

"Were ODST deployed to this planet?" Joshua hadn't been informed of any such actions. If they were they should have met up with some, but they hadn't found anyone, only the odd pink aliens that nearly got them in trouble.

"Not that has been reported." Red Two checked over the troop list again.

"Move cautiously." Joshua crouched low and the team moved toward the docks. "Red Three, check for any more signs."

Red Three moved forward the scope of his sniper rifle making it much easier to see along the dock without moving into the open. "I've got a mermaid on one ship, nothing really special, a sprayed-on seagull of a shipping company on another. There's one more marking, but I don't recognize it. It's a star but it looks weird. Looks like it's drawn in blood." Red Three lowered the sniper rifle.

"Let me get a look." Joshua took the sniper rifle and examined the image. "We've found our target. Red Four, you're with me. Red Two, Three, cover us." Joshua moved out to the dock. It wasn't hard to find the civilians inside. It was a bit harder to get them off the planet, but in Spartan fashion they managed it.

Even once he'd gotten back to the ship above as the planet below was glassed, one thought plagued his mind. The only though in Joshua's head was the eagle drawn in blood. It all pointed to something that wasn't possible. Once they'd returned to the ship Joshua made sure Will and Fred hung behind with him.

"What's this about?" Fred looked around to be sure they were actually alone and no Spartans were close enough to hear.

"It's about something down on the planet." Joshua looked around as well.

"There's nothing down there, only a glassed planet." Will crossed his arms over his chest.

"It was there before the planet was glassed, it led me to the civilians." Joshua gave him a cold look. "It was something impossible."

"All right, what is it that you saw on the planet?" Fred frowned. The longer it took the more likely others would interrupt.

"I saw our symbol. Did either of you teach it to anyone?" Joshua looked over the two other Spartans.

"You mean the Spartan signal?" Fred was referring to the six-note song that Spartans used to signal that everything was clear.

"No, our Symbol, our sword star. The one we used back in training." Joshua fidgeted slightly and looked around again. "It was drawn in blood on the ship the civilians were in."

"Are you sure it was our star? I haven't told anyone about that. We haven't even used that since back when we were in training." Fred's frown deepened.

"I am sure. There was even the boot print of a Spartan in an area we hadn't gone to yet. The odd thing was whoever it was used an ODST flag to mark the dock." Joshua shook his head, frowning.

"If it were a Spartan they'd use a UNSC flag. No one who knows our symbol would use an ODST flag." Will looked away from the others. He seemed unsettled by the news.

Have you told anyone about this?" Fred glanced over his shoulder, uneasy.

Joshua shook his head. "Red Team saw it, but you are the only ones I've talked to about it."

"Keep it that way. If you start saying dead Spartans are giving you signals people will think you're insane." Fred took a step toward him to be sure he knew how serious he was.

"Maybe ONI is just keeping something from us." Will shrugged, glancing back at the other two Spartans.

"Why would they keep anything from us?" Joshua frowned and Will could only shrug in reply.

"Now is not the time to be questioning if we can or can't trust ONI. We need to stay focused. Sheila and Kathleen are dead, what you saw will stay between us, and we'll focus on beating the Covenant." Fred took a step back and turned as he heard a noise. He spotted the female Spartan as she stood in the door way.

"Why are you all in here?" Kelly cocked her head into the side quizzically.

"We were just chatting." Fred paused for only a fraction of a second. "We were sharing what we saw on the planet."

"Well com one, Master Chief wants a full report from all of us." Kelly left the room and the three followed her to join the other Spartans.

ODSS Chapter 12
Date: 26 February 2012, 9:17 pm

2552 Reach August 29

There was a different feeling in the air on Reach. Ships were gathering in the sky above, retreating back from the outer colonies to be moved to protect the inner colonies. Because of this, there were a large amount of ground forces on the planet. All of these surplus soldiers seemed to be waiting around with no real purpose. On top all that, more gear was being shipped to Reach and sent up to the ships. The UNSC was gearing up for a fight, and you could almost taste it in the air. She wondered how many of the soldiers would be sent off on the ships and never even reach the land combat before a Covenant ship blasted them to bits. Some soldiers were nervous while some were eager for the fight ahead. The ODSS were among the eager crowd. Eager wasn't always a good thing, though. The ODSS had too much verve and had turned to fighting each other to let off some of the energy. Kathleen sat, watching as Peter and Luke fought over something, but she didn't really know what. Knowing the two of them, it was likely something stupid and trivial.

"Are you going to stop them?" Matthew watched the two men, trying to decide which one he would put his money on if they were betting.

"No, let them blow off some steam." Kathleen stood up. "Be sure they just don't kill each other. I don't want to have to train replacements. Don't even think I could find soldiers good enough to replace them."

"Where are you going?" Pat turned his attention away from the fight to look at his Sergeant. "You going AWOL on us?"

"I'm going to see if I can find out why they took our armor." Kathleen turned and left the room. The marines returned to watching the two soldiers trying to beat each other silly.

The door opened at the other end of the gym and David cursed. "That sure as hell isn't the Sarge." He glanced over at the figures that had entered.

"Well, that's going to cause a problem." Emily watched the two soldiers walk toward them. Both Emily and David turned back to watching the fight, trying to ignore the Spartans as they neared.

Fred stood behind the marines who were watching the brawl. He didn't know why they were fighting, but the fight had gotten his attention. The skill and power-driven style of the fighting reminded him of his own fighting style, of the fighting style that the Spartans were taught. Luke had blood dripping from his nose already, but Peter was already guaranteed a black eye the next day.

"Who the hell punches a sniper in the eye? That's just bad future planning." Emily sighed, about ready to break up the fight.

"I don't think that the future matters much in this fight. Besides, Peter uses his right eye." David leaned back and put his hands behind his head.

The Spartans' presence was really starting to get to Tobias. He knew it wasn't directly their fault, but he blamed the Spartans for making the missions of the ODSS harder. The marines had to work around the actions of the super soldiers, and Kathleen was always looking over her shoulder for them. He couldn't figure out why the pair of Spartans were watching the fight. It didn't take long to annoy him too much and he snapped. He turned to look at Fred. "Is there something you want, giant squid?"

"Don't start a fight. Sarge will kill you if you do." Tym frowned as his attention shifted to the Spartans. Luke and Peter stopped fighting, focusing more on the spectators who, like the rest of the ODSS, they didn't like.

"Where did you learn that fighting style?" Fred directed the question to Luke and Peter, who glared at him.

"Our Sergeant taught it to us." Luke crossed his arms, reluctant to answer his questions. "She taught us everything we know."

Fred turned his full attention to Luke. "What's your Sergeant's name?"

The ODSS froze, unsure of how to answer. They couldn't give him the name Kathleen as he might recognize it, and she lacked a last name. "Maria, Maria Saran. First Sergeant Maria Saran." Tobias only vaguely remembered the name of the AI that they'd worked with during training.

"That was all I wanted to know." Fred relaxed a bit, looking over the soldiers. He had an odd feeling about the troops, and it was strangely unsettling.

Tym stopped them before they could leave. "Wait, who the hell are you, anyway?"

Fred was quiet, deciding if he should or shouldn't answer. "I am Petty Officer Spartan-104." He then motioned to Will beside him. "This is Petty Officer Spartan-043."

"You know, if you're so interested in our fighting technique, then I could show it to you. These two aren't really interested in proper technique." Tobias glared at Tym as the other soldier elbowed him in the side.

Fred paused, unsure of what to do. He didn't really want to fight the soldier and risk injuring him, but he didn't have a good reason to back down. "I don't think that would be a good idea. We need to get back to our ship to prepare for our next mission." Fred motioned to Will and the two left.

"Pansies." Tobias turned back to find Tym glaring at him. "What?" He raised his shoulders, still annoyed.

"What did I say about picking a fight?" Tym hit him in the shoulder. "You do realize they were Spartans. Sarge always went easy on us because she'd kill us otherwise. He wouldn't have held back."

"Good, I wouldn't want him too." Tobias rubbed his arm where he had been hit and looked away from the other man. "We're just as good as them, and I want to prove it. The UNSC puts so much value in their Spartans. Let them see that an ODSS can beat one."

"You and I both know you wouldn't win. Hell, in the best case scenario, you'd be put in the infirmary. You'd only succeed in proving you're a fool, that you aren't as strong as a Spartan, and the Sergeant would kill you." Tym took a deep breath. "You should have just been glad he brought your lie about the Sarge."

"That was pretty quick thinking. I was drawing a blank as to what we could tell them. Probably should have thought of that ahead of time." David smiled.

"Yeah, I'm just a bit worried though." Emily frowned and looked over at Edward beside her then back to Tym and Tobias. "If those Spartans do a data search for the name it could end badly for us."

"Why'd you ask their names anyway? What good does rank and number do for us?" Luke took a seat and wiped the blood from his face.

"The Sergeant knows them. If she knows the numbers, maybe she'll be able to tell how serious their presence is." Tym took a moment to memorize the numbers they'd told him.

"The fact that any Spartans are here tells me this is Serious." Peter sat down as far away from Luke as possible. "We cool?"

"Yeah, we're cool. There are more important issues now, anyway. The question is just which issue is the most important." Luke moved over to his own seat on the other side of Edward.

Kathleen was completely unaware of the encounter with the Spartans. She was instead focused on the new armor in front of her. They'd said it was Mark V armor, the latest in the MJOLNIR armor series, what they had always wanted it to be. She had to admit that it looked a bit like the old armor, but bulkier.

"So what's so special about it?" Kathleen stared at the reflective visor as though that alone could make her understand it.

"Well, for starters, it has a full body personal energy shield." One of the techs busily worked on a component. "Second, it allows you to directly connect with an AI. It's why we had to update your neural interface. Your HUD will also now show you the strength of your shield, how much ammunition you have, and allow you to better monitor your squad's health."

"They will all be helpful features in our future missions." Maria appeared on a holotank to Kathleen's left. The AI's unusually pure white color was tinted gray and she held a sword and shield, something she'd never seen the AI do before.

"What do you mean 'our future missions?" Kathleen frowned as she turned to look at the AI.

"I'll be accompanying you and the ODSS on future missions. You'll find that I can be of a great deal of help." Maria bowed slightly to Kathleen.

Kathleen nodded, satisfied. "Has the armor been tested yet or am I going to be testing it in action?"

"A Spartan has tested it in a live fire simulation. It passed perfectly." Maria sounded pleased with the outcome of the test.

"Which Spartan tested it?" Kathleen crossed her arms. It didn't really matter which one, but it would give her at least the knowledge of one more living Spartan. She didn't even know why it mattered to her that any of them were alive. She wasn't one of them anymore. The only lives that mattered to her now were her ODSS.

Maria paused before she answered. "Spartan-117. He and the AI Cortana completed the course exceptionally. I cannot wait for us to get into that armor and see what it can really do." Kathleen searched her memory trying to remember which Spartan was 117. She knew he had been their squad leader but the name escaped her.

"When do we get to use it?" She looked to the armor. "And can the color be changed?" She knew that it was the standard color for Spartans, but it felt wrong to her.

"Well, the suit will be ready for you by the end of the day. As for color, what did you have in mind?" The technician tossed his wire cutters over to a side table.

"I would like it to be black." Kathleen nodded. Yes, black felt right. ODST wore black battle suits; it was the color for her.

"I'll see what I can do about the color." The tech moved around the armor as he worked here and there on the armor.

"Relax for now, First Sergeant. I'll contact you when the suit's ready." Maria paused as lines of code flowed over her body.

Kathleen nodded, taking one last look at the armor before leaving the lab. She let her mind wander as she returned to her team's barracks. She tried to remember 117's name and was pretty sure she'd narrowed it down to ether John or James. She recognized Spartans by looks, movements, and name, not number. She wondered if she could get the UNSC to let her soldiers use the old Mark IV armor, but dismissed it. She didn't want to risk them being injured because their reflexes weren't able to handle the armor.

She reached the barrack of her troops and was confused by what she saw. The soldiers that had been energetic earlier were sitting quietly on their cots. "What happened?" She did a quick head count to make sure that one of them wasn't missing.

"We met some Spartans." Tobias looked down toward the ground. "Two of them, 43 and 104. They appeared shortly after you left."

Kathleen didn't have to try to recognize the numbers. She knew them by heart. 117, Fred, and Will must all be on the planet. There was a new version of the armor, Spartans on the planet, and an odd feeling in the air. Something was up, she just didn't know what. "Then why do you all look like you're about to be forced to become regular marines?"

"Well, one of them sort of asked us about who our Sergeant was. We'd kind of already used the pronoun 'she' so we couldn't tell them it was the gunnery." Tobias swayed a bit as he spoke.

"Then who'd you say it was?" Kathleen frowned, her mind searching all possible scenarios and how best to handle each scenario.

"First Sergeant Maria Saran." David sat up from his cot. "Then we realized the Spartans would look it up. Emily and I then went looking for you."

Emily crossed her arms over her chest. "I stumbled upon several Spartans that were moving supplies to a pelican. Heavy duty supplies like metal plates and explosives."

Kathleen paused, digesting the information. "What the Spartans do with those supplies is no worry of ours. It's their mission and if we haven't been briefed then it's not ours." She moved over to the communications panel near the door. She quickly opened a channel to the lab.

"I told you I'd call you when your armor was ready." Maria sounded a bit annoyed.

"I'm not calling about the armor. I need you to make up a soldier for me." Kathleen waited for a reply.

"Tell me what you want exactly and I'll make it." Maria's voice had gone from annoyed to helpful.

"Name: Maria Saran with the rank First Sergeant. Give her a good background fighting rebels and Covies. Mark her as the former leader of this squad but having died not long ago during a Covenant ground engagement." That would fix the reason as to why the Sergeant wasn't working with the team any more but still give a reasonable profile as to why the soldiers were skilled. Kathleen nodded her head. "Good, that should take care of that."

"Soldier created, now I must return to preparing your armor. I will contact you when it is ready." Maria then cut the channel.

There was a second of silence. Peter perked up. "What armor was she talking about?"

~Pillar of Autumn~

Fred read over the information for the fourth time. Once they'd gotten back to the Pillar of Autumn, John had assigned a group to work on preparing the Pelican. Fred had not been assigned to the group, so he had time to kill. Rather than just sit around, he'd decided to look up the Sergeant that the soldiers had mentioned earlier. What he'd found was not exactly settling. He found a Sergeant with a nearly spotless record dating back to before the Human-Covenant war to fighting rebels. A squad of twelve soldiers and not a single one lost except the Sergeant herself on a recent mission. The odds of that were nearly impossible. It took him a moment to notice Will standing in front of him." Is there something wrong?"

"I'm the one that should be asking that to you." Will nodded his head toward the knife that Fred was holding loosely. He had been working with it to get used to the new armor, but it had been forgotten.

"I looked up the Sergeant that those soldiers mentioned." Fred flipped the knife into his hand and put it away. "The record is just too clean. Only ever lead one team, never lost a solder, fought rebels and Covenant, lasted this far into the war and only recently died in combat. It's all just too perfect."

"Sounds almost like a Spartan's record, except for the dying part." Will frowned, though it couldn't be seen behind his helmet. "Then what is it? A fake solider?"

Fred thought the idea over. "Possible, but why would they not be able to tell us the truth?"

"Put it from your mind. There are more pressing matters, like the Covenant ship we are going to board." Will put out his hand and Fred took it to stand.

"You're right, it's not important." Fred pushed aside his unease. No matter how much the soldiers and their seemingly made up Sergeant confused him, they had nothing to do with his current mission, and he couldn't risk being distracted. "Come on, we'll see if John has anything we can do." Will nodded, hoping his friend would put the thoughts out of his mind for good.

~End chapter 12~