Posted By: CaptainRaspberry<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 23 December 2010, 11:12 pm
Memo, Facility TIRYNS:
To all staff,
We'll be receiving a personnel transfer following the loss of Security Contingent Bravo in that tragic kitchen fire. Unfortunately, due to a mix up, it seems like we'll be receiving only one replacement. While I try to clear up the confusion with ONI, we should endeavor to make our newest arrival feel welcome.
He will arrive tomorrow morning at 0800 on the launch pad.
P.S.: expect the bake sale to be delayed.
Stephanie B. Lowman
Director of Military Personnel/Facility TIRYNS
ONI Civilian Liaison
Duly, at 0800 Hours, the entirely of Security Contingent Alpha and select members of Charlie and Echo who weren't on duty turned out to see the Pelican land. PFC Jack Devans, also known as Alpha-5, elbowed his way to the front of the modest crowd.
Jenn nodded hello while Martin warmed up his rant. "What the hell kind of paperwork mix up sends us a single body to replace a whole contingent? We lost four men!"
"Six if you count the two in the hospital, Sergeant."
"Thank you, Jenn," Martin said, rolling his eyes. "I had almost forgotten."
Jack rolled his shoulders. "Maybe he's just that good?"
Nearby, Simon glanced up from his chatter. "Hey Jack, didn't the report say you had something to do with that fire?"
Martin narrowed his eyes. Jack sniffed. "I have no comment."
The distant whine of atmospheric engines cut off further discussion, the Pelican dropship appearing through the thin morning cloud layer. As it settled, everyone crowded as close as was safe, several civilians wandering over to see what all the commotion was about.
"Is the director going to show up?" asked Jack. Team COM carried his question over the dying roar of the engines.
Martin shrugged. "Said she would, but I don't know what's taking her so long."
The rear hatch dropped, and the welcoming cheer offered by the spectators was strangled to a quick finish when they saw what stepped out.
The figure was covered head to toe in unfamiliar metal armor, the same olive color as the standard military police BDU all the security contingents wore. A full-faced helmet covered his head, with an opaque gold visor obscuring his features. Though only a few inches taller than average, the man cut an imposing silhouette.
Awkward and awed silence fell over the assembled soldiers and civilians. Jack heard a few civilians whispering and willed them to shut up. The new arrival seemed to be taking it all in.
The steady clicking of shoes rushed up behind the group. Director Lowman and her entourage had arrived, carrying a large and colorful banner with "Welcome To Tiryns!" written in large friendly letters. Lowman was a chubby, kindly woman that you'd think was more at home in daycare centers or managing a bank; in fact, she had held both those positions before being hired as ONI's civilian liaison. She never had a mean thing to say and never seemed fazed by anything, so Jack wasn't surprised when her wide smile didn't break upon seeing the new arrival.
At her approach, the armored figure zeroed in on her and stood at attention, but didn't salute. She was a civilian, after all.
She hustled right up to him while her gophers huddled back, nervously clutching their sign. "Welcome, welcome! You must be our newest addition. I'm Director Stephanie Lowman, civilian liaison." She held out her hand.
The figure hesitated before taking it. His motions seemed deliberate and careful, like he could pulverize her wrist with the slightest twitch. "Ma'am," he said, "Sierra One-Eight-Nine, reporting for duty."
"Such a firm grip!" She giggled lightly. Despite himself, Jack smiled. Her motherly tones struck a chord with him. A year ago his own mother had been killed by Covenant action, along with the rest of his family. The director had given him a week off with pay, as well as a very sentimental sympathy card and gift basket of real chocolate. He had shared the treats with the rest of his contingent but kep the card secreted away.
Lowman gave 189 a pat on the shoulder. His head visibly twitched. "Now I just have a bit more paperwork to fill out on my end before I'm ready to meet with you officially. I wanted a quick peek at you, but Sergeant Martin over there with Contingent Alpha will be happy to show you to your quarters in the meantime." She looked over and her smile grew wider. "Bring him by my office when you're done with him, okay Sergeant?"
Martin nodded. "Sure thing. Right this way, uh, Sierra."
189 nodded and fell into step behind the sergeant. Jack and Jenn followed along, with nothing better to do; Simon returned to his chatter. Gradually the crowd dispersed, now full of gossip material to fuel the rumor mill.
They made their way from the landing pad to the nearby barracks, a two-story structure that housed all fourteen security contingents.
"You got a rank, Sierra?" Martin asked.
"Oh." All three checked thier postures. "Uh, sorry sir, I didn't... I mean, you're not wearing any insignia."
"Not a problem."
Each floor was basically a long hallway with seven lettered bunk rooms and one community rec room. As the four passed by the doors, Jack saw the occupants who weren't asleep or otherwise occupied doing double-takes at 189. Several poked their heads out to watch him pass.
"Right over here's Bravo bunk," Martin said, stopping and gesturing into an empty room. He gave a nervous grin. "I guess you're going to have some extra sprawl space till the rest of your team gets here."
189 looked in. Jack thought he saw 189's shoulders sag a bit. "Affirmative."
They stood in the hallway for a beat. "If you, uh, got any personal effects, this'd be a good time to drop them off."
"I should get going to the director's office."
"Yes sir." They left the barracks and started across the base. 189 glanced around a lot, taking it all in.
Jack coughed. "Tiryns is a pretty small facility. Most of the staff are civilians who commute from either Henrikburg or Itana, so we don't really need a very robust security force. We usually just patrol the perimeter, watch the gates, or sit over the labs. It's all pretty slow."
189 said nothing.
The administrative building was a squat, one-story structure scarce larger than a hut. 189 continued inside. Alpha lingered a bit more before moving off to join the now-rampant speculation.
A few days passed. The base tried to adjust to its latest resident, but the rumors were flying. People came to know him as Sierra, or sometimes Mike-Papa. A few hours after he arrived, a team of techs showed up and cleared out the Bravo bunk, taking everything out and bringing in new equipment. A couple machines were wildly complicated, the functions of which were beyond any of the soldiers' knowledge.
However, they all knew weight equipment when they saw it, and as the techs rolled in several devices of that caliber, the MPs noticed it was all double-reinforced.
It became obvious that no one else was going to be brought in to fill Bravo's spot. Sierra was it.
One night, while the rest of Alpha Contingent was on duty, Jack sat reading through a data pad in the rec room when Simon dropped heavily onto the couch beside him.
"He's a Spartan."
Jack looked up, taking a moment to figure out what was going on. "No way."
"I'm serious." The Office of Naval Intelligence had recently released information regarding the up-to-then secret SPARTAN supersoldier program. It had clearly been an attempt at morale boosting, but hell, it worked. Stories of heavily-armored behemoths in the UNSC had been spreading for years, but it had always been dismissed as rumor and exaggeration. Now there was solid evidence to back up the hype of walking tanks able to destroy entire legions of Covenant and insurgent soldiers on their own.
"Why would they give us a death machine for base patrol? It seems like a gross misuse of resources."
Simon shrugged. "It could have something to do with the civilian scientists. They've been really antsy about something. Maybe ONI thinks it's valuable enough to guard with a Spartan."
"Yeah, maybe." Jack went back to his data pad after Simon wandered away, but he couldn't get lost in the story. His mind was on other things. Finally he tossed down the pad, stretched, and went for a walk.
At length, he found himself at the west gate. "Bravo" was written on the duty roster, and Jack could see Sierra standing in the booth. Not sitting or even leaning against the frame, just standing. Jack hesitated before moving in, deciding what the hell, he had nothing better to do than poke at fate with a stick.
When he reached the booth, he rapped a knuckle against the frame. "Hey."
Sierra didn't flinch. "Hey."
"How's it going out here?"
"Pretty boring." His helmet twitched towards Jack. "Does anything ever happen around here?"
Jack took that as an invitation inside. "Not really. Occasionally we get teenage joyriders from the town nearby, some stupid kid thinking it would be cool to sneak on base... a bunch of idiots in Amon just down the road have started calling themselves the Amon Liberation Front. They mostly just protest in the town, but if they get too close to the base we have to chase 'em off."
Sierra didn't say anything. Jack waited a while before his curiosity got the better of him, and he found himself asking, "Why is a Spartan here on guard duty?"
Sierra flinched -- barely visible -- but remained silent. Jack chided himself, mumbled a farewell-slash-apology, and went to leave when Sierra suddenly asked: "How big is Amon?"
Jack stopped. "Pretty small, I guess. There's just a lot of open country around it. Forests and everything, you know. This is a pretty well-forested area."
Sierra just kept staring off into space. Jack excused himself quickly.
The next day, Sierra made a traffic stop. Some kids were speeding down the base access road, and he had been on far sentry duty. When they made the turn, the kids said in their report, they noticed a figure in their rearview getting closer. It took them a moment to realize someone was not only running on foot behind their car, but overtaking it.
In a few seconds, Sierra passed them, reversed direction, and slammed his fist into the hood of the car as the kids tried to stop. He issued them a citation and called for a tow, because the engine was totaled. They had to fill out a crash report on the incident, filed it under "impact with an officer of the law." They asked if they should write it as a vehicle collision or pedestrian. No one was really sure.
Two days later there was a break-in. Proximity sensors around the outer perimeter started reporting a lone contact making good time for the center of the base; at that point, it could have just been an errant deer. Moments later, the threat detectors sounded the alarm. The sniffers had detected traces of explosives residue.
Alpha was in the center of the compound on fast-response duty and were moving in seconds. Charlie was reporting a lone figure, human, sprinting for the lab facility. As Jack, Simon, Jenn, and Sergeant Martin closed to intercept, they caught sight of the target. It was a teenager from Amon, one they had arrested a few times already for trespassing on base. He had always brushed off their warnings, though, because his father was mayor.
He didn't look so cool this time. His eyes were wild, normally coifed hair scraggly. There was no hiding the fact that he had a bomb strapped to his chest. When he saw Alpha with weapons ready, he hesitated.
"Stop!" Sergeant Martin called out. Jack had his DMR trained on the boy's head. The distance wasn't too great for the shot, and he wasn't sure if the explosives straddling the center of mass were armed or not. "Drop the detonator!"
The atmosphere was tense. Jack felt his helmet's sweatband absorbing buckets of moisture. The kid seemed to be waffling. Protocol: facing a target with explosives and a detonator, five shots to the head will ensure no residual nervous reaction that will trigger the detonator.
The kid took a step forward. Jack's finger tightened on the trigger.
An olive blur came up behind the kid, and Jack had just enough time to see the glint of Sierra's opaque visor before it was all over. The kid was on the ground, dead; his spinal cord was severed at the base of the skull. In one hand, Sierra held the knife, and in the other he held the detonator.
Alpha approached cautiously as he leaned over and checked the body. When they were standing over him, he looked up at them.
"He wired it wrong," said Sierra. "If he had pulled the trigger, nothing would have happened."
The Ordinance Disposal Unit backed it up. No one got a lot of sleep that night. Jack wandered the halls of the barracks for a while, just pacing up and down. He heard the rhythmic clank of weight machines behind Sierra's closed door. When Jack finally drifted off at around 0530, he could still hear it going uninterrupted.
When Jack woke up, everything was different.
Sierra didn't show up for chow or to relieve Echo of their sentry duty. Delta was sent to check his room, but reported back that he wasn't there. All contingents were mobilized to search the base and the surrounding area. No one could find him. They sent an AWOL report to the local command structure.
A few hours later, all contingents were mustered together for an emergency meeting. An ONI spook was waiting. He explained what had really happened: there had never been a Spartan sent to Facility TIRYNS. After the tragic loss of Security Contingent Bravo, everyone had split their duties among the rest of the military police forces and had performed admirably. He told them that under no circumstances did a Spartan at any time come to this facility, let alone desert his post.
Jack stood and listened. Nobody said anything about the video surveillance, the journal entries they had all made, or the crash report those speeders had filed. It had all already been deleted, they were sure.
The spook parted by saying a new contingent would be rotated in from another facility. It would take at most a month.
The Covenant arrived on Tulane two weeks later.