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ODSS Chapter 9
Posted By: Firerwolf<triss2008@yahoo.com>
Date: 27 September 2011, 4:50 am

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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.