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ODSS Chapter 10
Posted By: Firerwolf<triss2008@yahoo.com>
Date: 21 October 2011, 9:01 pm

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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.