What Once was Ours, chapter 1
Posted By: Jake Trommer<email@example.com>
Date: 27 August 2009, 11:05 pm
What Once was Ours
1300 Hours, July 11, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Somewhere in the Trojan Asteroids
Day One of the Admiralty Insurgency
"Lord Hood, the El Alamein and her task force have entered the asteroid field."
Fleet Admiral Sir Terrence Hood turned his aged wrinkled face away from the vista of hurtling rock to face his senior naval NCO. "Tell me something, Chief Grath, why on Earth does the media insist upon portraying asteroids as so tightly packed? Granted, they are a navigation hazard...but not nearly as dramatic a one as in the movies."
Senior Chief Petty Officer Donald Grath, heart-shaped face looking somewhat distressed as always, blinked. "I'm sorry, Lord Hood?"
The Admiral shook his silver-maned head. "Never mind. Inform the El Alamein that Lord Hood gives Fleet Admiral Harper his compliments, and that he may board when ready."
"Right away," responded Grath turning to address the Elite manning the comms station.
Hood sighed. The forces that had pledged their loyalty to him had all arrived, now it was time to plan strategy. Although what strategy would work against the full might of the UNSC and ONI he had yet to determine.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, Terrence," said the figure standing behind the Admiral.
Hood cocked a small smile. "I know, Marcus, but that doesn't do much to ease the apprehension."
Colonel Marcus Easley of the UNSC Air Force gave a grim smile. "Terrence, I'm a UNSCAF officer commanding a naval task force. Believe me, I know apprehension. I might not have an O-9 paygrade, but..."
"Old prejudices die hard, Marcus, to say nothing of old inter-service rivalries."
Easley, a trim, somewhat pale man below average height like most fighter pilots, smiled. It was considerably closer to a rictus. "I think it says something that I managed to earn the respect of my task force."
Hood chuckled, something he hadn't been able to do for some time. "Coming up with the tactics to defeat two-to-one odds will do that for a man. Do you know how Ted feels about this whole thing?"
The ex-fighter jock shook his head. "Ted knows what we're up against, knows why Parangosky has to be defeated. All the same, the defection of the Terran Home Guard to a renegade Admiral...even a renegade ex-Chairman Admiral...it's gonna be a blow to morale, for both Parangosky...and Ted. He had what was basically the most important posting in the Fleet."
Lord Hood nodded. Were it not for Hood's eminent parents, it could've been Harper who would have been UNSC Chairman. "I know...but he's on our side, that's what matters."
"Are you sure about that?" Easley pointedly inquired. "You know Harper, duty comes first for him, for all we know he could be having second thoughts about---"
The tension between the two could have been cut with a knife and served on crackers. Fortunately, Senior Chief Grath chose that moment to interrupt. "Lord Hood, the Admiral's gig from El Alamein is inbound."
The UNSC's ex-Chairman shot a look at the Air Force O-6. "Very good, Senior Chief. Send Ted my compliments, and that he may board when ready."
Grath nodded, looking put-upon as per the norm.
For his part, Hood had already executed a crisp about face and had begun to double-time to the Assault Carrier's hangar bay. Just as he had approached the blue-lit threshold of the bridge, he paused to shoot a look at Grath. "Senior Chief?"
The naval NCO, currently discussing docking procedures with the Sangheili Landing Signals Officer, shot a weary look at the Admiral. "Yes, Lord Hood?"
"Tell Stacker to get an honor guard together."
"Will do, Sir."
"This is unacceptable, James."
Colonel James Ackerson, absently fingering the scars he'd received as a Brute captive, looked up from his spot in the corner of Parangosky's office, where he was leaning against the space-black wall. "I know that, ma'am."
The commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence slammed the datapad showing the hunt's progress down on her desk, breaking it in half. Ackerson had no idea whether to be amazed that the ancient Admiral still had that strength within her, or scared shitless that she could apply the same amount of force to his neck.
"I'm serious, James," growled Parangosky. "Hood might only have gotten two of our units to come over to his side, but one of them was the Terran Home Guard. Can you try and get it through your thick skull what that means for Earth's defences, not to mention morale?"
"Yes, ma'am," was the meek reply.
"You'd better," replied Parangosky, "because I need all the help I can get. Not only have we lost Easley and Harper, but now I have the Arbiter breathing down my neck about getting his cruisers back, and HIGHCOM is getting---"
The Admiral's tirade was interrupted as the intercom on her desk beeped. "Parangosky here."
"Ma'am, this is Master Sergeant Byrne. I have someone out here who would like to see you."
"Who is it?"
"Ma'am...it's the Master Chief."
The officer stepping into Shadow of Intent's stateroom wasn't wearing dress whites. In fact, he was wearing a battledress-style uniform, with the now-considered obsolete digital camoflauge pattern in blue upon it. The nametape on the uniform read "Harper", and three golden stars glinted on the collar. He was a slim man, wearing an almost unheard-of accoutrement: a pair of glasses. He might have been a smallish man, but his voice more than made up for it.
"Terrence! Marcus!" the man boomed as he walked in, snapping off a salute. "A pleasure to see you both!"
Hood and Easley looked at each other---Fleet Admiral Harper had saluted, but whom saluted back first? The Colonel or the ex-UNSC Chairman?
The confusion lasted for a few seconds until Harper dropped his salute, laughing fit to burst. "Ha ha ha! You guys always were far too heavy on formalities and shit like that."
It occurred to Hood, not for the first time, that it might not have been Hood's eminent parents that had knocked Harper out of the running for the Chairman's position.
But for all that, Harper was a loyal friend and comrade, and his tactical skill had kept a significant portion of the Terran Home Guard alive during the final actions at Earth and the Ark. It had gotten him to flag rank---but his insistence on unorthodoxy ensured he would go no further.
"Where in God's name did you dig up that old museum piece?" asked Easley, motioning to Harper's battledress.
"My grandfather's," Harper replied quite proudly, "I'm feeling traditional today. Didn't you notice the other tape?"
The two other officers shot a look at the nametape above Harper's left pocket. It read, US Navy.
Hood blinked. "You have an artifact of the United States of America, and you wear it on active duty?"
"I said I'm feeling traditional," replied the other Admiral.
"OK, can we get down to business," growled Easley, fumbling in his pocket for a cigarette, a rather unhealthy nervous habit of his. "I dunno if you two are too busy to remember, but we are supposed to be plotting an insurrection."
"Indeed we are," remarked Harper, producing a lighter from one of his uniform's myriad pockets and gallantly offering it to Easley. "Well, Terrence?"
Hood looked outside of the stateroom. "Senior Chief!"
The omnipresent Senior Chief Petty Officer Donald Grath hurtled into the room, carrying a projector and a datapad. He set the two down onto the conference table, saluted the three officers, accepted Hood's salute, and raced back out, looking miserable all the while.
"So help me God," observed Harper, "I have never seen a more miserable-looking naval NCO."
"He didn't realized what being the Admiral's aide would entail," Hood drily observed. "If you'd be so kind, Ted?"
Harper pulled out a chair, collapsed into it, and motioned for Hood to proceed.
Hood plugged the datapad into the projection unit. Immediately, a chart appeared on the stateroom's screen. "These are our forces," Hood simply stated, waving a hand at the numbers.
Easley gave a grim nod. "Two task forces and one fleet. Against the full might of Margaret Parangosky. Been nice knowing you two."
"It's not that bad," said Harper, shaking his head. "Terrence's task force is made up of Elite ships, which are far superior to any of ours. This Assault Carrier alone could take out an entire task force."
The Air Force officer, either not hearing or ignoring Harper's reasoning, took another look at the charts. "I don't see a list of ground forces here, Terrence."
"That's because we'll only be using our Marines and ODSTs for harrying actions, or hit and run strikes. We can't afford to get into a protracted ground battle with Margaret."
Harper stared intently at the data. "On paper it sounds as if we have a fighting chance at this, Terrence, but there's one element you seem to be forgetting."
The old Admiral gazed at his comrade. "And what would that be, Ted?"
"The Chief. Last I heard, he was ready to take you in to Parangosky."
Hood smiled. "Ted, I know he's entering this conflict. In fact, I'm counting on it."
Now it was Hood's turn to receive Easley's scathing stare. "You're counting on humanity's greatest soldier joining the fight against us?"
Hood's smile did not falter. "Indeed, I'm counting on Margaret sending him to find me. And when he does, he'll deliver something that will change the tide of this war."
"Welcome aboard the Rodger Young, Master Chief! She ain't the biggest boat in the Fleet, but..."
The young naval rating's enthusiastic greeting tapered off as the Spartan simply walked off, massive MJOLNIR armor pounding the deckplates. As the young crewman stared after him, a man in UNSC Marine Corps armor with Captain's bars on the chestplate stepped up next to him. "It's a bit jarring, isn't it, son?"
"Yes Sir," replied the crewman, taking in the Marine's appearance, which was essentially the stereotype for someone in his branch: bronzed, thick, built like a body builder, and a face that didn't speak of much intelligence within.
"I'm Captain Snyder, UNSCMC," said the Marine. "I'm in command of the team being assembled here."
"Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Thompson," replied the Navy crewman. extending his hand to shake.
The Marine Captain looked at it as if were a venemous eel. "Just get me and my team where we need to go, squid."
"Well, you'll have to talk to the skipper about that, but---"
But Captain Snyder had already walked off.
Gunner's Mate Thompson watched him go. When he was sure he was safe, he hurtled to the bridge. The skipper would need to know that the little rogue's gallery of ONI operatives had been assembled, and that they could get to work on their mission.
Thompson was rather curious what it would fell like to succeed on this mission. He'd certainly never killed an Admiral before.