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The Marine, the Rebel and the Sangheili: Leon
Posted By: QuantumSheep<quantumsheep@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 25 November 2008, 5:45 am

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May 15th, 2526
UNSC Military Complex, Highland Mountains, Reach

Morning sunlight filtered through the gaps in the blinds over the windows, casting down streaks of yellow and orange onto the cheap metal desk, providing some illumination to the small meeting room, the very room primarily used for psyche-evaluations in the complex.
An ashtray lay close to one side, the stubs of old cigarettes lying against the sides of the glass tray, black and grey ash having gathered inside it. One of those cigarette stubs was only recently added, the end still glowing with orange heat, a thin trail of smoke wafting from the end, only to be filtered away by the room's venting system.

That very venting system was providing some heat for the otherwise cold room, a typical morning on this part of Reach often brought close to zero temperatures which often carried over into buildings such as this. The heating system itself was unreliable in this part of the complex and had heated the room to such a degree that the business-suit clad figure sitting at the end of the desk, close to the ashtray, found himself sweating at the brow.

It was cold outside, hot inside, giving the man a very annoyed expression as he mulled over these thoughts. If he stayed in here for much longer he would have to get someone to turn down the whole heating system, if he went outside for a break he would probably freeze solid. Both were equally inconvenient.

Contrary to what someone like him should be doing, he felt the craving for another cigarette, taking a moment to pause and remove the package from his jacket pocket, flipping open the lid and picking out a reasonable looking cigarette, sticking it into his mouth and putting away the packet. Picking up his box of matches from the table, he scraped a single match against the side, put the pinpoint of flame to the tip of his cigarette and puffed away at it, feeling some more heat wash through him. Maybe this hadn't been the best thing to do; he was just beginning to feel hotter.

Unlike what the large, shaven man sitting across from him was wearing, the cigarette smoking man was wearing a navy blue business suit and white shirt, the matching blue tie hanging loosely from his undone collar, giving him a very unkempt look. Hell, it was hot; he didn't have to look as tidy as he usually did.

Not many people tended to think he was a doctor, for that matter most didn't think he was a doctor well versed in psychology, hired by the UNSC to run the standard psyche-evaluations on some of its soldiers. The way he smoked, the way he looked even, didn't seem to have a very "doctoresque" feel about it. Wearing a name badge often helped, but he never really needed one. Everyone in this complex, which he had been hired to work at only a few months back, knew who he was.

The soldiers that came through here for basic testing were hardly ever loose cannons; most had never fired a shot in anger before. They were all mostly green, fresh out of boot camp, stuck in a time when the only wars being fought were against damned rebels on far out worlds. Who cared what happened out there? He didn't, for all it mattered to him the rebels could take over, that would save a lot of marine a lot of trouble. The only people who cared were the higher-up UN folk, worried that if they lost the Outer Colonies they would lose all the resources from those worlds and the economy would be ruined. To the doctor, this didn't really affect him: he would still have a home, a job. Problems out on the Outer Colonies didn't do shit.

Today had begun as a rather uneventful day; he had been put down to give some of the more special soldiers tests, starting with evaluations of their mental states. This meant he would be stuck in his office for hours, questioning soldier after soldier, trying to determine if they weren't loose cannons or not.

The devices laid out on the middle of the table did all manner of things, although most of the readouts meant nothing to him unless there was something out of the ordinary going on. All these devices were linked to the person being questioned by a handy wristband with wires running from it and to the machines.

The devices themselves measured heart rate, read brain waves and watched eye movements. Some of the devices were just there to please the people who ran these soldiers, to make sure they were thinking straight; others actually did something useful.

The almost uninterested, chronically smoking doctor squinted in the dim light at the large man sitting at the end of the tables, sitting with a neutral expression on his face, clearly waiting for the doctor to begin. Well, the big guy could wait for another minute for all the doctor cared, as soon as he had finished enjoying his cigarette he would start evaluating this soldier.

The soldiers that the doctor had begun to interview today were different to the green, freshman-types that he was used to. These guys (and girls, he had noticed a few female names on the list sitting in front of him) had actually seen some combat, more than others although they were still mainly new to the whole mission and combat thing. Fighting rebels had been the majority of what these people had done, so to aid the doctor in his evaluations, a large stack of printed folders and a few datapads, each of these things containing information on each of whom he had to question, were lying on the desk on his left. A lot of it was stuff he hadn't even bothered to read, the information being detailed descriptions of the person, their histories (both combat and medical) and anything else that even remotely related to these soldiers.
However, there had been a few things he had had to read up beforehand, just so he was familiar with just whom these people, if "people" was even the right word, were and where they had come from.
He knew that calling them soldiers was too general a descriptor; "Spartans" is what the documents called them. Whoever had come up with that name hadn't been too creative, he thought, from where he sat he could see the man sitting across from him didn't look at all related to the Spartans of ancient Greece.

Rather, the man sitting across from the doctor was a big, imposing figure, highly attentive, neutrality on his features and obviously disciplined well. He could see that maybe the people in charge of creating these "Spartans" had chosen the name because it brought up in one's mind a big, imposing warrior, which was just what these people were.

He had read up on the history of the so-called "Spartan-program", the scheme to train a breed of genetically and bio-enhanced soldiers to fight the enemies of the United Nations and its affiliates (if it had any, he wasn't too sure about these "affiliates" when he thought about them some more").

What had surprised him about this whole scheme had been the history behind it. Six, seven and eight year olds, selectively chosen for their physical and mental attributes, had been taken from their homes and trained at that age. Their parents would never have noticed what had happened, simple clones replacing their beloved children, only for these clones to die from neurological disorders a few years later. The doctor couldn't believe the nerve some military folk had, taking kids from their parents and raising them to be near-unstoppable killers. Looking at the man across from him now, he couldn't even determine if the tough looking, muscular soldier had even been a child once. They had been conditioned in such a way, both physically and mentally, that the only lives they knew were those of the military.

The doctor cleared his throat, stubbing his cigarette inside the glass ash-tray, able to smell the stench of burnt tobacco. A thought occurred to him that sitting here with his tie half-undone and collar open, smoking a few cigarettes probably wasn't giving these "Spartans" a very impressive look of him, but it didn't matter. All he had to do was question all forty-something (or was it fifty? He couldn't remember) of them and he could get home, make dinner and watch some TV.

"Spartan 073," he said in a dull sounding tone, reading the name from the list he had in front of him, "otherwise known as 'Leon', am I correct?"

These Spartans didn't even have full names, merely a number and first name. This made them seem even less human than before, although the doctor reminded himself that he shouldn't let this kind of thing get him biased against these elite soldiers.

The Spartan, Leon, looked up at him attentively, although the man failed to give much of an expression, still keeping the neutral gaze he had had ever since he walked into the room.

"I'm Doctor Theodore Milliner," the doctor said, giving the Spartan a glance and trying to sound interested, "I'll be giving you a sort of psyche-evaluation today, with the help of the machines on the table in front of you and some carefully constructed hypothetical questions. These will test your response times, the way your body reacts and the way you answer."

Pausing for a moment, he noticed the Spartan give a bit of an uncertain grimace.

"It may sound a bit daunting, but trust me, it is very hard to fail," the doctor said, giving the Spartan a slight grin, "so, if you could put the available wristband on, we can get started. This should only take five minutes, maybe ten depending on how we go."

The Spartan nodded, picking up the metal wristband with the many wires going from it to the machines on the table and clipped it around his right hand, frowning as he did so. A streak of light caught the Spartan's face, revealing blue eyes and light brown hair, although it had been shaved down so the scalp was quite visible through the many short strands of hair.

The doctor took a look at the machines on the table which had whirred into life, beeping and clicking as they began taking readings, an air sampling device on one of them breathing hollowly, as if it were alive. That particular machine would take samples of the air around the Spartan, reading the amount of pheromones and sweat, as well as anything else secreted from the Spartan's body.

"Okay," the doctor said, making sure each machine was working well and the readings were reasonable, "but before we get started, I just want to let you know that it was Halsey's idea to do this, not mine. I don't enjoy it and you probably won't as well."

The Spartan didn't reply, sitting with a bland expression, the machines whirring and clicking and breathing, creating a sort of electronic symphony.

The doctor flipped a page on the clipboard in front of him, revealing the many questions he had written down prior to the tests, just so he wouldn't have to make them up on the spot. Some were fairly dodgy but were enough to give readings on the state of the Spartan's mind.

"Okay, let's start with a few of the more obvious questions," the doctor said, unable to help but glance from the corner of his eye at the surveillance camera up in the corner of the room, filming everything it saw and recording everything it heard. It would take many viewings of what it recorded to determine the results, as well as reviewing the readings on the machines.

"Picture yourself, at say, a coastline of some sort, with seabirds flying up high, the sky blue and slightly cloudy, the sun shining down on the white sand of the beach," the doctor said, unable to help but think that these questions seemed a little stupid. Hell, they would give him the readings he needed.

The Spartan sat there listening, although he didn't even manage a slight nod to imply that he was acknowledging what the doctor was telling him.

"It's a common fact at that beach that the sea tortoises there are easy prey for the many seabirds that try to catch and eat them, and so one day, perchance, you come across a small, most likely young, tortoise that has rolled onto its back. It is obvious it cannot roll back onto its feet and thus will make easy prey for the birds flying overhead. What do you do?"

The Spartan seemed uncertain, taking a moment to glance down at his lap before looking back towards the doctor.

"What do I do about what?"

The doctor avoided the temptation of rolling his eyes but did manage to let out a slight sigh.

"The tortoise," the doctor replied, "do you help it or leave it?"

"I would…" The Spartan paused to consider his answer. "I would help it…I would make a difference in that tortoises life, doctor."

The doctor nodded. Sure, that was the typical answer but he had sensed a slight hesitation in the Spartan's response, as if the man had been unsure. The Spartan shifted where he sat, a sweat appearing on his brow, which was happening to the doctor as well, special thanks to the unstable heating system.

"Okay, next question," the doctor said, "something a little more up your alley.

"You're alone in a forest, which is deep inside Insurrectionist territory," the doctor explained, "you end up being ambushed by a superior number of rebels, who are also well-armed and well-trained. The rebel in charge gives you a chance to surrender. Do you?"

The Spartan dwelled on this question for a moment, his face changing slightly to that of annoyance, as if he didn't like the question.

"I would kill them all," the Spartan replied bluntly.

"Really? You would prefer to die than to surrender?" The doctor made sure he didn't sound surprised, the last few Spartans he had questioned had given the same sort of answer, "they have superior numbers and firepower. They could easily get the upper hand."

"I would do as much damage to them as I could before they killed me or rendered me unable to fight back," the Spartan said, a slight grin forming on his face. One of the machines picked up a jump in the Spartan's heart-rate, the machine beeping loudly.

The doctor wasn't sure of what to think of it and ignored it for now, assuming that the Spartan got a kick out of killing rebels, as many regular marines he had questioned in the past did.

"What do you think about the war against the rebels?" the doctor asked, "do you think it's worth fighting? Or do you think that maybe the UN is using you and your comrades to suppress attempts for independence on the Outer Colonies for their own ends?"

This question seemed to have the Spartan confused for a moment, the muscular soldier looking down at the table, a hand going to his lap, scratching at his thigh through the regulation trousers. Leon looked up, gave the doctor a slight grin and prepared to answer. More of the machines started giving out erratic readings and it was then that the doctor realized there was something wrong with this Spartan's mind, as if he had dug too deep into the Spartan's mind.

"I hate those fucking rebels," the Spartan said, "and I also hate annoying doctors like you." His right hand came back up from his lap, holding a large, black metal shape. Before the doctor had a chance to react, had a chance to call for the security guards outside, there was a sudden crack, deafening almost, as the heavy duty pistol went off, a white flash filling the doctor's vision.

The first shot knocked the doctor and his swivel chair backwards, letting the chair slide against the floor, the doctor getting bumped forward slightly as they both hit the back wall hard. The second shot was what killed the doctor, spraying blood onto the plaster wall behind him and leaving a large gaping hole in his chest, just above where the first shot had hit.

Seconds later a pair of security guards had barged into the room, but both were easy prey for the Spartan, the first guard getting grabbed by the head, his neck being twisted and snapped as easy as a breadstick. The second guard received a shot to the gut before he was knocked flat onto the floor by the unstably minded Spartan. In the next five minutes, the Spartan had single-handedly slaughtered four more security guards and two MPs.

April 23rd, 2526
Marine base on KV9-X7

As soon as the Spartan on screen had shot the second guard, General Richard McDougall had switched off the recorded video and mulled over what he had just seen inside his head.

Wiping the sweat from his brow and picking up the remote for the air conditioner, he fiddled with the controls, trying to get a reasonable amount of cool air billowing out of the unit positioned in the corner of the command tent to cancel out the heat that had filled the tent.
Damn, the General hated days like these.

The tent itself was large, his desk at one end and all sorts of personal effects scattered around, more in an attempt to show off to anybody who walked inside than to fill the space inside the tent. Outside, it was yet another scorcher of a day on KV9-X7, sunlight filtering through the gaps in the window panels on the sides of the tent. Temporary rubber flooring squished beneath the General's boots and an almost annoying voice kept talking at him from behind, but that voice was the least of his worries about now.

The General had been on KV9-X7 from day one, overseeing the operation to eradicate the OCPLF rebel forces from the planet, the very forces which were led by the traitorous Colonel Timothy Hanley, a man the General had met a few times in the past before the Colonel decided a career in the UNSC military wasn't for him. He had been somewhat surprised to discover the Colonel was the leader of the well-armed, well-trained and pretty much well-everything OCPLF forces stationed on KV9-X7. He had never thought that someone as sensible as Hanley, nicknamed "Bright Eyes" by most people because he always had a bright, optimistic look about him, especially in his eyes, would turn his back on the UNSC and become the leader of a dangerous rebel group.

Then again, public opinion was swaying in favour of the rebels, most likely because most people thought the UN wanted the rebels gone because they threatened the interests the UN had in the Outer Colonies. The General, of course, was merely doing his job and didn't let rumours get in his way of things.

The landing base here which the General had set up with the marines when they had first arrived here was only a small affair, a guarded and fenced compound with its own runway (necessary for plane-type aircraft) and landing pad, with a few hangars in the mix as well. The runway would have been a lot of help if they actually had any craft that used it; the UNSC had become too stingy to lend them anything.
The Rear Admiral in charge of funding this operation from Earth hadn't been able to get much good stuff for the General, including necessities like reinforcements and heavy duty supplies.

So here he was, the General stuck running about three-hundred and seventy marines and other assorted military personnel when they didn't even have enough ammunition to share around. The lack of necessary supplies wasn't doing anything good for morale, which had been decreasing of late, no matter how hard the General tried to get things sorted.

Dressed in his green General's uniform lined with the necessary cooling materials to provide great insulation and keep him from heating up like a kebab on a barbecue in the thick uniform, Richard McDougall was a man of medium statue, just over six feet tall, his dark brown hair cut into a neat buzz cut and lined with grey hairs, the General being in his early fifties. Standing by his desk and frowning at what he had just watched unfold on the monitor at the wall, having played a surveillance tape that had come with the file concerning the Spartan, the General was having a mighty hard time thinking of what he should do concerning this Spartan, considering that very same man who had shot the doctor and gone on to kill a bunch of Reach security personnel was going to be arriving at the base within the next hour.

"I'm telling you, General, we can't allow that fucker to come here," the voice from behind the General spoke with an angered tone, tinted with worry, "he could kill us all…"

"I doubt that, Parker," the General said, removing the frown from his face and turning around, grinning at the African-American man standing behind him, "If he tries anything, our men will be on him in seconds."

Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Parker didn't look convinced, standing his ground and shaking his head. The man had lines of age in his face, a greying beard and short, greying hair, topped off with dark brown eyes. He looked like a stern character, the way he never seemed to smile, but the General had known the Lieutenant-Colonel for some time and knew that he was actually a good man to be friends with.

"This guy…this Spartan," Parker said the last word with some noticeable distaste, "he's crazy. Couldn't you see that, the way he went nuts and shot the doctor…"

The General shrugged, he really didn't see too much of a problem with them having the Spartan as an able member of their combat force. After all, he wouldn't be the only one they would be getting…

"No need to get your balls in a knot," the General replied with a slight grin, "this 'Spartan' as those folks over at Reach call them, they are very able fighters, almost having been born to kill…"

Parker gave him a surprised grimace, as if he thought the General was crazy.

"Have you even read the files on this whole 'Spartan' program?" parker asked him, sounding a little agitated, "They weren't 'born to kill'. They were taken from their homes when they were only…what? Six? Seven?" Parker didn't seem to like this whole idea of taking kids from their families and training them to be killers. Not many people probably did think very highly of it, hence the whole program was confidential to public. The General and his marines had been told about the Spartans only because they were getting two of them to complement their dwindling combat effectiveness and hopefully boost morale.

"That is an absolutely despicable thing to do," Parker said with distaste, "taking kids from their parents and homes and training them to be adept at killing things? Whose idea was that?"

"War can often make desperate things happen," the General said solemnly, thinking about all the things that he had seen during his time fighting the rebels, most of these memories being rather bad ones, "so that's why this program was thought up. The UNSC was desperate…"

"Desperate for what?" Parker still wasn't convinced and probably would never be convinced, being as stubborn as he is. "They want a bunch of unnatural soldiers to do their dirty work? Is that it?"
The General shook his head but kept smiling. He always enjoyed a good argument, especially with Parker since that guy was so damn hard to sway into your opinion.

"General, do you realize how many of these Spartans died or became crippled after they received their enhancements?" Parker asked, although he knew the General knew all the details and was merely asking the question for effect, "Almost half of them died or became crippled. How inhumane is that, altering these people just so they're better fighters? It's such a waste of life…"

"But it's worthwhile," the General replied, bringing himself out of his self-induced trip down memory lane and turning to Parker, who didn't looked swayed in his argument.

"Really? Do you think so?"

"Did you read the files on previous operations?" The General asked, "There aren't many, but did you notice how they had an almost perfect combat record?"

Parker frowned, still unconvinced.

"General, people tell me I have a near perfect combat record," the Lieutenant-Colonel said, "so, you know, it's not exactly news to me…"

The General rolled his eyes. Parker always seemed to have some sort of answer.

"Parker, a group of these Spartans single-handedly captured Colonel Robert Watts from inside his highly secure rebel base which was inside a goddamn asteroid," the General said, keeping his grin, "so maybe people with that sort of record would do well here on KV9-X7. Hell, maybe they could fly in and capture Colonel Hanley from right under his force's noses…"

Parker managed an intentionally fake laugh.

"Yeah, and when pigs start flying out of my ass I'll start eating that bacon," he said jokingly, quickly reverting to a frown. The General shrugged, stepping around to the seat at his desk, pulling it out from underneath the desk and sitting down. He opened a drawer, withdrew a yellow cardboard box intricately decorated with illustrated leaves and other nature type things and flipped it open. Sliding the box to the middle of the desk with one hand, he looked up at Parker, offering him whatever was inside the box.

"Would you like a chocolate?" The General asked. Parker looked uncertain, as if the sudden change of mood had put him off-guard.


"A chocolate, Parker," the General said, sterner this time, "would you like one?"

"What type of chocolate?"

The General shook his head.

"A yes or no answer would have sufficed…"

"What type of chocolate?"

"All kinds, actually…" The General paused, reached into the box with his other hand and took out a rounded, flat-bottomed chocolate about the size of his thumb. Putting it into his mouth whole, he took a moment chewing it before speaking, sounding a bit muffled as he tucked the remnants of it to one side of his mouth so he could speak without making a mess.

"That was caramel with hazelnut…" The General said; he swallowed whatever was left of it. He shook the box with his other hand invitingly. "So, do you want one or not, Mr. Sourpuss?"

Parker shook his head.

"How about we quit talking about chocolates and get on with what we're meant to be talking about?" Parker asked, raising an eyebrow, waiting for an answer.

"But my sister sent me these…" The General began, only to be cut off.


The General closed the box reluctantly and slid it to one side of his desk so it was out of the way, rolling his eyes again.

"You want to hear more about these Spartans, then?" The General asked, giving the fingernails on his left hand a close inspection, not bothering to look up at Parker until he was done.

"I know as much as you do, sir—"

"I doubt it," the General said bluntly, interrupting the Lieutenant-Colonel mid-sentence, "did you hear about that business with Harvest?"

"Harvest?" Parker obviously had no clue what the business with Harvest had been, indicating that he hadn't read all of the files supplied to them by the people who organized the Spartans.

The General frowned, opening another drawer in his desk and taking out a datapad, sliding it across the desk towards Parker who snatched it up in one fluid movement.

"You obviously didn't read that file," the General said, "because if you had, that would have been the first thing you brought up. You know why?"

Parker skimmed through the information on the datapad, giving a disbelieving look as he did so.

"What? Alien contact?"

"Yes, my friend, alien contact," the General said, leaning forwards where he sat, "you know, contact with aliens…"

"I know what you're talking about, General," Parker said, more or less to get the General to stop talking, "but I find it hard to believe what's on this datapad."

"Everything's on there, from what happened to Harvest to the involvement of the Spartans last November, which included contact with an alien ship," the General said, taking on a more serious tone of voice, "because you see, these aliens aren't the friendly types most people would expect. They're bad ass types, responsible for torching the farming colony of Harvest and killing the three million people living on it."

Parker looked aghast for a moment, although he didn't seem to sure what he should think, or say for that matter.

"They torched Harvest?"

"You bet your ass they did," the General replied bluntly, "they have technology far superior to ours, which makes them one major threat to the security of the human race. You ought to read up on what's on that datapad, maybe then I won't have to tell you all about it."

Parker nodded, pocketing the datapad and then turning to the General with a worried expression on his face.

"Why haven't I heard of this before?" Parker asked.

"Because, it's been covered up, something which the United Nations Space Command does extremely well," the General said, nodding to add emphasis on his point, "if this got out to the public, we would have panic all around, especially on the Outer Colonies which are the most vulnerable. Hell, if these OCPLF rebels knew about these aliens, maybe they would stop fighting us and start fighting the aliens. Fight against humankind's common enemy, if you know what I mean."


"So far, it seems we're fighting a phoney war," the General continued, "ever since last November, next to nothing has happened between us and these aliens, allowing us to concentrate on more immediate matters, such as these damn rebels."

Parker nodded again, listening as the General ranted on about whatever came to his mind.

"These rebels, Parker, they're fanatics," the General said, "most ain't afraid of dying, as long as it gets them closer to their goal of independence. Usually we would be calling them Insurrectionists but it has occurred to me that these guys aren't your usual Innie. These guys, they are so much more organized, so much better at what they do, they deserve to be put into a separate group."

Parker frowned.

"What group would that be, General?"

"Assholes," the General replied, grinning. He let out a bit of a laugh when he saw Parker's expression change from the frown to one of bewilderment.

"Parker, have you noticed how our men here are low on their fighting spirit and bored with being stuck on a shithole of a world such as this one?"

"I think so…"

"What do you mean, 'you think so'?" The General asked, sounding a little annoyed at Parker's uncertainty, "it's either 'yes' or 'no'. Christ Parker, sometimes I wonder how you survive here."

Before Parker could say something to combat the General's mostly unserious remark (the General was smiling when he said it), the middle-aged man had started speaking again.

"We need these Spartans, Parker," the General said, "even if one is a little crazy. The other one, the female one, she'll be keeping him under

"You think that'll work?"

The General shrugged, he didn't seem to care too much.

"I hope it does."

A silence fell across the room as the General sat thinking about what he had just said and Parker stood trying to work out what he should say next. The silence ended when the General brought up something else, something he had never heard of before.

"Parker, I need you to organize two tents," the General said, "one for five people and one VIP tent."

Parker raised an eyebrow.

"What for?"

The General grinned.

"We're not only getting Spartans," he said with some amusement, "we're getting five Shortsword pilots and their aircraft. Five, Parker (the General held up one pen hand to make the amount of five with his four fingers and a thumb) can you believe that?"

"You never mentioned this before…"

"I know, it slipped my mind," the General said, although he didn't seem to be fussed about it too much, "they won't be arriving until sometime after our Spartans arrive, but I want the tents ready for them…"

"Hang on a minute," Parker said, interrupting the General, "you said two tents, one for five and one for some VIP. Who's the VIP?"

The General thought about this for a moment, nodding to himself as he remembered what he had been talking about concerning the VIP.

"Major Lance Kilgore, that famous Shortsword pilot, is coming down as well," the General said, "we need to make him feel right at home. He's bringing along a camera crew as well to film his exploits, so make sure you have a tent prepared for them as well, eh?"

Now it was Parker's turn to roll his eyes, although he did salute and look down the General with a casual expression.

"I'll see you later," he said, turning around and leaving the tent. Happy with what had just occurred, the General sat back in his chair and took a moment to reach over and grab the box of chocolates sitting on his desk, opening it and reaching into it, grabbing another rounded, flat-bottomed chocolate but with a slightly different design on the top than the last one he had eaten earlier. Putting it in his mouth, it was easy to discern what flavour this one was.

"Pineapple flavoured filling," he said to himself, "my favourite." As he sat chewing, he took some time to admire the interior of his tent, noticing the old United Nations flag that was hung up in the far corner. One other thing that caught his eye was the small sand-coloured lizard with the prickly thorns on its back, much like the thorny devil lizard from Earth but slightly different. The lizard was staying motionless on a metal crate stacked by the corner and remained that way for about another minute while the General sat watching it from his desk.

What uninteresting creatures, the General thought, the damn thing wasn't even moving. It did move when the door of the tent slid open, the lizard hurrying for the space behind the crate to hide from the sight of the sudden interlopers that had invaded its domain.

Looking towards the two figures that had stepped inside, the General managed another smile.

"My favourite marine, for more reasons than one!" He exclaimed as he saw the young, light-brown haired woman approach his desk, followed by the smiling Corporal hanging back at the far end of the tent.

"What brings you out from your patrol, Lyssa?" The General asked, looking up at the 2nd Lieutenant, "something happen?"

Lyssa had never been one to smile often and so kept a dull expression as she approached the General's desk, throwing a datapad onto the wooden desk so that it caught the General's attention for a moment.

"Not exactly," Lyssa replied casually, "I couldn't say that anything really exciting happened…"

"But the armoured convoy was on its way right there…"

"They didn't come," she replied, "the only contact we had with any sort of rebel force was some sissy-ass scout that decided to poke his nose out at the other end of the clearing we were guarding. I took care of him, searched his pockets and found that datapad."

The General nodded, listening to what the Lieutenant had to say, taking the datapad with one hand while reaching into his box of chocolates with the other. The datapad looked like an older model, battered and scratched with age but otherwise still working. It seemed to be displaying some sort of map, and Lyssa had helpfully zoomed it in on a certain point of interest.

"What's this?" The General asked, looking up at the Lieutenant. She had been here on KV9-X7 from day one, as the General had been. He had gotten to know her for her somewhat bad-ass attitude and ability to get any job he gave her done. Which was why she was his "favourite marine", although being the only woman on the planet in the marines also had helped her reach this status with the General.

The Corporal, Harry Walther, hung back at the other end of the tent, letting Lyssa do the talking while he stood playing with his hopefully unloaded sidearm. That guy was the idiot of Lyssa's squad, even the General knew that, but even a fool could tell that having spent so much time in Lyssa's squad the man had developed a liking for the female squad leader. The General could see it in the way he was eyeing Lyssa from behind while he twirled the pistol around in his hand like some Wild West gunslinger, humming quietly.

"There's a map on that datapad," Lyssa explained, taking off her NCO cap and running a hand across her sweat coated brow. Being out in the desert for hours on end did take its toll on the body, the General could tell. For one thing, she smelt of sweat, as did the Corporal, although the Corporal was considerably worse in the body odour department.

"I figured that out, Lieutenant," the General said. He used his other hand to hold out the box of chocolates, shaking it invitingly, as he had done with Parker when he had been inside the tent.


"What type of chocolate?" Lyssa asked, peering into the box from where she stood.

"All kinds," the General said.

Lyssa shook her head.

"Not right now..."

"What about the Corporal?" The General gazed over to the Corporal who had been intently gazing at Lyssa's backside from where he stood. He looked up when he had heard his rank said, ceasing his twirling of the pistol.

"Somebody call me?" He asked.

"You want a chocolate?" The General asked. The Corporal looked interested, gazing towards the box.

"What type?"

"What type?" The General shook his head, rephrasing the Corporal's question, "maybe you should come over here and find out."
Corporal Walther shook his head, not interested in the offer.

"No thanks," he said.

Taking the box back and placing it on the side of his desk, the General took himself one more chocolate as he took a good examination of the map stored on the datapad. After about a minute he looked back up towards Lyssa, who had taken out a water canteen and was downing its contents with a relived expression.

"So, what exactly am I looking at here?" The General asked, putting the datapad down. Lyssa put her canteen away, taking a moment to answer, looking a little flustered.

"There's an OCPLF supply and vehicle depot a fair distance north of here," Lyssa said, "I was thinking you would be interested in doing something about it."

"You left your guard duty just to tell me this?" The General asked, frowning.

Lyssa shrugged.

"Is there something wrong with that, sir? The rest of my squad is still out there…"

The General smiled.

"Don't get worried about me getting pissed off," he said cheerfully, "I'm glad you told me this. Any old excuse to get out of the sun, eh?"
Lyssa nodded in agreement, managing a weak smile.

"Well, that's good, real good," the General said, "because it just so happens that today we're actually receiving some proper reinforcements. I'm sure you heard my talk about the Spartans the other night, am I right?"

"Yes, sir, I was listening," Lyssa replied. Of course you were, the General thought, you always listened.

"Well, the two we managed to get are arriving today," the General continued, "and might very well arrive in the next ten minutes. One of them is a bit of a crazy, though, so we managed to get a squad-mate of his to come down as well, in an effort to keep him under control. Hopefully it'll work out."

Lyssa was unsure of what to think: a crazy Spartan? She hardly knew anything about Spartans, but what she did know had lead her to believe that maybe a crazy one wasn't such a good thing.

"Crazy, sir?"

"Well, you could say that," the General replied, "you know, he went nuts, killed a doctor and some security guards last month while he was on Reach, something like that…"

"And I guess rather than kill him the UNSC has sent him down here so we can get stuck with him?"

The General nodded, smiling while he did.

"You're certainly good at figuring things out, Lieutenant," the General said, "because that's precisely the reason they sent him down here. I never requested Spartans, but once the people in control of them all found out about our secluded little operation here they decided that rather than kill him and lose morale amongst the others, they would stick him down here with us so that he was out of the way.

"When I heard about this, it was only when I requested a means of keeping him in check did they bother to send his female squad-mate. You see, there are a few theories about why he's mentally unstable, but from what I heard, there was a botched raid involving Colonel Timothy Hanley on Tribute last December."

"The Christmas Eve shootings?" Lyssa asked, aware of what the General was talking about.

"Yes, I see you're well read up on the subject, as you usually are," the General said, with a smile, "except the public story never mentions any dead Spartans. It merely mentions dead cops and dead rebels, Hanley also being kept out of the picture."

"So I guess the Spartans that were there, the one we're getting is among them?"

"His name's Leon, by the way," the General said, "he was acting as a sniper for the raiding team when the cops barged in and screwed things up." He shook his head, obviously thinking that the whole screw up could have been avoided. "Leon was shot by Hanley himself, according to surveillance and forensic evidence, taking a bullet to the gut and tumbling from his vantage point, which was about four floors down onto solid concrete."

"So, he's never been the same since then?" Lyssa asked, having been listening intently to what the General had been saying. She put her NCO cap back on, making sure it fit snugly onto her head.

"Uh-huh. I think the whole screw-up was a lack of communication between whoever was running the Spartans and the Tribute police, although we later found out that the cops had convinced somebody at the meeting of the rebel powers to wear a wire so he could stay out of prison. That's how the cops found out, they just weren't expecting the Spartans to be there."

"And so things went bad from there?"

"Yes, they sure did," the General replied, sounding a little excited, obviously thinking that it would have been quite exciting to have been in the restaurant when it had all happened, "there was just this one, big shootout which ripped up the restaurant and killed three of the five Spartans that were there. The other survivor, a female by the name of Kyla, had received two bullets to the side thanks to Hanley's crackshot shooting skills. She's the squad-mate accompanying Leon."

"Hopefully she isn't mentally unstable…"

"She isn't," the General replied, "she passed her psyche-test, unlike Leon who decided he didn't like the guy giving him the questions and so started shooting up the place. We have the video of that happening, if you're interested…"

Lyssa managed another weak smile.

"I think I'll pass…"

"Understandable," the General added, "anyhow, we're getting both of them to complement our dwindling fighting ability. Hopefully Leon won't decide he doesn't like us and so shoot up the place…"

"Hang on a minute," Lyssa suddenly said, realizing something, "you said that Hanley wounded both of these Spartans, right?"


"Don't you think they might have some sort of personal vendetta against the man or something?" She asked, "Or am I wrong?"

The General chuckled, finding the idea kind of funny.

"Maybe they do have a vendetta, considering the rogue Colonel gunned down one or two of their buddies," he said, "but then that may just compel them to do their job more effectively, in the hopes that they can get back at the Colonel for what he did last Christmas Eve. I think that either way we will have two very competent fighters with us."

"You'll still need us marines…"

"I know that," the Colonel said, "and I'm not forgetting you. Besides, two Spartans isn't going to do too much against the rebels, which is why we need every marine we on this planet. This supply depot that belongs to the OCPLF, I think that maybe we can assault it tomorrow morning, since our Shortsword pilots will be coming today as well…"

Lyssa raised an eyebrow, having been completely unaware of this. Shortsword pilots? Maybe the Rear Admiral's requests to High Command back on Earth had finally gotten through to someone.

"Shortsword pilots?" She asked, "We're getting Shortsword pilots?"

"Five pilots, one Major and five of the Shortsword fighter/bombers," the General answered, smiling, "so that way, before we attack the supply depot we can soften it up with the Shortswords."

"Who's the Major?"

The General laughed, although Lyssa failed to see the joke. She took a look back at the Corporal, who had been listening to the conversation, spinning that pistol of his around in his right hand.

"This Major's Lance Kilgore, a highly decorated guy who is probably so far up his own ass he hasn't seen daylight for years," the General said jokingly, "which is why we're setting up a tent just for him. He's even bringing a small camera crew just to film him doing what he does…"

"Is he a pilot?"

"Yes, but he hardly does any flying anymore," the General explained, "He just tells the other pilots what to do. He's one of those people you know will make it through this war without as much as a scratch."

Lyssa nodded, agreeing with the General on this point entirely. She had vaguely heard of Major Kilgore, a veteran pilot who had seen his fair share of battles but had never gotten hurt in anyone of them. He had a tendency to wear cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, walking around as if he owned the place, punching up anybody he didn't like.

"So, Lieutenant, since these people will be arriving within the hour, the Spartans due to arrive any minute, maybe you, being my favourite marine here on the base, should go out to the landing strip and greet the newcomers?"

Lyssa looked taken off guard by this request, but she quickly composed herself.


"Just greet the newcomers and guide them to their accommodation," the General said, "it can't be that hard, can it?"

"No sir, I guess not…"


There was a brief silence as the General took another look at the rebel datapad, frowning as he saw the marked gun emplacements near the depot.

"I think I'll send some scouts to, well, scout out this supply depot. I'm willing to attack it, Lieutenant, I just need to know what we're up against. I do know, however, that attacking this depot will bring us right back into this war and show the rebels that we haven't gone on vacation."

Lyssa nodded and saluted.

"I think I and the Corporal will get going," she said, "is there anything else you want to tell me before I go?"

The General grinned, putting the datapad down, looking up at the young Lieutenant.

"I would be careful when dealing with the Major and his pilots," the General said, "flyboys can be extremely cocky, thinking they're better than us regular marines. I would also be careful with our unstable Spartan, but hopefully his female friend can keep him in check."

Lyssa nodded, understanding the General's point entirely. In the past she had met a few pilots and one thing that had always annoyed her was the way most of them considered themselves superior to ground marines, probably because flying some sort of aircraft needed some extra skill. She didn't care too much about it, if there was something that reassured her it was that most of these pilots she had met had never actually been in proper combat, unlike her: she had been in quite a few engagements, from fighting basic Insurrectionists to taking on these new OCPLF types.

"See ya later, Lieutenant," the General said. Lyssa saluted once more, turned around and the Corporal, taking the hint, followed her out of the tent and into the sun. The General, alone once more, started to get to work on finishing his chocolates, noticing how the lizard in the far corner was out of its hiding space. It was kind of cute, when he thought about it.