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We're not rebels, we just play them on TV: The Other War, Part 1 1/2
Posted By: houseoftang<houseoftang@sbcglobal.net>
Date: 19 January 2007, 12:48 pm

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Author's Note:
Yes, I realize this is short, and has barely anything happening. Aside from advancing the plot, this is a little character development and a little clarification for the first chapter, which I had meant it to be a part of. No, we haven't met any actual rebels yet, yes, both Blue and Red Teams are ODST, and yes, they were just practicing in virtual reality. Don't worry, we'll get to the fun stuff soon enough.

The Other War
Part 1 1/2: We're not rebels,we just play them on TV

0900 Hours, March 18, 2552 (Military Calendar) / Sol System, Chawla Base, planet Earth, City of Boston

The two teams reassembled on Chawla base in a conference room the next morning; all the seats were filled by 0858. Ramona had dark circles under her eyes, and squinted as though trying to block out the light. Vazquez slouched ever so little, and Ydrionis held his hand to his brow, keeping one eye shut. Major General Nordstrom was waiting in the debriefing room, along with a display showing a hologram of Ares, the training facility's AI. Mbaro Mbutu switched seats with Captain Langer to sit further away from the two women, and Yi gave him a look that could freeze an Unggoy solid.

The General began. "Good morning, Marines. I'd like to congratulate you all on walking in on your own power today–" Here the General gave a quick look at Mbutu, "Given that it was Saint Patrick's Day yesterday, and every bar in Boston was serving discount green beer. I don't touch the stuff myself. Ares, if you'll proceed with the items you highlighted, please."

Suddenly springing to life, the image of the chiseled-marble statue on the pedestal began to speak, emphasizing points with one hand while leaning on a javelin with the other.

"I'll begin with your choice of insertion points, Major Oppenheimer. While the point you chose served well for your entrance to the simulated rebel base, it allowed the capture of your insertion vehicle by the opposing team. A better choice might have been here." On one of the view screens which hung in the front of the room, a topographical map of the simulated exercise area appeared, with a red arrow pointing to a valley.

Two hours and twenty-three minutes later, Ares had exhaustively covered over two dozen tactical "mistakes" made by both sides, although more than two thirds had been attributed to Red Team. While many of Ares' points were quite clear cut, such as Red Team's failure to use their passive IR vision, several were open to discussion.

"Colonel, that bit with the aircraft was a bit excessive. Your mission should have been to protect the mechanics room, and/or eliminate the Red Team. My pilots were coincidental to your task. Or–were you trying to capture the Pelican?" The AI paused, probably for dramatic effect. "You were, weren't you. Thinking like a true rebel. You scare me sometimes, Colonel."

Ares shook his helmeted head, making the plume ripple–an odd effect in simulated marble. "And that's saying a lot, for a military AI."

Yi smirked. "Of course I was after the Pelican. A full load of 12.7 mm x 99 mm ammo? And an M82 to use it with, not to mention the nose guns. What rebel wouldn't go after it? Never mind the value of a mint-condition bird like that to an operation like ours. I've seen rebels do crazier things. A life for three M7's? They see it as a tactical decision. An acceptable tactical loss. Aside from which, it would also strand UNSC personnel on the surface, where they could be captured and interrogated."

Captain Langer weighed in: "We've never seen rebels attempt to capture an insertion craft on any of our missions. It seems unlikely, given the firepower they'd be facing, that real rebels would try something like that."

But General Nordstrom put an end to the discussion with his opinion. "While we haven't seen rebels do that sort of thing in the past, their strength is their flexibility. Hardly a mission goes by where we aren't given some sort of surprise. Perhaps it's only the overwhelming firepower that our Pelicans boast that has kept a rebel from capturing one thus far. Who is to say they haven't tried? We can't ask them when they're dead."

After Ares' checklist, Nordstrom brought up a few more point, including several submitted by each team leader in their reports. These mostly dealt with broader issues of a strategic nature, rather than point-by-point tactical decisions. Major Oppenheimer was splitting up his team more than he should have been; Yi could have allowed a little more independent operation on Blue Team's part. She had visited each of the locations, including the Pelican's landing site, crisscrossing the compound numerous times, increasing the danger both to herself the rest of the team each time.

"It is such a fine line between giving enough guidance and giving enough freedom to your team, and it varies with every situation. I have confidence that both of you–" he indicated Yi and Oppenheimer, "Can find the most effective, happy medium. It certainly hasn't prevented you from doing your jobs out there in the field."

General Nordstrom finished with a bit of a pep talk. "I'd like to finish by thanking all of you for your splendid work, recently and always. I really do have to say that the two of you have done a better job than the Spartans' Blue Team ever did, and with increasingly difficult conditions. We really are pushing the rebels closer and closer to eradication or surrender. Preferably the latter, of course–God knows we need every single man and woman to face the Covenant. Red Team, you are dismissed. Blue team, please sync up and download the data for your next mission."

Colonel Yi waited until Oppenheimer's team was out the door. "Do we really need two weeks to review the data, sir?"

The General suppressed a smile–suppressed it with every ounce of will he had. Julie Yi didn't make even a mistake that small very often, but she'd kill him if he rubbed her face in it. That, or find some way to make him very, very sorry. He chose the high road, or as high a road as he could take at this point.

"You don't have two weeks, Colonel. You ship out in two hours."

Most other officers Nordstrom had worked with would have gaped open-mouthed for a moment. Blue Team had been promised leave immediately following this training exercise. Blue Team was used to getting what they wanted–they were one of two teams willing to fight the "Other War", or at least one of two who were both willing and able. The few soldiers who could do the things Yi and Oppenheimer were asked to do cracked after a few missions against other humans. Fighting the Covenant had made human life unspeakably precious–even murders on the street were down by an order of magnitude since the events at Harvest.

Blue Team got what they asked for, and Col. Julie Yi was good at asking. Nordstrom imagined that the owners of the vending carts in the marketplaces of Coral were terrified of her bargaining ability. Rumor had it that she had managed to make a vendor or two pay her to carry away their wares, and that without resorting to violence or the threat of it. The few seconds it took Yi to make her offer could have been the time it took for Blue Team to reach a telepathic consensus on the terms.

"Double the leave time. On double pay. And we'll need the checks before we take the leave, sir." She sounded like a lawyer who was giving a client a discount.

A proper bargain would mean at least one counteroffer. To simply accept her offer would say something about how badly Nordstrom needed them to pull this off. It would be the exact opposite of the way it was supposed to work in the UNSCMC. And it was exactly the statement Nordstrom wanted to make. He nodded acquiescence to the Colonel's requests.

"As your mission briefings state, just today we intercepted a transmission from the surface of the planet Windfall, in the Delta Pavonis system. It appears to be of rebel origin. . ." began the General.

The long and short of it was that a destroyer on a routine patrol route of the system had drifted into the path of a tightbeamed transmission from the surface early in the morning. It was highly irregular in every way, from format to frequency, typical of rebel communications. Because the transmission, or at least the intercepted portion, consisted of encoded data suggestive of navigational coordinates, the AI analysts who had processed and partially decoded the information decided that the full, unencrypted transmission would give away the location of a number of important rebel assets, perhaps even rebel colonies and bases.

Copies of the transmission existed, of course, on the ship which was intended to receive it, and probably somewhere on the surface of the planet Windfall, in some hitherto unknown rebel facility. The rest of the information was data about Windfall itself. Retrieving the information in that broadcastwas Blue Team's primary mission–retrieving the information with absolutely no traces of incursion, so it would remain relevant. If the rebels thought they had been discovered, the entire network would disappear and reorganize. Secondarily, they would of course mark the bases' location for surveillance and eventual assault.

Windfall was considered an Outer Colony, though it was close enough to Earth that it could have been an Inner Colony if not for the late colonization date. It was an incredibly fertile ball of dirt, and supplied many of the Inner Colonies with food. There wasn't much on Windfall except for farms, which would make the mission easier, at least on infiltration and exfiltration. A population of a few hundred thousand left a lot of space between small habitations with some estates spanning thousands of square kilometers. The AI analysts had located a number of likely locations for a rebel base, one of which was near the transmission's origin.

"I'm afraid we don't have ready access to many of the. . . specialized weapons your team prefers to work with, Colonel, and there isn't time to access Lt. Jonas' armory on Coral. . ." the General trailed off, with studied awkwardness.

"We'll work with what we have, General, as usual. If we have to use our weapons at all the mission is a failure, so it hardly matters what we bring. Is that everything?" replied Colonel Yi. The General was a terrible actor.

"Yes, Colonel. Gear up and head to Hangar C–we'll feed you en route. By this time tomorrow you should be on Windfall. Unless there are further questions, you are dismissed."

Chief Warrant Officer Ryder, the unofficial "transportation" specialist, piped up. "Righto, sir. What's for dinner?"

"Whatever you want, Chief Warrant Officer. It's the least we can do." chuckled the General. The air of vague anger at the change of orders broke with the CWO5's question. He was good for that sort of thing, too.