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The Taking of the Midsummer Night - part 1
Posted By: kr142616<kr142616@aim.com>
Date: 2 July 2010, 2:41 am

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      Sergeant First Class Nathan Tan stared at the armored ONI officer seated across the troop bay from him. Even though he couldn't see the spook's face, he knew the man was glaring at him. But behind his own polarized visor, Tan was doing the same.

      "What's the news from the major?" Tan asked the section CO next to him, not taking his eyes from the ONI spook. He kept his voice soft, even though it didn't leave his helmet, communicating on a private comm channel.

      "None yet," Lieutenant Verry answered. Like the sergeant, the helmet of his crimson-splashed CQB armor was polarized. Tan could still hear the scowl in his voice.

      "The D7 will go down, LT," the SFC placated, eyes still locked with the spook's. "Hanson won't stand for this shit."

      "He'd better not," Verry replied. "It won't be much of an uprising without his support."

      Tan looked down at his MA37, magazine loaded with stun rounds rather than the normal loadout. They caused excruciating pain, and were known to break limbs and, on occasion, kill. And today, ONI was ordering the Buckets to use them on civilians.

      "Colonel Davis has lost his way. First troops on the ground will follow him, but the General's men have been contacted up here. ONI loyalists are few and far between in the Buckets." Unlike the ODSTs and the Marine Corps as a whole, the Army never had much of a working relationship with ONI, with Colonel Ackerson the notable exception.

      "I hope you're right, sergeant."

      Tan remained staring at the spook, and flexed his fingers across the grip of his MA37. "I hope so, too."

      ONI Lieutenant Commander Amos Wright stood on the bridge of the UNSC Midsummer Night, hands folded behind his back in a relaxed approximation of a parade rest. Ahead and to the left of him, in the command chair, sat Captain Richard Lash, the Night's CO, staring through the viewport at the sapphire and emerald orb that was Sigma Octanus IV.

      "Sundown reports that Governor Jeromi has complied and issued the spacelanes cleared," the Night's comm officer reported. "The initial wave of troops is approaching Cote d'Azur."

      Wright glanced at Lash. The captain remained staring out the forward viewport, deep in thought.

      "That's excellent news, isn't it, captain?" Wright brushed a speck from his coveralls, the standard black for ONI officers.

      "Oh, yes it is," Lash responded distractedly, idly fiddling with an antique wristwatch.

      Wright had read the captain's file. He was a Hood loyalist, back to the waning days of the Great War, and along with the late Commander Keyes, he had been a confidante of Lord Hood's. Rumors had floated about that he had been involved with the admiral's protege, as well. Idly, Wright wondered how Lash felt knowing her father had served on the Night.

      "What do you think of this uprising?" Wright asked, stepping forward to bring himself alongside the command chair.

      "Hmm?" The captain turned to face Wright. "Well..." Lash paused. "I believe unity in the face of the new galactic landscape is essential to humanity as a species. We should do our best to preserve it."

      Wright considered a moment. "Well said. And convincing, as well." The ONI officer glanced down towards Lash. "Have you spoken to your old contemporaries as of late?"

      The captain stiffened at that. "Lieutenant Commander Wright, I understand I'm being observed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the same as all ship commanders in this fleet." Lash stood up, and walked to the tactical map situated behind the command chair. "But I'm a man of the UNSC first."

      Wright drew up beside him. "Of course, captain. Are the Shocktroopers ready to deploy?"

      An image of a glowing man, armored and cloaked in scarlet, appeared above the tac map. "Major Siward reports his men are ready. All Pelicans are prepped for launch. They simply await the command from Colonel Davis."

      "Thank you, Malcolm," Lash said, nodding to the AI and returning to the command chair.

      "You see, captain?" Wright smiled, following in his wake. "The Shocktroopers will be in the capitol soon, Governor Jeromi will be relieved, and this insurrection will be put down. The Office of Naval Intelligence serves unity."


      The simple command ran across the Night's Shocktrooper complement like a current, and as if jolted by it, Tan sprang forward. The spook across him jumped as well, startled only briefly as he began to raise his M7S.

      He never had a chance.

      In one fluid motion, Tan drew his M6 and placed two shots neatly into the spook's faceplate. The orange visor shattered, and as the spook slumped forward, blood began dripping through the holes. The sergeant only spared him a quick, dispassionate glanced before shouldering his rifle.

      "Pile out!" Lieutenant Verry yelled, slapping the crimson helmet of the Bloody Bucket next to him in the unit's traditional show of encouragement. "Weapons free, weapons free! Secure the hangar!"

      As the last Bucket was jumping to the flight deck, Verry turned to the sergeant, his visor depolarized to show a predatory grin.

      "Hoo-ah, LT," Tan said, depolarizing and grinning in turn. "Let's get some."

      "Sir, incoming transmission, unsecured across fleetwide channels."

      "Play it," Lash ordered, settling into his chair.

      A voice Wright recognized as belonging to the senior enlisted man of the UNSC spoke."All callsigns, this is CSM Duke. Confirm Directive Seven is a go. Take, take, take."

      Wright felt his blood run cold, and spun to Lash. "What is this?"

      The captain simply shook his head, speechless.

      Wright snarled. "This is too bold. Malcolm?"

      The AI rematerialized at the holotank before Lash. "The Shocktroopers have taken the hangers. It seems this was orchestrated in advance."

      "Dammit," the ONI officer swore. "Have the marines move to hold off their advance."

      "Only two platoons and your Naval security are available, Lieutenant Commander," Malcolm replied. "It will take time to decant the remainder from cryosleep."

      "Do it," Wright ordered.

      At that, the captain seemed to recall where he was, rising from his chair. "Excuse me, but this is still my ship," Lash said. "I won't risk my marines. Malcolm, reposition our troops to secure engineering and cryo."

      "Belay that!" Wright shouted before the AI could respond. "The admiral has given me authority to assume command in the event of insurrection." He strode purposefully to the captain. "This ship is mine."

      "And those marines are mine," Lash responded. "Malcolm, do not comply."

      Wright snarled and drew his M6 from its holster, leveling the handgun with the captain's head. "You misunderstand," he growled, all pretense at calm gone. "I have ultimate authority here now."

      What little chatter there had been on the bridge ceased, and Wright could feel all eyes on him. The Naval troopers stood at the ready at the bulkhead, seemingly the only unfazed by Wright's actions.

      "Bastard," Lash said, standing stock still. Wright could just imagine the look of resigned fury on his face, and allowed himself a satisfied smirk.

      "Glad we've reached an understanding, then."

      The unsteady silence hung in the air for several long seconds, until it was broken by the comm officer. "Sir, another transmission," the man said, looking between the two officers as if unsure which to address. "This one from aboard the Night, sir."

      "Put it through," Wright said, his gun still steady. "You may answer, captain."

      "How gracious," Lash growled.

      "Captain Lash, this is Major Siward," a rough voice said over the comms. "We've taken the hangars and eliminated all ONI personnel. Your marines and sailors have not been harmed. We need to know where you stand before this continues. Does the Army have your loyalty?"

      Wright leaned in close to Lash, his voice barely a whisper. "Captain, does the Office have your loyalty?"

      Lash closed his eyes and let out a sigh. After a long moment, he spoke. "Major, my loyalty is to the chain of command first and foremost. I will not tolerate any insurrection on my ship."

      There was a pause. "Understood, sir. See you on the bridge. Siward out."

      Wright held his M6 on the captain for a moment longer, then let it drop. Lash glanced sidelong at the ONI officer, who took a step back. "Command your ship, then, captain," Wright said. "Loyalty is rewarded by the Office."

      Lash nodded, and made his way to the tac map, where Malcolm rematerialized. "Malcolm, secure my ship. No mutiny will be tolerated. You are free to coordinate; update us with your progress."

      "Aye, captain," the AI said. "And Lieutenant Commander, if we delay the decanting slightly, the risk of casualties drops off significantly. Ten minutes before they can support our current security."

      "An excellent compromise," Wright said, holstering his pistol as the AI's avatar winked out. He left the holster conspicuously unsnapped, however, and turned back to Lash. "Thank you for your cooperation, captain."

      "Of course," Lash said tiredly, resuming his seat in the command chair. "I am, after all, loyal to the UNSC first."

      Malcolm's avatar had disappeared from the tac map, but he still devoted his attention to the bridge. He watched the captain resume his seat at the command chair and say a few words to Wright before taking up a datapad.

      Malcolm opened a connection to the 'pad:

       the AI asked, the text flashing inconspicuously across Lash's screen, next to the Sigma Octanus orbital traffic control feed.

      If he'd still had a visible avatar, Malcolm would have smiled.

      Malcolm observed Lash sitting in thought for a moment.