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ODSS Chapter 12
Posted By: Firerwolf<triss2008@yahoo.com>
Date: 26 February 2012, 9:17 pm

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2552 Reach August 29

There was a different feeling in the air on Reach. Ships were gathering in the sky above, retreating back from the outer colonies to be moved to protect the inner colonies. Because of this, there were a large amount of ground forces on the planet. All of these surplus soldiers seemed to be waiting around with no real purpose. On top all that, more gear was being shipped to Reach and sent up to the ships. The UNSC was gearing up for a fight, and you could almost taste it in the air. She wondered how many of the soldiers would be sent off on the ships and never even reach the land combat before a Covenant ship blasted them to bits. Some soldiers were nervous while some were eager for the fight ahead. The ODSS were among the eager crowd. Eager wasn't always a good thing, though. The ODSS had too much verve and had turned to fighting each other to let off some of the energy. Kathleen sat, watching as Peter and Luke fought over something, but she didn't really know what. Knowing the two of them, it was likely something stupid and trivial.

"Are you going to stop them?" Matthew watched the two men, trying to decide which one he would put his money on if they were betting.

"No, let them blow off some steam." Kathleen stood up. "Be sure they just don't kill each other. I don't want to have to train replacements. Don't even think I could find soldiers good enough to replace them."

"Where are you going?" Pat turned his attention away from the fight to look at his Sergeant. "You going AWOL on us?"

"I'm going to see if I can find out why they took our armor." Kathleen turned and left the room. The marines returned to watching the two soldiers trying to beat each other silly.

The door opened at the other end of the gym and David cursed. "That sure as hell isn't the Sarge." He glanced over at the figures that had entered.

"Well, that's going to cause a problem." Emily watched the two soldiers walk toward them. Both Emily and David turned back to watching the fight, trying to ignore the Spartans as they neared.

Fred stood behind the marines who were watching the brawl. He didn't know why they were fighting, but the fight had gotten his attention. The skill and power-driven style of the fighting reminded him of his own fighting style, of the fighting style that the Spartans were taught. Luke had blood dripping from his nose already, but Peter was already guaranteed a black eye the next day.

"Who the hell punches a sniper in the eye? That's just bad future planning." Emily sighed, about ready to break up the fight.

"I don't think that the future matters much in this fight. Besides, Peter uses his right eye." David leaned back and put his hands behind his head.

The Spartans' presence was really starting to get to Tobias. He knew it wasn't directly their fault, but he blamed the Spartans for making the missions of the ODSS harder. The marines had to work around the actions of the super soldiers, and Kathleen was always looking over her shoulder for them. He couldn't figure out why the pair of Spartans were watching the fight. It didn't take long to annoy him too much and he snapped. He turned to look at Fred. "Is there something you want, giant squid?"

"Don't start a fight. Sarge will kill you if you do." Tym frowned as his attention shifted to the Spartans. Luke and Peter stopped fighting, focusing more on the spectators who, like the rest of the ODSS, they didn't like.

"Where did you learn that fighting style?" Fred directed the question to Luke and Peter, who glared at him.

"Our Sergeant taught it to us." Luke crossed his arms, reluctant to answer his questions. "She taught us everything we know."

Fred turned his full attention to Luke. "What's your Sergeant's name?"

The ODSS froze, unsure of how to answer. They couldn't give him the name Kathleen as he might recognize it, and she lacked a last name. "Maria, Maria Saran. First Sergeant Maria Saran." Tobias only vaguely remembered the name of the AI that they'd worked with during training.

"That was all I wanted to know." Fred relaxed a bit, looking over the soldiers. He had an odd feeling about the troops, and it was strangely unsettling.

Tym stopped them before they could leave. "Wait, who the hell are you, anyway?"

Fred was quiet, deciding if he should or shouldn't answer. "I am Petty Officer Spartan-104." He then motioned to Will beside him. "This is Petty Officer Spartan-043."

"You know, if you're so interested in our fighting technique, then I could show it to you. These two aren't really interested in proper technique." Tobias glared at Tym as the other soldier elbowed him in the side.

Fred paused, unsure of what to do. He didn't really want to fight the soldier and risk injuring him, but he didn't have a good reason to back down. "I don't think that would be a good idea. We need to get back to our ship to prepare for our next mission." Fred motioned to Will and the two left.

"Pansies." Tobias turned back to find Tym glaring at him. "What?" He raised his shoulders, still annoyed.

"What did I say about picking a fight?" Tym hit him in the shoulder. "You do realize they were Spartans. Sarge always went easy on us because she'd kill us otherwise. He wouldn't have held back."

"Good, I wouldn't want him too." Tobias rubbed his arm where he had been hit and looked away from the other man. "We're just as good as them, and I want to prove it. The UNSC puts so much value in their Spartans. Let them see that an ODSS can beat one."

"You and I both know you wouldn't win. Hell, in the best case scenario, you'd be put in the infirmary. You'd only succeed in proving you're a fool, that you aren't as strong as a Spartan, and the Sergeant would kill you." Tym took a deep breath. "You should have just been glad he brought your lie about the Sarge."

"That was pretty quick thinking. I was drawing a blank as to what we could tell them. Probably should have thought of that ahead of time." David smiled.

"Yeah, I'm just a bit worried though." Emily frowned and looked over at Edward beside her then back to Tym and Tobias. "If those Spartans do a data search for the name it could end badly for us."

"Why'd you ask their names anyway? What good does rank and number do for us?" Luke took a seat and wiped the blood from his face.

"The Sergeant knows them. If she knows the numbers, maybe she'll be able to tell how serious their presence is." Tym took a moment to memorize the numbers they'd told him.

"The fact that any Spartans are here tells me this is Serious." Peter sat down as far away from Luke as possible. "We cool?"

"Yeah, we're cool. There are more important issues now, anyway. The question is just which issue is the most important." Luke moved over to his own seat on the other side of Edward.

Kathleen was completely unaware of the encounter with the Spartans. She was instead focused on the new armor in front of her. They'd said it was Mark V armor, the latest in the MJOLNIR armor series, what they had always wanted it to be. She had to admit that it looked a bit like the old armor, but bulkier.

"So what's so special about it?" Kathleen stared at the reflective visor as though that alone could make her understand it.

"Well, for starters, it has a full body personal energy shield." One of the techs busily worked on a component. "Second, it allows you to directly connect with an AI. It's why we had to update your neural interface. Your HUD will also now show you the strength of your shield, how much ammunition you have, and allow you to better monitor your squad's health."

"They will all be helpful features in our future missions." Maria appeared on a holotank to Kathleen's left. The AI's unusually pure white color was tinted gray and she held a sword and shield, something she'd never seen the AI do before.

"What do you mean 'our future missions?" Kathleen frowned as she turned to look at the AI.

"I'll be accompanying you and the ODSS on future missions. You'll find that I can be of a great deal of help." Maria bowed slightly to Kathleen.

Kathleen nodded, satisfied. "Has the armor been tested yet or am I going to be testing it in action?"

"A Spartan has tested it in a live fire simulation. It passed perfectly." Maria sounded pleased with the outcome of the test.

"Which Spartan tested it?" Kathleen crossed her arms. It didn't really matter which one, but it would give her at least the knowledge of one more living Spartan. She didn't even know why it mattered to her that any of them were alive. She wasn't one of them anymore. The only lives that mattered to her now were her ODSS.

Maria paused before she answered. "Spartan-117. He and the AI Cortana completed the course exceptionally. I cannot wait for us to get into that armor and see what it can really do." Kathleen searched her memory trying to remember which Spartan was 117. She knew he had been their squad leader but the name escaped her.

"When do we get to use it?" She looked to the armor. "And can the color be changed?" She knew that it was the standard color for Spartans, but it felt wrong to her.

"Well, the suit will be ready for you by the end of the day. As for color, what did you have in mind?" The technician tossed his wire cutters over to a side table.

"I would like it to be black." Kathleen nodded. Yes, black felt right. ODST wore black battle suits; it was the color for her.

"I'll see what I can do about the color." The tech moved around the armor as he worked here and there on the armor.

"Relax for now, First Sergeant. I'll contact you when the suit's ready." Maria paused as lines of code flowed over her body.

Kathleen nodded, taking one last look at the armor before leaving the lab. She let her mind wander as she returned to her team's barracks. She tried to remember 117's name and was pretty sure she'd narrowed it down to ether John or James. She recognized Spartans by looks, movements, and name, not number. She wondered if she could get the UNSC to let her soldiers use the old Mark IV armor, but dismissed it. She didn't want to risk them being injured because their reflexes weren't able to handle the armor.

She reached the barrack of her troops and was confused by what she saw. The soldiers that had been energetic earlier were sitting quietly on their cots. "What happened?" She did a quick head count to make sure that one of them wasn't missing.

"We met some Spartans." Tobias looked down toward the ground. "Two of them, 43 and 104. They appeared shortly after you left."

Kathleen didn't have to try to recognize the numbers. She knew them by heart. 117, Fred, and Will must all be on the planet. There was a new version of the armor, Spartans on the planet, and an odd feeling in the air. Something was up, she just didn't know what. "Then why do you all look like you're about to be forced to become regular marines?"

"Well, one of them sort of asked us about who our Sergeant was. We'd kind of already used the pronoun 'she' so we couldn't tell them it was the gunnery." Tobias swayed a bit as he spoke.

"Then who'd you say it was?" Kathleen frowned, her mind searching all possible scenarios and how best to handle each scenario.

"First Sergeant Maria Saran." David sat up from his cot. "Then we realized the Spartans would look it up. Emily and I then went looking for you."

Emily crossed her arms over her chest. "I stumbled upon several Spartans that were moving supplies to a pelican. Heavy duty supplies like metal plates and explosives."

Kathleen paused, digesting the information. "What the Spartans do with those supplies is no worry of ours. It's their mission and if we haven't been briefed then it's not ours." She moved over to the communications panel near the door. She quickly opened a channel to the lab.

"I told you I'd call you when your armor was ready." Maria sounded a bit annoyed.

"I'm not calling about the armor. I need you to make up a soldier for me." Kathleen waited for a reply.

"Tell me what you want exactly and I'll make it." Maria's voice had gone from annoyed to helpful.

"Name: Maria Saran with the rank First Sergeant. Give her a good background fighting rebels and Covies. Mark her as the former leader of this squad but having died not long ago during a Covenant ground engagement." That would fix the reason as to why the Sergeant wasn't working with the team any more but still give a reasonable profile as to why the soldiers were skilled. Kathleen nodded her head. "Good, that should take care of that."

"Soldier created, now I must return to preparing your armor. I will contact you when it is ready." Maria then cut the channel.

There was a second of silence. Peter perked up. "What armor was she talking about?"

~Pillar of Autumn~

Fred read over the information for the fourth time. Once they'd gotten back to the Pillar of Autumn, John had assigned a group to work on preparing the Pelican. Fred had not been assigned to the group, so he had time to kill. Rather than just sit around, he'd decided to look up the Sergeant that the soldiers had mentioned earlier. What he'd found was not exactly settling. He found a Sergeant with a nearly spotless record dating back to before the Human-Covenant war to fighting rebels. A squad of twelve soldiers and not a single one lost except the Sergeant herself on a recent mission. The odds of that were nearly impossible. It took him a moment to notice Will standing in front of him." Is there something wrong?"

"I'm the one that should be asking that to you." Will nodded his head toward the knife that Fred was holding loosely. He had been working with it to get used to the new armor, but it had been forgotten.

"I looked up the Sergeant that those soldiers mentioned." Fred flipped the knife into his hand and put it away. "The record is just too clean. Only ever lead one team, never lost a solder, fought rebels and Covenant, lasted this far into the war and only recently died in combat. It's all just too perfect."

"Sounds almost like a Spartan's record, except for the dying part." Will frowned, though it couldn't be seen behind his helmet. "Then what is it? A fake solider?"

Fred thought the idea over. "Possible, but why would they not be able to tell us the truth?"

"Put it from your mind. There are more pressing matters, like the Covenant ship we are going to board." Will put out his hand and Fred took it to stand.

"You're right, it's not important." Fred pushed aside his unease. No matter how much the soldiers and their seemingly made up Sergeant confused him, they had nothing to do with his current mission, and he couldn't risk being distracted. "Come on, we'll see if John has anything we can do." Will nodded, hoping his friend would put the thoughts out of his mind for good.

~End chapter 12~