“Sword Team, this is Captain Patel, what is the situation down there.”
No answer. Captain Patel sighed. “Sword Team this is Captain Patel, I need a sitrep.”
“They’re not answering, sir.” One of the technicians said.
No shit. “Commander Collins, this Captain Patel, please respond!”
This was not good. The quest for peace was pretty much Dead in Space with no fuel, being bombarded by Covenant AA emplacements. And somehow the damn Covies converted their fueling station for their own. Captain Patel had sent the best the Quest for Peace had to offer, Sword Team, to alleviate some of their problems. Even though they were successful in blowing up one of the major fueling depots, and providing the Quest for Peace a momentary reprieve, the bridge still couldn’t raise Sword Team. That only meant two things; they were captured or dead.
This had turned an already shitty situation into a royally fucked up predicament. Patel would have to send a second team to find Sword. What else could he do? The Quest for Peace was nothing more than an incapacitated hunk of floating metal.
Agent Braxton, the Spartan standing beside Patel in his captain’s chair, must have read his mind. “Should I prep my team for deployment?”
Patel shifted in his seat. He had to move forward carefully, if he blindly sent a team down there they could end up like Sword Team. Whatever, that was. All he knew it wasn’t good and he didn’t want to end up with two full teams missing.
“No, too risky.” He told the Spartan.
“Risky, sir? Our people are down there in enemy territory. Dead or alive it’s a risk we have to take.” Braxton was no stranger to losing Spartans on her watch. Those Spartans never made it back home. And she didn’t want it to be a repeat that incident twice.
“It’s too risky to send another full team, Braxton. I don’t know if we dropped the ball on intel, they knew we were coming, or something else entirely. I do know we’ve completely lost our eyes. In any case, we can’t run that same risk by sending another team.” He said staring her in the eyes. “No, we send a small team of 2 for recon. Once you can locate where Sword team is we can move on with the next phase.”
“And what is our next phase, sir?” she inquired, folding her arms.
“It all depends if they are alive or not.” It might have been shooting from the hip, but he felt it was the best option they had.
Agent Braxton sighed. Patel could tell she wasn’t 100 percent on board with the idea. But she knew they only had 2 options; and only one was being authorized. “Who am I teaming with, sir?”
Braxton paused for a second before she spoke up. “Sir, I thought you wanted to avoid risks. She’s a risk.”
“If this mission does turn into a search and rescue, she is the best person for the job.” He said placing his hand on Braxton’s right shoulder. “Find her.”
She eyed his hand resting there then pushed it off with her left hand. “As you wish.” She said, turning and leaving the bridge.
“Avery, where the hell is Lieutenant Collins?” Braxton asked the Quest for Peace’s AI as she entered the elevator car.
“Tsk Tsk Tsk. Language Agent Braxton… Watch it.” Avery said teasingly.
“Avery just cut it and tell me where she is.”
“Alright Ms. Grumpy Armor, Checking…The Lieutenant is currently in a late night session with her psychiatrist.”
Julia Braxton shook her head as the elevator doors closed.
“Tell her to meet me at S-Deck and suit up.”
This was a fucking mistake.
It was 0300 hours and she still couldn’t find herself to talk with this low-life. Could you blame her, she wasn’t even her superior officer. The little shit was some damn psychiatrist or psychologist. Whatever the hell the geeks call themselves. She didn’t have to answer to him. The man even told her that himself. So what the fuck was she there for?
But of course, it would “benefit” her to “cooperate” with him. But how much more did he want her to cooperate? She already told him what she did and why she did it. That should have been good enough.
But, no, it wasn’t good enough. Now after 5 fruitless sessions they haven’t gotten anywhere, and she wasn’t sure where he even wanted to go. She knew where she wanted to be; out there with Sword team kicking some alien ass. So the “bright” young man thought that it would be best to start this session off in total silence until she could come to terms with her actions.
He didn’t last very long.
The shrink finally sighed, breaking the silence. “You know the only reason you haven’t been court-martialed yet is because your father has strong political pull as the director of ONI.”
“So?” she replied.
“So… It is pretty evident that Director Collins is giving his daughter a second chance. So why isn’t his daughter taking it? Is it to spite her father?”
Spite her father? You know that could be true, she thought. But how could he know that?
“No answer?” The shrink asked. “Why do you feel that you did nothing wrong, that your actions can be justified?”
“It’s because I didn’t do anything wrong,” she snapped back.
“You shot a civilian, Lieutenant.” The shrink countered.
“It was the only way for me to get a clear shot at the enemy! You read the fucking reports, man!” She said flabbergasted. How come nobody else could see that? The mission was to take down her target at all cost; and she did. Nobody said anything about collateral damage. They just wanted the man dead.
“Yes, yes I did.”
“I feel sorry for the dude but if you didn’t want nobody to get hurt then you shouldn’t have sent a Spartan to do something so fucking trivial.”
The shrink sighed again as he ran a hand through his auburn hair. “Listen, Nicole, normally for a psych profile, it wouldn’t take me longer than one session to compile it but never do I go for a fifth session. Do you know what five sessions indicate?”
Nikki rolled her eyes. “Rehabilitation.”
“Exactly, I’ve been asked to do everything in my power to make sure you don’t lose your position on Sword Team. This is something that I don’t usually do, but your father is a good friend of mine and I feel inclined to help him.”
Of course you do, Nikki thought, you’re one of Daddy’s bitches. Director Collins had his fingers in everybody’s ass.
“So please, help me help you. Your father has great faith in you. And it’s not without its merits. According to reports you show great combat skills, excellent marksmanship, exemplary endurance and show exceptional mission focus. To a fault I might add.”
“What the fuck is that suppose to mean?”
“It means that you put the mission above everything else, even civilian safety.”
Nikki scoffed. “I don’t give a fuck about the mission. Only thing I care about is my team and killing the fucking Covies. ”
“Maybe that is your problem. Your duties as a soldier is to defend Humankind’s right to exist, to fight for the safety of our people. Your duties as a Spartan are not restricted to your squad and your enemies.”
“Let me tell you something, so I won’t have to fucking repeat it. Your squad and your enemies is all that matters in the battlefield. When you have bullet flying towards you, and enemies that rather run at you with primed plasma grenades like some kamikaze bullshit, than throwing them like common sense people do then nothing else matters except survival and offing the bastards. So until the snobs over there at ONI can experience that, I don’t need anybody telling me how to act in the fucking battlefield especially no preppy-ass shrink.” Nicole said with finality.
“Nicole I understand that, but in the situation that put you here – in my room- you weren’t in a heated battle anymore, there was no Covenant. No plasma grenades. Just you and a hostage situation.” He said unflappably, unplussed by her insult. “The question is why do you think that way? Not all Spartans share your carelessness towards civilians. Especially, not your brothers. Remember, Julio and Claudia were civilians, too.”
Nikki didn’t say anything.
“You know what I think?” He sat forward in his seat. “I believe your behavior is the result for your need to be different. Both your father and your two brothers are highly respected in their fields. And they cast a very big shadow whose reach you continually thrive to escape. Or it could be that you long for your biological parents so that you don’t appreciate the family that dropped everything to bring you in and raise you as their own. You just have an extreme way of showing it.”
Nikki chuckled and clapped her hands. “Those are two interesting theories, Doctor. Please tell me, which one of them do you believe actually applies to me?”
“I believe you have both.”
“And I believe you’re wrong.” The shrink, opened his mouth to say something but a familiar voice over the intercom interrupted him.
“Lieutenant Collins you are to meet Agent Braxton on S-Deck.” Avery said.
Thank God! I can finally get away from this fucking hell hole.
“Well, I’m done with this…this whatever it is.” Nikki said as she stood up.
“This is supposed to be helping you.”
The shrink sighed. “Just remember that without proof that you can be rehabilitated you will more than likely be court-martialed.”
Nikki glanced back at the shrink as she opened the door. “I would love to see them try.”
Dr. Molineux slouched back in his chair, defeated. He could only watch as his patient slammed the door behind her.
Braxton waited for Nicole as she suited up. Or rather, the machines suited her up. Robotic arms lifted the heavy armor pieces and placed them on her body and screwed them on tightly. First the chest plate then gauntlets. She stood in a faux-anatomical position, arms spread wide.
Braxton could have thought of twenty other capable soldiers that could have aided her in the mission. Why was Patel so adamant about teaming up with her?
She knew that Nicole was a capable soldier. Maybe more than capable but she was a wild card. She never played by the rules. And she never listened to anybody except for her brother the Commander.
Only reason why she was still a damned Spartan was because her father was the fucking director of ONI and he had so much political pull it wasn’t even funny. Her position of Lieutenant was just the result of the Collins family’s prestige. You couldn’t get a better example of nepotism even if you asked for it. Sure she was a great in combat situations but it takes more than just pure skill to be an effective Lieutenant. Something that Braxton felt Nicole could learn from her two big brothers. Now those were men who earned their title.
“So, our mission is to find and locate my team?” Nicole asked as the machine put in her final piece of armor. She stepped off the platform pushing back a lock of jet black hair from her face. One of the technicians handed Nicole her Orbital helmet. She took it without even acknowledging him.
“Affirmative.” Braxton replied tersely. She nodded her head toward the elevator motioning Nicole to follow her.
Nicole inspected her armor. “So they blew up the station, but you guys think they were captured by the fucking Covies?”
“Or killed in action.”
Nicole looked up at Braxton for the first time. “They’re not dead.”
“You can’t know for sure, until we get on the ground.”
“Trust me, I know.” Nicole said, wiping the visor of her helmet for some reason. They entered the elevator and Braxton told the elevator they wanted the docking bay floor. “So what are our orders once we find them?”
“We stand by and await further orders.”
“So our orders are to stand by and wait for more orders?” Nicole said derisively. “That’s a fucked up plan if I ever heard one.”
“In any case, I need to know if you can be reliable.” Braxton said getting to the point.
“Excuse me?” Nicole said defensively.
“I don’t know why Captain Patel wanted you to team up with me but I for one don’t trust you. I’ve lost Spartans in the battlefield before. Good men and women who risked their lives for humanity. And they didn’t even get a chance to be brought back home. I don’t want to repeat that. You on the other hand are too arrogant and have a reputation doing the extreme. You shot a fucking civilian for christsakes! Your type of actions is what risks the lives of your team. You might be used to it and Sword team might not have problem with it but I for one don’t need any of that cocky lone wolf shit jeopardizing our mission. Got it? Can I trust you?”
“Trust?” Nicole scoffed. “You can trust me to get the fucking mission done, by any means necessary. You don’t have fucking worry about that.” The elevator door opened revealing they had made it to their destination. But nobody got off. Nicole put on her helmet, the skull painted on the visor staring ominously at Braxton. “Now if you are finished bitching about my ‘reputation’, we have a mission to do. And I would like to have it done before my friends actually do end up dead.”
Braxton stared at Nicole for a moment. At least she was focused on the mission. Braxton could give her that much. “Fine. But I’m warning you….”
Nicole just walked out the elevator. “Save it for someone who actually gives a damn.”
Braxton was speechless. How did Sword Team deal with her? And why in the world was she like this?
“Are you coming or what?”
Maybe it wasn’t a big deal. She dealt with total jerks like her before. Not that they didn’t totally piss her off. Plus, this was just a recon mission, for right now. Any trained Spartan with any type of experience couldn’t be capable of screwing that up. Right?
Only time would tell.
To be continued…..