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CHAPTER 1

April 19, 2553

30 miles outside Star City

Tararis

Locke keyed the detonator and blew in the door, swinging in SMG-first. An insurrectionist popped up, and he shot it three times in the chest. One more started to turn and pull the trigger, but Locke hit him six times: Three in the head, one in the hand, two in the chest. He moved quickly towards the main door, smacking on another breaching charge. Far off, he heard Bogier's SRS fire. Inside, he heard yelling.

Go time.

Locke blew in the door, and started to pull the trigger-

And felt the impact of a TTR round on his faceplate.

"Gotcha, Locke."

Johnson stepped out from around the corner, MA5 held loosely in hand. "Seriously, man, you're gonna get the hostages killed on the op."

Locke sighed. "Don't remind me..."

It had started easy enough. A simple bank robbery that had suddenly escalated, and now Locke and his team were in high demand by the Star City PD. This was the last practice run. From now on, they were locked and loaded with live jacketed hollowpoints. 

Bogier walked in. 

"Locke, our Falcon's spun up. Let's go."

The Falcon was a modified SCPD riot control helo. It was fast and quiet, plus had a fast-roping system. It made for a two hour ride to the nearest airbase, and a one hour four minute ride to Star City. Exactly that time later, they were overhead.

"Site Actual to Zeta One Actual, do you copy?"

"This is Zeta One Actual."

"We have the presence of a Armistence hostage in the bank."

Locke's alert level shot up to the stratosphere. An Armistence hostage was a hostage who was seriously important.

"Name?"

"Alena Pudovkin. Son of Victor Pudovkin, Defense Committee chairman."

Bogier swore. "This ain't good."

"No shit." Mitchell sighed.

"Site Actual, can you put a CS gas round in there on my command?"

"I can put in all that we have and get even more back if this works."

The Falcon was overhead. "Hold one."

Red flash.

Bogier kicked the rope.

Amber flash.

The tear gas round was chambered and ready.

Green flash.

The team fast-roped in.

"GO!"

Round fired. Tear gas present.

Bogier put a breach on the door. Honda blew it, and in went the flashbangs. Locke zeroed in on a terrorist and hit him with a triple tap in the face, then moved back across to the one moving his rifle--a MA37 with a short barrel--and blew his head in.

Time elapsed: 6.351 seconds, according to the tactical readout.

The hostages filed out, and Locke had his team thanked by Site Actual, the commander of the on-site SWAT team.

"Thanks for that. I know it's not what you guys were commisioned for-"

"Our job is to protect and serve. Just like yours." Bogier stated. He hated the adultation. It made him feel objectified, for whatever reason.

"Okay, first round's on me back at the base bar." Locke realized they needed a drink. So did he, really.

No one noticed the Elite somewhere on overwatch, identifying and memorizing Locke's face.

CHAPTER 2

August 12, 2544

The Naval Force Recon School 

Reach

"Nathan?"

"Yeah?"

"We're screwed."

Petty Officer Second Class Nathan Westbrook sighed. His fellow trainee seemed not to understand the TTR mines they had set up.

"You see, Wesley, the mines are set up so that there is a delay and they assume there is just an alarm at the other end and not a Reaper mine."

Petty Officer Third Class Wesley Robertson sighed.

"The instructors are probably listening, y' know."

"I know."

They saw the first LED light up.

"Get ready."

Wesley hefted the M739 LMG, commonly known as the SAW. He was glad he wasn't going to Army Force Recon. Those guys had a worse casualty rate, and were the opposite of Naval Force Recon, which was more elite than normal ODSTs. Then he wondered why they were different schools at differernt levels-

Snap.

"Okay, Red team, get ready. Those Reapers better go off right."

Nathan had no time for failures. As the leader of the Red Team of this NFR class, he wanted them to not mess up their final training exercise.

He heard the first Reaper sound off, a howling roar as well as a blast, designed to frighten the enemy, and fired his MA5K until the magazine was dry.

"Dex, report."

Lance Corporal Dexter "Dex" Lewis was the explosives man. It seemed like there was nothing he coudn't explode somehow. He'd wired the Reaper mines, and those were a vital part of the ambush.

"The White Shirts are all down." Dex smiled.

"Nice job, trainee."

Instructor Shoulin towered above the 5'10" PO2 from New Alexandria. 

"By the way, you're being torn off."

Nathan's eyes went wide. Being torn off meant failure. At least, it usually did. "What-"

"You're going to One-Zero school. The Navy says they want you there, do a tour, and then straight to OCS to lead the counterinsurgency battalion. Oh, and Wesley's going to be in that battalion. Actually, the whole class is."

Nathan looked like he'd been flashbanged, then told his life would never be the same.

"No way."

"It's happening. You're going now. Here's your pins."

Wesley and Nathan took them.

"Oh, and there's no warthog. It's ten miles, and the flight leaves in an hour."

Instructor Payne materialized out of the shadows in a ghillie suit.

"Fucking run, gents."

They ran.

CHAPTER 3

April 19, 2553

The Nasty Leg

ONI Recon Firebase Almnac

Locke sipped at his beer. It was a Kallaen Light, a favorite of the UNSC. The holoscreen was showing Waypoint's coverage of the incident. Someone tapped his shoulder.

"Locke, how are you?"

Locke turned to see the newly promoted LTJG Nathan Westbrook, Trident Company Commander, ONI Recon 927.

"Well, Nathan, I see you finally got bumped up from Ensign."

"Well, I kept refusing to go to an ONI Recon Battalion, so they promoted me and forced me in to it."

Suddenly, the door flew open.

"WHERE'S WESTBROOK!"

Nathan stood up. His mind was racing. Who the hell would have reason to be so upset with me? He grabbed the hilt of the knife he designed and built-well, technically, 3D-printed.

"Outside, asshole. You're paying for what happened yesterday."

The man flicked open a knife. It was a Blademaster Mk. I, an entry-level knife. Nathan's was custom-built, a switchblade with a blade made of Titanium-A with a serrated double-edged side. When-not if-the knife fighting started, Nathan wasn't too worried. Lots of people had tried to rough him up, usually with knives, for not doing their math or science homework. Well, that was the double-edged knife of a 216 IQ. 

"Okay." Nathan stood up and walked outside.

As soon as he turned around, the man lunged. Nathan flicked his wrist while moving aside, and felt the spring-loaded wrist sheath sip it in to his palm. He activated the blade and slashed the man's outer arm, then smashed his shoulder with a hatchet kick. 

The man collapsed from the pain. An Army MP ran over, but not to arrest anyone. Lots of people on base wanted to fight the LTJG for one reason or another. The MP was just making sure the man would live. Nathan checked for ID, and when he found it he froze. There it was, a name he never wanted to see or hear again.

David Dobbler.

CHAPTER 4

August 23, 2552

New Alexandria

Reach

"Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit!"

Nathan smashed the civillian in the chest. "Calm DOWN, damn it! Okay, what's your name."

"Dobbler. David Dobbler. I'm an ONI psychologist. And you need to GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

"Sir, all I really need to do is keep my men and you safe. We're outside the glassing zone. We have weapons, food and ammunition. We'll survive until the Pelican gets here."

"No, you need to get me to a linkup point with ONI Recon 87."

"Sir, we're staying here. This isn't fun for me. That's my hometown being glassed. But we're staying, because the only guys you'd link with are dead or gone. There isn't an ONI Recon 87 anymore."

"No, we're not. You will take me to the RV point with ONI Recon 87 or I will have you killed." Dobbler snarled.

"Wesley, that's a threat against a UNSC soldier in an active warzone, right?"

"I heard it. You heard it too, right, team?"

The team nodded, and Nathan drew his sidearm.

"Hey, what-"

Nathan put the first 12.7mm round through the bastard's knees, from the side. They would heal. He'd get full mobility.

He put the second in the guy's pelvis, shooting off the guy's manhood.

"Evac bird's here. Time to go. What about this guy?"

"Leave him. maybe he survives, maybe not."

END BOOK I

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