|This article, Amber Team, was written by FightWithHonor. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
- "If tomorrow never comes, know that we died fighting"
- ―LT Rush-G168
This elite NAVSPECWAR fire team was composed of an elite cohort of SPARTAN-IIIs and an aging SPARTAN-I, CMDR Randall O’Grady. Together, these two generations of warriors would face the storms and intrigues of the War of Vengeance.
Dawn from elements of the depleted Gamma Company and the still-embryonic Delta Company, Amber Team (callsign(s) "MYSTIC," "MANDATE") gave UNSC military leaders a valuable weapon in their arsenal: a precision weapon.
Although small, Amber Team could, and did, "deal the pain," striking fast then melting into the shadows without a trace. Although officially declared operational in January of 2554, evidence strongly suggests its combat debut occurred several weeks prior during a classified (and presumably completely successful) "shakedown cruise."
The concept of an integrated team drawn from various SPARTAN companies and programs was not a wholly new one. Noble Team had proved the concept since before 2552. Yet in many ways, Amber Team was still a novel idea.
While Noble Team had merely been a bulwark in the UNSC's defenses; Amber Team was intended from its inception to be an offensive instrument, capable of delivering the precision an army or a SPARTAN-III company could not offer, and the firepower a single soldier could wield.
It was for these reasons and others that UNSC and ONI planners drafted the concept of "Multi-Mission SPECWAR Composite Team X-ray," also known as "MSCTX" or "Mystic." Initially, the plan called for SPARTAN-IIs and -IIIs to be drawn from existing units; but heavy losses among the first SPARTAN-III companies and the attrition of SPARTAN-IIs forced Mystic's creators to reevaluate their plans.
Making the best of their limited resources, ONI and SPECWAR's DEVCOM (Development Command) tapped SPARTAN-I CMDR Randall O’Grady to lead the MYSTIC team. O'Grady was an interesting choice for the project. Although remarkably fit and undeniably competent as a special operator; O'Grady's service record was filled with black marks. He'd been frocked to 0-6 (Captain) and busted back to Commander four times in his career and his CSV had more NJPs than most "terminal lances."
Frustrated commanders had finally grounded him, leaving the frustrated O'Grady desk-bound in Sydney. And, when approached with the offer to lead the MYSTIC team, he gruffly but gladly accepted.
Filling the remaining ranks proved to be an equal challenge. With the death of LT CMDR Kurt Ambrose (SPARTAN-051) and the disappearance of several of their sister teams, Gamma Company was seen as an obvious source of candidates for the MYSTIC team. Unfortunately, many other SPECWAR, ONI, and JOINTCOM officers thought alike. Gamma was rapidly becoming fragmented, as SPARTAN-IIIs were detached in ones and twos for various pet projects. It soon became clear that, without threatening Gamma's cohesion as a fighting force, MYSTIC could not rely solely on Gamma (or any of the other SPARTAN-III companies for that matter) to fill the four open spots in its roster.
Improvising, MYSTIC's leadership cast around for an alternate sources of candidates. After some deliberation, they decided to raid the rosters of the as-yet unformed Delta Company. Quickly identifying a short list of the ten most promising Delta Company candidates, the MYSTIC development team subjected the final ten to a brutal crash-course in the wilderness of Camp Curahee. After several months of non-stop FIELDEXs, live-fire exercises, and grueling PT, MYSTIC finally had its final two candidates: Victor-D185 and Sarah-D203.
In the meantime, MYSTIC had evaluated the available pool of Alpha, Beta, and Gamma to Company SPARTAN-IIIs identify recruits for the remaining two spots. Eventually, two suitable candidates, Rush-G168 and Jacob-G308, were found and inducted into the MYSTIC project.
Since all of Amber Team's members had completed BCT (Basic Combat Training), ITC (Individual Training Course), and/or SPECWAR Course 1 or its equivalent, much of Amber's initial training was "forger" work, designed to create and cement bonds between the diverse team.
The grueling training would have fragmented a lesser unit; but it made Amber a team. The experience of O'Grady and the enthusiasm and talent of the younger SPARTANs proved a winning combination, and the team steadily excelled during the months of brutal training exercises. But further exercises and refreshers were in store.
ONI's R&D efforts and increasing amounts of captured Covenant and Forerunner equipment and intelligence had dramatically shifted the tactical and doctrinal playing field. In many cases the advances were technological, as new weapons and armor trickled in from labs across Human space. But perhaps the most important developments were more abstract ones. Efforts by the UNSC cultural intelligence had given Humans a basic insight into Covenant mentalities, attitudes and behaviors. Amber Team would be more than just mere SPARTANs; they would be PysWarriors.
Yet MYSTIC's patrons wanted a sword that could cut far more than just the Covenant. Recognizing that the concerns posed by the bloodied Covenant Loyalists was a fading one, they shifted Amber's final months of training in a new direction. With ever-evolving threat posed by Insurrectionist terrorists steadily rising on UNSCDF and ONI priorities, Amber's mission was expanded to include counter-terror and -insurgency operations. Lethal- and non-lethal force application, SensMOUT (Sensitive MOUT), and Strategic Languages were drilled and re-drilled at an intense tempo. But Amber's work-up was nearing its close.
Finally satisfied that Amber was nearing combat readiness, MYSTIC's planning staff prepared a "shakedown" mission.
One of the great ironies of the Human-Covenant War was the unintentional benefits of the Covenant's genocides on Harvest, Reach, and countless other Human colonies. Planets on which Insurrectionists had run rampant had been reduced to smoldering orbs of glass and melted steel by Covenant fleets. Yet even the might of the Covenant could not snuff out the Insurrection, and, even as the last great Covenant armadas struck their final blows, the Insurrection's spark began to set the galaxy ablaze.
The destruction on Earth and the surviving colonies had left trillions homeless, starving and grieving, creating an atmosphere of want and anguish the Insurrectionists were quick to exploit. Food riots and looting erupted on dozens of worlds, demoralized militias mutinied, and sporadic attacks on UNSC bases and convoys began occur in the hundreds.
Unwilling to sacrifice their hold on the worlds they had spent so much blood and treasure to defend, the UNSC prepared to strike back. And Amber Team would be the tip of the spear.
In November 2553, COMINT (Communications Intelligence) satellites and relay taps intercepted a series of encrypted hypernet signals originating from Beta Centauri. ONI Code & Cipher decrypted portions of the messages, tracing them to a previously-unknown resistance cell operating on the planet. Taking advantage of Beta Centauri's massive spaceport and rural terrain, the Insurrectionists were rapidly transforming the planet into an underground base of operations, quietly but steadily stockpiling explosives, operatives, and ammunition in caches and safehouses across the planet.
But despite this new-found intelligence, the UNSCDF was in a poor position to respond. With the fleet and its Marines deployed to hotspots across the Galaxy, the UNSC had little more than militia and Colonial Police onworld, forces poorly prepared for sophisticated counter-terror operations. With few assets at her disposal, the system commander, Brigadier General Marian Walker, hastily prepared Operation SYCAMORE FALLS. Militia and Police were ordered to conduct random search-and-destroy at the locations ONI had triangulated.
Quickly working behind the scenes, MYSTIC's directors pulled Walker's mission. Seeing an opportunity to put Amber Team into action, they quietly reassigned the them to take on the Beta Centauri threat. Within hours, Amber Team had boarded the UNSC Milton L. Cabot (ASN-227), a re-routed Prowler tender now inbound for Beta Centauri at flank speed. The team made good use of the trip. Working from ONI reports and Walker's S-2 summaries, O'Grady and his fellow SPARTANs hashed out what they dubbed "Operation CHERRY."
CHERRY called for an entry with a bang: a HALO jump from the Cabot as it skimmed Beta Centauri's upper atmosphere. Understandably, the Cabot's commander was somewhat less thrilled with his suggestion than he might have been. High speed atmo entries tended to do terrible, horrible things to ship's hulls, and by extension, to the careers of their commanders. However, O'Grady's yelling was louder than the conscience of the Cabot's CO, and Amber got her drop.
The jump was a jarring one. The slipstream hit like a sledgehammer, ripping off most of Amber's externally-stowed equipment and scattering the gear they had planned to PLF (Parachute Load Follow). This left the team with little more than the armor, weapons and ammo on their backs, hardly a desirable situation in "Indian Country." But the SPARTANs remained undaunted.
Quickly striking an Insurrectionist weapons cache, Amber Team captured enough ammo and rations to continue the mission. Working their across the planet in commandeered farm trucks, privately-owned Condors, and militia Falcons, Amber ruthlessly hunted down and eliminated every resistance cell on Beta Centauri. Hundreds of rebels were killed, captured, or driven underground, and thousands of terabytes of Insurrectionist documents, maps, rosters, and operational plans were seized and later decrypted by ONI.
Their mission complete, Amber reembarked aboard the UNSC Calloway (FFGN-368) without fanfare for the return home. Arriving at base after an uneventful voyage, Amber Team were quietly, but formally, declared operational by MYSTIC's leaders and officially given the callsign "MANDATE."
With Amber now officially operational, the team's creators began to dream up more and more uses for the team. Dozens of plans and proposals were considered and cast aside; but finally one was approved:Operation CHARLATAN. With drug smuggling, human trafficking, and gunrunning on the rise across UNSC space, rebels and organized crime had access to steady supplies of black market weapons and cash. The principle behind CHARLATAN was simple: kill the cash, kill the rebels. By shutting down the smuggling routes, ONI hoped they could strangle rebel movements on outlying worlds, giving UNSC forces much-needed breathing time to rest, regroup, and resume the offensive.
CHARLTAN was to be preceded by intelligence efforts by ONI operatives, law enforcement undercovers, DTA agents, and various other "wiseguys." These individuals would infiltrate insurrectionist organizations and their smuggling contacts, gathering intelligence on illegal cargoes, shipping schedules, and staging areas. Amber would be charged with turning this information into results.
Working from small, fast freighters like the MS Madrigal, Amber and several other ONI/SPECWAR teams intercepted smugglers, acting as a low-profile, high-impact interdiction force. Regular Navy assets were occasionally called in; but with the UNSCDF stretched thin, CHARLATAN's ersatz navy was often the best ONI could hope for. Surprisingly, it worked. To do it, Amber broke every rule in the book, torturing suspects, faking distress calls to lure ships for VBBS, and storming (outwardly) innocent merchantmen without stated cause. But these methods got results, and within a few months of its inception, Amber had virtually shut down rebel smuggling operations to three outlying colony worlds.