|This article, HPA, was written by Actene and RelentlessRecusant. Please do not edit this fiction without the writers' permission.|
- "With all due respect ma'am, I really fail to see how people knowing about this is such a big deal. Just imagine if you're a governor, and maybe you've been being tempted or pressured into taking some rebellious actions lately. Now imagine the same thing, only you know that if you do this, we'll send someone after you. This person won't care who you are or who you've paid to protect you. They won't be worrying about whether or not you have kids or a husband. They won't even care if they have to kill ten, twenty, fifty innocents in order to get you. All they'll care about is getting to you and taking you out. And to top it off, they've got the same augmentations and equipment as SPARTAN-IIs. Now I think you can understand that a few security leaks like this are nothing but deterrents for whoever's on the receiving end of the leaked information."
- ―An ONI officer discussing the HPA program with a superior
The High-Priority Assassination Program (HPA) was a special access program operated under the auspices of the UNSC Office of Naval Intelligence, Directorate for Special Intelligence/Section Three. Its purpose was to create operatives with SPARTAN capabilities who could perform missions under circumstances that might be deemed inappropriate for regular S-IIs. In the classified literature, it was known by its ONI pseudonym — CI MINUTE.
HPA later became transferred to the operational control (OPCON) of the UNSC Progressive Warfare Command and the Naval Intelligence Directorate for Strategic Intelligence, Directorate for Foreign Intelligence, Department of Covert Operations. It was one of the leading HVT operation and special reconnaissance assets of PROGWARCOM and its operators featured prominently in the Joint Special Operations Task Force 452.
The idea of a covert operations group of super soldiers was originally conceived during the early stages of planning for the SPARTAN-II program. One Captain Raymond Amherst suggested that once the initial batch of S-IIs had proven that the augmentations and training planned for the SPARTANs would work, more specialized groups could be trained. Such plans were put on hold when the Covenant invasion diverted most of ONI's funding to larger branches of the UNSC's military, but the idea of an elite force of assassins remained a personal obsession for Captain Amherst. When Amherst performed a small role in the planning for the SPARTAN-III program he began multiple attempts to rally support for the concept. His dream was finally realized when the genes for the Gamma Company trainees were analyzed and it was discovered that an extremely small number of the candidates could possibly survive an augmentation process on par with that of the SPARTAN-IIs. After a series of short but heated debates the High Priority Assassination program was given official support and funding.
ONI moved quickly to appropriate those candidates who had been cleared for S-II level augmentations. Telling Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose that a few of his trainees were being reassigned to another program, the operatives collected the seventeen HPA candidates a mere week after they had arrived on Onyx and shipped them to another system for training. Part of Captain Amherst's ideas for a SPARTAN assassination program required that the program's members be unquestioningly loyal and obedient to the UNSC. In order to purge any past experiences that might affect a candidate's actions in regard to these requirements the trainees' drill instructors collaborated with a small division of UNSC psychological warfare specialists and forced the trainees to undergo a brutal indoctrination process. Although the exact details of this process are unknown, the candidates all suffered sufficient psychological trauma to make them forget their past lives, including their own names. After a few months spent recuperating, the trainees were all declared fit to begin active training.
The HPA instructors designed their training program to partially mirror that used for the original SPARTAN-IIs while downplaying teamwork and encouraging individuality. The candidates were meant to operate almost solely on their own and were often pitted against each other during training. They were encouraged to develop their own unique skills and talents while also honing their abilities in more general areas. Driven on by an atmosphere of heavy competition and rivalry, the trainees soon began to cherish uniqueness and identity, with many choosing new names to replace their forgotten ones (HPA agents would always be referred to by their semi-random numerical designation by their superiors and instructors). After two years of standard SPARTAN training methods, the instructors switched to live rounds during exercises. Despite the new level of lethality, only two trainees would be killed during the live round exercises.
The augmentation of the HPA candidates occurred around the same time as that of the Gamma Company SPARTAN-IIIs. Three more candidates were killed during the procedure, but the rest survived their augmentations and were declared eligible for active service. Two more months were spent training the HPA members (now given the honorific of "agents") to adjust to their newfound strength and speed. The agents were then sent on a series of "tests": covert raids on isolated Covenant outposts. All of these missions were successful and a delighted Captain Amherst declared the program a success.
Actions During the Human-Covenant War
The HPA agents saw heavy action against Covenant forces during the waning months of the Human-Covenant War. Due to budget restrictions on behalf of the UNSC, the program was granted the use of only three functioning sets of MJOLNIR armor that were generally granted to the best performing agents for missions. Although the others were forced to utilize standard special operations gear, they continued to succeed in every mission given to them without a single casualty. These missions were generally directed against well-defended Prophets or Chieftains and served to further weaken a Covenant command structure still reeling from the Great Schism and the loss of High Charity. After the Battle of the Ark and the official end to the war, the agents continued to strike at those Covenant leaders who refused to surrender.
As the UNSC began its lengthy reconstruction phase, every agent was able to be granted a personal suit of MJOLNIR armor. Their missions (still performed with only one or two agents a mission) continued to be a success as they worked to bring down rebel and terrorist leaders and factions that threatened the stability of the UNSC. However, one Agent 2789 was lost in combat against the terrorist Snakehead faction and an additional three were forcibly executed by another agent. During this particular incident, the three managed to reject their indoctrinated loyalty and revolt against their superiors. Although the incident was swiftly brought to a close, it alarmed many members of ONI left wary by misjudgments such as the New Africa Incident. As the galaxy began to enter a new era of peace and stability, the HPA agents found themselves lacking missions befitting their advanced training. When the UNSC passed a directive that allowed members of black operations programs such as the HPA to retire, several agents took advantage of the opportunity and left the armed forces. Those that did not were reassigned to more useful jobs and the HPA program was officially disbanded in 2572.
Due to the nature of their training and augmentations, the HPA agents were more akin to the SPARTAN-IIs than they were to the S-IIIs they had originally been intended to be. While their training copied most aspects of the S-II program, they were encouraged to operate independently and to develop their own unique methods of accomplishing their goals. Therefore, an HPA agent would generally be equal to or marginally superior to a standard SPARTAN-II in single combat or against numerous hostiles but would lack a SPARTAN's successful teamwork skills.
The point of the HPA program was to produce operatives with the capabilities of SPARTANs who could perform missions that might jeopardize the public's view of SPARTANs in general should they be discovered, usually because of the controversial nature of most of their missions. The agents frequently operated under a "no witnesses" directive and were trained to have no compunction about killing any who threatened the security of the mission. While they employed standard assassination tactics during many missions, they were also forced to deal with the unusual amount of guards that usually protected their targets.
Rank indicates the last known rank achieved in the UNSC Defense Force as of the Galactic Era; original TO&E contains provisions for seventeen operators, final TO&E submitted prior to operational deployment indicates twelve known operators
- Agent 2042 ("Perseus")
- Agent 2054 ("Orion"): Lieutenant Commander (LCDR, O-4)
- Agent 2438
- Agent 2789 ("Heracles")
- Agent 2994 ("Apollo"): Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO, E-9)
- Agent 2995 ("Artemis"): Captain (CAPT, O-6)
Behind the Scenes
- The ONI cryptonym for the HPA Program, CI MINUTE, loosely follows naming conventions for real-world CIA cryptonyms. Here, author RelentlessRecusant intends the "CI" diagraph to mean "counter-intelligence", referring to the HPA Program's "counterintelligence" role (read: HVT liquefaction).