|This article, High Treason, was written by Lordofmonsterisland. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
|Halo: High Treason|
|Protagonist|| Miranda Talavera|
|Antagonist||Captain Gracen Humber|
|Date Published||July 28th, 2011 - TBA|
High Treason is a short novel, written by James Davidson, and published by WikiCommons Lit. Initially developed as part of Matthias Karlsson's Halo Chronicles anthology, High Treason was intended to be a piece of a short fiction, perhaps three chapters total in length; however, the novel quickly developed beyond this short length to become slightly longer. The prologue was first released on July 28th, 2010,
With the discovery of a URF-bound transmission that contained complete details on the SPARTAN-IV Program and its' upcoming anti-rebel missions, Miranda Talavera becomes the prime suspect of the case, with large amounts of evidence pointing towards her involvement. But before she can be brought in for trial and conviction, she escapes, aided by none other than Riker-012, her most prominent antagonist. Now, with not only their fellow officers but an army of mercenaries chasing after Riker and Miranda, they have to not only survive the mercenaries and each other, but prove Miranda's innocence: the question is, why would someone try to frame Miranda? And more importantly, is the true culprit simply trying to ruin Miranda, or the SPARTAN-IV Program itself?
- Lieutenant Riker-012
- Gunnery Sergeant Miranda Talavera
- Major Laszlo-108
- Lieutenant, Junior Grade Rachel-343
- Captain Gracen Humber
- Lieutenant, Junior Grade Roger-341
- Major General Alexia Romanova
- Pirate Lord Dekd Nok
- Lieutenant Commander Ajax-013
- David Kahn
- Mordred & Diana
- Ath 'Taranee
- Brother Saul Shore
Prologue: Falls Apart
The desk was large: beautiful, dark mahogany, finely crafted, intricate carvings all across it, built to be both a work of art and a practical piece of furniture. Papers were strewn across it, seven pencils and pens, an intercom system and AI holopad half buried under two books. In the comfortable leather chair behind the desk sat a beautiful yet cold woman, instantly powerful and demanding respect: Alexia Romanova, current Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Standing in front of the desk was a younger man, slightly nervous but resolutely ensuring that he did not show it. Fair complexion, well dressed, determination written on his set face, sparse gray hairs showing the strains of his position. Gracen Humber, Romanova's right hand man. He stood with his hands locked behind his back, waiting for Romanova to respond to the report that he had brought in, an important report regarding leaked information. Important information. November Black information.
“The SPARTAN-IV Program”, said Romanova as soon as she ensured that the room was secure, “And you're positive you know who did this?”
“There's no doubt in my mind, ma'am”, replied Gracen, “The transmission was encrypted with some of the best coding we've ever seen: it took an entire cell to crack it and stop it from reaching the URF. It was sent from Arcturus, and the details are so precise, it can only mean one thing. We have a mole in the Program”
“Again, I ask, you know who did this?” Alexia's tone was cold, as usual, but it possessed a particular edge to it as she spoke
“The mole is obviously a member of the Program, and the level of encryption we're dealing with narrows down the options immensely. Considering some of the information included, it narrows it down to a mere three suspects: Ajax-013, Lazslo-108, or Miranda Talavera, and while the former two are obviously quite loyal to the UNSC, Miranda was once a rebel herself, as I'm sure you're well aware.”
“Yet we pardoned her, ensured her amnesty with the Sangheili, and she's had a spotless record for the entirety of her time as a trainer”, stated Romanova, “Cut to your chase Gracen, if you have one”
“Talavera was unaccounted for at the time of this transmission, and has been noted as behaving slightly oddly as of late. There's more evidence I could point out, but I'll simply do as you asked and present the deciding factor”
At this point, Gracen pulled from his pocket a small flash drive and inserted it into Alexia's holopad: almost immediately, the holopad began playing a short video clip, with a red-headed woman of Hispanic heritage sending a personal message to the leaders of the URF, detailing the information attached to the rest of the message, as well as individual information on the commanders of the Spartan companies.
Alexia set down the paper report of the file she had been looking at. She couldn't believe her eyes. In front of her was a video of Miranda Talavera giving away the secrets of the SPARTAN-IV Program, after all the UNSC and ONI had done for her. It seemed impossible.
“We had to dig deep into the file to find this video”, said Gracen, “We've analyzed it multiple times, and it's authentic. She's a traitor, Alexia.”
“That's ma'am to you”, replied Romanova sternly. She sighed. She didn't want to make this order, but she had no choice. No, she had a choice, but the other options weren't particularly ideal. “Gracen, send out an order to Arcturus. Let them know that Talavera has gone rogue and must be taken into custody and brought to X14 immediately. Use of force is authorized, but she must be alive and relatively unharmed. Understood?”
“Yes ma'am”, replied Gracen. He retrieved his flash drive, placed it in his pocket and back away. Saluted Romanova. Turned and walked out of the room. And then, Alexia remained with only silence. And worry.
Chapter 1: ...And If I Say No?
“Ma'am” The voice sounded far away, like it was in a bucket
“Ma'am!” Still no reply. Then a groggy response, completely unintelligible.
A sharp shove. Pain, the cold floor. “Gunny, wake up!”
Miranda shook her head, pushed up from the floor. Standing, she looked at her awakener: Hugo-K015. Or Hurley. That explained why he was so hesitant at waking me, she thought.
“Why did you wake me up, Hugo?”, asked Miranda.
“Ajax told me to, ma'am”, Hurley replied hesitantly. “He said he needed you in the headquarters immediately”
“Thank you Hugo. Anything else?”
“No Gunny, that was all he said. He seemed a little... off, though”
“What do you mean?”, asked Miranda. Hugo wasn't good at descriptions. “Off” wasn't a very good one either.
“He just seemed... unsure, like he didn't know if he knew what was going on”
That doesn't sound like Ajax, thought Miranda. “Alright, that's all Hugo. You can go now.”
“Understood ma'am” And with that, Hugo walked out and left.
Miranda dressed quickly, slightly unnerved by what Hugo had said. Ajax, unsure? That couldn't be right. Ajax rarely had second thoughts. Hugo must have misunderstood, thought Miranda. But then again, though he didn't describe things well, Hugo usually understood better than most. So what would cause Ajax to be unsure about anything?
Miranda walked into the headquarters, realizing as she entered the large conference room that something was off. Of the Spartan commanders, there was only herself and Ajax. No other trainers in the building. But what worried her was the group of special agents standing beside Ajax. One stood out from the rest, appearing to be their leader. Miranda walked closer, and looked again at the leader figure: she knew him.
Captain Gracen Humber. Practically ONI's second-in-command, if any could hold such a title. He had freed her from cryo-prison on Romanova's orders. Miranda hated this man. At least Romanova had the decency to be frank with you; Humber beat around the bush, biding his time till he thought he could pull the wool over your eyes. Miranda resisted the urge to spit at him.
Miranda reached the table's head. “I hear you wanted me Ajax?” She spoke curtly, rather frankly. She didn't like this at all. Something felt wrong.
“I believe you know Captain Humber”, replied Ajax. His speech was off, subtly. Disturbed, perhaps? “He has evidence to suggest you have committed treason against the UNSC”
Treason? Impossible! Miranda began to detect a sinking feeling of panic within her heart. This couldn't be happening: she'd finally let go of her past, and now they thought she'd committed treason? What had happened?
“And what proof does he claim to have?”, Miranda asked. Play it cool. Don't give anything away.
“We intercepted a message from here a few days ago”, stated Gracen. He was cool and collected, but not quite calm. Miranda could tell that much. He was uncertain about being in this room, standing beside a Spartan and an almost-Spartan, accusing one of treason. She had been a bounty hunter long enough to learn how to read people. Gracen was not at ease. He had an itchy trigger finger.
“This message was directed to the last vestiges of the URF, and it contained very explicit information on the SPARTAN-IV Program and its' members. Tech and weapon specs, tactics, mission plans, individual weaknesses and strengths, and countless other details. Only a member of the project could've known that much: you were immediately suspect because of your former rebel activities. Further investigation revealed more details that leaned towards you, including strange behavior as of late and the fact that you were not accounted for at the time the message was sent.”
“I didn't send any traitorous messages!”, protested Miranda. This is ridiculous! How can they think I would do this? “Gracen, you –”
“Captain Humber, if you please” Touchy. Irritated. Signs of his nervousness.
“Gracen – which I have every right to call you, since you have the audacity to disrespect my honor by accusing me of treason – you need to understand something: I was a part of the United Rebel Front back when it meant something to me, back when it was a chance to lash out against the UNSC for abandoning my family to death. I left it as soon as I longer had that chance. I'd never support what it is now. Especially not after ONI came and pulled my rear from that Sangheili meat-locker they were keeping me in.
“And now you're accusing me of treason? High treason, no less? I'm shocked to say the least, but outraged would probably be a better word for it. You're accusation is ridiculous and without proof: I did not betray the UNSC, and never will. You're a liar Gracen. A liar, and a fraud.”
Quick, choppy laughter. “Brave words, Miranda, brave words. Especially since you are the liar. This is all the proof I need”
Gracen tapped an icon on the tabletop, a hologram appearing instantaneously. A hologram of Miranda. A video recording, in which she did exactly what Gracen had said she'd done. Everything, to the letter. There was just one problem.
Miranda had never recorded that video.
What now?, she thought nervously. Before her very eyes, her downfall was slowly playing out. She knew there was no way she could viably deny the evidence and state her innocence: Gracen would have his guards arrest her immediately. Ajax would be no help either. He was watching the video intently, engrossed in it. She had always had trouble reading Ajax, but she could tell he wouldn't let her off the hook when it was her word versus Humber's evidence.
Her options were few. To stay would be arrest, and likely a sentence of permanent comatose. To run would be nearly impossible: right now, however, with the video nearing its' end, it seemed like her best shot. But how could she escape? She'd need to get off planet, but that would mean reaching the space-port, several miles away. She'd never make that on foot, so she'd need a vehicle, but the Warthogs were in the depot, which would be packed with Spartans. Spartans that might become her foes within a few seconds, if bewildered foes.
She hadn't put on her MJOLNIR either: it was sitting in her room, and she wouldn't have enough time to retrieve and don it, so she couldn't rely on its' capabilities to help her. That meant it'd simply be her combat skills against their's, and right now it was in Gracen's favor: himself, his guards and Ajax in here, all the Spartans outside, all of them ready to take her down.
The video stopped. “So” Gracen's words slipped from his mouth like a toxic gas, a threat you couldn't stop. “Miranda, will you come quietly, or will we have to use force?”
Miranda looked at Ajax. He was statuesque, waiting for the decision. Then Miranda looked behind Gracen, counted the guards behind him. Seven. Her eyes locked with his. He was her warden, then and now. She despised him. Now, she could at least retaliate somewhat before dying.
“You'd better kill me, if you want me” Miranda's words hissed out as well, but not like a poison: more like a grenade's pin being pulled. A split second warning. Gracen didn't have enough time to comprehend it.
Miranda jumped forward, using the table to propel herself upwards, somersaulting over Gracen and kicking him in the back of the head with her feet as she rolled straight into one of the guards, pulling his M6L Pistol off of him as he hit the ground. Dashing forward, she fired a few shots back towards the guards, managing to disable two with shots to the arms and legs. Bursting the door open, Miranda spun and used the face of the rock wall that lined the headquarters' backside to spring-board off of, jumping between it and the building to push herself up far enough that she could grab the roof and pull herself up.
Ajax was behind her, trying to catch her and prevent her escape. He was fast, but his weight made it impossible for him to perform the acrobatics needed to follow her without breaking the building. Pulling out his own pistol, Ajax opened fire at Miranda, the lither trainer barely dodging his shots as she ran across the roof towards the depot, exiting his range of fire. Momentarily safe, Miranda moved faster, knowing Ajax was following on the ground, trying to round the corners faster than she could, cut her off from her destination: as she ran, she heard the loud-speakers blaring out an order, difficult to discern with the blood pounding in her ears.
“All members of the SPARTAN Program, this is Captain Gracen Humber of ONI: under orders from ONI Director Alexia Romanova, Miranda Talavera is accused of high treason against the UNSC. She is to be captured and brought to me ASAP. Use of force is authorized and recommended, as she is armed and dangerous”
The roof edge was ahead, the depot just beyond it. There were several supply crates a few yards from the edge. A leap of faith. Slight pain shot through as Miranda landed, but she pushed on. The adrenaline was most of what kept her going. That, and the fear. Justified, honorable fear, not coward's fear. She let it fuel her, and pushed on, headed straight for the depot, despite the numerous IV's she saw ahead.
Gunfire from behind her. A bullet grazed her leg, opening a wound. She risked a glance back behind her and saw Ajax in the lead, several of the other SPARTAN-II's behind him. Then she saw Linda and doubled her speed. A sniper shot hit the ground where she'd been seconds before. Another to her right. Miranda dove for cover, knowing she was wasting precious seconds. Seconds she couldn't regain. Seconds she needed.
She heard yelling from Ajax, something that sounded like he'd called Linda off for fear of killing Miranda. In a split-second, she dashed forward, out of hiding, only to come under fire from several SPARTAN-IV's towards the depot, one armed with a machine gun. She felt her left leg become weaker as a bullet passed through, and then another grazed her cheek. She knew she wouldn't make it.
Then suddenly, a large armored form jumped in between her and the machine gun fire, the bullets bouncing off of the energy shields. Shells flew wide, the shields popped and sizzled. Miranda noticed the LMG in the armored form's hand, and took it, opening fire on her pursuers as she followed the armored angel in his march forward. As they neared the IV's, Miranda took advantage of her guardian angel and launched of the armor, jumping into the air and planting firmly into the head of a IV, knocking them unconscious before she dealt similarly with two others by hitting them with the LMG's butt.
The armored warrior fired back at Ajax and company, then jumped into a Warthog and revved up the engine. Miranda followed suit, not wanting to get left behind. The Warthog shot out of the depot, crashing through several small boxes and causing Ajax to role to the side to dodge it for fear of damaging the vehicle and killing the occupants. The Warthog bounced across the beat-up rode, heading straight for the spaceport, and as it did, the Spartan took off his helmet.
Riker. Her CO. The person most well-known to dislike her.
The most unlikely of saviors, to be sure. “Why?”, asked Miranda, confused at Riker's actions. It was no secret that the two were not on the best of terms with one another, mostly due to their rivalry years ago during the Great War. Miranda had, in fact, almost killed him.
“Why what?”, replied Riker. Secretive, stoic, silent. Always.
“Why did you save me?”
“Because you're not guilty”
“Why you? Why are you the only one that thinks that?”
“Because for as much as we hate each other, we understand each other, and I know that after all that has happened, you wouldn't commit treason.”
“They have a video of me betraying the program's details to the URF. I never recorded that video.”
“Then we'll have to prove that”
Miranda was silent a moment. “I want the truth, Riker, the absolute truth: why are you helping me?”
Riker glanced at Miranda momentarily, then said, “Because I don't want to see another comrade lost”
With that, they continued in silence.
Chapter 2: We've Only Got So Long, You Know
“That's not possible!” Laz-108 couldn't imagine Miranda betraying the UNSC, not after all they'd been through, not after how far she'd come. Humber had to be wrong. Had to be. But still, it seemed the proof was there.
“The fact of the matter, Major Katona”, said Gracen, “is that we have undeniable proof that Miranda in fact did betray the UNSC, as this video, as well as the attached messages and files, attest to. I don't care what you would like to believe: I only care about what has been proven to me. And currently, Miranda Talavera has escaped custody and is now at large: we have no way to ensure she doesn't send another message to the URF, and it now appears that she has coerced Lieutenant Commander Oakley to aid her”
“With all due respect Captain Humber”, cut in Fred-104, “But that's where your theory goes bad: I've fought and bled with Riker for years, and his loyalty to the UNSC couldn't be more obvious or more deeply ingrained. To say that he would aid Miranda in high treason is the craziest idea I've heard, not to even mention how much Miranda and Riker hate one another”
“He's right, sir”, said Viggo-G132. Riker's XO. Laz knew that Viggo was the only other person present that knew Riker close to how he knew him – Viggo was his strongest ally at the moment. “Riker has a distaste for myself and the other Spartan-III's, but his hatred for Miranda goes beyond that – I can't think of any reason that could make him aid her in escaping.”
“Has it not occurred to you that it could have been a charade?” Gracen held up a thick, tan folder from off the table. “I've read Oakley's psyche exams: he's recorded as having had a long history of emotional repression, among other things. His skills at withholding information go beyond those of many of the Office's best spooks. Yet you're still convinced that Riker is innocent somehow?”
“Yes, damn it!”, stated Laz vehemently.
Silence. A tense silence. All eyes were on the stand-off between Gracen and Laz. All the CO's and XO's were present – the Ops Chiefs were continuing the normal training routine, despite several IV's demanding more information on the situation at hand.
“Well, I hope that damned Innie burns in Hell for this”, spat out Rachel-343. It was no secret Rachel had no love for Miranda because of her former URF loyalties, despite the fact those activities were before Rachel's time.
The silence was broken. Laz glared once more at Gracen before turning his view away.
“Miranda is our top priority at the moment, correct?”, asked Ajax from his seat at the head of the table
“Correct”, said Gracen, “She has indisputably committed treason – she is now declared a risk to the safety of both the UNSC and the UEG, as well as the AUR to a lesser extent. She has to be captured or eliminated one way or another as quickly as possible. If our own special forces cannot locate and contain her within seven standard days, I'm afraid I'll have to resort to other methods”
“Such as?”, asked Elise-070
“Not any of your concerns at the moment. However, if you fail, these agents may not.”
“And if you're wrong?”, asked Jamal-290. From the slight nuances of his speech and face, Laz could tell he had sided with Ajax. With Gracen. Odd that he'd ask that question.
“I'm never wrong” Was it a statement, or a threat? Something didn't sit well with Laz either way when it was said.
Laz looked around the room. Jamal, Ajax, Linda, Tom, Rachel. They were the main ones against Riker. Laz, Fred and Viggo were the few supporters. The others were in limbo – Cassie, Leonid and Lucy were going to be hard to push either way it seemed. Twenty-six people, deciding the fate of two of their brethren. And what right did they have to do so, Laz wondered?
He's innocent. I know it. But how can I prove it? That was the trick in this situation – not the decision, but the facts.
“So then, the plan is set: all of you within this room are authorized to track down and capture both Commander Oakley and Sergeant Talavera. You have seven days. And do try to succeed: I would much rather you capture them and bring them back intact than resort to my other assets. They may not be so... caring as you.”
The final words hung in the air momentarily, their meaning soaking in.
“Now, pardon me as I try to contact Romanova to inform her of the situation and try to get a new ship”
With that, Gracen left the room. For a moment, the Spartans did not move an inch, frozen in time almost. Then Laz moved, slowly at first, then gaining speed. He opened the door, slammed it behind him. He was jogging now, no, running. Faster, faster, straight to his quarters. He burst through the doors and crashed into the chair in front of the computer, rapidly typing code sequences into the computer, drawing up all manner of security videos and communication recordings, many that were supposed to be off-limits.
Odysseus appeared on the holo-pad in a burst of turquoise light. “Laszlo, what on Earth are you doing? You need to review these –”
“There's no time, Odysseus!”, Laz almost screamed. The reality was hitting him now, the possibilities falling into place, none of them good. “Riker's in trouble, and I might be the only one that believes he's innocent!”
“Don't be so melodramatic Laszlo: he aided Miranda in escaping, and there has to be punishment for that. After all, why do you suppose –”
“You don't get it, do you, Odysseus? If we can't find them in seven days, or more importantly, if I can't prove he's innocent in seven days, Humber's gonna send out other agents, agents he claims will find them without a doubt. Mercenaries, Odysseus. And mercenaries don't play nice”
Odysseus was surprisingly silent for a moment. “Then what do you suggest we do?”, he asked at length.
Laz smiled. At least Odysseus was on his side. For a moment, he was afraid even the AI had gone against him.
“Search everything. Every video, communique, file transfer, everything! I don't care if it's from here, coming here, said here, never was here, we have to find out whether Miranda's innocent! That's the only way to resolve this”
“Then let's not waste any time. We've...”
“... only got so long, you know,” Riker said. After the escape they had made their way to the nearest UNSC base and commandeered Captain Humber's stealth prowler, the UNSC Aria of Sorrow, and had made a quick jump out of the system. They were now hiding, cloaked, in orbit of a large asteroid in a UNSC asteroid mining system planning their next course of action.
“I know, Riker,” said Miranda, typing quickly at the keyboard in front of her, trying to find the small piece of information that she needed from her personal hard-drive. “There's a lot of information on here though, so this isn't exactly an easy task. Susano, have you found anything yet?”
“Negative,” replied the AI, his samurai-god visage appearing on the bridge's holo-pad from nearby. “Of course, I must say you have an unnatural amount of data on this drive, and the notes are rather small. Shouldn't be too much longer though before we find it; we only have 30% left to examine. Assuming the data is really on here, that is...”
“I know it's on here,” affirmed Miranda, scouring her notes over and over again.
“So how exactly are we going to prove that you're really innocent?” asked Riker, “I know that you are, but we still need proof for the others.”
“If someone put a price on my head, then the criminal underworld on Fell Justice will know. All I need is to find the information to put us in contact with someone I know that can verify things for us."
“And even if we find out someone has a price on your head, what then? How does that help prove anything? You saw the Humber's video that Susano pulled from the system: whoever did this, their evidence is flawless.”
“Everything has a flaw,” said Miranda, “that's the first rule of a hacker”
“But we don't have the time to analyze it either!” exclaimed Riker, frustrated. “And even if we did, what does evidence mean coming from you or me?" Riker paused, and when he spoke, it was short and offhand, as if to himself. "I hope Laz doesn't try anything stupid in some blind hope to save us.”
“Major Katona is somewhat eccentric,” chimed in Susano, “You've said as much yourself. He and Odysseus are likely analyzing over ounce of data they can over and over while Lieutenant, Junior Grade Hawke is left with training Albion.”
“Rachel may be a problem,” said Miranda, “She already hates me, so she'll probably try to burn me at the stake now. If we can't–” Miranda stopped short, then yelled, “I've found it! Susano, ensure we dock near Virgin City's Chasen suburb and send a message to Gabriel Charles Talavera Amuro – tell him that his aunt Miranda is coming to pay a visit, and he'd better make himself presentable”
“Understood,” replied Susano before his avatar promptly disappeared.
“His aunt?” asked Riker.
Miranda merely smiled at the Spartan, one of her triumphant smirks she used so often. "I might surprise you to know, but I do have some family out there.