Always A Stranger, In A Strange Land
Sgt Major Jordan Ryan boarded the UNSC "Unspoken," having only just completed the grueling two week Orbital Drop Shock Trooper required training on the military stronghold planet, Reach. The Unspoken, a Paris class frigate, was markedly scaled down in size compared to other similar ships in the class. Walking from the inner bulkhead from the umbilical walkway, Jordan had to duck his head down considerably to clear the overhang. He was, like The Unspoken, shorter in stature than the other members of his squad. A trait which earned him the nickname "toothpick," during boot.
By all accounts, he was the quintessential UNSC solider. Having served as a private first class, in every major conflict of the Covenant War up until that point. Hardened, but with a modicum of humility attached to his person. During the battle of Arcadia, Jordan was noted for being unfortunate enough to catch a live plasma grenade with his standard issue BDU helmet. Although the act of being struck with live Covenant ordinance was certainly not unheard of, ripping one's protective gear off and hurling back at the enemy, was. An action which earned him several decorations, for outstanding valor. Upon promotion to Sgt Major, Jordan enrolled into the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, being assigned to The Unspoken.
Jordan made his way through the ship's narrow corridors, all of which were lined with brightly lit monitors. The excessively bright screens reflected off his almost neon azure eyes, which strained to read the quickly scrolling text. There were no such luxuries, as stopping to read, however. Not this late into the war. Most outer colonies had been glassed, the innermost fairing no better. He began to pick up the pace, his movement now a brisk walk. At the end of the corridor he turned left, into the loading bay where several insertion vehicles were almost daintily strung up by their gimbal assemblies, locked in place above the launch bay doors. At the end of the bay, sat the rest of his squad. As he approached, two of the three men stood up, and left. Leaning against a crate of packaged MA5 assault rifles, Jordan rested his tactical ODST helmet on the ground and took a seat. The other remaining man, still in a relaxed lean, pulled himself more properly up against the crate.
"So, you're our new assault specialist? Heard about you, the unlucky bastard who took a sticky to the forehead. Jordan Ryan, Sgt Major, is it?" Jordan allowed a small, yet noticeable smirk to etch across his face. "Yeah, yeah that would be me. And you must be Captain Aaron Perierat." The two men looked at each other for a short period, Aaron not sitting up at a straight angle. "It's just Aaron, or captain. Depends on if we are being shot at." Formality was not something ODST were widely known for. Having the unenviable position of falling from orbit into hostile positions, ODST were more unhinged than the rest of the UNSC's personnel. Most members of the branch had been diagnosed with either anxiety, depression or post traumatic stress disorder. More still, had a list of close friends they had lost during the war.
Ever since setting foot on The Unspoken, Jordan had been ruminating on a singular question. One which he planned to ask his commanding officer. At the moment, that seemed to be Captain Aaron.
"I have to ask, you ever think about the drop? This being my first, I figure you would have some insight." Aaron leaned back against the crate once more, almost lackadaisical in his form and breathing a heavy sigh. "No, I never think about the drop. And let me tell you something, no one else does either." Jordan, now more curious than ever, was the one who found himself in the position of sitting up in a straight position. "I mean, you must have seen a lot of combat. Not saying you're old or anything...But you look to at least have twenty years on me." Aaron let out a small chuckle, then raised his head to face Jordan. He was indeed an older man, several scars etched across his pasty white facade. His hair, longer than what the UNSC would be accepting of, was a light brown-grey. His most prominent feature however, was fatigue.
His eye lids seemed to be weighed down, as if an unknown force continuously attempted to draw them closed. "I've seen action, kid, more than you, more than anyone on this damn boat. But I don't think about it, at least not in public." Jordan began to catch the gist of Aaron's tone, and wondered if he should drop the subject entirely. Before he could lift himself up and move on to his pod, Aaron took a deep breath. "I'll tell you a story, short and to the point. I have a buddy of mine, best friend I could ever ask for. Few years ago, he transferred out of the ODST and into another branch. Name was Carl Briggs. Him and I, we have a long history together." Jordan, now standing up looking down at Aaron, had a look of confusion stenciled onto his face. "I heard once you are accepted into the ODST that the Corp doesn't transfer out? From what I understand, the only way out is either being goosed or hired internally by ONI."
The Unspoken's intercom system blared to life, several alarms and lights began to flash brightly.
"This is the commander on deck, all ODST personnel, grab your gear and prep for orbital insertion in five. Repeat, we pass in
Aaron lifted himself up, securing the helmet onto his head, and de-polarizing the visor. "Listen, Jordan. All you really need to know is, when you enter that pod, make sure you have everything in order." Before Jordan could retort, Aaron gave one brief pat on his right shoulder, and walked off to his pod. As he himself began to find his own insertion vehicle, something soft and made of fabric fell from his shoulder and onto the ground. Helmet in one hand, he used the other to pick up the piece of loose fabric. It was seared around the edges, the bottom half almost completely charred. Turning the fabric over, it was what was left of an insignia patch from the 51st Orbital Shock Troop Battalion. Sewn into the top of the fabric, above the image of a cracked, flaming skull, read the name "Carl Briggs."
Jordan found his pod, name freshly painted on the door's upper plating. As he strapped himself into the drop harness, Captain Aaron came over the tac-feed. "Alright troopers, you know the mission, you know what's at stake. So let's make it count, and I'll see you all on the surface." Jordan closed his eyes, slowing his breathing. He could hear the other pods unlatching, and then, before he could re-open his eyes, he was falling.