- "They’re going to make mistakes. But if they, or the UNSC, don’t get themselves killed, I believe they’re going to turn into some of the finest Spartans we’ve ever seen."
- ―Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose
Gamma Company was the third and final class of the SPARTAN-III Program, a classified initiative by Colonel James Ackerson and the Beta-5 Division of ONI to mass-produce cheap and expendable supersoldiers in response to the increasingly desperate Human-Covenant War. Recruited in early 2544, at an average of five years old, the majority of their more than three hundred candidates were selected based on having been orphaned by the Covenant, though more exceptions to this rule existed in Gamma than either previous class. Brought to Onyx in the Zeta Doradus system, a planet which did not officially exist in UNSC records, the recruits received seven years of the most advanced special forces training available before going through the augmentations of Project: CHRYSANTHEMUM in 2551, spending almost two years afterward recovering and acclimating to their new abilities before deploying in October, 2552. Instead of operating as a single unit like their predecessors, Gamma Company’s individual teams were distributed between many different theaters over the last months of the Human-Covenant War—a handful staying behind to compete for top honors being caught in the Battle of Onyx, some taking part in operations against the Insurrection, and the majority taking part in the planet-wide Battle of Earth. The company was never completely reunited, with many teams reassigned to organizations and branches they had fought with on Earth, and many more incorporated into the SPARTAN-IV Program. While Gamma Company ceased to exist as a unit in 2553, many of its members chose to retain their alphanumerical tags and still proudly referred to themselves as Gammas.
The process of identifying candidates for the third generation of SPARTAN-IIIs was begun by agents of the Beta-5 Division in 2538, before most perspective recruits had even been born. Beta Company's conscription had only just been finished, but the timetable for their projected graduation in 2543 and a viable age range of between four and six years old meant the majority would be born within the next year, and lists began compiling almost immediately. Because the program depended on the recruits being orphans of Covenant attacks for motivation, the searches began with the colonies considered by UNSC HIGHCOM to be the most likely to fall next, including Falaknuma, Ascalon, and Alluvion. Gathering data on potential candidates presented a number of challenges; the populations of Outer Colonies were distrustful of the United Earth Government and difficult to catalog, while on 'core' Inner Colonies, which were considered at risk and therefore potential sources for the first time, the abductions would be more difficult to cover up. All the while, the Covenant's unyielding advance through human space reduced the total population they had to draw from at a frightening rate.
|The Covenant's relentless advance would orphan thousands, though only a few in every thousand would be fit Spartans.
Various cunning solutions were devised in turn, including improvements in the augmentations which allowed for further-expanded genetic criteria, the exploitation of disorganized refugee populations fleeing from worlds set upon by the Covenant, and the implementation of the Outer Colonial vaccination program in Inner Colonial hospitals, first used by ONI to surreptitiously construct a genetic database of otherwise-unregistered colonists when the candidates for Beta Company fell far short of expectations. For six years, these lists were maintained and updated, births and newly-discovered matches adding to its number while disease, deaths and disfiguring accidents whittled it away. A year in, 2539, saw Kholo as the first planet on the list to fall, cutting dozens of children confirmed dead from the list and the survivors relocated to surrounding worlds, making them an effort to track. In the following years, the older children would sometimes survive one world falling only to be caught in a subsequent invasion, either dying or being displaced again. Those who remained, however, moved forward to the list of children who would be interviewed in person by the program's agents when the time for abduction came. The Office of Naval Intelligence's Project BRUTUS also assisted in the recruitment of children for Gamma Company, using its undercover agents and wide information network to scour foster organizations and orphanages that had received an influx of refugees from fallen colonies. Several field agents even personally recruited children into the company, just as they had for Alpha and Beta in previous years.
But as the hour approached, the list dwindled dismally low, at 271 candidates below even the numbers of Alpha and Beta Companies, never mind the thousands projected by Colonel Ackerson at the SPARTAN-III Program's outset. Desperate to compensate for the disappointing total, Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose, the program's appointed head, authorized in secret for more candidates to be considered whom had not been orphaned by the Covenant, yet for whatever reason still had no family to speak of. These would include children whose parents had been killed in Insurrectionist conflicts, tragic accidents, or had simply been abandoned. Later, this would be looked back upon as a mistake, as the deviant motivations of several members of Gamma Company would be seen as the root of undesired aberrations never before seen among Spartans. But at the time, the decision brought their number to 318, enough candidates to confidently move forward. In early 2544, only a few months after the activation and deployment of Beta Company, agents of ONI were dispersed in small teams across UNSC space aboard prowlers to interview and abduct those prospects who satisfactorily met expectations.
- "Right now, you’re a ward of this colony. You don’t have a home and until you come of age you’ll just be dead weight for the people here. Just one extra mouth to feed. But I don’t want that for you. The United Earth Government doesn’t want that for you. Humanity doesn’t want that for you. We want to help make you into someone better. Someone who protects people. Someone who kills monsters."
- ―James Santiago, one of Gamma Company's recruitment agents.
Once a team located their candidate, the process of observation and interview would last roughly a week, during which the child's physical, mental, and emotional capabilities would be analyzed and potentially rejected, but none would be approved until they were interviewed in person and asked directly if they wanted to participate. Usually, this involved whether they wanted revenge for the deaths of their families, but with the widened selection criteria, sometimes other motivations had to be given to them to secure their consent, whether it was aspiring to ideals of heroism or the chance to become more powerful than they ever could in their present circumstances. Whatever their reason, only those who said yes were taken. Several weeks into the recruitment phase, an unexpected complication occurred when Miridem came under attack while candidates were under observation. During the battle, several candidates were killed while others were relocated or even taken before their assessment was complete, but after the chaos had been sorted out, Beta-5 found it had more viable candidates than before, orphans of this latest battle. Additional teams were dispatched, and by the time all candidates were collected aboard the UNSC Agincourt on its return journey to Onyx, they numbered 366 recruits.
Induction and Conditioning
- "You have all endured great hardships to get here. Your journeys began in disparate parts of the galaxy, on Alluvion, or Miridem, or too many other worlds to list, but they’ve all had the same things in common. Just starting it meant losing your whole world, and to make it this far has cost you anything you had left."
- ―LCDR Ambrose addresses the potential trainees.
Arriving in Onyx's orbit on July 7th, 2544, the recruits were shuttled down to the planet's surface on Pelican dropships and landed just before sundown in the fields surrounding Camp Currahee, the SPARTAN-IIIs' dedicated training facility. There, the hundreds of children were met by Lieutenant Commander Ambrose, who gave a speech about what they would be doing there and what they would become, having a pair of drill instructors in SPI armor appear with him to further impress and interest the recruits. Informing them of their chance at training to exact revenge or become heroes as Spartans, they would have to go through one last pretest, the same as had been given to Alpha and Beta companies before. The children were herded back into the Pelicans, where drill instructors outfitted them with Falcon Wing parachute harnesses and ordered them to jump once the dropships had lifted back off. Nearly every recruit made the jump, only twelve finding they lacked the nerve, and one critically injured when he failed to deploy his chute soon enough. These were each taken back aboard a prowler and away from Onyx, with Beta-5's agents wiping their memories to protect the secrecy of the SPARTAN-III program. The remaining 343 children, however, were given numerical Spartan tags and had completed their transition from candidates, to recruits, to trainees.
|When they first arrived on Onyx, many of the potential Spartans were little more than scared children.
The following day, the trainees were first subjected to the intensive physical and mental conditioning composing the first phase of their training. Hours before dawn, they were forcibly woken by their drill instructors and began a series of different exercises each day, from calisthenics and runs to more specialized games, some of which, like Ring the Bell, had been used in the SPARTAN-IIs' training, while others developed by Ambrose himself specifically for the SPARTAN-IIIs were even more challenging. These exercises were broken only by three high-nutrition meals and a prolonged rotation in one of a handful of classrooms on the base, where they continued, or in some cases began, academic study. The trainees had been previously sorted into classes based on assessments of prior knowledge made before their recruitment, and for the first few weeks, the lower-level classes were instructed much more rigorously in order to bring every trainee up to the same level, which was made possible by individual attention and tutoring from Deep Winter. The AI served as their instructor for all basic subjects, while specialized topics were taught by expert members of the base staff. The aspiring Spartans' days would only come to an end well after the sunset of Onyx's extended 28-hour rotation.
In a year, the trainees had reached the pinnacle of physical condition for their age. Now that they only needed to maintain their physiques as they grew, the exercise routine was relaxed, allowing time to be spent on developing the trainees' skill sets. While the proper ways to maintain their appearances, address superiors and march in formation had already been drilled into them, and information about tactics, military structure, and chain of command had been passed on in the classroom, they now began to learn the basic functions of soldiering in earnest, such as combat training and first aid. This included their introduction to firearms, though the recruits were forbidden from actually firing a weapon, deemed still too young to be trusted with live rounds. Instead, they were tested on their recognition of every weapon employed by the UNSC and knowledge of its use, as well as ability to assemble, disassemble, and maintain them. The principle weapon given to each trainee for their individual practice was the MA5K carbine, modified to use specifically tactical training paint rounds. Samples of Covenant equipment had also been brought to Onyx for the trainees' benefit, with lessons emphasizing what types of Covenant troops carried each weapon and how to specifically counter them.
Camp Currahee would also receive two new drill instructors that year who would prove invaluable assets, though their procurement came at a great cost. As Gamma Company's cadets were running drills and practicing their aim, their predecessors in Beta Company were already taking the fight to the Covenant in high-risk operations across human space and beyond, far behind Covenant lines. When a new Covenant fuel refinery was discovered on the border of UNSC space in June of 2545, an installation which could allow the Covenant to launch strikes deep into human territory, plans were drawn up for the Spartans of Beta to assault and destroy the facility: Operation: TORPEDO. Within minutes of their landfall on the moon of Pegasi Delta, however, a grievous tactical error was realized as seven Covenant warships docked at the fuel depot deployed their troops as reinforcements. Beta Company was slaughtered, but the members of Team Foxtrot managed to complete their mission by blowing up the refinery and taking the Covenant ships with it, at the cost of half their team. This left Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091 the only survivors of the operation, and the latter traumatized to the point of being unable to speak. Although Colonel Ackerson wanted to recruit Tom as a personal agent and have Lucy classified unfit for duty, Ambrose interceded on their behalf and secured both as instructors for future Spartans.
|Veteran Spartans and graduates of Camp Currahee, Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091 would make ideal mentors.
Their arrival couldn't have come at a better time, as the trainees were just starting to learn about the Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor they'd soon be using. When the time came, Tom and Lucy sped the process of acclimatizing the Gamma trainees to their armor through what they'd picked up about its quirks in the field, insights not even the washout instructors of Alpha or Beta had. In addition, Tom took it upon himself to mentor several of the younger Spartans who were lagging behind, having himself been among the lower-ranked members of his company before them. Their presence, however, led to curiosity among the trainees about where the rest of their company was, and soon, these questions made their way to Ambrose. Though it was a matter of some concern, Ambrose decided to be straightforward with his charges. The trainees were shown what little records existed of Alpha and Beta companies' fates, forcing the Gammas to confront the reality that even with the best equipment and training available, the types of missions they were likely to take on meant they could very likely all die fighting the Covenant. Some had already accepted this reality and reacted by throwing themselves further into their instruction, but the fact that many did not share the typical revenge-motivated background meant many trainees needed time to process the realization. In time, however, it would leave the trainees with a strengthened sense of resolve and lead them to work harder in the interest of their own survival, and not one of them requested to stop. Feeling more confident because of this than he'd been with either of their predecessors, Ambrose found himself more willing to consider taking chances with them.
Once they'd become well-versed in every aspect of using both their armor and equipment, more than capable fighters individually, the trainees were divided into randomly-assigned five-man teams each day and put through challenges that forced them to work as a unit, sometimes in coordination with other teams and applying tactics and strategies they'd learned in the classroom. Mastering maneuvers quickly, the teams went on to capture-the-flag, assault, and territory-control games first against automated turrets and armed DIs, then against rival teams. Meanwhile, each trainee's individual teamwork skills and psychological profiles were being carefully monitored by the staff as data to determine the permanent team rosters, finalized in 2547. At Ambrose's discretion, more risks were taken in experimenting with team compositions, such as placing one of the company's most skilled leaders, Jake-G293, in charge of four of their worst and most undisciplined soldiers to form Team Jian. Though Jian did not turn out to be a success, other experiments, most notably Teams Saber and Katana, excelled in comparison to even the best normally-formated 'control' teams, such as Gladius. Excruciating care was taken in the selection process, aiming to find the highest-performing permutations possible of the entire company, as these teams were expected to work with and rely upon each other for the remainder of their lives.
These rigorous methods were in preparation for the most brutal form of training Ambrose ever devised: Trial by Fire. In the cases of both preceding classes of SPARTAN-IIIs, widespread loss of discipline had led to disaster. First, during Operation: PROMETHEUS, Alpha Company lost their ability to function as a unit in the face of overwhelming Covenant reinforcements. Cut off from extraction and direction, its disorganized members were left to be hunted to exhaustion by a constant stream of fresh Covenant troops, run down, and killed in one small, defenseless group after another. To keep this from repeating in Beta Company, Ambrose stressed the importance of independent initiative, but in Operation: TORPEDO, the inexperienced soldier chosen as their commander would panic and give the Omega-Three order, abandoning the mission and dashing any hopes of a second attempt by scattering the Spartans in a disorganized retreat, dooming them. Only by disobeying did members of Team Foxtrot survive, completing the mission at the cost of half their squad. To make certain such a catastrophic end would never befall the Spartans of Gamma, Ambrose designed a War Game meant to prepare the trainees for instances of extreme stress by putting them through exactly such situations, first implementing it in early 2548.
|Members of a newly-formed team adjust to working together.
After the company's finalized five-trainee teams had acclimatized to working closely together, adopting a naming convention based on close combat weapons such as Dao and Rondel, the first Trial by Fire exercise began by dropping off each team at a random location in a kilometers-wide swath of Onyx's wilderness. Given limited supplies and rations, they were instructed to use any means necessary to outfight and outcompete the other teams until only one was left standing. In addition, the jungle within the boundaries of the zone had been laid thick with traps, from simple snares to automated machine gun turrets, while TTR-armed drill instructors would hunt them constantly, herding them into further conflict with their environment and each other. These exercises could last for days, taking a heavy toll on the trainees' physical and psychological endurance. While success in placement was important, the ability of a team leader to keep his or her comrades in check and maintain effective teamwork was looked on as far more favorable, but few teams were capable of such restraint their first time. Some who failed to adapt to such extreme stress were given leave of a few days to recover, and a few even washed out entirely, their memories wiped and sent off-world altogether. Yet, Ambrose continued to push them harder, his fear of a repeat of Alpha and Beta Companies' demise blinding him to the brewing unrest.
The exercises were hard on all of Gamma's trainees, most of whom understood and pitied the few who had broken for nearly succumbing themselves. Already discontent with the sharp increase in the harshness of their training, the trainees were outraged upon learning several of their friends and teammates, who'd already shouldered the burdens of years of training alongside them, had washed out over the events, exacerbating the company's fraying temperaments. Instances of insubordination and fighting rose exponentially, and Ambrose, taking this lack of restraint as a sign of exactly the loss in discipline he'd feared, only cracked down even more with curfews and inspections. The mood in Camp Currahee might have gone so far as to become dangerous, were it not for the actions of a few rebellious trainees. On July 7th, 2548, as Gamma Company assembled on the parade ground to be loaded into Pelicans and deployed on another Trial by Fire exercise, a whole section of the camp's perimeter fence suddenly went up in an explosion, leaving a massive gap straight into Onyx's dense jungles. It was then a cry went up from several sources amongst the company: jailbreak. Members of teams Machete, Scimitar, Xiphos, Shoto, and Jian, most of them among the less serious-minded teams with not as much to lose in the ranked standings, had collaborated to organize a company-wide breakout of Gamma's trainees, intending to break free of the drill instructors' tyranny.
More than two-thirds of Gamma Company decided to follow, fleeing en masse into the jungle as base staff tried ineffectually to capture the runaways. While a few were restrained, Gamma's far superior numbers allowed the vast majority to escape while the instructors had to take time to properly organize a response, the remaining third of the company looking on in shock. Ambrose was furious, but more than that, afraid. The renegade trainees had fled north, directly for Zone 67. The ONI-restricted site was off-limits to the trainees, and for good reason; during Beta Company's training, a team of recruits had lost contact and were never found after straying into its boundaries. Now that they were free of the instructors' control, the children were guaranteed to want to break the rules and cross its border, and Ambrose feared they might suffer the same fate. With this close in mind, he asked Deep Winter to devote more assistance and directed the search efforts himself. The escaped trainees, meanwhile, were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Excited by the unprecedented revolt, once they made it what they deemed a safe distance away, the Gammas began doing whatever they pleased, playing, swimming, and climbing to their hearts' content. Several teams regrouped, and these 'platoons' put the equipment they'd been issued for the day's exercise—MA5Ks with TTR rounds, flashbang grenades, rations, etc.—together, intending to resist when the drill instructors inevitably came after them.
Over the course of the next week, the trainees retained their independence in spite of weathering a fierce storm, coordinated capture attempts by the instructors, and eventually the involvement of the trainees who'd stayed behind or been captured already as a means to pursue the renegades. The pursuit nearly turned lethal on several occasions, resulting in numerous injuries but no actual fatalities, even when the last few escapees crossed Zone 67's border. Incidents there which took place would be sanctioned with the highest levels of classification. But, at the escapade's end, the young Spartans of Gamma had been given an opportunity to blow off steam and become all the closer for resisting authority together, and Ambrose realized with some assistance that he'd been driving the candidates too hard. While Trial by Fire exercises were still used, their frequency was relaxed in favor of more team-building War Games, individual development, and focus on leadership training. The whole affair eventually became something of a joke looked on fondly by Gamma's members, wryly dubbed in hindsight as "Operation: JAILBREAK."
|The death of SPARTAN-073 in augmentation was just one of the many files shown to the Gamma candidates.
By early 2550, Gamma Company had received the most extensive and advanced training in the UNSC, collectively proficient as commandos in every field of military science and combat to a degree that could rival some of the best special forces units, but were untested, and the most dangerous phase still had yet to come. Even after they had passed every test and challenge set before them, over a hundred trainees in both Alpha and Beta Companies had fallen victim to side-effects of the SPARTAN-IIIs' bioaugmentation procedures and died because their genetic profiles were incompatible or physical bodies couldn't handle the process' stress. Since Gamma Company's inception, however, Kurt had commissioned a washout of Beta Company named Aspen-B145 to research and develop improvements and countermeasures to the side-effects in hopes of boosting the survival rate, but knowing the inherent risks to the trainees were still great, Kurt found he couldn't commit his charges to the danger blindly. In May, just before final preparations began, Kurt personally led a briefing for the entire company in which he showed the trainees recordings of what had happened to the subjects of both previous SPARTAN-III classes and the SPARTAN-IIs before them, successful and failed alike. Once they understood the process would irrevocably change, if not maim or outright kill them, Ambrose gave them an open offer to opt out of the program if they so chose, albeit with a wiped memory. To his surprise, not one of the trainees took him up on it, having come too far to simply give up. Now that they'd made the choice again to remain with the program, old enough to be fully aware of the risks involved, Ambrose authorized the start of preoperative conditioning.
The pacing of scrimmage exercises was drastically reduced, and replaced with more calisthenics and, to the delight of the trainees, free time. This was to help ensure the trainees' psychological heath as the base's medical staff began giving them injections to induce an artificial early puberty, a developmental phase necessary to prevent their bodies from fatally rejecting the augmentations. Naturally, this was a stressful time in the childrens' lives, and the unnaturally rapid changing of their bodies and minds only compounded problems. As their bodies grew, the trainees were perpetually compensating for changes in their anatomy and struggled to re-learn skills they'd had almost since the beginning of training, leading to enormous frustration. Worse, for the first time they were experiencing attractions and feelings they were unprepared to deal with, which led to many embarrassing and distressful situations. The exercises, however, gave them something to focus on, and the abundance of personal time allowed them to process feelings and indulge their own interests, or find them for the first time, helped considerably. By the end of the nine-month-long treatments, still only twelve years old on average, the trainees' age appeared to be at least fifteen and well on their way to adulthood.
But before being approved for augmentation, each trainee had to pass a final, individual test. These trials were designed by the base staff using data accumulated from throughout all the years they'd spent on Onyx, and were unique to each trainee. They focused on what were perceived as each's greatest weaknesses, be it in temperament, knowledge, or skill, and challenged every one to overcome problems they'd routinely displayed in the course of their training. Though not always easily, and to varying degrees of satisfaction, not one failed to rise to the challenge presented to them, and augmentation procedures for the company were authorized. The number of those who'd advanced to this stage, however, exceeded the three hundred slots Colonel Ackerson had approved the company for, and Ambrose faced the impossible decision of identifying thirty who'd rightfully earned their place to be cut at random. Finding he didn't have the heart to go through with it, Ambrose submitted a petition for thirty additional slots for augmentation, and Ackerson was only too happy to oblige. At last, the most critical stage in the making of Spartans arrived.
- "They’re ready. I hope we are. We’re taking a hell of a risk."
- ―LCDR Ambrose, aboard the UNSC Hopeful.
|Built from a pair of scrapped refit stations, the Hopeful was converted by a private medical company and appropriated by the UNSC to become the largest mobile hospital in history.
In January of 2551, the UNSC Hopeful, a civilian station retrofitted as a battlefield hospital, was recalled by Admiral Margaret Parangosky herself, head of ONI. Its commander, Vice Admiral Ysionris Jeromi, was ordered to take his vessel to a remote, top-secret location in deep space, where it would play host to Gamma Company's augmentation procedures as it had with Alpha and Beta. Ambrose and a cadre of ONI's own medical staff came aboard several days early to make preparations, clearing a whole eight decks surrounding where they would actually take place to protect the program's secrecy. Then, on February 19th, the trainees arrived and were taken to individually-partitioned compartments, each going through the painful procedures alone. They would not be the only ones, however. A handful of those whom had supposedly 'washed out' of the program had instead been taken to the far side of Onyx to begin an even more intensive, specialized training geared towards high-risk missions behind enemy lines, operating independently for what could be very extended periods. Known as the Headhunters, these few were brought aboard separately and kept on the far side of the surgical floor, where they too underwent the same augmentations. Furthermore, Aspen's work expanding the range of those who could survive the procedures allowed for some of the Alpha and Beta washouts, whom had been kept within the program as instructors, to go through the process. While it would entail more risk than the Gammas, who were in the ideal age range for augmentation, many of those who'd aspired to be Spartans before jumped at the chance to realize their old hopes.
The first twenty-four hours of the process were the most critical, as the initial surgeries and introductions of various chemical agents into their bodies were the leading causes of death for the previous Spartan classes. Though latent improvements to the procedures prevented an untold number of complications from ever occurring, many augmentees still experienced dramatic, potentially lethal side-effects. Fortunately, a multitude of reactive treatments had been developed to counteract these inevitabilities, such as cardiac arrest crashes caused by the muscle densifiers or horrible disfiguration from skeletal structures outstripping the rest of the body's growth, which saved many of the patients' lives. By the period's end, however, every one of Gamma's trainees had survived the processes, and initial tests indicated they would all survive the week-long period of supplemental procedures to come. For all intents, they had graduated as full-fledged Spartans, and Kurt congratulated them all personally. Before doing so, however, he was summoned by Vice Admiral Jeromi, who though suspicious of ONI's interference with his vessel in the past, had never gotten involved before. Jeromi presented Kurt with a slipspace COM probe of unknown origin, and lent him the secure captain's office to listen. The sender was Deep Winter, who discovered the augmentation list had been tampered with, and before his fragment expired, warned Kurt to halt the procedures. Kurt disregarded this warning, however, and instead contacted ONI to have Winter's memory purged before the AI was decommissioned—Kurt had been responsible for the modifications himself.
- "[T]his is a mutagen that alters key regions in a subject's frontal lobe. It enhances aggression, making the animal part of the mind more accessible in times of stress. Someone so mutated has reserves of strength and endurance no normal human could call upon. Such a person could also continue to fight under the influence of wide systemic shock that would instantly kill another Human. The mutagen, however, depresses the higher reason centers of the brain over time. The antipsychotic and bipolar integration drugs counter this effect. As long as the SPARTAN-III's have these agents in their system, they compensate. You must halt the protocol. Brain mutagens were specifically outlawed by the UNSC MED CORPS in 2513. The moral argument algorithms are robust."
- ―Deep Winter's warning to Kurt Ambrose.
These additions were in the form of brain-altering mutagenic compounds, targeted to increase aggression and resist systemic shock in the recipient to keep them standing and fighting long after their bodies should have shut down. Such mutations had been outlawed by the UNSC Medical Corps for over half a century, but Kurt had conspired with Colonel Ackerson to have them included regardless. Made desperate by the loss of two generations of children he'd trained, Kurt had resorted to this as the last possible edge he could give Gamma Company, despite the risk of potentially fatal side-effects later on in life. While many would live to eventually pay dearly for his actions, it went undiscovered for the time being. Once the procedures were finished and the Spartans given enough time to start their recovery, enduring rough physical therapy to get used to their remade bodies, they were returned to Onyx to complete their training. While most of their scars would heal within the first month, the heightened speed, strength, and reflexes they now possessed made them clumsy, and it would take several more just to reach the point at which they'd previously been. By the end of six months, however, the young Spartans had adapted completely and exceeded all their previous achievements. Not only did they learn to combine the advantages of augmentation with their armor and weapons individually, but it was accounted for in their tactics, developing new strategies which made use of speed and mobility impossible for anyone without their enhanced abilities. It became dangerous for their drill instructors, with the exceptions of Tom and Lucy, to engage them in even mock combat, and the Gammas were left with only each other to scrimmage against.
|Defended by a fleet of five hundred ships, an assault against the massive command-and-control station would have spelled doom for Gamma Company as surely as PROMETHEUS and TORPEDO.
At this point, Gamma Company was in top shape and ready for its first taste of combat, but were delayed by Kurt's own intervention, for reasons both justified and unjustified. This late in the war, the Covenant had long ago obliterated or forced the UNSC to lose contact with all but a few of the Outer Colonies and had rapidly swept through the core worlds. With their situation looking increasingly hopeless, High Command was already considering a mission for Gamma Company's first deployment which had the same projected outlook as PROMETHEUS and TORPEDO before. The groundwork for what was dubbed Operation: HUMILITY had been based on insights gleaned from intercepted Covenant fleet communications about a massive new weapon being built to lead a fleet tasked solely with the destruction of humanity's most heavily-defended worlds. If undertaken, the mission would involve a boarding of the battleship in space, regardless of its state of completion. Knowing all too well what could go wrong in such EVA missions from personal experience, Kurt petitioned with Ackerson and Parangosky against the operation, stating he wanted to keep the Gammas on Onyx for observation a little while longer to watch for side-effects of the illegal augmentations he'd added. He was able to sway them, and their influence was enough to postpone the mission for at least two months, during which the colony of Merken, the only remaining world distant enough to serve as a launching point for an operation that deep in Covenant space, was glassed, leading plans for Operation: HUMILITY to be scrubbed. Though relieved he'd saved his proteges from disaster, Kurt knew had the Spartans been deployed that they might've been able to do something about Merken, and had to bear the guilt of those possibilities squarely on his shoulders.
The company, in the meantime, were given more time to familiarize themselves with the strategies and skills of their enemies, including receiving a new shipment of the latest recovered Covenant weapons and technology, and further develop their own. To keep them from distracting themselves with thoughts of real warfare, Kurt announced that Gamma Company's training would finish with a competition for top honors, naming the company's commander as the leader of the winning team. The teams highest in the standings immediately redoubled their efforts, while those near the bottom went on with business as usual. The tournament consisted of not only head-to-head scrimmage matches between teams, but tests of teamwork and individual skill, all contributing to a point total which would determine the winner. While they waited, however, word reached Onyx of the Fall of Reach, the military center of the UNSC. With its destruction, the members of Gamma Company understood the backbone of humanity's fighting force was broken, but rather than fear, found resolve in knowing their place within it would be that much more important. The lead-up to the tournament lasted nine months, until Kurt activated it as his last stall against ONI. Over a three-month period, each time strove to make its mark by placing as high as they could, until three final contestants were declared: Teams Saber, Katana, and Gladius. The tournament had pushed every team to its limit, and more, each team had pushed themselves to their limits, even the lowest among them far exceeding expectations.
- Shepard-G127: "Hey Machete, this is Shoto. We're being sent just a few hundred miles north of you guys, so if you end up needing help, give us a call."
- Kodiak-G114: "No one gets in trouble like us, Shepard. If it's enough to get us in over our heads, you guys wouldn't be enough to bail us out."
- Viggo-G132: "Scimitar's orders take us to the same front. Don't worry about it, guys, we'll watch their backs."
- Victoria-G013: "Rapier will be down there, too. We all will. Stay sharp, Gamma."
- — Com chatter between teams as Gamma Company disembarks aboard Pelicans for Earth.
In mid-October, 2552, a veritable fleet of ONI's prowler stealth vessels started arriving in the Zeta Doradus System, bringing with them word that Earth had come under attack and Gamma Company was to deploy immediately in response. By this time, however, certain teams had already left. Though Kurt had managed to delay the full company's deployment, a number of factions within ONI and the UNSC had turned their eyes on the abundance of highly-capable new operatives, and in several cases, Kurt had no recourse to object. These teams were picked out of Gamma Company before the top honors competition to serve as covert or special ops forces in various branches and subdivisions of the military, not to be reunited with other members of the company for a very long time. Those who remained, however, were shuttled aboard the prowlers with the exceptions of Saber, Katana, and Gladius, who would remain on Onyx to compete in the final phase of the tournament. On October 25th, the prowlers departed, marking the last time any of them would ever see Onyx as they were taken to see their first—and for many, last—combat action. Unlike Alpha and Beta Companies, Gamma would not deploy as a single unit, the desperate and widespread Battle of Earth demanding their presence in theaters of war across the planet. Some teams, meanwhile, were deployed to completely different solar systems for missions of critical importance, such as quelling insurrection on planets being hastily prepared as military and civilian fallback points for ships evacuating Earth, should it fall. Thrown into the most desperate and pitched battles of the war, many teams would endure their first casualties, but for every loss, other Gammas would serve with distinction against the most impossible odds, each a testament to the unit's training and capability to prove their brethren worthy of the title Spartans.
|Though dispersed between myriad paths of military service and civilian lives, the members of Gamma Company would go on to lead remarkable lives.
Those left behind on Onyx would find themselves in a battle of their own soon enough, as within a week of the company's departure, the standby signal for the Halo Array set in motion by the Master Chief activated the Shield World lying beneath Onyx's surface, beginning the Battle of Onyx. Gladius and two members of Team Saber perished in the fighting, and the rest retreated into the Shield World with Blue Team shortly before the planet shook itself apart, to be recovered months later in February, 2553. By this time, the Battle of Earth and, consequently, Human-Covenant War were over, leaving the survivors of Gamma Company without a war to fight nor home to go back to. Without immediate orders, many teams assisted in the clean-up of Earth, hunting down pockets of Covenant holdouts or participating in search-and-rescue ops. Shortly after Saber and Katana's recovery, however, their plight came to the attention of Margaret Parangosky, head of ONI, who after the arrest of Dr. Catherine Halsey for the ethical failings of the SPARTAN-II program, had Gamma Company, and many other SPARTAN-III units, disbanded. Their members were given a choice to reintegrate to civilian life, being given a second chance at the lives that had been taken from them, or join the SPARTAN-IVs in the newly-formed Spartan Branch. Most chose the latter, officially losing their tags and being referred to by their restored last names, though some stubbornly clung to their identity as SPARTAN-IIIs. Others, already shuffled into the commands of other branches of service, continued serving outside the authority of either, though a select few indeed accepted retirement happily, going so far as to have their augmentations removed to what degree was possible, though they still lived under constant ONI supervision and sanctions, resulting in frustrating social isolation for some.
|In a nondescript cave on a dead colony, the Gammas built something which belonged truly and only to Spartans.
One of the last experiences widely shared by the members of Gamma Company was the founding of the Missing Wall in 2554, a secret memorial to the fallen SPARTAN-IIIs of all companies. Conceived of by the members of Team Shoto in response to ONI forbidding the official recognition of SPARTAN-IIIs—including their parts in the war or even deaths in its service—to maintain the program's confidentiality, the memorial was never sanctioned by any military authority and only ever known to those Spartans who helped to build it and the fellow Spartans they shared it with. After determining the glassed and abandoned world of Merken to hide it on, the members of Shoto unofficially contacted and gathered as many Gammas as they could and quietly coordinated their own black operation, a handful making the trip aboard a commandeered shuttle while others helped in covering up their absence. After the names of every SPARTAN-III to be killed in action were inscribed in the stone of a hidden cave in the planet's wastes, the Wall became a site of pilgrimage for SPARTANs to honor its names or add those of comrades who passed on later.
The illegal brain alterations which were implemented alongside their approved augmentations would eventually lead to complications for many Gammas in the later years of their lives. Some gradually lost their higher brain functions as their booster shots, the reason for their necessity not fully understood for a while, were neglected, and a few even died from complications. It should also be noted that Gamma Company had the highest number of rogue Spartans of any group ever produced, and some classified theories exist that these alterations to their thought processes are what caused so many to defect. Rogue Spartans were highly sought after by the UNSC and ONI to keep their secrets under wraps, and to combat Spartans, other Spartans were dispatched—including Gammas, bringing former comrades into opposition. Regardless, the variety and extent of the roles Gamma Company took up has made them arguably the most prolific group of Spartans behind only the SPARTAN-IIs, leaving a significant mark on the galaxy.
- Main Article: Project CHRYSANTHEMUM
|A medical readout of Project: CHRYSANTHEMUM.
While the most intensive phase of augmentation occurred in 2551, the final preparation of Gamma Company's recruits for the process began nine months earlier in May 2550, with Commander Ambrose briefing them on the extent and risk of augmentation and offering them the choice to go through with it, which all three-hundred and thirty candidates accepted. They were introduced to a modified diet which contained several vitamin and mineral supplements to maximize their physical development, in addition to mild growth hormones, artificially inducing puberty in the candidates to accelerate their bodies' growth to full maturity. On February 19th, 2551, Gamma Company was brought aboard the UNSC Hopeful to undergo the chemical augmentation procedures themselves, and required a final recovery phase to heal and adapt to the results which lasted for more than a year.
The augmentations themselves were based upon the procedures performed on their SPARTAN-II predecessors, but with the benefit of more than two and a half decades' worth of advancement making them much safer for the augmentees. Since Alpha Company, the augmentations had been induced chemically rather than surgically, a practice which continued with Gamma. Though the procedures administered to each class prior to Gamma had experienced a high rate of fatal complications, research by Beta Company washout Aspen-B145 was able to finally bring the casualty rate of the SPARTAN Program down to zero percent, with every member of Gamma surviving augmentation. In individual partitions, the candidates were sedated and infused with shock reducers, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, anticoagulants, and pH buffering drugs to stabilize them while the body-altering augmentations took effect, which included:
- 8942-LQ99, a carbide ceramic ossification catalyst which hardened the subject's skeletal structure to the point of being virtually unbreakable.
- 88005-MX77, a fibroid muscular protein complex which increased the density and strength of muscle tissue.
- 88947-OP24, a retina-inversion stabilizer which significantly improved the eye's sharpness and granted the subject virtually-perfect night vision.
- 87556-UD61, a drug which reacted with the augmentations' colloidal neural disunification solution to boost reaction time.
Unknown to all but Lieutenant Commander Ambrose, Colonel Ackerson, and a handful of ONI personnel, however, three additions were made to the drug compounds which modified the brains of Gamma Company's members in direct violation of the UNSC Medical Corps' ban on brain alteration procedures:
- Cyclodexione-4, a bipolar integration drug.
- Miso-olanzapine, an anti-psychotic drug.
- 009762-OO, a non-carcinogenic mutagenic compound which altered critical regions of the brain's frontal lobe.
These additions were secretly pushed for by Ambrose, under the belief that they would provide the Spartans with a better chance of survival. In situations of extreme stress, the Gammas would be able to access a more primal and aggressive part of their brain and call upon boundless reserves of strength and endurance, while ignoring the effects of normally-lethal system-wide shock. The cost at which this came, however, was potentially devastating. Without monthly boosters of cyclodexione and miso-olanzapine, the mutagen would have a negative effect on higher brain function and could potentially be fatal.
These consequences have manifested only two known times, and differently in each. The first occurred in the infamous traitor Simon-G294 after his separation from the UNSC, and resulted in the development of an alternate persona which was dubbed "Stray," potentially a side-effect of being denied the bipolar integration drug. The second was in Amber-G330 after her desertion, and irrevocably altered her previous personality and morals to the point of being unrecognizable. In 2558, however, through helping Simon deal with the effects of the mutagen, derelict Spartan Cassandra-G006 developed a drug compound which permanently eliminated the need for boosters in a member of Gamma Company, effectively curing those who acquired it of the condition, though any damage already done was irreparable.
During the course of training, thirteen of the recruited Gamma trainees "washed out," supposedly failing the program. Some of these did, the Trial by Fire exercises taking too great a toll on some trainees and pushing them to breakdowns, who would have their memories wiped and be removed from Onyx to protect the confidentiality of the SPARTAN-III Program, but a few of these were merely listed washouts to cover up for their joining the even more secretive Headhunter program, removed to train for self-sufficient operations deep behind enemy lines on the other side of the planet.
- Raniya-G135 (Headhunter)
- Shaiming-G231 (Headhunter)
- Genevieve-G226 (Headhunter)
- Caroline-G282 (Headhunter)
- Fantine-G165 (Died in training)
- April-G182 (Headhunter)
- Claire-G115 (Headhunter)
- SPARTAN-G059 (Headhunter)
- Cadence-G261 (Headhunter)
- Dominique-G312 (Headhunter)
- Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose – Project Leader
- Lieutenant Commander Fhajad Jalgaonkar - Visiting Instructor
- Lieutenant Erin Coney – Recruiting Consultant, Intelligence Instructor
- Senior Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez – Head Drill Instructor
- Petty Officer First Class Jory-050 - Drill Instructor
- Staff Sergeant Pete Stacker – Drill Instructor
- Petty Officer Second Class Tom-B292 – Drill Instructor
- Petty Officer Second Class Lucy-B091 – Drill Instructor
- Petty Officer Third Class Theodore-A399 – Drill Instructor
- Hospital Corpsman Aspen-B145 – Medical Officer, Instructor
|A SPARTAN-III in SPI Armor, carrying an MA5K Carbine.
- Mark II Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor
Developed specifically for the SPARTAN-IIIs, SPI Armor utilized photoreactive texture panels to create an invisibility effect not quite as advanced as Covenant active camouflage technology, but also masked the wearer’s infrared signature, which active camo only amplified. The Mark II iteration refined this system and incorporated a camouflaged backpack and pouches while also improving on the liquid nanocrystal ballistics layer and integrated electronic software used for everything from ammunition counters to interior temperature control. While its hardened exterior plates couldn’t take nearly as much punishment as MJOLNIR Armor and lacked their energy shielding, it was far more resilient than Marine or ODST BDUs. Every member of Gamma Company was trained in Mark II SPI, and while many later advanced to MJOLNIR, it served them all well in its time.
- MA5K Carbine
A more lightweight, cut-down variant of Misriah’s MA5 Series assault rifle, the MA5K carbine was designed for special operations personnel, capable of single or automatic fire modes and compatible with a wide range of attachments suited to specific situations. The MA5Ks used standard-issue by the SPARTAN-III trainees were modified with photoreactive panels to match the camouflage technology of the SPI Armor, providing them with offensive capabilities while remaining completely undetectable.
- MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor
Iconic as the armor worn by the renowned SPARTAN-IIs, many SPARTAN-IIIs later were granted their own suits of MJOLNIR during or after the Human-Covenant War, as their augmentations placed them among the few strong enough to wear them. Many of the Gammas were given GEN2 armor when they were assimilated into the SPARTAN-IV Program, but others managed to secure Mark V or even Mark VI armor earlier left over after the deaths of so many Spartans at Reach just a month before the Great War’s end. It had many advantages over SPI, with a reverse-engineered personal energy shield being the most prominent.
Notes and References
- ↑ Ghosts of Onyx, page 100-101.
- ↑ "He then went down to the open surgical area. It had four hundred sections—each partitioned by semiopaque plastic curtaining..." Ghosts of Onyx, Page 101. One could assert there was room for additional simultaneous augmentees.
- ↑ Ghosts of Onyx page 107-108.
- ↑ Ghosts of Onyx, page 98.