"When they ask how I died, tell them: still angry."
Joseph Kovacs, or Codename: HERALD was an augmentee of Project ORION active in the late years of the Insurrection, and of the Human-Covenant War as a member of ORION’s Tomahawk Team for the former, and Section III’s Lima Nine-Nine for the latter. The large gap between activity thanks to having been kept in cryostasis for nearly forty years after the UNSC Kawahara suffered a slipspace drive failure and was left adrift until the UNSC I Am Your Father happened upon it after a random slipspace jump made in accordance with the Cole Protocol. Following the war, Kovacs would retire and take up work as a private investigator on Andesia.
Born to a Polish couple on the colony Harlan as the youngest of three, Joseph's early years remain some of his most difficult in spite of all he has endured. His mother, Hannah, a waitress at a small diner, struggled to make ends meet for their small family whilst also caring for their father, a former police officer and UNSCMC veteran who had been left paralyzed from the waist down in a hit in run. Often Joseph would be left in the care of his elder sisters Calina and Daria for long stretches at a time, both of whom in their early teens felt burdened by his presence.
In addition, while his father, Walter, was not abusive towards Joseph, he did strongly resent the child. Unbeknownst to the boy, the reason he lacked the dark hair and eyes of his sisters and parents was because he was not biologically Walter's son, and instead was the product of his mother's infidelity. The only reason their family remained intact was because of Walter's dependence on Hannah for survival, and the inability for them to afford any kind of termination for the pregnancy at the time, which resulted in Joseph's father resolving to live with the humiliating reminder.
In spite of his general coldness towards young Joseph, the child, unable to grasp the reality of his existence, adored his father, and strove to earn nothing but his pride for years. Eventually, after a comment was made by another child as they played in the slums led Joseph to as Walter if he was actually his son. Reluctantly, the disabled officer told the boy of his origin, and to his surprise the child was livid with his mother rather than having any curiosity about his birth father.
Despite his father's insistence, the boy confronted Hannah, and inadvertently caused the rift between his family to grow until the two finally divorced. While Hannah won parental rights, Joseph would often leave their apartment to visit the assisted living center where Walter resided to escape the torment of his sisters, who faulted him for the split despite their mother insisting the child had a right to know.
As he grew, Walter's resentment of Joseph faded into nothing, as the boy was his only regular visitor, and did all he could to please the ailing man. Despite his relationship with Walter growing stronger, with the man who he deemed his father doing his best to influence the boy, Joseph developed a hair-triggered temper, often fighting with classmates, and as he grew, with the boyfriends of his mother and sisters who often were shady characters at best.
One day, when Joseph was roughly 16, Walter died due to medical issues that went untreated due to the sub-par conditions and neglectful staff of the assisted living facility which had all but abandoned its true purpose in favor of selling off medicines from their stock to profit. Even worse, the man Hannah had recently married forbade any of the family from going to Walter's funeral. Joseph obviously attempted to leave anyway, resulting in brutal altercation which lead to him being left in the streets suffering from a number of injuries.
For the remainder of his schooling, Joseph essentially couch surfed, staying with various friends or in shelters until graduation, after which he immediately enlisted in the UNSC Marine Corps, leaving Harlan behind forever.
Early Marine Service
"The corps taught me to appreciate the simple things in life, like a cold beer, a warm bed, and that fuzzy feeling you get when you drop an 'innie."
―Anonymous 21st Division Marine
Following the completion of basic training, Kovacs was assigned to the 21st Marine Division and deployed to various rebellious colonies across UEG's territory. Through the two year period Joseph saw heavy combat, especially on the colony Iberius, wherein the 21st was deployed to put down a full scale revolt spurred by the URF.
For the first several weeks, the 21st fought in grueling close combat as they drove out the rebels in the colony's capital city, with Kovcas in particular garnering a reputation for ruthlessness towards rebel fighters, and in turn earning the respect of many of his more experienced comrades.
On one occasion in particular, Joseph and his fireteam stormed a rebel machine gun nest, and the marine singlehandedly gunned down more than half the occupants before turning the emplacement on a group of insurgents in the streets below, leaving no survivors.
After finally stomping out the rebels from the capital, the marines would be roped in to months of counterinsurgency operations, venturing out into the wilds of Iberius to destroy rebel strongholds and holdouts, as well quell any sympathizers to the URF’s cause. During these months he would bear witness to a number of atrocities carried about by insurrectionist, which inspired a deep hatred for the rebels in him
More than once, Kovacs would take up the task of scouting far ahead of the rest of his unit when other assets were occupied, spending upwards of several days carefully working his way through enemy territory when his battalion was dispatched to the jungles of the southern hemisphere. Joseph would map out key locations, mark targets for artillery and air strikes, as well as eliminating and sabotaging anything he safely could, usually with a small team, and on one occasion, alone.
As Iberius returned to normal, and the 21st were fully relieved by Army assets, Joseph’s commanding officer would put him forward for Force Reconnaissance. Without questioning a thing, Kovacs would pack his bags and says his goodbyes before venturing to FORECON training.
Throughout the months of training for the elite unit, Joseph would distinguish himself from the rest of his class early on, his natural talent for reconnaissance setting him at the top of his class where he would remain for the entirety of the lengthy course. In addition to proving himself a capable scout, Kovacs proved to be a capable spotter, working incredibly well with one Carmen Ocampo, a talented sniper despite the two's combative relationship.
Following the completion of the course, Joseph, Carmen, and the rest of the graduates were deployed to the agricultural colony Altis following a successful uprising. The rebels on the planet, going by the name of the Altis People's Army, were well organized in addition to being backed by the United Rebel Front, and had all but destroyed all UEG forces on world, including a UNSC Army Armored Division. Unwilling to let the insurrection claim victory, the UNSC struck back with unflinching brutality.
Parachuting to the surface from Pelican dropships as soon as ODSTs eliminated outlying anti-air defenses, the newly reactivated 8th Reconnaissance Battalion would land in the wilds of Altis and map out URF positions as well as wreak absolute havoc in coordination with the ODSTs in order to soften the ground defenses for the main force whilst the Navy crushed the rebel's small fleet.
En route to a friendly outpost, the convoy Kovacs unit embedded in, the rebels executed a vicious ambush. Attacking with jury-rigged gunships and infantry, among the chaos he and Carmen were separated from the group. The ambush, a part of a larger more coordinated counter-attack which pushed back UNSC forces across the board left them stranded deep behind enemy lines with no feasible escape. With the option to seek shelter and hope to not be discovered while the two argued the entire time, or to continue operating despite the risk, the two chose the latter.
For several days Ocampo and Kovacs moved with equal parts speed and stealth, the two scouts moved between APA encampments and began to kill officers, URF advisers, and several civilian collaborators in addition to rescuing several prisoners from the planet's initial garrison. In addition, the two's mutual disdain evolved into respect, and possibly more.
When friendly forces punched back through friendly lines, they would easily demolish the rebels who's cohesion and organization had fallen apart thanks to the efforts of Carmen and Joseph. Reunited with their squad shortly after, the two failed to fall back into their old routine, opting instead to work closely together for the remainder of the conflict as a sniper-spotter team.
Spearheading the assault on the capital city Pyrgos, the marines rolled into the streets with armor and air support, promptly destroying what remained of the APA. Notable was Joseph's near single-handed massacre of an insurgent platoon using a combination of explosives and marksmanship, however the sole survivor whom Kovacs unintentionally spared would go on to be a scourge on not only Kovacs but the UNSC as a whole.
After reports of his and Ocampo's exploits reached the ears of the Office of Naval Intelligence, both marines were whisked away from the 8th in order to be inducted into the fourth phase of a classified project, known simply as ORION.
Early Operations and KALEIDOSCOPE
Whisked away by the Office of Naval Intelligence ----WIP---both Kovacs and Ocampo would undergo a strenuous screening and training process followed experimental augmentations that would make them physically stronger and faster than nearly any human, even if just barely. Emerging from the procedures unscathed, the two marines would be placed into Tomahawk Team under one Captain Kian Bekkar.
The team would be deployed across human space, putting down various uprisings as well as dismantling the infrastructure of the Insurrection with ruthless efficiency and nearly unparalleled brutality. It was among this group of skilled operators that Joseph truly came into his own, quickly proving himself a reliable asset to the team and ONI time and time again.
As such his rank quickly began to rise until he found himself as Bekkar’s right hand man, often leading his own four man team on operations. The group, made up of former paratroopers Tyee Munshif and Takara Shouske, as well as Ocampo grew into a tight-knit unit practically overnight in the wake of Operation: SCIPIO, wherein the four managed to wipe out untold numbers of rebels, but also secure a cache of stolen FURY-class nuclear weapons.
During the operation, Kovacs found himself ambushed by one Jotham Moreau, and was shot several times in the back before the rebel was forced to flee, yet in spite of his injuries the supersoldier would fight on, earning the respect of the jumpies, and finally beginning to ease the tension in he and Ocampo’s abrasive relationship into something resembling friendship after she saved his life.
Tomahawk 1-2, as they were referred to were often the first element to hit the ground following SCIPIO, and by the time Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE began, they had grown to become some of the top ranked operators of the fourth phase.
During KALEIDOSCOPE, Tomahawk was dispatched to the insurrectionist hotbed Mamore to eliminate one Okuyama Isei, a deserter from another of ONI’s secret programs which had left him almost more the machine than man, and had grown into a powerful insurrectionist field commander, and was in the process of organizing a devastating offensive with the hope of leading the world to liberation. Dropped in via SOEIVs several kilometers outside Concord, Tomahawk would spend days moving through the wilds, careful avoiding any contact with the rebel presence until they reached their destination.
Once they were close enough to the old CMA base which had been turned into the nexus of Isei’s operation, the ORION operators made their move. Infiltrating under the cover of darkness, the Team split into its usual four man fireteams, with Kovacs and 1-2 being tasked with disbling the base’s security and ensuring they had a quick exit. However, Isei, accompanied by his pupil Moreau and several commandos, happened upon 1-2 as they disabled the last of the facility’s automated defenses.
Engaging without hesitation, 1-2 managed to kill several of the commandos in the gunfight, but Isei and Moreau brashly forced the fight into close quarters, with the latter managing to kill Shouske with a shotgun, and the former was able to not only kill Munshif, but three members of Tomahawk 1-3 who arrived to assist in addition to heavily injuring Ocampo and Kovacs. Not equipped with the experimental gear given to 1-1 for the purpose of putting down the rogue cyborg, the rest of the ORION team was desperately outmatched in such close quarters.
Nonetheless, Kovacs forced himself to continue fighting, severely injuring Jotham Moreau to the point where the rebel would be forced into a coma for the following six months, and fatally shooting Isei in the throat. Wounded and down two of his closest friends, Kovacs refused to leave Ocampo’s side for an instant as 1-1 regrouped with the rest of Tomahawk and spearheaded their escape.
Despite the odds, the survivors of the brawl escaped Mamore with their lives, and the most recent attempt at uprising on the colony dismantled. Nonetheless, the experience left both Carmen and Joseph scarred, but also strengthened the bond between the two immensely, and by the time came for Operation: TANGLEWOOD, the two had entered into a secret romantic relationship.
Operation: TANGLEWOOD and Disappearance
Prior to TANGLEWOOD, two replacements were placed into Kovacs team, Marcus Buchanan, a former Navy EDST, and Katil Bowers, a former Helljumper. While Katil refused to interact with the team outside of combat, Buchanan would quickly become close friends with both Ocampo and Kovacs.
At some point during TANGLEWOOD's multiple week duration, both Buchanan and Joseph would be heavily injured. Buchanan’s injury, which took place during the second week of the operation would be the result of an ambush sprung by a member of an unidentifiable faction which was passed off by command as nothing more than insurrectionist special forces despite the use of advanced equipment beyond even what the ORIONs had.
This group would strike again later on, singling out Kovacs as their target and injuring him as well before escaping Tomahawk's pursuit. Like Buchanan, Kovacs require intensive treatment and was CASEVACED immediately. Taken aboard the UNSC Kawahara, which had only just repelled a suspected boarding attempt, Kovacs would be placed into cryostasis and along with the rest of the crew, disappear.
While the boarding attempt had failed to taken over the Kawahara, Jotham Moreau, who had spearheaded the assault, managed to damage the slipspace drive, as well as killing several members of the vessel’s command crew. His efforts would result in the Kawahara's stranding light years from any human activity, only for it to be discovered 43 years later, with all crew with any knowledge of its mission long dead.
This recovery marked the end of one of the two great mysteries of TANGLEWOOD, the disappearance of the Kawahara, while the disappearance of the UNSC Necropolis, the vessel which interestingly enough was transporting the injured Buchanan, would remain forever unsolved to those who had not orchestrated it in the first place.
A New War
"I'd say you've missed a lot but that might be a bit on an understatement."
― An ONI officer beginning Kovac's briefing on the current state of the Human-Covenant War.
Following weeks of rehabilitation from extended cryostasis, and several days of interviews, debriefings, and being updated on the situation at hand, Kovacs was offered a simple choice: stay on and help humanity fight it's greatest threat, or retire and never speak of what had happened to him again. With nothing and no one he remembered the same, Kovacs elected to remain in service, being inducted into one of Section Three's many direct action units.
His new role would be to serve as XO to William Hargrove, a rising star in command of one of the Office's top non-augmented units, Lima 9-9. The unit sourced its operators from a litany of places, mostly from various UNSC Special Warfare units, but with several from potentially illicit non-military backgrounds. Despite the unit's non-conventional nature, Kovacs felt more or less at home, and in spite of the black ink coating his dossier he was welcomed among the team who were more than used to classified backgrounds.
The unit was informed they would be tasked with a variety of operations throughout the coming years, against enemies both human and alien. The former of which had largely died down in light of the war for survival against the latter, but some particularly zealous rebels insisted on carrying on with their insurrection. Joseph was disappointed, but not surprised that even in its most desperate hour humanity still found a way to fight among itself.
Their first operation would bring Joseph up against the man responsible for his disappearance in the first place, Major Jotham Moreau of the United Rebel Front. The mission was simple, to deploy to the colony New Carthage where the Major and the last of his forces had holed up, and exterminate them to the last.
The workhorse of the UNSC Marine Corps during the insurrection and beyond, Kovacs was issued the sixty-round assault weapon immediately following his graduation from basic training and until his assignment to ORION, often with an underbarrel M301. Despite its inaccuracy at longer range, Kovacs was fond of the weapon for its reliability and stopping power.
Issued as to Joseph at the same time as his MA5B, the eight round sidearm remained in his arsenal for the entirety of his service. Often fitted with SOCOM modifications, Kovacs relied on the sidearm for quick and quiet eliminations against viable targets unless a blade was a viable option. In addition, the pistol was incredibly durable, surviving literally anything Kovacs happened to put it through.
Following his induction into ORION and Tomahawk Team, Kovacs was issued an MA5K for use during their operations and for the remainder of his military career. Although lacking the ammunition capacity of the MA5B, the 5K more than made up for it through improved accuracy and modularity, with the carbine's attachment system allowing Kovacs to configure it to whatever the mission required.
After departing from the UNSCDF, Kovacs entered the dark and dangerous world of private investigations, and as such required a firearm for protection. The Deckard, an original in unmodified condition, was acquired by Joseph following a scuffle with a suspect who attempted to kill him after Kovacs exposed him for corruption. The sidearm was far superior than the off-brand M6 he had settled with initially, thus taking the M2019 as his new weapon of choice, with the pistol's incredibly high stopping power being of great use against non-human adversaries, as well as criminal elements with access to high-end body armor, which Kovacs unfortunately encountered often.
"A man who never loves gives no hostage to fortune."
―Joseph on his lack of personal relationships
The character began as a blatant expy of Takeshi Kovacs from the show/novels Altered Carbon, with many of his quotes coming from the two, as well as his appearance and some traits. The author is fairly pleased with how it has turned out insofar.
Less obvious is the character's first name, 'Joseph' which can be shortened to 'Joe', the name taken by Officer K in Blade Runner 2049