The Battle of Second Sanctum, also known as Operation: MOBY DICK, was a raid carried out by UNSC forces following the disastrous Fall of Reach against a moon-based Covenant fortress known as Second Sanctum. This was not an officially-sanctioned military operation, and was instead an act of retribution against the Covenant for their actions on Reach with the intent of causing as much damage as possible.
The operation itself had been planned over a month beforehand after strategists working with the Office of Naval Intelligence had pinpointed Second Sanctum's location via a telemetry probe attached to a Covenant vessel earlier that year, though the sudden invasion of Reach had led to its cancellation. As the only individual with knowledge of the operation to escape the planet, Captain Jeanette Nisha chose to gather a force large enough to attack the Covenant base after discovering that their foe was transferring Human prisoners there for some unknown purpose.
Following weeks of preparation, which included the first-ever capture of a Type-56 Lich and its crew and the surprise arrival of a Spartan team, an attack force was dispatched to Second Sanctum with the intention of infiltrating the heavily-guarded facility and destroying it. While initially successful in their endeavour, the ground force was eventually discovered and a lengthy battle ensued as UNSC forces engaged in guerrilla warfare around Second Sanctum for hours, throwing the Covenant into disarray. As Covenant forces stationed at Second Sanctum dispatched an entire Legion against the invaders, Battlegroup Cossack launched an assault that tied up the station's defence fleet and allowed for reinforcements to land on the moon's surface to join their comrades. The Spartans would lead a successful attack into Second Sanctum's prison area, freeing those held captive while other special forces personnel broke into the fortress to set up explosive devices that would destroy the structure.
While they were heavily outnumbered, UNSC forces on the ground were able to inflict major casualties on the Covenant defenders and managed to keep them at bay long enough for their infiltration team to blow up Second Sanctum's command centre. It was at this point that the Fifth Fleet of Glorious Consequence arrived in-system, blindsiding and destroying most of the attacking UNSC Fleet in a single volley of plasma torpedoes that sent the others fleeing for cover around the other side of the moon. This lapse in air cover allowed the Covenant to land thousands of fresh troops on the planet's surface, overwhelming most of the UNSC attackers and prompting a swift retreat.
Left with few options, the surviving ships of Battle Group Cossack launched a desperate operation to retrieve their stranded comrades, sending in a wave of dropships to extract the survivors from the moon's surface before ordering an immediate retreat. While Longsword cover helped fend off Covenant air attacks, most of the attack force were wiped out in hours; the UNSC Bright New Day was the only ship to be completely successful in rescuing its crew and escaping. In a final act of defiance, the Prowler Theseus launched its payload of nuclear missiles into what remained of Second Sanctum, utterly vaporising the area before it was torn to pieces by Covenant vessels.
Of the force that attacked Second Sanctum, only the Bright New Day and a single Halberd-class Destroyer - Illustrious - returned to the rendezvous point, carrying less than 10% of their initial complement. Despite their losses, the survivors had rescued a number of POW's from captivity and destroyed what they assumed was a fairly important Covenant military base in the process, which counted as a victory of sorts after the tragedy of Reach. The survivors would go their separate ways afterwards, and upon returning to Earth the Bright New Day's Spartans would relay the events of the battle and its participants to HIGHCOM, ensuring that their sacrifices would be remembered.
As Reach fell to the Covenant, a unit the Office of Naval Intelligence's internal security force, Oscar-Nine, were tasked with ensuring that nothing valuable would be left within their various facilities for the Covenant to find. Led by Captain Jeanette Nisha, they remained behind to carry out this mission while various highly-ranked personnel evacuated to safer systems. In addition to astronavigation data and files that might give their foe information on any surviving Human colonies were a series of reports pertaining to Covenant bases that fell into Nisha's hands. While most were deleted, the Captain kept a file that she herself had spent months compiling regarding a Covenant fortress that intercepted communications had learned was called 'Second Sanctum'.
Seeing the widespread death and destruction on Reach and what looked like mankind's darkest hour, Nisha ordered all ONI personnel under her command to withdraw and flee the system. She would lead several ships away aboard a Sahara-class Prowler, the UNSC Theseus, heading towards a barely-charted system that acted as a rally point for several fleets. While Reach's fall would normally prompt an immediate fallback towards the Sol System to await further orders from ONI, Captain Nisha would spend well over a week moving between UNSC rally points in search of other ships that had survived Reach. By mid-September, they had gathered seven other ships and discovered the UNSC Cossack, a critically-damaged Marathon-class Cruiser that was eventually stripped for equipment after the deaths of most of its crew and the failure of its engines were confirmed. Finding herself in charge of a small but potentially effective fighting force, Nisha deliberately chose not to deliver the ships towards Earth and formed 'Battle Group Cossack' after fabricating orders, supposedly from HIGHCOM, that they were to launch a counter-attack against Second Sanctum as soon as possible.
While most of those spread out among the crews did not like the idea of attacking the Covenant, none dared disobey an order from an ONI Captain and the Battle Group began to prepare itself for the assault. While Nisha came close to cancelling the operation as the shock of Reach's fall wore off, enemy communications intercepted by the Theseus revealed that Covenant vessels heading towards Second Sanctum were coming straight from the battlefield with a particularly strange cargo: Human prisoners. The prowler's crew soon found out through further transmissions that experiments of some sort were being carried out there, which only served to anger the gathered forces. Resolving to destroy Second Sanctum, Battle Group Cossack moved towards a system where they surprised a small group of Covenant salvage ships picking over the glassed planet Harpa. Working under Commander Erwin Durant, the ONI Security force managed to board an unfamiliar enemy vehicle after it landed and took some of its crew prisoner, forcing its Unggoy pilots to take them to safety.
Another week was spent interrogating the prisoners before several Unggoy, who had been treated poorly by the Covenant, offered to assist the Humans by flying the newly-acquired Lich towards Second Sanctum, where it had been based from. While the vessel could not enter slipspace under its own power, the alien prisoners revealed that a salvaging vessel was scheduled to pick them up from Harpa on October 14th and return them to the base with any recovered items, giving them a perfect chance to sneak in-system undetected. While distrustful of the aliens, Nisha and her forces had little choice and agreed to give the compliant Unggoy their freedom if the attack went well. On October 12th, shortly before they were to return the Lich to Harpa, a single Paris-class heavy corvette arrived at the Battle Group's rendezvous point, heavily-scarred but otherwise perfectly functional.
The ship was led not by a Naval officer, but by a team of SPARTAN supersoldiers and a depleted squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers who had not only escaped Reach, but twomore engagements afterwards. As with the rest of her subordinates, Nisha informed their leader, Master Chief Petty Officer Kane-098, about their supposed task from HIGHCOM. While the SPARTAN-II seemed suspicious of the ONI Captain, he agreed to assist Battle Group Cossack in the attack. On the eve of battle, Nisha christened the mission as 'Operation: MOBY DICK' and had three of the Spartans join Commander Durant and most of Oscar-Nine as part of the infiltration group while the remainder of their groundside forces stood by to act as reinforcements when the attack began in earnest. Standing by with its stealth systems activated, the Theseus watched as the captured Lich was escorted into slipspace by the salvaging ship, and prepared to signal the rest of Battle Group Cossack to attack Second Sanctum.
Upon exiting Slipspace near the Covenant-controlled moon, the infiltration team were forced to rely on their Unggoy prisoners to transmit clearance codes and gain landing access outside of Second Sanctum. They were able to get through without arousing suspicion, and touched down on a landing pad several miles away from the base itself. The Spartans who had accompanied the landing party - Jax-007, Alex-A121 and Louie-A199 - were first to leave the Lich, and quickly ambushed a group of Kig-Yar that had come to inspect the recovered salvage. Leaving a few guards to watch over the pilots, Durant the rest of Oscar-Nine moved out into the densely-forested area that surrounded Second Sanctum, preparing to attack patrols and outposts across a wide area. The trio of Spartans hijacked a Shadow and moved towards the fortress gates, which let them inside immediately.
Due to the relatively lax security inside the loading area, the Spartans were able to park their vehicle and disembark without any guards taking a closer look at their vehicle, and after briefly surveying the area were able to eliminate a group of nearby workers before contacting Durant's men in the forest. The special forces personnel had spread themselves out into small squads and had identified several recharge stations and other highly-explosive objects in guard posts surrounding Second Sanctum. Using their limited supply of C-12, they were able to rig a wide section of the forest to blow before retreating into the undergrowth to await further instructions.
Deferring to the judgement of the Spartans, Commander Durant stood by until he was contacted by Jax-007, who realised that he and his comrades would not be able to proceed any further into Second Sanctum without alerting the enemy and beginning a battle that even the hardened supersoldiers could not win. As such, Durant decided to use Oscar-Nine as bait to draw the Covenant garrison outside so the Spartans could slip past and proceed with less hassle towards the inner fortress. While the mission's primary goal was to rescue any Human POW's being held in Second Sanctum, destroying the base itself would be a major blow against the Covenant and was to be accomplished at any cost.
Oscar-Nine then set off their explosives, cutting a wide swathe of destruction around Second Sanctum before launching their assault on the surprised Covenant guards. Totally unprepared for the ferocity of the Human attack, dozens were killed before they could mount a proper defence and the rest scattered or fled back towards their base. Field Master Yorru 'Talanee, who commanded the garrison at Second Sanctum, immediately dispatched the entire Uriek Legion from their nearby barracks to deal with the enemy incursion while calling for air support from the two RCS-class cruisers that served as the moon's orbital defence. As the battle began in earnest on the ground and the Spartans used the rush of outgoing troops to move further into Second Sanctum, Battle Group Cossack arrived in-system and launched its own attack on the Covenant-held moon.
From the rear of the battle group, Captain Nisha directed the rest of her makeshift fleet towards Second Sanctum, ordering a volley of MAC fire to eliminate the enemy cruisers at all cost. While unused to this level of command, the ONI agent proved to be a fairly effective naval leader as they caught the first Covenant ship before it could react and gutted it with eight direct hits. Using the wreckage of its ally for cover, the second cruiser managed to turn and fire on the incoming Human ships, scoring numerous direct hits and disabling a Charon-class frigate by incinerating its bridge. However, it proved to be too slow to eliminate any more vessels as the battle group broke through its shields with a second MAC barrage before finishing the ship off with two Hyperion nuclear missiles. With the moon's orbit now clear of any major threats, reinforcements were dispatched to the surface to assist in the assault on Second Sanctum.
Despite losing its cruisers, Second Sanctum still possessed considerable defences, using a network of Tyrant anti-aircraft guns to target orbiting UNSC vessels and the dropships being dispatched to the moon's surface. A second frigate was lost to this barrage alongside several Pelicans, though most were able to land safely and join in the battle around Second Sanctum itself. Coordinating with Oscar-Nine and the Spartans already engaged in combat, the bulk of these reinforcements consisted of Papa Company, a depleted Marine group that had survived the Fall of Reach, and fifty-three civilian volunteers who had formed a militia upon escaping the doomed colony. Hit with heavy fire from behind as enemy reinforcements landed, much of the Uriek Legion was scattered as they tried to counter this attack and spread out along the coastline as fighting the well-entrenched Humans within the forest had become too costly.
As the fighting continued outside the fortress, Sigma Team split up, sending the SPARTAN-III's to eliminate the Covenant AA guns while the SPARTAN-II's went in search of Human POW's being held within the base. While careful not to attract too much attention, the supersoldiers soon found themselves facing an arduous slog through the base, faced with dozens of guards who had remained behind to defend the base while the majority of its garrison departed. The trio of Spartans soon ran low on ammunition and began using Covenant weaponry in their assault, taking down patrol after patrol as those inside the base scrambled to intercept them. After being informed of Spartans within Second Sanctum, Field Master Talanee had a group of veteran Mgalekgolo moved to hunt them down while he focused on directing his troops against UNSC forces around his fortress. Hearing the heavily-armoured aliens approach, Jax-007 laid a trap in which he used himself as bait, luring four Hunters into a vehicle bay where Marco-035 ambushed them in a stolen Wraith tank. While his vehicle took heavy damage, the SPARTAN-II quickly incinerated the Hunters and covered his comrades as they entered the prison with plasma mortar fire that held off enemy reinforcements.
Quickly dealing with the Kig-Yar guards within the prison, Kane and Jax discovered dozens of human prisoners being kept in cramped cells. Many had only just arrived at the facility, captured by Covenant special forces as they attempted to flee Reach or Tribute. While the newest batch had been delivered straight to the prison, a group that had been kept in Second Sanctum for over a week informed the Spartans that they had been forced to try and activate alien technology before a group of unknown Covenant leaders. This behaviour puzzled the Spartans, though they had little time to dwell on it as Covenant forces were converging on their location. Arming those who could still fight, Kane and Jax rejoined Marco outside and led the crowd of prisoners back towards their landing zone, taking down another Hunter pair with the now barely-functioning Wraith before abandoning the vehicle. When they arrived, their Lich was already under heavy fire from Covenant troops, with its defenders pinned down alongside their Unggoy prisoners. The Spartans managed to drive off the enemy infantry, though heavy plasma damage and a hull breach would make it impossible to escape into orbit aboard the Lich. Contacting their ships in orbit, Kane-098 requested that more transport ships be sent in order to extract the civilians while the rest of their forces regrouped and prepared to evacuate. While Captain Nisha was hesitant at first and unwilling to waste ships that could be providing more combat support, she eventually relented and dispatched a wave of Pelicans to their location. Leaving the ONI troopers to guard the civilians, Kane, Jax and Marco set out to join their comrades in their fight across the beaches.
As the civilians were secured, the trio of SPARTAN-III's had wreaked havoc across Second Sanctum's northern perimeter, destroying no less than seven heavy-duty anti-aircraft cannons that gave their dropships more breathing room to provide support before using stolen explosives to blow a sizeable hole in the fortress wall. This allowed for a flanking attack on a column of enemy infantry, who were swiftly wiped out by the Spartans. Seeing that their allies were still being pressed hard, Louie-A199 set off and led the newly-arrived Whiskey-04 and one of Commander Durant's squads in a push towards higher ground while Martin-A136 and Alex-A121 led a secondary attack back into Second Sanctum itself. Seeing his forces in utter disarray, Field Master Talanee finally took to the field himself alongside a cadre of hardened Sangheili veterans, seeking to intercept Martin and Alex before they could reach the Second Sanctum's command centre.
Despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the multi-pronged attack by UNSC forces and Talanee's initial dismissal of the strike force as insignificant had turned the battle almost entirely in their sway by this point. Inside Second Sanctum, Talanee's guards engaged Martin-A136 and his Marines in what soon became a prolonged and bloody firefight. While the heavily-armed Sangheili nearly overwhelmed the group, a surprise ambush by Alex-A121 allowed Martin to push up and assist his squadmate in wiping out the guards before engaging the Field Master himself in battle. While he managed to hold the pair of Spartans at bay for a short while, Yorru 'Talanee was soon disarmed and killed with his own stolen weapon, leaving the Uriek Legion and whatever remained of Second Sanctum's security force without a clear leader. Finally accessing the base's command centre, Martin and Alex then deactivated any remaining defence systems and blew up the room for good measure before contacting their superiors. Back aboard the UNSC Theseus, Captain Nisha was surprised at the operation's success and ordered a full retreat, designating evacuation zones outside Second Sanctum as Battle Group Cossack prepared to raze the Covenant base from orbit with nuclear weapons.
Just as the once-hopeless battle seemed to be turning into a clear victory for the UNSC, reinforcements arrived for the Covenant in the shape of the Fifth Fleet of Glorious Consequence, led by Shipmaster Felo 'Ranakee of the CCS-class battlecruiser Undying Faith. Caught off-guard by the Covenant ships, Battle Group Cossack was immediately fired upon, losing four ships in a single volley of plasma torpedoes. Using the wreckage of its allies as cover, the Destroyer UNSC Illustrious managed to take out an unshielded SDV-class corvette with a single MAC round before fleeing around the Covenant moon for cover alongside the UNSC Bright New Day. The Theseus, unable to match the firepower or speed of the other warships, activated its active camouflage systems and drifted away from the battle, unable to engage the incoming enemy fleet without facing certain death.
Having lost most of their air cover barring a few still-active Pelicans and Longswords, the remaining UNSC troops found themselves suddenly stranded in Second Sanctum, with some fleeing inside the Covenant fortress for cover as wave after wave of Covenant dropships descended towards their location. Commander Durant rallied the remnants of Oscar-Nine to his location while Whiskey-04 protected the civilians, who had taken shelter within a vehicle bay were awaiting rescue. However, a majority of troopers were stuck outside the fortress walls, trapped either in the forests or beaches between the Uriek legion's surviving infantry and fresh enemy squads landing nearby. Contacting the Bright New Day and Illustrious, Kane-098 suggested that they move into the moon's atmosphere and rescue their allies on the ground before accelerating back out into space once they were out of enemy firing lines. With only a skeleton crew, the Day could not effectively participate in combat, and so would mostly recover friendly troops while the Destroyer provided covering fire. In addition, the 9th Tactical Fighter Wing, led by Major Hila Belinsky, would deal with Covenant fighters and provide limited support against ground troops as they covered the evacuation.
The Tide Turns
While heavily outnumbered from the start, the UNSC attack force had been able to inflict major casualties on the Covenant through a mixture of their surprise attack, superior ground and maneuverability that allowed them to strike at Second Sanctum's defence force with maximum effectiveness. Against fresh troops commanded by the much more capable Felo 'Ranakee, however, the battle quickly began to turn against them. With depleted ammunition and numbers, the remnants of Papa Company and their militia allies were quickly pushed back from Second Sanctum's outer walls by the vicious E'Toro Warrior Crèche and attempted to flee through the fortress towards the evacuation site. While Marco-035 and Alex-A121 moved in to back them up, the sheer number of Covenant troops pouring into the base made it impossible to mount a proper offensive, forcing them to seal as many doors behind them as possible before continuing their retreat.
Meanwhile, Erwin Durant and Louie-A199 had been forced into a desperate charge across the beaches south of Second Sanctum, harried by bombing runs from enemy banshees and pursued by newly-landed Covenant infantry. Before they could cross into the relative safety of an abandoned guard post, a focus cannon blast shot across the sand, wiping out an entire squad and cutting the group off as a massive Scarab assault platform emerged from the forest, having been dropped off by a Destroyer nearby to assist in crushing the human survivors. Now completely pinned down, the troopers could only take cover and call for assistance as they were caught in a pincer attack. Breaking off from their defence of the Bright New Day, the 9th Tactical Fighter Wing diverted several of its Longswords to help, eliminating most of the nearby Covenant air cover and fending off advancing infantry with pinpoint missile strikes before turning to combat the Scarab. As they moved in to bomb the walker, another burst from its cannon blew one fighter out of the sky and made two others pull away. Dodging fire from the Scarab, a final Longsword piloted by Erika Ruskin managed to destroy it with a series of direct hits that destroyed the cannon as it charged another shot and crippled one of the walker's forelegs, rendering the war machine inoperable.
With their path ahead secured, Durant and Louie's platoon continued their retreat towards the guard post, with the SPARTAN-III acting as their rearguard against enemy infantry. As the Longswords pulled way to engage incoming Seraph fighters, two Type-52 Phantoms swooped in ahead of them and unloaded a force of Silent Shadow Sangheili, led by First Blade Sur 'Ranakee. Even Commander Durant's elite ONI Security troopers were no match for these well-trained and equipped operatives, who lay down a steady stream of plasma fire against the humans while the rest of their squad moved into melee range. With no choice but to retreat, Durant and several of his subordinates fled into the guard post while Louie and the others moved into the woods, losing men all the way. The Sangheili might have slaughtered them there were it not for the timely arrival of the stolen Lich, with Jax-007, Marco-035, Martin-A136 and Alex-A121 joining the battle while Kane-098 ensured that their Unggoy prisoners piloted the damaged vehicle into battle.
Though badly damaged, the Lich was able to provide enough covering fire for an emergency pickup of Louie's forces on the ground, though Durant's ONI Security platoon were unable to move from the guard post. While unwilling to abandon the Commander to his fate, Durant ordered the Spartans to flee while they fought the Silent Blade, and were soon wiped out in a brutal attack by Sur 'Ranakee. The Lich was hammered with plasma fire from anti-aircraft Wraiths as it fled the beach, and was forced to land far to the north of Second Sanctum. While all of its passengers survived, Kane executed the Unggoy prisoners immediately and contacted the UNSC Bright New Day for pickup. The Frigate then diverted several dropships to airlift the Spartans away from the devastated Covenant fortress and got them aboard with few problems. The other Spartans had already fled the base, and were making for orbit by the time the Day was ready to leave. With the last UNSC troops off the ground, the order was given for a full retreat out of the system.
With only three functioning ships, Battle Group Cossack could do little but flee from the Fifth Fleet of Glorious Consequence as it moved to block their escape from the moon. After ordering for his troops to depart from Second Sanctum immediately, Shipmaster Felo 'Ranakee had the rest of the fleet intercept the surviving Human vessels. Aware that they would likely be destroyed by plasma fire if they attempted to flee towards the edge of the system, the crews of the Bright New Day and Illustrious elected to use the moon as cover so they could make early jumps to slipspace. However, the UNSC Theseus' active camouflage systems and close proximity to the enemy fleet made it impossible for the Prowler to move very far or attempt a slipspace jump without being immediately noticed by Covenant ships, leaving them with very few options.
Contacting Kane-098, Captain Nisha admitted to the SPARTAN-II that Operation: MOBY DICK had not in fact been sanctioned by HIGHCOM, and had been initiated without permission because of her desire to strike back at the Covenant after Reach. Having lost well over 90% of her attack force, Nisha and her crew were willing to sacrifice themselves to distract the Covenant by launching their entire arsenal towards Second Sanctum, ensuring that their foe would never rebuild the base. As it moved to launch a nuclear missile, the Prowler's camouflage systems began to fail and a patrolling fighter group detected the vessel. As such, Major Belinsky led two other Longswords away from their retreating ships to cover the Theseus, engaging and destroying group of Seraphs and giving the Prowler enough time to fire four Shiva nuclear missiles into Second Sanctum, utterly obliterating the base, its surroundings, and any surviving Covenant troops nearby. Proud of her accomplishment, Captain Nisha contacted the surprised Covenant fleet over an open channel, mocking them for losing such a valuable fortress against a rather meagre fighting force.
The furious Covenant immediately turned their attention towards the Prowler and its fighter escort and let loose a hail of plasma torpedoes that completely vaporised the Theseus. Though they tried to retreat back towards the Bright New Day and Illustrious, its trio of Longsword protectors were soon overwhelmed and destroyed by wave after wave of Seraph pursuers, leaving only four fighters of the 9th Tactical Fighter Wing operational. The two warships wasted no time in jumping to slipspace before the Covenant turned their wrath back towards them, and would continue to make randomised jumps to evade any particularly persistent hostile ships. With no more UNSC forces in the area, the Covenant were able to reclaim what remained of their outpost moon.
Details of the unsanctioned operation did not reach the UNSC until November of 2552, when Sigma Team returned to Earth. Following Kane-098's orders, all rescued POW's and surviving military personnel not part of Whiskey-04 or his group of Spartans were transferred over to the UNSC Illustrious, which had miraculously remained undamaged throughout the entire engagement. The Frigate and Destroyer soon split up with the intention of slowly making it back to Earth instead of risking a direct jump that might allow any Covenant ships to pursue them further. With the chaos surrounding the Battle of Earth, both HIGHCOM and the Office of Naval Intelligence did not properly document the reports made by both Kane and the battle's other survivors until March of 2553, shortly after the end of the Human-Covenant War.
While her actions were illegal and may have warranted a court martial or worse had she lived, Captain Jeanette Nisha's successful handling of the operation and its outcome were appreciated by her superiors, who instead decided to posthumously grant her the Legion of Honor. Nonetheless, those documenting the battle in later years would attribute the survival of UNSC forces under Nisha's command almost entirely to the presence of SPARTAN-II and III supersoldiers on the ground, without whom the fortress of Second Sanctum may never have been breached. While the tactical significance of the fairly remote moon and the massive Covenant response to news of an attack on it was never entirely clear, post-war information suggested that it had been a redoubt of sorts for high-ranking San'Shyuum in case of some major catastrophe, as evidenced by the stockpile of Forerunner relics on-site that before its destruction were to be activated by captured Human prisoners. What said relics were to be used for was another mystery, though considering Second Sanctum's importance it was assumed that they might have been weapons of some kind.
For the Covenant, losing Second Sanctum was just another blow struck barely a month after of the loss of one of its largest fleets in the destruction of Unyielding Hierophant. While most of the blame for the loss of Second Sanctum fell on Field Master Yorru 'Talanee for being unprepared and complacent, Shipmaster Felo 'Ranakee's inability to prevent the nuclear bombardment despite his abundance of troops and the fact that two ships escaped the battle brought him under close scrutiny from his superiors. Such a loss might have marked the Shipmaster for execution were the Covenant not in dire need of capable commanders, and while there was a great deal of internal debate over whether or not he was to be punished, the outbreak of the Great Schism several weeks later made such a point moot.