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Previous:

Skirmish on Reach

Bombing of Philadelphia
Philadelphia bomb

Conflict:

Operation: MAD DOG

Date:

April 13, 2554

Location:

Philadelphia, Earth

Outcome:

  • Cassandra-G006 freed from ONI custody
  • Simon-G294 flees to the frontier territories
  • Significant damage to Philadelphia urban center
    • Thousands of civilian casualties
    • ONI Site Hotel-Three destroyed
      • Forerunner artifact destroyed; uncategorized contaminants leaked to surrounding areas
Belligerents

Unaffiliated renegades

United Nations Space Command

Commanders
Strength
Casualties
  • Diarmuid
  • All NCA personnel save Ilsa Zane
  • Numerous SPARTAN-IVs and ONI security personnel
  • UNSC Sogdia
 
Simon-G294: "Save me, Diana!"
Diana: "Gladly."
―Simon-G294 inadvertently triggers the Bombing of Philadelphia.

The Bombing of Philadelphia was an attack on the Earth city of Philadelphia that took place in April of 2554. During a criminal raid on an ONI facility located within the metropolis, a hijacked UNSC heavy frigate fired its missile pods and point defense guns at dozens of points throughout the city before being destroyed by a hasty counter-strike. The resulting damage from the initial bombardment and the destruction of the frigate itself took the lives of thousands of civilians and resulted in a city-wide evacuation and quarantine. The official report on the tragedy blamed it on Insurrectionist terrorists and singled out two participants in the raid, Simon-G294 and Gavin Dunn, as being the perpetrators. The duo was subsequently placed at the top of every public enemy list throughout human space.

Prelude

"I'm not like you. I'm no traitor. But she isn't like you, either. She doesn't deserve to be treated like a criminal. If I kill you here, I'm going to do everything I can to get her out. But if you pull off the impossible and actually take me down, well... I guess it's up to you, then. Last I heard, they're taking her to Earth. Site Hotel-Three. You're pet AI can figure out the rest. Not that you're going anywhere after I'm through with you..."
Ralph-G299 prior to his battle with Simon-G294
Palmer1

Sarah Palmer, head of the task force dispatched to eliminate Simon-G294.

Following the end of the Human-Covenant War, the Office of Naval Intelligence launched a series of initiatives intended to provide critical field experience for members of the SPARTAN-IV program through punitive strikes against both Insurrectionist and Covenant remnant targets. One such initiative was Operation: MAD DOG, a joint action between ONI and Spartan branch personnel that aimed to eliminate SPARTAN-G294. A Gamma Company SPARTAN-III, Simon-G294 had earned himself ONI's lasting enmity when he emerged as an Insurrectionist fighter after being declared missing in action during a counter-insurgency operation on Mamore near the end of the Human-Covenant War. The first Spartan ever to participate in armed insurgency against the UNSC, Simon was considered an active threat by the Office of Naval intelligence, particularly after he kidnapped fellow Spartan Cassandra-G006 during his escape from Mamore in 2553. Neither Spartan had been seen since their vessel disappeared into Slipspace, but when ONI agents confirmed sightings of them on Talitsa ONI director Serin Osman put together a task force to eliminate Simon and recover Cassandra. The task force, headed by Spartan branch commander Sarah Palmer, set out to Talitsa to track down the rogue Spartan. There, they were surprised to find that Cassandra was not being held under duress. Palmer became convinced that Simon was manipulating his captive and became even more determined to take him down; however Ralph-G299, a former Spartan-III and teammate of Simon and Cassandra's, did not share his commander's conclusion. Ralph, who had known both Simon and Cassandra as sub-par combatants, was surprised when the two fugitives escaped the initial attack and fled off-world. Unbeknownst to the task force, their targets were being aided by Diana, a rogue smart AI who had allied herself with Simon during his time in the Insurrection.

CassSi

Cassandra-G006 and Simon-G294, the renegade Gamma Spartans who were Operation: MAD DOG's principle objectives.

Palmer's task force tracked the renegade Spartans to the planet Reach. There, they assaulted a smuggling compound where Simon and Cassandra had taken refuge and drove them into Reach's Highland mountain region. As they hunted the Spartans through the mountains' network of underground caverns, the task force encountered a large Forerunner artifact buried in the rubble. Their quarry had already encountered the artifact and upon accessing it Simon was teleported out of the cavern. Cassandra was apprehended before she could follow, but the task force's naval liaison cut Palmer's pursuit of Simon short when he cited standing ONI directives regarding the discovery of Forerunner technology. Foregoing standard protocol due to the presence of criminal elements in the Highland region, the task force helped excavate the artifact and departed Reach to take both it and their Spartan captive back to Earth. Palmer ordered Ralph-G299 and a small detachment of ONI agents to continue the hunt for Simon. Infuriated by the capture of Cassandra, Simon engaged and killed the ONI team when they pursued him before coming face to face with his former teammate in Reach's glasslands. Though Ralph was loyal to the UNSC he was troubled by Cassandra's arrest. Before the two Spartans fought, Ralph divulged the task force's Earthbound destination, an ONI military installation within the North American city of Philadelphia. Simon killed Ralph in the ensuing battle and, against Diana's objections, made plans to go to Earth and free Cassandra.

Raid on Site Hotel-Three

Artifact and Alliance

Philly

Both Cassandra-G006 and the Forerunner artifact were taken to a facility within the North American metropolis of Philadelphia for hasty processing and cross-examination.

"We have no idea what this thing is or what it's capable of, and your first instinct is to bring it to Earth? With all due respect, I don't think a few rebels are worth the risk of endangering the entire friggin' planet."
―Sarah Palmer

Although Ralph-G299 had assumed that ONI was using Cassandra as a lure for Simon, neither the intelligence officers nor Palmer and her Spartans expected him to pursue them. Though standard protocols were strictly against bringing unknown Forerunner technology to Earth or any major colony, the strange artifact was brought to the Hotel-Three complex inside Philadelphia where it could be studied by professionals while also being guarded by Earth's defenses in case criminal or rebel elements really were hoping to acquire it. Cassandra, whom Commander Palmer had become convinced was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, was also detained at Site Hotel-Three. Palmer was firmly against the decision to bring the artifact to Earth; during the journey to Earth several of her Spartans had reported feeling strangely when in close proximity to the artifact. When one of the researchers assigned to conduct a preliminary study of the artifact unexpectedly committed suicide, the device was quarantined in the bowels of Site Hotel-Three while ONI determined a more remote location where it could be observed and researched. When news of Ralph's death reached Earth, Palmer immediately requested permission to resume her pursuit of Simon but was delayed by orders that all personnel who had been in contact with the artifact remain on-site for a full debriefing.

Zane tuka

Ilsa Zane and Tuka 'Refum, two unlikely allies that Simon-G294 enlisted to assist him in his raid on Site Hotel-Three.

Meanwhile, Simon—who blamed himself for Cassandra's capture—made plans to raid Earth and rescue the girl whose life he felt responsible for ruining. Knowing that any attack on the well-defended Earth was tantamount to suicide, the rogue Spartan made contact with elements of the Insurrectionist New Colonial Alliance. Meeting with the UNSC defector Ilsa Zane, herself a renegade SPARTAN-IV whom Simon had met during his time on Mamore, Simon struck a deal: in exchange for help in rescuing his friend, he would help the NCA steal the Forerunner artifact from Site Hotel-Three. Unbeknownst to Zane and her compatriots, Simon had little intention of honoring the agreement; despising the Insurrection almost as much as he did the UNSC, Simon simply planned to use the NCA fighters as a disposable distraction for Palmer and her Spartans. Simon also made contact with Tuka 'Refum, a Sangheili warrior he had encountered following his escape from Mamore. Tuka, who owed his life to both Simon and Cassandra, agreed to participate in the raid despite discomfort from Zane and her fellow rebels at fighting alongside an alien. With Diana agreeing to provide cyber-warfare support, the band of renegades approached Gavin Dunn, one of Simon's former commanders from Mamore. Simon and Zane blackmailed the rebel-turned-smuggler into ferrying them to Earth aboard his ship, the Chancer IV.

None of the conspirators were aware that Diana had her own priorities. A member of the shadowy AI collective known as "the Assembly," Diana had received instructions to coordinate with fellow Assembly member Diarmuid in order to ascertain the true nature of the Reach artifact and prevent it from harming Earth if it turned out to be malignant. Diarmuid was already on-site at Hotel-Three, masquerading as a "dumb" AI under ONI's control. Diana had previously been ordered to abandon Simon but had persuaded the Assembly to allow her to remain with the rogue Spartan by claiming she was grooming him to become one of the Assembly's few organic agents. The raid, she proposed, would distract ONI's security long enough for Diarmuid to obtain access to the artifact while also providing a suitable "field test" for Simon's capabilities as an agent. The other Assembly members reluctantly agreed with the caveat that Diana do what she could to limit the raid's casualties.

Infiltration

Using the Chancer IV's registry tag as a private freighter to gain access to one of the many civilian dry-docks orbiting Earth, the band of renegades smuggled themselves past the naval patrols and prepared to make planetfall. Diana's coordination with Diarmuid meant that she already knew the location of Site Hotel-Three; however, rather than disclosing her inside source she had Simon plug her into the dry-dock's network. From there she tapped into Earth's immense tapestry of networked systems, using her specialty as an attack program to slip past the UNSC's firewalls and defense AIs and hack undetected into classified military channels. With Diana subtly clearing military patrols away from the Eastern North American region around Philadelphia, the renegades made their way to the planet's surface aboard the Chancer IV using directions and landing clearances provided by Diana. After disembarking, Simon, Tuka, and the NCA detachment approached the ONI facility. They were unknowingly aided by Diarmuid, who had hacked into Philadelphia's surveillance network and prevented their movement from attracting the attention of security forces. While Simon, Zane, and the NCA fighters followed Diana's remote guidance and infiltrated Site Hotel-Three's underground complex, Tuka caused a public disturbance on the far side of the city and stirred up ONI paranoia that ex-Covenant extremists rather than human rebels were the real threat to Hotel-Three's security. Palmer dispatched half of her SPARTAN-IV contingent to assist in Tuka's capture and interrogation while she and the rest of her soldiers remained behind to secure the facility alongside ONI's security personnel.

Having bypassed the first level of Hotel-Three's security, Simon intended to continue with a stealthy approach in the hopes of avoiding a battle with the ONI security forces. But Zane and her soldiers, eager to secure the Forerunner "weapon", deviated from the plan and launched an all-out assault within the facility. As the firefight began to spread throughout the complex, Simon abandoned the NCA troops and hurried ahead on his own in the hopes that Zane's unexpected violence would at least distract ONI so that he could reach Cassandra. Meanwhile, Tuka evaded capture and made his way towards another one of Hotel-Three's entrances. As reports of a Covenant incursion spread to FLEETCOM, Diana used her embedded position within the military network to issue falsified orders for the frigate UNSC Sogdia to move into the lower atmosphere to provide on-site support against waves of Covenant attackers that panicked security personnel feared might appear at any moment. Interrupted in the middle of a refit, the Sogdia was not equipped with an onboard AI and as such the crew had no way of knowing that their frigate was currently playing host to Diana's consciousness as it headed for Philadelphia.

The Battle of Hotel-Three

Although outnumbered and outgunned by the UNSC forces, Zane and her NCA contingent nonetheless managed to push closer to to the artifact's quarantined holding facility. The rebels cut a bloody swath through the security fire teams that stood in their way until they were cut off from their goal by multiple teams of SPARTAN-IVs. Unwilling to accept another defeat at the hands of the Spartans, Zane rallied her soldiers and led them in a last ditch effort to break through to the artifact. Although Zane herself killed two of the IVs she was unable to fight past the armored supersoldiers and the rest of her troops were quickly cut down. As a wounded Zane fled into Hotel-Three's maintenance corridors, Tuka arrived at the facility and used the confusion of the fighting within to slip inside unnoticed. Coordinating with the Philadelphia police, UNSC reinforcements evacuated the blocks surrounding Hotel-Three and established a tight cordon; the surviving infiltrators were effectively trapped inside the facility.

Ilsa Zane: "You conniving little punk. You were using us the whole time. We were just your cannon fodder. You're just like these ONI sons of bitches. I should never have trusted you."
Simon-G294: "Yeah. That was your mistake."
Ilsa Zane: "I'm going to rip off your lying head..."
— Ilsa Zane turns on Simon-G294.

With the help of Diana's fragment, Simon hacked Hotel-Three's internal network and located Cassandra in of one the facility's brigs. Before he could move further, he was surprised and held at gunpoint by Ilsa Zane, who had tracked him down following her escape from the Spartans. Rendered unstable by both side-effects from her augmentations and the loss of her contingent, Zane blamed Simon for the loss of her comrades and would have killed him had they not been discovered by Tuka. Before the renegades' alliance could collapse further, a fire team of SPARTAN-IVs and several squads of ONI troopers burst into the room and opened fire. In the ensuing firefight, Zane was shot repeatedly by the Spartans. Simon abandoned his erstwhile ally, using her as a distraction while he and Tuka escaped. Despite her injuries Ilsa managed to flee the scene as well, killing a SPARTAN-IV with her bare hands in her enraged frenzy.

Now the last of the infiltrators, Simon and Tuka resolved to reach Cassandra at all costs. Plotting two routes to the brig, the rogue Spartan and his Sangheili friend split up in order to throw off their pursuers and ensure that at least one of them made it to Cassandra. Simon headed for Hotel-Three's lower levels in order to use a service lift that would take him up behind the brig while Tuka opted to take a route through the quarantined section surrounding the Forerunner artifact. By this time, the Sogdia had reached Philadelphia and FLEETCOM was alerted to the fact that one of its warships had made an unauthorized sojourn into Earth's atmosphere. Diana prevented the fleet's transmissions from reaching the Sogdia's bridge and stalled FLEETCOM with falsified messages from the ship's captain as she communed with Diarmuid regarding the progress of the infiltration. Within Hotel-Three, Diana's overworked fragment unraveled as it hid Simon and Tuka's movements from the battered security forces. On his way to to the quarantine zone, Tuka was cut off by more SPARTAN-IVs and engaged them in close combat. Simon descended to Hotel-Three's maintenance level, where he was confronted by Commander Sarah Palmer, who had anticipated his movements and come alone to stop him.

Simon quickly deduced that Palmer cared more about eliminating him than defending either Cassandra or the artifact. Although outmatched by the SPARTAN-IV's shielded MJOLNIR armor, the renegade Spartan resolved to face Palmer directly in order to keep her occupied and allow Tuka a chance to reach Cassandra. Injecting himself with a specialized strain of rumbledrugs, Simon engaged Palmer in single combat on the maintenance level. As the two Spartans clashed below, Tuka managed to cut down his attackers and entered the quarantine sector. His belief that the works of the Forerunners were divine got the better of him and he attempted to interact with the enigmatic artifact. Upon touching it, the young Sangheili was inflicted with a crippling migraine that prevented him from advancing any further. At this time, Diarmuid took stock of the situation and realized that the rescue attempt was doomed to failure. Although his instructions from the Assembly were to remain a neutral observer, Diarmuid sympathized with the renegades and chose to intervene by revealing himself to Cassandra and releasing her from her cell. After helping her retrieve her armor, Diarmuid advised Cassandra to use the opportunity presented by the attack in order to make her escape. Cassandra surprised him by refusing to abandon her would-be rescuers and instead hurrying towards the quarantine lab.

Palmer simon

Commander Palmer and Gamma Company's traitor Spartan fought a destructive duel within Hotel-Three's maintenance sub-level.

Meanwhile Simon and Palmer fought a destructive battle amidst the power hubs and computer servers on the maintenance sub-level. Confident that she could easily defeat Gamma Company's "failure Spartan," Palmer had come lightly armed and unaccompanied by any of her fellow Spartans. Although clad in his inferior SPI armor, Simon sported an impressive array of weaponry ranging from a shotgun[1], submachine gun, and pistols to various grenades, plastic explosives, and knives. The combat between a SPARTAN-III and the best of the IVs meant to supplant his kind leveled the maintenance level and saw both fighters severely injured in their efforts to bring each other down. Exhausting his arsenal and driven into a near-feral state by repeated injections of rumbledrugs, Simon eventually entered close combat with Palmer and surprised her by holding his own despite the IV's advantage in armor and augmentations. The combat drove the determined III beyond the limits of endurance and upon realizing that he would not survive against Palmer in an even fight Simon instead chose to end the battle by using the last of his explosives to blast apart the ceiling and bringing an avalanche of shattered concrete down on both himself and Palmer.

Reach artifact

The destruction of the Forerunner artifact brought from Reach triggered an unforeseen Slipspace anomaly that began tearing Hotel-Three apart.

The damage to so many system servers and generators on the maintenance level caused power outages and computer failures throughout the facility. With the SPARTAN-IVs and security forces scattered and confused, Cassandra was able to breach the quarantine lab and drag a weakened Tuka away from the Forerunner artifact. The young Spartan then interacted with the device herself. It is not known exactly what transpired between Cassandra and the artifact; however, upon disengaging from the device she became determined to destroy it. Although a horrified Tuka tried to stop her, Cassandra used a series of plasma grenades, explosive charges, and Tuka's own energy sword to crack through the hardened chassis and blast apart the artifact's inner workings. The device's destruction triggered an unexpected reaction that created a miniature Slipspace event within the quarantine labs. Tuka and Cassandra barely escaped the chambers as the Slipspace rupture began creating gravitational disturbances throughout the facility. With doors, walls, and even the foundation itself caught in the anomaly's influence, Hotel-Three was effectively being torn apart from the inside out.

The sudden disaster was exactly the sort of nightmare scenario the Assembly had feared the artifact's presence on Earth might trigger. With his data centers in jeopardy, Diarmuid transferred himself onto the hijacked Sogdia, which was still holding position above the city. Transmitting warnings to Philadelphia officials, Diarmuid also contacted Gavin Dunn in the hopes that he would be able to extract the remnants of the infiltrators in the confusion from the explosion. In the meantime, Simon clawed his way out of the rubble as the Slipspace rupture wreaked havoc around him. Unable to contact Tuka and trapped in the ruins of the underground complex, a wounded and delirious Simon managed to establish a link to Diana as he tried to figure out what was going on. A wayward team of SPARTAN-IVs opened fire on him and pinned him down as the ruins started to cave in on them. Desperate and terrified, the battered Simon broke down and begged Diana to save him.

The Bombing of Philadelphia

"Gladly."
―Diana, in response to Simon's plea.
Philadelphia burns

Precision missile strikes from the Sogdia destroyed key structural points in skyscrapers throughout the city, collapsing many and compounding the immense destruction caused by the frigate's actions.

Upon hearing Simon plead for her assistance, Diana immediately sprang into hesitation. Until that moment she had controlled the Sogdia purely by manipulating its crew through falsified orders and misinformation, but now she revealed the extent of her offensive cyber-warfare capabilities by seizing control of every networked system on the warship. With the crew helpless to stop her, the rogue AI opened fire on the city below. Using a tight barrage of missiles to blast apart the concrete streets above the Hotel-Three facility—thus both opening an escape route to the surface and exposing the surrounding area to full exposure to the Slipspace event—Diana then proceeded to fire more missiles at dozens of Philadelphia's skyscrapers, targeting key points in their superstructures in order to bring the towers crashing down. With flaming debris raining down on the city, Diana used the 'frigate's point-defense cannons to shoot down the hasty military response craft as well as bring even more destruction down upon the helpless city. As the frigate's crew desperately tried to regain control of their warship's systems, Diana issued a final falsified order to the chief of the Sogdia's Marine security detail. The manufactured order told the Marines that the entire bridge crew had gone rogue and ordered them to storm the bridge and retake the ship. At the same time, Diana issued several falsified warnings to different sections of the ship claiming that Insurrectionist fighters dressed as UNSC Marines were attempting to seize control of the ship. As confused crewmen and Marines opened fire on each other across the ship, Diana was free to continue her rampage unmolested

Diana8

The true perpetrator of the Philadelphia bombing, the rogue smart AI Diana. As skilled at covering her tracks as she was at setting up the tragedy, Diana ensured that few ever learned of her involvement.

Diarmuid: "Diana! What is this butchery? This goes completely against our mandate; it is beyond unnecessary!"
Diana: "Oh, lighten up Diarmuid. If Winter and the others had their way, we'd spend every waking minute working to make the meatbags happy. I haven't had this much fun in ages, but I'm up for sharing. Here, you take the guns and give them a spin."
Diarmuid: "I will never join you in this abomination. Surrender this vessel at once!"
Diana: "Oh, but I insist..."
―Diarmuid confronts Diana aboard the UNSC Sogdia during the bombing.

With much of the city in flames, Diarmuid finally realized his fellow Assembly member's true nature. Isolated within the very Sogdia systems he had hoped to escape in, he made the mistake of confronting Diana for her betrayal directly. He failed to anticipate both the full extent of her offensive capabilities and the depth of her willingness to eliminate anyone who posed a threat; not even a fellow AI was safe from her ruthless precautions. Using a cyber-warfare technique unheard of even by the Assembly's vast knowledge of artificial intelligence capabilities, Diana attacked Diarmuid's core programming directly, stripping away the immeasurable reams of his data matrices and rewriting his inner workings from the bottom up. By the time she was done, Diarmuid had been replaced by a pale shadow of his former self, incapable of even remote independent thought. With less functionality than even a dumb AI, the fragment of Diarmuid was used to maintain the Sogdia's relentless bombardment of Philadelphia while Diana transferred herself off of the frigate and back into the larger data network, leaving no trace of her infiltration behind.

As Philadelphia burned around him, Simon dragged himself away from the ruins of Hotel-Three. Horrified by the carnage erupting around him, the injured Spartan staggered through the destruction in search of Cassandra or Tuka. In his state of shock and delirium he joined scattered emergency response teams as they desperately tried to save anyone they could. After unwittingly pulling an unconscious Sarah Palmer out of the rubble, Simon limped away from ground zero to continue searching for his friends. He only made it a short distance before succumbing to his injuries and collapsing amidst the debris. Meanwhile, Cassandra and Tuka had escaped Hotel-Three's destruction and now wandered through the burning city, doing what they could to help those around them even as they tried to escape the scattered UNSC forces. Using signals from Simon's armor, Diana contacted a terrified Gavin Dunn and coordinated with Tuka to guide the Chancer IV to a landing zone. As the Chancer was setting down, a coordinated air strike from a squadron of Longsword interceptors incapacitated the Sogdia in preparation for a military boarding action. Diana, who had foreseen such an attempt, had left Diarmuid's shell with instructions to self-destruct the frigate before the UNSC could capture it and analyze its systems. The drained husk that had once been Diarmuid complied, blasting apart the Sogdia and erasing all evidence of Diana's intricate infiltration.

The Sogdia's destruction threw the desperate evacuation efforts into even more of a disarray. After landing his ship, Gavin disembarked to help Cassandra and Tuka find the unconscious Simon in the firestorm. As they carried him back to the Chancer, they came under fire from a handful of SPARTAN-IVs who were provoked into action when they spotted a Sangheili among the group. The surviving renegades escaped back to the Chancer, which came under fire from what few local air defenses were not tied up with evacuating civilians or fighting the fires that raged throughout the city. Diana diverted the more dangerous assets from the their flight path, but after she transferred herself over to the ship's computers her influence over the tactical network decreased dramatically and the ship nearly came under the full fury of Earth's defense forces. Though the freighter was badly damaged during the escape, a skillful Slipspace jump by Dunn allowed them to escape the Sol system and leave the horrific results of the raid behind.

Though few areas of the Philadelphia metropolis had escaped the bombing unscathed, the terrors of the Human-Covenant War were still fresh in Earth's memory and every city on the planet sported highly effective emergency evacuation procedures. The military and police forces coordinated together to hurry civilians into secure fallout shelters and once the Sogdia was destroyed emergency response teams were able to begin fighting the raging fires in earnest. But with fears of contaminants from the destroyed artifact prompting a more cautious approach to damage control, it would be several days before all of the fires could be extinguished and even longer before the city was declared safe.

Aftermath

"Another Omelas, eh? My, my, seems my boys are quite the special ones after all. It's a shame about that artifact, but as long as Simon, that is to say, Stray is still alive, everything moves forward on schedule."
Tobias Lensky upon hearing the details surrounding the bombing.
"What have we done? What have I done?"
―Simon-G294

The Philadelphia bombing was a cutting blow to the UNSC and UEG, both of which were still recovering from the carnage of the Great War. The actions of the Sogdia were the focus of most of the inquiries and investigations that followed; forensics from what remained of the frigate indicated that small arms weapons had been used within the ship during the bombing. Coupled with the positively identified bodies of the NCA commandos, the evidence pointed to a coordinated Insurrectionist hijacking, with the presence of a renegade Spartan and a Sangheili warrior explained as foreign elements introduced by the rebels to confuse UNSC responders. Although ONI did its best to cover up the existence of the Forerunner artifact and the Slipspace event it had triggered, there was no denying that alien technology had been contained within Hotel-Three. Internally, ONI revised many of its safety protocols; Admiral Osman saw to it that those responsible for bringing the device to Earth in the first place rather than a secure offworld site were promptly removed. Externally, the events that transpired within Hotel-Three became the subject of much speculation and conspiracy theories.

The story the UNSC gave civilian news networks blamed the New Colonial Alliance for the attack, prompting a surge of anti-rebel sentiment within the colonies. Two survivors of the terrorist force were named as "Simon Onegin" and Gavin Dunn, identified from helmet data discovered during the SPARTAN-IVs' debriefing. Though some in ONI were against the idea of recognizing the existence of one of the SPARTAN-IIIs, even if his status as a Spartan was concealed from the official record, Admiral Osman considered the publication of his complicity in the bombing as a necessary measure to isolate the fugitive from public support. Although some wanted Cassandra to be painted as a culprit as well, Sarah Palmer—who clung to the belief that Cassandra had been brainwashed by Simon—ensured that she was not blamed for her part in the bombing. The SPARTAN-IVs, who lost several of their own during the raid, were furious that a gang of rebels, a Sangheili, and a SPARTAN-III had so humiliated them and Simon became an oft-requested target from IV team leaders. Within the ranks of the SPARTAN-IIIs themselves, sympathy for Simon dried up overnight. The bombing, combined with the death of Ralph-G299, caused most IIIs to see their former comrade as a calculating murderer rather than a victim of ideology and circumstance. As many of the IIIs shared Palmer's belief that Simon was somehow manipulating Cassandra as well, he became the subject of much hatred and contempt from the company that had once been his family; only a handful of SPARTAN-IIIs questioned what his true role in the bombing might have been.

"Diarmuid was obviously unstable, I could tell from the start. I thought it wouldn't effect the mission, or that I could work it to our advantage, but I guess none of us predicted where he was headed. How am I supposed to produce results for you if the contacts you give me are dysfunctional?"
―Diana reports to the Assembly regarding the bombing.

The anti-UNSC elements on such fringe worlds as Venezia and Mamore responded quite differently to news of the bombing. Though most Insurrectionist groups and political parties were quick to condemn the attack, lower-level support for the bombing was high. The New Colonial Alliance distanced itself from the actions of Ilsa Zane and her compatriots, but NCA leaders did nothing to quell the rise of Zane and "the heroes of Philadelphia" as icons of the Insurrectionist spirit. In the wake of the bloody suppression of Mamore's secession attempt two years previous, embittered colonists felt little sympathy for dead Earth civilians. Ilsa Zane's slaughtered team would go on to join that of such figures as Robert Watts and Howard Graves as "martyrs of the colonial struggle for independence" while she herself rose to even greater prominence in the wake of her escape. Removed from the politics of Earth and its colonies, the Assembly was shocked at the unprecedented disaster. Diana's report to the Assembly regarding the Philadelphia mission blamed Diarmuid for seizing control of the Sogdia in an unprecedented fit of rampancy. Deep Winter, the de facto head of the Assembly collective, ruled that the AIs of the collective scale back their interference in human affairs. Though the Assembly denied Diana's motion to install Simon as an agent of the collective, they agreed to her request to shield him from future ONI operations, chiefly out of guilt for the fact that he had taken the blame for the actions of one of their own.

The survivors of the raid handled the aftermath of the bombing in a variety of ways. Gavin Dunn, now a hunted accomplice to terrorism, dropped his passengers off on Venezia before fleeing in an attempt to salvage his career as a nondescript freighter captain; he and Simon did not reconcile over what had transpired for some time. Tuka, shaken by the destruction of a Forerunner artifact and the calamity that had ensued, parted on good terms with Simon and Cassandra. He forgave Cassandra for destroying the artifact, though his insistence that she had done the wrong thing soured their relationship somewhat. Tuka held no grudge against Simon for his close brush with death; he had joined the raid to help a friend, nothing more. The young Sangheili returned to the Covenant Remnant in the hopes of finding an answer to his theological doubts. Upon learning of his role in the attack, Jul 'Mdama played down the elements involving the destruction of a Forerunner artifact and hailed Tuka as a hero for his "victory" over the human military. Cassandra was deeply distressed by the lives that had been lost to secure her freedom. Convinced that Diana had had a hand in the bombing despite evidence to the contrary, she chose to part ways with Simon when he refused to abandon his partnership with the renegade AI. The two runaway Spartans remained close even after the bombing as Cassandra started a freelance health clinic on Venezia, though it would be some time before they would work overtly with each other again. Simon himself guessed the truth behind the bombing,, but could not bring himself to turn on the AI he considered to be both his partner and most powerful ally. His good intentions having brought only destruction and infamy, Simon slipped into what would become a vicious cycle of violence, self-loathing, and anomie. Assuming the moniker of "Stray" (to the extent that he very nearly abandoned the name of Simon entirely), he began taking on mercenary contracts from the Syndicate and other criminal groups on the frontier as he sought to forget the guilt of what he had done. Diana, for her part, had gotten a firsthand taste of what the true extent of her potential power might be. With Simon now a pariah loyal only to her and a few others, the Assembly embracing her as one of their own, and the ambition to seek ever more refined sources of pleasure, Diana looked to the future with an optimistic air. As far as she was concerned, the events surrounding Philadelphia were quite positive indeed.

Trivia

  • As the SPARTAN-III program had not been made public, ONI arranged for Simon-G294 to be listed under his birth name of Onegin. Background information provided for him stated that he was a Mamorian terrorist from the same rebel cell as Dunn.

Notes

  1. A highly customized model taken from the body of Ralph-G299.
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