"A tragedy is not when a person has nothing left to lose, but when they long to regain everything they lost."
―Abigail Mattrah, Insurrections of the Human Spirit: Memories of Mamore, 2519.
Emma Sówka is a UNSC Army rifleman and fireteam leader that fought during the closing months of the Human-Covenant War. Barely surviving the Fall of Reach, she arrived on Earth via civilian passenger ship turned evacuation ferry. With her future and life crumbled to pieces, she rushed to the nearest UNSC recruiting center. By faking her age through use of deception, luck, and darkly embellished outside intervention, Emma would become one of the youngest civilians to join the military, being only fifteen at the time of her enlistment.
As the only child and daughter of two former Project ORION operators, Emma was subjected to a number of inconspicuous medications during infancy allegedly lending to her physiology being augmented and enhanced in a similar vein to her parents, albeit not as advanced. This prescribed Emma with a number of biological, physical, and neurological enhancements granting her the ability to achieve and perform at a higher level than average humans.
"You didn't really know you were growing up in the last days of humanity. If you were lucky to live far away from the war, kids could still be kids. But I can't deny that I didn't feel a sense of anxiety around the adults I found myself around. They wouldn't tell you, but you just... knew that something wasn't quite right."
While the manner of Emma's birth and parentage remains unclarified, it is strongly believed by members of the intelligence community that she is the natural daughter of retired enhanced special forces operators Noah Sówka and Ashley Coeman, whose frequent on and off intimate relationships had been recorded by the Office of Naval Intelligence as early as 2506. Born on Reach during the winter of 2536, the infant Emma was left in the care of Monika Sówka at the behest of a woman (commonly believed to be Ms. Coeman herself) who visited Sówka with the babe at her home in New Alexandria. The infant would be raised and cared for by Monika for fifteen years, and as she got older would be introduced to photographs and memories of her supposed father. Unsure of when her parents would return, Emma's aunt was no stranger to reminding the girl of her parentage, filling her head with stories of her father and promises that it would not be long before he would meet her. But as the years passed one after another, the promises would never come to fruition and she would grow up with Monika as her only parental figure.
When she was born, Emma was kept away from the prying eyes of ONI, who would subject the child to an untold number of examinations regarding her enhanced genetic profile. And though her caretakers had done to the best of their ability to keep her safe from ONI, it did not take long for the shadowy organization to take notice. ONI would begin their monitoring of Emma at the age of four, and what was supposed to be routine medical check-ups and vaccinations was actually discreet non-invasive medical augmentation shots that greatly enhanced her already elevated traits. Unlike the majority of children born from the generation of ORION that only included one parent, Emma's parentage would place her in a special case of what would eventually come to be known as "Orionids", the progeny of humanity's first successful generation of biologically enhanced supersoldiers. ONI would continue to monitor her development without intervention for fifteen years, stepping in only when absolutely necessary.
Fall of Reach
July 24th, 2552 — August 23rd, 2552
For most of her life, the war with the Covenant had been limited to only what Section Two allowed the public to see. Stories of valor, heroism, and glory exhibited by the men and women fighting astronomical distances away painted a picture of security and stability. But by the time Emma was an adolescent, the mood surrounding the war shifted to apprehension as friends and acquaintances of her and aunt Monika slowly began to lose contact with friends and family members abroad. Colonies who were considered to be on the doorstep of Reach had fallen eerily silent, no letters or messages had come from them in weeks, even months for some. And to only add more to the anxiety that gripped Reach, the New Alexandria and other cities had been flooded with refugee ships. The alien Covenant's iron grip edged ever closer by the day.
For some, the anxiety of what was to come got the better of them, fleeing the system to a safer world, or taking more extreme measures to avoid future suffering. The rest of the world awaited armageddon, and the pieces began to fall into place in July of 2552. Beginning on July 24, all Waypoint traffic on Reach was ceased, citing unforeseen issues that required maintenance. No further updates would be given, and the timetable for when Waypoint would be back online would remain untouched.
Taking note of this outage, Emma, who was an incessant user of online services since the age of twelve, accessed her private account on ChatterNet and discovered that it was still online. Pouring through whatever information she could find, she discovered the term "Winter Contingency" though by the time she could sift through the countless message boards referencing to the term, it was already scrubbed clean of sensitive information. For the next two weeks, she remained glued to her Chatter account speaking with other anonymous users on what the mystery behind the contingency meant. Multiple theories were birthed into existence during those weeks which Emma obsessed over.
As the Viery Territory was engulfed in flames, the war slowly crawled to Emma's home.
The answer to their theories did not come until the early morning of the 12th of August when the entire territory of Viery was abruptly placed under martial law. The Colonial Militia and local police forces were mobilized and it was not an uncommon sight to see the streets of New Alexandria patrolled by armed persons. Entire city blocks were cordoned off for temporary command and control stations, makeshift triage centers, and designated evacuation zones. Walls of sand, concrete, and metal were placed through the city as if they were preparing for a siege, and by the 18th the city's worst fears had come true.
Affixed by the conspiracy that brewed two weeks earlier, Emma had neglected much of her rest and appetite, leaving her drained and exhausted. She had also not spoken to her aunt in days, leaving her in the dark and worried about what was happening outside of their apartment. Emma kept monitoring the situation on Chatter as it developed, even if she had already pieced together what was happening. The Covenant had finally found Reach, on the 18th, the attack on New Alexandria came. The Covenant first probed the outer defenses of the city, before smashing in with all their might. Within hours, the skyscrapers of the city amplified the sounds of battle, the Covenant had no spread throughout the entire city. The UNSC defenders urged civilians to remain in their homes and to barricade the entrances until they could be evacuated via the air. But as more Covenant poured into the city, the evacuation never came for Emma's apartment complex.
The situation took a turn for the worst on the 19th when the skies over New Alexandria were taken by the Covenant as three alien warships descended from the clouds. With near-total control of the air, the alien ships bombarded the city with plasma day and night for the next four days. Living high up in the apartment complex, Emma and her aunt were forced out of their homes for lower ground as the bombardment threatened the upper-levels of the building. For four nights, Emma slept in the lobby of the apartment waiting for an evacuation that would never come. The sounds of gunfire and death were beaten into her brain when she tried to sleep, the war had come for her.
Day or night, the Covenant's bombardment never ceased, preventing or stalling the evacuation of civilians that remained trapped in Downtown New Alexandria.
As the morning of August 23 came, the fighting in the city had intensified further, and there was still no word from the UNSC on evacuation. When Emma tried to access Chatter, she discovered that the service was offline, all online services were offline and all contact with the outside world was severed. Unable to make contact outside, she grew impatient by midday and attempted to convince her aunt to make a run for the city spaceport. Monika, who was at first reluctant to leave the lobby until she heard the sound of the upper floors collapsing. The alien ships stepped up their bombardment, targeting civilian apartments in the inner city. Emma led her aunt through the complex's employee section and outside to the rear courtyard gardens. When they reached the streets, her aunt attempted to commandeer a vehicle, only to discover that it had a massive, menacing hammer lodged into its front-engine. Still many blocks away from the spaceport and likely in the path of incoming Covenant, Monika panicked and recommended they return to the lobby. Emma tried to calm her down and promised to lead them through the cities back-alleys that she walks through every day on her way to school. Still shaken with fear, her aunt silently agreed to follow her niece to the safety of the spaceport.
Emma and Monika had cleared through four blocks without issue, avoiding the fighting on the streets. While crossing a pedestrian bridge over a hotly contested straight, Emma had nearly been struck by a stray plasma bolt. The greenish bolt impacted against the arch of the bridge and splashed its contents around the area. Luckily, most of the plasma splashed against Emma's backpack, burning through it and destroying a few small items. She would suffer a slight burn on her elbow when shielding her face. After safely crossing the bridge, they came across a gruesome scene. The alley they had entered was littered the bodies of massacred civilians. Many of them were mangled and smashed into an unrecognizable paste. Both Emma and Monika retched up their morning rations from what they saw. But after calming themselves down they built up the courage to pass through quickly, they had almost made it through when Monika was suddenly struct in the leg by an alien sniper.
Using all of her strength and speed, Emma used herself as a crutch to drag her aunt to the far side of the alley and out of the sniper's sight. Emma thought they were safe until realizing how much Monika was bleeding and how far away they still were from the spaceport. To worsen the matter, the trail of blood left by Monika extended for several meters, allowing their scent to draw the attention of a pack of primate-like aliens to their location. Emma and Monika had reached a courtyard next to the spaceport but by then it was too late, the alien pack had caught up to them and closed around them. The leader of the pack carried a large hammer-like weapon, similar to the one that had eviscerated the vehicle from earlier. The leader pointed at them and spoke in a deep, gravelly alien voice. Unable to find a route to escape, and knowing they would be too slow, Emma prepared to fight. But without a word, her aunt made a sudden move and grabbed onto her and shoved her into the nearby waste chute behind them. Understanding only at the last moment, Emma tried to grab onto Monika's arm to pull her down with her but missed.
Alone, Emma slid down the chute and landed in a pile of trash bags on the edge of the street. Growing deathly pale, she cried out for Monika but she never came and only for a moment, the world around her fell completely silent. Grief and pain overwhelmed her and she continued to cry out for her aunt, but the only response were the echoes of a losing battle. Emma could not recompose herself, just as she was only a few meters away from the spaceport where salvation awaited her. Her legs had grown weak, and they collapsed under her when the gates of the spaceport came into view. At that moment, Emma was fully prepared to die, waiting for the aliens to find her. Soon she heard their collective alien laugh as they caught up to her, ready to do to her whatever they had done to Monika, the only family she had ever known. But the greater powers that be had a different plan for her. The aliens that came for her fell under fire, gunfire piercing into their thick hides. A pair of Falcons hovered over her, spewing out fire from their chainguns, ripping the aliens to shreds of flesh and fur. Alien blood sprayed outward and painted the sky a purplish-red. Weak of mind and heart and unable to articulate words, Emma looked around her and saw dozens of humans clad in jet-black armor. They surrounded the aliens when they tried to run and when the pack leader went berserk, a single human casually walked up to it and ended its life with a single blast from its shotgun. With the fighting over, one of the heavily armored humans crouched next to Emma, asking her if she was alright. Delusional and unsure of where she was, Emma responded by muttering for them to find Monika. She repeated her request several times over to the confusion of the others around her. When she began to drift out of consciousness, one of the humans picked her up and carried her to the gates of the spaceport. Before falling unconscious she remembered the sound of the battle still raging over her former home and saw the unmistakable insignia that adorned the man's pauldron. The Eye that watches over All.
The Ghost of Reach
August 24th, 2552 — September 21st, 2552
When Emma woke up, she found herself in a makeshift medical room aboard a civilian Gemini 772 passenger ship. The room was stricken with panicked voices and the wailing of injured civilians. The traumatic events she had experienced left her with short-term memory loss and temporary blindness. She remained bedridden for a week until her vision finally returned. After passing a physical and mental examination, she was discharged from the aid station and permitted to freely roam the ship. Still unable to remember the events that occurred sixteen hours before waking up on the ship, Emma would the other civilians on what happened. Too many of the civilians there were still traumatized and refused to speak. It took her several tries before finally getting the answer from a wounded Army serviceman. He explained to her that Reach was lost, the oceans boiled, the sky on fire, the cities reduced to ash. With those words, the Emma's memories rushed back to her, all of them at once. The alien ships, her aunt, the Brutes and her enigmatic saviors. Her recollection had been so intense that she fainted and was readmitted to the temporary aid station. She did not speak to anybody else for the remainder of their voyage.
The refugee ship carrying her and nearly 577 other civilians and military personnel arrived at Earth on September 11 and landed at Dublin Spaceport. With nowhere else to go and no belongings on her, she was alone and abandoned. Emma slept in the nearby refugee camp for the next two days, barely eating anything more than a few scraps from her rations. When she awoke on September 13, for no particular reason, set off from the refugee camp for the nearest UNSC recruiting center. She felt no desire for revenge, no grand call to fight for the greater good. When she entered the recruiting center, she felt nothing at all. She was lost and hopeless.
The office of the recruiting center was full of people willing to do their part. Some were survivors of battles who didn't truly experience the horror of the war, others were easily duped individuals who fell for the poster promises of nonexistent heroism and a chance to take the fight to the enemy. They had seen the real war, and Emma knew that the military was the ticket to a quick death.
When it was her turn to sign up, she still had no belongings and no proof of identification. All documents and data pertaining to her existence as a citizen and individual were likely destroyed during the Fall. She, along with other future military personnel native to Reach would retroactively be dubbed as "ghosts of Reach", the personification of the colony's vengeful restitution. And while this would give rise to the term being used for other fallen colonies, none would reach the level of prominence manifested by them.
Without any form of identification and all records of her being unaccounted for, her enlistment was denied. But Emma would not give in yet. As she roamed the streets of Dublin, she accessed an automated recruiting station only to be denied again when she listed her age and could not produce physical identification. Despondent, she aimlessly walked the streets of Dublin, thoughts racing in her mind of what was to come next. Even the thought of jumping from a bridge had crossed her mind, but the powers that watched over had other plans in store. As night began to fall, she was approached by a man wearing all black and hiding his face under the darkness of his hood. Confronting her, he presented her with a small card, laminated and containing vital and important personal identification. Her name and other information were all the same, save for her age, which was now listed as seventeen. The man asked for nothing in return, delivering a sinister smile and saying only, “A gift. . . from your loving mother.”. He had turned away from her before she could ask him of anything, and how he knew her mother. She called out to him many times, only to be ignored. The man in black had gone as mysteriously as he came, fading back into the shadows he had emerged. Emma examined the card again and noticed that upon further inspection, a faint watermark of the same infamous eye and pyramid she saw on Reach. The Office of Naval Intelligence kept a close eye on her, but why? Emma did not spend much time thinking about it, as she now possessed the key to her future. She rushed back to the automated recruiting station and reinput her enlistment.
By providing proof of identification and altering her age, her enlistment was approved. The news was quite the surprise, as her life was signed away as easy as a few presses of a button. But the real Emma Sówka she once was no longer existed. The new Emma now belonged to Naval Intelligence.
Battle of Earth
Enlistment and Training
September 22nd, 2552 — October 23rd, 2552
"Under the cover of night, more than two-hundred military bases and garrisons were raided or harassed by Covenant infiltration units. Combat effectiveness for our brigade combat teams and reserve units has been significantly reduced..."
Emma would be shipped out to ATC (Army Training Center) Catterick in the United Kingdom on September 22. Her enlistment and basic training were fast-tracked in response to the catastrophic losses the Army incurred during the Fall of Reach and other coincidental ground engagements. In order to replenish their ranks, all Army training centers on Earth were running on all cylinders, even ancient, decommissioned garrisons were reactivated to train the millions of new recruits and draftees flooding into the UNSC's ranks in preparation for the defense of Earth.
The urgency shown by the Army in training was put on display when Emma was learning her marksmanship fundamentals and already firing her rifle by her second week of training. In essence, the Army was training a militia force, the UNSC Army of the past no longer existed, leaving only the emaciated remains of humanity's last line of defense.
As the sun rose over October 6, another week had passed without the arrival of the Covenant. Fears of an imminent invasion were alleviated, the Army slowed in their urgency and returned to a more traditional sense of basic training. For the next two weeks, Emma honed her skills and transformed herself into one of the Army's most lethal weapons. The enhancements she received as a child assisted in elevating her to the top of her class.
On October 20 everything would change, the inevitable had finally come. Calling back to the day of judgment on July 24, 2552, Emma had felt something was wrong by midday. Her suspicions grew when the final weeks of basic training were called off indefinitely. It didn't take long to piece together the details, she remembered the silent shadow that loomed over Reach. The day had finally come—the Covenant had found Earth. By night, her company was kept in their barracks with their full gear and weapons. They waited for the call, but it never came.
Emma had begun to drift off to sleep late at night only to be interrupted by the sound of sirens and gunfire. She reached for her weapon but by then they had already breached the barracks. The doors to the barracks were blown clean off its hinges, giving way to dozens of Elites and Brutes as they fired their grotesque firearms. Within seconds, the men and women that Emma had trained with were cut down. It was a massacre and no one had been able to return fire. The only chance for survival was to run. Emma did not intend to live long. In fact, her whole goal for joining the Army was to die, but at this moment a compulsive need to run took over her body and she fled. Emma dodged all colors of plasma and red-hot spikes that were so sharp it could cut through layers armor with ease. As her fellow trainees and friends died behind her, she hid in the officer's section of the barracks which had already been hit. She walked over the bodies of her former instructors and superiors, poaching a sidearm from her commanding officer's corpse. Moving down the corridor, Emma heard the sound of panicked breathing. Finding a concealed position, she glimpsed the sight of an officer running for her life. The officer stood only a few meters away from Emma when she was suddenly impaled by an energy sword. The alien materialized out of thin air and savored its successful hunt for a passing moment before deactivating the blade and letting the body of the officer fall roughly to the ground. The Elite disappeared from view and returned to its hunt.
Emma sneaked through the corridor, completely unaware of if the alien was stalking her. She had almost made it to the other side when she heard the sound of the blade reignite behind her. The alien's swing had almost gutted her, swiping through her shirt and leaving a tear across the back. She felt a sharp sting across the length of her spine, but nothing too serious. She would only be able to fire three shots before the Elite took another swing, aiming for her head. But Emma's luck had run out when she tried to fire again, only hearing the clicks of an empty gun. Throwing the spent weapon at the Elite in anger, her last and only option was to run. With no exits to her sides, Emma jumped out of the two-story window and landed hard on the ground below. She was bruised and cut with shards of glass when she stood up. But the brief period of catching her breath ended as the Elite jumped out after her, bellowing out a deep, guttural laugh along the way.
The Elite chases after Emma.
As if it were part of some kind of cruel joke, an expected reprieve saved Emma from being gutted. In a sudden twist, a pair of Brutes pivoted to the Elite in front of her and fired. Caught off guard by this betrayal, the Elite roared as its shield overloaded and cracked. It leaped from its cover at the Brutes, cutting one clean in half and nearly decapitating the other before a larger, stronger Brute jumped down behind it and brought the full weight of its hammer on it. The Elite's body and armor caved in with a nauseating crunch. Emma ran for safety, but the Brutes could not care less for the human, and focused solely on eliminating the other Elites within its ranks. What she had just witnessed was only the beginning of a much larger conflict.
October 24th, 2552 — November 6th, 2552
In contrast to Emma surviving the attack on Catterick, the rest of her company did not fare as well. By morning, she and only five other servicemen out of one-hundred and sixty-four were still alive. On a grander scale, all UNSC garrisons stationed across the British Isles had suffered a decrease of nearly 1200% of its total manpower, leaving only a brigade worth of three thousand service personnel at combat readiness. By the 24th, the survivors were regrouped and consolidated into the 412th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Dublin Spaceport. "Readiness" would be a term used loosely in regard to the 412th, as the majority of combat personnel were still made up of trainees and reservists. This level of decimation exposed the entire British defensive zone to attack, leaving the region's only hope for defense in the hands of Air Force personnel in orbit. With luck, the orbital defense grid held its ground over the course of the week and lifted the pressure away from the Isles.
Unfortunately for Emma and the 412th, they would not remain in reserve long. To the south, a large contingent of Covenant warships had broken through the Orbital Defense Grid M2 defending the Iberian peninsula on October 22nd. This was the largest breakthrough in the European Theater, forcing the UNSC defenders to pivot their focus to that region. Unready and lacking the necessary equipment, the 412th would be called up to the Iberian front anyway. Emma departed from Dublin on November 5th and arrived at a UNSC staging ground near Barcelona on November 6. From there, the 412th were deployed to the city of Zaragoza, linking up with the 334th Airborne brigade and the Marine 502nd Tank Regiment. Together, they would be tasked with holding the city of Zaragoza for one day to prevent a Covenant breakthrough at the Ebro river until their relief could be sent on the 8th.
November 7th, 2552 — November 8th, 2552
"We're all that stands between a million screaming Covenant and the rest of Earth. I hope you're ready for the end of the world."
―An unidentifed Airborne trooper to Emma a few hours before the battle
The defense of Zaragoza was planned in three stages. The 334th had mined the highway coming up from the south of the city, and fortified the hills on the side of the road. The Marine Tanks would be deployed just south of the city in dug-in positions to cover the retreat of the Airborne if overrun. Meanwhile, Emma and the 412th would stay in the reserve with local volunteer militiamen, covering the retreat of both the 334th and 502nd to defend the inner city. If the inner city was lost, the third and final stage was to fall back to the other side of the river and hold out as long as possible.
Emma at Zaragoza. November 7, 2552.
Due to the Air Force being preoccupied in other combat zones in both air and space, they would receive no air support should the worst come to bare. With Emma being the top marksman of her unit, she was tasked with aiding the local militia in honing their marksmanship while the UNSC prepared for the coming battle.
On the next day, the Covenant's probing attacks came with Banshees harassing the city from above until being driven off by anti-air defenses deployed by the 334th. As the sun rose over the city, the first sounds of gunfire echoed from the south. The 334th had made contact. Emma watched large glowing spheres of plasma curve upward into the hills from her fortified position on the street. Explosions rumbled and plumes of purplish smoke rose high in the air as the Covenant's armor column struck the mined roads and came under fire from the Airborne. Once the initial shock wore off, the Covenant returned the favor by hitting the hillsides with heavy artillery. The 334th's lines began to break as they were pummeled with heavy plasma fire, two blue flares shot up into the sky on both sides of the highway, signaling the retreat. The first stage was over, and Emma readied her DMR.
The Scorpions, Gausshogs, and Cobras covering the retreat fired their guns in unison, creating a symphony of metal and fire as the machines of war unleashed their destructive ordnance. The combined heavy fire scattered the Covenant, forcing their push to the city into a bloody slog. By now, thousands of Grunts and Brutes lay dead, and from the best Emma could tell the 334th returned intact with few losses. At this point, the battle stood in favor of the UNSC, but the Covenant's advance did not stop and was reinvigorated when another air raid descended from the clouds. The skies were darkened with hundreds of Banshees and Phantom gunships. The air defenses did their job well at knocking down a third of the attack but the raid badly battered the front line, knocking out several armored vehicles and killing dozens of Airborne and Marines in the process. And to prevent the human defenders from reforming their line, a wing of Type-31 fighters screamed overhead and strafed their positions again, wiping out most of Zaragoza's armored vehicles. A single black flare shot up near the front. The second stage had failed, and the UNSC fell back to the center of the city.
Another wave of Phantoms emerged on the horizon, intending to cut off the 334th and 502nd's retreat into the city. Emma's company and another were sent out to intercept the Phantoms landing inside the city, being ordered to delay the enemy and allow the roads to stay open to complete the retreat. Emma and her company came upon a courtyard filled with Brutes, Jackals, Grunts, and without being seen the company entered the buildings that surrounded the courtyard. After taking up positions, Emma and her comrades opened fire, ambushing the Covenant forces hoping to prevent the retreat. Dozens of aliens of all kinds were caught in the carnage, the confusion overwhelmed them and the alien formation splintered. Emma brought down three Brutes on her own, using her DMR to score headshots when they tried to reorganize their squads. Aiming for the Chieftain next, she fired four rounds at its head, knocking its headdress off but not wounding it. When the Chieftain took notice, it ordered its Grunts to fire at the buildings, unaware that Emma had already lined up a kill shot. But when she pulled the trigger the DMR jammed. Unable to fire, the Chieftain regrouped its forces and ordered a pair of grunts to bring the building down. The squat aliens aimed their fuel rod cannons at Emma's floor and fired.
Emma is knocked back during the Battle of Zaragoza.
Emma had only barely managed to take cover when the cannons blew a massive hole in the wall, knocking her off her feet and sustaining no major wounds. Emma discarded her DMR and picked up a MA5C assault rifle from a wounded trooper next to her. Scrambling to her feet, she fired the assault rifle below at the Grunts. The rifle reduced the tiny aliens to a bloody pulp and they dropped their fuel rod guns. After the ambush, nearly all Covenant troops were dead save for a few stragglers that ran off. By the time the company regrouped in the courtyard, the Airborne and Marines took up new positions within the city. Emma was pulled back into the reserve and resumed her original position. Her position would be hammered by Covenant infantry for hours, and despite taking heavy casualties her company would hold the road junction until they were relieved by a Marine company from the 502nd. The fighting would continue throughout the day as the Covenant pushed from house to house, street to street. The local militia proved especially effective, employing guerilla tactics from the city's rooftops to ambush Covenant armor trying to move into firing lanes. But without tanks of their own and most of their air defenses disabled, the UNSC would be forced to pull back behind the river by dusk.
Even as night fell over the city, the fighting escalated further. Both UNSC and Covenant exchanged fire over the river without pause. Any attempts by the Covenant to cross the bridges were turned back with heavy losses. Though the battle seemed to be reaching a stalemate, the UNSC defenders were running low on ammunition, all the while more and more Covenant troops poured into the city. By midnight, Emma was forced to take hold of a discarded Brute Spiker to replace her MA5C to keep fighting. The battle worsened, and soon the UNSC was fighting hand-to-hand as the Covenant finally made their way over the Ebro.
As the morning twilight rose in the east, the Covenant had taken most of the city and threatened a major breakthrough across the entire Iberian front. Though Emma wasn't wounded, her company had been pulled off the line to the rear after sustaining devastating losses that left them ineffective. Believing that the relief would not come, her commanders announced a retreat to Barcelona, with the 502nd remaining to delay the enemy. Emma had just finished loading up her wounded comrades onboard Warthog transports until she heard the deafening roar of engines in the distance, jet engines. Multiple air wings of Longsword fighters and Shortsword bombers appeared from the north and dropped their payloads. The entire southern portion of Zaragoza was set ablaze by ruthless carpet bombing and strafing runs. Covenant fighters that attempted to intercept them were chased and shot down by the Longswords as they took air superiority over the city. What followed them were formations of Pelicans that dropped off members of the 60th Infantry Division, and behind her the rows of multiple Kodiak artillery guns opened fire, raining death down upon the Covenant legions that began to flee from the carnage.
November 9th, 2552 — November 16th, 2552
By retaking the city of Zaragoza, the Covenant forces there fell back to defensive positions. Emma was sent off the line and went to Barcelona to rest and recuperate. Aside from a few minor plasma burns suffered along her arms and legs, Emma was in good health and physical condition. The same could not be said for the rest of her unit, as her company has lost more than ninety-percent of its strength. The 412th had suffered such high casualties that it was disbanded and once again re-consolidated into a different unit. Emma was transferred to the 227th Infantry Division, an Army reservist unit.
The experience she had faced at Zaragoza was unlike anything she had ever seen. She spent most of her time in Barcelona replaying the events in her mind over and over again. She hadn't known her comrades for long, in fact, she cared very little for them. But watching them risk their lives for her and others made her reflect heavily on her decisions. The war was a living hell, and so many others around her willingly walked through that hell if it meant that a brighter day would shine through on the other side. Emma was no stranger to death, she welcomed it expecting it to come the first day she saw combat. But it never did, and instead, it was the lives of her fellow servicemen that were lost.
The battle reawakened something in her that she never thought would return. For the first time since enlisting, she felt camaraderie. On the night of November 9th, she made an unexpected appearance on the beaches of Barcelona where their company set a bonfire to celebrate the victory. The members of her company were at first surprised by her attempt to reach out and socialize. But after explaining her decision and story they welcomed her in with open arms. She tasted alcohol for the first time in her life that night, toasting to the honor of those of the 412th who had been lost.
Emma would be sent back out into the war on the 12th. With UNSC reinforcements funneling into the peninsula every day, they began a large frontal offensive on the 10th following successful tactical nuclear strikes on key Covenant targets. As the Covenant tried to lick their wounds, the UNSC pushed south intent on reclaiming the peninsula. With the 227th, Emma pushed south from Barcelona toward Valencia. They were met with little resistance, as the two Army infantry divisions ahead of them cleaned up the bulk of Covenant forces along the Spanish coastline. Between the 12th and 15th, the UNSC offensive throughout Iberia had gone so well that they were now only two-hundred and seventy kilometers from Gibraltar. But despite their recent good luck, the fate of the offensive was being threatened when the Covenant fought hard for the city of Seville. The city had changed hands dozens of times on the 15th alone, throwing back several Marine and ODST divisions before the city had to be leveled by the Air Force and orbital fire support. The city was finally taken on the 16th, but a renewed Covenant counterattack threatened to undo their progress. The besieged Marine divisions requested for aid, but with all primary UNSC forces already engaged, the relief of Seville rested in the hands of the 227th.
November 17th, 2552 — November 18th, 2552
Cpl. Nardin: "Shit, I've seen this before. Private, switch with me."
Pfc. May: "What's the matter, Nard? Need a lady to hold your hand?"
―Just before Emma and her squad disembarked the Pelican
In order to reach Seville in time, Emma's company was deployed aboard D77H Pelicans and sent in under the cover of night to open a gap to allow the rest of the 227th to enter the city. Their insertion was covered by two AC-220 Vultures and a wing of Hornets and Sparrohawks to provide support once they landed.
The Pelicans departed from an airbase south of Madrid just after midnight and reached the outskirts of the city by 0202 hours. Under fire from Covenant Shade emplacements, the Pelicans were forced to land outside their designation landing zones. Despite this setback, the mission continued as planned. With the Shade's still putting pressure on the landing, Emma's squad was sent to silence the guns and reopen the corridor. She fought a rough uphill battle to shades, killing ten grunts and four jackals before finally reaching the first Shade battery. After they were destroyed, the squad pushed forward to a ditch on the outskirts of the city to hold and prevent any counterattacks from Covenant in the city.
The counterattack came as expected, the Brute commanders sent out an enormous wave of suicide squads at the fragile line. Emma used her reflexes to the best of her ability and took carefully aimed shots at the suicide Grunts by firing her DMR at their ignited grenades. The resulting explosion created a chain reaction that wiped out a massive portion of the suicide charge, but they kept coming. Emma and her squad had nearly ran out of ammunition by the time a pair of Warthogs arrived to help. The gunners of the Hogs fired their chain-guns at the enemy, ripping them apart and detonating their unexploded ordnance. When it was finally over, the ground was littered with a sea of grunt corpses. One of Emma's squadmates swore they had counted nearly a thousand dead.
Using the cover of night, the UNSC gains a small foothold in Seville.
Ready to move into the city and link up with the Marines, Emma's company moved slowly into the ruins of Seville. The fighting on this side of the city had died down completely, the Covenant forces pulling back inexplicably. They faced no resistance, but when they were only a few blocks away from the Marines, they were beset upon by a swarm of Drones. The Army did their best to fight them off, but when additional Covenant ground reinforcements joined the fight, Emma and her company were forced back out of the city. Unable to relieve the Marines, the company dug in for the night and waited for the rest of the 227th to arrive.
The battle for Seville proved harder than previously thought, and despite the help given by the 227th, they could not push the Covenant out. Additional UNSC assets were recalled and sent to Seville. Dubbed Operation: GOLD GARDEN, the UNSC would launch a bloody and decisive attack to secure the city once and for all.
November 18th, 2552
"Over here, she's still alive! Shit. Did she do this on her own?"
With GOLD GARDEN in full swing, the UNSC and Covenant continued to battle hard for Seville. The humans had called in nearly every conceivable measure to wipe out the Covenant, yet they would not yield. Emma had spent much of November 18th fighting back against desperate Covenant counterattacks.
The battle had progressed to utter savagery on both sides and sacrificial danger close fire missions were not an uncommon sight. In less than an hour, Emma and her squad had taken, lost and retaken a city block and were falling dangerously low on ammunition. But as the battle progressed, Emma's squad soon found themselves cut off and surrounded. Without much ammo to spare, the squad prepared to leave their positions but were ambushed by a pack of Brutes. Two of her squad had been impaled to the walls of a building when hit by Spiker rounds.
Caught off guard and surrounded by grisly foes, Emma prepared for a final stand. But she was no longer fearless of death. She had spent so much of her time with people she now considered friends, the ones that had brought her back from the brink. She would not let them die if it was the last thing she'd have the power to do. But she would quickly learn that the fates of her comrades did now rest in her hands.
Her squad opened fire on the aliens that surrounded them, but the Brutes leaped at the humans, tackling them and wrestling their weapons away from their hands. Corporal Nardin had been torn limb from limb in seconds and Emma could do nothing about it. Instead, she killed two of the Brutes that chased after her, killing them with well-timed shots with her DMR. But the Brutes, clearly enjoying themselves, closed in around the humans slowly. Their Chieftain sat upon a crushed automobile, watching the carnage with a malicious grin.
With her friends dying around her, Emma overexerted her physical strength, tearing her Achilles' heel in order to dispatch another three Brutes with extreme ferocity. She had taken a needle to the shoulder in the process, but her enhancements dulled the pain. Her only concern was keeping the rest of her squad alive and made a run for the Chieftain.
By now, the Chieftain had grown irritated. He jumped up from his seat and watched Emma come barreling down at him. He stood his hammer, fully prepared to reduce Emma to a thick, bloody paste. But when she ran down, she picked up a plasma grenade, and when she neared him she ignited the grenade and threw it at the Chieftain. It was too late to react and the grenade had stuck itself firmly into the skin of the Brute's arm. When it exploded, it had completely toward the alien's forearm from its body, spewing dark purplish blood all over the street. Enraged, the Chieftain threw off its headdress and dropped its hammer. The alien roared and charged at Emma. She fired the last four rounds of her DMR at the Brute but did very little slowing down its barbaric charge. It slammed into her hard, knocking the wind out of her and threw her to the ground. Her chest plate was bent awkwardly but helped absorb much of the impact and kept her chest from being seriously damaged.
But the Brute did not stop, it savagely punched her abdomen and tried to cave in her face with its elbow. She would've been killed if it had not been for her squad, firing at the Chieftain with all they've got. It gave her the time to pull her combat knife from its sleeve and dug it deep into the Brute's eye. The alien lifted off from her, allowing Emma to escape and take cover behind a burnt-out vehicle. She found it hard to breathe and coughed up blood when she tried to calm herself. By now the Brute had removed the blade from its eye socket, and it a twisted display of pure blood-rage, drove the hilt of the blade deep into the forearm that had been blown off. The alien charged at Emma again but with her leg shattered, she could not get away in time. She felt cold steel slice through her back as the alien slashed at her. Emma fell to the ground, barely able to move as blood ran down her spine. The alien roared in triumph and turned around to finish her off. Growing weaker by the second, Emma forced herself to stand, not ready to give up. As the Brute prepare another rage-induced charge, Emma spotted the hammer next to her and picked it up. The Brute laughed and spoke with a mocking tone in its own language before setting off. As the Chieftain closed the gap, Emma raised the hammer with all her strength and brought it down as hard as she could. The hammer caught the Brute along its shoulder, delving so deep into its body that it nearly cut the alien in half. It stopped its tracks, its eyes widened in shock and disbelief before. Emma collapsed, out of breath and losing blood fast. She looked around for her team, but they were nowhere to be found. Believing them dead, Emma sat and closed her eyes waiting for the inevitable to come and set her free.
Enarius's final act—the total and complete destruction of Seville and the UNSC forces inside it.
The Chieftain, gurgling on its own blood spoke something into a wrist-mounted communication device before finally dying. It's final orders, the destruction of Seville came down from the skies, dropping two Type-47B Scarabs in the area near its body. Emma opened her eyes again to watch the Scarabs drop from orbit, landing on the ground and kicking up massive clouds of dust. She accepted her fate and laid down on the cement of the street. She fluttered in and out of consciousness, seeing the Scarabs moving into position in one instance, and then seeing those hulking machines destroyed and covered in blue flames in the next. The last thing she glimpsed before slipping unconscious was a green guardian angel towering over her, its golden face staring down sorrowfully.
A Brave New World
March 8th, 2553 — April 30th, 2553
"In those days people shall seek death, and shall not find it; They will long to die, but death will flee from them."
When Emma finally awoke, she broke a never-ending cycle of nightmares that had plagued her mind for what felt like an eternity. Rising from her bed gasping for air, she called for help. Unable to understand where she was, she demanded to know how she got there and what day it was. When the doctors calmed her down and told her the state of the new world she now lived in, she was left speechless.
The year is 2553 and the war was finally over. The date of her waking up was March 8, 2553, and she was a patient at a UNSC military hospital in Brussels. The wounds she suffered on November 18th had been so severe that she had to be placed in a medically induced coma if they were going to save her life. The duel with the Jiralhanae Chieftain had placed too much strain or damage on her internal organs. They had discovered that she had ruptured her liver, and both her right lung and heart had been punctured by broken ribs and required the immediate replacement of flash cloned organs. Both of her Achilles' tendons were also torn and her left femur was so utterly destroyed that most of it had to be replaced with an artificial bone. Luckily though, the rest of her body was left intact and she was expected to make a full recovery by mid-April once completing physical rehabilitation.
Emma remained confined to her bed for another two days, which allowed her mind to recover memories from the battle. Eventually, she could recollect the entire duel. The grenade, the knife, the hammers, all of it. Her memories only began to fade once again when she tried to remember the green figure standing over her. When she asked her doctors who had saved her, they insisted that it was her squad that recovered her body and fled from the scene to friendly ground. Afterward, she was airlifted to the hospital where she now resided in. But when she had asked about the vision she saw before going unconscious, the staff only looked at each other in just as much confusion as she was. They even handed her a copy of the field report, confirming that it was, in fact, her squad that saved her and that it made no mention of her "guardian angels".
Private First Class Eugene May, now Sergeant May, visited her the following day, telling her the finer details of how the war came to end. Much of it was still classified and he could only tell her the minute, publicly available information, but the most shocking detail of all was peace and even a temporary alliance was formed with the Sangheili. The news left a bad taste in her mouth, but over time she came to accept the reality of the present.
Emma would be discharged from the hospital in late April, and due to the extent of her wounds, the UNSC offered her a medical discharge from the military. She instead chose to remain in the military, but it would take some time before she would return to active duty. She would be settled at an Army reserve base near Budapest for the time being and would be approached by recruiters from multiple clandestine or special organizations within the UNSC Special Forces. In the end, she settled on the decision to sign-up and volunteer for the Airborne Pathfinders.
New Carthage Reassignment
August 21st, 2553 — January 31st, 2554
With the majority of the Army's training centers and colonial strongholds having been destroyed or abandoned over the course of the war, the UNSC had to refocus their efforts on repairing training facilities and building new ones on colonies that survived the war. Emma shipped out for Airborne training in June and arrived on New Carthage on August 21, 2553. There, a new Airborne School was opened and would serve as the backbone of a rejuvenated Army Airborne in the Post-war period.
Emma completed the six-week training course that comprised three weeks of basic Airborne training, a ten-day air assault course and a two-week exoatmospheric jump training that included both simulated environments and real-world orbital drops. While the training is not as intensive or rigorous as the shock troopers, all Airborne candidates receive the necessary training for partaking in orbital deployments when needed.
Upon completing Airborne School, Emma transferred to the Army Pathfinder School, which was situated in the same location as the Airborne School on New Carthage. During the four-week course, she learned the fundamentals of air traffic control, marking and guiding of drop zones, and daytime/nighttime combat infiltration. The peculiar nature of the Human-Covenant War forced the evolution of the Airborne Pathfinder into a more active role. As the war progressed, the Pathfinders reshaped their doctrine to include unconventional warfare tactics to delay Covenant response and defend the coming air assault. This new doctrinal operation now provided Pathfinders with tracking, sabotage, and guerilla tactics training, extending Pathfinder training from three-weeks to four.
Emma scaling a cliff while training at the Pathfinder School on New Carthage.
In accordance with her training and completion of Pathfinder School, Emma received a surgical procedure to remove her Army neural interface to be replaced with a specialized implant created exclusively for Army Pathfinders. The implant takes inspiration from a number of neural interfaces belonging to other special forces organizations, namely the SPARTAN-IV program by allowing the interface to be remotely connected to an artificial intelligence to relay information back to command in real-time, and is capable of drastically improving a user's reaction time when paired with an AI at the source. The interface also provides real-time tracking data to the user, providing information when tracking an individual or animal and when paired with the Pathfinder's VISR system is capable of revealing and distinguishing the footprints and tracks of both human and Covenant alike.
Emma had earned her placed among the Airborne and received her Parachutist, Pathfinder, and Air Assault badges upon graduation. The skills she demonstrated at these schools placed her in the top five percent of her class, and her proficiency elevated her to be transferred to the 47th Airborne Division, one of the most decorated and effective Airborne forces in the Army. Because of this, however, her training was not yet completed as she was required to take another seven-week training course to further hone her orbital insertion skills initially developed at the Airborne School.
The UNSC Lorne Hal would be her new home for seven weeks, providing her some of the most physically demanding training that very few Airborne personnel receive.
For the next seven weeks, she spent most of her time aboard the UNSC Lorne Hal, a training station in orbit above New Carthage. The training of Airborne Orbital School was the toughest she had ever faced so far, even her augmentations were pushed to the limit in order to complete her training. The first week comprised of simulated orbital drops, high-g training, combat in low gravity environments, and how to properly operate a thruster pack. The second week focused on extra-vehicular activity and non-simulated combat training in a zero-gravity arena. The third week was spent on actual orbital drop insertions and post-drop survival training. Emma experienced the rush of a real pod drop for the first time on the second to last day of the third week and landed in an open field near the Airborne School grounds. In the next week, she dropped again with her pod fully loaded with all her gear. As a Pathfinder, she would have to spend the next two weeks on her own, putting her tracking and survival skills to the test. Her primary objective was to mark future drop zones for a coming orbital assault by the 47th Airborne Division and link up with her company to prepare for wargames hosted during the last days of the fifth week. The final week was spent as a refresher course and assess the proficiencies of all students. Emma and her company would be dropped one last time into the wilderness of New Carthage. With all of her gear, she would have to rendezvous with her company and would have to complete a 14-mile loaded march back to the Airborne School in less than 3 hours in order to qualify for graduation.
With her graduation from Orbital School at the turn of the new year, Emma had cemented her future as an Airborne Pathfinder. Originally intended to take a flight out of New Carthage to be assigned to Mars with the rest of the 47th, her battalion was forced to remain on New Carthage as insurrectionist and pirate activity across the colony increased.
New Carthage is well known for its dangerous megafauna, and the Kiklos beast will attack anything that ventures too close to its burrows.
At the cusp of the new year, Emma was promoted to Corporal placed in command of her own fireteam known as K-Team. One of three pathfinder teams of her battalion, K-Team were placed at the forefront of counter-insurgency operations in the mountainous Sagrad province, using her expert tracking skills to hunt down the insurgents hiding in the caverns of Sagrad. Emma's mission nearly turned deadly when they accidentally stumbled upon the burrows of a Kiklos beast in the mountains. It was not uncommon to see the insurgents lure a Kiklos into a combat area so they could escape, but this one was possibly the strongest Emma had ever faced. Were it not for her quick thinking and a well-timed grenade throw into the beast's mouth, she and her team likely would've been crushed to death. The Sagrad insurgency continued for nearly four months with little progress. Despite their best efforts at sweeping through Sagrad's expansive cavern systems, the insurgents had dug in too deep to be pulled out by the stem. Growing impatient and irritable with how slow progress was being made, Emma and her team were pulled from Sagrad indefinitely. By the end of the month, her battalion was transferred off-world and sent to Mars, where a reformed 47th Airborne Division awaited their rendezvous at division headquarters in the Terra Cimmeria highlands.
Emma remained on Mars until the end of January 2554, often assisting the dozens of refugee camps that had been set up and sprawled out across the sand dunes in the south of Terra Cimmeria.
Police Action on Alluvion
July 23rd, 2554 — September 4th, 2554
K-Team on Alluvion.
Her short time on Mars would come to an end as her unit was called up to investigate rising instability on a newly recolonized Alluvion. Political issues, old feuds, and security concerns brewing between the few thousand colonists there were among the chief reasons for her brigade being deployed. However once they finally arrived in orbit over the colony in July, the situation had deteriorated into near-anarchy as insurgency and petty blood feuds threatened to tear down the newly established colonial government.
As fears grew over a potential flashpoint erupting into a full-scale conflict, K-Team and the 3rd Battalion were sent ground side via Pelican to Alluvion's only operable spaceport near the settlement of Saban, which was also the acting administrative center for the new colony.
Despite the Army's best efforts, the government of Alluvion was toppled on August 6 when the majority of its representatives who supported insurgent parties resigned from their positions. Without a central government to control the colony, the Army took exhaustive measures and declared martial law. Unable to fully enforce its law over the colony, the Army enlisted aid from a local Liang-Dortmund Corporation division's security force.
But just as things began to cool down and rebel forces were being convinced to return to the negotiating table, the colony suffered from a surprise raid and limited occupation by a roving group aligned with the mercenary faction known as the Banished. Collateral damage was kept to a minimum and human representatives working with the Banished announced that they had occupied a desolate strip of land to mine deuterium under the planet's surface to refuel their ships.
"My friends and I take great gratitude for you trusting us enough for this meeting. We apologize for the damages we caused in our initial landing and have already made sure to compensate those whose properties and well-being were harmed. Rest assured, we present no threat to you, and once we've refueled our ships we will leave you in peace—if you leave us in peace as well."
―Human herald for the Banished
Immediately suspect of a Covenant presence on the colony and their unusual congeniality, the Army mobilized its forces for a possible conflict. When the Army could not contact the Navy's defense force in orbit they took precautions to move the civilian populace underground with the help of Liang-Dortmund security. As most of the colony's urban population were being moved in subterranean shelters, K-Team was selected to lead a high-risk reconnaissance operation into Banished territory.
Under orders to observe and learn what the Banished were doing, Emma took K-Team deep into the hills of the Saint Camin wildlife refuge. What they discovered presented a major threat to the colony's survival as a transaction of weapons and vehicles between Alluvionic insurrectionists and the Banished had been caught taking place. Further observations on the Banished's true purpose on the colony were also discovered.
A material known as gallicite was being mined in the western edges of the wildlife refuge. Gallicite was an essential ingredient in the production of nanolaminate, and thus also essential to the construction of new ships for the fledgling Banished fleet. In return for unrestricted access to the planet's abundant gallicite deposits, the Banished would aid the insurrectionists in taking control of the colony and dispatching the Army to establish a secessionist government.
Gallicite was essential to the construction of new ships for the Banished fleet.
Alarmed by this, the Army prepared for a preemptive strike on the Banished forces and requested military aid from neighboring colonies. In the meantime, K-Team was set loose and was tasked with hunting down any and all insurrectionists and Banished roaming Saint Camin. Becoming silent hunters in the night, K-Team eliminated dozens of insurrectionist camps and holdouts.
Eventually, the insurrectionists became spooked by this silent threat and relayed this information to the Banished. But the Banished were not yet ready to fight and were still busy with mining the gallicite. This caused a great deal of tension between the two groups fracturing their already fragile alliance. Paranoia took over and soon they turned on each other as the Army closed in on them. Meanwhile, Emma and her team continue to track and hunt down isolated insurrectionist camps, burning a path to the center of the Banished mining operation.
Toward the end of their mission, Emma came upon a trio of Brutes murdering their former insurrectionist allies. The experience had triggered a series of flashbacks to her past on Reach. The reemerging on these memories reverted Emma to a savage state and she led her team into a brutal attack on the three Jiralhanae. Her state of mind had only returned after her teammate Private Preston Baker tackled her to the ground and removed her helmet to calm her. The level of barbarity described in K-Team's after-action report could rightly be seen as inhumane and criminal under normal circumstances. But Emma would soon come to learn that her superiors also harbored a fraction of the same disdain for Covenant species, most especially the Jiralhanae, as she did and no further investigations were taken.
The Army eventually closed in on the Banished following this incident and though they put up a strong fight, the majority of the Banished escaped from their ships. With the battle ended, the Army took the surviving insurrectionists and abandoned human Banished as prisoners. UNSC reinforcements arrived on the colony on September 4th and with a crisis averted, Alluvion's government and peace were restored.
March 7th, 2555 — March 11th, 2555
K-Team during the Cascade Incident.
The encounter with the Banished on Alluvion was a wake-up call to those in civilian leadership who believed that threats to the colonies were over following the end of the war. Instead, raiding parties and probing attacks were ramped up across the colonial frontier, and by 2555 many worlds faced the threat of marauding attacks by fledgling warlords and their splinter groups.
One such world was Cascade, which had survived the war unscathed. The position that Cascade found themselves in after the war was a dangerous one. One of only a handful of worlds to survive the decimation of the Agrobelt, Cascade was now considered on the doorstep to the frontier and thus inevitably subjected to relentless raids and skirmishes.
By the new year of 2555, fears of attacks became a reality. By February, Cascade had experienced over a dozen raiding actions both on the ground and throughout the system carried out by Kig-Yarpirates. Believed to be originating within the Joint Occupation Zones, Kig-Yar piracy had become a regular nuisance to humans living on frontier worlds. The attacks had become routine. Descending on the planet with their DAS-class storm cutters, the pirates would strike industries and cargo ships with minimal resistance. What alarmed military command the most though was the rapidity of attacks being carried out on Cascade.
Growing fears over the possibility of Kig-Yar pirates discovering the Agrobelt slipspace corridor, as well as the likelihood of these pirates sharing this information with hostile factions, greatly concerned government and military officials.
By this point, Emma was back on Mars with the rest of her division. On February 19th, the call for aid by the Cascadian government would Earth. The 47th Airborne Division would be the most readily available unit, and with the success of its 3rd Battalion, it would be the first wave of reinforcements sent to Cascade. Emma and her battalion would be transported to Cascade via the Point Blank-class stealth cruiser UNSC Death Wish escorted by a pair of Strident-class heavy frigates, after which the Death Wish would navigate the Agrobelt in search of evidence that the corridor has been discovered. Their Strident escorts would remain in orbit as they awaited the arrival of the Phoenix-class assault ship UNSC Artemision.
Until the Artemision arrived, Emma and the 3rd Battalion were on their own.
Three days into their deployment on March 10, the next wave of pirate raiders entered the system. Approaching the planet with three storm cutters, the Strident frigates moved to intercept the pirates. With her battalion mobilized, Emma and her team awaited their order by a UH-144 Falcon. Emma had expected news that at least one of the storm cutters broke through. Instead, the situation worsened.
Following the storm cutters was a single, massive ORS-class heavy cruiser. The information Emma had received was limited, only for the fact that both Stridents had broken off their defensive stance and retreated to the other side of the planet and that the heavy cruiser engaged and destroyed all three of the pirate ships.
With the pirate threat eliminated, the heavy cruiser moved into low orbit; keeping its silence despite repeated hails. The ship could be seen with the naked eye as it descended down toward the city of Mindoro, the colony's capital city. Mindoro deteriorated into chaos as it approached. The well-documented history of Covenant ships and their destructive capabilities contributed even further to the mass panic that engulfed the city.
As the cruiser settled over the skyline of Mindoro, K-Team was deployed via Falcon to Mindoro's tallest skyscraper overlooking the rest of the city. Emma maintained overwatch for hours as the rest of her battalion planned on their best course of action. Other than thousands of civilians fleeing the city and the streets being occupied by hundreds of law enforcement officers and colonial militia forces, there were no major developments.
It was not till the later hours of the day, just as Cascade's sun began to set that the cruiser made its first move. The cruiser would broadcast on all channels and frequencies, across every corner of civilization that made its home on Cascade to ensure that all would hear them. The voice identified herself as Znorr 'Duvom and demanded that the colony turn over its governor for what they perceived as crimes against them. Accusations had been made for all of the planet's populace to hear, that Governor Sami Narta is to be held accountable for the hiring of Kig-Yar pirates that harassed and attacked their home, as well as using them as a false flag to capitalize off of infrastructural damages made against Cascade's industries and incite conflict between her people and the alliance shared by humanity and the Swords of Sanghelios. Shipmaster 'Duvom made note that failure to turn the Governor over to her by sunrise would force them to level the entire colony in search of him.
As a show of force and to make clear that their ultimatum was now in effect, the ORS-class cruiser glassed the Governor's Residence but spared the rest of the city.
K-Team was recalled away from the city and returned to the Army base near Mindoro. Emma and her team were later briefed that Governor Narta was evacuated from the Governor's Residence hours before the glassing and was now missing. Knowing that they were racing against the clock, K-Team was chosen to track down the Governor and return him to the base while her commanders attempted to negotiate with and stall the Sangheili.
As night fell, K-Team tracked down the Governor to a secluded bunker complex located deep within the region's largest forest. Just as they were about to survey the complex, K-Team was ambushed by a pair of Sangheili wearing Infiltration harnesses. The behavior of the Elites startled Emma, who instead of attacking them directly, attempted to disable their weapons and prevent them from reaching the bunker.
With their communications with command being cutoff, K-Team fought their way through the forest against repeated harassment from the two Elites. Losing time on their ultimatum and unsure of what was happening to the world outside, Emma gave the order to shoot to kill in order to reach their objective on time.
With less than three hours before sunrise, Emma and her team pushed through the forest, coming closer to the bunker. Their pursuers were becoming impatient, and this time they went on the offensive with the intent of eliminating K-Team.
As a Pathfinder, Emma was thought to believe that their Pathfinder interfaces had been upgraded with the capability to detect hostile forces in active camouflage. But when this upgrade failed to detect an incoming strike that nearly cost Emma her head, she and her team were left fighting back to back in the pitch blackness of Cascade's night.
Stuck fighting against an invisible enemy, Emma began to figure out several drawbacks to the Sangheili's harnesses. They had no shielding, and their active camo was limited to only a few minutes. Taking advantage of this situation, Emma and her team managed to bait an Elite from its cover and incapacitate it. With one of their pursuers down they were free to push deeper into the forest, but Emma became cautious when there was no way to know if there was really only one left or if they were surrounded by Covenant reinforcements.
Fortunately, their progress went unhindered and they managed to reach a ridgeline overlooking the bunker complex. Emma's suspicions were proven right, they had been used and tracked by 'Duvom's people to locate the Governor's whereabouts, and later launched an assault on the complex themselves.
2555 Martian Olympiad
July 4th, 2555 — August 1st, 2555
Upon returning to their Division headquarters on Mars, Emma and K-Team participated in the joint exercise known as FOCUS LENS 2555. The exercise tested the capabilities of a reinvigorated post-War UNSC Army and Air Force, though the mediocre performance from the units involved aside from select elite infantry formations left much to be desired.
Assignment to the Theseus
April 1st, 2556 —
Personality and Abilities
Emma in 2558.
What could once be seen as an energetic and carefree child full of spirit—has been ruthlessly molded into a hollowed-out shell of her former self. Driven only by callousness and her own disregard for her life has by some measure consequently conditioned her into an unfeeling and immovable agent of war. Like many others of her age, this up and coming generation of humanity may be the wildest of all, a generation scarred by the most perilous era in human history, a generation that fought tooth and nail for their own survival.
Though she had seemingly been abandoned by her parents, Emma had inherited a great many traits from her mother, more so than her father. She had her mother's brash independence and confidence, becoming a rebellious child before the age of ten. Emma had been aware to some extent of her gifted abilities and intellect by the age of twelve, intentionally scoring lower on tests in school in an attempt to not isolate herself from her classmates.
Athletic, deft, and ambidextrous, Emma took a keen interest in sports and gymnastics at a young age, regularly performing in and excelling at extracurricular activities. And though she had no intention of becoming her school's top sports star, she would be remiss if she didn't enjoy the esteem granted to her. Her athletic abilities greatly lent themselves to her service in the Army, taking advantage of her uncanny speed and reflexes and solidifying her role as an expert marksman and pointman.
Much of her innocence and psyche would be swept away come August 2552. The sudden and swift Covenant strike on her home had left a lasting impression. Damaging her so deeply that once she had become a refugee on Earth her character had been utterly replaced with one goal—death by any means. But when she could not end her life herself, she joined the military with the prospect that she'd be lucky enough to die a quick death at the hands of the alien onslaught.
With her mind being so fixated on this one desire it would ultimately prove to be her saving grace in the end. Her stone heart would begin to crack during her experiences shared with her comrades during the Iberian Campaign. Fighting side by side with men and women willing to give their lives for her and others had shown her a world worth saving. The bond that grew between them had brought back her humanity, but it would take many more years to fully heal.
Because of the trauma she suffered on Reach, Emma developed a severe hatred for Jiralhanae. This intense hatred has likely contributed to her being one of the rare examples of a non-augmented human besting a Brute Chieftain in single combat. This intense feeling did not diminish after the end of the war, and likely never will.
"Ghost of Reach" - A moniker that she shares with many servicemen and women native to Reach. To Emma, it is a name that she is not particularly fond of, as it stands as a constant reminder of the horrors she faced during the Fall. In the Post-War, the Ghosts have earned quite a lot of notoriety and fear among hostile Covenant splinter factions in the Joint Occupation Zone, wholly due to a large number of these Ghosts having gone on to join UNSC special forces groups and the infamous SPARTAN-IV Program.
"M" - A nickname cordially given to her by her squadmate Hannibal Nardin and used by the rest of her squad following the Battle of Zaragoza. Prior to his death, Corporal Nardin was the one who helped her the most in regaining a part of her humanity.
Career Service Vitae
FULL NAME: Sówka, Emma SERVICE #: 24332-70111-ES
UNIT: 47th Airborne Division ENLISTMENT DATE: September 13, 2552 GARRISON: Fort Cimmeria, Mars STATUS: ACTIVE
Once a civilian refugee from Reach, Sergeant Sówka has been molded into one of the finest members of the Defense Forces. An expert marksman and pathfinder for the Airborne's 47th Division, Sówka has led her pathfinder team with flying colors in combating the rise in insurgent and pirate activity that has been growing in the Colonies as of recent.
>input:// ONI SEC3 Beta-5 OGM Directive
>://verifying credentials. . .
Sówka is the product of two former ORION personnel classified SAFEWIND and TOEZICHT whose loyalties have been called into question. The subject managed to slip through our detection after her birth only momentarily, and all medications and inquiries have already been made and carried out during her childhood.
Attempts to eliminate the subject during the Earth Defense Campaign have all failed, any further attempts to eliminate the subject have been put on hold indefinitely until the need arises. In the event that classified materials relating to ORION are discovered, OGM Directive Order PITFALL will be enacted and all evidence must be destroyed regardless of the subject's awareness of the project.
Beta-5 will maintain surveillance of Subject Sówka at all times.
[See UNSC Service Record Archives for details.]
Psychiatric evaluation records before the Battle of Earth indicate that Sówka was suffering from severe clinical depression and her sense of self-preservation has been broken during her tour in the Iberian Campaign. Records following the battle and her recovery in the hospital suggest that these feelings have either lessened or no longer exist. Examinations continue.
Sówka possesses a remarkably enhanced physique with recognizable similarities to UNSC augmented special forces personnel. Any attempts to examine this further have been blocked. Medical records detailing her biological parents either no longer exist or have been classified by top-level personnel.
While recovering from the wounds she sustained at Seville, Sówka turned down an offer to join the newly created Spartan Operations. She is only one of a few dozen military personnel to turn down such an offer. Had she accepted, she would have been inducted into the second class of the SPARTAN-IV Program.
Pathfinder Sówka currently stands as one of the UNSC's most invaluable non-augmented personnel. Attempts to recruit her into special mission units are ongoing.
Addendum A: As of 07/2557, Spartan Operations have listed Sergeant Sówka as a Tier One Recruitment subject.
Emma was raised by her paternal aunt Monika since she was an infant. The proximity between the day she was born and the day she was adopted allowed no memories of her actual parents to be formed. As she got older, her aunt became her central mother figure and loved her dearly. Before her death in 2552, she had been a dominating force of comfort and warmth for Emma, treating and raising her as if she was her own child. Her death would become a radical turning point and defining moment for Emma. It had stripped away most of her humanity and what had been put back together over the course of her military life was far more sinister with a drive to discover the fate of her real parents.
When Emma began to hunt for her family, she became overcome with haunting visions of her aunt. Not perceiving them as warnings until it was too late.
Emma's actions during the Battle of Seville earned her not only a chance at a life in special forces but also a chance at leading a fireteam of her own. As a Pathfinder, she was placed in command of Pathfinder K-Team. Despite the traumatic events she suffered through on Reach and Earth, she had evolved into an adequate commander that led K-Team against both human insurgency and Covenant raiders in support of their attached unit.
Under Emma, K-Team prospered and became a highly effective and valuable component of the 47th Airborne Division. Though her relationship with her teammates started off rocky, through harsh conditions and battlefield bonding they became a well-oiled machine when quelling disorder on the colony of Alluvion in 2554. Off the battlefield, their bond continued to grow, as the team slowly came to understand and sympathize with her past. Coming as close as possible to a second family, K-Team would be instrumental in restoring her dignity.