|This article, Mandorla Campaign, was written by Matt-256 and Specops306. Please do not edit this fiction without the writers' permission.|
|This article, Mandorla Campaign, is currently under active construction.|
Fighting on Earth during its invasion by the Covenant was intense, and spanned every continent. Most Covenant forces would eventually pull back to Africa after the New Mombasa artefact was discovered, defending the site as it was excavated by Scarabs and warships, but a significant detachment remained in Australia uncovering a second smaller artefact. The UNSC defence of their Papua New Guinea bases would allow them to launch a massive counterattack, supported by newly-arrived Sangheili Armed Forces warships and legions, pushing the Covenant back and eventually forcing them to go through the portal generated by the artefact to escape the combined assault.
All of this would end up being but a prelude to the Mandorla Campaign. After brief but fierce skirmish above Magus, a former UNSC colony, and entrance through another slipspace portal to Pyre, then another portal, both sides found themselves in orbit above an unknown planet, far from UNSC or Covenant space, fighting a pitched space battle before landing on the planet. Having been the first to enter the Portal, the Jiralhanae-led Covenant were also the first to land planet-side, and quickly set up defensive positions around key areas, including large anti-air turrets to prevent warships approaching. The UNSC Frigate Olympian launched ODST and Spartan forces to eliminate a number of these defenses, with enough turrets falling in the southern hemisphere to allow a combined UNSC and Sangheili attack on the entrenched Jiralhanae. SAF legions and UNSC Army and Marine divisions made rapid progress, pushing the Covenant north, capturing several Forerunner ruins in the process. ONI intelligence officials would document a few of these, but for the most part they were decaying remnants of ancient temples and habitats, long fallen into disrepair.
While all of this was happening, however, a Sangheili religions sect known as the Acolytes of Devotion arrived in a retrofitted stealth ship, hoping to find the "Labyrinth" detailed in arcane religious texts. Making landfall two months after the arrival of the Sangheili and UNSC, the Acolytes would come as a complete surprise to all three factions, forming their own as they captured several ruin sites from UNSC, SAF, and Covenant forces. Using their texts as rudimentary guides, the Acolytes achieved much as they explored the planet, eventually discovering that it was a prototype Shield World - that the interior of the planet was a completely separate habitat, and that the external shell was merely a facade. Penetrating deep into the planet, followed by UNSC and SAF special forces, the Acolytes would encounted the local security and containment forces set there by the Forerunner builders of the planet, fighting their way to what they believed to be the control panel for the entire Labyrinth network, apparently under the belief that it was a similar series of facilities to the Halo Array, meant to begin the Great Journey. This belief was mistaken.
Activating the facility, the Acolytes quickly discovered to their horror that they had only succeeded in unleashing the Flood specimins that had been stored deep within the planet. Infecting Acolytes, humans, Sangheili and Covenant forces alike, the Flood would violently break free of its containment by Forerunner constructs, attempting to make its way to the surface of the planet and capture a ship, hoping to spread throughout the galaxy again as it had before the activation of the Halo Array. Arrogantly unwilling to accept the threat the Flood posed, the Covenant forces quickly fell to the parasite, providing biomass for its rapid expansion. The Acolytes had perished when they had activated the Labyrinth world, but the UNSC and SAF both remained, although they had both lost at least half of their original force to the Flood. Now facing a rising tide of Flood monstrosities hoping to overwhelm their positions, using captured dropships and fighters to try and board the orbiting warships, the assault force was forced to abandon the planet, retreating back through the portal, bombarding the exit point between interior and exterior with nuclear weapons - effectively sealing the Flood within the planet. The portal generator in Australia would deactivate, collapsing the portal and preventing further access except by conventional slipspace travel - a journey that would take years for UNSC ships, and three months even for Covenant ships not equipped with cryionic storage facilities.
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