"We had both conducted a slipspace transition, running from the Covenant fleet. Then the Prospero broadcasts an SOS, and drops out of slipspace without warning. Last we saw of it... There was something chasing us, some predator we've never seen before."
―Commander Katya Konev, captain of the UNSC cruiser Vercingetorix.
A rarely-seen relic of the Covenant's early expansion, the ORA-class Interdictor Cruiser is a predator that is utterly lethal in ambush tactics. Devised as a pirate chaser, it could delve into the alien realm of slipspace, find its prey, and pull them out into realspace, where they are at its mercy. Despite its age, rarity, and complexity, such vessels remain in Covenant stockpiles. During the Human-Covenant War, it was used to chase ships fleeing the Covenant's might, and destroy them, or capture them. Many United Nations Space Command starships remain as slagged wrecks, floating in the darkness between stars where the Interdictor has found them.
"The execution of Precentor Uront at the hands of an Examiner has outraged the council. The shipmaster behind the incident has been dealt with by my hand, but it has drawn scrutiny to the fleet that I have fought hard to keep away. For the first time, I suspect that not even my counsel will convince the Hierarchs."
―Imperial Admiral Hor 'Jar Lodamee
As with any Covenant warship designated as an Executioner, the records regarding the service history of the ORA-class Cruiser are few and far between. Most of the intact reports, sourced from isolated data nodes, have gaps in their memories from sheer age, while official information on these ships are even harder to uncover thanks to concerted efforts to suppress it. As a result, the circumstances that surrounded the development, fabrication, and deployment of these formidable ships are shady and elusive.
Regardless, Sangheili historians have unearthed enough information to create a timeline on the use of these cruisers. The earliest mention of the ORA-class, dated to the Twelfth Age of Conflict (c. 121 BCE), is a damaged flight recorder from the destroyed freighter Subanese Dream, which was eliminated destroyed mid-transit by an unidentified vessel named the Divine Ascension. The size, age, and even the configuration of the latter ship is unknown, although the description of how the freighter was removed from slipspace can only be replicated today with a Shunt on an ORA-class Cruiser. The first conclusive evidence was a corrupted mission report to the Ministry of Fervent Intercession in the Thirteenth Age of Conflict, which celebrated the Cruiser's performance at eliminating a traitorous Governor of the Subverted Wisdom colony. Both periods directly followed each other and were cursed with widespread defections within the Covenant fleet and frequent rebellions, and it is hinted that the Interdictor Cruiser was intended as a direct response to defeat the rebels.
Spotty reports would be recovered until the Tenth Age of Doubt (c. 730 CE), when an ORA-class Interdictor Cruiser known as the Teachings of Tranquillity intercepted a San'Shyuum-owned battleship. Although it was eventually forced to retreat, the Tranquility had successfully assassinated Precentor Uront, an influential Minor Prophet who attempted to undermine Sangheili control of the military. Uront's surviving crew vengefully pursued and cornered the Cruiser, where they utterly obliterated it. This ordeal was the very first and most publicised stain on the ship's honour, and would have lasting implications. The entire line was formally demonised as the tool of an assassin and coward by the Hierarchs at the time and were immediately decommissioned, casting concerns upon the entire concept of a ship built to only wage war. Centuries later, Executioner-class vessels would be seen as dangerous to the Covenant as to their enemies, no doubt wearing the shame that started with the Interdictor Cruisers.
After this time, the ORA-class Cruiser seemed to almost vanish in its entirety. Scattered reports would confirm that the class was occasionally reactivated over the millennia that followed, although these mostly confirmed the assignment of some disgraced shipmaster to low-priority tasks aboard one of these vessels. Though it would never be proven, several prominent Sangheili would disappear without a trace, as they would never arrive at their destination. Given their capabilities, many of them are theorised to have perished after being intercepted by an Interdictor Cruiser. The ships were officially placed into storage, but more often than not competing Ministries, and competing commanders took these vessels for their own camps, keeping them in service as assassins.
It was proven almost impossible to piece together just how many Interdictor attacks were mounted on the UNSC. With intelligence gleamed from surviving sources, at least five ORA-class Interdictor Cruisers were active, with only three being known by name. The Unending Testament, Fervour and Fury, and the Protean Soul have fragmentary records, detailing actions and operations. Furthermore, the UNSC only possesses four records of engagements, though the actual number of engagements is estimated to be close to twenty, having simply left no survivors in their wake.
The first recorded engagement involved the cruisers UNSC Prospero and the UNSC Vercingetorix in 2532, though at the time the attacking ship was not identified. Both were departing a fleet engagement, and following the Cole Protocol. The Prospero broadcast an emergency SOS then disappeared, falling out of communications and sensors. The captain of the Vercingetorix elected to disengage and continue their escape, not being familiar with the threat. The Prospero's wreckage was never found, despite the efforts of the Prowler Corps.
Battle sites such as this one discovered after the Human-Covenant beg the question of just how many unrecorded engagements occurred with these cruisers.
The second recorded engagement is between a ship later identified as the Fervour and Fury, and Battle Group Milan. In an expert display of the ship's power, it managed to shunt the seven-ship battle group into realspace, and destroyed half the armada immediately. In a single pass, two destroyers and a frigate were destroyed, and the cruiser Admiral Carmichael was left drifting on emergency power. Attempting to form into a coherent squadron, a further destroyer was disabled, and the Carrier Milan was heavy damaged by an energy projector blow close to the secondary reactors. Routing emergency power, the Carmichael attempted to engage with its missiles and secondary weapons, but failed to deal any damage. During this, Lieutenant Commander Beni Madrigal, captain of the frigate Vega Star escaped, dumping most of its nuclear warheads and engage in three short ranged jumps to avoid its enemy. The prowler Nomad of Bengal was able to track the battle site, and found the blasted remains of the Carmichael, and wreckage identified as belonging to the Milan, but could not find the ship itself. With such catastrophic damage, it could not have left under its own power.
The third engagement was in the aftermath of the Battle of Miridem, where the Cruiser Prince Arslan, and the destroyer squadron Brawler were retreating following the UNSC Navy's general call for retreat. This time, the Protean Soul shunted them from slipspace, forcing the ships into real space. This time, the battle was far less coordinated, with the Covenant ship damaging the Cruiser, and annihilating two destroyers, but failing to claim victory immediately. Instead, the Prince Arslan, a refitted Halcyon-class Light Cruiser, survived the first fusillade then began to mount a fierce defence, pulling the Soul into a short ranged fire fight. Regrouping, the destroyer squadron concentrated fire on the Covenant cruiser, and managed to score a number of its despite its advanced stealth technology. The Protean Soul was soon reinforced by two SDV-class Heavy Corvettes, throwing the battle in the Covenant's advantage. Seeing an unwinnable fight, the captain of the Prince Arslan elected to ram the enemy ship with the full bulk of his ship, to buy time for the Destroyers to escape. The battle ended with the Soul damaged, and the Arslan destroyed, and the best details yet of one of these mysterious hunters.
The fourth recorded engagement, is perhaps the UNSC's only known victory against a ORA-class Interdictor Cruiser. The Unending Testament shadowed the cruiser UNSC Viscount Nelson. Prowling for ships to capture, the ORA-class shunted it into realspace with the intent to cripple and board the vessel. Instead, it found a ship at full alert and combat readiness; after all, now-Captain Beni Madrigal had seen such ambushes before. Quickly turning the tables, the Viscount Nelson scored a number of hits against the Testament, forcing it to disengage to fight from a safer distance. This battle turned into a game of hide and seek, while a FTL-capable Condor from the Nelson made a jump to the naval base at Heligoland to alert them to the Covenant engagement. In response, the Artemis-class BattlecruiserForty-Seven Ronin and the Marathon-class CruisersArgon and Marduk set out. Joining the battle after eleven hours of cat-and-mouse, they swung it in the UNSC's favour. The Testament was crippled by repeated fire, and disabled. While ever mindful of the threat of Covenant reinforcements, an ONI site team took the opportunity to analyse the stricken ship, while ODST's fought in a boarding action. It would self-destruct before it was completely taken, although by then the UNSC already had enough information to thoroughly document their capabilities.
"Swear fealty with the Arbiter, and you will always find a safe harbour. Any needs you desire will be met, both for your ships and your crews. In turn, I shall vouch for your voices in his Council, and you will find the glory you so desperately crave."
With the eruption of the Great Schism that saw Sangheili and Jiralhanae-led forces determined to exterminate everything that composed of their factions, the ORA-class Interdictor Cruisers would participate in far more activities and missions than they had ever seen in the past millennium. First strikes were needed by both factions to allow their own forces to rally while keeping their enemies confused and off-balanced. However, because the shipmasters of these ships were more concerned with their own survival rather than the moral obligations, few Interdictor Cruisers were captured or declared their loyalty to the major factions in the early hours of the civil war. Instead, many of them banded together to form improvised mercenary guilds neutral to all parties, and they traded their expertise and ships for expensive compensation. It is impossible to know just how many ships were destroyed by the ORA-class alone, as many ships and fleets fell into carefully-laid ambushes or went missing within slipspace hazard zones, but suspicious wreckages corresponding to their preferred targets have been found all across Covenant space.
As Jiralhanae crews loyal to the Hierarchs, and Sangheili crew loyal to their kin battled one another, these ships met one another for the first time in battle. Upon the news of the Great Schism, Fleetmaster Ferum 'Vulkar moved to rally Sangheili-controlled Tithe Fleets at Beddak, when his Brigantine came under threat from the Jiralhanae controlled Acerbic Proposition, and Faith and fury attacked, pulling it from Slipspace. Acting on direct orders from Truth to eliminate 'Vulkar, they struck unforgiving fury. However, the battle was already decided long before the first shot was fired. Besides the inexperience of the newly assigned crews, 'Vulkar had obtained the loyalty and service of the crew of the Lasting Vigil, an Interdictor Cruiser that shadowed his flagship. As they attacked 'Vulkar's flagship, the Jiralhanae found themselves ambushed by the Vigil, turning the advantage in the favour of the experienced Sangheili crews. This was the first time, at least on record, that two or more ORA-class warships met one another in battle, a battle which ended with a Sangheili victory.
The ORA-class is a stealthy predatory, capable of picking off foes at the most unexpected moment. Though the Hierarchs alleged that this weapon was to chase pirates, traitors, and heretics who had escaped to the safety of slipspace, the truth was much darker. It was a tool of assassination, targeting enemies of the Hierarchs where they believed themselves safest, and furthest from harm. Since the wreckage would be deposited far from view, there was rarely any evidence of an assassination, and it could be chalked up to a slipspace accident. While initially these vessels were classed as Examiner vessels, at the beck and call of the Hierarchs, when the Covenant became a more stable, peaceful domain, these ships fell from use, and became better characterised as Executioner. Often commanded by would be pirates, or assassins, these ships never took direct part in battle, and only lingered on the edge, chasing escapees. During the Human-Covenant War, the ORA-class was directed to attack stragglers and fleeing vessels, and while there was little honour to be had in ambushing fleeing prey, these ships offered their crew honour in a different way. They were also charged with capturing enemy vessels, or any actionable intelligence, disabling them in an ambush then seizing the ship through boarding crews.
When the war ended, the surviving ORA-class ships were scattered, most of their crews taking on a mercenary nature as assassins or procurement specialists, accepting money from the highest bidders. Some would swear their allegiance to a faction, and those who joined the Swords of Sanghelios were welcomed as honoured allies, a strange sensation for them. These crews would still operate as assassins and hijackers, but afforded with all the honour any other warrior of the Sword would receive.
Weaknesses and Counter-Tactics
Unlike most Covenant ships, which tend to have the endurance, defences, and weapons to eventually emerge victorious in longer fights, the ORS-class is a burst combatant with an Achilles' heel. Its weapons can, in theory, be powered indefinitely by its reactor under normal conditions, allowing it to continue overwhelming even far larger opponents if given the chance. In practice, this is rarely the case. After shunting targets out of slipspace, the ORA-class must divert resources from weapons and its slipspace drive to keep its shields and engines active. This leaves it incredibly vulnerable to longer fights, and showcases its reliance with picking fights with unprepared prey. If a target emerges from slipspace with shields ready and weapons active, and they keep pressuring the cruiser to continue fighting back, then eventually the guns of the ORA will vastly slow down their salvoes as they draw from its reactor. At this point, its armaments are effectively neutered, leaving it easy prey for even groups of smaller warships.
The ship seems loosely based on the overall layout of the ORS-class Heavy Cruiser, and it bares a number of traits that have caused some to believe it is a mutated aberration of the Varric design pattern. As a result, it follows general Covenant design principles, with a central hull, carrying the launch bays, primary reactor, and gravity lift, and a long, elongated hull extending from that, carrying the majority of the weapon systems. Unlike typical Covenant designs, this ends in a heavily armoured, and blunt, horizontal hammerhead design. Behind the main hull, it carries the engine nacelles, providing locomotion. The ship has a pylon on each side, carrying secondary ordnance, and manoeuvring engines.
Internally, the ship is laid out in a manner conventional for Covenant vessels. The command bridge is buried deep in the bowels of the ship, in a heavily armoured compartment. In the centre of main hull is the main hangar, with the central gravity lift, and launch bays. Further back is the primary pinch-fusion reactor, and behind that sit the main engines. The main hull also carries the starboard and port launch bays, primarily used for fighter launches. Towards the bow of the main hull is the central cargo bay, substantially larger for a ship of this class, and is often used to secure captured war materiel for further inspection. Directly above this is the ship's shunt device, closely guarded by warriors. In the elongated neck, the ship has the main barracks, armoury, and secondary launch bays. In a secured forward bay, they keep a large brig, and interrogation rooms, intended to hold prisoners and extract information from them.
"Reactor is fried, sir! Deactivating non-essential systems and switching to emergency power."
"There are multiple calls for help across the fleet, captain, while at least two ships are not responsive."
―Recovered black-box from the Milan Massacre, where a single ORA-class Cruiser ambushed the entire battle group.
As a stealth predator that little in the way of defensive systems, the ORA-class Interdictor Cruiser cannot hope to outlast its opponent like many other Covenant ships can, and this truth manifests itself in its arsenal. Rather than carrying a large suite of lighter, rapid-firing cannons - as is favoured by most Covenant warships - the guns on the Interdictor Cruiser are chosen specifically for their power to allow it to overwhelm opponents in a single, massive barrage. Few of these large weapons are capable of firing particularly quickly and have a substantial power draw that cannot be sustained by the ORA's reactors for long. To make up for this, most of its armaments are linked up to a series of massive battery banks mounted along its flanks to power them for a short time, which are depleted quickly if their weapons are overcharged beyond their usual capabilities.
The complete Telfahn-pattern turret configuration.
Lining its frontmost surface, the eight Telfahn-pattern super-heavy plasma cannons are powerful weapons that match those mounted on far larger carriers, and are purpose-built for the ORA's needs. Divided into an upper turret that resembles a Sangheili skull, and a lower base to supply the power, these weapons closely resemble the planetside guns employed by citadels. Using two independent plasma shaping systems in a single open chamber with an oversized cooling system, it can deliver punishing salvoes of plasma at a rapid rate with little-to-no pause. A single hit is enough to breach the thick hulls on destroyers, and sustained fire from multiple turrets can bring down opposing cruisers. The actual turret is heavily-reinforced against damage, and floats wirelessly high above its anti-gravity mount to give it a very wide field of fire. However, these weapons place incredible strain on the cruiser's reactors, and once their capacitor banks run out only a handful of turrets can fire at once. Worse, the systems used to give the Telfahn its devastating punch are in actuality quite fragile. If time is not taken to properly maintain them, then the entire turret emplacement can explode spectacularly as its internal energy systems destabilise, potentially killing nearby personnel. When not in use, the upper gun section directly attaches itself to the base to minimise wear.
A battery of three Melusean-pattern plasma cannons, one of which is firing.
To supplement its bow turrets, and to provide coverage across the rest of the ship, anywhere from twenty to thirty Melusean-pattern plasma cannons are fitted. One of the heaviest plasma cannons in common use, these stalk-like weapons are heavy-hitting, releasing unguided plasma bursts that can that can quickly penetrate the outer armour and gut opponents. They are directly attached to their mounts, which allows most of their circuitry to be hidden deeper within the hull for increased protection. They have a restricted range of movement, and are slow to fire, which encourages shipwrights to mount them in groups of three to allow them to overcome this weakness. They are well-regarded for their accuracy as well as their power, and so are used for medium-range combat against fast-moving targets.
Its heaviest weapons lie within its array of three plasma lances, with no excavation beams; an odd oversight for a Reverence-class vessel, whose duties also involve the unearthing of Forerunner relics. The heaviest of these is its solitary Eraax-pattern heavy plasma lance mounted on top of its midsection. One of, if not the, fastest-charging weapon of its class ever devised by Covenant engineers, the Eraax-pattern is capable of rapidly firing a beam of highly-destructive potential for its size. Directly linked to the reactor of the ORA, it charges by ignoring many sacred interlocks to flood their power stores with massive, dangerous energy currents until they are ready, essentially brute-forcing its way into readiness. Its split-second-long, highly-condensed column of plasma travels at the speed of light until it impacts with its target, often brutally cutting through smaller ships and stations. All this power, unfortunately, comes at a massive cost. The charging process must be delayed for significant repairs to be undertaken after every two or three shots, as the focusing equipment simply is not designed to be so quickly heated, used, and cooled. The damage becomes so substantial that no Eraax-pattern plasma lance can be used after thirty times, demanding a replacement to be sourced. Ignoring the time-consuming maintenance protocols sees the beam losing accuracy and precision, which can affect lethality due to the increasing width of the plasma lance. In extreme cases, there have been reports for these emitters to suddenly explode, cutting their ships in two.
The secondary pair of smaller Huarn Nu-pattern plasma lances are considerably less lethal, but still serve a valuable niche in the arsenal of the ORA. Considered unremarkable in terms of power in its heyday, these weapons are intended to be used on far smaller vessels which do not have the space to sustain a full-sized energy projector, during a time when energy shielding was far more limited. Research into stronger grades of armour and defensive systems have rendered these lances almost harmless against modern warships, with multiple hits from a Huarn Nu-pattern emitters struggling to penetrate the outer hull. However, they still have their use as purely strategic tools. Upgrades to their focusing arrays ensures their beam is as tight as a needle and able to be directed towards minute targets. This encourages crews to save their charge on instead disabling sensitive enemy components such as thrusters, communication antennae, and even specific weapons, with crews today using them exclusively for this purpose.
Armour and Hull
"From experience, the bow is a giant sponge for weapons fire: no matter how many slugs and missiles we throw there, it never seems phased. Not until we punched it in the side."
―Captain Beni Madrigal
Because of its light mass and reliance on speed, the ORA-class Cruiser is only built to give hits, rather than take them. This is true for most of the framework, which lacks the subatomic complexity and resilience that is usually observed in Covenant vessels of its size and rarity, and most of the armour that coats it. Light weapons fire from even smaller UNSC frigates has been shown to stress or even penetrate it if they damage the right areas. The only place this is false is all along its bow. Sitting on top of reinforced superstructure, and protected with thick plates of high-quality armour, this section can take an enormous beating from enemy shelling. This doctrine only further reinforces its reliance as an ambush vessel, as how it enters a fight has a massive impact on how long the cruiser will last.
The ORA-class makes use of two grades of nanolaminate plating, both specifically engineered for the cruiser's needs. Only the Tex'ir armour covers the entire ship, organised into thin millimetre-thick layers above the portions of the cruiser most likely to take hits, to metre-thick overlapping plates that line the most fragile components aboard. Tex'ir, built in interlocked scale-like sheets for easy replacement, is a reactive and easy-to-fabricate artificial material that is typically used as aesthetic detailing on the hull. It is resistant against electromagnetic radiation and most effective against thermal energy, remaining fully intact up to 1,600oC; past the temperature, it becomes considerably softened. Repeated kinetic impacts will shatter the plate quite easily even before this point, vastly undermining its protective properties. However, it is particularly prized for its low weight when compared to similar sized masses of armour, and it is for this reason why it often finds itself on reconnaissance craft and patrol ships. 'Raw' states of Tex'ir can store and later release optical radiation, and Covenant engineers can carefully retune this phenomenon in the forges to give it an extremely-wide range of colours, hues, and textures - one reason why it is often alloyed to other grades of nanolaminate.
Rather than Tex'ir, the prow relies on the much stronger Rehhurr, an exotic material that was only used by San'ShyuumMaster-Shipwrights. Emerging from the forge with a matte silver colour with a black marbling appearance, this Huragok-purified material was designed for resilience above all else. Reinforced with a brittle rod framework to retain its shape, it conducts heat and electricity modestly well, so it must be encased with a layer of insulation to prevent damage to the ship's superstructure and components. Impact bombardments are particularly non-effective against it, and while continued plasma fire can shave off chunks after wearing down its upper layers, the ORA's ambush tactics makes this incredibly unlikely. However, its most celebrated feature is its self-reactive properties. Under compressed stress, the internal particles will be able to dynamically reform the bonds between each other, leading to Rehhurr slowly resetting its shape to become even stronger against enemy armaments. This can be undone by releasing a specific type of common construction nanobot to surgically restore it to its desired form, usually while they are already replacing the reinforcing bars.
In its role as apex predator of slipstream space, it carries two pieces of 'Esoterica'; technology of Covenant or Forerunner make that is either not fully understood, or is rare and exotic. The first, is its sensor. Designed to work within slipspace, it works with standard slipspace sensors, which can detect a slipspace transition, and process the terminal point. It is also designed to work within the indescribable realms of slipspace, where the normal laws of physics do not apply. These sensors were designed and built by Covenant engineers, though their secrets are largely forgotten now. They track and trace signals related to slipspace drives, creating a 'scent' for the ship to track.
The second element of its Esoterica is the Ervirol-pattern Shunt. Reverse engineered from technology recovered from an ancient battle site, the Shunt creates a pocket of unstable slipstream phenomena around it, affecting the ability for FTL drives to maintain their presence in slipspace. With exposure of only a few minutes, slipstream space completely collapses, effectively ceasing, and by phenomena of Reconciliation, forces anything inside it into realspace. When anything trapped within this bubble is forcibly shunted back to realspace, it causes a jarring transition that rocks the vessel. Smaller ships, of insubstantial creation, may be torn apart. Once back in realspace, the ships are at their mercy. The Shunt is extremely power hungry, and to use it, it sacrifices its ability to escape for several hours, at least without sacrificing weapons and/or shields. In this regard, it creates a risky dilemma for the crew, because if they fail to kill their prey, they may be left vulnerable and unable to escape. The Shunt itself is a pernicious device, being unstable and difficult to control. Huragok do not respond to the machine as normal, and its programming language, and holy glyphs are of a strange nature, requiring special translation from San'Shyuum scholars of older languages.
Crew and Complement
Because Interdictor Cruisers are host to irreplaceable technology and expected to operate far away from Covenant space if necessary, they must remove as many redundant positions as possible and each individual is held up to a much higher standard of skill. The typical manpower requirements are almost a third of what is expected for ships of its tonnage, with a total of 175 being ideal for an ORA-class vessel, although they are usually run by even fewer than this. The Huragoks act as technicians for the most sensitive systems aboard, and Menials performing most of the physical legwork. The Superiors are all officers placed in charge of various aspects of the Cruiser's operation. This also includes a specialist unit from the Ministry of Relic Safety, who guard and enforces the safe usage of every Esoterica aboard. The head of this unit is an Executioner, who also has the dual role of ensuring the loyalty of the crew, observing them for any signs of dissent and disloyalty, and violently putting an end to such disobedience, regardless of the rank of the offending individual.
The ship carries a smaller complement of warriors, intended for boarding actions. Using ship launched boarding pods, dropships, drop pods, or even a zero-gravity jump. Primarily equipped for the harsh reality of boarding actions, these crews use exclusively void-hardened armour, and carry weapons intended for close range fire fights, with armours often lacking anything in terms of heavy fire power, and no armour. Supporting this complement are four dropships,of any chosen class, one full strength Banshee squadron, and a half strength Seraph squadron, intended as ship defence, and offence. Because of the unique role of these vessels, the Seraph was often replaced by Tarasque-class Heavy Fighters, giving additional boarding and strike capabilities.
The crew are nominally selected like all executioner classes, from those who have failed the Covenant, either through disobedience, or disloyalty, and condemned to dishonour. Usually, those assigned to Executioner classifications are lesser ranks, lower commands, who can be easily dismissed, but the greatest amongst them are assigned to the ORA-class. Usually, these are highly experienced shipmasters, even fleetmasters, often too independent or free thinking to be reigned in, and who could not be easily exiled to Frontier or Fringe territories. Instead, their expertise is applied to the ORA-class, which in part is what makes them so deadly.
Towards the end of the Great War, the Prophets of Truth and Mercy began to move against the crews of the ORA-class, either quietly restoring their honour and redeploying them to tithe fleets, or liquidating them entirely, and in both cases replacing them with loyal Jiralhanae crew, with the ultimate plan to place these ships in the hands of the Hierarchs. However, due to the remoteness of their deployments, and the clandestine nature of their existence, this was only partially complete by the Changing of the Guard.
The original, and first manufactured pattern, these initially came from an aberrant mutation in the design pattern of the more common ORS-class Heavy Cruiser. Similar in design, but with warp, predatory features, the ship had stealth features that rendered it difficult to detect, and strange peculiarities with slip-space travel. Further refinement created the more stable ORA-class Cruiser. The original patterns were manufactured in a low rate by shipyards in Sangheili controlled territory, far from the prying eyes of the San'Shyuum. While production continued, these ships were manufactured over the span of decades.
A simplified and refined variation of the Perfiro-pattern, the Vendana-pattern avoids some of it;s idiosyncrasies at the cost of some of it's unique features. The internal layout has been heavily adjusted, and the placement of secondary weapon systems also changed, and alterations to the power distribution systems make it more reliable, at the cost of reduced peak efficiency. In all, it was more reliable, at the cost of some of it's bite. This pattern was manufactured directly on High Charity and gradually replaced the Perfiro, though in turn was gradually replaced by newer variations.
Many crews became assassins-for-hire, or mercenaries, going from one job to the next. But to some, the Swords of Sanghelios offered greater succour. A place of honour. No longer were they vagabonds, set to regain honour on unknown battlefields, but now at the right hand of Fleet Masters, dispatched to harry the enemy, and act as privateers. Never before had these crews been offered a place at the table, and for many, that was enough to sway their loyalty. Such ORA-class vessels were refitted with newer technology, with overhauled Pinch fusion Reactors, new stealth systems, and ever more accurate weapon systems, allowing it to rapidly punch out enemies, even above its tonnage. Thoroughly modernised, these ships became the bane of the enemy, tearing at their sides and rear like a beast, and even engaging in fleet actions as a skirmisher.
Ships of the Line
Replaced with a Jiralhanae crew prior to the Changing of the Guard, and destroyed while ambushing Fleetmaster Ferum 'Vulkar's flagship.
As Imperceptible as Shadow
Formerly the Covenant ship Distant Dawn by Dream, seized by assassin Gutran 'Vedik and allied to the Swords of Sanghelios.
Ambushed the Cruiser UNSC Viscount Nelson, later destroyed by UNSC reinforcements.
Secured by a Jiralhanae crew, and used to execute assassination missions during the Schism at the Prophet's behest.
↑This number is primarily based on information later shared by the Swords of Sanghelios, but it also takes into account missing units and ships that match the observed targets of these cruisers. Earlier estimations varied widely, from as high as fifty down to twelve.
↑This assessment was drawn from the presence of ruined nanolaminate components found at the debris field, and alien emission trails believed to be from reactor and atmospheric leakages.
↑In reality, this is only partially true. Many crews had a bias against one race thanks to years of abuse and disrespect, and deliberately ignored their attempts at communication. However, their pragmatism still saw them exploiting other factions for material gain.