|"Just... dust and echoes."
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Light of the Abyss
|Within every battle lies the illustrations of our true nature, of our darkest exploits left untold.|
It is the year The Destroyer". Following months of preparation, the UNSC's stringent lines of defence are about to be pitted yet again against the invading force. A top-secret unit of SPARTAN-IIs, operating under the name "VELOX", have been tasked with the elimination of The Destroyer and his top-ranking officers, in hopes of dealing a much-needed crippling blow that would allow humanity to emerge victorious in the battle.. The colony of is under attack by a Covenant armada, led by a Fleetmaster known only as "
Yet the Covenant is not without dissent as they begin their campaign. A scouting patrol, sent by Imperial Admiral Xytan 'Jar Wattinree, had detected a valuable piece of Forerunner technology several months earlier, lying dormant beneath Alluvion's vast, turbulent oceans. Given his reluctance to disclose his findings, the High Prophets have entrusted Fleetmaster Thel 'Vadamee to uncover Xytan's secret and bring it back to High Charity. With Thel's ambition to supplant the Admiral pitted against Xytan's own intentions, the stakes are high on both sides of the conflict.
- For starters, you do not have to join ZOD to participate in this RP, nor do you have to add the ZOD era icon to the characters you submit. But if you wish to do so, I will take a look at the corresponding articles and give you the go-ahead if I find it's of adequate quality. Again, this doesn't mean you have to be part of ZOD, but whatever happens to your characters in this RP will be canonical within the EU.
- To submit characters for this RP, make a list on the talk page under your username. The viable options are pretty straightforward—UNSC or Covenant mostly. There will be limited ONI forces in play, as well as some non-military research factions if you so desire. Oh, and if you'd prefer certain characters not be killed in the RP, be sure to make a note of that. I will try my best to heed your wishes. The submission deadline is February 25th, no exceptions.
- While this is not one of dem irk RPs that are so popular with the kids these days, I have no qualms about enacting certain events in a live chat room setting for the sake of creative inspiration. It is worth noting, however, that the improvisational nature of Irk RPs means that some events may be subject to revision when transposed into writing. In addition, only the written version will be considered canonical to ZOD.
- As per traditional written RP rules, don't make two consecutive posts in a row. With the exception of one scenario which I will explain below, it's better to let someone else take a turn after you submit your piece.
- Or if your characters are needed to advance the plot and you don't write your post within a reasonable amount of time, it will be written for you. You will receive plenty of notice before I resort to this, but the goal is to avoid the notorious loss of momentum that has sunk so many half-finished RPs. Alternatively, if you sign a post and do not finish it within a week (7 days), it will be written for you without notice. Once a post is written for you, it cannot be undone even if you don't like the way things play out, and this covers everything up to and including killing off your characters if necessary. Sound fair?
- Please try to keep your characters doing something that's relevant to the plot. I'm not going to impose a bunch of restrictions since you all know how to write in an HCW setting, but I may occasionally invite some of you to participate in working toward an objective or event. This is mainly to keep the plot from drifting in every direction at once, and I'll be sure to leave everyone enough breathing room if this becomes necessary.
- Lastly, I strongly encourage you to team up your characters with other users' rather than leave your guys on their own for the entire RP. If you notice someone stirring up an event that looks like fun, have a discussion with them about throwing your ideas into the mix. This is a community project, after all, and maximizing interaction is half the fun.
United Nations Space Command
Office of Naval Intelligence
Marine Corps / Navy / Maritime Ops
Army Officers (Cameo?)
Ground forces / Zealots
Light of the Abyss
“You can swim against the current, my love, but sooner or later it will carry you to the sea.”
Before meeting the one who would ask him to be her mate, Thel ‘Vadamee had often scoffed at the notion of destiny. As kaidon and a prestigious hero of the Covenant, he was well-versed in Covenant religious texts but had never allowed it to obscure the one truth he always held: the universe was guided by the bold and ambitious. The Forerunners may have been godly in nature, but it was through action that their creations had persevered through the ages.
But his wife, Fayta, saw things differently. “The fabric of our reality is not a dead thing, like a piece of argil waiting to be moulded,” she once told him. “The future is alive and constantly in motion...just like you, my restless vsekhei. The universe breathes with steady rhythm and direction—with purpose.”
“And what purpose is that?” he had asked, to which her expression softened.
“Cherished one, you chase after finality before you even try to understand it. You have seen more years in this life than I, and I would not desire to know the answers you do. Wisdom and knowledge seek us out when it is ours to claim, and not a moment before.”
Thel’s questioning stare deepened. “So why do you gaze into the future, ad’tunhea? Why have you guided me so many times on my path?”
He could still remember the lingering smile she wore as her hand gently caressed his face. For all the warmth it held, there was a hint of sadness within. “Because it is my duty to do so, Thel ‘Vadamee. My visions of the coming years remain hazy to me, and I’ve been wracked with terror by the glimpses of your future...but I will stand by you through your every triumph and pitfall, as I vowed to do on the day of our union.”
Thel opened his eyes at the sound of the bridge doors sliding open behind him. He swiveled about in his command chair to see a lone Zealot marching in without so much as a glance at the command crew. It was Veer ‘Nefalee, a long-time ally and one of his most trusted Field Marshalls. Thel stood from his hovering seat and stepped down to meet the officer at the edge of the central platform.
Veer stopped shy of where the ramp connected with the elevated platform, standing beneath his superior’s eye level as a show of subservience. As much as Thel valued such displays of loyalty, he honestly thought Veer’s mannerism were often too punctilious considering how long they had worked together. “Fleetmaster, all ships have linked their broadcasts to ours. Ranking officers are awaiting your briefing.”
Thel strode past the Zealot, who swiftly fell into step after him. “What of our new additions?” he inquired as they exited the bridge through another of its numerous doors.
“Brought on board, as you ordered,” Veer informed him. “They’ve been taken to the transmission chamber under the escort of General ‘Yendamee.”
“Good,” Thel said curtly, albeit with a pronounced scowl. “The task before us will demand my utmost attention, and I’ve little patience to waste on these conspirators placed under my command.”
The two of them reached a small gravity lift at the end of the hallway. Thel placed one hand upon the holographic panel beside it, and the surrounding energy field dissipated. He and Veer stepped inside, and immediately the floor vanished beneath them as they were whisked through the ship’s numerous levels.
Moments later, the gravity propellers eased them to a stop and a second barrier parted to reveal another chamber; this one was dimly lit, save for the holograms cast from the central projector. The images of Sangheili placed their fists over their hearts as their Fleetmaster stepped out of the lift and into their midst. But of the three figures who stood before him in person, only one of them—Sovol ‘Yendamee—mirrored the gesture.
Thel inclined his head at the dutiful General as he approached the projector, but his gaze did not leave the other two. “We begin our attack at the start of the next cycle,” he declared to the officers gathered around him, both present and holograms. “The humans have had much time to prepare for our arrival, but for now our presence remains undetected. But they will know we are coming, and if you are careless enough to underestimate our cornered prey, then your life will be deservedly made forfeit by these nishum.”
Beside ‘Yendamee, one of the Sangheili stepped forward. “And you would leave the safety of your flagship to lead by example, I presume?” he challenged. “Or were the fables of the great Thel ‘Vadamee merely that—fables?”
“You presume correctly, Sev ‘Wattinrzoree,” Thel responded unflinchingly. “Your battles against the humans are fledgling in comparison to my fleet’s, but your days on the fringes of Covenant territory will not measure up here. I’m holding you both to the same standards of proficiency and discipline that I expect out of my own officers, especially if you intend to honour the reputation of your Imperial Admiral and those under his command. Do you understand me?”
The chamber was silent as Sev and his companion stared down their new superior. Veer, Sovol, and every hologram was still, watching without moving a muscle. “Perfectly, Fleetmaster,” Sev said tersely, speaking for both of them.
“Then you will take your orders directly from me, General. As you were among the scouting party that found this colony, the data you gathered should prove invaluable in your duties as Fieldmaster.” Thel turned to address the other officer. “And you, Khal ‘Devnumee, you’ll take command of one of my carriers, the Cleansing Wave. Its Shipmaster will be transferred here while I’m on the ground.”
Sev’s mandibles opened slightly in surprise and outrage but said nothing as the sullen Khal shot him a warning look. Both Sangheili gave Thel a rigid salute, their fingers clenched tightly over their chests.
“As for all of you,” the Fleetmaster continued, now addressing the holograms. “Your orders are simple. Find the humans’ points of resistance, eliminate them one by one. You know their strategies, and once we engage, you will know their numbers. Perform your duty, and victory will follow. On the blood of our fathers...”
“...On the blood of our sons!” chorused the officers in unison.
Thel deactivated the projector, leaving only the four Sangheili standing in the chamber with him. His eyes remained locked with Sev’s, who was now quite visibly furious. “I know what you’re doing,” he growled. “Separating our roles, putting Khal somewhere where he cannot act...”
“Act upon what, Fieldmaster?” Thel asked quietly. “Did you think your intentions were not obvious to me? That the Prophets would place you under my command if I were as seditious as your Imperial Admiral?”
“You want that title for yourself,” scoffed Sev, “and this is an opportunity for the Prophets to hand it to you. They’ve made that clear by forbidding Admiral ‘Wattinree from leading this campaign himself.”
“Watch your tone, outsider,” cautioned Sovol, speaking at last.
Thel held up a hand. “My personal ambitions are none of your concern,” he replied calmly. “And there is a great deal that the Prophets suspect Admiral ‘Wattinree has not told them, something I’m sure you’re aware of. I will be candid—it’d be in your best interests to do away with this charade and avoid unnecessary complications. Tell me what Xytan is after on that colony—why he’s taken so long to report its location back to High Charity—and I will see to it that he does not lose any more favour with the Prophets.”
The defiance did not leave Sev’s eyes as he responded. “Your claims are unfounded, Fleetmaster. Now, I must prepare for the mission.” As he made for the exit, Sovol moved to stop him, but Thel gave him a slight shake of the head and the loyal General let them pass. Khal turned and followed Sev away, and the doors whirred shut behind them.
This is no simple task the Prophets have entrusted me with. Dealing with the humans will be fairly straightforward by comparison. Putting aside the thought, the Fleetmaster turned his attention to Veer and Sovol. “Ready your troops before we make the precision jump,” he told them. “Have them ready to deploy on re-entry.”
Not for the first time, Thel wondered if destiny was always intent on testing one’s character so thoroughly. But if this is what I must do to be proven worthy of my ambitions, then I will not falter.
| 1020 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // AUGUST 5, 2542
Location: UNSC HIGHCOM FACILITY DELTA-1, THEMATA TERRITORY // PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|“She’s late,” Maddison noted, without looking up from the device she was turning and fiddling with between her nimble fingers.
Standing behind her was Lian, who was running system checks on the demo expert’s armour. “‘Late’ isn’t in ONI’s vocabulary,” she disagreed. “You know how the Captain works. I bet she’s cooking up something serious for this mission.”
“As long as the Covenant doesn’t start cooking the colony first,” muttered Maddison. She frowned as a red light on the device started blinking. “Huh, that’s a new one—hey!”
The object was snatched away by Eldar, who promptly disassembled it in two swift motions. He returned her scowl with his own. “Experiment on your own time,” he said, brandishing the parts in her face before shoving them back into her hands. “Preferably when you’re a) wearing the proper equipment, and b) not sitting at the bottom of a HIGHCOM facility.”
Maddison’s annoyed look was now an offended one. “That wasn’t even an explosive, just so you know. Besides, how many times have I blown us up?”
“Four,” Lian responded immediately, now looking through the copious amounts of ordnance in her teammate’s storage components.
“That time on New Harmony didn’t count,” Maddison protested. “Even Nyarai said so.”
“No, I said you effectively wiped out the surrounding Covenant units,” corrected Nyarai, who was sitting cross-legged on the far side of the briefing room. “Still doesn’t mean I appreciated digging our way out of there.”
The doors slid open just then, and the team leader, Felix, stepped in with not one but two officers. One of them was Jazmine Utah, the operating CO of their unit, but it was the other woman in ONI uniform that caught every Spartan’s eye even as they rigidly stood at attention.
“As you were, VELOX,” said Utah, though her voice was more brisk than usual. “I apologize for the delay, but there were some details we had to confirm on the invading force before we could decide how to proceed. Commander Osman will fill you in on the situation.”
It was more than likely that Serin Osman noticed the frigid looks pointed in her direction, but she gave no sign of response as she stepped over to the briefing table and promptly inserted a data chip into its reader. A translucent image of Alluvion flickered into being, along with over two scores of Covenant capital ships hovering over its holographic form. “The enemy fleet entered detection range fifty-seven minutes ago,” she told the Spartans. “The intel gathered from previous Covenant incursions have matched its profile as ‘The Fleet of Particular Justice’, which has been responsible for the glassing of six colonies in as many years. We also have limited data on its leader, who we call ‘The Destroyer’.” She tapped a button, and the projection was replaced with that of a ferocious-looking Sangheili. “He is believed to have led ground campaigns on every colony he’s assaulted, and he will be your primary target for this operation.”
Eldar raised an eyebrow. “Beg pardon, Commander, but how are we supposed to tell this Destroyer apart from the rest of his hinge-heads?”
“ONI will be monitoring the battle closely for the duration of this campaign, VELOX Five,” Osman responded, looking unfazed even as Utah’s eyes narrowed in annoyance. “I will inform you when we have a fix on his whereabouts. In the meantime, your task will be to neutralize as many of his top-ranking officers as you can manage. In addition,” she continued, raising her voice slightly as Maddison opened her mouth to interject, “ONI has intercepted and decrypted part of a transmission from the Covenant scouting party that appeared more than half a year prior. Aside from the fleet’s arrival being several months late from our predictions, we have reason to suspect that their motives extend beyond a mere invasion—we suspect they may be looking for something on Alluvion. Once again, you will be updated on your orders as the situation progresses. Any questions?”
“Just one,” said Nyarai, before the other Spartans could speak out of turn. “How are our chances looking? Of winning this one, I mean.”
Osman pondered this for a moment. “As I said, we had months to prepare for this invasion,” she replied. “The UNSC is prepared to evacuate the planet if need be, but if all goes well that won’t be necessary. Needless to say, the odds will tip more strongly in our favour with each Covenant officer you take down...especially if you are successful in assassinating the Destroyer himself. Good luck, VELOX.” Without waiting for a response, the former Spartan turned and strode out of the room.
“A pleasure as always, Serin,” muttered Lian, even after the doors slid shut.
“Enough,” Utah growled. “I understand the history between you and Commander Osman, but I need not remind you we have more important things to focus on.”
“Come on, Captain, we all know how you feel about Os,” Maddison scoffed. “And you heard her yourself. ONI’s been winding up for this standoff and chances are they’ve already done the numbers on collateral.”
“What would you have us do, VELOX Three?” their commanding officer snapped. “Once the Covenant finds a colony, the question of what follows becomes not ‘if’ but ‘when’. You have your orders, so get to work.”
“Hostile ground forces have concentrated along the areas bordering Alluvion’s oceans,” informed Felix, speaking for the first time since entering the room. “Commander Osman has marked the first five targets for us in the intel packet. Download them to your HUDs and be ready to move out in five. The Covenant is moving fast, VELOX, so we have to be faster.”
As the other Spartans equipped their helmets, Nyarai linked up a private channel to the team leader. “Be honest, what do you make of all this?”
Felix sighed, although to anyone else in the room he appeared impassive underneath his armour. “I think Maddison’s got a point, Ny. Utah isn’t wrong, really, this invasion was inevitable from the moment the scouting party located Alluvion. But I get the feeling ONI wants them to find whatever it is they’re looking for here—even if it costs a few million lives.”
“Even if we lose the colony?” Nyarai pressed. “Think ONI’s willing to go that far just to have a shot at stealing whatever the Covenant wants from under their noses?”
He did not respond. The question was left hanging in the air because they both knew the answer. VELOX had no place in making decisions, only in executing them. And once again, the duty had fallen upon them to walk the fine line between protecting humanity and letting them burn.
|148TH UNIT // CYCLE 3 // 7TH AGE OF RECLAMATION [ 0623 HOURS // AUGUST 5, 2542 ]
Location: EN-ROUTE TO THE CCS-CLASS BATTLECRUISER DAMNATION AND GLORY // IN ORBIT AROUND PLANET BHAAKTO VI, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|"That was getting out of hand, Sev - your ignorance may have jeopedised his plans." Khal 'Devnumee slams his subordinate into the back of the Phantom, leaving him pinned against the wall. The older warrior, stunned for a second, quickly breaks out of the headlock. Under normal circumstances, this may have represented the end of a long friendship.
These are no ordinary circumstances. He pushes Khal back away from him and points an angry finger at his friend. "Jeopedised? I swear in the name of the gods that I have done nothing of the sort - and you know it." He lets his arm fall limp and sighs, taking a step to the side. "To that end, it was necessary. 'Vadamee has already revealed his suspicions about us, and will have difficulty interfering with our plans in the future."
Khal's arm, tense as if ready for another strike, twitches before relaxing his hand around his neck. He pulses his mandibles for a moment. "You-... You are right, brother. I should not have attacked you - that- that was-"
"The stress. The enemy of discipline," Sev finished. Khal throws an acknowledging nod before turning away. In the past few weeks, Sev sadly noted that the tension of their mission was taking their toll on Khal, with the deep rings forming around his eyes and his outbursts coming almost daily. A true shame. I wonder how long it has been since he felt that youthful eagerness at Harvest.
Sev shakes himself out of his momentary trace and presses on. "I had to make a move to force him to drop his deceitful attitude. We cannot afford to be outmaneuvered by our own."
Khal slowly nods repeatedly as he straightens his back, taking the time to take a few deep breaths. "I cannot find fault with your logic. Not when the Light is so close."
"Do you even know what we are looking for?"
Khal makes a challenging glare, before looking down. "The Imperial Admiral has told me enough. All you need to do is find the holy shrine where it rests - I apologise... But I cannot disclose it to even you, old friend."
A slight bump shakes the dropship and noise from the outside reverberates through the metal hull. Knowing it's time to disembark, Sev bows his head and beats his right fist on his chest, which Khal promptly returns. "I will pray that the pathetic infidels know not what we are looking for. But I will make sure that we will be quick," Sev promises. He turns and awaits the doors to open, knowing he must prepare his advanced force.
Yes, I need to make it quick. I will make sure this is the last time anyone uses me. He sighs; no matter what, this will be his last mission of the war - even if he succeeds.
|148TH UNIT // CYCLE 3 // 7TH AGE OF RECLAMATION [ 0714 HOURS // AUGUST 5, 2542 ]
Location: ABOARD CAS-CLASS CARRIER SEEKER OF TRUTH // IN ORBIT AROUND PLANET BHAAKTO VI, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|Sovol strode through the dimly lit hall, contemplating the two other Sangheili officers, now that he was done preparing the troops. Sev seemed to be loyal to Xytan. That made sense. After all, Sovol was loyal to Thel. Khal, on the other hand, was something different. I'll find out what you two are up to. Eventually. Sovol arrived at his quarters. His officer was already there. "Summon my younger brother at once," ordered Sovol. "I must inform him of something."
"Yes, General. I will at once."
As the Sangheili bustled away, Sovol settled into his quarters. He walked over to his armory and pulled out the energy sword inside. He had never thought this day would come. Years ago, when Sovol was a child, he wouldn't have even thought of being good enough to join the military. Now, he was a General, and one of Fleetmaster Thel 'Vadamee's finest at that. Sovol had many questions on this campaign, particularly on what Sev and Khal found, but it would have to wait. "You requested me, brother?"
Sovol turned to find himself facing his younger brother. "Yes Akorn, I have news for you."
Akorn nodded and gazed at the quarters. Special Ops most likely did not have these refinements for Operators. "So, what is this news, General?"
"Please, do not address me by that title. We are brothers, are we not?"
Sovol looked Akorn up and down. His armor was in peak condition, shining jet black like the Obsidian of Quendor. "I congratulate you on your return to the military. I am enlightened to know that you will serve under the Fleetmaster in this battle."
Akorn shifted around in his harness. "I am flattered, brother."
Sovol clicked his mandibles and went on. "So, is my son Grono well? Have you left him in capable hands?"
Akorn nodded again. "The local village couple, you know of them? They have taken good care of him on my campaigns, so I have left him in their trust. He is almost of military age himself, you know."
Sovol sighed in relief. "Personal information aside, I have summoned you here to tell you that our campaign will start very soon. The Dohmoh and their Demons will suffer."
Akorn mused through his helmet, before taking a deep breath. "I have news for you too, brother. My Special Ops unit-"
Sovol interrupted him. "I know you have joined the Kono'gava, but do not let it get in the way of your loyalty."
Akorn shook his head and stated, "Not to correct you Sovol, but my priority this mission is not to kill, but to retrieve."
Sovol was now interested. This was getting curious. "Go on. Retrieve what, exactly?"
"I do not know yet."
"Hmm. So be it. We strike soon. I will relish the Nishums dying by my blade." Sovol replied.
"So will I, Sovol."
Akorn bowed his head and beat his right fist on his chest in submission to Sovol, and exited the room. Sovol turned to his console, thinking of his teenage son and a dead wife. Rheta died of illness. And illness is a plague. Humanity is a plague, so they must be extinguished. The General's thoughts turned to his son Grono. I only hope I will survive to see the day that my son takes up arms against humanity and stands alongside Akorn and I. But that will not be now. For now, I will have my blade drenched in human blood.
| 21ST UNIT // CYCLE 4 // 7TH AGE OF RECLAMATION [ 1410 HOURS // AUGUST 5, 2542 ]
Location: LICINIA OCEAN, 224 KM OFF THE COAST OF SALAMIS // PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|Jeran ‘Demalee was no aristocrat, but he could sense the secrecy beneath the task given to him and his division. He had worked under Thel ‘Vadamee ever since the decorated Zealot gained leadership of the Fleet of Particular Justice, and Jeran had never known him to be so cryptic about what they were trying to accomplish.
The Commander observed the formation of platforms hovering across Alluvion’s ferocious, turbulent oceans, each of them populated with throngs of Special Operations troops; at the centre of each platform was a cylindrical energy barrier, which parted the unruly waters and allowed their company of Huragok safe access into the depths of the ocean floor. If Jeran had to guess, he would assume they were searching for a holy relic, though if that were the case he could hardly fathom why Thel would keep it quiet. More likely than not it had something to do with the officers from the Fleet of Righteous Purpose, and even now the Commander was puzzled as to why the Prophets had them come along for this mission.
From where he stood upon the enormous central platform, Jeran peered up the enormous gravity lift beside him. Hovering high above them was one of the fleet’s cruisers, the Tenacious Predator, keeping the unit guarded against human aircraft while awaiting whatever they were excavating. The power generator mounted on the main platform also projected a plasma barrier around the nearby platforms, to keep out any potential seaworthy vessels from reaching them. Jeran surmised that like the Sangheili, the humans had largely done away with water engagements ages ago. All the same, I wouldn’t put it above them to be prepared should the need arise.
As if in response to his thoughts, his comms received a signal from one of his officers. It was Tawri ‘Antinree, who was keeping his eyes on the horizon for signs of trouble. “Commander, fifty human warships are approaching by sea,” the sniper reported. “And it looks like more are joining them.”
“Are they approaching the perimeter?” Jeran asked.
“No, they’re slowing down,” Tawri responded. “They’ll have spotted the energy shield by now and are taking formation. Your orders?”
Jeran thought about it. He had never seen what human sea-ships were capable of, but he doubted they had the firepower to break through the barrier. But in his experience, their foes had often proven to be more resourceful—and disruptive—than the Covenant was willing to give them credit for. Being moored here will be taxing enough without the humans trying to contest my presence...and I am hardly in the mood for surprises.
The Commander debated whether he should request a bombardment from the Tenacious Predator—show the humans that their endeavours were as fruitless by sea as they were by air. But raining plasma down on the ocean could damage or destroy whatever it was Jeran was supposed to find here, and once again he felt a twinge of frustration at being left out of the loop. Does the Fleetmaster himself even know what we are meant to accomplish here? Or is this some fool’s errand concocted on whatever little data the Prophets decided to give us? Regardless, the platforms would have to move if nothing was found, and Jeran could not simply hope that the human fleet would leave if he simply ignored them. So after much debating, he relayed his orders to Tawri. “Signal the Tenacious Predator to deploy aircraft. I want to see what kind of weapons are on those warships.”
| 1415 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // AUGUST 5, 2542
Location: UNSC DIAMONDHEAD, LICINIA OCEAN, 283 KM OFF THE COAST OF SALAMIS // PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
"...I'll talk to the presiding officer. Belay that order for now. Stick to your station. I'll figure it out dammit!"
Commander Angelica Hurst, Callsign: SEAKEEPER, shut down the communications array system on her console and stared at the holographic-planetary map slowly rotating on the tactical display table in front of her. She planted her palm on her head and covered her eyes. She was surrounded in darkness for a moment before she let her hand relax to her side.
The next, slow thirty seconds were spent on exhalation. The Commander took in her breathes and allowed her chest to inflate with air, she let it escape after at the same pace. There was a fire burning in her heart and one behind her forehead. The former came with anger, the latter came with frustration.
"Commander. Your pulse has dilated significantly in the last two minutes, should I request medical staff to perform a diagnostic?"
Hurst glanced down at the green beach ball hovering in a shuffling surf with some respite. "No Hopper! ...I'm, fine. Just a headache."
"I can have a medic bring a couple of pain-killers-"
"No. I'm good."
"You are taking your time on completing the orders handed out by the Unified Command. Do you find yourself in functioning health? If you like - I can forward the information to your subordinates-"
"No! Hopper, go back to diagnostics analysis, I need a moment..."
"Yes, Commander." The holographic beachball disappeared from the edge of the analysis table.
Hurst went back to rubbing her forehead and squeezing at the bridge of her nose to relieve stress. Too many things were not going her way at this moment. It was later in the day - Hurst had already finished her last meal in a manner that would have made her training cadets back at Patuxent River Cadet Academy proud.
First, the Covenant show up out of the blue - sure, most of the Navy had been preparing for such an eventuality given the string of colonies one particular Covenant fleet had been burning into Humanity's interior dominion. Hurst had been well aware of the threat but no one had brought her into the board meetings to coordinate strategy and to develop war games for local forces. The Army and Air Force did their own thing. The Marines reported to the Unified Ground Command. And the Navy did Navy things, coming and going. But no one had the time nor the budget assembled to give the Maritime department time to prepare.
Second, the upper echelon had already packed up and high-tailed it out of the area. Any maritime officers above the rank of Captain had been moved to Reach or Earth six months ago. And Alluvion's local Maritime office was a burning hole in the ground, melted in the ongoing fighting for the colony's coastal population centers.
Third, based on what few satellites and aerial intelligence that the Navy and Air Force could gather - the Covenant Empire was drilling into the sea itself, looking for something. They propped up a giant shield, dozens of defense riggings, and a single battlecruiser. The aliens were keenly aware of the UNSC's maritime capabilities and had planned accordingly.
The Covenant had every advantage in this battle - they were playing defense. They had the numbers, the technology, the firepower. It was difficult to tell if they had a full understanding of the battlespace. Aliens were always hard to read from their command structure to their doctrines. Depending on the commander and their objective, they could behave any which way. Especially concerning species. With their multicultural ranks, there was any number of strategies that the Covenant could employ.
Whoever was the commander of this campaign was clearly forward-thinking, however. He didn't overstay his welcome in space - he literally blasted through the planet's orbital installations and deployed troops to the coastlines and the oceans straight away.
Flattening out the tactical display and narrowing into a battle space of several hundred kilometers - Commander Hurst could see the enemy's defenses but not much else. The battlecruiser. The shielding. The rigs. It was still impossible to see below the shields either but inspection of the tidal forces clearly displayed that the Covenant was purposely slowing the movement of the oceans so they could operate efficiently. Something about that at least suggested they expected to be over the oceans for a while.
She glanced out to the observation cameras that substituted for windows and could make out the thin, bubbly hull of the Covenant battlecruiser as something akin to a cigar. The energy shield below it radiated white with energy, its surface details were impossible to see through.
"Ma'am! A priority call, your personal terminal! Looks to be a Naval Intelligence callsign." A signals lieutenant reported from his station.
"Put it through," Hurst replied simply as she turned back to her communications devices. She waited for the audio pop of connection before greeting the individual. "Callsign: SKYKEEPER. Who do I have the privilege of speaking to?"
|34th UNIT // CYCLE 4 // 7TH AGE OF RECLAMATION [ 1739 HOURS // AUGUST 5, 2542 ]
Location: ABOARD THE CCS-CLASS BATTLECRUISER DAMNATION AND GLORY // EN-ROUTE TO ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|It was times like these that the gestalt questioned whenever the Covenant knew the value of the superior lifeform they had aboard their ship.
Nogoda Yugo Husgoa was still exiting it's containment capsule and spreading itself through into it's vessel when the Field Master began his speech. It spread it's collective through every cranny like long thin fingers, perfectly designed to comfortably accommodate it's mass. Such care given to a Lekgolo was unusual, but when said collective was utilising a Scarab battle-mech capable of leveling entire armies on a whim, every attempt had to be taken to prevent it from giving out unnecessary casualties - a thought that amused it. It allowed itself to bond with the Scarab's sound and optical feedback system, giving Nogoda's entire body relief from the darkness and silence as it's thousand eyes and ears dug into the detail of it's immediate environment.
"Each of you are hand-picked for this mission, for your skill, your experience, and above all, your loyalty to the Imperial Admiral. For that reason, we have been given a holy mission that goes far beyond our typical duties." From the obvious scratches, dings and custom additions that somehow resulted in an intriguingly-elaborate armour, Nogoda knew that this pathetic creature - Sangheili - would be it's leader for the next attack. Nevertheless, it's slow vibrating groan was suppressed by it's curiosity of it's next assignment.
"Many cycles ago, one of our faithful scouts brought whispers to our fleet - whispers of a new heretic colony to cleanse. One that our forefathers had blessed. Unfortunately, a warning was brought before us." Nogoda turned it's optics around; for such a large, open room the Field Master decided to host the meeting in, there was a lack of participants from the lesser species. Only about three dozen saurian vermin standing as straight as possible could be seen, painted in black or white, and even a few coloured dark purple with yellow streaks are present. Nogoda's worms reverberated with a laugh; it always knew that it was above the rank-and-file, but this confirmed just how high it was, to be trusted among such an esteemed group.
Suddenly, a massive holographic sphere flashed on, drawing Nogoda's full attention to it. The lead Sangheili coughed before continuing. "For whatever reason, the Imperial Admiral has reason to believe that this world hides a relic that is powerful beyond our most unrealistic dreams - it cannot be trusted to fall into the hands of the Hierarchs. It is simply called the 'Light'."
In the crowd, a Sangheili in black armour stands. "What does it do, Field Master 'Wattinrzoee?" He spits out.
Even across the room, Nogoda can feel the energy from Sev suddenly pulse; if the Field Master was unsettled, he did not show it nevertheless. "I cannot tell you that, brother. I can only tell you the artifact's location - in a region I have come to call 'The Calm Waters'." The sphere disappears, in it's place a geographic map with elaborate glyphs dotting it. "There are numerous dig sites already established by Special Operations forces loyal to the usurper. We will be inserting you as reinforcements, yet your primary mission will be to find the resting place of the artifact. Any questions."
Another warrior, this one with smoother skin and spotless armour, stands up quickly. "Why are we betraying the great Thel 'Vadamee? Why are we even here if forces are searching for the artifact itself?"
Sev cocks his head and two ultras march up to the SpecOps Major and take him away, dragging him despite his kicks, struggle and desperate remarks. "This mission requires silence on our part - any spies will be quickly discovered, and dealt with by my hand. In short, we cannot trust anyone outside this room, for I fear that they may bring ruin to us all. And we cannot especially trust the Supreme Commander, for his allegiances lie with the Prophets, not the Sangheili. Any other questions."
He slowly moves his head, and after a moment turns off the hologram. "You are to report to myself and myself only even if the word "Light" is merely mentioned. You are dismissed: head to your stations."
| 21ST UNIT // CYCLE 4 // 7TH AGE OF RECLAMATION [ 1410 HOURS // AUGUST 5, 2542 ]
Location: LICINIA OCEAN, 224 KM OFF THE COAST OF SALAMIS // PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|Jusan 'Sasovai gripped his energy sword in his hand as he paced along the edge of the platform, watching the small dots on the horizon over the choppy oceans of this world, indicating the approaching human sea vessels. The swordsman snorted with impatience as he heard a report behind him that the vessels were coming to a halt outside the perimeter platforms surrounding them. Even on the central platform, the progress of digging was annoyingly slow, and Jusan had been itching for combat since shortly after arriving. Yet he knew that, even if they had continued approaching, the human vessels wouldn't have been able to breach the barriers and land troops, let alone anyone worth his time in combat. Like so many of his campaigns before, he could see this day coming to a close with nothing more than a massacre of whatever troops the humans managed to land.
The aristocrat's eyes were drawn upwards as he heard the scream of banshees flying overhead towards the human vessels, briefly halting his march along the edge of the central platform. Watching them fly towards the dots on the horizon, and be met by even more dots streaming up into the air, Jusan couldn't help but hope the harassment would be enough to force the humans' hands. Perhaps they might have a surprise that could at pose some challenge to the group left to oversea the digging, but everything he had seen from the humans in the past indicated the wouldn't be much of a threat. It was hard to imagine soldiers he thought less of than the grunts he was so often stuck with, but the typical bunch these current enemies of the Covenant threw at him were close behind. Yet, he had heard tales of demons that walked among them, strong enough to match any Sangheili. But these were a rare breed indeed, and not one he had encountered himself yet. Perhaps this deployment would be different, and he could finally test the stories himself.
The click of a the boots of a passing Sangheili brought his attention back to the platform, and he turned, reattaching his energy sword to his armor, grateful to have left it deactivated and spared himself the dishonor of having to deactivate an unused blade. Marching from the edge of the platform, 'Sasovai approached his Commander standing closer to the center of the platform, coming to a halt next to him.
"Commander. These humans merely delay their own deaths, staying on the horizon. What do they expect to accomplish against our barriers?”
| 1241 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // AUGUST 5, 2542 ]
Location: LICINIA OCEAN, UNSC MARITIME COMMAND CENTRE // ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|Fire. Fire everywhere.
For a second, all Private First Class Edmond Dahm could do was watch in awe as silhouettes ran slowly, almost like a chorus of dancers. The beautiful wisps of energy that was fire kept him transfixed. He looked up, and he saw the cracks neatly form slowly, and begin to open up and then-
And then the screams around him filled his ears, with the cracking of concrete and metal finally springing him into action. He sees the floor above him give way, and he rolls to his left, through the fire and safely to the other side. The object crashes loudly, and no doubt that it would've squished poor me...
"Shit!" was all that Dahm could say, as he braved the biting flames and dodged debris, searching for anything to defend himself. He takes a left, but the beats of plasma fire force him to stop in his tracks. He jumps backwards, turning the other way, running through the debris until he sees a bright blue line - a blade - materialise before him, pointing directly at his chest; if he didn't stop a second before, it would have impaled him. He freezes, seeing the blade was attached to the purple armour of the biggest elite he's ever seen.
"Nishum! Blarg!" The Sangheili growls in it's alien language, and Dahm instinctively pulls a feint jump to his left as the sword is pulled away - and it cuts towards his feint. He jumps to the ground and rolls around the elite's right leg, narrowly missing the cut for his head and the backwards slice. He grimaces at the burn of the blade, and gets up, sprinting even as the elite's thuds close in from behind him in the smoky corridor.
"Do you just not like Aussies? Or did you do this to your parents as well?" He taunts back, to which the elite says something in it's throaty language. He runs out of the corridor and into the courtyard, which forces the Field Marshall to stop as to avoid getting focused, losing him. Hiding behind cover, he sighs as he hears a high-pitched noise. Turning to his right, he curses as he sees a mixture of drones and Unggoy all raise their weapons at him.
"Well great - out of the frying pan, and into the fire."
"You want to be dropped into the thick of the Covenant formations, ma'am?"
Maddison-140 weighs up her options between the dual tubes of an M41 rocket launcher and an M301 grenade launcher, and holsters the grenade launcher on her back as she turns to the pilot. She grips the side of the pelican with such force she can feel the metal bend beneath her augmented hands.
"Yes, Lieutenant. Just try and get in as close as you can." She orders as loud as she can without appearing desperate.
The pelican pilot just shrugs. "Well, ain't that a sight for sore eyes; a fucking SPARTAN is just as crazy as I am!" The pelican quickly accelerates slightly downwards, racing for her destination, before quickly making a hard right as it swerves around. The pilot jumps into the back, the name 'Farkas' briefly flashing on her breast as she races out to watch Maddison jump. "We're here; do it pussy!"
Maddison wastes no time, jumping and making a dent into the burning support of the Maritime Headquarters. She surfs down the unsteady barrier, and fires off two unguided rockets, first to a large group of enemies right below her, the other into a Ghost on her far right, each one firing as she passed each floor. As she passes the first floor, she lunges out, priming a grenade and punching it into the ground it as she hits the floor. She uses her momentum to roll forward, the grenade blowing apart a couple of Jackals.
A Sangheili rawrs behind her, inspiring her to dive to her left into rubble to evade it's lunge. She spins around and grips her grenade launcher, with the lumbering, smooth purple giant filling up her view; a clear sign that her target was here. The elite lunges with a swing from the right; she retaliates by jumping backwards once more and firing her grenade launcher, grabbing the projectile, and dropping it, holding the trigger until the grenade's EMP had been primed. She activates it, stunning the elite - and disabling it's shields. She wastes no time, charging forward at near-superspeed and lets her grenade launcher dangle by her side as her trigger-hand grabs her knife and plunges it deep into the elite's protected throat. She pulls it back out, splitting it's entire throat and mouth in half and covering Maddison's visor in oozing purple bloody, and ducks to avoid the Zealot's death throws. She keeps making stabs across it's torso and abdomen until the creature drops falls to the ground, dead.
She wipes the blood off her visor and looks around for movement; only the bodies of Marines and Covenant lay broken and blasted to pieces. She smiles and stands straight, proud of her handiwork. I'll need to do this more of-. She sudden hears the slight sound of a foot to ceramic and dances around, bringing her grenade launcher to bear.
"Bloody hell, don't shoot! I'm your mate, a mate I tell ya!" The thing that made the noise was a middle-aged, half-dressed Marine, standing on one leg in brace position.
Maddison lowers her weapon and gets up, cracking it in half and reloading it, and sighs. "Sorry, wasn't expecting any friendly survivors. Not yet, anyway." She looks him over. "Why... aren't you in your combat uniform, private?"
The Marine relaxes up, dropping his other leg to the ground and approaches her. "... Dahm, uh, Edmond Dahm." He inspects the landscape, and slowly shakes his head, trying not to cry, then turns back to her. "We were attacked by surprise. I was only able to get my fatigues and belt on before I ran into that Zealot.
"You must've had a weapon, why-"
He shakes his head and raises his open hands, as he interrupts her. "Nope, shelia. I was completely unarmed. I would've been turned into burnt damper if you didn't fire that rocket down the corridor I was hiding in. Cheers for that."
She cocks her head to the side, thinking about the Marine's odd predicament he was in, then shrugs and turns around, heading to the most intact Marine corpse. She strips her and throws the armour to Dahm.
Dahm scrunches up his face, paling for a second, but a single look at the armoured supersoldier told him he had no choice. He gears up, grabbing a couple of M6E magnums from the fallen Marines. "I don't suppose you'll need backup for your mission, Miss...?"
Maddison stands up and nods. "Yes. We're going hunting, and I'm going to need all the help I can get."
|152ND UNIT // CYCLE 4 // 7TH AGE OF RECLAMATION [ 0782 HOURS // AUGUST 6, 2542 ]
Location: NEAR GRAVITY LIFT OF CAS-CLASS CARRIER SEEKER OF TRUTH // IN SERENO DESERT, PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
|Gunfire could be heard over the screams, energy and projectiles alike. Sovol walked through it all, upon the corpses of Covenant and humans, both heavy in numbers. He made care not to tread over fallen Sangheili though, it was dishonorable to do such a thing. Suddenly, one of the human's large wheeled vehicles broke through the line, running over a group of huddled Unggoy and ramming several Kig-Yar through. Despite the human's attempts to insert their many soldiers, the vehicle was overrun by Ghosts and a Wraith as more troops marched to fill in the gap. The humans may penetrate my line, but they cannot destroy it.
He reached the gravity lift just in time, as a new batch of troops was sent down from the Seeker of Truth. The Field Master marched up to them, and seeing his bronze armor glistening in the smoked-out sunlight, the troops beat their fists down on their chests. The Major in charge rose, and asked Sovol for his orders. "Where is our assigned position Field Master? I have Sangheili and Unggoy that yearn for battle."
'Yendamee glanced at the Unggoy, cringing to the ground with fear of the distant explosions. They obviously did not yearn for it. He looked over to the loyal Sangheili, all of them readying their weapons with a lust. A lust for the honor of killing a human. Sovol turned to the Major. "On the left portion of the Asga Line. Hurry, for the humans attack brutally."
The officer nodded, and shouted a war cry for all his troops to hear, before rushing towards their position. Before they could reach it, however, a crack rang out through the desert, and the Major toppled down onto one of the Unggoy, scaring the life out of it. Sovol growled, having enough experience to know what it was. A sniper. How cowardly of these humans. Even I would not employ ones in times of need. The General gazed upon the lance, now in disarray, when suddenly two more of the human vehicles broke through the Asga Line, splattering many Covenant in their path. Sovol shouted through the midst, "Get to your Bugro formations, do not let the infidels get through!" But it was too late, and the hurrying troops were mowed down by the vehicles' weapons. Even one of the Ghosts was destroyed.
Sovol cried out to his troops, and eventually they began to form up. The two remaining Ghosts helped the Wraith take out an infidel platform, while two large lances surrounded the other. Good. They are in my grasp to destroy. While watching as the Covenant troops moved in to take the second one, Sovol spied a flash of movement almost invisible to the naked eye. He could see some armor, more than a normal human's, when it jumped out of the remaining vehicle, speeding past the Covenant soldiers. Could it be? Demon. Sovol whipped around as his Officer and two Ultra guards appeared. "Good. You heard my orders. Tell the lines to form up quickly, and see if the second Wraith is in position yet. 'Kovonee, 'Turguree, come with me. We have a Demon in our midsts." The Ultras nodded and followed Sovol while the Officer began to give orders.
The General and his Ultras trekked through the sand, tainted with the blood of Covenant and humans. They circled around the gravity lift, finding nothing, when Sovol heard a click. He whipped around to the noise to see himself looking down on the featureless visor of a Demon. Sovol roared, drawing his energy sword as he swiped at the Demon. It avoided the swipe, but came to find an Ultra charging towards them. The Demon stood there transfixed, when a projectile screamed through the air to meet the Ultra's head. 'Turguree was dead instantly, falling to the ground like a sack of stones. Sovol gazed upon a nearby mesa, where he could see the faint outlines of another heavily armored human. You Demons pull through too many times. You are indeed undead. Sovol looked to the Demon near him, and it rushed towards him, bringing out a knife. Sovol prepared to counter with his energy sword, but 'Kovonee sidetracked the Demon, wrestling it to the ground. Sovol started to go over, when a third shot rang out, missing the General's head by less than a centimeter. Sovol realized that he was being targeted, and ran to the nearby brawl, dodging two more shots.
By the time he was there though, the Demon had plunged it's dagger into 'Kovonee's neck, giving the Ultra a slow and painful death. Sovol roared with fury, raising his blade to avenge his fallen brethren. Sovol stared into the visor, cold and lifeless. "Let us fight, Demon. My blade will be drenched in your blood."
He could hear the Demon chuckling, most likely thinking that this would be an easy battle. It will not be so, Demon. 'Yendamee charged, yelling his war cry, as the Demon stayed where it was, brandishing it's weapon. Sovol lunged at the infidel, but it ducked beneath the blade, grabbing Sovol's legs and flipping him up right over itself, slamming him to the ground. Sovol tried to lift himself, but was pressured as the human jumped on him, knocking his blade out of his grasp as it drew a firearm. Sovol laughed, his mandibles burning with pain. "I will not go down that easily."
The Demon prepared to fire, not knowing the Sangheili language. Sovol had it now. He grabbed the Demon's arm, twisting it, and slugged the infidel's visor, making a small dent. It responded quickly, kneeing him in the chest, firing several times, breaking his already faltering shield. Sovol was not one to go down so easily though. He grabbed it's firearm and wrenched it out of their hand, throwing it to the side before using both of his hands to block a blow. The Demon did not falter, albeit it was surprised. Sovol started to push the infidel off of him, when he felt a pain in his side. the Field Master looked down to see the Demon's free hand, gripping the dagger that was now buried deep in Sovol's side. Sovol grimaced in pain, as the Demon shoved him back to the ground. Sovol could hear the whine of an engine in the distance, and he knew that he would not die today. Suddenly, a Phantom came in to view, spraying the Demon with fire. The Demon broke it's grip on 'Yendamee, and he saw that the line had been penetrated by more humans. Seeing a chance, the General grabbed the Demon and threw it's face into the ground. The Demon rose, but instead of attacking, retreated along the throngs of human vehicles swarming in. Sovol chuckled as more Phantoms arrived, and with the bombardment of the Wraiths, the human forces were pushed back out. Sovol met up with his Officer, and they began to plan a counterattack. Sovol looked back to the ridge, but the Demon sniper was gone. If we ever meet again Demon, I will have your helmet on my trophy wall. But now, I must attend to a meeting with Fleetmaster Thel 'Vadamee. He will know of the Demons on this planet.
| 1425 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // AUGUST 5, 2542
Location: UNSC DIAMONDHEAD, LICINIA OCEAN, 283 KM OFF THE COAST OF SALAMIS // PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
"That's the plan?" Commander Hurst grumbled, "God, you Naval Intelligence people are insane."
The individual on the other end replied in a muffled manner out of earshot for the rest of the bridge crew aboard the UNSC Diamondhead.
"No. Fine. I'll take it. Sure, I'll get it done."
There was a brief pause.
"Just send him in. I'll do the rest."
"Sure, Miss Osman. Just don't expect any fanfare from me in the future. You're asking me to stick my neck out in a pretty bad way." Hurst replied with a disheartened sigh.
"And you I guess. Take care Commander."
A warning light and air sirens echo through the warship's bridge. A junior officer calls out to Commander Hurst. "Ma'am, we have boogies inbound. Thirty seconds!"
"I got to go." Hurst cut the connection between the officer on the other end, a Commander Osman from Naval Intelligence, and turned back to her display table where red dots were now entering her fleet's airspace.
Five. Seven. Twelve. Fourteen. Thirty-three. Dozens of aircraft,Banshee-classifications by the looks of it. Slow-flying aerospace alien fighters with a specialization for ground attack. They were nowhere near the fastest aircraft in the Covenant's inventory but they were by far the most numerous, and they came in swarms - typically flown by Elite or Grunt pilots.
"Hopper! Your analysis!?!" Hurst called to her AI assistant.
"Aggressors. Numbering at 48 individual Banshees, they close on our position in fifteen seconds. Recommendation: go to General Quarters."
"General Quarters!" Hurst yelled to the helmsman behind her.
"Aye, ma'am! General Quarters!" The helmsman picked up a microphone as his voice echoed across the fleet.
The bridge was kicked into a frenzy as noise above from thumping metal sounded throughout the boat. Machines and men were now running about to their action stations and ready for battle.
"Give me fifteen Collider-types from the Archer missile stock!"
"Aye, ma'am! A fire controls man called from their station. New objects appeared on Hurst's holo table as fifteen missiles left their tubes aboard the Diamondback's cruiser escorts.
"Five seconds to intercept." The fire control man reported.
"Hopper?" Hurst turned to the holographic beachball now bouncing along with her table again.
"I have already burned through three bandits with our long-range LAWS. Lasers have been redirected to targets designate, Bandits-12, Bandits-17, and Bandits-31." The dumb AI reported to his commander.
"Order full stop and send the battlegroups into evasive. I want our position held but I don't want any sitting ducks."
"Aye Commander." The green beachball disappeared from view.
"Time to intercept?" Hurst called to a radar technician.
On the ship-wide channel, a deck chief could be heard calling a warning. "Bandits dropping plasma. Brace! Brace!"
The carrier rocked violently under plasma bombardment outside.
"Damage report?" Commander Hurst called back over the comms array.
"No hit. Weapon detonated over the water!" The deck chief replied over the network.
"Get our CIWS up and running!" Hurst turned to the fire control section of the bridge.
"Aye aye!" A chorus of affirmation erupted from the fire control section.
A torrent of endless gunfire echoed through the ship.
"We are at: splashing twelve bandits already ma'am," Hopper reported, appearing once again on the console, "Enemy bandits are already bugging out. Looks like they're testing our defenses."
"Maintain weapons tight. I'm going to the flight deck." Hurst reported, now knowing that the first wave was mostly clear.
"Ma'am?" Hurst's second-in-command, a Lieutenant Commander, stepped forward from his own station.
"You have the helm, Commander. There is a package I must oversee personally."
"Aye. What is the callsign?"
"VELOX-One. Priority from up the chain."
"Who is it?" The Lieutenant Commander asked, quizzically.
"Your guess is as good as mine." Commander Hurst replied with a shrug before stepping through a portal at the edge of the bridge. Several sailors in the hall nodded to the Commander as she walked passed them. She made sure to step out of their way as their work was far more important than hers right now. At least, they were more pressed for time. The Covenant could be sending an even greater test in the next few minutes.
She felt the ship rock around her as she stepped through corridors heading to the ship's flight deck. Most key chambers aboard UNSC maritime vessels were built to minimize the effects of subtle ocean movements, however, halls and the flight deck were other stories. It took a bit of walking to get used to the new motions.
Commander Hurst flipped on her private comms when she made it to the deck of the Diamondback. A flat-open yard littered with aircraft rearing for battle. Pilots and maintenance crews scrambled all around.
The squadron chief who reported the Banshee bombing earlier saluted the Commander from his manhole in the deck.
"VELOX-One. VELOX-One. This is SEAKEEPER ACTUAL, what is your ETA?" Hurst asked across her private channel, connecting to an unseen individual inbound aboard some aircraft from ONI.
"Above you, ma'am." The voice of VELOX-One, a gruff but humorous male reported to the Maritime Commander.
Hurst glanced up. A Navy Albatross heavy-lift aircraft was descending from the sky holding a large box the length of an eighteen-wheeler and the width of a UNSC combat drone.
"Who do I have the pleasure of meeting?" Hurst asked as the massive object, contained within a large crate, touched down on her carrier's deck.
There wasn't a reply as the Albatross dropped its package and took off back toward the mainland. It seemed that the crew chief had already taken care to clear a section of the mystery crate as it took up a large space on the flight deck.
She looked up but instinctively put her hands to bloat out the flare of Alluvion's star. Through her fingers, Commander Hurst could make out the silhouette of a massive, armored man.
"Uhh. Me." The voice spoke as the armored man gently stepped off the box and on to the flight deck.
"You got a name, skipper?" Hurst asked as her eyes adjusted to the sight of a heavy exoskeleton.
"Spartan, ma'am. VELOX-One. Lieutenant. Reporting for duty." The Spartan corrected.
"And your big box?"
"A game changer."
| 1043 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // AUGUST 5, 2542
Location: UNSC destroyer Endeavour, in orbit over Alluvion.
|"You volunteered us as a decoy, sir?"
Rear-Admiral Aelianus Halle stares with intense energy at a relatively young commander, which forces the youthful man to drop his head and jaw to his chest. He looks at his nametag, which reads "ŽAGAR". The Rear Admiral looks to around the room, to the other commanders on the screens he's doubtlessly looking at.
"No, we are not a decoy. We are here to provide a blockade, to intercept any Covenant warships that try either to break the fleet out or reinforce them. We need this to be a win."
Tom Žagar looks back up and steps forward slightly on the podium, bringing the Admiral's attention back to him. "With all due respect sir, our fleet is hardly a match for the Covvies below - our newest ship, aside from your carrier, is twenty years old. Most of the Strike Group's vessels are either from before the Insurrection or after it began. We're not in a position to tank shots!"
Tom breathes through his teeth fast after that outburst, while the Admiral returns a blank, almost-bored face to the commander. "I understand your concern, but I know we can do our job. Maintain orbit and wait for any enemy movement." The Rear Admiral salutes off. "May luck be ever in your favour, captains."
Tom reluctantly salutes back and terminates the transmission and rubs his temples and closes his eyes. Over the past week, the UNSC response to a small Covenant advance force, led by an assault carrier no less, has been achingly slow and ineffective. No MAC rounds have been fired and only a handful of Archer missile support had been approved, almost as if ONI wanted to allow them to make contact.
A blue figure of a woman with a long pair of jeans, flanette and a shotgun materialises before Tom, breaking him out of his thought. She bows her straw hat. "Captain, I'm getting a transmission being bounced from the surface. High priority, ONI Encryption." She reports through her slow southern accent.
He raises his eyebrows and tries not to be surprised, to which the AI makes a smug face that says 'don't try it.' "Alright, patch him through."
Materialising onto the monitor of the Operations Room was a visibly young, serious-looking woman with her arms in crossed position - and it took an idiot to fail to figure out this was Admiral Parangosky's protege. He quickly snaps to a salute under her cold glare. "Commander Osman! To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Osman seems visibly annoyed about someone using her name, and gives Tom a dismissive wave. "Skip the pleasantries, Žagar. I've got an acquisition request - and reassignment for Munitions Pod-two-four-eight-one." Tom moves unwillingly at her mispronunciation of his name, something that seems to give Osman a split-second smirk.
A scan reveals a massive device roughly as large as a slipspace drive, housed within a massive rectangular with numerous holes weaved through it. And Žagar knew exactly what it was. "And you need a piece of terraforming equipment because-"
Osman raised her hand forward, then whipped her hand silently forward, shutting him up. "I cannot tell you why, as this is strictly on a need-to-know basis, Commander - and it will not affect your ship. You are to enter atmosphere for a Marine complement transfer, and drop off the package in November-eight-four-zero - an Albatross. You need not to give them any instructions - VELOX-One will be among it's crew."
The word 'VELOX' instantly made Žagar interested and perk his head up in surprise. In a previous conversation he had with another captain, he learned that ONI was preparing to deploy a secret weapon codenamed 'VELOX'. It was clear he knew now what this 'VELOX' was. "A team of Spartans? Here? And here I thought they were just rumours..." He looks down in thought.
Osman just rolls her eyes. "Follow your orders. I will not tolerate any delay." She terminates the communications link.
Žagar remains deep-seated in thought, obviously interested about a Spartan team being on Alluvion. Perhaps our job wasn't to kill the Covenant after all... What if we're only waiting for them to do... something? He's snapped out of his thoughts when a blue woman appears, and walks out to the bridge and stands in the middle of the room, as the large room did not have a command chair. He turns to the helmsman and frowns.
"We've got new orders. Make a turn one hundred and seventy-four degrees by two hundred and fifty-nine, and then set thrusters to forty percent thrust." The helmsman almost let out a yell of surprise as he looks at his captain, who nods sadly. "We're not engaging the Covenant-"
"Slipspace ruptures detected! Over one hundred thousand kilometres off our aft!" The sensor operator yells, to which Žagar freezes. His face remains composed, but his heart skips a beat and his pulse heightens. Suddenly, he points angrily in the direction of the slipspace portals.
"Viola, get me a look at that right now!" The AI's silhouette just nodded before disappearing, replaced by a telescopic image of the ruptures - and then a single Covenant assault carrier and a large fleet of carriers and battlecruisers calmly exit. Everyone on the bridge stops what they are doing and look to Žagar for orders.
"Maintain current orders. If ONI's plan works, then that carrier will be a non-issue."
| 1044 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // AUGUST 5, 2542
Location: UNSC Renown, Lift A3; In orbit around Fallow, moon of Alluvion
|"Hold the door!"
A pale hand snaked out around the elevator's door, keeping it from rolling shut before the dark-haired Lieutenant reached it. A smirk on the face of the head-shaven man who'd held it greeted him as he slipped inside. "Close that time, Lieutenant Kimura."
"Thanks for holding it today, Lieutenant Leckie."
Smiling to match Leckie strained the muscles in his cheeks, but Daiichi Kimura refused to let his fellow officer see him sulk, today of all days. Spinning to stand with him shoulder-to-shoulder, Kimura braced as the elevator car started to ascend, seams in the lift shaft's plating scrolling down around them, and tugged the fresh creases out of his uniform. But for those defects he'd incurred running to catch the lift, his appearance was neat and trim, his black hair cut short and face clean-shaven.
Leckie, by contrast, had cut his hair down only to get it out of the way, and by now it was about as long as the strap of stubble running his chin from ear-to-ear. Kimura's pointed mentions of it before had done no good, only provoked the passive aggression which somehow so often resulted in Leckie waving from the other side of a closing lift door. Not today, however; spirits were too good to ruin quibbling.
Leckie half tilted his head in Kimura's direction. "They've got a name for it, now."
He tried not to shake his head. "Yeah, and who'd they get it from this time?"
"Logistics guy, supposed to be running a transfer of emergency gear from Kilamanjaro to us. He talked to their ops officer, who's supposed to've overheard their captain talking with Admiral Mawikizi. It's supposed to be called Velox." Leckie said.
This sort of talk was all over the ship. An ONI secret weapon, set to deploy to help the fleet. Something the spooks' pet mad scientists had been working up for years or, alternatively, something they'd found and didn't understand themselves. It was stupid chatter to Kimura, but there was an upside: for once, the shipboard talk wasn't all hushed condolences about which colony had been hit by the Covenant, or whose friend had been on what latest ship they'd lost to the aliens. Since the Renown had been ordered to join the fleet massing at Alluvion, the mess halls were lively for the first time since Kimura had been aboard. Even Leckie's attitude had improved, though Kimura wished an officer wouldn't buy into the fleet rumors.
"Uh-huh," Kimura replied noncommitally. "And what do they say Velox is supposed to be?"
"Animatronics, apparently." Leckie shrugged. "Not like theme park stuff—adapted high-class android tech, supposed to look so good the Covies couldn't tell 'em from their own brothers. Gonna them aboard somehow and blow 'em up, hope to do enough damage to disable something."
"Right." He couldn't stop the head shake this time. It was a better story than the last one he'd heard circling around, but not by much. Even if—from the intel lectures he'd attended—the Covenant's lowest-ranking species were supposed to barely be paid attention to. Maybe if it was a Grunt they were modeling on...
The elevator's abrupt halt put a stop to any more speculation. A moment later, the door slid open, and the two officers filed out onto the Renown’s expansive bridge. More than a dozen officers, support staff, and security personnel filled the pathways between tactical displays, consoles, and ensconced workstations. All of these surrounded one central holotank, projecting above it the vast spheres of Alluvion and Fallow with magnified shoals of rigid UNSC ships in their orbits.
Kimura's study of the formations was interrupted by Leckie almost whispering in his ear, "I'm telling you, animatronics."
"Oh, just leave—"
"Gentlemen." A salt-and-pepper-haired man standing next to the holotank addressed them with hands clasped behind his back. "I believe you have your stations to attend to."
Both Lieutenants snapped salutes upon realizing they were under the scrutiny of Captain Edwards' hazel gaze, and parted company on their way around the nearest consoles. The captain nodded his satisfaction, calling a pair of names as he turned back to the holotank. "Matthis, Harley, you're relieved, Ensigns."
Kimura slipped into his seat as soon as the junior officer had vacated it and took in all the data coming to his station from half a dozen sources. Thruster output percentages and potentials were sent to him from the engine room in the ship's aft through LTJG Pascal's station at engineering, just a seat down from him. Relative positions of the other UNSC warships in Strike Group Kilamanjaro and precision course trajectories to match them were sent from navigation, where Leckie was just sitting down. Real-time exact masses of the Renown’s internal compartments were fed to him by Ensign Alonsa at ops. Everything a helmsman needed to keep a destroyer to the meter where its captain needed it to be, and suddenly the over one and a half million tonnes of titanium and propulsive fuel were barrelling through space at his fingertips. It was the simple, childish kind of excitement Daiichi had joined the Navy for.
Those around him usually didn't share his appreciation. While there were more junior officers present, Kimura had been aboard the shortest among the bridge crew. His career to this point had been spent on patrol craft, keeping tabs on the traffic within a single solar system; the Renown and her crew were veterans of naval engagements with the Covenant threat, engagements which had worn them down through a never-ending series of losses and retreats.
Today, that had changed. Pascal's eyes were sharp despite the bags beneath, darting between every feed he available, not just periodically checking the most important. Alonsa was sitting up perkily, not minding her volume as she cheerfully coordinated with someone on the hangar decks far below. Even Leckie was smiling without needing to torture someone for fun.
Looking at his navigational display, it wasn't hard to see why things had so changed for the better. Drifting in the shadow of Alluvion's moon, the Renown was in the company of over forty UNSC warships, each armed with full complements of MAC rounds, Archer missiles, and even nuclear warheads of various types. Floating above Alluvion itself were over twenty more, and more still behind Bhaakto II and IV, more than a hundred ships in total.
For once, the UNSC was prepared. Weeks ago, a Covenant scout ship had been spotted within the system by the local Remote Scanning Outpost. It had lingered long enough to be clearly carrying out reconnaissance on the colony of Alluvion itself, and once it left, HIGHCOM had known an invasion fleet was sure to follow. It was a pattern followed for decades now in the Outer Colonies, with defensive lines spread so thin any given planet's defensive force would be far outnumbered as well as outclassed when the Covenant selected their newest target.
Not so today. HIGHCOM had decided to finally make a stand, and dedicated a whole fleet to Alluvion's defense. Among its ranks were some of the Navy's heaviest ships and most veteran officers, Captain Robert Edwards of the destroyer Renown included. And to lead them all was Vice Admiral Jean Mawikizi, a legend as far as engagements with the Covenant went. He'd never actually won an engagement with them—scarcely anyone but Cole ever had—but he'd pulled off some of the most daring rescue missions in the face of them. Colonies he'd evacuated had come out with upwards of eighty percent survival, records none even came close to, and he'd written the most up-to-date colonial evacuation protocols himself. Now he finally had the resources and time to plan for more than a retreat.
And there was still the matter of ONI's rumored secret weapon. Kimura didn't know for certain what it was—animatronic Grunts or no—but they would certainly be deployed, which couldn't hurt the Navy's chances. For once, the UNSC had every advantage.
"Captain!" LTJG Nejem called out from the communications bank. "Strike Group Romeo has contacts in Alluvion orbit! They're here!"
Edwards glanced at him, then back up at the holotank, where purple dots had begun to join the UNSC markers. He was grinning.
Kimura found himself smiling, too. Today, they were prepared.
Today, they were going to win.
That Damn Sniper 06:40, March 30, 2018 (UTC)
|1632 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD)//MAY 5, 2542 LOCATION: 12 KILOMETERS ABOVE LONDONIUM, KINGWAY ISLES//PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM|
|The Sundark Sea warped and buckled, shifting into itself as its immensity came tumbling down all at once, collapsing into a cacophony of perverted shapes and colors as untold gallons of seawater whirpooled into the very ground beneath it, eating away at the earth like a ravenous, deformed beast from twice-told tales from old.
“Salvador, get the bottle off the table, it's messing with the display.”
The tattooed woman sighed, obliging Nyarai’s request. A pale hand extended, snatching the bottle away, and the hologram returned to its original state, the Sundark Sea folding back into existence. She brought the bottle to her lips, chugging away at the remaining contents, and threw the bottle down to the floor, where it shattered. She would look to the Spartan, smirking.
“Map’s all yours, tin can.”
Nyarai sighed, a sound thankfully inaudible behind her helmet. They’re never gonna let that
gym shit with the Chief go, are they?, she lamented in her head. The ODST was still smirking at her, waiting for a response.
The Spartan stepped forward, extending an armored finger. She caught a figure on the map, glowing orange at her touch, and made an opening motion with her finger and thumb. The figure expanded, taking up the majority of the display- the unmistakable figure of a Covenant ship.
“This ship split off from the others once the invasion began,” Nyarai spoke, the rest of the figures in the bay turning to look at her. “It went North, towards the very edge of the Sundark Sea, and began excavating. However, as you can see here,” she motioned to the display, “It broke off. Right now, it’s over the island of Sacrem, acting as support for some sort of ground op.” She used her fingers to motion over to another figure on the map, and zoomed in. The display transitioned into a picture, showing an Elite clad in bright yellow armor, his arm outstretched with an Energy Sword. He was motioning forward troops, as other Elites stood guard around him, their weapons at the ready.
“A drone caught this. A General, from the looks of it. We’re not sure what he’s here for, but we’re not going to pass up an opportunity like this. Our job is to drop onto Londonium. From this island, we’re going to move forward and set up an FOB- a small one, so as to avoid drawing their patrols. We’ll put a skeleton crew here, and route any civilians we come across back there.”
“Morons who live up here are asking to die. Not sure what you accomplish by living in a place where some freak wave could come at any time and wipe you off the face of the the planet.”
Nyarai didn’t acknowledge the intruding voice. At least, not externally. It’s owner, an ODST sitting off to the side on the transport’s side seats, had one leg up and was flipping a knife in his hand. The Spartan couldn’t see his face past the visor, but she knew that it was hiding a smirk. She could hear, vaguely, the sound of murmurs and bemused chuckles from several of the many ODSTs within the bay. They didn’t agree with the things the first, Corporal Piven, had said, but they were obviously trying to get her to pause. She wouldn’t let them get to her.
“Settlements within the Isles are sparse, but most of the inhabitants tend to live in fertile areas. This should make any evacuation relatively easy, so long as we can avoid poking the hive”- Nyarai motioned to the ship hologram now on the corner of the display. She would move the display yet again, it now displaying a large cluster of seemingly-uniform buildings, all identical in their shape and structure- a large series of housing complexes, almost looking to be a maze from a top view. Outside the collections of buildings and roads and squares, the land was completely white and smooth in composition- snow.
“That counts as fertile up here?”, Salvador mused. “Jesus, what are these people…”
“Hard,” Nyarai said, turning her head to her. “And not at all welcoming to outsiders. So I suggest we avoid pissing them off while we save them.”
“Oh, but I’m sure they’ll love you, Sparty.” Piven had stood up, and was now walking towards Salvador, knife still in hand. He draped long, slender arms over Salvador’s shoulders, eliciting a smirk from the woman as she leaned back into him. “ONI goons are just oh-so lovable.” The rest of the ODSTs let out chuckles or quiet jeers at Nyarai. Again, she gave no response. She was almost amused at this point. They were obviously playing it up, trying to get her to lash out at them- an excuse to foster animosity. She would give them none.
She turned back to the display. “We’ll be dropping on Bayfield-”, she motioned to the settlement display, “-within the hour. I want everyone at the ready, safeties on. We are here to save these people. Once everything there’s squared away, we can discuss further evacuation procedures, and then a move on the Elite. Are we clear?”
“SIR YES SIR”, came the resounding answer from the gathered ODSTs. All of them, Salvador and Piven included, stood at attention as they spoke. Good...they’ve got that much, at least, the Spartan thought to herself.
The soldiers all turned to fetch their gear from various seats and racks across the shuttle. She watched the two mouthy ODSTs walk off together, and heard a snippets from other ODSTs as they moved away from her.
“...brought us as babysitters…”
“...meatshields, more like…”
“...banking on all of us to die…”
Nyarai turned, sighing quietly as she walked back to her gear. She had decided not to blame them for being suspicious- Kingway’s distress call had come at the last minute, and as such, a contingent of ODSTs ready to drop headfirst into the invasion had been broken off from their battalion and crammed onto a stealth shuttle with little explanation. It reeked of a suicide op, but they couldn’t avoid alerting the Covies with anything else.
But regardless of any justification, Nyarai was going to have her hands full. The Kingway Isles were notoriously isolationist, to the point of having waged wars over it. Those wounds still ran deep, and those were towards the mainlanders alone. Drop in a group of trigger-happy foreign-planet ODSTs...it didn’t spell for a good mix.
Nyarai smiled ruefully to herself as she loaded her pistol, sliding a magazine into place. Felix would have advice for her here, something useful for her to dwell on. But her COMMs ran silent. And right now, all she could hear, past the sound of the engines running, and the ODSTs talking, and the sound of gear clicking and shifting, was the sound of her steady breathing within her helmet as she kept her steel running, ready for whatever came next.
Episode II: Takedown
|The only thought that went through Maddison's head as she cut into the neck of an Unggoy was how fast the Covenant had moved.
She cleaned the blood off her knife and looks to the sides, then waves her hand at Dahm. "Clear."
The Marine lifts his rifle over the counter of what was once a city bakery and climbs over the counter. He's grinning from ear-to-ear. "The bloody bastards never saw us coming." He walks out and looks down to the side, inspecting a fallen Marine. "Fuck, the cunts move quickly, don't they?"
Behind her visor, Maddison solemnly looks down. For the past four hours of travel away through the urban habitat, the Spartan nor the Marine had only encountered three things; crumbling buildings, Covenant patrols, and the by-products of human habitation. She bit her lip; she was hoping that she would've come across at least a few squads, not a single half-competent recruit.
She tugs on Dahm's shoulder and points to the purple pointed beast that was an ORS-class heavy cruiser floating in the sky. The Marine nods and stands up, wiping away a tear. She raises her hand to the left side of her helmet as she navigates out of the courtyard.
"This is VELOX-Three broadcasting on emergency channels to all nearby UNSC soldiers" She hesitates and sighs for a second, hoping for someone, anyone, to interrupt her. There was no response. "The deployed Covenant around the Maritime HQ have been disoriented and routed. I require assistance in tackling my next objective below the enemy cruiser - the current rendezvous point is the remnants of the Torpedo Tower."
- ↑ "Vsekhei": Strong and steadfast loved one, usually a warrior.
- ↑ "Ad’tunhea": Intimate term for a lifelong companion, reserved for closed or private relationships.
- ↑ "Nishum": Worm/parasite, used as a derogatory term for humans.
- ↑ "Dohmoh": The Sangheili word for human.
- ↑ "Kono'gava": A distasteful term for an assassin, especially a Sangheili one.
- ↑ "Bugro": Second formation, backup plan.