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40px-Terminal.png This article, Shake-Down, was written by Ajax 013. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.

Shake-Down follows the maiden voyage of the UNSC Heimdall, the first in her class, and a quantum leap in UNSC technology. However, the journey doesn't promise to be smooth.

The darkened officer's cabin was lit only by a pale, blue light, illuminating the face of Commander Arthur Self. He lay in the pull out bed of the modest cabin, looking at the tablet in front of him. On its pale blue page was an e-book, his favourite in fact, The Old Man And The Sea. He'd read it many times in his life, but sadly had to leave his favoured paperback copy at home. He'd read it at a great many junctions in his life, as a child, in Officer Candidate School, and beyond. Reading it gave him confidence, and he needed that more than ever. He turned in his bed, finding little comfort in its covers. He looked back to his tablet, returning to his story. In it, the ageing fisherman, Santiago, sets off alone, into the vast ocean, searching for the fish that will break his unlucky streak. Self scrolled down to the next page and began to read anew, until he was interrupted by a soft chime on the console beside his bed. He sighed and clicked the answer button, and was greeted by a clawing, terse voice.

"Commander, could you report to the bridge." the voice went "There's a situation you need to attend to."

"Of course Maia." he said, flicking off the comms and getting out of his bed.

The lights reacted, brightening and bringing the room to full illumination. His modest captain's cabin was considered the most luxurious room on the ship but was hardly luxurious itself. Big enough for two men two stand next to one another, arms stretched out, it had a bed, a desk, personal computer and an en-suite bathroom. Self walked to the bathroom and began to scrub up, catching glances of himself in the mirror. Under most conditions, he could be considered somewhat handsome, with refined features, and a shock of dirty blonde hair on his head, and light green eyes, almost like pale jade. However, the last few days sleep had eluded him, and he felt weary. Dark bags had formed under his eyes and his skin took on a paler tone. He pulled on his uniform and looked at himself in the mirror again. The functional uniform, designed to be fire resistant and resistant against spalling, was otherwise drab grey, aside from a flash of colour pinned to his chest. His ribbons, medals, awards given for bravery in combat, or so he was told. He thought back, he never really thought of his actions as heroic, or brave. He just did his job. He guessed actions like these earned him this command. He planted a thumb under the ribbon collection and removed it, placing it in a draw on his desk. Such things weren't necessary.

He thumbed the bulkhead door control and stepped out into the hall way, shoes clanking on the grating beneath him. Despite the ship officially being on night watch, it bustled with activity, as sailors ran back and forth, attending to the ships need, he siphoned past them, moving quickly up the decks. His cabin was only a short distance from the bridge, a intentional design feature. As he stepped onto the bridge, he looked about. Just under a dozen individuals sat at their stations, monitoring their consoles. Directly in the centre of the bridge was a holographic table, stood over it was his executive officer. Lieutenant Commander Robert 'Bobby' Trask was somewhat of an anomaly. In earlier times he would of been a enlisted man, coming from a poor family, with no college level education, but the toll of the Covenant war on officers had resulted in changes in procedure. Trask was selected as an officer candidate because of his surprising intelligence and ingenuity, though his brash nature limited his elevation through the ranks. Possessing a wide face, he kept his head shaved and most notably a series of jagged scars up the side of his face. The way he always told it, he got this from an insurrectionist terrorist in a knife fight, but Self had always suspected he'd been in a bad bar fight, and somebody had smashed a bottle and glassed him with it. The Navy would of covered the costs of the plastic surgery, but he refused, he wanted to show those scars. As Self approached the table, a three dimensional image of the ship rose from the holographic table and a secondary image sprung up alongside it. A young woman, covered in a greenish shroud, with an updone bun of hair. As he stepped up, Trask gave a salute.

"Commander on deck!" he yelled, snapping the other officers to attention

He returned the salute and leaned over the holotable "At ease. What's the situation?"

"Maia, what's the situation?" he asked, somewhat weary.

"Output from our reactor dropped 23%, thrust is down." she responded, her unusual voice grated on him.

"Why didn't you ask Lieutenant Commander Greene about this?" Self asked, running his temples with his fingers in irritation."

"We have, she has some kind of situation. We also have other issues on the ship that require your attention." Trask said, leaning over the table, and reaching out to interact with the hologram of their ship. The hangar bay has a malfunctioning electromagnetic catapult that had failed the last two launches, the lower hanger bay had a lift issue and was unable to carry vehicles from the the garage to the landing deck, and there were door malfunctions on at least a dozen bulkheads.

"Have maintenance crews been dispatched?"

"Aye skipper, but repair times vary. She's a finicky girl." Trask said, tapping the table. The ship was beginning to become a tomb for their careers.

"Overall efficiency?" he asked

"Dropping, sir. We're dropping behind the efficiency target set by the Navy." Maia began "Sir, I'll personally supervise maintenance crews, but we may have to take a detour."

"Detour? Are the issues that bad?" Self asked, looking at the hologram of the A.I.

"No, but crew morale is wavering. I've already listed out several possible options. Best being drydock at Garnet, which is 13 hours away." she said, her eyes narrowing, seeing if the commander tried to challenge her option

"Fine, we had a flexible flight plan from the Navy. Update Fleet Command with our course changes and then implement them. I'll be in engineering." he said, tapping the edge of the table with impatience "I want the ship back to operational capacity as soon as possible."

He walked out of the bridge and to the lift, then headed straight to engineering. They were only seven days into this journey and this ship was beginning to destroy their morale. They were in the most advance frigate ever built, and they'd been selected to crew it for its shake-down run. They had already performed space trials, and were now flying from Earth to Manheim fleet command for assignment. The ship was extraordinarily advanced, packed with the latest weaponry and systems, and exotic stealth features, but its rushed design and new focus on automation left other features wanting. They were small, niggly faults, but the constant tending the ship needed was putting them all on edge. Self was beginning to think this flight was going to end all of their careers.

As the heavy bulkhead opened to the engineering room, Self came upon a scene of chaos. Engineers ran back and forth in utter disarray, heading to consoles, terminals, switch boxes, trying to sort some catastrophic problem. Self weaved his way through the engineers to reach Lieutenant Commander Greene. Normally the chief engineer of such a vessel would be held by a Lieutenant, but given the new technologies involved in it, a more experienced hand was needed. As far as Self knew, Greene was some kind of wonder-kid who had been placed here especially to tend to the new reactor.

"Greene, what's wrong with the reactor? It sounds.... wrong." he shouted, walking up behind her. Even to his untrained ear he knew it, the takomak style reactor, roughly doughnut like in shape, usually produced a thrumming sound, but it's pace had slowed, and seemed to be off balance.

"Cooling shut down. Very Unexpected. Switched to the back up generators, this is spinning down right now." she shouted back, very concisely, as she laboured over her console.

"What? The reactor's down?" Self yelled, stepping up beside her. Shouldn't we be having a critical failure?"

Greene sighed with exasperation and turned to him "We ran the calcs with Maia. There's enough power in the reserve generators and enough plasma still in the system so she will keep running until the cold reboot is done. It'll take just under two hours."

"And the problem with the cooling system?" Self asked, raising an eye brow.

The precocious young woman raised an eye brow back, the dirty bandanna wrapped around her head to hold back her hair raising with it "Its already sorted, an error in one of the manifolds.

Greene just shook his head and stepped back "If anything changes, contact me immediately. As soon as we're back online, contact me for that too, I'm going to the mess hall." he said, stressed by the entire ordeal. He felt like the old man out to see, searching for the fish that would change his luck around. The Heimdall was a little more than he could chew though.

The next ten hours passed with little incidence. After getting lunch, he'd performed routine inspection, lead several drills and had even gotten a little nap in there. The reactor had come back online without incidence, and was now firing at maximum efficiency. He may just get to his destination with his sanity intact.

They were now less than an hour from their destination, and a little stop may just calm them all down. He was performing an inspection down in the launch bays for their embarked squadron of Super Sabre starfighters when the ship's alarms suddenly rang out and Maia's voice, with its annoying tone, came onto the PA.

"All hands, prepare for realspace insertion procedure and full stop, I repeat, all hands, prepare for realspace insertion procedure and full stop."

As she said, the ship suddenly tore its way back into real space and then shuddered to a halt. The well drilled crew braced, barely moving from their positions and stations.

"Commander Self, report to the bridge immediately."

Self wasted no time running through the ship to reach the bridge. They weren't due to leave slipspace for another half hour. Something was wrong.

As he reached the bridge, his assembled crew looked to him. Trask was the first to step forward.

"Sir, we've just received a distress call from Garnet. It seems a Covenant raiding group has breached the UNSC outer perimeter and has made it deep into the systems. They've already dropped out of slipspace, and are closing on the planet." Trask said, his tone grim.

Maia's hologram flickered in on the table, her hands drawn over a holographic map of the system, showing the planet Garnet, and the relative position of the Covenant ships. Four ships, made up of a destroyer and three heavy corvettes, approached the planet at high speed. The defences were not substantial enough to defend the world, with just a few corvettes for policing local traffic and a few guns on the orbital UNSC station.

"Maia, your analysis?" he asked, turning to the artificial intelligence, she turned up from her diagram to look at him "Likely a raiding group. Their intention is not conquest but economic. They'll take as many slaves as they please, then likely glass the world. Nearest UNSC vessel is the Autumn-class cruiser Endurance, at an hour away. By that time, the Covenant will likely already be gone."

"And what are our options?" Self asked, leaning over the table

"I've dropped us out of slipspace behind the planet's moon. We have remained undetected. I would advise us to hold position and wait out attack. This ship is too valuable to allow it to be destroyed." She said coldly.

"That's insane Maia, that's a colony full of people they're going to kill!" Trask shouted, his fist slamming on the table, distorting the holograms for just a moment

"Trask, calm down." Self said, motioning for him to back up a little bit, before turning back to Maia "What are our offensive options?"

"While we possess the element of surprise and similar levels of armour and shielding, we lack enough ordnance to destroy them all in a single blow. The resulting counter attack would destroy us." Maia said, displaying a simulation of their attack

"We can't just stand by Maia. We have to try something." he said, tapping on the planet "Time until the Covenant reach the planet?"

"They will be in the optimum position to launch assault craft and ordnance in twenty minutes. We can intercept them easily within that time. I must advise against this course of action sir. The human term for such an event would be 'vainglorious'." she said, staring at him again.

"No, its called being human. We can't simply stand by while we have the strength to stop it. Order all hands to battle stations, spin up our reserve reactors. I want all our guns heated up." Self said, stepping past the table and to his chair, facing over the front of the bridge and out across the vessel. The windows around them closed as armoured shrouds dropped down and were replaced with holographic replacements. He flicked a switch on his console, opening up a PA to the rest of the ship.

"Crew, this is Commander Self. I know you were expecting some R&R today, but circumstances have changed. A group of Covenant raiders is approaching the planet Garnet at highspeed, and we have moved to intercept. We are heavily out numbered, and out gunned. However, we have to delay them, long enough for reinforcements to arrive." he paused for a moment, and swallowed "There's a good chance we won't survive this. I expect each and every one of you to do your duty as a member of the UNSC."

He clicked off the comms and relaxed back into his chair. The lighting shut off for a moment, to be replaced by red emergency lighting. They'd entered red alert, and the crew was no ready.

"Sir, all crew stations report ready status, and engineering reports the secondary reactors have span up to full capacity. All weapon stations are hot, and I've taken the precaution of loading and spinning up the MAC." Maia said, now appearing on the small holographic tank next to him.

"Good work Maia. Mister Orz, set an intercept course" he said, his navigation officer nodding his head in reply.

The ship began to accelerate, her engines flaring, as she pulled clear of the moon that covered them, then moved around slowly, coming to face the ships ahead of them. It began to accelerate, aligning with the largest of the group, the kilometre long destroyer.

"Course set sir, accelerating." Orz replied.

Self felt it as the ship began to accelerate, the artificial gravity taking a moment to catch up to them. The ships appeared as distant purple blips, but as they closed they became larger.

"Why haven't they reacted yet?" Trask asked, uneasy in their seat.

"We're fitted with advanced stealth technology. They won't pick us up until we're close or firing on them." Arakita, the weapons officer, responded.

"Arakita, give me missile targeting solutions on the escorts, keep the main gun trained on the destroyer." Self ordered, his voice unwavering.

Trask looked around the bridge. All the crew at their stations were leant forward, their bodies tense, but Self... Self was leaning back, looked relaxed. This man had been wound up to such a degree over the last few days, a man who'd been so tense and irritable that it had even began to unnerve Trask, but now... the focus this battle provided, it had relieved him. Trask knew he'd won medals for bravery, but never knew exactly how brave he'd been. Now he understood a little of his commanding officer.

"Sir, I must advise against this course of action. Our first round will fail to cripple any vessel. The destroyer possesses enough shields to survive fire from our main gun, while the secondary vessels have enough armour to survive the initial bombardment." Maia asked, kneeling beside him.

"What are the status on our countermeasure systems Lieutenant Simms?" Self asked, not even breaking his line of sight on the enemy

"Decoy launcher is spooled up, and our torpedo jammer is ready sir." Simms said, turning to him

"Simms, fire ion flares and activate the jammer twenty seconds after firing. As we close to less than 500 kilometres to the enemy, fire our RADAR jammers."

Simms didn't respond, but began to program the defence systems to adapt to this.

"Sir, we're entering firing range for the missile batteries. On your go commander." Lieutenant Arakita said, turning to face him

"Wait until we hit the 10,000 kilometre mark, fire the main gun and the missiles."

"Aye skipper." he responded, programming in the firing solutions.

"Maia, read us a count down of the distance."

"Of course sir, initiating. We're 30,000 kilometres, and closing."

Aside from Maia's countdown, the bridge went silence. The only things that could be heard was the electronic buzz of the consoles, the rattle of the ship as it continued to accelerate and the breathing of the tense crew.

The ship screamed through the void towards the Covenant who were now becoming more visible on the front view screen. They were travelling in a tightly packed formation, with a handful of smaller fighters already out to escort them. While their own fighters were loaded and ready to launch, they had not been given the order to launch themselves, at least not yet.

"20,000 kilometres sir."

"Load the KCP slug, prepare the gun to fire." Self ordered, still sitting back in his chair.

"15,000 klicks, and accelerating." She said, now counting down ever 500 kilometres "11,000... 10,500..."

The crew tensed up, in that moment, as Maia read out the last digit. They hit the 10,000 mark.

"Arakita, fire, now!" Self shouted, almost leaping forward in his chair.

The main gun fired, the entire ship chiming like a bell and decelerating as the super structure absorbed the recoil. The sides of the ship lit up, and the archer pods opened up and let loose their payloads, the missiles ejecting from the hulls in a spray of fire and smoke, veering off before the manoeuvring thrusters kicked in, aligning them with their target then accelerating away from the ship.

The tungsten slug let loose from the ship rode to the enemy as a streak of light, a trail caused by the optical illusion of the slug travelling so quickly. It streaked into the bulbous form of the Covenant destroyer, hammering into its upper hull. The shielding, a silvery-white aura, flared brightly, the slug pulverising itself on impact. The Destroyer shook and began to list to its side, the engines straining to compensate for the sudden force of impact. As the slug vaporized, it created a brilliant flash of heat, but it certainly didn't end its life there. Chunks of the slug ricocheted off the destroyer, spraying the Corvette to its portside with shrapnel, still travelling at 30,00 metres a second. These chunks of shrapnel passed through the ship, causing utter chaos, tearing through decks, de-pressurising them and igniting the very air inside through friction and super-heating. One of the engines was struck, and the starboard gun battery, igniting the plasma batteries in a halo of fire. The stricken corvette listed to the side, the force of impact, and sudden engine failure causing it to waver in the gravity well of the planet beneath them. This was suddenly intensified by the waves of a hundred missiles falling upon it and its comrades. Rocked by explosions, the ship was torn apart, and lost all power, its lights flickering out, and its engines, already belching out thick plumes of plasma and fire, gave out, surrendering it to the gravity well of the planet below. The archer missiles on the other vessels had less impact, as their point defences had just enough time to activate and ward off a few, the others only causing slight damage.

"Orz, power to emergency thrusters, evade them then shift us into a gravitational sling around Garnet!" Self ordered, now almost out of his chair.

The helmsman inputted the necessary adjustments, with Maia adjusting the ships micro-thrusters and internal gravity. Lieutenant Simms activated the counter-measures as ordered, firing off a mixture of bright blue ion flares, jamming the Covenant's plasma torpedo guidance, and VAMPR decoys, jamming their targeting sensors and communications. The few torpedoes that fired from the confused and now dazed raiders struck upwards then spiralled off course, as the counter-guidance system on the Heimdall worked its magic, preventing them from homing in upon it.

Barely missing their opponents, they began to to slingshot their way around the planet. USing the planets own gravity, they'd accelerate around it much faster than is usually possible. Their flank just entered the edge of the upper atmosphere, leaving a thin trail of flame as it did. The crew, having held their breath during the breath encounter, let out a collective sigh.

"Maia, assessment!" Self demanded, leaning back in his chair

"We have taken no hits. Two enemy vessels have been damaged, another has seemingly been crippled. The destroyer now lacks shields but is otherwise operational.

"Okay, before we re-enter visual range, I want us dropped to battle speed, and our fighters and drones launcher. Switch the main gun to an incendiary round and prepare the secondary guns for close fire, we'll home in upon them and destroy them at close range." Self coolly ordered.

As the Heimdall came close to completing a circuit of the planet, her forward thrusters fired, and she began to decelerate, while the hanger bays opened. Inside, the freshly fuelled and freshly armed Super Sabre fighters entered launch positions, then were fired off, the on-board catapult flinging them clear of the ship, followed by smaller Warlord-class Drones. The fighters entered a phalanx in front of her, holding position as they came back around. Bringing back up his comms, he thumbed a direct line to the squadron leader.

"Commander Getz, hold position and keep the fighters off our back, and don't let your boys stray too far away, we'll keep you covered with out point defence guns." Self radioed in. Getz gave a short confirmation as his squadron pulled into a wide-v shaped formation on either side of the ship. As the ship completed its circle of the planet, the sun began to rise behind it, silhouetting it. With the sun glare behind them, it'd be difficult for the enemy ahead to get a definite lock on them.

Ahead of them, the remaining vessels began to move in preparation for the counter attack. One of the remaining corvettes limped behind the other, thin slivers of silver escaping from its side, indicating it was venting atmosphere. The other moved to protect the destroyer, shielding it, while the destroyer attempted to bring its shields back online.

"Sir, it would appear the corvettes are attempting to screen the destroyer. I would advise we hold back at stand off range and engage their fighter constellations. Not that you would follow my suggestions sir." Maia began, clearly beginning to become annoyed with Self.

"Load the incendiary round, hit the lead corvette. Give me a targeting solution on the trailing ship, lets make sure we finish it this time."

As the ship thundered forward, the engines rattling the entire super structure, it was approached by groups of tightly bunched fighters. Picked up on sensors long before the crew spotted them, they were tallied and picked out, before Maia, routing through the defence network, began to prioritise targets. Across the hull of the vessel, the phalanxes of defence guns began to awaken, rail guns, missile launchers and lasers swivelling on their mounts. As the fighter constellations hit the outer limit of their range, their guns began to fire off, first with twin lances of the lasers, scissoring fighters apart, and leaving near intact hulls tumbling through space, maintaining their trajectory. The rail guns opened up next, generating walls of hyper velocity slugs, slamming through hulls, tumbling and tearing chunks out of them.

The escorting Sabres fired off their first wave of missiles, ejecting from the pylons where they were held, then streaking off, doggedly pursuing their prey before releasing their payload of flechettes, penetrating the hulls and depressurising them with explosive effects, the crew almost instantly killed. Falling out of formation, they began to pirouette to evade the waves of Seraphs and Banshees, switching to their short ranged missiles and cannons, exchanging fire and missiles with plasma bolts. Out classing the Covenant fighters in armament and speed, compounded with the fact they thought so close to home, the advantage become immediately, with the defence network knocking out a dozen fighters in the first salvo, and the Sabres knocking out another dozen. Dropping into groups of wing men, they utilised their well practised methods, pulling apart their formation, isolating them, then destroying them at leisure.

Almost uncaring for the battle raging around it, the Heimdall surged forward, bringing its main gun to bear. The magnets powering it began to spin up, producing a distinct whine in the ship. Ahead of them, the Covenant vessels finally returned fire. Bands of blue light formed along the hull, before firing, torpedoes homing in upon the Heimdall. Pulse lasers began to fire, with little accuracy a few scattered beams brushed against the shields of the ship, the shielding flaring to combat this. The torpedoes that followed were more significant. Counter guidance systems confused their magnetic guidance, causing a few to spin off an dissipate, but others slipped the net, hitting the ship. The shielding flared again, straining to hold out against this onslaught.

The main gun fired in turn, the entire ship shuddering in response. The slug travelled fast enough to fool any watching into believing it was near instantaneous, and slammed into the leading corvette. Burrowing through the outer armour at first, before the force and heat of impact vaporized its payload. The chemical component turned into a conflagration of plasma, burning with the heat of a star. Burning the ship from the inside out, the fire spread through the decks, turning the crew to ash in an instant, tearing apart the ship from the inside out and melting through the internal structure. The hull began to boil away, as the flames burst from the ship, creating a intense fireball, blinding the destroyer hiding behind it. The flames reached the reactor, igniting it and finally destroying the Corvette, which just about vanished in a tremendous explosion.

As the Heimdall swung around, it fired off it's last wave of archer missiles, hitting the trailing corvette, as it exchanged plasma torpedoes at short range. The missiles weaved around before finding their way into their target, hammering through its armour and tearing it apart. The corvette shuddered under multiple explosions, before one found a chink in its armour, and hit the reactor. The tremendous explosion destroyed the aft of the ship, with the prow blown off course by the explosion, tumbling uncontrollably towards the planet, a trail of wreckage and leaving plasma in its wake. However, its last salvo found its mark, punching through the shielding and landing a pair of torpedoes into the ship. Punching a hole through the lower decks, the plasma torpedo exploding, setting fire to the very metal of the ship. The ship's super structure squealed under the punishment, the Heimdall broke off, to come around on the now disorientated destroyer.

"Maia, damage report!" Self barked

"Multiple pulse laser strikes, damage to armour negligible, two torpedo strikes. One exploded against outer plate, no penetration, second one burned through and exploded on deck twelve. Multiple fires on deck nine through sixteen, three crewmen dead, nine more wounded. I am dispatching fire fighting crews and utilising suppression systems, but the fire is dangerous close to archer pod five, and if detonated we will suffer irreparable damage." Maia said, listing off the ships woes in her same tone.

Self turned to Trask, his brow furrowed "Get down there, guide the crews, and make sure we get the crew out. Once its clear, I'm venting those areas."

Trask nodded, not saying a word. He took his rebreather kit and stepped out of his chair, and ran off the bridge. Slinging the tank over his shoulder, and pulling the mask over his face, he now had 30 minutes of pressurised air to use. thundering down the stairs, he pushed his way through the chaos as fire fighting teams, cased in heat resistant and vacuum sealed gear, made their way down to the effected areas. The ship rocked again, as it dived back into the battle.

Deck twelve was a mess, the corridors blackened by the initial explosion, and pipes venting, obscuring Trask's vision. Ahead of him, a team of six fire fighting crew moved forward, carrying high capacity oxygen tanks, and high powered fire extinguishers, enough to put out fires caused by plasma munitions. They reached the bulkhead of the deck and opened it up, to see the devastation beyond. Fires burned out of control as the plasma still burned, melting through the titanium superstructure of the ship itself. Gas poured from the ceiling as the halon fire fighting systems attempted to combat the worst of the blaze. Crewmen carried one another out, their skin blistered from the heat, their uniforms blackened. Their respirators saved their lives, allowing them to survive the sudden hull breach, the catastrophic lack of oxygen, the heat and the smoke. the firefighting crews moved to help the more badly injured ones, their skin covered in severe burns, and consumed by incredible pain. Trask took one of the crew and carried him clear, resorting to dragging him across the bulkhead threshold.

"Lieutenant Trask, all crew are out, I'm preparing to vent the atmosphere." Maia droned over his headset, her near monotone voice over the radio barely registering the fact they were in combat, and on fire.

Behind him the fire fighting crew retreated, until they took crossed the threshold, their silver suits now blackened. Trask banged on the bulkhead over ride, breaking the glass and closing the door, the reinforced bulkhead closing down with a swiftness belying its size. Maia opened up the airlocks and vented the atmosphere. As the oxygen left, so did the fire that fed on it, resulting in the ship ejecting several trails of fire from its wound. Completed in short order, the doors were sealed and the fire systems combated the last few stubborn flames.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, the crew went into a frenzy, as the Heimdall swung around the exposed rear of her foe. Self was barely in his seat. Like his book, he was out at sea, fighting that Marlin, battling it, but to underestimate his foe at this juncture was folly. They'd been otherwise blinded by a tremendous explosion close to their starboard.

"Put our emergency power into getting our shields back on, and bring our starboard broadside to bear, I want to finish this!" Self commanded, his crew complying.

The ship grazed by the cloud of debris left by the trailing corvette, and lined up behind their enemy. The central screen on the bridge adjusted to give them a direct view of their enemy, and began to project imaginary lines, part of the augmented reality display, to show the trajectory of the guns as they moved into position. The destroyer began to swivel, finally getting a bead on its foe, stray pulse beams uselessly lashing against it's hull.

"Gunnery crew reports weapons in ready position! Missiles locked and ready to fire!" Arakita reported

"Fire at will!" he bellowed, now out of his seat

The guns opened fire, the gauss cannons hammering out waves of precise slugs, the mixture of anti-armour, explosive and incendiary slugs making their marks known as they punched through the hull and caused obscene amounts of devastation, punching through decks, shattering the hull. This was followed by the laser cannons, firing twin lances of red light, which burned through the hull, tearing it asunder on impact and cutting through, the guns changing their target to drag the beam across, cutting across the hull. This is the part many found disturbing about deep space warfare. The fact Self looked at the enemy warship, racked by explosions, slugs screaming into its hull, and they bridge was contained in almost complete silence, as if they watched a muted video. Even as one of the lasers hit a plasma conduit, causing a tremendous explosion of brilliant blue plasma, there wasn't a single sound above the laboured breathing of the crew, and the functioning of the machines. They continued to pound the enemy, precise volleys followed by a handful of missiles to keep up the momentum. The hull of the enemy warship buckled, great rents forming, with plasma and atmosphere venting. An engine was struck, producing a great belch of plasma, and its reactor coolant was hit. The ship lurched, its reactor entering a runaway away state. In a desperate bid to save itself, it attempted to eject its fuel cells, but the cells, already damaged and set ablaze by battle, ignited, creating a tremendous explosion to its rear, gutting the reactor. The ship rocked under the explosion, and now deprived of its engine, came to a halt. The lights across its hull went out, and its weapons ceased firing.

"Hold fire. We've won." Self said, coming back to a rest in his seat "Maia, broadcast that we've over powered them, and reinforcements are on their way, it is in their best interests to surrender. Trask returned to the bridge behind them, his face covered in soot. His jaw went slack, looking in amazement at their victory.

"We.... we beet them. I... just... wow." he stammered.

Self smiled to himself. He was hauling that Marlin back to the village.

"I've gotten the report from the captain of the Endurance. Its amazing what you've done with that ship Self." Vice Admiral Corso began, walking alongside Self.

"Thank you sir." Self said, looking back to the ship. They were on the Manheim fleet command station, walking through the adjoining network of suspended corridors. From the window they could see the Heimdall, undergoing light repairs from its action, and being rearmed.

"She's the first in a new line Self, with ships like these we aren't just on equal footing with the Covenant, but we're surpassing them. The fleet is already rolling out another ten Heimdall-class Frigates in a weeks time." Corso began "They've already got a replacement for the Autumn in line, and in three months the next Infinity-class will be rolled out."

Self stopped, looking to his ship. She'd taken on four ships, all of a higher tonnage than herself, and come out on top. Tactics certainly helped, but they'd come out on top with this warship. He'd seen numerous other ships destroyed with impunity in the war, but now.... now the tide was changing. The Covenant would be ill prepared for this and ill prepared for the UNSC to rise from their ashes, like a phoenix. They won't stand a chance.

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