|1401 Hours, May 10th, 2552
UNSC Casablanca, Mamore Orbit
"All systems are green, Spartans. You may leave the dock."
Sat within the confined cockpit of her YSS-1000 Sabre, Layla-B101 hummed as her craft detached itself from the docking cradle and moved off into open space, thrusters blaring. Her gauntleted fingers crept over readouts already double and triple-checked by technicians, making sure that there was absolutely nothing wrong before moving forward. Below her was Mamore, a muddy brown-blue ball dotted with vast cities and manufacturing plants. It was, Layla reflected as she glanced down, not the prettiest colony world out there.
"This is Beta Zero-Three-One," a female voice filtered through her helmet's speakers. "One-Oh-One, adjust course and fall in ASAP."
"Copy that," she replied, her voice flat and deliberately monotone. "Moving in now."
As Layla maneuvered the ship into position slightly behind two other Sabre craft, her focus shifted from Mamore to the far-off dot that was the Sahara Four, one of the planet's orbital shipyards. Less than a day ago, armed insurgents posing as returning workers had taken over the facility, which housed nearly three dozen Longsword fighters and several valuable cargo freighters. In response, the UNSC had sent in a trio of Spartans to deal with the situation.
"Movement ahead," spoke the third member of their group. "We've got Longswords deploying."
"I see them, Three-Twelve."
Checking her scanners, Layla kept quiet as she counted eleven fighters. It looked like the Innies had seen them coming. Leandra-B031's Sabre rocketed forward, her wingmates keeping pace as they approached the station. As the Longswords moved into formation, a readout flashed red, indicating a successful missile lock.
Layla thumbed the switch and primed her weapons. "Break when they fire," she said, marking three of the enemy fighters from afar.
Sure enough, a barrage of ASGM-10 missiles erupted towards them, and the three Sabres lurched away at different angles to avoid them. While the Longswords were designed for ship-to-ship contact, their state of the art fighters were smaller and much, much faster, allowing Layla and her comrades to quickly evade the first volley. Their ships darted and twisted through space, the missiles pursuing them smashing into one another before they ever reached the Sabres.
"Engaging," SPARTAN-B312 announced, turning with impressive speed and opening fire. His 30mm cannons raked along one Longsword's hull, blasting through the cockpit and crippling it in seconds.
"They're launching more from the station," came the reply from Leandra.
"Copy," Layla blew another fighter away and broke off from the dogfight. "I'll deal with it."
Despite their numbers and heavy weaponry, the Insurrectionist pilots were simply no match for the Sabres and their superhuman pilots. As five more craft were quickly destroyed, the rest attempted to retreat. Any successful hits had been dispersed by the starfighter's prototype energy shields before any major damage occurred, while they were too quick for missile strikes. Sighting the Sahara Four ahead, Layla switched to her Medusa missiles. While the UNSC had requested that they capture the station intact, she was sure they wouldn't mind losing a few hangars.
"Missiles away!" she suppressed a laugh as four red streaks impacted the open bays, blasting several more ships to pieces as they attempted to launch.
"Watch for structural damage, One-Oh-One," chided Leandra. Layla rolled her eyes as she circled the station, blowing away anything that tried to leave. Within fifteen minutes, nothing remained to challenge them.
"Looks like the last of them," B312 spoke at last. He'd not said much during the mission. "Status on missile payloads?"
"Copy that," his Sabre suddenly turned, heading towards Mamore's atmosphere. "Initiating seek-and-destroy below."
"Say again?" came the incredulous reply from Leandra. "We weren't specced for atmospheric operations."
"I was. Orders just came in to intercept an insurgent group groundside that's just attacked a UNSC outpost. Moving now."
Sat comfortably in her own cockpit, Layla quietly turned around and began her journey back towards the Casablanca. Three-Twelve had already dropped off their TEAMCOM list, likely now taking orders from whatever higher-up he'd been the attack dog for all these years. She clicked her tongue, annoyed that she couldn't quite recall his name. She'd not seen most members of Beta Company since the earliest days of training, after all.
Should've checked before. Oh well. Mission's over.