Halo: The Recovery by witelancer
Halo: The Recovery: Part 1
Date: 23 November 2003, 12:20 AM
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Prologue (based on The Fall of the Reach)
August 30, 2552
In orbit around REACH military facility, Epsilon Eridani system
Admiral Michael Stanforth watched in horror as the Covenant armada swept through the Epsilon Eridani system. Burning hulks of UNSC and Covenant ships floated through the icy cold blackness of space. MAC rounds, trailing chains of blue-white lightning, shot towards the Covenant fleet. While a few ships took hits and exploded, the majority of the rounds were off-target, fired by poorly positioned or heavily damaged UNSC ships. When the Covenant returned fire, however, the Covenant's all-too-deadly plasma torpedoes destroyed almost every remaining UNSC ship.
As Stanforth watched the space battle from the Leviathan, he overheard the radio traffic from Reach's surface. It was terrible news.
"Reactor complex seven has been compromised! Shut it down! Shut down all the reactors!" screamed an unknown Marine. "The Covenant have landed in force! Thousands of them have—"
The transmissions suddenly ceased. Stanforth could see mushroom clouds erupting on Reach's surface. The Super MAC guns suddenly stopped firing, their broadcast power generators destroyed. A Covenant battle group of three dozen destroyers and frigates came out of Slipspace right next to the disabled Super MAC guns, firing plasma torpedoes and pulse lasers. The guns boiled away, leaving Reach defenseless.
"Lieutenant Thompson," Stanforth said, "Notify the rest of the fleet that we will regroup at Delta Hexanus."
"Aye, sir," responded the haggard-looking Thompson as she pulled her red hair aside and began tapping out a message at her communications.
"Lieutenant Ford—we need to get out of here. We've lost the battle. Bring us around to course 180 and begin our acceleration to Slipspace."
"Yes sir!" said Ford with military discipline. He began to calculate a course to bring the Leviathan out of the Epsilon Eridani system. Lights glowed and illuminated his battle-weary face.
The view of the stars morphed into a green hole in space-time as the Leviathan accelerated into Slipstream space. Admiral Stanforth turned back to Thompson.
"Send a message to FLEETCOMHQ," he said, "and tell
them about the battle. Lieutenant Dirksen, you have the bridge. I'm going to go take a nap."
The Admiral turned and strode off the bridge. The bridge crew watched him momentarily and then returned to their assigned tasks. The Leviathan continued its journey through Slipspace.
September 17, 2552
Delta Hexanus system, approximately 15 light-years from Earth.
Aboard the Leviathan, in geosynchronous orbit over Delta Hexanus VII
The muted clicks of Admiral Stanforth's deck shoes on the cold, hard titanium A floor of the Leviathan's bridge could be heard for miles in the metallic passageways of the mighty UNSC cruiser. As Stanforth reached the command chair, all four of the ship's bridge crew stood at-attention and saluted. He stopped, turned around, and began to address them.
"Welcome back," he said. "We were lucky to have escaped with our lives. It's been two weeks since we arrived here in the Delta Hexanus system. I've marshaled up what remains of our fleet in the Inner Colonies. I have to say that what's left of the fleet is not in the greatest shape. We lost too many good people and too many good ships out there.
But it's not our job to mourn the dead. Our duty is to defend Earth with everything we've got. Although fighting and killing the Covenant is an important part of that duty, we must also fight them on an electronic level. We must adhere to the Cole Protocol at all costs. We were lucky at Reach. Good men and women gave their lives to protect the secret of Earth's whereabouts.
So, let's continue to do our duty. Lieutenant Dirksen, you can start by giving me a status report."
Dirksen, a middle-aged Lieutenant, First Class, saluted and began his status report. "Well, sir, the Leviathan itself is in good shape. A week ago, the orbital repair station Albert Lea docked with our ship. They repaired almost all the damage to the reactor and the weapons. All systems look like they're in good shape. Hull breaches have been sealed and the pressurization system has been repaired."
"Excellent. Lieutenant Heston, what about our weapons?" asked Stanforth, who was obviously pleased by the good repair work the Albert Lea's crew had done.
"Sir, Archer missile pods A through Z have all been reloaded. The MAC system has been reloaded with the new lightweight shredder rounds—this allows us to fire three MAC shots with just one charge. We have two squadrons of C709 Longsword interceptors ready to launch. Finally, we've also replenished our stock of Shiva-class nuclear missiles. In short, sir, we're ready to kick some ass," concluded Heston, a gaunt, pale man with a shaved head and many tattoos.
"Interesting, Lieutenant Heston. Tell me about this new MAC system."
"It looks like ONI has been up to their usual tricks, sir. The guys from the Albert Lea did a complete refit of our MAC system. They put in energy recyclers and replaced our magazine of MAC rounds. As I explained before, we can fire three rounds on one charge."
Wow, someone's got too much time on his hands, thought Stanforth. The new MAC system was a marvel of engineering. The Admiral turned and looked out the bridge viewport. The sparkling green gem of Delta Hexanus VII was visible in the distance. As Stanforth examined the beautiful planet, he was reminded of the many other worlds that had once been just like this one. The Covenant had slaughtered millions and glassed hundreds of planets on their rampage. Stanforth then turned back to the crew.
"Lieutenant Thompson—what is the status of the fleet? Has everyone checked in?" asked Stanforth.
"Yes sir. We have accounted for almost every ship that we know survived the battle at Reach. The Prometheus Battle Group checked in just over an hour ago. We have also established radio contact with several other ships that are on their way in-system," said Thompson, an attractive young redhead.
"Excellent. Now, let's discuss a plan for shoring up morale."
But before Stanforth could speak further, he was cut off by an alarm that was loudly blaring from Lieutenant Ford's console.
"Sir! The reactor's been compromised! We have meltdown in thirty seconds!" screamed the agitated Lieutenant.
"Engage the reactor safeties! Vent all drive plasma to space!" ordered Stanforth.
The Leviathan shook as tons of superheated radioactive fuel rods were ejected into space. The lights went out and were soon replaced with blood-red emergency floods. "What the hell was that!?" demanded Stanforth.
A few minutes before
The Engine Room of the Leviathan
Lalyap 'Nosolee trained his plasma rifle on the head of a UNSC Marine. The Engine Room of the Leviathan was practically unguarded, with only one soldier standing guard. A mistake typical of humans, thought 'Nosolee. 'Nosolee was an "Elite", the commanding caste in the Covenant's ground forces. He had infiltrated the Leviathan by using a Seraph-class fighter in the battle for Reach. The alien turned and removed something from the webbed pouch at his belt. He tossed a tiny device onto the wall of the Engine Room. Then, he activated his camo generator and became merely a flicker in the air.
'Nosolee made final adjustments and fired. The azure bolt of energy hit the Marine in the back of the head, setting his helmet on fire and killing him instantly. The corpse slumped forward onto the console, barely missing the bright red alarm button. 'Nosolee looked down and cursed. The camo generator's battery had run out, and he was no longer invisible. It would be an idea worthy of the Prophets to hurry, thought 'Nosolee. He primed a plasma grenade and then hit the blast shield control on the Engine Room's main console. As the blast shield on the reactor slid back, 'Nosolee tossed the energy bomb. The plasma grenade left a fluorescent blue trail as it sailed through the air.
Three seconds later, all hell broke loose as the grenade exploded. Gouts of flame erupted from the gargantuan main reactor. The grenade breached the outer lining, causing the inferno within to shoot out like the breath of a dragon. The reactor began to slowly disintegrate, and pieces of the shielding began to fly through the air. 'Nosolee ducked a piece of Titanium A shielding and waited for the ship to explode, giving him a ticket to Paradise.
But 'Nosolee's work was in vain. The reactor suddenly stopped venting flames. The inferno seemed to be dying, and a howling noise could be heard. The humans must have safety systems, thought 'Nosolee. I will devise another way to destroy the ship. He crept towards the brightly lit double door leading out of the Engine Room. Without warning, the halves of the door slid apart, revealing a group of four Marines in fireproof suits, armed with MA5B assault rifles. The Marines seemed taken aback, and then they opened fire. The first twenty rounds or so were absorbed by 'Nosolee's shields. But before the alien commando could roll for cover and return fire with his plasma rifle, his personal shields failed. 'Nosolee felt a round puncture his environment suit, and he fell backwards, waiting for his first glimpse of paradise.
"What a mess!" screamed one of the Marines. The
Elite's body had been torn apart by the converging streams of 7.62 mm rounds. Then, the corpse had fallen backwards into the gaping hole in the reactor. Parts of the body had flash-boiled and flash-frozen from the heat of the reactor and the cold of space, leaving chunks of alien meat all over the ceilings and bulkheads of the engine room.
The Marines began to search the room for more Covenant troops. Eventually, the Marines left and the engineers entered. But 'Nosolee's tracker never left the room
Halo: The Recovery: Part 2
Date: 23 November 2003, 12:24 AM
September 18, 2552
Epsilon Eridani system
In geosynchronous orbit over the former UNSC Reach facility
The Council of Prophets on board the Covenant cruiser Valiant conferred and withdrew to their discussion chambers. 'Nosolee's tracker had given them the location of the filthy human flagship-the Leviathan. The general impression of the Council was that any human ship was unworthy of such a glamorous title, and thus even the name of the human ship was an affront to the gods. Now, the Prophets would endlessly debate the benefits and risks of a frontal assault on the UNSC fleet, which would complete the slaughter of the human forces in the sector.
While the Council debated, the Covenant army was cleaning up what was left of human resistance on Reach. Although the Covenant's brutal "glassing" of the planet had killed most of the human fighters, small pockets of their "Marines" and "Naval Personnel" were holding out in the deep caves the humans had dug many years ago. Most of the Prophets heard this news and thought of the rodents that many Elites had hunted in their youth. How appropriate that the vermin hide like rats, thought one Prophet in particular.
The Covenant fleet, one hundred and fifty seven ships in number, orbited through the Reach system, searching for any human ship foolish enough to enter the system. Covenant dominance seemed complete.
September 18, 2552
Five thousand feet below the surface of Reach, in an abandoned titanium mine
Dr. Halsey paced back and forth relentlessly in one of Reach's many deep caves. They had once been titanium mines, but following the UNSC's conversion of the planet into a military base, the mines had been commandeered for use as research facilities and shelters capable of withstanding a hit from a thirty-megaton nuke. Now, following the UNSC's defeat in orbit, the few surviving UNSC personnel had crowded into the caves. Five hundred Marines of the 107th Airborne Assault Division had narrowly escaped the "glassing" of the planet's surface and were now desperately trying to keep from being discovered by the Covenant.
The chamber she occupied had once been an administrative office. The square, stone room had a few pieces of cheap premolded memory plastic furniture, and a powerful radio that used Mount Hathcock as an antenna. Halsey walked over to the gray radio box.
"This is Dr. Halsey to any UNSC forces. Do you copy?" she queried.
The radio spat back static. Of course, there's no answer, thought Halsey. No one even knows we're down here. They could care less, especially ONI.
Just as Halsey was about to turn off the radio in disgust, a sudden transmission burst from its speaker.
"Dr. Halsey! This is the Prometheus! Where are you?"
Halsey, who was astonished, ran over to the mike.
The Prometheus couldn't be here, thought the scientist. "We're in the caves under Reach, holding out as best we can. Can you lend us some assistance?"
"Uh... that's a negative, Doctor. Admiral Stanforth specifically ordered us not to pick any fights. We'll be back, Doctor."
"Prometheus! Listen to me! You've got to—"
The radio signal was cut. Halsey's hopes deflated once more. A sudden thud got her attention. She whirled around, half-expecting to see a Covenant Hunter behind her. But it was only Sergeant Richardson, head of this particular cave's security, closing the pressure door to the room behind him.
"Doctor? The Covenant are coming down the tunnel. I suggest we move as quickly as possible," he said.
"Covenant? Here? Already? Well then, let's get a move on, Sergeant!"
September 18, 2552
The very boundary of the Reach system
On board UNSC destroyer Prometheus
Captain John C. Jenkins watched as ten Seraph-class fighters dove towards the Prometheus's bridge viewport. The vaguely piscine fighters fired pulse lasers which struck the hull around the viewport with tremendous force. Jenkins' lips curled and then he cursed.
"Bridge to 50-gunners," he said into an open channel, "let them have it!"
The Prometheus brought its point defense system of 50 mm autocannons to bear on the Seraph fighters. The single ships exploded with nary a sound in the cold vacuum of space. Jenkins cursed again. Here we are, he pondered, on the edge of the Reach system, and the Covenant have already found us!
"Sir—the frigates are moving in," said his executive officer.
The Prometheus had been on the run ever since entering the system. Now, as she had approached the asteroid belt, two frigates had come out of Slipspace behind her. They had been moving closer and closer, trapping Jenkins between a rock and a hard place. He had no choice but to fight his way out.
"Guns: arm the MAC cannons and Archer missile pods. I want the missiles impacting with the heavy rounds," said Stanforth, "and make them good solid hits."
"Aye, sir. MAC capacitors at sixty percent and charging at the rate of two percent per minute," said the lieutenant that manned the weapons console.
"Navigation: set our bearing to 180 only after I tell you to. Guns: You may fire when ready."
"Sir! The Covenant ships have fired their plasma torpedoes!" exclaimed a junior grade.
"Hold steady. Guns, what's your status?"
"MAC capacitors at ninety, ninety-two, ninety-four, ninety-six, ninety-eight, full charge! Firing now, sir! Archer missiles away!"
Two thumps could be heard through the hull as two tungsten-carbide projectiles fired from the Prometheus's MAC cannons. Twin lightning bolts shot away from the destroyer, accompanied by hundreds of Archer missiles. The UNSC ordnance passed the incoming Covenant plasma torpedoes and smacked into the two frigates. The MAC rounds impacted, causing the shields flash and then implode. Huge, gaping holes appeared in their sides. Then, before the shields could come back up, the Archer missiles impacted, exploding in orange fireballs all over the surface over the cruisers. The Covenant ships detonated orgasmically, spraying the backdrop of space with orange fire and flame.
But the Prometheus wasn't safe. The frigates' plasma torpedoes were still inbound. The deadly energy weapons could eat through a destroyer like the Prometheus with no trouble.
"Navigation: take us into the asteroid belt! Use emergency thrusters to dodge the asteroids and plasma torpedoes! Reactors to one hundred thirty percent!" screamed Jenkins in desperation.
The lieutenant at navigation and the XO frantically and maniacally tapped commands into their consoles. The Prometheus rattled and swiftly turned around. The plasma torpedoes continued to hound the Prometheus like a pair of hungry predators. The Prometheus entered the asteroid belt, and rocks immediately began to pit and impact the hull. Using the chemical thrusters implanted at six different strategic hardpoints on its hull, the destroyer deftly dodged grinding asteroids. It slipped out from behind a monstrous, city-sized asteroid.
The plasma torpedoes did not. The weapons slammed into the asteroid, causing it to explode and shower the nearby asteroids with rock dust and little bits of plasma.
The bridge crew cheered and celebrated as the destroyer sailed free from the asteroid belt a few minutes later. However, they couldn't celebrate for long. Jenkins gave orders to return to Delta Hexanus. The destroyer accelerated on an outbound vector, tearing a hole in the space-time continuum and using its Shaw-Fujikawa translight generator to escape from the Covenant.
Halo: The Recovery: Part 3
Date: 23 November 2003, 12:27 AM
September 23, 2552
On the surface of Delta Hexanus VII
PFC Fred B. Jones sighed loudly and continued on his patrol through the well-lit forests of Delta Hexanus VII. The planet was a gem in the eyes of many colonists, with a gravity of 0.98 Gs, an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, and a variety of climates. But to Jones, the planet represented a boring, mindless duty station. What a crap detail, he thought as he looked up into the sky. We get dragged all over the galaxy, and all I get to do is stand here on some tree-hugger's paradise? The sun began to set, casting blood-red rays all over the forests. Jones could see hills from his vantagepoint, high on a forested bluff. Jones sighed again and turned around, waiting for his patrol to end.
Little did PFC Fred Jones know that his day was about to get a hell of a lot more exciting.
In geosynchronous orbit over Delta Hexanus VII
The scorched hull of the Leviathan drifted lifelessly through space. Ever since the burnout and destruction of the ship's main reactor, the cruiser had been powerless. Admiral Stanforth had ordered the Marathon-class cruiser evacuated, and the bridge crew sent to the Blue Wind, the other cruiser in the UNSC fleet. The rest of the crew had been dispersed on other ships in the UNSC fleet or sent down to the surface of Delta Hexanus VII. The rest of the UNSC fleet arrayed itself precisely in a phalanx formation; their thrusters at precision station keeping. The Prometheus was at the head of the formation. Despite not receiving a single hit from a plasma torpedo, the destroyer had taken a considerable amount of damage in the Reach system. The engine baffles had been nearly destroyed by pulse lasers and rogue asteroids. The main hull itself was pitted with laser scorch marks and dings from asteroids.
However, the ship still had power and two meters of Titanium A armor. Her weapons systems were fully functional. Captain Jenkins stood on the bridge, watching intently as the communications officer tinkered with the subspace radio. Finally, he turned and said, "It's ready, sir." Jenkins cleared his throat and waited. The viewscreen in front of the Captain flickered and then displayed Admiral Stanforth's aged visage.
"Greetings, Captain Jenkins. How was the scenery on Reach? You didn't happen to visit Camp Hathcock, did you?" asked Stanforth. Jenkins gave the Admiral a tight-lipped half-smile. Camp Hathcock, primary haven of the UNSC's military staff on Reach, had been utterly annihilated when the Covenant glassed the planet.
"It was wonderful, sir, but I didn't get much time to admire it. The Covenant found the Prometheus after just half an hour in-system", replied Jenkins.
"So... what are the defenses like, then?" asked Stanforth who was looking apprehensive.
"Well....the fleet that attacked Reach is still in orbit. The Prometheus took fire from Seraph-class fighters and a couple of frigates. We detected over one hundred fifty ships still in orbit around Reach."
"Damn it! That's more than twice the size of this fleet!"
"That's not even half of the bad news, sir. We made radio contact with some survivors."
"What? How could there be survivors?"
"Dr. Halsey is still alive, sir. She contacted us via radio while we were in-system."
"Alright. Let's call a briefing. I'm coming over to the Prometheus. Captain Jenkins, get ready to transfer my flag. Call up the rest of the fleet by 0600 hours and we'll talk."
Jenkins saluted smartly and said, "Yes, Admiral." He then motioned to the communications officer to cut the signal. He began the long process of preparing the Prometheus for the Admiral's arrival.
About the same time
Epsilon Eridani system, on board the Covenant battle cruiser Valiant
The Council of Prophets had ceased its deliberations. It was decided that the Leviathan and the rest of the filthy human fleet were to be annihilated at once. The Valiant and its subordinate battle group of fifty-odd destroyers and frigates would attack Delta Hexanus immediately. The other one hundred ships in the Covenant fleet would remain in the Reach system, completing the destruction of the pitiful humans.
The Valiant was a flurry of activity. The highest-ranking Elites marched to their battle stations, giving the others in the passageways looks that would have cowed a prophet. Grunts and Jackals barked at one another in strange tongues. Carts of plasma weaponry rolled down the passageways. The ships' Engineers prepared the reactors for Slipspace. The Ship Master of the Valiant, a veteran Elite named Kosod 'Valenen, stretched his long arms and shook his angular snout as he waited for the crew of the Valiant to prepare for battle.
Fifty-three Covenant ships pulled out of their positions and shot into Slipspace. For many of the Covenant troops on board, it looked like a green wave of titanic space-time rifts was rushing over their heads. Grunts, Jackals, and Elites sat and waited in anticipation of roasting the humans.
On board the Prometheus
Stanforth sipped his glass of ice water and watched as the Captains of the Prometheus, Apollo, Lambert, Locke, and the Blue Wind filed into the Prometheus's map room. The room seemed to be too small for the six officers. Stanforth cleared his throat and began. "Gentlemen, let's begin by hearing this audio clip Captain Jenkins graciously recorded for us."
The AI of the Prometheus, Calvin, projected an "image" of "himself" on to the holographic map table in the center of the cramped room. The AI chose to represent himself as a six-year old boy, although his chosen avatar belied his immense calculating power and mathematical abilities. "Certainly, Admiral," said Calvin. The conversation that had taken place in the Reach system emanated from the single speaker set into the map room's holographic projector. The quality of the sound was typically substandard, but the impact of the recording was not. Every officer in the room looked stunned.
"As you can see, we have a small problem," said Stanforth.
"Small would be an understatement, Admiral," said Calvin in a refined, superior-sounding voice. "The odds of successfully negotiating a rescue is one in 306,781."
Stanforth was disgusted by the AI's pessimism. "Thank you, Calvin, that will be enough," he said in a clipped voice. "WE need someone to volunteer his ship for a rescue operation. This will be a very dangerous mission that will probably not succeed. But, we owe it to the men and women of the 107th and Dr. Halsey to try," said Stanforth in a calm, stern voice.
"The Blue Wind will make the attempt, Admiral," said Captain Boronado of the Blue Wind. "Our ONI 'improvements' make us the best ship for the job."
Everyone in the room knew exactly what Boronado was talking about. The Blue Wind was one of the most technologically advanced cruisers in the UNSC fleet. She boasted an artificial gravity system to rival any Covenant ship, experimental pulse lasers, and the new-model Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. The Blue Wind was even rumored to have a new-model reactor and even shields.
"Thank you, Captain. We are all in your debt," said Stanforth appreciatively. "The remainder of the ships in our fleet will remain on station. Now, let's discuss—"
Calvin interrupted him. "Admiral? I hate to interrupt, but the Covenant fleet has arrived."
Halo: The Recovery: Part 4
Date: 25 November 2003, 7:25 PM
September 23, 2552
Delta Hexanus system
'Valenen bared his fangs and snarled. The unsuspecting primates would have no warning of his arrival until it was too late. The Valiant would mow down the human ships like a farmer with a sickle. Ah, there they are, thought 'Valenen as he leaned forward on the bridge railing. A wireframe model of the Leviathan appeared on-screen. The words "HUMAN ATTACK SHIP, C-I" appeared next to the wireframe diagram.
"This is the ship that 'Nosolee's tracker is on, correct?" asked 'Valenen.
"Yes, Ship Master," replied a lower-ranking Elite.
"Good. Give me maximum reactor power and we'll destroy it before the filthy humans can react."
"Yes, sir," said the Elite.
Meanwhile, the UNSC fleet was in chaos. The arrival of the Covenant fleet had caught them totally off-guard. The Prometheus disgorged six command shuttles, which would return the Captains to their ships. The UNSC ships rearranged themselves within the phalanx formation. The Blue Wind pulled away from the fleet, leaving the Prometheus at the spearhead. The repair dock Albert Lea, ready to be used as a sacrificial shield.
The bridge of the Prometheus was a flurry of activity. Captain Jenkins felt overwhelmed by the sudden burst of activity. Jenkins was an organized and orderly man, so he began by getting his bearings. "Navigation: what is the Covenant's bearing compared to ours?"
"Sir, the Covenant fleet is headed towards the opposite side of the planet."
"What? Get me Admiral Stanforth."
The communications officer saluted and said, "Yes, sir." He turned and opened a channel to Stanforth.
"What is it, Jenkins?"
"Sir, I have reason to believe that the Covenant fleet's goal is not to attack us but rather to invade Delta Hexanus," said Jenkins.
"Well, the Covenant fleet is headed towards the opposite side of the planet. All of our ships are here. What else could be going on?"
"Not all of our ships, Captain. The Covenant are heading for the Leviathan."
"Why just the Leviathan?"
"There was a Covenant saboteur, remember? He probably planted some sort of tracking device. That's why, Captain."
"I see.... I hope you're right, Admiral."
The Covenant fleet pushed their engines to maximum speed. The blue-white glow of the ion engines could be seen from the other side of the planet. 'Valenen ordered the Valiant to warm up its particle-beam system. The weapon had proven itself at Reach, when a sister ship of the Valiant had destroyed over twenty enemy ships single-handedly with the weapon.
The Leviathan came into view. That can't be all, thought 'Valenen. The single human ship would be no match for the Covenant fleet. "Fire the particle beam!" ordered 'Valenen. The turret on top of the Valiant rotated and emitted a blut-white lance of energy that cut the Leviathan in half. Fire blossomed all over the human ships' hull. The cruiser disintegrated into fiery debris.
"Is that all?" asked the same subordinate.
"It can't be... but I'm not surprised. The humans have been getting more and more pathetic lately," said 'Valenen.
"Should we launch the dropships?" asked another lower-ranked Elite.
"May the Gods bless our troops."
Hundreds of U-shaped dropships shot towards the pristine planet of Delta Hexanus VII. They were full of Grunts, Jackals, Elites, and Hunters, all eager to taste the flesh of the UNSC troops below. The Valiant and other Covenant ships moved into a high geosynchronous orbit.
None of the Covenant commanders realized that this course would take them into the heart of the UNSC fleet. In fact, 'Valenen left the bridge and retired to his cabin to take a nap. Other Elites took over.
A few minutes later
Surface of Delta Hexanus VII
Jones looked up and saw hundreds of incoming Covenant dropships. He began to sprint towards Firebase Alpha. There, Jones would find hundreds of other marines and many dozens of Warthog LRVs. He arrived half an hour later, his ballistic armor soaked with sweat. Warthogs were already motoring their way out of Alpha, their diesel engines thrumming and growling as overaggressive drivers put the pedal to the metal—literally.
Jones found his Warthog—it was in the way back of Alpha's garage. His gunner, Corporal Hylland, and a Private he didn't know were already in the back and the passenger seat. Hylland saluted and pulled back the slide on the 50mm chain gun that was mounted in the rear of the Warthog. Jones jumped into the driver's seat and floored it. The gunner yelled "Punch it!" just as the Warthog's tires squealed on the duracrete floor and the LRV rocketed out of the garage.
"So, Corporal—what are we going to do?" asked Jones.
"Well, Jones, we're going to start by taking down that dropship behind us." Hylland turned the cannon and began to hose the air with chain-gun rounds. The Warthog rocked and shuddered from the immense recoil.
Edge of the Delta Hexanus system
Captain Boronado turned and began to give orders. "Lieutenant Ford: accelerate and make ready for Slipstream jump. Thompson: sound decompression alarms and empty all non-essential compartments. I don't want to go up like a torch if the Covenant hit us."
"Aye," said Thompson. The brilliant young Lieutenant had been transferred to the Blue Wind after the destruction of the Leviathan's reactor, along with the rest of the bridge crew. The remainder of the former flagship's crew was on other UNSC ships or on the surface of the seventh planet.
Boronado sighed and relaxed as the Blue Wind entered Slipspace. The captain knew that it was probably the last rest he would get for a very long time.
Halo: The Recovery: Part 5
Date: 25 November 2003, 7:27 PM
September 23, 2552
UNSC fleet above Delta Hexanus VII
Stanforth watched on the edge of his seat as the Covenant armada neared the UNSC fleet's position. The primary of Delta Hexanus shone its brilliant rays on the incoming Covenant ships, making them look like stars in the distance. From the bridge of the Prometheus, Stanforth could only see the radiant rays of the sun being reflected off of the Covenant ships' hulls. That won't do, thought Stanforth.
"Lieutenant: get me the approximate Covenant ships. Guns: I want firing solutions calculated and then staggered. Communications: transmit those solutions to the rest of the fleet. I want to hit those goddamned Covies right as they come around the planet. Maybe we won't have to sacrifice Albert Lea."
A chorus of "aye's" and "yes sir's" echoed around the bridge as the Prometheus readied for battle. Viewscreens flashed with hundreds of possible firing solutions. Calvin deftly staggered these mathematical formulas so that the Covenant's shields would be neutralized in the first volley of MAC rounds. Suddenly, the numerals that formed Calvin's body lit up with a bright red color.
"Incoming message from Delta Hexanus Seven!" exclaimed the AI.
"Put it up on the main screen, Calvin," said Stanforth. "I want everyone to read this." Within a few blinks of an eye, the message from the Marine Firebase was displayed on the liquid plasma display.
INCOMING MESSAGE—TOP SECRET
FROM: General Nast, UNSC Marine Corps
TO: Admiral Stanforth, UNSC destroyer Prometheus
Encryption Code: Alpha
The situation down here is desperate. You may not know this, but thousands of Covenant troops have already landed. We're being overwhelmed... Please send assistance immediately!
"Shit! Jenkins was right!" exclaimed the admiral.
A few minutes later
Two miles north of Firebase Alpha
Jones screamed and slammed the Warthog into full reverse. A Covenant Hunter leaped out of the trees in front of the jeep, its fuel rod gun still charged and ready to fire. Hylland and the passenger emptied clip after clip of 7.62mm and 50mm with no effect. The Warthog's wheels churned up gallons of mud and dirt as Jones attempted to evade the Hunter's deadly weapon.
Jones saw a neon-green flash and then heard a woosh! A round from the Hunter's fuel rod cannon passed directly over the Warthog. He screamed "Use the Jackhammers!" as he yanked the steering wheel to the right. Hylland crouched down and grabbed the Warthog's standard-issue 102mm rocket launcher. She rose and took aim with the cumbersome weapon. The private in the seat next to Jones screamed curses and stood up, firing his assault rifle. An entire clip of 7.62 hit the Hunter with no visible effect. The walking tank simply walked onwards. Hylland fired a 102mm shaped-charge rocket and missed wide just as the Hunter fired another shot from its fuel rod gun.
The round missed Jones but hit the marine in the passenger seat squarely in the head. The unfortunate soldier didn't even have time to scream as the bolt of energy melted his helmet into his skull and then burned his immolated head off. Jones vomited all over the dashboard and shoved the Warthog into drive. Hylland fired another rocket. This time, the rocket didn't miss. The Hunter came apart, goblets of meat rained down all over the forest floor. Orange blood soaked the ground where the shattered corpse fell to the ground.
Hylland and Jones simultaneously heaved a sigh of relief. Jones turned and eyed the carbonized remains of the private. It occurred to him that he didn't even know the soldier's name. Wordlessly, the two Marines cleaned and reloaded the 50mm chain gun.
Once the bolt clicked into place, Jones turned back around and hit the accelerator.
"Covies at six 'o clock!" screamed Hylland. She frantically fired the chain gun into the trees. The wails of dying Grunts and Jackals could be heard over the rapid thud-thud of the chain gun. Jones floored it and was beginning to feel a little bit better about surviving. Without warning, another Hunter sprang at the Warthog. Jones tried to brake instinctively and then grimaced as the 'Hog crushed the behemoth beneath its tires. More gore splattered the windshield.
The flustered PFC heard the distinctive rattle of MA5B assault rifle fire behind him. Hylland stopped firing the chain gun and watched in awe as a squad of ODST Helljumpers emerged from the woods, taking down the remaining Covenant.
"It sure is nice to see you guys," remarked Jones.
"Well... we could have been here sooner, except for the fact that our Pelican went down in the forest a few hundred feet back," answered one of the elite Helljumpers.
"Want some backup?"
"Sure... why not. It'll be a party!"
The next few hours were spent cleaning up the forest around the Pelican's crash site with thousands of 50mm chain gun rounds. By nightfall, the forest was littered with Covenant and UNSC corpses. Jones finally got to hit the sack at around 0200.
Halo: The Recovery: Part 6
Date: 25 November 2003, 7:27 PM
September 24, 2552
Delta Hexanus system
'Valenen roared a cry of anger as the Valiant slid around Delta Hexanus VII. A fleet of human ships awaited him.
"Ship Master—the human ships have already fired!" exclaimed a subordinate.
'Valenen tensed and turned around. "Arm the particle beam."
"Yes, Ship Master." The Valiant's particle beam system came online once more. Displays all around 'Valenen lit up with the positions of human ships. 'Valenen waited patiently as the Valiant came into firing range of the human armada. The other Covenant ships, however, suffered from command problems. By the time most of the Ship Masters awoke, it was too late. The Covenant fleet had been locked onto.
The UNSC fleet had been waiting for about seven hours. As the Covenant ships came into firing range, Stanforth noticed the Valiant at the head of the enemy's formation. Stanforth knew that if the Covenant battle cruiser could enter firing range of its particle beam weapon, the UNSC fleet would be doomed. He turned to Calvin and said, "Recalculate our firing solutions. I want nukes and MAC rounds on that big Covie ship."
Lieutenant McAlister at communications turned away from her console to face the Admiral. She looked quizzically back at her console, and then regained her composure.
"Admiral—there are only fifty Covenant ships in that battle group. Do you think that they could be attempting a pincer like at Reach?" she inquired.
"Excellent analysis, Lieutenant. Lieutenant Cobb, sweep the system with our radar. See if there are any Covenant ships in the area."
"Scanning, sir. No Covenant ships found."
Calvin chose that moment to project his image onto the main viewscreen. "Excuse me, Admiral, but the Covenant fleet will be within range of our Magnetic Accelerator Cannon in just a few seconds."
"Oh! That's right. Communications: send the new firing solutions to the rest of the fleet. Guns: fire when ready."
"Aye, sir. We'll put the MAC display on the main display."
The main viewscreen flickered again, erasing Calvin's image. A diagram of the MAC system and a charge status meter appeared on-screen. The lieutenant at weapons emphatically exclaimed "MAC guns are hot! Firing now, Admiral!"
The UNSC fleet rocked backwards in space as sixty-three MAC guns fired. Multiple lightning bolts shot away from the UNSC fleet. The exhaust trails of Shiva and Archer-class missiles followed the deadly tungsten-carbide projectiles. The black backdrop of space seemed to be lit up by the streaks of azure energy that shot from the UNSC fleet. As the MAC rounds rocketed towards the Covenant fleet, Calvin was already calculating a second set of firing solutions. "Firing solutions online, Admiral," said Calvin in a monotone voice.
Stanforth looked at the AI and said "Excellent work. Transmit those solutions to the rest of the fleet as well."
As Stanforth was ordering a second volley, the UNSC ordnance impacted on the Covenant fleet. MAC rounds collided violently with the Covenant ships, tearing great holes in their shields. The Valiant took twenty MAC rounds and vented atomic fire like a leaking reactor. 'Valenen barely had time to scream before the bridge of the battle cruiser dissolved in flame. The cruiser exploded in a cataclysmic blossom of nuclear flame. The explosion engulfed three more Covenant ships, wrapping them in its deadly embrace. As the shields of many Covenant ships imploded, Archer missiles impacted, their high-explosive warhead tearing the Covenant ships to pieces. Finally, Shiva nuclear missiles detonated in the middle of the Covenant fleet, completing the spaceborne carnage.
When the nuclear blasts had cleared, only thirty-two Covenant ships remained. As the UNSC ships fired again, a Covenant carrier launched hundreds of Seraph-class fighters. Motes of red energy gathered at the lateral lines of the other Covenant ships. The plasma torpedoes were fired just as the second volley of MAC rounds hit the Covenant armada. Twelve Covenant ships disintegrated as the UNSC ordnance tore great holes in the armada's shields.
Suddenly, the Covenant ships disappeared. Their plasma torpedoes however, continued on their deadly trajectories towards the UNSC fleet. The Albert Lea moved into position to intercept them—
The scarlet bolts of fire simply evaded the repair station and smacked into thirty UNSC warships. The Apollo took a torpedo near her reactor and exploded. The Lambert and the Locke both took torpedoes to their upper decks, gutting their bridges. Fire began to burn through the vessels. Other UNSC ships took hits to their superstructures or engines. But the Covenant wasn't done mauling the human ships. Innumerable swarms of Seraph-class fighters attacked the remaining human vessels. Pulse lasers reduced ten UNSC ships to superheated debris.
The UNSC fleet wasn't totally defenseless against this new threat, however. C709 Longsword interceptors rocketed out of many ships' shuttle bays. 50mm autocannons raked the Seraphs with thousands of rounds. The UNSC fleet dissolved into a chaotic brawl.
Which was exactly how the Covenant commanders had wanted it. Fifteen Covenant ships came out of Slipspace right behind the UNSC fleet. Before Stanforth could issue any orders, the Covies launched their plasma torpedoes. In desperation, the beleaguered Admiral got on the general frequency. "Stanforth to al UNSC forces—break formation and engage the enemy!" he screamed. MAC rounds and plasma torpedoes flew like there was no tomorrow. UNSC and Covenant destroyers exchanged shot after shot at point-blank range, carving huge holes in the vessels' hulls. Hundreds of single-ship fighters were destroyed in the melee.
Eventually, the fray subsided—but only five UNSC ships remained. The destroyers Prometheus, Crimson Tide, Ravager, and Liberator, as well as the Albert Lea, remained. All of the Covenant ships were destroyed. The UNSC fleet, however, would not fight again for a long time. Stanforth ordered the Prometheus to head for Delta Hexanus VII. "We've got some cleanup to do," he said through clenched teeth. I hope someone's alive down there, he thought.
Seven hours later
The downed Pelican
Jones looked up from his position on top of the Pelican's wing. The exhaust trails of Pelicans could be seen across the star-drizzled night sky. Jones shouted a cry of jubilation and all of the UNSC Marines got up and cheered. The mood was so festive that Hylland even kissed him on the cheek.
We're saved, thought Jones.
September 27, 2552
Epsilon Eridani system
On board the Blue Wind
Boronado winced as the Blue Wind took another hit from a Covenant destroyer's plasma arsenal. Scintillating blue film met the red-hot plasma and diffused the energy of the weapon. Thank God for shields, thought Boronado. Diana, the Blue Wind's AI soundlessly directed the Blue Wind's gunners to attack the Covenant vessel.
"Captain—MAC guns are hot! Permission to fire?" asked Lieutenant Heston.
"Give them hell, Lieutenant," said Boronado.
The Blue Wind shook three times as the ferric shredder rounds of the MAC gun shot away from the cruiser. The first round punched a hole in the Covenant ship's shields. The second and third rounds slammed into the Covenant ship itself, tearing great rents in the smooth, ovoid hull. Fire belched from the wounded destroyer, and the Blue Wind pushed onwards into the heart of the Reach system.
"How much longer, Lieutenant Thompson?" asked Boronado.
"About six more hours at flank speed will get us within dropship range," she said. She smiled a vicious, predatory smile and continued. "Three hours at full power, but that will disable our shields."
"Well.... Diana, make sure the shields stay up."
"Of course, Captain."
"Sir—we have new inbound contacts at 040!" shouted Lieutenant Ford.
"Acknowledged, Ford. Heston: prepare another set of MAC rounds."
The Blue Wind slowly rotated to face this new adversary. The Covenant ships—a cruiser and a frigate—collected motes of scarlet plasma at their poles, preparing to fire.
"MAC capacitors at seventy.... Eighty... ninety... one hundred percent! MAC rounds away!" exclaimed Diana.
The Covenant cruiser took three direct hits from the cannon, but it didn't disintegrate. Instead, the cruiser swung off-course and spun in to the alien destroyer. Both Covenant vessels detonated in a ball of nuclear fire. Boronado smiled and said, "Not bad for an AI, Diana."
Halo: The Recovery: Part 7
Date: 25 November 2003, 7:29 PM
September 27, 2552
In geosynchronous orbit over Reach
On board the Blue Wind
Boronado whirled form the view screen to Thompson. "How much longer, Lieutenant?"
"Sir, with our present orbit degrading as it is, it will be two more hours, Captain."
The Blue Wind, for some mysterious reason, had been in the clear for the past hour or so. So far, the mission had proven to be relatively simple. The Covenant that were in-system had offered only token resistance. The Blue Wind had torn apart any Covenant ship foolhardy enough to engage it. A score of wrecked frigates, destroyers, and even a cruiser lay in the wake of the Blue Wind, either having been blasted apart by MAC rounds or knocked out commission with pulse lasers. This is too easy, thought Boronado. The Covenant were supposed to have more than a hundred ships in the system.
As if in response to the Captain's thoughts, Lieutenants Dirksen, Ford, the AI Diana all cried out, "Sir!"
Boronado spun around with startling speed. "What is it?" he asked.
"Thirty Covenant ships at bearing 020! They're already warming up plasma weapons!"
"Diana—reinforce our shields. Ford—set our own course to 020. Heston: arm a MAC heavy round. Dirksen: reactors to three hundred and ten percent. Activate the superchargers," ordered Boronado, surprised at how deftly he handled the crisis. The Captain actually felt like vomiting all over the bridge—yet he appeared to be very calm.
"Yes sir!" they all shouted.
The Blue Wind rotated on her axis to face the enemy ships. The rumbling of her overstressed fusion reactor could be felt through the floor of the bridge. Lieutenant Heston shouted, "MAC guns are hot! Firing now, sir!" as a trio of white-hot projectiles shot away from the Marathon-class cruiser.
"Heston: Archer and Shiva missiles as well. I want our pulse laser system to engage the nearest enemy ships."
"As you command, Captain."
The Blue Wind's Archer missiles fired out of their cylindrical canisters. The exhaust trails of hundreds of missiles twisted and snaked amongst the Covenant ships. Shiva-class nuclear missiles were fired. The boxy, square-headed missiles lanced straight into the middle of the Covenant armada. A miniature sun burst amongst the Covenant ships. Shields flared with EMP radiation. Many ships were simply disintegrated in the explosion. Other bounced around, losing their shields but not much else. As the UNSC cruiser knifed in towards the Covenant fleet, many of the alien vessels fired their plasma torpedoes. The red-hot weapons seemed to track the Blue Wind, impacting on the cruiser's shields. The shields diffused only a few of the torpedoes; then they cataclysmically failed.
"The shields have overloaded, Captain!" said Diana.
Boronado sucked in one huge breath and held it. Three more plasma torpedoes impacted on the Blue Wind's hull.
"Reactor is overloading, Captain!" screamed Ford.
The last thing anyone on the Blue Wind heard was the ominous sound of the three Mark Ten fusion reactors going to critical mass. A second thermonuclear supernova burst forth within the Covenant fleet. The blindingly bright ball of fire produced so much illumination that the Grunts on the surface of Reach saw a second sun. By the time the flame died out, there was only the occasional piece of shrapnel to greet any onlooker.
The Blue Wind had gone down—but it had taken thirty top-of-the-line ships with it.
October 3rd, 2552
Six thousand feet below the surface of Reach
The Elite kicked aside Sergeant Richardson's limp corpse and advanced on the cowering Dr. Halsey. The UNSC scientist huddled in the corner of a storage room, surrounded by the intermingled corpses of Covenant shock troopers and Marine bodyguards. She tried to stand and flee, but the alien fired his plasma rifle, knocking her down to the ground. She felt a sharp pain in her chest and she knew it was over. But she thought about Cortana, who was her very image, and she knew she would live on. She didn't even see the alien pull the trigger. All she knew was that there was only one hope for Earth and UNSC: Cortana and the Master Chief.
Sol system, in orbit around third planet, Earth
The Longsword tore a hole in space-time. Inside the cockpit, the Master Chief looked at Cortana and said, "It's nice to be home."
Stanforth's fleet lasted less than a week. Covenant forces attacked the Delta Hexanus system once more. The UNSC forces fought bravely but were hopelessly outnumbered. The Prometheus narrowly escaped destruction, and Stanforth was able to return home without his fleet. More of the Inner Colonies fell within weeks. The Covenant juggernaut continued on its inexorable march towards Earth.
Dr. Halsey died at the hands of the Covenant. No human was known to be left alive on Reach as of October 2552. The Covenant then destroyed the underground cave system, ensuring that any survivors would never be able to escape. The alien war machine seemed unstoppable.
And so, the only hope for Earth lay in a small, Phyrric victory in an unknown system. One Longsword interceptor returned to Earth, carrying one cyborg and his Ai construct—SPARTAN-117.
And so, the stage was set for a final battle as a Covenant fleet entered the Sol system.
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