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Halo: The Scythe of Death by LordofDestruction

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part One
Date: 7 June 2003, 4:26 PM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part One
Location: United Nations/Covenant Empire disputed territory
Date: April 4th 2578 Military Calendar

      Commander James M. Nimitz walked on to the bridge of his first command, the Reach-class armored cruiser, The Angel of Death. The Reach-class cruiser was the foremost new combat ship, entering service only the winter of the last year. The ship had a new active camouflage system that rendered the vessel undetectable to any active search system, leaving the enemy to rely on less reliable passive system such as infrared. The ship was unlike other ships in design, having a central superstructure five km long with 4 three km long wings protruding at right angles from the aft of the superstructure, near its centralized engine pods. On the end of each wing was a Mk. 48 Magnetic Accelerator Cannons on them. These MAC guns can fire four 25,000 ton depleted uranium slugs at 330 km/sec on a single charge. The wing pods also have four Lancer torpedo launchers mounted equilaterally on the pod. The ship also had fifteen hundred Longbow missile pods, each firing two-dozen missiles like its forbear, the Archer. At the bow of the superstructure is another large weapons pod, also housing the ship's bridge. On it, mounted equilaterally on this eight hundred meter wide pod are four Plasma cannons, firing each two bolts of plasma with an explosive firepower of 25 kilotons. The ship also carries fifty IPBM-7 Titan thermonuclear missiles, each carrying fourteen 1.1 megaton warheads. Though rated as an armored cruiser, it could destroy a front line Covenant Chimera-class battleship.
      Nimitz walked over to the main tactical display and observed what was occurring in this system. His ship was at the edge of the system, an uninhabited lifeless system. He saw in the region of the third planet what he was looking for-a small convoy of Covenant ships. He said to navigation officer, "Helm, come right 185, full ahead one third."
      The nav officer replied, "Aye-aye, commander," and maneuvered the ship towards the heart of the system.
      Nimitz looked at the tactical display and identified the five signatures as a Hades-class battlecarrier and four Zorax class light cruisers. At this speed it would take a week to get to that point. He said, "Pinpoint slipspace jump, 300,000 km from the battle groups position. Activate active stealth, rig for silent running." The Command Master Chief relayed the orders to the crew. The main lights went out and were replaced by the blue combat lights. The lights shown on his face, making his face a deep blue. The ship jumped into slipspace, emerging ten minutes later, outside of the third planet, a medium sized gas giant. As they emerged, Nimitz said, "Set a course to bring us ten thousand km behind the enemy battle group, bring the ship up to Combat Alert Alpha. Have the main engineer bring the auxiliary fusion reactor online. We may need the extra power."
      The Master Chief replied, and whipped the bridge crew into shape. The weapons techs removed the safety locks on all of the weapons. Engineering techs labored to get all of the fusion reactors to full capacity. Fighter crews manned the fighters, ready for battle. Marine fire teams locked and loaded for boarding action.
      The radarman noticed something on his screen when he switched to gamma ray spectrum. He said, in an alarmed tone, "Sir, I think you should take a look at this!"
      "What is it?" he replied.
      The radarman said, "I was checking the gamma ray spectrum, and, as you know, gas giants emit gamma rays. You know that ships, because of their radiation shielding, block gamma radiation. Look here…" he pointed to an area of the screen, "There is a hole in the gamma radiation screen, which doesn't show up on any other…"
      "Good job, Ensign. Lock firing solutions on the carrier, the stealth ship and the aft most cruiser. Divide up all of the firepower we have evenly among the three targets. Put four MAC rounds in the stealth ship, four in the cruiser and three in the carrier. Fire 500 Longbow missile pods into each of the targets, and target the plasma cannons on the carrier. Let's prepare for a run on them."
      The Master Chief replied, "Aye-aye, sir. Bring us up aft of them, prepare for combat."
      "Firing solutions locked, sir." Replied the weapons officer.
      Nimitz replied, "Good. Prepare for run. Bring the ship 90 degrees down angle, we need to make an attack from below."
      "We are in position." replied the helmsmen.
      Nimitz ordered, "Increase to flank, forty-five degrees up angle. Fire at point blank range."
      The Chief relayed the orders to the crew, saying, "Full ahead flank!, up forty-five degrees. Launch weapons at fifty km."
      The Angel of Death accelerated stealthily towards the carrier and its escorts, preparing their silent demise all along the way. The ship's name fit it, named after the cloaked and invisible bringer of death to those whose time had come. The ship reached its top speed 100km from the targets and released all of its might simultaneously when it reached 50km from the carrier. The MAC rounds hit first, tearing oblong holes in the ships shields, due to the angle of impact, and tore several hundred meters into each ship's superstructure. The plasma guns impacted the battlecarrier right after the MAC rounds hit, tearing the hull plating off of her ventral hull. The MAC rounds and Longbow missile pods tore the unshielded stealth ship apart, her stealth requiring too much energy to put shields up in anything but combat. The MAC round and Longbow missiles did similar damage on the cruiser, though not of fatal nature, due to its shields and stronger hull. The Angel of Death veered to port to avoid ramming the carrier. That maneuver was an automatic response carried out by the ship's AI, Zeus. Commander Nimitz watched gleefully as the three other cruisers fired their plasma torpedoes harmlessly into open space, in the hopes of them acquiring a lock, arming and then seeking the ghostly armored cruiser. The carrier began venting engine plasma, and spun to starboard, completely out of control. The derelict stealth ship veered towards the gas giant, and began a slow orbital decay into the planets gravity well. Nimitz could see that the damaged cruiser and stealth ship were abandoning, many of the hits had been near their reactor rooms. The remaining three cruisers went up to full alert and fanned out to protect the wounded carrier. The carrier couldn't begin flight ops, the power to its hangar shields was to critically low, if they opened the shields, they might not be able to close them again. The battlecarrier, did, however, have its own plasma torpedoes, but its port fire control was not functional, leaving starboard fire control to handle all of the ships weapons, a daunting task for any crew. Nimitz said to the bridge crew, "Alright, we've wounded the bear, so lets prepare to take the cubs. Circle the battle group, staying out of plasma torpedo range at all times. We can afford to play a waiting game."
      The Chief replied, "Sir, yes sir!" and then began relaying the orders to the rest of the crew, "Alright, marine fire teams, prepare for boarding action, launch fighter wings A and B on combat air patrol. We cut off the head, now lets defile the body!"
      The crew agreed with him. Many of them had lost relatives and friends in the war, and were itching to get back at the Covenant. They also knew that every demoralizing victory brought more of the enemy on to their side, forsaking the Prophets teachings, especially after learning of their deception to the other races. The original texts stated that all of the children of the Forerunner would have equal power, but the Prophets had hidden this information from the rest of the races, slowly enslaving them. When the Prophets saw the humans, they knew that they would be their undoing if they were assimilated into the Covenant, with their thirst for knowledge and natural love of freedom. So, to prevent this, the Prophets fudged with the holy texts, making them state that any race that was uncontrolled by the Prophets the target of xenocide. The ship slowed to two-thirds speed, and began steaming circles around the helpless battle group. The enemy's predicament became terminal as a secondary explosion racked the battlecarrier, knocking out main power. With the formidable battlecarrier's mighty arsenal off line for hours, perhaps even days, they couldn't count on stopping the Angel of Death, with its impenetrable stealth, even to the best of active sensors.
      Commander Nimitz grabbed his coffee, and sipped a little of it. He could afford to wait, the enemy couldn't.

      Covenant Ship Master Selphar sat on the bridge of his battlecarrier, the Zealot. He had lost all main power just a few minutes ago, and had to close the emergency hangar doors to prevent the ship from depressurizing, but, now that they were closed, he lacked the power to open them again if needed. The ship only had enough power for life support and transit, the main engineers estimated it would remain that way for twelve hours. He thought, "Damn that human ship master! He caught me completely unaware! How could I be so stupid? The prophets will have my head!" He knew that the three undamaged light cruisers would do their best to ward off the human stealth ship, believed to be a new model heavy/battle cruiser. If he had known of the enemy vessel earlier, it wouldn't have stood a chance, but now most of the battle group's firepower was gone. He saw on the tactical display that the stealth ship was plummeting into the gas giant, and it would be crushed by the immense gravity in several hours. The human stealth ship was waiting, waiting for the right moment to strike.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Two

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Two
Date: 11 June 2003, 8:50 PM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Two
Location: United Nations/Covenant Empire disputed territory
Date: April 4th 2578 Military Calendar

      Commander Nimitz sat down at his command chair, and paused to think about tactics he would use to finish this engagement. He considered another flanking attack, but the enemy would expect that. He also considered to mix things up by sending his fighters to attack one cruiser while he attacked another, but decided against it. He finally settled on an attritional cycle, slowly whittling away at their strength and once they were weakened enough, crush them with a decisive blow. He gazed at the weapons con, and saw that the MAC guns were reloaded and recharged, along with the Longbows. 36,000 missiles could do quite a bit of damage. He finally said, "Position us at maximum firing range from the lead cruiser. Lock in firing solutions for eight hundred Longbow missile pods and four MAC rounds. Set safeties on the Longbows at full, no need for punching ourselves."
      The bridge crew said in unison, "Yes sir!" and immediately went to work. The ships maximum firing range was ten thousand km, requiring the MAC rounds just under thirty seconds to reach the target, and forty-five seconds for the missiles to hit. The ship's AI prepared the launch and timing sequence, and then said gleefully to Nimitz, "You like making them fight for every centimeter of ground, don't you?"
      His reply was, "Just returning the favor." He had seen things that would make most people sick of war in any form. He lost his parents and siblings when a group of black ops elites stormed the synagogue his family took shelter in, in order to kill one of the main Generals at the time in the UNSC. He could never forgive the Prophets for so callously ordering the destruction of the human race, but being a soldier, could forgive the ones following orders. The ship neared its firing position just as he was finished reflecting. He stood up and said, "Let's pay them back for all they've done!"
      The crew agreed and silently agreed. The ship was primed for combat, and the non-guided MAC rounds didn't show up on the radars except at point blank range, making them unavoidable. The ship fired the missiles, then fifteen seconds later the MAC rounds. The cruiser noted the missiles, and counted on its shields to stop them. What they'd didn't see was one hundred thousand tons of metal moving at them at nearly four hundred km/sec. The Covenant Ship Master chuckled at the thought, then gasped in horror as the four MAC rounds tore straight through his ship, allowing easy access to the ships vulnerable interior. The Longbows didn't even need to hit, as one of the MAC rounds tore the reactor apart, detonating it and cutting the ship in half, then annihilating what was left. The other two cruisers began frantically firing at the area where the missiles came from, but to no avail, as the Angel of Death had already moved from that position, causing the torpedoes to explode into blue orbs of flame as they passed their maximum range. Just then, the derelict stealth ship took its last breath of existence as it was sheared in half by the immense gravity, killing anyone still trapped onboard. The two halves bent and buckled, then burnt upon re-entry. The crews of the four surviving Covenant vessels bowed their heads in sorrow at their fallen comrades. The Prophets had pushed the humans to far, and as so many humans had learned, when you push a human, they push back even harder. A wise old Elite had said as they his ship began glassing the Harvest colony, "I hope we have done what is right is right, for I fear we only awakened a sleeping dragon, and filled it with a terrible resolve, echoing the famous words spoken by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after he bombed the USN Naval base at Pearl Harbor.
      Nimitz's ship looped around and away from the Covenant battle group, now only consisting of a crippled battlecarrier, a crippled cruiser and two functional cruisers. Whatever hopes the Covenant commander had died with the vaporized cruiser. Several plasma torpedoes neared the Angel of Death, but none locked on to her. She returned to her casual orbit around the Covenant battle group, while the crew prepared her for another assault.


      Covenant Ship Master Selphar stood defiantly on his bridge, hoping for some miracle to save him. He knew the Prophets would have his head for this disgraceful defeat and knew his only option was surrender. His crew backed him, but not the crew of the two surviving cruisers, they still arrogantly thought that they could win this vain fight with the humans. He had decided that they were a threat to his ship, so he would allowed the human cruiser to pick them off one by one, and then surrender to the humans. A Hades-class battlecarrier could be quite a bargaining tool. His engineers had gotten back one of the main reactors back, which gave him engine and shield power, though no weapons. His engineers had performed a miracle indeed. He could launch his fighters, but decided against it, for it would ruin his defection plans. He instead ordered his fighter wings on full alert status, allowing him to launch them on a moments notice. His ship had enough firepower to gut a Warhawk-class battleship if his fighter crews did their job. He ordered to his helmsman, "Increase speed to one half, come left seventy degrees."
      "Yes sir!" he replied. He knew his Ship Master's plans, and whole-heartedly agreed with him. The humans had inflicted far too much damage to the Covenant Empire, and the Prophets had not cared. They hadn't felt any of the damage, where as the underling races had. Their arrogance had killed billions of Covenant soldiers and civilians, taxing their economy and causing great resentment, especially when the people started to learn of the Prophets' deception.
      The carrier moved back on its course, and continued its repairs to try to get back weapons power to backstab the two cruisers, then defect. The engineers estimated three hours to that time, down from its original twelve.


      The Angel of Death's fighter wings began harassing the two cruisers, but didn't lay a finger on the carrier, as their orders said. Nimitz had suspected the head Ship Master was going to defect, and its power readings, along with the inactive status of its fighter compliment fueled that. If he wasn't, he would have launched all of his fighters and hunted down his ship. It was simply to idiotic not to do that. His MAC guns were back up to eighty-five percent, and the Longbows were completely reloaded. In five minutes, he decided, he would attack both cruisers simultaneously, then hail the carrier and see what its plans were. A simple plan really, the two cruisers were two thousand km apart, allowing him to slip in between them and hammer them both at once. If they fired and the torpedoes didn't hit, there was a good chance that they would home on to the other ship and wreak havoc upon it. The rest of his fighters launched as his MAC guns finished charging, and he said to his helmsman, "Position us behind the two cruisers, and then move up in-between them for our attack. Full ahead two-thirds." He then said to the weapons officer and Zeus, "Lock in firing solutions for four MAC rounds and six hundred Longbows pods apiece, set five-hundred km safety on the Longbows."
      They all said, "Aye-aye, sir," and continued with their business. The Angel of Death moved swiftly and silently through the enemy battle groups wreckage, careful not to hit any large pieces of debris that might give away their position. It took five minutes for the ship to maneuver in-between the two ships, moving parallel with them in the same direction. The weapons officer sat nervously at the weapons con, waiting with for the fire order. He had everything ready, all of the firing solutions, ranges etc.
      Nimitz stood up, took a fleeting glance at the two cruisers as he turned to the weapons con and helm and said coldly, "Fire."
      The four MAC rounds strobed out of each of their launchers, and hurtled towards the two cruisers, Zohak and Krell, named after mythological heroes of a forgotten Elite religion. The rounds tore straight through the shields without losing much velocity, then bored completely through the two vessels, destroying their engines and fire control. The six hundred Longbows that hit each ship flew through the MAC round wounds and gutted the interior of the ship, setting fuel cells and electrical lines ablaze. The Zohak, the port side cruiser, was ripped in half from its plasma torpedo magazine going up, and the Krell began venting engine plasma to prevent having a thermonuclear meltdown of its reactors. The Angel of Death accelerated to flank speed to avoid any debris or return fire. As she moved away, the battlecarrier CCS Zealot launch its fighters upon the two crippled cruisers, and allowed the thousands of Seraphs and Phantoms to annihilate the wounded vessels. Commander Nimitz was first shocked at this fratricide, but then saw it was a means of defecting. The two cruisers lived long enough to tell the rest of the Empire of the Zealot's wanton betrayal.
      Nimitz said out of the blue, "Open a comm channel to the battlecarrier."
      The comms officer, puzzled, said, "Yes sir," and opened the comm channel.
      Nimitz spoke to the battlecarrier, "Covenant battlecarrier, this is commander James Nimitz of the UNSC, please explain your previous actions."
      "I am Covenant Ship Master Selphar, and this is my wounded ship, the Zealot. I request that I may be immediately allowed to surrender my vessel and its crew to you." Said a voice.
      "Request granted." Nimitz replied. He heard a clicking noise come over the channel, most likely that Selphar character clicking his mandibles in agreement. "I must send over a boarding party to secure you vessel."
      "As you wish." The voice replied.
      "Close channel." Said Nimitz. "Sending three battalions of Marines over to secure the vessel, and tell them the 'don't fire unless fired upon' mantra."
      "Yes sir!" Said the comm officer.


      Selphar was rather pleased, despite that he had lost the battle. He had found a way to defect to the humans, and insured the well being of his crew. He, unlike other Ship Masters, was caring of his crew, and they looked at him as a father. This made him unpopular with the Military High Command's policy. The Military High Command was the body of Prophets and high-ranking Elites that controlled all military actions, though could be over ruled by the Prophets' High Council. However, they nearly always agreed about war actions against the humans. Now he had found away around that. He would help make them pay for their arrogance. He was near seven hundred years old and knew all of the Covenant Empire's logistics, tactics, research etc. He would help the humans finish what they had started.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Three

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Three
Date: 17 June 2003, 3:43 AM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Three
Location: United Nations/Covenant Empire disputed territory
Date: April 4th, 2578 Military Calendar, 09:50 Zulu Time

      Commander Nimitz walked to the main tactical display, and surveyed the destruction he had just created. He had destroyed two light cruisers and a stealth ship, and fatally wounded and assisted in killing two more light cruisers, quite a good haul for one ship. The three battalions of Marines quickly secured the battlecarrier without any trouble, which amazed him thoroughly. He finished his coffee, and sat down at his command chair. The Hades-class battlecarrier looming in front of his ship was simply gigantic, being more than twice the size of his ship. He couldn't help but be awed by its size. The only ships bigger than it were the five ships of the Clayemore-class super dreadnoughts that had first come into service seven years earlier during the taking of the Covenant capital planet. The only reason why it was the capital is because all of the home worlds of the different races of the Covenant were all an equal distance away from it. Now the UNSC was attacking the Scion province in their efforts to take the Prophet home world. Eleven hundred worlds in all, it was the richest and most strategically important of the seventy-odd provinces in the Covenant Empire. The UNSC invasion slowed down after the taking of the capital, mainly due to men and equipment losses. The UNSC took this chance to deploy next generation combat soldiers and weapons. All Marines wore ODST style battle dress uniforms, now equipped with personal shielding systems. The mediocre M-808C Scorpion was replaced by the new and excellent MBT-1A Dragon Main Battle Tank. The MBT-1A was a completely new design, being wider and taller than the Scorpion and, with its crew of three, driver, commander and gunner, was better able to harness the power of its M123 155mm smoothbore cannon. The three-man crew was placed in its large turret, behind 1.3 meters of TUCAS (Titanium depleted Uranium and Ceramic Armor System) could safely stop anything the Covenant could throw at it short of a bombing raid. Other new weapons heading into combat were new Lotus II anti-tank mine. The mine had eleven 77mm armor piercing rockets, which shot up into the center of the vehicle the moment the mine was tripped. As soon as the rockets detonated, a fifteen-kilogram charge of C-12 detonated, tearing the vehicle into shreds while lifting it in the air. Best of all, the Angel of Death was carrying all of these new little war goodies. She also had two combat hardened ODST divisions onboard, the 1756th Armored Division and the 704th Infantry Division. Eighty thousand combat ready personnel in between them, the two divisions were among the fiercest ever trained. On top of that, the ship had a company of Spartans, under the command of Captain Michael Patton, a Spartan-795. After becoming and officer right out of his standard Spartan training, he was given back his surname, and allowed to live a semi-normal life. He was also transferred to the Marine Corps, it fitting his love of fighting better. Like his namesake, General George S. Patton, he was a brilliant battlefield tactician. His company annihilated an entire brigade of enemy troops one year earlier on Rigel Omicron.
      The Angel of Death was no longer on combat alert, and was out of stealth mode. She steamed about fifty km away from the CCS Zealot, matching her velocity. Nimitz's engineers estimated that she would be ready for slipspace travel in one hour, so most of the two ships' respective crews were already in cryo. They were heading to Vega Prime, the same planet he had fought over as fighter pilot seven years earlier. It was approximately one week away, so all personnel except command and engineering were going into cryosleep. The ships weapons and shields were powered down and the ship was rigged for silent running, as Covenant ships still frequently patrolled the disputed territory. Nimitz felt a promotion coming in the future, he could almost feel it. He got up and strolled about the bridge, keeping a watchful eye on everyone. Everything was running perfect, very unusual for a new class of ship. He yawned and sat back down, satisfied that everything was under control. He was happy, happy that he had won this engagement, happy that his crew was safe, and happy that he had helped a Covenant Ship Master defect.


      Covenant Ship Master Selphar looked at his command crew. A few hours ago, they had been scared for their life, now they were relaxed. Everyone knew how unforgiving the Prophets were, especially in this late stage of the war. No one wanted to screw up, if they did, their life was in jeopardy. He clicked his mandibles with satisfaction, he may have lost the battle, but he saved his neck and the neck of every other warrior aboard his ship. The humans had mercilessly attacked the other ships, sparing no one in their almost divine wrath. Some religious factions saw humanity as punishment for their wrongdoings, and had sparked this karma by trying to annihilate them. The humans and their UNSC had gone from the laughing stock of the galaxy, even to races not involved in the Covenant's jihad, to the scourge of the gods. They had captured several hundred Covenant worlds now, and had millions of defectors and liberated Covenant fighting with them. There was a prophecy told many thousands of years ago that the race that achieved interstellar travel without the Prophets would be their undoing, and ironically, this was true. In order to quell superstition and assert their dominance, the Prophets proclaimed their jihad on humanity. This caused the humans to fight back and slowly start the Prophets' demise. Selphar laughed out loud at this irony when he thought about it, causing his command crew to look at him suspiciously. He didn't care, they owed him one.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Four

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Four
Date: 26 June 2003, 1:24 AM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Four
Location: Vega Prime Naval Yard, Docking berth 785
Date: April 14th, 2578 Military Calendar, 17:50 Zulu Time

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."-Plato

      The UNSC Angel of Death sat in her docking berth, undergoing a minor refit. The ship's Mk. 48 MAC guns hadn't been tooled fire at full power yet, so the engineers were now reconfiguring the ship for just that. They were just finishing up. Captain Nimitz, promoted due to his tactical genius in the previous engagement, was finishing his battle report in his office. Next to the Angel of Death were her sister ships the UNSC Tau Ceti, the UNSC Epsilon Eridani, the UNSC Reach and the UNSC Princeton. Overall, the Naval Yard held two hundred-fifty cruisers, three hundred destroyers and fifty battleships, though only half were ready to fight on a moments notice. The five Reach-class armored cruisers were among them. Captain Nimitz had just finished thumb printing his report when he heard the ship's comm system sound, "Captain Nimitz, please report to the bridge."
      "He replied, and got up from his office chair and started to the bridge. When he arrived there, the communications officer said, "Sir, FLEETCOM reports that there are several hundred unidentified slipspace contacts on a course for Vega Prime."
      Nimitz knew almost pre-cognitively that this was trouble, and said, "ETA?"
      The comms officer replied, "Twenty-two minutes."
      "Is the rest of the fleet readying for battle?"
      "Yes Sir."
      "Bring the ship up to Combat Alert Alpha, and get us clear of the mooring. Arm all Longbow missile pods, and bring MAC capacitors to full charge. Remove safety locks on the Titan missiles."
      The ship lurched free from her moorings, and turned to meet the new menace. The orbital Super MACs powered up and readied to fire. There were ten vessels already cleared from their moorings and all were ready to fight. In ten minutes, the entire fleet had assembled to meet this new threat. The latest count of enemy ships was nine hundred, against five hundred fifty UNSC vessels. The Angel of Death was in the front of the formation, its newer MAC guns able to reach out and touch the Covenant at far greater ranges. In a moment of foresight, Captain Nimitz, as well as the other ship captains, deployed their Marine divisions on the planet among them was Captain Michael Patton's Spartan company. The ODST divisions were just starting to enter the atmosphere when a massive green field formed five thousand km away from the battle fleet. The Angel of Death's AI had fired her MAC guns to meet a three cruisers the moment they left slipspace. As the cruiser pulled out of the fields, three white-hot orbs of uranium struck each, tearing through them from bow to stern before their shields could charge. The vessels lost control, and were subsequently torn apart by the subspace gate that they could no longer control. Several other ships succumbed to this tactic but the rest powered their shields up and began closing the distance. Both sides launched several thousand fighters, racing towards their foes at frightening velocity. The fighters met half way and began dog-fighting as the first wave of orbital Super MAC rounds struck the Covenant fleet, destroying half a dozen vessels and crippling twelve more.
      The UNSC Princeton charged forward and fired twelve Lancer plasma torpedoes at a dreadnought in an effort to slow the enemy fleet down. The torpedoes armed half way to the enemy vessel, and hurtled themselves towards the dreadnought at frightening speed. Hundreds of plasma torpedoes were subsequently launched on the UNSC fleet, passing the Princeton's torpedoes and missing her before they could arm. 50mm chain guns began firing rapidly at the torpedoes, destroying about half of them, but the rest made it through, tearing twenty UNSC vessels apart. However, the Princeton's plasma torpedoes struck home on the dreadnought, tearing away her shields and combat armor.
      Captain Nimitz saw the wounded dreadnought and said, "Lock firing solution on target DCCS-134A for seven hundred Longbow missile pods, and recharge the MAC capacitors as fast as possible. The Longbows fired off of the ship's dorsal and ventral hulls, and screamed forth on the Covenant ship in several different arcs in order to confuse the point defense systems. Ninety five percent got through the defense screen and tore into the dreadnought, ripping off much of its port superstructure. The missiles also detonated fuel cells and weapons magazines, gutting the interior of the ship. But she refused to die, and fired off a salvo of plasma torpedoes at her assailants. Nimitz ordered, "Full ahead flank, begin evasive maneuvers and drop countermeasures."
      The torpedoes armed and began actively pursuing the Angel of Death. The Princeton began similar maneuvers, and while they both attempted to dodge as many of the torpedoes as they could, the Marine divisions began their landings."


      Captain Michael Patton sat calmly in the commander's seat of his MBT-1A Dragon tank, as it plummeted towards through Vega Prime's atmosphere. The heat ablative shell tore away, revealing a parafoil, which steered the tank towards the drop zone. The area was of strategic importance, being that it was a plateau that over looked a probable Covenant landing zone. That landing zone was right next to the metropolis Nova Roma, literally "New Rome," an industrial city home to fifty-five million people, human and alien. His division had to secure that plateau, so that they could bombard any Covenant landing force as it came down. The tank and its landing frame touched down smoothly on the grassy plateau, allowing Patton to direct his driver to an observation post on the edge of the plateau. The rest of his company touched down not long after him, swiftly moving into firing positions. His company had thirty tanks in it, along with twenty armored personnel carriers. In all, he had close to three hundred men under his command. Patton linked the tanks neural interface into his MJOLNIR armor, filling his brain with a holographic display of the area around the tank. He could see three hundred-sixty degrees around him at once, which was very overwhelming to anyone not trained to cope with that much sensory input. He saw the space battle raging in the heavens above his home, the land battlefield, and hoped that everything went right up there, because if not, his work down here would be a living hell.


      The Angel of Death was struck on her port shields by three plasma torpedoes, bringing them down to thirty-three percent. Nimitz said to his helmsman, "Come to port forty-five degrees and make that son of a bitch stare straight down our MAC guns."
      The helmsman nodded and turned forty-five degrees to port. Nimitz then said, "Lock in firing solutions for four MAC rounds on target DCSS-134A." the ship's AI did as ordered. The whole ship shuddered as four MAC round left the ship. The glowing white orbs of uranium struck the dreadnought amidships, and hit such a way as to break her keel, separating the bow from the stern. Gouts of engine plasma flew out of the aft end of the ship in attempt to prevent the reactor from melting down, but to no avail, as the reactor's containment locks failed and aft exploded into a firing sun of energy, which quickly collapsed into a deadly thermonuclear fireball, destroying a frigate and a destroyer that were sitting to close to the stricken vessel. The bow of the ship wasn't completely incinerating due to its greater proximity to the blast, but was left nothing more than floating wreckage. The Princeton caught more of the damage, its forward shields failing, but still able to fight unimpeded.
      Nimitz said to Lee, the shipboard AI, "Status report!"
      Lee replied "The port shields are at forty percent, climbing at twenty-five percent per minute, hull integrity at one hundred percent, MAC capacitors at twenty-five percent, rising at forty percent per minute, and eight hundred Longbow missiles armed and ready to fire."
      "Good," he replied, "Lock in firing solutions on target CCS-562A for eight hundred Longbow missiles. Set full safety, I don't want to shoot ourselves."
      "Yes sir, said the AI. The ship lurched as 19,200 Longbow missiles shot into space towards the wounded cruiser designated CCS-562A. Two-thirds the way to the target, their radars activated and began swerving towards the cruiser. The cruiser tried vainly to shoot the missiles down with its pulse lasers, but ninety percent hit, delivering fatal damage to her. The fuel cells brewed up, spewing plasma into open space, incinerating many of the smaller pieces of debris. She quickly listed to port from the force of the expelled plasma. Many of wiser fighter pilots cleared the area, as a ship venting plasma will most like brew up into a nuclear fireball, and no one wants to get caught in the created gravity well and shockwave. But she didn't detonate. The crew had quickly managed to shut down the primary reactor, preventing her demise, but she could no longer fight, and was nothing more than a derelict. That suited Nimitz just fine.


      Captain Patton was surprised to see a sun appear directly above in the night sky, but instantly identified it as an exploding reactor. He hoped it wasn't one of his side's ships. He said to his platoon leaders over the radio, "Alright, we need to hold this plateau and prevent the Covenant from taking the city." He then saw dropships filtering down through the atmosphere and added, "Okay, the battles getting started really soon, so keep on your toes. Engage armor first, then infantry."
      He heard a string of "Yes sir." over the radio. He said to his gunner, "Select APFSDSDU rounds, we're only taking on armor for now, the airborne 280mms will take out the infantry. The 280mm Magnetic Accelerator Rifle was an extremely powerful artillery piece carried on the belly of a specially modified Pelican. The Pelican would hover, and the artillery piece would fire extremely powerful HE rounds. The 1756th Armored Division had two batteries of this artillery, increasing the division's already formidable firepower. The dropships came down over the plain below the plateau and began dropping Spectre battle tanks, the successor to the Wraith. Patton directed his gunner to the target, a recently disgorged Spectre four thousand meters down range, and said "Fire!"
      The gunner pressed the trigger, releasing the 94mm wide penetrator from the barrel and its protective sabot. The penetrator was 111.74m long, weighing close to 70 kilograms, was fired out of the magnetic accelerator barrel at 2,100 m/sec. The depleted uranium penetrator struck the Spectre two seconds later, ripping it off of the ground and completely totaling the tank. The tank landed upside down, its crew dead. Twenty of the other tanks in his company struck down Spectres, as the 280mms rained fire down on infantry. The 1756th created a murder field on the plain below, killing thousands of Covenant soldiers in the first minute. And the fleet above couldn't spare any fighters to take out the emplaced division, as all of them were engaged in the massive fleet engagement above. Patton's Dragon loaded another shell via its autoloader, while he directed the tank turret to another target, another Spectre, firing its plasma cannon madly up at the plateau. The gun strobed, and a white-hot penetrator struck the Spectre, flipping it airborne for a moment, then slamming down on the ground, smashing on the valley floor, crushing itself. Plasma fire rained down around him, but none hitting. 280mms struck landing dropships, causing them to blossom into red orange explosions. It was going to be a long day.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Five

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Five
Date: 5 July 2003, 4:22 PM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Five
Location: Vega Prime Local Space
Date: April 14th, 2578 Military Calendar, 18:15 Zulu Time

"The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops." Sun Tzu—The Art of War

      Captain Nimitz said to the AI Lee, "Reload Longbow missile pods, tell engineering to bring the auxiliary shaft online. What is the status on the MAC guns?"
      Lee replied, "Forty-nine percent, charging at thirty-five percent per minute."
      Another salvo of Super MAC rounds flew by the fleet, striking out twenty enemy vessels. However, eighty percent of the dropships heading to the planet's surface were getting through, there just wasn't enough firepower to fight them and the enemy battle fleet. Nimitz said, "Lock in firing solution on target DCSS-023A for four MAC rounds and twelve Lancer torpedoes, and tell the Princeton to do the same."
      "Aye-aye, sir" said Lee. Five seconds later, the ship rocked as one hundred thousand tons of metal left the ship. The MAC rounds hurtled towards the dreadnought at an alarming pace, followed by the plasma torpedoes. The Princeton's MAC rounds quickly followed suit. The first four MAC rounds tore through the dreadnoughts shields, and tore through the vessel from starboard to port, tearing apart electrical systems and spacing many unfortunate crewmembers. The next four rounds ripped through her from bow to stern, gutting the ship and nearly killing the command crew. Just as they thought it was over, two-dozen plasma torpedoes detonated inside the vessel, tearing it apart amidships. An anti-climactic nuclear fireball followed suit, obliterating what was left of the hapless vessel. The Angel of Death and the Princeton retreated from the front line to recharge their shields and reload their weapons as fresh ships charged into the melee. Several UNSC cruisers exploded into fiery suns of energy, weakening the front of the battle fleet. Sabre and Katana fighters fought desperately to even the disparity in numbers, taking out several capital ships and scores of enemy fighters by this point of the battle. At any given time, several ships were exploding into nuclear fireballs, littering the battlefield with debris.


      Patton said to his company, "Alright, lets keep it up, we can't afford to let them get to the city." He then directed his gunner to a dropship about to land, and told him, "Put a round straight into his fuel cells."
      The gunner directed the gun to do that through his neural interface, and fired an APFSDSDU round into the fuel cell. The round completely penetrated the fuel cell, setting it a light, causing the dropship to brew up into an orange-red blossom of flame. The dropship exploded, littering wreckage over the battlefield. Several other dropships died to the crack of 280mm howitzers, spreading lethal shrapnel over the battlefield. A Dragon beside Patton's took two plasma bolts and exploded into plasma fire. The crew, however, emerged intact, and sheltered behind their crippled tank. Several other tanks were knocked out, killing some of the crews, but another lethal salvo of APFSDSDU penetrators answered that, killing fourteen other tanks. Elsewhere, the rest of the division had scored similar losses on the Covenant. 280mms rained napalm rounds over the battlefield, killing entire platoons of enemy soldiers. All through the battlefield, flaming Covenant soldiers ran around in a desperate attempt to extinguish themselves. But, they came in such numbers that they were able to begin charging towards the 1756th. Armored personnel carriers fired their chain guns into the advancing Covenant troops. Patton directed his gunner to a new target, a command variant Spectre, and said, "Kill that bastard!"
      The gunner trained the gun on the target, and fired a round at it. The penetrator struck the Spectre straight in its glacis plate, and lifted it up off of the ground, spewing gouts of flame from its sides. The tank landed upside down, dead as a doornail. What amazed Patton was that they just kept coming into a hot LZ, a quite bonehead maneuver. The battle had only raged five minutes, but close to a hundred thousand Covenant soldiers we're dead, all responsible by forty thousand Marines. However, the 1756th began to take losses at an alarming rate. They we're going to lose the city unless the fleet could spare some fighters to strafe the landing zone. Then Patton thought, and said to Major General O'Hara, the divisions commanding officer, "Have one of the 280mms fire a nuclear shell into the LZ, there are about two hundred thousand troops on the ground. Oh, and tell the men to duck!"
      O'Hara chuckled and said, "Good thinking." The division ceased firing as a lone 280mm fired a nuclear shell into the center of the LZ.
      The shell arched flew over the valley, coming down into the center of the LZ. The shell detonated one hundred meters over the savannah, spreading nuclear death over the battlefield.


      Covenant Grand Field Master Laeko 'Intrampkatue was riding in the cockpit of a dropship down to the LZ found the fact that the human emplacements ceased firing quite odd. His suspicions were confirmed when he saw a red-orange nuclear flower blossom from the valley floor. At first he was overwhelmed the shock of the event, and slowly panic seeped in. "What would the Prophets think of this disaster! They'll surely have my head if I don not win this battle!" he thought. The nuclear orb mushroomed skyward as he thought of that. The human nukes were not very radiation intensive, but they still could not linger on the LZ, as it would be flooded with radiation. Things were not going very well.


      The beauty of the nuclear mushroom cloud awed Patton, it was so unearthly. But of course this wasn't Earth, so that could be expected. He checked the division's casualty reports, and was alarmed to see that it was down to half effective strength. He saw new dropships bringing fresh troops down onto the field, and was about to despair when a dozen contrails appeared in the air, striking down half a dozen heavily laden dropships. Each one could carry four tanks and two platoons of infantry, which meant an entire battalion was down. He saw the Longswords that launched the missiles, and immediately identified them as Air National Guard planes, as the Longsword had been wasted out of frontline service. Additional contrails appeared, resulting in more downed dropships. Finally, they had air support.
      However, the dropships began to touch down on the ash-covered battlefield, disgorging thousands of troops. Patton directed his gunner to a Spectre tank, which had begun hammering his company's position. The gunner fired the seventy-kilogram penetrator straight into the tanks fuel cell, causing it to brew up into flames as it flipped end over end by the shear kinetic energy of the shot. The Longswords swung around and began dropping napalm on the freshly deployed soldiers, setting them ablaze like so many matchsticks. 280mms tore apart landing dropships and infantry platoons by the dozens. Hundreds of plasma shots flew up on the emplaced tanks and artillery batteries, knocking several out. The surviving Covenant infantry and armor began a rapid charge to take the plateau, in order to lighten the load on the LZ, but many were cut down by accurate artillery fire.


      The Angel of Death's MAC capacitors were at full capacity now, and her Longbow missile pods completely reloaded. She surged forward into the battle, ready to score a few kills.
      Captain Nimitz said to Lee, "Lock firing solutions for four MAC rounds and four hundred Longbow missile pods at target CCS-391B. Slave the Katana interceptor's targeting computer to the ship's fire control."
      The AI's holographic representation lifted his sabre and said to the Captain, "Yes sir!" and went to work.
      The ship's four Magnetic Accelerator Cannons strobed once each, hurling four super-heated spheres of depleted uranium into the cold vastness of space. The ship rocked as four hundred Longbow missile pods left the ship's sides. The MAC rounds hit first, as always, tearing deep into the enemy ship's superstructure, and exiting out the far side. The Longbow missiles tore apart the open wounds, leaving the vessel nothing more than floating debris. Interceptor-launched anti-ship missiles tore into the stricken vessel, finishing what was left of her.
      Nimitz said, "Helm, come right eighty degrees, increase to two-thirds."
      The executive officer relayed the orders, saying, "New bearing two-four-five, right standard rudder, full ahead two-thirds." The ship banked swiftly to starboard, bringing it perpendicular with the enemy fleet's course. The 50mm chain guns lit up, actively engaging any enemy fighter that came to close the ship.
      "Inform the fleet of a nuclear launch at the following coordinates-" Said Nimitz
      The communications officer nodded and said over the comm, "Transmitting nuclear target data. Be advised, stay clear of following coordinates."
      Lee smiled as the Captain nodded to him, and launch a Titan straight for the heart of the enemy fleet. Ten other such nukes followed, sending seventy-seven 1.1 megaton warheads into the enemy's heart. The whole universe seemed to hold still as they detonated one by one in a clearing pattern. Within five seconds of the first detonation there were seventy-seven thermonuclear fireballs in the center of the enemy fleet. The combined heat blast and shock wave destroyed close to a hundred vessels and crippled another forty. Luckily for the Covenant, all of the major ground combat units were already on the ground, or on their way there.


      Patton saw a plasma bolt heading for his tank just before the computer recorded it, and quickly got the driver to move the tank out of harms way. That bolt could have done serious damage to his tank if he had not intervened. The gunner had already found the assailant and put a penetrator straight in his face. The autoloader grabbed a fresh magazine and loaded it into position. So far they had gone through two ten-round magazines, killing eighteen tanks and a dropship. The tank carried ten such magazines, now down to eight. The Longswords came around for another pass, dropping napalm and fragmentation bombs on the LZ, killing thousands more Covenant. Patton could see thousands of charred bodies on the valley floor, strewn out like burnt matchsticks. He directed the gunner to a Spectre that had just shelled one of his tanks, killing it. The gunner mentally trained the gun on the target, his mind at one with the computer, and fired. The round grazed the top of the tank, which was just under five kilometers down range, tearing the armor clean off of the top of the tank, sending lethal shrapnel into its helpless crew.
      He said to his platoon leaders, "Okay, we've got them locked down, and air support should be able to keep it that way. Keep up the good work." His company still had twenty-three tanks and seventeen armored personnel carriers, much better than any of the other companies in the 1756th. Patton stood up in his cupola, and seeing the advancing infantry, grabbed the cupola's 14.5mm machine gun, using the same round as the S2 AM sniper rifle, and began suppressive fire. White contrails began tearing through the advancing infantry, keep a little heat off of the supporting infantry. The only thing Patton could think of was, "Oh shit!"


      Captain Nimitz ordered, "Increase to flank, lock firing solutions on target CCS-018A for seven hundred Longbow missile pods and one MAC round."
      The XO, Commander Joshua J. Perry, relayed the orders to the bridge crew, following standard naval doctrine, "Full ahead Flank, input targeting solution on CCS-018A, seven hundred Longbows and one MAC. Set half safety."
      The ship shuddered from bow to stern as the Longbow missile pods left there launch tubes, inspiring terror in a few hapless crewmen. The Longbows had no sooner left their launch tubes when the single MAC round left the port Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. The MAC round hit first, tearing a hole straight through the cruiser, already damaged by the nuclear barrage that they had taken earlier. The Longbows tore the ship apart, leaving gaping holes from bow to stern, causing the vessel to list to starboard. Countless thousands of Covenant crewmembers were spaced by this action, creating much grief through out the Covenant fleet.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Six

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Six
Date: 8 November 2003, 8:15 PM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Six
Location: Vega Prime Local Space
Date: April 14th, 2578 Military Calendar, 19:01 Zulu Time

"No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it, by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his" General George S. Patton

      Covenant Ship Master Elko 'Impkata wiped the sweat from his eyes. His dreadnought, the Flame of Wrath, sat virtually helpless in the cold vastness of space. He could see the fleet engagement still raged ahead of his ship, and he could not help his comrades! He felt so ashamed, his ship disabled and motionless, at the mercy of any stray human destroyer or cruiser. He said over the intercom "Engineering, how long before we can restore main power?"
      The reply came in the form of the bridge lights flickering to life. He uttered, "Excellent. Do we have weapons online?"
      The engineer replied, "Main power system has been jury rigged up as if a Hunter had worked on it, so I was only able restore power to engines."
      'Impkata's spirits immediately fell. His comrades were dying, and he couldn't help at all to save them. He took a short look at the screen in front of him, and saw to his dismay, that eighty percent of his crew was incapacitated. He pressed a button, which opened a comm signal to every compartment in the ship, and said, "It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve with you all." He immediately turned to his helm officer, and said "Plot a collision course for the nearest human battleship, set speed for full ahead flank."
      "Yes sir," Was his only reply.
      The ship immediately lurched forward at maximum speed, ready to avenge her fallen brethren. She darted through a group of derelict cruisers, and charged straight for the UNSC fleet.


      Patton saw the quickly advancing Covenant ground force said to his gunner, "Traverse right ten degrees."
       The gunner locked onto the Spectre, said, "On the way," and pressed the trigger. The turret shuddered as the round left the tank, and the round struck the Spectre at a range of eight hundred meters, ripping the top of the tank off.
      Then Patton heard Major General O'Hara give the order he never wanted to hear. "Fall back, all brigades fall back!"
      Patton checked the 1756th Armored's inventory, and found that nearly everyone was out of ammo. His Dragon had a mere three rounds left. He then saw the Pelicans lift off to the right, taking their 280mm Magnetic Accelerator Rifles with them. He directed his company, (B company, 4th Battalion of the 809th Armored Brigade, 1756th Armored Division) to turn around and head southeast. He said to his gunner, "Keep the turret pointed behind, if we have three rounds left, then we'll use them keeping them off of our tail." He felt great remorse, not only for the inhabitants of Nova Roma, but for all of his brothers-in-arms who would never leave the Tiberian Plateau, as it was called. Of the Forty thousand men in his Division, only eighteen thousand would make it off the field. The Division moved off at close to one hundred km/hour, all of the men eager to leave that sickening place.
      He was called over the radio by Major General O'Hara, who said, "Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Ibn Ali is dead, and I'm promoting you to Acting Lieutenant Colonel, and giving you command of the 4th Battalion."
      "Yes sir." Was his only answer. He didn't want to be promoted under such circumstances, he would have rather not have been promoted then have his commanding officer die. But this was war, and that was to be expected. Besides, it made him the highest-ranking Spartan in the entire military, which would shock many normal officers. He looked behind, and saw that the Covenant 36th Field Shock Army was not giving chase. Good, he thought, we'll be able to escape, and form up with some National Guard Divisions, and press a counterstroke. He called the Air National Guard, and said, "We need you to put some napalm on their LZ, to further discourage any attacks."
      An ANG Brigadier General answered, "With pleasure. You put up a good fight. Thank you."
      "Your welcome." He replied. He then started to compile the kills from all of the different units and found that the 1756th Armored and the 771st Mechanized Infantry had inflicted nearly six hundred thousand casualties (note: a casualty is a soldier killed, wounded or missing) Covenant soldiers, including a staggering eighty-five thousand tanks. Which was quite good for eighty thousand ODSTs. He looked up to the battle that raged in the heavens above…


      Nimitz heard his radar man say, "Twelve plasma torpedoes inbound, range three-thousand kilometers."
      "Commander Perry, the Angel of Death's XO, said, "Time to torpedo impact twenty seconds."
      Nimitz said, "turn 195 by 006, increase to full."
      "Come right 195, twelve degrees down angle, right standard rudder, full-ahead full." Perry said to the helmsman.
      "Lock firing solution and approach vector on the vessel that launched the torpedoes for four MAC rounds and ten Lancer torpedoes." The blue combat lights shone on his face, making him seem all more determined to win.
      "Aye-aye sir. Lock solutions on target CCS-1710A for four slugs and ten Lancers." He then said to the weapons officer, who, assisted by the shipboard AI, did his dirty work. The Lancers launched first, followed ten seconds later by four glowing white orbs of death. The MAC rounds hit first, tearing large holes in the ships superstructure, while the Lancer torpedoes detonated in the open wounds, tearing the forward superstructure of the unlucky, unshielded cruiser to ribbons. She listed quickly to port, venting her atmosphere and then quickly powered down, as a heavily damaged cruiser stormed past her, ready to strike the battleship UNSC Sparrow Hawk.
       Nimitz saw the ship, and knew it was to late to stop it. However, other ships tried. A total of twelve MAC rounds and nine hundred Longbow missile pods struck the ship, not abating its forward energy. The Sparrow Hawk tried to evade, but she had taken engine damage earlier, and was struck directly amidships by the charging dreadnought. The UNSC Sparrow Hawk was torn in half by the ship, and instantly burned up into a red-orange orb of plasma, overcastting even the white orb of the star Vega. The rest of the Covenant fleet retreated far out of the range of the Super MAC guns, beginning a long stalemate over the stricken colony. Vega Prime was a huge colony, captured seven years earlier from the Covenant. In all, it had some eighteen billion colonists living on it, and had more than twice the surface area of Earth. Covenant, once learning of the Prophets deception to all of the other races, became loyal citizens to the UN government.
      Just then, three UNSC carrier battle groups arrived, carrying three million ground troops, which would be very helpful in driving the Covenant off of the planet.


      Patton looked at his watch, being that he had taken his helmet off. It read 20:15 Zulu, or about 23:15 Local time. They were about fifteen minutes away from Fort Abrams, were six more divisions were waiting. There, they could get replacement equipment and personnel, as well as the much-needed ammunition. His Dragon had killed a total thirty Covenant tanks, as well as two dropships. Throughout the night, he and his men had depended on FLIR to see the enemy, and now, with GPS, were helping them navigate across fertile Cattalunnian plains, named after the field in southern France were the largest single day of carnage happened on Earth, The Battle of Chalons in 454 AD, where over three-hundred thousand men died in a single day. Fifteen minutes later, he directed his tank to a parking spot where some Marine technician came with a truck full of ammunition. He popped out of his hatch and jumped down off of the deck of the tank. His gunner supervised loading the fresh ammunition, mainly the new M250A2 long-rod penetrator, a round which was 76.2mm in diameter, but was 2286mm long and weighed a staggering 132.6 kg, which, with the software upgrade, could be shot up to 2500 m/sec, fast enough to push the front of a Spectre tank out the back side. This was rushed into service because the newest Spectre tanks had shields, which could stop the older M250A1 long-rod penetrator at ranges as close as eight hundred meters.
      He walked to his CO tank, and saw the grief-stricken look on Major General O'Hara's face. He said, "How soon until we can counterstrike the Covenant?"
      "We're indoctrinating twenty-two thousand Marine ODST reservists into our division, plus some Spartans to bring your old Company back up to full strength. We and our sister division, the 771st Mech. Infantry, are going to be joining the LXII Corps, comprising of us, three Armored Divisions (the 450th, the 1071st and the 43rd), two Armored Cavalry Divisions, (The ancient 1st Armored Cavalry Division, dating back to the late 20th century, and the newer, Russian themed 11th Armor Rifle Division) three Mechanized Infantry Divisions, (the 121st, the 187th, and the 1834th), and two Air Cavalry Brigades. Briefing is at 06:00 Zulu, so get your officers rested, and make sure that they get enough coffee, because it is going to be a major operation.
      "Yes Sir." Lieutenant Colonel (acting) Patton replied, and snapped a crisp salute.
      He started off for the Chief Quartermaster, and found the showers from him, and went and showered. It took him only ten minutes finish up, and went to the mess hall, and picked up an MRE, and wolfed it down. After such a long time not eating, even it tasted great, though he had had the same flavor hundreds of times before. He thought of how he would indoctrinate the new recruits into his battalion. Not that it mattered that much. He pulled out his PDA, and started studying the map of the area, thinking of where the Covenant would strike next. Then something caught his eye. Nova Roma was isolated from the rest of the continent by a large river, which had been recently named the Isen river, and that there were only three bridges within two-thousand kilometers of the Covenant army's last position. He knew that they would eventually have to cross those bridges, and he planned on beating them there. He zoomed in on the bridge areas, and using the 3d map, identified and memorized the best tank killing areas. His mouth fell into a thin smile. He had just saved maybe this entire section of the Colony, unless someone else beat him to it. He finished his beef stew MRE, and disposed of it, and then checked his watch, which read 22:05 Zulu, which gave him a good six hours of sleep. He walked to the makeshift bunk that was assigned to him, and laid down, and then was out cold before he could count to three.


      1st Lieutenant Sarah Nakiyama, commander of the 2nd Tank platoon, B Company, 4th Battalion of the 809th Armored Brigade, 1756th Armored Division, saw the grief on her CO's face. She was a Spartan also, and had been selected from the Spartan III program for officer training. Most of the few Spartan officers had taken a lot of criticism from the normal ROTC candidates, who thought of most Spartans as mindless automatons, which nothing could be further from the truth. The Spartan Threes, unlike their predecessors, had had much more contact with the real world, and were much more normal members of society, but just as deadly in the arts of combat.
      She sat down with her MRE, and started thinking about what the next day would bring. She had heard about the briefing, and her mind was alive with thoughts of it. The more she tried to not think about it, the more she thought about it, which was when she realized she liked being a soldier. It had just occurred naturally until now. She didn't like killing, but she liked being a part of something, and making a difference.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Seven

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Seven
Date: 29 December 2003, 8:34 AM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Seven
Location: Vega Prime, Fort Abrams
Date: April 15th, 2578 Military Calendar, 06:00 Zulu Time

"History is just one continuous, unending argument." David Adler

      Lieutenant Colonel (acting) Michael Patton was sitting on a makeshift chair for the Officer's Briefing. Lieutenant General Mikhail Zhukov stood in front of the collection of Command and staff officers. Beside him was a laptop type computer, hooked up to a Hologram projector.
      He said, with his prominent Russian accent. "As you know, we will be beginning our first counterattack on the 17th. Our objective is to prevent, at all costs, the Covenant Army from taking this part of continent upon crossing the Isen River. Our ten divisions will confront them along this area." He pressed a button on the laptop and pointed to an area on a 3d map of the area. The map zoomed in on the area, a 700 km wide front, with only the only the bridges across in it. The Covenant undoubtedly had pontoon bridges so destroying the highway bridges would only stall them and alert them to their presence. He continued, "This front is seven hundred kilometers long, and two hundred kilometers deep. We will have our preliminary fire positions in the wooded hills fifteen kilometers in from the river. Once they are across, we will begin engaging them from a range of three thousand meters. Once the Covenant tanks are within five hundred meters of our first fire position, we will retreat back eight kilometers, long enough for them to think it was a retreat. Our reserves will hold the second position while the primaries refuel and rearm. Infantry anti tank teams will reinforce the key areas, and our other Infantry, both Mechanized and Light, will be evenly dispersed with the armor. If the second position fails, we will fall back forty-five kilometers, across this minefield, which will be armed after we cross it. If this third position fails, we will retreat back to the edge of the battlespace and use our 280mm mobile artillery to nuke the advancing Covenant forces. We will trade space for time and lives, even if we have to destroy the area. This is only the basic idea of the battle plan. I do, however have a pamphlet on these disks. Take a copy and send it to all of your officers and men. That is all. Dismissed."
      They all rose and saluted the General, and started conversing softly on their way out of the room. Patton said to his CO, Colonel William H. Tarleton, "I hope this works, because if it doesn't, we're screwed with our pants on."
      He replied, "I know, but our personnel are battle-hardened veterans. They'll make sure it happens or they'll die trying."
      "Let's hope it doesn't have to come to that." He said, with a grim tone.


      Captain Nimitz had his own problems to deal with. The three Carrier Battle Groups brought with them two Clayemore-class super dreadnoughts, the UNSC Decree of Annihilation, SD-05, and UNSC Styx, SD-03. Each of these ships can launch an entire carrier air wing as well as mount twelve MAC guns, twenty thousand longbow missile pods, seven hundred OBC guns (orbital bombardment cannons) and one hundred Lancer torpedo launchers. The only word to describe them is "God." No vessel on either side can compare with these monsters, and only a mere dozen were built, and it is very rare to see two of them in the same battle fleet. The groups also brought with them Ontos, a mobile Super MAC gun battery. The word means, "the thing," which fit it properly. The vessel was slapped together out of a damaged Decimator-class battleship hull. It mounted four Super MAC guns, two mounted on the hull and two on rotary turrets on the wings of the ship. Fully two-thirds of the ships interior is taken up by reactors and MAC gun machinery and magazines. The ship can sustain a fire rate with each gun of up to 8 rounds per minute, for up to six hours if needed, though it will run out of ammunition and targets long before that. The ship is not very well armored but it makes up for it with its massive firepower. The battle groups also have a total of eighteen planetary assault carriers, four light carriers, six battleships, twelve anti-aircraft missile (AAAM) cruisers, and twenty-four AAAM destroyers. The battle groups maneuvered into a geo-synchronous orbit, with the super dreadnoughts moving into orbital bombardment positions.
      The ships carried the Marine's Twelfth Army, comprising of a total of sixty-five divisions and support units. The Marine LI Corps began preparing for a landing planetside the moment they came into orbit. Thousands of fighters streamed out to tactical and strategic targets Covenant had emplaced.
      Nimitz sighed. He looked over and the green and blue orb that was Vega Prime. He could see several nuclear explosions burning on the surface. There was almost no cloud cover over the area of Nova Roma, and could see an old mushroom cloud moving with the prevailing winds, reminding him of the song from the group 'Kansas,' called 'Dust in the Wind.' In fact, that song had been played on the ships loudspeakers in the mess hall yesterday morning, quite ironic in the grand scheme of things. He thought, "Oh God, It's way too early to be thinking about historical irony and such pharisaical twists. It's more like a time to sit down and drink coffee, which would be nice since I've been up for the last forty-eight hours. Yeah sit down, drinking coffee, watching the nine hundredth thousandth episode of South Park. Damn, it's hard to believe it's been on TV that long. God, I've got to stop staying up so long. It's worse than those all night orgies in college. That's a pleasant memory!"
      He grinned, reminiscing on his wilder days. Somehow he did the normal college thing before West Point and still managed to maintain a 4.0. He grabbed his coffee cup, and drank the rest of the cup, sifting it through his teeth. "Damn, they need to change filters in the coffee pots. I keep eating my coffee." He thought. His ship had sustained no structural damage in the fight, which was very odd. Oh well, its better than going down with the ship.
      He left his XO in command, and walked off the bridge and into his quarters, and lay down on the bed, face down, and passed out from the stress and fatigue.


      Lieutenant Colonel Michael Patton just finished briefing his battalion on the battle plan, and they a mixture of excited and anxious, happy and grim. Many of them were reinforcements to the battalion to replace battle losses. He sent his soldiers off to the Tank firing range, where they fired a few salvoes and got used to their new crewmen. He took a book out of his pack, Tom Clancy's 'The Bear and the Dragon' and resumed reading on page 701. He relaxed as he read, taking his mind off of the upcoming battle and thought about many things, his training days, going to West Point afterwards, falling in love for the first time, with one of his fellow Spartans, Amanda Baker, the one who he met the second day of Spartan training. The Spartan Three project differed from its predecessor in many ways. First of all, the children were either orphans or given up by their parents if they couldn't support them. They were also had contact with the outside world and afterwards could reclaim their surname and go through Officer training. They were very much normal people with extraordinary training. Just as good in combat as the Spartan II soldiers but much more normal.
      He reminisced of his first date with her, how perfect she was to him, and still is. He thought of his first kiss and finally the time when they broke down and ceased being responsible young officers and made love with each other.
      He was brought sharply back to reality by the crack of a 152.2mm MAR (Magnetic Accelerator Rifle). The memory was still fresh in his mind, so wonderful, so powerful, so real, as if it had been yesterday. He cleared his mind and went back to his book, with a remnant of that thought still lingering in his mind, causing him to smile a thin grin. Oh how he wished she were in his unit, just to be able to talk to her. "Oh well," he later thought, "Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first."
      He checked his watch, which read 07:20 Zulu. He glanced over to his battalion's tanks, which were hitting notebook-sized areas of targets at five klicks distant. He stood up, and went to the rifle range, were he grabbed an MA-7 battle rifle and four forty-five round clips. He input into the range computer a holographic Grunt target, slammed a clip into the guns butt, cocked the slide and donned ear protection. He centered at the target, one hundred meters distant, raised his rifle and lined the telescopic sight reticule with the center of the Grunt's head, and removed the safety. He set the gun on three round burst and slowly squeezed the trigger. The gun tried to buck upwards but was held firmly on target by his immensely strong grip. He squeezed off two more three round bursts before he turned the safety to 'on' on the rifle. He looked at the computer screen, which displayed exactly where the rounds hit. He saw one 9 shot group around two centimeters in diameter. He muttered, "I'm a little rusty." And went reset the target. He held the top rifle scores of his entire class. He aimed the rifle right for the center of the Grunt target's head, turned of the safety, and sent off three 3 round bursts in five seconds. He turned the safety on. He looked at the screen and saw a slightly better group, but he didn't need to further worry about groups at this point because that was one dead Grunt standing down range. '9.53mm lobotomies' is what the first Marines to use the rifle called them, because of their great accuracy and firepower.
      He changed the range to three hundred meters and de-safed his rifle, aimed for the center of the head, and shot nine rounds into a nine cm area. He changed to an Elite target and put nine rounds in its head, then nine more in the body. He spent his last nine rounds on a Brute target, creating nine holes right in the beast's face. He ejected the clip, pulled the action back and locked it open, and set it back on the rack, along with the extra clips. He grabbed the spent casings and put them in the bin for them to be later reloaded. He took of his ear protection and set them on the bench and walked from the range, personally satisfied.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Eight

Note: If you don't like the conspicuous lack of action, you can just kiss my ass!

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Eight
Date: 25 February 2004, 4:37 AM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Eight
Location: Fort Abrams, Vega Prime liberated Colony
Date: April 16th, 2578 Military Calendar, 19:15 Zulu Time

      Lieutenant Colonel Michael Patton sat in his chair, watching his soldiers finish maintenance on their vehicles, and reviewing the battle plan for the day after tomorrow. He picked up his laptop and began reviewing the area, looking for the best ambush and tank killing sectors, especially those in his deployment zone. Most of the battle would be taking place in a large redwood forest, with some of the trees over three hundred meters tall. He spotted a large and rotting tipped over redwood, behind which a tank could get a nice hull-down firing position, which, by using the tanks hydropneumatic suspension, could be a turret down observation position. He 'claimed' the area for his tank, then moved the 3d map around, looking for other difficult obstacles.
      Most other officers were looking for tank and infantry fire positions at this time, also. Knowing the terrain would be crucial to a victory. Such had been true for millennia and would not change anytime soon.


      Captain Nimitz watched in awe as two hundred-fifty Armored Landing Craft, each carrying an entire battalion of ground troops disgorged from the supercarrier Hastings, escorted by an entire CAW of the vessel, amounting to four hundred interceptors and three hundred fighters, armed for dirt busting. The carrier was a massive eight km long and massed at twenty million tons, twice the mass of his cruiser and half again as massive as the enormous Warhawk-class battleships. The four destroyers assigned to it held station at precisely five hundred km. The super dreadnought Decree of Annihilation sped ahead into a geo-synchronous orbit over Vega Prime. She was a strange vessel, being designed like a Covenant vessel, with fluid, organic lines and a shark-like, predatory shape. She paused over the LI Corps drop zone, and charged her pulse-lasers and OBC-s, and opened fire on a Covenant position, annihilating any thing within thirty kilometers of the LZ. Scores of her fighters streamed out in all directions, heading to destroy troop supply stations, bridges, command posts and prefab bunkers that had been set up by the Covenant the previous day.
      Nimitz's own Angel of Death had a far different mission, reconnaissance.
Since the Covenant had destroyed the Remotes Sensor outposts on their way in-system, they need to send ships out to probe the system edge to spot for danger. His ship was one of the few undamaged ones capable of a pinpoint slipspace jump.
      He to his AI, Death, "Set pinpoint jump coordinates for the edge of system, and make the Covenant see us do this. We'll draw off a couple, and take them out in stealth mode."
      He replied, a pair of red eyes suddenly glowing under his cloak, "Gotcha. May I suggest you bring the secondary reactors online, to boost our reactor output by eighty percent?"
      He replied, "Yes, and prepare all fighter squadrons for launch."
      The AI cackled a short laugh, then said, "They'll never know what hit them."


      Six hours later, the entire LXII Corps had moved across the Isen River. Eight divisions in total, with three hundred-twenty thousand soldiers, and around fifty thousand tanks, they had to stop a Covenant force of two million soldiers, a daunting task when the odds are evened out. Patton guided his Dragon into its firing position, behind a fallen Redwood. He and the crew jumped out, and they set up a camouflage net over the tank to mask its position. The 'net' not only protected the tank visually, it masked what little thermal signature it had left. Patton then climbed up on the fallen Redwood, and pulled out his field glasses. He scanned the crimson horizon. He could clearly see the river, and the Covenant advance guards setting up pontoon bridges to cross the river. It didn't matter. They held the higher ground. Four of the divisions were on the front line, with the other divisions in tactical reserve. He turned to his gunner and said, "Unload the LOSAT (Line Of Sight Anti-Tank weapon), and get it set up by that tree. We may need to use it. Hand me a battle rifle and ammo."
      Command Sergeant Major Stephen Downes replied, "Gotcha. Anything else?"
      He handed Patton the battle rifle. Patton thought for a moment, then said, "Have the rest of the battalion set up their LOSATs." Patton grabbed Downes's hand and squeezed firmly, then said, "Give them hell."
      He chuckled and replied, "You can count on that." He took out a small gun cleaning cloth and polished his Spartan insignia on his MJOLNIR armor. An eagle with a lighting bolt in one set of talons, and three arrows in the other, it represented what they were, fast, deadly and ready to strike.
      They got back in their tank and readied to fight. Elsewhere, the rest of the Corps set up to give the Covenant a beating they wouldn't soon forget.
      He adjusted the tank's hydropneumatic suspension system to move the turret up from behind the redwood, and began designating targets for his tank. The Covenant had moved about six divisions across by now, and were about ready to advance. They were still about ten km away, about fifteen minutes away from their engagement range. They all sat there tensely awaiting the Covenant to fall into their trap. Patton's MJOLNIR armor AI, Draco, began monitoring the Covenant battlenet, then said to Patton in his characteristically deep voice, "They appear to be unaware of our position, and of my infiltration into their communication networks. I can send a virus at the appropriate time that will shut down all of their communications devices. However, its effects will only last for about fifteen minutes before it is rooted out be their counter-intrusion software. I have also tasked six squadrons of fighters and interceptors to this area to help with holding them in this area."
      Patton sighed, the replied, "Good job. Prepare a signal to get all the units to fire simultaneously the moment they cross the engagement line."
      Draco paused for a millisecond, then said, "Done. I am coordinating my efforts with all of the other AI in the unit. I believe we have just improved our chance of victory by twenty-two-point-zero-six-one-seven percent. However, the human factor in this equation makes calculations maddeningly inaccurate."
      Patton replied, "At least we don't have to fight them on their terms. Thanks for all the help. See if you can decipher their encryption sequence on their priority level transmissions. Once again, coordinate with all the other AI in the area."
      Draco cackled, then said with an egotistical tone, "Counter-intrusion software might as well be a food nipple supply logistics program."
      Patton frowned, "Once again Draco, your humor escapes me. Just don't give anyone the lovebug virus."
      Draco changed to a serious tone, "And I suppose you thought that was funny? Anyway, I'll get right on it. I estimate it will take three minutes and forty-two-point-one-six-three seconds to get in." Draco then was silent, though he didn't completely disappear from Michael's mind. He still was 'in' his brain, and he could still feel his presence, and strangely, exactly what he was doing. His brain couldn't show him all of the techno babble, but it could still show him the highlights of what he was doing.


      Thirteen minutes later, the Covenant units were just about to reach the engagement line. The entire force waited tensely as the few seconds until all hell broke loose slowly ticked away, seeming more like hours than seconds. Sergeant Major Downes lined the Dragon tank's MAR up on to the first Spectre in his engagement pattern. They all heard Lieutenant General Zhukov say at precisely 22:00 hours, "Fire at will." His words echoed into eternity as thousands of tanks and IFVs opened fire on the Covenant forces. Patton's tank hit a Spectre Mk. II at three thousand meters. Its shields flashed, then collapsed, allowing the round to strike the armored hull of the Spectre. The incandescent depleted uranium/osmium round tore through the Spectre's front armor, sending hundreds of white-hot armor fragments into its interior. The rest of the front of the armored hull rippled, then shattered under the tremendous force of the impact, spewing out gouts of molten metal and fractured armor shards. Downes immediately shifted fire to a second Spectre, its entire right side sheared off by the one hundred forty kg long rod penetrator. Mobile 280mm MARs fired hundreds of shard, fragmentation and napalm rounds over the battlefield, covering it with a blanket of armor piercing shards, metal fragments and red-orange fire. The Covenant returned fire as a third salvo of 152.2mm long rod rounds tore into their lines. They quickly became confused, and due to the lack of communication caused by Draco and the other AI in the area, began firing off into the distance, or even at each other. A fourth salvo of long rod rounds over the seven hundred km front sent thousands of tank and IFV crews to their demise.
      White contrails appeared in the sky above, as Air Cavalry Kukri ground attack fighters and ship based Sabre space dominance fighters fired salvoes of air to ground munitions. A fifth salvo of tank fire shattered hundreds of more Covenant vehicles on the battlefield. Covenant Infantry Fighting Vehicles stopped and disgorged their soldiers, and they raced up the battlefield on foot, in order to avoid being turned into mincemeat by the lethal salvoes of tank fire. This was answered by a volley of fragmentation and napalm fire by the 280mms, sending thousands to an early grave. The surviving tanks raced as fast as they could towards the human positions, in order to mitigate their long-range advantage. Sergeant Major Downes spotted one of the leaders quickly, and lined his weapon up on him. The tank shuddered as the round left the magnetic accelerator barrel. The hypersonic, incandescent round struck the Spectre's shield. Its shields flickered, then died, allowing the round to punch through the tank, rippling and shattering its armor, and sending fountains of plasma and white-hot armor shards out of its back, killing a few unlucky Grunts standing behind the Spectre. Another Spectre was turned almost inside out from the force of another well-aimed long rod penetrator. The Covenant just got their act together, and then began firing back at their position furiously. Most of the plasma bolts explodes in the redwoods nearby their targets, rather than hitting them. A seventh volley of MAR rounds lanced down the hillside, destroying anything in their path. Napalm, shard and frag rounds from the 280mms killed thousands more each volley, shredding or immolating their unfortunate bodies. Their counter-fire volleys, however, began to intensify, making this already hectic place even more insane. It had become literally hell.

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Nine

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Nine
Date: 27 March 2004, 5:36 AM

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Nine
Location: Isen River Battlespace, Vega Prime Theatre of Operations
Date: April 17th, 2578 Military Calendar, 22:05 Zulu Time

      Patton yelled over the radio to his unit, "Alright, keep it up. Get the Infantry tank hunter teams in place three hundred meters ahead of the tanks. Make sure the Fire teams keep those positions intact." He switched off the intercom, "Sergeant Major, How are we coming?"
      The tank bucked suddenly, followed by Sergeant Major Downes's reply, "We're holding. I've vaped eight of them already." The tanked shuddered again, followed by, "Make that nine."
      The marine Fire Teams got into place soon after, and began engaging the charging Covenant ground forces. The tank hunters began killing any IFV or tank that made it through the hellish barrage unleashed by the four divisions covering the four hundred km stretch of hell. Ship based Katana interceptors began unloading "daisy cutter" fuel-air bombs, and Warhammer cruise missiles onto the enemy, killing scores of Covenant. Covenant Seraphs fighters joined the melee, tearing into a few unlucky ground attack planes. The Sabres began dog fighting the Seraphs, sending a few down in flames immediately.


      Commander Jose "Speedy" Gonzalez rolled his Sabre fighter behind a Seraph, and throttled up to Mach 1.5. The Seraph saw him, and dove down towards the ground. He punched the stick forward, accelerating after the Seraph. There was no way it was going to get away from him like this. The Seraph jumped into an outside loop, leveling out three thousand meters from the ground. Gonzalez punched the throttle, and shot up behind him. The Seraph banked to the right as hard as it could, but Gonzalez cut into his turn, and spat columns of 40mm cannon fire at it. The Seraphs shields splashed off the first hundred rounds, but collapsed, allowing the 1.1 kg rounds to tear the Seraph apart. Gouts of flame shot out of the dying Seraph, along with metal fragments and most of the crafts superstructure. It broke in half, killing the pilot and sending the hundreds of pieces that were left of its ruined airframe careening down towards the ground. Gonzalez pulled up out of the cloud of debris, then said, "Scratch one. Ok ladies, let's take care of the rest of these bastards."
      The rest of the 409th Tactical Fighter Wing roared in triumph. One of them, Lieutenant Commander Grace "Amazon" O'Toole replied, "We have a problem, Speedy. Two wings of Seraphs inbound, looks like their ready for dirt busting."
      "Gotcha. Okay, form up, switch to Fox-ones. Launch two at one hundred km." Gonzalez barked. The one hundred forty-four Sabres moved into a loose formation, heading straight to the incoming Covenant fighters. Gonzalez locked on to two unlucky bastards down range, then hissed "Fox-one!" The rest of the wing fired simultaneously. The Covenant Seraphs launched a return volley towards the Sabres. Gonzalez barked to his Wing, "Break formation, all units break formation." His missile avoidance alarm was blaring now, and he launched a spread of flares and chaff, then rolled and dived to starboard. He could see the enemies' plasma missiles shooting towards his group now. They were just blue orbs in the distance, getting larger very quickly. He continued to evade as he watched the missiles close in on his radar. He gunned his throttle and pulled up on the stick, releasing another spread of countermeasures, just in time to cause a missile to miss him, and strike the decoys. A quarter of his wing weren't so lucky. They had caught a missile, and ejected, or were carbonized alive in their cockpits. The enemy wasn't even that lucky. More than half of them began spiraling down towards the ground, torn apart by the ASIM-79 Shuriken missile.


      Another barrage of 152.2mm MAR fire sent hundreds of more Covenant soldiers and equipment to an early demise, followed by an accurate and angry volley of Spectre tank plasma. A shot exploded just five meters away from Patton's tank, sending pieces of obsidian and charcoal pinging off of its armor, followed by a wave of heat. Downes immediately found the tank that fired plasma, and lined up his targeting reticule onto its center of mass. The tank shook, and a split second later, the Spectre was lying upside down with a four meter wide hole in its frontal armor. Downes said, "Reloading."
      The driver heard this, then lowered the tank's hydropneumatic transmission, hiding the tank turret from view. Patton furrowed his eyebrow. "Draco, I need you task one the orbiting ships to send some firepower onto their pontoon bridges. None of the fighters can make it there."
      Draco replied smugly, "Done. The UNSC Odysseus has just tasked fifty Archer missile pods to the area. Detonation is sixteen seconds."
      Patton sighed, "Good. See if you can get any reinforcements from the carrier battle groups."
      "Working on it." Draco began sending the query.
      The turret jumped to left ten degrees, then bucked as its MAR fired at an IFV twelve hundred meters away. Off in the distances, hundreds of contrails shot down to the crossing points on the Isen river. Hundreds of explosions followed, their sonic booms reverberating across the battlefield. Lieutenant General Zhukov came onto the radio, "We'll keep fighting for ten more minutes, then we'll retreat." The radio clicked off. A Dragon tank exploded five hundred meters right of their position.
      Patton was fuming by now, "Shit! Downes, how many rounds we have left?"
      The turret bucked again, "We still have four more magazines." Three seconds later, the tank shook, and another white-hot shell lanced out to its target. The round transfixed two Spectre tanks, destroying them both.
      The remaining Covenant in the area shot up a withering hail of plasma up to their positions. A return volley of MAR rounds shot down the slope at almost three km per second. A stream of white-hot plasma shot up the slope from the charging infantry and armored personnel carriers, burning through dismounted infantry's shields and armor. The 280mm artillery moved their fire zone to right up in front of the UNSC lines, pushing back the advancing infantry.
      Zhukov came on the radio, "Looks like we're packing up early. All units, withdraw to position Bravo."
      Patton yelled over the radio, "You heard the boss, lets get the hell out of here." The infantry pulled back into their IFVs, and sped off. The tanks stayed for one more minute, covering the artillery while it packed up into its respective Pelicans. Patton's Dragon did a quick one-eighty degree turn, and wove through the redwood forest, evading a few plasma shots directed at it. The driver, Master Gunnery Sergeant Sosumi Hikowa maneuvered the eighty-four ton tank through the forest at eighty km/hr effortlessly, quickly outpacing the slower Spectre tanks.


      Commander Gonzalez jinked his Sabre to port, allowing a stream of plasma shots to slice through nothing but air. He decreased the power, hit the air brake and slammed the stick all the way back, sending his planes nose one hundred-twenty degrees past the horizontal. He released the air brake, and vectored the thrust from the engines forty degrees up while simultaneously hitting the afterburners, sending his plane into a back flip, leveling it out a split second later, right behind the bastard that had been shooting at him. It rolled and dove towards the ground, followed quickly by Gonzalez. When he closed within one hundred meters, he depressed the cannon trigger, sending four angry arcs of 40mm cannon shells. The Seraph's shields splashed off the first rounds, then flickered and died, along with the Seraph that was projecting it. Gonzalez shot straight through the debris field, bring his shields down to one quarter. The remaining Seraphs bugged out, leaving the 409th master of the skies. Gonzalez let out a roar of triumph, then said, "Okay boys, our work here is done. Lets head back to the Hastings and refuel and rearm."
      He heard a volley of "Yes sir!" He had killed five Seraphs and three APCs that mission, not the highest of his wing, but he still had more air-to-air kills than any of them. He had forty-two confirmed kills, most of them in space. He angled his Saber's nose up towards the heavens, and accelerated out of the planets gravity well.


      Patton's battalion regrouped, and moved to the rightmost edge of the 1756th Armored's wedge formation. They covered the thirteen km to fire position Bravo in a mere nine minutes, at least twenty minutes ahead of the advancing Covenant army. They passed the reserve divisions, and headed to the Corps' rear to rearm and to do whatever repairs were needed on their vehicles. The 1756th Armored's symbol, a red star surrounded by an outward pointing circle of blue stars, had been seared off of Patton's tank by a close plasma bolt. The entire right side of his tank was seared black, with all of the active camouflage paint burned off. That would have to be fixed, though it would only take five minutes of a good mechanics time. It just needed a new coating sprayed on in the problem area.
      They stopped in a maintenance area, and got out of their tank and assisted loading the replacement ammunition. Draco sent Patton a status report of the battle, which showed that the four engaged divisions had taken a twenty percent casualty rate, but had had an eight to one kill ratio against the Covenant. Patton finished loading his tank, then jumped up to its top, and sat on the turret bustle, watching the Medics treat the wounded of his unit. He removed his helmet, and let out a long sigh of relief. The adrenaline was starting to leave his system, leaving him tired but satisfied. He thought of the men who were dying out there, and how he, at the moment, was powerless to help them. He was brought back to reality by Sergeant Major Downes throwing him an MRE.
      Downes chuckled, "You're off in la-la land again. Eat something, we have a long day ahead of us."

To be continued in: Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Ten

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Ten
Date: 10 December 2005, 2:01 am

Author's Note: I've decided to come out of retirement and finish this older series that's been left unfinished. I'd recommend going and reading parts one through nine before reading this one. Also, most of this series was written before Halo 2 came out, so some of the names don't match up, such as in my story, the Spectre is the successor to the Wraith tank.

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Ten

2301 Hours (Universal Time), April 17th, 2578 (Military Calendar) /
4/809 Battalion, 1756th Armored Division defensive position (37º 52' 33" S, 82° 25' 12" W), Isen River Battlespace, Vega Prime Theatre of Operations, Sigma Vega system

      Lieutenant Colonel Michael Patton finished assisting the support crew in rearming and refueling his tank and repainting its active camouflage paint, and then put his helmet to his MJOLNIR armor back on, and saw the new order issued out to battalion commanders.
      The order moved his division, the 1756th Armored, to the flanks of the UNSC battle area, and then across a series of gravity bridges set up by Marine engineers to the opposite side of the river. Upon reaching the opposite shore, the division would strike at the flanks of the invading Covenant armies, and hopefully, envelope them. Like any counterstrike, it had its risks.
      He yelled to his tank crew, "All right, lets saddle up. We're moving to Phase-Line Mace"
      His driver quickly started up the MBT-1A Dragon tank, while Command Sergeant Major Downes coordinated the battalion's movement with the individual company commanders. The battalion had close to sixty Dragon tanks and fifty Manticore infantry fighting vehicles at full strength, but was now down to roughly two-thirds strength.
      Patton checked through the order again on his PDA, and tracked his battalion and the other battalions' progress in the movement. What amazed him was how fast his unit would be ready to move. It would only take two hours from when the order was received to move to the waypoint almost seventy kilometers away. In about twenty minutes, the whole division was on the move to the waypoint.


      The ride to the waypoint was a rather rough one across rolling, uneven terrain. Even with the tank's advanced suspension system, the sharp reliefs of the terrain jostled the tank crews around. The terrain was quite remarkably beautiful, a dark green field dotted with trees set against the crimson red light of the setting sun. The three-hundred-sixty degree field of view created by tank's visual sensors painted a brilliant panorama in Patton's mind. It was amazing how much he could see through the tank's sensors, all of the overwhelming information was superimposed over his normal vision by his neural interface. And with just a thought, he could zoom in onto an area of interest, change visual spectrums, identify targets, issue orders to his crew, or even fire the tank's weapons himself. The sheer power was almost overwhelming to anyone.
      In the distance, he could see the three gravity bridges that his battalion was going to cross. They were close to five kilometers away, each were nearly seven hundred meters long. The Isen River was quite an imposing obstacle, almost thirteen thousand kilometers long, and at places over five kilometers wide. The bridges had blue-gray camouflage nets strung all across their length in an effort to disguise the bridges from casual reconnaissance.
      He checked his map on his PDA again. There were close to seventy gravity bridges set up over a fifty kilometer stretch of the river. At each end of the bridges, there were four AAM-3B surface air missile launchers. Each tracked, mobile launcher carried eight SAM-5 missiles, surface to air missiles with a range of over one hundred eighty kilometers. With each group of launchers was a mobile radar station. As he approached the bridgehead, he expected to see scorched earth at the base of each launcher, but, apparently, the launchers hadn't fired at all yet. That meant the Covenant hadn't made any notice of the bridges—even the dumbest commander would recognize them as a threat.
      When his tank rolled to a halt at the bridge head, he disengaged from the tank's neural interface, and disembarked from the tank. He walked to an older, grizzled looking Master Sergeant, with the golden engineering spade emblem on his shoulder. The Sergeant saluted, then said in his cockney accent, "Welcome to Isen crossing Echo, Leftenant Colonel, I'm Master Sergeant Nigel Cromwell, 288th Engineering Brigade."
      Patton shook the Sergeant's hand, "Thank you for all of your assistance, Sergeant. Has there been any enemy contact?"
      Cromwell chuckled, "None within sight of the crossing, but a scout patrol spotted a couple of split-chins about seven kilometers from the opposite shore. They nailed the little blighters good. Oth'r then that, not much."
      Patton relaxed a bit, "That's good. How long before 4th Battalion can cross?"
      "We can have you start to cross in about ten minutes. Your division's Cav troop went acr'ss about twenty minutes ago. We jus' need to check if the bridge is still anchored properly."
      "Carry on, Sergeant. You and your men have done a fine job on such short notice."
      "Aye, guv'ner. I'll tell the men what ya had to say."


      Several minutes later, the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles from the 4th Mechanized Battalion began crossing the gravity bridges. The bridge could only support two thousand tons safely, so only twenty vehicles could be on the bridge at any one time. Consequently, it took almost forty-five minutes for the entire battalion to clear the bridge and move to Phase-Line Mace.
      The four lead maneuver brigades of the 1756th took an additional fifty minutes to reach Phase-Line Mace. The divisional artillery would stay on the south shore and cover the mechanized attack from a distance.
      On the move to Phase-Line Talon, the 4th Battalion was moving at a steady march speed of forty kilometers/hour. Phase-Line Talon was a line of advance only three kilometers away from the flanks of one of the advancing Covenant armies, the 301st Guards Combined Army. It had a total of eight maneuver divisions, four mechanized and four armored, and two support divisions of artillery. It outnumbered the 1756th Armored, at least on paper, by a factor of 8:1, but it had lost nearly a quarter of its operational effectiveness because of air attack and spare part shortages.
      At 0315, the lead Cavalry squadron made contact with the outermost Covenant division. She wouldn't engage until the lead maneuver brigade caught up with her. Patton's battalion was on the vanguard of the lead brigade, and reached waypoint bravo twenty minutes later.
      As his tank crested a hill, he zoomed his thermal sensors in on a group of heat blobs. He zoomed in on the lead heat blob. His fire-control computer identified it as a command variant Spectre main battle tank. Following it were two Imp infantry fighting vehicles, and a Shadow infantry carrier.
      Sergeant Major Downes locked the main gun onto the Spectre, while three Manticore infantry fighting vehicles from the forward cavalry screen locked onto the Covenant personnel carriers. Patton's neural interface displayed the blips of his battalion taking aim at unsuspecting Covenant vehicles.
      He quickly looked back at the enemy command platoon to make sure they hadn't spotted his tank. Very soon afterward, he received the green light order from division headquarters. He clicked on his radio, "Green light to engage. Repeat, green light to engage. Fire at will."
      He had barely finished his sentence when his tank rocked back from the recoil of the mammoth 152.2mm mass driver as it spat its deadly venom onto the target. The 132-kilogram penetrator struck the Spectre tank just behind its turret, right in the middle of its crew compartment. It tore through the shields, and ripped a ragged hole in its armor, sending molten chunks of armor and charred bits of flesh out the far side.
      Two seconds later, 50mm high explosive shells from the three Manticores rained onto the Covenant vehicles. The Shadow was instantly blown apart, but the two Imps managed to cough up some return fire before being snuffed out.
      Even inside the tank, Lt. Colonel Patton could hear the loud, sharp cracks of nearly thirty other Dragon tanks firing into the night. His tank barely had started to reload when he started scanning the horizon for return fire. Nearly five kilometers away, a bright green plasma bolt shot out of a Spectre tank at over a kilometer a second, heading straight for Patton's tank.
      By the time he saw the bolt heading towards him, it was too late to dodge it. All he could do was swing his tank gun out of the path of the bolt, and hold on for dear life. As the bolt struck, he checked to make sure the main gun was safe from the plasma, and grabbed onto the nearest handhold as the tank started bucking. Nearly all of the right side turret armor was burned off by the blast, and the entire tank was turned a sickly black charcoal color, but the tank was otherwise intact, and its crew still alive.
      Patton shouted, "Sgt. Major, send him our uranium care package, express delivery."
      "With pleasure, sir." The turret spun to the right quickly, and locked onto the Spectre tank. It had just ignited its boosters and was about to duck for cover behind a large boulder when a burning white uranium slug punched through its shields and armor, right into its fusion cell. It spun to the left, fell to the ground, and exploded in a brilliant blue flash of plasma. The two surviving Sanghelli crewmembers popped the hatch and were climbing off of the charred wreck when a burst 25.5mm HE rounds from the Dragon's coaxial autocannon exploded on the Spectre's hull, the shrapnel tearing the two poor bastards apart.
      Downes mused at his handiwork, "Ground split-chin, three credits a kilo! About time those sons of bitches started paying."
      "Okay, Sergeant, knock it off." Patton clicked his radio on, "Okay, I need Able and Bravo companies to move forward, Charlie company, you're running right flank security, Dog company, you're on the left with me. Easy company, I need you in reserve. Task Force Epsilon, keep the skies clear for us." He clicked his radio off, "Driver, get us behind that hill." The icons on his map began crawling around like ants, and then started moving uniformly forward, thanks to the marvels of GPS. As his tank parked behind the knoll, TF Epsilon, the SAM task force, finally got rolling smoothly.
      A squadron of Kukri ground attack fighters flew overhead, most likely off to engage Covenant armor. A storm of artillery impacts could be heard kilometers away. Patton muttered to himself, "God help the poor bastards caught under that hail," and surprisingly, sincerely meant it. They were just doing their duty, and he was just doing his. The nihilism of this war seemed to know no bounds. Nearly a trillion innocent humans butchered, and now billions of Covenant civilians murdered by the UNSC in payment for the earlier atrocities. The only reason why the pathetic piece of dirt they were fighting for was still intact was that FLEETCOM felt the colony to be of "strategic interest." Dozens of other former Covenant colonies had nearly every city nuked from orbit, and then surrounded with nuclear space mines to prevent relief from getting to the colony until most of its denizens had starved to death.
      The oath he took when he became an officer only said he had to preserve, protect and defend the people of Earth—It said nothing about participating in the vengeful, wholesale slaughter of helpless masses.
      There were more cackles of mass drivers in the background, though this time they weren't unanswered. Bright blue streaks betrayed the positions of at least two-dozen enemy tanks. One of those streaks shot past Patton's concealed tank, and right into a Manticore infantry carrier. The Manticore never stood a chance, its frontal armor was consumed in an instant, and much of the plasma burned through into the vehicle's crew compartment, immolating every person inside.
      "Driver! Get us into a firing position on that Spectre! Gunner, take him out ASAP!" The tank leapt forward, and started to crest the hill, while the two other Manticores dashed behind the knoll. Patton's gunner, Sgt. Major Downes, let loose a round from the main gun as the tank started to descend down the knoll.
      The blazing streak of the long-rod penetrator hit the Spectre just over a second after it left the rails of its mass driver. It punched through the shields, and caught the hull on the left side booster wing. The booster was torn off, but the tank was left otherwise intact. It began to charge up a plasma blast aimed towards Patton's tank, but was then struck in its main gun by a Pilum anti-tank missile fired by the second Manticore. The high explosive anti-tank round sent a jet of molten metal and armor fragments into the plasma cannon's delicate internal machinery. The forward mounted turret exploded from the damage, leaving the Spectre a helpless hulk. Its crew smartly bailed out, and unlike the last, managed to escape their vehicle.
      As the tank continued to roll down the hill at eighty kilometers per hour, the turret traversed quickly to the left. The gunner locked the 25.4mm coaxial cannon onto an Imp infantry carrier, and let lose a barrage of burst fire.
      The armor piercing rounds tore through the Imp's turret, splattering a purple-blue paste of the commander and gunner on the inside of the turret.
      Patton's unit AI, Draco, broke in, "Sir, may I suggest that you consult with me before you decide to move your unit into enemy territory?"
      "Any more insightful news from the overgrown video game?"
      "Well, actually yes, yes there is. The three-oh-first Guards have begun preparing for further attacks. We have lost the element of surprise. I have queried air strikes to reduce their combat power."
      Patton sighed, "Good. That should help some. Throw everything you can at them, and keep me informed of any new developments."

To be continued

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Eleven- Finale
Date: 10 December 2005, 2:04 am

Author's Note: Yay! I finally finished a series! This series has been three years in the making, and now I've finally finished it. I hope you've enjoyed the entire series, and I will have a new series coming after this one.

Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Eleven- Finale

0342 Hours (Universal Time), April 18th, 2578 (Military Calendar) /
4/809 Battalion, 1756th Armored Division (37º 56' 11" S, 82° 28' 56" W), Isen River Battlespace, Vega Prime Theatre of Operations, Sigma Vega system

      The music of Mars rolled across the plains. The unearthly scream of plasma arcing across the battlefield joined the anvil chorus of high-speed metallic impacts. The roar of rockets drowned out the cries of dying soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
      Near seven hundred tanks from the 1756th Armored, and five hundred tanks from the 121st Mechanized were rolling at high speed over the endless fertile grasslands of Vega Prime's southern continent. They had faced nearly four thousand enemy tanks, across a frontage of just fifty kilometers. Under normal circumstances, an attack of this magnitude would be suicide, but numerical problems even out when the enemy is outflanked and caught off guard. So far, the double envelopment plan had worked perfectly. In twenty minutes of fighting, three enemy divisions had been broken and overrun, and the path back to the bridges was virtually laid bare.
      The 1756th Armored began turning north back towards the Covenant bridgeheads, while the 121st Mechanized continued southwest, cutting off the Covenant line of advance. The two divisions attacking the western flank of the Covenant advance had made similar progress, and were now also pushing to the bridgeheads. Meanwhile, the six mechanized divisions on the north side of the Isen River began pushing the Covenant spearhead back to the bridgeheads.
      Lt. Colonel Patton was on the vanguard of the 1756th Armored's advance. The tanks and personnel carriers of his unit were moving north at almost eighty kilometers/hour, quickly overrunning frightened and surprised Covenant units.
      The terrain made such high speed running a little rough, but not horribly so. It was amazing how quickly organized resistance ended once they attacked the Covenant flanks. On the horizon, Patton could see dozens of Covenant tanks, troop carriers, supply carriers and foot infantry running for their lives in all directions, occasionally attempting a half-hearted defense at a few tactically important areas. He clicked his radio on, "All units, Green light to engage fleeing enemy on sight. Good hunting."
      The acknowledgement signal from all of the companies in his battalion flashed, and the sudden cracks of anti-tank mass drivers and the staccato cackle of 50mm rapid-fire mass drivers followed shortly. Watching his real-time battlefield map, he could see the various red symbols; all denoting different enemy vehicles or foot soldiers, one-by-one disappear from the display. He panned his map further north, to the bridgehead area. The bridgehead was now only twenty-eight kilometers away, only a half-hour until this Covenant offensive was finished for good.
      It was then he spotted on a far off bluff, what looked like the thermal signature of a command variant Spectre silhouetted against the cold, dark early morning sky. It was so far away that it was only a dot on the horizon. He quickly zoomed all the way in on it. It was definitely a Spectre tank, and it was stationary on the top of the bluff. Patton took control of the tank's main gun from his gunner, much to his chagrin. The neural interface made the tank's main weapons an extension of his mind. He activated the laser rangefinder, and the gun sight automatically adjusted for the extreme range of eight thousand meters.
      The driver stopped the tank momentarily, and Patton lined the mental gun sight up with the Spectre tank, and he fired the gun, without ever having to move a muscle.
      The projectile, essentially a seven centimeter wide, two meter long depleted uranium dart, held on the rail gun's rails by an aluminum armature, shot out of the rails at over three kilometers per second, straight towards the target's center of mass.
      Nearly three seconds later, and still moving like a meteor, the dart dug into the Spectre's shields, and tore into the top of the tank's turret. It peeled the entire top of the tank open like a sardine can, and sent molten shrapnel into the tank's reactor, permanently knocking it out of the fight.
      Not even a second after the dead tank stopped hovering and fell onto the ground, a single 280 mm artillery round detonated twenty meters away from the stricken tank. The force of its thirty-kiloton nuclear warhead detonating lifted what was left of the tank off of the ground, and vaporized it before it could ever hit the ground again.
      A miniature sun appeared on the horizon for an instant, and vanished into a blossoming red-orange fireball. Almost everyone was caught off guard by the bright flash, and all of the thermal and light magnification optics in the night-time battle were temporarily overloaded.
      Only after the first nuke hit did Patton get the nuke launch warning. It flashed over the radio, "Nuclear launch warning, repeat, nuclear launch warning, three-seven, five-six, one-zero by eight-two, two-eight, five-five."
      Patton was shouting on the radio by now, "All units 4/809 battalion, halt and hold position! Secure all equipment, and get start NBC protocols!"
      Someone had committed a major SNAFU somewhere in the chain of command. Only seconds after the first detonation, several dozen more nuclear artillery shells started detonating far too close to friendly units. Some of them even started to land on Patton's unit. One warhead detonated a mere three hundred meters to the left of Patton's tank. It burned off what remained of the active camouflage paint, and scorched the rest of the tank a sooty black color. The shockwave crumpled and destroyed the delicate external machinery, but the armor held. Inside, the crew and everything not nailed down were rattling around like ball bearings in a mason jar. They got a lot of minor bruises, but were otherwise okay.
      Patton's head was ringing from his head slamming into the side of the crew compartment. Had he not been wearing his helmet, he would have had a concussion for sure. He listened for the end of the bombardment, which did not stop until a minute later. The first thing he had to do was find out what happened to the rest of his unit. The radio antenna luckily had survived the blast. He clicked it on, "This is battalion CO, I need a butchers bill on what just happened."
      It took several minutes to sort everything out. The air was heavily ionized by the nuclear detonations, and all of the ionization hampered radio communications. Most vehicles had sustained minor damage from the blasts, except for one company. Bravo Company had been hit directly by one of the shells. Three Dragon tanks and two Manticores were destroyed by the blast. All of their crews were killed in the process. The two Manticores were crushed by the shockwave, and the three Dragons were engulfed by the fireball and vaporized. Thirty-nine brave men and women killed because somewhere in the chain of command, someone fucked up, and now people were dead because of it. And now Patton had to write thirty-nine Dear Mr. and Mrs. John Doe letters to their parents, and lie through his teeth to them about how their sons/daughters had died bravely fighting for Earth and democracy.


0421 Hours (Universal Time), April 18th, 2578 (Military Calendar) /
UNSC Angel of Death (ACG-211), patrolling outer edge of Sigma Vega system

      Commander Nimitz's cruiser, Angel of Death, had been patrolling the outer perimeter of the Vega Prime system for two days now, with not a single sighting of one of the many Covenant capital ships that still infested the system. The ship was patrolling at a crawling pace; its active stealth systems had been activated the entire time.
      For the past two days, Nimitz had remained vigilant in the Combat Information Center, the nerve nexus of the entire ship's offensive capabilities. He was glad that the two day duration of their sentry duty was about to end, and that they would be able to stand down from active alert.
      Fate had other ideas in store for him and his crew. Out of nowhere, a spatial distortion formed off of the [I]Angel of Death's port side, a mere eight kilometers away from her. The sight of the distortion ripping open a hole in the fabric of space-time sent a chill down his spine. He yelled to the ship's navigation AI, "Fire dorsal emergency thruster immediately!"
      As the AI began executing his sudden order, the florescent purple prow of a Covenant heavy cruiser shot out of the hole. In the instant it took for the emergency thruster charges to fire, all twenty million tons of the warship had emerged, already filling the gap between the Angel of Death and the spatial distortion.
      The hundred meters that the emergency thruster had shoved the Angel of Death downward had saved both ships from immediate destruction. Even if the Covenant cruiser had detected her, and even with it's the antigravity engines, it couldn't have stopped the ensuing collision. Both ships' shields met, and for a split second shined a blinding white light, and then failed from the force.
      The unshielded but still armored prow of the cruiser dug and tore into the dorsal armored hide of the Angel of Death, tearing away thousands of tons of superstructure and armor from both vessels. The Angel of Death started rolling clockwise from the collision as the Covenant cruiser scraped and slid across her hull. The collision abraded all of the Angel of Death's dorsal armor off of the aft hull sections and snapped off the dorsal wing structure—and its magnetic accelerator cannon in the process. Several rows of Longbow missile pods detonated in their launch tubes, blasting a large section of both ships armor off. As the cruiser slid free from the Angel of Death, it ripped off its particle beam cannon.
      Nimitz had been knocked off of his feet by the collision. On the way down he had slammed his head into the bulkhead, and bit his tongue. As he picked himself back up, he could taste the salty blood in his mouth, and feel it run down the side of his face. He barked to the AI, "Death, turn ninety degrees to starboard, and ready the MAC guns!"
      Death could only be heard now because the AI pedestal had been broken in the collision. He replied with inhuman calm, "Negative, sir. MAC system inoperable. Power systems are overloaded. I recommend remaining on current heading and launching all of our available single ships."
      Nimitz stifled some cursing, and then replied, "Make it so. Ready a SHIVA tac-nuke. Set proximity fuse at one hundred meters and launch when ready."
      The AI's logic symbols rearranged, "Weapon safety locks still engaged. I'll need sixty seconds to remove them."
      "We don't have sixty seconds! Find a way around them! And prepare evasive action." He slumped on a railing. All of his years of combat experience were barely keeping him from despairing.
      On the starboard camera, he could see dozens of Sabre and Katana single ships streaming towards the damaged cruiser. With how torn up its superstructure was—it was missing all of the armor from its prow and most of the armor from the ventral surface—he didn't want to think about how damaged his ship was. Within seconds, the cruiser turned and began running directly parallel to the Angel of Death, motes of red plasma already collecting onto the central firing point on its lateral line. Even in its damaged state, the cruiser's primary weapon could send the crippled Angel of Death straight to hell.
      He was talking as calmly as he could now, "Sound collision alarm and prepare damage control teams." However, with the present situation, he didn't think that the damage control teams would have a ship left to attend to.
      A couple seconds later, a Warhammer cruise missile detonated on the cruiser's starboard engine baffle. Its directed force mini-nuke warhead punched deep into the cruiser's interior, nearly reaching its reactor. The anti-gravity engine exploded in a blue flash of plasma, nearly obscuring the cruiser from his view.
      Six seconds later, a brilliant red stream of plasma shot out of the focusing point. Death fired the wing emergency thrusters, rotating the Angel of Death ninety degrees to port, facing her still heavily armored ventral surface at the blast. The shields, which had only been restored to thirty-one percent, quickly broke, and the plasma stream flowed onto the hull. A meter of ceramic-carbide armor vaporized, quickly followed by the laminated layers of titanium glass and depleted uranium. When it reached the next ceramic layer, the plasma's force had greatly diminished. It burned through the rest of the armor—in total, nearly five meters of high temperature ceramic carbide, titanium and uranium—and vaporized the superstructure almost all of the way to the reactor, but the ship was still intact, though she was missing her ventral wing and most of her ventral superstructure.
      In the combat information center, Nimitz, who hadn't been strapped down like the rest of the crew, was floating in midair because the artificial gravity systems had been knocked out. As he reoriented, Death quickly said to him, "Sir, safety locks disengaged. Launching SHIVA."
      The SHIVA missile shot out of its launch tube straight towards the Covenant cruiser. It took only ten seconds to reach the cruiser, just enough time for the single ships to clear the area. The cruiser turned sharply in a desperate attempt to evade the missile, but it was to no avail. It detonated seventy meters away from the cruiser's ventral shields, with nearly seventy percent of its five hundred megatons of explosive force directed at its target by the newly redesigned warhead. The cruiser's weakened shields held for an instant, and broke, allowing a hypersonic shockwave to crush the cruiser's weakened ventral hull inwards in only a hundredth of a second. The boiling waves of plasma impacted another hundredth of a second later, boiling away what was left of its outer armor. As a testament to the cruiser's superb design, it took a full three seconds for the hull to break apart, and even then, the ship wasn't completely destroyed. But, what was left of it would never raise arms again.
      The [I]Angel of Death's hull buckled under the force of the shockwave, but the plasma wave never struck her. Her electrical shielding systems saved her vital systems from being burned out, and she had enough power to limp back to Vega Prime at a greatly reduced speed. It would take months of space dock attention to get her back in shape for combat.
      Nimitz had quite a few questions to ask Death, the first of which was, "What the hell just happened?"
      The AI replied just as calm as ever, "If you are asking why we are still alive, when I detected that the MAC system was inoperable, I immediately rerouted all weapons power to restoring the shields. I was able to restore enough power to shielding systems to save the ship. I am sorry I didn't inform you of this option, but there simply wasn't enough time."
      "I'll court-martial you later," Nimitz replied sarcastically. "Lay in a course for Vega Prime, best possible speed. See if you can get us an escort for the way in. Get damage control parties to where they are needed."
      "Aye, sir," he replied. "ETA, fourteen hours. I recommend putting all nonessential personnel in cryo-stasis. If the ship goes down, then most of the crew can be evacuated at a moments notice."
      Nimitz had just melted down into his command chair. All of the combat adrenaline was leaving his system, making him feel exhausted. "Yes, I think that would be proper."
      The Angel of Death began her long voyage back to Vega prime, as battered and bruised as her surviving crew was. In later years, her encounter with the Covenant cruiser Sacred Fury would become legendary as legendary as the ancient sailing frigate Constitution's duel against the Guerriere, and would become required reading at future military Academies. It would later be used as a prime example of the need for quick thinking in the heat of battle.



      Half an hour later, the last Covenant units still left defending the bridge were destroyed, and the remaining Covenant units on the line of advance were in full flight back to their staging area near Nova Roma. An uprising in the city forced the Covenant ground forces out of the city, and rather than face destruction with no hope of orbital support, they began surrendering one-by-one.
      With their surrender, the chance of a Covenant counter-offensive driving the UNSC out of its occupied worlds seemed distant. The Covenant had lost three hundred ships landing troops on the planet, and now they had all either been destroyed or surrendered. The Battle of the Isen River was one of the fastest and most ferocious yet seen. In three days of fighting, eight hundred thousand enemies were killed, wounded or captured, with a loss of nearly one hundred thousand UNSC soldiers.
      The changes in UNSC land battle doctrine had paid off. Not only had the UNSC managed a major space victory, but also a major land one as well. This morale boost to the war-weary civilian populace and military would prove decisive in later engagements.
      But for now, the soldiers on the ground could only see carnage. Lt. Colonel Patton's battalion had dropped in two weeks before with sixty tanks, fifty armored fighting vehicles, various support vehicles, and close to two thousand men. In as much time, he lost close to a thousand men, and nearly twenty tanks and twenty fighting vehicles.
      Several weeks later, while trying rebuild his shattered unit, he got the notice that he was going to be transferred immediately back to LANDCOM headquarters. He was now being pulled away from his men, when they needed him most. They had went into combat with him, and had trusted him with their lives, and now he was being replaced by some Parliamentarian's son, who probably never fired a weapon in anger in his life.
      It wasn't until he got back to Earth that he learned why he was being transferred. Someone in the upper echelons had the bright idea of taking the nearly hundred-thousand Spartan III soldiers, which were scattered across the known universe in company sized units (Patton's initial command, C company, among them), and combining them into two division sized shock units.
      Anything more than that was still classified, and this would be a two or more year project, but Patton did manage to find out he was being promoted. He would be a brigade XO during the organization period, but once they went onto the training phase, he would become the CO. Apparently, the upper echelons felt it would be best to have a Spartan command Spartans on the battlefield.
      Giddy from his new promotion, Patton tackled the new job with a renewed vigor, but that is another story…