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Drop The Hammer - Rapier Team
Posted By: Delahunt<delirium.end@realityrefracted.com>
Date: 8 March 2011, 3:32 am

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1352 Hours, 16 August 2552 (Military Calendar) --
UNSC Stone Cold -- on station in the Sinclaris System

Commander Lauren Jane was not amused. Around her, on the bridge of her 'new' destroyer the UNSC Stone Cold, her crew remained silent as they manned their stations. Her lack of amusement was not their fault, a fact that they knew, but when the captain of a destroyer chose to be angry at her orders, it was generally best to just keep your fool mouth shut. "Do we have anything on comms, Mr. Li?" She at least tried to keep the snap out of her voice.

"No ma'am, the sector is quiet as a tomb." Lauren nodded at Li's prompt response and allowed herself a brief smile. Even if the ship was being wasted, at least the crew was solid.

"Sensors, Ms. Everett?"

"Nothing ma'am." Lauren fought the urge to sigh. She stood and paced the deck instead. She was antsy and impatient, but she didn't know why. Yes, it was annoying to be given a captaincy aboard one of the UNSC's dwindling number of destroyers, and then sent on what amounted to a wild goose chase for insurrectionists of all things. Surely there were more important things for a destroyer to be doing, especially with the Covenant moving around and kicking down every human owned door they could find. Her fists clenched and unclenched at the very thought that every moment they wasted here, was a moment they weren't helping to stop the Covenant from glassing another world.

The only problem with that thought was that she knew it wasn't the real issue. One didn't rise as high as she had because they got angry at the occasional crap assignment. So what was the issue? Was it the group of five army warrant officers in her ship's hold? They'd been quietly added on at the last second, complete with orders to not bother them, unless the situation demanded it, or to ask questions. Lauren had known what they were even before her XO had commented on the weird vibe he got from them, and the strange way they communicated without talking: Spartans.

However, when thought about logically, Lauren had to admit that they weren't the problem either. The problem was the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that something was about to go horribly wrong. Something was going to go horribly wrong, and there wasn't a damn thing she'd be able to do about it.

"Ma'am, I'm picking something up. There's a slipspace anomaly on baring three-seven delta." Everett's voice was cool and collected, and for the second time in as many minutes Lauren gave a silent thank you for a capable bridge crew.

"Put it on screen." Lauren reclaimed her seat and looked to the main view screen just as the image changed to the long range scanners. The crew watched as what was empty space suddenly warped and shifted before depositing a lone, if old and heavily scarred, frigate into the system. "Identify that vessel." Lauren relaxed back into the captain's chair. There was something odd about the frigate.

"Record match found. Ship identified as the UNSC Drop The Hammer. She was stolen nearly thirty years ago by insurrectionist forces, ma'am."

"Further slipspace disruptions detected! Covenant vessels in system, pursuing the Drop the Hammer!"

Lauren watched on the screen as the three Covenant vessels dropped out of slipspace and almost immediately moved into attack positions on the stolen frigate. The frigate responded the only way it could; it ran for the nearest planet.

"Orders, ma'am?"

"We stay still. Our orders were to destroy any insurrectionist activity in the area, and it looks like the Covenant are going to do that for us." She didn't like the order, but her responsibility was to her crew. Even with a destroyer, the odds against three covenant ships was essentially suicide.

"You have, of course, considered the possibility that the covenant are after the frigate's navigational databases, right dearie? Insurrectionists are notoriously lazy about such things, and not known to heed the Cole Protocol." The ship's AI appeared as the voice spoke. Positioned as Lauren was in her chair, the AI appeared to be looking down on her. Fitting, considering the appearance this ship's AI had chosen to take.

"No Granny, I hadn't." Lauren almost growled the response. She shouldn't have needed an AI to remind her of such basic details. "Warm the reactors, I want full speed forward. Cook the engines if you have to, but we need to get there on time. Helm, set an intercept course for those Covenant bastards that will also give us a slingshot vector around the planet. Weapons, start charging the MAC guns and remove the safeties on one of the shiva-nukes. Prepare to remove the safeties on all archer missile pods." A chorus of acknowledgments came from her crew.

"Is there anything I can do to help, dearie?" The AI couldn't know how ridiculous it looked, dressed like an English nanny from the mid-20th century while offering to help in space combat.

"Granny, I need you to calculate when and how to drop that nuke so it drifts into the covenant vessels by the time we come back around the planet." Lauren looked back to the screen. Her maneuver wasn't original, but hopefully it was a rare enough gambit that the Covenant wouldn't know what hit them. On the screen, the covenant vessels bombarded the fleeing frigate's engines. One of the impacts rocked the frigate heavily, melting off the main thrusters and sending the ship hurtling towards the planet.

"Stolen frigate will be in atmosphere before we arrive. I suggest you deploy ground forces to neutralize vital data, while you handle the naval battle." The lack of the usual endearment was unsettling, but the advice was sound, if un-needed.

"Agreed. Get the ODSTs and our special guests to the pods. We'll launch them as we near the planet. If we succeed, we'll pick them back up after. If not, we'll at least have two chances at keeping the data out of Covenant hands."

"Relaying commands. The troops are on their way to the pods, dear. Further orders?"

"Yes. Granny, initiate all procedures in accordance with the Cole Protocol, wipe our own navigation databases, and get me the telemetry for that nuke."

"Acknowledged. Preparing drop telemetry. All hands, prepare to perform Keyes Loop!"

Lauren let her fingers splay out over the command chair's arm rest. The feeling in the pit of her stomach was stronger than ever.