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Attack on Installation 06, part 1
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 8 June 2007, 11:26 pm

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 1: Landing
Tharidanis, system of the same name, 2553

      Admiral Brett Harsoth had seen better days
      Once upon a time the Admiral had been the cream of the UNSC fleet, commanding the supercarrier Trafalgar, and had been slated for top command in the fleet.
      Then came Reach.
      The fortress world and its defenses had been utterly annihilated, the planet being glassed afterwards. The Trafalgar had been destroyed, and with it, Harsoth's career. He had escaped on board a modified Pelican dropship along with a Marine fireteam, but his career had been downhill from there.
      Harsoth, however, had never been a man to command awe or inspiration. He was a middle-aged man, thin almost to the point of emaciation, and had a piercing gaze. Some in the fleet joked he reminded them of a stern schoolmaster. But what Harsoth did have that commanded respect was a tactical genius that had once put even the now-legendary Jacob Keyes to shame.
      Of course, that tactical genius was being wasted just now.
      Harsoth had been placed in command of the Marathon-class cruiser Berlin, a large craft that was the replacement for the aging Halcyon-class cruisers that had been clogging up the Fleet rosters for some time now. Immediately after returning to UNSC command in Sydney, Harsoth had been welcomed back by Fleet Admiral Sir Terrence Hood, given a pat on the back, and shuffled off to this meaningless command, patrolling the Tharidanis system.
      Harsoth, standing on the Berlin's command deck, surveyed his bridge crew. They weren't the geniuses Keyes had claimed to have had on the Pillar of Autumn, but they were good enough in their own right.
      Lieutenant Delckiss manned the weapons station. He was a stolid, thickly built man who knew a MAC gun inside and out and could put a round from the aforementioned weapon in a pickle barrel. If the massive slug would have fit, of course.
      Lieutenant Brie was the navigator. She was a slim, red-headed woman whose spectacular figure made her the attentions of the weapons, communications, and operations officers. But looks aside, she was a competent officer, and had more than once used her superior piloting skills to get the Berlin out of a sticky situation.
      Lieutenant Pieterson lounged behind the communications station. He was a relaxed, laid-back man whose lack of regard for military formality would have had him long ago shuffled to some out of the way command had the Covenant not come along.
      Lieutenant Cance was in charge of the sensors. She was, as fitted her post, an extremely attentive woman, with eyes like a hawk.
      Finally, Lieutenant Freyyr was in charge of operations. At the old (for a low-ranking officer) age of 40, he had been efficient enough to have been made Harsoth's aide.
      At the moment, the Berlin was in slipspace, en route to the planet that had given the system its name. Saber Six-Five, a Longsword ship modified with a slipspace drive for scouting missions, had picked up an anamoly there, and had requested the Berlin investigate.
      At the nav console, Lieutenant Brie called out, "Slipspace tunnel will fragment in five minutes, Admiral."
      Harsoth nodded. "Good. All stations, report readiness."
      "Weapons, go."
      "Nav, operational"
      "Comms, ready to rock."
      "Sensors, all clear"
      "Operations, set to go."
      Brie called out another alert. "Slipspace tunnel fragmentation in five...four...three...two..one...decanting."
      The Berlin shuddered as the slipspace tunnel she had been traveling through broke apart. For a second, the bridge crew stared out at Tharidanis, whose blue bulk filled the sky.
      The tranquility was broken by Lieutenant Cance's sensor console, which flared red and started flashing. "What's going on," Harsoth barked.
      Cance pressed buttons, and looked to be on the verge of emitting a swear. "Admiral, Sir, it's another one of those damn rings!"
      Harsoth grimaced. The "damned rings" were the Halo installations that had become the bane of the UNSC. Because where a Halo was, there would be---
      "Covenant battlecruisers approaching, Admiral!" came Lieutenant Cance's voice, a trace of desparation in it. "I count six CCS-class cruisers, Sir!"
      Lieutenant Pieterson emitted a swear, and for once, Harsoth didn't reprimand him. He felt the same. "Bring us about, Lieutenant Brie, and prepare to execute a Slipspace jump---"
      Lieutenant Cance interrupted him. "Too late, Sir! Covenant vessels are firing!"
      Indeed, the bows of the Covenant vessels had dissappeared behind blue bubbles of plasma, and the energy blasts were racing towards the Berlin. This time, it was Harsoth's turn to swear, and he yelled, "Lieutenant Brie, get us out of here!
      The Admiral's answer was a massive explosion that shook the Berlin. Screams and smoke filled the bridge of the Berlin. When the smoke faded, Lieuteant Pieterson's body was slumped over the Communications console.
      Harsoth sighed, and flipped off a salute to the fallen crewman. Mourning could come later. For now, action was needed. "Lieutenant Freyyr, what'd we lose?"
      The Operations officer mournfully shook his head. "Engines, Slipspace or otherwise, are offline. We're out of control, and that ringworld's gravity is pulling us in. A couple of those hits took us just aft of the bridge as well, and we're venting atmosphere in section A-04."
      Harsoth nodded grimly. "Brace for crash-landing, then. Contact Captain Kline, and have him get up here ASAP. And someone please get this corpse off my bridge.
      The crew belted out military style affirmatives, carrying out their commands.
      UNSC Marine Captain Joseph Kline was getting the first good night's sleep he'd had since Reach when his COM headset crackled to life.
      Kline, a slim, trimly built man, groggily awoke, and spoke blearily into the headset. "Kline here, who is it?"
      "This is Admiral Harsoth, Captain, get to the bridge immediately."
      "Yes Sir." Moaning and groaning to himself, Kline got out of bed, jammed on his helmet, slipped on his armor, and walked to the bridge.
      Harsoth was waiting. "Captain, we may have a situation here."
      Kline, still rubbing sleep sand from his eyes peered out the bridge viewport. "Oh, bloody..."
      "Indeed," said Harsoth. So get your Marines ready, Captain. We're in for a fight."
      "Yes Sir." Kline left the bridge, and Harsoth turned his attention back to the viewport. The ringworld was growing larger by the second.
      "A lot of chatter on the Covenant battlenet, Admiral," called out Lieutenant Freyyr, who had taken over monitering the comms console. "It sounds very agitated."
      "Interesting," said Harsoth. "They don't seem to like us still being here. Lieutenant Brie, what's our status?"
      "We've still got rudimentary maneuvering thrusters, Admiral, so we can keep this landing survivable."
      "Good. All hands: brace for impact."
      The Berlin was by now within the ringworld's atmosphere, and rocketing towards a grassy plateau. Lieutenant Brie's face was grim. "Sir...I don't know how we can survive this."
      Harsoth didn't bother to console the Lieutenant. There was a very good chance she was right. "Lieutenant, on my mark, fire all retro thrusters." Brie's hands began to dance across her control board, and she nodded. "Three...two...one...mark!"
      The Berlin's structure shuddered as she plowed into the surface of the ringworld. A horrible screeching noise sounded for several long minutes on the bridge, as the ship slammed into the surface. The Berlin scraped out a trench in the ground, settling to a halt after two minutes.
      "Status!" coughed Harsoth.
      "This bird's wings are clipped, Sir, but all other systems are functional," said Freyyr.
      "Good," said Harsoth. "Let's get to work, people. We have a ringworld to take."