Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Eleven- Finale
Posted By: LordofDestruction<firstname.lastname@example.org>
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