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Longsword R: Desperation, Part Six
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 5 September 2005, 4:12 am

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1034 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Bridge of the UNSC Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick

      Ten seconds. That was when Captain Reeves glanced out of the bridge and past the holo tank
      Ten seconds. When he thought back on it later, it had seemed as if time had stood still for a few moments. In his mind's eye, he could see everything in minute detail: the timer on the holo tank, the way Lieutenant Hayes's blonde hair seemed to hang in mid-air as she turned to enter some instructions into her console, the exact formation of the Covenant ships as they charged towards the Maverick like a herd of mad elephants.
      Ten seconds. Reeves didn't know it at the time, but those ten seconds were going to change his life in a way that he would never have even imagined was possible.
      Ten seconds. When he glanced out of the bridge, all hell broke loose.

      Reeves saw them in the distance and off to the far left of the Maverick: small green dots that had appeared from nowhere.
      Slipspace entry points.
      Eagle reported it almost immediately, "Sir—", but Reeves cut him off.
      "I see them."
      The dots quickly expanded to massive sizes and allowed approximately five Covenant ships back into normal space in a diamond formation; their lights were off and their engines had a subdued glow, meaning that the Covenant still hadn't figured out how to avoid losing power after a jump, something Reeves hoped they would never figure out.
      They had jumped to the left flank of the Human defensive line, straight towards the majority of the Human cruisers. But why would they jump towards the strongest part of the UNSC's defenses, let alone near "the point of no return", the point at which ships could no longer overcome a planet's gravity and would fall towards the planet? All it took was for Reeves to recognize the ship they had jumped in front of: the [i[Bunker Hill, Admiral Hood's flagship.
      But how had they known?
      The Bunker Hill fired its three triple MACs at the same time, two rounds each at the three foremost ships. They were instantly gutted from nose to tail as a pair of MAC rounds punched through their unshielded hides. The one on the Bunker Hill's right had small explosions occur over before it finally detonated in a fireball, the pressure from the expanding gasses pushed the other two ships in opposite directions. The leading ship was thrown "downward", away from Admiral Hood's flagship, and away from Earth. The leftmost Covenant craft was spun like a football off of a drunken pro quarterback's hands, spiraling in towards Earth. It began to break up easily as it hit the Earth's upper atmosphere, eventually grinding itself into a fine dust against the friction.
      But that still left one.
      The Maverick's deck shuddered, signaling the first salvo of human MAC rounds against the approaching Covenant fleet. Captain Reeves barely registered the action.
      The final Covie ship, the Covenant equivalent of a destroyer, was left untouched by the explosion; the Bunker Hill, on the other hand, had other plans. Its triple MACs fired again, sending their last round into the void. The first MAC round closed quickly and was a sure hit, and Reeves started to breathe again. Unfortunately, about twenty-meters from the ship's surface, the MAC round hit something solid. It shattered into spiraling, spinning, fragments as the Covenant ship's shields shimmered their usual silver color. The destroyer had just barely managed to get them up.
      The second MAC round came in slightly high as it was from the triple MAC on top of the Bunker Hill's hull. It fared better than the first round, flattening itself against the struggling shields, and deactivating them, setting up the Covenant frigate for the third and final round.
      The third round punctured the Covenant ship right on its nose. As the MAC round broke up inside, it sent pieces anywhere from a few inches to several yards in diameter flying through the rest of the ship, like some sort of giant shotgun blast.
      Reeves saw most of the destroyer's flickering lights vanish a second later as they lost power. He also saw the plasma torpedo launch line go dark.
      Unfortunately, the engines did not. They continued to glow angrily, powering the ship towards the Bunker Hill's nose, even though it had no…
      Reeves gasped. They had no weapons. Even the power to their pulse lasers had been destroyed, but that still left the Covenant with one option.
      The Bunker Hill opened up with her Spitfires, which fell upon the Covenant destroyer's exposed skin without mercy, ripping pieces of its armor from its superstructure. But the destroyer continued to zero in on its target.
      There was nowhere for the Bunker Hill to run. It was locked into the formation, another UNSC ship on every side. Activating the fore emergency boosters would only delay the inevitable as the Covenant destroyer was moving too fast, and was too close for the cruiser to slip by. They couldn't fire a nuke for fear of damaging the other allied ships in the area, and there was no way to make a slipspace jump from a standstill.
      They were dead.
      The Covenant destroyer plowed into the Bunker Hill head on, crushing both ships with the impact. Secondary explosions rang out on both ships' hulls, many more so on the Bunker Hill than on the destroyer, as there was little left of the Covenant boat.

      There was dead silence on the Maverick's bridge, except for Eagle dutifully calling out hits and misses on the looming Covenant fleet, but Reeves did not hear him. His whole body was numb from anguish.
      No! Reeves's mind screamed. Not again! No, not again!
      For the second time in as many years, an Admiral had died, and Reeves hadn't been able to do anything about it.

1035 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Cockpit of Marcus Easley's Northrop-Grumman Longsword S Interceptor, Earth local space

      The COM was a complete mess as Marcus pursued another dropship, words constantly pouring into his ears.
      "Swordsman Four, splash one bandit!"
      "This is Flashback Nine, I've got two on my—"
      "Ghost Seventeen, fox two!"
      "Checkmate Two, this is Renegade Twenty-Four! I'm coming to help, just—"
      "Slugger Twelve, I'm hit! I'm hit!"
      The Major ordered the computer to limit incoming chatter coming from his own squadron, the Maverick, and the Fleet frequencies as the dropship made the same snap-diving corkscrew maneuver for the third time in a row, jinking the Major's latest volley of plasma. Each time he had fired at it, it had used the same maneuver, down and to the right, down and to the right.
      He had the VF-32 Swordsmen running a circuit from the edge of the Earth's atmosphere to the edge of the main furball, picking off dropships or fighters that were stupid enough to make a run at getting to Earth.
      The Major used voice commands to select his AMRRIM-24 "Viper" missiles. He focused his eyes on the older model dropship and the LEMRS system in his helmet locked onto it with its piercing tone. As Marcus expected, the droship performed the snap-dive again once its lock-warning sensor picked up the 'Sword's radar, but the Major was ready for it this time. As soon as the LEMRS system locked onto his target, he had adjusted his aiming funnel to the bottom and right of his target…and his prey passed straight through it.
      The Major pulled the trigger like he was trying to strangle the joystick, loosing yet another volley of plasma, hammering the dropship, which didn't explode like Easley expected it to. Instead, he managed to open a large hole in its right mandible, which spilled oxygen and Covenant out into space, their bodies flailing in panic. As its engines went out, it began a long, slow dive to the Earth's surface. The bodies continued to flail as Marcus shot by them.
      Unfortunately, this was when his threat sensor lit up like a Christmas tree. A Seraph had managed to drop in on his tail while he had been chasing the dropship…that was why it hadn't made more of an effort to escape him! It was waiting for help!

      The Maverick flashed by below, still in the dock; the Seraph was hot behind him. He screamed over the COM for help, and he managed to get the big guy on the horn, first try. Michael Becker's voice floated in over the radio, lighthearted, even in the heat of battle. How did he keep his voice so calm at a time like this?
      "Roger, Seven. I'm sliding in behind him. Bring it right, help me engage."
      "Roger, bringing her right!" Marcus slammed hard on right pedal, slapped the stick to the right, and pulled on it like he was trying to strangle it. The Seraph followed perfectly; Becker dropped in right behind it and fired an AGSM-10 missile from the center bay. It homed in on its target like some kind of weird slider, and smashed into the target. The Boa's power was unbelievable; it obliterated the Seraph's shield in a single shot, and the concussive force was enough to tear a hole in the back of the fighter. It slowly arced down towards the planet, leaking gases. Was it a good shot, or was it just Colonel Becker's luck, the same thing that seemed to win him no small amount of card games? Whatever the cause, Marcus was safe.
      "Thanks, Lead."

      It was close behind him, only a few hundred meters away. Marcus hauled the throttle backward, hit the rvsthrst button, and yanked his interceptor into a tight left turn, leading his pursuer back through the midst of the battle. It was a risky move at best. Most would have called it suicidal. As Marcus had hoped the Covenant pilot decided that it was too risky and pulled up, climbing "over" the battle.
      As soon as he lost that bandit, however, another one picked him up, sliding in from overhead. The Major took it to the right this time, calling for help over the squad freq; it was no good. Everyone else had their hands full with the dropships.
      Easley blew out of the other side of the engagement, wondering how he hadn't hit something on the way through. He swung his Longsword towards the line of Human ships, continuously jinking his fighter, never making the same move twice in a row, but it was still no good; the bandit hung tightly on to his tail. In desperation, Marcus began to weave wildly through the Human fleet…and the Seraph suddenly disappeared from his radar! He flew over the Maverick at full speed, puzzled by his enemy's sudden disappearance. He was about to drop back into the patrol pattern, when his lock warning horn went off again. The first and second bandits that had been pursuing him had performed a low speed yo-yo, which had sent both of them under the Maverick, and allowed them to get a firing angle on him! With the Maverick in the way, there was no way for Easley to perform a counter; he would have had to snap-turn back towards them, dive, and go under the cruiser to break away, but at his speed and relative altitude, that wasn't happening.

      He knew he was dead; he was surprised at just how calm he felt. The Major could see the plasma beginning to fire in the lead Seraph's gunports…

      "C'mon, Marcus, why not?" James's face was puppy-like, pleading.
      "Because I said so, McCall." James's face fell. He knew that when Marcus used his last name, he was dead set on his decision. Marcus's wingman decided to make one last ditch attempt.
      "What could it hurt? It's only an hour. You don't even have to sing." Marcus's frown deepened.
      "We've been over this already, James. I've been to church before. Believe me, not going is no big loss."
      "Don't give me that. I used to believe it, you know. My parents used to take me every Sunday. I went every Wednesday night. It's all just a comforting illusion."
      "No, it's not, Marcus. It's not just an illusion."
      "Yes, it is, McCall. Look at the historical evidence: there were Jews at Mount Sinai, sure. I'm sure that the Ten Commandments existed. What I don't believe is that they came straight from God himself. It's obvious that Moses got the ideas from Hammurabi and his code. Besides, it's not like the Jews even really believed their own stuff. Even while Moses was coming down the mountain, they were worshipping Bale."
      "They just lost faith, Marcus. People lose faith all the time—"
      "Yeah, just like I did. Besides, the oldest Bible known, the 'Sinai Bible', has a staggering 14,800 differences between it and the modern Bible. And this still qualifies as the word of God?" Marcus flicked his gaze down on the book on the table.
      "Save it, James. Save it for someone else. I doubt that God would want me back anyway." Marcus stood up rigidly from the table in Afterburner, his uneaten hamburger remaining on the table. The Major strode to the door angrily, only stopping when he heard James mutter something behind him. He stopped without turning around.
      "What was that, Two?"
      "I said, 'what would it take to make you believe'?" Marcus sighed angrily.
      "A miracle, James. It'd take a damn miracle."

      …and then the entire fighter exploded, just as it began to fire.
      What the hell!?
      Then, a familiar voice on the radio.
      "Hey, Marcus. Long time no see. Swing it back to the right and help me engage, just like last time."