Marooned | Chapter 2 | Escape
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo.com>
Date: 28 April 2006, 2:02 am
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Date (Military): July 12th, 2542, 10:40 PM
Date (Prosperity 3): Fall 64th, 162, 79%
Things to Know:
Prosperity III- The Prosperity system is roughly 10 billion kilometers in diameter, about 2 billion kilometers smaller than Sol. Despite it being smaller, it contains nearly twice as many planets (17). Prosperity III, the only habitable planet in the system, was settled in 2365, the second extra-terrestrial human colony (only after Reach). Prosperity III is nowhere near as close to Earth as Reach is, but it is just as important. Reach is the seat of military power in the human society. Prosperity III is the seat of economic, public, and civilian power. On Prosperity 3, you can find nearly 2 billion people, the 2542 version of Hollywood, the headquarters of most major corporations, and the main interplanetary economic and stock market. Prosperity III days are measured in percentages, due to an erratic and ever changing revolution because of massive magnetic fluxes in-system. This often wreaks havoc with space vessels but Prosperity scientists can often detect magnetic fluctuations before they occur, reducing trouble.
SSEVs- SSEVs (or Surface to Space Escape Vehicles) were assigned to the Nucleus Colonies (the Reach, Sol, Prosperity, Gordon, Titan, and Lost systems) in the year 2537 due to the Covenant's proximity to the Inner Colonies. These are a feat of engineering due to their immense size (1.5 miles long, .2 miles wide) and occupational capacity (1.5 million people per SSEV) and were designed by Truth Feral, an acclaimed ship architect. Massive stores of resources were gathered in the Lost system and were almost completely used up building over 500,000 of these ships in Operation: FUGITIVE. These were in turn scattered among major spaceports and cities in the Nucleus Colonies on a per capita basis. Lost 1 is still producing these behemoths to be added to other major population centers. Each SSEV carries enough food to support 1.5 million civilians plus crew (4,500 members) for over 6 months. They also are equipped with 15 Marathon-cruiser-class engines and a FTL engine. To take off, the five largest engines positioned on the underside activate, propelling the ship straight up, albeit slowly. After reaching a specified altitude, they activate all engines and jump out system. Unfortunately, SSEVs have poor armor plating and one plasma torpedo or even a pulse laser could disable it if hit in the right, or should I say wrong, spot. Upon boarding an SSEV during an invasion, one will pass through a ground checkpoint where he/she will have their neural chip programmed to a certain area on the ship. Then they will move up an escalator into the ship and will then receive instructions from the AI on how to get to their assigned area.
Dr. Cleaver stood up and said "Well, it shouldn't be." He started to turn around. "Maybe I changed a col—." His voice trailed off as he saw the blinking red light he had hoped would never have to be turned on.
Ms. Pullman, who had detected something wrong at his abrupt halt in communication, started to turn. When she saw the light blinking itself merrily, her hands flew to her mouth. She looked down and started to shake her head, as if refusing to believe what she was seeing. She looked up again and saw the light blinking, completely oblivious to what it was signifying.
Ms. Pullman remembered who she was, a teacher, and all these young children were her students. That meant their safety was her responsibility. She knew what she had to do. The young woman forced her legs to move and she moved towards the field window. When she got there, she looked up into the sky, hoping she wouldn't find what she was looking for.
She did. After five seconds of watching the starry sky, she saw it: a large aurora covering the northern part of the atmosphere, tinted a hellish orange and red. A sob escaped her throat as the entire weight of what was occurring fell right onto her shoulders. Prosperity had been invaded. The teacher remembered what her father had said to her before he left for the 105th Drop Jet Platoon on Jericho 7. "A person who waits is a person who fails." She knew what her mission was now: to get the hell off Prosperity 3 with her class and Dr. Cleaver in tow.
She ran back to Dr. Cleaver who now appeared to be completely catatonic. Ms. Pullman shook him once, twice with no result. He was still staring at the red rectangle on the wall. Ms. Pullman knew she didn't have time for this. She slapped him across the face over and over, but keeping quiet as not to upset the children, who were so focused on their consoles, they didn't even notice the light on the wall.
On the 4th slap, he finally seemed to wake up. "Uh, wuh, huh? What... the Covenant! Their here, my god, their invading Prosperity!"
Ms. Pullman sucked in her breath, trying not to scream "OF COURSE THEIR INVADING YOU JACKASS!" She instead settled for "Yes, Doctor, they are, which is why we need to get to the Ethorn SSEVs," Ms. Pullman said slowly as if talking to one of her students. "Now, why don't you grab a coat, go outside, and find some way to get us there, OK? OK."
He nodded numbly and walked out of the room. When Ms. Pullman turned back to her class, they were still unaware of the outside world. Ms. Pullman was about to speak when one of her students screamed. She ran over to the little girl who was screaming and pointing at her screen. Ms. Pullman gasped when she saw the console. A dozen Covenant ships were engaged with a fleet of 50 or so UNSC ships. The rest of the class gathered around the console
Ms. Pullman pulled the girl off her seat and sat her down on the floor. "Stop making such a fuss Gabriella. It's only a vid," Ms. Pullman lied. She straightened out, "Everybody, listen to me! I'm sorry to say this but we're going to have to leave early tonight." After the inevitable chorus of moans, she continued. "Do all of you remember where the cubbies are?" All the kids nodded, many of them sadly. "Then go get your coats on and I'll be right there. And be quick about it!"
A few kids began to ask why but Ms. Pullman cut them off. "The cubbies..." she said tapping her foot. She needed them to hurry and she desperately wanted to tell them about the "visitors" to make them hustle although she knew it would be a bad idea. It would only cause panic and there was enough panic on Prosperity at the moment...
The kids walked out of the room, murmuring among themselves about why they were leaving early. Ms. Pullman turned back to the console just in time to see both sides launch off a salvo. Several Covenant ships were destroyed from the cannons and missiles, but not enough. 19 UNSC ships took a final trip to Prosperity engulfed in flames. She zoomed in on the soon-to-be ground zero and saw a minor metropolis. A window popped up next to it and gave it a label; "Ethorn City".
"My God" she thought to herself. Ms. Pullman knew they didn't have much time and ran out of the room with the screen boasting a blinking message box next to one of the destroyed ships that said "CONGRATULATIONS! You are the discoverer of a new meteor!"
She darted down the hall and found the kindergarteners just starting to put on their jackets. After seeing how long it was taking them, she decided to risk the children's apprehension for speed. "Forget about the jackets! Just leave the jackets and follow me."
She ran outside and saw the bus idling in the driveway. She had no idea how it got here, but she was grateful it did. She herded all the kids onto the bus before she got on herself and found that Dr. Cleaver was the driver. She sat down in the seat behind him as he accelerated down the road. "Doctor, where'd you find this bus?"
"I really don't know, after I saw the alarm, I-I really don't remember anything. Next thing I know, I'm sitting in the driver seat of an antique bus in the driveway of my observatory while a Covenant fleet hovers above our heads!" He shook his head, "I really need a raise."
"Forget about humor! Can't you make this thing go any faster?"
"No, this is as fast as it will go, 55 mph. Anyway, if I go any faster, I'll blow a tire! Damn, why'd they have to give you a bus with inflatable tires?"
She started to swear under her breath. "We need to get to that spaceport as fast as possible!"
"I know! I know!" Dr. Cleaver replied defensively. Ms. Pullman observed he was a lot more timid than he appeared to be.
"Great! Just what I need..."
Ms. Pullman stood up and faced the children on the bus. She knew she had to calm down the frightened children. She knew she had to calm down herself. "Do you know what?"
"What?" they answered in staggered unison.
"We're going into outer space!"
A silence fell over the bus before a loud cheer erupted from the coatless kids. They continued to celebrate until a loud whistling sound filled the air. All the kids rushed to the right side of the bus and looked out the windows just in time to see a UNSC frigate engulfed in a fireball come streaking out of the sky.
Silence fell over the group as they watched the human-made meteor rocket towards the ground before impacting. A massive cloud whooshed into the air and the night turned into day. Seconds later, a loud explosive sound rocked the bus as the shock wave hit. The ground bucked and heaved under them but the bus managed to stay upright. The yelping kids were thrown around the interior of the bus like rag dolls.
Once the shaking subsided, the bus managed to pull onto a highway which was fractured in various places and still had cars frantically racing down it. For some reason, the Oldies station started playing some Plant, a slow, almost ambient sound. After checking to make sure they were all OK, Ms. Pullman told all the kids to put on their seatbelts and hold on. She sat down, buckled up, and braced herself against the inevitable debris fallout of the impact. Within seconds, large fragments of the frigate started falling all around them. Dr. Cleaver managed to keep the bus on the far right side of the highway as to use the concrete wall there as a makeshift shield and avoid cars.
Ms. Pullman looked out her window at the other cars racing by them. Suddenly, one of the cars was hit directly by a piece of blackened bulkhead. A large crater appeared and the car apparently ceased to exist. Immediately after, another car was struck on the hood by a piece of unrecognizable metal. The car's nose rammed straight down into the road. The body of the car flipped over it, still carried by its momentum, and crashed upside down onto the highway right in front of them, skidding forward with sparks flying out the back. Screaming could barely be heard coming from the doomed vehicle.
Dr. Cleaver saw it and reacted just in time. The steering wheel rushed all the way to the left and the bus swerved past the car, leaning only on two wheels. As they emerged onto the center of the highway littered with rubble, the makeshift meteors continued to fall around them. The bus landed back onto all four wheels as the Doctor managed to move it back into the safety of the right side of the road
The bus finally managed to make it into the city. Ms. Pullman sighed, barely able to think coherently over the sound outside and inside the bus. She knew that now they were in the city, they were close to the SSEVs and the buildings would block most of the falling debris from the space battle. She barely finished this thought when one of the skyscrapers in front of them was struck by a large piece of an engine shield. The building was snapped off it's foundation by the impact and started to fall. Dr. Cleaver administered more pressure onto the pedal and the bus shot under the building. It landed on the highway, crushing several cars and blocking thousands more, only 10 meters behind them.
The kids were still screaming and Ms. Pullman was seriously considering joining them as the chaotic ride continued. She looked up at the large man in the driver's seat who was expertly swerving the bus around cracks in the highway and pieces of debris. Sweat was openly running down his face which was screwed into a look of extreme concentration. "Just like the old vidsims," he muttered to himself over and over.
The kids were still blaring their high-pitched sounds of terror as more chunks of spaceship fell from the sky. Ms. Pullman looked out the window again while maintaining a death grip on the driver's seat in front of her. She saw the first good news since the discussion with the Doctor at the bay window: a large sign that read "SPACEPORT/SSEVS: HALF MILE". Smiling to herself, she screamed, over the kid's screaming, the whistling of debris raining from the sky, and other miscellaneous noises throughout the city, at the Doctor "WE'RE ALMOST THERE!"
Another building on the other side of town was struck by a chunk of Covenant bulkhead. "'Bout time" she thought. It collapsed and struck another building. Miraculously, the building stayed upright with the other building protruding from its side.
They turned onto an exit ramp and entered a short tunnel. The young teacher sighed at the momentary safety, until the roof started collapsing that is. That's when she started screaming again. The now scuffed, beaten, and somewhat destroyed bus made it out of the tunnel with inches to spare. On the other side, the road opened up onto a massive field, at least 5 by 10 miles. On the opposite side was the spaceport with dozens of sporting yachts and other spaceships docked for repairs. On their side however, were two massive SSEVs that stretched for thousands of yards in either direction. The kids even stopped their screaming to emit a few "wows" at the monstrous black beast. Some pieces of the space junk, both UNSC and Covenant, hit the two ships but bounced off it leaving a tiny dent.
Dr. Cleaver curved the bus towards the middle of the closest spaceship where a crowd of thousands was gathered. There were similar crowds at ten other points along the ship's underside. Dozens of small escalator type walkways ferried hundreds of people at once up into the belly of the escape craft. When the bus entered the fringes of the crowd, Dr. Cleaver put on the brake and everybody piled out. Every person that got off the bus, grown up and child alike, were thankful the 10-minute ride through hell was over and that they were protected by this mass of Titanium A.
Dr. Cleaver went back and gave the bus a quick pat. "Thanks," was all he said. The bus replied by suddenly collapsing onto its tires and suspension, now touching the ground with its frame. Dr. Cleaver rushed back to join the others.
Ms. Pullman told everybody to stay together and keep both their hands on somebody. The kids were still whimpering from the ride and some of them seemed to be shell-shocked. Most of them though looked up at the looming ship above them, knowing this was what was taking them into space. As they made their way throughout the crowd to the nearest escalator, they could hear an announcer shouting over the ambient sounds.
"EVERYONE, PLEASE MOVE IN AN ORDERLY FASHION AND FORM STRAIGHT LINES BEHIND EACH ESCALATOR! DON'T WORRY; WE HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO GET ON THE "Fugitive 7" AND OFF THIS PLANET IF YOU COOPERATE! ONCE ONBOARD, PLEASE LISTEN TO THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN TO YOU AND FOLLOW THEM TO-THE-LETTER!" The announcer repeated this message over and over, sounding slightly more panicked on every repeat. Ms. Pullman continued to move her class towards the escalator with Dr. Cleaver beside her and the kids behind her.
They finally made it to the line. Within minutes, they had passed through the checkpoint and up the escalator. Once there, the onboard AI told them where to go. It was a long way and they were still moving when the pilot announced that they were taking off. His voice sounded frightened and tight. Before he could shut down the channel, a transmission came through.
"...out of here! They decimated us! We're moving out-system. Get those SSEVs in the air! Their beginning to bom—"
Although the message was cut off, Ms. Pullman had heard enough to tell what was going on. The Covenant had obliterated the UNSC fleet and had begun showering humanity's economic stronghold with superheated plasma. And they were still on it...
Before she could think hard enough to panic, Ms. Pullman began directing the class forward along the steel hallway. Suddenly, an enormous rumble shook the ship and just about everyone fell down. Several kids started screaming. "What's going on?!" shrieked one girl.
"Calm down, CALM DOWN! It was nothing, we're just lifting off is all," Dr. Cleaver said, mainly trying to reassure himself. The ship rumbled again and their ears popped. Ever so slightly, the SSEV started to tip nose up. "I wish I had a window," mumbled Dr. Cleaver as he massaged his temples.
Another announcement came over the channel. "This is your Captain speaking." A pause, then "If you are not in a secure location, find a reinforced area and stay in it. Try to have your back facing aft, because we'll start increasing our angle of ascent."
After listening to this, Ms. Pullman began to speak. "Everyone come over here," she said standing by a reinforced bulkhead. As the ship continued to pick up speed, she told everyone to sit down under the bulkhead against a wall. Then both she and Dr. Cleaver joined them and prayed it would all end soon.
"SITREP IMMEDIATELY! I NEED IT NOW, NOW, NOW!" Captain Vincent Fin of the Fugitive 7 SSEV screamed, one of his veins bulging dangerously in his temple. The short and stocky man had been transferred to the Fugitive 7 after commanding the only surviving ship in a massive fight over Atlantis 2 in 2540. It was his first battle as a Captain and the Navy was afraid he'd go insane. They thought he needed a tranquil job to calm down. He thought that was a load of bullshit. He wanted to be on the front line fighting the Covenant, not commanding some obese ~~~civilian~~~ "escape craft". Now that the Covenant were attacking, he really regretted that the only weapon onboard was a load of Archer missiles, used to deflect boarding craft and space garbage.
As the bridge crew rushed around trying to get coherent messages from the space battle and a dozen other things, the captain looked out of the horizontal semi-circle window in front of him to see a sight he had never seen before. Ethorn City had been reduced to rubble from the wreckage falling on them from above. Not a building was left standing erect and dozens of fires raged throughout the remains. He had only seen the after effects of space battles from space, not down on the ground. For some reason, this made him even angrier. He turned and grabbed an orderly rushing by.
"ORDERLY! Why the HELL do I not have my SITREP yet!?"
The orderly, already scared out of his wits, nearly fainted dead away from the Captain's verbal onslaught. He regained his composure and managed a shaky reply. "Sir, I don't know s-sir. Maybe I-I should go find out sir!" he said, desperately trying to get the Captain to detach his hand from his arm.
The Captain let go of him in disgust and turned to find another orderly holding up a clipboard in front of him. Captain Fin snatched it away from him and quickly scanned. "Finally got that SITREP..." he muttered under his breath. The orderly started to leave.
"And where do you think your going, orderly?"
The young man turned and started to say something. The Captain cut him off before he could get a word out however. "Tell the pilots to launch, and to alert the ship's passengers to our lift-off. Things are going bad topside and we need to get the hell out of here before they start glassing the planet."
The orderly turned noticeably paler at the last comment but ran down the steps to the pilot's station. Captain Fin looked down and rubbed his eyes. He looked up and went over to the COM station. "Son, filter out these channels, I want to hear the battle and only the battle."
While the officer at the station busied himself with this, the pilot's announcement came over the COM. When they were finished, a sudden transmission from the destroyer Io came out of the speakers. "SHUT THE DAMN COM OFF!" the Captain yelled, trying to keep the civilian population from hearing what was going on topside. The pilots fumbled the controls but managed to get them off.
Captain Fin turned back to the COM officer, "Lieutenant, replay that message ASAP." After a few seconds, the transmission repeated itself.
"'...out of here! They decimated us! We're moving out-system. Get those SSEVs in the air! Their beginning to bombard the planet! My God, there's only a few of us left! Once the SSEVs get off the planet, JUMP IMMEDIATELY! Be careful, the Covenant are glassing away and the atmosphere is thick with plasma torpedoes. Ending transmission.'"
"Looks like we're going to be flying right through a shooting gallery. Power to engines, 150%."
"Angle of elevation, 25 degrees."
"25 degrees, sir."
"How many other SSEVs are with us?"
"Uh, 12 sir; wait, make that ten."
The SSEV continued to inch its way up. At an altitude of 25 kilometers, plasma started to fall on the planet. The Captain prayed none would hit them; it would compromise the entire ship. He stepped away from the COM station and looked at the Battle Array. He could make out the positions of at least 10 other SSEVs from nearby cities, all rising from the planet and headed for outer space.
As their speed picked up, the chances of making it out of the system started to look realistic again. The navigations officer spoke out "The Covenant don't seem to be aiming for any of our ships, their just bombarding the planet. Poor bastards." he muttered as one of the plasma bolts struck the Folger Ocean, vaporizing a large section of it, creating a massive whirlpool. "I never thought it would happen here."
Captain Fin grunted. "Save the sentimentalities for Slipspace Lieutenant. Just keep her straight and steady."
A pause, then one of the Lieutenants cried out, "Plasma torpedo, off starboard!" No sooner had he finished this sentence then did a flaming ball of plasma streak past them, not a mile away. Captain Fin glanced at the Battle Array in time to see Ethorn City 'blip' out of existence. "Damn, that was too close," he thought. The destruction of his temporary home made him even angrier. When he pried his hands off the clipboard, there were twin gashes on them. He looked back at the Battle Array and noticed that no UNSC ships remained in-system.
"God Damn it Bennet! How much longer till we jump this hellhole?"
Sweat was openly pouring down his face now. He paused typing his commands long enough to brush it away. "Uh, we should be at prime condition within 9 minutes, uh, moving through lower thermosphere, um, angle of ascent at 32.45 degrees, going, um, smooth and steady." Amazingly, the Navigations officer said all of this in less than five seconds, almost biting his tongue.
The Engineering Officer, G. Peedin, began to talk as well. "Sir, we can push the engines to 175% for 5 minutes before they become inoperable."
"How long till we can jump to Slipspace?"
"Damn, if the engines let out before we jump, we're stuck here. If they fail after we jump, we'll be unable to move about when we re-enter space... We, I need to time this perfectly."
"Do it. And give engine shutdown controls to me."
"JUST DO IT!"
"Ye-ye-yes s-sir!" His hands shakily typed in the commands. The SSEV shuddered violently as it sped up. They were high up enough now so that he could make out the covenant ships. They still have taken no notice of the fleeing ships. Captain Fin knew that this must be his lucky day. "This luck is like a two sided mirror."
"4 minutes 'til jump sir. I-I think we might actually make it," exclaimed Peedin. Two seconds later, the SSEV near them was struck in the middle by a plasma torpedo, effectively bisecting it. Both halves began a long trip back to the planet as the usual aura of fire formed around the hull. Everyone onboard knew that the civilians on that ship were dying the worst possible death: no idea what's happening as they free fall torwards the planet.
Captain Fin watched as the two pieces hurtled past another SSEV, barely missing it. He turned back to look out the view port in time to see a plasma torpedo heading straight for them, not 10 kilometers away. Captain Fin knew it was the end, and he intended to stare it straight in the eye.