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SOAS Session 8 -- Ambient Wonder: Part 2
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo.com>
Date: 21 September 2007, 3:32 am

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1.) A large era defined by the creation of microchips, nuclear tech, and space flight.
2.) Period of Pre-Interstellar Travel generally placed between the years of 1915 and 2035, during which immense leaps in technology were made, including the forerunners of modern computers, the beginnings of advanced long distance communications, the nuclear revolution, and space flight.
3.) 2501 action movie about an oppressed humanity fighting against malevolent AI overminds in a struggle for survival.
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Ambient Wonder

Frezni Ice Field, 45.223 AU from Lost, Lost System

      The flare of Cherenkov radiation lit up the Frezni Ice Field, the delicate patterns of frozen water refracting and deflecting the blue-purple aura. Seven Covenant ships, the Sub-Fleet of Wrathful Inquisition, lit up after the Slipspace jump. Power coils brightened with heat, plasma turrets sparked as their controllers ran test loops through their systems, and engines glowed with silent intensity. Three destroyers headed the pack, followed by three smaller frigates; a massive carrier occupied the center of the formation. They moved like sharks, gliding past the icy wisps on the edge of the Frezni field, the shield of the lead destroyer flaring briefly as a blackened meteor knocked against it.

      On the control platform of the carrier Strength and Fortitude, Sub-Commander Ulna 'Fosolomee surveyed his inferiors. Numerous Sangheili, all proud and strong, stood in a semi circle facing the vertical holographic displays, monitoring the functions of the carrier. A smaller clutch of the officers were on the back of the bridge, checking in on the other vessels of the Sub-Fleet after the long Slipspace journey and monitoring communications and outbound sensors.

      Above the circular control platform was a broad hologram, slanted to be perpendicular to the officer's line of sight. On it was a real time view of the Frezni Ice Field, the immense size of the natural wonder lost in the translation to 2D. Quietly, a destroyer slowly inched into the corner of the screen, and the scale clicked into place. There were several gasps of wonder and awe, the destroyer looked like a pebble next to a large boulder, but 'Fosolomee held his tongue. Command had it's privileges: appreciation of natural splendor was not one of them.

       Several officers reported in, labeling everything in good condition. One of the frigates, Exhilarant Truth, reported a minor breach in a spare plasma coil, but the Huragok were already almost done repairing it. A minor distraction of insignificant consequence.

      A moment later, Ago 'Noree, the sensor array monitor, spoke up in a calm and deep voice. "Honorable Sub-Commander, I've detected seven Infidel vessels." He tripped a holographic switch, and the faint images on his screen sharpened. "Their make up is nearly identical to ours: three small vessels, Frigate class, along with the four Destroyer class ships." 'Noree paused, then continued, the faintest hint of anxiety lacing his voice. "They also possess a Cruiser."

      'Fosolomee merely twitched his head. "Bah, a distraction, a mess not worth our time to clean up." The Sub-Commander paused, and stroked his lower left mandible, something he did quite often when thinking. "We'll destroy them, then move onto the planet. Insignificant as they may be, we don't want a possible surprise attack." Then, to his Ship Masters. "Move into the field and position your vessels just out of attack range in a concave arrangement. The Humans should take the bait and move in to attack, and burn for their stupidity."

      Vice Admiral Ferman's face was plastered on the screen as LaShalle relayed her information. "Damnit," he muttered. Then, looking off-screen person. "Alert HIGHCOM and get Stanforth on the horn."

      LaShalle had finished her report by then, and was now flinging out orders to her crew. "Gris, lock down all nonessential compartments and sound the decompression alarms. Feraday, keep me updated on the Covie ships. Moors, warm up the Alpha and Omega MACs and remove safeties from Archers A through M. And tell the damn Longsword pilots to get in the tube!"

      She paused to eye the Battle Screen, noting the large ice formations dotting the vacuum between the Covenant, her ship, and her fellow Commanders' ships. "Feraday, I want 110% from the engines to zero five nine by five three oh."

       "LaShalle! Where is Gargantum going?" Ferman barked over the COM.

      The person in question cocked her head curiously. "Sir? Moving to intercept the Covenant, Sir."

       "Pull back," the Vice Admiral said. "I repeat, do not engage. HIGHCOM is sending reinforcements from the Gordon and Titan systems. We're waiting for them before we commit suicide."

      "Sir!" LaShalle yelled back. "We're just going to sit back and wait for reinforcements while the Covenant move in on the planet? What about the colonies on the moon? They'll be paste before reinforcements get here. Damnit! Gris, get the Cole Protocol going and purge the databases."

      The admiral looked uncomfortable. "Captain, you will follow my order. We will wait for reinforcements and then engage the Covenant."

      LaShalle gritted her teeth and then turned to Feraday. "Belay my last order. Keep us to station keeping behind this ice block." Then, to Ferman. "Sir, yes Sir." Ferman nodded in return, then blinked off the screen. A 2D map of the Frezni Ice Field replaced him, massive blocks and clouds of ice shifting amongst each other in real time. Feraday started to type in new commands, but LaShalle stopped him.

       "What are you doing? I said zero five nine by five three oh."

      Feraday looked confused. "But, Ma'am, you just said—"

      "Zero five nine by five three oh, soldier," she repeated firmly. "Gris, decompress the compartments you lit up. Moors, put a nuke in the tube." Then, she turned to find Ferman's face once again filling up the TACMAP.

      "Damn it, LaShalle! Do not engage the Covenant! Keep to station keeping and wait for reinforcements. Do not make me court—"

      LaShalle pushed a button and Ferman's voice went mute. "Screw you… Sir" Then the transmission cut out and the TACMAP once again filled the empty space.

      An awkward silence filled the bridge. Officers looked at each other warily, then at the seething LaShalle, then at the TACMAP displaying the approaching Covenant. Only the light tapping of Feraday punching in the flight coordinates could be heard.

      "Ma'am," said Lin, breaking the silence. "We have incoming transmissions from the other two destroyers, Moscow and Hellfire. They say… They say 'Screw Ferman' Ma'am."

      LaShalle smiled. "Good. Tell them to fill up behind the ice blocks to either side of us. I got a plan."

      'Fosolomee felt like laughing. Five of the Human ships were fleeing the ice field, leaving three behind. One moved forward slightly, hanging behind an ice cloud. The other two hid themselves behind large, faintly trapezoidal ice blocks. "'Many flee, but few stand against many,'" said the Sub-Commander, reciting a line from a past war poem. "This is interesting," he continued. "Humans never break up fleets, not in this fashion. They either fight together, or die together."

       "Yes, Honorable Sub-Commander," commented 'Noree. "But they are swine, vermin. Is not the lack of unity a sure sign of their identity?"

       "Hah! You make a good point," 'Fosolomee said happily. "Noree felt confidence swell his chest. "I should set up a more suitable environment for such a discussion, but first the eradication of these pathetic Human ships and their world must occur. Order the frigates to converge on the central Infidel vessel. They should be more than enough to deal with them."

      What 'Fosolomee forgot was the other two Human ships, both of which were in perfect flanking position. And, as the frigates' plasma turrets warmed with deadly potential, the two ice blocks on either side began to move.

       "She's crazy!" said Lieutenant Banks onboard the destroyer Hellfire, even as he typed rapid fire commands to the ship's NAV system.

       "Crazy, but genius," replied Commander Oak.

       "Shit…" Banks muttered. "OK, I'm coordinating with the Moscow's AI. Transferring engine code to Fermi. Kay-Kay, I'm done with that."

      The holotube on the bridge flickered to life. An Oriental appearing old man with a long white beard appeared, floating about two inches in the air. "Thank you, Lieutenant Banks. Captain Oak? We'll be maneuvering in five seconds. Sounding alarms…"

       "Thanks, Fermi," said Oak, even as klaxons began to wail throughout the ship. The officers on the bridge gripped handholds and braced themselves against the walls.

       "5… 4… 3… Beginning maneuvering…"

      Suddenly, gravity gave out. The ghostly white and blue three mile wide chunk of ice disappeared from the bridge's view screens, replaced by rapidly moving stars that migrated from the bottom of Oak's field of vision to the top in record time. The entire destroyer flipped over lengthwise in ten seconds flat, so that now the engines were facing the ice block, and the vessel was upside down compared to it's original orientation.

      The null G gave out, and many of the officer's were unceremoniously dumped onto the floor with the return of gravity. Oak landed awkwardly on the deck, shaking off vertigo from the rapid movement. Fermi cocked his head, watching the Captain. "Acceleration in 2… 1…"

       "Grab a handhold!" Oak called out, gripping the handle on the bulkhead near him just in time. The destroyer's engines flared to life, burning at 150% capacity… straight into the ice block. Oak was jerked backward as the destroyer overcame it's inertia and sluggishly moved forward from it's stationary position.

       "Jesus Christ Fermi," said Kent, the GO officer. "Think you gettin' a bit rusty, eh?"

       "Shit! Look!" yelled Banks, gesturing at the TACMAP. On it, the massive block of ice they had been hiding behind was moving forward, the backwash of the engines accelerating it forward, albeit after melting a good couple of tons. The flash vaporization propelled the block forward at a fair speed. On the other side of the map, the block Moscow had been hiding behind was also moving forward.

      The three Covenant frigates, clustered slightly as their lines of attack started to converge, were right in the intersecting paths of the two mammoth ice chunks. Their lateral lines reddened, the ice clouds catching the light and refracting it into a beautiful cloud of light orange.

The Gargantum drifted up from behind it's protective block, a double blast from it's twin MACs impacting on the lead Covenant frigate, followed by a hail of Archer missiles. The vessel flexed, it's shields gone after the first MAC round, the second hitting the reinforced "spine" and deflecting inside the ship, like a 9 mm bullet in a skull. The frigate listed to one side, brushing against it's sister ship, then detonated.

      Even as the field of debris from the destroyed frigate cooled and arced outward into the ice clouds, the remaining ships fired their plasma torpedoes. The Gargantum remained stationary, staring down the plasma bolts, then suddenly jerked downward as it detonated it's emergency thrusters. The plasma reacted accordingly, arcing downward to follow.

      But the chunk of ice that sheltered LaShalle's destroyer was in the way, and took the hits. The water vaporized, shooting outward at incredible speeds, and refreezing nearly instantly. The spires of ejected flash-frozen ice shot out into the Frezni Ice Field, hitting nearby formations and shattering the beautiful work of many millennia in the absolute zero cold. It looked remarkably like a fragmentation grenade detonating in a hall of fragile glass structures, complete with shards and shrapnel. Unbelievably, none of the Human or Covenant ships were hit.

      The slab of ice the Gargantum had used for cover shot backward, latching itself onto the destroyer's nose. The ship in turn propelled it's engines, canceling out the momentum carried by the now slim ice block. Then, the monolith shattered into a haze of glittering pieces. If looked at closely, one could see tiny swirls among the five cubic mile cloud of ice shards left behind by dual MAC slugs, the solid projectiles punching straight through the ice where plasma could not. The twin chunks of depleted uranium bolted through space directly at the twin frigates.

      The Covenant had ample time to react from the distance, and nimbly ducked downward a kilometer below their trajectories. Both were clean misses. But, the Ship Masters Edo 'Fremee and No 'Kulomemee missed one important detail: they were now in the path of several dozen tons of ice propelled forward by the Moscow's and Hellfire's maneuver.

      The two chunks of ice simultaneously hit the frigates. Twin thousand ton blocks of frozen water came together, the pitifully small looking vessels caught between them. Their shields popped like a ball caught between two closing walls, and then their superstructures cracked and flattened. The two ice chunks stuck together, the frames of the pancaked Covenant frigates holding them together. The newly made structure tilted and drifted slowly through space, joining the delicate ballet of the Frezni Ice Field.

       "LaShalle's a fucking genius," said Banks, who had watched the entire thing in awe.

      A loud cough from Fermi followed. "O, you too Ferms," added Banks, winking.

      The AI glowed a little brighter. "Thank you Lieutenant. You know, it's not easy coordinating a dual thruster boost across a radar's hell of an ice field between two Cherokee class destroyers with an irr—" Fermi stopped as Banks performed a mock yawn and rolled his eyes.

      The Lieutenant turned to face the holotube. "O, sorry. Were you saying something?"

      Fermi gave an irritated sigh. "No. Nothing." Then he vanished in a starburst of holographic light, muttering under his breath. If Banks survived the battle, his name might accidentally slip off the rations list. Of course, Fermi would have nothing to do with it.

      To be continued…