Taker of Life, Giver of Death part IX - Root for the Home Team
Posted By: Ian Barnes<email@example.com>
Date: 3 September 2002, 10:53 pm
Private Evans sat serenely, almost asleep. The computerpanel beeped and chirped in response to the commands which his tired handsknew by instinct. He had been stationed on the long-range sensor outpostNightOwl for two years now. And absolutely nothing had passed through Slipspaceanywhere near Earth. Not even friendly ships. It was as if everything waslocked down, like the brass was battening down the hatches. There had beenno freight traffic for several months. Only military ships were even allowedin orbit.
Evans was about to doze off when the rumbling ofa UNSC cruiser shook him. Even though the cruiser was almost 30,000 kilometersaway, it was still clearly visible. Its massive fusion engines glowed afluorescent blue. Typing in several commands, Evans zoomed in on the cruiser.It was the Athens. She had just been completed several months ago.The Athens was the largest ship in the fleet. Measuring in at almosta billion tons, and just over a kilometer long, it housed a crew of severalthousand men with ease. It carried the latest arsenal of doom-bringingweapons.
The Athens carried hundreds of Fury missilepods. While each missile was only about the size of a small desk, it carriedenough firepower to level several buildings. But the Athens' mainweapon was the dual MAC cannons, which had been greatly improved sincethe end of the FIrst War. Using a new metal found on a recently colonizedworld, the MAC rounds were now extremely potent. The metal, Nubidium, hada melting point higher than anything ever found. UNSC scientists put thisto use.
The barrel for the MAC round ran the entire lengthof the ship, and originated directly over the reactor. The MAC round wassuperheated almost to its melting point before firing. UNSC tests had proventhat a normal superheated MAC round versus a normal one was five timesmore effective against shield technology. Evans could only guessthat the MAC round was very similar to plasma, and everyone knew that nothingannihilated shields faster than Covenant plasma.
Evans had heard rumors that UNSC engineers had comevery close to replicating Covenant plasma drives. He had no idea how theyworked, but Covenant ships had always been faster, and the plasma driveswould help UNSC ships greatly.
The Athens had grown closer since Evans lastchecked. He guessed she would swing around the Night Owl and headback towards Earth. Evans, recalling his history, thought back to the famousBattle for Earth, over three hundred years earlier. That was the firsttime UNSC ships possessed shield technology. It had easily been the decidingfactor of the battle. As of the newer ships, such as the Athens,its shields could withstand the force of two MAC rounds. And even a nuclearmine. Many other marines, as well as Evans, considered the Athensto be the UNSC flagship. But it was decidedly not.
The actual UNSC flagship was the Fervor.It was over a decade old, and obviously not the warship the Athenswas. But the brass insisted that the old relic remain the flagship formorale purposes. It had survived several earlier engagements with the Covenant.In fact, it was the only ship which had survived a battle with the Covenantin the past 300 years. The brass felt that stripping the Fervorof its title would drive a stake through many marines' hearts.
Evans had to disagree, but there was nothing hecould do. Rising from his post with a heavy sigh, and found his way tothe on-board coffee dispenser. Grabbing a cup and filling it to the brimwith piping hot coffee, Evans inhaled. The sweet aroma tingled in his nose,and he took a sip. The warmth from the coffee spread down his throat. Evanssmiled. He loved coffee. It was probably the reason he never slept at night.At ten cups a day, it was a wonder he could even sit still.
Just as he was taking another sip of his deliciouscoffee, an incredibly loud klaxon sounded off. Evans jumped and spilt thecoffee all over his brown uniform. It instantly burned.
"Ow! Damnit!" Racing back to his station, Evanssearched for the source of the alarm. After typing in several commands,he found the problem. Beta probe, as well as the Theta probe seemed tobe malfunctioning.
Evans scrolled through the Slipspace readings froma few minutes prior. He spotted nothing, except for several of the readings.On one, the readings showed a massive object traveling through Slipspace.It wasn't even in the system yet, but it was coming, fast. A rough estimateleft the object at twenty kilometers wide, and ten kilometers long. Noone could believe that an object that size existed. There wasn't a sensoroutpost technician alive who hadn't been taught that multiple objects inSlipspace often clumped together.
It could only mean one thing. Evans quickly openedhis message application and typed a High Priority message.
High Priority- To United Nations Space Command
Warning. Covenant invasion fleet inbound at 17trillion kilometers. ETA ten hours. Be advised. Estimated number of ships-350. Request that all UNSC ships in the immediate area, as well as neighboringsystems rendezvous at Rally Point-Theta-Zulu. Recommend arming of all nuclearmines, and powering up of all Orbital MAC guns.
[Slipspace readings are attached]
Evans punched in the command to send. He had donehis duty. Now it was up to the brave men and women of the UNSC to protectEarth. With one last command, Evans destroyed the NAV computer. Obviouslythe Covenant had found Earth, but they didn't need to know where all ofthe other Inner Colonies were.
The wait for the arrival of the Covenant was astoundinglyboring. Evans, along with the other ten souls aboard the Night Owlhad long ago evacuated the outpost and retreated to Earth. The sensor stationhad been scuttled.
To his distress, Evans had not been reassigned toa UNSC ship. Instead, his fate lie in the hands of the brave soldiers alreadyaboard ships. Even from his quarters on Earth, the action the UNSC wastaking to prepare was obvious. Troops and vehicles hustled about. ONI triedto predict where major Covenant landing parties would arrive, if the Covenantchose to invade. Troops and armor were being deployed to the most likelylanding zones. Even the awesome Patriots were preparing for a full scaleassault.
In orbit, hundreds of UNSC ships prepared for thecoming onslaught. The number of UNSC ships numbered above three hundred,and if the estimates were correct, the Covenant had about the same numbers.Then, with the help of the Orbital MAC guns, the UNSC might have a chanceat victory.
Shaking his head, Evans took a short rest. His fatewas no longer in his hands.
"Begin charging MAC guns now!" Captain Krimen ofthe Athens was in a rage. The Athens had been ordered tostay out the fight as long as possible, and to try and protect the Orbitalguns. Krimen wasn't about to let the most powerful ship in the UNSC siton her haunches.
Seconds earlier, green swirls had began collectedbehind the moon. Apparently the Covenant were trying to mask their presenceas much as possible.
"Arm all Fury missile pods, and arm shields, 100%strength!"
"Yes, sir!" Rang out the cries of several differentbridge officers. Krimen stared out the bridge viewport at the swirlinglight. It was a giant whirlpool which symbolized the beginning of the endto many naval officers. But Krimen was unwavering. If he was going down,he was taking the Covenant with him.
Faster the light swirled, larger it grew. If onelooked closely, they could see a green electricity crackling inside theswirling. Finally, when the green tendrils stretched across many kilometers,a blinding flash of light erupted from the portal.
"Battle stations!" Krimen screamed over the noiseof the arriving ships.
When the light subsided, in its place stood hundredsof Covenant warships, like stone centurions. Unwavering, they remainedmotionless for several seconds before their engines roared to life in agreen flash of luminescence. As the entire fleet moved out from behindthe moon and into the open, only then did their true numbers reveal themselves.Krimen felt his jaw drop as he gazed upon the enemy fleet.
"Pericles! Give me a head count!" The shipboardAI, clad in Greek war armor, erupted from the command console. The AI pausedfor several seconds. Krimen knew it was bad when it took an AI severalmoments to count everything.
"Captain, there are exactly 597 Covenant ships.It is comprised of 250 cruisers, 300 destroyers, 40 frigates and 7 carriers.I estimate each carrier is capable of delivering 50-100 thousand troops."
Krimen simply stared out the viewport, shaking hishead in disbelief. The Captain seemed to almost be in a trance when anofficer shouted out.
"Sir! We're going to die out here, aren't we?"
Krimen wasn't in the mood for cowardice. Turningto a marine near him:
"Soldier, have this man escorted and confined tohis quarters."
The bridge officer was dragged away, arms flailingin a helpless attempt to get away. Krimen turned to the rest of his bridgecrew.
"Men. We have a difficult task ahead of us. Butin Earth's greatest time of need, the only think we can do is do our duty.If everyone performs to the utmost of their abilities, there is nothingelse we can do."
Turning toward the window just in time, Krimen watchedanother green swirl appear directly in front of the Covenant fleet. Secondslater, an immense flash enveloped everything, and when it dissipated, inits place was an immense warship.
"Mother of God." Krimen whispered under his breath.
Sunlight reflected off its blue hull. Krimen was stunned. Theship was huge. He estimated at least 1.5 kilometers long, but wide andtall enough to swallow up several UNSC cruisers. Gasps and whispers couldbe heard throughout the bridge.
"Silence!" Krimen flew into a rage. "This changes nothing! Wewill continue to do our duty for the glory of Earth, and if we fall, wefall with honor!"
The entire command crew was silenced immediately.Captain Krimen was still giving weary looks to his crew when Pericles chimedin.
"Captain. The Covenant carriers have withdrawn.Any sort of ground invasion they were planning seemed to have been canceled."
Nodding, Krimen stood thinking. Recalling his history,Krimen remembered how predictable Covenant tactics were in the First War.But this new Covenant seemed different. Every world they attacked, theyinvaded before glassing it. They were going to try something here. Krimenracked his brain trying to understand the Covenant's plan. But he had nothing.
"Pericles, monitor any incoming Slipspace travel.The carriers may try to slip in between the Earth and us."
Returning his attention to the Covenant fleet, Krimenwas confused. There the Covenant fleet sat, engines on, but not moving,as if they were waiting for something. The UNSC dared not advance out towardsthe moon, or the Covenant fleet would surely jump past them and have easyaccess to Earth. Pericles chimed in again.
"Captain, I'm detecting incoming ships in Slipspace.Its the Covenant carriers. It looks like they're going to exit on the otherside of Earth. There's no way we can get to them without exposing ourselvesto the Covenant fleet."
"Very well. Alert the brass. Tell them Earth isabout to be invaded. And at that, the enemy ships sprung to life, and roaredforward towards Earth.