Upon this Stage (Prologue 1)
Posted By: Gordi<email@example.com>
Date: 22 May 2002, 4:53 pm
İİİİİ"Premier, it should be noted that the fringe regions grow weary of this imperium enforced upon us by the Sol dominated hegemony. The time rapidly approaches when words will be useless and only the course of action remains."
İİİİİ"It should also be noted, Senator, that one might be more careful when choosing one's words in front of the Interplanetary Congress, lest they be considered treasonous."
İİİİİ"Treason implies a breach of trust, Madame Premier. Something most certainly lacking here."
İİİİİİİİİİ- Portion of official transcript taken May 14, 2771 during the 43rd Interplanetary Congressional session between Premier Gameela of Sol [Interior] and Senator Calydon of Taygetus II [Fringe].
İİİİİFunny how one moment a situation can be so obviously bad, and yet minutes, days, hours or even years later we look back to find the exact opposite to be true. Not the truth we knew initially, but the actual truth that unfortunately only comes from the detachment of time.
İİİİİThat's how it was with the Covenant War. Billions perished in fire and bloodshed that lasted over 30 years, extending from the farthest reaches of human colonization to the very doorstep of Sol, and the prize of humanity; the aqua and green jewel called Earth. We were bloodied and battered without relent, and the vast portion of an entire generation lived and died without ever knowing a life free of the Covenant menace. But then, as so often happens in fairy-tales and legend, but with precious rarity in reality, a hero amongst hero's emerged. İİİİİİİİİİİİİİİCaptain Jacob Keyes of the former United Nations Space Council Navy engaged his warship, the medium cruiser Pillar of Autumn in a pitch battle around the colonial world of Reach. Despite his best efforts, the Covenant forces handily defeated the human fleet, sacking Reach in the process, with the PoA one of the few survivors of the disaster. Initiating the Cole directive, which prevented the PoA from assuming a course anywhere near an Earth trajectory, Captain Keyes, along with the ships artificial personality construct Cortana engaged in a random FTL jump out of the system to an as of yet unknown location. Strangely, in an action that continues to defy all human logic, the entire Covenant battlefleet followed, dissapearing into the infinite void of space, the charred shell of Reach the only testament to their passage through the system. Humanity had recieved a second chance at existence thanks to the actions of Jacob Keyes and the crew of the Pillar of Autumn. Unfortunately, the greatest hero of the time, a mechanically augmented soldier known only as John 117 would not come to be known in human space for hundreds of years, until a lone Longsword fighter from Earth's early colonial period would be found floating in space, riding the shockwave of an expanding ring of gas and debris from some unknown nova. That, however, is a story for another time, and back we return to set our scene.
İİİİİNo historian will disagree that the Covenant War was perhaps the most perilous time in human history, that in any other time were we closer to the brink of destruction as an entire species than when Reach was charred to bedrock, but this is only because they do not yet have the gift of hindsight and the accommodations of time. Undeniably we were fighting and dying by the millions in 2536, but we were fighting and dying united. For a brief period in time there was no political infighting on Earth or between the colonies; for a scant 40 years during and following the war there were no violent eruptions between political parties or governments; between blacks and whites; the rich and the poor. We were no longer crackers, niggers, chinks or wops; queers and fairies, dykes and homos; we weren't even Americans and Britains, Chinese or Russians, we were human beings united behind a common cause: the salvation of mankind. It was almost beautiful.
İİİİİWhen the Covenant menace suddenly dissapeared from the collective screens of a dozen ships and worlds, civilization across billions of miles suddenly came to a complete standstill. No one knew what to expect, it had to be some insidious ploy by the enemy to lure us into one final, crushing defeat, and like the beaten child that we were, we cowered in fear of the coming blows...but they never came. Within days, what surviving exploration craft we had were traversing the vastness of space, outward to the farthest of our former colonies, always searching for some sign of Covenant ships hiding in the gravity shadow of a planet, or within the burning halo of fiery stars. It is not to be said that we found nothing, rather the exact opposite is to be true. The following is a brief trascript taken from the UNSC exploratory and survey vessel Hermes to her forward command ship, Fading Twilight.
Hermes: Twilight, this is Hermes, designation UNSC-ES-36941, approaching the Tegean system, over.
Twilight: Designation confirmed, Hermes, Tegea had 2 colony worlds, Tegea Prime and Mantinea. Both are listed as destroyed, but you know the drill. Intel says there was a forward spacedock operating between the two planets, they suggest you give that a pass before continuing to next assigned location.
Hermes: Roger, Twilight, we'll see what's happening.
İİİİİThere is a thirty minute silence here, as Hermes navigates into a stationary orbit around the outermost planet, Mantinea. When contact is resumed, it is Fading Twilight that initiates:
Twilight: Hermes, we're getting scattered reports from other teams in your area that some of their colony worlds are reporting unusually high energy levels. Over.
Hermes: Twilight, we're not getting anything from Mantinea, but gamma is picking up more than background radiation from the planet, something's glowing down there all right.
Twilight: Copy that, Hermes. Request that you begin direct visual transmission.
Hermes: Understood, we're deploying two of the Lancet's now, visual feed should be up in just a minute.
İİİİİSeveral clicks can be heard, likely from the Hermes' Communication Officer as he directs a visual feed over to Fading Twilight.
Hermes: There you go, Twilight, how's it look from your end?
Twilight: Everything's good here, Hermes, stand by.
İİİİİAt this point, the Lancet pilots break in on the transmission, crossing the visual feed also crossed the shortwave channels over to the longrange broadcaster antennae. The two scoutcraft are broadcasting indirectly through Hermes to Fading Twilight. Unfortunately a visual feed is not available at the current time, however we may infer what is happening through the conversation.
Lancet 1: Holy shit, take a look at that.
Hermes: Lancet, be advised you are on an open feed, watch the chatter. Twilight, what do you make of this?
Twilight: We're just seeing this in two other systems, Hermes. Our initial guess is that these were the forward operating points for their warships.
Hermes: But you don't refit battlecruisers on a planet...these are surface colonies. Request permission to drop Lancets into the atmosphere for a closer visual inspection, Twilight.
Twilight: Denied. Captain is on the horn with the Brass on Earth, they're saying sit tight. Observe with instruments only, nobody knows what's going on down there, yet. Confirm.
Hermes: Understood, Twilight.
Lancet 2: There are four more (colonies) on the darkside, Hermes, we can see the lights from here. Looks like they still have power.
Lancet 1: Automated?
Hermes: We'll have a complete analysis in less than two minutes, computer's crunching the numbers now. Finish one more rotation then come on in, there's not much more you can do for the time being.
Lancet 1: Roger, completing orbit and we're heading home, over and out.
Hermes: Twilight, scan complete. It looks like the Covvies aren't entirely gone...just the fleet. Computer indicates we've got about 119,000 separate contacts down there.
Twilight: Looks like things might get interesting, Hermes. Let's see what Fleet has to say about this.
İİİİİThe recording stops again, as Hermes concentrates her attention on the planet surface, and Fading Twilight sends the word up to Fleet Command on Earth that one of their scoutships has located what looks to be a Covenant colony. Filtering through the ranks, the message finally reaches the UNSC Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by Fleet Admiral JonÈa. Their decision is unanimous, Tegea Prime and the surrounding system is to be returned to UNSC control, and all Covenant presence in the area is to be eliminated, orders executable immediately.
Twilight: Hermes, orders came down from the Joint Chiefs, they're sending in a portion of the 23rd AAS (Armoured Assault Squadron) for planetary command and control. Looks like we're taking her back. Fleet is forming now, ETA's running somewhere between 20 and 22 hours.
Hermes: Why so long?
Twilight: The 23rd isn't supposed to be on the line currently, most of their warships put into Earth dockyards for critical repairs and her marines are planetside on 48 hour leave. It'll take that long to do some quick patchwork and call the troops in.
Hermes: Understood. Where are we in all of this?
Twilight: Right were you are, the marines are going to need a cold LZ. Mission perimeters exclude anything more than 10 klicks from coordinates 21.49, 19.
Hermes: Roger, Twilight. 21.49, 19 is the primary population centre, confirm?
Twilight: Confirmed, Hermes. Unless you have anything further, this is Fading Twilight signing off.
Hermes: Nothing here, Twilight. Hermes UNSC-ES-36941 over and out.
İİİİİFor days the battle around the Covenant colonies on Tegea Prime raged, soldiers from the military garrison left behind to watch the planet were battle hardened from years of fighting on the human colonial worlds - they did not die easily. UNSC cruisers battered the strongest pockets of resistance from space, raining bolts of superheated plasma down on the surviving alien troops until nothing but cratered rubble and slag remained. It was not easy, and it was not cheap. Two cruisers were disabled by magnetic mines sown by the Covenant fleet before departing to chase Pillar of Autumn across the galaxy. More somber yet was the casualty rate: over 22,000 marines parished while grinding through the Covenant cities before the use of planetary supression from the fleet was authorized. 22,000 for 120,000 might seem an excellent kill ratio; nearly 6 Covenant soldiers dead for every UNSC marine. Not so, post-operation findings determined only 12,000 alien troops were on the planet - without the aid of space-side fire support.
İİİİİThe price, however terrible was worth it, and the fires of Tegea were not yet cold when UNSC science teams began touching down on the planet, eager to study their prize. Never during the entire war did we capture a single Covenant ship intact, or for that matter, a single Covenant soldier. We were never in a position that afforded us such a luxury, until now. Now we had an entire abandoned colony world, with major institutions and systems intact for us to disassemble and study. We had a formerly working model of Covenant civilization at our disposal. But the prize of the world was not in it's buildings or memory banks, but the 42 Covenant prisoners taken. Nobody expected to directly learn anything through them, and after a brief attempt at interrogation in which 4 UNSC Internal Security personell were evicerated by a pair of Covenant Elites, the decision was made to vivisect several specimens from each of the alien races, and store the rest in stasis until a latter date when they would be more useful.
İİİİİThat was the last combat action we saw with the Covenant. Using information gathered from the colony world, we were able to increase the speed of our starships, the accuracy of our weapons, and begin to grapple the mysteries of FTL maneuvering. Unfortunately, their advanced power systems were safeguarded with extreme protective measures, and every time a science team approached one of their massive underground reactors, it erupted in a gout of nuclear fire so large it was seen easily even in daytime from Mantinea, and registered on the warning sensors of nearby systems. They learned quickly to leave the monolithic power supplies alone, and for 200 years no one has dared venture into the labyrinthian power facilities below the planets surface. Lastly, we discovered starmaps that pointed directly to the Covenant homeworlds, and the names and locations of the mysterious races that comprised the holy Covenant of aliens.
İİİİİThe Elites, and their priestly bretheren were Ardorians, hailing from the spiral galaxy M74 , located on the sky from Earth near the constellation Pisces. Their closest spacefaring neighbors were the Procintu, or Jackals some 1,100 lightyears distant in the same galaxy. Finally the grunts, or the Vetaurillians. They were the least primitive of the three major races, lacking FTL technology, they were conquered by the marauding Procintu jackals early in their space travels, and when they combined with the Ardorians, so too were the Vetaurillians incorporated into the massive war machine. Carried aboard the giant starships, they were sent en masse onto planets to act as fodder, using superior numbers to overwhelm any enemy foolish enough to oppose the Covenant juggernaut.
İİİİİThe years passed, and by 2570 we had resurrected many of the old colonial worlds, and pushed beyond the boundries into areas once rife with Covenant activity. This is not to say we had defeated the alien menace, but their fleet presence in our region of the galaxy had simply vanished, and without their superiority in space, the combined Navy/Army slowly expanded our sphere of influence system by system.
İİİİİ2575 saw the dissolution of the obsolete UNSC and the formation of the Interplanetary Congress, which was to be the primary lawmaking and governing body in human space. Two senators were elected for 8 year terms from their home planets to serve in the I.C. Star Chamber on Earth. Overseeing the Interplanetary Congress stood the Premier, who recognized senators to the floor, maintained general order and ruled on procedural matters during sessions. Culled from the ranks of senators to oversee their own, a new Premier was chosen at the beginning of every legistlative session (2 years). Above the Premier and Interplanetary Congress was the Eparkhos, akin to the UNSC President of the Covenant War. He had veto ability against measures passed by the I.C., although it was a dangerous gambit at best, often attracting the anger of the I.C.. There were other high men of great importance, but for now the civil workings of the Interplanetary Congress will suffice.
İİİİİIn 2630, the I.C. saw a resurgence of fear for the Covenant. They had not been seen, nor heard in nearly 60 years - thanks to measures from the old UNSC that prevented any unnecissary exploration into Covenant space. Admittedly faulty from the beginning, the measure known as Holms Directive (after rear-Admiral Frederick Holms) managed to survive for 45 years, through the fall of the old regime, and well into the new. But in 2631, the I.C. completely dissolved the Holms Directive, and ordered the combined forces of the Interplanetary Defense Fleet (I.D.F.) into Ardorian space. The results were disasterious; the I.D.F. was handed a defeat of such magnitude that the media immediatly compared it to their last encounter with a Covenant Fleet in 2536, dubbing the incident the 100 Years Massacre. However, for reasons unknown, the invasion sparked a brutal war between the Covenant allies, and the next fleet to arrive in 2642 found the Ardorian and Procintu empires embroiled in bloody civil conflict. Taking advantage of the situation, the I.D.F. secretly built two unmanned, forward monitoring posts among the massive asteroid belts that crisscrossed the M74 spiral arms. Not easily defeated, the Ardorians momentarily abandoned their conflict with the Procintu and proceeded to decimate three successive I.D.F. warfleets in 2644, 48, and 52. These were the last attempts of humanity to invade Covenant space for the next hundred years. The I.C. once again put the Holms Initiative into place and for the next century, the only information of the Procintu and Ardorian empire came from a small monitoring station not more than the size of a house, nestled deep in the belly of a hollow asteroid in the heart of enemy territory.
İİİİİHere we are now, 2769 on the cusp of a new divergence in the road to humanity. A century of peace has seen the growth of the I.C. in power, and the expansion of humanity in all directions. However, with power comes responsibility, and in the weakness of the hearts of men that power often corrupts, turning the ability to do great good into the ability to do great evil. The I.C. has a reputation in the fringe regions as being ruthless and brutal, exploiting the rim worlds for the benefit of the citizens of the interior. Earth has established a hegemony within the I.C., and instead of first among equals, she is lord above lords. Where each planet has two representative Senators, Earth has one per each of her nations - for a total of 113, far more than any system, or coalition of systems can muster at the moment. Combined with her close ties to the core worlds, she has the ability to push any initiative or measure quickly through the I.C., and signed into law by the reigning Eparkhos, Abraham Cohen of Earth. With the I.C. and Eparkhos securely in her pocket, it's a simple matter to manipulate the fleet to her every whim, and when the I.C. fails, the combined might of six thousand warships is enough to quail any of the fringe worlds into submission. So it begins, the fringe worlds are alienated from the inner planets by a barrier of wealth and elitism and the inner worlds in turn despise the rim. They are the conditions that led to bloody revolution hundreds of times on earth, but instead of Germany, France, Rome or England, the scale is far grander. Over 560 billion lives are at stake, as well as the continuation of humanity, for far in deep space, the Covenant is reorganizing and rearming...