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To the Last Man Part 1 Chapter 1
Posted By: John Gurule, Jr.<Einstienyounger@aol.com>
Date: 16 July 2004, 6:19 AM

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The silhouette of a giant sphere contrasted the blinding vestige of the star to the rear of it.
Its fair blue surface reflected light, similar to an enormous sapphire. A rocky satellite orbited nearby. This is Dragonhead, a planet almost a mirror image of Earth in the way of minerals and atmosphere.
Its surface contained one of the largest military stations since Reach. A vast network of roads interweaving between testing and research facilities and various military installations covered the surface. The dark side of the planet shone brilliantly in an almost unending light.
A minute blip showed on the radar of an inner space inspector. He called the lieutenant supervising his group.
"Uh, Sir? You'd better come look at this . . . " he said as his voice drifted away.
"What is it, boy?"
"Um . . . Is that all that's left of battle group Victor 29-17?"
"Oh God, that is! Send out some escort fighters on the double!"
"Calling for two escort Longswords to sector A S B - 14328 and make it quick!" the inspector called into his emergency radio.
"We're on the way, over and out," replied a voice on the other side.
Drifting out in the darkness of space was a familiar shape. A D77 Pelican. Outfitted with twin 70 mm heavy chain guns, two giant ATG Hellfire missile packs on its top and various anti - vehicle bombs in its storage compartment. This edition was labeled the D77-AV "Angry Pelican."
It could also carry some human cargo.
Augmented with light MJOLNIR class 5 Battle Suits and trained in various special forces tactics for two years, Hell jumpers make up the heavy support infantry in place of the SPARTANs, other than, of course, the Master Chief.
The surviving Hell jumper onboard the craft was a lieutenant colonel Arnold Johnson. He was summoned to the UNSC Marine Corps' ARCHANGEL 7 special forces training at age seventeen and chosen by an ONI officer to become an 'elite paratrooper, leaping from orbit and falling right into Hell,' a clever name for battle.
After further training, he was assigned to his first mission: a covenant outbreak on the planet Eclipse 4. After outstanding success, arrangements were made to fit him in his recent assignment. It was the first ever assault on an entire system controlled by Covenant forces
A small storage planet full of ships and personnel emptied out. It was the greatest armada devised in UNSC history. The majority of forces were left behind, though.

"I'm really not too sure of this, though, Captain," Johnson said to his lifelong friend, Captain Lorenzo Gutierrez.
"Don't worry, Arny, with all this shit they have, what could possibly happen to us or the ship?" reassured his friend.
"I'm not doubting us or the Maria. It's just that intelligence on their weapons has been getting hazy lately. Oh, yeah, and this 'shit' has been hobbled together pretty quickly, so I'm not sure of its integrity."
"I guess all we can do is hurry up and wait."

"This is Recon 424, we're, uh, getting something big here. It's, um, really big here, hehe."
"Enough squaking. This is Captain Gutierrez, and since I'm closest, I'd like to know what it is."
"Um, it appears to be a new type of Covenant cruiser. It's about two Kilometers in length, shaped sort of like an arrowhead, and - WHAT THE HELL IS IT DOING - AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!"A few intense seconds after the transmission, a hand clasped the Captain's shoulder. He jumped and whirled around.
"Hey, Lorenzo, my group is shipping out. Any last words?" Johnson said.
"Yeah. Good luck," the Captain replied.

After several minutes, the shipboard AI, Liara, prepared the captain for very bad news.
"Sir. I have something to tell you."
"Spill it, Liara," Lorenzo ordered.
"Yes, Captain. Several fighter pickets have reported heavy anti-cruiser ion cannon fire from all over the surface. That means that we can't penetrate the surface unless we put up an impossibly high scrambling frequency. Even if we could, it would fry our circuts, too."
"Sounds bad. Anything else?"
"Yes, sir. If you thought that was bad, then here's something really bad. I've detected a few hundred Covenant STB class battle cruisers, God knows how many more there are. Seems that they've come to eliminate us. The really good part is that they'll be here in about four minutes."
Lorenzo pondered this for a moment. Even with about one thousand individual large ships, each one would have to hold their own against a storm of Covenant ships. Super Titan Behemoth classes (the namers were not known for their originality) could carry small cruisers on the bottom of their hulls. That meant that for about every blip on the radar there could be two or three large ships. If that were the case, then his men's lives would have to have been spent as dearly as possible. Then there was also the new type of Covenant cruiser to think about.
"Get all personnel to combat alert status. I want all defense cannons on standby, and load up eight Shocker missiles," the captain said to Liara.
"Aye aye, captain," she replied. "I want all personnel to combat readiness, and get eight Shockers to Firing Bay 6."
"Yes Ma'am," answered the marine on the other end.

An alarm buzzed and a red light flashed about scurrying marines, running hither and thither, preparing for the imminent doom falling before them. Weapons were armed and systems were checked over and over again. Sergeants gave lectures to the marines under their command.
All of this was surveyed by the single Hell jumper leaving on the D77-AV.
"Everything's green. Are you sure you under stand your mission?" said the pilot of the dropship/ heavy antitank aircraft.
"Hell yeah. I went over it a thousand times. I'm supposed to go behind our enemy's lines and take out their main transport line around the landing zone."
"OK, let's get the heck out of -!" At that exact time, a few of the Covenant spacecraft discharged their weapons at the exposed starboard side of the ship, which was the side of the vehicle bay.
After a few hazy moments after the racking of his head on the side of the craft, he came to and viewed a trickle of blood running down the side of the pilot's face. Gore was imbued on the glass of the cockpit making for a sickening sight.
"Oh God . . ." the lieutenant colonel gasped at the sight of his friend's brains splattered around him. "Well... I'm going to miss you, bud. Sorry about this," he said, as if his ally would care if his corpse was pushed out of an open cockpit.
He looked around and saw that everyone else in the charred room was sprawled across the floor, dead.
"Lucky me," he sighed as he closed the cockpit and started the engines. "At least the damage on the Pelican isn't too extensive. Just a scuffed wing. OK, sorry to abandon you, Lorenzo, but I have to get the hell out of here."
The ship shot out of the Maria like a bat out of hell. It swung away from enemy fire as gracefully as a fighter. Outside, a heated battle continued. Explosions blossomed like beautiful orange and red flowers. He threw up the Pelican's throttle and burst away from the battle.
The next thing he knew, two Longsword fighters were taking him down to the surface of Dragonhead.
"Welcome back, sport," one of the pilots said, "welcome back."