The Iron Hands of the Prophets (Part 7): The Second Siege
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 2 April 2004, 5:11 AM
Ship Master Ruka Ronee stood on the bridge of the Cruiser Invisible Truth, watching the battle unfold before him. In the distance, he could see the shapes of the sixty-three Covenant warships currently in system. Odd, though, that there were only sixty-three. Where were the other two?
It did not matter. What mattered was the swarm of incoming dropships that were angling towards the planet. His job was to destroy as many of them as possible before the Covenant fleet ripped his ship apart. He and the other two Iron Hand ships, the Cruiser Sword of Light and the badly damaged frigate Path of Righteousness moved out of the moon's shadow. They set a course straight for the swarm of helpless dropships. The dropships did have a swarm of Seraph fighters providing cover for them, though. Hopefully, he could count on his ship's defenses to keep it alive long enough for them to cripple the invading army.
Pinpricks of light started to form above the dropship swarm. "In-system Slipspace jump!" Ruka's AI warned.
Space seemed to split open and two Covenant frigates appeared. Obviously, the fleet was aware of their plan to try and destroy the invasion force. Ruka was confident that he could easily take out two frigates with his Cruiser. Ruka was a gifted Ship Master. But Ruka had embarked on his own course, and there was no turning back.
"Keta, I am abandoning ship," he told the AI.
"What! We have a battle to fight!" the AI said, astonished.
"No, Keta, you have a battle to fight."
"You have betrayed us!" Keta yelled.
"Yes, but aren't we all traitors in the end?" Ruka said.
Ruka looked around. There were no guards to overhear the conversation as every spare soldier was on the ground preparing to repulse the invasion. There were two Engineers, but they were ignorant. Keta might decide to tell someone of Ruka's betrayal. Ruka briefly thought about ripping out Keta's disk and destroying it before he left, but he knew that that would leave the ship without a Master. So he decided to leave Keta there so that the ship would still be firing and moving.
Ruka strode out of the bridge and to the lifeboats, leaving Keta utterly alone.
The first dropships were entering the atmosphere. They contained the finest Covenant troops that the Prophets had been able to find on such short notice. Together, they numbered in the tens of thousands. When the fleet launched the second and third waves, the total on planet would number almost one hundred thousand soldiers. The incoming force contained Grunts, Jackals, Elites, Hunters, and even Brutes. Included in the force were several Special Operations Strike Teams. Everyone knew that the rebels were doomed on the planet.
The Prophets had released valuable information to the commanders of the invading force, including the location of the fortress and all of the entrances that were known. There was no map of the inside. The last time the Covenant had come to destroy the Iron Hands, they had pulled out so quickly afterwards that they did not even bother to make a map. They had all been afraid because they had believed the fortress and the planet to be cursed. Now, history was repeating itself.
In space, Keta maneuvered the Invisible Truth into a position that put the frigates between him and the Covenant fleet so that the enemy fleet wouldn't be able to fire on him. Keta had devoted every ounce of his processing power to the fight at hand, as he would need it to last very long. As a result, he temporarily forgot about Ruka's betrayal.
As the Truth cruised over the dropship fleet, it opened up in a hail of plasma fire, swatting Seraph single ships from the sky and burning dropships into unrecognizable melted hulks. Behind the Truth came the Sword of Light and the Righteousness, following Keta's lead and unleashing a plasma hell on the small ships beneath them. The two frigates unleashed their plasma torpedoes at the oncoming Iron Hand ships.
Keta timed his maneuver perfectly. He started a downward spin that brought the ship crashing through the dropship fleet and the Seraphs, destroying many of them. Explosions dotted the sides of the Truth, stopped by its shields. Rather than have the plasma torpedoes follow the Cruiser into the chaos of the dropship fleet and risk destroying more of their own craft, the frigates redirected the torpedoes at the Sword of Light. Ship Master Palma of the Sword followed Keta's lead and dove his Cruiser into the fleet below. Once again, the frigates redirected their plasma, this time at the Path of Righteousness. The frigate was too badly damaged to do any evasive maneuver in time. It sluggishly started to nose down into the dropships, but it was too slow. The torpedoes impacted.
The first one splashed over its shields. They flickered and died. The second torpedo tore through the weakened hull of the Iron Hand frigate. The hull started to break apart and fiery tendrils of plasma leaked from fissures in the hull. The ship came apart. Separating into huge chunks of ship, the pieces of the Righteousness fell through the dropship fleet, destroying some unlucky dropships.
The two Iron Hand Cruisers came back up through the cloud of dropships and Seraphs, the explosions of the ships giving them a fiery aura. The Truth and the Sword emerged from the dropships at almost point blank range with the frigates.
Both frigates concentrated their fire on the Invisible Truth. Plasma impacted all along the Cruiser's port side. The Truth's shields flickered and died under the bombardment. Plasma reached in to savage the side of the Cruiser. Armor melted away under the bombardment. The Truth and the Sword opened up on the frigate nearest to them together with everything they had. The combined fire of two Cruisers overwhelmed the ship's shields in seconds. The plasma tore into the ship's hull, exposing the support structure beneath. Compartments explosively decompressed, sending the frigate spinning out of control. The stresses were too much for the damaged hull, and it started to break apart, sharing the same fate as it had dealt to the Righteousness.
The second frigate opened up again on the Truth. The Cruiser's shields had only started to recharge and the incoming plasma smashed them. The rest of the plasma penetrated to rip into the already damaged port side of the Truth. In some spots, the armor was completely stripped away, exposing the support structure beneath.
Pinpoints of light began to form in the space around them again and this time, four more ships appeared, two frigates, and two Cruisers. Keta knew that this was the end. They could not hope to last against such awesome firepower. But Keta knew that he had no other choice but to continue fighting. The Sword of Light fired all of its weapons at the Covenant ships, which, for the moment, were dead in space because of the energy drain from a pinpoint jump. The Sword's plasma impacted all over a helpless Cruiser, which began to tumble away, shedding huge portions of its hull and its armor. Fires broke out as it fell through the dropship fleet and began to fall towards the atmosphere. It would burn up in the atmosphere. It was doomed.
The other three ships came back on line and immediately started to move toward the Sword of Light. Keta watched as the three ships fired on the Sword at the same time. Keta did not watch the result. He knew. The Sword wouldn't survive. Keta opened up with all of his weapons, sending streaks of plasma towards the frigate that had harassed his port side. The plasma tore into the ship, penetrating its shields and melting through its hull. Behind him, Keta detected the echoes of a huge explosion behind him. Turning his attention from the burning frigate, Keta saw that the Sword of Light had exploded in a huge, fiery, plasma riddled explosion.
On the surface of Eden, it was nighttime. Looking up into the sky, Soka Summakee could see what looked like a meteor shower. He knew better than that, though. He knew that those were the wrecks of hundreds of dropships and Seraph single ships, as well as fragments of the hulls of destroyed and damaged warships. The second siege of Eden had already begun. The first Covenant dropships had already landed and around him, tracers from plasma weapons and the blinding flashes of plasma grenades split the night.
Suddenly, a tremendous explosion flared like a supernova in the sky over the mountainside, lighting up the whole area for kilometers in every direction in a harsh false dawn. "Commander, was that one of ours?" came a panicked cry over the battlenet.
"No, it wasn't," Soka answered, quickly shutting off the comm. system.
He feared the worst, that it was indeed one of theirs. But in reality, there was no way for them to tell. Explosions like that caused an ionization of the atmosphere that would make communications with ships in orbit impossible for many long minutes.
He tried to establish contact anyway, "Ruka, come in. Invisible Truth, what is the situation? Sword of Light, report in!"
No answer. Silence.
"Damn it!" Soka cursed.
He knew that the Path of Righteousness was down already. Ship Master Palma of the Sword had informed him of that. But there was no way for him to tell what was happening up there now.
Keta dove the Invisible Truth right into the center of the enemy ships' formation, targeting the frigate closest to him as he passed by it. The exchange of weapons fire was brutal. Once again, the Truth's shields failed and more plasma got in to ravage his port side. But the trade off was worth it as Keta's own plasma crippled the frigate. It started to fall away, dead in space, out of control, and doomed to burn up in Eden's atmosphere.
Suddenly, the enemy Cruiser took the frigate's place and they exchanged fire as they passed each other. The Truth's port side was now completely stripped of armor. Another pass there would destroy her. The enemy Ship Master knew that. While the last frigate distracted the Truth, the Cruiser got the jump on Keta again and came in for another pass. But that was what Keta wanted.
Right when the two Cruisers were about to deliver full broadsides to each other, Keta essentially flipped the Invisible Truth onto her back, showing the smaller frigate her damaged side and showing the Cruiser her fully armored starboard side. The exchange of fire devastated both ships. The enemy Cruiser got the worst of it. It started to limp away, plasma streaming from rents in its hull. But with her shields down, the Truth was easy prey for the frigate. The frigate's plasma tore into the weakened port side of the ship and suddenly, Keta knew it was over.
The Truth started to break apart. The last thing Keta thought before a plasma torpedo hit vaporized the bridge was that he should have told Soka about Ruka's betrayal.
With nothing to stop them now, the Covenant dropships were landing all over the mountainside and the valley. Soka's soldiers poured an immense amount of suppression fire down at the charging Covenant troops, but it seemed that no matter how many they killed, more seemed to take their place. The ground shook with the impact of grenades and fuel rod cannons, and the hillside ran thick with the blood of the hundreds of corpses that littered it. The occasional explosion, both from the sky and from the ground lit up the area enough for Soka to see.
"Sir! Covenant forces have broken through our lines!"
This was followed by an agonized scream over the battlenet. Soka looked and saw that there had indeed been a breech. Covenant forces streamed through the gap in the lines. Illuminated by a grenade explosion, Soka saw that the leading Covenant troops were Hunters and Brutes.
Soka activated his plasma sword and charged towards the Covenant. He noticed that some of them were shooting each other, not sure who was on what side in the darkness. He smiled; their confusion would better serve him. The Hunters saw him coming from the light of his plasma sword and opened up.
Harsh green projectiles impacted all around Soka, damaging his shields, but otherwise not hurting him. He kept up his speed until he was right in front of the first Hunter. The Hunter lifted his massive metal shield in an attempt to crush Soka. But Soka was quick. He dodged to the left, narrowly avoiding the swinging shield. In the same motion, he swung his plasma sword. The energy blade caught the Hunter in one of the gaps in its armor, slicing through its flesh and destroying vital organs. Bright orange blood splashed over Soka's arm as he continued his slash until the blade exited out of the Hunter's side and back. The Hunter fell sideways, collapsing to the dirt.
The other Hunter charged forward. Soka primed and threw a plasma grenade. It stuck to the Hunter's chest armor, but he ignored it and kept coming. The grenade exploded, melting some of its nearly impervious armor, sending molten rivulets dripping off of it and to the ground. Soka decided to run up to it and repeat what he did with the Hunter's bond brother.
The Hunter swung its shield, but Soka dodged it. The Hunter's momentum carried him past Soka. Soka spun around and thrust his sword straight through the gap in the Hunter's back armor. The blade severed the Hunter's spine and mutilated several vital organs. The Hunter fell forwards and died.
Soka felt a stunning impact from behind that sent him sprawling forward, his shields flaring. Jumping back to his feet and spinning around, he saw one of the Brutes looming over him. Soka swung his sword. The energy blade caught the Brute in its arm, neatly severing it at the elbow. The Brute roared in pain, blood pouring from the stump of its arm. It turned and charged at Soka, its other arm outstretched, reaching for Soka. Right when the Brute was about to grab Soka's head, Soka fell to his knees and slashed. The blade cut through the Brute's knee, severing its lower leg. The Brute tumbled forward and lay on the ground, roaring in pain and anger.
Soka primed another plasma grenade and tossed it onto the Brute's back. Soka ran so as not to be caught in the explosion. The ground shook and the space behind Soka lit up with a blinding flash. Calls came in over the battlenet from Soka's troops. Things were going bad. The Covenant were overrunning their positions, and they were taking heavy casualties. Soka made a decision that he hoped he would not regret.
He ordered them all to fall back to the inside of the fortress.
Soka ran towards the entrance, throwing plasma grenades at the mass of Covenant troops that were swarming over his soldiers' former positions. He was so intent on calculating his grenade throws that he ran into another Elite. He looked at him and recognized him immediately as his friend Ruka.
"Ruka! What are you doing here?"
"I managed to get off of the Invisible Truth before it was destroyed. We have lost the battle in space. All ships are lost."
"I thought so. I am glad to have you back, Ruka."
"I'm glad to be back," Ruka answered.
Something in Ruka's tone seemed strange to Soka, but he did not think twice about it. Ruka activated his own plasma sword and together they fought their way to the entrance. They ran inside, down the ramp and into the heart of Fortress Dark Horizon. Inside were troops from all of Soka's units, mixed together from the chaotic fighting. Nodding to one of his 17th SOCAST Infidel Stompers, Soka turned to face the entrance. He was back in the fortress, the fortress of the restless souls of the dead.
To Be Concluded