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Homeworlds XXV
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 16 February 2004, 3:08 AM

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Author's Note: Sorry I haven't written in a while guys. School's been a bitch, and I've been swamped with work. It's shorter than usual, but hey, what can you do. Hope you enjoy. It'll pick up soon, action that is. Good luck.

      Three Covenant fleets had arrived in the past hour, surrounding Apock and its entire escort. Luckily, their weapons were offline, and they didn't appear hostile. The peace treaty was holding-for now. Apocryphos hesitated to warm up the six MAC cannons along her outer rim for fear of appearing hostile, but she did so anyway. The Covenant wouldn't have come for idle drifting. Something was up and that had everyone nervous.

UNSC Barbarian

      "What'a we got Nars?" Abigaid asked as he stormed onto the bridge. The long overdue sleep he was attempting to get wouldn't be happening now. He'd barely managed five hours, but that was enough. At least now he didn't feel the ton of bricks pinned to his eyes.
      "Three Covenant fleets have amassed around our location sir. They appear amicable at the moment. None of their weapons are charged, and they've made no movements outside of their original positioning."
      "Has anyone attempted communications?"
      "Colonel Robinson attempted a hail roughly three hours ago. Nothing. Battle Net is completely quiet as well. They're either masking their transmissions with highly-sophisticated devices or not talking. For now I'd assume it's a radio silence. Nothing about this seems random. Whatever it is they're doing here, they've had it planned."
      "Three hours ago! Why the hell wasn't I notified?"
      "I calculated from your maneurisms and tone, as well as the multitude of spelling mistakes found in your logs, that you were in need of rest. I allowed you as much time as I saw fit to sleep."
      "So why'd you wake me? They haven't done anything they already weren't." He took a seat in his very comfortable captain's chair. His crew was just now entering the bridge. Apparently everyone on Apocryphos not stationed there was being hastily sent back to their ships.
      "Signal an all hands alert. I want fleet formation Sigma double time. No one is to engage the Covenant for any reason unless instructed too. That doesn't mean they can't warm their weapons up. Get all non-essential personnel off of Apock as soon as possible."
      "Yes sir. Sending transmission now, priority Charlie."
      "No. Alpha priority, no encryption."
      "You do know sir that the Covenant will intercept that." It wasn't so much of a question as a statement. The computerized life-form-if you could call Narses that- was arguably the best combat AI out there, but he wasn't always the most forethinking of them.
      "I know that Nars, just send it."
      "I want a full report on exactly what all I'm working with, full fleet readout ASAP." The orders were to anyone, but directed at his Radar operator.
      "Fifteen ships sir: Carriers Barbados, Libya, Sounder, and Thermoclyes; Frigates Robert E. McMullen, Olympia, Verona, and Prophet's Will; Destroyers Bullion, Boxer, Brazil, Bandoleer, Crystal Lightning, and Rabid Fate. All fit and ready to go sir. Fifteen acknowledgements, they're moving into formation now. Estimating six minutes."
      "Thank you Hudson." Abigaid stood up again, he was too nervous to simply sit. "Contact the Suncoast, full encryption, priority Zulu."
      Time ticked by before the AI responded, which was odd. Narses responded and reacted with electronic ease, and in seconds the face of the Prophet Will's captain was on screen. The thick bags and ruffled hair showed that he had about as much sleep, if not less, than Abigaid.
      "Richard, you're sitting this battle, if there is one, out. Get going immediately. I don't care where, just go. Too much is riding on your precious cargo to let it go to waste here. On second though, you will report to HighCom, they have orders for you. Your men are going on a mission named BOXWOOD GREEN, it's been planned for a while now. It's time to get the ball rolling."
      "No buts captain, do it."
      "Yes sir."

      The screens of both ships disappeared in a veil of black. Abigaid nodded to himself as the small blip that was the Prophet's Will turned from the fleet and headed towards Earth. It would take several days at lightspeed, but they'd get there safely. That was the only thing important.
      BOXWOOD GREEN was the defining operation of the entire war. Years of culling and finally waiting had come together for this moment. There were finally enough trained and able Spartans to carry out the mission successfully.

CSS Prophet's Will

      Shimmer passed the oppurtunity to work out for "rest", much to the befuddled amusement of his counterparts. The Propet's Will was large enough that everyone onboard had their own quarters, which in this case was the best thing he could have hoped for.
      His eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness that enveloped his cabin, but the sound of shallow breathing gave the child away quickly. The orphan Jackal child lie sleeping on his cot, taking small breaths. In the dull purple shimmer that constantly reflected off of the Covenant walls, the body could easily be mistaken for a human child.
      His mere presence in the room seemed to be enough to wake the creature, who began a squawking cry immediately. Shimmer was an instrument of war-albeit one with a heart. Nevertheless, he still had no clue how to calm it. He held out both food and water, but it would have neither. The bed was unsoiled, it obviously didn't need to use the bathroom. What more could it want? There was nothing to give it. It had food, water, protection, shelter, and didn't need to go. What more was there?
      His eyes searched the room for something, anything, that would calm the child's wails. There were suppression tablets on the small table in the corner, but they might be too strong. It hit him. He removed his weapon from its holster, removed the clip and chambered round, and handed it to the toddler.
      It chirped in acceptance, and took the toy in it's small hands. He was amazed at how small and how fragile they were. The scaly fingers traversed the surface curiously. It turned the weapon over, looking down the barrel, and even sticking it in it's beak-like mouth. It apparently didn't taste especially good, and was quickly removed.
      "We've gotta name you little guy." Shim said aloud. The small but colorful crest on his head told him that it was a male, but that didn't really help him. He wasn't sure how the Covenant named their children, so he would have to take a human name.
      "John...no. How about Terrence? I know, Sam. Yeah, Sam. That's a good name. The Jackal dropped the weapon out of boredome and began crawling around his bed. Sam was its new name, and hopefully the war would be over soon enough for Sam to grow up and lead a somewhat normal life. Though Shimmer knew that could never be.

      The train steamed out of the tunnel at eighty miles per hour. The entire Covenant command was aboard, and their vehicle was befitting that of the royalty they were. Throughout the Covenant this particular train was called "tslein aog shaon", Train of the Holy Ones. Undoubtedly the most well armed and heavily fortified land-craft possible Many of the Prophets actually preferred to be in the 'Tslein' than in a bunker, because it was just as strong as well as mobile.
      Whoever had designed the machine obviously had a fascination with turrets, but for protection that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. There was a turret on top of every one of the sixty-eight "cars" that comprised the train. Two turrets on each side of the front and rear cars also helped insure protection. Six inches of Inatium armor plating stood between the passengers and the elements. Outside of the Inatium armor were two separate shield systems, both with four backup power supplies, insuring the train an ability to take extreme amounts of punishment in stride.

      In the extremely rare possibility that someone or something was able to board the train, they would have an entire company of special operations Elites, Hunters, Brutes, Jackals, and Grunts to deal with. The black-armored special ops units were the best of the best. There was no mistaking that. They are only equaled by Helljumpers, and only surpassed by Spartans. There's no job they can't handle. The small numbers of both Helljumpers and Spartans also gives them an advantage, one they'll exploit whenever possible.
      Field Master 'Hozaa approached the prophet slowly. To do otherwise would be a great sign of disrespect, and disrespect was not tolerated. The Prophet of Holy Truth turned in his large room to face 'Hozaa, who quickly saluted. In his hand was a small data crystal. He took the object in his bony gray hand, and turned away wordlessly.
      The information was about a predicted pattern that the Sentinels had developed, and that the Covenant had uncovered. The pathetic humans surely didn't have the same information, but how could they? They hadn't lost seven worlds to the damned machines, they hadn't lost over thirty billion people. It hit him singularly then, that the humans had lost that and much more; only they had lost it to the Covenant. It was clear now why they fought so hard. At first he had mistaken it for foolishness and stupidity, but now he knew better. It was an unbridled hatred and passion to kill the enemy that drove them. One he felt now.       The initial invasion of Earth had been repelled by the 'Speertuns', the armored green warriors that had caused them so much trouble in so many other battles. Spies throughout the human network-he could hardly believe there were any- had given them valuable information to work with. The vile primates had ignorantly placed all of their 'Speertuns' on a singular ship, which happened to be a captured Covenant vessel. He would see to it that it was returned to Covenant control as soon as possible. There was finally a chance to severely cripple the humans, and one he would surely take; even if that meant breaking the treaty with their species. They hadn't really done much anyway; at least nothing the Covenant couldn't handle.
      "Field Master, what is this ship's name?" He tapped the display of the ship's schematics, a standard Covenant frigate of medium tonnage.
      "That is the Prophet's Will your holiness. It was transporting vital information when it was captured sir, but from what the humans have done it is feasible to say that they have not found it."
      "What exactly was this vital information?" He snarled. "And why weren't we told of it immediately?"
      "I was not directly linked in the investigation, but preliminary reports detail very important schematics, plans, and lists.. There's enough there to ruin us sir. I only learned of this yesterday myself your holiness." His attempt to keep his head on his shoulders was one born in desperation.
      "What exactly was on it Field Master? I am growing very impatient with you very quickly."
      "There were plans for all of our new weapons systems, how they operate, and how to assemble them. Star charts of every Covenant controlled planet, military instillation, and Battle Net encryption software as well. There was also..." 'Hozaa turned his head as he searched for the easiest way to say what came next.
      "Also what?" The Prophet of Holy Truth slammed his fist down with a surprising force; a glare of anger in his oversized eyes.
      "We also had the names of our spies. If the humans find that information, they will not only set us back years worth of technology, but also destroy all of our internal assets and utterly decimate our security protocols."
      "All of this on an extremely powerful ship that we can't destroy, with over eighty of their most powerful warriors aboard it!" He was furious. Whoever had failed would see more hell than they had ever wished, and even if they were dead, someone else would.
      "There is only one way to handle this, we must establish an even more peaceful relationship with them. Held on that ship, and no other. Make up whatever excuse you must, but get a team on that ship. Find that information, but under no circumstances whatsoever are you to destroy it. Just do whatever you have to, to make sure they do not get that information and we get it back. This is not only disastrous in the future, it is disastrous now. This sets our plans back far more than before."
      "Your holiness, there is another problem."
      "This surely seems to be a day for them, doesn't it?"
      "We sent three of our fleets to intercept and destroy the fleets at one of their space docks, but when the Prophet's Will was sighted there, it was temporarily canceled. It obviously spooked the humans,."
      "Get on with it!"
      "The Prophet's Will has left their space. It made a blind jump. After the incident with the Ascendent Justice, the humans are almost impossible to track in slip-space. We have no idea where they are, or where they are going. But there is an almost one hundred percent chance they are heading to Earth.. Which poses another problem entirely. " His throat lumped as he swallowed the bodily fluids that comprised his alien saliva, and his scaly skin was suddenly very dry.
      "I've had enough bad news today; can this wait?"
      "I doubt it your holiness. Our predictions have the entire Sentinel fleet moving towards Earth. If the Prophet's Will is heading to Earth..." He didn't have to say what they were both thinking. Earth's defenses were still battered from the first attack, and the Covenant had even been preparing the second invasion, but the recent events with the Sentinels had that plan come to a screeching halt.
      "Get out of my sight now. Get out!"
      'Hozaa turned very quickly, almost falling, and scrambled out of the door of one extremely mad Prophet. Everything that could be going wrong, was going wrong. Hell the humans wouldn't even have to attack to hurt the Covenant, they seemed to be capable enough of doing that to themselves. It would be a very tiresome future, he could see that already. The Prophet of Holy Truth muttered his foreign curses aloud, and had to immediately report what he had learned.