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Homeworlds XVIII
Posted By: Mainevent<billygoat359@netscape.net>
Date: 11 October 2003, 1:41 AM


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Four days later




Chapter Thirteen-Are you afraid of the dark?


      The air was chilly aboard the covenant vessel. Water droplets formed on the screen before him, constantly requiring a dry sleeve to clear them. Everything was fine, the mission was go.

      Capulet brushed past Richards and Folgers on his way to the command deck, which had been outfitted with an insane amount of computers and databanks. The battle-scarred and scorched Covenant doors parted before him, a light winking several times before allowing admittance.

      His command chair had been pulled from the Suncoast and nailed to the raised platform that controlled the behemoth. Control panels and chairs had been situated in the two thin aisles to either side of his chair, and his position gave him a sense of power.

      The holopanels that surrounded him had been recaliberated, and now projected easily readable english dialog. The frontmost holopanel displayed crystal-clear video of the space surrounding the ship. The panels to his left and right had detailed diagrams and charts for any situation that he could possibly encounter.

      A large diagram of the Prophet's Will hovered in three dimensions with interactive status panels that he could rely on. Charts of every possible status that his mind could think of were present, and he began to realize why the covenant were winning this war.

      "Sir, where exactly are we going on this mission?" Campbell asked as he slowed his jog catching up with the captain.

      "Head us here. Power up all of the weapons." Capulet handed Campbell a thick clipboard full of notes and starcharts, and the two split apart. Cap sprinted up the small ramp to his chair and took a seat in it as he spun it around to face his monitors. Campbell slid down his ramp and nudged by his fellow officers, handing each of them duty rosters.

      "Status reports; Caprice, Sahawneh, Campbell, Richards, Folgers, Shula" The captain had a noticeable amount of enthusiasm in his voice, and he didn't really need to ask them for the information, but he loved the thrill of hearing it.

      "Weapons charging. MAC Cannons at ninety-six percent, archer missile pods ready, plasma cannons charged, plasma torpedoes ready and waiting. I love this ship sir.!"

"I know you do, Shula, what you got for me?"

"I got nothing. UNSC and Covenant frequencies reporting only marginal chatter, nothing important."

"Well keep me informed. Campbell, move us out."

"We're on our way sir."

"Richards, how we doing?"

"Cap, everythings fine. Weapons fine, armor and hull plating at one-hundred percent, shields steady, everything go."

"Very nice, Folgers, where do we stand."

"Sir, the reactors are at ninety percent and we're hauling more ass than the Suncoast could when I pushed her to a hundred and ten."

"Put it in your next report son, Sahawneh what's on the soapbox?"

"Sir, radar is active, scanners good. I'm picking up the General and his fleet, the repair dock, and several longswords. We're working five by five."

      "Alright ladies and gentlemen, you heard each other, everything on this ship is good to go. The tech junkies did their jobs, and we're on our way. Let's go teach the Covenant lesson number one eighty-two: Don't piss of Capulet before he's had his coffee."

      The whole room bellowed with laughter, and the Captain was glad to have his crew. They had an almost familial bond form over the past several weeks, and his men knew they could talk openly with him. Although, he still required them to salute and show the necessary respect.

      His new ship was a hybrid. The damage to her hull had actually prove beneficial, as it left an gap large enough for the UNSC technicians and engineers to install three MAC cannons and six rows of Archer missiles.

      Six fusion reactors had been added to the plasmid cores the Covenant used, and their supplemental power made the ship nearly limitless in power. The fusion reactors could be used to power whatever needed it, while still allowing the plasmid reactors to take care of the basics.

      And the fact that they worked on a circuit-breakeresque system, meant that the shields could absorb much more abuse than before.

      The unique setup alloted for massive backwash surges of power as the shields deflect and then grasp for more, and as one massive impact would die another reactor would pull the strain of the shield's requirements while the other picked up the previous reactors rather light loads.

      Colors swirled and space sizzled on his monitor as Richard watched the space boil and pop before him. The sizzle was ominous, yet familiar, and their was a lump in his throat he could never manage to get out before the jumps.

      Time seemed to freeze, as the ships around him disappeared, stars seemed to speed by with reckless abandon, and his ships bow surged forward. In an awkward way Capulet felt like an adventurer of olden times, surging forth in his vessel, not knowing who or what he would encounter when he arrived.

      Campbell let out a deep sigh of relief as he slowly released his death-grip on the ship's controls. He had been dumbfounded and amazed at the relative control he had over the massive ship. He was used to the clunky controls and horrible accuracy aboard the Suncoast during slipspace jumps.

      The Prophet's Will came to bear several hundred miles in front of a planet. Scanners under Sahawneh's control pulled up a hologram of Celaco, a jackal homeworld much similar to Mars' terraformed surface.

      The entire crew was aghast at what they found, however. The normally hyperactive space-station and repair center orbiting the planet was completely destroyed. Large chunks of it's superstructure floating aimlessly through vacuum.

      Various objects that were used inside of the station skittered off in every direction, weightless in the icy void. Eating utensils, tables, and other foreign devices pinged and evaporated against the ship's shields, a barely audible clink the only sign.

      Silence was golden in the command center, as neigh a breath was exhaled among the crew. Several techs crowded around Capulet and his computer banks in awe and confusion. Consternation apparent on their faces as they struggled to comprehend what they were seeing.

      Imploded carcasses of various Covenant races were scattered across the life-less field of death. What could have possibly unleashed so much power was beyong anyone onboard. The hulking wrecks and debris of seven previously docked carriers loomed on the horizon, hiding in the small moon orbiting Celaco's shadow.

      Caprice nearly regurgitated her stomach's contents as her emotions formed a putrid smell in her mind. Capulet's lips shrugged several times before the hint of a word came out, and he sputtered on for several more minutes before forming a logical sentence.

"What in god's name happened here?" He mumbled more to himself than the crew.

      "Scanners are almost overloading sir. The Covenant space-station and repair facility Codiap is in ten pieces. Seven carriers are mangled and utterly inhospitable, somehow all moved to the underbelly of the planet's moon. Bodies are off the charts. Whatever hit here, hit it VERY hard sir." Sahawneh replied.

      "Brief splinters of messages, apparently recordings from the surfaces. The battle net in this region is in shambles. There isn't a live voice on here anywhere, only warning and distress signals to anyone who finds this place." Shula interupted as he removed his headset. "Incoming message, clearer than others, translation software in progress."

      A small bar centered itself on everyone's monitor, and it quickly filled before fading. A sweating and panicked jackal's face appeared, his beak jabbering uncontrollably. The facility behind him shaking several times before settling, fires flaring in the background, and several pipes crashing from the ceiling. A delayed translated speech came over the speakers.

      "Them, the gods, they have sent their menions. They took our form, they were unstoppable. Massive, swarming, invincible. We are all doomed, may you have more luck than," Static crippled the message as the screen shook again, a heavy beam striking the person in the picture dead. Several jackals rushed past his position, either unaware or uncaring.

      "I don't know who's in control of this video, but zoom in on that panel over there." Several blurred figures in the feed screamed by, and Capulet analyzed carefully. "Can you rewind and clear that up?"

      Shula quickly tapped the keyes at his post, and the video moved slowly in reverse, then paused. The panel at the bottom left hand of the screen zoomed in on the blurred figure, and then cleared it up. The Spartan who had arrived on the scene, a John-117, had been watching carefully the entire time, and was befuddled by what he saw.





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