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Halo: Stealth Combat Evolved: Part 1-Chapter 2
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 31 July 2004, 5:09 PM

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       "Incoming fire!" shouted one of the pilots over the flight command freq. "Taking hits! Can't break off!"
       Flight Officer Captain Keel took the chance and looked over his shoulder, out of the glass viewport. Two Seraphs pulled up and began to circle back around. Directly beneath them, a Longsword took two plasma torpedoes to the nose. The air-filled cockpit popped, and all but the former craft's two wings were blown away.
       "Damn," Jason Keel cursed.
       Keel looked back in front of him, just in time to see a smoking Seraph speeding towards him. His copilot, Flight Officer Young, must have been looking else where too, she hadn't noticed the enemy fighter. Jason pulled as hard as he could on his flight yoke, pulling his fighter up-but he could tell it wouldn't be enough. The Flight Officer in the copilots seat turned with the beginning of the motion and immediately opened up with the Longsword's 110mm rotary cannons. Meanwhile, Keel banked his craft to the right, rolling his ship as he went.
       By now the distance between the doomed Seraph and the intact-for the moment-Longsword had closed to under a hundred meters. Most of the Human craft would be clear, but the left wing-tip was in the enemy fighter's line of flight. Just as Jason braced for impact, two missiles streaked in from seven o'clock. The Seraph exploded into a ball of flame, and Flight Officer Captain Jason Keel's craft sped through the fading explosion.
       "Thanks One-Five," Jason put through his COM.
       "Copy that," Knife One-Five replied. "Just another day at the office, sir."
       Keel would have smiled had Flight Officer Young not pointed out one of the Human destroyers.
       The Neptune was just sending a MAC round towards a Covenant cruiser. Of course, the cruiser didn't take that as a friendly gesture and had already managed to fire two plasma torpedoes of its own. The two orbs of heated energy were speeding through space, and the cruiser that had fired them attempting an evasive maneuver. It was pretty hard to dodge a MAC round at that range, however. The Human and Covenant vessels took each other's fire at nearly the same time. The MAC round hit the Covenant cruiser, whose shields were apparently already down, at an angle. It entered from the top slightly of center, towards the bow, and exited not far from the tip of the cruiser's stern. It must have hit some kind of control conduit, because the Covenant ship floated dead in space. It didn't take long for the ruptured main coolant and plasma conduits to induce the Covenant ship's reactor to explode.
       Meanwhile, while the Covenant ship was incapacitated, the Neptune had taken the two plasma torpedoes on her port side. Jason watched the Human ship as the two Covenant weapons burned through the armor and several decks before subsiding as the cruiser exploded in the distance. Within a few seconds, a squadron of Longswords and a pair of Pelicans exited from two of the Neptune's hangars. It was only thirty seconds until, coincidentally, the ship that Jason Keel had called home for most of the last several months also experienced a meltdown of her reactor. Only two lifeboats had made it out.

       "This is Knife One-Nine to the Javelin," Lieutenant Junior Grade Kelly heard come in over the Longswords' command frequency. "The Neptune has taken hits and has been destroyed, repeat destroyed. My squadron has escapees and needs a docking bay for pickup."
       "Captain," addressed Lyle Kelly. "Knife One-Nine says they need a pick up."
       Xavier Marker, the Captain, was just choosing a new heading and target. Another Covenant ship, this one a frigate, had been dispatched by the cooperative efforts of his own ship and the Ardor. Captain Marker hadn't suffered any hits, but the Ardor had taken a single plasma torpedo to her gut. The ship was still operational, but now her belly was exposed, and MAC was out of commission. More bad new included the fact that of the ten Covenant ships that had recently appeared in system, only three had been taken out. Already seven of the Human fleet had been destroyed.
       "Coordinates, Lieutenant?" asked Xavier, keeping his two hands planted at the base of the view screen, but turning his head to face Kelly.
       Lyle punched a control. "At your station, sir."
       "Lieutenant, tell the pilot we're on our way."
       "Aye, sir."
       Captain Marker did a quick calculation on his terminal. Normally such a thing would be done by an AI, but at this time in the war, ship-class AIs were in short supply. Marker would be on his own.
       "Lieutenant Banks," Xavier started, glancing towards the black haired woman. "Bring us to heading two seven nine declination zero one zero."
       "Aye, aye. Starting on course, bearing two seven nine declination zero one zero."
       As the Javelin closed in on the small flight group's location, Captain Marker could see that several Seraph fighters were harassing the larger group of Human forces. The Captain took an offense to that.
       "Commander Quinn," Xavier addressed his Weapons Station One man. Marker would have liked to have the higher ranking officer, a Lieutenant Commander, at a different kind of station, but Quinn was damned good at what he did. "Swat those flies out of the sky for our friends out there."
       Mark Quinn didn't even turn his buzzed, strawberry-blonde haired head, concentrating hard. "Aye."
       Within seconds the Javelin's point defenses started picking off every Seraph that strayed too far from the Human fighters, as not to risk any collateral damage. The remaining Longswords responded with a volley of missiles and a sweep of rotary fire to the four enemy fighters that were still active, not having been hit by the Human destroyer's fifty-millimeter auto-cannons.
       "Lieutenant Kelly, invite Knife One-Nine on in," Xavier ordered.
       "Right away, sir."
       Captain Marker refocused his full attention to the ongoing space battle, and the rest of the Human and Covenant ships. A Covenant destroyer had just been blown to pieces, but three Human vessels were now also out of commission. One totally destroyed by result of explosion, the other two dead in space. That left eleven Human ships, and seven Covenant; it seemed like good odds, but another Human vessel already was looking like she was about to go.

       Above and behind the Javelin, the commander of the Hercules was assessing the situation as well. As the commander of the remainder of the Human fleet, Commodore Ford needed to make a decision based on the well being of the still-alive Humans; and to keep the three project Spartans alive. The frigate Osiris winked off of the tactical display, as the ship took four plasma torpedoes in rapid succession. The first and second striking aft, rendering the ship's engines unuseable; the third struck amid ship, burning through two lifeboat launch areas and the majority of the vehicle bays on that side; and the fourth and last plasma hit struck the lower bow, within seconds vaporizing all the personnel that had been the Osiris' command crew.
       Morgan winced, his hardened features scowling. This was the worst operation that project Splinter Cell had yet to encounter. The Commodore knew he had a responsibility to the lives of the still-alive Humans; and to keep the three Spartans alive if at all possible. Ford had to make a call, and so he made it. This operation was over.
       "Lieutenant Kalish, where are the Spartans?" asked Commodore Ford.
       "We just received a message, sir," Lieutenant Junior Grade Kalish replied. The man was short, and a newer addition to the command crew, but the boy sure was bright. Ford knew the Brit could go places, if he would put his mind to it. "Flight Officer Captain Smith has picked up the Spartans and is en route. Currently rising through the atmosphere.
       Ford briefly scrutinized his system map, displayed on his view screen. "Tell Smith to rendevous with us-" he selected a location on his display, and transmitted it to the communications station "-here."
       "Aye sir," replied Jason.
       Morgan Ford again looked at his tactical display, this time at the Human and Covenant battle groups. He traced a path with his eyes to the rendevous coordinates and finalized his plan.
       "Samuel," he said. "Check my calculations and send a final firing solution through to the fleet."
       "Firing solution calculated," the AI responded, his hologram having drawn its rifle.
       "Now transmit my exit course through. I want all of the ships to be synchronized."
       "Working . . ." the AI's eyes flashed green, as the foot tall figure put his digital fingers against his arm mounted information screen.
       The Commodore switched his display screen to show the space around him. The rest of the fleet turned to the same angle in unison, the ships' reverse thrusters at maximum, and fired their MACs towards the opposing vessels. As soon as the MAC rounds had been sent downrange, all ten of the remaining Human ships spun on their axises and pushed their engines to their fullest.
       The salvo struck the Covenant fleet a second later. Eight of the nine rounds found targets, four of which bounced harmlessly off of Covenant energy shields. The other four met less resistance; however, and ripped through the enemy ships' hulls. Two of the Covenant vessels, having only taken one hit, continued on, bearing the holes through their bodies. Only one of the targeted ships was taken out, that Covenant ship had taken two MAC rounds; one to the nose and the other on her port side.
       As would have been expected, the enemy fleet didn't take a liking to the Humans' actions. They were quick to send a salvo of their own. The Human fleet had taken a course nearer to the planet; Commodore Ford had sent them into a slingshot orbit to pick up the Spartans. This had fortunately worked to the plasma torpedoes disadvantage. Some of them were diverted by the nearby planet, Heilos' gravity. Not all of the shots missed though, and four Human ships took hits. Two of them continued onward, suffering only, relatively, minor damage; another was hit multiple times, and sent too far into the gravity well of Heilos to have a hope of pulling out. The forth ship hit, the Ardor, already suffering from a hit, didn't have a chance of surviving the second hit to her bottom decks. The plasma torpedo met little resistance as it burnt its way up, through the doomed Human ship.

       "Kalish, where is the Away Team now?" asked the Commodore.
       Jason looked at his small display, reading Away Team Alpha's position. "ETA to rendevous coordinates is one minute."
       Ford nodded, nervous. His course had gotten his fleet farther from the Covenant than the enemy had expected, and the opposing ships were not following yet. Perhaps they though that the Humans would come all the way back around the planet for another attack. If that was their assumption, they had thought wrong.
       "Commander O'Brien," Commodore Ford addressed the officer at the navigation station. "Prepare for exit burn."
       "Calculating now, sir."
       "Samuel, link with Commander O'Brien's station and transmit exit burn calculations to the fleet," Ford went on.
       "Sending now."
       "Sir, Flight Officer Smith has cleared the atmosphere and is preparing to dock," reported Lieutenant Kalish.
       Good, thought Ford. We might just have a chance of getting out of here alive.

       Commodore Ford stopped and let silence creep back into the room, as he finished telling about his fleet taking the Spartans back on and exiting the system.
       "So Heilos has been destroyed?" Dr. Wesson asked rhetorically.
       Ford didn't answer, knowing there was no need. He remained standing and gathered his thoughts.
       "What a waste," Pauline muttered.
       "How successful was the Spartans mission?" asked a previously silent civilian: Dr. Schneider.
       The Commodore turned to look at the three Spartans, and nodded towards Michael.
       The largest of the three Spartans stood and spoke, "As reported by Commodore Ford, our mission of drawing a large portion of the Covenant ground forces back into their own ship, and then destroying said Covenant ship was successful. We also managed to procure some pieces of Covenant technology.
       "We acquired a few of their weapons, some of which we have not had a chance to study in the past; we captured one the species known as 'Elites', complete with its armor, which was intact after the capture; we brought back a crate of Covenant cloaking devices, along with a few over-shield, combat armor power ups; and lastly, I escaped in a Covenant dropship, and Spartan-036 got out in a craft known as a 'Banshee'. Spartan-108 was on the exterior of the Covenant ship and detached from the ship's hull; if we had to jump, were had planned to make a HALO jump back to the surface, to make ourselves less noticeable. I picked her up with my acquired dropship."
       One of the ship commanders responded to the last bit. "Where is this Covenant dropship now?" asked Captain Williams.
       Michael cleared his throat, "We did not manage to bring the dropship back with us on our return. We did, however-"
       "And why not?" questioned Cynthia Pick, one of the scientists. She was probably the most striking of the female civilians of the project. The woman was fairly young, but her personality left much to be desired. Cynthia was a close friend of Pauline Wesson, and they shared the same general feelings about certain subjects.
       "My team and I made it to the extraction point and had loaded most of the crates, as well as the Elite, into the Owl, and had attached the captured Banshee as well, when two squadrons of enemy Banshees attacked us. I conjecture that they spotted us on our way down. We did receive attempted communications while still in the Covenant dropship."
       "So why didn't you fly out with the Covenant dropship?" pushed Dr. Pick.
       "We decided to use the ship as a lure to get the Banshees away from our position," Michael continued. "From what we had learnt from captured dropships in the past, we set the autopilot to fly the craft at top speed towards the city. The plan worked and the enemy Banshees quickly followed in pursuit. My team took advantage of the momentary distraction to escape, and return to the Hercules."
       Cynthia persisted, "You didn't even try to get the out dropship with you?"
       "It was unreasonable, ma'am, to try to get out with that many enemy air craft opposing us," answered Michael, calmly. "We might have made it out, but it would have been putting undue risk upon the lives of my team."
       Again Dr. Freeman interjected to stop his negatively-overzealous colleagues. "At least you brought back what you could, and made it back yourselves."
       "I would be interested to hear an account of the mission," commented Captain Raichur.
       Commodore Ford quickly scanned the faces in the room to see if the Spartan's account was wanted. The looks on most of the present parties' faces indicated that a mission account would be heard.
       "Spartan-096, please come up and present your mission report," Ford said.
       Michael pressed a few buttons on his chair's arm screen and walked forward to the podium. Morgan Ford stepped back and sat in one of the seats behind the single person ambo, as the male Spartan took his place.

(Author/Story Note: Some of you may have noticed that Staff Sergeant Smith is now Flight Officer Captain Smith. The change was made due to a corection by a commentor.
And by the way, any of you that need help in
Splinter Cell PT, the best advice I can give you right here is: Try, try again. Practice makes perfect. But if for some reason you want advice, I do have an email address, and the FFF [Fan Fiction Forum] is not for giving gaming advice to commentors.)