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Longsword R: Desperation, Part Five
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 31 March 2005, 11:46 PM

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1033 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Bridge of the UNSC Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick

      "Yes, sir. It was confirmed less than thirty seconds ago by a report from Armstrong. Twelve destroyers and frigates, dead in the water above the dark side of the moon." The captain of the UNSC cruiser-carrier Maverick nodded his head slowly.
      Another twelve human ships gone. They weren't destroyed, but were now combat ineffective. The captain looked at the tactical display again: the UNSC was spread out in a thin defensive line...almost like something about the American Civil War...
      What was bugging him about that war? Captain Gunter Reeves swore silently and tried to figure out a method to Admiral Hood's untold plan. But something kept distracting the captain; the formation itself. Something kept pulling at him from the recesses of his memory...had he seen this formation from somewhere before? One memory kept pulling at him in particular: the American Civil War. But what...?
      He shook his head to clear his mind. Thinking about a war nearly seven-hundred years old wasn't going to help win this battle. Staying on the ball would.
      "Sir," Lieutenant Hayes, the Maverick's communication officer said just loudly enough to get his attention. "We're receiving firing times and locations from the Bunker Hill's AI." Reeves nodded. The Bunker Hill was Admiral Hood's flagship, a Marathon-class cruiser, like the Maverick. It was five years older, had only three triple MACs, and still hadn't received the titanium honeycombed hull upgrade that was now standard on all UNSC ships, something that Reeves thought was strange for an admiral. He would've expected Hood to make sure that the Bunker Hill had the upgrade as soon as it was available. Perhaps there was some politicking going on behind the scenes. Perhaps not. Reeves knew that he could not possibly know what went on at the highest levels of command, especially if ONI was somehow involved.
      "Upload it to the holotank, Lieutenant," the captain ordered. Hayes nodded and tapped some instructions into her console. The holotank shimmered and quickly formed itself into a picture of the UNSC defensive line. Each ship had a box next to it containing countdown timers relative to the number of triple MACs on each ship. Eagle, the Maverick's AI, enlarged it and displayed it for the captain. Four countdown timers in that box alone, one for each of the triple MACs on the Maverick. The smallest countdown was at a 1:15, with each of the following increased by five seconds.
      Reeves nodded his head. He still didn't understand Admiral Hood's plan. Was it feint? A way to draw the Covenant in close before the fell back to rally point alpha and let the Super MACs pound the crap of them? For Reeves knew, there was no plan. The Covenant still had over four-hundred ships left, and most of them were burning their way through the debris field that the UNSC had left as a trap, hoping that the Covenant wouldn't be able to spot the dozen HAVOK nuclear mines hidden there until it was too late. The Covenant, however, obviously weren't taking any chances. So far, only one or two had gone off, and they had failed to destroy any Covenant ships.
      "Uh-oh," Eagle muttered to himself. He added a new group to the tactical assessment on the holotank; the Covenant had just launched hundreds of fighters, dropships, and boarding craft. They began to move quickly towards the UNSC defensive line. "Captain, it looks like they aren't going to risk any more of their big ships..."
      Reeves readjusted his standard-issue hat so that it sat more firmly on his head and took a few deep breaths. He watched on the holotank as the head of the Covenant formation broke through the debris field. The captain nodded and muttered to himself, "That's right...come and get us."

1033 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Cockpit of Major Marcus Easley's Northrop-Grumman Longsword S Interceptor, Earth local space.

      When the Major glanced at his radar in the upper right corner of his vision, he nearly wet himself. What greeted his eyes was the biggest...blob, for lack of a better term, that he had ever seen on a radar return. He activated his radio; "Swordsmen, report by flight!"
      Each fighter squadron on the Maverick was broken down into different flights, or teams of fighters, which were further broken down into wingmen. This allowed each different squadron to have a group of six flights of five.
      Had he not been scared out of his wits by the huge formation of Covenant craft, he would have said something about the reporting being in order of flights. Unfortunately, the tactical channel was flooded with reports from the different flight leaders all at the same time, making the tac channel into a complete mess.
      "Break, break!" he called angrily after he realized his mistake. The channel quickly quieted down. "Two flight, report first!"
      Steven Olive, Swordsman Seven and the leader of flight two, quickly spoke up, his normally obnoxious tone anxious and scared. "Lead, this is Seven. We lost Austin to one of the stealth Seraphs at the beginning of the fight. I've got some engine trouble, sir; my starboard Raptor might've caught some of the debris from Eight's bird, but otherwise, I'm okay. No other faults on Nine through Eleven." The remaining four flights reported in, all combat ready.
      Marcus keyed his radio again. "One flight, report status by ship."
      James kept his report to a simple, curt, "Two," signifying that there were no problems with his fighter. Next was Zo‘ Park.
      "Lead, I have a slight fault in my targeting system. I'm recycling now, and if that doesn't work, I'll reset. Otherwise, I'm fit to fight, sir."
      Marcus nodded as he brought his fighter around to face the incoming swarm of Seraphs and Phantoms. He removed his chin from the radio switch, allowing him to communicate to his fighter rather than the others, and spoke into the helmet's microphone. "Lock-up closest bandit." Immediately, the Longsword's computers bracketed a single target among of the wall of purple coming at him. It was hard for the computer to make a good identification at this range, especially with the radar clutter added by the other ships in that monstrous formation. The computer was only ninety-five percent sure that the target was a Seraph.
      "Time to intercept?" the Major queried. "Thirty seconds," the computer responded in its trademark, flat tone of voice. Marcus squinted at his radar again. The Covies never charged in a swarm like this...they were always so orderly. Were they planning something different...?
      Marcus had one suspicion, but he knew it was highly unlikely.
      Or was it?
      He gave a final command: "Slave target to CINVET; Zoom". The Combination Infrared Night Vision Electromagnetic Targeting pod (CINVET) located on the chin of the Major's Longsword swiveled around, locked on to the target, and zoomed in. Marcus glanced at the Multi-Function Display above his right knee, which confirmed what he had guessed.
      They had no clear chain of command.
      Seraphs and other boarding craft were racing to be the first to crash into the UNSC's defensive line. Even while Marcus was watching, he saw the fighter his CINVET was locked onto accidentally bump into a Phantom, causing both of the craft to spin out of control and explode as they rammed into their comrades.
      He grinned inside his helmet.
      This was going to be sweet.
      He placed his chin back on the radio switch; "All right, guys, the Covies are coming in fast and unorganized. Stay in your flights, watch your wingman's tail, and let's get to it! Form up behind One Flight, lock one up, and fire on my mark."
      "Two Flight here, understood."
      "Three Flight, roger."
      "Four Flight's ready, sir."
      "Roger, sir. Five Flight is forming up."
      "Lead, Six Flight is standing by."
      The Major let Two through Five form up on him and checked his radar; the rest of Swordsman were grouping up as he had commanded. He started to slowly pull the throttle backward so that he and the rest of the Swordsman could pull around and get behind the Covenant more quickly after the first pass. He pulled his chin off the radio switch.
      "Missile select: Vipers. Radar, lock up closest bandit," the Major ordered, and the computer instantly complied, boxing the closest craft—a Seraph—in a red lock-on box. The speakers inside the Major's helmet gave off the high-pitched tone of a good radar lock.
      He quickly queried the computer about intercept time—ten seconds—before putting his chin back on the radio switch. "Swordsman Leader has sweet lock, launch in five...four...three...two...one..."
      "Mark!" the Major yelled as he smashed down the largest button on the top of his joystick. Instantly, the starboard VREJ missile launcher slammed a single AMRRIM-24 "Viper" missile out of the starboard weapon bay.
      The radar guided missile leapt away from the Major's bird, and went straight for its intended target, followed a split second later by the missiles from the other Swordsmen.
      The target Seraph dodged—as did twenty-nine other craft around it—in an attempt to shake the incoming missile.
      The Major's plan had its hoped for result as the Covenant craft slammed into each other at tremendous speeds, creating a domino effect as the craft that slammed into each other in turn slammed into other craft, and those that were fortunate enough, managed to dodge away, but were separated from their groups. Dozens of fireballs erupted while the Swordsman shot through the newly formed, gaping hole, as some unluckier Covenant craft were obliterated by blunt force.
      That wasn't to say that it was completely safe for the 'Swords and their pilots. "Holy crap!" one of them screamed as a fireball detonated a little too closely.
      The entire squadron of human fighters shot through the thin Covie line without as much as a scratch. The Major kicked his fighter onto its right wing, applied a small amount of brake to get an extra edge in the turn, and brought his fighter back around.
      It appeared that Christmas had come early for the Swordsmen; none of the Covenant were thinking. Most of them continued to race for line of UNSC ships. The anti-aircraft guns on the Human craft leapt to life, filling the void with hundreds of rounds of HE material. Some Covenant stupidly held back, apparently hoping to break out of the pandemonium.
      As soon as Marcus saw one drop back, he spoke into the radio, "Swordsmen, clear to engage all bandits. Fire at will!"

      "How're they holding up, Eagle?"
      "No further losses, sir. A total of fifty-seven kills now recorded among our Longswords squadrons, thirty-two going to the Swordsmen."
      "Good. Now, how close are those ships?"
      "Thirty seconds until firing time, sir. Fifteen seconds until they reach maximum effective Triple MAC range."
      "Excellent," Captain Reeves said as he turned to the Weapons Officer, Sakura Konoko. "Lieutenant?" She nodded.
      "Triple MACs one and three are fully charged. Two and four will attain full charge in ten seconds." Reeves nodded.
      "Fire when they hit zero."
      "Aye, sir."
      Reeves sat down in his chair, trying to do the action not so heavily and failing. He was surprised at how much his legs hurt; he must have locked his knees up tight for the past ten minutes. He took his cap off and ran a hand through his dark hair. It came away feeling extremely salty. The Captain looked down at his uniform, and wasn't exactly surprised to see that it was soaked with sweat.
      He looked at the holo tank, which was displaying the countdown timer, watching it in an almost bored fashion as the adrenaline from the earlier phase of the battle began to wear off. He put the cap back on and vaguely wondered about the Fury launcher that had mysteriously appeared on his ship; something just didn't feel right about it, but what? He had received no warning, no notification of an upgrade, not even a simple note from the admiralty. Odd, very odd indeed.
      Was he just imagining things? No, there had to be something else...but what?
      He glanced at the countdown timer: ten seconds were left.
      That was when all hell broke loose.