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Longsword R: Beginnings
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 1 June 2004, 5:21 PM

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In celebration of my one-year anniversary here at HBO, I've decided to completely redo my first series, Longsword. I'm also submitting it for the Enkidu competition. Wish me luck, and, as always, comments are welcome!

0932 hours, November 23, 2552 (Military Calendar)Aboard the cockpit of a Northrop Grumman C709 Longsword S Interceptor, Earth local space

      "Break port Swordsmen leader!" came a yell across Major Marcus Easley's COM. He slapped the stick to the left and hauled back on it, which sent his new Northrop Grumman C709 Longsword S interceptor onto its port side and avoided a pulse laser blast from the Covenant battle cruiser Duty and Death. It had jumped in system barely 10 minutes ago, along with four frigates and seven destroyers. They were the first Covenant craft to threaten Earth.
      He, his squadron and the Human Marathon class cruiser, Maverick, one of the last fifteen of such craft, were charged with taking the Cruiser down.
      Not the easiest task.
      He quickly swung his Longsword back into position behind the third of the Triple MAC rounds that had been fired from the Maverick. He was gunning for the huge plasma torpedo launching line along the Duty and Death's port side. The first two MAC rounds slammed into the ship's shields. The shields flickered once, twice, and then disappeared. The third round smashed into the Duty and Death's port side, and ground through her nose; the very infrastructure of the ship itself was exposed.
      At less than 500 meters, Marcus pulled the trigger and sent a steady stream of Falcon Mark I Plasma Cannon (F Mk I PC) bolts towards his target.
      Marcus was the leader of UNSC Naval Fighter Squadron VF-32, the Swordsmen, a fighter group from the 3rd Carrier Wing. It was one of the oldest squadrons in the UNSC Navy, of U.S. Navy descent. They were assigned to the new Marathon class cruiser-carrier, the Maverick.
      Marcus watched as his shots danced across the ship's plasma line and penetrated about a half foot. That meant that the Duty and Death couldn't launch any plasma torpedoes without the chance of an explosion due to energy buildup. Marcus barked: "Swordsmen One, fox one!" as he depressed the large button under his right thumb, which let fly two AMRRIM-24 (Advanced Medium Range Radar Intercept Missile) "Viper" missiles. The missiles, when fired without any radar signature lock, acted like rockets and shot straight forward. He pulled up and saw ambient light from the explosion flash behind him as he skimmed low over the Cruiser's hull.
       Out of his peripheral vision, he saw a second 'Sword with the words "McCall's Monster" stenciled on the side. "Stay close James; I want another crack at this thing," he said as he put his ship through its paces.
      "Roger, lead. Keep your head up. We got twin Covies intent on having us for lunch, over!" Swordsman Two commed as plasma bolts from a Seraph landed on the hull between them.
      "Copy," he replied as he screamed low over the ship's hull with Swordsmen Two tucked in tight behind him. "Brake on my mark; we'll let them overshoot us! Three, two, one; mark!" Marcus ordered. He hit a button on the throttle marked rvsthrst, and pulled back the throttle back. Immediately, small retro jets fired on the nose of his bird and chopped off a cool 50 MPH of his speed. Two followed suit, and the pair of Seraphs shot over them. Marcus focused his eyes on the port bandit, and it the Laser Eye Movement Recognition System (LEMRS, or "lemurs") in his helmet read where his eyes pointed, and achieved a radar lock for his Vipers.
      "Swordsmen One, fox-" Marcus began, but a trio of AIIM-22 (Advanced Infrared Interceptor Missile) "Diamondback" missiles slammed into the starboard Seraph and detonated. The Seraph's hulk slammed into its twin and they both ground into the Duty and Death. Marcus looked at his radar, essentially a three-dimensional cube with a grid to match; bandits were red, friendlies were green and mission specific targets were gold. He saw a green dot flying close behind he and Two, and found that Swordsmen Seven had made the shot.
      Grudgingly, he muttered, "Thanks, Seven."
      Seven either didn't notice the malice in the Major's voice, or didn't care as he haughtily responded, "Glad to help a lesser pilot, lead."
Marcus gritted his teeth in annoyance and arced back towards the Maverick in order to make another pass with Seven and Two with him.
      There was no need.
      The Maverick's hastily fitted four Triple MACs (Magnetic Accelerator Cannon) fired in tandem. Their twelve total rounds smashed through what was left of the Duty and Death and gutted her from fore to aft. She looked like Swiss cheese as secondary explosions crawled along her hull. Finally, something vital blew; the cruiser exploded in a gigantic, azure fireball.
      No Covenant drop ships had been seen launching out of her bays.
      "You know," came a female voice on Marcus's COM. "That would have been soooo much easier had the Big MACs been up."
      Marcus rolled his eyes.
      "Refrain from non-tactical comments on this channel, Four. And besides, we wouldn't even have to be off the Maverick if they were up."
      "Well then, have you got any clue why they're keeping the Super MACs that are already up on the dark side of Earth?"
      "Nope. Not a clue."
      All four Covenant frigates lay in ruins, thanks to the San Jacinto, and the Yorktown, a pair of Human Frigates. They, too, were armed with triple MACs; a pair, each. Several Human destroyers, namely the Thunderbolt and Lightning were responsible for the seven Covenant destroyer hulks floating lifelessly around Earth. They were twin craft, constructed with the same design and at the same time at the Reese and McCleese shipyards above Mars. For whatever reason, the UNSC had recently done an about face on their policy of honeycombing ships with titanium-A and hydraulic reinforcements. They had ordered all ships to be honeycombed with hydraulically operated Titanium emergency reinforcements about a month ago. Even as the battle was being fought moments ago, techs were busy upgrading the Maverick with them. The UNSC had also ordered several hybrid ships, a combination of Marathon class size and power, with a Halcyon's ruggedness and durability.
      After receiving landing clearance, Marcus guided towards the Maverick's starboard aft bay. Small ships flitted in and about the area. Marcus knew they were profiteer ships, ships that were controlled by civilians but were paid by the U.N. to attack Covenant ships. They varied in shape and size: some were pleasure yachts outfitted with a few leftover Archer missiles; others were bigger, such as corvettes, and some carried old, outdated fighters as pocket carriers. Though they weren't strictly bound by law to do so, most of them answered to the military chain of command. The Maverick had several dozen of the things under her control.

      As he passed along the length of the Maverick, he couldn't help but fall in awe of the ship's size and raw power.
      Second only to the Leviathan in terms of size, it was extremely deadly. One of the fastest ships in the fleet despite its bulk, the Maverick had the very latest in nuclear reactor technology to power her. Two small fusion reactors came on line to supercharge the main one. With a normal reactor, that would have immediately resulted in a meltdown. This reactor however, used a slurry of laser-induced ions chilled to near absolute zero to cool the system. In effect, the more juice Captain Reeves put into the thing, the more slurry he'd have to cool it, which made it possible for the reactor's overlapping magnetic fields to do their jobs, and spike the power to 350%.
      Offensively, it could give a Covie fleet a headache. Located on the top, starboard, port and undercarriage of her hull were the new and ludicrously powerful Triple MAC cannons that had been fitted to almost every capital ship left in the UNSC fleet. Those babies fired a special MAC round that had a special ferrous core and carbide tungsten shell. They splintered on impact, which wreaked havoc on a Covenant ship's shields and hull. As if that weren't enough, special magnetic field recyclers were able to recapture the energy field. Coupled with special booster capacitors, they could fire three successive rounds with one charge (As opposed to the normal one charge-one round from a standard MAC). For medium to long-range attack, there were the Spitfire missile pods, which had replaced the old, and almost ineffective Archer missiles. They had several times the punch and maneuverability. The pods were located on the upper aft of the ship, numbering twenty pods across and twenty down. Each pod held thirty missiles. That totaled 12,000 missiles. For some extra punch, the Maverick carried ten SHIVA tactical nuclear missiles and four HAVOK nuclear mines. Finally, the Maverick had eighty sixty-millimeter autocannons arrayed strategically to handle point defense against enemy fighters.
      Fighter wise, it held three squadrons, half of a full wing. Each had its own hangar; there was a squadron of support craft on board, namely Pelican dropships and E97D Eagle Eye airborne control centers onboard, and they were dispersed throughout the different bays. On average, a cruiser held around twelve docking bays, of which seven were devoted to the airborne control centers, fighter and/ or dropship squadrons and the five remaining ones were devoted to maintenance ships and the like. However, the Maverick had foregone five docking bays for Spitfire missile pods. That left the ship with around ten pods per bay for an additional three thousand missiles. Unfortunately, it stuffed the Roughnecks in with everybody else.
      Within the half-wing, Marcus himself was not the top-man on the totem pole. He was a squadron leader, granted, but was third in the half wing command. Along with the VF-32 Swordsmen, there was the VF-154 Black Knights and the VF-302 Stallions; the leaders of those squadrons were Lieutenant Commander Daphne and Major Haines, with the chain of command in the same order. The commander of the ninety-eighth support squadron, VS-98 Roughnecks, was Captain George Rwanda. With the exception of Rwanda, Marcus considered them to be complete idiots. They had a habit of giving he and his squadron the dangerous assignments to keep their butts out of the line of fire. Though, in some ways, it could be explained away tactically.
      The Swordsmen had the most experience out of any of the squadrons on the Maverick. During his fourth tour of duty with the Swordsmen, he had been second in command of the squadron. The group had been serving on the Maverick in the Gethsemane system. Hunter and James had also been serving. The leader of the squadron at that time, Colonel Michael Becker, had been killed when his Longsword L had slammed into the docking bay of a Covenant ship while attempting to deliver a SHIVA nuclear weapon. The resulting explosion hit something vital, and destroyed the ship. The other squadron mates had been killed by the notoriously accurate Covenant triple-A fire or by Seraphs. Marcus had inherited command of the squadron.

      Carefully, he lowered the electrically powered landing gear and guided his Longsword onto an automated landing pad inside bay three. He heard a chunk as magnetic strips on the pad connected with magnetic strops on his wheeled landing gear and secured his Longsword to the pad. The pad dropped his 'Sword down, cycled it through an airlock, and slowly dropped it down into the noisy Hangar Deck. The Hangar Deck was active as usual: mechanics, or "mechs" as most pilots called them, crawled over various Longswords and Pelican dropships and made repairs. Pilots made pre-flight checks, and ammunition stores were loaded onto the ships. Less than half of the Swordsmen had actually gotten airborne during the engagement. Sloppy. Haines or Daphne would surely drop a memo onto his desk for that.
      After taxiing to his 'Sword's parking spot, he unbuckled himself, did a quick post-flight check, popped the hatch and walked down the ramp. He nodded and smiled to his head mechanic, Archibald White, known to everybody as Archie. He spoke with a cockney accent, which made it somewhat hard to understand what he was saying. Archie returned the grin and said, "Ah, if it isn't my favorite squadron leader! So, did you get any more kills?"
      Marcus shook his head, no. He and his wingmate, along with Three through Six, had been assigned to go after the torpedo launcher. He'd had Seven and Eight fly cover for them, a decision he knew he would regret later. He stored his helmet in one of the 'Sword's storage lockers, popped the hatch and gave his interceptor the post-flight look over.
      He liked what he saw.
      The Longsword S was the newest model of interceptor and had all the new perks. For example, it was made of super strong, ultra-lightweight, self-repairing carbon-fiber composites. Any impact from small pieces of metal in space going at several thousand miles per hour could have destroyed first generation fighters; however, these composites could take tons of punishment. The carbon fibers occasionally cracked from stress though the extreme temperatures of space and the wing-warp effects, but quickly repaired itself, since repair fluid was continuously circulated throughout the body of the fighter in micro-capillaries. There was also a mixture of palladium, nickel, copper and phosphorus in the fibers that was, for lack of a better term, "squishy". A Longsword could take several thousand rounds of 110-millimeter ammo, and fifteen seconds later, the composite would kick the bullets out. Projectile weapons had proved useless on the later model 'Swords, and the next step was to make it invincible against energy based weapons. Unfortunately, all the Longswords had were energy refractive coatings of paint on its airframe, but Marcus had heard rumors that ONI was extremely interested in making the fighters practically invincible.
      Its design would make any twentieth century aviator shake his head in wonder. By twentieth century standards, the Longsword was a flying tennis court; all fighters up until it had been as small as possible. Another thing that would have puzzled past pilots, was the fact that the giant had VTOL capability. (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) The fighter could take off without a runway. However, the naval pilots used catapults ninety percent of the time to ensure that their bird didn't get hit by flying debris from their own ship.
      The body was basically a flying wing. Marcus believed that the Longsword's designers had gotten their inspiration from the B-2 Spirit, a stealth bomber that the United States Air Force had developed in the twentieth century. Over the years, tailless designs had proved to be easier to maintain and more maneuverable due to the lack of drag. To further reduce drag, there were no flaps on the plane. Nor, for that matter were there any elevators or stabilizers. Instead, they had been replaced by multipurpose control surfaces and a "Wing-warp" ability. Wing-warp was the ability of the Longsword S to change the shape of its wings in almost any way possible. Plus, there wasn't a single right angle on the fighter as well. Ninety-degree angles apparently reflected radar and sensors, which made any airplane with them easier to spot.
      However, the most exciting fact was that this model had four plasma cannons. All of the previous Longswords had had eight 110-millimeter rotary cannons. For all practical purposes, taking out an enemy Seraph fighter with those was all but impossible. The shells were too hard to aim in zero-g. They were also barely effective against a Seraph's shield. Ammo consumption was a problem as well. In studies, 92.5% of the rounds fired missed. Marcus had done the math. With approximately ten thousand rounds per Longsword, that amounted to about nine thousand, three hundred rounds that never connected. However, these four plasma cannons were found to be easier to aim; he could thunder easily through a Seraph's shield. He had ONI's reverse engineering of captured Covenant plasma rifles to thank for that advancement. Now if only the Longsword had a shield…Marcus shook his head.It's not the cards you're dealt, but how you play them, he thought to himself, ridding his mind of that beautiful shield.
      Another perk were the powerful new AMRRIM-24 "Viper" and AIIM-22 "Diamondback" missiles. As opposed to the now obsolete ASGM-10 missiles that had been in service for thirty years, these babies were lighter, smaller, smarter, more maneuverable, and carried twice the punch. The Longsword S carried forty such missiles, mounted internally with 20 on either side of the cockpit, just beyond the plasma cannons. When launched, they were punched out of one of two bays located on the 'Sword's belly at a force of 40 G's by a Vertical Ram Eject Launchers, (VREJs, pronounced "verges," for short), which was necessary to ensure the missile didn't get to close to the Longsword.
      His 'Sword could also carry other armaments. It could drop smart bombs, dumb bombs, bombs of average intelligence, or even a bag of rotten fruit if it was called for. Rockets and air to ground or anti-ship missiles weren't unexpected, either.
      The S model was also speed demon. It utilized a Boeing PDE-22 Raptor engine, which was based on pulse-detonation engine technology. A small amount of the gases used in a Capital ship's emergency thrusters and a nearly microscopic amount of jet fuel from onboard tanks were put into a several tubes and ignited thousands of times a second. The force was ridiculously powerful. In atmosphere, the turbofans on the front of the engines opened and let in air so that the Longsword didn't have to use onboard oxygen for its propulsion. Together, the two PDE-22's on Marcus's Longsword could propel the craft to Mach seven in atmosphere. The tech had first been explored in the early part of the millennium, and met with nearly instantaneous success. It also had thrust-vectoring capabilities, which meant that the engine nozzle could angle to forty-five degrees and jackknife his fighter through nearly impossible turns. Improvements had come in over 500 years, and they all culminated in this design.

      His 'Sword also had a personal touch. Directly under the cockpit on the port side, were the words," Easley's Eraser." To the right of that was a small cartoon of an elementary school eraser. It had arms, legs and a face with an infuriated expression and stood in a menacing pose. Above it in a dialogue bubble were the words, "I'll rub you out, see!?"
      On the "tail", which was a three-dimensional triangle turned on its side was the squadron's insignia, a large European, "knight" style sword with a jewel encrusted hilt.
      Marcus smiled in spite of himself; whatever Covie ship came into the system would get a nasty little surprise…
      "Nice one Marcus!" came a yell from across the bay. Marcus turned his head to look at his wingman and walked headlong into the wall. He had missed the door by three feet. He grunted with pain. "Do you mind James, not distracting me so that I don't end up with a flat side of my head?" Marcus snarled.
      "Aw, you're no fun!" James whined.
      Marcus faced his wingman.
      A full six inches shorter than he was, James McCall, Swordsmen Two, had olive skin and unruly black hair that would have, under normal circumstances, gotten him court marshaled. It was that wild. He also had a happy-go-lucky scatterbrained sense of humor, and an easygoing attitude that Marcus could only wonder how he maintained in view of the impending invasion.
      As he looked around, Marcus spotted the other Swordsmen emerging from their Longswords. To his left, he spotted the two female wing mates of the squadron, Samantha and ZoŽ. Samantha Matthews, Swordsmen Three, had a somewhat strong belief in military protocol, and wore her dark hair in a ponytail. Her dark eyes glittered with a spark that Marcus had seen in very few pilots. Her father was Commander Matthews, the captain of the UNSC Destroyer, Minotaur, which was obliterated by the newest type of Covenant flagship at Reach. Most pilots had nicknamed it a "Sniper".
      Marcus frowned; he pitied her. For a moment, he felt a pang of guilt. I've been fortunate; I haven't lost a loved one during this entire war…
      But then he glanced at ZoŽ. ZoŽ Park, Swordsmen Four, had dark blue eyes and long blonde hair; she looked like a movie actress. Beautiful, with a lovely personality. She was friendly and considerate…and yet so deadly. Her total kills numbered twelve.
      Then he spotted two of the last six Swordsmen, Hunter and Chase. Hunter Creighton, Swordsmen Six, wore his sandy-blonde hair in a flattop, and his blue eyes showed determination. His face had graced recruiting posters. Marcus liked him; he was a nice guy. Probably, along with James, his best friend in the squadron.
      Chase Warner, Swordsmen Five, Hunter's wingman, had bleach-blonde hair that looked as though a SHIVA had hit it. With Robin-egg eyes, he seemed like a heartthrob to many girls, including Samantha and ZoŽ…as Marcus thought about it, a wave of jealousy washed over him.
      Swordsmen Nine and Ten had emerged from their 'Swords and were making their way through other ships, techs, and various equipment.
      He looked to his right, and saw the final two swordsmen emerging from their Longswords; Steven and Austin. Marcus felt his expression darken.
      Steven Olive, Swordsmen Seven, was an annoyance to say the least. He acted superior to everybody except Austin, and Austin Tindol, Swordsmen Eight, wasn't any better. Together, they gloated over their superior number of kills, even though their numbers weren't over 20. Everybody else had around ten. They had both been a tremendous pain in the ass, even bigger than the Colonel and Major Hanes, ever since they had been transferred to his squadron. He didn't know why he had gotten them either, though he assumed that he had lost a bet that he couldn't remember.

      "Anybody up for some coffee?" ZoŽ asked, her hair sashayed from side to side as she walked Marcus and through the door.
      "Sure," Marcus said. "I'm game."