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Longsword R: Rally Point Alpha
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 6 June 2004, 10:17 PM

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0954 hours, November 23,(Military Calendar)Deck Seven of the UNSC Marathon class Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick, in orbit above Earth

      The door out of the hangar deck opened into the corridor. The pilots of the VF-32 Swordsmen walked out into the hall in the direction of the pilots' bar, known affectionately as "Afterburner." Marcus, Swordsmen One, could hear voices behind him and he tried to get the group to pick up its pace. Swordsmen Seven and Eight were close behind the group and everybody wanted to avoid them. No doubt they would rub in the fact that they had gotten some more aerial kills while nobody else had.
      Marcus heard one of the two yell, "Hey, where are you going? Don't tell me our glorious leader hasn't gotten anymore kills!"
      Marcus hunched his shoulders and tried to pretend like he hadn't heard them. He made a good thirty yards before he felt a hand land on his shoulder and an annoying, familiar face appeared beside his head.
      It was Seven, Steven. "Guess how many I got today?" he said, grinning obnoxiously. Without waiting for an answer he said, "Dos. That's two for me, none for you."
      Marcus, more than irritated by this time, rounded on him and spoke through gritted teeth. "Well hotshot, in case you didn't notice, while you were playing Top Gun up there, the rest of us were taking down a Cruiser."
      "Oh, I noticed; all it means to me is that you still don't have another tear victory marker on the side of your 'Sword!"
      Marcus almost continued the hostile conversation, but they had been walking the whole time, and had reached Afterburner.
      The doors opened and the Swordsmen walked, or in the case of Seven and Eight, swaggered into the room. Afterburner was made as a place where off-duty personnel could get food when mess wasn't in session. It was nice, even though it was more of a bar than a mess hall. It was made with all of the crew in mind and had soft, red carpeting. The walls were brass coated and reflective, and had lights with shades sitting half inside of the wall, which gave the room the same amount of light, as they would've gotten at dusk back planetside. The tables were set in booths, and all of them had a vid screen for placing orders, to provide a peaceful view of the stars or a selection of movies that could be played while eating a meal. Gentle Jazz Muzak flowed out of speakers on the side of the vid screens. Ultimately, Afterburner produced a dim, relaxed atmosphere.
      Each branch of the crew onboard had its own name for the room. Afterburner was the pilots' name for it. The Navy called it "After Shift," on account of it was where most of the Navy personnel went there after their shift at their stations. The Marines and Security teams called it the "Dugout."
      Marcus hoped that the smallest booth was available so that Abbott and Costello would have to find their own booth; they were draining his reserves of patience even faster than usual. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the squadron, it was already taken by a couple of security team members chatting merrily over mugs of Coors about the new MA7B Battle Rifle, which had just become standard issue about a month ago.
      The Swordsmen took the booth in the corner, which was the largest; it could hold all eight of them. Marcus typed an order for a cup of Java and a turkey sandwich into the screen then watched as everybody placed his or hers. He leaned back in his chair and sighed.
      The resident braggarts resumed the conversation from before. Marcus tried to tune them out and listened in on the debate between Swordsmen Five, Six, Three and Four. Two was too busy miming throwing up behind Seven and Eight to debate. Marcus suppressed a grin and joined in.
      "...Look, I just don't see the cause for worry. The Big MACs will be up by the end of the day, remember?" That was ZoŽ, Four.
      "Well, all I'm saying is that I don't trust the two technologies. Granted they have both been tested in combat before, and both have performed well. The triple MACs, as we have seen today, are obviously effective; I have no problem with them. I'm not so thrilled with the Super MACs. They did make a difference at Reach..."
      The name of the planet sparked a memory in Marcus. ONI had kept Reach's destruction hidden for nearly three weeks. The news had gotten through when some pirates made a stop in the system to make a hit on a luxury liner that was scheduled to have been passing there. They were ambushed and almost killed. They jumped directly back to Earth, in violation of the Cole Protocol, and told anybody who would listen that Reach had been destroyed.
"...albeit a rather small one once everything was said and done. After all, they helped eliminated an estimated a two hundred plus Covenant ships. Still, the Covenant were able to get down planet side and destroy the fusion generators powering the Super MACs. They can't be depended upon."
      "Wildcat," Chase said as he referred to Samantha by her call sign. "You're getting worked up over nothing here."

      "No, I'm being a realist, Corsair," Samantha said as the returned the favor and called Chase by his call sign. Her voice turned defensive. "Like it or not, each Big MAC is going to be the size of at least a Marathon class Cruiser. Can the Covenant miss a target that big? The Covenant even slagged some of the Super MACs in orbit at Reach, and they were the size of Destroyers. All that saved the remaining ones from plasma torps were the R&R stations that took the shot for them. Granted, the Big MACs will be three times as effective as the old Super MACs, seeing as how it can fire three shots and still recharge and reload in five seconds. The fact remains that the generators are vulnerable. Cripple those and it's over."
      Marcus joined in: "Like it or not Wildcat, those things might be our only hope for survival. Besides, unlike the fusion reactors on Reach, those things our spread all over Earth. I've heard rumors that one is even located inside Mount McKinley. They'll be hard to locate and destroy. Even then, there are the probably backup generators."
      "What is this, Eviscerator? International call sign week? I'm just pointing out that they can't be depended upon."
      By this time, Steven and Austin had noticed that nobody was listening to them, so they put in their two cents. Marcus felt his eyes glaze over and ZoŽ suddenly became interested in the star field on the vid screen; Seven and Eights' comments mainly consisted of how the Big MACs would be great, but wouldn't be needed since they were flying.
      The squadron was saved from more torture as their orders arrived. The debate changed topics and slowed, but didn't die as each of the squadron members talked between bites.
      "And what about this small battle group they just sent?" Samantha asked. "Why this small?"
      Hunter, who had remained silent until that point spoke unexpectedly. "Well, from what we know, the Covies are going for the jugular. They've bypassed most of the Inner Colonies, like Holdout. Let's face it; if they take out Earth, it's over. As for the size of this dinky little incursion they threw our way, I think it was just a probe. A test of our defenses..."
      Hunter's analysis fueled the debate, and it grew even hotter. However, after ten minutes, Marcus had gotten tired of the argument. It had degenerated into a putdown parade. People were calling one-another by their call signs instead of names. He sighed as he took a sip of coffee; it was bitter. Very bitter. He almost spit it back out.
      "You know what puzzles me?" he asked no one in particular. "The fact that perhaps the most powerful ship in Human history can destroy dozens of Covie craft, yet can't make coffee that's any better tasting than fresh tar."
      James and Chase overhead his remark and chuckled. Marcus set the cup down on the table and swirled it thoughtfully. He caught his own reflection in the glass surface of the table.
      His blonde hair was cut at standard issue length. Ice blue eyes betrayed sparks of friendliness and intelligence. Except for Hunter, he stood taller than the other members of the squadron. With a medium build to boot, he thought he was handsome, but not a knockout.
      His eyes wandered towards the vid screen. He allowed the slowly spinning star field there to mesmerize him...they were so vivid, not at all like they were on the ground. Thousands upon thousands of them. Marcus thought of the colonies that had wiped out by the Covenant and felt a melancholy mood was over him. Most never had a chance...
      Wait...what the? The Major blinked his eyes rapidly and stared intensely at the screen. Did he just see...
      Yes, he had.
      He downed the remainder of his coffee in one swift gulp, coughed, and then shoved his way out of the booth.
      "What's the hurry, Boss?" James asked, surprised at the Major's abruptness. Marcus pointed at the vid screen. James directed his eyes to it.
      "See the little dots?" Marcus asked. His heart was beginning to pump faster.
      "Yeah, boss. They're called stars if I remember correctly."
      "Looks closer. See any green on that field? Just off the center?" Marcus questioned his wingman impatiently. James squinted his eyes and then opened them wide.
      "What're tho-"
      "Slipspace entry points. A lot of them. That means that another Covie battle group is intent on wiping us out. And, based on the raw number of dots, I'd estimate over three hundred ships." James's eyes bugged out. The group scrambled out of their seats just as the loudspeakers in the ship began blaring, "General quarters, man you station! General quarters, man your station!"
      Marcus and the group bolted for hangar deck and their birds.

1024 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar)Bridge of the UNSC Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick

      Captain GŁnter Reeves stood in a parade rest on the bridge of the UNSC Marathon class Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick. He wore the standard uniform and the standard issue hat. He had a black mustache that had several streaks of silver in it. His steel-frost green eyes stared at the Maverick's A.I. His expression was dead set and serious. He was in a no-nonsense mood. Though he was of German descent, his voice carried no accent, only deep concern.
      "You're positive, Eagle?" he asked the construct.
      "One-hundred percent positive, sir." Eagle had chosen the form of a twentieth century Navy pilot. His carried his helmet under his left arm. Logic symbols streamed across it constantly. His "hair" was strawberry-blonde and he stood tall due to the advanced holotank on the bridge. His attitude could occasionally be gung-ho; but now, there was no excitement in his voice; only cold, tactical assessment.
      "There are precisely seven hundred and fifty six Covenant ships of varying classes that have entered the system in-between Mars and Earth."
      "Great." A seven to one kill ratio. No way the Humans were going to win this. The Captain stroked his mustache. "Any ships of noted interest?"
      "Can you clarify, sir?"
      "Ships outside of known Covenant designs or at least unusual ones?"
      "Yes, sir; there's one of these," Eagle said as several images swam into focus above the holotank. Eagle enlarged them, extruded them into three dimensions, and showed them in turn beside him. Each image was of a Covenant ship, all of the same design.
      " We do know this design though, sir. It appears to be a flagship. From this range, it appears as it has a number of plasma turrets. Seven, from what I can tell. If I had to guess, those turrets are immensely powerful. One shot from those..." he let the sentence trail off.
      The Captain sighed. "Really great. How's re-supply coming?"
      "We've got the maximum number of MAC rounds and Spitfires, sir. All fighters are operational and our squadrons are scrambling. We also have the regulation amounts of HAVOK nuclear mines, and SHIVA nuclear missiles. That's about-" Eagle stopped in mid-sentence.
      Reeves's expression immediately became concerned. "What's wrong?"
      Eagle appeared surprised, but quickly regained his composure and smiled. "Sir, it appears we have a new addition to our armaments."
      Reeves was puzzled. "Explain," he commanded.
      "Well, sir, I presume you are familiar with Fury tactical nukes?"
      "The closest thing we've got to a nuclear grenade. They're only the size of an over-inflated football. Why do you ask?"
      "In docking bay five, a port side bay and one of the ones we ended up forgoing so that we could in stall more Spitfires, is a machine that will launch Fury nukes at an enemy ship at the speed of a MAC round. I can already imagine the effects...set the timers for ten seconds, fire off a bay's worth of Spitfires into a middle of a Covie formation...follow that up with a three round burst from the launcher..."
      Reeves returned the grin. "How many Furies have we got?"
      "Twenty, sir." The Captain let out a long, low whistle.
      "Any clue as to how we got this thing?"
      Eagle frowned. "No, sir. The only ships that entered the Maverick were standard Laden class supply numbers. Nothing unusual. I wonder if-" Eagle was interrupted as Lieutenant Hayes, the Maverick's Communication officer suddenly yelled, "Sir, incoming transmission from Admiral Hood! It's on alpha priority. You want me to patch it through, sir?" Reeves nodded. The pictures of the Covenant flagships faded, and were replaced by Admiral Hood's face. He was impeccably groomed, as usual. Not a single strand of his silver hair was out of place. However, dark, purple circles of fatigue hung under his eyes. Despite his obvious weariness, he was grinning like a small boy who had a bug that he was going to shove in a girl's face. It was a simile that seemed inappropriate Captain Reeves.
      "Lieutenant Hayes," Reeves commanded. "Get a recording program working on this now. Also, pipe it through to every room on this ship; audio only." The Lieutenant nodded and began to type keys furiously.
      "Okay, boys and girls," the Admiral spoke. "This is it. Our remaining one hundred and fifty ships will be divided between myself and Admiral Stanforth." Hood's name appeared above the holotank next to his image. "The name you're receiving will be your commander for this fight. Now then," he continued. "The plan." The image above the holotank resolved into a map of Earth local space. It was large, and even included the moon. "We have a sallied force of twenty five ships, Destroyers and Frigates, hidden in the moon's shadow. Once the Covenant passes by them, they will make a hit and run attack on the Covenant flank. Half of them will duck back behind the moon; the others will retreat through the debris field located here." A good portion of the map directly in front of Earth became cubed in red.
      "Inside of that field are a dozen HAVOK nuclear mines. The Covenant will follow them and then-" the Admiral formed his right hand into a fist and slammed it into his open left palm. "Bam. We've got 'em. Before the flanking attack, though, all other ships will rendezvous at rally point alpha. We'll hide there and wait for the explosion. If that fails, we'll still be able to protect the Big and Super MACs. Good luck, and good hunting."
      Hood's image snapped away from the holotank. A very big, slimy, gross and disgusting bug, indeed, Reeves though to himself.

1022 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Hangar Bay Four of the UNSC Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick

Marcus sprinted to his Northrop-Grumman Longsword S Interceptor. The hangar deck was the perfect picture of pandemonium. Mechs scrambled over the planes as they made last minute repairs and re-arming on multiple ships. People ran into, over, and in a few cases slid under other people as they dashed to get their fighter or to their station. Almost everyone wore ear mufflers to dull the roar of the Longswords' pulse detonation engines as they started up.
      Marcus was out of breath as he sprinted the last twenty feet to the waiting ramp of his Longsword; Archie wore sound mufflers and ducked below the wing of the ship as he guided a hydraulic arm on a cart that held a rack of five Diamondbacks up into the 'Sword's port weapon bay. The Major noted, with some dismay, that his bird had four ASM-54 Copperhead missiles hanging off of its external hard points, two on each side. It meant that he and his squadron were expected to make ship attack runs like last time. Last time hadn't been nearly as bad, however, due to the fact that they had only been told to go after the plasma torpedo launcher. The Anti-Ship-Missile-54 Copperheads meant that they were expected to bring down the whole shebang. At least the rest of the bird looked good.

      "How is she?" Marcus yelled as he sprinted past.
      Archie replied with a thumbs up without looking at the Major. Marcus ran up the ramp and into his bird. He slapped the close button for the ramp and it crawled upward with a hydraulic hiss. His ears popped as the 'Sword began to pressurize. The Major opened the storage locker and retrieved his helmet. It was a real piece of work.
      The helmet was black with blood-red claw marks that crossed in an "X" shape above his call sign, which was also painted in red, dead center on the front of it. It read: Eviscerator. Marcus had designed the scheme personally. The helmet was quite probably the most important piece of equipment on the fighter. It contained the Heads Up Display (HUD), which displayed his altitude; weapons load outs and selection, attitude; and contained the LEMRS target acquisition system. The faceplate was made out of bulletproof glass that had the ability to polarize to prevent glare from any light sources.
      He all but shoved the helmet down on his head and he scrambled into the pilot's seat. He pulled the latch strap up from below the chair and methodically inserted the two pairs of side-belts and shoulder belts into it; this was a ritual the Major was confident that he could have done in his sleep. The seat automatically reclined to a forty-five degree angle as he did so; lying down at the angle gave him the same amount of visibility, and helped to control g-forces exerted on his body. He connected the air hose from the bottom of the chair into his helmet, and felt air flow over his face.
      The Longsword carried a pressurized cabin, but the pilots wore their helmets in the event that the hull was compromised and decompression occured.
      The HUD booted up and performed a quick systems check. All of the systems showed green, so Marcus fired up the PDEs on his 'Sword. The bird's hull shook as though it were eager to fight. Marcus glanced down out of the cockpit and saw Archie pull away the nose chocks, which held the fighter's front wheels in place. The head mech gave Marcus another thumbs up and grinned.
      The 'Sword nosed forward and Marcus pushed his foot down on the right rudder pedal, which rotated his plane into the main thoroughfare. He found himself behind two other 'Swords as they quickly taxied towards the five landing pads. He was third in line, so he ended up stopping on the center pad. He slowed his engine down to idle, and felt the fighter jerk to a halt as the magnetic strips on the landing pads connected with those on his landing gear.
      The Major flipped on his radio over to the ship wide band. Someone thoughtful had begun to pump music over the COM. It was completely un-regulation, and the person who did it was almost certain to have his rank busted, but Marcus liked it. It was some sort of ancient music, over five hundred years old; he recognized it as a sound called "disco". He did, however snap it off when the lyrics blasted, "This is it! You got your back to a corner!" Easley then turned on music of his own, an ancient song called "Iron Man."
      Pilots whooped battle cries, curses and challenges (Often littered with profanities). The Major, however, didn't offer any of his own. Instead, he let the other pilots' remarks pump himself up.
      The bird shook again, and the floor fell away from him. The pads raised him and five other Longswords up into the fighter launch bay. It was a small space, only 20 meters tall, but it held the Longswords and gave them plenty of room to land. He clicked his COM on again to air traffic control. Thick, battle plate doors in front of him parted and revealed Earth's north pole and a sea of stars. Marcus couldn't see any Covenant, but that didn't mean that they weren't there. They were probably behind the Maverick.
      "Control, this is Swordsmen One; I am on 'cat number three. Request launch clearance." Without waiting for conformation, he began to rev the fighter's pulse detonation engines. They didn't make a noise in the vacuum, but it vibrated everything.
      "Clearance denied, Swordsmen One," called back the voice of Joseph Saldanna, the air traffic controller or "air boss". "All squadrons are to wait until we reach rally point alpha to launch."
      "Control, there are sure to be mucho bandits out there. I can't do anything in here about them. Let me launch."
      "I'm sorry, Major, but these orders come straight from the Captain."

1027 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Bridge of the UNSC Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick

      At rally point alpha, the Big MACs were being constructed. There were over ten in production, and they were absolute monoliths of destruction. There were still Super MACs, around thirty, and they were going to be upgraded to Big MACs soon. The Maverick orbited relative to the Big MAC closest to completion; it was actually larger than the Marathon class Cruiser-Carrier.
      Captain Reeves looked at it with critical eyes. It was really humanity's only hope for survival.
      "Lieutenant Hayes," he ordered. "Launch one of our Clarion spy drones. I want to get a good look at this." The Lieutenant in charge of communications nodded and typed commands into her console and then glanced back at Captain Reeves.
      "Aye, sir; Clarion drone away. It'll be out of Earth's shadow in approximately five seconds."
      "Good. Put up the view on the main holotank." The air above the holotank wavered and resolved itself into a static-pocked picture of the Covenant battle group that was approaching close to the moon.
      "Here we go," Reeves muttered. As soon as the large force of seven hundred plus capital ships had passed the moon, some more capital ships appeared. However, there was one small difference: they were Human controlled.