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Longsword R: Desperation, Part Two
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 24 June 2004, 12:14 AM

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1032 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Cockpit of Major Marcus Easley's Northrop-Grumman Longsword S Interceptor, Earth local space

      Major Marcus Easley kicked his Longsword S Interceptor onto its starboard side and rolled to keep his enemy in his sights. It had dropped its active camo and brought up its shields once the Major had bracketed it with a few shots. It knew it couldn't hide any longer. A computer-generated female voice screamed at him in his helmet to warn him of a collision with the Maverick's hull. "WARNING!" it screeched. "COLLISION! COLLISION!" it continued, but he paid no heed. This feature of the Longsword S got annoying sometimes; it typically only pointed out the obvious, such as the plasma bolts that sliced in above him ("WARNING: BANDIT, SIX O'CLOCK!"); one of the new kinds of Seraphs was on his tail.
      The Major momentarily abandoned his pursuit and began evasive maneuvers as he jinked his fighter up and to the right. At the same time, his thumb found a two-directional switch on his throttle. He clicked it to the right; instantly, a compartment on his Longsword's tail snapped open and ejected a bundle of chaff.
      Chaff was originally invented in the middle of the 20th century to confuse radar. Chaff was just metal cut into slivers of different lengths, depending on what kind of radar the pilot wanted to fool. During the war with the Covenant, however, pilots had found a new use for it. They used it disrupt whatever sensors the Seraphs had, and, at the same time, used them to neutralize plasma missiles. It didn't always work, but the pilots were glad to use anything to keep from becoming just a loose collection of molecules.
      The teardrop followed the Major precisely, but ran straight into the chaff in the process. The plasma vaporized the chaff and coalesced into an oddly beautiful, blue fireball.
      Marcus resumed his pursuit while ignoring the Seraph on his tail. His target rolled and dove below the Maverick's starboard side. The Major followed closely as he inverted, dove and shot out from under the ship with the stealth Seraph still on his tail. In his mind's eye, he could see the Marathon-class cruiser's sixty-millimeter autocannons rotate to track his foe. He could see the flash as they fired and bullets slammed into their target. It disintegrated as the high explosive rounds chewed through it, and it disappeared from the radar.
      By this point, every Longsword on the Maverick had launched. Twenty-nine Swordsmen, Black Knights, and thirty Stallions had caused the dogfight to go nuts. Plasma missiles were flying everywhere, as were Vipers and Diamondbacks.
      The Major goosed the throttle forward and continued his pursuit. He watched through thermal imaging as the funnel graphic that the Longsword used as a gun sight slithered on his HUD and centered the Seraph in its maw.
       The gun sight was practically flawless. Unlike the pipper-based tech of the past few centuries, this sight displayed exactly where the bullets would go. It accomplished this by bending and twisting the far end to show any drop in altitude or change in direction. The pipper on the other hand, could only show where the bullets were initially going. Pippers couldn't accurately detail bullet drop or help develop a shooting lead nearly as well. Plus, the funnel-shaped sight knew whether it was in space or in the atmosphere.
      The helmet's speakers whistled the high-pitched "shoot cue" that told pilots when they couldn't miss. He grinned as he pulled the trigger under his right-hand forefinger, and the Falcon Mk I plasma cannon spat deadly energy at his foe. The plasma bolts splashed on the Seraph's shield, and it flickered once, twice, and died. It was open for destruction, just begging to be blown to bits. He focused his eyes on the Covenant fighter; the LEMRS targeting system boxed it in, and a small diamond maneuvered and finally settled on the Covenant craft as it gained a solid lock. The speakers in the Major's helmet sounded the lower tone of a clean lock. He depressed the large button under his thumb and sent an AIIM-22 Diamondback missile towards the bandit.
      The Seraph's pilot was smart. The pilot pulled a high-speed immelman, a half loop and a roll maneuver that pointed the stealth Seraph back at the Major. The missile overshot. Marcus winced. The missile was a valuable weapon, and one had been wasted.
      Or rather, it almost had. The Diamondback retained their lock on the heat of the Seraph's engines thanks to the Longsword's telemetry communication with it, and it changed course and came back around. The stealth Seraph was picking up speed, however, and would outlast the missile of Marcus didn't do something about it. Easley saw the snake-like sight slip around the enemy fighter and he fired the Longsword's plasma cannons. He pulled the trigger down lightly, which unleashed a deluge of plasma bolts that wouldn't have come from a full trigger press. The Falcon Mark I plasma cannon was sensitive to how hard the pilot pressed the trigger. A light press would throw out hundreds of lower-powered bolts that would do no serious damage, but it sure as heck looked intimidating. Pulling on the trigger harder would slow the rate of fire and increase the power of the bolts as more gas and air were allowed to become plasma for a split second longer.
      A hit was unlikely at distance to the target, the Longsword's speed, and the inaccuracy of the plasma cannons in rapid fire mode, but it would give the enemy pause and force him to slow down to avoid the damaging bolts. If he held the Seraph back just long enough...
      Bingo. The Diamondback caught up with the stealth Seraph. The pilot of the craft realized what was coming and jinked the fighter. The Diamondback missed by a mere meter.
      And detonated. Its proximity sensors had set itself off. The Seraph became a comet of plasma and escaping gases with a tail of glowing metal. "Splash my bandit!" the Major yelled. That had been the final stealth Seraph. All of the threats around the Maverick had been neutralized. With the exception of, Marcus thought as he glanced out of the cockpit, that capital ship.

1032 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Bridge of the UNSC Cruiser-Carrier, Maverick

      The third and final Triple MAC round ripped through space towards the Covenant Assassin ship. The ship's shields had been shattered by another round only moments before. The third round tore into the smooth lines of the Maverick's foe, precisely at the ship precisely amidships on the port side. Reeves held his breath. For the first time in his life, he prayed that a Covenant ship would hold together.
      The MAC round penetrated deep into the Assassin's armor...and didn't exit out the other side. Reeves felt relief flood through his body. Second Lieutenant Sakura turned around in her chair to face him, her expression confused.
      "If you don't mind my asking, sir, why didn't we destroy it outright?"
      "Well," Reeves grinned. "If you'll notice that they aren't moving, that their weapons have lost power, and that hole is rapidly venting atmosphere..."
      "And I think it's high time we make use of our newest armament. Launch one of our Fury nukes into that giant hole." Sakura's brow creased in confusion.
      "Sir, that's totally unnecessary. It's dead."
      "Who said we were going to kill it here? Set it for remote detonation." Sakura shook her head in confusion, but followed the order.
      Deep in docking bay six, the Fury launcher rotated on its pedestal. The launching device looked like a revolver. It had a long barrel, seven chambers for a Fury, and the slots rotated when if fired. It propelled the Furies by using a magnetic acceleration system similar to a MAC gun, which was the entire reason for the barrel. A circular magazine that would not have looked very out of place on a Tommy Gun sat upon the launcher; it held the nukes and dropped them in, one at a time, into the chambers. The launcher rotated along its X-axis and adjusted its aim. A small computer ran numbers for launch speed, the Maverick's motion, and targets velocity. There was a chunk as the chamber rotated, and a whine as the magnets powered up and an over-inflated football shaped nuclear device sped away from the Maverick.
       "Hayes," the Captain said as he turned to his Communications Officer. "Do we have any tugs near us?" If anything, Hayes was just as confused as Sakura.
      "Yes, sir, a Mule class named Motherload. But why—"
      "You'll see."
      "Sir, I don't get—" Hayes stopped as her console beeped. She spoke without turning from the screen. "Sir, it's Admiral Hood."
      "Put him on."
      The Admiral's face wavered into existence above the main holotank. He looked confused and clearly a little bit angry. "Captain." he began. "Why the devil didn't you finish it?" Reeves smiled and told the Admiral his plan.
      As soon as Reeves finished, Hood smiled as well.

Tenth Cycle, 40 units (Covenant Battle Calendar)/ Aboard Covenant Flagship, Triumphant Serenity, in Covenant battle formation, local Earth space.

      Fleet Master Quarell 'Sulamee stood on the bridge of the Covenant Flagship named Triumphant Serenity. To his right stood a Major Prophet, its body heavily swathed in robes. Its headpiece was broad, tall, and ornate, comprised mainly of metal set with amber panels and gem insets. It had a serpentine neck, a triangular head, and two forest green eyes, which danced with malevolent intelligence. It wore a blue outer robe, and dark gold under robe, and it sat on an antigrav throne, which suspended his body one full unit off the deck. The throne was massive in bulk and silver colored. Though the thrones were rumored to contain weaponry, 'Sulamee didn't really believe it did.
      However, he wouldn't put it past the Prophets to equip themselves with a surprise or two in case of an assassination attempt.
      Further to his right stood the Prophet's assistant, a lower-rank Elite named Ikro 'Paraknulee. The assistant stood at attention, as though evaluating 'Sulamee. His eyes narrowed as another three Covenant frigates disappeared from the battle display, which hung in the air before them. The ships had managed to survive the Humans nuclear devices, but had given way as hull and radiation damage had taken its toll. 'Paraknulee gave a sound that was somewhere between a sigh of frustration and vexation, and a growl of malice.
      'Paraknulee was, quite frankly, a thorn in 'Sulamee's side. The lower ranking Elite assumed a haughty air, and carried himself as if he were a Prophet. He also acted as though he were in command of the fleet. The Prophet itself rarely spoke. 'Sulamee privately felt that it never needed to. 'Paraknulee seemed to be privy to the Exalted One's thoughts and whims.
      "Fleet Master, you disappoint the holy one. We have casualties in excess of half this force. You have only a single kill to show for it, and this fleet only has 481 ships left? Quite disappointing, Fleet Master." 'Sulamee grimaced as a soft tone was issued from the battle display. Blast. Two more frigates and a destroyer had folded. An image in the corner of the display showed the destroyer as secondary explosions chained along her length.
      The Human vermin had been much more organized than 'Sulamee had expected. Ever since the destruction of the Unyielding Hierophant, 'Sulamee had seen surprise after surprise. The Fleet Master who should have led this assault had been killed in the explosion, which elevated him, a Force Master at the time, to Fleet Master. Also destroyed had been many of the Fleet's best ships. Any ships that the High Council and Prophet of High Truth were willing to expend had been sent to the point of the cataclysm of the Unyielding Hierophant, along with another mobile command center, Clairvoyant's Decree, which was waiting in a nearby system...but the ships sent were mostly inferior. As a result, he was here with a fleet that was barely up to par with the original from the Unyielding Hierophant.
       The entire Human attack had only lasted about thirty seconds, far too short for 'Sulamee to counter. . All of the ships had been forced to use their pulse lasers instead of plasma torpedoes. Firing the Covenant ships main weapons would have transformed their formation into a situation that, loosely translated into the Humans' rough, barbaric tongue, would have translated into "hellfire".
      In many ways, this large force was a handicap. After all, the largest or strongest combatant didn't always win. A smaller foe could duck beneath and avoid blows, all the while wearing down the larger foe. 'Sulamee was confident that he would have been better used as a Force Master, one who commanded a smaller fleet. The debris field in front of the planet also presented an obstacle. He would have his ships burn through that...Despite the difficulties, he had been put in charge of this assault, and he would do his best, even with the Prophet and 'Paraknulee constantly interrupting his thoughts.
      'Sulamee rigidly brought a finger down on the holograph key which opened a communications channel with the ships in his charge. He spoke quickly. "Carriers, move in close to the Human world and launch fighters and dropships. Use the fighters as a screen for the dropships. Land as many as possible on the planet. destroyers and frigates, escort the carriers in all the way. Cruisers, you are to engage the Humans ships and keep them from the others. Troopships: wait until the pathway has been cleared for you, and then unload. If any frigate, destroyer, or cruiser becomes too damaged to continue the fight, drop to the surface." He then marked several ships, a selection of carriers, frigates, destroyers and cruisers to escort the flagship, approximately fifty more vessels. 'Sulamee planned to use them in a final, crushing stroke to the Human fleet.
      'Paraknulee clicked his mandibles, apparently satisfied. "Very good, Fleet Master," he muttered. "Perhaps we could have gotten a Grunt or a Jackal to command this fleet equally well. However, I do believe our supply of Grunts and Jackals suitable for commanding a fleet is small. I must admit, I am impressed." 'Sulamee felt every muscle in his body strain; it took all of his willpower to keep from strangling the Prophet's assistant. Who was he to mock 'Sulamee? Could he even identify a single ship? "And what exactly has become of the Imperceptible Truth?" 'Sulamee grimaced. Again with the questions?
      He had sent a new Assassin class ship, the Imperceptible Truth ahead with the scout group. The group's assignment had been to observe the Human defenses and report back so that 'Sulamee could find a weak spot. They had ventured too far in system and had been destroyed. 'Sulamee knew that the rest of the group had been destroyed, and so he had launched the attack anyway, but he didn't know if the Imperceptible Truth was more than a few atoms floating in space.
      The battle display issued another beep. 'Sulamee almost groaned. What know? Had a carrier simultaneously combusted? Or perhaps a destroyer had rammed into the planet's moon? He glanced at the display, fully expecting to see another casualty report along with a picture. 'Sulamee did a double take.
      "What in the Prophets' name?" he whispered. 'Paraknulee cleared his throat.
      "Pardon, Fleet Master?"
      'Sulamee scanned the readout again to make sure that he hadn't misread it. Well, if nothing else comes from this, at least 'Paraknulee will shut up, he thought. He enlarged the hologram of the Covenant ships advancing towards Earth to a poster-size and pointed to a rapidly enlarging ship on the display. "Excellency, you will be pleased to notice that the Imperceptible Truth is rapidly approaching. Its shipmaster will have information about any other tricks the dirty primates have remaining." 'Sulamee felt a surge of satisfaction at 'Paraknulee's stunned expression. 'Sulamee quickly keyed the ships in formation around the flagship.
      "Let the Imperceptible Truth into the center of our formation for maximum protection. We must glean all information on any deceptions the vermin have concocted." 'Sulamee smiled and kept the camera on track as the Imperceptible Truth approached. He sent a communication to the shipmaster, but received no response. Perhaps the electro-magnetic pulse from the Humans' nuclear weapons had knocked out communications.
      Two cruisers slid aside to allow the Assassin-class vessel into the center of the formation. 'Sulamee was puzzled when he saw no glow from the ship's engines reflected on the hulls of the various ships hanging in this area of space. Nervousness began to claw at him. He thought about it for a moment and realized he was just being paranoid; the engines of a stealth craft wouldn't give any glow.
      The Imperceptible Truth glided smoothly, straight towards the Triumphant Serenity. For whatever reason, doubt still bit at him. 'Sulamee exhaled deeply, and increased the magnification on the ship, just to ease his fears and reassure himself.
      What he saw turned his blood to ice. There was an enormous hole in the Imperceptible Truth's port side, right where the bridge should have been. There was no way that the craft could be moving under its own power, yet it was less than three kilometers away and headed right towards them...and it wasn't changing course. They would collide within seconds. 'Sulamee slammed the intership communications console with his fist. He screamed at it, "Shields, all full forward! Turrets, fire! Destroy the Imperceptible Truth before—" but it was too late. The Imperceptible Truth smashed into the Triumphant Serenity's shields. 'Sulamee was thrown violently into the wall in front of him as the floor under his feet jumped. Alarms sounded and lights flashed. Damage reports flowed in from all over the ship.
      Stars exploded in front of his eyes. His whole body felt numb and strange to him. 'Sulamee felt a warm liquid run down his snout and it flowed into his mouth. He tasted blood. Out of the corner of his eye, 'Sulamee could still see the battle display. From his position on the floor, he watched as a miniature sun appeared inside the hole in the Imperceptible Truth.
      Then, everything went black.