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Longsword R: Desperation, Part Three
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 27 July 2004, 1:57 AM

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Tenth Cycle, 43 units (Covenant Battle Calendar)/ Aboard damaged Covenant Flagship, Triumphant Serenity, in decimated Covenant battle formation, local Earth space.

      Fleet Master Quarell 'Sulamee opened his eyes and wished almost immediately that he had kept them closed. The bridge was in ruins. Lighting had gone completely out in some parts of the room. Consoles were smashed, sparks flew from fried electronics, and the battle display alternated between snowy and plain static as the projector tried to show the condition of the fleet. How had he even ended up here? A sharp pain sliced through his head as he remembered.
      The Imperceptible Truth had rammed into the Triumphant Serenity's shields, downed them, and then detonated in a spectacular nuclear fireball. 'Sulamee had been thrown against the wall when the collision occurred and had blacked out when the nuclear weapon inside the Assassin class ship had exploded.
      Despite the pain in his neck, 'Sulamee looked over his chest. Both 'Paraknulee and the Major Prophet had been killed. Though he wasn't conscious enough to fully appreciate it, he did note that 'Paraknulee's face held a look of horror that would have looked completely normal on a young one. He glanced at his feet and realized something was wrong.
      A glow strip was right by his feet. His head painfully collapsed back to its original position as he realized what else had happened. The artificial gravity had gotten knocked out. He was lying on the ceiling. Little balls of blood floated around the room like planets without a system. The sight was almost unbearable. As a flagship, the Triumphant Serenity was one of the most powerful ships in the Covenant fleet. A single trick from the Humans had almost destroyed it.
      Though the pain was staggering, he managed to kick off of the ceiling towards the status console, which displayed a relatively clear hologram. 'Sulamee grunted as he caught the edge of the console with his hands. It felt like his arm was being torn out of its socket. He maneuvered himself into position in front of the hologram and called up a general status report.
      The hologram shifted itself and brought up a new box. It showed a cutaway of the flagship, which was bathed in warning colors; nearly every single unit of the ship was in danger of a hull breach. The ones that weren't had either been melted or had sustained only slightly less serious damage. It didn't surprise him when he looked at the weapons station report. All but one of the plasma cannons had been disabled; turret six was the only one left. Engines could run at thirty percent power, no more. As if to add insult to injury, he could only jump to slipspace once...and it was doubtful that he'd end up where he wanted, at that.
      'Sulamee gave the equivalent of a sigh and called up fleet status.
      Every single ship that had been within a ten kilometer radius had been completely obliterated. Fifty-six more ships, the most powerful ones in his fleet that he had held back for a final, crushing blow had been destroyed as the nuclear weapons had turned the Imperceptible Truth into a giant Human grenade. The ships that hadn't been destroyed completely had sustained heavy damage; when the weapons detonated, they had literally shattered the Assassin class vessel and turned every remaining piece of it into a hypersonic missile.
       At last, the gravity of the situation hit him. Another fifty-six ships gone, gravity gone, engines at thirty percent, and one turret operational.
      With resignation that caused every muscle in his body to go limp, he realized that he had been defeated.
      He had lost.

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

      "Captain, I want to congratulate you," Admiral Hood's face grinned from its position above the holotank. The first of two admirals for the Human fleet became giddy. "That was a stroke of pure genius. I can't believe it...another fifty-six ships out of the fight...you, sir, have made our job a lot easier."
      Captain GŁnter Reeves felt his face flush. He was unaccustomed to being talked to in such a beaming tone. "Sir, I just did my duty," he stated simply, though he did feel a certain amount of pride. He had just rendered a Covenant flagship ineffective and taken down an additional nine percent of the opposing fleet without losing so much as a chip of paint from his ship.
      Before he had ordered the Mule class tug Motherload to use its electromagnetic couplers to swing the Covenant ship around the Earth and back towards the Covenant flagship, he had thrown caution into the wind and fired another four of his Fury nukes into the conquered vessel. The result had been more than he had hoped for.
      The Admiral waved him off. "Duty nothing, Captain. Mark my words: you're getting a medal for this one. History books will adore you for years to come. If you get lucky and we finish off these jokers, there might even be a movie deal—" but the Captain cut him off. It felt good to receive praise, but Reeves knew that he couldn't let his ego get ahead of his brain.
      "With all do respect, sir, might it be a good idea to win this battle before we talk about movies?"
      The admiral laughed. "Fine, fine. That always was your style, wasn't it, Captain? You're as sharp as a knife, but refuse to take credit for everything you do. Well, whatever suits you, I suppose. Anyway, there's also been a change of plans." Hood's grin became even broader. "Due to your tactics, I think we can now take them head on. If need be, we can regroup to Rally Point Alpha and let the Big MACs tear them to pieces. Good luck, Reeves" Hood saluted and GŁnter promptly returned it.
      Reeves sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his dark hair. So they were going to take the Covenant head on, were they? Admittedly, they did have a better chance now than they did ten minutes ago. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling that it was going to be disastrous...
      Hayes broke through the fog in the Captain's mind. "Sir! We're receiving orders to move out of Earth's shadow from Admiral Hood; he wants us in this defensive formation, sir." The holotank changed again to show the formation: it had the Human ships move out of Earth's shadow and set up in a long, thin line. A blinking point in space showed the Maverick's designated hold point. It was right in Earth's gravity well.
      That got Reeves' attention. It was formation triple Charlie, more commonly known as "formation: oh, crap." It was considered to be nearly suicidal. Essentially, if the admiral didn't change his mind, they would be arranged in a honeycomb-like formation, spread out lengthwise as far as they could be to do justice to the term "defensive line". It would be like in the American Civil War; they would line up and shoot at each other from close range. To add to the admiral's apparent insanity, they were fighting in Earth's gravity well. There was almost no maneuvering room in that formation, and ships close to the planet wouldn't be able to move at all. As Reeves examined the graphic closer, he realized that with the exception of two Marathon class cruisers, the admiral had ordered most of the cruisers close in to Earth's gravity well, which left the frigates and destroyers to handle the flank. What on Earth was the admiral thinking?
      Wait...Civil War...something about it nagged him and he didn't know what. Why was he thinking about the American Civil War? Was there some battle similar to this? He dismissed it from his mind. Thinking about battles nearly seven hundred years old wouldn't help...would it?
      "All right, then; move us to our designated spot as fast as we can. Keep our fighters here for any dropships or trooopships they might launch. We can't let any get through."
      Multiple answers of "aye, sir" reached his ears and he tried to relax.

Tenth Cycle, 45 units (Covenant Battle Calendar)/ Aboard damaged Covenant flagship, Triumphant Serenity, in decimated Covenant battle formation, local Earth space.

      422 ships left. Only 422 ships out of 756 had survived. There had been only one kill to show for it. The Human fleet had remained untouched while the Covenant's mighty fleet had nearly been reduced to scrap! 'Sulamee roared in frustration as anger he'd been bearing since the first shot of this accursed battle boiled over. He'd had it with these filthy primates; he activated what few communications equipment the Triumphant Serenity had left. "All ships attack! Take as many of them down as you can! We still have a chance to redeem ourselves to the Holy Ones and Prophets; use any means necessary to land forces on their pitiful planet!"
      He let his clawed hand off of the communications hologram and assessed his tactical situation. The Humans were stringing themselves out and away from the planet what were they planning?
      That debris field...something didn't feel right about that. It had to be another trap. He hit the communications key again and ordered the frontline ships to vaporize the field before they came any closer to the Humans' lines. Was there anything else they could have thought of?
      Of course. The flanking attack from the beginning of the battle. Had all of the Human ships torn through the formation? He racked his brain for the answer. Everything had happened so fast...
      No. Half of them had retreated behind this planet's moon. The Fleet Master recalled ten destroyers from the main group's flank. They had a job to do with him.
      'Sulamee brought the flagship back around and pushed the engines as far as they would go. Warning klaxons screamed immediately, but the Fleet Master ignored them.
      The Triumphant Serenity crawled around the Humans' moon with the ten destroyers. In the moon's shadow, 'Sulamee could barely make out the Human vessels. He took a quick count; seven of the Humans' weaker types of F-IV were there, along with five of their stronger ships, to which the Prophets had given the designation D-VI.
      Normally, he wouldn't have considered the F-IVs a threat, but the Humans had made a dangerous advancement in their weaponry. The intelligence that 'Sulamee had been given had indicated that Human fleet had been reduced to nothing, and that their weapons, the "Iron Fists" would only be able to fire one shot at a time, the "Tendril Missiles" would be ineffective, and their pitiful "Blade" fighters would be no match for the Seraphs. He should have expected a swift and easy victory over the animals. However, the Humans had rebuilt surprisingly quickly, and had twice the force of their estimated size. Unfortunately, they had also advanced their Iron Fists, changed their Tendril Missiles, and upgraded their Blade fighters with plasma cannons. It was a direct affront to the gods.
      Despite the fact that he and his destroyers were outnumbered, they didn't need to completely destroy the Human ships, only whittle down their numbers.
      He called up the battle display and tapped one of the Humans' D-VIs, which had turned to slam the closest Covenant destroyer with its two Iron Fists. It was covered by a shimmering, light blue triangle a second later. The triangle wavered and quickly solidified as the Triumphant Serenity's sensors locked onto the vermin's craft. He brought the communications window back up and pressed the holo-key. "Weapons, Bridge."
      "A target selection has been made. Fire turret number six as soon as it warms up." Instantly, a small schematic of turret six appeared on the display, and he watched as it slowly turned gold due to the damage to the ship.
      "Bridge, Weapons," the communications window spoke back. "Turret number six is charged and awaiting your order to fire, Excellency." 'Sulamee nodded and maintained as dignified as pose as he could with his pain. He took one last deep breath, and then: