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Longsword R: Desperation, Part Four
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 16 December 2004, 7:39 PM


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Author's Note: I'm sorry for not getting this out sooner. My life has taken up much more of itself than I expected it to. I've just been hit with the flu, so I hope you'll excuse any drops in quality. Also, with the release of Halo 2, this plot is obviously not viable. I'm going to continue it anyway, ignoring things that I can work my way around, and fitting the actual Halo 2 plot in where I can. Cheers. And, Wu, I'm sorry if this is too big. I'll cut it if you want me too.




1035 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Cabin of E97D Eagle Eye airborne control center, Merlin

      "Range to target?"
      "Five-hundred kilometers, sir. Intercept in seventeen seconds." The mission commander glanced to his left.
      "Penny, slow us down. I don't want to run our heads clear up the Covies' butts once we get there."
      "Uh...yes, sir." the pilot said uncertainly. Lieutenant Adam "Tequila" Martinez, the mission commander, nodded his Mexican head in satisfaction. His relatively thick, jet-black hair was tousled, as usual. And not necessarily from being in the largest naval battle in Humanity's history. He fingered his bottle of liquor, which floated in the zero-g environment, and let a few more globes levitate out into easy reach of the straw that had stubbornly refused to move from the corner of his mouth, despite threats from superior officers.
      The E97D Eagle Eye airborne control center (ACC), on loan from the VS-98 Roughnecks, cruised low over the various craters on the moon effortlessly. Its crew was actually assigned to the Maverick, but regulations stated that, unless on a combat cruise, the E97D crewdogs were forced to undergo re-certification of their skills every two weeks. The Roughnecks didn't care. In fact, they craved their re-certification, due to the fact that it let them mostly relax for a week. Armstrong Base, located in a small, unnamed mountain range on the dark side of the moon for security reasons, was a virtual paradise compared to the Maverick's occasionally cramped spaces. It had bigger rooms, better tasting food, and was more relaxing overall.
      The re-certification trials weren't that hard; they went through drills from scrambling for an intercept to basic flight training. The most difficult task was the aerial intercept certification standard, AICS, which the crews jokingly referred to as "aches". It was a test that lasted twelve hours, and was absolute torture. They were forced to do an intercept with several dozen drone aircraft, with some representing Longswords, others representing Seraphs. They were armed with paint missiles and blank-loaded 110-millimeter cannons.
      In its entirety, AICS took them through an intercept on the Earth, in space, and on the moon. This particular crew was on its third hour, and was in the middle of the moon intercept when the Covies jumped out of slipspace. When the battle beyond the lunar perimeter occurred minutes ago, they had been ordered back out to see what had happened since all communications had been lost with Human ships in the area.
      Inside of a Longsword, a twelve-hour drill was enough to put most pilots to sleep or physically exhaust them. Not so with the Eagle Eye.
      The Eagle Eye was considered by its crew to be much less bulky and far more comfortable than the Longswords, and it was. It was about two thirds of the size of the interceptor, and had twice the room to move around, due to the fact that there were no VREJ missile launchers, and it didn't need the bulky PDE-22 Raptor engines. Instead, it used the smaller, more compact version of that monster: the PDE-F14. It had only two-thirds the power, but since the Eagle Eye carried four of them, and all of them were thrust-vectoring capable, the ACC was actually more maneuverable at low speeds than its fighter brethren.
      The only weapons system that the E97D carried was a tail-mounted, single barreled plasma cannon. The Merlin, however, hadn't been scheduled to get the cannon for another two weeks, and still had the standard-issue Browning 70-millimeter chain gun, a duplicate of the chain gun on the Pelican. It packed a punch with its HE rounds, but the DSO would have a hard time actually cutting through a Covie's shields. It wasn't supposed to be a fighter, after all. That was perfectly evident in the E97D's design.
      The Eagle Eye was actually closer to the Pelican in its airframe than it was to the Longsword. Many had mistaken it for an elongated Pelican with a chain gun on the tail. The only real differences came in the wings. The main set of wings was set slightly closer to the front, and lower, right behind the middle of the cockpit. It was swept forward instead of backward, which actually enhanced maneuverability by a magnitude, since air was pulled in towards the body and away from the wings. It resulted in a loss of stability, but stability was something the crewdogs were willing to sacrifice for agility.

      Martinez watched the balls of alcohol waver in the zero-g environment and sucked them in through the straw, right as the E97D swiveled its thrust vectoring nozzles around and braked. Adam's eyes bulged and he coughed violently; he'd accidentally inhaled some of the stuff. The pilot threw him a dirty look, as though the Lieutenant had somehow insulted his flying skill by coughing. The RIO glanced back at him but paid the action no heed. The DSO giggled uncontrollably.

      Adam Martinez had been known by many names, but his contacts had known him simply as El Diablo. Martinez, whose real name was Enrique Castillo, had previously been a smuggler, the leader of the powerful Esparza cartel. It was a large cartel, and a successful one at that. When his father, Ricardo, had been killed by a UNSC sweep into unknown areas to find the Covenant eight years earlier, he inherited control of the organization. His organization had trafficked in drugs, women, artifacts, vehicles, and military contraband. In short, it meant that he trafficked pretty much everything, so the rewards were great: plenty of money, women, and a well-trained, two-pronged paramilitary group that he called The Esparza Marauders...
      And tequila, plenty of it. More than enough, really. It was his only major vice. He didn't crave money, power, influence or women. All that mattered was the tequila.
      And it had nearly gotten him killed. There were members inside his own cartel that believed he wasn't competent enough, and had arranged to have him killed by a rival organization of mercenaries and smugglers operating out of the Eridanus system. The plan failed, however, when loyal men who were forced to be in the plot warned him. He escaped, and quickly crushed the leaders of the insurrection.
      Unfortunately, it tore his cartel neatly in two.
      The leaders had a good portion of the cartel behind them. Their plan was to kill Martinez and merge with the Eridanus organization. Naturally, they would retain their leadership in the new cartel, and they would be at least twice as strong as before. For them, it was a win-win situation.
      The cartel went to war against itself. Martinez was forced to run, so he went to the last place that his former friends would look for him: the UNSC Navy. He changed his name, wore hazelnut contacts (His eyes were actually green), dyed his hair (In reality, it was prematurely gray), and used a number of other methods to conceal his true identity. No doubt that his enemies had informants inside the armed forces.
      Though the suspected he had been a smuggler, nobody on board the E97D had any idea of whom he really was.
      The rest of the crew of the Merlin, however, were noticeably lower key. Anton "Dinero" Penny, the pilot, was a son of a Greek woman and an English father. He had excelled in sports all of his life, and got a sports scholarship to the United States Air Force academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He had graduated early, in order to support his family with military pay, in the mid-to-upper portion of his class, and been assigned to the Maverick on its shakedown cruise in the Gethsemane system. Well-built and friendly, with a hardworking attitude, Penny was liked by all of his fellow crewmates.
      Then there was Warrant Officer Jonathon Roy "Rabbit" Goodnight, a son of two New Yorkers, who had light brown hair and a light complexion; he was the radar intercept officer (RIO). His job was to monitor battles around the Eagle Eye on the min-holotank in front of him, vector Longswords into a fight, to a tanker; to their ship, planet, or whatever they needed to meet up with. He was a Southern Cal graduate, with honors. He tended to be quiet, but funny. Present, but not intrusive. The role of RIO fitted him like a well-made suit. His callsign came from the fact that he often brought carrots and other vegetable snacks to eat on AICS and on missions.

      Finally, there was Timothy "Heehee" Macabee, the Defensive Systems Operator, or DSO. He controlled the Eagle Eye's extensive electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite, the chaff and flare ejectors to decoy plasma missiles, and the "Stick": the lone, retractable, semi-active guided 70-millimeter chain gun that was housed in the Eagle Eye's tail. He was four inches below average height, had dark hair that refused to be anything other than artfully mussed, and dark brown eyes. He had a good sense of humor, and never was bothered when anyone made a crack about his height. As a matter of fact, he used his lower than average height, or "vertical challenge" as he called it, to his advantage. One of his most common taunts was "Oooh, you got dissed by a midget!"
      His call sign had been born of the fact that he tended to talk in non-stop sentences without comas or colons. And, if he had made a joke, he faked a high-pitched laugh.

      Despite the fact that they actually got along well with each other, the constant dirty looks that they threw each other and the seemingly random personalities caused the other members of the VS-98 Roughnecks to think of them as "dysfunctional".

      The Eagle Eye hopped over the lip of another crater, dropped below the horizon, then rose out of it, its PDE-F14s growling as they raced to the far side of the moon. Penny slowed the bird down considerably, and set it down in a shadow from the mountains far behind them. Less than thirty seconds later, after a few low-powered scans from the AN/APA-171 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) located in a bump on the bird's back, the Combination Infrared, Night Vision, and Electromagnetic Targeting pod (CINVET) swung upward and gazed out into space. The pod relayed the images it found to one of the Multi-function displays located just above Penny's right thigh.

      Nothing. But the ships were up there, or else Goodnight wouldn't have let the JSTARS direct the CINVET pod. Penny upped the magnification to its highest level. Bingo.

      Martinez and Penny found what they had been looking for on the MFD, a sight that succeeded in dislodging the straw from the corner of Martinez's mouth. Through the "greenhouse" canopy, far above them, were millions of pieces of floating debris, most of it Covenant. Shattered bits of Longsword Ls, Ss, and Seraphs were everywhere. Near the back of the debris field, they could see the frigate San Jacinto, its port side melted into and unrecognizable mess from a brush with death from a plasma torpedo.
      Martinez muttered a low, disbelieving expletive before he began to give orders. "Rabbit, are we getting any distress beacons?" Goodnight nodded.
      "Yes, sir. One from the San Jacinto, another one from the Lightning...the ones that aren't completely destroyed are transmitting, Tequila. Looks like honeycombing the hulls was a good idea after all." Martinez nodded.
      "Radar contacts?"
      Jonathon shook his head. "Aside from the debris, nothing, sir. I..." he trailed off as his equipment beeped. "Scratch that. Seven contacts, sir. Directly above us." He audibly gulped. "Profiles match standard Covenant fighter craft, sir. They're Seraphs." Martinez nodded and squinted his eyes. He could barely make them out through the debris high above them, just little moving dots on the background of stars. He bit his lip.
      "Why aren't they trying to finish the San Jacinto off?" he asked aloud. Martinez let another few balls of liquor levitate from his bottle despite a menacing glance from Penny; he sucked them in one by one and thought through possible scenarios.
      "They could be disabled," Macabee offered from the back. Jonathon sighed.
      "I wish. They're still moving up there."
      "Then why...?"
      "Dunno," the Warrant Officer responded slowly, his eyebrows knitting in concentration.
      "Uh...Rabbit, did you have the radar in sniff mode? We're not actively transmitting, are we?"
      Goodnight's only reply was, "Oh, boy..." as the Seraphs suddenly rotated and dove on the projection from the miniature holotank.




Tenth Cycle, 45 Units, (Covenant Battle Calendar) Cockpit of Covenant Seraph fighter

      Mikala 'Muramee allowed himself a small, predatory smile as his sensors picked up the Human craft far below him. It wasn't one of the Humans' fighters, but the Prophets and Ancients apparently wished that he should get this kill, and he wouldn't disappoint them. He grasped the twin sticks that controlled his ship and commanded his fighter into a dive towards the gray surface of the moon.

      The battle behind the moon had been suicide. Even worse, it had been a draw. Never before had such heresy been seen. The Humans were sentient, yes, but the Covenant, with the Prophets and Ancients on their side, should have been able to crush their enemy. Instead, the Humans had put a ferocious fight, like an animal cornered. Most of their ships were merely disabled as they used completely unexpected tactics. While he was dogfighting, 'Muramee had seen one Human ship close to point-blank range and fire one of its "Iron Fists". The three rounds that were fired decimated the Covenant destroyer's shields, smashed through to the other side, and slammed into another one of the Covenant ships. The second ship had dropped its shield to fire a plasma torpedo, and had been destroyed as a result.
      Their "Tendril" missiles had been changed, their "Blade" fighters upgraded with plasma cannons...had the Ancients betrayed the Covenant? Even upgraded, all of their fighters had been destroyed, but nine out of every ten Seraphs had been obliterated completely; the normal kill ratio was four Blades to every one Seraph lost. The change in figures was discouraging but hardly mattered; the war would be over soon, anyway.
      Though 'Muramee didn't know exactly how many of the Covenant's holy fighters were left in this group, there were at least several hundred. Estimates on the number of fighters on Human ships were unclear, but most said anything from thirty upward per ship.
      'Muramee had seen many friends die in this battle here, and the Humans were going to pay. Specifically, the ones inside of that craft.




1035 hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Cabin of E97D Eagle Eye airborne control center, Merlin

      "Sir, we've got to get moving; those Seraphs have got us on their scopes. We're toast if we hang out here much longer!" Goodnight began to get panicky. Martinez nodded.
      "Let's get moving Penny." Penny grasped the dual sticks that controlled the Eagle Eye like a twentieth century helicopter. The left stick controlled the angle of the PDE-F14s, and allowed the Eagle Eye to brake, hover, or jump up with surprising speed. There was a single, sliding button on the top, which controlled the throttle. The stick on the right operated normal flight controls such as pitch and roll. Penny controlled yaw with the pedals beneath his feet.
      Penny brought the E97D up off of the ground, rotated back towards Armstrong Base, and mashed the throttle forward as far as it would go.
      "Yes, sir!"
      "Macabee, get the Stick online! We're going to need it!" Macabee reacted instantaneously and immediately began flipping switches. The small but powerful AWG-9 attack radar concealed in the Eagle Eye's tail began to warm up. A pair of doors on the underside of the Eagle Eye's tail opened, and the 70-millimeter chain gun unstowed itself. The computer switched gears to defense mode as it switched Macabee's screen from standby and status to combat and targeting, which consisted of a feed from the Stick's camera with computer graphics superimposed on top of it. While not as complex as Goodnight's miniature holotank, the screen did a good job of showing bullet paths and aircraft positions.
      The system ran a quick diagnostic; all systems checked green.
      Macabee grasped the joystick located on the right of his console; the Stick could be guided by the AWG-9 radar, but Macabee preferred to go manual. The computer wasn't terribly good at anticipating which way enemies would slash in at from at their hypersonic speeds. He gave the joystick several experimental jerks. The Stick responded handily and without hesitation; it was ready to play. After a few deep breaths, so was Macabee.




      The Seraph was much faster than the E97D, and Goodnight knew, just by glancing at his scopes, that they would be dead if he didn't do something. It was going to overtake them before they could reach the mountains and get back to Armstrong. There had to be someway to stall this chase just long enough...and then it hit him.
      He activated his communications suite and began to get to work.
      "Armstrong, Armstrong, this is Sierra 352. We are being pursued by multiple Covenant fighters and are RTB. ETA is two minutes. Request that you warm up the Anacondas, and scramble fighters for escort." There was a moment before the reply came back.
      "Sierra 352, Armstrong. Negative, escort not possible at this time; fighters are being scrambled for base defense only. Anacondas are being armed. Please proceed to waypoint Victor, and await further orders." Jonathon just gawked. What did they mean it wasn't "possible at this time"? What a load of crap! Waypoint Victor was in the middle of the plain they were going to fly over in thirty seconds. If they stopped there, they would get blown to bits almost immediately. The only way to get back alive was to get fighter support. What else could they use to help them get past the Covenant? Nothing, there were no fighters coming to their rescue...
      Wait... Goodnight began keying instructions into his console, and hoped that he wouldn't lose his wings for this if they survived.




Tenth Cycle, 46 Units, (Covenant Battle Calendar) Cockpit of Covenant Seraph fighter

      The Human was playing it smart, which just frustrated 'Muramee further. The pilot of that craft had begun low and stayed low, forcing the Covenant to follow him through the veritable maze of craters and gullies. They were getting closer and closer to the mountains, and though the Humans would have to fly over the plain, it would only be for a few seconds at this speed. He might very well lose his prey if he didn't catch up and destroy it right now.
      He pushed forward on his left stick, which sent the sleek fighter into a steep climb. The Elite barely felt it; unlike the Humans' Blades, the Seraphs used gravitational fields to compensate for the extreme g-forces exerted on a pilot in combat. It was far more efficient than whatever the Humans used.
       He held its nose up for several seconds and then leveled out. 'Muramee was tired of playing this Human's game, and decided that he was going to break a few rules.
      The Elite activated his fighter's sensors, waited a few sweeps, and then shut it down. He didn't want to give his exact position to the Humans, not just yet. They gave a good return, and he found his target. It was making S-turns in the craters, and occasionally doubled back to throw its pursuit off. If it wanted to get back to the mountains so badly, why didn't he just meet it there?
      'Muramee grinned and gently stroked the stripe of smooth material that was the equivalent of a throttle, and tried to decide just how he wanted to take down his foe...




      Several plasma bolts cut in above and behind the Eagle Eye as Penny skidded it around another corner. They weren't going fast. Only the winding canyons between the craters had kept the alive and out of the Seraph's guns.
      Penny braked, and the PDE-F14s swiveled around to bring the aircraft to a dead stop in a narrow canyon between the walls of two craters. He stomped on the right rudder pedal, which spun the Eagle Eye clockwise until the ACC was facing the direction it had come from. He dropped the bird to just a few inches above the surface of the moon and held it there through judicious use of the thrust-vectoring engines.
The jet blast tore through the moon's thin atmosphere and created a giant, swirling dust cloud.
      A Seraph that had been tailing them closely rounded the corner and shot over their heads, right through the dust cloud. The Seraph's pilot emerged from the cloud obviously disoriented, because it slowed down and leveled out, unsure of where its pray had gone; a perfect target.
      Macabee squeezed the trigger, and the chain gun roared to life, barking out the 70-millimeter HE rounds. The rounds smashed into the Seraph's shields, making big explosions, but doing no real damage. It scared the pilot enough to make him jerk his controls out of surprise, however, because the Seraph snap rolled to the right...
      ...right into the canyon wall. The fighter's shields were knocked off line immediately, and the impact sent the alien craft bouncing around the walls like a racquetball. It continued its pinball-like ride in the moon's low gravity for several hundred meters until it finally plowed into the canyon floor and exploded in a ball of plasma and moon dust.
      Penny brought the Eagle Eye up, rotated her towards the mountains and slammed the throttle full on. The Eagle Eye shot out of the last of the craters and out onto the lunar plain. The battle for survival had now become a race. With any luck, the remaining Seraphs would be so disoriented that it would take several seconds for them to come back after the Eagle Eye.
      The tactic appeared to be working as they raced past waypoint victor and straight towards the entrance to the mountains...right up until a high-pitched squeal issued from Macabee's console, the lock-on warning.
      "Lock warning, twelve o'clock!" Macabee screamed as he sent his hands flying over his console. "Trackbreakers going active! Chaff, chaff!" Macabee yelled as he activated the ECM and punched chaff out of the compartment on the Eagle Eye's tail between the two PDE-F14s. It wasn't any use. The lock-warning continued to scream.




      'Muramee sat grinning predatorily in his cockpit; the tactic he employed had worked perfectly. The Human vermin had raced across the plain for the safety of the mountains, just as he had predicted. All he had done was race ahead of his prey and hover in front of the canyon he guessed the Humans would go for. He had been correct, they had gone for a canyon that had several large, sharp rocks that would have crushed any craft not navigating the canyon's entrance carefully.
      The plasma missiles launchers were standing by. 'Muramee chuckled to himself as he began to pull the trigger on the right-hand stick to fire the missiles...
      But was instead surprised as hismissile launch warning began warbling.
      'Muramee didn't hesitate; he slammed the left stick forward and slapped the throttle. The Seraph rocketed straight up, but the missile lock warning kept warbling. It was then that the Elite saw it, a quickly growing dot in the distance...above him! The missile had been launched from above him!
      He flipped his fighter onto its back and sent it into a steep corkscrewing dive in an attempt to shake the missile. No good, it kept right behind him, moving much faster than the Human's missiles normally moved. 'Muramee tapped a button on the left stick to begin a scan for his attacker. The Covenant craft's advanced sensors picked it up immediately, a high speed foe that was almost darting from position to position. It began a dive that would intersect the Seraph's flight path several hundred units from the surface, where it would either finish him off or ram him. The second choice looked like a genuine choice on his foe's part, especially since it was "coming down the ramp", using this moon's gravity to gain speed.
      'Muramee began to slam his fighter back and forth...still no good, he couldn't shake the missiles or his attacker.
      Then the pitch of the warble changed. Another missile had been launched. The Elite continued to maneuver and directed his fighter towards the mountains. Maybe he could shake these...these things in there.
      But it was no good. Just before he made it to the mountains, the attacker caught up with his fighter. It darted over him, far too quick for the Elite to shoot at. Strangely, it wasn't the normal Human fighter; this was a thin, compact machine, something that 'Muramee didn't recognize. Whatever it was, 'Muramee heard the warbling grow in intensity and knew that it had launched a third missile. He felt it impact against his shields, saw a ball of dark red explode around his fighter, and knew it was over.




1037hours, November 23, (Military Calendar) Cabin of E97D Eagle Eye airborne control center, Merlin

      "What the heck was that all about?" Penny asked, completely bewildered as to why their opponent had suddenly bugged out. He kept the Eagle Eye going as fast as he possibly could through the mountains, still desperately trying to get to Armstrong Base and the safety of the Anaconda umbrella.
      "Dunno," Macabee muttered loudly. "My jamming couldn't have done anything, could it?" Everyone knew the answer to that, and it was no. The jamming couldn't have possibly caused the Seraph to do that.
      Martinez glanced over his shoulder at Goodnight. "Did Armstrong send us some Longswords?" Goodnight simply shook his head and smiled. It took Martinez about four seconds to catch on.
      "Oh..."
      Goodnight's grin grew wider as he grabbed a carrot from the Ziploc bag under his seat and placed it in his mouth. He bounced his eyebrows up and down, leaned his chair backwards and said, "Ehhh, what's up, doc?"





      The ball of red continued to grow outside of 'Muramee's cockpit. Death surely awaited him...and awaited...and...what? The first thought that popped into 'Muramee's head was a rather strange one. Why haven't I died yet? the Elite asked no one silently. He opened his eyes. The ball of red had quit growing and had become static. Suddenly, the Seraph's computers yanked the fighter into a steep climb as the collision alarm went off. The Elite was puzzled for several seconds. Had the Ancients somehow intervened? Had they somehow stopped the explosion? He ran over the engagement in his mind...first had come the launch warning...then the second launch from above him...then finally the near-suicidal dive on him by that strange craft...
      That was far too small to contain a Human. A drone! He had been outmaneuvered by a drone! He fired his plasma missiles, which caused his shields to drop momentarily. The Elite watched as they vaporized a strange red liquid that had been clinging to his shields. As soon as the liquid disappeared and allowed him to see clearly, he almost wished that he wasn't able to. The computer had just managed to avoid smashing him at the tooth-like rocks near the canyon's entrance. Had the shield not momentarily dropped as he fired his missiles, the shield would have caught the edge of one of them and knocked his fighter out of the sky.
      'Muramee felt his rage growing. He was going to destroy his foe very surgically, once he got the shot.
      He pushed the throttle higher than he normally would have in the confined space. The Humans' path was not difficult to follow; they had stayed low, so their craft's engines pulled up a dust trail that obscured two thirds of the canyon. 'Muramee was slightly surprised; so far, they had played their game well. Were they laying a trap for him...?
      The question answered itself seconds later as the collision warning sounded in his ears. The safety system automatically pulled the Seraph up again, just in time to dodge a high ridge in the middle of the canyon.
      Clever, very clever indeed. Paradise would be very good to him if he killed these vermin.
      He pushed his Seraph to its highest speed and began rocking back and forth a bit in his seat, as if the momentum would help him catch up. He noticed something about the Human's trail: it didn't seem like a series of random dodges like their evasions in the craters had been. Their route had far fewer abrupt movements, and they seemed to be trying to reach something...
      The thought was still going in 'Muramee's head when he reached Armstrong base. It was set in a larger than normal crater, up against the wall the Muramee's right. The base itself didn't seem to be anything special. The front had no windows, it was camouflaged in a moon dust gray, and angled precisely to the point where it would have looked like a part of the crater. The only thing that seemed noticeable was that an overhang to the base's right had a large, hollowed out area that was under and ran just inside it.
      It took the Elite a moment to realize what had happened; the Human's had been racing for the safety of this place the whole time.
      Then he caught sight of his prey again. It was flying directly at the slit to the fašade's right. 'Muramee slowed his Seraph down and turned as tightly as he could, trying to get at least one volley of plasma cannon fire off before his prey disappeared inside the slit and was safe. His missile launch warning toned and then jumped pitch quickly; two missile launches. He ignored it as the Human's craft dropped within lethal distance of his plasma cannons. It was a drone again, just like be—
      The Elite's head slammed into the control panel in front of him as a large object slammed into, and brought down, his shields. He was too stunned to do anything, so a second later, the second PAC-93 Anaconda Surface to Air Missile smashed into his fighter and turned it into a cart wheeling ball of plasma.




      The PAC-93 Anacondas had been warmed up for several minutes before Sierra 352 arrived. As soon as the controllers at Armstrong received Sierra 352's distress call, the Anacondas emerged from their hiding places inside of rocks, or behind false pieces of the crater's walls. The one that downed 'Muramee was located at the entrance to the crater from the mountains. It had been a surprisingly easy shot.
      The Anacondas launchers, nicknamed "wishbones" by their operating crews because of their unique shape, were the UNSC's primary SAM system. They were accurate, tough to jam, and the missiles themselves were agile. The launcher set on a pedestal that could rotate 360 degrees, and the top part of the launcher, the "wishbone", carried eight missiles, stored in two separate polycarbonate "magazines", which could be rapidly reloaded by hand. The magazines were stationed parallel to each other at a height of ten feet from the ground and were rectangular. They could move independently of each other, in one dimension only; but one dimension was all that the Anaconda needed to spin around and launch missiles at an insane rate.
      Armstrong's radar detected more incoming bandits, right through the same entrance that the first Seraph had come through. The Anaconda operators readjusted their seats and readied their fingers above the COMMIT buttons...




Tenth Cycle, 50 units (Covenant Battle Calendar)/ Aboard damaged Covenant Flagship, Triumphant Serenity, in decimated Covenant battle formation, local Moon space.

      Fleet Master Quarell 'Sulamee cursed silently as his fighters dropped off the hologram from the status console. He keyed a hologram key, which allowed him to speak directly to a half commander. "Load every dropship we have left; leave enough on the ship only as a rear guard and whatever number is necessary to ensure that it does not fall from the sky. Launch whatever fighters this group has left."
      "The response was an immediate, "Yes, Excellency," from the half commander. "To what location shall I send the dropships?" 'Sulamee enlarged the hologram to show him the locations that his fighter's had gone down at. He zoomed in on the crater which had Armstrong Base and tapped it.
      "I want these filthy primates' base."





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