Posted By: Winters<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 26 December 2004, 6:18 AM
Prologue: Shot Heard round the World
February 3, 2525
UNSC space, just several thousand kilometers from Harvest
"What is it, ensign?"
"S-sir. You should come look at this! It's nothing, I mean NOTHING we've ever seen before!"
Well, now this certainly piqued Captain Edward Wellings' curiosity. Last he had heard, there wasn't supposed to be anything of interest in this sector.
"Wilkens. Tell me what's going on."
The young man hesitated for a moment.
"Uhh, I'm not sure how to explain this sir."
Captain Wellings leaned forward to get a closer look at the crewman. Jesus, these kids just get younger every day.
"By all means. Just put in the most blunt term possible then."
"Sensors just picked up an unidentified ship sir! Aliens!"
Captain Wellings was already making his way to the bridge.
By the time Captain Wellings reached the bridge, he found, much to his disgust, somebody already there waiting for him.
"Ah, Captain Wellings. Finally found a decent time to actually come to the bridge, have you?"
Captain Wellings ignored Lieutenant Holsom's snide remark. The man was from ONI, which meant that he outranked Wellings by light years.
"No sir. I believe that YOU would have better things to do than sending a UNSC warship out in the middle of nowhere without telling me or my crew why?"
"I'm sure. Sampson, what's this 'alien' ship I'm hearing about?"
The young sensor tech turned around from her console.
"I'm getting strange readings from bearing oh-two-niner. Surface scans can't get a match on any known UNSC or human craft, and its using some sort of signal frequency that the computer can't get a solid fix on, much less decode..."
"Get me a visual."
"Sir, we're not in visual range yet."
"Then by god, GET us in visual range!"
Captain Wellings sat down as his ship, the Thunderbolt, rumbled to life. He felt slight G-forces as the massive frigate turned and accelerated toward the alien craft. He turned to see Lieutenant Holsom's reaction to this and frowned. For what could possibly be the find of the century, the discovery of sentient alien life, Holsom looked horribly pale and nervous. Wellings just shook his head and turned his attention back to the bridge. How ONI spooks thought wasn't his concern.
"We are in visual range, Captain!"
"Put it up on screen 1."
The screen in front of Wellings buzzed to life. First as a sea of gray static, but soon melted into a black void of white pinpricks. In the middle of the screen, Wellings could make out a small, purple teardrop just floating in the void.
"Is this it?"
"Yes sir. The ship doesn't appear to be moving under any power, but we've confirmed that there is some sort of comm traffic emanating from the craft. Decision sir?"
Wellings stopped and thought for a moment.
"Get us into comm range, then try to hail it."
"No! Captain! Stop what you're doing, NOW!"
The sudden outburst startled the entire bridge crew, though only Wellings turned to face him. The ONI officer was now extremely agitated and hysterical.
"Lieutenant! Calm down or I'll be forced to restrain you!"
"You don't understand do you!?!? Turn the ship around!!"
"I will do no such thing, Lieutenant! We are about to make contact with a sentient alien race for the first time in human history! This is no time to become squeamish!"
"CAPTAIN! If you move this ship any farther, we'll all die! They'll kill every one of us!"
"LIEUTENANT!" Wellings was screaming at the top of lungs now. "YOU WILL STAND DOWN."
"I'm in command of this mission!"
"And I'm in command of this ship! If you can't keep your behavior in line, you can cool off in the brig! Is that clear?!"
Before Holsom could even answer, there was shriek in the bridge.
Wellings momentarily took his attention off of Holsom and turned to the crewwoman.
"The alien ship has suddenly accelerated and it's headed right towards us! It's on a collision course!"
Wellings thought quickly about his option. Alien contact or risk losing his ship and crew. It didn't take long to choose.
"Weapons! Arm the Archer pods! All of them! and power up the MAC! If that thing gets any closer, I want you blow it out of the sky!"
Suddenly, Holsom worked up the nerve to speak again.
"Captain! NO! If you take one shot at that ship, you'll doom us all!"
"And if I don't, we collide and we all die anyways!"
"You don't understand! You take one shot and you doom every fucking human being in this galaxy!"
"Alien ship closing fast! Thirty seconds until impact!"
Wellings finally had had enough. He quickly called over a group of four Marines.
"I've finally had enough of your insubordination, Lieutentant! Sergeant Holmes! Restrain Lieutenant Holsom and take him to the brig!"
The Marines quickly complied and yanked the mad Lieutenant from the bridge.
"Captain! Twenty seconds until impact!"
"Fire Archer missiles A through F!"
Suddenly, another voice from the bridge cried out.
"Alien ship breaking off!"
Bile suddenly surged up though Captain Wellings as he realized his mistake.
"Weapons! Belay that-"
But is was too late. Hundreds of missiles shot out from the Thunderbolt and began to converge on the alien ship. The alien ship stopped and fired some sort of plasma energy beam. There was a bright blue flash, and suddenly dozens of missiles exploded in mid flight, though Wellings knew that no ship could survive getting pounded by a full volley of Archer missiles.
Explosions rippled over the alien craft as the Archer missiles found their mark. Wellings expected to see the twisted and burnt remains of the ship.
"Sampson, get me a damage report on the alien ship. Maybe it wasn't totally destroyed."
"Uh, sir. Sensors are showing that the ship is still in one piece, and fully functional!"
Wellings turned to look out the viewport, and saw the alien craft still floating there as some silvery shimmer slowly faded away.
"What in God's name..."
Suddenly, the alien ship fired back. A single blue plasma bolt shot at them, but it missed and grazed to the port side of the Thunderbolt.
"Sir! Multiple hull breaches on decks 3 to 10!"
"Internal fires on decks 4 and 6..."
"We've got dozens of casualty reports coming in, sir!"
"My god, it's an act of war! Sensors! I want to know why the hell that ship is still there! Weapons, fire all remaining missiles and the MAC cannon! I want that thing dead and dead NOW."
More missiles shot out at the alien craft, and most were destroyed by its plasma beams. The few missiles that did get through stopped short just several hundred meters as the same silvery shimmer stopped them. The MAC round also shot through, smashed into the silver wall, and bounced off like a rubber ball.
The entire bridge crew stood stunned. They had never seen a ship take a direct hit from a MAC and stay in one piece, much less be completely unphased.
"W-weapons. Do we have anything bigger than the MAC?"
The crewman at the Weapons console was lost for words, and his voice was barely a whisper.
Then, Sampon's voice cut in again.
"We're receiving a transmission from the alien craft, on the D-band."
Suddenly, all the screens came to life. All filled with six simple words:
"Your destruction is the will of our gods, we are their instrument."
Captain Wellings suddenly didn't know why, but he suddenly thought about his wife and his two daughters.
Then the alien craft fired. The Thunderbolt and its crew passed from ship, to silhouette, to legend.
In a dark room, hidden away from public knowledge, a figure sat in front of a computer screen, reading the same message over and over.
Border reconnaissance of Harvest system total failure. Thunderbolt has violated treaty by crossing into Covenant-controlled space. All contact with Thunderbolt lost. All operatives currently working on covering up the event. No contact from Covenant ambassadors. Last known projected course puts it on a trajectory to Harvest.
The figure sat there for ten endless minutes to have the small report sink in. Finally he managed to mutter.
"May God help us all..."