Halo: The Recovery: Part 3
Posted By: witelancer<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 23 November 2003, 12:27 AM
September 23, 2552
On the surface of Delta Hexanus VII
PFC Fred B. Jones sighed loudly and continued on his patrol through the well-lit forests of Delta Hexanus VII. The planet was a gem in the eyes of many colonists, with a gravity of 0.98 Gs, an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, and a variety of climates. But to Jones, the planet represented a boring, mindless duty station. What a crap detail, he thought as he looked up into the sky. We get dragged all over the galaxy, and all I get to do is stand here on some tree-hugger's paradise? The sun began to set, casting blood-red rays all over the forests. Jones could see hills from his vantagepoint, high on a forested bluff. Jones sighed again and turned around, waiting for his patrol to end.
Little did PFC Fred Jones know that his day was about to get a hell of a lot more exciting.
In geosynchronous orbit over Delta Hexanus VII
The scorched hull of the Leviathan drifted lifelessly through space. Ever since the burnout and destruction of the ship's main reactor, the cruiser had been powerless. Admiral Stanforth had ordered the Marathon-class cruiser evacuated, and the bridge crew sent to the Blue Wind, the other cruiser in the UNSC fleet. The rest of the crew had been dispersed on other ships in the UNSC fleet or sent down to the surface of Delta Hexanus VII. The rest of the UNSC fleet arrayed itself precisely in a phalanx formation; their thrusters at precision station keeping. The Prometheus was at the head of the formation. Despite not receiving a single hit from a plasma torpedo, the destroyer had taken a considerable amount of damage in the Reach system. The engine baffles had been nearly destroyed by pulse lasers and rogue asteroids. The main hull itself was pitted with laser scorch marks and dings from asteroids.
However, the ship still had power and two meters of Titanium A armor. Her weapons systems were fully functional. Captain Jenkins stood on the bridge, watching intently as the communications officer tinkered with the subspace radio. Finally, he turned and said, "It's ready, sir." Jenkins cleared his throat and waited. The viewscreen in front of the Captain flickered and then displayed Admiral Stanforth's aged visage.
"Greetings, Captain Jenkins. How was the scenery on Reach? You didn't happen to visit Camp Hathcock, did you?" asked Stanforth. Jenkins gave the Admiral a tight-lipped half-smile. Camp Hathcock, primary haven of the UNSC's military staff on Reach, had been utterly annihilated when the Covenant glassed the planet.
"It was wonderful, sir, but I didn't get much time to admire it. The Covenant found the Prometheus after just half an hour in-system", replied Jenkins.
"So... what are the defenses like, then?" asked Stanforth who was looking apprehensive.
"Well....the fleet that attacked Reach is still in orbit. The Prometheus took fire from Seraph-class fighters and a couple of frigates. We detected over one hundred fifty ships still in orbit around Reach."
"Damn it! That's more than twice the size of this fleet!"
"That's not even half of the bad news, sir. We made radio contact with some survivors."
"What? How could there be survivors?"
"Dr. Halsey is still alive, sir. She contacted us via radio while we were in-system."
"Alright. Let's call a briefing. I'm coming over to the Prometheus. Captain Jenkins, get ready to transfer my flag. Call up the rest of the fleet by 0600 hours and we'll talk."
Jenkins saluted smartly and said, "Yes, Admiral." He then motioned to the communications officer to cut the signal. He began the long process of preparing the Prometheus for the Admiral's arrival.
About the same time
Epsilon Eridani system, on board the Covenant battle cruiser Valiant
The Council of Prophets had ceased its deliberations. It was decided that the Leviathan and the rest of the filthy human fleet were to be annihilated at once. The Valiant and its subordinate battle group of fifty-odd destroyers and frigates would attack Delta Hexanus immediately. The other one hundred ships in the Covenant fleet would remain in the Reach system, completing the destruction of the pitiful humans.
The Valiant was a flurry of activity. The highest-ranking Elites marched to their battle stations, giving the others in the passageways looks that would have cowed a prophet. Grunts and Jackals barked at one another in strange tongues. Carts of plasma weaponry rolled down the passageways. The ships' Engineers prepared the reactors for Slipspace. The Ship Master of the Valiant, a veteran Elite named Kosod 'Valenen, stretched his long arms and shook his angular snout as he waited for the crew of the Valiant to prepare for battle.
Fifty-three Covenant ships pulled out of their positions and shot into Slipspace. For many of the Covenant troops on board, it looked like a green wave of titanic space-time rifts was rushing over their heads. Grunts, Jackals, and Elites sat and waited in anticipation of roasting the humans.
On board the Prometheus
Stanforth sipped his glass of ice water and watched as the Captains of the Prometheus, Apollo, Lambert, Locke, and the Blue Wind filed into the Prometheus's map room. The room seemed to be too small for the six officers. Stanforth cleared his throat and began. "Gentlemen, let's begin by hearing this audio clip Captain Jenkins graciously recorded for us."
The AI of the Prometheus, Calvin, projected an "image" of "himself" on to the holographic map table in the center of the cramped room. The AI chose to represent himself as a six-year old boy, although his chosen avatar belied his immense calculating power and mathematical abilities. "Certainly, Admiral," said Calvin. The conversation that had taken place in the Reach system emanated from the single speaker set into the map room's holographic projector. The quality of the sound was typically substandard, but the impact of the recording was not. Every officer in the room looked stunned.
"As you can see, we have a small problem," said Stanforth.
"Small would be an understatement, Admiral," said Calvin in a refined, superior-sounding voice. "The odds of successfully negotiating a rescue is one in 306,781."
Stanforth was disgusted by the AI's pessimism. "Thank you, Calvin, that will be enough," he said in a clipped voice. "WE need someone to volunteer his ship for a rescue operation. This will be a very dangerous mission that will probably not succeed. But, we owe it to the men and women of the 107th and Dr. Halsey to try," said Stanforth in a calm, stern voice.
"The Blue Wind will make the attempt, Admiral," said Captain Boronado of the Blue Wind. "Our ONI 'improvements' make us the best ship for the job."
Everyone in the room knew exactly what Boronado was talking about. The Blue Wind was one of the most technologically advanced cruisers in the UNSC fleet. She boasted an artificial gravity system to rival any Covenant ship, experimental pulse lasers, and the new-model Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. The Blue Wind was even rumored to have a new-model reactor and even shields.
"Thank you, Captain. We are all in your debt," said Stanforth appreciatively. "The remainder of the ships in our fleet will remain on station. Now, let's discuss—"
Calvin interrupted him. "Admiral? I hate to interrupt, but the Covenant fleet has arrived."