Halo: The Recovery: Part 6
Posted By: witelancer<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 November 2003, 7:27 PM
September 24, 2552
Delta Hexanus system
'Valenen roared a cry of anger as the Valiant slid around Delta Hexanus VII. A fleet of human ships awaited him.
"Ship Master—the human ships have already fired!" exclaimed a subordinate.
'Valenen tensed and turned around. "Arm the particle beam."
"Yes, Ship Master." The Valiant's particle beam system came online once more. Displays all around 'Valenen lit up with the positions of human ships. 'Valenen waited patiently as the Valiant came into firing range of the human armada. The other Covenant ships, however, suffered from command problems. By the time most of the Ship Masters awoke, it was too late. The Covenant fleet had been locked onto.
The UNSC fleet had been waiting for about seven hours. As the Covenant ships came into firing range, Stanforth noticed the Valiant at the head of the enemy's formation. Stanforth knew that if the Covenant battle cruiser could enter firing range of its particle beam weapon, the UNSC fleet would be doomed. He turned to Calvin and said, "Recalculate our firing solutions. I want nukes and MAC rounds on that big Covie ship."
Lieutenant McAlister at communications turned away from her console to face the Admiral. She looked quizzically back at her console, and then regained her composure.
"Admiral—there are only fifty Covenant ships in that battle group. Do you think that they could be attempting a pincer like at Reach?" she inquired.
"Excellent analysis, Lieutenant. Lieutenant Cobb, sweep the system with our radar. See if there are any Covenant ships in the area."
"Scanning, sir. No Covenant ships found."
Calvin chose that moment to project his image onto the main viewscreen. "Excuse me, Admiral, but the Covenant fleet will be within range of our Magnetic Accelerator Cannon in just a few seconds."
"Oh! That's right. Communications: send the new firing solutions to the rest of the fleet. Guns: fire when ready."
"Aye, sir. We'll put the MAC display on the main display."
The main viewscreen flickered again, erasing Calvin's image. A diagram of the MAC system and a charge status meter appeared on-screen. The lieutenant at weapons emphatically exclaimed "MAC guns are hot! Firing now, Admiral!"
The UNSC fleet rocked backwards in space as sixty-three MAC guns fired. Multiple lightning bolts shot away from the UNSC fleet. The exhaust trails of Shiva and Archer-class missiles followed the deadly tungsten-carbide projectiles. The black backdrop of space seemed to be lit up by the streaks of azure energy that shot from the UNSC fleet. As the MAC rounds rocketed towards the Covenant fleet, Calvin was already calculating a second set of firing solutions. "Firing solutions online, Admiral," said Calvin in a monotone voice.
Stanforth looked at the AI and said "Excellent work. Transmit those solutions to the rest of the fleet as well."
As Stanforth was ordering a second volley, the UNSC ordnance impacted on the Covenant fleet. MAC rounds collided violently with the Covenant ships, tearing great holes in their shields. The Valiant took twenty MAC rounds and vented atomic fire like a leaking reactor. 'Valenen barely had time to scream before the bridge of the battle cruiser dissolved in flame. The cruiser exploded in a cataclysmic blossom of nuclear flame. The explosion engulfed three more Covenant ships, wrapping them in its deadly embrace. As the shields of many Covenant ships imploded, Archer missiles impacted, their high-explosive warhead tearing the Covenant ships to pieces. Finally, Shiva nuclear missiles detonated in the middle of the Covenant fleet, completing the spaceborne carnage.
When the nuclear blasts had cleared, only thirty-two Covenant ships remained. As the UNSC ships fired again, a Covenant carrier launched hundreds of Seraph-class fighters. Motes of red energy gathered at the lateral lines of the other Covenant ships. The plasma torpedoes were fired just as the second volley of MAC rounds hit the Covenant armada. Twelve Covenant ships disintegrated as the UNSC ordnance tore great holes in the armada's shields.
Suddenly, the Covenant ships disappeared. Their plasma torpedoes however, continued on their deadly trajectories towards the UNSC fleet. The Albert Lea moved into position to intercept them—
The scarlet bolts of fire simply evaded the repair station and smacked into thirty UNSC warships. The Apollo took a torpedo near her reactor and exploded. The Lambert and the Locke both took torpedoes to their upper decks, gutting their bridges. Fire began to burn through the vessels. Other UNSC ships took hits to their superstructures or engines. But the Covenant wasn't done mauling the human ships. Innumerable swarms of Seraph-class fighters attacked the remaining human vessels. Pulse lasers reduced ten UNSC ships to superheated debris.
The UNSC fleet wasn't totally defenseless against this new threat, however. C709 Longsword interceptors rocketed out of many ships' shuttle bays. 50mm autocannons raked the Seraphs with thousands of rounds. The UNSC fleet dissolved into a chaotic brawl.
Which was exactly how the Covenant commanders had wanted it. Fifteen Covenant ships came out of Slipspace right behind the UNSC fleet. Before Stanforth could issue any orders, the Covies launched their plasma torpedoes. In desperation, the beleaguered Admiral got on the general frequency. "Stanforth to al UNSC forces—break formation and engage the enemy!" he screamed. MAC rounds and plasma torpedoes flew like there was no tomorrow. UNSC and Covenant destroyers exchanged shot after shot at point-blank range, carving huge holes in the vessels' hulls. Hundreds of single-ship fighters were destroyed in the melee.
Eventually, the fray subsided—but only five UNSC ships remained. The destroyers Prometheus, Crimson Tide, Ravager, and Liberator, as well as the Albert Lea, remained. All of the Covenant ships were destroyed. The UNSC fleet, however, would not fight again for a long time. Stanforth ordered the Prometheus to head for Delta Hexanus VII. "We've got some cleanup to do," he said through clenched teeth. I hope someone's alive down there, he thought.
Seven hours later
The downed Pelican
Jones looked up from his position on top of the Pelican's wing. The exhaust trails of Pelicans could be seen across the star-drizzled night sky. Jones shouted a cry of jubilation and all of the UNSC Marines got up and cheered. The mood was so festive that Hylland even kissed him on the cheek.
We're saved, thought Jones.
September 27, 2552
Epsilon Eridani system
On board the Blue Wind
Boronado winced as the Blue Wind took another hit from a Covenant destroyer's plasma arsenal. Scintillating blue film met the red-hot plasma and diffused the energy of the weapon. Thank God for shields, thought Boronado. Diana, the Blue Wind's AI soundlessly directed the Blue Wind's gunners to attack the Covenant vessel.
"Captain—MAC guns are hot! Permission to fire?" asked Lieutenant Heston.
"Give them hell, Lieutenant," said Boronado.
The Blue Wind shook three times as the ferric shredder rounds of the MAC gun shot away from the cruiser. The first round punched a hole in the Covenant ship's shields. The second and third rounds slammed into the Covenant ship itself, tearing great rents in the smooth, ovoid hull. Fire belched from the wounded destroyer, and the Blue Wind pushed onwards into the heart of the Reach system.
"How much longer, Lieutenant Thompson?" asked Boronado.
"About six more hours at flank speed will get us within dropship range," she said. She smiled a vicious, predatory smile and continued. "Three hours at full power, but that will disable our shields."
"Well.... Diana, make sure the shields stay up."
"Of course, Captain."
"Sir—we have new inbound contacts at 040!" shouted Lieutenant Ford.
"Acknowledged, Ford. Heston: prepare another set of MAC rounds."
The Blue Wind slowly rotated to face this new adversary. The Covenant ships—a cruiser and a frigate—collected motes of scarlet plasma at their poles, preparing to fire.
"MAC capacitors at seventy.... Eighty... ninety... one hundred percent! MAC rounds away!" exclaimed Diana.
The Covenant cruiser took three direct hits from the cannon, but it didn't disintegrate. Instead, the cruiser swung off-course and spun in to the alien destroyer. Both Covenant vessels detonated in a ball of nuclear fire. Boronado smiled and said, "Not bad for an AI, Diana."