A Conclusive History of the United Nations Space Command: Chapter Four: The Human-Covenant War
Posted By: witelancer<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 28 December 2003, 12:01 AM
Chapter Four: The Human-Covenant War
Part One: The Destruction of Harvest and the Outer Colonies
On February 3, 2525, contact was lost with the outer colony of Harvest. The normally peaceful Outer Colony world of three million was known for being one of the most productive colonies under the UNSC's banner. On April 20, 2525, the scout ship Argo was dispatched from Reach by the Colonial Military Administration to discover the conditions on Harvest and to ascertain the reason for the communications failure.
The Argo never returned. Fearing the worst, the Colonial Military Administration sent a battlegroup of three ships—the Vostok, Arabia, and Heracles. Led by Captain Veredi of the Heracles, the task force was more than a match for any pirate group—but the enemy that awaited them was far more powerful than any pirate militia. Several weeks later, the Heracles returned to Reach, heavily damaged and having taken considerable amounts of casualties. The tale Captain Veredi would tell would be a tale of tragedy—and a tale that would lead the UNSC to its doom.
Upon arrival in the Harvest system, the UNSC battlegroup had found an alien warship in orbit. In addition, the planet had been thoroughly "glassed", or destroyed from orbit. Before Veredi or anyone else in the battlegroup could initiate one of the UNSC's standard first-contact scenarios (which called for cautious attempts at communications), the alien ship transmitted a message:
Your destruction is the will of the Gods, and we are their instrument.
Then, the alien warship opened fire, destroying the Vostok and Arabia and killing all hands on board the two ships. The aliens used weapons far more technologically advanced than the UNSC—guided plasma torpedoes and pulse lasers. The alien warship, protected by otherworldly energy shields, utterly devastated the battlegroup, heavily damaging the Heracles. Veredi ordered the ship to return to Reach; however, given the ship's damaged state, it took several weeks for the Heracles to return.
Upon hearing of the tragic tale of Harvest, Vice Admiral Preston Cole was ordered to retake the Harvest system. On November 1, the entire United Nations Space Command went to full alert. The largest fleet in the UNSC's history was assembled under Cole's command. During November 2552, the UNSC fleet approached Harvest. On November 2, 2552, the SPARTANS were briefed on this new threat to the UNSC. Very few of the SPARTANS realized that the rest of the UNSC was virtually uninformed of this new threat.
In order to avoid morale problems at home, the UNSC had severely censored the news coming out of the Harvest system. The fact that the Spartans—a very highly ranked group of individuals within the UNSC military—only heard about this new threat about seven months after its emergence is a testament to the secrecy with which the UNSC fought against the Covenant.
Finally, on December 1, 2531, Cole's fleet of over one hundred advanced UNSC battleships was able to defeat the aliens in orbit. The cost of this battle was grievous—the aliens were outnumbered three to one, but their kill ratio doubled that of the UNSC ships. Although the UNSC won this first battle, by the time the dust had settled, several outlying colonies—Eridanus Secundus, for example, had been attacked by the aliens. Ground engagements began on the embattled Outer Colonies while CMA orbital forces attempted to hold the aliens off. However, the CMA's outdated ships were no match for the highly advanced weapons and the protective shields of the aliens.
When Cole returned to Earth, he was promptly promoted to Admiral. He was assigned to protect the Outer Colonies—but it was a futile struggle. Sometime during the engagements in the Outer Colonies, the alien enemy was given a name—the Covenant. Official sources differ on the origin of the name, but it appears that either a prisoner taken on the ground or a transmission from the cruiser that attacked Harvest identified the aliens as the Covenant.
The threat was real and even had a name—but the citizens of the UNSC had no idea of how fierce the fighting was. The civilian population of the Outer Colonies was caught unawares as the Covenant war machine utterly consumed planets and left them scorched wastelands. The UNSC Marines could hold their own in ground combat—as was proven many times—but the fleet was no match for the Covenant's plasma torpedoes and pulse lasers. Time and time again, UNSC Marines would win ground engagements only to die fruitlessly as the Covenant glassed the planet from orbit.
The Covenant continued to slaughter the citizens of the UNSC. When UNSC forces were in position to defend their colonies, they were easily dispatched from orbit. Human casualties mounted heavily—while the Covenant often emerged unscathed. Cole led his fleet in a valiant struggle that culminated in a grand last stand around an unknown star system. The battle was memorialized in a painting that now hangs in a UNSC facility in Australia [a landmass on Earth].
Before the Admiral's demise, however, he established the Cole Protocol, designed to safeguard Earth from the Covenant (the full text of the Cole Protocol can be found in Appendix A). The principles of the Cole Protocol were simple: to prevent the Covenant from learning the location of Earth. To attain this goal, Cole set down a handful of military regulations, with a penalty of treason. Under the Protocol, when UNSC forces are forced to withdraw from a system, they must not travel on an Earth-bound vector, even if this means that a captain must order his ship to perform a blind jump. If a blind jump is not possible or if there is an imminent chance of capture by Covenant forces, UNSC vessels must self-destruct.
The Protocol also insured the electronic safety of Earth's navigational coordinates. Upon contact with Covenant forces, all ships must wipe their memory banks with triple-checked viral data scavengers—this would protect from Covenant hackers. UNSC vessels' artificial intelligence constructs (AI) would have to be destroyed either electronically or physically in extreme situations. As a whole, the Cole Protocol prevented the Covenant from learning the location of Earth for many years, safeguarding the vast majority of the human race.
Part Two: The Inner Colonies, Reach, and Halo
With the death of Cole at his last stand, Admiral Michael Stanforth became the Sector Three commander of the UNSC forces. Sector Three is assumed to include the Reach, Jericho, and Tantalus systems. Stanforth would wage the rest of the Human-Covenant War, winning the battle of Sigma Octanus and suffering countless defeats, most notably at Reach.
In 2535, with the fall of Jericho VII, the siege of the Inner Colonies began. The Outer Colonies had been utterly devastated by Covenant assaults—and now, Covenant forces swarmed into the well-defended Inner Colonies region. The UNSC reacted by pulling its Marathon-class cruisers—the most valuable warships in the fleet save for supercarriers—out of the forward areas and into more protected regions such as Reach, where three of the powerful ships were stationed. The UNSC also stepped up enforcement of the Cole Protocol, harshly punishing violators and keeping the valuable coordinates away from the Covenant.
The duplicity of the UNSC's ONI continued as more and more of the UNSC's citizens were duped into thinking that the UNSC was actually winning the war—propaganda flooded official information outlets. As more and more of the Colonies were ruthlessly eliminated by the Covenant, the setup continued to be very difficult to hide from the general population. Survivors of the Outer Colonies as well as many Inner Colony worlds that had been glassed told their tragic tales.
Eventually, the UNSC began to fight two battles at once—one against the enemy in space and one against the rapidly collapsing rank-and-file society on the surface of Earth. As the stakes mounted for the UNSC, it became increasingly difficult to fight the Covenant as more and more of the aliens' deadly ships entered the Orion Arm from parts unknown, bolstering the numbers of the enemy's already powerful war fleet.
A glimmer of hope for the UNSC showed in ground combat. Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and the SPARTANS slaughtered the Covenant by the thousands on Jericho VII, Sigma Octanus, and hundreds of other worlds. In addition, the adoption of new innovative tactics in orbit using the UNSC's Magnetic Accelerator Cannon (basically, a gigantic ship-mounted railgun/mass driver) and its Archer missile armaments to defeat Covenant energy shields, which in the past had been a major obstacle to UNSC forces in battle. However, these innovations only resulted in three isolated victories against the Covenant.
As the war dragged on, costing millions of human lives, the UNSC became increasingly desperate. The superior spaceships of the Covenant fleet were able to easily pick off the Inner Colonies one by one, whittling the once-vast domain of the UNSC into a handful of heavily defended worlds such as Reach. Even John-117, the Spartan who would later fight the battles on Halo-04 was confident that the Covenant would never be able to take the planet. However, Reach would fall in 2552, just as the human race was swallowing its first real victory at Sigma Octanus.
The battle for Sigma Octanus initially was conducted by just five ships. The UNSC destroyer Iroquois, fresh out of the shipyards at Reach, was deployed to close-orbit protection of the valuable colony of seventeen million. When the Archimedes sensor outpost detected a large mass in Slipspace approaching the system, Commander Jacob Keyes (the selfsame man who assisted in the Spartan program), in command of the Iroquois, acted on a hunch and called in additional UNSC reinforcements. He was right—four Covenant ships appeared in-system.
While the reinforcements were on their way in-system, Keyes executed a maneuver now known as the "Keyes Loop"—the Iroquois used emergency thrusters, innovative uses for Archer missiles, and a Shiva-class nuclear missile to utterly devastate three of the four attacking ships, leaving only a defenseless carrier behind. As the carrier turned away from Sigma Octanus, Keyes acted on yet another hunch—and saved the lives of millions of citizens when he detected thirty-four dropships on an inbound course towards Cote d'Azur, the capital city of the colony.
Four dozen UNSC vessels under the command of Admiral Michael Stanforth, UNSC Sector Three commander and captain of the Leviathan, entered the Sigma Octanus system and immediately deployed one dropship with a very special cargo—Spartans. As the Spartans engaged the enemy on the ground, the UNSC fleet braced for another Covenant attack in space. Twenty Covenant ships came out of Slipspace in fighting positions and attacked the UNSC ships in orbit. The fierce battle cost both sides dearly as Stanforth used innovative new tactics with the MAC guns and the Archer missiles of the fleet to devastate the Covenant ships, while the Covenant plasma torpedoes likewise inflicted great damage upon the UNSC fleet. The Iroquois played yet another significant part in this battle when it crushed a Covenant stealth ship. Captain Keyes—promoted by Stanforth in the wake of his heroism—intercepted a stealth transmission from the surface of Sigma Octanus that would prove to be very interesting to ONI Section Three. At the end of the battle, seven Covenant ships slinked away, licking their wounds, while the UNSC fleet was whittled down to eight ships, including the Leviathan and the Iroquois.
The ground battle was won with many casualties. The initial Covenant attack had slaughtered hundreds of Marines. The arrival of the Spartans heralded a turning point in the battle and NavSpecWep (Naval Special Weapons) took control of the Marines, as the Spartans conducted a stealth operation that resulted in the recovery of an alien artifact which was of great religious significance to the Covenant as well as the destruction of ten thousand Covenant troops with a HAVOK tactical nuclear device.
All in all, the UNSC was elated with the results of this battle. Not only was it militarily significant, but it also raised the morale of the UNSC servicemen as well as the citizens of the Inner Colonies. However, this elation was short-lived. As Keyes, John-117, and Stanforth returned to Reach for debriefing by the Admiralty, the Covenant planted a tracking device on the Iroquois, giving them the location of Reach. On August 30, three days after the Spartans and Keyes had received their new mission (see Chapter Three for details); the Covenant attacked the planet. Three hundred fourteen Covenant warships were arrayed against just over one hundred fifty UNSC vessels as well as twenty "Super" MAC cannons stationed in orbit. The Covenant devastated the UNSC fleet and then used ground attacks to disable the Super MAC cannons. The battle turned into a rout, with only a few UNSC ships escaping from the Pearl Harbor-esque carnage. One of these ships was the Pillar of Autumn, which was ferrying the Spartans on their latest mission, sailing out of the system on a random course per the Cole Protocol.
However, the Spartans were not at full strength. Only two of the supercommandoes remained on the Pillar; the rest were presumed dead by Keyes. During the battle for Reach, the Spartans had been split into two teams (see Chapter Three). Blue team had successfully completed its mission, destroying the Circumference's NAV database, but Red Team had not been evacuated and was presumed dead. John-117 was the only survivor; James had been lost in space and Linda had been shot dead by an Elite. Her body was immediately put into cryo and she would later return to life, thanks to Dr. Halsey.
On September 19, 2552, the Pillar entered an unknown star system and entered orbit around Threshold and its moon Basis. At the LaGrange point between the two bodies, Keyes found a curious ring-shaped object—and a dozen Covenant battleships. Cortana, the Pillar's AI construct, successfully destroyed four of the battlecruisers before boarding parties made the Pillar too unstable to fight. Keyes transferred Cortana from the Pillar to the MJOLNIR armor that John wore. The Pillar crashed onto the ring-world, now called "Halo". John-117 rallied the ship's Marine contingent and gathered them while Major Silva (the ODST commander) and his XO took a tactically significant base located on top of a butte, which they subsequently designated "Alpha Base".
In the space of three days, John-117 and the Marines of the Pillar, as well as Keyes, became a significant thorn in the side of the Covenant. An attack on the disabled Covenant cruiser Truth and Reconciliation resulted in the freeing of Keyes, who had been a prisoner. Halo held great significance to the Covenant, and there were thousands of the aliens swarming all over the construct. Alpha Base was attacked numerous times; each time, the ODSTs and Marines pushed back the assault. John discovered the Flood; a highly adaptive semisentient parasitic organism that took over its hosts' bodies and then grew in size. The Flood took control of Keyes and John was eventually forced to kill the officer to put him out of his misery. As the tensions mounted on Halo, a new, sinister plot emerged.
Soon after the discovery of the Flood, they attacked Alpha Base, inflicting horrendous casualties upon the brave Marine defenders and infecting some of them. Meanwhile, John met 343 Guilty Spark, also known as the Monitor, an insane caretaker of the Halo construct—who had been put in charge of the facility more than one hundred thousand years before. Cortana and John unraveled the dark purpose of Halo—to annihilate all life within a radius of 25,000 years in order to starve the Flood to death.
John and Cortana stopped the Monitor from unleashing Halo and then subsequently destroyed Halo by sending the reactors of the Pillar of Autumn into overload, upsetting the gravitational forces that kept the ring stable. As the Pillar of Autumn was about to be destroyed, Silva and the Marines had seized the Truth and Reconciliation. However, the infestation of the Flood had progressed to the extent to where it was unsafe to bring the ship home to earth, and a brave Marine Lieutenant sacrificed herself as well as the entire ships' new crew in order to save humanity. John and Cortana escaped the destruction of Halo using a Longsword interceptor and seemed to be the only survivors.
Part Three: The Ascendant Justice, Halsey, and Earth
The wreckage of Halo was composed mainly of shards of the ring world, debris from the destroyed Covenant ships, and asteroids from the rings of Threshold. John and Cortana, stuck inside the Longsword with a limited supply of food, water, and air, were unable to escape the system for lack of a Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine. In desperation, the partners turned to scanning the debris field. They found three cryopods—one of the three (and the only survivor) was Linda, one of Blue Team's members. They also found a Pelican dropship—and they met up with several survivors from Halo's destruction.
The new fellowship captured the Ascendant Justice, a Covenant flagship and escaped from the Threshold system. They headed to Reach, where, unbeknownst to anyone, Dr. Halsey (the progenitor of the Spartan program, see Chapter Three) and over twenty Spartans awaited rescue. The survivors of Halo rescued the Spartans, Halsey, and Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb, a prominent Fleet Commander. They also recovered a mysterious artifact that was identified to have origins of the Forerunner, a mysterious, enigmatic master race that the Covenant worshipped. Escaping from Reach on the Ascendant Justice and the Gettysburg (a recovered derelict in orbit around Reach), the survivors witnessed a strange phenomenon—the recovered artifact bent not only the laws of space, but also time.
The survivors then fled the Epsilon Eridani system, and through a long series of events, were able to destroy the Unyielding Hierophant, a refit station for the Covenant fleet of over five hundred ships. There was a very sinister purpose to the incredible buildup of Covenant armaments—the invasion of Earth. Cortana discovered this during her infiltration of the Hierophant's computer system. As significant a blow as this was to the Covenant war machine (the explosion destroyed all but a dozen of the Covenant battlecruisers), the cold reality of the situation was hard to deny. The Covenant knew the location of Earth, and an invasion was imminent. All the team under John had been able to do was to slow the progress of the Covenant.
However, there was a glimmer of hope. Through analysis of technical schematics recovered from Halo's Control Room, Cortana was able to determine that the Covenant technology was imitative rather than innovative—that is, they tended to replicate Forerunner technology rather than use ingenuity to develop new technology. Cortana realized that it was possible for Humanity to win the war—but they needed more time. The battered forces of the UNSC, however, have anything but an abundance of time—and indeed, approximately two months after the destruction of Halo, a massive Covenant war fleet entered the Sol system, engaging Earth's last defenders.
In a highly classified video clip (the Halo 2 trailer), John-117 is shown preparing himself for battle. Situation reports from the video show how Earth's defenses are failing, with Stanforth arguing with orbital defense commanders about how to conduct the defense. The video ends with a shot of John launching himself onto the hull of a Covenant battlecruiser below. Other videos have been shown, showing engagements between UNSC forces and Covenant troops on the surface of Earth itself, but other than these snippets, official sources at this time do not document the battle for Earth and its aftermath.
Thus, the United Nations Space Command sprang from the United Nations, a defunct entity that once called itself master of Earth. As Humanity expanded, the UN became less and less important than the UNSC, which mastered the Orion Arm of the Milky Way, becoming master of more than 800 worlds by 2500. Upon the discovery of the Covenant, the UNSC was quickly battered and whittled away. The UNSC at present is little more than a shadow of its former self, reduced to defending Earth itself against a massive Covenant onslaught.