1200 Hours, September 16th 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Covenant Fleet, on approach to Epsilon Eridani
It had been several days now since the Covenant Fleet of Particular Justice had left the Unyielding Hierophant on its mission to the world that held the Sacred Crystal. Some of the Sangheili in command of the fleet (notably the Fleetmaster Thel 'Vadamee) felt that sending the entire fleet was likely unnecessary. While they were all veterans and didn't underestimate the Human forces, there was very little that could stand against a CSO and its escorts. But they wouldn't question an order direct from the Hierarchs, so the entire fleet was sent out in case the Humans had found their destination first.
And now, they were about to exit slipspace, and find out just what awaited the glorious fleet.
"Reverting now Fleetmaster," a Minor said from his post.
The dark portal that was Slipspace vanished from the viewport, replaced with a view of a standard star system. Average, if small star, with a handful of habitable planets. Exactly what they had been told to expect by the Prophets. What they hadn't been expecting was a large human fleet in orbit of the second planet. By all appearances they had been expecting the Covenant forces arrival, and had moved into a defensive position.
"Humans…how could they have found this system?" one of the Sangheili Major's that served as security growled.
"What is the count of their ships?" 'Vadamee questioned.
"One hundred and eighty Fleetmaster. Including four each of the Human Attack Vessel Class C-1 and C-2."
Thel nodded his head, "Move the fleet forward. We still outnumber the humans. The Unwavering Promise
is to stay behind the main fleet and use its Energy Projector on targets of opportunity."
"At once Fleetmaster!"
With that order, the massive Covenant armada began to flare its engines and move towards the human fleet. The Unwavering Promise
held back, as it was a modified cruiser built specifically to 'snipe' as the humans would call it. The frigates, destroyers, and CCS-class cruisers moved to the front, red plasma glowing along their flanks as they charged plasma torpedoes. But before they could fire, a shout rang out on the bridge of the Ascendant Justice
"Fleetmaster! One of our vessels is in the human battleline! The Eternal Faith
Thel's head snapped around, as the rest of the bridge crew turned to look at the Minor who had shouted that bit of news. As was to be expected of even a low-ranking Sangheili, the Minor didn't even flinch at the sudden attention. He merely brought up the camera view from one of the frigates at the front of the fleet.
And sitting in the middle of the human formation was indeed a familiar purple form. The Eternal Faith
, one of the fleet that had been destroyed at the other human world, where the first Holy Relic in a long, long time had been found. But apparently, it had not been destroyed…but captured by the humans.
"May its crew never see the Great Journey," one of the other Minor's muttered, glaring at the human-controlled ship.
"Concentrate fire on the Eternal Faith
," Thel ordered, keeping his cool as befit a Fleetmaster, "destroy that ship at all costs."
The red fire glowing along Covenant ships continued to grow, before being released in a massive barrage at the human ships. Said ships fired their primitive weapons in reply, with large platforms in orbit of the planet firing along with the ships. The weapons fire crossed paths, some human shells melted by the hot plasma. But before the torpedoes could impact on the Eternal Faith and the human stations, three large metal…plates…moved in front of the ships. The Covenant crew was shocked at the audacity of the humans, sacrificing some of their people to man those 'ships'. Naturally with the near-complete destruction of the Sigma Octanus fleet none of the Covenant crews knew about the sacrifice of the Cradle
, so they were unprepared for this tactic to be used (again).
Their plasma fire impacted on the 'ships' burning through their non-existent armor, melting holes into the hulls. The 'ships' fell apart, melted and vaporized without so much as a minor explosion. But the remaining debris continued to absorb plasma fire, meaning that none of the weapons hit their intended target. But the human weapons weren't limited in the same way. The smaller weapons bounced off the Covenant shields, doing damage but taking two or more hits to break through.
The larger weapons however…the first of their shells to hit impacted on a CCS-class cruiser, the Truth and Reconciliation
. The cruiser's shield flared brilliant silver for a split-second, before the human shell punched through and impacted on the hull. The Truth and Reconciliation
shattered into a million purple chunks, and the shell retained enough momentum and energy to similarly obliterate an unlucky frigate. The same was true for the other nineteen shells, as they destroyed numerous Covenant vessels. To add insult to injury, human nuclear weapons flared to life, far more powerful than in older battles. The massive explosives vaporized shieldless vessels, and crippled ones that had damaged shields.
In the first volley, the humans lost three 'ships'-the Covenant lost one hundred. Growls echoed through the halls of the Ascendant Justice
and the Long Night of Solace
which was holding back with reinforcements. The vengeful Covenant fleet continued forward, seemingly shrugging off the massive losses, as more plasma gathered along their flanks. And this time, the humans would have no shields to defend their weak ships…
The plasma launched forward once more, angling for the human warships. As the plasma continued its 'slow' crawl to the human fleet, the Unwavering Promise
fired its five modified Energy Projectors, the blue-white beams crossing space and impacting on the human warships. What shocked everyone aboard the Covenant vessels wasn't that the beams killed the human ships in one hit…it was what happened as the beams impacted.
An orange-gold shield flared to life around the human ships, resisting the power of the Energy Projectors for a second before shattering as the beam carved through the human ships.
"Shields…the humans have shields," Thel muttered, "though they are weak."
As Thel watched, the human warships fired again, aiming for the Unwavering Promise
which was moving back to avoid fire from the surprisingly powerful stations. As the human ships fired, they began to move out of their previous formation, likely to avoid the retaliatory fire from the Covenant. But they were too slow, as the plasma torpedoes impacted on the human warships. The strange shields held against one, or even two hits from the torpedoes. But they shattered when hit with anything more, and the smaller ships couldn't even take one hit before their smaller reactors overloaded from the strain. Twenty-five human ships burned and fell out of the disintegrating formation.
"Split the fleet, and attack the structures in orbit," Thel ordered.
The order was quickly relayed through the remaining ships, which began to maneuver even as the human weapons hit their shields. This time only a handful of Covenant warships took damage, and only ten were destroyed outright. Part of the fleet (including the Ascendant Justice
) continued to engage the human fleet, while a small group of ships moved 'up' relative to the clashing fleets. Plasma collected along their flanks as the ships targeted the human stations. Said stations fired once more, destroying a dozen of the Covenant vessels. But the remaining ships fired their weapons, expecting to destroy the human stations.
But the infernal shield system sprang to life on the stations, taking the torpedoes with little more than a flicker. What the Covenant didn't know was when the torpedoes were fired all the power being generated by the reactors on the surface for the platforms was transferred into their new Goa'uld shield grid. It nearly overloaded the shields, but it nonetheless protected the stations which quickly returned fire, destroying the remaining Covenant ships attacking them.
Though it galled Thel to do so, he knew his battered fleet was getting the worst of this engagement. They had to retreat or risk losing too many vessels to destroy the newly upgraded human ships. So he ordered a general retreat, to link up with the forces lead by the CSO-class Long Night of Solace
and the other ships that were still on an approach vector. But from the departing ships, a landing force left, heading for the poles of the human world. It was an improvised strategy, but they needed to get ground forces landed, and they could not afford any more surprises from the human fleet.
"That was too easy…" Captain Keyes muttered on the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn.
All around him shattered and burning UNSC ships floated, a sign of just how hard this battle still was. The casualties had been far smaller than expected due to the upgrades, but there was still at least fifty UNSC ships burning and dissected due to Covenant weapons fire. But even with that, and the large losses the Covenant had taken…they shouldn't have retreated so easily. Something was wrong…but wh…
"Cortana, scan the poles," Keyes ordered, the AI having been assigned to the Autumn for the duration of the battle.
The viewscreen changed from a view of the burning ships to Reach's poles. Hundreds of Covenant dropships were descending to the surface, much like at Sigma Octanus.
"Get FLEETCOM HQ online," he ordered Lieutenant Dominique, "Copy this message to the Fleet Commander as well."
"Aye sir," Lieutenant Dominique said, "Channel connected."
"Tell them they're being invaded. Dropships inbound at both poles."
Dominique sent the message, listened a moment, then reported, "Message received and acknowledged, sir."
The Super MAC platforms slowly reoriented before firing ten shells at each of the poles. Dozens of Covenant dropships were destroyed by the rushing air the shells produced, if not vaporized outright from the shells themselves. The UNSC fleet's frigates moved towards the poles, firing their weapons at the Covenant dropships. Hundreds more were destroyed…but Keyes knew that there was still a significant number that managed to get through. Reach had been invaded…despite all their efforts to prevent it.
And it didn't take long for said ground forces to reach an important target…FLEETCOM HQ.
"There are thousands of them. Grunts, Jackals, and their warrior Elites."
The transmission broke into static before returning, "They have tanks and fliers. Christ, they've breached the perimeter. Fall back! Fall back! If anyone can hear this: the Covenant is groundside. Massing near the armory…they're-"
It didn't take a genius to know what the Covenant were after…the generators for the MAC platforms. Take those down, and the stations would be little more than giant hunks of scrap. Keyes tapped his pipe against his hand as he thought of a battle plan. Obviously the Covenant had landed a significant ground force. And while Reach was (mostly) evacuated and had a large number of ground forces…they were limited in what they could do. They needed help, and fast.
"Get me the Spartan's," Keyes ordered, at which point the Master Chief appeared on one of the monitors, "Chief, I need you and your men on a Pelican ASAP. We need to support the reactor complex."
"Roger that sir. We will leave ASAP."
The Chief's helmeted visage vanished, and soon enough a pair of Pelican dropships detached from the Autumn, heading for the surface of Reach. Keyes watched them leave as the remaining UNSC ships moved to a new position around the defense platforms. A pair of frigates split off to help against the ground forces, while the remaining ships did their best to form a cordon around Reach.
moved next to the Autumn
, the two cruisers forming an anchor point near Platform 15. And it turned out to be a very good thing they did, as Cortana soon pointed out.
"Spatial disturbance to our stern Captain!"
Behind the pair of cruisers, a Covenant Frigate flashed into existence.
"Notify FLEETCOM that we have unwanted visitors," Keyes ordered, as the Autumn
reoriented to face the Covenant vessel, that was soon joined by two identical vessels.
A white flash of light flashed across space as the cruisers moved, one of the Super MAC's firing at, and destroying, the first Frigate. But it wouldn't be enough, as the other two started to come to life and charge plasma along their flanks.
"Fire the plasma cannons. Tell the Admiral I recommend the Leviathan
do the same. We can't orient the MAC's quickly enough."
As the cruisers continued their (relatively) sluggish turn, the turrets along their flanks came to life and oriented on the Covenant frigates. Gold beams of condensed plasma began to flash out at a remarkably fast rate of fire, battering into the frigates shields. The Autumn
focused fire on one of the frigates first, battering its shields down quickly, the gold bolts soon cratering the hull and blasting through to the reactor, sending the large warship up in a large explosion.
The other frigate survived long enough to shoot off its torpedo, before the gold beams found their marks and detonated that vessel too. The plasma continued on however, hitting the nearby platform. Thankfully its overtaxed shield held, though it was anyone's guess just how much punishment the shields could take…they had no lack of power, thanks to the planetside generators, but the strain of the hits had to be wreaking havoc with the emitters.
"Picking up activity just outside the platforms range sir," Cortana piped up.
And indeed, the monstrous ship from earlier had returned. It fired that infernal beam weapon, bisecting the frigate Gettysburg, even though its shield flared at the impact. That ship and its weapon had been the bane of the fleet throughout the battle, able to strike beyond range of any retaliation (as evidenced by the Super MAC's missing as they returned fire yet again) and with enough power to make the Goa'uld shields look useless.
Keyes frowned at that, as another ship (a destroyer this time) went up in a flare as its reactor was punctured.
"Plot a course Ensign Lovell," he ordered, "we are going after that ship."
"Sir?" Lovell questioned, before getting to his task, "yes sir!"
's engines flared, as it moved away from the fleet. The 'Supercruiser' was far enough away that it would take a long time to reach it, and that had Keyes worried. That firepower would tear through their shields and armor like tissue paper. They had no choice though…or did they?
"Cortana? Can you plot a pinpoint hyperspace jump like the Odyssey
did at Sigma Octanus?"
Cortana looked thoughtful for a second, before replying, "I can."
And with that, a hyperspace window opened in front of the Pillar of Autumn, as the ship flashed forward. Not even a second later it flashed back out of hyperspace on the opposite side of the 'Supercruiser'. The Covenant ship quickly began to turn in an attempt to get a shot at that Autumn
, but Keyes wasn't about to give them that chance.
"Fire all we have at the bastard."
Gold plasma bolts, Archer missiles, and three MAC shells flashed out at the Supercruiser. The Covenant shield flared silver as it absorbed the first few hits, but the MAC shells battered it down. A handful of missiles got through and did some minimal damage, while the Goa'uld weapons blew holes through the ships blue armor, disabling one of its turrets. The enemy ship regenerated its shield, but fires blossomed underneath it from damage, as the Autumn moved out of sight of its remaining weapons.
"Enemy ship damaged sir. But it isn't out of this fight by any means," Cortana said, as a beam grazed the Autumn
, overloading the shield but missing the hull.
"Launch the Shiva-equipped Longsword," Keyes ordered, a plan already forming in his head.
"Longsword away," Cortana replied as she maneuvered the Autumn
like a fighter to stay in the Supercruiser's new blind spot.
"Fire all weapons at the same target," Keyes said calmly, "and when the shield goes down…ram that Longsword down their throat."
Once again, weapons fire flared from every port on the Autumn
, flashing out and tearing at the Covenant ship. The shield collapsed even faster this time due to the damage it had already taken, while the Longsword crashed into the ship's hull. As the shield came back up, the Autumn
began to retreat from the Supercruiser, aiming to get a sufficient distance before the Shiva went up.
"Shiva detonating in five…four…three…two…one…" Cortana counted down, before the enemy ship was consumed in a white flash of light.
When the light cleared, nothing was left of the Covenant ship. Keyes smiled slightly as the Autumn
turned back for Reach…but the smile faded when he saw the planet. A Covenant Supercarrier had appeared with reinforcements, all moving for the damaged UNSC Defense Fleet. Things just went from bad to worse…
A bit longer than usual. But I didn't want to split it anymore than I already have. That being said, this is just the first portion of the Battle of Reach. We still have two more segments of it, though next chapter takes a quick detour back to the Odyssey
And don't worry...I have plans for the NOVA.
EDIT: And the battle went more-or-less the same so far, since there wasn't much in the way of change here (short of using a NOVA). Goa'uld shields increase the survivability of UNSC ships to a certain extent, but they aren't invulnerable. And Staff Cannons have range limits, so it was still a long-range slug-fest for the most part.
Change comes in the next segment.