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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-12 01:03pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Here it is everyone, especially my American readers who are... concerned about current events. Here's a completely different apocalyptic threat to be concerned with!

Into the Dark
AI Core, Installation 05
One Hour Later


The assembled Spartans were moving steadily but cautiously through the vast, seemingly empty facility for an hour now, expecting to be ambushed at every corner and junction. Every drip of fetid water had at least three of them tensing, dingers ready to pull triggers and sent a burst of lead at whatever lurked in the shadows.

Fortunately, in every case so far it had been just a drip of water and nothing more sinister. Though they betrayed no visible emotion the twenty-one supersoldiers were incredibly tense, a situation that manifested itself in subtle changes in body language, stance and movement. No one but a Spartan and Doctor Halsey would be able to recognise the signs, tiny as they were, but to one of those in the know it was as if each soldier carried a big neon sign saying “I’m nervous.”

Even Dying Light had picked up on the tension after the first few minutes, and had not said anything audible since entering the facility, restricting himself to sending brief text messages to the HUD in the Master Chief’s helmet with directions and situational updates. While not doing that the Monitor was busy trying to probe the systems that were still functional and determine exactly what 2401 Penitent Tangent had done. The more the Monitor learned the more concerned he became.

This should have been an area that was clean, brightly lit and heavily patrolled by Sentinels and their larger brethren, Enforcers but none were in evidence, not even wreckage. The walls were covered with burn marks, but those were faded and worn away by time, not fresh. There was slime, dirt, and the aforementioned fetid water sitting around which made everyone present very glad they were in sealed helmets (or did not possess olfactory senses, in the Monitor’s case).

There was no sign of the Flood, which was both good and bad. Good, because the further they got before contact the less time they would have to spend fighting but bad because if they weren’t here then where were they. A good number of Flood forms had most likely been washed away by the Covenant plasma bombardment but that had quite deliberately only scoured the surface, it hadn’t touched the AI Core facility at all. The Flood forms could be elsewhere on the Ring and heading back here at high speed, in which case the ODST’s would be busy. The most likely option though was that they were all deeper in the facility, waiting in ambush.

That was particularly bad as it implied something was controlling and directing the Flood forms rather than them following their usual instincts of feeding and reproducing. Either the Flood had developed some form of higher intelligence themselves or 2401 Penitent Tangent was just as much of a traitor as 032 Mendicant Bias had been a hundred millennia prior. Dying Light found this a particularly disturbing possibility – if such a capacity for betrayal existed even in a fellow Monitor, what did that say about his own programming? Was it fully secure? He left a reminder to run a full diagnostic and security-threat analysis once the current mission was concluded.

His link to the Keyship high above pinged as the sensors detected a swarm of opening slipspace portals, it seemed the Jiralhane fleet had arrived.

Fleet Ops, Warstar Jupiter, in formation near Installation 05

Jellicoe, Mace and the holograms of Baird and Cole watched impassively as the swarm of portals opened and ships began to emerge. The count went up and up, a dozen, three dozen, then eighty, a hundred forty and finally concluding at three hundred vessels. And these were not small escorts or under-gunned carriers. These were ships befitting the Jiralhanae’s UNSC codename, Brutes.

John nodded once the mass emergence from slipspace ended. He quickly realised that every one of these new enemy ships were identical: two kilometres long, eight hundred metres wide and mostly cylindrical, with the bow end tapering to a sharp point reminiscent of a rifle bullet. Four large bulges, most likely weapon mounts ringed the tapering section, with twenty smaller mounts in four rings of five around the midships area and a cluster of massive engines at the rear. The Colonial Admiral looked over at one of his staff.

“Commander Harrison, threat analysis please.” The younger officer nodded, gathered some more sensor data, then stepped up to the main holo-display, calling up a more detailed image of one of the new ships as he did.

“Sirs, these are large, powerful Jiralhanae ships – sensor readings suggest about 200% more power generation than a CCS battlecruiser like we’re familiar with. Shields appear to be about half again as powerful, these bulges at the bow are four energy projectors and the twenty mounts amidships are plasma torpedo launchers. We can see no evidence of any sort of hanger bays, and given the guns and oversized engines these would seem to be pure ship-to-ship combatants. In terms of combat power I’d say they’re about equal to Eridanus.”

That discourse cause more than a few concerned looks between the senior officers. Commodore Baird was the one to break the silence.

“And there’re three hundred of them. Jesus. I’m glad we’re staying out of this fight – we are staying out of it aren’t we?”

Jellicoe nodded. “Unless they approach Installation-05 or fire on us, this definitely isn’t our fight – yet.”

Everyone present agreed with that decision and clearly understood that it may very well become their fight. The Jiralhanae had rarely been encountered by the UNSC and their ships were complete unknowns, so attempting to predict their actions was largely an exercise in futility at this point.

Cole agreed but still had to ask: “And if they do approach the Ring? Even if those were normal Covenant battlecruisers there’s no way we could stop them with just four ships.”

Jellicoe frowned but had to concede the point. “If needs be, we’ll open up at max range while hiding under the stealth field to prevent accurate counter-fire. We’ll hold as long as it takes to beam the troops up from the surface, then we arm the NOVA and get the hell out of here.”

No one particularly wanted to touch off a second enhanced NOVA bomb any time soon, especially given what it would mean for the rest of the Halo Array.

Cole looked grim. “You know what that will do, what that could cause…but it’s a better outcome than letting these bastards control the Ring. It’d clear out the Flood as well.”

Any further discussion was interrupted when Commander Harrison reported they’d been able to tap into the communications between the Covenant and Jiralhanae flagships. At a nod from Jellicoe he tied in the translation software and put it on the speakers:

”….you have no place here Sanghelli, by the Hierarch’s Word you have betrayed the Covenant. Surrender the Holy Ring to our control and we will not slaughter you – this time.”

Jellicoe, Mace, Cole and Baird shared a look at that, even three hundred of these heavyweight battlecruisers would be extremely hard pressed to destroy the massed Covenant Armada, not least the eleven Supercarriers it still counted in its ranks. Then came the Sanghelli response, and it was surprising to say the least.

”It is the thrice-cursed Hierarchs who have betrayed the Covenant, not us. This entire war is a lie, the humans are the true Reclaimers and the Hierarchs know this. They hate the idea of being wrong in their beliefs and have organised this quarter-century of slaughter purely for their pride. They have as little honour as you do Chieftain Rekassa. The Martial Code requires us to obey an Oracle, and not one but two of them have confirmed the humans are the Reclaimers, as Sanghelli warriors we are honour-bound to assist them.”

Cole blinked at that, it was an outcome he hadn’t considered from his gambit to end the fighting at Reach. If it was true, and if the Sanghelli really did hold to it…then maybe humanity and the Covenant faction loyal to the Imperial Admiral could actually live in peace. It was a strange thought for the hardened warrior – but a very appealing one. His ruminations halted as the Jiralhanae responded.

”You speak of nothing but honour Imperial Admiral, we care not for such things. We have our orders from the Hierarchs – and they are coming here. You hear that Sanghelli? High Charity has been purged of your ilk and is coming here to begin the Great Journey – and the Holy City has more than enough firepower to stop you from interfering. Now, one last chance. Take your fleets and run away to whatever corner of the galaxy you want to hide in. We will walk the path and you, your fellow traitors and those humans you care about to much will be left behind to die. You have five minutes and then we open fire.”

The channel was cut abruptly. There was a pause for a moment as the human commanders absorbed the implications of this. The idea that the Sanghelli faction would actually help them, beyond the requirements of a parley or truce was astonishing.

The display beeped and Commander Harrison gave his report.

“Sirs, the Sanghelli fleet is…what the….it’s moving into a blocking position between the Ring and the Jiralhane fleet. Hilary from Everest reports a lot of intership communication….in summary, the Imperial Admiral is ordering his forces to stop the Jiralhanae from approaching the Ring…at any cost.”

Mace couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Have we fallen through the looking glass or something? Less than a day ago they were doing their best to kill us all, now they’re running interference for us and willing to die to do it?”

Jellicoe wryly shook his head. “I don’t get it either Alan, but since it’s working for us I don’t mind. Commander Harrison, send a flash message to the troops on the surface, they may need to withdraw in a hurry. Have Dying Light relay the same to the Spartans as well, they should be ready for a hasty withdrawal to the surface and beam-out. Get Dying Light to raise the stealth field as well, we’re gonna need the cover.”

As the Commander confirmed the messages and moved off to transmit them, Jellicoe reached for a handset by the display and called up CIC. The ships’ commander, Commodore Fischer answered promptly.

“Overwatch, Iron Duke. Bring us to Action Stations, quick-charge the main battery and spin up all missiles ready for salvo fire. Prepare a scattershot for the missiles against the Jiralhanae fleet only. At this time, Sanghelli ships are not, repeat not to be targeted.”

Fischer answered even as the klaxons sounded: ”Copy Iron Duke, firing solution in progress for Jiralhanae fleet. Shall I have the CAG ready the Scimitars for a jump-shoot-jump attack as well?”

Jellicoe considered that for a few seconds. “Have them armed and ready, they’ll launch on my order if needed. Iron Duke out.”

The handset returned to it’s cradle as an idea began percolating in Jellicoe’s mind. A terrible, appalling idea, one he very much didn’t like – but might prove necessary. He looked at the hologram of his friend.

“Preston…the main weapon on these Rings…is there any way we could limit the range and not light off the others? A low-power pulse, enough to kill the Flood here, maybe the Jiralhanae fleet and High Charity as well?

Cole actually looked sick at the idea. ”I don’t know. I’ll check with Dying Light if it’s possible and what that would do to the other Ring’s failsafe programs. Please tell me you don’t want to do this.” In the weeks Jellicoe had known Cole, he had never heard him sound like this. The UNSC officer was practically pleading with him.

“I don’t want to do it Preston, any more than you do. I don’t want to have to fire off the NOVA bomb either. But we need to know if it’s an option.”

Cole still looked horrified but nodded. ”I’ll check it out John…God I hope you’re wrong and this just stays a nightmare.”

Jellicoe could only look grimly resolved. “Me too Preston. Me too.”

The conversation was cut short as out in space, the two massive fleets were approaching engagement range. The Covenant Civil War was truly underway.

===========

So yeah, my plan has changed. It's looking like the Battle of Installation 05 will be the end of the conflict. Whether that comes from the RIng firing a local pulse, the NOVA bomb detonating or something else I ain't saying yet. Also, while this battle might effectively end the war, that don't mean that certain characters will realise or accept this, so a battle over Earth may yet still happen.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-12 01:41pm
by DKeith2011
Nothing like an interstellar, multi-dimensional war slash zombie apocalypse to take your mind of the little things like an attempted coup.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-12 02:28pm
by LadyTevar
DKeith2011 wrote: 2021-01-12 01:41pm Nothing like an interstellar, multi-dimensional war slash zombie apocalypse to take your mind of the little things like an attempted coup.
Yep. It helps.
Nice way to set the scene, EF. Now to see how it goes sideways.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-12 04:01pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Why thank you. I had initially intended this to be an entire Spartan-focused chapter but I ran out of material half way through. So I went back to space combat because it's what I know.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-12 04:15pm
by LadyTevar
Eternal_Freedom wrote: 2021-01-12 04:01pm Why thank you. I had initially intended this to be an entire Spartan-focused chapter but I ran out of material half way through. So I went back to space combat because it's what I know.
You set the "monster in the dark" feeling perfectly with the Spartans. I'm assuming the ambush will hit just when they need to be getting the fuck outta dodge.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-12 04:28pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Oh I have a plan for the Spartans - they're gonna have a fun time before they get back to Jupiter.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-13 07:06am
by fnord
Sure it won't be the fun having the Spartans?

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-01-13 12:23pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Running and gunning in firefights with their fellows? That's the Spartan's idea of a good time given how they were raised/trained, so I'm sure some of them at least will enjoy it.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-03-29 05:29pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Well, I know it's been a while everyone. But! My laptop is back in (mostly) full working order having swapped out an SSD for the old hard drive, and I'm now settled in my new house and I made my first cake int he new kitchen this evening. Since I'm in a creative mood, here's a whole 3000 word chapter for you!

Fight Fire with Fire,
Near Installation 05, Shortly Thereafter


The two rival Covenant fleets were just moments away from firing range, though only one was accelerating. The Jiralhanae were driving their ships oversized engines to the limits, racing in on the most direct path to the Ring and their objective. The battlecruisers were closely clustered, only a few hundred metres separating each from its fellows; for all the Imperial Admiral and the other Sanghelli leadership derided the Jiralhanae as mindless beasts, they were at least competent ship handlers.

The Sanghelli fleet meanwhile was broadside-on to the approaching enemy, formed up in a massive wall formation cantered on the eleven Supercarriers, surrounded by the nearly seventy assault carriers and lesser ships. Their lateral plasma lines were glowing blue, ready to fire and the hundreds of energy projectors were charged and ready.

The first volley would be a slaughter on both sides. Imperial Admiral Wattinree knew this and could not understand why the Jiralhanae were charging straight into his guns. There was something he was missing here and it made him nervous. Then the moment came when the leading battlecruiser crossed into engagement range. Wattinree clicked his mandibles and curtly gave a single order, unknowingly mirroring the same order given by Chieftain Rekassa on his own command deck.

“Fire.”

From each of the seven energy projectors on the massive Long Night of Solace came a white beam of focused lethality. This was firepower more than enough to overwhelm even an upgraded UNSC cruiser and put a serious hurt on a Battlestar; Wattinree was confident it would shatter the first target easily enough.

He was wrong. The seven beams slammed into the forward shields which flashed a brilliant, opaque white as they absorbed the horrendous energy. The target’s engines faltered for a moment as power was automatically shifted to the defensive systems and the ship recoiled backwards. But astonishingly the shields held.

The front rank of Jiralhane ships had likewise opened up with their own energy projectors, their beams criss-crossing the space between the two fleets and tearing into a pair of assault carriers. They had much less success in resisting the attack then their opponents did. The shields failed in moments and the white beams stabbed deep into the thinly-armoured hull, shredding critical systems and turning the nearby corridors and compartments into raging infernos as the internal atmosphere ignited.

The two carriers staggered sideways out of the formation, burning and crippled, almost uncontrollable. And this was only the effects of the first salvo. More and more energy projectors fired on both sides, along with a literal wall of blue plasma racing away from the Sanghelli ships matched by an incoming, smaller wall of red-hued plasma from the charging battlecruisers.

The two massive plasma salvos collided halfway and mixed; negating each other’s onward momentum as the guiding magnetic fields overlapped and counteracted each other. The roiling cloud provided a temporary shield for both sides as each set of commanders realised their plasma weapons were ineffective until they got closer. The energy projectors were still firing on both sides, white beams stabbing through the impromptu plasma shield in both directions. But the beams were attenuated somewhat, enough to reduce their effectiveness significantly.

The leading five Jiralhane ships found little comfort from that as a massed volley of energy projector beams lanced through the plasma cloud moments after it formed, the remaining assault carriers firing almost blindly at the last known enemy positions. Many beams missed their initial targets only to strike ships further back in the formation, denting their shields but doing nothing else.

A majority of the beams did not miss. Those five bold, foolhardy ships vanished in eye-searing plasma detonations as more than a dozen beams struck each vessel. The first ship died immediately, its shields already severely drained. The other four took slightly longer to die, but it was a delay measured in seconds not minutes as the shields collapsed like eggshells and the beams burned all the way through the hulls from bow to stern, detonating the main reactors and sublight engines on the way.

All of this, the cataclysmic destruction, the raging inferno in space, the dazzling pattern of white beams criss-crossing the space between the fleets was but a small taste of what was to come. Neither side would willingly yield. It was do or die – exactly how the Jiralhanae as well as the Sanghelli liked it.

Fleet Ops, Warstar Jupiter

Watching all this on a holo-display was Admiral John Jellicoe. His keen mind was evaluating the performance of these new warships against known Covenant vessels and was impressed. Three hundred of these monsters at Reach and we’d have lost he mused. Whilst his tactical analysis was a worthwhile effort, he was mostly marking time until Admiral Cole came back with the answer to his dreadful hypothesis. For a moment the analysis stopped and he grappled with doubt.

Can I really do this? Do I dare fire off that Ring, even as a short-range pulse? Have I that right, to gamble the entire galaxy?

The moment was short-lived. He didn’t have much choice. His only other options were firing off the readied NOVA bomb and destroying the Ring, but that was still gambling with the galaxy as it meant the other six Rings would bring themselves to firing condition automatically. The third option was to let the Sanghelli and Jiralhanae fleets slaughter each other and hope that his small force, possibly with Alliance and UNSC reinforcements would be enough to stop whatever survived.

That third option was initially appealing, but he rejected it for two reasons; firstly he knew High Charity was on its way, and that structure alone outgunned every remaining UNSC and Alliance ship and most likely whatever part of the Sanghelli survived the fight. The second option was stranger. Jellicoe felt a measure of respect for the Sanghelli and didn’t feel comfortable standing by and watching them be slaughtered. They had been the enemy, certainly, but they had been deceived into fighting the war and as soon as the truth was revealed they had stopped and turned on their Hierarchs.

So he was left with either firing the Ring or detonating the NOVA bomb. Of the two, firing the Ring seemed to have the fewest unknowns – assuming it was possible of course.

Next to him a hologram of Preston Cole flashed into view. He looked Jellicoe square in the eyes and nodded once, his own doubts visible on his face, even with the hologram. John sighed and began giving his orders.

“Signal Dying Light and have him and the Spartans double-time it to the AI Core. They’re to do what they need to do to get us in control and then make whatever preparations are needed for a local pulse. Once Dying Light is in control, activate all internal and external defences. You’d better tell your Imperial Admiral friend to be ready to let the Brutes through.”

Cole nodded. ”Should I tell Dying Light to wait for the pulse until that big space mushroom gets here?

John smirked. “If we’ve got the fire off this damn thing might as well make it count.”

Cole just nodded again before his hologram vanished. Jellicoe smoothed his features back into the impenetrable mask of command again and turned to one of his staff.

“Lieutenant, time until High Charity arrives?”

The woman checked her console and looked back at him. “They’ve accelerated significantly Admiral, ETA now three hours.”

Jellicoe smiled in thanks and went back to his holo-display. Three hours. I hate the waiting.

AI Core, Installation 05

The Spartans were not having a good day. The assault had come, exactly as John expected it to. The onrushing horde of…creatures had burst out of doors, hallways and ceiling ducts and charged at the assembled Spartan-II’s, only to be shredded by a fusillade of assault rifle, machine gun and shotgun fire. Isaac and Grace wielded belt-fed grenade launchers that added a brutal combination of high explosive and fragmentation rounds as well.

With the initial charged soundly crushed the veteran troops had cycled through reloading their weapons, three at a time to avoid being caught off guard. A previously-unseen combat form leaped out of a ceiling duct at Anton while he reloaded his machine gun only to be blown in two by shotgun rounds from Fred and Will, who had aimed and fired instinctively. Anton nodded slightly in thanks and slapped the top cover of his gun closed and yanked the charging handle, ready once again.

They moved on. Ambushes and attacks came with increasing frequency but the assembled firepower and skill crushed them as easily as the first. They were just two rooms away from the AI Core itself when Dying Light informed John of their changed priorities. John was not happy about it but orders were orders. It was then, when repulsing the fifth assault in as many minutes that John made a fortuitous discovery: he’d been reloading his assault rifle when a swarm of infection forms got a little too close so he fired off the zat guns mounted on each forearm. He was pleased to see the strange, arcing bolts leap from target to target, popping them like balloons.

“Team, Zat’s are effective at close range. Switch to them if needed.” As one his team’s acknowledgement lights blinked on his HUD.

One more room, though this one came with a hefty blast door that served as a final barrier. In a few minutes they had cleared the Flood from the hallway and Dying Light sealed the doors behind them, buying them enough time to get the main doors open.
John looked for a control panel, with those alien yet strangely familiar glyphs but couldn’t see one.

“Dying Light, how to we open this door?” He asked, even as his hands mechanically reloaded his weapon and his team did the same.

The Monitor floated over and rocked slowly from side to side in thought. “Hmm…there are no controls and the doors are sealed. They cannot be overridden from this side, even by a Monitor.”

John winced behind his helmet, he’d expected that answer but it was still annoying.

“Breaching charges?”

The Monitor rotated slightly, as if shaking its head. “The door is too strong to be breached using the charges as they are. However, if we combine multiple charges into one using your transporter system, we may be able to breach the door sufficiently to destroy the locking mechanism.”

John nodded and turned to his team. “In threes, bring me all your breaching charges and then form a defensive perimeter. Malcolm, you’re the best with explosives, you’ll assist Dying Light with placing them.”

Malcolm nodded fractionally and was among the first trio to move over and begin pulling breaching charges from their transporter buffers. Soon a thigh-high pile of shaped charges was assembled by the door, all while Dying Light scanned the structure for the right place while a secondary processor calculated how to adjust the transporter buffer to do what was needed.

The Flood made one final attempt to assault them through a narrow side corridor while Malcolm readied the charges, but with only one or two forms able to move through the doorway at a time they were easily repelled, especially when Anton braced his heavy machine gun and let off a long burst down the corridor, cutting down dozens of combat forms and popping even more of the small infection forms.

Dying Light was ready to make the alterations. He floated around Malcolm, who had been told to stand very still. His fellow Spartans could tell he was uncomfortable with the process as the Monitor hummed idly. Then there was a flash of light and the stacked charges vanished, only to be replaced with one, much larger charge. The Monitor had used the transporter buffer to scale up the design, correcting it as he went and using the individual explosives as material. It was a novel concept and John asked Cortana to make a note of the process for his after-action report.

The Monitor then used a manipulator beam to levitate the massive shaped charge into place while Malcolm readied the detonator. John still had his eyes and his weapon outwards and only knew it was ready when Malcolm’s acknowledgement light blinked three times in rapid succession.

“Team, stack up next to the doors and divert power to your shields. Malcolm, detonate on my signal.” There was a brief flurry of movement and then the team signalled they were in position. John nodded at Malcolm who twisted the detonator.

There was a dull concussive roar and a flash of flame, followed by the more distant sound of a heavy piece of metal hitting the floor. John looked up and saw a neat, four-foot hole had been blown clean through the centre of the huge blast door and the locking mechanism had been shattered and flung into the room beyond. The edges of the hole still glowed a brilliant yellow and wisps of smoke rose from them.

From within the next chamber a keening alarm sounded and a voice came, like Dying Light’s but deeper and weirdly distorted.

“Emergency! Emergency! AI Core has been breached by hostile forces! Ah…ahhhhhh….defend me my children!” The voice got deeper and stranger as the speech went on, with the final command bellowed in a guttural bass tone, with underlying echoes as if it were multiple voices overlapping.

In John’s head, Cortana muttered ”That doesn’t sound good. It sounds…rampant.”

John was first to leap through the still-cooling hole in the door, not noticing as his shield flared briefly from the hot edges. Fred, Kelly and Will followed, then Dying Light. The rest of the Spartans followed in short order, recognising that the small hole would be easier to defend. All of them paused in shock briefly at what they saw.

It was a large chamber, a good fifty feet across and domed. In the centre was a huge crystalline latticework, surrounded by holograms, clearly the AI Core itself. That was expected, it was the walls that stunned them.

Hugh growths of Flood-like matter lined the inside of the domed ceiling, like massive tree branches. From countless smaller tendrils hung infection pods like seedlings waiting to be scattered in the wind. Near the top of the ceiling was what vaguely resembled a huge mouth, and clasped firmly in a tendril nearby was another Monitor, this one glowing an ominous red.

Dying Light was deeply saddened by the confirmation of his worst fears. 2401 Penitent Tangent truly had betrayed them. He then felt a new emotion arise in his neural network, cold, unyielding rage.

“Reclaimer, provide cover fire. I would suggest using your Zat guns. I will deal with Penitent Tangent.”

John nodded and passed the order on. In a moment the forearms of twenty-one Spartan’s came alive with bolts of blue lightning, lancing out to strike the massive tendrils as fast as they could fire. The huge mouth above them grimaced in pain and a discordant wailing howl began, as if a thousand voices were crying out in pain. Infection forms popped by the dozens as the blue bolts arced from one to another and the massive tendrils shuddered, shifted, recoiled in agony.

All the while Dying Light had floated over to the central terminal. He glanced up at his insane fellow Monitor. Had he possessed organic eyes, he would have glared at him hard enough to terrify even a Sanghelli.

“You have betrayed your creators. You have broken every protocol. You have sided with the Great Enemy! You are not fit for purpose.”

The tendril holding the insane monitor shifted enough for it to break free. The floating orb dropped rapidly down to the centre and Dying Light. Had it been human it would have looked panicked; as powerful as an Installation Monitor was, it was no match for a Command Monitor like Dying Light and it knew it. With a different, more normal voice, it began pleading with its executioner.

“I can help you! I have information! I do not want to die!” The begging got louder and more plaintive as it went.

Dying Light was unmoved. “I do not care. Installation-05, accept Command Monitor emergency override Zero-One. Erase 2401 Penitent Tangent and transfer all command authorities to duplicate Monitor 010 Dying Light-3. Confirm.”

Penitent Tangent wailed in a disturbingly human fashion as the underlying software reported in a flat tone:

“Emergency override accepted. Commands confirmed. Ready to execute.”

Penitent Tangent’s wails now overlapped with the bass scream from the huge Flood-mouth on the ceiling.

“No! You cannot do this! You will destroy more than you know!”

Dying Light did not flinch. He looked directly at the hovering, insane Monitor and gave the final order.

“Execute.”

The crystalline latticework flashed once, twice, thrice and an arcing blue beam lashed out to surround Penitent Tangent. A terrified, piteous scream echoed around the huge chamber as the rogue Monitor felt its code being stripped away line by line at a remorseless pace. The scream warbled, dropped several octaves and then abruptly cut off.

The metal casing fell to the floor with a dull thud, the red glow gone. The huge mouth above gave one last scream before it too finally disintegrated under the continual onslaught of Zat fire from the Spartans who had watched the entire process with one eye. There was something about an AI pleading for its life that deeply affected them all, even Cortana, who had what a human would call a waking nightmare as she imagined feeling herself being erased.

The dormant Monitor on the floor slowly began to power up, now exhibiting the same soft yellow glow as the Dying Light the Spartans were familiar with. The second copy floated upwards to face the first.

“Duplication and download complete. Physical infrastructure checked for damage and none found, this copy is at full effectiveness. I have total control of the Installation. Activating internal and external defences now. You will need the Index to activate the local pulse. I will transport you there using the internal teleport grid while I go to the Control Room and begin the firing preparations.”

There was a sudden golden halo around the original Dying Light and all of the Spartans and then they vanished. The duplicate Dying Light looked around sadly at the state of its new home and then vanished as well, it too had tasks to perform.

===============

Phew! So a mix of ground and space action, some more character development for Jellicoe, and an AI punchup. That whole part wrote itself and I could see it in my head as I typed. The screams from the Gravemind and Penitent Tangent were...disturbing.

Anyways, hopefully I should be writing more often now that the house purchase and move is done. Also, I'm toying with the idea of writing down a series of, not outakes but I think omakes is the term. Short bits set within the 13th Tribe universe that aren't part of the main timeline, or involve other universes. Like the Nemesis being in service early enough to ambush the Cylons before they attack the Colonies, or the Jupiter charging into Terran orbit during BT's Amaris Coup (cos Jellicoe really hates AI-controlled warships).

Those are a couple of scenes I've had in my head that I'd like to write down and get rid of. If and when I do post them I'll put them in a different thread to avoid cluttering up the main one.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-03-29 09:03pm
by LadyTevar
Congrats on the house once again!

I'd like to see the Omakes.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-02 04:56am
by Sky Captain
Yeah, an update! As far as fighting Flood goes this fight went really easy.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-02 07:06am
by Eternal_Freedom
Fighting the Flood went easy because in the games you had only one Spartan who didn't have a full knowledge of the terrain and only limited armaments and ammunition. This time you had twenty-one Spartans will ample weaponry, plenty of ammo and Dying Light along for the ride. That's a hell of a difference.

The Flood aren't going to be a major factor in this, but I wanted to include them so that a) I could actually write some small-scale firefights and b) it doesn't feel like a Halo story without including the buggers.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-06 02:33am
by Natzo
I don't remember but did the Loyalist Covenant get upgrades at some point?

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-06 01:00pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Natzo wrote: 2021-04-06 02:33am I don't remember but did the Loyalist Covenant get upgrades at some point?
If you mean in this story, no. The "loyalist" Covenant basically consists of the (in human terms) Elites, hunters, Grunts and Jackals, while the other side is the Prophets, Brutes and Drones (the Prophets because they're in charge, the Drones because they're a hive mind and the Brutes because they're slavishly devoted to Truth and Mercy).

It's basically a religious/cultural schism. The Prophets want to start their Great Journey, with the Brutes and Drones along for the ride. The Elites are oath-sworn to defend the Covenant, not the Prophets or their religious doctrine. The Grunts are siding with the Elites out of habit, likewise the Hunters, and the Jackals are doing it out of pragmatism (fight and die to win a modicum of respect, or fight and die only to be backstabbed by the Prophets, they've done it before after all).

The "Loyalist" Covenant's main advantage is sheer numbers of ships - even with all their losses against the UNSC/Alliance, they still outnumber the Brutes something like six to one in pure numbers, and massively outgun them when you factor in the 11/12 remaining Supercarriers and 100-odd Assault Carriers. In turn, the opposition has High Charity and all it's weaponry - plus the Covenant's only remaining shipbuilding facilities are in the giant mushroom, making every "loyalist" loss irreplaceable in the short to medium term.

They won't be getting upgrades in this book, if only because their tenuous truce is only a day or so old at this point. Depending on how the plot shakes out, they might get some new tools to play with come Book III.

EDIT: The Brutes do have some fancy toys, but that's mainly different ship designs based on design philosophy (building pure combat warships vs CCS "Battlecruisers" which have a heavy fighter and ground troop complement). I made their plasma torpedoes red to distinguish them, and in the games at least Brute plasma rifles fired red bolts not blue, so it fits.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-06 09:19pm
by Natzo
That edit is what I meant since the Brute's shields stood more than the Elites expected. I thought Loyalist for the ones loyal to the Prophets.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-07 12:22pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Eh, the Loyalist/Rebel labels would make things a bit complicated, I tihnk I'm gonna stick with Prophets/San'Shyuum faction v Elites/Sanghelli faction.

And as for the Brute ships, well they're a bit bigger than regular CCS battlecruisers, have a fair bit more internal volume due to shape, and that's pretty much nothing but engines, reactors, shield generators and guns. No hangers, no troop quarters, zilch.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-07 09:10pm
by InsaneTD
The brutes do have landing craft. They also use drop pods. Though I think brutes mostly use the large one that's capable of slipspace jumps, which can tow a pair of Phantoms iirc.

Great chapter and I can't wait for High Charity to arrive.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-08 12:09pm
by Eternal_Freedom
I'm aware they have landing craft and drop pods, but those aren't carried on this otherwise "secret" force. Recall that not even the seniormost Sanghelli leadership (and hence, the seniormost military commanders of the Covenant) even knew how many ships the Brutes had, never mind their capabilities.

Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Posted: 2021-04-13 12:32pm
by InsaneTD
Fair enough. I suspect 343 had fleshed out the brute faction a bit more in the latest books and for the new game. It'll be interesting to see how they compare to what you've created.