The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-07 06:17pm

Surprise! But not as big a one as the Covenant get....

Defying Fate
Covenant Assault Carrier
Alacritous Retribution, Fleet of Sanguine Resolve
Approaching Sigma Octanus IV
Six Hours Later (July 17th, 2552, (Military Calendar)/Ninth Age of Reclamation (Covenant Date))


Sanguine Resolve was a comparatively small Fleet compared to the rest of the Covenant armada. A mere twenty-nine ships, almost exclusively frigates and destroyers with just one Assault Carrier, certainly other Fleets were much more numerous even if most did not possess one of the rare but mighty Supercarriers. Nevertheless Sanguine Resolve had a high reputation for valour and victory and they were often used by the Hierarchs as a specialist trouble-shooting force.

In this case, the Hierarchs had dispatched them to an out-of-the-way world that was not believed to be occupied by the accursed humans except perhaps in a very minor capacity – certainly it would not be defended strongly enough to overwhelm this specialist fleet. They were here to recover an artefact of the Gods that was believed to point the way to one of the legendary Halo Rings, which needed to be found before the Great Journey could begin.

In the command centre of the flagship Alacritous Retribution – which in direct contrast to human designs was buried deep inside the hull and out of reach of their weapons unless the entire ship was destroyed – stood Fleetmaster Ftek Nasanee, a towering Sanghelli warrior clad in the golden armour appropriate to his rank. This would be the first time in many years he and his force had engaged humans, they had spent the last decade dealing with minor insurrections among the Ungggoy and Kig-Yar, acting quickly and brutally to prevent the taint from spreading. They had even had to deal with a renegade Jiralhane battlecruiser when the Shipmaster had gone feral and turned on their superiors.

Despite this lack of experience, Nasanee was supremely confident they would triumph – or rather, he had been supremely confident until they had lost contact with his advance force of the Fleet’s secondary carrier, a destroyer and two frigates. That small group had been sent out ahead for two purposes; to confirm from orbital scans that the Artefact was indeed present (and where it was located) and to draw out any human ships that might be lurking.

It would seem the advance force had succeeded at the second goal a little too much. The carrier had reported a single human attack vessel in orbit, and another two had shortly arrived in the outer system. The ship in orbit had engaged and somehow eliminated the light escort ships, to the astonishment of not only the carrier’s commander but Nasanee as well. The smaller carrier had been aiming to deploy a wave of ground troops and then pull back, knowing that the presence of Covenant troops on the planet would occupy the humans until the rest of the Fleet could arrive and secure the orbital space.

Then they had lost contact completely and had not been able to re-establish it since. Nasanee could only assume the humans had a large fleet in orbit, one that had been able to attack and quickly overwhelm the other carrier. Overwhelming numbers was the only way humans had ever managed to defeat the Covenant in space engagements, which meant that had to be the case here.

Thus Nasanee had ordered all his ships to full alert as soon as they reverted to realspace in the outer system. The long-range sensors had indeed shown numerous human ships in orbit, although they were too far away to determine exact numbers and type. Nasanee had known the humans would have detected their arrival and decided on a cunning plot to exploit human weaknesses.

He knew they were safe here in the outer system – human slipspace drives were simply not accurate enough to travel such a short distance to hit his Fleet away from the planet. So his ships waited patiently, in full view of the humans while they carefully prepared their plans, knowing that the humans, with their inferior physiology, would be growing tired from the constant state of readiness they had to maintain while Nasanee’s ships were visible.

Now his plan was ready and they would attack. A precision slipspace jump would bring the Fleet into position, not to engage the human defenders but to deploy troops to the surface. Every available dropship on the Assault Carrier and her three battlecruiser escorts were loaded with ground forces and would launch in one massive wave towards the Artefact’s location. The ships meanwhile would launch a massive plasma salvo at the human fleet. The range would be long enough that some human ships would undoubtedly be able to evade the searing fire, but their formation would be broken, their crews distracted. He could then decide to press the engagement or make a withdrawal, returning later on to finish the humans.

It was a good plan, he judged, one that he expected would work. He had modified it slightly to also launch every available fighter from the Alacritous Retribution’s sizeable hangers, knowing that even the smaller plasma torpedoes and pulse lasers the fighters carried would be enough to hurt humans ships en masse, especially after being weakened by the huge plasma salvo from his combat ships.

And so the moment came. The slipspace drives pulsed and the Fleet raced forwards to emerge a few seconds later in orbit over the planet. He called for a report on the exact composition of the human forces, now that they were close enough to determine them. The Minor Sanghelli who oversaw the various sensors turned to the Fleetmaster, not flinching at all despite the disparity in rank.

“Fleetmaster, the human force contains forty-eight combat vessels. 31 Attack Vessel Class A-2, 14 Class B-1, one Class C-2, and one each of Carrier Vessels Class A-3 and A-4. There is also a large unknown vessel above the human formation which I believe to be a support vessel; it does carry any offensive weapons that I can detect. The human formation is now reorienting themselves to face us.”

Nasanee nodded. The numbers were higher than expected but hardly insurmountable. The turn towards him was also expected. “Launch all dropships and fighters, all ships to engage the humans with plasma torpedoes as planned.” The crew went to work and the assorted ship’s sides began to glow as the lateral plasma lines prepared to fire while the hanger bays spewed thousands of fighters and hundreds of drop ships.

It was at this exact moment that Fleetmaster Ftek Nasanee’s plan came undone.

Out in space, on the far side of the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve from the human formation, thirteen Kobolian warships flashed into existence. From a third direction, towards the planet, appeared another six ships seemingly from nowhere. This caused considerable consternation for the various Shipmasters as their sensor operators all reported the same astonishing fact.

That among the group between them and the planet was the massive shape of a Forerunner Dreadnought, just like the one that sat at the heart of High Charity.

Aboard the Alacritous Retribution, Nasanee could only stare at the external camera image in utter disbelief. A Dreadnought, here? Apparently siding with the humans and not the Covenant? It was unthinkable. Nasanee could have continued down that mental road for minutes at least had not the sensor operator all but bellowed at him to draw his attention to the other group of new arrivals, the ones behind them.

The camera feed switched to show those other ships. They were big, even the smallest eight vessels were twice the size of the lighter human attack vessels while the largest was bigger even than the carrier he had sent as his advance force. At the bow of that huge new ship was a claw-like structure. At the centre of those claws a brilliant blue glow could be seen. This was the last thing that Fleetmaster Ftek Nasanee ever saw.

The Warstar Nemesis had jumped into position with her superlaser armed and ready, only needing a few minor bursts from the manoeuvring thrusters to align it with the Alacritous Retribution. The weapon discharged, sending a thick electric-blue beam out at near-lightspeed to connect with the Covenant Assault Carrier. The shields that could withstand volleys from entire human fleets failed in milliseconds and the ravenous beam tore into the carrier’s aft, burning through engines, reactors, weapon mounts, hangers and a good portion of the crew in the blink of an eye.

Then came the inevitable; the Assault Carrier, the second-most feared warship to the UNSC, shattered into thousands of tiny fragments, many of which spattered harmlessly off the shields of nearby ships in a shower of sparks. This hail of small debris and radiation also all but annihilated the waves of fighters and dropships that had only barely cleared the hanger bays. The Fleet of Sanguine Resolve had just lost both its leader and its most powerful combat asset in a single shot. This sowed fear, confusion and disarray among the remaining Shipmasters, forcing them to quickly decide among themselves which was the senior and would assume command. It was a discussion that would take minutes, minutes the Sanghelli fleet simply did not have.

From the forward section of the Forerunner Keyship came another deadly beam, this one a vivid green. It was a massive hardlight beam cannon, a weapon that was larger than most UNSC warships and one that was designed with the specific purpose of overwhelming and destroying other Forerunner vessels that were under the control of the Flood or the Traitor. Against Covenant technology, which despite being derived from the Forerunners was still inferior, it had a truly devastating effect.

The beam struck the CCS battlecruiser Legacy of the Hierarchs, carving through shields, armour and internal systems in moments. The ship was cut in half amidships, cleanly and almost surgically. The two halves began drifting apart even as the main sublight engines automatically shut down once the control conduits were severed. The ship was dead, the two halves adrift and powerless, the surviving crew unable to do anything to prevent the inevitable.

A similar fate befell the second battlecruiser Charity’s Shield as the mighty HMS Dreadnought brought her guns to bear for the first time. The heavy plasma beam cannons sent a quartet of bright blue beams out to slam into the shields, followed by a quartet of smaller beams and eight heavy coilgun slugs from the forward secondary mounts. The shields collapsed quickly, exposing the aft section to a heavy punishment as the five-tonne slugs tore gaping wounds in the engineering sections.

Even as the Assault carrier and other battlecruiser had been dying the rest of the new arrivals swung into action. The four Tau’ri battlecruisers charged in at full thrust, their own plasma beams reaching out to carve even more sections out of the beleaguered Charity’s Shield. The ship was already crippled and the damage just mounted and mounted as the deadly Asgard weapons flashed out again and again.

Two 304’s, the RFS Gagarin and the USS Icarus turned sharply away towards the third battlecruiser, the Legendary Valour. They had a more insidious task than mere destruction. Working from detailed internal sensor scans of the huge Covenant vessel taken hours earlier by a cloaked spy drone, they began beaming small explosive charges to key positions within the ship, charges that simultaneously detonated: severing all of the primary power conduits leading from the plasma reactors to the engines, slipspace drive, shields and weapons. Other charges wrecked the control links as well, preventing any kind of self-destruct. A final charge exploded within the command centre, killing all of the occupants and leaving the ship leaderless. The disabled ship would be left for the moment, a potential goldmine of technology and information, until the other Covenant ships were destroyed and Legendary Valour could be boarded in relative safety.

Throughout all the this – the summary annihilation via superlaser of the Alacritous Retribution, the bisection of the Legacy of the Hierarchs by hardlight bean cannon, the systematic evisceration of the Charity’s Shield by plasma beams and coilgun rounds and the disabling of Legendary Valour – the UNSC fleet had not been ideal. The Covenant force was just within effective range of the MACs and a single staggered volley thundered forth from the guns, carefully controlled and targeting the lighter, unengaged frigates and destroyers, while their new allies did everything they promised in gutting the heavy elements. The MAC volley arrived just as the Charity’s Shield finally succumbed to the rapid-fire assault and exploded into debris.

The heavy projectiles slammed into Covenant shields with crushing force – 63 heavy rounds finding only twenty-one targets, each frigate or destroyer taking three rounds in rapid succession. In a handful of cases the shots were very slightly off target and the first heavy round caromed off the shields and out into space, the incredible velocity reduced but not spent. Those handful of cases would be the only survivors past the opening strike.

The rest of the frigates and destroyers died as quickly as the earlier vessels targeted by Iroquois – frigates were torn in half, destroyers were gutted bow-to-stern, engines and reactors exploded in sympathy, breached plasma lines burned away entire sections of the surrounding ship. Everywhere there was carnage and devastation. In a total reversal of typical casualty ratios, the UNSC’s opening salvo had claimed seventeen kills from twenty-one targets.

The four survivors, three frigates and a destroyer, were still in dire straits and would not outlive their destroyed comrades for very long. All four ships had shields that were weakened massively by the single hits they had taken and all four Shipmasters began desperately trying to evade, to run, to retreat to slipspace so they could warn the Hierarchs of these devastating new arrivals. In their haste to escape they fatally overlooked Admiral Cole and the Everest.

At Cole’s order and with Hilary’s expert marksmanship, fifteen of the new superdense plasma rounds flew unerringly towards the handful of Covenant survivors. The frigates received three shots each, the destroyer took six hits. The already-drained shields collapsed with the first hit while the rest tore gaping and mortal wounds in the hulls and skeletons of the frigates.

The single destroyer went down even more dramatically. Five plasma bolts struck the now unshielded starboard hull and detonated, completely obscuring the ship for a moment in the flare of the fusion detonations. When the glare faded, everything starboard of the ship’s centreline was just gone. From the centreline out to the port hull the damage got progressively less and less dramatic – the port hull armour was in fact completely intact, there was simply nothing left of value for the armour to protect. It looked as if the ship had been cut in half and then melted from within, which is a fairly accurate description of what occurred.

The entire engagement was the most one-sided battle of the entire war and uniquely it was the humans would were victorious. The Covenant hadn’t even managed to fire at the human ships, never mind actually score a hit. An entire Covenant Fleet annihilated in the space of five minutes, a feat only equalled by the infamous battle at Psi Serpentis, also known as Preston Cole’s Last Stand. That Admiral Cole himself was back and had a hand in this even more decisive battle would go a very long way towards eventually convincing UNSC High Command that the legend’s entire crazy story was in fact truth.

As the crews began to relax from the adrenaline rush of combat and the UNSC personnel started to embrace the euphoria of a decisive victory, another thing that would help convince High Command was taking place. The Legendary Valour was the sole intact Covenant ship and was being circled by the 304’s, the scene eerily similar to vultures circling a carcass. There was a lot else going on behind the scenes as various forms of stun weapons were being beamed into occupied compartments. With a mix of multiple unknown species it was difficult to determine which, if any, of the various Alliance non-lethal weapons would be effective. So a trial-and-error method was being used with mixed results so far. While this was happening the huge mass of the Warstar Nemesis had moved close enough that her own beaming systems could go to work.

Throughout the length and breadth of the Covenant battlecruiser, platoons of Terran Marines in full microgravity- and vacuum-rated armoured combat suits were being beamed in, their own plasma rifles and carbines armed and ready. The Covenant ship was the same size as the Battlestar Warspite, so in order to complete the seizure of the ship as quickly as possible the entire First Marine Division was being deployed en masse, flooding the Covenant decks with armoured, highly-disciplined and well-armed troops. The effect was immediate and decisive.

Despite this being a massive boarding action the Terran troops’ weapons were set exclusively to stun. Any particularly large and resistant Covenant forces, such as the Megalekgolo pair that had been guarding the now-wrecked command chamber or the battle-hardened Sanghelli squad who were trying to reach and overload the reactors were simply beamed straight into prepared and shielded holding cells on the Nemesis, minus their weapons. The assorted Unggoy, Kig-Yar and the isolated Sanghelli were brought down in a hail of stun rounds and then secured.

In just twenty minutes the entire Covenant crew had been captured and the UNSC would soon have their own CCS class battlecruiser, mostly intact, to dissect and study to their heart’s content. As gifts went it was extremely generous. Between that and the material and technological help from their new allies and the resurrected Preston Cole, the UNSC crews and commanders present felt something that had been largely unknown for years: a genuine hope that they could actually hold the line, maybe even take the offensive. The war that had been heading for an inevitable defeat in as little as six months (according to the most optimistic ONI analysts) had reached a turning point; the Covenant victory was no longer inevitable and the UNSC now had a chance for more than mere survival.

They had a chance to win. And they would seize it with both hands.


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


Boom baby.

Now, before anyone says anything, I will repeat the comments I made in Book I when Task Force Nemesis first engaged the Wraith over Atlantis. Yes, this was a one-sided massacre, but it was intended to be. A comparatively small Covenant force that was ambushed and attacked from three sides, massively outgunned and with its strongest ship and commander obliterated in the opening shot. Also consider that the Covenant commanders were also deeply shocked by the presence of the Keyship - I imagine it would be a similar effect to, oh, Jesus appearing in the middle of the First Crusade and starting to blow away Knights with a shotgun. God just turned up and opened fire on them. It cannot be overstated just how mind-blwoing that would be.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-08 04:05am

Especially when the Covies were so used to winning, up to that point.

And I think it should read "the UNSC fleet was not idle."
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-08 04:50am

God catch, I'll fix it in my master copy
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-08 05:16am

A good catch, even. 😂
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by fnord » 2018-06-08 07:30am

Typo, or cranking up the meta?
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-08 09:10am

Typo
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-09 06:28am

No comments on the actual chapter? I'm disappointed :)
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by DKeith2011 » 2018-06-09 09:55am

My knowledge of the Halo universe is limited to the fact that it exists, never played the games or read any books.

That said...

Good descriptive chapter with a lot a lot of detail given to both sides of the story. Certainly reinforces the Alliances preferred tactics.

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

Post by fnord » 2018-06-09 10:06am

My Haloverse knowledge is similarly limited - it's been over a decade since I played any of the games.

So who is most fond of a good banger?
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-09 10:09am

Eternal_Freedom wrote:
2018-06-09 06:28am
No comments on the actual chapter? I'm disappointed :)
Awwww, the poor Covies fall down, and go boom!

What's not to l8ke?
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-09 10:10am

fnord wrote:
2018-06-09 10:06am
My Haloverse knowledge is similarly limited - it's been over a decade since I played any of the games.

So who is most fond of a good banger?
Battle or sausages? I'm fond of both.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-09 10:58am

That's better :)

I decided to write this largely from the Covenant POV to avoid giving the events away I'm advance as the human commanders briefed their subordinates. Plus it means I get to invent Covenant ship names which is weirdly fun, they tend to be much more elaborate than Terrain names.

That said, I'm almost sad I blew away Alacritius Retribution so quickly, I like that name.

Yes this does show preferred Alliance tactics - concentration of force, surrounding the enemy and massive alpha strikes. Of course they only worked so well this time thanks to tactical and strategic surprise - something that won't alway be present as the next chapter will explain.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by fnord » 2018-06-09 11:01am

Are the Kobolian mob going to lose another 13 ships in book 2?
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-09 11:23am

No they will probably lose more. Remember that Jellicoe has the Command Group with him and is planning to bring both First and Third Fleets from Terrace - that's 8 Battlestars plus 16 cruisers and 32 destroyers, plus some explorers and something else I'm working on. That's a lot of ships and losses are inevitable.

FYI another 3200 word chapter is complete but ill have to wait until I can plus my laptop in before posting it, the battery is dead. Should be later on today.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-09 05:48pm

The Unexpected
Sigma Octanus IV Orbital Space
July 18th, 2552 (Military Calendar)


The UNSC crews were still feeling the euphoria from the previous day’s battle. Many felt that “battle” was too generous a term, since a battle implies two or more sides are fighting. Massacre was deemed a more appropriate term and virtually everyone, from the newest enlisted crewman to the dozens of Captains and Commanders was utterly delighted by the fact that for once they had been the ones doing the massacring.

The very top-level officers had no time for euphoria however. Cole, Stanforth, Jellicoe, Baird and Dying Light were ensconced in the now-historic meeting room aboard the Keyship discussing, debating and plotting. Top of the agenda was how to sell this story to High Command – Stanforth was fairly sure that Lord Hood would welcome the assistance with open arms, but ONI was likely to be far less enthusiastic, especially the total bastard that was Colonel Ackerson. Neither of the UNSC officers had any affection for the man, considering him to be far too slimy, too scheming, too unwilling to get his hands dirty. Despite this and his own dubious and heavily-redacted service record Ackerson had somehow wormed his way to a place at the table with HighCom and would have to be reckoned with.

Another sticking point was the disabled hulk of the Legendary Valour. She was now completely under Terran control and the surviving crew were interred on the Nemesis. The prisoners had resisted all attempts at interrogation and none of the Terran crew were willing to resort to torture – partly because they felt it was wrong, partly because with alien physiology they had no idea what would be effective and also that they knew torture would rarely give reliable information.

The Covenant ship itself was being carefully swept bow to stern by security and engineering teams, trying to establish if there were any tracking devices that could lead the rest of the Covenant right to whatever world they brought the ship to for analysis, most likely Reach. And the UNSC desperately wanted to analyse it, to pull it apart and figure out how it worked. Even a crude shield generator fitted to a UNSC ship could turn the tide of most engagements. The prospect of plasma weapons, better slipspace drives and a host of other possibilities was making most of the UNSC engineers drool.

Finally, the senior commanders were discussing how they could cooperate further in the future. With one Covenant fleet destroyed it was felt that they should seriously consider taking offensive actions. Jellicoe promised to ask for some Explorers in his wish-list of reinforcements from Terra: these could be sent out under cloak to hunt down key Covenant bases and shipyards, as well as confirm the exact positions of the Halo Array. With them under surveillance deep-strike missions could be plotted that would start cutting into the Covenant logistics train and hopefully delay any further Covenant assaults into the Inner Colonies, buying vital time for more of the UNSC ships to receive upgrades.

Exactly what upgrades they would get had been a source of some contention. Cole and Dying Light had pointed out that the upgrades to Everest had taken months and were only possible at the Ark and they simply could not spare ships for that amount of time, even with these spoiler raids being planned. Jellicoe had chimed in saying that the easiest thing to do would be to provide the UNSC with shield generators and jump drives.

Stanforth had rather pointedly asked why they couldn’t be given advanced weapons only for Jellicoe to explain (with a surprising degree of patience and without the patronising tone that might be imagined) exactly why that wouldn’t help:

”It’s a matter of time and efficiency Admiral. Our shield generators, naquada reactors and FTL drives are essentially black boxes that can be installed in cargo bays with a modicum of effort and needing only minimal additional connections to the ship. Advanced weapons means cutting through armour, pulling existing mounts, fabricating the new weapons and installing them, connecting them to your power grids, linking them to your computer networks and fire control systems, the amount of extra work involved is considerable. Ask yourself, would you rather have one frigate refitted with shields, jump drive and plasma beams or megalasers, or five frigates with their existing weapons package but with shields able to withstand two or three plasma torpedoes? We’ve seen in the last day that your standard weapons are capable of killing Covenant vessels quite effectively, it’s just that without shields you lose far more ships in the initial exchange than they do.”

Stanforth had conceded that point, only to jump on whether it would be possible to get ships upgraded so quickly. Jellicoe had simply smiled before explaining that the Combined Fleet had something similar to the UNSC repair stations like the Cradle, a vessel that could refit multiple ships at once. Cole had stirred the pot somewhat by saying that while much of the weapons package fitted to his ship couldn’t be replicated, the upgrades to the MACs - the field recyclers and capacitors - could be applied to human ships, albeit on a lesser level. Stanforth was happy with that, he could immediately see how being able to fire three or four MAC rounds in quick succession would be.

It was at this point that Dying Light rotated slightly as it received a message. The Monitor asked to be excused so it could investigate the Legendary Valour – the message had been one announcing the sweep was completed and requesting the Monitor’s help in accessing the computer networks. The various officers agreed readily, knowing that not only would this tell them if any tracking programs existed in the Covenant computers but it might also tell them a great deal about Covenant fleet movements and bases. Even just a track of where the ship had been would give the scouting missions some clues.

How to get the huge Covenant warship to Reach was a difficult problem, until Commodore Baird pointed out that his ship was almost the same size and could tow it through hyperspace to the UNSC base, the speed would be considerably reduced; it would take them a day to manage the short trip instead of the minutes it would normally require. Stanforth graciously accepted the offer.

It was difficult for Stanforth to decide which arrival would be the most shocking for the remaining Reach garrison forces – the captured Covenant ship, the Nemesis, the Everest or the Keyship. At the moment it was a toss-up. Given this fact and the knowledge that the Reach garrison would be on high alert while so many ships were here at Sigma Octanus, they planned to arrive well out of range of the Orbital Defence Platforms and their Super-MACs. Even to shielded vessels, getting hit by a slug massing thousands of tonnes moving at such a velocity was a very daunting prospect and not one that had any intention of facing.

The discussion rambled on for a considerable time until Dying Light returned, having verified that no tracking systems were in place and furthermore that a considerable amount of information was present about Covenant positions. Stanforth had practically jumped out of his seat in joy at the idea. Actual, reliable intelligence about Covenant bases had been devilishly hard to come back and the UNSC had essentially been on the defensive for the entire war – Admiral Cole’s Harvest Campaign being a notable exception. Coupled with the promised upgrades, additional forces from Terra and the return of Preston Cole, Stanforth was sure this would be embraced gratefully by not only HighCom but the entire population – the Admiral had a palpable feeling that the war had reached a turning point.

Out in space, the clean-up progressed. The wreckage of the Covenant ships, including both halves of the bisected Legacy of the Hierarchs, had been towed into a high-altitude parking orbit so it would not interfere with in-system traffic but would remain safe in case the UNSC wanted to analyse it further. The collected wreckage was an inspiring sight for the human crews, a reminder that it hadn’t all been some delirious dream.

After twelve hours of work the clean-up was mostly completed, helped considerably by the fact that most of the Covenant vessels had died in a messy and spectacular fashion leaving very little behind. The two halves of the battlecruiser, the port hull armour of the destroyer that the Everest had annihilated, a few larger fragments of the Charity’s Shield and some of the frigates and destroyers and that was it. Smaller fragments were even now burning into the planet’s atmosphere, creating an impressive meteor shower that was better than fireworks for the delighted civilians. The few fragments that didn’t burn up completely splashed down harmlessly into the ocean.

With the discussions among the senior officers drawing to a close, the UNSC and their new friends made ready to head out. There had been some discussion of the Cole Protocol and how it applied to the captured Covenant ship, but Cole had pointed out, with a highly amused expression, that the Protocol permitted captured vessels to be brought to human worlds via an indirect route once they had been thoroughly searched for tracking systems. Stanforth had sheepishly admitted he’d forgotten that section even existed – it had never been needed before.

The UNSC fleet began leaving first, ships accelerating away from the planet before transiting to slipspace. The Terran group, the Keyship and the four Tau’ri 304s left next, they would wait in the Reach system’s Oort cloud until Stanforth and Cole signalled for them to move in. Finally, HMS Dreadnought began the slow journey, towing the bulk of the Legendary Valour behind her as she went, the huge White Ensign streaming from the upper part of the dorsal superstructure.

That was a quirk of the Royal Navy that instantly set any of the British-built ships apart, even from the otherwise-identical 304’s built by other nations. From the dorsal superstructure was a large rectangular framework from which hung a White Ensign that measured a full sixty feet long and forty feet tall, the same size as the Ensigns worn by ships during the Age of Sail. It was a minor addition to the ship’s design that had been suggested by the Prince of Wales, himself a former naval officer. It had a profound effect on the public and the rest of the UN, reminding them that the Royal Navy really did now sail among the stars.

With the huge fleet gone and the meteor shower of Covenant debris slowly winding down, things began to return to normal for the people of Sigma Octanus IV after the seemingly-inevitable annihilation that the enemy fleet had heralded. After the brief but jarring reminder that they were at war, the inhabitants returned to work. Patients still needed to be treated, children needed to be taught, crops had to be tended and a thousand other mundane tasks that did not go away even when the apocalypse came calling.

This was not the end of the story for Sigma Octanus however.

In the aft section of the Legacy of the Hierarchs, in a hanger bay miraculously untouched by the savagery of the hardlight beam cannon attack sat a small stealth corvette. The surviving crew, a mere handful compared to their original numbers, had gathered there as stealthily as possible, knowing that it was their only chance of returning to High Charity and informing the Covenant of the deadly new ships and weapons the humans possessed…and the Dreadnought. A Forerunner relic in human hands was utterly unacceptable.

The senior survivor was a Special Operations Major who also intended to complete their original mission. They knew where the Artefact was on the surface and he planned to retrieve the information it contained. Going back to the Hierarchs with tales and sensor records of the annihilation of the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve was vital, returning with the Artefact as well might be the only thing that saved their lives.

The Major had a plan. The corvette, called Tranquil Repose, was equipped with the best Covenant stealth systems available and would carry them right down into the planet’s atmosphere, somewhere well out of sight of the human settlements. Then the single dropship (which, fortuitously, also possessed stealth systems as it had been intended for use by the Special Operations team aboard the battlecruiser) would then ferry them to the edges of the underground sewer network that supported the largest human city. The Spec Ops team would move through the tunnels using their active camouflage systems to avoid detection until they reached the Artefact’s location. Then they would wait until nightfall, break in to the structure, retrieve the Artefact and then escape as quickly as possible.

The orders given to the insertion team were strange indeed, almost heretical in fact. They were to avoid contact with humans at all costs. For this reason the team would consist only of Sanghelli. The Unggoy and the Kig-Yar, for all their uses, were just too uncontrollable and trigger-happy for this kind of mission. So they would remain behind while the Sanghelli carried the mission.

The moment came for the Tranquil Repose to launch. They had carefully waited until the slow rotation of the battlecruiser’s stern section carried their hanger bay away from the planet; they slipped out, hidden by the larger chunk of debris and quickly cloaked. Careful bursts from the thrusters brought them around and on a long, slow cruise in towards the atmosphere.

Atmospheric insertion went well, the stealth systems coping admirably with the heat and greatly reducing the visible effects, the handful of humans on the surface who saw it thought it was just another small piece of debris burning in to crash in the ocean. After a few minutes of rough turbulence the flight smoothed somewhat as they dipped into the cloud layer, further obscuring them.

The corvette set down in a narrow canyon high in the mountains a few hundred kilometres from the largest city. The SpecOps team boarded their dropship with a final admonishment from the Major that they must not be seen. The small craft flew low and slow, the passengers silent as they waited patiently to arrive. Night was beginning to fall and their plan could proceed quicker than expected. After an hour’s flight the cloaked dropship set them down in a dense forest, near an access to the sewer network. The heavy metal grating quickly yielded to Sanghelli strength and the long, careful march through the dark and dank tunnels began.

For the Sanghelli, proud and noble warriors, the presence of fear or superstition was a rare occasion. But the dark tunnels that stretched on seemingly for ever, with the only sounds being distant rushing water and the sporadic drip, drip of soil or dirt falling from above, were surprisingly unnerving to the elite warriors. The scurry of small rodents, the occasion harsh cry of night predators and their prey only added to the sense of wrongness. Finally, the enforced silence and slow, deliberate pace prevented each warrior from seeking some shred of reassurance from their fellows. All of them would never admit this to anyone else of course, the warrior ethos was too strongly ingrained for that, but all of them were secretly delighted to reach their destination.

The timing was almost perfect. This hemisphere was in the depths of winter at present, the nights long and dark, and they were a good six hours more before sunrise. Everyone would be tucked up in bed and far away from their target. The Cote d’Azur Natural History Museum held many relics and artefacts, both of the planet’s centuries-long history and of humanity as a whole. It was a carefully-curated and brilliantly-displayed collection that could teach someone virtually all they wanted to know about the history of humanity and this world.

All of this was utterly immaterial to the Sanghelli strike team. With judicious use of plasma swords and brute force, they hacked their way out of the sewer tunnels and into the lower floor of the museum. They knew the Artefact they sought was somewhere within these walls but not the precise location, so they moved from hall to hall, systematically searching for the iconic Forerunner glyphs that would, hopefully, make it obvious to Covenant eyes.

The team moved under full camouflage and stealth protocols, making as little noise as possible. That stealthy movement combined with the size of the collection to give them nearly two hours of fruitless hunting for their goal. Finally, with just four hours left until sunrise they found it, securely held in a glass display case with a large plaque in the human language proclaiming its existence.

The human archaeologists who had unearthed it seven decades earlier had believed it to be a relic of a previous, now-extinct interstellar species, similar to a number of others that turned up across the Inner Colonies. They had generated considerable public excitement at the time, the first evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligent life, but the excitement quickly faded when it was discovered that none of the discovered objects were active or younger than a hundred thousand years. Whatever species had made them was clearly long dead. They remained as items of academic interest but nothing more.

That too was immaterial to the strike team. Here was their goal and without thought to the passive security systems the team leader smashed open the case and grabbed the Artefact as reverentially as possible given the circumstances. The team then made a hasty retreat back to the sewer tunnels, this time using plasma pistols to flash-weld the access to the tunnels shut, eclipsing any evidence of their ingress and egress.

Then there was the hours-long march back to the dropship and the careful, low-level and risky flight back to the Tranquil Repose. By the time the dropship returned to the small corvette it was almost fully light and the Spec Ops Major decided to wait until darkness before lifting off and making good their escape.

The staff at the History Museum were baffled by the apparent break-in and theft of an obscure artefact. The seeming absence of forced entry pointed them towards the Museum’s own staff, believing one of them had to be involved to bypass the security on the entrances and exits. The case would rumble on for months with no perpetrator being found.

The following night Tranquil Repose left its temporary canyon home and slowly and discreetly rose into the upper atmosphere and then low orbit. A gradual, stealthy engine burn was begun that would take them out past the planet’s moon and away from prying eyes to a safe point to engage their slipspace drive and return to High Charity as quickly as possible.

This unnoticed mission and escape would have profound and far-reaching consequences. Not only would the Hierarchs be aware of the dramatic shift in power the Alliance Recon Force represented but the Artefact was in fact a star map, containing two sets of coordinates. One set pointed to another nearby world that the humans were not known to occupy that held more Forerunner relics, ones vital to the progress of the Great Journey. The second set gave the location of a Ring of the Gods, the gateways to the future. The Ring would be recognised by Dying Light as Installation 04.

The humans called the apparently-unknown world Reach.

========

And another chapter to stir the pot. The Covenant are not going to be dumb; like I did with the Wraith I'm going to try and make both sides fight clever.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-09 07:22pm

Where's the fun in that?
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-09 07:24pm

It's a lot more interesting to write for one.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-09 07:32pm

I know. I was taking the piss.

Seriously, I loved the plot twist. Reach isn't out of the woods, and the Covies are prolly going to bring lots of big ships, all heavily modified to compensate for the rebalancing of power.

We might even see High Charity(Or its Forerunner Dreadnaught bit) join the Fleet sent against Reach.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-09 07:37pm

The Covenant will be delayed hitting Reach. They don't know it's a human world so they arne't going to come in with everything, but it will be an epic fleet battle.

As for High Charity and it's central Dreadnought/Keyship (Canonically the Anodyne Spirit) I have a....ballsy, insane, wicked-awesome plan for how and when that fight will go down. Stay tuned.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-10 10:11am

Reaching for Salvation
UNSC Orbital Defence Platform Seven, Reach Orbital Space
July 18th, 2552 (Military Calendar)


ODP Seven was functionally identical to the other nineteen gun platforms in orbit over Reach, surrounding the primary shipyards. It was formed of a huge gun barrel and a circular support structure near the middle – there really wasn’t any more to say about the station’s design, it was exactly what might be expected from something that mounted a Super-MAC as its only armament.

But while ODP Seven was physically identical it did have one major thing that set it apart. In the absence of Admiral Stanforth and his flagship the UNSC Leviathan, this platform was the designated command station for the defences of Reach. It had received this honour after Stanforth christened it “Lucky Seven” and used it as a command centre when his ship was in refit. Since that chance event six years ago the convention had stuck.

In the command centre stood Captain Victor Suranov, the man left in command when the Admiral had raced off to Sigma Octanus, the system next door, a day ago. Suranov had the twenty ODP’s and a mere handful of ships; twenty frigates, twelve destroyers and the carrier Atlas – a hideously thin screen for the most vital UNSC position outside of the Sol system. Suranov had not slept since Stanforth had left and was waiting anxiously for the Admiral to come back. He was pacing up and down the command centre with a grim look on his face and keeping a weather eye on the primary sensor displays. He half-expected a horde of Covenant vessels to come racing out of slipspace at any moment.

Of course, the rational, logical part of his brain reminded him that if the Covenant did come in strength, even with Stanforth’s ships here they couldn’t stop them. They never could. Suranov sighed and reached into his pocket for a cigarette and a lighter. Smoking aboard a ship or a station anywhere outside of designated areas was a breach of regulations, but Suranov had exercised his temporary command authority to designate the entire station a smoking area and turned up the atmospheric filters and air purifiers to maximum to keep the smoke from the air. The crew certainly seemed to appreciate it; more than a few who didn’t normally smoke could be seen puffing away determinedly.

Suranov had just fished a slightly bent cigarette out of the packet and was about to spark his antique Zippo lighter when the sensor display squawked and the sensor operators bellowed in surprise.

“Slipspace ruptures! Beyond effective range, multiple vessels emerging now…count is twenty-five…thirty….thirty-eight…forty-two….fifty ships, holding formation. Contacts are not, say again not accelerating.”

Suranov practically leapt over to his command position, the cigarette still held in one hand and the lighter in the other. “Get me an ID immediately! All ships to man General Quarters and launch all fighters!”

Even as the orders left his mouth, largely on autopilot, Suranov’s brain racing at top speed. That force out there was too big to be the returning Reach garrison forces under Stanforth – if they had engaged the Covenant as they intended to they’d be lucky to have half their number return. Something else was going on.

The sensor operators were hard at work and soon had an answer – a wild, impossible answer.

“Unknown vessels now showing UNSC transponder tags. Leviathan, Langley, Hiryu, Lancelot, Galahad, Iroquois, Gettysburg, Allegiance, Fair Weather, Commonwealth, Cradle….” the operator trailed off, there was not much point continuing to name every ship as this was quite clearly the returning, intact fleet, plus the three ships that had already been at Sigma Octanus.

Suranov almost groaned in relief. Then something caught in his brain. Stanforth had left with forty-five ships, plus the Cradle. They’d linked up with the Iroquois and two frigates there. That made forty-nine ships but there were fifty on sensors.

“Sensors, which is the extra ship? There should only be forty-nine contacts.” When Suranov didn’t get an answer, he turned angrily towards the Lieutenant in question and was about to bark an order at the young woman when he took in the utter shock on her face.

“Lieutenant?” He prompted, his tone far more gentle than he had originally intended. The young woman continued to stare at the display, not hearing him. Suranov reached over and tapped her on the shoulder, making her jump in shock before she came back to her senses.

“I’m…sorry sir. The extra ship is showing a transponder tag that ID’s her as a Valiant-class superheavy cruiser…the UNSC Everest sir.”

Without conscious thought (for there were no thoughts in Suranov’s head at present) his hands lifted the cigarette and lit it. He took a comforting drag to cover his own surprise. For most of the crew this was historic, for Victor it was personal. Nine years before, he’d been a senior Lieutenant aboard the Everest at Psi Serpentis under Preston Cole himself. He, along with the rest of the crew, had been ordered to abandon ship by Cole before the flagship dove into Viperidae, drawing the Covenant in to the kill zone.

Suranov shook his head to get rid of the memories, took another drag and then looked over at one of the other officers.

“Get me the Leviathan. I want to know what the hell is going on.”

A minute passed and then the screen flared to life, showing Admiral Stanforth seated calmly on his bridge. The Admiral spoke before Victor could even open his mouth.

”Captain Suranov, you can stand down, we’re friendlies.”

Suranov was having none of that. “With due respect Admiral I will not stand down until I know exactly who is on that mystery cruiser that’s claiming to be the Everest. Until I am satisfied any of your ships breaching the defence perimeter will be fired on.”

The command crew were shocked at such words, but Suranov would not be dissuaded. He was the man commanding the defence of Reach, and there were too many odd things going on here to make this simple. There was an outside chance that this was a grand Covenant deception. It may have been long odds but with three billion people on the planet below, Victor was taking no chances.

On the screen, Stanforth raised an eyebrow in curiosity and a measure of approval at Suranov’s actions. Instead of answering, he gestured at someone off-screen and a second channel opened on the display, showing another man standing on another bridge. The man in question bore a shocking resemblance to Preston Cole, but Suranov was still not convinced. That could be faked of course, though he admitted that if this was a Covenant ploy they were going to ludicrous lengths.

The new figure spoke. ” Well God damn…Victor Suranov made Captain! I knew you’d do well, this just proves it. I guess it’s been a while longer for you than for me. Good to see you again Victor.”

By now, Victor was a hair’s breadth away from believing this was real. But those three billion lives demanded he be absolutely certain.

“If you really are Admiral Preston Cole, tell me what you said to me two days before Psi Serpentis.”

Cole burst out laughing at that. ”Of all the things you could have chosen! I’d just caught you and a certain Lieutenant Katya Orlanov all over each other in an out-of-the-way corridor. After I dismissed her, I said to you that you need to be more careful with whom you date; Weapons officers tend to be very…direct about solving relationship issues.” This was said with a broad grin on Cole’s face and laughter in his eyes, something the old Admiral found very comforting. After all this time, after all that fighting, he could still laugh. He was still human.

Suranov absorbed that and finally accepted that this really was genuine. He turned away from the screen and the Admirals for a moment. “Lieutenant, signal all ships and ODP’s to secure from General Quarters.” He turned back. “It’s damned good to see both of you. Admiral Stanforth, what happened? I thought you were going to engage the Covenant, did they not show up?”

Stanforth shook his head. ”Oh we engaged them alright. Twenty-eight Covenant ships are now dust and debris and one was captured. Now before you ask how, mostly that’s Admiral Cole here.”

Cole took up the tale. “In short, I went away for a while and came back with the cavalry. Incidentally Hieronymus we should call them in, no sense them sitting in the Oort cloud all day. We gave the Covenant fleet a damn good thrashing and didn’t take a single loss.” As he said that, he was tapping out a message to Jellicoe and Dying Light. ”Our new friends should be here any moment, Victor, for old time’s sake I am ordering you not to freak out about this. Whatever happened to Katya anyway?”

Suranov was confused at the rapid-fire changes in topic, astounded at the entire of an entire Covenant fleet being wiped out for no losses and moderately suspicious as to who these “allies” might be. Despite all that, he felt a surge of pride as he answered Cole’s final question.

“We got married the year after Psi Serpentis. She’s a Commander now and has just taken over the Forward Unto Dawn, a new heavy frigate. Our son Josef is living with my parents on Earth right now.”

Cole smiled at the younger man. ”Congratulations Victor, is she still direct at problem-solving?”

Suranov snorted in laughter. “Absolutely Sir. You should have heard her swearing when we tried to move apartment on Reach a few years ago: her answer to “this sofa won’t fit” was “break the damn thing in half!”

Cole was still laughing while Stanforth looked on with a bemused expression. ”I told you Victor, direct and to the point. Anyway, our new friends are about to arrive. Eyes on your screen Captain.”

Suranov took his advice. Another slipspace rupture opened, disgorging a truly massive tetrahedral object. Small portals, similar and yet distinct, opened and spat out four ships that looked like corvettes. And then came thirteen bright flashes and suddenly, thirteen big ships were present, holding position just above Stanforth’s fleet. The sensor operator spoke up.

“We’re getting transponder signals on UNSC frequencies from those new ships. They read as United Colonies’ Combined Fleet, Royal Navy, United States Air Force and Russian Federation…and that big one just says “Forerunner.” ID’s on screen now Captain.”
One by one the unknown contacts flickered and changed to friendly green symbols, bearing names underneath: Shield of Eternity, Nemesis, Cassandra Cameron, Stephen Falken, Warrior, Conqueror, Gagarin, Icarus, Peregrine and more. All recognisably human names, all also not vessels currently in UNSC service. The designs were radically different in many ways from UNSC ships and yet had a number of recognisable features – gun turrets, hanger bays, missile tubes, what looked like large, fixed weapon mounts.

The comms officer spoke up next. “Incoming signals from the new arrivals Nemesis and Shield of Eternity, putting them on screen now.” With a press of a button, Stanforth and Cole’s feeds shifted to the upper half of the huge screen and two new feeds appeared. One showed a human in a completely different uniform to the two UNSC Admirals while the second showed a big floating ball.

The human spoke first. ”I am Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe commanding the Alliance Recon Force, and this is 010 Dying Light, a Forerunner AI construct. Your Admiral Cole sent Dying Light and his ship through to our universe to gather aid from their old allies. We’re here to help.”

The floating ball bobbed in what might have been agreement. ”Admiral Jellicoe is quite correct. I serve the Reclaimer, the one you call Preston Cole. He has ordered me to help save humanity from the Covenant. I am sorry it has taken so long for us to arrive, we should have been here a month ago.”

Suranov had thought he was done for shocks today, he was wrong. Without really thinking he lifted his still-burning cigarette and took another reassuring drag. “Umm, thanks.” He looked at his immediate commander, feeling he was back on safer ground. “Admiral Stanforth, would you like me to signal HighCom and ask them to assemble? I think they need to hear this…all of this.”

Stanforth nodded. ”Excellent thinking Captain. I think they’re all on Reach anyway, only Lord Hood is absent and it won’t take him long to get here. Oh, and one last thing. There are another couple of ships coming in, our new friends managed to disable and board a Covenant battlecruiser, they’ve got another capital ship towing it here. Signal the dockmaster and tell them I want a cruiser-scale berth cleared and ready to receive it. We’ve got a lot to learn.”

Suranov could only nod, the shocks just kept coming.

========

Victor Suranov and Katya Orlanov are my own creations, but I thought it would be fun to have some OC UNSC officers and a link to Cole's past. Next up, Cole, Jellicoe and Stanforth get to meet HighCom, Dreadnought shows up with the Legendary Valour in tow, and discussions begin on recon missions, upgrading the UNSC ships and whatto do about the Halo Array.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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U.P. Cinnabar
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-10 10:41am

Since Katya is a woman, her maiden name should properly be Orlanova. If she's using her married name, it would be Suranova,

Victor would probably call her "Katen'ka" or "Katyusha." Her parents would call her the latter.


(TV Tropes/ Glorious Mother Russia is a treasure trove on Russian naming conventions)

I didn't think the UNSC allowed smoking, similar to RL US DoD policy. But, with events like these, I suppose Victor can be forgiven for lighting up.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-10 10:48am

I'm not completely up on Russian names, and I figure that 500 years of linguistic evolution and a shift to (apparently) English as a universal language has tweaked things enough. Plus, Again, after 500 years, just because her name is Katya Orlanov doesn't mean she's actually Russian. Consider that "Lord Terrance Hood" sounded decidedly American in Halo 2/3.

As for the smoking thing, well in Fall of Reach Keyes repeatedly ponders about lighting up his pipe and a whole bunch of officers are mentioned smoking Sweet William cigars - even aboard ship, so I figure there's designated "smoking compartments" for those who want. Plus I wrote this this morning after breakfast and before I made it to the shops and I was fresh out of smokes, so it kinda weighed on my mind. Plus it's a little character touch.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” - Confederate General George Pickett, on being asked why his charge at Ghettysburg failed

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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

Post by fnord » 2018-06-10 12:10pm

And, of course, RHIP.
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-10 12:21pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote:
2018-06-10 10:48am
I'm not completely up on Russian names, and I figure that 500 years of linguistic evolution and a shift to (apparently) English as a universal language has tweaked things enough. Plus, Again, after 500 years, just because her name is Katya Orlanov doesn't mean she's actually Russian. Consider that "Lord Terrance Hood" sounded decidedly American in Halo 2/3.
Because a Beast was his voice actor. In universe, he's a Brit. Though, It's entirely possible he took elocution lessons to Americanize his accent, similar to how the Afrikaans government forced British colonials and their descendants to take elocution lessons to sound more Afrikaans.
As for the smoking thing, well in Fall of Reach Keyes repeatedly ponders about lighting up his pipe and a whole bunch of officers are mentioned smoking Sweet William cigars - even aboard ship, so I figure there's designated "smoking compartments" for those who want. Plus I wrote this this morning after breakfast and before I made it to the shops and I was fresh out of smokes, so it kinda weighed on my mind. Plus it's a little character touch.
Fair enough. You roll your own, or no?
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-06-10 12:23pm

fnord wrote:
2018-06-10 12:10pm
And, of course, RHIP.
Of course.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law

"The Constitution's a piece of paper. A kick in the head is a jolt."
—Stanley "Ray" Kowalski
"Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
---NRA motto

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