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 Sky Captain » 2018-06-18 06:13am

That was spectacular victory, however Covenant now will know about upgraded UNSC ships and Alliance fleet. Will Covenant launch massed attack against Reach sooner? How many warships Covenant have? UNSC have hundreds, with Alliance upgrades that is a potent force if they have enough time to upgrade most of them.

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

Post by fnord » 2018-06-18 08:07am

<Bluebottle>You called, my capatain?</Bluebottle>

The strategic surprise couldn't have been maintained for long (what with Cole's plans to put the boot in) - from the 'umie POV, better to expend that surprise at a time and place of their choosing, rather than getting rumbled pointlessly.

E_F did mention that this attack may actually _hurt_ the overall UNSC strategic position rather than help it - rather than buying time while the Covenant ask "WTFMATE?", the lid's been blown off, the Covvies are pissed, are pulling the stops out, and have moved various timetables up.
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by InsaneTD » 2018-06-18 10:47am

I believe one of the books gives a number for the covenant fleet at being around 500 vessels, not including High Charity, which has a forerunner Keyship as it's heart.

The fleet that heads to Reach shouldn't actually be any bigger then in the book unless the covenant know the humans are there, which they might if they jumped straight back to Reach from that battle.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-18 12:11pm

I'm giving the Covenant a larger fleet than 500 ships, because we know Cole personally killed six hundred or so in his Harvest Campaign and then at Psi Serpentis. A further 500 ships get totalled when Whitcomb and the SPARTANs whack Unyielding Hierophant in "Halo: First Strike," and then another few hundred get taken out by the NOVA bomb in "Ghosts of Onyx." We know the humans were outnumbered during the entire war and I'd say the UNSC have 700-1000 ships operational at present, so Covenant fleet strength should be substantially higher. Covenant ships are also individually larger and more powerful than standard UNSC ships which helps - and the humans have nothing that can go up against Assault Carriers and/or Supercarriers one-to-one.

The Covenant will soon know about Reach, and while they don't know if it's a human-held world, the last "apparently uninhabited" world they attacked (Sigma Octanus) cost them one of their elite forces in it's entirety, so they're going to come mob-handed.

The loss of their main logistics base in human space is going to delay things somewhat, as will amassing a larger force to attack Reach (in "Fall of Reach" they came with something like 150+ ships, so they'll bring more this time). The timetable has shifted but the fundamental events will largely be the same.

It should definitely be noted that while the UNSC ships are getting a strong upgrade it's not going to make them invincible by a long shot - their main guns are still firing unguided projectiles that need precise targeting and have no elevation/traverse, and their shields can only take a couple of hits. And then of course there are energy projectors to take into consideration.
"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 Sky Captain » 2018-06-18 01:06pm

It may be good idea to maintain initiative while strategic and tactical surprise lasts and hit another Covenant base. The human fleet is battle ready as no ships got lost or damaged. Jump in, blast something important with every weapon and jump out. It would show Covenant that humans can attack at any place and tie up hundreds of ships in defending vital systems and bases. Ships that can't be safely pulled out to attack UNSC targets.

How does Forerunner Keyship stand up compared to other ships? So far it has done nothing a Warstar or Heavy Battlestar couldn't do.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-18 01:43pm

Keeping up the initiative is a good idea, however at present the only intel they have on Covenant fleet movements comes from Legendary Valour, which may well be out of date before much times passes. Unyielding Hierophant was the only logistics/resupply base in the area. They're going to need lots of recon, which the Prowlers and Explorers will handle. This lack of intel will be addressed in the next chapter.

As for the Keyship, it's certainly more powerful than the Warstar but not by a huge amount - it's built to attack single, strong targets rather than act as a general brawler though. She's also more useful as a strategic asset with the ability to open large-scale slipspace portals.
"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 » 2018-06-18 03:54pm

Which rules out killing High Charity with fire. Just to be sure.
"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 » 2018-06-18 04:07pm

Like I said, I have a plan for High Charity.
"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 InsaneTD » 2018-06-19 01:37am

Doesn't Ghost of Onyx also have the Spartan-IIIs hit two facilities close to human space as well? A asteroid that's being mined/factory and a plasma/heavy water processing facility? Humans could hit both of those.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-19 12:26pm

InsaneTD wrote:
2018-06-19 01:37am
Doesn't Ghost of Onyx also have the Spartan-IIIs hit two facilities close to human space as well? A asteroid that's being mined/factory and a plasma/heavy water processing facility? Humans could hit both of those.
Yeah, but those have happened in the story so far - Hood remarks about the Spartan-III Alpha and Bravo company suicide missions after the HighCom meeting with Cole.
"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 InsaneTD » 2018-06-19 10:10pm

My bad. Forgot about that.

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

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-06-20 05:53pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote:
2018-06-18 04:07pm
Like I said, I have a plan for High Charity.
Flood controlled UNSC ship slipspace jumped past High Charity defences and infested the station. Now with Terran jump drive, huge naquadah bomb and computer piloted suicide ship something can be put together.

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-20 06:06pm

My plan is...bigger. Crazier. Remember who is on hand to dream up crazy plans as needed - Jellicoe, Lee Adama, Saul Tigh, Mikhail Kirov and Fireman. You'll have to wait for, i dunno, probably Act 6 or 7 at this rate. Act 3 is holding off the Covenant, buying time to upgrade the UNSC fleet, and a few behind the scenes things on High Charity and the Halo rings. Act 5 will be the battle on/for Installations 04 and 05. Act 6 and 7...that's getting in to the climax of the story and probably the Covenant's final charge on Earth.

While the timeline is getting shuffled around a fair bit, the essential elements of the game storylines (and the first few books) will still happen...because nothing I've changed so far has changed those elements - the Covenant have the Artefact that tells them where Reach is, and the first Halo Ring. The Prophet of Regret is still likely to go off to check out that "small uninhabited world with Forerunner artefects..." that happens to be Earth (the opening of Halo 2) - only he may well bring a bigger fleet. They've still got scouts out looking for the Rings and will stumble across Installation 05.

So yeah, I'm changing a lot and giving the bad guys one hell of a bloody nose...but none of their future actions depending on taking Sigma Octanus, and losing Unyielding Hierophant in a messy and spectacular fashion will just slow them down, not stop them.
"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 » 2018-07-04 08:58am

What about the Kobolian mob coming across something that they know cannot be so?
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 » 2018-07-04 10:11am

Such as pineapples on pizza? 🤣
"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 » 2018-07-04 02:31pm

I'm not sure what you're referring to fnord, sorry. The Kobolians are certainly going to be somewhat skeptical of coincidences of the Covvies "just happening" to turn up at Reach and/or Earth.

Then again, the Covenant don't seem to be one for advance recon, probably since they have (or rather, had) an overwhelming space advantage. Consider that they didn't know, in-game, that humans inhabited Sigma Octanus, Reach or Earth. They didn't do any recon of potential defences, they just waded in, confident of total victory because that's what they've enjoyed since Preston Cole died.

That complacency will cost them...a lot.

EDIT: I should also add that another chapter should be up tomorrow, I apologise for the break in routine but life has been up, down and sideways of late, with little time for writing.
"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 » 2018-07-04 02:52pm

Take your time. I'll be busy most of Treason Day anyway.
"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 » 2018-07-04 02:54pm

Well the next chapter is a big one that's at 1900 words and half-done, showing things for the UNSC and the Covenant in response to Operation: Sucker Punch. It has required me to make one fairly substantial canon change for Halo...but that shouldn't surprise anyone since I'm already running Battlestars against Covenant battlecruisers :D
"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 » 2018-07-04 05:05pm

Oh, and as a fun side-note, I like a couple of my Covvie ship names (that are sadly dead now) that's I've adopted them for the Imperial Knights 40K army I'm building: the Knight Warden (with a big nasty fist) Hand of Judgment and the Knight Crusader (two big guns) Alacritous Retribution. The senior Knight though will be the Blood of Bannockburn, because I'm putting them in kilts and sticking the Clan Wallace crest on them, because why the fuck wouldn't I.
"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 » 2018-07-04 05:18pm

As long as they're not led by Mel Gibson, I don't care. Also, Douglas was key in the victory at Bannockburn.

I say that, because a movie about James Douglas is one I'd love to see.
"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 » 2018-07-04 05:28pm

U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-07-04 05:18pm
As long as they're not led by Mel Gibson, I don't care. Also, Douglas was key in the victory at Bannockburn.

I say that, because a movie about James Douglas is one I'd love to see.
Well I had planned to have the Hand of Judgment be driven by Sir Robert Bruce, so Alacritous Retribution can have Sir James Douglas at the helm.
"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 » 2018-07-04 05:44pm

Och aye!
"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 » 2018-07-05 09:43am

And I'm back, with my longest-ever chapter:

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ONI CASTLE Base, Menachite Mountains, Reach
August 8th, 2552 (UNSC Military Calendar)


Doctor Catherine Halsey finally reached her secluded office after an interminable hour-long process to get through ONI’s security arrangements (or paranoia, as she called it). Seven ID pass checks, two blood samples, three retina scans, one cerebral mapping scan and a final voiceprint analysis and pass phrase let her reach her Sanctum Sanctorum. It was sparsely furnished, featuring a plain wooden desk without any clutter or even a computer terminal. A fairly limp pot plant occupied one corner beside a pair of comfortable chairs and a table for informal discussions or simply reading in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Along the walls were a series of framed pictures, but not the ones that might be expected. There were no stunning landscapes, no stirring motivational images and no glorious battle scenes. Instead there were thirty-six framed pictures of young men and women in dress uniform, most often when receiving medals of some form or another. Thirty-six men and women who, apart from being in impeccable physical condition and being somewhat pale-skinned, were indistinguishable from any of the other countless millions serving in the UNSC. They weren’t like any others though.

These were her Spartans: the absolute best of the best, the single most elite and battle-hardened unit in the history of mankind. Not even the genuine Spartans at Thermopylae or the Swiss Guard or the Praetorians or the SAS of old could be considered their equals. Raised and trained from age six, enhanced with the pinnacle of human medical and technological ingenuity, they were the ultimate special forces unit. When they had been made public to boost the morale of a war-weary civilian population years earlier they had instantly become celebrities throughout the Inner Colonies, war heroes for a new generation.

Beyond all that though, Halsey felt they were hers. She had instigated the program, overseen the selection with Jacob Keyes riding shotgun (and that thought brought up another wave of memories that she ruthlessly suppressed), run their training, taught them so much. She was in so many ways their mother-figure – she had once heard a slightly grumpy Admiral remark that she seemed to be the only civilian the Spartans respected. She was deeply proud of them.

But for every iota of pride, both professional and maternal there was an equal measure of guilt and grief. Taking them from their families at such a young age, putting them through that brutal training, forcing them through the radical and dangerous augmentation process that left half of them dead or unable to continue and then sending them off on one near-suicidal mission after another, mourning every loss along the way. It took its toll, no matter what face she put on for the public and the assorted higher-ups.

It had been necessary, she reassured herself every day. The lives and prospects of seventy-five children weighed against the millions who might have perished in a full-scale insurrection against the UNSC – and later, against the billions at risk from the Covenant. Her Spartans had collectively killed more Covenant enemies than any four divisions of UNSC Marines and pulled off more stunning successes than anyone save Preston Cole himself. With the scales weighed as they were, the decision was obvious and should have been an easy one to make and live with.

But it had been her decision ultimately. She had made it, and made it gladly. She was also the one who had to live with it.

Of course, while her Spartans could routinely turn the tide of almost any ground campaign against the Covenant, they could do little to help in space. Costly but triumphant battles were turned to ashes – literally – as the seemingly unassailable Covenant armadas brushed aside the human ships and glassed the planets they given so much to save.

Now however there was a chance that things could change. Preston Cole was back from the dead, with new weapons, technology and allies that even now were refitting UNSC ships with energy shields that would even the odds against the Covenant warships. The entire concept was staggering to her in its implausibility. Had this been a novel or a film she would have decried these events as an author’s desperate deus ex machina, a twist for the sake of a twist.

But it was not a novel or a film. It had really happened – she knew this because she had just returned from the UNSC Everest, inspecting the new systems – the generators, the engines, the shields, the weaponry, the sensors. Almost everything on the ship bar the deckplates was more advanced than anything in current service and gave her countless ideas for improving what they already had beyond the MAC systems and the new shield generators and FTL drives that had been “dropped in” - by teleporter, no less - into empty compartments in the ships.

Already several of her theories were being tested out in one of the orbital drydocks – new fusion reactors that didn’t need coolant reserves and thus could run at full power without risk of slagging vital components. The tests were being run on the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, one of the original production run of the Marathon-class cruisers that had been heavily damaged in a battle near Zeta Doradus. She had needed almost a complete rebuild to be battle-ready again, but the Navy had decided it was worth doing as it was still quicker and cheaper than building a complete new cruiser. The new reactors were proving very successful and the ship had already received the MAC upgrades. Thanks to some careful negotiation with the Chief Engineer of the Kobolian Yardship she would also soon receive the strongest available shields, an example of the more powerful (and too large for a frigate or destroyer) neutrino-ion generator and thirty of a new type of weapon, Tollan Ion Cannons courtesy of the Asgard Forge-Ship. It transpired that the Asgard data cores contained details of every technology they had ever encountered, the Tollan weapons were believed to be both easiest to quickly replicate and install and most effective for their ability to bypass certain types of shields – including the Covenant’s.

The Pillar of Autumn was, at present, merely a testbed to see if the various technologies could be successfully integrated into a UNSC hull but Halsey knew that HighCom had grand plans for the vessel. The pre-Sigma Octanus proposals for Operation: Red Flag had been heavily adjusted and renamed, but one modified cruiser would still be at the centre of it.

Halsey sighed contentedly as she sipped her first coffee of the afternoon. A brief tap activated her glasses, bringing up various documents on the holographic lenses for her to review without needing an actual display screen. Activating the glasses also brought another system to life. Various holo-emitters activated and an AI avatar appeared.

Cortana was probably the most advanced and capable AI in the entire UNSC, created from flash-cloned copies of Halsey’s own brain which gave the AI many of Halsey’s own personality traits and quirks. The AI construct was effectively her daughter; Catherine was certainly closer to Cortana than she was to her actual daughter Miranda – and that was another thought that brought up a slew of memories and missed opportunities.

“So Doctor Halsey, I see that Red Flag has been cancelled in favour of something called Jolly Roger. Care to elaborate? The HighCom report wasn’t particularly detailed on that.”

Halsey stared at the hologram for a long moment. “That report was classified Top Secret/Codeword Restricted, a clearance I know you don’t have.”

The AI didn’t even try to appear remorseful. “I glanced at it. HighCom’s security algorithms are rather dated, and Beowulf isn’t as sharp as he used to be.”

This was the major drawback to Cortana being a “Smart” AI – she had been designed for cyber-intrusion of Covenant systems as part of Red Flag and she was very good at it. But she often got, for lack of a better term, bored. She routinely slipped around all of the firewalls intended to keep information compartmentalised and drove ONI’s cyber-security personnel nuts. Beowulf was ONI’s resident security AI and filed complaints against Cortana on an almost daily basis.

Halsey mentally groaned. “Jolly Roger is a revision of the original plan. We’ve gotten all the information we’re going to get out of Legendary Valour and we can’t assume the Covenant won’t change the useful parts after two fleets and that supply station fail to report in – it’s also possible they sent a distress call. We need more information, on both Covenant movements and these Halo Rings. Cole gave us the coordinates but we need to actually visit them. So the Pillar of Autumn will be leading a Battle Group that is going deep behind enemy lines, aiming to find and capture Covenant vessels at any opportunity, gather all available intel and if possible, launch strikes against Covenant shipyards and maybe even their capital.”

Cortana tilted her head quizzically. “I thought the aim was to capture one of their Prophets and force a truce. Weren’t ONI concerned that simply killing the Covenant leaders would lead to a fanatical backlash?”

Halsey nodded. “That is still the case. But with the new weapons, our new extra-universal friends and the return of Preston Cole HighCom has started to believe we can actually win the war rather than hoping to survive it. Jolly Roger will buy us the time we need.”

Cortana seemed to accept that. “So one heavily upgraded Marathon class cruiser, what other assets are being allocated? Apart from me of course.”

Halsey smiled at the precocious AI. “A force of twenty frigates and ten destroyers, plus twelve Prowlers. All of them have been given the refits, most importantly these “FTL” drives so they can quickly get in and out of situations. The Battle Group will also function as a quick-reaction force if the Covenant launch an attack on any of the Inner Colonies. We’re sending along every available Spartan as well. Take your pick.”

Cortana leaped to her “feet” and moved over to the portraits lining the walls. Halsey couldn’t hide a slightly smug expression as the AI gravitated directly towards John’s picture. Cortana once again tilted her head as she examined every detail of the picture and presumably his classified files.

“Him.”

“Are you sure Cortana?”

“We currently have an estimated compatibility for the mission parameters of 94.5%. A new set of subroutines I have just developed will increase that to 98.3%. He is undoubtedly the best choice.”

“Then know that he is neither the fastest nor the strongest nor the smartest of the Spartans. But he is the bravest, and probably the luckiest. He’ll also never quit until he wins.” More memories rose into her mind at that last part, of her first meeting with the remarkable child and of the earliest days of the training program, when teaching him that winning as a team was more important than winning on his own. It was a lesson he had never forgotten.

“And who will be leading this Battle Group?”

Halsey was jolted back to the present by that. “Here is my recommendation.” A flick of her gaze sent Jacob Keyes’ service history to the AI, who read it with barely a thought.

“Rewarding old flames Doctor Halsey?”

Catherine glared at Cortana. “That’s a low blow Cortana, even for you. Keyes in undoubtedly the best officer we have for this task. He’s a born leader, a brilliant tactician and can make a cruiser dance like a corvette. He also knows how to keep a secret.”

Cortana considered this for a second, which for her was an eternity. She nodded in agreement. Catherine quickly sent off her recommendations to Lord Hood. Operation: Jolly Roger was underway.

Covenant Holy City High Charity
Star System X-472/A
Ninth Age of Reclamation


High Charity was a truly mammoth construct, dwarfing by far even the logistics base Unyielding Hierophant. With the exception of the Halo Rings and the Ark, it was the single largest spaceborne construct built anywhere in known space in either universe. A hemisphere three hundred and fifty kilometres in diameter formed the bulk of the structure while a hundred and fifty kilometre long tapering spire emerged from the flat face of the upper half-sphere. This spire held countless manufacturing and resupply bays, for this mighty platform was not just the capital of the Covenant, it was their primary shipyard as well. For a hundred generations this vast complex had moved among the stars, leading the Covenant Empire to victory over countless species.

At its heart was the key to their success, the discovery that had allowed the San’Shyuum, the species now known as Prophets to triumph in the initial war against the Sanghelli and forge the Covenant as a grand alliance that would, one day, begin the Great Journey told of in their oldest legends, the Journey that would see them all transcend their mortal forms and become like the Gods themselves.

This discovery was a Forerunner ship, the Anodyne Spirit, last known Ship of the Gods. It was only partially operational but it was still powerful enough to run every system on the vast Covenant capital. It also contained the Oracle, the fragment of a Forerunner AI that had inadvertently started the entire war with the humans.

It was this Oracle that had, at the end of the preceding 23rd Age of Doubt, told the three San’Shyuum who would soon become the High Prophets Truth, Mercy and Regret that the Forerunner glyph recovered from the newly-discovered human world Harvest was not “Reclamation” but “Reclaimer.” The Oracle had decreed that those on the planet were the true heirs to its makers and that it would bring them to the Ark.

The implication that the Covenant were not the true inheritors and would be left behind while these humans were taken to the Ark on the Great Journey had shattered the beliefs and convictions of the three Prophets. They recognised that such a revelation would tear the Covenant apart, something that could not be allowed. For the greater good of the Covenant Empire, humanity had to be exterminated.

So they had staged their coup and taken control, declaring the Ninth Age of Reclamation had begun and that the Gods Themselves wished for a Holy Crusade against these humans. Twenty-seven human years later the war was approaching its closing stages as Truth, Mercy and Regret closed in on finding a Ring of the Gods to begin the Great Journey. The humans would be left behind to die.

High Charity was more than just a capital city, religious shrine and shipyard however. By necessity it was also an unassailable fortress, possessing shields that could (and had) withstand an impact from a major planetoid, slipspace collisions with large capital ships and even the fierce radiation of a red giant star in its death throes. It also mounted enough guns to obliterate every ship in the star system – and considering that the assembled ranks of the Defence Fleet, which was one-fifth of the entire Navy numbered six hundred vessels, all battlecruisers or larger, the station was exceedingly well-armed.

Now though, one single small corvette would bring the Covenant to its knees and shake their very beliefs. The Tranquil Repose shot out of slipspace at breakneck speed, frantically transmitting the necessary clearance codes and a message that they had urgent news that must be brought before the Hierarchs as soon as possible. Under the watchful eye and readied guns of the supercarrier Long Night of Solace, the Tranquil Repose slipped into a docking bay and the entire crew swiftly disembarked before being led to the Council Chamber.

The Sanghelli, Kig-Yar and Unggoy that formed the small crew were terrified of what awaited them. Only the Unggoy being the given the task of carrying the needed holo-displays stopped them from running in panic. The Kig-Yar showed less emotion but they too were deeply frightened. The Sanghelli showed no emotion at all, as their training demanded, but the Spec Ops Major in command, Saras Arlamee was sweating inside his armour. His hands held the Artefact they had retrieved from the first human world, knowing it was the only thing that would see him leave the Council Chamber alive.

Before he could worry any further, they had arrived. The Council Chamber was cavernous, filled with minor Prophets, Sanghelli High Councillors and Jiralhanae Chieftains. It was the three beings at the end of the hall that worried him. The High Prophets of Truth, Mercy and Regret sat floating in their thrones (although Regret was appearing via hologram) with inscrutable expressions. The effect on Sara was profound, the message was as clear as if it had been shouted:

Make this good if you want to live.

Saras knelt before the Hierarchs and waited for the command to speak. Truth kept him waiting for a little while, idly wondering if he’d be able to see this Sanghelli sweat, before finally breaking the silence.

“Saras Arlamee, of the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve, what news do you bring of your Fleetmaster’s mission? Has the Artefact been recovered?”

“Honoured Hierarch, the Artefact has been recovered – but at great cost. We who are gathered before you are the last survivors of that Fleet. The rest were annihilated by the humans.”

Truth nodded. Losing an entire fleet was a moderate annoyance, especially as it was one of their more skilled forces, but the Artefact was more important. If the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve had indeed been destroyed, it must have cost the humans far more, losses they couldn’t afford.

“How many of their infidel ships did you burn before you were…forced to abandon your comrades?” The question was delivered calmly, but the words were biting and chilled Arlamee to the bone, not least because of the answer he would have to give.
“None. The humans have new ships and new weapons, they destroyed us at no cost. And Hierarch…they had a Dreadnought among their fleet.”

That set off frantic whispers throughout the chamber, whispers that rapidly grew in volume until the Councillors were shouting in rage and disbelief. Bellows of “Cowards!” came from the Jiralhanae, only to be shouted down by the Sanghelli side of the chamber. More shouts of “Heresy” could distinctly be heard, as the devout and the not-so-devout could see the profound and devastating impact this would have. Truth, meanwhile, stared at Saras in contemplation. Finally, the Prophet raised his frail hand and silence fell.

“You have proof of this?”

Saras nodded, desperately relieved they had saved the sensor logs. He gestured at the Unggoy to set up the projector. “Yes Honoured Hierarch, with your permission we shall display the sensor records from our ship. There is worse news I must tell you however. After the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve was destroyed, the human ships left the system. We made our way to the surface secretly and retrieved the Artefact before setting a course for Unyielding Hierophant to make contact. We arrived just as a strong human fleet, including even more of their new ships and this Dreadnought, attacked.”

The holo-display activated, showing the first battle and the sudden appearance of the new human ships and the Dreadnought. This time there were no whispers of heresy, though when the largest human ship fired and destroyed an Assault Carrier in a single shot, and the Dreadnought fired its own weapon that cut a battlecruiser in half, there were moans of dismay.

The Gods had indeed turned on them.

Truth, Mercy and Regret sat impassively observing as the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve was butchered. When the recording ended, there was just one question Regret had to ask.
”What happened to that third battlecruiser, the Legendary Valour?”

“Through an unknown method, the ship was completely disabled and was taken with the human forces when their left.”

More muttering broke out. A Covenant ship, captured by the humans? This was disastrous, the chance that the humans would be able to build their own shields or plasma weaponry based on the battlecruisers systems was a very real one and a very great threat. Human ships typically needed three-to-one odds to stand a chance of victory against Covenant space forces, and they would usually lose two of those three ships in the process. If they could add shields to their vessels, the odds would change dramatically.

Truth realised this was far too big to conceal, he might as well have tried to stop the galaxy from spinning. It needed to be managed, contained, spun in a way that the Covenant would accept and still keep them wanting to burn the human worlds.

“Interesting. Tell us then of this attack on our logistics base. How many of their ships died there?”

“Again, none. The force appeared from slipspace and goaded the Fleet of Ardent Belief into attacking through a minefield. They then fired their primitive cannons far more quickly than we have previously seen, causing much damage. Worse still, this fleet was led by the human vessel Everest and their Admiral “Preston Cole.” He transmitted a message to our ships, daring them to attack.”

Mercy leaned forwards. “I would hear this message. That human caused us far too many problems, but he is dead. He has been dead for cycles now.”

In response, Saras simple gestured at one of his subordinates, and Cole’s message, translated flawlessly into the Sanghelli language, filled the Council Chamber.
”Attention Covenant Forces. This is Admiral Preston J Cole of the United Nations Space Command aboard the cruiser Everest. You might have heard of me. I drove you bastards off Harvest twice over. I chased you through the Outer Colonies and killed hundreds of your ships. I lured you in at Psi Serpentis and killed another whole fleet and a planet. You probably thought I was dead and gone, but I’m back to fight you once again. Do you hear me Covenant? Even death didn’t stop me! I’m coming for all of you, I swear it! If you want to carry out your Gods’ orders and wipe us out you’ll have to come through me first.”

Mercy and Truth exchanged a glance. Truth reached the only conclusion he could, despite his name this was information that absolutely could not be revealed.

“It must be a trick, they fabricated that to lure our ships into a trap. Continue with your tale of the attack.”

Saras nodded, knowing the Hierarch would reach that conclusion and desperately hoping it was true. “While the Fleet of Ardent Belief was being battered, the newer human ships, many more of them appeared over Unyielding Hierophant along with the Dreadnought. They fired on the structure, breaching its shields with just three shots and using a barrage of their nuclear warheads to blast open the outer hull, exposing the inner section to vacuum. Those warheads were far more powerful than any we have seen the humans use before. Several of the smaller ships used what appeared to be plasma weapons to burn away the repulsor engines and then the Dreadnought pushed the logistics station out of orbit, it fell into the gas giant and was destroyed.”

Saras looked back at the holo-display, seeing it now showed the final act of the fleet engagement.

“Our lighter ships were unengaged and fired off a salvo of plasma torpedoes to burn the humans. Just before impact those ships vanished and reappeared behind our Fleet and fired their cannons again, destroying what was left of the Fleet even as a second nuclear minefield exploded. We inflicted no losses at all and we had no survivors.”

The sensor logs clearly showed the human ships vanishing and reappearing. If this was now typical of the human capabilities then the Covenant faced a real problem. They had to end this, and end it quickly lest they take too many losses and one or more faction decided to wrest control from Truth, Mercy and Regret.

The fact that the humans had a Dreadnought, a fully operational Dreadnought on their side was deeply problematic. Many Sanghelli would not even dare fire on such a vessel. And the loss of their main logistics base in human territory meant they would need to divert even more ships to convoy duty to keep their forward Fleets supplied. The only other option was to bring High Charity itself to the front lines; that was something Truth would hold in reserve for now.

The Hierarchs held a brief conversation in hushed tones, too quiet for anyone else to hear. Regret said that he was close to discovering the location of the Portal that would lead them to the Ark, but the Artefact should have the location of one of the Rings as well. Truth and Mercy told him to investigate the Portal as soon as possible, and to take his full Fleet with him just in case. Mercy and Truth decided to launch an all-out offensive to keep the humans stretched thin long enough for Regret to find the Portal so they could begin the Great Journey. Everything else was secondary to that goal.

Truth looked back at the waiting Sanghelli Major. “Saras Arlamee, you and your crew will take the Artefact to the High Prophet of Regret at once. He will divine from it the location of a Ring of the Gods and the Great Crystal, vital elements of the Great Journey. Meanwhile, Supreme Commander Thel Vadamee, your Fleets will attack the humans on all fronts, in as much strength as you can muster and kill as many of them as you can.”

Mercy added something to that. “If you encounter the Dreadnought, do not engage directly but keep it occupied as best you can. If you find the Legendary Valour, destroy it at all costs to prevent our secrets being learned by the humans.”

Truth nodded in agreement. “Go now and do Our Will.”

Saras Arlamee stood, thumped his fist to his chestplate in salute and then turned and left with his crew as quickly as honour and dignity allowed. The assorted High Councillors, recognising that they had their orders, left as well, leaving Truth, Mercy and the hologram of Regret alone.

Mercy was the first to speak. “It seems this has become a race to the finish. These humans have been nothing but trouble for many cycles now. We should not have allowed that Major and his crew to live, they will spread the news far and wide.”

Truth waved a hand airily. “Tragically they will not live long. Regret, as soon as they deliver the Artefact to you, destroy that ship and all aboard. We cannot have such information known to such lowly soldiers. How long until we know the location of the Portal?”

Regret answered, his tone thoughtful and not even remotely concerned about his orders to kill loyal soldiers. ”Not long. I have unearthed more Forerunner ruins that are partially active, I believe within another quarter-cycle I will have the location. Once it arrives I will inspect this Artefact, it should take but moments to find the coordinates embedded in it.”

Truth smiled. “Then the humans have but a quarter-cycle left to live, they will remain behind when the Great Journey begins and we become Gods.”

Mercy made a suggestion. “Perhaps we should pull our ships back entirely from human space? If they are doomed anyway there is little point wasting ships and lives to destroy them early.”

Truth considered that. “It has some merit, but the Sanghelli and the Jiralhanae would never withdraw from a fight willingly, not when they feel they are on the verge of victory. Let them fight it out, we will have no need of soldiers soon.”

The three leaders of the Covenant shared a conspiratorial laugh at that. Soon, very soon, the promise would be fulfilled. They would become Gods and strike down those who had now betrayed them.

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

And we're off again. Truth, Mercy and Regret are proving fun to write, being the complete evil bastards they are in canon. For those who are curious, the details I mention about how they took over, and them knowing the Humans are the true Reclaimers, is straight from canon with none of my...additions.

The humans meanwhile are preparing their own deep-trike mission to delay the enemy offensive as long as possible. This is where that canon change comes in - I've made the Pillar of Autumn one of the Marathon class heavy cruisers instead of a Halcyon class light cruisers.

In-canon, they used a Halcyon because they still didn't have shields, and the unique hull and bracing system the early Halcyons possessed made them ridiculously strong. In this version, however, using an old light cruiser makes no sense - physical hull strength is not as important as having more weapons (the Marathons have two MACs and a lot more Archer missiles, the Halcyons had a single MAC and six missile pods - kinda pathetic) and the burst-fire MAC upgrades are now standard.

So, I've turned her into an otherwise-inoperable Marathon that needed a total rebuild, so why not tack on extra systems at the same time? And yep, Tollan ion cannons, we've seen they can pass through Goa'uld type shields...but crucially not Ancient-type shields. So they'll work on the Covenant, but should anyone in ONI get any bright ideas they can't be turned on the Combined Fleet ships. The Pillar of Autumn will have thirty of them, each of the frigates and destroyers will have four. The MACs are still the primary weapons, but the ion cannons give them a second all-round weapon, like the turbolasers on Kobolian ships. Oh, and they'll have some naquada-boosted nukes too, just for fun.

This also gives us a hint of the Covenant fleet strength - 600 ships is "one fifth of their Navy" so 3,000 ships total - that's what they had immediately before Sigma Octanus. They're now down to 2900 or so after that battle and Operation: Sucker Punch. Consider though that Cole had previously killed six-hundred-plus ships. In other words, Preston Cole accounted for one sixth of the entire Covenant Navy.

Of course they're building more ships during the war, but I get the feeling that the Covenant really aren't going all-in so aren't on a full wartime economy like the UNSC is. That is about to change, but one of the Spartan-III companies killed their only other shipyard, and the other company took out their main fuel refinery. With Unyielding Hierophant gone, High Charity is now the sum total of Covenant shipbuilding, repair and industrial capacity. Whether the humans are able to exploit that is, for now, an open question.
"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.

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

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-07-05 11:01am

What Terran and Tauri fleet will do? Will they also participate in Jolly Roger? With Keyship, Nemesis and Phoenix they are well suited to devastating hit and run type attacks if they can find targets.

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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 » 2018-07-05 11:06am

It looks like just the Autumn will be leading an all UN Spacy effort there, Captain, putting them on a collision course with Regret and his boys, while the Covies plan a Jolly Roger of their own which threatens to rob our heroes of the time they hoped to buy.

Meanwhile, Cortana begins her story of galactic domination...
"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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