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 » 2018-06-10 12:26pm

RHIP?

Cinnabar: Meh, I'm just gonna roll with it on the names/language. And no, I don't roll my own smokes - my eyesight is bad enough that I can't manage it, and my hands shake just enough for it to be messy.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 12:27pm

Rank Hath Its Privileges.
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 » 2018-06-10 12:30pm

Ah yes. Like I said, Suranov was commanding the Reach Garrison, so he just said "ah fuck it."
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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.

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

Post by fnord » 2018-06-12 06:14am

Same horse, different jockey.

Well, if you don't roll your own, you can't do what a mate of mine did - park in front of the TV the previous night, carefully make up a full pack of rollies, and leave them on the coffee table when he waltzed out to work that day.
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 » 2018-06-12 07:20pm

Mind Games
UNSC HighCom Facility, Reach
July 20th, 2552


It had in fact taken two days for the UNSC High Command to assemble at Reach. Most of the members had been present on various duties but Fleet Admiral Lord Hood, Fleet Admiral Harper and Vice-Admiral Parangosky had been absent. On receiving the summons they had, quite independently, performed near-perfect spit-takes from what they had been drinking at the time and then raced to board the nearest and fastest ship to head for Reach.

Lord Hood had quite a surprise when his transport, the prowler Nightshroud had arrived at the orbital shipyards; the sight of a large Covenant warship docked securely at Station Gamma was almost as astonishing as the collection of new, powerful-looking vessels. Strangest of all was the Keyship – the various Terran and Tau’ri vessels were at least recognisable as vessels, but the tetrahedral bulk of the Forerunner vessel was completely alien to him.

The Pelican flight down to the surface had been equally surprising. The pilots had been as skilled and professional as usual but there was a new quality he hadn’t seen for many years – optimism. Morale across the entire Reach Garrison had skyrocketed, fuelled by tales from those who had been at Sigma Octanus and seen an entire Covenant fleet shattered for no losses. Those tales might have been dismissed as outlandish – but the doubters only needed to look out a window at the new arrivals and the doubts were silenced.

After he landed Lord Hood was hustled to the secure meeting room. It was arranged rather like a courtroom – or an Inquisition interrogation chamber. The table for the senior commanders was raised several feet above the floor and was shaped into a half-circle. The empty central space held either holographic displays or officers and other personnel giving briefings. The room, furnishings and décor combined to give those called in before HighCom an impression of smallness.

Hood hated the room. Officers, enlisted and civilians were not inferiors to be intimidated but carefully listened to – just because they might not have Admirals’ stars didn’t mean they couldn’t have good ideas. But it was part of the rigmarole that ONI insisted on, apparently their studies indicated the design and layout prompted people to be more open and honest that a standard briefing room. ONI tended to get there way over such things.

He took his designated seat, nodding respectfully to Admiral Whitcomb, the Chief of Operations and Fleet Admiral Harper, Commander of the Home Fleet and the Navy’s senior frontline leader, both of whom had arrived ahead of him. He busied himself pouring a cup of tea (at such high levels of secrecy even Fleet Admirals had to fix their own drinks) and waited for the others to trickle in. Vice-Admiral Parangosky, Head of ONI, was next. She did the same thing Hood had done – nodding in greeting to the others and pouring her tea. She was closely followed by Admiral Ramirez, the logistics and shipbuilding chief of the Navy.

Finally there was General Maxwell, Commandant of the UNSC Marine Corps and Colonel Ackerson. Ackerson was the most junior in rank but wielded considerable authority as head of the Naval Special Warfare Office – the legendary Spartans were nominally under his control, along with a lot of other research and development programs – none of which had yielded a war-winning advantage yet, Hood mused darkly.

Once the seven officers were seated, the meeting began. The doors were opened even as the lights dimmed, keeping the central area well-lit but the seven officers in the shadows. Into the room stepped four men – Admirals Stanforth, Cole and Jellicoe along with Commodore Baird – and a floating ball with pale yellow colouring.

To say the sight was surprising would be an understatement. All seven officers had read the messages and reports, they knew what to expect. But to be told that Preston Cole, a man who rightfully should have had one of their seats at this table was back from the dead and actually seeing him in person was an entirely different matter. Then there was Jellicoe and Baird, their distinctly different uniforms (to both the UNSC standard and to each other) made things even more surprising. The presence of Dying Light was just the cherry of top as far as shocks went.

The doors were sealed as the four officers and the Monitor stepped – or floated – into the illuminated central area. Stanforth had warned the arrivals from Earth and Terra about what to expect, and Jellicoe and Baird didn’t bother trying to squint into the darkness, knowing they wouldn’t recognise anyone anyway. Dying Light merely pondered the strange behaviour of the Reclaimers and adjusted his (Cole had decided to use male pronouns for convenience and Dying Light hadn’t argued – it was a novel experience for the Monitor, one to be explored) optical sensors to compensate.

Cole merely growled at the psychological tricks on display. There were far better things to do right now then messing about with the spooks in ONI. Before anyone sat behind the raised table could say something, Cole spoke, his tone laced with annoyance and impatience.

“Enough with the damned spook mind-games. I know who you all are and you all know me. Terrance, Danforth, Margaret, Jose, Richard, Benjamin…Colonel Ackerson. Turn the lights up.” None could miss the acidic tone he used for Ackerson.

A voice from the darkness, quite snappish and confrontational, came back: “Prove it.”

Cole laughed bitterly. “Oh I really don’t think you want me doing that in mixed company Margaret. Did you ever tell Lord Hood there about that weekend furlough on Paris IV? The one that ended up with you locked up in a little local jail and having to be sprung by your ONI goons?”

There was a sharp intake of breath from the darkness and a quiet chuckle from Stanforth, Jellicoe and someone at the table. Cole continued glaring in the direction the question had come from for a few seconds before looking around at the seated, hidden figures.

“I understand it’s a shock seeing me again after all these years but I’d have thought you’d be glad to see me. I’ve brought friends, allies and whipped an entire Covenant fleet. We even brought you a whole damn battlecruiser gift-wrapped to study! I’d have thought that would buy us a little gratitude.”

Another voice came from the shadows, this one male and quite clearly suspicious. “The point remains that this could be a Covenant plot to learn of Reach or worse, Earth and weaken our defences prior to an all-out offensive.”

Cole knew that voice. “Ackerson, you’re a fucking idiot if you really think that. If this was a massive Covenant plot it’s already worked: my ships in orbit are safely alongside and if we wanted we could gut the entire orbital infrastructure – and probably kill you all as well – in short order. If you really thought this was a trick then you, the cowardly little shit that you are, wouldn’t have come within ten light-years of Reach.”

The voice came right back at Cole, the tone even more angry. “That’s hardly a tone you want to use with us Admiral, not if you want to convince us of your intentions.”

Jellicoe stepped in; as amusing as the exchange might be there were more important matters. “And that is hardly a tone you want to use when meeting new allies is it? We’re here to help you people – but if they’re all like you I might just turn around and go back to my universe.”

That was a bluff and everyone standing in the pool of light knew it – but the officers sat behind the table had to take it seriously. Finally a new voice, stern and authoritative, cut through the angry spluttering coming from Ackerson.

“Enough of this. Colonel, regardless of your position on this council I am still your superior officer and I am ordering you to shut the hell up unless directly addressed until further notice. Is that understood?”

An answer came, dejected, almost sulking. “Yes sir.”

The stern voice replied. “Good. Now turn the damn lights up.” The room lights slowly rose to normal levels, revealing the panel of officers – Hood at the centre looking stern, Harper and Whitcomb either side trying – and failing – to hide smirks, Ramirez and Maxwell feigning disinterest with somewhat more success, Parangosky glaring at her subordinate and Ackerson himself looking down at the table and not meeting anyone’s eyes.

Lord Hood’s stern expression relaxed somewhat into genuine compassion. “It’s good to see you again Preston.”

“Likewise Sir.”

“Perhaps you could perform the introductions Admiral Cole?” said Harper.

“Certainly sir. This is Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe of the Colonial Fleet, currently commanding the Alliance Reconnaissance Force and Commodore Sir Jonathan Baird, commanding the Tau’ri Task Force and HMS Dreadnought.” Both named officers saluted Lord Hood respectfully, he nodded in return.

“And this is 010 Dying Light, Monitor of Installation 00, commanding the Keyship Shield of Eternity.” That got some strange looks. “He is an AI construct, one of many created to oversee vital Forerunner facilities throughout the galaxy – and beyond. The Forerunners are long-extinct, some of their technology was reverse-engineered and imitated by the Covenant who worship the Forerunners as gods. The Forerunners themselves left our universe for another, where they joined a great Alliance that included the precursors to Admiral Jellicoe’s people and the Tau’ri of Earth. I sent Dying Light and his ship back to that universe to gather allies, and these two gentlemen answered the call.”

There was a round of questions at that, mostly about the other universe and how Cole himself had survived Psi Serpentis. Cole answered them with a great deal more patience than he had shown earlier with Ackerson, deferring occasionally to Jellicoe or Dying Light when needed. The extra-universal visitors then gave a brief history of their own civilisations, the reborn Alliance and the forces they had brought. Admiral Whitcomb had scoffed at the mere mention of the Warstar’s superlaser, unable to comprehend such a powerful weapon. Dying Light managed that objection by displaying a holographic recording of the obliteration of the Assault Carrier Alacritous Retribution three days earlier. That had silenced the room for a minute or so.

Lord Hood leaned forwards, his expression intent. “As grateful as I am for the extra ships, you mentioned upgrading our vessels. Could you elaborate please?”

Jellicoe nodded, mentally recalling the briefing the Nemesis’ Chief Engineer, Captain Daniels had given him earlier about the options available.

“My engineers have talked it over and we think the most efficient way to go about this is to refit your ships with shields and our FTL jump drives, plus a power generator for them. Installing our weaponry would take too much time for each ship, and your own weapons are quite capable as it is. By their nature as retrofits, the shields and the jump drives will not be as strong or as capable as those on my own ships, but they should give you a powerful edge nonetheless.”

Admiral Jose Ramirez, the logistics chief, leaned forwards. “How effective would they be, and how quickly can we begin work? It’ll take some time to get out shipyards configured with the new designs.”

Jellicoe smiled at the engineer. “The shields on one of your frigates should be able to withstand two, possibly three plasma torpedoes before failing. The jump drives would have a single-jump range of perhaps five thousand light years, though your shipborne AI’s will need to be given the navigation programming to make them work.”

Dying Light spoke up once Jellicoe had finished. “We can also provide some upgrades to your existing weaponry. The advances used on the Reclaimer’s vessel, Everest, would be too time-consuming to replicate without bringing vessels to the Ark for months at a time. Instead we can improve your Magnetic Accelerator Cannons to fire three rounds with one capacitor charge, a less-advanced version of the upgrades given to the Reclaimer’s ship.”

The combat officers among HighCom looked delighted at the possibility. Three MAC rounds were usually enough to take out a Covenant frigate or destroyer and put a serious dent in heavier vessels, but usually the UNSC ships wouldn’t survive to get those three shots off. Ackerson, meanwhile, was still fuming at being slapped down by both Cole and Hood in as many minutes.

Jellicoe nodded his thanks at the Monitor. “As for speed, among the reinforcements I’ll be calling up from Terra is our yardship, the Safe Harbour. She’s designed to resupply and refit an entire Battle Group at once, so she should be able to handle perhaps a dozen of your frigates or destroyers at a time. The reason we plan on using shields and jump drives is that those components are black-boxes that we can position in cargo bays with minimal connections needed to the ship itself. We anticipate that the refits shouldn’t take much more than a day or so per ship for the actual work, then a few days testing of course. For the moment the actual components are beyond your ability to manufacture, we’ll give you the plans and designs but it’ll take a while to get your infrastructure in place.”

Ramirez sat back, satisfied that they’d have a quick commencement on the upgrades and wouldn’t be delayed by having to set up production lines for entirely new components. Harper and Whitcomb were already working out the logistics of getting ships to Reach and cycling them through the upgrade program – naturally Reach’s garrison fleet would be first. They could then be sent out on offensive missions while the next batch of ships arrived for the upgrades and to maintain Reach’s defences.

Stanforth entered the conversation at this point. “Finally there is the matter of the captured Covenant vessel. Dying Light here infiltrated their computer systems and managed to extract some very useful information. Monitor, if you would please?” Dying Light complied, projecting a hologram showing a star chart with various worlds, including Reach, Earth and the Inner Colonies being highlighted.

“The Fleet we destroyed was a small, specialist force sent to Sigma Octanus to recover Forerunner artefacts, they didn’t know it was one of our worlds. It came from this forward supply station at Tau Ceti, some monstrosity called Unyielding Hierophant apparently. This station appears to be the main logistics base for all Covenant fleet movements in the Inner and Outer Colonies. Admiral Jellicoe, Preston and I believe this would be an idea target to hit when the first wave of upgraded ships is completed – or even beforehand if the Recon Force is willing to commit. Not only do we stand a good chance of eliminating a key element of the enemy supply chain but we may also be able to take any vessels docked at the station with it as well. This would buy us vital time to get the ships at Reach upgraded as well as to complete the orbital defence network at Earth. Finally, I think it would be good for morale if we were able to take the offensive again.”

Jellicoe nodded in agreement with Stanforth before speaking up. “This logistics station is an enormous construct, too big to directly destroy unless we get lucky and hit the main reactors or fuel bunkers. However from the available data we know that it is in a low orbit over a large gas giant – hit it with enough force to destabilise that orbit and it’ll burn up in the gas giant’s atmosphere.”

Cole took up the thread at this point. “Sadly the Tau Ceti gas giant isn’t big enough to just blow the damn thing up like I did to Viperidae, but this’ll be the next best thing. We’ve got a pretty solid plan worked out, we just need the go-ahead and a few other supplies.”

Ramirez perked up at that. “Supplies such as what Admiral Cole?”

Cole grinned viciously. “Half a dozen Prowlers, Stanforth’s fleet that he took to Sigma Octanus and as many nuclear mines as you can spare.”

The HighCom officers exchanged glances at that. It seemed Preston Cole was back in business and as mean as ever. Lord Hood leaned forwards with an expression of great interest.

“Tell us more Admiral, I can safely say you’ve got our attention.”

Over the next twenty minutes Stanforth, Cole, Jellicoe and Baird laid out their plan, ably assisted by Dying Light who provided holographic maps showing intended movements. The plan was complex, subtle, and cunning and yet contained a brazen ruthlessness and a deep understanding of the Covenant mindset.

By the end of the presentation, Hood, Harper, Whitcomb and Ramirez were clearly convinced. The time came for the seven officers to formally approve the plan; it passed by six votes to nil – Ackerson had, as graciously as possible given his earlier rebukes, abstained as fleet operations were not his area of expertise.

With the official seal of approval, the four standing officers left to get to work – Stanforth and Cole to see to resupplying and organising the ad-hoc task force that had gone to Sigma Octanus into a cohesive Battle Group and Jellicoe and Baird to contact Terra and update their superiors, a process which also involved Dying Light relaying messages via the Ark, the Beacon and the Panopticon network.

The various HighCom officers left as well – Ackerson mumbling some diplomatic excuse while Parangosky simply gathered her notes and left with a nod. Ramirez and Maxwell left after a brief exchange of pleasantries, leaving Hood, Harper and Whitcomb behind, quietly discussing what they had just approved. Harper had given his wholehearted support, but in the back of his mind was a frisson of doubt.

“Have we done the right thing with this Terrance? We could lose a lot of ships that we can’t afford to if this goes balls-up.”

Hood nodded gravely. “That is a concern but the potential gains are enormous. And we have to be honest with ourselves, this is the only solid plan we’ve got right now to stave off total defeat. It’s not as if we haven’t approved suicide missions before.” The memory of the missions that Alpha and Beta Companies of the Spartan-III program had been sent on came to mind.

Whitcomb was ever the pragmatist. “If nothing else, it’ll give us a better feel for the capabilities and mindset of our new “friends” out there. If they hadn’t shown up, we’d have lost most of that fleet Stanforth took to Sigma Octanus anyway. And if it does buy us time then it’s all to the good.”

Hood nodded. “Agreed. Richard, get a couple of groups from Home Fleet out here to beef up the defences, they can be the first through the upgrade program when it starts. That way we can have some improved ships at Earth if this goes sideways.”

Harper nodded. “I’ll see to it. Valiant will lead the groups I’ll send out here, I want my flagship as tricked out as possible.” This was said with an almost parental pride, Harper loved his command almost as much as he loved his family. He and Whitcomb left to see to the arrangements.

Hood remained behind, contemplating the future. He’d had to send men and women, entire Battle Groups on seemingly-impossible missions countless times during this thrice-damned war but this time, he felt it was far from impossible. The plan those three Admirals had put together in a few days was very impressive and he felt it had a strong chance of success.

He just wished they’d chosen a different name. “Operation: Sucker Punch” was far too close to tempting fate in his mind.

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

I'm back ladies and gents. Long train journeys are good for the creative juices. Writing Cole is proving even more fun than I initially thought - having him slap down Ackerson is deeply satisfying. I never liked the Ackerson character, he's just too...evil for my tastes. This is the guy who spent a lot of time digging up dirt on Halsey and the Spartan-IIs, not because of any ethical concern but because they were overshadowing his own NavSpecWarfare projects. And let's not forget how he essentially tried to kill the Master Chief during the test of the upgraded MJOLNIR suit in "Fall of Reach."

For those who think Cole is being too brazen, perhaps. But I think it's in-character and it may well come back to bite him. ONI is powerful and he hasn't exactly endeared himself to them.

Operation: Sucker Punch will be coming soon. I do have a plan, but just as with the second battle at Sigma Octanus, I'm keeping a secret so you can enjoy it as it unfolds. This is really gonna fuck up the canon timeline :D
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-12 09:38pm

Like you haven't already, what with the previous shoeing the Covenant copped?

What will the Covenant reaction be to the hairless monkeys swiping the battlecruiser?
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 » 2018-06-12 10:44pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote: For those who think Cole is being too brazen, perhaps. But I think it's in-character and it may well come back to bite him. ONI is powerful and he hasn't exactly endeared himself to them.
He just came back from the dead like Arthur Pendragon is supposed to. He can afford to be brazen.

As long as he restores the Commonwealth. :lol:
"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
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-13 03:01am

Oh the Covvies will be pissed about the captured battlecruiser. But they ain't gonna learn about it for a while yet.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-13 10:24am

What's happening back in 13Verse while this punchup is going on?
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 » 2018-06-13 10:34am

They get contacted by the Zygons, who want in on the new Alliance.
"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
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-13 11:31am

No Zygons sadly. We'll see Terra in the next chapter. It's only been three days.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-13 08:26pm

A lot can happen in three days...but, It's your story.

(I was going to say Earth and Terra are contacted by the Perseids and the Vedrans, but...nah)
"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
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-14 04:19am

I'm going to stick to one new crossover per book I think keeps it a lot simpler to write and keep it consistent.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-16 11:00am

The Clarion Call
Flag Briefing Room, Olympus Base, Terra


The senior commanders of the Second Alliance were gathered to review the on-going situation in both the Milky Way and Pegasus since the departure of the Recon Force to the other universe. The room was packed with Admirals, Generals and Presidents – Matthews, Roslin, Hayden, Lethbridge-Stewart, Adama, Davies, Pendragon, Stewart, Kirov, Hammond, O’Neill and Carter.

It was a tense meeting. With a considerable body of ships elsewhere and even more assembling outside to reinforce Jellicoe, precious few Alliance assets were left to maintain their patrols and defences. With both First and Third Fleets slated to leave as soon as Jellicoe sent word, the Combined Fleet was left with just five Battle Groups – three of which had to be deployed at Terra, Atlantis and at Sentinel Base. The Tau’ri were in a similar position – they had just seven ships remaining: the Prometheus and three American, one Russian, one French and one Chinese 304s.

There were a few silver linings however. The workers at Elysium Base were working triple shifts to complete the Yorktown and the Potemkin as soon as possible and over in Pegasus, the Atlantis Expedition were shifting their focus from researching the two Lantean warships they had salvaged to getting them back into a combat-ready state, though that was months away. Back in the Terran system, Styx Base was likewise working full-tilt on the newest Terran warship.

It was into this melee of discussion over what commitments had to be kept and which they could afford to relax that the signal came in from Jellicoe via its complicated relay path. The station’s comms officer discreetly slipped into the briefing room to inform Adama, who nodded and stood, quieting the room.

“My apologies ladies and gentleman, but there is an incoming signal from Admiral Jellicoe aboard the Nemesis. I’m having it routed down here for us all.”

Davies shook his head in bewilderment. “Real-time communications with another universe, that’s just unbelievable.”

O’Neill looked at him sympathetically. “Yeah it’s new for us as well. Those Furlings were smart little critters.” Various officers rolled their eyes, well aware of Jack’s conviction that the erstwhile Furlings must be small, furry and adorable beings, based solely on the name. This persisted even after Daniel had shown him an image of the Furlings from the Asgard database. Suffice to say, small, cute and furry were not remotely applicable terms.

As that moment of levity passed, a hologram of Admiral Jellicoe and Commodore Baird appeared at the head of the conference table. Both holograms looked briefly surprised at the assembled hierarchy but mentally shrugged, it would be both quicker and easier to go through this just the once.

”Good morning everyone. To forestall the inevitable questions, yes we have successfully made contact with both Admiral Cole and the UNSC High Command – in fact Jonathan and I have just come from a meeting with them. The situation is grave – these guy’s best estimates are total defeat and the extinction of humanity within six months. We are definitely going to need the extra ships I outlined before we departed – with two additions. We’ll need several of the Explorers, as many as you can spare, and the Yardship Safe Harbour. We’ve got a lot of ships to upgrade as best we can.”

There was a brief burst of muttering at this. Secretary-General Hayden spoke up, deciding someone had to play Devil’s Advocate. “Are we sure that giving these other humans our advanced technology is a good idea?”

There were some approving nods and murmurs from around the room. Adama, however, spoke up unexpectedly. “Mr Secretary-General, I understand why you ask that, but even with two-thirds of the Combined Fleet out there on the line, we can’t win on our own against the known threat, to say nothing of anything else that might come up. John is going to need as many of these UNSC ships as possible able to hold the line as backup.” Hayden nodded agreeably at that. It lined up with what Hammond and O’Neill had told him, though he supposed that was the military mindset at work.

Jellicoe’s hologram backed up Adama’s words. ”More to the point sir, with the Yardship doing the refits we have planned the UNSC won’t be able to replicate the upgrades for months yet, possibly longer. The upgrades we’re planning are shields, FTL drives and a self-contained power source for them – all of which are black boxes to the UNSC. They’ll be able to use them but it would take a lot of time and effort to reverse-engineer them, time they don’t have at the moment.”

That reassured the remaining doubters. Lethbridge-Stewart leaned forwards. “John, we’ll get the reinforcements out to the Beacon as soon as we can, then it’ll be on your friend Dying Light to get them to where you are. What can you tell us about the initial contact with the enemy?”

John nodded in gratitude at the news of the second wave of ships. ”When we arrived at Installation 00 Dying Light informed us that Admiral Cole was heading for one of the UNSC Inner Colonies that was under attack from a Covenant advance scouting force. We headed there at once via a slipspace portal. Admiral Cole and a very capable UNSC Captain had destroyed the small force and called up reinforcements from the UNSC’s main base, Reach. We arrived before this fleet did and Cole, the newly arrived Admiral Stanforth and I met to discuss our plans. Long-range sensors had already detected a further twenty-five Covenant ships approaching the planet, so we laid a trap and with one exception wiped them out.”

Davies raised an eyebrow at the qualifying remark. “One exception John?”

”Between the Tau’ri 304’s and the Marines on the Warstar we managed to disable, board and capture a mostly-intact Covenant CCS-class battlecruiser. With the help of the UNSC fleet we’ve towed the captured ship to Reach to let the yard crews and eggheads have a look at it. Dying Light broke into their computer systems which are, and I quote, “Laughably protected against AI intrusion” and discovered a lot of useful information that Cole, Stanforth and I have factored in to our plans.”

Matthews sipped his coffee briefly. “And what plans are those Admiral?”

”With the UNSC’s best estimates being total defeat in six months, time is vital. We planned to launch a set of small spoiler raids aimed at disrupting the enemy supply chain and putting them off-guard to buy time to get the rest of the UNSC fleet upgraded and able to fight effectively. The data from the Covenant vessel changed that, we’ve ID’d the primary Covenant logistics and support station in the whole of UNSC space. Once we get a few more supplies together and those Explorers arrive, we intend to destroy it. We’ve got approval from UNSC HighCom for the plan, which we’ve dubbed Operation: Sucker Punch.”

That generated a round of chuckles before the mood turned serious again. Adama, the Chief of Operations, was wholly in favour of going to the UNSC’s aid, knowing that without a similar spirit of help from the Terrans he and the other Colonial refugees would have been long dead. Despite that support of Jellicoe’s efforts, it was his job to be the pragmatist.

“I’m worried about having the Warstar and both our Heavy Battlestars committed to this expedition to the other universe. It leaves us without a superlaser-armed ship here at home in case some threat emerges that needs it.”

Jellicoe nodded in understanding at his superior. ”I understand that Husker, but if I recall my last briefing correctly Styx Base should be done with Jupiter in a month or so. She’ll only be on trials but you’ll still have her big guns available if you really need them.”

Alistair snorted at that. “You mean you won’t immediately want her sent out to join your fleet John?”

Jellicoe adopted an over-the-top worried expression. ”I hope not Alistair. Anything that needs two Warstars to take on is definitely not something I want to tangle with.”

There was a round of laughter at that, underneath which was a wave of unease at the prospect. It was entirely possible that the Covenant did indeed possess ships that would need both Nemesis and Jupiter to defeat. The discussion was suddenly interrupted by the comms officer racing in to the room in a panic.

“Sirs, we’re receiving a priority transmission from the Ark!” Before anyone else could react, Adama turned his fearsome glare on the Commander, a glare that would (and had) intimidate emotionless machines into silence.

“You mean from Sentinel Base?”

“No sir, from the Ark. It’s the Asgard!”

That little bombshell silenced the entire room as well as the two extra-universal holograms. Jellicoe was stunned at the situation: the idea that their allies may be able to provide help despite being sealed away in an accelerated temporal field was incredible – but if any species could do it then the Asgard could. O’Neill and Carter were delighted at the prospect they could hear from their friend Thor again. Adama nodded at the intruding Commander, who pressed a few controls and a hologram appeared in sight of the room’s occupants and Jellicoe and Baird’s holograms.

Thor stood there, looking as he always had done, small and physically frail and yet showing an inner strength and resoluteness second to none. The little grey being began to speak.

”Greetings, leaders of the Second Alliance. I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. I regret that I am unable to attend in person but our great effort to save our species is still proceeding. I am sending this message to inform you that we are aware of the situation you face, we detected the arrival of the Furling vessel and have been preparing to send you what assistance we can.”

There was a measure of sadness in the air that this was just a recording, one they couldn’t speak to or interact with. But that last sentence brought elation – despite their condition, their allies had not forgotten them and would aid them in this struggle.

”We cannot send any of our combat vessels to support you as they require Asgard crews, crews that would at present not survive the campaign while our genome is still in flux. Instead, we have used the months that have passed for us since the Furling ship arrived to prepare our sole remaining Forge-ship that will be able to assist your engineers in providing technological upgrades to these other humans. The Forge-ship is emerging from the temporal field now and will travel directly to the Furling Beacon. The systems are controlled by a computer core that contains the minds of our finest engineers and scientists, they will be able to interact with you and accept the designs for your shields and FTL drives that can then be transported directly into place.”

The Commander that had brought this news looked briefly at his comm set, noted an incoming sensor feed from Sentinel Base and transferred it to the main display. Everyone present looked on in wonder as a truly vast yet distinctly Asgard vessel emerged from the haze of the temporal field surrounding the Ark and out into free space. It was cylindrical in shape, nearly eight kilometres long and two kilometres wide, with various protrusions along the surface to suggest docking bays for countless smaller vessels. The central hull likewise appeared to be hollow, allowing larger vessels to be serviced within the immense structure. In a gesture to the ship’s new human masters she even had a huge nameplate on the bows, with letters a hundred metres high proclaiming her name.

Nidavellir, the legendary forge where Thor’s hammer Mjolnir was created.

Thor’s holo-message continued. ”It is our hope that the Forge-ship will enable you to prevail in the coming struggle. Our only request is that you return it to the Ark when she is now longer needed. I wish you luck. Farewell.”

With that, Thor’s hologram faded. The room descended into mutterings at the news. Unnoticed among this were Hayden, Matthews and Roslin having a quiet but historic discussion. While the Admirals and Generals were discussing military matters the three politicians reached a decision. It was time to go all-in. They had trusted Jellicoe once before and he had proven more than worthy of that trust.

The two Presidents and the Secretary-General stood and the room fell silent. Roslin, as the President of the Colonies and Commander-in-Chief (officially) of the Colonial Fleet was the designated spokesman, as she was the one that Jellicoe ultimately answered to.

“Vice-Admiral Jellicoe, I have reached an agreement with the leaders of both the Terran Commonwealth and the Tau’ri United Nations. You are hereby charged with assuming command of all Alliance forces detached to this other universe and using them in whatever manner you deem fit to safeguard human lives and civilisation in that universe from the Covenant threat. You are authorised to use any and all means at your disposal to achieve this goal…though if you plan to blow up any more star systems we’d appreciate a warning first.”

The speech, which was by necessity stiff and formal was lightened with that last remark. But the meaning was clear. John Jellicoe would once again shoulder the mantle of defending humanity from an existential threat. He stood to attention and saluted, silently vowing that he would be up to the task.

”Madame President, Mr President, Mr Secretary-General, I accept this assignment and will do everything in my power to complete it successfully. Admiral Lethbridge-Stewart, Admiral Adama, I will await the arrival of the reinforcements and then we will head out for Operation: Sucker Punch. We’ll report in once the mission is complete. Jellicoe out.”

The holograms faded away. The sensor feed from Sentinel Base showed the Asgard Forge-ship leaping into hyperspace, heading for the Furling Beacon at full speed. Lethbridge-Stewart nodded to Adama, who turned to the still-waiting Commander.

“Signal White Knight and Scorpion, the mission is a go. All ships to proceed to the Beacon at best speed and deploy to join Iron Duke’s command. Signal the six nearest Explorers and give them the same orders. All ships are to proceed under wartime protocols at Condition Two. As of this moment, we are at war.”

End of Act Two

===========

And so Act Two ends...which had a lot more sitting around and talking than I had intended. Urgh.

To clear up a few odds and ends. Yes, I changed the name of the new Warstar to Jupiter because in hindsight it was better than Unity, which if I'm honest is more of a UNSC name than a TCN one.

The two Ancient warships at Atlantis Base are the Aurora and the Hippaforalkus (hereafter known as the Orion). They are not at present combat-ready and will be staying put in Pegasus to supplement the Expedition as needed, mainly because no-one knows how well they'd fare against anything other than a Wraith force.

I couldn't resist using Adama's line from the miniseries as the closer for Act Two. It's just too much fun. Also, I've decided to adopt a convention, especially since it may not be obvious from ship/planet names which universe we're in - if I give an actual date in the UNSC military calendar, we're in the Haloverse. If I give a date as "Ninth Age of Reclamation" then it's Haloverse but Covenant POV. No given date just "x days later" then it's SG/BSGverse.

The name of the Asgard Forge-Ship is a shoutout to Avengers: Infinity War, since I can't recall if the name of the forge that made Mjolnir is actually present in the Norse myths.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-16 11:39am

Well, it's definitely hammer time.

In light of the Asgard depot ship heading through to the Haloverse, will the Terran one still be going as well? Or can the Asgard ship do so much more that sending the Safe Harbour would be redundant?
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 » 2018-06-16 12:26pm

As the next chapter mentions, both the Asgard and Terran Yardships are going - they've got a lot, hundreds, perhaps aa thousand or mroe UNSC ships to upgrade, and eve with both ships working full-tilt they're going to take a while. Hence, Operation: Sucker Punch, to buy them time.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-16 01:46pm

Are the Kobolian et al crew the only trans-universal travellers that will be showing up?
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 » 2018-06-16 03:04pm

Nah the Tau'ri battle group centered on Dreadnought is along for the ride.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-16 06:14pm

He means the reinforcements.
"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
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-16 07:26pm

The Tau'ri at present don't have any more spare ships - they've only got 7 304's operational and they're needed both in the Milky Way and in Pegasus. The United Colonies have been able to send 2/3rds of their fleet because everything they need, resource-wise is in the Terran system - which has enough powerful defences around Terra to drive off anything short of an entire Covenant or Wraith armada so they don't need to protect distant resource operations like the Tau'ri do (trinium mines, naquada mines etc). The United Colonies are also able to send that much because Jellicoe, Adama, Kirov and Roslin didn't give them much choice in the matter.

Depending on how long things in the Haloverse drag out, there is a possibility that Yorktown and Potemkin may be able to head out and join the fight.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-17 08:29am

Act Three: Holding The Line

Operation: Sucker Punch
Gas giant Solitude, Tau Ceti system
July 31st, 2552 (UNSC Military Calendar)


The great offensive strike against the Covenant was underway. It was a complex plan, one that had required a full day of staging to get the pieces into position. But what pieces they were – the Alliance reinforcements had arrived quickly at Reach, including the Safe Harbour and the Nidavellir, both of which had immediately set to work upgrading the UNSC Reach Garrison. Stanforth’s fleet, now designated Battle Group Zulu, had all been rushed through the two huge Alliance vessels and brought up to an unparalleled strength. The fourteen destroyers, thirty-one frigates, two carriers and the flagship Leviathan had all received the shield, FTL and MAC upgrades as part of the first wave of upgraded UNSC vessels and had promptly moved off to link up with the Everest and the Shield of Eternity for their part in the operation.

They were not leaving Reach undefended however. The remaining garrison ships under Captain Suranov were supplemented by a strong battle group detached from the Home Fleet under Fleet Admiral Harper, who had brought along his flagship the Valiant and her two surviving sisters, the Thermopylae and the Shiroyama to bolster the planet’s defences and undergo their own upgrades. Three upgraded super-heavy cruisers would be an exceptional force under any circumstances, the group of escorting frigates and destroyers only added to their collected firepower.

The Alliance forces had likewise made ready. Six Explorers, led by the Excelsior, had been carefully surveying the Tau Ceti system and the Covenant base under cloak, plotting targets and firing positions with ruthless efficiency. The UNSC prowlers, their munitions bays shielded to prevent the Cherenkov radiation caused by nuclear weapons reverting to normal space alerting the Covenant had been carefully laying out a deadly field of Hornet mines. The pieces were now all in place, all they needed was for the Covenant to behave as Cole and Stanforth predicted they would.

A hundred thousand kilometres from the huge Covenant logistics station a swarm of slipspace portals opened, disgorging UNSC Battle Group Zulu and the Everest, which took her place at the head of the formation, Stanforth being quite willing to defer to Cole for this battle since it was Cole’s presence that was a key element of the plan.

Opposing them, in a protective formation around the Unyielding Hierophant were the seventy-eight ships of the Fleet of Ardent Belief, led by a pair of Assault Carriers and Fleetmaster Aras Talasee. As one the Covenant ships detected this intrusion and as a matter of course turned towards the cursed human ships, intending to wipe away the stain of the human presence.

The Covenant were decidedly surprised when a message was broadcast on all channels from the lead human ship and even more surprisingly; broadcast in the Sanghelli language. The language had finally been cracked and translated as a result of Dying Light’s efforts on the Legendary Valour, now safely docked at Reach and swarming with eager researchers and engineers.

The Sanghelli Major responsible for fleet communications played the message for Talasee without prompting, earning him a glare that was half-approval and half-indignation from Aras. The indignation was quickly forgotten as the content of the message became clear.

”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 then you’ll have to come through me first.”

The channel closed. Within Fleetmaster Talasee there grew a terrible and burning rage, the likes of which he had not felt before. He had been there, a part of the Fleet that this damnable human had driven off years before. Several of his family had been among the martyred at that last battle when the planet exploded. Here was his chance, not only to win accolades in the eyes of the Hierarchs but also to avenge his own kin slain by this monster.

He barked out orders for the entire Fleet to proceed towards the human ships at full thrust and to ready all weapons. The lead human ship, this ”Everest” would be their target; he ordered the Fleet to ignore all other human ships. Had he and his subordinates been human one of them might have questioned this bizarre tactical decision. But they were Sanghelli, the drive to avenge blood and honour was strong indeed. In the back of Talasee’s mind was the worry that he was playing into this human’s hands, doing exactly what Cole wanted him to do. But that part was silenced by the need for revenge.

Aboard the Everest, Cole smiled triumphantly. He turned to the holograms showing Stanforth and Jellicoe.

“I told you they’d react like this. It worked like a charm at Psi Serpentis; those ugly fuckers hate me with a passion. And in about ninety seconds they’ll learn just how badly they’ve misjudged the situation.”

Stanforth nodded. ”Copy that, fire plan is set and timers running. Good hunting John.”

Jellicoe’s hologram nodded. ”You too Hieronymus. Our jumps are plotted and the clock is running. This is going to be one for the ages.” The holograms faded away.

Out in space, the Fleet of Ardent Belief raced onwards, the leading Assault Carrier Day of Reckoning pulling ahead as Talasee ordered more and more power diverted to the main engines in his manic desire to kill Cole. The distance rapidly shrank even as the unease in the Fleetmaster’s mind became louder and louder. The human ships were not moving, they just sat there waiting. This had never happened before, the humans always rode forth to engage the mighty Covenant ships in a brave if futile gesture.

His keen mind was subconsciously analysing the situation even while his conscious awareness was filled with thoughts of blood and vengeance. Could it be a trap of some sort? A way to lure him out from the station he was supposed to be guarding? It was possible, he allowed, but the humans didn’t have enough ships here – or anywhere – to destroy the Unyielding Hierophant, so it was probably not a trap. Perhaps this human was driven to revenge for all the human worlds they had destroyed. It was strange to think that a human could possibly share the same noble motivations as a Sanghelli Fleetmaster. Before his subconscious could break through his thoughts of retribution, Cole began the next phase of his plan.

In and around the onrushing Covenant fleet, two dozen Hornet nuclear mines detonated simultaneously. Each warhead yielded thirty megatons and the released energy battered at the Covenant shields – three unlucky destroyers were caught by several blasts and were shattered into fragments. The Fleet staggered under the assault, even Talasee was shaken from his thoughts at the sudden awareness that the human had something larger planned than a noble death.

Despite the blows, his fleet was still strong. Seventy-five ships were still operational and his flagship was barely touched. If this was all the human had planned then he would yet have his revenge. That comforting thought died when the report came in that the human fleet ahead was firing their primitive main cannons.

From the forty-eight ships Talasee had ordered his fleet to ignore came a storm of metal slugs at high velocity – far more than they had used in any prior engagement. One hundred and eighty-nine MAC heavy rounds thundered downrange, alongside a further fifteen plasma rounds from the Everest. The plasma rounds and sixty-three of the MAC shots were targeted on the Day of Reckoning. A further sixty-three heavy rounds were aimed at the second Assault Carrier, the Hand of Judgment and the final sixty-three shots were divided up among the sixteen cruisers of the Fleet.

It was a punishing salvo, a slaughter. The Day of Reckoning heaved under Talasee’s feet as the fifteen plasma rounds impacted the forward shields and detonated, the fury of the fusion blasts combining with the searing plasma to collapse the forward shields completely and burn away the armour on the entire forward section. The horde of normal MAC rounds arrived next, smashing into the forward and midships sections. The Assault Carrier was a large and sturdy vessel and the MAC rounds individually did not possess enough energy to destroy it completely, but they could punch deep into the structure and cause devastating damage. And there were dozens of MAC rounds impacting on the Covenant ship.

A MAC round, by chance one of the six fired from the UNSC Iroquois, punched deep into the forward section, smashing through the forward Energy Projector mounting and severing a primary plasma conduit before finally being stopped just five compartments from the Command Centre. But the energy imparted by the MAC round had to go somewhere and much of it was transformed into a shockwave of air and fragments of hull that ripped even deeper into the ship. The Command Centre’s forward bulkhead was torn from the rest of the structure and pushed towards the aft bulkhead at about three times the speed of sound. The entire command crew who happened to be in the way of the forward bulkhead, including Fleetmaster Aras Talasee, were reduced to a thin coating of organic matter on the now-freed bulkhead as it continued pushing further aft.

In the midships section things were just as bad. One of the primary hanger bays had been crushed by a pair of MAC rounds and the huge mass of fuel and munitions for the on-board fighter craft began burning fiercely. Fire ripped through the midships section even as MAC rounds continued their hail of destruction on the outer hull. The voracious flames consumed everything in their path, burning through bulkheads and corridors to reach the other hanger decks which only added more fuel to the inferno.

In just thirty seconds the Day of Reckoning went from being a fully-operational Assault Carrier and flagship preparing to engage the humans to a savaged wreck with no weapons, no active engines, no command crew and a holocaust burning in her midsection that would rapidly consume the entire ship if left unchecked.

The second Assault Carrier was faring better but only marginally. The Hand of Judgment hadn’t be targeted by the plasma rounds from Cole’s flagship but had still had her shields drained significantly by the detonating Hornet mines, leaving them far too weak to survive the UNSC salvo. The first dozen MAC rounds brought down the weakened shields, allowing the remaining shots to tear gaping wounds in the Assault Carrier’s forward hull. Several MAC rounds struck further aft, igniting another inferno in the packed hanger decks while a final pair of rounds shattered the primary engines, leaving the damaged but still dangerous ship unable to manoeuvre.

The rest of the UNSC cannonade had slammed into the sixteen battlecruisers. The effects here were somewhat less dramatic – fewer rounds hit each ship, leaving most of them operational if not intact. Three were destroyed outright in the initial volley, their shields had already been weakened by the nuclear mines and the MAC rounds had shattered their metal skeletons with contemptuous ease. Another two died moments later from the accumulated damage: one had taken a pair of hits in the engines and the plasma backlash had burst every conduit in the rear half of the ship, the unbridled drive plasma had burned away half the ship, leaving the remainder adrift and powerless. A second had taken two hits to the bow in succession, tearing a massive hole through the entire structure and causing another plasma backlash into the main reactors. The reactors overloaded catastrophically, vaporising the entire ship in an eye-searing blue explosion.

It was a crushing series of blows for the Covenant fleet. Both Assault Carriers and a third of their battlecruisers destroyed or disabled in moments. But they still had fifty-seven frigates and destroyers, all intact apart from drained shields and all unengaged by the UNSC battle group. Without waiting for orders from whomever was in command now, those lighter ships fired off a huge volley of plasma torpedoes, each one picking an opposing human vessel to engage.

The wall of searing plasma approached the human ships, which for this phase of the battle where split-second timing was crucial were under full AI control. They didn’t move or evade, their crews sweating in apprehension as the fiery death charged towards them. But they held their positions and waited for the AI’s to make their move, trusting that the legend whose flag they followed knew what he was doing.

The plasma came closer and closer and the Covenant began to recover their initial optimism, surely this salvo would gut most of the human ships and they could continue the engagement on much more favourable terms, despite these unexpected human advances and the presence of Preston Cole, a name known among the Sanghelli as a deadly, but respected, enemy.

Then just a half-second before the plasma torpedoes would have impacted, the human AI’s acted in concert. While they had been sitting idle after the first salvo every joule of energy from the fusion reactors had been funnelled into the MAC capacitors, making them ready for another salvo. The newly-fitted naquada reactors were likewise active, channelling power into another new system.

In a nearly-simultaneous move, every human ship vanished in a flash of light.

The Covenant shipmasters rejoiced, thinking their plasma salvo had been totally effective, not realising that those flashes heralded a Kobolian FTL jump rather than the destruction of the UNSC ships. Their rejoicing lasted mere seconds, when they suddenly realised the humans were not dead, that the UNSC fleet had somehow transported themselves out of the path of their plasma salvo and into a perfect firing position directly aft of the Fleet of Ardent Belief.

The various Shipmasters and sensor operators were so focused on this astonishing banishing act, and the report that another massive MAC salvo was incoming, that the other new arrivals were ignored entirely.

Far behind them, in a cluster surrounding the upper bulbous section of the Unyielding Hierophant, appeared the massed ranks of the Terran and Colonial First and Third Fleets. The Nemesis anchored the formation of eight Battlestars, twenty cruisers and forty destroyers. On one flank was the imposing bulk of the Shield of Eternity, one the other side was the Dreadnought and her battle group. President Roslin had been right, it was time to go all in.

The Keyship, the Nemesis and the Phoenix fired first, the two superlasers and the colossal hardlight beam cannon struck out; all aiming at a single point above the huge complex of plasma reactors that powered this half of the massive space station. The shields were very strong but the station was not meant to act as a combat base; it had a protective fleet for dealing with human attacks. The defensive fields absorbed much of the staggering energy being directed at them but finally collapsed, allowing the last vestiges of the hardlight beam cannon to gouge a hundred-metre-deep trench in the sturdy hull.

Then every Terran and Colonial ship opened up with their megalaser batteries, one hundred and eighty-eight red beams of death slammed into the hull in a focussed pattern, burning a deeper and deeper chasm into the stations hull. The Nemesis, Phoenix, Eridanus, Pegasus and Warspite all salvo-fired their heavy anti-ship missile tubes, sending a hundred and sixty-eight heavy warheads racing into the gaping wound, a massed nuclear salvo added to by all twenty of the cruisers whose own launch tubes contributed a further four hundred warheads as a second wave.

The damage was staggering in one sense and almost inconsequential in another – Unyielding Hierophant was a truly massive structure and the damage was largely contained to one comparatively small sector of the huge construct. Then the hundreds of heavy nuclear warheads began detonating. Some impacted further out along the hull from the aim point of the megalaser salvo, ripping away more layers of the kilometre-thick hull with every detonation. Most however raced in to the chasm burned into the hull by the energy weapons, coming to rest but not detonating just yet.

Once that entire salvo had entered the massive hull breach, all three hundred and fifty of them, they detonated as one. The explosions ripped open the entire upper bulb of the station, tearing away almost a fifth of the outer hull and exposing the massive empty space within. The atmosphere in that huge void-space had ignited, spreading fires everywhere, only to almost immediately begin rushing out into the vacuum of space. The damage this time genuinely was staggering and the computers controlling the upper bulb had no choice but to shut down the huge number of plasma reactors less they explode in a catastrophic chain reaction.

This had a number of effects, most noticeably the fact that the rest of the station’s shields collapsed leaving it exposed and vulnerable, but there was a more subtle effect that would doom the station. The massive repulsor engines holding it in the stable orbit around Solitude now only had about half the energy they needed, and the various weapon impacts, the nuclear detonations and the huge outrushing of atmosphere from the upper section had all combined to noticeably slow the stations orbital path. Without full power being restored to the repulsors the orbit would very quickly become irrecoverable.

The four Tau’ri 304’s had no intention of allowing them time to recover. They raced ahead, covering the distance from the station’s upper section to the mid-section docking ring in moments. The deadly plasma beams flashed out in a rapid-fire fusillade that carefully burned away most of the repulsor engines. The massive Shield of Eternity then activated a powerful repulsor of its own – but this one was pushing on the massive station, slowing its orbit even further.

Even while the logistics station was being ravaged, the remnants of the Fleet of Ardent Belief was being slaughtered by a second colossal MAC salvo. Every single frigate and destroyer was hit by at least three rounds, overkill in the circumstances as their shields were still weakened from the Hornet mines. In a repeat of the battle over Sigma Octanus, dozens of Covenant ships died in moments as MAC rounds ripped through shields, armour, hull and internal compartments with the same ease that Covenant plasma torpedoes had once burned through UNSC ships.

The eleven surviving battlecruisers still represented a deadly force and were about to act when Cole and the Everest intervened, as did the watching Prowlers. Unseen by the Covenant, the eight Prowlers had stayed closed under their Asgard cloaks and as soon as the first wave of Hornet mines had detonated they had raced in to lay even more.

This minefield was a much less well-placed one as it had been laid “on the fly” as the cloaked prowlers passed through what was left of the Covenant fleet but it was still highly effective. Three mines had been laid in close proximity to the shieldless but still-active Hand of Judgment and another dozen near the battlecruisers. The thirty megaton mines detonated as one, the crushing bursts of radiation shattering the damaged Assault Carrier and wrecking three of the more damaged battlecruisers.

The remaining eight ships, all of them with their shields down, found themselves receiving the lethal second salvo of plasma rounds from the Everest’s main battery. All but one of the ships took two hits, more than enough to destroy or completely cripple them. The single surviving ship was merely heavily damaged, and the Forerunner hardlight beam cannons on Cole’s ship soon finished it off in a hellstorm of green beams that cut deeply into the damaged structure, wrecking every internal system and structural elements. The wreck was torn apart by the explosion of a plasma reactor, severed sections of hull flying out in all directions.

The lighter ships of the Covenant fleet were reduced to a single destroyer and pair of frigates, ships that had near-miraculously been missed by the second MAC salvo. They still had no shields as they too had been caught in the second wave of Hornet mines. To deal with them, the UNSC fleet launched a massive wave of Archer anti-ship missiles, thousands strong. The pulse laser turrets did sterling work but there were simply too many incoming targets. The huge shaped-charge warheads began ripping into the Covenant hulls, destroying weapon systems, sensor systems, engines, everything of value. First one, then the second frigate exploded as their plasma reactors breached containment under the lethal bombardment. The destroyer escaped that fate but was still lost, the hull broke up into sections as more and more missiles slammed home. The ship was reduced to several large fragments, tumbling and burning in the heart of a new, massive debris field.

Back in orbit, the Unyielding Hierophant was dying. The massed Alliance ships continued their cannonades into the now-exposed upper section, destroying more and more of the internal structure. But most damningly the repulsor engines were now all gone and the still-intact lower section was already skimming the upper cloud layers of the gas giant. It was only a matter of time now.

The Terran, Colonial, Tau’ri and Forerunner ships ceased fire, recognising that the huge station as finished. The victorious UNSC Battle Group Zulu kept watch on the debris field that was all that remained of the Fleet of Ardent Belief. They would wait and watch for the next hour as the crippled Covenant logistics station fell deeper and deeper into the gas giant’s atmosphere before finally the various physical forces combined to crush the massive structure. The plasma reactors in the undamaged lower bulb exploded, consuming the remains of the station in the brilliant flare of a plasma detonation, the explosion touching off a massive aerial firestorm as various gasses in the gas giant’s atmosphere combusted. The storm would spread over ten percent of the planet, leaving a visible scar that would never fade.

The various human forces began departing the system, their crews euphoric, their commanders delighted at how devastatingly effective their first joint offensive had gone. Cole was vindicated that his plan had worked so well, Stanforth was ecstatic that Sigma Octanus had not been an anomaly, that his fleet now held the advantage while Jellicoe was grimly satisfied that his ships had dealt such a blow against such a tenacious enemy.

What none of them realised was that one Covenant ship had survived and witnessed the entire battle. A million kilometres above the plane of the ecliptic sat the Tranquil Repose, the stealth corvette that was the last survivor of the Fleet of Sanguine Resolve. They had taken a long, indirect route to the system and the ship was built for stealth not speed; they had arrived in position mere minutes before Cole and Battle Group Zulu. The Spec Ops Major in command had decided to wait and see the result of what promised to be a major engagement before moving in to the Unyielding Hierophant and refuelling before heading on to the Covenant capital. Now he was glad he did, the sensor records from this battle, combined with those from the previous engagement and the Artefact they had recovered from the surface all but guaranteed their survival when facing the Hierarchs.

The Tranquil Repose waited until the human ships had left, capturing everything they could on sensors including the huge station’s final death throes in Solitude’s atmosphere and then turned about and heading back into slipspace. The stealth systems were shut down and every available scrap of power were devoted to the slipspace drives. They had to return with this news as soon as possible.

The Covenant faced a new and deadly threat, and a betrayal by their own Gods. The Hierarchs had to be told.

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

Act Three is off to an explosive start. Sorry, terrible pun I know but I couldn't resist.

Now, once again I have to point out that this will not be the standard of how battles are fought in the future. This was against a comparatively small force that they drew in over a minefield and were able to use combat jumps to outmaneuver and systematically destroy. This is not something they'll be able to do again, if only because the Tranquil Repose (another Doctor Who shoutout btw, but a more obscure one) saw the whole thing and is racing to High CHairty with both the Artefact (that has the locations of both Reach and Installation 04) and sensor recordings of both this battle and Sigma Octanus. So they will know about the Alliance forces. And the Keyship. The High Prophets are going to be pissed, and far from buying the humans time as hoped, this may well cause the Covenant to be even more aggressive.

Remember that as per "Contact: Harvest" the entire war started because Truth, Mercy and Regret found out that the humans were the Reclaimers, not the Covenant. So they decided to wipe the humans out to conceal the truth...and now they have undeniable evidence that the Forerunners have sided with the humans. Ouch.

The Sanghelli rebellion and the Great Schism (led by the Arbiter in canon) might actually still happen but with different players - much like how I reversed the loyalist/rebel Cylon factions in Book 1.

Finally, we learn the names of the other two super-heavy cruisers the UNSC still has, the Thermopylae and the Shiroyama. Yup, we're back to Sabaton shoutouts, both from the same (absolutely kickass) album funnily enough.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-17 11:29am

What, no Bannockburn or Winged Hussars? Not even an Attero Dominatus or Primo Victoria?

Tranquil Repose, on the planet Necros, from the Classic Who episode "Revealation Of the Daleks." One of the better Sixth Doctor episodes.
"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
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-06-17 11:33am

U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-06-17 11:29am
What, no Bannockburn or Winged Hussars? Not even an Attero Dominatus or Primo Victoria?

Tranquil Repose, on the planet Necros, from the Classic Who episode "Revealation Of the Daleks." One of the better Sixth Doctor episodes.
Bannockburn and Winged Hussars are awesome names, and will be appearing in future.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

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 » 2018-06-17 07:11pm

A shoeing of the historic variety, it would seem.
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 » 2018-06-17 11:12pm

It won't be one sided for long.
"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
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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