The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

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

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

Here it is everyone, especially my American readers who are... concerned about current events. Here's a completely different apocalyptic threat to be concerned with!

Into the Dark
AI Core, Installation 05
One Hour Later


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fleet Ops, Warstar Jupiter, in formation near Installation 05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The display beeped and Commander Harrison gave his report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

===========

So yeah, my plan has changed. It's looking like the Battle of Installation 05 will be the end of the conflict. Whether that comes from the RIng firing a local pulse, the NOVA bomb detonating or something else I ain't saying yet. Also, while this battle might effectively end the war, that don't mean that certain characters will realise or accept this, so a battle over Earth may yet still happen.
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.
DKeith2011
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by DKeith2011 »

Nothing like an interstellar, multi-dimensional war slash zombie apocalypse to take your mind of the little things like an attempted coup.
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LadyTevar
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by LadyTevar »

DKeith2011 wrote: 2021-01-12 01:41pm Nothing like an interstellar, multi-dimensional war slash zombie apocalypse to take your mind of the little things like an attempted coup.
Yep. It helps.
Nice way to set the scene, EF. Now to see how it goes sideways.
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Eternal_Freedom
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

Why thank you. I had initially intended this to be an entire Spartan-focused chapter but I ran out of material half way through. So I went back to space combat because it's what I know.
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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LadyTevar
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by LadyTevar »

Eternal_Freedom wrote: 2021-01-12 04:01pm Why thank you. I had initially intended this to be an entire Spartan-focused chapter but I ran out of material half way through. So I went back to space combat because it's what I know.
You set the "monster in the dark" feeling perfectly with the Spartans. I'm assuming the ambush will hit just when they need to be getting the fuck outta dodge.
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Librium Arcana, Where Gamers Play!
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.
"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Eternal_Freedom
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

Oh I have a plan for the Spartans - they're gonna have a fun time before they get back to Jupiter.
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 »

Sure it won't be the fun having the Spartans?
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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Eternal_Freedom
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

Running and gunning in firefights with their fellows? That's the Spartan's idea of a good time given how they were raised/trained, so I'm sure some of them at least will enjoy it.
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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