CHAPTER 2: David and Goliath
It took little time at all for the ten vessel strong UNSC Fleet of Admiral Johanssen’s fleet to pull away from the Monarch Stellar Garrison; the Fleet of Ascending Justice quickly forming up behind the more primitive vessels. Their course and heading to rendezvous with whatever remained of Admiral Nova Carthwright’s Fleet was locked in to every computer and ready to make the jump to once they cleared the asteroid field. While still an incredible burden to bear, the burning embers of hope seemed to swell among the officers of each ship as though the Sentinel ships behind them were fanning them into a roaring inferno. All soon began not only to entertain the hope that they would survive, but even dared to consider victory against the ship. With Ascending Justice on their side the gloom of the briefing found it hard to loom over them as the fighting spirit of the human race shined bright.
Ja’eda Jarrod and her older friends, Professor Newton Crosby and the UNSC’s foremost Robo-Xenobiologist Doctor Benjamin Jharvi, stood within one of the cluttered and disheveled lab spaces within the Halcyon Class vessel “THERE BE DRAGONS” which had been their home for the last month. Papers were strewn about desks along with a myriad of broken Forerunner artifacts and Sentinel components, notes on tablets lay near the various projects they were working on, computer terminals chattered away as they ran simulations, and trays of partially finished standard issued Military Cuisine sat here and there aside mugs of now cold coffee. It was far from the neatness of a Military Lab, but being civilian scientists and eccentrics Ja’eda didn’t mind. Personally her home on Earth wasn’t much better. With a small breath Ja’eda leaned back against the wall of the lab, looking out over everything and ran a hand through her short fiery hair.
“Any sign of the floating gold plated lobster?” asked Professor Newton Crosby as he looked up from one of his computers with a quirky smirk.
“No… he’s still over on the SAINT OF HONOR with Admiral Johansen.” Ja’eda spoke as she rubbed the side of her hand; a nervous habit of her’s.
“Well he is needing to be coming back otherwise he will not have the time to properly bathe his Symbiant to ensure optimal combat effectiveness and physical health!” spoke Doctor Benjamin Jharvi as he looked up from his work farther back in the room.
“I know, I know. He’ll… probably be back soon.” Ja’eda spoke as she lowered her hands and took a small breath.
“Oooh, I am knowing that breathing all but too well! What is troubling you my young friend?” asked the Doctor as he adjusted his glasses and removed his thick orange jacket; a hand-me-down from relatives he had once had on Reach.
Ja’eda shifted slightly as she looked away from him briefly, casting her eyes to the door as she slipped her slender fingers into the pockets on her jeans. The sounds of Sentinel Hover Engines could be heard softly whistling outside as Sentinel Minors moved around the halls of the older overhauled Science Oriented Halcyon Class Cruiser. With a shrug, Ja’eda leaned forward and stepped away from the wall as she looked back to her two friends and mentors.
“I dunno, nerves or something I guess. Lazarus said the constructs we’re likely to see aren’t like the normal ones, like sentinels and stuff. He said they’re abominations worse than even rampant constructs and I’m going to have to repel them from making contact with my brain or something…. Like they’d drive me crazy I guess. I barely got the hang of the stuff he showed me while we were at the training installations, I don’t know how I’m going to hold up against freaky abomination death machines.” Ja’eda confessed, attempting to sound less concerned than she really was.
“Ah, Ja’eda my dear you are worrying yourself into a stomach full of butterflies! Lazarus wouldn’t take you with if he thought you’d be in danger, he has the absolute most faith in you and I do too! You will do just fine of that I am certain!” Jharvi continued as Crosby looked up again from his work to offer a reassuring smile.
“I know…. it’s probably not going to be that bad. It’s just that it seemed to concern him and the rest of the network. It’s… complicated. Just…never mind , sorry.” spoke Ja’eda as she averted her eyes again.
“No, no , no, no, hey! No, do not be talking like that my girl. It is good for you to be talking to us about these sorts of things. If you keep it all in a bottle then you won’t be able to think with a clear mind when you need to train your abilities. Besides, we have known each other for long enough for you to come to me with these kinds of things.” the richly accented man spoke as he quickly rushed over to Ja’eda’s side.
“Same here, if you need someone to vent to it doesn’t bother us. Probably the most excitement we get since they keep us locked up down here.” chuckled Crosby.
Ja’eda chuckled slightly to herself and shook her head as Jharvi placed a hand on her shoulder, his eyes twinkling in the light as he offered her a compassionate smile. As she opened her mouth to speak, the heavy thumping of boot steps against the metal plated floor began to echo out along the outside wall. As she began to turn her head, her voice catching in her throat before she could thank her Stepdad and Uncle, the door hissed open allowing the form of one of the ship’s ODSTs on loan to enter the room. Despite his full armor and helmet, Ja’eda easily recognized him as Lieutenant Commander Jon Evans; a SPARTAN reject who wasn’t applicable for the project and instead shipped off to the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Academy for Training. It was a sour note that inspired the young Officer to act out his displeasure upon others around him at his every opportunity.
“Yeah?” asked Ja’eda sharply as she looked at the form of the ODST looming in the doorway.
“Get your things together, the Captain want you ready to move with them for this mission.” Jon replied with equal harshness.
“I travel light, and we have at least an hour before we get there. I think I’ll be fine.” Ja’eda replied as she narrowed her eyes slightly.
“Well la-de-da for you princess, the skipper says you’re coming with and that you’re supposed to be protected. He says you’re supposed to take this.” Jon continued as he held up an M6H Pistol to Ja’eda, presenting her the handle.
“Uh… yeah I’m not touching that. I’m more of a hang back and direct the alien super robots kind of girl… I don’t really know how to use these things.” Ja’eda spoke as she stepped back.
“Yeah, now’s not a good time for us anyway. We were just about to start spring cleaning, then there was the idea about hanging up curtains to bring the room together…” began Newton jokingly.
“Laugh it up Civie, but you’re on a military ship so CO’s orders are final. That is if you want to keep playing with the fancy Navy equipment you’re playing with. Are we clear?” asked Jon as he glared back over his shoulder to the frizzy haired Doctor.
“Yes sir!” answered Crosby, offering him a mock salute.
“Take it, keep your head down, and don’t waste my time making me have to run around after you. Do something useful that justifies these pencil pushers sitting in a ship taking notes on you, and we’ll get along just fine. Just don’t point it at anything you don’t want dead.” Jon continued as he roughly forced the handle into her hands.
“Do not be touching sir!” Doctor Benjamin huffed as he quickly stepped forward at the rough gesture.
Jon aggressively stepped forward in a lunging motion like an attacking dog as Benjamin attempted to step forward, stopping him where he stood as Ja’eda held the gun. The bearded Scientist stopped as the more physically fit man opposed him, quickly taking a step back as Jon wordlessly quieted the man before turning back to Crosby as he stood up.
“And you sit down.” Jon continued as he viciously stabbed his pointer finger at Newton Crosby.
“Aren’t I supposed to get some kind of holster for this?” asked Ja’eda, quick to get Jon’s attention back to her rather than her family.
The ODST huffed, all but growling as he reached down to his thigh plate and removed his holster. Again he roughly forced the object into Ja’eda’s grasp before remaining quiet for some seconds as he observed her. As far as this magic mind control mumbo jumbo went, Jon was more than skeptical over it. If some dirt covered Civilian who was living out of a slum could control the old Forerunner tech, hardened ODSTs could be taught how to do it too. If she really did have some kind of ability, he seriously doubted the two clowns would actually figure it out and present it to the UNSC. After washing out of SPARTAN Training and proving to be unfit for the augmentations, Jon chose not to belief in the idea of “gifted people”.
“See? You’re a freaking natural. There’s a firing range in the Armory, if it bothers you go practice! Since you’re not going to be out of my sight, you don’t need anything else. If they need to plug you up to anything to monitor you, get it done now.” Jon answered as he took one last look over the area.
“Don’t be a stranger!” waved Crosby, motioning for the unruly officer to leave.
With a frown under his opaque visor, Jon turned and headed out of the room leaving the group alone once again. Taking a small breath, Ja’eda looked down at the holster and moaned internally before strapping the heavy weapon sleeve to her thigh. The weapon did nothing to comfort her and if anything only added to her concerns because of her unfamiliarity with the weapon adding to her doubts with her abilities. She could tell that Newton and Benjamin were uneasy by the presence of the weapon as well; Benjamin eying the door and cursing in Hindi as the door closed behind Jon.
“He should be minding his manners when he comes down here! It would serve him right if I were to fill out another complaint to the Captain and get him written up again! I will not be having him come marching down here thinking he can terrorize my niece!” Benjamin fumed quietly as he stood glaring at the door for some seconds.
“Don’t worry about Be, I’m fine. And hey, at least when you guys get me all hooked up to the system I’ll have Johnny with me right? Keeping him networked with the Lab, SAINT OF HONOR, and I won’t task him that much!” Ja’eda spoke as she tried to recollect her thoughts.
“I hope not considering he’s made from Forerunner Data Sequences and adapted processors!” smirked Newton as he finally stood up from his workspace and walked over to his stepdaughter.
Benjamin turned and walked over to one of the various terminals in the lab area and quickly began typing over the controls, causing a large armature to drop from the ceiling in the middle of the room suspended just a few inches from the floor. Ja’eda quickly pulled a small earpiece with a tall rectangular eyepiece off of one of the tables and approached. From one of the holotanks in the room near the computer Benjamin was typing at a brilliant small spire of light appeared, quickly taking on the default humanoid “T” pose for Avatars before violently flickering and jittering. Multiple versions of the pose appeared as the original lost its definition before all the other versions of the avatar did the same. Forerunner glyphs began to run through the floating projection of light as the AI they belonged to loaded itself in. The avatar of the AI would take the form of a strange mechanical creature which in many ways resembled the Sentinels. There were however very noticeable differences in its design however, as its posture was much more humanoid than the common Sentinel. Its head was large and wide, unlike the long head of a Sentinel Major or even Lazarus, sporting two large floating lenses at either side of its head for eyes which shimmered a brilliant blue. Its arms folded upwards against its shoulders almost in a form of fetal curling; the body it connected to looking thin, boxy, and sporting a long low hanging section which resembled the Sentinel Beam section of a traditional Sentinel while the chest was comprised of what would have been a Sentinel’s “wings”.
“Hello Bozos!” proclaimed the AI, the faint afterimage of the original human avatar still faintly visible like a distorted shadow.
“Hello Johnny Version Number five! How are we feeling today?” asked Benjamin as he looked up from the terminal and to the AI before turning back to Ja’eda who stood in the middle of the framework that hung from the ceiling.
“All systems 100% A-Ok!” the AI nodded as Newton approached a closer set of controls near Ja’eda.
“Great to hear Johnny; say you wouldn’t be feeling like a walk would you?” Newton asked as he began fiddling with the controls which caused lights along the frame to begin lighting up, much like the armor testing equipment in the Cryo-Lab.
“Walk: the act of locomotion! Fresh air, tall grass, green trees: the great outdoors! Nothing does a body better than a trip outside!” the AI replied peppily.
“Hey that’s what I like to hear Johnny! Well it just so happens there’s been an opening in the most exclusive club this side of the Milky Way with a planned nature hike. You’ll see local wildlife like Jon and your Sentinel buddies, beautiful landscapes, new people who’ll get shot, and a firework show; it’ll be a blast.” Newton continued jokingly.
“Sounds like a blast! You can count me in.” Johnny nodded.
“Then come on in, the water’s fine Johnny! Club Ja’eda is open for ass whooping.” Ja’eda said as Johnny’s holographic image disappeared.
“Beginning Artificial Intelligence Equipment binding…” began Benjamin as the framework began to glow and spin around Ja’eda, the scientist’s hands racing over the controls.
Jon in the meantime hustled in a light jog into one of the Hangar bays. His every breath was the puff of a driven man, his every step one of determination to move faster, longer, and farther than anyone around him. Though he had officially failed the SPARTAN training more than once, in his mind he was more SPARTAN than most of the ones in service! Though the old Halcyon Class had been drastically overhauled for scientific use, the air still roared with the spirit of the Marine Corps. A compliment of three Pelican Dropship 79 Heavy Troop Carriers sat prepped for launch, two sporting M12 FAV Warthogs affixed to their carrying sections as soldiers stood around the bay checking and double checking their weapons. Marines stood loading the clips of their MA5D Assault Rifles and other weaponry while adjusting their facial masks. Specialized Medics in their white armor tended to their BR85 Heavy Barrel Service Rifles and pistols while Communications Personnel checked their M395 Designated Marksman Rifles as some of infantry climbed into suits of the “MANTIS” power armor.
A grungy heavy tune played from one of the portable radios in the bay from the far side where the other ODSTs leaned back against the wall with their equipment already checked, cleaned, and loaded. Two ODSTs and a Pit Bull outfitted with a soft vest and pack to carry supplies began to approach Jon as his pace slowed to more of a walk than the jog it had been. The Dog barked loudly over the sounds of equipment being loaded, or in the Case of the Warthogs unloaded from the Pelicans. Both men were giant in stature, dwarfing Jon as they both towered over seven feet tall.
“You done playing with the nut cases up in the lab?” asked the shorter of the two men.
“Can it Thom, I’m not even remotely in the god damn mood.” answered Jon as he continued forward towards his weapon’s locker in the bay.
“Wow Jon, what’s up? She try that robot brain control on you or are you thinking about SPARTANs again?” teased Thom Barz, making his older and larger brother snicker.
“I don’t see what you’re laughing over, jerk ass! And I don’t take that kind of shit from subordinates. Cigarette, NOW!” commanded Jon as he swung his arm back and roughly backhanded Thom’s stomach.
“Sure… no problem.” coughed Thom, his tone sobering significantly as he produced a small pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
Pulling his helmet off with his spare hand, Jon quickly took the lighter and pack; stuffing them in his pocket. His Locker squeaked open allowing him to set his helmet down inside before recovering the cigarettes and lighter, taking one and inhaling as he lit it. The two tall ODSTs remained formed up behind him, the dog circling them as much as it could before sitting down and just wagging its tail some as Jon wasted no time in grabbing a new holster and pistol. Unlike the other ODSTs and Marines who all armed themselves with a form of Rifle to help them in battle, Jon went to the extreme. A SPARTAN Laser and an M739 Light Machine Gun would be his primary and secondary weapon; two standard issue pistols docked on either side of his hip and a 13 inch Combat Knife affixed to his chest as a fall back option.
“Did you run those new Marines through their paces?” asked Jon as he exhaled a plume of smoke.
“Oh yeah! We ran Chopper here down the Junior Bunk room and let him go after all of them! They’d run he’d pounce!” laughed Mendosa Barz.
“And their training?” Jon continued questioningly.
“The most brutal money could buy, sir. If they hang around here they’ll definitely be sore for a long time! That is if they don’t jump ship the first time we make port.” Thom chuckled.
“Good. I don’t need more kids to get in the way here. They want me to hang back and play General here then let ‘em. No short cuts, no free rides, no easy assignment. They’ll either get good and fall in line, or you two make sure they’re ready to leave in an escape pod if they have to!” Jon continued.
“Way ahead of you. So the way things are sounding we’re going to end up boarding that ship?” asked Mendosa as he leaned back.
“They’re talking about it, the Admiral and the robots. Whoever’s flying that ship they want a confirmed kill; and if that’s true I’ll be the one to put their target down myself.” Jon answered, crossing his arms as he closed his locker and leaned back against it.
Before the trio could continue however a bellowing laughter and sound of slurred conversation echoed out across the bay, even with the music from the radio blaring. Jon, Thom, Mendosa, and even the dog quickly turned to face the source of the noise as did many other Marines and ODSTs on the deck. To the surprise of all the onlookers, two ODSTs in ONI variation armor walked casually along; one of the two men resting his arm one the other’s shoulder and poking him in the Chestplate as they laughed and spoke. It was a strangely human if not even casual behavior that was not usually present in the Office of Naval Intelligence.
“What the hell?” asked Jon as he narrowed his brow, scowling at the two.
“Helloooooooooo!! Who is in command down here? We are here to kick butts!” one laughed.
“No, no no! We’re here to help with the butt kicking when we go onboard Forerunner ship! Make things go boom!!” corrected the other.
“I am Yuric! He Yessy! We are ONI Consultants for this mission! Demolition and Intelligence Specialists to help with the blowing up of old big ship! Are you the SPARTAN guy?” spoke the ONI ODST who wore a custom detailed Rouge helmet, pointing to his friend in the EOD helmet.
“Who the hell let these clowns down here in MY hangar?” growled Jon as he quickly stood up.
“I see you smoke! Could you be interested in Vodka perhaps? Maybe Scotch? I’m all out, but if you find, I share!!” chuckled the man in the EOD as he walked over with his friend in tow.
“My god… they’re piss drunk!” gawked Thom.
-UNSC SAINT OF HONOR, BRIDGE-
Admiral Johanssen stood at full attention behind the twin pilots of the large old Marathon Class Cruiser. His hand was balled nearly into a fist as he stood; thumb poking his chin and index finger resting against his lower lip. The SAINT’s AI had been in constant communication with Lazarus for awhile despite Johnny and Lazarus not getting along well, but now came the dead silence before the storm. The moment of engagement was fast approaching. Johnny had been tasked with running the simulated attack vectors countless times in preparation. In fact, he was still running them as they neared the rendezvous point. Once he met up with the other fleet and moved in to engage, Lazarus would hold back for one and one half minutes before moving in and catching the Forerunner Dreadnaught in a cross fire and mopping up the Covenant ships.
“Sir, heavily encrypted signal detected. It’s been bounced off several nearby satellites to obscure the source but the encryption looks UNSC. The size of the signal would indicate communications rather than a hacking attempt.” called one of the officers on the bridge.
“Put it on the screen Crewman.” Admiral Johanssen spoke cautiously.
In a flash and burst of static, a grainy distorted image took shape upon one of the many screens in the multitude of terminals in the bridge of the SAINT OF HONOR. Even through the low quality and static the man’s uniform could clearly be made out as that of an Admiral’s. His right arm curled in an almost fetal manner against his chest, appearing much less defined than his thin left arm. The man’s lower jaw was pinched drastically together making it unusually narrow and his mouth small as large deep pink scars ran across the canvas of his lower face. Short white hair covered his scalp, his skin pale and clammy giving him a similar appearance to a doll that have been dropped and glued back together. His chest raised and fell for some seconds and he breathed heavily through his nose before his eyes seemed to surge suddenly with life, almost gleaming as his left hand reached down to his chair and began typing.
“Admiral Johanssen, it is good to see you ahead of schedule.” echoed a harsh inhuman voice from a set of speakers built into his chair, catching most of the bridge crew off guard.
“Admiral Nova Carthwright I presume?” Johanssen asked, maintaining a stoic air of professionalism as he spoke.
“The same.” the Admiral on the other end of the transmission nodded as he continued to type into a keypad to make the voice speak for him.
“I trust you’ve been using this time to coordinate the firing vectors and Slipspace maneuvers for this.” Johanssen began as Admiral Nova raised his left hand to silence him.
“It will not be a problem to my fleet. I will share with you my calculations for your AI and in turn it may communicate with my ship’s Intelligence to clear up any anomalies. These maneuvers will be of no trouble, though your crew will need to standby their battle stations as if expecting collision. It will not be the most comfortable of decelerations.” Admiral Nova explained as Admiral Johanssen’s fleet arrived and dropped from Slipspace.
“Admiral…. I’m detecting moderate damage across Admiral Nova’s Battle Group.” began a Sensor Officer, causing the damaged face of Admiral Nova to attempt to smile.
“The damage is minimal. My fleet has already had the opportunity to tango with this fleet several times in his campaign for genocide. We’ve successfully stalled their approach to Ivanoff Station considerably and damaged most vessels in the Fleet. However the Forerunner vessel is more powerful than I’ve accounted for and forced me to withdraw with every engagement. This time should proceed far more effectively with the additional firepower.” Admiral Nova continued, his face taking on a sly prideful glare.
Unease washed over the staff of the Bridge as they looked out at the damaged forms of the ships in Admiral Nova’s Fleet. Their MAC Guns no doubt still functioned, but there were breaches on several ships; some still glowing red from the heat of the blasts they took. The effectiveness of their shields was already called well into question as it could plainly be seen that the Dreadnaught had broken through them. But perhaps even stranger still was the large bulk of Admiral Nova’s command ship; a massive civilian designed Springhill Class mining ship that was converted for Military use.
“Admiral Nova, please confirm: you’ve dealt damage to the hostile Fleet?” asked Johanssen as he brow tightened slightly.
“Indeed I have.” the battle scared man nodded.
“Are there any confirmed kills in the fleet that we should know about? What’s the condition of the Dreadnaught?” asked Johanssen, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to remain inactive for much longer as Lazarus’s fleet broke off in preparation.
“There were hundreds of Fighter vehicles deployed from the Dreadnaught as well as supportive Remnant Fighters. Our fighters and anti-fighter measures were more than able to dispatch them. There were also three Covenant Corvettes and Frigates that were not accounted for in my original report to FLEETCOM. But they will no longer be a problem. Of the Dreadnaught I can only assume that their shields have been damaged in several areas, but no obvious hull damage occurred. That is an error I mean to correct Admiral. I will take point in this charge, form up and prepare to move out. Nova out.” answered Admiral Nova before cutting the transmission.
The screen abruptly returned to a normal Comm. Chatter monitoring display and Admiral was left standing before the eyes of his men. While unorthodox to say the very least, Admiral Johanssen would not order the reconnection of the transmission. He could roll with the punches and would continue to until he foresaw an immediate threat to his men. Instead, Admiral Johanssen simply turned and began to walk to where he had been standing, looking down to the Holotank as the reverse engineered Forerunner AI juttered into shape.
“Johnny, interface with the AI on the lead ship. Ensure that all flight and firing paths are without mistake then compile a list of the 300 most likely errors that could occur and corrections for them.” Johanssen spoke as he looked forward out at the fleet before him.
“You got it Cappy!” nodded the AI.
“Signal Lazarus when those calculations are done and move out on Admiral Carthwright’s signal.” Johanssen continued.
“It’s time for fireworks!” proclaimed the AI as Lazarus’s Fleet displayed green level readiness across the board.
-UNSC CENTRALIA, BRIDGE-
Admiral Carthwright sat in his chair in the far back of the old mining ship’s bridge, looking over the various readouts on the holographic table that dominated a fair portion of the room. The several hundred ship strong Sentinel Fleet was displaying their readiness across the board as they hung in formation waiting for their chance to strike. As Admiral Johanssen’s Fleet flashed from yellow to green, the AI of the Centralia quickly appeared at the side of the table standing over the data. Its body took the form of a dimly orange glowing human Skeleton whose details were slightly smudged as if the image was upon a blurred photo. The morbid AI’s arms were folded behind its back as the empty blackened sockets followed after Admiral Nova as he slowly began to move along the side of the table. While looking like a normal chair with the addition of a keypad over the transmission, Admiral Nova’s chair was actually motorized, making up for his weakened legs and his proneness to exhaustion after his capture and torture during the Human-Covenant War and the injuries he had taken prior during the war. His body was still forever marked by the scars of radiation burns as well as the birth defect that rendered his right arm near useless. However despite all of this, the older man pressed on with his career. He was never one to be slowed down and even the failing of his body couldn’t break him. The Forerunner would only be another hurdle for him to overcome, and one he planned on dispatching very soon.
“The reinforcement fleet is ready sir.” spoke the AI with a guttural hissing voice that fit his macabre image.
Carthwright’s eyes lingered on the AI for some seconds as he readjusted himself minorly in his chair before his fingers began to peck the keys. Slowly he turned so that he was perfectly facing the front of the Bridge, looking out in preparation of the battle to come. With a raspy but confident breath, Carthwright firmly pressed the button to make his artificial voice box speak.
“Then it is now the time to cry havoc and let slip the hounds of hell! Radio the other ships and begin our advance.” the man commanded.
“Of course sir, and I enjoy your liberal wording of Shakespeare.” the AI answered, it’s jaw very lightly swinging as it spoke.
“Helm, engage Slipspace drive and switch all control over to Necro for the final approach and firing.” ordered Admiral Nova as he glanced over to one of the officers who lines either side of the Bridge.
“Aye sir, engaging FTL drives now. Switching over to Automatic Control.” called the Helmsman.
“Direct Control of helm and weapons established, Admiral.” the AI signaled as the Centralia quickly jumped to faster than light speed.
Admiral Carthwright sat within his chair, eyes never leaving the forward section of the Bridge. In his peripheral vision the Admiral could see the many officers in the older seats of the ship diligently working at their controls, readying the ship for what was about to happens. Within seconds of the drop from Slipspace the shields would crack to life to shield them from the Covenant Remnants’ retaliation which was a given. When this Sentinel and his Fleet showed up they’d sweep the board and in his dying breaths the last ship this Forerunner would see staring down his bow would be his. Nova appreciated the irony in his ship’s AI’s appearance, for it was partially why he chose the AI for his ship. Such an image, such a character, living bones, the undead; it fit him very well. There were so many times that he should have died but yet refused to slip into the night. At times, he thought to himself when he was all alone in the dead of night, or even sometimes when he sat on the Bridge, he could feel the icy form of the angel of death behind him. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he never went there alone as death was sure to follow him waiting for its chance to take him home. Most people might have found such a thought to be a cure, but really it struck Carthwright as a blessing. He had transcended the breaking points of the human race, of mortals alone; he was on a new battlefield and Death was his opponent. His will stood where his broken body could not and at every moment he stood there beside it as equals. The fact that Necro looked as he did and served him so diligently only filled that belief, that in some way cosmically it was meant to represent their standoff.
At either side of his ship the forms of the rest of his Task Group and the Fleet of Admiral Johanssen formed up. Rows above and below also flanked his ship like some form of celestial battering ram from the heavens ready to knock this Forerunner down from the status of godhood; and Admiral Nova took great pride in that idea. There were so many who viewed the Forerunner as something so powerful, so ancient and brilliant, that they walked the halls of time with divinity and grandeur. The UNSC Top Brass were near obsessed with the relics they left behind, with ONI salivating at the mere mention of possible technology to adapt, and this union with the Sentinels with the promise of becoming their sole inheritors sent rumors aflame through all branches of the Military. Even Civilians had come to whisper and covet these things and these Forerunners as something unimaginable. To be the one to kill such a creature was certainly a distinction, but if anyone would prove to be such a “God Killer” Nova would be damn sure to ensure that he was the one to do it!!
“Brace! Brace! Brace! Attention all hands, Deceleration in T minus 15 seconds. Advanced Maneuvering in progress: all hands brace!” announced Necro as the PA systems cracked to life within the Mining Ship.
“Let us leave our mark on the heavens. I want these Sentinels to log me in their collective memories for eons for this.” Nova typed, engaging the magnets on his chair to keep him firmly planted in one spot.
“I will cry havoc sir.” nodded the AI before its avatar glitched and jolted, taking on the form of an upright standing Dire Wolf with empty eye sockets.
The entire super structure of the old Springhill Class Mining ship began to rumble, the keel creaking, and the deckplates chattering as the ship began its spin. The Engines cried out in protest as the awkward proportioned ship began to attempt a controlled spin. Like the forms of well trained dancers, the other ships in the formation began their spin in tandem mirroring the Centralia. In a bright flash the ships began to drop from Slipspace as their MAC Cannons fired as each ship’s pitch and angle was adjusted. All hands grabbed onto their chairs and consoles as the ship rumbled and the forces inside grew more violent.
In his more beastly form Nechro roared out in a primal howl of fury and rage the moment the MAC cannon fired. The Commanders of each ship were blinded briefly from the flash of dropping back to sub-light and the following explosions along what they assumed was the Forerunner ship. The blast happened within fractions of a second, most of the personnel here didn’t even know what the ship looked like yet and yet they all stood fast to their positions, apparently scoring direct hits along its broadside!
Protectively, each ship stood tall and proud in the inky blackness of space between the invading Fleet and Ivanoff Station with the Massive form of a Halo ring behind them; their cannons still trained on the hostiles. As the flash faded, the strangely frail looking triangular if not pyramid shape of the Forerunner Dreadnaught came into view, its shields flickering and lashing out a bright blue as the hull sparked along the starboard side. Direct hits, every last one of them! The hull of this incredible Dreadnaught had been breached and the shields had been buckled.
“Continue fire!! All vessels engage, ENGAGE. Offer no quarter to the Forerunner ship. All Fighters and Prowlers are to move in and fire on the Covenant ships between them and the Dreadnaught. All Capital ships are to continue MAC fire on the Forerunner ship!” ordered Nova as Nechro quickly shifted back to his regular appearance.
“Order is being transmitted to the rest of the Fleet Admiral. First blood has been drawn.” nodded Necro as he began transmitting the order.
A hail of blue plasma fire began raining down on the UNSC fleet. Archer Missiles sprayed out in an almost biblical flurry as MAC Canons began roaring to life once again to pepper the stunned Forerunner ship. The shabby poorly maintained Covenant Ships quickly began to float upwards and together to form protective lines between the Forerunner ship and the attacking UNSC fleet.
Nova’s eyes gleamed, his heart races, and his mangled face attempted to bear teeth. Remember me; remember the face of this broken withered man who has surpassed all physical limitations! Those were the thoughts of Admiral Nova as he looked out at the Forerunner ship and the Covenant Remnant ships that tried to block their shots. His eyebrow twitched and turned into a scowl as slowly the Covenant ships began to block more and more of the MAC rounds despite the beating they were taking from the Missiles. The main beams of the Covenant Cruisers began to charge as they turned to face the UNSC ships, firing out and taking a significant bite out of the shields of some of the closer ships.
But Nova remained steadfast at his post, the rest of his fleet standing to and firing round after round from their MAC Cannons into the Fleet. He silently watched as Admiral Johanssen’s fleet began to break away from the primary formation to maintain better shots on the Dreadnaught. He would not be moved from this area, no more games of cat and mouse, no more withdraws! This would be the death of this creature and his fleet!!
As if brought on by the call of his will alone, Lazarus’s fleet suddenly flashed into existence behind the Forerunner Dreadnaught and its Fleet. Navy Grade Sentinel Beams scorched the vacuum of space as they shot forward and began hammering not only the Covenant Ships, but the Dreadnaught as well. Near Instantly three CPV-Class Heavy Destroyers burst into a violent ball of molten metal and hypnotizing purple flame. As Missiles continued to rain down upon the Covenant ships and MAC rounds continued to fire, two SDV-Heavy Corvettes that were turning to engage the Sentinel fleet jointed the smoldering remains of their allies as they exploded. Like a Wasp’s nest, hundreds of strange somewhat Sentinel-like fighter craft and Corvettes surged free from the Dreadnaught’s hull and raced to engage Lazarus as his ships continued to mop the floor with the poorly maintained Covenant escort. And then as an RCS-Class Armored Cruiser was blown to smithereens by MAC cannon fire Nova saw it; an opening directly to the Forerunner Dreadnaught that just hung there in space helplessly stunned as it sent more Fighters and Corvettes into the fray to protect itself. The Covenant ships were breaking off, turning a full about face to deal with the engaging Sentinels and leaving the Dreadnaught wide open on the side facing the UNSC ships. Surging forward in his chair as he looked at the motionless bulk of the Dreadnaught, Nova opened a channel to all ships in the UNSC Fleet.
“All ships advance! Repeat, all ships advance on Forerunner Dreadnaught. Starboard Shields are down, any and all able bodied teams are to board that ship. I repeat, ALL COMBAT PERSONNEL, BOARD THE DREADNAUGHT!” his mechanical voice bellowed just like the MAC Cannons of his ship.