A story of a couple's fight through the Human-Covenant war.
A Halo story by Sebastian Avery
(8 chapters long so far)
06:40 October 20th 2552 (Military calendar)
Aboard Longsword fighter Bravo 4
In high orbit above Earth
Harper stood to the rear of the cabin. Coffee breaks were an essential part of her routine, and she had been without one for the past three hours. The built in machine filled her mug and offered her sugar. Harper pushed the button ‘x2’ and waited a few seconds more. The sluggish machine dropped two cubes before dispensing a small wooden stirrer, along with the message ‘Have a pleasant day’. Harper took her coffee and began stirring it on her way back to her chair. She sat down in front of the pilot’s console, and picked up a manuscript from the co-pilots chair. As she held it, she scrolled through its electronic pages with her thumb, frowning in thought about their orders. The usual, everyday information was displayed; Flight plans, patrol routes, docking times, inventory listings.
“Nothing changes.” She thought. Harper placed the manuscript device in the pocket between the two chairs and sunk back in her own chair. She sipped on her coffee and stared at the view screen ahead of her. It displayed earth to the left, and all the orbital defence platforms that blanketed her with three hundred MAC cannons. A handful of ships dotted the vacuum, mainly frigates and carriers, yet more and more kept arriving. The right hand side of the screen showed the depth of space, complete with all the stars that it holds. Cairo station lazily drifted past to her left -her home for the past seven months. Only one vessel was docked to Cairo; The InAmber Clad, that belonged to Captain Keyes. Harper rolled her head to her right and looked up to check the ship’s status on the monitors. All was within acceptable limits. She sighed happily, everything was calm and normal, and the covenant, were far, far away.
Harper took another sip of her coffee and casually hit a com button on the control panel in front of her.
“How’s it going Mike?” She said, speaking into the air around her. A few moments passed as she waited for a reply.
“Checks are nearly done back here.” Spoke a young mans voice through the overhead speakers. “I’ll be up in a mo.”
“Roger.” She lazily replied. She pushed the same button again to cut the comms. All was silent again. Only the faint hum of the ships engines and the occasional beep of computers could be heard. Harper drank her coffee and closed her eyes. She felt a bit guilty, relaxing on duty, but there wasn’t much else to do. Within seconds of that thought, the radar picked up a contact and gave a small alarm. Harper opened her eyes to the sound and studied the view screen. The starboard camera snapped into view to show a small object heading towards them. Harper instantly set down her coffee in the allocated space to her right and keyed in a couple of commands. The camera zoomed in to reveal the objects identity. It was a lone asteroid. Although it was only about a hundred yards wide, it could still do some damage. She keyed in more commands and the computer calculated the objects trajectory and course. It was on an intercept course with Cairo station. Harper changed the view screen to the front and took control of the sticks. She spun her craft right and locked on to the asteroid, a few hundred feet away. Without hesitating, she thumbed the button on top of the right stick. One of her ASGM-10 missiles raced out to greet the asteroid. Harper watched it on the screen as it impacted and detonated into a beautiful white ball of energy. Once the light diminished, only fragments of rock remained.
“What the hell was that!?” Asked Mike over the intercom.
“An asteroid heading for Cairo.” She replied. “I had to intercept.”
“A little warning might have been nice! I was checking over the missiles when they fired!”
“Sorry Mike, I didn’t think.” As she said this, the top left corner of the view screen suddenly displayed an incoming transmission.
“Well next time, use your bloody hea-“
“Cairo’s calling Mike, gotta take this.” She cut him off and switched the com channels over.
“Bravo Zero-four, please report on weapons discharge.” Asked a stern, female voice.
“An asteroid was on an intercept course to your location, I didn’t think twice about removing it Ma’am.”
“Lieutenant, be advised, you’re not doing dog fights anymore. Cairo has its own defences against debris. Keep you munitions to yourself, and in the future, report any dangers – DO NOT engage without authorisation. Do you understand?”
“Yes Ma’am, It won’t happen again.”
“Glad to hear it. Now continue your patrol and increase your speed to compensate for the delay. Cairo out.”
Harper quickly turned off the comms and keyed in commands to the auto pilot to boost speed and get them back on track. She was angry at the comm.-tech. She had acted on instinct. No one was hurt. Why did she have to get grilled for that?
The maintenance doors opened, and moments later, Mike was standing in front of the coffee machine at the back of the cabin. Harper leaned round in her seat to face him.
“Are you alright?” She asked. “I didn’t mean any harm, I forgot you were there.” Mike pushed a few buttons on the machine before answering.
“I’m alright. But like I said before you cut me off; use your head next time.” He removed the mug and tasted its contents. “Thankfully,” He said as he walked to join her. “I was on the other side of the bay when the missile entered the tube. Had you fired both sets, I think I might have lost my hand.”
He sat down next to her and studied her face.
Harper bit her lower lip with concern, and looked at him with guilt. The computer bleeped a notification to let them know they were back on course. “Anyway,” Continued Mike. “It’s in the past now. Let’s focus on our patrol.” He picked up the electronic manuscript and scrolled through it in fine detail.
Mike was of the same rank as Harper. Lieutenant M. Bowski. Despite having a Russian surname, he was born in Norfolk, England. Trained more in engineering than flying, his job was to keep everything running as smooth as possible, and to let Harper do the flying and fighting.
The Longsword they were aboard, belonged to Harper, and had done a two year service with her. When she was called to join the ranks of Cairo station, she specifically requested that she keep her original Longsword. It was part of her, something that she had grown very much attached to.
Harper’s full name was Nicole Amanda Harper. Daughter of Fleet Admiral Jason Harper; she was born in Kent, England. She signed up to be part of the UNSC at the age of twenty-one, graduated in flight school, and served aboard her fathers Marathon-class cruiser Wishful Thinking. Now being twenty-four, Nicole had been in sixteen dog fights with the covenant. Her courage and exceptional skill had awarded her numerous medals and rise in ranks. She hoped one day to command a squadron of her own. But because of the increasing danger the covenant posed, Fleet Admiral Harper persuaded Nicole to leave Wishful Thinking, and to join Cairo station in the defence of Earth. Admiral Harper’s fleet would be the first to engage the covenant fleet when they attacked Earth, and he didn’t want Nicole to be part of that first wave.
“Did you know the master chief is aboard Cairo?” Asked Mike without looking up.
“There are still Spartans left?” Nicole said in disbelief. “I thought they all died on Reach.”
Mike laughed and looked at her. “You don’t like to keep up with the times do you Nicki? When Reach fell –God bless her soul, The Pillar of Autumn fled and found itself next to an alien ring world crawling with covenant. Well, would you believe it; the master chief blew it up! He found his way back home, and now they are soon to do a commemorative service to congratulate him.” He pointed at the view screen. “They will be airing it at 08:00.” He checked his watch. “That’ll be in just over an hour.”
“No harm in tuning in I suppose.” Nicole remarked. She picked up her coffee and took a sip, only to realise that it had gone cold. She winched at the taste and stood up to get another. “Is he the last one?” She asked on her way to the coffee machine.
“As far as anyone knows.” Mike replied. “At least we still have one though eh?”
“Yeah, but he can’t defend Earth all by himself.” She chucked the contents of her mug down the small sink and started to make herself another. “I don’t know what good he’s going to be in space.”
“We’ll see soon enough I guess. The covenant’s only got Earth left to find. And I doubt that’ll happen for a long time.”
Nicole took her fresh coffee and stood in front of the starboard console. She scanned the displays out of habit; she liked to keep an eye on her ships systems, noting even the smallest fluctuations.
“Hey, which one of these belongs to your father?” Asked Mike as he looked out the port-side windows. Nicole turned to see a large cluster of cruisers and frigates grouping together. She spotted her fathers Marathon-class cruiser at the front of the formation.
“It’s the big one leading them. The one with the three vertical blue stripes on it’s middle.”
“Jesus,” Spoke Mike in awe as he got up to take a closer look. “That thing’s huge!”
Nicole smiled. Her father’s ship was impressive. Weighing in at 100,000 tons, with a length of nearly 1,200 meters. All the admirals’ ships in the UNSC were of the same class. Big, powerful, and near impossible to destroy.
“It’s got two MAC cannons on the front, two oversized Archer missile pods, one on each side. A vast array of 50mm- automatic point defence cannons, and a handful of fusion rockets.” Nicole stated proudly.
Mike whistled long and low, impressed with the armament.
“What about crew and vehicles?” Mike asked, eager to know more.
“I think he has about three hundred staff.” She said as she walked over to the same window. “I know there are a few ODST squads that permanently reside there. As for vehicles, He’ll have about ten scorpion tanks, a few dozen warthogs, hornets, pelicans. You know; the usual.”
“Longswords?” He enquired.
“Twenty-three. There would normally be twenty-four, but we are currently standing in that one.”
“Your father let you take it?” Mike looked at her puzzled.
“He’s an admiral, and I’m his daughter.” She replied with a smirk.
“Your a lucky bitch is what you are.” Laughed Mike.
The two of them watched the remaining fleet drift slowly by, until Earth could once again be seen behind them. Nicole set down her mug and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. She pulled out two and offered one to Mike. He looked at her puzzled, wondering if she was joking about. Smoking aboard UNSC vessels was strictly forbidden.
"I know you smoke Mr Bowski," She said with a smile. "As soon as you set foot in the mess hall your straight on one."
"Well yeah, but..."
"No buts'. My ship, my rules." She stated, jabbing the cigarette in the air. Mike cautiously took it and put it in his mouth. "I won't tell if you don't." She added. Mike grinned with the cigarette between his teeth.
"I'm so glad I got paired up with you." He laughed.
Nicole tapped a few buttons on the console infront of her, disableing the smoke alarms and polarizing the windows so that no one outside could see in. Afterwards, she withdrew a small silver lighter from her pocket and lit her cigarette. Mike followed, taking the lighter Nicole offered. The two of them stood for a while and watched thier planet, each of them thinking about home and how the war brought them to where they were now. The viewscreen casualy bleeped and displayed a message in the top right;
Rachel Cota- A1C 1429-34
Cairo Staiton ODA-142
Naval Channel 12.08
Nicole walked over to her seat, leant over the controls and hit the accept key. Rachel's face popped into view in a seperate window. She was a young woman, the same age as Nicole. She was wearing her pilots uniform with her red wavey hair tied back into a standard bun. In the background, it appeared that she was in their quarters as their bunk bed was visible behind her.
"Morning Nicki." She said with a smile.
Nicole smiled happily back. "Morning Rachel, good to see you. I take it you've only just arrived back at Ciaro?"
"Yeah, not ten minuets ago. Missed this place. Missed you! How's it going?"
Nicole and Rachel had not seen eachother for a week. Rachel was called to ground to help run shipments of men and supplies to and from barracks, while Nicole stayed in space. They talked about the time that had passed, the massing fleet and increased security around Earth, and how those in charge were saying little about it and of what was to come next. Occasionally Mike engaged in the conversations while doing routine checks every now and then. The three of them watched the awards ceremony, and whitnessed the master chief, Avery Johnson and Amanda Keyes recieve their medals.
Half way through the broadcast, Lord Hood recieved an urgent message regarding an aproaching covenant fleet. On Rachels screen, red lights flashed around her and orders could be heard over the staions speakers.
"I have to go Nicki! Shits hit the fan! You take care out there, see you soon!"
"You take care too Rachel!" Pleaded Nicole. "I love you!" As she said that, Rachel's transmission ended, and NAVCOM could be heard over her ships audio.
"All ships fall back to defensive possitions around your stations! Covenant fleet sighted and is en route to Earth. This is not a drill! I repeat; Covenant forces en route to Earth. Fall back to defensive postitions immediatly!"
Mike and Nicole strapped into thier seats and started flipping switches and pushing buttons. Mike restored the alarms, depolarized the windows and primed their weapons. Nicole shut down the auto piolt and hastily turned her Longsword fighter around and headed back towards Cairo station. Hundreds of other Longswords, Pelicans, and other small craft wizzed about in different directions. All heading to their arranged points. Mike and Nicole approached Cairo station and could see pelicans and Longswords launching from the hangar bays. Some entered Earth's orbit and headed to ground, while others proceeded towards bigger vessels. Nicole knew that one of those Pelicans belonged to Rachel, and that she would be sent back to the surface.
They spotted their sqadron and took up possistion next to their partner, Bravo 3. Mike opened a channel to them and signed in.
"Hey guys, you ready for this?" He Asked.
A young man by the name of George Bishop answered him. "Me and Will are ready here, good to have you two with us on this one."
There were twelve Longswords asigned to Cairo station, four on alpha team, four on Bravo team, and four on Charlie team. They flew in pairs to help keep eachother covered while fighting. Cairo's Longswords floated around the station, covering all sides. About twenety kilometers ahead sat the Home fleet, ready to take on the first wave. Cairo soon spoke through the audio to all it's defending ships, ordering them to await the signal before engaging any hostiles. Mike pointed to the viewscreen.
"There they are." He said.
In the distance could be seen dozens of ships, only specks at this range, but definatley Covenant. They just held there, not moving.
"What are they doing?" Asked Nicole in fustration.
"Looks like they're just out of range of the MAC platforms." Responded Mike as he checked the scanners. The entire UNSC home defence sat and waited for the Covenant to make the first move. Minuets slowly ticked by, and Nicole's hands gripped the controls tightly. She was nervous, like the rest of the human race, yet eager to get stuck in and take revenge for all the lives the Covenant had taken. NAVCOM updated them on their enemies movements, informing them that small craft have been detected on fast approach to the Orbital defence platforms. Before long, the Home fleet opened fire. Admiral Harper's cruiser, along with six others, opened fire with their MAC cannons and point defence turrets. Longswords; Some of which were Nicoles old squadron could be seen beginning their attacks.
A few more minuets ticked by as the Covenant craft continued their assault towards the ODPs'. Cairo soon gave the order to engage and destroy all hostiles. Nicole kicked the sticks forward and their ship leaped to life. The Longswords were always the first into battle, and the first point of defence. They were quick, nimble and had the best weaponry suited to dogfights -Nicoles speciality. Her squad flew together until the Covenant craft were just out of weapons range, before they picked their targets and broke formation. Nicole took the first craft she could see; a pair of Seraph fighters, the Covenat equivelant to her Longsword.
"Bravo 3, on me." Nicole spoke over the radio.
"Roger Bravo 4, we're right with you." Responded Will from the other ship. Hundreds of Longswords and Sreaph fighters opened fire on eachother. Plasma and missiles streaked accross space and raced past one another. Early casualties exploded within seconds, and many ships viered off in all directions, giving chase to their targets. Nicole locked onto a Seraph fighter to the right and fired two of her ASGM-10 missiles at it, while Bravo 3 fired its missiles at the other. Nicoles target returned fire for a second before banking sharply upwards. Her missiles lazily followed it, and She rolled her ship to starboard to avoid the plasma. The second Seraph banked left, but was not quick enough to esacpe one of Bravo 3's shots. It's port side exploded and it tumbled out of control. Nicole looped her ship upwards and tracked down her target. Her Missiles had missed. It weaved from left to right and tried to skim past other ships and running rings around their station. Nicole's flying kept pace, and every free shot she took advantage of with her machine guns. A few rounds here and there nipped at the back end of the Covenant vessel. The chase lasted a few minuets as ships blew up all aound her. She was a confident and talented fighter, in a sense, becomming the Longsword herself. Bravo 3 terrorised any other Covenant ship that came into range, and kept a close eye on their team mate's six. Nicole destroyed the Seraph fighter and the pair tracked down one target after the next.
Before long, Cairo's MAC cannon opened fire, along with Athens and Malta's. The Covenant fleet was advancing.
08:10 October 20th 2552 (Military calendar)
Aboard Cairo orbital defence platform
In high orbit above Earth
The corridors of Cairo staion were flooded with red light as Rachel Cota ran towards hangar bay B. Luckily she hadn't gotten changed since she arrived on the station no less than an hour ago, and she had already doned her helmet. Service men and women scambled to their posts', while crewmen fumbled with their tasks' of locking down sections and setting up precautionary defences incase the station was boarded. Cota skidded round corners and followed the hangar icons painted on the deck. Four minuets later, she rounded her final corner and entered the bay. Pelicans were launching one after the other, full with navy personell. Rachel ran straight for her own Pelican; Tango two-nine. It sat on its own to the right hand side of the bay. She jumped in the back to find a large squad of soldiers and some crewmen already strapped in.
"C'mon pilot, lets go!" One of them yelled. Cota rushed to the cockpit and slid the door open. She entered, closed the door and quickly buckled down, starting her bird's engines in the process. The stableizers flared bright blue and her ship rose off the deck. She punched a button to close the troop bay doors and awaited clearance to leave the station. Almost instantly she was given the green light to proceed. Rachel leant on the sticks and raced her Pelican out of Cairo and into orbit. As she dove towards the surface, she opened a channel to the back of the ship and asked what her destination was.
"North Mobassa lady. To Fell's garrison, along side Tudor Creek. You know it?" Asked a gruff man.
"Yeah I know of it" Replied Rachel. "Get comfortable, we may be a while."
"Be as quick as you can pilot, we need to be ready for when those bastards touch down after us."
"Understood." Finnished Rachel.
They were essentially free-falling straight down to the African continent. As they entered the atmostphere, the nose of their pelican began to glow red with heat, like all vessels that entered Earth. After a few minuets the heat wave cleared and they dove towards the clouds. Rachel shuffled in her seat. All she could do was keep her Pelican level and glide it in. During this time her thoughts were back with Nicole, wondering if she was ok, how many Covenant she had killed already, and whether or not she was dead yet. She shook off that last thought. It was one thing they swore never to think about. "Possitive thinking Rachel." Is what Nicole had said to her when they joined the war. "Possitive thinking with see us through." Rachel could see the smile on her partners face, and she too smiled beneath her polarized visor. Spured back into confidence, Rachel gripped the sticks and focused on the job at hand; getting these soldiers back to their barracks, and stopping the Covenant from taking Earth.
Twenty minuets later and they were flying alongside Tudor creek, one of two main bodies of water that sepertate the Mombassa mainland from New Mombassa Island and the Orbital elevator. Her Nav computer marked the base's location on her console, and she followed it with pin point accuracy, bearing north over the old city, and into the hills. Moments later, she keyed a comm to the base to inform them that she had their men and requested a landing.
"Pad four Tango two-nine." Responded a middle aged female voice. "I'll light it up for you now."
Two other pelicans were already there on landing pads two and three. Pad four lit up with white flashing lights, and Rachel guided her bird towards it. She gently touched it down and pushed a button to open the troop bay doors. The gruff man from the back opened a channel to the cockpit and thanked her for the ride. She cut the power and felt the Pelican slouch on it's landing gear. Rachel sighed and sat there for a moment, looking out through the windshield at the Kenyan hills around her. It was a bright sunny day, and the only chunks of cloud dotted the sky. She unbuckled her harness and exited the back of the ship. Ahead of her was the compound. It sat uppon one of the highest hills in the area and had a fantastic view of New and Old Mombassa. The base consisted of three main buildings to her right, one was ops, with the UNSC flag flying high. Another building was barracks, and the last was a field hospital. On the other side of the landing pads were the vehicle depots', two large double garages joined together. The squad that rode with her were hastily talking to a CO not ten feet away, and warthogs with trailers were pulling up to the landing pads, loaded with minuitions. She strode over to the squad, eager to know what was going on.
"You the pilot?" The CO asked as he spotted her. Rachel depolarized her visor so that he could see her and gave him a salute.
"Rachel Cota, Airman first class." She replied. "Whats the plan sir?"
"We have been informed that moments ago, that the orbital defence platforms Malta and the Athens have been destroyed. The covenant is headed here right now." He stated.
Rachels face went pale. "And the Cairo?" She asked.
"Still fireing as far as we know. The covenant boarded the stations and destroyed them from the inside. The covenant fleet isn't far away. We are loading up the Pelicans with men and hogs, then joining the rest of the militia in Old mombassa, five clicks from here. We're gunna set up shop and take em out as soon as they land."
"My Pelicans yours sir." She said inistantly. "What have you got for me?"
"We'll load you up again with this squad; the 812th battalion and a Gauss hog. You will fly with Pelicans; Hotel five-four, and Lima two-two who have silmilar armaments. You set them down on the beach south of the sea walls and dust off back here. Got it?"
Rachel snapped another salute. "Yes sir!"
"Good. Lets get to it." He turned back to the marines next to her. "Give em Hell." He ended.
"You got it boss." Stated the gruff man. "Alright people, let's go!" He shouted, clapping his hands together to spur them on. Cota and the squad ran back to the Pelican and got inside. A single marine drove a Guass hog underneath the tail end of her Pelican and spoke to her over a private com as he exited the vehicle.
"Dropship Tango Two-nine, Gauss hog ready when you are." He told her.
"Roger that marine." Replied Rachel. She keyed the magnetic clamps and the warthog 'clinked' into possition.
"Pelican dropship Lima Two-Two, ready." Came accross the wide band radio.
"Pelican dropship Hotel Five-Four. Ready." Spoke the second.
Rachel Cota fired up her engines, flipped the comms and also signed in ready.
"All Pelicans dust off, you are clear to launch. Good luck. Fell's Garrison out." Ended the base's Comm-tech.
All three Pelicans rose and turned in unison to face their designated direction, and together they fley off towards the city. On the way there, Rachel looked up through the overhead windshield and could see faint flashes of light in the sky; a sign that things in orbit were not going well. It didn't take long for the trio of Pelicans to arrive at their destination. Across the beach, other Pelicans were flying away, back to their own bases after dropping off thier cargo. A handful of other wathogs and a few scorpion tanks could be seen driving up the beach to the highway not far away. Marines of both sexes were running around setting up AA batteries and gun turrets. Some were building sandbag walls and others were issuing orders to certain individuals. The three pelicans hovered side by side and released their warthogs. The soldiers piled out the back a fanned out around the dropships. Some drove the hogs away to join the others, and some grouped up with other marines. As soon as everyone was clear, Rachel and the other ships took off verticaly and spun back to base.
It was quiet again in her dropship as she followed the other two infront. A small group of UAVs' rocketed past them at incredible speeds, no doubt checking the progress of the preperations. The UAVs' wern't much smaller than their Pelicans', but had a longer wingspan and alot more speed. ONI used them to keep track of enemy movements and were invaluable to scouting missions. "A cushy desk job for some spook behind a remote control." Thought Rachel. Not ten minuets later, they were touching down again at Fell's Garrison.
"Welcome back boys and girls." The Comm-tech said soon after they powered down. "Don't get too comfortable. Once your re-fueled your straight back out there."
"Hardly enough time to take a piss..." Mumbled Rachel under her breath.
10:16 20th October 2552 (Military calendar)
Aboard Longsword fighter Bravo 4
In High orbit above Earth
Bravo team had a combined kill count of twenty-seven, but had lost four ships themselves. Charlie team was the only team to have one member left. They linked with the last three of Alpha team to keep them four men strong. Bravo 1 and Bravo 2 had to return to Cairo to rearm.
"Longswords," Spoke the station. "Malta's been boarded. The Covenant hare attatching craft the the staitions. Find them, take them out."
Mike and Alpha teams signed in, acknowlaging the order. The teams swooped in tight around Cairo station, each pair an even distance apart. They ducked, rolled and flipped around obstacles and other craft, ignoring the Seraph fighters and engaging nothing but the boarding vessels as they aproached. Some slipped passed and quickly locked onto the platform. Nicole dipped under two dead pelicans and debris, locked onto a boader and lanced out with a simple missle. Bravo 4 copied the manouver. Everyone was low on amunition and had to make use of their weapons. The boarding craft exploded in balls of soundless white light before drifting away in lazy circles.
"We only have one missle left." Called Bravo 3 over the radio.
"We have two. Call in to rearm will. We'll escort you in." Responded Nicole.
Nicole slowed and let Bravo 3 take the lead back to the docking bay. The pair of Longswords swayed together amongst the dead bodies and twisted metal, occastionally taking the odd pot shot with their machine guns. The UNSC cruisers were still firing their MACs , but now they were firing at the Covenant Battlecruisers. Gigantic trails of plasma now raced accross the void of space, impacting Capital ships and vaporizing smaller craft. Cairo continued its vicious onslaught. The ODP had scored more kills than anything else so far. As Bravo 3 came close to the docking bay, a Seraph bee-lined towards George and Will from the right and struck a plasma bomb to their ribs. The Longsword lurched left from the blow and tumbled away from the station. Nicole and mike tracked the attacker and chased the Seraph as it came about for another hit. Nicole opened up with the machine gun and fired her last two missiles at the fighter. They streaked plumes of smoke and gained on the figher. Just before the missiles impacted, the Seraph fired another plasma bomb at the tumbling Bravo 3. All projectiles detonated at the same time, and both vessels floated in bits, peacefully.
Bravo 3 was gone. Nicole kept a stern face as she continued to dodge fire and debis. Mike was silent, he stared into nothing. Will and George were two of his closest friends, he knew this day would come, but he never expected it to. Nicole swallowed hard, she felt his pain but had to stay focused or they would both die too. The radio crackled and introduced it's self.
"Nicole, it's your father."
"Dad?!" She kept her eyes on flying but her face changed entirely.
"Nicole I need you on the surface. Im not loosing you out here."
"But Dad, I'm needed out here!" She insisted.
"And I need you alive! Nicole please. Just dive to the surface, now."
Nicole stiffened, momenterily flying straight.
"Nicole!" He urged.
She was silent for a moment more before answering.
"Yes father." She sniffed.
The radio went dead and Nicole looked at Mike. He was still shaken up but managed to nod to her. She turned the sticks hard to the right and dived into orbit, occasionally straffing to avoid tumbling objects on the way down. She did not have to worry about Seraphs chasing her here, as they could'nt manouver in an atmostphere. No word from Cairo meant that her father; Admiral Harper, had overwritten any objections they may of had about her retreat. He was a stern man, yet extremely soft when it came to his famiy. His reasons were acceptable in the eyes of a father, looking out for his little girl's safety. He had once tried to disuade her from joining the corps, but she was determind to sign up. After that, he could only do what he could to keep her safe.
Nicole kicked on the stearing lock. Thousands of kilometers ahead of her was the african continent, and somwhere down there, was Rachel. She sighed and let the Gforces hold her in her chair. She let her limbs go limp and allowed herself a few minuets to relax. Mike dropped his head and took the time to grieve.
10:00 20th October 2552 (Military calendar)
Foxhole Delta, Old Mombassa South.
Private P. Mordy pressed his foot down on the brakes as he approached the main gates to the compound. The guard imediatly let him through without hesitation. Word of the Covenant threat spread fast, and every marine on Earth was on high alert. He accelerated behind the fences and sandbags and sped past buildings and manned AA turrets that aimed impatiently at the sky. Two minuets later, and Mordy was pulling up behind another warthog. Alongside a long row of open tents and netted canopies. As he cut the engine, he didn't bother to get out. He looked left, to a group of marines; his squad. Mordy stroked his goatie as a young woman aproached.
"Heya Pete," She said as she got close.
"Amy." Pete nodded.
Amy Huddleson was a corporal, and in this instance, was the leader of the squad. She leant a hand on the warthogs roll cage, and spoke to her friend.
"Your back just in time." She said. "I take it the delivery went ok?"
"Running mail's never a challenge. It's just boring as hell. Not once on the journey did the guy speak a word."
Pete had run an ONI official back to the Office of Naval Inteligence headquarters, ten clicks away.
"Well it looks like we'll see plenty of excitment today." She announced as she tapped on the chasis with her fist. "Lets load you up." She walked away and spoke briefly to the rest of the team. Corporal Huddleson had lead her team for the last three years, and everyone in it was as close as family. Pete waved to the driver of the other warthog; another woman by the name of Laura Bevan. She welcomed him back and climbed into her own Warthog ahead of him. Her passenger hopped into her side seat. That was Louise Darks. Private Haru secured the rocket launchers and ammunition to the rear gun mount and climbed in.
All around them, other squads were preparing thier vehicles, and completing the compuonds defences. The compound held around two hundred men, and only accomodated tewnty Warthogs and five Scorpion tanks. It was more a barracks and training ground, than a military stronghold. Amy Jumped into Mordy's passenger seat and briefed him on the situation. Another close friend and team mate was Chris Isuma, who was just fastening the last of everyones pack's and supplies to the LAAG gun on the back.
"We're good to go." He announced.
Pete and Laura started their engines and put their 'Hogs into gear. Amy recieved instructions from Command and updated her team.
"We are heading to a cliff edge six kilometers, on the nothern side of the mountain." She said.
"Roger that K'." Radioed Laura, who accelerated towards the north gate. Pete followed her as Amy singed in thier team to Command and to let them know that they are en route to their destination. Very few people knew Amy's other name, and so only the initial is ever used; K'.
Within minutes, the two Warthogs were tearing up the Kenyan plains, kicking up dust in their wake. No wildlife was present out here anymore, of it at all, very sparse. Five hundred years of development and over population caused most of nature to become non existant.
They traveled up the side of the mountain, four clicks north east, before climbing up to the cliff edge. They parked opposite eachother, back to back, with their noses alined to the nearest exit incase an evac was nessisary and they had to split up. The cliffside road was over ten meters wide untill it hit a steep hill. The passengers exited and unpacked their rocket launchers and carried an ammo crate together up the hill, to where they would be positioned. Louise and Amy sat on the hill side and laid their launcers by thier sides. Pete and Laura unclipped thier assault rifles from thier seats and crounched behind the bonnet of thier vehicles. ONI had forcasted the Covenant attack to come from a specific vector, if they were to attack this part of the city.
"Whats the likleyhood of this attack hitting here K'?" Asked Isuma over the Comms.
"I dont know Chris. I dont even know if they've broken through the ODP's yet. Just stay frosty ok?" She replied.
No one knew when Covenant fleet would strike. Or if at all where. All the UNSC could do was set up shop, and be patient. Their barracks could just be seen to the east. Most of the base was shrouded in dust. Kicked up from all the vehicles that exited the compound. Ahead was the Tudor Creek, and beyond that; New Mombassa.
10:04 20th October 2552 (Military calendar)
Central New Mombassa, District 4.
Aboard Pelican dropship Tango Two-Nine
Rachel lowered her pelican onto the road outside one of the cities local libraries and opened the troop bay doors. Thousands of people crowded the streets, and the New Mombassa ploice department had a hard time keeping them in order. Rachel and her pelican were among hundreds that dotted the city, in the effort to evacuate the population. The pelicans wieght counter began rolling over as the civilians piled on board. She could only sqeeze in fifty people at a time, and she didn'nt know how long she would be able to remain on evac duty before the covenant arrived and her ship was needed eslewhere. Trains, comercial jets, and boats were taking people as far away as possible. Rachel's stop was Mogongo, about a tewnty minuet trip west out of Kenya.
A breathless cop radioed to Rachel and told her to close the troop bay and lift off as he held back desperate civilains that were literally fighting to escape the city. She did as she was told and was rising through the air, when something in the distance caught her eye. Is was small at first, but grew larger at an alarming rate. Rachel gasped and cursed in disbelief as she realised what it was. A covenant carrier soared overhead and came to a stand still directly above them and the city. The pubic on the ground screamed and panicked. They ran in all directions, pushing eachother out of the way as they barged onto waiting ships. Cota did'nt want to hang around. She was only thirty feet from the ground before she changed from vertical thrust to horizontal. She blasted off at full speed west, under the carrier itself. It took a few minuets to get clear of the gigantic ship, and for every second, she was petrified that they would be shot down. Phantoms' and Banshees' launched from it's hangar bays, thankfully miles away from them And strange beetle like vehicles, the size of buildings were litterally dropping from the underneath of it's hull. Rachel didn't stop to wonder what they were or what the could do. She just flew straight and fast, leaving New mobassa and its ocupants to thier fate. For now, there was nothing she could do. She had about fifty people safe with her, she hoped that many more would make it out in time.
After an agonizing trip, Rachel landed at her destination; Moi Internation airport. She hastily tapped the button that opened the troop bay and watched the wieght counter slowly revert back to a comfortable level. Other Pelicans arrived from different directions and hundreds of civilians poured out onto the sun baked ground and tarmac. The local authorities were sheparding people onto busses that would take them to safety. Once Rachels wieght couter came back to her normal estimate, she knew she was empty. She waited a minuet to let everyone get clear of her engines before she lifted off again. Her orders from Fell's Garrison were to help with the evacuation of New Mombassa and that she would be notified if she was needed elsewhere. She flew back the way she had come, another twenty lonely minuets. Although this time, she was extra vigilant. Her ship had no weapons, and if she ran into trouble, she would either have to ditch her ship, or die with it. About ten minuets into her return flight, she could see several plumes of smoke rising from New and Old Mombassa city. Rachel didn't want to go in there, but those people needed her. She decided to fly low to the ground to avoid being spotted, and to make her a difficult target for the Covenant to track. Within minuets she was skimming the surface of Tudor creek and fast aproaching the shoreline and harbour. Green smoke began to lazily drift up from behind the docks. She had been spotted, and whoever lit the flare needed her help. Rachel would never deny anyone help. She rose over the roof tops and was greeted by a small squad of marines and she estimated a dozen civilians. The civilians were cowering behind a few cargo trucks, and the marines were trying to hold off a small army of Grunts and jackals from the other side of crates and forklifts'. Behind the marines and the civilians, was a clearing big enough for her to land, and right next to it was the flare. As she passed overhead, a marine threw a grenade towards the covenant. She had just enough time to see the grenade explode and send a few jackals tumbeling backwards, before she landed with her back towards the refugees'. She opened the troop bay and heard a marine come accross the radio.
"Pilot," The marine stated. "Get these refugees' the hell outta here!" She said. The marine sounded brusk, but it was to be expected when fighting the Covenant. Machine gun fire blared away in the background.
"You got it." Rachel replied. The wieght counter once again began rolling over untill the troop bay comm was activated. A shaken civilian spoke through to her.
"We're all in. Please hurry." He said.
"Sit down and hold on. You'll be safe in no time." She replied.
The comm was silent, and Rachel rose her pelican off the deck. She flew off in a wide circle back the way she came, leaving the squad of marines to continue their fight. Just like her journey towards the city, Cota stayed low to the ground and flew as fast as her old bird could fly. She knew that with every rescue, the situation would become more and more dangerous.
11:00 20th October 2552 (Military calendar)
Nine thousand feet above the African continent
Aboard Longsword fighter Bravo 4
The Covenant Carrier was clearly visable hovering over the province of New mombassa. Nicole wished she had a few Shiva neuclear warheads to drop ontop of it, but for now she could only fly by and hope that the corps had a plan for it. Fires and explosions dotted the landscape ahead of them. Mike had put aside his grief and was searching for a landing strip big enough to accomodate them via his console.
"Found anywhere?" Asked Nicole.
"Only the obvious New Mombassa airport." He replied while still keying in possible locations.
"Whats wrong with the airport? Commercial runways have plenty of room for us."
"Not when its controlled by the Covenant its not." Mike stated.
"Jesus." Cursed Nicole. "They only landed an hour ago and already they have control of over half the city!"
Mike brought up the co-ordinates for a hill top base with multiple landing zones on the main screen. A picture of the base popped up in the lower left corner of the screen, along with a brief bio of the ships it catered for and the bases current situation.
"There. Fell's Garrison. No Covenat activity yet. They can accomodate our size." He told her.
"Give me a NAV point." She insisted. "Call them and let them know we're on our way." Nicole glanced at the bio and scanned over the iventory. Dropship Tango two-nine was listed and instantly grabbed her attention. "Rachel..." She whispered. Her heart skipped a beat and she pushed her Longsword's engines to their limit. Mike tapped a few commands and within seconds, an orange triangle appeared on shreen ahead of then, ontop of the hills about fifty kilometers away. A distance counter rapidly decreased next to the NAV marker as she raced towards it.
Her face was a cross between determination and worry. She had to get to Fell's Garrison as quickly as possible. Mike picked up on her anxiety and asked her what was wrong.
"Rachel's stationed there." She said. She looked over at him as she spoke. "I need to see her. Make sure she's alright."
"I know," He said. "We will be there in little over twelve minuets." He reasured her. He hit the comm button overhead and punched in the base's ID to open a channel. "Fell's Garrison, this is the Longsword interceptor Bravo 4 from Cario, requesting emergency landing to refuel and re-arm. Do you read me? Over."
Fell's Garrison replied within seconds, granting their request and giving them authorisation to use pad 5, reserved for larger vessels.
As soon as Nicole and Mike arrived at the base, Nicole quckly killed the engines and ran to the back of the cockpit. she hurried down the interior ramp and palmed the hatch button on the wall. The exit ramp slowly lowered to the ground and she jumped out onto the tarmac. Mike followed but found that he did not have the spirit to catch up with her. Marines were already pulling up to the Longsword with fuel tankers and amuniton carts. Mike gave up the chase and watched Nicole disapear into the ops building. He turned to greet the marines and supervised them in refueling and reaming her ship.
Nicole crashed through the door to the ops buildng and stopped in her tracks. Four men turned to face her and the colonel in charge of the base confronted her.
"Luitenant Harper I presume?" He began.
Nicole gave him a quick salute before hastily asking her own question.
"Where's Cota?" She cried.
"I beg your pardon?" Exclaimed the colonel.
Nicole realised she had stepped over the line and opened her mouth before thinking. She quickly apologised.
"I'm sorry sir," She said. "I need to find Airman First class, Rachel Cota. Shes, a friend of mine. I saw her Pelican's ID was linked to this outpost."
The colonel looked down at the console next to him and checked the register. He looked at her sideways with questionable judgement.
"Dropship Tango two-nine? Yes, she's linked to this outpost."
"Could you tell me where she is please sir?" Asked Nicole. She had to fight the need for urgency and remain respectful.
"She's out ferrying refugees to Moi International airport, north east of here." He faced her again and straightened hs back. "However, I think there are more pressing concerns right now. Don't you?"
Nicole was about to respond when one of the ops at the console interupted.
"Colonel. Two Phantoms are approaching from the north east. ETA six minuets."
"Just like that." Said the colonel. He turned and leant over the desk, looking out of the window at the air field beyond. He spoke into the PA system to the base. "Marines, lock and load. We've got visitors inbound from the north east." He paused a moment. "Lets make them comfortable shall we?" He punched a button to the air raid siren and stood tall again, facing Nicole. "You got a gun, pilot?"
"Sir, yes sir." She said.
"Then I think it's time you used it." He gave her a nod, to which Nicole responded with a simple salute. She turned around and ran back out the door towards her ship. The bases occupants began manning the few AA turrets around the air field, and some took up possitions under cover. Mike and the the four marines with him were trying their best to finninsh the job at hand. Nicole ran up to them and told them how long until the Covenant arrived. She continued past them and back into her Longsword. Against the wall, just inside was a weapons rack that held a couple of assault rifles. She unclipped them and ditatched a few sactchels of extra clips. Nicole then palmed the door controls and ran back outside as the ramp closed behind her.
"How much longer?" She asked Mike, handing him the rifle and amunition.
"Only a few minuets." He said as he took the weapon. "Most of the fuel is onboard, and we have three more missles to load in. Your 50. cal is hully loaded too."
"Good." Replied Nicole. "Once the reload teams are done, we'll fall back with them and wait for the Covenant to arrive. I just hope they don't blow up my plane when they get here."
"We'll make sure they don't." Reasured Mike.
"Your 85% full Lueitenant." Reported the marine who sat in the tanker cab next to them.
Nicole thanked him before feeling Mikes hand on her shoulder.
"Did you find out where Rachel was?" He asked in a soft tone.
Nicole looked up at him. "Yeah," She said. "Shes evacuating refugees from the city center. If it's alright with you, I'd like to track her down after we're done here."
Mike sqeezed her shoulder reasuringly.
"You got it." He said with a nod.
Nicole removed the clip in her rifle, checked the rounds and slid the magazine back into the stock. She cocked the lever and watched the ammo counter read full. Mike did the same and pocketed two clips from his satchel.
"How many phantoms are we expecting?"
"Two." answered Nicole, watching the skies.
"So we're looking at twenty five, thirty Covenant. not including the gunners or pilots." He calculated.
"Sounds about right." She agreed. "Grunts' I can deal with. Jackal's are the stubborn ones."
"And there's gotta be at least two Eletes'." Mike added.
"Yeah, they're gunna be a problem. I havn't seen a single sniper rifle on this base yet." Nicole remarked.
The marine with the fuel hose disconected it from the Longsword while the one in the cab notified them that they were full. The marines further down gave them the thumbs up to signal that all missiles were also good to go.
"We're heading back to the depot," Announced the driver as his passenger climbed in next to him. "Hop on, we'll give you a lift."
Mike and Nicole stepped up to either side of the cab and held onto the rails as the tanker turned around and drove fifty yards west to the fuel depot. The munitions wagon headed east, towards the garages and store rooms. It was a brief journey, but quicker than running. Everyone exited the vehicle just in time to hear the two Phantoms aproaching. Almost instantly, the AA guns opened fire on the enemy ships, and were welcomed back by lashes of plasma fire. Within seconds, two of the three AA guns were melted and useless. The third AA gun was tageted next, and it too was turned into molten slag. Nicole, Mike, and the marines from the tanker quickly slid into cover and out of sight. They watched and waited as the two phantoms hovered over the empty landing pads The cin mounted plasma cannons swayed left and right, looking for targets. The undersides of the Phantoms glowed pink, and transport beams shone down to the floor. Moments later, Grunts' and jackals' drifted down and began spreading out over the open ground, followed by four Eletes'. An eirey silence held for a while, and only the Air raid siren filled the air. The two Phantoms spun around and headed back the way they had come, leaving their troops to fend for themselves.
One grenade tumbled through the air, thrown by a marine who hid behind some parked cars. It landed close to the Covenant, and once it detonated, the whole base came alive.
10:45 20th October 2552 (Military calendar)
Kenyan cliff top, 4 Kilometers West of Foxhole Delta
Old Mombassa South
Haru and Isuma had shot down three Banshees' since the Covenant carrier arrived in the city. The squad of Banshees were the first scouting party that ventured south east of New Mombassa. The two marines had no difficulty in dealing with them. Louise and Amy didn't even need to fire their launchers. The first sighting was over half an hour ago, and things were dead still. Out over the water, about fifteen kilometers away, New Mombassa Island was being hit hard. Several explosions dotted the island, and ships; water based and air, were evacuating the city.
"Bastards." Growled Pete into his helmet's microphone.
"Easy Mordy," Cautiously replied Amy from the hill behind him. "There's nothing we can do for those civilians from here.
"There must be something we can do K'." Spoke Laura from her warthog. "We've effectively been watching the population get masacred for nearly an hour."
"I'm sorry Laura but no. If the Covenant try to spread this way into the rest of Africa, we are only one of the few teams out here to stop them. Or at the very least, warn the next city. I know it's painful, but we have our orders."
The team fell silent for a while, simply watching and waiting. Amy wanted to be out there just as much as the rest of her team. She too wanted to make a difference, and she could only pray that things would pick up. Many marines in the UNSC never wanted to experience a confrontation with the Covenant, but her squad were brave, determined, and were full of hate for the Covenant forces. Amy hoped that their wishes came true.
Aftera further tem minuets of no action, Louise knocked Amy in the shoulder and pointed a little eastward into the sky.
"K' look, are those Phantoms?" She asked.
Amy pulled a scope from her pocket and took a look at the targets. Her image magnified and focused to reveal that they were indeed Phantoms. Two of them, heading for the mountain top.
"Your right Darky." Amy said as she lowered her scope. "They're heading for the top of the mountain. They would'nt have spotted us from that range."
"Is there an outpost up there or something?" Louise asked.
"I believe so. But they would already know that the Covenant were comming."
"They had better be prepared..." Stated Louise, watching the two Phantoms drift past.
11:32 20th October 2552 (Military calendar)
Old Mombassa outskirts, en route to city center
Aboard Pelican dropship Tango-29
Rachel Coata had dropped off her last group of refugees' and was flying through the run down parts of Old Mombassa. The fight on the ground had grown phenominaly over the past hour. Yet it seemed that with every pass Rachel took, the number of covenant kept increasing. Her Pelican was dotted with traces of plasma fire, over both her port and starboard sides. The covenant had forced their way into buildings and had scored hits on her from the roof tops and open balconies. A swarm of Buggers had even burnt a few holes through her forward windshield. Thankfully, her ship could fly faster than they could, and she escaped their weapons within seconds. Fell's Garrison had reported an attack on the outpost, and urged all Pelicans' to stay clear of the base and await instructions. Rachel was alone onboard her ship. The motion tracker was off the scale, the Covenant were on all sides, she only had a simple weapons cache, and now her fuel tank was less than half full. She Kept herself moving, keeping the Pelican at just over half speed. Fast enough to evade the enemy, yet not so fast that she would run out of fuel. Although Rachel believed she had about an hours worth of flight time remaining.
A few thuds echoed through the hull on the port side. Rachel's eyes looked to her left at the wall as warning tones bleeped hysterically. She watched the wall for a few seconds- nothing melted through. She sighed and focused on flying again. there was no where for her to go. The skies were full of Banshees' and Phantoms' and the ground was crawling too. Among the tall buildings at least, she was partially hidden from above, and hopefully out of range from below. The open radio was a mess. Full of tactical information, warnings, encouters and so on, all from different parts of the city. Then in an instant, things changed to what seemed to be one subject.
"What is that?"
"Ma'am, we have a slipspace signature."
"This cant be happening."
"Inside the city?"
"Check your sources luirtenant."
"Will someone tell be whats going on?"
"592.885, Drones' confirm. Target will jump."
"Get them outta there!"
Rachel's face was a wash with worry and confusion. All the voices were agitated and stressed. She didn't know what was happening. A Blue-white glow rippled in the distance, beyond the buildings. She caught glimps of it from time to time. As she broke out over a higway, she realised what everyone was talking about. The Covenant Carrier was moving forward, engulfed from the nose with a blue slipspace tear. It only took a second for Rachel to realise what was about to happen. Not only would the carrier jump into slipspace this close to the ground, but it would also emit a natural EMP. She quickly turned right and flew away from the vessel, pushing the throttle as far as it could go. Shouts and screems were heard over the radio, too many voices to keep up with. A second later, and the air shook around her. Rachel glanced at the rear monitor and saw the blue-white shockwave racing outwards towards her. The carrier was gone, and ruin was all that was left. The Pelican was going as fast as it could, and Rachel had cleared the buildings to fly straight over them. Each time she looked at the rear monitor, the wave was closer, so close, that she could see the electons firing in its field. She gritted her teeth and tried to force her plane ever faster, even leaning a little out of her seat as she did so. Before long, she felt static on the back of her neck. And then her controls went dead. Her Pelican was shot forward, pointing straight down, as if the shockwave had batted her tail end upwards, like a small child swatting away a fly. Rachel Grabbed a support above her and the arm of her seat. She cried out and screemed as her Pelican rolled upside down and tagged the top of a tall building. The world outside spun and Racel closed her eyes, bracing herself for the impact she feared most. She fell for what seemed like ages. Her stomach lifed in her body, and she felt sick. Tears streamed from her closed eyes, and her arms and legs ached as she braced herself against the floor and cieling. The pelican landed heavily on its roof as it smashed throught the top of a three-story building.
The harness that held Rachel in her chair had done its job. She hung there a moment, listening the ringing in her ears. She had never crashed a ship before, and the shock had stunned her. It was only the blood pressure builing up in her head that snapped her out of her daze. She groaned and fought with the harness buckle. It was dark in the cockpit, and the rubble around the ship blocked out the midday sun. Eventually she was let loose and dropped to the ceiling. Rachel picked her self up but staggered backwards into the bulkhead. She steadied herself and was relieved to find no injuries. After forcing open the cockpit door to the troop bay, Rachel plucked the battle rifle out from next to the pilot's chair, along with the evac bag. She threw the bag over her soulders, and checked the rifle was loaded. In her evac bag contained five extra clips, three grenades, a standard med kit, and enough food and water to last her a few days. The troop bay doors were already ajar when Rachel approached them. She crouched next to the opening and peered outside. The sky was awash with blue and white particles, like dead sparks floating in the wind. Everything was quiet, and Rachel suspected that the EMP had knocked out everything else in the city too. She looked back at the cabin, and said her goodbyes to her Pelican. It was natural for a pilot to get attached to their aircraft, but to lose one, felt like losing someone special. Rachel swallowed her sorrow and took a deep breath. She squeezed through the opening and out into the sunlight.
*Google maps; Mombassa,Coast Province.