Chapter 15: Surprise

In a certain region of the galaxy, several UNSC ships were stationed in a defensive formation. Behind the front line ships were more neatly coordinated and ready to respond to any attacks possible. Aboard the ship at the center of the circular formation were those in charge of the fleet. Several workers busy at ensuring operations ran smoothly, and no surprises popped up.

Beep! Beep!

An alarm went off to the right of one of the ship operators. They brought up a visual display from their onboard cameras and pinpointed in on the exact location of the alert. Why is a notification going off for something behind us? Nothing would be able to get past us so easily. It must be a faulty reading. The ship's operator decided to follow their judgement on this one and ignore the warning.

"Tell the New Order that this is the perfect opportunity to send them through," a Captain of a mysterious ship spoke to his subordinates. They sent the signal back home and awaited a response. For all the intelligence we throw into our strategies, we always manage to overlook something as humans. The UNSC has some smart people, but even those people were stupid enough to overlook the serious flaw of only creating a horizontal line of defense versus a sphere. There is always something to exploit now isn't there? The good Captain smiled at the coming battle. He could feel his heart pumping. This is what he had been training for his whole life after all.

"Sir, we have received a confirmation," one of the lead communicators replied to the Captain. He looked at the woman for an answer and she continued. "We should expect them any second now."

"Good," the Captain turned to the other staff and motioned for them to de-activate the camouflage. The UNSC sensors went on high alert! Everyone aboard the lead ship looked towards the new threat. It was the same ship that first safely went through the portal under Equal's supervision, it was the ship dubbed 'Angel of Hope'. They then detected several tears in space and time as many portals began to open up.

"What is going on?!" the Captain of the lead UNSC ship demanded. The ship workers scrambled to get an answer, but they could only determine one undesirable answer. "It's a surprise attack…"

Everyone looked up at the foreign ships entering the battlefield. They all sounded the alarm and everyone went to battle stations. The Angel of Hope opened fire on one of the UNSC ships and made a clean strike on its bridge. The Captain licked his lips in cultivating excitement. "First blood you corrupt mongrels."

The rest of the New Order ships opened fire and landed clean successive blows on the UNSC ships. Several had their engines disabled, and some were completely torn apart. Those still in working condition quickly turned their ships around and began battle. Cannons fired left and right, some shots missed, some hit, and all of them prayed for luck to aid them in their battle. Several New Order and UNSC ships came into close proximity and fired their broadside cannons. Some others rammed a few causing damage to both the ships and the crew.

Many of the ships released fighter jets taking the combat pace up a notch. Both sides incurred great damage on the missiles being shot through space, the bullets dancing to their target and the silent explosions leaving nothing but scraps. In space, no one can hear your screams. That stood true the most right now, the screams in their last moments before meeting the horrifying embrace of death were to fall on deaf ears.

Washington and the others watched the last of the ships fly away. The village now felt so empty all around them. Only a few were left, and they had somehow managed to avoid the draft through some expert evasion. Some even had to go as far as to declare themselves dead to make the process more easy. The once crowded streets were now a barren land, slowly itching to waste away. Wash closed his eyes and hoped for good fortune on the planet's inhabitants.

He turned to see the rest of the crew breaking up as well. There was nothing right now that they could do, they all needed rest and this was also a good time for them to reflect. Wash walked beside Simmons and Carolina and stopped them from leaving. "We need to talk you two."

The three went back into the village's meeting hall and sat down on a circular table. Wash crossed his arms and said. "I know that you two are bothered by what happened at the previous village. I know how close you two had become to Edwards and Elsie."

Simmons and Carolina glared up at him. So even using their names around these two is like a taboo now. Washington rested his elbows on the table with his hands folded together. "Look, the reason I called you here is to ask if you two can really handle this. Ever since the purge, you two haven't really been yourselves and understandably so. But we need everyone to be in the right state of mind to be able to resolve this mess."

"I'm fine Wash," Carolina immediately replied averting her gaze to her right. Wash didn't let that escape his notice and he stamped his foot on the ground alerting his two conversational partners. "Don't try to feed me that Carolina. I know when you are not actually fine, we have known each other long enough for me to be able to tell so easily."

Simmons remained quiet throughout the whole conversation with his head low. Washington didn't even need to say anything know that he wasn't doing well. Washington carefully considered his words as he looked back and forth between the two. "You know I only want the best for you guys. I know you feel grief, but then you can use the grief to help in our, in your mission. You want to see Equal pay just as much as I do. I and the others have a huge responsibility to uphold being guilty for the purge even occurring in the first place. So instead of passively remaining in grief, why not use that to power your anger and strength towards Equal?"

"How can anger that will undoubtedly change into hate even become strength for someone?" Simmons pondered out loud while rubbing a speck of dust off the table. Washington was stumped at the question. He gave the first answer that could come to his mind. "If the motivation is right, then anything is possible."

Simmons stood up at the generic bullshit answer. He couldn't even afford to digest such nonsense through his brain. He turned around to walk away, but before doing so he posed one last question for the two to wonder. "How can the motivation be right if hatred is used to fuel it? Is hatred even the right fuel to use in the first place?"

Washington was once again stumped. This time he didn't have an answer however and Simmons took that as a cue to leave. Carolina felt what Simmons said was right, but at the same time this internal conflict within her. It was a conflict in which the dividing lines felt blurred. Pure and just intentions fought against personal, selfish and hate induced intentions such as vengeance.

This hate which continues to grow daily inside of me, take up more space is slowly becoming the only sole driver for me. Carolina looked down at the table and gently rested her forehead on it. Am I doing this for the right reasons then? But in the end it will be finished with Equal getting his just dues either way. So does the right thing matter as much? Carolina stood up leaving a confused Washington behind. Maybe it does for my own sanity…maybe he really is correct.

Wash looked all around him at the empty hall and threw up his arms. That went well, a whole lot of progress made, yes sir. What am I going to do about them? He stood up to leave as well and join the rest of the gang. Donut looked his way expecting a response.

"So yeah," Wash began by scratching the back of his helmet. "I talked with them and…"

"And it didn't go so well?" Muffins finished earning a nod from Washington. The rest of the people around them gave disapproving looks. I tried my best, jeez, Wash thought with his hands apologetically behind his back. Donut stepped forward and asked. "So, what do we do now?"

"We have to act now," the village chief recommended motioning to his remaining men. "We are ready and the sooner we act the better. Fewer lives will be lost that way in this meaningless war as well."

"You are right," Wash admitted, but then there was a new problem according to Sister. "What do we do then? It's not like we can just throw a rave party expecting Equal to show up and murder him in his own cold blood. But that would be awesome!"

"I will bring the booze," Grif said holding up a can of beer. Donut looked around at the poor village and was stunned to see that can. "Where did you even get that beer?"

"I have my contacts," Grif replied tightly holding onto the can. It's mine you hear, all mine!

"If you guys are done fooling around," Washington pointed in the direction of a floating structure in the sky. "I got a tip from someone in this village before that there are certain towers that are activated by the swords that Equal and his high ranked generals carry. Namely speaking, it would be the sword that Grif is carrying now."

"Ah great, so Equal has a sword as well," Grif threw his empty can of beer into the nearest bin and crossed his arms. "Tucker will not be happy about the sword measuring contest. I mean I have one and mine is pretty big after all."

"If I may continue," Washington looked all around and to the village inhabitants. "If we can get to that tower, who knows it may be a communication tower like back on Chorus. Or it could give us a map just like we got on Chorus."

"So it's Chorus all over again?" asked Donut receiving several nods all around. Grif let out an exasperated sigh. "So much for shit being easy."

"None of this has been easy so far!" complained Sis only to receive a smug grunt from the orange soldier. "Please, that's only if you are you. This was like a walk in the park so far in comparison to what we have been through before."

"Getting blown out into space and nearly dying from it was a walk in the park?" Wash questioned astonished to hear Grif's definition of 'walk in the park'. Either he is putting on a tough guy act or he is crazy just like Sister here. That would explain more about his family, more than I would like to know. Grif took out another can of beer and cracked it open. "What? Is it not for you? I mean dying isn't really that much of a land mark anymore. We have all literally been close to it. Some of us have even done it."

Just suppress the stupidity Wash. Washington looked away from the siblings and looked to the others. "So, as I was saying. If we can get our hands on that tower and provide us with either the means to communicate galaxy wide or a map with hopefully a tower for such a purpose. Then we will be able to stand a chance."

"What will we exactly communicate to the outside world?" asked the village chief. Wash looked towards Grif and asked for Gamma to step forth. "How may I help you?"

"Gamma, you have been keeping track of all that has happened to us so far right?"

"I have."

"You also have the data Locus originally left us with back on Blood Gulch?"

"Yes, why do you ask?"

"Good," Wash looked at the chief and his soldiers. "We will send out all that info, it will surely shake the New Order up even if it is momentary. But the real kicker comes in on how far we spread this information."

"What do you have in mind?"

"Oh just a little something to completely screw over Equal," Wash replied with a smug grin under his helmet. "We will broadcast it galaxy wide, or at least as far as the tower can handle it. It can help get the word out to the UNSC soldiers as well."

"If it does work and the UNSC are to be trusted this time, then it would certainly help tip the scales in our favor."

"Don't worry," Wash reassured the village chief and his other fellow villagers by saying. "There are good people in the UNSC, not all are bad. We will get through this."

"Oh this bonding moment is wunderbar," Muffins said clapping his hands together. "But we are running out of time gentlemen. If we wish to have some real bonding, why not engage in some good old fashioned skinship under the cover of night?"

"Okay and that's our cue to go," Grif said throwing away another can of beer and leaving to pack things up with the help of others. Washington ordered for the Blood Gulch crew to pack only what they needed, and to leave behind anything that would just weigh them down. He asked for Muffins and his two remaining crew members to be ready at the helicopter they arrived in and prep it for their next flight. The village elder placed a hand on Wash's armor and said. "This is quite a bold and a risky plan. But it is just the way me and my people like it. You can count on our full support."

In space, where the war waged, the New Order had the edge and the UNSC saw no chance of victory. In a last ditch effort, whatever ships were operational, they sent out all of their weaponry in full bursts.

"Tell the other ships to activate their shields," said the Captain of Angel of Hope. He looked towards his lead weapons specialist and ordered for the release of a special weapon they have saved for last. The bottom few panels on Angel of Hope opened and a jet powered drone descended on clamps. The drone was remotely piloted.

"Pilot the device to the center of the battlefield," said the Captain transferring the coordinates to the pilot. Confirming the site, they activated the onboard cameras and jets to detach from the battleship. Amidst the gun fire and explosions, the small drone was piloted very carefully into the designated spot. Here is hoping the device works, the pilot thought as he inputted a sequence of security codes. Then he activated an activation code and began the countdown timer. "One minute till she explodes sir."

"Good, good."

That minute however went by fast. The UNSC fighter jets could not even get close thanks to their fighting strategy and weapons. The explosion from the drone went off. A blue spherical explosion engulfed the battlefield with its watery texture and complexion. All ships in its vicinity were swallowed whole and disabled for good. It would disable the engine systems, the computers, communications and any other electrical system onboard the ships. But strangely enough for the UNSC, only their ships were affected where as the New Order's fleet was perfectly fine. It was their shields. Those shields were specifically designed to counteract this type of attack. Even an EMP blast as strong as this one could not stop them.

The UNSC was completely helpless. The New Order stood dominant in this battle. The UNSC's defense fleet was now like an injured prey simply struggling for whatever life it had left until it met its end at the hands of the predator. And that predator was so very close. With everyone second gone, the invaders drew closer. With every minute passed, the invaders prepared their guns. With every suffocating breath the UNSC military employees took at their impending doom, the New Order killed of a ship.

There was only death left for the prey now and victory to the predator. The predator made no mistakes and had no hesitation for it was time for them to take hold of their earned victory. It was time for them to begin their campaign of revenge.