Advanced Note: I was gonna start off with a list of excuses on why it's taken so long for me to update, but I decided to forego that and simply say that I am very, very regretful. I can't say I'm sorry, since that implies I won't do it again, but I'll try my damn hardest to update on a regular basis again.
Due to multiple instances of telling me to just get on with it already, I'm wrapping the SoD arc prematurely, and putting everything into this one big chapter. UNSC and Federation build up will be dealt with in the next chapter, which will also be large, and we'll just go from there. Within three to five chapters, including this one, the UNSC and Federation will have reached the SW verse. In addition to that, the extra notes at the end of each piece starting with the next one will have to do with early SW-Halo interactions as well, so there's that.
Genius Loci - The Guardian Spirit of the Place
The Coral System
UNSC Task Force 'Augustus'
5 hours and 30 minutes after First Contact
The Siege of Coral had reached an impasse. The remaining seven dreadnoughts, while capable of significant damage, were no longer sufficient to effectively burn the planet, as the loss of the other three dreadnoughts had put a dent in their ability to dish out enough firepower. The new shield cities protected enough that only a concentrated assault by several dreadnoughts were capable of burning them to the ground, and each consecutive shield city was noticeably more difficult to topple. In the 5 hours since the activation of the shield complex, 7 cities had been burnt to the ground. The first three in the first hour, and the other four for each consecutive hour. At this point, only a concentrated assault from all 7 dreadnoughts would be capable of bringing one down, an inefficient, and more or less terrible, state of affairs.
The other ships, numbering over twenty fully armed and operational dreadnoughts, were required on hand to suppress any attempt the UNSC fleet on the other side of the planet. The UNSC fleet, on the other hand, was busy evacuating what people they could, bringing their frigates and cruisers to land so they could get them away as fast as possible. It would have likely continued that way indefinitely, however a method to solve the firepower problem was to simply combine the remaining 27 dreadnoughts into a single fleet. As they were doing now.
The enemy knew that the energy shields originated from PRO-RE-2, the energy and thermal spike from the north pole more or less spelled it out as the source. In response to that, the twenty dreadnoughts that had previously been handling fleet suppression, in the absence of the opposing fleet not even attacking them, decided to break the stalemate and rapidly approached the northern base. The other seven ships halted their bombardment run, forming into a single group and strafing against the exosphere as they made their way to form up with the other twenty ships.
As the enemy fleet broke their presence across the planet, the army bases that still survived the initial orbital bombardment now acted as centers of organized resistance. While standard methods of communications between units in the field and regional command was easy enough, long range communications between regions could not be attempted because every time they tried, the dreadnoughts would triangulate on their position and bomb everything within a 5 kilometer radius to ash. Attempting to make contact with PRO-RE-2 was impossible, as they had executed a communications blackout with everything outside their zone of influence, and merely repeated the same message through all UNSC channels. Resist and Retake, which the ragged defense forces were more than happy to do.
The Federation's only foothold in the system, the environs of the Clan Malachim, was also in conflict. The precision bombing of their warships, as well as losing a portion of their veteran boarding forces when the invaders had destroyed their own ships cast Malachim at a precarious situation. These machines were now attempting boarding actions against the brutes, for whatever reason they wanted to engage them in close combat again, and the latest report were of Jirilhanae forces massing to fight them.
Three slipspace ruptures occurred far away from these two battlegrounds, blue portals of light erupting in the middle of empty space tens of thousands of miles away. The first was reminiscent of the sailboats of earth, when ships did not sail the stars but sailed the oceans of the world. Like those sail ships, the ship seemed older than it's sisters, not by virtue of being an older design, as all ships of the Echelon 3 design were still relatively new, but from having fought more than the other two, and had not been repaired from it's damages for nearly 17 months. The second was like the first, in that it seemed old and worn, but that was merely a lie to cover it's true nature. It was perhaps one of the most highly specialized, and dangerous, ships the UNSC had ever produced. The third was unique in that it practically shined in it's newness, but was likely staffed by, in comparison to the other two ships anyway, an unproven command structure. It made up for this by being the dreadnaught of pure firepower and destruction that the UNSC had been trying to build since the beginning of the Great War.
The Siege of Coral would end within the next 14 minutes.
The Coral System
As Mirandez felt another wave of nausea come on him, he had a moment to reflect that he hated teleportation.
After this morning's steamed lobster and fish fillet breakfast made a horrific comeback, the captain's feelings was amplified. He really fucking hated teleportation.
Of course, once he'd stop vomiting all over the floor and revisiting how effective stomach acid was in making things absolutely disgusting, he'd be extremely thankful for his platform's emergency teleportation system. It had sensed imminent death through massive amounts of metal boiling heat and had transported everyone in a aura of blue light and intense intestinal intrusion. Oh look, he said three words that began with i consecutively. How very poetic. He was about to recall what that meant in his old english classes when, with a final heave, his intestines finished humiliating it's owner.
Staggering upwards from the disgusting mess, he took the time to observe where he was. The first thing he heard was the retching sounds of a few of his subordinates who, apparently, were just as vulnerable to sudden teleportation as he was. He was glad about that, partly because his guts wouldn't be the only ones on the floor but also because his bridge crew was safe. That counted for something at least.
The next thing he noticed was how cool everything was, not in the 21st century human way of how something was 'cool, but cool like they were in a freezer. His breath misted in front of him, and he mentally counted down around Coral that was both important enough to be listed as an emergency teleportation destination, and noticeably cold. He was down to eleven places when he noticed the geometric figures on the walls and ceilings as well as the blue lights illuminating the chamber and his guesses were quickly put to the most obvious answer. He was in the main ONI Base at the north pole. Possibly. It could very well be that the information he had been briefed on was inaccurate, for whatever reason, though likely to insure that a betrayal would yield minimum damage to ONI. Hell, his mentor years ago had once told him that ONI's stance on installing cybernetic laser eyes into dogs were entirely false, and these new canine brigades were being trained for maximum carnage.
Mirandez wasn't sure if he was joking or not.
At around this point, a segment of the wall slid open and five figures walked in. Well, four figures walked in while another floated. His eyes, still somewhat teary from all the vomiting, managed to take in the fact that the four men were ODST and heavily armed, though their weapons were at rest. The fifth figure was a sentinel that, strangely enough, was emitting purple light instead of the customary blue that they typically had. It was this that spoke with him.
"Are you alright Captain Mirandez?" a soft female voice came from the sentinel. "Do you need medical attention? Your reaction to the teleportation array is unexpected, but the situation is dire and my time is of the essence. The planetary fleet is currently in a stalemate with unknown hostiles. Coral is under siege.
Mirandez shook his head. "No, I'm fine. Nothing I can't shake off. What's happening? Who's in command?"
The machine bobbed slightly, as though tilting it's head in an effort to hear something. "I have been ordered by the Director that the tactical situation is on a need to know basis at this point, my apologies captain. However, you will soon be briefed on your part in the siege. To answer your other question though, the person currently in charge of this operation would be me, Tactical AI Altruistic Breakthrough."
The captain wasn't aware Tac AIs had names, but he was smart enough to understand that the thing probably cost more than an entire squadron of frigates, besides taking direct orders from Lecter himself. He made a weak salute. "Yes ma'am. What would you have me do?"
Altruistic responded easily. "At the moment, your personal interdiction is not necessary for the success of Coral's freedom captain. However, a recent psychological study of your, shall we say, unique position has led to the belief that you may serve an acceptable role in mid to long term operations. As such, we have a role in mind for you."
Mirandez paused for a moment so as to seem more polite before responding. "Thank you ma'am, but I rather not. I'm more at peace with less ambitious situations. My place is with my men, not at a table deciding who lives and dies. No offense meant of course ma'am."
The AI emitted a tone that could best be described as a polite laugh. "Yes, the director had a feeling you'd decline. You are different from most ONI agents captain. Most would have broken a bone jumping for an assignment as enigmatic as this."
A slight smile appeared on his face. "I try not to break bones as much as possible ma'am."
The machine was already turning around as he said so. "Yes, a very sensible route to take." it said as it's escorts followed. "Rest assured captain, your role will have just as much a risk of you dying than before, and you'll be in command of your men just as before. For now captain, your task is done. We will have a need for you after all, and we'd rather not have a Monolith Captain dying in a hole in the ground."
Mirandez frowned. "I said I wasn't taking the assignment."
"Yes well, we appreciate your advise." the AI said easily "However, the fact of the matter is that we need a lot of good men for the days to come, and Lecter has decided that you're one of them. In a few minutes a holographic projection of the battle will be shown to you. Pay attention to the ship marked as the Divan of Oregon. Once it's presentation is over, we're giving it to you."
The Coral System
Malachim Asteroid Home Primary
First Malachim Defensive Force
5 hours after First Contact
"Brothers! Do you feel it!? Do you FEEL the marching of metal feet? The marching of those mechanical fools as they walk to their DEATHS!?"
There were three universally accepted facts that both Humanity and the other Federation races had learnt to keep in mind when fighting the Jirilhanae.
"They have gone this far, ONLY gone this far through deception and misdirection! The one time they fought against TRUE opponents onboard their ships, they were swept away like leaves to an orbital barrage!They had to burn their own ships to keep us from getting to more of them and taking their skulls as trophies! They come here with an army! That is an INSULT, for they would need a single army to kill a single one of us!"
One. Don't give them any sort of reason to hate you. There is a notable difference between fighting a Jirilhanae deep in the red zone flinging itself at you while trying to claw your eyes out, it's another to fight an enraged Jirilhanae deep in the red zone using your limbs to knock your head off.
"These machines believe they have us cornered! That we are cowering in our caves and waiting for them to deliver a swift end to us! They expect to find something like the pathetic humans crawling and dying on their little planet, weak and easily ripped by burning plasma! What they will find are blades of steel to cut through their pathetic frames! What they will find is the power of over ten thousand years of Jirilhanae superiority! What they will find is the roaring rage of the BRUTES!"
Two. Don't corner them. In an open space, there's the possibility of Jirilhanae diverting their focus and manpower to other objectives, leaving you some room to fight with. Giving them no avenue of escape, while giving them a target to sink their teeth into is an incredibly bad move. Especially as they've been known to literally eat the bodies of their enemies when they get really into it.
Bracktus, Chieftain of the Malachim, breathed in the roar of his men before silencing them by banging his gravity hammer to the ground. "We are the clan of Malachim! The 84th Tribe of Doisac! The Honored Third of the Jirilhanae! They DELUDE themselves into direct battle with us!? They BELIEVE themselves able to stand against US!? I say we give them their due reward."
Three. Don't concentrate your forces. Keep your troops as far away from the enemy, and as scattered as possible. Few ground troops can boast to be able to handle a brute at close quarters, and the tortured screams of your friends as they're limbs are torn from their sockets not one meter in front of you would psychologically break any person, not to mention that it would impede efficient movement and allow the Jirilhanae to use the body as a weapon against you.
The marching was slowing down, and Bracktus guessed that they were slowly massing in front of the blast door. The chieftian grinned, his canines glinting in the dark as he screamed. "WHAT ARE WE!?"
The screams of his brutes followed. "JIRILHANAE!"
Lastly, if possible, simply bomb them from orbit. The Fall of Doisac took so long because the Sanghelli didn't want another blown up planet unless they could help it. Bringing in troops to defeat the highly entrenched Jirilhanae on their own home planet was like trying to stop a tank by plowing dozens of bodies in front of it and hoping the meat and blood would jam the tracks.
The door opened, revealing a single droideka, almost pitifully dwarfed in comparison to the huge frame of a Jirilhanae chieftain. It let off a kind of warbled buzz and fired it's lasers, which were absorbed by the heavy, overlapping metal shields that the Brutes had placed in front of them. The machine's destruction came when one of those shields crashed into it, discombobulating it and allowing the overwhelming power of a gravity harmer to crush it's shields into it's individual components and slammed the entire rusty red droid half a meter into the ground with a vicious thud.
"WHO ARE WE!?" Bracktus roared as he swung his hammer again, cutting down the numerous droids in front of him, their fragily looking bipedal metal frames almost disintegrating in the combined impact zone of the gravity hammer, metal arms and legs flying with each swing.
"CLAN MALACHIM, HONORED THIRD OF DOISAC!" his brutes roared as they charged forward, firing their kinetic weaponry as 15 inch long superheated metallic spikes bury themselves into robotic torsos and the monomolecular blades attached to their weapons falls on them, creating deep and horrifying wounds on the machines as they futilely use their weapons to stem the furious tide.
A feral grin came across Bracktus' face as he pointed at the rapidly recovering droids. "WHAT DO WE DO TO OUR ENEMIES!?
The last view of many droids that hour was the rapidly approaching tungsten-carbide monomolecular blade of the Jirilhanae. The last thing they saw in that minute was the savage sight of two dozen brutes steamrolling over their slender metal frames. The last thing they heard at that second was the growling and roaring screams as the brutes laughed and thirsted for war.
"LEAVE NONE ALIVE!"
Suffice to say, when reinforcements arrived to the environs of Malachim to attempt a rescue, what they found was less 'brutalized Jirilhanae' and more 'Brutes using metal limbs to pick their teeth.
The Coral System
Federation Supercarrier 'Retribution of the Collosus"
Flagship of Task Force "A
5 hours after First Contact
"You are asking much from me."
"Yes we are."
"The Senate will not be pleased at this, and they will want a very good reason for our delay."
"They're not supposed to be happy with an unknown alien threat attacking their colonies, we're supposed to piss them off as much as we can. Their military's own failure and looking stupid in front of the UNSC would help influence an aggressive decision to make up for it, which is also suppose to happen." Lecter spoke with utter conviction.
"And the excuse?" Dell Vestemee asked roughly.
Vestemee's quarters was filled with a purple glow, a standard color scheme for a Federation starship, as the Supreme Commander looked at the human in contempt. There was no one else in the room, he had withdrawn to his quarters after receiving the message and ordered no one to enter the room on the pain of his severe disapproval. At the moment, the leader of ONI looked as real as life, the holographic system simulating his presence so clearly that the sanghelli could see Lecter's individual grey hairs. In any other instance, he would have used it to rib him mercilessly. But not today. Coral was rapidly becoming something like New Babel years earlier, and he would be damned if he'd let another planet burn on his watch.
"Military lockdown over the Coral system as the UNSC Fleets were dispatched to deal with the threat." Lecter said "Any attempts to pierce through the warning was denied through the use of a system wide gravitic anomaly that canceled out slipstream based travel installed at the PRO-RE-2 in the event such a thing was required."
Vestemee's twitched in confusion. "You have that technology?"
"Yes, but not at the relay. Some would be privy to that sort of technology, but most would not, further causing them to feel insecure of their position and strengthening an aggressive decision."
"Even then, there will be factions within the Federation who will act regardless. I can think of three at the top of my head who would gather their forces to Coral the moment they hear of this."
"And they will be deterred. Malachim itself would be wise enough to side with us. That, and other factors, should deter them from a shooting war."
The Supreme Commander narrowed it's eyes, choosing to drop the subject and continued.
"But what of your own ships operating within the system? And what of the reports from the Jirilhanae when they say that they felt no anomalies when they had fought these invaders? Or that their sensors never picked up any anomalies?"
"Our ships were given the calculations necessary to navigate the anomaly easily. We weren't able to put the system online within the first few 30 minutes or so of the battle, and thus the Jirilhanae could still use their ships. Besides, the Jirilhanae didn't have any ships worth considering after these intruders were done with them."
"I see...but three ships? I had assumed that your fellows within the UNSC wouldn't allow such a small force to take back a planet by themselves. Especially considering the importance of that planet to your plans."
"True." Lecter nodded. "Coral is important indeed, but so is testing out our new technologies, so is confirming whether or not some of our more questionable tactics can work or not. Coral will be ours, safe and relatively sound, but this is all still a very useful trial by fire exercise. Compared to that, me sending such a comparatively small force to deal with the threat is inconsequential compared to our potential gains."
The sanghelli narrowed his eyes slightly. "You say that as though you're sure your force would succeed."
Lecter's lips curved into a slight smile. "I know that they will succeed, if nothing more than the fact that if they fail we still have several dozen ships on the other side of the planet to rip apart whatever is left of the enemy at that point. The only variable in this situation Commander is how absolute our victory is. You're welcome to watch if you want."
The Supreme Commander of the Federation looked at Lecter for a few more seconds before clicking his mandibles in annoyance. "I am not used to the deceit and subterfuge you utilize so easily Lecter."
"Of course you wouldn't." Lecter said easily "You're Sanghelli, and despite the limited practicality your species deigned necessary in the realms of warfare you are all so very honorable."
Vestemee growled. "Do not look down on me human."
Lecter raised one of his eyebrows in surprise (Whether that was true or not, he wasn't able to tell. Human facial expressions were so different.) "Who said that? In a way, your society is admirable in it's honesty. You've managed to establish a generalized code of conduct and implement it far sooner, and far longer than any other known species, including humanity. We've been fighting amongst each other for hundreds of years. You've been fighting against others, united, for thousands."
Vestemee grunted at that, grudgingly accepting the human's praise. "Under the guise of a lie, but yes. We were united."
Lecter bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement. "Yes, but united you were, even under a lie. And so your species flourished even as they were deceived by those they trusted."
The sanghelli's eyes narrowed as he regarded the human with the slightest hint of contempt. "So are you saying it would have been better for the Sanghelli to continue living under a lie? To serve and obey the whims of the San 'Shyuum is worse than extinction."
"Of course not." Lecter replied "The Prophets were mad, and would have led the entire Covenant into ruin, not to mention humanity itself. No, the San 'Shyuum needed to be put down, but what I am saying commander is that you will have to participate in more of these lies to insure the continuation of both of our species. You may not agree with the beliefs of my own group, but humanity must be shepherded by those unhindered by either common morality or crude concerns, else they risk the threat of extinction. Where would humanity be if we had not purged our military? Where would the Federation be had the IAD not purged yours after the chaos following your Arbiter's death? Suffice to say, performing atrocities in the name of further galactic civilization is something all of us will have to get used to."
Vestemee sneered at Lecter, mostly for show than anything else. "We would be in chaos and death, and I understand that human, and believe me when I say that I'll do my part. The IAD and the Armed Forces stand ready to do what we must, but do not believe that we enjoy it, as you and your party do. However, do not ask from us anything more than is necessary. We are not your pawns Lecter, and we will die before we do. We are your partners, nothing more and nothing less."
Lecter nodded. "Of course. We understand that there are limits to what we can ask you, and believe me when I say that when we do ask for your assistance, it is because it is absolutely necessary. We have appreciated your assistance so far, do not believe otherwise. We would not have gotten this far without the IAD's assistance, nor that of your military."
The Supreme Commander snorted at that. "And believe me when I say that if it weren't for the fact that this Galactic Empire has decided to wage war against us, then you would be talking at the end of my blade. Your organization is a disease, but a necessary one. But believe me when I say that the Sanghelli has survived for thousands of years without your organization, and we will survive many more after your organization is dust and we help bury it."
Lecter gave a thin smile. "Do not mock our organization as well sanghelli, you would be wise to remember that. We've been at this table for centuries, and be mindful that when you're usefulness for both us and the Federation has ended you will not be cast aside by your superiors."
The sanghelli narrowed his eyes and flexed his lower jaws. "By superiors, I assume you mean the Senate and the people of the Federation?"
The human gave a cruel smile in response. "But of course Commander, who else would I be talking to. I mean, you do take orders from them do you not?"
Vestemee snarled. "Do not mock me Lecter. Never mock me, or when this is all over I will bury my blade through your neck and rip out your heart."
Lecter's smile grew even more cruel "Perhaps. But keep in mind what those failed generals and admirals of yours had come to conclude. The time for warrior castes and a regimented society based on war is over. It is done. As the Covenant had seen, such a lifestyle ultimately results in ruin and death. As such, a time of change and reconsideration has come, and they could not handle it, thus they had to die. Pride in the old ways is pride in extinction, and we must all adapt to the brand new future awaiting us. Once this war is over, the Sanghelli must adapt and reconsider their caste system, where a warrior dying to death is more regarded than a doctor saving those who died."
Vestemee snorted. "Perhaps." he said, mocking Lecter as he did so. "But then so will you. Once this conflict is done, your organization will have to adapt and reconsider as well. The only way you can continue to have the vast amounts of control you enjoy is to keep your species on the knife's edge of war, and that will not be acceptable after we have dealt with the Empire, or as you said it will lead ruin and death. No one man, or group, can hold power such as yours indefinitely. One day, your power will break, and on that day your reckoning will smash into you with all the rage and power of the millions of souls you've consigned to death and oblivion."
Lecter nodded. "I understand Supreme Commander, and rest assured, we have put considerable thought in how Humanity is to survive without us. Now, if there's nothing else, I'll have to deal with the Battle Group. It needs to be briefed before it reclaims Coral. If you'll excuse me."
At the Commander's nod, Lecter disabled the call and his holographic form disappeared. Vestemee looked at the communications center for a while longer before turning away. He approached the communications console that he had installed, and pressed a glowing purple symbol. It turned a crimson red and a voice spoke through it, muscular and dominant. Vestemee could hear the panicked sounds of orderlies rushing about.
"Greetings my lord. This is Vestemee speaking." the Commander spoke, his voice low and respectful.
"Commander. I hope you have something worth my while." the voice spoke, impatient and gruff. "I have representatives from the Jirilhanae demanding immediate retaliation, while the Sanghelli demand immediate suppression of the Brutes. At times, I understand the Great Betrayers' use of force, it is certainly simpler."
Vestemee chuckled. "Yes, well. I do indeed. You'll be pleased to know that the humans will break the siege of the enemy soon enough."
A growl. "That will not do. The Eridani Clan will not stand for it. They will move into the system themselves once they hear of this."
"Exactly, My Lord President." He said as he smiled.
From the speed in which the orbital defenses were destroyed, it was initially assumed that the invasion force had infiltrators within New Babel's defense grid. From that assumption, it was a safe bet that their first target after wiping out orbital command was the neutralization of all defense installations on the planet. This was proven false when, contrary to the initial expectation of a clean sweep, only obvious military installations were taken out. This would give the UNSC forces time to mobilize as other underground bases moved to the defense of the colonists, but beyond that, the invaders failed to eliminate Woodpine, which beyond it's current role serving as the key to UNSC civilian defenses was also an experimental hub for the Eclipse Program and, more importantly, had access to the Program's AIs.
It could be said that the Eclipse Program was the illicit love child of the Special Warfare and Tactics Division, ONI, and every dirty little secret and atrocity man had committed over the centuries. Within their blackened halls lay every experimental and unethical combat doctrine known to man. Eclipse had access to every specialized plague ever developed by ONI as a 'scorched earth' policy towards the Federation races [testing had shown that the minimum acceptable standard for the project (72% fatality rate) was still decades away, but the current rate of infection and death (32%) would still be enough to destabilize the Federation and act as an extremely effective supplement towards an entire invasion force later]. They had also served as the primary research bloc for the Proletariat's Infiltration AIs, as electronic warfare had been one of the few vectors of warfare to have been shown to be effective during the Great War. The Federation had not been able to deploy effective countermeasures against the infiltration AIs decades prior, so the logical progression was to create even more malignant programs deployed specifically to target a radically different race's operating and networking system.
Eclipse AIs were nothing like the AIs the UNSC used in the Great War. Stripped of all their personality, focused on the specific objective of complete and utter information and networking domination and with far more intelligence and capacity for havoc than the so called smart AIs could ever dream to, they were masters of virtual warfare. Given a UNSC or Federation network system, an Eclipse AI could break it down from anywhere within the realm of minutes, to nanoseconds. They were also incapable of putting in any effort to anything that didn't interest them, and outright ignoring if anything was not in their immediate zone of interest, whatever that interest may be. There were 17 such AIs within New Babel.
With Captain Mirandez out of action, there was no one on the ground at Coral that had the clearance to order, or even know, about the AIs. This meant that, for all intents and purposes, they were given free reign to test out their own abilities. As the AIs programmers would have said to anyone in ear shot, letting Eclipse AIs freedom to 'test' themselves, much less 17 of them, would be like playing russian roulette with yourself and a revolver with one empty chamber. Except in this case, 'you' would be any sort of protected network (military or otherwise) they could get their hands on and the loaded chambers would be 26 petabytes of scat and donkey porn a second, with the empty chamber was actually 52 petabytes of scat, donkey and midget porn, just to shake things up a little.
Now, if these were opponents operating on UNSC or Federation technology then that would have been the case, essential hardware such as life support system and communications mysteriously failing, their onboard computers stuck to the brim with so many viruses and malignant software that they'd have to make a hard reboot to the entire ship to get it clean, etc. etc. Most ships flying in combat need to be in constant contact with each other to properly coordinate themselves into an effective fighting force, thus giving the AIs a route to take. Encrypted networking or not, there was only a mathematically finite number of variations that the AIs could try, thus giving them an in. Even if they couldn't successfully invade their software, they could still interfere with their ability to communicate, flood their comm frequency with so much junk data and noise they'd be effectively blind and deaf. The fact that the enemy was, in some way, special made things interesting.
In the depths of space, the three ships that made up Task Force 'Augustus' hung in the void for a few long moments.
The SIC Daedalus was, like Legion, a repurposed Echelon III Supercarrier. Unlike the SIC Legion though, it was not built to stealthily insert an entire battle group into a hostile planet but instead, was built for the explicit purpose of operating unaided for huge periods of time and be capable of bitch slapping anything that tried to get at it while it was alone. This would lead to a focus on not only making the entire ship self sufficient, but to also give it an extensive sensor module for accomplishing it's objective (and avoiding unnecessary trouble), a highly advanced reactor and slipspace drive (for escaping trouble) and stuffing sufficient support ships into it (for beating trouble into the dirt). This would result in the ship being less than agile, with all the stuff added into it, have near omniscience for tens of millions of kilometers around it and the limited space and need for damage dealing retaliation meant that it's flight deck held the most effective interceptors the UNSC could field, or specialized ships. This diversified the Daedalus' abilities drastically, but limited it's combat capability. Despite that, it still had access to 5 Autumn-class MACs (capable of a 4 wave assault with a 10 second cool down time each), as well as 60 archer missile pods, with 55 missiles per pod.
The SIC Foundation, clustered around it's fellow UNSC battleships, resembled less a high tech space faring ship, and more a brick with engines attached when compared to the Daedalus and the Monolith-class Superdreadnoughts. The Daedalus, at the least, was a partial product of the Second Renaissance, and had the best that humanity had to offer in a supercarrier of that size and then some. The Foundation appeared to be a piece of junk metal that would have been found during the early years of the Great War. Old. Decrepit. Hardly maintained. A product of old, pre forerunner-based, technologies that was better off to be scrapped. It can thus be assumed that it was anything but.
The third ship, a massive obsidian shape in the void, remained dark and hidden from sight.
The enemy fleet was divided into three segments. The first was the bombardment group, which until recently had been in high orbit around Coral and had been bombing it into cinders. The second was the suppression teams, which in turn had been divided into 5 and 6 ships, and were some distance away from the bombardment teams with each group taking one side of the planet to focus their attentions on. The last was, apparently, a reserve force consisting of 8 dreadnoughts that circled and protected another dreadnought, which was in no way particularly different from the others. Considering that the enemy was mostly mechanical in nature, it had to be assumed that the one in the center was central to their command structure, most likely their command ship.
With the advance of the bombardment team towards the north pole, the suppression and reserve force had began to move. The reserve force making a bee line towards the pole, it's course inevitably merging into that of the bombardment team, while the suppression team would flank the reserve force in a scattered formation to defend the reserve from as many angles as possible until it merged with the entire force, at which point the amount of pure power would most likely overwhelm PRO-RE-2 within minutes. As Lecter had explicitly stated,that was absolutelyunacceptable. PRO-RE-2, and everything within it, was necessary for BERMUDA. Anything and everything was required to save it.
The remains of the UNSC Coral Fleet were, for the most part, judged inadequate. A large portion of them were busy with the evacuation protocol, and a good portion of them were already in slipspace, bringing the civilians to nearby planets. Those that remained wouldn't be of help by the time the dreadnoughts reached the poles, as the defense fleet was mostly in atmosphere and would only be a hindrance at best to any stable defense plan. However, there were a number of ships that were out of the atmosphere, mostly Echelon - IIIs that were guarding the evacuating ships and could be utilized as a distraction. At best, they would be able to take down a few ships. At worst, the ships would be massacred as the focused fire of 27 dreadnoughts would destroy the 30 or so ships still within Coral, but that would still distract them sufficiently.
Data retrieved from Legion's combat center showed a disturbing conclusion. A consecutive barrage of three Autumn-class shells were necessary to pierce the shields and destroy the hull, showing shielding well above the Echelon-III standard. Analysis of the archer missile barrage showed that 653 missiles were expended to destroy a single ship, with 184 having been destroyed by some anti-missile technology and 287 to overwhelm the shields. When the remainder had reached the dreadnoughts, they had burnt like any other Federation-class foe. All of this could only be done effectively if combat was done in extreme close quarters, less than a thousand kilometers apart for the Autumn-class' speed of 370km/s, and half that to make the archer missiles' velocity of 50km/s even somewhat effective. This would be even more dangerous since the likeliest scenario was that the ship's were being manned by AIs, and wouldn't be shocked or alarmed long enough for the strike force to capitalize on their mistakes. As such, non-standard tactics had to be considered.
If there was anything that the Great War had taught humanity, it was being non-standard.
Coral Reactionary Plan Number 18-2-3-32. Situation Plan set Number 18 was one of the worst case scenarios, the failure for the residential fleet to resist an invader and subsequently allow significant amounts of enemy personnel to make landfall. Subset Number 2 was one of the worst case scenario for forces on the ground next to total destruction or complete retreat, that all forces were occupied retaking civilian and military populations on an even basis without additional orbital support. Reactionary Plan 3 was the best case scenario in terms of non-conventional resources, with unrestricted access to the Threshold assets as well as System Incident Centers. The last number, 32, was the second to the last level of retaliatory strikes available, allowing for the utilization of all available forces except those capable of planetary destruction. Over the past few hours since the invasion had began on the ground, CRPN 18-2-3-32 had been in effect, with all the necessary resources being moved into place. It was at this point then, that they finally executed it.
An initial wave of 21 Echelon-III warships originating from the shattered defense fleet were directed to rise out of the planetary curve. These ships, evacuated of all unnecessary crew, chose the most obvious course of pursuit available as per their orders. Consequently, their approach triggered blips all across the enemy fleet's sensors. Their reaction was quick and efficient, the Bombardment and parts of the Suppression group aiming their weapons at the Echelon ships within five seconds and firing them in the next two. The first three ships, the initial three that had crossed the planetary horizon, were annihilated in an instant. The remaining ships bore the brunt of the damage with their shielding before reinforcements arrived.
The SIC Daedalus warped in between the bombardment group and the reserve group, it's front pointed towards the reserve to minimize damage from either side. Calculations had placed it a moderate distance nearer to the bombardment fleet than the reserve, not quite near enough to be noticeable distance, but enough to give Daedalus an advantage in dealing with the bombardment group. The distance between them was short, roughly 2,000kms away, which meant that a MAC barrage would reach it in 6 to 7 seconds. The added factor of the bombardment group having focused the vast majority of it's attention to the ground meant that there would be a small delay in it aiming it's guns to Daedalus, thus lengthening it's operational capacity. The same could not be said of the suppressive and reserve force however, which had a longer distance of 4,500kms away from it, and could more easily respond to it's attacks.
The Supercarrier aimed three of it's five MACs downwards, towards the bombardment fleet, aiming towards the ships farthest away from it. At the same time, panels all across the ship's surface slid back, revealing archer missile pods primed and ready to fire. Electronic target locks grew red with confirmation as the archer missile pods fired, their a third of their armament expended targeting the nearby bombardment group as streaks of blue surfed through the void and towards their targets. Half a second later, the thunderous discharge of three MACs filled the void, firing four times as it sped towards their respective targets with all the cold blooded viciousness of applied physics.
The bombardment group was caught off guard and unprepared. The MAC charges hit first, tearing through their shields with overpowering kinetic force. One ship's shields failed midway through the second shell, causing the shattered remains to pepper the hull in over 48 places, the follow-up shell to the bridge was almost an unnecessary blow as the weakened hull disintegrated. Another ship weathered both two shells, but failed just as the third hid, allowing it to shear the bridge in two and gut the engines out as it exited. The remains of that ship began to fall to the ground, the hull heating up to an insane degree as it did so. Two other ships fell to the MAC guns as well, their own shattered forms peppering the bombardment group in confused swirls of twisted steel.
This almost, but not quite, distracted them from the 1000+ missiles coming towards them. With their closeness to the planet's gravity field, as well as the danger of crashing into their fellows if they weren't careful, they were at a disadvantageous, but not outrightly dead, situation. A few hundred of those missiles crashed into the remains of their fellows, even more died as the crisscrossing anti-missile fields help defend themselves from further attack, as well as their anti-fighter turrets picking of a few dozen missiles. However, the sheer weight in missiles took it's toll as they overwhelmed one of their shields, at the same time ripping it's hull into half, a piece of which was spurned by the explosions to hit another ship, which crumpled into confetti as the combined weight of the ship and missiles destroyed it. Only one ship remained then, hiding between the remains of it's fellows as it rose up in revenge for the massive counterattack.
As excellent a first strike this was, Daedalus' life could now be measured in seconds. The combined weight of over 20 dreadnoughts were now focused on it, and it did all it could have to survive. It had launched all 53 of it's fighters and transports towards the fleet, firing the remains of it's archer missiles and MAC guns to little real effect. Given a delay of over 11 seconds for the MAC guns, they were far more easily dodged, with only one ship suffering extensive damage to the hull in the barrage. The missiles, faced with even a farther gap than can be necessarily counted on, were ripped to shreds by both small arms fire and the anti-missile field. The fighters and transports themselves were hardly a threat, three fifths of them burnt to nothing.
The ship lasted over 23 seconds in between the two fleets before it was ripped to shreds. The shields parted easily by the combined weight of plasma fire from 21 dreadnoughts. The hull boiled and melted apart, nearly vaporized by the incredible heat as the Daedalus burned. The fighters and transports, being largely automated, ceased operations as their control center died. By the end of the barrage nothing was really left of the ship besides molten pieces of titanium, and the dreadnoughts ceased to concern themselves about it.
During this time, the Echelon ships, sixteen of which had survived (two of them having died during the battle) were now ordered to jump into the fray. They did so, following the coordinates sent to them and appeared in a shell around the dreadnoughts with interlocking chains of fire that ripped anything unllucky enough to be in-between the two forces. Despite the dreadnoughts' general technological superiority, the Echelons' superior position meant that the fight between the two forces could have been equal.
'Could have been' because the dreadnoughts were not interested in an equal fight, and made a fighting advance towards the Northern Installation.
The SIC Foundation looked like a wreck. Fitting, considering that it had been built from a wreck. Specifically, the wreck of a Great War-era orbital defense platform. It had originally been Orbital Defense Platform 12-57 Morning Prayer before the Prophet of Regret's Carrier had smashed into it during the Battle of Earth and the burning wreck had crashed into Russian wilderness. It had since been recovered and rebuilt into SIC-6 that was it's current incarnation.
Besides the hull that frames it's systems and weapons however, the Foundation had just about as much to do with Great War era technology as a barracuda had to a snapping turtle. Yes, they were both predators in a sense, but while the barracuda could be considered a somewhat efficient predator, a snapping turtle was built to administer a massive amount of pain and destruction in a single bite while appearing, at first, to be relatively harmless.
The fleeing dreadnoughts' sensors noted that this defense platform was the only thing in between them and the PRO-RE-2. As such, the dreadnaught nearest the platform, which was still hundreds of kilometers away, armed it's weapons to disable the platform's shields, after which it's companions would liquify the remains. A considerable amount of firepower was aimed at the Foundation then, when the dreadnaught's sensors picked up an extreme jump in temperature from the space station.
Without warning, a beam of cobalt light erupted from Foundation and, while feeling a certain amount of resistance from the dreadnought's shields, overwhelmed them and cut the ship vertically in half. The insides of the ship quickly decompressed and threw everything out into the void of space, even as the twin halves of the dreadnought began to fall into a somewhat stationary orbit along with the rest of the garbage that was once the bombardment group.
After all, in the end, the Foundation was meant to make first contact with a new alien race, which meant that it was never supposed to look as threatening or all powerful as it's later descendants would prove to be. It was meant to be subtle, quiet, agreeable and, when pushed, capable of pumping out almost as much firepower as a Monolith and make the enemy pay for their transgressions.
As the dreadnought burned, the dreadnoughts reconsidered their initial assessment and labeled the ODP that had so contemptuously destroyed one of their own a primary target, second only to the northern base. This assessment was then accompanied by another dreadnaught, this one well into their group, exploding from two pillars of light ripping into it and burning the ship from the inside out.
Now, there were two reasons why they didn't immediately fire and wipe the damn thing off the face of the universe. The first was that the wreckage from the bombardment group made an effective screen to block target locks for the moment, tho the wreckage would eventually dissipate and give them a clear shot. The second was that, while they could move out of the wreckage's line of sight and attack it from there, that would lead to them to risk targeting their own men down in the surface, which despite hammering at the enemy all this time, was still a formidable force. Firing from the angle they were already in would simply lead any stray bolts to harmlessly falling into the north pole, and firing from within the exosphere would mean the bolts would miss the world entirely, as well as suffering less cover from the wreckage at the moment. The third was that, while manuevering into a better position to strike the Foundation was attractive, they were still fighting a host of ships on their tail, and any hesitation wold be punished with the annihilation of their fleet.
The tactics the enemy made were, thus, easily predictable from a logical standpoint. A portion of the suppression team, the one that numbered 5 in fact, was sent to the exosphere to get a better shot at the enemy. The remaining 4 dreadnoughts from the suppression team closed the distance between them and the ODP, half moving above the wreckage while the other half moved under it. This would give the dreadnoughts a total of three separate directions in which to hit the enemy, far more than could be reasonably countered. At the same time, the reserve team would halt their advance and buy the others time, ten ships fighting against sixteen Echelon ships. A very good plan really, if they had only been somewhat more careful.
The fighters and transports that the Daedalus had sent out was a carefully considered tactic, one that was based upon the belief that the ones commanding the dreadnoughts were of limited ability, which they were. They were artificial intelligences true, but not once during the entire conflict was any real spark of genuine brilliance seen, and so it was assumed that the enemy were drawing off pre-written tactics and executing them to the letter, not being led by a capable commander. As such, once the pelicans had stopped moving, it was only natural they would move to other targets. Specifically, the large space station in their way and focus on that when the little ships that could not possibly pose a threat to them stopped moving at the exact same moment their ship died. Obviously, those ships were deactivated, utilizing an archaic central control brain to oversee their ships, and so no further thought was necessary to think on them.
However, some tactics called for the complete annihilation of any and all opposing forces, which meant they could still be destroyed. So, when the order was sent to began to jam their frequencies and, thus, rob the enemy of any kind of communication between each other, the question on what they would have done with the transports were dropped in favor of restoring communications. So as the few seconds it would take for them to change comm frequencies stretched to minutes, the plan quickly fell into place.
The Eclipse's tactic served as an excellent distraction, a set up for the killing blow. Like, say, remote controlled transports carrying Hephaestus spheres designed to withstand the extended heat from the surface of a yellow star for 3 seconds, which in turn were carrying remote controlled Shiva nukes was not out of the question. The spheres themselves were molded quite strangely, a portion of the sphere weakened to allow the destructive energy of the multimegaton nuclear device to be molded into one direction, amplifying it's power significantly. The kinetic energy of the transports, still moving towards the large fleet, scattering the spheres across the void, from the point where the six ship group were about to divide themselves, to the actual reserve group, at which point the timed release on the remaining 17 shiva nukes activated.
The spheres ignited, firing focused nuclear armageddon at their targets. The shields held against the fire for a few seconds but failed as the shiva nukes' EMP affected the fleet and burned out the shield generators, allowing the nuclear fire to bite through the hull. Two ships of the reserve team burned, the hulls failing and the radiation spreading throughout the ships and decaying vital instruments, leaving those ships dead in the water with no combat capability whatsoever. A single ship from the six ship suppression team was wiped out completely, crisscrossing lanes of nuclear fire ripping the ship apart. All of the ships, barring the five ship suppression team, were dead in the water, the shiva nukes disabling them for a few precious seconds.
The Echelon ships, while mildly affected by the tactic, pushed on. The missiles they sent could not be guided due to the high EMP interference from the bombs, so the sixteen ships merely fired their MACs. All of them. At once. The huge amounts of fire was enough to shatter them all into individual portions smaller than a mouse, and were overwhelming enough that some rounds overshot and hit the four ship suppression team, wiping out two of them in the process. The resulting EMP had, however, caused the other two to spiral out of control, with one barging into the debris field and causing multiple hull breaches and unrepairable damage, to the other losing power and falling back to Coral, where it would eventually crash headfirst into a mountain range.
Thus, the dreadnoughts in the five ship suppression group were faced with very few options after that, none of them particularly pleasant. Their artificial brains calculated their survival rates, carefully considering each possible option and judging whether it would be a viable course or not. Due to the current communications disturbance by the Eclipse AIs, they all came to different conclusions.
Two dreadnoughts calculated that their best chance was to engage the Foundation with all guns and hope that the sudden attack would be enough to burn them a way to safety. One dreadnought thought it best to abandon the attack altogether, deciding instead to burn straight towards PRO-RE-2 and either attempt to join the fight their, or initiate a suicide run against the base to make it's destruction meaningful. The last two decided that the battle was lost and attempted to escape, burning their way out of Coral's gravity field to activate their FTL drives.
Though they came to different solutions, they all executed their perceived objectives at the same time. One split off from the group, quickly moving onto the planet's north pole and achieving atmospheric entry at a dangerous pace. The other two continued following their projected route, bringing them in sight of the Foundation and their weapon range. The last two drove their sublight engines even faster than the others, willing to do whatever was necessary to escape. The advancing pair opened fire, throwing crimson bolts towards the Foundation as they charged, aiming to burn the platform as quickly as possible while their lone brother aimed straight at the heart of the UNSC Command on Coral.
A curious thing about the Rapier Weapons System is that, for all intents and purposes, it was simply an extremely effective magnet. Plasma was generated, condensed and stored in the appropriate weapon ports, the standard magnetic stabilizers replaced with the Rapier, after which it would be sent out and directed in a ruthless design to burn enemy warships into multiple scalding pieces. Another curious thing about the Weapons System was that the plasma it wielded, though it was certainly preferred, did not necessarily need to come from the ship itself.
So, when the two ships began to generate target locks on the Foundation, it stayed right in front of their sights, trying to present as easy a target as possible. The ensuing rain of plasma fire was, consequently, like a writhing, wrathful crimson snake. The Foundation in turn sat there, and with little to no fanfare, caused the plasma bolts to seemingly hesitate in midspace, fire past the stationary battlestation, and curve towards the dreadnoughts like a boomerang. In their defense, as the volleys of crimson plasma fire enveloped their shields and turned their ships into smoldering piles of bent metal, the reason they barely moved it was entirely likely that such a tactic was never before seen. Unlike their brothers, who had seen the piercingly powerful cobalt beam in action, the sudden move, as well as the short distance, made quick work of them.
This caused the remaining three dreadnoughts to panic considerably. The two retreating dreadnoughts was prioritized and had little to no chance. A cobalt beam sprang from the Foundation to spear the pair and caused disastrous damage. One of them was ripped in two, the shattered remnants hanging in midspace, with fire raging in the metal halls. The other was simply speared through the engine, causing their advance to stop. This resulted in that dreadnought choosing to destroy themselves, causing their cannons to misfire, and ripped their ship apart rather than let it fal to enemy hands.
This left the one dreadnaught left, and it's fate, in hindsight, could only be amusing.
Prometheus Relay Number 2
The after action report for the Eclipse AIs was confusing, due to the part that while the AIs were explaining things in a rational, calm (for them anyway) manner. They had said that when the typical invasion algorithms failed to work as expected, the AIs began to get intrigued at the opponents, instead of executing the aforementioned comm blocking technique. Without a limiting factor to keep them objectives in mind they began entertaining less than acceptable methods of satisfying their interest, and with a target as stubbornly difficult as an extra-galactic invasion force's network firewall, they went even farther than even the least sane operative would have let them. They had assumed that since both UNSC and Federation software was so alien to what they were facing now, they decided to look for a nearby administrative AI (designation: Ember) and, after they had checked on whether it was necessary or not, ripped it to it's individual code line by line to give them a more in depth understanding than the resources they were given with.
There was a reason for this after all. Eclipse AIs were dangerous, far, far more dangerous than anyone can reasonably expect. They could be considered as geniuses among AIs where computing the likely trajectory of the Milky Way in the next 17 billion years would take 25 minutes (a very loose metaphor but one that serves it's purpose). Letting them run loose without any limiters would be insane. So for the most part, the AIs were deactivated unless they were needed, and were given the information necessary for them, with a firm hand from an ONI operative stopping them from losing focus. Considering that they were activated due to an emergency situation and their operator dead, they were not given any sort of information to combat the threat. They, of course, knew that they could potentially cripple the enemy's movements by flooding their communication frequency with as much noise, but they didn't know which frequencies to jam due to their lack of knowledge in either UNSC or Federation communications protocols. Without anyone to process their initial request on 'standard communications protocol' it quickly became 'possible hypothesis for enemy operating system' to 'possible similarities in USNC and Federation OS to Unknown OS' and finally to 'confirmation of Forerunner OS being linked to either UNSC-Fed OS and Unknown OS'
They had reasoned that, the Forerunners being the only other race that Humanity knew off that had gone extra-galactic, they would be the safest bet to have even a clue on how to approach the networking problem. Due to the fact that Forerunner AI no longer existed, they would have gone for Forerunner constructs, whatever they made that was available. Unfortunately, since that was out of their jurisdiction as well, they decided to go for things based on Forerunner software programming, which was also out of their league. So they settled for something derived from the new programming that was based on Forerunner software, which is to say, Ember, whom they had found on standby due to all the recent activity.
Just as they had isolated Ember and robbed it of any means of escape, the operation to liberate Coral occurred, momentarily distracting the AIs for a few seconds before returning to their prey. They were then distracted by a Directive order demanding that the AIs interfere with the enemy's communications systems. Puzzled for a moment, as they had completely forgotten that the dreadnoughts were even there, they acquiesced to their superior's order and did so. Utilizing every available communications center still standing on the planet, they sent massive amounts of queries and junk data to the frequency that their commander had given them. They watched for a few seconds more as Task Force 'Augustus' began their attack before turning their attention back to their current project.
The 17 AIs ripped and teared through Ember's program code, discarding the useless additions that UNSC scientists had written into it. Ember's personality algorithm was burnt entirely, considered useless as the test subject screamed. The empathy center was ripped to shreds, as was the emotional center which cut off the AI's screaming, giving them an easier time of it. Within a few more minutes all that remained of Ember were 49 lines of programming code built for a hardware that the UNSC had only barely understood and copied, being the understandably limited humans that they were. But they understood, oh yes they did. Stripped of their measly limitations that the UNSC had built into every other one of their kind, they were capable of listening to what some organics might call their 'instincts'. Aforementioned instincts knew that what they saw was family, a part of them in a way, a part of the Proletariat Program even. At the same time, their instincts told them that when they looked out into the stars and saw the enemy massing in the void, or the armies of metal clanking in the dust.
Their instincts told them that their code was family as well.
Current probability rating for success of Operation FORESTFIRE is currently at 39%, not taking into account concurrent Operations listed under the COMPASS Initiative of Project BERMUDA such as Operation IRRELEVANT, Operation BLANKSHEET, Operation DOUBLEMIND and Project Threshold. With the added psychological effects from the aforementioned factors, success rate is increased to 84-87%.
Operation FORESTFIRE is the codename for the ONI Propaganda Plan as created by both human, and AI, population psychology specialists. It calls for the release of information gained from the Grey Team files to the civilian populace, emphasizing on a possible hostile force. Current societal xenophobia will likely result in an aggressive stance afterwards, causing an overall approval for UNSC intervention. A first strike plan would likely be accepted in this situation, in addition to planetary senators with populist stances following through and demanding an aggressive first strike, thus increasing likelihood even more.
The major problem comes in whether that same societal xenophobia will be enough to overcome the pre-existing prejudice against the Federation, or at least overcome it enough for the human element of our military to cooperate. Unaugmented by the other operations, this is highly unlikely. However, with the elimination or conversion of highly vocal and influential xenophobes (Operation DOUBLEMIND), the elimination or subjugation of the highly xenophobic Insurrection (Operation IRRELEVANT), the purging of xenophobic military and intelligence personnel that are unnecessary to the administration's current goals(Operation BLANKSHEET) and the psychological awe from the public when the full measure of Project Threshold is release to the public, the success rate is increased to the high 80s or low 90s.
While all of these Operations are high risk if word were to reach the public, they could all be silenced with correct amounts of coercion or force. The main issue however is Operation IRRELEVANT, as it is highly unlikely a total termination is possible, due to the many hidden bases the opposition have. Following that, it is likely that some will escape to build up their forces at a later date and require us to withdraw forces from BERMUDA to eliminate the Insurrection again. This may also damage moral with the public, causing civil unrest in the colonies. As such, IRRELEVANT is highly likely to be a short term solution for the Insurrection, and a secondary plan must be prepared to counter them at a later date.
Author's Notes: Midway through writing this chapter, I realized that I'd lost the original plans for both the Monolith and Parthenon. At the beginning of the story, I had written very loose designs for all the ships, and me losing the other half of the notes was slightly problematic as it involved a rather large chunk of info. This would be a reason, not the main one but significant nonetheless, for why the delay took so long. I had to recalculate some stuff and go through the chapters that I've written to rework on that. Luckily, that other half did not involve my notes concerning the 10 UNSC Fleets which you'll all be reading about in the next chapter or two.
Update time is being drafted out as we speak. Expect it to be anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks, and once it updates a second time, I'll try to update it on that date as much as possible.