All I have to say that its slightly AU, so sue me

Enjoy and review if you like.

And yes part of this chapter uses context from Fall of Reach.

0600 Hours, November 2nd, 2525 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach UNSC

Military Complex, planet Reach

John wondered who had died. The Spartans had been called to muster in their dress uniforms only once before: funeral detail.

The Purple Heart awarded to him after his last mission glistened on his chest. He made sure it was polished to a high sheen. It stood out against the black wool of his dress jacket. Occasionally John would look at it, and make sure it was still there.

He sat in the third row of the amphitheater and faced the center platform. The other Spartans sat quietly on the concentric rings of risers. Spotlights flicked on the empty stage.

He had been in Reach's secure briefing chamber before. This is where Dr. Halsey had told them they were going to be soldiers. This is where his life had changed and he had been given a purpose.

Chief Mendez entered the room and marched to the center platform. He wore his black dress uniform as well. His chest was covered with Silver and Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, the Red Legion of Honor award, and a rainbow of campaign ribbons. He had recently shaved his head.

The Spartans rose and stood at attention.

Dr. Halsey entered. She looked older to John, the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and mouth more pronounced, streaks of gray in her dark hair. But her blue eyes were as sharp as ever. She wore gray slacks, a black shirt, and her glasses hung about her neck on a gold chain.

"Admiral on deck," Mendez announced, his voice ringing throughout the vast chamber.

They all snapped straighter.

A man ten years Dr. Halsey's senior strode to the stage. His short silver hair looked like a steel helmet. He wore a simple, unadorned black dress UNSC uniform. No medals or campaign

ribbons. The insignia on the forearm of his jacket, however, was unmistakable: the single gold star of a Rear Admiral. "At ease, Spartans," he said. "I'm Admiral Stanforth."

The Spartans took their seats in unison.

Dust swirled onstage and collected into a robed figure. Its face was obscured within the shadows of its hood. John could discern no hands at the end of its sleeves.

"This is Beowulf," Admiral Stanforth said as he gestured to the ghostly creature. Stanforth's voice was calm, but distaste was evident on his face. "He is our AI attaché with the Office of Naval Intelligence. "He turned away from the AI. "We have several important issues to cover this morning, so let's get started."

The lights dimmed. An amber sun appeared in the center of the room with three planets in close orbit.

"This is Harvest," he said. "Population of approximately three million. Although on the periphery of UNSC-controlled space on the outer rim, this world is one of our more productive and peaceful colonies, completely untouched so far by the Insurrection and the Rebellion war prior."

The holographic view zoomed in on the surface of the world and showed grasslands and forests and a thousand lakes swarming with schools of fish. In orbit a huge complex tethered to the apex of six orbital elevators acted as a hub for dozens of civilian transports and freighters looking to carry the massive amounts of food and grain the agricultural world produced.

"As of military calendar October 26nd, at 1423 hours, the Harvest orbital platform and Orbital Defense Network observation satellite twelve made long range X Band radar contact with this object."

A blurry outline appeared over the stage. Immediately John and the other Spartan's trained eyes took a snapshot and began analyzing the object for every detail, though as the object was taken at such an extreme range, one million kilometers, the image was quite granny and fuzzy, but he could pick up just enough of the discernible structure that was bathed in light from the system's star that was right behind it to make out what it was.

A ship.

"Spectroscopic analysis proved inconclusive," Admiral Stanforth said. "The contact is constructed of material that is nearly 67 percent unknown to us."

A molecular absorption graph appeared on a side screen, spikes and jagged lines indicating the relative proportions of elements. It meant little to John, but he knew that it was significant none the less.

Beowulf raised a cloaked arm and the image darkened. The words CLASSIFIED—EYES ONLY , appeared over the blackened data.

Admiral Stanforth shot a glare at the AI that would kill as the AI's avatar briefly balked and gave into the silent command.

"Contact with Harvest and its defensive contingent," he continued, "was lost shortly thereafter, with this previous data sent by the colony's slipspace com launcher. The Colonial Military Administration sent the scout ship Argo to investigate. That ship arrived in-system on October twenty sixth, but other than a brief transmission to confirm their exit Slipstream position of a high orbit above the planet under the defense grid , no further reports were made.

"In response, Fleet Command assembled a battle group to investigate. The group consisted of the Destroyer Heracles , commanded by Captain Veredi, as well as the Corvettes Arabia and Vostok . They entered the Harvest System on November the forth and discovered the following."

The holograph of the planet Harvest changed. The lush fields and rolling hills transformed. Now dozens of new impact craters and fires raged where lush forests and plains had once been. In some places glass could be seen on the edges of the most heavily hit and craterous areas, with some places still glowing a dull red. The afore mentioned orbital elevators and their transit hub were gone, with a smattering of debris in its place and a clear impact point of one of the collapsed elevators in view, devastating the world even more as it fell.

Orbital bombardment, with weapons in the high megaton range. Possibilities included both kinetic and nuclear.

"This is what was left of the colony." The Admiral paused for a moment to stare at the image, and then continued. "We assume that all inhabitants are lost."

Three million lives lost. John couldn't fathom the raw force it had taken to kill so many—for a moment he was torn between horror and envy. He glanced at the Purple Heart pinned to his chest and remembered his lost comrades. How did one simple bullet wound compare with so many wasted lives? He was suddenly no longer proud of the decoration.

"And this is what the Heracles battlegroup found in orbit," Admiral Stanforth's voice knocked John's mind out of its momentary revile.

The video feed switched on, taken from the forward camera of the Heracles, the three United Nations Space Command ships accelerated forward towards a ship in high orbit 80,000 kilometers away as the, Light Frigates Arabia and Vostok pulled slightly ahead of the Heracles while the camera zoomed in.

It was unlike any ship John had seen before.

A 1.5 plus kilometer long triangular wedge with a dull grey hull dominated the screen as readings scrolled along the sides as the faint voice recordings of the ship's commanders echoed in the background. It wasnt related to any known UNSC or United Rebel Front ship design he had seen before, not that the later could build ships of this size anymore in the first place. Its hull was clearly heavily armored and dozens upon dozens of weapons ports from lighter guns to a battery of large main cannons located in a cluster of turrets dotted its surface. Most intriguing was a very clearly defined command center and possible bridge that rose up above the rest of the ship from the rear of the vessel, giving it the look of so many ancient sea going battleships of the steam age back on Earth. The glow from three large engine cones lit up the backdrop of the burning former Colony as the ship maneuvered itself to face the UNSC ships.

"The unidentified vessel," the Admiral said, "launched an immediate attack against our forces."

The video continued.

Green flashes strobed from the ship as a half dozen larger duller Bolts of energy coalesced into a fiery smear against the blackness of space. The deadly flashes of light impacted on the Arabia and splashed across its hull, imparting a massive amount of physical force causing a section of the affect area of the warship to shimmer like the surface of water while nearly a meter of titanium A composite battleplate instantly boiled away, and a plume of ignited atmosphere burst from the breach in the ship's hull.

Several bodies tumbled out into the unforgiving cold vacuum.

"Those were high intensity pulse lasers, much more powerful than those we currently deploy," Admiral Stanforth explained, "and—if this record is to be believed,"

The video paused as one of the much larger fiery green bolts nearly blinded the camera, "—some kind high velocity, superheated plasma projectile contained within a high powered magnetic field."

The Heracles and Vostok launched salvos of Archer missiles toward the craft, the high powered Ion drives accelerating them to dozens of Gees as they tore across the distance. The Arabia fired her counter thrusters to right the ship's course as it joined its firepower into the fray. The two Frigates' and the Heracles' railguns charged and fired a volley of slugs, each weighing 700 pounds and travelling at seven thousand kilometers a second, in lieu of the missiles, firing two more salvos as the magnetically accelerated slugs streaked towards the enemy.

The Heracles main gun, a single Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, the most powerful weapon in the UNSC's arsenal aside from their much larger "Super" MAC orbital defense platform brothers, charged and prepared to send a couple hundred ton slug at eight thousand kilometers a second screaming towards the threat.

No ship could survive such a hit of that magnitude and velocity.

Even without it the ship should have been crippled or heavily damaged.

Streams of energy bolts lashed out and reduced the number of missiles by a fourth before they reached their target, turning them into nothing more than vapors and free floating debris. However the balance of the missiles impacted, releasing their individual load of a two megaton shaped fusion warhead, detonating and covering the ship with fire and light, just as the first salvo from the human vessel's railguns hit the vessel now hidden inside the expanding firestorm . . . that quickly faded.

The strange ship shimmered with a semitransparent silver coating, which then vanished.

John's brow raised as the others looked on in mute silence. Was that an…

"They also seem to have some reflective energy shield." Admiral Stanforth took a deep breath and his features hardened into a mask of grim resolve as the briefing continued.

The second and third railgun salvos hit, the shields shimmering again with each hit as they grew brighter, but still the impenetrable force held; the combined force of another twenty one megatons of force ,twice, simply bouncing off as the imparted energy pushed the enemy ship out of its position.

The enemy ship's maneuvering thrusters fired to put the enemy warship back onto the correct path.

The larger ship now faced the UNSC ships head on as the two forces accelerated towards each other at flank speed, cutting the range down to fifty thousand. The voices of the captains could be heard yelling out orders to fire again as the weapon's officer on the Heracles was heard announcing the MAC was at 60 percent charge.

More lasers and energy bolts lanced out from the unknown ship, catching the wounded Arabia and punching right through several decks. Explosions and decompression racked the ship as it spun out of formation lazily as the Heracles and the Vostok initiated a wild series of evasive maneuvers, causing several of the larger energy bolts to miss but the majority still impacted, slicing through armor and decks and knocking the Heracles' MAC out of action and sending the Vostok into a nearly uncontrolled lateral spin as its thrusters flickered on and off.

More missiles and another salvo of Railgun slugs expended themselves against the invisible force of the energy shields, to no avail, only succeeding in making their electrical flare even brighter.

It was obvious what the outcome was.

Another burst of energy fire turned the Vostok into a miniature sun as its ruptured hull split in half and its Helium 3 boosted Fusion reactor overloaded. The Heracles thicker hull survived only long enough for Captain Veredi to realize the battle was lost as the destroyer's frame nearly buckled from the explosive decompression of half a dozen new hull breaches.

The video cut out and the lights came back on, revealing the stern looks of all those present, and the new seeded anger and determination within.

"The Vostok and Arabia were lost with all hands. The Heracles jumped out of the system, but due to the damage she sustained and only being able to travel at a forth of its Slipspace speed, it took several weeks for Captain Veredi to make it back to Reach.

"These weapons and defensive systems are currently beyond our technology. Therefore . . . this craft is possibly of nonhuman origin." He paused, then added, "The product of a race with technology far in advance of our own."

A murmur buzzed through the chamber.

"We have, of course, developed a number of first contact scenarios," the Admiral continued, "and Captain Veredi followed our established protocols. We had hoped that contact with a new race would be peaceful. Obviously this was not the case—the alien vessel did not open fire until our task force attempted to initiate communications."

He paused, considering his words. "Fragments of the enemy's transmissions were intercepted," he continued. "A few words have been translated as they use a different communication system then ours. We believe they call themselves, simply 'The Empire.'

John stole a glance at the other Spartans, he knew that their mission and deployment parameters had suddenly changed. They were now going off to war, a real war.

Admiral Stanforth paced the stage for a second before continuing, "However, before opening fire, the alien ship broadcast the following message in the clear."

He gestured at Beowulf, who nodded. A moment later, a voice thundered from the amphitheater's speakers. John stiffened in his seat when he heard it; the voice from the speakers sounded odd, —strangely calm and formal and arrogant.

But most surprisingly of all, oddly human.

"We are the Galactic Empire. We hereby claim this system as our own, any attempt to interfere will be put down. Surrender your ships and vessels and prepare to be boarded."

Now the buzz in the amphitheater turned to a dull roar.

The Admiral cleared his throat, and the volume immediately dropped.

"Captain Veredi clearly refused, and further attempts of contact were immediately rebuffed."

John was awestruck. He stood, his new medal that he now lamented clanging against his ribbens..

"Yes, Spartan?" Stanforth said.

"Sir, is this a translation?"

"No," the Admiral replied. "They broadcast this to us in our language. We believe they may have used some kind of translation system to prepare the message . . . but it means they've been studying us for some time."

John took his seat.

"As of November 1, the UNSC has been ordered to full alert," Stanforth said. "Vice Admiral Preston Cole is mobilizing the largest fleet action sense the Rebellion War to retake the Harvest System and confront this new threat. Their transmission made one thing perfectly clear: they're looking for a fight. And if they think they can take our worlds by such grievous force they can have their fight."

Only years of military discipline kept John rooted to his seat—otherwise he would have stood up and asked to volunteer on the spot. He would have given anything to go and fight. This was the threat he and the other Spartans had been training for all their lives—he was certain of it. Not scattered rebels, pirates, or political dissidents.

"Because of this UNSC-wide mobilization," Admiral Stanforth continued, "your training schedule will be accelerated to its final phase: Project MJOLNIR."

He stepped away from the podium and clasped his hands behind his back. "To that end, I'm afraid I have another unpleasant announcement." He turned to the Chief. "Chief Petty Officer Mendez will be departing us to train the next group of Spartans. Chief?"

John grabbed the edge of the riser. Chief Mendez had always been there for them, the only constant in the universe. Admiral Stanforth might as well have told him that Epsilon Eridani was leaving the Reach System.

The Chief stepped to the podium and clasped its edges.

"Recruits," he said, "soon your training will be complete, and you will graduate to the rank of Petty Officer Second Class in the UNSC. One of the first things you will learn is that change is part of a soldier's life. You will make and lose friends. You will move. This is part of the job." He looked to his audience. His dark eyes rested on each one of them. He nodded, seemingly satisfied with what he saw.

"The Spartans are the finest group of soldiers I have ever encountered," he said. "It has been a privilege to train you. Never forget what I've tried to teach you—duty, honor, and sacrifice for the greater good of humanity are the qualities that make you the best."

He was silent a moment, searching for more words. But finding none, he stood at attention and saluted.

"Attention," John barked. The Spartans rose as one and saluted the Chief.

"Dismissed, Spartans," Chief Mendez said. "And good luck." He finished his salute.

The Spartans snapped down their arms. They hesitated, and then reluctantly filed out of the amphitheater.

John stayed behind. He had to talk to Chief Mendez.

Dr. Halsey spoke briefly with the Chief and the Admiral, then she and the Admiral left together.

Beowulf backed toward the far wall and faded away like a ghost.

The Chief gathered his hat, spotted John, and walked to him. He nodded to the hologram of the invaded colony, Harvest, still rotating in the air. "One final lesson, Petty Officer," he said. "What tactical options do you have when attacking a stronger opponent?"

"Sir!" John said. "There are two options. Attack swiftly and with full force at their weakest point—take them out quickly before they have a chance to respond."

"Good," he said. "And the other option?"

"Fall back," John replied. "Engage in guerrilla actions or get reinforcements."

The Chief sighed. "Those are the correct answers," he said, "but it may not be enough to be correct this time. Sit, please."

John sat, and the Chief settled next to him on the riser.

"There's a third option." The Chief turned his hat over in his hands. "An option that others may eventually consider. . . ."


"Surrender," the Chief whispered. "That, however, is never an option for the likes of you and me. We don't have the luxury of backing down." He glanced up at Harvest—a glittering ball of devastated earth. "And I doubt that an enemy like this will let us surrender."

"I think I understand, sir."

"Make sure you do. And make sure you don't let anyone else give up." He gazed into the shadows beyond the center platform. "Project MJOLNIR will make the Spartans into something . . . new. Something I could never forge them into. I can't fully explain—that damned ONI spook is still here listening—just trust Dr. Halsey."

The Chief dug into his jacket pocket. "I was hoping to see you before they shipped me out. I have something for you." He set a small metal disk on the riser between them.

"When you first came here," the Chief said, "you fought the trainers when they took this away from you—broke a few fingers as I recall." His chiseled features cracked into a rare smile.

John picked up the disk and examined it. It was an ancient silver coin, with an eagle on one side and the face of a man whose fame was long since forgotten. He flipped it between his fingers.

"That Eagle," Mendez said. "That bird is like you—fast and deadly."

John closed his fingers around the quarter. "Thank you, sir."

He wanted to say that he was strong and fast because the Chief had made him so. He wanted to tell him that he was ready to defend humanity against this new threat. He wanted to say that without the Chief, he would have no purpose, no integrity, and no duty to perform. But John didn't have the words. He just sat there.

Mendez stood. "It has been an honor to serve with you." Instead of saluting, he held out his hand.

John got to his feet. He took the Chief's hand and they shook. It took a great deal of effort—every instinct screamed at him to salute.

"Good-bye," Chief Mendez said.

He turned briskly on his heel and strode from the room.

John never saw him again.

Epsilon Indi Star System

November 8th, 2525


"Creeper I have eyes on enemy infantry, more white washed bastards. Counting fifty of them, platoon strength." The rugged voice of Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson breathed into the the headset of the full helmet, complemented only by his heavy breathing as the combat armor's defogger worked overtime to keep the inside of his helmet from fogging up.

"Copy Bryne, I got ya, we will move up. They got any support?" Staff Sergeant Bryne replied as Johnson pushed himself forward closer to the dirt road that had been previously part of one of the many family owned farms that covered the surface of Harvest, half of which were either now burnt husks or had these Imperial bastards on them, or whatever they called themselves.

The force amplifying servos in his M-55 Combat Armored Suit silently worked their magic as Johnson kept his head down, trying to keep his heavily armored mass blended into the high field of wheat that surrounded him, his armor's adaptive camouflage shifting color to attempt to blend in.

"Wait a second…" the veteran Marine's voice halted Avery as the man took a deep breath and swore.

"Well tell me what the hell it is you see dammit."

"Ive got eyes on light armor, more of those walking chicken like things, still no sign of UAVs or drones. And the last enemy air patrol was three hours ago, so we still have a two hour window."

Cursing silently to himself he checked his ammunition with a glance at his HUD, still green, but going for two weeks on the supplies they had ravaged from the Barracks of the Harvest Colonial Defense Forces base they were still going good, and after mounting three successful guerrilla raids against the enemy it was not too bad, considering they had limited UAV support, no air support, no armor, artillery, no surface to orbit batteries and no orbital support.

The enemy contacts drew closer and closer, into the fifty meter radius of his suit's motion sensors, as red contacts lit up the display.

As slowly as he could he reached into his belt and pulled out his fiber optic camera, being careful not to move too fast as he raised it to the top of the wind swept wheat as the camera's feed linked to his HUD and those of the other 18 Marines among the 44 Colonial Militiamen equipped with the same modern Battle Armor, and those that survived the initial first contact with these alien….no…Imperial bastards.

The other garrisons on the planet were only boiling craters now, and not willing to give away their position the now late Lieutenant Ponders had cancelled any attempts to contact them, instead focusing on their partially successful attempt to retake the Tierra and evacuate the Colonists, before the Imperial Battleship had shown up.

After blasting the last transports filled with hundreds of people to kingdom come, and taking revenge for the Marine's destruction of the original Imperial ship that had come into the system, the Marines had evacuated the recaptured Tierra as the Imperial transports had moved in, letting them fill the elevator with troops and equipment before with one last round the planet's AI blew the whole structure apart with the Planet's lone Mass Driver.

Looking at the feed he grinned as some thirty then forty and then finally fifty of those enemy soldiers in their hilariously white armor marched in a column as three of the lumbering and heavily armed walkers took up the front and the rear of the formation.

Avery took a second to take in the vista beyond the field and of the horizon.

Smoke and storm clouds were on the horizon, no doubt a result of the orbital bombardment with hundreds of thousands of tons of ash and dirt expelled into the atmosphere. The Bifrost mountain range cut into the clouds as below the smoky and shattered ruin of Utgard, Harvest's once small but proud capitol of three hundred thousand, lay under occupation as enemy transports and ships flew to and from the city to the ship or ships in orbit.

"Avery , is team Charlie in position?" Bryne radioed from his position with the main force of the Colonial militia and Marines hidden in deep cover amongst the trees and underbrush that was on a squat rolling hill 200 meters away from the road, parallel to the enemy, the men , women and equipment all hidden under camo netting or the four optical Camo nets they had scrounged up.

"All good sir." Avery replied as the nine other Marines hidden around him in the tall wheat gave their affirmative status indicators, not breaking radio silence.

Bryne's voice again echoed through the comms, "Setting up the killbox in five.."

Johnson took several deep breaths and took a quick look at the statuses of the Marines next to him, most of his attention focused on Private Jenkins, the young Militia man having proved himself so far and donning the extra suit of combat armor after receiving the fastest on the job crash course training imaginable in the powered suit's operations.

It was much more complex, and leathal, than the traditional Ballistic BDU's the Colonial Milita wore.

"Get ready."

"Three, two, one…..execute."

As one two M19 102mm shaped charge high explosive anti-tank missiles tore from the woods and cut across the distance in a second.

The two missiles covered the walkers in fire and thunder as a wall of fire and roar of UNSC weapons burst forth from the positions in the brush and trees and sent a hail of hypersonic projectiles and lead into the Imperial formation.

Avery silently cheered as the walkers, their frames and "head" twisted and blown open, crashed to the ground as a half dozen enemy Imperial soldiers limp bodies fell hit the dirt, their armor punctured and sliced through, killing the being within.

The third walker turned to bring its heavy weapons to bare on the new threat as the enemy soldiers all scattered and ran for the cover of the reverse slope and the ravine that ran the opposite side of the road, sending scattered return fire with their directed energy rifles, the angry red bolts of energy tearing through the air and setting the brush ablaze.

Just as the enemy walker was about to fire on the defender's position a hypersonic crack and shriek bellowed as a 20mm tungsten dart slammed into the walker, hitting it right square in the reverse knee joint.

A perfect shot from the mounted Gauss Cannon on the back of a concealed Warthog LRV.

The damaged leg could no longer hold up the weight of the heavy vehicle as it toppled over with a crash, the crew trying to get out of their inactive vehicle as one of the heavy machine guns tore them apart.

"Move." Avery breathed as he stood up, bringing his rifle and equipped weapons to bare, the others following suit as his HUD automatically tagged the enemy soldiers and high lighted them as his targeting reticule on his MA6 activated.

"Light 'em up"

From their position, now flanking the enemy on the reverse side of the ravine with a slight defilade in their favor and hidden at the edge of the wheat field, the Imperials only warning that they were suddenly under attack from their right flank was when the first of the white armored soldiers fell, its armor perforated by four precise shots from Jenkin's Mattok Gauss Battle Rifle as the 5mm magnetically accelerated rounds of the heavier weapon sliced through the Imperial at 2300 meters per second with lethal results.

Johnson aimed down the holographic red dot and pulled the trigger, just as the other Marines did so, unleahsing a hail of deadly accurate fire.

The battery in the butt of his MA6B sent three separate charges to the propellant of the first 8mm round of the fifteen stacked end to end in each of the weapon's three barrels which were affixed in a triangle within the weapon's unique barrel shroud, giving him a total of 45 in each ammo strip. The resulting electro-thermal-chemical reaction turned the propellant into a jet of superhot gas, sending the copper wrapped tungsten projectile screaming at 1800 meters a second out of the rifle in a thunderous crack as the rifle's recoil mitigation system kicked in, the outer copper layer of the projectile nearly liquefied from the heat.

Avery pulled the trigger two more times as the weapon kicked against his armored pauldron, and watched in satisfaction as the targeted enemy soldier's body withered as two more high velocity rounds lethally ripped into the fragile body within. As the tungsten core of the rounds pierced and penetrated the white plastoid armor that the "stormtroopers" wore, imparting its kinetic energy in a wave on the flesh within, the softer and white hot copper expanded within the Imperial Trooper. The result was instantaneously lethal as the remaining mass of the rounds tore out the back of the targeted enemy soldier's armor leaving football sized holes, nearly ripping the trooper in half.

The fire from the other's with him claimed four more Imperials as the others dove for what little cover they could find amongst the rocks and began to return fire, crimson bolts of energy flying back towards the Marines as they accurately returned fire.

A single bolt caught one of the Marines in the chest on his left side, the superhot bolt of energy striking the nearly two inch thick armored chest of the man's battle suit. The standard UNSC Marine M-55 Battlsuit that the Marine was encased in consisted of a two inch thick,( on the most heavily armored portions) composite outer shell of Titanium A fused with a thin layer of depleted uranium with a half inch thick inner layer of electrified liquid metal and carbon fibers that were in turned bolted onto the reactive nano bodysuit that each Marine wore and gave the power suit its strength enhancing properties thanks to the double fist sized hydrogen reactor on the back. The battle suits were tried and true at resisting near innumerable amounts of small arms fire and multiple bursts of military grade Gauss rifles. However against directed energy weapons and Plasma its supremacy, which UNSC Marines had long enjoyed in firefights, was diminished.

The bolt imparted its physical force first, which was absorbed by the outer and inner armor with ease, but its high energy gas and particles burned away armor , liquid metal and carbon nano tubes in a flash, leaving an ugly sizzling hole as the Marine cried in pain as the man was spun to the ground. Alive, as the armor did its job, but left with third degree burns on his chest and with his protection on that portion of the suit degraded as the Marines moved to provide cover, allowing the Marin's spinal implants to inject a dose of painkillers, neutralizing the pain as the wounded Marine rolled back up to a firing position as his squadmates ran through the hail of crimson energy weapons fire at some 14 miles an hour, brutally cutting Imperials down all the same.

"Target right!" Johnson shouted as he and Jenkins pivoted as they fired on the move, cutting into an unlucky Imperial trooper as twin roaring barks of hypersonic slugs tore the soldier in two from sixty yards out as the Imperials on his side of the embankment found themselves surrounded.

However they were not going down without a fight, as a trio of energy weapons fire cut into a Marine on his right, this time burning through the man's battle suit and snuffing out the man's life as Avery cursed as several angry red bolts flew right past his face, nearly dazzling him as he spun around to face his attacker with his rifle ready .

Firing from the hip accurately thanks to his HUDs integrated targeting with his weapon he cut down the Imperial Trooper hiding behind a small bolder with a rather long snarling burst of fire before the enemy soldier could get another chance to hit him, nearly splitting the man in two in the process and turning most of the bolder into dust for good measure.

By this point the engagement was over, as the Imperials having been caught completely by surprise were finished off as the remaining ones on the other side of the road closest to the forest were cut down in the open with little cover to fall on as the last five of the white-washed enemies had their bodies dance around like ragdolls as the heavy machine gun and a dozen Colonial Guard's rifles brutally cut them into literal pieces.

"All Clear" Bryne calmly called through the comms as suddenly as the roaring firefight, though muffled though his suit, began, it was replaced with eerie calm.

Johnson and the other Marines with him strode through the death and destruction of the killing field past bodies and the burning husks of the destroyed walkers, weapons still ready just in case as the others came to secure the area.

As Johnson moved to regroup with the others Bryne jogged into view, his favored ARC-920 anti-material Railgun on his back and a M-739 Squad Automatic Weapon in his hands, its barrel still smoking from sending streams of deadly near hypersonic 10 mm rounds from its ammo drum. All the while the Marines and the Colonial Guard troopers made sure the area was secured as they pilfered weapons from the Imperials, which they would have to revert to using soon as their ammunition was depleted.

The veteran Marine, having served multiple tours with Johnson in battling back Innies on Tribute, had held pent up anger towards Johnson for his actions in an attack that had led to the loss of half of his squad and dozens of innocent civilians thanks to a cowardly suicide attacker. The two had long served together in a career that started during the middle of the Rebellion War twelve years earlier, and the anger had nearly destroyed their friendship. However that anger evaporated as the two, after being transferred to Harvest to help train and augment the lightly defended world's Colonial Guard along with the help of two platoons of Marines in defending against rising Innies attacks in the sector that ONI believed was supported by the remnants of the United Rebel Front, were forced to suddenly fight off a full blown invasion from an unknown enemy calling itself calling itself the Empire.

"How many casualties?" Johnson asked simply as he depolarized his visor looking into the sky as if waiting for energy bolts to rain down from space.

"Light, only two with another wounded. We got them good today." Bryne replied as Johnson nodded before he shook his head.

"We cant do this for much longer, before long they are gonna find us and we are gonna run out of basic supplies." Avery replied as the big Marine nodded.

"We need to get back into the forest and camp, and as I have no radar and anti air we can only guess when their H shaped fighters show up with reinforcements, or it they decide to simply vape the area from orbit."

"Yeah, we need to get moving, lets disappear." Avery shouted into the comms as the Marines and Colonial Guardsmen responded by leaving the area as fast as they could on foot and with the four vehicles they had, leaving Avery to wish that he had a simple armored force of Grizzly MBTs or a Vulture Assault Gunship to rain hell on the enemy with hypersonic cruise missiles , cannon fire or a Mini MAC slug.

In the end he simply let his mind wonder back to the thought that was in every man's head, how much longer could they last and would the UNSC send any reinforcements soon.