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Something Has Happened
On January 1, 2537 Serina makes a report on the UNSC Spirit of Fire's current situation after six years of travelling through space. She is six days away from the seventh anniversary of her creation, where she would typically await decommissioning. Engineering specialist Violeta Maldini is awoken from cryosleep to perform scheduled maintenance. As she investigates a cryobay, she is attacked by a Flood Infection Form. Serina locks down the room, and decides to observe Violeta's mutations for the benefit of the UNSC, theorising the Flood to be a lifeform they will encounter again. The following day, Serina takes notice that Violeta is becoming sick from undernourishment. On January 3, Violeta mutates further and the following day releases Infection Forms from her back. Serina considers that her refusal to kill Violeta is evidence of her corruption and is forced to awaken Professor Anders. Serina activate a 15 minute countdown timer for Anders to solve the problem before further action is considered necessary. Anders proves to be of little help as she had only a very brief encounter with the Flood. Close to the end of the countdown, Violeta releases several crewmen to be infected.
Red Team leader Jerome-092 is released from his cryotube, having requested earlier to be awoken in the event of Anders' release. However, as Serina has been degrading over the years she has failed to notice that Jerome's bay is also infested. Thanks to his armor and strength he easily escapes infection. Due to an "acceptable loss" protocol, Serina is programmed to refuse him a way out of the bay so long as there are parasites there. Further, she identifies one of the parasitized crewmen as Lieutenant Kwan, an officer with access to Serina's quarantine override codes. This means that any Combat Form can escape the room, making their killing more urgent. Jerome finds that one of the crewmen had access to a weapons locker, forcing him to take cover. Though the Combat Forms have been defeated in the cryobay, Jerome finds that a Flood has escaped through a vent after awakening the crewmen in another bay. Believing there to be only one, he is surprised to find a group of Combat Forms clustered together in a hanger, having realised Serina cannot determine their numbers when close together. Discovering this, Serina has them blown out into space.
Meanwhile, Serina discusses her situation with Anders, and, taking full responsibility for the incident in the cryobay, suggests being shut down to prevent further deaths. Serina, unable to pay attention to the fighting on her own, is helped by Anders who checks her reports for errors.
With the ship safe, Jerome and Anders head back to their crytubes. Anders reveals to Jerome that Serina is due to final dispensation and won't be around, meaning no one would be awoken for maintenance until they are boarded in UNSC space. Serina thanks Anders for helping her and starts making recordings for Captain Cutter, who she schedules for awakening from cryosleep in the event of an emergency. With that done, she shuts herself down, leaving Spirit of Fire to travel through space unguided.
Fireteam Majestic Poker Night
On the Brink
In the five years after the Human-Covenant War, special forces teams have continued their operations, now against Covenant remnant groups threatening the Outer Colonies. Kelly-087 monologues the story, setting the scene. A Covenant remnant force has attacked an ONI facility under construction. With the marine guards distracted, they steal a Mammoth further up the valley, intent on ramming it into the facility and triggering an explosion in the reactor. Blue Team takes control of the vehicle quickly, but John is unable to drive the runaway vehicle off the cliff as Kelly reports that researchers were left onboard. John avoids a cliff at the last minute, but is attacked by a Kig-Yar and almost hits two marines while distracted. The mammoth nonetheless crashes into the facility, though the reactor is safe. John is chastised by a facility head for the damages. Fred becomes angry, and insists that had they not arrived he would have been killed. John keeps Fred back, not wanting to cause a scene as the man threatens to report them to their NAVSPECWAR over the damages. Kelly continues her monologue, describing how it will only be a matter of time before John breaks under pressure from the new post-war environment.
When the Created begin their push to take over the galaxy in 2558, the frigate UNSC Nereid is forced out of slipspace in the middle of nowhere while on a mission to transport nuclear weapons. All components utilising artificial intelligence fail, including artificial gravity plating, leaving the crew; a group of civilian labourers and a platoon of marines without power and unable to recycle air and water.
The ship's chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Elaine Coffey takes charge on the Nereid's bridge and tries to have an emergency broadcast sent out calling for help. A fellow crewman, Rasul, informs her that emergency power has also failed. Out of ideas, Coffey suggests going to the ship's captain, Commander Yance. Major Kell Tanris and some marines arrive on the bridge in search of answers, and decide to accompany Coffey to Yance's quarters. Coffey is concerned about Tanris' use of armed escort; Tanris explains her marines are on alert due to the possibility they have been attacked by the New Colonial Alliance in a plot to steal the ship's cargo of nuclear weapons. They reach Commander Yance's quarters, where they find he has drown in the shower, the result of water being unable to drain in zero gravity. Coffey therefore takes over Yance's duties as captain of the ship.
When the group return to the bridge, they are informed that the ship is still on its planned course - just in normal space and travelling so slow it will take decades to reach its destination. Sergeant Chan ponders the likelihood of marauders traveling nearby, and Major Tanris considers their priority be to protect the nuclear cargo, theorising they are about to be boarded. Kalanga, leader of the civilian labourers, objects to this plan as it would mean relying on civilians with no weapons training. Instead, Coffey proposes an alternative priority, which is to find a way to regain power to allow for the recycling of water and air. Tanris concedes to Coffey's plan and reluctantly agrees for her marines to assist, though Sergeant Chan doubts the three groups will remain cordial.
Over the next few weeks, the three groups rig exercise bikes to generate electricity to allow for barely enough air and water filtration for everyone, but no heat. With no sign of any ships, it becomes clear there are neither pirates or rescue ships coming for them. Tanris decides to take charge of the situation with the new priority being to find a means of escape. Overhearing from Chan that energy from a nuclear weapon was once used to jumpstart a slipspace drive, she has all spare cabling confiscated. Coffey objects to the plan as soon as she becomes aware of it due to its sheer ridiculousness. Offering rationality, Tanris points out they will be taking their chosen weapon out into space so it won't cause harm to anyone onboard. This, Coffey still objects to as going out into space would use up the power needed for recycling air. Chan and Rasul begin fighting, but are stopped by Tanris, who points out that the civilian labourers already agreed with her plan, leaving the Nereid crew outnumbered. Thus time Coffey reluctantly concedes to Tanris' plan.
Over the next few days the crew; marines and civilians all work together in the hopes of reactivating the slipspace drive. In their work they are exposed to large quantities of radiation, and a number of people are taken ill by radiation poisoning. When the test finally takes place, the slipspace drive fails to power up as the crew expected. Chan and Rasul again begin fighting, this time over who is to blame for their attempt failing. When the crew go back inside, Tanris and Chan discuss their loss of support from the civilians which has rendered them the minority again.
Over the next few days, depression sets in among the crew as they begin to lose hope of ever being rescued. One of the civilians throws himself out the airlock, his body floats beside the windows and causes further unease. As Coffey looks out of the window to the body, she considers if the civilians are going to turn against the crew over their refusal to waste power recovering it. Kalanga arrives on the bridge and warns her the marines are making their way through the ship in what appears to be a take-over attempt. Aware of the psychological damage being marooned can do, she is scared the marines will throw everyone else out of the airlock to save up on supplies. Kalanga and the bridge crew head quickly to the cargo bay to hide, raiding a weapons locker along the way.
When the marines begin their operation, they succeed in locking up half of the crew and labourers. Knowing there are others unaccounted for, Tanris and the marines move to the cargo bay where they have deduced they are hiding. Chan warns her the crew is armed, though she doubts there will be a firefight as the cargo bay contains a Hyperion warhead. Testing her theory, she floats into the cargo bay alone and calls out Coffey to talk. Coffey heads out of hiding and, aware of the warhead, also deduces she won't be shot. The two talk about how their lack of an absolute leader is causing problems, with Tanris angry at Coffey for turning down any ideas they have. Chan and Rasul again come to blows as the two argue. Tanris suddenly remembers that 20th century physicists once toyed with the idea of using nuclear explosions to propel a spacecraft, and Coffey agrees it is possible they can detonate the warhead in space and use the shockwave to reach their destination faster. The three teams unify once more and set out on the task.
After several days they succeed in constructing a shield that will protect the ship from the shockwave. Coffey looks out from the deserted bridge and drinks from a bottle of Tennessee whiskey to take her mind off the cold. Tanris enters the bridge, enraged. Having read further into nuclear propulsion, she has realised too late that the 20th century physicists never considered using warheads anywhere near the Hyperion's magnitude, and that they will all be killed when it detonates. Expressing her shock at such a level of incompetence from an engineer, Tanris realises Coffey knew all along it wouldn't work and simply wanted everyone dead. Coffey explains that they were doomed the moment they lost power, and it is better to all die together united in false hope than to kill each other when the supplies run out. Coffey hands over a bottle of liquor to Tanris, and the two drink to nuclear weapon that will soon end their suffering.
Knight Takes Bishop
Taking place in January 2558, an ONI prowler named UNSC From the Ashes exits slipspace above New Llanelli in the Brunel system. Observing the planet, they confirm the presence of Avu Med 'Telcam, leader of the Servants of the Abiding Truth. SPARTAN-G059 is deployed to assassinate him.
Arriving on the surface, G059 quickly takes out Kig-Yar sentries on the rooftop of a ruined building used as 'Telcam's base while the Unggoy are sleeping. When a Phantom spots them and fires, G059 is forced to smash through a glass roof while the Sangheili make their plans. 'Telcam is protected by two Sangheili armed with energy swords, though G059 quickly tricks them into killing each other. 'Telcam tries to kill G059 with his carbine, but a bubble shield is thrown at him, preventing them from hitting the Spartan. G059 runs across the room, through the shield and kicks 'Telcam. 'Telcam is not fazed, and succeeds in grabbing G059 and throwing them away. When 'Telcam takes out his own energy sword, his arm is broken. After a brief melee, G059 succeeds in forcing him down, where he is shot in the head. With the remnant leader dead, G059 is picked up by the ONI prowler and heads out on another mission.