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Papa John

Papa John

8/8/2010 3:39:05 AM
The wait is over. The sequel to [url=http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=46612176&postRepeater1-p=1][i]Dig In: The Jericho VII Conflict[/i][/url], two years in the making, is here. If you have not read [i]Dig In[/i] yet, I suggest doing so before reading [i]Entrenched[/i]. In any case, I have made this story accesible to new readers. [i]Entrenched[/i] is the story of a few Marines trying to survive a war, battle by battle. It's a gritty, human, and mature story. This will be my last fan fiction story and I hope to go out with a bang, so be prepared for lots of action. [quote][i]Dear Reader[/i], I began writing fan fiction stories back on the Halo 2 forum in the first days of Halo fan fiction six years ago. After a long hiatus, I started writing [url=http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=46612176&postRepeater1-p=1][i]Dig In: The Jericho VII Conflict[/i][/url] four years ago. I finished the first four chapters and entered a contest in which I came second place on a now defunct Halo website. With Halo 2 having passed and Halo 3 far on the horizon, I stopped. Two years ago I revisited [i]Dig In[/i] and finished it by adding another six chapters. I released the story on the forum and in private groups to praise and positive response. Now, having just released the [url=http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=46612176&postRepeater1-p=1]final edition of [i]Dig In[/i][/url], I present to you the long-awaited and often delayed sequel. This will be my last work. I would like to thank all of my readers over the past six years. Thank you for reading my stories and for always bringing your enthusiasm. I will always remember my readers, whether it be your [url=http://www.bungie.net/Online/Halo3UserContentDetails.aspx?h3fileid=32743215] maps[/url], machinima projects, or comments. Thank you and I hope you have enjoyed following the characters I have made for you. I owe a lot to [url=http://halo.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page]Halopedia[/url] and [url=http://halo.bungie.org/]Halo.Bungie.Org[/url] for their great resources. That being said, I still couldn't have done it without the support of the members of [url=http://www.bungie.net/fanclub/mjolnirbattletactics/Group/GroupHome.aspx]Mjolnir Battle Tactics[/url], and the members of the early fan fiction community who pushed me to keep writing. I'd also like to tip my hat to the [url=http://www.bungie.net/fanclub/361824/Group/GroupHome.aspx] Writers Corner[/url] for providing an easy-going place to discuss and share writing. I hope you all enjoy this story. It will take you places you never expected. It will take you through the thick and thin and through highs and lows. This is the story I've always wanted to tell. Enjoy, [i] Papa John [/i][/quote] [quote] [b][i]Entrenched[/i][/b] [i]July 31, 2010. Written by Papa John.[/i][/quote] [b][u]Table of Contents:[/u][/b] [u][i]2543[/i][/u] [b]Part One: Into the Deep[/b] [i]Chapter I: "Bird of Prey"[/i] [i]Chapter II: "The House That Funk Built" [/i] [quote][/quote] I'm going to try to stick to a biweekly chapter release schedule in the group [url=http://www.bungie.net/fanclub/mjolnirbattletactics/Group/GroupHome.aspx]Mjolnir Battle Tactics[/url] with everyone else getting each new chapter a week later. They'll be getting each chapter first in recognition of their long support of my works. Feel free to discuss the story throughout this thread, I appreciate all of your feedback and support. [i] Papa John [/i] [Edited on 08.15.2010 1:27 PM PDT]

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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    10/4/2010 6:43:56 PM Permalink
    Will do. Sorry it's been such a pause since Chapter 3. I've been beyond busy these last few weeks. Hopefully I can get back into the rhythm soon enough. [i] Papa John [/i]
  • Thunderbolt101

    Thunderbolt101

    9/17/2010 11:21:26 PM Permalink
    I finally got a chance to read everything. Brings back memories of New Mombasa when Papa John and Sir Brilliant wrote fanfiction all the time. I enjoyed it. Let me know if you do anymore, Papa John.
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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/22/2010 3:50:19 PM Permalink
    Chapter three's a ways off. I had planned for a release here next weekend and today in MBT, but I'm preparing to move into a new place so it'll have to go on a hold for a little while yet. I'll keep you posted, [i] Papa John [/i]
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  • Tony _the_sniper
  • Johnny Cage E5
  • Cocoa44720
  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/15/2010 8:58:23 PM Permalink
    The ring's cloudless blue sky became dotted with dark Pelican dropships, eclipsing the bright lemon sun. The majority of the Jackal ships sat in stasis over a single large island in the distance, a couple flew in a patrol. The Pelicans descended into this sunny section of the ring. The dropships lined up as though in a charge, flying forward and down towards the watery surface with Longswords blaring by overtop. They rode like the valkyries, surrounded by a vibrant blue sky and set against a deep clear sea below. From the upper atmosphere fell one of the pirate craft, floating dangerously into the sky above the attacking human formation. Its nose lit up hungrily as, along the lateral lines of the ship, plasma exploded out in directed streams down onto the Pelicans below. The hooked craft cast an enormous shadow over the smaller Pelicans and Longswords as it unloaded plasma bolts and slicing laser rounds below. The Jackal ship continued to dive down at the human convoy, aiming for an explosive interception. The craft's solid cobalt surface glistened like a thousand diamonds, refracting and reflecting individual rays of light in a piercing rainbow. Below, a Longsword blew apart wondrously as a fresh salvo of plasma seared through its engine core. Tom's nails dug deeper into the straps of his seat. His hands seized up and he found himself breathing faster and faster. Above another explosion sounded. Static boomed through the troop bay, slamming off the walls and through Tom's head. His eyes grew wide with the pain and his jaw grew slack. He looked around. Those who had been standing now clutched madly at whatever they could. An impact sounded along the dropship's hull. The Pelicans swayed back and forth, trying to lose the ravenous Jackal craft's trace. It was closing though, moving in to intercept the smaller ships as they sped hopefully towards the large island that began to materialize in front of them. Higher up, the Longswords were regrouping. Four had broken off and wheeled up into the sky in an attempt to regain an advantage over the rapidly descending pirate. "Pelican down, Pelican--" roared the COM speaker in the troop bay as the dropship rattled about. Tom's stomach dropped. His gut began to twist into cold sinewy knots and, more than anything, he craved water. On his shoulder he felt a firm hand grasp and pull him back from the edge of his seat. The hand was reassuring, drawing him away from the dark thoughts that cornered his mind. "She'll be fine, Tom. Stay sharp," said Graves calmly. He was right. They were all soldiers. Kate would be fine. If anything, she had had more luck than he so far in this war. He had almost died twice on Jericho VII. She had left almost without a scratch. To be a Marine--just to be human--and survive in this war required a lot of luck and a little faith. He pulled himself together. Now, he just wanted to get his boots on the ground. The Longsword squadron reached the height of its arc, looping around upside down through the endless blue sky. They formed up in a diamond, with their slanted noses pointed directly at the diving Jackal craft. Below it, another Pelican exploded in a shower of red hot embers. The fighters began their descent, accelerating rapidly towards the pirate's stern. The Jackal craft lined up another Pelican and sliced it across its oblong hull with a flash of a laser. The Pelican floundered for a second, suspended on the draft of its passing comrades. Flames shot out of its fuel conduits, flaring up and out of the vents on its wings and bottom. It fell limply into the sea below. The pirate craft was within a hundred metres of a crashing interception, preparing to crush the Pelicans in a massive collision. It keyed on the only remaining Longsword attached to the convoy. Streams of streaking aquamarine plasma flew through the air towards the obedient fighter. The ship was devoured. Plasma tore through its hull, leaving an empty hole in its midsection. Seconds later, it sporadically blew apart like an untied balloon let loose through the sky. The Jackal craft roared forward and down into the cluster of Pelicans. As it slammed into the formation with its angular nose, missiles impacted thunderously at its stern. The Pelicans skirted away to the sides, their thrusters hurriedly pushing every cubic centimetre of air away that they could. The Longsword squadron fell in directly at the craft's stern. A series of quick missile strikes rippled off the pirate's shields like bullets against a concrete wall. Some found home though, propelling the Jackal craft through the formation and down further towards the ocean surface. A larger salvo crunched through the faltering shields and slammed into exposed metal. The rounds boomed sharply all around, ravaging the craft's stern and muscling it into a terminal dive. The squadron pulled off as the larger Jackal craft crashed down into the ocean, sending up huge geysers and causing a wild ripple along the surface in the distance. Its bow sank immediately as the rest of the craft was first engulfed in flame and then swiftly extinguished. White hot armour plating flew up a few metres before falling down around the site. Reverberating fireworks evacuated from the ship's engine core and splashed up into the air. All around the defeated vessel, loosened bits of the ship floated up to the surface. With its final titanic act, its stern rose and then sank. The convoy reformed. The Pelicans pushing forward and low again with the Longswords remaining above. The island grew closer. It was wide and round with large rock formations, lush greenery, and white sand beaches. Stationed motionlessly above the island's centre were three of the Jackal ships. Clear purple gravity beams--used to deploy troops--emanated from the ships' bottoms and down to the island's inner-surface, hidden by a series cliffs that circled the island's centre. "Alright, get it together. Come out fighting and hit the bastards between the eyes," the pilot boomed over the Pelican's bay speaker. Tom grabbed his helmet and slammed it down on his head in agreement. Above, the Longswords loosed a salvo of missiles towards the stationary ships at the island's centre before pulling off to engage the single Jackal ship that had remained as a patrol. Past the island, heading away, were the final three Jackal vessels. Tom's Pelican touched down on the beach in unison with the remaining six others, hovering just over the white sand. The bay doors slid open, revealing bright fresh air. Tom hoped out first, diving low to the ground and rolling up on one knee, displacing clouds of soft sand. With his left hand he held his helmet down in the wild breeze of the Pelican's thrusters. His right hand panned the beach with his assault rifle. Nothing.
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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/15/2010 8:57:47 PM Permalink
    As the distance closed between the Longswords ahead of the cruiser and the alien blockade, the fighters pulled off in a quick and synchronized movement. Each let fly with their single nuclear warhead, aimed at the clusters of ships ahead. The fighters, spent, returned quickly to the hangar of the devastated cruiser. The [i]Everest[/i] floated like a ghost into close range of the armada that awaited, deflecting plasma rounds with its already-seared front plating. Off the bow, the last act of the interceptors met with devastating results. The warheads exploded in a nuclear blast that ravaged the remaining clusters of ships. The devastated craft tore at each other over the calm aquamarine of the ring's surface below. Weakened shields had failed immediately to the overwhelming inferno and now sections of deck, bow, stern, and cannon smashed about amongst the Jackal ships. The [i]Everest[/i] let fly with a final salvo of missiles, its armaments expended. Then, like an exhausted boxer having gone the distance, it threw up another desperation punch from its only working MAC gun. The slug sliced through another Jackal ship and sent it ping-ponging into an unfortunate comrade. The scene disintegrated in a flash. Where the overwhelming number of hooked craft had stood their ground, little remained but shreds and broken cobalt shells. The hollow carcasses of the gutted craft were strewn about in a scrap yard above the bright ring below and moved with a slow ease towards the gravity well of the insatiable gas giant. As though with a relieved sigh, the skeleton of the [i]Everest[/i] floated emptily into synch with the slow rotation of the ring below. The broken warship lumped into place, heaving a haggard last breath and leaving an ominous shadow over the ring's clear surface. Its single cannon panned knowingly over the surface. There the [i]Everest[/i] would remain, paralyzed like a stone watchman. [b]***[/b] Tom shrugged as he strapped into a rough leather chair at the front of the troop bay of a Pelican dropship. The door slid shut to his left. He cracked his neck towards the door and then to the right, his spine tingled in a moment of relaxation. Tom checked the grip on the stock of his MA5B assault rifle and, satisfied with his standard issue, closed his eyes. They would be descending down to the ring's surface. Scans showed favourable conditions: temperate and breathable. The surface, however, was completely covered by ocean. A warm salt-water ocean spread in a wide and vast aqua ribbon around the ring's inside. Speckled throughout the ring's huge sea were miniscule islands, or perhaps installations. Recon teams would be descending to investigate the islands--particularly those that interested the remaining Jackal pirates. The floor under Tom's feet buckled as the dropship disengaged and hovered over the polished hangar bay deck. All around, another nine of the ships lifted off. The steely grey of the oblong Pelican's titanium casing shone under bright florescent lights. In front, the hangar bay doors crunched open to the sight of a Longsword flyby outside. The procession of dropships, snub-nosed and with stunted wings, hovered up and out into the darkness. The Pelican descended towards the ring's surface, past the menacing eclipse of the cruiser and down into the sun's bright blue reflection from the ring. Tom looked around the sweaty metallic troop bay. It smelled industrial, freshly cleaned and then loaded up with warm bodies and canned; the image of sardines made Tom smirk. He surveyed his new squad with mild interest. They were young and fresh, but they'd been trained. Inwardly, he hoped Kate--on another drop--had better luck with her squad. Besides Graves, the other three in his recon team had probably never been in combat. The [i]Everest[/i] had been popped full of holes, its decks gashed and mangled and the crew ravaged. Except for the bridge crew and the gun team, Tom figured everything that was left had been packed into the dropships to take the fight to the surface. Cole had made it clear to them that the [i]Everest[/i] was finished. What remained of the Marines, possibly a hundred, and armed boat crew had been instructed to investigate the ring and engage the enemy. With one main gun still online, the pirates wouldn't be making any kind of escape. The Jackals were interested in the ring, no doubt. They'd sacrificed countless numbers of their comrades to try to keep the [i]Everest[/i] off it. That meant it was valuable and that would be enough for Cole. Control of this ring--whatever it was--was the objective. Secondary to that would be the capture of one of the Jackal vessels. While the water looked inviting, Tom knew that no one had plans to vacation here forever. The Pelican hopped a little and, in unison, so too did its passengers. They had entered the ring's atmosphere. Tom's forehead beaded sweat lightly down to his brow. His teeth clamped together firmly. Wiping away the sweat, he fixed his eyes on the three ahead of him. He took a glance at Graves, in the seat to his right, who nodded knowingly back. Down towards the front of the bay, closer to the cockpit, sat more Marines while a few naval officers stood armed uncomfortably with an assortment of pistols and assault rifles. "This is it! Finally some action," said the female in the middle of the three enthusiastically. "Just take our lead and keep sharp," Graves replied, addressing the new squad. Pvt. Suarez had been the one to pipe up. Tom guessed she had to be only months out of basic. Full of confidence and attitude, she had a squared jaw and tanned Hispanic features. To her left was Pvt. Dubois--an altogether normal Marine with pale skin and close-cut black hair. To the right of Suarez sat Pvt. Carter quietly. Like the other two he was young, probably only twenty. He was well-built with dark chocolate features and a neck that bulged slightly as his jaw clenched under the atmospheric pressure. "I'll be ready sir," Carter stated. He flashed a wide pearlescent smile and tapped his helmet with a closed fist. The speaker in the troop bay buzzed with static as a woman with a southern drawl yelled "Hang on; it's going to get ugly!" Tom looked at Graves wisely. It was getting unbearably warm under his green flak jacket and solid brown aluminum chest plate. His socks were moist in his thick leather boots and his olive fatigues stuck to his legs. He breathed a sigh as the Pelican bumped out of the atmosphere. In unison with Graves, he took off his helmet and slid it under himself. Sitting on his helmet Tom clasped the seat's two shoulder straps with purpose and dug in. The three young Marines looked quizzically at Graves and then Tom; the two now sat perched firmly on their helmets. Carter followed suit, sliding his helmet under himself nervously. Dubois simply tapped his helmet unknowingly, trying to put on an air of comprehension.
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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/15/2010 8:56:57 PM Permalink
    [b][u]Chapter II: "The House That Funk Built"[/u][/b] [b]1600 Hours--April 19, 2543 (Military Calendar)\ Sargasso System, Aboard UNSC [i]Everest[/i] Orbiting Maremma[/b] With ravishing strides, the [i]Everest[/i] pushed forward into battle against the smaller Jackal vessels. Its rivets and bolts creaked bitterly under the stress as the massive cruiser willed itself into the fray. The engulfing shadow around the enormous ring lit up under the explosive impact of the [i]Everest[/i]'s missile rounds colliding with the clumps of ships that had stopped to fight. Some of the Jackal vessels rested dutifully over the ring's inner-atmosphere, taking the assault head-on. The missiles flared up across the dozen ships that held fast, absorbed initially by their shielding. Circling the Everest in quick turns was another half dozen of the hook-shaped craft, cutting and carving at the gigantic warship like a turkey with their boiling plasma cannons. From afar, the clusters of ships peppered the cruiser's hull with flashes of steaming white lasers. Scraps of titanium plating dislodged along the cruiser's port and starboard, clanking quietly off into space. In among the pirate craft and the broken shards of the beaten cruiser flew squadrons of Longsword fighters, desperately chasing off the larger Jackal birds that struck in hit-and-run attacks. Flashes of searing blue plasma, of fiery red explosions, and of dancing white sparks escaping from the exposed conduits of the [i]Everest[/i] dotted the scene in a silent promenade. In the distance, hovering over the mysterious ring, one of the Jackal ships exploded in a molten fury at its stern. Frantically dropping towards the ring below, the ship careened into another of the craft. In a flurry, stray laser beams from the desperate vessel washed over the hull of the second ship and pierced through its decks at close range. The first craft exploded mutely as the second tumbled, gutted, into the atmosphere of the ring and was torn to pieces. A second cluster of Jackal ships went alight as another vessel was engulfed by the [i]Everest[/i]'s missile barrage. Explosions swarmed over the ship's hull and ripped wildly at the cobalt plating of the curved vessel. It blew apart in a mesmerizing show of ignited magenta engine coolant. The battle froze for an instant as the [i]Everest[/i] shook horrendously. A downed Longsword flew at full pace into the cruiser's starboard, snapping through loosened supports and punching through deck plating. The fiery Longsword rolled into a blaze and went out with a blast that scratched furiously through the already exposed decks of the crippled heavy cruiser. The result left an enormous gaping hole in the ship's midsection. Oxygen from the exposed decks was devoured hungrily by the vacuum as corpses, ordinance, and metal supports were sucked out into space. [b]***[/b] Tom gasped for air as he fell to the ground with a thump, the airlock slamming convincingly just metres behind him. He coughed madly, cursing inwardly at his luck. Just moments ago he had been standing where now there was only space. The rotation of red warning lights in the shadowed hall and a constant deep siren recovered his senses. He walked as though on a tightrope, balancing slowly down the hallway as the ship grated lamely below him. The deck could give at any moment. Tom stuck to the wall, feeling his way towards a red service ladder some twenty metres away. Creeping along, a roof tile from above crashed down beside him in a resonating act as the ship jumped precariously under another pinpoint impact. Tom hopped and swiftly ran to the hatch. At least five men had been behind him when the deck had disappeared in a flash and the airlock had slammed down. Their deaths were too horrible to be imagined. Tom's throat tightened at the mere thought of the smothering suffocation of space. He furrowed his brow and focused his strength on turning the handle of the emergency hatch. The red hatch clanked open and he slid inside, closing it behind him. He began to climb gingerly down the ladder towards the relative safety of the hangar bay again. [b]***[/b] The [i]Everest[/i] slammed through an unlucky Jackal ship, crushing the smaller vessel angrily. All around, Jackal ships and Longswords were alight in a dizzying movement. At the cost of more than half of the Longsword contingent, only a few Jackal ships remained. They darted around the mammoth cruiser like scavengers around a great white shark. The concentrated firepower of multiple fighters had overcome the larger Jackal ships' shielding, but their pinpoint plasma cannons made short work of the quick interceptors when struck. The [i]Everest[/i] was now closing in on the ring, passing its near side and entering the space inside of the awe-inspiring creation. Grouped over the far side of the ring were more of the Jackal ships, the earlier clusters now bolstered by another half-score of the ships. The aliens were desperate to stop the wrecking ball that now squared them down. Local gun turrets on the functioning levels of the [i]Everest[/i] punctured the faltering shields of the remaining two pirate craft that buzzed in tight formation around the cruiser's fractured hull. Quick missile strikes eliminated the pests as the rag-tag Longsword squadrons came to bear in front of the injured giant. The half-dozen remaining Longswords grouped for a final assault at the blockade set up over the ring's atmosphere. As the sleek black fighters moved slowly into a staggered attacking formation, the UNSC [i]Everest[/i] fired a thunderous magnetic round that shook from its bowels and out at its nose from the first of its twin Magnetic Accelerator Cannons. The ship's main weapons had come online at the cost of the final engine. The magnetic slug pulsed through space in a flash and tore apart three of the Jackal ships that had been bunched together. It had gutted the first and continued through two more, as the opened craft fell away harmlessly from the alien blockade. The cruiser's second MAC gun began to light up at the stern, its magnetic coils heating into a blistering frenzy. The gun recoiled deeply but no shot fired. It had malfunctioned. Within seconds the cannon imploded and melted away in a blaze of iridescent colour, consumed by its own magnetic round. Vivid blues mixed with a wild orange as the [i]Everest[/i] cracked at its rear. The cannon shattered off the bottom of the cruiser dragging with it an entire section of the ship's stern and blasting another deep gap completely through the hollowed vessel.
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  • The_Odd Hunter
  • CaptKrunch

    CaptKrunch

    8/10/2010 5:42:54 PM Permalink
    [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] Papa John Haha, stay on topic please. I've been working on Chapter Three and I think many of you might recognize some shades of a classic Halo level throughout. We're still weeks away from that chapter, but I'll keep you posted. [i] Papa John [/i] [/quote] Sorry Papa. :(. But if I were to guess, "some shades of a classic Halo level" would be Halo. Good read so far though. [Edited on 08.10.2010 12:03 PM PDT]
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  • Raptor
  • Cocoa44720

    Cocoa44720

    8/10/2010 12:39:28 AM Permalink
    Good as always PJ. do i need to make another map on reach like i did for jericho 7 on standoff? also new chappy looks good. I have some things im expecting to come into play later since its a halo ring
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  • Cheeky Hamster

    Cheeky Hamster

    8/9/2010 10:54:12 PM Permalink
    haven't read it all yet as I need sleep (got a driving lesson tomorrow) but it's awesome so far and I cannot wait to read on. :D Edit: okay I read it anyway, that was sweet. 'Spoiler' I love the fact that they have found a Halo ring. [Edited on 08.09.2010 3:13 PM PDT]
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  • LASEM

    LASEM

    8/9/2010 10:36:37 PM Permalink
    [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] Halo biggest fan Wow truly great Papa![/quote]x2, I plan to read the dig in! [Edited on 08.09.2010 2:37 PM PDT]
  • Biwald
  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/9/2010 6:58:39 PM Permalink
    Haha, stay on topic please. I've been working on Chapter Three and I think many of you might recognize some shades of a classic Halo level throughout. We're still weeks away from that chapter, but I'll keep you posted. [i] Papa John [/i] [Edited on 08.09.2010 10:59 AM PDT]
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  • CaptKrunch

    CaptKrunch

    8/8/2010 11:31:04 PM Permalink
    [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] Vishra Awesome as always Papa. Can't wait to get Chapter 2 today, glad we get them a chapter ahead in MBT.[/quote] Wow, trying to advertise MBT by saying we get Entrenched earlier Vishra, shame on you. ;)
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  • Vishra

    Vishra

    8/8/2010 8:28:33 PM Permalink
    Awesome as always Papa. Can't wait to get Chapter 2 today, glad we get them a chapter ahead in MBT. [Edited on 08.08.2010 12:28 PM PDT]
  • dumdum

    dumdum

    8/8/2010 3:49:08 AM Permalink
    You are a fantastic writer. Ive never read any of your work but I plan to now. I love the story so far, it is very inspiring to me. Great job, I have no advice. Il be coming back to check for new chapters.
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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/8/2010 3:42:16 AM Permalink
    Surrounding the portside had to be nearly another score of the vessels. A cry from a faraway corner of the bay confirmed that the case was the same to the starboard. They were in the middle of some kind of flotilla. "I've seen ships like these before," a pilot spoke next to Tom. "They look like fishhooks. They're Jackals. Not the Covenant types though, they're [i]pirates[/i] apparently." Tom suppressed the humorous image of a rum-swigging swashbuckling alien Jackal, a five-foot birdlike hominid, and concentrated on the growing glow of the calm bright flash he had noted before. The ships around the [i]Everest[/i] were simultaneously engulfed in a sudden and powerful white burst of static. It was a slipspace rupture. They were jumping. The [i]Everest[/i] momentarily buckled before disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. The alien flotilla around it had created an enormous rupture in space, squeezing the larger cruiser alongside them through the hole that they had just created in the fabric of space-time. "We must have interrupted their jump. Great timing," the pilot snorted. He left towards a docked dropship. A calm female voice spoke softly, but with determination, over the COM in the hangar. It was the shipboard artificial intelligence. "Longsword pilots prepare to deploy upon re-entry and engage the Kig-Yar vessels." Cole's voice buzzed over the soft-spoken female in a blast of static: "You're our only shot at these guys. They won't be packing anything heavy but neither are we." [i]Kig-Yar[/i], or Jackals as the Marines coined them. The pilot had been correct in his observation. Jackals were nasty creatures, but certainly not the worst of the main Covenant races. Tom sighed with relief, these Jackals were rogue too; that would mean no back-up from any Covenant warships or armies. Tom slipped to the front of the dwindling crowd beside the viewport. It wouldn't be long now. The aliens could jump through slipspace nearly instantaneously--it was part of the reason the Covenant were winning the war. The hangar bay became a hub of activity as pilots loaded onto their attack craft--Longsword interceptors. Built like an oversized surface bomber, a Longsword packed missiles and nuclear warheads in its sleek black frame. They were primarily used against smaller Covenant craft in dogfights but would, perhaps, be able to take down a few of the Jackal ships. The [i]Everest [/i]tumbled out of slipspace well behind the alien flotilla that moved with purpose off towards the dark side of a large royal blue gas giant. The Everest's remaining engine turbine pumped steadily at irregular intervals, blasting the crippled giant slowly forward in a blind chase of the smaller alien ships. Tom held his helmet firmly to his head as he slid through the closing hangar doors into a darkened access corridor. Behind him the hangar exploded with the roar of engines. The hangar's gate crashed open and out flew the fighters noiselessly into space. Tom followed the bright light from a chamber across the hallway. There, he found Graves in one of the ship's many armouries. Graves toyed lightly with a pistol, waving it in his hand from side to side. A crowd had built up around the armoury's viewscreen panel. Everyone wanted to see the action. Someone yelled "Mop 'em up!" and the crowd cheered in response. On the screen, the Longswords took off at a blistering pace after the alien ships. Tom figured they didn't want to risk letting them regroup. The [i]Everest[/i] followed the scene steadily in tow. The Jackal flotilla passed into the shadow of the giant planet and disappeared with the Longswords closely behind. Tom listened intently as the COM buzzed with news from the engagement ahead. They'd taken out one, now two, of the stragglers. The Longswords were continuing pursuit to the planet's dark side. Reports of kills continued momentarily--three more ships destroyed. The fifteen or so fighters in the Longsword contingent were concentrating fire on the retreating ships. It would help level the playing field in any engagement the [i]Everest[/i] would have to make as it rounded the planet. Tom watched as the cruiser limped into orbit and slung clumsily around the planet's circumference. The COM had grown eerily quiet and Tom felt his stomach beginning to drop off into space behind him. He fixed his eyes on the viewscreen and squinted to make out the scene. "Jesus, what is that?" Graves coughed in awe. Tom's jaw grew slack as the [i]Everest[/i] slung around the planet into darkness. The Jackal flotilla had moved deep into the shadow of the planet and the Longswords had pulled off the pursuit. The fighters now lay floating weakly in front of the cruiser as it too began to brake. There in the gas giant's shadow, illuminated only by light reflected from its solid aquamarine interior, was a giant metallic ring suspended in orbit.
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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/8/2010 3:41:26 AM Permalink
    Suddenly the world around Tom shook with such aggravation and division that it felt as though he was being shredded in two, atom by atom. The anti-gravity in the corridor failed instantly and Tom lost Kate's grip, smashing frantically about as bulkhead became deck and deck became bulkhead. His world became tangled dangerously with limbs and bodies as he and the others scrambled to gain some sense of control. The scene was illuminated by an impossibly bright explosion of hot white light through the viewport followed almost instantaneously by a cooler pearlescent white that brought Tom to a sudden stop in mid-air and left him floating harmlessly. Tom's head ached uncontrollably and buzzed of radio-washed static. His mind was a blank television grey as he squinted his eyes to clear his blurred surroundings. The dry lump in his throat had now given way to a volcanic eruption. Tom coughed out as he continued to float limply, searching fruitlessly for the strength to bring himself about. "We're alive!" Graves roared from somewhere around him. The voice was easily recognizable to him, but it was loud. Too loud. The words bounced around the walls of his mind like a loose racquetball. He gritted his teeth and growled out angrily. The murky shadows in his mind eventually gave out to an opaque clarity. His eyes adjusted to the white blare of the viewport and the darkness of the corridor. He pulled himself along the wall, exerting each muscle almost individually, as he waded towards the light. [i]Survival always hurt[/i]. A strange and consuming curiosity overtook his mild thoughts. It was pointed and questioning, probing the parts of his brain that still rang and shook with confusion. He couldn't stand to keep his jaw clenched; he was overwhelmed with a burrowing desire for which he could not answer. He blurted out: "How?" "Slipspace mate. We jumped out." Graves smiled between flinches, padding at a painful gash in his head. The maroon ooze of blood stained his greyed hair as, floating, he dabbled with a white cloth to mop up. The hungry question resolved itself and, satiated, Tom's mind fell to a sleepy ease. He laughed. They'd jumped right out of the battle, impossibly out of the planet's gravity well, and were now on their way. If the Admiral didn't deserve a statue before, he sure as hell did now. "Slipspace," Tom said aloud, gazing out at the blank glow of the viewport. The word had a nice ring to it. [b]***[/b] Tom rubbed his eyes and yawned sharply as the final ounce of the day's excitement left him. He was back, back to duty and back to living. Countless hours had ticked by slowly as he moved about the ship performing status reports and checking up with the others aboard. The Marine detachment had been relatively small for a ship of this size, but the nature of such a naval battle had not necessitated a large complement. Tom sighed as the reports and numbers played over and over again in his head. He stepped inside a service elevator and, under the red glare of a warning light, punched in for the crew deck. The [i]Everest[/i] had taken a beating well beyond her grade. When Tom and the others had come aboard during a retro-fit, he had heard that the Admiral requested some upgrades to the armour plating; it had certainly paid off. The elevator reached its stop along one of the top decks. Tom exited and was greeted by Kate Williams. Her soft russet hair was done up in a tight bow at the back and her shapely lips curved under her button nose in a warm smile. She was a tough woman, eight years younger than he but more mature than he ever professed to be. As he aged less gracefully, she continued to look younger. On Jericho, she had seemed much older to Tom. She had carried herself well and with strength even when he hadn't, but she too had been hardened by the events of Jericho VII and the death of the squad mates she had grown to know and trust. Perched on the very edge of darkness, she and Tom shared a moment of fragility on a night where the end had seemed imminent. After Jericho, they married while on leave. The prairie town he had once grown up in, with its warm breezes and golden autumn leaves seemed so far away. Everything about that home was distant, like a ship sailing over the horizon and continuing ever out of reach. She had to be his home now. "How bad was it?" She asked him, searching his face. "Bad. You?" "I think we're lucky to be in one piece, we blew up an entire planet at close range," she replied. Tom had heard. Cole had fired a hundred nuclear warheads into the gas giant, destabilizing the planet and causing a massive explosion that engulfed the entire Covenant fleet all while the [i]Everest[/i] slipped out to safety in the first in-atmosphere slipspace jump anyone had ever heard of. It had been genius. "Straighten up soldiers!" Graves bellowed heartily, exiting the elevator behind them with O'Brian in tow. He slapped Tom's shoulder and motioned down the corridor. "Come on; let's see what the old man has to say." Tom could feel his temperature rise and sweat build under his olive green flak jacket as they entered the muggy and crowded conference room. He took off his matching green helmet and rubbed his moist shaven hair. At the front, beyond the some two hundred Marines, stood a large viewscreen with the tired but ever-inspiring image of Preston Cole. Cole was into his seventies and he made no effort to hide his age. He had short and completely greyed hair, small freckles popping at the top of his forehead, and sleepless baggy eyes. His face looked gaunt and yet he stood with no arch. He stood firm, his body still strong and full, looking out with a persistent and intense glare as he surveyed his crew and Marines on multiple decks. Tom had no doubt that Cole could hold his own against any of the Marines present. "I'm going to cut through the crap immediately," Cole began. "It's bad. We took out nearly three hundred of their top-of-the-line ships and by all accounts we should be dead. I'm sure we'll get a painting in some ONI office someday." A few Marines snickered ahead of Tom. Cole paused and clenched his jaw slightly. His face seemed to tense. He continued slowly: "What concerns us now is what comes next. We've lost decks 6 through 10 to exposure and two engine rooms to a coolant leak. We've lost both of our main cannons and our slipspace drive got fried by the EMP bursts our little nuclear light show created. We're in bad shape, but we're on course for a safe system where we can reassess and then come to certain... decisions. Assume your stations, battle-ready status. We'll be exiting shortly." "That was kind of ominous," Kate said conclusively. "Let's get down to the hangars," replied Graves, looking to each of the other three. The Admiral had something in mind, that much Tom figured. What it was, though, was anyone's guess. At least it looked like they'd be safe for awhile yet and he could finally rest. They'd been on alert for what must have been almost an entire day. [b]***[/b] The UNSC [i]Everest[/i] crashed silently out of slipspace into the dark void of space. The mammoth cruiser floated effortlessly, pulsing its only working booster in a giant nacreous cloud at its stern. The ship had gaping holes that revealed the scars of not just a single battle but an entire war. Shredded dark grey titanium plating was twisted and seared, protruding at unnatural angles along the sides of the heavy vessel. Sparks shot erratically from exposed wiring and conduits as a small collision occurred to the bow. Tom felt the hangar bay floor shake slightly under his feet and from the corner of his eye he saw a cool white flash in the hangar's large viewport. The [i]Everest[/i] had collided with a smaller stationary vessel. The cobalt blue ship was no longer than a UNSC prowler. It had a sharp bow and rounded stern like half a tear-drop, only its bottom had been carved out to form a parabolic midsection that gave the ship a distinct hook image. The crunching collision had been like a tank hitting a bicycle. The smaller ship split in two immediately, severed down the middle of its hooked frame by the relative force with which the heavy metallic cruiser had struck it. "Well, this is a surprise," Graves snorted as Tom approached the hangar's viewport alongside the ship's portside.
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  • Papa John

    Papa John

    8/8/2010 3:40:31 AM Permalink
    [quote][b][i]Entrenched[/b][/i] [i]by Papa John[/i][/quote] [b][i]2543[/b][/i] [i]Part One: Into the Deep[/i] [b][u]Chapter I: "Bird of Prey"[/u][/b] [b]1950 Hours--April 18, 2543 (Military Calendar)\ Psi Serpentis System, Aboard UNSC [i]Everest[/i] Orbiting Viperidae[/b] The stale grey deck of the [i]Everest[/i] roared angrily from beneath his feet as Corporal Tom Waters grappled a bulkhead, balancing in a precarious dance. The deck shuddered as another impact thundered throughout the super heavy-cruiser's many decks. The bulkhead let out a deep and dull groan. With that, Tom gave up and slid down to the floor cursing under his breath. Tom was a soldier and, most of all, Tom was a survivor. An average man with a clean regulation cut of black hair that now showed the grey signs of his some thirty-eight years, the Corporal had been through everything and then some. He had been one of the lucky few to survive the attack on Jericho VII eight years ago. He'd seen the worst of the alien Covenant and scraped through, but he hated the idea of naval combat. He hated the helpless feeling it brought. Here, in a tin can drifting dangerously on the edge of a gas giant's gravity well, Tom felt no security. As Tom curiously keyed the COM link in his helmet, three Marines slid around the corner. Tom closed the link, threw off his clamshell helmet, and eyed the familiar trio. Tom hadn't been the only one to survive Jericho VII. Protecting human secrets had come at a cost, but these three had been with him since the beginning. Outnumbered a thousand to one, his squad had pulled through--mostly. They stuck together after, having built a bond that only the few who had been there could truly share. "We thought we'd lost you!" One piped jokingly at him as the three joined Tom around the bulkhead. "Not a great time to go for soda." "I figured I'd get as close to the hangars as I could, just in case," Tom replied to the man, Corporal Graves. Graves nodded back grimly, scratching his light red and grey stubble. He had seen more combat than the other three combined and showed it. Corporal Graves was a laidback soldier who could pass for a comedian. He was older than Tom and his face carried a permanent look of fatigue. On the inside, something drove him to fight that he had never revealed to Tom. Graves was Tom's right-hand man, best friend, and best man at his wedding. His wife, Private Kate Williams was one of the other three now standing around him. Alongside her stood Private James O'Brian--a nervous and slightly mousy medic who had come of age on Jericho VII. "What do you think the Admiral's up to?" O'Brian mused, adjusting his glasses. "He's moving us in closer to that gas giant; chatter says there's two hundred ships out there and they're all gunning for us," Williams replied. The deck shook violently again and continued its wild vibrations for some time. The three Marines decidedly joined Tom on the floor. "I didn't think we'd go out this way," Tom said matter-of-factly. "Seems silly now," O'Brian replied. "I just can't believe the Admiral flashed an entire fleet like that. A couple of flyboys said we already nailed almost a hundred of them, but that was before what's left of our side retreated. I guess it means that we'll get a plaque somewhere. Maybe the Admiral will get a statue. That'll be nice," Williams stated half-heartedly. As she finished, the speakers of the ship-wide COM buzzed alive from their static graves and boomed the familiar voice of Vice Admiral Preston J. Cole. "This'll be good!" O'Brian chirped. As the four sat hunched intently on the cold metallic floor, they listened like hunters onto a fresh prey. The Admiral was addressing the Covenant, the xenocidal alliance of alien races bent on Humanity's elimination. The Covenant had been at war with Humanity for nearly twenty years--and they were winning. Tom smiled as the Admiral laughed at the superior Covenant. Cole's gruff voice and the constant ebb of the gravity well that now firmly held the [i]Everest[/i] were comforting. The four looked to each other and nodded approvingly as the Admiral taunted the enemy. They were going out with a bang. "We've gotta find a viewport; I want to see the show," Graves interrupted, shooting up to his feet and jogging down the hall. The others followed in unison, running freely. The violent shakes of plasma impacts from the opposing fleet had long stopped. Tom laughed heartily and smiled--a real smile. He was running, like a child in an open field. Here, in some odd way, he was free. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, following the sound of Graves's boyish giggles down the corridor. "They can't hit us. Those bastards can't hit us here!" Graves said happily, peering out a portside viewport. Tom pulled up next to him. Ignoring the fact that he couldn't breathe, Tom let out an excited laugh. The plasma rounds from a hundred cruisers faltered and fizzled harmlessly at the edge of the gas giant's magnetosphere. The Admiral was a genius! Elation coursed through his veins and Tom felt like kissing the old man's freckled forehead. The four held each other, arms around shoulders, and watched in merriment as though they'd just won the championship of some glorious and wholly imaginary tournament. "Now for the final act," Graves said suddenly, swiftly stealing away the moment but building a delicious suspense. Tom's toes and fingers tingled in anticipation as the Admiral's voice abruptly disappeared and a tantalizing silence entered the corridor. "Looks like the Admiral hit a nerve. They're pissed off," O'Brian said as, like vultures to a fresh kill, the two hundred sleek violet Covenant warships edged closer and closer through the dark distance. Plasma lit up along the noses and through the lateral lines of the kilometre-long ships as they prepared to swoop in for the final blow. The silence became menacing. The wait became unbearable. The excitement was agonizing. Tom's stomach lay suspended firmly in his ribcage, his heart lay tucked away deeply in his throat. His fists clenched as the anticipation grew to an alarming crescendo, boiling over into a concentrated sweat on his forehead and palms. He got suddenly warm, as though ignited in the pit of his suspended stomach was a batch of hot coals. His throat grew dry and he breathed a strained and seemingly final breath. He latched out and onto Kate's hand. She squeezed intently back.
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