Battle of Asźod
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By this point in the battle for Reach, a Covenant victory was all but inevitable. The UNSC's Epsilon Eridani Fleet had been routed by the combined Covenant fleets, and the Covenant ground invasion was now reinforced by large scale naval forces in low orbit. Surviving UNSC ground forces maintained a tenuous hold on the ship-breaking yards at Asźod, the only off-planet extraction point left on the Eposz continent. UNSC convoys on the way to the shipyard in the hopes of escaping the planet were destroyed by Covenant air attacks and several Covenant cruisers were on their way to the ship-breaking yards.
After a successful mission to Gamma Station, the Halcyon-class cruiser UNSC Pillar of Autumn touched down in the shipyards for the transaction of an important package, which contained a fragment of the AI Cortana, from SPARTAN Noble Team. Near the Pillar of Autumn's landing site, surviving UNSC forces engaged innumerable Covenant ground forces that were advancing toward the Pillar of Autumn. The battle raged with unabated ferocity, but the UNSC forces were enclosed in a steadily constricting pocket despite their best efforts.
As the UNSC forces began to retreat, their land and air defenses moved to Asźod to regroup. Near the Pillar of Autumn's landing site, numerous M808 Scorpions and M12 Chaingun Warthogs assaulted a pair of Type-47B Scarabs and made their way to the Pillar of Autumn. While encircling the Scarabs, the UNSC forces had to avoid mortar fire from several Type-26 Wraiths that were also moving into Asźod from other parts of Reach. Meanwhile, a large number of UH-144 Falcons engaged Covenant Type-26 Banshees overhead.
Noble Team's arrival
By this point, NOBLE Team had been reduced to four members, with Jorge-052 and Kat-B320 having been killed in action during Operation: UPPER CUT and the Siege of New Alexandria, respectively. Jun-A266 had been ordered to defend Dr. Catherine Halsey and to escort her away from the Forerunner complex near SWORD Base to another ONI facility, CASTLE Base. Thus, by August 30, Noble Team was effectively reduced to three operational members, including its field leader, Carter-A259, as well as Emile-A239, Noble Four, and SPARTAN-B312, Noble Six. The three had escaped SWORD Base, bearing a fragment of the AI Cortana, which contained data from the Forerunner ruins beneath the Babd Catha Ice Shelf. The Pillar of Autumn, docked at the Asźod facility and awaited the team's arrival with this high value package. The Pillar of Autumn's commanding officer, Captain Jacob Keyes, deployed a number of Marines to other parts of the ship-breaking facility to stall the Covenant advance and to allow Noble Team to break through and deliver the package.
En route to the facility, the Covenant's air superiority made itself apparent to the survivors of Noble Team. Their Pelican was attacked by Covenant aircraft, and Carter, the team leader, was seriously injured by plasma fire. Realizing that the Pelican would be shot down before reaching the Pillar of Autumn, Carter ordered Emile and SPARTAN-B312 to jump from the crippled dropship while he attempted to lure the Covenant away. Emile and SPARTAN-B312 landed in Covenant-occupied territory on the main road to the shipyard.
Fighting their way to two M274R Mongooses, Emile and B312 raced to the ship-breaking yards as fast as the ATVs could travel. Covenant opposition in the area was heavy, with Scarab walkers and numerous infantry preventing the two from shooting their way through. Using speed to their advantage, they two SPARTANs streaked past the heavy opposition, jumping a collapsed highway bridge in the process and fighting their way through a Covenant outpost on foot. Progressing through a cave, the two found their progress blocked. A Scarab had detected the presence of the two SPARTANs and had stationed itself over their route. Aware that Nobles Four and Six could not proceed without outside help, and also aware that his Pelican's primary weapon could not damage the Scarab, Carter sacrificed himself, ramming the Scarab with the dropship and destroying it.
After their path was cleared, Emile and B312 were attacked by a large swarm of Yanme'e that were hunting down troopers who had wandered through the caves seeking safety. Escaping the caves, the two SPARTANs finally reached the shipbreaking yard. The area devoted to the scrapping of the aged UNSC frigate Commonwealth, one of the first UNSC vessels to be destroyed during the war, had become a battleground. Covenant forces had cut off straggling Army troopers and Marines from the Pillar of Autumn and infantry firefights had broken out across the facility. With the assistance of Emile and Noble Six, the UNSC forces cut their way through to the drydocks.
After the SPARTANs reached the rendezvous point for the transfer, a furious battle broke out between the advancing Covenant soldiers and the surviving UNSC forces. The Covenant, sensing their victory and wishing to stop the escape of the humans, deployed waves of Phantom dropships and Banshees to overwhelm the human defenses. While SPARTAN-B312 led the surviving Marines against the Covenant ground forces, Emile manned a "Onager" mass driver that had been mounted on top of the facility, using it as a makeshift anti-aircraft battery. The sheer power of the mass driver, aided by the Pillar of Autumn's point defense guns, devastated the Covenant assault waves, but the Covenant fought relentlessly, sacrificing dropships willingly to get their troops on the ground. Despite Emile's best efforts, a number of Jiralhanae-led forces fought furiously against the remaining UNSC forces. The Covenant had the advantage of numbers, but the UNSC held the high ground and the Covenant infantry assault was repulsed. With the landing zone clear, Captain Keyes personally took a Pelican to the rendezvous point, where he was met by SPARTAN-B312.
Keyes promptly took possession of the package, but the Covenant, realizing that their ground attack had failed, deployed a CCS-class battlecruiser to destroy the facility and to block the Pillar of Autumn's escape. Keyes ordered Emile to cover the ship's escape and the SPARTAN prepared to oblige. However, as Keyes boarded his Pelican and prepared to return to the Pillar of Autumn, with Noble Six in tow, the landing zone was attacked by a Phantom dropship that managed to slip through the UNSC defensive barrage. The Pelican escorting Keyes was destroyed by a barrage of plasma from the Covenant dropship, which took up position by the mass driver and dropped off a team of Sangheili Zealots to eliminate Emile and the threat of the mass driver. Emile, although caught by surprise, reacted swiftly and killed the first Zealot at point-blank range with his shotgun. Emile's victory was short-lived, as a second Zealot impaled him from behind with an energy sword. However, Emile valiantly challenged his attacker, stabbing it in the neck before they both fell to their deaths.
However, Emile's death left the mass driver unmanned, and the Pillar of Autumn was rendered vulnerable to the advancing Covenant battlecruiser. Noble Six decided to commandeer the mass driver, thus forsaking transport off-planet, to ensure the Autumn's safe passage into space. The Covenant, aware of the threat posed by the mass driver, had deployed a team of Sangheili Zealots, led by a Field Marshal, to prevent the gun from being manned; however, after a hard fight, Noble Six killed them and manned the mass driver. The battlecruiser, undeterred, or perhaps unaware of the danger of the mass driver, continued to advance on the shipyard. The Covenant warship charged its ventral energy projector, preparing to destroy the Pillar of Autumn; however, in order to fire, the ship needed to drop the shield around the weapon. Turning the cannon on the battlecruiser, SPARTAN-B312 fired a round straight into the ship's unshielded energy projector port. The slug's impact disrupted the finely tuned magnetic field controlling the energy projector and the plasma gutted the ship, sending it plummeting to the surface of Reach. The Pillar of Autumn's path was clear, and the cruiser immediately launched.
After the Pillar of Autumn's successful escape, SPARTAN-B312 was left as the last remaining human survivor in the area, which was now occupied by Covenant air and ground forces. The SPARTAN managed to hold off the Covenant forces for some time, but was ultimately overwhelmed by the invading swarms of Sangheili warriors. The UNSC Pillar of Autumn, one of the few ships to survive the Fall of Reach, would arrive at Installation 04 on September 19, pursued by a portion of the Fleet of Particular Justice, igniting the Battle of Installation 04, which would ultimately become the turning point for the UNSC to end of the war.
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