Battle over Etalan
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|Battle over Etalan|
The Battle over Etalan was an engagement in late March 2526 that took place over the former human colony of Etalan. During the battle, a small detachment of the UNSC Navy's Task Force Yama attacked and crippled a Covenant logistics fleet serving the Fleet of Inexorable Obedience, which was busy glassing the nearby world of Biko.
During Task Force Yama's previous engagement with the Covenant at Seoba on March 19, 2526, Colonel Marmon Crowther of the 21st Space Assault Battalion had become suspicious of Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto. He had seemingly stalled in providing John-117 and his fellow Spartans with air support during the battle, leading to Crowther to believe that Nyeto had it out for the young supersoldiers. When the Fleet of Inexorable Obedience arrived at Biko on March 20, Nyeto deployed Crowther's Black Daggers aboard the prowlers of Task Force Yama. Meanwhile, back on the UNSC Vanishing Point, the colonel had Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson inform the Spartans that he was deploying them to Etalan in the Igdras system where the Fleet of Inexorable's logistic fleet was stationed. The alien fleet had recently destroyed the former human colony and left the logistics fleet there where it would be secure until Biko was similarly cleansed. This mission would keep the Spartans away from Nyeto and might also help to slow the Covenant's advance in this part of human space.
On the prowl
That same day, the Spartans, Avery Johnson, and Dr. Catherine Halsey left the Kolaqoa system aboard the Vanishing Point with two prowlers serving as escort. Two days later, they dropped out of slipspace near Etalan and spent the next four days observing the logistics fleet's movements and trying to discern which vessels would be the best to target. By March 26, the Vanishing Point's analysts felt confident that four of the fleet's fifteen vessels were equipment freighters carrying spare parts and other materials that would be used to keep the Fleet of Inexorable Obedience operational in the field. By this point, the logistics fleet was seemingly ready to break from orbit over Etalan, evidenced by the fact that they had begun syncing their orbits and bringing their fusion reactors to full power.
With time running out, the Spartans enacted the plan that they had come up with over the previous few days. The Vanishing Point deployed a squadron of twenty S-14 Baselard fighters, with four Baselards at the center of the formation carrying the eight Spartans of Green and Gold Teams. Their goal was to punch through the logistics fleet's screen of Banshees and Seraphs to reach the equipment freighters. Once they got close enough to the target vessels, the Spartans would eject from their Baselards and board the freighters so that they could be destroyed from the inside with HAVOK tactical nuclear weapons. To conceal their approach, their fighters were fitted with pods of chain-linked debris that might also catch some pursuing Banshees if they were lucky. Meanwhile, three of the Vanishing Point's Baselards attracted the attention of another swarm of enemy fighters, intending to lead them past the bow of the stealth cruiser. As they passed, Blue Team and Staff Sergeant Johnson would launch from the Vanishing Point aboard the five Banshees that they had captured during their assault on the Radiant Arrow a few weeks earlier. The plan called for them to pilot the craft into the hangars of the munitions ships currently gathering gas from the atmosphere of Etalan to create plasma. They would abandon the Banshees with HAVOKs planted within the fighter crafts' cockpits, then go EV to be picked up by the nearby prowlers. In preparation for the mission, the five captured Banshees had been made to look heavily damaged, with cannon holes speckling their hulls, their canards and tails stabilizers partially missing, their identifying symbols smudged with soot and gouges, and the integrated antennas on their canopies painted with small impact craters and stress fractures. These damages would reduce any of the Covenant's suspicions of their origins and help explain why they were remaining silent when questioned. Despite their condition, each of the Banshees remained in working order and capable of hold their own in the a dogfight.
Deployment of Blue Team
As the Vanishing Point approached the designated drop-off point, Blue Team and Johnson boarded their Banshees while a remotely piloted S-14 Baselard powered up on the hangar deck ahead of them. Once they were ready, the hangar depressurized and its lighting dimmed as the other hatch opened. Five seconds before launch, a decoy flight of three Baselards streamed past the hangar aperture with a Banshee squadron on their tails. Meanwhile, the Vanishing Point cold-launched a salvo of pre-targeted M42 Archer missiles, using compressed air to push them from their launch tubes. A moment later, the remotely piloted Baselard shot out of the hangar, immediately firing its two Archer missiles at the Banshee squadron as the Vanishing Point's missiles also ignited and flew after the Banshees as well. The alien fighters panicked and scattered, giving the three manned Baselards a chance to escape.
John gave Blue Team the order to launch and their five Banshees fell in behind the other Banshee squadron while the Vanishing Point evacuated its waste holds, dumping refuse intended to look like debris from destroyed fighters. Blue Team's five Banshees fired on the remote-controlled Baselard until it self-destructed into a large fireball intended to distract the Covenant forces as the Vanishing Point slipped away. Sangheili voices filled Blue Team's cockpits, no doubt questioning where they came from. When no one responded, a trio of Banshees broke from the main squadron to investigate the new arrivals visually. After about a minute of inspection followed by John wiggling his Banshee to feign attempted communication, the lead Banshee wiggled back and led them back into the main squadron which was regrouping with the rest of the logistics fleet.
By this time, twelve of the orignal twenty-strong Baselard contingent remained. John watched on as two of the Baselards carrying members of Gold or Green Team exploded, as planned. Shortly after this, two more detonated, meaning that all eight Spartans of those teams had successfully gone EV and were approaching the targeted equipment freighters. Moments later, the freighters began exploding while the Covenant fighters and battlenet devolved into panic. The fourth and final nuclear explosion was so close to the Banshee squadron that they were all disabled by the electromagnetic pulse—both the aliens' and Blue Team's. Since the craft escorting them no longer had the capability to intercept any transmissions, Fred-104 exclaimed his disgust at the Banshees' lack of radiation shielding over TEAMCOM. After some discussion, it was decided that Blue Team would go EV from their derelict Banshees and intercept the three bladder ships as they passed by. John-117 would board the first vessel, Kelly-087 the second, and Fred-104 the third while Linda-058 and Johnson held back to cover them with their M99 Stanchions. John ordered Linda and Johnson to focus on protecting Kelly and Fred, but they disagreed, with Linda ignoring John's order and instructing Johnson to cover him. As they left the squadron of adrift Banshees behind, Johnson's HAVOK tactical nuclear weapon—which he had left aboard his Banshee—detonated, killing any potential witnesses aboard the other craft and covering their approach.
Meanwhile, the Vanishing Point's two escort prowlers arrived to recover Gold and Green Teams. Assuming the two vessels were preparing another attack run on the logistics fleet, the Covenant attacked the two prowlers and the Baselards accompanying them. Nearing the lead bladder ship, John fired his thrusters to slow his approach, alerting the vessel's fighter screen to his presence. Eight Banshees began speeding toward him. Over fifty kilometers from the Banshees, Johnson scared one off with his Stanchion fire, but the rest continued on their course, starting to fire on John with their plasma cannons. When their shots were becoming a bit too accurate, John fired at them with the underbarrel grenade launcher on his MA5C assault rifle. It only halted their fire briefly, and they soon regained visual. Seeing that Johnson would not be able to take them all out at this range, John altered his flight path and accelerated toward the lead bladder ship. As he neared the vessel, he prepared his HAVOK with a timer and let it float next to him on the same trajectory. At seven kilometers above the ship, John activated his primary thruster, speeding away as fast as possible. The HAVOK detonated so close that it elevated his MJOLNIR armor's exterior temperature well above the danger level. Ultimately, all three of the bladder ships were successfully destroyed and the Spartans of Blue Team were recovered after the mission.
With the equipment freighters and bladder ships decimated, all that remained of the logistics flotilla was its Mjern-pattern agricultural support ships and a couple of medical vessels. As a result, the Fleet of Inexorable Obedience began to run out of carrier gas for its plasma weaponry while glassing Biko. Wanting to minimize the resulting delay to his campaign through humanity's colonies, Fleetmaster Nizat 'Kvarosee decided to call forward a replacement supply convoy from Zhoist. After collecting the stranglers remaining at Etalan, the new flotilla would rendezvous with the main fleet at Biko. However, when informed by First Blade Tel 'Szatulai that the humans had captured a kelguid from one of his intrusion corvettes that had been downed on Seoba, 'Kvarosee realized his mistake. If the humans were to observe the arrival of the new supply convoy at Etalan, they could use that information and the kelguid to discover the location of Zhoist, an important relic world and supply node for his campaign. Because of this, the fleetmaster decided that the Fleet of Inexorable Obedience would return to Zhoist to defend it from a potentially imminent counterattack.
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List of appearances
- Halo: Silent Storm (First appearance)
- Halo: Silent Storm, chapter 19
- Halo: Silent Storm, chapter 20
- Halo: Silent Storm, chapter 21
- Halo: Silent Storm, chapter 17