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Commander Elaine Coffey was an officer in the UNSC Navy. She was a Lieutenant Commander and the watch officer aboard the UNSC Nereid, a mixed cargo hauler, when it was attacked and stranded in space in 2558. The commander of the vessel died in the process, leaving Elaine to take over command.
In late October of 2558, the Nereid was carrying a UNSC Marine Corps platoon in addition to construction crews and all of their equipment. Lieutenant Commander Coffey was in charge of cargo services and also took on the role of an engineer when one was needed. It was at this time that the artificial intelligence, Cortana, and her rogue faction of other AIs moved to wrest control of the galaxy. Elaine was on the Nereid's bridge when there was a bright flash of light and some kind of energy pulse that hit the ship and affected every system instantly. Coffey shouted to sound the general alarm just as the Nereid was forced out of slipstream space and the powered gravity plating lost all functionality. Though the disabled systems appeared physically fine, including the interface for the gravity plating, they were totally unresponsive. Coffey ordered a lieutenant by the name of Rasul to keep trying to reestablish artificial gravity while she broadcast a message to anyone within range that could help them. She determined that they had been struck by some kind of multichannel cyberwarfare attack and was in the midst of requesting aid when Rasul cut her off to let her know she wasn't transmitting. Not even emergency power was available to get a message out. At that moment someone began pounding on the door to the bridge. Coffey figured that it might be the hauler's commanding officer, Yance, who had been off-shift in his quarters when the attack happened. It turned out to be Major Kell Tanris, commander of the marines onboard. She wished to speak with the CO, so she, Coffey, Rasul, and three of her marines propelled themselves through the weightless environment to Yance's quarters. Coffey activated a chemical torch, seeing as the other portable lights seemed to have been affected by the cyberattack due to their A.I. components. Elaine questioned the necessity of the marines' ready-carry of MA5D assault rifles, but Major Tanris rebuffed her by reminding her that they were carrying nuclear weapons and that their attackers were likely to come aboard to try to take them. After entering the commander's quarters, they found him dead--drowned in his shower due to a combination of power being lost while the water jets were on and the door was sealed shut and the loss of simulated gravity. Elaine was shaken by the loss, but Major Tanris told her to put it behind her for the moment, as command of the Nereid belonged to her now.
Leading the Nereid
A meeting was held between Coffey, Rasul, Tanris, Sergeant Chan, and the head of the construction crews, Kalanga. Elaine explained to them that though they had exited slipspace, they were still on-course in normal space, albeit at a greatly reduced speed. They were decades or even centuries away from anywhere of significance. Major Tanris expressed a desire to begin planning for the Nereid's defense, should she be boarded, but Elaine reminded her and the others that they had other pressing matters to consider. The hauler was rapidly losing heat and without working carbon dioxide scrubbers, they would all be dead shortly if a solution wasn't reached for their energy crisis. Coffey proposed that everyone repurpose equipment in the ship's gymnasium and that belonging to Kalanga's construction crews to supply it with mechanical energy to keep them alive for the time being. Tanris was somewhat resistant to Coffey's strong display of leadership, owing to the unique situation and her inexperience in the command role, but she acquiesced to her wishes concerning immediate priorities. For the next few weeks, all personnel on the UNSC Nereid cooperated to keep air and water filtration operating at the necessary capacity. Commander Coffey and Lieutenant Rasul investigated drawing heat from their Hornet mines but found that the radioactivity that they'd be exposed to would be too great. Just as thy gave up on that pursuit, Tanris, Chan, and others entered the hold where they were, trailing a length of spare cabling. The marines proposed linking the slipspace drive with the Hornet mines to create a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, but Coffey explained that she and Rasul had just looked into doing something similar and decided it was too dangerous. To this, Sergeant Chan replied that the mines could be towed behind the ship, which would protect those aboard from radiation. Rasul bristled at this since it would require committing the rest of the ship's good cabling to the endeavor. Coffey agreed with the Lieutenant and also said she didn't want to waste air and heat by having trips outside the ship. She also noted that they couldn't even know if the drive could even be reactivated if it had enough power. Her doubts frustrated Major Tanris, who stated that she had already talked to Kalanga about the plan and gotten the construction crews to get behind it. She asked for Elaine's help, seeing as her people were best suited to set up the makeshift generator. Commander Coffey reluctantly assented to the plan.
After a few days of work, the generator was ready to be tested. Unfortunately, the slipspace drive was unresponsive to the influx of energy. Whatever had knocked it out initially had not been fixed, so power was not evidently the issue. The failure resulted in tempers flaring between some of the naval personnel and marines, notably Chan and Rasul, but Coffey defused the situation before it got out of hand while they were all performing extra-vehicular activity outside the ship. Not long after this, a disheartened construction worker killed himself by evacuating an airlock. As more time passed, Commander Coffey shot down numerous other schemes that Tanris brought to her. Elaine also refused to allow the dead body to be retrieved as it floated alongside them, having lost too much air already setting up the failed generator. Kalanga came running to see her at one point to warn her that Tanris had begun sending her people all throughout the ship in an apparent attempt to take it over. In disbelief, Coffey ordered Rasul to get as many people as he could into the cargo hold. There, armed with weapons from a cache, the naval personnel that had not been locked up in the nascent mutiny waited for the marines to make the next move. Major Tanris boldly entered the hold and made an offer of peace to Coffey, saying that she was only trying to "streamline" the chain of command. Coffey floated over to a Hyperion nuclear missile and aimed her M6H magnum at its explosive primary, daring anyone to shoot at her. Tanris joined her at the warhead when asked, and the two argued about the merits of trying anything to get back to civilization versus focusing on simply staying alive for as long as possible. The Hyperion missile suddenly causes another idea to take hold in Tanris' head. She proposes that the missiles could be used to propel the Nereid through brute force. Coffey, surprisingly, didn't fight her on the proposal but instead added to it by suggesting the ship's shielded loading ramp and a housing they built could be used to focus the blast. Rasul spoke up to make his skepticism known, but this time Coffey made it clear that she fully supported the plan. She and Tanris parted peacefully, both seemingly committed fully to this latest attempt at salvation.
Several days later, Coffey was alone by an observation port, drinking Tennessee whiskey and watching the cooperative effort underway outside. Tanris called her name and came storming into the room she was in. Elaine sarcastically let her know that they didn't have any coffee. Tanris, not in a mood for jokes, drew her sidearm on Elaine and threatened her with a court-martial. Over the last few days, she had run calculations and realized that the Nereid's shield rating was woefully inadequate to protect them from the yield of the Hyperion warheads. Coffey barely responded to this information from the Major, and it was this that made Kell realize that she had known all along and allowed the doomed and deadly plan to proceed anyway. Tanris accused the commander of plotting the murder of everyone aboard, but Coffey simply responded by saying it couldn't be murder because they were all already dead and had been for some time. Inevitably, she said, things would turn very ugly among the survivors as resources continued to dwindle. She knew that nobody would be willing to accept just giving up, so in order to prevent a violent and bloody end, she decided to give them hope and let them die that way. Having confessed to Tanris, she offered to concede the command and allow her to choose what to do next. Kell was at a loss for words for a moment, but then she came around to what Coffey was telling her. She accepted that there was nothing to be done for any of them, and that the best they could hope for was a quick, collective death that didn't involve anyone abandoning their humanity in their final days. The two agreed to keep what they knew to themselves as they watched the crews outside forging their own destruction and made a final toast to hope.
Personality and traits
Elaine Coffey demonstrated a great affection for her crew and her commanding officer. She was distraught when Yance died, but she was quickly able to pull herself together to do what needed to be done. Her leadership, as brief as it was, was marked by a steadfast commitment to weigh options rationally. She was not easily swayed by arguments she saw as poor. Only when she was overwhelmingly outnumbered did she agree to try things she had little faith in. It was only after she finally accepted those aboard the Nereid would all die their no matter what she did that she became more passive. She knew that the final attempt at getting them out of their predicament would kill them all, but she was willing to allow that to happen because they would be spared having to fight each other.
List of appearances