First Battle of Harvest
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The First Battle of Harvest was the first major engagement between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, taking place on Harvest in the Epsilon Indi system. It marked the beginning of the Human-Covenant War.
Covenant religious crisis
Covenant culture and society was founded on the belief that they were the chosen ones of the Forerunners. Piety was partially demonstrated by the "Reclamation" of ancient, and supposedly holy, artifacts. In 2525, a query to an ancient Forerunner AI concerning the large number of "relics" on a world as-yet unvisited by the Covenant revealed a critical flaw in Covenant belief; "Reclamation" was a mistranslation of "Reclaimer" in the Forerunner language, the "relics" on the world were human beings, and that humans were the Forerunners' chosen inheritors of the galaxy.
This information was restricted to only a few in Covenant leadership. They realized the public knowledge would shake the foundations of the polity and potentially destroy it. Those privy to the information moved to prevent catastrophe. They seized control of the Covenant and used their new powers to declare a war of extermination on humanity. The first target was the world that the Forerunner AI had been consulted about: the UNSC colony world of Harvest.
First contact between the Covenant and humanity involved a number of raids on UNSC ships in the Epsilon Indi system by a Covenant missionary ship, the Minor Transgression. The raider made a scan of Harvest before being intercepted and destroyed.
Following quickly on Minor Transgression's heels was the Covenant cruiser, Rapid Conversion. The cruiser's commander, the Jiralhanae War Chieftain and Shipmaster Maccabeus, was ordered to glass the colony. However, the pious Maccabeus opted to delay this in order to search for relics first. This put him in conflict with Tartarus, his more zealous nephew.
The Covenant's arrival
On February 3, 2525, Tiara, Harvest's orbital station, detected Rapid Conversion entering the system on long range sensors. The cruiser registered as an unknown object, but was determined as constructed of materials beyond human science. Rapid Conversion was sent pictures depicting humans giving Kig-Yar fruit as an offering and a peaceful meeting on the surface was arranged. However, the Jiralhanae were interested by the fact that the cruiser's Luminary claimed that there was thousands of "Oracles" on the planet's surface. On February 11, 2525, a Spirit holding Maccabeus, Vorenus, and Licinus landed at the Harvest Botanical Gardens and met with human representatives, while a second Spirit hovered nearby and Tartarus led a small lance of Unggoy nearby to search for Oracles. The human representatives consisted of Governor Nils Thune, Attorney General Rol Pederson, Captain Ponder, Lieutenant Commander Jilan al-Cygni, and Staff Sergeants Nolan Byrne and Avery Johnson. Maccabeus arrived at the head of a group of Jiralhanae and Unggoy. The meeting went sour prematurely when an overeager Unggoy attacked and killed Osmo. Pederson was shot and killed with a Type-25 Spiker by Vorenus after the latter had heard Osmo firing his rifle. Several militia members were wounded in the engagement and Licinus was heavily injured by Johnson and Byrne. With Licinus wounded, the Jiralhanae fell back and the Covenant retreated from the area. Due to the Unggoy's incompetence, Tartarus grabbed the wounded Yull, ripped off his mask, and threw him into the Mimir River's rapids that led to the waterfall.
The Covenant forces retreated to Rapid Conversion to await orders from High Charity after they sent a message to the Vice Minister of Tranquility to inform him of their discoveries. Upon discovering that their religion was a lie from the Oracle in High Charity, the Vice Minister ordered for Maccabeus to exterminate the human colonists at the Minister of Fortitude's suggestion. Meanwhile, Maccabeus had several Unggoy create outposts in the abandoned Tiara, led by Deacon Dadab.
Siege on Gladsheim
For a week after the meeting, Rapid Conversion remained still in high orbit with all of its crew aboard. Despite the warning to evacuate to Harvest's capital of Utgard, a majority of Gladsheim's residents remained in the town—believing that a remote town such as Gladsheim would not be attacked by the aliens. However, on February 22, 2525, the vessel remained in orbit over Gladsheim with its heavy plasma weapons charging. Johnson and Byrne took several squads of militiamen to Gladsheim in an effort to evacuate the town's inhabitants. Maccabeus had the Jiralhanae crew of the Rapid Conversion scan the town's surrounding location in search for Harvest's alleged "Oracles". While Johnson and Byrne searched for the town's residents, Rapid Conversion used its ventral beam to destroy the outlying settlements around Gladsheim for over two hours. With the large alien warship in position over Gladsheim, two thousand refugees that had managed to escape the ship's initial attacks made their way to the town's MagLev train terminal. One-Alpha Squad and One-Bravo assisted with the evacuation. Unarmed Yanme'e scouts began to group at Gladsheim Main Street. As Rapid Conversion drifted over Dry Creek Road, Johnson asked Harvest's AI, Mack, to block off the road to civilians.
During the evacuation, Mack had discovered a convoy consisting of several civilian vehicles that attempted to escape the town through the nearby vineyards. At the same time, two Spirit dropships made their way to Gladsheim. Johnson and Byrne took an M12 Chaingun Warthog to aid the convoy but, as the two neared the vineyards, one of the Spirits lowered and began to fire at the convoy. Johnson discovered the remains of several empty civilian vehicles that had been abandoned by their original occupants, only to be killed by the Spirit's powerful plasma turret. Maccabeus exited the Spirit and began to search through the corpses and their belongings. After spotting a survivor, the two attacked the Chieftain with their Warthog. As several Yanme'e attempted to come to Maccabeus' aid, Johnson managed to pin Maccabeus against one of the convoy's vehicles with the Warthog. Not wanting to risk wounding their leader, the Spirit refused to fire at the Warthog. The two Staff Sergeants succeeded in rescuing the survivor and immediately attempted to retreat to Utgard, closely followed by a Spirit and several Yanme'e, as they left the heavily wounded Maccabeus behind. To cover their escape, Mack rigged several JOTUN cropdusters to launch at the Spirit, destroying the dropship and killing its pilot. All surviving militia personnel evacuated to Utgard as Covenant personnel returned to their ship, as Rapid Conversion and the remaining Spirits began to destroy the remains of Gladsheim.
The news of Gladsheim's destruction travelled fast to the civilians in Utgard. It began to cause panic among survivors.
Shortly after the Covenant had destroyed Gladsheim, al-Cygni assumed command of UNSC forces from Governor Thune and the evacuation plan was finalized on February 23, 2525. Meanwhile, inside the Tiara, Covenant Huragok Lighter Than Some had discovered Harvest's Planetary Security Intelligence AI Loki. Wishing to end the conflict, the Huragok worked with the AI to stop the Covenant. Captured intelligence revealed the Covenant's interest in artifacts and relics to the UNSC. A mortally wounded Ponder used a false Oracle to lure the Covenant cruiser into the sights of the colony's mass driver. A Spirit dropped off four newly-created Type-25 Choppers—driven by Jiralhanae including Tartarus and Vorenus—inside the Utgard Mall at Ponder's location. The Jiralhanae approached Ponder and the dying captain handed them a holo-pad. With the aliens distracted, AI Loki fired the mass driver at Rapid Conversion. Angered, Tartarus promptly killed Ponder. The ship was disabled after two rounds and crashed in Utgard. Tartarus ordered Vorenus to lead the other two Jiralhanae to Harvest's mass driver to disable it while Tartarus returned to the Spirit dropship to return to the Tiara. Three-hundred and sixty refugee-laden cargo freighters ascended the space elevators to the Tiara station.
Furious that the humans had disabled his ship, Maccabeus warned Dadab to ready his Unggoy warriors aboard the Tiara to protect Lighter Than Some from the humans making their way to the station. While Yanme'e attempted to repair the cruiser, Maccabeus was confronted by an angry Tartarus who believed his uncle was a fool for allowing the ship to become damaged and for listening to the "damaged" Luminary. Wishing to take control of the pack, Tartarus challenged his uncle for dominance. Tartarus succeeded in defeating the already wounded Maccabeus and killed him by crushing his skull with the Fist of Rukt. Tartarus, now Chieftain and leader of the Covenant forces, had the Jiralhanae and Yanme'e aboard the ship prepare to fight the humans on the Tiara. Meanwhile, the space elevators continued to ascend to the Tiara, two of which held militia strike teams and refugees while the other five carried decoys rigged with claymores.
At the Harvest reactor complex, Byrne and twenty volunteers from Second Platoon were protecting the mass driver and Loki's data center. Vorenus and two other Jiralhanae soon arrived at the reactor complex and engaged the militia's forces. Vorenus chased after Byrne as he retreated inside the complex with several militiamen. The Jiralhanae rammed Vallen with his Chopper and chased the humans inside the complex towards Loki's data center. After killing Habel and Jepsen, Vorenus was prevented access from Byrne and the data center after Loki locked the door between it and the rest of the complex. However, with the use of brute strength and Type-2 spike grenades, Vorenus managed to destroy the safety doors and grabbed Byrne. As militiamen surrounded the two, a massive amount of JOTUN cropdusters controlled by Mack moved towards Vorenus, startling the Jiralhanae. With Vorenus distracted, the militiamen succeeded in killing the alien and releasing Byrne. Outside the complex, the militia had killed one of Vorenus' accompanying Jiralhanae riders while the second was destroyed by two JOTUN machines sent by Mack. However, Loki's data center was damaged during the attack.
Battle in the Tiara
At the Tiara, nearly thirty Unggoy were killed or wounded when the explosive containers reached the top. Dadab had ordered the survivors to fall back towards the center. During the massive firefight, Bapap—Dadab's friend—was mortally wounded and Dadab's methane tank was heavily damaged. As the two Unggoy lied dying amidst the battle, Tartarus' Jiralhanae and Yanme'e arrived. Dadab was saved by Tartarus and given a methane pack taken from a dead Unggoy. Tartarus had Dadab lead him to Lighter Than Some, after the Chieftain killed Bapap—shocking the Deacon. En route to the Huragok, they encountered Johnson and several militiamen. While Tartarus and the Yanme'e engaged the humans, three Yanme'e snuck into the Tiara's control room. Furious that Lighter Than Some had replaced their engineering duties and forced them into combat positions, the Yanme'e attacked and killed the Huragok. Angered by the loss of his only friends, Dadab decided to kill Tartarus in an effort to end the conflict.
While Johnson, Healy, and al-Cygni led the militia in battle, twenty-thousand refugees were killed when one of the space elevators collapsed. While Johnson engaged the Yanme'e, Tartarus attacked him and prepared to execute him. However, Dadab appeared behind the Chieftain and fired an overcharged bolt from his plasma pistol into the Jiralhanae's chest and destroyed his energy shields. Enraged, Tartarus killed the Unggoy Deacon with the Fist of Rukt, however Tartarus was forced to retreat. As the militia made their way to the freighters to leave the system with the refugees, they encountered the Yanme'e slaughtering the few surviving Unggoy. The militia were able to enter the freighters and escape the Tiara. Ultimately, the surviving freighters entered slipspace to return to human space.
During the following months, the Rapid Conversion's crew repaired the ship and steadily continued the glassing of Harvest, gradually destroying the JOTUN automatons in which the remnants of the AI Mack were housed.
The Colonial Administration Authority dispatched the CMA Argo to investigate the cessation of communications from Harvest, and the scout ship arrived in system on April 20, 2525. The AI Mack unsuccessfully attempted to warn Argo of the enemy presence. The scout ship managed to send a single signal before being destroyed by the Rapid Conversion. A single Covenant super-destroyer arrived some time later and remained in the system to face any future investigation parties sent in by the UNSC.
Argo was followed up by a battle group consisting of the destroyer CMA Heracles, and the Charon-class light frigate CMA Arabia and CMA Vostok. Captain Maribeau Veredi of Heracles commanded the formation. The ships arrived in Epsilon Indi on October 7 and encountered the Covenant destroyer. The Covenant ship responded to first contact protocols by broadcasting the message: Your destruction is the will of the gods, and we are their instrument, and then opened fire.
The CMA battle group was soundly defeated in an engagement lasting fourteen seconds. Covenant pulse laser turrets intercepted many Archer Missiles with the remainder being shrugged off by shields. Plasma torpedoes and lasers destroyed both frigates and heavily damaged the Heracles; the destroyer managed to escape but it took several weeks to limp back to Reach in the Epsilon Eridani system.
With the failure of the initial counter-attack, the Covenant were left in control of Harvest. On November 1, 2525, the UNSC was ordered to full alert. The First Battle of Harvest was the first engagement in the Human-Covenant War, a massive interplanetary war that would last for twenty-seven years. The training of the SPARTAN-IIs was accelerated and the SPARTANs were sent to Chi Ceti IV to receive their MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor to aid in combat against the Covenant. However, the UNSC was not content with this state of affairs and returned with a larger fleet on March 1, 2526 to retake the devastated world, eventually reclaiming it over a five-year campaign.
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