Halo: Escalation Issue 20
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The issue begins with the slipspace portal to the Absolute Record forming near the fleet of Jul 'Mdama's Covenant, now surrounded by the debris of destroyed cruisers and the damaged Breath of Annihilation. 'Mdama is enraged about the damage done to his fleet caused by the portal's activation. Furious, 'Mdama throws Doctor Catherine Halsey against a wall, whom he blames for the incident.
Meanwhile, in a hangar bay of Breath of Annihilation, the assault carrier's crew is attempting to remediate damages done to their ship. Still hiding away in their now-damaged Phantom, the Operation: ATHENA team—Spartans Palmer, Thorne, Tanaka, Dr. Glassman, and ONI operative Ayit 'Sevi—discuss their next course of action. 'Sevi decides to steal another Phantom in a nearby hangar and orders the rest of the team to follow him to the hangar a minute after he leaves, giving him time to take out the Covenant soldiers outside of their Phantom. To prevent giving away their position, 'Sevi arms the humans with Covenant weaponry and leaves the Phantom to engage the Covenant soldiers in the hangar alone. Creating a smoke screen, 'Sevi is able to begin eliminating all hostiles without alerting any unwanted attention. Inside the Phantom, Glassman is knocked unconscious when the damaged carrier shudders and throws him against the Phantom's hull. Palmer has Tanaka carry Glassman and orders the Spartans to forego 'Sevi's wait time. Exiting their Phantom, Palmer kills the last remaining Kig-Yar in the hangar and the Spartans and Glassman escape just as their dropship explodes behind them.
Traveling down a hallway to the next hangar bay, 'Sevi's smoke screen provides the Spartans cover but also impairs their vision. Thorne activates his Promethean vison and discovers that they are surrounded by oncoming Covenant forces. A firefight ensues and the Spartans manage to fight their way to the hangar. As a Wraith appears and prepares to fire upon the Spartans, the tank is destroyed by a Phantom manned by 'Sevi. As they board the dropship, Glassman wakes up. As the team leaves the damaged carrier, 'Sevi decides to travel to 'Mdama's Song of Retribution. Meanwhile, aboard the flagship, 'Mdama and Halsey argue about their situation. Halsey reminds 'Mdama that once they travel to the Absolute Record, they will discover technology beyond their comprehension that will more than compensate for the ships that were destroyed when the portal opened. To further calm the irate 'Mdama, Halsey claims that once he is in control of the Absolute Record's "treasures", 'Mdama will be seen as a god. 'Mdama decides to make another attempt to travel to the Absolute Record, though only Song of Retribution will enter the portal while Breath of Annihilation makes emergency repairs at a nearby moon.
'Sevi learns of 'Mdama's intentions and informs the rest of the team. Glassman reminds them that once they enter the portal, they will have even less of a chance at re-establishing contact with ONI. Palmer orders 'Sevi and Thorne to travel back to Breath of Annihilation to attempt to contact ONI, while the rest of the team remains on Song of Retribution to travel through the portal. As the two travel back to the damaged carrier in the Phantom, 'Sevi informs Thorne that there is rumors of a possible Spartan attack spreading aboard the ship. 'Sevi discovers that prisoners from Retribution are being temporarily transferred to Annihilation, one of which is traitor Sali 'Nyon. 'Sevi considers using 'Nyon to create a distraction for them. Aboard Retribution, the rumors of the Spartan attack reaches 'Mdama. Halsey dismisses 'Mdama's worries and states that the Spartans would be unable to stop them from reaching the Absolute Record, and the carrier promptly enters the portal. Retribution arrives at the Absolute Record and a Forerunner ancilla detects the human presence aboard the carrier. The ancilla, a Contender-class artificial intelligence notes that the "Reclaimers have arrived".
After Dr. Glassman faints from the smoke and Palmer has Tanaka carry him, the art depicts him standing and running in multiple panels before Tanaka informs the others that he is "waking up".