Sali 'Nyon's Covenant strategic victory
After the events on the shield world of Requiem, Jul 'Mdama and Dr. Catherine Halsey allied themselves to recover both halves of the Janus Key and discover the location of the Absolute Record. On Aktis IV, they planned to steal the UNSC's half of the Janus Key, but a rebellion led by the Sangheili Sali 'Nyon threatened their plans. Halsey was able to recover the second half of the Janus Key thanks to a Minor who betrayed 'Nyon. Even when Commander Sarah Palmer captured Halsey, the Covenant was able to rescue the doctor and recover the Janus Key, emerging victorious. Days later, Jul and Halsey discovered the location of the Absolute Record using the combined Janus Key. Unknown to them, Ayit 'Sevi, a Sangheili working with the Office of Naval Intelligence, was able to infiltrate inside Jul's faction and provided ONI with information about their plans. The UNSC then formed a specialist team of Spartans Sarah Palmer, Gabriel Thorne and Holly Tanaka, Dr. Henry Glassman and 'Sevi.
The human members of the team would infiltrate the Breath of Annihilation in a Covenant box with a cloaked interior compartment, transported to the ship aboard a Type-44 Phantom piloted by 'Sevi. Once at the Absolute Record they would separate from the fleet and find a place to land. Because they lacked real-time superluminal communications options, they planned to use a state-of-the-art model of telemetry probe that would transmit their location back to the UNSC.
On September 17, 2558, Ayit 'Sevi's Phantom entered Breath of Annihilation, just before the fleet made the slipspace jump toward the Absolute Record. Upon their exit from slipspace three hours later, 'Mdama's fleet entered the upper atmosphere of an unusually hot gas giant with a metallic hydrogen core, noted by Dr. Halsey as being likely artificial. The Janus Key began to react, leading Halsey to conclude that they were close to their destination — a slipspace portal to the Absolute Record. As the portal began to form, however, slipspace ruptures materialized into several ships of the fleet, tearing them apart. Breath of Annihilation was damaged as well and the Spartans and Glassman were thrown about uncontrollably in their crate. 'Sevi blew the box open and told the others that they must move out as the entire ship was breaking apart. The telemetry probe was destroyed in the chaos as well, meaning the team had no way to contact the UNSC. The Annihilation's crew attempted to remediate damages done to their ship while the Spartans, Glassmand and Ayit discussed their next course of action. 'Sevi decided to steal another Phantom in a nearby hangar and ordered the rest of the team to follow him to the hangar a minute after he left, giving him time to take out the Covenant soldiers outside of their Phantom.
To prevent giving away their position, 'Sevi armed the humans with Covenant weaponry and left the Phantom to engage the Covenant soldiers in the hangar alone. Creating a smoke screen, 'Sevi was able to begin eliminating all hostiles without alerting any unwanted attention. Inside the Phantom, Glassman was knocked unconscious when the damaged carrier shuddered and threw him against the Phantom's hull. Palmer had Tanaka carry Glassman and orders the Spartans to forego 'Sevi's wait time. Exiting their Phantom, Palmer killed the last remaining Kig-Yar in the hangar and the Spartans and Glassman escaped just as their dropship exploded behind them. Traveling down a hallway to the next hangar bay, 'Sevi's smoke screen provided the Spartans cover but also impaired their vision. Thorne activated his Promethean vison and discovered that they were surrounded by oncoming Covenant forces. A firefight ensued and the Spartans managed to fight their way to the hangar. As a Wraith appeared and prepared to fire upon the Spartans, the tank was destroyed by a Phantom manned by 'Sevi. The team decided to travel to the Song of Retribution.
On the bridge of the Song of Retribution', 'Mdama was enraged about the damage done to his fleet caused by the portal's activation. Furious, 'Mdama blamed Doctor Halsey for the incident and threw her against a wall. 'Mdama and Halsey argued about their situation and Halsey reminded 'Mdama that once they traveled to the Absolute Record, they would discover technology beyond their comprehension that would more than compensate for the ships that were destroyed when the portal opened. To further calm the irate 'Mdama, Halsey claimed that once he is in control of the Absolute Record's "treasures", 'Mdama will be seen as a god. 'Mdama decided to make another attempt to travel to the Absolute Record, though only Song of Retribution would enter the portal while Breath of Annihilation made emergency repairs at a nearby moon.
'Sevi learned of 'Mdama's intentions and informed the rest of the team. Glassman reminded them that once they entered the portal, they would have even less of a chance at re-establishing contact with ONI. Palmer ordered 'Sevi and Thorne to travel back to Breath of Annihilation to attempt to contact ONI, while the rest of the team remained on Song of Retribution to travel through the portal. As the two traveled back to the damaged carrier in the Phantom, 'Sevi informed Thorne that there were rumors of a possible Spartan attack spreading aboard the ship. 'Sevi discovered that prisoners from Retribution were being temporarily transferred to Annihilation, one of which is traitor Sali 'Nyon. 'Sevi considered using 'Nyon to create a distraction for them. Aboard Retribution, the rumors of the Spartan attack reached 'Mdama. Halsey dismissed 'Mdama's worries and stated that the Spartans would be unable to stop them from reaching the Absolute Record, and the carrier promptly entered the portal. Retribution arrived at the Absolute Record and a Forerunner Contender-class artificial intelligence detected the human presence aboard the carrier, nothing the presence of Reclaimers aboard the ship.
The Absolute Record
Aboard the Song of Retribution, 'Mdama and Doctor Halsey attempted to enter the installation. However, a slipspace portal opened nearby and the ship's helmsman lost control. Retribution was forced through the portal and it arrived inside a large chamber, where the carrier was held in place by a gravitational anchor. 'Mdama and Halsey decided to travel down to a platform below, where the Contender AI awaited their arrival. In one of Song of Retribution's hangar bays, Palmer, Tanaka and Glassman awaited their chance to leave the damaged drop pod they were hiding aboard. Glassman decided that they needed to leave the carrier and find a local terminal, while Tanaka spotted two nearby Type-44 Phantoms that they could steal.
Meanwhile, 'Mdama, Halsey, and numerous Sangheili Zealots arrived at the platform and met with the AI. Halsey addressed the ancilla and claimed to be chosen by the Librarian to unlock the Absolute Record. Halsey requested to be escorted to the proper area to begin their work, but the AI expressed its doubts, especially pondering why the other humans felt the need to conceal themselves. The AI used Sentinels to transport the drop pod the other humans were hiding in to the platform, where they were dropped down beside Halsey and 'Mdama. Both groups began to argue, with Glassman questioning Halsey's decision to defect to 'Mdama's Covenant. Halsey told Glassman to shut up, but the AI told her that she had no authority to silence him. It decided to let each human have a chance to account for their presence at the installation, though Halsey asserted that there was nothing to discuss as she had the Janus Key. The AI intended take as much time as it needs to question each human, as it wished to operate with total caution after one of its fellow Contender-class AIs made the mistake of not taking the same precautions during the Forerunner-Flood war.
Dr. Glassman stated that he shared the same views as the AI, as he did not want the Absolute Record to be exploited. Halsey scoffed at this claim, but the AI ordered her to remain silent. Glassman insisted that the UNSC intended to use the Absolute Record in a way that was consistent with the Forerunners' intentions and claimed that conflict would only get worse if 'Mdama's Covenant gained access to the installation. As Halsey and Glassman began to argue, an impatient Zealot attacked a Sentinel, leading to all the constructs attacking the humans and Sangheili. The AI removed the platform from under the feet of the Sangheili with Tanaka, Palmer, and Glassman remaining on one platform and Halsey standing on another, while 'Mdama managed to grab onto Halsey's platform while his soldiers plummeted to their deaths. The AI claimed that a more direct examination was in order to decide who is the legitimate steward of the Absolute Record. 'Mdama was furious about his soldiers' deaths and told the AI that he brought his forces to merely honor their gods, not fight them, and it was the Contender who provoked them to attack the Sentinels. In response, the Contender AI said its suspicions about the Sangheili's disruptive tendencies were confirmed by their reaction and that its only intention is to maintain the integrity of the Absolute Record and choose its proper custodian. Although Doctor Halsey claimed she must be the custodian of the Absolute Record the ancilla was speaking of, because her possession of the Janus Key and being chosen by the Librarian, the Contender AI said her possession of the Janus Key proved nothing, because the Key could have been obtained by any variety of ways, even brute force. The AI then proceeded to translocate them away.
The Contender AI presented the humans and Jul with a theoretical scenario in which a peaceful species was revealed to posses Flood-resistant biological material that could be used as a vaccine against the Flood. When this material would be harvested from a living member of the species, there would be a thirty-five percent chance of a successful yield. However, the species would be willing to provide the corpses of their kind that passed away naturally, though the deceased bodies only have a thirty-three percent chance of a successful yielding. The Contender then asked them if they would allow the species to live autonomously in exchange for the bodies of the deceased, or extract the biological matter from all living members of the species to create vaccines at a higher speed. Jul believed that the correct answer to the scenario would be to peacefully cooperate with the species, but Halsey decided that the species' freedom should be sacrificed for the greater good of the galaxy. Glassman and the Spartans decided that they would allow the species to maintain its independence and cooperate with them. As the Contender asked each party if the disqualifying participants should be contained or killed, Halsey seemingly hacked into the AI's system and disabled the ancilla. No longer obstructed from their goals, Halsey entered the central chamber of the Absolute Record while many Phantoms protected the entrance. She encountered a hologram of the Librarian, who told her that the answers she sought were inside the chamber, containing everything Halsey would need "to begin their work", informing her of the many dormant artifacts across the galaxy that Halsey could choose to awaken. The Librarian imprint suggested an unknown planet surrounded by twelve moons, which contained design seeds that, when activated, would begin harvesting the surrounding solar system to construct a new facility. One of the moons also stored numerous Forerunner dreadnoughts, available for automated control. Through them Halsey would be able to begin humanity's ascension to the Mantle.
Outside the central chamber, Spartans Sarah Palmer and Holly Tanaka fought off Ibie'shan Kig-Yar and protected Dr. Glassman, after which they were assaulted by a Lich. The humans fled but were cornered by two Sangheili Zealots. However, an Aggressor Sentinel killed both Zealots, then spoke with the voice of the Custodian of the Absolute Record. After Halsey shut down its main body and took control of the Record, a failsafe activated that put a fragment of the custodian in the mind of a local Sentinel. Asking their help to restore it to its body, the Sentinel led the humans to a secure location.
Inside the Record, Jul's forces had control of most of the facility, and they were too numerous for the humans to battle through. The humans waited outside the central chamber for Halsey, with Jul expressing misgivings at her eagerness to command Forerunner sites. He ordered his Zealots to detain Halsey once she exited, as a reminder that she was under his command. Through the Record's communications, Halsey overheard his conversation and remarked that she had another matter to attend to: terminating their alliance. With the Record's controls, Halsey ordered the Sentinels to attack Jul and his warriors. Jul believed that the Custodian ancilla had regained control and was attacking them, unaware that they were under Halsey's orders to assassinate them. Meanwhile, the humans escorted the Sentinel containing the Custodian's personality fragment, who aided them in combat against Halsey's Sentinels. Palmer, Tanaka, and Glassman reached the auxiliary control conduit where they could put the Custodian back in charge of the facility. The Custodian's sentinel sent the initialization code to Palmer's HUD, who read it to Glassman as he typed. However, Halsey realized what they were up to and interfered with the attempt, halting their progress. The custodian informed Palmer that Halsey was in the room directly above them, Palmer volunteering to head up there. At the top floor she held Halsey at gunpoint, giving her three seconds to step away from her console. Instead Halsey activated a containment field around Palmer and prepared a portal to her next destination.
Jul and his forces have managed to repel the Sentinels, and he used the opening to order his flagship to attack. It fired into the Record, disrupting power across the station. Palmer's containment field fell, and the Custodian Sentinel's mind transfer was interrupted, leaving the droid damaged. Halsey fled to her portal while Palmer shot at her but missed, the doctor escaping and vanishing. To Halsey's surprise, she landed on top of the shell of the now reactivated Custodian, who had regained control and caught her. It told her that her performance in its previous test was excellent, but her impatience that led to her hijacking him meant he now denied her further access to the Record even though she had nearly earned it. Halsey protested in vain that the Janus Key was Librarian's gift to her, but the Custodian made it vanish.
Palmer regrouped with the others, but they saw the Record was suddenly disappearing into slipspace portals. Urgent to escape, Glassman recalled coordinates from the Custodian's examination, which appeared to tell him where Jul's ship carrying all his artifacts was docked. Jul's forces fled the Record aboard the Song of Retribution, recovering Halsey in the process.
Meanwhile, several DSC-class support ships were repairing the hull of the damaged Breath of Annihilation on a moon. Several Sangheili inside the ship were arguing whether or not their ship and its crew were attacked by Spartans. 'Sevi listened to the heated debate before entering a nearby Phantom that Spartan Thorne was hiding in. 'Sevi decided to use use the ongoing argument as a way to instill chaos aboard the ship and initiate a mutiny. The mercenary wished to have Thorne attack the Sangheili to create panic throughout the ship, though Thorne was reluctant to trust 'Sevi due to their previous encounter on Ven III.
Aboard Breath of Annihilation, Thorne decided to follow 'Sevi's plan and he began attacking the Sangheili, with 'Sevi directing Thorne around the ship. 'Sevi had Thorne go into hiding again, as numerous Sangheili and Kig-Yar soldiers began searching for him. As a result, a mutiny was carried out by those who believed that the Didact's Hand lied to them about the presence of Spartans aboard the ship. A Zealot brutally beat a Sangheili Storm, demanding the answer of why their Supreme Commander lied to them, but the Sangheili Storm claimed 'Mdama knew nothing about the attack and he would gain nothing from the deception. The Storm then said the traitors were the only ones who would benefit about the truth of those rumors, and was then executed by Ayit 'Sevi. A Zealot then ordered him to join several other Covenant forces near the main gravity lift to hunt for Spartan Gabriel Thorne. Ayit warned Thorne that he was about to be surrounded by the Covenant, only for the Spartan to come under fire from three Type-26 Wraiths operating by Kig-Yar. Thorne escaped Breath of Annihilation through a breach in the carrier's hull and dove into a swamp on the moon where the ship was undergoing repairs. Type-26 Banshees and Kig-Yar soldiers searched for Thorne in the swamps. The Spartan managed to kill two of the Kig-Yar with his combat knife, but one of the Kig-Yar was able to wound him with a Type-33 Needler. Meanwhile, Ayit traveled to the carrier's holding cells, where he killed the guards and released ex-rebellion leader Sali 'Nyon to create more chaos on the ship. Though Sali was doubtful of his ability to lead Covenant rebels after he failed to do so the first time, Ayit manipulated him into doing so by using his zeal to inspire him.
'Nyon took Ayit 'Sevi's advice to raid Jul's vault in the ship full of Forerunner artifacts from Requiem. His followers caused panic aboard the ship, and Jul's forces on the Breath called for their field scouts at the moon's swamps to return to the ship to help them. However, the surviving Kig-Yar of the two that Thorne fought refused to return, instead out to hunt the Spartan for the death of his friend. Thorne managed to kill the Jackal, nearly sinking to the swamp himself in the process. Badly wounded, he called Ayit for help, but the Sangheili was too occupied with the rebellion onboard the Breath, currently in the middle of overwhelming Jul's followers. Ayit advised him to stay off the ship, but Thorne insisted on returning because of his urgent wounds. He took flight in a vacant Banshee and told Ayit to meet him at the ship, over the Elite's protests.
'Nyon's forces had taken control of the ship and secured Jul's vault of Forerunner artifacts. Sali rejoiced in their victory and praised Ayit 'Sevi for their victory, still unaware that he was an ONI spy. However, two Zealots were suspicious of 'Sevi after they overheard him speaking English. As Ayit left supposedly to help secure the hangar, the Zealots followed him. Thorne flew to its hangar in a Banshee while Ayit prepared to meet him. However, the Zealots confronted him there, accusing him of being a spy for the humans. Ayit tried to deny it, but the Zealots heard Thorne's voice over their COM. Guise revealed, Ayit told the Zealots he would surrender and let them have Thorne. The Zealots did not relent, telling Ayit that selling out his partner would still not spare his life. The very next second, Thorne's Banshee ran over both of them. Ayit helped him out, thanking the confused Thorne for saving his life. 'Nyon's warriors rallies and celebrated their capture of the ship and Jul's vault. They noticed an odd sound, but Ayit passed it off as a sign of the gods and distracted them. They continued rejoicing as Ayit investigated, finding the just-teleported Palmer, Tanaka, and Glassman, who he helped hide.
Sali was so proud of having capturing the Annihilation that he flew the carrier into Sangheili space, where Ayit flew the humans off-ship and they rendezvoused with an ONI prowler in a safe zone. Their pickup came just in time, as Jul and the Retribution followed and battled the Annihilation, though the fight ended with Sali and their ship escaping.
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