Operation: UPPER CUT
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The Battle at Szurdok Ridge was completely disrupted by the appearance of a cloaked Covenant supercarrier in low orbit above Reach. The UNSC had no available nuclear weapons or large orbital assets to strike down the supercarrier, prompting the SPARTANs of Noble Team to improvise. Recalling a slipspace drive accident near Cygnus, SPARTAN-III LCDR Catherine-B320 conceived an unorthodox plan to use a Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine as a makeshift bomb. To reach orbit, they decided to appropriate the top-secret FSS-1000 Sabre planetary defense fighters stored at the Sabre Program Launch/Research Range at Farkas Lake. Colonel Urban Holland reluctantly approved the operation, with Noble Six, a qualified Sabre pilot, leading the space portion of the attack.
To distract the Long Night of Solace, the UNSC fleet under command of Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth began Operation: LEFT JAB; a supporting mission to distract the Fleet of Valiant Prudence by probing the fleet's defenses. Due to the ongoing ground conflict and imminent arrival of a Ministry of Resolution fleet, Supreme Commander Rho 'Barutamee made the decision to engage the human fleet, leaving the Long Night of Solace open for attack.
At the start of the operation, the launch facility was under heavy attack by Covenant forces deployed from orbit. Large numbers of Type-31 Seraphs and Dextro Xur-pattern Spirits were swarming the airspace around the site. Noble Team members One, Two, Five, and Six fought their way through the Covenant forces on the beach and linked up with Army units inside the facility. Noble Six and Jorge-052 boarded their FSS-1000 Sabre fighter, and launched into space with the other four Sabre fighters, while Jun arrived on a Falcon to exfiltrate Carter and Kat from the facility.
While EVA teams transferred the drive, the Sabres were called to defend Anchor 9 and Savannah against the waves of Seraphs and space-capable Elsedda-pattern Banshees. At the start of the engagement, Anchor 9's point-defense guns were offline, and bringing the defenses online required several minutes. The initial Covenant assault waves were engaged by the Sabres. Anchor 9's own defense turrets assisted the fighters after they came back online. Multiple R'shwupa-pattern Phantoms arrived during the engagement and attempted to board the station. The Sabres intercepted and destroyed the dropships before they could cause major damage, and the surviving Covenant forces retreated.
With the space around Anchor 9 clear of Covenant forces, Jorge-052 separated from Six's Sabre and boarded the Pelican to secure the makeshift Slipspace "bomb". Colonel Urban Holland then finalized the plan. A nearby Covenant corvette, the Ardent Prayer, on a refueling run to the Covenant supercarrier, would provide the delivery system for the bomb. A boarding party would secure the corvette, neutralize the crew, and place the bomb on board, where it would be detonated by a timed fuse. The Sabre team would be responsible for clearing a way for the boarding party. The Savannah, despite the loss of her slipspace drive, would provide local fire support and assist the boarding action.
The corvette and its escort of six fighters were caught off guard by the sudden attack. Savannah immediately jammed the Covenant warship's communications before it could transmit a distress call, and used her point-defense guns to bombard the corvette and the escorts with heavy suppressive fire. Any Covenant fighters that didn't fall victim to the frigate's guns were destroyed by the Sabres. The Sabres then attacked and disabled the corvette's engines, crippling her speed and maneuvering. The corvette responded by deploying a swarm of Banshee interceptors, but the unshielded craft were easy prey for the Sabres. The Banshees were supplemented by several Seraphs returning from patrol duty, but eventually all the Covenant escorts were wiped out. During the dogfight, the corvette's crew managed to power up the ship's weapons and opened fire on Savannah and the Sabres with plasma torpedoes and flak.
During the space battle, the Savannah continue to coordinate with the rest of the UNSC fleet conducting Operation: LEFT JAB.
Aboard the corvette
With the fighter escort destroyed, the Sabre team landed unopposed on the corvette's dorsal landing pad, close to the communications array, and deployed Noble Six and a small UNSC Army supporting force consisting of the Sabre crews. Artificial gravity and life support had been taken offline, and any Covenant forces in the area that were not in vacuum-sealed suits had suffocated. Noble Six and the Sabre pilots attacked and eliminated the crew at the communications array, taking it permanently offline and allowing Savannah to cease countermeasures and divert all available power to weapon systems. The team moved on, securing the docking bay and allowing the Pelican to land with Jorge-052 and Army trooper reinforcements. With Jorge-052 defending the makeshift bomb, Six and the Army troopers fought their way to the corvette's bridge. At the same time, the Savannah finally succumbed to the corvette's plasma barrage and was destroyed with all hands. After successfully capturing the bridge, Six manually locked the ship's course to the supercarrier, preventing any potential course corrections. After heading back to the docking bay, the surviving Covenant crew assaulted the UNSC forces, attempting to retake the docking bay and destroy the package. All non-Spartan personnel were killed in the assault.
After the short engagement, Jorge-052 discovered several problems. Damage done to the corvette had blocked the path back to the Sabres, and the Pelican's thruster gimbal had been heavily damaged - the only way off the ship was a space jump. In addition, the timer on the slipspace drive was damaged by plasma fire, requiring a manual detonation when the ship reached the supercarrier. With no other UNSC personnel around, Jorge-052 volunteered to activate the bomb manually and forced Noble Six off the Covenant corvette. As the corvette came in range of the Long Night of Solace, the bomb detonated and created a slipspace rupture. The rupture sent the corvette into slipspace along with the mid-section of the supercarrier.
The destruction of the supercarrier would also bring with it the death of Rho 'Baratumee, leaving the fleet of Valiant Prudence without centralised leadership. The combined effects of UPPER CUT and LEFT JAB would leave the Covenant fleet out of position and vulnerable to continued attacks by the UNSC fleet. Eventually, the Shipmaster Kantar 'Utaralee would take charge of the battered remnants of the fleet of Valiant Prudence and attempt to make a last-ditch fight near the moon of Turul, in the hopes of reclaiming the fleet's honor. At this time, the Cole Protocol would be declared, and all ships in the system ordered to rally at Rally Point Zulu.
Despite this victory, the success of Operation: UPPER CUT was short lived. Only minutes after the supercarrier was destroyed, an enormous Covenant fleet from the Ministry of Resolution exited Slipspace above Reach and launched a full-scale assault on the planet.
Due to the rapid launch of UPPER CUT, Operation: RED FLAG, which sought to capture a Class-Five Covenant flagship and use it to find High Charity, was unable to mobilize in time and so delayed until August 29 for another chance.
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