Raid on Anodyne Spirit
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The Raid on Anodyne Spirit was an operation conducted by the Banished during the Second Ark Conflict in 2559. Their objective was to infiltrate the Anodyne Spirit and recover three fragments of a slipspace flake originally found within a Forerunner structure on Reach. With the fragments, Atriox planned to open a portal to Reach.
After the Prophet of Truth travelled to the Ark aboard the Anodyne Spirit, the Keyship landed amidst a Forerunner city perched atop an immense basalt sea stack in a region that the Banished would later dub Mahsko. The massive rock column was one of seven that arched toward a distant peninsula. When the Prophet left to initiate the Great Journey from the Ark's control room, he instructed some of the vessel's compliment to stay behind and defend it against intruders. Many believed the Keyship to have been lost in the battle that ravaged the installation.
Some time after the Flood outbreak on the Ark, Atriox decided that he would need to return to the Milky Way. However, this would be difficult since the portal to Earth had closed almost a year earlier and the only ship equipped with a slipspace drive that he had brought had been destroyed by a Spartan. There was another way, however. Rumor had it that there was a portal structure hidden on Reach that connected to the Ark. To open this portal, Atriox would need a Forerunner slipspace flake. Thankfully, Tartarus had recovered shards of the flake originally found on Reach and presented them to the Prophet of Truth, who transferred them to the Anodyne Spirit when it left High Charity. To retrieve these shards from the Keyship, Atriox dispatched three strike teams, each in their own Phantom dropship. Chieftain Minas would lead his team, as well as coordinating the efforts of the other two teams, led Blademaster Okro 'Vagaduun, and Captain Zeretus.
Around midday, the three Phantoms approached the basalt column where the Keyship sat dwarfing the ancient structures surrounding it. With a strike team in each Phantom, they approached the vessel from three different angles. In the case that its point defense weapons remained active, this would keep the Phantoms from all being destroyed in a single blast. After Minas was confident that the Keyship showed no notice of them, he ordered each dropship to land at the massive primal crux that wraps around its central assembly. The Chieftain watched their approach through the open troop bay doors while his right hand man, Choros, stayed in the cockpit. The pilot of Minas's Phantom, Bomarus, landed the craft at the designated access port on the crux. The other two dropships followed suit.
Leaving the pilots to stay with their Phantoms, the three groups—consisting of Jiralhanae, Sangheili, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy warriors—approached the access port. Choros and his men secured the area as Itka, a Kig-Yar weaponsmith with a talent for hacking Forerunner technology, got to work on the door controls. While he spliced the door controls, Itka was confronted by both old and new security measures, the latter of which bearing striking similarities to those used by the Covenant. However, the Kig-Yar easily bypassed these and the door rumbled open. The strike teams proceeded cautiously into the dark maw beyond the open access port, finding themselves in a large, vacant corridor that stretched for over a kilometer. Soon enough, they came to the conclusion that the Keyship was indeed abandoned. However, they noted that the Forerunners were masters of autonomous machines and that there still could be dangers aboard.
Ambush in the arcade
Choros led the group deeper into the Anodyne Spirit; he had served the Prophets and Tartarus—his uncle—aboard the sacred vessel before Great Schism and was familiar with its layout, certainly much more anyone else in the strike force. The shards of the Forerunner slipspace flake that they sought would be stored in a location called the "Adytum," where the Keyship's own slipspace drive was situated. Finally, the corridor ended in a wall with several doorways and Choros led them through the fourth from the left. The strike force followed a smaller, dimly-lit corridor to a large chamber with vaulting walkways meeting at a central lift. Here, hundreds of transport cylinders waiting to be used to launch personnel up toward the bow of the vessel. After Minas found a cylinder that could accommodate all three strike teams, Itka input a special access code into the nearby interface. The Banished had managed to discover this code amidst the debris field of High Charity.
The lift door closed and the transport cylinder shot upward, reaching an alarming speed. When it came to a sudden stop, many warriors in the party were left disoriented. The lift door opened for them to find a vast chasm that looked to be a kind of park and common space filled with walkways and delicate platforms, all overrun with swaths of dense foliage. Clearly, the gardens here had gone unchecked for years. Flocks of birds could be seen flitting about in the space's upper reaches.
As Choros was explaining the purpose of this chamber to Okro 'Vagaduun, the Jiralhanae warrior was knocked to the floor by a plasma blast. The strike teams immediately dove for cover while under fire by plasma bolts and carbine rounds. Minas scrambled to Choros and moved the stunned, but uninjured, warrior to cover behind a stone barrier. As the Chieftain collected himself, he realized that their assailants were using Covenant weapons, meaning that they were not Forerunner machines. The Banished strike force pushed into the jungle of overgrown foliage to press a counterattack. It didn't take long before they had defeated the attackers and realized that they were Covenant Jiralhanae, suggesting that they had all survived within the Keyship for nearly seven years. Choros noted that the ship likely had enough supplies stored to last the crew seventy years, no less seven. Minas informed Bomarus back on his Phantom of the enemy presence on the vessel as they pressed onto their next destination before the Adytum, the clerestory.
Fifteen Banished warriors had been lost in the firefight, mostly consisting of Kig-Yar and Unggoy. Leaving the overgrown arcade, the group came to a walkway ending in three doorways. Choros led them through the rightmost door into a narrow hallway. They filed through the dimly-lit transparent corridor that spanned one of the Keyship's largest interior spaces. In the gloomy depths far beneath them, Minas could make out innumerable receptacles that held specimens that would have been used to reseed worlds with life after the Halo Array's activation.
The corridor terminated at a brightly lit curved balcony that held a small lift leading to the Keyship's drive controls—and the Adytum—suspended in the blackness hundreds of meters above. Minas realized that the lift platform was far too tiny to transport their entire force in a single trip, meaning that they would need to split up. Zeretus observed that the top of the lift would make for a perfect ambush location, with the remnants of the Covenant loyalists knowing that the entire Banished force could not fit on the lift. Minas agreed but knew that they had no other choice. His strike team would ascend first and send for the other two teams when they knew the platform was clear. Itka activated the lift and Minas's team soared toward the distant ceiling above. However, they only found an empty balcony much like the one they had just left. A single sealed door sat on the far wall of the balcony. As the strike team stepped off of the lift, it immediately began its trip back to the lower balcony to pick up the next team. Itka worked the door controls and the team took position, preparing for the ambush that surely must be waiting for them inside this final chamber. However, even this room proved to be vacant as well.
Inside the well-lit spherical room were tiered circular platforms that lined the rounded walls. Each platform held terminals presumably used to perform all manner of duties. At the center of the room was the Adytum, an oblong bronze monolith that fell just short of touching both the floor and ceiling. Terminals and interfaces covered its exterior, accessible from the platforms situated along the room's walls. Choros and Itka immediately began the process of extracting the shards they sought from within the Adytum. Minutes later, the two of them were still busy with retrieving the shards when the distinctive sound of impulse drives filled the chamber. Peering outside, Minas could see two distinctly Covenant Phantom dropships approaching their position. Okro 'Vagaduun, who was nearing the upper balcony along with his team on the lift, noticed it too and assured the Chieftain that they would be there to assist. Minas then contacted Zeretus and hold him to stay where he was and have his team secure the bottom of the lift so that they could escape swiftly and safely. Two more Covenant Phantoms appeared behind the first two. With Itka almost done extracting the shards, the strike team prepared to defend against the incoming dropships and the warriors they certainly held.
Covenant Kig-Yar were the first to enter, but they were cut down by a barrage from Minas and his men. Then the Jiralhanae entered and the fighting grew fierce and bloody. As the smoke cleared, only three Banished Jiralhanae besides Minas remained—Choros, Burekos, and Sopruuz. Minas found his second-in-command paying his respects to Itka, who had been killed by spikes during the skirmish. Out on the platform, he could see the blademaster and his Sangheili fighting off even more Covenant. Wielding a Ravager, one warrior landed a direct hit on the turbine of one of the Phantoms, sending the dropship careening into the darkness below. Holding an onyx box of Forerunner design, Choros informed Minas that they had secured the crystal shards. Choros, however, was deeply troubled by all the men that they had lost, so he asked the Chieftain what it was that Atriox had told him when they first met. Atriox said that "everyone must die for something," which Minas interpreted to mean that everyone should die on their own terms for something that they truly believe in. After Minas shared this wisdom, he announced that they should hurry back to the lift before the Sangheili were overrun. Choros offered the case containing the shards to Minas, saying that it was for him to deliver to Atriox.
By this time, only two enemy Phantoms remained and many of 'Vagaduun's men had fallen. The blademaster himself stood confidently in the open, unleashing a torrent of plasma from the rifles he held in each hand. As Minas and his handful of men made their way back to the lift, they could see six more Phantoms approaching in the hazy distance. Choros used his Skewer to destroy one of the two that were still assaulting the balcony. The team reached the lift and Choros began working at the controls. Just then, Minas heard a noise behind him. He turned to find a massive Covenant Jiralhanae carrying a similarly immense gravity hammer. With a single swing of the weapon, the bodies of Burekos and Sopruuz were crushed and flung from the platform. Minas fired his plasma rifle at the Jiralhanae with little effect. Three Sangheili warriors ignited their blades and lunged at the creature in response. 'Vagaduun pulled Minas onto the lift just as Choros stepped off of it. The captain realized that the incoming Phantoms would be able to easily track the lift's descent and pick them off. Minas and 'Vagaduun would need protection and a distraction. Before the Chieftain could reason with him, Choros slammed his fist onto lift's release, sending the Chieftain and the blademaster speeding back to the clerestory below.
As the platform above dwindled from their sight, Minas and "Vagaduun could see plasma fire being exchanged between the six dropships and whatever Banished forces were still alive. At the bottom, Zeretus was shocked that only the two of them had returned. They and the last remaining strike team then fled the Anodyne Spirit before the Covenant loyalists could catch up to them, so that the sacrifice of those brave warriors on the platform above would not be in vain.
Shortly after receiving the shards from Chieftain Minas, Atriox managed to send a single message to War Chief Escharum, who he had left behind to command the Banished forces that had not travelled to the Ark. This transmission informed Escharum that the remnants of the Forerunner slipspace crystal had been recovered and ordered him to find and activate the portal structure hidden on Reach so that Atriox could return to the galaxy. This would also allow for reinforcements to travel to the Ark and assist in the ongoing conflict there. Once the portal was made ready, Atriox would activate it from his end using the shards that had been collected from the Keyship.
Escharum relayed this command to Dokab Castor of the Keepers of the One Freedom, Legionmaster Deukalion of the Legion of the Corpse-Moon, and Legionmaster Ballas of the Ravaged Tusks. These three factions had allied with the Banished and were sent to Reach in search of this rumored portal. While on a mission to CASTLE Base, Blue Team inadvertently led the Banished to the portal structure, which was buried deep within the same mountain as the UNSC base. Escharum and the leaders of the three legions who had searched for the portal, along with their men, gathered within the structure to witness the return of Atriox. Castor had one of his human followers place their hand on an activation pylon. The installation came to life, manifesting a massive portal in the sky above.
A Lich emerged from the portal carrying Atriox and some of his top officers, including Captain Zeretus. After it landed in front of the welcome party, the Keepers boarded the Lich and stole it. They took it back through the portal with the intent of starting the Great Journey, which they still believed in despite the Prophets being revealed to be liars. Atriox and his men boarded Escharum's intrusion corvette and left the planet to attend to an unspecified important situation. Shortly after they departed, the portal to the Ark collapsed.
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