Raid on Reach
From Halopedia, the Halo wiki
The Raid on Reach was a series of skirmishes conducted by the UNSC survivors of the Battle of Installation 04 against the Covenant fleet in the area around the glassed Reach, trying to find a viable way to return to UNSC-controlled space. It turned into a rescue operation when they determined that Spartans were still alive and on Reach.
The battle was a testing ground for multiple improvements Cortana had made to Covenant technology and resulted in the destruction of over a dozen Covenant capital ships and many of their ground forces, at the cost of four SPARTANS and heavy damage to their captured ship.
The Installation 04 survivors
Having captured the Covenant flagship Ascendant Justice, they were in a position where they could not return to Human controlled space due to Article 7 of the Cole Protocol. The article required that a captured Covenant vessel be thoroughly searched for any tracking devices that would alert the Covenant to a new human-controlled system before that vessel could enter a System that the Covenant weren't aware of.
The decision was made to set course for Reach for several reasons: Reach was a known system to the Covenant, so it would not be in violation of the Cole Protocol; there may be a functional warship after the Fall of Reach that they might be able to use to get to UNSC controlled space, and there was a chance of survivors being found.
Unlike most of their operations, Covenant forces had chosen to only selectively bombard Reach rather than glass the planet. The reason for this was that they were particularly interested in Forerunner artifacts, particularly a Forerunner crystal that they called the "Holy Light" which was located under ONI's Castle Base. As a result, at least two (if not more) groups of survivors remained on the planet.
Spartans and Vice Admiral Whitcomb
During the Fall of Reach, 3 Spartans (Li-008, Grace, and Anton) joined up with Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb. After planting a NOVA bomb inside the Covenant ranks, they spent the next week performing guerrilla attacks upon occupational Covenant forces on Reach. However, they were stranded on the planet with no means of escape.
Underneath the ruins of CASTLE base, Dr. Halsey and 5 Spartans (Frederic-104, Kelly-087, William-043, Vinh-030, and Isaac-039) had spent 5 days combing the remains of a Forerunner complex and an additional 5 days trapped in a hallway inside the ruins by Covenant forces. They managed to retrieve the Forerunner crystal the Covenant were seeking, but it emitted a burst of radiation which alerted the Covenant to their presence. Vinh and Isaac fell at the hands of overwhelming Covenant forces, and the others escaped by blowing the hallway down behind them.
Arrival at Reach
The Ascendant Justice arrived seven hundred thousand kilometers from Reach where its crew assessed the situation. They noticed several ships in orbit along with an orbital docking station and that the planet had mostly been glassed. However, a small spot that had not been destroyed perked the interest of both John-117 and Lieutenant Haverson, the former because it meant that there might be survivors from the Spartan team, the latter because of the Covenant's obvious interest in that spot.
When they arrived at Reach, they sent all the standard responses to indicate that they were still Covenant controlled. The Ascendant Justice was supposed to have a high ranking person on board so the Covenant did not question their authority to be there and thus, the charade succeeded. From here, they were able to determine that the enemy fleet consisted of 13 heavy cruisers, a pair of light cruisers and a trio of DDS-class carriers along with hundreds of smaller ships. They also spotted a pile of debris where all the leftover Covenant and UNSC ships that had fallen in the Fall of Reach were being kept. They also picked up a weak transmission for the Master Chief, which was the Oly Oly Oxen Free signal. From this, he knew that there were Spartans alive on the planet.
Once the team left, Cortana started analyzing as much data as she could. However, she quickly realized that she wasn't running at optimal capacity and had spread herself too thin. Before she could rectify this problem, the Covenant AI took advantage of her distraction and stunned her before taking over the communications system and signaling the nearby fleet of the Ascendant Justice's capture. Cortana was able to recover in time to dismantle and assimilate the renegade AI, but not before the damage had already been done.
The Covenant forces immediately turned on the Ascendant Justice with 13 ships moving to engage it. However, while their weapons charged, Cortana took the opportunity to test its new improvements to the Ascendant Justice's weapons systems. Without a need to charge its weapons, she was able to destroy 3 warships and do damage to a carrier's launch bay. However, she determined that the risk was too high to continue to fight and opted to flee instead, jumping to the Oort cloud of the Epsilon Eridani system to plot her next move.
The Covenant were also suspicious of the transport heading to the surface of Reach, but a quick inspection allayed their concerns. The UNSC personnel were able to land without further incident and the team made contact with 3 Spartans (Anton-044, Grace-093 and Li-008) and Vice Admiral Whitcomb at Camp Independence. The two teams relayed information about the events since the Fall of Reach. When the Master Chief determined that there might be survivors underneath Mechanite Mountain, Whitcomb approved a plan to try and rescue them.
The team was able to get inside Menachite Mountain without incident. They used the Covenant excavation tunnel and then landed at the bottom floor of the Forerunner installation. Li-008 and Shiela Polaski were assigned to stay with their dropship and Whitcomb ordered them into a position that would provide the least risk to the vessel. The rest of the team piled out and ambushed a group of about 100 Covenant soldiers who were trying to dig their way through to Dr. Halsey and her accompanying the Spartans, Kelly-087, Frederic-104 and William-043.
By the time the Covenant forces had been dispatched, the opening the Covenant had been working on was finished by Halsey's Spartans. The two teams were beginning to call for extraction when they realized that an entire battalion of Covenant forces were bearing down on them.
Two Hunters fired on the team - badly wounding Kelly and knocking her out of the battle as she tried to shield Dr. Halsey. However, the Hunters would, in turn, be fired upon by the rest of the Covenant forces. The Elite in charge made it clear that the Forerunner Crystal was not to be damaged and therefore, the UNSC forces were not to be fired upon. The Covenant charged en mass against the UNSC forces and were engaged by the Spartans while Polaski flew in to extract them. With John carrying Kelly, they escaped the fight.
As they were trying to exit the installation, a Covenant warship above them activated its gravity lift, trying to force them back down. However, the Forerunner crystal activated and shut down the gravity beam long enough for them to escape. Free of the installation, they plotted course for the rendezvous.
Cortana, meanwhile, had been working on her plan. She jumped into the debris field and began searching for a UNSC ship with an active power core. She settled on the frigate UNSC Gettysburg and connected the two ships. Fortunately for her, the Covenant were busy with the UNSC troops and their dropship that they didn't realize that the Ascendant Justice had arrived. With the two ships joined and the power from both reactors available, Cortana was ready. She took a final check of the rendezvous point and found that the entire Covenant fleet was in the area and that the Covenant fleet had tripled. She also intercepted communications ordering that the UNSC forces not to be fired upon because they had the Forerunner crystal.
Cortana jumped to the rendezvous point. Her arrival surprised the Covenant forces and by the time they had recovered to engage her, the UNSC team was already aboard. Using the combined power from the two reactors, Cortana charged her Slipspace drive and determined she needed five seconds to get a full charge. With that time, she fired on the nearest four cruisers, destroying two of them. She then entered Slipspace, fleeing the system.
Their escape was not what it was supposed to be. The Ascendant Justice/Gettysburg had entered some form of Slipspace anomaly. Fourteen Covenant ships were able to enter behind the ship. Within the anomaly, they could maneuver and fire at other ships, but the weapons they fired would jump randomly and there was no guarantee that they would do what was intended. This did not deter the Covenant from firing on the captured ship, nor Cortana from returning fire. This resulted in random bolts of superheated plasma impacting ships from both sides, causing heavy damage to the Ascendant Justice and destroying many of the Covenant warships.
Dr. Halsey determined what the anomaly was due to the Forerunner crystal, which seemed to warp Slipspace. She also concluded that it was only because of the considerable mass of the Ascendant Justice/Gettysburg configuration that they were able to stabilize space near themselves.
In the randomness of the trajectories, the various Plasma blobs eventually resulted in 3 hits taking out one of the Covenant cruisers. Two other shots made glancing blows against the Ascendant Justice, though her shields remained intact. A third shot took out two of her plasma turrets. However, it quickly became apparent that the more dangerous threat wasn't from the plasma shots but from the anomaly itself. The anomaly was ripping the ship apart and it became evident that staying too long would be disastrous.
However, with over a dozen cruisers facing them, the option of reverting to Real Space was suicidal. Vice Admiral Whitcomb chose to get into close range with the Covenant warships and take them out, one-by-one, where their turrets would be the least affected by the anomaly. However, when Cortana tried to power up the engines to fight, an explosion on the main drive conduit disabled their engines. Determining the explosion was sabotage, the Spartans and Polaski headed out to fight back the attackers and to fix the conduit.
The team was able to get to the conduit without major issue. Grace quickly confirmed the assumption of sabotage and while Fred and Grace set to repairing the damage, the rest of the team readied themselves for a possible attack.
It was a near-miss from a plasma bolt that alerted the Spartans to the incoming attack. The electromagnetic waves from the plasma overloaded the incoming Covenant Sangheili's active camouflage and the Spartans opened fire. However, shortly after the welders finished their task, Polaski warned them of the incoming ball of Plasma. The Spartans scrambled for cover as the plasma impacted the dropship.
The Covenant Elites, Polaski, Anton and Li all perished in the explosion. Only John was left conscious. He quickly secured his teammates by attaching their tethers to the ship, then attached his own. He had enough time to message the bridge and inform them that the job had been done before he, too, fell into unconsciousness.
By this point, Cortana felt that the Covenant forces had been reduced to a mere 3-5 warships, though she also speculated that the Ascendant Justice would only be able to survive another 5 minutes in the anomaly. Vice Admiral Whitcomb determined that he wanted to destroy one or two of the remaining warships before he left to minimize the amount of fighting they had to do outside of the anomaly. He also was counting on the others taking so much damage from the anomaly by that point that they would be out of commission.
For the first ship, Whitcomb had Cortana pressurize the loading bay of the Gettysburg. As soon as the Spartans secured the conduit, he ordered a collision course with a nearby, lightly damaged, Covenant cruiser. While the Covenant cruiser continued to fire into the anomaly, the Ascendant Justice slowly approached. When they were a mere kilometer apart, the Ascendant Justice fired and the Gettysburg's launch bay doors opened, pushing the two cruisers apart. As the close range, the weapons were able to cross as if they were in normal space and the cruiser was destroyed.
They then used the aft of the destroyed Covenant warship and rammed it towards a Covenant carrier. Using it as both a shield and ram, they sent the chunk on a collision course with the carrier. The carrier shot the incoming missile into pieces, but still suffered damage. The Ascendant Justice fired upon the carrier, finishing it off. Whitcomb ordered them out of Slipspace.
The slipspace bubble put the Gettysburg-Ascendant Justice many light years away from Reach and UNSC space. The speed they traveled through slipspace actually exceeded that of Covenant capabilities. However, they determined that the crystal emitted high levels of radiation within slipspace making it so that wherever they traveled, the Covenant would track them. It would later be left in the hands of Corporal Locklear to destroy.
Transmissions intercepted by Cortana revealed the fact that a Covenant fleet was rendezvousing at Unyielding Hierophant before proceeding to Earth. With their position being well beyond UNSC space, the priority for the survivors of the Fall of Reach became returning to Earth and warning them about the danger. However, to do so, they needed to undergo repairs, as well as follow the Cole Protocol by somehow disposing of the crystal, as it would give away their position whenever they entered Slipspace.
John-117 suggested a rebel base in the nearby Eridanus system, where he had completed his first mission. This would lead to the Massacre at Eridanus Secundus.
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