Seoba Ice Quarry
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Colonization of Biko
Prior to 2424, human colonists established the quarry to mine ice that would be sent to Biko via mass driver. Built on the side of a mountain, the mass driver facility would launch thousand-ton payloads of steel-encapsulated ice into the planet's exosphere. Here, the capsules were intercepted by their purchasers, then guided into the stratosphere and attached to a dirigible so they could be floated gently to their final destination. By 2424, the terraforming process had finally paid off and Biko had developed a climate humid enough to generate its own rain. As such, both the mass driver and the quarry were decommissioned and abandoned.
In early 2526, the Biko Independence Army planned to overthrow Biko's government in preparation for the Covenant's impending arrival at the colony. This ice quarry was chosen as a suitable staging ground for the coup. However, the UNSC's Task Force Yama had also selected the quarry as their own staging ground for a daring operation to board Covenant warships and destroy them from the inside using nuclear weapons. On March 18, 2526, Task Force Yama arrived and planned to practice the mass deployment of their 21st Space Assault Battalion ODSTs and Spartans. Operation: ICE DANCE quickly became a warzone when the prowlers detected the insurgents hidden amidst the ice.
As the prowlers dropped off their complement, the entrenched insurrectionists tore the ODSTs to shreds with their M41 Vulcans. Meanwhile, a strike managed to damage the insurgents' communications relay that sat atop the quarry, preventing them from calling for help. In the chaos, John-117 disobeyed orders and leapt from the UNSC Ghost Song to face the insurgents head-on, with the rest of Blue Team following his lead. Using his rocket launcher, John pulverized two nearby gun bunkers that had been carved into the ice. At the quarry's frozen dockyards, Blue Team rendezvoused with Lieutenant Nelly Hamm and Captain Zelos Cuvier of the Black Daggers. Here, they formulated a plan to destroy an insurgent Civet convoy slowly climbing the quarry's steep slope to repair the communications relay. Another airstrike was out of the question as the UNSC Ghost Star had been lost on the previous run and Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto did not wish to risk another vessel. To stealthily cover the five kilometers up the slope to the relay before the convoy, the Spartans would use their thruster packs, flamethrowers, and C-7 foaming explosive to ascend the derelict mass driver's ice-covered acceleration tube. They went forward with the plan, having Linda-058 stay back to cover them with her MA5B assault rifle to watch for any hint that the insurrectionists had discovered what they were doing. John led the way, with Frederic-104 and then Kelly-087 trailing behind. Ultimately, the insurgents had realized their plan, distracting them enough so that Nyeto could deploy more of Hamm's forces ahead of the convoy. By the time the Spartans emerged from the accelerator tube, the convoy had been destroyed and the relay rigged to explode.
The day after, UNSC forces repurposed the quarry's abandoned Assembly Chamber 4L430 for an informal debriefing led by Captain Halima Ascot, the commander of Task Force Yama. A UNSC flag was hung on the chamber's polycrete-coated walls, with portable standing lights and a folding conference table also set up for the debriefing.
Along with Captain Ascot, the meeting included Colonel Marmon Crowther, Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto, now-Captain Nelly Hamm, Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson, SPARTAN-II John-117, and Dr. Catherine Halsey. Here, they discussed the difficulties with the previous day's battle. After John's maverick action was brought up, the discussion soon turned to the young Spartan's true age. Ultimately, the truth came out that John and his fellow Spartans were all around the age of fifteen, and Colonel Crowther refused to send them into battle again as a result. The conversation then turned to why the Insurrectionists had seemingly been ready for their arrival, with John realizing and convincing the others that they had instead been waiting for the Covenant, with the intent to meet them for negotiations. While they were planning for the Covenant's inevitable arrival, a flotilla of the alien ships appeared in-system and set course for Seoba. The UNSC leaders then rushed out of the chamber to ready their forces for the imminent continuation of the battle. Crowther, however, stayed behind to give John-117 his new orders. He and his comrades would be guard the captured rebels and prepare them for transport back to Biko.
Arrival of the Covenant
With an estimated ten minutes before the flotilla arrived at Seoba, John-117 and his fellow Spartans were busy in Subsurface Maintenance Grotto 6M430 loading the 300 insurrectionist prisoners onto a captured Banta-class colony ship. As the mass of people were urged up the vessel's loading ramp, John noticed a group of insurgents trying to hide the presence of one who was clearly an officer. John knew that the Office of Naval Intelligence would want to interrogate any high-ranking members of the United Rebel Front, so he ordered the prisoners to halt. Using his MJOLNIR's onboard computer, he checked the identity of the individual, who turned out to be General Harper Garvin, and called him forward. After a failed attempt by the Gao insurrectionist Petora Zoyas to stall for him, Garvin complied. While the prisoners resumed boarding, Garvin attempted to work some details about the Spartans out of John, who was busy listening Task Force Yama's command channel.
Captain Ascot had directed the prowlers of Task Force Yama to launch immediately once loaded with members of the Black Daggers. Despite his ship's sensors being unable to detect the human stealth vessels, First Blade Tel 'Szatulai of the Bloodstar Flotilla witnessed the task force launching from the quarry, ordering the intrusion corvettes to fire on their point of origin. He hoped to cripple one of the vessels so that it could be recovered and studied. One of the last prowlers to launch, the UNSC Starry Night, Ascot's vessel and the flagship of the task force, was hit by the plasma bombardment. It crashed into the quarry, and could not be raised on comms. The bombardment began to shake the grotto, injuring some prisoners with falling chunks of ice. John ordered the rest to carry their wounded into the transport, warning that anyone who delayed would die in the quarry.
As he continued to listen to the command channel, John could tell that Crowther would be unable to send any of his men to the Starry Night's crash site, and that he did not want to risk another prowler to investigate either. Refusing to give up on Captain Ascot and her crew, or allow the Covenant access to a prowler, John decided that he and his teammates would go after the Starry Night instead. After telling Garvin to rejoin his people, he informed the pilot of the transport that she and her flight crew would be leaving without them. When the pilot protested to launching without the Spartans to watch the prisoners, John rebuked her and reminded her to follow flight deck isolation protocols. With that, the Spartans left the grotto via its access airlock.
When the Spartans stepped out into the quarry, the sublimation fog caused visibility to be so poor that each of them could barely see the end of their rifles, but the bright flashes of plasma bolts could be seen dancing through the clouds above. John accessed the command channel once more and requested a waypoint leading to the downed prowler. Crowther responded by asking what he thought he was doing. John stated that they were checking on the status of the Starry Night as they were the only unit that could do so at the moment. While John waited for a response, he signaled Green and Gold Teams to spread out in a hundred-meter-wide search line, with Green Team on the left of Blue Team, and Gold Team on the right. By doing this, the Spartans would be more likely to find any debris from the Starry Night that might have otherwise been missed in the fog. John also ordered them to advance at a trotting speed, leading them away from the dockyards where they had engaged insurgents the day before. When Crowther still had not responded, John added over the command channel that they would take a look at the crash site and report. Finally, Crowther acknowledged John's plan, but ordered him to not take action unless immediately warranted. He also informed him of Biko's naval response to the alien bombardment of Seoba and that Nyeto believed that the small Covenant flotilla would either be in full retreat or destroyed within the hour by the approaching overwhelming force. An inexact waypoint was placed on each of the Spartans' HUDs, and John had them adjust course to match. At this point, Linda and the rest of Blue Team were arrayed in a diamond formation with only five meters between them, with only their motion trackers revealing the locations of their teammates. John ordered them all to advance at a full run while keeping their eyes on their feet, since that was all they could see anyway. As they ran, the Emmeline departed the grotto and flew over the Spartans, churning up the fog and allowing a brief moment of visibility. Through the haze, they could see five Covenant vessels fire towards the transport as it crested the horizon.
As the Spartans neared the provided waypoint, the fog had lowered to shoulder-height, allowing them to discover that the Starry Night was largely intact, but sat atop a large avalanche about seven hundred meters up the quarry wall. Also, they spotted an intrusion corvette, the Worthy Silence, moving into position over the prowler, seemingly preparing to recover it for study. Realizing the danger, John declared to his teammates that the mission was no longer a rescue mission. Their primary objective was now to deny the Covenant from recovering the prowler and the data stored within. Then, John opened the command channel again and relayed this information to Crowther, who echoed John's concerns and insisted that they could not let the Covenant take possession of the Starry Night. The vessel's navigation computer and other onboard data devices could reveal the locations of UNSC outposts, entire force deployments, or worse. Crowther asked Nyeto if there was any way that the prowler's nuclear self-destruct system could be remotely activated, to which the lieutenant commander responded in the affirmative. However, neither of the two people with the ability to activate it could be reached. Crowther reluctantly ordered the Spartans to prevent the Starry Night's capture, but John cut him off, assuring him that they would not fail. Yet, the Spartan requested that Task Force Yama assist them by keeping the assaulting corvettes off their backs. Nyeto began to say that their prowlers were not designed for ship-to-ship combat when Crowther interrupted him, promising that they would find a way.
Just then, a Covenant Ghost appeared on John's motion tracker, firing at him through the fog. Once it showed itself, he killed its Jiralhanae driver with his MA5B's underbarrel grenade launcher. Shortly after that was handled, more Ghosts entered the quarry, so John ordered Green and Gold Teams to deal with them as Blue Team followed him. At this point, the Worthy Silence had begun deploying EVA-equipped Sangheili, Jiralhanae, and Kig-Yar Bloodstar warriors via gravity lift, with the first already looking for a way inside the ship. Another corvette crested the edge of the quarry, firing its main cannon on the Spartans. Grace-093 took a hit, and John requested an ETA on Nyeto's support. The lieutenant commander told him not to worry, as it was nearly set up. However, John realized it would be too late for that and he ordered Fred, Kelly, and Linda to simultaneously fire on the avalanche just below the Starry Night with their grenade launchers to cause the vessel to fall to quarry floor and prevent the Covenant from gaining entrance. The volley of grenades worked a bit too well, bringing the avalanche down on top of the Spartans, but successfully delaying the Covenant in their boarding attempt.
By the time some of the Spartans had recovered, two more corvettes had arrived to support the Bloodstars, as well as to deploy more armored vehicles. However, Fred led a small team of Spartans into the prowler before the Covenant could make a second boarding attempt. Within the Starry Night, the Spartans found five survivors: Staff Sergeant Johnson and four ODSTs. While most of the supersoldiers were occupied fending off the ground vehicles or freeing themselves from the ice flow, a Bloodstar strike team approached the vessel. Two Kig-Yar entered first to scout it out, then a group of Sangheili and Jiralhanae entered, leaving two more Kig-Yar atop the fuselage to act as a rear guard. Meanwhile, Task Force Yama shot down two of the flotilla's corvettes in a strafing run. Shortly after they boarded, the Bloodstars were attacked by Fred's team. Most of them died in an explosion, but two Sangheili escaped to be confronted by John. The Spartan killed one of them with his M6D magnum and stabbed the other with their own energy sword. Before he could recover from the encounter, the two Kig-Yar stationed atop the prowler began firing at him from behind their shields, with one landing a hit that compromised his armor's seal. Two more Spartans arrived to assist, but the Worthy Silence overhead began lifting the Starry Night into its cargo hold. The team inside the prowler armed its nuclear self-destruct and fled in an escape pod, while the other Spartans sprinted out of the nuke's blast radius. Thirty seconds later, the nuke detonated, destroying both the Starry Night and the intrusion corvette above. Each of the twelve Spartans made it to safety, but John wanted to check on each of them personally, once Joshua-029 patched the breach in his armor. Hoping to find intact Covenant technology within its hull, some of the Spartans ventured into the wreckage of the Worthy Silence. On the corvette's bridge, they came across its functional kelguid, carefully cutting it free from the floor panels to be taken to Dr. Halsey. Colonel Crowther extracted the Spartans once the nuke's electromagnetic pulse had dissipated.
The status of the ice quarry—and Seoba as a whole—after the subsequent Battle of Biko is unknown.
The ice quarry's main pit was over ten kilometers in diameter and shaped roughly like an octopus, with multiple long curving canyons radiating from the central cavity. The walls of the cavity were pocked with oddly shaped cave entrances of varying sizes. At places, the stacked terraces of the quarry wall reached two kilometers high.
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