Space engagements over Reach
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During the Fall of Reach, a series of battles in space over Reach took place. While smaller engagements took place earlier, a massive engagement August 30 encompassing a multitude of ships from both sides of the battle.
Fall of Reach
By August 30, the campaign on and around Reach had been ongoing for weeks, with engagements going on since July 23. The Covenant initially managed to avoid conflicts in space, using cloaking mechanisms, stealth pylons and spires to cloak the presence of their army and a massive fleet of the Ministry of Fervent Intercession's ships. This fleet was led by Supreme Commander Rho 'Barutamee, aboard the Sh'wada-pattern supercarrier Long Night of Solace. On August 12, the full extent of this invasion was unveiled following the Battle at Szurdok Ridge, culminating with the destruction of UNSC Grafton by the supercarrier's energy projector.
With the UNSC's realisation at the extent of the Covenant invasion on Reach, the UNSC recalled sixty percent of all naval assets from existing deployments to help defend Reach from the Covenant, with the first reinforcements expected to arrive within 48 hours of August 13. Michael Stanforth led defensive efforts against the Covenant across the Epsilon Eridani system, with battles at Teller Station, the system's asteroid fields, and culminating in a series of clashes as the human fleet sought to evacuate an artifact from Site 17 while mitigating losses that may compromise the future defense of Reach. This artifact was intended as a lure to draw 'Barutamee's forces in, with the Covenant commander deploying a large portion of his fleet to Site 17, ultimately spreading his forces thin.
UPPER CUT and LEFT JAB
With 'Barutamee's forces spread across the system, the next stage of the UNSC's plan began, simultaneously launching Operations: UPPER CUT and LEFT JAB. For LEFT JAB, Stanforth began using his fleet to begin probing the Covenant lines for vulnerabilities, using his task forces to attack Covenant scouting fleets. While the Covenant fleet was distracted, Operation: UPPER CUT was led by NOBLE Team Spartans Jorge-052 and SPARTAN-B312, employing Sabre starfighters and the UNSC Savannah as support. The mission was to use the starfighters to board the Ceudar-pattern heavy corvette Ardent Prayer and set the ship on a refuelling run with the supercarrier, while a secondary team armed a slipspace drive to "malfunction", ripping space-time apart and destroying the supercarrier whole.
The Savannah lended its slipspace drive to the cause, and served on station for electronic warfare, point-defense and coordination with Stanforth's battlegroup but ultimately was destroyed by the plasma cannons of Ardent Prayer. Nonetheless, UPPER CUT was a success and the Long Night of Solace was destroyed, with the supercarrier's wreckage falling to Reach's surface. However, this operation would be in vain, as almost immediately following the destruction of Long Night of Solace a second Covenant fleet from the Ministry of Resolution appeared above Reach, and proceeded to attack the planet. This fleet began to attack Reach in earnest, as opposed to the artifact-recovery operations sought by Rho 'Barutamee. Kantar 'Utaralee assumed command of what remained of Rho's forces, rallying the Fleet of Valiant Prudence near Turul in an attempt to finish what Rho had started and recover the Site 17 artefact. What remained of the UNSC fleet was issued an emergency order to initiate the Cole Protocol and rally at Rally Point Zulu.
With the Covenant now on Reach, Operation: RED FLAG was green-lit to go ahead. Consequently, the crew of UNSC Pillar of Autumn were kept unawares of the ongoing battle around them as to ensure they would not be distracted from their mission.
Final battles over Reach
Covenant intrusion software later detected the oversight of the UNSC Circumference and deployed forces to the Station. In order to effectively tackle both problems, John-117 split his SPARTAN-IIs into two groups. Three SPARTAN-IIs (himself, Linda-058, and James-005) were to be deployed to the station to scrub the data on the Circumference.
The Pillar of Autumn enters into slipspace with elements of the Fleet of Particular Justice pursuing.
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