Task Force Yama
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Task Force Yama was a splinter group of the UNSC Navy's Battle Group X-Ray, under the command of Captain Halima Ascot. The Point Blank-class stealth cruiser UNSC Vanishing Point would serve as a logistics-support ship, while the Razor-class prowler UNSC Starry Night served as Ascot's flagship. In 2526, the Task Force participated in the Battle of Biko and Operation: SILENT STORM.
Operation: SILENT STORM
In early March 2526, Task Force Yama split off from Battle Group X-Ray under the orders of Vice Admiral Preston Cole. The task force's main objective was to escort the SPARTAN-IIs led by John-117 and the ODSTs of the 21st Space Assault Battalion into battle against the Covenant fleet so that they could board as many of their vessels and stations as possible. Then, using nuclear weapons and other high-yield explosives, they would destroy the ships from the inside, within their nearly impenetrable energy shields. If successful, this operation would disrupt Covenant supply lines and weaken their forward fleets, giving the United Nations Space Command more time to prepare. Captain Halima Ascot, commander of the UNSC Starry Night was selected to take command of the entire task force for the duration of Operation: SILENT STORM.
The leadership personnel for this operation were briefed by Vice Admiral Cole aboard the UNSC Vanishing Point on March 8, as the task force rested in deep space within the Polona sector. Soon after the briefing, the task force entered slipspace for Biko in the Kolaqoa system. With a Covenant fleet already glassing the nearby colony of Etalan, Biko was expected to be the next target and the perfect place to initiate Operation: SILENT STORM. As such, an ice quarry on its moon of Seoba was selected to be Task Force Yama's staging ground as they awaited the Covenant fleet's arrival.
During the ten-day voyage through slipspace, the Spartans trained with the ODSTs in the Vanishing Point's mission preparation hold. The Spartans made short work of the marines in every exercise until Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson taught them new, unorthodox strategies that were much more effective against the supersoldiers. After four days of training, Colonel Marmon Crowther had them all gather in the drop hangar to discuss the specifics of the plan. Despite their performance against his ODSTs, Crowther was skeptical about deploying the Spartans to the front lines due to their inexperience on the battlefield as well as their apparent young age, much to John-117's frustration.
Battle of Seoba
On March 18, Task Force Yama arrived in the Kolaqoa system and set course for Seoba, with Colonel Crowther planning to practice the mass deployment of the Spartans and his ODSTs into the ice quarry there. Led by Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto, the Razor-class prowlers of Ghost Flight would be responsible for delivering these forces. However, Operation: ICE DANCE quickly became a warzone when the prowlers detected the insurgent aligned with the Biko Independence Army hidden amidst the ice. The Vanishing Point hung back to block the insurrectionists' transmissions, while Ghost Flight continued its insertion run. As the prowlers dropped off their complement, the entrenched insurrectionists tore the ODSTs to shreds with 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. During an attack run, the UNSC Ghost Star was lost to anti-aircraft fire, prompting Nyeto to pull Ghost Flight out until the skies were made more safe. With Blue Team unknowingly used as a diversion, Lieutenant Nelly Hamm and her men from the Black Daggers' Alpha Company cleared out many of the anti-aircraft emplacements and destroyed a convoy of Civets that had been rising out of the quarry to repair the relay. This allowed Nyeto to deliver more ODSTs, which resulted in the capture of the quarry.
The next day, Captain Ascot called for a debriefing in one of the quarry's old assembly chambers. While discussing what went wrong during the battle, the conversation soon turned to John and his fellow Spartans' apparent young ages. It was revealed that they were all roughly fifteen years old, leading to Crowther's refusal to put them into harm's way. With this decided, the topic of how the insurgents had seemingly been prepared for their arrival was brought up. John-117 observed that they might have been waiting for someone other than the UNSC. The group soon realized that the insurrectionists had instead been preparing to meet with the Covenant, in an attempt to form an alliance. Just then, a Covenant flotilla arrived in the system, with a course set for Seoba. Captain Ascot and Lieutenant Nyeto rushed back to their ships to prepare them for battle. Mere minutes later, much of Task Force Yama had launched from Seoba, taking the Black Daggers along with them in hopes that a boarding opportunity would present itself. First Blade Tel 'Szatulai aboard the Sacred Whisper noticed their departure even with the corvette's sensors failing to detect the prowlers' presence. Stunned by the seemingly superior stealth technology employed by the humans, 'Szatulai ordered the Bloodstar Flotilla to fire blindly on the ice quarry, hoping to down one of the vessels to recover and study. Captain Ascot's Starry Night and the rest of Night Flight received the last company of ODSTs as Ascot was informed of the incoming bombardment. With the plasma heading right for them, Ascot ordered Night Flight to launch immediately. As the Starry Night rose into the Seoban sky, one of the blasts hit the prowler, causing it to crash back into the quarry. The impact killed Ascot and much of her crew, only leaving five survivors. Nyeto frantically reported over the task force's command channel that the vessel was still intact when Crowther interrupted him, informing the lieutenant commander that he would advise if more information about Ascot's flagship was needed, reminding him of Protocol Echo when he protested. Crowther attempted to hail the Starry Night, but received no response. Fearing the worst, he began searching for a Black Dagger unit that could be sent to the crash site. However, all of his ODSTs had already launched with prowlers. Those aboard the other three prowlers of Night Flight were eager to assist, but it would require sending them back into an increasingly intense plasma bombardment. He denied their offers, not wanting to lose any more ships.
As no other units were available, John-117 decided that he would divert his Spartans to search for the Starry Night and recover any survivors. He accessed Task Force Yama's command channel to request a waypoint leading to the prowler's projected crash site. After some convincing, Crowther allowed John and his Spartans to investigate, insisting that they not engage any Covenant forces unless it could not be avoided. He also informed the Spartans of Biko's naval response to the bombardment of Seoba and that Nyeto believed the alien flotilla would either be in full retreat or destroyed within the hour by the overwhelming force. Nyeto reaffirmed this estimation and told John not to worry, as Task Force Yama would have the Spartans' backs. Upon reaching the Starry Night's crash site, they found that it was intact, but that a Covenant corvette was attempting to recover it. John contacted Crowther once again to inform him of the situation. The prowler now needed to be destroyed to prevent the information within its computers from falling into enemy hands. However, the vessel's self-destruct could not be remotely activated without Captain Ascot or the captain of the Vanishing Point, which was holding station too far out to contact quickly enough. John assured Crowther that his Spartans would handle it, but requested that Nyeto support them by distracting the two corvettes that were now attacking the Spartans. However, support from Task Force Yama was too slow in arriving, forcing John to take drastic measures to prevent Covenant incursion into the Starry Night.
Using their grenade launchers, Blue Team caused an avalanche that brought the prowler to them, but also buried half of the Spartans in ice. Finding that Fred-104 had escaped being caught under the ice flow, John ordered him to board and destroy the Starry Night as he switched back to the command channel to report. When he asked yet again where their support was, Nyeto told him that it was on the way and that he should not worry. Growing increasingly frustrated, John made it clear to him that the support was needed immediately. Still, Nyeto assured him that he had a plan. While Fred led a small team inside of the Starry Night, the other Spartans were fending off armored vehicles and three intrusion corvettes. Finally, Nyeto made his move and sent multiple of the task force's prowlers on a strafing run, destroying two of the corvettes and chasing away the third. However, the original corvette that was still attempting to capture the Starry Night was left unscathed. When it began to levitate the prowler into it cargo hold, John ordered Fred's team to activate the prowler's Fury tactical nuclear weapon and escape with the few survivors they had found. Fred decided that they would use one of the vessel's escape pods to flee the blast radius. When it launched from the prowler and soared out of the quarry pit through Seoba's low gravity, Crowther was surprised and asked what that was. John informed him that it was some of his Spartans and survivors from the crash, and that the Starry Night would self-destruct in twenty-five seconds. Nyeto sarcastically thanked John for the short notice, to which the Spartan responded in kind regarding the delayed support. Acting offended by the remark, Nyeto began to remind him of the two corvettes he shot down, but Crowther interrupted to tell them to can the chatter. To ensure that none of Task Force Yama would be caught in the blast or its effects, Nyeto had all the prowlers pull back. Each of the twelve Spartans and the five survivors from the Starry Night made it away safely before the detonation, which also destroyed the Covenant corvette that was attempting to take possession of the prowler. After the nuke's electromagnetic pulse had dissipated, Crowther had some prowlers land to extract them. Before boarding the prowlers, the Spartans investigated the wreckage of the intrusion corvette, finding and extricating an intact starholo from its bridge. They returned the device to the Vanishing Point for Dr. Catherine Halsey to examine.
On March 20, the two-hundred-and-three men and women of Task Force Yama who had died at Seoba were cremated with their ashes placed into interment capsules. These containers were arranged in the command hangar of the Vanishing Point, where a large honor company of officers and enlisted personnel attended a funeral service led by Major Ojombo. After she gave an emotional speech about the honor of service and sacrifice, Lieutenant Commander Nyeto—now the de facto commander of the task force after Ascot's death—ordered Staff Sergeant Johnson to call the company to attention, lift the AlON pressure barrier, and have the outer hatch be opened to let the capsules float out into space. While this was going on, Nyeto delivered his prepared Committal speech. After this was finished and all the capsules had been jettisoned, he had Johnson order the hatch closed and the pressure barrier retracted. The staff sergeant then dismissed the honor company, with most promptly leaving the hangar and returning to their duty stations.
A handful of senior officers and the six Spartans that were not in the infirmary remained to hear their action from Nyeto. The lieutenant commander approached John-117 and complemented him on actions the previous day, promising that he and his compatriots would continue to see action despite their young ages. Colonel Crowther contested this yet again, saying that the Spartans reported to him. In response, Nyeto reminded Crowther that he now reported to him as commander of the task force, and that Admiral Cole surely knew about their unique situation before assigning them to the operation. What followed was a heated debate that ultimately ended in Nyeto conceding to Crowther after being threatened with a report to a UNSC board of inquiry. As the remaining personnel departed from the hangar in a shocked silence, Johnson was joined by Crowther during the walk back to the Black Daggers' quarters. Crowther apologized to him for having that exchange in front of everyone, but he told the colonel that he had seen worse. He also warned Crowther that his argument with Nyeto was not one he was going to win, as it had been decided far above his pay grade that the Spartans were not children and that they were the right fit for the mission. Crowther agreed with this sentiment, saying that the young supersoldiers had saved them at Seoba and that they were ready for battle. He then revealed that he was suspicious of Nyeto and his strange attitude toward the Spartans. It had seemed to him that Nyeto had purposefully stalled in supporting them during the previous day's battle. As such, Crowther wanted to keep the Spartans away from Nyeto until he figured out what was going on. To keep the Spartans away for a time, the colonel informed Johnson that he was sending them on a mission to sabotage the Covenant's supply chain at Etalan.
Battle of Biko
Shortly after, the Covenant Fleet of Inexorable Obedience arrived and attacked Biko, with the task force attempting to help defend the planet. Due to insurrectionist warnings, the Covenant was successfully able to protect against boarding actions and the task force lost five more prowlers, but the Spartans used the time to go on a secret side mission to Etalan, where they successfully destroyed the Covenant logistics fleet, forcing the Covenant to call in another for resupply and exposing their support world of Zhoist to Dr. Halsey.
Attack on Zhoist
The task force, split into Dagger Force and Sierra Force, next launched an attack against Zhoist. By this point, it had become clear that the task force's new commander, Hector Nyeto was in fact an Insurrectionist attempting to sabotage the Spartans. Before departure, Colonel Marmon Crowther promoted John-117 to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer and placed him in charge of Sierra Force with secret new orders that foiled Nyeto's attempt to betray the task force to the Covenant. Nyeto was forced to flee to slipspace, escaping with the three Prowlers of Ghost Flight which all turned out to be crewed by Insurrectionists. Though the Black Daggers aboard were blown into vacuum, they were later rescued by the UNSC Night Watch. Another Prowler was lost on approach to Zhoist, but the task force was able to complete its mission, destroying the Ring of Mighty Abundance, two of the Ten Cities of Edification and inflicting massive casualties upon the Covenant.
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