UNSC Starry Night
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UNSC Starry Night was a Razor-class prowler commanded by Captain Halima Ascot of the UNSC Navy. The vessel acted as the flagship of both Night Flight and Task Force Yama during the opening events of Operation: SILENT STORM. The Starry Night would be shot down on Seoba by a Covenant flotilla, resulting in the deaths of much of its crew, including Captain Ascot.
As with all prowlers in service with the United Nations Space Command, the Starry Night featured a stealth ablative coating that hid its radar signature, making it virtually invisible in the blackness of space. The vessel had a deployment bay fitted with a tactical monitor on the bulkhead, allowing those within to watch what the Starry Night could see with its array of sensors. This same bulkhead also included alert lamps that could be changed from red to amber to green, signifying the time until deployment. The lights in the drop bay could be changed from white to a pale purple, the later of which was less noticeable to any potential onlookers if the four meters square jump hatch was opened in space or any other dark location. For those within the bay, this darker lighting would also help their eyes to adjust before entering low-light conditions. In the event that the jump hatch was opened in the vacuum of space, the drop bay could be sealed off from the rest of the ship. It could also be pressurized or depressurized on command. The Starry Night had at least one escape pod, accessible through a hatch or similar kind of portal on the floor of the engineering compartment. On the outer hull of the prowler, the escape pod was protected by a large hatch that would be forcefully blown open roughly half a second before the pod's launch.
Armament and countermeasures
As comes standard on Razor-class prowlers, the Starry Night featured 30mm autocannons and M28 Shrieker missiles, which could be used for ground support. In the event that the vessel was compromised, it had a self-destruct system tied to a one-megaton Fury tactical nuclear weapon in the engineering compartment, which would completely pulverize the ship, any technology or data within it, and any hostile party that may be trying to access it. The nuke was programmed to detonate automatically if the ship experienced a catastrophic event, such as a crash. However, it would only detonate if there were no live signs detected within the vessel. If there were survivors detected, the self-destruct system would activate once there had been no shipboard motion for two hours. The nuke could also be remotely activated at will by either the ship's flight commander or wing commander. The captain of the fleet or task force's flagship could also detonate the nuke remotely. If one was familiar with Fury nukes, they could enter certain codes to arm the device manually, even setting a timed delay if desired.
Skirmish over Netherop
In March 2526, the Starry Night acted as the command vessel during a mission to capture a Covenant warship so that humanity might learn more about its new enemy and their technology. To accomplish this task, the prowler was stocked with a complement of twelve Spartan-II soldiers, whom would be boarding the Covenant vessel. While remaining hidden in orbit over Netherop, Captain Halima Ascot and her prowlers observed the Covenant vessels in orbit for over a day. When the Spartans were ready to make their move on March 5, 2526, Ascot was somewhat hesitant to give the Spartans' leader, John-117, permission to initiate the operation at the time he requested. John assured her his assault squad could handle the mission, even to the point that Ascot warned him to be careful about pissing her off. Though she wanted to continue to wait for a more opportune moment to present itself, the Spartan was eventually able to get her to admit that the longer they waited, the more chance there was that something could go drastically wrong. Once they both agree, Ascot contacted the bridge and then informed John that the Starry Night would begin a slingshot maneuver in five minutes' time. John thanked the captain but she made it clear that her acquiescence to his arguments was not meant as some sort of favor to him. Once the Starry Night initiated the maneuver, the Spartans leapt from the prowler's deployment bay, drifting through space toward their target.
After the Spartans departed for the Covenant frigate, Ascot monitored their progress as best she could from the Starry Night. Ultimately, the mission went south when a sensor operator on another prowler "mistakenly" broadcast to the Spartans' SQUADCOM, revealing their presence to the alien crew. In reality, this sensor operator was aligned with the Insurrectionists led by Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto, and the intent of the broadcast was to get the Spartans killed. While the Spartans did need to evacuate the Covenant ship when its shipmaster activated its self-destruct sequence, each of the twelve survived and were picked up by Ascot's prowlers.
Flagship of Task Force Yama
On March 8, 2526, the Starry Night was made the flagship of Task Force Yama, an offshoot of Vice Admiral Preston Cole's Battle Group X-Ray. This would be for the duration of Operation: SILENT STORM, the UNSC's plan to slow down the Covenant's advance through the Outer Colonies by boarding their vessels and destroying them from the inside. Captain Ascot herself would command the task force from the bridge of the Starry Night. Colonel Marmon Crowther of the 21st Space Assault Battalion would command the infantry tasked with boarding the vessels, a job assigned to his own Black Dagger ODSTs and John-117's Spartan supersoldiers. Ascot's prowlers would transport these warriors into battle, using camouflage technology to get them close enough to board the Covenant ships. It was theorized that the Covenant's next target would be the colony of Biko, so an abandoned ice quarry on its moon of Seoba was chosen to hide the task force until they arrived. With the operation underway, the Starry Night led Task Force Yama into slipspace.
Arrival at Seoba
On March 18, 2526, they arrived in-system and approached Seoba, planning to practice the mass deployment of their ODSTs and Spartans into the quarry. Unbeknownst to the task force, the Biko Independence Army and United Rebel Front had planned to overthrow Biko's government in preparation for the Covenant's impending arrival at the colony, and they had chosen the very same ice quarry as the staging ground for their coup. Operation: ICE DANCE quickly became a warzone when the prowlers' sensors discovered the insurrectionists hidden amidst the ice. Thanks to the actions of John's team, the Black Daggers, and Nyeto's Ghost Flight, the battle ended with the UNSC taking control of the quarry. The next day, as the task force was still preparing for their attack on the incoming fleet, a Covenant flotilla appeared in-system and set course for Seoba. Captain Ascot, who was in the middle of a debriefing discussing the events of the previous day's battle, rushed back to the Starry Night, ordering the rest of her prowlers to prepare for takeoff immediately.
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. The Starry Night and the rest of Night Flight received the last company of ODSTs as Ascot was informed of an incoming bombardment from the alien flotilla. 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 vessel impacted the quarry wall, demolishing a two-hundred-meter section of terrace, pulverizing the ship's bow, and heavily warping its fuselage. An avalanche was caused by the crash, resulting in the Starry Night resting partially atop the ice pile, approximately seven hundred meters from the quarry floor. The impact killed Halima Ascot and much of the crew. Only four Black Daggers and Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson survived the crash, with the latter receiving a severe concussion.
Although Colonel Crowther wanted to send a unit of Black Daggers to search for survivors after the Starry Night could not be raised on comms, none of his men remained on the moon, and sending them back would require putting them and another prowler into extreme danger. As such, John-117 diverted himself and his Spartans to assist, once they had completed their assignment of loading the captured insurrectionists onto a transport to be taken to Biko. Once in the quarry, John accessed the command channel and requested a waypoint leading to the Starry Night's projected crash site. Crowther acknowledged John's plan, but ordered him to not take action unless immediately warranted. The colonel also informed him of Biko's naval response to the alien bombardment of Seoba and that Nyeto believed the small Covenant flotilla would either be in full retreat or destroyed within the hour by the overwhelming force. After nearing the provided waypoint, the Spartans discovered that the Starry Night was largely intact, but that its positioning would make it hard to access. Also, they spotted a single intrusion corvette approaching the prowler, seemingly to recover it for study. John opened the command channel again and relayed this information to Crowther, who 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, there were only three positions that had access to that ability. The first two were the flight commander and wing commander, both of which were roles held by Captain Ascot, the status of whom was unknown to them. The final person with the ability to remotely detonate the prowler was the captain of the UNSC Vanishing Point, which was holding station two planetary orbits out from Seoba. At that distance, it would take nearly an hour for the request to be sent to the cruiser and for the return signal to arrive. By then, the Covenant might already have retrieved sensitive data from the wrecked prowler. John assured Crowther that they would get the job done, but he 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, but Crowther interrupted him, promising that they would find a way.
At this point, the looming intrusion corvette had begun deploying EVA-equipped Sangheili, Jiralhanae, and Kig-Yar warriors via gravity lift, with the first already looking for a way inside the ship. As the situation had become dire, John ordered Blue Team 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. While the other Spartans were either dealing with approaching armored vehicles or still digging themselves out of the ice, Frederic-104, Linda-058, and Malcolm-059 entered the upside-down prowler though the massive breach in its forward fuselage. John ordered them to destroy the Starry Night to prevent the Covenant from gaining access to the critical information held within its computer systems. Inside, the team found Johnson and the four ODSTs, and Linda got to work arming the vessel's Fury nuke. Fred reported the situation to John, who warned them of a Bloodstar strike team preparing to board. The Spartans repelled them with explosive weapons, and John eliminated the stragglers outside. Perhaps realizing that the situation was changing in favor of the Spartans, the intrusion corvette activated its gravity lift and began slowly levitating the Starry Night up into its cargo bay. Linda had just finished arming the nuke and began dragging Johnson into the escape pod when John ordered her to initiate its thirty-second timer immediately. Following the order, the Spartans gathered the survivors and boarded the escape pod, launching through Seoba's low gravity while under fire from the corvette's surprised gunners. John informed Crowther and Nyeto of the escape pod and the imminent nuclear explosion. All of the Spartans made it to safety before the nuke's detonation, which destroyed both the Starry Night and the intrusion corvette. After the nuke's electromagnetic pulse had dissipated, Crowther extracted the Spartans and other survivors.
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