From a distance, echoing and reverberating through the dark fog of your conscious, the sound of an alarm klaxon. That sound...it's incessant and urgent blaring stirs something within you. Looking around, you notice the room around you is cold and dark...lit only by a spinning emergency strobe mounted above a wall terminal to your left. You are confused, and unsure of where you are...
Looking down to your mag-booted feet, you see in the intermittent light that you are wearing a uniform of some kind. The name tag says ___________. The name sounds right, and immediately you are rewarded with a flash of memory.
You are standing in a well lit room, surrounded by scores of uniformed men and women, uniforms that look like yours. A large holoscreen takes up the majority of the back wall, it is covered with hundreds of multicolored icons of different sizes and shapes. You cannot make sense of the symbols, but it is obvious that the two forces displayed are massively mismatched. The red icons are spread evenly in a crescent shape, the outnumbered blue icons were clustered feebly around a single pair of systems.
The tense silence in the room has begun to slowly devolve into tense murmuring when the door to the ready room opens, and a crisply dressed man with a severe expression painted across his face. He quickly steps to the raised lectern, and without a glance to the board behind, begins to speak.
"Ladies and gentleman, I'm not going to lie to you, this screen behind me doesn't even begin to describe how bad things really are." His epaulets and name tag identified him as Rear Admiral Robbins. You have never heard of him, but then again top brass had been turning over quickly these last few years...a reflection of how many flagships had been lost. He took a long ragged breath, one that was filled with exhaustion, tension, and something else - perhaps resignation? "We have confirmation that the Athena system has fallen."
The room breaks out into raucous gasps, and disbelieving cries. Admiral Robbins pauses for a breath, and then his amplified voice breaks through the din like a razor through flesh. "SILENCE!"
His demand is honored instantly, and silence reigns again. It is now a thick and frightened silence. There is anger there too, but much more fear.
Behind him, the holoscreen updates, and the Athena system, with it's 12 Billion souls, blinked the sullen red of a fallen system. An update moments later added the icons indicating 90%+ casualties, and orbital bombardment. The icons for the individual fleets and task forces redistributed automatically.
Admiral Robbins cleared his throat, "As you can see, the enemy paid dearly for their prize, as we are currently estimating a 9 to 1 ratio of exchange." His voice took on a more sullen tone, "As you can also see, these losses will make little to no difference to the fleets defending the home system." To his credit, he didn't choke on the last, but he came close. "We have been ordered to perform a special...punitive mission of sorts." Now he had their attention, as far as the rest of them knew, they were at maximum speed towards Sol to reinforce the home fleets. They all knew it was nearing the end now. It was better not to think about it.
The room was rapt now, the stench of dead hope was suddenly less palpable than before. The admiral hesitated a moment before continuing on. "You all know the CALIFORNIA was recently refitted at the Hyperion Shipyards." This refit had been the topic of considerable discussion for months. A lot of the fleet's best and brightest had been disappearing into the black hole that now occupied position Echo-4, Tier 3, at the very core of the fleet's ready formation. The Admiral continued, "She was to be the first of a new series of Line vessels we call GATEships, their drives are powered by a unique process discovered accidentally during a salvage expedition nearly 5 years ago." Behind him several panes of data were breaking out around the border of the holoscreen running schematics, video feeds, and other incomprehensible, mostly mathematical data. "We are going to strike our enemy's home world and obliterate it." The tension could be held no longer, and the crowded room erupted like a rolling barrage. Vengeance would soon be ours.
To be continued?
...and fuck Halo.