Sword of Change
Separatist flagship, Invisible Hand
BANG, BANG, BANG sounded Kelly's AA22 rapid fire shotgun as she pumped three HE rounds into three separate grapple droids as they tried to close in on her and the Jedi, she definitely did not want to get caught in those things bone crushing embrace again, having had to struggle with one only minutes earlier as it dropped on top of her while she and Anakin were inside the turbo shaft outside the turbo lift car they and the Jedi were riding to the top of the spire. After dispatching of the three grapple droids she scanned the surrounding area through her EVA helmet, thankful for the full field of vision provided by her helmet's visor as she scanned for more targets, keeping a lookout for anything coming from the sides or above, looking for any more battle droids that might come dropping in, but she was in for a surprise.
From below the rapidly rising turbolift several buzz droids came rolling up the side of the car they were standing on top of, and rolled across the roof of the car almost too fast for Kelly to react. She heard them rolling onto the roof with their tiny thruster jets, and Spartan Time neatly kicked in, and the world slowed down around her and in one quick motion she brought her shotgun to bear, but before she could fire Anakin intercepted the little annoying buzz droid with his lightsabre, which neatly sliced it in two, and time began to speed back up again to normal as Anakin sliced more of the annoying little droids as they tried to swarm them.
Kelly then switched to another target, an incoming air battle droid that was coming down along with another dozen of its brethren coming in hot on its heels behind it, blasting at them from their high-flying vantage point, and there was no cover to be had on the roof of the turbolift car. She blasted the droid away with a solid shotgun slug, which tore through the its armour and pierced its battery and repulsorlift pack, causing it to explode in the midst of the other droids, which sent the two of them flying into the walls and were turned into instant scrap metal, the rest was shaken but not deterred as they came at them again.
"Do these damn things ever give up?" she said to herself in frustration.
"They're thoughtless automatons, no more advanced than standard Dumb AIs," said her onboard Smart AI Dove, her avatar being a young woman in a sundress with green and white coding flowing over her surface.
"I know that, I just wish John was up here with his assault rifle," Kelly shot back as she switched from her shotgun, which she attached to her back harness, to a pair of SMG blasters from her thigh holsters. More and more buzz droids kept coming up the sides of the car, and she and Anakin were being pressed hard.
"You know there was only just enough room up here for you and the Jedi, having John up here would have crowded the roof and you'd be barely able to move," Dove rebutted as Kelly dual wielded her SMGs, tearing apart the buzz droids with ease. So much like grunts, they tried to overwhelm the two with numbers, but unlike the grunts she'd fought in the past these were emotionless automatons which would not run away in fear.
More blaster fire rained down on the both of them as more air battle droids came soaring down on their repulsor packs, Anakin covered Kelly with his lightsabre, blocking the incoming blaster bolts as the turbolift soared up the shaft towards the observation platform, while she used her SMGs to blast more of the droids into scrap metal, however that only worked on the buzz droids. The air battle droids used their built-in shield gauntlets on their left wrists to shield themselves from the return fire, and much as they did with Linda and Fred they poked their opposite arms through the shields and blasted away.
"This is getting ridiculous," said Kelly in exasperation. Quickly she returned her SMGs to her thigh holsters then drew her UNSC MA7A assault rifle, which was similar in appearance to the retired MA5 series, but instead of bullets it fires high velocity blue plasma rounds at 700 rounds per minute with an effective range of 800 metres. The rifle synced up with her armour's computer system, providing it with up-to-date targeting data which was displayed on her helmet's HUD.
Once again Spartan Time kicked in for her, she sighted her targets, and aimed her assault rifle at the air battle droids wrist mounted blasters. She lightly depressed the trigger and three rounds of blue plasma were rapidly accelerated out the barrel of the weapon, then she calmly shifted her aim to the next target, aimed and fired, then the next, not waiting to confirm that she had hit her targets, she already knew she had hit them, the rounds just hadn't impacted their targets yet. She repeated this until all of the droids wrist mounted blasters had been hit and subsequently destroyed forcing them to use the blasters on their left wrists and power down their shield gauntlets, which left them open for her coup de grace. As soon as the droids powered down their shields she opened up on them with her rifle set to full auto, and tore them apart.
Anakin, not to be outdone, took the opportunity to grab one with the Force and pulled it towards himself and promptly sliced it into small pieces, the remains of the droids fell down into the deep dark chasm of the turbolift shaft.
"We are about to reach our destination, I suggest we all get back inside before we get crushed between the car and the ceiling," said Dove both through the internal and external speakers in and on Kelly's helmet. The two of them looked up and could see the ceiling coming ever closer as the turbolift raced upwards at high speed. Surprising Anakin with her extreme strength and reflexes, though she held back a little, she grabbed him by the scruff of his robes and unceremoniously tossed him back inside the turbolift car and jumped in right behind him.
Surprised by the two's entrance both Obi Wan and the Chief raised their weapons." Oh it's you two, where have you been?" Obi Wan asked.
"Keeping this turbolift car from being shot full of holes, and keeping you two safe inside," Anakin rebutted as the lift stopped and opened its doors, revealing a great host of battle droids waiting for them.
"Oh poodoo," remarked Anakin as he and Obi Wan activated their lightsabres, while Kelly and the Master Chief raised their weapons. During the second of hesitation the droids displayed as they waited for orders, Kelly reached for her utility belt and pulled out a bubble shield generator, armed it, then threw it down onto the ground, magnetically locked itself to the deck plating then activated, just in time to stop the fury of red blaster fire that came from several squads of B1 and B2 battle droids that were in the corridor leading to the observation deck.
"Why didn't you use this in the turbolift shaft" Anakin asked slightly annoyed.
"Because it blocks weapons fire both ways and only lasts twenty seconds, sir," she retorted the younger general. Why this young man was made a general she would never understand, though right now she had a job to do as she and the chief used the time to get ready to sprint, their legs tensing as they waited for the inevitable shield failure.
"Reminds me of the time we rescued Doctor Halsey from the Covenant a few decades back, you remember Chief?" she asked in good spirits.
"Yeah, good times," said the Chief as his mind briefly wandered back to that time, when there had been more Spartan IIs.
Time seemed to stretch for the two Spartans as they waited for the bubble shield to run out of power and self-destruct, both had their assault rifles up and ready and both had chosen their targets, each taking one half of the corridor. The seconds ticked almost agonizingly slowly for Kelly, but like so many times before she kept her cool and suddenly the bubble shield dropped...
"Go," ordered the Chief and the two leapt forward into a full on sprint, Kelly had to slow herself slightly so the Chief could keep up with her. The two of them levelled their weapons and blasted away with their assault rifles as they sprinted down the corridor, blasting every droid in sight in their mad dash for the observation deck.
On the bridge of the Invisible Hand General Grievous stalked around the various consoles, keeping an eye on the progress of the battle.
A blue painted B1 pilot droid walked approached the cyborg general.
"General, we have located the intruders. They have split up into two groups. One group of two UNSC Spartans have disabled the hyperdrive and are now heading for the second larger group. There are two Jedi and two Spartans in the second group and are on their way towards the Observation deck, however there are still unconfirmed reports of Jedi and Spartans running around several decks."
"Just as Count Dooku predicted," said the cyborg general, though he was also slightly nervous by the presence of Spartans. "Send as many droids to the observation deck to stop them as necessary, they must not liberate the Chancellor."
"Roger, roger," nodded the pilot droid as it returned to its station and relayed the general's orders.
In a small room adjacent to the observation deck a wall of monitors showed the desperate resistance the battle droids put up against the Spartans, following their orders and their programming to the letter as an older man with a white beard and dark robes watched them, not really expecting the regular battle droids to put up much of a resistance, however it did allow him to see how they fought and gave him a chance to evaluate these new opponents.
In front of the wall monitors a verpine slicer worked on the security console, working feverishly to purge the system of the invasive AI that had invaded the ship's security systems.
"How long until the system is back under our control?" the elder gentleman demanded.
"Impossible to say, Count Dooku," replied the nervous insectoid, as he concentrated on the problem, but no matter what it did the damned UNSC AI remained, it was incredibly difficult to get rid of. "I'm afraid that we would have to shut down the security system and reboot with clean backups, however if the Spartans are not removed they could just reinsert the AI again, and we would have to do it all over again."
"Very well, I will deal with them myself, do not disappoint me," said Count Dooku menacingly as he left with his squad of MagnaGuards, leaving the cowering verpine to his work, who gave a shrug of relief when the count left.
A final pair of B2 battle droids stood guard at the entrance to the observation deck, and both opened fire as soon as the two Spartans and two Jedi came within sight, their Identify Friend/Foe programming had quickly identified them and left with no other options but to take them down. Quicker than greased lightning the two Spartans managed to find some cover before the droids blasters could bring down their shields while the Jedi used their lightsabres to block and deflect the incoming blaster bolts.
With a silent look between the two Spartans they both rose up from their cover and blasted the two last droids with their assault rifles, tearing them apart with high velocity plasma rounds that shredded them.
"You'd think that the Separatists would invest more in improving their front-line battle droids, I've seen far more effective resistance from squads of Unggoy," said Cortana as she quickly reviewed the recent combat footage from the Master Chief's helmet cameras.
"Considering they are built by the lowest bidder and are meant to overwhelm an enemy by sheer force of numbers it's not really surprising that they are so pathetic," replied Dove over a private comm. channel that the two Smart AIs shared between themselves that their Spartans couldn't hear.
"However they do have a few lines of improved battle droids though, like the BX and the MagnaGuard series, they're just not made in large numbers due to the cost of building such advanced and complicated droids when you could have simpler but less effective droids produced in far greater numbers at a fraction of the cost, and take their enemies down with superior numbers."
The four moved forward quickly to the entrance, the thick blast door blocked their way.
"Cortana, you're up," said the Master Chief as he extended his left hand towards the control console next to the blast doors.
"No problem," she said as an arc of golden electricity connected the Spartan's armour to the console as Cortana interfaced with the door controls and less than five seconds later the heavy blast doors opened, revealing the observation deck which had a truly magnificent view.
To the two Spartans having such a place as the commanding officer's quarters was the height of strategic stupidity. No UNSC commanding officer would expose themselves by having their quarters in such a vulnerable position, though considering the Separatist leadership's megalomania it wasn't so surprising.
At the far end, just a few metres in from the large observation windows sat the Supreme Chancellor in a throne-like chair, just waiting for his rescuers while being tied down by electrified cuffs built into the throne.
"Chancellor," said Master Kenobi respectfully in greeting.
"Are you alright?" Master Skywalker asked, worried for his second mentor.
"Count Dooku!" said the Chancellor as he gestured with his head to a second smaller hatch to the side of the observation deck. Standing a level up Count Dooku looked on imperiously as he gave a small hand gesture, and eight MagnaGuards rushed forward towards the four of them, activating their staffs and aiming their own powerful blasters.
"Your weapons please, we don't want to make a mess of things in front of the Chancellor now, do we?" said Dooku rhetorically. He jumped down from the second level down to the deck after his droid body guards took up flanking positions around the Spartans and Jedi.
"You four can't believe you can defeat him, he's a Sith Lord!" said the Chancellor.
"Chancellor, Sith Lords is our speciality," said Obi Wan confidently.
"And we've taken down far tougher foes than an old man with a squad of walking tin cans," said Kelly as she remembered all the fights both she and the Chief had gone through.
"I have been looking forward to this," the count said with great anticipation as he drew his lightsabre and ignited it, his own blade glowed a menacing red.
Moving forward slightly the two Jedi cast off their heavy outer robes and drew their own blue bladed lightsabres, while the Spartans readied their weapons and levelled them at the MagnaGuards who stood poised to attack.
"You Spartans have caused me more grief in the last three months than most jedi have in three years of war, it would be my great pleasure to have my droids tear you apart limb from limb. MagnaGuards deal with the Spartans," ordered Count Dooku as he moved forward towards the jedi as the droids charged the Spartans. Both Kenobi and Skywalker attacked near simultaneously, both aiming for the sith lord's arms to disarm him, however the elder sword-master parried their blows easily.
Both Kelly-087 and John-117 dove for cover as the MagnaGuards opened fire with their own blasters, both of them blasted away with their assault rifles on full auto in an attempt to suppress the droids, but to their surprise the droids armour held.
"Standard assault rifle fire isn't getting through, any suggestions?" John asked Cortana.
"Set your assault rifle to maximum power, that should do it," she suggested.
John quickly set the power settings on his rifle to maximum, knowing that he would have to be careful now, since setting his weapon to maximum the weapon's ammo pack would quickly run out of plasma energy, he would have to make every shot count.
Kelly on the other hand switched over to her automatic shotgun and quickly checked her weapon's double-drum clips, she was down one third of her clip, but smiled as she remembered that the clip was filled with APHE rounds, plenty enough for her to cause some havoc. She popped out of cover and sighted a MagnaGuard that was closing in on her with its staff held ready to strike. She fired off two quick shots that punctured its armoured torso and barely a second later promptly exploded, and bisected its body and crashed down to the floor.
John chose to pop out of cover a second after he heard Kelly's shotgun blasts and put a pair of short bursts of fire into another droid, one centre of mass, another shorter two shot burst into its head, then ducked again when the rest of the droids fired a concentrated barrage of blaster fire on his cover. Slowly but surely the table he was crouched behind of was slowly being blasted to shreds, but one of the droids took advantage of the covering fire provided by its fellow droids. It ran alongside the blaster fire, and gripped its extended phrik staff while its activated ends sparked a menacing purple. It leapt over the table and stabbed down with its staff at where the Spartan was hiding, at the same time the rest of the droids ceased fire and let their comrade take out their target. However the staff hit nothing but hardened deck plating, which confused the droid for a few moments as it scanned the room for its target.
It turned back towards the main fight after it looked around the immediate vicinity and spotted the other Spartan blasting away with her shotgun and her SMG blaster at two of his fellow MagnaGuards. It decided to attack her, and made ready to sprint forward when without warning a pair of energy blades sprouted out of its chest and the form of the Master Chief rematerialized behind him, his shields stealth mode deactivated as he pulled out his energy sword, a gift from the Arbiter, and proceeded to cut it up into several neat pieces then switched back to his assault rifle.
"Three down, five to go," he muttered to himself as he ran over towards Kelly who was steadily pumping out blast after blast from her shotgun, forcing the remaining MagnaGuards into cover.
"Having fun Chief?" Kelly asked happily as she continued her barrage.
"Oh yes, lots of fun," the Chief bantered back as he joined in with his assault rifle, spotted a droid that had popped out of cover to fire on them, and promptly filled it with plasma. "Four down, four to go," the Chief counted down quietly, though Kelly still heard him.
"I wish Fred and Linda were here for this, I think they would have found that duel over there quite interesting," she said and pointed out the still ongoing lightsabre duel going on between the two jedi and Dooku.
The Chief only spared a quick glance before he turned back to the gun battle. "Yes, they would," he said simply as he popped out of cover as the enemy's return fire increased, which forced both him and Kelly back into cover.
Suddenly a loud crack sounded, much louder than Kelly's shotgun, and a MagnaGuard fell with a massive hole in its chest. The audio sensors built into the two Spartans armour quickly tracked down the source and they saw Linda and Fred standing at the entrance to the observation deck, Linda's sniper rifle still smoking and Fred's Spartan Laser glowed red and was emitting a whining sound, it was charging up. Two of the MagnaGuards turned towards them, while the last one continued to pour it on John and Kelly. Fred waited until the last possible second then released the trigger, the laser beam blasted through one droid's armour and exited out the back and blew a hole through the deck plating a few metres behind it, while Linda blasted the other with her rifle.
John and Kelly took the opportunity to blast the last MagnaGuard into scrap metal with assault rifle and shotgun respectively. "Glad you two could make it," said Kelly in greeting.
"Couldn't let you two have all the fun," said Fred as they made their way down the steps and met up with their fellow Spartans. The two finally noticed the lightsabre duel nearby and were surprised at how fast and fluid the three combatants were moving, especially since one of them was an elderly human well past his prime who was duelling two very experienced and much younger opponents.
"Should we assist?" Kelly asked as she took aim with her shotgun.
"No, not yet, we'll let the jedi deal with Dooku, Fred and Linda, you two secure the exits, Kelly stay close by the duellists, I'll release the Chancellor," the Master Chief ordered quickly, the others quickly obeyed.
Kelly kept her shotgun trained on Dooku, but could not fire, the duel was so fast and the combatants were moving all over the place, a stray shot from her shotgun may hit one of the jedi, and they could not afford to lose anyone at this point.
Dooku managed to kick away Skywalker then grabbed Kenobi by the throat with the Force and was sent flying into a nearby bulkhead, sailing over Kelly's head, forcing her to duck, and slumped unconscious, then as if to add insult to injury Dooku dropped a piece of the balcony on top of him. Kelly took action and opened up with her shotgun, blasting away with heavy APHE rounds, though the old man was easily dodging them, anticipating the large heavy slugs' flight path and either fluidly sidestepped them or blocked them with his lightsabre.
She quickly ran out of bullets and Dooku saw this chance to remove one of the Spartans who had been a real thorn in his side for months. He rushed forward, aiming to run her through her heart with his lightsabre. Reacting with super enhanced reflexes she discarded her shotgun and reached for her second backup weapon on her back, drawing a long curved katana sword. As soon as it was out of its sheath a blue layer of plasma enveloped it, much like Fred's combat knives, and she parried the blow, even though she knew her suit's shields would protect her, she wasn't about to allow herself be struck by an energy sword again, like when she tangled with an Elite before she got the Mark V Mjolnir armour.
Her strength and speed surprised Dooku, he felt a small spark of Force sensitivity within her, but it was not big enough to warrant extensive training, in fact he sensed the Force in all four of the Spartans, but none of them were strong in the Force, enough for them to have a bond he guessed, but not enough to warrant full on jedi or sith training. Red lightsabre clashed with blue katana as the Sith Lord and the Spartan duelled hard and fast, Kelly's superior speed and reflexes gave her an incredible edge, though the older human's own training and experience meant he could hold his own, though only for a short time. Dooku leapt back and sent a powerful burst of Force Lightning at her. She attempted to block with her katana but the lightning continued along the plasma encased sword's hilt and connected with her shields. The lightning ate away at her shields strength faster than she anticipated and before she could react the lightning had connected with her suit, the pain was indescribable, she had been hit by enemy fire before, but the pain was something deeper, more painful than anything she had experienced in living memory, and she screamed, for the first time in her life since she got her augmentations she screamed in pain.
Suddenly the pain stopped and she fell to her knees, her armour seemed to weigh down on her more than they should, and she noticed that her HUD was not functioning and all she could see for the moment was the grey deck plating, the armour's systems were overloaded and had to reboot, luckily for her it only lasted for a few seconds and she soon saw that it was Skywalker who had stepped in and stopped the Count's attack upon her.
Anakin had watched from the sidelines in a daze as he watched the female Spartan battle Dooku, amazed again at her speed, strength and grace, but when he saw him attack her with Force Lightning he knew she wouldn't last long. He ran forward and blocked his attack with his lightsabre, and moved forward, one step at a time, even as Dooku pushed more power into his attack, his face showed a dark scowl of hideous rage as he poured everything he had into his attack, ignoring everything else.
That became his downfall.
From three different sources at the same time shots were fired. Both Fred and John fired their assault rifles at him on full auto while Linda fired her sniper rifle. Dooku had no time to react as all three Spartans weapons connected with him, the rifles hit centre-of-mass in his torso while Linda's sniper round cored through his head between his eyes.
"Target eliminated," said Linda with no emotion, but under her helmet's polarized visor where nobody could see a small smile of satisfaction displayed itself for just a few moments. That's what you get when you hurt one of us. She quickly moved towards Kelly and checked her over.
"How are you Kelly?" she asked.
"I'll be fine in a moment, just need to get my bearings," Kelly responded, though she was all pins and needles across her skin, and her skin felt like it had been burnt, but built-in injectors quickly sprayed a thin film of biofoam over her wounds, stung for a few seconds then numbed.
Anakin meanwhile moved over to his fallen master. "He's still alive," he exclaimed happily and picked him up off the deck.
Chancellor Palpatine, who had just been freed from his chair by the Master Chief, came forward. "Anakin leave him, we have no time, and we must leave before more security droids arrive."
"His fate will be the same as ours," Anakin gently rebutted, and made to carry his master in a fireman's carry.
"Sir, allow me," said Fred, Anakin was reluctant, but his duty was to rescue the Chancellor, though he didn't like the way he had dismissed his old mentor as expendable, he would do his duty.
"We must get to the hangar bay and see if we can find an escape craft," he said the four Spartans merely nodded and they moved towards the turbolift, with Linda supporting Kelly and Kenobi draped across Fred's shoulders.
Deep within the Iowa Admiral Nimitz stood over the main plotting table in the CIC with the ship's captain nearby directing the ship while he directed his small fleet.
"We're in position sir, we've blocked the Invisible Hand's escape route," reported Captain Miranda Keyes.
"Excellent. Is there any news from Blue Team?"
"They've reported that they have disabled the ship's hyperdrive and have rescued the Chancellor and are now making their way down to the hangar deck. They have requested pick-up as soon as possible." As she said this the ship rocked from a weapon's impact against the shields.
"The Invisible Hand just opened fire on us, shields are holding at sixty two percent," Surge reported. "She is closing in on us fast, judging by her course and speed I believe she is attempting to run the blockade." Surge looked to the side for a moment. "The Republic warship Guarlara is moving to intercept the Invisible Hand, she is moving into position for a broadside exchange with the Invisible Hand."
"Communications send a message to the Guarlara, priority 1, tell them that the chancellor is aboard that ship and that they have to stand down," the admiral quickly ordered.
"Message sent," reported the communications officer. There were a few tense seconds as he waited for confirmation. "The Guarlara acknowledges receipt of transmission and are holding position, hanging back with us."
"Communications, open a channel to the Invisible Hand, it's time I had a few words with this General Grievous."
Seconds later, on one of the larger screens, the ugly visage of the cyborg general presented itself.
"Greeting UNSC scum, are you offering to surrender to me?"
"No, but I'd be more than happy to accept your own surrender, in case you hadn't noticed you're facing almost my entire battle group as well as several Republic warships blocking your escape."
"Not so hasty Admiral, I have the Chancellor aboard my ship, if you open fire upon my ship I will personally disembowel him and display his rotten corpse across the holo-net, I may do that anyway if you do not let me pass within the next ten minutes."
"We don't negotiate with terrorists, not without proof of life of the hostage, give me proof that he is still alive and we may consider it," said the admiral, internally smirking at the thought that he already knew that the Chancellor was already free and within the next few minutes would be off the good general's ship.
General Grievous turned to his subordinates and gave a few orders then quite agitated he stepped out of the cam's line of sight, he came back shortly.
"Uh, I'm afraid that the Chancellor is indisposed."
"Really, well unless you can give me proof that the Chancellor is still alive you leave me with no choice but to assume that he is dead and that means your ship becomes my priority target, you've seen what our MAC guns do to your ships, imagine what my main MAC gun will do to your ship if I do not receive proof of life within nine minutes. End Communication."
"Admiral the Rescue Pelican is on approach to the Invisible Hand's portside landing bay and the Spartan's are making good progress towards the hangar," Captain Keyes reported.
"Very good captain, communications open a channel to the Guarlara, I believe I have an idea that I think her captain will like a lot," the admiral said smirking.
AN: What do you think, comments, criticism, anything?