Please don't forget that this story was originally thought up and created by SpaceCowboy2013. I also heavily updated and revised all the previous chapters. Chapter 5 has been especially beefed up. Go check them out.


Cienna, Aldara Plains, 15 Miles West of Ft. Longston

"The Republic transport has finished landing its troops. Recon says that it's another mechanized division. That brings the total number of enemy forces deployed in this theater to about 80,000 troops, General." One of Brigadier General Alexi's aides read off from the M650 Mastodon's readouts.

"Jesus, and they're attacking from two fronts. They're too damn close to our lines for us to nuke them." His superior, Major General Hudong, informed over the radio. The radio was but one of the many pieces of equipment that transformed the Mastodon APC into a mobile command centre.

He was positioned on one of the rocky hillsides that were part of a dry mountain range that all led to a vast desert plain where the Republic army was currently marching towards him.

His enemy had deployed shield generators around their ships once they landed to protect them as they offloaded their forces, the loss of one of their 'Star Destroyers' to Ft. Longston's guns were enough for them to not take any chances.

He had in total 14,000 troops under his command, and he was currently standing down at least 6 times that number.

However, from what he was seeing through his reconnaissance elements, he was not too impressed.

If the Republic had a concept of mechanized warfare, then they were doing a great job of hiding it.

Aside from small, lightly armed hover tanks called TX-130s, he saw no dedicated mobile armor.

What they used instead were walkers, and lots of them.

Ranging from admittedly impressive beetle AT-TE walkers covered in weapons and armed with a large turret mounted mass driver (though for its size ONI was surprised to find it underpowered when compared to those on the UNSC armor), to chicken like AT-STs with two laser cannons and grenade/missile launcher, 8 legged SPMAs acting as mobile artillery, gargantuan SPHAs, 4 legged AT-AAs, and the towering AT-ATs. Alexi was still dumbfounded at how they kept up a 60 km/h pace.

The standoff range of their fighters was laughable as well. About 20 kilometers at best. That hardly mattered, they had fighter cover while he was stuck with only CAS aircraft. All the other Air Force and Navy fighters were tied up in orbit and elsewhere on the planet.

He did have to give the Republic Credit for their LAATs, they could prove problematic but they were nothing that his Wolverine Anti Air vehicles couldn't handle.

Looking at the Republic lines, he couldn't help but get a since he was looking at a picture out of the Napoleonic Wars or the 1st American Civil War by how almost half of their infantry were deployed in honest to God infantry squares out in the open as they marched out of their protective shield.

Alexi scoffed as some mounted into open topped transports. "Who the Hell do these dogs think they're fighting against?"

Something else caught his attention, absolute behemoths of vehicles were unloaded from an assault ship's cargo elevator. At 50 meters long propelled by 10 wheels, the tank was admittedly intimidating; Alexi hoped it wouldn't fare well against his artillery and armor.

Their columns were such a juicy target, and the gunners on his Rhino self propelled guns and his more conventional Fox artillery were already on it.

Alexi smiled at his display as his forces began moving.

All of his artillery and a quarter of his anti air units were currently deployed on the large ridge, like his command vehicle. And the rest of his forces were rushing to fortify the valley leading into the city.

The battle plan was for his 10 SP42 Cobras positioned with him to use their railguns to take out as many of the AT-AAs that they could. The Republic AA had already proven deadly against the couple of Shortsword bombers they had deployed to cripple the early landing.

The point of this was to allow the Sparrowhawks and SkyHawks a cleaner airspace. The Wombat UCAVs were doing an amazing job at harassing the Republic, but the UCAVs were no match for the enemy fighters at close ranges. Alexi would have to grind down the Republic forces and rout them back to their ship. Alexi wasn't dumb enough to try and assault a ship with an understrength division head on. The Republic's air supremacy over this sector made his job difficult. Any CAS sortie would have to be under his AA net.

The artillery would then pound away at the exposed infantry while the main elements of his force would hold the line against the onslaught, and then counterattack and drive them all the way back to their ship.

His 10,000 soldiers would move alongside their M38 Panda APCs, M43 Boars IFVs, and Recluse MBTs and systematically wipe out any resistance remaining.

A brigade of 4000 Marines had been attached to his division, and they would remain in defensive positions on a low plateau, utilizing mortars and heavy weapons to handle any breakthrough and support the frontlines. During the counterattack, they would act as a reserve force should anything go wrong.

To deal with the artillery. his Sparrowhawks fitted for close air support would have to take them out quickly. There were too many guns for counter battery fire to take them out quick enough. He would have to load his Sparrowhawks for CAS only, leaving no room for air-to-air missiles. It was a shame he would have to sacrifice the Sparrowhawk's excellent dogfighting capabilities to take out the Republic artillery.

What made up for this loss were 2 gleaming Vulture gunships with a full load of 8 A-74 Slyver missiles to complement its dreaded armament of quad 20mm autocannons, a 50mm chin gun, Argent V missiles, and a Phoenix tactical missile.

He eyed his radio as he heard it pick up a new update from his higher ups. "This is command, WMD usage has been authorized, all forces in the northern continent please be advised."

'By God, are they going to do it?' Alexi thought, although this would do little to help his immediate situation, considering he was located on the southern continent, and General Hudong had said the Republic landed too close to him anyway.

He sighed and looked at his screens as the Republic steadily marched on towards his position.

He simply nodded to one of his command staff, who radioed it in.

Seconds later the whole ridge shook.

All Terrain Tactical Enforcer, 327th Star Corps

Bly wanted to pound his fist into the holoscreen.

"Can you confirm that?" He grumbled to the communications officer.

The clone, wearing the usual Phase II Trooper armor with the unmistakable yellow stripes identifying the 327th Star Corps answered.

"Yes Sir, the Hurlania went down with all hands, we're going to have to assault the city directly. Our scouts report that the enemy has dug in on those hills in front of us, Commander." The officer answered while the AT-TE rumbled beneath their feet. The walker was blazing towards the enemy lines at 60 kilometers an hour, keeping in pace with the rest of his column.

"Our starfighters are handling their droid craft, Sir, but they're clawing into us whenever they get the chance. Our AT-AAs are still moving into position to cover our whole formation." Lieutenant Galle said.

"Fleet command said they'd try to break off a Venator and BDZ that valley to give us a straight shot into the city." Inc informed. "Our Larties flanking around the city seem to remain undetected."

He was cut off by the comms officer.

"Sir! We've just lost all contact with the northern landing zones!"

His brain spun.

"What! how..."

"Hold on, the fleet's patching us through!" The holoscreen changed from a tactical readout to the camera feed of an orbiting ship.

The northern horizon was lit up with a second sun for five seconds before gradually dissipating to reveal an ever expanding mushroom shaped cloud.

"Kriff... They used a thermonuclear device in atmosphere?" Bly muttered, stunned.

As primitive as nuclear weapons were, there was no denying that they were indeed powerful, and in a planet's atmosphere they could devastate armies and cities in one fell swoop. After the Mandalorian Crusades, the weapons had almost all but disappeared, until now.

Ten thousand of his brothers were gone, there was nothing they could do to save themselves.

Completely helpless.

He had a sinking feeling that the Terrans were going to be much more cruel and heartless at waging war than the CIS.

'So that's how they play the game. Guess Aayla's worries about this war are proving true, what happened to the fleet alone…'His thoughts trailed off as Lieutenant Inc called out.

"ARF troopers and probes reporting in, they have a visual."

Once again, the holoscreen changed, this time to the macrobinoculars of a scout. Hundreds of vehicles, trenches, hastily constructed dirt and wood bunkers, camouflage netting.

The premier vehicles were what were obviously tanks, behemoths with thick armor plating and a mean looking gun. It was complemented by 2 medium sized cannons and 2 'machine guns'. Despite its huge size, it looked very, very mobile.

Next were 8 wheeled armored vehicles that had a respectable gun, the same size as the tank's secondary armament. These were much smaller, but as with all examples of Terran technology, were most likely powerful. It also had several of those 'machine guns'. They also had what looked like a troop compartment, so they must be APCs of some sort.

There was another type of transport, armed with a gun slightly bigger than the APC, rocket tubes, and some kind of grenade launcher. It was tracked like the tanks.

Bly also noticed a hybrid vehicle, with both wheels and tracks. Two massive rocket batteries with 2 cannons in the middle. They were probably AA vehicles.

'I hope my LAATs and bombers can outrun those things.' Bly thought.

The view panned up into the ridgeline, focusing on 6 wheeled vehicles with a huge slugthrower.

'Is that their artillery?' Bly wondered.

"This is going to be a real slog." Galle noted.

"Have our Juggernauts and AT-ATs take the right flank, once they break through we'll have their entire line in enfilade." Bly commanded.

"Enemy aircraft inbound, around 200 of them!" Someone called out.

Bly didn't mutter a word as the screen returned to the tactical map, showing two separate waves of aircraft coming up from behind the hills.

Half of that number were 'Pelican' dropships. He hadn't seen them in action, but from what he could tell from what he was seeing now and what intel told him, they seemed to be an exact counterpart for his LAATs, albeit larger.

The other half was composed of 2 different types of assault craft, using turbofans as their source of propulsion. They were bristling with guns. Despite the limited information on these vehicles, Boly grimaced at the ways these could do damage to his forces. Luckily, his AA units had finally maneuvered into their position within their formation to provide complete coverage for Bly's forces.

He turned to Galle, "Have our LAATs and whatever starfighters we have moved to engage those craft. Draw them off from our lines, our AAA will handle whatever makes it through. Have our TX-130s move to harass the enemy and prod for weak points in their defense after our dismounted infantry regroups with them. Our artillery will soften up their lines and allow our main armored push to breakthrough and envelop them. Let's hope the fleet can get a ship under their defensive guns' lines of fire."

Suddenly the screens began to shimmer and the enemy signatures faded in and out of existence.

"Enemy ECM skyrocketing!"

One of the other officers turned and yelled "Sir! Enemy artillery firing!"

Bly felt his mind go numb. 'This field is a death trap!' He cursed internally.

Shells began to scream through the air outside, exploding and sending shrapnel everywhere. Thankfully most of his infantry were within the confines of armored vehicles, save for the men in the AT-OTs bringing up the rear.

"Get our artillery into position to fire on that ridge..." He didn't get to finish his sentence as a shell hit mere meters in front of his tank, shattering the driver's cockpit and coating the inside in red.

Bly and his command staff were thrown down.

M1000 Recluse MBT, Army 63rd Armored Division

"Enemy armor. Distance… 6 kilometers. I'm lasing the targets." Lieutenant James Taylor said.

"I see 'em. Buncha chickens out in the open?" The rookie gunner Grant Fitzsimmons asked.

"Yep, those are the ones. Summers, get ready for some shoot and scoot."

"Yes Sir. I still can't believe Command nuked the other front's landing zones." His driver Peter Summers chuckled as the enemy neared the 3 mile optimal engagement range.

Taylor smirked in agreement as he watched the Republic forces press through the UNSC artillery.

His smirk turned into a savage grin as a shell scored a direct hit on one of their beetle walkers, causing it to belch flams and topple over. A Republic AA vehicle was flipped over by a shell while it was in the middle of its stride, Taylor hoped he would be getting air support.

"All armor, fire at will!" His CO ordered over the radio.

"Fire!" Taylor echoed as the bulk of the UNSC forces started firing. Fitzsimmons obliged, and sent a 125mm shell downrange, kicking up the camouflage netting, dust, and completely obliterating an AT-ST's crew compartment.

"Whew, not bad for a first kill!" Taylor nudged his shoulder with his foot from his position above in his cupola. The enemy was closing in, now at 4 kilometers away.

The autoloader put another shell into the cannon. "Fire!" Another chicken walker was destroyed.

A flight of 4 Sparrowhawks flew overhead, firing their missiles and 20mm rotary guns in a cacophony of violence, taking out a squad of AT-TEs with their combined fire. One Sparrowhawk charged its nose mounted M6 Laser and blasted an AT-TE with it, to the pilot's shock, it did nothing. The AT-TE dispersed the Sparrowhawk's weapon harmlessly across its thermally superconducting hull.

The pilot was subsequently shot down, veering off to the side, and crashing behind Republic lines. An unlucky fate.

"Summers, move us to our secondary firing position."

Without saying a word, Summer reversed the 70 ton beast out of the ditch and moved to another 50 meters away. It was promptly timed, a Republic tank shell landed where they had just been seconds ago. Although it probably wouldn't have killed them, Taylor didn't take those kinds of chances.

His fellow Recluse commander, Alex Grillpanzer, broadcasted over his comms. "Republic light armor advancing on our position!"

As his tank bounced over the ridge he rotated his optics to see some 30 small hovertanks and 10 of those AT-ST walkers heading for them, the hovertanks speeding towards them at over 100 kilometers an hour.

"Enemy, targets 2 kilometers, 3 o'clock! Fire at will, take them out!" He called as Fitzsimmons aimed the main gun at the lead walker.

"Engaging!" Fitzsimmons called out. The Recluse fired its main gun and shook the tank while sending a 125mm ferro-tungsten penetrator through an AT-ST's head at hypersonic speeds, the AT-ST flopped over as shrapnel and spall pierced the drivers. The walker flopped over. A Boar IFV next to Taylor's position, blasting away at dismounted Clones, was hit by an AT-TE's main cannon, silencing the vehicle permanently.

While Fitzsimmons continued to fire the main gun and coaxial .50 cals, Taylor hardened his resolve. He aimed his targeting reticle over one of the hovertanks. He held down the trigger, letting loose a wild burst of 25mm rounds, some bouncing off, some being defeated by its armor, but enough made it through. The fighter tank careened into the ground, digging up dirt. The viewport was shot through and the pilot totally mangled.

Inside the armored cocoon of the Recluse, he couldn't hear the hypersonic cracks and explosions that would otherwise make him go deaf, but the hell of battle had set in nonetheless.

The rest of his platoon fired, outright destroying 9 more TX-130s and 2 other AT-STs before the Republic forces could even fire back.

"Reloading and recharging, ready again in four." Grillpanzer announced as the enemy formed up in front of them.

The UNSC tanks tracked their targets like how predator stalks prey. The Republic was closing in at 800 meters from the UNSC lines. Using their closed distance, they started to focus their fire on the UNSC tanks. As the Republic forces started to trickle in through the various gaps they created, a missile slammed into one of his platoon's tanks after it received the full attention of 5 Republic vehicles. The top was blown clean off, launching its turret into the air. The active defense system must've malfunctioned after it had its shields smashed.

Taylor clenched his teeth as blaster cannon bolts slammed into his shields. He glanced over at his console. 60%, 50%...

A TX-130's beam turret shot a stream of energy into Taylor's tank. Taylor gripped the tank as his shields burst, but the beam didn't cut into the hull.

The Recluse was designed to take hits from Wraith plasma shells, particle cannon hits from a Type 43 Reaper tank, stray plasma rounds, and conventional projectile weapons. The tank shrugged off the hits as the armor deflected or absorbed the kinetic energy and heat of the bolts.

"Pathetic." Another of Taylor's fellow Grizzly commanders laughed as a twin bolt hit his turret with little effect.

The Recluse rocked again as the 125mm cannon fired, taking out another hovertank. Taylor mulched the pilot as he tried to climb out of the top hatch with his LAAGs.

Another AT-ST fell victim to Fitzsimmons's aim, the target had its right leg snapped in two, his shot went right through the reverse knee joint. More and more vehicles began to swarm through

"How many goddamn tanks do they have!?" Grillpanzer cursed as his gunner blew up another Republic vehicle.

"This is Command to Foxtrot Bravo." His radio crackled.

"Foxtrot Bravo-1 copies." Taylor said while a LAAT crashed into the ground, a Sparrowhawk flying victoriously overhead.

"Republic heavy armor is overrunning our left flank, all other units are completely tied up! Get your platoon down there. They've been raising hell for our armor down there. How copy?"

"Wilco Command, over." He ended the communication. "Alright Summers, get us out of here and down to 1st Brigade. Second Platoon will have to handle this by themselves." Taylor commanded, referring to the Republic forward elements.

Taylor started broadcasting to his men while Grillpanzer pinned down a squad of clones with his LAAGs behind a tank wreck. "Boys, looks like we're going big game hunting!"

Low Altitude Assault Transport, 327th Star Corps

CT-1488 'Shar' cursed. He threw his LAAT into a dive to avoid yet another stream of cannon fire from the accursed UNSC gunships.

"Blast I cant hit them! How are you doing Ran?" Shar's copilot asked his side gunner manning the port beam cannon.

While Shar twisted his LAAT away from a stream of AAA fire, his copilot was bothered by the fact Ran wasn't responding to his question.

The copilot pulled up a video image of the port ball turret and the image confirmed what he feared.

The ball turret was shattered, and the tattered remains of Ran and his armor were slumped over in his seat, blood splattered all over the place. Whatever limbs were intact limply flopped around with the gunship whenever it went into another maneuver.

"Fierfek." His copilot muttered. "Must've been those gunships' wing turrets that got him."

"If it were the chin cannons that hit us, we wouldn't be having this conversation." Shar stated as he angrily flipped the craft over to make a strafing run on the Terran's buckling defensive line, for all the good he knew it would do. It seemed that every damn Terran had a missile launcher whose missiles could track and seriously damage LAAT's.

Many that had attempted to support the ground advance were swatted down by enemy AA vehicles and their rapid fire projectile cannons and vicious missiles. Some were even taken out by shoulder fired lasers and missiles from the entrenched enemy infantry. Only a few had made successful strafing runs, only to be immediately punished by the Terrans.

In all his years of fighting, he'd never seen anti air fire this intense, not even in the simulators..

In fact, he had never seen a battle that was this dynamic before. Even on the defense the Terrans were still mobile. Their tanks maneuvered in and out of prepared fighting positions, and their infantry would move to retake whatever positions they had lost, constantly pressuring the Republic and prodding at whatever salient had been created.

After he had dropped off his troops on a rocky hill (who were subsequently overrun by mechanized infantry and those downright impressive Terran tanks), he had been engaged in constant air combat with the Terran gunships and dropships, and had watched as his wingmates were shot down, one ripped apart by a Terran AA battery, the second to a Terran gunship's missile salvo, and the third to one of those shoulder fired laser weapons.

After sending his craft into a tight turn, Shar found himself on the tail of a damaged UNSC dropship that was limping its way to friendly skies.

The pilot of the craft saw him and wildly jinked his dropship, but Shar stayed tight on his tail. Shar smirked while his instruments locked onto the hapless dropship. Combining his laser cannons and missile launchers, he took out a rear thruster. The Terran dropship spun wildly out of control, crashing into the ground and detonating.

Shar pumped his fist in victory. His demeanor paled when he looked at his tactical display to see AT-ATs disappear off of his screen.

Shar flipped his craft over. He saw the source of the destruction, a line of 4 UNSC tanks hammering the leading AT-ATs breaking through their right flank.

He watched the leading tank plow through sand and debris as its treads propelled the armored war machine at surprising speeds. Its turret rotated to face another AT-AT, the range between the 2 at a little over a kilometer. The large mass driver cannon belched electricity, superheated air, and a streaking white projectile that hit the AT-AT's knee joint, which was trying to bring its powerful guns to bear. It never got the chance, the walker stumbled over and fell to the ground. A follow up shot went through the armored hide, barely penetrating the thick durasteel at an odd angle. Supporting AT-TEs retaliated, sending laser fire and shells from their mass drivers downrange. One lucky shot stopped a Terran tank dead in its tracks, but not before it could get a shot off from its own cannon.

The AT-TE exploded as the round the tank had fired impacted in the AT-TE's most vulnerable spot, its cockpit. The round penetrated clean through the entire tank, causing it to explode.

Shar snarled and sent his craft into a dive, intent on using the last of his missiles against them.

The tanks were seemingly oblivious to the gunship about to ruin their day, until he noticed their smaller cannons mounted atop the main turret rotate to face him.

'What are they doing?' Shar thought. 'They can't take me out with those things, can they?'

His question was answered as he received incoming fire. Some dented the front of the gunship, some bounced off, some penetrated the bottom of the empty troop bay, but one round penetrated through his cockpit. Shar didn't get a chance to scream before another 25mm round blew his brains out. The gunship started to careen towards the ground before Shar's copilot could take control.

"Stay on him!" Grillpanzer called out while the gunship flew overhead, smoke now coming out from one of its engine.

"Save your ammo, I don't think he's gonna come around here anytime soon." Taylor said. The tank rocked from laser cannon fire.

"Our side armor's at 60% integrity." Summers informed.

"I know Goddamnit, I'm looking at the same screen you are!" Taylor gritted his teeth while he brought his LAAGs to bear on exposed infantry.

The LAAT that had tried to strafe them had been damaged and ultimately fended off by combined fire from their 25mm LAAGs, doing so just as their designers had intended them to do. The LAAGs gave UNSC tanks a very slight ability to defend themselves against low and relatively slow flying attackers.

Outside of the tank's armored cocoon was hell moving at 160km/h. A gargantuan Republic wheeled tank the size of a Scarab was blitzing past UNSC lines, letting out lasers, plasma, and missiles while crushing anything in its path. 4 more followed it into the maelstrom of UNSC heavy weapons.

"Christ, those things are going to blow right through us!" A Recluse commander exclaimed.

The twin 25mm chainguns fired a stream of orange tracer rounds into the rising cloud of dust, green and blue bolts of plasma answered back, 125mm ferro-tungsten rounds accelerated to Mach 12 tore through the air with a deafening crack. A round fired from Taylor's own tank hit the hull of the wheeled beast. To Taylor's surprise, it didn't even so much as stop. It shrugged off the round like nothing even though it had a gaping hole in its side. Fitzsimmons sent another round into the monster, hitting an ammo store and blowing it to smithereens.

While Taylor was watching the breakthrough, one of the wheeled tanks turned its weapons to face one of his platoon members. The tank was helpless against the bombardment. The Recluse was obliterated. The Juggernaut didn't so much as aim at Taylor's tank, rather it just continued on to try and cut off the defenders' retreat. Fitzsimmons fired a retaliatory strike, but it missed.

Beside that tank, a Cougar AFV lurched wildly as it took a hit from a TX-130's laser cannons, most of its frontal armor was destroyed and melted. The driver fought to maintain control. His vehicle fired its twin 25mm Gauss guns in return, 4 shells hitting against the hovertank's side repulser pod and sending the fighter tank into a spin. It was now in sight of a Cobra, which blew a hole clean through the helpless Republic fighter. The Cougar didn't make it, the vehicle had caught on fire, trapping the crew inside to be cooked.

Another LAAT came crashing down in flames as 6more Sparrowhawks flew overhead, providing cover for Taylor's 3 tank platoon.

One of Fitzsimmons's rounds went clean through the troop bay of an AT-AT, over penetrating and not doing too much actual damage. Fitzsimmons corrected his aim, and hit the cockpit, sending the AT-AT into a mindless pace lumbering towards the UNSC defensive positions before tripping over a vehicle wreck.

The Republic Juggernauts were wreaking havoc on UNSC defenses. A Gauss gun emplacement was overrun, literally. The unfortunate crewmen were crushed under the wheels of the vehicle.

"Break, break! Foxtrot Bravo-1 to Command!" Taylor yelled into his radio.

"What is it Foxtrot Bravo?"

"Republic heavy armor has completely broken through! They've cut off the left flank. My platoon doesn't have the firepower to take them all out!"

"Alright Foxtrot Bravo, hold tight. Air Force bombers are en route, E.T.A fifteen minutes, over."

Taylor didn't get to respond before the radio cut out. 'If we can even last that long.'

Another Cougar AFV was taken out by Republic armor. As the crew began to bail out another energy missile hit it, turning the tank into a fireball that consumed the crew.

Taylor cursed, he followed the trail of the missile to a rocky knoll where Clones armed with heavy anti-armor weapons had dug in alongside supporting infantry.

"Ubeke, Grillpanzer, AT infantry two o'clock!"

"Fucking sons of a bitches!" Grillpanzer cursed as his tank stopped to stitch the hillside with his LAAGs, throwing up tons of dirt as the Clones scurried to cover, 2 of them not being fast enough and subsequently becoming worm food.

Suddenly Ubeke's tank exploded into pieces of shrapnel as one of the active AT-TEs obliterated the stationary target.

"Dammit, Grillpanzer we've got to buy our infantry time to retreat. We're going to get swamped at this rate." The Recluse autoloader shoved round after round into the gun, each round spelling doom for whoever was on the receiving end, yet it wasn't enough, there were too many damned walkers.

Summers put the tank in reverse while AT-ATs began to turn towards the tank.

Taylor yelled in fury as he fired his LAAGs at whatever he saw, Fitzsimmons tried to shoot as fast as the tank would let him while the infantry made their way towards the valley.

The hammer had fallen upon the anvil, but there was only one anvil and thousands of hammers.

CT-2310 'Jic'

Running over the bodies of fallen Troopers, Jic and a platoon of 40 Clones of the 327th Star Corps charged headlong into the firestorm of battle as his heart pounded in his chest.

His mind was focused on one thing, survival.

And there was only one way to survive this assault, to break through the UNSC line.

His unit on the left flank had received barely any armor or artillery support. They were pretty much on their own, yet they had managed to grind their way through enemy lines, a stark contrast to the right flank which had cleaved their way through with a focused armored assault.

He knew that he would most likely not return from the battlefield alive, the Terrans made the droids look like a sick joke.

To hammer this point home, an engorged Terran gunship flew towards Jic's company. Jic's personal platoon scrambled behind a destroyed walker. One of the other platoons wasn't so lucky. The gunship let loose a barrage of cannon fire and missiles, obliterating 40 men with metal and explosions.

The fat craft flew overhead with stunning speed. While it was turning around to ventilate Jic's men, one of them scored a lucky hit with a PLX-1 right in the engine compartment. The craft stuttered in the air and crashed into the ground. A round from a vengeful AT-TE blew it to bits on the ground.

He held his blaster ready at hip level while he cleared an opening that was the scene of a brutal hand to hand fight, where a UNSC foxhole was overrun only after the two Terrans had killed dozens of his own. The corpses of his brothers littered the ground, most of them were dismembered.

The only consolation prize were the Terran bodies, spotted with scorch marks and burns. Their combat knives and holdout weapons were drenched in blood, both from their own bodies and the bodies of Clones. Thankfully his helmet filtered out the smell of seared flesh.

Years of training and months on campaign allowed him to ignore the burnt and charred remains of a Terran female soldier. He and the fellow troopers crested the ridge to see yet another trench where a seeming white carpet of Clone bodies in their armor covered the sandy ground. A wall of blue blaster bolts continuously slammed into the UNSC defenders and their positions as they frantically fired back as much as they could, sending streams of hypersonic bullets into the charging Republic Clones. Jic was made aware of this fact by the trooper next to him spinning around, spurting blood everywhere from a stray bullet wound. Immediately a medic hastily applied his dwindling supply of bacta patches onto the hurt trooper.

Jic and the rest of his men hugged the dirt.

Jic and the other men of his platoon found themselves crawling into a wide but shallow crater, caused by one of the few artillery barrages his flank had been afforded. Jic used the dirt lip of the crater to support his arms. No less than 30 meters away was a Terran soldier. Jic let off a long burst into the man, taking out his shields with a crackling pop.

The Terran returned fire, prompting Jic to duck back down.

Jic took a deep breath in, stood up, and started to fire his blaster on full auto. He closed the distance and fired another burst into the surprised man, catching him in the face and blasting most of his head away.

Jic threw himself into the trench. He motioned for his men. "Get up here troopers!" His platoon slowly filtered into the trench. One trooper stuck his head out only for it to be blown in two from a Terran machine gun.

"Blast, alright First Squad link up with Commander Deviss and his men. Second and Third Squad continue down this trench and take out any Terran you see. Fourth Squad with me, move out!" Jic ordered. "Get some smoke up here!"

One of Jic's men tossed a smoke grenade above the trench towards the machine gun emplacement. Seconds later a thick plume of smoke enveloped the open area. Jic went over the top, doing his best to avoid the wild spraying of the blind crew.

Jic found himself to the left of the machine gun crew, soon followed by the rest of his men. They looked shocked and turned the weapon towards Jic. Without hesitation his squad opened fire on the turret. The 2 men manning the gun took dozens of blaster bolts, their armor was peppered with scorch marks melting through. They flinched in pain, growled, but ultimately died before they could get a shot off.

Jic and his men ducked as a UNSC attack craft was shot down above them, the vehicle streaked only a dozen meters above before crashing.

Jic got up and threw his hand forward to signal his men to advance. While the smoke cleared behind him, Jic pressed forward towards the next trench.

UNSC Command vehicle

"Where the Hell is the damned Air Force!? We are being overrun down here! Our whole damn line is breaking!" Alexi heard a man from the defensive line screaming into the radio. His left flank was shattered. Those damned Republic wheel tanks had broken through while his air support was tied up by Republic fighters and other sorties.

He frowned at the tactical readout and opened a communication channel. "This is General Alexi, air support is only five minutes away. Hold fast and Godspeed." Alexi sighed and ran his hand over his grey stubble.

Through a feed from a soldier's helmet cam, he saw the situation. Republic armor simply outnumbered his own. Once they had the tanks distracted, they plowed through the gaps created and laid waste to his infantry. It didn't matter if you were armed with a rocket launcher when you were obliterated before you could peak out.

He was reminded by the video that unlike the last War, he was once again killing Humans, his own species. The emotional disconnect that allowed him to heartlessly kill Covenant hordes in droves was not there. He fought against the Insurrection, but this just wasn't the same.

Unexpectedly, Shortsword came onto his map. "I thought they were five minutes out?"

"Must've been an instrument malfunction." One of his subordinates suggested.

Alexi activated his radio. "All air wings, engage targets at your discretion. Make sure you double check your IFFs."

"Copy that, Sir. Going in for a bombing run."

"All UNSC forces withdraw towards the city. Air support is engaging." Alexi turned off the radio. "God forgive me." He muttered.

Munitions rained down on the Andromedan forces. Shrapnel, explosions, bullets, and napalm..

Alexi watched with a mix of awe and horror as the expanding firestorm enveloped the invaders. It would buy him the time he needed to retreat into the city.

His viewscreen panned to the expanding devastation. Clones flailed out of their vehicles, roasting alive. He watched as a Clone's plastoid armor seared into the flesh of the man, melting and contorting in the firestorm.

The bombing run had come just in the knick of time. But there was no telling how fast the situation could unravel further.

Though the defensive line was lost, the Republic would still have to chase him through the valley and into the city. History showed that assaulting a city would end in a tedious campaign, one which the Clones couldn't afford. Estimated enemy casualties were over 15,000 with his own forces at 63% strength, but the 8 Republic divisions had all linked up. He needed an ace up his sleeve, but he was dealt a losing hand.

Alexi turned to his AI assistant. "Vernard, estimate the chances of our forces defeating the Republic."

The dumb AI's ghostly avatar blinked as it replied.

"I estimate a twenty one percent chance of victory with losses mounting to fifty percent and with total destruction of enemy forces. We have a seventy two percent chance of achieving victory with our forces taking over eighty percent losses. Would you like to see the calculation performed by factoring in orbital support and thermonuclear weapons?" The AI blinked as it waited for Alexi's response.

Alexi frowned. He found the ace, but he didn't like what it entailed. "Get me a line to Admiral White."


"We've completely smashed through their defenses but their bombers are tearing us to shreds down here. Our AA is having a tough time locking on" Galle reported over the holoprojector. Galle and Inc had dismounted and joined the infantry.

Bly shook his head. He was about to leave the walker and go out there himself, but his men needed his leadership, he was useless dead. He didn't like sitting in this walker while his brothers were out there dying. He hoped General Ti would come to relieve him soon so he could fight on the front.

The walker shook as its main gun fired. The cockpit glass had been replaced and a new driver found.

Thankfully he'd finally broken through this hell of a defensive line.

It was a pyrrhic victory. He lost thousands of men as KIA, wounded, and crippled.

If there was one good piece of news, it seemed that the UEG Army had incurred enough losses themselves, no doubt mainly to the sheer numbers he had fielded against them. Their ground reinforcements were likely still half a rotation away, at that point the surface cannons preventing orbital support from arriving would be dealt with.

"Sir." Another officer said. "General Ti is unable to make it planetside, she's helping the fleet with wounded on the auxiliaries, they were hit by Terran heavy strike bombers."

Several of the Clones, Bly included, cursed at the news. He sighed, it was now official that he was no longer simply the interim commander.

"Get me a line to Admiral Tarkin." He ordered.

UNSC Warhound

"Transition into T7's orbit successful, tightening the orbits of the fleet to allow the battlegroups to intercept at a sixty degree axis. The Republic fleet is coming up behind us." MacArthur said as the mighty and bloodied battleship increased its pitch and executed a burn to bring the intersection point of the enemy fleet closer, as the Republic fleet was surprisingly fast. "Battlegroup 2 is on the dark side of the moon, moving to our interception point."

"Take the safeties off of the Shivas and get ready to launch three of them. Mask their approach with Archer pods sixty to one hundred. Tell the fleet to pick their targets, I want Shivas to hit every single one of those bastards." White ordered as the ship shuddered. The bluish gas giant passed under the fleet and filled most of the viewscreen. 2 of his remaining cruisers, a Marathon and a Warlock, passed below him, followed shortly by 3 of the Gibraltars. Their thrusters burned a bright blue/white as they accelerated to match the maneuver.

Admiral White was staring at the battlegroup chasing him down. It was 30 ships strong, and led by one of their largest warships. He opened a small pocket sized compass. It was going haywire.

That signalled it was time to initiate his plan.

Working in tandem, the 2 UNSC battlegroups accelerated towards each other in converging trajectories.

If it worked, the 2 groups would intercept each other head on with the Republic fleet between them.

Admiral White's ships would remain undetected by his enemies.

"Time to intercept is three minutes. " Captain Haithum said.

"All coilgun batteries are reloaded. MACs fully operational, awaiting charge." The weapons officer informed.

White tapped his foot on the deck while he waited for the Republic, to see whether or not they would play right into his hand.

"Time to optimal engagement range thirty seconds." The weapons officer said.

"Increasing acceleration to two hundred gees." The helmsman announced.

The Republic fleet was in visual sighting range, but just barely. The optical equipment projected the image onto the video feed, first showing the Republic fleet as nothing more than grey wedges, and then zoomed in on the lead ship, an Imperator. It was barely the size of a UNSC destroyer, but it sure as hell packed a punch up close.

"Match our ECM to the planet's radiation and electromagnetism. Switch to passive sensors only. They won't be able to see us until we're right under their noses."

However in doing so meant that he could not use his primary weapon systems, White didn't want to risk having the electromagnetism of his MACs and the radiation signature of energy weapons giving away his position too soon.

"Battlegroup 2 is over the curvature of T7's moon. Enemies are in range at eight hundred thousand kilometers, our Shiva's have an extended range lock." MacArthur announced as the gathering lights of the Republic fleet grew larger, the Republic would detect him any second now.

"Launch them now!" He ordered with haste.

As soon as the words left his lips, thousands of Archer missiles launched throughout the remainder of his fleet, followed by dozens of Shiva nuclear missiles. In White's own ship, 3 dull thuds were heard by the crew closest to the nuke compartment, as his remaining Shivas were launched out of their electromagnetically assisted missile tubes towards the enemy. They had a yield in the hundreds of megatons, and would hopefully drop the Republic ships' shields in the resulting EMP. The smoke contrails slowly joined the thousands of others.

"Come on..." Admiral White gripped the edge of the screen impatiently, he needed to obliterate the Republic flotilla in one swift and decisive maneuver.

"They've seen us! They're turning around and are engaging our missiles with their point defense!" The radar operator yelled as the first heavy turbo laser blasts began to sail past.

"Go evasive! Charge up all batteries and get those MACs downrange! What's the status of the missiles?" White barked out while 2 turbolaser bolts shook the ship, each bolt would normally deliver 150 megatons of energy close up, but at this distance it barely hit the 30 megaton mark.

An ensign pulled up the video feed rather than wasting time to talk. It showed the missiles streaking towards their targets on seemingly random trajectories as the experimental Shivas his ship had been equipped with were designed to 'wobble' to avoid point defenses when nearing their targets, unlike the older generation of missiles. The sporadic Republic anti missile fire was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of missiles. They desperately focused on the radiation signature of the Shiva missiles, to no avail.

The turbolaser fire intensified as the 2 Terran battlegroups got closer. One of his frigates began to belch flame from the combined fire of a Venator, 2 Acclamators, and 5 Dreadnaught-Class ships. Admiral White's forces returned fire with their analogous naval coilguns and railguns, mostly to unnerve the Republic forces.

His ship accelerated past the hapless Republic fleet 100,000 kilometers off of his port beam. There was a full second of silence before Admiral White witnessed the birth of a star behind the transparent metal, then another star, and another, and another until 43 brilliant flashes of light washed over the viewport.

Gamma radiation and electromagnetic pulses from the blasts wrecked the shields of the mighty Republic ships as 500 megatons of TNT equivalent subsequently tore open the armored hulls of mile long warships with the heat of stars a thousand times bigger than Sol. Durasteel and neutronium burned and boiled away. Entire crews simply vanished, whole ships were swallowed by the expanding fireball.

Admiral White gripped the metal of his tactical map's frame as the resulting plasma created from the nuclear blasts washed over his fleet. Had he the strength of a Spartan, he would've ripped the terminal straight out of its socket.

43 suns had replaced the fuzzy wedges of the enemy fleet for a brief moment, until it returned to the welcoming blackness of space. When the light faded, the largest piece of the Republic battlegroup left was the aft half section of a Venator, almost unrecognizable from the explosion. The lead ship, the Imperator-Class Star Destroyer Fossac, was completely vaporized in the blast. Almost nothing else was left behind but dust and echoes.

His bridge's crewmembers looked at each other in shock. What started so soon had ended just as quickly. They started to cheer and holler, the crewmen from the other ships joined them in their small celebration as they formed up behind White's ship.

MacArthur appeared in front of him. "Congratulations Sir, but I'm afraid the situation on the ground requires your intervention. General Hudong is requesting support."

RNS Resolute

"The...they are all gone Sir, Commodore Sceriny's detachment has been wiped out." The Bridge officer informed Tarkin in horror as the fleet sensors registered multiple thermonuclear explosions. "It appears they were caught in a pincer trap."

The communications from the Commodore's task force had all been abruptly silenced after he engaged the Terran forces. The crafty devils had cloaked their ships in the magnetosphere of the gas giant and hid another part of their fleet behind a moon and caught the Commodore totally off guard. Their sensors revealed nothing until it was too late.

"Bring Captain Darcc here, immediately!" Tarkin said while the reports kept flooding in.

This turn of events would do nothing to stop Tarkin from winning this battle. Although the battle in the now trashed space station seemed like an exercise in futility. The main objective of capturing navigation data was rendered moot as the UEG had some protocol that immediately wiped all navigational data and other sensitive information from its computer banks, as was found out when the slicing specialists tried and failed miserably to crack the Terran's mainframe. In fact, they ended up having their equipment wiped from a malicious AI.

The situation planetside seemed to be looking up however. Although a landing site was wiped out, another was able to break through the Terran defenses and was making a mad dash in pursuit of the fleeing Terrans.

His fleet was down to 88 ships and most had incurred damage, as evident by the burnt remains of his ship's port bridge area.

Worst still, Aayla Secura's fighter had apparently been knocked out of action by the UNSC's cowardly strike on his auxiliary medical and support ships, he had a recovery team that was towing her fighter back to the Executrix. The Twi'lek jedi had been knocked unconscious for several hours while the battle raged on.

Shaak Ti had failed to even make it groundside. She had opted to help those on the remaining medical ships deal with the carnage they had experienced over there, and she was reporting back to him on the Executrix in several minutes.

The battle would surely be won, and now the Republic had shown this enemy its might, or so Tarkin thought.

"We have an incoming transmission from Commander Bly."

"Very well, patch him through." Tarkin said.

The holoprojector activated to show the familiar face of a Clone, although this one seemed to be especially stressed. "Admiral." He saluted.

"Ah yes, what is it?"

"My artillery units are bombarding their surface to orbit mass drivers, Sir. I was hoping you could spare some ships to Base Delta Zero their remaining forces, so that my men can move in and secure our objective."

"Very well, Commander. I will dispatch a group shortly." Tarkin shut off the projection.

He hailed his most trusted subordinate. "Captain Piett."

"What would you have me do, Admiral?" Captain Firmus Piett of the Imperator Accuser asked.

"Break off your flotilla. Support the Clones on the ground with orbital support nearby the UEG settlement."

"But Sir, the Hurlania-"

"Those surface cannons are being dealt with as we speak. The faster we can conquer this system the faster this war will be over." Before cutting the transmission short, Tarkin came up with a better plan that would both be a morale loss for the Terrans and conserve his remaining forces. "On second thought Captain. Raze the city. Order Commander Bly to withdraw his men. We shall strike fear into the hearts of these false Humans and will return as the true victors of this battle. You have your orders."

Piett gulped at this order. "Very well Admiral."

Piett was a reliable subordinate, Tarkin had been on campaign with the man before in the Outer Rim, if a little on edge at times.

"We still need to draw that fleet off and engage them to allow our forces time to destroy them from orbit." Tarkin ordered.

Turning to the bridge crew, he stood straight as he spoke. "Have the fleet form into attack formation and meet the UEG Fleet, we can't let them have a shot at the planet with our forces in orbit."

The UNSC fleet had regrouped, thanks to their slingshot orbit they were accelerating towards his forces at alarming speeds.

They were still some 130 million kilometers apart, the gas giant was a bright blue dot in the distance and it would take the Terrans over an hour to arrive. Tarkin still had time to take the planet.

UNSC Warhound Launch Bay 9

Master Chief checked over his suit one more time as the booster frame, fully loaded and readied for launch, was lowered into position. Admiral White had finally authorized his departure.

John's MJOLNIR Mk. VIII (GEN3) was in perfect order. He performed a final diagnostic on the most recent generation of power armor the UNSC had developed.

Although the Mk. VIII looked like the Mk. VI armor he had worn years prior. It was slightly bulkier and its capabilities left them in the dust.

His suit had a new hybrid plasma/fusion reactor that provided 4 times more power than the previous models and was actually half the size of the older reactors, which helped power the other major enhancements to his suit.

On his back was a jetpack that took up much of the space left over from the older reactors, the folded up assembly was small enough and built into the suit so that although he could still hold two weapons on his back's magnetic strips. The uses for the jetpack were tremendous. He also had maneuvering thrusters that had carried over from the GEN2 armor. These additions made Chief even more agile than he already was. He could already run in excess of 50km/hour unassisted, but with the suit he could push 75. Kelly was even faster.

His shields were also heavily beefed up, they were twice as strong as the previous generation and had overcome the limitations of the earlier and more primitive shields. Previously, ships and vehicles equipped with shields would have to lower portions of their shields in order to fire their weapons. Infantry would have to lower the strength of their boot and glove shields in order to prevent losing their grip on firearms and slipping over terrain. With advances in technology, these problems were fixed.

The MJOLNIR armor plating was heavily improved upon, the already impressive composite titanium alloy shell was nigh impervious to small arms fire, it would take a dozen lucky hits from an MA6 to have a chance of hurting the person using the armor. The advanced thermal resistance and heat distribution properties of the alloy's classified 'recipe' meant that it would take half of a Sangheili plasma rifle's battery pack to begin to melt through. It could even take a handful of slugs from a Gauss rifle with a bit of luck and skillful angling in the thickest plate.

The liquid metal crystal piezoelectric layer was now even more refined. It quadrupled John's already superhuman strength and coupled with the reactive circuits, his reaction time was in the single milliseconds.

It might've been that the armor was brand new, but the black undersuit felt more comfortable too. John wasn't one to complain about discomfort, but it was nice to have that luxury.

"Hmmm, I think this new suit fits you quite nicely. I'm liking this new architecture." Cortana spoke as the booster frame was lowered into position.

"Don't get any funny ideas." The Master Chief mounted his craft.

The bay doors opened, the only thing protecting the interior of the hangar from the vacuum of space was the energy barrier.

Cortana then informed him of what he was waiting for.

"Launching in three... two… one…"

The Booster Frame's two engines ignited as he gripped the controls.

The light turned green. "Launch!"