Outline

This is the general outline that I created for myself at the beginning of the story, where I laid the framework for pretty much how I imagined the story to go. Do note that because this was originally for myself, it's not really well organized in the slightest – it will more than likely read as nothing more than a stream of consciousness as I was literally adding and deleting things as I went along, so I won't be surprised if this ends up confusing some of you. If it does, sorry, but unfortunately I wasn't really interested in making it all that much cleared. If you do have questions, feel free to PM and I'll do my best to explain.

Due to the amount of material I had, my outline is divided into two sections: the first is the outline for how the battle of Actium itself would have gone, while the second outline deals directly with the character arcs. There will be some overlap because, like I said, this sheet was more of a brainstorming sheet.

Note: I think I would like to do a rewrite of this story at some point in the future, a redux version so to speak, and if I do so, it will more than likely follow the same events as laid out here. Obviously, this outline will spoil everything I had planned, so if you're the type that doesn't like spoilers, maybe skip this chapter? (But then again, it will be months, at earliest, before any sort of redux version of this story appears, so perhaps you'll have forgotten everything by then?)

Note: because this website is kind of dumb, the format of this chapter is all screwed up (I had everything in bulletin points, as I didn't realize they wouldn't show up.) So, scattered around this chapter are little excepts and scenes I had written for myself to be used at a latter date. Because of the formatting issues, and just to make things a little bit easier to read, I'm going to make those excepts bold.


Battle of Actium Outline

Chapter 45 (because that was the one I had most mapped out)

- Characters: Tariq and Zelda

= First half of chapter would have involved an attempted night assault on UNSC lines in the south as per 'Oteree's renewed offensive to try and buy more time

= Due to damage due to his tank earlier in the day, Tariq is on the frontline, both to deliver ammo and visit his friend Chenko when the attack begins

(Beside him, Tariq could hear Chenko whispering, "Steel Rain, this is Checkpoint Four: fire mission. Requesting one round, illumination, at target concentration Delta."

Tariq silently flicked the safety off the machine gun as he waited for the shell to arrive. Gradually, he became aware of a low whistling noise filling the air as the illumination round passed by overhead, before there was a mute pop as the flare ignited, lighting up the sky –

- as well as illuminating the three hundred some odd Covenant soldiers crawling on their bellies through the snow in their direction less than a hundred meters away.

Tariq didn't hesitated: he laid into the trigger.

"All stations, all stations, this is Dragoon 2-2: CONTACT!" Chenko screamed into the radio as the entire Covenant force, realizing they had been compromised, immediately returned fire. "Covenant infantry in the open less than one hundred meters away, I say again, ONE HUNDRED METERS! All units, FIRE AT WILL! Break, break! Steel Rain, this is Checkpoint Four: I got Covenant infantry in the open less than a hundred meters away from my pos, requesting immediate fire support on previously established targets Alpha through Echo. All batteries, FIRE FOR EFFECT!")

- Tariq is forced to relocate the machine gun several times as the Covenant attempt to outflank them to the left

("Oh, shit!" he heard Contreras yell. "Sergeant, we gotta displace! Covenant are trying to outflank us on the left!"

"Son of a bitch!" Tariq yelped as he hurriedly tossed the remainder of his belt over the top of the machine gun, then lifted the entire weapon off its tripod. "Corporal, get the tripod. Benson! Get the ammo! Move you motherfuckers, MOVE!")

- Eventually though, he starts to run low on ammo, sends Benson to go get more, but Benson never returns so he sends Contreras after him, but before Contreras can return, Tariq runs out of MG ammo and is forced to resort to his SMG

- Section would have ended with Chenko calling for an airstrike right on top of UNSC positions as Covenant are about to overrun them

- Leads to second half of chapter involving Zelda

- Zelda and his squadron have just pulled out of their bombing run when they receive word from the AWACS an entire battalion of Covenant armor has just left the city and is moving to support the attack

- Ordered to intercept

- Zelda and his squadron move in, only to immediately get hit by all sorts of AA: this column is heavily protected by all the AA Wraiths the Covenant hadn't used to repel the bombers earlier that morning

- JT gets hit, but manages to crash land his bird in the middle of the field

- Bellum wants the Army to send out an armored platoon to try and rescue him, but Army reports they're getting hammered and rescue is out of the question

= So instead, she calls in search and rescue (UNSCAF PJs) for help

- While they wait for help to arrive, Zelda and his squadron do their best to provide close air support for their friend

- Fortunately, JT's experience as a tactical air controller proves very helpful in directing the Broadswords' firepower

- Chapter would have probably ended with Zelda and the others realizing their firepower isn't enough to hold back the Covenant forever, and that JT will be overrun before the PJs can arrive, so he calls a strike on himself

= As part of the character arc, I was thinking Zelda would have been the only one in the squadron willing to do it


After Chapter 45 (at this point, it would be morning of May 8 or Day 3 of the battle – night attack took place close to midnight)

- Time skip forward by four hours: battle has finally ended with a UNSC victory, though it had been a near thing as Covies had been able to overrun the first two UNSC defensive lines

- Still, damage they caused has thrown the Army into disarray, and General Valerian decides to delay her attack in order to reorganize

- Decision pisses Athena off so she decides, if the Army won't attack, she will

- Reverses earlier orders for Northern Forces to stand down, and instead resume offensive actions

- Unlike day before, Covenant resistance is limited because, in order to support the night offensive, 'Oteree had stripped his northern forces of most of their strength, leaving but a skeleton crew to hold back the UNSC Marines

- The Marines' advance is making good headway when they're accidently bombed by the UNSCAF

= Unbeknownst to them, due to a miscommunication (as a result of Athena being forced to move some of her staff officers to the field to make up for the slack,) UNSCAF was operating under the assumption that the Marines were planning on holding their position, like they originally said they would

= As for why the Marines weren't informed that the Air Force was planning on resuming their bombing campaign, Athena suspects it's because Iqbal wanted to "win the battle by himself" and "show he didn't need the ground pounders' support"

- In the ensuing chaos, the Covenant counterattack because, as it turns out, not all of the UNSC battalions had actually received the initial order to advance (again, due to the lack of staff officers,) leaving all sorts of holes in the line and allowing a number of units to get outflanked

- In disarray, Marines fall back to their original launch point

- Because of this, Fields steps in and orders all ground forces, north and south, to hold position until they can get reorganized


- Six hours later, UNSC finally get their shit together and attack with their armored units from the south, while the Marines hold the north

- With the Covenant having exhausted themselves over the last few days, resistance is as fierce as always, but within a couple of hours, UNSC forces have finally broken through and forward recon elements of the UNSC Army is reaching the edge of Byzas -

- When Lepidus' vanguard arrives in system, far earlier than ONI expected (ONI was expecting a three day grace period – i.e., Covie reinforcements wouldn't arrive until the tenth if May. They in fact arrive on the eight)

- Brushing aside the surprised UNSC Navy, the new Covenant forces start racing dropships and corvettes to the battlefield, in some cases, literally dropping on top of UNSC armored columns in the south

- Realizing they're about to get cut off, UNSC armor begins "advancing in another direction" (i.e., they start to withdraw)

- Kicks off another fierce battle where UNSC attacks the new Covenant forces in order to ensure their armor is able to retire from the battlefield


- Several hours later (mid-evening probably) on 8 May, UNSC is left kicking their wounds, trying to figure out what to do now.

- Army has gone into resupply mode, and is unwilling to attack, especially since their armored brigades (3/15 and 1/31 AD) were both badly maul attempting to keep their withdraw corridor open

- Athena decides to launch a couple of battalion sized "recon by fires," to roughly determine just how many reinforcements had arrived

- All recon by fires are swiftly and brutally repelled, and UNSC High Command is forced to face the truth: the Covenant have arrived in force, and the UNSC is unlike to be able to eliminate them from the surface now; they need to adopt a new strategy. Operation SUDDEN PURGE II is officially over, and has ended in defeat


Day 5 of the Battle of Actium (Roughly)

- Lepidus finally arrives in system and formally relieves 'Oteree.

- Last few days, battle lines have been mostly static aside from constant probing attacks and artillery dials

- UNSC has been resupplying while Covenant have been waiting for Lepidus to arrive before making their move

- After getting briefed on the situation, Lepidus assumes a new strategy: can't advance in the East due to Covenant lack of experience with amphibious assaults, and doesn't want to attack north because of the city, therefore main effort into the breakout should be directed south

- Deploys bulk of his infantry and armor to the south, however decides to divert most of his Jackals and Skirmishers to the west, the mountains , to take advantage of their natural leaping ability for a potential outflank if they can break through the UNSC lines

- As part of the change, Lepidus replaces almost all Elites with Brutes (aside from those in the west,) and almost orders them all back to their ships to sit out the battle (as nothing would embarrass them more than having to sit out a battle of this magnitude,) when his brother Paullus points out it's probably a bad idea to have a massive amount of pissed off Elite warriors sitting around not doing anything while the Brutes fought and died

- Realizes he's right, Lepidus decides due to the position of the UNSC Marines in the north, they're too close and they stand the risk of threatening his landing site.

- Decides the city needs to get secured after all, and task 'Oteree with that responsibility

- However, he pulls all of their armor, Hunter, and artillery support, most of their air and Jackal support, and only leaves a token Grunt support with the hopes that the vast majority of Elite warriors will simply get killed off by the humans and solving the problem for him

- At the same time all this ongoing, the UNSC is busy reorganizing

- All line units that started the battle (Tariq's armored unit, Amber's ship) are getting rotated off the line for repairs or replacements, or they're going to reserve. In the north, all Army units are replaced by Marine units, with Adel's battalion (2/77) getting folded back into the rest of the 77th MAR RGT to act as regimental reserve.

- However, two units would not be rotated off: Marcus' unit (because, theoretically, they haven't seen much combat) and Zelda's squadron (because the UNSC can afford to rotate their pilots off the line)


Week Two of the Battle of Actium

This entire week would have been devoted to character development, with the battle itself serving as more of a backdrop. Some notable events that would have occurred (not in order)

- Selene's part in the story would have been wrapped up

- As part of the reorganization, Tariq would be promoted to Staff Sergeant and give command of his own tank

- His unit would also be reflagged as "53rd Armored Cavalry Regiment" and assigned directly to the Corps level

- Zelda's squadron would been combined with several others in order to bring them back up to strength, however he and the others would see no relief

- At some point towards the end of the week, Marcus' convoy would get ambushed, resulting in Orlović being KIA

- Soon afterwards, Marcus finds out due to battle damage, his entire brigade is getting swapped with a different Colonial Militia unit from the other side of the planet, based out of Astoria Levant – Marcus' hometown. Marcus is finally going home

- Amber's budding relationship with Leporidae would have been explored, though it would have gone sour almost immediately

- Zek and his Lance would continue to fight against UNSC forces in the mountains

- With more reinforcements arriving, General Valerian would have been promoted, and put in charge of the newly "Eleventh Army," consisting of all UNSC forces in the south

- At some point, Lepidus and Tartarus (the Chieftain of all Brutes) would have a conversation and it would be revealed that neither Brutes like each other, at all, though Lepidus follows Tartarus because the Covenant insisted they wanted him in charge

- The heavy losses 'Oteree and his forces are starting to take while trying to capture Byzas would make him start to question whether his devotion to the Covenant cause was actually worth it


End of Week 2

Towards the end of Week Two, the focus of the story would have switched back to the battle itself

- For many days now, all Covenant forces have been attempting to break through UNSC defensive lines with minimal success

- Most notably, Zek and his Lance in the west, fighting in the mountains

- Towards the end of the week, they get yanked back in preparation for another offensive, and Zek finds out the entire battle on the mountains has actually been one massive distraction

= In reality, Lepidus knew he wasn't going to be able to break through the UNSC lines without something drastic, so while the Jackals and Skirmishers have been keeping the humans distracted, this entire time he's been having all the Covenant Drones dig a tunnel straight through the Mountain under human positions

= Using a captured MOAB (which the humans had lost back on Day Two while attempting to bring down one of the cruisers – see chapter 43) Lepidus blows a massive hole in the human lines (à la the Battle of the Crater of the American Civil War or the Battle of Hill 60 of WW1)

= The operation is successful and for the first time in two weeks, Covenant have manage to break through

- On the UNSC's, the situation is dire: because the Covenant had arrayed the bulk of their forces in the south, the UNSC had assumed any breakout attempt would take place there and had arranged their forces accordingly

- With the breakout occurring in the west, the UNSC Army is left scrambling to respond with what limited forces they have, and immediately deploy the "53rd Armored Cavalry Regiment" to try and slow them down (Tariq's unit) while they scramble to find more forces they can use to respond

- To further keep the humans off balanced, Lepidus decides to open another front: he sends his brother, Paullus, and a separate task force with orders to force another landing on the other side of the planet – on the continent the humans call "Levant" and in the town the humans call "Astoria"

Book 2 ends here


Second interlude

As with the first interlude, this interlude would involve Naomii Ichi

- Naomii has not been handling the disappearance of her sister well; the lack of information and the uncertainty of whether or not her sister is even alive is keeping her awake at night

- Finally, she decides to do some fact finding herself

- She notices that her sister's commanding officer, one Lieutenant Lancelot, has been reported as WIA and is in the hospital, thus available to be contacted

- She calls him up, hoping to find some information, at least how and when her sister disappeared

- Only, during the course of the conversation, she realizes Lancelot didn't even know her sister had been declared MIA, revealing to her that whatever her sister had been doing before going MIA, she had not been doing it with her unit

- Lancelot promises to do some digging and offers to call her back in a couple days when he's found something, only he immediately calls her later that night

- He reveals to Naomii that as soon as he started asking questions, an Army intelligence officer named "Holland" immediately told him to stop

- Reveals to Naomii that whatever her sister was up to, it had to have been for ONI to warrant that kind of reaction

- Naomii realizes her sister's disappearance might actually be a bigger story than she realizes.


Book 3/Week 3

This book would have dealt with the repercussions of the Covenant's breakout. Fighting continues in the Thracia Province as UNSC forces in the south struggle to contain the Covenant attack, which is rapidly turning into a sort of "Operation Bagration or Operation Cobra"-isk offensives (both of WW2 – Soviet and Western Allied operations, respectively that took place in 1944 and saw successful encirclements of massive Wehrmacht formations.) At the same time, UNSC Marines still occupying the northern half of Byzas are faced with a renewed attack by Sangheili soldiers as the Covenant work on bypassing the city's defenses entirely by encircling the city instead.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Covenant forces are able to brush aside light UNSC resistance and establish a beachhead on the surface, leaving UNSC General Jason Langley to struggling to continue the situation. The problem is, unlike Byzas which is a heavily built up city surrounded by large open fields perfect for maneuver warfare, Astoria is mostly suburban, meaning it's hard to establish hardpoints for defense. To help out with the defense, Langley redeploys several fighter squadrons from Hellas (including Zelda's,) and converts some logistical units into infantry (including Marcus')

Notable Events

- With the tides rapidly turning against them, UNSC Navy finds itself running low on munitions, so they send the UNSC Gabrielle to the rings of Tenedos, where the second major space battle for the system took place, and the corpses of several UNSC ships are, most notably, the Air Force carrier UNSC Pégoud, which had been destroyed mostly before it could fight

= A boarding team consisting of at least Amber, Poolsie, and Leporidae are sent on board, only they find out, they aren't the only ones there: unbeknownst to the UNSC, the ship had been taken over by Covenant Drones. Using the corpses of all the dead humans as food, the Drones had established a hive aboard the ship (which is where Lepidus got all his Drones for his tunneling operation)

= Amber and company soon find themselves cut off from the Gabrielle, and with the help of a surviving Air Force officer from the original crew (who had been hiding and evading the Drones the entire three weeks,) the UNSC is able to get off the ship, have the Gabrielle completely destroy the remains of the Pégoud (and kill all the Drones,) as well as salvage a handful of ordnance including two Havok nukes

- Early in the week, Zelda's squadron is redeployed to Levant to help out. They fly there, but halfway, they land on an Actium Navy aircraft carrier to refuel (as all Air Force refueling tankers are too vulnerable to Covenant air attacks and are grounded. While on the ship, the carrier is attacked by Covenant fighters

- At some point mid-week, Marcus comes across his parents' home – his parents aren't there, having successfully been evacuated off world the day before and in relief, Marcus falls asleep in his own bedroom. When he wakes up several hours later, he finds out that during the night, UNSC forces pulled out from the area, accidentally leaving him behind and now Marcus is stuck behind enemy lines (more details in character outline)

Other notable events

- Marcus Olsen is Killed in Action

- Link "Zelda" Kuang is Killed in Action

- Paullus, son of Amilia is felled in battle


End of Week 3/Beginning of Week 4 (Date was undecided)

By the end of the week, its clear Levant will fall so rather than drag out the inevitable, General Langley makes the decision to abandon the entire continent, pulling out what units he can. About a quarter of the units are redeployed to the island of Cyprium, which is subtly being changed into an evacuation point off world, while the rest are deployed to Hellas to bolster the falling UNSC lines there. Obviously it would take too long to go over the ocean, so through some unspecified operation, Langley is able to use space ships to pick up the forces, and ship them over to Hellas right under the Covenant's noses, infuriating Lepidus because 'Oteree was supposed to have dealt with the UNSC Navy already.

Because of that, and because of the influx of troops onto the field, Lepidus makes the decision to slow the ground offensive and place priority on destroying the rest of the UNSC Navy.

While this is going on, High Command is beginning to privately admit Actium is lost, and orders the mandatory evacuation of all remaining civilians on the planet, including those in employment with the UNSC armed forces, as well as beginning to evacuate high ranking officers.


Week 4/Mid-Week 4 (again, date was undecided)

- Two/Three days after fall of Levant, UNSC Navy under heavy attack by Covenant fleet, and has been non-stop since fall of Levant. UNSC Navy warships are being grinded down, their crews worn, including the UNSC Gabrielle. During one such engagement the Gabrielle accidently moves out of formation and instantly swarmed by Covenant fighters. Having never repaired much of their damage taken at the beginning of the battle, the Gabrielle is soon falling. They attempt to flee through the atmosphere of Actium in order to try and escape, but it's clear is a lost cause and soon the order "Abandon Ship" is given

- Most of the crew leave, despite knowing they will be easy pickings for the pursuing fighters

- However Poolsie decides she doesn't want to leave – she rather die aboard the ship

= At first, Amber tries to convince her to risk it, but Poolsie is adamant, and Amber quickly realizes that if they actually stay aboard the ship, they could control some of the turrets and try to give the rest of the crew some covering fire

- Both she and Poolsie stay at their stations as the Gabrielle starts to make it's finally dive towards the planet

- As the ship crashes into the Haemus Mountains, just west of the city of Byzas, Amber is knocked unconscious

- When she wakes, it's much later, and she finds Poolsie out cold, with her legs trapped under some rubble

- Amber attempts to free her, but she can't do it on her own and she quickly hears a noise

= At first she's worried it's the Covenant, and she arms herself with a nearby pistol, but it turns out it's only a UNSC salvaging crew, led by one Army Colonel Akono Menteith, one of which includes an Army EOD technician, Sergeant Ducky Krios – Amber's aunt (who was mentioned all the way back in chapter 1)

= Amber and her aunt are of course delighted to see each other alive, after all this time, but their reunion is cut short by the arrival of the Covenant

= With the salvaging crew's help, Poolsie (still out cold) is recovered, and they evacuate the remains of the ship.

= Among the things the crew was able to salvage are two Havok nukes they were able to rip out from the ship's armory


At this point, the rest of the story is mostly unorganized. At some point, the Covenant finally get into a position where Byzas is about to be encircled, and all non-essentially personnel are evacuated, including Amber and Poolsie. Adel and most of the Marines are killed in action trying to prevent the city from being encircled, and unfortunately they're unsuccessful. With no reserves left, Athena decides to take what remains of her staff (including General Lysander,) and mount an offensive against the Covenant encirclement in an attempt to open it up again. She is unsuccessful, and killed in action along with most of her staff.

At that point, the only remaining ranking officer is one Colonel Akono Menteith of the 53rd Armored Division. Realizing the city has essentially become a death trap, rather than try and break out, he's going to try and do as much damage to the Covenant so he rallies the remainder of the Northern forces, and actually goes on the attack with the two Havok nukes he managed to salvage from the Gabrielle, manages to drive a wedge into the Covenant's original landing site, where's he's mortally wounded by Covenant Jackal Zek. Unfortunately for Zek, Menteith still has enough strength to pull the trigger, and he detonates the nukes, instantly killing himself and Zek.

End of Book 3


Interlude 3

Naomii receives confirmation that her sister was killed in action and in fact, had been killed on the first day of the battle (meaning the entire month she and her parents had been hoping that her sister was still alive was in vain.)

Unfortunately for Naomii, this confirmation does not come with any more information (what her sister was doing, why it took so longer for her death to be confirmed, why and how did she die, etc.) so, Naomii decides there's only one way to find out

Interlude ends with Naomii meeting an Army recruiter ("… one way or another, Naomii was going to find some answers.")


Book 4? (or Post-Mortem; wasn't sure what I wanted to call it)

Beginning of Week 5

- With the radiation and fallout from the Havok nukes rapidly covering the entire planet, the battle of Actium is all but over as battle lines have collapsed, and strongpoints destroyed

- Instead, UNSC is steadily working on trying to evacuate the last remainder of their troops but it's difficult as communications are sporadic, plus the Covenant are everywhere

- Tariq and what's left of his unit are attempting to fight their way through various Covenant formations in order to reach the closest evacuation site

- By the time they reach there, they find out that the site is one of the last remaining sites on the planet yet to be overrun by the Covenant

- Due to some sort of mistake, a large number of civilians are still there, and are trying to get off world as well, but there's not a lot of transports left as the Covenant keep shooting them down (details as to why the civilians were there had yet to be worked out)

- Due to some events that occurred on Draco III and that had been haunted Tariq (see character outline for more details,) Tariq is able to motivate he's comrades into staying behind to try and buy time for the civilians to escape first

- They're able to hold the Covenant back long enough for the transports to return, but as the soldiers begin to evacuate and there's only one transport left, they realize there's a flaw in their plan: without them, there's nothing stopping the Covenant from destroying the transport on the ground

- With that in mind, Tariq volunteers to stay behind and act as a rear guard, to try and hold the Covenant back long enough for the last transport to leave

- He delays them for several minutes, long enough for the last transport to rocket off into orbit, and Tariq is killed, finally at peace with himself


Last Days

June 12, 2545 – Last UNSC evacuation site overrun; UNSC Navy and Air Force officially cut off from remaining forces on surface; UNSC fleet begins final withdraw from system

June 12 to 15 – Long range satellites show fighting continues on the surface as last remaining humans trapped on colony opt to go down swinging

June 15, 2545 – Glassing of Actium begins in earnest; UNSC High Command officially declares the colony of Actium to be lost. The battle is officially over.

(End Story)


Some of you may note that there's a lot of detail at the beginning of the outline, not a whole lot in the middle, and then a lot more at the end. That's usually how I work: I figure out where the beginning is, then I decide how the ending will turn out, then (and usually I'm starting to write the story at this point) I try and work out how I going to have to get from point A to B.

Because a lot of these ideas weren't necessarily worked out or fleshed out yet, things most likely would have been deleted, added, or shuffled around to fit inside the story better.


Character Fates

Note: out of context like this, a lot of these ideas are probably going to sound very cheesy. Again, this was my brain storming sheet, so some things may have stayed, other things might have been deleted, while others would depend on context to make it work, it's just one of those things I wouldn't be able to fully work out until I got to that point.


Main Characters

Officer Selene Riddle

Okay, so Selene's story was actually going to be the most complex story of all the characters here and completely different from everyone else, but I thought it would be fun to try which is why I included her in the first place. However, trying to fit her arc within the premise of this story actually proved to be the most difficult part, which is why if a redux version does get down, Selene will more than likely be one of those characters that get cut.

So, starting from where we left off on chapter 44. The woman and two kids currently with Selene and Shin was supposed to be a woman named Kathryn Paxton and her two kids. Kathryn, as it would have turned out, is the wife of Colonel Gregor Paxton (who's first and last appearance was in chapter 14,) making Kathryn the woman who's car was run over by Tariq and his tank back in chapter 7.

At any case, Selene and Shin figure out they've been accidently going in the wrong direction, so they try to orient themselves properly. They start to head north, only to run into another group of survivors: a combat Marine Captain who had been on leave when the invasion began (name yet undecided,) his girlfriend Jess, and maybe one other survivor (undecided?) Being an officer, the Captain immediately takes charge of the entire group but much to Selene's surprise, the Captain declares its too dangerous to try and make it through Covenant lines by themselves and that their best bet is to stay where they are and wait for rescue. Shin protests, and at first the group is split between following Shin or the Captain, but at this point Selene is realizing just how unstable Shin actually is, and decides this is her best chance to distance herself from him and sides with the Captain. With her being a cop (and a figure of authority,) that's enough to tie the scales in favor of the Captain, much to Shin's irritation.

Selene's story at this point would have been mostly dropped until week 2 of the invasion, which was intended to most being dedicated to her. A couple days later, the group has mostly settled into their routine. Shin, despite a threats to the contrary, has decided to stick around though much to the Captain's ire, Shin was somehow able to seduce Jess, to the point she's spending more time with Shin then the Captain.

Over the course of the week, several bits of information would have been revealed through various conversations. In no particular order:

- For someone who is a combat veteran and survivor of multiple battles, the Captain knows surprisingly little about the Covenant and their tactics, especially compared to Shin

- The reason why Selene left Reach is because she's actually in exile: when she was younger, she had a fiancé. One day, after returning from a shopping trip with her best friend, she found her fiancé in bed with another woman. In a fit of rage, Selene pulled out a gun and tried to murder them both, but fortunately her best friend was there to stop her. Unfortunately, the woman her fiancé was in bed with turns out to be the only daughter of some high ranking politician, who wants to see Selene burn for what she tried to do. Fortunately for Selene, her best friend happens to be related to the CEO of the biggest corporation on Reach, so a deal is made instead: the incident gets buried (because no one wants a scandal in their hands,) the charges against Selene are dropped, and in return, Selene leaves Reach and never returns.

= Incident is important because Selene really regrets what she tried to do and as a result, lost a lot of trust in herself, something that subconsciously effects her to this day which is why, when the Covenant landed, Selene automatically began to defer to Shin's authority even though she could easily tell how unstable he is.

- This is told in a private conversation with the Captain, who admits that Jess wasn't actually his girlfriend, just a fellow survivor that he encountered though he asks that Selene keep that information to herself.

Other information that would have been revealed:

- The reason why Shin was in military prison was because he accidently killed a kid. His convoy had just been ambushed by Innies, they were taking machine gun and RPG fire, multiple casualties, when he spotted movement, turned around and just started shooting, only to find out later it was just some kid running for cover.

- Jess is actually a uniform groupie, as in someone who's obsessed with men in uniform which is why she's been bouncing between Shin and the Captain (it would also be hinted that she was the same woman Zelda had been with during his introduction in chapter 1.)

- Shin's ship, the UNSC Richard Bong, has actually been in dry docks for two weeks, which is in direct contrast to Shin's insistence that he's only been in the city for one day.

Throughout this week, it would have been clear there's a lot of tension between Shin and the Captain, and that both are trying their best to extend their influence over the group, and Selene is doing her best to maintain the peace.

Unfortunately, things come to a head when one morning, the survivors wake up to find Jess dead with multiple stab wounds to the chest. The wounds match the cuts delivered by a military-style KaBar which, naturally, the Captain is the only who has. To Selene, this entire situation smells of a setup, but then Shin reveals his trump card: as it turns out, the "Captain," isn't actually a captain at all and just some random loser who's been posing as a Marine in order to try and impress everyone, and has actually never been in combat. Because of that, everyone begins to believe that this dude murdered Jess in a fit of jealous rage, however Selene, knowing how unstable Shin is, doesn't believe it and still believes this is a setup.

It's at this point, Shin reveals he knows exactly why Selene left Reach; as it turns out, he was eavesdropping when she told the "Captain" what had happened to her. Shin uses this as proof that Selene isn't someone to be trusted either, so Selene tried to counter by pointing out Shin has made mistakes too, what about that kid he shot back in Alluvion. However, Shin then reveals he didn't tell her the whole story: as it turns out, military investigators concluded the shooting was justified because video evidence showed the kid was armed, meaning the kid had actually been one of the Innies who had been ambushed Shin and his unit.

At this point, the rest of the survivors are ready to murder the "Captain" for what he "did" and there's nothing Selene can do to stop them (having been thoroughly discredited,) however Shin steps in and convinces everyone the best course of action is to simply leave the "Captain" for the Covenant to deal with, and that they need to try and head back to friendly lines. The group agrees, so they pack up and head out, leaving the Captain behind to die.

The next day, however, they run into a group of Army soldiers, led by Colonel Akono Menteith, who have been operating behind enemy lines since they were cut off on the first day. Menteith has been spending this entire time gathering his strength, as well as what few civilian survivors he could find, and coincidently, he's about to lead an attack on Covenant lines to try and break through to friendly positions. Selene and her group are of course delighted, but Selene does notice Shin doesn't look happy at all. Before she can ask though, Menteith finds out Kathryn is the wife of Colonel Paxton, and he's left with the heavy duty of informing her and her kids that their husband and dad was actually killed in action two weeks ago (Selene would have had a conversation with one of the kids, where they would have revealed how much they were looking forward to seeing their dad again.) The family is naturally devastated by the news, and everyone separates to give them a bit of privacy when –

("There was a shuffling of feet behind her and Selene reflexively turned around.

The last thing she saw was Shin swinging the extendable baton she had given him weeks ago at her face.

And then everything went dark.")

So, sometime later, Selene regains consciousness, only to find herself tied up and back at the shelter she and the other survivors had been hiding in for the last few weeks. Only, the only person around is Shin.

As it turns out (and some readers had actually begun to guess this,) Shin is a psychopath and a serial killer. He first entered the city of Byzas two weeks prior to the invasion (when the UNSC Bong had arrived for repairs,) and he immediately noticed Selene, who had been helping with security at the time. Deciding then that Selene was to be his next victim, Shin had spent those two weeks stalking her (which is actually how he knew about her past, not because he had been eavesdropping,) and why he has been so knowledgeable about the city. The day he was arrested was the first day he was going to try and seduce her (as an apology for his "accidentally" insults, he had been planning on taking her out to dinner,) but the Covenant invasion had thrown a wrench in his plans. Since then, he'd been doing his best to isolate her by any means possible such as: murdering Kingsley (the choking noise she heard when she first woke up all the way back in chapter 26 was Shin strangling Kingsley to death in his sleep,) deliberately leading her away from friendly lines (which is why they had been going south, not north, as mentioned in chapter 45,) murdering Jess and framing the Captain for it (to discredit him and get the group moving,) and finally, just outright kidnapping her (because he's getting frustrated.)

("But now that we're finally alone," Shin said with a terrifying grin as he pulled out a small medical scalpel from his pocket. "We're going to have a little bit of… fun."

"Well," he said after a moment of thought. "Fun for me. For you? Decidedly less so…")

Naturally, Selene is able to fight back as Shin hadn't bother tying her feet ("It's going to be so much more satisfying when I break you!" Shin yelled as he chased after her), when she accidentally finds a KaBar half buried in the snow: it's the same knife Shin had used to murder Jess (they hadn't been able to find it earlier and that was because Shin claimed the Captain had tried to get rid of the evidence.) Using the knife, Selene to able to free herself and she gets into a fight with Shin which ends when Selene is able to cut his Achilles tendon. With Shin crippled, rather than kill him right then and there, Selene decides to do the exact same thing he had done to the Captain: leave him there for the Covenant. Shin tells her that's a mistake

("because I survived the Covenant before. You think I can't survive them now? You don't kill me, right here and now, I promise you, I will hunt you down to the ends of the galaxy, and I will find you. And once I do, we're gonna finish what we started here," Shin swore. "Do you hear me, Riddle? Nobody gets away from me, NOBODY!"

Selene didn't say a word. She just kept walking.)

Having escaped Shin, Selene tries to run to the spot she remembered where Menteith and his men were supposed to be, knowing that they would have left already when, to her surprise, she runs into the man himself

("Colonel?" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"

"Kathryn's daughter noticed both you and Sergeant Shin were missing," Menteith distractedly replied as he and his men sprinted down the street. "I'm not leaving civilians behind ever again [more on that in Tariq's section], so I ordered we go looking for you. Where's Sergeant Shin?"

Selene automatically opened her mouth, but then hesitated.

"I don't know," she heard herself say. "He wasn't with me.")

Later, Selene is in orbit, having been successfully evacuated off world. She's talking to Colonel Kendrick, head of AFIC, because she wants him to know who Staff Sergeant Shin really is, and what he did. Kendrick promises her he'll look into it, and make sure justice is delivered to "all of Shin's past victims"

Later, Selene us onboard the UNSC Gerald O. Young, an Air Force troop transport (and the same ship that originally brought Moss and his unit to Actium [see MIA chapter 1] about to wake her first hot shower in two weeks when

("Officer Riddle."

Selene immediately stiffened. No… it couldn't be.

Slowly, Selene lifted her head and looked in the mirror. To her horror, through the steam filled glass, she could see Shin standing in the doorway behind her, looking no worse for wear, with a wicked grin on his face.

"No…," Selene heard herself whispering. "No, it can't be."

Shin grinned and leaves forward, close enough Selene could almost feel his breath on the back of her neck. "Like I told you: I survived the Covenant three times already. What makes you think I wouldn't survive this?"

"No," Selene whimpered, closing her eyes and shaking her head. "No, you're not real!"

"…I will hunt you down, and I will find you…"

Selene whirled around, ready to strike only… there was no one there. She glanced in the mirror but… Shin was gone, leaving no trace of him having ever been there. And yet, she could still hear his voice echoing in her head.

"…and when I do, we're gonna finish, what we started here.")

So, that would have ended Selene's part, but there would have been one small post scene afterwards: in a meeting with several Air Force generals, including Iqbal, Kendrick would reveal he actually did do what he promised Selene: he started looking into Shin's file and what he found greatly disturbed him.

("According to this, the man was supposed to be rotting in military prison on Fallow, because he was convicted of executing two suspected Innies," Kendrick pointed out. "He was only released because of the Covenant invasion, with the understanding that the murders were done in a fit of passion, and not a sign of systemic abuse. But since then, he's the lead suspect in the disappearance of three different women, and not only that, there's apparently evidence he murdered his own father. Everything about this man is a red flag. He should have never been allowed in the military, he should have never been allowed to stay, and he most definitely should have never been allowed in a position of authority. According to his file, he was a military police officer for Christ's sake!"

Kendrick paused in his tirade to gauge his superiors' reactions, only to find none of them looked surprised in the least bit, and with a sinking sensation, Kendrick had a feeling he knew why. "But all of you already knew that…")

Conversation goes on to reveal that, yes, Air Force Command was very much aware of who Shin was, and what he had done, however he wasn't kicked out for one simple reason:

("The man survived three separate Covenant invasion, Richard," Iqbal stated. "How many airmen do you know that are capable of doing something like that, Colonel? Not only that, the man was fluent in Sangheili. How many airmen, officer or enlisted, have you encountered that have that level of experience and knowledge?"

"All due respect, sir, but that's not the point – "

"That is the point," Iqbal snapped. "Colonel, in case you haven't noticed, we're losing this war. Every day we lose more and more ground. We need soldiers like Shin, experienced soldiers, to hold back the tide. We could not afford to lose him."

"What about his victims, huh?" Kendrick fired back. He tapped a few keys in his data pad and pulled up pictures of all of Shin's known victims, including his would-be victim, Officer Selene Riddle. "You look at these pictures, sir, and you tell me: were these lives worth Shin's knowledge. His experience? Tell me."

Iqbal slammed his fist on the table. "Look outside the window, Kendrick. Do you see the mountain of bodies the Covenant have left behind? The innocents? The children? Billions have already died, and billions more will probably go too before this war ends. In light of that, you tell me, Colonel: what's another six bodies. Another seven? In an ocean of bodies, that's not even a drop."

"Is that what you tell yourself, sir, when you're about to go to sleep?" Kendrick quietly retorted.)

Anyways, to make a long story short (too late,) Kendrick leaves the meeting pissed off as hell but realizes Iqbal has a point: they can't afford to lose experienced soldiers like Shin. At the same time, as commanders, they need to make sure the rest of their men can work without having to look over their shoulder to see if their comrades are going to stab them in the backs (literally,) so he'll start to pen the idea of bringing "Penal Battalions" back where soldiers who are too dangerous to intermingle with normal people, yet too valuable to simply kill, would be part of the same unit which could then be used in both menial labor roles and suicide missions, thus letting the Covenant solve the problem for them. Penal Battalions in turn would play a major role in a future Halo story involving Moss, and that's all I've got to say about that.

Now, as you guys can see, Selene's story would have been rather complicated and out of all the major characters, she probably could have stood to have her own story. The reason why she's in this one is because this wasn't what her story originally going to be. Originally, I had something a bit simpler for her: Shin was going to be the tired, cynical veteran who just wants to keep his head down, while Selene was going to be the cheerful, optimistic lady. During the course of the story, Selene would help Shin become motivated once more through her actions, while Selene, in the fact of all the horrors she was witnessing, would end up being the tired cynical one (so, their roles would reverse.)

However, as soon as I started writing, I felt my original plan was too boring so, going in line with the idea of this being an experimental story, I thought I would try my hand at a horror/mystery story, with the battle being more of a backdrop. (And it would go along with the idea mentioned in the first chapter, that not all soldiers were heroes; they were just people, and just because they wear a uniform, doesn't make them a good person.)

Of course, trying to integrate that into the story proved way more difficult than I had imagined, and one of the major reasons why I'm going "nope, this story needs a rewrite, if only to be able to cleanly cut Selene's part out entirely." As you'll see, the other character arcs aren't so elaborate, and a bit integrated.


Private Marcus Olsen

Marcus' story is, in a nutshell, a sort of "coming of age story." Basically, what I had in mind was that his entire arc was all about learning how to be an effective soldier. Everything he learned in the beginning would later show up. For example, the medical scene in chapter 13 would later replay at a later chapter, where Marcus is the only one who can save someone else's life because he's the only one who knows how to apply a FAST1 kit. That sort of thing.

Some things that would have happened to him:

- His relationship with Orlović would turn sour at some point, as Orlović starts to think Marcus is too much of a coward. This will later give Marcus a lot of problems after Orlović is KIA

- Dresden's backstory would be revealed. Essentially, he was a quartermaster assigned to a Ranger regiment (notably, he was not a Ranger,) who, during a battle (which one was not yet decided,) they had a sort of "Black Hawk down" situation where they simply ran out of Rangers and all the sort guys volunteered to go help out, Dresden included. However, en route, their Falcon would get shot down by Covenant fuel rod teams, and Dresden would lose both his legs in the incident. He would have died there were it not for his older sister (who was a Ranger,) would lead her team and rescue everyone onboard before getting fatally wounded by a Brute warrior. The action would later earn her the Legion of Honor, much to Dresden's pride but unfortunately, his home life would suffer as his sister was definitely the favorite child and his father would later tell him that he had wished the sister had lived while Dresden had been the one to die (which is why Dresden ended up enlisting in the Colonial Militia)

- A number of other lessons Marcus would learn. For example, I wanted to bring back the artillery scene so that Marcus would learn how to load and fire an artillery piece because…

Marcus's fate

- As mentioned in the outline above, as some point Marcus would find himself back at his parents house, acting as an ad hoc rifleman. Due to exhaustion and confusion as a result of that, Marcus would accidentally get left behind and find himself behind enemy lines. He would have ended up running into a Pathfinder team (aka: a long range reconnaissance team; term is more intended to be in line with the way the British Army uses it, not the way the US Army does,) who inform him they're hunting a Brute chieftain who they think is in charge of this attack (in reality, they're hunting Paullus.)

- Team eventually gets ambushed though, leaving Marcus as the only survivor

- As he's wandering through one of the many battlefields, he unexpectedly finds Paullus and a number of other Brute chieftains having a briefing. Even better luck, there's a working 155mm howitzer nearby so Marcus, seeing his opportunity to save his hometown, starts lining up the shot. Just when he's about to pull the trigger though, he gets shot in the stomach by a random Jackal sniper that stumbles across him. In agony, Marcus accidentally falls in front of the breech block (meaning, he can't fire the howitzer as the recoil would force the metal block into his body and kill him.) However, Marcus realizes the gunshot managed to attract the attention of the Brutes, and they're starting to leave the area, and with the Jackal approaching to finish the job, Marcus realizes he has no choice so he fires the howitzer anyway. As expected, the howitzer breech block punches Marcus right in the chest, caving it in, but Marcus is able to survive long enough to see the shell land right in the middle of all the Brutes, killing a good number of them including Paullus. Then Marcus dies with a smile on his face.


1st Lieutenant Link "Zelda" Kuang

Zelda's story basically involves him reaching the breaking point. As we've seen so far, he's a rather arrogant pilot with the skills to back it up, which means he's never really been able to play well with others. The only real friend he has is Odessa, and that's it resulting in him being really isolated.

Some things that would have happened to him:

- Minus Odessa, Bellum, and him, the rest of the squadron would slowly lose their lives in battle

- Unlike the other characters, at no point will Zelda and his squadron mates ever get rotated off the line (because, as mentioned in outline above, with the Covenant hotly contesting the skies, UNSC can't afford to rotate pilots off the line they can everyone else.)

- The constant fighting and loses start to take their strain, on everybody not just Zelda, but it's worse for Zelda because, unlike everyone else, he doesn't really have anyone who will be willing to support him (due to his isolation)

- As kind of hinted at near the beginning of chapter 36, his isolation is more to do with the fact he has no social skills, and not because he doesn't like his teammates, so he feels guilty when he can't save them (or, as would have been shown in chapter 45 with JT, he kills them)

- At the beginning of week 3, they get deployed to the continent of Levant to help out there, but they have to land on a Actium Navy carrier for fuel, which gets attacked and Zelda and his teammates are forced to abandon (in Zelda's case, again, as he did something similar in chapter 11) which doesn't help his guilt

- The breaking point comes when UNSC forces are withdrawing to Cyprium, and Odessa is shot down

- Later that night, he and Bellum are drinking in Odessa's honor when Zelda comes to the conclusion that they're not going to survive this battle, and that's there's only one way for them to escape.

("Yeah?" Bellum slurred. "What's that?"

She looked up, only to see Zelda had pulled out his sidearm and was staring at it rather intensely. At once, Bellum sobered up.

"Zelda…" she cautiously began as she started to climb to her feet. "What are you doing?"

Zelda stared at her, tears gently rolling down his face.

"Sorry, Major," he whispered. "But this is the only way out."

He stuck the barrel in his mouth, cocked the hammer…

"No, wait! LINK -!"

…and pulled the trigger.

At once a loud ringing ears filled his ears. Zelda was laying on the ground, but he didn't remember falling. Bellum was hovering over him, screaming something, but Zelda couldn't hear her. He tried to assure her that he was okay, that this what he wanted, but he found he couldn't speak. It didn't matter though: the world was spinning and the edges of his vision were starting to go dark. Where he was going, Zelda had no idea, but there was one thing he was certain of:

He was free.)

[Oh, Bellum would have been promoted at some point from Captain to Major. And the origins of their call signs would have been revealed at some point]

Bellum = "bellum" is Latin for "war." Her name is Katherine Pax. "Pax" is the Latin word for "peace," so her call sign is just a play on her name

Zelda = his name is "Link Kuang." Link is obviously the name of the protagonist from the Zelda series, so his call sign is also just a play on his name

…or so he believed. As it would have turned out, that's not why he was named Zelda. He was given that call sign because Zelda is a princess. And princesses live in high towers, sheltered lives and away from the "undesirables." So, Zelda's call sign is more an insult, a reference to his refusal/reluctance to interact with the rest of the squadron, and the general "I'm better than you" attitude Zelda always had already him.

Odessa = this call sign would have been revealed in the very last scene, when Zelda and Bellum are talking about his death. The name "Odessa" came about as a result of a prank the squadron pulled on Odessa. One day when he first joined the squadron, he got really drunk and brought a chick back with him to barracks. Problem was, he couldn't remember her name, only that she was from Odessa, Ukraine. The next morning, while Odessa was still passed out, the Odessan girl would sneak out, leaving Odessa alone so, as a joke, the rest of the squadron snuck a dog into Odessa's bed. As expected, when Odessa came to, the rest of the squadron spent the next hour convincing him that in his drunken state, he had fucking a dog, much to his own shame and disgust. (The squadron would of course later reveal to him what had actually happened, but not before Odessa had taken five showers and burned his sheets.) He would later get back at the squadron with an unspecified prank (what that prank was had been undecided,) though the call sign stuck.

Skeeter = kind of already revealed in chapter 36, but a "skeeter" is a southern United States slang word for "mosquito." Kind of like the pilot, the call sign indicates the rest of the squadron found Skeeter to be very annoying, like a mosquito.

JT = again, revealed already, but short for "JTAC," or "Joint Terminal Attack Controller," (i.e. a military term for someone who is qualified at directing combat aircraft engaged in close air support)

303 = this one was the least thought out, but it's supposed to be a reference to the No 303 Squadron of WW2 fame. The No 303 Squadron was a RAF fighter squadron consisting of free Polish pilots. Basically, 303 in this story would have claimed to be a descendant of one of those pilots.

Lastly for Zelda, after his suicide, in a bit of dark irony, it would be revealed that while Odessa had been shot down, contrary to what Zelda believed, Odessa had been able to successfully eject from his aircraft, and was actually recovered from the battlefield by Army soldiers, and would return to his unit a couple days after Zelda's death.


Gunner's Mate Amber Owain

Amber's story, I will fully admit, is definitely the cheesiest of all the characters. Like Marcus, it's sort of a "coming of age" story in the sense that it's about her learning about her own sexuality and she much prefers women over men. Basically, the premise is that her friend, Poolsie, has a crush on her and for a while now, only Amber hadn't realized it and had been friend zoning Poolsie for some time now. However, her relationship (or lack thereof) with Leporidae would help her figure that aspect out about her life.

So, the way I had imagine it in my mind, as mentioned in the outline above, the Gabrielle would crash land onto Actium. After the crash but before their rescue, Poolsie would finally admit (which she had been trying for sometime,) she has been in love with Amber for quite some time and though she doesn't expect Amber to return the feeling, she just wanted her to know. At that point, Poolsie falls unconscious.

Later, after they'll been rescued, she'll find out because of the crash, Poolsie is now paralyzed from the waist down and is in a coma, leaving Amber to mull about Poolsie' words and what she wants to do (or if she even feels the same way.) She'll have a conversation with her aunt, Ducky (who, I didn't mention, but will have turned out to have been Selene's best friend, that one that prevented her from committing murder and getting her exiled instead of locked up) and Ducky would have pointed out that she always figured Amber was gay and not only that, Ducky's sister and Amber's other aunt, Megan (who was mentioned all the way back in chapter 1 and who would have known Poolsie as Poolsie mentions Megan was her favorite teacher) would have known about Poolsie's crush on Amber and was just waiting for Poolsie to find the courage to tell her (indicating that Poolsie had felt this way for a while now.)

Amber's story would have ended with her and Poolsie getting evacuated, and Amber deciding she does in fact return Poolsie's feelings and wants to move forward, no matter what. Unfortunately for her, there was supposed to have been subtle hints that Poolsie would actually die of her injuries, turning the story into a sort of tragedy.

- It should be noted, unlike the rest of the characters, I actually have the least planned for Amber (which is why she only showed up in five of the first 35 chapters of book 1) so if a redux version does happen, Amber will more than likely be cut


Private First Class (later Lance Corporal) Adel Savaschi

Adel's story would have been very similar to Marcus' story, in the sense that it's all about him learning how to be a more effective Marine. Unlike Marcus though, Adel would be coming from the opposite end of the spectrum. Whereas Marcus needed to learn how to be more confident (and less of a coward,) Adel would have learned how to be more humble and accepting of other people.

Some things that would have happened to him:

- We would have finally gotten Doc Westley's story, which I have been trying to include in a story since MIA (she's a pre-med student from Skopje who lost her scholarship after the Skopje government decided to divert most education funds towards the military budget. Unable to pay for school because her dad is poor-class mechanic, Westley enlisted in the Air Force to help pay the Bill's and gain some real world medical experience, only due to a series of unfortunate events, found herself getting assigned to an Army line unit in the middle of a Covenant invasion. Despite how good of a job she's doing, the experience has traumatized her so much, she no longer wants to be a doctor, and "no longer wants to treat another wounded person for the rest of her life," making this entire experience sort of a waste.

- At some point, Lancelot would have been wounded, forcing his evacuation and allowing Silva to take over

- At some point, the rest of the Army troopers and militiamen would have been rotated off the line and replaced by Marines

- At some point, Reynolds would have been wounded, forcing his evacuation and leaving no one with the ability to keep Silva in check

- At some point, Silva would have given some poor orders that would result in much of the company getting stuck in a house and cutoff from friendly forces forcing them to hold out against repeat Covenant attacks for a couple of days (kind of like Pavlov's House from WW2, or the American Lost Battalion during WW1, or the Lost Platoon during the Battle of la Drang during the Second Indochina War (Vietnam War for Americans)) before being recovered (this would probably have occurred in week 3)

- We would have found out a little about Sam's backstory and why he's somewhat contemptuous of the Army: when he was fourteen, his colony was invade by the Covenant. In order to help out, he, his brother, and a number of classmates volunteered to act as stretcher bearers and what have you. The military unit they were assigned to though, a UNSC Army infantry Division, instead gave the kids their guns and had them hold back the Covenant while the actual soldiers fled. If not for the timely arrival of UNSC Marines, though not before Sam' brother was seriously injured and crippled for live. Still, San's life was saved and he decided right then and there he was going to be a Marine.

- We would have found out about X's brother. I'm not sure how many readers noticed, but X shares the same last name as a character from my other story, Missing in Action, "Xanthus," who sacrificed himself holding back the Covenant to allow Moss, Pip, and the Spartan to make it to the extraction Pelican. It would have been revealed that Xanthus is X's twin brother (the one who joined the Army and why X seems to know so much about the 222nd.) One thing would have let to another and somehow, Adel and his teammates would have come across Xanthus frozen corpse, still sitting the gunner's seat of the IFV he had used in his last stand. After that discovery, X's personality would have undergone a 180: he would have stopped dripping random quotations, he would have no longer been that bemused Marine but rather, a very angry person who just wants to see all the Covenant dead for what they did to his brother.

Adel's end would come in week 4. With the Covenant closing in from all directions, Adel and the rest of the Marines could tell the city was about to become a death trap, and that if anyone wanted to get out, now would be the time. Ultimately, Sam and Adel decided that X has to be the one to live, if only so he can be saved on an emotional level. X, consumed by hatred at that point, naturally doesn't want to go but Sam grabs X and Adel shoots him (X, that is) in the foot, wounding him and necessitating his evacuation.

X is furious, but then, Adel tells him "do not go gentle into that good night," which X recognizes as a quotation from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. He demands to know how Adel knows that line and Adel reveals that he saved all of X's data pad containing his books of philosophy (which X had thrown away in a fit of rage,) and has been reading from them since, showing his growing maturity. Adel then reminds X of who he used to be, and points out that the best way to honor his brother is to be alive to remember him, and also admits that out of all of them, X was the only best of them all, which is why he needs to live. X finally relents and allows himself to be evacuated, crying as he watches his friends march off to their positions, knowing that this would be the last time he sees them.

Adel's final end would be a book end of how he was first introduced:

(The ground rattled and shook as the last of the explosions died off in the distance.

So. It had come down to this. Just like he always knew it would. Lance Corporal Adel Savaschi glanced to his left, then to his right, looking over faces of his best friends in the world, doing his best to memorize them. Six hundred and fifty Marines had marched into combat; out of all of them, Adel had only ever gotten to know a handful of them, but it didn't matter as he would have laid his life down for each and every one of them, just like he knew they would do for him. After all, that was what being a Marine would about.

Sacrifice.

The whine of anti-gravity engines slowly began to fill the air and Adel quickly grabbed his rifle and started shooting. In the end, the end came faster than he expected. As the Covenant warriors began to walk across the shattered corpses of their enemies, Adel died with a smile on his face, surrounded by his brothers and sisters, and the best friends he had even known.)


Sergeant (later Staff Sergeant) Tariq Helmand

As has been hinted already, Tariq's story would have revolved around some mysterious incident that occurred back on Draco III that has clearly left a number of people feeling guilty, including Tariq even if he won't admit it. Some things that would happen:

- Tariq would continue to be nasty towards Corona, even though Corona has long proven himself to everyone else in the battalion

- During week 2, the 53rd ABCT would be reflagged as the 53rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and as per part of that change, they would receive a bunch of replacements for this losses. Tariq would then be promoted to Staff Sergeant, given his own tank, and made a tank commander (while Corona would replace him as gunner on Lillian.)

- As part of his new crew, Tariq would be assigned a new driver, fresh out of OSUT, who would know even less than Corona side yet, for some reason, Tariq proves to have more patience with him than Corona, proving to Corona that Tariq had a personal problem with Corona, and not because he was new.

- At the start of week 3, in order to try and halt the Covenant breakout, Tariq and his regiment would be thrown in the part of the advancing Covenant army. There, I had planned a scene that would have been heavily based on the climatic battle from the 2014 movie Fury (because, of course I would have) where Tariq and his crippled company are forced to try and hold back a seemingly endless horde of Covenant soldiers

= Ultimately, they would succeed only to find out the force they fought was a diversion, and that during the course of the battle, the real attack had been able to outflank and accomplish their objectives anyway

= Even worse, during the battle, Tariq's friend Chenko would be shot by a Spiker and he would last enough to ask Tariq if God would forgive them for what they did and Tariq, despite knowing what Chenko wanted to hear, would only be able to say "God abandoned the human race a long time ago."

- We would have found out a bit more about Noble's backstory and why she seems a little incompetent: because she's actually 70 years old, had been out of the Army for years, was recalled to service with the promise she would only be a trainer, only for the Army to immediately go back on their word and assign her to an active duty line unit (due to a lack of qualified NCOs)

- Also would reveal that the tank Lillian is actually named after her eldest granddaughter, who, along with her daughter-in-law (Lillian's mother,) was killed at the age of five by an Innie mortar round, and that her son (Lillian's father,) wasn't able to handle it and abandoned the family, leaving behind his three remaining children to be raised by Noble and her husband

- At some in the middle of week 3 (maybe,) Noble would be wounded in action; while going to go pee, she would step on a mine that would blow her leg off, leaving her to be evacuated

- In another battle, Tariq would lose his entire tank and crew to something (undecided) though he was able to survive because he was thrown from his commander's hatch (maybe the tank rolled over into a river and the rest of his crew was trapped.) Either way, Tariq would find himself back in the same tank with Corona, much to his visible anger

At any case, thing will come to a head and it would have been finally revealed that the thing that had been eating away at Tariq and the others: so, on Draco III (as per canon,) the Covenant were able to gather a large number of civilians who were then promptly eaten alive by Jackals and Grunts. It would be revealed that, in the closing days of the campaign, Tariq and the remainder of company had been escorting a number of civilians towards and evacuation zone. However, by the time they arrive, they find that there's not enough transports for both the civilians and the soldiers. With Covenant soldiers closing in, Tariq and his friends make the decision to abandon the civilians and save themselves, forcing the civilians back at gunpoint. Many of those civilians would eventually become part of the group that got eaten alive.

In an effort to save face, the Army would die their best to cover up the incident, transferring the survivors to different brigades, including Tariq's commander, then Lieutenant-Colonel Menteith (hence his words to Selene as mentioned above.)

The real twist however, would be that, as it turns out, Corona is from Draco III, and he actually knew some of people who were eaten. That's something Tariq knew about, which is why he's been treating Corona like shit: he sees Corona as the ghost of Draco III, a physical manifestation of his guilt, reminding him every day of what he did.

Corona is of course, pissed, and at this point, between here and week 5, I wasn't sure of what else was going to happen, only that at some point after week 5, Tariq finds himself in a position where it's almost exact same scenario as Draco III, only this time Tariq chooses to do the right thing and sacrifices himself to allow the civilians to escape. Before he does, Corona is able to forgive him, and Tariq is able to earn his redemption.


Covenant Characters

Lepidus

So, for Lepidus here, there wasn't really a "arc" per say in the same way as the characters above. His role in the story was supposed to give me a chance to delve into the Covenant perspective of the battle, as well as the behind the scenes politics of the Covenant Empire. One big thing I want to show was that Lepidus is a bit of an innovator, and would be one of the primary forces behind shifting the way the Covenant military approaches ground warfare, changing it from "ground forces are just there to supporting the fleet" to "ground forces should be their own thing." I think I've mentioned this before in one of my stories, but I always saw the Elites as being the "Marines" of the Covenant military, and the Brutes being the actual "Army" of the Covenant (so, basically, the difference between an expeditionary force vs a long term fighting force.) Lepidus' tactics wouldn't be particularly innovative (and, in fact, to a human's eyes they would actually be pretty basic,) but I imagined Lepidus as being able to innovate the Covenant military in a similar way to how Marshal Zhukov was able to reshape the Red Army into the juggernaut they would become after the disastrous first couple years of WW2 (or, kind of like how Patton helped to revitalize the US Army after their extremely poor performance un the wake of the Battle of Kasserine Pass.)

The big thing with Lepidus wouldn't really occur until towards the end of the story. So, as kind of a small subplot, Lepidus would have spent much of the battle wondering why he, out of all the other Brute commanders, had been put in charge of such a large battle. But it wouldn't be until the end of the battle would he finally figure out that answer.

This scene would have taken place at the end of week4/beginning of week 5. Menteith has just made his last stand and Lepidus' original landing sites have all been destroyed. Even though by now the landing sites serve very little purpose (as the battle lines had long moved too far away for the sites to support them,) the landing sites had been the location of where the Covenant's first factories had been set up (where they would have started mining and refining the iron ore needed to repair their ships. The factories would have also started cleaning up the battlefields, salvaging what weapons and materials they could, and scrapping what they couldn't to reprocess later.) So, those factories, combined with the nukes, would have thrown so much population into the air, the planet is essentially wrecked.

At any case, Lepidus is in a meeting with the Hierarchs. He's nervous because he knows while the humans have been defeated, their last minute "fuck you" has meant their battle was a strategic defeat for the Covenant (as now the planet can't be used to repair their supply lines.) As the commander in charge, Lepidus full expects to take the blame. However, much to his surprise, the Hierarchs are fully and instantly ready to lay the blame of the defeat at the feet of 'Oteree, for "not securing the northern flank as he was tasked."

Lepidus is of course grateful, but confused: why would the Hierarchs want to do this? Then he sees Tartarus enter the meeting and everything becomes clear.

Throughout the course of the story, it would have been made clear Lepidus and Tartarus do not see eye to eye: Lepidus is concerned about making the Brutes the dominant force in the galaxy, and he sees the Covenant merely as a stepping stone to accomplishing that goal (which is why he even bothers paying them lip service.) On the other hand, Tartarus honestly believes the Covenant (specifically the Hierarchs,) are truly allies of the Brutes and only through their help will the Brutes be able to be the dominant force in the galaxy. Both Chieftains are powerful and fairly popular among their kind, to the point either one could ascend to power and have the support of the majority of their kind, and the only reason why Tartarus is in charge is because Lepidus knows Tartarus has the support of the Covenant, and Lepidus knows the Brutes are no where near strong enough to make enemies of the Covenant, so he's willing to tolerate Tartarus' role as Chieftain for now.

Unfortunately for Lepidus, this was something the Hierarchs were able to pick up on, and between the two Brutes, they would much rather have Tartarus in charge (because he's more malleable.) The problem is, they just can't kill Lepidus and remove him from the equation (as they could potentially trigger a civil war among the Brutes, and the Hierarchs need the Brutes strong in order to act as a balancing force to the Elites,) so they made a deal with Tartarus: if Tartarus were to swear absolute fealty to the Hierarchs, the Hierarchs would remove Lepidus as a potential rival to him.

So, as part of their plan, they promote Lepidus into a position he's probably not really ready for, and wait for him to fuck up, which he does. The reason why their so readily willing to exonerate Lepidus is twofold: one, by putting all the blame on an Elite as opposed to a Brute, it strengths the Brutes in the eyes of the rest of the Covenant and makes the Elites that much weaker. And two: it forces Lepidus to keep in line because if Lepidus doesn't do exactly what the Hierarchs want him to do, then it will just be a simple matter to reveal the truth of what happened on Actium and thoroughly discredit him.

Lepidus' part in the story would have ended with him bitterly wondering how he managed to get so thoroughly outmaneuvered, and what his future will now hold now that's he's no longer useful to the Hierarchs.


'Oteree

'Oteree's arc would have involved him becoming more and more cynical as the battle continues. Basically, 'Oteree is a military man through and through, and not a politician, but unfortunately it would have been shown that in the Covenant Empire, both are so intertwined, you can't really be one without the other. Because of that, throughout the entire battle, 'Oteree is shown to be growing increasingly cynical about his role in the war as Lepidus does things that militarily don't make sense, but it makes sense if you're trying to get a leg up over your rival (like force 'Oteree and the rest of the Elites to fight an unsupported battle against UNSC Marines in some of the worst terrain possible: a heavily built up city. Or wage a war with the ground forces as the primary element of the battle as opposed to the fleet, thus minimizing the effect the Elite dominated navy has on the other all conflict.)

Adding to 'Oteree's disenchantment is the fact that all his complaints about how the battle is being run goes nowhere: the Hierarchs won't talk or even listen to him anymore, and even his own kind is more concerned about having 'Oteree "do his duty," "make the Sangheili race proud," and "if necessary, die with honor." All this talk makes him realize one truth: no one in the Covenant High Council actually cares about the war against the humans, it's just a sideshow to the real conflict, the one between the Elites and the Brutes and who will have the stronger influence on the Covenant. And that makes 'Oteree question what all his troops are dying for, and what all his many years of service and sacrifice were for.

(Note: all this is roughly based on how Imperial Japan was during WW2, with the Army and Navy seemingly more concerned about gaining leverage over each other, as opposed to winning the fight against the Americans.)

In the end, after the nukes go off, 'Oteree can tell he's going to be taking the blame for all this. And because of that, everyone pretty much tells him he needs to commit suicide in order to save the honor and face of the entire Elite race (so much that 'Oteree's former mentor, 'Breshkee would send a hit team to "assist" 'Oteree in his suicide.) Of course, at this point, 'Oteree has gotten so cynical and disgusted with the Covenant (and his own people) as a whole, he's no longer interested in playing these games and obeying the society rules.

Ending scene with 'Oteree would have consisted of 'Breshkee's hit team entering 'Oteree's quarters, follow by a cut where Lepidus (or maybe 'Quetshadee; had not decided whether he would have survived to this point. I think the scene would serve better with 'Quetshadee though, showing that not even 'Oteree's friends were really his friends,) getting informed that 'Breshkee's team's Phantom is leaving the ship and headed for slipspace. Whomever the listener would have been (Lepidus or Quetshadee) would have then gone to Oteree's quarters to oversee the cleaning of the mess, only instead of one Elite body, they would find three.

Scene would then cut to the inside of the Phantom, showing Oteree, wounded but alive, and then it would be revealed that rather than chose to accept his death, 'Oteree has chosen to abandon the Covenant Empire and is setting out to find his own path in the galaxy (and thus setting him up for a potential Mass Effect/Halo crossover story I had in mind…)


Zek

Lastly, Zek. Zek's story would have kind of been the opposite of 'Oteree's. As the guy on the ground, Zek would not have knowledge of all the crap and political play that would be going on behind the scenes. All he would know is that for the first four weeks of the battle, he and his comrades would see non-stop conflict (because, for the warrior race like the Elites and the Brutes, "battle fatigue" and "PTSD" are just different names for "cowardice," and that there's no way a Covenant warrior, especially one of the lesser races, would ever be allowed off the battlefield expect for severe injury or death.)

At any case, Zek would surely see his friends die off, one by one, and he would really only have one place to direct his anger: the humans. As the story dragged on, Zek would steadily become more vicious and rabid towards the humans, more fanatical and devoted, to the point even his Elite commanders are starting to be concerned about him, so they decide to shuffle him to the factories to try and cool off.

A couple days after he's starting in the factories, that's when Menteith makes his break out attempt. Due to most of the Covenant Army having been deployed to the far south (because that's where the battle lines are,) and because the Elites never expected the humans to attack, Menteith is able to make it all the way to the landing sites, forcing Zek to pick up a weapon and go fight.

Ultimately, Zek is the one who is able to mortally wound Menteith (I'm thinking Menteith would have been transporting the Havoks aboard an Elephant, under his personal protection, but Zek was able to get onboard and close enough to wound Menteith.)

("Zek sneered as the human fell, smoke hole in his back. Lowering his pistol, he approached the human, his mouth beginning to saliva already. He would be eating well tonight.

Grabbing the human, Zek turned him over, wanting to see the fear in the human's eye as he saw death approaching. What Zek saw instead, however, confused him. The human was… laughing?

"What is so funny, human?" Zek angrily demanded to know, infuriated by the human's lack of fear.

The human said something in response, but Zek didn't understand human, something the human clearly realized because, instead, the human turned his hand. At first, Zek tensed, as he thought the human had a weapon, but upon closer inspection, it was merely a small device that seemed to consist solely of a large red button.

A clicking noise caught Zek's attention and he glanced at the human to see the creature waving at him, trying to attract his attention. The human pointed at something behind Zek, and despite himself, Zek turned around. There, mounted on the wall, was a small cylindrical object that he had somehow missed the first time when he had entered this vessel. At first, Zek couldn't figure out what the device was, but then he suddenly remembered something. Cycles ago. When the battle first begun. Zek had been aboard the Hammer of Justice when the Demons had invaded. And they had left behind a similar device. A device that had –

Zek's pistol clattered to the ground as it slipped out of his numb claws.

"Voi pas…" he started to say. Then the human pressed the button -

- and the world turned white.")


Conclusion

So, yeah, as you guys can see, I had a lot of things planned for this story. Looking at this outline, then using the amount of chapters and words I had for book 1, I was legit looking at a story that probably would have been a hundred plus chapters, and probably a million and a half words, which is ridiculously long for a professional story, much less a fanfiction. Cuts had and have to be made somewhere (because there's no freaking way I'm writing a story like this.) Obvious solution would be to simply cut the cast in half (as mentioned earlier, Selene and Amber are the mostly likely cuts, but I'm also thinking either Marcus or Adel should go, probably Adel as the Marine Corps shows up all the time in Halo media whereas the Colonial Militia haven't, thus giving me more room to work either,) but the other solution would be that I need to pace myself better, as well as maintain focus on the overall picture instead of allowing myself to divulge in depicting every single firefight that may or many not occur during the battle. Another thing I need to work on is realizing that I don't need to have equal screen time for all of my characters, that is okay for some characters to show up more often than others (like I did at the beginning of the story, with Amber outright disappearing after chapter 11.)

Other than that, some more minor changes I would need to make, I think, is abandon the idea of making a "realistic story" (especially the dogfighting scenes; been doing a little research and I have come to the conclusion I don't have any idea how modern "dogfights" would go, if at all; need to stick with pure Hollywood tactics.) Other thing I would probably need to do is just flat out admit this story is AU, because it's not canon compliant in the least bit (there always feels like a fine line between "expanding on canon" and "changing canon," and I think I crossed that line a long time ago, I just have been refusing to admit it.)

So, yeah, that's that. Maybe I'll revisit this story in a couple of months, maybe I'll do something else entirely. Not sure yet. If anyone has any comments or suggestions or ideas, feel free to leave me a review or a message. Either way, I appreciate all support everyone has shown me in the last few years.

Bye.