In the last article, we took a detailed look at first contact between the UNSC and the Covenant, the events that led to the initial hostilities, and the corruption of Covenant leadership that ultimately led to the declaration of war against humanity by the alien empire.
In this article, we're going to cover the valiant efforts by the UNSC Spirit of Fire and her crew that prevented the Covenant from ending the war with an early victory.
January 3, 2531 CE (Current Era): The Covenant give up Harvest
After five years of vicious fighting with the humans for Harvest, the Covenant discovered a Forerunner relic buried deep in the planet's polar region. Investigating, the Arbiter Ripa 'Moramee directed his forces there in order to protect it as he went inside in order to learn the knowledge inside.
The UNSC Spirit of Fire, commanded by Captain James Cutter, had recently arrived in the system to support the battered and weakened human forces there. Cutter and company was able to establish a forward operating base near the relic and the UNSC forces began an assault on the Arbiter's position. However, 'Moramee was able to successfully discover the information the relic held: a map to the planet Arcadia. Wishing to know what he would find there, 'Moramee took the majority of his forces and departed the system, traveling to Arcadia.
With the bulk of the Covenant troops gone, the UNSC quickly defeated the skeletal force left behind by the Arbiter. Additionally, they also discovered the map in the relic that pointed towards Arcadia. The Spirit of Fire and her crew thus immediately left the system in order to catch up with the Covenant. As a result, the UNSC finally retook Harvest.
February 9, 2531 CE: The Battle for Arcadia
The Covenant's arrival to Arcadia was brutal. The alien fleet decimated the majority of Arcadia's defense forces in space, they began to land droves of ground troops in order to subdue the human population and search for what the relic on Harvest was pointing towards.
The Spirit of Fire arrived soon after and was able to assist the locals in evacuation and defense efforts during their attempts to thwart the Arbiter. Despite destroying a Covenant shield dome and even defeating a Super Scarab that was under construction, they were ultimately unable to stop 'Moramee from finding a Forerunner site deep in the planet's jungles that led to the Etran Harborage, a nearby Forerunner Shield World that contained a massive cache of Forerunner warships.
The Prophet of Regret and 'Moramee, who had traveled to the Shield World covertly as the battle of Arcadia raged on, discovered that they would need a human's touch in order to activate the Forerunner fleet. 'Moramee quickly returned to Arcadia and managed to capture Professor Ellen Anders, a human expert on Forerunner technology, and leave the system before the Spirit of Fire could stop him.
Shortly after, Admiral Preston Cole's fleet arrived out of slipspace and began to engage the remaining Covenant forces. Outgunned and outnumbered, the majority of the vessels quickly attempted to rendezvous with 'Moramee at the Etran Harborage. With the Covenant forces fleeing the system, the UNSC once again achieved a victory. However, saving Anders was of paramount importance. The Spirit of Fire departed immediately in pursuit of the foe.
February 23-25, 2531 CE: The Battle of the Etran Harborage
The UNSC arrived to the Shield World, hot on the Covenant's heels. However, unlike the Covenant, this was the first time the UNSC had been to this location; as such, they made the mistake of touching down forces in the thick of a Flood outbreak, the origins of which are unknown. Forced to fend off the parasite, valuable time was lost as 'Moramee continued his plans.
Detecting a signal from Anders that allowed them to track her, the Spirit of Fire found that it was in the middle of an ocean. As they approached the location, the body of water split into two and the ship was sucked into the inner layer of the planet. During this, the Spirit of Fire accidentally collided with a Covenant destroyer, and was forced to defend it's hull from boarding attempts by the Covenant ship.
As the UNSC approached, 'Moramee forced Anders to power up the Forerunner vessels. As he and his fellow Sangheili looked on in awe and amazement at the imposing ships, Anders snuck onto a nearby teleporter pad and transported herself to the surface of the planet's interior, where Sergeant John Forge quickly recovered and returned her to the Spirit of Fire.
With the fleet activated, the Spirit of Fire's crew decided that the only way they could stop the Covenant was to use the ship's slipspace drive as a bomb that would cause the artificial star at the Shield World's core to go supernova, obliterating the Forerunner ships and any Covenant on the planet. After setting down the ship, removing the engine and amassing a sufficient force, the UNSC launched an assault on the planet's center.
February 25, 2531 CE: The Spirit of Fire narrowly escapes
After successfully reaching a lift that would take the bomb down to the planet's core, the humans prepared to evacuate. However, 'Moramee and several Sangheili ambushed the UNSC. Sergeant Forge and SPARTAN-II Red Team managed to defeat the foes, but the bomb was damaged in the process and could no longer be remotely detonated.
Ultimately, Forge chose to stay behind and detonate the device manually. As the UNSC defeated the last of the Covenant forces and flew the Spirit of Fire out of the planet's inner layer and into the atmosphere of the Shield World, Forge activated the slipspace bomb. As expected, the planet's core went supernova, annihilating the remaining Covenant on the planet as well as the fleet of Forerunner ships.
The Spirit of Fire was almost caught in the blast, but was fortunately able to barely make it past the range of the explosion. The Spirit of Fire thus accomplished its mission and saved humanity, though at great cost: without a slipspace engine, they couldn't return to human space. Captain Cutter ordered all crew members into cryostasis in order to allow them to survive the unknown years of drifting in space that awaited them.
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