Light years into deep space rests a blue sphere nestled in the stars. Speckled with swirling white clouds dancing slowly across the planet’s surface. Beneath them, familiar blue oceans surround land masses big and small, mountainous areas shoot up from the lush green forests and grasslands across the planet’s surface. Thunderstorms of crashing rain and howling winds form and disperse, frozen snowy tundra’s lay undisturbed and rivers meander peacefully down various valleys spilling into the seas.
There are farmers working diligently on their farm lands tending to the harvesting of their crops and there are miners coming to and fro from their deep mines where an honest wage is earned extracting valuable metals from the crust. Construction workers laugh and joke as they work hard on their latest construction project, eager to laugh away the hours until they go home for the evening.
It looks rather similar to Earth when viewed from orbit and down on the surface things appear quite familiar. This world is not home, it is Reach, an alien world. Humans have only begun to harvest this world’s rich untapped resources. The oceans’ bright blue seas largely untarnished by pollution or human interference, the green forests lush with trees and vegetation and the brown soil is rich with minerals and organic matter.
Sprawling metropolis’ such the cities of Manassas and Quezon thrive near countryside homesteads and vast stretches of unblemished natural terrain dotted across the continents. Population centres full of activity, humming with life, with happiness, joy, sadness and sorrow.
On the evening of August 29th, 2552, farmers, teachers, shop keepers, barbers and bureaucrats crept into their warm beds. A few more decided to forsake sleep for a few extra hours of playing cards, drinking or a bit of romance. Night workers had just started their shifts. Darkness spread over the surface of the planet, like every night, broken only by the eternal stars, the occasional in or out bound ship and the two constant vigils of Reach’s two companion moons Csodaszarvas and Turul.
Out of the seven hundred million souls scattered across Reach only a handful would survive. The last remaining military barrier between home, the Earth, would face the wrath of the Covenant and become scorched and entombed in a grave of glass.
When Reach was first identified by humans in the early 21st Century, another ball of rock orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, no one could have foreseen the potential of this serene planet. After initial scouting and colonisation, Reach promptly came to the forefront of human attention. It was discovered that the planet held vast amounts of untapped resources and an almost Earth like ecosystem and atmosphere that would make habitation and exploitation of these resources manageable. The crust contained vast amounts of titanium, a rare metal that was highly sought after by the UNSC for use in the protective coating of its military ships and vehicles.
Reach was tucked away safely in an area of space designated as the Inner Colonies, the star systems closet to the human home world Earth. As trouble caused by the human Insurrectionist movement flared and escalated in the Outer Colonies, the colonies further away from Earth and thus its influence, Reach’s plentiful natural resources and its tactical position, safely within the Inner Colonies, ensured the continued economic, military and population growth of the planet. The onset of the Human-Covenant war brought even more economic prosperity to Reach.
The military had firmly established itself with multiple facilities housing various arms of the Armed Forces, from secretive ONI installations, numerous marine barracks and training fields and Orbital Drop Shock Trooper training facilities. As its metal output soared, the planet had become the largest non-automated exporter of titanium in the galaxy. The Eridani system and Reach became a hub for trade across the entire frontier of human expansion across the galaxy thanks in no small part to its unique position, the jump point for Reach and it’s home in the Epsilon Eridani system was used as a middle ground to jump to and from the Outer and Inner Colonies and deeper back to Earth itself. In orbit, above Reach, with the incoming and outgoing of trade ships, housed the UNSC’s largest and most active shipyard construction facilities, constantly manufacturing new ships to be sent out to the front lines, and with it, the most formidable of all human defences – the Super MAC Guns. As the military presence swelled, a strong and growing civilian presence was maintained.
The Insurrectionist movement, groups of people that wanted independence from the UNSC, thrived on the emotions of the people tired of heavy handed bureaucracy and like many rebellions throughout human history it thrived in areas where the governing force, the UNSC, was weakest – the Outer Colonies. Reach, although not immune to influence of Insurrectionists, was quite comfortably insulated from the movement due to its location in the Inner Colonies and also largely due to the fact that Reach was home of the largest build up of UNSC military forces and facilities.
Reach fostered many smaller civilian industries that developed alongside the military presence. Farmers would grow crops to feed the growing population. Shopkeepers sold luxury items imported from other worlds. Scientists would spent time in laboratories focused on their research projects, mechanics bent their arms each day repairing and constructing new buildings and new military ships, engineers designed layouts for civic spaces and programmers installed computer frameworks and crunched code. The population was approaching three quarters of a billion, all busy enveloped in their daily lives and activities.
Reach was a prime example of a perfect human colony – a monument to human economic and military development.
However, it was not was perfect. Reach was full of various secrets that cast long shadows over the world and its populace. Some of these secrets would cost many their own lives whilst others would help save humanity from annihilation.
Reach prior to it’s fall was the home to the operational and training site of the Spartan II program which was to birth the Spartans including the one of the heroes of the Human-Covenant war John 117, the Master Chief. The accomplishments of these fierce human warriors on the battlefield would spawn many myths and legends that would be remembered for generations to come.
Under the secretive purview of ONI, Dr Catherine Elizabeth Halsey was able to kidnap seventy five children. Selected because of special genetic and mental characteristics which she determined, Dr Halsey arranged clandestine abductions of the children from their parents and homes and replaced with short lived flash clones – short lived replicas designed the help keep the project shrouded in secrecy. The clones would die quickly due to the imperfect cloning procedures that created them and the parents would grieve in ignorance of their children’s true fate.
The children were immediately forced into a harsh physical and mental regime taking them to the extremes of their ability and groomed and for further development. The harsh military environment served as a physiological prison, conditioning the children to the military environment, separating them from their emotional attachments to their family and extinguishing their personal identities. They were just numbers but they would soon be machines, Spartans.
The Spartans were trained to be the perfect soldiers. They were educated in science and mathematics, taught right from wrong and raised to the peak of physical perfection. Their bodies were augmented and enhanced, their reflexes, their thought process; their fighting abilities went far beyond any human soldier to ever walk on a battlefield. They never asked questions, they would never fail to follow orders. Dr Halsey had designed her new program based around an older Spartan experiment many years prior. Upon studying the failure of the earlier Spartan Project, she had determined new criteria; new enhancements and additional developments that would ensure her Spartan Project (Spartan II) would succeed under her careful, attentive glare.
As the program continued many of the children died due to the extreme condition of the biological enhancements and training. This had been expected and those that remained would eventually be the ultimate biological weapon, a living super soldier.
The original purpose of the Spartan II program was to crush outright any and all Insurrectionist forces and the movement’s leaders in the Outer Colonies as part of the UNSC’s response to the Insurrectionist movement, Operation: TREBUCHET. The UNSC had decided that if the Insurrectionists gained enough momentum an all out galactic war, humans against humans, would be inevitable and many more lives, possibly billions, would be at risk. The Spartans were created to be the perfect tool for the UNSC. The first series of missions the Spartans undertook seen them capture various Insurrectionist leaders; destroy key Insurrectionist bases and assassinating other important figures in the rebel forces. The UNSC’s war with the Insurrectionists was interrupted indefinitely due to the outbreak of the Covenant-Human war. The Insurrectionists, however, would keep fighting their war against an enemy whose attention became diverted.
The Spartans were re-deployed on the battlefield against the Covenant. The UNSC forces suffered heavily, entire worlds would fall swiftly to the blood thirsty might of the Covenant. The Spartans however had a rate of success against Covenant forces on the battlefield that would put any other military company to shame. Whispers began to circulate. Soldiers would speak to each other in hushed tones about the amazing feats these Spartans accomplished. The heroes of the Human-Covenant war began to emerge as their origins were quietly forgotten.
The Spartan II project, due to the ongoing war, had become a financial liability. The resources for further Spartan-related projects were reallocated elsewhere. Dr Halsey was sent to Reach to be forgotten. The uniquely high success rates of the Spartans in the battlefield during the Human-Covenant war, combined with the reverence the ordinary soldiers held for their Spartan counterparts forced ONI’s hands and in 2547 the Spartan II project was made public. ONI was initially unhappy with the fact that the veil had been forcibly ripped from one of their secret projects. However, the Spartans secured a propaganda victory and high public support just as securely as their winnings on any other battlefield. The Spartan II project continued. Whilst Dr Halsey would not take any future “recruits” for training, she would continue work on developing the Spartan’s greatest asset the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour.
The Human-Covenant war had begun twenty seven years before Reach would fall. The Covenant had won the majority of the conflicts and skirmishes. The Outer Colonies had slowly fallen one by one. Human victories were few and far between and usually as a result of heavy human causalities and sacrifice. The Spartans were the first key victory for the UNSC in upholding public support and morale. The Spartans would be the key to future victories on the battlefield. Over two decades of conflict had resulted in little to show for the intelligence arm of the UNSC. ONI lacked information on the Covenant. It was decided that the Spartans would be the right tools for the job. They would gather the intelligence that ONI lacked. They would serve as inspirations on the battlefield for the average soldier and as ONI’s dagger in the dark aimed at the very heart of the Covenant.
The war had started to reduce the already small number of available Spartans. ONI devised a solution.
Directive 930. Issued by ONI Section Two, Directive 930 stated that;
“To maintain morale among the forces of the UNSC, any Spartan casualties are to be listed as Missing in Action (MIA) or Wounded in Action (WIA), but never killed in Action (KIA).”
In other words, Spartans never die. The Spartans had become immortal.
As the immortal Spartan mythos developed, the reality behind the myth was causing ONI to panic. Spartans were actually dying during missions and there would be no replacements and no unit could effectively replace or take the role of a single Spartan. They were becoming too valuable as an asset and something needed to be done. Dr Halsey’s ongoing refusal to recruit more candidates, due to the lengthy genetic screening required and a personal change of outlook that made her eventually regret the initial recruitment methods, meant that ONI had to turn elsewhere.
ONI had secretly started the production of new Spartans without the involvement of Dr Halsey. Her Spartans had been preselected from research specifying the need of unique genetic markers, physical traits and mental abilities. ONI’s impatience meant that these qualifiers would be disregarded completely and ONI sought to reduce the high mortality rate of the original Spartan training and augmentation process. This desire gave birth to the third Spartan program (Spartan III) overseen by Colonel James Ackerson, a major outspoken critic of Dr Halsey and her work.
The Spartan III project was a different beast entirely from the original Spartan II project. Whilst the official exact financial cost of the II project remains unknown – one ONI chief had described it similar to cost of an entire Battle Group – a miniature fleet of various sized warships, the III project was designed to be much more cost effective. Sidestepping genetic selection, child abduction and years of intensive training and biological enhancement, candidates would be recruited in the hundreds and further development of quicker working biological enhancements would mean fewer candidates dying or gaining serious physical defects. The training of the Spartan III’s would be much more tightly focused – to make up for the lack of dependence on technology that the earlier Spartan II’s faced with their MJOLNIR armour.
The Spartan III’s had been successful in rapidly inflating the numbers of available Spartans on the battlefield and they had been sent out to the front lines in some of the most perilous and suicidal of all missions. Although not as effective as Spartan II’s, due to their dramatically reduced training period and quicker working biological augmentations, the III’s had the numerical and cost effective advantage. They specialised in top secret missions where stealth and battlefield tactics, not fire power, was the key element. Dozens if not hundreds could be sent on single missions without any regard to the mortality rate and be replaced for a fraction of the time and cost of Dr Halsey’s Spartan II’s. ONI was in desperate need for information, the completion of ghost-op type missions and victories of any type on the battlefield. The new Spartans were ONI’s disposable heroes.
Dr Halsey finalised her Spartan II project on Reach with the development and production of the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour Mark V. The previous Mark IV suit had become part of the Spartan identity on the battlefield. The Mark V was designed to be the ultimate upgrade for the Spartans II’s so that they could gain the edge needed to end the war. ONI had ensured development of the armour had resumed upon Dr Halsey’s request, as a convenient smokescreen. With Dr Halsey’s attention focused on refining the armour, ONI would be able to continue the Spartan III project without her involvement.
During the Human-Covenant war both Spartan II’s and III’s were sent to the front lines of many battles and skirmishes. They helped turn the tide of losing conflicts, reduced both civilian and military causalities and secured key intelligence victories. Although the Spartans won various engagements, the UNSC was losing the war.
August 29th, 2552, The UNSC and ONI were almost out of options. The war had continued and with each engagement the human causalities grew exponentially. Above Reach ONI had devised a plan to send the Spartan II’s into the heart of the Covenant on a mission that only they could accomplish – to kidnap a Covenant leader, a Prophet, for a ransom to end the galactic conflict. It was a bold and risky plan. The war would be settled in a matter of weeks, the Inner Colonies and most importantly Earth would be saved for the horrors that befell the worlds of the Outer Colonies now resting as serene glass monuments to the horror of the war.
Before sunrise, the Covenant invaded Reach en masse. Reach fell. ONI’s mission for the Spartan II’s would never take place. Outnumbered and out-gunned, the UNSC and ONI were taken by surprise by an unexpected and large Covenant fleet. The Covenant hit hard against the largest UNSC military outpost with the majority of UNSC military forces within their sights.
Prior to the invasion, a team of Spartan III’s were dispatched by ONI on Reach to investigate the apparent sabotage of a communications platform by Insurrectionist forces. This particular squad, Noble Team, were known for not only accomplishing their missions but surviving them. They had survived and returned when they were sent off to die, surviving one suicidal mission after another.
Pages: 1 2