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Halo: Astanchia

Only the brave shall prevail through vigor.


Dramatis Personae

NOTE: An omega (Ω) indicates a primary/major role; a delta (Δ) indicates a prologue-only role.

United Nations Space Command Defense Force

UNSC Marine Corps
84th Mechanized Infantry Battalion
Private First Class "Vag" Δ
Sergeant Major Dass Birch Δ
Colonel Hackard Δ (Pending role extension)
Task Element Dragoon
Office of Naval Intelligence
Department of Biological Exploration
Professor Amanda Celeste
Brooklyn's Assassins
Advanced Warfare Fleet
UNSC Green Sky, FFR-054
UNSC Special Warfare Directorate
Marine Rapid Infiltration
Lt. John Price Ω
Ssgt. Caleb Ω
The Captain

Halo: Astanchia



Vag awoke with a brief yawn following a brief nap; the hot night had caused him to sweat in the desert of the mining planet. He was two weeks out of basic training which he had served in the cool Canadian summer, where he was also raised, which made him even less comfortable in the heat. He was the only member of the platoon from Earth and often felt left out when the other more experienced soldiers in his unit talked amongst themselves. While the others of the platoon discussed what each colony was like and intercolonial activity, they need not know Mark's background as Earth was well-studied by all.

The platoon itself, known as the 4th Platoon of the Marine Corps' 84th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, was assigned to the planet as with detachments of other units in response to a intercepted Covenant transmission targeting thirteen UNSC and Sangheili planets and in response defenses were bolstered to an extent on each of the targeted planets. Astanchia, though before the Second Great War was a planet of nothingness, prospered with a mighty vigor when a prospector uncovered the largest known concentration of titanium in the Human Sphere. Now that the Covenant had possibly targeted the planet, the UNSC wasn't taking any chances. A total of two thousand soldiers, seven warships, and a multitude of highly dangerous deep space mines now protected the humble planet which was yet to yield many of its secrets.

"Vag, we have contacts near Hivarious. Suit up and get going." The owner of the voice was Sergeant Major Dass Birch, a seasoned soldier fighting since the end of the Second Great War.

"Yes, Sergeant Major." It grudged Vag that Birch wanted him to refer to him by his full rank instead of something more simple like Sergeant or Sarge. Still, Vag thought little of it as he slipped his combat suit on over his dampened fatigues, a draining process though one well worth it seeing as the suit provided its fair share of protection. At last, he slipped his fingerless gloves on and clipped his helmet to his back; Vag then slipped his NH50 rifle from an open locker on the wall into an elongated, rugged plastic holster over his left shoulder and holstered an M21D sidearm at an angle on his left hip. As he took a step out the door of the sheet metal cabin, the recruit noticed the dusty, makeshift parade ground originally used for the colony's Colonial Militia stationed at the small base. Dotting the grounds were groups of Marines, Army personnel, and Militants. However, he quickly took notice of his gathering platoon not far from his tattered polycrete barracks. He arrived just in time to receive Birch's commands.

"Alright Marines," he began in his slightly raspy voice. "Our platoon and the Militia's 3rd Platoon are going to the city and we'll help the evac that the planetary AI and Colonial 1st Platoon began-" before he could begin another sentence, all of the soldiers looked into the sky. Fifteen Covenant destroyers loomed in a W-shaped formation over the planet in high-altitude atmosphere. "Change of plans," the Sergeant Major commanded as he listened in to his sputtering headset. "Damn aliens sent two groups in. One stopped in system and one in orbit. Damn bastards..."

"What the hell are we gonna do now?" a young Militant cried out.

Before Birch could scold the panicking rookie, a voice filled the COM speakers of the grounds. "Attention! This is Colonel Hackard. We have birds en route and we will be moving as quickly as we can. We're gonna get this done right, boys." Without hesitation, the 150 soldiers at the cramped post began their way towards dropships and vehicles. Birch jumped into the modified double-seat cockpit Gorilla HRV nearest the platoon's rendezvous location. The turret of the Gorilla fired rockets nearly two feet in length. Seeing the turret was open, Vag laddered his way to the turret.

Adjacent to the ladder was a seat rack filling with recruits, as was the two seats fitted with .50 caliber guns on the back of the vehicle. In moments, the Gorilla was loaded and followed a slightly nimbler yet older Kodkod whose turret was a M52 LAAG (Light Anti-Air Gun) towards Astanchia's capital settlement, Vertigo City. After his seat automatically adjusted to his build and glanced at the battlegroup due north of the Gorilla.

"Anyone else notice three of those ships activated grav-lifts?" Vag said into his throat-mic.

"Yeah, those birds need to be up and now. I'll set a clock for the platoon's HUD. In twenty minutes, the city will be down for the count. If we're not there in fifteen, its gonna get a lot harder." Birch pressed a few buttons on a control pad built into the wrist of his suit and activated a fifteen minute countdown in the platoon's respective Heads-Up-Displays, or HUD's for short.

Thirteen minutes passed and the pair of vehicles, now backed by seven others, were within five kilometers of the urban city not surrounded by any suburbs.

"I'm reading contacts at the city entrance, Marines," Birch said using a COM built into the Gorilla which was set to the two platoons' frequency.

"Let's run their furry asses down!" A Marine shouted, followed by a unison ooh-rah, though Vag didn't chant. The fact that he had never fought before caught up to him, and he felt uneasy. Before he could knock his sense back in, a steamy orange spike flew into the energy deflector protecting Vag from the front, much like the Warthog's deflector plate albeit made of energy. The energy panel flashed before flickering back on in a second.

The rookie Marine took the opportunity to face his attacker: a rugged, tan-haired Jiralhanae already missing some his power armor plating. Not wishing to waste a rocket on a single enemy, Vag tossed an elliptical silver grenade at the alien foe. The enemy caught it to his massive left paw. As he wound up to fling it back, the grenade detonated, spewing a slurry of fire over the brutish enemy, incinerating his fur and thick skin, and a nearby power core. In a single moment, the small energy generator exploded and shot shrapnel in all directions.

"Way to go, rookie!" a Marine yelled as she took cover behind the Gorilla, barely avoiding a burst of spikes. Vag footed a pedal with his right foot, rotating the turret and centering the launcher on a pair of Jiralhanae and four Unggoy. A whole squad gone can help the others, he thought. He let loose a rocket. The projectile burst automatically in midair just inches from a Jiralhanae, much like Tactical Training Rounds before impacting targets.

The ensuing explosion incapacitated the whole lance of enemies while only the lesser-ranked Jiralhanae was the only survivor. This could only be confirmed by his convulsing on the ground. The magazine rotated, positioning another rocket for fire. This time however, it wasn't necessary to fire as the Covenant detachment had been eliminated in good time, though the gunner of the Kodkod and two others were killed. Vag turned to the fallen turret operator whom now lay lifeless and impaled with four spikes in the upper torso and left shoulder. Vag forced his focus away from the gory sight.

"Vag, get your ass on the LAAG, we're not reading too many vehicles and Corporal Nguyen can handle the rockets," the Sergeant Major commanded from the roofless cockpit of the Gorilla. Vag noticed a spike had halfway-lodged itself in the windshield directly in front of Birch, a lucky call for any Marine.

With a single jump, Vag hopped from the turret to the ground left of the six-wheeled vehicle and climbed into the KodKod's LAAG turret, his feet submerged into the troop bay. This felt more comfortable to Vag as he was at least partially concealed. At this point the system's sun, Stancius Corus, was high in the sky and without cover. Despite the added heat, Vag and numerous others slid on their combat goggles, which also displayed a more detailed HUD, including a three-dimensional map of the area along with an expanded "friend-or-foe-finder."

"All vehicles will move out ASAP and infantry will follow. Ooh-rah, Marines," Colonel Hackard said using the platoons' COM systems. The nine vehicles, all of which were Gorillas and Kodkods, sped into the once bustling city. All seat racks and troop bays had been emptied due to the thousands of civilians still in the city. A hydraulic system raised Vag until his fleet were only one foot below the roof level, allowing four more people to fit in the bay.

After seconds of weaving, the unit tracked nearly fifty people running from a pair of Jiralhanae vehicle new to the Covenant arsenal. Vag let loose on one where he thought the engine was built into the vehicle. He guessed correctly and after a stream of lead the vehicle's engine ignited and incinerated its driver and the pair of gunners behind the pilot's position. "Bring me up to that second shit!" Vag yelled as the enemy vehicle began to speed up and possibly ram the civilian crowd.

"Gotcha, speedin' up now," the driver said as he fish-tailed a hundred-twenty-degree turn. Vag caught sight of the vehicle less than twenty-five meters ahead. It had slowed apparently to harass the crowd once more. Vag then fired once more on the vehicle. One of the twelve millimeter rounds tore away the top half of one of the side-to-side unexpecting gunners' heads and catching the others attention.

The nine-foot alien fired a dozen spikes, tearing away at the pavement and vehicles armor before he quickly fed another ammunition canister into the weapon. The two gunner's began a voracious firefight against one another until the Jiralhanae fired a salvo accurately into the windshield, effectively shattering it and killing the Kodkod's driver in a bloody demonstration and sending the Kodkod into a line of buildings adjacent to the street. A chuck of polycrete came crashing down and knocked Vag unconscious as he attempted to jump of the vehicle.

Chapter One


Lieutenant John Price sat erect upon his rickety wooden stool that he had fashioned himself; his company had been in training for days in the thicket of an Astanchian woodland in small encampments throughout a one-hundred acre area. The stool that he had made consisted simply of a section of the trunk of a tree; he had removed all of the bark during his free time with his combat knife and now watched as greenhorn Privates worked to create a fire; he himself was a rookie of sorts in the fact that he had graduated officer training only months before and only participated in two battles before a reassignment. He listened to the battle-hardened staff sergeant drill his experiences into the minds of the fresh soldiers, each of them conscripted from the local Colonial Militia into standard Marine service when Covenant forces were seen in adjacent systems.

"Lieutenant, why don't you go for a walk? You've been watching over these greenies for two hours now and it's not doing you much good," the Staff Sergeant said with the faint accent of northern Canadian descent.

"Okay, thanks Sergeant, and please just call me Price from now on. This war has enough stuck-up brass as it is already and I'm not too interested in becoming just another statistic," John replied with a stern albeit warm voice.

"Oorah, Price." John rose from his seat and picked up his rifle before slinging its strap over his right shoulder and equipping it in a "ready" position. He slid his pointed visor over his face, which in turn displayed a rotating, compass-guided topographical view of his surroundings along with marked friendly units. Might as well check in on Echo Platoon, the Lieutenant thought to himself as he trotted through the brush. His pondering was interrupted, however, as he came across a glistening object in a small bush. He bent down and fished it from its resting place and examined it before giving the voice command to activate a comm headset in his helmet.

"Staff Sergeant, I have something here, can you check it out?" said John.

"I'll be right there, Price; hold tight." Before long, a jogging Staff Sergeant Caleb arrived on the scene and lifted his visor piece from his face and received the object of interest from John's hand.

"Any idea what the hell this is?" John said in curiosity, hoping for an answer from the seasoned veteran of enemy technology.

"Hell if I know, but it almost seems like a transponder of sorts. We'd better get it to the Captain."

"Okay then, I'll call him up." Almost ten minutes later, a whirring all-terrain vehicle could be heard in the distance. As it arrived on the scene, the Captain of the company stepped off and removed his combat-grade sunglasses to greet the other two before gently receiving the mysterious object from the hands of Caleb. Intrigued, he spit the butt of his dark brown cigarette out from his mouth and began to look at it closely.

"Any idea what it is, sir?" the Staff Sergeant inquired.

"Well, from the looks of it, it's most likely not a make of any Human, Covenant, or even Forerunner manufacturer; these little glyphs here are nothing like those made by Forerunner, and Covenant tech these days usually have the Covenant insignia branded into them. Then again, the Covenant may be attempting to shroud their connection to this. The only thing we can do is call in for a more proper examination by a scientist aboard the Green Sky up in orbit, so I guess I'll get our transmissions officer on that. You wanna rally up your team, Staff Sergeant?" said the Captain.

"Yes, sir!" responded Caleb, whom along with Price jogged back to their encampment to gather up the squad and return to the rally point two kilometers to the north-northeast.

AUGUST 3RD, 2666

A small dropship descended from the dim sky above; Lieutenant Price could tell from a distance that it was a Tempest dropship, a make that had been in use for nearly sixty years. "That must be the professor now," the Staff Sergeant said, slouching against a large hydrogen fuel crate. He was correct; the dropship landed and Professor Amanda Celeste stepped out from the passenger bay.

"Ma'am," the Captain said as he tipped his head to greet the woman. She had long brown hair fixed into a loose bun high on her head; her bright skin was soothing as was her deep blue eyes.

"Good to see you, Captain. So what might I be looking at?" she queried.

"It's this item," the Captain said as he held out the navy blue device. "We think that it may be Covenant, though no manufacturing stamp is present and I was hoping you would be able to shed some light on this, please."

Amanda slipped on her padded gloves and received the object from the robust officer. "Do you mind if I look at this in your tent?"

"Go right ahead, Professor," said the Captain. He lead the foursome into the main tent on the grounds; the Captain and professor sat at a table while Price and Caleb stood at the entrance, curious for her verdict. It seemed like hours as she tinkered with it. She would pull on different components and examine small aspects such as the two red lights on the "front" of the object to determine how it worked. Before she could speak again, a blurring screech erupted from the machine.

"God damn it!" Caleb said in reaction to the painful noise as he grabbed it and threw it into the middle of the grounds outside. It then exploded with a bright flash and a blast radius of nearly six meters.

"What just happened?" Price said.

"Apparently, its tinker-proof," the professor said with a sigh; she dove to the ground during the whole of the excursion.

"I'll say. Well, do you have any idea of what it was?" the Captain asked as he wiped some dirt from his face kicked up by the detonation.

"I'm sure that is not Forerunner nor Covenant. Not even Virattanian. My guess is that it's something completely knew and we're going to have to watch out because we are well aware that friendly alien races are hard to come across," Amanda explained.

"Captain, what should we do now?" the Staff Sergeant said, breaking the silence.

"We're going back to- wait..." the Captain was interrupted by chatter in his headset, though began speaking again moments later. "Shit, we have Armazian activity to the northeast. We'd better get going."

Chapter Two

AUGUST 3RD, 2666

The vehicle convoy was at fast pace; a total of three Gorillas, two Hellcat tanks, and four Belugas flying overhead were quickly closing in on the town of Antony, a small farming community that was being overrun by forces of the Armazian Federation. John, whom manned the Gauss turret of the lead Hellcat, was studying a topographical view of the town, searching for sturdy buildings and other such points of interest.

"From what I can see, this town has a polycrete church at the center though my money's on the zombie-bastards swarming in that makeshift citadel. Seems like the only way we're pulling through is if we scope out the area and send for snipers on the far plateau," John spoke into his built-in microphone.

"Negative, Price. We don't have the time or manpower to get that situated in time," the Captain continued. "We'll use the tank guns to blow the exterior fortifications out of the water and follow up with a rapid attack. After all, that is what we're all about, oo-rah?"

"Yes sir!" the contingent replied. Due to capacity constraints, only eighty of the two-hundred forty members of the company went on with the mission, but the UNSC's mighty discipline turned this battle from a landslide into an even match (the Armazian force consisted of nearly three hundred individuals plus fortifications). The Beluga Vertical-Take-Off-and-Landing scout aircraft rose in altitude from just fifty feet to nearly three hundred meters to avoid small arms fire while every soldier's HUD uploaded information gathered by reconnaissance teams and regarding force composition: a luxury to an assault group.

John took a deep breath as they encroached on the town. "I think I can see the town!" he called out on his headset. "Let's lock and load, boys!" The Lieutenant pulled a switch on the turret, activating an electronic viewer that employed state-of-the-art technology to provide the gunner with top-notch statistics. He pulled a lever back that brought the first round into the firing chamber and deactivated the breaker which acted as an electronic safety. This would be one of his first firefights, yet he felt like as much of a veteran as the Captain or Caleb.

A split second later, a ball of blue fire burst into the sky from the town. Lieutenant Price quickly recognized it as the plasma mortar of Armazian artillery emplacements thanks to training, though he'd never seen one before. His Hellcat swerved to the left while its adjacent banked right. "Watch! They got turrets!" Caleb shouted from the turret of a Gorilla as he opened fire on a turret on top of a restaurant. Price quickly noticed a similar nest and began to unload high velocity projectiles on the nest and shredded the cannon and its gunner. He turned slightly to the right as The main cannon below him tore apart an Armazian light tank. The slight euphoria of the small success was cut off, though, as a heavy thirty millimeter Armazian cannon decapitated the gunner of another Hellcat directly in Price's line of sight in a distinctly gruesome matter.

John instantaneously froze in shock; he hadn't completely contemplated the horrors of war (John's activities in previous engagements were not as intense), though the Lieutenant was quick to realize that he had been trained to handle such an occasion and almost like a mindless cyborg took aim on one of the final heavy turrets and pierced the gunner in the chest, the ultra high speed round tearing the victim limb from limb in a way once thought only could be seen in a horror film.

"Marines, we're moving in! Watch your HUD for friendlies and even civilians," the Captain of the strike force said as the vehicles slowly encroached on the cleared and decimated edge of the city.

The convoy was quick to split up as they made their way inward towards the city. However, John's Hellcat was quickly ambushed by nearly thirty Viratta soldiers in the surrounding wood, stone, and polycrete apartments. "Throw the fire on those bastards!" Price said as he fired up his turret, although his attack was interrupted when an adhesive grenade stuck itself to the bullet shield of the turret. He dove off to the ground behind him, narrowly escaping the blast of plasma and shrapnel. John took the rifle off of his back and rolled to his left as he unloaded short bursts onto the beasts in the windows. He grabbed for a sphere on the right side of his belt and pulled it off. He depressed a small switch and lobbed it into a window two stories above his own position behind a downed VTOL craft. It detonated as the occupier of the room attempted to throw it out and obliterated the room and the roof above it, killing nearly a dozen of the vicious attackers. "Yeah!" he called out in success as he backed his way into the entrance of the building. The Lieutenant pressed a button on the side of the rifle to reload before putting it on his back magnet and picked up a shotgun apparently left by a Colonial Militant. Price pumped the handle once and ejected an empty shell as he made his way up a set of damaged stairs.