|This article, John Bradley, was written by Athena32. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
- "Each of you has done your best, but determination alone isn't going to hold this ship together. It's time we faced reality. We've lost 19 decks, Life support is nearly gone, weapons are inoperable; Watchman can no longer sustain her crew. I promised myself that I would never give this order, that I would never break up this family; but asking you to stay... would be asking you to die."
- ―John Bradley to his crew during the Battle of Hemera
John Bradley was a distinguished naval commander and skilled tactician serving in the Royal Navy. Between 2604 and 2654, he was in command of a Triton-class destroyer, the HMS Watchman. Known for being a proficient and meticulous officer, Bradley was also known for the close working relationship he maintained with his crew and his personal attachment to the vessel under his command. Bradley had a long and eventful naval career, during which time he faced several enemies in numerous different engagements. Bradley was the sole surviving commander of the Battle of the Antaeus Nebula, the first proper engagement of the Swarm War, after which he fought against the Swarm for an additional half a century. Bradley was killed aboard his vessel, the Watchman, and his bridge crew, in 2654, sacrificing himself and his ship in defence of the planet Hemera.
Born on August 4 2558 on an Ardent-type frigate, John's mother was a junior officer on the vessel. His father was a senior enlisted crewman on another vessel within the navy, and John was sent to his aunt and uncle on Thera to live until his parent's deployment ended. As a young child John grew up wanting to join the Navy so he could see his parents again. When he was older he still aimed for this career, enticed by the stories of exploration and adventure he was told by his parents. At school, John was discovered to be remarkably talented academically, particularly in maths and history. John was popular among his friends, however occasionally felt some jealousy towards his more physically able peers, as he saw his own relative levels of fitness as an obstacle to joining the Navy. Despite this, in his later childhood years he experienced a great deal of growth and caught his peers up in this respect.
John attended the Minervan Naval College on Thera and left attained outstanding results, leaving in 2688 to become a Crewman on the Aurora-class light frigate HMS Coldstream, becoming a junior officer within seven years, by 2595.
In 2595, when John was thirty seven, Coldstream was ambushed while conducting long deep space patrol. Coldstream dropped out of slipspace, only to find a trio of pirate craft already waiting, having been informed of the vessel's patrol path. Pirate forces boarded the vessel and attempted to commandeer it for their own uses, their primary aims being to reach the auxiliary environment controls and to vent the ship's atmosphere from there, killing the crew. While the Allegiance crew resisted, John, as a junior bridge officer and the head of security, led a strike team to intercept any intruders heading to the environment controls and to defend the location. The force succeeded, in the process killing fifteen hostiles with minor casualties, John himself scoring four kills with his M19 Submachine Gun. By the time Coldstream's crew had overwhelmed the boarders, reinforcements arrived in the form of three Triton-class destroyers and a Sovereign-class cruiser, which destroyed two of the pirate vessels while the third escaped. John was promoted to Lieutenant for his part in defending Coldstream, and accepted transfer to another vessel.
Bradley then was stationed on an ancient Celestia-class assault ship, the HMS Solaria. He was stationed on this vessel for the next sixteen years, turning down seven transfers that would have promoted him over this period. He cited on each occasion his familiarity with the vessel's crew, layout and community. Nonetheless he had risen to the rank of Commander and the position of Executive Officer (XO) of the Solaria.
The Solarias Commanding Officer, Captain Alisha Lewis, a good friend of Bradley, advised him to accept his next promotion to further his career, rather than be stuck on an ancient warship for the remainder of his service. In 2604 he was offered command of the Triton-class destroyer HMS Watchman, which he accepted.
Battle of the Antaeus Nebula, 2633
By 2633, after twenty nine years in command of Watchman, Bradley was a well-liked and efficient captain aboard his vessel, once again familiarised with his crew. In 2633, his vessel, along with two others, HMS Authority of Truth and HMS Monarchy, were deployed on a search mission, looking for a passenger liner bound for Acheron that vanished on February 27th. On April 8th, the three Allegiance destroyers encountered a group of nine unidentified vessels near the Antaeus Nebula, sparking the Battle of the Antaeus Nebula. The unidentified vessels were detected from considerable distance. The Watchman sent over a spy drone but it was destroyed. Bradley demanded an explanation, warning that noncompliance would result in them opening fire. The responding transmission was not what was expected- a series of clicks and hisses, with speech patterns too fast for the ship's AI to understand. The Swarm warships opened fire with missiles and beam weaponry, impacting on the destroyer's shields. The three Tritons opened fire with their six prow particle cannons each, destroying one Swarm destroyer and taking down another's shields, and destroying two carriers and damaging two more. While the Allegiance initially took the upper hand, as they moved in to engage at close range the Swarm's large numbers of single ships took a toll on the battle. Watchman circled the melee at range, providing fire support for Truth and Monarchy. The latter two, however, were overwhelmed, and Bradley had no choice but to retreat. However, he put the vessel at risk in order to retrieve the vessel's fighter squadron, which was rapidly withdrawing after suffering heavy losses. Watchman jumped to slipspace just in time, leaving Bradley to ponder what had just occurred. Presumably he did not know at the time that the event would blossom into a war lasting over a century.
Battle of Acheron, 2633
- "Tough ol' girl's got some life in her yet."
- ―Bradley of the Watchman during the Battle of Acheron
Following the battle, the Watchman spent almost a month under repair at Avalon's orbital shipyards. However, the visit was cut short when the Watchman was rushed out of the docks to accompany an Avalon-based battlegroup being sent to Acheron, where a Swarm force was incoming. Bradley's intelligence gathered from the engagement at the Antaeus Nebula was critical to the Allegiance's planning. It theorised that Swarm warships focused on heavy armaments and lacked point defence weapons, instead leaving their protection to large numbers of starfighters, which could also attack and overwhelm enemy forces. During the Battle of Acheron many vessels were sacrificed to destroy the Swarm's fighters but the end result was Allegiance victory, arguably made possible due to Bradley and his crew. During the engagement the Watchman herself accounted for three ships destroyed and another crippled. She was damaged along her starboard bow by a Particle Beam, and her replacement starfighter squadron also took heavy losses during the battle.
During the battle, Bradley played a key part in the battle, taking command after the death of Admiral Michael Cunningham aboard the HMS Undaunting Fate, with the help of Captain Bryan Parkhurst. At a critical moment Bradley swung the battle decisively in favour of the Allegiance by undertaking a risky three-pronged attack, which successfully routed the Swarm forces. This manoeuvre won John widespread recognition and was later named the Spearhead Manoeuvre. Following this he was offered command of a newly built Athena-class cruiser. He declined however, wishing to remain with the crew he knew and who respected him after fighting together.
Battle of Miranda, 2638
- "There are three things to remember about being a captain; keep your shirt tucked in, treat your crew like your family, and go down with the ship."
- ―John Bradley during the Battle of Miranda, shortly before activating the Watchman's self destruct
In May 2638, Bradley and his crew again encountered the Swarm, though this time face to face. In indirect support of Allegiance forces defending Miranda, The Watchman was tasked with patrolling the surrounding area and intercepting any Swarm reinforcements. However, the vessel encountered a Swarm Destroyer, and in the skirmish both vessels quickly immobilised each other. This began a long and bloody close quarters battle on board the vessel, in which the Swarm had the upper hand due to their hive-oriented nature. Bradley ordered a small number of his crew to attempt to contact help, their vessel having been infiltrated. The Swarm concealed themselves in the tight confines of the vessel and set about picking off crew, as Bradley slowly lost control of his ship. When internal communications went down, Bradley prepared to activate the ship's self-destruct, which would engulf the nearby destroyer as well. However, reinforcements arrived and the destroyer was defeated. Hundreds of Allegiance marines took back the vessel, finding and eliminating over fifty Swarm in the process. The event shook Bradley and his crew deeply and arguably only strengthened their affinity for each other.
Battle of Denato, 2641
In mid 2641, Bradley, commanding a destroyer battlegroup from the Watchman, was ordered to assist Allegiance forces defend the Ve'nek world of Denato. Upon arrival, however, the battlegroup immediately encountered a vast debris field blocking their path, which scans revealed to be the remains of a joint UNSC-Sangheili fleet. Coming under immediate and heavy fire, Bradley played a game of cat and mouse, hiding his vessels among the debris and preventing the Swarm from getting a proper firing solution. Eventually, after crippling a number of Swarm vessels that ventured into the field and ascertaining that the planet's population was gone, Bradley staged a tactical withdrawal from the battle, coming away with every vessel he entered it with. From spatial telemetry gathered during the engagement, another attack was planned, although not executed for a number of years.
Battle of Sadako, 2649
- "Many lives have been sacrificed for our effort…but many more will be lost if we do not succeed."
- ―Captain John Bradley during the Battle of Sadako
Bradley was once again involved in major combat when, in 2649, his battlegroup was deployed to the Sadako System to defeat incoming Swarm forces. Several diversionary assaults were made on the inbound Swarm, which drew a large portion of them into battle away from the system itself. Several battlegroups in addition to Bradley's directly assaulted the remainder of the Swarm forces, still bound for Sadako, engaging them and preventing them from attacking the planet. Undiscovered, they waited until the fleet was as close as possible. Bradley ordered all starfighters to swamp the enemy fleet, forcing them to deploy their own and preventing the Swarm fighters from engaging the Allegiance warships. Bradley's destroyers along with numerous other heavy warships caught the Swarm by surprise, and within twenty minutes the Allegiance was victorious. The battle came at a cost, though; the Navy's starfighters had been heavily depleted, and several of the diversionary fleets had been destroyed by the Swarm. Now they moved on Sadako with even greater numbers than before.
Unknown to the Swarm, however, the evacuation of Sadako was already complete, its several million civilians safely ferried to other colonies further from the front. Using a complex and sophisticated series of false transmissions, Bradley led the Swarm to believe that Sadako was still in the process of evacuation, with several million people remaining on the planet. Bradley ordered all vessels but the Watchman to withdraw to a nearby system, positioning the Watchman on the edge of the Sadako System. After lying in wait for several weeks, they detected huge Swarm fleet jumping into the far side of the system, just what Bradley was hoping for. Remotely detonating a large thermonuclear device inside the system's star, Bradley then jumped the Watchman to a preprogrammed spatial coordinate out of the range of the resulting supernova. Official estimates of the number of kills Bradley's actions achieved are in the region of several thousand warships, though exact readings were unavailable due to the fleet's distance.
Unsure whether to promote Bradley for his astounding victory, or punish him for destroying a previously inhabited solar system in its entirety, the Navy did neither. As a result, his achievements went officially unacknowledged, though quickly became well known among both the military and the general public.
Battle of Hemera, 2654
- "Helmsman, plot a collision course, all ahead flank."
- ―Bradley's last order
In late September 2654, the Bradley was deployed with the Watchman to participate in the defence of Hemera. Heavily outnumbered, the Allegiance forces took massive casualties, though inflicting deep wounds into the Swarm fleet. Nearing the end of the battle, with her weapons disabled, shields offline and life support failing, Bradley chose to ram his vessel head-first into the 12-kilometre-long Swarm hive ship. Many of the crew had time to escape though the entirety of the bridge crew, many having served with Bradley for decades, chose to remain. The Watchman was completely crippled by the explosion, with its forward section completely buckled and crushed. However, it had ploughed its way into the hive ship's organic hull, embedding itself deep inside. For a brief moment there was a pause, followed by the Watchman blowing up in a single, large blast as its core detonated. In the explosion Bradley and the Watchman's crew died instantly, though the blast splintered open the hole in the Hive Ship's hull, causing secondary explosions and crippling the ship. It was later destroyed when Allegiance reinforcements arrived. Bradley and his command crew were posthumously awarded the Theran Shield for extraordinary bravery and leadership in combat and the crew were also honoured.
In 2595, Bradley met a woman called Lily Winter, while on leave on Thera. After seeing each other for several years, they bought a house together and in 2606 they got married. A year later, Lily gave birth to their first son, Antion. However, Bradley's constant deployment put immense strain on their marriage, however, and in 2612 the two were divorced. Aged just six, Antion failed to comprehend why his father stopped living with them, and, although John did make efforts to visit them regularly, his career kept him away more than he wanted, and he became a more solitary person as a result. John tried to maintain a relationship with his son, however this became increasingly difficult as time went on and by Antion's 20th birthday the two spoke less than regularly.
Other than his former wife and his estranged son, Bradley had little in the way of relatives or friends. Most of the latter were comprised of former college friends, most of whom had expensive houses on affluent worlds, large families and personal spacecraft. Bradley was mainly a solitary person, even before his marriage, the closest thing to intimate feelings being toward his crew and his vessel, caring about nothing so strongly.
Personality and Traits
- "I'm too old to want glory. At my age, you worry more about what might be said about you after you're dead. I'd like to be recalled as an Admiral who left the galaxy a little tidier and quieter than he found it."
- ―John Bradley in 2652
John Bradley was a military man at heart, dedicated to the fleet as an institution. He spent nearly his entire adulthood in naval service, from leaving naval college at thirty to his death at 96 years old. Bradley regarded his crew as the closest thing he had to family, his wife and son being unacknowledged. He spent far more time in space than he did on the ground, and considered no world home, rather looking on the Watchman as his world, being the vessel he commanded for half a century. He dedicated his life to the military, internalising its values of discipline, order, efficiency, and obedience to authority, and respected the military as a prestigious and honorable institution. Bradley was a meticulous and efficient commander and expected the very best of his subordinates, and his ships were exceptionally efficient.
Bradley, despite his outward coldness and detached nature, was actually rather warm-hearted, though this was true of his crew more than anything else. In battle he remained cool and objective, though inwardly he wanted to participate in nothing that would endanger his ship or his crew. An intelligent man, Bradley saw that in some cases the sacrifice of a vessel was necessary for the greater good, though hoped that he would never be faced with the decision between his fondness of his crew and his duty as a captain. Bradley was extremely close to his crew, knowing most of them by name and all by appearance, which contrasted strangely with his often detached facade. Despite this, he maintained a stern exterior and a professional working relationship with his crew. Bradley's decision to end his life and that of his entire crew, all at once, was nothing if not impossible for him; in the end, he chose the course of action he did only when taking into account all the people on the planet that would die if he did not act and stop the Hive Ship.
As a young man, Bradley had loved war games, delighting in the exercise of strategy and the testing of new techniques. Over the years, however, he lost that excitement as the grueling realities of war ground him down. Bradley was still able to take some delight in the devising of tactics and their implementation, in testing himself against an enemy, but it was not an aspect of his personality which he was particularly proud of, and consideration of the potential human cost of battle easily cooled his excitement. Bradley wanted nothing more than for war to end, especially true in his later years and even more so during the Swarm War. Bradley had seen numerous ships, fleets and even worlds fall in his time, and had no desire to see any more. As he grew older, he desired simply to leave the galaxy a more orderly place when he died than when he came into it.
Vessels and Weapons
Following his graduation from Naval College in 2588, Bradley was stationed onboard HMS Coldstream, an Aurora-class light frigate. He was stationed on this vessel for a total of seven years, during which time he reached the rank of Ensign, as the vessel's senior security officer. In this role he successfully held off a pirate boarding attack in 2595. In recognition of this, Bradley was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to the HMS Celestia.
As a small vessel, John quickly learned the ship's layout as well as its crew. It was for this reason that he stayed on the vessel for seven years, rather than accepting transfers to bigger and better ships, seen as the ticket to promotion. It was quite possibly this that led to Bradley's later attachment to knowing his ship and crew.
On the Celestia, Bradley very quickly adapted to the size and atmosphere of a much larger vessel, with many times more crewmembers. Although he found it unsettling at first, he soon stood out from the crowd and was promoted many times, reaching the rank of Commander and the position of Executive Officer, within sixteen years. During this time he built up a famed working relationship with Captain Alisha Lewis, a fiery and charismatic commanding officer. Willing to remain on the vessel for as long as he could foresee, Bradley was persuaded to move on by Lewis once he was offered command of the HMS Watchman (DD-9277), a Triton-class destroyer, the third command he was offered in that year. Reluctantly, he accepted, beginning Bradley's first and only command, and a post he would hold for half a century.
At first, Bradley struggled with maintaining the right balance as a captain, between appearing a strong leader and maintaining a good relationship with his crew. He took pains to get to know his crew and his vessel, and he soon built up a strong relationship with them. Over the next decades, Bradley, the Watchman and their crew became ever closer, until there was very little else beside his duty which he cared about.