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|This article, Vrathek (Ship), was written by Specops306 and The All-knowing Sith'ari. Please do not edit this fiction without the writers' permission.|
Technically, the application of the term "cruiser" to the Vrathek-class is entirely a misnomer - the ships are roughly the dimensions of a Covenant Assault Carrier, and at least as well armed. The name was applied purely for logistical reasons, intended to allay Sangheili fears should they discover the massive buildup of Jiralhanae fleet power, providing a cover for the Prophets. In fact, in all of its deployments the BCCS (originally CCS) Vrathek has been used more comparably as a battleship, providing heavy firepower against enemy warships, and little else. The ship certainly possesses the ability to transport troops and provide orbital fire support, but Jiralhanae single-mindedness has seen these roles filled by other craft. The meticulous care the Prophets took to make these ships as flexible as possible seems to have been wasted on Jiralhanae Shipmasters. As the namesake of the class, the BCCS Vrathek has seen extensive action, first on the side of the Covenant, and then as part of the Blood Covenant at Pious Ascension, managing to bring down a number of enemy ships before its destruction with the loss of all hands.
The buildup to the Great Schism was a long one, spanning decades of Prophet machinations. Jiralhanae leaders were steadily promoted, their forces moved into place like chess pieces; equipment was produced at a shocking rate, ostensibly for the war effort against humanity but in truth to help the Jiralhanae takeover; and hundreds of ships were constructed. While the less obvious stages of the buildup went largely unnoticed, there was little the Prophets could do to stop the fact that the shipyards of the Covenant were producing ships not intended for Sangheili fleets - for this purpose, the Prophet of Assurance commissioned the Vrathek-Class Cruisers - huge, bulky, cumbersome-looking ships that were poorly armed and less manoeuvrable than most. During tours of the Thrakakrathak shipyards, Sangheili inspectors were shown supposedly finished ships, and simulations demonstrating their effectiveness - or, rather, lack of it. Satisfied that the Jiralhanae were recieving damaged goods, the Sangheili readily agreed to it.
In fact, almost the entirety of the tour was faked by the Prophet of Assurance himself. The hulls that were shown to the inspectors, while certainly resembling the Vrathek-class externally, were actually hollow mockups. The simulations too had been faked. In fact, the Vrathek-class was double the size of the mockups, approaching that of a standard Covenant assault carrier, and with comparable armament. The first ship to leave the shipyards was commissioned the BCCS Vrathek - named for a Jiralhanae Demon - and would serve as the namesake for the rest of the class. Personally overseen by the Prophet of Mercy, the Vrathek was seen as a triumph of Jiralhanae engineering, despite the significant Prophet interventions to improve the design to make it comparable to Covenant standard equipment - originally, it had been slated to carry native Jiralhanae armaments, including kinetic kill vehicle launchers and unguided rocket weapons, but these were replaced by Energy Projectors, plasma torpedo launchers and laser turrets ripped out of various decommissioned Covenany Navy ships. These improvements would be made standard to the class, and given the increasingly effective tactics humanity was developing against the Covenant, the availability of such salvage was plentiful. Launched in 2552, it was quickly attached to the Fleet of Burning Absolution and deployed to High Charity.
Its official cover story was that it was present to take part in war games against the Fleet of Enlightened Benevolence, but the latter's deployment to and destruction at Earth raised at least some suspicions among Sangheili fleet commanders. Nevertheless, when outright conflict broke out in the opening hours of the Great Schism, the sudden barrage of firepower the Vrathek was able to put out came as a total surprise, catching seven ships unshielded. Evasive manoeuvres saved another dozen, with only superficial hull damage, but the damage to fleet cohesiveness meant that the Jiralhanae suddenly had a foothold in the battle that they were loathe to give up easily. While the smaller frigates, destroyers and cruisers closed and engaged at close range, where Sangheili technical superiority was less of an asset, the Vrathek continued to pound away at extreme long range until reinforcements arrived from Ketesh, turning the tide of battle. Finding itself under attack from the CCS Voltakran Fury and boarded, the Jiralhanae crews put up a stiff resistance, and eventually killed the boarding Sangheili teams, but its Shipmaster, Caelus, realised that it had given his ship an opportunity to survive - the smaller Sangheili cruiser had managed to disable its slipspace drive, which would take the local Huragok hours to repair to an operable state, too long for the ship to survive long. Feigning that the boarding party had been successful, Caelus opened fire on a smaller, already damaged Jiralhanae corvette - while Caelus knew full well that it was already evacuated, the Sangheili ship was assured of his loyalty, and the Vrathek joined the main Containment force preventing the Flood from leaving the Halo. Covertly launching Spirit dropships to recover any Jiralhanae lifepods, the Vrathek would remain a part of the Second Fleet of Homogenous Clarity for six hours, allowing the Huragok to repair the slipspace matrix - in its parting moments, Caelus broadcasted a taunt to the Sangheili on open channels, fired his weapons into the heart of the fleet, and jumped away. To this day, Caelus' actions are a source of pride among all Jiralhanae.
For the next few months, the Vrathek's crew remained confused as to what they should do. While some of the crew argued that their loyalty lay with the Prophets, and that they should jump to a known Prophet bastion to rejoin the Covenant, others argued that the only loyalty of the ship was to itself, and to the Jiralhanae. While Caelus himself favoured joining the Prophets, the threat of a mutiny forced him to jump to Unmoving Virtue, hoping that the shipyards there were still intact and under Jiralhanae control. Recieved warmly by the Jiralhanae defenders, the Vrathek would become the flagship of the Blood Covenant Navy - but the only reward Caelus ever recieved for delivering one of the most powerful warships in the Blood Covenant safely was a transfer to Pious Ascension as an administrator, where he eventually defected to the New Covenant Navy, disillusioned by the barbarism the Jiralhanae had degenerated into without the guiding influence of the Prophets.
Under Fleet Chieftain Amatius, the Vrathek would be present as the UNSC and SAF began Operation: TACK HAMMER. Undamaged by the initial attack on the fleet, the Vrathek rallied its battlegroup to counterattack the invading forces, drawn out from the safety provided by the moon colony of Thrakakrathak, also unintentionally stranding the Jiralhanae defenders. While it managed to hammer the combined UNSC and Sangheili taskforce, the arrival of heavy reinforcementsproved too much. Rapidly losing shields and taking hull damage, Amatius ordered the ship to jump away to safety - though not before the UNSC Nighthawk managed to attach itself to the hull, eventually leading the UNSC to Pious Ascension.
Badly damaged after the devastating loss at Unmoving Virtue, the Vrathek was scheduled for emergency repairs and docked with the Venkarath Shipyards - though built for constructing fighters and dropships rather than full warships, the repairs were sufficient to allow the Vrathek to hold its own when the UNSC and SAF attacked the colony. Engaging the enemy fleet, the Vrathek alone accounted for seven ships before succumbing to combined fire from the UNSC Ajax and the Bringer of Holy Light. A number of excape pods were launched before the ship was crushed by MAC rounds and plasma torpedo strikes, but were not recovered before the planet was destroyed by a UNSC NOVA bomb. Any crew that survived were probably killed by debris from the planet, or died after asphyxiation as their pods ran out of air.
- Main article: Vrathek-Class Cruiser
Like all ships of its class, the Vrathek was one of the largest ships operated by the Jiralhanae, modelled on Covenant Assault Carriers. The Prophet of Mercy had originally intended them to fill a similar niche, supplementing whatever heavy warships the Jiralhanae could capture and field, but in practice the Vrathek was used as little more than a battleship, using its heavy armaments to pick off enemy ships at extreme range, relying on a defensive fighter screen provided by frigate escorts. Initially, the Vrathek was intended to rely more upon native Jiralhanae technology, allowing easier construction and less Prophet oversight, but the Prophet of Mercy concluded that the ineffectiveness of kinetic projectiles and guided explosive weapons used by UNSC ships would be a model for any Jiralhanae deployment, and ordered that the Vrathek be refitted with standard Covenant armaments. The pulse laser turrets and plasma torpedo launchers were salvaged from the destroyers Unlimited Power, Angelic Grace and Destiny Ascension, destroyed in the Battle of Reach by UNSC forces, while the projectors and slipspace matrix were appropriated from the cruisers Promised Salvation and Humble Veneration, damaged earlier in the war at Minorca. These refits would be made standard to the other nineteen planned ships, although five woud be sabotaged before they could launch and another seven destroyed in combat over Unmoving Virtue.
In true Jiralhanae fashion, the Vrathek relies on its brute force more than any other aspect of its design - its energy projectors and plasma torpedo launchers are designed for extreme long range engagements, keeping the ship out of range of enemy ships while putting out heavy fire. However, its eight pulse lasers were grafted on crudely, and were ineffective at intercepting whatever fighters managed to penetrate its escorts screen, leaving the ship vulnerably to enemy fighters and missiles. Once past this screen, attacking fighters would have little trouble penetrating the ships shields - while protecting a ship the size of a Carrier, they had originally been designed for a ship the size of a standard Cruiser, and were spread thinly.
Unusually, the Vrathek maintained a small number of orbital insertion pods to allow orbital drops of special forces, a feature abandoned in later ships of the class. While originally designed for Sangheili, these had been modified by the Jiralhanae to accomodate the larger and bulkier warriors they were to carry. Their only use was at Thrakakrathak, where their warriors were dropped to assist in the defence of the shipyards before the ship engaged the enemy fleet. The launchers remained unused until the destruction of the Vrathek when they were used as emergency escape capsules - they were not recovered before Pious Ascension was destroyed.
- "Everyone assumes the Jiralhanae are stupid, but barbarity is not the same as stupidity. They were smart enough to build this monstrosity, and at least some of them were smart enough to realise that the Prophets had lied to them."
- "Every Blood Covenant capital world, we've found by piggybacking an enemy ship - in this case, it was the Vrathek that led us to Pious Ascension. The pride of their fleet was the cause of their destruction."
- "A huge, hulking behemoth ignorant of the advantages that speed and cunning can give – a perfect fit for the Jiralhanae’s barbarism."
- "Hiding in the middle of an Elite fleet for six hours and then making off with Brute lifeboats? I hate to say it, but that’s gotta take some serious guts"