Fan Fiction 'Last Stand'

Last Stand follows the exploits of Colonel Urban Holland towards the end of the battle for Reach. Realising Noble Team are lost and that the colony will follow suit, he goes through the motions of evacuation but realises that something about Noble Teams’ demise doesn’t add up.

Holland looked on. The mission display told only bad news. Each FoF (Friend or Foe) tag was inactive and the accompanying cardiopulmonary and neurology data was just as foreboding—not a single flutter of brain activity was present to provide anything even remotely positive. The stress response signals for each member were also disappointing; they had seemingly frozen on their final moments of defiance. All of them were down, save one, Jun-A266. Though even his vitals were oddly irregular and his FoF tag was unresponsive.

“Again, lieutenant,” He ordered. “We need to know for certain.”

Holland knew the chances of raising Jun were slim to impossible. Still, he held out, hoping for something. Besides, Spartans are known for defying the odds, he thought to himself. But that thought didn’t linger for long. Having been absent from the operations room for the past six hours, attending the HIGHCOM regional command and control briefing, had only resulted in one thing: Noble Team were out of action.

“Noble Three, this is Noble Actual… respond, please.” The words seemed to hang in the young lieutenant’s throat. But he wouldn’t hold that against him, Holland could sense hope in the lieutenant’s tone.


Only static washed through the speakers.

The lieutenant tried once more. “Noble Three, this is Noble Actual… respond.”
Colonel Urban Holland, he thought to himself, almost cracking a smile of self-loathing. Noble Team were the reason he was on Reach at all. And he had met each of them as they arrived to do their duty—to take the fight to the Covenant. And they had not disappointed. They had excelled, in fact. But then, every Spartan does. Even in failure, when a mission’s parameters are suddenly and radically altered to such an extent that success is impossible, they still manage some form of victory, usually in the form of a large explosion.

If in doubt, blow -Yoink- up. A faint smile creased across his face.

“Okay, lieutenant,” Holland said, “I think we can call it a day.”

“Sir?” queried the lieutenant, puzzlement written all over his face.

Holland felt for him. Lt. Thomas Franks was a young and eager-to-please officer, fresh out of Officer School, dropped into the middle of a barbeque in a -Yoink- storm. He didn’t even have a single day of operational experience under his belt before arriving on Reach. But Holland could see that he was learning fast, on the fly. And he wasn’t afraid to ask questions and that was a quality that he admired. Better to ask and look like an idiot than to get it wrong and be one.
“Pack it up, Franks. We’ve outstayed our welcome.”

The lieutenant let out a sigh and began shutting down the operations software. Each monitor winked off one by one, until all that remained was the central display screen on which the Noble Team insignia slowly pulsed.

Holland was tempted to step in and help, but going through previous losses and mission closedowns were what had made him so thick skinned. The young officer would have to learn the hard way. Instead, Holland stood back, staring at the prestigious symbol before collecting his thoughts and prioritising their only remaining objective, evacuation.

“Dot, situation report,” he ordered, as Franks ferried the equipment out to a waiting warthog.

The Noble insignia faded, replaced by a more prominent series of glowing blue lines and dashes: Auntie Dot’s on-screen avatar.

“Please specify,” she answered calmly.

“Give me the status for the entire colony, surface and above. I want to know what the hell’s going on out there.”

“Certainly, Colonel,” came the reply, in Dot’s all too familiar, imperturbable tone.

Holland sat down, watching the display cycle through captured images and footage of combat against the enemy while Dot reeled off casualty estimations and the status of the war, here and now. None of it was promising.

“Covenant forces have established a foothold on the surface at eighteen separate locations—UNSC defences are ongoing but are proving to be of limited impact to enemy ground operations. Current losses, including the civilian population, are between twenty nine and forty million. Several key sites have been destroyed by both enemy action and UNSC defensive protocols in accordance with OPERATION WHITE GLOVE. Orbital engagements have intensified by three hundred–.”

“Wait,” ordered Holland. “Go back. List all key sites destroyed as per WHITE GLOVE.”

The display switched to a topographical view of Reach, highlighting the locations of several key military and scientific locations.

“The list is as follows… the Vandar research facility, the Magellan impact zone, Fort Lewis, Camp Hatchcock, Camp Independence, Sword Base, the Manassas Vault complex–.”

Holland, again, quickly interrupted. “Detail the destruction of Sword Base.”
Dot’s avatar swam into view, pulsing as she tried to recall all the available data on Sword Base and its destruction. “Curious…”
“What is it?”

“Available information on Sword Base appears to have been altered, though I am unable to ascertain exactly how and where. Please wait. Accessing orbital reconnaissance assets…”

The display shifted, this time showing a smoking, fire-covered high altitude view of the planet’s surface. Then suddenly the display was reduced to a fuzzy snowstorm of static. The view shifted again, showing a similar area of Reach, also in flames, but from a different reconnaissance satellite.

“Apologies, Colonel. The Covenant assault has limited my access to available assets.”

Holland leaned forward in his chair and flexed his hands as the display altered.
“Magnifying grid twenty, sector thirteen,” Dot explained.

The view quickly nose-dived through the clouds and enhanced. The Babd Catha ice shelf came into view and then moved westwards as the view honed in on the location of Sword Base. The nearby runway was illuminated with fire and the base itself was now a broken heap. Further east, a large ice-covered crater provided a new addition to the remarkable scenery. Several Covenant aircraft could be seen crisscrossing the area.

Something didn’t look right.

“Looks pretty scorched to me. I thought Noble achieved their objective.”

“Affirmative, Colonel,” came the reply. “Noble assisted in the destruction of all surface assets. They successfully cleared the area of Covenant ground forces and proceeded off grid.”

Holland frowned. The statement was rarely associated with Spartans and that troubled him greatly. It was normally reserved for personnel that were MIA or enemy assets that disappeared. “Off grid?” he probed.

“Yes, under separate orders from The Office of Naval Intelligence.”

“Whose orders, specifically, Dot?”

The screen fluttered, but nothing else appeared. The original view of Sword Base remained. “I must apologise, Colonel, but I am unable to access that information.”

“You should have contacted me.”

“Unfortunately, Colonel, whilst you were attending the regional briefing a communication blackout was in effect,” chimed Dot.

I leave for a single command briefing and lose an entire Spartan team, Holland thought. I should have stayed; I should have ignored the damn request. HIGHCOM and their Godforsaken updates and mission briefings. “We all knew Reach was doomed when the Covenant showed up,” he muttered. “Why ask for…” Holland stopped mid-sentence, something was wrong, very wrong. “Dot, can you access Noble Team’s NAV data, from each suit, if they’re intact?”

“Affirmative, Colonel.”

“Show me where they’ve been since you lost contact at Sword Base.”

“Sir?” Dot queried. “If the remaining…”

“Show me.”

The screen switched to a simple roster of Noble Team. All were highlighted in red, including Jun. But what Holland wanted to see was the NAV data, showing each member’s last known location. All except Jorge-052 stated SWORD BASE as their final location.

“We know Jorge died whilst in orbit, taking out that carrier,” Holland said to himself, “so we can exclude him from the search, but what about the rest?”
Holland looked over at Franks as he loaded the last container on the transport hog. He was desperately trying to fit everything into the six-seater variant of the UNSC’s most ubiquitous vehicle. But it was clear they needed four or five trucks, at least. A lot of it would have to stay to be either torched or destroyed with explosives. "Franks.”

The lieutenant quickly stopped what he was doing and marched back into the room. “Sir?”

“Whilst I was away, was there anything else from Noble team? Anymore communications, sighting reports, anything at all?”

“No, Sir. Once they headed into Sword Base we lost all contact. Then the transponders went all screwy. I did brief you, Sir.”

“I know you did,” Holland replied. “Once they were re-tasked, how long were they online?”

“About twenty-five minutes. Then the transponders started playing up, like they were resetting.”

Holland went through several scenarios, viewing them in his minds eye. They had either been killed not long after detonating the charges at Sword Base, or something more surreptitious had reared its ugly head. Holland suspected the latter. ONI reassignment was a frequent occurrence during any Covenant invasion—they were keen to cover up anything vitally important to the future of mankind. And they were equally devoted to unearthing anything the enemy held close to their beliefs and to their battle plans. In fact, Holland had personally been a victim of exactly that on no fewer that three occasions. Beta Gabriel, Bleachers Bay and Harvest had all been frustrating encounters with ONI-governed contingencies. Interfering -Yoinks!-, he thought to himself.

“Dot, cycle through all Noble Team members and ping their NAV units,” Holland ordered, now pacing the room.

Lieutenant Franks opened his mouth as if to speak, but decided otherwise. Holland noticed.

“Spit it out, Franks. You’ve never been one to hold back.”

“Sir,” Franks started, “if we ping their units, both ends will be much easier to detect. We’ll practically be telling the Covenant where we are. And if Noble are still operational…”

“I know, Lieutenant, they’ll be neck deep in it.”

Holland weighed the options. Was it the logical course of action? Probably not. But it was the right thing to do. ONI were often counterproductive in their ventures, so if Noble are still out there, and Holland hoped they were, he’d put them on something more than cover-up duty. He would assign them strike missions with all the support he could muster. “Do it.”

Franks sat down at the only remaining terminal and typed in the required authorization code to access their NAV unit data streams, then he pinged each one in turn. The results were surprising.

“Dot, can you verify what I’m seeing?”

“The data seems accurate, Colonel. I detect no inconsistencies with the information,” she replied.

The roster refreshed, and adjusted accordingly to the new information. NOBLE were down.

Jorge, predictably, was off grid with his last known location stated as being in orbit. Kat, for some reason was pinged as being near a small rocky enclave not far from New Alexandria. But the rest were puzzling. Jun’s armour failed to respond, while Carter’s pinged once and then died. Emile was stationary in the ship breaking yards in Azod. But Six’s ping was the most curious. According to the bio readout he was dead. But the ping relayed information that lead to one conclusion. He was moving.