“The colony was as broken as our morale, but we had to fight on. We knew the Spartans wouldn't leave us with our backs against the wall.”
The Battle of Draetheus V was a post-war battle that took place on Draetheus V and its moon: X50. The battle took place between Merg Vol's Covenant, ignoring the ceasefire of 2552, and the United Nations Space Command.
“The fighting started when a splinter sect of Covenant ignored the ceasefire of 2552 and attacked UNSC forces. By the time the fighting was done… well, it didn't end well for the UNSC or the Covenant, either one.”
— Roland briefing Spartan-IVs prior to their first TACSIM.
The battle began when a rogue Covenant fleet led by the fanatical cultist Merg Vol entered the Draetheus system and attacked UNSC forces on Draetheus V's moon: X50. This was in direct violation of the ceasefire of 2552 and caught the UNSC off guard. The moon was home to a large garrison including thousands of Marines and two Spartan-IVs: Davis and Palmer. When the first assault wave hit, Covenant forces went straight for Alpha Base, the UNSC's primary garrison in the area. The UNSC struggled to ward off the five legions of enemy infantry bearing down on them. Edward Davis was re-deployed from Alpha Base to the glacial cliffs nearby to escort several teams of Wolverines to an overwatch position from which they could destroy approaching Spirit dropships. Because of Draetheus V's powerful magnetosphere, the UNSC battlegroup in orbit was unable to receive any radio transmissions. Spartan Palmer took two Marine fireteams and began fighting north to reach the nearest air pad. Only six Marines made it, but Palmer survived until two Hornets arrived and extracted them.
OPERATION: TEMPERED SHIELD
“The horizon was just purple and gold. Thousands of Covenant forces, far as the eye could see.”
— Lt. Chandana Pasternack remembering the defense of Faraday Base.
Spartan Palmer successfully warned the UNSC and was deployed to Faraday Base, in the deserts of Draetheus V. The Covenant then crashed into the UNSC battlegroup with an unexpectedly large fleet. Four carriers and at least five battlecruisers punched through UNSC lines and began deploying forces to the surface of Draetheus V. Four armored divisions descended on Faraday Base from the north and began hammering the base's outer defenses. The Marines stationed there used rockets and chain guns to hold off the encroaching forces. Shortly afterward however, four wings of Banshees began to conduct bombing runs on Faraday. Several Wolverine squads were deployed to destroy the encroaching aircraft, successfully doing so and defending Faraday's northern perimeter. With Faraday temporarily safe, UNSC command sent the 21st Scout Platoon on a sortie into the northern mountains to reconnoiter the landing area of Merg Vol's Covenant forces. While doing so they discovered that six of Merg Vol's personal lieutenants were on the surface directing further attacks from a thickly forested area. Spartan Palmer was deployed to the area with members of the 21st and assassinated all targets before returning to friendly lines via Hornet. While Covenant command was now confused and disorganized, UNSC forces risked being surrounded as Covenant began to flank them from the south, in a large canyon called Epsilon Expanse. There the carriers began deploying super-heavy artillery that could effectively neutralize any target for miles around.
The 23rd Armored Cavalry had been mustered for deployment against an encroaching column of heavy armor, but could not actually leave the canyon because of the artillery's strategic positioning. Numerous strike teams then climbed the walls of the Epsilon Expanse, crossed the dilapidated bridge above, and sabotaged the massive guns. With the turrets destroyed, Spartan Palmer led the charge as the 23rd Armored Cavalry swept up from the canyon to the large desert plateau known as the Red Slate. With four companies of Scorpion tanks, the 23rd crashed with an equally matched Covenant force comprised of Wraiths and Ghosts. The fight was intense and the UNSC won the day with a Pyrrhic victory: of the initial eighty-six vehicles fielded by the 23rd Armored Cavalry, only eight were still intact at the battle's end. Nonetheless, all Covenant forces were ousted from the area and Faraday was still intact, with minimal damage to the base itself.
“Having survived the landing, I was stuck on a narrow ledge surrounded by Covenant. Spartan Davis helped me cheat death a second time that day.”
— Pvt. Charlie Sultan remembering his combat drop during the Battle of X50.
While UNSC forces had managed to mount a successful defense of the Covenant assault on Draetheus V, the battle on X50 did not go so well. CF-32, X50's arctic continent, was overrun by Covenant forces, and the few operational Marine squads still on the surface were too scattered to mount any form of defense. The battle in space kept the UNSC battlegroup from offering any assistance, until the UNSC Eminent Domain managed to outmaneuver Covenant vessels and deploy ODSTs from orbit. The first unit to land was the 3rd Helljumper Platoon, which landed south of Mirror Flats on a cold, dry ridgeline called the Perch. All of these initial ODSTs survived, but they were scattered across the Perch, and Covenant strike teams led by Sangheili officers closed in to finish them off. Seeing the pods descend from the upper atmosphere, Edward Davis began moving to their location, climbing up from the Mirror Flats and drawing fire from the scattered ODSTs just in time. All the while, the UNSC Eminent Domain remained in low orbit, keeping Spirits from approaching the Perch by means of MAC strikes. The Eminent Domain sent a second wave of ODSTs down, despite taking heavy fire from Covenant ships. Just after the second wave launched, the vessel was crippled by enemy fire, fell through the atmosphere, and was destroyed when it crash-landed in the ice below. By this point Mirror Flats was littered with the remains of destroyed Spirits. The second wave of drop pods came down two kilometers off target, right in the midst of the Spirit graveyard. Five Covenant companies began to press in from all sides, although the 3rd Helljumper Platoon arrived with Edward Davis and warded off several waves of enemies. As the ODSTs battled across Mirror Flats, recon teams located Merg Vol, who had re-activated an old Forerunner monolith deep within X50's arctic circle. UNSC command dropped two combat engineers on Mirror Flats and then ordered Edward Davis to take a detachment north and deactivate the artifact. The Spartan successfully punched a hole in the Covenant offensive and led the ODSTs west into the mountains as night fell.
“I still have nightmares about the Stealth Elites… they would come out of nowhere…”
— Pvt. Roger Alfarsi remembering nightfall on X50.
Unbeknownst at the time to UNSC command, the Forerunner artifact that Merg Vol had activated was being used as a weapon. In fact, the entire moon was an artificial construction used by the Forerunners to construct worlds... and disassemble them. Now a massive beam of light shot up from the monolith and into space, striking the equator of Draetheus V. This weapon had been Vol's target all along: his cult clung to the belief he propagated: that he was a saint personally ordained by the Forerunners to use X50's power against all unbelievers. The two combat engineers that had dropped onto Mirror Flats were trained in xeno-engineering, and it was Edward Davis' job to safely escort them to the monolith. However, UNSC forces were about to be cut off by two columns of Covenant armor, including AA Wraiths. As night fell, these columns began pushing through the mountains west of the Flats so as to circle around UNSC forces and set up a perimeter around the monolith. Davis took the engineers to a safe location, and then made his way to Basalt Maze: the canyon system south of Alpha Base. He took with him an ODST fireteam and then hid in the thick outcroppings of rock in the Basalt Maze. They waited for nightfall, when the column passed by. They then launched a devastating ambush, using chain guns and active camouflage. The Spartan destroyed the entire column, along with its infantry escort. The second column was also successfully destroyed by a second ODST fireteam. The monolith's perimeter was now cleared of armor, allowing Marine snipers to take up positions in the cliffs west of the artifact. Davis then retrieved the combat engineers and escorted them to the mouth of the monolith. The area was swarming with hundreds of Covenant reinforced with Shade turrets. Davis fought down to the entrance of the monolith with an ODST squad and one of the engineers. He cleared out all initial forces garrisoned there with the help of the aforementioned snipers, as well as the reinforcements that emerged from the monolith itself. After all initial forces were dealt with a Jiralhanae Chieftain emerged wielding a Gravity Hammer. This was the first Jiralhanae seen during the battle, but it finally fell and the ODSTs arrived with the combat engineer. The Covenant had erected an energy barrier over the entrance to the monolith which the engineer had to disable before gaining access to the interior of the artifact itself. Swarms of Drones rose from the canyon floors as the engineer attempted to hack into the alien technology. Davis and the ODSTs kept all Covenant forces at bay until the engineer entered the complex, and then held out for another two minutes as they were beset by Sangheili Majors and Unggoy Heroes. The engineer de-activated the monolith and shut down the weapon, but the damage that Draetheus V had suffered was already catastrophic and X50's night sky was illuminated by the orange glow of the crumbling planet. Davis and the ODSTs were now completely cut off from any other UNSC forces and were surrounded on all sides by Covenant armies. Unable to escape, the Spartan and ODSTs fought to the last man, eventually being killed by Merg Vol's personal entourage in the courtyard of the dormant monolith.
Collapse of Draetheus V
“Minutes before we had been under siege. Now the Covenant soldiers were fleeing. It was still a long way from victory.”
— Lt. Han Quigley remembering the final hours of the battle as Draetheus V collapsed.
Despite the fact that the X50 artifact had been shut down, Draetheus V was highly unstable; its crust rent open and its tectonic plates sliding out of control. UNSC command was in chaos and the Marines were without any cohesive leadership. Spartan Palmer was cut off from the ruins of Faraday Base by a widening rift in what had formerly been the Red Slate Plateau. She fought through fleeing Covenant forces and fanatic Jiralhanae kill teams, eventually obtaining a jetpack and safely escaping as the entire plateau crumbled into pieces. Palmer reached the ruins of Faraday several minutes later. The few Marine squads still alive were cornered by suicidal Covenant squads intent upon killing all of the base's occupants, and the arrival of Jiralhanae reinforcements did not help matters for them. Palmer arrived and rescued the trapped Marines, escorting them to the eastern exit, where mechanics had repaired and outfitted a pair of Elephants for the wounded and civilian evacuees in the ruins of Faraday Base during the destruction of Draetheus V. Most of the UNSC battlegroup had been destroyed, with the remnants desperately fighting against the large Covenant fleet. This meant that no surface evacuation could be carried out; nevertheless, Palmer led the Elephants towards the Epsilon Expanse, away from the shattered remains of Faraday Base. Because of the chaos, the Covenant had left a large reserve of docked Spirits several miles to the east of Faraday Base. When Palmer learned of this she rerouted the Elephants and began escorting them to the makeshift landing zone. Leaving the protection of the Elephants to the Marines, she hastened ahead, where the final remnants of the 23rd Armored Cavalry waited in the shattered crags of the Epsilon Expanse. Commandeering a Grizzly heavy tank, she led several Scorpions and a pair of Wolverines through thick resistance in the form of Wraiths and Fuel Rod Cannons, clearing the way to the makeshift airstrip. Palmer then returned to the Elephants and escorted them across the Epsilon Expanse using a pair of crumbling bridges. Having reached the airstrip, she defended against the massive waves of Covenant forces as the Marines escorted evacuees onto the Spirits. When the last Spirit safely took off with its cargo of casualties, Spartan Palmer and the few surviving Marines retreated north. Palmer learned that Merg Vol still commanded the Covenant fleet from his camp on X50, meaning that no evacuees could safely enter orbit without confronting the capital ships there. Merg Vol's second-in-command, Parg Vol, was on Draetheus V directing Covenant forces. As an officer, his Phantom would be able to made it past the Covenant fleet and reach Merg Vol on X50. Palmer and the Marines escaped the airstrip and then radioed for a ride.
Hunt for Merg Vol
“The dense trees didn't make it easy. Luckily, they hid us from the Covenant patrols. Quietly following them, we found our objective in mere hours.”
— Pvt. Paul Vocain remembering the hunt for Parg Vol's camp.
Two Hornets carried Spartan Palmer, three Marines and two combat technicians north to the mountain forests east of Faraday, where Parg Vol's base was situated. They tailed Covenant patrols until they entered the camp. In addition to the thick forests, there were numerous Shades, Wraiths, Ghosts and Stealth Sangheili impeding the team. Nevertheless, in a matter of hours the Spartan and Marines had fully infiltrated the base, located Parg Vol's Phantom, and cleared the area. The combat technicians moved in and began hacking the gunboat's fail-safes. At this point Parg Vol returned from the frontline to discover his camp compromised. Guessing the UNSC's motives, he ordered all nearby units to return to base. Wave after wave of Unggoy, Kig-Yar and Sangheili moved in from all sides, but Palmer and the Marines survived until the Phantom was ready to leave. They escaped the surface and reached orbit unscathed. Merg Vol had ordered his ships and AA batteries to neutralize all non-officer aircraft, but Parg Vol's Phantom had clearance to fly unmolested. Palmer located Merg Vol's camp on X50 and landed the Phantom in a concealed rock outcropping several miles southeast. Vol was not at his camp, but was at the monolith in northern Mirror Flats. Palmer tasked the Marines with guarding the Phantom against waves of Covenant attackers while she herself fought west through a Tyrant battery. After neutralizing all immediate threats, she began to traverse the ice shelves of the Mirror Flats. Merg Vol had six personal lieutenants with him on X50. When he learned that his perimeter had been compromised, and by a Spartan no less, he sent his lieutenants to fortify the only possible route to the monolith with Sangheili officers, Wraiths, Fuel Rod Cannons, Jiralhanae Chieftains, and hidden Drones. Palmer killed all of the commanders and then finished off the defending troops. At this point she had reached the cliffs surrounding the monolith and prepared for the final battle with Merg Vol.
“What happened that day between Commander Palmer and Merg Vol remains a mystery. We were just overjoyed when we saw her coming back to the Phantom; the realization that that was it. It was done.”
— Pvt. Amber Penzak remembering the final hours of the battle.
When Palmer reached the Forerunner monolith, she was confronted by dozens of Kig-Yar, Sangheili officers and stealth Sangheili pouring from the monolith. She eventually killed the entire vanguard, just as Merg Vol appeared from the artifact. He used a console to activate a pair of turrets and then attempted to drain Palmer's shields with a plasma pistol. Palmer managed to break through his Forerunner-enhanced shields, but Vol used an advanced holographic decoy to elude Palmer while the artifact recharged his shields and reinforcements arrived. Vol engaged active camouflage and came after Palmer wielding a pair of energy swords. Dozens of lances of Kig-Yar began to swarm from all sides and the turrets made traversing ground even more difficult, forcing Palmer to fight the cloaked, sword-wielding Vol at close-quarters. Vol was disarmed and lost his shields again, so he retreated to the artifact while Palmer fought the remaining Kig-Yar. He returned once more equipped with a hardlight shield. Despite his strategic harnessing of Forerunner technology, Palmer managed to deal him a crippling blow that permanently knocked out his shields and fatally wounded him. He fell to the ice where Palmer executed him with her magnum. Palmer then returned to the deserted camp where the Phantom was docked and the technicians took them into space where the armada of evacuees waited. With Vol dead the Covenant battlenet was in confusion, allowing the crushed remains of the UNSC Navy battlegroup to retrieve the evacuees and the captured Phantom and escape. The fate of the Covenant fleet is unknown.
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