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Operation: BLOWBACK was a top-secret United Nations Space Command operation that was to take place in late 2552. It was ordered by Admiral Roland Freemont in an encrypted transmission sent to Vice Admiral Alexander Reaves.
ONI Section III believed that the uninhabited and largely uncharted Sub-Sector 35 of space was used by the Covenant as a significant supply route. In Operation: BLOWBACK, Spartan-II Team Black was to hide in cryo-chambers amongst prospecting equipment in the civilian vessel Long Time Coming, recommissioned by the ONI for the mission. The crew of the ship consisted of plainclothes ONI personnel with Captain Moreland in command, and the shipboard AI Iona. The ship was to travel to Sub-Sector 35, and the crew and Team Black would allow themselves to be "captured" by and/or forcibly board any Covenant vessels encountered in the sector. Team Black was then to secure all priority intelligence assets and destroy the said vessels. Upon "capture", an auto-executing viral scavenger countdown of fifteen minutes would be activated by the AI to maintain the Cole Protocol in case of total mission failure.
As the operation was supposed to commence and the Long Time Coming was preparing for a slipspace jump to Sub-Sector 35, the ship received a transmission of unknown origin, with a "Pi-constant baseline". The transmission contained a repeated binary message, which displayed various astronomical objects and their properties. The ship's co-pilot dismissed it as an echo from an educational broadcast, and Moreland ignored the transmission despite Iona's concerns and executed the jump. Just as the ship jumped, Iona realized that the message was a warning of significant astrogation hazards present in the sector. A moment later, the ship was hit by bursts of energy and dropped out of slipspace, crashing on a desolate moon, which was also the site of the Forerunner Line Installation 1-4.
The ONI crew was killed in the crash, and the ship was damaged beyond repair. Iona awakened Team Black, who moved on to explore the moon, with Black-Two staying behind to send a distress signal to Fleet Command through a Slipbeacon. Coincidentally, the Covenant Assault Carrier Clarity of Faith had also crashed on the moon under similar circumstances. This led to the Battle of Line Installation 1-4 as 686 Ebullient Prism, the monitor of the installation, captured people from both sides, forcing Team Black and the Covenant forces to form an uneasy, and short-lived, alliance.
- ↑ The Battle of Verge, which took place concurrently with the Battle of Tribute, had already taken place at this point, as evidenced by remarks by Team Black in Issue 1. Additionally, according to Fred Van Lente, the events of Blood Line take place before the fall of Reach on August 30th, thus narrowing the possible timeframe of the events of Line Installation 04 to August 2552.