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Fan Fiction

Guerilla by Mainevent

Guerilla: Mr. Sandman
Date: 22 June 2004, 6:20 AM

He lied motionlessly in his tomb, awaiting the time when he should be resurrected.

      The ghost whined over the sandy floor of Rune. The three luminescent vehicles gliding endlessly in search of someone they'd never seen. "The Green Devil," they called him. None of the Elites on the patrol had seen him, but they knew. They had heard. The stories of the artifact Halo; the defeat soon-after.
      The first of six recon ghosts came to a rest at a small oasis. Lush greenery flourished miraculously in the lethal heat. Constant sunlight beat heavily down on the ground; shimmers of heat rolled into the atmosphere. Water from an underground spring bubbled up into the small pond.
      "We will rest here momentarily. Then we must continue our search. Refill your water-sacks and eat if you must. There will be not one more stop until we find him." 'Rola Zakamee clacked menacingly.
      He had only been a field commander for a week, but his ego stretched that into years. To him, he was the most tactful strategist to ever graduate the Citadel. He reminisced. The most sacred of all schools, the Citadel was tucked away at the heart of High Charity. Foremost producer of the leading military minds for the Covenant, it was an indispensable asset.
      His minors grumbled, not with dissent, but with a lack of hope. They had been scowering the desert on this forsaken planet for six cycles already. The recon team was tired, hot, and extremely irritable. Field commander or not, if 'Zuka rubbed them the right way, he may just have an accident.
      The field commander removed a pair of sense-heighteners from a small pouch. He hefted the device to his eye-slits and combed the area. Sense-heighteners were ovular metal cylinders. Their luminescent purple metal was the same as every other Covenant device. There were two holes for eyes, and a long thin slit for the sensors opposite.
      The thin laser meticulously searched every square inch of ground, looking for anything suspicious. It was too hot for thermal differences to register; he switched it to ground differential. Three large black squares appeared, highlighting the sandy patches inside. 'Zuka was curious.
      He searched higher, and came to rest on a rock formation. Five large stone pillars arranged like a hand, with the thumb and forefinger collapsed onto each other. Time? Or for a reason? he wondered quietly. A shimmer. He zoomed in on it. The glint of sunlight reflecting off of metal.
      The device outlined the object. It appeared to be a forearm, and fingers. A rock obscured most of it, but had revealed enough. 'Zuka parted his mandibles in a triumphant grin. They had finally found the Green Devil, and it was apparently resting.
      A thick thwap echoed off of the several scattered trees, followed by a roar. 'Zuka pivoted 180 degrees instantly. A large hole had revealed itself, and the four other Elites were staring into it. One tightented its fist in anger. 'Zuka approached cautiously.
      At first glance he missed the body inside. His eyes first directed to the plasma sword humming ominously three units down. The hole itself was six units deep, and bristling with sharp carved spikes. How could I not have seen this? He was answered as the wind blew several fallen elephant leaves off of the tree stumps they were covering.
      Definitely the Green Devil's doing. He would pay severely. 'Zuka glanced back; the arm hadn't moved. It must not have heard the roar from so far away. He nodded in approval to his theory. He had barely even heard the roar from where he was over the whipping of wind.
      "You three, board your Ghosts and flank around those rocks; but wait until I give this signal." 'Zuka ordered as he held up his forearm, and wrapped his four fingers together in an alien fist. "Meanwhile, you two will come with me, and catch the Green Devil off-guard."
      The Elites nodded, and moved out. He hoped the hover-bikes' engines wouldn't disturb him, he wanted the creature as disoriented as possible. Not having seen the creature himself, he had heard the rumors many times before. This time though, he would die. He had specific orders to kill; they'd tried to capture him before. Unsuccessfully.
      Two Elites raced up on both sides of 'Zuka, and stopped short of turning the corner. 'Zuka motioned to the hand, and then made a grabbing motion. They understood. He would grab the exposed forearm, and they would jump him then.
      Three, two, one. Go!
      He dove to the ground behind the rock, and yanked the arm as forcefully as possible backwards. It gave way easily. Too easily. He looked at his prize, it was a severed forerm; an Elites! There was a small mettalic circle attached to the end. The thump of an axplosion reached him before the blast; which pushed the gigantic boulder down onto his surprised back.
      It broke his shields instantly, and crushed his skeletal structure. He breathed heavily as the sand piled up around him. The two bodies of his comrades were strewn in pieces around him. A head, blood, pieces of flesh. A trap, 'Zuka realized all to late. The three Ghosts throttled forward single-file to cautiously see what had happened.
      The grit burned his eyes, but he didn't blink. He watched in disbelief as the sand rose up violently. The shine of sunlight off the jade-green surface sparkled in his eyes. The Green Devil rose up from beneath the sands, and yanked the third driver forcefully from his Ghost. He kicked the vehicles rear hard, sending it in a tailspin that clipped the second Ghost.
      There was a silent snap of bone, and the Green Devil faded away. 'Zuka blinked. His vision was cleared. The Ghost he had damaged with the third vehicle jerked violently as the tail of the third slammed into his plasma cannons. They were useless. He blinked again.
      The last undamaged Ghost, the first one, turned to fire. Six light-blue shards of energy pierced the Elite driver's skull, and it toppled helplessly to the ground. Its Ghost quietly settled down beside its late owner. The Green Devil held a plasma carbine in its vile claws. Another blink.
      The second Ghost's pilot jumped down angrily, and took the standard fighting stance. The Devil pulled the carbine's barrel up to face him, but it was quickly knocked away. 'Zuka smiled. The Elite launched a sloppy anger-driven punch that was countered easily. The green menace ducked, grabbed the Elite's forearm, and snapped it over its back. A quick follow-up landed in its mid-section, crushing the various abdominal muscles and organs.
      'Zuka spat up blood, and blinked once more. The Green Devil hopped onto the abandoned Ghost. It hovered majestically above the sand. Blue-green orbs of plasma jolted into the last Elite's body, sending it shuttering to the ground near pock-marked puddles of molent glass.
      The Green Devils golden eyes turned to face him once, before he turned away and glided off. 'Zuka couldn't inhale. He tried, but he couldn't. The world closed in on him. He sucked as hard as he could, but no air entered his lungs. An invisible wall seemed to build itself in his throat.
      He lowered his head solemnly into the sand, and closed his eyes. The Green Devil flashed into his mind one last time, before the darnkess overtook him.

      The Chief watched the dunes rise and fall like waves in front of him. He brushed the encounter behind him. Cortana chimed rhytmically in.
      "I detect a downed CCS capital ship three hundred kilometers ahead. But it should be extremely fortified, and almost impossible to access."
      "Don't worry." He answered with a calm that was more unsettling than reassuring.
      "I hope you have a plan." She replied dryly.
      "I do." The standard answer from him. It was useless trying to change him she thought to herself.
      "Would you like to tell me?"
      "I'm going to get there, I'm going to get in their ship, and I'm going to kill them." She wasn't shocked, but amused. Cortana had never thought he really was THAT suicidal. She'd just have to wait to see.

Guerilla: Just Another Tree Hugger
Date: 24 October 2004, 10:11 PM

      "Patrol!" The menacingly harsh voice boomed over the communicator nestled loosely in Shayap's lap. The tiny grunt's eyes jerked open in panic. He quickly depressed the response button and answered meekly.
      "Yes Ship Command?"
      He breathed an un-transmitted sigh of relief that he hadn't been caught. It was the second time in six rotations he'd fallen asleep on watch. The first time he'd only woken up several seconds before his watch commander came to see why he hadn't answered his communicator.
      "Is there anything to report?" The gruff voice on the other end of the transmission rasped.
      "No, no sir. Everything is clear." Shayap's eyes quickly scanned his periphery. Nothing overtly menacing stood out, which was good enough for him should something official occur.
      "We have lost communication from a reconnaissance team. A nearby relay station has also gone offline. Keep a close eye out for anything."
      Shayap's response was voided as the transmission ended abruptly. He wouldn't have to report in for another cycle or two, and lowered his head to return to his nap. Besides, he thought to himself, that relay station was a good ten kilometers away and on the other side the ravine they were huddled between. Whatever it was would have no need to circle all the way around to him to get to the ship. With that his eyes closed and he drifted asleep to the rhythm of his methane re-breather.

      "Watch seven reports all clear Ship Master. It is most likely the weather interrupting our transmissions," Ship Mate Orga 'Eslemae proposed.
      "That is a possibility. Scans do indicate a massive sandstorm where our reconnaissance team was heading. The relay station, and their communications, were likely disrupted by the atmospheric interference. Stand down the security alert, and send a team to repair the relay station as soon as possible," Ship Marshal Trashdagar grunted in the thick, slow speech common of Brutes.
      "I will dispatch one immediately sir."
      Trashdagar wasn't settled though. He wasn't at all happy with his own decision, but it was the most likely scenario possible. After all, there was little to no human military presence on this planet. The scattered remnants of their lost battle overhead, but nothing large enough to wipe out six ghosts and a relay station without being detected by the Redemption's Sorrow's sensor arrays. Though he had to admit; if the sandstorm was large enough to knock out communications, and human forces would have an extremely difficult time managing an attack. He knocked the thoughts around in his head, but ultimately decided that the valley offered enough protection for the time being. His decision would stay.

      The ship went blurry before clearing as he zoomed in on the gigantic destroyer looming in the distance. Its purple luminescence sparkled under the heavy sun, and the blue column of its gravity lift made it seem somewhat like a gargantuan mushroom. His thickly padded gloves shielded his hands from the thick green thorns his prone body was camouflaged under. The bristling criss-crossing pattern did an excellent job of breaking up the hard lines and jagged edges of his armor.
      It was strange though. There were hardly any troops stationed below the ship. A small ten or twenty tent camp was set up in a circular perimeter along the circumference of the gravity lift; compared to the normal full camp that most orbiting ships deployed. That made the approach both easier and more difficult. Easier in that there would be far fewer enemies between him and the ship, but harder in that should he be seen before getting into the ship there would be a massive welcoming party awaiting his arrival.
      "I have a plan," the A.I. chimed in; her voice computerized yet so very human in its own right.
      "Will it work?" the Spartan asked dryly, still assessing his situation. Less than thirty six hours ago he'd been running standard maintenance on his suit and enjoying one of the few hot meals he could get. That was before the Covenant arrived. Before he abandoned ship, and before he annihilated an entire Covenant reconnaissance team in the desert.
      "Yes. But only if..." She stopped herself. To tell John what he'd need to do was bordering on repetitive, and somewhat hurtful she believed. This bred-for-war soldier couldn't possibly need some silly A.I.'s help in making a command decision. After all, he'd just killed six special operations Elites in cold blood.
      "If we have a way in that is. My plan only works once we're inside of the ship and I can interface with the core system."
      "We're not going in," he replied. "And what if there was another one?"
      That startled both of them. Somewhat more Cortana, who silently berated herself for not taking that possibility into consideration. Another Covenant A.I. was very possible, but also ultimately insignificant. After her rendezvous with the Ascendant Justice's broken A.I., she'd formulated a brutally effective search and destroy code should she meet one again. Chances were that the Covenant used the same A.I. on every ship. As its horribly mutated structure, spawned from the worst copying algorithms she'd ever seen, indicated extreme duplication in an effort to mass produce them for fleet-wide use.
      "That's a non-issue at this point. Once we're inside I can more fully assess the situation."
      His response was silence. She wasn't sure if he disagreed with her, or if it just didn't matter to him. Her "mind" wandered over every detail of their history. And now it seemed that she finally realized exactly how efficient a killing machine he truly was. In almost every combat (and several non-combat) encounter he'd ever been in he was statistically outmatched 12.86: 1. She double-checked her calculations. Interesting. They came back different: 12.88. A point-oh-two error was extremely small, yet also extremely significant for her. In slip space, that mistake could have caused an entire ship crew its life.
      John rolled out of the thicket and back into the dense forest foliage. He was partially hidden inside of a rotting stump; the cold blue-green metal of his recently acquired Plasma Rifle glinted faintly through the trees. A small, orange ball stood out like a flare in the dark browns and greens of the forest. The grunt was obviously a lookout, but an extremely poor one at that. The creature was sound asleep; only the rhythmic hum of some alien device and the shallow bob of its head acknowledged life. John squinted uselessly through his visor.
      Cortana pondered asking why he'd stopped instead of easily killing the creature. But that would show that she didn't trust his command and decision-making capability, which could seriously hurt his performance in the future. An insecure Spartan was the last thing she needed during battle. So she watched silently as John stalked around behind the enemy as it slept, never knowing how lucky and close to death the miniscule soldier had been. She waited until he was safely out of distance before she spoke.
       "That was a first."
      "It was a lookout. An early warning is the last thing we need."
      Streamlined green and black armor slid feet first down the valley's sloping sides. Dirt and leaves ruffled and obscured the path behind him before the Spartan came to a skidding halt at the base of a tree. His BPM monitor was steady; his heart beat hadn't changed a bit. He stood up and began a sprint before sliding into another trip down the hillside.
      "This isn't very efficient." Cortana screamed into his ear.
      "I know," John grunted as he rolled to avoid a massive oak, "but it makes our approach much harder to spot." And it's fun, he didn't add. It didn't fit his leader demeanor in the least, but at heart he was still the six year old Halsey had found on the playground. That warm, sunny day that changed his and everyone he'd ever met's life forever.
      "Beginning insertion."
      Cortana radio up linked with the small transmitter John had attached to the captured Ghost. She could remotely pilot the vehicle anywhere within a six kilometer radius. She received the signal lock and could "feel" its computer systems activating. Her systems also acknowledged the remote detonator attached to twenty pounds of C-12 piggybacked on the hover-cycle.
      The Spartan came to a halt at the edge of the forest; roughly four hundred yards from the gravity lift. His enhanced vision spotted the incoming Covenant craft. It screamed past the two surprised Wraiths at the head of the Valley and was under almost immediate pursuit from three other Ghosts. A thick blue stream plumed from the back as it boosted towards its final destination. Trails of plasma raced to catch it.
      Surprised Elites and Jackals took pock shots that boiled away at the strange alien armor. Cortana slowed the vehicle onto the gravity lift and turned it to face its attackers. Plasma bolts ejected from the double cannons attached to the front like tear drops. The three pursuing Ghosts dropped back and continued to fire at it from a distance. Their fire ceased as the gigantic beam caught the relatively tiny ship in its grasp and hauled it into its belly.

      "Fools! They think they can honestly fight there way through an entire ship! We will show them the error of their ways," cried Field Master Okuga 'Kalemee.
      Security details throughout the ship hurried towards the main cargo bay. Growls, chirps, and barks rolled through the shimmering halls as Covenant after Covenant hurried raced towards the action. Unfortunately Okuga's group would be one of the last to arrive. They turned corridor after corridor, hall after hall, before arriving.
      He exited into the cavernous three-story vehicle and cargo bay. There were overturned supply crates and weapon charging terminals everywhere. Each with two or three eager soldiers hiding behind them. The static buzz of plasma pistols charging was a welcomed one, and the bright green balls of superheated matter all pointed in one direction.
      The circular iris opened almost silently. The shimmering purple beam carried a single ghost into the pit. Nobody fired; the plasma would have been caught by the gravity beam and sent straight into the main reactor room. They were forced to wait until it landed to ravage these moronic humans. The Ghost, however, began firing wildly. Fortunately the beam deactivated almost immediately, dropping it squarely into the hundreds of troops surrounding it.
      Okuga parted his mandibles in confusion. There was no one piloting the Ghost. He spotted a large white clump placed where the driver should have been. Atop it was a blinking red light; he instantly recognized it. He turned to dive for the door but was too late. The blast sent an enormous high-pressure heat wave outwards. A mushroom cloud billowed to the ceiling before flattening out and scorching the higher stories.
      Methane packs erupted into grenade-sized fireballs across the deck. Ghosts, Wraiths, and Banshees reactor cores exploded violently; turning into giant fragmentation grenades as jagged pieces of armor pinged across the room. Crates of plasma grenades caught in the blast activated; resulting in smaller explosions nearly as powerful as the first. Elites' shields quickly failed, and their metallic armor boiled underneath. Skin was instantly roasted off of Jackals, Grunts, and Brutes as the heat sizzled through to the bone.
      Okuga roared as his armor turned bright orange and boiled. He could feel his skin melting away underneath. A severed arm flew into his face and knocked him onto his back. Deep inhales were useless as the oxygen was instantly engulfed by the fire. His hands grasped his throat futilely before the razor-sharp, meter long sliver of armor came down like a guillotine onto his exposed neck. His head rolled quietly to the side, and the blood spurting from his neck boiled instantaneously.

      He watched the Ghost disappear into the belly of the beast. It brought back memories of his own similar insertion into the Truth and Reconcilliation. His mind played back the ambush that awaited them, and the close call his team barely escaped from. The thought of hundreds of Covenant viciously awaiting his arrival paralleled the malicious grin that crossed his lips. The gravity beam disappeared as the ship's bay doors closed; the package had been delivered.
      "Detonating in three, two, one," Cortana added a useless timer to John's HUD, but she didn't figure he would mind.
      A tremendous rumble echoed through the ravine. The several kilometer long ship rocked slightly and its shields flared and dimmed. The bay doors transformed from a dark gray to dull orange from the tremendous heat. John could only imagine the hell that was the inside of that ship. But he didn't have time to dwell. At the base of the gravity lift the several dozen Elites and Jackals at the base camp were all staring intently at the mayhem above.
      John sprinted for the small group of aircraft huddled to the side. All Banshee's, which meant he'd have to rely on his ninety minute reserves in the vacuum of space, but he'd already worked a plan for that out in his head. He traversed the four hundred yards in four point three seconds. The hatch of the aerial glider hissed open and his fingers danced across the controls. The control yoke unlocked and the small pods attached to the end of the stubby wings whirred to life.
      The Mjolnir's shields flared as a group of Elites finally noticed him. He glanced quickly back, tossed three plasma grenades into the tightly packed group of vehicles, and throttled forward. The Banshee jerked into the air with the canopy still open, and the Master Chief hoped the thin harness would hold him. The grenades static-riddled explosion sent the now severely damaged aircraft spiraling in different directions. He struggled to keep the aircraft steady as he fidgeted with one arm to secure the craft. His finger slipped over the moist metal before finally catching hold and pulling the hatch down. He exhaled deeply and stared at the vast blue sky in front of him.
      An already very long day was only going to get longer.

Guerilla: I Think I Stepped In Something
Date: 4 November 2004, 1:56 AM

      The debris glistened ominously in the planet's atmosphere. Small and large pieces of ships succumbed to the planet's gravity. They spiraled weightlessly in the darkness before slowly accelerating "down" and turning into a bright red fireball. The Banshee hovered silently between ragged and shorn bulkheads and the endless sea of corpses; most of which were unrecognizable from the explosive decompression. John wordlessly mourned the fallen as his eyes moved from one mangled body to the next. The emotions growing inside of him he was trained to suppress, but he wasn't sure if he could effectively control his seething rage.
      Cortana watched the adrenaline spike, blood pressure increase, and heart beat monitors with cautious interest. She'd long ago learned that he was at his prime when agitated, but too much anger led to stupid and rash mistakes. She ran a diagnostic of the Banshee's control subsystems. She copied one of her own flight control routines into it, so that she could pilot the vehicle remotely if necessary. Even with his enhanced reaction times, she was still infinitely faster.
      "How long?" the hint of bitterness tinged in his voice.
      "They've been on us for about thirty seconds. Reading ten Seraphs approaching from starboard at six hundred fifty kilometers an hour."
      The Banshee was ill-suited for space combat. Indeed, it was specifically designed for ground support under normal gravity. On top of which, it was relatively small, less armored, and carried weaker weapons that its "big brother". Even as he pushed the throttle to max it seemed to putter along compared the Seraph. It was immediately apparent that they'd have to come up with a plan quickly. Radar-like monitors hissed warnings, but they didn't tell him anything he didn't already know.
      "Three hundred meters and closing. Do something!" Cortana shrieked.
      The Banshee rolled to the right suddenly, barely avoiding a barrage of plasma that pock-marked an isolated and detached air-lock. Cortana monitored the maneuverability of the Seraphs and was immediately awed. Even as large as they were they still maintained the Banshee's full capabilities. John jerked the control yoke, sending the glider hurtling over the top of a deck and flying with the large shorn hull "above" him. The pursuers swarmed similarly over; firing wildly as they did so.
      "We're not going to last long," he grunted as he dove between a narrow gap. The Seraphs broke off and hurtled deftly down the side. Cockpit monitors showed them briefly every few seconds as a gap in the metal appeared.
      "This'll be tricky, but you can do it."
      "It better be fast, our road's ending," He nodded uselessly to the end of the small "tunnel" the Banshee struggled haphazardly through.

      The blasphemous waste of a human was a skilled pilot, Agale 'Eslemee gave it that much credit. But the Gods had sealed its fate by giving it the pathetically outmatched Banshee. The miniscule glider was no competition against his far superior Seraph. Further, this human was flying against the Holy Light's Mercy detachment; indisputably the best squadron of pilots in the Holy Ones' service. The Mercy detachment was merciless and spared no one they encountered.
      Purple glare disappeared suddenly as it dissolved into a narrow gap; too narrow. His men instinctively pulled up and skimmed the surface of the small tunnel. Until now his adversary had surprised him, but the last move was final. There was only one exit, and he sped up to reach it first. Every several seconds he looked down and saw the Banshee through small slits in the metal framework.
      At the end of the tunnel he slowed, and came to a complete stop. His wingmen circled like barracuda around the exit. Plasma streamed from the opening as the tiny ship attempted to plow its way to freedom. Swirls of metallic shards glittered in its wake before green roils plumed off of the canopy. The cockpit bubbled and sparked before the entire ship erupted into a bright-blue tinged fireball. If his enemy hadn't been such a vile and despicable creature he would have mourned the loss of such a marvelous pilot, but as it was he felt no pity for such a soulless wretch.
      "Flight Master, shall we return to the ship?" His second in command asked over the radio.
      "Yes, return to the ship immediately. The Holy One will most definitely wish to speak with us about our great deed."
      Agale couldn't help but gloat a bit. After all, his squadron had managed to do something countless others had failed to; all by killing one measly human. He shook his head wondering how hard it could be to eliminate one simple soldier. He'd seen them on the holo-vids; they didn't look nearly as tough as the Elites or Brutes they were fighting. A warning light flickered bright-purple in his face. The sound of vacuum rushed to his ears.
      "Akuga, what is the malfunction?" Agale asked quickly.
      "Nothing Flight Master, a malfunction in the canopy lock system. I will try to repair it, but we should return to the ship at once."
      He agreed, and though the vacuum wouldn't effect the pilot or co-pilot in the least, he was extremely superstitious. The ship sped forward carefully navigating the pieces of human and covenant ships spread unevenly around him. Though he suddenly felt an odd drowsiness overcome him. He shook his head attempting to ward it off. His eyes became heavy, and he turned to see if his co-pilot was having similar problems. Time seemed slow as he faced the rear seat. It took several moments before his mind processed what his eyes saw; a dirty, green-armored trespasser. His claws reached for the plasma pistol standard for all pilots.
      It was an overtly futile effort. Agale put up little resistance as he was unstrapped and unmasked. His lungs filled suddenly with nothing. His slurred screams went unheard as he watched his own Seraph glide away without him. Watching it take his life with it.

      "My plan worked, as always; but I will say the way you handled the Seraph itself was stunning."
       Cortana was surprised he had come up with such a marvelously simple, yet effective, plan. By replacing his carbon dioxide stores for their oxygen reserves, he extended his life support systems one hundred percent while simultaneously incapacitating his victims. She assumed their last moments were a hazy, drowsy blur. An unfittingly painless death for any Covenant.
      "Is that ship our only option?" his question completely ignored her praise; a tendency that somewhat irked her.
      "Yes, that is our only option. Unless you want to suddenly break off from the formation, attempt to outrun a CCS battleship, and-"
      "I get it. And when they talk to us?"
      "You can ignore them, or I can synthesize a static burst transmission to give the impression we're having difficulties communicating."
      "Just get me in."
      The teardrop shaped fighter surged ahead and rejoined the collective. The enormous battleship sparkled pristinely in the void. Purple aura radiated off of its luminescent hull as scattered spheres of white checkered along the midsection. Bright red and blue clusters quickly reminded him of the extreme danger the looming beast posed. If the plan failed those pulse lasers would rip through the Seraph without hesitation.
      "Flight Master 'Eslemee," the communicator hissed, " you are to land in chamber four for maintenance scans and your Holy Deed Report."
      The Seraph swooped smoothly into the docking shaft waiting for it, and John wondered how this would play out. Unfortunately for his plans the Covenant had stranger docking procedures than humans. He took a quick inventory in his head: three grenades, a half-charged plasma rifle, and two pounds of C-12 in a small brown pouch cradled against his waist.

      Brja Leokc was a rare sight in the Mercy detachment. An extremely skilled pilot, Brja was promoted to the prestigious squadron quickly. But what made him rare was that he was a Jackal in an almost exclusively Elite niche of the military. He'd ruthlessly silenced his tormentors by racking up the second highest kill ratio in the fleet, and that was second only to Agale 'Eslemee himself. Thirty three humans he'd watch die in flames or in the cold vacuum of space; and every time he'd relished in the infidels' deaths.
      He strode to Agale's Seraph with pride. Today's kill was thirty four, and he loved to gloat. His bony hand clasped the canopy lock and turned. He smiled while listening to the hiss of decompression. But something wasn't right; his extremely keen eyes darted to the bristling green armor instantly. An instant too late. Plasma riddled his thin and sparsely armored body forcefully. Each bolt was an uppercut that knocked him several feet back.
      Shaky squawks of panic gurgled through his collapsing, blood filled lungs. His foot slipped awkwardly off of the edge of the level he was on, and his bird-like body plummeted four stories to the cold, metal floor. Several curious Grunts and Elites rushed to see what had happened, and stared up to the Seraph pads. The eerie tink, tink of metal on metal echoed from above as the beige fragmentation grenade rolled into freefall. Several Elites dove for cover, but most of the shocked Grunts and Jackals were caught directly in the blast. Small, metallic shards penetrated their flesh as the explosive force knocked them several meters back.

      "There goes our surprise," Cortana informed him bluntly.
      "It wouldn't have lasted long. That should at least keep busy in the bay for a while."
      "If you say so. Take a right."
      "Where are we going?"
      "This ship's schematics have something interesting located just ahead.
      "And that is?"
      "Turn in here. This door."
      Spartan-117 turned to enter the unusually large, extremely ornate doors. They blinked from light-blue to red several times. John kneeled down and watched both directions, but found nothing. Cortana worked silently to bypass and unlock the entryway. A three-tone beep told him what she didn't have to. He scanned the curiously sparse hallway once more before turning to enter the dimly lit chamber. His eyes widened partially and his pulse rose several beats. Two hundred golden-armored Elites all stood uniformly in two rows; all staring viciously at him.
      "What was the name of this room?" he asked with the unusual hint of fear in his voice.
      "Grand Prophet's Chamber," Cortana replied shyly, "You might want to-"
      He back peddled reflexively through the automated doors. Cortana tried diligently to lock them back again, but found it much easier to unlock the doors than to lock them back. To unlock them she'd destroyed their original code source. She quickly created a sloppy "lock" code and inserted into the door's operations node in the mainframe. The periphery flashed bright red again, signaling the lock.
      "I don't know how long that'll hold," she said as an indirect urge to run.
      John turned to his left and found six Elites carrying plasma swords. He glanced to his right and found another four Elites, but these were armed with carbine weapons. The same bone-rattling three-tone beep echoed through his brain as the doors before him parted.
      No answer.
      "Cortana! .
      "I, I don't know what I can do. Wait..."
      The Elite in the doorway leapt at him. He ducked backwards and slammed the beast down with his fists. The rest in the hall began charging. The lights flickered and died, leaving only the bright-blue flare of plasma visible. Night-vision kicked on instantly inside of his helmet, and John rolled into the Prophet's Chambers. He watched the confused Elites in the hallway begin fighting the first body they encountered, foolishly mistaking it for their enemy's in the dark. Plasma bolts answered quick swipes from swords as several of the Elites fell instantly. The Master Chief's eyes scanned the room quickly and he began a sprint toward the large central dais.
      An Elite stepped into his path, and he shoulder charged him. Both of their shields flared, but the Elite tumbled unevenly into the rows of other High Guard. He half leapt up the stairs, and reached the top of the dais easily. His suit jerked under him as he was pulled upwards by another gravity lift; this time into a much smaller room.
      The streamlined green armor ascended into the lavishly decorated personal chamber of the instantly recognizable Prophet; to either side of whom were three flamboyantly armored Brutes. Their guns were automatically on him- a trained response. Fortunately they didn't fire, but John wasn't sure if that was good or bad just yet.
      "Welcome," his scratchy voice said pleasantly, "we have much to talk about."

Guerilla: Could you say that again?
Date: 28 December 2004, 5:43 AM

      "Welcome," his scratchy voice said in a surprisingly pleasant tone, "we have much to talk about."

      "Any suggestions?"
      "Hear him out. At least stall him long enough for me to root through subsystems for something to work with."
      The extremely uneasy Spartan continued to sit quietly before the Prophet. A sly grin was drawn across its wrinkled brown face, and it was loving every second of the awkwardness. Sitting before the Prophet of Brotherhood was the "Demon". John mused to himself the thought of leaping onto the frail, bony creature's chair and ripping its throat out. That would've been suicide, but it was amusing nonetheless.
      "I'm listening," he said where the creature could hear him.
      "I'm not one to tarry around a subject, and as such I'll be brief. All is not well with the Covenant."
      The Brutes guarding the Prophet all stared confusedly at each other, their stained, yellow teeth showing through snarling lips. This news was as much a surprise, apparently, to them as it was to John. But they said nothing, and continued to watch the "Demon" intently.
      "A storm has been long brewing amongst the Council members; a storm that threatens to tear everything the Covenant have worked for apart at the seams. And I am very afraid that storm has arrived."
      As he spoke there was a startling thrum of sensors as the gravity lift reactivated. The familiar purple glow columned to the roof for several seconds, but nothing emerged. It deactivated with a distorted shudder and pop as the energy supply faded..
      "The Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Regret have long been planning for this war, and I believe they are the very reason behind it. The brothers are responsible for several recent assassinations, of that I am sure. I am also incapable of doing anything but watching idly as they plot our demise. For that, I have come to you for help."
      "This, your excellency," one of the Brutes began, "is heresy! You will be tried for treason for what you have said here today, and I for one will not allow you to bargain with this heretic!"
      It's guttural growls were fierce and riddled with anger, but they were short lived as the ominous sizzle of plasma swords buzzed from behind the Brute guards. The two guards adjourning the center Brute fell quickly to their knees. Pools of dark blood oozed slowly from the massive cuts down their spines. A brute shot fired through dead fingers, bouncing uselessly into a corner and erupting into a miniature ball of fire.
      John saw them now; the three cloaked Elites who'd apparently arrived on the grav-lift. How had he not seen them earlier? He quietly berated himself for such a blunder. Was his age finally getting to him? No time to dwell on that now. The center Brute struggled fiercely against his foes. His massive curved blade caught a surprised Elite in the face, slicing his mandibles cleanly off. Dual plasma swords arced down brutally, into pieces of metal and bone, before the creature finally ceased moving. Oddly, the Prophet hadn't flinched during the entire ordeal.
This Prophet's got balls, John thought to himself as the two sat directly across from each other in the empty room. An intent glare bypassed the thick, reflective face mask of the Mjolnir armor, and chilled the Spartan to the core.
      A purple crescent-shaped reflection slid across the glass-like metal as the Prophet moved to a nearby wall. He slowly raised a single, bony gray hand to a projection. It was a projection of Earth. Its crystal lakes and dark blue oceans were encompassed by large patches of dark green and grays. Floating silently above it all were the thick, white cumulus clouds that patrolled like sentinels around the sphere.
      "Your home world is captivatingly beautiful. It is quite shameful that the Council has decided to send its full fleet on her. The broken and battered resistance your armies will amass cannot stop the might of the Covenant crusade. Not for lack of will, but for lack of power. After tonight I will be branded a heretic and hunted by my people."
      He pointed to one of the hundred battle-clusters orbiting Earth. The alien dialect scrolling above it was foreign to him, but Cortana translated it instantly: Cairo Station. The massive orbital super-MAC platform was a formidable opponent, but it was only one of a hundred. The Covenant fleets that would descend on Earth would be five times that number, and with their enhanced slip-space capabilities, it was almost impossible to catch them before it was too late.
      "If you're not going to kill me then I'm going to stop them," John said as he began standing up.
      The snarl of plasma swords accompanied his movement, but the Prophet quieted them quickly. John moved slowly towards the gravity lift, and surprisingly it activated before him.
      "You would sacrifice your race for lack of patience?"
      John stopped cold at the question. Was he actually about to abandon this singular proposition for peace? He knew that Earth would fall should the Covenant come, and he'd almost balked at an offer of help. His head turned slowly so that he could see the Pride of the Covenant. Such an insignificant and brittle creature to lead such a formidable opponent; although, humanity must have appeared the same through their eyes.
      "What exactly are you offering?"
      "I'm offering my meager fleet of thirty four. Although I believe there are others who will follow my cause should the time come."
      "And in return?"
      "In return, you allow us unrestricted access to the holy ruins on your planet."
      "What holy ruins?"
      Cortana hummed curiously into his helmet. She cross referenced known subterranean ONI and military bases with the location of the Forerunner facility found on Reach: fifty matches. She used geological ground surveys to check what type of bedrock the facilities were located on, and their relative location to ancient aquifers: six matches. Her logistics subroutine kicked in, and pointed to three main locations; the various Indian ruins located on South America, Central America, and Egypt. The technology used in Incan and Aztec pyramids seemed to shadow further technological advancement than their Egyptian counterparts, meaning that the area around Egypt would be the most likely place to find a Forerunner artifact. Unfortunately, the bedrock and soil conditions around Egypt didn't match, and wouldn't match for half a continent. The closest viable place to the Egyptian site was the ONI instillation at New Mombassa. If the Forerunner ruins were in fact located under yet another ONI base, she could easily rule out coincidence. There was something ONI was hiding; something that began this war.
      "In due time. For now, you must return to your planet and make this proposition to your leaders. We wouldn't want any, misunderstanding, would we?"
      "No," John responded warily, "we wouldn't."
      Misunderstanding? Why would there be a misunderstanding? The deal was either on or off, there couldn't be a simpler plan, John's lips wrinkled into the closest thing he had to a frown.
      "How will you know if they accept?" He asked calmly.
      "We will position ourselves around your dead planet, the one from which you escaped previously. Before the sacrilege of the holy artifact. There, you will meet with our fleets, and negotiate the terms of our truce. I urge you be most haste in your return, I cannot tell how much longer the Council will stall their attack."
      "I'll need a ship."
      "It has been arranged. As a token of our hopes for peace, I have arranged for my most trusted leader to escort you to your planet."
      John stepped silently onto the gravity lift; the white-armor clad Elite directly beside him. There was an expectedly awkward silence as the two foes were forced to peace. The memories of the Spartans who died on Reach floated back into his thoughts. He was taught to suppress his emotions, but at times it was so very hard. Ika 'Aslumee was also deep in thought, that of his comrades who died on the great artifact. How he wished he had been there to stop its destruction; at the hands of the very person he was now sworn to protect. The Grand Prophet's Chamber was still densely packed with Elites. All snarled or watched intently as a seething anger filled the room with tension.
      "Well, this is very..."
      "I know Cortana,"
      "Do you trust him?"
      "You're actually asking?"
      "Just making sure you hadn't gone soft on me."
      "Don't you have nav-routes to plot?"
       The Chief emerged into the very bay he'd arrived in. The body of the Jackal had been removed, but the thick pool of blood remained. The air was thinner here, he could smell the difference through his mask. It had the metallic odor of space dust mixed with...something. It was odd, but noticeably there. On the center level was a small craft, comparable to a Prowler or Corvette class cruiser. Built for speed and silence, and sparsely armed. This trip would be awkward, and the reception at Earth decidedly more-so.

Guerilla: The Truce Shall Set You Free... Or Something
Date: 3 January 2005, 2:46 AM

      The covenant cockpit was unpleasantly small for two seven foot something behemoths. John was tired of the luminescent purples that seemed to glitter over every Covenant surface. Though he wished there was more luminescent purple and less fiery Elite in the ship at the moment. The milky white armor thrummed of energy shields and life support.
      Cortana snatched the controls from the Elites powerful grip wordlessly. It's mandibles parted in obvious shock and confusion, and its cold eyes peered into the Chief. He shrugged silently and took a seat in the form-fitting gel cushions that served as seats. They were surprisingly comfortable, but John didn't dare let his guard down.
      The ship slid fluidly into the eerie void, heading for Earth. The irony of the situation was startling. Only months earlier, breaking Cole Protocol would result in automatic court-martial and arrest; and now John was willingly leading an Elite to Earth. Though that particular article seemed useless now; the damnable beasts were close to attacking Earth's doorstep. The Prophet of Brotherhood seemed to good to be true, and that unnerved Cortana and Master Chief immensely. But what other choice did they have?
      If there were ever an awkward silence, it seemed Cortana was more than ready to break it. She portrayed herself in hologram form on a small pedestal between the two armored titans. Her "skin" was green, an odd neon green- the same color she'd had while on Halo.
      "Tell me about the Great Journey Ika," she ordered calmly.
      "You vile specimen! Speak not of the sacred pilgrimage!"
      She'd hit a nerve. John tensed uneasily in his seat. His hand naturally balled into a tight green-armored fist.
      "Calm down," John said with obvious tension, "let's not do anything stupid."
      "I'm sorry for offending you. I merely wished to understand your religious practices. So that I may be further enlightened to your wisdom."
      "There is nothing for you to know. The Great Journey will cleanse the universe of the impure and blasphemous. The Jiralhanae and Kig-yar care nothing of our plight, and the Yanme'e know nothing besides eat and kill. We give them a gun and point them away from us, and they go willingly to their deaths. Even the Unggoy are more respectable creatures than the new Covenant. We have become impure, and the Great Journey is our only hope."
      So there was an honest rivalry between the Covenant; that much Brotherhood had not lied about.
      "What ruins are there on Earth?" John's questions were less tactful, but no less important.
      "I know not the specifics of what the great Prophet Brotherhood searches for, only that it shall be our salvation. I have overheard him speak, in his private quarters, of an Ark. He believes it to be a ship that shall carry us on our Journey."
      "A ship," Cortana began through John's comm. channel, "on Earth?"
      "You, Demon, are not the monster Truth portrayed you as. You seem strong and worthy as an opponent, but not so that you should have survived as you have."
      "It helps to be lucky."
      "What of your shangleihi?"
      "Your children," Cortana translated for him instantly.
      "I have no children"
      John stared quietly into the stars. Thinking about his childhood, the scant crumbles of what he knew about his family. He wondered if his children would be like him; if ONI would make them into monsters too. But somewhere in his heart he wondered what they'd be like, and if he'd be a good enough father.
      "They would likely be honorable warriors." Ika said quietly. The ship was once again silent, but it wasn't an awkward silence. Both of the great warriors sat in personal contemplation as the cruiser buzzed through the darkness. Cortana was surprised at how humble both men seemed after such an insignificant conversation. There was emotional bond formed there that she couldn't understand, but then again she was a simple complex A.I.

      "We're here," Cortana alerted them.
      She began a "mayday" beacon on all of the standard UNSC frequencies as the teardrop exited slip space. Within fifteen minutes seven massive cruisers appeared on the horizon. A communications uplink was established with Commander Dimitry Wolf of the Seventh Column.
      "Admiral Comforth is en route to our location for an immediate debrief of your situation. E.T. A. is forty-five minutes. Commander Wolf invites you aboard as temporary guests of honor."
      "With all due respects to Commander Wolf, that may not be possible at this time. Please send our gratitude and tell him we would be pleased to oblige him at a later date."
      "Roger that Cortana. Give the Chief all our best, everyone here's rooting for him. Kill a couple of those sons of bitches for us ma'am." Ensign Howell ended energetically.
      Ika understood now the passion and ferocity that drove these humans. They didn't require terrific wins and superior technology for moral, they needed hope. This Chief, he was their hope. His very existence drove these puny humans to fight unlike anything the warrior Elite had ever seen. Once he'd surrounded hundreds of them with numbers ten times that size; and they'd nearly won. He understood the new urgency the Prophets had placed on his head. Killing this one human would be more painful to them than losing a thousand ships. His commanders obviously understood his importance as well; yet, they still sent him on missions even Ika would hesitate to undertake.

      Admiral Comforth's ship arrived with an escort of no less than five carriers and three destroyers. The stone gray metallic hull reflected Helios' light dimly, giving them an aura of death and despair. John had never understood if that was to psychologically effect the Covenant, or if it was humanity's subconscious acknowledgement of their fate. The super-soldier had never been fatalistic, he was nearly emotionless as an effect of his training, but he did understand his enemy more than anyone else cared to admit. Where others smiled jovially and laughed at jokes about the "squid heads", he understood that it was a nervous response to a situation they couldn't control. That was perhaps the most nerve-racking perspective of this entire damn war was that no matter how many times John and his Spartans won, their battles seemed meaningless in the long run.
      The cruiser, a Revenant class ship, docked immediately in one of the Stalwart and Tenacious's carrier bays. Cortana requested Admiral Comforth should meet the ship in the bay with a squad of ODST if possible; with the explicit instructions that they should hold fire, no matter what they see. Comforth sounded confused, but haltingly agreed. The teardrop shaped Revenant forked at the rear, and between the prongs extended a thin ramp. John absorbed Cortana back into his suit, and walked down the small metallic ramp extending from the back of the ship. He'd never liked or trusted space ships, but he felt surprisingly at ease now.
      Two large, reinforced doors at the center of the bay opened to several silhouetted figures. Admiral William Benjamin Comforth stepped uniformly into the landing bay. His creamy white hair barely nudged from under his black rimmed cap. Four rows of medals were hung on his chest, and three gold sleeve devices rested on the left shoulder of his royal blue dress uniform. He was a stark contrast to the twelve heavily-armed special forces soldiers accompanying him.
      Thick black, polished leather boots were tied up to the calf. Dark gray battle dress uniforms were hidden under thickly padded and armored chest-plates, as well as knee and elbow pads. Large, round shoulder guards made the soldiers appear much larger and bulkier than they were; granted that several of the men were startlingly large. They held their weapons firmly across their chests, ready to fire at a moment's notice. John watched their eyes as they approached. It was a methodically tuned walk, and they watched everything. These weren't sloppy recruits, these were hardened veterans.
      John stood firmly at a salute as Comforth approached. The old man stood before the green-armored titan with a wry smile. He inspected the suit carefully, having never seen a Spartan in person before, and walked around it several times before returning to face the Master Chief.
      "Welcome aboard Master Chief. I've heard a lot about you; I'm sure we all have," one of the ODST gave an audible grunt, "We're all very glad to have you and Cortana on our side."
      "Admiral," Cortana interrupted through John's suit speakers, "pardon my rudeness, but we have an issue of extreme importance that command must be made aware of."
      "Then you come to my office and we will discuss it."
      "There is someone who must come with us though."
      "There are more survivors aboard your ship?" Comforth asked warily.
      "Not exactly."
      The dull thunk...thunk...thunk of metal on metal reverberated from the Revenant. A dozen weapons automatically trained themselves on the ship, and the ODST deployed silently, pulling Comforth behind them as they formed a protective shield. John held up a hand in the universal "wait" stance as Ika came slowly around the ship. He stepped instinctively between the eight-foot-three monster and the shock troops, a move he never could have imagined making before.
      "What's the meaning of this?" Comforth yelled ecstatically.
      "That is what we've come to discuss."
      "Stan...Stand down. Do not fire," he ordered waveringly. "my office, five minutes." The admiral glared at John before turning quickly around and storming from the bay without another word.
      "That didn't go so well." Cortana announced dryly.
      "So you noticed."

      John approached the Admiral's Quarters slowly and with Ika at his side. There were twice as many shock troops now, and each carried a shotgun and sidearm. The Orbital Drop Shock Troops preferred the M6D "Heavy" pistol for its range, accuracy, and power over the "clunky" standard issue M6C Magnums. Two of the guards, with blue and white "military police" bands around their arms, halted the Chief.
      "It stays here, Admiral Comforth only wants to see you."
      "IT," John pronounced frankly, "is coming with me sergeant."
      "I'm sorry sir, but I have my orders."
      "If you ever want to see your family, or your planet again, then I suggest that you step aside and let us through."
      "Is that a threat, sir?"
      "If this Elite doesn't speak with Admiral Comforth immediately, it will be a promise."
      The sergeant swallowed heavily, contemplating his options. He could disobey a direct order from a superior officer, or attempt to arrest a Spartan. He stepped aside and nodded to his partner. Admiral Comforth was visibly surprised as the Elite entered the room, but he said nothing. A dark amber tinted bottle of Elysium Cognac sat on the polished mahogany desk. The room was dimly lit and very comfortable; it reminded John of Master Chief Petty Officer Mendoza's office.
      "What are we talking about that is so important you brought an Elite into my office to talk about. And this better be good."
      "Sir, the Covenant have proposed a truce, sir."
      Comforth stopped mid-sip, and stared questioningly at the two figures before him.
      "The Covenant have proposed a truce?"
      "Sir, a rogue faction of the Covenant have offered their assistance to us, should we provide them with access to suspected Forerunner facilities on Earth"
      "Does he speak?"
      "I do understand your language," Ika said with his deep baritone voice.
      "And all of this is true?"
      "The Prophet of Brotherhood does not deceive you, and to propose such is heresy." The Elite began, but John shook his head to stop him.
      Comforth dialed several digits into his personal monitor. A video link with High Command appeared, and the seven presiding admirals and twelve generals all sat around a large table.
      "Admiral Comforth, what is so important that you have disregarded all security protocols to contact us directly?" One of the Generals, a slightly and pale little man with weasel eyes, asked gruffly.
      "A faction of the Covenant military has proposed a truce."
      The men on the screen began talking quietly amongst themselves. A pudgy, white haired Admiral with a thick, bushy beard spoke into the feed.
      "And what proof do you have? Surely the council can't take only your word on a matter like this."
      Comforth rotated his monitor so that the small camera built into the frame faced the Elite. The line was silent. The monitor swiveled back to face the admiral, and the council began talking amongst themselves again. After several minutes they quieted.
      "Admiral Comforth, you are hereby instructed by the High Command of Earth to escort the Covenant diplomat to Earth, where we will meet you to discuss the terms of a truce."
      The video cut into blackness and was replaced with the blue and white United Nations symbol: a grid-patterned globe surrounded by olive branches. John watched the man behind the desk fill with energy as he patched himself through to the Bridge.
      "Admiral Comforth, what may I do for you sir?"
      "Head us for Earth, full speed."
      "Roger that sir. Full speed for Earth."

Guerilla: Some Dreams You Can Do Without
Date: 12 February 2005, 6:09 AM

      The large, bulky Pelican glided silently through the misty fog surrounding the tiny Zanzibar island. The generator complex was a crucial, if antiquated, power supply for the mainland cities nearby. John wiped the inside of his visor clean with a damp towel. He wasn't ready to put it back on just yet; it wasn't often he was able to breathe without the bland, filtered air his suit manufactured. This air was a mix of musty leather seats, titanium, and salty sea water; it was wonderful.
      "We'll be arriving at New Mombassa in five minutes boys. We'll be landing at Mullah Complex in ten. I hope you've enjoyed your flight with Pan Covenant, and look forward to flying with you again."
      It seemed all of these air-junkies had a mouth. But they were some of the best and bravest damn pilots he'd ever met. Two ODSTs from the Stalwart and Tenacious sat across from the Spartan. Their helmets were likewise off, but their guns were primed and ready to go. John's M6D was lying unloaded on the ripped, ragged-brown leather seat to his right. Both of the special forces soldiers wore uniform five-centimeter cuts, and the stubble seemed to make them appear very young; not much older than recruits. Perhaps they were, the UNSC was getting desperate now, and needed every man and woman it could get. The regulations on almost every trivial thing had been relaxed, including the service requirements imposed by the Special Forces Headquarters.
      The blue-eyed one on the left had seen definite action. A long, thick scar ran lengthwise down his cheek before curving around under his square, masculine jaw. His friend looked green though; his eyes were too energetic, and still had a fiery explosiveness in them. That didn't last long after you'd been out there. He looked much younger than his counterpart; with a much smoother and rounder "baby" face.
      His suit made a sudden, shrill beep. John picked up his helmet and put it on, twisting it slightly to ensure a vacuum seal. Cortana was humming busily into his earpiece as he waited for her to begin speaking.
      "Mullah Complex is not what we're looking for."
      "What do you mean? I thought you were sure it was here."
      "Oh, it's here alright. Just not, here. ONI wouldn't put something as valuable and secret as a Forerunner ship at a known military instillation."
      "Then where is it? It's either here or it isn't here, which is it?"
      "Both. There's another, undocumented facility here. There has to be."
      John stared outwards through the cargo door of the enormous troop transport. His enhanced sight allowed him an almost telescopic view of the entire region; rolling amber hills gleamed with small patches of leafy green bushes and the barren, half-dead trees that thrived in these regions. The hard, angular concrete of Mullah Complex appeared in the distance as the Pelican closed the distance rapidly. Automated defenses automatically tracked the Pelican, visibly pivoting the green, rectangular-prism-shaped missile pods to face the craft. They disengaged quickly, and the Pelican glided over the twelve foot tall reinforced-concrete and barbed wire walls.
      Mullah Complex sprawled for several hundred acres in every direction. At the center was a massive, red-clay colored building that still maintained the feel of early Turkish architecture. It was easily thirty stories high, with exactly symmetrical focal points, and was capped off with a massive golden-tinted dome. Dotted around it were various barracks, warehouses, machine shops, and firing ranges for the troops to hone their skills. Their hard angles and glaring gray color contrasted sharply with the pristine beauty of their surroundings.
      There were twelve octagonal landing pads two kilometers behind the central complex; the Pelican made several passes as it waited for a departure before settling down on pad seven. Cortana had taken the liberty of requesting a warthog, and General Hamoud had been generous enough to provide one. The emerald green armor glinted harshly in the rough sub-Saharan sun. The two troops from the Pelican hopped aboard the vehicle. This warthog was specifically for non-combat zones, as it had no on-board heavy weapons to defend itself with. The rear heavy cannon had been replaced by an extra seat and a metal case to stow supplies in.
      "Where we headin' Chief?" The ODST in the rear asked.
      "Somewhere that doesn't exist. Sure you wanna come?"
      The two ODSTs glanced at each other, understanding immediately what he meant. Whenever anyone was going somewhere that didn't exist, shit was bound to hit the fan; although, that's what ODSTs were good at.
      "I've never been there before, I'd like to check the place out." The passenger remarked with a slight grin.
      The man's head jerked backward slightly as the car lurched forward across the dusty road. It quickly sped up, sending a thick cloud of dust up several meters into the air. John raced past Mullah complex and through the rows of tanks and other vehicles lined up along the parade route. The box-shaped military buildings blurred by quickly, suddenly ending into a vast open expanse of tall grasses that rolled kilometers in every direction. The warthog drove headlong into the thick, golden grass that swayed in the gentle breeze, crushing it harshly under grinding tires.
      "Why are we heading away from Mullah Complex?" Cortana asked.
      "I saw two dust trails roughly a kilometer ahead while we were circling overhead."
      "Checking...nothing. There's no record of anything out here in the database."
      "You honestly thought there would be?"
      The 'hog broke out of the grasses abruptly and bumped roughly onto the dirt road that suddenly appeared. John jerked the wheel hard to the left, whipping the vehicle's tail around as the tires feverishly gripped at the surface. The road extended ahead roughly four hundred meters before ending at a small, barely noticeable structure. John slowed down carefully, observing the two other hogs parked neatly in the tall grasses nearby. The Spartan hopped out of the vehicle, approaching the structure carefully. It appeared to be made from a familiar light-gray stone and was octagonal in shape.
      "Yo, Chief!" One of the marines, Staff Sergeant Peters, nodded and tossed a shotgun over.
      John caught it and walked onto the top of the structure. He knelt down and carefully ran his fingers over the engraved lines of the floor. The pattern oddly resembled a double helix, with a Halo symbol at the bottom and a strange three pronged triangular shape at the top. The floor made a sleepy, groaning sound and slowly and silently parted into the walls as the gentle hum of a Forerunner gravity lift activated. The two ODST ran over and joined him, and the three descended into the calm darkness.

      "Numbers thirty-six and seven are both failures. Exhibiting the familiar comatose reaction to the treatment as previous volunteers." The young lab technician ended the mandatory post-op audio recording and tossed his clipboard down on the desk in obvious frustration. He ran his hands through his thick, black hair and exhaled deeply. When he'd taken this assignment things had looked very positive. In only two tries they'd found a viable specimen; an excited middle-aged Sergeant Mobuto. Doctor Kennedy remembered that man very well. There was a spark about him not normal amongst most of the veterans. Since him though, Project Mnemosyne hadn't found another suitable specimen.
      "You look tired," the older, slightly balding man beside him remarked with a smirk.
      "None of them are working. One in thirty seven is not a very good batting average." He wiped his glasses with his lab coat, exposing the dark circles under his drooped eyes.
      "At least its an average." Lieutenant Parker, the ONI practitioner responsible for the project's oversight, said gently. He sympathized with the younger scientist, but still held out hope. He'd been at it a lot longer than his partner and knew that anything worth discovering was also worth waiting for.
      "Well, if we are descendants of these creatures, why haven't more people been found? I mean hell, we know it works. Mobuto was translating and using Forerunner technology better than the AI were! He set Section Three's advanced projects research ahead light-years."
      "I know, I know. You don't think I know? I've been here just as long as you have. The statistics don't make since, but that's the nature of the beast."
      "You know, just once I'd rather have all the pieces fall into place for me."
      "That last piece of the puzzle isn't walking itself in here 'ya know."
      Franklin didn't say a word in response; instead he was frozen in fear. His comrade turned away from the computer screen as the ominous sound of a shotgun pumping was heard. John was standing with a shotgun by his side, but his companions' were both facing directly towards the two scientists. Lieutenant Parker stood up quickly, revealing the half-covered rank insignia hidden under his lab coat. Spartan 117 snapped to attention, with the ODST reluctantly following suit.
      "What is the meaning of this? This is a restricted area."
      We've been sent by General McCaffey to investigate the progress of this operation. Cortana explained through the MJOLNIR's external speakers.
      "Well missy, you're wrong on two accounts. For one this operation doesn't report to McCaffey, and for two I'm the project manager on detail here."
      The older officer's friend was slowly motioning towards a panel on the wall, but was quickly stopped by one of the ODST. John glanced around the only large room they'd encountered in the facility. It was an enormous, hollow dome covered with mechanical equipment from both the Forerunner and Humans. Strangely though, the Forerunner equipment seemed much more active than its counterparts on the Halo rings.
      At the center of the truly massive room was another device. It was roughly pyramidal in shape, with three thin wing-like structures spreading outward from the bottom. The center was a sharp, spear-like structure facing upwards. Cortana calculated instantly what the object was: the ship.
      John began heading straight for the alien artifact. The two doctors exchanged quick glances before jogging up to him. Dr. Kennedy stepped in front of the hybrid-behemoth in a futile effort at stopping him. The vehicle was enormous up close. The semi-cylindrical body didn't even start for a good seven stories up; suspended by the tripod-like wings. John suddenly got the strange familiar feeling that accompanied his encounters with Forerunner technology. He stopped on a small, circular glowing disc at the base of the starship.
      "You can't go in there anyway!"
      "Who's going to stop me?" John asked with a sudden flare of anger.
      "There are serious risks involved with going into that ship."
      "I'll risk it."
      "You could be put into a coma, or even worse. Besides, I don't even have the program activate the lift."
      "What program?" Peters asked with a nudge of his shotgun.
      "The panel that controls the lift," began Lieutenant Parker, "has over forty touch-sensitive regions on it. The activation code changes after every entrance, but we built a program to predict the next sequence. Without that program we won't be able to activate the lift."
      John stared at the control panel. It was similar to all of the ones he'd encountered before, but this one had many more of the circular buttons. The holographic interface shimmered and sparkled light blue as he examined it. His hand slid over the six concentric rings of buttons on the thin projection, slowly pressing one region and then moving to another, and another, and another. Dr. Kennedy watched silently as the Spartan entered the ten button sequence. The ship's door began opening as the glowing disc began levitating John into the air. He slowly disappeared into the darkness; the smoke-gray metallic door closed with a snap behind him.

      The ship's interior was surprisingly dark. A thin mist coated the ship's interior, but slowly faded as the curious explorer ventured around. The deck he was on seemed centered around a single piece of furniture: a massive, reclined chair at the center of the ovular room. He strolled over to the seat, and walked around it several times.
      "I'm not so sure you should do this."
      Spartan 117 wordlessly removed his helmet, sitting it gently on the floor. The scarred green paint contrasted subtly with the reflection of gold from his visor. His suit beeped shrilly as the A.I. tried to communicate with him. He slowly eased into the chair, relaxing in the seat as much as possible with such bulky armor on. There was a sudden pinch in his neck as three long, pink needles clutched him firmly. There was a sudden fogginess, and then all was calm.

      John opened his eyes slowly, casting them about the shadowy room wearily. It felt like he'd been asleep for such a long time. His joints were stiff and every muscle in his body begged for him not to move. For his entire life he'd fought against pain, struggled to beat it, but there was no beating it this time. He felt weak, and succumbed to its siren beckoning. His eyes fluttered closed once more.

      Was he alone? It felt like there was someone else in the room now; someone familiar. He tilted his head and searched for something lurking in the shadows, but the shadows were inside him. If there was something there, it was well hidden. The golden tinted reflection of his visor caught his eye. It was strangely hypnotizing, and he couldn't help but stare at it. There was something moving across the visor. He stood up, and walked to the piece of equipment, putting it on and sealing it. The room disappeared through the visor into something...more.
      His view stretched endlessly across a vast expanse of a Halo ring. A flock of alien birds soared majestically through the heavens before gliding over the side of a massive cliff. At the bottom, salty waves crashed against boulders and dirt before receding back into the murky blue depths. Small, human-looking children ran across the grassy plains he was on, and entered one of the large gray structures so familiar to the fortress worlds.
      A massive, broad beast approached John from the right, carrying an enormous glowing hammer with him. His lips were parted in a thin smile, and he wrapped his arms around John with an implied force the Spartan could almost feel. The view shifted slightly; John was outside himself now, but still staring at his body.
      "Rukt, old friend, how are the preparations coming?"
      "Shur Jural, how many times must I tell you to stop worrying. Everything will be fine. We are moving along splendidly with the help of the sentinels and the monitor. Flood holding cells have been stabilized and we've put around the clock security details on them. The Council on Basis still wishes to speak with you though. They predict a war, a massive war, and we must be prepared. The Inghalli were not as fierce as these abominable creatures"
      "Rukt, we may have lost our home world to the Flood, but we are safe here. Regardless, I'm undergoing the procedure when I meet the council. I suggest you do so too."
      A sudden and vicious storm crept up on the horizon, whipping the plains' grasses around wildly. The seas raged against the cliff-side with a mighty roar. John was back inside of Shur Jural's body, but still a silent observer. Hording around he and Rukt were thousands upon thousands of the parasitic beasts. Sentinels and Enforcers blazed across the sky, many exploding and falling to the ground in fiery heaps as the evolving Flood forms used the Forerunner energy weapons. Jural's energy blade slashed about, cutting entire waves of the spores to ribbons with a single swipe. Rukt slammed his mighty hammer into the ground, violently crushing one of the larger forms. The beast writhed passionately, but the hammer finished the creature off with a violent electrical burst.

      John watched thousands of memories; through the Hundred Thousand Years War, the Fall of Council Basis, and the Last Seed Campaign before awaking in a sweat in the chair. His breaths were deep and erratic. His mind raced about the history he'd just witnessed, and tried to cope with what was the true reality of the situation. It had all seemed so real; wasn't he just fighting for his life on Ghoya Instillation? Was he not just fleeing the overrun facility at Basis with his fellow Council brethren? John moved his hand slowly over his face, feeling the soft, milky skin through padded gloves. An ecstatic beep emanated from his suit; John stood up and carefully put on his helmet. This time he stayed in the ship, he was relieved the nightmare was over.
      "Are you okay? John, speak to me."
      "How long was I asleep?"
      "Forty-eight hours and thirty three minutes. You had me worried, but we still need to get you examined. What happened there?"
      "Umb buktal," John whispered.
      "What did you say?"
      "Umb buktal, andelag."
      Translation suits in Cortana's expanded memory kicked in. ONI had collected and translated most of the Covenant language through undocumented resources, and she instantly deciphered his speech:

I remember, everything.

Guerilla: Flashback and Forward
Date: 1 April 2005, 2:19 AM

      There was a dampness about the caves now, a moist breeze that circulated the cavern refreshingly. A small circular patch in the ceiling from where the rock had fallen through revealed the warm bask of the noontime Saharan sun; a warm and comforting wrap that gave a since of security and brought a since of stillness to those encompassed by it. The air currents circulating through the room brought around a serene and almost rhythmical humming noise as the streams moved through narrow crevices and across the multi-textured blue and gray stalactites. The bright green of mosses and lichens shimmered as sun reflected gently off of the accumulated dew beads. The distant chirp of birds who'd made their homes inside of the cave kept the entire structure with a feeling of life uncommon in such Forerunner facilities.
      The majestic Forerunner ship itself sat regally at the center of the enormous earthen bubble like a gigantic pin, ready to burst the tranquility and perfection of the creation without warning. It's rigid gray and black surface was a contrast to the natural beauty of its surroundings, but the ship was oddly beautiful in its own rights. It's pyramidal central body was supported by three thin pillars, each engraved with foreign symbols; symbols which recalled dark and buried secrets from those who learned of the ship's startling secret.
      Shockingly out of place seemed the white-coated laboratory technicians, gray-suited UNSC officials, and shady ONI spooks who'd arrived in the cave. Spartan-117, John, stood in the center of the commotion. He was uncharacteristically out of his bulky green MJOLNIR armor; wearing only his ink-black elastic bodysuit instead. Lately he felt more comfortable without all of the machinery, and there was an odd urgency for freedom the suit couldn't provide. His mind had been filled with an incomprehensible amount of knowledge, and he was trying desperately to make use of everything he'd learned; so as not to fall prey to his predecessors' mistakes.

      "You're shitting me right?"
      "I shit you not."
      "All of this in two days? Impossible."
      "He hasn't slept since he came out of that ship. So far it's been him and Cortana putting it all together. Most of the work has been through cognitive memories the process brought back, but that AI of his has made some amazing leaps as well." ONI Section III Commander Simon Richards approached a small holographic panel on the wall. The pot-bellied gentleman had a jovial air about him, but was renowned by all for his stern nature and iron will. Specialist Edward Nietzsche approached curiously, staring at the small monitor with avid interest. He was the polar opposite of Richards, a thin and cagey little man who was people regarded only for his technical genius.
      "Regenerative plasma weapons, shield systems, dynamic propulsion drives; its all here. And that's just the ship-based weapons platforms!"
      The plump man stared intently at the list. It was all so tempting, and it was all real. Humanity finally had a glimmer of a chance to beat the bastards back. It may be at their own doorstep, but goddamnit they had a chance to actually do something now. His eyes scrolled down the catalog slowly, absorbing everything he could.
      "Regenerative plasma weapons?"
      "Those are my personal favorites. Ship based plasma systems at least three times stronger than what those Covie sons-of-bitches have. But here's the beauty; they can fire continuously for as long as the ship has a functioning reactor."
      "How in the hell-"
      "Cortana cooked up that little marvel. She figured out a way to use the excess heat as a viable energy source. So the gun practically cools and recharges itself. Only a minor energy expenditure to the reactor core; less than half of that required for the MAC cannons."
      "With these two on the job I have a feeling we're gonna be outsourced soon." Nietzsche gave a wry smile and walked over to a suit of personal armor strikingly similar to a Spartan's. The armor was a glossy porcelain color, and shimmered with ripples of energy that cascaded eloquently down the torso. On the arms and legs were small, rectangular panels the color of azure. The helmet seemed to be a mixture of the standard ODST and SPARTAN designs, intermixed and whitened; except for the familiar sparkling blue faceplate. In the center of the faceplate was an awkward, circular targeting reticule that glowed a neon-green that changed to a bloody crimson and baby blue depending on the vision mode required.
      The system had a nonstandard, red body-suit which was sprinkled with intermittent blue squares that occasionally blinked a spectacular lime green. The two scientists walked curiously around the prototype, staring intently at the hard edges and contrasting smooth curves. The weapon as a whole had the appearance of an awkward piece of fine art; something more at home in an exhibit than on the battlefield.
      "Not very...stealthy." Nietzsche commented quietly.
      "I'm sure they'll paint the camo on, it's just the prototype after all."
      Suddenly, a strong hiss of static sizzled the air as the suit slowly phased out of sight. It had completely disappeared, leaving both men with gaping jaws that only hinted at the surprise they were feeling.
      "I think it's stealthy enough." John said with a grin as he approached. His hands were busy wiping off a piece of alien machinery with a greasy red rag. The small, crescent-shaped device had the standard series of indented curving lines and circles that seemingly adorned all Forerunner objects.
      "Yea...that, that'll definitely do." Commander Richards managed to stutter.
      "They don't enhance strength or speed as much as mine, but they'll take a lot harder pounding; at least until I'm upgraded."
      "This is all very impressive soldier. And you're sure that you're feeling alright?"
      "Tired as hell, but otherwise one hundred percent. It's amazing how free I feel now. All of this knowledge. So much that's been hidden from us for all of this time, and now it's ours to harness."
      John turned and strolled towards more of the equipment strewn around the massive hanger bay. Commander Richards was shocked; it was completely out of order for any NCO, but even more so for a SPARTAN. He decided to write it off as fatigue-induced stress; after all the soldier had been working for forty-eight hours straight. Hell, he'd practically saved Humanity; he deserved a little leeway.
      Cortana observed intently from above. She hovered quietly in the glowing light-purple orb John had crafted for her. It seemed almost disturbing to be in this unnatural shell so reminiscent of Guilty Spark's, but she couldn't deny herself the freedom that the mechanism provided her. Perhaps it was the thought of the demented AI that brought around the contemplation of her own "mortality", and the realization that she would one day suffer a similar fate. Her optical array scanned her super-soldier for any abnormalities, but could find none. His pulse, blood pressure, and temperature were all within normal; but she had noted a marked difference in his behavior as of late. Hopefully it was only a side-effect of the sleep deprivation he'd been experiencing.

      The instillation was crumbling violently around him. The once-smooth stone pillars, which had been carved into beautiful replications of the Tu'ral's mightiest warriors and leaders, were now crumbling to dust as the massive supports failed. The Flood were destroying everything precious to the High Council, to Rukt, to Shur Jural, and to the Tu'ral. Their mere presence here meant that all hope was lost.
      The Seed of Purity had been infested with the vile presence of these demonic beasts. The last safe haven outside of the constructs was being ravaged, and Jural was completely helpless. His eyes darted wildly around the complex, searching for his wife and child; but they found neither. Only the mangled bodies of his friends and compatriots met his mournful gaze, and a seething hatred for these disgusting creatures was roiling inside him.
      From a dark corridor came the all-too-familiar sound of the half-dead scraping of Flood feet. Shur's lips formed into a malicious snarl, and his hand moved slowly to his back; gripping the long, heavily-decorated staff. Precious metals and rare gems covered his personal staff, and were arranged into the figures of two large snakes that spiraled up the length of the weapon before encountering each other at each end. The weapon's surface was covered with a thick dust caused by the surrounding battle, masking the gems' normal brilliant reflection dull and bringing about a foreboding sense of lifeless.
      The darkness was all-pervasive, covering everything down the normally sun-filled gala hallway. The irritating scraping noise repeated aggravatingly, and grew louder with each step. Shur Jural's large thumb slowly depressed a circular red gem, activating his weapon. At each end of the staff, from the mouths of the dueling snakes, came large two-pronged plasma blades. From the hellish darkness emerged the wildly probing tentacle of a flood combat form.
      It darted through the air, trying to sense the collective's next victim. The aroma of fresh blood was immediately detected; it had the smell of iron and the mix of minerals comprising blood. It was all so deliciously tempting, so irresistible. The parasite was tempted to resist the bloodlust coursing through its neural cortex, but a deafening plea from thousands of distant brothers all combined to quickly break its will. The host body growled menacingly before making an awkward leap towards the unclaimed presence before it..
[eindent]The Tu'ral warrior dodged the bumbling beast easily, and brought his wrath down quickly upon its exposed back. The rotting flesh sizzled as the plasma seared through the dry, leathery skin and into deep into the bone. There was a startling pop as the spherical parasite dwelling in the rib cage of the fallen Tu'ral exploded from the heat. A tear slowly formed in the hardened Jural's eyes; it couldn't be. He jerked quickly away from the corpse, and began roaring intensely.
      His lips quivered uncontrollably and his silvery-white teeth showed fiercely. He cast a quick glance back to make sure what he'd seen was real, and the pain hurt even worse. Every inch of his body ached; with only erratic, shallow breaths breaking through the heavy sob. His balled fists slammed violently into the marble floor, shattering the stone into thick, craggy pieces.
      The ornate jade bracelet he'd given her on their bonding was hanging loosely around her broken, disfigured wrist. The Amulet of Brathia had cut into the decomposing flesh around the once smooth neck of his wife; its once dazzling beauty now hidden under the dried blood that had caked up around the chain. Only sparse patches of her long, flowing hair remained; it was coarse and matted with dirt and blood as well, but still retained the vibrant glow she'd always been complemented for. The last time he'd seen his bond mate was as she attempted to flee the besieged floating city with their son.
      There would be hell to pay for what the Flood had done here today.

Chamber of Holy Ascension
High Charity

      "Your supreme majesty, I humbly request a postponement of the planned invasion of Earth while my most trusted and loyal emissary is at work." Brotherhood pleaded passionately for Ika, but his words were falling on deaf ears. Mercy stared through his bushy eyelashes at the Noble Prophet before turning to his fellow Hierarchs.
      "You are well aware that our invasion must proceed!" Mercy screamed hoarsely as he slammed his fist onto the armrest of his hovering throne.
      "I could never hope to stall such a glorious endeavor; I am merely requesting that you allow me time to get my informant off of their vile planet."
      "I sincerely empathize with your plight my dear Brotherhood, but to put such an enormous operation on hold after all of this time would be to jeopardize everything we have worked towards. We are at a moment of truth from which we cannot stall; the Humans are weak, and must be eradicated immediately. And no matter how well-trained or loyal a soldier you may have on the Human homeworld, I can personally assure you that many Elites better than he have perished in our righteous crusade. We will proceed with the invasion immediately; do you have another issue the High Council may resolve?" High Prophet Truth spoke as calmly and eloquently as ever; with the appearance of sincere pity in his eyes. His majestic, flowing crimson robes were outlined with gold thread, complimenting the massive ornate headpiece which showcased his status within the Covenant.
      "I have none your highness, and wish to be absolved by your grace and omnipotence high and wise Truth, Mercy, and Regret." Brotherhood knelt prostrate before the mighty council; knowing well that any other motion could get him beheaded.
      "By the wise council of this high court you are hereby absolved." Two gargantuan Brutes, outfitted in the ruby red regal armor of the prestigious Council Guard, immediately approached to escort Brotherhood from the massive room.
      Truth and Mercy rotated slowly in their chairs and floated onto their personal elevator. The two chattered ceaselessly, and took no immediate notice of their compatriot's absence. Regret moved to speak with Brotherhood as he disappeared through the massive doors of the Council Chamber. The Noble Prophet stopped cold as Regret flagged him down with his feeble one-handed gesture. He quietly dismissed the confused Brute guards, and the two Prophets sat alone in the small courtyard leading into the chamber room.
      "I am deeply sorry for what was decided here today," Regret admitted remorsefully.
      "So too am I, he was perhaps my best soldier."
      "As sorry as I am about your loss, there is something I fear to a much greater extent. Truth and Mercy have grown increasingly powerful as of late, and as such have revealed much less of their personal thoughts with me. When they decided to accelerate the attack on the Human planet, they did so without my consent."
      "But that goes against everything the Covenant-," Brotherhood was silenced by Regret's single-handed gesture.
      "Sometimes it is necessary to appear strong when one is not. While I agree whole heartedly that this Human pestilence must be eradicated, this move by my fellow Hierarchs is completely unnecessary. These Humans are surrounded, battered, and broken; but they are not defenseless. Our enemies fight most fiercely when cornered, and that's exactly what these Humans are."
      "Do you believe ulterior motives to be the cause of their awkward actions?"
      "It displeases me greatly to say that I do. I have spent countless units with Truth and Regret, and know well that they would only use such reckless force for something they judge to be of extreme importance. Unfortunately, they only thing either of them deem important is a weapon with which they may vanquish more foes. Whatever these Humans have discovered must have incredible power; power I wish would not fall into their hands."
      "Do you fear a weapon of some sort?"
      "I know not what they search for, but I do know that I fear anything they covet with such passion. That is why I am requesting that you take your fleet to Earth, and find out as much as possible through your informant. Discretion is yours as to the amount of force appropriate should hostilities arise , and I trust your judgment. My fleet shall join yours soon enough."

      John awoke startled from his latest memory. Time seemed much slower now, and he realized his hands were cupped around space. The Forerunner artifact he'd been holding had somehow slipped through his hand. Odd that an object that heavy would bounce that far; it had somehow manage to land quite a few yards away. The Spartan shook off his sudden and strange dementia and headed back over to the fallen piece of metal. He picked the small, crescent-shaped piece of alien metal and headed back to his workstation. Oddly, it was slightly warm to the touch. He wondered what could have caused the sudden and unprovoked change in temperature. No time for pointless curiosity though, he had so much more to do, and so little time to do it.
      Cortana hovered overhead, still shocked by what she'd just witnessed. She replayed the scene over and over, and it was consistent. John stood deathly still, and then...Oh my God, the A.I. thought to herself. Her core programming intensely analyzed the scene once more for any artificial discrepancies, but found none. The replay looped back once more; this time concentrating on the soldier's hands. There was a slightly purple static discharge sparking from his fingertips before the entire region was engulfed in a bright pink energy field, and the object he'd been holding sailed violently into a nearby trashcan-denting it with its impact.
      This was a truly amazing sight! Completely spontaneous creation of electrical emissions from a biological organism. The construct couldn't grasp what could have possibly allowed him the power he'd just absent-mindedly demonstrated, but whatever it was had incalculable potential elsewhere. If John had the ability to create such powerful energy without concentrated effort, she could only imagine the power he'd be able to obtain with a devoted effort. She wasn't sure whether to fear this newfound power or embrace it and bring it to his attention.
      But there was a more pressing matter to attend to. She simultaneously received and analyzed every major UNSC broadcast in-system, and one was particularly concerning. She'd already caught hints of a slip-space rupture earlier, but significantly smaller than most that the Covenant tore through the void. A single text message stood out among the others, and she was amazed it hadn't been picked up by any other source.
      UNSC Blue Bell-Class 3 Frigate- 1342 Hours-Hostile incoming carriers, source transmission enclosed in data burst. Major structural damage, MAC cannons non-operational. Estimated life support failure: two hours. Significant Covenant presence en route. Advise immediate strike force relocation to enclosed coordinates and activation of orbital MAC cannons.
      How had no one picked this up? Cortana quickly rerouted the message to all ships and orbital platforms, as well as to UNSC headquarters in Australia. The Chief's work wouldn't amount to anything if Armageddon arrived early. She had to make sure that didn't happen.

Guerilla: Like Riding A 100,000 Year Old Bike
Date: 28 April 2005, 3:09 AM

      The caverns erupted into a series of high-pitched wails as the alarms activated. Confused and anxious military personnel, primarily scientists and high-ranking officers, paced or trotted for the exit shaft. Rotating blue and red lights twirled from the ceiling, sending multi-colored circles of light dancing around the massive openness. It walked up the sides of crates and along walls like an ancient disco ball. There was an eerie stillness to the lifeless dome. Olive green crates, stainless steel tables, bright yellow forklifts, and machine parts were abandoned in their ready-to-use state. Only the low whirling growl of a portable generator was audible after the sirens ended as abruptly as they'd begun.
      John finished zipping up the nearby flight-suit; it's dull, standard gray had a single large patch on the shoulder. The insignia was a golden circle with a multi-colored profile of the Forerunner artifact situated over a dark maroon center. The Marine was hefted gently into the familiar, dimly lit, central corridor he'd entered before. He tapped a series of oblong circular symbols on a holographic panel situated above the seat that had begun his strange transformation. He situated himself comfortable and the chair reclined slightly before ascending into a small recessed alcove in the ceiling. An aquamarine energy partition hermetically sealed the control room and its occupant with an audible sucking noise.
      The enormous ship ran quickly through its pre-flight systems checks, and began to rumble. The foreboding and powerful moan of a sleeping dragon awakened from its slumber. Alien control schemes flittered around him, beeping and chirping signals he didn't yet comprehend. He tapped the panel awkwardly until a small circular hologram burned magma red before cooling back to blue. Bingo. Ancient engines roared to life and shot the ship into space. It hit the atmosphere with a thud before wobbling unevenly and exiting into the void, its long thin legs inverted automatically upon reaching the envelope of the atmosphere. At least the one-hundred-thousand year old bike came with training wheels, he thought.
      The UNSC Arkangel darted past the orbiting geo-synch platforms and the miniature ring of the defensive fleet. It's coral-blue plasma flared fiercely as the vehicle gained momentum. John grinned uneasily to himself, not sure exactly what he'd gotten into. Sweat beaded on his forehead and rolled icily into his eyes. He wiped them with the back of his palm and tried to imagine what to do next; but he just couldn't. There was the dark stutter in his brain he'd been having since the exposure. It was as though someone else was thinking for him. His clouded thoughts were murky and bubbling.
      Two hands reached out for the control panels, but they weren't his. He'd lost control over the appendages and was relinquished to the status of backseat driver. The stranger's fingers danced across the symbols fluidly, sending the ship straight for the fleet of Covenant ships exiting slip space off his "port". Each of the enemy vessels were instantly encircled by small red, orange, or yellow circles; signifying their importance to the weapons subsystems. Six carriers, fifteen battle-cruisers, twelve destroyers, and thirty frigates had arrived before the void ruptures closed. The boiling furies had been vanquished back into the darkness and confusion that comprised sub-space.
      Instantly, thin blue lines coursed horizontally across the Covenant ships' sides. They reminded him strangely of the sparkling ornaments he'd seen as a child during the cold Elysian winters. That life was a million miles away now. He couldn't even remember what they meant; only that there was a vague feeling of comfort and safety whenever he tried to dig up his past. But this was anywhere from warm or safe, and those Covenant ships were all too willing to wipe his pathetic human memories from the universe.
      "Automated defensive measures are being deployed. Is this acceptable?"
      The ship apparently had an AI of its own; one that seemed not to have gone insane yet.
      "Activate all defensive measures."
      "Activated. Do you require further help?"
      "Activate," John was going to take a stab at it, "all offensive measures."
      "All offensive measures activated. Interceptors assuming active offensive and defensive perimeters based on projected enemy fleet strength. Calculated enemy weapons systems are at fifty percent of sustainable damage output. Main weapons systems active and ready, awaiting response."
      John had a mile-wide grin stretching through his mind. Cortana and those Navy junkies would have a field day if they'd known what this ship was capable of. His foreign hands gripped the two small orb-like devices that acted as a control yoke, and thrust them forward. The Arkangel sped forth, its protective interceptors matching or surpassing its own speed, and raced headlong into the enemy formation. Massive laser beams scratched into the night, tearing at space and the Forerunner ship futilely. Plasma torpedoes which would have normally sliced clean holes through UNSC carriers dissipated in a hiss of white and blue sparks on the shields.
      The remainder of confused Covenant cruisers and frigates held their fire as fleet marshals, bridge commanders, and the bevy of higher ranking decision makers conversed quickly. Their heavily-encrypted messages were instantly intercepted, decrypted, and scrambled by the ship's artificial intelligence. John listened with amusement from within the shell of his body as the Covenant chain of command quickly broke down into minor squabbles and cries of panic. If his body was on some sort of auto-pilot, he was more than happy to let it run its course and if the ancient DNA was somehow controlling him, then he decided that it knew more about handling this ship than he did.
      Hundreds of teardrop shaped Seraph fighters screamed out of their docking bays and into the blinding darkness. Almost immediately the interceptors broke off and formed several flight wings that quickly engaged the enemy fighters. The interceptors were jet-black and blended into the void almost seamlessly. Their bodies and wings were all made with smoothly curved sides which intersected smoothly around the central fuselage. John brought up a schematic of one of the automated death-dealers. They packed six miniaturized plasma based weapons systems, as well as two separate missile bays on both wings.
      A wing of five interceptors swept into the oncoming banshees in a standard arrowhead, or refused, formation. A flurry of red and blue zipped between the dueling groups. A dull blue flare coursed across the skin of the interceptors. The vehicles shrugged off the superficial shield aggravation and continued with their assault. Orbs of fire and debris erupted as Seraph after Seraph was destroyed.
      "All interceptors currently engaged. Approximately ten enemy fighters have been destroyed. Enemy capital ships preparing uncoordinated firings. I calculate shield failure in two salvos."
      The Spartan felt the dull thud of impacts across the shield systems from within the ship and gritted his teeth. His ancient counterpart rolled the massive ship hard to port and closer to three of the Covenant cruisers. The control panel for the massive primary cannon was a cold blue before changing quickly to a fiery red. Sensors tracked the outgoing spear as it stuck in the enormous purple whale, cutting deep into the beast's side and to its heart. Its fusion drive erupted into a myriad of green, blue, and orange hellfire before widening into a massive ring of energy and debris that spread like a wrinkle across the great blanket of space.
      Three of the slick interceptors slid dangerously close to the ship's hull as they lured unwary pilots in to their deaths. Supercharged fuel-rod cannons lined the hull of the Arkangel, providing a perimeter of almost certain death for personal attack craft. They rolled hard starboard and pulled in above two Seraphs firing on a seemingly hapless interceptor. The Forerunner fighters opened their wing-mounted missile bays and unleashed a barrage of plasma that hunted its pray without remorse. The Covenant hadn't realized the cat-and-mouse games the interceptors had been playing nearly the entire time, and Seraph after Seraph fell prey to the bloodlust of its pilot.
      Small, but extremely lethal, wing-mounted plasma lasers cut into the battle and through the hulls of Covenant ships. Two frigates' shields flared and died before they imploded from the scalpel-like precision of the super-heated matter. A nearby carrier positioned lengthwise to the Arkangel, giving the maximum number of weapons an open shot. The remaining charged super-cannon cut through the carrier's shields and sliced along its gut, dimming half of the weapons that would have fired to smoldering red holes of escaping gas and bodies.
      "Thirty enemy fighters have been destroyed. Two interceptors destroyed and three heavily damaged and returning for repairs. Incoming salvo," there was a pause as the ship rumbled slightly and the shimmer of dead shields invited renewed enemy fire, "shields depleted. Hull integrity at one hundred percent. Primary weapons systems recharged. Incoming capital ships of different designation, should I add them to firing roster?"
      Control room cameras swiveled and centered on the hard-gray forms of the incoming defensive fleet. Hundreds of Longsword and Raptor fighters swarmed into the fray and into position. John denied the request and watched green circles encompass the ships. A salvo of MAC rounds narrowly dodged the Arkangel and impacted Covenant ships with visible explosions. The projectile-based weapons were less effective against energy shields than plasma-based systems, but they cut through the exposed enemies with little resistance; punching gargantuan holes clean through the bulbous enemy warships.
      "You may call me Gabriel. What is it you request?"
      "If we cut power to levels sufficient enough to take down the enemy's shields, but not destroy the ship, will we be able to fire more quickly?"
      "Using the minimum required power expenditure that you've suggested, primary firing systems would triple their output."
      "Good, do it."
      "Done. May I ask why you have requested such an odd tactical decision? We have ample power supplies to continue firing at our current rate."
      "We'll cripple their shields and let the fleet finish them off."
      "Understood. I will begin transmitting firing solutions to our allies immediately. The coordinated fire, coupled with our ability to destroy their shields, should effectively neutralize fifty percent of the enemy fleet within one salvo."
      Gabriel sent out hand-shake routines to every allied capital ship's onboard AI. They responded instantly and accepted his solutions without hesitation. The Arkangel began systematically firing at all nearby enemy capital ships. Rapid fire bursts of energy crippled the starships' shields and seconds later the enormous tungsten rounds would deal mortal blows.
      A nearby destroyer turned to fire, but its exposed profile was met with two heavy rounds. A gaping whole tore through the ship and into its command deck, destroying all primary steering and weapons systems in a single shot. The second impact landed in the stern, crumpling the rear of the ship like a soda can before sending it spiraling slowly into a nearby carrier.
      The impact blew the carriers shields with a visible explosion of white energy that scattered brilliantly before dissipating. The UNSC twin hunter-killer destroyers Fury and Malice leapt at the weakened predators. The normally intimidating ships were now exposed and helpless to their fierce foes. Fury put two into the broad side of the CCS Brotherhood, severing the ship into two massive floating chunks of fire. Malice followed with a single shot to the foredeck of the already crippled destroyer, striking its fusion core and engulfing everything within three hundred kilometers in white-hot fusion.
      "Enemy capital ships at thirty percent of original strength. Interceptors and allied fighters forming a defensive picket around the Arkangel. Allied capital ships moving into firing positions for final attack. A single enemy ship has been detected hiding approximately five hundred thousand kilometers behind this planet's satellite."
      "Bring it on screen."
      The camera switched to the onboard camera of an interceptor. The Covenant ship in the frame was one of their largest; reserved for Prophets and their councils only. John knew that ship very well, he'd already been on it once. Brotherhood, he thought angrily. Suddenly, a fiery blue ring engulfed the ship, and it was gone. He was living to fight another day, or so he thought. John knew very well what happened to those who failed in the Covenant, but he knew even better what happened to traitors. This was undoubtedly Brotherhood's fleet; it was too small to be an expeditionary force, yet much larger than any hunter-seeker patrol.
      That backstabbing son of a bitch would get what he deserved one way or the other.

Guerilla: Who needs enemies...
Date: 5 May 2005, 12:15 AM

      The high, vaulted ceilings brought a dark and ominous feel to the dimly lit Council of Judgment. For hundreds of years the hierarchs had dispensed their will upon those unfortunate enough to be brought here, and for hundreds of years innocent and guilty alike met their cruel punishments with silent acceptance. Honor and pride flowed through the veins of the Covenant, and formed a bond that held the myriad of member species together with an unspoken brutality. A brutality eagerly prescribed by the centuries old Prophet hierarchs; those ancient magistrates none dared to question. Truth, Mercy, and Regret sat high upon their massive cylindrical dais, surrounded by the Honor Guard who had protected through the centuries.
      Numbering in the hundreds, the ruby and pearl colored armor of the Honor Guard shimmered in the dim pink light of the room. They stood rigidly at attention; their enormous ceremonial spears creating a sea of sharp teal blades that curved towards the heavens. They obeyed their orders with thoughtless zeal, squandering no time with trivial bickering and living only to serve their high lords. On this day, like many others, an accused heretic sat timidly on the cold gray metallic floor. The Noble Prophet of Brotherhood prostrated himself before his superiors, and recited the chant of forgiveness before their holy graces.
      Truth was situated slightly above his companions, and conveyed a sense of strength and omnipotence with a power all his own. An ornate golden headdress, sparkling with majestic blue and purple precious stones, sat imposingly atop his regal personage. His sweeping maroon robe flowed beneath his bony, worn flesh and covered the weakness that was a hierarch. The thin strips of flesh he knew as lips parted to reveal sharp and pearly teeth that appeared able to tear his prey to pieces.
      "My dear and noble Brotherhood, I am surprised disturbed that you must be in our presence at this grand council. You have been accused of negligent incompetence and failure to adequately perform your duties, resulting in the meaningless and drastic loss of life. Are you aware that your premature and rash actions have cost our great fleets sixty of their best ships?"
      Mercy smiled wryly at the pitiful wretch sprawled below him. He knew very well that Regret and this miserable, traitorous being had conspired against his fellow hierarchs, and relished every moment leading up to the sentencing. He'd always been strangely pleasured by the sight of physical torture, but never before had those on trial conspired to cause him physical pain. It was ludicrous really, to suspect that there were those in the Covenant who would wish malice and ill will against one as beloved as himself. This wasn't a matter of sick pleasure any longer, it was a matter of pride and revenge; he would never let Brotherhood leave this chamber alive.
      "I am well aware of my folly your excellencies. Through my lapse of judgment I have caused the untold deaths of many brave and valiant warriors under my command, and I accept full responsibility for my egregious errors. I humbly request that the wise and judicious council show mercy and forgiveness for this tragic mistake."
      "This mistake has cost us an entire fleet!" Regret rasped with a shaky finger, "he must be severely punished for what can only be an act of heresy."
      The Prophet of Regret's voice spat fire. Brotherhood stared at the blue-robed figure straining under the weight of his ornate, emerald-studded headdress with a mixture of confusion and resent. Who are you to scream heresy? Were you not the one who suggested, nay, ordered me to attack the human planet? And now you betray me to this bloodthirsty council, which will surely have my head. If anyone should be screaming heretic, it is I. A lump formed in his narrow throat, swallowing his breath and closing the room in about him.
      Mercy sat smugly to Truth's right, covered in plush green tapestry and wearing a headdress that sparkled with the glory and perfection of a thousand star-shaped diamonds. His brooding silence meant certain death; for Truth was renowned throughout the Covenant for his eagerness to pronounce a verdict of death, and Mercy always followed. Brotherhood's shallow whisper couldn't provide the baritone voice of reason needed to breech this hall of tormented echoes. The walls pulsated with the souls of a thousand heretics and screamed: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! The beaten and dishonored Prophet lowered his head in shame as he awaited Truth's last words, and the council's final decision.
       "Your actions have caused untold and inmeasurable suffering to the families of those under your command, " Truth began with his rehearsed and altogether staged somberness, "but your actions have not been in vain. Through your error comes opportunity and knowledge unavailable to us before. We've seen what the despicable and weak human forces have for their defense, and are better able to prepare ourselves before attacking. We are also fully aware that the humans have discovered the artifact we so hoped to retrieve, and because of this we will advance our plans for the invasion of their wretched planet. Though your incompetence has cost us a fleet, it has saved innumerable ships from a similar fate."
      Regret's head jerked quickly to Truth and Mercy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Truth pretended not to notice their obvious surprise. The traitorous hierarch's blood was ice in his veings. Brotherhood couldn't live, he would bring everything to light. The accusations, the attack; he knew it all. What are you doing? Declare him guilty!, he screamed inside. His eyes darted angrily between Truth and Brotherhood, screaming a thousand curses and cutting into Truth. He balled his tiny fist into a tight not and said nothing.
      "And although you have shown incompetence in your duties, you have shown compassion as well, and for this I vote in your favor."
      "I cannot allow this heretic to leave unpunished! He has destroyed our fleet and betrayed the Covenant; he must die! Guilty!" Regret screamed with a slam of his fist.
      Mercy twitched unconsciously as he debated the decision. He desperately wanted Regret dead, but Truth had voted against that course of action. Did he actually plan on letting this heretic live, or was there something else behind it? He faced the pleasant smile of Truth, whose eyes nodded quietly with the decision. Mercy took a nervous swallow and blinked.
      "Th, the council," he stuttered, "the council finds you innocent." He licked his parched lips after he'd forced the words out.. Had he really just pronounced one of the few truly guilty to go free? There was visible shock on Brotherhood's face; he nodded silently and was escorted from the room by two of the statue guardians that protected these hallowed halls.
      Regret scoffed loudly and left quickly down the tubular private elevator that exited into his private quarters. Truth disappeared into the hierarchs chambers, with Mercy following closely behind. He knew exactly what his compatriot wanted; to know why he'd allowed Brotherhood to live.
      "Why did you vote-"
      "Innocent?" Truth interrupted.
      "Because, my dear Mercy, if Brotherhood was dead, he couldn't kill Regret."
      "Kill Regret," Mercy repeated with exclamation, "you know very well that Brotherhood will never kill Regret."
      "Of course he wouldn't, not of his own will. But with the evidence he'll leave behind we'll have to sentence him to death."
      "This is ludicrous. We have more than sufficient evidence to try and execute both of them now!"
      "What would you have me do? Declare a hierarch fallible. And then what? If one hierarch is capable of erring, then all are. No! He will die after a scornful Brotherhood exacts a bloody and tragic revenge against those who sentenced him, only to be struck down before brutally ending our lives."
      Mercy sat silently, digesting what he'd learned.
      "Of course there will be a dramatic and mournful funeral, and he will be given a far more glamorous procession than he ever deserved."
      "And the Conclave?"
      "We'll dismiss the Conclave altogether."
      Mercy nodded quietly as he processed the plan. The Conclave required the majority of living hierarchs to agree before halting the election of replacement hierarchs. Of the original seven hierarchs, only three remained; the others having died mysterious and shadowy deaths, most often at reported hands of a rogue and vengeful assassin or during a particularly fierce battle. There hadn't been a Conclave called in three centuries because the ruling hierarchs always expected to outlive the others, and always halted their fateful meeting with the futile dreams of becoming the singular and all powerful leader of the Covenant.
      "I have much to attend to in my chambers, a squabble between a Sanghelli noble and a minor prophet has led to a bloody feud. I'll speak with you later dear friend."
      "May peace be with you brother."
      The two Prophets nodded gently before going their separate ways.

      Truth entered his chamber and ordered the portal locked. He approached his window with arms folded neatly across his chest, and a grin across his lips. His plan was full-proof. Regret out of the way, the Conclave dismissed, and the unfortunate demise of Mercy during the invasion of the human homeworld; why that would leave only one hierarch to govern the Covenant. He shook his head mockingly.
      "My fellow brothers. Though an enormous burden, I, your humble Truth, will do the best I can to ensure the future of our glorious enterprise is brighter and more prosperous than ever before."
      He smiled maniacally and waved to the multitudes of imaginary onlookers sitting in the tiers outside his window; all cheering and applauding the ascension of their grand and glorious leader.

      Ika 'Aslumee sat uncomfortably on the hard human material. He snarled contemptuously at his situation. The humans hadn't shown him anything since he'd been separated from the Demon nearly a cycle ago. Everything on this ship was either gray, white, or an ugly green color; he missed the soothing purple shimmer of Covenant ships. Luckily the ones left to guard this area had left when the alarms began, but the white-armored Elite doubted that was good. He'd already tried to lay down, but it was useless. His legs and head dangled oddly off of the short, square piece of cloth attached to the wall.
      He sat on the floor and stretched out uncomfortably; a sharp pain jutting into his lower back. Taking off his armor would feel much better, but he didn't dare remove his lifeline in this alien atmosphere. The Elite's eyes closed momentarily, but were quickly jerked open by a fierce rumbling noise. He sat up energetically, and was suddenly in the dark. His insect-like eyes quickly adjusted, scanning the cell around him as though it were fully lit.
      A thin slit of light caught his immediate attention. The electronically sealed locks were disengaged from the apparent power outage. Such unreliable ships these humans have. No wonder they fall so easily to our might. His thick hands grabbed the heavy, metal door and he pulled it to the left with a grunt. He stepped silently out, glancing down the halls in search of guards. A brilliant flash of white-light blurred his vision as the ship's power was rerouted and restored. There was a scream nearby as the hands of a human also trying to escape were caught by the re-engaging doors.
      Ika took a step over and wedged his fingers into the crack, and kicking his leg onto a nearby wall for support. Every muscle and fiber in his body strained as he fought the stubborn machinery. Motors creaked and groaned as they struggled to do their duty. He glanced down to see the wounded human trying to help as well. Even with its mangled and bloody hands it continued to grasp onto the door and fight for freedom.
      The faint smell of smoke and fire filled the tiny slits he knew as nostrils before the portal completely opened. The tired and hurt creature below him breathed heavily, eyes closed and clutching its hands to its chest. Although he towered above them in both size and strength, he envied the humans for their courage and willpower. He gently hefted the body up and held it close to him as he headed towards an exit. Luckily, their civilization used a universal system of icons to represent certain common items; one of which he'd learned to be the medical facility. They acquainted him with that particular portion of human life well when he'd first arrived; scanning and charting everything they could. They wanted to know what made him tick.
      Military personnel scattered quietly between stations, all wearing the standard, fitted jumpsuits protocol required. He walked slowly, deliberately through the hallway trying to attract as little attention as possible for an eight foot tall, white-clad alien. One of the humans stopped dead, staring in horror at the behemoth before him.
      "Elp eem," he beckoned in broken English while holding the body out from his own, "elp eem."
      The man's eyes darted between Ika and the Marine as he slowly realized the situation. A low groan from the wounded soldier attracted the white-coated human's attention to the man's hands. He pointed to Ika and then to himself, before nodding down the hallway. The sterile white floors were scuffed from the shuffle of Marines, but luckily none had shown themselves.
      A nearby technician stood, mouth agape, staring at the sight of an Elite carrying a wounded human behind a doctor. The doctor whispered something into the technicians ear, and the boy moved slowly back to his workstation. A red cross was painted on the wall ahead. Three guards turned a corner at the far end of the hall, each armed and ready with their weapons.
      "Put him down squid face!" One of the soldiers yelled.
      Ika looked for the doctor, but he'd disappeared. He turned to find the technician gone as well. The human's body dropped limply as the Elite used it for a shield. The eerie scraping of his hoof-like feet on the floor was accompanied only by the clank of his enemies' boots. One of the Marines raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired a burst, striking the wounded Marine in the chest. The man let out a weak grunt before going limp and buckling to the floor. The white-armored beast was fully exposed in the narrow corridor. The terrifying sound of his death echoed down the tight hallway and reached his ears before the bullets.
      His unshielded body absorbed the impacts poorly, jerking him from side to side as each round lodged itself in his leathery skin. They broke into fiery shards and sliced through his midsection. He roared in anger and pain before collapsing to his knees and falling over. Dark purple blood oozed across his mandibles and pooled out of his numerous wounds. A shallow wheeze gurgled from his collapsing air sacs one last time before a thin and final gasp ended his life.
      The guards approached carefully with their guns trained on the hulking body of the Elite. They encircled the beast and stared at it with morbid curiosity.
      "What the hell do we say about Richards?"
      "Obviously that Elite wounded him during the power outage and was forcing him to show the way to the hangars. Lucky for him we were patrolling here just in time to find that Elite shoving Richards down this hall. We ordered them to stop, but unfortunately it didn't end there. That alien bastard grabbed him and charged us. We had no choice but to open fire." Staff Sergeant Niccolo Paretti stared at the body and gave a small shrug..
      Niccolo had had a grudge against Richards since boot camp. The bastard had gotten him KP duty six times, and made him the joke of the entire class. Paretti swore then that he'd get that rat bastard back, and the corners of his mouth betrayed the psychopathic glee the sight of the man's death had brought. Slick and Charlie were standing several feet away, both looking quite pale. Charlie looked more so, and was covering his mouth with his arm to smother the smell of blood.
      "That was wrong man. That was wrong. What if they don't believe us?"
      "They'll believe us. Because the good doctor here saw everything."
      "Don't make me do this Nicky."
      "Are you saying you saw something different Petey?"
      "I ain't saying nothing like that Nicky, I'm just saying; I'd prefer if you didn't mention me. That's all."
      The temperamental Italian turned, took off his helmet, and ran his hand through his curly black hair. His eyes were fire and he muttered something under his breath. He kicked the floor angrily and turned back to face his friends.
      "Alright. I won't mention ya unless I have to. Okay? But you better as hell not chicken out if we need you."
      "Oh of course not Nicky," the man stepped up cautiously, "you know I wouldn't do nothin' like that. I got your back."
      "That's good Pete. That's real good. Now fix this shit up, it has to look right. Slick and me are going to go file the report with the ex-oh. Charlie, you stay here and help Doc with it."
      The two Marines walked off down the hallway towards the elevator leading to the Marine's onboard headquarters. Charlie and the doctor watched them disappear around a corner before staring unhappily at the two corpses sprawled in the hall.

      His eyes darted between the two men as they walked over to the bodies and positioned them with visible displeasure. The young Marine had lied about his age to the recruiter, but at this point in the war everyone looked the other way. He was surprised they hadn't lowered the recruitment age to seventeen already. Luckily, he was given a menial job as a technician; a nice, no frills position he didn't have to work too hard at. Everything had changed though. He thought he'd died when he first saw the giant Covenant warrior coming down the hall, but he was never prepared for what just happened.
      "Run kid."
      The doctor had whispered those words to him before it had all happened, but he'd panicked and hidden in the small maintenance shaft that ran along the base of corridor four A. Before he'd watched the four Marines cover up their hideous crime. Before he knew what he had to do.