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Fan Fiction

Halo: Of War and Childhood by Ace

Prologue: The Master Chief
Date: 8 May 2003, 1:52 AM

Hey everyone, this is my first fanfiction ever. This is a prologue, and it'll probably seem a little annoying, as it tells you a bunch of stuff you already know. However, it also slightly introduces what I'm writing about. This story is canon with the first game as well as the two books, but DEFINITELY NOT with Halo 2. So here goes, enjoy, and please give feedback. I'll be posting the actual chapters soon.

Prologue: The Master Chief

      In 2525, the Human race met its first sentient species, while it was destroying one of their outermost planets. Attempts to make contact failed, and a battle group of Human ships were soon destroyed as well. Only one transmission was ever sent from the aliens to Humans. They said: "Your destruction is the will of the gods...and we are their instrument." Because of their religious nature and fanaticism, the alien species was named the Covenant.

      It was soon discovered, however, that the Covenant was an alliance of species. The main religious and political leaders, the Prophets, were only known of through intercepted Covenant transmissions. Elites, the eight-foot-tall, talon-footed, energy-shielded humanoids, were the field commanders and shock troops of the armies.

      The humongous, twelve-foot-tall beasts used when immense strength was needed, were dubbed Hunters, though they were only eight feet tall when hunkered down behind their massive battle shields. Thick armor plating covers their bodies, and huge fuel rod cannons are directly integrated into their arms, the equivalent of plasma rocket launchers. Along their backs run rows of three-foot-long spines, sharp enough to cut a standard marine in two.

      The Jackals, meter-tall and bird-like, with red and blue knobby skin, were occasionally used as assassins, though more often as foot soldiers. And finally, the Grunts, two-foot-tall, simian-like creatures that were forced to wear super-cooled methane environment suits in order to go anywhere, as they could survive in nothing else. They were the cannon fodder of Covenant armies, weak on their own, but in large groups, they could take on marines, and if backed by Jackals and Elites, were fairly well protected.

      The Covenant swept the galaxy, finding human worlds, at first attempting to engage them on the ground, to keep its resources intact, but eventually giving up each time and simply glassing the planet from orbit. Humans could never win ship-to-ship battles in space unless they severely outnumbered the Covenant ships. However, on the ground, Humans always won.

      Shortly before the Covenant first contact, a group of experimental super-soldiers were trained, at the time to put down rebellions within the Human society. With chemical strength, reflex, vision, and hearing augmentations, the thirty super-soldiers, codenamed SPARTANS, were nearly invincible. Soon after, the Office of Naval Intelligence introduced experimental battle-armor, codename MJOLNIR, which further enhanced their strength, speed, and reflexes, as well as giving them energy shields and a smart in-suit AI.

      Every battle they fought in, on the ground, they won. Each of them became heroes, killing thousands of Covenant soldiers. However, in a climactic space battle in orbit around the main Human naval shipyard and military training facility planet, Reach, all but one of the Spartans were caught on the planet when the Covenant burned it into oblivion with their immensely powerful plasma weapons.

      Spartan-117, John, the Master Chief, fled on one of the few remaining Human warships, on a vector that would not lead the Covenant to Earth, and the ship stumbled upon the artificial ring world, dubbed Halo by the Covenant. Unbeknownst to the ship and her crew, the vector was actually specifically chosen by the shipboard AI, Cortana. Covenant warships surrounded halo, though they did not fire upon the Human ship, as it was in too close proximity to the ring, which held religious significance for them. After Covenant troops boarded the ship, the Humans crash-landed it on Halo.

      Humans put up scattered resistance, and the Master Chief and his AI, Cortana, from the ship, together unraveled the mystery of Halo, discovering a parasitic species, and being forced into a four-way war with the Covenant, the caretaker of Halo with his army of laser-wielding robots, and the new species, the Flood. Eventually the Master Chief destroyed Halo, the species living on it, the caretaker, and an entire Covenant armada surrounding it.

      Upon returning to Earth, he found that it was the only stronghold Humans had left in the universe. The Covenant staged a yearlong campaign to annihilate the planet, but every time Humans rallied together to defeat whatever forces happened to be thrown at them. The Master Chief was an integral part in the Human victory.

      Soon after, Humans began colonizing the galaxy again, meeting with little Covenant resistance. During the time that the original Spartans were fighting, a second, larger group of them were being trained in secret. While the Master Chief flew into Slipstream space, seeking the Covenant home world, the newest group of Spartans was finishing the final stages of their training. Eventually, all contact was lost with the Master Chief. This is the story of the new Master Chief, Sean Hawke, and his Spartans.

Chapter One: The Dream
Date: 10 May 2003, 2:36 AM

Chapter 1: The Dream

August 23, 2555, 0427 Earth Time, UNSC Destroyer The Phoenix

Master Chief Sean Hawke saw the Phoenix advancing through space towards the Covenant ship, the Covenant firing blast after blast of plasma. He watched as each volley bounced harmlessly off the Phoenix's hull. When Captain Mendez finished laughing, he ordered Sean to take a few SPARTANs through the, by now routine, board and recover operation. Sean quickly snapped a salute and left the bridge.

He walked down the corridors leading to the SPARTAN barracks, realized the urgency of the situation, and began to jog. After all, he thought, the Covenant could run away. When he reached the barracks, he decided to take a few of his green soldiers to get a bit of true battle experience. He walked down the row of bunks, tapping soldiers on the shoulders along the way. Each one he tapped fell into line behind him, and when he had five, he walked back to the door of the barracks.

He announced to all his soldiers that he and the five he had chosen were going on a BAROP, Immediately every soldier broke into laughter, roaring with it, and the rumbling could be heard through five decks. When he and the five cadets he had chosen left for the air lock, they were all still laughing. They reached the air lock, and all stepped into it, sealing the hatch behind them. It was a bit crowded with the six of them, and they were all huddled close to each other. "Now all of you take off your MJOLNIRs and your clothes underneath," said Sean. "Sir," asked ensign Danielle Henderson.

Sean said, "You heard me soldiers, get it all off!" After that all six of them went to work. Sean opened the back hatch, and tossed all their armor and clothes into the waiting arms of a few grinning soldiers. It seemed they were in on the Master Chief's little joke as well. Then they resealed the hatch, and were gone from sight. It took all of Sean's professionalism not to look at Danielle's beautiful naked form.

He reached behind her head and untied the knot that held her long blonde hair in its tight bun, saying, "No need for that now that you're out of your armor." Everyone noticed the vague innuendos between him and Henderson, and had known about their two-month relationship since the time she had come aboard, but none of them really cared. The five cadets all started for the small armory, but Sean stopped them. "We go without weapons," he said, and they all understood that, yes, that was the right way to do it.

He punched in the code to open the airlock and they were all sucked into the eerie blackness of space. "Breathe normally," yelled Sean, and again, everyone realized he was right, what were they thinking, of course humans could breathe in space, of course they could all simply walk up to the Covenant ship, it was how it was always done. They all clustered about four feet away from the ship's hull, gathered on the shield.

Sean drew back his fist and delivered a blow to the shield that would have killed a Hunter with ten feet of Titanium A armor plating around him. The shield shimmered, flickered, died. The six of them walked to the hull, and this time ensign Valdez delivered a kick to it, creating a hole miraculously the exact size for six average humans to fit through. They walked inside, and met a horde of hundreds of Grunts ready for them in a large room that seemed to be a barracks.

Sean did a quick count as the Grunts all scrambled to get into a firing position. Four hundred and twenty seven of them, he thought, and all charging plasma pistols. It will be a massacre. As soon as every Grunt was in a position to get a good shot, the leader shouted, or more appropriately, barked out strange squeals to his soldiers. All of them released the triggers at the same time, and bolts of brightest green flew towards the SPARTANs from all directions.

A few of the Grunts' plasma pistols exploded because of how long their triggers had been held down. The plasma bolts hit the SPARTANs one after another, all of them bouncing off, burning holes into the walls, the floor, the ceiling, even a few Grunts. When the commotion stopped, the SPARTANs raised their hands. Every single Grunt flopped to the floor, dead. The six lone humans walked through a door into a corridor.

Awaiting them were fifty-three Jackals, all somehow packed into the corridor. They all held fire, reluctant to fire on the unstoppable ones. Three Jackals threw plasma grenades. Two fell in the middle of the six humans, and one stuck to ensign Jones. Sean looked at the glowing blue balls, enthralled by the glow, and began to count down out loud, "Three...two...one..." BOOOM! BOOOOM! BOOOOOOM! All three grenades went off in quick succession, and the shockwave passed through all the humans. However, it was a much larger shockwave than grenades are truly capable of producing, and it killed every Jackal standing, throwing them all back five feet.

The SPARTANs continued down the hallway, and turning the corner came upon seven silver-suited Elites, the best of the best, the Covenant's most intelligent and nearly their most physically imposing soldiers. All of them raised their plasma rifles to bear on the humans, and fired. Bolt after bolt of blue plasma shot for them, and just as with the plasma pistols, they bounced around in the hall. Danielle ran straight into the pack of Elites, fists and feet flying.

Sean could but stare; mesmerized by the primal beauty of her naked body flying amongst the Elites, delivering killing blows wherever they landed, and when she finally ceased moving, and all the Elites lay dead on the floor, he could only stare even more at the slight sheen of sweat covering her body. They looked into each other's eyes, and had only a moment to connect as, from opposite ends of the hall, a rumbling was heard. Hunters appeared on either side of them.

The huge blue bodies, with their spots of orange, represented the most feared of all Covenant troops. Their fuel rod cannons began to glow, and with that, they began lumbering towards the cluster of human soldiers, surprisingly fast, their huge metal shields scraping against the walls, creating sparks. In the instant before they released their death-dealing blast of plasma, all the SPARTANs ducked as one.

The heat of the cannon-fire singed their backs as they passed overhead. When the humans stood up again, the Hunters were at their respective ends of the hall, dead or dying. The six of them jogged the rest of the way to the bridge. They entered, and every alien only got to stand up before dropping back down into their seats, dead. Sean got to work on the auto-pilot, and Danielle set up the homing beam, so there would not be a panic when a Covenant ship flew itself into Reach II's orbit. When he finished working on the autopilot programming, he turned around to find that he could not see his cadets. "Soldiers," he called aloud questioningly.

That's when through the door walked—no, floated--an alien Sean had never encountered before. It had a foot-long, thin neck that supported a small head. Sean could see no legs beneath the piles of robes. It had delicate arms that ended in four-fingered hands. And its eyes! Two tiny, black eyes, like a shark's, only smaller, and not soulless. They were the most piercing eyes Sean had ever seen.

It also wore a huge ornamental headdress. "What have you done with the others," Sean yelled. The creature was silent. It looked into his eyes, and ideas began to form in his head. He knew it was speaking to him, not aloud, not even words, but in its way, it was speaking to him. Sean roared, put up his hands. The creature in front of him would not die. He ran to it, and up close he saw it was not floating by its own power, but by a hover-chair. He punched it harder than he had punched the shield of the Covenant ship. The creature didn't even waver.

Sean suddenly felt an unfamiliar sensation in the middle of his spine. When it slowly intensified, he began to realize it was pain. He dropped to his knees, trying to scream, but only whimpering. The creature looked down at him, sneered with its lipless mouth.

Master Chief Sean Hawke jerked awake in a cold sweat, throwing glances around his quarters. He had always slept in the nude, but now, after the dream, he felt as though without his MJOLNIR II on, he was missing a vital organ. He looked to his bedside clock: 0428. It was much too early to visit Danielle, she'd be asleep.

He thought of the way she'd looked in his dream, so beautiful. Ever since she had been assigned to the Phoenix, he'd been entranced with her. But he could never show his affections in front of his men, the way he had in his dream. They'd had rendezvous, but it was never enough for him. Damn the Covenant, and damn this war! He sighed, knowing he shouldn't be thinking like that.

He thought he might go to the gym. He pulled his crisp military uniform out of his locker, and quickly got dressed. He wanted to be alone, so he opted out of putting on his MJOLNIR armor, not really wanting to hear Tyger's voice. He ran full sprint to the ship's onboard gym, hoping to work up a sweat to warm up, but no deal. He moved to the double gravity section of the gym, and quickly searched out the SPARTANs personal training equipment. He lifted the five-hundred pound bar with ease, and added all the heaviest weight plates.

He did some quick math, and all told his load came to two tons, accounting for the double gravity. As he expected, he found absolutely no difficulty in any of this, and when he dropped the weights in exasperation, he sighed to himself as he watched the bar drop slowly, to his senses, to the deck. "What are you even doing here," he asked himself. He saw two marines in the boxing ring, probably settling a bet; otherwise they might have come in the day. He watched for a bit, back in the shadows, but the action was much too slow for him.

He had already sized up the two of them, and through only a few minutes of watching, he knew who would win the match. The taller one, with the brown hair had much better technique, and was noticeably less fatigued than the shorter blond-haired one. The taller would win, he was sure of it. Sean turned to walk out of the gym, and smiled to himself when he heard the voice cry out from the ring, "Jesus man, I give!" He was so sure of himself that he did not turn around to see the shorter man standing over the taller, who was flat on his rear, holding his hands up in defense.

Chapter 2: The Few, The Proud
Date: 11 May 2003, 4:19 AM

hey guys, if im lucky, this is coming out the same day as chapter 1...as always, read an critique, ill put up chapters 3 and 4 asap

Chapter 2: The Few, the Proud

August 23, 2555, 0630 Earth Time, UNSC Destroyer The Phoenix

The first thing Sean did when he awoke from the hour or so of restful sleep he had gotten after returning from the gym was put on his MJOLNIR II battle armor. As soon as he had his helmet on, his personal AI construct, Tyger, said, "Hello handsome, ready for another day of beautiful slipspace?" She giggled. Sean sighed. Why do we really need smart AI's in the armor? But at heart, Sean knew he would never trade Tyger for any other AI.

He trusted her like he trusted Danielle, and loved her nearly as much. She had saved his life on a great many occasions, and those occasions had become more and more frequent the farther they ventured into Covenant space. She had been his mother, his sister, his love-of-his-life until Danielle had come along. He still loved her, and he was glad that she felt no resentment or jealousy towards the woman who had stolen his heart.

Tyger knew that he still loved her, and she was happy that he was happy. "I think you know that today will very well not be pure slipspace travel, Tyger," he said. "Oh, you must be referring to the Covenant outpost that we'll be reaching within three hours," she replied, "I thought you of all people might know that all fighting has been cancelled, on account of the Covenant abandoning their outpost in fear." She giggled again.

"Tyger, you know I hate it when you get so overconfident."
"You know, contrary to popular belief, just because you're a Spartan doesn't mean you can't celebrate once in a while, and you have to admit, there has been some miraculous changes in the state of war over the past year."
Sean sighed. But she was right to a lesser degree, he knew. Two Covenant outposts destroyed nine months ago, and an entire planet claimed from them just last month.

Reports came in every few days of new jumps in human plasma research. Humans had also claimed two other uninhabited planets, full of natural resources, and the upsurge in resources resulted in a progressively bigger and better fleet. The shield technology that had once been such a precious commodity afforded only to Spartan's MJOLNIR armor was now standard on every ship.

And the ship Sean was on was one of the more impressive models, a Spartan-Class Destroyer. Three hundred Spartan soldiers were housed on board, along with about seven thousand marines. The ship herself sported two Super-MAC guns, with a hundred rounds between them, along with twenty-six pods of Archer missile launchers, and of course the standard compliment of five nuclear warheads. Sean felt that there could be no safer place in the universe for a human to be...except of course for Earth.

Ten percent of the fleet was in Earth orbit at any given time, and when ships needed an overhaul after long periods of fighting with the Covenant, they headed for Earth. There were literally hundreds of stations in Earth orbit, and concentric circles of outposts were constantly monitoring for any signs of Covenant activity within fifty light-years. The current military campaign seemed to be too brilliant to lose.

Humans were expanding as far as possible, forcing back the Covenant. But thinking about it would only inflate Sean's ego, so he began to walk down to the Spartans' barracks. On the way he planned out a pep talk, to prepare them for the day ahead. As soon as he stepped into the humongous room, lined with bunks and lockers, there was a rumble of footsteps as every Spartan snapped to attention at the foot of their bunks. "Soldiers," Sean yelled, "briefing room on the double!" They all turned as one towards the door at the rear of the room, and jogged to it.

Sean was the last one into the auditorium-like room, just in time to see two hundred ninety-nine soldiers all sit as one. He walked to the front of the room where the holographic projector sat, and asked Tyger for a map of the very uniform Covenant outpost. "Spartans," he barked, "today's mission will split us up into ten groups of thirty. The effective commander of each team will lead them in through one of these ten access points." Tyger lit up ten spots of gold at different areas on the outpost. "Chief Petty Officer Adamson, you will divide up the teams now, A through J. I will lead A. Every team must have at least two heavy artillery experts."

Immediately letters began appearing next to each Spartan's name on the Master Chief's HUD. He smiled behind his gold, reflective visor as he saw that John Adamson had placed himself in A team, under Sean. The pair had become best friends during Spartan training, and had learned through much experience that one could count on the other. Once the teams were all divided, he decided to start with his pep talk. He recounted his dream from the night before to them all.

When he finally finished he asked if any of them could interpret the dream. John stood up and said, "Well, sir, there could be many ways to analyze that, but I'd say that it has something to do with the feeling of invincibility. The war for us has been going better and better, and we may all feel invincible, but we should never let ourselves get caught up in the feeling, lest it proves our undoing. Or perhaps it tells us all to be wary of new threats." Someone from the back called out, "Or maybe it just means that CPO Adamson would be better suited towards a psychoanalyst job back on Earth."

That sent a roar of laughter through the entire briefing room. Sean thought it was good to have such bouts of laughter in such times as these. Soon, after a few of the finer points of the battle plan, Sean dismissed everyone for the ten minutes before they would be leaving Slipspace. As they all filed back into the barracks, Sean took note of how everyone dealt with the upcoming battle.

The few of them with religions were gathered hand-in-hand in circles, all with heads bowed. Sean walked up beside Danielle, edging obligingly into the circle of Christians she was praying with. She grasped his hand firmly, and he returned the gesture. He did not join in with the prayer, nor with the amen at the end. As they turned away, Danielle leaned towards Sean and said, "I'll convert you one day Mr. Hawke."

He looked down into her visor in only half mock disapproval, and replied, "The day you convert me is the day I allow you to call me Mr. Hawke in front of the men." Tyger's voice sounded into Sean's helmet, and he put her on open COM. "All Spartans report to the launch bay and prepare to leave Slipspace." "Alright Spartans, you heard the lady, triple-time it," Sean yelled.

They filed into the corridor, and began running to the armory in two single-file lines. They ran into the huge room, and were grabbing for weaponry. Sean quickly side-armed a pistol and hunting knife. He then picked up a grenade belt, a shotgun, and an assault rifle. He brought along a hundred and thirty-eight shells to compliment the twelve already in the shotgun, and ten clips of assault rifle ammo.

He double-checked his weapons to make sure they were all fully loaded, and once everyone confirmed readiness, he ordered them into the adjoining launch bay. "Team leaders, get everyone into a Pelican, now," he barked out. He ordered A team into a Pelican, and ran to the front himself to pilot it. Tyger's voice came again over open COM, saying, "Leaving Slipspace in ten seconds, we should be about a thousand kilometers away from the outpost. Leaving Slipspace in four...three...two...one..."

The opaque metal shields that covered all the portholes throughout the ship to protect from the blinding lights of Slipspace lifted. The launch bay doors opened, leaving only the force field between the room and vacuum. "Spartans, pressurize MJOLNIRs now," said Master Chief over open COM. Outside the force field, in the distance, Sean saw ten Covenant frigates surrounding their shades-of-purple outpost. "Jesus," whispered Danielle behind him as she crossed herself.

He had to concur. Suddenly the other two destroyers that had been traveling with them appeared from Slipspace with a shimmering of stretched green pinpoints of light. The frigates were medium-class Covenant vessels, and ten of them were a frightening sight to behold. But three heavy human destroyers were a nearly equal match. Then Sean had formed a plan in his mind.

"Which team has the most rocketeers in it," he asked the Spartans. "We do sir, C team, four rocketeers, all fully loaded," came the reply over the COM. "We also have four sir, J team." "Alright," said Sean, "C team leader, highlight a Covenant frigate. You too J team leader." Two gold spots appeared over two different ships on his HUD. "OK, C team and J team, your rocketeers will do a helljump into space, and use their jetpacks to maneuver into position. They will concentrate their fire on the selected ships' shields, and when they are down, leaders will pick them up and they will take their teams to board the ships. Tyger, relay my plan to the Captains of our ships."

Ten seconds later, her voice came back to him, "Done, and I've flagged the ships the teams have chosen. They will concentrate their fire on the others." Over his COM, the Master Chief heard the announcement that the launch bay shields were coming down. Tyger counted down, "Three...two...go." Sean lifted off as the shields powered down. He throttled the controls, and with the extra speed of the depressurization, the ship closed on the outpost nearly as fast as the destroyers were bearing down on the frigates.

Once within a few kilometers, he killed speed for boarding. He approached an airlock and fitted their specialized docking clamps over the door. He signaled to his rocketeers, who were already jumping up to position themselves in front of the Pelicans hatch. When they gave the thumbs up, he blew the seal and jumped up behind them with his shotgun at the ready. No one else approached the door, just in case the Covenant had the same idea as the Spartans.

The hatch opened and there they were, a cluster of five Jackals with five Elites just behind them, all with weapons drawn. One rocketeer fired at the floor just in front of the group, while the other fired at the ceiling just behind the Elite's heads. All of them were engulfed in flames for a moment. When it cleared, only one Elite was moving, and he lay on the floor. Sean walked up to it and squatted beside it, and cradled the back of its head in one hand. It was snapping its sharp, shark-like jaws towards his face, but the Master Chief's hand kept it well at bay.

He almost admired the Elites. They never showed fear, like the Grunts and Jackals. But unfortunately, they were a threat, and Sean had been trained always to neutralize threats. With a quick jerk of his hand, the Elite's neck snapped. He settled its head back down to the deck with a bit of respect. Then he stood and barked over open COM, "Teams B through J report!" C team and J team had both entered their assigned Covenant ships.

Of the rest, all were on board the outpost except E, who were about to blow the hatch. Good, thought Sean, we are going to need all the help we can get on board here. He signaled to his squad, and they all began to creep through the corridor they found themselves in. They came upon a four-way intersection. Sean held up a fist to halt the soldiers, then raised two fingers and motioned a few people forward. Six Spartans with MA2B assault rifles ran cat-like and jumped across the intersecting corridor to the shorter hallway that ended in a large door, easily leaping the seven feet, rolling and spinning around to face the squad again.

As they were in the air, three green bolts of plasma had flown by, as well as no less than fifteen blue ones. Now roars were heard, and a battle group of Elites and Grunts ran into the squad's view. The six Spartans on the opposite side began full automatic fire on them, and then the rest of them joined in the fray. Sean leapt among the Covenant, blasting very carefully with his shotgun, conserving ammo whenever possible, cracking the butt across the chins of Elites with downed shields.

He never fired his weapon on Grunts, only butted them, and occasionally slit their methane tubes with his knife. When it seemed they were almost through mopping up the Covenant in the hall with them, more and more began to pour in from opposite ends of the hallway. John spared a glance at his shield indicator. It was three quarters down, and beginning to flash blue and red. Damn, he thought, we've gotta fight them back and find a place to recharge.

For now though, you'll improvise a shield. He grabbed an Elite that wasn't facing him, and turned it towards a mass of Jackals. He grabbed it in a half nelson and forced its other hand to pull the trigger of its plasma rifle. The approaching Covenant were reluctant to fire on their own and so their fire was less suppressive. Most other Spartans had gotten the idea and were all standing back to back with an Elite hostage.

Suddenly, Sean's Elite jerked free of his grip and elbowed him directly in his solar plexus. With a loud, "Whoof," Sean released the Elite and bent down. The Elite turned and was about to fire on Sean, but in his lowered position, he was directly in line with its grenade belt. He wrenched a plasma grenade from the Elite's belt and held down the button. He drew back his fist just as the plasma rifle was fired into his chest, completely burning away the last of his shield.

But by then it mattered little to Sean. He punched the Elite full force in the face and released the plasma grenade button. It stuck to the creature's face, nearly blinding it in the brightness. In one fluid motion, Sean lifted his leg, placed his foot squarely in its chest, and sent it flying back ten feet into a huge mass of Jackals and Grunts. In an almost comical display, a Grunt turned his back on his comrades and ran screaming, "We're all gonna die!"

Sean took some pride in knowing that the disgusting creatures had been taught English because it was easier to understand than their grunting language. He was pleased to find that the little Grunt's premonition had been correct. The Covenant had finally stopped coming from that side, so Sean turned to face the onslaught from the other direction. He fired time and again into the fray, and finally ran in to crack open the skull of a final Jackal. He signaled his team into the short hall with the doorway.

His two rocketeers stood at the opening of the small semi-enclosure, watching the opposite ends of the hall. The rest of them took the opportunity to rest against any open wall space they could find, and to allow their shields to recharge. "Sean, I'm listening in on the Covenant's internal communications," Tyger's voice. "They're going to send Hunters."

Damn, thought Sean, we're definitely not gonna get more rest for now. "Soldiers! Reload quickly. Hunters on the move," he yelled to his Spartans. Everyone straightened visibly. He called forward one of his rocketeers, and quickly whispered some orders to him. The cadet snapped a salute and reached into his ammo sack, the largest of any of the soldiers in the group. He procured a Lotus Anti-tank mine from within.

The destructive power in a single Lotus could easily take out a heavily armored Scorpion tank. So why was it Sean looked at it with a bit of fear, fear that it may not be enough? He took a deep breath as the cadet set the mine to a proximity explosion and ran back to the opposite end of the hall to place another. "Chief," said Tyger, surprisingly in a closed communication, "the Covenant are mentioning something else. I don't know what they have planned, but the word brute definitely came up seven times. Wait--I've got a huge spot on the motion sensors!"

Sean ordered everyone into a widely staggered formation, and they all stood facing one end of the hall or the other. Red spots were approaching the corners on either side. A slight vibration traveled through the deck towards the Spartans, and though it was only slight, it shook them all to their hearts. Almost everyone unclipped a grenade and primed it. "Sir." B team leader's voice. "We've spotted huge motion coming in your direction. Do you require assistance?"
"ASAP B team leader."

That calmed Sean's nerves a bit. Sixty Spartans in closed quarters could take on at least five Hunters if the need arose. Suddenly the motion sensor was picking up only one red dot, tiny at best. What the hell, thought Sean, there's no way a Hunter could produce such a small signature. He scanned the hall in front of him, and eventually, the grunting of a Jackal could be heard. A Jackal? This isn't right. Hunters are always alone, they charge in, shields up, fuel rod cannons blazing.

A Jackal then turned the corner, hanging from the ceiling by magnetic boots. It looked down at the Lotus and started to turn its head to yell back to something that was out of the Spartans' sight. Before it got two squawks off, Sean had unholstered his pistol, gone to 2x sight, and blown its leg in half. The creature howled in pain and fell to the deck, missing the Lotus by six centimeters.

But it wasn't enough to avoid the proximity charge. A deafening explosion resounded through the corridor, and suddenly the Jackal was on the ceiling again, across ten square feet of it. The roar of an out-of-sight Hunter mixed with something else, a noise Sean had never heard before. It was a deep rumbling, gurgling noise. That's when something new stepped around the corner.

Chapter 3: Brute Strength
Date: 11 May 2003, 4:25 AM

bah, im posting all four chapters now...just hope theres no limit or whatever on how many per day...so, in about a minute, ill post chapter 4, then get to finishing chapter 5 (halfway through it!)

Chapter 3: Brute Strength

August 23, 2555, 0959 Earth Time, Covenant Outpost

An eight-foot tall beast covered in brown hair stood atop the hulk of the Lotus mine. Its head reminded Sean of a gorilla's, with its high forehead and flat nose. But the creature's forehead looked as though its skull was popping directly through the skin. Only certain parts of it were clothed, its forearms in gauntlets, and thighs and crotch in some sort of metal battle-plate.

Unlike Elites, one could see the layers of muscle rippling beneath the skin. Strapped to its left arm was a silver gun, different from any known Covenant weapon. The bottom of the gun curved down to the beast's elbow and ended in a wicked metal claw. The monster raised the gun, fired, and dove back the way it had come before any of the Spartans got a shot off.

A clear shimmering globule spun through the air towards Sean, and he jerked out of its path. It settled to the deck slowly, like a feather, but the Chief wasn't about to let his soldiers find out what it did. "Move away from it," he barked, "now!" Every Spartan dove and rolled, scattering in different directions, when suddenly, the blob exploded.

It was almost silent, giving only a small "whumpf" sound, but a strange, clear, viscous liquid exploded over almost all the Spartans. A drop of it landed on Sean, a centimeter away from his chest, and his shield disappeared. It was simply gone. He let loose an expletive. "B team leader," he yelled into his COM, "watch out for a new alien. Eight feet tall, hairy bastards, and they've got some weapon that completely drops shields. Relay the message! And triple-time it here!"

Then, a Hunter burst from around the corner, green light indicating that it was charging its fuel rod cannon. Before Sean could yell to the Spartans to scatter, he noticed that they were all already diving into the side hallways. He quickly snapped two grenades from his belt, primed them, and rolled them towards the Hunter. It fired, hitting the wall five feet behind Sean, but he nonetheless flew forward. He landed five feet from the boot-clad feet of the Hunter.

It brought up its huge shield to smash it down on Sean's head, but just then the grenades exploded. This was the one opportunity the Chief was going to get to get away, while the Hunter was a bit disoriented. He stood, turned, and ran for his life towards the outlet where his soldiers waited. As soon as they saw him, the two rocketeers shouldered the SPNK launchers, sidestepped into the corridor, and fired, directly above and below the Hunter.

They threw their rocket launchers aside, yanked a grenade from their belts, and rolled them at the Hunters feet. It was engulfed in flames for a full twenty seconds, and the Spartans all crowded into the hall with bated breath, unshouldering their weapons. The shields of the people who had been hit with the liquid from the weapon were recharging. Slowly. Finally, the smoke began to clear. No one could see anything from within, until suddenly, a green light started to glow bright behind the smoke.

Everyone with a clear shot opened fire on the patch of the Hunter that was lit up by his weapon. Two more soldiers in back threw grenades towards him. The noise in the hall was deafening, as bullets pinged off the Hunter's shield, or found their targets in its thick skin, and grenades went off. Everyone's breath caught in their throats as the huge ball of green plasma moved, but it was instantly let out when it fired into the ceiling above the Hunter's head. Hunters didn't seem to be the most intelligent of aliens, but they also didn't misfire like that.

It could only mean that it had died. Their suspicions were all confirmed when Grunts and Jackals began to pour in, scrambling over the ruined body of the Hunter. Grunts and Jackals didn't have the status to be in the presence of living Hunters. They were stepped on. Then the Spartans reopened fire on the small aliens.

Bodies were piling up on top of the Hunter, and soon it was going so far as to hinder their movement. After about a minute of the nearly effortless blasting of the tiny creatures, B team leader's voice came over the COM, "Chief, we're near your position, and we've spotted the new alien you reported, but it seems to be almost in a trance, staring at something around a corner. It's ignoring us. Orders sir?" "Send it to hell, Jacobson." A loud "BOOM" sounded, and Sean saw the red-orange fire of a rocket licking at the heels of oncoming Grunts.

The Spartans moved in and quickly dispatched the last of the Grunts and Jackals. They immediately began to remove bodies from the considerably high pile in their path. The soldiers all turned the corner, reloading, and B team was all standing clustered near the charred but still distinguishable body of the hairy beast.

It was still clutching its weapon, which, though it had been through the fires of the rocket as well, was still gleaming silver. Sean bent to pick up the weapon, and handed it to John, who stuffed it into his ammo sack. The Spartans were under standing orders to recover any and all Covenant technology. "Sir, D, E, G, and H teams are requesting assistance in the launch bay." "Sounds like as good a place as any to center the assault," replied Sean, "We're all going."

He opened his COM to F and I teams, and ordered them to the launch bay. "Move out Spartans! Reload as you go!" He and the rest of the Spartans started to quickly march through the halls, navigating by way of a map that Tyger projected onto their HUD's. Their movement was strangely unhindered, the corridors devoid of activity. They came upon occasional dead Covenant and sparking, smoking consoles, but nothing really happened until they were about twenty meters away from the launch bay. Sean's motion tracker went crazy; the entire upper half of the circle was red.

Plasma fire, artillery fire, explosions, roars, all could be heard up ahead, the noises of warfare. The Spartans were a level above the actual launch bay. They entered the area, and looked down at the carnage. Piles upon piles of dead Covenant lay on the bottom. Elites stood all around the level that Sean and his squad was on, laying down suppressive fire on the teams below.

The Spartans in the bay itself had control of a good portion of it, but they were under heavy assault by Hunters, Elites, Grunts, and Jackals all around. The Spartans below were taking cover behind anything they could, humongous purple crates, the shields of dead Hunters, and Covenant ships. Sean ordered the two squads under his control to seize the upper level. Most of the Elites were paying attention only to the battle below, and the Spartans saved as much ammo as possible, shoving them off the edge, even aiming them towards clusters of Covenant troops with plasma grenades stuck to them.

Once the level was clear, Sean set up guards at the access points, and snipers along the rim. Danielle was amongst the snipers who stayed above. Sean tried to tell himself that it was only because she was a crack shot, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he had left her there because it was the safest place to be. He knew he wouldn't put a woman over his duty. It wasn't something that was possible for him.

But he pushed the thought out of his mind, and gathered the thirty-five Spartans left under his command. He pointed to a very large crate behind the assaulting Covenant forces, and they all leapt onto it, then straight to the ground, positioning them strategically behind a pack of Elites. At his signal, a rocketeer fired directly into their midst. The Elites flew in every direction, and the ones that had been caught in the outermost fringes of the blast rolled and immediately stood.

That's when the Spartans charged. Sean ran head-on with an Elite, knife unsheathed, and rammed it into the creature's now-unshielded throat. He let it fall to the ground still in the flesh of the writhing Elite. Unshouldering his assault rifle, he walked almost casually behind an Elite that had another Spartan cornered, and fired a sustained burst into the center of its spine. It dropped, still clutching the trigger of its plasma rifle. Sean then felt plasma rifle bursts against his back, slowly dropping his shields.

He turned and saw an Elite bearing down on him. The Chief dove for the body of the Elite with his knife in its throat, rolled over it, clutching for the weapon, and came up to his knee, directly in front of the Elite. He drove the knife into its thigh up to the hilt. It roared in pain and anger, but Sean was already standing fully. He slammed his open palm into its chest, hoping to break whatever served as the creature's sternum, and heard a satisfying crunch as the Elite flopped to the deck. He retrieved his knife, wiped it on his shielded hand, and sheathed it. They had broken through the Covenant line into the center of the bay.

He ordered a few Spartans to fan out and disrupt the Covenant lines, but the rest he took into the center with him. They all fanned out, and began to revitalize clusters of soldiers that had been fighting the longest. "Tyger, are all the Spartans here," asked Sean. "Yes," she replied, "Sean, I'm still monitoring the Covenant's internal communications, and they're mentioning brutes again. I'm pretty sure that's the name for the hairy ones."

"Then we have to fight these bastards back before they get here and start bringing down our shields." As Sean fired repressively on a group of Jackals, he noticed a large purple vehicle that he had never seen the Covenant use before. He also found that it vaguely resembled a human Warthog.

There was a driver seat and a gunner seat, but instead of the devastating three-barreled .50 mm mini-gun of the Warthog, it appeared that a Shade stationary gun had been mounted on the seat. He signaled to John, and quickly whispered his plan. John hopped into the gunner seat as Sean seated himself up front. "Tyger," he said, "if you please."
"Just grasp the control sticks," came her reply, "it's just like most Covenant vehicles. She'll take off after that."

Slik 'Neoloop nearly panicked when he saw the primates enter the Shadow. The Exalted had ordered that any equipment the primates touched was to be immediately vaporized. This order was not open to debate, but on the battlefield, some things were simply not possible.

The Elite slinked back towards the rear of the Covenant line, his active camo generator giving the air around him a shimmering quality. He leapt atop a large crate, laid himself flat upon it, and shimmied to the edge to get a good view of the battlefield. His was a job that many lowly Elites were given, one without much honor. He was an observer, an 'Ossoona, one of three on board the outpost at present.

He had three cameras attached to his helmet, gathering every bit of information they could gather. It was all sent directly to the Prophets on the Covenant homeworld. They had ordered that a quota of observers be left on every ship and outpost, to obtain information on human troop behavior and tactics. As he lay as out of the way as he could get, he pondered the vermin who had dared to attack his race.

That they had not only believed themselves sentient enough to name their own race, humans, but also to give the various Covenant species names, proved their arrogance. The twelve-foot-tall, blue and orange behemoths with the battle-shields, which were rightfully named the Indestructibles, they had dubbed "Hunters".

The Viles, the meter-tall Covenant methane-sucking cannon fodder, they had given the name "Grunts". The other meter-tall, but less sickening, bird-like creatures called the Tenacious, with their rough, scaly blue-red skin, that carried personal energy shields, the humans had named "Jackals". And then there was 'Neoloop's own race, the blue-skinned, seven-foot tall, shielded creatures with up-sloped head, that had always been the most intelligent military commanders, the Domination, which the primates called "Elites".

It was disgusting how they believed they had such rights. Only the Exalted, the Prophets could name species. There were, however, a select few humans that had ever earned 'Neoloop's respect. Of the three hundred fighting in the launch bay, if Covenant ship records could be believed, two hundred fifty-nine had caused the deaths of at least a thousand Covenant troops each.

'Neoloop knew that they would win this battle, and would gain control of the entire outpost, but nothing could be done. Observers were strictly forbidden to fight the primates. He sighed as the two animals hijacked the Shadow and began running rampant, killing his brethren by the dozen, and went back to concentrating on not getting hit by any stray bullets.

Sean and John were having a disproportionate amount of fun in their new toy. It was fast enough for them to dodge Hunters' fuel rod bursts, and the extraordinary rear-mounted gun was able to mow down Elites with only a few shots. It was also almost laughable that he could not run down Grunts in the vehicle, as it hovered just slightly too high.

But on the opposite side of the launch bay, things were not going as well. Zack Estevao had seen the huge hairy beast alone, unguarded. When he charged toward it, it turned and fired the same clear globule at him, but it landed five feet from him. When it exploded, the liquid was only in proximity to him. His shields completely fizzled out, and the Brute charged for him.

It cocked its elbow back to swing at him with the razor-sharp claw, but Zack dodged. He threw a punch at the Brute's face, hitting it almost full force. But it jerked a bit, and he caught it half in the face and half in the bony forehead. He expected the bone to shatter. The Brute, however, seemed nearly unfazed, and immediately returned with a blow of its own, hitting Zack in his stomach. He stumbled backwards two steps, and then decided he was tired of the melee battle.

He unholstered his pistol quickly and fired three rounds into the Brute's chest. It roared and charged him again, while he fired two more bullets, which both found their target. The Brute ran into him full force, knocking him onto his back, but Zack had been trained for such maneuvers. As he fell, he grasped the creature's hands in his, planted his feet into its abdomen, and moved with the momentum of the shove. As the Brute flipped headfirst into the floor, he acted as a counter weight to pull up Zack, who ended up standing on top of the beast's solar plexus. He moved his boot forward, over the Brute's unprotected face, and slammed it down with all his might.

The Covenant vehicle suddenly exploded from underneath. Sean and John were thrown ten feet away. Damn, thought Sean, an Elite must have stuck a plasma grenade on the underside. He exchanged glances with John and said, "Fun while it lasted, eh?"
"You know it," replied John, "but with the way you drive I couldn't hit much." Suddenly, Tyger's voice piped into his ear, "Chief, the Covenant vessels have been destroyed, they're sending Pelicans and Longswords for clean-up."

"Roger that."
Sean stifled his feeling of relief, for this last stretch was usually the most dangerous, when most of the Spartans had to turn their backs on the Covenant forces to board the Pelicans, while the Longswords devastated the rest of them with their terrible chain-guns. He glanced outside the force fields of the bay and saw four Pelicans looming outside, slowly backing up to put their aft hatches into the bay.

Just above them were five Longswords, doing almost the same thing, edging in just enough so that their guns had free range of motion. Looking back to the battle, he found that one gold-suited Elite had formed a Brute and a Hunter up to pull something. The Pelicans were in now, and Sean ordered all the Spartan to retreat into them. Everyone from the upper level jumped down in the quickest way they could and ran full-sprint for the ships. Then the Brute fired.

Zack Estevao summed up exactly what would happen the moment he saw the Brute and Hunter forming up. When the Brute fired, he didn't think, only leapt. The other Spartans were scattering away because they knew what the globule of liquid could do. But Zack knew they wouldn't clear it fast enough. He dove in front of the clear ball, it smacked into his chest. Even as it hit him, the over-eager Hunter fired a fully charged fuel rod cannon burst.

Zack only slammed into the ground and completely covered the ball. It exploded soundlessly underneath him, and his shield was gone, but only his. Time seemed to slow for him personally as the huge green light filled his vision completely. It's going to be a direct hit, he thought. Moments later, there was pain, and then nothing.

Master Chief Sean Hawke watched in horror as the fuel rod cannon burst hit CPO Estevao. After a brief flash of light, he was looking at the blackened body of a fellow Spartan. As everyone else flooded into the Pelican ship, Sean ran for the body. He can still make it, he told himself. He's a Spartan.

He hefted the body onto his shoulders and ran into the Pelican. "Seal the hatch," he yelled to the pilot, "everyone's in!" The aft hatch closed and the ship blew out into space. He opened a COM to the Longsword pilots, said, "Do it." Rockets fired, instantly turning the entire bay into a kiln. Then the air inside was peppered with chain-gun fire until the barrels clicked. "Burn us back to the ship," he told the pilot, and double-time it!"

He ran into the back of the Pelican, and dropped to his knees next to Estevao's body. He struggled for a second, and then pulled off his fallen comrade's helmet. The sight that met his eyes was one he had always thought impossible. Charred skin, crisp and steaming. Spartan's didn't die like that. He lifted Zack's torso and hugged it to himself. He cried inside his helmet, and no one said anything to him for the rest of the way back to the Phoenix.

Chapter 4: Funeral for a Friend
Date: 11 May 2003, 4:29 AM

well, the fourth chapter...by the way, just for anyone whose wondering, this series is called Halo: Of War and Childhood...i put it in the first time, but it appears its too long and they just dont use it...just thought yall oughta know

Chapter 4: Funeral for a Friend

August 23, 2555, 1600 Earth Time, UNSC Destroyer The Phoenix

The eerie blackness of space consumed the body of Zack Estevao in its entirety. Every Spartan's eyes followed its path, at first straight, and then tumbling end over end. "Ten-Hut," yelled Captain Mendez, a solemn look on his face. The soldiers stood at full attention. A few minutes later, the Spartans were dismissed, leaving them all to their own thoughts.

Sean stood near the huge view-port, his enhanced vision still showing him Estevao's charred face in exquisite detail. He was no longer crying, at least not physically. Estevao had probably saved at least six fellow Spartans. One life to save six. It seemed like a more than fair trade-off. But why did it feel to Sean that there was no such thing as a fair trade in his business?

Death of one of his own had been something he had been trained to deal with, and prepare for. His original training officer, all the way from when he was only six years old, Petty Officer First Class Max Luther, had always told him that the burden of command was loving each and every one of his subsidiaries, but still being able to send one of them to their death if need be. Estevao hadn't been ordered to his death. He had leapt to it, because he knew it had to be done, and the Master Chief would have willingly dove in front of the Brute's fire if it meant that Estevao could have lived.

"Sean," came a sweet voice from behind him, "it's not your fault." The words the Chief had so desperately wanted—needed to hear from someone, he could not now believe. He turned and looked into her visor, said, "Of course it is Danielle! If not mine then whose? Is it all part of 'God's Plan'?" "Sean," she said again, this time raising her hand to the side of his face, "it's not your fault." He sighed. "I—I know, or at least I think I do. But how else can I explain it?"

She pulled him into an ungainly embrace, their armor hindering them a bit. Sean grasped her hand and pulled her along the dark, silent corridor to the Spartans' barracks, saying nothing. When they reached the door to the barracks, Sean pulled Danielle around I front of him, grasping both her hands. They touched each other's helmeted foreheads together for a few moments, and then she turned and walked through the door. Sean plodded slowly along to his bedroom. When he got there, he stripped off his MJOLNIR armor and went immediately to sleep.

Slik 'Neoloop had watched the funeral detail intently, trying to figure out the meaning for such a thing. These soldiers were great warriors, and commanded respect, but they did not even rank Ship Masters. The Prophets were the only creatures who were paid any reverence in death by the Covenant. 'Neoloop had also gotten as close to the strange display of the two Spartans as possible, making sure his cameras were all well-positioned to capture it all.

He slinked back down a short hallway to the place he had chosen that he believed would afford him some protection from human discovery. He entered a room and quickly jumped up to the vent in the ceiling. Earlier he had found to his extreme pleasure that the system extended nearly throughout the entire ship. By crawling half a mile, he could come to the bridge, the Spartan's barracks, to almost anywhere of significance. He came to a convergence of about sixteen different vents, where he had made his living space.

He lay down on his back and thought back to hours ago when he had just barely escaped death. When he had seen the human ships hovering outside, he had known what would happen when the green-clad warriors got aboard their ships. Leaping to the upper level, he had spared a quick glance back at all the Covenant who were about to die. Not once did he poke his head out of the side hall he had ducked into until the thunderous noises stopped.

That's when the normal Marines had flooded the outpost. They swept any and all remaining Covenant forces out, and had stripped the outpost of weapons, rations, and technology. But curiously, they had also made out with bodies of every representative of the Covenant species. As the primate-soldiers were loading back on to their transport ships, 'Neoloop had been able to slip I amongst them and then hide in the aft-most section. His entire time on the human ship had been filled with the temptation to destroy every last one of them.

His Elite brothers and sisters had all been killed. Dammit, he thought, if only the Zemek had chosen a less inopportune time to wage war against the Covenant. They would have had double the amount of soldiers on board the outpost had they not been so otherwise concerned. If not for the Brutes bolstering their numbers now, they would almost be in trouble. The Brutes would make good foot soldiers as well as field commanders.

Their telepathic abilities had suited them well for this job; they had even been able to make the Indestructibles hold off. The technology they possessed was also magnificent. The maneuvers made possible with their instant shield-burning weapons were more effective than any other tactics had been, especially against the armored humans. The Brutes' only problem was the trance-like state they went into when commanding the troops. Slik 'Neoloop clicked his mandibles, and pondered all of these things during his hourly prayer ritual.

As the black-suited Elite Ziko 'Zamamee plodded down Outpost 95-L corridor F-371, he fumed in his head over the meeting he was about to enter. Alongside him walked the outpost's Minor Prophet's personal assistant Plok 'Hatomee. Ziko greatly disrespected any Elite that wasn't a soldier, and he believed Plok knew it.

But Ziko was not going to the meeting to make any requests of Plok; his business was only with the Prophet who Plok represented. The words of the Prophets are the words of the Gods, Ziko repeated the True Saying over an over in his head, convincing himself that his request was the will of the Gods, so surely the Prophet must allow it. He bustled straight through the waiting room into the Prophet Hall, knowing that his request was more urgent than those of the assorted group sitting impatiently in the cramped room.

Plok, looking flustered at Ziko's arrogance, walked slowly ahead of where Ziko had stopped, turned eloquently, and announced, "The soldier is here." The sounds echoed off the high walls of the dark room. Ziko heard the whirring of the Prophet's hover-chair and two spotlights appeared, one indicating where Ziko was to stand, and the other for Plok. The Prophet would stay in the darkness, a more recent precaution taken in case of mutineer assassins.

The two Elites took their places and the meeting began. "Ziko 'Zamamee," came Plok's voice, "you have requested to take up the work of your father, Zuka 'Zamamee, on a much larger scale. Three hundred human soldiers, each individually responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our soldiers—." "At least a thousand apiece lord," Ziko corrected. He was angry that he had to address Plok in such a manner, but because the Prophet was, for the moment, psychically linked to him, Ziko had no choice, for in essence Plok was the Prophet.

"As it were," the Prophet continued, "your father could not eliminate one armored human-beast, and you expect me to allow you to engage three-hundred of them? What resources would you request of me in order to carry this out?" This was the part that Ziko had been most worried about. He lifted his datapad and read aloud from it: "One frigate with a self-chosen crew of: fifty Indestructibles, one hundred Veteran Domination, ten Shade stationary plasma turrets, twenty Banshees, twenty Ghosts, and ten Shadows."

The look on Plok's face was one of sheer outrage, as Ziko knew his request would be met. "You are insane if you believe that we could afford to spare so many troops from the Zemek war," said Plok. Ziko replied, with as little emotion as possible, "But the Zemek are no longer our biggest threat. We are nearly finished ousting the Zemek from our space, and these armored humans have pushed back our forces along a sector of space, we've lost a third outpost to them just yesterday." "I would be cautious of what you say," this time it was actually Plok talking, with a pompous voice, and a slight smile on his face, "you begin to touch the borders of treason."

Then the Prophet took over again, "It would be advisable to listen to him. I am afraid I cannot allow you to undertake this mission. Dismissed." "Lord," roared Ziko, clicking his mandibles incessantly, "perhaps you should step out of your 'invincible Covenant' outlook, and look at what is truly happening to our race! If these armored humans are not taken care of soon, they will become the doom of our species!"

Growling, Plok drew a blade from a sheath on his hip, and leapt at Ziko, knocking him down. Startled by the non-soldier's action, Ziko was only able to stop the knife bare centimeters from his throat. Strengthened from years of warfare, Ziko slowly turned the knife back towards Plok's neck, till it was touching his jugular. As a bead of blue blood appeared at the knife's tip, Plok suddenly stood up and backed away, wrenching the knife from Ziko's hand, with the strength of the Prophet's mind backing him. He sheathed it, and the Prophet said through him, "I'll allow it. Unlike with your father however, I will be taking precautions ensuring that you do not fail."

"My eternal gratitude, lord," said Ziko, and he pivoted on one foot to leave. He stopped at the door, turned back to Plok, and said, "One more thing: it is my understanding that a single 'Ossoona, a one Slik 'Neoloop, is aboard the ship that the armored humans inhabit. I will require full access to his transmissions." "Granted," said Plok, sending Ziko a look that could burn a hole through a Grunt, and clutching his neck, "dismissed." Ziko exited into the waiting room, for a second savoring his victory.

He walked over to a red-suited Grunt, who became nervous immediately. He asked the Grunt it's name, and it responded, "Lalan, Exalted." The Elite grinned, said, "Today is your lucky day, Lalan. I am feeling most generous. I have decided to allow you to transcend the physical." Before the Grunt could even begin to look startled, Ziko clicked his mandibles, reached up behind the tiny creature's head, and yanked a methane tube out of its life support tank.

The Grunt's eyes bulged, and it fell to the floor, grasping at the flailing tube, barking and wheezing, and twitching convulsively. Finally, it shuddered, clutched its throat tightly enough to spill its own blood, and died. The entire time, every being in the room watched in horror, transfixed by the gruesome sight, except for Ziko, who breathed in the strong scent of the Grunt's blood, sighing in pleasure, and shuddering as he listened to its dying gasps.

Chapter 5: The Beginning
Date: 16 May 2003, 4:07 AM

Chapter 5! As always, read and critique. I'm feeling pretty good about this chapter. *waves flag* go me.

Chapter 5: The Beginning

Captain Arnold Mendez yawned and scratched at his beard stubble. He was drinking his last cup of coffee before bed, the rest of the mess hall empty around him. He thought back to the day's battle. How close it had come, just as every other time before, and probably every other time to come.

The Covenant ships frightened him every time, made him think of sharks, and after every battle he had nightmares, nightmares in which he was stuck in the middle of the ocean, his blood pouring out, and sharks were coming for him out of the depths. His blood would cloud the water, he couldn't see the sharks, but he knew they were there.

They were always there, just out of sight, waiting for him to turn his back, waiting to nibble off just the tiniest piece of him. Just like today. When he had been careless enough to fire the MAC gun without waiting the two seconds to thrust upwards, so that the plasma bolt could miss them and have to swing in its wide arc to come for another pass.

Three feet of Titanium-A battleplate armor vaporized, across seven decks. It was just that much sooner they would have to return to Earth, or Reach II. Jesus but he was getting old. Too old to fly around in space, not that kind of crap. And those Spartans bothered him too. He respected them, sure, of course he did, they were heroes of the war, supposedly humanity's last hope.

But they weren't human, they may as well have been cyborgs for all that had been done to them. All kinds of chemical crap injected into them, the armor, even a damned AI, they might be a ship from their technical schematics. Mendez just didn't understand why anyone had to tamper with good old human blood. He knew seven thousand good Marines on his ship alone that could certainly do what they did.

But he knew that whatever happened, once the war with those stupid Covie bastards was over, no one would ever have to screw around with people any more. He drained his cup, stood up, and walked to his quarters. That night, sharks came for him again. As always.

Sean woke up the next morning from a terrible dream. Three women, swirling around him, their colors running until they became only one. He recognized all three of the women. One, Tyger, two Danielle, and three, his mother. A woman he didn't know, but a woman he felt he had lost nonetheless.

Suddenly, an Elite appeared, and then Sean became aware of his body. He was tied down, the Elite stalking slowly towards the woman, Sean, powerless do anything. The Elite snuck quietly behind the woman, threw what Sean assumed passed for a grin at him, and a plasma sword materialized in its hand.

The woman put up no resistance as the Elite slit her throat, and then began to chuckle in its deep, throaty voice. It had just begun to advance on Sean's prone form, when the Master Chief woke up in a cold sweat, gasping for air.

Two and a half decks up, Slik 'Neoloop was shimmying his way through a particularly tight vent, attempting to get a good view of the bridge. Foolishly designed, he thought to himself. The bridge should be deep within the ship, self-contained, covered by multiple layers of armor.

But since when was it his responsibility to critique the humans' insane methods? He just wanted to watch. He was disappointed to find that the Ship Master was not on the bridge, and it was basically being run by a skeleton crew, none of whom ranked very high. So he crawled back through his living space, continued on, and finally found himself above the Master Chief's private quarters.

He looked down on the naked form of Sean Hawke, who was sitting on the edge of his bed. The Elite thought he looked quite different than any of the other humans, but couldn't quite place it for a few seconds. Then he spotted it. The creature below him was a ghoulish white, paler than any other human-beasts he had ever seen, and Slik found it to be quite disgusting, though he thought that way about them all.

Below, Sean stood up and walked to what appeared to be a blank wall. He pressed his palm against a spot on the wall that looked completely random, than said aloud, "Hawke, Sean, Spartan 717, service number 408915882387SH, security override Alpha." Sean didn't know what the hell was watching him from that vent, but his pistol would take care of it damn fast. Slik wished the human would move, if only slightly, so he could see what the creature was doing.

Was it some sort of ritual? Suddenly, from the wall that the Elite had thought was only a wall, a rack of weapons popped out. This would not bode well, not at all, Slik thought. He moved away from the vent just in time to see the Master Chief whirl around, pistol upraised, pointing it directly at the Elite's head. Sean froze, and stood for one minute staring at the vent, the pistol never wavering.

By the time he decided it had only been a feeling, the Elite was nearly back to his living space.

Ziko 'Zamamee sat in the exact center of the Covenant frigate JHD-95, watching the live feed of 'Ossoona 'Neoloop. Ziko's first impression of the observer was that of a devoted imbecile. All Covenant soldiers had been briefed on the armored humans' enhanced hearing, and the Elite should never have risked being anywhere near them while on board the ship.

However, it did offer Ziko some interesting footage, and he decided that it was almost worth it. Almost. When the 'Ossoona got back to his living space, and it seemed he was done for the time, Ziko went back to his preparations for the next operation.

Once the humans had tagged the outpost they had captured, for those still to come, their battle group of ships had made a slipspace jump to the nearest Covenant-owned planet. Ziko's own ship would arrive two days ahead of them, giving him barely enough time to prepare his forces on the planet surface. But it mattered little.

The Elite sat back in his chair, closed his eyes, and thought about the thrill of victory. His thoughts drifted lazily, and he was nearly sleeping when an Elite burst in the door, reporting that another two battlegroups had been detected entering Slipspace, on heading for the same planet that the armored humans were headed toward.

Again, it mattered little, for his war was only on the ground. For all that he truly cared, his ship would be floating dead in space after he arrived. Ziko waved the Elite out of the room, and went back to planning his troop placement.

One light year away, Admiral Jason Jones stood proudly on the bridge of his Nova Class Cruiser, Orca, his hands behind his back, and surveyed his bridge crew. They were the finest crew in the universe, on the finest ship in the fleet. UNSC cruisers were a rare sight, as only fifty of them existed, and they were the largest, most powerfully equipped ships ever built by Human hands.

With just over twelve feet of Titanium-A battle plate armor, two Super Magnetically Accelerated Cannons, or Super MACs as everyone in the fleet called them, fifty Archer missile pods, and hundreds of .55 mm mini-guns for point defense, it was hard not to feel damn near invincible. Along with the shields, the cruiser was the very first in the fleet that was signed up to receive plasma weapons when the Office of Naval Intelligence made their breakthrough.

Thinking of the office, Jones was reminded of the damned ONI spook aboard his ship at that very moment. The bastards still weren't pleased with the way the war was going, so they insisted that one of their men was monitoring every move the ship and her crew made.

The door to the bridge slid open, and in walked Andrew Schlechter, making Jones think to himself, speak of the frickin' devil. He turned with a forced smile, and said, "Well hello, Mr. Schlechter, you know how much we enjoy the ONI's little vis--." "Stow it," said Andrew, "you have blatantly disregarded the ONI's advice yet again, Admiral. Three Archer missile pods were burned off during your last battle, and you've lost your entire twelve feet of battle armor where you were hit on deck eleven." "Yes," Jones replied coolly, "and it has been sealed off. And three Archer missile pods gone does not a catastrophe make."

"I don't want to hear your opinion! One well-placed shot could gut this ship. You are placing UNSC property in direct danger."

From behind him, Lieutenant Wallace at tactical said, "Begging your pardon, sir, but first off, the Admiral's ship doesn't get 'gutted' while we're runnin' it; and secondly, the crew of this ship isn't the 'property' of UNSC. We signed up to defend the Human race, remember? Slavery was outlawed hundreds of years ago, remember?"

That bought a grin to all the bridge crew, even the Admiral, who immediately fought it down. Schlechter, looking angry and flustered, opened his mouth and closed it, once, twice, three times in a comical display that brought the image of a fish to mind, and then stormed off the bridge. Once the door was closed behind him, a few of the crewmen let out small laughs.

The admiral walked up behind the Lieutenant and placed his hand on the woman's shoulder. Leaning over, he whispered in her ear, "I hate him as much as you do, but let's try not to piss 'im off any more than we need to." He winked at her as he walked back down to the center of the bridge.

Helmsman Logan Hartford kept a sharp eye on his station at all times; he was the type of person the Admiral thought they needed more of in the fleet: cool, steely confidence and an obedient crispness to him.

Science Officer William Nylund was almost the opposite. He wasn't lax in his duties, but he came off as being lighthearted. Still, though, he was brilliant, and he could make connections between his scientific outlook and the military.

Chief Engineer Eric Dietz, on the bridge only because of the lull in fighting, had a reputation as a miracle-worker. He could force four hundred percent engine output with a reactor that was in the process of melting from a plasma blast, or so the legend went. And then there was Tactical Officer Sarah Wallace.

Only one word could describe her in the Admiral's mind: hardcore. She was enthusiastic about ship-to-ship battles, cooler under fire than anyone he had ever seen, and she wasn't afraid to stand up to authority when authority was made up of idiots. If he ever made a moronic order, she'd tell him, and if he insisted on carrying out that order, she might just shoot him. Exactly what he needed.

He had chosen almost every single crew member on the entire ship, had gone through thousands of Career Service Vitaes, and had contacted hundreds of their old commanding officers. And now it came to a very important mission, and the security he felt with his handpicked crew couldn't be rivaled. They were going to take a planet from the Covenant.

Seven battle groups, all told about one hundred ships, including three cruisers. Then there were the ground troops that every ship would be deploying. Tens of thousands of UNSC Marines. The Covies were pretty damn serious about their planets, so that much firepower was needed. And it would take months afterwards of short, furious battles in orbit to keep the bastards from just glassing the whole damn planet.

But once colony ships came and dug themselves in, the planet would be a very strategic shipyard. The fleet could spare themselves a two-month journey back to Reach II. So they would win this damn thing, and maybe, just maybe, the ONI spooks would get off their backs.

One. Whole. Week. A whole week before they would reach the planet. Sean didn't believe he could survive. Starships made him uncomfortable, cramped, closed in. It was something he knew all Spartans dealt with.

Their testosterone glands were over-active; they were always ready to do something, to fight, to move. Unfortunately, Dr. Halsey, the scientist who had originally brought the Spartan Project into being, had thought the whole thing up, wasn't taking social interaction into consideration.

Sean would sweat just talking to someone, almost wishing the person was an Elite, would lash out at him. The Spartans were an irritable bunch when they were on starships too long. Sean felt he wasn't in control of his life when he stayed on board for extended periods of time. Sean didn't have dreams about invincibility or unknown women anymore.

He dreamt of killing, of ripping Elites' limbs out of their sockets, of lapping up the blood. He had claws, could tear flesh from anything, could eat a Grunt's tender meats, could even eat his own arm off if the need be. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

It drove him insane not to be in cryosleep, at least then he didn't get the itch, didn't feel like luring in an insignificant ensign, and pouncing on him, and lashing for his jugular. He could hear the heartbeat of anyone within ten feet, he would imagine it was a deer, that he was a puma, anything, as long as he could rip it, tear it, devour it.

Feel the warmth of its blood on his hands,
(so warm)
licking it off,
(so warm)
smearing it on his body.

He felt an animalistic rage at the walls, like he could attack them and be set free, like clawing at them long enough would open the vastness of space to him, so that it would swallow him whole.
(so cold, so cold)
Swallow him up like
(like he would swallow an ensign's flesh)
like an ocean swallows a single survivor of a wrecked ship.

It scared him to be that way, it scared him to want to kill so badly, to need to kill so badly. To sweat constantly, to see the world around him as though it were a never-ending threat, like an animal does.
(he was an animal)
He wished he could feel human. He wished he could feel like a child,
(he never was a child)
except he did feel like a child, scared and
(and murderous)
small. So small. A child who was
(was deadly)
so small, so innocent.

Ziko 'Zamammee found it nearly impossible to put enough effort into his trap. He could not stop judging his own work over and over again, only to find some imaginary problem. He never stopped working all the possibilities through on his head.

The armored humans might not all come to take his bait, a single Domination might move ever so slightly, showing his presence to the motion sensors,, the humans might not even ever find out about the bait, and they could take over the planet, leaving no backup for his forces. The armored human his father had attempted to kill had never even known that an Elite carried a personal vendetta against him, had destroyed him with a passing thought, stepping in his entrails, believing him to be just another Elite trying to stop him destroying the holy relic.

The same would not be true of Ziko. He would make sure the armored humans' leader survived, and then would tell him the story of his life, all the way up to the moment when he would kill him. It would be much different from his father, whose endeavors had brought dishonor to Ziko, to his father's mate, to his father's sire and dame.

Ziko would bring honor back tenfold, and he would be made a ship master, or a gold-suit, a field commander, and he would have as many mates as he chose, with twice as many children. They would have honor enough to survive a hundred generations. They would hear the legend of their father, who saved the Covenant from extinction. Crazed images of him becoming the Supreme Commander flashed through his head.

His teeth gnashed wildly, and any creature, Covenant or Human or Zemek, would have thought he was dying. But he felt better than he had ever felt before.

The itch was receding. Sean was beginning to feel like a normal human being again. The biting urge to rip, tear, kill was ebbing. In one hour, The Phoenix would emerge from Slipspace, with one hundred and fifteen other ships arriving within a minute.

But The Phoenix wasn't immediately going to engage the Covenant fleet in orbit. She and fourteen other ships in the Human fleet were going to deploy their dropships in close proximity to it, unloading a full compliment of Marines, nearly thirty-thousand all told, including the Spartans.

Sean was long suited up and ready, with a full battle load of ammo for his shotgun, assault rifle, and pistol. He also carried, sheathed at his hip, a knife with a nine inch blade, serrated on one side. His entire attack force of Spartans stood at attention, preparing to enter the modified Pelican dropships, in perfectly straight rows.

He shouted, "Remember John, one seventeen, the Master Chief! He fought for Earth, without other Spartans by his side, and he won. He killed ten thousand Covies in one blow, he was the savior of Earth a hundred times over. Remember him, and remember Zack Estevao. He died to save his teammates, and today we are two hundred ninety-nine instead of less, because of him. Fight for him, fight for Earth, but always remember, because of him, you all do have fellow Spartans at your side.

I didn't get a chance to give a eulogy at his funeral, but if I had, this is what I would've said: Zack, you were a hardcore sonofabitch. I can give a Spartan no higher praise than that, and I'm sure he was proud that he died to save some of you, his best friends, his family, part of him. Fight for him, remember him, remember Earth, and remember the Master Chief!"

Loud yells, whoops, and battle cries rose up, everyone bowing their heads or raising their weapons high into the air.

"Now," he said, "remember that this planet has only a tenth Earth grav, so we are gonna be some kinda light down there. Remember that some things'll be a little more complicated; throwing grenades, weapon kick, and, most importantly, jumping. Were gonna have to tap the ground light, or we'll go thirty feet up, way to high for max effectiveness. The low grav will intensify your movements, it'll screw up everything, you gotta be less strong, you gotta be human."

His briefing brought a few nods, but mostly determined silence. At a word, every one of them marched into their assigned Pelican. Four dropships primed for liftoff. After fifteen minutes sitting in the ships, motes of green light appeared outside the launch bay shield, and The Phoenix left Slipspace.

She was a hundred thousand kilometers away from the planet, as fully accurate Slip jumps couldn't be calculated for. Within seconds, clusters of other ships appeared all around The Phoenix, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, a terrifying sight.

"All one hundred sixteen ships accounted for," said Tyger in his ear, "opening launch bay shields." As their own launch bay opened, so did those of fourteen other ships, a thousand Pelican dropships swarming for the planet, the actual fleet close in around them, shielding them for their entry. In his ship, Sean set the burn for atmosphere entrance, sat back, and swallowed.

On the planet surface, Ziko 'Zamammee began the first phase of his trap, and started a back and forth transmission with a ghost speaker a thousand miles away.

As the ship-to-ship battles were beginning overhead, and the Pelicans were nearing the final leg of their descent, Tyger spoke up again to Sean. "Chief, I'm picking up a transmission from the Covenant, and I think you had better hear it." She piped it in.

He heard frantic Elite voices, one of which kept repeating over and over: "We must evacuate the Prophet from this position! The Exalted must not be on-planet! Send a ship down on this transmission location to remove him. Now! Now!" Sean gasped.

It had been an ongoing part of every ground mission the Spartans ever went on: attempt to capture a Prophet at all costs. There were suggestions from ONI that holding a religious leader might actually serve to end the war, they were that important. It was an opportunity that couldn't be missed. He opened a channel to all Pelicans, said, "All Spartans break off and follow me. Marines, continue as planned. Out."

Ziko Zamammee's sharp eyes caught the four red dots on the tactical board break from the larger group and set out for the position of the transmission. It would be twenty minutes before the Elite was finally rewarded for his initiative.

Chapter 6: The Trap
Date: 19 October 2003, 5:38 AM

Chapter 6: The Trap

Slik 'Neoloop held tightly to a thick metal bar as the Pelican rumbled slightly in its supersonic descent to the planet. He was nearest to the rear exit hatch of the craft, as far away from the stink-humans as possible. Slik had seen them in action only days ago, he did not believe that they could truly be defeated. The one he had attended the funeral of was the only death ever recorded by the Covenant of one of the armored humans, aside from those on planets when they were glassed. After thirty years, one single armored human had been killed in actual combat, and he had died to defend a large group of them. This was not the way the war had been foreseen as going by the Prophets. Everywhere the armored humans showed up, the marines who had only a few moments before been cowering behind rocks, hiding for dear life, were suddenly whipped into a frenzy of action, morale, and bravado. The leadership abilities of these humans were unchallenged by those of even the Supreme Commander. As the Pelican slowed for a landing, Slik prepared himself to leap out before any of the armored humans had even stood up. A slight lurching indicated a put-down, and the door slid open with light hiss. Slik dove out, rolled on the grainy red sand, and stood up next to a rock. He backed himself against it, and relied on his active camo generator and the slight bit of dust storm to hide from the humans view. Looking around, Slik was surprised to see that only four dropships were in the area, only the armored humans were filing out. He had believed that they would be on their way to a main city, to lead in a major assault. This did not appear to be anywhere important. Peeking over the rock, he saw a single shining building amongst the miles of empty red sand. They must believe that something important is here to have diverted the entire team of armored humans to the spot. The observer edged closer to where the leader of the humans was standing, talking to five others. "These are the coordinates the transmission was coming from," he said, "but it seems we would be meeting a bit more resistance if they were defending a Prophet." A Prophet? On-planet? It was impossible. If any human ships were detected inbound for a planet, Prophets were the first to be evacuated. Therefore, Slik came to the conclusion that there were only two possibilities: first, there had been some kind of immense failure in someone's system, or two, the transmission the humans had intercepted had been the bait for a trap. He had had no contact with any of his own kind for over a week, so he had no ideas on what was going on. "Perhaps," said another of the armored humans, "they have decided that discretion would be the better way to avoid an attack on their Prophet." "But they were broadcasting on a completely unguarded freq," replied the first. "If they were truly so desperate to save their leader, then they may well have had good reason to do so." Now Slik knew it was a trap. No Elite would be desperate enough to broadcast on open frequency in order to save a Prophet. Even if the Prophet had been retieved, the Elite would be executed for endangering the leader so. Execution by the Prophet Council was the only death any Elite feared. Their limbs were chained, suspending them in the air. They were left for two days without food, but with minimal water, and after the days had passed, a dead Grunt was hung one foot in front of their face. Most Elites had pride enough that they wouldn't attempt to gain the food. But after two more days, no Elite had the will to stop themselves. They could be found later gnashing, snarling, not caring whether they defecated on themselves, not seeing anything but the food. In their final hours, Grunts taunted the creatures, laughing, delivering blows, weak blows that were magnified a thousand fold by the sheer humiliation in it. In the end, electricity was pumped through the chains, and a plasma sword rammed through their chest cavity. It motivated an Elite never to waver in his obedience or his efficiency. The last time Slik had ever heard of an Elite being executed by the Council was when he was a young child. It did not happen often. So there must be a trap involved. He snuck around the rock and sprinted for the building, wanting this to be the end of his job as an observer.

"Admiral, three plasma torpedoes inbound, first contact in seventeen seconds, MACs, firing in eight seconds," yelled Lieutenant Wallace from the tactical station of the Orca's bridge. "Alright, we'll pull a Keyes' Loop on the bastards, been awhile since they've seen one of them, eh," Admiral Jason Jones replied, "As soon as the MACs are away, and the plasma torps are one second from impact, fire all our bottom emergency thrusters." The emergency thrusters were strategically placed tanks of trihydride tetrazine and hydrogen peroxide. When they mixed, they did so with explosive force, enough force to blow the entire ship onto a completely different course in a matter of milliseconds. The ship's AI, KLJH, had heard the admiral's orders and responded, "Aye aye, sir." Their was a loud boom, marking the exit of the MAC, and another, louder, more resonant boom a few seconds after, and the Admiral was nearly thrown to the deck as the ship shot up forcefully. A single plasma torpedo scraped along shield on the bottom of the ship, and then all three of them began their wide arc to continue burning through space after the Orca. The ship's engine began a maximum burn directly on course for the trio of Covenant frigates. "Give me two hundred percent engine output," Admiral Jones yelled over the intercom to Chief Engineer Eric Dietz, "I don't wanna give the bastards any time to think this over." But it was too late, one Covenant frigate maneuvered out of its tight formation with the other two, but those stayed where they were. Oh well, thought Jones, we'll deal with that ship when we come to it. "Kayell," he yelled, referring to the AI, give me a course correction that will have us missing them by a few meters." "Done," she replied, and began to count down to course correction, "In seven...six...five...four...three...two...one..." The deck tilted upward for a split-second before the compensators boosted. Aft cameras turned on automatically, and there was a flash of light as two plasma torpedoes slammed into one Covenant ship, and the third slammed into the other. The first ship's shields crackled, flared, and died, and the second torpedo immediately slammed into her hull, and a satisfying melting ensued. The second ship took a torpedo, and her shields died. "Wallace," yelled the admiral, "fire Archer missiles at will, and get us facing that third ship!" He paused to take a look at the overall space based tactical board. The blue dots were Human ships, and the red were Covie. He didn't know if it was his imagination, but it seemed that there were a lot more red dots than blue. Every few seconds, dots of either color would disappear, and it looked like the rates were even. But what did the rate matter if the Covies outnumbered them so?

Thirty-five light-years away, on Earth herself, in Earth City, Mozambique in Africa, in the huge Earth Prison, in a tiny cell, a wall screen flashed multiple times in different colors: Daniel Heath, you have been convicted of the crime of murder in the first degree, for the murder of James Millard. Below that, a countdown clock told him that he had thirty-seven minutes and twenty-four seconds before the guards came to carry out his sentence. Heath looked upwards at the mounted camera in the uppermost corner of his cell. He was resigned to the fact that no amount of begging could save his life, and would only lessen people's respect of him. Not that he got much respect anymore. No one was around to give it to him. He had only ever seen any guards' faces once, when he was brought into his cell, and would only see them once more in his lifetime, when he would be taken out. Food was slid in through a four-inch thick slit at the bottom of his door every day, which was sealed when food wasn't coming in or out. A huge cylindrical tower with hundreds of levels contained his tiny cell, which was one of eight on his level. The center of the tower held the elevator guards used daily to bring food to the inmates, and occasionally, like today, bring prisoners to their executions. Execution would not be pretty. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, that's what all the politicians said. And it seemed it worked at least moderately well. This was the only prison left on Earth. Daniel heard the whirring of the elevator at two minutes left on the countdown. He whimpered a bit, but he didn't think the cameras would pick it up. He hoped not. When the elevator stopped at his level, he erased all the emotions from his face. The thick door slid open, revealing two burly guards, one of whom said, "Daniel Heath." It wasn't a question, but Daniel couldn't resist responding, "Sorry, wrong floor, he's two levels up." He crossed the room to the door, feeling vulnerable in his nakedness. "Sorry Heath, you know it has to be done," said one guard solemnly, raising a silver disc with a tiny needle protruding from it. Daniel stifled the look of terror in his eyes, and the guard stepped behind him. He felt the needle pierce the skin on the back of his, it only hurt for a moment, and then he didn't feel anything. It suddenly seemed like a wonderful idea to follow the guards, putting up no resistance. Yes, in fact, it had to be done. Daniel didn't know if he didn't feel the elevator going down or if he just didn't care, but he knew it was going down because all the levels around them were going up. Down? Only one thing important was downstairs. The execution room was down there. But the guards were nice. They were going to set him free. The elevator stopped. They all walked out a big door, into pretty sunlight. The sun was much too bright on Daniel's eyes, and he realized it had been seven months since he had seen the sun, had been outside, had tasted fresh air. It really was beautiful, he thought, there were a few trees, some birds, nice green grass. They didn't overdo it. Maybe they would give him the number of their landscaper when he got his new home. But wait. They weren't heading for the gate. They were heading for the squat silver building only fifty feet from the tower. Fear should have been flooding his body, panic, and perhaps Daniel knew this somewhere in the haze that was his drugged mind. But instead he accepted that they were on their way to check him out of prison. Once they entered the building, the guards had to have their Ids checked, and they scanned Daniel's DNA, to make sure it was really him. After all, they wouldn't want to be releasing a bad guy. They walked into a small room, cameras mounted in each upper corner, and a slab of steel eight feet high in the exact center. Around the other side, four metal clamps were open on the slab. A man in a black suit with a white collar, and who carried a little book, whom Daniel recognized as a priest, stood next to a burly man with a black hood over his head, his arms crossed in front of him. The two guards clamped Daniel to the large steel platform, removed the disc from the back of his neck, and walked out. For a fleeting moment, he wished they hadn't gone, he kind of liked them, but then realized where he was, what was about to happen. He bit back his panic, knowing that the whole thing was being televised, not wanting self-righteous mothers and their children across the world to see the fear in his eyes. The priest walked silently to the front of him, crossing first himself, and then Daniel. He said a short blessing, a simple prayer for deliverance, and Daniel recognized it from when he was a child. Hell, he thought, if the big man can actually give me deliverance, I'll take it. The priest asked solemnly, "Do you have any last words? Remember this is televised worldwide, and you will be remembered for what you say here and now." Daniel had always known that this question would come, and he had stayed up late nights pondering it. How would he like to be remembered? The guy who says something religious, saying that he'd found Jesus in his months of imprisonment, and had repented his sins? Or the guy who said something rude, just to go out with a bang? He had finally decided on a humorous ending. So he said, "One thing to say. More of a request really. Could you tell that guy not to kill me," jerking his head at the hooded man. The priest only nodded, but Daniel saw what he would have sworn was a slight smile in the eyes of the hooded man. The hooded man walked to the wall directly opposite Daniel, and pressed the wall, speaking a few numbers and letters. When he next turned around, he as holding a gun. "James Millard was killed with three bullets," he said, "one to the right elbow, one to the right shoulder, and the final one to the heart. Would you like to be considered for military resuscitation?" Daniel had also spent nights pondering this. Military resuscitation was a fairly new program, whereby the bodies of people who signed up were immediately frozen, cured, and then conscripted. It seemed to Daniel that for him it was a win-win situation. The sweet release of death...or living tomorrow to see the sunshine. "Yes," he managed to choke out. "Fine," said the executioner, raising the gun. A red laser sight wobbled across his body, coming to rest on his right elbow. He closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath as the executioner breathed out, squeezing the trigger. Daniel didn't hear the noise of the gun, only felt the jolt of pain, saw his red blood pumping out, knew he was dying, that that was his life's blood pumping out. It should hurt, shouldn't it? He thought that, but still it did not hurt, and there was no arguing with what he felt. Daniel watched with a degree of impassiveness as the red laser moved swiftly to his shoulder. This time around, he heard the shot, heard bones shattering inside, felt as though a dizziness was coming over him, and knew it must be the loss of blood. Still, though, it didn't hurt. He felt warm liquid on his face, and thought it must be tears. But as it dribbled down his face, into his mouth, he recognized the alkali taste of his own blood. It had splashed up on him from the second bullet. He thought that by now he was numb to the pain, but the third and final shot did hurt. Again, he felt a warm liquid, this time flowing down his leg, but this he knew not to be blood. It was his urine, he had soiled himself, it hurt worse than the bullets when he found out that he had done that. It made him a coward, at least in his eyes. He found that the prospect of a nose-upturned mother somewhere was telling her snot-nosed brat that if he ever did something bad then things like that could happen to him. He might piss himself on global television. It gave him a terrible feeling that he was a coward in everyone's eyes. The last thing that ever graced Daniel's eyes on Earth was the fastest team of medical cryologists anywhere. They unclamped his arms and legs and caught him as he fell forward. His final thought was, very professional. They don't even care about the blood.

Chapter 7: Defeat and Capture
Date: 19 October 2003, 5:47 AM

Guys, sorry I forgot to paragraph the last chap. Anyway, I hope you still read it.

Chapter 7: Defeat and Capture

Two hundred ninety-nine Spartans approached the large silver building in the middle of the dusty landscape. Sand blew in waves, and any normal human being would have been knocked over by the sheer volume of the grainy tsunamis.

But every Spartan walked towards the building with ease, weapons raised, eyes and ears open for any sound, anything out of the ordinary. Inside the building, there was only one very dimly lit room, huge, with two floors. Against the far back wall, a slight shimmer marked the spot where Ziko 'Zamammee stood, pressed all the way back, unmoving. In this light, even a Spartan might not notice him.

He had a transmitter in his left eye, showing him exactly what the 'Ossoona was seeing, and a transmitter in his ear, letting him hear exactly what the 'Ossoona was hearing. He cursed in his mind when he saw that the leader was planning to take in only half the number of armored humans. But Ziko knew that if he could take out a whole half of their force, including the leader, the Prophet Council would do anything but execute him. Suddenly the goal of becoming Supreme Commander seemed more than just the grandiose dreams of an insignificant Elite.

The current Supreme Commander had been losing the battles recently, and Ziko was going to take out half of the mightiest warriors in the Human army. Suddenly, the idea of being Supreme Commander seemed so much more real. The large metal door of the building screeched open, and for a moment Ziko saw only the impressive silhouette of the armored humans' leader. He took two steps inside, and a small light on his shoulder automatically came on, allowing him to see. More humans came streaming in behind him, taking up positions in the corners. Ziko had never seen the Human look around, but he motioned upward to the top level, and a small contingent of Humans scrabbled up the columns onto the second level.

"Search for doors," he called aloud to his soldiers. Everywhere, armored Humans spread along the walls, feeling for the tiniest of cracks, anywhere that might lead to another room. The soldiers reached the corners to the wall Ziko stood against, and he decided it was the time to unleash his plan. He palmed the button on a small remote in his hand, just as a soldier from the top level called out, "Sir, there are doors all along the wall up here! Any of them could lead to a room with a Prophet in it." But moments later, a slight whooshing sound marked the opening of every door on the upper level, and Ziko smiled to himself.

In space above the planet, aboard the Orca, Admiral Jason Jones thought proudly to himself that the Human race had done it again. Thirteen Human ships remained at ninety percent or above battle readiness. Only one Covenant ship was left with any battle readiness at all. The bastard was putting up a helluva fight, but the thirteen Human ships surrounding it were too much even for them to handle.

After four MAC rounds simultaneously burned through space, directly impacting with her hull, she was put down. Jones opened a comm to every ship that could handle it, and congratulated them all. He ordered any ships that were not battle-ready to touch down on-planet. After he closed communications with them, he opened a new channel to Reach II. He asked for any ships that could fly and fight to relocate to the new planet, along with cradles, the enormous space docks for refit and repair of battleships. In the end, fourteen frigates, seven destroyers, and one cruiser were sent their way, along with three cradles.

It had been a good victory, and when Jones found out later that the Covenant really had outnumbered the Human fleet by two, it became an even better victory. Jones just didn't understand what had been happening lately with the Covenant. He didn't know what it was like for the ground-pounders, but up in space, it seemed the Covies had lost some of their zeal. Their usually undying fanatacism had become lax of late.

The ONI brass had their theories, and being an admiral, Jones was privy to some of them. A war with another race, a civil war, a change of government, a plague or epidemic. One scientist had even suggested that they were perhaps in a type of cycle, in which they would wage war for a period, and then become sluggish. He had been pretty credible too, pointing to multiple times in history when genes or drugs had caused animals or even people to go into cycles like this. But the brass had been pretty quick to shoot that one down. ONI probably didn't like the idea, because it wasn't their own.

But meanwhile, Jones had to deal with the situation on the ground. The Covies on the ground seemed to be putting up a much tougher fight than they did in orbit. Reports said that the Spartans were MIA, and the Marines were barely holding up. The damned Spartans had gone off on some mission, and the Marines only knew it involved orders from the ONI. As always. The Admiral turned to the comm. system, and started trying to sort it all out.

The doors opened on a monster of nightmares. Bright green lights temporarily blinded every Spartan on the top level. Hunters were framed in every doorway. With the quickness and instinct that comes with years of training, everyone on the top level immediately dove out of the way of the fuel rod bursts, whether it was onto the floor below, or just to the side, none of them were in the way of the blasts. However, the Hunters did not pour out of the doors after them, but simply walked to the edge of the elevated platform. In unison, fifty Hunters aimed their arms downward, and fired.

But the majority of the Spartans had reacted with the same lightning-speed the others had, and were out of the center of the room. A few stifled cries came from the center, and Master Chief Sean Hawke saw three charred bodies already. He felt a brief stab of pain, and then forty scarlet-clad Elites leapt from the upper level, plasma rifles blazing. Within seconds, the Spartans had formed small, staggered firing groups.

Sean opened a comm while laying down sustained bursts of armor-piercing rounds on the Elites, and yelled, "Blue team, it's a trap! We need immediate support inside!" "Sir," yelled back CPO Adamson, "we got Covies out here too! Twenty Ghosts, twenty Banshees, and ten of those new vehicles we encountered in the outpost. We're doing OK with them so far." "Dammit," replied Sean, "we're already taking casualties! MC out!"

Outside, the rocket jockeys were taking care of the vehicles pretty well. John Adamson had ordered the group into a staggered infantry formation, so that the Banshees couldn't take out large clusters of them with their fuel rod cannons. Most of the Banshees had been taken out already, and Danielle and another private had managed to hijack one of the Shadows, and were running amok in it. The Ghosts were circling the Spartans clockwise, but since their guns were fixed, they had to turn inward in order to get a shot.

As a result, run-ins were occurring frequently. The smoldering wreckage of a five-Ghost pileup lay smoking fifteen feet away from John. Still, twelve Ghosts were circling, along with three more Shadows. Two Banshees remained in the sky, and though both were smoking, they still made strafing runs. John raised his pistol, hit the 2X scope, and fired three times at the nearest Banshee, causing it to explode. The wreckage fell quickly to the ground, smashing a Ghost, and immediately causing three more to pileup.

Finally, the last Banshee turned in the air, and began to fly way as quickly as possible, trailing smoke. It seemed the rest of the vehicles took this as their sign, and the Ghosts turned tail. The Spartans fired madly as a parting shot, trying to take down as many of the bastards as they could. John felt a bit of triumph when a plasma grenade, in a lucky throw, fused itself to an Elite's helmet. They were treated to a final show as the Elite struggled to rip off its helmet, and the Ghost plowed into a rock at the same time as the grenade exploded.

Slik 'Neoloop just barely had time to dive to the ground as he saw the out-of-control vehicle hammering towards the rock he was standing next to. He felt the intense heat of the blast, and the remains of the Ghost fell onto his foot, catching him there. If the humans came over to investigate now, he would be done for, and he knew it. He held his breath until he realized that one of the armored humans was ordering the rest to prepare to go inside the building.

Slik waited until they were all in the building for a full ten seconds before shimmying form underneath the Ghost, and creeping up to the door and entering. The sight that met his eyes horrified him. The armored humans had been surprised by fifty Indestructibles and forty scarlet-clad Domination, and still there were at least two hundred of them left. Slik counted seven Domination bodies on the floor, their luminescent blue blood spattered everywhere. Although many human bodies littered the floor, Slik was amazed at the sheer power these humans encompassed. None of the Indestructibles had been harmed, but the humans had spread out for the least possible risk of being taken out in large clumps.

Many of Slik's brethren were being herded into small groups, where the humans were concentrating their fire. He was avoiding these areas in order to escape certain death. The Elite made his way across the room to the wall where Ziko 'Zamammee was standing. He had long ago taken the viewer system out of his eye in order to see his great triumph, and thrown it to the side. He was completely unaware of Slik's presence, and Slik did not mind it that way.

The scent in the room was overpowering, the heat unbearable, the noise deafening, but Ziko could not have enjoyed any moment in his life more than the experience he was in right now. He stood absolutely motionless, paralyzed with pleasure, not noticing any of the flaws the 'Ossoona had seen. At that point, Ziko knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that he would be promoted to Supreme Commander.

He was imagining what his life would be like with all the privileges that came with being the Supreme Commander: he would be allowed two more mates than the usual one, he would have the finest meats available to eat, he would be allowed special access to some of the Prophet Councils' highest meetings, and he would be allowed to specially train forces of Domination to his liking. A few moments later, however, he noticed the Humans edging towards the door. One by one, they were slipping from his grasp, every one of them that escaped would mean one less victory.

The Humans barely heard the warbled orders to the Hunters to concentrate their fire on the door. By that time, there were less than one hundred armored Human-beasts still inside. Ziko roared in anger, and the Human leader whirled around and looked directly at him. Sean saw the strange swirling effect in the air, and Tyger recognized it as the distinct signature of an Elite active camo generator.

Ziko watched as the Human paused, and seemed to be listening to something, before it ran directly at him. Sean lashed out with the butt of his shotgun, snapping an Elite's neck. Tyger had told him that the Elite that had chosen to remain invisible was probably behind the trap, and would make a valuable prisoner. So he did what he was trained to do. Suddenly, a bright blue light appeared in the hand of the invisible Elite, and Sean recognized it as a plasma sword. Expecting the Elite to run straight at him, Sean leveled his shotgun, but it dove and rolled onto the ground. It stopped at a hatch on the floor, which was sealed with a large metal lock. With a swipe of the sword, the lock was gone, and the Elite jumped into the hatch.

Sean stopped, wondering what to do. The Hunters above were firing at the door, but by timing it right, the Spartans were leaping outside in ones, twos, and threes. The Elites in the room were chasing them out into daylight, but three of them noticed Sean. Roaring a war cry, they ran at him, plasma rifles raised. Sean fired his shotgun twice before they reached him, and one of their shields was down.

Sean unholstered his knife and rammed it into the Elite's forehead, but the other two tackled him. They fell directly onto the hatch door, and their combined weight caved it in. Sean quickly grabbed hold of one Elite and flipped it under himself. He landed with his feet planted in its abdomen, and it was crushed down the middle. He spun to face the last Elite, who was unshielded from the twenty-foot fall, and lying on the ground. He pressed the shotgun to its forehead, and ended its life.

Then Sean took a bit of time to examine his surroundings. He was standing in a vast rocky cavern, which honeycombed into multiple branches. There were also metallic walls integrated down there, some containing doors. He could still barely see flashes of light through the hole above, marking the remains of the vicious battle. The Master Chief then began to explore the cavern he was in, shotgun raised. In the room above, Slik had watched the entire goings-on between Ziko and Sean, and was now walking tentatively towards the hole. He peeked in, and waited for Sean to be far enough across the cavern, and jumped in.

Reach II, Office of Naval Intelligence Facilities
Military Resurrection Lab 7

As the liquid nitrogen billowed inside the cryo-tube in front of him, Dr. Leonard Nemand considered the moral implications of his experiment. He was creating an exact copy of a living, breathing person. True, it was a soldier, and he had submitted his memory dumps, so they had his permission. Also, it was to save the damn Human race, so God couldn't exactly blame him. He hoped. The balding man checked the pad displaying the man's vitals, and told his AI to wake him up.

The liquid nitrogen inside cleared, and the inside was flash superheated for mere milliseconds. Daniel Heath's eyes opened with a start. He immediately tried to sit up, but his head thumped against the glass of the tube. What the hell was going on? The last thing Daniel remembered was preparing to launch against the Covenant planet, and talking to Danielle. Why wasn't he in his MJOLNIR, and where in the hell was he anyway?

The tube opened and Daniel was out in seconds. "What happened? Why didn't I get to the planet? Who are you?" "I am Dr. Leonard Nemand, you're in an ONI lab on Reach II, and if you'll sit down, I'll explain what happened to you." Daniel, who wasn't used to such a friendly tone, sat down quietly, and the doctor started speaking again. "Now, first I have to see how much you remember. Please state your name, rank, and service number."

That at least was easy enough, and Daniel responded, "Master Chief Petty Officer Sean Hawke, sir, Spartan 717, service number 408915882387SH, sir!" Dr. Nemand squinted as Daniel shouted out the final "sir", and then checked his data pad. It was all correct. He had hoped to God it wouldn't be correct, and the whole freaking program could be scrapped, at least until he was too old to work on it anymore. But the memories had been implanted perfectly it seemed.

The unique human being, the one named Daniel Heath, the convicted killer, no longer existed, not even within himself. He was now a replica of Sean Hawke, the leader of the beta Spartans. Now Sean Hawke II would become the leader of the ten-person test group of resurrected soldiers. All of them were executed criminals. Were convicted criminals, he told himself, were until we made them what they now are.

"OK," he said, "now, do you remember any of what happened on the Covenant planet?" "Sir," replied Daniel, "no sir."
"Well, that's to be expected. You took a nasty blow to the head in the air-strike. You see, a Marine called in Longsword bombers onto you and the rest of the Spartans' position." "He didn't know you were there," said Dr. Nemand, seeing the look on Sean II's face, "Only you and nine others survived." Daniel hid the look of fear on his face, knowing he couldn't ask about Danielle.

Dr. Nemand was about to continue speaking when a pretty young woman poked her head in through the door, and said, "Sir, should we start waking up the other patients?" The doctor stood up, took his glasses off, and rubbing his nose, said, "Yes I suppose we should Nora." The nurse waited for him by the door, flashed Daniel a smile, and closed it behind them. Daniel heard a click as the door bolt slid home. It was laughable that they locked the door on him.

It was a one-inch thick glass laboratory door, vacuum-sealed. If he had wanted to escape, he could have. But Daniel wondered why they had locked him in anyway, his record would have clearly shown that he was perfectly happy serving for the UNSC. Curious. Most curious.

John Adamson was about to make the hardest call of his life. He had called for Sean over the COM time and again but to no avail. The possibility of Sean having survived in that room for long seemed bleak to him. The Covenant that had originally been streaming out of the door seemed to have realized that their strategy needed rethinking. Elites' bodies were piled outside the door almost four feet high.

John had spent as much time as possible, hoping against all hope that Sean would come bursting from the door, assault rifle ablaze, covered in steaming luminescent blue blood, a roar escaping his throat; the heroic figure John had pictured his own self becoming when he was drafted for the SPARTAN program at six years old. But now John had the force of years under his belt. There was no hero coming. He wasn't going to become a hero.

The world, the universe was shit and Sean Hawke, the man he had looked up to since boyhood, was dead. He left a lover and a friend, and a three hundred strong family. John found himself crying for the first time since he entered the SPARTAN program. The tears in his eyes were the reason he saw nothing as he opened up a freq to the nearest Longsword Interceptors.

That was why he was detached from himself, numb, unhearing, when he ordered the entire Spartan team to get as far away from the building as possible. That was why while he was running past red desert rocks and tan desert sand the only thing he saw was an immense intricate system of ropes, pulleys, ladders, and poles. The basket that led way up to the top of the pole was nearly there, team seven's victory was nearly assured.

Team seven would definitely be getting dinner that night. Sean, John, and Charity Hanlon were going to be the first ones to ring the bell. But another boy climbing a rope near by shoved John hard, so hard that he lost his grip on the pulley rope and fell backwards out of the basket. Charity had grabbed him then, and Sean had pulled the basket up to the top by himself. As John hung precariously over the edge, Sean seemed godlike in his effort and concentration.

The muscles, large for a boy his age already, but still small, looked about to burst, as did veins all along his arms, neck, and head. Sweat beads appeared everywhere, soaking his jumpsuit. But as Charity pulled John up, they had already reached the top, and John and Charity grabbed the rope. "Ring the bell," John had told Sean then, "you deserve it most." Sean had leaned out over the basket's edge, and given the rope a tug or two, then had helped them return quickly to the ground, and they all crossed the finish line together.

John still remembered the dinner that night: Spicy breaded chicken sandwiches, and creamed corn, with whatever they wanted to drink and milkshakes for dessert. But John returned to the present when the Pelican he had entered took off. "Sir," yelled the pilot from the front, "ground troops are in trouble all over the planet!" Looking out the side portholes, the Longsword bombers already growing larger on the horizon, John replied, "Then we'll split up. We need control of the planet."

He wouldn't show any of the soldiers—his soldiers now, that he was weak, or felt anything. He was trying to set the example Sean had always been able to set. Soon, the sounds of nearly a hundred bombs rumbled through the air, and John, unwavering, sat down and strapped himself in. After all, the Marines were in need.