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Fan Fiction

Operation: False Prophets by Ian Barnes

Operation False Prophets: AI Constructs and Cyborgs First, Again
Date: 20 February 2002, 4:58 AM

İİİİThe Master Chief sped away from the Halo in the remaining Longsword, watching as the magnificent ring erupted into flame and burst into millions of fragments. John couldn't help but be sorry for the marines who had still been alive on the Halo when it was destroyed, if there were any left. If there were any, his only consolation was he saved them from a much more horrible and painful death. The Flood. As John watched the Halo detonate and chunks of spinning ring were sent hurtling through space, he sat again, and thought about the Halo.
İİİİThe Flood, it was over. Cortana didn't think so, but John had to go with his insticts on this one. CPO Mendez always taught him to trust his insticts.
İİİİMendez would be proud of me. Thought the Master Chief. John wondered what had become of Mendez and the second batch of Spartans. Had they been on Reach when it fell? He could only hope not. Those Spartans including John were humanity's last hope to ward of the Covenant. And even then, John wasn't sure it would make much difference. The only thing that could save them now was the Spartan's original mission. That mission required one critical thing however, a Covenant ship. John's mission had never really begun, considering they were forced to defend Reach. Well, that mission still needed to be completed, and the Spartans had never failed, or rather John had never failed. The other Spartans had failed, they died. But John's current mission had already encountered a snag. There were no Covenant ships to be boarded. John decided it would be best to find whatever forces the UNSC had left, and go from there.
İİİİ"Cortana, where would we find the best location to regroup with UNSC forces?"
İİİİ"According to my calculated rates, there should be very few colonies left by now. Since the colonies are now spread close toget-" John slapped his helmet, a little trick Doctor Halsey had taught him. Cortana would ramble for hours if no one stopped her.
İİİİ"Cortana, please answer in English."
İİİİ"The best colony to travel to would be.... Earth itself. I know the right direction, but I have no idea how far we are from Earth. It could be days, weeks... I don't know."
İİİİ"Damnit." John said. "By the time we get back, there probably won't be an Earth. Cortana, please tell me these ships have a Shaw-Fujikawa generator."
İİİİ"Yes, but these ships are not designed for Slipspace travel. Its reactor is only half as powerful as one in a normal UNSC warship. Therefore, take whatever estimate I gave you before and double it."
İİİİ"Cortana, take us out in normal space for another ten minutes so we can make sure no Covenant ships escaped, then enter the Slipstream."
İİİİ"Very well Master Chief."
İİİİThe ten minutes passed slowly and awkwardly. Neither John nor the AI spoke. Both sat and pondered the events of the last few days. John recounted his events from the point of awaking from cryosleep, to running the final leg into the Longsword and escaping, leaving behind the greatest find humanity has ever seen, and blowing it to smithereens. So little was known about it, yet it seemed like a galactic Pandora's Box. John believed both Cortana and that odd construct 343 Guilty Spark, knew more than they let on. John's only theory was Cortana witheld information in order toİ retain the power to keep John focused on his mission. John himself knew that if he understood everything about Halo, nothing could stop him from trying to find another and harness its power. Yes, he thought, if Cortana knew more, she was right to keep it from him, for the time being.
İJohn watched the countdown timer on his HUD reach one minute. He heard the Slipspace generators warming up when Cortana's voice pitched in.
İİİİ"One minute until Slipspace jump. Area looks secure. Shaw-Fujikawa reactor's shakedown 98% complete."
İİİİJohn watched as the timer reached thirty seconds. John felt that feeling of anxiety that he had felt a hundred times. His saying still held true.
İİİİThe last few steps of any battle are the most dangerous.
İİİİThe cockpit turned red and warning klaxons blared in John's ears.
İİİİ"Cortana! What the hell is going on?"
İİİİCortana cooly replied. "Object detected at 3 kilometers."
İİİİJohn looked out the window and saw nothing, or so he thought. John's eagle-like eyes stared into the darkness, and found something. A shadow, a ghost. The sunlight hit it at the right angle for an instant, and revealed the object. It was exposed for only an instant, a normal human wouldn't have seen the colors, but John did. It was a ship for certain. The hull was a dull purple. John's eyes widened and Cortana detected a quickening of his pulse. John's adrenaline spiked and he gripped his chair. John couldn't believe it.
İİİİ"A stealth ship." John muttered. "What's it doing out here? Cortana, do you detect any readings, energy, movement, anything?"
İİİİ"No sir. It appears to be dead in space."
İİİİ"All stop, turning off all non-essential systems, I want to be running dark. They haven't noticed us yet, I want to keep it that way."
İİİİ"What do you have in mind?" Cortana asked cautiously.
İİİİ" I'm going to finish my mission."
İİİİJohn read the display in front of him. According to the reading, the ship was about 100 meters long. A "small ship". Much larger than the Longsword, but a crew of probably no less than 50-100. John rose and walked to the weapons locker. Neither Cortana nor John had the codes to open it, since they were never designated to fly this ship. That wasn't a problem. The Master Chief drew back his fist and smashed open the door of the locker, Titanium A, the same material used in starship battle plate. He withdrew a Jackhammer launcher, an eight gauge shotgun and a thruster pack. The shotgun would be risky, the noise drew lots of attention, but John had discovered that the shotgun worked devilishly well against the shieled elites, especially in close quarters like a ship. John returned to the command chair.
İİİİ"Cortana, I'm planning to board that ship. I need you to calculate how long it will take to reach the ship at maximum speed using the thruster pack, and coordinate it so every single weapon this ship has it hitting theİ Covenant ship seconds before I reach it. Since there are no energy readings, it must mean no shields. The missles will punch a hole in the ship, and we can get in."
İİİİ"Very well, missles are coordinated. Ready when you are. I can remotely fire the missles once we are away."
İİİİJohn moved towards the airlock, opened it, stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He opend the second door, pushed himself into space, ignited the thruster pack and sped toward the ship. Over the roar of the thrusters, John heard Cortana yell "Missles Away!" John looked back to see several HE Anvil II's streaking toward the target. They overtook him and John watched the missles impact and leave a gaping hole in the hull. A second later, John slammed into the hull, grasped and pulled himself inside. They were in.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Two: If I had Pink Hallways, I'd Make Somebody Pay
Date: 21 February 2002, 6:53 AM

İİİİThe Master Chief got up groggily, and shook off the thruster pack. It floated lazily out into space.
İİİİ"Cortana, check for motion."
İİİİ"Negative Chief, there seems to be no one aboard."
İİİİJohn reached into his satchel and retrieved the M90 shotgun. It was an impressive weapon. It coud propel an 8 gauge round with such force, not even an Elite's shields could withstand one round at close range. He smiled. He examined the hallways. They were all too familiar. Pinks and purples were the colors of choice by the Covenant. He'd always wondered why. The doors in this area had already sealed to prevent depressurization in the rest of the ship. He remebered how to open one of these doors, he thought. He walked up to one and fumbled with the different buttons, pushing them all until the door slid open.İ He proceeded carefully, there was a hallway to his right, left and straight ahead. He carefully checked all of them for Covenant.
İİİİGreat.İ He thought. I've been on this ship for two minutes, and I'm already lost.
İİİİ"I'm already looking.... straight ahead. Go straight for 20 meters, a left and a right, and we should be on the bridge. It's a total of about 70 meters of walking. You can handle that right?"
İİİİThe Master Chief didn't answer. He wasn't up for jokes. John proceeded straight, then carefully turned a left. Still no one around. John thought it reminded him of CPO Mendez's assignments, there was always something hidden, and he just hadn't found it yet. He walked down that hallway, and turned a final right. In front of him was a large door, larger than normal. John walked to the keypad, filled with cryptic symbols. He sighed. He hated pushing buttons like this when most of them could be doing completely undesirable things. Finally, after several seconds, he hit the right button and the door slid open. As the door slid open, John expected to find the bridge crawling with Elites, jackals or something. Instead, John saw a single Elite staring out into the blackness of space. The room contained half a dozen pillars. And many holo panels projectors, but no holo panels. This stealth ship seemed to be running dark.
İİİİ"Chief, I can take control of the ship. but you have to get me into those terminals."
İİİİJohn began to advance into the room, which almost turned into a complete catastrophe. On his way in, John almost tripped over a grunt, curled up on the floor. Curious how they slept on the floor like animals. They were the only Covenant he had ever seen sleeping. Maybe the others didn't need to sleep, he had no way of telling. Anyway, those grunts would be a problem. John scoped out the rest of the room, and discovered the room was covered with them, at least twenty. If he went after the Elite, the grunts would wake up and keep him trapped in the room. That would be disasterous. On the other hand, John could try to quietly kill the grunts, then the Elite would pose little threat. The only risk there was if a grunt didn't die instantly, they could scream pretty loudly. John decided to go with the latter option.
İİİİAs the Master Chief crept into the room and ducked behind a pillar, he reached both hands out, and with lightning speed, snapped the first grunt's neck. The only sound heard was the sound of the grunt's neck breaking. John sighed and proceeded to repeat the process with the rest of the grunts. Every time bones crucnhed, John heard Cortana make noises of disgust. John smiled, sometimes he almost felt sorry for the grunts who were sleeping, almost. After the room was cleared of grunts, John crept up to the Elite. When John was directly behind the Elite, he stamped his foot. The Elite wheeled and let out a growl. But it was only a a tenth of a second later when the shotgun shell found the Elite's open mouth. The Elite's shields flickered, died and the shell passed into the Elite's brain. The body and the empty shell hit the deck simultaneously.
İİİİJohn put away his weapon, and searched the control panels. Cortana exclaimed.
İİİİ"There!" As John was looking at the central panel. John went to place Cortana into the computer, but the socket was filled. They must have AI's as well. John removed the current cube, dropped it onto the floor and crushed it with his boot. He inserted Cortana into the socket and the systems powered up. Cortana took several seconds to sift through the entire database for the ship.
İİİİ"Apparently this ship, the NightCloak has been stationed here ever since the Pillar of Autumn arrived. According to the ship's log, most of the crew is out in several small ships searching for any sort of escape pods, either Covenant or Human. Cortana searched for a few more seconds.
İİİİ"Chief, we have a problem, there are no navigational databases, they were probably in the AI or whatever it was you destroyed. We only have one alternative, hoping someone knows how to get home. I'll try to pass as their shipboard AI, hopefully they won't notice, and you'll have to hide."
İJohn sat and pondered this for several seconds. Cortana spoke again, obviously hurried.
İİİİ"Chief, if I'm interpreting the Covenant systems correctly, we have inbound ships at one hundred kilometers. Hurry and find a hiding spot.."
İİİİJohn hurriedly glanced around the room, and found what looked to be an air vent. John primed the shotgun and shot a whole in the grating. It was 4-5 meters up, John jumped and just barely grabbed it with his fingertips and pulled himself up. The Master Chief sat in the small vent. Cortana could still talk to John, but her ability to slightly increase reaction times, as well as her ability to make calculations for him were gone. However, he appreciated the alone time. Minutes passed and John heard the hiss of the birdge door opening. In came one of those odd floating aliens which John had seen on Sigma Octanus, and flanking it were two shadows, blurs, but John followed them. After several seconds, he heard growls, akin to Elites, as they found the bodies scattered on the floor. The Elites turned off their cloaking devices, and a white shimmer appeared around them, then disappeared. John watched in amazement. The camouflage worked only when the shields were not activated. Curious, why then did it work with the him?
İİİİWhen the Elites seemed convinced that the room was secure, they sealed off the bridge, and walked to the control panels. The floating alien didn't seem convinced the area was secure, but followed the Elites to the holo panels anyway. The floating alien which seemed to be a scientist began typing in commands at a furious pace. Cortana was chatting with John the whole time.
İİİİ"Apparently, Covenant AI's take on a very secondary role. They are used only to double check calculations made by these scientists. Apparently those aliens are incredibly smart, I've been able to decipher most of their computer systems, and it's actually quite simple. But the most amazing thing is these scientists remember all the navigational data. They have nothing to protect. If only humans could do that, we wouldn't need the Cole Protocol."
İİİİSuddenly, the ship lurched forward and began to move. Both the Elites began to clear away the bodies while the "Floater", as the Spartans had nicknamed them, piloted the ship.
İİİİ"Cortana, where are we headed?"
İİİİ"The Covenant homeworld. This ship was ordered to recon this system, and report back. It's approximately two light years from our current postion."
İİİİ"Two light years?" John replied.
İİİİ"Oh yes, I forgot to mention. All this time we believed Covenant ships use Slipspace generators. They don't. It's something else, something incredible. Apparently Covenant ships generate wormholes which bend space for an instant, making the position and destination adjacent for just an instant. The ship travels to the destination, the generator turns off and the objects move farther apart again. This two light year journey should take no more than a second. Amazing isn't it? It was theorized long ago, but no humans ever thought it possible."
İİİİJohn felt the ship accelerating even more. For a second, everything went white, then returned to normal.
İİİİ"Wow!" Cortana exclaimed. "This is almost unimaginable. Chief you definitely need to see this. Everything is so advanced.
İİİİWe are docking with some sort of space station. From there we should be able to pilot a dropship down to the surface. That will certainly lower our profile than trying to steal a stealth ship."
İİİİ"Understood." The Master Chief said. As soon as we dock we're getting the hell out of here."

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Three: Eight Gauge Hippo
Date: 28 February 2002, 1:40 am

     John jolted inside the ventilation shaft as the Covenant stealth ship glided toward the docking station, and docking clamps extended and latched onto the NightCloak. John sighed, it would be considerably harder getting out of the ship than it was getting on. The aliens onboard undoubtedly knew something was up, now that there was a hole in their ship, and a bridge full of dead grunts. The Master Chief only had one option: Kill any of them that got in his way. He couldn't wait for them all to get offboard, because they would either alert reinforcements, or leave the station again, making his entire foray into Covnant space a complete waste. He had to act now. John retrieved a fiberoptic probe out of the vent, and looked into the hallway that leads to the bridge. There were several Jackals patrolling, along with one Elite Major. Plus he had to deal with the two Elites on the bridge. He didn't have time to be discreet.
     John hefted his Jackhammer, and hooked his feet around the grate. He swung upside down into the bridge and quickly emptied the two rockets at the Jackals and Elite in the hallway. The first rocket struck the floor in the middle of the Jackals, killing them all, and leaving a gaping whole in the floor. The second rocket had to be perfect, and it was. The rocket struck the Elite in the stomach, killing it instantly. By this time, the two Stealth Elites who hadn't been invisible for some time had noticed John's hiding spot. It would be only seconds before they fully comprehended the situation and opened fire. He had to be fast. Unhooking his feet, John did a half of a backflip down from the ceiling, landing on his feet.
     John was still holding the Jackhammer, and needed a distraction to give him time to produce his shotgun from his gear. He threw the launcher at one of the Elites, which did nothing but buy him time. As the Chief charged one of the Elites he took the whole situation in. One Elite was directly in front of him, while the other was to his right.. As John ran, he passed the odd floating scientist, he gave it a swift left hook to the face while his right hand retrieved his shotgun. The "Floater" fell to the deck, unconscious. While charging the first Elite, John continued to hold the M90 with only his right hand. As he reached the first Elite, it had just begun to raise its weapon. John kicked with his foot to the Elite's stomach, and the shield flickered and died. Simultaneously, John leveled his right arm and fired one round at the Elite to his right. Its shield flickered and died, and some of the round tore into its stomach. It dropped to all fours and began screeching in pain.
     Following the shotgun blast, John swung the M90 across his chest, hitting the first shiedless Elite in the skull. He heard the horrible crunching noise of skull bones cracking.     John primed the shotgun and returned to the second Elite, and fired one more round into its skull. Blood sprayed and the Elite went limp. The whole battle had lasted six seconds.
     "Cortana!" John yelled. "Seal off the bridge!"
     Cortana complied and the bridge door hissed and shut. John had fired four rounds of his shotgun. He reached into his pack and retrieved four shells. He smiled as he looked them over. SOELLKRAFT INC. On the body of the shell was a Hippo smiling at him. John couldn't help but smile back. As long as the shells killed Covenant, they could be pink and polka dotted, he didn't care. He loaded the four shells and primed the shotgun. He placed it on the ground and went to retrieve the Jackhammer. He had two more rockets which he loaded into the launcher. He hoped he wouldn't have to use them. The Master Chief went to the computer and retrieved Cortana and inserted her into his helmet.
     "Welcome back." John stated coldly. He couldn't be happy right now, but he could appreciate the cool, liquid sensation Cortana had once inside his head.
     "Chief, during your battle, I accessed the Covenant BattleNet. There's a small troop dropship docked at the station. It's scheduled to leave in ten minutes, and I hear the pilots sick and they need a replacement."
     "Understood. I'll be there in ten minutes."
     John grinned, if Cortana had a face, he knew she'd be grinning. As Doctor Halsey once said, "You may have to allow for behavioral quirks."
     "Cortana, what is the best way out of here?"
     "Back the way we came, and through the hole you blew in the floor a few seconds ago. After a couple hallways, it should lead us directly to the airlock which connects the ship to the station."
     The Master Chief nodded. He strapped the Jackhammer to his back, and hefted his shotgun. He also took a few seconds to search the Elites for grenades. He found three and stowed them. John walked to the bridge door, and tapped the key to open it. The door opened and John quickly checked the hallway for Covenant. No movement, everything he had killed before was still dead. John walked to the hole in the floor, and peered into it. A Grunt was standing there below him, head cocked to one side quizzically, staring up at the hole, making noises of confusion. John quickly leapt through the hole, right onto the grunt, crushing it. The Master Chief quickly checked both ends of the hallway, and when he was satisfied there were no more enemies, he went down the way the NAV pointer told him, to the left.
     After following that hallway for twenty meters, he came to another corner. He turned it and found himself face to face with a Commander Elite, who looked like he was walking towards the bridge. He drew back a step in surprise. That one hesistation cost the Elite its life. John jammed his knee into the Elite's stomach, the a double-handed strike from the shotgun and the Elite's shields flickered and went dead. Not having time to bring his arms back for another strike, John head-butted the Elite, and bones crunched. The Elite slumped against the wall, dead.
     John had already used two minutes, and he wasn't even off the ship yet. He sprinted down the hallways, kicking and punching several grunts on his way. He finally made it to the airlock and cycled through it. He was on the space station.
     As he stepped into the hallway of the station, John's shoulders slumped. More purple. He looked left and right. The NAV marker pointed left.
     "Cortana, distance to target?"
     "Two hundred meters. You have five minutes. Hurry."
     John ran down the hallways, surprisingly there was no resistance. The NightCloak must not have alerted the station yet. He ran to the dropship's airlock. There were two doors, one led to the section for passengers, while the other led to the pilot's chair. John walked through the airlock for the pilot. Seated already was an Elite running a diagnostic check of the ship, or what he thought was an Elite. It was similar in size and shape, but wore green armor, and the head was more elongated, and it appeared to have no weapon or shields. John decided he had seen enough, and crushed the back of the pilot's skull with his shotgun. As Sergeant Johnson used to say, "To me, they're all just god damn bugs."
John inserted Cortana into the computer.
     "Don't worry Chief, I can take us down. Apparently we're carrying a squad of Elites down to the surface for debriefing. We need to make sure they don't report anything. Think of something."
     John eyed a lever to the left of the pilot's chair.
     "Cortana, what's this lever do?"
     "Opens the doors on the dropship. Why?"
     "I think I know how to take care of our bug problem. Take us down to the surface, preferably somewhere remote. I'd rather blow our cover landing somewhere remote, than somewhere suburban and have to deal with an army, and blow our cover anyway."
     The dropship shook as it pulled away from the station. After several seconds, John pulled the lever and looked out the rear window. Eight Elites flailed furiously as they died.
     During their descent, the Master Chief spotted several cruisers patrolling, as well as large orbital plasma cannons, and several orbital plasma torpedo launchers. No, John definitely didn't want to draw attention here. He couldn't imagine how many Covenant troops occupied this planet. He didn't want to think about it.
     The dropship passed through the atmosphere, and exposed lush forests, vast clear, blue oceans and immense cities, with buildings which stretched thousands of meters into the air.
     "Cortana, take us down outside this city," As John pointed to a topographical map.
     "We'll have to do some exploring from there."
     Floating vehicles which reminded John of cars filled the air forming floating highways. Innocent Civilians. Not all Covenant were cold blooded murderers, but that didn't mean they shouldn't be treated like ones.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Four: Shadow Among the Shadows
Date: 08 March 2002, 6:13 am

İİİİİThe dropship settled into a clearing inside a forest just outside the enormous Covenant city. John couldn't help but wonder, do all Covenant races live together, or if the only time they are together is in the military. John prayed this wasn't an Elite populated world. Even without shields, those guys were a pain, especially in large numbers. He would find out soon enough. This operation had to go off without any snags. In this situation, snags would end in death. The Master Chief was on a completely new world, with no backup, and million to one odds. But for a Spartan, that was enough.
İİİİİ"Cortana, can you boost the distance for my motion tracker? I'm going to need all the advance warning I can use."
İİİİİ"I can try, but boosting the distance will decrease the quality of the signal. An alien at fifteen meters, moving slowly, won't show up as well as before." Cortana worked for several seconds. "Done, I managed to boost your motion tracker to thirty meters, but just be careful."
İİİİİ"Understood." Replied the solemn Master Chief. The Master Chief always got nervous, but he was sure this was the most nervous he had ever been. If the Covenant even got suspicious of anything, his mission was basically over. There were too many of them, and too few of him. With a squad of thirty Spartans, this mission would have been ridiculously simple, in, out. Maybe a day's worth. They would have been able to afford being bold. Now, John had one option only: Stealth. Over the years, he had used his enhanced senses to get the jump on enemies. But this time was different, they had home field advantage. John had no idea what kind of security measures this planet had, hopefully Cortana could help him there.
İİİİİJohn made sure he had everything, and moved out into the woods. As he marched, all sorts of alien wildlife made themselves known. Odd birds with two heads flew about, squawking as then went. The trees were also much different than anything John had ever seen. They seemed to remind him of trees from the old ancient style of art known as "cartoons." They looked almost two-dimensional upon first examination. John proceeded carefully for a few more minutes. Through the canopy he could catch glimpses of buildings. Once or twice John swore he had heard gasses hissing and rumbling. Every time, John spun, checked his six, decided it was nothing, and kept moving. Once or twice, Covenant patrols passed his general vicinity, single Ghosts with Elite Commander's at the helm. John hit the deck every time, and his olive green armor's close color match to the foliage was the only thing between him and detection. John finally made it out of the forest.
İİİİİ"Cortana, we're waiting until nightfall to move in. I'm not rushing into anything. Once we're in the city, I need to track down somewhere I can plug you in, and find out where the hell we need to be going."
İİİİİ"Acknowledged Chief. Until then, keep your eyes open, and I'll do the same." John grinned.


İİİİİThe Master Chief hid among the bushes of the forest until nightfall. When the blueish sun of the Covenant homeworld passed beyond the horizon, everything inside the city seemed to turn off. Flying vehicles stopped, lights went off and the city seemed to be dead. The Covenant seemed to think they were so secure on their planet. They thought nothing could touch them while in their state of complacency. The Master Chief decided it was time to open their eyes. He crept from the shadows of the forest, and into the streets of the city. John tried to stay in side alleys, and stay hidden as much as possible. Several Covenant wandered in the streets, Jackals, looking for something to do. John became concerned, he might have to neutralize several of them if need be, but it could compromise his mission. On the other hand, he rationalized, the Covenant would probably suppose it was just a common crime. John discussed it with Cortana for a minute.
İİİİİ"What do you think Cortana?"
İİİİİ"You neutralizing Covenant is fine, as long as there is crime. If crime in Covenant society in non-existent, then they will know something is up. For the most part, I would avoid contact with Covenant."
İİİİİJohn slowly moved down back alleys of the the city. Strange blueish lights illuminated the city streets. John noticed an occasional Grunt on the sidewalks, sleeping or just plain passed out. Apparently the species were mixed on this planet. As the time approached mid-night, the street lights turned off, and amazingly, there were no lights on in any of the buildings. The city was pitch-black. John reached up to his helmet and triggered Manual Button Position Six. Night-vision. The streets became washed in a dull green. All the Covenant seemed to have disappeared from the street as well.
İİİİİAs the Master Chief finally convinced himself to walk into the main streets, he carefully looked everywhere before moving into the open. Jackals had night vision, so he did he, but they had numbers. Possibly a million to one. He couldn't afford to be seen. He grinned to himself as he thought it over. He'd run out of ammo before anything else. John skulked down the streets, both weapons slung over his shoulder. No sense in holding them. If he had to use it he would be dead soon anyway.
İİİİİThe Master Chief turned a left down another street, and ahead of him was a glowing purple kiosk-looking machine. It kind of resembled a cross between an ATM and a phone booth. John thought it looked like one of the ancient "arcade games" Deja had taught him about as a kid on Reach. Reach was his home. Was. John's face began to flush, and tears came to his eyes. He would have revenge for what those murdering Covenant had done to his beautiful home, and his friends. To him, they were his family. Nothing was more important than keeping them alive. And he had failed them. John had to force the tears back to keep from breaking into full on sobs.
İİİİİCortana's soothing voice cut in, "Chief, are you all right?"
İİİİİ"Yeah, I will be, can I plug you in anywhere?"
İİİİİ"Yes, to the left of this holo panel, there's a port. Right there."
İİİİİCortana's image appeared out of the holo panel. Her face scrunched as she tried to decipher the Covenant machine. The Master Chief turned around to check his six. Nothing. The city was lifeless, but whatever John was going to do, he needed to do it before the dumb bugs woke up again. After a minute Cortana spoke again.
İİİİİ"Wow, fascinating. Chief, the area we need to reach is... well, a rather unsatisfactory location. It's inside the Covenant military HQ for this planet. Similar to CASTLE back on Reach, underground and highly defended. At least a two day march. Faster if we find a ride. There these enigmatic Prophets reside. This kiosk is a sort of public access terminal. The Prophets give speeches every few weeks, where they leave their complex, and visit parts of the planet. There are two of them, one who rules over the military, and one who rules over civilian life.
İİİİİ"Both of them receive their orders from the Gods. These Prophets are not so much revered for their genius, but the Covenant simply bend to their will so they can hear the messages of the Gods relayed through them. If we could show the Covenant that their gods are false, it could destroy the Prophets' power over the Covenant."
İİİİİJohn had one reply. "That's not what we're here for."
Cortana let out an exasperated sigh. "Fine. We need to find a mode of transportation. We can't go back to the dropship, that would be to big and conspicuous. We need something small that won't attract attention. There's a military base a few kilometers from here. I'm sure if we can sneak in and out, we can find some sort of mode of transportation." Cortana placed a NAV marker in the Chief's HUD. John didn't say anything, he just started walking.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Five: Used Cars Under $1099
Date: 17 March 2002, 7:19 pm

İİİİİJohn sulked through the shadows towards what appeared to be a Covenant military base. In the distance, the faint whine of the Covenant single ship craft, the Seraphs, could be heard as they flew into the night sky. Surrounding the base was a seven meter tall plasma fence. Anything that touched it would undoubtedly be boiled instantly. The bright purple flashes produced from the crackling and sizzling as molecules of atmosphere touched the fence was mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. It was a few seconds before Cortana shook him back to reality.
İİİİİThere were several bushes a few hundred yards ahead of him. Near them, there was a large guard house, but the Chief couldn't make out much else, he would need to get closer.
İİİİİJohn followed the fence, but staying out of its illuminating glow. It would be careless things like that which would end in his demise. Finally, John reached the bush closest to him, crouched, and obsered the guard house from there.
İİİİİIt was a large building, it had several adjoining rooms, and the Chief couldn't be sure how many Covenant would be inside it. In the front room, which controlled the raising of the gate, was a single Elite. It appeared to be rather bored, and taking very little pride in his assignment. John began to creep forward. He had a plan, but if it didn't work, he would have a problem. He would have to be fast.
İİİİİLeading toward the gate was a road, with two bushes on one side, and one bush on the other side, the side John was on. The guard house was on the opposite side. John planned to run past the first bush, and to the second one, the Elite wouldn't notice him unless he decided to turn all the way around, and even then, he might not notice. John rose, readied himself, and sprinted across the road to the other side. John skidded to a halt, and flapped his arms wildly, trying to keep his momentum from causing him to fall over. Apparently, the first bush wasn't a bush. It was a Grunt, who was currently looking the other way.
İİİİİWith lightning quickness, one hand reached over the Grunt's mouth, while the other twisted the Grunt's head into an unnatural angle. The Chief sighed. Why wasn't he more careful? This had happened twice now. Next time, his luck might run out. The Chief stooped, and retrieved the plasma pistol the Grunt had been carrying. John was surprised the Grunt hadn't heard him, but then, for a man of his size, the Chief was amazingly quiet.
İİİİİJohn made his way into the second bush, by some miracle, the Elite hadn't noticed John when he was standing almost in the middle of the street.
İİİİİWindows surrounded the guard house's front room, but the Elite stood facing the gate, with his back to John. The Master Chief walked up to the guard house, and lept onto the roof. It was three meters up, but he was quiet as a cat. John unslung his shotgun, and primed it as quietly as he could, and held it with only his right hand. He then retrieved the policed plasma pistol, and held it at ready in his left. John took a deep breath, and counted to three.
İİİİİOn three, John's boot raised, and smashed into the roof, punching through the roof, and right behind the Elite. Before the surprised alien could even turn, John tripped the alien from behind, and it fell on its stomach. John rose and quickly followed with a downward swing with his right hand, holding the shotgun. Much of the shotgun impacted the Elite's back, and shields died. John followed with a downward swing with the plasma pistol, hitting the Elite's spinal cord, breaking disks in its back. It stopped moving.
İİİİİThe Master Chief quickly ducked behind a wall which separated the front room from the rest of the guard house. John placed the pistol on the ground, and weaved a fiber-optic probe around the corner. Inside the next room, which was a ten meter by ten meter square, were two Elite Minors. Cortana's voice chirped in.
İİİİİ"What are you doing? If they find the bodies, we're going to be discovered!"
İİİİİ"We'll be long gone before they find anything. Besides, these two aren't going anywhere."
İİİİİWith his left hand, John held the firing mechanism on the pistol, charging it up to full power. John swung around the corner, and dove forward in the hair, his body horizontal to the ground. He held both weapons in front of him. Both Elites were all the way against the back wall, talking. John released the energy blast toward one Elite, and fired off a shotgun round towards the other, all while still in flight. Just before John hit the ground, he curled up and rolled on impact, when he rose, he had cut the distance to the Elites to five meters, and he kept charging. John's left arm recoiled and hurled the plasma pistol at the head of the Elite who had been struck by the plasma. It connected.
İİİİİIn John's follow-through, his left hand found the grip of the shotgun, pumped it once, and by that time, he was only feet away rom the Elite. He fired a round straight into the gut of the Elite. It penetrated the Elite's already weakened shields, and pulverized its insides. The alien fell to the ground squawking. John raised his boot, and lowered it harshly onto the Elite's face. It stopped squawking.
İİİİİ"I must admit, nicely done." Cortana chimed.
İİİİİ"Alright Chief, head outside, and we'll find ourselves a ride. We need something airborne, but not big. We need to travel a few hundred kilometers, and we need to be quick. John walked over to where his plasma pistol lay, primed his shotgun, picked up the pistol and placed it in his pouch. The Chief walked to the door, pressed a button on the holo panel, and the door slid open. John hesistated.
İİİİİOutside was a massive amount of firepower. Rows and rows of Ghosts sat at ready. Hundreds of them. Several hundred Banshees also sat unoccupied. John glanced upward. A shield. Strange, visible from the inside, but not outside. Clever.
İİİİİ"Chief I'm scanning for the best choice of craft. Try to get into one of the Seraphs. It will get us to our destination the fastest."
İİİİİJohn stared at one of the Seraphs. It was an almost exact replica of the Covenant hover jeep. With several major differences. The cabin was enclosed, and on both sides, were wings. On top of the ship was a rotating plasma cannon similar to the one found on the dropships. There was also one on each wing. Each one could rotate individually to track several different targets. Efficient. The cockpit seated two, a pilot and a gunner. John was confident Cortana could handle the weaponry. There was a line of twenty Seraphs, an Elite stood watch next to each ship. He could make it to a ship, but they would follow him, and he'd never be able to get rid of nineteen of them, he needed a diversion. John reached into his pouch and produced a plasma grenade. He hurled it to the far side of the airfield. Before the grenade was halfway to its target, John had hurled three more. Each of these three landed on an unshielded Seraph. The first grenade detonated, which caught the Elite's attention. As the three Seraphs exploded into balls of plasma, John withdrew his Jackhammer, and loosed two rockets at other Seraphs. Both of the ships erupted into molten fragments and flares of plasma shot skyward. The confused Elites ran for cover inside the main facility of the base, possibly for reinforcements. John sprinted to the nearest Seraph, climbed in, inserted Cortana, and lifted off.
İİİİİCortana seemed delighted to discover that the Seraph also had two small versions of plasma torpedo launchers. As the ship flew skyward, Cortana unloaded with all three plasma cannons and two plasma torpedoes. It was just enough firepower. The shields glowed white, and disappeared.
İİİİİJohn turned the ship back toward the base, made a strafing run over the base and destroyed what looked to be a radar or communications dish with his plasma cannons. Hopefully now they wouldn't be able to track him.
İİİİİAs John arced the Covenant fighter upward, he was able to appreciate the craftsmenship that went into the craft. It was half the size of a Longsword, but twice as tough, not including its shielding. It was also extremely nimble, It could fly faster, and turn better than any UNSC craft. John hoped if he returned to UNSC space, he could bring back this craft. UNSC engineers would have a field day reverse-engineering the ship.
İİİİİJohn sighed to himself as the ship rose into the air. So far, this mission was proving harder than expected. He had nearly exposed himself. The Covenant knew something was going on, but they had no reason to suspect it was a human. What he had done was far better than charging into the open, trying to take on twenty Elites would have been more or less, a bad idea.
İİİİİ"Cortana, take over, I'm going to try to take a short nap."
İİİİİ"Affirmative Chief."
İİİİİJohn removed his helmet and drew in a deep breath. This mission was only going to get harder.


İİİİİ"John... John.. Wake up!"
İİİİİThe Master Chief opened his eyes, and all he could see for miles was white. He rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things. Nope, everything was still a vast whiteness
İİİİİ"Cortana," The Chief said cautiously, "where are we?"
İİİİİ"The Northern Pole of this planet, this is where their facility is located, deep underground. That is basically all I know. I don't know anything about the structure of the facility, ways in, out, etc. I also have no idea about enemy strength in the area. But we should get moving. A few minutes after we took off, a couple Seraphs from the base took off and gave chase. I managed to deal with them, but I would guess there will be more soon.
İİİİİ"In the rear of this craft is a small storage area, big enough to house a Ghost. We're ten kilometers out from the facility. We can use the Ghost to take us in. From there, there won't be much I can do to help you. But I'll try."
İİİİİJohn sighed, reached over next to him, picked up his helmet and put it on, it clicked into place. Next, he removed Cortana from the ship's computer, and inserted her into his helmet. That calming liquid sensation filled his head again. John pulled the lever which opened the cargo door, exited the ship and walked to the rear of it. The Master Chief climbed aboard the Ghost, increased the throttle, and zoomed across the white expanse. Nothing grew out here, it was bare and alone. Like him. Unfortunately, his enemies couldn't say the same thing.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Six: Killing is Optional (Pain is Required)
Date: 19 March 2002, 4:34 am

İİİİİJohn skimmed across the vast snow landscape aboard the Ghost until the target was in sight. It was a decent sized structure, but no more than the size of an average barracks. Deceit. Almost a trademark of the Covenant. While the facility looked miniscule, it probably spread many kilometers in every direction under the surface.
İİİİİThe closer the Master Chief got, the clearer everything became. At the front of what was almost as small as a bunker were two Jackal Minors. Even the troops were low-class. More deceit. John upped the throttle and raced toward the Jackals at high speeds. The first Jackal turned just in time to see the bright purple front end of a Ghost plow into its head. John turned the Ghost one hundred and eighty degrees, and flew back towards the second Jackal. John lept from the Ghost and soared over the Jackal. The Ghost came to a halt two meters in front of the Jackal. It stared at the Ghost before realizing the passenger was no longer in it. It didn't have time to turn around before John's fist connected with the Jackal's skull. It fell limply to the ground.
İİİİİThe portal which gave access to the bunker was a small, grayish-blackish color. Not at all similar to the typical Covenant colors. There were no symbols, no writing, nothing, except a single button which opened the door. John pushed it and the door slid open, revealing five Special Operations Grunts, apparently on their way outside. The Grunts were more surprised than John. They all turned around, screaming, running away in a mortified terror. One Grunt ran for what looked an alarm. The Chief ran him down, and slammed his fist into the Grunt's methane tank, puncturing it, leaving the Grunt with nothing to breathe. John watched it for several seconds as it suffocated. The other four began to regain their composure, unslung their plasma pistols, and began shooting.
İİİİİJohn retrieved his own plasma pistol. He rolled, ducked and jumped, all the while dodging the motes of plasma being directed at him. John was too fast, and by the time the blasts hit, the Chief was long gone. The aliens were firing furiously, trying to hit him. Seemingly simultaneously, all four Grunts overheated their weapons, and screeched as their paws were burned. John finally returned fire. Four blasts of plasma impacted the four separate Grunts in the face, burning most of their face, and the breathers which provided their precious methane. The Grunts died, be it plasma burns to the face, or lack of methane. Either way. John was satisfied.
İİİİİAhead of the Master Chief was a long corridor, with a single door at the end, it must be an elevator. John was surprised, Cortana had yet to speak a word. But John wasn't going to say anything, he was enjoying the silence.
İİİİİThe Master Chief walked cautiously down the dull gray hallway and opened the door. It was an elevator. John stepped inside and looked around. There was a panel which controlled which floor the elevator went to. John blinked in astonishment. There were over two hundred levels.
İİİİİ"Um... Cortana?"
İİİİİ"Give me a second. I'm going to access the Covenant HomeNet." Cortana pondered over the Covenant computer for almost a minute. "Got it, I had to go through some serious Covenant encryption to get it though. Bottom floor. Once there, there is a sort of transport system which we can use to get to our final destination."
İİİİİ"You mean the elevator doesn't extend through the entire facility?"
İİİİİ"No, obviously for security reasons. Even if someone makes it to this elevator, they still have to make it through a whole level of troops, then travel somewhere else. I guess it makes sense."
İİİİİ"Fine, here we go."
İİİİİJohn pushed the button which represented the bottom floor, the doors slid closed, and the elevator descended into the depths, for almost two minutes. John held his M90 at ready.
İİİİİThe doors chimed as they slid open, and an Elite Major who seemed awfully surprised to see John, took a step backward. John pumped a round into the Elite's stomach, and its shields flared up. flickered, and died. In anger, the Elite raised its arm, and tried to bring its weapon down on John's head. But John was too quick. He dropped the shotgun, grabbed the Elite's arm with his left, turned his back to the Elite, and tossed the alien against the back wall of the elevator. John locked his hand, preventing him from losing his grasp. As the Elite hit the ground, John fell to one knee, and using his right arm, punched the Elite several times. First the stomach, the stomach again, then the face. His fist was a green blur, striking multiple times in the blink of an eye. The Elite's muscles relaxed as its brain stopped sending impulses to the rest of its body.
İİİİİJohn rose, slung his shotgun over his shoulder, and picked up the Elite's plasma rifle. Holding the rifle in his right, he held his plasma pistol in the left. The room leading away from the elevator was a long hallway, ten meters high, and ten meters wide. Lining the hallway were square pillars, those would give the Covenant plenty of places to ambush him, but they could also give him cover. Holding both plasma weapons at ready, John raced down the hallway, turned left, and ran down another. John was running so fast, even the Covenant motion sensors on the walls couldn't track him. John raced around another corner, and found a door. He opened it and ran inside, which was a mistake. The room seemed to be a security room. Sensor readings covered one wall, a raised platform held a series of panels which seemed to operate different things. Three Elites manned control panels. Patrolling around the room were two Elite Commanders with their fearsome plasma blades. A half-dozen Grunts and Jackals patrolled as well.
İİİİİAs John entered the room, it seemed as though everyone turned, saw him, looked back to their stations, then did a double take. One of the Commanders began barking orders and all the Covenant opened fire. But they had no chance. Not only was John faster, but he was a crack shot. John loosed an overcharged plasma shot at the first Gold Elite, it hit, and the Elite ran for cover. A dozen, two dozen plasma shots splashed onto the second Gold Elite, paralyzing it with pain. It dropped the device which emitted the blade, and the blade disappeared. John fired off a dozen more blasts of plasma into the Elite and it crumpled.
İİİİİJohn spied the first Gold Elite running across the room, searching for suitable cover. The Master Chief hurled the pistol into the back of the Elite, killing it. John ran to where the second Elite had dropped the plasma sword.
İİİİİThe entire force of Covenant seemed awestruck. Two of their most fiercesome warriors, downed in seconds. In this brief pause, John stooped, gripped the blade's emitter, and it sprung to life. The other three Elites shook themselves back to reality and opened fire, as did the Grunts. It seemed as though hundreds of bolts of plasma whizzed through the air. It was a miracle the aliens weren't dying from friendly fire. John took a handful of shots to the back, but he didn't care.
İİİİİJohn charged the first Elite he saw, and jumped ten meters across the room to get to him. While John was airborne, he targeted another Elite, and sent twenty super-heated bolts of plasma its way, burning it to a crisp. It flopped to the ground.
İİİİİAs John was coming down, he turned his attention to the first Elite again, and brough the energy blade down on top of the alien's head. The vicious weapon sheared the Elite in two, leaving only a bloody mess on the ground. The Grunts and Jackals turned and fled, screaming in terror back towards the elevator John had come from. Only one Elite remained. As it tried in a futile attempt to shoot John, its arm shook uncontrollably in fear. John wondered how that Elite felt knowing it had only several seconds of breath left.
İİİİİIn a last ditch effort, the Elite charged, and swung horizontally at John with its weapon. The Master Chief ducked, and slashed across the Elite's legs, cutting them completely off. The Elite's torso fell to the ground, as it screamed in horrible agony.
İİİİİThe Master Chief decided to end it quickly. He would not torture the creature, as foul as it was. Another quick slash across its face and it was silenced. John deactivated the blade, and looked around the room. Five Elites lay dead, and he lived. Cortana let out a whistle, but said nothing more. John retrieved a fresh plasma rifle took a deep breath, and moved through the next door.
İİİİİAnother long hallway presented itself. Similar to the one when he had first entered this level of the facility. Wide, high and rows of square pillars lined the wall. Between the pillars was gap with the wall. Plenty of hiding places. If enemies were in this hallway, they could move around the pillar as John walked, and he would never see them. The hallway was two hundred meters long of sameness. The lights above him were spaced at intervals of thirty meters, leaving several portions of the hallway blanketed in darkness.
İİİİİIn the two minutes John was in the hallway, he could have sworn he had a shadow. Something or someone was in the hallway with him, but didn't wish to make their presence known. Every so often, John would catch a faint blip on the motion tracker, wheel, and see nothing. A Ghost. Or incredibly fast. Finally John made it to the end of the hallway. Before opening the door, John heard a rustling, quickly checked his six. Nothing
İİİİİJohn was positive he had a shadow. But why didn't they just come after him?
İİİİİJohn pushed the holo panel and the door slid open. John stood on a large concrete platform. In either direction stretched a tunnel, and right in front of the platform was a small hover train. One Hunter stood watch. John noticed it long before it noticed him, but when his plasma blade flared to life, the Hunter growled, and contracted into its combat position, charging its Fuel Rod Gun. The blast of plasma flared from the gun. John lept away, the plasma missed by five meters.
İİİİİThe Master Chief, crack shot, put ten plasma rounds into the Hunter's exposed stomach, and it roared in agony. John charged, energy blade in left hand, in one quick down strike, slashed the huge alloy shield in two, then shifting a little, slashed upward and severed the Hunter's weapon from its arm. Then with a blazing fast strike, John slashed horizontally at the Hunter's stomach, and cleaved the beast in two. Electricity crackled, and hydraulics hissed and popped. Hunters were mechanical. No wonder they could take so much punishment. It also explained why a Hunter's back pulsates even after death. Impressive.
İİİİİDuring the battle, the Chief's shadow had sprinted into the room, and hidden in the shadows. Watching the entire battle, the observer was, to say the least, impressed at how strong the Spartan had become.
İİİİİJohn stepped onto the hover train, and Cortana explained.
İİİİİ"This transport will take us to the section of the facility which contains the Prophets."
"Understood." John activated the train, and John's shadow followed, crossing the fifty meter distance in two seconds, and catapulted itself onto the roof of the train, crouched and made not a sound.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Seven: Humanity is a Non-Prophet Organization
Date: 31 March 2002, 7:01 pm

     The transport glided to a halt, hover-brakes squealed as they forced the hover train to a standstill. Cortana monitored the Chief's vitals. His adrenaline levels were high, much higher than she had ever seen in any human. His heart rate was one hundred thirty beats per minute. John's helmet didn't twitch as he stared down the hallway ahead of him. The Master Chief had one thing on his mind. He moved out from the room, and into the next hallway. He ran; sprinting down the hallways, skidding as he rounded corners. Five minutes had gone by, and still no Covenant contact.
     Six minutes, seven minutes and still nothing. The Chief had run through kilometers of hallway, when finally John found a door, and slid it open. John slapped his helmet to make sure he wasn't seeing things. He was back at the room he had left minutes ago. John hung his head, and wheeled about, and headed back through the door. Cortana spoke up.
     "Chief, I'm going to scan the walls, there must be a door hidden somewhere. There is no way the Covenant would build all this, unless..."
     Cortana was interrupted by the hissing of doors, and twelve Special Operations Elites stepped out of hidden doors, all wielding Fuel Rod Guns, and inside this hallway, John knew they wouldn't miss if they started firing.
     The lead Elite began charging his weapon. John reacted. In a blur, his arm moved to his belt, behind his head, then forward. The Elite growled in surprise, and seconds later, that Elite and several others went up in a ball of plasma as the Fuel Rod Blast impacted the Plasma Grenade wedged into the barrel. The remaining eight Elites panicked, and ran. They were fast, but it didn't matter. John was faster. The energy blade flared the life, and John cut down the closest Elite, and it crumpled with a thump as its body impacted the cold floor. John hurled a Plasma Grenade at the Elite leading the pack. It stuck, and the Elite twisted and writhed trying to tear the grenade away.
     Several of the other Elites hadn't noticed, and kept running. Six Elites were engulfed in a blast of Plasma. Two remained, and were so horror stricken, their legs couldn't be willed to move if their life depended on it. John smiled at the irony. Two bodies, four pieces of body hit the floor with one slash from the Plasma Sword. John felt he had found the perfect weapon.
     The Master Chief backtracked a little bit, and found the hidden doors that were open, and proceded into them. John walked for a minute, and found himself at a large steel blast door. The door was locked, and there was a passcode.
     "Cortana, little help here."
     "Accessing. Got it, open at your own risk."
     John pushed a green holo-symbol, and the door creaked and slid open, revealing an enormous cavern. It must have been ten kilometers in diameter, and almost twice that high. At the very top of the cavern was a small room, attached to the ceiling. That must be where the Prophets are holed up. In the center of the cavern was a grav-lift, and below was an enormous pit. There was one small, thin catwalk leading to the grav-lift suspended above the chasm.
     Guarding the Lift were four Elites. But the Chief didn't recognize them from anywhere else. Their armor was a deep purple, and they wielded a ferocious looking weapon. It was a long staff, on one end was what almost looked like a modified plasma pistol, and on the other end, a plasma sword which glowed a deep red. They grunted, and chuckled to each other as they chatted, but at the same time keeping track of every change in their surroundings. They looked tough. John needed a plan.
     The Master Chief knew these Elites wouldn't be just normal Elites. They would be the best of the best, if they were guarding the Prophets. John probably wouldn't be able to outsmart them, or outgun them. He had to think of something they wouldn't be expecting. John was reminded of a quote his old CPO, Mendez, had once told him.
     "You can't win or lose if you choose not to play a game."
     John wondered, would it be possible to charge onto the platform and get onto the lift before the aliens cut him down? Once John had the Prophets as hostages, would the other Covenant stand down? Probably not. The Covenant would most likely stay with John, and try to ambush him as he left, or something clever. John wondered, were the Prophets a big hoax? What if this was all an elaborate set-up? The Covenant had made enormous sacrifices just to get what they wanted before. The Master Chief was reminded of Sigma Octanus, or Reach. Covenant ships only tried to provide distractions, they were willing to take huge losses to accomplish a goal. John hoped this was not a set-up, the Prophets seemed to be humanity's only hope of peace. John quietly told Cortana his plan, and she had disapproved, but finally silenced when John had asked her for ideas, and she came up empty.
     Cortana continued to monitor the Chief's adrenaline levels and heart rate. His adrenaline level was so high, if it got any higher, it was possible it could become fatal. John's heart rate was well over four hundred beats per minute. John's previously recorded maximum heart rate was just over four-hundred. Cortana cringed, how much energy could his heart put out before it gave? She could only guess that if it went much higher, he would be in trouble.
     John composed himself, plasma rifle in one hand, plasma sword in the other, deactivated. He ran, so fast his green blur stretched for twenty meters. John watched the Elites. He was almost there. One hundred meters, ninety, eighty, seventy, then an Elite turned toward the catwalk, only to be completely bowled over by a green, two-ton man. The impact knocked out the Elite's shields, and the beast itself flew back ten meters.
     John's plasma sword flared to life, and he hurled it at the nearest Elite. The Master Chief expected the sword to impale the creature, instead, it bounced off harmlessly. But it was too late for the aliens, John lept twenty meters through the air onto the grav-lift, and floated upwards to his target.
     The three Elites, as well as the fourth, who had gotten back up, swung their staffs around, and fired dozens of plasma rounds at John as he ascended into what seemed like the Heavens.
     In the confusion of all the firing, the Elites didn't notice when another being jumped onto the lift, and ascend upwards.
     As soon as John entered the room, he made a quick circle, checked his six, and moved out. Seconds later, John's shadow came through, and raced into the darkness. In front of John were three rooms, the middle one seemed to house some sort of command center, while each one on either side was sealed. Those must be their quarters. John walked to the command center, found a place to insert Cortana, and did so.
     "Cortana, shut down the grav-lift, and try and get me schematics for this complex."
     "Affirmative Chief."
     "And Cortana, what's in the two adjacent rooms?"
     "Humanity's last hope."
     John nodded, checked his plasma rifle, and marched out of the control room, and towards one of the locked doors.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Eight: The Lights are On, But No One is Home
Date: 14 April 2002, 8:34 pm

      John walked from the Prophet's control room, and turned left. In front of him was a door which supposedly led to the Prophet's quarters. John pressed a green holo-button to open the door. The panel beeped and chirped at him. Locked.
      John decided to try a different method. John drew back his fist and "knocked" on the Prophet's door. The meter thick door clanged to the ground. The Master Chief stepped inside and cautiously panned his plasma rifle across the room. Empty. Holos adorned the walls, pictures of the Prophets. They were enormous, or so they seemed. They were huge beasts, who floated above the ground much like the Covenant Scientists, only without the bubbles which kept them afloat. Were they truly the powerful aliens the Covenant thought them to be? John began to feel slightly nervous.
      The room seemed cozy, lavish furniture was set everywhere. This room seemed to have everything, even a doorway with writing on it, which translated into English as "Escape Shuttle." John managed a smile.
      But the room was missing one thing, these supposed Prophets. John was about to leave, and search the other room, when he noticed a stairwell in the corner, tucked away from view. John crept towards it, and could hear chittering and barking, almost similar to Grunts, on the floor above him. With a deep breath, John charged up the stairs, expecting to find huge behemoths, but instead found something much different.
      Sitting at what seemed to be even more control panels were creatures who resembled Grunts. but without their tanks of methane and breathing masks. They yelped when they noticed the giant, green intruder in the room. The nearest one began to reach under a control panel. John had to act, he was either reaching for a gun or an alarm, and either way, it was bad news. The Master Chief took aim and fired. A plasma bolt seared the Prophet's hand off from the elbow down.
      The Prophets need to be alive, ONI never said anything about wounding them.
      Despite missing half its arm, the Prophet was not bleeding, and would not need to be tended to. That was the one upside of Plasma, no bleeding. The wound was immediately cauterized.
      John spied in the corner, two immense exoskeletons. They truly were False Prophets. They had managed to trick billions, maybe even trillions into following their will. John could only imagine what the Covenant would do to these pathetic creatures if they ever found out. But John needed to make sure that didn't happen, yet.
      Waving his Plasma Rifle, he ordered the two Prophets to don their exoskeletons, and proceed back downstairs. The two aliens seemed confused, astounded even, how this lone being had gotten past easily the best troops in the entire Covenant Navy.
      John ordered them to halt in front of the original control room he had been in minutes before. How could he give them instructions? Or could he just have Cortana do it? The Spartan ushered the creatures into the room, and spoke.
      "Cortana, is there a self-destruct for this facility?"
      "Wait a moment, yes. But the timer is unchangeable. It's set to one minute, not enough time to get out of here. Whatever you're thinking, don't do it. Remember, we have to get out of here alive."
      "Cortana, I'm going to go secure our ride, and when I come back, start the self-destruct and we'll get out of here."
      "Wait, what ri-?"
      The Chief ignored her and walked out of the room, and found the door leading to the shuttle. He touched the holo-panel and the door hissed open. He entered, and the Prophets followed obediently. A long hallway led to another door, and it was locked.
      John turned and motioned for one of the aliens to open it. They obeyed, and one reached forward with a mechanical arm, typed in some characters, and the door opened.
      The trio stepped in. John panned left to right. This was more than escape shuttle, it was a luxury yacht. The floors were covered in some sort of animal fur, many chairs and tables sat scattered around. This ship could easily hold several hundred people. Except John knew the Prophets would never use it to help other Covenant escape. This was all for them. John motioned the Prophets inside, and on his right, he found what looked to be some sort of cryo-tube, and on his left, another. He opened them, and ordered the Prophets in. If they were anything like human ones, they couldn't be opened from inside.
      The Master Chief retraced his steps back to the Control Room, and entered.
      "All right Cortana, do it."
      Cortana let out a sigh of frustration. "All right, it's done, now get me out of here and move!"
      John unplugged Cortana and raced back outside the room.
      "Stop!" Cortana Yelled. "I'm detecting movement in here, you weren't followed were you?"
      John shrugged, quickly gazed across the room, then kept running. He ran through the first door, then the hallway, then the second door. He entered the ship and ran to the cockpit. John found and spotted the slot for Cortana and put her in it.
      "Chief, we have thirty seconds, it's gonna get close. Doing this twice in the last few days is not my idea of fun."
      John couldn't help but grin.
      Because the cockpit was confined from the rest of the ship, they never saw John's shadow run aboard, hefting MA5B Assault Rifle in one hand and an M6D pistol in the other. It ran to the back of the ship, and hid behind some of the couches. The Prophets, not yet asleep, saw all of this, astounded. Another? After ordering their Navy to exterminate those creatures, there's more than one left alive!
      The ship's engines rumbled to life, and it shot upwards, away from the immense underground complex. The Covenant vessel sped from the planet, and John was able to witness the detonation from orbit. It was immense. The blast had wiped out hundreds of thousands of square miles. That facility had been enormous. Now, this Covenant home world was missing a sizable chunk of its crust. John wondered how many Covenant had died. But that didn't matter. It was nowhere near how many humans the Covenant had killed.
      John glanced out one of the windows. Covenant space was a flurry of activity. Cruisers were breaking orbit, drop ships were being deployed by the thousands to the surface, and small ships were being deployed, and one headed straight for John.
      "Chief, we have a problem"
      "I know, boarding parties. Their precious Prophets are missing, and they're getting nervous."
      The Covenant ship drifted closer and closer, and started barking orders through the COM. Cortana somehow managed to send transmissions back in their own language. John wasn't sure where she'd picked it up.
      What felt like hours later, the hull made a resounding thump as the boarding craft attached itself to John's ship. John exited the cockpit, and headed to the airlock, Plasma Rifle in one hand, Plasma Sword in the other. The airlock hissed, and two Special Operations Elites ran into the room. John didn't make a noise as he dropped from where he had been hanging to the ceiling. His blade powered up, and John swung. One Elite spun just in time to greet the blade.
      The second Elite dove for cover, and John could hear him barking for reinforcements. John took a second to compose himself, and took a deep breath.
      The Elite leaped from his hiding place, and John hurled the sword at it. It impaled the Elite's kneecap, and it fell to the ground.
      Not what I was going for.
      The Elite removed the blade, but strangely, instead of using it, tossed it aside. John continued to hold his Plasma Rifle, but unslung his M90, and gripped it with the other hand. The Elite fired off half a dozen blasts at John, all of which impacted him. His shields died, and the Master Chief dove for cover as another half dozen bolts of plasma whizzed over his head.
      John waited several seconds for his shields to recover, and rose, expecting to find an Elite. But, it was gone. John walked through the room, and found the Elite, dead. Its neck was tilted at an angle that didn't look too healthy.
      Concerned, John glanced around the room, and saw no one. He could already hear the barking and chittering of Grunts coming through the airlock, accompanied by several Elites. John opened the door to the airlock, and glanced down the tube. A dozen Covenant came streaming in.
      John primed a fragmentation grenade, tossed it inside, and closed the airlock door. A dull thump caused John's entire body to vibrate. Then, the tearing of metal. The grenade had torn apart the link between the two ships. Whoever hadn't died from the grenade was now going to die in space.
      "Cortana, does this ship have any weapons?"
      "Yes, but not a lot. Just a few pulse lasers, and a medium yield plasma torpedo launcher. Why?"
      "Fire everything we've got at that boarding craft. Try to at least set them reeling, then get us the hell out of here!"
      "Affirmative Chief."
      Several seconds later, John could hear the hissing, and whining as pulse lasers charged, then fired. Then, a noise almost like blowing on the top of a bottle, as a plasma torpedo streaked at the boarding craft.
      "Good job Cortana."
      "Enemy ship is disabled, wormhole generators are on-line, departure in twenty seconds."
      John returned to the cockpit, and sat down. A yellowish-greenish light enveloped the cockpit as the ship streamed through space.
In the rear of the ship, the Shadow rose, creeping with such stealth and deliberate slowness, it would not register on motion trackers. It crept to the cockpit, reached for the holo-panel, then hesitated. Then finally opened the door. It hissed open, and John sprang to his feet, Plasma Rifle in hand. He looked at the intruder, carefully. They both just stood there, taking in this momentous occasion. The two stood, staring at each other's olive green MJOLNIR armor, as if it was the most treasured thing in the universe. John started to snap a salute, but decided to instead, extend his arms and hug his old teammate. John couldn't keep the tears from streaming down his face, even though his training screamed at him not to cry.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Nine: You Can Run, But You'll Still Die!
Date: 22 April 2002, 1:58 am

     John smiled as he released his grip on his old teammate. He wished he had time to have a decent conversation, but he didn't. The ship lurched to a halt as it reentered real space.
     "Random Exit Vector Jump Complete. Calculating course for...?"
     John glanced at his counterpart, and they reached an agreement seemingly without words.
     "Earth." John stated with a confidence Cortana had not seen in some time. It was as if John had finally realized, that from the lion's den, they had procured a tool which could keep the human race from teetering into the abyss, into nonexistence.
     The cockpit turned an eerie green once again as the ship's generators connected a point in space next to Earth, and their present position via a wormhole. The voyage only took a couple minutes.
     When the ship once again lurched to a halt, a bright blue, green and white planet filled the view screen.
     "We're home." John glanced at his counterpart. And was just as ecstatic to see Earth as his friend was.
     John thought he heard Cortana mumbling random equations to herself, but John didn't care. He was safe on Earth, for the moment.
     Cortana sounded off the various identification codes to security outposts, both in orbit, and on the surface. As the Covenant ship descended into the atmosphere, John noticed several immense space stations constructing ships in orbit. They had to be twice the size of a normal Marathon-class cruiser. Hadn't the UNSC figured out that Covenant plasma was just as effective on large ships as small?
     One of the ships seemed to be nearing completion. In fact, a small band of people in space suits floated on the outside of the hull, on a platform extended from the station. A christening. Several seconds later, the party threw their hands into the air and cheered and the platform was retracted. The ship's engines flared to life, just before a pearl-colored film formed around the hull, then disappeared.
     John glanced at his teammate, then back at the ship. Shields. Now the UNSC might stand a fighting chance in space. The Master Chief also noticed the ship had no rotating segments. UNSC engineers had been busy.
     The Covenant ship slowed to a halt as it landed at a military base in Norfolk, Virginia. John unplugged Cortana, and the two Spartans marched out of the ship, and found the nearest officer, and inquired as to where they would find the nearest ONI building. John decided it best to retrieve his precious cargo later, in cryo-sleep, they weren't going anywhere.
     When the duo found the ONI building, they marched inside, and waved their identification at the guard. Strangely, John felt at home, but at the same time, felt like a stranger. He had been away from Earth for far too long. He had been here several times to be awarded medals by Admiral Stanforth, but that was years ago, John wasn't even sure if Stanforth was alive anymore. The answer to John's question was about to make itself known.
     Stanforth, balding and quite aged, stepped from his office into the hallway. John snapped a salute, and Stanforth returned it.
     "Ah, 117, good to see you. We haven't had contact with you for some time. Glad to have you back."
     John used a standard reply. "Thank you sir."
     Stanforth cocked an eyebrow at the other Spartan.
     "And you, 087, pleasure to see you again as well."
     Kelly snapped a salute. John glanced at her, and he realized he felt as if a part of him had been restored. He vowed never to lose her again.
     "All right 117, time to tell me where you've been for the past month."
     John spent the next hour and a half recounting his tales of the trip to Halo, the rescuing of Captain Keyes, the releasing of the Flood, John's escape and trip to the Covenant home world, and his trip back to Earth.
     "Wait, so what of the Prophets?"
     "Admiral sir, they're in cryo tubes inside the Covenant ship."
     "Right, I'll send a squad out there to defrost those bastards and get them into a nice prison cell."
     John smiled.
     "And 087, how'd you get tossed into this mix?"
     John was just as anxious to hear Kelly's tale as was Stanforth.
     "Well, it started when Reach was attacked. I was sent down to the surface to repel Covenant attackers. Many of the Spartans, including myself were there, and we were ordered to defend the reactors which fed power to the Orbital MAC guns. To say the least sir, we failed. As the Covenant ships prepared to glass Reach, all the Covenant drop ships and troops transports were clamoring to get back to orbit, before they were vaporized along with the rest of the planet.
     "Anyway, in the confusion, I snuck aboard a medium sized drop ship, probably able to hold several hundred troops. I tried to round up as many Spartans as possible, but the ones I could locate were either dead or beyond help. I found a ventilation shaft, and stayed in there.
     "What seemed like days later, I felt the drop ship moving again, and I could tell we were passing through a planet's atmosphere. The drop ship landed, and began to unload troops and supplies, I simply assumed the troops had either been reassigned or were on some sort of shore leave. The ship had landed in front of a small bunker, and I waited until night, then went inside. I managed to find what seemed like a mess hall, and managed to hide in there for weeks, I think.
     "I would sneak down for a meal, and surprisingly, Covenant army food is much better than that junk they serve us here."
     Stanforth shot her a glare, but smiled afterwards. Kelly continued.
     "Then, I would sneak back into a ventilation shaft above the mess hall for most of the day. I had almost come to accept the fact that eventually my luck would run out and I would be found. I wasn't sure where I was, and I didn't know what to do. But one day, I was rummaging through food bins, when I started hearing screams. Outside the mess hall, I caught a glimpse of a greenish blur. I followed easily, it wasn't hard to keep up."
     John cocked his head towards Kelly, and she managed a wry chuckle.
     "I decided to follow, but not make myself known, I couldn't be sure it was who I thought it was. Finally, I tracked John to the Prophets' quarters. When he captured them and tried to escape, I was sure it was him, and stowed aboard. Then finally, once we had escaped, I let him know I was there. All in all, I was extremely lucky."
     "Mmmhmm. Very well. You are indeed lucky 087." Stanforth turned his attention to John.
     "By the way Master Chief, whatever happened to old Keyes?"
     John hung his head.
     "Dead sir."
     "I killed him sir, in a way."
     The Master Chief told how the Flood had captured Keyes, and attempted to mutate him into a form capable of piloting the Truth and Reconciliation off of Halo, and how John had risked his neck to find Keyes, and had to kill him in order to reach the access codes used to detonate the Pillar of Autumn, which turned out to be a vain effort in the end anyway.
     Stanforth grimaced. "He was a good man. The UNSC will miss his bravery." John nodded in agreement.
     "Anyway, it's time to get both of you reassigned back out where you can do some good."
     "Yes, sir. What do you have in mind?"
     "Mars. It seems a likely place for the Covenant to strike, destroy our ship yards. But then again, if they find Mars, they find Earth. So on second thought, you and 087 will stay here."
     "Very well sir."
     "I'll have you assigned to the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers division here. They're the meanest bunch of marines you'll find around here, maybe you can toughen them up a little. I'll get someone around here to show you to your quarters."
     Stanforth found a marine who was standing guard, and instructed him to take the Spartans to the nearest apartments. Apparently Stanforth felt that because they were Spartans, they deserved better than plain barracks. John stopped the marine and told him to take them to the nearest barracks. The marine complied.
     John and Kelly walked into the barracks, a single fluorescent light bulb kept the room from being plunged into complete darkness. John removed is helmet and flopped down on a bed. The mattress was rock hard, but John didn't care, it was great to just get off of his feet.
     Kelly simply sat on the edge of the another bunk, thinking.
     John closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep. He was awakened several hours later by the sounds of yelling outside. People giving orders, Warthogs racing past, Pelicans loading up and taking flight. John donned his helmet and ran outside. He caught a marine by the arm, and inquired about the present situation. The marine replied.
     "We're all heading out, going to go kill us some Covenant, sir!"
     The answer wasn't very precise, but it would do. John raced back into the barracks to get Kelly, and they ran to the nearest weapons locker and broke it open. John reached in and grabbed two fragmentation grenades, an MA5B, which housed a grenade launcher, and an M6D pistol. John then decided to take two more grenades.
     Kelly hefted a Jackhammer, with two additional rockets, and like John, an MA5B with a grenade launcher. She grabbed four grenades as well.
     The Spartans didn't need orders. They ran outside and found the nearest Pelican and hopped in. John hoped what he thought was happening wasn't really happening. But if it was, he had an idea how. They had found Earth using some sort of tracer. The Prophets were too important for them to lose, the ship or the Prophets themselves must have been bugged.
     John hoped the new ships he had seen in orbit could defend Earth. He wasn't sure how many there were, but he guessed at least a dozen between the shipyards at Earth and Mars. Coupled with the Super MAC guns, Earth might stand a fighting chance.
     The Pelican lifted off, and its back door closed, sealing the inhabitants from the harshness of space. The Pelican flew into orbit and docked with one of the immense cruisers, which was labeled "Fire of Reach". Nice, commemorating his old home.
     Even now, the MAC guns were being repositioned near some Orbital Sensor Platforms, as they had done many times before. The only purpose of the Sensor Platforms being to shield the MAC guns from oncoming plasma. John looked out a window, and counted twenty Super MAC guns, ten of the new cruisers, and thirty-five destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and several Marathon-class cruisers.
     John looked in the other direction, and one by one, dozens of Covenant ships winked into view. The Master Chief took a deep breath and slapped a fresh clip into his MA5B.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Ten: When The Fish In The Barrel Fight Back
Date: 27 April 2002, 2:26 am

     John strode to the bridge of the "Fire of Reach". His slow but steady gait made him look like a machine. But that wasn't true. He was only partly machine.
     The door leading to the bridge hissed open, revealing a large room, twice the size of the bridge of the last ship John had been on, the Pillar of Autumn. The name brought back memories. He blocked them, shut them away. There would be time for sentiment later, when he was old and gray, and the Covenant menace was gone.
     The Captain was facing outward toward the space, assessing the situation. The Covenant fleet was amassed near the center of the solar system. At this point in their orbit, Mars and Earth were on opposite sides of the sun. The Covenant had chosen thus far to be the median. They had chosen not to attack either world, yet. They would eventually go somewhere, and John was expecting their first target to be Mars. It wasn't as well defended as Earth, and held valuable ship yards.
     Sadly, there was nothing John or the UNSC could do to save those on Mars. All the brass knew that was exactly what the Covenant wanted the UNSC to do. Using their pinpoint jumps, the Covenant could jump right next to Earth as soon as ships pulled away from Earth to assist Mars.
     Earth was to be protected at all costs. All ships defending Mars had been ordered to pull back to defend Earth. The brass had given a simple directive. Earth must not fall.
     John marched a little closer to the Captain. He still continued to stare. John walked next to the Captain and introduced himself.
     "Sir, Spartan-117 reporting for duty, sir."
     "Ah, I wasn't informed we had a Spartan on board."
      "No, you weren't sir, when I heard there was action, I hopped the first drop ship up here. Requesting orders."
     This was the first time John had gotten a good look at the Captain. He looked to be in his mid-forties, with patches of gray hair. He reminded John of Keyes. But the man didn't seem to hold himself with the same confidence as Keyes. His hands fidgeted and sweat ran down his brow. The Captain barked out several orders in the midst of their conversation. While his crew followed the orders, the Captain did not seem to hold the crew's full attention and respect like Keyes had.
     "Master Chief, I'd like you to remain on the bridge with me. You know some of the tactics of the Covenant better than most of the UNSC. You can help me out."
     John clicked on his COM, and gave her some orders.
     "Kelly, Captain...." John realized he hadn't gotten the Captain's name. He glanced at the name tag. Wilkins.
     "Captain Wilkins requests our presence on the bridge. Get up here double-time."
     Kelly's voice cracked onto the COM channel.
     "Yes sir."
     John glanced back toward the Captain who had returned to giving orders.
     "Lt. Jenson, give me an image of the Covenant fleet."
     The young navigations officer brought up a view, and zoomed in. Dozens of Covenant ships swarmed, but still did not advance toward Earth. Green motes of light continued to appear as Covenant ships continued to enter the system.
     The Captain spoke again, this time to the ship's AI, Thor.
     "Thor, give a count of Covenant ships."
     An AI materialized next to the Captain. He was appropriately dressed as a Norse god, and held his massive hammer at his side.
     "There are exactly three hundred and twenty-five ships sir."
     Captain Wilkins nodded. Sweat continued to drip from his brow. There were only forty UNSC ships, and twenty Super MAC guns. Not as much as the UNSC admiralty would have liked, but it would have to do. John continued to stare at the image of the Covenant fleet. Obviously they had come to reclaim their kidnapped leaders, or die trying. The Covenant ships suddenly vanished, trails of green light left where they had been. John glanced out the windows. UNSC ships were moving, scrambling in every direction, not wanting to be sitting ducks when the Covenant fleet reappeared.
     John was amazed. No one on this ship seemed to take notice, except Thor. He spoke up.
     "Captain, the Covenant ships have disappeared, I request evasiv-"
     A red klaxon turned itself on, and began blaring into the ears of the entire crew. Green motes of light began collecting a thousand kilometers distant directly off the bow of the ship. Thor activated the port emergency thrusters, which were large tanks of fluid, that when mixed, exploded and blew the ship onto a new course.
     Seconds later, hundreds more Covenant ships materialized, but like before, they seemed dead in space for several seconds.
     All twenty MAC guns let off a salvo. The shells were accelerated to one third the speed of light, and ripped twenty Covenant vessels to shreds, their hulks drifted, and collided with several other vessels, and became interlocked ina fiery dance.
     Several nuclear mines detonated, and a dozen Covenant ships were caught in the blast radius. Their shields glowed white-hot, then collapsed.
     While the UNSC ships attempted to begin charging their MAC guns, the Orbital MAC gus attempted to buy the ships a little time.
     The Orbital guns, capable of firing once every three seconds, let off another salvo, twelve shots tore the unshielded ships into tattered hulks, and the remaining eight slammed into other ships. Forty Covenant ships were destroyed or disabled.
The Bridge crew cheered with every kill, but Captain Wilkins remained emotionless.
     "Thor, give me status on the MAC guns."
     "96%, 98%, 100%! Weapons are hot! Firing!"
     A white streak shot from the ship, and the bulkheads shuddered. The immense projectile slammed into a Covenant destroyer and its shields failed. Part of the momentum left over put a massive dent in the ship, but nothing more. But five-hundred Archer missiles streaked after the defenseless target. Half were cut down by pulse lasers, but the other half impacted, turning the destroyer into a smoldering wreckage.
     John clenched his fist in triumph, but noticed the remaining Covenant fleet flare to life. Plasma began collecting along the sides of the ships.
     Over two hundred plasma torpedoes streaked away from Covenant ships, just before the MAC guns on the Orbital platforms, along with dozens of UNSC ships unleashed a hell storm of fire which crippled another thirty Covenant vessels. Half of the plasma torpedoes were directed at the smaller UNSC vessels. Multiple plasma blasts hit every smaller UNSC ship, boiling them away.
     John clenched his teeth. All of the frigates, destroyers and corvettes had been annihilated, leaving the Orbital guns, the ten new cruisers, and four Marathon-class cruisers. Not very good odds.
     Captain Wilkins held his breath as the remaining plasma torpedoes streaked toward the MAC guns. But as expected, the Sensor platforms reacted and moved to block the coming onslaught. Over a hundred plasma torpedoes impacted five different sensor platforms. Most of the torpedoes hit the platforms themselves, or the clouds of metal dust, rendering the plasma harmless. But several got through, and struck the Orbital MAC guns. John turned away, but returned his gaze just in time to see a silver coating around the MAC guns. All twenty of the MAC guns were still intact, and in retaliation, fired another salvo which decimated another twenty Covenant frigates and destroyers.
     John spied two Covenant carriers heading toward the poles of Earth. Another invasion. John remembered Reach. The Covenant destroyed the reactors on the surface which powered the Orbital stations. The Master Chief alerted the Captain, and in turn warned FLEETCOM. The Orbital guns turned, and fired ten rounds at each carrier, shattering the immense ships, and any possible wreckage.
     All four Marathon cruisers concentrated their fire on one Covenant cruiser, whose hull crumpled under the force of four MAC rounds. Plumes of fire gushed from the downed vessel.
     The Covenant returned fire with another salvo of plasma. Once again, tendrils of superheated gas lashed out at the orbital guns, the Marathon cruisers, and now the newer cruisers.
     Each Orbital gun took at least one hit, and their shields died. Several MAC guns took two plasma torpedoes, the first knocking out shields, and the second melting the massive weapon into scrap metal. More plasma torpedoes struck the Marathon cruisers. Two of the cruisers burst into flames as the heat created by the plasma ignited the Archer missiles in their launching pods. Ten plasma torpedoes roiled toward the UNSC shielded cruisers. Captain Wilkins winced as a plasma torpedo struck the "Fire of Reach" dead on, but the shields took the hit, and even held up.
     Seventeen MAC guns, two Marathon cruisers and all ten of what were being called the Freedom-class cruisers still remained.
     As the Covenant armada drifted closer, another barrage of nuclear mines ignited, destroying the shields of many large cruisers, and even obliterating a dozen smaller ships. The Orbital guns sent rounds which tore through seventeen Covenant cruisers, and the remaining Marathon and Freedom cruisers took aim at another twelve Covenant cruisers without shields. In seconds, twenty-nine Covenant ships were destroyed.
     The alien ships once again began charging their weapons, and Wilkins prayed the ship's shields would return to strength in time.
     The Master Chief spoke up.
     "Sir, is there any chance of reinforcements?"
     "Possibly, we've got a half dozen Marathon cruisers en route, but they may not make it."
     The Chief nodded and stepped away. He was getting restless, watching all these men die, but he could do nothing to save them.
     The MAC guns let off another seventeen gun salute, and seventeen more ships disappeared from the radar.
     More Covenant plasma streaked toward the Freedom cruisers. Several cruisers were hit multiple times, and burst into flames, just after they let loose hundreds of Archer missiles and several MAC rounds.
     The Archer missiles destroyed several Covenant ships, and the MAC rounds took care of a few more.
     Three Freedom cruisers were gone. The remaining two Marathon-class and seven Freedom-class cruisers opened fire, and more Covenant ships went down.
     Wilkins noticed another set of green light appearing behind the Covenant fleet. Wilkins let out a sigh of disgust. But then smiled as ships materialized, UNSC cruisers and destroyers. Thirty of them. Their weapons were hot, and they struck at the Covenant from behind, while the Orbital guns had recycled, and fired off another set of molten lead. Forty-seven Covenant ships burst into purple, blue and orange flames. The crew on the bridge let out a cheer. John made a quick count. One hundred fifty-four Covenant ships remained.
     The remaining Covenant vessels opened fire at the bane of their existence, the Orbital guns.
     One hundred fifty-four balls of plasma hurtled toward the guns. All the guns took multiple hits. Some only obtained minor damage, and seven were destroyed. But most of them were unharmed, thanks to the brave men and women aboard the Marathon cruisers.
     John felt a pang of regret for those soldiers who had been on the cruisers. Only an immense cloud of metal remained. The two ships had been hit with over a hundred blasts of plasma, and vaporized instantly. But they had realized the importance of the MAC guns, and weighed it against their own lives. John felt they had chosen correctly. Ten MAC guns and thirty seven UNSC ships opened fire. Forty-seven more Covenant warships were knocked from position, and tumbled helplessly through space.
     In a move which baffled John, the remaining one hundred seven ships turned to face the reinforcements, giving all the ships and MAC rounds another uncontested shot. Forty-seven more ships went down. The remaining Covenant ships let loose sixty plasma torpedoes at the reinforcements. All thirty ships were boiled away. Another seventeen MAC rounds tore through the Covenant ships.
     John was surprised the Covenant had made such a tactical error. They now had to turn around again to fire once more. A faux pas from the beginning. MAC guns on the cruisers and Orbital guns recharged, and fired again, destroying seventeen more ships.
     But the Covenant had loosed a salvo of plasma. The shields of the cruisers and MAC guns took the brunt of everything. John was astonished at how well the ship's shields held up, seemingly better than even the Covenant's own ships. Only one MAC gun and one Freedom cruiser went down. The MAC guns fired nine shots, then nine more three seconds later.
     The Freedom cruisers opened fire on six Covenant ships, destroying them, and the combined Archer missiles of the six ships destroyed the remaining two.
     No Covenant ships remained. Somehow they had won. John was happy, but confused. It had been too "easy." It was almost as if the Covenant weren't even trying. Three hundred twenty five Covenant ships against a total of about seventy, plus twenty MAC guns. Something didn't add up. Thor's voice boomed over the bridge.
     "New contact! Twelve million kilometers and closing fast!"
     Captain Wilkins enhanced the image. One ship? It was huge, but one? Wilkins was astounded. But John recognized the ship instantly. It was exactly like the one Keyes had destroyed as Reach, the Covenant flag ship. A lance of blue plasma lashed out at a MAC gun, and tore it in two. Another blast, and another MAC gun gone. The remaining guns and cruisers fired everything they had, but they were two far away. Another blast, then another. Again and again, the blue beam lashed out across space, destroying every MAC gun.
     Wilkins let out a wail.
     "Holy Hell! All ahead full, give me three hundred percent on the engines. We need to close the distance."
     The "Fire of Reach" sped forward, and the remaining cruisers followed suit. The distance closed rapidly, but by the time they were close enough, three more cruisers had been completely obliterated, leaving only three. The few cruisers left opened fire, and all three rounds impacted the ship, and they barely wiped out the ship's shields. Thor's voice called out again.
     "Two million kilometers distant. Warning, collision course with Covenant vessel, recommend course alteration."
     "Negative Thor. Steady on course."
     The Covenant battleship lashed out twice more, leaving only the "Fire of Reach."
     "One hundred thousand kilometers. Five seconds till impact."
     The two ships collided. The Covenant battle ship was broad sided, and the hull separated and wrapped around the "Fire of Reach" like a horseshoe. The front end of the UNSC vessel crumpled.
     Everyone on the bridge was hurled to the ground. Both the Captain and the Chief rose quickly.
     "Seal all compartments, vent atmosphere in breached decks, give me a damage report!"
     Thor sounded off a list of damaged structures. The reactors were damaged, and all lights had to be turned off to preserve power to run life support systems.
     Thor replied several seconds later.
     "Captain, I'm detecting pods being launched from the Covenant ship. I think we're about to be boarded."
      Seconds later, thumps resonated through the hull as Covenant boarding parties attached their craft to the hull of the ship.
     Captain Wilkins turned to the Chief and Kelly.
"Well Chief, looks like you'll have a chance to do some good after all."

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Eleven: They're Everywhere!
Date: 1 May 2002, 12:18 am

    John unholstered his M6D pistol, gripping the titanium weapon in his left hand. and MA5B-G in his right. He was thankful for his immense strength. He could hold an assault rifle with a single hand, and still shoot with accuracy that was unmatched by any other UNSC Marine, aside from Kelly.
    Kelly gripped her MA5B-G, and loaded a grenade into the chamber, then slapped a clip into place.
    A green light flashed in John's HUD. Kelly was ready. They advanced down the hallways of the 'Fire of Reach.' Several crewman, having only several weeks of firearms training, ran screaming down the hallway coming from the opposite direction. John's keen ears managed to make out a few random words of the terrified crewman's ramblings. John thought it was funny, comparing the crewman to himself. Two completely different ends of the spectrum.
    Up ahead, a explosion tore through a section of the wall, and Covenant streamed through. Gray-armored Special Forces, Elites. John took up position on one side of the wall, and Kelly on the other.
    The Master Chief popped around the corner, loosing a grenade into the midst of the aliens. The grenade settled for a moment before exploding among the Elites, sending them flying everywhere, but shields still intact. Several Elites were thrown against the wall with such force, their shields died from the impact leaving them defenseless. John and Kelly swung around their corners, and pumped several of the Elites with fully automatic weapons fire, the staccato crackle of the weapons drowning out the aliens' screams.
    Several Elites remained, trying to take some time to let their shields regenerate. Kelly flicked her firing selector to the grenade launcher, and incinerated the remaining Elites.
    Kelly and John both loaded another grenade, and advanced down the hallway. The Spartans reached a fork in the hallway, and decided it would be best to divide up, and meet later. The two warriors moved in opposite directions, both of them headed in the direction of weapons fire.


    John dove and rolled, coming up directly in front of an Elite. With one hand, the Spartan lashed his assault rifle into the stomach of the creature, and it doubled over. Then with a brutal crunching noise, John brought his pistol down on top of the Elite's head. Armor and bones were pulverized. Blood oozed onto the deck as the Elite's limp body collided with the floor. John kept moving, running through hallways.
    He rounded a corner and found a herd of Grunts marching his way. The massive group opened fire, and multiple hits drained the Chief's shields drastically. With his right hand, John let a grenade fly from his assault rifle, and the explosion decimated all but two of the Grunts, then several well placed bursts of armor piercing bullets finished off the rest.
    John keyed his COM with the Captain, and watched as more Covenant streamed off boarding craft. The Chief ducked behind a wall as the Captain's voice crackled in.
    'Yes, Chief?'
    'What's the status of evac?'
    'Shuttles are being sent into orbit right now. No more than ten minutes. I suggest falling back towards the bridge.'
    'Yes, sir.'
    John headed back the way he had come, and tried to get a connection with Kelly. She was still there.
    'Kelly, the Captain has given us orders to fall back towards the bridge.'
     A green light in John's HUD flashed. John noticed his MA5B's ammo counter was at two rounds. He ejected the clip and slapped another into place as he walked; right by a Covenant boarding craft. Just as he was about to cock the weapon, an Elite commander sprung from the shadows, knocking John over like a bowling pin. His MA5B clattered to the ground.
    The merciless alien brought its plasma rifle to bear and fired. John pushed himself off the ground and out of the way of the plasma, then countered with a fierce kick which knocked the weapon out of the alien's hand. In retaliation, John lashed out with his alloy-reinforced fists, first a right, then a left. The blows glanced off the alien's shields, and electricity crackled.
    The Elite reeled, and forced a stiff kick into the Chief's stomach. His shields took the brunt, but the force of the kick threw him to the ground. John's shield's still held up, barely. Only a hair's breadth remained.
    The alien marched over, and raised its large, hoofed foot, and prepared to stomp downward. In a blur of motions, John performed a sweep, tripping the alien, and at the same time, unholstered his pistol. In seconds, their roles were reversed. John brought his pistol down hard, and the Elite's shields died. Now lying on its back, the Elite roared in fury just before John pumped a trio of armor piercing rounds into its brain.
    Retrieving his MA5B, John ran back to the bridge, from that point on, completely uncontested. John thought he had gotten lucky there, another few seconds, and John might have had a hoof print in his helmet. Kelly got even luckier.


    After Kelly received the order to return to the bridge, she ran into a full squad of Elite Commanders, wielding plasma swords, accompanied by two Hunters. Her adrenaline spiked, and her anger flared. Her memories traveled back to Reach. One of her fellow teammates had been cut down by one of the menacing aliens. She remembered how the Spartan had screamed as the energy blade lanced right through their protective armor into the soft flesh, instantly vaporizing the marine's internal organs.
    Kelly remembered how only moments after the Spartan dropped, she had lost it, hurling herself onto the alien, pummeling it with her weapons, and then after it was dead, mutilating its body with pounds of lead from her MA5B. If only she'd spent that time helping her other teammates, more of them than just her might have survived. Her face, although masked by her helmet, turned bright red from anger, both from herself, and the aliens who stood down the hall.
    In that battle, she'd thrown out years of training in self-control and discipline, for what? A mindless vendetta which had festered itself in mere seconds?
    She vowed to herself to always stay in control of her emotions, especially in battle.
    The squad of Covenant hadn't noticed her, and that was good, but they were headed toward the bridge, and that was bad. Setting her MA5B down, Kelly hefted her Jackhammer, and loosed the first rocket at one of the Hunters bringing up the rear of the squad. It turned just in time to see the rocket slam into its armored body. Kelly let the second rocket fly at the other Hunter, and watched it connect as well.
    Two Hunters were down, and that left five Elites, all wielding plasma swords. She had only her MA5B. It would have to do.
    The enraged aliens charged. The hallway was a hundred yards long, and the Covenant were closing the distance fast.
    Kelly flipped her firing selector to the grenade launcher, and pulled the trigger. The grenade hurtled into the midst of the Elites and detonated. But the aliens didn't even break stride. Kelly procured her last grenade and loaded it, primed the grenade's chamber and fired again. The second grenade sent a blast through the squad of Elites, and their shields died.
    Flipping the firing selector back to bullets and set to fully automatic, she opened fire.
    Molten lead sped towards the Elites. Bullets pinged off the Elite's armor, but others connected, and drove into the flesh of the aliens. Four Elites went down, blood spattered on the walls, and oozing onto the deck. Kelly adjusted her aim toward the last Elite and opened fire. She squeezed off one round, and it penetrated. The round found its way into the Elite's stomach, but the Elite only flinched momentarily, then kept coming.
    Kelly continued to hold the trigger, but the firing pin clicked. She glanced at the ammo counter. Empty, and no time to reload. She glanced around and saw the body of a dead marine lying ten yards away, but there was no time.
    The Elite leapt through the air, and landed right in front of the helpless Spartan. The sword would cut her down before she could even throw a punch.
    The alien growled, and sliced in a horizontal motion. Kelly instinctively ducked as the sword passed over her head by centimeters.  The alien released its grip and the sword flew down the hallway just as a loud bang resounded through the hallway. Kelly sat, crouching with her eyes shut tight. Several seconds later, she stood and opened her eyes. She was in a hallway, with a dead Elite lying at her feet. She was alive.
    At the opposite end of the hallway stood a green statue, still and focused, a smoking M6D pistol gripped with both hands. It was the greatest sight Kelly had seen in her entire life.
    Kelly began loading another clip into her MA5B, as John waved to her down the hallway, motioning for her to follow him.
    As Kelly ran past John, he gave her a confident pat on the back, then followed her. They entered the bridge, and found the troubled Captain observing a grid of the ship. It displayed which areas had been completely overrun by Covenant forces. Almost the entire ship. Only the deck the Spartans were on was still Covenant-free. The Captain shifted his glance to space, and observed a shuttle speeding toward the 'Fire of Reach.'
    'The shuttle will dock with us in one minute.' Thor informed the Captain.
    Captain Wilkins cut in.
    'Chief, we need to move to the shuttle bay so they can pick us up, we'd better get moving.'
    Thor once again spoke up.
    'Captain, I recommend initiating the self-destruct on the ship, make sure no Covenant survive.'
    While the Captain was reluctant to destroy such a fine ship, especially when it wasn't terribly damaged, he couldn't risk letting any Covenant get to Earth.
    'Do it.'
    Thor started the countdown timer, and the Captain unplugged Thor. John was suddenly reminded of Cortana. He wondered why she had been so quiet, then he remembered he was going to keep her, then decided it best for her safety to leave her with Stanforth.
    John, Kelly, and the bridge crew followed Wilkins to the shuttle bay.
    Seconds later, the shuttle zoomed into the bay, and landed. A hatch in the rear of the ship opened, and all the weary men and Spartans, ran aboard. It lifted off, and accelerated back towards Earth.
    John stared out the window at the two immense ships, intertwined like rope, just before plumes of fire erupted from the ships' hulls, bursting into one giant cloud of flames, radiation and electromagnetic storms.
Thinking to himself, he knew what came next. They had beaten the Covenant back, Earth was still intact, and they still had possession of the Prophets. Now the UNSC must follow through with the next step of the plan which would bring the ultimate reward: Peace. But John's mind still turned like gears, devising a plan should the negotiations succeed, a plan which would drive a stake into the heart of the beast, and leave it writhing on the ground.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Twelve: They Kill Quickly, They Die Even Quicker
Date: 3 May 2002, 3:46 am

    John, Kelly, the Captain and the rest of the bridgecrew stepped off the shuttle into the bright sunlight at Norfolk. The MasterChief was the first one off the ship, and was immediately concerned. Heordered everyone but Kelly back onto the ship.
    John glanced at his partner, and she noticed thesame thing he did. There was no one around. Everyone seemed to have vanishedinto thin air, like a clever magic trick.
    John motioned to Kelly to fan out and search forany personnel. They meandered through buildings, but still found no signsof life. Finally giving up, John found his way into a barracks. He foundpeople, but no signs of life. Kelly's voice crackled onto the COM. Shehad found her way into the ONI office, and found the same thing. Everyoneat the entire base was either dead or had been captured.
    It was like a bad dream. The odd thing was, Johnhad expected there to be at least one Covenant body among the spatteredblood and entrails. But there wasn't a single one. Not even a Grunt. It'salmost as if the Marines had never fired a shot. Kelly reported similarfindings as well. No Covenant bodies.
    Very curious about everything, John joined Kellyin the ONI office, and chose to observe the surveillance tapes. Only thetapes from outdoor cameras worked. All of the indoor ones were out of commission.John pounded his fist on the desk, splintering the wood.
    They knew hundreds of UNSC personnel were dead,but no record of how or who, although John was pretty sure about the who.He sat motionless for several minutes, trying to think of how a squad ofCovenant could have annihilated an entire military naval station withoutsuffering a single loss. The Covenant would have either had to have takenan entire Naval Station by surprise with thousands of troops of their own,which would be impossible to do without the UNSC noticing. Or theCovenant were never seen by the marines.
    John's thoughts wandered back to the Halo. How manytimes had Covenant Elites surprised him with their cloaking devices, andalmost bested him? Many. In a frantic rush, John toggled a button on hishelmet: Infrared. The Elites could hide in the normal spectrum, but notin the infrared spectrum. Now they were visible and without shields. Johnsmirked, then instructed Kelly to switch to IR as well.
    The ironclad warriors, who had been described asresembling Greek gods, moved cautiously back toward the shuttle. With apolite knock, John got the crew to open the hatch. The Chief instructedthe Captain to take off, go find help somewhere else, that this base hadbeen overrun by, as of yet, undiscovered Covenant forces,
    The grim Captain complied, and the shuttle roaredoff into the afternoon sky.
    Like a stealthy predator, John focused on his surroundings,then realized for the first time why the Covenant were here in Norfolk.John chastised himself for several moments for not realizing the obvious.The whole battle above Reach had been another clever Covenant ruse to strikeat Earth and retrieve their Prophets.
    Hoping for the best, John glanced at a dead humanbody. John had been back for several minutes, and the blood was still wet.The Covenant haven't been here for very long. The Chief prayed the Covenanthadn't found the detention center , yet he could find no logical reasonwhy they shouldn't have by now.
    He motioned to Kelly, and the two sprinted, lookinglike ghostly spectres, as their speeding bodies blurred over the dirt andgrass.
    The pair skidded to a halt in front of the detentioncenter. The meter thick Titanium A door was blown apart, fragments of metallay everywhere, and a large hunk of the door lay several meters insidethe building, bent and horribly misshapen.
    The Spartans moved inside. Kelly's ears picked upa somewhat uplifting noise. The crackle of weapons fire, then the returnblasts of plasma. She adjusted her gaze toward John. He nodded. The MasterChief had heard them as well. They weren't to late.
    They quickly made their way down several more hallways,until they found C Block. A long hallway with cells possessing pure TitaniumA doors. The doors were either broken or blown open, and the Stealth Eliteshad ducked inside them for cover. The surviving Marines had done the sameat the far end of the hallway.
    John realized the entrenched marines couldn't seethe Elites, but were simply firing blind at an enemy they couldn't see.He realized it was only a matter of time before the Elites moved in, oncethe marines had exhausted their ammo supplies, and cleaned up. But Johndecided that wasn't going to happen.
    On his HUD, the signatures of five Marines appeared.Watching carefully, John counted ten Stealth Elites, who continually exitedtheir hiding places to fire of a couple bursts of plasma before duckingback into cover.
    John keyed his COM, and ordered the Marines to fallback, and hide inside the cells. He only hoped the Covenant would believethe Marines had given up, and press forward. Seconds passed, then minutes.Finally, several Elites crept from their hiding places, and moved cautiouslytoward the end of the hallway, where their precious leaders were beingheld captive.
    Eventually, all ten Elites began advancing downthe hallway. John gave Kelly and flash of hand signals, and the two spunaround the corner and opened fire, spraying armor piercing rounds intothe mass of Covenant. The sounds of Elite screams and shells clatteringto the ground was muffled by the unmistakable sound of an MA5B functioningin tiptop shape.
    Five of the Elites fell under a mass of bulletswhich punctured their lungs, heart, neck and brain. The remaining fiveElites screamed in anger as their dying comrades did in anguish.
    The Elites, seeing that both of the Spartans hadexhausted their ammo, charged. John tossed his MA5B to the ground witha clatter of metal on concrete, and his hands whirled about as he heftedhis M6D pistol, and readied the weapon to be fired.
    Kelly, not having another weapon handy, removedan MA5B clip, and hurled it at the nearest charging Elite. It connectedwith the Elite's chest, crushing its sternum. It fell to the ground witha horrible, low-pitched gurgle.
    John aimed at the first Elite, and squeezed offtwo rounds, one into the creatures neck, and the other into its forehead.After that, another two Elites went down in rapid succession, with woundsto the neck, face or chest.
    Finally, turning to eliminate the final Elite, Johnfired off two more rounds, just as the alien ducked, and took a large sidestep.One bullet missed the alien's head by millimeters, and ricocheted off thewall at the far of the hallway before coming to rest.
    The second bullet impacted the Elite's arm, tearingthrough skin, muscle and bone. The creature only flinched for a second,then kept coming, and was right on top of Kelly. Holding the plasma riflein its good hand, it lashed out violently, swatting Kelly in the head,wiping out her shields and almost knocking her unconscious.
    The Elite turned toward John, but he was faster.Leaning against a wall for leverage, he used his leg to push the Eliteaway from him, then aimed his pistol, praying he still had a round left.John pulled the trigger, but where he expected to hear a click,he heard the loud and unmistakable sound of a bullet impacting the skullof the Elite, cracking the bone and tearing through soft brain tissue.
    The alien's body slumped to the ground, and purpleblood began to ooze everywhere.
 John stopped breathing for a second, holding his breath, thenexhaled loudly. It was over, he had won, again. He shot a glance at Kelly,lying on the ground, barely moving. Her helmet was fractured in severalplaces, and through her visor, John could see her blood-covered face. Heordered the Marines out of their hiding places, and their names were visibleon his HUD. Private Byron, Pvt. Jackson, Pvt. Alvarez, Pvt. Shwartz, andPvt. Ramirez. John instructed them all to tend to Kelly and make sure shewas healthy. John went to inspect the Prophets in their holding cell.
    The huge Titanium A door hissed open, and John foundthe two Prophets huddled in a corner, their immense exoskeletons tuckedin the other corner.
    The frightened aliens hissed, barked, and chitteredat him. John simply waved his pistol at the exoskeletons. Obediently, thealiens donned the suits which gave them godlike status, and followed Johnas he marched out of the cell.
    John smiled at Kelly, who was back on her feet,although still a little groggy. She walked to the dead Elite who had hither, and gave it a swift kick, breaking the ribs which were supposed toprotect its organs, which had stopped functioning several minutes ago.
    A couple of the Marines were toying with some ofthe Covenant gadgets, plasma rifles, grenades, and one Marine even strippedthe active camouflage off the Elite, and actually got it in working order.
    With a quick order from John, the Marine turnedit off in dismay, but John wasn't as stupid as the Marine thought he was.
    'We don't know how long it will last, save it untilwe need it. The rest of you, see if you can find anymore of them, and keepthem. They should give us the upper hand if we run into any more Covenant.'
    The Marines continued to strip the Covenant of theirbelongings and weapons. John and Kelly decided not to bother. The Marineslooked like children in a toy store, but John was tired of fooling around.
    'Marines, take us to the nearest drop ship, we needto get out of here as soon as possible.'
    One Marine snapped to attention.
    'Yes sir!'
    Pvt. Byron led the group out of the detention center,then John remembered one last thing he needed to find. He informed Kellyhe'd catch up, instructed her to bring the Prophets to the drop ship, andfound his way back to the ONI office. He had left Cortana with Stanforth,and Stanforth was either dead, or gone. If he was dead, Cortana was probablyaround here somewhere.
    Into Stanforth's office John went, and found theAdmiral's crumpled body laying behind his desk. John searched around everywhere,looking, but found nothing. Just about to give up, John noticed a silversheen in the Admiral's hand. John uncurled the stiff hand, and found Cortana'sprocessing matrix, smashed into thousands of pieces.... John felt a pangof regret for his lost comrade, even though she had never even been living.John hung his head, then spun around and made his way back to the waitingdrop ship.
    John suspected Stanforth had been working with Cortanawhen the Covenant attacked. Either Stanforth had accidentally crushed Cortanaas he died, or the Covenant had destroyed her afterwards. Either way, shewas gone.
    He couldn't seem to keep his teammates alive. Hehad just regained Kelly, but lost Cortana. John sighed a deep, heavy sigh,then returned to and boarded the drop ship, taking his seat in the pilot'schair.
    The ship creaked and lurched as the engines heavedthe unwieldy ship into the air, and off into the sky, leaving behind itwhite plumes of vapor trails.


    A short time later, John set the craft down nearthe UNSC head quarters, the hub for all UNSC operations.
    The rear cargo hatch slid open, and John usheredthe Prophets out. Immediately, UNSC marines swarmed forward, requestingID and for John to state his purpose. John barked out a series of codes,and the marines parted ways, awestruck at the strange beings who floatedin tow. Kelly ordered the small contingent of men who had been on boardto remain with the ship.
Into UNSC HQ marched John and Kelly, and behind them, the two Prophets,strangers to a strange land. At the front desk, John demanded an immediateaudience with the UNSC brass. The Chief thought the UNSC must realize hehad returned successfully, but they may have harbored doubts that the Prophetshad been retaken after the fall of Norfolk. He would prove to them a Spartannever fails, no. That wasn't right. He was never going give the brass aflawless record, but he would give them victory.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Thirteen: The Best Covenant Is a Dead Covenant
Date: 7 May 2002, 4:58 am

    John sighed as he waited for the elevator to reachits destination. Kelly and himself had been sitting in the elevator whichwas, by their standards cramped, for almost a minute and a half now. Butthen, the UNSC head quarters was two hundred stories tall. The buildingtowered over any of the others in Washington D.C. by at least a hundredstories. Everything inside the building was state of the art.
    All the electronics were hardened against EMP, andthe building could be sealed up well enough to protect against radiation.And recently, as John had been informed, the building had received a massiveshield system in the lower levels. Now, like Covenant ships, this buildingcould take a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, and still stay standing.For all intents and purposes, this building was virtually indestructible,from the outside at least.
    Finally, the elevator creaked as it came to a haltat the very top floor of the building, the UNSC war room. This was wherethe top UNSC brass  decided where to send young Marines aboard warships to their deaths against the Covenant. Surprisingly, ever since thewar started, enlistment in the UNSC had risen, not declined. It was startlinghow eager young men and women were to be sent to their deaths. Obviously,they had no idea what they were up against when they first joined.
    The elevator doors chimed, and slid open. In frontof the green Spartans was a large, lacquered wood door. Plastered on thefront was the same symbol used by the Spartans, an eagle holding threearrows in its talons. John thought it was strange at first, but didn'tgive it another thought.
    Politely knocking, an older man instructed the MasterChief and Kelly to enter. Inside was a large, round table, where a dozenmen, all admirals, were gathered. Along all the walls were viewing screens,charts, and graphs. John didn't understand any of it.
    An older man, balding and short, stood to greatthe Spartans. Admiral Cole. John snapped a rigid salute, and Cole returnedit.
    'I'm glad you're here Master Chief. We tracked youall the way in. You've done well son. Right now, the Prophets are beinglocked up inside this building, down in the basement, and placed underwatchful guard. But, we could always use a Spartan's help in guarding them.'
    John glanced at Kelly and nodded. He couldn't allowthe Covenant to get to the Prophets again. Kelly paced back out the door,and into the elevator. No, the Prophets would be safe now.
    Glancing back toward Cole, the Admiral instructedJohn to sit down. John let his body fall limp into a large cushioned chair.It had been a long time since he'd felt this relaxed. Finally, shakinghimself back to reality, he sat up straight. Cole would obviously knowwhat to do with the Prophets. He had invented the Cole Protocol, probablysaved Earth and the other dozens of colonies a hundred times over. Butthen, it didn't help in the end anyway.
    Cole stood, and spoke his mind.
    'Master Chief, I'm going to be honest with you,and the admiralty. It seems as though we've won, but it's only going toget harder from here on out. Obviously, the Covenant Empire is much morevast than ours, and they probably have a sizable fleet still remaining.We on the other hand, have absolutely nothing left. If they wanted, theCovenant could take Earth any day now. The only thing that prevents themfrom doing so is their fanatic devotion to the safety of the Prophets.
    'Now, here's the problem. You and I both know wecan't kill the Prophets. It would ruin our chances for peace.'
    John nodded in agreement, and saw where Cole wasgoing. The Admiral continued.
    'Should the Covenant choose to call our bluff, we'reall dead, so we need to move quickly. The UNSC needs to negotiate as fastas possible, before the Covenant get bold. Ever since we heard the newsthat you'd captured the Prophets, we began trying to make contact withthe Covenant to begin negotiations. As of yet, we have been completelyunsuccessful.
    'Well, I can see you've had a rough past few weeks.You're dismissed, report back at 0700 tomorrow morning Chief.'
    John snapped a salute, spun on his heel, and leftthe room.


    The next day, John was up two hours before he hadto be. He sat on his bunk, simply thinking; pondering. He had always toldhimself that humanity would prevail. But he mind kept wandering to the'what if.' What if the negotiations failed? What if the Covenant destroyedEarth? Everything would end. Of course, isolated colonies might survivea little longer, but in the end, human civilization would cease to exist.
    John was troubled. He had spent almost his entirelife fighting Covenant, and now, when it mattered most, he could do nothingto help humanity succeed. It was in the hands of the admiralty, negotiators,and the willingness of the Covenant to participate.
    Again, John glanced at the clock in his room. 0600.He still had an hour before he had to be present at head quarters. Frustratedabout his inability to help, John decided to vent some anger on the firingrange. Moving outside from his assigned quarters, John had a nice two kilometerjog to the firing range. Afterwards, his heart rate had never risen aboveseventy-five beats per minute.
    Walking over to the weapons rack, John picked outan MA5B with a silencer and an M6D with a silencer as well. The weaponsrange was quiet. No marine who had a choice would be out here this early.Occasionally, drill sergeants marched men out here in the wee hours ofthe morning for a little practice. But not today, John had the entire rangeto himself.
    Taking aim on the first target, which was drawnin the likeness of a Covenant Elite, John squeezed the trigger. The assaultrifle coughed, and a three-round burst perforated the Elite's head withholes. Again he fired, and again, until the entire head of the target hadbeen completely torn apart.
    Reeling in the target, John replaced it with another,this time it was a much larger target in the likeness of a Hunter. It waseven in color, illustrating the weak points of the Hunter, training youngrecruits to take their time and choose their shots wisely.
    Placing his MA5B on the ground, John picked up theM6D and loaded the deadly handgun.
    Deciding to try something challenging, John tookseveral steps back. Running to his left and jumping into the air parallelto the target, John fired three rounds at the Hunter. John tucked himselfinto a roll just before he impacted the ground, and came to his feet.
    Still running, John fired off two more magnum roundsinto the target. Satisfied, John reeled in the target. A normal marinewouldn't have noticed the bullet holes, but John did. Five holes were groupedtogether just between the Hunter's face plate and chest plate. Had it beena real Hunter, five bullets would have impacted the the two-inch gap betweenthe Hunter's head and chest, ripping its neck open like a tin can.
    Content with how much pent up rage John had spent,he holstered the pistol, and reloaded his MA5B. Looking into his HUD, Johnbrought up the current time. 0630. John was satisfied he could still killCovenant if he needed to. But if everything went right, John would be outof a job, almost.
    Running outside, John decided to take a Warthog.The HQ was ten kilometers away. While John could easily run that far inthirty minutes, he wasn't in the mood. Hopping into the driver's seat,John keyed the ignition. The gas-chugging machine revved to life, and Johnstepped on the accelerator.
    The ÎHog sped out of the parking lot, away fromthe firing range, and into the quiet roads inside the military base. Severalother ÎHogs and other vehicles drove by, on the way to report for duty,or running errands.
    John was only attuned to the rumble of the Warthog'sengine. He passed several open, paved areas where squads of men were drilling,enduring the yelling from their drill sergeant. But John didn't even givethem a glance. If the UNSC failed, none of it would matter.
    Following the roads with almost a prescient ability,John turned right, then left. He seemed to know the path to UNSC HQ, withoutever driving there. Finally, the HQ loomed in the distant. John's keeneyesight picked out a bird attempting to land on the roof of the tower.John shook his head, he knew what was about to happen.
    The bird flew into an invisible wall twenty feetout from the building. The bird slammed into the shield and vaporized.
    John felt a tinge of remorse, and hoped it wasn'ta symbol of things to come. Would the same thing happen between the tinyUNSC and the immense Covenant Empire? Or would the bird choose a differentpath, and avert disaster? Only time would tell.
    Arriving at UNSC HQ, John turned off the growlingbeast, and jumped out. Marching inside, John informed the secretary atthe head desk who he was.
    'Go right up sir, they're expecting you.'
    The Chief nodded, and made his way toward the elevator.He thumbed the call button for the lift, and moments later the door chimed,allowing John access. Stepping inside, John keyed the button for the topfloor. Again, like the previous day, John waited for almost two minutesas the elevator whisked him to the top floor of the building.
    The doors made another annoying ping as the doorsslid open. Still grasping his MA5B like it was a part of him, John decidedto leave it with a Marine who was conveniently stationed outside the woodendoor. John was just about to knock when the Marine spoke up.
    'Go on in sir, they're waiting for you.'
 John entered the room, his hopes of any new breakthroughs low.Looking around inside, John had to make sure he was in the right room.One of the walls had either been removed, or it slid away into the flooror ceiling. What used to be a wall now entered in a large room filled withdozens of people attending to computer consoles. Phones and vidscreensfilled the room.
    John spied Admiral Cole off in the corner on a privatevidscreen with headphones, talking with what looked to be the Presidentof Earth. John frowned thinking about the title. He wondered how the peopleof Earth had ever gotten along well enough to elect a single leader. Itwas mind boggling when compared to the different radical beliefs of thedifferent cultures from many, many years past.
    John could read lips, and stared intently at thevidscreen. However, at this distance, John couldn't make it out. He couldonly see the expressions of the President. He seemed troubled, but at thesame time, seemed to have a slight grin on his face. John watched the restof the room carefully for several moments until Cole's vidscreen snappedoff, and the Admiral approached John. Smiling, Cole clasped John's hand.
    'Chief, we did it.' Cole's grin was almost as wideas his face.
    'Sir? I'm not sure I understand.'
    'We've won, in our own little way. The Covenantthreat is gone.'
    John was suddenly shot back to a quote Mendez hassaid decades ago.
    You can't win or lose if you choose not to playa game.
    Cole sat down.
    'Sit Chief, let me explain everything. Early thismorning, a small Covenant diplomatic shuttle arrived, and is currentlyorbiting Earth. After repeated demands for us to return the Prophets, theyfinally gave up and began bargaining. We finally reached an agreement.
    'In exchange for peace, we will maintain possessionof the Prophets for one year, then return them to the Covenant. This ofcourse, showing us their good faith.'
    'Admiral, with all due respect, you honestly believethe Covenant will hold to their word after we release the Prophets?'
    'Chief, in this situation, we have to trustthem. We don't have a choice. At least in that year, we can rebuild ourmilitary enough to at least hold them off a little longer. But that's assumingthe Covenant break the treaty.'
    'Admiral, they've hated us enough over the yearsto kill billions of innocent humans. You actually think that the Covenantwill stop now? They're so close to finishing us off!'
    John realized he had overstepped his bounds theway he had just spoken to Cole, and apologized.
    'Excuse me sir, I was out of line there.'
    'It's all right Chief, we're all a little on edge.But it's over now. We're safe. At least for now. I don't trust those Covenantbastards any more than you. But we don't have another choice, do we?'
    John was firm, but calm.
    'We do, Admiral.'
    'Enlighten me Chief.'
    'Sir, we fight.'
    'Chief, now you're being just like a new recruit.Brash and hotheaded. You know we wouldn't win in an all-out war againstthe Covenant. The past decades prove it!'
    John knew Cole was right. But he couldn't standto see the Covenant, who had murdered so many, get off so easily. He wasn'tgoing to do anything out of line, but he still wasn't going to trust theCovenant. Unlike the rest of the UNSC, John still remembered what the Covenantstood for. Deceit and Treachery. He would not forget. He would be ready.
John exited the HQ and drove back to his quarters, and dozed off, dreamingof things to come, good and bad.

Operation False Prophets, Chapter Fourteen: Treachery 101
Date: 8 May 2002, 4:59 am

    Explosions jarred John from his restful sleep. Piecesof ceiling tiles were shaken loose and fell to the ground, several landingon John's armored head. Hurtling to his feet, and grabbing the only weaponhe had handy, an M6D pistol, John ran outside.
    Looking into the sky, swarms of Covenant Bansheesswooped into an attack formation, and peppered dozens of buildings withsuperheated plasma. In the distance, a dozen Covenant Carriers loomed,every few seconds, gravity lifts activating, sending hordes of troops andarmor to the surface.
    In the distance, the screams of Marines filled theair as Covenant cut them down with barrages of plasma. Drowning out themuffled cry of men was the piercing war cry of the small, but ferociousGrunts.
    Kelly, who had been staying in a building adjacentto John's, had joined him outside, staring into the sky in awe. Kelly alsohad an M6D handy, and she slapped a clip into place, then loaded a roundinto the chamber.
    John's pistol already loaded, he flipped off thesafety switch. The two split up, gathering as many Marines from their bunksas possible, or simply rounding up ones who were already up. John founda few dead bodies, and managed to secure an MA5B-G, and several clips ofammunition for his pistol. Kelly had done so as well.
    Marching through the area, John, Kelly and a squadof ten Marines came upon a squad of Covenant Elites. Commanders wieldingplasma swords. Simultaneously, John and Kelly brought their MA5B's to bear,and pulled their triggers, sending two grenades hurtling through the airinto the mass of Elites.
    Several Elites were flung to the ground, unharmedhowever. The entire squad still had shields though. In unison, John andKelly flipped to fully automatic while the rest of the Marines were stillfumbling to take thesafeties off their own weapons.
    The Spartans opened fire as the golden armored creaturescharged at them, mouths open, exposing rows of sharp, filed teeth. Momentslater, the rest of the Marines opened fire as well. Hundreds of armor piercingrounds pinged off the Elite's shields. Finally, most of the Elite's hadno remaining defenses. Multiple Elites fell to the dirt from dozens ofchest, face or neck wounds.
    Like a symmetrical pattern, John and Kelly exhaustedtheir AP clips and dropped the assault rifles to the ground, unholsteringtheir pistols. Taking careful aim, John and Kelly fired round after roundinto the unprotected necks and heads of the Covenant swordsmen. One Elitewas still left after every soldier was out of ammo. The Elite rammed itselfinto a terrified Marine. The soldier crumpled to the ground like a manmade of sticks. In a split second, the Elite brought its fearsome weapondown onto the hapless Marine, dicing him in two, just before John hurledhis pistol into the back of the Elite's skull. The alien fell to the ground,a lifeless form, blood oozing onto the brown dirt.
    John sighed, and didn't bother to pick up his assaultrifle. Kelly procured another pistol, and loaded both of them. John proceededto reload his M6D, then equip himself with a plasma sword. The Covenantsword was an extremely effective weapon. Although John hated the Covenant,he had to admit he'd always preferred the Covenant weaponry. Not only werethey more effective, but they also carried a certain amount of respectwith them. An alien who possessed a plasma sword probably wasn't botheredby the others.
    While the Spartans waited for the Marines to finishreloading, John thought about how right he had been, and how he had predictedthis. John knew he didn't have any prescient abilities, but anyone whowas willing to accept the truth could have seen it coming miles away. Johnwas sure Kelly had seen it coming as well. Years of experience againstthe Covenant brought many rewards of skill, and especially not limitedto military skills. Common sense as well.
    The group of Marines, John and Kelly moved out,inching their way through the facility. Bodies littered the ground everywhere,Covenant and Marine. Many Grunts and Jackals had been sacrificed as a wedgeto open the path for an army of Elites and Hunters, most likely. The Marineshad done a good job. Dozens of Elites lay scattered everywhere. Some filledwith dozens of holes, others missing limbs from grenade explosions. Evena couple Hunters lay dead. John smiled. Someone must have been a good shot.
    John glanced into the sky at the sound of explosions.Swarms of Banshees were struggling to fight off a squadron of F-75's, armedwith HE Anvil II's. Meanwhile, pulse laser turrets attempted to fight offanother squadron of Longswords who were attacking the Carriers themselves.
    Directly in John's line of sight, green motes oflight began collecting. Moments later, a Covenant cruiser stepped acrosslight years into Earth's atmosphere. The Covenant were getting risky. Ajump right onto the surface of a planet. A few minute errors and the shipmay have ended up inside the planet's core. But then, it was probably theonly way for the Covenant to get in undetected. And John knew better thanmost that the Covenant were willing to sacrifice immense resources to getwhat they wanted.
    The ship hovered above him, and the gravity liftsprung to life. Another squad of Elites stepped onto the surface. John'sheart leapt into his throat. There were a dozen of them. John didn't knowhow he could hope to kill them. He and Kelly recognized them instantly.The Prophet's personal Honor Guard. Their fearsome staffs twirled in theirhands. One end was a blood-red plasma sword, and the other end fired deadlybolts of plasma. A deadly combination.
    Upon sighting John and his men, the Elites charged.John and Kelly opened up with their pistols, and actually managed to downtwo of the Elites with repeated blasts to the head.
    'Concentrate on one Elite at the a time!' John hopedthe men would listen. Tossing his empty pistol at an Elite, which bouncedoff harmlessly, John activated his plasma sword while Kelly switched toher MA5B, and opened fire along with the rest of the Marines. Two moreElites went down under a hail of lead. Eight remained.
    The enraged Elites waded in among the Marines whowere struggling to reload. In an instant, five Marines crumpled to theground, lifeless. Kelly tripped an Elite and snatched its weapon away.Twirling the staff, Kelly clocked the Elite in the head with the bluntend, then followed by slicing the beast down the middle.
    John faced an Elite head on. Just as the creatureswung for John's head, he ducked, then thrusted his own sword up throughthe belly of the Elite, vaporizing its organs. Withdrawing, John spun androlled out of the way of two other plasma swords, which sliced into theground, melting anything that got in the way. Spinning to face two attackingElites, John feigned with his sword, then forced a stiff sidekick intothe stomach of the alien. It fell backwards and sprawled onto the ground.
    As the Covenant attempted to rise, John decapitatedthe beast with a blurring slash. The second Elite seemed taken aback. Thebeast stared forward, not at John, but behind John. Sensing danger, theSpartan performed a back flip over his would be attacker from behind. Thrustingthe sword forward, John impaled the third Elite that had been standingbehind him a moment ago, and twisted, making the sure the alien felt asmuch pain as possible.
 Out of the corner of his eye, John spotted Kelly trying to fendoff three Elites at once. She ducked, rolled and flipped out of the wayevery time the Elites swiped. Finally, an Elite drew back his fist andpunched Kelly square in her helmet. Her faceplate smashed as her shieldsdied. She took a step back, stunned, as multiple plasma swords impactedher body. Armor crackled and melted together as her body fell to the ground.John watched in horror.
    To John, nothing else mattered. His momentary lapsein concentration allowed his remaining opponent in front of him the advantage.The Elite raised its sword, and brought it down on top of John's helmet.It sliced through shields, helmet and reinforced skull bones. John sawit coming, but was too grief stricken to respond. His entire life flashedbefore his eyes as he crumpled to the ground. He had failed.
    The furious Elite slashed again and again at John'sconvulsing body until it stopped twitching. It laughed in triumph as hissquad mates joined him at his side. They conversed among themselves beforemoving out to find their masters.


    'NO!' John shouted as he woke, covered in a coldsweat. He was sure he had seen a vision of things to come. He wasn't goingto let that happen. He hoped he hadn't awoken Kelly with his scream. Shemustn't know what he was going to do. No one must. Anyone involved wouldmost likely be given a court martial, he couldn't let himself bring herinto this.
    John glanced at the time. 0100. No one would beup. He had to move now.
    Sprinting outside, John tried to remember what hadhappened to the stolen Covenant ship he had arrived in. He remembered Stanforthsaying something about it being sent to D.C. Something about giving theUNSC engineers a chance to reverse engineer the wormhole technology. Johnsuddenly remembered. The airstrip. They had huge testing labs, wind tunnelsand anything else that scientists might need. It was only a few miles,but first he had another stop.
    Grabbing a Warthog, and firing it up, John steppedon the accelerator, and double timed it back to UNSC HQ. Minutes later,he arrived and walked inside. The secretary at the front desk was a differentwoman this time.
    'Sir, I'm sorry, you can't go in there.'
    John walked by and stiff armed the woman, sendingher sprawling. The Master Chief kept walking, and entered the elevator.To the bottom floor he went. One hundred floors dow, down to the prisonsection.
    Stepping out, John asked to see the Prophets. SeveralMarines stepped forward asking for ID. John didn't have time for this.He swatted them out of his way like flies, and policed any weapons andammunition they had. Various convicts pleaded for help. But this wasn'tabout them, or him. It was about us. Humanity. While the UNSC seemedcontent in their state of complacent 'peace', John knew it wasn't real.
    Had the entire UNSC lost their mind? They must have.John knew he was right in doing this, and nothing was going to stop him,even if it cost him his own life.
    Finding the Prophets' cell, John opened the TitaniumA door, and ordered the loathsome creatures out of the dark chamber. Theirmechanized suits levitating them off the ground like they were gods. Johnwas going to prove them wrong. All of them. Marching the Prophetsback into the elevator, John keyed the button for the lobby.
    The elevator chimed as it reached the ground floor,and John stepped out, Prophets in tow. The secretary was just getting toher feet, and spotted John leaving. She reached a hand onto the desk ina feeble attempt to sound the alarm. Raising one arm, John fired a superblyaimed shot from his MA5B into the secretary's kneecap. She screamed inpain, and collapsed onto the floor. She would pass out from the pain, noone would find her until morning. John would be long gone by then.
    Marching back outside, John motioned for the Prophetsto climb into the back seat of the Warthog, which had been put there insteadof the LAAG. Stepping on the gas pedal like a lunatic, John sped off inthe direction of the airfield, and the Covenant ship.
    Minutes later, the large chain-link, barbed wiredfences came into view. The headlights illuminated two Marines, waving forthe Chief to stop. He didn't. The poor soldiers barely jumped out of theway before the Chief slammed through the gate, and out onto the tarmac.
    Screaming toward his destiny, John sighted the largewarehouse where the Covenant ship was obviously being stored. There weretwo dozen armed guards outside. They waved frantically at him, but Johnnever slowed, ramming through the doorway of the warehouse, taking outmost of the wall with him.
    The Covenant leaders spotted their ship, and a glimmerof hope returned to their eyes.
    Yes. John thought. Show them a way homebefore you feed them to the Wolves.
    Skidding to a halt right near the ramp way of theship, John ordered the two Covenant on board. Moments later, the squadof Marines ran inside, ordering for John to halt.
    The Marines opened fire. Several bullets pingedoff the Chief's shields, not doing any significant damage.
    No, this is for your own good.
    John raised his assault rifle, and fired a roundinto the kneecaps of six of the marines. They managed to limp away beforeJohn hurled a grenade into their midst, causing the rest of them to diveout of the way.
    This is not for me, but for us.
    John ran inside the ship, and found several scientistsin a terrified stare down with the Prophets. John wasn't sure who was morefrightened.
    Smacking the scientists in the head just hard enoughto render them unconscious, John tossed them outside, closed the ramp way,and ran to the cockpit.
    John had reached almost a religious fervor of hisown. He was astonished at himself. He had always followed orders. But now,when it mattered most, he was risking it all, for what? Pay back? Yes.For all the dead Spartans, Marines, and innocent civilians. No, he wasright, the UNSC was wrong. One day, they would understand his actions,but not today, or tomorrow, or a year from now.
    John searched hastily on a computer system he didn'tunderstand at all, but the Prophets seemed to know what he wanted. Theyglided forward and punched in a series of commands.
    They think I'm rescuing them. In a way, I am.Rescuing them from the guilt they wear around their necks.
    The ship glided noiselessly into the air, and smashedthrough the roof. The Covenant vessel sped into the night sky. John wonderedhow different his life would be when he returned. It would not be the same.But this was not for his own good.
    It's for our own good.
    John sat back and removed his helmet, observingthe stars before they blurred together as the ship entered a wormhole.On the other side of the wormhole awaited the Covenant home world, andJohn's unavoidable destiny.
    No, Humanity would never have peace. We'll havevictory.

Operation: False Prophets- Afterward
Date: 9 May 2002, 4:48 am

    Historical excerpt taken from the historical textbook'Life of A Spartan', written in 2710. Details the events after Spartan-117left Earth with the Prophets, and the subsequent court martial.

Written by- Master Zærr

 The Master Chief arrived at the Covenant home world only minutesafter he left Earth. Flying into the world's atmosphere, Spartan-117 pilotedthe craft into the middle of a large square, in the middle sat a largestage. Obviously for speeches. Covenant ran for cover as the large craftset down in the town square.
    Spartan-117 exited the craft with his two hostages,and forced them to tap into every vid and holo-screen on the planet. Millionsof Covenant gathered around personal or public holo-screens, waiting patientlyas they believed their revered leaders were about to speak.
 Hundreds of Covenant troops rushed to the town square to aidtheir masters. Spartan-117 purportedly drew his weapon, threatening toassassinate the Prophets in plain view, even though the Master Chief publiclyadmitted at his court martial that he would have never dreamed of firing.
    Once Spartan-117 was assured all holos were linked,in a quick motion, reaching out with both arms, John tore the godlike exoskeletonsoff the Prophets. Electricity crackled and hydraulic fluid spilled as theCovenant leaders were revealed for who they really were. Lowly creatureswho had no connection with the so-called Covenant Gods.
    Everything went even better than the Master Chiefhad anticipated. In a moment of brash confidence, the Prophets had linkedtheir appearance to every holo in the entire Covenant Empire. Trillionsof Covenant witnessed the revealing of their unholy Prophets. Spartan-117claimed that the thousands of Covenant gathered before him sat motionlessfor minutes, soaking up the monumental revelation. Claiming to have snuckback on board and escaped with no resistance, the Master Chief returnedhome to face his court martial. Watching from a holo onboard, Spartan-117observed hordes of Jackals and Grunts assaulting their False Prophets,gnawing, clawing and slicing, until the bodies of their false messengersof god were horribly mutilated.

    At the trial of Spartan-117, his only defensewas the simple line, 'Before going into battle, would you cut off yourright arm, and leave it bloody on the floor? That is what you are doinghere!'
    The Master Chief had no chance of winning hiscase. He had been charged with seven counts of assault, two counts of enteringrestricted areas, and theft of UNSC property. Spartan-117 was sentencedto life in prison without parole. As the Chief was lead off in shackles,his last words were, 'Someday, the brightest of you will understand. Someday.'
    Spartan-117 was never heard from again. Meanwhile,the Covenant Empire was in a complete upheaval. Now that they had no trueleadership to direct them along their Golden Path of Righteousness, CovenantGenerals, Admirals, Counts, Dukes and Barons squabbled over what was theright path. Soon, small rebellious tribes turned into planetary sized factions,warring over who had interpreted the will of the gods correctly. Therewere fifteen major clans and several minor clans, some spread across ahundred worlds, while others only several. Billions died in their holyjihad. The Covenant juggernaut effectively gnawed itself to death. TheCovenant Civil War lasted decades, until the Covenant was a tiny emberof what used to be a roaring fire.
    Finally, after years of rebellion, the UNSC movedin with a completely rebuilt military, and finished off what was left ofthe Covenant, destroying various Covenant worlds with barrages of atomicweapons. With every world came a nuclear winter.
    Finally, the UNSC had wiped the galaxy cleanof the entire Covenant scourge, save one faction known as the 7th Clan.Disappearing from the galaxy, the lost Covenant clan vanished from allrecords and planets. They were effectively invisible, rebuilding up totheir previous might where one day, they might be returned to their formerglory, taking their revenge on all humans. But that is a story for anothertime and another age.

 Editors Note: After this document and the book it was foundin were authored, the writer, so-called Master Zærr, disappearedfrom all record books. No one had ever seen him or spoken to him. Somebelieve he was a fictional character, a writing alias. Many believe thedocument may have actually been written by an AI, while others follow different,more radical beliefs of the author.