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Operation False Prophets, Chapter Twelve: They Kill Quickly, They Die Even Quicker
Posted By: Ian Barnes<panzerschreck15@netscape.net>
Date: 3 May 2002, 3:46 am

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    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.