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Operation False Prophets, Chapter Thirteen: The Best Covenant Is a Dead Covenant
Posted By: Ian Barnes<panzerschreck15@netscape.net>
Date: 7 May 2002, 4:58 am

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    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 ╬Hog sped out of the parking lot, away fromthe firing range, and into the quiet roads inside the military base. Severalother ╬Hogs 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.