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Operation False Prophets, Chapter Four: Shadow Among the Shadows
Posted By: Ian Barnes<panzerschreck15@netscape.net>
Date: 08 March 2002, 6:13 am

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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.