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Fan Fiction

The Second Chance
Posted By: Howard the Duck<Navypaysux@aol.com>
Date: 3 April 2004, 5:33 PM

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(Please read my first story: A fighting Chance, or you probably won't understand half of this.)

"Hey John, you around?" said Ordinance Technician 1st class Jesse Holberton as he scanned the inside of the base's garage. The Master Chief appeared from under a warthog a few seconds later and greeted him with a firm handshake. "Since when did they delegate Spartans to grease monkeys?" the OT1 asked. "Just killing time. So what brings you all the way from headquarters, Jesse?" Master Chief replied. "I just wanted to see how the new armor was working," he informed the Spartan.

Jesse Holberton was one of the first military authorities the Master Chief had gotten to know after fleeing the mansion in the mountains where the Kings had lived. OT1 Holberton was the one that fitted the Spartan with his new set of armor, and had even gone out of his way to reunite Alice with her aunt and uncle instead of tossing her into a shelter all alone with hundreds of other civilians (a thought that gave the Master Chief much relief). He had also been the one to relieve him of Cortana, an unpleasant but necessary arrangement. It was only natural that a friendship had developed between them.

"It saved my life just the other day," Master Chief informed Jesse, "a plasma grenade just slid off the shielding and landed on the ground."
"Are you sure about that? It wasn't designed to do that. Maybe the grenade was just defective."
"The detonator was far from defective. It left quite a hole in the ground where I was standing just before."
"Well, I still wouldn't go running head first into plasma grenades, if I were you, just in case it was just a fluke."
"Sound advise from a twidget."
"Oh yeah, one more thing. I went to your office to find you first and saw a postal clerk put this on your desk. I decided to bring it to you."

The Ordinance Technician handed the Spartan a small white envelope.

"See you later, John."
"See you later, Jesse."

The Master Chief looked at the return address. It was from Alice, the first he'd heard of her since they'd parted. He opened the envelope and read the letter.

Dear John,

I wrote this letter to apologize for the way I talked to you when I saw you last. You aren't a coward or a murderer. I know that there's nothing you could have done for dad and that he chose to stay and fight the Covenant so that we could escape. I'm so sorry for the way I treated you. There was nothing you could have done to save him. I realize that now. And, I shouldn't have acted that way in front of the person who saved my life.

Things are better now to say the least. Uncle Ricky and Aunt Lisa were glad to see me and I was glad to see them, too. We're living in a shelter near New Denver and we should be safe.

I just wanted you to know that I'm alive and well, and that I think you're very brave. You deserved to know that much. I know you have a lot to do, so I'll let you go.

Alice King

Master Chief folded up the letter that he'd been reading as he walked back to his office. He laid it down on his desk and leaned against the wall, looking at his new set of armor that was stood up on a pedestal, like a fourteenth century knight's in a museum, and thought about the night at the mansion. He remembered how Alice had sobbed uncontrollably as they rode away, how he had tried to comfort the poor girl, and how she had jerked away at his attempt. It was nice to know that she didn't hate him. Then, he remembered leaving Leon to die and being to ashamed to remove his helmet lest someone see his reddened eyes and know that he, too, had cried at the poor man's passing. Master Chief punched the hardened concrete wall leaving a crack. It was insane that he, the last of the Spartans, the greatest warrior race in the universe, had cried like a little child. His lost brothers and sisters must have turned in their graves that night. He looked at the open doorway to see a scared looking private standing just outside.

"ENTER!" said the Master Chief with obvious anger.
"Sir! Private Barnard reporting, sir!" said the private.
"AT EASE! State your business."
"Master Chief, sir! Lt. Colonel Meldru wishes to see you in his office at 1500 sharp."
"Very well. Thank you, Private. Dismissed."
"Yes, sir!"

With that, the private turned and walked out. Master Chief looked at the clock on the wall. "1330, I should get some chow and a hot shower before the next grilling," he thought to himself, and headed back to his quarters

After collecting his toiletries, a towel, and a change of uniform, Master Chief left his quarters and made his way to the barracks' public showers. After stepping out of the elevator onto the first floor, he turned a corner to catch a young private playing a guitar and singing a song about how much he hated the service. "I'll never be happy, And I'll never be free, 'Til I've screwed the Marines, Just like they've screwed me!" sang the marine. The Master Chief didn't approve. A quick scowl was all it took to send him scurrying away. But, that was nothing compared to the song and dance awaiting him in the showers.

Master Chief entered the shower room and looked down the long row of individual shower stalls. Just as he was about to enter one of the showers, one of the stall doors slammed open and a large hairy posterior poked out while its owner sang something about "officers kissing his butt." Much like passengers driving by a car accident look at the dead bodies even though they don't want to, Master Chief was captivated by the large hairy peace of flesh, even though he wished to turn away. After the would-be singing star finished his song, he looked in the Master Chiefs direction, stared for a few seconds and then said, "how long have you been there?" "Long enough," Master Chief replied as he shut the shower door behind him.

The Spartan savored his shower, it would probably be his last for several days. That's how it always worked out when he had a meeting with Meldru, or "Little Hitler" as the junior officers called him behind his back. He deserved the nickname. He was a 5' 2", 130 pound ball of pure terror. The main problem with him wasn't that he didn't have enough faith in the Spartan-II project, but that he had too much. Every few weeks Lt. Colonel Meldru would hand down an almost impossible mission and expect a miracle out of him. So far, the last Spartan had been able to deliver, albeit at the cost of lives. This only made it harder on him, Meldru didn't like having to pay for his miracles (but, neither did the Master Chief).

After a quick bite to eat at the mess hall, the Master Chief made his way to the CO's office. As he stood outside Lt. Colonel Medlru's door, he looked at his watch. It was 1450. "Early is on time, on time is late," he thought as he knocked on the door. "Enter," said a voice on the other side. Little Hitler was looking at some photos on his desk, but, upon noticing the Master Chief, smiled warmly. The Spartan paused. The CO never smiled. Something big was up.

"MASTER CHIEF! Do you know why I'm so damn happy?"
"No, sir."
"Well, here let me show you. Sit down."

Master Chief would have preferred to stand but knew better than to disobey the suggestion. Everything Meldru said was actually an an order. He turned a monitor so the Master Chief could see it and played a recording from Master Chief's last mission. It showed the last few minutes before extraction when a mixed group of jackals, grunts, and one elite attacked all at once. The marines with the help of the Spartan repelled the attack. But, before the Pelican drop ship could arrive, a pair of hunters appeared on screen. The first one fell immediately from a rocket attack launched by the Spartan. A foolish marine charged headfirst at the remaining hunter with his sub machine gun blazing. "COME GET ME YOU MONSTER!" screamed Private 1st Class Ryan Case. The hunter turned and ran, but didn't make it far as the hellfire from his SMG ripped apart it's vulnerable backside.

"Did you see that? He tried to run away!"
"Yes, sir. But, I don't see what makes you so happy. If that hunter hadn't been such a coward, PFC Case would be dead right now, which is why I ripped him a new one at the debriefing."
"Normally I would agree with your actions, Master Chief. But, after reading the autopsy report on that hunter, I'm not so sure."

Little Hitler punched up the autopsy report on the monitor. The hunter was very malnourished. Most of it's body fat was gone and the muscles were degenerating, probably from lack of protein.

"See. His gun was out of fuel rods. He didn't run because he was afraid; he ran because he was out of ammunition. The UNSC maintains space superiority in the vicinity of Earth orbit. Although the Covenant have cargo ships in Sol system, their bases on Earth haven't been resupplied in over eight months. They can't get through. They're hurting for food, fuel, ammunition and . . . methane."
"Methane, sir?"
"Yes, methane."

Lt. Colonel Meldru handed the Master Chief a folder marked top secret and filled with photos. The Spartan opened the folder and looked at pictures of a Covenant base set up at a very old and large UNSC prison set at the edge of a cliff. As he went through the pictures he saw numerous Covenant carrying purple metallic cylinders out of a tunnel leading underground and placing them on drop ships for transport.

"These were taken by one of our scouts. We believe this to be their main supply depot for methane. Take it out and the grunts will suffocate. I could mount an all out assault on it and lose a few dozen men, but I'd rather send in a small team and take it out covertly. You will lead that team. Select a squad and be ready to go by 1400 tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," said Master Chief uneasily, wondering how "small" a team Little Hitler had in mind to take out this base.
"Oh, one more thing. I'm going to give you these."

Lt. Colonel Meldru pulled four purple disk-shaped objects from under his desk and placed them in front of the Master Chief. He picked one up to examine it. "What is it?" Master Chief asked. "It's a Covenant active camouflage taken from the bodies of dead elites and repaired by our techies. I expect that you can make good use of them on this mission," replied Meldru. The Master Chief agreed. "I'm going to give you full access to the armory and personnel roster for this mission. Take whomever and whatever you feel appropriate. I leave this in you capable hands. Dismissed." The two soldiers stood and saluted, and the Spartan left the CO's office. On the way back to his office, he mentally planned the mission ahead.

He would need a small team, no more than four, including himself, to make use of the active camouflages. Each member would take a pistol, SMG, an explosive charge, a few grenades, and the standard compliment of MREs and medical supplies. Spare ammunition would be kept to a minimum to keep everyone light and reduce noise. The invisibility provided by the active camouflages would be a mute point if they rode right up to the enemy base on a Pelican, so they would have to walk most of the way. When he reached his office, he sat in his chair and began going through personnel records.

After a few minutes he had chosen the members of his squad. Sgt. Linda Tresemer: a 6'3" muscle bound woman who was a crack shot with almost any weapon. Sgt. Jack Hagy: a tough marine who had survived numerous missions and always put his men and the mission above himself. And PFC Jeffery Yewell, a hot head who had been demoted repeatedly for drunken misconduct despite obvious talent. If only he could stay away from the booze, he'd be a great marine. Master Chief placed the necessary calls to inform all members of the time and place of the brief (and one to the armory to have the appropriate gear packed into three backpacks) and went to his quarters.

When he reached his room, the Spartan pulled a metal case out from under his bed. Inside was a weapon he'd been waiting to try out. It was his own design. He'd started out with a standard issue sniper rifle, replaced the rifle butt with a pistol grip, removed the scope altogether, replaced the long barrel with a much shorter one, and declined the usual four round clips in favor of oversized twenty-eight round clips. The weapon was heavy, slow firing, and highly inaccurate at long range. But when considering that the next battle would most likely be fought at close range indoors, combined with the fact that it could put down most Covenant with one shot, it was a perfect choice for tomorrows mission. After setting out his personal weapon so he wouldn't forget it, Master Chief laid down and went to sleep.


"This one seems to be doing better than the others," said Dr. Halsey. John looked around. He was inside a glass domed case with people dressed in white surgical garbs all around him. He felt so weak. His arms and legs ached. The light hurt his eyes immensely. A man dressed in a Navy officer's uniform stepped into John's field of vision. He looked at his name tag: Keyes. He looked so familiar. John looked at the soon-to-be Captain and spoke weakly, "I know you." One of the doctors noticed that John was conscious and said angrily, "how am I supposed to work if he keeps waking up?!" Another one of the doctors gave him a shot and everything went black.


"Master Chief," said Private Barnard, "it's 1030 hours. You said to wake you up at this time." "I'm awake, Private," he replied and motioned the Private to leave. The Spartan got up, donned his armor, grabbed the metal case, and left for the briefing room.

"Attention," screamed Sgt. Tresemer as the Master Chief entered the briefing room. Sgt. Hagy and PFC. Yewell quickly jumped to attention. "At ease," said Master Chief as he set down his rifle case. He looked around. Everyone was here, the backpacks had been placed on the back table, and the computer had been loaded with the briefing he had personally prepared. Good, everything was as he had planned. "Well, lets get on with the briefing," said Master Chief.

"As you all know, almost half of the invading forces are made up of the methane breathing aliens designated as grunts. This species is completely dependent on stores of methane cached in the Covenants' supply depots on the planet. Take away their air and we can destroy half of the invaders without firing a shot. This is their main methane storage facility," said Master Chief as he punched up the image of the Covenant base.

"We will infiltrate this base and detonate the cache of methane." Master Chief changed the image to a detailed topographic map.

"A Pelican drop ship will put us here, at the edge of the Burgess Aqueduct. We will travel on foot along the shore of the aqueduct until we reach the Santiago Bridge. After that, it's a straight shot north along the main highway to the Covenant base."

"So how many Covenant are stationed there?" asked Sgt. Tresemer.
"Estimates are around four-thousand."

PFC. Yewell chose to interrupt. "So, were going to land in enemy-controlled territory, walk miles through that enemy-controlled territory along a well traveled road, and then blow up an entire base while outnumbered a thousand to one?" "That's suicide," muttered Sgt. Hagy.

"Yes," replied Master Chief, "But with the help of these." He pulled out the active camouflages. "These will allow us to travel undetected to the base," the Spartan added. The trio knew what they were, having seen them on dead elites before. "We'll be traveling at night to increase their effectiveness."

A few grunts of approval came from the marines, as the Spartan walked to the back table.

"These are your packs. Each one contains a pistol with four clips, a SMG with four clips, two grenades, the usual one day supply of MREs and medical supplies, and I've given each of you an explosive pack."

"Why give each of us an explosive pack?" asked Sgt. Hagy.

"Should the worst happen to the other three, I expect the survivor to complete the mission. That's why. Any questions?" answered the Master Chief.

"Doesn't seem like enough ammo to get us through a fire fight," volunteered PFC. Yewell. "Should a large fire fight erupt we can just steal some Covenant weapons, but it probably won't matter. If we wake up a base of four-thousand troops, all the extra ammo on Earth wouldn't help," answered the Spartan. He was answered with a look of grim determination. "If there are no more questions, a Pelican is waiting for us."

The Master Chief and his team rode silently to the landing pad as the sun drifted lower into the horizon. Along the way numerous destroyed homes and burnt vehicles were visible, indicative of the innocent people to whom they had belonged. Master Chief wondered how many had been killed by the grunts he now intended to smother to death. As the pelican approached the LZ, its pilot called the Master Chief to the copilots seat. "Drop ships will remain on patrol for the next forty-eight hours. If you signal on channel 'D' a pelican will be back here in thirty minutes at the most. Good luck." said the pilot. The Spartan thanked him and jumped out of the pelican with the rest of the squad. "Gonna be a long walk. Follow me," said Master Chief as one of the nav-points that he had preprogrammed into his HUD popped up.

The walk along the way to the Santiago bridge was long, but uneventful. The only enemy sightings were a few transports flying high overhead. (Undoubtedly, their destination was the very base the humans intended on destroying.) The team even had time to break for a quick meal. It was already dark, but a full moon gave them enough light to keep from tripping over one another. "All right, time to get moving again," said the Master Chief. Sgt Tresemer and PFC Yewell stood up and took their places behind their team leader. Sgt Hagy gobbled down the last of his high-energy chocolate bar and quickly joined them. It wasn't until after they crossed the bridge that they ran into the first patrol.

"Get down!" hissed Sgt Tresemer.

All of them dove for cover with the exception of PFC Yewell, who activated his active camouflage. "It's time to see how well these work," said the disobedient soldier as he walked straight toward two tired looking elites. The Master Chief cursed him silently. "If Yewell survives, I'll kill him," thought the Spartan. "Activate your camouflages, and be ready to cover him if they take notice."

The Master Chief and the smarter of his two soldiers aimed their weapons at the pair of elites walking past Yewell. Yewell simply stood in the road with his arms crossed. The aliens walked right past him, warbling casually as they went, oblivious to the soldiers right next to them. Yewell, satisfied with the test of the new device, rejoined the group.

Master Chief fought hard to contain the urge to hit Yewell. Tresemer didn't. "Are you trying to get us killed?" asked the amazon-like soldier as she hit him in the back of the head. Yewell shrugged it off saying, "think about it, Linda. If these couldn't fool a few tired elites that weren't even looking out for us, then how could they fool a patrol of fresh Covenant, especially if the were keeping a watchful eye out?" The look on her face would've betrayed her lack of a comeback if she wasn't invisible. Master Chief took control of the situation, "Come on, we've got a mission to complete."

After a few hours of walking they came to the main base. It was uninviting, to say the least. Search lights lit up the entire perimeter which was comprised of a large cement wall tipped with razor wire (obviously built to keep in prisoners, but now kept enemy humans out). The guard towers had been replaced with shade emplacements and grunts patrolled the outside of the wall. The main prison gate had been ripped out and part of the surrounding wall removed to accommodate the larger Covenant vehicles. Master Chief peered inside to see that the main entrance path was lined with more shade turrets to flank any potential intruders. A Covenant engineer was working noisily on one of the turrets. "Yes, very intimidating," thought the Spartan to himself.

The Master Chief and his group hid behind in a nearby brush thicket to discuss the plan of attack. Sgt. Hagy laid down a plan, "I'll go to the far side of the compound and set an explosive charge in the wall. When it goes off the Covenant will immediately go to the disturbance. I'll let myself be seen and lead them off into the forest using the active camouflage to evade them. You three will enter at the other side and infiltrate the methane cache and detonate it. When the mission is accomplished we all muster back at the extraction point and go home. Sound good Master Chief?" "Yes, good idea, but we won't be using it." "Why not?" responded Hagy. "If we alert the whole base to our presence, they might lock down the warehouse. We'd never be able to reach our objective" replied the Master Chief. "What do you have in mind?" asked PFC. Yewell. "We're going to walk in the front door, right under their noses," answered the Spartan.

They did just that. All four of the soldiers walked right past the grunts manning the plasma turrets, and their gunners never so much as flinched. The Master Chief led his soldiers toward the tunnel leading underground, very satisfied that he had fooled the Covenant with their own toys.


Mimip looked at a pulsing blue light on the control panel of his shade. He punched it. A small diagram appeared in front of him showing the heat signatures of the four humans who had walked in the front gate. His commander told him they might try something like this. Mimip pressed pressed a few more buttons on the shade and was greeted with the voice of a fellow grunt. "Command bunker?" chirped the voice on the communications panel. "Command Bunker, this is Main Gate. Wake the Field Master," answered Mimip, "tell him his guests have arrived."


"It smells like shit in here," PFC. Yewell stated bluntly while looking at a large purple cylinder inside the captured prison's basement. "What gas does rotting sewage produce?" asked Sgt. Tresemer. "Methane. So, intelligence was right for once," he answered. "Let's blow this place and get the hell out of here. It gives me the creeps," said Sgt. Hagy. The Master Chief unholstered his SMG. The hair on the back of his neck was standing up. A knot was forming in the pit of his stomach. "Something's wrong," he said just as the exit door slammed shut and several blue orbs fell from the ceiling. Everyone ducked behind crates and gas cylinders awaiting the inevitable explosions, but they never came. Instead of exploding, these grenades began belching a thick white smoke. Master Chief shut his suit's vents, but had to watch as Hagy and Yewell fell immediately from the fumes. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement and without hesitation aimed at the nearest cylinder of explosive methane. The metal was thick and strong; the bullets simply bounced off. Numerous figures appeared out of the smoke and were immediately cut down by SMG fire, but not from the Spartan's weapon. Sgt. Tresemer, thinking quickly, had held her breath. She popped a new clip in, fell to her knees, and pushed the gun into Master Chief's hand. "Give 'em hell," she said as her eyes rolled back into her head and she fell into the deck. He leveled the twin SMGs at the next wave of dark figures appearing from the smoke. Grunts, and elites with respirators fell left and right until both clips ran out. He switched to his modified sniper rifle and kept firing. Just as the Spartan was about to switch clips he felt something hit him hard from behind. An elite had sneaked in behind him and clubbed him with a plasma rifle. He fell to the floor, down but not out. He looked over at the explosive charge sticking out of Tresemer's backpack. "So this is how it ends," said Master Chief as he reached for the detonation switch. An armored boot kicked the charge out of the way and a bolt of electricity ran through his body. Everything went black.


The Master Chief felt his body floating. He opened his blurry eyes and saw another Spartan. No, not another Spartan, but himself. He was floating above his own body. He looked to his left and right and realized with much dismay that he wasn't dead. Two elites were holding him up by his bare arms as another inspected his new armor.

"Good morning, John. It's been a while since last we spoke, " said the golden elite in perfect English as he turned around. Master Chief answered with glare that could have cut through titanium. How did they know an attack was planned? How did they know about the active camouflages? How did this one know his name was John?

"My name is Morgol Quarramee. I am the Field Master in command of this base. Don't tell me you don't remember me," said the elite. "You all look so alike, especially when your about to die," replied the Master Chief. "I guess you would be an expert on such matters. Your battle record is famous even among us," replied Quarramee, "well, we know all about you, so I'll fill you in on me. I was to be commander of a very large force: an entire division of troops that would help bring about the end of your pathetic little race. But, then you came in. If I had caught or killed you in that installation up in the mountains I would've gotten a promotion and a guaranteed place in paradise once I transcended the physical. But, I didn't. You were within my grasp and you got away, killing eight of my aids in the process." The Spartan's face gave a look of realization. This was the elite that he had spoken with over the Covenant communication device; the one who had offered to place him in a zoo. Quarramee continued his story. "When my superiors found out that I had let you get away, they placed me in charge of this supply facility. They should've killed me for such a mistake, but they were short on experienced personnel, so they sent me to rot in this depot," Quarramee hissed with anger. "But then you came along, like a gift from the Gods. My second chance. Once I've gotten the information about about your bases and supply infrastructure out of you, I'll turn you and your armor over to the Holy Ones." The Master Chief's face turned stern. The battle for Earth was a war of attrition. The side to run out of supplies first was going to lose. And, he did know about numerous different supply depots. If the Covenant found and destroyed them, Earth would be in serious trouble.

"I wouldn't tell you anything, even if I knew what you were talking about," said the Spartan. Quarramee spread his lower mandibles wide in sadistic pleasure, "Your interrogation will not be pleasant. I doubt you'll hold out any longer than that human you left to cover your escape. He told us everything about you. What was his name again? Yes, I think it was Leon . . ." The Spartan wrenched free of the elite to his right and punched Quarramee dead in the face. "DON'T YOU DARE SAY HIS NAME!" he screamed. The elite to his right renewed his grip on the Master Chief's arm. Quarramee stood up and wiped some purple blood from the corner of his mouth. "Take him to his cell. Oh, and John, I'm afraid your zoo exhibit is no longer available."

Master Chief Didn't struggle, but he didn't cooperate either. He simply let his body go limp, forcing his captors to drag him to the cell.

Master Chief was taken down one of the cell blocks. The corridor was long. It had two stories of cells with shiny bars and floors bleached by many years of the sun. The Covenant had kept it in working order. The floors were clean. The doors worked. Some pipes were leaking, but that only meant that the plumbing was still working. It seemed to have everything a real prison had, except for prisoners. Eventually they reached the end of the corridor and tossed him into a cell.

"So, they didn't kill you, either?" said Yewell from the cell adjacent to Master Chief's.

The Master Chief looked up and saw not only Yewell, but Tresemer and Hagy as well. A small feeling of relief came over him. At least his team was still alive.

"Try not to sound so happy about it, Jeff," said Hagy without looking up.
"Don't you tell me to look on the bright side! Do you know what they do with the humans they don't kill right away? They sacrifice them to their gods. I would much rather have suffocated, or been shot, or stabbed, or anything for that matter! ANYTHING IS BETTER THE BEING DRAGGED TO SOME ALTER AND CUT OPEN WHILE I'M STILL ALIVE!" said Yewell at the verge of hysteria.
"ENOUGH!" yelled the Master Chief, "like it or not, Private, you're still alive! I expect you to maintain your wits until we figure out what we're going to do about our present situation!"

An uneasy quiet settled over the group as an elite brandishing an assault rifle walked by on his patrol of the area. He glared at the humans, then kept walking. A memory of a flood infected elite flashed through Master Chief's mind; he shook it off and refocused on the present situation.

"Did you see that? He was carrying one of our weapons. They've never done that before," said Tresemer, breaking her silence.
"Yes, very strange," answered Hagy, "they've never gone to so much trouble to take prisoners of lower ranks, either. I wonder what's going on."
Master Chief spoke up, "They're desperately short on supplies, including weapons. It's better to use ours than to go unarmed. It also explains why they want our supply caches so bad."

Master Chief heard the clicking of an elites heels coming down the hall. It was Quarramee being followed by one of his elite aids pushing his armor on some sort of antigravity gurney. He turned to look Master Chief in the eye.

"Hello, John. How do you like the accommodations?"
"Go to hell."
"Please John, don't be rude. I've come to offer you something: the life of one of your subordinates."

Quarramee motioned for his aid to retrieve Hagy. The elite opened the cell door and dragged him out by the belt.

"When we took off your armor, the main storage crystal scrambled the programming. If you give us the decryption code, I might be persuaded to spare the life of at least a few of your subordinates."
"Don't you tell him anything!" gasped Hagy as the elite picked him up by the throat. Master Chief remained silent. The shielding improvements alone were worth more than any one man's life. Hagy began to choke as the elite squeezed his throat. Master Chief folded his arms and remained stern-faced. Quarramee warbled something at the other elite, and he dropped Hagy to the ground.

"Perhaps you just don't like that one, maybe I should have him kill one of the others."
"That's right! KILL ME!" screamed Tresemer.
"NO! I wanna be strangled more than she does!" joined Yewell.
Hagy kicked the nameless elite and yelled at him. "I'm not dead yet! Finish me off. You picked me, I wanna die first!"

The entire hallway was filled with begs and pleas from the human soldiers to be the first to die. The two gold-clad elites looked at each other in confusion. Quarramee growled, then stormed off. His aid gave a dumbfounded look at all the prisoners, pushed Hagy back into his cell, then followed after his superior.

"Good job, guys. Somehow, we've won the first round," said Master Chief. He looked at his armor. The elite had just left it there. If only he could just reach it. "Get some sleep. You're going to need it." Master Chief laid down on the cold cement floor but sleep never came. While staring at the ceiling, he thought about ways to get out of this predicament

Should they rush the guards? His armor was right there. No. There was no guarantee that it even worked, and they would still be outnumbered a thousand to one. The ventilation ducts had been constructed small with prisoners' attempts to escape in mind, so that was a no go. Maybe he could pick the lock. Master Chief had read of the crude mechanical locking mechanisms that they used when this prison was constructed. Picking it wouldn't be as easy as hacking an electronic lock but it was sure worth a try. "We would still be outnumbered a thousand to one," he thought to himself. Master Chief looked over at his subordinates sleeping, and felt envious of them. None of them had the burden of command to keep them awake. But, at least they'd be better able to stand up to whatever Quarramee had in store for them today. Sgt Tresemer was the first to wake up.

"Do you think they'll feed us today?" she said as her stomach growled.
"Probably not. The Field Master will still want the encryption code for my suit, and he'll use food as leverage."
"So, why didn't they kill us. I mean, they obviously need you, but we're of no value. We don't know the code."
"That I don't know. Nothing they've done so far has been normal for them."
"Do you mean the ones on Earth or the whole Covenant?"
"Both. The ones on Earth are now using our weapons, facilities, and now they want the technology of MJOLNIR. But, the rest of their empire seems to have turned a blind eye to humanity all of a sudden, like they just don't care about us anymore. It's all very uncharacteristic of them."
"You're right, Master Chief. It's strange that they fought so hard to find Earth, but never sent in reinforcements when the initial invasion failed."
"All of this speculation isn't going to get us out of here," said PFC Yewell rising to his feet and shaking Hagy awake.

A small group of grunts ran by the cells where the Master Chief and his team were held, barking and howling. They were scared of something.

"What the hell is going on?" asked Hagy. "I don't know, but it must be important," answered Yewell. Just then there was a loud boom down the hall just out of earshot of a normal human, but the Spartan heard it with his enhanced ears. Master Chief jumped up and placed his ear through the bars. That boom was familiar, very familiar. Master Chief hushed everyone else in the hallway, and strained for what seemed like minutes before hearing a "chit-chit." No doubt about it, someone down the hallway had just shot a shotgun and reloaded. Before the Master Chief could say anything, another series of loud booms occurred in quick succession much closer. Just then Field Master Quarramee, two grunts and the blue-clad elite guard they had seen last night (still armed with the assault rifle) ran down the hallway. Quarrramee warbled something to the guard and he and the two grunts kept running down the hall. The blue-clad elite turned lifted the gun and rattled off the clip down the hallway. He didn't even finish it off.

"BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit. BOOM! Chit-Chit," came down the far end of the corridor. The elite fell to the ground in a puddle of gore, squeezing off the last few rounds in the clip as he fell and causing Master Chief to jump out of the way as the bullets ricocheted off the cell walls.

"Sir, we found him! He's on the far end of northernmost detention wing," said Private Barnard into his helmet mic. "Hold on, Master Chief, I'll have you out in a minute!" he said as another of the marines placed a small piece of black material on the door lock. A puff of smoke and a flash of light were all it took to make the door swing open. Master Chief ran out and began furiously putting on his armor as Barnard shoved another piece of thermite into the door of the adjacent cell where Tresemer, Hagy, and Yewell were.

Master Chief finished putting on his armor and rebooting it. It showed a small status screen:

Hydrostatic Gel System: Fully Operational
Neural Interface System: Fully Operational
Crystal Network Layer: Reduced status (23.8% capacity)
Energy Shielding System: Off-line (0.9% capacity)
Communication System: Off-line (0% capacity)
Motion Sensor: Off-line (0% capacity)
Fusion Reactor: Reduced Status (91.2 % capacity)

Quarramee was obviously very curious about his armor (enough so to remove several key components). Not ideal conditions for going into battle, but more than enough to take on an elite and two grunts.

Master Chief bent over to pick up the fallen elite's rifle. "Uhhhhh," said the elite weakly in protest. Master Chief punched him hard in the face, and slid a fresh clip, the alien's last one, into the weapon. "Master Chief, come with us. We have to get you out of here," said Private Barnard. "No. That was the Covenant commander that just ran by. I'm going to get him. Give me your sidearm," replied the Master Chief. Barnard walked over to the Master Chief and tried to block his path. "Sir, this entire operation was put together for one reason: to get the last Spartan home alive. I have no intention of disobeying my orders, or letting you run off to die after we went to so much trouble to save you."

Master Chief picked him up off the ground by the collar. "NOW!" was the Spartan's only response. Barnard handed him the pistol. "Get them to safety," said the Master Chief as he ran down the corridor after Quarramee.

Master Chief ran down the corridor feeling a blood lust he'd never felt before. There was no way Leon's murderer was going to get away, no way he'd allow that monster to kill again. His malfunctioning motion sensor was nothing more than a giant yellow spot on his HUD, but so intent was Master Chief on revenge that he didn't bother to look carefully around the corner he turned. The two grunts were each perched on shade turrets. Both opened fire at once. Master Chief didn't even slow down. He ran straight into the oncoming fire and squeezed his assault rifle's trigger twice. Two bullets. Two heads. Two dead grunts. Melted glass from the sand in the cement walls dripped onto his armor. He kept running until he came to a room with three banshees, and a large hole where a wall had once been, overlooking the cliff's edge. Quarramee was preparing a banshee for launch.

Master Chief fired off a few rounds at the banshee to get Quarramee's attention. He jumped back as if the banshee had tried to bite him. "Well, John , maybe this won't have to be a complete disaster."

Master Chief and Quarramee ran toward each other guns blazing. Quarramee's plasma rifle hissed and sputtered as it expended it's last charge. Master Chief's rifle clicked as the last round fired. Both dropped their weapons and engaged hand to hand. Quarramee punched the Spartan in the face and his head bounced against the inside of his helmet. Master Chief fell to the ground and rolled, just missing the armored boot meant for his head. He stood up just as Quarramee took another swing. Master Chief caught the next punch and twisted the elites arm behind his back before kicking him hard in the kidneys (or at least the spot where kidneys would be if elites do have kidneys). Quarramee roared, turned and tried to rush Master Chief, but he caught the alien and both wrestled to the floor. Quarramee reached for his plasma pistol. Master Chief grabbed his arm, looking at the glowing weapon as it overcharged. He mustered all of his Spartan strength and the remaining power of his MJOLNIR armor and snapped both armor and bone in the alien's arm. Quarramee screamed a high pitched, almost feminine, howl as the plasma bolt hit the ceiling. His arm fell to the floor, useless. Master Chief drew Barnard's pistol and shoved it into the elite's throat.

"WAIT! Let me go and I'll give you something you desperately want."
"Something I want more than to see your brains splattered on that wall? Something I want more than vengeance for that little girl's father?
"No. You don't understand. . . HE'S NOT DEAD!"

Master Chief, shocked, eased up on the elite's throat. He mentally went back to that night at the mansion: the door, the whine of plasma weapons, the screams, the feeling of helplessness. Then, he remembered the three soldiers he had sacrificed to cover his own retreat, and snapped back to the present.

"LIAR! You'll say anything! Do anything! Sacrifice anyone to save your own miserable life! Your cowardice makes even the grunts look brave."
"No, it's true. I kept him alive just in case he let something slip. You never know when some inconvenient truth might come out."

Master Chief thought about it briefly. Quarramee was obviously obsessed with him. Why else would he have gone to so much trouble to learn small details (like his first name)? Furthermore, he never actually saw Leon die. "Where is he being held?" "There is an underground installation north of here at the base of the mountain. The entrance is near a waterfall," replied Quarramee, choking under the weight of the pistol pressed into his throat.

Master Chief helped Quarramee up by his good arm, turned, and began walking down the hall as the traitor stepped into the banshee. Quarramee stopped, turned around, and said, "I'll be looking forward to our next meeting, John." Master Chief answered without looking back, "you shouldn't."