Slipspace was a cold place. At least it seemed that way to John. The void that comprised its being. The sheer nothingness that constituted this vital lifeline for both humans and Covenant. He often wondered how something so dead could be so important.
The sudden evacuation from Apock had actually caused some degree of fear in him. After all, he was in space. He was powerless in the gravity-less vacuum. A powerless Spartan is a useless Spartan. He hated feeling useless. All of them did.
Details on their upcoming mission were sketchy, but Cortana had uncovered several interesting 'eyes only' files for Captain Capulet. Under the name Dorothy and Toto, the files were completely random. They were also completely blank. They had been installed for a reason though. Most likely installed for a 'quick-dump' large-scale transfer. She'd tap it now so that if it's encryption was revamped, she wouldn't have to work to get through all of it.
The Spartan's stomach rose into his throat as the ship decellerated into normal space; a feeling much like that of a roller coaster. It was time to assemble the teams. They still weren't ready. Not ready enough for whatever HighCom could have them doing on short notice. They had the training, stamina, and passion needed; but he wanted experience.
"Welcome home Prophet's Will, nice to see you again." Came the surprisingly jolly voice of the HighCom staffer on the other end of the line.
"Nice to be back." Capulet responded with sincerity.
"I regret to inform you that there's no leave for you just yet though Captain. Orders are uploading as we speak. General Abigaid has your files in a quick-dump under Dorothy and Toto. Security card Zeta, Charlie, Bravo, Alpha. PIN is where the pig sleeps Captain. Rendezvous with the Salvation's Army for supplies and be on your way. Good luck and God's speed. HighCom over and out."
As quickly and startlingly as the conversation had begun, it ended. HighCom was waiting for them when they arrived. Instant transmission relays had been established, and the upload/download took less than ten seconds. A battery of information such as the file name, security card order, and pin number had all been given in order. The 'PIN is where the pig sleeps' reference was just one of many things the UNSC used to keep prying Covenant ears from hearing something important.
Capulet rotated 360 degrees in his chair and slid to a large well-secured box. The marine stationed to protect it quickly saluted and stepped aside. After a retinal scan, thumb and voice print analysis, and personal transponder check, it opened with a click.
Inside were two small books; one red and one blue. The red book contained twenty six alphabetized security cards, each with a different encryption key. Four locks, four cards, four keys. The blue book contained a list of animal names. Beside each name was three six-digit PIN numbers used for accessing the unlocked information. The three codes were under separate titles: eating, grazing, and sleeping.
He removed the Z, C, B, and A cards, and memorized the six-digit password before relieving himself to his personal quarters.
"Lockdown the system Lee." He ordered sternly.
"The entire system sir?" His AI responded quizically. A shipwide lockdown was extremely rare, and for good reason. The lockdown aborted and booted any logged personnel and non-essential systems for the duration of the lockdown. Essentially killing any maneuvering or defensive options available should they be required.
"The entire system."
"Lockdown in 3, 2, 1...Signing off."
Capulet removed the heavy steel chain from around his neck and used the attached key to open his bottom drawer. Inside was a computer with four keycard-sized slots in numerical order. He inserted the cards in their designated positions and typed in the six digit passcode. His monitor instantly switched on and a message appeared in uniform UNSC code software.
Security Code Veronica
To: Capulet, Richard C., 917-52-5672
From: 'Wicked Witch', N/A
Subject: Bozwood Green
Sorry for the security protocols, you know how it is. Neither of us are patient men, so I'll get straight to the point. Boxwood Green is the fruit of six years' labor. The Spartans aboard your ship are being sent to deliver a highly-sensitive package to the Covenant leadership. On a Covenant homeworld nonetheless. If that doesn't wet your whistle, this will. Your ship will be going in alone. So will your Spartans. The Salvation's Army is waiting with supplies required for this mission. That's not the juciest part. The real kicker here is the target. Through private sources we've recently uncovered a train [details on Link A] that just happens to hold every Prophet the Covenant have, save three. We want those Prophets destroyed. In the last several days we've received special requests for inter-species meetings between the Covenant and humanity. Luckily for us, and through some damn fine negotiating, we were able to get them to hold it onboard your ship. Not only that, but it will be held in their space. All you have to do is knock on the door and let them open the package. Lets just hope the light's on but nobody's home. For their sake. For your sake. Further details in Link B. Good luck.
Capulet downloaded the information from Links A and B to his personal handheld and destroyed the remaining information. He ran an eight-tiered information wipe on the files' previous location before unlocking the system again. The Prophet's Will turned towards the Salvation's Army and the crew was put on high alert.
He carefully combed the detailed schematics of the transport ship the Spartans were going up against. But then again, they weren't actually getting on it. Their mission was to plant a series of weapons known as NOVA bombs. The lithium triteride casings of these nukes were forced together into a superheated and pressurized center which boosts the yield a hundredfold.
All the Spartans had to do was to slip unnoticed past hundreds (if not thousands) of Covenant warships, enter the planet's atmosphere, land in one piece (and in the right location), place the bombs near the most heavily-fortified and well-guarded vehicle ever assembled, and then get the hell out of Dodge before the fireworks went off. Sounded simple in theory, but execution would tell the real story.
Capulet's attention turned to the small statistics bank at the bottom of the report. Casualty estimates for the Spartans' mission was at ninety-eight percentile. After all he'd seen, he wasn't sure if he could do it. He'd grown to love the Spartans, and didn't know if there was strength enough to send all of them to their deaths. Especially while the two races had a treaty in place. It would take soul searching to discover that dark truth, and he wasn't sure there was enough time to search that far.
Field Master 'Hooza checked his weapons as the train entered 'Sle Aliman. The industrial city was a thriving metropolis, as well as hotspot for protesters and rioters. The war against humanity was a very controversial one indeed. Three Prophets had felt very strongly against the war, and pulled themselves from the collective. Their millions of followers followed loyally behind them.
If it hadn't been for the similar but not as strong feelings of several other Prophets, immediate military action would have been taken against the rioteers. The recent appearance of the Sentinel threat was seen as a sign from the Gods.
A punishment for tresspasses committed against the humans. They would all be destroyed. Hundreds of thousands more began siding with the dissidents, and further riots ensued. Intense propaganda wasn't enough to calm their nerves though. Not this time. They had seen the charred corpses of the billions of dead. The burning hulks of their once malevolant masterpieces of architecture. Entire cities were reduced to smoldering ashes.
Three fleets had lost their battles, as well as their lives, defending the planets. Reports estimated over seven billion casualties, and no survivors. The machines didn't take survivors. But the religious zeal the Covenant put on everything befuddled the simple fact that machines didn't have a use for survivors. It instead turned it into the opinion that redemption wasn't applicable. It was the appocalypse for them.
'Hooza and the rest of the personnel onboard waited eagerly as the train came to rest. They stepped onto the cold metallic surface as one; their thousand foot tromp shaking the earth as they did. The screams of protesting citizens drowned out time itself as they all chanted in unison.
"Antifada ungt 'candisa, 'andtha, 'antimud!" Echoed throughout the majestic city streets. 'You've brought us no salvation, no hope, no life." They blamed the Prophets for what was happening.
Despite the relative technological superiority the Covenant had over humanity, they had gained it all through warfare. Socially they were only at the point of a pluralist absolute monarchy. Nobility was granted only to the elites, who in turn kept the rest of their subjects in line.
'Hooza approached the door of the House of Light and Truth cautiously. It was a spectacularly religious building. The hostility of the crowd swelled as three High Prophets floated off of the platform. The beings ignored the pestulant cries of the lesser and weaker peasants.
Suddenly, two massive green lobs of plasma traced damning paths through the sky. A brute quickly rolled in front of the first, absorbing the impact in its entirity. His body was ripped in half by the explosion. Blood splashed across the sidewalk in pools. The second blast landed directly on the prophet it was intended for, detonating on the shield that covered him before it died. The resonating impact pushed air with the ferocity of a jackhammer into the being's weak skull; crushing it under the pressure.
'Hooza realized now that this had all been planned, but it was too late. The entire front row of peasants were all pulling out weapons, and another volley of plasma streaked above his head. The train had been compromised. There were far too many of them to control.
"Field M--aster -H--za! Dis--ent Prophets onboar--- security compromised. I sa--," The line died. 'Hooza had heard enough though. He spun towards the train in time to see its gravity generators powering up. The heavy blast doors closed quickly, too quickly. Whoever had taken control was being sloppy. None of his men had enough time to get back onboard.
Turrets activated and began rotating. He smiled as the thought of the weapon's massive firepower tearing through the peasants entered his mind. They would get what they deserved. Confusion struck as the turrets continued rotating past the peasants and to his very group of men. With their backs turned, they were both unaware and exposing their weakest points.
The last words struck him like a ton of bricks. Security compromised. The peasants, with the help of the three Prophets, had taken over the train. He was helpless, outgunned, and outnumbered. The last thing he saw was the blinding white flash of plasma before his body was pummelled by one of the hundreds of bolts that sizzled instantly forth.