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This article details John-117's actions in the final year of the Human-Covenant War.
At some point following the advent of 2532 John became acquainted with British war photographer Jake Courage, who not only earned his trust and respect, but became a loyal companion of his as well. On January 10, 2545, the Covenant began a brutal assault on the colony world of Draco III. Its defenses were overwhelmed in a short amount of time and the Covenant began to land forces on the surface. The majority of the Spartan-IIs, including John and Linda-058, were directed to reinforce the colonists. Before arriving, the Spartans were shown footage of a massacre on the surface which had been relayed to them via satellite linkup. John and the others could only watch as humans were herded together and then torn apart by ravenous Unggoy and Kig-Yar. By the time the Spartans finally made it to Draco III, there was nobody left to rescue. Despite being too late to save the victims, John and the others made sure that they were avenged. Their retaliation resulted in the deaths of every Covenant soldier on the planet and footage of it was broadcast to the public in order to boost morale.
At one point during the fighting on another human colony, he arrived too late to the scene of a battle and found fellow Spartan-II Daisy-023 had been killed.[note 1] Her corpse was without a helmet, so John kneeled to close his fallen sister's eyes and clasp her hands over her chest. He also took note of a loop with a tiny teddy bear on it that she had dropped, which he reverently placed between her fingers. At some point in 2550 John and the rest of Blue Team successfully inserted onto the ice ice moon Umagena in order to capture the traitor Hector Nyeto. Unfortunately, the target was not present. At some point late in the war, John came into conflict with his childhood friend Soren-066, a privateer and former Spartan-II who had been too crippled by the 2525 augmentation procedures to continue in the program. In addition, he met Quan Ah, a sixteen-year-old from the Outer Colonies, at what turned out to be a fateful time for them both. Around this time he was also part of a team which included Riz-028, Kai-125, and Vannak-134, who John took on as his de facto deputy.
Covenant ships arrived at Sigma Octanus IV on July 17, 2552 and begin landing ground forces straightaway. Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth's Battle Group Leviathan redirected to defend the planet by the next day, among which were John and eleven other Spartan-IIs. At just under 1800 hours, the dozen Spartans were flown to Alpha Headquarters by Pelican in response to a call for help from Corporal Harland, who had assumed command after the near-destruction of the base and the deaths of all but ten marines stationed there. Upon exciting the craft, John met Harland and let him know that they were there to take Sigma Octanus IV back and to kill every last one of the Covenant there.
The Master Chief's first order of business, after surveying what remained of the headquarters, was to lock down the area. He directed Kelly to post a guard on the dropship, to put three others on patrol, and to have the rest of the Spartans secure the landing zone. Turning back to Corporal Harland, he informed him that as of 0900 hours, Naval Special Weapons had assumed control of the ground operation, meaning that the marines now reported to him. Harland proceeded to brief John on what had transpired so far. Once he had concluded, John told him to put his wounded in the Pelican and to have the rest split into three groups that could rotate standing guard and sleeping. He had the leaders of Red Team and Green Team, Joshua-029 and Linda-058, respectively, meet him at the LZ, where they went over the goals of Operation: OCEAN BREAKER. Their objectives were to both gather intelligence on enemy troop disposition and defenses at Côte d'Azur, the planet's largest population center, and as long as no civilians remained, they were to detonate a HAVOK tactical nuclear mine within the city, which would destroy the Covenant's landing zone and kill thousands of its fighters. A secondary goal during the mission would be to minimize contact with Covenant forces as much as possible. Blue, Red, and Green teams each planned to split up and reconnoiter a different portion of the city. As Côte d'Azur was thirteen kilometers away and it was just after 1830 hours then, John estimated they should all be in place by 1930 hours at the latest. Each team would enter the city via its sewers, with downtown being Blue Team's goal. The various teams could keep in contact with one another by using the steel pipes in the sewers and ground-return transceivers. John let Joshua and Linda know that as soon as they left, the Pelican would take the marines south of their current position. Once the mission was concluded they would meet there. Should it be destroyed, an emergency SATCOM link and survival gear was stashed at an alternative location. Assured each leader understood their roles, John called Blue Team together and went over their part of the mission. Kelly was put in charge of the nuke and their medical gear, Fred took the explosives, and James took their extra COM equipment. Armed with silenced MA5Bs, M6Ds, fragmentation grenades, and combat knives, Blue Team took off through a swath of dense jungle.
They made their way carefully, stopping every hundred yards to survey the area for targets. When they did come upon Covenant soldiers, they were two single-file lines of Unggoy minors moving toward Alpha Headquarters at just one-hundred meters from the Spartans' position. John had his team spread out on a hill opposite another one that the Unggoy were approaching, save for James, who remained hidden below to take out the rear guard as soon as it passed him by. When James signaled that the moment was right, John ordered everyone to take the Grunts out silently. Armor-piercing rounds made short work of the stocky aliens and Kelly was soon policing and passing out Type-25 plasma pistols. The only other potential opposition Blue Team encountered on their way to the city came in the form of Type-26 Banshees overhead, which the Spartans hunkered down in the mud to avoid being spotted by. Once they emerged from the jungle and into open fields and rice paddies they each donned camouflage cloaks to mask their thermal signatures. Near the beach at the edge of the city, John and Fred bent aside bars to allow them access to the sewage outlet they had been aiming for. Blue Team sloshed through hip-deep muck in the cramped pipes until it reached its destination and John snaked a fiber optic probe through a drainage grate in order to get a clear view of the street above them. The same process was repeated under the next block and this time John spotted and filmed the activity of a Huragok, a species which he at that point had no knowledge of. Further south, John and the others found themselves near the city's museum of natural history, which was surrounded by more than fifty Kig-Yar and hosting a pair of stationary guns atop its steps. Curious, he sent Kelly to scout ahead down a passage that led underneath the museum and had James us the ground-return transceivers to contact the other teams. Linda reported no survivors in the residential section explored by Green Team but Joshua let him know that Red Team had found twenty civilians hiding in a cargo ship docked at the city's wharf. Speaking to all teams, John ordered Green Team to meet up with Red Team and assist its efforts to evacuate the civilians back to the Pelican immediately. Kelly returned at that moment and shared that she had found that the only thing keeping them from the museum was a steel plate they could burn through. Assuming that the other teams would take care of getting the civilians out, John told her to arm the nuke.
It was around 2010 hours when John attached the device to the wall of the sewer. The mission's parameters could have allowed him to have them fall back to the Pelican then, but he was overly suspicious about what would interest the Covenant within the museum. John had Fred use thermite paste on the plate Kelly had mentioned and after making sure the coast was cleat with a fiber optic probe, John pulled himself up into a room dedicated to maintenance and storage. He ordered Kelly to jam motion sensor signals as soon as they picked them up, but it was too late. The Spartans could only hurriedly hide before four Kig-Yar came to investigate. John got the drop on one, impaling the base of its head with his combat knife, and crushed the skull of another with his right foot. The other two were quietly dispatched by Blue Team's silenced MA5Bs. Each Spartan took one of the aliens' point defense gauntlets and crept single file up a circular staircase to the museum's main foyer. It was empty but for the flattened corpse of a Kig-Yar crushed underfoot by a Mgalekgolo gestalt.
Bloody tracks led away from the body which Blue Team followed through the building's west wing and then to its geology wing. Beyond an archway leading into a large, glass-domed room, John briefly detected a powerful infrared source, which was in fact a communications laser transmitting information from a the room up through the shattered dome and into orbit. Using the fiber optic probe once more, John spied two hulking Mgalekgolo within. He and Fred entered on the right and the other took the left, but all opened fire simultaneously at John's command. The first blast from one of the gestalt's assault cannons burned away James' left arm from the elbow down. John managed to activate his point defense gauntlet in time to get it in front of him before he was similarly hit, but the incendiary gel melted the gauntlet and sent him flying through the wall into the adjacent room. Realizing they were outmatched, he called for his Spartans to switch to shredder rounds and fire a ring around the Lekgolo, causing them to fall through the floor into the basement. Before they could recover, he had everyone assist him in tipping over a large quartz monolith onto the creatures, pinning them both down below. John noticed that a case the Mgalekgolo had placed a certain piece of granite within was teetering over the edge of the new pit and yelled for Kelly to grab it as it fell, which she did. John didn't know what their interest had been in the rock, so he stowed it to deliver it to others to puzzle over. after kicking over the beacon transmitting the laser, he helped James back through the halls, retracing their steps all the way to the sewer and eventually the rice paddies at the city's edge. Fred rigged a ground-return relay with a crude antenna to the external surface of the pipe.
John led his team south along the coastline. Once James finally slipped into unconsciousness, he slung him over his shoulder. A patrol of twelve Unggoy made John signal his team to hide momentarily as they ran past. At just a kilometer from the rendezvous point, John let Linda know they were coming and triggered a smoke grenade to emit blue smoke to mark their approach. Green Team took James aboard the Pelican after Blue Team reached the clearing. John had Linda give the perimeter one last check. Corporal Harland was in awe at what the Spartans had accomplished but John simply shrugged his astonishment off, saying that it had been their mission. Once Linda announced they were clear, John piled into the bird with everyone else. As the dropship arced away from the surface, its pilot warned that about two-hundred Banshees were inbound toward them but John calmly stated that they would take care of it. With the activation of his remote radio transceiver and the keying in of a final fail-safe code, the light from the system's two suns was swallowed up in an apocalyptic nuclear blast behind them. The dropship docked with the Marathon-class heavy cruiser UNSC Leviathan, which was soon on its way back to Reach for repairs.
The Leviathan arrived in the Epsilon Eridani system on August 1, 2552. By this date, Reach had already come under attack by the Covenant. When they reached the planet, all knowledge of the fighting was purposefully kept from John and the other Spartans in the hope that what ONI called Operation: RED FLAG might not be compromised. The Leviathan was back at Reach by August 12. At 1100 hours that day, while fighting raged across the southern Viery Territory, John, none the wiser, reported to Camp Hathcock in the Highland Mountains. Alone, he took a Warthog and passed through two gates before parking and entering the UNSC military complex he had been summoned to. An elevator took him to to the third subbasement of the building, where a military police attendant told him to wait in a debriefing lounge for the committee to call for him. Corporal Harland was already there, evidently having been called to report on the battle for Sigma Octanus IV just as John had. The corporal stood and saluted as soon as he saw the Chief, but John told him to be at ease. Harland, still overly impressed by the Spartans' performance, chanced at asking how one went about joining such an outfit, to which John coolly replied that you don't. When the doors at the far wall opened, Jacob Keyes walked out. John only recognized him as an officer and so customarily saluted but Keyes stopped, realizing who the Chief was, and said that it was good to see him again. He reminded him that they had met long ago and before taking his leave warned John that the committee within, and the ONI brass in particular, was rather irritated about some of the ways things had played out on Sigma Octanus IV. He had ten minutes to consider what Keyes could have meant by that before they finished with Harland and it was John's turn. Twelve naval officers, ONI and otherwise, were waiting for him. A woman among them began by congratulating the Chief on the victory and then went on to say they simply wished to review some of the intelligence he had collected during the mission. John answered questions about the Huragok, how the Mgalekgolo apparently treated the Kig-Yar they deployed with, and the rock he had collected to the best of his ability. It was eventually made clear that those present in the room were frustrated by the obliteration of Côte d'Azur and the loss of of evidence regarding Covenant activity in the city. John defended his actions, as he had been following orders from Naval Special Weapons and Section III of ONI. John endured slight disrespect from the committee's members for a brief moment longer before he was finally dismissed. Back in the lounge, he found Doctor Halsey waiting to speak to the men and women inside next. She asked how he was and he said he was glad to have won at Sigma Octanus. The doctor let him know about some upcoming procedures which were planned for him and gave his head a cursory MRI so she could ensure the surgical site was acceptable for additional cybernetic implants. John asked her how Chief Mendez was doing and she shared what little she knew. They then just sat together quietly for the remainder of their few minutes together. Before disappearing behind the doors to the committee, she asked if he would like to score what could be the biggest victory they'd have and said she'd be speaking with he and the other Spartans soon.
It was not until August 27 that John and twenty-four other Spartans were gathered together at 0800 hours underneath the Highland Mountains FLEETCOM complex to be briefed on Operation: RED FLAG. There, in the same amphitheater in which they had been brought as children thirty-five years prior, Doctor Halsey explained to them the plan. The mission's goal would be to capture of one of the Covenant's hierarchs so that a ceasefire might be brokered with those that remained in power. Intelligence indicated that the three hierarchs spent their time either at the hegemony's mobile capital city High Charity or aboard either CSO-class supercarriers or CAS-class assault carriers. The capture of a hierarch would require taking control of a Covenant ship and piloting it, unsuspected, back to High Charity. Capturing an assault carrier or supercarrier would be preferable because with luck one of the San'Shyuum High Prophets would be aboard and a trip to High Charity would be unnecessary. In order to pull RED FLAG off, it had been determined that a colony of significant value to the Covenant and boasting many ancient alien artifacts would in all likelihood need to be sacrificed in order to draw these Class-Five assets, possibly with hierarchs, in so that Spartans could infiltrate them. The best shot at taking over a large ship would come after a fleet believed it had secured a major victory. Given the current situation on Reach, ONI had decided to make the most of a losing fight and enact RED FLAG there. It was for this reason that the truth of the invasion had been kept from the Spartan-IIs while final preparations were made. Even as Halsey explained what they were being asked to do then, she did not tell them the Covenant was already there or that RED FLAG was always meant to involve purposefully letting their guard down. John asked for clarification at two points during her explaination He wondered what kind of specialist personnel they would be responsible for whom could access the Covenant ship's computer systems and also questioned the decision to kidnap a hierarch as opposed to killing one. The latter inquiry was answered with the intel suggesting the Covenant would be open to a truce if it could be blackmailed into one, but Halsey held back on sufficiently sharing too much about what kind of help the Spartans would have, as she said she'd be going over further details with each Spartan in person over the next few days. Halsey finished by telling her Spartans that she had convinced FLEETCOM not to order them on this op. Should they choose to embark on this mission, they would be volunteering to do so. John rose to his feet, accepting the challenge without hesitation, and was thereafter followed by each of the others.
Two days later at 0600 hours on August 29, John presented to Military Reservation 01478-B. A series of MPs verified his identification before leading him to the prep and recovery area where he was told Halsey and others were waiting for him. He was met within the medical bay of the prefab structure by a Navy captain in the garb of a ship's doctor and instructed to undress, which John did so. His neck was soon being swabbed with antiseptic and he was told to lie down by Doctor Halsey as she entered the room. He was there to have a few components of his neural interface upgraded and to receive further implants in addition to it. Having been previously laser scanned, the surgical procedure was completed very quickly and John was thereafter handed a paper gown and told to follow Halsey outside to a field command dome with fabric walls. Inside stood a brand-new suit of the newest generation of Mjolnir. John, assisted by a pair of technicians, complied in trying it on. According to Halsey, this represented what MJOLNIR had always been meant to be. Hundreds of minor technical improvements had been made over the armor customary to the previous generation, but the most notable additions was a reliable energy shield, based on the Covenant's use of such, and a weave of memory-processor super-conductor sandwiched between its reactive circuits and the inner biolayers. The latter would allow the wearer to carry and artificial intelligence that could interface between they and the suit. After acclimating somewhat to using and adjusting the shielding, Halsey informed him that several challenges were ready for him in order to test the suit's capabilities and also introduced him to Cortana, the A.I. chosen to serve as the infiltration specialist for RED FLAG. Halsey produced Cortana's memory-processor core, explaining that not only would she allow the Spartans to take over a Covenant ship, but she would also allow John to personally use his armor more efficiently by way of improved reaction times. At Halsey's insistence, he kneeled down so that she could slot Cortana into the socket at the base of his helmet. Her smooth, female voice was soon speaking through his helmet speakers. After the two had greeted one another Halsey suggested that the best way to get acquainted would be through simulated combat, referring again to the challenges that had been set up nearby. Halsey warned him that some in ONI still doubted the Spartans' capability to execute RED FLAG and might even prefer to see him fail the tests, if not ensure that he did. Halsey shared in his confidence. She told him that after she left the dome, he would need to count to ten and then make his way to the reservation's obstacle course. At the far end was a bell for him to ring and in order to reach it he was authorized to neutralize any threats that got in his way. She and the technicians took their leave and less than ten seconds later John heard the telltale sound of MA5B assault rifles bolts being chambered.
With only one second left in his countdown, three armored ODSTs entered the tent with rifles leveled. John leapt into action, grabbing the weapon from the first to fire at him and dislocating the man's shoulder in the process. John spun the weapon and cracked the soldier's ribs with its butt before lashing out likewise at one of the others. The second ODST's head snapped back, signaling to John that he had fractured his vertebrae and certainly given him a concussion at the very least. The last ODST managed to get some shots off, but they only ricocheted off the Chief's energy shield. A moment later John slammed the man's own rifle down into his leg, causing a jagged spike of bone to burst through his fatigues, and finished him off with a blow to the head. He moved to collect their ammunition and a combat knife while Cortana informed him of seven more outside, as indicated by his motion tracker. She openly wondered why he had taken care not to kill the three men, which he defended by stating that the threats had been neutralized regardless. In order to catch the seven outside by surprise, he pulled down the pole in the center of the tent holding it up. As it collapsed around him, he slashed a hole through the fabric and rushed out, wielding the pole as a weapon. Three men went down from a single swipe at their legs and another crumpled when John hurled it at his chest like a javelin. Before the man was hit, however, he had primed a grenade. Not willing to let the soldier die, John rushed to kick it away. The remaining marines started landing shots that drained his shield. He dealt with one by strike at his sternum with an open palm, fired rounds from the MA5B into another's knees, and concluded by simply punching the last man's helmet. Cortana let John know that he had finished off the ten adversaries in just twenty-two seconds, though he had technically began forty milliseconds earlier than he'd been permitted to. John scooped up a bandolier of grenades and ran toward the nearby barracks in order to slip under the buildings and crawl to where the obstacle course began. Right before he was about to run across the ten acres of jagged gravel that it started with, Cortana alerted him to an infrared signal she decoded and realized was an activation signal for a Lotus mine. She suggested that if he could pinpoint just one that she may be able to estimate the locations of others based on the standard randomization procedure used by UNSC engineers. It only took the toss of one grenade to reveal where two mines had been, and from that Cortana devised a constructed a minefield in John's HUD that she was was confident was at least 93% accurate. Thanking her for saving his life, he began to carefully pick his way around where the mines were predicted to be. Once he had made it to the other side of the gravel field safely, Cortana discovered something else: scrambled radio frequencies on the D band that indicated encrypted orders from the reservation to Fairchild Airfield. While she investigated further, the Chief came to what was known as the razor field and found himself the target of emplaced 30mm chainguns. He fired at the lines powering the servos for one of the guns and used it to disable those adjacent to it. Others fell prey to his grenades. John had raced right through the last bit of steel wire that gave the razor field its name when Cortana's voice returned to let him know she had accessed a satellite through SATCOM and that he had an AV-19 SkyHawk bearing down on him. Not wasting any time, he sprinted to the Pillars of Loki and began leaping across them.
When the SkyHawk did appear, it unloaded with 50mm cannons and just a few glancing shots took his shield down halfway. Cortana calculated that they had just eleven seconds before the pilot could make another pass so John forewent the pillars and instead sprinted through napalm and sonic grenades. Cortana advised abandoning the course and running for cover, but John was determined to keep to the parameters that had been given to him. All that remained was an open field between they and the bell, but both knew John wouldn't be able to dodge a Scorpion missile were one to be fired on the next pass. with no other option, John told Cortana to calculate the inbound velocity of the missile when it came and based on his reaction time, to tell him exactly when he would need to sidestep and deflect it. Amazingly, the plan worked and John managed to knock it away so that instead of being torn apart by the explosion, it only sent him flying six meters. Now bleeding inside his helmet, he covered the last half-kilometer in seventeen seconds and tore his Achilles tendon in the process. He rang the bell three times and suddenly heard Halsey's voice shouting over a COM channel for Colonel James Ackerson to call off his men. Speaking to John, she said to stay where he was and that a recovery team would be sent to collect him. John knelt as blood dripped from his nose and mouth and thanked Cortana for her help, still oblivious to the fact that the planet was burning around them.
The Fall of Reach
John and the two dozen other Spartans boarded RED FLAG's dedicated Halcyon-class light cruiser, the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, before 0400 hours on August 30. At Admiral Stanforth's insistence, they kept their presence from COM channels or computer networks. Once aboard, they began working on a Pelican with extra armor meant to serve as a boarding craft for the operation. The primary storage bay on C deck had been converted from to a barracks and it was there that Captain Keyes, selected to command the Autumn, found them. John greeted Keyes upon his arrival on the deck and apologized for not having asked permission to board. Keyes assured him that was quite alright and made sure John knew to just ask if they needed anything. He thereafter returned to the bridge, having given the Spartans his regards.
At 0519 hours, John and the other Spartans could feel that the Pillar of Autumn was turning back around when they had been under the impression that it would soon be jumping away from Reach. Unsure what was happening, John told Kelly to have Fred and Joshua prepare the cryo tubes and to get Linda to gather a team to secure their gear. For his part he would find out what had changed. He tried to get the attention of Cortana on the nearby intercom, but it was the captain who answered, saying there had been a change of plans and that he was on his way to brief them. John announced Keyes' arrival when it came and the Spartans all stood at attention in response. At first, Keyes wondered if he and the Chief might speak in private, but John warned him that they'd need to leave the deck to escape the Spartans' hearing. Resigning that everyone would need to know anyways, Keyes announced that the Covenant had found Reach and that more than one hundred alien vessels were inbound. Still unwilling to admit he already knew the planet was being written off, Keyes declared that Section Three's mission would have to be abandoned in light of the need to defend Reach. In doing so, he got John to realize that defending Reach and capturing a large Covenant carrier did not have to be mutually exclusive objectives. He told the captain that if they could get close enough and punch a hole in a ship's shields, his Spartans could board it. Keyes gave the appearance of begrudgingly agreeing, saying that he was hesitant to hand over Cortana before his ship's "dumb" A.I., Wellsley, had finished initializing, but that he would fly without one if the opportunity to take over a ship presented itself. Before he returned to the bridge, Keyes told the Master Chief to have his Spartans ready in twenty minutes, as that would be when they should arrive at the rally point ships were being redirected to. As soon as he'd gone, John told Fred and James to refit another Pelican so that it had a shaped charge made of every scrap of C-12 on its nose for use as an exploding battering ram.
He also tasked Linda with forming a team to quickly get into the crates ONI had packed for them and to distribute M41 SPNKRs, thruster packs, ammunition, and grenades. Privately, he told Kelly to collect three HAVOK nuclear mines and prepare them for transport. She openly questioned whether there was something they had overlooked, and John had to agree that it did seem that way. At 0558 hours, John received a priority Alpha transmission from the captain which updated him on the situation in space and on the ground. The ground-based generators that powered Reach's orbital defense platforms were threatened by the invasion forces and on Gamma Station in orbit, the prowler UNSC Circumference had unsecured navigation data that was being targeted by inbound Covenant ships. John shared this information with all the other Spartans and once he was speaking to Keyes over the view screen, He offered to protect the Circumference's NAV data with three Spartans while the rest deployed to defend the generators. Keyes resisted the idea, not least of which because he understand how RED FLAG had been outlined, and suggested that the Autumn could simply detonate a nuke near Gamma Station. John rightly pointed out, however, that the electromagnetic pulse given off by the detonation could burn out the superconductive coils of the nearby ODPs. Conversely, conventional weaponry might not eradicate the data. The only option was to board the station. Keyes, clearly conflicted, finally relented and told the Chief that he was free to enact his plan, telling him that his Spartans could launch in two separate Pelicans in five minutes' time. Kelly volunteered to lead the space op, but John said he would be spearheading that. He picked Linda and James to accompany him as part of Blue Team and made Fred the temporary leader of the rest, collectively labeled Red Team.
Gamma Station was around ten thousand kilometers away when John piloted the Pelican loaded with C-12 on its nose away from the Autumn. At 0616 hours it had come within one thousand kilometers, when a Covenant frigate suddenly emerged from slipspace just a kilometer away from their position. John yelled for Linda and James to brace themselves as he spun the dropship into a reverse burn and then killed the engines entirely in order to evade detection. Two more frigates followed the appearance of the first but with just thirty kilometers remaining before they hit the station, John had no choice but to reignite the engines to bleed off as much acceleration as possible. The bird violently slammed into the station tail-first, flatlining John's shields, crumpling the cockpit's displays, and freeing everything in the rear compartment that had been tied down. John confirmed that no one on his team was injured before giving the order to exit immediately. He snatched his MA5 and M41, along with five spare clips of ammunition and a satchel filled with C-12, detonators, and a Lotus mine. John searched in vain for his thruster pack in amidst the jumbled mess but ultimately had to abandon it for the sake of time. Clipping himself to the outside of the Pelican, which was now embedded in the side of Gamma Station, the Chief ordered James to police the explosives still undetonated on the prow and told Linda to scan the remaining frigates with her SRS99C-S2 AM sniper rifle (one frigate was destroyed by a shot from an ODP's Magnetic Accelerator Cannon). Soon enough Linda announced that they had incoming. John ordered they all take cover as a dozen pods and numerous Sangheili rangers shot toward the station, firing Type-25 plasma rifles and Type-33 needlers. James did not respond in time and his thruster pack was punctured by an exploding Subanese crystal, which sent him tumbling away into the void. The pod that attached itself to the skin of the station nearest to their position deposited Kig-Yar rangers and John had to brace against the Pelican to fire at them. A fragmentation grenade finished off the pod's occupants and John directed Linda to secure it. He then proceeded to wedge two more grenades into the C-12 still on the dropship's prow. After joining Linda inside the pod, he had her fire at them just as the Pelican was swarmed by enemies. The blast that followed tore through five decks of Gamma Station and John and Linda were making their way inside in no time. Their target was on B level two decks down and three hundred meters to port.
John paused long enough in a B level corridor to attach the Lotus mine to the deck and rig its proximity detectors so it would explode for anyone that tried to follow them. He and Linda pulled themselves along handrails until they reached a doorway to the docking bay which held the Circumference. Using his fiber optic cable, John sighted four marines pinned down by thirty Kig-Yar and a number of Unggoy. He and Linda both jumped in to assist, but John directed Linda to focus on helping the marines while he made his way to the ship. Just as he was about to head for the prowler, however, he noticed a slight flicker behind their position on his motion tracker. John backtracked into the hall outside the bay and was beset upon by a Sangheili minor. He slammed into the Elite just before it could it could get off a shot with a Type-25 plasma pistol. They two began an extended hand-to-hand engagement which carried them down the hall in the null gravity. John was ultimately able to prevail through locking his armor's glove articulation around the alien's wrist and turning its own weapon against it. One shot from the pistol overloaded its shields and successive strikes from John's right fist cracked open its vacuum suit. He finished off his Sangheili opponent with a shot to the head. By the time he made it back to Linda, twenty more Kig-Yar and joined the fray and more reinforcements were approaching from their rear. Captain Keyes reached out over COM then, announcing that he would bring the Autumn close enough to pick them up in just five minutes and that they had until then to secure the NAV data. Were they unable to do so, he would be forced to fire on their position. John opened a channel to the four marines: Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson and privates Wallace Jenkins, O'Brien, and Bisenti. He advised they tighten up their fire so that they take out one Jackal at a time, then had Linda use grenades to kill a good number. John commandeered a nearby D77-TC Pelican and lifted if from its berth to both provide cover for Linda and the marines and to begin cutting down Kig-Yar with its chain gun. Thousands of enemy contacts were heading their way, so he yelled for everyone to get in and used the Pelican's weaponry, including an Anvil-II air-to-surface missile, to blast through the Circumference's cockpit. Linda took the controls while he launched himself to find the NAV database core, which he promptly destroyed with his assault rifle.[note 2] John took back the piloting of the Pelican upon his return, but the outer bay doors remained closed. Linda attempted to get the station's A.I. quartermaster to open them but received no response. for this reason she took it upon herself to exit the craft so that she could trigger a manual release. As more Covenant forces poured into Docking Bay Nine, John brought the full arsenal of the Pelican to bear on them. just after the bay doors began to open, however, Linda was struck numerous times by plasma fire which burned through her shields and melted the armor covering her back, chest, and head. He yelled for the marines to grab her and pull her floating body inside and rocketed away from the station once they did so.
Once they were clear John asked Sergeant Johnson if he could fly the Pelican, to which the marine answered in the affirmative. John immediately retreated to the rear section where Linda lay and knelt by her. She managed to ask whether they had succeeded in destroying the NAV data and John confirmed they had, and just then her vital signs flatlined whilst he held her hand. Keyes let him know they were one minute from picking them up and John confirmed they were ready. He took control back from Johnson and docked the bird himself. As soon as they were back aboard the cruiser he made all haste to get Linda's body to a cryo chamber to freeze it, hoping desperately that she might be able to be revived at a later date. Medical technicians tried to get him to let them examine him, but John declined and made his way via elevator to the bridge. There, he debriefed with the captain and confirmed the mission's success. He did ask that they scan for FOF tags, hoping that James might still be alive, but nothing was found. To make things even worse, Keyes let him know that they had lost contact with Red Team below. The captain said that RED FLAG was still their mission, even if it now was an even now a longer shot than it always had been. To give it any hope, however, he believed they needed to escape the system soon. The captain called for the initiation of a slipspace jump at 0647 hours, but before one could be made, a transmission from Doctor Halsey on the surface was received. The Autumn was apparently expected at the ship-breaking yards in Asźod, as the doctor had tasked the remaining Spartan-IIIs of NOBLE Team with delivering a fragment of Cortana to the ship there. And so, at least two hours after the problems of the generators and the Circumference first presented themselves, Keyes permitted the brief landing of the cruiser in order to take possession of the fragment before they fled the doomed planet for good post-1700 hours.
In keeping with the stipulations of the Cole Protocol, Keyes had commanded Cortana to calculate a vector for a randomized jump that would point them away from Earth or any populated colonies. And though she did plot a trajectory that was in compliance with Article 2 of the protocol, she combined information gleaned from both the artifact on Sigma Octanus IV and navigation data from an ancient alien vessel buried under Reach's Babd Catha Ice Shelf to pinpoint a specific location near the base of the Orion Arm. It would be weeks before they exited slipspace, so John entered cryostasis along with most of the crew. On September 19 John dreamed that he and Kelly were children once again. In the dream, both asked one another if they ever wondered what home was like. The Autumn emerged in the Soell system shortly thereafter before a gas giant orbited by a peculiar ring-shaped superstructure. Cortana had already initiated orders to begin the process of waking the Chief soon before the ship dropped back into realspace, but by the time he was fully awake, they had already come under fire from Covenant ships from the Fleet of Particular Justice that had followed and beat them to the destination. As John slowly returned to full consciousness, he dreamed of his mother, who suddenly took on features of Doctor Halsey and then Cortana as well. A threatening beast approached from behind the chimeric woman in his dream and he instinctually moved to protect her, but he found he could not lift his rifle because he had once again become a six-year-old boy. The nightmare ended abruptly with the voice of Tech Chief Thom Shephard apologizing for the quick thaw from outside John's cryotube.
John dealt with the painful freezer burn on his skin in silence as Thom led him through various tests to ensure his armor's health monitors, targeting and optical systems, and recharging energy shields were all functioning correctly. The captain's voice soon came over a loudspeaker and ordered those in Cryo Two to send the Chief to the bridge immediately. Covenant boarders suddenly then burst in on Samuel Marcus in the observation deck above. John could only watch as the tech officer was killed. He followed Thom out of the bay into a corridor, but an explosion tore through a nearby door and instantly killed him as well. John doubled back to vault over a pair of power conduits, placing him in a maintenance hallway, and continued on that way. He was able to force open a partially melted door and duck under another that was only partially lowered as he followed signs pointing to the bridge at the fore of the ship. He ran right into a Sangheili minor after emerging from a darkened access corridor, but a fireteam of marines took it down for him before anything else could happen. John thanked the fireteam's squad leader for the assistance and sprinted the rest of the way from there. John found Keyes at the captain's station, where he was greeted by he and Cortana. Keyes admitted that despite Cortana's best efforts, they never really had a chance against the pursuing fleet. As such, he cited the Cole Protocol yet again and ordered John to take possession of Cortana in order to get her safely off of the Autumn. John agreed to take her down to the alien ringworld, and thereby hopefully keeping her out of the hands of the Covenant. Once he had slotted Cortana's data crystal chip into his neural interface Keyes gave the Spartan his own M6D magnum, seeing as the Spartan hadn't yet taken the time to acquire a weapon of his own. John saluted and left the bridge to find that the fighting between the naval and marine personnel and the Covenant boarders had spread dangerously close to the command deck. He paused to appropriate ammunition from a fallen ensign after closing her eyes where she lay. John's target was a Class-3 Bumblebee lifeboat in the cruiser's lifepod bays. The first Covenant opposition John encountered after arming himself took the form of three Unggoy which he eliminated easily.
John soon acquired an MA5B assault rifle with close to four hundred rounds of 7.62mm armor-piercing ammo. After rescuing a group of marines in a galley, Cortana led him through a hatch and up one level, where he encountered a Sangheili Special Operations Officer leading a group of Unggoy. John tore through the Elite's shields with his MA5 and turned his attention to the Unggoy, thinking sure that he had killed the officer. At Cortana's direction he continued through another hatch and up a flight of metal stairs. There John encountered Private O'Brien, whom he had helped rescue aboard Gamma Station and who was now wounded. John fought off three Sangheili and a Kig-Yar nearby and in doing so, gave the other marines in the area the chance to launch a hastily organized counterattack. The Chief moved on once he was satisfied the area was reasonably secure, passing through another hatch and helping a pair of marines deal with a group of Unggoy. Cortana urged him to hurry, as the lifeboats were beginning to launch. John assured her he was trying to get to the launch bays as fast as he could. He was about to launch into a sprint when he was suddenly hit in the back by a bolt of plasma. John rolled with the blow and sprang to his feet to see an Unggoy that had dropped from an overhead maintenance way. John killed the stocky alien but was then set upon by a trio of others which followed it by dropping onto his shoulders. John shook them off before one could attach a primed Type-1 plasma grenade to him. Cortana yelled for him to get aboard the last lifeboat remaining, so he took off running after dealing with each of those that had ambushed him. Another marine charging to get aboard Bumblebee Lima Foxtrot Alpha 43 fell on the deck but John scooped the man up and tossed him toward the pod before firing off some final shots with Keyes' magnum. He then hefted the marine once more, this time sending him over the threshold of the Bumblebee before entering himself. John told the pilot to launch and so it immediately then blasted away from the Autumn to dive toward the ring. A scared marine looked to the Master Chief for assurance that they would be okay and in response John offered a comforting hand on the man's shoulder.
As the massive structure drew ever closer, John queried Cortana as to what it could be. She could only tell him that based on what she could glean from the Covenant battle network, the aliens referred to it as "Halo" and it held sort of religious significance for them. Two minutes and fifty-one seconds after launching from the Autumn, the ring opened up as Lima Foxtrot Alpha 43's pilot guided them past its edge and over its inner surface, which all aboard could se was covered with plains, mountains, and hills. Cortana suggested that John might want to take a seat and get strapped in, but he told her they'd be fine and remained standing for their descent. Unfortunately, due to a chance airbrake failure, the lifeboat rushed toward the ground too fast and when it slammed into the dirt John was thrown off his feet. His helmet careened into a bulkhead, knocking him out. When he finally came to hours later, he could hear Cortana urgently trying to get his attention and warning that Covenant forces were on their way, the crash having triggered a lot of radio traffic on their end. After struggling to his feet, he became more aware of his surroundings and found that he was the only survivor of the impact. John gathered as much ammunition and other supplies as he could, including a quartet of fragmentation grenades, before Cortana recommended moving into some nearby hills. He then crossed a strange, burnished metal bridge just as a Type-25 Spirit appeared. The Master Chief skirted the cliff edge on the far side of the bridge and took up a position at a crevice where a boulder touched the cliff. Two Type-26 Banshees were also on immediate approach, and he waited until the first was within range to open fire with his MA5B. He got the first craft to pull out if its dive but the second was able to pelt him with plasma fire. When the first returned for another pass, however, he hit it again with armor-piercing rounds and caused it to explode into flames before rushing straight into the cliff wall. His shields replenished, John jumped atop the boulder to get a better look around before the other Banshee returned. Troops deployed from the Spirit were encroaching on his position. One group of Unggoy was preoccupied with the wreckage of the Bumblebee, but another was coming from the direction of the hills he'd been told to head for. John first dealt with the seven Grunts across the chasm from him, taking them all out with twelve shots from Keyes' M6D. The other group fared no better against him and he was soon dashing forward into some slight cover offered by a copse of trees. He ran from cover to cover as he made his way uphill, soon running into three more Unggoy led by two Sangheili: a minor and a major. He dealt with the Elites first and was then able to pick off the rest as they tried to scamper away. John continued onward through a meadow of sorts and could hear the sound of automatic weapons fire ahead, which to him signaled the presence of UNSC marines. As such, he sprinted in its direction. Cortana was soon able to confirm that a group of marines had similarly crash-landed nearby and at just over three hours and fourteen minutes since leaving the Autumn, he found them engaging Sangheili, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy around a large blocky structure of some kind.
From a distance, he first took aim at a trio of Grunts and opened fire on a Sangheili minor before any of the enemy realized where he was. He made his way down a slope toward the fellow soldiers, only stopping to scavenge a few plasma grenades off a dead Unggoy. Private Bisenti, who John had rescued on Gamma Station, was the first to meet him and when John asked him for his commanding officer the private called over Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson. The Chief requested a status report, so Johnson let him know that marines were scattered all over the valley they found themselves in. Cortana told them both that since she had gotten in touch with Wellsley, a Pelican was on its way to pick them up. Before long, however, a Spirit dropship was upon them an unloading a clutch of Unggoy and a Sangheili. The combined fire of the marines and the Master Chief was more than enough to make easy work of the foolhardy Covenant attack, but soon another another dropship arrived to unload more troops. This time a trio of Kig-Yar protected by their distinctive round shields led the charge. John sprinted straight into the Jackals' line, tearing them up with his assault rifle before landing a primed Type-1 plasma grenade on the Sangheili leading them. He hunted down the rest of the attackers and was then greeted by a voice from his radio receiver declaring that Pelican Echo 419 was inbound. Just then, three more Class-3 Bumblebees were sighted overhead as the distance as they tore through the ring's atmosphere. John was resolved to beat the covenant to where they landed, so as Echo 4-19 approached Cortana asked that its pilot, Carol Rawley, disengage the M12 Chaingun Warthog she was carrying. John made for the Warthog after it hit the ground to find that out of all the marines, one had elected to forgo the evac and instead act as a gunner for him. And so when John sped away in the vehicle toward the nav indicator Cortana place, he took Private First Class M. Fitzgerald with him.
Cortana's navpoint led them to a gaping metal tunnel at the bottom of a large dry wash. Within, he maneuvered the LRV up ramps, through a series of tight turns, and eventually to the very edge of gap. He backed the hog up and warned Fitzgerald to hang on and then floored the petal so that they were able to sail across the distance to the other side. They next emerged within a huge interior space where their path again came to an end, but this time due to a massive chasm that would be impossible to jump the Warthog across. Covenant forces which had already begun exploring soon began hitting the Warthog with plasma but Fitzgerald did what he could to hold them off. With no path forward, John exited the vehicle and helped the marine return fire. Just as John was about to charge into close quarters with the enemy, however, the private fell to the ground, having been hit with a Subanese crystal fired from a Type-33 needler. John landed three shots on a charging Grunt and slammed the butt of his magnum into its partner's head. Fitzgerald had crawled to cover behind the Warthog so John rushed to pack his wounded bicep with biofoam. After confirming he was okay, he allowed Fitzgerald to take his place on the LAAG once more. It took the two of them the better part of the next fifteen minutes to clear the rest of the cavernous room of Covenant forces. Once it seemed they had all been eradicated, he asked Cortana if she had any ideas for how they could proceed. She guessed that some kind of controls must exist to extend a across over the gap, so John let Fitzgerald know he was going to look around for anything that might make that happen. He surveyed a the immediate area in vain and was about to give up and head back to the Warthog when he chanced upon a gap in a wall on their right side. It led to a ramp that took him twenty meters up before a sharp left turn, where he walked right into a waiting Sangheili major. The Elite swung a blow at John's head, but he ducked in time to let it glance off his shields. The Chief landed a few shots on the saurian alien before dropping a grenade and ducking back around the corner to avoid being hit by the explosion that followed. Past the Sangheili's corpse, the corridor opened to a narrow ledge, ending at at a pair of small, glowing orbs which hung suspended above a roughly rectangular frame of blue matte metal. Within that frame a series of seemingly holographic displays pulsed and shifted and to John's puzzlement, he felt as if he should recognize them. Instinctively, he touched one of the symbols and was further surprised when his finger met resistance. He was forced to admit to Cortana that he wasn't sure what he had done, but shortly thereafter, harsh, white light formed within the gap, creating what looked like a bridge made of light. Cortana was able to identify that excited photons had displaced the air around the otherworldly construction, rendering it effectively solid. John again reiterated that he hadn't know what he was doing when he had turned it on and just suggested that they get the hell out of there.
Regroup at Alpha Base
Before rolling across the light bridge, John first tested its integrity with his foot. Convinced it would hold, he told Fitzgerald to hang on and gunned the hog across. The tunnel on the opposite side opened up into another valley. The Chief guided the LRV to the top of a grassy rise and headed toward a gap in a cliff face to the south. He drove through s shallow river and turned through another rocky pass before finally stopping minutes later at a ledge overlooking a lifeboat and an assortment of Covenant troops. The aliens sighted them almost right away, so John steered down into the valley while Fitzgerald cut them down with the hog's M41 Vulcan. After John swung the vehicle around another of the mysterious structures, Cortana notified him of marines in hiding up on a nearby hill. A lone Sangheili in his path leveled a weapon as John sped in the direction of the survivors but the Warthog rolled right over him before he could get off a shot. The marines greeted the Chief when he arrived and their sergeant let it be known that he was glad to see them. The remaining Covenant attempted an assault on their position but Fitzgerald was able to handle it. Cortana let Rawley know they had found marines that needed to be picked up and the flight captain, going by the call sign "Foehammer", in turn said she had spotted the locations of the additional lifeboats in the area. The better part of the afternoon that followed was spent checking the interlocking valleys, locating the rest of the survivors, and dealing with any Covenant forces that tried to interfere. During this time, Cortana learned that Captain Keyes and the rest of the Autumn's surviving command crew had been captured. In total, John, Cortana, and Fitzgerald rounded up sixty-three Marine Corps and Navy personnel. When there was no one left to rescue, he climbed aboard Echo 419 himself. Rawley told him they would reach Alpha Base in thirty minutes. John thanked her for the ride and was fast asleep thirty seconds later.
Alpha Base, established atop a butte covered with strange structures left behind by whomever had built the ring, offered few amenities. Even so, John was able to get ten full hours of uninterrupted sleep and eat components selected from two MREs. He also took the opportunity to take a two-minute hot shower. John had just finished drying off and scrounging a fresh set of utilities when a private stuck his head into his quarters and said Major Antonio Silva was asking to see him in the Command Post. John had just been about to run a routine maintenance check on his armor before donning it again but the marine also warned that Silva had said he was to leave it there in the prefab memory-plastic cubicle. John submitted to the major's request but mad sure to activate the suit's security system and secure the rest of his gear before buckling a magnum around his waist and heading out. The CP had been set up within the centermost of the mesa's alien buildings. John presented himself to two ODSTs standing guard at Silva's door and was waved inside. Major Silva was seated at a makeshift desk but when he met the Chief's eyes John snapped to attention and announced that he was reporting and ordered. Rather than immediately telling him "At ease", Silva instead let him linger as he was and proceeded to make sure the Chief understood his place on the chain of command. He made it clear that John was to unquestionably obey any order given by himself or Lieutenant Melissa McKay, one of the ODSTs at the door who had followed him inside. As John understood the chain of command perfectly well enough, he had no problem agreeing. Silva then established that he was familiar with the Master Chief's record, but while he considered his martial prowess impressive, he nevertheless thought little of the Spartan-II program and believed it to have been a failed experiment. John listened to the ODST berate both himself and his fellow Spartans as being inhuman freaks who knew nothing but war without saying a single word in return, but when asked whether he read the major, he took a deep breath and responded in the negative. The two men stared at each other for over five seconds after that before Silva credited him for his loyalty to his fellow soldiers. Satisfied that he had gotten his point across, he finally gave John permission to be at ease and invited him to sit with he and Lieutenant McKay so he could brief them on how he planned to rescue Captain Keyes.
By the time seventeen hours and just over eleven minutes had passed since John had blasted away from the Pillar of Autumn, he and a group of ODSTs were riding in Echo 419's bay as the bird weaved through low-lying hills toward the Truth and Reconciliation, a CCS-class battlecruiser undergoing repairs and holding position about three hundred meters above a plateau. The cruiser was also the location in which Captain Keyes was being held prisoner. Wellsley had concocted an array of signals designed to trick the Covenant's technicians into believing any approaching UNSC dropships were actually their own. As they approached the Helljumpers' Sergeant Parker reminded his troopers that the Master Chief would be disembarking first and moving to clear the outer defenses around the ship's gravity lift. John returned the sergeant's thumbs-up gesture when he offered it and as soon as Parker gave the signal he led the charge down the ramp, dropping to the ground from where the Pelican hovered about a foot in the air. John's first move was to sidestep and sweep the area before creeping along a rocky footpath to his right. He was armed with an SRS99C-S2 AM sniper rifle, an MA5B assault rifle, a full combat load of ammo, grenades, and other gear, plus two M19 missiles for the attacking force's SPNKRs. Cortana warned John of the presence of enemies ahead and he in turn took cover next to a tree before locating the Type-29 Shade emplacements on the far side of an excavation beneath the cruiser.
Fighting for control
Initially, the fierce fighting on Halo was solely between UNSC and Covenant forces, but after the Covenant unwittingly released an ancient parasite, the Flood, the majority of both forces became infected or destroyed
The local translocation enacted by 343 Guilty Spark left John disoriented, nauseated, and angry. Now unexpectedly located within the bowels of a dark, brooding structure, his first response was to fire half a clip from his MA5 at the monitor. The shooting did nothing more than elicit a bemused suggestion that he conserve his ammunition. When John asked where the intelligence had brought him, he was simply told they must collect what Guilty Spark called the Index and to follow. Checking both weapons while he walked after the enigmatic construct, John asked for more information regarding the monitor's role. Confusingly, he indicated that the Master Chief should know much of what he had been designed to do, since he was a "Reclaimer". John opted to play along at this, and upon asking for Spark to refresh his memory with respect to how long ago he'd been left to oversee the installation, learned it had been over one-hundred thousand local years. Their dialogue was eventually interrupted by a variety of Flood forms which forced John to once again fight for his life, moving back and forth to stretch the horrors out. With this group he identified a new form apparently capable of releasing numerous infectors. As soon as the assault came to an end John made sure to reload his weapons but was urgently pressed by the monitor to continue onwards. He explained that the surrounding facility in which the Index was kept was called the Library, but before John could ask anything else a combat form lurched from an alcove and opened fire. John put it down only to see it jump back up again, so he used the next burst from his assault rifle to take its left leg off. A new horde of like hostiles demanded his attention then, so he was caught off guard when the damaged combat form struck him from behind, having limped back into the fight. At this the Chief blew its head off before sidestepping one of the carrier forms so he could tear through it in turn and spend the next ten seconds mopping up the infection forms which it deposited. Following the monitor after that soon brought them to a set of huge metal doors. 343 Guilty Spark informed him that security doors were locked automatically but that he could go access their overrides to open them. Left alone at, John was soon attacked once more by seven of the shambling Flood forms.
John dispatched the last of them just as the doors began to part and followed the monitor through, only to be told that they had crossed the first of ten such thresholds which lay between them and Index. A familiar pattern emerged thereafter in which Spark would unwittingly lead the Spartan into Flood ambushes whilst he worked his way through galleries and subfloor maintenance tunnels in pursuit of it. Soon he began to receive assistance in the form of the robotic drones he'd first seen back in the swamp. John was content to let the sentinels do the heavy lifting after that, lending a hand only when he thought it appropriate. The stench of cooked flesh which filtered through his helmet thanks to their energy weaponry made him gag as the fight through the facility proceeded. John finally reached an enormous circular platform which turned out to be an elevator to take him to the next level of the Library above. Once it jerked to a halt there was only a short walk through a narrow passageway to another gallery beyond before the Flood attacked again. With no threat at his back John was able to retreat and funnel them through the passage while he fired until the forms no longer posed any danger. Within the next section of the complex he followed a grouping of sentinels, sardonically asking where they had been moments earlier. To this Spark then claimed Flood activity had caused a failure in the drone control system and that backup units required his attention, but that John should continue onward regardless. John began to argue but the monitor had already vanished again just as quickly as it had arrived. The few sentinels that were present proved to be of enormous benefit to the Chief, however. He allowed them to do most of the work of fighting off the Flood from then on, until 343 Guilty Spark finally returned and admonished him for the slower pace this more cautious strategy had forced him to move at.
John next opted to traverse a confined Flood-packed maintenance corridor apart from the monitor, only meeting back up with him five minutes later to be led across a circular depression to another enormous door.
Betrayal and sacrifice
Upon John's return to Halo's Control Room, Cortana revealed that Halo's true purpose was not only to destroy the Flood, but prevent its spread by targeting all sentient life within its blast radius. John was then forced to disrupt Halo's firing system by disabling the ring's phase pulse generators in order to delay the Monitor's plan. John carved a path through the three-sided conflict among the Covenant, the Flood and the Forerunners' Sentinels. Soon after, he tried to rescue Captain Keyes, but was too late. Captain Keyes had been transformed into a proto-Gravemind Flood form. After infiltrating the Covenant cruiser Truth and Reconciliation, the Chief managed to retrieve the Captain's neural implants, which he used to activate the Pillar of Autumn's self-destruct sequence. After the sequence was aborted by 343 Guilty Spark, he proceeded to manually overload the fusion reactors, which would subsequently destroy both the Pillar of Autumn and Installation 04. After successfully destroying the fusion reactors on the Pillar of Autumn, John used a Warthog to reach the extraction point where Pelican Echo 419 was to recover him. John reached the extraction point, only to witness the Pelican crashing after being shot down by a pair of Banshees. Quickly making his way to the ship's Launch Bay 7, John used the sole Longsword fighter stored there to escape Halo just before the Autumn's engines detonated, destroying the Halo.
Dust and echoes
At 1637 hours on September 22, John finally allowed himself a moment to just sit and think and remember all the recently deceased. He asked Cortana to scan the debris field again, but she noted that she already had and that there was nothing out there. Even so, John implored her to continue trying, seeing as they were without a slipspace drive or means of cryopreservation and only had enough power, air, water, and food for a few hours at most. When she still failed to register any transponder signals or distress calls he suggested actively scanning each object in the area but was informed doing so could take eighteen days. When Cortana did finally detect a signal, it was revealed to be coming from a CCS-class battlecruiser appearing from the far side of Threshold's moon, Basis. John immediately ordered the A.I. to power down everything besides their passive scanners and whatever minimal power she needed to keep herself and the ship functioning. Five more battlecruisers followed in the wake of the first and finally the flagship of this small fleet element came into view: a DDS-class carrier. John drifted from his spot in the pilot's seat to the Longsword's aft compartment to find its weapons locker empty with his own MA5B only holding thirteen rounds. He returned to the sysops seat upon a declaration from Cortana that she had found something, and that something seemed like it could be a cryopod from the Pillar of Autumn. John instructed her to bring them toward it using the Longsword's maneuvering thrusters only but was told this would take twenty minutes and that the Covenant vessels were predicted to encounter it in as little as five. In order to allow them to reach it first, John put his helmet back on and resealed his armor so that Cortana could vent their atmosphere to provided added propulsion. Their ETA dropped to just two minutes and as they came closer to their target, it turned out to actually be three cryotubes affixed side by side. John dared to feed a little more power to Cortana's systems and she soon after found another new contact that strongly resembled a Pelican stuck on a chunk of rock a half-kilometer in diameter. Cortana thought it might have crashed there but John was certain, based on the position of one of its wings, that it had been intentionally parked there in a way that left it ready for takeoff. As Cortana swung their craft about to intercept the pods, John returned aft to tether himself and braced against the second explosive decompression that followed when by fitting himself within the empty weapons locker. After, he leapt from the rear to where the three cryotubes drifted just thirty meters away. John just barely managed to hook a finger on the furthest cryopod and then secured himself to them. He hastily pulled himself and the pods back to the Longsword, but as he did so two of the enemy cruisers began to accelerate towards it and ready their weapons to fire. Before they did so, however, three missiles from the Pelican drew their attention toward it instead. John brought his cargo aboard and rushed to get seated again.
Against Cortana's protestations, John unloaded on the trailing ship with the fighter's guns and told her to get him a firing solution for their ASGM-10 missiles to target its plasma turrets when the energy shielding around them dropped. He relinquished fire control to her and proceeded to send the craft accelerating deeper into the debris field after she fired the four that they carried. Cortana took over piloting the Longsword after that and John was able to perform a sweep scan of his own in order to try to find anything that could help them. He decided to finally hail the Pelican and was introduced to Warrant Officer Shiela Polaski. The Master Chief urged Polaski to meet them at a NAV point almost directly on top of the flagship and had Cortana slow their speed so both smaller craft would arrive at the same time. The six cruisers stopped stopped firing at them out of fear of hitting the DDS-class carrier. Once the Longsword and Pelican were around twelve hundred kilometers away from one another John asked Polaski to hand establish a system link with them so Cortana could take over control of both vehicles to attach them to one another. At three hundred kilometers from the flagship it finally began to bring its weapons to bear on them but their extreme oblique approach angle and speed made them hard to hit. Both the Pelican and Longsword passed the carrier and began a slingshot orbit around Basis and it was at this point that they both met each other at just prior to 1710 hours. John moved aft to the access hatch connecting both ships and was shocked when the first person he pulled through was none other than Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson. John's first reaction was to kick the hatch shut and slam the marine against the hull, drawing Johnson's own pistol and pointing the barrel at his forehead at the same time. He had been sure the staff sergeant had been consumed by the Flood, given that he'd last seen him in the footage recorded by Private Jenkins' helmet cam. He demanded to know how it was possible for him to have escaped unscathed, to which the man simply claimed that the Flood had passed him by as if it was disinterested in him. Cortana noted that a preliminary readings from Johnson's biomonitors indicated he was free of infection, so the Chief relaxed enough to return his sidearm to him. Three other survivors from the Pelican joined them thereafter. In addition to Warrant Officer Polaski, a pilot from the 23rd Naval Air Squadron, there was an ODST by the name of Locklear and finally Elias Haverson, a lieutenant of the Office of Naval Intelligence. John let everyone know that given their lack of slipspace-capable transport, their only option was to seize control of one of the Covenant's nearby ships after they completed their slingshot around Threshold's moon. Though the lieutenant outranked him, John felt comfortable asserting authority over him since he still intended to carry out Operation: RED FLAG. Haverson, of course, was well aware of RED FLAG and reluctantly submitted to the Spartan's tactical command. John told Locklear to grab extra weapons, ammunition, and grenades from the Pelican while he briefed them on his plan to capture the Covenant flagship, Ascendant Justice.
The Pelican would be used as a fireship; loaded with Moray mines and sent ahead of the Longsword on autopilot; it would be used to draw enemy fire, drop a number of mines and allow the Longsword to proceed directly into the carrier's Seraph fighter launch bay, as the carrier would need to drop the shielding over the bay temporarily to allow the Seraphs to deploy. Sheila Polaksi would pilot the Longsword while Cortana would infiltrate the flagships battlenet, jamming its weaponry and communications. Haverson programmed the Moray mines, setting half to detonate on impact and the other half to detach and track enemy ships on approach. John, Sergeant Johnson and Locklear would be the assault team, and the three selected their armaments from the supplies that Locklear retrieved from the Pelican. John took four grenades and a half dozen magazines for his MA5B.
The mission to board the Covenant flagship began as soon as the Longsword and Pelican completed their slingshot orbit around Basis. The Pelican was launched first, and the ship soon drew from the Covenant cruisers, which had been waiting for them, apparently having predicted their orbital trajectory. The Pelican soon accelerated to a distance of two hundred kilometers ahead of the Longsword. Haverson managed to deploy the Pelican's Moray mine payload shortly before it was obliterated by a plasma torpedo. During the approach, Locklear announced his dislike of space combat, something that John was able to sympathize with, as he shared the ODST's discomfort. As predicted, the flagship launched a number of Seraph fighters from its hangar bay to intercept the Longsword, but Haverson's programmed Moray mines easily destroyed the Covenant craft. With the shields and forward weaponry of the flagship disabled, Polaski completed their approach. At a 180 degree angle, the Longsword entered the hangar at three hundred meters per second, the flames from the ship's engines burning Unggoy technicians and causing their methane tanks to explode. With the power cut, the Longsword slammed into the wall of the hangar bay. Cortana notified the team that they were safe to move as the external atmosphere was stabilized once the energy shielding over the launch bay had returned. Faced with a large number of Unggoy using fuel pods and docked Seraph fighters as cover, Polaski deployed the Longsword's landing gear and 120mm ventral guns. The heavy rounds tore through the Covenant defenses, detonating fuel pods, unshielded fighters and causing the air in the bay to erupt into flames, incinerating the Unggoy and Huragok in the bay.
On Cortana's assurance that the air in the bay was breathable after the fires were cleared by the bay's fire suppression system, John assembled his assault team, taking Cortana with him as well. While Locklear neutralized a pair of surviving Unggoy, John found himself faced with a trio of Huragok. Knowing that they posed no threat, he relaxed. Cortana updated the Chief with information she had gleaned from the flagship's personal roster: three thousand Covenant, with the vast majority being Huragok with a light company of Unggoy and only a hundred Sangheili, the latter statistic confusing John as he had expected a Covenant ship of this size to have significantly more. John found Locklear's slaughter of the three Huragok immediately after to have been unnecessary even through he tended to agree with the Marine's actions with regard to the Covenant. The team formed up near a large door at the back of the bay. John organized his team into position around the door while ordering them to stick to hand signals from then on. Before Polaski could open the door, it was opened from the other side. A team of five Sangheili were waiting for them, each one in a position analogous to John's own team. Without hesitating, John fired two bursts from his MA5B, killing two of the Sangheili that had not yet activated their personal energy shields. Two of the surviving Sangheili opened fire on John with their plasma rifles. As his shields dropped and his vision clouded due to the discharge of the energy weapons, John was unable to get a shot on the Sangheili in front of Polaski. The pilot was faster than the alien and managed to fire her sidearm before the Sangheili could aim its plasma pistol and she soon killed the Covenant soldier, allowing Johnson and Locklear to eliminate the final pair of Sangheili. Immediately afterword, a dozen more Sangheili approached from further down the corridor and John made the snap decision to fall back into the hangar bay, grabbing Polaski and pulling her back into the bay while Johnson destroyed the door controls. The only alternate way the team had to bridge was a small hatch that led into a maintenance corridor that was used by the Huragok. John disliked the cramped conditions but seeing no other way to proceed he acquiesced. Due to the narrow nature of the corridor, John was forced to power down his energy shield to allow him to proceed. Cortana directed him to a data port in the passage and despite his reluctance, inserted her into the system. Cortana quickly detected the presence of a dozen Sangheili hunter-killer teams on board the ship, and fed back their locations to the Spartan and his team while generating electronic ghosts of the team in order to throw off their pursuers. As John and his team proceeded onward, engaging several Covenant soldiers as they went, Cortana made the team aware of another way to the bridge and at her suggestion, split the team to cover both paths. John took Haverson and Polaksi with him while Johnson and Locklear took the other path.
Eventually, John and his team were engaged by Sangheili equipped with active camouflage and he requested Cortana's assistance with locating a way past them, which she was able to help with while also studying the Ascendant Justice and its systems. Cortana was able to easily infiltrate the backup terminus for the ship's atmospheric pre-processors and drop the pressure in 87 percent of the flagship's corridors, killing any Covenant within while warning John which passages she had affected so as to not jeopardize the lives of the other humans. John and his team soon made it to the Ascendant Justice's command center ahead of Johnson and Locklear. Cortana was unable to provide them with information about the number of personnel within as they had disabled the bridge sensors. Warning his team to expect anything, John used a pair of plasma grenades to deactivate the bridge doors electronic suite before attempting to pry it open. He was unable to as a Sangheili on the other side was holding the doors closed. With the door open only a few centimeters, the Chief fired his assault rifle through the crack, killing the Sangheili on the other side. As he tried again to open the door, plasma fire from the other side struck him, wiping out his energy shield. With the doors half a meter apart John took cover to allow his energy shield to recharge, only to discover that the plasma fire had knocked out his shielding system. He tried rebooting it to no avail. Remaining in cover he allowed Johnson and Locklear to open fire into the room before he moved in himself. Inside the room, a lone Special Operations Sangheili approached John, deactivating its active camouflage and roaring out a challenge at the Spartan. John fired the last three bullets from his MA5B, deforming the Sangheili's shoulder but not deterring the Covenant soldier. When Haverson attempted to aid John, the Sangheili fired its plasma pistol at the Lieutenant, forcing him to retreat out of the bridge. John readied himself in a fighting stance, confident in his ability to take out his foe. The Sangheili dropped its plasma pistol and helmet, before activating its energy sword and charging.
Dodging the Sangheili's initial sword swing, John slammed the butt of his MA5B into its midsection before preparing to smash its skull, but before he could the Elite rolled back, slicing the assault rifle in half with its sword. Catching his opponent off guard, John stepped close and grabbed its wrists. He was able to force its sword arm away but at the cost of weakening his grasp on its other arm. John noted that this particular Sangheili was exceedingly well-trained and the Spartan felt every injury from the past few days inflicted on him during the Halo conflict. Haverson and Polaski attempted to assist John, but were unable to get a clear shot, and the Spartan was unable to easily move as the Elite would be able to kill him with its energy sword. Unexpectedly for John, the Sangheili deliberately pulled them into close proximity to his two teammates, and used this to swing its energy sword at them. The sword caught Haverson, slicing through his pistol and across his chest. Telling Polaski to get the injured Lieutenant out of the bridge, John kicked the Elite in the chest, destroying its energy shield and shattering its breastplate causing it to cough up blood onto John's visor, before the Sangheili tripped over its helmet on the floor, bringing both of them to the deck. The Sangheili managed to get its non-sword arm free from the Chiefs grasp and it picked up its plasma pistol. John just managed to roll aside as the energy weapon fired, melting the displays behind him. As the two combatants struggled to rise, John managed to knock the Elite's plasma pistol away. As the Sangheili roared in anger or panic, John found it getting even stronger. Fortunately for the Chief, Johnson and Locklear had arrived and were attempting to open their hatch into the bridge. The two notified John that they were ready to fire so he drove the Sangheili backward across the bridge directly into the Marine's hatch. The two opened fire directly into the Elite's back, but the Covenant warrior still held its ground, slicing its energy sword into John's upper arm. As the Marine's fire started to weaken the Sangheili, John slammed it into the bulkhead, opening the escape corridor behind it. With his foe off-balance, John seized the upper hand, smashing its arm into the wall and forcing it to drop its energy sword, permanently disabling the weapon as its fail-safes initiated. He continued to force the Sangheili back, before launching an open-handed strike into its chest launching it into an opened escape pod before hitting a control stud, launching the pod away from the ship.
After his close encounter with the Special Operations Sangheili, John found himself unable to move his shoulder where the energy sword had sliced it, but he put off medical treatment from Polaski as Cortana required him for a more pressing matter. She needed him to disable the ship's navigation override so the AI could maneuver the ship. With Cortana's assistance he managed to disable the override but when Cortana tried to move the ship to slipspace, she discovered that she was unable to due to the interference of a Covenant AI. The ship's slipspace drive had been physically decoupled from the reactor while Cortana had to deal with the disabled Navigational controls, which she realized was a trick to lure her away from the drive. As Ascendant Justice continued to suffer damage from the nearby Covenant ships, John told Cortana to give him the coordinates to the ship's power coupling. She did so, but informed him that it wouldn't do any good as he would be unable to make the repairs in time, as they lacked the tools and experience necessary. Looking for any solution, John grabbed one of the Huragok cowering below the central platform and told Cortana to communicate to it that he was taking it to fix something. John told the rest of the team to remain on the bridge while he took the Huragok down to the engineering rooms. Taking advantage of the fact that the gravity in the ship's elevator shift leading to the engineering room had been disabled, John was able to easily traverse the intervening decks and soon located the room. Before entering the room, the Spartan carefully assessed the room, noting the shadows of a group of waiting Unggoy among the crates and other machinery in the room. Noting the perilous situation he was in regarding his disabled energy shield and breached armor, he knew that it would be suicidal to face the Covenant soldiers head on. Initially hesitant to use his grenades in the reactor room due to the inherent danger of a reactor coil breach, John instead opted to use them as a trap for the Unggoy. Using a three meter length piece of hair-fine optical cord, he threaded it through the rings of his two remaining fragmentation grenades and suspended the line ten centimeters off the floor while hiding the grenades in the slot of the opened door. John then activated a plasma grenade on the far wall before running and taking cover in the shadows near a support brace. Protecting the Huragok with his body, John waited as the plasma grenade exploded, spooking the Unggoy in the engineering room. John's trap worked as expected; all but one of the Unggoy within made their way out of the room towards the elevator shaft, where they triggered the fragmentation grenades hidden within, killing all of them. John picked up a damaged needler and was surprised when the Huragok accompanying him was able to repair the weapon almost instantaneously. Using the newly-fixed weapon, John took out the single surviving Unggoy in the engineering room and made his way in, the Huragok immediately going to work on repairing the disengaged power coupling.
Despite his efforts, Cortana still found herself unable to out-maneuver the pursuing Covenant. Worse, their fire had driven her too far into Threshold's atmosphere to be able to escape the gas giant's gravitational pull. John remained calm however, and told Cortana to try anything to get them out of their predicament. Cortana was able to use the Covenant slipspace drive's superior technology to enter slipspace despite being within the gravitational pull of Thresold, a task that was impossible to perform with traditional human slipspace drives. In the engine room, John expected his death as he felt explosive decompressions from various breached outer decks reverberating through the ship, and breathed a sigh of relief when it didn't come. He left the Huragok as it had preoccupied itself with fixing a melted panel after fixing the power coupling and returned to the bridge, stopping to retrieve two plasma pistols and a needler from the dead Unggoy in the elevator shaft. Upon returning to the bridge, Cortana communicated with one of the Huragok in the room, and it attempted to fix John's energy shield. At first hesitant about its intentions, he allowed it to make the repairs once Cortana told him what she had instructed it to do. Lieutenant Haverson pointed out to John that his original mission should be scrubbed in light of the newly-discovered technology on board Ascendant Justice and that they should return to Earth immediately. With Cortana securing the bridge from eavesdroppers, John proceeded to explain to his team the goals of his original mission and his intent to continue the mission but faced resistance from the other members of the team, who were all exhausted after the events on Halo and hadn't been trained for Operation: RED FLAG to begin with. Sergeant Johnson offered to assist the Spartan but John could see the exhaustion in the Marine's eyes. He was especially surprised when Cortana told him that he agreed with Haverson about scrubbing the operation. Faced with convincing arguments from both Cortana and Haverson, the Spartan reluctantly assented to them, relinquishing tactical command back to Lieutenant Haverson. When Cortana informed Haverson that his initial plan to take Ascendant Justice directly to Earth would be in direct violation of the Cole Protocol, John suggested that they instead return to Reach. The planet had already been discovered by the Covenant, so there was no breach of the Cole Protocol, and they might be able to find a serviceable UNSC vessel to use to return to Earth. John also had a secret reason for why he wished to return to Reach: he wished to see the glassed planet to know for sure if the rest of his Spartans had died. Haverson agreed with John's plan, and Cortana set course for Reach.
Return to Reach
While on route to Reach, Sergeant Johnson notified John that there was a Spartan in one of the cryotubes on the Longsword that he had retrieved from above the Halo prior to their capture of Ascendant Justice. Linda-058, who had been mortally wounded on Gamma Station just before the fall of Reach, had been placed in cryostasis as soon as they had returned to the Pillar of Autumn with the hope of reviving her at a later date. Due to the lack of experienced medical personnel, John opted to leave her in the cryotube until proper help could be given. He observed Warrant Officer Polaski as she practiced with an intact Covenant Spirit dropship before receiving a report on the rest of the team's progress from the Sergeant. Cortana notified the team that they were twenty minutes away from Reach. Despite unusual behavior from the AI who, unbeknownst to John, was struggling with the sheer amount of information she had recovered from inside Halo's control center putting strain on her processing power, John, Johnson and Polaski returned to the bridge to meet Locklear and Haverson just as Ascendant Justice exited slipspace. John noted the apparent time-dilation effect that had made them arrive had Reach in a far shorter time-frame than had been previously estimated. As the team observed the smoldering planet, John was sure that he had gotten all of his Spartans killed. John noticed a patch of Reach that had been spared from orbital bombardment and requested permission from Haverson to investigate, and the Lieutenant obliged. As they approached, they noted that the Covenant appeared to be setting up shop at Reach; many smaller ships were herding debris from the space battle above the planet into one spot. While Cortana focused on communicating with the Covenant ships hailing them, a faint UNSC emergency broadcast. John immediately recognized the six note tone and knew that there were Spartans still alive on the planet.
John and his team departed from Ascendant Justice on the Spirit dropship. As they descended to the surface of Reach, a pair of Covenant light cruisers pinged the dropship, and Polaski returned with the programmed response Cortana had given her. Three Seraph fighters swooped in close to the dropship but merely passed by before returning to the cruisers. John found himself once again noting similarities between himself and Corporal Locklear and considering what kind of Spartan he could have made. Polaski took the dropship into a deep canyon and John sent the countersign for the emergency broadcast they had received over an encrypted channel and it became apparent that it had been heard. Polaski set the Spirit down on an overhang in the canyon and John decided to investigate the signal alone for two reasons. First was he wouldn't have to worry about saving the team if the signal turned out to be a trap set by the Covenant and second, he could buy the team time to escape with Cortana back to Earth if the Covenant were waiting. As he left the dropship, his motion tracker picked up a single contact that didn't register as either UNSC or Covenant. The contact revealed itself as Anton-044, one of the Spartans of Red Team that John had presumed lost when the planet had fallen. Anton brought John to the entrance of Camp Independence, where we met with Grace-093 and Li-008. Inside the cavern, John met Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb. With the area free of Covenant forces, John radioed Haverson to bring the others from the dropship in. Admiral Whitcomb requested a report from the Chief, uncertain as to his presence after the initiation of Operation: RED FLAG. John filled the Admiral in on everything that had happened since he had left Reach: his recovery of the NAV database on Gamma Station, the Pillar of Autumn's escape from Reach, the discovery of Installation 04, his encounter with 343 Guilty Spark, as well as the Flood, the Halo's destruction and finally the capture of the Covenant flagship. Whitcomb then told John and his team what had happened on Reach: while everyone had been trying to evacuate from the planet, the Admiral's people had been working on a new superweapon , the NOVA bomb. Designed as planet-killers, Whitcomb intended to use them during space battles to level the playing field with the Covenant. However, the Covenant attack on the planet left the NOVAs on the ground and so Whitcomb decided to repurpose them, setting a timer for ten days with the objective of either stopping the Covenant on Reach or destroying their homeworld if the Covenant take the bombs away for study. Whitcomb than informed John that his last transmission from the rest of Red Team was that they had retreated to CASTLE Base but the Covenant had deployed at least a dozen companies of soldiers there and were digging into the mountain, making the survival of anyone inside extremely unlikely. Admiral Whitcomb agreed with John that they needed to make their way to the base, using the captured Covenant dropship, and get any survivors out of there, as he refused to leave anyone behind, especially not a Spartan.
The team returned to the Spirit dropship and they linked up with a large convoy of Covenant ships that were making their way towards Menachite Mountain. John and his team armed themselves with a variety of weapons, both UNSC and Covenant that had been retrieved from Camp Independence. John took five magazines for his MA5B assault rifle, as well as a shotgun and three fragmentation grenades. The convoy of ships made their way towards where Menachite Mountain had once stood, now completely razed aside from a single hole that penetrated into the rock, and a Covenant cruiser hovered above with it's gravity lift activated. On Whitcomb's order, Polaski directed the Spirit dropship into the gravity lift and they were pushed into the hole. At the bottom of the hole, the dropship emerged into a gargantuan circular room three kilometers across with a holographic display of a sun and a number of moons across the ceiling. They noted a contingent of Covenant soldiers, mostly Unggoy that appeared to be clearing a cave-in and weren't expecting them. With Li remaining in the dropship with Polaski, the rest of the team left the dropship and promptly engaged the Covenant in the room. While Grace and Locklear used long-range explosive ordnance to clear out the majority of the surprised Covenant, John and the rest of the team closed the distance with their foes. John and Anton used plasma grenades to blow apart a Kig-Yar phalanx formation before Grace used her fuel rod gun to kill the survivors. Shortly afterward, Spartans Frederic-104, Kelly-087 and Will-043 revealed themselves. After a brief reunion, Fred ushered Dr Catherine Halsey into the room. John was briefly struck with emotion, he had never thought he would see her again. Their reunion was short-lived however, as a massive force of thousands of Covenant soldiers: Unggoy, Kig-Yar, Sangheili and Mgalekgolo gestalts, were revealed to be present in the room, crowding the twelve tiered galleries on the circumference of the room. The team had failed to detect them before due to all the dust and haze in the room. When a pair of Mgalekgolo opened fire on the gathered team with their assault cannons, the Spartans formed a phalanx protecting the unarmored members of the team. Kelly took the full brunt of the fire, collapsing to the ground. In response, the rest of the Covenant opened fire, but not at the humans as John initially thought, but instead at the Mgalekgolo that had fired the first shots. In an instant, the pair was vaporized by the thousands of energy weapons fired at them. A golden-armored Sangheili warrior instructed that no-one was to fire at the "holy light". Sangheili and Kig-Yar used ropes to descend to the bottom of the room. The team opened fire, John ordering them into dispersion pattern Delta while he picked Kelly up off the floor. The team began to lose ground as waves of Kig-Yar used their wrist-mounted energy shields to prevent grenades from being used against them while others moved in tradional phalanxes shielding their Sangheili masters. Fortunately, Polaski arrived and picked the team up, and they managed to make their escape. When the Covenant cruiser intensified its gravity lift, attempting to push the dropship back down, Whitcomb ordered Li to fire several rockets up toward the ship. Upon being exposed to the gravity lift, the Forerunner crystal in Dr Halsey's possession underwent a dramatic change: the top half split along its facets and opened apart like a flower blossom, the sapphire petals undulated and the facets spun in a geometric dance, reshaping the crystal and changing its color to a cool green. The gravity lift was completely nullified by the crystal, allowing Polaski to maneuver the dropship out of Menachite Mountain.
Once clear of the mountain, it became clear that large numbers of Covenant craft had converged on their position. Flocks of Banshees and Seraphs circled while an additional six Covenant cruisers had arrived in addition to the first one. Admiral Whitcomb assured the team that they wouldn't fire, as they didn't wish to destroy the crystal in their possession. John warned Whitcomb that they needed to rendezvous with Cortana at 0715 hours, giving them only twenty minutes. They made haste as quickly as the Spirit dropship would go. As they left, a number of Seraph fighters attempted to box them in however they soon peeled apart when Polaski moved to ram them. As they broke orbit, they noticed that there was far more Covenant ships than there had been previously, as well the husks of many destroyed vessels, obliterated by Cortana during a naval skirmish while they had been planet-side. It became apparent that the Covenant were not willing to give up, legions of Sangheili Rangers, engineering drones and singleships were inbound from all directions. Worse they were at the LZ and the Ascendant Justice was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, the ship appeared from slipspace - now piggybacking the Paris-class heavy frigate UNSC Gettysburg. The dropship managed to make it into Ascendant Justice's launch bay shortly before Cortana moved the hybrid-ship to slipspace, destroying two of the Covenant cruisers as she left.
Due to the presence of the Forerunner crystal, instead of entering normal slipspace, Ascendant Justice, along with fourteen Covenant cruisers were pulled into an anomalous plane of slipspace; an expanded bubble that differed from tradional slipspace. Due to the radiation surge that the crystal was giving off, John ordered Anton to move it into the reactor compartment of the Longsword, however this did nothing to alter the radioactive output. When the pursuing Covenant ships opened fire, the warped slipspace field caused their shots to disappear and reappear, often on completely different trajectories. One of the ships was taken out by accidental fire from its compatriots. John and the rest of the crew returned to the bridge, while Dr Halsey explained to them what was happening. On the bridge, they pondered what was the best course of action. Sergeant Johnson wished to drop out of the slipspace bubble and fight the Covenant directly while Locklear suggested that they destroy the crystal, both shot down by Dr Halsey as she explained the repercussions of each. Whitcomb settled on bringing them in close to the Covenant vessels and destroying them point blank but as she moved to do so, an explosion damaged their primary drive conduit, forcing Cortana to shut down the engines to conserve power. John deduced the damage to be sabotage, and Whitcomb ordered him to prepare his team for a zero-gee repair of the conduit. Polaski volunteered to use the dropship to get the team in and out faster and they made preparations, with Whitcomb ordering John to come back alive.
John and his newly-reformed Blue Team made their way to the exterior surface of Ascendant Justice in Polaski's Spirit dropship, briefly reminiscing about a similar mission the Spartans had undertaken on Emerald Cove. She landed the dropship at the hole in the conduit, cradling it with the ship's mandibles and providing the Spartans with cover. While Anton, Will and Li prepared to move the arc welder and hull plates scavenged from the Gettysburg, John, Fred and Grace scouted the immediate area. John knew that the saboteurs were still nearby and ordered his team to stay alert while they carried out the repairs on the conduit. A nearby plasma round blurred the active camouflage of six Sangheili that had been creeping up on the Spartans. The team opened fire, John dropping one with a hail of bullets directly to its chest. While trading fire with another Elite, more plasma fire from the slipspace bubble flashed by. The first one dropped John's shield to a quarter charge while the second skimmed directly across the deck, forcing the team to scatter before impacting the dropship, incinerating the cockpit and killing Polaski. The renegade plasma burst also vaporized Li, Anton and the surviving Sangheili. John was heavily wounded by the blast along with Grace, Fred and Will and he soon lost consciousness after informing Admiral Whitcomb that they had repaired the conduit breach.
Massacre at Eridanus Secundus
John awoke in the medical bay of the Gettysburg, and immediately asked Cortana to inform him about what had happened since his mission to repair the drive conduit. The AI confirmed that his mission had been a success, but that Anton-044, Li-008 and Petty Officer Polaski had been killed. He was struck that the pilot's death affected him so much, and thought that she would have made a good Spartan. John than marked Li and Anton as Missing in Action in his team roster, as per ONI Directive 930. He studied the list of other Spartans, and found himself shocked, not having realized that a dozen more had been added as MIA. He was informed by Cortana that Kelly had taken second-degree burns to seventy-two percent of her body from the Mgalekgolo's assault cannon blasts in CASTLE Base and required dermacortic steroids to recover, while Dr Halsey was performing exploratory surgery on Linda, who remained cryogenically frozen. Cortana told John that Dr Halsey would inform him about the risks concerning the revival of the Spartan without access to a proper medically facility. John was perturbed by Cortana's lack of detail, and resolved to ask the doctor about Linda, and Cortana, whom he had noticed a shift in temperament from since her time in the control center of Installation 04. Cortana then briefed John about the status of the Gettysburg-Ascendant Justice before telling him that Admiral Whitcomb intended to risk another slipspace jump in order to contact UNSC High Command. When John asked why, Cortana told him that the Covenant had found Earth. Shocked into action, he demanded an explanation from Cortana and she showed him the Covenant communiques that she had intercepted, all of which gave their terminating coordinates as the location of Sol. He noted that he had seen the symbols composing the coordinates on Côte d'Azur but decided to leave any speculation as to their meaning to Cortana and ONI as the more important fact was that the Covenant was going to attack Earth. John made his way to Admiral Whitcomb on the bridge, despite warnings from Cortana that he was not to leave the medical bay under Dr Halsey's order and being admonished on his attitude change from Cortana. On the bridge, Whitcomb informed the Spartan that the slipspace jump had transported them into the Eridanus system. John, recalling his first mission, informed Whitcomb that he knew of a place where humans may yet live after the Covenant invaded the system and glassed Eridanus II.
Reporting to Dr Halsey in the ship's clean room, he told her that he was fit for duty despite her knowing that he was injured to the point where he should be in shock and had had no sleep in the last week other than unconsciousness brought on by his wounds. Halsey discussed with him the reasons she had summoned him: she wished to speak about his reports from the Halo construct. First she played back mission logs from Locklear, Johnson, and Private Wallace Jenkins. John watched as Captain Keyes, Sergeant Johnson and the other members of their squad were overrun by Flood Pod infectors in the containment facility on the Halo ring. Halsey noted that Johnson was the only one to escape before she showed John the files pertaining to Johnson's diagnosis of Boren's Syndrome. John didn't understand the connection between the Sergeant's sickness and his surviving the Flood so Halsey explained how the disease had scrambled Johnson's nervous system to the extent that the Flood had been unable to force a match.[note 3] Dr Halsey notified John that she had prepared two separate reports for ONI Section Three: the first containing all relevant data from her analysis and possible technology to counter an initial Flood infestation while the second contained all the same data, with the addition of the mission logs from Jenkins and Johnson as well as the Sergeant's medical files. Handing over the second report had the chance of expediting the chance to find a countermeasure to the Flood, but it would also result in the Sergeant's death, as ONI would dissect him with the hope of even having the tiniest chance to replicating Johnson's medical condition. She gave John the decision which report to give to ONI; she wished to give him a final lesson, the chance to make the decision she thought she couldn't make. She then dismissed him as she had to prepare Linda for surgery.
Arriving in the Eridanus system, John was present on the bridge of the Gettysburg, directing the crew towards the system's asteroid belt while Cortana conducted a search for the specific asteroid that contained the rebel base. At Admiral Whitcomb's request, John described his first mission, in which he had extracted the rebel leader Colonel Robert Watts. Dr Halsey informed him that her surgery on Linda had been a success, her flash cloned kidneys and liver had been accepted by her body. This brought John great relief, as he had thought that one of his closest teammates had been lost. Halsey warned them that she would require at least a week to recover, and even then she wouldn't be combat-ready. Cortana managed to locate three asteroids that fit John's search parameters and he immediately recognized the correct one. Admiral Whitcomb opened communications with the rebel base, and was greeted by Governor Jacob Jiles, of whom John, for reasons he didn't understand, took an instant dislike to. The Governor sent his fleet of assorted craft to surround the Gettysburg-Ascendant Justice, and attempted to blackmail Whitcomb with the threat of nuclear destruction, to which the Admiral responded to be using one of Ascendant Justice's weapons to destroy an asteroid of comparable size to Eridanus Secundus. Perturbed by this show of force, Jiles changed tactics, inviting the crew of the hybrid-ship into the base for dinner so that they could discuss the crew's needs. With Cortana remaining behind to destroy the base if the crew failed to return, they departed to meet the Governor.
Linking mission telemetry with Cortana, John learned that the rebels had reinforced the asteroid with Titanium-A armor that was well camouflaged as well as sections that had ablative undercoats to reflect radar. She warned him that the guards were armed with MA3 assault rifles and concealed plasma pistols, as well as a hidden fireteam of ten observing the proceedings from the side passages. John assured her that they were just there for backup in case things went wrong, and wouldn't be a problem. Governor Giles led the delegation out of the bay, John noting that the passageway could be a good ambush spot and keeping an eye on his motion tracker. Upon being led into a circular room in which the Governor prepared a meal for the group, John searched the room for any hidden men, surveillance devices or false passages but found nothing. Admiral Whitcomb told Jiles of the predicament they were in, telling him everything that had happened since the fall of Reach, culminating with their arrival in the system, and the radiation emitted by the crystal ensuring that the Covenant would follow them there. As the Governor struggled to come to terms with the information he had been presented, Whitcomb promised him that in exchange for the rebel's help, he would offer him and his people amnesty. As the Governor started to doubt the sincerity of the Admiral's words, a Covenant cruiser arrived in the system, making its way towards the asteroid belt.
John and the rest of the delegation hastily made their way back to the Gettysburg-Ascendant Justice, the Admiral ordering John to man the Gettysburg's primary weapons station. John had cross-trained on the weapons systems of every UNSC warship, but hadn't actually used the weapons in combat. When Whitcomb proposed a plan involving using the rebel's nuclear weaponry, Jiles admitted that he had been bluffing, they didn't have any nuclear weapons. Admiral Whitcomb then revealed their own bluff: out of the Ascendant Justice's seven plasma turrets, only one was functional. Whitcomb allowed Jiles to evacuate his people while he drew the Covenant cruiser away. With their one functioning plasma turret's magnetic coils overloaded, Whitcomb asked if there was anything remaining on Weapons Station One. John revealed that there was no Archer missiles, MAC rounds or Shiva nuclear missiles remaining. John came up with the idea that Cortana could use the superconducting coils of the Gettysburg's MAC cannon to shape and aim the plasma for the Ascendant Justice's weaponry. Admiral Whitcomb had John launch two of the ship's remaining Clarion spy drones to see around a large asteroid sheltering them from the Covenant cruiser. With the drones, Whitcomb realized that the Covenant ship was going to slingshot around the asteroid. John witnessed the magnetic coils of the Gettysburg feeding energy into the Ascendant Justice's functioning turret. When the Covenant ship came about, Cortana's shot hit first. The Covenant cruiser was obliterated, but the shot had deactivated their engines and reactor. John retrieved one of the Clarion drones, the other having been destroyed in the exchange, while reporting that the MAC gun's accelerating cores were still online. Suddenly, Gile's fleet approached them. While Lieutenant Haverson feared that they were going to finish them off, Whitcomb assured them that Jiles needed them alive, as the Covenant was sure to send more ships.
Shortly after their engagement with the Covenant cruiser, Admiral Whitcomb ordered John and the other Spartan-IIs to report to the Gettysburg's machine shop to repair their equipment and get at least six hours of sleep, while Governor Jile's people carried out repairs on their ship. Fred and Will swapped out damaged components of Linda's MJOLNIR armor with pieces scavenged from CASTLE Base on Reach. Linda had opted to accompany the team despite her injuries and required treatment time. He found himself bitter about the fact that he couldn't join in with his team's jokes about her return from the dead; as the commander, he had been taught by CPO Mendez to repress his external emotional reactions. Upon the arrival of Corporal Locklear and Sergeant Johnson in the bay, John was inwardly torn by the knowledge that the Marine's fate rested in his hands dependent on which of the data crystals Dr Halsey had given him he turned over to ONI. After Halsey called Kelly away to report to her for her last injection of dermacortic steroids, John briefed the assembled team on what knew of the Covenant's plan. John knew that the UNSC Home Fleet wouldn't be able to stop the Covenant's full might, but that their absolute priority should be to warn Earth regardless. Sergeant Johnson suggested that they launch an infiltration to destroy the Covenant command-and-control center Unyielding Hierophant. John concurred, and ordered his team to assemble for their new mission: Operation: FIRST STRIKE.
Upon his arrival at the bridge, John witnessed the departure of Dr Halsey, along with the sedated Kelly leaving the Gettysburg's launch bay in Governor Jiles' personal vessel. He recognized the automated code that the Doctor used to respond to their hails: Dr Halsey was leaving on her own mission. Whitcomb ordered Haverson to summon Locklear, of whom they had seen conversing with Halsey before she left, to the bridge but the ODST refused to answer his COM. Haverson then left the bridge to find him. Whitcomb ordered John to take control of the Engineering and NAV stations. Jiles insisted that he evacuate his people off the Gettysburg and out of harms way as a pair of Covenant cruisers appeared in the system, to which the Admiral agreed. Without warning, thirty more Covenant ships appeared, encircling them. Admiral Whitcomb reiterated the story of the Alamo to John, and while the soldiers in the Alamo were eventually killed, the aggressors allowed the civilians in the fort to live. Whitcomb knew that unlike that scenario, there was no way out for any of them and so the Admiral opted to jump to slipspace, abandoning Governor Jiles and his people to their certain doom. Thinking to his own personal moral dilemma regarding Sergeant Johnson's medical data, John asked the Admiral if leaving was the right thing to do, to which he responded that his duty was to the people of Earth, not the rebels of Eridanus, and even if they stayed to fight, they would all end up dead regardless.
Once Gettysberg-Ascendant Justice had entered slipspace, John and his team were ordered to report to the Gettysburg's officers' club. Lieutenant Haverson appeared after investigating B-Deck, the site of Corporal Locklear's accidental suicide. He informed the team that the crystal had been destroyed, to which Admiral Whitcomb declared that at least the Covenant wouldn't be able to make use of whatever shards may remain in slipspace. Despite evidence against Dr Halsey, John still wanted to trust that she had done what she had for the greater good. John brought up his proposal for the mission to strike the Covenant command-and-control station to which the Admiral replied that his request was denied. Citing the loss of the ship and with it, Earth's warning, as well as the data stored within Cortana about Halo, the Flood and Covenant technology as being too much to risk. Cortana told them that she would be able to split off portions of her infiltration programming into John's armor, of which she had learned from her encounter with the Covenant AI. Whitcomb reluctantly approved their mission, but warning him that he wouldn't be able to assist, as his first and only priority had to be to return to Earth.
John and his team set to work on preparing for their mission. Their Spirit dropship was heavily reinforced with layers of lead, boron fibers and Titanium A hull plates in order to withstand the transition out of slipspace. Admiral Whitcomb inserted the copied Cortana fragment into his neural interface before asking if Linda was fit to come on the operation with them, to which she replied in the affirmative. He found Lieutenant Haverson and informed him that he had Dr Halsey's analysis on the Flood After briefly hesitating on which data crystal to give the Lieutenant, he opted to pass on the complete files containing Sergeant Johnson's medical data, believing that he had to take the chance that ONI could find a countermeasure to the Flood threat. With ten minutes left until they reached the drop zone, John shook Haverson's hand one last time, before being given a final order from Admiral Whitcomb: Give them hell.
As soon as the Spirit dropship left Ascendant Justice's launch bay, it were exposed to the incredibly intense stress that slipspace put on such a small vessel, and although their energy shielding allowed them to withstand the radiation produced by the slipstream, John and team were still shaken to the bone, and the transition back into normal space was so violent that it caused all of the Spartans to lose consciousness. John was the first to wake up, and after ensuring that everyone was still alive, revived them with a mild stimulant. He opened the dropship's hatch and found that they had arrived in the center of Covenant fleet operations in the Tau Ceti system. Cortana informed them that there was at least five hundred Covenant ships present, a statistic that staggered John as he realized that with such numbers, the Covenant would steamroll Earth's defenses regardless of whether Admiral Whitcomb made it back with his warning in time. Resolving to stop the threat as he had stopped the galaxy-cleansing Halo construct, John told the copied Cortana to inform the Covenant vessels that their engines were crippled and that they required assistance to move, hoping that this would get them closer to Unyielding Hierophant. John ordered his team to do a weapons and armor check, having his suit inspected by Linda before she returned the favor. He told his team that there going in heavy, aside from Linda, who would use her sniper rifle to provide long-range cover for the team. John took a battle rifle, a pair of suppressed submachine guns and a dozen fragmentation grenades as well as extra clips for his weapons, two Lotus anti-tank mines, several cans of C-7 explosive, detonators, timers, two first aid kits and a Fiber-optic probe.
Knowing of their close proximity to the Covenant, John ordered his team to stay off the COM, before using the fiber-optic probe to scout the area outside the dropship. Among the vast numbers of Covenant vessels, he spotted the tug that arrived to ferry their dropship. John soon spotted their target: the gigantic Covenant space station, Unyielding Hierophant. After several minutes, the tug arrived at the station. Upon their arrival, the dropship's hatch was opened but fortunately for the team, it was a group of Huragok. The aliens ignored John and the others, so the Spartans did the same, leaving the Huragok to their repairs. Using the probe, John saw that they had arrived in a bay that serviced dropships and other singleships and aside from the thousands of Huragok in the area, there was no sign of any hostiles. The team made their way up to an overhead deck where they observed the area. They noticed a pair of Unggoy pushing carts of fluids, but John knew they would be easy to avoid. The team then made their way to a terminal, where they covered John as he accessed it. The copied Cortana fragment informed him that she had secured them their own channel and encrypted it so they could communicate. She told John that there was a central reactor complex on each lobe of the station, and if they could physically deliver her to one of them, she could cause an overload that would ensure the destruction of the entire station. John opted to leave another copy of the Cortana fragment in the Covenant systems until he needed her; despite her warnings that complications could arise from using a copy of a copy, he deemed it necessary as he needed a way to bypass the Covenant security systems. The team made their way through kilometers of ducting, following the path the fragment had given them for over eleven hours before it terminated in a dead end. After the copied Cortana offered several alternate routes, John opted for the quickest one, knowing that time was of the essence. The team made their way to a huge open section of the station. John confirmed the locations that the team needed, the window to the repair bay for their exfiltration, and the structure that provided the most direct route to the reactor complex. Linda separated from the group, ascending to the rooftops to provide overwatch. Once she was in place, John made a run for the structure, crushing the skull of an Unggoy with the butt of his rifle as he went. As he made his way up the stairs of the building, Linda notified him of the presence of unarmed Sangheili, before firing a quartet of shots from her sniper rifle to kill a Mgalekgolo pair advancing on their position. Once he reached the top, he made his way into the temple, using one of the giant columns in the room to take cover and cover his team as they entered. Cortana than warned John that there was Jiralhanae guards in the temple. As Blue Team made their way into the temple going from cover to cover using the pillars, John noticed a contact on his motion tracker, one that moved as fast as him. As the Brute rounded his pillar, John opened fire at point blank, as did Will and Fred but they were unable to drop the creature. At the same time, another Jiralhanae fired three rounds from its weapon at Grace-093. The first Brute tackled John, knocking his rifle away before pounding his shields flat, grabbing his neck and squeezing. John noted that even in his MJOLNIR armor, he was not as strong as the Jiralhanae. While the rest of Blue Team engaged other targets, John struggled as the Brute attempted to strangle him to death. Once his shields reached a quarter charge, John used a maneuver known as "shrimping" to escape from the Jiralhanae's grasp. Using its moment of disorientation, John elbowed the Brute in the neck, swept its own elbow out before attempting to break it and finally, using his legs and body to keep the Brute pinned down. The powerful Covenant soldier pushed itself and John up with its free arm but the Spartan shoved a fragmentation grenade into its belt before sweeping its arm out. The grenade killed the Jiralhanae while its body shielded the Spartan from harm. Quickly recovering, John searched for the rest of his team. Having lost his probe during the scuffle with the Brute, he located Grace's body, torn open by Brute Shot rounds. Another pair of Jiralhanae destroyed the column John was using for cover and he only just managed to escape being crushed. Unwilling to leave Grace's body behind in case she was still alive, John used one of his Lotus anti-tank mines to destroy the temple opening and crush the two Jiralhanae. He discovered that Grace had been killed. Saddened by her loss, John activated her armor's fail-safe detonation system, ensuring that the Covenant wouldn't get her body.
Cortana's fragment directed the team to an access hatch for Covenant Huragok. Once they had entered she shut it behind them. They followed the shaft until they arrived in one of Unyielding Hierophant's massive reactor rooms. Will signaled the team to freeze until a group of Kig-Yar had passed; as soon as they did John inserted the Cortana fragment into another terminal. She notified them that due to the limited Covenant counterintrusion measures in the system, she could begin the reactor overload. He told her to begin the overload immediately, as the station and the Covenant fleet could leave for Earth at any moment. With the overload commencing and the team having ten minutes to exfil, they proceeded to the exit route that Cortana had given them, killing the Kig-Yar guards on the catwalk. Making their way to an elevator car, Blue Team ascended to the heat exchange plant for the reactors, killing the two Sangheili in the room. At this time, the fail-safe detonation system in Grace's armor exploded, consuming a dozen Unggoy and their Sangheili overseers, a final action that John knew would have pleased her. John realized that they needed to get to the airlocks quickly and attempted to raise communications with Linda, telling her to snipe several Banshee pilots out of their vehicles near the heat exchange plant so that they could use the vehicles to leave the station but warning her not to respond to keep the Covenant from discovering her location. John clicked his COM, attracting the Banshees towards him. As they flew in on a strafing run Linda, from an unknown position to John, performed three impossible shots with her sniper rifle, killing all three of the Banshee pilots with lethal ricochets. John, Fred and Will quickly commandeered the Banshees. As they flew higher, Linda continued to provide support, felling another pair of Banshees that pursued them. The team piloted the Banshees to the window leading to the repair bays. John gave his last Lotus mine to Fred, telling him to set it for a remote detonation. He contacted the Cortana fragment he had left in the system, to discover that it had spun off hundreds of copies of myself as a result of being overwhelmed by the Covenant's security programming, but had one copy dedicated to communicating with the team. It informed John that it could open the airlock doors but John refused to leave immediately, opting to go back for Linda. He told Fred that if he wasn't back in three minutes, to detonate the mine and exfiltrate.
Even as John made his way back into the city Linda continued to provide support, eliminating another two Banshees that tried to shoot John down. Scanning the area for the sniper, John's Banshee was almost destroyed by a Wraith tank before he received an acknowledgement from her in the form of the Spartan-derived Oly Oly Oxen Free and a NAV marker. Eventually locating the Spartan, who had been hiding in broad daylight, using an impossible angle to prevent the sun from giving her position, John picked Linda up in his Banshee, forcing its cowling open so they could both fit. As the pair made their way pack to the exfiltration point, it became clear to John that the increasing number of Cortana copies was taking its toll on her, as she struggled to process his request to open the airlock. Fred detonated the Lotus anti-tank mine on the airlock window, but the detonation failed to do any damage. As more Banshees and Ghosts pursued them, the airlock doors finally began to open. John and Linda, along with Fred and Will in their own Banshees opened fire on the weakened plaza window and eventually it shattered, depressurizing the atrium and killing all of the Covenant forces within. After briefly losing control of the Banshee due to the rapid depressurization that flung him out of the station and only remaining attached by his tether, John managed to correct his momentum before dropping a NAV marker on a Covenant dropship drifting dead in space. The team made it into the vessel, using the Covenant fleet's disorientation to their advantage and John ordered Linda to pilot the ship slowly to the shadow of a nearby moon, so as to not attract attention from the fleet.
Fred informed John that the Covenant battle network was in disarray, with the copied Cortana fragments aboard Unyielding Hierophant broadcasting different system error codes and communiques between ships broadcasting their confusion as to what was happening. Suddenly, he received a broadcast from the UNSC E-Band: Oly Oly Oxen Free. After securing the channel, John learned that Admiral Whitcomb had, at Lieutenant Haverson's suggestion, dropped out of slipspace on the edge of the Tau Ceti system and hidden in the Oort cloud to gather intelligence. He told John that he knew that even if they destroyed the Unyielding Hierophant, there would still be a significant number of Covenant ships remaining, enough to blow past Earth's defenses regardless of the station's destruction. He then told John that as they had done their part, it was now time for him to do his, and ordered the Spartans to return to the UNSC Gettysburg, which had been separated from Ascendant Justice. Upon returning to the Gettysburg's bridge, he found only Sergeant Johnson and Cortana were present. John asked where the Admiral and Lieutenant Haverson were but Johnson instead showed him directly, using a Clarion spy drone to show the position of Ascendant Justice. Cortana revealed that while Blue Team had been on their mission, they had been attuning Ascendant Justice's slipspace drive to the Gettysburg. Once communications were reestablished, John discovered that Whitcomb and Haverson were on the Ascendant Justice. The Admiral revealed his intentions: he was going to lure the Covenant fleet in close with a holographic display of the crystal from Reach. Taking fire from the Covenant ships and returning with a salvo of their own, Whitcomb crashed the Ascendant Justice nose-first into the Unyielding Hierophant. John watched as the injured Whitcomb and Haverson broadcast a systemwide transmission to the surrounding Covenant forces, boasting that he had their "holiest of holies" and that they were welcome to come and take it. As Cortana readied the Gettysburg for a slipspace jump to Earth, Whitcomb gave John his final orders: under no circumstances was he to engage the enemy, he was to head straight for Earth and make his report. The Admiral then recalled his previous discussion with John about the Alamo. John added the names of Whitcomb and Haverson to the list of people who had made a difference to him. He watched as the Admiral fired a submachine gun at hordes of energy sword-wielding Sangheili warriors before the feed cut off. A moment later, video footage from the Clarion spy drone of the Unyielding Hierophant exploding, vaporizing the vast majority of the fleet gathered around it. With only a dozen ships still functional from the once massive fleet, John recalled Admiral Whitcomb's final words, "a brilliant strategic victory", before the Gettysburg entered slipspace.
Despite the "overwhelming" evidence that the Covenant had found Earth, John still ensured that the Gettysburg performed the required random slipspace jump before correcting its approach to Earth as per the Cole Protocol. With thirty-five hours until arrival at Earth, Cortana told John of her uneasiness regarding the copies she had split off from herself for Operation: FIRST STRIKE, worried that as the copies had some of her core programming, it may indicate that there was some other form of instability in her. John reassured her that they couldn't have done the mission without her and that her programming was as good as theirs. While Cortana continued to monitor slipspace for any anomalies, John opened his team roster and added the names of the Spartans who had fallen as Missing in Action. He added Kelly as well, as she was truly missing having been abducted by Dr Halsey for her own mission and John couldn't help himself from worrying about both of them. Finally he added Corporal Locklear, Petty Officer Polaski, Lieutenant Haverson and Admiral Whitcomb as Killed in action. He ensured that hi mission report detailed Whitcomb and Haverson's heroism, the two of them stopping a whole Covenant armada, willingly sacrificing themselves to buy humanity some time. John knew that they would both live on as inspirations to the human race. Sergeant Johnson entered the bridge after rounding up all of the Huragok from Ascendant Justice on the ships B-Deck before handing over the data crystal containing Dr Halsey's research into the Flood, Haverson having him to give it to John to deliver to the Office of Naval Intelligence himself. Now, after witnessing the difference one man could make to the war effort, and understanding Dr Halsey's desire to save everyone she could, John crushed the data crystal containing the full mission data, unwilling to sacrifice Sergeant Johnson. He resolved that ONI would have to make use of the data without the Sergeant's medical data and mission logs. Despite the fact that they had temporarily stopped the Covenant threat, John knew that they would come for Earth regardless, but he knew that they had bought the planet some time to prepare, and that he was ready to fight when the Covenant arrived at the planet.
Cairo Station and Mark VI
The UNSC Gettysburg reached Earth by October 19. The next day, John reported to the armory of the Moncton-class orbital weapon platform Cairo Station near midday in order to receive a suit of Mark VI Mjolnir armor. The gunnery sergeant overseeing the armory noted the various types of damage the John's Mark V had sustained at Reach, Installation 04, and aboard the Unyielding Hierophant. To this, John coolly responded by stating that he ought to tell that to the Covenant, seeing as those he'd killed hadn't seemed to have noticed. He then cooperated with the sergeant in order to run the armor through a series of diagnostic tests that ensured its targeting and energy shielding were working correctly. Sergeant Major Avery Johnson came to the armory to collect John so that the two of them could proceed to the bridge where they were to be honored for their recent actions. John had agreed to participate in the ceremony while others on Blue Team were debriefed or subjected to psychological analysis with the understanding that there wouldn't even be cameras at the event, but when he and Johnson stepped off a tram near their destination they were greeted not just by cameras but by a cheering crowd of Marines as well. At this, Johnson reminded him that he was completely hidden inside his armor, despite having told the sergeant he would be dressed more appropriately for the occasion.
John and Sergeant Johnson made their way onto the bridge of the Cairo Station, where they saluted Fleet Admiral Lord Terrence Hood, Chief of Naval Operations and the overall head of the United Nations Space Command. The Admiral greeted the pair and expressed his gratitude for their return. Before he could continue, Cortana informed him that she had detected a "whisper" near Io and sent probes to investigate. Admiral Hood apologized to John and the Sergeant that they would have to make the awards ceremony quick and as he turned away to receive the medals, Cortana complemented John's new armor. Admiral Hood first addressed Sergeant Johnson, bestowing to him the Colonial Cross for his acts of singular daring and devotion. Hood then gave Commander Miranda Keyes her father's Colonial Cross, awarded for his bravery in the face of impossible odds. Suddenly, alarms began to blare through Cairo Station as a fleet of fifteen Covenant ships exited slipspace near the UNSC battle cluster. Immediately, Fleet Admiral Harper began to move his his fleet to engage the numerically inferior Covenant fleet but Hood ordered him to move his ships into a defensive perimeter around the cluster consisting of the Cairo, Athens and Malta stations. He then order Commander Keyes to report to her ship and link up with the fleet. Hood than gave Cortana control of the station's MAC gun, instructing her to fire as the enemy ships came into range. As Admiral Hood expressed his concern that the Covenant fleet at Reach had been fifty times the size of the one attacking Earth, a junior officer warned them that Covenant boarding craft were inbound to the station. Hood ordered John and Sergeant Johnson to defend the station. The pair left the command center, forming up with a group of Marines readying for battle. John selected some armaments from weapons lockers in the walls before following Johnson and the Marines into Recreation R-01. Johnson deployed an M247 machine gun while the rest of the team took cover behind combat barriers. A Covenant boarding craft soon latched onto an adjacent section of the station, and John waited as Covenant forces burned their way through a nearby bulkhead. Eventually, the door exploded, and Sangheili and Unggoy charged into the room, firing at the human defenders. John, Sergeant Johnson and the Marines were ultimately able to defend the recreation room, repelling all the Covenant soldiers after a brief fight.
After clearing out a group of Covenant in the next corridor, the Marines remained behind to secure the area while John pushed ahead. Entering Security R-01, the Spartan used a mounted machine gun to assist a group of Marines in Commons R-01 below. Killing more Covenant as he went, John eventually entered Hangar Bay A, where a group of UNSC Marines were attempting to hold off Covenant emerging from a boarding craft that had docked on the bay window. With the assistance of the Spartan, the UNSC forces were successful in holding off the Covenant assault. Just as they managed to clear the area, one of the Marines noticed that Covenant boarders were retreating from Malta Station. Cortana opened up communications with the station. Just as the Malta's defense coordinator confirmed that the Covenant had indeed withdrawn from the station, the Malta suddenly exploded in a huge ball of fire. After eliminating another group of Covenant that entered the bay, John left through the way they had entered and soon found himself in Hangar Bay B, where he unpinned a group of Marine's from suppressing fire by Covenant plasma cannons and killed off the other Covenant forces in the room. Suddenly, the Athens station exploded in the same way that the Malta had before it. Cortana informed Admiral Hood that the Covenant had likely used bombs to destroy the orbital defense platforms from within. Hood concluded that they had likely brought one onto the Cairo as well, and tasked John with finding it.
John made his through Cairo Station's MAC Storage area, killing a pair of Stealth Sangheili but was too slow to stop the master gunnery sergeant's death at the hands of a team of Sangheili. John quickly slew the sergeant's killers and made his way into Commons B-01 which had been completely overrun by Covenant forces. John fought his way across the commons area, killing Sangheili, Unggoy as well as plasma cannon operators before proceeding through the security room. John found Commander Keyes, along with her ship's crewmen and Sergeant Johnson pinned down by another group of Covenant. With the Spartan's help, the Covenant were repulsed, allowing Keyes, Johnson and her crew to board UNSC In Amber Clad. John proceeded out of an airlock, traversing across the vacuum of space towards Portside Shipping. As the Spartan engaged Sangheili Rangers in the zero-gee environment, Cortana detected the presence of a Covenant antimatter charge in the station's fire control center. Admiral Hood ordered John to proceed there immediately. Once inside the Portside shipping bay, John assisted the Marines there in defeating a swarm of Yanme'e, before riding the cargo lift down to the lower airlock. Lord Hood ordered Cortana to open fire with the station's MAC gun as the Covenant fleet entered firing range while Harper led the first echelon of Fifth Fleet to engage the thirteen cruisers of the Covenant fleet while the second echelon would attack the two assault carriers. As John emerged into another zero-gee section of the station, he witnessed one of the Covenant assault carriers soar past the station, using the opening in the station's defense cluster to slip by and proceed directly down to Earth. John fought his past more Covenant rangers to the elevator to firing control. As the elevator descended, Cortana warned him of the presence of a number of Sangheili guarding the bomb. As the Spartan fought against the sizable Covenant force in the room, he witnessed the second assault carrier bypass the Cairo, following the first one towards Earth. With only moments to spare John finished off all of the Covenant guards and disarmed the bomb.
Commander Miranda Keyes informed Admiral Hood that the second carrier's energy shield was down and she was in position to launch an assault but Hood denied her, knowing that the comparatively-tiny frigate would stand no chance against the Covenant vessel even without it's shield. John requested permission to leave the station, telling Admiral Hood that he intended to take the Covenant's own bomb and use it to destroy one the assault carrier. After only a moments hesitation, Hood granted his request. As John took the bomb up an elevator towards Hangar C-01, Cortana admonished him for his daring plan but ultimately decided to come with him. Upon reaching his destination, John opened the bay doors, revealing the space battle occurring beyond. As the antimatter charge was pulled out into space, John grabbed onto one of its many anchoring spikes and was pulled out of the station. The first assault carrier was too far to reach but the second one was right beneath him so he guided the bomb towards it. As he approached, the carrier opened fire on a nearby Marathon-class cruiser, narrowly missing him. A flight of Longsword fighters launched an attack run on the unshielded carrier, tearing open a rent in its hull plating and allowing John to guide the bomb in. Arriving in the ship's massive reactor room, John activated the bomb next to the ship's Pinch fusion reactor and kicked off the bomb, soaring out through the hole created by the Longswords. Narrowly making it out as the assault carrier was destroyed, John shot across the vacuum of space towards the In Amber Clad. Upon arrival, Commander Keyes ordered him to get inside and gear up: the other assault carrier had made landfall on Earth.
In Amber Clad descended to the city of Mombasa, Kenya, on the East African coast., where the Covenant CAS-class assault carrier Solemn Penance was in the process of deploying troops for a purpose that was set unknown to the UNSC. To this end, John was sent by Admiral Hood, along with Sergeant Johnson and three Pelican dropships full of Marines and ODSTs to personally capture the Prophet of Regret, whom Cortana had discovered though intercepted Covenant communications, was on board the carrier and was calling for help. As the ships flew over Old Mombasa towards the city center, over which the assault carrier was located, A Scarab suddenly crashed through a nearby building. The Covenant walker opened fire on the Pelicans with its main cannon, destroying the center dropship. As the other two attempted to veer off, fire from the Scarab's heavy plasma repeaters struck their engines. The dropship carrying John and his team crashed into a building and flipped. John momentarily lost consciousness following the impact but awoke at Cortana's urging and pulled himself out of the burning wreckage. She assured him she was working on a solution to find them transport so they might still achieve their objective. The Master Chief and the Marines who had survived the crash made their way through an alley, killing a lone Unggoy in the process. On the opposite side the team ambushed a group of unaware Covenant around a large three story building. Noting the defensible nature of the area, the team opted to dig in and defend that position until they could be extracted. Taking up position in the three story building, the team held out against waves of Covenant attackers that emerged from nearby alleys. With Johnson calling out targets from the roof of the building while providing sniper rifle, John and the Marines fought through groups of Sangheili, Unggoy, Kig-Yar and Yanme'e. Eventually, a Phantom arrived, using its heavy plasma cannons to suppress the UNSC defenders while deploying Covenant soldiers directly into the courtyard in front of the building. Eventually, John and his team were able to repel the Covenant assault, and a Pelican pilot informed them that there was an LZ suitable for pickup on the other side of some nearby buildings. Just as Sergeant Johnson ordered someone to place a satchel charge on an obstructing gate, a Mgalekgolo pair burst into the area, destroying the gate. Johnson called for the Marines to stand back and let the Spartan handle the new threat. After a brief fight, in which John was successful to slaying the Mgalekgolo gestalts, Cortana received a distress call from the leader of the squad from the second downed Pelican. She told the squad to hole up and wait for them to arrive. John and the team worked their way from there toward the LZ, which was at a section of collapsed highway. While engaging Kig-Yar forces, the Pelican swooped in to deploy more Marines to assist John while Sergeant Johnson, at the behest of Commander Keyes boarded with the new goal of assisting in the deployment of armor and reinforcements throughout the city, the plan to board the Solemn Penance forgotten for the time being.
John and the Marines joining him fought their way through an alley under fire from Kig-Yar snipers and Yanme'e, also contending with cloaked Sangheili that ambushed them from nearby overhangs. After fighting their way past waves of Covenant infantry, John made it to Hotel Zanzibar, where Second Squad was pinned down in the lobby by a Covenant Type-42 plasma cannon. Neutralizing the threat, John met with Sergeant Stacker, who informed him that their crash site was on the other side of the hotel, but was swarming with Covenant. Following the Sergeant, John made his way through the darkened hotel corridors, killing a patrol of Covenant before emerging on the other side. A Phantom arrived and landed more troops to engage the UNSC forces but at that moment, a Warthog arrived to assist. The driver of the vehicle informed John that Commander Keyes had sent it specifically for him. Now that Second Squad was safe, Cortana turned John's attention back to the CAS-class assault carrier, which she noted was currently surrounded by many Covenant troops directly beneath where its gravity lift offered a point of entry near the city center. John, Private First Class Chips Dubbo, and another Marine set out in the Warthog across the Old Mombasa beach with the aim of reaching Kilindini Bridge and using it to cross Kilindini Channel into New Mombasa. The trio sped past the wreckage of Second Squad's Pelican, engaging the Covenant forces around it before contending with a number of Ghosts, infantry and a Kig-Yar sniper in a Covenant tower emplacement on a beachhead with an inactive Covenant artillery piece. On the second stretch of beach, a Phantom arrived to deploy more Ghosts in an attempt to stop the UNSC forces but they too fell to John's Warthog. Reaching a third section of beach, John assisted several Marines in a small structure to defend against Sangheili deployed directly onto the beach by insertion pods launched by the Solemn Penance. John took the Warthog into a tunnel that would ultimately lead him to the bridge. Cortana told John that while analyzing the Covenant Covenant battle network, she had learned that the Covenant was in confusion about the presence of humanity on the planet, as if they hadn't been expecting them to be there and thus explaining the small number of ships in their fleet, something that seemed counter to his earlier operation. Soon joined by another Warthog, John and the Marines made their way through several Covenant positions, including shielded plasma turrets, Ghosts and assorted infantry, including a swarm of Yanme'e who attempted to ambush them near a damaged section of road. Further ahead, they witnessed a Warthog attempting to flee into the tunnel through a hole in the ceiling being destroyed by the Scarab walker they had encountered earlier. John soon encountered a convoy of Covenant Shadow troop transports attempting to regroup with Covenant forces deeper in the tunnels. At Cortana's insistence, John was able to destroy all of the Shadows, before killing the Covenant soldiers they had been trying to reinforce. With the way clear, John made his way out of the tunnel.
Upon exiting the tunnel at Kilindini Bridge, John exited the Warthog to approach a small group of surviving Marines watching the same Scarab which had downed his Pelican finish traversing the bridge on the opposite side of the channel, noting that neither fifty caliber rounds or rockets had any effect on the walker. A Pelican lowered then to drop off a M808B Scorpion tank and Sergeant Johnson also disembarked to ask the Marine survivors what had happened to the rest of their platoon. He then ordered the remnants of the devastated platoon to join the Chief, who would be taking control of the tank, in rolling across the bridge in pursuit of the Scarab and the carrier. John climbed aboard the hulking vehicle and began to proceed across bridge, destroying a series of Ghosts and a Wraith tank. As John crossed the center of the bridge, another Marine armed with a rocket launcher emerged from hiding and joined the Spartan. As several Phantom dropships soared by, intending to deliver more Covenant armor to the far side of the bridge, a pair of Banshee fliers attempted to strafe John's tank, but were unsuccessful. More Ghosts were waiting at a toll plaza on the far side but these too fell to the Scorpion's weaponry. Finally a pair of Wraiths and more Banshee's emerged to engage the Spartan. John was able to defeat all of the Covenant vehicles but the Scorpion had suffered heavy damage and the Marines whom had aided him were killed. John left the tank behind and cut across the toll plaza on foot.
John found himself faced with the decision whether to go through the outbound tunnel of the Mtangwe Underpass, which bore the scars of a recent attack by the Scarab, or the corresponding inbound tunnel, which was undamaged. The arrival of Banshees made him dash beneath a concrete canopy which sheltered and island of toll booths in order to remain out of sight. Inside one of the booths were the skeletal remains of an attendant, who John realized must have died transfixed in terror rather than fleeing, something which gave John pause and made Cortana remind him that most people find Scarabs rather unsettling. Shrugging, he moved along the line of booths until he found a straight shot to the inbound tunnel mouth seventy-three meters away. It took about four-and-a-half seconds for him to sprint the distance, sliding to a stop against a burnt-out sedan. He snaked his way through the next eighty meters of tunnel, moving from cover to cover in case of an ambush. Deeper in the underpass, he heard human voices about one hundred and fifty meters ahead but soon discovered the main route had been sealed off and heavy blast doors had also blocked access to the Moi Avenue junction off to his right. He urged Cortana to see if she could find another route to the center of New Mombasa's industrial zone and of course, she already was looking. It was then that he finally spotted the source of the voices: a squad of UNSC Marines from the First Battalion, Seventh Regiment out of Eridanus II. A Marine by the name and rank of Private Jemison sighted the Chief and began to cross the thirty meters between them to greet him, expressing his shock upon seeing the Spartan. John similarly moved to meet the Private but before they could say very much the report of a fuel rod gun from behind him made him spin about and land a single shot from his BR55 battle rifle through the neck of the Unggoy Heavy who had fired the weapon. While the dead Grunt's reflexively-fired second shot from the fuel rod gun accidentally killed many of the Covenant soldiers nearby, a Wraith tank and a massive group of Unggoy entered the area. Corporal Palmer ordered the Marines to fall back into an opening in the tunnel's sewer line that had been created by the first fuel rod round fired by the Unggoy Heavy, offering John the opportunity to go with them. With Cortana telling him that the Marines were sure to need his help, and there was another three Wraiths approaching, John acquiesced. He made it into the tunnel as a round from the Wraith's plasma mortar impacted the opening, dropping his energy shield and killing a number of the Marines. Corporal Palmer began to argue with John, insisting they go back and retrieve the dead while John wished to move forward. Cortana told her that they could not be saved, and carrying them would make them vulnerable. John ordered the Corporal to pass him her TACPAD, showing her why they couldn't go back: four Wraiths and fifty Covenant soldiers in the Mtangwe underpass made it suicidal. John informed Palmer that the rest of her unit were at Beria Plaza, and against the Corporal's protests, ensured her that he was going to escort them there to ensure that the rest of them remained alive. The Spartan privately mentioned his displeasure at retreating to Cortana, telling that the cramped conditions in the tunnel would have allowed him to neutralize all four Wraiths and the infantry. John was the last one up the ladder out of the spillway, destroying the rungs of the ladder to slow down their pursuers.
Outside the tunnel, John was quick to silently take down a Kig-Yar near the tunnel entrance, impaling the Covenant soldier through the head with his fingers and dragging the corpse into the tunnel. They observed the site of a battle that the Covenant had already won, and noted that several of the aliens were still in the area. Noting the corpses of UNSC Army personnel and civilians, Corporal Palmer reported that the Army must have been trying to evacuate the civilians when the Covenant struck. She noted that only two out of the six Warthogs were intact, while one of the Gauss Warthogs had a rupture in its generator. Palmer counted twelve Covenant soldiers still in the area, all Kig-Yar and Unggoy, including one with a deployed plasma cannon. Despite the state that the Gauss Warthog was in, John opted for the superior firepower. He, Corporal Palmer and Private Sullivan would make for the Gauss Hog, with suppressing fire from the rest of the squad keeping the Covenant pinned, before returning the favor, allowing the other five members of the squad to secure the Warthog Troop Transport. John instructed the Marines to prioritize the Kig-Yar snipers and the plasma cannon. After a countdown of five seconds, John sprinted for the Gauss Warthog with Palmer and Sullivan in tow. As he went, he used his M6D magnum to down a pair of Kig-Yar snipers with head and neck shots, before leaping into the air, emptying the magazine of the weapon before swinging into the Warthog, followed by the two Marines. John prioritized targets for Corporal Palmer on the Gauss Cannon, before using the Warthog to cover the second team as they made for the Transport Warthog.
John, at the controls of the Gauss Warthog, led the way towards Beria Plaza. As the convoy rolled into Kilindini Park Cultural Center, they were engaged by a trio of Sangheili, two of which were piloting Ghosts. Corporal Palmer fired a gauss round through the Major's abdomen and into one of the Ghost's plasma containment vessel, incinerating the vehicle's rider. Narrowly missing a second shot on the other Ghost, John ordered Palmer to leave the vehicle, and its wounded rider to the second Warthog. Cortana informed him that the Scarab they had been pursuing was only one of five that had been deployed into Mombasa, but that the nearest one, their target, was moving toward the city's industrial zone in an attempt to target the Mombasa Tether. As they passed the Mwatate Street Transit Center, a pair of Ghosts emerged from a roadway above the center. Palmer destroyed one of the Ghosts, causing it to collide with the other in midair. The pilot from the second Ghost, thrown free from the vehicle landed on the Warthog's hood. As the Sangheili stripped Private Sullivan's assault rifle from his grasp, Palmer fired the gauss cannon into its head point blank. The round shattered the Elite's upper body as well as causing damage to Sullivan's eardrum. Once they were clear, John informed Palmer that they were close to Beria Plaza and informed her of his plan to board the assault carrier over the city. As the convoy entered the plaza, Cortana told John that she had allocated five aerial assets to harass the Scarab, in order to funnel it into an area where they could board the walker. Upon reaching Palace Hotel, Corporal Palmer bade farewell to John. The Spartan made his way into the hotel, John reported to the Lieutenant in charge that the Wraiths and infantry in Kilindini underpass would be upon them in minutes, as well as the Scarab which would be passing on its way to the quays to get a line of sight on the Tether. Just as he began to reprimand the officer for bringing a personal item, he halted when he recognized the photograph: it was a photo of himself at six years old, taken at Lake Gusev. He found himself remembering the day it had been taken, the first time in thirty years he had thought about his life before his conscription into the SPARTAN-II program. Lieutenant Parisa, the small girl in the photograph with him, explained how he had saved her life and after had promised to marry her and keep her safe. John was temporarily overcome with emotion, contemplating the youth he had taken from him when Dr Halsey had abducted him.
Ultimately, John chose not to reveal who he was to Parisa, to avoid robbing her of her memories, and most importantly, it could reveal to the general populace that their government was willing to kidnap young children for its own purposes. Instead, he began to formulate a plan with the Lieutenant to take out the Covenant forces that were approaching their location. After an intense battle against the Covenant armor, the Scarab arrived in the area, destroying a Scorpion tank with its focus cannon before proceeding towards the Mombasa Quays. John was quick to pursue, following the Scarab from a series of elevated walkways and engaging its complement of troops with the assistance of other Marines. Eventually, the Scarab took up a position offering it a line of sight to the Mombasa Tether, but it was unable to maneuver, allowing John to board the walker. While a flight of Pelicans strafed the Scarab with their missiles, John made his way inside the Scarab, engaging its Sangheili Ultra commander and the pilots. After a battle, John killed the Scarab's occupants and destroyed it from the inside. Sergeant Johnson's Pelican arrived, transporting John to UNSC In Amber Clad. Commander Keyes noticed that the Prophet was attempting to flee and requested permission to engage. Admiral Hood denied her request at first, intending to intercept the assault carrier with two heavy cruisers as it broke orbit. It soon became apparent that the Solemn Penance was preparing to enter slipspace while in-atmosphere and as In-Amber Clad was the only ship close enough to follow it, the Admiral gave her the green light. John, now on board In Amber Clad, was present as the ship followed the Prophet of Regret into slipspace.
The UNSC In Amber Clad arrived in the Coelest system on November 2, two weeks after departing from Earth. Commander Keyes soon spotted the Halo construct orbiting the ice giant in the system and told Cortana to pass on all of the information from the first Halo regardless of her security clearance. Noting that the Solemn Penance was deploying troops onto the surface, and knowing that it was even more important to capture the Prophet of Regret, Commander Keyes ordered John to take First Platoon and deploy via SOEIV to secure a landing zone for Sergeant Johnson, who would deliver several Pelicans with reinforcements. As the In Amber Clad passed over the ring, the ship deployed John and the ODSTs of First Platoon. As they entered the atmosphere, the started to take heavy fire from Covenant stationary guns and several of the pods were hit. John managed to make landfall, and emerged from his pod armed with a submachine gun and a rocket launcher. One of the ODSTs immediately informed him that he needed to neutralize the Shade turrets. Using the rocket launcher, John eliminated the various stationary guns around the landing zone before attacking more Covenant soldiers around a nearby structure. Eventually clearing the area, Cortana told Johnson that he was safe to begin his approach. As he acknowledged, Cortana told John that there was several Phantoms inbound. John and the surviving ODSTs from First Platoon were successful in holding the LZ, fighting back several dropships worth of Covenant. With the area secure, Johnson's Pelican arrived, dropping off a Warthog and several reinforcements.
John and his team pressed on, using the Warthog to clear out an encampment of Kig-Yar snipers before arriving at a Covenant-held bridge control structure. As they entered the valley, Covenant inside the structure retracted the bridge, hoping to trap John on their side of the gorge. While under fire from more Shade turrets, as well as Ghosts and infantry, John was successful in clearing the area, before entering the structure, killing the Covenant around the bridge control and lowering the bridge. Upon seeing the hologram of Regret within, Cortana informed the team that she would translate if he said anything of interest. While the bridge was down, a number of Wraiths had taken up position on the other side of the gorge. In response, Johnson ferried in a Scorpion tank for John to use. The Spartan was successful in destroying the Wraiths, in addition to the Ghosts and Banshees that attacked shortly after. John took the tank through a multitude of ruined Forerunner structures, engaging large numbers of infantry, Ghosts and turret emplacements before emerging into a larger area. With another Pelican inbound to reinforce the team, John and the remaining Marines managed to clear a landing zone. The Pelican dropped off a number of resupply canisters containing weapons and ammo for the team. Leaving the tank behind to enter the central structure, the team encountered another hologram of the Prophet. This time, Cortana translated some of his speech for John. The team continued, entering an open area where more Kig-Yar snipers and Yanme'e attempted to stop the team. Eventually they emerged from the other side of the area, where the first of the structures in the lake, and the path to their target, was situated. Cortana informed John that there was still no word about In Amber Clad on the Covenant battle network, explaining it as odd that the Prophet didn't seem to consider them as a serious threat. John fought his way past another Yanme'e ambush from under the bridge and entered the structure, engaging several of the Prophet's personal guardians. John was successful in eliminating his attackers, and approached another hologram of Regret.
Cortana informed John that the Prophet of Regret was planning to activate the installation. Commander Keyes told him that that, with the information she had accessed from the first Halo, she had deduced that the Prophet would need the Activation index to carry out his objective, and ordered Sergeant Johnson to extract his men and meet her at the installation's Library, leaving John to handle the assassination of the Prophet of Regret. John, with the aid of several Marines, fought his way through groups of Covenant until they reached a Anti-gravity gondola docking station guarded by a number of Kig-Yar snipers and Sangheili. After the team cleared the area, a Phantom dropship deployed a pair of Mgalekgolo on to the platform. After a struggle, John managed to take the Covenant behemoths down. Commander Keyes rerouted a Pelican with reinforcements and resupply canisters to John, apologizing that they were all the support they were going to get. A gondola carrying Covenant reinforcements arrived from the opposite structure, of which the Spartan was able to handle with aid from his team. The team boarded the gondola, using it to traverse across the lake to the structure, engaging a group of Yanme'e followed by another gondola of Covenant troops. Upon approach to the structure the team took fire from Kig-Yar snipers and Shade turrets but John was able to defeat the attackers. Inside the structure the team encountered an elevator that would take them underwater to the next structure. The team arrived in the next structure, engaging a group of Unggoy, many of whom were asleep before entering a vast underwater chamber dominated by a massive hologram of the Prophet of Regret. After clearing out huge amounts of Covenant, including more Mgalekgolo, Sangheili Honor Guardsmen, Kig-Yar snipers and swarms of Yanme'e, John paused in front of the hologram, Cortana translating its speech and revealing the apparent reasoning behind the Covenant's genocidal war against humanity. The team entered another elevator that took them to the third lake structure, fighting more patrolling Honor Guardsmen until they emerged outside. John managed to secure a landing zone for the Pelican, the pilot telling him that he was almost out of fuel and so was conducting his final resupply run, and to contact him when John was ready for evac. After rearming, John pressed into the ruins of another Forerunner structure, engaging more Covenant, as well as another Phantom's troop complement. Finally, the Spartan arrived at the gondola that would take him directly to the Prophet of Regret's temple. As the gondola neared the temple, it was engaged by another carrying Sangheili Rangers and Unggoy wielding heavy weapons. John managed to clear the area in front of the temple of its Unggoy and Kig-Yar guards, but before he could move inside, he witnessed the arrival of hundreds of Covenant vessels coming out of slipspace, followed by High Charity, the Covenant's holy city. Noting that this fleet was the largest one anyone had ever seen, Cortana urged John to complete his mission quickly before they could stop him. Quickly making his way inside the temple, John fought through waves of the Prophet's Honor Guard before confronting the Prophet himself. Quickly realizing that Regret's throne projected an energy shield that was impervious to small-arms fire, John boarded the throne, beating the Prophet to death. As Regret's throne exploded, Cortana warned him that the Covenant fleet was preparing to open fire on the temple. John escaped the temple moments before it was destroyed by an energy projector, but was thrown into the lake below where he lost consciousness.
When John awoke, he realized that he had been captured the Gravemind,the coordinating intelligence of the Flood. The Gravemind revealed that it had also captured Thel 'Vadamee, the Arbiter of the Covenant and unknown to John at the time, the commander behind the destruction of Reach. As 'Vadamee began to struggle, John told him to relax, so to not provoke the monstrous being that ensnared them. The Gravemind then brought forth another two victims: the installation's monitor 2401 Penitent Tangent, and the reanimated corpse of the Prophet of Regret, who had been merged with one of its tentacles. Upon sighting the "Reclaimer", Penitent Tangent told John that the ring must be activated in order to control the Flood outbreak, to which it was accosted by Regret, who insisted that his "sermon" must be completed. The Gravemind revealed to 'Vadamee that the installation was actually a weapon, not the source of the Covenant's "Great Journey". John tried to tell 'Vadamee that it was right, and that the Prophets were making a big mistake. The Arbiter refused to listen to John's words, promising the Spartan that his "ignorance", which had already destroyed one of the sacred rings would not harm another. As 'Vadamee would not hear the truth, the Gravemind decided to show him. Telling the duo that there was still time to "stop the key from turning, the Gravemind transported both of them away using the installation's teleportation grid. John was sent to High Charity, where he materialized within the High Council Chamber, interrupting a sermon by the Prophet of Truth. John quickly grabbed a needler dropped by a fleeing Unggoy cameraman and pointed it at the Prophets of Truth and Mercy. The Hierarch's Jiralhanae Honor Guardsmen stepped in front of the Prophets, shielding them with their ceremonial pikes and allowing the pair to escape down the elevator.
Fighting against Jiralhanae for the first time since the Unyielding Hierophant, Cortana reminded him that they lacked shield generators, as well as their berserk fury as he fought against the Honor Guardsmen left in the room. As a Jiralhanae announced over the city's loudspeakers that the "Demon" had infiltrated High Charity and to seal the exit to the Council Chamber, Cortana went to work in the city's systems to bypass the security measures. John was forced to fight against several Jiralhanae-led waves of Covenant until Cortana unlocked the doors of the chamber. Cortana warned John that his utmost priority was the retrieval of the activation index, which was in the Prophet of Truth's possession. Fighting his way out onto the exterior balcony where Thel 'Vadamee was tortured and branded and contending with a Jiralhanae Captain and more troops, Cortana reversed the nearby gravity lift, allowing John to proceed to the lower level of the tower. As the Spartan fought his way through several rooms full of Covenant, Cortana revealed that she had detected the IFF transponders of several Marine POWs in a prison bay below his position. John eventually found another room with a gravity lift guarded by a pack of Jiralhanae. After clearing the room, Cortana opened the lift allowing John to proceed down to the brig. After a large battle, John was able to traverse the brig room and liberate five Marine POWs, who armed themselves with Covenant weaponry and joined the Spartan. Before they could leave, they were forced to defeat a group of reinforcements who entered using the lift John had arrived on. John and the Marines ascended up the elevator, which deposited them in a room with a single dead Sangheili Ultra Honor Guardsman. As the Prophet of Truth continued to broadcast to the city's populace, Cortana realized that this would make him much easier to track. John and his Marines engaged a group of Sangheili, who were themselves under attack from a swarm of Yanme'e. As they entered the next corridors they watched as the Great Schism broke out within the Covenant, watching Jiralhanae leading Kig-Yar and Yanme'e against the Sangheili. Cortana urged John to hurry; she had located him outside the tower he was currently in. Eventually reaching a small room where John was forced to engage a Mgalekgolo pair in close-quarters combat, the Prophet of Truth revealed that the Jiralhanae now led the Covenant fleets. Cortana was fighting her own battle in the city's systems against an inordinate amount of kill-systems deployed by the Covenant in an attempt to stop her.
John and his team made their way into the first of High Charity's environment modules, where they witnessed intense fighting between Sangheili, Mgalekgolo and Jiralhanae and Kig-Yar snipers. As they left the valley, Cortana informed John that the Covenant's civil war had extended to the fleet around High Charity. As John and his team traversed a gravity bridge to the first hanging gardens, the UNSC UNSC In Amber Clad arrived in the city by slipspace rupture, soaring over the teams head and crashing into a tower ahead of their position. Cortana tried to hail the ship, but she was unable to register any human vital signs on the ship. She informed John that she would continue to try and make contact. John fought his way through dueling Jiralhanae Honor Guardsmen and Special Operations Sangheili in the hanging garden before crossing another gravity bridge to the Mid Tower. Inside, Sangheili Rangers fought against Yanme'e for conquest before John and his team entered, eliminating all of the warring Covenant. As they left the Mid Tower, a Jiralhanae announced over the loudspeaker that they were making headway against the Sangheili, forcing them back towards the Mausoleum of the Arbiter. In Hanging Garden B, the team witnessed enraged Jiralhanae slaughtering Unggoy that the Sangheili had left behind during their retreat. Eventually breaking through a number of Jiralhanae soldiers, John and his Marines emerged into the second Valley of Tears, they stumbled into a large engagement between a Special Operations contingent of Sangheili and Unggoy and the Jiralhanae. Eventually navigating through the uneven terrain, the team made it to the other side, where they slew a group of cloaked Sangheili. The next few rooms were inhabited by more Special Operations Sangheili and Unggoy, forcing the team to fight their way through. On the causeway leading to the Mausoleum, the Sangheili made a last stand against encroaching Jiralhanae forces, deploying stationary guns, Unggoy with fuel rod guns and a Mgalekgolo pair. John emerged on the Jiralhanae-held side of the bridge, killing them before turning his attention to the Sangheili. Cortana told him to take a shortcut directly through the Mausoleum, as that would get him to the Prophet of Truth faster. Inside the Mausoleum, Cortana recommended that John avoided involving himself in the engagement within, as Sangheili Ultras, Mgalekgolo, Jiralhanae and Yanme'e clashed around the sarcophagus that once housed the Arbiter's armor. A final group of Sangheili entered from the far door of the Mausoleum as Cortana picked up a final pair of UNSC IFF transporters: Commander Keyes and Sergeant Johnson had been captured by the Covenant would need his help. Finally emerging from the Mausoleum as the sole survivor of the battle, Cortana warned John that she was receiving reports through the Covenant battle network of Flood leaving the In Amber Clad's wreckage, warning him to get the activation index and leave the city before it fell to the parasite.
John arrived at the Far Tower just as the Prophet of Truth departed on his Phantom with the activation index, along with Tartarus, Keyes and Johnson. He discovered the Prophet of Mercy, having been left to die at the hands of a Pod infector by Truth only moments earlier. John asked the dying Hierarch where Truth was going, only for Mercy to tell him that he was heading to Earth, to finish what they had started. John tore the infector off of Mercy's neck; this action killing the frail Prophet at the same time. Cortana appeared on Mercy's throne, telling John that Truth intended to reach the structure in the center of the city, in truth a Forerunner ship. She warned him that if he had the opportunity to reach Earth with the vessel, the planet would be crushed. John told her that Tartarus had the activation index, and two "Reclaimers", granting him the ability to activate Installation 05. Cortana told him that if he did so, she would use In Amber Clad's reactors to destroy the city and the ring, as she had done with the first Halo. She told John that she would need to remain on High Charity to ensure that she could directly detonate the engines. At that moment, a D77-TC Pelican full of Flood combat forms crashed onto the Far Tower. John was forced to contend with the omniparasitic Flood that he had previously thought destroyed with Alpha Halo. Cortana told John to head back into the Mausoleum tower; there was an High Charity conduit connecting to the Forerunner Dreadnought that he could use to get on board. As more of In Amber Clad's Pelican dropships continued to disgorge Flood forms all across High Charity, John fought to stay ahead of the parasite, fighting past both Covenant and Flood forces until he emerged into a large open area above the Mausoleum itself, the ceiling decorated with shards of glass, each one taken from human planets glassed by the Covenant. Cortana warned him of the presence of another intelligence inside the Forerunner ship that was fighting her attempt to slow the ship's launch sequence, one that seemed far more powerful than a typical Covenant AI.
As John continued deeper into the tower, he witnessed the start of the conversion of the city into a Flood hive. The walls around him swelled with Flood biomass, which was only fueled by the massive numbers of Covenant dead created by the Great Schism. The atmosphere around became saturated with Flood spores and the city's power grid was disrupted by its primary source in the form of the Forerunner Dreadnought decoupling itself from the station. John made his way through darkened corridors, engaging large numbers of Flood as well as Covenant survivors. As he entered an environmental module where Jiralhanae-led Covenant were stationed, the Prophet of Truth attempted to reassure the city's populace that they would not be defeated by the Flood, while the Gravemind, who had entered the city on the In Amber Clad, retorted that all would be consumed by the Flood. Flood forces soon swarmed into the room, engaging the Covenant defenders allowing John to fight his way through. In another section, Cortana informed him that the part of the tower they were in still had robust security systems. Truth announced over the city's loudspeakers that Mercy was still by his side, of which John knew was a lie before the Gravemind revealed that he had assimilated the other Hierarch's corpse. As he proceeded through the room, fighting against Flood combat forms and Yanme'e, John caught a glimpse of the Gravemind's tentacles through the shattered observatory window. The Spartan eventually made it to the Sanctum of the Hierarchs, where a final bastion of Covenant led by Jiralhanae Honor Guardsmen furiously defended the inner sanctum against masses of Flood forms. John was forced to eliminate everything in the room before he could enter the inner sanctum. Cortana told him of the still-ongoing fight between Sangheili and Jiralhanae ships around High Charity, before telling him that the conduit was nearby, up one final gravity lift. At the top, Cortana told John to ignore the masses of Flood in the area and make directly for the conduit. The Spartan successfully reached the conduit, riding the energy beam towards the Forerunner ship and barely making it aboard before conduit disengaged. The Spartan promised to return for Cortana, to which she told him not to make a promise he couldn't keep. The ship launched from High Charity, bypassing the dozens of warring ships around it, and entered slipspace.
Hunt for Truth
The Dreadnought did not come right upon Earth immediately upon its arrival in the Sol system on November 8. Rather, it passed near Jupiter and its various moons and it was at this point that John was contacted by technicians aboard Io Station whom were attempting to get a fix on his position within the enormous ship. John only deigned to confirm he heard them but then ordered radio silence to be maintained so as not to compromise him, just as he sped in a captured Type-32 Ghost toward a group of Unggoy and Kig-Yar. He bailed from the vehicle just before it careened into the group from a level above and resulted in a large explosion, then clearing up the rest of them with dual M7 SMGs and grenades. The Chief then used a grenade to blow past a door but found himself facing a large contingent of Jiralhanae, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy on the other side. He opened fire without a second thought but at that instant six hulking Mgalekgolo arrived and some of them managed to land simultaneous hits on John with their powerful assault cannons. The combined force of the blasts toppled John but he was saved by the shouting of a Jiralhanae Chieftain which commanded that he not be harmed any further. The Brute approached the downed Spartan where he lay and demanded that he assist them with finding something called "the Key of Osanalan". Io Station then began asking for another radio check whilst the chieftain pressed him for answers regarding this "Key of Osanalan", both regarding where it was and what "Osanalan" meant. John eventually did respond to the Jiralhanae's questions and in so doing told him that "Osanalan" meant "always strip your enemy of weapons before you interrogate him", for John had stolen a Type-1 plasma grenade which he deftly proceeded to stick to the Brute's crotch. The explosion that came next tore the chieftain apart and sent John flying backward. When surviving Grunts recovered and looked about in search of the human, he was gone.
John's search for the hierarch eventually led him to the bridge, where the San'Shyuum was was seated on his throne and surrounded by his honor guard. Having procured a Type-51 carbine, he prepared to take his shot but first checked in with Io Station, asking if the Brute's words about the mysterious "key" had been heard. He then confirmed the presence of the hierarch onboard but said he could not give an estimate regarding the number of other forces aboard. John promised more updates would follow and when broached again asked for radio silence. Just before he could take his shot at Truth, however, he himself was shot in the back by a Kig-Yar with a carbine of its own. John tumbled forward over the ledge he had been perched on as the Jackal continued to fire and managed to turn back and take it out upon landing below. His chance at getting the drop on the prophet now gone, the Master Chief was forced to contend with Truth's Jiralhanae protectors. The hierarch even used weaponry on his chair to defend himself before vanishing behind a sealed door, punching through John's armor with an assault cannon and drawing blood. As more Jiralhanae swarmed toward him, John procured two Type-25 Spikers and used both their spike ammunition and blades to clear the room. At some point following this encounter, Truth came to believe the matter of the Spartan loose on the ship had been resolved, as John had hidden himself, and ordered those controlling it to then jump further in-system to Earth.
On November 17 the keyship arrived at humanity's homeworld and John emerged once again. Pursued down a hallway by a lone Jiralahane and still armed with one Spiker, he tossed a grenade behind him to eliminate the Brute. Now in high Earth orbit, John broadcast to anyone in range, identifying himself and asking if anyone could hear him. Fleet Admiral Hood answered from Cairo Station and when he asked the Chief to tell him what he was doing aboard the Forerunner vessel, John let him know he meant to finish the fight. Others thereafter got in contact with him and asked for information regarding his location on the ship and the situation aboard. Now in low Earth orbit, John let them know that he had initially secured the bridge but lost track of the prophet he had been hunting. In addition, he informed them that the Covenant was once again aware of his position and was preparing to engage him. Told to stand by for orders, he fought off a wave of Jiralhanae attackers with Spikers and a grenade. Confident in the Master Chief's abilities, his contact then ordered him to return to the bridge to try to force those controlling the vessel to divert its flight path in the hopes that it could be used to destroy another ship. John successfully took the bridge once again but was unable to force the vessel's redirection, as its course was fixed. John reported this and by the time reinforcements arrived to retake the bridge he was gone. When word next reached Truth concerning the Spartan's location, he was reported to be heading for an airlock on the flight deck in a commandeered Ghost. An explosion at the airlock followed and the prophet was told the Demon had been killed, but John had actually escaped again.
A sergeant by the name of Twyker, identifying John as "Gamma Nine Delta One", soon let him know that if he didn't get off the ship he was on soon he could be caught in the explosive radius of a nearby hard target about to be fired upon with a magnetic accelerator cannon. John confirmed the receipt of the target's coordinates and steered his Ghost toward another exit, making his way onto the ship's outer hull. Twyker congratulated him on making it out and suggested he find a quick way home, to which John replied that he was on it. With no real options, however, John was forced to continue clinging to the ship at it dived toward the planet below. Twyker's worries were proven unfounded after the ship remained undamaged following the CCS-class battlecruiser Harbinger of Piety's destruction. At just over two kilometers above the earth's surface, John finally bailed away from the keyship, using one of its doors as a heat shield.
John's fall ended with him slamming into a Tanzanian jungle south of Mount Kilimanjaro. His armor's hydrostatic gel layer took the brunt of the impact, also locking the suit into a fixed shape and knocking him out. By the time the sun had risen in the area at least two hours later, he was still unconscious. The Master Chief was eventually found by a squad of marines led by Sergeant Johnson and accompanied by the Arbiter. A hospital corpsman with the squad was able to partially unlock his armor, but with his status uncertain, Johnson removed Cortana's data crystal chip and gave the command to radio for heavy lifting gear so they could move the Spartan. Before that request could be made, though, John came to and clasped the sergeant's forearm, rising to his feet. He then took the chip back and upon doing so Johnson asked him where Cortana was, to which he let him know she had stayed behind. Just after Johnson's question, John experienced the first of what would later be deemed "residual interface anomalies", wherein echoes of Cortana's personality matrix in his neural interface repeated things she or Doctor Halsey had previously said. In this case, he heard Cortana's charge to not make a promise without keeping it again. With his armor still in partial lockdown, John then followed the instructions of a corporal in order to ensure its tracking was working properly before the gel layer could be completely reset. By this point, John had not yet noticed the Arbiter among them, as the Sangheili had chosen to remain camouflaged. So after Thel 'Vadam revealed himself, the Chief's instinctual reaction was to snatch Johnson's M6G magnum and rush the Elite. He had shoved the barrel of the sidearm beneath 'Vadam's lower mandibles by the time Johnson could shout that the Arbiter was working with them. John was hesitant to lower the weapon, Johnson's hand on his shoulder and his appeal to their bigger immediate problems made him do so. For his part, the Arbiter defiantly stated that John may not find killing him as easy as he may suspect and after enduring a slight shove from the Spartan, turned to walk away. 'Vadam urged the humans to follow him, as he was sure Covenant Jiralhanae had their scent by then and would be upon them soon. Johnson proffered an MA5C assault rifle which John snatched from him, seemingly annoyed by the uneasy alliance with a former enemy.
From there, the group set out through the jungle toward an extraction point where they were to meet with another team of marines. Gunnery Sergeant Reynolds, leading the other team, let them know that Jiralhanae were encroaching on their location and after a Type-52 Phantom flew overhead Johnson decided they would be less likely to be spotted if they split up. To that end John and First Squad, along with the Arbiter, broke away from Johnson and Second Squad. Heading in the direction of the Pangani River, they soon encountered a Jiralhanae Captain Major leading a lance of Unggoy. The humans and Sangheili opened fire on the lance and then also contended with additional Covenant forces delivered to the area via Phantom before regrouping at a cave entrance which led to an exit on the other side. There, they found more Jiralhanae, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy, many of whom were initially sleeping. The firefight which followed ended poorly for the Covenant soldiers. Johnson let John know that he'd lost contact with Reynolds but that the Pelicans to extract them were still en route. The reason for Reynolds' radio silence was revealed when First Squad came upon another group of Covenant which included a Jiralhanae Captain who was holding the gunnery sergeant aloft. John sprang into action and managed to rescue the marine while the rest of the enemies were dealt with. The rest of Reynolds' team, he reported, had perished. Another cavern led to the extraction point at the riverbank, but while traversing it John was suddenly hit with another "residual interface anomaly" in which Cortana parroted a version of something Halsey had once said to her about being willing to sacrifice others for the completion of a mission. Curiously, when John experienced the audiovisual hallucination, his vital readings recognizably pinged KIA for a brief moment, to the alarm of the marines around him.
Battle was joined at river where both D77-TC Pelicans were waiting near a river substation, but as John and the others cleared them out a pair of Banshees streaked overhead and scored direct hits on each bird with their fuel rod cannons. One Pelican plunged into the river beyond a nearby dam and the other, Echo 051, managed to maintain altitude for slightly longer before crashing around half a kilometer further on. Two waves of Brute-led reinforcements moved on the substation but John, Thel, and the marines fought them off. Johnson, having survived Echo 051's crash, contacted the Master Chief as they entered the jungle once more but his transmission was cut short. The team of humans and lone Sangheili made it past a swath of trees laden with Kig-Yar snipers until they found the pelican's survivors, whom were under fire and fleeing from the wreckage. John led his unit in fending off the proximate hostiles before pushing forward through another rock tunnel in the direction which Johnson and the others had been chased. After traveliing through enother section of jungle they soon reached an outcropping which overlooked the Global Water Campaign's A2 Hydroelectric Facility. On the opposite side of the river, the sergeant major and three other marines had been hastily imprisoned behind an energy field within a small, squat structure. John and the others thereafter battled their way across the top of the dam which spanned the river, killing a good number of Unggoy, Kig-Yar, and Jiralhanae in the process. Cutting the power to the barrier freed Johnson and the others, and the sergeant major told John he would consider them even for that, but just for that day. Just then, a pilot by the name of Hocus announced over comms that she was bringing her Pelican, Kilo 023 to pick them all up. The arrival of two Covenant Phantoms forced the Arbiter and the remaining UNSC forces to fight until she arrived, but when she did Hocus had little trouble destroying both.
Kilo 023 ferried John and the others to Crow's Nest, a UNSC base in Tsavo, Kenya. Upon disembarking, Commander Miranda Keyes met he and Johnson and greeted them both. Keyes led the two of them, along with 'Vadam, to the base's operations center and while they walked she brought John up to speed regarding the ongoing battle for Earth. The Prophet of Truth's fleet was currently excavating a kilometers-wide area in the country in search of something called "the Ark". The Ark, Keyes relayed, would allow Truth to fire all of the remaining Halo rings at once, as they had been placed on "standby status" following the abortion of Installation 05's activation. Within the ops center Admiral Hood was patched in to speak with those present. John reported to him that he was ready for action and for this Hood was grateful, as he and Keyes had constructed a plan which the admiral wasn't sure would be possible without the Spartan's help. Anti-air batteries were clustered around the perimeter of the excavation site where the Covenant fleet was presently located, but Hood and Keyes believed if that just one could be neutralized then a low-level strike could be initiated with Charon-class light frigates and GA-TL1 Longsword fighters. While Hood was in the midst of explaining the attack to John, the power in the ops center was suddenly lost, and when it returned the Prophet of Truth had replaced the admiral on the primary screen which he'd been communicating from and all others around it. Truth berated the humans listening and proclaimed their imminent destruction, also singling John out in the process as "the Demon", taunting that not even he would escape the coming fire. John was the first one to point out his specific mention in the diatribe was highly unusual, and at this Miranda realized that Crow's Nest was about to be attacked. Her conclusion proved accurate almost immediately, as Phantoms were soon sighted moving toward the base.
Johnson ensured the Master Chief that he would look after Commander Keyes, suggesting that John provide assistance to the marines downstairs. He followed two marines out of the ops center, arming himself on the way. One level below, Gunnery Sergeant Reynolds was preparing a defense of the ops center in a large cavern which led to it. When it was reported to the sergeant that Covenant had entered the base via a hangar, however, the sergeant directed John to meet the attacking force head-on. On his way there, John met up with Chips Dubbo and another marine, both of whom let him know the squad guarding the hangar was in danger of being overrun soon. Keyes contacted him on a secure channel to urge that the hangar be cleared so the wounded and others could be evacuated from there. John, Dubbo, and the other marine with them first encountered Covenant forces already further inside the base before even reaching the hangar, as they had made it to a spacious vehicle access way. John opened fire on the encroaching Jiralhanae, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy, leaving none alive between himself and the hangar. Upon finally reaching it, John lent aid to its defense, pushing back the encroachment of two Type-52 Phantoms which landed invading troops. Once it was secured enough for a Pelican to begin loading up marines for evacuation Johnson urged John to race back to the operations center, as Jiralhanae were pushing hard toward it from another part of the base. Just as he reached the cavern where Reynolds was in charge of the defense once more, a swarm of Yanme'e suddenly flew out of various vents and fell upon the defenders. John helped to eliminate them all, only advancing onward to the ops center once Reynolds was sure they were in the clear. There, Keyes spoke to him from the most prominent video screen, drawing his attention to a bomb linked to smaller charges throughout the base. As soon as the evacuation was complete, she intended its countdown timer to start.
From there, John followed Avery Johnson to a doorway leading out of the chamber. The sergeant major let him know that Jiralhanae had taken the barracks with marines trapped inside and urged him to rescue them and get them to a landing pad for evac, reminding the Chief of what they'd seen Brutes do to prisoners before. Wasting no time, John rushed in that direction, and it wasn't long before he found himself taking on a large number of the mammaloid aliens led a chieftain in the base's motor pool. A cave-in forced John to divert his continued route by dropping through a hole into a shaft below. There, he was suddenly hit by another sensory experience wherein the voice and appearance of Cortana recited a line once said by Halsey to he and the other Spartan-II trainees following their abductions. Passing through adjacent shafts soon led him to meet back up with 'Vadam, who told him the marines in the barracks were indeed being held as prisoners. The Spartan and Sangheili broke in and John was able to save a number of marines just before they could be killed. Once all Jiralhanae, including a war chieftain, lay dead, John, the Arbiter, and seven marines they'd managed to save made their way to a nearby elevator. As it deposited them at the landing pad above where Kilo 023 was waiting Jiralhanae with jump packs attacked, forcing Hocus to take off prematurely in order to save her craft. John fought off the jump-pack Brutes with the marines and the Arbiter, and they were soon joined by Johnson and another group, who were being pursued by Yanme'e. Once all the drones were dead as well Hocus brought Kilo 023 back down so survivors could begin boarding.
Unfortunately, Johnson had lost the operations center, meaning that the bomb had surely been disarmed by the occupying Jiralhanae that now controlled it. Commander Keyes ordered John to stay behind so he could retake it and rearm the bomb, promising she would radio him with instructions for another exit. Another hallucinatory instance of Cortana quoting Halsey's introductory speech to he and the other children struck John after he turned back. Fighting through Unggoy and Kig-Yar, he headed through a service tunnel and the motor pool until reaching the ops center one final time. There, he was able to catch the Jiralhanae and Unggoy within by surprise. After reactivating the bomb Johnson directed him to cut through the caverns below and escape via a service elevator in the hangar he had previously defended. Now that it was clear the base was going to be destroyed, John saw Unggoy and Yanme'e fleeing as he too ran to get out. Hallucinations of Cortana escalated in frequency as he raced to leave, continuing lines from her first speech given on Reach. The hangar was in a panic when he arrived, as various Covenant troops tried desperately to catch rides on evacuating Phantoms. Explosions soon tore through the base, causing flames to engulf John's lift as soon as the doors had shut. Cortana's voice again quoted Halsey, recalling the instance in which she had told the Spartans Reach was to become their home. As the elevator plummeted downwards and finally came to a rest in darkness, John heard Cortana quote Halsey's last line once more, but this time it was changed so that "home" was instead replaced with "tomb".
The elevator led to a subterranean garage beneath Crow's Nest which opened into a short series of caves leading to the surrounding savanna. Keyes reached out to John through a strained signal, asking for his status and noting that if he could hear her, then he should find transport and get to the town of Voi. He was unable to respond due how far underground they were. John was accompanied in the dark bay by Sergeant Reynolds and a number of other marines, one of whom activated a generator to give the place emergency power. As soon as light flooded the garage the Chief was the first to climb behind the driver's seat of an M12 Chaingun Warthog. The others followed suit in mounting up, both in John's hog and an M831 troop transport. Together, both vehicles left the garage behind and set out through the adjoining caves. At a gate leading to their exit, they ran into and saved two marines from Second Squad who had been pinned down there by Unggoy and Kig-Yar. Some of the Kig-Yar attempted to flee into the savanna but were pursued and killed. As the Chief and marines proceeded onward in the direction of Voi, Reynolds let him know that he was still unable to reach Keyes due to COMs still being a mess and Pelicans in the area being scattered. They soon overtook the site of a crashed Type-52 Phantom and made sure to eliminate all of its survivors. At a dam John and the marines met heavier resistance. After breaking through it a plea for help from Gunnery Sergeant Marcus Stacker barely managed to reach them, informing any who might be listening that his convoy had been hit and he was dealing with wounded on Tsavo Highway just east of Voi. Type-25 Choppers, Type-26 Shade turrets, and infantry were waiting for them when they got to the highway, but after a short fight John exited his vehicle and found Sergeant Stacker where he'd been holding out against the Covenant forces. Stacker had been heading to Voi as well to deliver supplies to the marines there, but he urged John to continue onward to give them a hand himself. An energy barrier across a nearby tunnel prevented anyone from journeying any further toward Voi in vehicles but Stacker was aware that one could still walk through it and disable its power supply on the opposite side. John did this, but not before he and others around him had to deal with a swarm of Yanme'e first. John, Reynolds, and those accompanying them exited the tunnel to a bridge on the other side but had to halt their advance when they reached a place where a gap had been blasted into the road. Undeterred, John and the others crossed the gap via exposed beams and continued on foot. Right before stopping their Warthogs John had picked up transmissions between Captain Keyes and an ONI reconnaissance unit and shortly thereafter both she and Sergeant Johnson realized they could communicate with John once more. Johnson told him to just keep pushing to Voi and promised that Pelicans could resupply his group in the next valley they'd enter.
The valley Johnson had mentioned was already the site of an ongoing struggle between Jiralhanae-led forces and marines at a small UNSC outpost there. Two successive Phantoms brought Covenant reinforcements into the fight and a Type-26 Wraith also attacked, but John and the rest neutralized them all the same. The Pelicans Johnson had spoken of dropped off additional Warthogs for the local forces, in addition to bolstering them with more marines. This was done so that those on the ground could have a shot at punching through the heavy resistance ahead of them. At the entrance to another tunnel they battled another Covenant blockade. At its opposite end they took out two Jiralhanae before they could enter Choppers and met up another pair of marines who had been in hiding. They let John know that more Choppers and a Wraith were nearby. In reality, two Wraiths were assisting the Choppers when the UNSC and Covenant troops clashed. John helped destroy the hostile vehicles so he and the marines could keep pushing up the highway. Johnson let him know that the gate to Voi was directly ahead of them and that he needed to smash the Brute blockade defending it. This he did, aided by Reynolds and the others. Once the war chieftain guarding the gate and his subordinate forces lay dead, John deactivated their energy barrier as he had before. Seeing that the area was clear, Kilo 023 and another bird landed a Warthog and more marines. Admiral Hood delivered a motivational speech to the UNSC forces, shortly before they boarded their vehicles and proceeded towards the embattled city of Voi.
Siege at Voi
John, riding shotgun in the passenger seat of a M12 Chaingun Warthog, made his way into Voi along with several Troop Transports full of Marines. The convoy emerged into a parking lot littered with destroyed vehicles and corpses of both human and Covenant soldiers. Upon arriving at a sealed blast door leading into Traxus Factory Complex 09, John and the Marines dismounted from their vehicles, with the driver and gunner of the LRV remaining as support. The Marine sergeant informed John that they would cover him with the turret while he took point. John opened the door and proceeded through an empty section of the factory before emerging onto a catwalk above several Unggoy and Kig-Yar listening to a sermon from the Prophet of Truth. Taking the Covenant by surprise, John and the Marines were able to easily wipe the group out before opening a door allowing the Warthog LRV to proceed. Forming up in front of another sealed door, the Marines assembled to provide John cover while he opened the door. On the other side, a large contingent of Covenant forces waited, along with their parked Ghosts. A group of Kig-Yar advanced towards the humans while Jiralhanae and Unggoy provided support from further back. Despite the number of hostiles present, John and the Marines, with the heavy firepower provided by the Warthog's machine gun were able to easily shred the opposition. As the Covenant presence dwindled, the commanding Jiralhanae Captain made a run for one of the parked Ghosts but was ultimately unsuccessful and fell along with the rest of his unit.
Admiral Hood contacted Commander Keyes as John and his team made their way outside to a dockyard that had long since had its water vaporized by the ongoing Covenant orbital bombardment. The Admiral requested a situation report, to which Keyes informed him of the intensifying atmospheric disturbance above the artifact before informing him that John was still on route to his objective. He met a group of Marines who had been pushed back from a small dock office in the middle of the lake bed by a Phantom landing directly overhead, and with their assistance, retook the office from the Covenant inside. The Spartan's first objective, a single Anti-Aircraft Wraith was nearby, protected by a unit of Unggoy-piloted Ghosts as it used its ordnance to support overhead Banshees as they fought against UNSC Hornets in an aerial dogfight. With the aid of the Marines, the Warthog LRV and a missile pod on the roof of the dock office to destroy the vehicular presence. Despite the arrival of more Ghosts and a Wraith delivered via dropship and even a pair of Banshees, John was successful in repelling the entire Covenant force and destroyed the Anti-Aircraft Wraith, freeing up some airspace for the UNSC pilots above. John soon reentered the Traxus facility, where a small number of Marines were using a machine gun in an attempt to pin down a group of Covenant soldiers led by a Jiralhanae War Chieftain in an adjacent room. Noting the Spartan's presence, the Marine gunner requested that John flush the Covenant out into the open where they could easily mow them down with the heavy turret. John did so, using a nearby door to get behind the Covenant. As he whittled down the Chieftain's bodyguards, the surviving Covenant attempted to fall back, but had nowhere to go save for directly into the line of fire of the turret, and were soon cut down. The Marines opened the blast door for John's Warthog, but as they were in the process of explaining their situation to John, the glass ceiling high overhead shattered as a huge swarm of Yanme'e deployed by a Phantom descended on the humans. John and the Marines were able to hold the room, using superior cover and weapons fire to whittle down the swarm. Eventually, the Phantom retreated, with the surviving Yanme'e following suit. As John made his way down the next section of factory, Cortana appeared again in a hallucinatory manner, stating that she has defied gods and demons, most likely referring to the Gravemind. At the end of the tunnel, a unit of Mongoose ATVs with rocket launcher-wielding passengers waited to stage their assault on the next lake bed. John took the controls of one of the ATVs and the impromptu anti-armor force rolled out onto the second dried out lake bed. Near the hulking remains of a beached cargo vessel, a pair of Anti-Aircraft Wraiths along with a contingent of Ghost and Chopper support milled around the center while a small group of Marines on the northern boardwalk fought to repel a Covenant lance. With their superior speed and firepower, John and the unit of Mongooses were able to quickly destroy the AA Wraiths and other vehicles, allowing several Hornets to descend to provide support against low flying Banshees. A number of Phantoms attempted to reinforce the Covenant by dropping more Ghosts into the lake bed but all of them soon fell to the UNSC forces.
Once the area was secure, a Pelican arrived to deliver reinforcements for the UNSC. Sergeant Johnson reported to John that he had detected the presence of something big closing on his location. Heavy footfalls and mechanical grinding heralded the presence of a massive Covenant Scarab walker, which arrived over the roof of the factory and thundered down into the lakebed, crushing a Troop Transport Warthog underfoot. The Mongoose unit and a pair of Marine-operated missile pods opened fire on the massive walker while Hornets and Pelicans attempted to draw its attention away from the ground forces. Realizing that the Scarab's leg joints represented a weak spot that could be exploited, the UNSC forces concentrated their fire on one of the Scarabs legs, eventually forcing the walker to buckle and lower to the ground. John took advantage of its weakened state, making his way onto the Scarabs deck and engaging its crew in close quarters, similarly to what he had done in New Mombasa. He eventually located the Scarab's power core, and destroyed it. As alarms blared and the stricken walker began to shake violently, John, at the urging of nearby Marines, ran as fast as he could away from the Scarab. The Spartan made it to a safe distance just as the Scarab erupted in a massive explosion of plasma and metal. Commander Keyes applauded John's efforts before informing him that she was sending down several more Pelicans with reinforcements. Johnson told John that his final target, a Covenant Anti-Aircraft Battery, was nearby and its destruction was of the highest priority as it would allow Admiral Hood to carry out his attack run Shortly after, they arrived. One of the Pelicans carried Arbiter Thel 'Vadam, who vowed that he would restore honor to the Covenant once again. A female Marine told John that they had secured the next few sections of the factory and they would get him through. John, Thel and a fresh group of Marines made their way into a makeshift first-aid station, where wounded Marines and civilian factory workers were being attended to by Hospital Corpsmen. In the station, John found himself beset upon by another vision of Cortana, this time reminding him that she was his shield and his sword, in an allusion to the basis of the SPARTAN-II program. John overheard reports coming in from the UNSC field radio in the room that the Covenant vessels were pulling back to the Prophet of Truth's ship and that the storm above the artifact had sharply intensified, with winds of over 200 kilometers per hour being recorded. Commander Keyes reported a single Covenant ship had arrived in the system, and was holding steady above the orbital line. Admiral Hood was determined to continue the attack, knowing that they likely wouldn't get another shot at Truth.
John and Thel continued, passing through an area with rusted corrugated plates before arriving in a wider area where they unpinned several Marines taking cover behind sandbags from a number of Jiralhanae. The pair managed to clear out the Covenant soldiers, allowing another Marine to man the machine gun on a nearby catwalk. A group of Jiralhanae chasing a pair of retreating Marines arrived in the area, where they fell to John and his team after a pitched battle. Several surviving civilians who had been hiding from the aliens emerged, arming themselves with pistols to assist the Marine forces. In the next area, more civilians attempting to flee from Jiralhanae who were slaughtering them were saved by John, Thel and the Marines. As the group moved out into the final section of the factory, the door leading outside opened up, and a group of factory workers attempting to enter were cut down by a pair of assault cannon blasts detonating nearby fusion coils. A pair of Mgalekgolo charged into the warehouse and were promptly engaged by the human forces. With the assistance of Thel 'Vadam and the surviving Marines and factory workers, John was able to topple the massive Covenant soldiers. Outside the factory, another large Covenant force led by a Jiralhanae Chieftain awaited the team. After killing a number of Unggoy, the Chieftain and his bodyguards retreated further back to a Covenant holo-pedestal, on which the Prophet of Truth told his warriors to stand firm against their foes. As the rest of the Covenant force collapsed, the Chieftain charged forward with his gravity hammer but ultimately fell to the Spartan and his compatriots. As the humans passed the holo-pedestal, Thel briefly stopped, declaring that he would not be shamed by the Hierarch again.
John and his assault force finally made it to the base of the hill on which the massive Covenant anti-aircraft emplacement stood. As they moved forward, they witnessed a round from the cannon strike a Longsword and send the doomed craft to its end beyond the cliff. Commander Keyes urged John to make haste in destroying the cannon as Admiral Hood's ships had almost arrived and that they were out of time. A number of Unggoy scurried to meet the advancing force, with support from a plasma cannon and Kig-Yar but these soon fell to John and his team. As they crested the hill, the final bastion of Covenant soldiers including a number of Jiralhanae led by a War Chieftain furiously attempted to stop the humans. After a struggle, all of the Covenant were eliminated, but so was any remaining humans, leaving John and Thel as the only survivors. The two then attacked the heat vent on the underside of the gun, which was forced to open up after each shot. With enough firepower, the cannon was destroyed. As the emplacement exploded, throwing the upper section off the cliff, John and Thel made it to the cliff edge in time to watch as Admiral Hood's ships arrived. Squadrons of Longswords streaked ahead of a trio of UNSC frigates, all heading for the Forerunner ship in the center of the artifact. John watched as the UNSC battlegroup opened fire on the ship, but to seemingly no avail as the vessel activated the artifact. A scintillating blue beam projected from the ship into the sky, intensifying and eventually sending out a shockwave that caused John to temporarily black out, briefly hearing Cortana's voice telling him that this was how the world ends. When he came to, a massive slipspace portal formed in the air above the artifact. John watched as the Forerunner ship carrying the Prophet of Truth ascended, disappearing into the portal followed shortly by the other Covenant ships. As Admiral Hood began to take control of the situation, a damaged Covenant battlecruiser suddenly slipped in to the east of Voi. John watched as the cruiser hurtled over his head, belching rancid fumes before crashing out of his sight beyond the factory. As the sky darkened with thick smog, Thel pondered if more Covenant forces had arrived but John knew the truth of the situation: the Flood had arrived on Earth.
The Flood on Earth
Commander Keyes was quick to recognize the severity of the new threat, having encountered the Flood on Installation 05, and ordered John to make his way to the crashed Flood cruiser and overload its reactors; the city would be destroyed, but the rest of the planet would be spared from further Flood spread. John and Thel made their way down the hill from the destroyed Covenant anti-aircraft cannon towards the warehouses they had advanced through minutes ago. As they entered the streets, John was able to hear sporadic gunfire and the familiar screeching of Flood combat forms as a Marine sergeant nearer to the factory attempted to gather all of his men. The reports that John picked up indicated that the Marine defenders, so recently victorious in repelling the Covenant were falling to the new threat, the majority of them having never encountered the Flood before. John and Thel made it back to the loading ramp just in time to witness the sergeant and his surviving Marines being swamped by a myriad of Flood forms that descended from the rooftops above. John was forced to turn his weapons on fellow humans who were mutating before his eyes. Despite heavy losses, John and Thel were able to fight off the overwhelming numbers of Flood and they made their way back into the factory, passing through the offices as the main factory door had been sealed. Inside, John managed to narrowly save a Marine from infection at the hands of a swarm of Pod infectors before he turned his attention to the main warehouse. The large room where he had fought the Mgalekgolo pair before was overrun with Flood forms, with surviving Marines led by Sergeant Stacker took cover behind sandbags and among cargo crates and attempted to fend off the massive amounts of Flood. The tide was turned when John and Thel arrived and promptly began to take down all of the Flood forms. When the last form fell, the surviving Marines regrouped with the Spartan, each horribly shaken from their encounter with the horrific parasites. In the next section, John arrived just in time to witness a pair of Marines, one wielding a flamethrower, fall to the Flood. Upon killing all of the Flood present, John and Thel continued ahead while the surviving Marines stayed behind.
John was confronted with another interlude from Cortana. The AI warned him that she couldn't tell him everything, as the Gravemind was in the system, but was unable to discern any more as the connection dropped. After fighting through another group of Flood, John and Thel made it back to the former aid station, where a single, delirious survivor attempted to explain what had happened to his squadmates. The duo eventually made it out to the lake bed where John had previously destroyed the Scarab, now horribly ravaged and mostly destroyed due to the crash landing of the Flood-controlled cruiser. As they advanced outside, a new voice came in over John's COM: Rtas 'Vadum sent a broadcast telling the humans to clear the area while they would deal with the Flood. John watched as the shipmaster's fleet descended from the murky clouds, the assault carrier disgorging several drop pods which landed ahead of John's position. John and Thel hastily made their way forward, assisting the squad of Special Operations Sangheili in dealing with the Flood combat forms around them. With the area secure, they rendezvoused with the team, The commanding Sangheili Major informing Thel that the Covenant holy city of High Charity had completely fallen to the Flood and that the Flood had evolved. John, with the assistance of Thel and the Special Operations team, fought their way across the lake bed, killing Flood as they went, before re-entering the factory and fighting through dozens more Flood. Commander Keyes informed John that the Sangheili were looking for Cortana, who they believed was inside the crashed Flood ship. Upon arriving at the first lake bed, the team was confronted by the hulking mass of the crashed battlecruiser, still belching flame and toxic fumes into the atmosphere. John found himself confronted with the newest form of the Flood's evolution, the pure form. A single Flood stalker form, confronted with the team, transformed before their very eyes into a hulking monstrosity that required heavy firepower to put down. The team was forced to fight all the way to the cruiser, fighting untold numbers of Flood forms including more tank forms as well as ranged forms that clung to the sides of buildings. Finally securing the area, Thel told John that he would remain behind while the Spartan ventured into the ship to retrieve Cortana.
John made his way into the cruiser through a rent in its side, passing through corridors thick with Flood biomass and the corpses of Sangheili. After dropping down a hole, John shortly made it to the central chamber of the ship, now beset by hallucinations of the Gravemind, the sinister Flood intelligence urging him to submit to the Flood and become one with him. John eventually located a small Covenant memory unit. When John activated it, the holographic avatar of his AI companion appeared. Cortana began to explain that High Charity was on the move before her image snapped away. Suddenly, a Phantom appeared over a hold in the ship's hull. Uncertain of it's intention, John aimed his assault rifle at the dropship. John found himself face to face with 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of Installation 04. Without warning, Spark fired his main weapon past the Spartan, incinerating a Flood combat form before attempting to interface with the memory device containing Cortana. John pulled him away, bitterly reminding the monitor that he had attempted to kill Cortana and himself before. Spark insisted that protocol had dictated his response, before reasoning that with his installation destroyed, his sole remaining function was to assist the "Reclaimer". John reluctantly allowed Spark to continue his work. The Phantom activated its gravity lift, allowing John to enter along with Spark and Cortana's memory unit. As the Phantom headed towards the assault carrier Shadow of Intent, John witnessed the Sangheili battlecruisers of the Fleet of Retribution glass the downed Flood ship, as well as the town of Voi and its surviving areas, ensuring that the Flood threat would be wiped out.
John met with Thel, Rtas 'Vadum, Admiral Hood and Commander Keyes within the bridge of the Shadow of Intent, where they anxiously awaited 343 Guilty Spark to complete his interface with the memory unit. While Spark warned them that the device had suffered considerable trauma, he was eventually able to get the device operational. Cortana appeared before the group, telling them that High Charity was making its way to Earth with an army of Flood. John realized that it was just a message, but 'Vadum insisted that they let it play out. The recording informed them that beyond the portal there was another solution to defeating the Flood that would not require the activation of the entire Halo Array. As the holographic avatar of Cortana contorted in pain, she implored John to hurry; he had to make his way to the Ark as there was very little time. Admiral Hood protested against their leaving, as he believed that the better choice was to remain at Earth and fortify it in preparation to face the Flood attack, but 'Vadum warned him that they would stand no chance, given that they had barely survived a minor contamination. John told the Admiral that he would find Cortana's solution, and bring it back, showing complete trust in his AI companion. Admiral Hood eventually acquiesced to the wishes of the others present in the room and left the Shadow of Intent to prepare for the expected last stand of Earth while Commander Keyes took the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn to accompany the Fleet of Retribution to the Ark. Shortly afterwards, the fleet departed through the portal.
The Fleet of Retribution arrived at Installation 00 on December 11, 2552, twenty four days after departing through the portal from Earth. As the fleet exited slipspace above the colossal superstructure, they were quickly approached by the significantly larger Covenant fleet that was waiting in orbit. John-117, on board Pelican Kilo 023 along with Sergeant Johnson and a squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and Marines, departed from the Forward Unto Dawn along with a flight of six other Pelicans as the orbital battle began. As Seraph fighters strafed the Pelicans, one of them was struck by plasma fire and exploded, but the rest of the flight succeeded in making it past the Covenant fleet and entered the Ark's atmosphere. John briefly checked on Johnson and the dropship's pilot, Hocus, in the cockpit before making his way aft, equipping a sniper rifle as the Pelican's troop bay opened, revealing a massive expanse of desert. Johnson briefly relayed the plan to the team: their first priority was to secure a suitable landing zone for the Forward Unto Dawn, which would then land and deploy vehicular support for the UNSC ground forces. He also told them to keep their eyes and ears open, so as to secure any possible intel on the installation, as it was wholly unknown to them. Kilo 023 and one other Pelican landed on a cliff edge, and John disembarked, along with the ODSTs on the Pelican. As the team moved forward, the ODST squad leader informed John of the presence of a Covenant encampment nearby. The squad leader told John that they had a good angle thanks to the ledge overlooking the camp before telling the Spartan that he should take the first shot with his sniper rifle. John took aim at one of the many Covenant soldiers, many of whom were listening to a holographic projection of the Prophet of Truth, and opened fire. With the height advantage, element of surprise and superior cover, John and the ODSTs were able to easily wipe out the Covenant camp. The team pushed ahead, through a cave before arriving at a larger area where a Phantom was in the process of assembling an Anti-Aircraft Battery. Recognizing the grave threat the cannon would pose to the Forward Unto Dawn were it to be completed, the squad leader once again had John take the first shot before they would engage. Catching the mixed group of Jiralhanae, Kig-Yar and Unggoy by surprise, the team was able to make short work of many of them. The Phantom abandoned a piece of the battery and fled. As John and the ODSTs began to make headway against the Covenant infantry, the survivors pulled back to where another Phantom had arrived and deployed a Mgalekgolo pair. Despite the opposition, the human forces soon prevailed and managed to bring down the Mgalekgolo and the other surviving Covenant infantry. Fighting their way up a rocky slope, the team managed to eliminate a final Jiralhanae Captain and a large group of Unggoy before entering a structure. While the ODST squad forged ahead, John took a minor detour and discovered a terminal, accessing it and discovering information about the Forerunner-Flood war, as well as correspondance between two Forerunner lovers, as well as messages from an ancient Forerunner ancilla.
On the opposite side of the cave structure, John arrived just in time to see a damaged Longsword streak through the canyon and crash out of sight ahead. A pair of nearby Marines informed him that anti-aircraft fire had brought down their Pelican, but they had managed to locate a suitable landing zone for the Forward Unto Dawn and offered to lead the Spartan to the destination if they could secure some vehicular transport. Over a slight rise, the team ambushed a group of Jiralhanae and Unggoy searching the Marine's downed Pelican but as they moved forward, a pair of Jiralhanae Prowlers arrived. Despite the heavy firepower provided by the Covenant support vehicles, John and his team managed to eliminate their Jiralhanae occupants and moved to pilot them. At the downed Pelican, John was able to catch brief snippets of radio transmissions of the ongoing space battle above the Ark. Now mobilized, John and his team pressed forward, entering a larger area where the Longsword had crashed. Fighting past a Covenant force consisting of Choppers, Ghosts and infantry, John passed the wrecked Longsword and came upon a crashed Phantom, where he promptly wiped out its surviving passengers. After fighting through a large Covenant force in front of a Forerunner wall, the team make it to the upper level where they encounter Aggressor Sentinels fighting against Covenant soldiers. Kilo 023 arrived, Sergeant Johnson informing them that that they had spotted a structure matching Cortana's description of the Cartographer that she and John had encountered on Installation 04. The Sergeant told John to follow the Pelican to the sighted landing zone. While the Sentinels didn't target the humans, several of John's compatriots expressed uneasiness about the presence of the Forerunner constructs. With aerial support from the Sentinels, John and his team fought their way past a number of Ghosts before unpinning several Marines under fire from a large group of Covenant. Once the area was secure, one of the Marines told John that the landing zone was occupied by heavy Covenant armor. On the other side of the cave, John was forced to engage heavy Covenant forces defending the landing zone, including a Wraith, Ghosts, deployable lookout towers and a variety of Unggoy-operated turrets. A final pack of Jiralhanae attempted to stop the humans from destroying a pair of Anti-Aircraft Wraiths but John was successful in wiping out both them and the anti-air.
With the landing zone now secure, Commander Keyes was able to bring the Forward Unto Dawn down. As the UNSC frigate arrived, sweeping away the debris from the battle, the ship's hangar was lowered, allowing a platoon of Scorpion tanks and several Warthogs led by Sergeant Stacker to roll out, along with 343 Guilty Spark to guide them. John mounted up in one of the tanks just as a Covenant vehicular force consisting of Ghosts and a Prowler entered from the cave. With their vastly superior firepower, the UNSC forces easily wiped out the Covenant, as well as a Mgalekgolo pair that followed shortly. Rolling through the cave, the armored platoon brought down a Phantom and several Shades. More Ghosts, another Wraith and a fortified Covenant position soon followed in their destruction to John and the convoy. At the wall, the Covenant attempted to fortify it with heavy armor, stationing Wraiths in the immediate vicinity that proceeded to use their plasma mortars to shell the UNSC forces while Ghosts and Choppers charged straight at them. Despite the even number of clashing forces, John and his platoon prevailed, killing all Covenant protecting the wall. Stacker told John that he would lead the armor through the lower level of the wall while John proceeded through the upper level alone. Spark opened a door on the upper wall allowing John to enter. Inside the wall, John found himself on a platform overlooking a deep chasm, within which Aggressor and Constructor Sentinels moved in and out of. Spark directed John to a panel that activated a light bridge, allowing the friendly armor to pass over the chasm. While John passed through a room littered with destroyed Sentinels, the whole building began to shake as the Spartan heard heavy footfalls above his position. As the next door opened, revealing the Cartographer and the battalion-strength Covenant forces protecting it, a Scarab passed directly in front of him. A Gauss Warthog making its way up to John's position was strafed by Ghosts, killing the gunner. The driver pulled up to the Spartan, offering him the controls. John mounted up, the Marine mounting the vehicle's weapon, and the two proceeded to make their way to the lower door where the UNSC armored platoon was emerging. A band of Choppers attempted to rush the tanks while several lines of Wraith tanks opened fire from long range. Despite, the staunch opposition, the Scorpion tanks were successful in pushing through the Covenant heavy armor. As a Phantom dropped a group of fuel rod gun-wielding Jiralhanae, the Scarab made a reappearance, climbing down the side of the Cartographer building and promptly attacking the humans. Eventually, John succeeded in neutralizing the Scarab and all other Covenant forces in front of the Cartographer. As the Scarab exploded, Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum contacted John, applauding him for his destruction of the walker before informing them that the Sangheili had emerged victorious in the orbital battle, having destroyed the numerically superior Covenant fleet. John made his way up the spire, engaging Covenant infantry as he went. At the top, a Pelican landed, dropping off a pair of Marines and Thel 'Vadam, who personally congratulated John. Spark then unlocked the door leading into the Cartographer, and the team proceeded in.
While the team waited for Spark to unlock the next door, one of the Marines attempted to assist the AI when he came into difficulty bypassing the lock, only to get shocked by Spark's hacking laser. While this action startled the team, Spark insisted that he only did it to prevent the Marine from coming to any harm. The monitor eventually succeeded in opening the door, revealing a room full of sleeping Unggoy. 'Vadam instructed John to take them out as they slept. The Spartan did so, silently killing all of the Unggoy as well as their Jiralhanae overseer before proceeding deeper into the facility. The next room had several more sleeping Unggoy and a patrolling Jiralhanae Captain, all of whom fell to the team. Unfortunately for John, a Jiralhanae soldier spotted them on the third level, forcing the team to go loud. Eventually killing the pack of Jiralhanae and their Kig-Yar companions, John and 'Vadam proceeded out to the ledge on which the controls for the Cartographer were situated. Upon interaction with the panel, a holographic projection of the Milky Way was displayed. John was surprised to find that the Ark was located outside the rim of the galaxy. As the image changed to one of the installation, Spark told him they were indeed on the Ark. After the monitor told him of his compartmentalization of information by his makers to prevent the Flood from gaining knowledge of other installations than his own should he be captured by the parasite, John requested their current location as well as that of the Prophet of Truth. Spark informed him that the Hierarch had taken cover in a facility on the edge of the Ark's core and erected a barrier around the entire core. As Spark pondered how to disable the barrier, 'Vadam warned John of an approaching Phantom. John barked at Spark to move out of its fine of fire while 'Vadam drew the attention of its side gunner. Sergeant Johnson warned the Spartan that a mass of Covenant aerial support was inbound, and told him to get back inside until they could be wiped out. 'Vadam boarded a low-flying Banshee and flew off to support the sergeant. One of the Marines entered, telling John that the Pelican would land on the level below their current position. Arriving in time to witness the other Marine being killed by plasma grenades, John wasted no time in avenging her death, killing the Unggoy perpetrators as well as several Jiralhanae including a War Chieftain and his bodyguards. On the lower level, John was taunted by a Jiralhanae Chieftain, who retreated, leaving his Stalkers to deal with the Spartan. John succeeded in wiping out the camouflaged Jiralhanae and made his way outside, where Chieftain Cethegus waited with his pack of Jumpers. A nearby holographic projection of the Prophet of Truth instructed Cethegus to duel John alone, and the Chieftain taunted the Spartan to attack while his pack waited on the outside of the arena. The two combatants then dueled. Despite his physically superior strength, gravity hammer and invincibility module, the ambitious Chieftain soon fell to John. The rest of the pack and a pair of Kig-Yar sharpshooters fruitlessly attempted to avenge their commander's death but they too fell. With the area secure, Kilo 023 arrived to ferry John away. As the Pelican neared the platform, a massive swarm of Aggressor Sentinels suddenly appeared from below over the distant waterfalls. John warned Sergeant Johnson, who prepared to open fire with the bay-mounted heavy machine gun but Spark told them not to fire as the constructs had a separate priority task. When Spark suggested they find another terminal closer to the Ark's core that could provide them with further information, perhaps regarding Cortana's "solution" to the Flood, 'Vadam and Commander Keyes told him that their priority had to be to stop the Prophet of Truth before he could fire the Halo Array. John boarded the Pelican and they departed from the Cartographer.
Knowing that the Prophet of Truth could fire the entire Halo Array from the Citadel, the UNSC and Sangheili task force were quick to assemble an assault force to disable three of the barrier towers projecting a protective energy shield around the Citadel and the Ark's core, after which they could assault the Citadel directly. Commander Miranda Keyes split the force into three teams, one for each tower. John and two Pelicans full of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and Marines would attack the first tower. Thel 'Vadam and his Sangheili would assault the second tower and Sergeant Johnson and a large team of Marines would hit the third tower. As Kilo 023 and her escort approached the first tower, the air suddenly erupted with fuel rod cannon fire from a Anti-Aircraft Wraith on the beachhead. Kilo 023's escort was struck in the starboard wing by a fuel rod. The stricken Pelican slammed into Kilo 023, crushing the Warthog it was carrying before plummeting to the beach below. Kilo 023, carrying John and a team of ODSTs made it through the flak and came to a rough landing nearby, John pausing only to grab a Spartan Laser before he disembarked. The team fought through a large group of Unggoy and their Jiralhanae Captain overseer, with John making use of his Spartan Laser to destroy a pair of Shade turrets on a nearby ledge. John and the team fought their way up the ridge towards the Anti-Aircraft Wraith, facing off against a fuel rod gun-wielding War Chieftain and his bodyguards They eventually brought down the Jiralhanae pack and John destroyed the Wraith. With the beachhead now secure, Commander Keyes arrived in her Pelican, deploying a Warthog and a Mongoose for the team. Now mobilized, John and the ODSTs made their way towards their objective, destroying several Banshees that attempted to strafe them, as well as a pair of Ghosts and a Shade turret and its supporting infantry. The team eventually arrived at the entrance to the first tower, which was heavily defended by a Wraith, a pair of Jiralhanae Prowlers, more Ghosts, Shade cannons and infantry. Despite the overwhelming numbers of Covenant, John and the ODSTs were able to clear out all of the defenders, allowing Keyes' Pelican to return with several canisters containing weapons and ammo for the team. With the exterior of the tower clear, the team proceeded inward carefully, wiping out all of the Covenant forces on the ground floor and around the controls for the elevator that would carry them upward to the controls. While the rest of the team stayed behind to secure the ground floor, John proceeded up the elevator alone, arriving at the upper floor just as a Chieftain concluded a sermon to his pack. After a struggle, John managed to slay the Jiralhanae and arrived at the controls. As he deactivated the first tower, 'Vadam and his Sangheili had managed to do the same with the second tower. The third tower remained active, however, prompting Commander Keyes to contact Sergeant Johnson. The sergeant warned them that they were being engaged by overwhelming Covenant forces and warned Keyes to stay away as there was too much anti-air at the tower. As the Sergeant ordered his men to fall back, his communication cut out. Keyes ordered John to link up with 'Vadam and his forces and assault the third tower together.
John quickly returned to the ground floor, assisting his team against a small group of Unggoy and Kig-Yar that were attempting to reactivate the tower before making his way outside, meeting another Marine who arrived with transport for the team. They speedily made their way back to the beachhead, where a flight of Hornets were waiting. Hocus told John that he would need to take a Hornet in order to safely escort a group of Pelicans to the third tower. The Spartan took control of one of the aircraft and made his way to towards the airspace of the second tower, where masses of Banshees were strafing the Sangheili Phantoms. With the arrival of John and the other UNSC craft, the Sangheili were able to engage their dropship's active camouflage and escape. Despite the Covenant having the numerical superiority, the UNSC air forces were able to succeed in wiping most of the Banshees out, driving the survivors back to the third tower, before destroying another Anti-Aircraft Wraith on a small island nearby. John was forced to contend with heavy opposition around the third tower entrance, including a pair of Anti-Aircraft Wraiths, a standard Wraith, Shade cannons and a massive pack of Jiralhanae. Prioritizing fire on the Wraiths, John was able to destroy the Covenant armor allowing the separatist Phantoms to return, deploying Thel 'Vadam, as well as N'tho 'Sraom, Usze 'Taham and several other Sangheili. Together, they managed to crush all of the Jiralhanae around the tower, as well as the survivors inside the entrance. Inside, they discovered the corpses of many of Johnson's Marines, but the Sergeant himself was not among them. On the ground floor of the tower, the team was ambushed by a pair of Mgalekgolo and a swarm of Yanme'e. Through superior tactics, John and the Sangheili managed to bring down the Mgalekgolo pair and whittle down the Yanme'e, forcing the survivors to retreat back up the elevator shaft. Another pack of Jiralhanae fought hard to stop John and the Sangheili but they fell, shortly followed by the remaining Yanme'e who reemerged in a last-ditch attempt to halt their progress. Once again, John proceeded to the upper floor alone while the Sangheili remained behind. A War Chieftain and a pack of Stalkers were the last Covenant soldiers in the tower and although they furiously defended the controls of the tower, they eventually fell to the lone Spartan. John deactivated the third tower's controls, finally dropping the protective shield. Rtas 'Vadum brought the Shadow of Intent in close, preparing to level the Citadel with the assault carrier's weaponry. Suddenly, a massive slipspace rupture above the Citadel heralded the arrival of High Charity. As the gargantuan former Covenant holy city-turned Flood hive plummeted towards the surface of the Ark, 'Vadum was barely able to exclaim his surprise before debris struck his assault carrier, punching straight through it. As more debris from High Charity showered the installation, a chunk smashed through the window of the third tower's control room. John stiffened, readying his assault rifle in anticipation of the foe he knew had arrived.
Pod infectors swarmed from the debris, assimilating the fallen Jiralhanae into combat forms and forcing John to fight his way back to the elevator. Rtas 'Vadum warned them that Shadow of Intent had taken heavy damage from the impact, and the ship's weapons systems were disabled. When 343 Guilty Spark started to protest that their priority should be containing the Flood, Commander Keyes told him that they had to stop the Prophet of Truth immediately before they could focus on the Flood. John made his way to the lower level, where 'Vadam and his Sangheili were engaged in combat with more Flood. The team pushed through to the exterior of the tower, fighting through a myriad of Flood forms until they rendezvoused with a number of Pelicans deploying vehicles to aid their push towards the Citadel. At this time a separatist Phantom arrived to collect 343 Guilty Spark and Thel 'Vadam so that the monitor could assess the damage High Charity's arrival had done to the Ark. John and the united Marine and Sangheili force mounted up on the vehicles and made their way through an underpass built into the cliffs. As the vegetation gave way to snowy hills and ravines, the assault force came upon a Covenant encampment commanded by a War Chieftain. Easily smashing through with the aid of the heavy armor, John and the team made it to the edge of the cliff where the Citadel was located. As Hornets and Banshees clashed overhead, John and the UNSC/Sangheili armored force fought through waves of Ghosts, Prowlers, heavy weapon-wielding infantry and armor as it became apparent that the Covenant was throwing everything they had to delay their advance and buy time for Truth to activate the Array. A flight of Hornets arrived just as a pair of Scarabs dropped in front of the Citadel from low orbit. As numerous other Covenant vehicles fought against UNSC Warthogs on the ground, John focused his attention on the Scarabs. Eventually able to cripple one of the Scarabs, the Spartan destroyed the walker's power core, completely obliterating the Scarab. With one of the mighty walkers down, Commander Keyes ordered all units to focus their fire on the second one. Despite a number of reinforcing Banshees and other vehicles, the Covenant were unable to stop the human/Sangheili alliance from toppling the second Scarab. With the assault platforms destroyed, the Covenant resistance in front of the Citadel was effectively shattered, and the survivors were eliminated in short order. The separatist Phantom carrying Thel 'Vadam and 343 Guilty Spark returned, with the two meeting with John on a platform opposite the door to the Citadel. 343 Guilty Spark activated the light bridge and John, along with 'Vadam and a team of Marines and Sangheili made their way inward.
As the team made their way through the entrance, John was contacted telepathically by Cortana, who told him that for a moment of safety, she answered the Gravemind's questions and in so doing, allowed the parasite to spread. The Prophet of Truth began another speech, urging his followers to stand firm as he was about to fire the installation. He revealed that he had captured Sergeant Johnson and had him brought to the Citadel as only a "Reclaimer" could interface with the control panel. Commander Keyes asked for a progress report, to which John told her he was too far away to stop Truth. While John and his team were forced to take an elevator up to the Citadel's main hall, Commander Keyes sought to rescue Johnson herself. Unbeknownst to John, Keyes crashed her Pelican through the window of the control platform in an attempt to save the sergeant, but ended up being personally killed by the Prophet of Truth, who then used the demoralized Johnson to begin the activation sequence. John and his team arrived in the main hall just as the holographic representations of the rings had activated, signifying their inevitable firing. Before they could proceed, the team were confronted by a pair of Flood tank forms. Speaking through the Flood forms, the Gravemind implored them not to fire, but to instead join up and stop the firing of the Array together, as it would prove to be catastrophic for both parties. Reluctant to trust their new "ally", but with little choice, the team began their assault on the final bastions of Covenant soldiers along with the Flood. As the Flood tank forms easily crushed Unggoy and Kig-Yar in close quarters and Pod infectors swarmed through their ranks, the team used this to their advantage and easily wiped out the resistance on the first bridge. In the next room, a holographic projection of Truth condemned the arrival of the Flood as a final curse from the Sangheili, evidencing long-hidden treachery from the species. On the second bridge, a massive Jiralhanae pack led by a Chieftain attempted to stop them but were overcame by the combined UNSC/Sangheili/Flood forces. While the Flood swarmed ahead and killed the remaining Covenant forces on the third and final bridge and began a personal assault on Truth, the team followed behind. A final sermon from the Prophet defiantly stated that the Flood would not stop the "Journey". Eventually reaching the light bridge connecting to the control platform, John was shocked to discover Johnson cradling Commander Keyes' lifeless corpse. The sergeant closed her eyes and told John to stop the rings, and save everyone else who was still alive. Thel 'Vadam grabbed the Prophet of Truth, who had become partially infected by the Flood. As Truth began to breathe out Flood spores, John aimed his rifle at the Prophet. 'Vadam growled that he would have his revenge on the Prophet before he was completely overtaken by the Flood. As John moved to deactivate the firing sequence, Truth shouted in defiance but John pressed the control panel, stopping the threat to all sentient life in the galaxy and foiling Truth's plan. The deranged Prophet gave one final defiant statement, proclaiming himself as the voice of the Covenant, to which 'Vadam replied that he needed to be silenced, before plunging his energy sword into Truth's back, killing the final Prophet Hierarch and the instigator of the entire war, and bringing an end to the Covenant Empire.
As John nodded in thanks to 'Vadam and the two stood in brief silence after their victory and watched Johnson carry Commander Keyes' body into the Pelican, the sudden rumbling laugh of the Gravemind filled the room. As massive tentacles sprung up around the control platform, it became clear that the Flood had only used them to further it's own goals and could now easily turn on them. Sergeant Johnson desperately started the Pelican up, and both John and Thel grabbed onto it's landing gear as it made for the previously-broken window. The Gravemind managed to knock the two back down onto the platform. As the two stumbled to their feet, they went back-to-back, ready to fight against the Gravemind. Without warning, the Gravemind retracted its tentacles, leaving a pair of combat forms behind. As the two heroes fought against the Flood forms, Johnson urged them to make their way back to the lift, as the Pelican had sustained heavy damage. The two began to fight their way back across the bridge, engaging a myriad of Flood forms. On the second bridge, a flock of Sentinels arrived to assist the two. Another transmission from Cortana hinted to John that she had kept behind something she had taken. With the aid of the Sentinels, John and 'Vadam managed to make their way back to the elevator they had used to arrive at the main hall. Unfortunately the elevator was non-functional, so the two used a shaft at the back of the room to escape. John went first, catching a glimpse of Cortana's avatar down a hallway. The flickering image led the Spartan to a control panel. John activated it, and the screen in front of him withdrew, revealing the Ark's Foundry. As the pair looked on, a massive structure rose out of the red mist. Revealing itself to be a newly constructed Halo ring, evidently a replacement for the one John had destroyed. John asked 343 Guilty Spark, who had just arrived how long he had known about the ring, to which the monitor respondd that he had only learned about it at the present moment. John stated his intention to fire the incomplete Halo ring, eradicating the Flood infestation on the Ark, to which 343 Guilty Spark gleefully stated that he would oversee the final preparations. 'Vadam questioned John as to how he would fire the ring, and the Spartan looked across to the crashed High Charity in the distance, knowing that Cortana would still have the Index for the original Installation 04, and resolved to venture in to the Flood hive to rescue her.
On High Charity, John cut his way through hordes of Flood, taunted with images of Cortana falling into rampancy and by threats from the Gravemind itself. He finally reached the failing AI, on the verge of succumbing to the Flood's influence. After recovering her storage module, Cortana readied the Activation Index from the first Installation 04. John then destroyed the holy city by overloading its backup generators. On his way out, Cortana detected a friendly contact, which turned out to be Thel 'Vadam. High Charity exploded as the trio narrowly escaped on a Pelican.
John piloted the Pelican, trailing smoke, into a rough landing in the snowy canyon where the Halo's control room was located. He and 'Vadam climbed out and John was tossed an MA5C assault rifle by the Sangheili. Cortana remarked upon the ring's unfinished nature and openly wondered what exactly might happened should they fire it, to which John assured her when that happened they would simply head back through the portal and all go home. The Arbiter and the Master Chief set out through the cliffs and a series of icy caves. John, however, veered off to the right as they approached the control room, having noticed another route which led him to another terminal akin to those he had accessed on the Ark. Viewing the records contained therein revealed a message from a son to his father and another transmission sent millennia ago from the Didact to his wife. The entity which had spoken through the Ark's terminals then finally identified itself to John as Mendicant Bias, claiming to be the very one spoken of in the contents of the archived transmissions. Mendicant Bias went on to claim that either John or humanity as a whole was not yet worthy. And yet, Bias made known their regret for choosing the Flood so long ago and asked atonement of John. The ancilla stated that though the path ahead was fraught with peril, they would do all they could to keep it stable and him safe. This would be done, they claimed, so that John would be the example to show their masters that they had changed. Cortana, curious, asked John how many such terminals he had already found before urging him to get back on track toward the control room.
As the ziggurat-like structure which housed the control room came into view, Flood forms launched from High Charity began to impact all around John and the Arbiter via specialized dispersal pods. Both Sangheili and Spartan thus found themselves fighting their way through many forms of the parasite. Near the structure's base, sentinels appeared to combat the Flood as well, and before long Johnson showed up on a cliff overlooking them as well, vowing to meet the Chief at the top of the tower. Once there, all three had to hold that position against continual attacks, since 343 Guilty Spark refused to allow them entry until the danger had passed. Cortana was surprised to learn of the monitor's presence and at that, that John had not mentioned him to her since her rescue. Spark opened the doors to the structure's interior once a moment of respite appeared, though Cortana could already detect that more pods were on the way. The trio, with Cortana in tow, moved through the complex and as they did so the Gravemind telepathically contacted John again and tried to make him question who was really the victim and whether the Flood could be said to actually take life rather than give it. Once they were within the control room itself, Cortana prompted John to remove her data chip from its place in his helmet. He did so and tossed it to Johnson to carry to the central console so he could stand guard with 'Vadam. But when Spark realized that they intended to activate the installation at that moment, before it was yet complete, he suddenly attacked Johnson with a beam of powerful energy. John rushed to his friend's aid but was blasted backward by another shot from the monitor, his armor's shielding immediately overwhelmed. After the Arbiter was hit Spark sealed the doors in front of him, preventing the Sangheili from intervening. John tried to rise but for his efforts suffered another shot which drove him to his knees again and made his armor begin to smoke. The deranged ancilla then admitted that while John was the child of his makers and rightful inheritor of all they left behind, even going so far as to call him Forerunner, he made it clear that this ring was his. John fired on the monitor to little effect, but he did manage to distract him long enough for Johnson to land a shot from his M6 Spartan Laser. In the time it took for Guilty Spark to recover from this blow John rushed over to the marine to take the heavy weapon from him. It took three more hits from the powerful laser to finally shatter Spark's carapace into pieces, rendering him defeated.
Approaching Avery again, John assured him he'd get them both out of there, but the marine rebuffed the suggestion. His injuries were far too extensive. Instead, Johnson simply returned Cortana's data chip to his old friend and told him to never let her go. He then asked that John send him "out with a bang" just before finally slipping away. Without a word, John transferred Cortana to the installation's controls. She told the Chief she was sorry for his loss before then completing what remained to activate the ring in fulfillment of the sergeant's last request. Almost immediately after John returned Cortana to her place in the back of his helmet, a powerful column of energy erupted from deep within the installation, signifying the start of its firing sequence. As 343 Guilty Spark had predicted this had noticeably deleterious effects on the incomplete ring, with parts of the control room already coming apart as John fled from it. Beyond the chamber he reunited with the Arbiter once more, who offered condolences for Johnson's death. The Spartan and Sangheili then ran together for the exit, fighting through Flood forms on the way. Cortana urged them both to head for a doorway within the surrounding cliffs, through which they would be able to reach the place where Johnson had left the Dawn. In addition to the Flood a number of aggressor sentinels indiscriminately targeted John and Thel as well, but the pair still managed to make it to the door and through the interior structure it opened to. On the other side they found a Warthog Johnson had used to get there after leaving the ship.
The survivors fled to the Forward Unto Dawn with a Warthog. As they fought the Flood and local Sentinels on the way, the Gravemind addressed them telepathically one last time, warning them that their victory would not spell total end for the Flood. The team boarded the Dawn and escaped the firing and destruction of ring and the Ark. However, the Slipspace portal the frigate opened could not sustain itself under the stress, and its closure severed the ship in half, sending 'Vadam to Earth. John and Cortana were left drifting in unknown space. John and Cortana were presumed dead after several months of searching by the Commander-in-Chief of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Margaret Parangosky. Forward Unto Dawn, but it was nearly powerless and could not be properly navigated. Cortana, relieved that John had survived, explained this to the Chief, and that it could take years before anyone could discover their distress signal. In a similar conversation to one after the destruction of Installation 04, Cortana listed what John had done and told him, "It's finished," and this time, he agreed with her. John entered a cryotube, at which point Cortana stated that she would miss him. John replied her to wake him when she needed him. In 2556, while still stranded in space, Cortana attempted to talk to John while he was still asleep. Unable to get a response from him, she recounted the history of the galaxy, seemingly unaware that John could not hear her, and showing major signs that she was descending into rampancy.