|Political and military information|
- "I do not remember my name. I do not remember my family. I do not remember my home. But I can remember the game. We played it every day. And I never lost. The game... It's the only thing I can remember about the life I had before I met Doctor Halsey. Since then, I have experienced a lifetime of combat. Through thirty years of war against alien aggressors... I have always known my fate. I knew someday I would die in battle. But now that it is here... now that it is time to die... I find I am not ready."
- — John reflects upon his life and fate.
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 is a Spartan-II supersoldier of the UNSC Navy's Special Weapons division. He served as one of the most important figures of the Human-Covenant War. After over thirty years of active duty, he is one of the most decorated war veterans of the United Nations Space Command. By August 30, 2552, John's career service vitae recorded two hundred and seven ground engagements against the Covenant in which he had participated. By August of 2558, he had completed two hundred and nine military operations, including one hundred and thirty-six full campaigns; more than anyone other UNSC personnel on record at the time. Though John has commanded nearly every Spartan-II at one time or another, the lion's share of his career has been spent as fireteam leader of Blue Team. His actions during the Covenant War earned him every major UNSC service medal and combat award, save for the Prisoner of War Medallion, as well as several dozen civilian honors.[note 1]
As the war neared its end, most of John's fellow SPARTAN-IIs were killed in action during the Fall of Reach. However, John and his AI companion Cortana fled Reach and their vessel fortuitously arrived at Halo Installation 04, a one hundred millennia-old superweapon created by the Forerunners to destroy their parasitic enemy, the Flood, by killing all life in the galaxy. After destroying the Halo, the surrounding Covenant fleet, and the Flood forces on the ring, John returned to Earth and resisted the Covenant's impromptu invasion. Pursuing the invaders' flagship, the Master Chief encountered Installation 05, where a civil war soon broke out within the Covenant. Weeks later, John followed the remaining Covenant forces to the Ark, the Halo Array's control center, which he disabled before the Halos could be fired.
John went missing after the war's final battle in December 2552, having stymied the threat of the Covenant, the Flood, and the Halos. In the interbellum, John was lauded as a hero, and though he was officially declared MIA like all Spartans, he was ostensibly believed by the UNSC to have perished. After his recovery in July 2557, he played a key role in the conflict between the UNSC and the Didact's Promethean forces and a new Covenant faction, beginning on the shield world Requiem. This culminated in an attack on Earth and the Didact's temporary defeat, as well as the apparent loss of Cortana. John subsequently reunited with Blue Team and with their help, vanquished the Didact a second time. John and his Spartan compatriots went on to participate in numerous new missions for over a year.
During one such mission, John had a vision of a seemingly alive Cortana. This prompted him to go in search of her against direct orders, with the rest of Blue Team choosing to remain by his side. In response, the UNSC declared Blue Team absent without leave and sent Spartan-IV Fireteam Osiris to recover them. On Genesis, John and Blue Team learned that Cortana had assumed the Mantle for herself and was planning on using the Guardians to enforce peace across the galaxy. John rejected Cortana's offer to join her, prompting her to imprison him and the rest of Blue Team in a Cryptum. However, the Spartan-IIs were freed by Fireteam Osiris, with both Spartan teams traveling to Sanghelios while Cortana unleashed the Guardians on the galaxy.
Among most humans John is known simply by his rank as the "Master Chief" or (erroneously) the "Chief". Within the military he is most commonly identified as "SPARTAN-117" or the phonetic callsign "Sierra 117". As with all Spartans, John was regarded by the Covenant as a "Demon". However, John specifically was known as "the Demon", an epithet he earned after the destruction of Installation 04, though allied Sangheili soon came to address him as "Spartan". The Didact and the Warden Eternal addressed John and his Spartan teammates as Warriors or Warrior-Servants.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 Early childhood
- 1.2 Abduction and conscription
- 1.3 Training begins
- 1.4 Taking the initiative
- 1.5 Facing Tango Company
- 1.6 ASTER
- 1.7 TALON
- 1.8 MJOLNIR
- 1.9 Unrelenting
- 1.10 Alpha Corvi II
- 1.11 Enemy of my enemy
- 1.12 Radiant Arrow
- 1.13 Task Force Yama
- 1.14 ICE DANCE
- 1.15 Battle of Seoba
- 1.16 Etalan
- 1.17 Master Chief
- 1.18 Naraka
- 1.19 SILENT STORM
- 1.20 Circinius IV
- 1.21 Mesra
- 1.22 OBLIVION
- 1.23 Fighting two wars
- 1.24 New Hope
- 1.25 FALLEN WALLS
- 1.26 WARM BLANKET
- 1.27 Late War
- 1.28 OCEAN BREAKER
- 1.29 RED FLAG
- 1.30 Mark V
- 1.31 The Fall of Reach
- 1.32 Rude awakening
- 1.33 Halo
- 1.34 Regroup at Alpha Base
- 1.35 Saving Keyes
- 1.36 Fighting for control
- 1.37 The Library
- 1.38 Betrayal and sacrifice
- 1.39 Dust and echoes
- 1.40 Ascendant Justice
- 1.41 Return to Reach
- 1.42 Massacre at Eridanus Secundus
- 1.43 FIRST STRIKE
- 1.44 Cairo Station
- 1.45 Mombasa
- 1.46 Installation 05
- 1.47 High Charity
- 1.48 Hunt for Truth
- 1.49 Landfall
- 1.50 Forming Up
- 1.51 Tsavo Highway
- 1.52 Siege at Voi
- 1.53 The Flood on Earth
- 1.54 Installation 00
- 1.55 Stopping Truth
- 1.56 Rescuing Cortana
- 1.57 Installation 08
- 1.58 Requiem and the Didact
- 1.59 Conflicting loyalties
- 1.60 Battle aboard Mantle's Approach
- 1.61 Installation 03
- 1.62 Clinquant
- 1.63 Self-reassignment
- 1.64 The Fallen Spartan
- 1.65 BIRD IN HAND
- 1.66 Absent without leave
- 1.67 Genesis
- 1.68 Revelation
- 1.69 Reunion
- 1.70 Recovery
- 2 Personality and traits
- 3 Relationships
- 4 Physical characteristics
- 5 Equipment
- 6 Behind the scenes
- 7 Production notes
- 8 Gallery
- 9 List of appearances
- 10 Notes
- 11 Sources
- "Well, he was a little younger than me, but, let me tell you, that boy did not look like a kindergartner. He was a big kid. My friend, Katrina, and I used to meet him in this vacant lot in the neighborhood. The three of us would build these obstacle courses out of random junk and then race. Ya' know, just kid stuff. On warm nights, sometimes our parents would let us go out to the green space and lie in the grass. And we'd just lie there, stare up at the stars."
- — Ellie Bloom recalls her childhood with John to journalist Benjamin Giraud in 2558.
John was born on March 7, 2511 on the Outer Colony of Eridanus II. He was raised by his mother and father and by the age of six he attended school at Elysium City's Primary Education Facility 119. Decades after he last saw her, John could still remember his mother as being very kind and smelling of soap. She sometimes took him down to the beach where he would play in the sand. John's closest childhood friends were girls: Katrina, Parisa, and Ellie Bloom. John, Ellie, and Katrina would often compete against one another in obstacle courses they built out of random bits of junk in a vacant lot in their neighborhood. He and Ellie, who lived just a few houses down on the same street as his family, would be permitted by their parents to go out to a green space on warm nights to lie in the grass and stargaze. On one of these nights as they lay next to one another John asked Ellie if she ever wondered about aliens and when she in turn asked if he thought they'd ever meet them, he said that he hoped so. At school, John was known for being competitive and for being particularly good at winning games of king of the hill that took place on a grassy hill at the end of Primary Education Facility 119's playground. He considered chess to be boring and too easy. By the time Dr. Catherine Halsey met John, he reportedly was not allowed to play gravball anymore due to his always winning. When John wasn't playing various games, bowling among them, he spent the rest of his free time watching vids. In April of 2517 John had his picture taken and it was the resulting image which the Office of Naval Intelligence later provided to Catherine Halsey. On August 3, 2517, John and Parisa were playing with one another at Lake Gusev. Parisa walked too far out into the lake and might have drowned but John saved her life. Afterward, he promised to marry her and always keep her safe. Parisa's father took a photograph of the two friends as they laughed hysterically at John's father's antics. Parisa would keep the photo with her long after she thought John had died. Over the next two weeks following the incident at the lake, John went on to score forty-five victories in king of the hill at school, leaving his opponents with a dozen broken bones, be they arms, clavicles, or fingers, and himself with a chipped tooth.
Abduction and conscription
- "As per Naval Code 45812, you are hereby conscripted into the UNSC Special Project codenamed SPARTAN-II. You have been called upon to serve. You will be trained... and you will become the best we can make of you. You will be the protectors of Earth and all her colonies. This will be hard to understand, but you cannot return to your parents. This place will become your home. Your fellow trainees will be your family now. The training will be difficult. There will be a great deal of hardship on the road ahead, but I know you will all make it. Rest now. We begin tomorrow."
- — Catherine Halsey welcomes the abducted children to their new reality.
On August 17, 2517, John became the first child that Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, civilian consultant and scientific adviser for the Office of Naval Intelligence, paid a visit to. John was one-hundred and seventeenth among one-hundred and fifty children of similar age that had been selected based on specific genetic markers for inclusion in Project: SPARTAN-II, which only had facilities and funding for half that number. Halsey and Lieutenant Junior Grade Jacob Keyes found John at around 1130 hours on the playground at school while posing as parents inspecting the school for their little girl. John was in the middle of an intense game of king of the hill with eleven other boys and was clearly the dominant contender. When a pair of boys teamed up to take him down, he resorted to kicking, punching, and biting to get free before tearing back up the slop, declaring excitedly that he was king. As soon as the children were unsupervised due to the only other adult present taking a hurt girl inside to the nurse's office, Halsey made her move. She half-jogged over to the hill at the edge of the playground, halting just four meters from the hill's base. The game stopped at her approach, and some of the others teased John, thinking he must be in trouble for his aggressiveness, even though he was sporting a bruised cheek and a cracked lip himself. Halsey singled him out and asked if they might speak, to which he grudgingly agreed, coming down the hill and walking a short distance away with her.
When she asked his name, John introduced himself and offered a handshake. When she asked what he had been doing, he simply said "Winning." Seeing that the boy liked games, she suggested that he try one of hers: she produced a quarter, once used as currency in the United States of America on Earth, and dared him to guess which side would land face-up when she tossed it into the air. If he guessed correctly, she told him, she would let him keep the coin. Halsey released the quarter, sending it spinning end over end, but as it fell to the ground John caught it in his upturned palm, confidently exclaiming that it had landed with the eagle facing upwards. To Halsey's great curiosity, he was correct in his declaration. Satisfied that he would make the cut, she bid him farewell and returned to Lieutenant Keyes. Without hesitation, John ran back to the boys on the hill, eager to show off his prize.
At some point during the weeks that followed, John was abducted by ONI and replaced with a flash clone of himself. ONI operatives initially stole John directly from his bed while he was sleeping at around 0516 hours (local time) and were set to swap him for the clone then and there, but John woke up and had to have his mouth covered and be given a drug to knock him out. John was put into cryostasis and whisked through slipstream space to Reach, the nexus of the United Nations Space Command's armed forces. Once revived on September 23, 2517, he and seventy-four other children were led into an amphitheater through four sets of double doors, each accompanied by a naval drill instructor. There, at around 2300 hours, far below the ground within a FLEETCOM military complex, Halsey informed them that per Naval Code 45812, they were thereby conscripted into SPARTAN-II. She explained that they had been called upon to serve and that they would be the protectors of Earth and all its colonies. John wrinkled his forehead in confusion at this, but sat up straight and listened to the doctor's words with rapt attention. Halsey told them they could not return to their parents and that from this moment on, the complex on Reach would be their home and their fellow trainees would be their family. And though the training that lay ahead of them would be difficult, she expressed her full confidence in their ability to overcome it. With that said, she told them to rest and that they would begin the next day. Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez had the children escorted to their barracks, fed, and put to bed. As they were being led away from Halsey, John kept his gaze on her, stoic and unmoved by the drastic turn his life had just taken. Trainers took away the quarter that Doctor Halsey had given John but he fought against them doing so, even breaking a few fingers in the process.
- Main article: SPARTAN-II training
- John-117: "But I won. I was first"
- Franklin Mendez: "Yes, you were first. But your team came in last. Remember this: you don’t win unless your team wins. One person winning at the expense of the group means that you lose."
- — Chief Mendez teaches John and the other trainees a very important lesson.
Whilst dreaming about his mother John was shouted awake the next morning at 0530 hours by Chief Mendez and prodded with a humbler stun device when he did not pull himself off his cot right away. The same scene played out across the barracks with other children and drill instructors. Chief Mendez addressed them all, saying they were to shower at the barracks aft and then return to their cots to dress. At the prodding of Mendez's humbler, John stripped down and joined the other children on a conveyor to be washed in lukewarm soapy water and then rinsed in an icy cold spray. A trunk at the foot of his cot held underwear, thick socks, combat boots, and a matching set of gray sweats with "JOHN-117" stenciled on the chest. Once everyone was clothed, Mendez marched them outside and had them form five rows of fifteen children each. From there, they were ordered through a series of calisthenics which included one-hundred each of jumping jacks, sit-ups, deep squats, knee bends, and leg lifts. After the leg lifts the kids were finally given a respite in the form of water. John had just enough time to flop down on the grass and then roll to his knees briefly before Mendez was ordering them to join him on a run. They jogged through the military compound, past more barracks, along a river, and over a bridge, finally coming to a stop in the courtyard of a naval officers' academy. There John and the others met Déjà, a so-called "dumb" A.I. who had been given the job of continuing the trainees' formal education. Within the building, John and the others were served crackers and milk and treated to a history lesson concerning the Battle of Thermopylae. John, still hungry after finishing his crackers, swiped those that belonged to a girl next to him when she wasn't watching. After the lesson the trainees were told they were heading for the playground, but this turned into a two-mile run to a forest of twenty-meter-tall wooden poles, rope cargo nets and bridges, knotted climbing ropes, pulleys, and baskets. Mendez had them form three lines and declared that each row of three would be a team. John found himself in the third team, paired up with a boy to his right named Samuel-034 and a girl to his left, Kelly-087. John could tell that Kelly was not happy about the arrangement. Chief Mendez explained that they would be playing a game called "Ring the Bell" in which the objective was for every member of each team to ring a brass bell that hung from a slide pole next to the tallest wooden pole and then make it back to the start. John asked what they would win for finishing first, to which Mendez responded that they would win dinner. The last team to make it back, conversely, would go hungry that evening. As soon as the Chief shouted permission, John took off as fast as he could, scrambling up a cargo net and across a platform. He made it to a basket attached to a pulley, but rather than trying to lift his own weight that way, he opted to ascend directly up a nearby hanging rope. John easily outpaced all the other children and made it back to the starting point first, having rung the bell three times. Elated as he had been to be the winner, Sam and Kelly came back last, as they had gotten stuck in a line that had formed around the end of the course. Mendez congratulated everyone but singled out the members of Team Three, including John, as the ones who would be skipping dinner. He made it clear to John that although he had been first, his team had been last, and thus he had lost. John was greatly upset by this all the way back to the barracks, where he received a liter of water and was soon fast asleep.
The second day of training began just like the first. The trainees spent the morning doing calisthenics and in the afternoon reported to Déjà to learn. This day, she taught them about the hunting strategies of wolves and emphasized the importance of the pack over the individual in accomplishing a challenge, such as taking down a moose. Once again, John stole someone else's crackers. When it came time for the "playground" again, Mendez declared that they were to keep the same teams they had the prior day. When Sam and Kelly approached John, Sam gave him a shove and threatened to knock him off one of the poles if he didn't help the two of them. Kelly added to this by saying she would jump on him. John reluctantly agreed to help them as long as they didn't slow him down. The teams had a brief moment to strategize, as the course had been made more complicated as compared to before. Noting that there was still a large basket and pulley at the opposite end, however, John insisted they should all make a run for it as their best option. Kelly claimed to be fast, so John told her to hold the basket for them if she got there first. When Mendez shouted, "Go!" Kelly did indeed make it there first. Another boy tried to get her to give it up to him but both John and Sam came up behind him, pushing him away and telling him to wait his turn. By the time Team Three managed to raise themselves up to the bell, two other teams had already gotten there via other routes. John could tell that Mendez seemed pleased with the change in how he tackled the game. Sam clapped he and Kelly on their backs after their return across the starting line and suggested they should be friends. Both agreed. Three days later, on September 28, all the trainees were given haircuts. John had a picoliter of blood drawn on November 4 of 2517 for analysis by a biochemical analysis lab. On May 24, 2518, the children were forced at 0920 hours to run through a course while being shot at with paint pellet guns. Each trainee that was hit was made to do an exorbitant amount of push-ups. By December 10 of 2518, Doctor Halsey and CPO Mendez had identified John as one of four potential leaders for all the trainees, the others being Kurt-051, Jerome-092, and Fred-104. Though Chief Mendez wanted to wager on Kurt, Halsey was confident John would be their leader eventually.
Taking the initiative
- John-117: "No one’s being left behind. We’re going to figure a way to get all of us out."
- Kelly-087: "How? Mendez said—"
- John-117: "I know what he said. But there’s got to be a way—I just haven’t thought of one yet. Even if it has to be me that stays behind—I’ll make sure everyone gets back to the base."
- — John demonstrates his commitment to his fellow trainees.
John learned more during the first few years of training on Reach than he almost certainly would have ever learned at Primary Education Facility 119 on Eridanus II. Déjà taught he and the others algebra, trigonometry, and the history of numerous battles and the rulers they happened at the direction of. Human history classes included a module devoted to Earth in which John first saw images of whales. Through simulations the trainees learned to pilot various crafts, including the predecessors and variants of the GA-TL1 Longsword. These simulations even included what to do in the event of a crash landing. By mid-2519, John could string a trip line, fire a rifle, and treat a chest wound. Much of the Spartans' early training took place at Military Reservation 01478-B, known as "Painland" to the soldiers made to endure exercises there. As a result of the demanding challenges Chief Mendez put the children through, John spent plenty of time in Painland's emergency first-aid station. Training often involved obstacle courses and mock patrols. Mendez tricked, trapped, and tortured the children to the point where they hated, but then eventually, admired him. John and the others regularly made covert treks to Camp Hathcock in the Highland Mountains to pilfer food and supplies. John often teased Serin-019 for her habit of taking the leftovers of every other kid she could. Training in the Highland Mountains was split between Painland, facilities within CASTLE Base, and another location. At these locations, John and the others began to be tested against a company of orbital drop shock troopers in jungle maneuvers. Amazingly, the children, who averaged around eight years old, often won. By the time John and the rest had all reached that age they had already earned every combat rating. Combat psychology training also supplemented the trainees' education. At some point during their training, John and the others accompanied Mendez to the colony of Emerald Cove, where they were given a mission that involved spending time underwater. Mendez sabotaged half the air tanks provided to the trainees, and in response they ended up stealing his. Afterwards, they all ditched the Chief for a whole week while they camped on an island with nothing to do but light bonfires, eat clams and calamari, and surf.
On July 12, 2519, all seventy-five children were transported, via D96-TCE Albatross, to a military wilderness training preserve in the Highland Mountains. While en route at 0630 hours, Chief Mendez explained that each trainee would be dropped off alone in different locations throughout the preserve with only a piece of various maps provided to them. Their goal was simply to reconvene at a designated extraction point, but the last one to arrive would be forced to walk back to base. Mendez announced that John would be dropped off first. He had just enough time after this revelation to sight a lake and the river which fed it out the Albatross' windows and point it out to Sam, who understood John's plan and passed it along to the rest. Dressed in fatigues, a heavy parka, and boots, John ran down the ramp and into the snow-covered forest when the dropship landed just before 0645 hours. He immediately set out in the direction of a particularly sharp mountain peak since he knew from getting an aerial view that the river was in that direction. When he found a stream which led to the larger water body, he followed the direction it took but still kept to the cover offered by the forest. Wild blueberries served as a brief snack as he hiked. Once he eventually arrived on the shore of the lake that he'd meant to meet the others at, the sound of someone hooting like an owl signaled that Sam was near at 0801 hours. John and Sam traversed the shoreline, eventually adding Kelly, Fred, and Linda-058 to their number. Sam decided to carve a mark into a tree that they could remember the location by for years to come. They soon after gathered everyone else together in one place. John had Sam take James-005, Linda, and Fhajad-084 to scout around them while he watched Kelly piece together the maps from everyone's pieces. It turned out that the extraction point was a full day's hike from where they were so John told the children to move out as soon as the scouts returned. Several miles into their trek, Sam told John he thought that the mission was too easy so far and John agreed that there was likely some part that Mendez hadn't told them about. At noon the children stopped to stretch and eat berries they had gathered along their journey. During the break Fhajad broached the subject of who among them would be left behind, to which John replied that he didn't intend for anyone to be left, but that if someone had to be, he would willingly volunteer.
It was near sundown when they finally came upon their destination in a meadow where another Albatross dropship sat. This one was guarded by six men without any uniforms. John and Sam were the ones who scouted ahead and saw the scene first, so they were then also the ones who explained the situation to the rest. John was certain that the men wouldn't just let them board peaceably, so he devised a plan wherein someone who play the role of a "rabbit", luring the men into a trap but being quick enough not to get caught themselves. Kelly enthusiastically took this job. It would be up to her and Sam to convince the guards that Sam had broken his leg. When their guard was down, that was when the rest would strike. John accompanied Kelly to the meadow and gave her the chance to let him be the rabbit instead. She responded with a hard punch to his shoulder for daring to doubt her. When she revealed herself she managed to get one man to chase after her. John crept back stealthily to where Sam lay on the ground, watching for the right moment. As soon as the man, unprovoked, was about to use a humbler stun device on Sam, John launched a rock at his head. The projectile missed but it signaled the rest of the children to suddenly pelt the man with stones from their hiding places. He was bleeding on the ground and barely conscious when John walked over to kick him in the face and ribs. This basic strategy was repeated, but the second time the remaining five men were set upon at once by the trainees, who assaulted them with rocks, fists, and boots. John opened a link to Déjà within the dropship and asked if she could teach him to fly it. Déjà responded by saying he was in no way authorized to do so, but that she could take control of it herself if he gave her access. Once all seventy-five children were aboard, Déjà lifted them off the ground and returned them home.
Safely back, John was personally summoned to Chief Mendez's office. The Chief glowered at the trainee as he read over a report from the exercise. Doctor Halsey joined them by 2104 hours, shortly after John had arrived himself. Mendez pointedly asked John why he had chosen to attack the men he'd set to guard the dropship and then essentially steal it. John defended his actions by citing their lack of any distinguishing insignia and a failure to identify themselves. Mendez had to admit that it indeed appeared they had not. He exasperatedly asked Halsey what they ought to do about John's actions. She suggested that the answer was obvious: that he be promoted to Squad Leader over the others. In the third year of training in 2520, John and the others began physics courses, which included the study of classical mechanics. For his part, John was more interested in tactical theory than Newton's laws of motion. On September 20 of that year, the candidates experienced their first casualty in the form of a handler who was accidentally killed by Carris-137. Memorial services were held and all of the trainees attended. Following the loss, Halsey had Déjà emphasize that throughout the history of military training lethal force had often been employed and that deaths were an inherent risk. After John turned ten years old in 2521, he and the other children began to learn counterinterrogation techniques, in particular that of of seizing the initiative. At some point during their training, the Spartans went through a fleet tactics course wherein they were taught a particular planetary assault doctrine.
Facing Tango Company
- Tango Company marine: "We gotta find that damned flag or the captain will have our asses in a sling. Where is it, kid? And where's the rest of your pack? What's so funny?"
- John-117: "You idiots are bunched up."
- — John taunts his captors just before they come under fire from a hail of darts.
As the years of training proceeded, the children were routinely matched up as teams against one another. John usually led Blue Team. Years later, he recalled often losing whenever his team had to compete with Green Team, led by Kurt-051. By 2523 the trainees had begun to be matched up in exercises against Tango Company, a unit of UNSC marines. On July 12 of that year, four years to the day since the exercise that made John Squad Leader, he led a six-person team in its seventh operation against the company. They hadn't lost yet. Their objective on this date was to capture their opponents' flag and exfiltrate with it. John's team was comprised of himself, Sam, Linda, Kelly, Fhajad, and Fred. On the twelfth they managed to capture a sniper-spotter team that had been tasked with hunting them down. From them they learned that Tango's captain had given orders to win no matter what, even if it meant bloodying some of the kids this time.
During the evening of the next day, they stole shards of mirror from Tango Company's latrine. In addition, they hunted a squirrels, which Fred combined with unripe berries and the antibacterial ointment in their first-aid kits to make a paste to poison the marines' dogs. On July 14, the game was still ongoing. John returned from peering over a rise which overlooked the Longhorn Valley to report that everything looked clear at the moment. He had Fred and Linda, both armed with SRS99C-S2 AM sniper rifles liberated from their captives, check their weapons to ensure they were in working order. For his part, John had been issued a narq-dart pistol by Chief Mendez. Fhajad had been able to modify the 114mm APFSDS rounds the sniper rifles fired so that they could carry the narq-dart capsules at a much further effective range than his pistol ever could. John used a twig to outline their plan in the dirt. In order to get the flag he would lead Sam, Kelly, and Fhajad as Red Team into the base. Linda and Fred would be Blue Team and would be responsible for dropping the men guarding the flag outside. Fred complained about having to stay back with Linda, but John reminded him that in addition to being their second-best sniper, he was also their best spotter. Though it was only a little after 1000 hours then, the trainees planned to spring their attack at 0500 the next day. Once Red Team had used stun grenades to incapacitate the marines inside their base, they would grab the flag and make a run for it, with everyone reconvening at the designated LZ. John made sure to stress that no matter what happened, nobody was to emerge from hiding near the LZ until he gave the all clear signal: a six-note singsong tune that Déjà had taught them.
John led Red Team to crouch and crawl through the forest until they reached a gravel road. Two large rocks were rolled onto the road and it wasn't long before a supply truck came along that had to stop when its occupants found the way ahead blocked. Two marines emerged, both expecting an ambush, but as they moved the rocks away John and the others silently rushed the truck and wedged themselves against the undercarriage so that when it set off again, they were carried along underneath. The truck took them about a kilometer to the unit's base. When the time came for the vehicle's bottom to be inspected at a security checkpoint, Red Team produced their mirror shards. They had spent the entirety of the previous night practicing how to match the movement of the mirror used by the opposition so that they were able to perfectly use misdirection to make the truck's undercarriage look clear. Once it was parked inside a warehouse and left there, the trainees allowed themselves to emerge. John had Sam fill up canteens with battery acid while Fhajad picked the lock on a door nearby. John was bleeding from one of his ears as a result of gravel striking him during the commute so he took time to bandage his head before moving to patrol their surroundings with Kelly to ensure no dogs, cameras, or guards were present. One Fhajad got through the lock, each preteen split off to move through the shadows to different portions of the base. John sent Kelly to secure an exit at the perimeter fence and each of the boys went to a different barracks and crawled underneath. As soon as he was beneath the one he'd selected, John began chewing three sticks of gum whilst applying battery acid to the plywood bottom of the building with a rag to weaken the wood. The gum was then used to stick each of his three stun grenades to the bottom. With only around thirty seconds until 0455 hours by the point he was placing the grenades, he set them to all go off in five minutes' time before sprinting back to the warehouse at 0458 hours.
When all the stun grenades went off, confusion and panic swept the camp. In the midst of the chaos, one of the men who had been raising the company's flag as was customary for that time was dropped by Linda. John ran toward the second man who had been assisting with the flag. He missed his first shot with the narq-dart pistol, but Sam and Fhajad put two in the man's back which John followed up with two to his chest. Another marine got a shot off at John that went wild before he took one of Blue Team's darts to his skull. John stuffed Tango Company's flag into his shirt and ordered everyone to run for Kelly's exit, where she had weakened the chain-link fence with acid so she could push right through it. John was barely surprised that the marines were using live ammunition to shoot at them this time. By the time they were running from the camp reports of machine guns firing were behind them and a tank had rumbled to life in the compound's center. Red Team took cover under a series of logs to hide from a Pelican when it flew overhead. It was at 0545 hours when the team reached the LZ where they were to meet Mendez at 0700 hours. Each trainee hid and remained completely quiet. At 0610 hours a Pelican landed nearby and John had to grab Fhajad to stop him from moving out of cover. He reasoned that the Chief would never arrive earlier than he had said. John moved thirty meters away from the others before choosing to reveal himself, almost certain that he was springing a trap by approaching the Pelican. He was urged aboard, but John could tell this was a bluff by Tango Company and said as much. As such, the craft emptied and he was soon surrounded by four marines with assault rifles pointed at him. One doubled John over with a punch to the abdomen before patting him down, shaking him, and demanding that he return their flag. John could only laugh at the man, because both Red and Blue teams at once fired a series of darts into each of the men. John grabbed a pistol from the one who'd been accosting him and clambered into the Pelican. He discovered that another was flying around fourteen kilometers out. Running back across the field, it took whistling the all clear signal to get his teammates to emerge and police the marines' weapons.
- Main article: Project ASTER
- John-117: "I know this is one of the Chief’s exercises. But I don’t know what the twist is. Can you tell me, Doctor. Halsey? Just this time? How do I win?"
- Catherine Halsey: "I’ll tell you how to win, John. You have to survive."
- — Halsey acquiesces and puts the ordeal ahead of John in terms he understands.
On August 22, 2524, the Spartan-II candidates were rerouted during a training exercise to the opposite side of Reach from which they normally trained. This was done at the behest of interested parties in ONI who wished to observe them firsthand. At some point after the trainees had began to physically mature, an incident in which one of them, Margaret-053, was blinded during a beating meted out by four other teens, caused Chief Mendez to replace everyone's mess hall time with a period of fasting until the perpetrators were identified. It was not uncommon at this time for two trainees to spar one another with pugil sticks while trying to balance on floating logs while the rest watched. Doctor Halsey had the opportunity to have a lengthy chat with John on February 23, 2525 and was surprised to learn that he could tell they were about to enter a new, more severe phase of training. She had not yet divulged the details of the upcoming augmentations each teenager would be undergoing. John could sense that she was worried about something, however, and told her that he and his team were ready for anything.
On March 9 of 2525 John and the other Spartan-II candidates were transported to Medical Facility Endurance in orbit over Reach in order to undergo a series of invasive procedures designed to physically, chemically, and genetically augment their bodies. By a little after 1130 hours, John was in pre-op within a surgical bay. Doctor Halsey and Chief Mendez both stopped by to find John with his head shaved, an intravenous line already delivering a sedative, and incision vectors lasered onto his body. Other medications administered beginning on this date included dopamine for hemodynamic support and a tacrolimus/mycophenolate mofetil combination for immunosuppression. When Halsey asked how John was doing he replied that he was trying to see how long he could fight off the sedation for. Only then did John notice the Chief and attempt to sit up and salute, but find himself unable to. He said that he knew this must be one of the Chief's exercises, but asked Halsey if just this once, she could tell him how to win. Halsey told him that he would win if he survived. The various augmentations, under the purview of Project: ASTER, were carried out the following day, though some preliminary work had begun by 1552 hours on the ninth. With the assistance of surgeons, biotechnicians, and automated robotic machinery, the surgical procedures John endured included occipital capillary reversals, the carbide ceramic ossification of his bones, the insertion of a catalytic platinum thyroid implant, injections to enhance muscle strength and endurance, and the fibrification of neural dendrites to make them superconductive. He also was treated with gene therapy and underwent transgenic hybridization.
When the procedures had been completed, only thirty-three of the teenagers had ostensibly been augmented successfully. As far as John was made aware, twelve others had been injured during the operations so severely that they would be unfit to be Spartans and the remaining thirty had died. The truth, conversely, was that those pronounced dead were in fact cryogenically preserved in the hopes that they could be revived later, and some of those that were crippled would go on to be rehabilitated and join the ranks of Spartan-IIs in the future. But at midnight at the start of March 30, John had been made to believe that forty-two of his people had become casualties. The thirty-three to have officially come through the procedures unharmed and the twelve to have been grievously injured both gathered together at that point within the missile launch bays of the UNSC Atlas, an Epoch-class heavy carrier heading for the Lambda Serpentis system. Adorned in black dress uniforms, they bid farewell to what they thought were twenty-nine of their lost brothers and sisters as stainless steel canisters were ejected into space. John and the others saluted in unison. When orderlies began to wheel away the dozen who could not move on their own, John stopped them to ask where they were taking his men. At this, Mendez requested a moment with John and advised that he let them go, assuring him that the Navy would continue to care for them and offer them opportunities to serve as they were able. John relented and then asked what the orders Mendez had for he and the others. The Chief commanded two full days of bed rest to be followed by microgravity physical therapy aboard the Atlas until they had all fully recovered. The surgeries had been performed twenty days ago but John was still dealing with regular headaches, pain and bleeding in his eyes, aching bones, and general clumsiness as he adapted to his new physical form. Mendez also informed John that in the days ahead Déjà planned to run the teens through some dropship pilot simulations and to cover some more organic chemistry and complex algebra, as long as they were up to the challenge. Before they separated, John asked what he must have done wrong as Squad Leader to lose so many of his soldiers. Mendez walked with him to a view screen where they could observe the canisters as they vanished into the void and told him that a leader must be willing to send those under his command to their deaths. He made sure John understood that there was difference betweenspending lives and wasting them, however. John openly wondered whether the majority of the trainees' lives had just been spent or wasted and got no answer from Mendez. Sam joined him once Mendez had gone and guessed at what the Chief had said to him, surmising that it had amounted to telling John to accept his duty and "suck it up". John angrily rebuffed Sam's suggestion, saying that it sounded nothing like Mendez, and when Sam invited him to go to the shooting range later, he instead went off on his own to hit the gym.
For the next three weeks, John and the others were put through a routine of stretching, isometric exercises, and light sparring. They were also under orders to consume five high-protein meals per day, each followed by mineral and vitamin injections in the ship's medical bay. The Atlas was patrolling the Lambda Serpentis system by April 22 and it was on this date that John first meant to resume weightlifting. He visited the carrier's gym at 0430 hours to find it empty. John initially began with arm curls and then moved on to the leg machine, but in both cases discovered that they weights felt far lighter than they should have. In order to correct for this, he had to use all the machines on the side of the rotating conical space that simulated two times Earth-normal gravity. When he moved on to use a speed bag, he found that it seemed to move far slower than it should from his perspective. In order to ensure it was indeed he that had changed and not various parts of the gym that were off, John took a pin from the locking collar on a bench press and dropped it where there should be one standard gee of acceleration toward the floor. Four orbital drop shock troopers entered the gym after John's experiment and before long one whom had lay down to use the bench press had all the weights slide off one side of the bar. John apologized, since he had been the one to remove the pin, and was met in return with hostility from the men. Two on either side of him grabbed his arms and another moved to put him in a headlock from behind. John responded by breaking one of the ODST's nose and slipping away just as their sergeant called for everyone to stand down. The sergeant suggested that if they wanted to fight, they should do it inside a nearby boxing ring, so John climbed up and slipped through the ropes immediately. The largest ODST joined him there. By this point a number of other troopers had entered the gym as well and were watching. John began by striking the man twice in the face and then breaking some of his floating ribs with a hook. He brought his heel down on the man's knee and after three more punches he was dead. Aghast at the shocking display, the three others who had come in with him all rushed the ring at once, one wielding an iron bar as a weapon. John wrenched the bar from its owner, breaking his wrist and shattering his spine in the process, and used a single kick to crush the genitals and break the pelvis of another. The last man was sent flying over the top of the ropes when John swung the bar at his chest, stopping his heart. All had been taken out in less than five seconds. John heard the voice of Chief Mendez calling for him to cease. The Chief directed the bewildered sergeant to report to Ops for debriefing and then told John his workout was over for the day. Unbeknownst to John, the sergeant, or the ODSTs, the confrontation had been engineered by ONI as a test of his augmentations. John let the Chief know that he had been confused as to whether he should treat the ODSTs as teammates or targets, but Mendez assured him that he had been right to neutralize what had been threats to his person. John had followed the chain of command and protected himself, and Mendez reiterated that these were to always be chief among his priorities. John retired to shower and rinse the blood from his body, not giving the two dead and two injured men a further thought.
Once the Spartans were returned to Reach, it became evident that the facilities they had used up until that point would no longer be suitable for training. On the first day back, three trainers were killed during hand-to-hand exercises. On September 10 John and the thirty-two others were relocated to a titanium mine that had been used to store Mark I powered exoskeletons. The teens were put through a number of exercises against trainers who now wore the exoskeletons for their safety. And though they hadn't left the cavernous room they'd been dropped into, by the next day they had somehow acquired a length of rope and black suits that made completing their objectives easier. In addition, they continually managed to locate hidden cameras to disable them. Halsey visited on the eleventh shortly after 0930 hours to observe their progress and got to witness John dropping into a bunker during a game of Capture the Flag, where he sent one trainer flying eight meters with a kick and disabled another's exoskeleton with a flurry of strikes. John also managed to dodge a barrage of stun rounds fired at close range before ripping the 30mm minigun from the suit and using it against its owner.
- Main article: Operation: TALON
- "Good morning, Spartans. I have good news for you. The word has come down. Command has decided to test your unique abilities. You have a new mission: an insurgent base in the Eridanus system."
- — Doctor Halsey briefs her Spartans on their first combat mission.
At 0400 hours on September 12, 2525 the teens were mustered and ordered aboard the UNSC Pioneer, a Halberd-class destroyer bound for the Eridanus system. They gathered within the Pioneer's briefing room while in transit at 0600 hours and by 0605 were greeted by the entrance of Halsey and Mendez. Halsey informed them that word had come down from Fleet Command permitting the first real mission for the Spartans. A team would be tasked with infiltrating an insurgent base in the Eridanus asteroid belt thought to be harboring United Rebel Front leader Robert Watts. In order to find the asteroid the rebels had been using, they would need to stow away aboard the Laden, a Parabola-class freighter that would be departing dock over Eridanus II in just six hours. The ship was slated for routine recertification of its engines, but its current manifest and its captain betrayed it as almost assuredly being set to deliver supplies to the hidden insurgent base. For this mission, codenamed Operation: TALON, John was promoted to Petty Officer Third Class and given his pick of whom to bring with him to complete it. He chose Sam, Linda, Kelly, and Fred and told the rest that they would have the harder job of having to stay behind. Over form-fitting body armor, each member of the mission donned grease-stained blue coveralls that matched what the crew of the Laden wore. John told the other four to stock up on their own preferred gear and weaponry at the destroyer's weapons locker on the condition that save for Linda's SRS99C-AM, everyone use weapons that fired .390-caliber ammunition so they could share their collective supply. John took an MA2B assault rifle, a combat knife, and five ammo clips. In addition, he would carry a panic button—a tiny single-shot emergency beacon that could mark the location of the base for the UNSC or alert the Pioneer via a prowler on standby that they needed rescuing.
After disembarking at the space dock above Eridanus II at 0300 hours, the Spartans slipped past the lone guard in the freighter's cargo bay and took up residence in its deserted central rotating section. It made for a perfect hiding spot, as the large volume of water that ringed its inner surface masked their thermal signatures and blocked any motion sensors which might have detected the five of them otherwise. Through the ship had originally been scheduled to leave on the twelfth of September, it was not until shorty after 1210 hours on September 14 that it finally departed from dock. John checked in with the UNSC Athens, the prowler on standby, shortly before it left via a secure burst transmission. He let the prowler know that they were in position and would send another update at 0400 hours the next day. John and the others rigged support nets among the upper girders in the center of the spinning tank. Kelly was able to determine that their ETA was in around ten hours, so John gave instructions to sleep in shifts. Kelly additionally was able to pull up the Laden's cargo manifest, which exhibited several luxury items almost certainly meant for Watts or his officers. John decided to tag the items in question so they could track them once they docked with the asteroid hideout. Fred expressed some doubts about the mission but John reassured him by reminding him that every task they'd been assigned in training had been accomplished successfully. John lay down to sleep, telling Kelly to wake him in four hours. While he slept, John dreamed that he was alone in a desert environment when suddenly Kelly appeared before him, her face covered in blood. When she spoke, he was then faced with the real Kelly, who was waking him up to let him know they had begun to decelerate and would evidently be arriving sooner than initially expected. John commanded all lights to be shut off before he popped a hatch above them to take a peek with a fiber optic probe. Seeing that the space above was clear, they all entered it and rappelled ten meters to clear the tank. Once they were free from the spinning section, they changed into their disguises and made sure all weapons and other pieces of equipment were stowed in duffel bags. The arrival of simulated gravity once they reached the cargo bay signaled that the Laden had docked to a spinning body larger than itself. Kelly led them to the crate of luxury goods and John, Linda, and Sam stood guard while she and Fred planted a tracking device inside it. John came very close to shooting a dockworker that almost noticed them, but the man moved on and John kept his finger from pulling the trigger of his MA2B. After confirming he could track the crate through his helmet's HUD, John stowed it and led the others onto the base. The Spartans casually made their way to the dock's public showers to discuss their next moves. John decided the showers would serve as their fallback position and that a Pelican they'd noticed on the dock would be their chosen means of escape. Slipping on his helmet showed that the crate was on the move, so John had Blue Team move further into the city in pursuit. After pinpointing it one more time in an alley which they ducked into, he could see it was now being carried on a robotic tram. Following it at a discrete distance led them to a twelve-story building, where John and the others saw three men unload it and carry it inside.
Two guards flanked the outer doors to the building. John gave Kelly the go-ahead to approach them. She surprised one man by grabbing his rifle and twisting, yanking him inside the building in the process. John got the drop on the second guard and snapped his neck from behind. Both corpses were hid out of view as everyone shrugged out of their coveralls and put on their helmets. On the other side of another set of doors, John and Linda took down five individuals, with John specifically killing two uniformed guards near an elevator. He then directed his team to take the stairs all the way to the top floor, where the tracker showed the crate of items had been taken to. After nine double flights of stairs, John determined that they would need a better entrance once they reached the final floor due to the distribution of the thermal signatures detected on it. He had his team cross an empty hall on the ninth floor to the elevator and then proceed to climb up the cable extending the length of the shaft. At the top, he counted down from three before yanking the doors open with Sam. Within, five armed guards were taken by surprise and killed quickly by Linda, Kelly, and Fred. John could see that the navigation marker they had followed was behind a door in the room they were. Without only the slightest hesitation, he kicked it in and came face-to-face with three more guards and behind them, Colonel Robert Watts. John couldn't risk hitting their target, so he was forced to dive to cover instead of opening fire. In the process three rounds from the URF guards found their mark, with one penetrating his suit and pinging off his ribs. Undeterred, John rolled to his feet and fired a three-shot burst into one of the men's forehead from his new position off to the left. The other Spartans were able to similarly do away with the other two, leaving only Watts. From behind a wet bar, John signaled Sam and Fred to fire over Watts' head so that he ducked. John vaulted over the bar at this and jumped on top of the rebel leader, wrenching his pistol away and breaking one of his index fingers and one of his thumbs in doing so. John then chocked the colonel into near-unconsciousness so Kelly could easily administer a dose of polypseudomorphine to sedate him. She followed this by injecting biofoam into John's wound so that he would be stable for a few more hours and helping him up from where he had collapsed after taking down Watts. John directed his Spartans to seal Watts inside the crate from the Laden as he secured a rope to an outer balcony and used it to rappel down into an alley. The others followed suit with the crate in tow once he signaled the coast was clear.
They all put their coveralls back on and entered the building adjacent to what had apparently been a barracks of some kind for the URF. They exited half a block away and walked briskly back to the showers at the docks. John made everyone check the seals on their suits and sent Sam off with C-12 to create an exit. After pinging the Atlas and tossing the panic button into an empty locker, he and the others hijacked the stolen Pelican noted earlier. A series of explosions at the end of the dock tore through and airlock door and the emergency doors that tried to seal the breach. The explosive decompression that resulted sent many workers and others tumbling into the vacuum of space outside. Once Sam had caught back up with them, the Pelican blasted away from the station. John ordered Sam to check on the status of their prisoner at five minutes out and was satisfied to hear he was still alive. Kelly reported that they had two hours before they would reach their extraction point. She could tell John was bothered by the loss of life they had caused among the civilians on the asteroid, but John pushed his feelings away and told her nothing was wrong because they had won. John was later awarded the Purple Heart for the wound he had sustained during the mission.
- Catherine Halsey: "Well? How does it feel?"
- John-117: "Like I was made to wear it, ma'am."
- — John responds enthusiastically to being outfitted with Mjolnir armor for the first time.
The Pioneer did not return to Reach until November 2 of 2525. John rode a Pelican to the military complex on the surface with the other members of Blue Team and was met by Chief Mendez, who told them they were to assemble in the amphitheater with haste. There, at 0600 hours all thirty-three Spartans gathered, in their dress uniforms, to hear from Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth. John sat in the third row. All the Spartans rose and stood at attention when Mendez entered and remained standing until Stanforth gave them permission to be seated. The Admiral informed the teenagers that the Outer Colony of Harvest had been annihilated some time ago by what appeared to be alien attackers. The adversary responsible called itself "the Covenant" and had broadcast a message announcing that the destruction of humanity was the will of its gods. John stood to ask whether the language had been translated after the message was played for them but was told that it had been originally broadcast by the aliens in English. Stanforth told them that the UNSC had been ordered to full alert and that the largest fleet action in human history was being mobilized in response. And because of the UNSC-wide mobilization, the Spartans' training was to be accelerated to its final phase: Project MJOLNIR. The briefing on the new threat and the UNSC's reaction to it concluded, Stanforth then let them all know that Mendez would be leaving them to begin the training of a second class of Spartans.
John called for everyone to stand and salute the Chief a final time. Mendez made his way over to John once everyone began to disperse so they could talk briefly alone. He asked him to recall what options existed when facing a stronger opponent and John answered that one could attack their weakest point swiftly and forcefully before they had a chance to retaliate or one could choose to retreat. The Chief reminded him that a third option existed: surrender. He warned John that surrender might eventually seem like the most reasonable choice for many, but that for people like them, it was never an option. Before he left for the final time, Mendez returned the quarter that had been taken from John the day he had arrived as a child. John thanked him. Mendez told John it had been an honor to serve with him and instead of saluting, simply shook his hand before saying goodbye.
By November 6, all the Spartans had departed Reach aboard the Paris-class heavy frigate UNSC Commonwealth. The next three weeks were spent handling a variety of minor missions under the guidance of Doctor Halsey on their way out to Chi Ceti IV on the edge of UNSC-controlled space. All of the Spartans worked together to put down multiple insurrectionist factions on Jericho VII and also to remove a black market bazaar near the Roosevelt military base. During the final of these deployments in which Blue Team worked together as a singular unit, John sustained severe injuries to his shoulders and his right flank. It was at 1750 hours on November 27 that the Commonwealth finally emerged in real space in the Chi Ceti system. During the last leg of the journey through slipspace, John had used the ship's education database to look up the word Mjolnir and determined the project must concern some sort of weapon. Immediately after their arrival in the system Halsey summoned John to the bridge. Before he left the bunkroom where the thirty-two other Spartans were, he told Sam to get everyone ready in case they were needed soon. John took an elevator, saluting Captain Wallace and nodding to Halsey once he arrived. The doctor called his attention to a screen displaying deconvoluted radar signals, including one that may have been a ship eighty million kilometers away. In the event that the anomalous ghost on the radar signal signified a Covenant vessel, Captain Wallace ordered all hands to battle stations. Halsey let John know that they needed to take the frigate's dropship to the surface of Chi Ceti IV to get to Project MJOLNIR at the Damascus Materials Testing Facility in Vhalkem. John accordingly relayed this information to Sam and told him to have everyone mustered in Bay Alpha with a Pelican ready for drop in just fifteen minutes. With barely any warning, an alien ship suddenly emerged from slipspace just three thousand kilometers of the Commonwealth's prow. John could only watch as the frigate was forced into battle against a sleek craft a third its size but with much better defenses. John finally spoke up after they had sustained a significant amount of damage and suggested that Captain Wallace direct GA-TL1 Longswords to distract the enemy to but them time to offload the Spartans and Halsey at Chi Ceti IV. Wallace agreed to sacrifice Longsword Squadron Delta to fulfill their mission as they neared the planet and asked that those going to the surface try to rendezvous in orbit by no later than 1900 hours.
After landing, it took around fifteen minutes for a freight elevator to carry Halsey and the Spartans down into the depths of Chi Ceti IV, finally depositing them in an underground hangar at around 1845 hours. There, the doctor introduced them to Project MJOLNIR, an initiative to outfit each of them with the most advanced armor ever created by humans in the modern era. Halsey walked the teenagers through the various ways Mjolnir armor would improve their abilities in combat but also made sure they each understood the risk they would be taking by agreeing to use it. Tests with unaugmented volunteers given the armor had ended catastrophically and computer modeling for the Spartans had been insufficient, meaning that whether their enhancements would actually allow them to use the armor was still an unknown. Despite the risk, each one of them volunteered at once to be the first to try Mjolnir, but Halsey ultimately decided on John being the one to demonstrate it first. Once a team of technicians had taken fifteen minutes to fit the various pieces in place Halsey asked him to slowly raise one of his arms to chest level, which he managed very carefully. She then coached John through the basics of walking and gradually built up the speed and complexity of his motions. After fifteen minutes, John could walk, run, and jump almost without thinking about the difference the powered armor made to his movements. Doctor Halsey directed him to try running through a nearby obstacle course with the armor while the remainder of the Spartans were fitted with theirs. On the course John leaped over a three meter high wall, shattered concrete targets with punches, sunk knives up to their hafts when thrown into target dummies, and even felt confident enough to let bullets deflect off his armor. To his own amazement, he even dodged one or two of the rounds when he tried. The others ran through the course as well, but John could see that there was a lack of coordination to their movements. He expressed his worry regarding this to Halsey, who reassured him they would all get used to the suits soon enough. She let him know that each of them had even been given subliminal training to prepare them during their last trip through slipspace in cryostasis. The Spartans spent thirty minutes drilling in their new armor before Captain Wallace contacted them to say that the they had made contact with the Covenant ship again. Though its slipspace capability was evidently still damaged from the previous engagement, it was moving toward them through normal space. Wallace offered to try to draw the enemy away to buy them more time, but Halsey decided the time had come to fight instead.
- Main article: Battle of Chi Ceti IV
- John-117: "Spartans, this is what we've trained our entire lives to do. If we lose here, we lose everything."
- Spartans: "Sir, yes, sir!"
- — John reminds the Spartans of just how serious their task is.
John was piloting the Pelican through through the exit burn of its orbital path by 2037 hours, carrying all the Spartans, Halsey, the three technicians from at the Damascus facility, and twelve spare suits of Mjolnir. The UNSC Commonwealth's last known position was ten million kilometers in system from their previous rendezvous point, and it was this to this location that John was taking them. The Covenant ship was three million kilometers from the Commonwealth but closing that distance with every second. John confirmed with Halsey that their armor was usable in vacuum and then asked Sam for a overview of the dropship's weaponry. Sam let him know that the Pelican was equipped with thirty-two HE Anvil-II missiles, so John in turn told him to assemble a team to go EVA and retrieve them from the rocket pods on the craft's wing's. Halsey flatly objected when he asked her permission to attack the Covenant ship, but relented when he explained he meant to board it using thruster packs, not to go up against it with the Pelican. She transferred the bird's controls to herself so John could join the other Spartans in the rear. He motioned the techs to move to the forward cabin and ordered everyone else to grab a thruster pack. Sam handed him one of the warheads and Kelly passed him a pack. Thanks to an adhesive polymer Sam had applied, the missiles would be able to cling to their armor. John went over the plan with his Spartans, emphasizing that their target was the hole the Commonwealth had already put in the ship. He said that if anyone missed then they should power down and wait to be retrieved. John was the one to punch in the code that opened the Pelican's rear hatch and the first one to launch, followed close behind by the others.
While he rocketed toward the enemy ship at one hundred million kilometers per hour, he thought to contact Halsey to ask if she could have Captain Wallace create a diversion for them. Before long, the Covenant vessel was firing its pulse lasers at inbound Archer missiles. John was able to get his velocity to almost match that of the target by the time he reached it, but when he tried to find a handhold he came up empty due to its hull being covered by an energy shield. Around one hundred meters further along the surface, however, he noticed a pulse laser turret that the shield dropped around in whenever it had to fire. John carefully adjusted his vector and timed his approach so that he was able to slip beneath the shield the next time it dropped around the turret. He pulled himself along the exterior of the ship until he reached the hole that had been blasted into it. Only Kelly and Sam were waiting for him there, and they got no responses when they tried to reach any of the others over COM channels. The three who had made it traversed past multiple levels which the Commonwealth's magnetic accelerator cannon had penetrated, eventually settling on the first deck and moving inward until they approached they had reached the approximate middle of the ship. John and Sam were able to force open a sealed set of sliding pressure doors so the trio could continue down another corridor. John began to repeat the same after reaching another set, but Kelly stopped him and instead opted to try to open them with a nearby button pad. It only took here three attempts at pushing different buttons to make the doors slide open, and the Spartans found themselves face-to-face with a bird-like alien: a Ruuhtian Kig-Yar. A trio of armor-piercing bursts from the Spartans' assault rifles made short work of it.
Kelly picked up a radiation signature coming from deeper in the vessel, so they followed it down a side branch off of another corridor. Kelly opened the next set of doors as she had before while John and Sam took flanking positions on either side. The Kig-Yar on the other side seemed to have known they were coming, as it was ready with an activated point defense gauntlet and fired an overcharged Type-25 plasma pistol as soon as doors opened. John would have been hit by the blast had Sam not shoved him out of the way and caught the full brunt of the weapon himself. Return fire from the Spartans was initially deflected by the alien's shield gauntlet while it continued to shoot and hit Sam, so John charged forward and slammed his foot into the shield, knocking it away. It was then a simple matter for him to jam the barrel of his rifle right into the Kig-Yar's mouth and splatter its blood and bits of bone on the wall behind it. John helped Sam up, who claimed he would be okay, and then policed the Jackal's gauntlet to pass on to Halsey for study. The room they found themselves in overlooked a chamber that held what the Spartans reasoned was either the ship's reactor or some kind of weapons system. A third Kig-Yar sighted them but scrambled for cover rather than engage. At this point, Sam asked for John and Kelly's Anvil warheads and said they ought to simply shoot out the glass which separated them from the next chamber and toss them down into it. John agreed and told him to set their timers so they would explode in three minutes after being armed. He then was forced to regretfully order Sam to remain behind to defend them while he and Kelly escaped, as his armor had been breached and he wouldn't be able to make it back to the Pelican or the Commonwealth. Sam had already known this was to be his fate, but Kelly took some convincing on John's part. He and Sam parted with a clasping of hands, with John squeezing his. He grabbed Kelly's arm when she hesitated to leave and the two of them were soon forcing the nearest set of doors shut behind them. They raced back down the corridors the way they'd came until they were exiting the hole in the hull. They waited for an opportunity when a pulse laser fired and escaped through the gap in the ship's shield just as explosions tore through it behind them. Kelly clung to John as the Covenant vessel was finally torn apart pieces shooting past them. John then understood what Chief Mendez had meant differentiated lives wasted with those spent and knowing that the Covenant could in fact be beat, felt ready to go to war. He, Kelly, and all the other Spartans that had not made it on the Covenant ship made it back aboard the Commonwealth. On December 1, the Halcyon-class light cruiser UNSC Persian Gate appeared in the Chi Ceti system and took Halsey and the Spartans from the Commonwealth. On the Persian Gate, Halsey led a funeral service for Sam wherein an empty casket was ejected into space around Chi Ceti IV.
Alpha Corvi II
- Main article: Battle of Alpha Corvi II
- John-117: "You left them there. They fought for us and you left them there."
- Yao: "They don't matter. Not in the big picture. We lost this battle. But it's one small part of a much larger war. that war is bigger than this planet. It's bigger than any one life. Even bigger than any one Spartan. We're fighting for the survival of human civilization."
- John-117: "All due respect, ma'am, they fought for us and we should have fought for them."
- Yao: "That will be enough, soldier."
- — John makes his dissatisfaction with abandoning allies to the Covenant clear to Lieutenant Commander Yao.
On December 3, 2525, a substantial Covenant force emerged from slipspace near Alpha Corvi and proceeded to began an attack on the system's second planet. It was at this point that the four remaining Spartan-II warriors of Blue Team whom had participated in Operation: TALON were briefed on the attack while already en route to the system. Lieutenant Commander Yao told John and the others that they would be dropping on the outskirts of Jamshid and engaging the Covenant from the rear. Their objective was to lessen the pressure on the main UNSC garrison within the city so that a proper counterattack could be prepared. It was also imperative, they were told, that they operate independently of Ground Command and refrain from having any contact with anyone from the Marine Corps whatsoever. After reviewing updated medical scans for the team, Halsey made sure to ask John if he was okay to fight, given the injuries he's taken before they'd gotten to Chi Ceti IV. John stated that he was fine and when asked whether he would tell her if he wasn't, he merely replied that she'd find out if that ever happened. Upon arrival at the planet, Blue Team was redirected to the mining settlement of Black Reef and ordered to neutralize the invaders there and discover why it was being targeted. During their insertion via a D77-TC Pelican, Nora, an A.I. on the Persian Gate, introduced the Spartans to various scouting and reconnaissance enhancements their armor was outfitted with for this mission, including prototype active camouflage technology. Both the Spartans' armor chassis and the additional modules applied to them for field testing had been designed as part of Project: COBALT, with John's suit in particular being given the designation COBALT CV.117.
Blue Team was set down in an X-24 FAV on the beach and immediately began taking fire from United Rebel Front troops encamped a short distance away. Kelly-087 and Fred-104 recommended taking them out quickly so they could move on to deal with the Covenant, but John-117 opted for a different option. He activated his active camouflage and crept up on the small band, only revealing himself when he could reach out and touch their apparent leader. John identified his team as being responsible for capturing Colonel Robert Watts and argued there was no way they could hope to beat them. He told them what had happened to Harvest and through appealing to their immediate common enemy, was able to get the leader, Whitaker, to agree to work together for the time being. At John's insistence, he ordered his squad to circle around and rendezvous with the rest of their forces at the edge of a lagoon. From there, they would hit the Covenant from one side and drive them toward where Blue Team lay in wait. In order to keep an eye on their uneasy allies, John sent along a surveillance drone to keep a visual on them. The plan worked, and Blue Team unloaded on the Covenant with BR55 battle rifles when the distance between them closed. During the fighting, John's drone was destroyed by a shot from a Kig-Yar's Type-25 plasma pistol. The Sangheili and Kig-Yar that remained escaped into the mouth of a tunnel that led deep into the mines beneath the reef's bedrock. John was determined to pursue them, not least of which because he was curious about a strange device a Sangheili took in with him. Whitaker informed him that though the mine was an expansive mess of tunnels, it only had the one entry and exit, meaning the enemy was trapped within it. Yao soon let John know that a host of new dropships were inbound. Most of them were heading for Jamshid, but three Spirits would reach Black Reef in just three minutes. Whitaker volunteered to hold the mine entrance with his people so the Spartans could pursue the Covenant forces that had vanished within.
The passageway traversed by Blue Team took them more than thirty meters below sea level. When a light was sighted ahead Fred asked whether they ought to activate their camo, but John opted to wait until just before a group of Sangheili, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy encircled them from multiple side tunnels. Unfortunately, the Spartans were still possible to make out, so John decided to drop the camo as they engaged the enemy. After disposing of their ambushers, he led them through one of the passages they had come from until they came into a large chamber filled with enemy forces led by a Field Marshal. A skirmish erupted but was interrupted when the insurrectionists above triggered used satchel charges and an M41 SPNKR to collapse the entrance to the mine. the resulting blast triggered a flood of water to rush into the chamber where the Spartans were fighting. When John ordered the others to sound off after escaping the flooding, it became clear that Linda had been separated from the others and was not responding to hails. John determined that their primary concern was still the completion of their mission, but that finding her would come afterward if necessary. John and the two who remained with him continued to fight until the eventually made contact with Linda again, who had ended up just on the other side of a nearby cave wall. She requested urgent backup from the others and John told her they would be there as soon as possible. He had Kelly launch her drone through a hole to the other side to determine whether or not they could simply blast through the rock. Satisfied that it would be possible, John attached an MX-8 explosive to a Type-1 plasma grenade and used them both to knock a hole in the wall. The Spartans burst through to the other side, where they found more Unggoy, Kig-Yar, and Sangheili waiting. Once all the Covenant were dead, Blue Team could focus its attention on escaping the rapidly flooding tunnels. Fred revealed that his armor had been breached by a cut from the Field Marshal's energy sword, but since their only way out would involve going underwater, John told him to just hold his breath and assured him they would make sure he got out. John had the team wait until the chamber they were in filled up completely and then led them out of the submerged mine toward the shore, with Kelly and Linda bringing up the rear to make sure Fred was okay.
After emerging from beneath the waves, Nora made contact with the Spartans and informed them that the ground action in their immediate area was making it impossible for the Pelican Tango 807 to extract them safely. John affirmed that he and the others would clear a spot for it to land. Blue Team suddenly found themselves aided by Whitaker and a small group of other surviving rebels, with a few of them having even managed to hijack Blue Team's X24-FAV and now bring it to bear against the Covenant to aid the team. Once Tango 807 landed John confirmed with its pilot that they were on their way. The Spartans and URF allies all made their way to the craft in order to escape the doomed planet, but only John, Kelly, Linda, and Fred were permitted aboard. John angrily repudiated their pilot for leaving the insurrectionists behind, but the man stood his ground as he had only been following orders. Once they were back aboard the Persian Gate John confronted Lieutenant Commander Yao about abandoning Whitaker and the others. He was incensed that though the rebels had fought for them, they had not done the same for them. Yao told him that was enough and stormed off. Halsey reminded John that keeping his team alive was all that had mattered in the end, and also then asked him if he had been able to see what the Covenant had been looking for under Black Reef. The Persian Gate soon slipped away from Alpha Corvi II before it could be destroyed along with it.
Enemy of my enemy
- "What matters is that our soldiers were fighting alongside the insurrectionists. Why would we protect the enemy?"
- — Chyler Silva reacts to viewing leaked footage from John's helmet.
At some point during the first few months of 2526, at least John and Fred were deployed to support UNSC Marine Corps forces in a mission to capture a leader of the Insurrection. John found and secured their target, but the man warned him that someone else was coming. The mission parameters suddenly changed dramatically when the arrival of the Covenant forced John and the others to briefly ally with the rebels against their common enemy. John ordered his squad to fall back as soon as it became clear a third faction was present.
- Halima Ascot: "I need to be sure you understand the risk. We're working at the edge of your armor's capability, with more unknown variables than we can count. If something goes wrong, there won't be much chance to recover."
- John-117: "If you're saying we'd be on our own, Spartans are trained—"
- Halima Ascot: "I'm saying the Starry Night will do everything possible, but we're limited by orbital mechanics. It might be smart to wait for an opportunity that's not quite so marginal."
- John-117: "With all due respect, ma'am, I disagree. We've been here a day already, and our luck won't hold forever. Sooner or later, an enemy patrol will spot the Starry Night, or a second Covenant vessel will arrive, or the enemy commander will decide it's time to move on. I can think of a dozen things that might go wrong if we don't go now."
- — John convinces Captain Ascot to give the Spartans the green light to launch their attack.
By March 4 of 2526, John and the rest of Blue Team had been assigned to the Razor-class prowler UNSC Starry Night. They were joined by Green Team, led by Kurt and also comprised of Anton-044, Malcolm-059, and Solomon-069, and Gold Team, led by Joshua-029 and also including Naomi-010, Daisy-023, and Grace-093. The uninhabited planet of Netherop in the Ephyra system had been recently glassed but by this point the only enemy vessel remaining in orbit was a Covenant frigate. The Starry Night observed the frigate for over twenty-four hours before the twelve Spartans gathered in the prowler's drop bay by 0342 hours on March 5. The prowler's captain, Halima Ascot, was hesitant to give the teams permission to go EV to board the enemy craft given the large number of unknown variables, but John reminded her that current intelligence summaries indicated only one Covenant species didn't breathe oxygen, meaning the frigate should support human life, and moreover argued that the longer they waited, the more things there were that could go wrong. From her place on the bridge, Ascot finally did relent and signaled that she would direct the Starry Night to begin a slingshot maneuver around the planet in five minutes' time. For this mission, each Spartan's Mjolnir had been temporarily modified to test skunkworks modifications and also tinted with a refractive coating that it was hoped would conceal them from the enemy. John was armed with an M99 Stanchion, a suppressed MA5K carbine, and an M6D magnum. At three minutes from the start of the maneuver, John ordered final checks and for his part looked over his inspection partner, Fred. He believed this boarding action should be easier than the impromptu one he ordered previously at Chi Ceti IV, but still reiterated that if anyone missed, thy should power down and wait to be rescued. Kurt questioned what had John so worried, but he denied he was and simply claimed he was confirming procedure and apologized for overbriefing, saying it was likely due to how much they still didn't know about the aliens. Encouraged by Joshua that the Covenant wouldn't know about Spartans either, John thanked him and then reminded everyone to not activate their rebreathers until they were clear of the hatch. With one minute left, each team lined up behind their leader, with each from the second row back holding on to the thruster pack of the Spartan in front of them. The Starry Night swung into the slingshot and the bay doors opened so they could leap from the craft. Their target was a group of five Type-27 Banshees returning to the frigate. The plan was to covertly match orbits and velocities with the fighters and follow them into the larger ship. By the time John had reached equilibrium so he was headed directly for the Banshees they were eighty kilometers away.
By 0402 hours, the Spartans were diving at a shallow angle into the planet's gravity well at thirty-three thousands kilometers per hour relative to it. When his HUD signaled it was time, John began to decelerate and flatten his angle of descent. Over the next forty minutes, he and the other Spartans crept stealthily toward the five fighters. When only eight minutes remained until the frigate would reappear over Netherop's horizon John had the assault squad form on him and begin to overtake the Banshees even more quickly, since the larger Covenant ship's sensor umbrella could pose a risk once the planet no longer was between them. The Spartans grouped together by team but were still careful to maintain at least one hundred meters' distance between each of them. Nine minutes later, John gave the signal to tighten the formation and arrange it so that each Banshee had at least two Spartans fifty meters below it. John and Fred climbed into an orbit directly behind the leftmost craft, stopping just two meters from it. Once they reached the mothership the Banshees bled off excess velocity and held position fifty meters beneath its belly. One by one, they rose past an energy barrier into the docking hollow beneath its tail, and the Spartans moved to follow the final one inside. John directed Fred and Kelly to deal with the pilot of the last Banshee and then used his Stanchion to begin firing on the occupants of the hangar, first taking out a Yanme'e and Unggoy in quick succession. Two further shots felled two Sangheili, and following this John could see no more living targets so elected to dispose of the rifle so it would burn up in Netherop's atmosphere. His MA5K would be more useful inside the frigate. All twelve Spartans had managed to board the ship by 0502 hours without triggering any alarms.
Once it was evident they would be able to breathe the atmosphere on the ship, John gave the okay to switch off their rebreathers. He ordered Gold Team to gather equipment to dump for collection and analysis by ONI's Beta-3 Division and led Blue and Green teams to an oversize iris hatch at the back of the hangar. The hatch leaves retracted before John could find a control pad or mechanical release, revealing two oblivious Kig-Yar which were immediately shot and killed by he and Fred. John tasked Green Team with securing all compartments and intersections as they moved forward and then advanced up a passageway which curled steeply upward along the curve of the ship's hooked tail. After fifty meters it ran through two ninety-degree twists, artificial gravity keeping them planted against the floor all the same, so that they then found themselves facing down a hall above the hangar deck. After another fifty meters iris hatches on either side gave way to tall, swinging hatches that did not automatically open when someone came near. Kelly offered to blast through them with breaching cord but seeing as they were already seventy seconds into the boarding action John denied her request and argued that they almost certainly only led to airlocks anyway. A dozen paces from another large hatch that John figured opened to the ship's main body, he had Blue Team halt and ready heavy weaponry for when Kelly breached the door. Their element of surprise was ended, however, by a sensor operator on one of the six prowlers in the area who activated SQUADCOM and gave away their presence. Kelly blasted through the hatch nonetheless and John helped the others eliminate the opposition on the other side with a M9 fragmentation grenade. John then put two rounds into the head of every alien on the other side, no matter whether they were only wounded or already dead. Sprinting up another passage toward where the bridge was suspected to reside, high in the bow, Blue Team cut down about fifty aliens who were attempting to flee or take shelter. After three hundred meters the frigate appeared deserted. Another fifty meters ahead, John signaled Kelly to blow another hatch and sent Linda and Fred to take covering positions. Kurt reported that Green Team was on the third deck and searching for the engineering deck but before John could get an update from Joshua the hatch in front of Blue Team opened and the Covenant on the other side lobbed plasma grenades at the Spartans. John launched himself forward through the opening to find himself suspended in a gravity lift slowly carrying him downward. John was hit by a number of radioactive projectiles fired from Type-51 carbines wielded by Sangheili above him but rolled onto his back as he descended and managed to break through the personal energy shielding of one to kill him. Kelly got another and then Linda and Fred followed them into the lift once the surviving Elites had traveled past the hatch, taking out another from above. The direction the lift sent things in reversed without warning, sending them all barreling upward past the hatch Blue Team had entered through. John managed to get the sit-rep from Joshua he had wanted before they were ambushed and then told him to focus on disrupting any counterattacks the remaining Covenant may try to launch. John then realized that the lift could we weaponized and shouted for everyone to grab onto something just before the polarity was reversed again, but violently. John hung on to a ladder rung but the others were yanked back to the bottom. A nearby hatch opened up and John opened fire on it with his MA5K. Kelly reported a compound rib fracture so John ordered Fred to get her out of the lift tube, also telling Linda to vacate it and to join up with Green Team. The nearby hatch led to the bridge, so John began lobbing grenades and before long it was filled with dead and dying Sangheili.
The shipmaster, hanging onto life and still seated on his throne, took fire in his left arm from John's M6D but it was not enough to keep stop him from activating a sort of dead man's switch. Hatches opened throughout the bridge and unarmed and unarmored Sangheili that remained tried to escape through them, but John casually blew holes through their chests with the magnum's .50 caliber nickel-plated rounds. Kurt reported that the Covenant, save for the Yanme'e, were abandoning ship, so John pieced together what was happening right away and called for his Spartans to escape the vessel as well. He made his way onto the bridge with the intent to stop the shipmaster from taking them all out while keeping in touch with the others, who all reported successful evacuations, save for Linda. She was being herded by Drones but was almost in the hangar, so she told John to make his move. Two Yanme'e tried to catch him by surprise but he had no trouble dealing with them. When he went for the commander in his throne, however, it spun away from him and dragged its hand off the yellow blister on an armrest John figured to be a dead man's switch. John dived for one of the open hatches and the escape pod beyond it, slapping at the controls for anything that would launch it. His armor's hydrostatic gel locked up as the ship came apart behind him while the pod sped away.
Task Force Yama
- John-117: "I look forward to serving under you, Colonel. Feel free to call on me if you have questions about Spartan capabilities or our experiences fighting the aliens."
- Marmon Crowther: "I've been fully briefed on both, Petty Officer. I'm sure you and your Spartans will prove a vital asset to the operation."
- — John concedes authority to Colonel Crowther for Operation: SILENT STORM.
All twelve Spartans made it off the Radiant Arrow safely and were ferried to Battle Group X-Ray in deep space in the Polona sector. John was summoned to the tactical planning center of the Point Blank-class stealth cruiser UNSC Vanishing Point, which he and Doctor Halsey both entered at 0558 hours on March 8. Dressed in his khaki service uniform, he was invited to take a seat at the conference table within by Vice Admiral Preston Cole. Others gathered in the TPC included Captain Ascot, who was announced as the leader of Task Force Yama, Colonel Marmon Crowther, commander of the 21st Space Assault Battalion of ODSTs, and Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson, who Cole described as a special tactics sniper with plenty of experience fighting the Covenant. Task Force Yama, Cole and Ascot explained, was to be made up of the Vanishing Point and three squadrons of prowlers, and everyone present was being attached to it for Operation: SILENT STORM, a desperate mission with the stated aim of boarding as many Covenant capital ships as possible in order to detonate small-yield tactical nuclear weapons within their hulls. John met the proposed operation with enthusiasm but Colonel Crowther was less optimistic about the idea. When Halsey spoke up to suggest John should command his ODSTs, however, John pushed back against her and said that he would defer to the colonel. Seeing as the planet Biko lay right in the path of the enemy's current invasion route, it was decided that Battle Group X-Ray would travel there to wait for the attackers, and would begin harassing them to draw attention from the task force so it could slip past their defenses. Sergeant Johnson was assigned as a training resource for the "Black Daggers", the ODSTs of the 21st, but he would work with the Spartans during the operation due to similarities in experience between he and they. Johnson indicated he was looking forward to working with John, who reciprocated the statement.
It took ten days to travel from their location in the Polona sector to the Kolaqoa system where Biko resided. For John and the other Spartans, the first three days were spent training against the Black Daggers in the Vanishing Point's mission preparation hold. The initial exercises, with both opposing forces armed with tactical lockup rounds, were simple zero-gee combat scenarios with equal numbers on both sides. As they continued, Crowther gradually made things more difficult for the Spartans. Once he filled a hold with floating obstacles and ordered four Spartans to recover a nonexistent ball while facing off against en entire platoon. He also charged all twelve of the Spartans with holding a position against an assault that only ended when nobody could maneuver in the space due to all the floating strike-locked ODSTs. He additionally devised a hostage rescue situation in which the hostage turned out to be a hostile imposter. As these exercises continued, the Black Daggers began to have more successes then when they began, and eventually Sergeant Johnson began to lead the Spartans' opposition. Under his direction, they employed tactics which turned the Spartans' strengths against them, but also required a large number of simulated casualties for the Daggers.
On March 12, the fourth morning of the journey, Crowther called all assault personnel to the cruiser's drop hangar. The colonel congratulated the 21st on what he had witnessed over the past three days and then announced that when they moved against the Covenant he meant to have a single Spartan assigned to twelve of the battalion's platoons and to have them be the ones to carry the nukes. Furthermore, he intended to begin integration exercises that day based on this division. John was angered by both the decision and that Crowther had not consulted him first, but it took Avery Johnson's prodding him about his thoughts on the matter to draw Crowther's attention. The colonel noticed the two talking during his speech, so pointedly asked John to repeat whatever question he must have meant to ask. He shared his concerns about splitting up his Spartans but was rebuffed. When Johnson joined him in questioning the strategy, he got Crowther to admit he had doubts about Spartans leading assaults due to their young ages. Daisy scoffed at this, and drew Crowther's focus. He asked how old she was and John informed him that information was classified, only to have him reveal he knew their DOBs had been falsified. On paper, they were nineteen years old, but thanks to the Paymaster General's records Crowther had figured they must have begun training as early as age eleven. John reminded him that ONI would not look kindly on him doing too much digging. The tension was only broken when Johnson suggested that he, Crowther, and John decide on strategy together after first running some exercises with teams arranged how he was asking. Colonel Crowther agreed with this and asked of John would be okay with three days like that, to which he merely said the battalion was Crowther's to do with as he saw fit. Despite the apparent concession, by the end of those three days Crowther remained convinced and still doubted the Spartans' lack of experience, leading him to move forward with his original plan.
The ODSTs and Spartans kept training daily until the Task Force Yama finally reached the Kolaqoa system and Biko's third moon, Seoba, on March 18. By 1426 hours, less than twenty minutes after exiting slipspace, John and Johnson both found themselves in the back of the drop bay of the Razor-class prowler UNSC Ghost Song behind the forty member strong First Platoon of the 21st's Alpha Company. John had been designated the platoon's fire-support soldier and was naturally carrying a lot of heavy weaponry. The Ghost Song had begun an insertion run meant to simulate a dismount-under-fire. The exercise was being referred to as Operation: ICE DANCE and also would serve to establish a presence for the task force in an abandoned ice quarry on Seoba where part of it would wait for the Covenant. Before the order to deploy could be given, however, an urgent burst from Colonel Crowther informed everyone in the drop bay that the operation was no longer a drill. The Biko Independence Army, it turned out, was attempting to stage a coup against the colonial chancellor and the quarry that was Yama's target had already been occupied by insurrectionists using it as a staging grounds for their revolution. The leader of Ghost Flight, the squadron to which Ghost Song belonged, entered the bay and further informed the platoon that Alpha Company was being tasked with preventing the rebels from transmitting from a comm center that would be hit by prowlers initially but could very well be operational again within thirty minutes. Once Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto was finished briefing the platoon, he signaled for John to follow him back into a passageway behind the drop bay. Nyeto explained that he wished to apologize to John, for it had been one of his people that broke comm silence and alerted the Covenant to the Spartans' presence on their ship at Netherop. John told him that as long as it didn't happen again, he didn't see a need for it to go any further. Nyeto then casually remarked that he had thought his sensor operator had gotten them all killed because he must have forgotten how good the Spartans were, thanks to being trained since the age of five. Though Nyeto was slightly off, John was still shocked at the commander's apparent insight. Nyeto let him know that an ODST buddy of his, now dead, had told him stories about training against eight-year-olds on Reach seven years ago. John accidentally confirmed his suspicions when he grew defensive and threatened to report Nyeto for breaking security protocols. The commander became apologetic soon after and swore to keep the information to himself and even shared that he sympathized with John in light of Crowther's poor strategy. Sergeant Johnson entered at this point to let them know First Platoon's lieutenant, Nelly Hamm, wanted to evacuate the bay in two minutes. As such, John and Nyeto parted amicably.
- John-117: "You played me. We were decoys."
- Nelly Hamm: "I needed to get that missile launcher looking in another direction, so Nyeto could do a prowler drop without losing another bat. In these tank suits, I figured you Spartans had a better chance of surviving than anyone else."
- John-117: "That makes sense, but you still lied to me—and that put my people at unnecessary risk."
- Nelly Hamm: "That's right, soldier. I guess that's what happens when you don't obey orders. It's one shitshine after another."
- — Lieutenant Hamm reminds John she outranks him and that insubordination won't be tolerated.
The Ghost Song's jump hatch opened at 1433 hours but when it did, the ODSTs on the other side immediately began to suffer casualties under a barrage of M41 Vulcan fire. Lieutenant Hamm called for the pilot to abort the dismount so the prowler lifted away. John moved forward to assist with pulling a wounded trooper on the threshold back inside against the prowler's thrust, and after doing so passed him off to Hamm so that he could get a good look at the situation below while she was preoccupied with caring for him. John spotted bunkers which had been dug into the icy slopes ahead of their planned landing zone and from this reasoned that the insurrectionists couldn't have been waiting for them because it would have taken longer to construct those bunkers than the length of time Yama had been in the system. Johnson, however, cautioned him to not rule out the possibility that they had been warned even before that. Hamm was upset by John's transparent action and berated him for being out of position. John apologized but then proceeded to ready an M41 SPNKR to fire upon a bunker below, even shaking Johnson off when the marine tried to stop him. At over a kilometer and a half away, the nearest one was out of the effective range at this point, so without hesitation John stepped out into open air. He used thrusters to accelerate his descent in the moon's low gravity, only firing a rocket once his target was within three-hundred and fifty meters. He decelerated and performed and evasive corkscrew as he landed, but not before firing once more before reaching the ground. John was about to launch a 40mm grenade from the M301 grenade launcher attached to his MA5B, but Kelly took care of his target before he could, the members of Blue Team having dropped right after him at Johnson's call to do so.
John commanded the rest of Blue to form up and meet him at the nearby docks. He ran and leaped in the low gravity, all the while firing his rifle and taking fire in return. John's concern was locating any hangars that might be launched from, seeing as the mission involved not allowing the rebels to get a message off Seoba. Once he reached the docks he dropped into a bay for cover and was soon after joined by not only Fred, Kelly, and Linda, but Johnson and Lieutenant Hamm as well. The lieutenant was furious at his disregard for her orders but John defended his actions as necessary. Johnson, always the diplomat, appeared to take Hamm's side but in doing so got the conversation to shift to what needed doing next. A convoy of Civets was heading up the mountain where the comm center lay, no doubt intending to repair the damage done. Three more friendlies, one of whom was the Alpha Company commander, Zelos Cuvier, were given covering fire by Blue Team so they could join them at their position. Cuvier commended Hamm for what he thought had been her decision to send in the Spartans. Hamm gave no indication that the truth had been anything different and then recommended that they make further use of the Mjolnir-clad soldiers to stop the Civets by sending them up the tube of the large mass driver which ran up the slope of the mountain with the comm center. John agreed to the plan, but given that the tube was partially filled in with ice, he requested vacuum-suitable M7057 flamethrowers and thermite paste for his team and Fred pointed out they would need lots of C-7 as well.
By 1456 hours Blue Team covered the last dozen meters that separated them from the base of the mass driver. The tube extended five kilometers up the mountain slope. John ordered Linda to watch their backs while he used a thermite carbon cord to cut through ice covering a loading breach. Fred was doubtful about the wisdom of the strategy for beating the Civets, which made John irritated, but ultimately Fred convinced him that Hamm was up to something by using them in this way. Johnson, included on their TEAMCOM, offered to talk to Ascot about having the Spartans trade places with First Platoon, but John refused to accept the offer. He further addressed Kelly's concerns about making it in time by assuring her the ice would thin as they got closer to the top. furthermore, John declared that despite the narrow space through which they had to move, they would not be crawling that distance since they were each outfitted with thruster packs. After trying out some different positions, he settled on lying on his belly with his arms stretched out in front. He instructed Linda to stay back to provide their ascent as an observer and sniper, and with Fred following him and Kelly bringing up the rear, the three began to be propelled forward with their thruster jets. The first part of the journey through the tube was relatively flat, but soon the climb up the slope started. Linda let John know that their presence within the old mass accelerator was noticeable due to ice plumes rising off its exterior as they passed by. John's first reaction upon hearing this was to order Fred and Kelly to turn back and let him go on alone, but both flatly refused. John, being in the lead, broke through three curtains of ice before telling Linda to avoid any high-risk maneuvers as she covertly advanced up the mountain out in the open. After eight minutes, John had made it about two-thirds of the way but suddenly stopped when a barrage of Vulcan fire started chewing through the tube ahead of his position. Kelly offered to make a hole and fire her SPNKR at whomever was shooting the turret, but John denied her request. He instead opted to create a distraction by using both thermite-carbon cord and their I-Jet to draw fire behind them. The resulting explosion worked as planned and the three were two hundred meters ahead of the blast when it occurred. The end of the tube was just fifteen hundred meters further and John told Linda to hold her position then due to a series of other explosions she reported on mountainside. As it turned out, a prowler drop was soon underway which stopped the Civets in their tracks. Hamm had meant Blue Team as a distraction the entire time. John, Fred, and Kelly covered the last kilometer to find the lieutenant and others from the First Platoon already planting charges in the comm center when they emerged. She congratulated the Spartans on a job well done but received nothing but ire from John for having lied to them and using them as she had. Not one to back down, Hamm defended her strategy and reminded him that she hadn't forgotten his prior disregard for her orders, stressing that this type of thing could be expected more often if he continued down that path.
The next day, John presented himself to Captain Ascot at 0816 hours during an after action debriefing held around a folding conference table within Assembly Chamber 4L430 in one of the quarry's abandoned habitats. After taking a seat at the table, John was given the opportunity to explain why he had concluded that the insurrectionists had known about their attack ahead of time. He also defended his actions in aboard the Ghost Song to both Ascot and Crowther and stated that he hadn't expected Alpha Company to follow him when he jumped from the drop bay. Nyeto, ostensibly coming to John's defense, let it slip that the Spartans were young. Halsey panicked and thought John might have told him their true ages but he explained to her that Nyeto had figured it out on his own based on reports from an ODST friend. The revelation prompted both the captain and colonel to state that they refused to send the Spartans into combat henceforth. John remained silent on the matter, but by the time the conversation came back around to how the enemy had known they were coming, he was pointedly asked by Sergeant Johnson for his thoughts. He suggested that the rebels may have remained on Seoba instead of fleeing because they had been waiting for someone—and that someone must have been the Covenant. He argued that the only reason the BIA would stage a coup now was if it thought by surrendering the colony to the aliens they could save it. This could only mean that the Covenant must be inbound soon, so John suggested that they ambush the aliens with the intent of making them think the insurrectionists had set them up. Ascot agreed with John's idea with the provision that SILENT STORM still went forward. It was 0835 hours when John began to argue for his Spartans' place in the operation to Crowther but before he could get a sentence out a chorus of alarms signaled that five Covenant corvettes would reach Seoba in twenty-two minutes. As everyone rushed to load all prowlers, Crowther made sure to let John finish making his point. Despite the advantage he and the others would give, however, he was adamant about not sending teenagers into battle. To make up for this, he instead directed Blue, Gold, and Green teams to guard and load the more than three hundred prisoners captured the previous day for transport. Before parting John made one request of his own: that Crowther cease from calling him son, something he had been making a habit of doing.
Battle of Seoba
- Main article: Battle of Seoba
- Joshua-029: "What are we doing?"
- John-117: "Going after the Starry Night."
- Kurt-051: "Funny, I didn't hear Colonel Crowther authorize that."
- John-117: "He didn't need to. We're all that's left."
- — John takes initiative in order to keep sensitive data out of Covenant hands.
By 0847 hours, John and the other eleven Spartans were marching the prisoners onto a Banta-class transport named the Emmeline within the quarry's Subsurface Maintenance Grotto 6M430. John, assisted by his Mjolnir's onboard computer, was able to single out General Harper Garvin, a priority target for ONI interrogation, within the crowd. The Emmeline would be launching for Biko, but John told Garvin to step forward so that he could keep him back for ONI. Despite threatening to break bones, the others surrounded Garvin to protect him and a woman, Petora Zoyas, came forward instead. She attempted to distract him but he wasted no time telling his Spartans to stand at the ready before seizing her tunic lapels in his gauntleted fist. With only eight minutes until the Covenant was estimated to arrive, he could not afford to waste time, so he informed her she could be executed for her interference and at that, Garvin finally relented and presented himself to John. He gave the order to resume loading the rebels. Garvin questioned how John had recognized him and in response John claimed he had once seen him lecture at Luna OCS. Artillery strikes then shook the grotto, even though seven minutes still remained till the Covenant's original estimated ETA. John could hear Ascot calling for the Starry Night to launch but she was soon cut off and Nyeto broke in to inform those listening that her prowler had been hit and downed in the quarry. Urgent to concluded his business with the prisoners, John told them that anyone not aboard in one minute would be left behind to die. And since all prowlers had already launched and only the Spartans remained to secure the Starry Night, he also sent Garvin back to his people since he could no longer afford to babysit him. John led his Spartans to the grotto's airlock and told them his intentions for keeping the prowler out of Covenant hands.
They emerged into the quarry's exterior maintenance yard at 0859 hours as plasma bolts impacted all around. John led the teams thirty meters forward before stopping to request a waypoint for the crash site. Colonel Crowther broke in over the channel to ask what John was doing but agreed that the Spartans were the only option, seeing as nobody else was left groundside. John had Kurt and Joshua work with him to create a search line out of all twelve that moved forward through the sublimation fog at a trot. The waypoint which appeared on John's HUD indicated the prowler was downed somewhere between four and eight kilometers away, and at that point Covenant forces were predicted to be close enough to land troops within just two minutes. At this, John ordered his squad to advance at a full run with their eyes pointed toward the ground. Debris from the ship might be the first thing they were able to sight, after all. With one minute remaining till the Covenant was there, the estimated distance had narrowed to between five and seven kilometers. By the time that maximum distance dropped to five meters, a few more minutes had gone by. At two kilometers, John finally saw the ship. It had impacted about halfway up the quarry wall and now sat about seven hundred meters from the bottom amidst the debris from an avalanche it had created. Fred was the first to point out an inbound Type-25 Spirit which soon began spraying fire in the Spartans' direction. John then announced that their main priority had changed from rescuing the Starry Night's crew to denying any of the data it carried to the enemy. With around thirteen hundred meters between he and the prowler, John contacted Crowther again, who concurred that it could not be allowed to fall into Covenant hands. Speaking to both the colonel and Lieutenant Commander Nyeto, John only asked that they do what they could to keep alien dropships off their backs.
As soon as John finished speaking a stream of plasma bolts caught him at chest height, fired from an unseen vehicle within the fog. When he could finally see it as it swerved toward him, he fired a grenade from his MA5's underslung launcher, which detonated upon impact with the Jiralhanae pilot's head. With at least four more of the rapid attack vehicles registering on his motion tracker John signaled Gold and Green teams to deal with them while Blue went for the Starry Night. Once within forty meters of the avalanche's base John leapt ten meters up in Seoba's weak gravity to get a better look at the ship above the fog. It was being swarmed by Sangheili, Jiralhanae, and Kig-Yar, and two Spirits were in position overhead. John called out to Nyeto to ask where their air support was and was reassured it was on its way. At the bottom of the slope he ordered Blue Team to follow his lead in firing grenades beneath where the prowler rested. Before they even exploded, however, a plasma strike sent the mass of snow and ice tumbling further down. John tried in vain to get above it was was quickly buried under tons of snow and ice by 0909 hours. His HUD showed that only six of his Spartans had escaped being immobilized like he had, so he turned over command to Fred at once and told him to stick with the plan to board and blow up the Starry Night. Unable to do much else, he once again checked on the status of their air support with Crowther and Nyeto to only to be told again that it would be there soon enough. It took John over two minutes to finally dig himself out. Once he was able to reorient himself he confirmed that Fred, Linda, and Malcolm-059 had made it aboard the prowler. Linda was in the midst of arming its Fury tactical nuclear weapon. John warned Fred that four Brutes, four Jackals, and four Elites were on their way inside and when he was notified that four ODSTs and Sergeant Johnson had survived, with the Sergeant suffering a concussion, he advised that grenades be taken away from him. John additionally agreed to a thirty second timer being set for the blast to give them all time to get away. When John finally pulled himself free of the snow he set off at a run while firing his M6D at the Sangheili he judged to be in charge. Holes in its chest made the alien collapse but as he fell John grabbed him by the throat and shoved him toward the second Elite. John was just able to get inside the swing from the second's energy blade, grab his wrist, and fold him onto his own sword. He was then caught off guard as he was hit from behind by a shot which ruptured his armor. His suit began to slowly lose pressure as he somersaulted, rolled, and dug into the snow to find ay semblance of cover. John's attacker was dealt with by Anton-044 and Joshua, who offered to assist him with a patching kit. Noticing that a Covenant ship hanging low in the sky over the Starry Night looked as if it could lift the craft into itself at any moment, John yelled for the nuke to be set off as soon as possible. He, Joshua, and Anton bounded down the slope to but at least half a kilometer between themselves and the blast. Seoba's lack of atmosphere meant they didn't have to worry about a shockwave. As soon as all eight Spartans were accounted for in the wake of the explosion, which destroyed the Covenant vessel above it, John had Joshua then patch him up so he could go check on each one of them. The wreckage of the Covenant ship yielded some sort of holoprojector which the Spartans recovered for study.
At 0630 hours the next day, March 20, John and five other Spartans well enough to attend stood in their dress blues within the Vanishing Point's command hangar for a funeral service which honored the two hundred and three men and women of the UNSC who had died on Seoba in just the past couple of days. Once the company was dismissed, only the Spartans, Nyeto, Crowther, Halsey, and a handful of senior officers stayed behind. John stared down Nyeto long enough to make the man cross over to him and clap him on the arm, congratulating him for his squad's performance the day before. Now that Nyeto was in command of the task force and not Ascot, John requested that her decision to sideline the Spartans be reconsidered. Nyeto assured him they would be seeing plenty of action under his command, but at this Crowther broke in to object. He threatened the commander with a court of inquiry should he send teenagers to fight with his Black Daggers and in so doing got him to relent. Halsey took John by the arm and led he and the five other Spartans toward one of the hangar's starboard exits.
- Avery Johnson: "John? John, what the hell are you doing? Son, listen to me. Don't be a goddamn hero. Damn it, answer me, John!"
- John-117: "I'm here, Sergeant. But Sarge, with all due respect... you really need to stop treating me like a kid."
- — John asks Sergeant Johnson for a certain measure of respect right before risking his life via a HAVOK detonation.
Crowther continued to resist Nyeto's desire to see the Spartans returned to active status, which left them frustrated and angry. At 1534 hours the four members of Blue Team and four other Spartans were residing in one of the Vanishing Point's smaller maintenance hangars when the Covenant's Fleet of Inexorable Obedience emerged in force from slipspace in the Kolaqoa system. They could observe the enemy ships on a bulkhead monitor, and when many smaller crafts launched only to swirl around the larger ships in tight escort patterns, Fred noted that such a formation struck him as odd. John explained the strangeness of this away by stating that different weapons required different tactics, but Kelly also spoke up in agreement with Fred and Linda thought that perhaps the Covenant was just aiming to be unpredictable. As they continued to observe, however, Kelly concluded that the fleet must have somehow been warned about the strategy Task Force Yama sought to employ against its ships and John could not help but say that she may be right. Knowing about SILENT STORM's aims explained why the enemy appeared to be guarding against boarding actions and why it had tried to hard to capture a prowler the day before. John guessed that General Garvin had been the one to tip the aliens off, but could not explain how he had gotten the necessary intelligence first. John vowed to find out how such a breach could have occurred as fighting raged between the Covenant and the Bikon space navy. Sergeant Johnson walked up behind Blue Team soon enough, and after waving off a question from John regarding why he wasn't resting, asked the four of them if they planned to just lounge around the hangar and bellyache. He went on to rhetorically ask if there might be more they could be doing, and John perceived that the sergeant was speaking outside the chain of command. Johnson informed them that Crowther wanted the Spartans to volunteer for a special mission, albeit quietly. As it turned out, his statements at the service had been meant to provide him with cover and he actually hoped to send the Spartans to the planet Etalan, a recently-glassed human world where the enemy fleet's logistics convoy still resided. In addition, he let them know about mounting evidence which indicated Nyeto could not be trusted. John was hesitant to decisively condemn the new task force commander and had reservations about Crowther as well, but ultimately agreed they had to take the mission. The Vanishing Point and two prowlers slipped away from the rest of the task force that day.
On the way to the Igdras system, John and Avery decided that they ought to attack the Covenant convoy's munitions supply first and then its food supply. After arriving on March 22, the stealth cruiser and its escort observed the enemy for four days before beginning their assault approach on the twenty-sixth. during the days which led up to this point the Spartans spent most of their spare time in Doctor Halsey's special projects hangar learning how to operate all manner of captured Covenant equipment. Halsey had even given them a few lessons on which panels in a Type-27 Banshee's cockpit needed to be watched closely. By 0546 hours on March 26 the Spartans of Blue Team and Sergeant Johnson were all fully armored and armed with Mark 2521 Havok nuclear devices. Identifying which vessels were the Covenant's munitions carriers had so far proven difficult, but Doctor Halsey approached the five in the cruiser's aft fighter hangar to let them know she had been able to deduce which ships fit the bill almost right after they had first been observed. She told the sergeant and the Spartans that she had only neglected to share this information with them due to the prevalence of bugs on the ship placed by insurrectionist infiltrators working for Hector Nyeto. At this John expressed concern about the possibility that their MJOLNIR might have been compromised, and although she dismissed the notion at first Halsey eventually admitted a small chance remained that one of Nyeto's people had gotten to it in the maintenance module before she discovered the extent of the problem. Before Halsey finally got that point John had already ordered the rest of the team to have their onboard computers run diagnostic checks on the suit systems and then to run similar checks on the computers themselves. The plan called for the Spartans of Blue Team and Johnson to fly captured Banshees right into the hangars of the enemy ships they were targeting and then to extract immediately after by going EV for prowler pickup, leaving the nukes armed in the Banshee cockpits. Gold and Green Teams had already launched against the Covenant in four of twenty S-14 Baselard Space Strikers by the time Halsey revealed which ships they'd be going after first. The five of them were still holding back simply because they would only be authorized to attack once it was clear the other Spartans were achieving their objectives as planned. With around nine minutes estimated to go before a separate trio of remotely controlled Baselards led pursuing Covenant fighters protecting munitions carriers past the Vanishing Point's bow, Halsey let it be known that she was close to uncovering the location of the aliens' primary supply depot in that area of space. She was confident that if enough damage could be done at Etalan to force the invasion fleet to resupply, she would be able to pin that location down for good.
At 0559 hours John gave the signal to Johnson and the others to load up. He took control of the middle Banshee of the five and after confirming the readiness of his team with the remote pilot of a Baselard which they were to follow out of the hangar, piloted the craft into space after a ten second countdown. The launch was timed to immediately follow an attack with M42 Archer missiles from both the Vanishing Point and the remotely controlled space striker on a squadron of enemy Banshees drawn toward their position. John and the others then opened fire with their own on the Baselard in front of them, which allowed the Vanishing Point to remain undetected. John then led his flight to link up with the reassembling Covenant squadron, ignoring all hails in the hope that it would just be assumed they had damaged communication equipment. A trio of the crafts matched velocities with the humans and for nearly a minute one hung right alongside John at a distance of no more than twenty meters. John attempted to communicate with a standard wing waggle but only drew a similar response after dropping the fighter's tail and lifting its nose. Once the craft controlled by John's flight had fully linked up with the rest of the squadron its unit commander synced their orbits above the logistics fleet. A pear-shaped materials freighter ten kilometers ahead suddenly vanished in the wink of a nuclear detonation, which was followed by a series of others. One was close enough to the squadron to leave all the banshees dead in space due to the overwhelming of their radiation shielding with gamma rays. John made the decision at that point to go EV in order to continue the attack, asking if anyone had visuals on their targets, a trio of carriers collecting gas from Etalan's atmosphere. Johnson had managed to locate the first, which was less than fifty-two kilometers away and in an orbit around ten kilometers below theirs. John resolved to take that one out himself, ordering Kelly to take the second, Fred the third, and for Linda and Johnson to provide cover with their M99 Stanchions. After a count of three, he ejected from his Banshee along with the others and fired his thruster pack to direct him toward the first carrier. With five minutes and twenty seconds until he matched orbits and intercepted the first of the air skimmers, John declined to have Johnson cover him and instead told the sergeant to take care of either Fred or Kelly. Despite his insistence that things be done his way, however, Johnson had already committed to a vector which placed him a kilometer behind John. This division of covering fire had been Linda's idea, and when John reacted with apparent incredulity she said that he could be yell at her later. Soon after John switched to congratulating Johnson on his thinking when his HAVOK detonated behind them among the other Banshees, eliminating witnesses whom had seen them go EV. At almost three minutes until interception John's target was in an orbit five kilometers below him and was twelve kilometers behind. As soon as only two minutes and thirty-seven seconds remained he shut off his primary thruster and used maneuvering jets to swing him about so he was descending to intercept facing backward. Two seconds later he fired the thruster again to begin decelerating hard. At this point eight Banshees broke off from where they had been near the ship and moved to engage him. One veered off but as soon as the remaining seven opened fire Johnson recommended John abort his approach. With just around two minutes left John desperately tried to obscure the enemies' targeting sensors by firing his underslung grenade launcher, but this only worked briefly. He finally had to shut off his thruster pack once more and switch to using only the jets. In doing so, he put himself on a new course that would not involve syncing orbits but would lead to an impact with the ship nonetheless and which cut forty seconds off of his ETA. With only fifty seconds left until they met he entered a time delay of thirty seconds on his nuke and warned Johnson that he didn't want to be within five kilometers of the carrier in about forty seconds. The marine urged John not to be a hero but with only thirty-six seconds left, it was too late. At thirty seconds John initiated the nuke's countdown sequence and immediately let go of it. Doing so caused it to continue flying toward the ship as it had been while being held but John activated his thruster and burned hard past the ship before the detonation. When the nuke did explode, the blast caused space all around John to flash white but for that directly ahead of him and for his armor's shell temperature to climb way above the danger level.
- Marmon Crowther: "I have something for you, but first I want to make something clear. After what you did at Seoba and Etalan, you deserve these—and you deserve the full ceremony, on the bridge of the largest ship in the fleet. But... that's not what you're getting. There are going to be some very experienced Black Daggers in your group wondering why you're in command and they aren't, so we need to act now. This will remind them it's because I said so."
- John-117: "Sir... That's the rank insignia of a master chief petty officer."
- Marmon Crowther: "I'm aware of that, John. I couldn't find anything without a space assault rating, but what the heck... we're all special ops."
- John-117: "That's a four rank jump, sir."
- Marmon Crowther: "And I'm going to catch ten kinds of hell for it from FLEETCOM. Maybe even from Admiral Cole. But he's the one who told me to do whatever's needed... and this is needed."
- — Colonel Crowther presents John with the field promotion that would define his image in the years to come.[note 2]
Through observation of a Covenant relief convoy which arrived at Etalan shortly after Yama's attack, Doctor Halsey was able to use the captured starholo to identify the most likely location of the fleet's supply depot. All of Task Force Yama departed on March 31 and did not emerge from Slipspace Transit Node Bhadra in the Muruga sector, over two hundred light-years beyond the furthest point of human exploration, until April 14. The last week of that journey saw John meeting with Colonel Crowther and Avery Johnson for regular planning sessions concerning the upcoming mission. During these meetings Crowther made sure to consult with John about every aspect of the planning. By 0458 hours John found himself standing in one of the Vanishing Point's hangars, ready to board the command ship for Sierra Force, the Razor-class prowler UNSC Black Widow, with only fifty meters separating him from where the traitor Hector Nyeto stood at the boarding ramp to the UNSC Ghost Song. Crowther and Johnson were offering him some last-minute guidance. Despite being fully armored, Johnson suggested smiling and waving at the commander to make it less obvious that John wanted to kill him there and then, which Crowther additionally had to caution him against. After leading the two other men up the boarding ramp into the Black Widow for further privacy, John apologized to the colonel for how he had responded to his earlier reticence to trust the Spartans. It was then that Crowther surprised him by producing a metal armor insignia displaying the rank of a master chief petty officer. John was taken aback, as he was still only a petty officer first class at the time and such a jump in rank was unheard of. Crowther insisted that although he may be reprimanded for such a meteoric field promotion, he believed it was necessary for the mission that every ODST in the two companies John was being placed in command of, including two captains and a fistful of lieutenants, knew that he had the full backing of their colonel. Even so, John couldn't help but refuse but was told he had no choice in the matter, as Crowther and Johnson had talked it over at length and the acceptance of the rank was to be considered an order.
The colonel affixed the insignia high on John's chest plate, right over his left collarbone. John finally gave in and made it clear he understood the necessity of the promotion. He promised that under his leadership, Sierra Force would get the job done, but did share his concern for the well-being of Dagger Force, which both Crowther and Johnson would be part of. John had been allowed to handpick the flight commanders for Sierra Force, which would be made up of four prowlers divided into two flights. About ninety percent of his reasoning for who he chose, Esme Guayte and Jim Linwoo, had to do with the fact that they had been raised on Earth. Dagger Force was being led by Nyeto and numbered three prowler flights. Dagger would approach the Covenant's supply world, designated "Naraka", first in an attempt to draw out its defensive flotilla stationed at Libration Point Three. Sierra Force was supposed to follow a few minutes later. Before the two took their leave, Crowther shared one final bit of wisdom with the young master chief, telling him that sometimes a good commander cannot be a hero. One trait in which he had yet to see in John was the willingness to send his people to their deaths, if that was what was necessary. John only pushed back against this charge slightly but ultimately thanked the colonel for the advice. Once only John and the sergeant were left alone, the two said goodbye to one another and John thanked him for the lessons he'd learned in their short time together. As soon as Johnson had departed as well Linda found John in the vestibule and jokingly congratulated him on his "nice bling" and suggested he shouldn't let it go to his head. She then reported she'd discovered a bug in the Widow's wardroom and that Kurt had also found one in the UNSC Quiet Man's. John chose to see the presence of the devices as a good sign that Sierra Force's flight commanders weren't working for Nyeto and when Linda reminded him they still might not trust him when things kicked off, he just assured her that was what his bling was for. The Black Widow launched from the Vanishing Point shortly afterward and John moved toward the flight deck while Linda remained amidship. Naval Lieutenant Guayte scowled at him for entering the compartment without permission but John pretended not to notice. After a short while, she seemed she was about to question his presence but suddenly noticed John's new insignia and was taken aback, pointedly asking where that had come from. John informed her Colonel Crowther had given it to him. Following Dagger Force's transition to slipspace Guayte was about to begin the countdown for following it but John stopped her and handed her a data chip Crowther had also given him, telling her it had new orders. The chip contained a recorded message from the colonel which accused Nyeto of treachery and stated he should be considered received of command. The lieutenant paused it, asking John if he'd known about this. He responded in the affirmative and let her know about the eavesdropping devices his Spartans had found aboard the force's prowlers. Continuing the message revealed that there was an alternate vector through which they should slip. Guayte sat in silence briefly but then turned to John and made it known she understood he was in charge, asking him to please not get them killed.
- Esme Guayte: "It'll be a hot insertion."
- John-117: "Is there any other kind? Just get us within EV range of the orbital ring. We'll handle the rest."
- — John projects confidence despite having only led hostile insertions a handful of times.
By 1519 hours on April 15 the Black Widow and the rest of Sierra Force had begun the insertion approach toward Naraka. Dagger Force should have begun to infiltrate the planet's libration point outposts at that point and the plan of attack called for Sierra Force to insert Spartans and a platoon of Black Daggers at four different locations near an orbital support ring which encircled the entire world above its equator. Using EV tactics, those inserted would then try to board and destroy as many facilities along the ring as possible using nuclear devices and tubs of octanitrocubane. Due to his position on the Widow's flight deck, John was present when Avery Johnson's space assault distress beacon was detected transmitting in the open and some suit chatter on the First Platoon Alpha comm channel. Something had evidently gone very wrong with the planned effort to retake control of Dagger Force's prowlers from Nyeto. John was certain that the sergeant would not compromise the mission by activating an emergency beacon the enemy was sure to detect, so when ten frigate-sized vessels departed the Libration Point Three outpost he could only conclude that Johnson was intentionally luring them in his direction. As such, he told Lieutenant Guayte he believed they should stick to their plan. The alien ships were accelerating on a vector that would bring them within around one hundred kilometers of Sierra Force, and since they could feasibly plan to swing around for a tail attack, Guayte had to decide whether or not to change course and risk exposure if they were indeed still hidden. Once again, John advised sticking to their current course and suggested that the aliens could be chasing a Ghost Flight prowler, since their vector intersected Sierra's original slipspace approach. Several tau bursts eventually signified the departure of Ghost Flight's prowlers from the system. John was stunned at the realization that Nyeto had been able to crew three prowlers with traitors. Given that Sierra Force would evidently be facing a hot insertion, John told Guayte to just get them within EV range of the orbital ring. This soon proved to be undoable, however, because a fighter shell was maintaining a tight anti-infiltration web around the ring's orbital facilities. It was obvious to John that this was yet another sign that their plans had been leaked to the enemy. In response, he elected to come up with what he called "Plan D", in which they would access the ring by landing troops on Naraka's surface to attack it by means of what looked to be enormous gravity-elevators which connected the planet to the ring like spokes of a wheel. Additionally, he wanted each prowler's compliment to go for a different one. The lieutenant was unsure about splitting their forces like that but John argued it would only increase their chances that at least some would make it to the target. She reminded him that in order to being down the entire superstructure they would need to destroy at least ten facilities and made sure he understood that if the spokes weren't actually what they appeared to be, extraction from the surface would be out of the question. John knew this, and when Guayte finally gave her approval, he requested permission to retire to the ship's drop bay to prepare for the insertion. Guayte gave him leave, telling him to expect to be dirtside in just sixteen minutes. Joining the rest of Blue Team and Third Platoon Delta Company in the drop bay, John explained the new plan and began securing weapons and devices to his armor, including an MA5B with grenade launcher and an M90 shotgun. Each Spartan also took possession of two octas and a thirty-megaton HAVOK nuke. After a few minutes the Black Widow was plunging into the planet's atmosphere. John tasked Fred and Kelly with leading the dismount, followed by twelve ODSTs each and then by himself and Linda, with the remainder bringing up the rear. When only three minutes remained until touchdown John ordered final checks, running through his own systems list in kind and exchanging visual inspections with Linda. At one minute he ordered all chatter to cease and at thirty seconds signaled for weapon safeties to be taken off. When the hatch opened the Spartans and ODSTs dropped to two and a half meters to the pavement of a bustling transfer yard at the base of their designated elevator.
The first thing John noticed after landing was that the glassy pavement he was standing on was pulling he and others toward the elevator along with the haulage sleds which carried cargo to its base. Realizing that it was only emerald green bands that ferried supplies continuously in that direction, John sidestepped to cease moving forward involuntarily at around one hundred and twenty meters from the target. He asked Fred if he'd noticed any opposition left in the wake of the volley the Widow' had led with and was told some injured Jiralhanae could be taking cover behind some wrecked sleds ahead of them. John confirmed the Third Platoon had cleared the prowler with Guayte so it could take off and she in turn let him know that of the three other bats, the Quiet Death and Widow Maker had come under fire and been forced to turn back and the Quiet Man had broken up during its final drop. Green Team, as far as she could tell, was gathering survivors and continuing the attack. John allowed himself to be carried forward with others toward a skirmish line Kelly and four of the Black Daggers had set up. He then ordered she and Fred to flank the breastwork of sleds in their path while he and Linda gathered two of their own to construct a makeshift mobile barricade. John made sure to leave a slight gap in the middle between the two sleds and called for someone with an M41 SPNKR to come forward and take charge of it. Small Bear, the platoon's lieutenant, yelled for a trooper named Chavez, who didn't hesitate to put himself in the gap. They moved forward, and right as John asked Chavez if he could see anything through the surrounding smoke the marine fired both of the launcher's rockets. Before he could reach for a second set he was struck repeatedly by white-hot spikes fired from one of the Brutes' Type-25 Spikers. John got off a blind shot with his M90 in response but it was Fred and Kelly which cleaned up the Jiralhanae after that point. Once Kelly told him they were clear John yelled for a medic to help Chavez and told Kelly and Fred to rejoin them and grab as much ammunition as they could. From there the ODSTs and Spartans were carried into a sorting tunnel where the blue column of the alien elevator met its base. He asked the lieutenant if Chavez would make it but Small Bear said that the medic, Mehran, was giving him "the shot", a powerful narcotic used to relieve the pain and anxiety of a dying trooper. Removing her Fury nuke from its magmount on her person, she stated that the marine deserved a big send-off. John told her to lock in a forty minute countdown on the device and to leave it there.
At 1615 hours, just over thirty-five minutes since Lieutenant Small Bear had began her Fury's countdown, the Spartans and ODSTs in the antigravity beam were nearing the massive elevator's terminus. John was initially relieved when his onboard computer calculated an ETA of just sixty seconds when only four minutes and thirty seconds remained until the Fury detonated, but the elevator then caused he and the others to suddenly decelerate, leaving them with a new ETA of just over three minutes and a safety margin of only twenty-two seconds. John notified the others and instructed them to ready their nukes and octas for three-minute countdowns and to begin sixty-minute ones. As the end drew close John had Fred and Kelly go left and right, respectively, each leading their own fireteam of Black Daggers. The Spartans and ODSTs were set upon as soon as they emerged from the elevator, prompting John to ask Fred what their breakout options were. The nearest entrance to the transit tube lay over a hundred meters from the elevator exit, so with less than thirty-two seconds until he, Linda, and the other ODSTs would join the others John asked Small Bear to give Blue Team a rolling screen so it could get to the tube and start running bombs through it. He then swapped his M90 for his MA5B and grenade launcher and finally used thrusters to slip into position with ten seconds remaining till his arrival. Upon exciting he and the others unloaded a volley of grenades and rockets at the general direction of the enemy, with six needles and spikes glancing off John's armor. He fired one more grenade over the troopers heads before starting across the deck to the tube mouth and used another to take out a Jiralhanae who tried to cut him off. Halfway there John stopped to take cover behind a pile of toppled crates and reload his M99. With ten seconds left until the Fury was set to detonate he brought down an encroaching Elite with MA5B fire and at five seconds shouted for everyone to disengage as he ran for the tube mouth. His M99 was empty yet again before he reached it and he was yanked across the threshold by Kelly. He got off one final shot which saved Small Bear from a Sangheili, but the decompression which followed the Fury's shockwave pulled she and others into space. An emergency hatch cut Blue Team and six Black Daggers off from the elevator terminus. John could not help but denting the hatch with his fist as he listened to the cries and shouts of the wounded and dying.
- Fred-104: "Wow. What are they building there?"
- John-117: "Who cares? Either way, we're going to blow it up."
- — John commits to destroying the under-construction Hammer of Faith upon first laying eyes on it.
Turning to those that remained, John encouraged them to make what happened next count for the lieutenant. Fred had already climbed aboard a haulage sled so John motioned the ODSTs aboard with him and told Fred to teach them how to operate it after the other Spartan had communicated the similarity of the control to those of Banshees. Before John took his own sled he instructed the troopers to exfiltrate the best way they could and to call for a ride as soon as they ran out of octas. Kelly and Linda took a second sled and John steered his own as they set out, soon being joined by Fred. A closed hatch soon met the trio of cargo sleds but Fred blasted through it with his SPNKR. On the other side lay one of the orbital installations they were targeting, but Blue Team simply raced through it to the opposite end while amateur security forces fired at them. When the Black Daggers reentered the transit tube a few minutes later John began a two-and-a-half minute countdown to estimate the time until the first octa exploded. It took just over two minutes after that to reach the next facility, which Fred blew open their way into once more. A barricade waited for them beyond the hatch, however, so John called for a second rocket. The resulting hole was not large enough to drive through, however, so John stopped the vehicle short fired a grenade through it. Kelly and Fred cleared out the other side of hostiles easily enough and the troopers arrived behind them just as John's countdown ended. He immediately ordered them to hit the side of the tube with a rocket to create a vacuum cushion between them and the detonation but was assured they'd already taken care of that. They all made it across the threshold with around ten seconds to spare before a charge they'd placed ruptured the tube. John helped the rest of his team push the damaged sled into the breach to minimize the pressure loss which followed. All of Blue Team then gathered on a single sled and shot off again, exchanging fire with security but soon racing through the tube toward another installation. The next few were taken out much the same as the first two, with new tricks being employed by the defenders but countermeasures being found by the Spartans in kind. It was after making it through the sixth that John was told the Black Daggers would be going out with the bomb, having suffered too many casualties to continue forward. The explosion which followed cut off their conversation before John could even learn the name of the man he'd been speaking to but he had his computer log the time and conversation so he could recommend the man and his companions for a commendation.
John brought the sled to a halt before they reached the next facility to investigate what was happening outside of it. He was elated to see that Green Team had taken out three of the installations in addition to the six Blue Team and its ODSTs had destroyed. As a result, the ring was already showing signs of destabilization. His attention was drawn toward a massive supercarrier under construction in a kreche ahead of them. As a flight of ten Banshees was making its way towards the partially-built behemoth John decided they would blow it up and steal four of the Banshees to escape. Linda wasn't sure they'd be able to find the crafts in time, but John was convinced their current pilots were coming to meet the Spartans specifically. Back on the sled, they journeyed next through a dormitory with a thousand meters of lobby space. Over fifty Kig-Yar within tried to put up a meager attempt at defense but Blue Team blew past them without trouble. The team brainstormed a plan while on its way to the next fight and by the time the transit tube began to branch John thought they had something workable. The Spartans stopped then, and after resetting the fuses on their two octas and four HAVOKs for two-minute delays, approached the viewing band at the side of the tube to survey their target. John spotted fast-moving shapes within a hangar on the starboard of the two fabrication barns which flanked the vessel, signaling to him the location where the Banshees had landed. After instructing the others to set that hangar as their waypoint and to check the pressure status and rebreather integrity of their armor, he had Linda go to work on shooting through the viewing band with her rifle a few minutes later. A final kick from Fred at John's insistence finally shattered it and the four Spartans were pulled through the breach together. They used thrusters to descend toward their waypoint with John and Kelly in the lead spaced around thirty meters apart and the others around twenty meters behind. The plan they'd devised called for the nukes to be left twenty decks below the transit tube where the humans were expected to still be. John confirmed everyone was read right before they sailed past the energy barrier into the hangar where the Banshees lay waiting. He opened fire on the unprepared Unggoy and Kig-Yar within upon crossing the threshold and then rushed to bring the impulse drives and instrument consoles of the fliers online. Announcing the initiation of third step in their plan, he and Kelly then fired a few rounds to keep the remaining hostiles in the hangar confused and in hiding before readying the HAVOK devices. Once he was sure Kelly was ready, they both took off toward a pair of lift tubes in the back of the chamber. At twenty paces from the lifts he gave the command to initiate the devices' countdown timers. As soon as he and Kelly had pressed their devices' fuse triggers two Sangheili emerged from the lifts twenty meters away. John shouted to throw the nukes, which continued to roll toward their destination after hitting the deck. More Elites followed the first pair once they were dealt with and within fifteen seconds since arming the weapons John and Kelly were retreating as they fired. Just as John began to switch to his MA5's grenade launcher he caught a plasma bolt in his shoulder, which burned through his armor and sent his first shot wide. He just managed to duck as one of the Sangheili cut right through his rifle's barrel with its energy sword. John managed to stomp-kick his attacker's knee and spring away, unshouldering his shotgun in turn and executing him with ninety-four seconds left until the bombs exploded. John missed his next shot but spun inside the blade-wielding target's blow to land a glancing shot which brought down his shield. The agile warrior tried to take advantage of John's shoulder and immobilize him for a killing blow but this only allowed the Spartan to grab his wrist and use it to block his own swing, severing the limb at mid-forearm. The blade still sliced John across the side of his neck, but after a final shot to his opponent's foot he toppled with John on top of him. He then began beating the Elite's sword arm with his M90 until Kelly gently took it from him and finished the job for good. John stated he was fine when asked. With only one minute remaining to flee the structure John began slapping patches on his armor as Blue Team ran for the Banshees. He was about to use one of the craft's guns on a pair of Jiralhanae at the thirty-six second mark but thought better of it, reminding his team of the Banshees' poor shielding to emphasize the need to get as far away as possible. The four of them accelerated into a higher orbit after exiting the hangar. When there were only five seconds left until detonation John activated his locator beacon and requested extraction over Sierra Force's encrypted channel. He and the others excited their Banshees after the explosions and formed a recovery line with fifty-meter spacing. Soon enough, they were met by the UNSC Night Watch, guided onto its drop bay deck by Black Daggers, and welcomed aboard by Nelly Hamm.
By 1718 hours John was seated in the crew lounge alongside the rest of Blue Team, Green Team, and Sergeant Johnson. The sergeant offered him a Sweet William cigar but the first draw he took made him cough so hard he popped all eight butterfly bandages which had been applied to keep his neck wound closed. As they watched out the viewport, John and the seven other Spartans present cheered each time a segment of the fleet-support ring burned up in Naraka's atmosphere. As soon as the chronometer on the wall showed 1719 hours, eight final octanitrocubane detonations signaled the fruitful handiwork of Green Team and the Black Daggers. An awed silence fell over the compartment at this. Soon enough, conversation resumed and when Hector Nyeto's betrayal was brought up, John agreed that Colonel Crowther deserved to be avenged. In his opinion, though, the best way to honor him would be to simply have each other's backs as the fight against the Covenant continued. He did assure Daisy that they would get the traitor and kill him eventually, however, as he was certain he'd be coming after them again.
- Main article: Battle of Circinius IV
- "Stay close to me. It's your best chance of survival."
- — The Chief to cadets Orenski, Lasky, Silva, and Sullivan.
The colony world Circinius IV came under attack by the Covenant on April 26, 2526. As part of the counterattack against the Covenant, Blue Team deployed to the surface to evacuate surviving cadets from the Corbulo Academy of Military Science. John tracked a distress signal from what remained of Hastati Squad and found them covering in a training room with a Sangheili zealot about to attack. John crept up behind the zealot and stabbed it in the back of its neck with a combat knife, instantly killing it. He turned to the four cadets--April Orenski, Thomas Lasky, Chyler Silva, and Michael Sullivan—and told them that they didn't have much time to get out. John radioed Kelly and informed her that he had secured four survivors and that she ought to inform command and bring her team north for Pelican extraction at Evac Alpha. As far as John was concerned, these four cadets were by then the only remaining survivors on the entire planet. He told them to armor up quickly, as they had only fifteen minutes to get to their evacuation point. Sullivan pointed out that the nearby lockers were inaccessible to them, so John simply tore the doors from their hinges. Once everyone was sufficiently armed and armored, the group proceeded cautiously down a darkened hall of the academy. John eventually signaled a stopping point, as he had heard what might be enemies ahead. He ordered the cadets to stay quiet and to remain in place while he left to deal with any nearby threats. When John did return, he asked who the best shot among them was. Silva and Orenski were both singled out, and once he confirmed Lasky could drive an M12 Warthog, each of those three was given a role. Their goal was General Daniel Black's LRV parked just outside the building. When asked who he was, he simply replied that they could call him "Master Chief".
John and the cadets exited into the black of night and it wasn't long before they came under fire. Kig-Yar with Type-51 carbines and Type-31 needle rifles were posted on the roof above them. Sullivan was hit once with a Subanese crystal but John stepped in to let his armor take the brunt of a second which would have found its mark also. John returned fire with his MA5D assault rifle and yelled for the others to get down behind cover. He then committed to intentionally drawing the enemy's fire so that they could make it to the Warthog. John's M6H magnum soon landed consecutive headshots on the Kig-Yar. With the immediate attackers dealt with for the moment, he jumped down from the higher position he had attained and ordered everyone into the hog. They took off with Lasky driving and John manning the mounted M41 Vulcan machine gun. The Warthog carried the five of them down a forest road away from Corbulo. With only a little more than four minutes until they needed to be at the Pelican, John steered Lasky to bear right for an access directly ahead and to pick up speed. A Type-1 plasma grenade was suddenly lobbed into the road in front of the vehicle. The Warthog powered through the resulting explosion but they started taking fire from Kig-Yar among the trees armed with Type-33 needlers. John opened fire with the Vulcan and advised controlled bursts on the part of Orenski and Silva while also pointing out targets for them. He contacted Kelly once again and told her to track his position to be ready for evacuation. Without warning, the Warthog slammed into one of the Kig-Yar and this, combined with the damage it had already suffered from being hit with exploding Subanese crystals, slowed it to a halt, now unable to restart. John jumped off the back and immediately went to address Sullivan's worsening wound with biofoam, telling Orenski to take over on the chaingun. The biofoam made it so Sully could walk, but it was then that Chyler revealed she had also been hit and now that the canister had been emptied, it was even more imperative that they get to the Pelican soon. John commanded the cadets to take themselves north as fast as they could until they ran into his team. He then took off and soon found himself facing down an imposing Mgalekgolo.
John was able to defeat the Hunter but when he found the cadets again, they had stopped moving because Silva had died. He offered his condolences and asked for any ammunition they could provide, as he had spent all his bringing down the Mgalekgolo gestalt. None of the cadets had any rounds remaining either, but Lasky produced an M9 fragmentation grenade and offered it to the Chief. Before long, the another Mgalekgolo, the bonded gestalt of the one which had just perished, went from hunting them to shooting its assault cannon at them. The three cadets and John tore through the forest to get away but stopped once they jumped down from a ledge and took cover behind it. Kelly was, at this point, insisting that John leave them, but he refused to do so. He implored her to give them more time and then ordered the Hastati remnant to go on without him while he dealt with their pursuer. Lasky responded by declaring that he would be a decoy so that the Chief could sweep in from behind. Before he could quash the idea, Lasky took off running. John let him distract the Mgalekgolo for a moment before making his move. When he rushed the hulking giant, however, it smacked him with its pavise shield and sent him flying backwards. The next time he made an attempt at the colony he used the shield to his advantage, climbing up it and vaulting over the mass of worms. He landed on its back and without a second's thought plunged the grenade into an exposed mass of Lekgolo. He flipped backward off of it just as the grenade detonated and blew the gestalt to pieces. John paused just long enough to gather up a piece of its armor before rejoining his evacuees. As daylight dawned, he let Kelly know they appeared to be in the clear and that she could have their pilot bring the D79-TC Pelican down in the clearing they had made it to. Everyone boarded and they were soon away. John gave the armor fragment he had gathered to Lasky, addressing the cadet as "soldier" and commending him for his performance. The Pelican escorted the Spartans and Corbulo cadets safely away from the planet's surface. The glassing of Circinius IV had already begun that day, but fighting between the UNSC and the Covenant continued on the planet well into mid-July.
Circinius IV was but one stop in a chain of disasters that Blue Team found itself rushing to and from over the course of six weeks following the victory at Naraka, the Spartans desperately attempting to stem a brutal tide of violence. The Covenant was bringing its full might to bear and human colonies were falling at a rate of two or three a week by the end of May. By June 5 John estimated that he would have died a dozen times during the past six weeks had it not been for the advantages his neural lace offered him. By May 3, 2526 the Spartan-IIs had at some point successfully infiltrated Outer Colony networks with the help of "smart" (volitional) A.I.s. On May 30 Blue Team deployed to the planet Mesra in the Qusdar system, where it fought alongside the Mesranis for six days. During this period of time the four Spartan-IIs managed to destroy at least a hundred of the enemy's Type-26 Wraiths. They were assisting the Militia of Mesra in a delaying action which sought to prevent the Covenant from gaining access to valuable xenotime mines. By June 5 they had arrived in time to help protect the planet's most remote mine, the Doukala Xenotime Works, while the UNSC's 24th Marine Engineering Brigade worked to demolish it. John was observing a line of Covenant armor five kilometers away opposite his post on one side of the Samalat Gorge in the Karpos Mountain Range at 1403 hours on this date. Easing back from the cliff edge, down behind a rocky crest overlooking the gorge, John then descended the slope a dozen meters so as not to disturb nearby sleeping Mesranis and crab-walked across it to the Fifth Ghost Battalion's command post. After dropping two meters into the bottom of the bunker he introduced himself to the commanding major, Bah'd de Gaya y Elazia de los Karim, and confirmed he was the support she'd been promised.
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- Female individual: "What's the plan, Master Chief?"
- John-117: "There isn't one, yet. Commander Petrov is just trying to get us to the target before the enemy can stop us. After that, I suspect the plan will be to move fast and hit hard."
- Female individual: "Will that work?"
- John-117: "Of course, ma'am. We'll make it work."
- — John expresses confidence in Operation: OBLIVION's success despite uncertainty.
More than six weeks after the attack on Circinius IV the UNSC finally put its faith in John and the other Spartans, thanks largely due to SILENT STORM being deemed an overwhelming success. At this time he and the rest of Blue Team were deployed to an empty, hellish world under the direction of Commander Amalea Petrov as part of Operation: OBLIVION. Their goal was the capture of a disabled Covenant frigate filled with valuable technology.
Fighting two wars
- "You 'Spartans' have put quite a dent in our efforts to liberate the frontier worlds. Station Jefferson in the Eridanus asteroid belt last year; our destroyer Origami; six months ago, our high-explosive manufacturing facility; followed by the incident in Micronesia, and our saboteur cell on Reach. I didn't believe it until I saw the video. All by the same four-man team. Some said 'Blue Team' was a myth."
- — General Howard Graves recounts the exploits of Blue Team against the URF.
During the first decade of the war, Blue Team fought on dozens of besieged worlds, buying time for orderly UNSC withdrawals and civilian evacuations and leading strikes deep into the heart of enemy forces to destroy key ships and eliminate Covenant commanders. During these first ten years a handful of victories were secured by Spartans even after orbital superiority was lost at colonies under attack. Though the colony of Green Hills was one of the first to be glassed by the Covenant soon after Harvest, like Harvest, the UNSC did not immediately abandon it. In 2527 John found himself fighting alongside ODSTs on the ruined world. At least around two years and ten months after the initial attack on Circinius IV, John returned to the planet as part of Operation: PHALANX. The operation's goals included both the evacuation of a civilian population that still remained on the surface and the observation of the enemy's invasion patterns.
In mid-2530, John and the three other members of Blue Team successfully assaulted the United Rebel Front's Station Jefferson in the Eridanus asteroid belt. They dealt another blow to the rebels at some point between then and the last few months of the year when they boarded the URF destroyer Origami and completed a mission which removed the ship from the Front's possession. This campaign against the Front then led to John, Kelly, Fred, and Linda carrying out a mission to halt the manufacturing of highly-powerful explosives at one of its dedicated facilities in October or November of 2530. At two points between then and the advent of May in 2531, the four-Spartan team deployed against pockets of the URF that existed on two of the UEG's core worlds: Earth and Reach. On Earth, they were deployed to deal with a rebel element in Micronesia, and on Reach, they put an end to a saboteur cell. At some point following Operation: PHALANX but preceding Operation: WARM BLANKET in 2544, John is known to have participated in operations SWITCHBACK and HORIZON. Details regarding the former are highly classified, but the latter involved the destruction of Covenant exploratory fleet elements near the colony of Cascade.
At some point during the course of the war, John, aided by Fred and the rest of Blue Team, boarded a Covenant vessel called Perpetual Devotion. Once aboard, the Spartans overloaded the ship's reactor and made it off just before it exploded. On one occasion a large city on a colony world was under attack from a CAS-class assault carrier, which had launched hordes of Type-26 Banshees and landed ground troops, both of which were killing civilians indiscriminately. John and six other Spartans jumped from two D79-TC Pelicans, using their armor's integrated thrusters to land in the city and immediately begin engaging the enemy with MA5D assault rifles. At another time, John found himself alone far outside a human city facing down a hulking Jiralhanae with a Type-2 gravity hammer. Surrounded by a crashed Pelican and the corpses of dead Sangheili, and himself having been rendered weaponless, John met the Brute head-on and kicked off its chest, sending it reeling backwards. John met the ODST and future Spartan-IV Edward Buck at some point during the war post-2528 and the two fought together. During the war John also met Quan Ah, a sixteen-year-old from the Outer Colonies, at what turned out to be a fateful time for them both. He also took on Vannak-134 as his de facto deputy at some point. Some time prior to the Covenant's attack on Sigma Octanus IV in 2552, John was awarded the Legion of Honor medallion by Admiral Stanforth for saving a platoon of marines. The marines had been pinned down inside a bunker by a stationary energy weapon emplacement but John came to the rescue and took out twenty Covenant troops by himself.
- Main article: Raid on Camp New Hope
- "As you surmised, this was all for your benefit. We scraped our fissile material together and made sure it was done so sloppily that even your Office of Naval Intelligence saw it happen. We anticipated the miraculous Blue Team would be sent. I am not disappointed that your leaders' minds are still so easily read."
- — General Graves to John-117
By April of 2531, NAVSPECWEP's Spartan-IIs, and Blue Team in particular, had put a significant dent in the efforts of the United Rebel Front to free the Outer Colonies from UNSC control. A URF cell in the 111 Tauri system reached out to the regional UNSC Central Command and claimed to be willing to give up three stolen FENRIS nuclear warheads in exchange for medication and treatment by UNSC doctors being provided to some of their people whom had supposedly contracted Boren's syndrome. Command responded by covertly deploying Blue Team to the planet Victoria on May 1 with orders to recover the stolen warheads and target any Front leaders present. John-117, Kelly-087, Fred-104, Linda-058, and Kurt-051 infiltrated from the UNSC Bunker Hill and approached the rebel base, Camp New Hope, under the cover of darkness. Kurt's inclusion during the mission marked the first time an additional Spartan had been added to the team since Sam-034 had died, bringing the roster back up to five once more.
John led his team to the perimeter of the rebel base and in quick succession, they silently eliminated perimeter guards by approaching them stealthily. For his part, John wrenched a guard's neck upward until he heard the sound of a dislocation. Once he got confirmation from his team regarding the others, he signaled them to move forward. John, Kurt, and Kelly ran for the base's gatehouse three-hundred meters away while Linda started to pick rebels off with her sniper rifle. Kelly surprised those within by dropping flashbang grenades from a hatch in the roof right before John breached the door by tearing the door and its frame from its steel reinforcement to the wall. By the time John brought his weapon to bear on the enemies inside, Kurt had already killed three. John dispassionately executed seven remaining men struggling to orient themselves with head-shots. He delegated the task of dealing with New Hope's security system to Kurt and Kelly, who put cameras and detectors into loops so that they wouldn't be revealed further in. She stated that they would only have a fifteen minute window in which they wouldn't have to deal with drones or dogs, given the current rotation and refueling schedule. John ordered everyone to move out, even though Kurt hesitancy and doubt about their ability to not being spotted. The Spartans skirted around one warehouse, went underneath an officers' barracks, and finally arrived at a central warehouse which John was certain held what they were seeking, thanks to a radiation counter he had been outfitted with for this operation. He had Kurt go secure a modified Warthog that was parked nearby so that they would be ready for a quick exit while the rest of the team spread out around the building. He authorized Linda to begin sniping rebels in her sight and then charged inside, followed shortly thereafter by everyone else but Kurt. Three FENRIS warheads were prominently displayed on steel racks but before John could do anything about it, he and the others were caught off guard by the sudden effects of an old antigravity plate pointed at their position. The URF commandos who had sprung this trap intended to trick the Spartans' Mjolnir into thinking it was under ten times the force of Earth's gravity. In response, the armor automatically increased its internal pressure and momentarily rendered its wearers unconscious.
John awoke to find himself propped against a wall, still fully armored but now fitted with a neural-inhibitor collar and still suffering somewhat from the effects of rapid decompression. Rendered unable to move, he was approached by the URF's own General Howard Graves, who proceeded to gloat about how easily the UNSC had taken their bait. Before anything else could happen, however, an Asteroidea anti-personnel mine came flying through the doorway, triggered and thrown by Kurt. The deadly explosion that followed was joined by three others after Kurt drove the warthog into the warehouse and tossed three more mines at Blue Team's captors. He freed his teammates, and at John's command, hopped back behind the wheel of the warthog once more and drove them out, now with the warheads. URF hostiles in the surrounding area realized what was happening and before long, the hog was taking fire from armor-piercing rounds and being pursued by three MAKO-class attack drones. To avoid being hit with a drone-fired missile, John ordered the modified vehicle's back hatch opened so he and Linda could snipe their flying pursuers out of the sky. The D77-TC Pelican that had brought them down to Victoria saved the team from the one missile that had been managed to be fired. With no time to spare, the pilot had the bird latch onto their vehicle and lift it skyward, carrying them like that all the way into orbit where the Bunker Hill was waiting to slip out of the system as soon as they were aboard. Kurt revealed it had been the large amounts of AP rounds the rebels had which had made him uneasy while in the guard tower. John told him that from there on out if anything else ever gave him pause during an op, he should make sure to report it right away.
- Main article: Battle of Jericho VII
- Kelly-087: "It’s a shame to leave this place. There are so few left."
- John-117: "There will be other places to fight for."
- Kelly-087: "Will there?"
- — Kelly and John comment on the abandonment of Jericho VII.
By 2535, John had been attached to the destroyer UNSC Resolute, commanded by Captain de Blanc. He had already witnessed the glassing of a least one world while working with de Blanc when the ship was deployed to Jericho VII in the Lambda Serpentis system for Operation: FALLEN WALLS. Covenant forces began a ground invasion of the planet on February 9, 2535, and for three days the Spartan-IIs of Blue, Red, and Green teams battled against them. During the fighting, John-117 commanded Blue Team, outfitted with its own D77-TC Pelican and comprised of himself, Kelly-087, Fred-104, Linda-058, and James-005. FALLEN WALLS called for the planting of a HAVOK tactical nuclear weapon at the aliens' staging area in order to stop their ground advance.[note 4] On February 12 Blue Team attempted to draw out the Covenant's rear guard so that Red Team could slip through its lines amidst the confusion and plant the nuke so that when the next ship landed to unload more troops, it would trigger the bomb's detonation. In the morning, Blue Team buried a spiderweb pattern of Lotus anti-tank mines along a hill near a beach, where John and the others planned to lure Covenant troops.
At 0500 hours, John's motion sensors alerted him to the presence of more than one hundred enemies near the position where the mines had been buried. He immediately signaled all teams to halt their progression and assessed the threat by way of a HUD-linked fiber optic probe which he snaked up and over a three meter ridge of rock. The visual showed a valley absolutely overrun with Unggoy—easily a thousand of them. This same group had been responsible very recently for the massacre of the 105th Drop Jet Platoon. He passed along what he was seeing to the rest of Blue Team and instructed Kelly to use a pair of M41 SPNKRs to eliminate four stationary plasma cannons before unloading into the rest of them. Fred-104 and James-005 were told to help him with "crowd control" and Linda was given the job of setting off the mines at the opportune time. As soon as Kelly leapt into action, John, Fred, and James opened fire with MA5B assault rifles, shooting armor-piercing rounds at first and then shredder rounds subsequently. John took a barrage fire from a Type-33 needler, but the Subanese crystal projectiles only bounced off his armor before detonating. The Chief gave the command to fall back in five seconds once Linda informed him the Covenant would have air support in the area in just two minutes. The closest Unggoy of the charging crowd was only three meters from their position along the ridge when John tossed two fragmentation grenades and turned to run. It took he, Fred, and James thirty-two seconds to sprint half a kilometer up a sandstop slope, beneath which lay the buried mines and that ended at a cliff overlooking an ocean beach. Once they were a safe distance from the planned explosions, John gave Linda permission to detonate the Lotus mines. He, Fred, and James picked off those that still remained after the devastating blasts.
Suddenly, five Type-26 Banshees appeared over a ridge and raced toward their position at over one-hundred kilometers per hour. After giving all teams under his command permission to fire and surviving the first pass the craft made at them, John ordered Fred and James to perform a Theta maneuver. The three Spartans regrouped afterwards at the cliff edge and rappelled down steel cables already waiting for them. Fred was told by John to cover him while he prepared to detonate another trap: ten hidden fougasses packed with napalm and ammunition casings that would serve as shrapnel. When the five Banshees were just fifty meters away, John jumped from the cliff face and pressed the button sent them crashing into the sea. All five Spartans rendezvoused on the beach and John learned from Red Team that their part of the operation had been successful. He had Kelly patch him into SATCOM so he could report the victory to Captain de Blanc, but the captain informed him that things were going poorly in orbit and that the Spartans were being pulled out. In fifteen minutes' time, Blue Team had made its way ten kilometers down the beach and dusted off in its waiting Pelican. After docking in the Resolute's port bay, John took an elevator to the bridge, using the time it took to get there to review Red Team's after-action report. Though they had stopped the Covenant on the ground, it made little difference to the planet's ultimate fate. With the battle orbit lost, nothing else could be done. At thirty-million kilometers out from Jericho VII, John requested permission to stay on the bridge so he could observe its final glassing. Captain de Blanc granted him his wish, and for the next hour he stood completely still as he stared at the view screens. The captain then gave the order to leave the system.
- Main article: Operation: WARM BLANKET
- John-117: "What happens if we run out of time?"
- Lucius Jiron: "Then our only choice will be to annihilate the Covenant fleet, the package and your entire team. Is that clear enough?"
- John-117: "I understand."
- — John confirms the gravity of the mission.
In 2544, the Inner Colony, Miridem, came under assault by the Covenant. The colony was declared lost after over two weeks of fighting. During civilian egress, an evacuation craft carrying Dr. Catherine Halsey was intercepted at the edge of the planetary system and disabled before it could slip away. The Covenant evidently realized the value of Halsey as a prisoner, for only she was spared and taken prisoner aboard the Third Fleet of Glorious Consequence's flagship, Resplendent Fervor. The day after losing Miridem, Vice Admiral Berlin M. Tursk sent a message from the UNSC Swiftsure to Lucius Jiron, captain of the Sahara-class heavy prowler PRO-49776, in which he told the captain he would be receiving Spartans shortly and that he ought to prep his OF92 booster frames for a quick and dirty extraction of the doctor.
By the time Blue Team was aboard the prowler, now composed of John-117, Kelly-087, Fred-104, Arthur-079, and Solomon-069, the Third Fleet of Glorious Consequence was being prevented from initiating slipspace jumps by the powerful magnetic field of the star Ascon. Captain Jiron briefed the team before their departure and let them know they would only have a ten minute window to locate the package and return it to the UNSC. The Spartans saluted when he was finished and proceeded to their booster frames. John stayed behind briefly to ask what would happen if they ran out of time, to which Jiron said they would have no choice but to do whatever they had to in order to annihilate the fleet before it got away with its valuable asset.
The five EVA frames came under fire from pulse laser turrets and plasma torpedos almost immediately after the fleet noticed them. John gave advance warning of the incoming projectiles and lasers and had his Spartans optimize their frames for mobility. They all managed to evade the initial salvoes and even use their MITV pods to do some damage to the hull weaponry of the CCS-class battlecruisers shooting at them. Solomon and Kelly broke off to investigate a seemingly positive reading Solomon was receiving from the first battlecruiser he landed a scanning device on. John was skeptical of their prospects of locating their target so easily, so he flew his OF92 into the cruiser's hangar just in time to warn Kelly he suspected it was a trap. The two of them made it out just as an antimatter charge was detonated, destroying the ship and killing Solomon as well. At this point, multiple similar readings were being recognized across many ships in the fleet. John concluded they were all decoys like the last and that their best bet would be to aim for the flagship. When a formation of Type-31 Seraphs bore down on the four remaining Spartan-IIs, he said to ignore them and to stay on target toward the CAS-class assault carrier Resplendent Fervor.
John commanded they stick to a tight formation and begin charge their M92 Gauss cannons to fire at a single point in the carrier's aft hangar bay. Unfortunately, Arthur was killed while trying to defend the others from the Seraphs and Kelly had to abandon her frame to join Fred on his. With only two left, John had them fire everything they had, both gauss cannons and MITV missiles, at the Fervor's aft hangar bay. The Spartans even ejected from their booster frames so they could be sent slamming into the bay doors as heavy projectiles. John and the others survived the resulting explosions and entered the hangar encased inside a Z-4190 bubble shield. With only three minutes left to complete Operation: WARM BLANKET, John ordered a full sprint into the ship's interior. Armed with an MA5C assault rifle and dual M7 SMGs, John took down Jiralhanae, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy as they raced down corridors in search of their target.
Fred used an M6 Spartan Laser to create openings in the ship's bulkheads twice for them to pass through. Suddenly, the Sangheili Major, Thel 'Lodamee, and two minors ambushed John and the others. Fred leapt in to assist John, killing one of the minors, and elected to stay behind to face down the other two so John and Kelly could keep running ahead. At this point, the fleet's Supreme Commander, Luro 'Taralumee, initiated the splitting of the ship into detached sections in an effort to halt their advance. John and Kelly, in vacuum between the dispersed portions of the carrier, locked hands and she swung him toward the foremost section. He only hesitated briefly upon landing, regretting leaving his closest companion behind.
John chanced upon the doctor soon after he made his way forward. She was still in cryostasis within a cryotube taken from the evac craft she'd been kidnapped from. John initiated a quick thaw and woke her, jokingly asking if she slept well. Halsey thanked John, relieved to see him. The two made their way for utility shuttles they could use to escape but were met by Thel 'Lodamee, whom had evidently gotten away from Fred. John opened fire with his MA5, but the Elite's Type-1 energy sword was able to block the bullets. Surprisingly, Thel tossed John a second sword. Realizing he was being challenged to a duel, the Chief activated it and before long the two were clashing blades as Halsey looked on. At that moment the fleet became clear of Ascon's magnetic interference, however, and 'Taralumee decided to once again break off the portion of the ship John, Halsey, and Thel were in before jumping to slipspace. Rather than leave the major behind, though, he was caught up in a gravity field and pulled back to the foremost section. Now free to leave, John and Halsey boarded a Ren in Delta Section and blasted away from the remainder of the ship before it was scuttled. They were accosted by a group of Seraphs left behind by the fleet, but were saved thanks to the combined efforts of PRO-49776 and another Seraph that had been commandeered by both Kelly and Fred.
Once safely back aboard the prowler, John mourned the losses of Arthur and Solomon and considered whether he could have beaten the major had their duel continued, as he had been exceptionally strong. John resolved to be stronger in the future, which Halsey agreed they would all need to be. Soon after the successful rescue of Doctor Halsey, John was ordered to redeploy to Miridem as part of Operation: IRON FIST, with the dual goals of denying the Covenant access to valuable assets on the planet and the partial recovery of critical cyberinfrastructure assets alike.
- "Everyone else might have cheered at the images of humanity's superheroes diving in and kicking some Covenant ass, but all I could think about was how useless it was to pin our hopes on a few handfuls of super-soldiers who couldn't possibly be everywhere we needed them to be."
- — Edward Buck recalls his reaction to watching footage of the Spartans taking back Draco III.
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 5] 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 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.
- Main article: Operation: OCEAN BREAKER
- "We've come to take Sigma Octanus IV back from the Covenant, Corporal. To do that, we're going to kill every last one of them."
- — John-117 plainly tells Corporal Harland what his Spartans were there to do.
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.
- John-117: "Doctor Halsey, you did say ‘capture’ the Covenant leaders—not eliminate them?"
- Catherine Halsey: "Correct. Our profile of Covenant society indicates that if you were to kill one of their leader caste, this war could actually escalate. Your orders are to preserve any captured Covenant leaders at all costs. You will bring them back to UNSC headquarters, where we will then use them to broker a truce, possibly even negotiate a peace treaty with the Covenant."
- — John questions the wisdom of RED FLAG but is given a satisfactory explanation.
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.
- "This is the real Mjolnir. What you have been using was only a fraction of what the armor should be. This is everything I had always dreamed it could be."
- — Dr. Halsey reveals Mark V Mjolnir to the Master Chief.
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
- Main article: Fall of Reach
- Kelly-087: "Sir? I know this mission will be tough, but... do you ever get the feeling that this is like one of Chief Mendez’s missions? Like there’s a trick... some twist that we’ve overlooked?"
- John-117: "Yes. And I’m waiting for it."
- — John and Kelly both agree that something seems off about their current orders.
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. 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.
- Main article: Battle of Installation 04
- Jacob Keyes: "Get Cortana off this ship. Keep her safe from the enemy. If they capture her, they'll learn everything. Force deployment, weapons research... Earth."
- John-117: "I understand."
- — Captain Keyes makes the importance of John's next objective clear to him.
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.
- Cortana: "I’m showing a lot of photonic activity. The excited photons have displaced the air around the light path."
- John-117: "Which means?"
- Cortana: "Which means that the light has become coherent. Solid. How did you know what control to push?"
- John-117: "I didn’t. Let’s get the hell out of here."
- — John and Cortana react to the Spartan's intuitive ability to use technology on the ringworld.
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 Warthog LRV 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
- Antonio Silva: "Are you familiar with a man named Charles Darwin? No, probably not, because he never went to war. Darwin was a naturalist who proposed a theory called ‘natural selection.’ Simply put, he believed that those species best equipped to survive would do so—while other, less effective organisms would eventually die out. That’s what happened to the Spartans, Chief: they died out. Or will, once you’re gone. And that’s where the ODST comes in. It was the Helljumpers who took this butte, son—not a bunch of augmented freaks dressed in fancy armor. When we push the Covenant back, which I sincerely believe we will, that victory will be the result of work by men and women like Lieutenant McKay. Human beings who are razor-sharp, metal tough, and green to the core. Do you read me?"
- John-117: "Sir, no sir."
- — John refuses to accept the notion that his Spartans were part of a failed experiment.
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.
- Jacob Keyes: "Coming here was reckless. Thanks."
- John-117: "Any time, sir."
- — The captain expresses gratitude for his rescue.
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.
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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
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- 343 Guilty Spark: "I am a genius. Hee, hee, hee."
- John-117: "A pain in the ass is more like it."
- — John makes his frustration with the monitor known.
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.
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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.
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Dust and echoes
- John-117: "Scan it again."
- Cortana: "Already completed. There's nothing out there. I told you: just dust and echoes."
- John-117: "Scan the field again. If you don't find something out there we can use, we're dead. This ship has no slipspace drive, and no cryo. There's no way to get back and report. Power, fuel, air, food, water—we only have enough for a few hours. So scan. Again"
- — John desperately urges Cortana to keep searching for a solution to their predicament.
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
- Main article: Raid on Reach
- "He sent his team down to the surface of Reach... sent them to their deaths. What commander wouldn't go back? And what commander wouldn't hope that they were alive? No matter what the odds?"
- — Lieutenant Haverson about John's motives.
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 Fred-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
- Main article: Massacre at Eridanus Secundus
- John-117: "Is this the right thing to do, sir?"
- Danforth Whitcomb: "The right thing? Hell, son, it probably isn't. Personally, I'd prefer to fight, and die fighting, and take every one of those Covenant bastards with me. But I do not have the liberty to make that choice. My duty is clear: to protect the men and women of Earth - not a pack of privateers and outlaws. The logic of the situation is also too damned clear. Even if we stay and fight... they'll all be just as dead"
- — Admiral Whitcomb tells John his reasoning for leaving the Eridanus rebels to their doom.
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 6] 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.
- Main article: Operation: FIRST STRIKE
- "We're going to take this fight to the Covenant. We're going to launch a first strike."
- — John-117 to his team about mission ahead of them
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 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 it's 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.
- Main article: Battle for Earth
- John-117: "Sir, permission to leave the station."
- Terrence Hood: "For what purpose, Master Chief?"
- John-117: "To give the Covenant back their bomb."
- — John requests leave to personally guide a Covenant antimatter charge out of Cairo Station to be used against the invaders.
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 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 remain behind to secure the area while John pushes ahead. Entering Security R-01, the Spartan uses 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.
- Corporal Palmer: "So you gonna follow this pipe all the way out to the Mombasa Quays?"
- John-117: "No. I‘m going to make sure the rest of you make it out of here alive."
- Corporal Palmer: "Gosh! That‘s awfully nice of you. Look, you may be a Spartan, but..."
- John-117: "Exactly, Corporal. And if we had all been Spartans back there none of us would have died. Now let me do my job."
- — John shuts down the corporal's questioning of his abilities.
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 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.
- Main article: Battle of Installation 05
- "This is not your grave...But you are welcome in it."
- — The Gravemind to John-117 after capturing the latter
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.
- Main article: Fall of High Charity
- John-117: "Your pal, where's he going?"
- Prophet of Mercy: "Earth... to finish what we started. And this time, none of you... will be left behind..."
- — John questions the dying Prophet of Mercy about Truth's destination.
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
- Main article: Scramble onboard Forerunner Dreadnought
- Terrence Hood: "Master Chief? You mind telling me what you're doing on that ship?"
- John-117: "Sir. Finishing this fight."
- — John's words to Admiral Hood upon making his presence known back at Earth.
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.
- Avery Johnson: "Radio for VTOL. Heavy lift gear. We're not leaving him here."
- John-117: "Yeah, you're not."
- Avery Johnson: "Crazy fool! Why do you always jump? One of these days, you're gonna land on something as stubborn as you are! And I don't do bits and pieces."
- — John proves to have survived his fall, to Johnson's delight.
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.
- John-117: "What about Halo?"
- Miranda Keyes: "We stopped it, but only temporarily. Now, the Prophet of Truth is looking for something called 'the Ark', where he'll be able to fire all the Halo rings. If he succeeds... Humanity, the Covenant, every sentient being in the galaxy..."
- John-117: "The rings will kill us all."
- — John, finishing Commander Keyes' thought, states the seriousness of the threat being faced.
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 Prophet of Truth doesn't know it yet, but he's about to get kicked right off his throne. We will take our city back and drive our enemy into the grave they've been so happily digging. One final effort is all that remains."
- — Admiral Hood provides encouragement for the final push against the Covenant in Voi.
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 Warthog LRV. 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
- Thel 'Vadam: "What is it? More Brutes?"
- John-117: "Worse."
- — John and Thel discuss the arrival of a damaged CCS-class battlecruiser at Voi.
John, riding shotgun in the passenger seat of a M12 Warthog LRV, 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
- John-117: "I'll find Cortana's solution. And I'll bring it back."
- Terrence Hood: "Earth... is all we have left. You trust Cortana that much?"
- John-117: "Sir. Yes, sir."
- — John tells Admiral Hood of his intent to find Cortana's solution to stop the Flood on the other side of the portal.
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.
- Main article: Operation: BLIND FAITH
- John-117: "That's...our galaxy. We're beyond the rim."
- 343 Guilty Spark: "Two to the eighteenth light years from galactic center, to be precise"
- — John, surprised to discover that the Ark was located outside of the Milky Way galaxy.
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.
- John-117: "When did you know?"
- 343 Guilty Spark: "Just now - but...I had my hopes. What will you do?"
- John-117: "Light it."
- 343 Guilty Spark: "Then we are agreed! A tactical pulse will completely eradicate the local infestation! I will personally oversee the final preparations"
- — John informs 343 Guilty Spark of his plan to fire the incomplete Installation 08 to destroy the Flood infestation on the Ark.
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.
- John-117: "You know me. When I make a promise..."
- Cortana: "You...keep it. I do know how to pick 'em."
- — John-117 reminding Cortana of his promise
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.
- Main article: Raid on Installation 08
- Cortana: "Halo. It's so new... Unfinished. I'm not exactly sure what will happen when we fire it..."
- John-117: "We'll head for the portal. And we'll all go home."
- — John asserts confidence in the survival of he, Cortana, and the Arbiter.
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.
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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.
Requiem and the Didact
- Main article: Battle of Requiem
- Cortana: "Seems like old times."
- John-117: "Ready to get back to work?"
- Cortana: "I thought you'd never ask."
- — John-117 and Cortana about being partners again
In July 2557, nearly five years after John went into cryo-sleep, the aft half of the Forward Unto Dawn entered orbit above Requiem, a Forerunner shield world. As Covenant forces near Requiem began to board the Dawn, Cortana awakened John from cryosleep. With Cortana's assistance, John fought off the intruders across the ship and used one of the ship's nuclear missiles to destroy an incoming Covenant cruiser. Shortly afterward, however, Requiem's access gateway opened, pulling the remains of the Dawn, as well as any Covenant ships in immediate proximity, into the interior of the shield world. Having crashed on Requiem, John took notice of Cortana's escalating signs of rampancy and she explained that her condition may be reversible if they managed to get to Earth and find Dr. Halsey in time. Fighting their way through numerous Covenant forces occupying the structure, John was attacked by advanced Forerunner combat constructs which Cortana identified as Prometheans. Evading or destroying pursuit, John attempted to warn the approaching UNSC Infinity of the dangerous gravity field that had disabled the Forward Unto Dawn.
After John disabled two energy pylons preventing them from contacting Infinity and attempted to use the supposed relay satellite in Requiem's core to establish contact, it became clear that a great threat had once been imprisoned within Requiem. Instead of contacting the Infinity, John had accidentally released the Didact, an ancient Forerunner warrior, from meditative hibernation within his Cryptum. Easily disabling John with his powerful abilities, the Didact declared the return of the Forerunners as the galaxy's rulers and saviors. Humanity remained weak and unworthy in his eyes of inheriting the Mantle of Responsibility. Having always revered the Forerunners as gods, the Covenant quickly swore alliance to the Didact and his armies. Tossing John aside, the Didact escaped Requiem's core using a slipspace rupture, an which destabilized the core.
Narrowly escaping the collapsing core facility, John and Cortana translocated to the planet's surface only to find their warning to the Infinity came too late. The massive warship crashed nearly 80 kilometers away, with a massive force of Covenant and Prometheans closing on their position. John was successful in regrouping with a group of Marines and Spartan-IVs, led by Commander Thomas Lasky, whom John had previously met on Circinius IV over thirty years earlier. Recognizing the Chief immediately, Lasky asked John and Cortana to clear a landing zone so that Infinity's ground forces could fall back to the ship which had fallen under siege. Commandeering a Scorpion tank, John led the attack to the crippled vessel alongside Commander Sarah Palmer's Spartans. Using the UNSC's latest weapon, the Mantis walker, John rallied a force of nearby Marines and regained control of the ship's interior. After reinitializing the ship's secondary MAC guns and missile batteries, the tide turned in the UNSC's favor and the Didact was forced to retreat.
- "The Didact has to be stopped. If you won't do that... I will."
- — John-117 to Captain Del Rio before disobeying his order.
With a momentary lull in the fighting, John was called to a strategy meeting with Andrew Del Rio, Captain of the Infinity. Skeptical of the threat of the Prometheans, Rio ordered an immediate attack on a Forerunner gravity well preventing the ship from leaving. A strike force of Spartans led by John was deployed with a Mammoth ultra-heavy ground vehicle supporting the attack. Facing daunting odds, the UNSC was able to defeat a large armored strike force of Covenant and Prometheans and disabled the gravity beam. Diverted to an underground facility along the way, John was confronted with a vision from the Librarian, who warned him of the Didact's plans to enslave humanity with a device known as the Composer. The Librarian also provided John with a gift: a medical treatment to counteract the Forerunners' devolution of the human genome, and a means to resist the effects of the Composer.
Regrouping aboard the Infinity, Captain Del Rio dismissed the threat of the Prometheans and prepared the ship to depart the system. Defying direct orders, John took the increasingly unstable Cortana and departed the Infinity. Armed with a Pelican gunship provided by Commander Lasky, John launched several attacks on support pillars providing the Didact's Cryptum with shields and power, with the goal of preventing him from leaving the planet and attacking Earth and other colonies. John's attempt to stop the Didact ultimately proved unsuccessful, as the Didact managed to leave Requiem aboard his vessel, escorted by a flotilla of Covenant ships. Stowing away aboard a Lich, Master Chief pursued the Forerunner to Ivanoff Station, a UNSC research base orbiting Halo Installation 03 where the Composer was kept. Dr. Sandra Tillson, a lead researcher aboard the base, helped guide John to the artifact amidst a swarm of Covenant attackers. Despite John reaching the artifact first, the Didact was successful in obtaining the Composer and immediately tested the device on the crew of the station, completely destroying their bodies and assimilating their minds to power additional war machines. However, John survived, thanks to the genetic enhancements imposed by the Librarian.
Battle aboard Mantle's Approach
- Main article: New Phoenix Incident
- "You persist too long after your own defeat. Come then, Warrior. Have your resolution."
- — Didact to Chief acknowledging his efforts to stop him
With the Didact approaching Earth, planning to imprison all of humanity into digital form, John pursued the Forerunner aboard an F-41 Broadsword fighter on the outer hull of the Promethean's ship. As the ship exited slipspace near Earth, John was surprised to find the Infinity and the rest of the Home Fleet ready and waiting for the Didact. John was able to destroy the ship's point defense guns, giving Infinity the chance to punch through the vessel's hull. Entering the breach, John fought his way to the Forerunner's location. Despite the UNSC's best efforts, the Didact was to fire on Earth with the Composer, digitizing the entire population of New Phoenix, Arizona. Armed with a HAVOK warhead, John confronted the Didact for the second time on a hard light bridge. While John was no match for the Forerunner's powerful abilities, the dying Cortana was able to immobilize the Didact with hard light shackles. The weakened John then planted a pulse grenade in the Didact's armor, blowing him off the bridge and sending him falling into a slipspace rupture underneath the Composer. With time having already run out, John detonated the nuclear bomb manually as a desperate last resort.
Using the last of her power, Cortana was able to save John from the blast, saving his life at the cost of her own. The two had one final conversation, with John remarking that he was supposed to have protected her. Cortana insisted that they were supposed to protect each other, and did. Smiling and seeming at peace, Cortana welcomed John home, and then faded away completely. Left adrift in space, John was recovered by a UNSC search-and-rescue team shortly afterward. Later, John spoke with now-Captain Lasky about the loss of his companion and the nature of their duty as soldiers. Aboard the Infinity, John rejoined Palmer and the other Spartans, and had his MJOLNIR Mark VI armor removed for the first time in several years.
- Main article: Skirmish on Installation 03
- John-117: "Admiral Hood asked that I act as an advisor for your mission."
- Fred-104: "Just as an advisor? You told the old man you're coming with, didn't you?"
- John-117: "That a problem, Lieutenant?"
- Fred-104: "If you hadn't, I'd have ordered you to come along myself."
- — John teases Fred about he now technically outranking him as an officer.
Transport took John from the Infinity to HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6 in Sydney a short time later that day, where he debriefed concerning recent events before the UNSC Security Council. He recounted everything that had happened to him since he awoke over Requiem to Army General Nicolas Strauss, Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood, Generals Hogan and Dellert of the Marine Corps and Air Force respectively, and CINCONI Serin Osman (formerly Serin-019), whom John had not seen since he was fourteen years old and had thought dead since then. General Strauss worried that some part of Cortana may have survived and was now beyond their control, but John assured him that she was gone and also adamantly charged that she had not been without protection during the nearly five years spent adrift on the Forward Unto Dawn when the general suggested so. General Hogan was similarly skeptical concerning the Didact's defeat and John had to agree that he could by no means be considered killed for certain. John did say, however, that what had befallen New Phoenix could not happen again since he had destroyed the Composer. Hogan openly discussed the council's plan to put the blame for the attack at the feet of the Covenant, suggesting also that the public should be told it was stopped by the return of humanity's greatest hero.
After he was dismissed, Lord Hood caught up to John in the hall outside the room where they had debriefed and apologized for the unprofessional behavior of Strauss and Hogan. John stated that he was in no place to comment as such, and at this Hood half-jokingly noted that he could probably be made an admiral himself at this point with little pushback from anyone, or simply an officer at the very least. The Master Chief brushed off the idea by claiming that "the Admiral" just wouldn't have the same ring to it. John walked with Hood to another room, where the fleet admiral admitted that he had a problem he was hoping he could enlist John's help in solving. He reported that just an hour earlier, fractured bits of audio had been received from the surface of Installation 03 and forthwith all contact with the science team stationed there had been lost. Listening the transmissions indicated to John that Promethean constructs had evidently appeared on the Halo. Hood also let him know that Black Team, comprised of Spartan-IIs John had grown up with, had been assigned to guard the scientists and were also now unable to be reached. John was surprised to hear that Black Team was still operational and didn't think twice about volunteering to investigate Gamma Halo himself. Hood had only been asking that John advise another team being dispatched there, but the Chief made it clear that he needed to see what was happening himself, as he knew of no reason why mechanical Prometheans should be cropping up outside of Requiem. John soon discovered that the team Hood had pegged him to advised was none other than Blue Team, now just composed of Linda-058, Kelly-087, and Fred-104. John met his three oldest remaining friends and companions in a hangar within the ship which would be carrying them to the Khaphrae system.
Each Spartan greeted him warmly, with Kelly in particular expressing that she had reached the point where she hadn't thought she would ever see him again. When John mentioned how Hood had originally asked him onto the mission in an advisory capacity Fred scoffed and said that surely John had told him he was coming with them. John, aware that Fred was now a Lieutenant, jokingly asked if his presence would be a problem, to which Fred said that he'd have ordered him to come along if John hadn't offered.
The day after the Didact's attack, the Spartans of Blue Team arrived at Installation 03 and deployed via their own GA-TL1 Longsword given to them for this mission. Kelly received no response when she hailed the science team but John encouraged her to keep trying. John landed near the location of the science team's last known coordinates and almost immediately after disembarking, Linda picked up tracks which were unrecognizable to her, but instantly noted by John to have been made by Promethean crawlers. The tracks came from what was decided to be "north" on the ring and led "south" to where the scientists had been. John led the others to follow them until they reached a camp, and there he and Kelly discovered the scientists' corpses while exploring it. Fred and Linda, however, found Black Team. Otto-031 , Margaret-053, Victor-101, and Roma-143 had been killed right alongside the scientists. Fred, shocked by the loss of four fellow Spartans, asked the Chief if crawlers could have done this. John doubted any number of the mechanistic quadrupeds could have been enough to overpower them and suspected something else must have been involved. As the team backtracked to see where the assailants seemed to have come from, John had Kelly notify ops of the latest developments. Before the Spartans could reach the crawlers' point of origin they were set upon by Promethean knights which materialized around them. John ordered everyone to engage at will and managed to take down two of the knights himself with his MA5D assault rifle. Once they had been dealt with the team finally came upon the gaping hole in the installation from which the UNSC Infinity had extracted the Composer from earlier that year. After sliding down the side of the excavation to investigate further, Kelly pointed out a tunnel on its northwest face which led deep underneath the ring's surface. John led his team through it down into the depths of Gamma Halo and they were soon faced by an otherworldly sight: the Composer's Abyss. All around them were projected the essences of seemingly tortured victims of the Composer and before them lay an active portal. Fred pointedly asked if there was anything John could advise them on regarding what they were seeing, but John merely led them to keep moving forward, which meant stepping through the portal.
- Didact: "You carry no weapon."
- John-117: "I carry your weapon. I thought we might take a moment to talk."
- Didact: "Diplomacy in your final hour?"
- John-117: "You killed my friend. You killed millions of humans. You tried to kill me. I've tried to end you with blades, with guns, with explosives, by knocking you in slipspace... None of it works. I bet this does."
- — John and the Didact exchange final words with one another before full control of the Halo is turned over to 859 Static Carillon.
On the other side of the portal, Blue Team found themselves within what appeared to be a derelict Forerunner city on an unknown planet. John reassured Fred by pointing out that as long as the portal remained open they would have a way home. John led the others to the edge of a drop-off overlooking the city, where they could see a single light on in a tower ahead. John finally admitted that he was now highly suspicious that the Didact personally may have been responsible for the deaths on Gamma Halo. The team eventually discovered six Composers, evidencing that the one from Gamma Halo had not been a unique creation. The Didact suddenly surprised the Spartans from behind them and John ordered everyone to fire on him. The hulking Promethean only had to stomp on the ground to create a shockwave that knocked John and the others to the ground. In the sky above, Installation 03 then emerged from slipspace at the same time that more Promethean constructs appeared and moved in to attack. John and the rest of Blue began shooting back at the knights, crawlers, and watchers accosting them. A monitor identifying itself as 859 Static Carillon approached the humans, revealing that the Didact planned to take Gamma Halo to Earth to eradicate humanity there. The monitor also let them know that while he cared not for the outcome of the feud between the Didact and humans, he was opposed to the presence of the mechanical Prometheans on his installation, as he had been promised by the renowned Warrior-Servant that they would not be brought there. John ordered everyone to race back to the portal so they could get on Gamma Halo to stop the Didact's plan.
Upon returning, Blue Team sped past the Composer's Abyss and out into the light, scrambling up and out of the hole just as one of the Composers was set into place just as the original had been found. The Spartans were knocked forward by an electrical discharge that followed and suddenly found themselves facing down the Didact yet again. The Forerunner swatted Linda, Kelly and Fred aside, but just as he was moving in to finish Kelly off, John struck from behind and managed to pierce his right eye with a combat knife. The Didact appeared unfazed by this, however, and responded by seizing John by the head and lifting him into the air, all the while squeezing to crush his Mjolnir helm. John was certain at that moment that his time to die had finally come, but he was saved by his teammates, who forced the Didact to respond by flinging John at them to bowl them over. John and Fred collided, but Kelly and Linda proceeded to both get close enough to land shots on the Didact's armor. Still, their efforts were to no avail and he might have been able to exterminate Blue Team just as he had Black Team had 859 Static Carillon not arrived to fire on the Didact with his laser. The monitor teleported the Promethean away and Blue Team found itself alone with Carillon. John's ears were ringing, his helmet was fused so that he couldn't remove it, part of his visor had shattered, and his armor as a whole was power cycling. Even still, he assured Fred that he could still operate when asked. John inquired as to where Carillon had taken the Didact and learned the ancilla had thought it best to place him within the most secure part of the Halo: the control room. Thankfully, he had only done this after his attack made the Didact drop the installation's activation index, which John now scooped up, openly musing on the idea of using it to fire the Halo to finish off their enemy. 859 Static Carillon balked at this thought and reminded John that doing so would kill all sentient life within twenty-five thousand light-years. Carillon instead recommended John use the index be used to deactivate certain safety protocols so that he could have greater control over the ring and deal with the Didact himself.
John directed Fred, Kelly, and Linda to return to the Longsword and to take off while 859 transported him to the control room. Upon arriving, he found the Didact at the central console. The ancient warrior was surprised to see John was both alone and unarmed. Rather than either attacking one another, the two adversaries instead talked, with John specifically reciting the deaths he blamed the Didact for and noting that while he had tried to end him now via a litany of means, he was sure than he had finally found the way to remove him for good. Before he could be stopped, John slid the index into the control panel. The Didact was confused by this, as he could not believe that the Master Chief would kill them both along with everyone else in range of the Halo's firing. John then revealed that he didn't mean to fire it, but merely to allow Static Carillon to shed the section of the installation that housed the control room. This process had already begun and by the time the ejected section holding the Didact slammed into the planet below, John had been teleported safely away. He and Static Carillon appeared together in a flash of light aboard Blue Team's Longsword and John thanked the monitor for his assistance. Carillon announced that it would be taking Installation 03 elsewhere for repairs and in order to hide it.
- Fred-104: "What'd Hood say?"
- John-117: "Gave the all clear. We're going back to work."
- Kelly-087: "Where to this time?"
- John-117: "Anywhere we're needed."
- — John misleads the rest of his team to avoid them knowing that Hood had ordered them to take it easy for a while.
Blue Team was able to make it back to Earth by July 28, where John met alone with Admiral Hood seventy-two hours following the attack on New Phoenix to discuss the fates of Installation 03 and the Didact. Before this meeting John's Mark VI armor was repaired and upgraded to bring it into the second generation of Mjolnir. John made it clear to Hood that neither he nor the others on Blue Team knew where 859 Static Carillon had disappeared to and that it was probably best to only consider the Didact "contained", not killed. When the section of Gamma Halo had crashed into Clinquant, there had been five Composers present, after all. The impact seemed to have activated them somehow, which would have reduced the Didact to a digital essence. Hood asked if the Chief was okay given everything that had happened since Reach, to which John answered in the affirmative. Regardless, Admiral Hood ordered he and the rest of his team to take some time off in order to rest and relax. When John met back up with Kelly, Linda, and Fred, however, he lied, telling them that Hood had cleared them for to head back into the field. Sometime shortly following this, John underwent a psychological evaluation wherein it was determined that he was unlikely to stop repeatedly taking on missions anytime soon. Without informing Hood, the Office of Naval Intelligence subsequently assigned Blue Team to its backlog of high-priority missions. These classified operations included diplomatic escorts through hostile territory, counter-piracy efforts against salvagers, and strikes against Covenant outposts. During one of these missions John found himself at a certain point to be the only member of Blue Team that had not taken up Forerunner weaponry to fight with. During another mission that took John to what had once been a Covenant world, he faced down a Type-1 energy sword-wielding Sangheili named Monn I'zar armed only with a combat knife.
On September 26, 2557 John met for an interview with an operative from ONI's Beta-5 Division with the code name of Sapphire Three. They met to have their discussion at the terminus of the Borneo Space Tether far above the Pacific island of the same name. At just after 0721 hours, the conversation turned toward John's recovery of Cortana from the stasis vestibule within High Charity in December of 2552. Sapphire Three asked John to describe what sort of state Cortana had been in when he found her, to which he replied that she had been functional in spite of potential defects. John further explained, when prompted, that these defects included problems with her response times, synchronization confidence, diagnostic alerts, and a few other things. The operative inquired as to whether she had told him beforehand that she had held on to the activation index from Installation 04 and John had to admit that she had not. Sapphire Three pointed out that this would have qualified as a violation of Article 2477-6 of the UNSC Charter for Xenoarcheological Artifact Recovery and Quarantine, to which John had nothing to say. When the line of questioning broached the subject of the possible "residual interface anomalies" John experienced after leaving Cortana behind on the Covenant city, John simply reported what he'd been told concerning a Software Trauma Analysis that had looked at the anomalies. According to the report, what had seemed like messages from Cortana were actually just echoes of her personality matrix in his neural interface and may have been been caused by her extensive data consumption in Installation 04's control room. John told the operative that he never brought the issue up after he and Cortana reconnected and when asked whether he agreed with the STA's conclusions, said that he didn't see why it was important.
Once 2558 dawned, Blue Team's assignments saw them deployed to the fringes of human civilization where fighting was raging harder than ever between several independent multi-species sects and alliances. At different points John and the others fought against Jiralhanae on a human colony, protected civilians from attacking Kig-Yar, and at one point even found themselves fleeing from a CCS-class battlecruiser which was firing its pulse laser turrets at them on the ground. By August of this year, John had personally completed two hundred and nine military operations, including one hundred and thirty-six full campaigns.
At one point in 2558, Blue Team was stationed at the construction site for a new ONI research facility, awaiting orders, when the facility suddenly came under attack by a fanatical ex-Covenant group. The hostiles managed to capture an M510 Mammoth, disable its governor, and drive it down a steep hillside toward the site's main fusion reactor. Blue Team followed in pursuit in an M12 Warthog LRV with Fred at the wheel. After an hour had passed since the attack started, John, Kelly, and Linda ejected from the Warthog when it was close enough to the rampaging Mammoth. Once aboard, he ordered Linda to stay up top to provide him with cover and Kelly to go below. He soon followed Kelly and through the use of an MA5D assault rifle and combat knife, John took out at least one Sangheili and two Kig-Yar, wresting control of the hulking vehicle from its hijackers.
John took the controls and seeing that the brakes had been disabled, decided to steer it right over an upcoming ridge. Kelly shouted against this plan, as she had discovered scientists hiding inside a compartment. The impact from driving over a cliff would almost certainly kill them. Given the circumstances, John instead chose to simply swerve away from the reactor at the last second. A Kig-Yar he had thought was dead attacked him from behind at that last second, but he slammed its head into the dashboard and still managed to avoid the reactor in time. The near miss avoided catastrophe but still resulted in the destruction of a decent amount of fabricated material that had been constructed around it. John checked in with Kelly to make sure the scientists were okay. The manager in charge of the construction project soon rushed over to Spartans after the smoke cleared and demanded to know who he should blame for the damage. John, as the one who had been driving, took responsibility. The incredulous man accused the Master Chief of thinking he could get away with anything because of his status as a hero. At this moment, Fred jumped in to reprimand the thankless individual they had all just saved, finding it difficult to maintain an easy demeanor in the face of such disrespect. John kept a cooler head and advised Fred to let the insult go. He directed the team to return to a nearby airstrip, as they still had a mission entirely apart from the spontaneous attempted terrorism just defended against.
Blue Team's missions eventually took them back to the Epsilon Eridani system and the glassed remains of Reach in particular. The Spartans split up but eventually came back together at a certain location for a reason entirely personal to all of them that Command had permitted them to indulge in. John and Linda approached Kelly and Fred in a Warthog and upon exiting asked if the place they stood was really what remained of they were looking for: the spot in the Highland Mountains' military wilderness training preserve where Sam-034 had carved a symbol into a tree so many years before. In his honor, John, Kelly, and Fred looked on as Linda carved a similar symbol, now used to represent Blue Team, into a large outcropping of lechatelierite. John verbally reflected on what Sam had meant to each of them and recalled that they last time they were all together in the preserve, he had asked them to trust him when he said he could get everyone home. As such, he pointedly asked if each of them was willing to continue trusting him and to keep following his lead.
The Fallen Spartan
- Main article: Raid on Biko peace talks
- "Not only is the Chief innocent, but he saved the day. He pulled off the impossible. I've got everything I need to prove it too, and the best part is I've got the UEG blatantly implicating themselves in legislative negligence and then conspiring with the Biko magistrate to cover it up! Coercion, bribery, all of it! Those arrogant pricks could have prevented the whole thing, and they know it too! ONI and the UEG have been sacrificing the Chief this whole time to save their own asses, to distract the public from what we've been digging up on them!"
- — Benjamin Giraud comes to a sobering realization.
At some point in the latter half of 2558, peace talks between humans and Sangheili were scheduled to be held at the Outer Colonies regional embassy on Biko. Around a week before the meeting was to be held, the ambassador and peace activist Richard Sekibo uncovered a serious threat that could disrupt the talks and petitioned the Unified Earth Government for support. The UEG Senate disregarded his request, but when the day came, John landed in the densely populated city where the talks were being held. Sekibo's intelligence had been correct, for the extremist group known as Sapien Sunrise had managed to infiltrate the embassy and were plotting to assassinate Sekibo and frame the Sangheili for his death. The ship John used to enter the planet's atmosphere was moving so fast that it registered as a fireball to the air traffic artificial intelligence monitoring it. John charged toward the embassy at a dead sprint. He burst into the chamber where the delegates were gathered and without a moment's hesitation, shot the Sapien Sunrise operative acting as Sekibo's bodyguard with a handgun at point-blank range. This provocation started a firefight that ultimately cost the lives of nineteen humans and three of the Sangheili. John took possession of Sekibo and fought his way out of the embassy with the Sangheili survivors. In addition to Sekibo's bodyguard, eight of the other humans present had been part of Sapien Sunrise: four embassy guards and four civilians. Of the civilians, two were janitors collectively armed with a rocket launcher and two were couriers carrying fragmentation grenades. John killed all nine, including the bodyguard, with just twelve rounds from a handgun, though he was armed with an MA5D assault rifle as well. They all boarded the ship he had arrived on and fled the planet thereafter, but the ambassador succumbed to wounds inflicted during the shooting, making him the nineteenth casualty. The day after the firefight interrupted the peace talks local officials investigating a signal beacon found his body in a field where John had left it. That same day the Sangheili clan that had sent representation to the talks broadcast an official transmission to Earth in which its kaidon denied any involvement in what had transpired and also defended John's innocence in the matter. This transmission was buried by the Unified Earth Government and the UEG's magistrate on Biko, Laurel Adams, took actions to keep the local leadership and media from speaking out either, ensuring that the involvement of Sapien Sunrise remained unknown to the rest of humanity.
Ten days after the violence on Biko, the Office of Naval Intelligence intentionally leaked a previously suppressed incident report from the embassy that detailed the Master Chief's involvement in events and made it appear that he had burst into the building and killed people there unprovoked. Every journalism outlet and social hub immediately was abuzz with coverage of the story and John was soon widely being accused of abducting and killing Richard Sekibo, slaughtering civilians, and even colluding with the enemy. On Earth, the predominant reaction from people was panic, as it seemed that humanity's savior had finally gone rogue. News presenters began referring to John as "the Fallen Spartan". In the Outer Colonies, however, his purported actions were largely believed to have been carried out under the direction of ONI. The Chief was simply seen as a disposable weapon being wielded by the agency to cripple Sekibo's diplomatic vision. Some were also gladdened to see Earth's champion brought low by the leaked report. Less than twenty-four hours later, a second leak was put out in the form of a video from the incident. The footage seemed to corroborate everything in the report and immediately polarized people across human-occupied space even further. The leaks, combined with recent reporting from Benjamin Giraud on the poaching of Outer Colonies children for the Spartan-II program, created widespread unrest in those colonies. The New Colonial Alliance took full advantage of the moment and soon massive demonstrations were common and there were many renewed calls for embargoes, boycotts, and even independence from the Unified Earth Government. Some UEG politicians tried to levy the situation for their own disparate agendas, from increased military spending to tax relief. Now a freshman senator, Andrew Del Rio called for the decommissioning of all extant Spartan-IIs. The senator eventually retracted his proposal when Laurel Adams and the UEG at large announced the conclusion of an investigation that cleared the Chief of any suspicions of wrongdoing. Evidence implicating Sapien Sunrise in Sekibo's death was made public and at the same time, Benjamin Giraud's reporting was discredited, since ONI had played a large role in providing him with unreliable evidence. These reversals served to quell the fervor in the Outer Colonies and in the eyes of many, lay the spurious accusations concerning the Spartan-II program's sordid history at the feet of Giraud alone.
BIRD IN HAND
- Main article: Operation: BIRD IN HAND
- Fred-104: "We're outnumbered here, Chief. A few thousand to one."
- John-117: "Surrendering Argent Moon is not an option."
- — John and Fred about their mission
Near the start of October 23, 2558, John and the rest of Blue Team were deployed from the UNSC Infinity for Operation: BIRD IN HAND, a mission to find and secure Argent Moon, an ONI research vessel that had been missing for nineteen months. John piloted a D79-TC Pelican carrying he and the rest of the team through an asteroid field within the Crow's Eye Nebula in search of Argent Moon and notified the Infinity as soon as he laid eyes on it. After turning the dropship to its rear bay faced their target, John joined the others and prepared to launch from the craft using his armor's integrated thrusters. Before departing he accepted an MA5D assault rifle from Kelly and confirmed all were ready. Blue Team then maneuvered around a few asteroids before readying their weapons and concentrating fire on a window as they sped toward it. By doing so, the Spartans were able to easily fly right through the glass and activate their suits' magnetic boot clamps upon landing within. A number of Sangheili that were there to meet them were quickly forced into space as the area they'd entered depressurized, but John and the others were held in place long enough for a blast door to seal the breach they'd made. Argent Moon was presently occupied by Covenant forces loyal to Jul 'Mdama, but John planned for them to clear the aliens and return the station to ONI. As the team made its way toward the ship's data center the Spartans passed a stealth-class vessel that had been under construction as well as numerous skeletal remains once belonging to the Argent Moon's crew. Linda asked what they knew about the experiments that had been done there, to which John said they didn't know anything and further, that they ought not to ask. The first group of unsuspecting Covenant the team came across was made up of a few Unggoy, who were mercilessly eliminated. Beyond the room the Grunts had been in the Spartans soon found themselves facing off against Sangheili and Kig-Yar as well. In the data center John used the complete set of data security keys they had for the station to access its databanks and pull its schematics and current population map. The plan was to reach and seize Central Control and thereby deactivate gravity and life support systems in order to efficiently kill off all enemies aboard. John next led his team to an elevator which carried them down to the assembly bay where the large stealth ship had been being built. Fred suggested the most direct route to the shipyard beyond was through a wall ahead of them, so John led the way in charging through a metal grating and sliding down a ramp on the opposite side. The shipyard was full of Covenant forces, including a Sangheili zealot, but Blue Team had little troubling dealing with them. At the top of a series of stairs John acquired an MLRS-1 Hydra and used it to great effect on even more adversaries which were gathered all about the unfinished ship in the bay. Central Control was just beyond a set of doors when without warning, a Mgalekgolo gestalt suddenly smashed through a pile of crates and brought its pavise shield down on a catwalk Blue Team was crossing, sending all four of them tumbling to a lower level.
John unexpectedly found himself no longer surrounded by the floor and walls of the Argent Moon, but seemingly within a rocky cave system. Calling out to Linda, Kelly, and Fred to report in yielded no answers, but he did then hear the faint voice of none other than Cortana. Turning, he cautiously approached what appeared to be her data crystal chip but it vanished right as he attempted to pick it up. He followed a source of light to where the stony floor ended at a cliff overlooking a bottomless chasm, and across this gulf Cortana's figure visibly appeared. She told him the Domain was open and that Meridian, a glassed Outer Colony world, was next. John struggled to understand what he was seeing and hearing, but Cortana just responded to his confusion by claiming that "the Reclamation" was about to begin. At this a loud roar sounded from beneath John's feet and an enormous construct rose imposingly from the depths. John fell to his knees then and the vision ended. He was once again surrounded by his teammates. Kelly could see that something was wrong and asked him what it was, and in response the Chief told them Cortana was on Meridian. Linda and Fred both pushed back at the notion, seeing as John had told them all how he'd watched her die. John didn't understand how she could have survived himself nor what he had just seen, but resolved to focus on the present mission for the time being and worry about that later.
Upon witnessing Covenant vessels exiting slipspace all around the Argent Moon, however, the plan changed to asset denial and it was decided that the Argent Moon must be destroyed. Blue Team fought to the ship's reactor and disabled its safeties so that it would begin to overheat and detonate. However, the Argent Moon responded with automatic safeties, moving the reactor to a cooling center where it could be contained. Needing to ensure its overload, Blue Team followed the reactor to the cooling center in vacuum, using Banshees to destroy its coolant pipes. With their interference, the cooling system failed and the reactor began overheating, prepping Argent Moon's destruction. Blue Team needed to escape, but their Banshees would not escape the explosion in time and their arrival Pelican appeared to have been destroyed. John thus ordered them to the hangar where they could take a Winter-class prowler and escape into slipspace. Arriving at a hangar, the Spartans found the parked prowler ONI Acrisius, but needed to recharge its fuel cells. Many more Covenant forces attacked them while Blue Team defended themselves, waiting for the Prowler to prep for launch. With the hangar cleared and the Acrisius ready, John contacted the UNSC Infinity and informed them that he would be sending Blue Team to Meridian. However, Infinity was mysteriously already aware of Cortana's return and ordered John back to them while another Spartan team was sent to deal with her. Rejecting their orders, John and Blue Team chose to go AWOL and evacuated aboard the Acrisius, leaving the Argent Moon as it exploded.
Absent without leave
- Main article: Battle of Meridian (2558)
- Jameson Locke: "Cortana's our concern now, sir."
- John-117: "Like hell she is."
- — John rebuffs Spartan Locke's claim to the investigation of Cortana immediately before striking him.
At 0630 hours, shortly after departing the Argent Moon, John and the rest of the Spartans of Blue Team were declared absent without leave. The next day, the four Spartan-IVs of Fireteam Osiris were tasked with apprehending Blue Team and returning both they and the Acrisius to UNSC custody. The prowler arrived at Meridian in the Hestia system on October 25, shortly before the Infinity did that day as well. Soon after mechanical Promethean constructs began to appear and attack people at Apogee Station, having materialized from within various nearby subterranean caverns. The Acrisius was then sighted flying very low in the direction of Apogee by a miner driving in the opposite direction, toward Meridian Station. Once the team landed at its destination John and the others were able to refer to a map of Apogee Station which had been provided to their ship. It pointed them down into a nearby mountain via a mine entrance. Blue Team was permitted to pass that way by the colony's A.I. governor, Sloan, and also did not face any resistance from present Promethean forces. The intelligence known as the Warden Eternal, claiming to serve Cortana, had approved them for passage to the world where she could be found via a Guardian Custode which had lain buried beneath the moon's surface for millennia.
When John, Linda, Kelly, and Fred were deposited near the Guardian by a teleporter, to their surprise they came face-to-face with Fireteam Osiris, which occupied a series of platforms below those they suddenly found themselves traversing. The Spartan-IIs wasted no time teleporting to another platform where they could enter the Guardian, but were met there by Spartan Jameson Locke, Osiris' leader. John was the last to arrive and when he did Spartan Locke had his weapon drawn on Linda, Kelly, and Fred. Locke ordered the Chief to stand down, making it clear he was only giving him this one chance to return to the UNSC peacefully. At this John directed the rest of his team to enter the Guardian despite Locke's protests before stating that he had a job to do and turning to board the construct himself. Locke made him pause, however, when he mentioned Cortana; claiming she was Osiris' concern now. This elicited a harsh response from John, who lashed out at Locke without warning. He yanked Locke's BR85 battle rifle away easily before breaking it against the opposing Spartan's faceplate. A protracted hand-to-hand struggle followed in which John managed to get the upper hand over Locke twice, throwing him to the ground each time. The Spartan-IV rolled away from a downward punch which followed the second instance of such and in recovering managed to put the Chief on the defensive. A punch and backhand to the head in rapid succession finally made John sink to one knee, his helmet's visor now cracked. When he rose and turned around to face Locke again, the other had activated an armor restraint with the intention of immobilizing him. John seized Locke's right wrist in order to keep it away from him and the fight shifted to one for control of the restraint. Ultimately it was a headbutt from John that allowed him to steal the restraint from Locke and turn it on him, short-circuiting his armor and locking him in place just as he'd drawn and pointed his M6H2 magnum. As the rest of Osiris looked on from across a chasm which had isolated them from the dueling team leaders, John retrieved his MA5D from the ground and vanished before the entry portal to access the Guardian after a final look back at his defeated opponent. By then the Guardian had already begun to prepare for emergence and departure. Shortly thereafter it rose into the sky and initiated a slipspace jump at a little after 0833 hours, leaving destruction and death in its wake.
- Main article: Battle of Genesis
- Kelly-087: "What is this place?"
- Linda-058: "Forerunner planet. Beyond that, who knows."
- John-117: "Wherever we are, Cortana brought us here. She's out there somewhere."
- — Blue Team discusses the location to which Cortana had summoned its members.
On October 27 the Master Chief was publicly declared to have been killed in action that day on Meridian, purportedly having fallen in the line of duty. While making the public address Lieutenant Penelope Boren claimed that the full account of his demise was being withheld out of respect to those who may have lost loved ones in the recent disaster there. It was thought that Blue Team must be in some way responsible for the deaths wrought by the Meridian Guardian. The conclusion had been reached that it would be better for people to think the Master Chief dead than to think he had turned against the UNSC. The Guardian carrying Blue Team brought them to the artificial world Genesis in the Nomos system, finally arriving around October 28. The team was deposited upon a sort of docking platform and had barely begun to move forward from it before another Guardian slipped in nearby. Fred asked John what he thought Cortana was up to and why she had brought them there, to which he said "Let's keep moving". John argued that they must have been brought to that location for a reason and ought to search ahead. Taking the lead, John was the first to reach a self-assembling console within a structure ahead as they approached. To the Spartans' surprise, it sounded off the four-note tune 'Olly olly oxen free', which John immediately concluded must have come from Cortana. Manipulating the console seemed to awaken a structure further ahead and led the platform the console was on to descend, but when John tried to see if Cortana could hear them he received no response. The lift deposited Blue Team at ground level. John and the others made their way forward, John assuring them Cortana must be out there somewhere. When Fred pointed out the destruction and loss of life she had seemingly caused on Meridian, he affirmed he had not failed to notice it and said they'd learn what was going on once they'd found her. Kelly pointed out the building which had come to life after John used the console and suggested she might be over there, which John agreed was certainly possible. Before long, the team chanced upon a dead Unggoy and the Chief gave orders to stay alert, wondering what the Covenant was doing there.
Blue Team battled through stranded Covenant forces.
Opposite the bridge Blue Team encountered a swath of many Covenant corpses. Cautiously picking their way around and stepping over them with their weapons at the ready, the Spartans were soon greeted by a giant mechanical construct which signaled no obvious hostile intent. Regardless, they trained their guns on this new being and John demanded it identify itself. The being identified himself as the Warden Eternal and claimed to stand in Cortana's defense, at which John told him he'd been summoned at her request. The Warden mocked John's admission to have "come scampering" at her call and further tried to create a wedge between the two in pointing out that she knew his "forgotten name" but was reticent to share information about who he had been before becoming a Spartan with him. John then simply told the construct to take him to he, but the Warden refused and vanished into a localized slipspace portal.
The Warden's physical frame had disappeared, but the Spartans could still hear his booming voice as they made their way forward through an earthen tunnel on the opposite side of a door. He asked what the Chief's intentions were for Cortana, to which John flatly said he'd come to bring her home. Soon after this mechanical Prometheans began showing up and attacking Blue Team as it moved through a series of caverns and cliffs. John demanded once more to know where Cortana was but the Warden only responded with scorn and the arrival of more hostile constructs. Upon reaching an open valley the Warden himself took the field alongside the knights, soldiers, and crawlers at his command. Even so, John and the others were able to prevail against them all. As soon as the coast was clear John was shocked to suddenly hear Cortana's voice in his helmet, and she likewise sounded overjoyed that he had made it there. She wasted no time remotely activating a light bridge ahead, since she was sure the Warden would be back soon, further explaining that he had a single mind but millions of armatures which he could inhabit. Asked how she was still active, Cortana recounted how she had found the Domain after the core of the Mantle's Approach had jumped to slipspace toward Genesis, and how her rampancy had apparently been cured by accessing it. John asked how they were to get to her, so she directed their attention to the Gateway, a large structure ahead of them. A final console awaited John's activation so they could ride a lift downward. When John broached the subject of the Warden feeling he needed to protect Cortana from him, she just promised she'd explain everything once they were "face-to-face". Not satisfied, John pushed her and learned she planned to use her newfound immortality to shoulder the Mantle of Responsibility as the Forerunners had and to invite other A.I.s to join her in that effort. Walking across another light bridge back into more caverns, John reminded her how the Didact had spoken of the Mantle as well. At this she assured him she was not possessed of the same authoritarian desire the ancient Warrior-Servant had been. So they could speedily cross a length of canyons yet separating them from the Gateway, Cortana drew the Spartans' attentions to four Z-1800 Phaetons. Soon enough, however, their advance was contested by more Prometheans. After eliminating the last of the focus turrets and other constructs which had set upon them, the team exited the stretch of chasms to finally reach the Gateway. Cortana told them they would be the first organic beings to enter it since the Forerunners' fall.
After wandering in circles within the Gateway for some hours at Cortana's direction, to his great surprise John received a transmission on October 28 from Jameson Locke in which he claimed his team had been sent to Genesis by Doctor Halsey and was there to help. John demanded to know how they had followed Blue Team there but was told it was a long story. When Locke mentioned that Cortana was behind the Guardians' activations John told him he was aware and let him know they could be found at the Gateway. A short time later Locke tried to ask the Chief to hold position as they approached the Gateway but heard only static in response, as Cortana had blocked their communications. When Osiris finally caught up to blue Team at the Gateway the Spartan-IVs were accompanied by the world's monitor, 031 Exuberant Witness. John, Linda, Kelly and Fred all spun around at the approach of Osiris and trained their weapons on the other Spartans but John lowered his rifle at the mention of Cortana by Locke and said he was aware that she was now a danger. Locke offered his team's assistance in dealing with her, but at that moment Cortana herself spoke from above and said they were too late. John only managed to cry "No!" before he and the rest of his teammates were involuntarily teleported elsewhere.
- John-117: "Stand down, Cortana. Come home with us. It's not too late to stop this."
- Cortana: "Stop? No, John. This is too important to stop."
- — John tries in vain to convince Cortana to abandon her present course.
When the Spartans reappeared, they found themselves within a vaulted hallway. John attempted to ask Cortana where she had brought them but received no response. As he and the others cautiously moved forward the Warden Eternal suddenly materialized and used a constraint field to hoist them into the air. It was then that Cortana's voice was heard, commanding the Warden to leave and making his component pieces fly apart and vanish. She apologized, claiming that she didn't think the Warden could access their location. John was insistent that she give them some answers, demanding to know why she'd brought the Guardians to Genesis. Cortana explained that she intended to use them to keep troublesome worlds in line just as the Forerunners once had and then urged John to come to her quickly. Fred asked where he he thought she was leading them, to which John could only say "Closer to her". Beyond a door at the end of the hall Blue Team found itself facing a long series of walkways and ramps seemingly placed far above an endless expanse: a fragment of the Domain. The Warden announced his presence for all to hear as Promethean crawlers began to spawn ahead of them, so John recognized right away that he wanted a fight. As the Spartans pushed forward the crawlers were joined by soldiers and knights. Past another door a floating platform assembled as Blue Team approached. John and the others stepped onto it and found themselves then being carried forward and up to another level of structures. Cortana's voice returned at this point, congratulating John for showing his fighting prowess against the Promethean constructs and saying how good it was to see him back together with his team. John recognized the psychological tactics she was employing, however, and called her on it before demanding that she tell them how many people had been killed by the awakening of the Guardians. She did not deign to answer. After the platform reached its destination Blue Team found itself facing down soldier captains and more crawlers and upon pushing through to a higher level, Z-510 focus turrets. When Fred asked John how he planned to stop Cortana he unconvincingly promised she would listen to him. When the Warden eventually appeared in physical form once again, she sounded her disapproval for his antics and he had soon vanished as quickly as he had appeared, leaving only other Prometheans for Blue Team to battle. John plead with Cortana to talk with him, to which she said she would once they reached her. Even having been halted from attacking the Spartans directly, the Warden continued to speak for both Cortana and the Spartans to hear. He addressed John specifically, asking if he would stand against Cortana should his own species rebel against her. John pointed out Cortana already knew the answer to that. After another group of attacking constructs had been cleared Cortana spoke up to remind John of their partnership and tried to make him understand she was still herself and this time it was he that responded by saying they'd talk once Blue Team had reached its destination safely. As the team was carried upward and forward by another platform, the Warden's booming voice recounted humanity's discovery of the Halos six years prior, and how it marked the long-awaited arrival of the Reclaimer. Rather than identifying humans as the Librarian's chosen Reclaimers, however, both the Warden and Cortana claimed that role belonged to she and other human-made artificial intelligences.
Disheartened by Cortana's exalted claims for herself, John continued to lead his team through successive waves of attacking Prometheans. Kelly dared to ask if they were fighting a losing battle but he assured her that would only happen if they planned on losing. John also pushed back against taunting from the Warden, letting him know that far worse than he had tried and failed before to kill him. Following a fight against knight commanders and soldier snipers, among other constructs, John led him team past a door to an exceedingly large chamber. Within, a dozen copies of the Warden suddenly appeared to stop them from advancing further but all but three were quickly removed by Cortana. Blue Team fought and destroyed two of his remaining bodies before the final version summoned focus turrets. Once they and he were finally destroyed as well, a ramp formed leading to a central bridge above the Spartans. As they walked up it Kelly asked John what he planned to do but got not response. They traversed a final hall and beyond the door at its end could see a blue light floating atop a plinth in the center of a round room. A light bridge spanned a chasm separating the entrance and the room's center. John hesitantly said Cortana's name, wondering if the glowing blue light represented her, and had his said by her in kind. As soon as they had crossed the light bridge deactivated behind them and the doors they'd entered through slid shut. Cortana's avatar likewise vanished from the plinth before them as the Warden appeared to take control, manifesting three more bodily forms within the space. John called for Blue Team to focus fire as even more versions began to appear and advanced toward the Spartans. At the last moment before Blue Team could be attacked Cortana intervened, making all but one copy of the Warden vanish along with everyone's weapons. The Warden looked to be forced to his and knees and the plinth behind him began to spark, making John cautiously step forward to see what would happen next. Then, astonishingly, Cortana herself appeared as a full-size human figure and walked forward to meet John. At a touch she dissolved the Warden's hard light form before greeting her friend and saying it was good to see him. For his part, John merely commented that she had changed. Cortana began to make her argument for what she was doing but John cut her off straightaway, pointing out the brazen authoritarian nature of her plan. He furthermore compared her to Halsey, something Cortana angrily rejected by claiming that she was offering everyone a gift. John finally told her to stand down, urging her to leave with the four of them and forget about her grand plans. Despite his plea, however, she told him that her work was too important to stop. At that the chamber began to shift and change and before John could ask what was happening he and the rest of Blue Team were lifted up and encased in relatively immobilizing energy fields. Cortana then revealed they were inside a Cryptum, where she planned to preserve them. John could do nothing but slowly reach out a hand whilst calling her name as Cortana walked away before her disappearing. She planned to keep John imprisoned in stasis for ten thousand years in the hope that once he saw the peace she had ensured he might agree with her decisions. To facilitate this she made preparations to leave Genesis with the Cryptum. It was only thanks to Fireteam Osiris and 031 Exuberant Witness that control of the it was wrested from her so that when her Guardian departed it did not take the Cryptum with it. When they were finally freed the four of them walked out to meet Exuberant Witness and Osiris on a bridge the monitor had hastily assembled. John's first question was about Cortana's present location, to which Locke coolly replied that she was gone.
031 Exuberant Witness informed Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris that though there were no Forerunner vehicles which could carry the eight of them away from Genesis, a number of other vehicles which had been brought to the planet recently could serve to do so. She would only have to open a portal through which one of these available crafts could be flown through. As multiple waves of Promethean soldiers assaulted the Spartans, the monitor took off along a path which John then led them to follow. Both teams took out soldiers as they moved forward after Witness. It wasn't until Linda, from her vantage point atop an ice-covered peak, pointed out a D79-TC Pelican about six kilometers from their position that John turned himself and the six others in its direction. The Chief was convinced that even if the bird wasn't an option, they needed to avoid being pinned down in one location. Asked by John whether any others were attempting to claim it, Linda only replied with a succession of three shots with her personal SRS99-S5 AM sniper rifle and the statement that there weren't anymore. The Spartans sprinted through a hail of fire as armigers continually attacked them, returning fire of their own. Linda provided covering fire,at one point taking out two soldiers with one shot, which earned encouragement from John in the form of urging her to keep up the good work. The subject of the portal was soon broached again by 031 Exuberant Witness, to which John stated that they would prefer it take them somewhere with a UNSC presence. Locke, conversely, advised that Sanghelios would be the safest option if it was possible to return there, seeing as Cortana likely had UNSC-heavy places covered and they still might have allies trapped there. Witness confirmed she could get them close to where Sanghelios' Guardian had been located so John agreed to go with Locke's idea and asked what they needed to do. Witness said that once they had secured the Pelican she would signal them to indicate the portal was ready. As the two teams of Spartans (minus Linda) drew near to India 127 they soon became completely surrounded by hostile armigers. John charged aboard the dropship, ordering Kelly to take its controls and for everyone else to get strapped in. Kelly was able to get it in the air with no trouble so John then directed her to pick up Linda. Once she was aboard with the rest of them, Kelly piloted India 127 directly through the glowing blue disk Exuberant Witness had summoned for them.
- "This isn't over. Not by a long shot."
- — John-117 confirms his resolve to combat Cortana's plans for the galaxy.
It only took a few minutes to traverse the portal through slipspace. When the Pelican emerged, the Spartans found themselves flying through a cavernous cave, which they excited to be faced with a deep Sanghelios night. John remained quiet while the others determined where they were and what they ought to do next. When he finally did speak up, it was to apologize for everything that had recently happened. Linda was the first to dismiss his apology, as he had done what he thought was right and had been backed up by she, Kelly, and Fred every step of the way. Locke also conceded that John had done what he could to stop Cortana. Edward Buck followed this by suggesting that seeing as John had known her the best, he might be the key to stopping her. John confirmed that he wasn't even close to calling the struggle against her and the other A.I.s over. Locke mentioned that if they could get back to the UNSC Infinity, Halsey might be able to work out a solution, which caught John and the other Spartan-IIs by surprise. John asked if she was alright and learned from Holly Tanaka that she had been the last time Osiris saw her, though she was missing an arm. Fred took this opportunity to take what Buck had said on step further, noting that it was Halsey, not John, that knew Cortana best.
The portal had deposited them relatively near the Sangheili city of Sunaion off the coast of Qivro. Olympia Vale guessed that the Swords of Sanghelios were likely still camped in Nuusra where they had recently staged an attack on Jul 'Mdama's Covenant from just days prior. Locke said that he wouldn't leave before finding Commander Sarah Palmer or confirming she was KIA, which John agreed to. Before long, fires were spotted that indicated the location of a Sangheili encampment where they expected the Swords to be. John told Kelly to take them in to land. He and Locke lined up at the ramp and exited the dropship together after in touched down, coming face-to-face with Palmer, Arbiter Thel 'Vadam and a group of his Sangheili, and Doctor Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, whom John had not seen in over six years. As surprised to see him as he was to see her, Halsey told him that it had taken him long enough. As the rest of Blue Team revealed themselves as well, John introduced them to Thel, who proceeded to invite the new arrivals to join in a celebratory meal commemorating their victory over the last of Jul 'Mdama's Covenant. Halsey revealed that she had gotten a message from Roland on the Infinity and that it would be appearing off of the far side of Suban the following day at 1800 hours. Now that they had transportation, they could be there waiting for it when it showed. Buck expressed skepticism regarding Roland's allegiance given recent events, but Halsey insisted they'd already be dead if Roland was compromised. John nodded at this. Taking off his helmet, he said they'd be staying there for the night and flying out first thing tomorrow. From there the humans joined the Sangheili in dining on colo and kuscatu. John, Kelly, Fred, Linda, and Halsey went off on their own for a time to talk. When John rejoined the rest of the gathering, he asked Palmer what had become of the Guardian which reportedly had arrived to disrupt the power across large regions of the planet. She admitted she wasn't entirely sure. Later, John took part of the night to reminisce and catch up with Thel, who told him that he had received reports of it and Promethean soldiers pacifying cities on the other side of Sanghelios that were proving to be openly hostile to Cortana's ultimatum.
Everyone was awake around an hour before sunrise and all the humans piled into the Pelican. The Arbiter bid John farewell, and while the two clasped arms, expressed his confidence that they could stand against this new threat as they had stood together against the hierarchs and the Covenant. John thanked him and then they were off, soaring through and past the planet's atmosphere on a trip that took them just a few hours. John advised everyone to keep an eye out for the Guardian, should it reappear. With about twenty minutes until the Infinity's projected arrival, Fireteam Osiris broke out a game of Hearts, but John and the others declined playing. When Infinity finally did show up, Kelly landed India 127 in its fifth portside bay. The Spartans were met by a lieutenant who announced that Halsey, Locke, Palmer, and John were wanted on the bridge. As the rest of Blue Team went to have their armor removed, John accompanied those three to meet with Captain Lasky. [note 7]
- Echo 216's pilot: "We need to run."
- John-117: "No, we need to fight."
- — John steels himself for battle rather than accept another defeat.
On February 10, 2559 ONI's Materials Group created a new suit of third-generation Mjolnir armor for John.[note 8] Doctor Halsey made modifications to it on September 16, 2561. At some point following this, a lone Pelican pilot who had been stranded in his dropship, Echo 216, above a partially-destroyed Halo ring was alerted to the presence of a friendly signal. He was then shocked to discover John floating, lifeless, right outside the dropship's cockpit. His armor's main power cells had been fried and the armor had, naturally, shut down and triggered survival mode. After bringing John aboard and rerouting what little power he had into his suit, the man welcomed him back. Noticing that there appeared to be a problem with the servos in the Spartan's armored hands, he urged him to remain calm and noted that he'd "been out there a while". John's right hand had been clutched around a data crystal chip (marked with the A.I. serial number CTN-0453-0) serving as a weapon containment device. Inserting it into his helmet showed no A.I. was present within. Not content to wait any longer, he broke free of the cables tethering him in place and asked his rescuer for a status report. The pilot was confused by what he was asking, but then told him there was something he needed to see and drew his attention toward the cockpit windows. Outside, John could see the shattered remains of the Halo that lay beyond and was told they'd lost everything there. Suddenly and without warning the craft was then jolted by electricity and encased in bright light. The pilot panicked, recognizing the source of the attack, and urged that they run. Conversely, John grabbed hold of a nearby MA37 assault rifle and said they needed to fight. The pilot sealed himself in the cockpit while John took a position in the rear bay. The Chief told the pilot to get ready just before the hatch opened and he rushed out of it. Sometime after this John touched down on the surface of the broken Halo and entered its control room. As he walked toward its central platform, he removed the aforementioned chip from his helmet as a holographic projection of the ring resolved into a single mass of blue light which lay ahead.[note 9]
Personality and traits
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- "Our duty as soldiers is to protect humanity, whatever the cost."
- — Master Chief about what it takes to protect human lives
Until the age of six, John lived a normal life with his family on the colony of Eridanus II. His conscription into the SPARTAN-II program was to shape much of his personality in the years to come. However, despite his difficulty relating to non-Spartan personnel, John nevertheless showed great depth of character throughout his many years of service.
As with all Spartans, John strives to win at any situation, at all costs. Although the drive to win was ingrained to the Spartans as part of their indoctrination, John appears to have possessed such an inclination even prior to his conscription; as a child, he would win at any game he played, including chess, gravball or King of the Hill. He is extremely determined to complete any mission at hand, and often disregards his personal safety to do so.
John is also noted for his exceptional luck, which, along with his combat skills and unyielding persistence, has allowed him to emerge victorious from situations many would consider impossible. Because of his many years of constant combat and military conditioning, John is not as emotional or sensitive as he once was, especially to fear. Although he is not devoid of fear, he simply acknowledges the feeling and puts it aside. He is calm in the face of danger but not foolhardy, as demonstrated during his first encounter with the Gravemind, when he warned the Arbiter that his arrogance was likely to get him killed. John is generally stoic and taciturn, but not devoid of a sense of humor and often makes dry remarks about the situation in hand to his teammates and allies.
On several instances, John has been forced to make tough decisions in order to achieve his goals, such as leaving behind his Spartan comrades on Reach or Cortana on High Charity, though he did come back on both occasions. More than once John has had to disobey orders to preserve human lives, as he did when he decided to keep Cortana to himself instead of surrendering her and pursue the Didact on his own. This decision proved right when the Didact was stopped before he could compose the entirety of Earth's population. The members of Fireteam Osiris, sent to recover John after he went AWOL, understood why he disobeyed the orders, and were confident that once the Chief discovered the truth behind Cortana's actions, he would do the right thing, as he always did.
He fully embraced his life as a soldier acting as a "shield and sword" for humanity in times of need. He feels no resentment towards Doctor Halsey because of his conscription, instead accepting the life imposed on him as a chance to live up to his full potential, in part because he was little more than a playground bully when he was conscripted. As every Spartan, John has a strong sense of duty and commitment towards the UNSC. When he was asked by Warden Eternal that whenever "Cortana's Guardians are in motion and those who oppose her rule attempt to take back their worlds, will he help her to hold on to power or will he stand in defense of his own species?", John answered "Cortana knows the answer already".
He does not see himself as a superior being and fears for the lives of others before his own, putting himself in harm's way for the safety of civilians, and fellow soldiers, and does not judge others. Indeed, he is known to show an exceptional care for soldiers under his command and has shown great respect for the baseline humans he has fought alongside. An example of this is during the Battle of Installation 04. When making his way up to the Silent Cartographer, two Helljumpers, PFC Hosky and another Corporal, were killed by two Hunters. Afterward he regretted their loss, blaming himself for their deaths. This, and his reaction to Johnson's death on Installation 08 show that he does exhibit care and sympathy for soldiers under his command, even if he does do a good job of concealing his feelings. In the first two days of training on Reach, John learned two lessons that affected him personally and which he took to heart: you win if the team wins, and the team is stronger together than any one individual alone. He never endangers the lives of those under his command if it is unnecessary. He would rather risk his own life instead of the others. During the Battle of Circinius IV, he drew a Hunter's attention in order to give the cadets a chance to run away, even with him running out of ammo. Deciding to follow Cortana's lead to Meridian on his own, John wanted to keep other Spartans from violating the UNSC regulations, though they decided otherwise and chose to remain by his side. He was also impressed by the humans who comprised his team following his escape from Installation 04, including Sheila Polaski and Corporal Locklear, both of whom he considered to have been worthy of being Spartans.
John is also known as a man of his word and will strive to keep any promise he makes, even at great personal risk. As he was forced to leave Cortana behind on High Charity, John promised to come back for her after dealing with the Prophet of Truth. Cortana chided him not to make a promise when he knew he couldn't keep it. However, despite incredible odds, John did keep his promise, as he fought his way through the Flood into High Charity to retrieve her. Upon finding her, Cortana was in a weak and damaged state. Unfazed, the Master Chief told her, "You know me. When I make a promise..." to which Cortana replied, "You keep it." This encouragement gave her the strength to compose herself after enduring the mental tortures of the Gravemind.
John's unfaltering, determined nature also serves to mask his feelings on many occasions, as he prefers to devote all attention to the goal at hand. He is cautious and observant, only making changes in his plans if they are of the utmost necessity. John is smart and noted for thinking outside the box, using unconventional means to reach his goal. He realizes his duty as a Spartan is to serve and help those in need, and can work professionally with anyone he is sent into battle with. Although John has difficulty understanding the 'undisciplined' lifestyle of civilians, he is fiercely protective of their lives and humanity as a whole. The mass slaughter of civilians at the hands of the Covenant was enough to drive even the stoic John into a cold rage. After the massacre on Draco III, John and his Spartans remained on-site until every Covenant soldier responsible for the atrocity was dead.
John greatly dislikes being kept in the dark, ambushes and fighting human soldiers. Once, when cornered by four large ODSTs in a gym, he did his best to avoid a confrontation. In the end, he was forced to defend himself with lethal force. While killing Covenant never placed a burden of guilt on John, ending the lives of fellow human beings was something he never felt comfortable remembering. Also John, as with many Spartan-IIs, hates space battles, as being stuck on a spaceship during a space battle makes him feel helpless. As a soldier, John knows when it is appropriate and inappropriate to fight, and has great control over his emotions thanks to a clear state of mind. Due to his augmentations, he reacts much faster than an average human, seeing events at a fraction of normal speed. It is almost a clairvoyant state of mind, and as a result of this, has an acute intuitive insight and perception of any situation combat or non-combat. He has been known to have vivid and long-enduring memories of the past, such as in dreams. No matter how well-adjusted he is, however, John always seems to need to have a quiet place away from crowds after a battle in order to feel at peace.
While reflecting on his life during his battle with the Didact John stated that he did not remember anything from his childhood from before his conscription: not his name, his family, his home, except the King of the Hill game he played with the other children in his school's playground. Through thirty years of warfare he was always prepared to die in battle, but when he was about to die by Didact's hand on Gamma Halo, he discovered he was not ready to die. After defeating the Didact, John continued to obsessively embark on new missions even after receiving an R&R order from Lord Hood.
- "Of course, John volunteered. He was always the first to explore the unknown for the rest of us."
- — Kelly about John's decision to test Mjolnir armor
Throughout his training, John proved himself as one of the most promising leaders among Spartans, and Dr. Halsey considered him the best candidate in the entire program. His aspiration to win and his care of his teammates eventually helped him gain the position of squad leader. In years to come, many Spartan fireteams emerged with their own leaders. John took command of Blue Team, though he kept his commander role for the whole SPARTAN-II company. During Operation: SILENT STORM, John so greatly impressed Colonel Marmon Crowther that the Colonel, who had previously expressed doubts about the Spartans, promoted John to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer from the rank of Petty Officer First Class, a previously unheard of three-rank bump. However, Crowther recognized that John's inexperience left John having trouble differentiating between being a commander and a leader and gave the young Spartan advice that he would take to heart.
As a senior Spartan, John took his responsibilities very seriously. After the augmentation procedures that took lives of nearly a half of Spartans, John was devastated; observing how his crippled brothers and sisters were transferred to other UNSC divisions almost made him furious. He did not want to lose them, though he understood that they could no longer fight alongside him. John was the one who volunteered to test Mjolnir armor even after Dr. Halsey confirmed that all previous testers died in process. Being a leader, John would not order his men to do what he could not do in the first place. He was always confident in his men's capabilities, suggesting the most proficient ways to solve the matter, which were considered by non-Spartan personnel as suicide.
What affected John the most were the deaths of people under his command; John considered every Spartan lost during the war as his own mistake, swearing to become stronger the next time. During the Fall of Reach, John lost contact with his Spartans, however, he was sure that some of them survived the glassing and was determined to save as many as he could. More than once John took command of mixed units or squads consisting of Marines. He was capable to organize them to act as a Spartan fireteam, achieving despite almost impossible odds. On Requiem, during the initial engagements between UNSC and Promethean forces, John assumed tactical command of Infinity's ground forces including Spartan-IVs, despite being outranked by many of them. Upon his return to Blue Team, Fred-104 ceded command to John despite outranking him by two ranks. Blue Team also willingly followed John when he chose to go AWOL.
- "Folks need heroes, Chief, to give 'em hope, so smile would ya, while we still got something to smile about!"
- — Avery Johnson to John upon entering Cairo Station's bridge for receiving badges.
After the end of Human-Covenant War, John became an icon as a soldier who had played a pivotal role in ending the decades-long war and in doing seemingly gave his life. He was lauded as representing the ideal of a human soldier by UNSC propaganda, a view embraced by many among the general population. Considering John his personal hero, journalist Benjamin Giraud attempted to find out about his background and personal history. When John was declared dead, on many human worlds statues were built in his honor. Private companies started selling action figures in John's likeness; Gabriel Thorne's grandmother bought one after he was recruited into the SPARTAN-IV program. During his military career John served as a source of inspiration and morale booster for others whenever he was on a battlefield. Chief's determination and selflessness made Thomas Lasky, then a young, doubtful cadet, dedicate his life to military service, eventually reaching the position of commanding officer of the most advanced human ship. With the development of SPARTAN-IV program many soldiers enlisted with Spartans to be like the legendary "Master Chief". Such as Gabriel Thorne, who enlisted believing the Spartans were special, and that had he been one, he could have saved his family in New Phoenix. Years later, when the UNSC discovered that the Chief actually survived and managed to prevent the Didact from enslaving the entire human race, they decided to cover it up as a Covenant remnant attack which was successfully fended off via perfectly timed return of the UNSC's greatest hero, thus again underlining the Spartan's supposed invulnerability. However, when Chief decided to go AWOL the UNSC declared him KIA during Battle of Meridian in order to hide his status and preserve his reputation.
Because of his reputation and experience, John's de facto authority far surpasses his nominal rank, and UNSC personnel of all levels are known to defer to his experience and charisma. When Lord Hood offered John a commission, even suggesting he could be conferred the rank of admiral, the Master Chief jokingly replied, "'The Admiral' doesn't have quite the same ring to it". At the time of his going AWOL in October 2558, Spartan Sarah Palmer implied that John and Blue Team had been operating essentially independently for some time, commenting that "He does what he wants". When the Master Chief chose to defy orders to go after the Didact, Lasky and Palmer visibly made no effort to arrest him as ordered by Captain Del Rio and Lasky defied orders to help the Master Chief directly as he trusted him enough to not take the risk the Master Chief was wrong.
In the eyes of the Covenant, John-117 was branded as The Demon and was considered the main nemesis of the entire Covenant, with most of the Covenant fearful of his presence. Thel 'Vadam stated that the personal title emblazoned on John-117 was an insult, but also held a modicum of respect. The Covenant respected him in terms of his strength and how he was able to defeat thousands of Covenant troops effortlessly, with even Thel 'Vadam at the time unable to stop him from destroying Installation 04. Despite the Covenant's dissolution following the Prophet of Truth's death, John-117's nickname as a demon remains in use by many former members of the Covenant.
On March 3, 2553, Lord Hood commissioned a memorial near Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in honor of UNSC service members lost during the war. The ceremony was attended by John's closest folks - Dr. Catherine Halsey, SCPO Franklin Mendez and his comrades - Frederic-104, Kelly-087 and Linda-058, as well as by Naomi-010 and Serin Osman, formerly known as Serin-019. John's Spartan tag was carved onto the memorial by an unknown party and was accompanied by the improper insignia of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.
In 2590, there was a ceremony for John-117 at an unspecified location near the areas of fighting during the Battle for Earth. However, his coffin is empty. In 2607, the John-117 Monument began construction to commemorate the Spartan's service to mankind. In 2610, when the documentary Believe was being filmed, it had been over fifty years since the end of the Great War.
- "The thing about John is that he only really knew three ways to react to people. If you were his superior officer, he obeyed you. If you were in his squad, he would die for you. But if you were a threat, then God help you."
- — Samuel-034 about John's behavior.
John does not open easily to strangers, and has notably shown an aversion to taking his helmet off in the presence of others unless necessary. Friendships are made for life, however—once given, his trust is forever. Like most Spartan-IIs, he thinks of Doctor Catherine Halsey as a nearly mother-like figure, and holds a deep personal respect for his trainer and mentor SCPO Franklin Mendez. His fellow Spartan-IIs, Cortana, Dr. Halsey, and SCPO Mendez, being the only family he really ever had, assume a larger-than-life importance for John-117.
John formed close friendships with the other Spartans he grew up with since his childhood, most notably Samuel-034 and Kelly-087, his first friends within the group. While still feeling the loss of comrades deeply, he has grown more accustomed to combat than most soldiers. Nevertheless, he was deeply affected by the deaths of each of the Spartans, particularly Sam. He was also saddened by Linda-058's apparent death aboard Gamma Station and was greatly relieved after Dr. Halsey successfully resuscitated her. However, having accepted the responsibility of command for the Spartan-IIs, he has come to maintain a certain professional distance to his comrades and mostly keeps his feelings to himself to maintain his authority.
- "Exhausted as I am, the steadiness in Chief's voice focuses me. Steels me like nothing else. Because I know he's already three steps ahead."
- — Kelly-087
Kelly is one of John's closest friends and the longest one to have worked as part of a team with him. After decades spent together, he knows her well enough to know when she is worried without even needing to see her face; just a tiny slump of her shoulders is enough. Kelly is known to routinely make sarcastic jokes at John's expense, often teasing him about his looks, his intelligence, his awkwardness, his overprotectiveness, and his penchant for "hogging all the fun" during combat engagements. John usually relies on Kelly to articulate sentiments he struggles to convey himself. Kelly is a recurring subject of John's dreams.
John's relationship with Kelly began with him stealing crackers from her while she wasn't looking during their first day as trainees in the Spartan-II program. Later that day, the two were put on a team with Samuel-034 based on three lines the children were instructed to form. Kelly was clearly unhappy to be grouped with John. She introduced herself after Sam did so first, but John said nothing to either and believed that she would slow down their team. As such, he raced ahead of his teammates during their first attempt at "Ring the Bell" and though he finished first, Sam and Kelly got stuck in a line as everyone bunched up at the end and were the last two to cross the finish line. This elicited a glare from Kelly, but John could only shrug. After learning that his team lost despite his early finish, however, John became furious with she and Sam, thinking of ways to get even with them for messing up his victory. He avoided both in the classroom the next day, but when the time came to play Ring the Bell once more Sam threatened to push him off of a raised platform if he didn't help them, with Kelly adding that she would jump on top of him. John agreed to work together as long as they didn't slow him down, and when Kelly pointed out that she was very fast he told her she could sprint ahead and hold a spot for them at a basket which would carry them to the bell. When she took off, John was struck that he had never seen anyone move like her, thinking her similar to wolves he'd seen footage of, her feet seeming to barely touch the ground. And though their team only came in third this time, they worked together to make that happen and decided to be friends once they were finished. Around one year and ten months later, John, Kelly, and Sam were still a unit and he had come to think of the two of them, along with the seventy-two other trainees, as his family. During an exercise in Reach's Highland Mountains in July of 2519 Kelly was the first to speak up when John asked for a rabbit, meaning someone fast who could be chased after to lure enemies to a location. Right before she could do just that as part of the plan John had concocted, he offered to be the rabbit instead, which earned him a slug on the shoulder for giving the impression that he doubted her. John, nursing his shoulder, took the suggestion back. A short time later, he didn't even ask when he needed someone to be the rabbit again; he just told Kelly the role was hers.
Following the series of surgeries which augmented their fourteen-year-old bodies in 2525, Kelly took the longest to recover of the members of Blue Team. There had been a point where John had even worried she might not survive. When she did pull through, John was glad to see that her face had retained its rough, angular beauty and her body its long slender frame. He was forced to admit to himself that she scared him a little now, for though she had been fast before, now nobody could touch her if she didn't allow it. En route to their first real mission as Spartans John dreamed that he saw Kelly, her face bloodied and bruised, and that she asked him where he had been when they needed him. When John was shot in the side during that operation, Kelly was the one to peel back his suit to inspect the damage, biting her lip upon confirming that the bullet was still inside and causing lots of internal bleeding. She then proceeded to administer biofoam to the wound, cautioning that it might sting a little, and help him back to his feet. As they were returning from the mission with Kelly piloting a stolen Pelican, John's grunting and wincing in pain made Kelly ask how the foam was holding up and if something else was bothering him. To that, John squeezed her shoulder and claimed nothing was wrong. Later that year, the Spartans suffered their first loss from combat when Sam was forced to stay behind on a doomed Covenant ship due to an armor breach that wouldn't allow him to make the transition to the vacuum of space. John had to grab Kelly's arm as they said goodbye to Sam, urging her to not look back. When the ship exploded behind them, Kelly clung to John and he consoled her. Months later, Kelly suffered a compound rib fracture during a boarding operation, which made John's gut clench. He immediately ordered Fred-104 to move her out of the gravity lift which had injured her. Kelly protested that she didn't need a babysitter and that John was being overprotective (which John could tell meant being a jerk) but he countered by saying he didn't need an argument. In March of 2526 John was attempting to reason with a large group of captured insurrectionists and one of them, a woman, attempted to distract him by calling him flattering names and suggesting that he lose his armor so she could get a better look at him. This elicited a choice statement from Kelly in which she made sure John knew her flirting wasn't real. In 2544 Blue Team was sent to rescue Doctor Catherine Halsey from a Covenant fleet. As the Spartans moved through the fleet's flagship its shipmaster elected to dismantle the carrier into sections to halt their advance. This led to Kelly, who had outpaced John and found herself between two large portions of the ship, grabbed his hand and swung him about, using the momentum to send him flying all the way to the next section. This caused John to shout her name then, but upon landing within the ship once more, he paused to face the direction he had come and this time whisper it, plainly worried about her.
During the Covenant's attack on Reach in 2552, Kelly offered to lead a mission to board Gamma Station. Though John appreciated the gesture, he refused to even assign her to the operation because he knew it would be ten times as dangerous as the concomitant terrestrial mission the rest of the present Spartans would be embarking on. John led the mission to the orbital station himself but a part of him still longed to join the ground action and he couldn't help watching the Pelican that held Kelly and the others as it descended to Reach. When Captain Keyes later informed John that the Pillar of Autumn had lost contact with its Spartans on the planet's surface and that there were no plans to extract them, he requested at once to retrieve them himself with a dropship. His request was denied, leaving John to desperately try to think of a way to save his teammates. He couldn't. During the flight from Reach, John dreamed of Kelly while in cryostasis. In the dream, the two of them were children once again, overlooking verdant hills. Kelly asked him if he ever wondered what home was like, a question which he dodged by asking it of her in turn. Kelly then suggested that if Spartans never truly die, then maybe they would have enough time to go home again someday. The Kelly in his dream then answered that she did wonder about home and all kinds of other things.
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- "All the way to the end, brother."
- — Fred-104
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- "Sam was my friend. He was my brother. He was our brother."
- — John-117
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Dr. Halsey, being the creator of the Spartan II program, acted as a mother-like figure to the Chief. She viewed him as her favorite, and referred to him by his name, John, rather than "Master Chief" or "Spartan 117". In fact, he noticed she was the only person to do so. When he and the other members of Blue Team went AWOL, she expressed her concern about him to Fireteam Osiris, asking them to "Bring John home."
- "We were supposed to take care of each other. And we did."
- — Cortana to John moments before perishing.
In a strange twist of fate, John-117 built a close friendship with the AI Cortana, a construct "born" from the mind of Dr. Halsey herself. Despite some initial hesitation towards working with an AI out of fear of conflicting directives, John and Cortana quickly formed a formidable team. After a near-fatal training exercise masterminded by ONI Colonel Ackerson, John realized that Cortana would be a great help instead of a liability. During their exploits on Installation 04 and afterward, John displayed a firm trust in Cortana, even believing in her when Lord Hood was unsure of the reliability of her word that she had a way to stop the Flood. Years later, on Requiem, he went as far as to disobey a direct order to give her up for decommissioning. Cortana ultimately sacrificed herself to save him and John was clearly upset by her death. Her death made him ponder what it really means to be human.
After being made aware of her potential survival the Chief again disobeyed an order to return to the UNSC and sought to investigate the situation himself. After witnessing firsthand the terrible aftermath of Cortana's awakening of the Guardians, he refrained from making any premature conclusions about her involvement until reestablishing contact with the AI. However once arriving at the Forerunner world of Genesis and having several evasive conversations with her, the Master Chief grew suspicious of Cortana's motives, to the point of having to verbally call her out on attempting to use their past friendship as a means to manipulate him. When Cortana eventually divulged her plans to use the Guardians as a forceful instrument against those who will oppose her rule, John made one final attempt to talk her into standing down peacefully and return home. His efforts proved unsuccessful, and he was forcibly locked into a Cryptum along with the rest of Blue Team by Cortana; ultimately being rescued by Fireteam Osiris shortly after.
During the Covenant War, John developed a comradeship with the veteran UNSC Marine Avery Johnson. The two fought side-by-side in several battles starting with Operation: SILENT STORM in 2526. Johnson became a trusted mentor and friend to the young Spartan, noted by John at one point to have taught John everything he didn't learn during Spartan training on Reach. At one point, during a situation filled with uncertainty about who the Spartans could and couldn't trust, John privately acknowledged that Johnson was the one person they could trust without hesitation. In return, Johnson often backed John up during arguments with Colonel Marmon Crowther about the Spartans' age and inexperience and acted as a go-between for John and Crowther after it was realized that Hector Nyeto was a traitor. Alongside Crowther, Johnson had a hand in John's career defining promotion to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer. They also fought together in the later part of the war from Reach to Installation 04 to Earth, the campaign on Delta Halo, as well as on the Ark where Johnson would ultimately meet his end by 343 Guilty Spark. The Master Chief and Johnson cared greatly about one another, and 117 trusted Johnson without doubt as seen when he allowed Johnson to take Cortana to be inserted in Installation 08's Core. Following Johnson's death, John was visibly saddened.
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- Thomas Lasky: "Chief, I won't pretend to know how you feel. I've lost people I care about, but... never anything like you're going through."
- John-117: "Our duty, as soldiers, is to protect humanity. Whatever the cost."
- Thomas Lasky: "You say that like soldiers and humanity are two different things. Soldiers aren't machines. We're just people."
- — Lasky tries to comfort Chief over Cortana's death.
John encountered Lasky when he rescued the survivors of Hastati Squad at Corbulo Academy. When John planned to sacrifice himself to ensure the safety of the squad from a Mgalekgolo, Lasky volunteered to be bait and together they managed to defeat it. John presented a shard of the Mgalekgolo's armor as a keepsake to Lasky for his courage, further motivating Lasky to become an officer. Both later reunited on Requiem after tracking the distress call sent by Cortana from the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn. He respects John deeply and even used his authority as a Field Commander to allowing him to desert using a fully armed Pelican that was readied under the pretense of pursuing John if he had left the Infinity. After Cortana's sacrifice, Lasky was unable to comfort him despite his similar experiences.
- Jameson Locke: "Your people used to call him "Demon." Was that an insult or a compliment?"
- Thel 'Vadam: "An insult, to be sure, but one with a modicum of respect. He was indeed my enemy, but, in time, I named him ally... even friend. The events which forged this bond are… complicated."
- — Locke and the Arbiter about Chief
John and Thel 'Vadam's first meeting on Delta Halo was hostile, with the Arbiter continually referring to the Spartan as "Demon" and John's insistence that the San'Shyuum were making a "big mistake" by activating the Halo rings. This was also complicated by the fact that John was directly responsible for Thel being stripped of his rank and branded with the Mark of Shame because of John's destruction of Installation 04. Despite this, Thel would later admit that he possessed a modicum of respect for John even as enemies. Upon their next meeting on Earth, John was quick to try and kill the Sangheili before Johnson stopped him. They remained initially wary of one another, but learned to trust each other in combat against the Covenant and the Flood. Thel proved his trustworthiness to John through actions such as assisting him in the rescue of Sergeant Johnson, or counseling his fellow Sangheili not to glass all of Earth after the Flood outbreak at Voi. When they reached the Ark, the two's reliance on each other was cemented, and John demonstrated his respect for Thel by allowing him be the one to kill the Prophet of Truth. The Arbiter also came to his aid on High Charity despite having little need to do so, and chose to fight with John to the end in his efforts to stop the Flood and consoled him on Johnson's death. 'Vadam was the last one to see John alive before the latter went missing after the war, and afterward expressed to Lord Hood mild doubt that John might be dead. 'Vadam would later refer to John as a "friend", and upon learning that he was still alive following the events on Ealen IV, Thel believed that he was the key to the galaxy's future. During the Battle of Sunaion, Thel referred to the Chief as the greatest of all Spartans, and later asked Spartan Locke to give the Chief his greetings. Following John's arrival at Sanghelios, 'Vadam greeted him with a dinner to celebrate their victory over Jul 'Mdama's forces.
- "He’s so serious. Thoughtful eyes, though. Attractive in a primitive animal sort of way, don’t you think, Doctor?"
- — Cortana comments upon a photograph of John to Catherine Halsey after seeing him for the first time in it.
John has pale blue eyes and reddish-brown hair. As a six-year-old child, John bore a few freckles on his cheeks and had a noticeable gap between his two front teeth. His hair, when it was long enough, was untidy. John was larger than most children his age even as a kindergartner. The Spartan-II program molded his body into something formidable even prior to the extensive augmentations he underwent in 2525, but even afterward his clear eyes and thin eyebrows set in an oval face still betrayed his age. As a teenager his youthful face tended to undermine the confidence of seasoned commanders he interacted with. By the age of fourteen, he already had the body, however, of an extremely athletic adult. The catalytic thyroid implant he received at that age boosted the growth of his skeleton and muscles via a growth hormone, and a series of intramuscular injections with a specific complex of proteins boosted the density of his musculature. As a result he suddenly stood over two meters tall and just over a year later weighed almost one-hundred and thirty kilograms at Earth-standard gravity. John eventually grew to six feet and ten inches and massed at precisely one-hundred and thirty kilograms (286.6 pounds). The augmentation process also left his hands, arms, chest, shoulders, back, and legs deeply scarred by lengthy incisions, in addition to accentuating his eye color.
John has earned additional scars in battle which cover his body, including one that runs across his cheek beneath his left eye. In addition, by August of 2552 his head also showed evidence of three large subdural hematomas. Biological and cybernetic augmentations, coupled with decades of fighting from within Mjolnir powered assault armor, has ensured that John's skin is unnaturally pale. He keeps his hair worn short. His face boasts serious but thoughtful eyes, a firm mouth, a strong jaw, and the last remnants of his childhood freckles. As is common among the men and women of the UNSC Armed Forces, the base of John's skull displays a prominent neural interface. His genome is a hybridization of original and added sequences.[note 10] Additionally, a geas which affords him an immunity to the Composer, among other gifts, was unlocked by the Librarian's essence on Requiem in July 2557. Cortana and Catherine Halsey both consider him somewhat attractive in a "primitive animal sort of way". As of 2561, John is around fifty years old. Crow's feet and other wrinkles are plainly visible on his face, giving him the visage of a relatively older man. John's age does not comport entirely with his physical body, as he has spent a not insignificant portion of his life in cryostasis, during which the aging process is nearly halted. The longest stretch of time John was frozen for was four years, seven months, and ten days while he and Cortana were stranded aboard the aft section of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn. It is thought among medical specialists that Spartans may be able to outlive most other humans, though this hypothesis has not yet had the chance to be tested.
As a Spartan-II trainee, one of the first suits of armor John was introduced to was a type of form-fitting, lightweight polymer black body suit. This suit could deflect small-caliber rounds and was equipped with a refrigeration and heating unit that could mask infrared signatures. The integrated helmet had encryption and communications gear, a heads-up display, and thermal and motion detectors. John could also activate headlamps on the helmet and attach a fiber optic probe to it. Sealed tight, the entire unit had a fifteen-minute reserve of oxygen to let John survive in vacuum. Though still a little bulky if trying to hide it beneath clothing, the armor's tightness made it uncomfortable and limited his range of motion. Additionally, it also often needed repairs but was difficult to repair in the field. John used one of these suits during training and also during Operation: TALON, the first real mission given to the Spartans. During the op, he was shot in the side at three points by an HMG-38 rifle. One of the bullets managed to penetrate the suit.
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Throughout his career, John has shown a preference for the standard-issue set of the given Mjolnir armor generation used at the time. His Mjolnir armor is invariably colored olive green with a gold visor, which has made his appearance iconic among humans and Covenant alike. At some point during his four-year cryosleep aboard the Forward Unto Dawn, Cortana used nanomachines to repair and physically alter John's MJOLNIR Mark VI armor. Cortana also rewrote the suit's firmware, altering the HUD as well as improving the suit's shield-recharge rate and its compatibility with Covenant and Forerunner armor plugins. His upgraded suit displays the Braille characters "117" on the left of the breastplate.
Immediately after the Mission to Installation 03, John received an upgrade for his Mark VI armor from ONI's Watershed Division, bringing it into the GEN2 line of Mjolnir PAA. The armor still looks like his updated GEN1 Mark VI, the most prominent difference being a redesigned bodysuit. His armor also now lacks the prominent gash on the chestplate and his helmet is intact again after the Didact severely damaged it during Blue Team's battle against him on Installation 03. His visor was once again cracked by Spartan Jameson Locke on Meridian.
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John has demonstrated easy familiarity with various weapons, though unless a mission specifically requires something, has shown a preference for the MA5 series of assault rifles as his mainstay.
Behind the scenes
On July 21, 1999 Bungie Software and Steve Jobs announced the video game Halo at Macworld. This announcement was accompanied by a screenshot which showed a very early version of the player character, a soldier in green armor resembling that which would eventually be worn by the Master Chief when Halo: Combat Evolved released over two years later. By November of that year, it was reported in Computer Gaming World that much of the game's story had yet to be realized. At this time and about a month earlier in a PC Gamer article, the armor-clad individual controlled by the player was referred to variously as a "standard soldier" or "marine". In the PC Gamer article, the game was also described as one in which players would be able to control a powered-armored human soldier or one of the Covenant enemies. Screenshots showed multiples of the armored soldier that would eventually become John-117 existing in the game world simultaneously.
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John-117 was originally named by Eric Trautmann as a reference to the biblical verse Revelation 1:17, which reads as follows according to the New Revised Standard Version of the text: "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last'." The author of this biblical text names himself "John" within it. According to Trautmann, this identifier was a the origin of one of many "huge fights" between himself and Bungie concerning ideas which came out of the writing sessions of the Halo Story Bible, a work originally constructed by he, Brannon Boren, and Matt Soell.
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