Inside the cockpit of a D77H-TCI Pelican flew the human toward the designated destination of him and his two allies onboard, and he could see it outside the window waiting for him and his comrades to land upon it and use its destructive powers to end the bloody war that had gone on for decades and caused massive deaths among the species fighting it. It hovered out at space above the gigantic space installation that his crew had just left behind, formed like a circular halo-ring of planetary size, its mysterious and near divine nature still amazing him, reminding him that despite all the technological and genetical powers given to him by his superiors that had formed him into the unstoppable champion among his kind, he still was just a mere human compared to the godlike beings who once were the lords across the stars. The very same beings who built the mighty installations, one of which he was heading toward to.
The SPARTAN-II, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, more commonly known as just Master Chief, was steering the Pelican toward the rebuilding replacement of Installation 04, which he hoped would be the final stage of the war known as the Human-Covenant War, though the final battle wouldn't be against the Covenant, but against the Flood; the intergalactical, sentient parasites that wish to assimilate all life across the universe. Onboard the Pelican was Cortana, an AI who had been his closest companion through the war and who he considered to be his best friend, her hologramic figure projected from the holotank next to the control panel formed like a blue, nude woman with geometric patterns and symbols censoring her womanly parts. The other companion was Thel 'Vadam, the Arbiter of the Sangheili and leader of the Covenant separatists. Once he'd been the Master Chief's greatest enemy, but by the Covenant leaderships's betrayal of the Sangheili, the humans and the Sangheili had formed an uneasy alliance to fight back the Covenant, causing the Arbiter to fight by his side, forming a bond between them that only close brothers-in-arms can form.
Above the Pelican hovered as well the assault carrier Shadow of Intent; the flagship of the separatists, and from the Pelican's comlink could the voice of Shadow of Intent's shipmaster and the separatists' second-in-command, Rtas 'Vadum, be heard.
"We are abord, humans...and Sangheili. Will you not come with us, brother?" a concerned'Vadum asked the Arbiter.
"No. This is our fight. And I will see it finished," a determined Arbiter answered back, knowing that he couldn't back away now from the final confrontation.
The Pelican flew pass the assault carrier and toward the partically rebuilt installation, nearing it by each second.
"Johnson? Do you have the Frigate?" Cortana asked through the comlink, and on the control panel's moniter projected the image of Sergeant Major Avery Junior Johnson, an African-American marine of United Nations Space Command Defense Force from the older generation and one who is known for his no-nonsence, tough-as-nails attitude that had earned the respect from everyone within the Pelican.
"Yes, ma'am. I'll land her as close to the control room as I can," Sergeant Johnson answered confidently.
"Safe is better than close, Sergeant Major," Cortana said, not willing to gambit when all life of the universe were at stake.
"Roger that. And ma'am. It's good to have you back," Johnson said, indeed glad to see Cortana back in the game, especially after she was rescued from that hellhole once known as High Charity.
The Pelican now flew above the installation's landscape, flying pass a wide, deep trench running across the flat, metallic surface until it eventually came to a snowy canyon. The Pelican, still damaged from the risky resuce at High Charity, couldn't last any longer in the blizzarding air and it crashlanded at the canyon. Fortunately, its passangers were fine and they clambered out of the open back hatch, not noticing Johnson's frigate, UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, hovering pass the canyon.
"Halo. It's so new…unfinished. I'm not exactly sure what will happen when we fire it..." an anxious Cortana, now inside the Master Chief's helmet, said while he looked around the canyon, finding an opening where Halo's controll room likely was at. He looked back toward the Arbiter, who was holding the Spartan's MA5C Assault Rifle. He tossed the rifle to the Chief, who caught it and immediately aimed it forward.
"We'll head for the Portal. And we'll all go home," answered the Master Chief, ready to end the war once and for all.
The Master Chief and the Arbiter, who was duel-wielding two Type-25 plasma rifles as his weapons of choice, ran toward the opening that led through a narrow edge of a deep drop and toward an icy tunnel, and through the tunnel they ran downward until they eventually came to where they were searching for. At the end of the tunnel they came to a large walley surrounded by cliffs, and built at the cliff in front of them was the tall, massive pyramid-like building of prehistoric yet technologically advanced architecture, and they immediately knew that it was the building that possessed Halo's control room. The end was near. This cursed war soon to be no more...
Suddenly, pods ran down from the sky and crashlanded on the ground between them and their destination. The pods exploded by the impact and out came the very menance that once nearly devoured all life in the galaxy and now was once again threatening to consume the galaxy and twist it into a realm of the undead.
"Flood!" Cortana cried out in alarm as Flood Combat Forms began to rush toward the team with their weapons high up. Weapons that once belonged to their hosts when they were still alive.
"Did you think me defeated?!" the Gravemind cried out across the landscape, causing the very surrounding to shake by the enraged strenght of the voice belonging to trillions of assimilated souls.
"Flood Dispersal Pods! Control Room's at the top of that tower, Chief, go!" an anxious Cortana ordered, watching as the Master Chief and the Arbiter immediately charged toward the undead horde standing in their way, ready to face them head-on.
A Brute Combat Form tried to hit the Master Chief with its Type-2 gravity hammer, but the Spartan avoided the hammer as it swung by his head and he counterattacked with a left hook, the strenght of his MJOLNIR Mark VI armor causing the rotting, fragile body of the Combat Form to explode into broken limbs. Once that was done, he aimed his assault rifle at the nearest Sangheili Combat Form and fired at it, taking it down at it was about to bash him with its plasma rifle. He saw a group of both human and Sangheili Combat Forms charging at him from his right side, and seeing a perfect opportunity he pulled out a Type-1 plasma grenade he'd looted from a Grunt he'd killed in the earlier battle and threw it at the group when they were close enough, ignoring their shots as his armor's energy shields kept them from penetrating through. It landed at a human Combat Form, sticking at its head, and soon it exploded, turning the Flood group into a sickening firework of flying flesh and bones.
The Arbiter was blasting the charging horde with everything he got, creating piles of fully dead bodies in front of him, but the Flood was relentless and its seemingly endless horde kept comming, their guttural, near demonic cries causing the landscape to tremble, as if Halo itself was trembling with fear of the horde. But the Arbiter answered by crying back as he bashed the nearest Jiralhanae Combat Form with his right plasma rifle at its head, reducing it to almost nothing. Then he jump-kicked the nearest Sangheili Combat Form and blasted at its chest with both plasma rifles when he landed on top of it, leaving nothing but a black spot of the snowy ground when the abomination was pulverised. Almost immediately he charged anew, bodyslamming two human Combat Forms with his full size, their fragile flesh standing no chance against the Sangheilian champion as they exploded into pieces by his overwhelming strenght.
"Chief, the ramps leading to the top are at the right side! Go there!" an increasingly frightened Cortana cried into the Master Chief's audio recievers, the trauma from her imprisonment at High Charity starting to overwhelm her by each passing second.
"Got it," he confirmed as he caught the gravity hammer the Brute Combat Form wielding it tried to hit him with. With a mighty kick he forced the Combat Form to let go of the hammer as it fell to the ground, landing on its back. It could only cry out in defiance before he then smashed it with its own weapon, pulverising it into nothing.
"Arbiter! This way!" The Chief called out to his companion, who heard his call and nodded in confirmation. He then began to follow the Spartan, but not before giving a final shot at a recovering human Combat Form, killing it for real.
They ran through the snow toward the ramps, blasting any Flood they saw. The Flood, realizing that they refused to stop no matter what, began to rush anew, reinforced by more comming pods, and driven by the Gravemind's personal rage and desperation they became more ferocious and feral in their attempts to stop them. As they were about to round the corner to the first floor of the tower, a large group of Combat Forms jumped down from the second floor and landed before them, immediately charging at them. The Arbiter put his plasma rifles back to his waist, pulled out his Type-1 energy sword and with a cry cut through the first Combat Form. After he threw the body away in disgust he slashed the remaining Flood through, their cries of pain and rage the last sounds their hosts would ever make.
Once he dealt with them, the team continued to run through the first floor, getting closer to the control room by each step. The Gravemind's hatred and frustration intensified further more, reaching to a point that hadn't been reached since its prehistoric war with the Forerunners; the very beings who built the installations that once stole its near total victory away, and now facing the same threat by one of the descendants of its hated foes, his primitive pet of a deluded fanatic and his mockery of an AI companion was what finally broke its composure. With a roar of hatred that could be heard across space it summoned its finest avatars to end this petty threat, ordering them to remind its deluded foes what happen to those who defy death itself...those who defy God itself!
The team rounded the corner to the other side of the first floor when suddenly, something large and heavy jumped before them, causing them to aim their weapons in alarm. Before them was a Tank Form, and it began to roar. Its loud roar caused the Master Chief and the Arbiter to drop their weapons and fall down on their knees, as it threatened to burst their eardrums bloody. It didn't help that Cortana was screaming in panic, her trauma finally overwhelming her as she saw herself suffering that abomination's mindbreaking torture once again.
Something hit the Tank Form before it could finish the weakened team off, causing it to fall down dead. The surprised team looked at its dead body and then where whatever hit it came from.
"I got you covered, Chief. Meet you at the top of that tower," said the voice of Johnson through their comlink, and standing on the edge of a cliff next to the tower stood the old veteran holding a M6 Spartan Laser and giving them a thumbs up. Then he aimed his superweapon and fired again, hitting another Tank Form as it was charging like a berserking Hunter at them, killing it before it could ram them.
The Master Chief nodded, picked up his assault rifle and got up on his feet.
"Cortana, are you alright?" he asked his companion as he shot down a human Combat Form wielding a M7057 flamethrower.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just...overwhelmed," Cortana answered, her voice cleary showing emotional fatigue. "It felt like I was back with him," she finished, her panic threatening to overwhelm her again.
The Master Chief put his assault rifle to his back and picked up the flamethrower, checking it to see if it was functional. Glad to see it was, he aimed it forward at the horde, feeling something inside him that he hadn't ever felt before: anger.
"Don't worry Cortana, soon all this will be over...and he'll regret ever comming to our galaxy when we're done here," he ensured to Cortana, his tone carrying the same cold the harshest winter storms carried, enough to freeze even the thickest bones, but the rage behind the storm was stronger than even the most devastating infernos. Too many good people had suffered by this pointless war despite his efforts, but he sure as hell wouldn't let Cortana, or anyone else, suffer; not this time, not anymore or ever again. The Flood would learn how a Spartan truely fight, and the lession would be a painful one.
The flames were burning through the air, reducing any Flood too close to piles of burned, odorous corpses. Their cries of pain drove the Spartan forward, his cold rage consuming him by each foe he burned. These monsters thought they could just come here and murder anyone as much they'd like; that they could just come here and put his companions through an eternal hell they could never escape from. Well, too bad he stood between them and these freaks. He burned the group of Stalker Forms standing between him and the ramp up to the second floor, and when one of them didn't die fast enough, he slammed his foot down at it, silencing its cries of pain with one heavy stomp.
However, he didn't notice the Ranged Form clinging to the wall above him. While he was busy burning the ever charging Combat and Stalker Forms, the Ranged Form was aiming at the clueless Spartan with its spikes, soon about to fire. But before it could, a lightining beam shot through it, killing it instantly. At the cliff, Johnson grinned in triumph when he hit that sneaking alien freak of nature trying to snipe his pal.
"Keep moving, Chief. I've got your back," he said in his comlink before he aimed and shot a Brute Combat Form before it could jump on the Arbiter's back.
The team had come to the second floor, and now the desperation of the Flood became blatanly clear as more than ever before charged from all sides, threatening to surround them. Flood of all forms stormed from all sides, their shrieks echoing across the landscape louder than ever. But the Master Chief continued to mercilessly rage inferno through their ranks, leaving nothing but burned corpses behind him, until the flamethrower was out of fuel, much to his annoyance. The Flood saw their chance and rushed toward the Spartan with desperate ferocity, planning to overwhelm him with sheer numbers, their shots relentlessly trying to take the human down. But he thought fast, turned the empty flamethrower around, holding it like a hammer, and then met the rushing horde head-on, bashing any Flood desperate enough to fight him close quarter with Spartan might. He swung the flamethrower and bashed a Sangheili Combat Form, severing its upper body from its waist. He then turned around and bashed a human Combat Form at its head, crushing it into smush. Then he bashed a Stalker Form, killing it instantely. And he kept bashing Flood forms until he'd an open surrounding, and he used this short opportunity to throw the flamethrower at a distant Ranged Form before him, its weight and his strenght turning the Flood into a messy smear after that direct hit. He then pulled out his assault rifle and began shooting at the remaining Flood.
The Flood decided to change tactics, and instead of keep rushing thoughlessly at the team, they began to mobilize more Ranged Forms that would suppress their foes, allowing other forms to attack without suffering further setbacks. It was a tactic that the Flood had learned by assimilating countless human and Covenant soldiers, and now it was the time to put it to use.
"Chief, watch out!" Cortana cried out in alarm as a half of dozen of Ranged Forms suddenly appeared before them and began bombarding them with their spikes. His energy shields were almost down to zero, and the amount of spikes would be enough to penetrate through and cause him a lot of hurt, but fortunately, the Arbiter pushed him behind a cover before the spikes could hit him.
"Thanks," the Master Chief said as the spikes kept firing, ferociously hitting the cover and keeping them suppressed.
"Don't mention it," the Arbiter said back before he peeked to see if he could shoot back at their suppressors, only to immediately turn his head back as the spikes continued to fire relentlessly, with a few actually hitting him, but fortunately, they only managed to flare his armor's energy shields.
"Johnson, we need you to take out the Flood stalling us!" Cortana cried into the Master Chief's comlink as he tried to counterattack, quickly shooting a few rounds before taking cover again.
"I'm on it, ma'am, but the Flood are crawling all over that tower," Johnson's voice answered back before a beam hit and killed one of the six or seven Ranged Forms, and as if on clue, a large group of Combat Forms jumped down from the floor above behind the team, blocking any possible retreat. They aimed their weapons at the team and gave out sounds that sounded like triumphant chuckles before firing.
The Master Chief and the Arbiter returned their fire, managing to take down several Combat Forms, but the Flood's superior numbers and positions were beginning to overwhelm them, and not even Johnson could support them quick enough. Both warriors' energy shields were quickly dropping down to zero by the overwhelming fire, and as a Sangheili Combat Form was about to stab the Chief with its energy sword, the Spartan knew he'd be now done for. Fortunately, aid was about to come.
A bright, smaller beam than Johnson's Spartan Laser vaporized the undead Sangheili, saving the Master Chief just in time. Turning his eyes toward the drop, he saw Sentinels hovering around the tower, blasting the Flood surrounding the Spartan and his companions with heating beams.
The Flood shrieked in what sounded like frustration and turned their fire at the Sentinels, ignoring their earlier targets. A ferocious battle between flesh and metal broke out, both sides refusing to lose to the other. The Sentinels were raining heat down at the horde, and the Flood were gunning up toward where their mechanical foes were hovering, both bringing heavy casualties among their enemies' ranks as their determination fueled their efforts, as both sides knew this would be the final battle of their hundred thousand years war, and they each wanted to become the victors.
"Chief, this's our chance! Let's move it!" Cortana ordered, and both he and the Arbiter immediately ran from their cover and toward their destination. The Ranged Forms were busy trying to shoot down the Sentinels and didn't notice them before the Arbiter sliced the closest Flood through with his energy sword and then cut the next one in half as he ran pass them. When the remaining Flood tried to reaim at them, the running Spartan quickly pulled out a M9 fragmentation grenade and threw it over his shoulder at the Flood behind him. Soon, an explosion was heard, and he slighty smirked in grim satisfaction behind his visor, knowing that he got a full hit.
They kept running and fighting their way through the horde with the help of both Johnson and the Sentinels, and eventually reached the top floor, where the doors to the control room were at. Unfortunately, they remained locked and refused to open for them.
"Spark? You in there? Open the damn door?" Johnson's voice demanded in the comlink, as the old marine was watching his buddies standing before the doors waiting for them to open.
"Of course, Reclaimer. Just as soon as you dispose of all proximate Flood threats. I'm afraid containment protocols do not allow me to-" a lightly toned voice with a hint of mechanical nature that sounded unusual cheerful and bubbly for the situation answered Johnson through the comlink before the old marine interrupted it.
"Yeah. Yeah, I hear you!"
"Was that the Moniter? You didn't tell me he was here," a surprised Cortana asked the Master Chief, recognizing the obvious voice of 343 Guilty Spark, the Moniter of the former destroyed Installation 04 who had nearly fooled the Spartan in activating the Halo, which would've killed a huge sum of the galaxy's population, including humans and Covenant. She found it surprising that he'd form another alliance with the decietful moniter after that incident.
"Well, we are finally doing what he wanted," she finished, accepting it like she'd accepted the sudden alliance between UNSC and the Sangheili.
Pods rained down from the sky and crashlanded on the top floor, and out came dozens of Flood charging at the team standing before the doors. The Master Chief and the Arbiter immediately turned around and began firing, with Johnson and the Sentinels helping them along. A Tank Form rushed toward the Arbiter like a bull, planning to crush him, but the Sangheili jumped aside just in time, causing the Flood to hit the locked doors. Before it could recover, the Arbiter counterattacked by stabbing it through with his energy sword, ending its wrecthed existence as it cried in pain before silencing. He then pulled one of his plasma rifles and continued firing at the horde, killing several Combat Forms as they were firing back. He ran toward a Jiralhanae Combat Form desperately trying to take him down by firing its Type-25 Spiker at him and bashed its head in with his plasma rifle. He then shot ferociously at a Stalker Form that was transforming itself to another Tank Form, killing it before it could finish the transformation. Then his energy shields were flaring by the spikes a Ranged Form was firing at him with, but before he could take it down, a group of Sentinels fired at it at once, killing it for good.
Meanwhile, the Master Chief was firing his rifle relentlessly at the horde, only stopping to reload as quickly as he could. But one of those quick moments was all a Brute Combat Form needed to attack him with its Type-25 Brute Shot. It bombarded him with every round it got, taking the Spartan with surprise as he was through reloading when he was suddenly consumed by exploding projectiles all around him. But his energy shields held through the bombardment, and he quickly ran through the fire and toward the Flood. With all the strenght in his armor and muscles did he deliver a mighty punch at it, reducing it into a mangled sack of torn flesh and broken limbs. He then took the Brute Shot and began bombard the horde with the remaining rounds, raining hell upon the shrieking, soulless abominations as they despite it continued to charge at him, determined to end his existence no matter the cost. Once all rounds were out, he began using the Brute Shot as a club bashing any Flood into smush. He swung it at a charging Sangheili Combat Form, its large, curved bottomblade cutting the Flood through like a hot knife cutting through butter. He then swung at a human Combat Form, cleanly cutting it in half, and then at a Stalker Form, the blade slicing deep into its head, leaving a huge, open wound that was gushing greenish blood, causing the Flood to shriek and tremble in pain before it finally died. And several more Flood fell to his primitive form of warring, their butchered bodies forming piles around the human champion. However, a human Combat Form was standing away from the Spartan's range as it aimed its M41 rocket launcher at him. Fortunately, he noticed it before it eventually fired and quickly pulled a Z-4190 bubble shield out. A whitish/goldish protective sphere shaped like a geodesic dome surrounded him, saving him as the projectile hit the shield and exploded, killing all the Flood outside. When the bubble shield dispersed, he quickly threw the Brute Shot at the Combat Form and watched its bayonet piecring the Flood through. The Flood then silently fell down to the floor and remained unmoving.
Once the top floor was cleared from the undead horde, it looked like the team could continue to the control room before an all-too familiar voice cried out across the landscape, its vocal rage echoing among the cliffs.
"I have beaten fleets of thousands! Consumed a galaxy of flesh and mind and bone!"
Another wave charged anew with an all-or-nothing goal in mind, rushing through the Sentinels' beams and toward the Master Chief and the Arbiter. Johnson shot down a human Combat Form as it jumped up toward the top floor, but the other Flood landed safetly, only to meet the Arbiter's plasma grenade as he threw it at them, causing it to stick on a Jiralhanae Combat Form. An explostion wiped out that group of Flood, but more kept comming. The Arbiter decided to meet the Flood head on, so he pulled his plasma rifles away, took out his energy sword and rushed toward them. In one swing he cut through two Combat Forms and then kicked at another, causing it to fall over the edge of the floor. He then headbutted a Sangheili Combat Form and when it wobbled in surprise, he quickly stabbed it through. Meanwhile, the Master Chief shot down at least three or four Combat Forms before he'd to fight close quarter, and with a Tank Form none of less. It slammed its thick arm down at the Spartan, but he jumped aside before it could hit him. He then butted it with his rifle, to no avail. The Tank Form only snarled in irritation before it counterattacked, only to miss the human once again. It was about to try again, but Johnson got an aim on it and fired. The beam pierced the Flood through and it fell down to the floor like a heavy sack of potatoes. By the time it died, there were only a few Flood left, and they were quickly dealt with by their foes.
The top floor was finally cleared, and Johnson jumped down from the cliff, landed on the floor and ran toward the doors still holding his Spartan Laser.
"Open up! Coast is clear!" Johnson demanded to the doors he faced, and they opened up, revealing a dim corridor.
"Not for long. I'm tracking additional dispersal pods. They'll be hitting any minute!" a worried Cortana said to the team, demanding them to hurry inside.
"Chief, Arbiter! Let's move!" Johnson loudly ordered, and they all three ran into the corridor. They rounded the left corner at the end of it, arriving to a set of blast doors that opened up for them. But when the Master Chief walked through, the corridor in front of him seemed to stretch away from him, and his view suddenly became merky green with dark "tenctacles" circling around the corners. He felt a sence of dread as he knew what was happening, and soon that unholy voice began speaking to him, its mighty tone causing his view to shake as if the entire building was trembling before it.
"Do I take life or give it? Who is victim, and who is foe?" the Gravemind asked him, its tone seemingly devoid of all bloodthirst and rage from earlier and instead possessing a soft calmness, speaking as if it was trying to convince the Reclaimer to reconsider his decision. As if it wasn't the monster he and his allies thought it to be, but a force of good bringing the fullfillment of life that didn't deserve the fate the Reclaimer planned to give it.
The Master Chief's view returned to normal and he shook off that feeling he got from the Gravemind. For a moment he nearly agreed that it was right, but then he remembered all the pain and suffering that thing had brought with it, and he hardened himself for the hard decision he soon would make.
"It's trying to rebuild itself on this ring!" an alarmed Cortana said, shocked by her find.
"Hurry! Control Room's close!" Johnson shouted, demanding his comrades to pick up the pace now that they just found out that they'd less time than they already thought they had.
They ran through the corridors and the blast doors until they finally arrived to where they came for. They arrived to a large dome-shaped, seemingly bottomless room, and before them was a large bridge that lacked support and ended in a circular walkway. The bridge and the walkway were made of a reflective, transparent material, and in the center of the walkway was a large, rotating holografic image of the unfinished installation. The team stared at the room with wonder and amazement before they turned around with aimed weapons when unholy growls and shrieks echoed through the corridors behind them. However, the blast doors closed before the approacing Flood could storm the control room, sealing them off. The Arbiter decided to stand guard before the doors while his human comrades activate the ancient ring, making sure that no abomination would try to stop them.
"Yank me, Chief," Cortana bluntly ordered, wanting to end this as soon as possible. The Spartan pulled her data chip from the back of his helmet, but he didn't immediately do what she told him to do. He stared at the chip in hesitatant doubt, as he was reluctant to split her from him again, not after he fought tooth and nail to reunite with her. He was worried that something might happen to her if he separate her from him again, even for a short moment.
"I'm not gonna lose her too," Johnson, sencing his doubt and worry, ensured the Spartan with a determent voice, promising him that Cortana wouldn't suffer the same fate as Commander Miranda Keyes did, not under his watch. That was all the Master Chief needed to hear, as the old marine was one of the few people he trusted the most, and he tossed the chip to Johnson, who caught it and began walking toward the control panel at the walkway.
Above the walkway hovered a humming 343 Guilty Spark down toward Johnson, overjoyed that the Reclaimers had finally caught their sences and would use the installation to end the Flood threat once and for all.
"Oh, hello! Wonderful news – the installation is almost complete!" the moniter cheerfully proclaimed, hoping that the Reclaimer would share his enthusiasm.
"Terrific," an unenthusiatic Johnson answered back as he kept walking toward the control panel, while the Master Chief kept guard from his position, his assault rifle aimed at the blast doors.
"Yes...isn't it?" Guilty Spark said, surprised by the aging Reclaimer's seemingly lack of interest for such soon-to-be grand event. He continued, "I've begun my simulations. No promises, but intial results indicate this facility should be ready to fire...in just a few more days!" the moniter finished as they arrived to the control panel. The Reclaimer put aside his primitive yet efficient heavy weapon and was about to put in the construct when he suddenly turned toward Guilty Spark, his aging face showing clear impatience.
"We don't have "a few more days"!" Johnson loudly said to the moniter, irritated that he just didn't get it that they all were on borrowed time.
"Bu-bu-but a premature firing will destroy the Ark!" Guilty Spark cried out in shock and alarm, horrified by that the Reclaimer would actually fire the incomplete installation and ignore the massive damages it'd cause the Ark.
"Deal with it," Johnson said dissmissively and was about to put the data chip into the control panel when he suddenly found Guilty Spark hovering up close to his face, seemingly confronting him.
"It'll destroy this installation," the moniter said, his tone uncharacteristically cold and menacing, causing Johnson to flinch in surprising dread. He was taken by how dangerously the moniter sounded, and to his shock he found himself intimidated by it, not at all expecting this weird robot of all things to inspire this icy dread within him. But Johnson wasn't known for being a hardass for nothing, so pretty quickly he repressed his fear and met the moniter's confrontation head on.
"Listen, tinkerbell, we don't have time for your shit, all right. In about two minutes, those zombie freaks are gonna break down the door and if we don't activate this damn ring now, then all hell is gonna break loose on the universe. So can you please kindly move your ass aside and let me do my w..." Johnson fiercely confronted Guilty Spark, but didn't finish the sentence as he suddenly felt an invicible, strong force slamming right at him, throwing him away from the control panel as he screamed in surprise. The Master Chief heard his scream and turned around to see Johnson flying across the bride toward him. As Johnson was about to land on the bride in a mighty fall, the Spartan caught him just in time, saving him from serious harm or worse.
"What the hell is your major malfuntion robot?!" Johnson shouted at Guilty Spark after he got off the Chief's arms, getting the Arbiter's attention as he jogged toward the humans to see what the problem was about. When he saw that the Oracle was standing between them and the control panel, obviously refusing them to activate Halo, he stood by the Spartan's side, ready for any possible fight.
"Don't you get it in your thick-headed mind that we don't have time to put up with your childishness?! We're gonna light this ring no matter what, so you can either put up or go home, buddy! So now move aside, or God help me, I'll...", Johnson ranted at Guilty Spark until the moniter shot out an energy beam from his optic and hit the floor before Johnson's feet, causing him to jump back in alarm and the others to aim their weapons at the moniter. The beam left a smoking, burnt spot, and when the rather spooked team stared at the moniter, they saw that his blue optic was now infernally red, hinting a possible rampancy.
"Anyone who takes one step forward, and the next blast will hit the offender," Guilty Spark warned them with an unusual frightening tone, making it clear that he was absolutely serious in his devotion to protect the installation from offending harm, even from the Reclaimers themselves.
The team didn't know what to do now. At one hand, the Flood would sooner or later force their way into the control room, and at another, Guilty Spark was holding the universe hostage in his mad devotion to his protocal. Trying to fight the moniter before the parasites would break in looked like an unusable option, due to his unpredictablility and powers, and the Master Chief was afraid that the moniter might kill one of his comrades, likely Johnson due to his less advanced armor, if a fight broke out. But Cortana was lying helplessly there, and they needed to light Halo now. Realizing that fighting was useless, he decided to use the diplomatic solution. He put his assault rifle on the floor and held his hands up, causing his brothers-in-arms to wonder what he was planning.
"Spark," he said softly, getting said moniter's attention. "We don't want to fight. We just want to stop the Flood as much as you do, and we can't do it if you refuse to let us."
"I don't want to fight you too, Reclaimer, but I can't let you destroy this ring. Protocal demands the safety of this ring from all threats, so I've to do what must be done, even if I take no pleasure in it," Guilty Spark answered remorsefully, not desiring harm upon the Reclaimer, but willing to cause it if it meant the ring's saftey.
"I understand that, but I also understand that in order to do what must be done, you've to make sacrifices. Sometimes even personal."
"Yes, sacrifices. We all have done them, for our friends and comrades. Many of my fellow soldiers - Spartans and others - have given their lives for humanity's survival. Cortana sacrificed herself to allow me to escape High Charity and nearly lost herself to the Gravemind in doing so. Arbiter nearly lost everything when he joined our cause, and Johnson had given away all his best years for this fight. In order to come this far, we all had to give up something for the cause, and sometimes, it was something what we held closest to us," the Master Chief reasoned with the moniter, hoping to break through.
"Yes, but protocal demands..." Guilty Spark began, but was interrupted by the relentless Spartan.
"And what about your creators? They sacrificed their very existence to stop the Flood. They gave up everything so we could've a future, and right now you're threanening to turn their sacrifice into vain by refusing us to finish their fight. This is our only chance to stop the Flood, and if we don't take it, then the whole universe will fall and your creators' sacrifice will be for nothing. What do you think they'd say if they saw what you're doing right now?" the Master Chief continued, going verbally all out on the moniter.
"But...but...I promised them...I promised that I'd protect this ring no matter what. I...I promised Didact that before he activated it. I...I can't break my promise to him...I simply can't. This ring is their only legacy...your legacy...the only thing left from their age...I can't let it be destroyed," Guilty Spark stuttered in a weak attempt to resist the Reclaimer's arguments as they were quickly overwhelming his programmed protocol.
"I know how strong your loyalty to them is, and that you believe you're doing the right thing, but right now, the only thing you're doing is buying the Gravemind the time he needs to stop us. If he does, the legacy of the Forerunners will truely end and his reign will be supreme. We're the only ones standing between him and their legacy, and you're standing between us and his end. When they gave their lives for us, they set up an example. In their selfless devotion to us, they wanted us to be just as selfless and be prepared to sacrifice everything we've for our fellow beings. By standing before us in your selfish claim over this ring, you're defiling that example, and I believe that you deep within knows that you're doing wrong. If you really want to honor your makers' legacy, when please lets us light this ring and end the Flood once and for all. Otherwise, this ring will be nothing but their last memorial in an undead universe," the Chief finished, hoping that he'd broken through the moniter's last defences.
A silent, uneasy tention filled the room, thickening the air. The Master Chief's comrades wondered if he managed to get through the rampaging moniter or not. So far he hadn't attacked the Spartan, but rampaging AIs were known for being unpredictable, so they were still on guard. They could sense that something would soon happen; something that would change the very fate of the universe, and the standby was filling them with anxiety. They knew this was the moment of truth; the moment there their fight would reach its final conclution.
When something did happen. Guilty Spark's flamming red optic...returned to its former blue.
"You...you're right. Everything you've said are true. Not even the most advanced protocals can dispute your words...not even I can't dispute them...Reclaimer...the installation...is yours to command," Guilty Spark said as he slowly hovered at aside, reluctantly giving the Reclaimer his blessing to use the installation the way he desired.
Surprised that he actually managed to make the zealous moniter to relent, the Master Chief took a moment before he picked up his assault rifle and walked toward the control panel. On the way he passed by Guilty Spark and gave him a nod of thanks before picking up Cortana's data chip. The moniter, however, remained quiet as the Spartan released Cortana into the control panel's core.
Cortana didn't waste much time before she activated Halo. Though she was as surprised as her organic comrades that Guilty Spark would allow them to activate the incomplete Halo, she wanted to end this right now and almost immediately activated it.
After she was done, she returned to her data chip, which the Master Chief placed back at the back of his helmet. Immediately after, a massive colum of blinding energy erupted from the bottom of the core and the room began to tremble violently. A support beam fell of the ceiling and crashed into the platform, causing Johnson and the Arbiter to immediately run back toward the now-opening entrance. The Chief ran after them as the room was falling apart behind him. The platform was tilting as parts of the ceiling were falling down like meteors on it, their heavy weights quickly breaking it apart. But after he ran through the entrence, he remembered that he forgot someone. Turning his head around, he saw Guilty Spark still hovering near the control panel, seemingly ignoring the mayham around him and not even trying to escape it.
"Spark, what are you doing!? Get out of there now!" the Master Chief shouted toward the moniter, worried by his strange, seemingly apathetic behaviour and willful ignorence of the choas surrounding him.
"I can't come with you, Reclaimer! I can't live with myself knowing that I broke my promise...that I helped destroying the last remain of their empire! With this ring destroyed, I'll have no purpose to exist anymore! I'll face the same fate my makers faced and hopefully meet them at beyond! There's nothing for me now, and so I'll become nothing!" Guilty Spark answered, remorse and despair clear as the day in his voice despite the chaotic sounds almost drowning them.
"No, it don't have to be this way! Your purpose might be still out there, away from here! You don't have to end like this! Come with us and we can help you find a new life!" the Chief shouted back, trying to reason Guilty Spark out of his suicidal despair.
However, he couldn't wait as the chaos was escalating and the blast doors were closing fast. The last thing he saw before they finally closed was the despairing Guilty Spark, still determined to go down with his installation to oblivion, soon about to be enveloped by the energy colum.
The Spartan bowed down his head in silent grief, mourning another fallen ally. But a tremble through the hallway forced him to make his pay of respect short, and he turned around to see his two comrades awaiting for his lead.
"Let's go," he said quickly as he walked by them, ready to lead them safe and sound back home from this doomed ring and this hellish war.
They ran toward the second set of blast doors, which opened by their approach, and were immediately greeted by a group of Flood, who began rushing and shooting at them. They answered with their own fire, and soon plenty of dead Flood forms began to litter the floor. The Master Chief gunned down countless of Infection Forms and a couple of Combat Forms, with the Arbiter taking down his own share with his plasma rifles. Johnson took down the Flood that escaped his buddies' wrath with his M6G Magnum handgun, as he didn't have the time to get back his Spartan Laser before the activation, much to his everlasting irritation.
They kept running after the trembling hallway was cleared, quickly reaching back outside there they came from. Loud explosions could be heard everywhere, both inside the hallway and outside the building. The entire landscape was trembling, as if an earthquake was annoucing its dreaded arrival, ready to break the land apart inside and out. The sky had gotten a more redlike colour, as if it was annoucing the coming apocalypse. They could feel Halo breaking itself apart beneath their feet and it intensified their desire to get the hell out of there. Two Sentinels howered past them, ignoring them as they howered toward the firefight that was being fought at on the cliff there Johnson came from.
"I parked my warthog behind the doorway in those cliffs, Chief. If we use it, we might get to the frigate in time," Johnson said, pointing at the end of the cliff he'd come through.
"Then we need to get to it now! Take us to it, Sergeant, and hurry! We don't have much time!" Cortana ordered, her desire to escape this doomed installation the greatest among the team.
"Yes, ma'am! Follow me!" Johnson said as he led the team up through a piece of collapsed ice forming a slope upward the cliff. When they got up, they saw that through the entire edge, Flood and Sentinels were fighting ferociously against one another, seemingly ignoring the doomed fate of Halo in favor to see the other fall to their now meaningless might. Not even the apocalypse itself could put a stop to the endless war these lifeless beings had been fighting since prehistoric times.
A couple of Combat Forms were about to attack them when a pair of Sentinels blasted the Flood away first before continuing toward the battle further down, surprising the team.
"The Sentinels. They're...helping us," Cortana said, surprised that they'd do it when her team just put their installation for a nasty destruction. Johnson, though, couldn't help but grin.
"Hey, Chief! Nice job putting the cuckobot back to his sences! Nearly thought that he'd waste us all!" he said and chuckled amusingly, but silenced when the Arbiter gave him a sharp elbowing to his ribs, wordlessly telling him to show some respect.
The Master Chief ignored Johnson as he ran across the edge, gunning down any Flood that were in his way. The others followed suit, with the Sentinels lending their aid when they could. The Flood were trying to hold their ground, but found themselves outclassed by their foes. The Chief gunned down most of them, but some managed to evade him, mostly by jumping high above him before he could gun them down, and tried to kill his comrades instead. But the Arbiter turned out to be even more dangerous to them, as he pulled out his energy sword and cut all of them through, leaving their limbs to rot on the snow. Fueled by righteous zeal, the Arbiter ran ahead of his human friends and laid waste upon the abominations. He fought more like a berserking Jiralhanae than an experienced Sangheili, his war cry almost drowning out the exploding, trembling sounds heard across Halo, his rampage tearing the parasites apart. If any got away, his allies would gun them down before they could even counterattack. With this ferocity, it didn't take long before they finally reached the doorway and ran in.
They came to a dim room that the Master Chief and Cortana recognized, as this was one of the many rooms they'd passed through on their way to the last Installation 04's control room. Though sounds of a firefight caught their attention, and rounding the right corner they saw a battle between Flood and Sentinels. They immediately joined in, with the Arbiter again running ahead to meet the parasites head on. The narrow hall allowed them to almost kill every Flood in matter of seconds, since the abominations' overwhelming numbers made it difficult for them to maneuver away from their fire in the confined room. The Chief alone killed at least half a dozen of Combat Forms in less than ten seconds, with the rest dealt with by either the Arbiter or the Sentinels, and a few by Johnson.
After every Flood seemed to had been dealt with, a familiar voice could be heard across the trembling room, speaking directly to the team.
"Resignation is my virtue. Like water I ebb and flow. Defeat is simply the addition of time to a sentence I never deserved...but you imposed!" the Gravemind spoke to them, knowing that it'd lost this day, but was trying to grasp a small moral victory over its foes.
"Well, shithead! If you hadn't been such a massmurdering asshole, than maybe we wouldn't have imposed your sentence! Enjoy Hell, and tell Truth that we said hi!" Johnson answered defiantly as he and his team was running toward an outstechted hallway. As if it heard Johnson's retort, the Gravemind shrieked with rage, and soon the team suddenly found their way blocked by a swarm of Infection Forms and a couple of Carrier Forms.
"Shit," was all Johnson could say.
His teammates immediately began firing at the swarm, but it seemed that it only became larger by each shot they fired. When any of the Carrier Forms were hit, they loudly exploded and spawned further countless Infection Forms with their deaths. Those Flood reinforced the already enormous swarm, and their massive numbers and ferocity were actually pushing the team backward. They even nearly infected the Arbiter, as they jumped upon him from everywhere and quickly drained his energy shields, as they found themselves desperate to keep the parasites' endless hunger away from consuming the Sangheilian leader. The Arbiter tried to get rid of them with everything, but they were too many and too ferocious for him to fight off. Only with the help of his allies was he spared from a horrific fate, when they carefully shot around him and killed every Flood upon him. But despite all that, their superior fire power and combat skills eventually won out, and the hallway was finally open for them.
"Don't let this ring be the end of us, Chief," Cortana sternly said, her anxiety all more clearer by each delay.
"Don't worry. My baby is just around that corner," Johnson said as he pointed toward the end of the hallway. They ran toward there and rounded the left corner, reaching a short, final corridor there the entrence could be seen at the end of it. The ran toward it, only to face a last group of Infection Forms trying to stop them. But the Master Chief quickly took them out and his team continued on. Finally, they reached outside, and parked right outside the doorway was Johnson's M12 Warthog.
"There's my baby, waiting for daddy. Let's get this ride going so that we can get the hell out of here. The sooner we get home and have our heroic saved-the-galaxy celebration party, the better," Johnson said cockily, his team walking toward the vehicle.
"I'll take the wheel," the Master Chief said as he jumped into the driver seat.
"Ah come on, Chief! Can't you just let me take this one?! You always takes them anyway so please, let me take this one for once!" Johnson pleaded to the Spartan, wanting to be the one to drive the Warthog.
"Sorry Johnson, but Chief is just the better driver. I hope that you won't take this too harshly," Cortana said teasefully.
"Fine! Than I'll take the..." Johnson began but stopped when he saw that the Arbiter had already taken the turret. The Arbiter flashed him what he thought was a smug grin, and muttering to himself he jumped into the passanger seat, reluctantly resigning himself to the boring part of a Warthog-ride.
"Come on, Spartan – go, go, go!" Cortana demanded loudly. The Master Chief stomped on the gas pedal, and off the Warthog went. They drove through a narrow trench and reached an open area that was made of massive, terraforming metalplates meant to be the basic foundation of the artificial ground that now would never be built. The plates were exploding in great numbers, leaving bottomless holes everywhere. Always the fearless warrior, the Chief was driving through the area as fast as he could, while trying to avoid the crumbling, exploding plates and the holes they created. He'd to put all of his concentration on keeping the Warthog on track, as the trembling chaos was intensifying by each second. He managed to drive to a platform with solid ground, only to find it plentiful with Flood futilely trying to escape the chaos. The Arbiter's turret sang its dreadful song as he was firing countless rounds at them, massacring them as the Warthog drove pass them.
"The Dawn is close, Chief! We're gonna make it! I'm sure of it!" Johnson shouted while he was firing his handgun at the Flood.
"As long the ground doesn't fall underneath us!" Cortana answered for the Master Chief as he kept driving.
They drove toward the end of the platform, where they'd to jump to the same type of area beneath the edge. The Warthog flew across the air and landed amazingly on its wheels. Before Johnson could make a comment, the Master Chief continued to drive as fast as he could toward a close opening. As he was driving, the plates were exploding around them all more loudly and numerously, threatening to instantly consume them in blazes. They entered the opening of what seemed to be a large, hangar-like hallway whose ceiling was falling apart and where Flood and Sentinels were fighting inside like no tomorrow, and drove through, avoiding parts of the ceiling that were falling down everywhere. Fourtantely, the floor, which was made of variable ramps, was solid and wasn't exploding like outside, but that barely made things easier.
"The charging sequence...it's too much for the ring to take!" an all-more anxious Cortana said after she calculated the time they'd left, finding out that it was less than what she thought they had.
"Great. Just perfect," Johnson muttered in his seat as the Warthog drove pass the first warring group of Flood and Sentinels. Some Combat Forms too concentrated on their fight against the Sentinels to notice in time were ran over, and before the rest could react, the Arbiter gunned almost all of them down as the Warthog kept driving. Same thing happened further down the hallway with the second group of Flood, but after that, there where no more enemies to face, and the danger mostly came from the tremblings and the falling pieces. At the end, a wide gap seperated the hallway and another terraforming area, and the Warthog made a dearing jump across it. A beam of fire shot up before the midair Warthog, nearly hitting it and threatening to sabotage its landing. Fortunately, it intensely landed on its wheels.
"Wow," Johnson commented on the increased intensification of the ride.
The Master Chief drove toward a nearby solid platform that yet again was crawling with Flood. The Warthog ran right through them, reducing many of them to greasy stains on the floor, and the Arbiter wasn't slow in helping that process with his turret. The Combat Forms were trying to take the Warthog out, but their small arms couldn't stop the three-tons beast from tearing them through. But they kept shooting, desperately trying to take their foes down with them to oblivion.
"Halo is ripping itself apart!" Cortana anxously said, as if it'd make the Chief drive even faster than already.
"Really?! We didn't notice that!" Johnson sarcastically retored as the Warthog was now driving across another area of exploding plates. The variable curves, the tremblings and the increasing explosions made it extremely difficult for the Warthog to avoid any hole that could suddenly pop up and make them plummet to their deaths. Even with his augmented reflexes, the Master Chief was finding the ride extremely unpredictable and nearly impossible to control. And Cortana's cries weren't making things easier for him.
"Hurry Chief, don't stop! Charging sequence is thirty percent!"
After a difficult drive through the chaotic area, they came to another solid platform full with Flood, except this time they were Pure Forms. Their heavier assaults were pushing the Warthog around as it was driving pass them, nearly tipping it over as the Ranged Forms' spikes were hammering with mighty strenght. This made the Master Chief's attempt to avoid the Tank Forms' assaults even more difficult, and despite his comrades' efforts, the Flood refused to die this time.
"Fifty percent, Chief!" Cortana shouted as the Warthog barely got through the platform and was driving toward another enormous hallway. Inside, Flood and Sentinels were too involved in their war against each other to notice the Warthog driving through, and for the Flood, that was a death sentence as the Arbiter was gunning them down ferociously.
"Seventy percent!" Cortana said at halfway through the hallway. At the end, the Warthog had to make a daring jump toward another terraforming area. It drove faster toward the ramps at the edge and jumped. The Warthog flew across the air, and while doing so, the team saw the fridge parked behind a cliff at the distance.
"There it is, Chief! We're gonna do it! We're finally gonna go home!" an excited Johnson shouted enthusiastically as the Warthog fastly neared the ground and landed with a mighty thud. Right after a nearby colum fell on the ground and slammed through, causing several plates to fly everywhere, one which even nearly hit the midair Warthog.
"Eighty percent charged!" Cortana said, and the Warthog quickly continued its ride. Now it seemed that Halo itself was trying to kill them, as the explosions were getting wilder and enormous, barely leaving any ground for the Warthog to drive on. Plates in dozens flew up at once, many nearly hitting the Warthog as it was driving forward, as if it was being chased by the Armageddon itself. It was as if they were driving through the levels of Hell themselves, as fires were razing every inch they passed and bottomless pits consumed much of the ground, threatening to take them down to a fate they'd never escape from. But being the warriors as they were, they defiantely drove forward, unwiling to die in this godforsken ring.
"Ninty percent! Firing sequence initiated!" Cortana cried out desperately.
"You hear the lady, Chief! Drive, dammit, like you'd never driven before!" Johnson cried to the Spartan, unknowingly irritating him as even he was feeling the pressure.
Soon, despite the all-more intensifying and escalating chaos, the Warthog finally reached an upslope where the frigate was parked. A wide gap seperated it's open aft cargo hold and the plates the Warthog was driving on.
"Gun it, Chief! Jump! Floor it! Right into the hangar!" Cortana shouted at the Master Chief, who drove faster than ever toward the makeshift ramp just ahead at the edge.
The Warthog jumped across the air toward the open hanger, soon to reach it...only that it didn't. The vehicle was simply too heavy for the wide jump to work and it missed the hangar with a few feet. Instead, it began to plummet.
"NONONONONO NO NO NO NO NOOOO!" Johnson cried out in denial as they were fastly plummeting, refusing to believe this was how it'd end for him and his team. His comrades were facing their fate more gracefully, but their hearts were yet consumed by despair and regret. The Master Chief knew that all he could do now was to await and hope it'd be quick. He might have been prepared for this fate during his training and by the war, but he'd still hoped that this wouldn't be the end. Not when they were so close. But what he regretted the most was that his friends had to share his fate when they should live thanks to his tireless efforts. He felt that he'd failed them, and that to him was far more awful than himself dying on this alien world. If only he could at least save them from this awful fate.
Suddenly, they were enveloped by electric, golden energy and soon found themselves to their surprise inside the hangar.
"Whata?" Johnson said as he stared across the hangar. His teammates were wordlessly sharing his question on how the hell they were suddenly teleported here. The answer soon revealed itself to them.
"Spark?" the Master Chief said as he indeed saw Guilty Spark hovering before him, causing his comrades to notice the moniter as well. "But...how? I saw you getting..."
"There's no time for questions now, Reclaimer!" Guilty Spark interrupted. "We need to get this vessel moving if we've to escape the installation's cleansing in time! My calculations concludes that if we move now, we might make it through the Portal!"
"Right," the Master Chief said. Just then, the frigate shifted a bit, and it caused a M808 Scorpion Tank to slide toward the Arbiter and Johnson. The Arbiter quickly grabbed Johnson and ran with him toward a pile of crates and ran through just before the tank plowed into them. The Master Chief got up and began running toward the hangar control terminal nearby, but hesitated when he saw the Arbiter digging through the crates. He caught gaze with the worried Sangheili, and seeing the concern in his eyes, the Chief nodded at him, telling him that he knew what he was doing. Realizing the wordless message, the Arbiter nodded back and turned around toward a worried Johnson. The Arbiter nodded toward where the bridge was at and both, knowing that they hadn't much time, began running toward it, with Guilty Spark hovering pass the crates and following them suit.
The Master Chief ran toward the terminal and quickly plugged the data chip into it. Cortana's avatar immediately appeared from the holotank next to the terminal.
"Hang on!" she said, and quickly ignited the frigate's thrusters, launching the vessel with full speed away from Halo and toward the Portal. However, the shifting increased as the frigate was flying straight up, and the Master Chief had to hold onto the terminal for his dear life, his feet hanging in the air as loose cargo fell out of the hangar and toward the dark space. Just when the frigate left Halo's atmosphere, he lost his grip of the terminal and began falling toward the open hangar doors. He fastly glided down the floor, and just when he was about to reach the opening, he punched hardly into the floor and managed to get a solid grip, halting his fall to a certain death.
"Chief!" Cortana cried out and reached her hand toward him, fearing that she'd lose him once again, and this time, for eternity.
He heard her distress and looked up at her, but had to duck his head as the tank plummetted over him and toward the endless darkness, narrowing missing him with inches. He began climbing up the floor, fighting the gravity that seemed so determined to keep him away from the closest friend he ever had. Said friend could only look at him worridly and hope he'd pull through.
After a difficult climb, he managed to make it to the holotank, and they locked eyes with each other, knowing that nothing would ever seperate them again and that they'd go through this together, while as Halo was gathering the last remaining energy for its firing. Meanwhile, their friends had made it to the bridge, and Johnson quickly sat down at the controls with the Arbiter and Guilty Spark standing by his sides, the former casting one worried glance behind his shoulder.
The Master Chief was bracing behind the panel and plugged Cortana back into his helmet as Halo was reaching its final preparation.
"If we don't make it..." Cortana said softly, as if she'd already accepted defeat.
"We'll make it," he, ever the optimist, confidently ensured.
"It's been a honor serving with you, John," she finished, just wanting to get it out of her heart. The Spartan finally allowed his head to rest back, exhausted by a lifetime of endless war. Outside, the distant, final explosion of Halo could be heard, and blinding white light engulfed the hangar.
And then, eveything went blank.