"What's powering this vehicle, an internal combustion engine?" Twilight asked after she finally got her shaking under control. Now that she wasn't in any immediate danger, she was taking on a more scholarly viewpoint. "Those are only theoretical back in Equestria."
"Really? We've been using them on vehicles for well over five centuries," replied George. "Sure, we've tried other methods. Electrical power, hydrogen fuel cell, turbine, hell, there was even an attempt to make a nuclear powered car."
"Whoever thought that was a good idea was a fucking moron," Tony interjected as he lifted his right hand off the steering wheel and touched the side of his helmet.
"What he said," continued George. "Anyways, no matter what we tried, nothing really beat the ICE for personal transport. The only thing to really change over the years has been fuel."
Twilight tilted her head a few degrees. "Wait, did you say nuclear? As in fission?"
"In that particular case, yes, but we haven't used fission for over three hundred years," replied George. "Fusion is much more efficient."
"F-fusion!" Twilight’s right ear began flopping and her left eye fluttered slightly as her head twitched. Her strange movements did not go unnoticed.
"Uhh, You okay back there, Sparks?" Asked the Captain, having turned his head to see her out of the corner of his visor. "You're kinda spazzin' out on us."
"Huh... oh, yes, I'll be fine. Just need to get to a library. Your world is just fascinating!"
George just laughed. "This isn't even our home world. It's just a small archeological colony."
"Shit!" Tony exclaimed, interrupting Twilight’s train of thought. "Bad news guys. We’ve gotta divert to LZ Bravo. Covies decided to make camp near Alpha, and the flyboys got nervous. ETA: hour and a half," he said, before turning down a side street. "By the way, Captain, command wants to know if the package is secure. After that spill you took, I want to make sure it's still intact before I tell them."
"Fuck, I forgot about that!" George scooted up in his seat, slid his backpack off, and set it down in the floorboard. As he opened a compartment and rifled through it, Twilight glimpsed a pair of wings stenciled in white on the back of his armor. She tried to remember if humans were supposed to have wings, but it had been a while since she'd taken a serious look at a mythology book, and that one dealt with the legend of the Mare in the Moon.
Twilight could feel her eyes tear up as that memory was dredged up from the depths of her mind. If not for that fateful Summer Sun Celebration, she would never have met her friends, would never have met Pinkie Pie, and would never have...
She shook that thought away before it could even be finished. Don't even think that way, Twilight. You're better than that. You should know better, she berated herself. Her somber mood at least stopped the twitching.
"Got it,” called George, as he drew a violet ovoid object no bigger than a deck of cards out of his pack and held it up for examination. "Looks intact. Hope the boys at ONI can get something off it," he added as he dropped it back in his pack.
"Roger that," replied Tony. "Also, I told the Colonel about our little stowaway,” he added, jerking a thumb in Twilight’s direction. “Long story short, he ain't happy."
"He never is," sighed George. “He gonna make us leave her down here?” When Twilight heard this, her eyes shot open and she began to tremble slightly.
“No, but he said to ‘expect an ass chewin’ for handling the situation so casually,” replied Tony with a shake of his head.
Soon, the car passed out of the residential area and into the countryside. Row upon row of empty houses made way for vast stretches of highland prairie. The humans and unicorn rode along in silence for a while, neither knowing quite what to say to the other. After a few minutes, however, George had to break the silence. "So, what's Equestria like, Twilight?"
Twilight's mood immediately brightened as the Sergeant gave her a chance to slip into lecture-mode. What followed was a twenty-minute dissertation outlining the history of Equestria. She covered the founding of the nation, the reign of Discord and the rise of the Royal Sisters, Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon and subsequent banishment, her return a thousand years later and cleansing, Discord's escape from imprisonment and eventual recapture, and the Changeling Invasion.
She then tried to delve into the three pony tribes, only to be interrupted when lecturing about the pegasi.
"Wait, you're telling me that you ponies can control the weather?" George asked incredulously.
"Well, yeah. Can't you?" Replied Twilight.
"No we can't," exclaimed Tony. "Not for lack of trying mind you. We just never got it to work. Now you're telling me that pegasi can do this naturally?" When Twilight nodded, Tony cursed. "Fuck! There're a bunch of ONI scientists that are gonna love you." Captain McCoy tensed up slightly, which did not go unnoticed by the unicorn.
"No," he replied tersely. Twilight wanted to press for more information, but knew it was probably best to leave it for now. If George were one of her friends back in Equestria, she wouldn't hesitate, but she knew that doing so would only strain their relationship unnecessarily, and she needed all the help she could get.
"What about those wings on your back? Do they signify anything?" Twilight asked, trying to change the subject.
"Saw those, huh?" He replied, this time much more jovially. "Heh, it's a hell of a story. How long to the LZ, Sergeant?"
"A little over an hour now. We got plenty of time. Just don't tell her anything classified. We’ve pissed Colonel Zhang off enough for one mission."
"Fantastic!" George clapped his hands together for emphasis. Twilight could practically see the smile on the man's face. "This was almost twenty-one years ago, during the last battle of the Harvest Campaign. Incidentally, this is where Tony and I first worked together. Anyways, the Covenant had taken the colony Harvest five years prior, and we were finally going to push them off-planet for good."
"An alien alliance at war with humanity. Those aliens we killed earlier are part of it,” replied George. "There're more species involved, but you'll find out about them later. Now, as I was saying, we'd gotten word that a bunch of civilians had bunkered down in a cave system near a mountain range and had been there since the start of the war. Problem was, the Covenant had just found them and were knockin’ on their door..."
One instructor in Drop School called it the "Elevator to Hell." Sitting in his SOEIV for the first time, 2nd Lieutenant George McCoy had to agree. His suit's cooling system helped, but only made the heat survivable, not comfortable. Still, he had to count his blessings. His pod hadn't burned up on re-entry like some poor fuckers.
As his pod reached three thousand feet, McCoy felt the 'chute open and slow his fall down to the colony below. He checked his weapon, an old MA37 assault rifle, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. It wasn't as sleek as the MA5B or as gimmicky as the new M7, but it was still the workhorse of the UNSC Military.
His breath caught as McCoy saw the landing zone. It was a barren field interspersed with large boulders. The big problem, however, was that the Covenant owned the entire area. Grunts and Jackals swarmed the battlefield with the occasional Elite here and there. Plasma fire arced through the air, passing by McCoy's SOEIV, with the occasional lucky hit rocking the pod.
"All troops, be advised," the rough voice of Captain Adams came over the pod's speaker. "The Covenant was nice enough to set up a little command post for us. Your first priority is to evict them from their little hilltop." A NAV Marker popped up on his HUD, illuminating the objective. Calling it a hilltop was a stretch, but it was the highest point around, save for the distant mountain peaks.
Lieutenant McCoy felt the pod's braking rockets fire as he passed the fifty-meter mark. Mere seconds later, he touched down with a jarring thud and switched his rifle from safe to auto. The door beeped twice and then shot off, careening into an unlucky Grunt. George climbed out of his pod, raised his rifle at another Grunt, and fired. The Grunt fell limp, but was soon replaced by a Jackal that opened fire at the ODST. McCoy dived to his right and landed behind a small, waist-high boulder. Rock chunks peppered his helmet as he got up into a kneeling position. George reached for a grenade, but stopped when he heard the telltale *pft-pft-pft* of a three-round burst from a suppressed M7 and the yelp of a dying Jackal.
George peeked over the boulder and saw another ODST, Corporal Anthony DiNardo according to his IFF, crouched in front of another boulder behind the now dead Jackal. He gave a thumbs-up to the Lieutenant before clipping the SMG onto his belt and detaching a sniper rifle off his rucksack. Lieutenant McCoy climbed over the boulder and dashed over to Anthony's cover.
"There's a small Covenant patrol just down below, sir, to the north," the Corporal reported. George took a peek over his cover and saw the patrol fifty meters below in a small ravine. It consisted of around a dozen and a half Grunts, a few Jackals, and an Elite Major. It took the Lieutenant a moment to figure out their course of action.
"I'll toss a frag down and draw their fire," he said as he pulled the grenade off his belt. "Keep down until they're focused on me, then take out the Major. We'll mop up the rest after. Got it?" The corporal nodded and checked the magazine on his rifle. "On three. One, two, THREE!" George pulled the pin and tossed the grenade into the ravine. It landed in the middle of a squad of Grunts and exploded, taking out six, as well as a nearby Jackal. The Lieutenant stood up and fired three bursts from his rifle, taking out two more Grunts and injuring a third.
McCoy dashed out of cover as the Covenant got a bead on him. Plasma fire passed dangerously close to his head as he made for another stone not twenty-five meters east of his previous position. He almost made it when a plasma bolt clipped his shoulder and sent him skidding the last meter to safety.
The Elite roared in glee, giving DiNardo the opening he needed. He stood up and rested his rifle on the boulder. The Corporal zeroed in on the Elite's blood-red helmet before firing once, ending his life cleanly. He dropped the rifle and brought his SMG back up, firing on the surviving Grunts and Jackals. McCoy soon joined in with his MA37, and the rest of the patrol was dead within moments.
"You alright there, sir?" DiNardo asked as soon as he made it over to McCoy.
"Yeah, just slagged my shoulder-guard a bit. Let's keep moving. Don't wanna keep the Captain waiting."
"... And that's the first time Tony saved my sorry ass."
"And it hasn’t been the last either. You should've seen some of the hair-brained schemes he's come up with," supplied Tony. "Seriously, charging a Bravo Kilo with a big-ass hammer? What the hell were you thinking?"
George just shrugged. "Had to keep him away from the vehicle, and the civvie. Besides, it worked, didn't it?"
"Yeah, and you didn't even suffer so much as a broken rib. How the hell-" he was interrupted by laughter from the back seat, "now what's so funny, missy?"
"Hehe. Sorry. It's just that, you two aren't acting like you're in the military at all," replied Twilight. "At least, I've never seen an Officer and NCO act this casually together. My brother's Captain of the Royal Guard and he's all business while on duty."
"We're weird that way," replied George. "Now, can I continue my story?" Twilight nodded in response. "Ok, by the time we made it to the command post, the rest of the platoon had already taken it, and Captain Adams was waiting for us..."
The former Covenant command post was a study in controlled chaos. Elite corpses were being tossed unceremoniously down a small ditch, while the few dead troopers were stacked neatly in a corner, awaiting burial detail. Another ODST was inventorying Covenant gear for the intel pukes back on the ship. Captain Adams and the rest of the officers had gathered around a small, hastily erected table near the center of the post. On top of the table was a map of the area generated by the Heaven's Gate, the frigate supporting the operation.
Adams was the only ODST not wearing his helmet at the moment. His graying hair and scarred, tanned face spoke of experience beyond his years. Scuttlebutt had it that he was part of the party that made First Contact with the Covenant, but he always denied those claims.
"You're late," he growled as McCoy and DiNardo approached. "Alright, here's the situation. We've got three possible cave systems that the colonists could be hiding in here, here, and here." He indicated three different points on the map, each within approximately a kilometer of the command post. "We're not sure which one they bunkered down in. Good news is, that neither do the Covenant, so there’s a good chance that they’re still alive.”
“Sir, how do we even know there’s anyone in there?” One of the troopers asked.
“They’ve been monitoring transmissions for the last five years, and finally decided to give us a call a few days ago,” replied Adams. “Now, we’re gonna divide up and search the caves simultaneously. Lieutenant Graves, you and Alpha team are searching the first cave system. Lieutenant Shepard, take Bravo team to the second. Lieutenant Archer…” he looked around the soldiers at the table, “where the hell is Lieutenant Archer?”
“Dug his own grave, sir. Sergeant Tarkov reporting.” The others cringed involuntarily. It was a fate feared even more than burning up on re-entry. An ODST ‘digging his own grave’ meant that either his pod’s ‘chute or braking rockets failed, and he plowed into the ground. In most cases, the poor soldier died on impact.
Captain Adams just shook his head. “Well that’s just great. Sergeant, you and Charlie team are with me. We’ll be running this op from here and I need someone to help defend this little command post.”
“That just leaves you, Lieutenant McCoy,” growled Adams. “I was gonna have you and Delta defend this post, seeing as you were the last to arrive, but with Lieutenant Archer’s demise, you get to go into the third cave system. Everyone has their assignment. Form up and move out. Don’t forget to use your NAV beacons. I don’t want anyone getting lost down there.”
The officers scattered to collect their teammates. Lieutenant McCoy’s consisted of Sergeant Antonio Mendez, Corporals Anthony DiNardo and Sergei Popov, and Lance Corporals Dieter Weber, Samantha Sadi, Frank Grimes, and Jacque Sarkozy. Most of the squad wielded MA37’s as their primary weapon, with the exceptions of Mendez, Weber, and DiNardo. Mendez had a shotgun as his primary, while DiNardo had traded his sniper rifle for an M392 Designated Marksman’s Rifle. Dieter, on the other hand, had opted to carry an M247 general-purpose machine gun.
“You sure we’re gonna need that, Rambo?” DiNardo asked, trying to poke fun at the massive weapon. Weber just laughed it off as he shed his rucksack, attached an ammo drum in its place, and ran a belt to the gun. He was easily the biggest man on the battlefield that day, and he carried the large weapon as if it were a toy.
“One can never have too much firepower,” he stated matter-of-factly, cocking the weapon for emphasis.
“Alright, knock it off, you two,” George said. “We’ve got a one click hike, plus however large the cavern is, an unknown number of Covvies in the way, and civvies waiting for an evac. Now, let’s book it. Popov, you’re on point.” The small Slav nodded once and took off towards the objective, while the rest of the team tried to keep up.
After fifteen minutes of hiking, Delta team made it to the cave entrance, and immediately spotted signs of Covenant activity. The footprints of Grunts, Jackals, and Brutes littered the ground. The last one had George worried the most. According to ONI, Brutes considered human flesh a delicacy, and they liked their meat fresh.
George suppressed a grimace at that thought and motioned his troops into the cave. It was wide enough that the squad could walk three abreast. Popov was still on point, but had slowed down considerably. He didn’t relish the thought of facing a Bravo Kilo all by himself. For now, he was content to stay near the squad, and Weber’s big gun.
Five minutes into the cave, the squad heard a distant banging noise. It was steady, constant, and unnatural. The ODSTs stopped a moment to listen, but the rhythm never changed. Bang, bang, bang, pause. Bang, bang, bang, pause.
“Well, at least the dumb monkeys are going to cover any noise we make,” Sam whispered.
Lieutenant McCoy didn’t even bother to respond as he waved the squad forward. A few minutes later, the cavern split off into four different directions. The leftmost passage went up into the gray stone of the mountains, while the others all went deeper underground. It took them only a few seconds to pick the correct path. Between the footprints and constant banging, the Brutes might as well have put up directions.
McCoy dropped a NAV beacon, and the squad took the rightmost path, which was the direction the largest number of footprints went. They found the first corpse barely five meters down the passage. It was a woman, but that was the only thing the squad could tell about her. Her skin had suffered severe plasma burns and several long, cruel spikes jutted out of her chest. One of the woman’s arms appeared to have been hacked away by a blade. Nearby lay an outdated MA3 assault rifle.
Barely five feet from the first corpse lay another, this one male. He had several deep cuts in his torso, from which blood flowed freely. This one was definitely killed by a Brute weapon, as they did not use plasma blades, which would have cauterized the wounds. This one also had a weapon, a shotgun, lying nearby.
Lieutenant McCoy forced himself not to retch as he waved his men forwards. It wasn’t the sight that sickened him, he’d seen far worse on his deployment at Hat Yai. Rather, it was the smell of burnt flesh that got to him. That smell was something nobody got accustomed to.
As they went deeper down the passageway, they came across even more corpses, all with discarded weaponry lying nearby. They had been killed by various means. Some had large spikes sticking out of their vitals, while even more suffered burns from plasma weaponry. However, some were completely ripped to shreds, most likely grenades from a Brute Shot. A few here and there had obvious Needler wounds; their limbs and torsos were ripped open by the explosive ammunition. No matter what, Delta could not turn away from the carnage. They had a mission to accomplish, and they were on the right track.
So Delta team followed the trail of the dead, deeper and deeper into the cave while the distant banging grew louder, giving the illusion of descending into Hell itself. They did not fear, “feet first into hell” was the ODST’s creed after all, but they were apprehensive. Even the usually boisterous DiNardo was silent as they walked amongst the corpses. They could now hear the occasional grunt of exertion interspersed amongst the banging. Whatever the Brutes were doing, it was taking its toll.
They had descended down the passageway for a solid thirty minutes, and now they saw a light at the end of the tunnel. It was a harsh blue light commonly used by the Covenant. The banging was now deafening, and now Delta could tell that it was a definitely a Brute gravity hammer causing the noise.
Cautiously, the ODSTs exited the tunnel into a large chamber. They were on a ledge overlooking the main area of the cavern with a ramp on the left leading down. Slowly, Corporal Popov approached the edge and looked over. He waved the rest of the squad over and motioned for them to keep down.
Below, it was standing room only. Twelve Brutes and three times as many Grunts and Jackals packed the chamber, mostly just standing around doing nothing. On the far end of the chamber was a large metal door that was heavily dented. It was not hard to see why, as a few Brutes had lined up behind another, a Minor, that was pounding on it with a gravity hammer. After a few attempts, the Minor passed the hammer to the Brute next in line and he would continue the onslaught. In one corner, next to another passageway, sat a Chieftain, the likely owner of the hammer, watching the procession and chomping on…
McCoy forced himself to turn away from the disgusting sight and focused on forming an assault plan. The squad was severely outnumbered, but had the element of surprise on their side. Many of the Grunts had fallen asleep, so that would give them another edge. A plan soon formed in McCoy’s head, and he signaled to DiNardo to target the Chieftain and take him out first.
DiNardo went prone, rested his DMR on the ledge and lined up his sights with the Chieftain’s left eye. It was one of the few places on a Brute that could guarantee an instant kill. Even a headshot on an unarmored Brute was uncertain, as the bullet had to pass through its thick hide and even thicker skull. The rest of the squad primed frag grenades to toss down after DiNardo took his shot.
The brutes in line at the door began to roar in triumph as the steel began to part, leaving an inch thick gap between the two panels. That’s when the squad heard the screams. High pitched, loud, and filled with fear; they were clearly the screams of terrified children.
Delta team tossed their grenades as Tony fired. The explosives detonated amongst the milling Grunts and Jackals, killing half a dozen. The pressed throng acted as a living shield, otherwise more would’ve died. The Brutes turned to receive orders from their Chieftain, only to see that he was dead, tongue rolling out of his mouth filled with half-chewed human flesh. Distracted, the baby-kongs left themselves open as DiNardo drilled five of them right through the eye in rapid succession before they could react.
Dieter stood up and rained fire from his machine gun down on the Covenant below, killing twenty Grunts and two Brutes, only to be knocked back as a plasma bolt grazed his helmeted head. Emboldened, the Covenant forces fired on the upper ledge, keeping the humans down and unable to return fire effectively.
“You alright there, big guy?” Frank asked as he blind-fired his MA37 over the ledge.
“Got my bell rung,” Weber groaned out as he shook his head, sending flecks of partially melted titanium flying. “Other than that, I’m fine.”
Down below, Brutes roared at their unseen foes, and Delta team heard one scrambling to climb up the ledge. The brute poked its head over the precipice only to come face to face with Mendez’s shotgun and took a face full of double-aught buckshot. Enraged, the rest of the Brutes roared at the humans who dare kill their pack mates.
Then the Jackals made their move. The bird-like aliens marched onto the ramp in a phalanx formation, firing their plasma pistols as they advanced. Delta team, already pinned down from the barrage of plasma fire below, was forced back. Fortunately for them, the Brutes were impatient with their allies’ pace and ploughed through their ranks, scattering the Jackals.
While this gave the troopers room to breath, they had several angry monkeys barreling towards them. Weber picked himself up and opened fire at the first Brute to top the rise. The ape just shrugged off the hail of bullets as it charged the human. A stray round hit the Brute’s Spiker, but it merely dropped the weapon and reached out with both arms to strangle the large human. It never got the chance, as Mendez’s shotgun tore the Brute’s leg off at the kneecap. A pistol shot from McCoy finished the ape off
The deaths of more of their pack mates further enraged the remaining Brutes, and they began to disregard any semblance of tactics in their bloodlust. Another Baby Kong, a Minor, charged forwards on all fours, not even bothering with a weapon, and tackled the Sergeant. Mendez’s shotgun was knocked away as the giant ape began to pound the Hispanic man to death. The rest of the squad opened up with their automatic weapons and filled the turquoise-armored brute full of holes.
Then, the last Brute charged forwards, swinging a spike grenade like a baseball bat. The squad opened fire, but the beast made contact with Frank’s chest piece, driving the blade deep into the ceramic-metal armor and piercing his torso. Frank cried out in pain as the Brute tried to pull its weapon away, but the blade was stuck in the armor. Luckily, the explosive was unarmed.
Dieter charged forward, shoved the barrel of his weapon into the back of the Brute’s neck, and pulled the trigger. Its head erupted in a fountain of blood, brains, and bullets, covering both Lance Corporals in gore.
A terrified shriek came from down below as the Grunts scattered. Some ran down the side passage next to the dead Chieftain, while others attempted to run up the ramp, not knowing that death awaited them. Whether they were stupid or delusional, nobody could answer.
After the squad mopped up the Grunts attempting to flee in their direction, they turned their attention to the remaining Jackals. However, the Jackals were in the process of fleeing as well, only in a far more orderly manner than the Grunts. Soon, the entirety of the Covenant forces had withdrawn from the cavern, and Weber rushed up to cover the entrance of the side passage with his gun.
“Biofoam!” George called out as he rushed up to the injured trooper. A canister of the miracle substance was swiftly passed to the Lieutenant as he removed the spike grenade from Grimes’ chest. Once the weapon had been extracted, McCoy injected the wound with the foam. Grimes gasped as he felt the sensation of thousands of ants biting the wound. Within moments, however, the biofoam dulled the pain and he sighed in relief.
“You alright, sarge?” Sergeant Mendez only groaned in response. The Brute had beaten him to within an inch in his life, but the old Helljumper would live. Eventually, he managed to pick himself up, but cried out as he took a step. He nearly fell before Popov caught him and held the Sergeant up. McCoy made a mental note to make sure that Mendez recieved medical attention back on the ship.
With his squad’s medical needs seen to, Lieutenant McCoy sprinted down the ramp and towards the steel doors. They had parted enough for him to look inside, and the sight gave him pause. Hundreds of children, all cowering in fear, were hiding behind the vault doors. Some looked up at him with wide eyes. For a moment, McCoy wondered where all their parents were, but he made the connection soon enough. Delta team had passed the parents on the way down. They had tried, and failed, to fight the Brutes off and keep their children safe.
“Are… are you an angel, mister?” A little girl no more than eight years old asked the Lieutenant.
“W-what?” He asked, not quite understanding the question.
“Mommy told me that angels would protect us, that they would come down from heaven and keep us safe,” the child continued. “Are you one of them?”
Despite what he had seen today, all the blood and guts he had to wade through to save these children, George McCoy couldn’t help but smile. “You could say that, kid.”
“…After that, the name stuck,” said George. “Once we got back to the Heaven’s Gate, we got the ship’s machine shop to cut out a wing stencil for us and we spray painted it on the back of our armor.” As he finished, George turned to look at Twilight, who had her head cocked to the side.
“I’m sorry, but what’s an angel?”
“An angel is a mythological being, most commonly portrayed as a winged human,” he replied. “They have multiple roles in various religions, from being messengers of god to protecting the weak. That little girl, Sarah I believe her name was, saw us as the latter.”
“Wow,” breathed Twilight. “Are the other people in your squad still around?”
“Actually, yes,” replied George. “We’re actually still working together, save for Mendez. That brute did a number on his spine, and he’s now teaching at Drop School. Poor bastard’s walked with a limp ever since.”
“And… you’ve been fighting the Covenant for the past twenty one years?” She asked, unable to keep the horror at the concept of such a long war out of her voice.
“Eeyup,” replied Tony, “it’s been a long, costly, twenty-seven years. Casualties topped twenty billion last time I checked.”
Twilight was dumbstruck by that number, even more so by the somewhat casual way that Tony stated it. Her breath caught as she tried to voice her disbelief, but something deep down told her that the human spoke the truth.
“H-how?” She eventually managed to squeak out.
“Pretty easy when your enemy can burn entire worlds into glass from orbit,” stated George matter-of-factly.
Twilight couldn’t believe her ears. Sure, she wasn’t unfamiliar with apocalyptic scenarios. Nightmare Moon’s eternal night would’ve killed all of ponykind slowly, but an enemy that can actually destroy a planet was too much for her mind to process.
And these humans just take it all in stride, she thought to herself. She couldn’t help but marvel at the strength of will these two had. “H-how do you keep going? It just seems so hopeless.”
“There’s always hope, Twilight,” replied Tony. “Even if it’s only a fool’s hope. We threw the Covenant off of Harvest for good, we stopped the first invasion of Arcadia, and Admiral Cole single handedly destroyed an entire Covenant fleet at Psi Serpentis. True, our victories have been few and far between, but we keep fighting, because to just give up would doom us all.”
“These… people have faced great hardship,” Celestia said as she shed a tear.
“Twenty billion…” breathed Luna. “I can’t even imagine that many casualties.”
“Neither could I at the time,” added Twilight, as she let off a yawn. “I’m sorry, I just haven’t slept in a while. Mind if we continue this in the morning?”
“Of course, Twilight,” replied Celestia. “You know where your old room is. We can continue your story over breakfast. I’ll clear my schedule for tomorrow.”
Twilight thanked the Princess, grabbed her saddlebags, and reattached the object, which the others now assumed to be one of the humans’ weapons, to the back of her armor and trotted off to her old room by the Palace Library.
“I guess we’ll be off to bed as well,” stated Shining Armor. “These humans… their courage in the face of great adversity is inspiring.”
“Agreed,” replied Luna. “It may not be our war to fight, but I still wish there was something we could do to help.”
Everyone present knew that there was nothing they could do. Even with the natural magic of ponykind, the humans surpassed them with technology. Worse still, it would just make Equis a target for the Covenant juggernaut.
With that dark thought, everypony bid each other good night.
AN: Credit DoomManta for the edit work.