The Need of Restraint
Celestia was leading Garrett down the various halls of the castle.
“Garrett?” Celestia called out.
“Remember a while back when you asked us if you were our prisoner.”
Celestia opened a door, revealing a massive guest room. A four-poster bed lay inside. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. A fireplace gave warmth to the room. Several wardrobes and closets offered more than enough storage. Lastly, a large window overlooked Canterlot.
“Hot damn, really?” Garrett muttered.
Celestia floated over the key. “You have access to any part of the castle from now on.”
“Including my ship?”
“...Yes, including your ship.”
Garrett took a look at the key. I can go anywhere, he thought to himself. Anywhere...
The trooper shook his head. “Sorry, ma’am. Thank you for the offer, but if I’m here, I’ll only sleep in one of two places, my ship or a cell.”
Celestia was silent for a moment, pondering over his words. “Very well, then. You have full access to your ship and your equipment.”
Celestia watched as Garrett ran his fingers across the walls on the inside of the ship. “It’s nice to be inside something from the UNSC again,” he said.
A guard carrying a large package knocked on the ramp. “Here’s his armor and gear, your highness.”
He set it down next to the armory.
Garrett walked to the package, opened it, and pulled out the left shoulder pauldron. “If you don’t mind,” he said, “I’m planning to sleep early today, so I’d appreciate it if you gave me some time alone.”
“You didn’t even have dinner,” Celestia said.
“I’m fine. I’ll just have a ration.”
Celestia nodded before she and the guard proceeded down the ramp. Once they were out, Garrett closed the hatch.
“Your highness,” the guard said, “with all due respect, are you sure about this? He might end up bringing out his weapons and causing harm again.”
“I understand your concern. Remember, when Commander Turbulence brought him to the blacksmiths, he had every opportunity to retrieve a weapon, cover himself with makeshift armor, and start a rampage, but he didn’t. They gave him a training crossbow, and he could have used it as a blunt weapon to escape, but he used it as a training device. He had multiple chances to wreak havoc, but he followed the rules. Besides, I trust him.”
“...You have a point, princess.”
Breakfast was the only thing on his mind as Garrett was walking down the hallways of the castle. Already many were glancing at the newly armored soldier, slightly intimidated. Everypony who saw him noticed something new. Philomeena’s feather and an ace of spades that had the UNSC insignia printed on it were secured to his left shoulder pauldron with a black band.
“That’s a nice look,” a guard commented, smiling. “The feather and card suits you.”
Garrett nodded back before he opened the doors of the dining room, and he found Luna and Celestia sitting along the table, welcoming him with the sweet aroma of food and the melody Philomena’s songs.
“Good morning Garrett,” Luna greeted cheerfully.
“Good morning ma’am,” he greeted back.
“Sleep well?” Celestia asked.
“Sure did, ma’am. Feels strange that two days ago I was behind bars and doing the Watchtower Challenge.”
“Time flies fast, and change comes equally fast,” said Celestia, smiling. “I still can’t understand how you can find so much comfort in a cramp space such as your ship.”
Garrett laughed. “Magic.” He helped himself to a few scones.
He never told anypony about the mechanics of cryo-sleep, so he enjoyed toying with them and listening to their guesses on how he slept so well. What really made Garrett laugh was how everypony came to the conclusion that he slept in the cockpit chair. To make sure that none tried to seek the answer while he slept, he closed the ship’s hatch every time he went to the cryo-tube. Respecting his privacy, nopony teleported to the interior of his ship while the hatch was closed.
“What is the card for?” asked Luna, motioning with a hoof to Garrett’s shoulder.
“Good luck charm. Thought it would have went well with the feather.”
“It clashes, in my personal opinion,” the moon princess added.
“Well, not really,” said Celestia. “For me, it’s quite all right.”
Garrett shrugged. “I’ve seen guys carve skulls into their visors.”
Their meal went on, and casual chats and jokes were tossed every now and then. For once, something was actually normal in between the two alien species, and it was big accomplishment for Garrett since all the aliens he previously knew of wanted him dead.
Once the ODST finished his meal and left, Celestia and Luna were once again the only ones in the room.
“Any news on Dissenso?” Celestia asked, worried.
Luna shook her head. “Nothing.”
“You have guests,” said a guard before opening a door in front of him.
“...I told you not to come back here,” Garrett mumbled to six very familiar heroines as they charged into the room, smiling and cheering as they saw him.
“We brought cupcakes!” squeaked Pinkie Pie, revealing a box full of the treats. Just like always, they were baked with her passion. A simple glance at them was able to seduce anypony to wanting to have at least one.
“I don’t care,” Garrett said, already motioning them to leave.
“We somehow managed to make them full of protein, calcium, and other healthy vitamins and minerals,” said Twilight, reading the recipe. “We also managed to reduce the sugar in them.”
“Ooh oh!” Pinkie Pie squeaked. “They also have coconut frosting!”
“Though tempting, I still don’t care. Go back to Ponyville while you can--”
Garrett was cut off as Pinkie Pie shoved a cupcake into his face, and Rainbow Dash quickly flew up and gently nudged him on the back of the head, forcing him to take a bite. At first he tried to spit it out, but the moment his taste buds sent the message of flavor to his brain, he stopped and began chewing slowly.
“...Keep talking,” he said as he started indulging himself with their bribery.
“As we all know, you aren’t getting the good kind of popularity outside the castle,” said Twilight.
“Here we go,” Rainbow Dash cheered as she rolled her eyes. “I’ll be reading some Daring Do if you’ll be needing me.”
Twilight shot the pegasus a look.
“As I was saying,” her voice drifting off to the annoyed side, “we want you to change your image on Equestria, so we decided to lead a workshop to help you improve your appearance to everypony.”
“One step ahead of you,” Garrett mumbled with a cupcake in his mouth, pointing to his feather and card.
“...More than just your outside look. We want to show them what’s inside, the kind, loving man who has a family and is missing them so much.”
Garrett stopped. “What’s the point?”
“You can’t simply stay in here forever,” Rarity said.
“On the contrary, I can.”
“Oh, Garrett,” Fluttershy begged, “please give us another chance. We’re doing this all for you, after all.”
Garrett paused for a minute. What’s the point? he asked himself in thought. The residents will still hate me. Hell, at least they’re giving you a shot at looking better. He sighed. “Fine, I’ll play along. What’s your first step?”
“That, Garrett, will be handled by Rarity,” said Twilight motioning the white unicorn.
“I know the perfect pony to make even you shine,” Rarity said, bearing a very large grin. “Now, I know you have the attitude for it, and I’m quite sure your armor fits in for the pizazz, especially that feather.”
Fluttershy gave her a look. “Oh, no... Rarity, of all the ponies, please not--” she was cut off as a door slammed opened, followed by a voice that she knew all too well and feared.
“I. HAVE. ARRIVED!”
“--Photo Finish,” Fluttershy whimpered as she finished her sentence.
“Which of you will I help shiiiine across Equestria?” Photo Finish asked as she scanned the room. She stopped at Garrett, easily getting the message. “Ooh, zis will be interesting. Ze cold, aggressive alien warrior is easy to do if you are asking for very tough attitude and a lot of intimidation!”
“Actually, Photo Finish, we want him to look more... approachable,” Rarity corrected her.
Garrett knew his queue, and he silently brought out his small, black box. He flicked open the case and showed off the diamond and sapphire ring within, making Rarity bite her lip in envy. Adding to the scene, he also brought out the picture of his family, showing both objects side by side.
“Think you can do it?” he asked kindly.
“Aaaah,” Photo Finish said, approaching him. She began to poke him around with her hoof. “Zis will be interesting! I can see ze magics in him!”
The photographer snapped to Rarity, “I accept your challenge!”
Garrett looked at his six companions one last time. Then, he gave Photo Finish a confident nod.
“We go!” the pony snapped as she led Garrett to a private room.
“If she starts telling me to rip off my shirt, the deal’s off,” Garrett mumbled before the doors closed, sealing off any communication.
Twilight turned to Rarity, who was busy sketching on various papers. “How did you manage to find her again?”
“Oh, Fancypants has many contacts, you know. At first, it was hard to convince them to get it started, but it became easy after I stressed on the fact that one simple photo can start a lot of talk.”
“I present to you... ZE MAGICS!” Photo finished yelled as she showed off the poster to Garrett, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Appejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Princess Celestia, and Princess Luna.
It was a compilation of two photographs of Garrett standing and looking at the viewer, head bent down slightly. His right half was of him in ODST armor, visor polarized and assault rifle on hand, making him look ready to fight at a moment’s notice. His left half, however, was in his casual clothing. He held his wedding ring on his palm and sported a black UNSC patrol cap. The head was bent at the same angle as the right side, but it made him look like he was deeply burdened. Despite appearing soft, his eyes were hidden by the visor of the cap, making any reader wonder what emotion was under there.
A small text hovered above his head saying, “You can call me whatever you want, but I have a wife and child to look after, and they’re both waiting for me back home, waiting for the father that’s been gone for years.”
Everypony turned to Garrett, who was staring at the photo while he was cleaning a part of his chest plate.
“...Pretty good, but I’m still not comfortable with me having to look so soft,” he commented as he placed down the piece of armor.
“But it’s the best way to show your nicer side,” said Fluttershy.
A knock on the door prevented Garrett from saying another sentence. A guard entered and said, “The first batch of photos are being distributed, and already the media’s buzzing like bees.”
“That’s good. Thank you,” said Celestia before dismissing the guard.
“What’s the next step?” Garrett asked as he placed his armor and gear in an organized pile.
“Make more posters,” Rarity said.
“...Meet the press and the public.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.”
In Ponyville, posters of Garrett being a hero were everywhere. The mayor had one giant poster right outside her bedroom window. It was of the trooper issuing orders to royal guards and helping another get up, and a text hovered on the top saying, “As long as someone needs help, I’m always offering it.”
Even among the royal guards there was a “human” touch. Every now and then one of the guards on routine patrols would have an ace of spades secured to their armor, and he or she would have proudly shown it off. Rumor had it that some guards wanted Garrett to apply face camouflage on them.
The mayor stood on the entrance of Ponyville, fussing over last minute details with her secretary. Majority of the town folk were already taking up their positions, readying themselves to greet the incoming guests.
“Is everything ready?”
The secretary nodded. “Yes.”
“We can’t afford to have anything wrong happen again, especially since Princess Celestia is accompanied by Princess Luna this time.”
“They’re just having lunch here, and the food is catered by the one and only Chef Ratatouille. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“...Remember that other time with the parasprites?”
“Oh yeah... right.”
Right on time, five royal guards flew into the town, scouting out the area. They landed and scanned the location. After a moment, one of them pulled out a small, black box and placed on the ground. He then pressed it with his hoof and said, “The area is secured.”
“Affirmative,” replied a voice from the box that sparked murmurs in the crowd.
Before more discussion came, the royal carriage came into view over the horizon. The closed top made it impossible to see who were the ones inside. As it came to a stop, everypony bowed down as a sign of respect, knowing that at least two of the passengers are the princesses.
The mayor thought to herself, And this is the part when Captain Galea steps out to... Oh no...
“Never knew the royal guard had a new member,” mumbled the mayor’s secretary.
Instead of the captain she expected, an ODST got out of the carriage, pulled down the ramp, and saluted as Celestia, Luna, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy exited.
The greyness of the combat armor which everypony grew accustomed to in the posters was not there. Instead, his armor was shining gold. Areas that plating did not cover were brilliant white, and his visor was sky blue. Philomena’s feather and a UNSC ace of spades were still secured to the shoulder pauldron with a black band. A MA5C assault rifle was attached to the back of his rucksack, his knife was in its sheath, and a magnum pistol was holstered at his waist.
Celestia turned to Garrett and smiled. “Thank you, Garrett.”
“Ma’am, with all due respect, I still think we should have gone with my plan. There’s better security than being out in the open like this.” Especially since whoever made her nervous like last time could be out here...
“I understand your concern, Garrett, but I’m confident that there’s nothing to be worried about here.”
“If you say so.”
Celestia turned to the mayor. “It’s a pleasure meeting you again, mayor.”
The mayor bowed. “And it’s an honor to talk to you again, your highness. With all due respect, why is he-” she pointed to Garrett “-like that? If I remember correctly, he was one of the most wanted in Equestria not too long ago.”
“We were able to get a chance to talk with him and to make him change. Turns out, he’s a very good individual deep within.”
“And, despite our differences, he makes a very good leader,” added Luna. “In one of the most difficult challenges in royal guard training, he personally lead a team of five unicorns to victory.”
“How come you changed his armor, your highness?” the mayor asked again.
Garrett cleared his throat. “Well, after our talks, we agreed to promote synergy. No, we didn’t change my armor, we just recolored it to look like your uniforms, courtesy of Rarity.” He motioned Rarity, and she gave a bow, proud of her work. “If you’re about to ask why, yes, it’s part of the agreement.”
Pipsqueak pushed his way out of the crowd. “Umm... mister?” he nervously mumbled to Garrett. “If you’re gonnna be helping the guards protect us, will you still be mean and scary?”
Garrett slowly walked to Pipsqueak and lowered himself to one knee. “Can you see my face?” he asked in a voice with zero hostility.
Pispqueak tried to focus through the visor, but the only thing he found was his own reflection on the blue faceplate. “No,” he replied.
“Do I look mean?”
“Do I look tough?”
Garrett took off his helmet and gave a gentle smile. The trooper then brought out his ring and picture. He showed them off to Pipsqueak, allowing the little pony to take note. “Can you see a man who cares for his family?”
Pipsqueak nodded. “Yes.”
Rarity saw what Garrett was trying to do, so she cast a spell that made his armor start to fade back into its old shades of grey.
“I’m trying to teach my daughter the positive values I live by,” Garrett said to Pipsqueak, “and I’m trying to make sure she and my wife are safe and have hope in them.” He allowed him to continue looking at the ring and picture. After a while, he asked, “Do I still look like a cold, hardcore killing machine to you?”
Garrett’s armor was completely back to normal.
Pispqueak gave a smile. “No.”
Garrett gave a smile as well, the same kind of smile a father would give before saying how proud he is of his child. “See, kid? If you look past the hard armor of the outside, I’m flesh, blood, and soul-” he nudged Pipsqueak’s shoulder “-just like you.”
“Well said, Garrett,” Celestia said with a smile.
Lunch was set up in a large, beautiful tent outside Ponyville. Long tables lined the sides as the scent of fresh air mixed with the smell of food, inviting whoever passed by. After everypony took their meals and sat, they began going on with their casual conversations, starting with how life has been, the recent news, among others.
Twilight, however, noticed that Garrett was not eating. Instead, he was leaning against one of the poles in a corner, arms crossed. He watched silently and surveyed the area like how regular royal guards would do. “Aren’t you hungry, Garrett?” she asked.
Garrett shook his head. “Ate before we left.”
“Well at least have something. After all, it’s not everyday you get to have something like this,” she said right before licking her lips and helping herself to a daffodil salad.
“Fine. I’ll eat a bagel.”
At a moment’s notice, a unicorn, who was one of the chefs, floated over a plate that had a fresh, hot bagel, sliced in half and expertly buttered.
“Now that’s service,” Garrett said with a smile as he took off his helmet, held the plate, and took a seat with Twilight, Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy.
Before any conversation could have started, a journalist unicorn cleared her throat. “Excuse me, Mister Archer?”
“That’s me,” Garrett said as he turned his head.
“Would it be alright if I pull you aside for a quick interview?” she asked.
A small smile appeared on everypony’s face except for Garrett’s. He merely nodded. “Go ahead,” he said, easing back on his chair.
The journalist floated out a pen and notepad. “The posters and a few sources” -she looked at Twilight “- say that you are a soldier and you have a family. And your race is at war with an alien alliance. Do you sometimes regret leaving them behind?”
“The biggest regret I have so far is standing on the side as a witness and merely watch as people get hurt. I’m not going to let that happen while I have a war going on.”
“Do you think it’s worth travelling far distances just to fight?” the journalist asked again. The tent started falling silent as everypony was starting to shift their attention to Garrett.
“You should see what happens when we hear of a UNSC victory amidst an ocean of defeat. You don’t know how it truly feels like to see your neighbors, friends, and family smile again as they see a good thing in these dark times. I joined because I also wanted to be the one who gave them something to smile and be happy about. Isn’t that at least a small thing worth fighting for?”
The tent was deathly silent as everypony, except the guards, had their full attention on Garrett.
“So you’re proud of being a fighter?” asked the journalist.
“I’m not proud of being known as a merciless, killing machine to a few. People in my reality need heroes to give them hope, so I’m proud of protecting and giving hope to those who’ve lost it, all for a living.”
“In short,” the journalist said, “you’re the sort of hero that many kids want to be.”
“I guess you could say that.”
“Have you experienced anything which made you tell yourself that joining the special forces was the right thing to do?”
Garrett was silent for a moment. “...There was actually this one time I helped a refugee, a kid, back at boot camp. He kept on telling me that he lost his parents, his brother, and his home to the Covenant. Said he just wanted to die already. He said, ‘We’re being attacked everywhere. I’ve lost everything. If the Covenant find me again, I’ll just let them shoot me. It’s better that way.’ I asked him, ‘So you don’t want to live anymore?’ He said, ‘Yes. I just want this all to end. When I die, hopefully, I can finally meet my friend, brother, sister, mom, and dad somewhere else which is nicer, and I finally get to say, right in their faces...”
“‘...I love you.’ After that... he broke down and cried. I stayed by his side the entire time, making him know that there’s at least one stranger that still cared. I promised him, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to stop them from hurting more people, and as long as my pulse is still pumping, I’ll never make anything like that happen to anyone else.’ I’ve been keeping that promise to the best of my abilities.”
“How is he now?”
“After our talk, I saw to it that he was given to a proper family who always wanted to have a son. He even gave me a letter showing how thankful he was. Inside, there was a full deck of cards. Only, it was filled with one kind of card...” He pointed to his left shoulder pauldron. “...The universally lucky ace of spades. UNSC edition, too. Sure, I already had my own, but this batch was something special.”
“Thank you for your time,” the journalist said with a smile before leaving. Everypony started going back to their usual conversations, but the main topic was about the ODST.
“Glad to see that everything went well,” Twilight said, wiping her lips with a napkin.
“I admit, the gold armor part was a nice touch,” commented Garrett, making Rarity smile.
“What is she doing out there?” Garrett pointed to the outside of the tent, showing Rainbow Dash hovering in front of two guards. She began making downright silly faces, attempting to make at least one of them smile. From crossing eyes, to making fake fart sounds, to flailing her tongue in front of them, she tried them, but they yielded no effect.
“Oooh, you’re good... just like last time,” Rainbow Dash said before flying off to Twilight’s table.
“You can’t make them laugh like that,” Garrett said, shaking his head and suppressing laughs. “They’ve been trained not to show any reaction to outside noises or images while the princesses are present.”
“Hey, at least I tried!” Rainbow Dash protested.
“You didn’t try hard enough.” Garrett placed his mouth near her ear and whispered two words that made a very large smile appear on the pegasus’s face. She quickly trotted back outside and faced the same pair of guards, still bearing the sinister look.
“What did you tell her to do?” asked Twilight, raising an eyebrow in suspicion.
Garrett smiled. “Watch.”
Rainbow Dash went directly to the front of one of the guards, still smiling maliciously. The guard, however, showed no sign of emotion. That was until the blue pegasus wrapped her forelegs around his neck and hugged him, causing the other to shoot a very strange look.
All of a sudden, Pinkie Pie slid out of cover from under the tables and came to Rainbow Dash’s side, also grinning. “Ooh! Is it ‘Hug a Guard Day’ today?! Let me join!”
The pink pony also hugged the same guard, who had his lips beginning to quiver in misery and had his eyes desperately fighting to stay staring straight.
The second guard, however, completely lost it. He fell to the ground and burst into laughter.
“Success!” Rainbow Dash cheered. She and Pinkie Pie let go of the guard and began laughing so hard that her sides hurt.
Satisfied, Garrett stood up, took his helmet, and went to Celestia, who was sitting beside Luna. “Ma’am, permission to leave the tent and look around the town.”
Twilight got up and went to Garrett’s side. “Your highness,” she said to them, “May we go and accompany him?”
Celestia smiled. “Go ahead.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Celestia and Luna both felt happy as Garrett left the tent, accompanied by the six ponies they knew as his friends.
When Celestia floated over a salad to share with Luna, both of them noticed the dressing on the salad began forming another message.
Where’s his leash?
“You are wrong, Dissenso,” Luna muttered in a voice soft enough for only Celestia to hear before she began mixing the salad. “Garrett is not a danger to anypony anymore.”
The small party went on just like how any other party with the princesses would be. Hours upon hours of cheers, small conversations, laughs, and endless supplies of delicacies continued until late afternoon.
“...And that’s basically how Hearth’s Warming Eve came about,” said Twilight as she finally finished her lecture on a few of Equestria’s Celebration. She closed the book and returned it to the library shelf.
“How did we get from me asking you for an overview about the town to you giving me a lecture about winter spirits?” Garrett asked.
The unicorn shrugged. “Rarity did say that she, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash would be busy setting up a place. Might as well make myself useful and keep you busy while waiting.”
Garrett leaned back against a table and took a look at an illustration of Pansy, Cookie, and Clover fending off windigoes. “Those... what do you call them? Wintergoes?”
“So windigoes are pretty much what scared the three tribes into caring for each other?”
“No, Pansy, Cookie, and Clover didn’t really hate each other.”
“And their leaders hated the oppositions so much that the windigoes froze them to ice cubes?”
Twilight nodded. “All because of their hate.”
“Hot damn... wish I could ask a few of those windigoes to pay a visit to the heart of the Covenant Hierarchy. Maybe that ought to teach them to stop glassing us.”
“I’ll go make some tea,” Twilight said as she went to the kitchen.
Garrett was left alone in the library. The mere fact of being able to carve a structure inside a tree while keeping it strong was an amazing feat for him. The inner child inside him was screaming with joy as he finally got to be in something better than a tree house. As he silently waited, his helmet started picking up energy readings that were closing around him.
His heart rate quickened, and the hairs on the back of his neck were beginning to stand. Covenant? Please don’t let it be them... not in a place like this.
He quickly brought out the assault rifle on his back and cocked it. He raised the weapon high, and he prepared himself for whatever was coming to meet him. Scanning the room, he found a strange figure taking shape above the staircase. It started as a fine mist gathering up in a small spot. Slowly, it took the form of an earth horse the size of Celestia, but it still kept a translucent appearance.
“...A windigo? Hell no. I’m not getting iced just yet,” Garrett said, pointing his weapon to the strange figure.
Indeed, the strange being had a similar form to a regular windigo, but there was a slight difference. Instead of having a dark blue color, it was glowing red, and it began to slowly make its way down the stairs.
“Don’t even think of taking a step closer to me,” Garrett warned, gently resting his finger on the trigger.
The figure stopped at the bottom of the stairwell and stood there, staring at Garrett. “I have been waiting,” it said in a ghostly voice.
“...Waiting to get shot at?” Garrett asked.
A familiar voice hummed out of the kitchen. “Tea’s ready, Garrett.”
The figure turned its head towards the door, shot a look at Garrett, and vanished, leaving the trooper alone again and confused.
Twilight popped her head out of the kitchen. “Something wrong?” she asked Garrett, who was keeping his assault rifle.
“Could have sworn I saw a windigo,” Garrett said.
“Nice try, but you’re not fooling anyone,” Twilight said as she rolled her eyes. “It’s not even winter.”
“Yeah...” So what the hell were you?
As the scheduled sunset was closing in, which was the time Celestia, Luna, and Garrett were to return to Canterlot, Celestia motioned the attention of a guard. “Please give a message to Garrett that I require him to meet us within an hour.”
The guard nodded and brought out the radio which Garrett lent him. “We’re leaving in the next hour. The princess would like you to be here soon.”
“Leaving, hour, got it,” Garrett replied. “Can’t talk right now. I’m on a boat.”
“...Say what?” the guard asked back.
“The seven of us borrowed a boat. Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and I are rowing, Twilight’s eggheading on figuring out the ‘proper’ rowing technique, Rainbow Dash and Rarity are sunbathing, and Fluttershy’s singing with birds.”
“CANNON BALL!” yelled an unmistakable, high-pitched voice.
“Pinkie!” Garrett snapped, “I said not to-” He was cut off as the sound of Pinkie Pie crashed into the water, and, judging by the noises coming through the radio, the boat rocked and flipped over.
“Agh! My mane!” cried Rarity right before Garrett cut off the radio.
“Oh, Pinkie Pie,” Luna smiled, stifling a giggle, “she truly is a random one. Much like how she was a chicken on Nightmare Night.”
Celestia did not hold back the laugh. “Did I ever tell you about that time she led a parade of tiny creatures... what do they call them? Umm.. parasprites, yes. She lead a parade of parasprites when I scheduled a visit...”
The residents of Ponyville gave the final waves of their hooves as they watched the royal carriage disappear in the horizon. Little by little, the crowd started to dissolve and return to their daily lives. Twilight used her magic to dry her mane that was still damp due to her recent swim in the lake, which has sucked much of her energy like a battery. As she was doing so, she overheard the many comments and remarks of the town folk.
“He’s not so bad.”
“That guy really did sacrifice a lot. I can’t imagine being away from my family for so long. Not to mention having to take care of heart-broken refugees.”
“What a hero...”
“He’s a tough one, I’ll give him that.”
As Twilight was making her way to the library, she passed by Photo Finish, who was smiling with pride as she gave one last scan of all the posters she worked on.
“I have to say, we couldn’t have done it without you, so thanks for all your help,” Twilight said, smiling with the last bits of energy her body could have given.
“Zat was a very... interesting shoot,” the photographer said with a mischievously made grin.
“Uhh... right.” Photographers, I’ll never understand them... without the proper research.
When Twilight finally reached the door, she opened it with her magic and entered her domain, feeling at home once again.
“Your new friend’s not half bad,” Spike said as he was arranging a few books.
“See, Spike? I told you he’s good. Just give everybody time, and he can become a good friend.”
“Heh... yeah...” Spike sighed as he placed the last book left, Daring Do and the Windigoes’ Orb, on the shelf. He mumbled to himself, “And I wish he could tell me a few secrets about getting into shape so I can finally pick up Rari-”
“Sorry? Didn’t catch that,” Twilight said.
“N-nothing,” Spike said, shaking his head.
Captain Galea rubbed the area which used to have a black eye with his hoof, and he looked himself at the mirror, trying to find any evidence of Garrett’s previous act of courage, only to find none. At least the doctors were able to fix it quickly.
Right after he shut the door, he heard stifled giggles echo down the hall. Curiously, he tracked the noise down silently, only to find to mare royal guards suppressing laughs as they were looking at a set of pictures.
“Should I be concerned about what you’re laughing at?” Galea asked.
“Nothing, sir,” replied one the mares, “just a few photos Photo Finish took of Garrett.”
“Mind if I take a peek?” he asked. “I want to see how much more they want us to like him.”
The two mares exchanged looks with very wide grins.
“Sure,” they replied in unison as one of them passed over a photo.
One image was enough to make Galea question what or even how Photo Finish acquired it. It was of him fishing his six friends out of the water, and his shirt easily outlined every flexing muscle of his torso.
The second guard said, “There’s even one picture of him-”
“-I don’t even want to know,” Galea interrupted as he raised his hoof, trying to not act confused as he returned the photo. “I’m not interested in you looking at humans flex their muscles.”
“...Note to self, never do anything that involves water in open places again... unless it’s in boot camp,” Garrett said to himself as he was overlooking the three guards, his face hidden by his helmet visor.
Garrett switched his attention to Galea. “Damn... you would have looked better with an eye patch.”
“Seriously?” Galea asked.
“Yeah, I should punch you more often.”
“No thanks,” Galea smirked. “What are you doing here in the first place?”
Garrett unpolarized his visor and shrugged. “Taking a walk. Currently returning to my ship, but before I go...” Garrett seized the photos and picked up a small lighter from his pocket. He flicked open the cover and lit up the images, starting in the corners, and he smiled as he saw them burn right before him.
The mares gave a few awws, and Galea gave a quick laugh.
“Stay green and mean,” Garrett said before walking away, smirking and leaving behind a small campfire of burning photos.
Celestia accompanied Garrett as he was setting up his ship for the night, mainly by piling up his armor in an organized clutter next to the cockpit chair.
“I have to say thank you for all your help,” Garrett said as he was polishing his ODST helmet. “Never thought it would be possible to change my image in such short notice,”
“Nothing is impossible, just difficult,” replied Celestia. “I’m just glad we-” she was cut off as Garrett’s computer started beeping loudly.
Garrett placed his helmet next to the keyboard and tapped on the file. At once the basic information started marching on the screen.
“Garrett? What’s happening?” asked Celestia.
“Priority one message... Sent in a probe launched into deep space that travels faster than standard channels... Open channel.... Sent three days ago from... damn it.”
Celestia immediately felt and saw Garrett’s mood change back into the soldier to the core. Garrett tapped on the message, and an audio file was opening before them.
The sound of alarms were going off everywhere.
“Commander! The probe is away and ready for recording!” yelled a voice.
Another voice, female, said, “This is Commander Whitmore of the-” a muffled explosion distorted the message “-Station. The Covenant have found Earth. I repeat, the Covenant have found Earth...”
“They’ve opened fire! Ten seconds to impact!”
“All UNSC personnel must fall back! Parts of New Mombasa have already been glassed!”
“Five seconds to impact!”
“...God have mercy on our souls...”
Another explosion, which was not muffled, blew through the speakers, and the message cut to static. Barely, just barely, screams of agony were heard.
Celestia stood there, staring at the screen in disbelief. Worry filled her as she watched Garrett stand like a statue. He took his helmet and stared at his reflection on the visor.
“...Garrett,” Celestia muttered.
“...Get out of my ship...” he breathed through clenched jaws with enough power to stop a Covenant Fleet on the spot.
Sensing the growing danger, Celestia slowly moved closer to him. Every hoofstep was a challenge as each one was shaky. When she got a view of his face, she already saw the pain flowing through every inch of it. “Whatever has happened, I’m sure that--”
“I SAID GET OUT!” Garrett yelled at the top of his voice, which was so loud it shocked Celestia, forcing her to take a few steps back. It was almost as bad as being shouted at through a megaphone. “I GAVE YOU A DAMN ORDER!”
Not wanting to worsen the situation, Celestia gave in and proceeded down the ramp. When Garrett was nearly out of her sight, she finally saw her fear coming true.
Garrett threw his helmet down to the floor, making it a wonder how it came off without a scratch.
“Damn it!” he yelled.
Celestia watched in horror as he began kicking the lockers so hard with the tip of his boot, leaving a dent after every attack. It was a mystery how much force the metals could have resisted, because the alicorn was sure that each hit was strong enough to break a bone.
“I should be there!” Garrett shouted before kicking it again in one violent outburst. “Why?! Where the hell did I go wrong?!”
He cursed and swore until it sounded like his throat went dry. Finally, he fell to his knees and rested his arms and head on the locker.
“...Stupid...” He said to himself as he began to gently pound on the locker with his fist. “You’re suppose to be there... You’re meant to protect them... Where are you now?”
Garrett started to shake. “...Can’t even defend my own home...”
Celestia heard hooves go up the ramp.
“...Sister? What is happening?” asked Luna, who overheard Garrett’s smashes against the locker.
Just by trying to find the words to say, the situation was already affecting Celestia as it was becoming clear to her just how deep it already was.
“...Earth... has been found,” she barely managed to say as she tried to hold down the tears of knowing that an entire race was calling for help for its last stand.
Luna let out a gasp and froze like a statue, listening to Garrett mumble and curse to himself. Celestia turned around and found many other guards standing silent with their eyes closed and their heads tilted down, needing no need for an explanation.
“...Reach... was taken out by a fleet of more than three hundred...” Garrett’s voice was shaking. “They’ve already glassed parts of a city... who the hell knows how many ships they brought?” he asked himself, the words that he feared to say, but it was inevitable that it would have happened in reality.
He let out a long, loud howl of anguish before sobbing silently.
The princesses and the guard were reminded that, despite a being a hardcore soldier, there was always a chink in the armor, and Garrett’s was hit with the heaviest kind of artillery.
Celestia had enough. She somehow managed to break the power which made her stand still like a statue. The sun princess came to Garrett’s side, went down to his level, and wrapped him with her forelegs and wings. Past all the hardened bones, strengthened muscles, and tough will, all of which earned from ODST training, it was easy for her to feel someone who was empty and broken inside.
Luna did the same, attempting to offer any way of comfort to him.
The way the alicorns embraced the humans reminded them so much of how they came to each other’s sides and exchanged care when they were feeling down. Celestia remembered how it felt like to have a loved one again when her sister was finally free of her Nightmare Moon curse, and Luna remembered the same, but Garrett’s situation was different. They both new that it was his turn to have a piece of kindness and compassion, especially now.
“...Earth...” Garrett managed to mumble.
“Whatever it takes, Garrett, just remember that we will always be here,” said Luna.
Garrett sniffed and nodded. “I... need some time...”
As per requested, the two princesses and the guards left the ship and watched the boarding ramp close, sealing them away.
Garrett then went to the cryo-tube and put himself on ice, using the only way he could have found any form of sleep. A few tears managed to slide down his face before they froze along with him.
Luna woke up early in the morning to see how Garrett was doing. As she made her way to the storage room, she tried to convince herself that what happened last night was a dream and that the trooper would come out of the ship smiling. However, all attempts were useless.
The ship had its hatch open, so Luna saw it as the sign that she was allowed to enter.
“Garrett?” she asked before entering the upper area. No response came, and she felt her heart skip a beat as she found the area empty. Some weapons from the armory were removed, the cryo-tube was open, the organized pile of ODST armor was gone, and the mongoose was not in its parking space. A message was left behind on Garrett’s computer.
I need fresh air... a lot of it. I’m not coming back.
“Oh no...” Luna broke into a furious gallop as she exited the Longsword. Outside, she found Celestia bearing a curious and worried look.
“Garrett ran away!” Luna screamed as she made a quick teleportation spell to the outside of the castle in hopes of him not going too far. After she materialized beyond the castle gates, another horror struck her. A scheduled early morning shower of rain had gotten rid of any tracks whatsoever.
Celestia teleported to the area, also hoping to find a clue, but she also discovered the same result. "Oh no..."
With tear-filled eyes, the two of them stood there and attempted to comfort each other, staring at imaginary ATV tracks which had long been erased.
Every guard that was capable was out patrolling and scouting for any sign or trace of Garrett. However, the most they were able to get out of the small clues they found were either burnt out campfires or makeshift beds made from vines and leaves. Surprisingly, they found no animal dead or eaten, considering the fact that humans had meat in their diet.
“A month of searching of searching, sister,” Luna sighed, “and there is still no sign of him. Even our guards from surrounding towns have no news. Twilight and her friends have gone from worried to fearful, knowing that Garrett is losing himself and has no one by his side.”
Celestia kept silent, accepting that fact.
A knock on the door quickly made them snap to attention.
“We have found tracks of his vehicle in Ghastly Gorge, your highness!” a guard said through the door.
At once the two princesses sprung into action and galloped down to their royal carriage. Already there were many pegasus-driven chariots which had two crossbow-wielding unicorns riding.
Ghastly Gorge was just as dangerous as everypony knew it. Crumbling walls of rock, strange creatures inhabiting the empty spaces, and clusters of thorns were scattered about.
Celestia and Luna, accompanied by the guards, left their transports outside. Slowly, they went into the massive gorge and followed the fresh trail of tracks. As they moved on, however, a few guards noticed that something was wrong, as heard by their murmurs.
“Your highness... he was followed,” a guard finally said as he pointed out large paw prints on the ground, “and he knew it.”
The guard then pointed out multiple used shotgun shells and assault rifle cartridges.
Feeling the tension build up in the princesses and the guards, the group started to quicken their pace until they finally found Garrett. He was sitting down on the ground with his back against his mongoose. A shotgun and an assault rifle were stored in the vehicle, accompanied by a box that looked like it was designed to keep large boots. It was the size of the rucksack of the ODST battle armor.
“Garrett!” they called out in joy and relief as they began galloping to him.
Garrett, however, raised his hand to stop them. “Don’t come any closer,” he ordered.
They all stopped, confused. Celestia and Luna began to slowly inch their way towards him.
“Garrett? What’s wrong?” Celestia asked.
“I said don’t go near me!” Garrett yelled, standing up and backing off. There was one new thing noticeable in his tone, something that he never showed since his first encounter with them, fear, and his voice was shaky to prove it.
“We are your friends, remember?” Luna reminded him as she and Celestia continued getting closer.
“Stop!” Garrett pleaded, halting as his back was pressing against a rock wall. Realizing what was happening, he stretched out his neck and revealed a horror to everypony. A collar has been secured tightly around his throat, and it looked like it was specially designed to hold a large, rogue animal.
“Garrett, what happened to you?” Celestia gasped as she looked at it.
“We must take that thing off of you!” Luna yelped. She broke into a gallop.
“No! Wait!” Garrett yelled. The moment Luna was five meters away, the collar glowed yellow and began sending an electric shock through his body, making him scream in agony.
Everypony started to panic as they began to gallop closer to Garrett, hoping to offer any help, but the nearer they got, the more he screamed.
“GO AWAY!” he managed to shout amidst his cries of pain.
Immediately they stopped and retreated. As the distance in between them and Garrett grew larger, the collar stopped giving him the electricity, and the trooper fell to his knees.
“This thing... hurts... a lot,” Garrett groaned painfully.
The day of horrors refused to end as a howl echoed throughout the gorge, followed by the steps of a very large creature.
“Oh no...” Garrett breathed.
A massive animal, which was just as tall as a Covenant hunter, jumped out of the cover of the shadows and into the sunlight. It revealed itself as a werewolf that had eyes that glowed a sinister, hellish red. It had tough, naturally-grown bone plates protecting it as armor, and they bore much resemblance to crocodile scales. Some plates were either damaged or scarred with bullet markings, particularly in the head. It was also able to stand on its hind legs, showing off its incredible height. The werewolf hybrid stood in between Garrett and the ponies, showing off its incredible protection and razor-sharp teeth.
“Who are you?! What do you want?!” Luna demanded as she and everypony else stood their ground.
The hybrid smiled. “I am merely here to deliver a message from Dissenso.”
It held out its paw and wrote the message in the air, leaving the letters highlighted in flame.
“You see? He is behaving now with the nice leash. Decorate it with a few diamonds. He’ll make the perfect pet.”
The message burnt out like candle.
The werewolf hybrid then made its paws illuminate with yellow light, and again Garrett’s collar glowed brightly as a fine, yellow mist began to flow out of it. The trooper was groaning as if a blade was carving something on the surface of his skin. The mist then gathered into a ball and floated to the front of the hybrid, and the creature bit and swallowed it whole.
“Hmm... his power is delicious,” the hybrid complemented, smiling as it saw Garrett struggling to stand up. “Time for some seconds.”
The hybrid quickly did the same process again in a second, and Garrett fell to the ground, motionless and gasping for air. “He will make a very fine meal. Pathetic that he wasn’t so fun to play with.”
Celestia and Luna growled and had their horns glow, preparing to cast a spell with enough power to challenge a MAC gun. The unicorn guards raised their crossbows, and the pegasus guards prepared small storm clouds to shoot lighting bolts.
“Nah-ah-ah,” the hybrid taunted, raising his paw and waving a talon in an insulting manner. “Hurt me, and he-” it pointed to Garrett “-will get it.”
The collar on Garrett’s neck began to glow again. It was as if it was ready to give the death blow. “Please... do what he wants,” he begged.
Having no other options, the horns stopped glowing, the crossbows were lowered, and the storm clouds were dismantled.
“What do you want?” Celestia hissed.
“Now where’s the fun in simply asking and going?” the hybrid asked. “Some predators have a habit of playing with their prey before eating their meal.”
Garrett let out a disgusting cough that sounded as if he was infected by a plague, and it made everypony feel a sense of concern and fear, especially the princesses.
“Can we at least see what is wrong with him?” Luna half-asked and half-ordered.
“Fine, bring out your medic,” the hybrid commanded.
Without a moment’s hesitation, a pegasus guard retrieved a saddlebag full of medical supplies and made his way to he trooper. The pony dragged Garrett to the side of his mongoose and made his back rest against the vehicle. He opened his saddlebag and brought out a small potion. The guard then made the human take off his helmet and drink it to the last drop. The two exchanged murmurs and whispers. The only sentence heard from the two was when Garrett said, “I don’t care. Just do it.”
“All right! Time’s up!” the hybrid yelled, grabbing the pegasus by the shoulder and forcing him back into the crowd.
“How is he?” Celestia asked, hoping for nothing that ran along the lines of plague, sickness, and extensive torture.
“His body is not suffering malnutrition, surprisingly. Currently, he is stabilized, but in order to have a full recovery, he needs to have a steady supply of healing spells and potions in a hospital.”
“Thank you, corporal,” said Celestia, motioning him to move back into the safety of numbers.
The medic, however, looked like he was holding back on something. He bit his lip and shot an unsure look at Garrett.
“You heard your orders, corporal!” Garrett managed to breath. “Carry them out!”
The pegasus snapped. “Sir! Yes, sir!”
The medic turned around, quickly set up a storm cloud, and shot Garrett with a lightning bolt. The attack caught everyone by surprise, and when they came to, the trooper looked as good as dead.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” the hybrid barked as it and everypony else snarled at the medic in anger.
“...Following my orders!” Garrett yelled as he stood up, primed a fragmentation grenade and threw it at the hybrid’s head. It bounced off before detonating and blowing off several parts of its bone plates. It gave a small groan of pain as a few drops of blood oozed from a few newly added wounds.
“Why you little...” the werewolf hybrid made its paws glow again, but the human only laughed.
“Oh, needing this?” Garrett asked as he raised his broken collar which was glowing brightly. “Nice shot, by the way.”
The medic smirked and bowed his head in pride.
Garrett switched his attention to the hybrid. “Call me pathetic-” he cocked his shotgun and kept his assault rifle “-and it’s you who’ll need a medic.”
The hybrid cracked its neck and smiled as play time was about to begin. “Now that’s more I like it.”
The monster was the first to attack by giving a downward slash with its paw. This time, however, Garrett was ready. He jumped to his side and gave a shotgun shell to the head, but because of its extra thick plates, it only caused the werewolf hybrid to feel a bad concussion.
Garrett was not done yet. He stomped on the claw the hybrid used in its first attack, pinning it to the ground. He then pulled out his knife and jammed it into the exposed underarm area. Adding to the pain, he planted his boot on the handle of the blade, forcing it down even deeper.
The hybrid howled in pain, and everypony, including Celestia and Luna, cheered for Garrett as he cocked his shotgun and shot the beast again, only to have most of his shots stopped by the bone armor. In an attempt to fight back, the creature, who still had the trooper putting his weight on its forearm, shoved him away. It pulled out the blade in its arm and inspected its own blood.
As the hybrid focused its attention to Garrett, who was lying down with his back on the ground, it saw an assault rifle aiming straight at its head.
Garrett squeezed the trigger and yelled with the voice of an army as he shot lead at the beast, who covered itself with its arms for protection.
A full magazine of rounds was definitely enough to enrage the hybrid. Once it heard the angelic click of an empty gun, it pounced Garrett and grabbed him with its teeth. It then gave a very short jolt of electricity through its canines, making the trooper scream in agony. Finally, it flung him towards the guards.
The ponies scrambled to dodge the human projectile.
Celestia and Luna both managed to flap their wings up in time and cushion his crash with a layer of magic. However, they took that as a cue to join in the fight.
Celestia conjured up weapons that took the form of throwing spears that glowed brightly, the same ones she used when she threatened Garrett. Luna, on the other hoof, created free-floating lightning bolts, intimidating the hybrid as it gave a glance on the power of one single pony.
“Well, it’s been nice playing,” the hybrid said with a smile, setting itself down on all fours, “but I’m really in a hurry to Ponyville.”
It broke into a sprint and quickly climbed up the the canyon. Celestia and Luna flew to the air and followed the hybrid, shooting it with their weapons.
“After it!” a guard shouted as everypony began making their way back to the carriage and chariots. The unicorns carried Garrett and his gear with magic, including the mongoose.
They loaded Garrett onto a chariot, and they brought his mongoose into another. Medics were already treating him with several potions. The pegasus-drawn vehicles flew to the air, and the ones that carried the ODST and his possessions were going back to Canterlot.
Celestia and Luna, both adrenaline pumped, took turns in strafing the hybrid as it made its way to Ponyville. It was as fast as a cheetah and was dodging their attacks as they came. It seemed like the odds were in its favor, but, the explosion of a fragmentation grenade near its side forced it to slow down.
“Your highness! Please get on board” cried a guard as their chariot flew to their side. Sitting outside and next to the door was Garrett, who was readying his shotgun and assault rifle.
The two princesses quickly got inside, and Garrett climbed in through the window.
“Stay in here, and don’t get in the way,” Garrett ordered.
“Garrett, go back to Canterlot,” Celestia said. “Let us handle this. Besides, you need medical attention.”
“I don’t care,” Garrett said, temper growing. “The medics gave me some potions to help me go on a bit more. I’ll take care of this guy.”
Garrett slammed his fist on the side with a loud bang.
“I’VE FAILED TO DEFEND MY WIFE, CHILD, HOME, AND EVERY DAMN THING I HELD DEAR!” he shouted, scaring everypony who heard him. “I will not let my friends get hurt today! So shut up and stay out of my fight!”
Luna and Celestia stared at him in shock.
“Please... for me,” Garrett asked in a more gentle tone.
Hesitantly, they both nodded.
Garrett unpolarized his visor. Instead of the defeated, empty soldier that they previously saw, they found a man who was smirking in pride as he knew he had nothing left to lose and everything else to gain.
Inside him, Garrett felt the power and courage to fight a thousand brute chieftans with his own hands. “Thanks.”
A chariot, which was drawn by Turbulence and Downburst, caught up to them.
“Get on!” Turbulence shouted.
Garrett opened the door of the carriage and jumped across.
“Stay low! Tilt and circle around him! Keep giving me a good view!” he ordered.
He aimed his assault rifle at the hybrid, who was tracking them with its head. In steady bursts, Garrett kept on shooting the monster until the very last round. He replaced the magazine and continued firing. Finally, after the last bullet hit the hybrid’s head, the ODST felt a small amount of relief as he saw some of the bone plates finally break off.
“Land on the ground, and charge like you’re going to ram it!” Garrett barked as he pulled out his shotgun and kept his rifle.
“Are you crazy?!” Turbulence shouted.
“Hell yes I am! Take off once you pass it!”
The pegasi did as he ordered, and the chariot dove right into the ground, landing hard. It then turned and faced the hybrid, still at full speed.
Here goes nothing, Garrett told himself before he jumped off, sliding across the ground on his back. He then saw himself getting closer and closer to the hybrid. His body made his senses tuned in so well it was if time was slowing down slightly. When he finally got close, the ODST raised his shotgun and fired at clearest possible target before crashing into one of the legs.
The hybrid fell to the ground and howled in extreme agony. The pegasi guards pulling the chariot gave loud cheers.
“Ooh! Point blank!” shouted Downburst.
“Good thing that part had a piece of armor!” yelled Turbulence.
Garrett stopped himself right after he passed through the hybrd’s legs, turned and aimed his shotgun, and gave volleys of lead until the gun was empty. Next, he climbed up its back, pulled out his knife, and stabbed it on the soft side of its neck, making it howl in pain again.
The hybrid had enough. It bent down, grabbed Garrett with its powerful jaws and thrashed him in the air like a dog’s chew toy.
The ODST yelled in pain as he was unable to do anything but welcome the attack.
Finally, the hybrid let go and flung him to the ground.
“You fool!” it spat as it licked its teeth, tasting Garrett’s blood. “Did you honestly think that your cheap attack was enough to stop me?”
Garrett slowly got to his feet, gripped his side, and felt blood soak his hand. “That? Hell no! I just needed you distracted,” he said as he unpolarized his visor. He then pulled out a detonator and flicked open the cap. The trooper grinned.
"Checkmate." Garrett pressed the button.
The hybrid looked at him in confusion, then its stomach made a violent turn as it heard a beep that originated from somewhere near its head. It raised a paw and ran it across its neck. After discovering its new collar of plastic explosives, it gave a yelp before the explosion cut it off and left a pile of smoke. The aftermath of the explosion blanketed the area with silence and the smell of fumes, or, for Garrett’s nose, victory.
“Heh, I always knew you were lucky,” Garrett said to Philomena’s feather and the ace of spades on his shoulder.
As the effects of the potions were wearing off, Garrett fell to his knees, smiled to himself, and inspected the smoke. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the red, windigo-like figure watching him from afar, staring at him in a way that it looked like it was deciding if it should finish him off, but it quickly vanished before the ODST was able to make any remark.
“At least you’re dead,” Garrett said as he turned to the smoke, which was beginning to clear. “...Are you kidding me?”
The werewolf hybrid was still standing there and still carrying its face of surprise, but the expression was also mixed with pain. Cracks started to appear along its body, and each one was glowing dazzling white. As more cracks formed, it started to limp its way to Garrett, one foot after the other.
Feeling too weak, Garrett stayed where he is, staring at the hybrid.
The hybrid fell to its knees in front of Garrett and went down to his level. “I... hate... you...” it growled.
Garrett brought out a middle finger and smiled. “Right back at you.”
The hybrid became encased with a bright, white light, then detonated into an explosion of energy so powerful it lifted Garrett off of the ground and sent him into a flight. He crashed into the second floor of Carousel Boutique. He then landed on the stairs, hard, and slid off, finally stopping after he hit the first floor.
“...G-Garrett?” Rarity stuttered as she emerged from the cover of a table and took off his helmet with her magic. “Oh my word! What did that monster do to you?!”
“Hell, I don’t know,” he managed to cough out as he tasted a small amount of blood in his mouth. The effects of the potions were completely gone, and he was finally realizing how much he forced himself through. Every single cell in his body screamed about weakness and pain. “Is everyone safe?”
“Everypony’s unharmed,” Rarity replied as she was connecting mannequin poles to make a makeshift stretcher. She then transferred Garrett to it and began wrapping his wounds with her fabrics. Adrenaline and a sense of responsibility filled up the unicorn as she knew there was someone who needed her help. “Now let’s get you to the hospital.”
“I’ve got nothing left...” he coughed as he ripped off his dog tags. “ODSTs always go out with a grand finale, and I guess this is mine-”
Rarity cut him off as she covered his mouth with her hoof. The loss of blood and the recent torture to his body made Garrett slipped off into unconsciousness. The dog tags fell off his hand and hit the ground with loud clinks.
“You’ve been giving so much to us, Garrett,” Rarity said. “Now it’s our turn to give to you.”
Luna flew in through the hole of the shop, desperation and worry feeding ever action. She finally came down the stairs and found Rarity and Garrett.
“I found him!” Luna called out.
The alicorn went to Garrett’s side, offering any form of help she could have given. She found the dog tags on the floor and picked them up.
The front door opened, and Celestia and a group of medics entered.
“We’ll handle it from here,” a medic said.
“Right this way,” the nurse breathed as she led Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie into Garrett’s room. Each of them had mixed emotions churning inside them as the doctor opened the door.
Garrett was the only one in the room. His torso was wrapped in bandages, and he was still unconscious, bearing a tired and slightly defeated face. His armor, which was magically repaired, cleaned, and still bore Philomena’s feather and the ace of spades, lay in a table next to him.
They all were quiet as they knew that he needed as much rest as possible.
“We’ll be giving him another dose of potions and medicines later. If you’re going to stay and watch as we do it, just remember that they can smell a bit... funny sometimes,” the nurse said as she closed the door, leaving the six of them in the room with Garrett.
“He looks so...” Twilight lost her words. “Anyway, let’s get this over with.”
She pulled out a book and opened it to the first chapter.
“I thought I was going to read chapter one!” Rainbow Dash whispered as she desperately tried to hold down her excitement.
“We agreed that you read the part where she actually goes into the temple, remember?”
“Oh, right. Sorry, just got a bit excited there.”
Twilight cleared her throat and searched for the first line. “When Daring Do heard of the Legend of the Windigoes’ Orb, she immediately began digging through every archive she knew of, searching for every possible clue like how a dog finds its chew toy...”
“I’m sorry, your highness,” the doctor said to Luna, “but there have already been too much visitors who came to see him. The only problem was that he was unconscious the entire time and is in no shape to be waking up soon. He needs a steady supply of healing spells and potions to repair the damage, and he needs to be checked regularly for any problems. The earliest time he may actually regain consciousness is about five days.”
“Please, doctor, I just want to give him something, a gift,” Luna begged gently.
The doctor sighed. “All right, your highness. Please add it to the pile, then.”
Luna sighed in relief as she saw the doctor motion her to follow him down the hallway. As she passed by each door, the moon princess tried to keep herself focused, but her mind kept on straying off to uncomfortable thoughts, such as the possibility of Garrett never finding happiness again. She finally snapped back into reality as the doctor showed her the door.
“Thank you, doctor,” Luna said with a weak smile.
Luna opened the door, and immediately, the smell of potions and medicines filled her nostrils. She entered the room, closed the entrance, and turned. The mere sight of the interior of the room was enough to make her relieved and glad that she knew Garrett was getting as much support as possible.
Half of the entire room was filled with letters of appreciation and gift baskets from various senders, ranging from the Ponyville town folk, the mayor, Celestia, Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and even a few of the royal guards.
As for Luna, she came to Garrett’s side, showing calm and genuine happiness to a still unconscious man who did not know she was there. She opened her wing and revealed her gift to him, his dog tags, his identity.
Using no magic at all, Luna took the dog tags, placed them on Garrett’s palm, and closed his hand with her own hooves. Despite knowing that he may not be able to hear her, she tried her chances.
“You have protected the innocent and put your life on the line for strangers who thought of you as an evil. For that, thank you, Garrett.”
Still, Garrett was motionless and offered no response. Luna turned her head and began to make her way out of the room, but as she tried removed her hoof from his hand, she felt a small shock travel through her spine.
There was resistance.
She turned and saw Garrett’s hand gripping her hoof gently. His hand began moving and shifting until it had a better hold. Luna guessed it as how a human would have held the hand of another.
Garrett’s eyes fluttered and opened ever so slightly.
“...Please... don’t leave me... I don’t... want to be... alone...” he begged in a faint whisper.
Those simple words made Luna feel the same kind of cold loneliness she felt while on the moon for a thousand years under her Nightmare Moon curse. Never wanting to let anyone else feel as lonely again, she floated over a small stool with her magic, took a seat, and kept her hoof in the trooper’s hand.
“...Thank you...” he managed to whisper before becoming too weak to do anything again.
Luna smiled and stayed quiet as she watched him, satisfied that she was able to get Garrett to know that he was sure to have friends by his side. She stayed with him way beyond the time he fell asleep and until she herself needed to rest.