Chapter! Finally! Go, read, enjoy. I'm so sorry.
KA-CHUNK! 42 pulled back hard on the crossbows lever, sending a bolt flying straight through the centre of one of the many apples that had been positioned along several fences at different distances from the main shooting point. The apple exploded in vibrant spray of red flesh and juicy innards. Parts flew all over the place and impacted on the surfaces of other apples, jostling them on their positions which they had maintained until that point. Before the remains of the apple could hit the ground with the bolt, 42 had drawn back the bow string and slotted another bolt onto the top of the crossbow.
They had been at this for the best part of two hours and to be honest, 42 was having a wonderful time. Adapting to the awkward pony design for a crossbow was awkward at first but had quickly been remedied by adjusting the position in which he held it slightly. The group had been competing for best shot of the group. While Luna had been fairly accurate with her use of magic and Applejack with her experience of this particular device, 42 and Rainbow Dash had been left at a slight disadvantage. 42's anatomy had left him with a pitiful score towards the beginning of the game but was slowly starting to catch up with Applejack and had already overtaken Luna. Rainbow Dash with he iconic stubbornness, or so Applejack said, refused to give up but was still trailing behind the rest of the group at such a large gap that everyone else agreed to give her double points. She still wasn't very high up on points. 42 stepped down from the shooting area and allowed Dash to take the crossbow from his hands as Luna and Applejack cheered her on.
“C'mon partner you can do it.” Dash snorted at the cheers of encouragement as though they were mocking her. Pushing herself into a bipedal position and steadying herself with her wings, she put the stock of the crossbow to her shoulder, waiting for the right moment to fire. Being a Pegasus, she had an innate feeling for the presence, direction and speed of the wind. While her shooting may have been off, it would never be at the fault of her misjudging the winds effect on the bolt's flight path. Taking a little longer than usual to line up her shot Rainbow just stood there and breathed lightly. Closing her eyes she began to concentrate. Applejack and Luna looked as confused as the other while they observed Dash perform her, odd, method of shooting.
“What in the hay is she doing.” Applejack whispered across to Luna but she stated that her guess was as good as Applejack's. 42 however stood there and impassively watched. He had seen this look before. It was a look any soldier worth his salt with a rifle would pull from time to time. He, himself had done it may times although he never really looked at his own face yet he could feel the world sink around him whenever he whipped the scoped weapon up to his shoulder and put his sight down the cross-hairs. The tiny speck of a grunts head from afar as his breath shallowed and usually stopped outright. This was the look of a trained marksman. It was obvious Dash had managed to find some sort of inner peace and with it the eye of a hawk.
Before Luna or Applejack could interject Dash opened her eyes and snapped the crossbow firmly to her shoulder. In the pull of a lever she sent the bolt flying through not one but two apples as they skewered along the bolt like a kebab stick. The bolt rested in one of the posts used for the farthest fence. Luna and Applejack stared at the feat with jaws slackened. 42 stood there smiling inside his helmet smugly as Rainbow Dash's swagger returned to her and she jovially trotted back to the rest of the group.
“I dare you to beat that Applejack!” And with that Rainbow trotted off with a gleaming smile upon her face. 42's only opinion on the matter was that someone should seriously sort out her superiority complex.
Applejack and Luna, deciding they had been at the range long enough, decided to leave and asked 42 for his company. While reluctant to leave the range he was very interested in learning more about the world he would inevitably be spending more time on, perhaps he would never leave. 42 shook that thought from his head instantly, as picturesque as this world seemed he needed to be back where he belonged, fighting to protect humanity along with the rest of the UNSC. 42 decided his top most priority for adapting to this new environment would be learning the landscape. If he could detail every piece of land off by heart then should things turn awry then he would be able to make a quick getaway, failing that guns were always an option. He must have been thinking longer than he realised because when he paid attention to the outside world again he could see Twilight's library down the road and the rest of his company chatting amongst themselves.
“So what do you think is going on then?” 42 looked down to see Rainbow Dash floating a slight distance form the floor and looking up at him.
“Oh I've been thinking about things. Wasn't paying attention.” 42 mentally face-palmed, out of all the things that a Spartan could do, blanking himself out to the outside world was as stupid as you could get. He blamed this serene world for applying no challenges to keep him on edge and active. Rainbow Dash floated up to his visor and began pointing at various Ponies and other native species of this planet. The addition of Minotaurs, Griffins and Zebras intrigued 42 but that probably wasn't what she was trying to show him. Honing in on specific ponies or creatures he quickly derived a pattern. Everyone appeared hindered and in slight pain. Looking over to Applejack and Luna, even they were clutching their heads slightly from time to time. A most peculiar incident indeed. “Why has everyone got a headache?” 42 asked looking back at Dash.
“Exactly.” Rainbow stated after wincing and holding her head again. “I don't know why everyone is like this but you seem to be the only one not experiencing it. Is there something you're not telling us?” 42 could sense some hostility creep into Rainbow's voice. Nothing major just a mild edge, a perfectly natural reaction to a situation like this.
“I honestly have no idea.” 42 told the truth and Dash seemed to ease up a bit yet still kept a close eye on him. Her large pupils giving an unnerving gaze to any lesser man but a Spartan was better than that. Walking up to the door of Twilight's, he twisted the nob and stepped inside. The first thing that came to his attention was a sheer mountain of books occupying the centre of the library's floor. Sitting around said mountain was Celestia and Twilight as they levitated books in front of their faces, quickly read a line or two, and then swapped to the next book along, sometimes doubling back on themselves. They seemed so entranced in their studies that they either hadn't noticed the group enter or had simply not bothered to acknowledge them.
42 rapped his knuckles on the wall and was in turn greeted by a clatter of books hitting the ground as Twilight and Celestia both shot their heads around. Both winced at the loud sound as did the ponies standing behind him, confirming his suspicions that they had been experiencing similar symptoms to the rest of the town.
“Ah 42 I see you have returned along with the others.” Celestia chimed in but didn’t have her usual charisma or tone. 42 knew something was definitely up at this point and with that training kicked in.
“Ma'am is everything alright?” 42 began slowly treading up to the pair as he peered at the books they were reading. He couldn't make out titles but the silhouette of a human on the front cover of one book told him enough to question further. “What are you reading?” Celestia turned her head to the same book he had been observing and picked it up in her magical aura before passing it over to him. Causing thorough surprise from 42 as he had expected some reluctance towards relinquishing the book.
“It is fine 42.” She said in a pained tone. “I thought I may have heard reference to your species before but this solidifies some sort of connection. Research has just been a tad harder than usual with this headache which seems to have enshrouded everyone’s mind. So Celestia knew about the weird outbreak of headaches then. 42 needed to look into this but was more intrigued by the book which now lay rested in his hands. Opening the pages he began to flick through them as Celestia narrated to him and the rest of the group.
“Our research has lead us to a copy of scrawls originating from the earliest points of pony history. The history of anything civilised in fact seeing as we were the first truly civilised race on this planet as far as records show. The scrawls depict a story considered nothing more than an old ponies tale but may now have some truth in it. The general idea of the story was about two god like races who looked very similar but were very different. One race of gods were known by ponies as Hoikan chu mara, translating from archaic pony dialect to something roughly along the lines of 'those who love and guide us'. They apparently raised us and the other inhabitants of this world from the stage of animals and taught us how to become self sufficient. The other species known simply as Kardem or 'the others' were very mysterious group but were mutually hated among ponies. The Hoikan watched us for untold years before involving themselves in a conflict with the Kardem. No records indicate whether they lost or not but they never returned. The Kardem however did show up to our door steps for the first time. At first ponies were not very smart and did care about the differences in their appearance, seeing it merely as a sign of escalation in physical form but they soon realised their folly”. 42 was quite shocked as to what he was hearing. Being a Spartan on a ship tasked with locating Forerunner installations he had a fair bit of classified knowledge under his belt and some of this 'old ponies tale' was adding up quite nicely with what Humans had uncovered about the ancient history of Humans and one of their foes. What gaps could be filled by this story. It was at this point that Twilight resumed where Celestia had left off.
“The Kardem began to study ponies rather than raise then and would often abduct one or two to never be seen again and this sowed distrust in the pony populace as their brethren went missing and they began to tie the links between their missing gods and these new counterparts. Members of the other native species living upon this planet witnessed similar treatment. Whoever these new gods were they were not the Hoikan and things began to come undone from there. Rebellions began rising throughout the globe but were always thwarted instantly by the gods amazing abilities but ponies were not helpless unlike the other native species as the Hoikan had previously gifted the with what we now call magic and they managed to win a few minor battles against the new enemy but they were ruthless.” Twilight held her head even more as a surge of increased pain shot through here head as did all the others in the room bar 42 himself. She quickly recovered and continued. “Things get a lot more vague from here but what is written is that before natives could secure any real victories a new threat emerged. Something described as the Gargarin deimos or 'great tide of demons' began to emerge. At first ponies and the other member species assumed these monsters had been the doing of the Kardem but those assumptions were quickly put to rest as they themselves also fought the new abomination, and were loosing. Eventually the Kardem left the world to the fate of the Gargarin but thats were things don't make sense. If the Gargarin were much more powerful than ancient ponies... how are we and the other inhabitants still around?” 42 was equally confused as was every other member of the group as they chatted vigorously amongst themselves. “How long has your species been around 42?”
“What do you mean?” He replied in a cool collective tone although he already knew where this conversation was heading. Twilight continued with her train of thought.
“Well the descriptions in these texts of the Hoikan are very accurate to what we have observed of your so far. Are the Hoikan... Humans?” Sirens were going off in 42's head. There was no way he was going to cough up possibly the biggest crunch of classified intel ever to a bunch of curious ponies, Equines be damned.
“We haven’t been around that long I can assure you. Our technology isn't even up to scratch with what the Hoikan were described to have if they gifted you magic.” This quelled her questioning for now but most certainly didn't make her happy with the results. She was about to ask more when a Celestial guard burst into the room.
“Your majesties, troubling news from Canterlot requires your attentions immediately.” He did not notice 42 as he had seen the red dot coming for ages and had began activating his active camouflage accordingly. Celestia and Luna nodded and motioned for the guard to step out of the room for a moment. With the guards leave they instantly turned towards the rest of the group.
“This must be very serious if they require both me and Luna. My little ponies...” She turned to 42 as he de-cloaked. “And 42. I would like you to remain here in Ponyville and remain vigilant in case the trouble finds its way to here. I'm sure anything that might threaten you will be swiftly dealt with by our newest guest to Equestria. I am putting a lot of faith in you to protect my student and her friends 42 I hope you respect this.” 'Respect'? 42 thought she was more of a fool to leave them in the custody of an unknown variable but he relished the chance to solidify relationships between Humans and Ponies ready for Fleetcom intervention. Once they found out that is. Celestia cut his train of thought off by continuing. “However, if I find out that you are related to the trouble or are responsible for it yourself there will be grave consequences for you.” 42 wasn't sure whether she was pulling a bluff or not but sure as hell didn't want to push an already strained situation here and gave her a mild salute instead.
“You can count on me ma'am.”
“Thank you 42.” And with that Celestia and Luna went outside to a waiting chariot and took off. 42 observed this through the window of the library but attributed this phenomenon to magic before getting himself confused. Turning towards the others he grabbed his Sniper Rifle off his back magnetic plate before loading the firing chamber.
“Alright. We're at status yellow. First order of business... terrain.”
Phew. This long already huh. Well to be honest I kinda went off this for a bit, what with being swamped by A-level work and I also wanted to ride it out for Halo 4 in case any plot points could be added, and they did, so it was totally worth it but I digress. Please note that chapters will not be regular for sometime but I will always try working some space in my schedule for this story but nothing is guaranteed. On a good note though, I'm not sure about you guys but I think my writing skill has increased ever since I began taking English A-level.
Please remain calm. ~ Super Intendant