• Published 14th Feb 2012
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Halo: ODSP - GySgt Buck



Orbital Drop Shock Ponies...Need I say more?

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Ch. 1 - Aftermath

"Veronica, what the hell are we looking at?"

Captian Veronica Dare looked out from a large viewport on the bridge of the UNSC Prowler Fast and Loose and tried to think of an answer to Buck's question. And, what, exactly, was Buck referring to? Before them were two unbelievable sights; one was unbelievable due to past experience told them it was highly unlikely, more like impossible, while the other was unbelievable due to the nature of the thing that was out there didn't appear on any instruments.

Out of all the battles against the Covenant that took place in space, Dare, and Buck, for that matter, had never seen Covenant ships decimated in this way. Sure, they'd seen Covie ships destroyed. A MAC round through the bow of a Covenant ship would, if the shields were popped beforehand, tear through the entire ship, gutting it and sending half of the interior out the rear. Plasma, on the other hand, would melt away the exterior, causing the ship's hull to be seared and melted. But this was something else entirely.

"Well, Buck, it appears to be the remains of a Covenant battle group consisting of about half a dozen ships...one of which appears to be," she searched for wording, "cut in half."

Eddie Buck snorted on the intercom. "That's one way to put it...I've seen cross sections that weren't as smooth!"

Buck was right. The Corvette had been cut cleanly in two, straight down the middle. Individual compartments could be seen along the interior of the ship. Debris and what Dare suspected were bodies of Covie soldiers were still drifting out into space. Whatever happened had happened recently. They just missed one hell of a fight. Dare sighed. What in the world had happened?

~ ~ ~

Gunnery Sergeant Buck stared at the three dimensional holographic render of the battle...no, no, that was too generous. Massacre was a better term. Apart from the two halves of the Corvette, another Corvette appeared to have sections just missing. It was as if someone had teleported spherical sections of the ship away from the inside. It honestly resembled Swiss cheese. Buck was suddenly stricken with a craving for the stuff. He chuckled.

"This ain't freakin' you out, none, Gunny?"

Buck turned towards his heavy weapons specialist, Corporal Miles, death's head scrawled on the front of his ODST armor. Dutch hated the covenant as much as anyone that had served in the war, but he seemed shaken, almost disgusted with the scene before them.

"Well, its always a pleasant sight to see decimated Covenant ships. I mean, two Corvettes, one in pieces...two perfect pieces, one full of holes. What appears to be the remains of two light cruisers..." Buck glanced through the hologram at a fully armored ODST, helmet and all, holding up three fingers in contradiction to his statement. "Alright, if you say so, Rookie."

"He's right, Gunny. More engines in the debris field than if it was just two cruisers..."

"ANYWAY..."

"What's important, Gunny, is that the action's over, right? No need to get our hands dirty. Fine by me."

Buck sighed in mock defeat. "You know what, Romeo? Yes, I'm happy. The Covenant in this area are all dead. No risk to us at all anymore. Our work is done. Oh, wait. I wonder what the hell could have done that to that many Covenant ships? Will it do the same to us? Did you ever think of that?"

Lance Corporal Agu, better known as "Romeo" as well as the squad's sniper, threw up his hands and put a frown on his dark face. "I'm more worried about whatever that thing is out there. I sure hope Ms. Naval Intelligence has an idea, because I sure as hell don't."

"Your insight is an invaluable asset to the human race, Romeo. Mickey, what have you got?"

Private Mickey, the demolition's expert, tapped on the console in front of the hologram. The image zoomed out, shrinking the remains of the Covenant vessels' debris field to the size of a baseball. Whatever the "thing" was, appeared to be the size of a planet in comparison, except there was nothing on the holographic display...just a giant void of nothingness.

"Well, radio waves can't penetrate it. No kinds of scans we send out come back. Nothing is there, but something HAS to be. Stars don't just disappear and reappear like that. You can see a horizon of a planet that's supposed to be there whenever we move. Its circular, maybe even spherical, if it isn't totally flat. Its strange, Gunny, whatever it is."

Mickey had hit the nail on the head. The war was over, wasn't it? All Buck and his Squad had been doing was jumping planet to planet, mopping up Covenant resistance and occasional human uprisings. This was on a totally different scale. Veronica had called them in for a "special" assignment. At first, Buck had wanted no part of it. After New Mombasa, Buck had tried to make amends with Veronica. A punch to the face wasn't exactly what he had had in mind when he went to her with a drunken marriage proposal, but he had tried. But for some reason she had called him up, all mystery and urgency with this new assignment. Those two things had never set well with Buck about anything, person or situation. Veronica was no exception.

~ ~ ~

Fast and Loose proceeded to skirt the debris field. It took around five minutes for anyone to notice that there was one more Covenant ship, a battle cruiser, still in one piece. Everyone held their breath when it decloaked, but it immediately powered down. Dare had never seen a Covenant ship go dark before outside of drydock; its engines were cold and there were no readings on its shields or weapon systems. A thermal scan indicated there were life signs aboard so whatever had caused this, she surmised, was gone or had been destroyed by the capital ship.

"Penny for your thoughts, Captain Dare?"

"I'll give you my two cents for yours, Damocles." Dare turned towards the ship's AI, Damocles, "his" holographic self image of a classical Roman sculpture of a man, draped in a sash, holding a gladius. Milky white granite, Damocles nonetheless spoke and moved as if a golem, brought to life, his nasally, hoity toity accent giving him an air of upper-class snobbery that matched his way of thinking.

"I think we happened upon a party a tad too late. The ship's scans indicated no plasma, nor EX residue. MAC rounds, Archer missiles, plasma...nothing explains what could have happened. I will say this though..." He turned towards the battle cruiser. "I'll wager the remaining Covenant are praying to their gods with every word in their language and ours."

Dare couldn't help but laugh. "So, what's the plan, then? Do we continue to monitor? Head back to Earth? I'm thinking about sending out a probe to that..." She couldn't bring herself to say it.

"Planet?" Damocles ventured. "That's my best guess. It does appear to be spherical given its unchanging shape during our initial sweep of the area. A probe is a good idea, considering the Covies' systems are powered down. I usually wouldn't recommend it but since the remains of all those ships are between us and the survivors, I don't think they'd be able detect the probe even if they were looking for it."

Dare bit her lip. "All right. Make it so. I'm going to go down and brief the squad. Getting their input might shed some light on something we haven't thought of."

Damocles scoffed. "Please don't compare me to those neanderthals. I may not be human but I certainly can think without a gun or a grenade."

"Those 'neanderthals' are some of the most capable and bravest men I know, not to mention ingenuitive. Have you read their file on the Battle of New Mombasa? The mission is still classified 'eyes only' but their time spent fighting on the surface shows they're worth their weight and are an asset to the UNSC, as well as ONI. I brought them along for a reason. They're perfect candidates for a little trip over to board that battle cruiser." Dare considered for a moment. "If we meander our way through the wreckage, we might be able to get within a few hundred meters of them without being noticed. Boarding will be a breeze if they stayed powered down."

Damocles was uncharacteristically silent. She had struck a nerve.

"What? I know Prowlers aren't meant for direct combat but this situation is a perfect use of their skills and Fast and Loose is the perfect tool to get them there."

"I suppose you have a point. Be warned. I have a slipspace solution ready just in case. I won't hesitate to leave your band of misfits out there at the first sign of that ship powering up. If I hear an engine sputter we're jumping."

Dare turned to leave the bridge. "Aren't you sweet? Shall I have them pick up a souvenir from the gift shop?"

"How about a chisel? I could stand to lose some weight."

~ ~ ~

"This ain't freakin' you out, none, Gunny?"

Deja Vu notwithstanding, Buck was sure he had heard Dutch say this a few hours before. And the answer was yes, it was freaking him out. While Dare was briefing them on the possible plan to jump over to the battle cruiser, a crewman on the bridge had informed Dare that the life signs on the battle cruiser started disappearing. The carnage Buck saw now mimicked the wrecked ships out in vacuum. Brutes and grunts were cut in half. Glowing blood decorated the already purple bulkheads. No shell casings and no plasma burns. Pieces of the alien species were missing or had been forcibly removed. Massive entry wounds the size of a golf ball was another common wound. Buck lifted a Brute's head with his foot, examining such a wound. Satisfied, he moved on to the next corpse.

"Gunny?"

"Leave him be, Dutch. We're all shaken up. Its strange when we're not the ones responsible for the pile of dead Covies." Romeo looked up and spied a Jackal head looking at him from the wall. It almost appeared to be...mounted. He cocked his head. "Hey, Rookie, go in that room and tell me what you see."

The Rookie stepped over a couple of Grunts and towards the door which Romeo motioned him. He checked his motion tracker and walked to the door. It was slightly ajar and with little effort he forced it open. The Rookie held his silenced SMG against his shoulder while he poked his head through the entry way. Romeo and the rest of the squad looked at him anxiously. He came back out, pointed at his helmet and made a throat slitting motion. He pointed at the head Romeo was examining, then at his own chest, then motioned inside the room. "You're kidding." Romeo stepped over some Covie corpses, pushing the Rookie out of the way. He stuck his head into the room, pulled it out, then stuck it back in in disbelief.

"That Jackal's been forced through the wall!"

Mickey had stepped up to examine the Jackal's head. "But Romeo, there's no perforation in the bulkhead. The head's just...on the wall, like it was phased though it."

"I guess it must be magic."

The squad looked at Buck, whose head was hung slightly, as if he had resigned himself to his statement as being the only possible answer. He jerked his head up, and soon the others followed suit. "Everyone else see that? Motion tracker twitched." They all nodded. Dutch began to inch down the corridor, towards the bridge. He slung his Battle Rifle and brought out his M319 grenade launcher. "Is that a good idea, Dutch?" Mickey whispered.

"Hey, I haven't got a rod or a staff handy. Psalms says this is the next best thing."

"Dutch, I don't think..." Dutch turned his head. Mickey could feel his eyes through the visor. "Alright, alright, paraphrasing, I get it." Dutch grunted as the squad pressed on.

~ ~ ~

Awe was such a minuscule word to describe what the squad was seeing at that moment. Upon reaching the bridge, Buck and his ODSTs discovered a few stragglers. The Brutes on the bridge had met similar fates to the other Covies in the corridors. All in all, there were a dozen or so here and there, few in one piece. The Covenant that were still alive were three grunts who appeared to be looking for something on some offshoot consoles. None of the squad had their weapons trained on the Grunts. The ODSTs were looking at the creature who was standing behind the Grunts.

It was definitely equine in build. It was covered in purple and florescent blue blood, but appeared to have pure white skin. It stood at least eight feet tall and a pair of wings, fully extended, protruded out its back, easily eight feet in length themselves. A long, spiraling horn adorned the creature's forehead; it, too, was covered in blood. A caricature of a sun could be seen under another smear of blood on the creature's flank. The creature's most striking feature was its tail and mane. A flow of pastel light came out of the creature's head and rear. It was as if a rainbow had materialized and was flowing out of this majestic creature.

"A unicorn? Pegasus?"


The Rookie rarely spoke, but when he did, it was damn important, and usually always short and to the point. Buck couldn't argue what was before them was a creature in the class of Big Foot, the phoenix, even a Leprechaun or Chupacabra, but it couldn't really be one, could it? The squad's awe turned to fear as the mythological creature turned its head towards the Rookie's remark, the Grunts taking their chance to run. Ignoring her captives and focusing on the new arrivals, the spread its wings and rose to its full height, an angelic and truly intimidating site.

"HUMANS!" The creature boomed. "I THOUGHT YOU MAY APPEAR. I REGRET I DID NOT FULLY CLEAN OUT THIS RIF RAFF BEFORE YOU ARRIVED. I HAD HOPED TO NOT INVOLVE MYSELF OR MY SUBJECTS WITH YOUR KIND BUT I SUPPOSE I HAVE NO CHOICE IN THE MATTER. MY NAME IS PRINCESS CELESTIA, RULER OF EQUESTIRA." A full five seconds elapsed before another word was spoken, but it was the inquisitive Mickey who broke the silence.

"Equestria? Is that the...anomaly out there? Its a planet?" Buck turned quickly to Mickey, who shrugged, and was promptly slapped on the helmet. "Sorry, Gunny." He turned back towards Celestia. "You also know we're humans? How?"

Celestia sighed. Her voice was now far more dulcet and nonthreatening. "Yes, we are in the shadow of Equestria. As far as knowing what you are, I left your planet Earth centuries ago, before you could eradicate me and my kind. But enough of that, you must leave. I have a Prophet to find."

A bombshell. "Whoa, a Prophet is here? On this ship? Is that what you were looking for when we interrupted you? Why is a Prophet here? What does the Covenant want in this corner of the galaxy?" Buck had realized too late that he had bombarded Celestia with so many questions and had forgotten she was royalty, but then he only had her word for it, so he eased off himself just a little.

"From what I was told from these creatures I dispatched, the Prophet believes that there is something on Equestria that his religion considers sacred. A "Forerunner Artifact," I think it was. When they first appeared, they made their intentions known. When I refused, there were...altercations."

"That's putting it lightly..." Romeo whispered. Dutch gave him a hard elbow in the arm.

"I'm sorry, Princess, but if there's a Prophet involved, that turns our mission into a horse of a different color." Celestia raised an eyebrow. Buck gulped. "No pun intended. Look, I doubt you know this but the human race has been at war with these aliens, these Covenant, for the better part of three decades. The major leaders were finally ousted but any minor Prophets that remain are still a threat to our race. Any intel we can get from this Prophet is invaluable to us. I...request that you allow us to assist you in your search for this Prophet. I'm sure it would be...mutually beneficial." Buck took a deep breath. He was pleased with himself. He wasn't much of a negotiator, but he felt he had gotten his point across.

"I apologize, but I know your kind all too well. I have watched you for eons, and know of your war against the Covenant. You are capable of so much hate, and I fear that with your knowledge of our existence, that you will eventually bring that hatred to Equestria. Leave. I will handle this situation myself. If you will not do as I say I am afraid I must deal with you, as well." Celestia's horn began to glow. Buck considered this a threat.

"Alright, boys. We're leaving."

"But Gunny, this is a Prophet we're talkin' about! We've never had anything this big before! He could tell us locations of Covie strongholds, troop deployments, where their new HQ is! We can't just leave..." Dutch was shoved against a wall, Buck's hand holding a firm grasp on his chest plate. Buck's voice was a hushed whisper.

"Have you been paying attention? Have you seen any other horse-like creatures around? She did all this by herself! The cruisers, Corvettes, all the dead Brutes, Grunts, and Jackals? Are we supposed to say 'boo' to her? Huh?! We are going back to the ship and report this. Let ONI sort it out!" Buck eased the tension on his grip. Dutch eventually straightened up.

"Yes, sir. Alright, guys. You heard Gunny, let's move out!"

Both parties turned to go their separate ways but the Rookie stood fast. He raised his SMG and started a slow walk towards Celestia. The princess grimaced and her horn resumed its ominous glow, but the Rookie's trigger finger was too fast. The silencer made a muffle of the SMG's report, but it was deafening in the silence of the bridge. Romeo and Dutch ran towards the Rookie, planning to tackle him.

"NO! Look!" Buck looked past an unscathed Princess Celestia at a shimmering group of Grunts who had emerged from a passage at the far end of the bridge. These weren't the same minor grunts who were on the bridge before, but Special Ops grunts, each of whom was cloaked and appeared to be carrying a heavy weapon. The ODSTs took to action as a shocked Celestia turned to see what humans could do to Covenant.

Buck cursed himself. There was nothing on the motion trackers. Crafty bastards. Green and blue flashes illuminated the bridge. Fuel rods and plasma bolts careened throughout the space. The remaining grunts managed to get off a shot or two a piece before they were silenced by a well placed round from Dutch's grenade launcher. Celestia had taken to the air. Hardly cramped, the cavernous bridge truly exposed how large Celestia really was. She regarded the Rookie.

"I thank you, human, but please leave. I don't want your deaths on my..." A familiar high pitched priming noise filled the room. The ODSTs recognized and dove for cover. "conscience..." An azure flash engulfed the Princess. Romeo located a one armed and bleeding Grunt they had thought dead and put a round through its head. It was a hell of a throw the little beast made but then the Princess was a large target. They had been careless. They were ODSTs, damn it! They had been lulled by the oh so familiar form of their childhood stories in the form of Princess Celestia that they had forgotten their training and had almost been killed. If it weren't for the Rookie they'd be dead.

"PRINCESS!" Buck ran over to the princess. The Rookie was the next on the scene. He lifted her head and put his helmeted face close hers. He noted condensation forming on his visor and he nodded at Buck. She was alive. Surprisingly, the plasma grenade had only robbed her of half a wing. It was bleeding slightly, but nothing Buck considered to be life threatening, which he thought at once was absurd. What the hell do I know about pegasus physiology?

The bridge suddenly came to life. The one console that had been operating suddenly became one of dozens. Celestia groaned. "Humans...you must...get out of here. Leave me..." Without thinking, Buck put one of Celestia's forelegs around his shoulder. "Time to go, boys!"

"Gunny! She's gotta way a ton!"

"Quit your bitching, Romeo! She's actually light as a feather. Dutch, guard our backs. Rookie, Mickey, clear a path! Back to Fast and Loose!" Romeo shook his head as he hooked Celestia's other foreleg over his shoulder and paused as he felt her weight. She was INCREDIBLY light. She couldn't be more than 100 pounds. He almost dropped her as Buck took off in a soft jog, jarring him from his disbelief. He heard alien tongues on the rise behind him and quickened his pace. Soon the squad was in an all out run, hopping over Celestia's handiwork as they went.

~ ~ ~

"The tiger is awake! I repeat, the tiger is awake!" Buck knew radio silence was imperative with a Prowler, but at this close range a blind man could see the stealth ship. "Veronica, we're heading back! ETA, two minutes, tops."

There was a short pause before Dare spoke. She sounded apologetic during her response. "Buck, we can't wait that long. Their weapon systems are already powering up. We have to jump now. Fast and Loose will be dust in two minutes if we don't get out of here immediately." Buck stammered. "Veronica, don't do this to me..."

Dare sounded as if she was choking back tears. "I don't want to, but we have an AI on board as well as 90 crew members. I can't sacrifice them and possibly Earth for the five of you." She hesitated, then whispered "I'm sorry, Buck."

Buck's mind began to race. His only option now was to get to the hangar bay and steal a ship, but even if they did, how could they fight a battle cruiser with a Phantom? Buck suddenly had an epiphany. "Veronica? Before you jump, could you at least jettison all of our equipment and weapon pods down to the planet?" It was Dare who stammered this time. "Planet? Buck, what are you..."

"There's no time! The anomaly, that big thing out there, its really a planet. There's no time to explain. We'll hop a Phantom and get down to it. We'll find a way to contact you! Now jettison those pods or we won't stand a chance!"

"Understood!" She relayed the message to an officer on the bridge. "Good luck, Buck. Don't die!" The pods were away. Dare said a prayer for Buck and his ODSTs. She put a hand over her mouth to stifle a whimper as Fast and Loose prepared to jump into slipspace. "Don't worry, ma'am. I'm sure they'll be alright."

Damocles materialized and had a sympathetic look on his face. He looked back towards the battle cruiser. Dare couldn't help but smile at the AI's show of compassion. "I thought they were just neanderthals?"

Damocles faced Dare again as light engulfed the ship. "Guns and explosives make great substitutes for rocks." Fast and Loose jumped into slipspace, leaving five men and a royal equine to defend themselves against the wrath of the broken Covenant.

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