• Published 22nd Dec 2019
  • 1,740 Views, 69 Comments

Halo Equestria: The Long War - Demon_Imp_Spartan



In late 2551, humanity discovers the planet Equis and the Equestrians. So do the Covenant. With no choice, the humans and Equestrians must band together in order to survive.

  • ...
5
 69
 1,740

6- One Small Step for Ponies

6

December 16th, 2551

Golden Oak Library, Ponyville, Equis

“Spike, have you seen my copy of The Equestrian Dictionary Volume five?”

Twilight was at home, two weeks after the humans had formally been introduced. Not much had changed. Some humans had elected to stay on Equis – some civilians, some military officers – in order to explore the culture as well as set up a military presence for security reasons. She had also heard rumors of the Equestrian’s own upcoming military expansion, but nothing concrete.

“No, Twilight,” called Spike, her adoptive younger brother. “It was in your room the last time I saw it.”

“My room?”

Twilight pushed her chair back from her desk and stood up. She was in her study, busy writing a report on some of her recent findings in the field of Magic and Friendship. She put one hand on her head, trying to remember if she actually had left her dictionary in her room. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d fallen asleep reading an encyclopedia and left it in bed. It was as good a place to start looking as any.

She stepped out of the study and into the main area, a circular room carved out of the center of an old tree. From her position, she could see into the kitchen, where Spike was making himself breakfast. His purple, scaly skin shining in the light coming in from the window. Steven was part dragon, and a few years younger than her. She was paired with him once she had used her Magic to hatch him when she was little, just before she became Princess Celestia's student. They’d been living together ever since.

There was a knock at the door.

“I got it!”

Both Spike and Twilight went for the door at the same time. Before she knew it, Spike was underfoot, reaching for the front door handle. Twilight's foot caught between Spike’s leg, and down they went. The door swung open, and the duo outside gazed upon the adopted siblings lying on the floor in a tangle of limbs.

“Uh . . . Miss Sparkle?”

Twilight looked up to see Princess Celestia herself standing in the doorway, along with a middle-aged man in a UNSC officer’s uniform with close-cropped, brown hair.

“Oh! Y-You’re majesty!” she said, scrambling to her feet and bowing.

“Princess Celestia!” Spike copied her.

“You may rise,” the princess chuckled, waving her hand.

“I didn’t expect to see you today,” Twilight said, rising. She frowned. “The due date for my report hasn’t been moved up, has it?”

“Oh, nothing of that sort,” said Princess Celestia, shaking her head. “The colonel has simply requested some assistance of the Magical sort, and I thought you would be up to the task.”

“Oh . . . Err . . . what sort of Magical assistance?”

The man regarded her.

"Miss Sparkle,” he nodded, “my name is Colonel Urban Holland. The UNSC is installing a few satellites in your star system in order to further communications and help us monitor the space around your planet for any threats.”

“In space?” Twilight asked. “What exactly do you need my help for?”

“I was hoping we could count on your telekinetic abilities in order to ensure that nothing unexpected goes wrong during the installation process,” the colonel told her. “We have several precautions in place to prevent calamity, but it never hurts to be on the safe side. It wouldn’t be the first time we’d lost a Spartan due to a malfunction.”

“Oh, okay,” Twilight said, glad that she was just going to support people doing dangerous things instead of actually doing the dangerous things herself. There was enough of that in her life already. Besides, military stuff was more Shining Armor’s speed, not her's. “I can do that.”

“Excellent,” Colonel Holland said. “If you’ll follow me, please.” The older man turned and began walking down the dirt path away from the library.

“Hey! Hey! Can I come? It’d be so cool to go to space.”

Twilight turned and saw Spike hurriedly slipping into a light jacket and grabbing her's, a look of excitement clear on his features. She glanced at Princess Celestia, who had one eyebrow raised, the corner of her mouth twitching in an amused smile.

“Oh, let him accompany you,” she said. “It should be completely safe.”

“Yes!” Spike raised a fist in celebration, scrambling to his feet and stepping out the door with Twilight.

“Are you coming with us, Your Majesty?” Twilight asked, glancing at the much taller mare as Spike handed her the deep purple winter coat he'd retrieved.

“Unfortunately, no,” the princess answered, shaking her head. “Today I am to finalize the legislation to create the REM.”

“REM? Like the sleep stage?”

“Oh, no.” The princess gave a small laugh. “If only it were something so simple. It stands for the Royal Equestrian Military. My sister and I have been working closely with the UNSC to develop our own unified military force complete with vehicles and ships, and I believe the time is near when we may allow recruitment to commence.”

“Oh!” Twilight said, surprised that something so momentous would be nearing its completion so soon after the humans’ arrival.

“Yes,” Princess Celestia said, clearly noting Twilight's shock. “I must admit that I myself am rather taken aback at how quickly things are progressing. But the humans are nothing if not determined, and their technology is simply remarkable.”

“What kind of progress have you made?”

“We’ve been trying to get other races on the planet to join us in allying with the humans and join our military force,” the princess told her. “The Crystal Ponies have already agreed to join us, given Princess Cadence's presence at the gala. The Zebras and Minotaurs have also agreed. Predictably, our efforts to contact the Changelings and Dragons have failed, though we had to at least attempt to bring them into the fold. The Griffons have unfortunately refused to help, as have the Diamond Dogs. We decided not to attempt to contact a few of the darker races.”

“We’ve also started supplying large quantities of standard issue UNSC weaponry and equipment in order to help get things underway,” Colonel Holland interjected. Twilight, Spike, and Princess Celestia had caught up to him just as they reached the end of town. “We’re hoping to design and start building space-faring ships by the end of the month.”

“Wow,” Spike said, gazing up admiringly at the colonel. “That’s so cool!”

At that moment, Twilight’s ears picked up a low roar, as if from some kind of unknown creature. Every second, the noise got louder, as though its source was rapidly approaching. Suddenly, a wide, dark green contraption turned a corner and raced down the street, stopping just in front of the group. It was made of metal and sat on four wheels, with a large pane of glass at its front. A human clad in a UNSC uniform sat in the center of the contraption, with both hands on another wheel just in front of him. On the back of the thing sat a gray metal cage of some sort.

“Woah, what is that?” Spike asked, taking a quick step back.

“This,” Colonel Holland said, stepping toward the thing and placing a hand on its side. “Is a variant of the M12 Force Application Vehicle. We call it a Warthog. It’s a type of car.” Holland placed his foot on a metal rail on one side of the vehicle and climbed into a seat just beside the driver. “You and the . . ." Holland glanced at Spike, "boy . . . can take the back with the Staff Sergeant.”

“This is where we part for now, Twilight,” Princess Celestia said, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Do enjoy space – my sister has told me it’s quite wonderous. Don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll do a fine job.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Twilight said, giving a small bow. “Thank you. Come on, Spike.”

Twilight lead her adopted brother to the back of the vehicle and began to climb into the back cage.

“Care for a lift, ma’am?”

She looked up to see man with dark skin clad in a UNSC combat uniform. He wore a green cap upon his head and had one hand outstretched to help her up.

“Thank you,” she said, accepting his offer and allowing herself to be pulled upon onto the metal floor. Checking to see that Spike was able to scrambling up behind her, she turned and regarded the staff sergeant. “I don’t –”

“All set back there?” called the driver over the rumble of the car’s engine.

“Best hold onto the rail,” the staff sergeant advised, reaching up to hold the cage’s top rail. “You got it! Good to roll out!”

Twilight grabbed onto the metal beam just in time. The warthog jerked forward, sending Spike – who hadn’t been quick enough – tumbling into her. After a few awkward seconds of untangling themselves from each other, Twilight and Spike positioned themselves on two padded seats on the metal floor and grabbed the upper bar.

“First time in a car?” the Staff Sergeant asked, looking amused. “Ain’t nothing bounces you around like a warthog, but it’s resilient as hell.”

The warthog hit another bump in the road, causing the two siblings to jerk forward once more. When she had recovered, Twilight looked over at the man sitting across from them.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Johnson,” the man said. “Staff Sergeant Avery Junior Johnson at your service, ma’am.”

“It’s good to meet you,” Twilight said, nodding at him. “So, how exactly are we getting to space?”

“There’s a Pelican waiting for us just outside of town,” Johnson told her. “The bird’s gonna take us up to a makeshift station that’s orbiting the planet so you can help a couple of our boys get the satellites goin.’”

“Pelicans are the ships that transport people, right?” Spike asked. “The big green ones?”

“You betcha, kid,” Johnson said, nodding at him.

Suddenly, he produced a thick cigar in one hand and a small, silver metal object in the other. Sticking the cigar in his mouth, Sergeant Johnson held both hands over the end of the cigar. There was a small ‘hiss’ and he lowered his hands, the cigar now lit.

He took a long draw and breathed out a pungent cloud of smoke.

Coughing and squinting, Twilight waved a hand in front of her face to ward off the offending vapor. “So,” she said, after she had recovered, “who exactly am I helping in space?”

“Couple of Spartans,” Johnson replied, taking another puff. “The Colonel mentioned you’d met one of ‘em before. Li zero-zero-eight and Anton zero-four-four.”

“Oh! I remember Li,” Twilight said. In fact, she’d been making a list of all the UNSC personnel she’d encountered; especially the SPARTANs. She wasn’t sure what would come of it, but there were just so many new people to meet that she thought it was better if she had some way to remember them all.

“That’s good,” Johnson remarked. “Truth be told, I sometimes have a hard time matching their names to their numbers. Spartans ain’t exactly the sociable type, and they don’t mention names too much, so the number is usually just what I think of. Especially since it’s printed right on their chests.”

“I suppose . . .” Twilight muttered.

She preferred thinking of their names. Referring to a person by a number designation just seemed . . . wrong somehow. They were still people, even if they were very different. Numbers made them sound more like machines.

They had passed the edge of Ponyville, travelling along a dirt path that was clearly never meant for a car. The path was just wide enough to accommodate the vehicle, but the ride was certainly bumpy. Twilight felt her rear leave the seat on multiple occasions, anchored into the vehicle only by her grip on the rail. She was very glad when the warthog finally slowed and came to a stop, kicking up dirt as it pulled off the trail.

Looking up, Twilight saw one of the ships that was dropping off guests at the gala. It must be a pelican.

“Alright,” Sergeant Johnson said, patting the side of the warthog. “Everybody out. Let’s load up.”

He slunk to the end of the cage and dropped to the ground. Spike followed him, and Twilight after him. The sergeant held out one hand and she took it, allowing the taller man to help her to the ground.

“Thank you, uh, Staff Sergeant,” she said.

“Johnson, ma’am,” he said. “That’s what most call me. Unless I’m their superior.” He smiled mischievously.

“I’m just a civilian,” Twilight said. “I’m no expert on the military, but don’t you outrank me?”

“I guess.” He shrugged. “But from what I hear, you and your friends have plenty of reason to have my respect.”

“Oh.” She wasn’t sure when word of her and her friends exploits and powers would be relayed to the humans by the queens, but apparently it had already happened. “How much do you know about all that?”

“As far as I know most of the troops that are stationed around here have been told,” Johnson said. “I know about your status as Elements of Harmony and I’ve heard the backstory with Princess Luna. A couple of things here and there and run-in with some ancient creature of chaos.”

“I must admit, your record for heroics is rather impressive for an everyday citizen,” said Colonel Holland, appearing from around the side of the car.

“I . . . never really thought about it,” Twilight murmured, looking away. It wasn’t that she wasn’t proud of the things she and her friends had accomplished, but she never really knew how to handle being publicly showered with praise.

“We should get moving,” Sergeant Johnson said, drawing attention back to the mission. “I’m sure the brass wants us to keep a certain time schedule.”

“Right you are,” said Holland, walking toward the waiting pelican. “If you’ll follow me, please.”

Twilight and her adoptive brother followed the two military men into the troop bay of the drop ship. She turned and watched as the ramp they had climbed to enter the ship retracted and shut itself over the entrance to the bay.

Spike was looking up at her, wide-eyed. “That’s so cool!” he whispered reverently.

“We’ll be taking off momentarily,” Colonel Holland said. Twilight turned to see him stepping out from a door on the other side of the bay. “I suggest we all take our seats.”

Spike was currently trying to stand on the edges of his claws in order to see out of the small window at the top of bay door. Twilight placed a hand on his shoulder and guided him toward the row of seats on one side of the aircraft. As she did so, she felt the pit of her stomach drop and her legs wobble a bit. They must have started flying. It was not unlike the sensation she had when visiting the Pegasi’s hometown of Cloudsdale, where a certain spell had to be performed in order to let her and other non-seraphs walk on clouds.

“Woah,” Spike said, stumbling into her. “That feels weird.”

“Taking off always takes some getting used to,” Colonel Holland said, already having strapped himself into one of the seats close to the bay door on the opposite side of the cabin. “After a few times you just take it in stride.”

Twilight and Spike were both seated now, and in the process of figuring out how the straps on the seats were supposed to connect. After a few moments of fumbling each of them seemed to get things under control.

_ _ _

Hanger of UNSC Anchor 4, in orbit above Equis

The ramp lowered and Twilight stepped off the pelican and onto the UNSC’s space station, her hooves clacking on the cold metal floor. She was in a long, high-ceilinged room. She saw various other ships – some were pelicans, others were as of yet unnamed – lined up in rows. Humans dressed in UNSC uniforms milled about, performing repairs, carrying small data pads, checking various terminals, and plenty of other things that weren’t immediately obvious to Twilight.

“Welcome aboard Anchor Four, ma’am,” said a voice.

Directly in front of the pelican’s ramp were two SPARTANs, each standing at attention with their hands clasped behind their backs. She recognized Li immediately, with his helmet that reminded her of some kind of bubble and the white 008 on his chest. The other was unfamiliar, wearing a helmet with a much narrower visor and what looked like binoculars attached to it. The number 044 was stamped on the armor’s chest plate.

“Hi, Li,” Twilight said, waving as she and Spike stepped closer.

If the SPARTANs were tall to her, they towered over Spike. He craned his neck almost vertically to look up at the seven-foot-tall soldiers.

“Woah,” he marveled. “Are you guys Spartans? You’re going out into space, right?”

SPARTAN-044 – Twilight remembered Johnson identifying him as Anton – took a knee and looked Spike in the eyes. “You bet, kid. We’ll be out and back before you even know it.”

“We should head to the command center,” said Colonel Holland stepping up beside Twilight. “We’ll have a better view from up there.”

“How are they getting out there?” Spike asked.

“The pelican is going to get us close to the satellite,” Li explained. “Then we get out, check that everything is operational, and power it up.”

“Just a little milk run,” Sergeant Johnson remarked. “Good luck, boys.”

Li and Anton nodded at him and both walked up the ramp into the same pelican she and the others had just exited. As the ramp closed behind them, Twilight noticed that each SPARTAN had a compact, steel gray pack mounted on the back of their armor.

“What are those?” she asked, indicating the packs.

“Those are T-packs,” Colonel Holland answered as the group turned away from the drop ship and began walking across the room. “They’re special packs designed specifically for zero-g environments. They attach to different kinds of armors and help the user move around in space, assist with navigation, and regulate life support.”

“Fascinating,” Twilight muttered, wondering briefly how all this was possible. She wasn’t even sure that the advanced Magic Princess Celestia knew was capable of replicating such effects. The more she was exposed to it, the more she came to realize just how powerful technology was.

As the group reached one side of the room, part of the wall seemed to slide open, revealing a long metal hallway extending before them. They continued forward, and upon reaching the end of the hall, Johnson reached out and pressed a button on the wall. Another door slid open, revealing a square, metal and glass box inside of a hole.

“Everyone in,” he said, allowing Holland, Twilight, and Spike to enter before following them into the enclosed space. Once inside, he pressed another button and the door closed.

Once more, Twilight felt her stomach drop and knew they were moving.

“What’s going on?” she asked, a little on edge. What new kind of machine was this?

“We’re in an elevator,” Sergeant Johnson explained. “It’s another way to move between floors. It’s the faster version of stairs.”

One elevator ride and three hallways later, they arrived in the space station’s command center. It was a massive room, surrounded on all sides by glass looking out into space. The interior room was a mass of computers, tables, chairs, readouts, and people moving about and doing jobs that Twilight could only guess at.

“That should be all, Staff Sergeant,” Colonel Holland said, looking at Johnson. “I’m sure the Equestrians and I will be fine from here.”

“Yes, sir,” Johnson said. He gave Twilight a crisp salute. “Good to meet you, ma’am.”

“You too.”

And just like that, he was gone.

“Follow me,” Holland said, beckoning for Twilight and Spike to follow him.

The trio walked up a short staircase to a second floor, consisting mostly of a balcony that went right up to glass that looked out into space. Holland grabbed the attention of a nearby officer.

“Raise pelican Alpha-110 on the comms,” he ordered. “And patch through Spartans zero-zero-eight and zero-four-four.”

“Yes, sir,” the officer affirmed, pressing a series of keys at his station. After a few moments, there was a crackling sound and a voice came in clearly from somewhere in the command center, transmitted via the radio – another bit of technology that Twilight had only recently learned about.

“UNSC station Anchor Four, this is Spartan zero-four-four and zero-zero-eight. Can you read us? Over,” The voice wasn’t familiar, so she assumed it must be Anton.

“Look,” Spike said, pointing out the glass. “There they are!”

Twilight followed his claw and saw the Pelican approaching a long metal structure with two fins that was just floating aimlessly in space. What appeared to be a large dish was protruding from one end of the structure, aiming towards the planet below. In the space around the station, Twilight also saw what appeared to be aimlessly floating pieces of metal. Closer inspection, however revealed that various smaller ships were housed within the debris, being repaired by small machines.

“I never knew it was so . . . big,” Silvia muttered.

It wasn’t the most intelligent thing she’d said all day, but she just couldn’t help herself. This was the first time she’d ever seen Equis from above, and it was just breathtaking. The greens of forests, the orange of deserts, the blue of oceans. It was all so much to take in. And space . . . she’d never dreamed of seeing that so close. It just seemed to extend into forever. There were even other planets close by that Twilight had not even known about. She’d have to tell Princess Celestia about all of this.

“Yes, Spartans,” Colonel Holland said. “This is Anchor Four. We read you. Over.”

“Copy that,” came Anton’s voice over the radio. “We’re headed into space now. Over.”

“Be ready, Twilight,” said Colonel Holland as the bay door of the pelican slowly opened.

“Oh, uh, ready for what exactly?” Twilight asked, tearing her eyes away from space to look at the older man.

“For anything to go wrong.”

_ _ _

In space above Equis

Li stepped out of the pelican’s troop bay and into the vacuum of space, his momentum carrying him forward toward the inactive satellite. Behind him, he knew Anton was doing the same.

All the SPARTANs had done zero-gravity simulations as part of their training, and they all knew how to fight and operate efficiently in space. However, none of the other SPARTANs had run as many zero-g programs as Li had. He was a master at navigation, operation, survival, and combat in space.

As he drew closer to the satellite, he stretched his arms and legs in order to get a solid grip on the metal structure. Li and Anton landed at the same time, their combined momentum causing the satellite to turn end over end and sway in space. Not that it mattered much. Without gravity exerting its will over them, up could be down and down could be up. It was all a matter of perspective.

“Anchor four,” Anton said, broadcasting on an open channel, “this is Spartan zero-four-four. We’ve made contact with the satellite. Over.”

“Copy that, Spartan,” said Colonel Holland. “We have visual on you. Over.”

Anton switched to a private channel. Just him and Li.

“Alright Li,” he said. “We’ve got thirty minutes of air. We can do this quick. We just have to power it up, get the fins working, and establish a connection to the UNSC network.”

“Copy that,” Li affirmed. “I’ll get the power on. You get ready to move the fins.”

He’d landed closer to the bottom of the satellite, so he began working his way around to the control box. As he got into position, he saw Anton higher on the structure, grasping one of the fins, ready to manually reset it. Li returned his focus to the small hatch that was now in front of him. He opened the matte gray lid, revealing a control panel full of multicolored wires, blinking buttons, lights, and readouts.

“I’m in,” Li reported, broadcasting on an open channel in order to notify Anchor 4. “Working to restore power.”

He began fiddling with the controls, tapping a few of the buttons to see if any would elicit a response. He leaned in closer to read the labels underneath each button and switch, searching for something to give him a clue. At the very bottom of the panel, he saw a heading: POWER. There was a large, green button labeled ‘PRESS AND HOLD.’ He did so, then followed an arrow drawn next to the button that led to a lever taking up one entire side of the panel. ‘PUSH SLOWLY’ said a print beside it. Obediently, Li grasped the lever with his free hand and steadily pushed it from its position at the bottom of the panel all the way to the top.

As he pushed, there was a low humming sound, and lights all over the satellite began to flicker on.

“Power’s on,” he reported. “Anton, get those fins reset.”

“Copy.”

Li looked up and saw Anton bracing himself against the side of the satellite, pulling the fin into the reset position – parallel with the base. After a moment there was a loud click, signaling that the fin had been reset.

“One down,” Anton said over the radio. “Moving on.”

Carefully, he shifted over to the other side of the satellite, holding onto the rim and the dish as he did so, his T-pack letting off little bursts to keep him stable. As though underwater, the SPARTAN moved gently through space and alighted on the one remaining stabilization fin.

“We’re down to twenty-five minutes of air,” Li advised, taking his eyes off Anton to check his life support systems.

“I’m – ugh – aware of that, Li,” Anton replied, grunting with exertion as he grasped the metal fin and began to pull. “We have plenty of time. I don’t want to rush things in space.”

At that moment, a loud screeching noise emanated from the fin Anton was fixing.

“Shit,” was all he managed to say before the fin spun around and dealt a devastating blow to his back.

Li saw that his T-pack was crushed instantly. Anton was sent flying past Li, who only managed to shift himself out of the careening SPARTAN’s way just in time. He twisted around to watch as his comrade as he tumbled uncontrollably out into empty space.

“Anton!” he called, helpless to attempt any kind of rescue, lest he be lost as well.

_ _ _

Command Center of UNSC Anchor 4, in orbit above Equis

“Sweet Celestia!” Spike exclaimed, his eyes bugging out. “He’s falling into space!”

“If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to lose his signal!” Colonel Holland interjected, rounding on Twilight. “Miss Sparkle, is there anything you can do?”

Twilight’s hands gripped the railing in front of her, a small sheen of sweat breaking out under her fur. This was it. If she didn’t act now, this SPARTAN was going to be left to die out in space. She heard the man’s voice come in over the radio.

“My T-pack is destroyed; I’ve got no control!”

“Pelican on standby; I can’t catch him!”

It was all down to her. She had to save him.

Twilight took a deep breath and raised one arm tentatively. She knitted her eyebrows together, focusing all her energy on the SPARTAN tumbling helplessly through space. She reached out to him. Both her horn and her outstretched hand glowed in a bright purple light.

“I’m slowing,” Anton reported over the radio. “There’s some kind of purple light around me. I’ve come to a stop.”

She could see him all the way out in space, surrounded by her Magic aura and floating very still. The pelican advanced upon him and turned, exposing its open bay door. Slowly, Twilight used her Magic to float Anton into the drop ship’s troop bay. As she watched, the door closed, sealing the SPARTAN inside the protective cabin of the ship.

“Anton, Li; sitrep,” Colonel Holland ordered, his hands gripping the console.

“My T-pack was destroyed, sir,” Anton reported. “I can’t go back out there – I’ll have no mobility.”

“I’m fine, sir. No damage taken,” Li said.

“Li, can you calibrate the satellite on your own?”

“Yes, sir. I’m on it.”

Colonel Holland pressed a button on the console and turned to face Silvia.

“Thank you, Twilight,” he said, letting out a long breath. “You saved that man’s life just now. I don’t know if we would have been able to get a second ship after him quickly enough.”

“Oh, it . . . it was nothing, really,” Twilight said. “Any Unicorn could’ve done that.”

“But you did that! And it was awesome!” Spike gushed.

Holland let a small smirk cross his lips. “Yes. I suppose it was.”

“Sir?” came Li’s voice came once more from the console. “Satellite operational. Commencing uplink now. Over.”

“Sir!” called an officer from the lower level of the command center. “We’ve established contact with the satellite. It’s up and running.”

“Excellent,” Holland said. Then, he turned back to the console. “Copy that, Spartan. You’re cleared for return. Over.”

“What exactly is this satellite for again?” Spike asked.

“It’ll establish communications between UNSC satellites in other regions of space, allowing for communications between your planet and ours,” Holland said. "It’ll also link to other, smaller satellites that we’ve already put in place in this star system, meaning we’ll be able to map Equis and be able to use GPS. On top of that, it’ll help monitor the system for any threats.”

“Cool!”

“Sir!” called an officer. “We’re picking up something on the scanner.”

“Already?” Holland demanded, looking confused. “What is it?”

_ _ _

Bridge of Covenant Stealth Ship Inner Cleansing, in space toward Equis

Roth ‘Lukomee gazed through the viewport onto the unknown planet below. He had elected to personally lead the reconnaissance mission to the planet below – in order to ascertain if there were any holy relics to be found.

“Shipmaster, if I may?”

Roth turned to regard his second-in-command. A young, talented Leader named Toho ‘Rakamee.

“Of course,” Roth nodded. “Speak your mind.”

“Why must we attempt to infiltrate this world?” he asked. “We could simply attack and wipe out the humans and their allies first. Afterward we could explore the planet at our leisure.”

Roth sighed. Toho was a capable warrior, yes. But sometimes he wished the younger soldier would stay his blade and demonstrate more restraint.

“We cannot risk the destruction of any holy relics,” Roth said. “We must discover if any relics exist on this world before we begin our campaign. If we indiscriminately destroy the human forces, we may unknowingly damage the very things week seek.”

“I know this.” Toho dipped his head as a sign of respect. “I simply seek to hasten I conquering of these new beings. For all we know, they may turn the tide of the war!”

Roth understood the younger warrior’s brashness. He himself had once been so bold. But time and war had served to cool his thirst for glory and combat. Now, he knew that patience and cunning were the key to victory rather than brute strength and vicious fighting.

“We are at a disadvantage,” he said. “We know the humans. We do not know these newcomers they have allied themselves with. We must discern the nature of this possible new foe before we act, lest we doom ourselves to a swift and decisive defeat.”

Roth saw Toho’s eyes widen with understanding. He gave another nod, this one not of respect, but agreement.

“I see. I will follow your lead, shipmaster.”

And that was it.

Roth returned his gaze to space. This time not to the planet below, but above, to his ship, the Inquisitive Intent, floating peacefully in space. He did not like having to leave it, even though he knew it was well guarded and, so far, undetected. He felt as though he were leaving a part of himself behind on board. Still duty and honor both called him below.

Author's Note:

Head's up - some chapters'll have longer waits than others. I've written up to chapter 11, but I wanna stay ahead so I'm not stressed about writing.