• Published 22nd Dec 2019
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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.

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9- Priority Shift

9

December 21st, 2551

Aboard UNSC Magellan, in orbit over Equis



SPARTAN-III Andrew-B170 stood at attention in the command center of UNSC carrier, his blue prototype MJOLNIR Mark V Operator helmet tucked under one arm. Across the holotable stood the elderly Admiral Margaret Parangosky – the head of ONI. If ONI was involved in his next assignment, he knew it must be serious business.

Beside him stood another SPARTAN-III that he didn’t recognize. He wore MJLNIR Mark V, just like Andrew did, but his armor was a drab green and black in color. He wore his silver-visored recon helmet with a HUL attachment. His chest plate and right shoulder were both recon-class. He wore a GUNGNIR left shoulder pauldron, FJ/PARA knee guards, and had a Tactical/Soft Case strapped to his left thigh.

The mystery SPARTAN removed his helmet, revealing a man with close-shaved black hair and intense, dark eyes.

Before Andrew could say anything, Admiral Parangosky, cleared her throat, drawing both men’s attention to her.

“Spartan Andrew B one-seven-zero,” she said. “Meet Spartan Kai A zero-one-nine. You two will be serving together for the duration of your new mission.”

Andrew glanced over at Kai, who likewise turned to regard him. There was something in Kai’s eyes that Andrew wasn’t sure he liked. It was as though the other SPARTAN was weighing his usefulness and ability.

“What exactly is our mission?” Kai asked, taking his eyes off Andrew to look at Admiral Parangosky.

“I’ll let the princess fill you in on that,” Parangosky said, stepping to one side. A hologram began to flicker into existence in the spot where she had been standing a moment before.

“The princess?” Kai said, raising an eyebrow. Confusion was written all over his face. Maybe he hadn’t been filled in on Equis yet.

Andrew smirked, smug in the possibility that he knew something that this new SPARTAN didn’t. He had been on assignment on Equis since the ball a few weeks ago; collecting information on the different species that lived there, travelling across the planet to explore different environments, and logging everything he came across in order to add to the UNSC database.

He doubted that any human was more familiar with the planet that he was now.

The hologram in front of them resolved itself, and Andrew was taken aback by who he saw there. It was not Princess Celestia. It was Princess Luna.

“Hello, Spartans,” the princess said, regarding them somewhat haughtily.

“Your majesty,” Andrew said, bowing slightly as he remembered the proper greeting he’d observed. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kai struggle to follow his lead.

“Have you been informed on your assignment yet?”

“No, ma’am.” Both SPARTANs straightened out of their bows.

“Very well,” the princess said, frowning slightly and folding her arms. “I shall tell you myself. My sister means well, but she does not possess the military know-how or the decisive nature to deal with open revolt by the ponies of our planet. She will want to negotiate. She will want to make peace. But I know that is not how you win with terrorists. You must crush them. Swiftly and without mercy. That is where you come in.”

“Celestia will not want anything of this sort to occur, so I have taken it upon myself to work with you Admiral Parangosky to come up with a solution to this little problem. Your team will be known as Delta-Seven, and you will be responsible for the suppression of terrorists on our planet. Let me make this clear: you are a secret. What you do is not to be known by the general populous. If you are apprehended, no one will come to your rescue. Your existence will be denied and you will be disowned by the UNSC and by the Equestrian royalty.”

“No pressure,” Andrew mumbled.

“There is immense pressure, Spartan,” Luna said, looking directly at him. “I must admit that I do not fully trust you humans, but perhaps this arrangement shall see my opinion change. I will not see my people subjected to acts of violence without putting up a fight. I must do what my sister will not.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Andrew nodded, saluting. The last thing he wanted to do was make the princess angry with him. Especially since it seemed as though he was going to be serving under her from now on.

Admiral Parangosky regarded the two SPARTANs. “Princess Luna has informed me that one of the major Equestrian cities has been taken over by this terrorist organization calling themselves Equestrian Freedom Society. Spartan Team White and several squads of REA soldiers and human marines are to be dispatched to reclaim the city once reconnaissance has been completed. You are going to be doing that reconnaissance.”

“Just the two of us?” Kai asked.

“No,” Admiral Parangosky said. “There are two ODSTs that are assigned to your team. You also have a team member from the REA that has been pulled from active duty to serve on this team.”

Andrew heard the pneumatic doors open behind them. He turned to see two ODST and a tall REA soldier step into the room, remove their helmets, and stand at attention.

“Spartans, meet Private O’Brien and Master Sergeant Cortez; ODST. The REA soldier is Private Big Macintosh.”

Andrew gave the soldiers a once-over. O’Brien was short and slight, with wild, reddish hair and intense blue eyes. Cortez was taller, with brown hair and eyes. His expression was milder; more focused. Finally, the Equestrian, Big Macintosh, was the tallest and most muscular. He had a shaggy, blond mane, red fur and gentle, green eyes.

“This is quite the ragtag group we’ve assembled here,” Kai remarked, his expression unreadable.

“Ragtag and remarkable, we hope,” Admiral Parangosky remarked, pressing a button on the holotable. A map suddenly appeared on the table, showing a sprawling city that appeared to be made out of some sort of crystal.

“Is that . . . Is that the Crystal Empire?” asked Macintosh, stepping forward. His voice revealed that he had an accent almost identical to a Southern American one.

“Have they not been briefed?” Andrew asked, glancing at the admiral.

She shook her head.

“Yes,” Andrew said, turning towards the others. “It’s been taken over by terrorists. We’re going to recon the city and report back so it can be reclaimed by a larger force.”

“But I thought we were treatin’ that as a lie those guys told us,” Big Macintosh said. “At least ‘til we could get in contact with Princess Cadence.”

“It has been two days, Big Macintosh,” Princess Luna said. “My sister is being foolish to wait. We must act now.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” Admiral Parangosky put in. “The Equestrians are now our allies, and standing idly by while civil unrest takes hold would be unwise. Especially given that we have our own insurrection to deal with. We don’t want another.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Macintosh said, though he didn’t look too sure of himself.

“Are there any further questions?” Parangosky asked, looking over all of the assembled soldiers.

“Who’s in charge?” Kai asked.

The admiral paused for a moment, then spoke. “You are in charge, Spartan.”

_ _ _

Hanger bay of UNSC Magellan, in space over Equis

1 hour later

Andrew sat in the pilot’s seat of a Pelican drop ship in the ship’s hanger bay, his helmet resting on the instrument panel before him. He ran a hand through his loosely kept black hair and gazed out of the cockpit. Just a few meters away, he saw the members of his new squad marching in a line toward the back of the drop ship.

“Here we go,” he muttered to himself, picking up his helmet and placing it over his head.

He heard the sounds of movement in the troop bay behind him, and then one of the ODSTs – Cortez – appeared through the open door and climbed into the co-pilot’s seat behind him.

“Kai says we’re taking off,” he said. “Do you have the coordinates?”

“Already uploaded.” Andrew pressed a series of buttons on the instrument panel. From behind him, he heard the bay door sliding shut and felt the engine rev to life. “Strap in back there,” he called. “We’re taking off.”

Andrew slowly lifted the ship off the ground and turned it one-eighty degrees, now facing the bay’s exit. The engine’s flared and the ship shot out of the hanger and into the vacuum of space. As he flew, Andrew felt the tension of the upcoming mission slide off his shoulders.

Andrew liked working on any vehicle, but flying was always a particular joy of his. Falcons, Pelicans, Hawks, Longswords, it didn’t matter. He’d even stolen a Covenant Banshee once. Flying just made him feel truly free. As though he could go anywhere and do anything. But right now, he was going to this Crystal Empire. And he would do whatever the mission required of him.

As they entered the planet’s atmosphere, Cortez spoke up.

“I served with one of you Spartans once.”

“Really? When?”

“Couple of years ago,” the man replied. “O’Brien and I were both on the mission. We were sent out to some planet to assassinate some minor Covenant prophet. Command thought it was important enough to send a Spartan with us – Cal one-four-one. She saved our skins more than once on that op.”

“What happened to her?” Andrew asked. Though he had a sinking feeling he knew the answer.

“Dead,” Cortez said, flatly. “A brute chieftain tried to kill O’Brien right before we were gonna assassinate the prophet. She saw it and threw herself in front of him, taking the blow. We killed the chieftain, but it was too late for her.”

“Spartans never die,” Andrew said, almost automatically, reciting the lie that ONI kept feeding the public.

“Right,” Cortez scoffed. “According to ONI.”

“According to ONI,” Andrew agreed. He glanced at a small view-screen to his left, looking for a reason to change the conversation. “We’re coming up on the Crystal Empire.”

“In all these mountains?”

Andrew looked up to see that they were indeed flying over a vast mountain range filled with gray stone and snow-capped peaks.

“Well,” he said, the view-screen showing him the map that had been created via satellite data. “I suppose it would make sense to find the Crystal Empire in the Crystal Mountains. Damn it. Finding a place to land is going to be a problem.”

“There it is!”

Andrew jerked his head up, stared for a moment, then let out a long, low whistle.

“Shit,” he muttered. “That’s some city.”

He’d thought the ‘Crystal’ in Crystal Empire had just been some funky name. But no, it turned out that the city was literally made of solid, multicolored crystals. In what seemed to be the center of the city was an enormous tower made of shiny blue crystal. It was absolutely breathtaking.

That’s when he noticed the smoke, the fire, and the several badly damaged buildings.

“We missed the party,” said a voice from behind Andrew. He glanced back and saw Kai standing in the door of the cockpit. “Find a safe spot overlooking the city,” he ordered. “Then fire up the transmitter. We’re going to contact the ship.”

“Yes, sir,” Andrew muttered. He didn’t need Kai to tell him how to follow basic procedure.

Making sure to keep his distance from the city’s perimeter, Andrew piloted the drop ship over the nearby mountain tops, scanning the ground below for a relatively flat space that would accommodate the hull.

Eventually, Andrew spied a ridge near the top of one mountain facing away from the city. that was almost exactly the right size. Pointing it out to Cortez, the pair worked in tandem to set the ship down. Andrew let off on the accelerator. Cortez prepped the landing gear. Andrew activated the hover gear. Cortez confirmed that the landing site was green. Andrew set the ship down.

“We’re good,” he called over the comm. link, flicking a switch to lower the exit ramp. “Everybody out.”

Andrew and Cortez left their seats and moved into the troop bay, where the rest of the squad was busy checking their gear and prepping their weapons.

“Conditions on the ground?” Kai asked.

“Probably cold – we’re high in the mountains and it's winter,” Andrew said. “As far as I know, we’re undetected. There’s smoke coming from the city. Unknown number of combatants.”

“What’s the plan then?” asked Big Macintosh. “How close do we need to get to do, uh, recon?”

“Not too close,” Kai said. “As long as we can get some kind of visual and estimate the strength of the enemy force.”

“I can’t believe this sorta thing is happening here,” Mac muttered.

“Believe it,” the ODST called O’Brien said. “This same kind of thing is happening for us, too. There’s insurrection in some of the human colonies. We kinda have a truce while the war is on, though.”

“Wow. You guys have a lot goin’ on, don’t ya?”

“You could say that,” Kai said, stepping onto the pelican’s exit ramp. “C’mon; we need to get a view of the city.”

Andrew and the others followed him and moved around the outside of the ship. Kai led the team up a narrow, rocky pathway that led up the crest of the mountain. Andrew knew it was cold, but he couldn’t feel it. His armor’s hydostatic gel regulated the suit’s temperature to always keep him comfortable. ODST uniforms had similar temperature regulation technology, but Andrew doubted that such considerations had been made for Big Macintosh's new and mostly untested ERA armor.

“Mac,” Andrew said, glancing behind him at the man. “You doing alright in this cold?”

“I–I’ll be fine,” Big Macintosh said, his teeth chattering audibly under his helmet. “L–let’s just g- get this done.”

“Hold up,” Kai ordered, raising one fist into the air. “We can see the city from here. O’Brien; get up here.”

Andrew and Mac moved to the side to allow O’Brien to move past them, pulling his SRS 99 Anti-Matériel sniper rifle from his back. As he joined Kai at the front of the line, the pair of them shifted about on the snow-covered, stony ridge to allow the entire squad to form up and have a line of sight on the city.

O’Brien set his rifle’s bipod on the ridge-line and began scanning what they could see of the city. Andrew activated his helmet’s own binoculars which, while not as powerful as the scope of a sniper rifle, still gave him a decent view of the playing field.

“Start looking at the main tower, then work your way out,” Kai said. “What do you see, O’Brien?”

“The . . . base of the tower is hollow,” O’Brien said, angling his rifle to get a better look at the city center. “It looks like that’s their main staging area.”

Andrew followed the trooper’s gaze and indeed saw a large number of what seemed to be enemies gathered in the large open area underneath the tower. Glancing around the immediate area, he saw groups of other armed individuals milling about.

“They seem pretty well armed,” O’Brien advised. “They’ve got what I think is new ERA armor, but it’s all painted dark red. They’ve got UNSC standard weapons . . . how the hell did they get their hands on that? I see . . . several crates of heavy munitions. No vehicles. Wait . . . I see two civilians being led around the base of the tower. They look like prisoners. I think they’re being led inside.”

“What do they look like?” Mac cut in suddenly.

“There’s a male and female,” O’Brien said. “The male looks like he’s wearing golden royal guard armor. The female is a little taller than average, and she’s got a set of wings and a horn.”

“That must be Princess Cadence and Twilight’s brother!” Mac said.

“I guess we know what happened to the government here,” Kai remarked. “We’ll keep a note of their position. Maybe command’ll authorize their retrieval when the siege starts.”

“Maybe?”

“They probably will,” Andrew assured him. “They’re pretty high priority figures – I’m sure command’ll want to rescue them. Especially if your royalty has anything to say about it.”

“Keep scanning the area,” Kai ordered.

O’Brien was silent for a second, his rifle swaying as he surveyed the city. “This is a big city. I’m seeing a lot of armed rebels, but I can’t see everything. It looks like they actually have anti-air guns to the west . . . the east . . . and the south. No visual on the north.”

“Do you see any civilians?” Kai asked.

“Searching . . . negative.”

“Where could they be?” Mac wondered aloud.

“My guess?” O’Brien said. “They’re either evacuated, held hostage in the tower, or part of the rebels down there.”

“What would you estimate their numbers to be?” Kai asked.

O’Brien shrugged. “I can’t see the entire city. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s less than a thousand. Maybe in the mid hundreds, but that’s being generous. This movement hasn't been going on for that long.”

“Good,” Kai said. “I’m going to contact command. We’ll see if recon is all they want from us.”

Andrew flicked off his helmet’s binoculars and glanced back at the rest of the squad. O’Brien set down his rifle and mirrored Andrew’s own movement. Kai had one hand on the side of his helmet – the universal sign for sending and receiving a communication.

“Macintosh,” Andrew asked. “Will you be able to hear this?”

“Yeah,” the stallion nodded. “The UNSC sent us technology to put your comm. links in our helmets.”

“Command?” Kai started. “This is Spartan A zero-one-nine. We have a visual on the Crystal Empire. How copy?”

“We read you, Spartan,” came Princess Luna's voice over the link. “Both Admiral Parangosky and I can hear you. What do you see?”

“We have eyes on the city,” Kai reported. “It’s been completely taken over by rebel forces. They’re leveraging ERA armor and UNSC weaponry. Mostly standard issue arms, but we’ve spotted several munitions crates and AA implements around the outskirts and the central tower.”

“My word,” Princess Luna breathed. “How could they have managed to get their hands on such equipment?”

“Spartan, can you estimate the size of their force?” asked Admiral Parangosky.

“A few hundred. Less than a thousand.”

“Good,” Parangosky said. “Perhaps when we attack, we will be able to neutralize the entire rebellion before it begins.”

“There’s . . . something else,” Kai went on. “We spotted two civilian prisoners being led into the main tower. Mac has identified them as Princess Cadence and her husband, the captain of the royal guard. If they were being led into the tower it’s likely that’s where other prisoners are being held.”

“Understood, Spartan,” said Princess Luna. “We must not allow any harm to come to them. A rescue attempt must be performed as soon as possible.”

There was a moment of silence in which Andrew suspected that the other parties had momentarily muted the comm. link. Then, new orders came in.

“Spartan,” Admiral Parangosky said. “You and your team are to remain on site overnight. Once the attack commences tomorrow, you are to infiltrate the enemy defenses, breach the tower, and free the two high priority targets and whatever other civilians you find. Use whatever force you deem necessary.”

“Understood, ma’am.”