AN: I don't own My Little Pony or Halo. They belong to Hasbro and Bungie/Microsoft/343 Industries respectively.
Coercions and Assassinations
Spartan-B312, aboard UNSC Frigate Tempest. 1100 Hours, March 10, 2552 (Military Calendar)
You are a Spartan, first and foremost a weapon.
You trained hard for years to become one, pushing yourself to become hyper lethal, to prove you had what it takes.
That was seven years ago.
Since then, you became a lone wolf assassin, sent to make whole militia groups disappear from the face of the galaxy and to stop the merciless alien Covenant from killing any more humans, civilian or otherwise.
You like fighting them the most. After all, they took away your home, your family, and then your friends.
Each battle against the Covenant isn't just about buying humanity some time, it's about getting bloody revenge for everyone they've taken away.
You hope to go down fighting them, taking as many of the alien bastards with you as possible, and soon you will on the planet Reach, sacrificing yourself to let the Pillar of Autumn and its precious cargo escape.
But that isn't for a few months yet.
You aren't Noble Six now. You aren't anywhere near the Epsilon Eridani system.
You are Lieutenant SPARTAN-B312, aboard a UNSC frigate speeding back from one battle to head into another, a counter insurgency operation on Mamore, and you know something has gone wrong.
You know because as the cover of the cryo tube slides upwards, and the initial grogginess of cryosleep fades, you hear alarms going off.
Your eyes bring the room into focus and you see a technician stood before you, worry and concern on his face, and adrenaline surges through your system.
Waking up to alarms and nervous crewman is never good news, especially when the deck rumbles beneath you.
'Sorry for the quick thaw, Spartan,' the technician says as you haul yourself up and out of the cryo tube. 'Captain asked for the whole ship to be at full alert, and that included everyone in the freezers.'
He holds out an object for you to take and you recognise it as a wake up stim.
You take and inject its contents, feeling your body become more alert as the drugs in your system to keep you under during cryo are counteracted, both by the stimpack you just injected and your own body metabolising them.
The deck rumbles again then falls still.
'What's going on?' you ask the technician stood before you, their eyes drawn to the multitude of scars and burns marring your ghostly white skin, a side effect of harsh battles and spending too long inside your armour respectively.
'I, uh, I dunno,' the technician says, one hand rubbing the back of their head as they turn away from your nude form. 'We were travelling through slipspace like normal when all of a sudden the whole ship just transitions back to normal space. We tried to jump again, couldn't, then something starts dragging us towards this planet.'
You frown. 'Dragging us towards a planet?'
The technician shrugs. 'That's what they said. I didn't even pretend to understand it. Captain then gave order for everyone to be thawed out so that's what I did.'
Another rumble through the deck.
'We're trying to break free, pushing the engines as hard as we can, but it looks like they'll melt long before we can.'
'Come on,' the technician says. 'I'll take you to your armour. I think the captain would want you suited and ready to kick ass.'
You nod again and follow the technician, pausing only to put on some borrowed fatigues barely big enough to fit your tall frame.
Spartan-B312, aboard UNSC Frigate Tempest. 1236 Hours, March 10, 2552 (Military Calendar)
The ship fails to free itself from whatever is dragging it down in the time it takes you to put on your MJOLNIR armour, a masterpiece of human engineering.
It augments your already enhanced speed and strength, protects you from toxins and lets you breath in space, and has a recharging energy shield that covers you completely.
Without the armour, you're tough. With it, you're almost invincible.
It is a little on the heavy side, though, so you have to pick your routes carefully during an escape but as you walk down the corridor to the bridge, you can hardly tell.
Your feet come down with the barest of thuds, an old habit that became second nature, and many turn in surprise when they see you out of the corner of their eye.
You ignore the stares and march onto the bridge, a compact and crowded room filled with monitors, computers, and frustrated naval personnel trying to free their ship from an unknown and incomprehensible force.
Stood at the opposite end of the room to you, hands clasped behind their back as they glare angrily at three screens, all of them displaying different things, is the person in charge of the ship.
'Captain Fontaine,' you say, coming to a halt and standing at attention behind them.
Fontaine glances over her shoulder at you, says, 'at ease', then beckons you to stand next to her.
You comply, coming to parade rest, and take in the three screens.
On one is a picture of a planet, taken from orbit most likely, and you guess it's the one the Tempest is currently being dragged towards.
A list containing numbers and statistics roll down past the side of the image, atmospheric analysis and gravity strength estimates, and you see that the numbers are nearly Earth-norm, meaning you and anyone else that gets deployed will have no difficulty working on the ground.
In fact, the gravity is slightly less and the atmosphere slightly more oxygenated so if anything, you'll feel slightly better.
'Got no idea what's brining us down, Spartan,' Fontaine tells you. 'Must be something powerful to drag us from slipspace. I'm thinking Covenant or worse. You feel up for breaking whatever it might be to free us?'
'Ma'am. Yes, ma'am,' you say.
A small smile tugs at the captain's face but it's quickly gone and the two of you lapse into silence, waiting as the Tempest is slowly but surely brought ever closer to the mysterious planet.
Details become more obvious as time goes on, starting with major geographical features like oceans and continents, then the larger mountain ranges and forests, before the cameras begin to pick up the outlines of cities and roads.
There's life down there, it would seem.
'Full combat load,' Fontaine says. 'Soon as we hit atmo and get closer, we'll send you via Falcon to the source that's brining us down. Recon it, report your findings, then we'll go from there.'
You come to attention and salute, then depart and make your way down the halls and corridors of the Tempest.
It's not a big ship, frigates never are, and the Tempest is a Paris-class heavy frigate. Most of the internal space is given over to a reinforced superstructure and enlarged reactor, as well as thicker armour, so while it may have been similar in length externally to the Charon- and Stalwart-class ships of the line, internally it was very much smaller.
As a result, the journey from the bridge to the armoury was short and within fifteen minutes of setting off for it, you have a DMR clipped to your armour with enough ammo for it to carry out a prolonged battle, alongside fragmentation grenades and demolition packs, just in case.
You return to the bridge as the Tempest enters the outer layers of the unknown planet's atmosphere, causing it to rumble and shake yet again, though the descent is comparatively tame to other landings you've gone through.
Fontaine says nothing as you stand behind and to the left of her, both your gazes on the forward viewscreens, watching as the frigate drifts lazily downwards when the deck lurches slightly beneath your feet.
'Report,' Fontaine says as the ship settles.
'Minor course alteration,' NAV says. 'Whatever is bringing us down, it's taking us down over a forest.'
'Any cities or towns in the vicinity of this forest?' Fontaine asks.
'Yes, ma'am. Based on current angle of descent and speed, there'll be a city within forty miles of our position. It's also the location of the energy source.'
Fontaine nods and turns to you.
'Spartan, once we're stationary, I'll dispatch you in a Falcon to found what took us out of the sky. Go in quickly, go in quietly, and engage anything you see at your discretion.'
You nod and acknowledge the order and continue to wait as the ship keeps descending.
Spartan-B312, aboard Falcon Mike-30. 1500 Hours, March 10, 2552 (Military Calendar)
The Tempest finally came to a halt and you, aboard a Falcon with an ODST crew, depart the trapped frigate and head to the nearby town with its mysterious gravity well.
You sit in one of the jump seats, nestled between the Falcon's machine guns that are manned by ODSTs dressed in their distinctive combat armour, while opposite you are another two Helljumpers, assault rifles cradled in their arms.
Behind you is the sun, low in the sky and getting lower, and long shadows race out away from it, casting the countryside in darkness that hides who knows how many threats and dangers to your solitary craft.
Ahead lies the unknown, the city, that draws closer with every passing minute.
'Five mikes to contact,' the pilot announces. 'Repeat, five mikes to contact. Keep 'em peeled, troopers.'
Both machine gunners check their weapons to make sure the first of many several hundred rounds are loaded and the two ODSTs with assault rifles do the same, ejecting the magazines and visually confirming they're full, before slapping them back in.
They bump fists with one another, psyching themselves up for possible contact with a hostile enemy and doing what they do best when confronted by such a thing, and tense up.
You stay settled in your seat, checking your own rifle over but with much less gusto.
It's a precision weapon, and you are a professional. Slapping the magazine in, even to get you mentally prepared for combat, could nudge the carefully calibrated scope out of alignment, even by a few millimetres.
It might not, but you don't take chances. Never with your weapons.
'Two mikes,' the pilot says. 'One mike. Contact.'
Beneath you, the scenery changes from forests to wide open space before that too gives way to stone buildings, their monolithic appearance and simplistic design telling you they're warehouses, nothing more, and you and your team of Helljumpers flies over an alien city on an alien world.
You never seen one, no one in the UNSC has. You don't know where the Covenant lives so you can't attack their homes, so this is a first for you but at the same time, the situation is a little disappointing.
You expected the city to be full of spires that reached miles into the sky, decorated with ornate etchings that told tales of bravery and heroism, chronicling legends and lore, and glittering metal walkways that carried beings of unknown shapes, sizes, and colours going about their daily lives.
What you see is about as far from that as possible.
The buildings are simplistic, plain, their only decoration coming from gothic accents along the edges of roofs, and the tallest building you can see is sat in the centre of the city, a castle, that rises maybe ten stories before terminating in a single tower, atop which lies a clock of gothic design.
There are no ornate etchings, no walkways, and the beings you see are not of an unknown shape or size, they are instead recognisable as creatures of myth, of legend.
They are griffins, walking and flying about their city and carrying out tasks that are no less alien to you than the rifle in your hands.
Some are carrying bags filled with food, some are sitting at outdoor cafes and drinking, and some are enjoying a walk in the evening sky.
The activities are recognisably human, even if the creatures carrying them out are both alien and mythological, and your disbelief is shared by the ODSTs, their responses not quite as quiet as your own.
'Fucking hell,' one of the machine gunners say. 'This is an alien city?'
'Apparently,' his opposite replies.
On the ground and in the air, dozens look up and see their Falcon but do nothing more than point at it. None scream, or flee, or rise up and take flight to take a closer look. They simply accept the alien craft as just another facet of their daily life.
You lean over and take a quick look at the ground when the pilot alerts you and the ODSTs to four contacts on an intercept course.
You look and see four griffins, two each side of the Falcon, come up and assume escort positions, gesturing at the castle with claws.
They have no surprise on their faces, no concern, and no hints of hostile intent, just the same neutral expression as the others on the ground.
'Orders?' the pilot asks you.
'Follow them,' you say. 'I think they were expecting us.'
The pilot acknowledges the order and adjusts her heading, aiming for the castle.
The four escorting griffins adjust as well and stay level until the Falcon reaches the outer wall of the imposing castle where you see a spot marked out in the inner courtyard, a large X surrounded by six flaming torches that mark out a rough circle big enough to land in.
You give the order and the Falcon's pilot loses altitude, easing the VTOL aircraft to a gentle stop right on the X, the rotor wash causing the torches to sputter and go out.
The pilot kills power to the engines and silence falls over everything barring the tick of metal as it cools and contracts or the rasp of yours and the Helljumper's armour as they twist and turn, checking for threats.
Within a minute, four more griffins appear from a nearby door, dressed in ceremonial looking armour, and form a corridor between it and the Falcon, snapping to attention.
A fifth griffin appears and stands on the door's threshold, peering expectantly at the aircraft and its occupants.
'Dismount,' you order. 'Weapons tight. Don't fire unless attacked first. Pilot, with us.'
A bank of green lights flash back at you and the five Helljumpers follow you in getting out of the Falcon, weapons gripped tightly, and head for the waiting griffin.
They turn smartly on their foot and walk into the castle at a measured and deliberate pace, one that you can keep up with without trying.
The ODSTs fall in behind you without a word, the doors to the courtyard closing behind them with a definitive thud, and the four griffins that had come through them to begin with take up the rear, an honour guard.
Inside the castle it's quiet, dimly lit, and in possession of the minimalistic-gothic design as everywhere else.
Occasionally, you pass by a flaming torch that decorates the walls with dancing shadows and orange hues, a randomly shifting puppet show with no story and no consistency.
The deeper into the castle you go, the more often you see these flames and their shadows, positioned next to stout wooden doors that are sometimes open and sometimes closed, and on a very rare occasion they passed by another griffin but they merely gave the passing party a quick glance as if to see who it was and whether they knew them.
It troubles you the lack of a more overt reaction to seeing six alien creatures casually walking through such a large castle that no doubt was home to someone or something of great importance.
It was one of the Helljumpers who actually put that feeling into words.
'I got a bad feeling about this,' they said.
No one saw any reason to correct her.
Spartan-B312, inside unknown city, inside city castle. 1525 Hours, March 10, 2552 (Military Calendar)
The group of griffins and humans finally arrived before an imposing set of doors that towered over them all, solid and heavy looking, yet they parted with the barest of whispers to reveal a high ceilinged room that contained numerous stained glass windows and tapestries of stylised griffins.
What may have been writing sat beneath each picture, set against a backdrop of colour that varied between pictures.
But what draws your attention the most are the three figures sat on high-backed chairs directly opposite you.
One is a griffin wearing a sash across their chest, a scar running through one eye and past their beak, and next to them is not another griffin, but either a horse or a pony.
You can't be sure because they're too tall to be a pony but have too small a body and too long legs to be called a horse, further muddying the issue is the presence of both wings and a horn.
It was neither a unicorn or a Pegasus, and it seemed to be looking right at you.
Beside them was another pony, this one lacking wings and horn, and was jet black whereas the other was a deep blue, almost midnight in tone.
You glance at the Helljumpers who glance back then begin walking towards the three waiting figures, following the griffin that guided you to this throne room.
The ODSTs stay on your tail and once you are all within a few dozen feet of the two ponies and single griffin, you stop and your tour guide departs.
Behind you, the double doors swing shut with another whisper and silence falls over the room.
For the longest of times, neither side moves or says anything until the blue creature, the unicorn/Pegasus combination, opens its mouth and speaks in perfect English with a feminine voice.
'You must have plenty of questions,' she says. 'About what brought you here, the response your arrival got, why we can understand each other.'
'I am that reason,' she says. 'I detected your ship and brought it here, and I was the one who told the citizens of this city what to expect.'
'Why?' you ask, staring at the pony.
'I...' she begins before looking at the griffin next to her, changing her mind. 'We need your help. There is a threat to us both, to the griffins living here and to ponies loyal to me, and neither of us can stop or defeat it.'
She holds her hoof out for you to shake.
'My name is Luna, and I am sorry for stopping your ship from returning home, but time is desperate and we need your help.'
You don't move to shake her hoof, nor do any of the ODSTs, and gradually Luna lowers and takes away her proffered appendage, shame and understanding on her face.
'What threat?' you ask.
'Her sister,' the griffin says, voice low and gravelly and the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Luna's more refined tone. 'She's planning to attack and wipe us all out.'
You look at the griffin then turn to Luna.
'How did you pull our ship from slipspace?' you ask her.
'I used my magic,' Luna says. 'I have enough power to move the moon that orbits the planet around. Your ship posed no challenge to me, even when travelling at such velocities. It is unfortunate and inexcusably, but there was no other way for me to get your attention.'
'Magic?' an ODST says in disbelief. 'As in, hocus pocus, abracadabra, poof of smoke, rabbits in a hat, kind of magic?'
Luna glances at the ODST that spoke, her face registering no reaction, but she shakes her head.
'You've got out attention now,' you say to the pony. 'You drag our ship from slipspace and force it to land here. What do you want?'
For a very brief moment, guilt and remorse sweep across Luna's face and she looks down at the floor before grimacing and looking back up.
'My sister, she wants to rule over this entire planet, to create a kingdom where ponies rule and all others are... removed from it to maintain what she calls the purity of power.' Luna looks at the griffin who remains impassive. 'I disagreed with such an idea, even tried to challenge her dominance and overthrow her, but she was too powerful.
'I fled here with a small number of ponies loyal to me, loyal to an idea where everything has a right to live, not just one race, and all the while my sister grows more powerful with each passing day. She must be stopped before it's too late.'
'And we can succeed where you failed how?' you ask. 'If what you say is true, and you can move a moon around, then how can we be of any use? None of us have that much power to hand and if your sister can best you, we won't stand much chance.'
'Not in a straight battle, no,' Luna says in agreement. 'But there are other ways.'
Her horn glows with a luminous blue and a scroll floats out from behind her to hover in front of you.
Cautiously, you pluck it from the air and unfurl it to see a photo is affixed to one side, showing six ponies in a multitude of hues huddled close to each other with enthusiasm, smiling for the camera.
'Those six ponies are close to my sister,' Luna says as you study the image, memorising the faces. 'They act as a war counsel for her. She listens to them, confers with them on matters of grave importance. They helped her to defeat me.'
She looks down at the ground, upset and regretful.
'They were my friends once,' Luna says. 'We were close, but my sister managed to turn them all against me so thoroughly that I doubt they would listen to me, or recall me with a favourable light.'
'What does that have to do with us?' you ask but even now, you have an inkling of what this Luna will ask you to do.
She raises her head and fixes you with a determined stare tinged with guilt, remorse, and sadness of what she is about to ask you.
'I want you to kill them,' Luna says. 'Kill them and my sister's power will waver. She will become weak, become vulnerable, and I will be able to best her in combat when we next meet.'
You look at the photo again, this time memorising each pony in it and taking photos of it with the cameras on your armour.
Two are Pegasi, one blue and one yellow, and two are normal ponies, this time pink and orange. The last two are unicorns but a closer inspection reveals that of the two, the purple one has faintly visible wings whereas the white one has none.
'How soon do you need them to be killed?' you ask, thinking of a dozen different methods of killing these ponies without realising it.
'Soon,' Luna tells you before saying, 'But they can't be all at once. I need my sister to be unawares, to be lulled into thinking I'm not responsible. You need to make them look like accidents and space the killings-' She grimaces at using the word. '-so as to look unconnected and a series of instances of bad luck, not targeted attacks.'
'These six ponies, you say they're part of your sister's inner circle,' you say. 'I think once more than two are killed in a short time, suspicions will be raised and steps will be put into place to prevent more deaths. It would be easier to take them out in one fell movement.'
'If you do, my sister will retreat to a place I cannot touch her and accelerate her plans. Spread them out, one every two weeks or so, and do your best to make them look like accidents.'
You say nothing, considering the task ahead and how best to go about it, before asking, 'What would we get out of it?'
'I will let you leave,' Luna says. 'If you try to escape beforehand, I will stop and drag your ship down again. But, remove those ponies, my former friends, and I will allow you to go in peace.'
Her face falls, both at coercing you and at what she's forcing you to do, and you see that this is weighing heavily on her shoulders and that the pony would rather do anything than follow this course of action.
You hand her the scroll back and say, 'Which one of these six do you want us to kill first?'
'The yellow Pegasus,' Luna says with a weary sigh. 'Her name is Fluttershy.'