CH. 1 Updated 1/2/2017


Let me get this out of the way. No, I am not DinoJake using an alternate name. I am just an admiring fan who wanted to lend his talents to The Last Spartan and got DinoJake's approval.

First off, a huge thanks to DinoJake for all the hard work he has put into The Last Spartan, DigiDorks, Titan Shock and his other stories. If you are not reading any of these, check them out!

I am also very humbled to be a part of this. This was my first fanfiction story and I have had so many terrific experiences working on this. I may not update as regularly as people would like, but I try to deliver the best work I can.

If you are noticing a huge rewrite going on since you last read this, that's intentional. I feel that if I am going to continue with this story, I need to fully update every detail to keep things fresh. So you will notice several changes through the first fourteen chapters, including a few new characters and twists on the story where needed.

For those unfamiliar with this work, the story follows OC's in the same universe as The Last Spartan. Partly a prequel and mostly a parallel story, it is made to fill in spaces unexplored in the main fanfiction as well as compliment the elements already in place. How far the story will continue to go will depend on its reception and DinoJake's plans.

So with all of that said, we now bring you the story of 2nd Lieutenant Kyle Nolan, the last of an ancient breed…


….

1434 Hours, December 15th, 2682.

Chroa's Den

Citadel

Widow System, Serpent Nebula

….

"Eight fives."

2nd Lieutenant Kyle Nolan leaned back in his chair as the two privates across the table did a double take. A smirk crept onto his face as he glanced down at the overturned dice cups. He had them baited, so now all he had to do was wait.

"Your call," Kyle added as Privates Taylor Jenson and Devon Resolme looked back to him. "Just a warning though: I'm not getting any younger here."

The privates grumbled and continued to coordinate their battle plan. Kyle chuckled at his own little remark. Yeah he was using his seniority over these young guys in a self-deprecating way, but that wasn't to say he wasn't youthful looking. He liked to think his grown out red hair, piercing green eyes, neatly trimmed beard and overall physique shaved a few years off his age. No one had referred to him as 'old man' yet, so it must have been working.

"Eight fives?" Jensen finally said as the privates rejoined the game. "Really?"

"You heard correct, private," Kyle replied with an extra cocky smirk as he looked to the people gathered around them. "You all heard eight fives, right? Or did I just shout something completely random by accident?"

Several people nodded and a couple chuckled. Kyle was surprised that they had garnered such attention for a simple game of Liar's Dice, but then again most of the people in the crowd were aliens. Most humans had never seen this game being played in real life, so the odds of any aliens having seen it were slim to none.

"It's a big pot to gamble on eight fives," Resolme said pointing to the flashing number on the table's digital credit counter.

"Yep, that is a lot of digits aligned next to each other," Kyle replied to Jensen's obvious annoyance.

"What kind of game are you playing, sir?" Jensen asked.

"Liar's Dice, private. I'm surprised it took an hour of playing to ask."

A couple people in the crowd chuckled, further annoying Jensen.

"Yes...but why would you call eight fives on the first roll of this round?"

"I dunno," Kyle shrugged. "Go big or go home, I guess."

"You do know the odds of winning on that call, right?"

"Slim to zero?"

"Probably."

"Well...how does the saying go? 'Never tell me the odds.'"

Jensen and Resolme looked under their cups as Kyle took a moment to soak in the pulsing music and lights of Chora's Den. This wasn't the type of club Kyle would frequent, but it was the one club the privates agreed to play the game in. Well, that and Jensen wanted to find a place with Heineken that wasn't a human only bar. He took a glance around past the crowd. Red, blue and green lights darted across the walls as dancers performed on top of tables and on poles. Waitresses served patrons of all races with drinks catered to all kinds of tastes, including some poisonous to humans. Still, Kyle would rather risk that than mess with most of the patrons here, many of whom looked ready to pick a fight with a human military officer over nothing.

Kyle was directed back into the game by Jensen suppressing a chuckle.

"Something funny?" Kyle asked.

"Just the thought you're so willing to blow your retirement fund on a really bad call," Jensen replied.

"Tsk tsk," Kyle replied wagging a finger. "Low blow insults are a sign of shook nerves, private. And I haven't used a credit of my fund for this. Remind me though, how much pocket change are you going to walk away with if you lose?"

Jensen's expression sullened as he and Resolme lowered their cups.

"I don't know, man," Resolme said.

"Seriously?" Jensen replied. "You really think he can win this?"

"I could be wrong," Kyle said with a shrug. "We've all won a round apiece, so it's anyone's game."

"There's no way you can win three rounds in a row."

"Call me a liar."

Jensen quickly checked under his cup again, glancing over at Resolme and Kyle before setting it back down. He leaned forward and attempted to stare down Kyle. Kyle decided to play this little mind game and leaned forward with an equally hard stare. This was the part of the game Kyle enjoyed the most. Liar's Dice was maybe five percent dice rolling and everything else was mind games, so the only skill one had to prove was the ability to be in control of the situation. Fortunately, Kyle had this in the bag.

"You seem overconfident, sir," Jensen said not wavering contact.

"Do I?" Kyle said with a cocked eyebrow. "Alright private, tell me why. What are my tells?"

"The jokes, the attitude, that smile. It's not like you."

"And what am I normally like?"

"Well...I mean...that but just...less so."

"Hm..." Kyle said with a nod. "Excellent deduction, private. And it's very true. Pride goeth before the fall. It's very likely an ten percent increase in hubris may backfire horribly. Maybe I have the only fives on the table. Or maybe I have none. Still..." Kyle tapped the side of his dice cup to draw attention. "If I'm right, wouldn't that be the worst? Think about it. Someone will ask you, 'Hey, didn't you used to have more credits?' And you'll have to say, 'Yeah, but lieutenant douchebag beat me in a game that I challenged him to and cleaned me out.' What would everyone think about that?"

"Well what about a couple privates beating you? That's a lot of money to lose all at once."

"Wouldn't be the first or the last time. What matters more..."" Kyle placed one of his gloved hands on top of his cup. "...is which story are you ready to tell?"

A small bead of sweat formed on Jensen's brow. Kyle knew very well that he could be wrong and lose a lot of money. Either way, he was milking this moment for all it was worth and that was entertainment enough.

"You're pretty bold sir," Jensen said with a smile as his hand glided over to his cup. Resolme followed his lead, feeding off Jensen's moment of confidence. Kyle rubbed his fingers along the cup in anticipation as he heard the crowd make hushed guesses on who was going to win.

"You're not too shabby yourself, private," Kyle replied.

"Yeah...but I'm not a liar!"

With that, all three of them lifted their cups and quickly scanned the dice. Resolme had two threes, two fives and a four. Jenson had three three, one five and a two. Kyle had four fives and a one. Seven fives total.

"Yes!" The privates whooped and cheered at their supposed victory, prompting claps from several onlookers. Kyle simply smiled as he let them savor this moment. He figured that their defeat hadn't dawned on them yet.

"Hoo..." Resolme exhaled. "Almost had us there, sir."

"Yup," Jenson said opening his omni-tool to collect the pot. "Good run, but-"

"You're not collecting anything, boys." Kyle said, silencing everyone around the table.

"...what?" Resolme asked confused.

"Yeah. Now, call me an old man, but I believe my memory is a little fuzzy. Remind me, what rule set did we agree to?"

"Common Hand..." Jenson replied as they heard murmurs from the crowd. "Why?"

Kyle glanced for a moment to see Resolme suddenly get what went wrong, but figured he would have to spell it out for Jenson. "Well, in the grand tradition of Liar's Dice, a game only played by people who have recently watched old action vids, there is one rule that distinguishes Common Hand from the rest of the pack..."

He slowly directed his pointer finger to the one die in his pile, savoring the shocked realization in Jenson's face.

"...one's are wild," he replied tapping the die before clarifying in a hushed tone. "Eight fives."

The privates slumped into their chairs as a couple people in the crowd gasped in surprise while the others clapped. Kyle stood from his seat and gave the crowd a couple mock bows.

"Thank you, thank you. You've been a wonderful audience," he said as he turned back to the table and opened his omni-tool. "Wow, I must say. I mean, I'm not one to gloat, but uh...that's a big number on that credit counter."

"God..." Resolme groaned putting his hands to his head.

"Oh, I'm messing with you. It's not that bad," Kyle replied as the credit balanced transferred to his omni-tool. "Besides, you guys challenged ME."

"We didn't think you actually knew how to play."

"Life is full of surprises, private. Learn that quick or it'll mess with you on the battlefield."

"There's no way you could have guessed that!" Jenson interjected. "What kind of lenses are you using?"

"See anything?" Kyle replied opening his eyelid slightly as his omni-tool closed. "Didn't think so. You want to rematch me later? Be my guest. In the meantime, let's pretend you accepted this defeat gracefully and enjoy the rest of your shore leave."

Jenson glared at the lieutenant before motioning to Resolme to leave. "I need to top off my glass."

The privates skulked away from the table along with most of the spectators as Kyle pulled out a case to put the game away.

"That was an impressive bluff, human," a Sanghelli said to Kyle.

"Indeed, Sanghelli," Kyle replied picking up a cup.

"How often have you played this game?"

Kyle thought for a moment. "...twice before now. First time was when I was ten. We bet with Gummi Bears."

"Well, if it wouldn't be too much to ask..." The Sanghelli continued, giving Kyle pause. "Some of my friend would love to try this game. Could you give me a quick tutorial."

Kyle thought for another moment as he glanced at his omni-tool's clock. He only had so much time to spend, but he could spend an hour more. He noticed a few other people from the crowd had stuck around too, so there was clearly a demand.

"...sure," he replied setting the cup down and putting the case away. "Anyone else want to join?"

"I'm game," an Asari replied taking the third seat as she and the Sanghelli sat down. An Unggoy and Salarian waited behind them to join in the next game.

"Alright," Kyle said. "Gotta be quick though. Busy day."

"You sure they won't be too mad at you?" The Asari asked.

"Huh...oh them," Kyle said motioning to the privates at the bar. "They'd be piss poor ODST if they were. They're used to getting burned by now. Oh and put all the dice in the cup," he added pointing to the dice in front of the Sanghelli. "Give it a couple good shakes when I say so and turn it upside down directly onto the table."

"That was a lot to risk on one call," the Sanghelli said as everyone lifted their full cups. "How did you know?"

"I didn't," Kyle said. "And remember, ones are wild."

"So you were going to risk all of that on a wild call?" The Asari asked.

"Every call is wild," Kyle added twisting his cup slightly. "Life's pretty boring without them. Either of you two military?"

The Asari shook her head.

"I did Basic like everyone else," the Sanghelli said.

"You know all the about the Spartans?" Kyle asked.

"Sure. Everyone does."

"So would you say that it was a statistical certainty for the Spartans to accomplish everything they did during the Human-Covenant War? I mean, one Spartan besting three Covenant squads with a half-emptied pistol? Another going toe to toe with three Mgalekgolo without heavy ordinance? I'd call that a pretty wild call, wouldn't you?"

The Sanghelli nodded.

"Damn right. Only fools and geniuses make such wild calls. Which those are not always mutually exclusive. And shake."

The three of them shook their cups as Kyle continued. "Some people say the Spartans beat those odds because they were superheroes and couldn't be defeated anyway. Some say that their augmentations gave them such a heightened understanding of battle tactics that they knew exactly how to twist the odds in their favor. In the end though, I say that the answer is so simple that we forget how true it really is..."

Kyle smirked and signaled the others to turn over their cups. "...sometimes, people are just really damn lucky."


Classified Date, 2657

SSV Harvest

In Orbit Around Planet Shanxi

...

"And how are we going to go in?

"WE GOT FEET FIRST, SIR!"

"Damn right we do!" 1st Lieutenant Dominic Ralston barked in reply to his squad's answer. This little pep talk was routine for all ODST combat drops, but few did it with as much gusto as Ralston. There was no doubt from his graying temples and rugged appearance that he had done this plenty of times before and would do it plenty more for years to come.

Kyle just hoped to live long enough to see that. The Harvest had exited Slipspace only a few minutes earlier and every passing second only made him more aware of how much his legs were shaking. He let out a quiet sigh to calm his nerves as he saw the other troopers waiting in their drop pods. Some of them gripped their weapons anxiously, twitching their trigger fingers and thumbing their safeties. Others muttered prayers, pep talk and anything else on their minds under their breath. Kyle gripped his helmet tightly as he nervously checked his gear one last time. Everyone knew what was happening. In a matter of minutes, they would all be dropped to the surface of Shanxi for the first wave of a counterattack.

It wasn't exactly what Kyle expected for a first combat mission. The ODST took pride in preparing their troopers for any combat scenario, but becoming one of the first humans to go to war against an unknown alien species? That was a tall order for a Greenhorn.

He wiped the sweat from his brow quickly as he turned his attention back to the lieutenant strolling past the drop pods.

"You men and women are the luckiest bastards in all the known galaxy!" Ralston continued. "You are going to make first contact with a hostile alien race and you're going to kick their asses back to whatever shit hole planet they crawled out of!"

"OOH RAH!"

"You are part of the greatest, strongest, best trained and most unstoppable military force in the galaxy! We've stood toe to toe with the strongest Sanghelli zealots, We've outwitted the most cunning Kig'Yar. And only Spartans can match our success rate in taking down Mgalekgolos. So are you going to whimper like a wounded Unggoy against these pansy ass 'Raptors?'"

"SIR, NO SIR!"

"Hell no! Command would not send the toughest badasses in the galaxy to fight the Raptors unless they knew we would beat the ever-loving shit out of them without breaking a sweat!"

"OOH RAH!" Kyle said joining in with the rest of the squad. 'Raptor' was still a new nickname being tossed around among the Alliance branches after seeing what the aliens looked like in the vids. Everyone was eager to use it though, since these aliens were not part of the treaty agreement with the former Covenant races so there was no need for political correctness. Besides, it sounded a lot better than all the other nicknames the ODST were coming up with. No one would say that troopers were known for their creativity.

"Now listen up," Ralston said as he called up a holographic display mapping out the planned area of attack. "The Spooks at ONI have identified these anti-air batteries around the designated landing zones. If they aren't dealt with, Dresher's birds will have a hard time dropping additional armor and boots on the ground. Does that sound like a good thing?"

"SIR, NO SIR!"

"Hell no! That's why Command has sent us to shut them down before the rest of the fleet arrives. That gives us about ten to fifteen minutes. If that sounds impossible to you, then you're not ODST!"

"OOH RAH!"

"Don't be fooled by our friends from the Sanghelli Empire backing us up. Today is going to be the worst day of these Raptors' tragically short lives, but this is not the Sanghelli's victory to win. This is a HUMAN planet. This is a HUMAN colony. So it is only right for HUMAN soldiers to show these pointy headed freaks that we will not belly up like a puppy and play nice. They woke the sleeping giant and now we're going to show them that when you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!"

"OOH RAH!" Kyle shouted again with the group. He could feel that same rush of adrenaline and fire in his veins like he did when news of Shanxi's occupation first reached his squad. It was hard to blame General Williams for surrendering to the Raptors given Shanxi's limited combat strength, but what people feared most was the possibility that the aliens would use Shanxi as a staging planet for future attacks. If the aliens could waltz into Shanxi as easily as they did, they could surely use the mass relays to launch an attack on Earth. It would be the Human-Covenant War all over again.

Not on the Alliance's watch. It took them a while, but they managed to rally the former Covenant races to launch a preemptive counter-offensive to take Shanxi back. There was strength in numbers and it might make the Raptors think twice about further attacks if they knew the Alliance had powerful allies. That's what made this phase of Operation: SUCKER PUNCH so important in deciding the direction of the conflict. The last thing humanity needed was a repeat of the Harvest campaign from the Human-Covenant War, so a quick and decisive victory here could be the right morale boost to prepare everyone should the Raptors retaliate in force.

"Make sure to stick with your groups and don't let these bitches scatter you," Ralston continued. "The armor and main infantry will engage the main enemy force. Get to those batteries immediately. Drescher's fleet is counting on you."

"Attention," the ship's AI signaled over the intercom as an alarm sounded. "We have engaged the enemy fleet. All hands prepare to drop in T-minus thirty seconds."

"You heard the hologram!" Ralston barked. "Close up and get ready!"

Kyle took one last deep breath as he put his helmet on and pressed a button on the drop pod's side. The hatch door hissed as it slowly sealed him inside his cramped little space, filtering out the sounds of the ship around him. All he could hear was the chatter on his comm., his own thoughts and the rhythmic pace of his own anxious breathing. He had only done one proper drop prior to this and it was a hell of a ride. Now he was going to liberate a planet. No pressure!

His hand shook as he grabbed his ODST Hurricane Mark II sub-machine gun off the rack to his right. As soon as he found his grip, a countdown timer began ticking down on a screen by the hatch. There was no going back now. He resigned himself to his situation as he positioned himself for the drop. For a moment, he managed to filter his thoughts down to images of his family. His parents. His siblings. His grandfather…

He reached down to his side holster and felt the handle of his grandfather's M6D pistol. From the moment his grandfather holstered it before beginning his fight in the Human-Covenant War, it became a family tradition to carry it into battle for a first mission. Sure, it wasn't as advanced as modern weaponry, but it packed a hell of a punch at close range. Kyle took some comfort in think that, in a way, his grandfather would be right beside him for this fight.

His helmet visor ionized and his TEAMCOM communication system synced just in time for him to catch Ralston's final words to the squad.

"-is our time, everyone," Ralston said somberly. "Give them hell the ODST way."

"Five seconds," the ship AI said through the pod's speaks. Kyle closed his eyes and heard his heart pound faster. This anticipation was going to kill him if he waited any longer, so he only imagined what the actual fighting would be like. Every moment felt like an eter—

"Good luck," was the last thing he heard Ralston say as his pod disengaged and the young ODST private plummeted through the Harvest towards Shanxi's surface…


Kyle's eyes drifted down from the artificial sky in the Presidium Commons as he felt a cool breeze against his cheek. Gentle ambient music echoed in the background, helping to create a soothing effect complimented by the Commons' smooth architectural design and white color scheme. Even the hustle and bustle of Citadel life couldn't break this atmosphere. It wasn't enough to convince Kyle to ever live here, but he at least understood why some people might consider this a little slice of paradise.

He put his hands in the pockets of his Alliance uniform, nodding to some soldiers passing by him. They were young men, probably about the same age he was when he first joined the ODST. That was twenty years ago...twenty years of service. All the victories. All the defeats. All the moments vivid and faded that he experienced in-between. It was like he lived an entire lifetime in that span. These kids would probably never get the same experiences he did. Perhaps it was for the best. One could only hope that no one would ever have to fight through a war in their lifetime.

Still, he was a little surprised that they didn't salute a superior officer on their way. He wasn't an admiral or anyone that significant, but he worked his ass off to get where he was now. 2nd Lieutenant was not something to scoff at. Then again, Kyle didn't brag about his rank very often. Ranks were for military meetings and dinner parties with people he didn't know

And he didn't have to worry about either of those today. Not only was it a shore leave, but it was a shore leave in December. Seeing other excited humans in the Presidium marketplace officially meant that Christmas was in the air. Whether the other Citadel races could deal with that or not was none of his business.

Kyle weaved his way through the crowd to the end of the line for a nearby store. He peeked past an Asari couple in front of him to see a Krogan jabbering with the vendor over a refund or something. Based on the veins throbbing on the Krogan's neck, he figured it would take a while. He glanced at his omni-tool clock and sighed. He wasn't pressed for time just yet, but he could use fewer delays today.

The line inched forward slowly as Kyle soaked in the sights. Sanghelli, Unggoy, Asari, Elcor, Salarians and everything in-between flooded the markets going about their business. Some humans may feel uncomfortable with this many aliens in one spot, but Kyle had more or less gotten used to it. It wasn't easy though. Adjusting to the former Covenant races was one thing, but the introduction of the Council races only further complicated the cultural fine points and sensitivities he had to account for. Hell, it was only a short while ago the ODST exorcised the nicknames adopted during the First Contact War. More than ever, Alliance soldiers had to become exemplars of their race. That meant being civil and adaptable to any circumstance. Still, he had to admit that it was hard not to stare at the occasional person. He would call it human nature, but he had seen plenty of aliens stare at him so it was a mutual thing.

The line continued to move inch by inch as Kyle opened his omni-tool. Winning all those credits at Chora's Den was for more than bragging rights. There were some outstanding Christmas requests from back home that he had neglected until today. Now that he had an excess of coin, he had no excuse to get bargain bin gifts this year. He scrolled through his note and tried to mentally map out which items would be found at which store. A copy of the new Keyes biography by Jonathan Nylund, a My Life with Bipbap omni-tool customization pack, a subscription to Citadel Home Design's streaming channel, a model replica of the Pillar of Autumn, the Emmy Award winning Rain Forest War documentary…

"Earth-Clan!" A voice ahead of him spoke.

Kyle looked up to see that the line had vanished. Those last couple customers must have had quick orders.

"Sorry," he said as he walked up to the Volus vendor tapping his foot. "Had to check something."

"I'm sure," the vendor said, taking a breath from his gas take with each sentence. "Welcome to Sirta. How can I be of service?"

"Well, I got this list," Kyle said holding his omni-tool to a scanner. "What do you have available?"

"Let's take a look," the Volus said pulling out a data pad from under the counter and scrolling through some tabs. "You want them gift wrapped?"

"Sounds like you've had quite a few humans shopping today?"

"You want them gift wrapped?"

"...yes," Kyle said rolling his eyes.

"Yes, we've had a lot of Earth-clan today," the Volus said tapping away. "And yesterday. And the week before."

"Must be good for business."

"Very. Still, what makes this 'Christmas' so special to humans?"

"Who doesn't love gifts?" Kyle shrugged. "There's a lot of reasons, but mostly it's an excuse to force people to be nice to each other."

"I weep for your species," the Volus replied as he put the datapad away. "We've got several of your items in stock. Though you could probably just stream that documentary series."

"My brother-in-law is one of those neanderthals who likes to have hard copies as back up."

"Who uses hard copies anymore?"

"He does."

"Alright," the Volus replied. "That'll still be easier than finding that model replica."

"...why's that?" Kyle said raising an eyebrow.

"That model's popular with Earth-Clan this year. We sold our last one half an hour ago. That store might have one left," the Volus said pointing behind him.

Kyle turned around to see a not particularly busy vendor nearby. What caught his attention, however, was the Turian vendor waiting patiently behind the counter.

"...are you sure there isn't anywhere else?" Kyle asked.

"Not with that model in stock. Fyl'gun said he ordered extras just in case."

Kyle frowned as he narrowed his gaze at the Turian. He didn't have to think this one over.

"Just ring up the items you have," he said tapping on his omni-tool. He was sure he could find that model at a store that wasn't run by a Raptor...


Kyle's drop pod rumbled as it pierced Shanxi's atmosphere, with its exterior glowing from the heat of entry. He had no idea how fast they were all plummeting, but it took no time at all to transit from the Harvest to the planet. As he watched for the other pods, he took a moment to savor the view from where he was. It's not like he had never been this high above a planet, but something about this sight was particularly majestic. Dawn was breaking across Shanxi's surface as the system's sun peaked over the horizon, engulfing the sky with a flash of orange, yellow and red. It was near poetic in its beauty. Light piercing through darkness to bring a new day for the oppressed humans on the planet. Maybe he could request for this part of his helmet camera feed if he survived.

Soon, more pods came into view, with speed lines flowing around them as their descent intensified. Several of the pods were Sanghelli, with their slick edges giving them slightly more velocity than the bulkier Alliance designs. The significance of this moment was not lost on Kyle. This would be the first major cooperative offensive undertaken by humans and Sanghelli since the treaty was signed. It was hard to believe after how close they were to extinguishing each other only a few years back. Nothing like a common enemy to mend old wounds.

"All units repor...say again, all units report in," Captain Jessica Turner's voice crackled over TEAMCOM.

Kyle winked green through his TEAMCOM as he assumed everyone else followed suit.

"Good," Turner replied. "We're nearly ground side. Launch your chutes."

Kyle grabbed a nearby lever and pulled down. The pod rocked back and forth as he heard the metallic chute deploy above him, slowing the drop down bit by bit.

"You think the 'Boneheads' will offer much resistance, ma'am?" Corporal Kevin Shinjiro asked.

"The what?"

"Boneheads. You know, because of the bone like stuff on their faces."

"...whatever. We know they got troops, some armor and artillery at their disposal."

"Shit."

"You're in good hands, corporal. Stick with the squad and focus on the objective."

Kyle heard Shinjiro sigh in response. Each of the teams assaulting the battery directly had a VIP whose main goal was to shut them down. None of them had any major experience with the Raptors' software, but the AI's helped a lot in attempting to make sense of the programming. If that didn't work, plan B was pretty obvious: lots of explosives and a timer.

The pod shook again as a metallic 'clang' was heard and the chute detached from the pod. They were entering the final leg of the descent.

"Gah!" Kyle heard Private Mark Duerden exclaim over TEAMCOM from the pod next to his.

"Almost their, folks," Turner said. "Safeties off and-"

A small ding against the bottom of Kyle's pod broke his concentration. And then another. And then several more. And then whizzing noises and missiles passing by him.

"Ground fire!" Turner exclaimed. "Dodge!"

Kyle attempted to use what minor steering capability the pod had, but he was pretty much helpless as the Raptors continued firing at them. The pods were shielded to endure a fair amount of punishment, but a well-placed shot could easily knock him out of the sky. All he could do was not-

"Shit!" Shinjiro shouted over TEAMCOM as a missile shot up and struck Duerden's pod. Fire and debris erupted from the impact, causing Kyle to flinch as pieces bounced off his hatch. Duerden probably didn't even know he was dead before his pod became a funeral pyre.

"Trooper down!" Other ODST shouted.

"Stay focused," Turner shouted back.

Kyle's legs shook again as he gripped his gun and peaked out the window. Through the gunfire and missiles, he spotted their target below them. It was a large circular bunker with a cannon on the roof, sitting on top a lush grassy hill littered with Raptor soldiers, barricades and weapon placements. The ODST would have to make effective use of the barricades and several large rocks to push these guys back.

Kyle closed his eyes and prayed silently. The seconds felt like an eternity as he awaited that final moment.

"Brace for impact," the Captain shouted one last time.

His pod shook violently as it struck Shanxi's surface, kicking up dirt and grass in every direction. After a moment of disorientation, Kyle managed to regain his footing and look out the window. He not only managed to land safley, but he had knocked two Raptor soldiers onto the ground in front of him. It was strange seeing the aliens this close up instead of through the vids. The bone-like material covering their faces, the bird like mouths, the digitigrade legs and everything in-between. And here he thought Kig-Yar were ugly up close.

The pod hissed as the hatch prepared to unseal. Kyle exhaled one last deep breath as his visor synced into their combat system, displaying his vitals and pre-marked tactical information. An alarm blared as the hatch flung open in an instant.

Showtime!

Kyle shouted at the top of his lungs as he ran out fo the pod and sprayed Hurricane rounds at the Raptors. Still disorientated from the impact, the aliens didn't stand a chance as he tore them to pieces.

As he continued to sprint towards an incline up the hill, more Raptors were at the top to greet him. He quickly dove behind a nearby rock as the aliens open fired, kicking up dirt and chipping pieces of rock in front of his face.

"Covering fire," he heard someone behind him shout as he looked back. Several other ODST were making their way up to his position, trading rounds with the Raptors with each step. One trooper took a shot to the hip and collapsed to the one knee. He managed to fire off a few more rounds from his Battle Rifle before another shot struck him in the chest, killing him instantly.

Another trooper sprinted like an Olympian up the hill, firing back at the Raptors with his Gorgon Assault Rifle before reaching the safety of another nearby.

"Shield up!" The trooper shouted as he threw a deployable to his side, which projected an energy shield to help ease the incoming fire. He then looked Kyle's direction and they met each other's gaze. Kyle's visor tagged him as Sergeant Terrence Morgan.

"Keep firing!" The sergeant said as the two of them peeked out of cover to fire back at the Raptors and more troopers took cover beside them. The lower elevation was not working to their advantage unfortunately, as the enemy easily moved past their rounds to a nearby barricade. One of them poked out above the barricade with a large automatic weapon and fired down at the ODSTs, forcing Kyle and the sergeant to duck back behind the rock.

"We can't hit them!" Kyle shouted.

"No shit!" The sergeant replied before redirecting to the squad's TEAMCOM channel. "Bravo squad, this is Bravo Three. We have troopers pinned down by heavy fire. Requesting support!"

"This is Bravo Six! Takin' fire at-"

"-oger that. Moving into position-"

"-requesting assistance. Tangos coming through the-"

"Damn it!" Morgan cursed. Everyone was occupied at the moment, so they were on their own.

Something that looked and sounded like a grenade landed nearby Kyle's feet at that moment.

"Move back!" Kyle shouted as him and the other troopers nearby ran from the cover. The grenade exploded behind him, throwing dirt onto Kyle's back.

"Nolan!" Sergeant Morgan shouted.

"We're alright!"

"Get back to the rock!" The sergeant said pointing to the Raptors up top. "We're going to maneuver up to-"

The sergeant didn't get to finish his plan as an energy shot zipped past him and struck the Raptor using the large automatic weapon between the eyes. This was followed by a flurry of plasma rounds. The troopers turned to see a large group of Sanghelli, Unggoy and Kig-Yar charge up the hill. Two more Raptors fell as the rest of their group retreated to a new location.

"Maksimov! Jaskolski!" Morgan shouted to the troopers near him. "Take point! Everyone else, get your asses up that hill!"

The troopers broke from their cover and stormed the hill alongside their alien allies. As they reached the top of the incline, more ODST and allied forces were seen engaging the Raptors. Plamsa, bullets and the Raptors' ammunition darted along the hillside.

Kyle saw a Unggoy in a nearby group take a round to the face and tumble down the hill.

"Leave him!" The squad's commander shouted to the other. "Stick behind the Mgalekgolo!"

The rest followed this order as Kyle saw the hulking brutes barrel up the hill. The Raptors might have started fearing the humans yet, but they quickly learned to be afraid of the Mgalekgolo. Their fuel rod rounds smashed the enemy's barricades into pieces as the Raptor's rounds harmlessly bounced off their armor. Kyle grinned as he saw three enemy soldiers get knocked into the air by one of the behemoth's massive arm shields while its bond brother shot a fuel rod round at a nearby vehicle, destroying it in a green and orange fireball. It was an awesomely terrifying sight to behold.

Things got even better as a large metallic object crashed into the ground a few yards ahead of the group, squishing a Raptor underneath. It's outer shielding collapsed, revealing a custom design ODST Mantis Walker with a minigun attachment. The machine's legs stretched out and the pilot cage closed up as it turned to face the enemy.

"Die, you maggots!" The Mantis's pilot should as the minigun fired off its rounds, shredding several enemies to ribbons. Another Mantis landed nearby shortly after, kicking dirt onto the rest of the troopers and reminding Kyle to focus on the actual fight.

The troopers and their allies continued to cover hop as they traded blows with the Raptors. An enemy sniper round pierced the neck of a Sangehlli soldier near Kyle, bringing the alien to his knees as blood gurgled out of his split mouth. Another trooper ahead of him was struck by a missile, blowing off his right leg as he was flung onto the ground. The trooper ahead of him retaliated by pulling a grande launcher from her back and blasting a group of Raptors to pieces, while a Kig-Yar squad protected a sniper with their shields as he struck enemy soldiers one by one. Above the ground forces, a hive of Yanme chaotically flew around the hill firing wildly at the enemy, picking off a soldier for every few of their own shot out of the sky.

"Go! Go! Go!" Morgan shouted as he and several troopers took cover behind the walkers. It was good timing on their part, as the Raptors started bringing out reinforcements and mobile turrets at the top of the hill.

"Deploying cover!" A female trooper shouted as she tossed a small device ahead of her. A large bubble shield emitted from the device, blocking som of the incoming turret fire.

"Get inside!" Corporal Peter Jaskolski shouted as he, Kyle, the female soldier and several of their allies ran into the bubble. Kyle barely made it inside as a rocket exploded behind him, knocking him off his feet as he tumbled into the bubble's protection.

"You alright?" The female soldier, identified on Kyle's visor as Private Jane Redmond, said as she helped Kyle to his feet.

He nodded in reply as a couple of Unggoy and Captain Turner entered the bubble, officially filling it to capacity.

"Mantis 1!" Turner shouted through he TEAMCOM.

"Reporting," one of the pilots replied.

"The shield will only last a little longer. Lay down suppressing fire on the turrets. We'll make a beeline up the hill and clear the reinforcements."

"Copy all, ma'am," the pilot replied as Kyle saw a Mantis turn slightly and launch a missile at one of the turrets, blowing it and its gunner to pieces.

"Get ready," Turner shouted as everyone prepared themselves. Kyle saw the timer on the bubble shield emitter tick down as everyone checked their weapons. Behind them, a group of Sanghelli zealots used the bubble for minimal cover as they lit their energy swords for the charge. It was going to be a slog up this hill. The Raptors were losing ground but they fought for every inch of soil with sweat and blood. He quickly reloaded his weapon, knowing that he wasn't going to make it up with half a clip out the gate.

"Hey, Nolan," someone to his right said.

He turned to see Redmond wave to him and point to the large flamethrower tank on her back as she adjusted her hose.

"I don't feel like blowing this up today," she said. "Got my back?"

He winked green in reply. It was going to be enough just covering his own butt, but he-

Whatever he was going to say would have to wait as the bubble began collapsing.

"Now!" Turner shouted as she led the charge, with everyone else shouting loudly as they open fired on the enemy. Several more Raptors fell as the group cover hopped between abandoned barricades and anything they could find. The Sanghelli zealots ran in a straight line directly into a large group of Raptors, enemy fire be damned. Another trooper attempted to throw a grenade, but was struck by a stray round in the gut, causing him to drop the grenade and blow himself up in the process. Several King-Yar dodged this explosion and escort to troopers and a wounded Yanme up the hill using their shields in a Roman phalanx formation.

Dirt, grass, rocks and blood continued to rain around Kyle as he returned fire against the enemy, looking over the distance to see even more fighting on the hills and fields around them. He couldn't tell how well those groups were doing, but he prayed they had better luck than his group was.

He couldn't worry too much about that though. No one had won yet and he had no intention of losing. One of the Kig-Yar in the phalanx had a grenade explode under its feet, causing the others to quickly rearrange themselves as their comrade was blown to bits. Kyle reloaded his clip and ran past the aliens as he caught up to Redmond and returned fire. The day felt like it would never end as each step forward felt like an eternity...


"That will be a thousand credits!"

Kyle slipped out of his daydream, returning his attention to an Unggoy cashier waiting expectantly for a response.

"Oh right! Sorry…" he apologized as he ran some numbers on his omni-tool. After fiddling around on the Extranet for half an hour, he found a store selling a Pillar of Autumn model. It wasn't the nicest looking location and of course the price was jacked up due to demand, but beggars couldn't be choosers today.

"All righty! Credits all got and gift wrapped tight!" The Unggoy chirped as he worked the store terminal. "Shipping it in…two days."

"Two days?"

"Lots of hummies sending stuff."

"Fine…well, then would it be ok to put in a personalized note before you send it?"

"Sure sure!" The Unggoy said opening a new holographic screen. "What I write?"

"Hm…just write, 'Merry Christmas, Sandy. Love, Uncle Kyle."

"Awww!" Unggoy said with a chuckle. "Hummie love."

Kyle smiled slightly, not seeing what was so funny but going along with it anyway. The sooner this was done, the sooner he could get back to his ship. He already wasted enough time.

"And done!" The Unggoy said closing the screen. "Thank you for shopping at Dip-Dup's Pawn and—"

"Yeah, that's cool, bye," Kyle quickly interrupted as he walked away. Better not to waste the gas in that little guy's tank on something he wasn't interested in.

As he made his way toward the nearest elevator block, he took a moment to soak in the muted but more relaxed tones of the Lower Wards. All walks of life lived in these parts, including the 'lower races' like Jiralhanae and Yanme who would be lucky to get a pizza delivery job up above. Neon lit advertisements on every corner showcased everything from the latest Asari health products to more...salacious offerings at the nearby clubs. Video screens near these advertisements broadcasted everything from the latest in galactic news to recent C-Sec reports, including some busts that likely happened only a few yards from where Kyle currently was. And how could one forget all of the 'friendly' stationary and mobile video cameras keep a close watch on everyone, heightening Kyle's already present feeling of paranoia.

So all of this didn't exactly make the Lower Wards sound appealing, much less an ideal place to raise a family, but at least everything here was more transparent. People on the Presidium would do everything to snipe you in secret if it helped further their image or the image of their species. Everyone here was just trying to make it day to day. It was something Kyle appreciated, even if he had some choice words of advice for how C-Sec could temper crime here. Still, if he had to pick any place to live on the Citadel, this might be it.

But that wasn't any of his concern right now. He weaved in and out of the crowd as business folks, armed mercenaries, civilians and everyone in between ascended a staircase to the elevator block. The sooner he got back to the ship, the sooner he could enjoy some real R&R. The group outside the block did seem unusually large though...

"Everyone please stay calm!" A tall black human C-Sec officer with a thick Arabic accent shouted to a crowd of visibility annoyed and murmuring people.

Well...that wasn't good. Kyle reached the back of the group as he peeked over their heads. A line of holographic yellow tape separated them from several C-Sec officers trying to calm them down.

"This is preposterous!" A Salarian politician shouted. "I have an important meeting at the Presidium in five minutes."

"I'm very sorry, sir," an Asari officer replied. "The Keepers come and go where they please.

Behind the officer, Kyle saw what was causing the problem. The elevator doors were open, revealing several of those mantis like Keepers coming in and out with a wide assortment of tools. They apparently decided to piss on everyone's day with some unscheduled maintenance. To be fair, there was no way to control or even communicate with them, so anything they did was unscheduled.

"We apologize for the inconvenience," the Asari officer then said to the crowd. "Please consult your omni-tools for nearby transportation. If you have any complaints, direct them to-"

One by one, Kyle saw people peeling off from the crowd. It looked like he would have to take the long way, but he didn't plan on taking a cab at the rates they were charging. It was then a thought occurred to him. A while back, Sergeant Mink pointed out a shortcut during a trip to the C-Sec headquarters. It wasn't the fastest way there, but it was likely that no one was using it so Kyle could double time his walk and get their before the crowd. With that, he backed away from everyone and made his way to the shortcut.

Upon arriving at the alleyway, he remembered the other reason why everyone else probably wasn't using it. If the Lower Wards seemed uninviting to some, this alleyway was an outright threat of violence. Steam clouds simmered from nearby floor vents, colored by the bright neon red lights stretching across the walls. Garbage was tucked away into clumps in the corners, wth a few odds and ends littering the ground. Save for some Keepers working at the nearby wall terminals, there were no other people around and no cameras to be seen. It was a perfect place for an ambush.

Kyle had to make due. He wasn't armed, but he was still dressed in his Alliance uniform. If he could keep a stoic demeanor, it would likely discourage anyone from jumping him. So, after popping a crick in his neck, Kyle began his journey down the overtly spooky back alley.

The first stretch of the wall was uneventful save for a Keeper leaving its terminal me exiting out a wall grate. All he had to do was keep moving and not-

"I said get away!" A voice called out up ahead.

Shit! Kyle stopped as he waited to see what happened. The accent and filtered voice meant it was probably a Quarian. Probably some lovers' spat or a nasty phone call. He just needed to wait it out.

"Fisk doesn't like being cheated," a new voice then said. "So nobody's leaving until we reach an understanding."

A Turian? Kyle could recognize that reverberating drone of their foxes anywhere and it didn't sound like some simple argument. He really shouted get involved, but he also wanted to know how long this would take. He quietly made his way to a nearby wall and peeked around a corner.

In a small opening in the alley, three Turians had cornered a young Quarian woman against a wall. One of the Turians was notably taller than the others, with a face tattoo design Kyle wasn't familiar with. The one to his left was an ugly looking bastard, with his left mouth mandibles broken off and burn scars across the right side of his face. The third one as the smallest of the group, brandishing a jagged tooth dagger and a pistol holstered at his side. With the whole place being unobserved, they could harass the woman easily.

"I made the payment this morning!" The Quarian replied to the large Turian. "Whoever you got doing the numbers must be blind."

"You're going to insult poor Ful'get like that?" The large one replied. "Well, I saw the screen this morning and I'm afraid the giant zero speaks for itself."

"Zero! I've been paying in installments! How can it be zero?"

"You tell us, gas sucker," the little one quipped twirling his dagger.

Kyle could feel his blood boiling at the scenario, but he shouldn't get involved. It wasn't his business and he could get someone killed. Still, no one would help the Quarian otherwise.

"We don't suck gas, you racist bosh'tet," The Quarian snapped.

"'You racist bosh'tet!'" The ugly Turian mocked. "Ooo, I think she hurt our delicate feelings with her horribly judgmental language."

The other two chuckled as the large one stepped closer to the Quarian. "You're going to need more than words to settle a ten thousand credit loan."

"I barely have enough to eat!" She protested, now noticeably trying to contain her growing sense of panic. "Get Xanik to run the numbers again."

"Xanik is the one who sent us," the ugly one replied as he also stepped closer to her. "So tell us, how are you going to make this right with Fisk?"

After a few seconds of silence, the Quarian mad an attempt to run. The ugly Turian grabbed her by the neck while the large one pinned her against the wall.

"Ha!" The small one laughed. "Where do you think you're going, little girl?"

Kyle could feel his hands ball into fists. This wasn't his fight, he kept repeating in his head. This wasn't his fight. This wasn't-

"Let me go!" The Quarian shouted in an unsuccessful attempt to fight back. "Help!"

"Go on. Scream!" The large one said with a smirk. "C-Sec has better things to do than worry about an urchin like you."

"Got any ideal, Quindel?" The ugly one said gripping his hand tighter around her neck and lifting her slightly off the ground.

"Hm...a couple," the large one replied. "But I don't think she's taking us seriously. Doran, take off her mask so she can give us her full attention."

Kyle had heard enough. As the Quarian screamed for help, he made a beeline straight for the small Turian reaching for the woman's mask. Kyle could hardly feel his feet touch the ground with how fast he moved. It had been a long time since he kicked some Raptor ass. Now he could could use self-defense as an excuse...

...

Codex Entry (Alliance): Orbital Drop Shock Troopers

A Special Operations unit of the Alliance Marine Corps, Orbital Drop Shock Troopers specialize in small scale, high-risk combat operations. Though known for the eponymous insertion strikes, ODST forces are also trained to handle military and paramilitary responsibilities including long-range reconnaissance, sabotage, counter-contraband, counter-terrorism and guerilla warfare operations.

Previously a fledgling branch of the former United Nations Space Command, the ODST came to fame following successful campaigns in the outer colonies insurrection, the Human-Covenant War and the First Contact War. Their all-volunteer recruitment, chosen through rigorous screening and training procedures, provides trooper diversity that exemplifies the best in human combat experience.

Furthermore, ODST troopers are often tasked with field-testing experimental Alliance weaponry and armor, often receiving customized equipment suited for their operations.

Because of this, the ODST prides itself with a unique sense of identity and brotherhood apart from any other Alliance branch. Though criticized by some for their 'clique' mentality, the camaraderie developed within their squads have shown a statistical improvement in their combat performance. As such, the Alliance's Naval Special Warfare Command regularly attach and rotate ODST squads among Alliance cruisers and outposts to lend their combat expertise, as well as boost morale, among their fellow soldiers.

For more information on the ODST's purpose, consult your local Extranet station.

...

Continue on to 'Remember Shanxi' Part 2 to see how all of this malarkey turns out! For those of you who are unfamiliar with DinoJake's The Last Spartan story or want a refresher, go read his stuff right now!