A Halo Christmas Star
Posted By: Polarbear<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 10 December 2005, 9:31 am
A Halo Christmas Star
"Where the hell is Foehammer??" screamed Cpl Andrew Ryan into his handset. "We've got.." he cut his sentence short in order to flop to the ground, plasma pistol bolts scorching past where his head had been.
Ryan and his ODST's had been on a routine patrol checking for Covenant activity near Alpha Base when they'd been jumped by a large pack of Grunts led by a single junior Elite. Now, they wanted dust off, and the only Pelican driver within hundreds of lightyears wasn't answering her damned radio.
He grunted and brought the radio close to his face. "We've got Grunts coming out of our asses here, and ammo is getting low. Repeat, this is ODST patrol Delta urgently requesting extraction!!"
A burst of assault rifle fire drowned out the reply.
"Say again! It's hot down here!" he shouted.
Static. "Echo 419 is not available. Hold your position while we find someone who is." droned the nameless soldier on the other end.
Ryan cursed and flung the radio aside. "Heads down, people. We're not getting a ride home in time for Christmas." he announced bitterly.
A pistol barked repeatedly and a Grunt whined in pain. Someone had done some good shooting.
Ryan's exec, PFC Templeton, crabwalked up to him. "It's a stalemate, corp. They can't over run us, and we can't escape without air support," he said, panting.
Ryan squinted up at the gas giant planet Threshold. This halo thing didn't rotate like a real planet, so the only sunset the place ever got came when the sun went behind the huge planet. And that event was coming closer by the minute.
"It'll be dark soon," he said, and shrugged. "Well, as dark as it ever gets on this freakshow world. Maybe we can bug out then."
Templeton looked skeptical. "Won't be that dark. Grunts got cat's eyes, too."
Ryan stared at the man, and shook his head. "Then we eat Christmas dinner right where we are."
The human position was in a small valley, fed by a stream of fresh water. Ulka Mispakkoree and his pack of useless Grunts were holed up in a jumble of rocks, above the humans but devoid of any supplies. The battlenet was becoming erratic, as some unknown threat demanded more and more of its attention. Ulka had no idea what was happening, or why no dropships would come and get them out of this stalemate.
He sighed deeply. So much better it would be, to be home for the Prophet's Day celebrations. The Covenant was theoretically meant to be at peace for the day, to allow celebrants to honour the Prophets and the Forerunners for the Great Journey to come.
In reality, circumstances didn't seem to allow for such observances, especially since the humans had been found.
Ulka's mandibles spread into his species' equivalent of a grin. There was no one around, no one watching. The Grunts wouldn't say anything, he knew. It was worth a try.
"Hey, Ryan, check this out!" called a private, peering over the sights of his rifle.
"Here comes one of those gassers."
Ryan scrambled over to the man's position and raised his pistol, using its zoom to improve his view.
Sure enough, a lone Grunt was trotting toward the human lines, a white rag tied to a stick flapping in the warm breeze.
"Damn. Looks like it's got a flag of truce," he muttered quietly. "Anyone ever hear of them surrendering?"
"Nope, not if there's an Elite around," replied the private.
Ryan's mouth tightened. "Well. We'll just have to make this up as we go, won't we?"
Keggeg, a lowly new recruit seeing his first action, moved slowly toward the humans, making sure his flag was clearly visible. He was terrified, of course, and more than a little angered. They'd chosen him for this suicide mission because of his low rank, he knew.
He chattered with fear as he caught sight of two humans pointing weapons in his direction.
"I am sent for truce!" he called. "Elite says we talk!"
"Come ahead." the human replied cautiously, weapon not moving an inch.
"That's far enough!" Ryan barked. The Grunt stopped, quivering in his tracks.
"What do you have in mind?" he said, staring at the little alien soldier. He'd never seen a live one so close before.
"Elite says we no fight," the Grunt said, voice quavering. "It a holy day for us, be thankful to the Prophets," it continued, reciting its lines as if in a play. "We need water. Trade."
Ryan stared, astonished.
"Well, I'll be banned and booted." he said, lowering his pistol. "I think it's serious."
He decided to risk it, and stood up.
He walked slowly to the alien soldier and held out a hand. "You got your truce, gasser."
The Grunt sagged with relief. "Now go and get a drink. You dogfaces, weapons down but keep 'em close. Looks like we got ourselves a Christmas break!" he shouted to the incredulous troopers.
The sun had vanished behind Threshold and the light grew dim and watery. Covenant troops trickled down from the rocks, unarmed. Among them was an Elite, clad in shining blue armour.
"Who is in command here?" the Elite called out.
Ryan raised his hand. "That would be me. Since when do you guys speak English?"
The Elite loped forward on its double-jointed legs and regarded the human, looking down from well above Ryan's 6 feet of height.
"Your speech is simple. We do not lower ourselves to use it, but tonight is an exception." Ulka said with a touch of arrogance.
"Mighty white of you." Ryan said dryly.
"I can trust you to honour the Prophet's Day truce?" the Elite asked.
"I can trust YOU to honour the Christmas Eve truce?" Ryan replied sarcastically. He knew his men had the advantage here..the Covies had left their weapons behind, and the ODST's all had theirs. If the Elite decided to try anything funny, he'd regret it for the rest of his life
all ten seconds of it.
The alien commander tipped his head back and poured water down his throat.
"Today is holy for you as well?" he asked, the cold water feeling good as it sluiced down his throat.
"Yeah. It's an old holiday, goes back thousands of years. Wish I was home for it." Ryan said wistfully.
The Elite turned his head and looked at the human soldier closely.
"Coincidence. I too wish I were back home with my younglings." Ulka said quietly.
He raised his head and stared at the stars.
"The Prophets tell us little of our enemies. They say you are nothing but animals. But you fight well and bravely." Ulka said. "Tell me of your holy day and I will tell you of mine."
Ryan smirked. "You put up a hell of a fight yourselves." He looked around, watching his troops as they helped the Grunts fill their canteens, offering bits of chocolate or tobacco as trade goods.
"Never thought I'd live to see the day." Ryan whispered.
"Yes. We have been fighting long." Ulka agreed. Ryan sighed and closed his eyes.
"Wanna know about Christmas, do you? Where to start.."
"At the beginning?" Ulka suggested. Ryan stared in amazement at the Elite.
"Crap, you even use our jokes. We oughta be on the same side."
He composed himself, and began.
"It was about 2500 years ago, no one really knows for sure. God..that's the Creator, made the universe. Maybe even made you." Ryan chuckled.
"Anyway, he had a kid. He thought we humans had gotten too evil to be endured, but He found a way to fix the situation.
It probably happened six months later, but we chose to celebrate the birth of the Son of God during the darkest, coldest time of the year. Helps cheer people up, and all that."
Ryan looked at the Elite, who was listening closely. "I see you're getting this. Okay."
He cleared his throat and continued.
"An angel..that's like, a messenger from God, shows up and tells all the locals not to be afraid, but to be happy, because their Saviour has been born. It's a new era, and God is setting things right with us even though we'd been a real bad bunch of boys and girls.
The angel said to follow a star to the birthplace, and to worship our new Messiah."
"Messiah..?" queried the Elite.
"Uh, I'm not big on the details here..means someone sent by God to atone for our sins." Ryan replied.
"Anyway, there was a star in the heavens that guided pilgrims to the holy site. We used candles at first, then electric lights and it all got sort of out of control." Ryan rolled his eyes at the memory of houses decked with millions of sparkling lights, each competing to be seen from orbit and beyond.
The Elite raised his head, looking intently at the arch of the halo far above them.
"Did the star look like that?" Ulka asked reverently, pointing upwards.
Ryan followed the Elite's cue and his eyes widened. A tiny point of sharp light had blossomed on the halo's far surface, growing so intense in its glare that it was painful to look even near it.
Well, that explains it, he thought. The Master Chief and Cortana had gone and done something real big. And Foehammer was probably up there too. Ryan hoped, his heart sinking, that they'd managed to escape.
"Yeah. I guess it did. I guess it did." he whispered. All the men were watching the blazing light, and the shockwave racing inexorably across the halo's surface toward them.
Ryan smiled grimly. "Happy Prophet's day, squid head." he said, resting a hand on the alien's shoulder. "I think you're about to meet them in person."
"Happy Christmas, human." Ulka replied, seeing the inevitable approaching.
"Perhaps we will fight together on the Great Journey."
"Naw..I've got another destination in mind!" he said, and the world vanished in a wave of fire and noise, breaking apart and scattering human and Covenant alike across space, together now for eternity, as dust and echoes.