1396: Love of a Spartan – Prologue, Chapter One, and Chapter Two

Title: Love of a Spartan
Author:  AshleyBudrick
Media: Video Game
Topic: HALO
Genre:  Sci-Fi/Romance
URL: Prologue
Critiqued by Admiral Sakai, Gul, and the Arbiter

Hello there, fellow riffers! I’ve been off-duty for a while due to the time demands of graduate school, but following the very, errmmm, enthusiastic response to the ending poll of John and the Dragon Rider, I’m back with the cringingly-titled Halo ‘fic Love of a Spartan.

Yes, you read that correctly.”

I first encountered this particular gem in the same place as Halo: The True Meaning Of Christmas – Shojumishojo’s old livejournal sporking collection, which did the first two chapters. I think I’ve done enough of these riffs by now not have to explain the basics of the Halo universe at the intro again, although I will link to the original introduction for newcomers and scatter the usual wikilinks throughout. This ‘fic is also, sadly, a bit denser than our previous offerings, so we’ll be stuck with it for quite a while indeed.

Marvellous.”

Fortunately, this time we’ve got help. I heard there might be either some Sangheilomance or Sangheilobashing later on during the ‘fic, so I’ve brought along our friend the Arbiter to fill Teron’s old spot by the door.

I shall do no such thing!”

Now now, if you don’t want to participate we could always just send you back to John and the Dragon Rider.”

“…”

I’ll just take that as a yes.

We begin, as usual, with the summary. It… does not bode well.”

She’s just a marine. He’s a Spartan. Love has no place in a war, but it forms whether you like it or not, whether it makes you or breaks you. And in this case, it could be lethal. John-117 x OC. Updated & Edited 07/11

I do think it’s interesting to note that the story was finished, edited, whatever, in 2011. While that’s a bit more recent than our previous subjects, it does put this safely behind that one really terrible fanfic with all the angst over Cortana’s rampancy and the confusing plot with the two Didacts leading a “Storm Covenant” that has no Brutes in it and all of those horrible, horrible OC Spartans.

Sakai, I’m sorry to have to remind you of this, but that was Halo 4.”

“What?”

Nothing to worry about… you weren’t in that one.

MOVING ON, Chapter 1 is in fact a prologue, which, while a perfectly fine method of storytelling, conflicts with FF.net’s automatic numbering system to set every chapter number after it off by one. I’m just going to use the numerical auto assign with 1 = prologue here to avoid confusion.

And that prologue begins with… *gags* poetry. Or song lyrics of some kind, I can’t really tell. To Die for a Cause this is not.”

I can’t love

There’s no place for it, out here, in the danger zone,

We’re stuck in this war, with only faint memories of back home,

Our flowers and chocolate are guns and bullets,

So basically your average turian romcom then?

More or less.”

Only when this is over can we relax, maybe

Until then, I won’t stop till I finish,

Put an end to it all

Finish this fight

I would sooner finish the narrator.”

[May 14th, 2525 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Earth]

Oh, hey, a location stamp! Will it serve to enlighten us as to the specifics of travel times and durations in a simple, unobtrusive manner, or become a weak substitute for proper, in-narritive description? Place your bets now!

Latter. Definitely.”

Well… you’re too relentlessly pessimistic to count. Arby?

“A weak substitute, most certainly.”

Oh god dammit.

It’s also worth noting that this is another author who forgets that the United States has been subsumed into something called the “United Republic of North America” by the 2500s and no longer exists as a political entity.”

And why Los Angeles? You know, the sequel to John and the Dragon Rider is also set there…

NO! I will not be shamed! Not again!”

The little girl emerged from her bedroom, rubbing her eyes with one fist tiredly, clutching a stuffed kitten by the paw. The toy’s fur was matted and stained, but it was a good sign that it was a well adored object.

Well, that’s certainly one way of putting it…

Watch your mouth, Sangheili are present!”

The girl, whose name was Renee Kilburn, looked similar to her stuffed kitten in terms of condition.

Oh, she was a well-adored object too?”

Didn’t you just-

Silence.”

Being an eight year old, her brown hair was messily brushed into two pig-tails, remnants of her breakfast was clustered in the corners of her mouth,

A most shameful display! Your kind should instruct your children in proper decorum.”

Yeah, that’s… a little slow for an eight-year-old. When I was eight I was allowed to microwave my own food.

and her clothes, particularly her elbows and knees, were stained brown and green from her latest romp outside in the yard.

Her father was at work and her mother was currently in the shower, and she had just awoken from her nap. She had played for quite a long time outside with her two friends, Troy Fisher and Amy Smythe. It was the weekend, so the three friends often took advantage of the freedom from school to play games like grav-ball, riding their bikes, going to the park or looking for lizards and bugs in the garden.

Excuse me, can you point me to the location where we said we were at all interested in a boring child’s boring daily routine? Oh, wait, that’s right, we didn’t.”

I mean, we’ve had daybook writing here before, but I don’t think I’ve ever meant the term this literally.

This particular excursion had tuckered her out and she went in and surrendered to a rest for a while,

She “surrendered to a rest.” Because I guess just sleeping wasn’t purple enough!

and managed to nap despite the temperature both inside and outside of the house. The Californian sun, despite it being early spring, shone down hotly, a menacing foreshadow for what was to come during the summer months,

This passage has more purple crammed into it than a Covenant scrapyard!

and Renee had napped lightly, lying atop of her bed sheets, the curtain pulled down over her bedroom window in attempt to make the atmosphere a little cooler.

Because, by 2525 on your calendar, middle-class residences still lack basic air conditioning.”

As she stepped into the sunlit living room, she was able to groggily make out the digital clock on the mantel, it read 3: 21pm. Troy and Amy would probably be back again soon, like most other days, rejuvenated and knocking at her door to invite her to go play again.

And I bet we’re going to have to sit through every goddamn minute of it.

Troy, a lanky and adventurous brown-haired boy, was older than Renee or Amy. Being the age of eleven, he wasn’t as easily tuckered out and was usually the first one to come knocking, usually with a soda or perhaps an energy drink in hand, willing to usually share it with Renee.

And this, Arbiter, is usually when the alarm usually goes off. Usually.”

*ALARM BLARES*

There we go. Let’s see what he can do!

Wort wort wort!”

***

Neat! He slices, he dices, but does he make Julianne fries?

Well, I’m sure he’ll have plenty more test subjects before this is over.”

Amy was nine, with flaming red hair

Then somebody had better put it out before it burns down to her skull.”

and a face full of freckles.

She fit in well with the two, and had been obnoxious, energetic, and tom-boyish since a very young age. Seeming always determined to prove herself, she was always trying to keep up with Troy and his other friends. She never liked to admit she was tired, and kept going until usually she couldn’t walk anymore.

Yeah, she’s a badfic character all right. So stupid that she falls over from exhaustion before her brain realizes she’s tired.

Renee, however, wasn’t afraid to surrender into slumber when she needed it.

For the Spirits’ sake! If this ‘fic had any more surrendering crammed into it the Covenant would already have won!”

Were it so easy…”

Anyway, the exposition on Renee’s sleeping habits sort of peters out, she wanders into the living room, and lo and behold there’s a news report on television dealing with the Human-Covenant war. We are treated to even more exposition on that, apparently on the theory that people will be reading Halo fanfiction without first knowing what Halo is about, and we learn that Renee is such a smart girl that she watches the news and worries about the course of the war even though her parents try to shelter her from it. Gag.

Today, a Covenant cruiser has entered another UNSC colony planet’s atmosphere and launched an attack; this planet’s population is about 4 million, and our forces are currently trying to save the planet before the Covenant get a chance to glass it… we have exclusive footage taken from one Marine’s helmet…”

“It’s not like we have to actually name the colony or anything, we’ll just give the population figures and travel time and let the viewers figure out the rest for themselves.”

She wanted to look away from the TV, but her childish curiosity kept her watching as the news cut to shaky and static video footage, filled with gunfire and movement. Bright blue and green bolts of what looked to be light streaked across the screen; dirt could be seen catapulting into the air by explosions, the occasional rat-a-tat-tat of assault rifles was heard. Suddenly, a blue armor-clad alien came into view, and Renee gasped, staring wide-eyed in horror as it roared, and charged towards the camera, shooting its weapon.

It looked like something from a movie, but this thing was real. She never saw an alien before, only heard about them, and what she heard was kept at a minimum. Most parents didn’t want their children to be exposed to the horrifying truth of what the human race was fighting, including Renee’s.

Which is … kind of a weird way of describing censorship. This sounds like the Covenant species are so physically ugly they are not suitable for children, as opposed to, you know, the fact that they glass major cities being a deciding factor.

I fail to see why that is more reasonable. Surely you wish to instill a healthy respect for the enemy in your young!”

Never mind.

If her mother wasn’t in the shower, she probably wouldn’t have let her even watch the television.

The charging alien in the footage was tall, big, and ugly. It walked on two feet, just like humans did, had four jaws lined with sharp teeth and an elongated reptilian face and little golden eyes with slits for pupils. Just as the monster drew close to the camera, it let out a deep, terrifying roar that seemed to echo, there was a bright blue flash and a loud sizzling noise and the image flickered and diminished to a noisy buzz war of salt and pepper.

It switched back to the news reporter, who looked just as surprised at the video’s ending as Renee.

It’s a bit strange that the network news is able to display footage of a real person’s violent death without so much as a warning crawler, but perhaps broadcast standards are different in the 2520s?”

He cleared his throat and glanced down to his papers, and began talking again, but his words went in one ear and out the other. Renee sat on the couch, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open in shock. It was difficult to register that what she had just witnessed was not a movie, not fiction, but reality. This was what humanity was up against.

She barely heard the knocking on the door, but she didn’t need to get up and answer it, for not two seconds later she heard the door open. For a moment in her eight year old mind, the option that it might be an alien crossed her thoughts. She imagined one identical to what had been in the video stepping into her living room, looking at her with those evil eyes, its jaws parting to let loose that same terrifying roar. She gasped and stared at the entrance of the living room as she heard footsteps approaching down the hallway, her mind betraying her and running wild.

But it was no alien. She was quite relieved to see Troy walk in, hands shoved in his pockets.

All right, you know what? I actually really like this section. The setup of the news broadcast itself is pretty clumsy and a bit heavy on pointless exposition, but having a younger version of the main character react to it like this really helps ground the Human-Covenant war with respect to people’s everyday lives and showcases just how terrifying the destructive potential of the Covenant really is. There’s a similar passage in the beginning of Hunters in the Dark, and it’s far and away the best part of what is otherwise a very mixed bag of a book.

His shaggy hair a mess underneath his hat, and his blue eyes shone through the dirt on his face.

And I think our young narrator was so terrified she just accidentally a word.”

He had acquired a new injury, Renee noted, by the new band-aid slapped on his arm.

CAAW!”

Yarg!

Wort wort wort!”

… ow.

Anyway, the chapter ends with Troy suggesting they sign on with the Marines when they grow up and Renee still being scared of Elites. It’s… nothing special, and if it wasn’t for that poetry at the beginning and the fact that this story is called “Love of a Spartan” I’d go so far as to say that this was a fairly decent way to start a Halo ‘fic, written by an author who just needs a little bit more practice with the English language. If I were writing this I would age up the characters so that the personality traits they show here could more likely persist into their adult lives, but as it stands while in a very strict sense this chapter doesn’t do a lot to advance an overarching narrative or tell us things we don’t already know, it’s a good way to ease into a new work and connect it to the wider Haloverse.

It gets worse, doesn’t it?”

Oh, it’ll always get worse.

Chapter 2 (in our numbering that is, the ‘fic still refers to it as Chapter 1) is called “Capricornia”. Now, if I were working for the UNSC I might have chosen a colony name that didn’t bring to mind Unicornicopia, but maybe the name “Caprica” is still owned by Ronald D. Moore’s estate?”

Ten Years Later

[March 7th, 2535, City of Vega – Planet Capricornia, UNSC Colony, 1300 Hours]

Is it just me, or did these time-and-date stamps just get a lot more detailed?

which, really, is how I think a time-and-date stamp should be. Its purpose isn’t to provide a basic description of the setting – the narrative should be doing that – but to provide more precise information to help the reader synchronize scenes that may be chronologically close together or interleaved in the same or similar locations.

An M-12 Warthog sped across a dirt clearing, kicking up red dust as it headed towards a cluster of concrete buildings that had once been considered the outskirts of the city of Vega. Besides the roar of the vehicle’s engine and the crunching of the wheels against the ground, the air was filled with sounds of distant gunfire and the buzz of overhead Banshees and Covenant drop ships.

The area was a war zone. Vega, which was once a flourishing city of over two million, was now almost completely abandoned, for the exception of several squads of UNSC marines and a few terrified civilian stragglers desperately searching for a way out of the hell.

*gasp*

Is this… setting?

It’s almost, enough, to forgive the, random, application of, commas.”

That, and if they’re looking for a way out of the hell they are going to need to kill the author-insert.

The latter weren’t likely to last long; a few managed to find the marines and were promised a seat in the hatch of a Pelican when the evacuation time came

That sounds hideously unsafe, not to mention uncomfortable and probably detrimental to the ship’s atmospheric integrity. Surely the troop bay of a Pelican would be a better place to put humans than trying to wedge them inside of the hatch joints.”

– but others were left to wander the scorched and crumbling streets of what had once been their home, searching for help that they wouldn’t find. Those unfortunates, like millions of others would meet their death, directly or indirectly, at the hands of the Covenant.

They had found the colony of Capricornia three days ago, not long after destroying the colony of Jericho IV – it hadn’t even been a week before. The Covenant fleet had been led right to Capricornia by a slip-up, a set of coordinates falling into alien hands – and now, here they were, approaching their seventy-second hour of wreaking hell.

The invasion was huge. From the ground, at least two Covenant assault carriers were visible. They crept through the air almost lazily, making a sweep of the north end of the city. Almost constantly, blue beams of plasma flashed down from them, enveloping the city in a bright orange flame, scorching the ground and buildings as easily as tossing a match in gasoline. The sky was thick with smoke; the majority of light not coming from the sun, but the flaming horizon. Everything had a hazy orange hue; it indeed looked like hell itself.

They had already begun glassing.

This… still doesn’t suck. Could some of the sentences be structured better? Yes. Could we, do, without the, scattershot commas? Fuck, yes. But overall this isn’t too far off from what I’d expect from a relatively early draft of a decent story. Tighten up the sentence organization a little and find some things you can compare the battlefield to other than “hell,” and I’d really be enjoying this.

Sadly, it can only go downhill from here.”

Junior Lieutenant Troy Fisher was driving the Warthog, his skills almost reckless. Pedal to the metal and the hand of the speedometer buried, the vehicle was almost flying, making air occasionally as it sped across the uneven ground, bouncing heavily on the shocks.

Well… about half of that made sense…”

I can see that our author’s spray-and-pray philosophy applies to driving cliches as well as commas.

We get another relatively nice passage where it is revealed Lt. Fisher is fleeing from the Covenant glassing line that just took out a major section of the city.”

I must wonder, however, just why the Covenant is expending so much effort on one colony – usually this sort of activity is reserved for the locations of key Forerunner relics.”

I dunno, maybe they were en route to a bigger colony and stopped along the way?

“Was… that something that actually happened?”

More than both the Hierarchs and I would ever willingly admit.”

Troy tore his eyes away from the rearview mirror, back to the road, then briefly to his side, where his childhood friend Renee Kilburn sat beside him. She, along with Amy, despite his wishes, had joined the UNSC two years after he had.

Meaning that he had wished them not to join because he’s inexplicably sexist and an idiot all of the sudden, or that he had wished them to join earlier?

I’m hoping it’s the latter, but given our track record here at the Library I’m guessing the former.”

The two women, with less than a year of actual field experience under their belts were fresh to these hellish warzones, and more than once he was able to catch the expression of bewilderment and horror on their still-childish faces. He never wanted them to join, he never wanted for them to see this, to experience this, to be close to death. This hell, this war, the bloodshed, the death, completed with the gap between ranks and enforced authority made their long-term friendship a far away fantasy now. Long ago were the lazy civilian days in Los Angeles. This was now, and this was pure hell.

Yes, yes, war’s hell. Now can we please get back to doing something?”

Yeah, actually. The malingering clears up quite quickly following a brief summary of the characters’ previous service experiences, and the three Marines take down a few Ghosts in a sequence with only a few misspellings and the odd misplaced, comma or two. And if I seem to be summarizing a lot here, it’s because it’s really in your best interests to just go to Chapter 2 and read it- the characters react normally to their situation and fight for the most part like competent soldiers, and Renee gets to be a badass and board a Ghost to shoot the occupant without breaking any major laws of physics. She one-shots the Elite with a pistol which really isn’t possible to do in the games, but I kind of want this to be plausible – in Halo 3, the Chief sticks a pistol in between Arby’s mandibles –

Not a pleasant experience, I would like to point out!”

–  so it would appear that some objects can pass through Sangheili energy shields and Renee actually had her weapon inside the shield envelope when she fired it.

Although there is, of course, the question of why out of all the soldiers in the UNSC these three childhood friends wound up in the same unit together. I don’t even really see much point in their having been childhood friends in the first place- this chapter works equally well if they are simply comrades who have grown close over the course of the war. That, and there is a rather clumsy attempt to tie back to the television news scene from Chapter One when the reader could probably figure out the contrast for themselves…”

Still, the fact that we’re able to even give this kind of criticism indicates how good the chapter actually is. With some proper editing, it’d easily be at the level of a lot of the official expanded universe books. With some proper editing and a few tweaks to the underlying structure of the scene, I’d be holding it up to you all as a shining example of a lot of the things Halo fanfiction can do right.

Anyways, the ‘Hog flips over but the Marines are able to escape the wreck without being seriously hurt, and they talk over what just happened and how kind of awesome Renee was. Then it gets kind of weird.

… Alright, Private Kilburn and Private Smythe, tell that story to the Captain! Might be medal worthy,” his sarcasm was almost hurtful – but he brushed it aside, not even willing to let either of them protest as he gazed towards the Warthog, “Our transportation’s ruined, there’s no way we can flip this by ourselves,” He sounded irritated, “We’ll have to call in and get someone to pick us up or deliver us a new one.”

“You flipped the damn thing,” Amy muttered.

Troy turned to look at her, shooting down her confidence with a cold stare.

“The M12 Warthog is prone to flipping, always has been,” he snapped, “Don’t try and accuse me of being responsible for the current situation, Private! I don’t want to hear another word from you or Kilburn. I’m in a bad enough mood as it is.

For the most part, it’s a pretty good balance of congratulation and skepticism, although there’s a pronoun issue where Lieutenant Fisher brushes aside his own sarcasm and then gets really irritable for no discernible reason. I’d chalk it up to the situation given that a Warthog just landed on him, but the author seems to want to make a Thing of it for some incomprehensible reason.

Regardless, the Marines are rescued in extremely short order by none other than Master Chief Petty Officer John-117! There’s nothing especially wrong with the sequence from a purely mechanical perspective, but it lacks the kick of the Ghost firefight. The vast majority of it is simply the Marines standing in awe of the Chief’s presence before he flips their vehicle back over and then leaves – which is a reasonable reaction given the emotions Spartans inspire among the rank and file simply by their presence in canon, but if you are going to include a living titan like John in your firefight you had better make damn sure he does something suitably awe-inspiring. Here, his presence accomplishes nothing that the Marines couldn’t have done themselves with a bit more time to get their bearings and find a suitable metal beam in amongst the rubble.”

I’ll give the story credit for bringing up as an aside that the Chief is in fact inferior in rank to Lieutenant Fisher when a lot of ‘fics (and now, sadly, actual games) have him outright ordering around Commanders and higher as opposed to just making suggestions. However, I also find the image of the Demon himself, John-11-freaking-7, crashing in on a group of stranded Marines, fixing their transport, and then driving off again without so much as a “how do you do” to be far more hilarious than fleeing a Covenant glassing line should ever actually be.

Additionally, the tale claims that the Demon is driving his Warthog without a gunner. Would it not make more tactical sense for one of the Marines to take that seat, and for the two others to go with him in their own vehicle? That would effectively double their firepower.”

Also, Troy is still being snarky and kind of pessimistic, and the two others keep talking back to him like it’s some kind of big deal.

Troy sighed irritably, and started up the Warthog, and jammed the gearshift to drive, and the Warthog started up with a jerk he accelerated that fast, and they sped off towards the cluster of the abandoned buildings.

Going back to the castle where Legolas lived, if the sentence structure is any indication.”

What structure??

Good point.”

“Do you think there will be snipers around here?” Renee asked, looking up at the towering buildings as they feverishly sped past,

Ok, even in the middle of Covenant glassing buildings should not be feverish, and regardless of the circumstances buildings should not be speeding. Double-check your goddamn pronouns!

Also, why are the Marines ‘feverish’ in the first place? I do not think that word means whatever the author thinks it means.”

“Jackals with beam rifles usually like these kind of spots.”

Troy was driving like a maniac. He didn’t even look at her, as they swerved around a corner.

Truly a menace on the road. Because of course, the safe thing to do while in a high-speed race against plasmonic death is to turn around and stare at your rear gunner while negotiating sharp turns.

Strange how the author keeps presenting entirely normal things Troy Fisher does as though they were personal failings. Perhaps a counter is in order…”

Terrible Troy Counter: 3

Let’s see here, once for driving like… well, a sensible person, really, once for being skeptical of one of his men climbing onto an Elite’s lap, and once for not bowing at the feet of a Spartan who doesn’t do anything.”

“You honestly think they’ll get a good shot at us?” Troy asked, glancing at the speedometer as it approached seventy mph.

Which is strange, as the Warthog’s speedometer, like all other UNSC instruments, is calibrated in the metric system. It’s really kind of a shame, as the author clearly did her research on dates, times, designations, and other small details in the earlier sections.

“You never know,” Renee replied.

“Well if anyone here gets sniped, it’s not like we can do much about it,” Troy shrugged indifferently,

It should also be noted that Troy driving quickly and somewhat erratically dramatically decreases the odds of snipers being able to target them. He clearly knows what he is doing, and it’s his subordinates who keep pointlessly questioning him.”

In the Covenant Army, this would not be allowed.”

Hate to break it to you, pal, but this ain’t the Army any more.

Terrible Troy Counter: 4

They get into an argument over whether they will be retreating from the colony or sticking it out to try and drive the Covvies back, and of course Troy predicts the first option (which is, in fact, exactly how almost all of these early HCW engagements go) and his pals think the Chief will somehow be able to, I dunno, punch the assault carriers out of the sky and save Capricornia all on his own or something.

Terrible Troy Counter: 5

Then, without any sort of scene transition, they arrive back at their temporary camp. It’s another relatively decent scene where the Marines actually act like Marines and Troy is finally vindicated when the Chief returns from his scouting run and recommends that they abandon the planet. It is strange, however, that this small group of Marines seems to be the only military force left on said planet, as they never even mention contacting any superior officer on the ground for orders.”

That, and we are informed that the three other officers in this unit are also childhood friends of Troy Fisher – either there’s some very strange nepotism at work here, or Troy Fisher managed to befriend half the UNSC before he turned 18.

There’s also one paragraph that more than anything else seems like it comes from a completely different version of the story:

“This is upsetting,” Renee announced to Amy, as she tore open her ration pack with her teeth. The idea of food seemed good to her since she’d vomited up her breakfast and felt hungry, “We’re leaving so soon. I feel so helpless.”

That thing about Renee having vomited up her breakfast does not, to my knowledge, have anything to do with anything, and it is never mentioned anywhere else in the entire ‘fic. Her speaking in these clipped, expressionless sentences could be a deliberate choice to indicate that she’s not all there mentally after the day’s events, but again nothing like that is ever mentioned again so I really have no idea.

Chapter 3 (“Forced Abandonment”) opens with, oddly, an introspective segment from John-117:”

He hated being the bearer of bad news, but it was the truth, and John believed in telling it. This was going to be another Jericho IV. Another planet lost to the Covenant, another few million people dead. He often wished he could do more, but by now, John had realized that in this type of situation, there wasn’t much he could do.

He had contemplated the options for a long time on the drive back to the camp. There was the option of staying a while longer; moving from place to place like vagabonds, while the cruisers glided along behind them, glassing the previous area they had just been in. Sure, they would be able to kill maybe a dozen more Covenant ground teams, but not without casualties. The smell of blood was already strong in the air as it wafted out from the makeshift hospitals filled with injured and dying marines and civilians they had picked up in their travels. The docs didn’t need more to care for.

Vega was just one city on this vast planet. One. It both sickened and angered John to think of what the rest of the planet looked like. He hated to give up like this, hand the planet over to the Covenant as if it were a present, but it would be pointless to continue when they would lose it in the end anyway.

The Covenant, although no one really wanted to admit it, were getting better. The ratio was more than enough proof. More and more colonies were being lost each and every month, not that John kept track of time. This whole war seemed like one big, never ending hell.

It’s still not a terrible description of the war and its effects, but… while a monologue like this would work perfectly for a younger Jacob Keyes, or our friend Lieutenant Fisher, or, well, absolutely any other character, I have a very difficult time imagining the near-sociopathic Master Chief falling into this sort of introspection.”

That, and the author really, really needs to find something to compare the Human-Covenant war to other than “hell.” Seriously, if I didn’t know beforehand that Capricornia (and any semblance of actual action in the ‘fic) would not be long for this world, I’d be setting up one hell of a counter.

They move out and start preparing for evacuation, Troy’s no-nonsense handling of his Lieutenant’s responsibilities not getting him a slap from the narrative for once. Then we get a rather unpleasant taste of what’s to come as a disturbingly large deal is made of John treating the injuries he sustained during his scouting run:”

John turned, and walked over to a warthog, reached in the back and pulled out a first aid kit nestled in between two boxes of ammo for the machine gun. He ignored the pain in his chest and calmly strode over to the shade of a tree, plunked himself down on a boulder, and began removing his chest plates, and other pieces of his upper MJOLNIR armor, until he was left wearing the black matte body suit.

Now, we never get an in-depth canon description of the removal of a MJOLNIR suit other than that it is complicated and requires more than two hands, but just going off of the fact that there’s that large power/shield generator on the back and large support struts connecting it to the chest section I am imagining the whole top half being lowered down on a mechanical track like a modern space suit- I highly doubt that the individual chest plates can be detached while it is being worn, especially since the bodysuit is not just rubber but actually an important part of the motion amplification system.

The plates themselves resembled what his skin itself looked like.

And these tautologies, by themselves, are as annoying as something that was really annoying!

Scratched and scarred, dirtied and covered in blood. He then reached up and removed his helmet. The rush of fresh air hitting his face felt good. John wasn’t afraid of showing his face. A lot of marines had seen him before, and he only got the strange looks because of his paleness. Besides that, he looked as normal as anyone else.

I’ve mixed feelings on this passage. John does not in fact demonstrate any real anxiety over being observed without his armor in canon, and I’m just immensely thankful the story hasn’t yet opted to pull too much of a General Sigfried on us regarding the whole masks and isolation bit. At the same time, John is somewhat more comfortable in his armor than out of it, especially on a battlefield that may or may not be populated by Jackal snipers…”

John then slipped off part of the body suit to expose his chest. His pale skin was scarred with old wounds, it was like a pattern. They criss-crossed his skin, like a child’s scribbles on paper, but he had long since accepted them.

Well, I’m glad the simile is something other than “hell” for once, but is there a point to this?”

The new wounds, however, were what got his attention. He had a three inch gash tracing along his lower rib cage, and a dried trickle of blood had run down the length of his stomach. He examined himself further, discovering many tender places on his chest, neck and arms, which given a few hours, would form into ugly black and purple bruises.

Well that was awkward.”

A description of the Master Chief treating his injuries after a long mission should not need Private Tucker’s accompaniment.

After that, the Demon’s motion tracker notifies him of hostile movement nearby and… this happens:”

He whipped his head around, his arm snapping out instinctively and grabbing his assault rifle, and he leapt to his feet. John saw the ugly face of a Jackal peeking out at him for a split second, until it ducked back into the brush.

John shot forward, reaching the alien’s position in four long strides. The surprised Jackal turned to face him, its big eyes getting impossibly larger. It whipped its spindly arm around to point the beam rifle, but John wasn’t in the mood for creeping Jackals.

Sniper Jackals didn’t have shields, so this thing wasn’t a threat. John reached down, his reflexes much faster than a trigger finger of a measly Jackal, and snatched the alien up by its bony, birdlike throat. He applied little pressure, and the thing let out a squawk, and dropped the beam rifle.

Wow, seriously, what’s with the Jackal-hate? It’s one thing to have the Covenant suddenly portrayed not as heartless killers but scared victims of a much more powerful force – it could even be cathartic if we’d had to witness their brutality for a while with no way for the protagonists to fight back. It’s even reasonable to describe them as ugly, from a human perspective. But “a measly Jackal” that poses no threat being picked up and slowly strangled with more detail and superfluous adjectives than anything else in the ‘fic? What did avians ever do to the author?

John looked into the creature’s big, frightened eyes. He realized, the Jackal had must have been there when he had been not wearing his helmet. Why hadn’t it shot him then? It would have been an easy kill. Either this alien liked a challenge, or it had some sort of modesty within it somewhere…

Whatever the hell that means…

I think it means that since Stuerra-117 is suddenly incompetent, the Covenant must become more incompetent or there would be no more story!”

Don’t I wish…

Anyway, most of the rest of the chapter is another section that’s simply worth reading in its entirety, as the Marines pack up and Troy continues to act like an officer. We encounter our first UNSC casualties in a really rather interesting action sequence where the evacuation Pelicans run afoul of a Spirit dropship, and the Chief actually does something appropriate to his skill level and drives it off with a rocket launcher. The Marines antagonize each other, but in a manner that suggests they are reacting normally to a stressful deployment and aren’t just bickering like year-old chicks, and they arrive back at the cruiser Hercules without further incident. Then… in proper Halo badfic style, we sit through a boring senior officers’ meeting!”

We’re informed of the state of the war yet again, and Doctor Catherine Halsey is there for some reason. She’s mostly in character, although she says and does so little it’s really hard to tell. I suppose there’s no reason for her not to be on some arbitrary cruiser near the front end of the war, as in canon her involvement in many, many secret UNSC research projects keeps her bouncing around the galaxy basically at random, but at the same time she adds absolutely nothing to the scene. It sounds like she was added just so that the author could say “Look! A canon character!” We also meet the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Forgettable, but he’s… well, forgettable. (His name is Thomsen, by the way.)

“For some reason, Dr. Halsey needs to outline to John the possibilities of spending the trip in cryostasis or training, but neglects to mention where they are actually going. After that, Chapter 3 ends on a mediocre and pretentious note:”

Silently, Dr. Halsey, John andThomsen turned and looked out the window of the bridge to Capricornia. The blue hued planet was now golden in color, swarming with Covenant ships. Its surface was on fire, flashing gold and white with the surges of plasma from the cruisers. As they drifted further away, it seemed to glow against the black backdrop of space, another planet lost forever.

And that’s that.

It still feels odd to be riffing this ‘fic. There’s parts of it that are more than a little bit rough, but there’s also parts that I really wish I could say I could have written myself. It’s obvious that the author is in fact a fairly competent writer who spent a lot more than just five minutes on this … which makes the strange abuse of Lt. Fisher and the constant, almost racist in-narritive bashing of the Covenant all the more uncomfortable. I don’t know the exact breadth or depth of this 2011 “rewrite,” but considering what the other chapters look like mechanically (i.e. substantially worse than what we see here) I very much suspect that it ran out of steam pretty abruptly right around this point. I actually prefer it that way, though – I haven’t looked through this author’s account to see what else she wrote, but her obvious talents in writing punchy, well-choreographed action sequences would be much better spent on writing other stories that actually have a workable premise instead of polishing something like Love of a Spartan that was doomed to be cringe-inducing at word 1.

Come back next week to witness the complete breakdown of discipline onboard the UNSC Hercules, and Master Chief Petty Officer John-117’s personal descent into madness.”

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66 Comments on “1396: Love of a Spartan – Prologue, Chapter One, and Chapter Two”

  1. batjamags says:

    Topic: Princess Mononoke

    Wow, Muromachi Japan got weird.

  2. batjamags says:

    This fic seems like one of those where the author put actual, honest-to-god effort into something that came out awful anyway. It’s kind of a shame, but the badness tends to be even more infuriating in these, because it’s obvious the author can write well.

    • AdmiralSakai says:

      Sadly, yes. And having visited the author’s profile, I can tell you that to a greater or lesser degree all of her ‘fics have this problem.

      I actually considered contacting her directly regarding the review, but wasn’t sure how to phrase it properly.

      • batjamags says:

        I can kind of relate to the problem, actually. My mom believes in a certain form of grammar fascism, so my writing’s been mechanically solid from a very early age. That doesn’t mean I could write content worth a damn, but I fortunately scrapped most of my stupid ideas in the early outlining stages.

  3. SuperFeatherYoshi says:

    Wait, why is this Princess Mononoke?

  4. Title: Love of a Spartan

    Cain: Wait, isn’t this that shifty one that was really heavily favorited on FF?

    *Fic is seventh from the top when sorting Teen and below fics by favorites*

    Cain: Why though?

  5. Nothing to worry about… you weren’t in that one.

    Cain: And you spent the three missions of the next game where you were relevant being a badass. You had a ridiculous helmet, though.

  6. Then… in proper Halo badfic style, we sit through a boring senior officers’ meeting!”

    (Hey, I like Senior Officers’ meetings. Granted, I also enjoy slow-paced planning sections and other such things that don’t progress the story all that quickly. Of course, I also enjoy it when the thing I’m reading does actually progress in a well written manner. Like, at all. -agig, the author.)

    Cain: You only like Senior Officers’ meetings because you’ve never been to one.

    • AdmiralSakai says:

      I mean, I’m all for including planning on the strategic layer- in fact, given that LOAS gives us no real understanding of the wider state of the war as its plot progresses, I’d say more meetings with Halsey would be an improvement!

      But, of course, they never actually seem to discuss anything of actual import at these meetings…

      • batjamags says:

        Yeah, it would be cool to see a story (either in Halo or something similar) that focused on the commanders at the strategic level. It would have higher stakes, without constantly shoving action in your face.

      • DasCheesenBorgir says:

        Other than effectively fawning over the ongoing internal sabotage of UNSC biological weaponry

        On both sides in the war to boot

  7. TacoMagic says:

    “It’s not like we have to actually name the colony or anything, we’ll just give the population figures and travel time and let the viewers figure out the rest for themselves.”

    I bet it’s The Place.

  8. TacoMagic says:

    dirt could be seen

    A real shame, too. Maybe next time it’ll actually be shown so we can see it.

  9. TacoMagic says:

    it let out a deep, terrifying roar that seemed to echo

    It didn’t, of course. In reality it stopped dead as if acoustically damped.

  10. TacoMagic says:

    An M-12 Warthog sped across a dirt clearing, kicking up red dust as it headed towards a cluster of concrete buildings that had once been considered the outskirts of the city of Vega. Besides the roar of the vehicle’s engine and the crunching of the wheels against the ground, the air was filled with sounds of distant gunfire and the buzz of overhead Banshees and Covenant drop ships.

    Holy. Shit. That’s the most competent chunk of setting I think we’ve ever seen in the Library.

  11. TacoMagic says:

    That, and if they’re looking for a way out of the hell they are going to need to kill the author-insert.

    I think somebody has seen Taco’s Challenge.

  12. Swenia says:

    “Well if anyone here gets sniped, it’s not like we can do much about it,” Troy shrugged indifferently,

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the literary transporter room. Doing… calibrations.

  13. DasCheesenBorgir says:

    “Sangheilomance or Sangheilobashing”



    Waaaaaat? I sure don’t remember anything like that :/

    I mean unless a Spec Ops elite munching on salami in plain view of a human shitbird of a woman somehow counts as evidence of seckshual tension

    • AdmiralSakai says:

      Sadly, it does get pretty damn close.

      • DasCheesenBorgir says:

        Oh so I wasn’t just imagining things way back then…

        That’s especially fucked up cuz iirc the woman was already engaged to somebody back home

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        I don’t think it was intentional so much as the author not realizing how suggestive she was being.

      • DasCheesenBorgir says:

        It’s also kinda funny how the exact same elite gets so invested in the actual fleshling roughfuckdrama to the point where he goes out of his way to watch it unfold like a cheesy overbaked romance

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        Well, you see, if he actually did anything to advance the Covenant’s goals, then this story might have action in it. And we absolutely cannot have that.

      • AmbiguouslyXenophilicMoaBorgir says:

        Actually reminds me, you mentioned ‘Hunters in The Dark’ as being very much a mixed bag- now ofc I haven’t exactly read the book myself but I know one particular tidbit about it stood out to me

        …whaddya think of this? :)

        http://lady-owl.deviantart.com/art/Diplomatic-Benefits-V1-553516573

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        Well, I suppose it’s entirely my fault for clicking on that link at work…

      • DasCheesenBorgir says:

        I guess it’s not the first time I’ve linked err… questionable material here :P

        There was this one time I was very eager to share my research on what a ‘fucksaw’ was for example…

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        Well, at least it’s not the When You’re Strange title page.

        (Good God!)

      • CuriousSauteedFelineBorgir says:

        The one with ID Tagged Turians carrying ID Tagged humans?

        Anyway, yeah

        The whole interspecies friendship thing in Hunters in the Dark (did they even have the Mgalekgolo in the book… Silly extrapolation I’m sure, but I was really to see some sorta black ops stealth Hunters snekking around and covertly snapping necks with their fuckhueg shields or something lol), was it as eyeroll inducing as it kinda sounds, or was it mostly pretty forgettable to you at most, with the fanbase just really playing it up in stuff along these lines?

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        Honestly, if the rest of the book didn’t have major problems I might have found more issue with it, but as things stand it was sort of eclipsed by Mary Sue characters of unclear function, a plot that seemed largely random, and basically everything that could go wrong going wrong at the ending.

        Also, have you noticed that the Engineers have gotten really, really overpowered? They seem to know everything there is to know about Forerunner technology, Covenant technology, UNSC technology, and damn near everything else, and can decipher the first or merge it with either of the latter with basically no effort, completely eliminating the need for the human scientists to ever actually do anything.

      • DasCheesenBorgir says:

        Eh, I’ve actually not read too much into Halo (canon) literature so Engineers have usually just been exploding gas bags to me for the most part-

        -but I’d say, it’s probably not so much of an issue with the Engineers themselves so much as the new environment they’re in that makes them ‘overpowered’? They’re basically in a sorta stage now where humanity and the more ‘enlightened’ sects of what was once the Covenant can work together, just in general seeming to have a lot more room and time to start exploring new technological possibilities. Point being, I’m pretty sure they’ve always been that knowledgeable to begin with, just with the larger scale Human-Covenant war not giving them much room to be creative/flaunt their expertise?

        I think it was Contact Harvest where I was first introduced to them. They were kinda these borderline slaves kept by the Covenant iirc, and maybe it was only cuz the story largely involved just the Brutes but they gave off this cool vibe of being very valuable and scarce, in addition to just having their freedom to be technologically progressive hampered I guess? So while they were probably really knowledgeable n shit they couldn’t really do anything terribly groundbreaking with it, thus making them seem like they’re ‘becoming’ overpowered now that they’re given the freedom to be so?

        Not saying that giving them that much knowledge was a good idea to begin with, but I at least think they handled it in a more appropriate manner before. I’d say it already started to get a little silly in ODST gameplay when they started throwing the things at you as regular support mooks in the *dozens* -_-

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        I think part of it is that trying to continue the story in the post-Halo-3 universe is not the best decision in general- the end of the game wrapped things up so nicely with respect to eliminating the threat from both the Covenant and the Flood, that there wasn’t really anything left to do.

        I think that lack of any clear direction has resulted in a lot of the overarching problems with the new material. The UNSC has always done pretty awful things, but readers could understand why- the alternative was glassing; that threat has now been removed… but the UNSC is still doing pretty horrible things, many of which have resulted in its own direct detriment, for no real reason other than… I don’t know they’re jerks? Similarly, in the complete absence of any other threat, the last two games have been trying to make the Forerunners out to be an enemy- not only does this make no sense, but it turns the UNSC into massive Stus for taking on a race of basically gods and winning.

        I always thought of the Engineers as basically the Covenant equivalent of dumb AIs- insanely good at a set of tasks, but not able to learn new things or improve on their knowledge. They could fix Covenant technology, but they couldn’t adapt to make new designs or repair other, similar systems. Looking back over Contact Harvest and First Strike I can see that’s not really true, but I still don’t think they were originally capable of producing innovations on par with a trained human engineer or adapting fully to new technological systems.

        More to the point, the newer material has really played up the Engineers’ connection to the Forerunners- I’m not 100% sure when that was even introduced (I want to say Halo 3?), but looking back at their appearance in the books it’s pretty clear that they were originally just knowledgeable about Covenant technology and a few adaptations thereof.

        Giving them this strong Forerunner connection cheated a lot of the human scientists out of their jobs. As a PhD-track myself with a hobbyist interest in archaeology, one of the things I really liked in the earlier books was watching Dr. Halsey go through an actual deductive process the figure things out is a vis the Halo Array and Forerunners; when I learned that the main character in Hunters in the Dark was going to be a human scientist I was really psyched that we were going to get back to that. But now that we have Engineers basically everywhere, there’s no need to actually think about anything or solve puzzles, because the floating octopus already has all the answers.

  14. DasCheesenBorgir says:

    “Would it not make more tactical sense for one of the Marines to take that seat, and for the two others to go with him in their own vehicle? That would effectively double their firepower”

    Or you could just shoot the Marines and take their ammo

    3X the bullets = THREE times the firepower

    :D

  15. AshleyBudrick says:

    I stumbled upon this by pure accident, and I’m actually glad.
    I had recently removed my stories from FanFiction as I don’t have time nor interest in writing fanfictions anymore – and I must say after finding this, I regret it. I’d like to continue reading your critique of further chapters. It’s hilarious, because your points are so true.
    In retrospect, I realize how bad it is. Of course, since I penned it, Love of a Spartan does mean a lot to me in the sense that it’s an artifact of my teenage years. Other than that… it screams to be ripped apart and I’m glad that someone actually has, other than leaving a review along the lines of: “That fucking sucked”.
    I like what you have going on here. Anyone who takes writing worth a grain of salt should take your criticism to heart and use it to try to help themselves improve as authors. I imagine quite a few have just exploded into fits of rage if a critique of their story is brought to their attention.
    Anyway, I don’t know if you write these things in advance, but I will be back to read the next critique if you post one.
    Cheers!

    • "Lyle" says:

      You are our favorite type of badfic author. Welcome! And, yes, the Admiral has done more of it. It’s just in our guest-writer queue. Next Sunday (May 15th) should see the next installment :D Happy to have you around.

      • MoaBorgirWithMutonCurryAndJackalJam says:

        Oh, I’m a week late to the welcoming party then :(

        Still, holy shit May 15 that’s tomorrow yay!

    • TacoMagic says:

      It’s actually been quite amazing and hearting to see how many author’s we’ve had find us who are pretty cool with the whole deal. Indeed they outnumber the hostile authors by more than a few.

      Really, all the shenanigans here stem from our personal love of the written work. We’d be monumentally thrilled if the writing advice buried underneath all the humor helped somebody write something good. Even more so if it was an author whose work we’ve torn into.

    • AdmiralSakai says:

      Oh, HI THERE! I didn’t see you all the way down at the end of the comments section!

      Glad to see that you’re onboard with the review, but I do have to say I think you’re making a mistake by no longer writing- I really do think you have more genuine talent than 90% of the people we review here, that you could become a very good author with some more practice, and that bowing out now (especially when the Halo fandom is kind of in trouble) would be a disservice to your audience. It’s totally your decision, of course, I’m just suggesting that you not get bummed out over your early failures. Mine are worse.

      (There’s also a more practical reason for my concern in that I (stupidly) neglected to make a complete backup of Love of a Spartan when it was available, and so now I could not continue the reviews beyond Chapter 10 without substantial Internet-fu…)

      Anyway, I won’t be able to address things you tell me about in the reviews because guest reviews in general and my reviews in particular are posted on a massive time delay (that May 15th post was actually written September of last year), but I do have some questions about how this story came to be that you can answer if you feel like it in later installments when they are actually relevant.

      Just in general, welcome to the Library and please consider making yourself at home as a recurring contributor- your profile makes you sound like kind of an awesome person, and I feel like you’d have a lot to add to a comment section that is currently pretty much nothing but various types of engineer.

      • TacoMagic says:

        I resemble that remark.

      • "Lyle" says:

        *points to Ghostie* Banker.
        *points to Herr* Musician
        *points to SC* I… don’t know what you do but I know it isn’t engineer…
        *points to Ert* College student, works in a grocery store.
        *points to self* Microbiologist
        *points to AR* Biologist

        I think we’re a bit more than various types of Engineers here :P

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        I think you just need to broaden your definition of “engineer”.

      • GhostCat says:

        We’re called “Financial Service Representatives” now, it says so on my business cards.

      • "Lyle" says:

        Oh, pardon.

        *points to Ghostie* Financial Service Representative.

      • Do we have any psychologists? I need help with character-ing.

        Or I could not be lazy and maybe actually search the internet.

        …Nah.

      • AshleyBudrick says:

        Thank you! I’m seeing this a bit late, and given what you mentioned about the time delays, I’m not sure when you’ll read/respond to it.
        I’ve been keeping up with the later reviews – just posted on the most recent one, actually. I’d definitely be willing to answer any questions you have!
        Oh and to clarify, I definitely haven’t stopped writing. I love it too much. I’m currently working on an original novel, actually. I just thought that my talent should be used to write works that I can actually call my own. I might consider to come back to fanfiction someday, but for now I just feel it’s best to focus on writing that’s not borrowing someone else’s universe.
        I can provide you with the rest of Love of a Spartan sometime down the road, if you and your fellow riffers would like to continue past Chapter 10.
        Just let me know!

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        I sent you a PM on ff.net a long long time ago, and I can respond there much more promptly than here. However, while I don’t check them as often as I do ff.net,the comments on here are also in real-time (meaning that the AdmiralSakai you are talking to right now will be between six months and two weeks older than the one who wrote the riffs).

        Glad to see you’re moving on to original fiction, but I’m still a little disappointed. There’s just so much of a dearth of decent writers on ff.net that it’s a shame to see one leave. Nonetheless, best of luck! I’ll be seeing you up ahead.

    • MoaBorgirWithMutonCurryAndJackalJam says:

      Oh, wow. idk, it just feels really weird to be seeing you here in this context I guess, seeing how a couple years ago I’d actually like idolized you (amongst some other writers ofc) specifically for writing Love of a Spartan lol

      It’s pretty funny how much I forget that people mature and change and look back on their own works as silly just as I do. Whole time I was re-reading your story for old time’s sake I for some reason kept painting you as probably having developed into some arrogant jackass hopped up on encourage from like hundreds of raving reviews n stuff

      I feel a lil awkward replying to you under these circumstances, being, to be perfectly honest, kind of a despicable hunchback imp crawling back to the Library more often for cheap laughs than looking for honest criticism embedded in the overplayed acidity of these critiques, not to mention contributing very little to the community but-

      It’s great to finally meet you!

      Really, it is. I can’t stress enough, dumb as it may sound, how cool it is to meet any fanfic writer I used to follow back when I was too timid and young to even make a site account- it’s doubly cool in this sense cuz you’ve turned out to be a really pleasant and accepting sorta person- I know for a fact I’d personally squirm if I saw some of my not even that old fics under trial like this even though I know they’re incredibly cheesy and whatnot

      I think I better cut myself off here before I stumble into god knows how many more grammatical mistakes n such

      Hope to see you around more :D

      • AdmiralSakai says:

        This is doubly serendipitous since DCB/MBWMCAJJ (he of the constantly-mutating username) was the one to convince me to take on Love of a Spartan to begin with. Originally I was going to do the sequel to John and the Dragon Rider, having been put off by this ‘fic’s relatively positive reception and daunting length.

      • AshleyBudrick says:

        It’s a long story, isn’t it? I think the final draft’s word count was around 250k, which is way more than anything original I’ve written. That goddamn devotion to Halo, I guess!
        Nice to meet you too, MBWMCAJJ! (I’ll just follow AdmiralSakai and abbreviate your username, haha)
        Glad to know that you enjoyed the story once upon a time, even with all it’s flaws!

  16. "Lyle" says:

    Yeah, that’s… a little slow for an eight-year-old. When I was eight I was allowed to microwave my own food.

    When my eldest was 8, he was mowing the lawn and shooting archery. Yeah, this is incredibly slow for an 8-year-old.


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