172.72 centimeters (5 ft 8.00 in)
|Political and military information|
- "Someday we will win, no matter what it takes."
- — Ponder's vow to Tartarus
Captain Ponder was a UNSC Marine Corps junior Marine officer who served on Harvest. His career was marred by an incident involving Insurrectionists on Eridanus II. He was killed in action during the First Battle of Harvest against the Covenant.
In 2513, then-Lieutenant Colonel Ponder commanded the 1st Battalion, 21st Division, 9th Marine Expeditionary Force, which was deployed in the Eridanus system. During this time he took part in the questioning of an Insurrectionist in Elysium City, Eridanus II. The rebel had married the daughter of a local official. When pressed for information about former UNSC Colonel Robert Watts' second-in-command, the man grabbed his own daughter and threatened to detonate a grenade declaring: "Someday we will win. No matter what it takes". Although the man was dedicated to his cause, Ponder knew the rebel was unwilling to kill his family and that he was bluffing. However, an attached sniper drew an opposite conclusion and killed the man through the wall. The grenade's pin was pulled out of reflex. Ponder covered the explosive with his own body, preventing casualties but lost his left arm from the resulting explosion.
After the incident, Ponder resisted pressure to retire. However, he was forced to accept a two-grade demotion to Captain. His arm was replaced with a prosthetic and, after several "lousy" billets, he worked his way back up to Colonial Militia Training.
Training Harvest's militia
Ponder was reassigned to a newly-established Colonial Militia training unit on Harvest. On December 21, 2524, Ponder met with his subordinates, Staff Sergeants Nolan Byrne and Avery Johnson and Petty Officer, First Class Healy. That night, Ponder had to break up a brawl between Johnson and Byrne—the latter believed Johnson was partly responsible for a bombing at Casbah City on Tribute several months earlier since he hesitated to kill the insurgent. When the recruits for the Harvest militia arrived after the following weekend, Ponder supervised their training, while Healy, Byrne, and Johnson led them. On January 16, 2525, Ponder and Johnson were invited to Harvest's Solstice Celebration in Utgard by Governor Nils Thune. That night, the two met with Governor Thune and Attorney General Rol Pedersen. As Ponder left to have a religious discussion with Thune, he had Pedersen introduce Johnson to Lieutenant Commander Jilan al-Cygni who assigned Johnson and Byrne to a mission over Harvest. Later, Ponder was informed of the Staff Sergeants discovery of an alien vessel that led to hostilities. While Byrne and Johnson were given treatment in Utgard's hospital for the wounds they received during the mission, Ponder kept the militia recruits busy with small tasks and sharpshooter training.
Once the Staff Sergeants returned, Ponder told the recruits that they were accelerating their training for a very important Colonial Administration Authority delegation that insurgents might attempt to disrupt. In reality, Ponder was attempting to prepare the recruits for a possible alien attack. He had agreed with Johnson to not tell the recruits about the aliens and, instead, lied about a possible Insurrection threat to keep them motivated. For the militia's final training mission, Ponder supervised from his M12 Warthog while the Staff Sergeants engaged the recruits in a live-fire exercise. After Ponder congratulated the recruits on their success, Lt. Commander al-Cygni warned Ponder that the aliens had returned to Harvest. During the recruits' victory dinner, Ponder informed them of the aliens that had found Harvest. He told them that the militia was responsible for dealing with the aliens until reinforcements could arrive. Ponder then had al-Cygni show the recruits the video of Johnson and Byrne battling the Kig-Yar aliens.
Battle of Harvest
- Main article: First Battle of Harvest
Lt. Commander al-Cygni had sent the Covenant ship in orbit over Harvest a message of peace. On February 11, 2525, a Type-25 Spirit holding Jiralhanae Chieftain Maccabeus, Vorenus, and Licinus landed at the Harvest Botanical Gardens and met with human representatives, while a second Spirit hovered nearby and Tartarus led a small lance of Unggoy nearby to search for an alleged "Oracle". The human representatives for the meeting consisted of Governor Thune, Attorney General Pedersen, Ponder, Lieutenant Commander al-Cygni, and Staff Sergeants Byrne and Johnson. When the aliens arrived, Johnson relayed information about the aliens weapons and appearance to Ponder, who was inside the gardens' greenhouse. Then, Ponder relayed the information to al-Cygni and Thune. The Jiralhanae met with the human representatives. While a peaceful first contact was going rather slow, the meeting went sour prematurely when an overeager Unggoy attacked and killed Osmo. Pedersen was shot and killed with a Type-25 Spiker by Vorenus after the latter had heard Osmo firing his rifle and a firefight ensured. Ponder pushed Thune out of the way of Maccabeus' Fist of Rukt and took the hit. The captain was hit in his prosthetic left arm and was sent flying over twenty meters backwards. Ultimately, the Jiralhanae were forced to retreat when Licinus was injured. As the aliens returned to their ship—Rapid Conversion—in orbit over Harvest, Healy treated Ponder's serious wounds. Maccabeus' attack had broken half of Ponder's ribs and completely destroyed his prosthetic, which he discarded. Due to lack of expertise and time, Healy was unable to fix it.
For a week after the meeting, Rapid Conversion remained still in high orbit with all of its crew aboard. Despite the warning to evacuate to Utgard, a majority of Gladsheim's residents remained in the town—believing that a small, remote town such as Gladsheim would not be attacked by the aliens. However, on February 22, 2525, the vessel remained in orbit over Gladsheim with its heavy plasma weapons charging. Ponder, Johnson, and Byrne took several squads of militiamen to Gladsheim in an effort to evacuate the town's inhabitants. While Ponder and Healy helped organize the civilians evacuation through the town's MagLev train terminal, the militia spotted Yanme'e scouts. Ponder warned the recruits to not attack the aliens, to prevent the civilians from stampeding. Ponder then sent Byrne and Johnson to escort a civilian convoy to the terminal before the Spirit dropships attacked. While the Staff Sergeants were away, the Yanme'e attacked the terminal and Ponder called in for help. Eventually, the human soldiers and civilians retreated. Despite Healy's suggestions, Ponder continued to fight against the Covenant forces. As such, his injuries and condition worsened. Later, Ponder and Jilan attempted to convince Governor Thune to help them with their plan, but he refused. In response, al-Cygni was forced to stun and disable the governor with tactical training rounds. Moments later, Ponder casually asked for Healy's presence before collapsing to the floor.
Healy had outfitted Ponder with a new cast and medications, but with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, numerous other damaged organs, and lack of time for a proper operation, Ponder was aware that he was dying. When the Covenant assault and glassing began in earnest, Ponder volunteered for a suicide mission to buy time for the civilian evacuations. He drew Rapid Conversion toward the surface at Utgard Mall and to him by claiming the fake AI processor he was carrying was an "Oracle". Healy and the Staff Sergeants offered to help, but he refused. A Spirit carrying four Type-25 Choppers manned by Jiralhanae—including Tartarus and Vorenus—arrived at Ponder's position as he climbed up a nearby bandstand. As Ponder smoked a Sweet William cigar, he told the AI Loki the proper vectors Utgard's mass driver would need to fire at and hit Rapid Conversion. Loki gave him ten seconds to escape, but Ponder decided to remain on the bandstand. While Tartarus spoke something unintelligible to Ponder, the captain answered the Jiralhanae by repeating the same vow he had heard from the Insurrectionist years before. As the mass driver's rounds impacted the cruiser twice, it began to sank to the planet's surface. Tartarus, furious, impaled the Marine on the bayonets of his Spiker and lifted him in the air. His spine severed, Ponder was thrown back onto the bandstand by Tartarus into a pool of his own blood. As Tartarus and the Jiralhanae left, the civilians began to evacuate the planet through Harvest's space elevators. The officer took his remaining time to enjoy the warmth of the sunset, rather than regret his past decisions.
Personality and traits
Ponder was determined and devoted to the mission and the soldiers under his command. Ponder described himself as a "church man" to Governor Thune—which led to a lengthy conversation about religion—and compared the sound of a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon gun firing from within a ship to a church bell on a Sunday morning. He rarely wore his prosthetic. Although he disliked it and refrained from wearing it when possible, it did not hamper his ability to utilize weapons effectively. After losing his arm, Ponder had missed serving with his men in the Insurrection. However, he came to believe that he was lucky to have been taken out of combat before he made another mistake that was responsible for the deaths of civilians. Ponder felt guilty for missing his eldest son's wedding and the birth of his first grandchild while at war fighting in the Insurrection. He claimed to have missed these "precious occasions" more than his lost arm.
Ponder enjoyed marching, even his first "grueling road hikes" in basic training. After he lost his arm, he would sometimes joke that he was lucky he did not lose a leg or else he would have learned how to walk on his hands to continue marching. Ponder was fond of Sweet William cigars. Avery Johnson may have picked up the smoking habit and liking of the brand from him.
List of appearances
- Halo: Contact Harvest (First appearance)
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 80
- Halo: Contact Harvest
- Halo: Contact Harvest, pages 111-112
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 113
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 88
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 108
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 121
- Halo: Contact Harvest, pages 137-139
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 172
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 209
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 223
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 240
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 245
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 253
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 257
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 286
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 289
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 279
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 292
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 318
- Halo: Contact Harvest, pages 324-326
- Halo: Contact Harvest, pages 332-333
- Halo: Contact Harvest, pages 335-336
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 385
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 119
- Halo: Contact Harvest, page 114