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Express Ticket to Tartarus

CapCapCap Oct 13th, 2018 (edited) 558 Never
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  1. >>32943732
  2. >>32945262
  3. >>32945427
  4.  
  5. >You are Anonymous.
  6. >It's been three years since you came over, since WW3 ended and the Earth was pummeled.
  7. >You're in Equestria, by all means a paradise, inhabited by smaller pastel colored horses called Ponies.
  8. >Since you didn't have anything else back home, you volunteered to be one of the first people to cross over.
  9. >You didn't have to bring anything, but most did. Most of the veterans brought things they wanted to forget, but couldn't.
  10. >You brought a big fucking case. It was your battle-armor, and issued gun.
  11. >Nobody was checking, and you couldn't just leave it behind. It saved your life time and time again.
  12. >You were wearing it when you last saw your family. They were proud of you.
  13. >It was a part of you now, and well, you didn't exactly know where you were going at the time.
  14.  
  15. >Two months later you and your best buddy, Incognito, lived at Ponyville. A few others moved in too, but you didn't pay much attention to them.
  16. >You didn't want to know which side they fought on, even though the accents were an indicator.
  17. >A minty green pony named Lyra took you in, since you were among the first humans here, Lyra called dibs on you.
  18. >Not quite sure how you felt about that, but it was at least amusing.
  19. >Incognito became fast friends with another mare and went to room with them.
  20. >Lyra bombarded you with questions, and you indulged her, often in the evening with a cup of cocoa or tea.
  21. >Her roommate, Bon Bon, wasn't so enthusiastic. It took months for her to get used to you, but you bonded over your shared interest in cooking and candy making. Over the years the three of you became good friends.
  22. >It was strange. Ponyville was quiet, surrounded by nature, and all of the ponies there were friendly.
  23. >Other than the constant questions about your culture, your food, art, music and society, it was like you always lived there.
  24. >It brought a smile to your face, and you felt a peace here that you hadn't felt in a long time.
  25.  
  26. >When the news came you couldn't bring yourself to smile for days.
  27. >News of a demon army, lead by some big demon hot shot, invaded the Crystal Empire.
  28. >Twilight and five of her friends left to help, and the newspaper made a big deal about the Royal Guard being mobilized to help.
  29. >You sat in your room, sitting on a chair, in front of your big, dusty case for a few hours, thinking.
  30. >You should have known it was going to happen eventually.
  31. >This life was too good. Something had to fuck it up.
  32. >You were scared of the stuff inside that case. You were different now, you took long walks, not patrols.
  33. >You cooked food on a stove, not heating up MREs by filling a plastic bag with water to the dotted line.
  34. >You liked listening to music again, Lyras music.
  35. >That case represented what you used to be, and that scared you.
  36. >"...Anon?"
  37. >It was Lyra, she was always more aware of your feelings.
  38. >She came in and saw you staring at the case. "Anon? It's almost dinner time, could you make that mac and cheese again?" she gave you a small smile.
  39. >You knew she was just trying to get you out of your room, and it was a welcome distraction.
  40. >You looked away from the case, at the floor first, then at her. "Yeah. I just-" you glanced back at the case, "Yeah." and you smiled back at her, giving her a light pat on the cheek as you walked by.
  41. >Twilight and her friends were strong, and Princess Celestia was mobilizing the entire guard. They had this in the bag.
  42.  
  43. >A month later Twilight and her friends came back, not to fanfare, but to gasps and shocked expressions.
  44. >They were beat, bandages covered their limbs, they gave small smiles, and made small talk but they took a direct route to Sugarcube Corner.
  45. >They sat at a table in silence.
  46. >You saw them, already a crowd of concerned ponies and humans around them.
  47. >You walked over to them and heard Twilight explain what happened.
  48. >"Their army was too strong. We couldn't beat them all."
  49. >You heard her explain, defeated.
  50. >Someone shoved you aside, and you looked over. It was one of the other guys, you saw him in the line to Equestria.
  51. >You made small talk, he was in the Airborne Infantry. Tough guys, he was a screaming eagle, some of the toughest guys around.
  52. >But when he looked Rainbow Dash, who was hiding behind Applejack, he just shook.
  53. >And then he cried. No manly tears, no quiet sobs, he cried out.
  54. >You looked at Dash a little closer and noticed one of her wings missing.
  55. >Incognito crouched by the Airborne guy and put a hand on his shoulder. Everyone heard what he said.
  56. >"Y-You'll never fly again Dash. I shoulda been there, I-I- I don't know I-" He said between sobs.
  57. >You felt bad for the guy, you knew his pain.
  58. >Rainbow Dash got off her chair and pulled him into a hug and the two stayed like that.
  59. >You found yourself looking away, your eyes getting wet.
  60. >Incognito got up and looked at you in the eyes, you met his stare, and found that he also teared up, he spoke quietly.
  61. >"Sergeant."
  62.  
  63. >You froze.
  64. >All of the humans looked at you, some of the ponies too.
  65. >"Sergeant. I kept my battle-armor." Incognito said with more resolve, more volume.
  66. >You heard most, if not all the humans murmur something similar.
  67. >"Sergeant?" you heard a man ask from your left, but you didn't look at him.
  68. >"I..." you looked around and saw the same resolve in everyone elses eyes, they made up their minds, and they looked to you for leadership. You swallowed. "Grab whatever kit you have. In two days at 0700 hours, meet at the train station. We're going to Canterlot first. I know a few guys there." you say.
  69. >You see nods and a few salutes and the humans departed from the scene.
  70. >Twilight and all of her friends were staring at you. But you couldn't meet their gaze. They all knew you to be friendly, peaceful, patient. They all were your friends, each one helped in their own way.
  71. >"Anon... what are you doing?" Twilight asked.
  72. >You wanted to answer, to explain that nearly everyone who came over used to be soldiers in some shape or form, but you choked up and the words wouldn't come out.
  73. >You looked away and left. Now you had to say something to Lyra and Bon Bon.
  74.  
  75. >When you got home you found Lyra and Bon Bon sitting in the living room, waiting for you.
  76. >Apparently news travels faster when you're a pony.
  77. >"Whats this about leaving, Anon? What's going on?" Bon Bon asked.
  78. >You glanced away, you were ashamed of it for some reason.
  79. >"Anon, are you okay?" Lyra asked.
  80. >"I..." You begin to say, "I think it's better if I showed you." you said with a sigh.
  81. >You walked up the stairs and the two mares followed tentatively.
  82. >You went into your room and stopped at your big dusty case in the corner of the room.
  83. >Lyra and Bon Bon glanced at each other, confused.
  84. >You look at it for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and unzipping the case.
  85. >The front fell over, weighed by an aged, but reliable medium machine gun. It was an updated variant of the M60, the gun was heavy, but it never jammed.
  86. >Belts and boxes of ammunition was stored next to it.
  87. >The other side of the case was the thing you didn't ever want to look at again. You could shoot a gun for fun, with buddies at a range, but the armor...
  88. >The armor was unpowered. A breastplate, gauntlets, pauldrons, plate that colored your whole body, a collapsed exoskeleton that enhanced your strength to levels unreachable by normal humans.
  89. >If you put the armor back on, that meant battle.
  90. >The helmet would fully cover your head, six bug like camera lenses stared back at you.
  91. >You swore it smiled at you, despite it only having three black lines where your mouth would be.
  92. >This was you, all those years ago.
  93.  
  94. >Now what would Lyra and Bon Bon think? That you were some monster, the guns and armor didn't leave much to the imagination.
  95. >You used to be a soldier, you didn't have to say anything.
  96. >You used to kill. And fight. And...
  97. >You didn't realize your hands were clenched into fists until you felt something brush against them.
  98. >Lyra was nudging your hand with her head.
  99. >You calmed down and pet her mane.
  100. >"You were a warrior." She stated, "and you want to fight." she sounded sad.
  101. >"Yeah." you managed to say.
  102. >"I don't want you to go."
  103. >You saw tears welling up in her eyes, "I have to."
  104. >"You wont come back. If they beat Twilight I... I don't even know what they'll do to you."
  105. >You looked down at her and noticed Bon Bon had a hoof on her back, she didn't look at you in the eyes.
  106. >Words failed to come out again, and you just got on your knees and hugged her.
  107.  
  108. >Two days later. 0700 hours.
  109. >"It feels weird, Anon. Wearing all this again." Incognito said to you, his voice buzzed from his armor speakers. He looked entirely identical to you, both of you wearing your battle-armor.
  110. >Only he had an assault rifle and you had the machine gun, and he had a few inches of height on you.
  111. >"Yeah." You respond back to him.
  112. >You hear a thump and a few heavy steps, and the both of your looked over at him.
  113. >It was the Airborne guy. His variant of battle-armor was lighter than yours, and had additional jumpjets. His armor had the usual assortment of emblems, his 101st Airborne patch, US flags, but something stood out.
  114. >On the side of his helmet was the cutie mark of Rainbow Dash.
  115. >You tapped the side of your helmet and tilted your head, a nonverbal question.
  116. >"For luck. I want Dash to be with me when we're out there." He said plainly.
  117. >Incognito looked at him, then at you. "You know. Suddenly it ain't so weird to be wearing this stuff again... You got any markers?"
  118.  
  119. >By the time Lyra and Bon Bon got to the train station, all of the humans were in uniform, carrying weapons, carrying backpacks and duffel bags, some of them were in armor that covered their whole body.
  120. >The only reason why Lyra could identify Anon was because he had painted a lyre and three candies on his helmet, rather poorly too.
  121. >Lyra ran up to Anon first, but stopped when he looked turned and looked at her.
  122. >He seemed larger. He seemed to have an aura of power. Of deadliness.
  123. >She couldn't see Anon behind that bug eyed helmet of his.
  124. >Until he got on one knee and took off his helmet.
  125. >He had a smile on his face.
  126. >Lyra just leaned in and nuzzled his cheek, feeling his warmth on her own cheek.
  127. >"You better come back." she whispered.
  128.  
  129.  
  130. ===============================================================
  131.  
  132. >>32947943
  133. II - Machine
  134. >You are Sergeant Anonymous.
  135. >Veteran of the deadliest and most destructive war on Earth.
  136. >You hated it. You hated yourself. You hated everything around you.
  137. >You came to Equestria to get away from all that, and the ponies here helped you heal.
  138. >And now you were going to bring some of that war here to their land.
  139. >You hated it.
  140.  
  141. >You idlely played with the gold necklace Lyra gave you. It was a simple gold chain with a tiny gold lyre on it, she wore it to the more formal concerts she played at.
  142. >"So what's in the bag?" Incognito asked, pointing at it.
  143. >The moving train rocked both of you gently.
  144. >It was a small, brown paper bag. Bon Bon gave it to you wordlessly. She looked at you in the eyes this time.
  145. >Just a glance. But maybe she didn't hate you entirely.
  146. >You smiled a little bit, then you opened it and tossed Incognito a piece of the candy.
  147. >It fell onto his lap with an audible clack, it was hard candy.
  148. >Incognito recoiled from it and the candy fell onto the floor.
  149. >You chuckled at him, "It isn't charms, Incog. It's Bon Bon's candy."
  150. >You see him swallow, "Right. Sorry."
  151. >He picked it up from the floor and carefully examined it.
  152. >Then he unwrapped it and popped it into his mouth.
  153. >"Grape?" He wondered aloud, a few seconds passed.
  154. >Then he sighed his face turned more serious, "I did a headcount earlier, we got 38 guys, 8 in battle-armor, 4 in airborne gear."
  155. >"Anon what the hell are we doing? We're just infantry. We don't got any tanks, no air support, no artillery support, hell we don't even got any logistics. How are we going to eat and resupply?"
  156. >You blink and look away from him, "I don't know. One of the guys I know in Canterlot though, he's good at that sort of thing. I wouldn't be surprised if he already set up a whole system for all that."
  157. >"I hope you're right Anon."
  158. >"Me too."
  159.  
  160. >A moment passed between you, amidst the chatter of the rest of the train passengers.
  161. >"Say, we need a name." Incognito said, a smile on his face.
  162. >"What do you mean?" you ask him.
  163. >"All the good army groups got names. Screaming Eagles, Big Red One, Hell on Wheels." He gave a few examples. "What's ours?"
  164. >You just gave him a shrug, you never thought about that. "How about you ask our platoon?"
  165. >You see him beam, a huge smile on his face, "Aye sir."
  166. >He got up from his chair and stood up at the walkway of the train car.
  167. >"Platoon!" He addressed, "Our Sergeant here wants us to have a name! What do we have?!"
  168. >"Avengers!" You hear someone shout. Quickly acompanied with a few boos.
  169. >"Hell no! We ain't Iron Mans or Captain Americas!"
  170. >"Wardogs!"
  171. >"Not mercenaries!"
  172. >"Ponyville Paladins!" Someone shouted, unlike you, it sounded like someone had been thinking about that sort of thing.
  173. >You see Incognito smile at the name, and nobody exactly voiced any rejections.
  174. >Incognito looked at you and you nod at it.
  175. >"Sergeant Anon likes it! Look alive Paladins! We're goddamn knights in shining armor now!"
  176.  
  177. >The arrival at Canterlot was strange.
  178. >You could see men standing around the train station.
  179. >As the train got closer you noticed rifles. Battle-armor. Uniforms.
  180. >About a platoons worth of men.
  181. >They were just like you, but from where?
  182. >When you departed, you stepped off first.
  183. >A Mexican Lieutenant saluted you, and you returned it.
  184. >"Sergeant?"
  185. >"Infantry platoon-" You began,
  186. >"Ponyville Paladins!" Incognito cut in.
  187. >"Infantry platoon, 'Ponyville Paladins', from Ponyville. Sir."
  188. >"You are their platoon leader?"
  189. >"Guess so."
  190. >"Then we might as well be equal rank." He replied, and offered a hand.
  191. >You took it and he gripped your hand, rather firmly, and shook it.
  192. >"It's good to have you Sergeant..." The Mexican Lieutenant continued, looking over your breastplate for your name, "Anon...? Anon?!"
  193. >He smiled widely and shook your hand more vigerously, "The Battle of Yosemite was incredible! I-"
  194. >You stopped him, "That was a long time ago and somewhere very far away. I just wanted to keep my buddies alive."
  195. >You didn't like thinking about that battle.
  196. >"I- of course sir, it's an honor to be here with you." The Mexican Lieutenant said.
  197. >"So what are we doing here? Just a bunch of guys standing around?" Incognito asked.
  198. >"Right, of course. We are joining a group of reinforcements being sent into the Crystal Empire, to keep their capital city from falling while the rest of us rally here at Canterlot." he explained, "Major Zhou, a Chinese Major, is in command of the Reunited Human Armed Forces, he's got a base at the Canterlot Stadium. You'll want to go there."
  199.  
  200. >The walk there wasn't quiet.
  201. >Your platoon kept whispering to each other, murmering, talking in low voices.
  202. >Speculating about you.
  203. >When you reached the Stadium, you saw tents scattered about, racks of weapons, extra guns some of the guys must have brought, strangely enough, racks of swords, spears, shields and other medieval weaponry too.
  204. >You walked right over to where the Major was. He was standing by a table, examining a map on the field in front of his tent.
  205. >You knew him.
  206. >He knew you.
  207. >Thanks to Yosemite.
  208. >"Sergeant Anon." The Chinese Major greeted. He spoke in perfect english, only a hint of an accent.
  209. >"Major Zhou."
  210. >"I'm glad you're here Anon. How many men do you have?" He asked, an eyebrow raised. He leaned over to look beyond you.
  211. >"30 Infantry, 8 Armored Infantry." You reply stiffly.
  212. >"A platoon?" Major Zhou smiled, "You are used to leading that number of men, I recall."
  213. >"Yeah."
  214. >"The last time I remember you at the head of a platoon, you tore apart a whole Chinese tank company." he said, loudly. Loud enough for the rest of your men to hear.
  215. >You heard low whistles and excited chatter.
  216. >That Chinese bastard said that on purpose. He probably needed platoon leaders and he wanted your guys to know that you were definitely one of the good ones.
  217. >Now you can't just toss the job to someone else.
  218. >You took a deep breath and sighed.
  219.  
  220. >"That aside, what's going on Zhou?" you waved your hand dismissively.
  221. >"Of course, right to business." He smiled, "Ever since we heard the news of an invasion I've been sending out letters. And getting replies. We're gathering a new army, Sergeant Anon. One not bound by our former allegiences and loyalties. We are fighting for a new world now." He said, mostly to the troops behind you. "Canterlot unfortunately did not have a lot of soldiers, but what we did have, were medics, scientists and engineers, all of whom contributed to our world war in some way. They too wanted to escape. And I have contacted them, and we're getting production of munitions and other supplies on the way. We're gearing up for war, but we don't have bullet factories yet. Conserve your ammunition. And you may want a weapon from the locals." Zhou pointed at the racks of swords and spears.
  222. >"Understood." You reply, "My boys are ready to go. If you need more at the Crystal Empire?"
  223. >Zhou thought for a minute, then gestured that you step closer. You did.
  224. >He pointed at the map, it showed the northern mountains and the Crystal Empire.
  225. >"Shining Armor and the remnants of his Guardpony Expeditionary Force are here, at the capital. His wife, Princess Cadence has come here to gather reinforcements. We will be joining that force." Zhou explained, he pointed at a spot in the mountains.
  226. >"We don't know where they're coming from exactly, but they seem to come from here, Princess Celestia and Luna have informed me that they and Discord are working on a way to shut whatever portal they have open. In the meantime, we must keep the Crystal Empire free."
  227. >You nodded.
  228.  
  229. >"You and your platoon will be acompanying the reinforcements along with a platoon from Appleoosa. The train departs in an hour." Zhou said.
  230. >"Understood." You say again, then leave. Everyone in your platoon heard that, and they moved to the weapon racks. Some soldiers picked up knives, swords.
  231. >You browsed the racks, swords in sheaths, daggers, spears.
  232. >You spotted a warhammer.
  233. >It was a smaller, one handed hammer, a spike on one end and a flat square on the other. It was suitibly hefty.
  234. >You took that and held it around your back, your armor identifying the weapon. Then magnetic clamps took hold of it and pressed it against your back.
  235. >You took a dagger and strapped to your leg.
  236. >You looked around, seeing your platoon arming themselves similarly.
  237. >"Hey Anon." Incognito said, getting your attention, "Something wrong?"
  238. >"No..." You reply, "Just, we're in it now."
  239.  
  240. ===============================================================
  241.  
  242. III - Sunset
  243. >The train rocked you in your seat once again.
  244. >But the mood wasn't cheery or light hearted like it was when you were moving to Canterlot.
  245. >It was tense, you heard some talking, but it wasn't about how good Sugarcube Corners pies were.
  246. >It was about how much ammo another person carried.
  247. >You heard the clacking of bullets being loaded into magazines.
  248. >You stared at the guardpony in front of you, a brown colored pony, steel colored armor, a spear in one arm.
  249. >He was just a guard, not a royal guard.
  250. >You wondered what he thought of all this, what he thought about going into war, possibly for the first time.
  251. >You remembered what you thought.
  252. >You were terrified. Scared witless. Wanting to go home, be in the company of your family, to hear that comforting sound of someone in the kitchen working on dinner.
  253. >You felt that tug now. You wanted to hear Lyra practicing music, Bon Bon working on whatever new candy invention she thought up of, the crackling of the fireplace.
  254. >But just like then, you couldn't go back.
  255. >Your buddies needed you here. Your country needed you here.
  256. >To fight.
  257. >To die.
  258. >To struggle against whatever enemies threatened the borders.
  259.  
  260. >You looked out the train window, seeing the sun drop from the sky slowly, the blue sky turning an ominous orange.
  261. >Like the sky was on fire, the clouds being the smoke.
  262. >You sighed, and looked at the clouds more closely.
  263. >Rainbow Dash talked about clouds sometimes, mostly how she was awesome enough to keep the sky clear of clouds, essentially by herself.
  264. >But sometimes she talked about cloud formations.
  265. >You tried to identify the clouds by name, but one eluded you.
  266. >It was too low to the ground, and the shape was all wrong, like it was rising...
  267. >You saw a glint.
  268. >You narrowed your eyes and blindly swatted at Incog to get his attention.
  269. >You ended up smacking his face, eliciting a confused 'What?'.
  270. >Before long he and the guardpony next to you noticed what you were looking at.
  271. >It was a fire, and there were Crystal Empire guardponies running from the smoke.
  272. >You shot out of your chair, "Everyone get ready!" you shouted.
  273. >You heard scrambling and the clacking of magazines being slammed into guns.
  274. >You threw your helmet on and ran down the train car to find the airborne guy.
  275. >While your helmet zoom could easily see those Crystal Empire guardponies, you needed to see what was causing that fire.
  276. >The airborne guy's battle-armor was equipped with more jump jets than yours, and it was lighter. He could leap further and faster, as well as higher, than everyone here.
  277. >He was already up, "What's wrong Sergeant?"
  278. >"We have a group of allies escaping from smoke, southwards. I want to know whats causing that smoke and why those ponies are running like their lives depend on it. Get on top of the train and do a jump."
  279. >"Yes sir!" He enthusiastically said.
  280. >He ran out of the train car and climbed the ladder to the roof.
  281. >A handful of seconds later you heard a loud thud. Probably his landing.
  282. >A few seconds after that he, and Princess Cadence arrived next to you.
  283. >"What's going on?" She asked, concerned.
  284.  
  285. >The airborne guy somewhat gently, pushed her aside to get to you.
  286. >"My helmet camera caught some images you might want to see." He grabbed your shoulder and you accepted the images.
  287. >"30+ hostiles, chasing the Crystal Empire troops."
  288. >You saw the group of them. They were hunched over, red and black, running on all hours.
  289. >They resembled canines, with longer snouts.
  290. >They had large forelegs, clawed, and their backs were aflame.
  291. >They had four eyes, glowing red, and they were salivating.
  292. >"Lieutenant?" You switched your short range radio on.
  293. >"I heard. We can handle 30+, I'm ordering the train to halt. Get ready to dismount."
  294. >"Understood." You turned back to Princess Cadence and the airborne trooper, "We're halting the train and dismounting. Princess, I respectfully request that you let us handle this skirmish."
  295. >"I..." she looked apprehensive, glancing at all the other humans, who were leaned over, listening in. "Very well. I'll trust this to you."
  296. >You turned around, "Paladins! Get ready to dismount!" you shouted at your troops.
  297. >You shook with excitement.
  298.  
  299. >The screeching of the train brakes caught the attention of the Crystal Empire guardponies, and their persuers.
  300. >They were moving towards you now.
  301. >As soon as the train slowed down enough, the humans poured out of the train.
  302. >"Firing line, two paces between! Second squad, third squad get on the train roof!" You heard the Lieutenant shout. "Hold fire until I give the signal!"
  303. >The understrength company complied with his orders, forming a long line, all men facing the incoming enemy.
  304. >You glanced behind you and saw two squads setting up on the roof of the train cars. They were all unarmored infantry.
  305. >So your platoon and the battle-armor squads were the front line, if those hellhounds got to your line, you were be torn up first.
  306. >You shelved those thoughts away.
  307. >The Crystal Empire ponies were now close, you saw the terror on their faces.
  308. >And the demons were close now too.
  309. >You heard the rumbling of their feet on the ground, and you felt the ground shake at their approach.
  310.  
  311. >As soon as the ponies ran past your line, taking shelter behind your troops, panting and heaving, you heard the Lieutenant.
  312. >"Fire! All guns fire!"
  313. >The cacophony of noise made all the ponies flinch.
  314. >The intense rattle made some ponies cover their ears with their hooves.
  315. >But you were familiar to the noise.
  316. >You...
  317. >You... didn't dislike it.
  318. >You were delivering death upon your enemy.
  319. >Your machine gun spat out throaty bursts of fire.
  320. >A slight smile tugged at the corners of your mouth.
  321. >"Company advance, walking fire!"
  322. >You complied, and your platoon complied, they all understood what the tactic was.
  323. >An older tactic dating back to WW1 and WW2, by the third war it was outdated and a death sentence, but here was a different story.
  324. >You heard the hellhounds yelp in pain and growl at their unknown attackers.
  325. >At you.
  326. >You fired more bursts of gunfire, brass sometimes pinging off of Incog, who walked beside you.
  327. >They stood no chance under the punishing fusillade of lead.
  328.  
  329. >Green soldiers sometimes didn't want to kill, they'd fire just above the heads of the enemy.
  330. >Those soldiers were saying with their bullets, 'go away'. They were afraid to kill another man.
  331. >But the troops under your command were veterans of years of war, and these enemies weren't men.
  332. >Their bullets found their targets.
  333. >You stepped over a corpse, a hellhound. Riddled by at least half a dozen bullets, the fire on its back had died out.
  334. >"They're falling back!"
  335. >You heard someone shout.
  336. >"Company halt! No survivors! Airborne, run them down on the flanks!" The Lieutenant ordered.
  337. >You stopped, and looked over to the airborne guy, the cloud and rainbow lightning bolt cutie mark on his helmet seemed to glow in the light of the sunset.
  338. >He now had his chance to deliver vengeance for Dash.
  339. >You heard him shout a warcry, delivered through his helmet speakers, so the running enemy could hear.
  340. >You saw his jets whine as they spun to life.
  341. >Then they shot out jets of fire and he was off.
  342. >He leap 20, maybe 25 meters forward.
  343. >He landed with an audible thud, his landings marked craters in the plains.
  344. >Then his jets flared to life again and he leapt further.
  345. >Five others in airborne battle-armor followed him, from both platoons.
  346. >They hounded the hellhounds, jumping away whenever the demons would get too close, filling them with bullets from their carbines and rifles.
  347. >The demons stood no chance, the airborne armored infantry was faster than they were.
  348.  
  349. >In just ten minutes, the skirmish was over.
  350. >The airborne troops jumped back, reported that they killed every last one of the hellhounds.
  351. >The medics and other ponies attended to the Crystal Empire guardponies, they were shaken, some had scratches and cuts.
  352. >One pegasus was missing a rear leg.
  353. >The excitement you felt during the firefight quickly fell away after the sight.
  354. >Every battle had casualties, you knew this.
  355. >You looked to your platoon, "Status?"
  356. >The squad leaders radio'd in response, "Ammo good, no casualties."
  357. >"Second squad I want you to carry one of those demons and throw it onto the back car of the train. I want to dissect the fucker." You said, hatred brewed in you.
  358. >You saw a glimpse of what these creatures could do, and you didn't like it one bit.
  359. >Incognito turned to you, "Day one, we won a skirmish, no casualties. Not bad, I think."
  360. >You looked back at the wounded Crystal Empire ponies, a Medic cradled a wounded pony, telling him about the old american drive in theaters while another tended to the large gash in his flank.
  361. >"Minimal casualties." Incognito corrected, quieter.
  362. >You found yourself holding Lyra's necklace again.
  363. >You were afraid of what she would think of you now, now that the first blood had been shed.
  364. >You noticed the sun had set, and that night fell.
  365.  
  366. ==============================================================
  367.  
  368. >>32958490
  369. IV - Zenith
  370. >It was a bright full moon, casting its glow far and wide.
  371. >The moon was high in the sky when you reached the Crystal Empire's train station.
  372. >You walked to the back of the train as the troops got off the train.
  373. >You had business there.
  374. >Medics both human and pony rushed occupied stretchers towards the city hospital, but aside from them the rest of the troops took their time.
  375. >When you slid the door open, you found a handful of medics and troops standing around, one of your medics crouched by the body with a bloodied knife.
  376. >The body of the hellhound was ripped open.
  377. >You were surprised to see Princess Cadence there. She had a grim look on her face, determined.
  378. >Probably determined not to vomit at the sight and... lack of smell.
  379. >Someone must have cast a spell for that.
  380. >"Ah, Sergeant." The crouched medic spoke, you saw the name and flag. A German named Scholl.
  381. >You nodded at her, then saluted Princess Cadence. She nodded at you.
  382. >You noticed the airborne guy sitting on a crate, high above everyone else. He must have climbed up there to watch the dissection.
  383. >You greeted him and he nodded back.
  384.  
  385. >A moment later and the Mexican Lieutenant appeared, "I heard there was a dissection?"
  386. >"Yes sir," the crouched medic replied, "I suppose I can give my report now, since all the rank is here."
  387. >She cleared her throat, "Corporal Nondis?"
  388. >The airborne guy hopped off his crate, landing with an audible thud.
  389. >"Let me just wire this recording over..." He said.
  390. >You accepted the recordings and set them aside, instead looking at the hellhound corpse.
  391. >"So," the medic began, looking at you, then at the Lieutenant, then at Princess Cadence, "this specimen is what the human troops are now dubbing the 'hellhound', due to its resemblence to the supernatural dog that we know of back home. The demon itself has a lot of fight to it, its claws are hard and sharp enough to rip through metal, its jaws seem strong enough to bite through steel."
  392. >You see Princess Cadence wince at this news.
  393. >"The forelegs depart from the dog theme and resemble feline forelegs, I suspect that they'll attack like large felines too, sort of like slapping with claws extended. I can guess that, even with the claws retracted, a slap from this hellhound will knock a human right on their ass. A human wearing battle-armor? I'm not certain."
  394. >This elicited a chuckle from Nondis and a few spectators, human spectators.
  395. >"As for the fire on its back that we all saw, as far as I could tell it's not a biological function. I saw no glands, no organs, no special skin or anything to suggest that it could produce fire biologically. So I can only presume that it's a magical function of their body." She said with a shrug, "Corporal Nondis can continue this report."
  396.  
  397. >Nondis stepped forward, "Alright let's open up those recordings... Uh. Sorry, Princess. We'll have to get a projector in order to show you."
  398. >"That's okay, we'll get one later." She replied politely.
  399. >"Right, Sergeant, Lieutenant."
  400. >You open up the video file and you see the skirmish from his point of view.
  401. >"If we skip ahead to timestamp 6:32." Nondis said.
  402. >You did as he instructed and found that it was the later half of the skirmish, when the airborne troops went ahead to run down the remaining hellhounds.
  403. >"Notice how the hellhounds run in pods of three to four, and remain in some semblence of a formation, they're pack hunters operating in squads and platoons. I can only presume they'll operate at higher unit sizes too." He said.
  404. >You saw how Nondis alternated between leaping in closer, then further away, to goad the hellhounds to break formation.
  405. >"When I tried to tempt some of them to break formation," Nondis said as if on cue, "A pod would break away, not individuals. This is only my speculation, but if we fight these things again expect a whole pod to gang up on one guy." He suggested.
  406. >You nodded at that, and you saw from the corner of your eye, the Lieutenant nodding two. It seemed that you both agreed with that.
  407. >As the recording came to a close, you noticed that the hellhounds never broke rank in panic.
  408. >They always stayed in pods, and when two pods were too depleted, they merged together to form a full strength pod seamlessly.
  409. >How smart were they?
  410. >Were they even independent? Was there a controller somewhere, like a drone controller?
  411. >You furrow your brow. The intelligence guys would have a party over having a few specimens of hellhounds.
  412. >You weren't an intelligence guy though.
  413. >"That's all I got for now." Nondis concluded with a shrug.
  414.  
  415. >"I would like to request that you turn over this body to the Crystal Empire." Cadence suddenly spoke up, "We have researchers who are capable of determining the magical capabilities of these... hellhounds."
  416. >"Sounds fair to me." You reply, "Lieutenant?"
  417. >"Agreed. We'll turn this body over to you, and any additional bodies we grab from the battlefield."
  418. >"Thank you." Cadence said, a second later she spoke up again, "Excuse me." she stepped away and quickly made her way off the train, to get away from the sight of it.
  419. >You look around at the crowd of ponies and humans, seeing if anyone else had any questions of statements.
  420. >None came.
  421. >"Alright, I think we're done here." The Lieutenant said, he turned around and left the train car.
  422. >You walked forward, tapping Nondis on the shoulder, then pointed out the door.
  423. >You wanted to ask him a few questions.
  424.  
  425. >As soon as the both of you hopped off the train, you turned to him.
  426. >"You record everything?" You asked him, puzzled.
  427. >"Yes sir, I was a Pathfinder, did a lot of reconnaissance, rule of thumb for recon boys is record everything." He explained.
  428. >You never had recon training, but that made sense, to you at least.
  429. >"That doesn't leave a lot of room for personal recordings then." You state.
  430. >"No sir, actually we leave no room for personal recordings. We make do with the old fashioned way, pictures under helmets... a little bit of art." He said, he looked over and tapped the rainbow colored lightning bolt and cloud on his helmet.
  431. >You smiled at him, "I'm beginning to think that's a good thing." you looked over at your troops.
  432. >Nearly all of them had art of some sort, mostly cutie marks, drawn on helmets, pauldrons, breastplates.
  433. >You noticed that even some of the Lieutenant's troops started doing the same.
  434. >"Not a bad little morale boost." You say to the airborne guy.
  435. >He snorted, "Well if it wasn't me, someone else would've come up with it."
  436.  
  437. >You found yourself rubbing the necklace with your thumb. Speaking of personal recordings, you didn't have any of Lyra or Bon Bon.
  438. >All you had were just some pictures of your family, some video of your family, a few albums of music, some soundbites from video games and movies.
  439. >"What's that sir? A necklace?" Nondis asked.
  440. >You place it back into its pouch and look away from him.
  441. >You can practically hear the smile in his voice,
  442. >"You got yourself a 'special somepony' huh Sergeant?"
  443. >You glance at him, no doubt he had a stupid grin on his face, he even used the local language.
  444. >You saw him pointing at the pouch and at your head, he was making the connection between the lyre necklace and the lyre cutie mark on your helmet.
  445. >"Who's the candy eh Sarge?" He asked, referring to Bon Bon's cutie mark.
  446. >He jabbed you in the side twice with his elbow.
  447. >"We're done talking about this Corporal."
  448. >"Aw come on, you gotta tell us about it at least a little." He practically begged.
  449. >He had his arms crossed and he was leaning towards you, you could practically see the eyebrows going up and down behind his helmet.
  450. >"We're done Corporal." You say again.
  451. >"Alright sir, but I'm gonna get you to open up eventually." He said, leaning on his back foot.
  452. >You rolled your eyes at him and walked over to the Lieutenant.
  453. ...
  454.  
  455. >It was a bright full moon, casting its glow far and wide.
  456. >The ponies of Ponyville slept, uneasily, some beds emptier than they were before.
  457. >The night was calm, the war far away from the town.
  458. >Not in the Castle of Friendship.
  459. >"Ugh!"
  460. >"Rarity you can't learn spells overnight."
  461. >The gem shaped shield faded.
  462. >Rarity huffed. She never was one for... fighting.
  463. >It was dirty, messy, and not something an elegant mare did.
  464. >But they lost.
  465. >The Bearers of The Elements of Harmony lost.
  466. >"Rarity I should change your bandages." A quiet voice said.
  467. >Rarity closed her eyes and laid down on her side, looking over the large book again.
  468. >She looked at Fluttershy. The kind pegasus was changing the bandages on Rarity's hind legs.
  469. >She grimaced at the nasty burns.
  470. >"They're healing well." Fluttershy reassured, "It'll just be a few weeks now."
  471. >Rarity smiled a little. During the battle Fluttershy tried to help the wounded, but there were so many.
  472. >And so few supplies.
  473. >She glanced over at the pile of saddlebags in the corner of the room, red crosses stitched on their sides. No doubt filled with medical tools and bandages.
  474. >"Thank you, Fluttershy." Rarity said, a slight smile on her face, "When all this nasty business is over, we'll have to spend a whole weekend at the spa."
  475. >Next time, they wouldn't lose.
  476. >Rarity would make sure that she could protect her friends.
  477. >"I'd like that." Flutteryshy replied.
  478.  
  479. >Rainbow Dash crumpled the half written letter and tossed it aside.
  480. >She sighed and took out another piece of paper, taking a moment to look at her friends.
  481. >They were... well in her honest opinion, becoming 20% cooler.
  482. >Fluttershy took her advice and she began flying more, to build her wing muscles.
  483. >Rarity was learning combat magic, and in a single night she even managed to cast a weak shield.
  484. >Twilight had her head buried in a number of books since they left.
  485. >The humans. Anon, Incog, Nondis, almost all of them.
  486. >Dash saw some of the covers. A stack of books, titled Military History of Equestria Vol.1, all the way to Vol.10
  487. >The memoirs of Commander Hurricane.
  488. >Modern Military Tactics. Ancient Military Tactics.
  489. >And even more books behind the books that Dash could see.
  490. >She looked over at Applejack.
  491. >She was reading, since her right hind leg was in a cast. She broke it trying to buck a demon.
  492. >It was... Dash didn't know the language. But it was a book about Earth pony fighting. The pictures made that clear.
  493. >Even Pinkie Pie was training. Lifting dumbbells.
  494. >She was uncharacteristically quiet, focused on her task, her mane and tail flat.
  495. >It was like whenever she was sad, but Dash didn't see sadness, only a serious determination.
  496. >Everyone was training and learning to become stronger, better, so when they were 100% they could go in and win.
  497. >Everyone except for Rainbow Dash.
  498.  
  499. >Dash sighed again.
  500. "Dear Nondis,
  501. I hope you're doing well. My friends have been training, everypony is-
  502. >Dash paused, then crumbled it again.
  503. >She grit her teeth and blinked back tears, she couldn't cry here, not when everyone was training.
  504. >She would try the letter later.
  505. >The blue pegasus leaned forward and pulled over the two manuals she set aside just a few hours ago.
  506. >The Boelcke Dicta, laws of ariel combat. Written by Boelcke, a Germane Pegasus Ace.
  507. >And Sailor Malan's Ten Rules of Air Fighting, a Pegasus Ace from Zebrica.
  508. >She tried to move her right wing but felt nothing.
  509. >It was gone, she felt the bandages wrapping her instead.
  510. >She could have used those books a few weeks ago.
  511. >She went over the text again and again, she didn't like reading but this stuff... she felt like she needed to know.
  512. >Despite her wound.
  513. >She had to do something, anything.
  514. >She felt worthless without her wing.
  515.  
  516. ===============================================================
  517.  
  518. V - Dangerous
  519. >"Sergeant Anon." The Lieutenant came up to you.
  520. >You looked to him.
  521. >"I have a job for you and your armored infantry, the guard here just informed me of something."
  522. >"Sir?"
  523. >"We came here to make sure the Crystal Empire didn't fall, and apparently the demon patrols around here are frequent and getting closer. I want you and your team to go out on a patrol to find any demons in the night, make our presense known, how is up to you."
  524. >"You didn't want them to know about us at the train fight, why let them know now?"
  525. >"I thought this place would be a fortress, but there's nothing here. We need to change that, but we can't do that if the enemy can just waltz right in. We're letting them know about us now so they have to sit for a while and think about how to approach us."
  526. >You sigh.
  527. >"Fine, sir."
  528. >"We're just giving them something to think about, we just need to stall for time while we build our base, and until Major Zhou gets everything up and running. The area I want you to patrol is south of the Crystal Empire, beyond the mountain range. There's a small forest there, we've been getting reports of demons in that area, likely scouting for places to camp out to surround us. Your team will be inserted via airship, and we will extract you at dawn at one of the south mountain range peaks."
  529. >"Alright sir." You saluted him and turned away.
  530.  
  531. >"First squad?" You addressed your lounging platoon.
  532. >Seven other troops in battle armor got up and walked towards you.
  533. >Among them, Incog, the man who had been with you ever since the war started. You trusted him with your life, and he trusted his with you. The both of you were infantrymen, battle armored infantry.
  534. >Nondis, the airborne guy you met in the lines to Equestria. He was younger, likely didn't sign up until the tail end of the war. He was a decent guy, knew what he was doing.
  535. >Scholl, the German medic that dissected the Hellhound. You didn't really know her personally, but you saw her work, and her work was good.
  536. >Two Russians, both in airborne battle armor. One of them, the shorter, you knew only because he knocked your lights out during a boxing match when you first came to Equestria.
  537. >He promised to teach you how to punch like that, but the two of you ended up never getting around to it.
  538. >A Canadian, sociable guy, apparently liked to draw. Apparently a marksman, judging by the large anti-material rifle he carried, and the massive scope atop it.
  539. >Finally a Japanese airborne soldier, the name on her armor said Nagase. She had a curved sword on her back, and so far she hadn't said a single word.
  540. >Overall, the squad had a decent amount of firepower, mostly rifles and carbines, you had the machine gun, and the Canadian had his rifle.
  541.  
  542. >"We'll be going on a patrol."
  543. >You heard numerous groans.
  544. >"This should be a short one, just this night."
  545. >You heard at least two sighs of relief.
  546. >You understood them, patrols could last weeks, with troopers carrying massive backpacks containing food, water, sleeping materials, and more.
  547. >Those patrols sucked.
  548. >"The Lieutenant was told that the demons like to patrol around here, and they're getting closer. We'll be heading out to a forest beyond the southern mountain range, we'll be taking a ride on an airship. We get extracted on the mountain range at dawn. Everyone check your armor optics and modes."
  549. >While everyone checked their settings, you checked yours. Your helmet came with a host of vision enhancing technology, zooming, night vision, thermal vision, but that all went unused for years until now.
  550. >You switched between the different modes quickly, finding that all of them worked, thankfully.
  551. >You quietly thank your armor before addressing the squad.
  552. >They all gave their confirmation that everything was in order.
  553. >Now was the wait.
  554. ...
  555.  
  556. >Bon Bon sat on a high chair, pencil in her mouth.
  557. >She jotted down a few ideas, but she wasn't certain.
  558. >Lyra once described a candy that Anon had back home, a skittle?
  559. >It was sugary, chewy, had a candy coating, came in fruity flavors.
  560. >But neither of them described how to make it.
  561. >She looked over to the entrance to the kitchen, Lyra was somewhere in the living room, sitting, maybe lying down.
  562. >Ever since Anon left, she had been all out of sorts.
  563. >She spent her time laying around, hardly touching her lyre, hardly helping Bon Bon out in the kitchen, a somber look on her face.
  564. >It broke Bon Bon's heart to see her like this.
  565. ...
  566.  
  567. >You spent your time counting your ammunition and refilling the box of ammo you had used in the train skirmish.
  568. >It was calming to you.
  569. >You knew the exact number of rounds you sent, and you would know the exact number of rounds you would have.
  570. >Everyone else caught on and they did the same mostly, counting ammo, passing the time.
  571. >It was only a few minutes until the airship came around, it was slow, but silent. You hardly heard it approach.
  572. >When it was overhead, a ladder came down from the side of the ship.
  573. >Rope and wood.
  574. >You looked over to Incog and he looked back at you.
  575. >"Uh... after you, Sir." He said, unsure whether or not the wood would be able to hold up the weight of a human in battle armor.
  576. >You gripped one step and tentatively put a foot on another, and carefully went up a few steps.
  577. >Seemed like it would.
  578. >You went all the way up, followed by the rest of the squad.
  579. >The first thing you saw was a Crystal Guardspony, saluting you.
  580. >You saluted back, then saw the thick ropes.
  581. >They were attached to the sides, with plenty of rope coiled next to the lugs they were fastened to.
  582. >"You've got to be shitting me." You heard Nondis comment.
  583. >"Er... your Lieutenant said to bring these ropes, I'm sure you know what to do with them?" The Guardspony said.
  584. >"Yeah and I can't believe we're gonna do it." Nondis said.
  585. >"First time for everything, I think we'll be the first people to ever fastrope off an airship." Incog replied, a little too enthusiastic.
  586. >You walked over to him and placed your hand on his shoulder, "Well Incog, since you're so excited, you get to go first."
  587. ...
  588.  
  589. >Bon Bon had enough of this.
  590. >She hopped off her chair and walked out of the kitchen, head turning left and right to find Lyra.
  591. >The minty green unicorn was laying down on the rug in front of the front door, head on her hooves.
  592. >Bon Bon quietly stepped over to her and sat down next to her.
  593. >Both of the mares were quiet.
  594. >Lyra just looked at Bon Bon, then looked back at the door.
  595. >She closed her eyes slowly.
  596. >Bon Bon placed a hoof on her whithers, then gently began to work the knots out of Lyra's mane.
  597. >She did this wordlessly for a few minutes before she saw tears escaping from Lyra's closed eyes.
  598. >Bon Bon sighed.
  599. >"What if he comes back without arms? Or without legs or without something?" Lyra began, her eyes still closed.
  600. >Bon Bon's felt a frown and something gripped at her chest. Bon Bon opened her mouth to reply-
  601. >"What if he doesn't come back?" Lyra whispered, quieter than she had ever been.
  602. >Bon Bon blinked a few times rapidly, "Don't say that. He'll come back. I know it."
  603. >Lyra was always so happy, so cheerful... seeing her this sad was almost unbelievable.
  604. >A moment passed between them
  605. >"How do you know?"
  606. ...
  607.  
  608. >The forest below was peaceful.
  609. >But you were on alert. Eyes scanning the gaps between the tree canopy, hands ready to swipe the M60 off of your back.
  610. >The rest of your squad were on standby, some of them holding the coils of rope, ready to toss it overboard.
  611. >Your breathing got faster as the airship lowered itself towards a small clearing.
  612. >You forced yourself to breathe slower, and thanked whoever made the airship so quiet.
  613. >Patrols were almost universally despised.
  614. >You weren't one of the few who liked them.
  615. >They were boring, they were difficult, foot blisteringly hard work, and almost every time it was just a long, dumb hike.
  616. >But when a patrol actually found something...
  617. >If a patrol stumbled into an ambush...
  618. >The sudden explosions, the wall of gunfire that suddenly appeared, the abrupt transition from talking about how bad the chow was to screaming about suppressive fire and taking cover.
  619. >It still made you nervous.
  620. >Then the ground got close enough.
  621. >Three ropes were thrown overboard, and Incog gripped one.
  622. >He sat on the edge of the railing, rope in hand, then hopped off.
  623. >You leaned over to watch him go down, if he fell, his armor would take the brunt of the landing, but he'd have more than a few bruises.
  624. >He controlled his descent masterfully with his hands and boots, landing onto the ground with a soft thud.
  625. >He immediately took out his rifle and scanned the area.
  626. >Good.
  627. >"Toss the ladder over." You said, looking at your medic, Scholl.
  628. >She shrugged and tossed over the rope and wood ladder.
  629. >Then your squad carefully, and safely, left the airship.
  630.  
  631. >"What the fuck? I thought we were fast roping?" Incog asked over the radio.
  632. >"Yeah we were until I realized the ladder was long enough." You replied to him.
  633. >"And you just happened to realize this after I jumped?"
  634. >"Yeah."
  635. >You heard him grumble, "If it helps you were very professional mister I'm the first man to fastrope from an airship. I'm sure Corporal Nondis caught it on recording."
  636. >"I did." You hear the younger airborne trooper say.
  637. >"There you have it, you got proof now, you can brag about it when we get back."
  638. >You heard a snort from Incog.
  639. >But you were sure he had a grin on his face.
  640. >You had one on your face too.
  641. >The squad fanned out in a loose wedge formation.
  642. >Apparently the Canadian marksman saw a faint glow on the way in, and he was taking point.
  643. >They had a lead, and the moon seemed to dim.
  644.  
  645. >It wasn't long until something happened.
  646. >The Canadian held up a fist.
  647. >Everyone stopped in their tracks.
  648. >He brought his hand down and motioned for everyone to crouch, then he held his hand up to his ear.
  649. >Your eyes narrowed, he had spotted something, and he wanted everyone to listen.
  650. >You closed your eyes for second and focused on the sounds around you.
  651. >Your squad was now completely silent, crouched over, still like statues.
  652. >You heard distant snarls, some coarse barks, and a language you had never heard before.
  653. >It was a mixture of sounds that you couldn't even begin to pronounce.
  654. >You opened your eyes again, looking at the Canadian.
  655. >He looked back at you, then you carefully stepped closer to him, keeping low.
  656. >The marksman held his hand behind his rifle, enemies, then he held up 1 finger. One enemy as a perimeter guard.
  657. >You looked ahead and saw that glow he was talking about.
  658. >They had a campfire going, a small one.
  659. >How the Canadian spotted that from so high up and so far away was beyond you.
  660. >You saw a number of those Hellhounds, roughly six. Two pods.
  661. >And you saw something else.
  662.  
  663. >There were maybe ten.
  664. >Some were red, a color paler than blood. Some were pale, the color of dead flesh. Others were a blend of the two.
  665. >They stood like bipeds, crouched into a squat, with longer arms.
  666. >They were thin, you could see the bones under their rotting skin.
  667. >Flesh seemed to want to fall off their body as they sat, or walked around.
  668. >Their heads were inhuman. A mockery of the animals you knew.
  669. >Dogs whose snouts were necrotic, naked birds, eyes bulging from their skulls.
  670. >They were gaunt. They looked like sickness.
  671. >But they were walking uninhibited, as if animated by some supernatural force.
  672. >Demons.
  673. >You narrowed your eyes at them.
  674. >"We'll call them Husks for now." You whispered to your squad, "Nondis, lead the airborne on the left flank. Incog, lead everyone else to stay on my right."
  675. >You didn't hear them move out, but you knew that four of your squad split off.
  676. >You advanced slowly, silently.
  677. >Your heart pounded and your breathing sped in anticipation.
  678. >Nothing else existed, only the hunt.
  679. >Only the prey.
  680. >You got closer to the perimeter guard, it was an ugly thing.
  681. >Pale, crouched into a squat. It was turned towards the camp, turned the wrong way. It lifted its head into the air and sniffed, but your armor didn't smell like anything organic.
  682. >It tilted its head in confusion.
  683. >You were close enough now.
  684. >You silently took your dagger out from its sheath.
  685. ...
  686.  
  687. >"How do you know?" Lyra repeated, louder.
  688. >Bon Bon just knew.
  689. >She noticed things.
  690. >She noticed how Anon checked his corners every time he entered through a doorway, how he scanned the room.
  691. >She noticed how he could never sleep without at least a candle lighting up his room.
  692. >When the sun went down and it was dark, his steps became eerily silent, like he was stalking something.
  693. >When he flinched at fireworks, and put up a fake smile to appease Lyra.
  694. >When he glanced at certain things in the room when he was uncomfortable, she knew he was looking at potential weapons.
  695. >The way he stared out the window sometimes.
  696. >The way, when he finally opened his case and revealed what was inside, his weapon seemed to emanate death.
  697. >The way his armor slowly changed color, blending into the black foam that surrounded it, a mixture of dark grey shades, like it wanted to hide from her sight.
  698. >"I just do." Bon Bon said, "He's strong. He'll come back fine."
  699. >She knew he was more than just 'strong'.
  700. >He was dangerous.
  701. ...
  702.  
  703. >You gripped the muzzle of the Husk, holding it shut, and sank the dagger into it's throat.
  704. >The creature gurgled and you pulled it closer to you, pressing its body against your shoulder.
  705. >You pulled it into the darkness of the trees with only a rustle.
  706. >Then you got to work.
  707. >The Lieutenant told you to make the presense of humans known, so you were going to make an impression.
  708. >You slid the knife out of the dead Husks throat, blood shot out like a fountain, coating your arm and side.
  709. >It didn't bother you for some reason.
  710. >You didn't even notice the smile on your face.
  711. >You put your knee on its pelvis and sheathed the knife.
  712. >Placing your hands on it's head, you began to pull it away from the rest of your body.
  713. >The armor you wore made it easy.
  714. >The head came right off, ripping, you heard the snapping of bone, and the spine slid right out of it's body following the head.
  715. >Perfect.
  716. >You looked over at your team, and they all stared in silence, you couldn't see their expressions behind their helmets.
  717. >Maybe for the better.
  718. >Setting your machine gun down, you flipped through the sound files you had stored in your helmets storage.
  719. >There was a sound that you used to play when pranking rookies.
  720.  
  721. >The night was quiet, save for the chirps of crickets, the rushing of water from a nearby river.
  722. >The clanking of cooking utensils, crackling of a campfire and steps of demons.
  723. >The night seemed darker than it did before, the moon dimming it's glow, but that didn't bother them much.
  724. >When the body hit the ground it startled all of them, with a loud thud, it fell into a tangle of limbs and blood.
  725. >It was one of them, headless.
  726. >They grabbed weapons, swords, knives, spears. Crudely made weapons, but would no doubt do their job.
  727. >Then they heard it.
  728. >A series of rapid clicks, echoing in the night.
  729. >An unnatural sound. Alien to both Equestria, and Tartarus.
  730. >The sound startled them again.
  731. >They looked towards it, a spot in the trees, pitch black.
  732. >Then they saw the head, mouth agape, eyes shot open, it's spine swayed freely still attached.
  733. >From behind it, a creature seemed to float into the light.
  734. >Taller than the ponies they were now used to fighting, standing on two legs, it held something large in the crook of its other arm.
  735. >No sound came from it's steps, it was as silent as the dead.
  736. >Skin made of metal that seemed to change as the light hit it.
  737. >Six dead, soulless eyes stared back.
  738. >It let out that same, unnerving clicking.
  739.  
  740. >"Leave one alive to tell the others." You spoke into your radio.
  741. >And the darkness erupted with the light of a thunderstorm.
  742. >You held the severed head up like a declaration of death, then aimed your machine gun and let loose into the pair of charging Hellhounds.
  743. >One went down immediately, its head and shoulders torn apart by the burst of gunfire.
  744. >The second got too close, you were ready to kick it in the head, but one of your squadmates was quicker.
  745. >You heard the rumble of the microengines attached to an airborne troopers armor, then Nagase was in front of you.
  746. >Her sword was out, and she buried it deep into the neck of the second Hellhound.
  747. >She shouted in Japanese, then put another five or so rounds from her carbine into it's head.
  748. >You aimed the barrel of your M60 down to the ground and watched the rest of the demons get cut down by your squad.
  749. >As you ordered, they left one alive, a Husk. It clutched it's sword, terrified.
  750. >Then it bolted into the night.
  751.  
  752. >You let go of that breath you didn't realize you were holding, you were that close to getting hit by a Hellhound.
  753. >"Thanks." You say to Nagase, and she just nods at you, wiping the blood off her blade with the hide of the demon.
  754. >You closed your eyes for just a second, then realized what you had done.
  755. >You felt it in your hands, and fear gripped your heart.
  756. >You didn't want to open your eyes, you didn't want to see what you just did.
  757. >But you did anyways.
  758. >There in your hands was the severed head of an enemy, face contorted in confusion and horror.
  759. >You shut your eyes again and tossed it aside.
  760. >You walked over to a Hellhound corpse and sat on it's back, doing your best to wipe the blood off your armored hand.
  761. >But it just smeared.
  762. >How did you even come up with the idea?
  763. >It was like you just moved, and did it. Like you were possessed.
  764. >What happened to you?
  765. >"Anon?" You heard.
  766. >You looked up at Incognito.
  767. >"You good?"
  768. >"... Yeah, uh..." You blinked a few times, "There's a few hours still til the extract on the mountain range, there should be enough time for us to get up there."
  769. >You got up, seeing the rest of your squad loitering around the camp. They rummaged through the place, picking up the weapons, and other assorted things, likely for research.
  770. >"Let's get going." You said to them.
  771. >You frowned.
  772. >What would Lyra and Bon Bon think of you now?
  773. >A monster?
  774.  
  775. ===============================================================
  776.  
  777. Part VI
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