Pony Defense Group

May 9th, 2015
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  1. >"Anon, I...don't know if I should ask this of you, but I fear that desperate times call for desperate measures. The Griffons, the Minotaurs, and the Diamond Dogs have already conquered our allies in Saddle Arabia. The Crystal Empire is facing internal turmoil. Equestria stands alone. Humans are well versed in warfare. We need a weapon to change the outcome of this terrible war. Please, will you help us?"
  2. >You are Anonymous, and you think
  3. >Hard
  4. >Abandoning your friends, your family, your life, to help fight the enemies of ponies in a distant land that you’ve never seen
  5. >Well, maybe it wasn’t that hard
  6. >Or the first time for that matter
  7. Well, alright princess. Gimme…five or so minutes? I need to get a few things.
  8. >”Please hurry, human, our time grows short.”
  9. >You go to your closet for the only weapon you actually own
  10. >No arsenal for you, poorfag
  11. >Just a Mosin-Nagant that even the oldest Soviet soldier wouldn’t remember
  12. >Your great-grandfather had used it against the Bolsheviks in the Winter War
  13. >If it was good enough for him, it would be good enough for you
  14. >Hm, jeans and a t-shirt wouldn’t cut it either
  15. >Going over to the dresser, you pull open its drawers to look for something suitable
  16. >You smile as something catches your eye, the perfect clothing to wear for a mission like this
  17. >You don the outfit and walk back to the closet, ready to load up on other stuff you’ll need
  18. >Like ammo
  19. >A lot of ammo
  20. >You grab the dozen odd stripper clips of 54R that you kept to feed the ancient beauty resting against the wall
  21. >Along with that, you decide other kinds of ammo wouldn’t be bad to take along
  22. >Y’know, in the unlikely event and all that
  23. >Finally ready, you take up your chosen rifle, bayonet glistening as you fix it to its lug
  24. >Gotta make a good impression, Anon
  25. >You speak to the formless light that has invaded you room
  26. “I’m ready, Celestia.”
  27. >There is no response, but a loud humming fills the room and a bright flash sears your eyes
  28. >A screeching fills the air as your vision clears, and a dark shape rushes at you
  29. >You’re lucky to react in time
  30. >The rifle comes up as you take aim and squeeze the trigger, sights aligned on the blur
  31. >Click
  32. >You forgot to load you retard
  33. >But your luck holds, and the shadow suddenly jerks to a halt, shuddering in place
  34. >The barrel feels heavy
  35. >Blinking as your vision clears, and resting the weirdly heavy barrel on the ground, you look about your surroundings for any other threats
  36. >Instead, all you see are astonished pony faces
  37. >Huh, you wonder, what are they all staring at?
  38. >Your rifle twitches in your hands, and you look down to where it’s resting
  39. >You keep your gorge down, but just barely
  40. >It’s a gryphon with gleaming grey plumage, black lining its primary feathers
  41. >It impaled itself on your bayonet when it charged at you
  42. >A regal voice speaks up from beyond the ring of pony guards surrounding you, many of whom look quite ill
  43. >”Did we not say that the human would be capable of putting the gryphon down with ease, sister? Truly they are the means to ending this occupation!”
  44. >Wait occupation?
  45. >Celestia had said that her country was on the brink of invasion, not occupied
  46. >”Yes, Luna, he is everything like you’d promised.”
  47. >Without any further words, or obvious commands, the ring of guards parted and made a path
  48. >Standing at the end, in full regalia, were the princesses Celestia and Luna
  49. >Both were glorious, manes slowly waving in a hypnotizing pattern
  50. >But all you saw were a pair of stupid horses that had just thrown a mythological beast, out for blood, at your head
  51. “The fuck was that all about?”
  52. >A sudden hit to the back of your knees makes your drop immediately, almost prostrate
  53. >A gruff voice speaks up from behind you, anger all too apparent
  54. >”You’ll hold your tongue before the princesses, ape!”
  55. >You rise to your feet and whirl on the pony that struck you, rifle raised
  56. “You’ll fuck off unless you want this bayonet going up your arse, you prissy little bitch!”
  57. >With no warning, you’re flung off your feet and start sliding along the ground, away from the offending guard
  58. >It feels like a massive hand rife with static is tugging you along
  59. >Glancing down at your body, as you try fighting it, you notice you’re engulfed in a golden radiance
  60. >You relax, realizing it’s the princess’ doing
  61. >She wouldn’t harm you, right?
  62. >She brought you here after all
  63. >Just as the thought timidly runs through your head, Luna’s voice booms throughout the clearing, and splits your ears
  64. >”Enough foalplay! You’re all proud Equestrian soldiers, stallions of strength and valour! Heroes to all those in the occupied lands! Start acting like it, dismissed!”
  65. >The crowd disperses as you’re dragged to your feet
  66. >You turn and see Celestia, her head lowered
  67. >”Please accept my apologies, Anonymous. We did not mean for you to come to any harm.”
  68. >You shrug and answer her in an even tone
  69. “Hey, I’m fine. That guy’s just an asshole I guess.”
  70. >Luna clears her throat and steps into the conversation to correct you
  71. >”What my sister meant was an apology for the gryphon attack. It was my idea to test your mettle in such a way. We were not certain of your martial prowess, but now…”
  72. >She trails off, but you get it
  73. >You look back at the bloodstained earth, a lifeless mass of feathers and fur laying still occupied it
  74. >You swallow heavily and turn back to the sisters
  75. >Couldn’t get distracted now, you needed answers
  76. “Yeah, whatever, it’s fine. Now what’s goin’ on? Celestia, you said that Equestria was about to be attacked, not that you’re under occupation!”
  77. >Celestia sighs and gestures with her head to a small cave
  78. >Man how the fuck does that work
  79. >”Come, Anonymous. We have much to discuss.”
  80. >A drop falls from a stalactite hanging above, plopping on your head
  81. >You survey the dank cave, noticing how many of the stalagmites have been cleared to make the area livable
  82. >Heh, dank
  83. >”I believe we owe you some answers, Anonymous.”
  84. >You snap back to looking at the princess’
  85. “Well, let’s just start with how you went from being on the brink, to being occupied in the space of five minutes. Doesn’t really make sense.”
  86. >Celestia sighs and stares up at the ceiling
  87. >”Unfortunately, that’s something that not even I understand. You see, it’s been four years since I cast that spell to your world. And you weren’t the only one to come either.”
  88. >Celestia stares at the floor of the cave, while Luna clears her throat and carries on
  89. >”Interdimensional magic requires a great deal of concentration and mental stability. With the amount of stress my sister was under, she was barely able to complete the spell. As a result, while a great deal of your kind were brought to us, many more were scattered. So whenever one of you starts to come through at a different time, we have to mobilize immediately to secure the area around your appearance, lest you be captured by the enemy.”
  90. >You hold up your hands to stop her
  91. “Okay, hold on now. There were others, other humans you mean, that came through as well? What happened to all of them?”
  92. >Luna’s ears fold back and her voice barely registers in your ears
  93. >”Some died in the fighting, some…betrayed us.”
  94. >Well, shit
  95. >That explains the test at least
  96. >If you ever switched sides, they had some dirt on you
  97. >And they had the added bonus of seeing if you’d actually fight, or just cower away
  98. >Ponies are crafty little Jews it seems
  99. >Your brain switches gears from /pol/ to oper8tor mode
  100. “Okay, well if they’re dead then that’s it. If they switched sides, well they’ll be gone soon enough. What have you got in terms of arms and manpower?”
  101. >Luna seems to perk up a bit, even if her sister is still moping
  102. >Seems one had more of a military mind than the other
  103. >”Well, we still have arms manufacturing abilities. Between our blacksmiths and alchemists we’re able to produce enough materiel to arm all our troops. Our numbers are not many, but it’s enough to mount an effective resistance. What we lack is the larger armaments we had in the beginning, however.”
  104. >Your eyes widen at the mention of ‘larger armaments’
  105. “Just what exactly did you have? And what was captured from you when the occupation began?”
  106. >Luna gestures for you to follow her deeper into the cave, and you oblige
  107. >”When your fellows came, some were able to bring with them great machines of steel and smoke. Many were wheeled cannons, similar to ones we had but with greater portability and accuracy. They called them ‘howitzers’. As well, there were some mounted on large bases with tracks, called ‘tanks’. There were not so many of the latter, but they were greatly effective.”
  108. >The tunnel you had been travelling through suddenly opens up to a massive cavern, and the sights take your breath away
  109. >You run up to the first wonder in a long line of them, a Jagdpanther in perfect condition
  110. >On closer inspection, you see small dents and blemishes in the hull, but it’s still miraculously well kept
  111. “H-how did you get this thing here?”
  112. >A familiar voice echoes from further down the line
  113. >”We created them, of course.”
  114. >A purple alicorn steps out from behind a Leopard MEXAS
  115. >One of her wings is bandaged, and her eyes are hollow and distant
  116. >Of course it’s Twilight, the cutie mark is unmistakable
  117. >You make a short bow and walk further down the line, running your hand along the various hulls therein
  118. “You mean that the ponies managed to make these tanks, and they actually work?”
  119. >Twilight huffs and levitates a large wrench in front of her before hopping up on the hull and tightening a bolt on the add-on armour
  120. >”No I mean that I, personally, managed to make these things. They remarkably simple, mechanically speaking. And with the number of magical repositories that Celestia made available to me, it was hardly that difficult.”
  121. >You grab onto the Leo’s gun and hoist yourself onto the hull, leaning back on the barrel
  122. >The way she’d said ‘Celestia’ had a hint of bitterness, a fact that was apparently not lost on Luna
  123. >”Twilight, speak of my sister with the respect she deserves.”
  124. >Purple horse doesn’t even bother looking up from her work on the plating
  125. >”That’s exactly what I do, Luna.”
  126. >Luna opens her mouth to reprimand Twilight again, but you speak first
  127. “Hey Luna, you mind if I talk to Twilight here? She seems to be pretty good with these things, but there’s gotta be a reason they’re all locked up in the cave, right? Maybe I can give a hand with it. It’ll all be tech kind of stuff, not something that someone of your position needs to be bothered with.”
  128. >The princess of the night recognizes the dismissal for what it is, and her ears flick in annoyance
  129. >But for whatever reason, she turns and walks out in a huff, calling out over her shoulder
  130. >”If anything gets damaged, human, I’ll hold you personally responsible.”
  131. >You wave at the departing figure before turning back to Twilight, who’s focused intensely on tightening the bolt she’s working on until the plate cracks
  132. >She yells in frustration and the wrench, still in her mystic grasp, on the now useless bit of armour
  133. >You chuckle lightly, and she whirls on you, brandishing the tool like a knife
  134. >”Just what in Tartarus is so funny, ape?”
  135. >You deftly snatch the wrench out of the air and start loosening the bolts on the broken plate, all before she can react
  136. “You know, this stuff is made to stop bullets. I’m actually kinda impressed you managed to break it just by tightening the bolt.”
  137. >You heave back and the offending bolt slips, causing you to trip and fall over the gun
  138. >Twilight lets out a quiet giggle, but cuts it off by clearing her throat
  139. >”So just why are you here, monkey? You planning on betraying the princess’ again and killing even more of us?”
  140. >You sigh as you recover and start loosening another bolt
  141. “Look, Twi, I just got here. I was told to get ready to defend a country still intact, not resist in occupied territories. Cut me some slack, eh? ‘Sides, not like I was the one that gave you wings anyway.”
  142. >Twilight is in your face almost instantly, you’d swear she’d teleported there
  143. >”What did you say?”
  144. >You boop her nose with the wrench and she pulls back, her muzzle scrunching in a deathly cute anger
  145. “I said cut me some slack, I just got here. So, Ms. Quartermaster, just what have you got in this armoury anyway?”
  146. >Twilight rolls her eyes as you take off the last bolt and throw the broken plate to the floor
  147. >”That’s PRINCESS Twilight to you. But we’ve got around twenty of these big armoured gun thingies.”
  148. >You stick up a hand to correct her
  149. “Tanks.”
  150. >She lifts another MEXAS plate into place as her eyes roll again
  151. >Twilight was going to get dizzy at this rate
  152. >”Yeah, tanks. Anyway, we have another forty of your cannons of various sizes, ten big trucks, two helicopters, and one plane. All of those are in workable condition.”
  153. >As you open your mouth to ask another question, she raises a hoof and interrupts you
  154. >”However, the enemy has at least twice as many tanks, between captured, refurbished, and stolen ones, along with about two hundred cannons, both your kind and ours. Their air force is also way stronger, with around ten planes of all sorts able to fly, and dozens of helicopters.”
  155. >Her wings twitch and she winces slightly
  156. >”So basically, we don’t have a snowballs chance in a dragon pit.”
  157. >You finish tightening the last bolt on the armour and hop off the hull; Twilight follows you down
  158. >Twilight walks further down the line of the vehicles with you trailing behind
  159. “I don’t believe that for a second, Twi. How many casualties have you taken since the occupation began?
  160. >She looks up at you, her eyes misting up
  161. >”Around forty percent of our original force, including 100% of you humans, killed, captured, or defected.”
  162. >You nod and halt when she does, leaning up against the hull of a T-90
  163. “And what have your tactics been thus far, in terms of resisting.”
  164. >She eyes you warily before answering in a halting tone
  165. >”Just the same as always, attacking their bases with everything we can. We need to take back the territory and inspire the ponies under occupation.”
  166. >You shake your head
  167. “You’re still thinking about this in terms of a conventional war. C’mon, let’s go get the other princess’, it’s time for ‘Guerilla Tactics 101’, with Professor Anonymous.”
  168. >Twilight looks skeptical, but she follows you from the armoury and back to the princess’ cave
  169. >You barely suppress the small smile growing on your face
  170. >Maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t be as bad as you’d first thought
  171. -
  172. >You, Twilight, and the princess’ all sit in a small cavern just off the main one
  173. >A large, flat circle of stone rises from the middle like a large table, carved from one of the columns of the cave
  174. >Though Twilight maintains a straight face as you explain exactly what the costs of continuing a conventional fight against a superior force, Luna looks miserable, and Celestia…
  175. >She looks physically ill
  176. >But you continued, detailing exactly what could happen to her forces even after laying down their weapons
  177. >And judging by how they reacted, it was all inside the realm of possibility
  178. >Finally, you had concluded your arguments for a change of tactics
  179. >You’d finished by inviting all three of them to voice any objections or concerns they had with your proposed way of fighting
  180. >Luna was the first to speak out
  181. >”But Anonymous, what you propose is…it’s illegal, dishonourable! Attacking lone patrols as they pass, disguising bombs along the roadside, and this, what did you call it again?”
  182. >You can see where this is going and easily answer her
  183. “Remote mortar attacks, yes.”
  184. >She smacks her hoof down on the stone circle with a resounding clack
  185. >”Exactly! We would’t be fighting them, we’d be terrorizing them!”
  186. >You clasp your hands together like a Jew who’d just received a welfare cheque for a mother of twelve
  187. “That’s exactly what I am proposing. We don’t need to slaughter the enemy wholesale, or even reduce their strength by too many. We need to break their spirit. A soldier with a broken soul is worse than a soldier without a weapon.”
  188. >Luna still stutters along her same point
  189. >You cut her off with a sharp gesture
  190. “Princess, I mean no disrespect to you. I’m certain you’ve led many successful campaigns in the early days of Equestria. However, the fact is that you’re not understanding exactly the predicament you’re in. You’re undermanned, outgunned, and run into the hills. Any action you take will be considered illegal by the people running the remains of Equestria. Stop being concerned with some intangible feeling like ‘honour’ and get concerned about the lives of the ponies under your command.”
  191. >She opens her mouth to object again, but closes it just as fast when your words sink in
  192. >Celestia is the second to speak up, after a few moments silence
  193. >”What about the ponies in the occupied territory? This campaign could lead to atrocities that affect them directly. I do not believe such a risk should be undertaken with so many lives on the line.”
  194. >It’s a predictable enough concern, but the almost motherly tenderness in her voice makes you almost reconsider your answer
  195. >Almost
  196. “Princess, there have been many times in my world where people have sat by and done nothing, while their brother suffers next to them. Not out of a lack of concern, but because they are afraid of bringing further wrath down on themselves. While there may be atrocities, even one will harden the resolve of all against the invaders.
  197. >Celestia doesn’t look convinced by your argument however
  198. >And the way she talked about her ponies, it really seemed like she thought of them as her children
  199. >You drum your knuckles on the stone in front of you, and decide backing down a bit on this one wouldn’t hurt
  200. “Well, if you are this concerned with the wellbeing of your ponies, I have another proposal. When we push back the enemy forces from any given village, we immediately begin evacuation of its occupants. This will serve to both protect your ponies, and can even be used to lure more soldiers into ambush without endangering your subjects. Would you find this acceptable?”
  201. >Celestia lets out a pent up breath and nods, closing her eyes
  202. >”Very much so, Anonymous. Thank you for understand the fears I have for the lives of my little ponies.”
  203. >You smile and bow your head slightly, when a nearly inaudible breath of air brushes past you
  204. >You look down at Twilight, whose face is lowered and eyes squeezed shut
  205. “What was that, Twilight?”
  206. >She looks up at you; her huge eyes misted over, and speaks in a trembling, broken voice
  207. >”What if you betray us?”
  208. >Her question stops your planned argument in your throat
  209. >You’d expected something about logistics, or schedules from her but this
  210. >This was a problem
  211. -
  212. >You decide humour is the best way to handle it, if ponies have similar psychology to humans
  213. >You reach into one of the pockets on your vest and take out a small note pad
  214. >Flipping through it, you make a tutting noise
  215. “Sorry Twi, doesn’t look like ‘betrayal’ is in the schedule. If you’d like, I could try to squeeze it in it in. Say, maybe after Equestria is liberated, but before getting home. Would you find such a timetable workable around yours?”
  216. >The pent up tension in the room suddenly disperses, with all three of the ponies smiling as the tension seeps away from their bodies
  217. >Nailed it, Anon
  218. >You clap your hands together after putting your notebook away
  219. “Alright, let’s get to work. Celestia, Luna, do you mind explaining the change of plans to the troops. I get the feeling they’ll trust the judgment of their rulers more than a potentially untrustworthy human.”
  220. >Luna nods shortly, and Celestia inclines her head to you
  221. >”That’s wise thinking, Anonymous. We’ll explain what you proposed to the troops.”
  222. >They stand and exit the small room, leaving you alone with Twilight
  223. >You stand as well, stretching your sore muscles
  224. >Twilight follows your lead and yawns
  225. >Dammit, she wasn’t best pony but she was doing her best to get there
  226. >”So Anonymous, what are you going to do in the mean time?”
  227. >You look down at her and give a gentle smile
  228. “WE are going to go down to the armoury and account for every bullet, bomb, and milliliter of fuel in it. I need to know what kind of resources we’ll be working with before we can make a workable strategy.”
  229. >Twilight moans like a filly
  230. >”But that’ll take hours!”
  231. >Your grin widens and you pat her head condescendingly
  232. “Yep, that’s why you’re coming along. To keep me company and make sure I don’t get lost. That and I doubt you want me alone with all those dangerous munitions, just in case.”
  233. >You wink at the last sentence to show the joking sense it was made in, but Twilight’s ears fold back
  234. >”Y-yeah, don’t want you getting into any trouble.”
  235. >It didn’t work Anon, quick change the subject!
  236. “Uh, well come on let’s get working. Faster we do this the faster we can get to bed. Kinda worn out, after getting teleported through time and space, you know?”
  237. >Twilight, now tense and quiet nods
  238. >She trails slowly behind you as you walk out of the room, shaking your head sadly
  239. >This wouldn’t do at all
  240. >A few hours later, you don’t know your watch doesn’t tell time, you and Twilight are walking down the last row of vehicles
  241. >Funny enough, it was actually the first vehicles you’d seen when you had walked in the first time
  242. >But you wanted to start small and work up to the larger things
  243. >Finally you reach the last vehicle in the line, a BMP-3 flying what you assume to be the Equestrian flag from its antenna whip
  244. >You hoist yourself up onto the hull and lean down to help Twilight up as well
  245. >At first she hadn’t wanted your help, but as the hours had worn on she accepted it readily
  246. >You lift her up by her forehooves before making your way to the turret and sliding in through the hatch
  247. >Everything looks to be in good order, as you work your way towards the driver seat
  248. >When you reach it, you notice the keys are still in and there’s a quarter tank of gas
  249. >Then you get an idea
  250. >A terrible, terrible idea
  251. “Twilight, could you hop down here for a sec? I need a hand, or hoof.”
  252. >You hear her hooves clank on the metal floor when you’ve nearly finished the start up sequence
  253. >”Yeah, Anon, what do you neeEEEEAAAAAAAAAH!”
  254. >She screams as you turn the engine over and peel out of the line of armoured vehicles, turning just in time to avoid hitting the trucks parked a few meters away
  255. >You giggle maniacally as you crank the steering yoke to the left in a clear area at the end of the row, sending the vehicle into a drift
  256. >Twilight clings to your neck, screaming louder than a jet turbine right into your ear
  257. >But you’re too busy having a hell of a time to care
  258. >You rev the engine one last time, and then it seizes dying with a loud rattle
  259. >You turn your head and see Twilight, eyes bigger than hubcaps and pupil shrunk to pinpricks
  260. >Time to revive this bitch
  261. >You boop her nose to shake her out of her stupor
  262. “Damn that was fun, eh Twi?”
  263. >Shaking her head, her face grows a frown bigger than BC bud
  264. >”Are you CRAZY? You could have got us killed!”
  265. >You boop her again, receiving only a scowl in return
  266. “Yeah, but I didn’t.”
  267. >She screams in frustration and makes her way up the hatch, with you following behind
  268. >By the time you pop your head out of the access way, a crowd has gathered in the hallway
  269. >Twilight hops onto the chassis as the first bystander arrives
  270. >”Princess Twilight, what’s going on? Are you and the human alright?”
  271. >She stamps her hoof down
  272. >”We’re fine but that human, he just—“
  273. >She looks up at you, still scowling, but starting to stutter
  274. >”He’s just—such a—“
  275. >She lets out a poorly hidden giggle, and you can’t help but respond in kind
  276. >In seconds, you’re both laughing up a storm, much to the confusion of the first responders
  277. >”I don’t understand, what’s so funny princess?”
  278. >That and the look on his face set you two off again
  279. >Finally, Luna and Celestia arrive, both wearing horrified faces
  280. >This would be a fun explanation
  282. >You slide down the front of the hull to intercept the sisters before they reached the IFV behind you.
  283. “Princesses, how did the briefing go?”
  284. >”Anonymous, we heard a terrible commotion! What has happened down here,” Luna blurts before her sister can respond
  285. >Celestia places a hoof on her sisters’ withers and gives her a stern glare before switching on the charm and maternal tone to speak to you
  286. >”What my sister means, Anonymous, is that we’re very concerned that somepony could be hurt. With that in mind, we do need to know what happened down here.”
  287. >You take a deep breath and pray that any god listening favours you with a silver tongue
  288. “Well you see, Twilight and I were down here cataloging the armaments, vehicle, and other supplies in the inventory. We finished our task and, while I was looking at the state of this BMP, I made a decision to show Twilight combat maneuvering in it. Such maneuvering is, of course, fast and incredibly loud. So I can entirely understand the alarm, and apologize for causing it.”
  289. >You bow your head at the conclusion of your speech, and pray she doesn’t ask Pretty Purple Princess Pferd what happened
  290. >”Twilight, is this indeed what happened.”
  291. >Well, you had a good run anyway
  292. >Didn’t get any ponut, but you did manage to prove Equestria existed
  293. >Wait, you wouldn’t be able to prove that if you never got home, shit!
  294. >You hear Twilight take a deep breath, and start holding your own
  295. >”It’s true. I wanted to see the inside of the tank, and when Anonymous started it up to check the engine I agreed that it would be an asset to understand the extent that such a big vehicle could maneuver.”
  296. >Wait what
  297. >Did Poifect Poiple just lie to Celestia?
  298. >”Well, Twilight, we’ll take your word on it. But please, in the future clear such things with me or Luna.”
  299. >Did Celestia just BUY it?
  300. >Time to butt in before anything else goes wrong
  301. “Of course, princess. We’ll be happy to run any plans for instructing or demonstrations by you first.”
  302. >Celestia nods to you and turns about to leave, trotting down the hall with her sister in tow
  303. >The crowd of ponies starts dispersing as well, going back to whatever they had been doing before the roar of the BMP had brought the running
  304. >You look back to Twilight, still standing on the vehicle, and walk over
  305. “Why’d you back me up on that? I thought Celestia was your surrogate mother or something.”
  306. >Twilight tosses her hair back and tuts
  307. >”Wrong, I actually HAVE a mother, and when we raise our flag over Canterlot I’ll see her again. Besides, I couldn’t have you getting into that much trouble. A lot of ponies might deny it, but you may be our best bet at getting us our home back.”
  308. >Her words shock you
  309. >She wasn’t the almost autistic pony she’d been on the show or anywhere near the most hated princess since Candyass
  310. >It dawns on you that she’s been in this war for five years, who knows how much of that time spent under occupation
  311. “Well, I’ll have to be sure to pay that favour back, Twilight. Well, it must be getting late, do you know where I’ll be sleeping or—.”
  312. >A blast that rocks the cavern under your feet
  313. >Twilight’s ear flatten against her head immediately
  314. >”Oh no, they’ve found us…”
  315. >She takes off galloping down one of the passageways, you assume deeper into the mountain
  316. “Twilight, wait a second, god dammit!”
  317. >You run to the first tank in the line, where you’d rested your rifle to get in and out of the cramped vehicles earlier
  318. >Not forgetting the ammo this time, you open the bolt and slam a strip home, pocketing the bit of metal for future use
  319. >Ready to go, you run towards the entrance as a second blast sends loose rocks and dust down from the ceiling
  320. >It was going to be a great night
  321. >As you make your way to the entrance, the barrage intensifies until there is an explosion once every couple seconds
  322. >By the time you’ve reached the mouth, however, the fire has slackened
  323. >And you can hear why
  324. >In the distance, a roaring grows
  325. >A battlecry, you realize
  326. >There are only a few guards out here, most with strangely modified firearms but there’s a single machine gun to the left of the entry
  327. >One final explosion further up the slope covers you and the defenders in a thin layer of dust
  328. >Within seconds, numerous dark figures break from the treeline and charge your position howling wildly
  329. >The other ponies freeze when they see the moonlight glinting off the wild, yellow eyes of their attackers
  330. >You hesitate too, for there are a few humans among them as well
  331. >Surprised as you are, it doesn’t take long for your sights to line up on one of those humans charging you
  332. >The crack of your rifle causes the defenders to jump, and the flare from the muzzle lights up your position
  333. >There’s a cry from your target and he stops moving, after plowing headfirst into the dirt
  334. >But they didn’t shoot yet
  335. “Fucking kill them you bastards!”
  336. >The shouting brings at least the gunner out of his strange trance, and the beautiful thud-thud-thud of his weapon rings in your ears
  337. >As you two keep up the volume of fire, the rest of you few begin opening up
  338. >The bright moonlight silhouettes the attackers perfectly, and the bodies keep piling up
  339. >They’re not shooting back, you realize as you load for the fifth time
  340. >You glance beside you, and notice a small box shoved up against the sandbags
  341. >Opening it up, your heart leaps with joy
  342. >Grenades
  343. >Resting the rifle against the bags, you take two and tear the pins from both
  344. >Without delay, you throw them down slope into the crowd of enemy still streaming up the hill
  345. >After a few second both detonate, sending bodies and bits high into the night sky
  346. >Finishing up another clip of ammo for your rifle, you notice a faltering in the wave coming at you
  347. >They’re close though, a few had even taken flight though they were shot down almost immediately
  348. >Several bodies were nearly lying on the positions, but they were still coming
  349. >You take the opportunity of the assaults hesitation to look over at your gunner
  350. >He’s still firing, another pony linking belts for his gun together, and the barrel glowing near white
  351. >It’d never work right again, but right now all that mattered was keeping up the wall of lead heading into those bad guys
  352. >Another two grenades are sent down the hill, and finally the line breaks
  353. >The assaulters begin fleeing into the trees again, and any stragglers are being mopped up
  354. >Finally, mercifully, there are no more targets
  355. >You stay in position all night, not speaking a word to any of the ponies nearby
  356. >Your muscles cramp and you start shivering, but still you don’t move
  357. >More troops arrive to help, replacing others as needed, or just enforcing the security generally
  358. >A new machine gun is brought in to replace the old one, and a box of ammo is placed by you
  359. >And still, you don’t move
  360. >Not until the sky turns grey, and you can pick individual trees out in the forest
  361. >Someone taps your shoulder and you barely turn your head, still wary of any lurkers in the bush
  362. “What is it?”
  363. >”We’re going down to check the bodies. Don’t shoot us, alright?”
  364. >It’s not a voice you recognize, but that doesn’t really matter
  365. >Rising to your knees and rolling your shoulders, you turn to face the messenger
  366. “I’m going down too. You never know, maybe I’ll recognize some valuable stuff where you normally wouldn’t.”
  367. >If the stallion was irritated by your presumption, it doesn’t show
  368. >”Alright fine, hurry up then.”
  369. >Without hesitating, you stand and move from your position to join the small group elected to head down for the unenviable task of body recovery
  370. >And judging from what you can see, there’s a lot to recover
  371. >The sweep seems pretty uneventful
  372. >Most of their weapons were either straight up swords and axes, or shitty SKS and Mosins like you had
  373. >And all had bayonets locked
  374. >You chuckle as you toe over the body of a gryphon, still clutching his battered Nagant revolver in claw
  375. >You jump back and immediately aim your rifle as, suddenly, the corpse coughs violently
  376. “Don’t fucking move featherfag! You drop that gun if you don’t want your fucking brains painting this rockface. Drop it right fucking now!”
  377. >The stunned creature complies with your orders, putting his hands, claws…appendages into the air
  378. >Your shouting brought the commander of the sweep over immediately
  379. >”What’s all the commotion, human?”
  380. >Without taking your eyes or rifle off the catbird, you answer in a calmer, but still shaking voice
  381. “He’s living, disarmed. What’s protocol for captives here?”
  382. >The pony, a guardsman wearing his full regalia for whatever reason, scratches the back of his head
  383. >”Uh, they’re to be brought right to the princesses.”
  384. >You nudge the pony with your hip
  385. “Alright, I’m gonna keep up the sweep. Think you can tie him up?”
  386. >The guardsman seems stunned by your almost casual dismissal
  387. >”Y-yeah sure. Hey, Grove and Juniper, get over here! We’ve got a live one.”
  388. >The two ponies in question leave the body they were examining and come galloping over to assist their superior
  389. >You keep going
  390. >It’s near the trees that you find the first human body
  391. >It’s a guy, looks maybe in his twenties, clean cut hair and well shaven
  392. >Could have been Joe Business back home on Earth, if it weren’t for the mottled grey and black camos
  393. >You tap his back with the toe of your boot, not gently and straight into the kidney
  394. >There’s no reacting, but you kick him again and harder, just to be safe
  395. >Still nothing, so you decide to roll him over and—Damn!
  396. “You fucking richfag.”
  397. >Cradled in his grasp is an SVU, in beautiful condition
  398. >Your gaze travels the length of his body as you wonder what could have killed him, if he was playing sniper
  399. >Then you notice his midsection isn’t totally intact
  400. >You crouch and look closer and, yep, shrapnel from a grenade
  401. >Shaking your head, you grab the stock of his rifle and pull it from his rigid corpse
  402. >A quick look about tells you that this is the furthest body downhill, so you sling your new prize and walk to the next body you see
  403. >It’s another human, and on closer inspection he’s breathing
  404. >But it’s shallow
  405. “Medic! We’ve got a badly wounded human over here.”
  406. >While one of the medical staff gallops down to you, you examine the body more closely
  407. >You then realize this was the first one you’d shot
  408. >The bright clothing was an unmistakable giveaway, garish purples and reds
  409. >One round had hit his lower abdomen and passed straight through
  410. >Before the medic arrives you police the weapon, an old SKS, and move it away from his reach
  411. >You hold your rifle at the ready while the medic stops his bleeding and sorts some of the immediately dangerous damage to his guts
  412. >In time, a stretcher arrives and takes your wounded fellow away
  413. >You halt them just long enough to whisper in his ear
  414. “Hey you dumb motherfucker, looks like you wound up on the wrong side. Princesses get you all to themselves now.”
  415. >He can only moan lightly in response before the stretcher-bearers rush him away into the caves
  416. >It takes another full hour, but the sweep is finally done
  417. >All counted, thirty-one gryphons dead or wounded, and three humans among them, two dead and the one wounded
  418. >Two of the ponies were wounded, and several were beginning to show signs of a nervous breakdown
  419. >All in all, a good enough ratio in your opinion
  420. >The gryphon bodies were being stacked on a large pile of wood, about a kilometer away, to be burned
  421. >You’d asked why, and apparently even though they were enemies, the ponies still respected the gryphons enough to follow their traditions
  422. >Weird little guys, but you could respect it
  423. >Finally, after a night of fighting and cold, and half a day of policing corpses or dealing with jotting down the new supplies, you find yourself back in the armoury with the tanks
  424. >You don’t have anything to do, and your body is screaming at your for attention
  425. >So you crawl onto the hull of the nearest tank, put your rifles beside you, lay your vest out like a pillow and finally, mercifully, sleep
  426. >A horn prodding your side brings you out of the relatively uncomfortable sleep
  427. >”Hey, monkey, get offa the tank. We’re moving it outta here!”
  428. >You sit up suddenly, reaching for your rifle with one hand and rubbing your eyes blearily
  429. >Moving, what’s he talking about?
  430. “What, is there another attack? Do we need these things to go and fight?”
  431. >Finally able to focus your sleep crusted eyes, you see a brown unicorn rolling his
  432. >”No, ya moron. I told ya, we’re moving it out, as in to another cave. Now get offa there, hard enough to teleport the damn thing without a stupid monkey cluttering up the space.”
  433. >You sling the SVU over your back and rest the Mosin on your shoulder, glaring down at the stallion as you slide off the hull
  434. >The unicorn goes about muttering as he climbs onto the machine, a large crystal impairing his agility
  435. >You go over and give him a little push to help him up, and he turns back to you, face softening somewhat
  436. >”Hey, uh. Sorry for the rude awakening. Saw you on the lines there last night, ya fought good. Don’t mean nothin’ by being a jerk, my buddy jus’ got shot ya know?”
  437. >You pat his withers and grin despite your grumpiness
  438. “Hey no worries, long as you’re not putting rounds in my head you’re alright by me.”
  439. >You receive a smile in return and walk away down the tunnels
  440. >It’s not long before you happen upon Celestia and Luna, directing dozens of ponies carrying all sorts of kit
  441. “Hey, princesses, what’s going on around here? Looks like we’re getting ready for an evacuation.”
  442. >Luna turns to you with a flinty look in her eyes
  443. >”That’s exactly what it is, Anonymous. The attack last night showed we’re no longer safe in this cavern. Come sundown, we’ll be moving to another system deeper into the mountains. We hope that they won’t be capable of moving large artillery pieces so easily further in.”
  444. >You scratch your chin and nod in agreement
  445. >The plan was sound; it was just the execution that left you a little worried.
  446. “Have you scoured the grounds for intel that could lead to hurting some ponies down the line? How about laying some booby traps along the passageways, or even collapsing a cave or two? We need to make sure they know they’re unwelcome in these mountains.”
  447. >Luna’s ears flick back at your presumptive tone and she responds with barely contained venom
  448. >”We know how to wage war, Anonymous. Leaving such things behind to injure somepony that may not be involved is bad practice. We simply can’t do such a thing!”
  449. >You pinch the bridge of your nose and will yourself calm
  450. “Luna, we just got super lucky with that attack. Only two were injured, but it could have been way worse. Why do you give a damn about them or fighting ‘honourably’ when you have the chance to just kill them and make them afraid?”
  451. >You know it sounds edgy and heartless
  452. >But then, you weren’t fighting in red coats or standing in a line waiting for the order to fire
  453. >This wasn’t a conventional or honourable war, and you needed to impress that on these ponies before they got more of theirs hurt or killed
  454. >To your surprise, Celestia is the one who answers instead of her sister
  455. >”Anonymous, please understand. It’s not that we are unappreciative of the lessons you are trying to teach. The issue is that we, as good ponies, simply can’t wage such indiscriminate destruction on any beings. Even if they’re our enemies, we must be moral towards them.”
  456. >And that brings another question into your mind
  457. “So what’s going on with the prisoners?”
  458. >Celestia kicks at the dirt, and her sister jumps in
  459. >The back and forth was wearing on your nerves
  460. >”They’re being interrogated for any useful intelligence. When we’ve gleaned all we can from them, they’ll be released on the strict grounds of not being permitted to take up arms, nor will they tell any of the enemy where we are.”
  461. >No
  462. >Moon horse there’s no fucking way
  463. >After five years of war and occupation, there’s simply no way that they were doing this bullshit
  464. >You can feel your brain about to hemorrhage from the pure naiveté of it all
  465. “Pardon my Prench, princesses, but are you both fucking retarded?”
  466. >Your shouting catches them off guard, and a number of evacuating ponies stop and stare
  467. >But still, you need to make the point
  468. “Do you think they’ll give a damn about keeping their word as soon as they’re back with the enemy? No, they’ll go straight to the intel officers and let them know where they were taken and you’ll be driven out. No fucking wonder you got attacked here if that’s your god damned policy on prisoners.”
  469. >Luna opens her mouth to butt in, but you cut her off
  470. “There’s no excuse that after five fucking years your security is this bad. Keep up with the evacuation; I’m going to see the captives.”
  471. >Before they can object, you storm off in the only direction that the prisoners could possibly be
  472. >Towards the living quarters of the ponies
  473. >It’s an easy spot, two guardsmen in their glowing golden armour stand guard outside the door
  474. >They don’t even question why you’re there, assuming the princesses must have okayed it
  475. >You slam the door shut behind you and turn just in time to see a grey mass hurtling at your face
  476. >It’s a near thing, but you swing the rifle from your shoulder and crack the gryphon on its head
  477. >It stumbles away, dazed, and you press the advantage
  478. >You kick it over and press your boot down on its chest, holding the still fixed bayonet to its neck
  479. “Listen to me, catbird. The princesses may be all merciful, but I’m fed up with their bullshit. You’re going to tell me exactly where you got intel on our location, and then we’ll see whether I’m still angry enough to put a bullet in your fat head.”
  480. >The gryphon breaks down sobbing almost immediately and starts blubbering
  481. >He’s apparently just some low ranking conscriptee from the edges of the Gryphon Empire, barely even speaks your language
  482. >You spit on him in disgust and walk out the door, slamming it shut behind you
  483. >The guards look shaken, but don’t dare question you as you move onto the next room
  484. >You shove it open with your rifle at the ready
  485. >No surprises this time
  486. >Its lone occupant, lying on his back on a small hospital bed, is the human you’d wounded yesterday
  487. >He barely sits up as you enter with your gun trained on his supine form
  488. >”You are here to kill me if I not talk, yes?”
  489. >The thick accent surprised you, sounded like he was Eastern European
  490. “You’re a Russian then?”
  491. >He chuckles and lets out a rattling cough
  492. >Internal damage must be worse than you’d originally thought
  493. >”Serbi, but you were close. So what is it you want know?”
  494. >You lean back against the wall, collecting your head
  495. >Seeing the wounded man up close, and knowing you’d caused the damage, made it more difficult to interact with him
  496. “I wanna know how you guys knew where we were.”
  497. >He shrugs as though it’s common knowledge
  498. >”We detect surge of magic from this mountain, so we know the ponies here. When we bomb, we look for movement on side. And then we attack. I wish they did not send us with cheap shit though.”
  499. >You share a laugh with him, and from seemingly nowhere he produces a pack of cigarettes
  500. >”You smoking?”
  501. >You take the offered cigarette, recognizing the brand
  502. “Barons eh? Official cigarette of the PKK you know.”
  503. >He laughs and lights his before offering the lighter to you
  504. >”And of Arkan, supposedly. I am thinking that is just to sell more.”
  505. >You both share a silent moment, filling the room and your lungs with the thick smoke
  506. >Finally he speaks again
  507. >”So why are you here? To kill me like the gryphon boy there?”
  508. >You shake your head and exhale a long drag from the cigarette
  509. “Didn’t kill him, just put the fear of man in his heart. Not up to me whether you live or die, unless you piss me off too much. The princesses want to let you go though.”
  510. >The Serbian chokes on his inhale
  511. >He manages to sputter out a response after a moment of coughing
  512. >”You are joking with me.”
  513. >You shake your head sadly
  514. “Nope, they wanna get your promise that you won’t attack or tell where they are, then let you go.”
  515. >The Serbian shakes his head as you do, tutting quietly
  516. >”Foolish then. No wonder they are losing.”
  517. >You bring a fist down on his leg, and he flinches
  518. “Hey, we had two wounded to, what was it, something around forty of yours dead and you captured. I don’t think you can sustain rates like that.”
  519. >You shrug and extinguish the cigarette before standing and turning your back on him
  520. “But who am I to disagree with your commanders? I’m certain there’ll be plenty of success the next time you charge into a machine gun.”
  521. >The human is deathly quiet behind you as you shut the door
  522. >The guards look positively queasy as you pass by them, but have enough discipline to not comment
  523. >You make it back to the chamber the princesses are in without consequence
  524. >They look terribly ragged, sitting around a carved, stone table
  525. >You squat next to them, resting the butt of your rifle on the floor
  526. >An awkward silence reigns until you work up the confidence to tell them what needs to be heard
  527. “They’re coming with us, and neither of them are being freed.”
  528. >Both princesses look at you with a ragged, hollow look
  529. >But neither object, so when they stand you do as well
  530. >”It’s almost time to move, Anonymous. Would you please come and help us lay some of those ‘booby traps’ before we go?”
  531. >You’re taken aback by Celestia’s request, but she explains more without prompting
  532. >”We thought about what you’d said, and we decided you’re right. We need to make the enemy fear us, and inflict casualties whenever we can. I’d like your personal help with this, given our inexperience with such things.”
  533. >You don’t mock her with a smile, but simply nod to her
  534. “Yeah, let’s go and do that.”
  535. >Luna follows the last ponies, who are escorting the two prisoners, outside and walks off
  536. >While you two walk down to the armoury, you make some small talk with the princess of sun
  537. “So, princess, how are we getting to the next hideout?”
  538. >Her face doesn’t even move from its stony look
  539. >”We’ll be walking, Anonymous. It’s the easiest way to travel without exhausting our mages.”
  540. >Her comment reminds you of what the Serbian said
  541. “Hey, if there’s ever another human coming across from Earth, you need to move your position as soon as he’s secured. The gryphons are able to hone in on magical outbursts, that’s how they found this place.”
  542. >Celestia looks startled by the revelation
  543. >But the surprise is quickly replaced with suspicion
  544. >”And how, pray tell, do you know all of this, human?”
  545. >You shrug and keep a straight face
  546. “I talked to the prisoners. You’d be surprised how handy it is to have a familiar face around.”
  547. >Her gaze hollows out once again and she stares ahead
  548. >Finally, after another couple minutes of harrowing silence, you arrive in the armoury
  549. >It’s been almost totally cleared out, all the tanks and trucks that were here yesterday are gone
  550. >The only thing left is a crate full of shells and a few grenades
  551. >You approach, a manic glee coming over you as you observe the items left for you to trap the area with
  552. >Celestia speaks in a small voice over your shoulder
  553. >”Will these munitions be sufficient, Anonymous?”
  554. >You turn to her with a grenade in hand and some snare wire you fished from one of your pockets
  555. “This is plenty, princess. Thank you.”
  556. >She bows gracefully and leaves you to your work, and you set to making it art
  557. >An hour later and you’re set
  558. >Grenades at two entrances to the outside with snare wire on their pins
  559. >Wrapped around those were lengths of detcord that travelled to all different places inside the tunnels
  560. >At certain, key points you’d placed large artillery shells, wrapped in the same detcord attached to the grenades
  561. >As soon as anyone stepped into those caves, it would all come tumbling down
  562. >You’re careful to not set it off yourself as you walk out of the cave
  563. >It surprises you that both princesses and a few guards dressed in more sensible clothes are waiting for you
  564. >Luna approaches you and speaks in a commanding tone
  565. >”Is everything set, Anonymous?”
  566. “Yeah, rigged it so there wouldn’t be too many dead, but they’ll not be using anything in these caves for a long time.”
  567. >Your manic grin clearly sets them on edge, but your answer puts them at relative ease
  568. >Finally, as you set off on the long trek, you decide you’ve had enough of this ‘Anonymous’ business
  569. “And princesses? Please don’t call me Anonymous anymore, makes me sound like an autist. Just call me…’Ardem’.”
  570. >The princesses nod in acquiescence of your decision and your grin grows wider
  571. >Now wasn’t the time for an autist on an anime imageboard
  572. >Now was the time for a guerrilla
  573. -
  574. >The next few days were spent trekking through the mountains, from West to East
  575. >The Crystal Mountain, as you learned, were called such because of the large formations that grew within the caves
  576. >Crystals that apparently resonated and amplified the magical power of most unicorns, and could also act as repositories for arcane energy
  577. >That was how they were capable of teleporting all of the vehicles, instead of taking them on the impassable terrain
  578. >It was definitely a good thing to remember
  579. >The march wasn’t so bad, even though it took most of the week
  580. >Springtime had fully sprung, but the heat of the summer wasn’t quite there yet
  581. >Plus, you luck held and the rain never came while you were on the trail
  582. >You took the time to get to know the small group that you were a part of
  583. >About twenty ponies in all, most were dedicated guardsmen for the princesses
  584. >But the two that weren’t were more than willing to socialize with the human
  585. >The pegasus, Flint, had fought in Manehattan and Baltimare before a stray arrow had broken a bone in his wing
  586. >He’d been sent to the rear lines to act as a courier when the orders came down the line
  587. >They’d been told in a public broadcast to lay down their arms and turn themselves into the new authorities for registration
  588. >Perhaps a week later, Luna had gone into the dreams of anypony who had fought in the Equestrian military and asked them all to meet at the base of Neighagra Falls
  589. >Around four thousand ponies of all kinds had arrived there, meeting with Shining Armor
  590. >It turned out that the North had become a near frozen waste once again, outside of the empire of course
  591. >It meant that the gryphons, not equipped with the necessary supplies to cross the terrain, couldn’t reach it
  592. >From there, it was a long march to the Crystal Mountains
  593. >The gryphons, though de facto rulers of the land, had yet to consolidate their rule so the soldiers made it unopposed
  594. >When they finally reached the mountains, they were met by the princesses who thanked each one, individually and by name, for giving themselves to continue to fight for their homes
  595. >Morale was incredibly high after that, but nopony knew how hard that life would be
  596. >Volunteers continued to trickle in, and after two months the force had swelled to nearly twenty thousand
  597. >The princesses, and former generals, decided it was time for an attack to show the gryphons that the ponies’ backs hadn’t been broken
  598. >Tanks that had been stolen over the course of the months were modified for pony usage, as well as the firearms and guns that had come along
  599. >That first battle had decided the pace of the entire insurgency
  600. >Without air cover, the battle had gone from a well planned, perfectly executed operation into a bloodbath
  601. >Thousands of ponies were killed, wounded, or captured in the confusion
  602. >It was the first time they’d learned that their once allied humans had turned on them
  603. >Helicopters and planes had ruined their armoured forces and drove them deep into the mountains
  604. >At that point, their doctrine had undergone a major change
  605. >Since recruits were still trickling in, they did make attacks on large centers of force to show their strength
  606. >But it was only infantry, since large movements of vehicles were too easily spotted
  607. >None of their battle had gone so poorly as the first, but none were rousing successes either
  608. >Flint trailed off after that, staring up at the stars where you’d chosen to rest that night
  609. >You got it; no one wanted to talk about failure
  610. >However Lock, an Earth pony, was more than willing to fill the silent walk when you began again in the morning
  611. >He’d only joined a month ago, one of the few new recruits to respond to Luna’s dream messages
  612. >Seemed that after all these years of oppression and watching the resistance get pummeled, most ponies had lost their stomach for a fight
  613. >But others, mostly Earth ponies and pegasi, continued to join
  614. >Lock, for instance, had joined when the gryphons had burned his entire crop after he’d been part of an independence demonstration
  615. >Last night had been his first firefight
  616. >He’d been on the gun, apparently, and was quite grateful for your cursing at him
  617. >”You cussing me out just kinda made it click home, you know? I couldn’t believe we were actually getting shot at.”
  618. >You shrugged off the praise; it had needed to be done anyway
  619. >Lock asked about your life back home on Earth, and you were quite happy to talk about it
  620. >You talk about your few years in the military, uneventful and without deployment
  621. >About not having any prospects after the army and bouncing around jobs for a year
  622. >Then the fighting between the Kurds and their enemies in Syria
  623. >You talk about their fight for freedom and compare it to the one you’re fighting right now
  624. >Ambushes in the mountains, sneaking across open fields, river crossings on moonless nights, all employed in the diverse landscape
  625. >You tell him about going home and preparing to return to school, and then Celestia’s call had gone out
  626. “I planned to fight like I was trained in the army. Turns out I’ll be fighting like a Kurd instead.”
  627. >The scout returning from up ahead interrupted any more conversation
  628. >”The caves are just ahead!”
  629. >You smile and look over at Flint and Lock beside you
  630. “Race you guys.”
  631. >Flint opens his wings and Lock paws the ground eagerly
  632. “GO!”
  633. >You all take off, you and Lock sprinting while Flint takes to the skies
  634. >The three of you quickly come into sight of a few ponies lounging about outside the cave entrance, all they quickly turn into raucous spectators
  635. >You barely manage to eke out a lead over Lock, but your pegasi companion outstrips the both of you and lands at the mouth of the cavern
  636. >You and Lock arrive shortly afterwards
  637. >Flint gives you a shit eating grin, breathing heavily
  638. >”Looks like you humans still aren’t faster than a pegasi!”
  639. >The crowd cheers as you all pant
  640. >Then you grin as well, before hoisting Flint onto your shoulders
  641. “Alright then, water for the victor! And the rest of us too.”
  642. >With that statement, accompanied by another round of cheers, the crowd retreats into the shade of the cave and goes looking for water
  643. >You can’t help but smile
  644. >Maybe this war wouldn’t turn out so horribly
  645. >After stowing your Mosin in the armoury and feeding all the stripper clips into the SVU magazines you decide to wander about your new home
  646. >It was actually pretty nice for a cave
  647. >There was only one massive water source, as opposed to dozens of little puddles spread all over the cave
  648. >And a great deal of space had been cleared out from the many stalagmites, plus reinforcement to make sure the stalactites didn’t fall
  649. >All thanks to the unicorns apparently, who’d gone in before they’d teleported any equipment and made it a viable living space
  650. >That was a nice touch
  651. >As you walk through the cave, a moist squelch noise stops you dead in your tracks
  652. >You turn your gaze downward and lift the sole of your shoe from the cave floor
  653. >It’s some kind of green, glowing paste
  654. >A unicorn walks past you carrying a large crate with “Explosives” stenciled on it
  655. “Hey, do you know what this shit I stepped in is?”
  656. >The pony looks at the goo with a bored expression
  657. >”Yeah, it’s changeling ichor. There was a small band of them in these caverns before we uprooted them. Don’t worry, there’s none left in any state to hurt you.”
  658. >Your eyes narrow at his statement
  659. “Changelings? When and how did they get so far North?”
  660. >The unicorn rolls his eyes and starts walking away
  661. >”Look pal, I’ve got stuff to be doing. Why not ask Princess Sparkle, she loves that kinda stuff.”
  662. >He disappears down the hall, leaving you with a dozen questions and no idea where to find the answers
  663. >Well, wandering about was probably the easiest way to at least find Twilight
  664. >She might be able to answer something
  665. >You continue down the same path as the unicorn with the munitions, hoping to find the nerd princess doing nerd things
  666. >Fortunately, Twilight hasn’t changed in that regard
  667. >She’s standing in the middle of the room, directing ponies to and fro while writing everything down on a clipboard
  668. >You settle in on top of the hood of an Ural-4320 with a Grad on the back and watch the show
  669. >It’s actually quite incredible, watching her work
  670. >Everything was being driven perfectly, with a grace that was totally unknown to any sort of relocation you’d ever seen
  671. >Nothing was being spilled, no ponies bumped against one another, and it was incredibly fast
  672. >And at the center of it all, Twilight looked positively ecstatic
  673. >She really did like all this administration stuff
  674. >But even from this distance, you could see the stress lines that had grown on her face
  675. >The smile that never quite reached her eyes
  676. >So you wait on the hood of the truck and decide it would be a good moment to sort out whatever was in your pockets
  677. >You’d not thought to do it before now, and given the sheer number of pockets you had there was bound to be a surprise or two
  678. >There’s nothing but your lighter in the two pockets of your loose trousers
  679. >For the most part, the innumerable pockets of your vest have empty stripper clips and SVU magazines stuffed in them
  680. >But you unzip one and find something that makes you incredibly happy
  681. >It’s a 14.5x114mm API round you’d smuggled out of Syria with you, as a souvenir
  682. >You grin as you remember the monster of a rifle that a friend had used to great effect against all sorts of vehicles, buildings, and softer targets
  683. >Of course you took one of the rounds for fun
  684. >Got to remember to talk to the princesses or an armourer about this one
  685. >One of the pockets on your shirt has a crushed, nearly empty packet of Baron Red cigarettes
  686. >You’re reminded of the decently mannered Serb, got to talk to him more
  687. >He seemed like an okay fellow, maybe he’d been coerced into joining the gryphons or something
  688. >Digging into your last pocket, your fingers close around a small, plastic thing
  689. >Pulling it out you see it’s an old HPG pin, one you’d been given by a close friend
  690. >You smile as you pin it on your vest, then turn your attention to the rest of your stuff
  691. >The large round goes into your pants pocket so you’d remember it for later
  692. >The cigarettes and lighter go into your breast pocket, while the magazines and clips return to their respective vest pockets
  693. >Then you settle in and wait for the mad rush of ponies to slow down
  694. >You help out where you can; aiding ponies that can’t reach where something needs to go if no unicorns are available
  695. >But overall, they make quick work of their tasks and the workflow slows to a trickle within two hours
  696. >Quite impressive, especially since they hadn’t used any sort of equipment to move their belongings
  697. >Then again they did have magic, so fair game
  698. >You see Twilight wander off for a break, and take the chance to approach her
  699. >Had to talk to someone about making a rifle for the round you’d discovered, and making more of the rounds themselves
  700. >Plus, it never hurt to make good with a princess
  701. >Jogging up, you slow down when you get beside her and match her pace
  702. “Hey Twilight, crazy day eh?”
  703. >She lets out a loud sigh
  704. >”You have no idea. I’ve been going since sunrise trying to get everything organized, running between making sure everything is here and getting it into a workable order. It’s a nightmare.”
  705. >You roll your shoulders and put a cigarette in your mouth, leaving it unlit
  706. “Yeah but I mean, you’re great at that stuff aren’t ya? And in the middle of that storm you looked like you were even having a bit of fun.”
  707. >She blushes and flicks her ears
  708. >”Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty good at it. I was doing that stuff ages before I became a princess and it reminds me of how simple everything used to be. Before all this.”
  709. >Her sentence trails off and she stares down the tunnel, eyes defocused
  710. >You indulge the silence for a bit, until she suddenly stops moving
  711. >With one look, you can see she’s definitely not in the moment
  712. >Time to bring her back
  713. “Hey uh, I found something you might find pretty cool.”
  714. >She shakes her head and snaps back, giving you a questioning look
  715. >You take the API round from your pocket and offer it up
  716. >She immediately snatches it from your hand with magic and scrutinizes every inch
  717. >”Whoa, this is one I haven’t seen before! What is it?”
  718. >You give her an indulgent grin
  719. “14.5x114mm round, Russian. They used it for light anti-air machine guns, and early anti-tank rifles. This one’s API, that’s armour-piercing, incendiary; so when it hits a soft skin like a truck, it actually goes through the metal then can ignite internals.”
  720. >Her eyes light up and she pops the bullet from the casing with her magic, even levitating the grains of powder before her eyes
  721. >”This is awesome! And you said that these were anti-tank as well?”
  722. >You nod your head
  723. “Yeah kinda. It can’t get through the armour proper, but if you nail the track it’s pretty much done for. No need to kill a tank when you can just stop it from moving.”
  724. >She hums in agreement and reassembles the round
  725. >”Do you mind if I keep this for a little while? I want to see what I can do about reproducing it, making it better even.”
  726. >You make a broad gesture with your arms
  727. “By all means, Twilight. I’d love to see a good rifle made for that round, could be a big asset.”
  728. >She puts the round in her saddlebags and keeps walking, with you trailing behind
  729. >You knew you’d have to broach the topic some time, just figuring out a delicate way to do it was hard
  730. >Gotta work around till you can get to it naturally
  731. “Say, Twilight, are you guys able to make stuff like cigarettes? I mean, you can make tanks and stuff pretty easily. I know it ain’t something important, but hey luxuries are nice right?”
  732. >She stares ahead and keeps walking, answering you in an oddly sharp way
  733. >”We can, but we won’t right now. All of our energy needs to go into making new munitions. Why would you even ask me something like that right now?”
  734. >You take it all in stride, not letting her get a rise out of you
  735. “Well, that human prisoner we have quite likes them. And I figure if we treat him decently, give him some luxuries and stuff; he might talk a bit more. Especially since you guys aren’t keen on torture.”
  736. >You see her jaw grit, but she keeps her voice modulated if a bit tense
  737. >”Well, we can’t all be monsters like you humans. SOMEONE has to be civil to others.”
  738. >As much as you were trying to keep calm, you can’t help but snap back at her
  739. “Yeah, like you guys are civil to the changelings.”
  740. >Her ears flatten and her voice grows dead
  741. >”That’s different.”
  742. >Unfortunately, your brain is now in full confrontation mode and won’t spare a reasonable thought for just a moment
  743. “Right, about as much as humans. The only real difference is that changelings look like ponies to begin with!”
  744. >She stops in her tracks and turn to you with a look of anger on her face
  745. >”I did whatever I had to do, you stupid ape! I didn’t want to fight anyone, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.”
  746. >Her voice catches at the end, and you see something different in her eyes
  747. >She’s not angry she’s
  748. >Afraid?
  749. >It finally clicks in your head as her eyes start misting over
  750. >She was the lead armourer, and so she would have been one of the first into these caves to make sure everything was put in order
  751. >She would have been one of the first fighting the changelings
  752. >Twilight sits on the ground, sniffling quietly
  753. >Shit, now you feel like an asshole
  754. >Well, you kinda are
  755. >You kneel down and put a finger under her chin, pushing her head up just a bit
  756. >She stares at you, tears not yet spilling down her face
  757. “Hey uh, sorry; just a little tense, interdimensional travel, firefights, all that you know? Don’t imagine it’s too easy for your guys, being criminals in your own land, but sometimes my tongue and brain don’t connect. Didn’t mean anything by it, you’ve been fighting for five years after all. So, sorry for all that.”
  758. >Twilight smiles sadly and rests her chin in your hand
  759. >Her eyes slowly shut, and she murmurs something that you can't quite hear
  760. >But you're not going to stop her, she probably needs this
  761. >Looks like she's been closed up from contact for a while
  762. >And besides that, it was adorable
  763. >She stays like that for a little while, looking totally at peace
  764. >It looks like even the bags under her eyes start to clear up
  765. >But suddenly, her eyes snap open and she draws back from you
  766. >Her face has grown a bright blush and she stammers out an excuse
  767. >”I've got something to uh, make a list about. Yeah that's it!”
  768. >Without another word, she scampers down the tunnel and out of sight
  769. “Wait Twilight, I've got a question for you! God dammit!”
  770. >She'd already run out of sight by the time you finished the question
  771. >You sigh in annoyance and continue down the path, hoping to run into someone, or pony, else you could talk to
  772. >You wanted answers about all this changeling business
  773. >And by the gods, you'd get them
  774. -
  775. >Another hour on and it seems no ponies knew or were willing to say what had happened
  776. >You do at last find the princesses
  777. >Time to get to the bottom of this hole that someone else kept digging deeper on you
  778. “Luna, Celestia, I need to talk with you two.”
  779. >A guardsman standing behind them bristles, but the goddesses barely react to the rude way of addressing them
  780. >”Of course, Ardem.”
  781. >Celestia gestures to the door with her chin, and the trio of guards in ceremonial gear bow before leaving the room
  782. >You shake your head slowly and jerk a thumb at the tunnel they'd retreated down
  783. “Gotta get rid of that golden armour. Looks nice on parades on in a palace, but it'll draw fire like zeppelin.”
  784. >Luna turns her nose at your suggestion
  785. >”So we ought to be rid of a thousand years of tradition, simply on the suggestion of a member of a species who have betrayed us wholesale? Pardon me if I scoff at the suggestion.”
  786. >You shrug, keeping your resentment at being called as a traitor hidden well
  787. “Hey, you wanna keep getting your troops killed it's fine by me. Equestria isn't my home after all.”
  788. >Luna's face flushes, and she looks down ashamedly
  789. >Her sister is quick to the rescue though
  790. >”Ardem, I'm certain you understand the need for us to maintain an image of decency and officialism. In exile we may be, but we are still the rulers here.”
  791. >You scratch at the lengthening stubble on your chin
  792. “Yeah, I get it. But around here, there's really no point to wearing it. If we manage to take a village or something, feel free to parade them about in that glittery crap. But in the middle of a fight it's better to be unseen than drawing attention.”
  793. >Both sisters nod in agreement and turn back to the large table that was the only furniture in the room
  794. >Glancing over their withers as you approach, you notice it's a sizable recreation of the surrounding area
  795. >They notice your approach and move aside to give you room to look
  796. “So, what's going on in this neck of the woods? What're you planning right now with all this?”
  797. >Luna surrounds a few brightly coloured stones with a mystic aura to draw your attention
  798. >They seem dispersed in a winding pattern
  799. >”We have heard tell of a gryphon arms convoy that will be traveling along this road in the next few days. We know the route they are taking will lead them through a narrow pass, and we wish to ensure the arms never make it through the mountains.”
  800. >You nod in agreement and tap on the pieces
  801. “So do we know what they'll be moving specifically, like rockets, artillery, or something? Will they have escorts from the air or armoured assets on the ground? How about a QRF waiting nearby to destroy any attackers?”
  802. >Luna's ears flick back and once again she refuses to meet your gaze
  803. >And once again, her sister jumps in
  804. >It was getting a little grating
  805. >”We only just received this information ourselves. Perhaps you have a way to gather additional intelligence on this movement?”
  806. >You think for a moment before nodding
  807. “Yeah, you see this peak right here?”
  808. >You indicate a point on the map, one that seems to have at least on cave near the peak
  809. >Both sisters nod, so you continue
  810. “Alright, if you send a scout team, two to four ponies that're good at sneaking around, you could gather more info without a huge risk. Couple that with either a good encrypted radio or some kind of magic and you'll have an advanced force to let you know exactly what you're dealing with.”
  811. >The sisters look at you with apprehension on their faces
  812. >”But what if they're caught?”
  813. >You shrug your shoulders at them
  814. >Not that you were indifferent, but you just didn't know
  815. “I'll admit it's a risk. But it's less risky than attacking a convoy that we have zero idea of what it's carrying or armed with.”
  816. >Luna nods sharply in agreement
  817. >”Very well, I will go and speak with my lunar guards at once and request volunteers. None are better than the bats for things like this.”
  818. >Celestia winces at her sisters' statement, but agrees as well
  819. >”Luna is right, her guards are simply the best for a mission like this. We'll make sure they have the right equipment and orders before going. Was there anything else, Ardem?”
  820. >You nod and respond in a grave voice
  821. “Yeah one more thing, what happened to the changelings that were here? I heard there was a fight with them or something. Haven't we got enough on our plates without pissing on the locals?”
  822. >Celestia bristles and answers with acid in her tone
  823. >”Those parasites are NOT locals. We did what we had to in order to guarantee the safety of our little ponies. Nothing more.”
  824. >You know you ought to drop it
  825. >You know that the princesses have probably had a long and stressful day
  826. >But you're stupid
  827. “Yeah, and your little stunt might just have earned us another enemy. Imagine if the gryphons ally themselves with the changelings. They could easily have them attack civilians and blame it on you. Or infiltrate dozens into your army and start killing key troops. Or did you forget they're shapeshifters.”
  828. >Celestia looks abashed, but refuses to back down
  829. >”It doesn't matter, the deed has been done. Now enough of this, we have much planning to do. Ardem, I want you to make a preliminary plan to attack the convoy. Have it ready by first light tomorrow.”
  830. >With those curt orders, she and her sister exit the room, leaving you alone with the tactical table
  831. >With a sigh, you squat down and make yourself comfortable
  832. >It was going to be a long night
  833. -
  834. >The galloping of hooves pulled you from your slumber
  835. >You rub your eyes sleepily and look around, confused by your surroundings
  836. >Oh right, you'd spent all night working on the ambush plan
  837. >You brush some of the stray dirt that had been part of your diagram off your beard and look down at what you've created
  838. >It's...
  839. >Not half bad, actually
  840. >A barely remembered lesson on 'sandboxes' from Syria and you'd produced a passable plan
  841. >Once you fixed up that big crater from where your cheek had rested, of course
  842. >Standing up to stretch, you're knocked to the ground by one of the ponies
  843. >The pony in question, a pegasus who looks incredibly ruffled, mumbles out an apology before charging off down the tunnel
  844. >That was the tunnel to the outside
  845. >You snatch your rifle from its resting place at your feet and charge after the pony
  846. >There was no sounds of gunfire, but you certainly weren't going to risk this one
  847. >By the time you manage to sprint down the tunnel, a crowd has gathered at the mouth of the cave
  848. >You push your way through, stepping over most, until you see the princesses
  849. >There's a small clearing around them, probably out of respect, so you're able to get beside them and tap Luna on her back
  850. >She jumps and lets out a cute 'eep', before whirling on you angrily
  851. >”Ardem, what are you doing here? Should you not be working on the attack plan?”
  852. >You look around at the crowd of ponies, many now focusing on you though most still stare into the distance
  853. “Yeah it's done, so I figured I'd see what all the commotion is about.”
  854. >Luna huffs and tosses her head towards where the ponies are staring
  855. >”See for yourself.”
  856. >You nearly shoulder your rifle as you take in what exactly you're seeing
  857. >Dragons
  858. >Dozens of them, some dancing through the sky in complex patterns while others basked on the cliffs, hides glittering like gems
  859. >And one gigantic, ruddy scaled one standing perhaps a hundred meters from the cave staring
  860. >At you, it seemed
  861. >You let the rifle drop and sling it over your back, beginning to walk towards the beast
  862. >”No, don't! He'll eat you!”
  863. >You look over your shoulder and see a panicked Celestia, eyes wide with fear
  864. >An easy smile sets about your face
  865. “Relax, if they wanted to kill or eat anyone they wouldn't have decided to just hang around. Besides, that's only one of the possibilities.”
  866. >With that you walk forward, keeping a slow and steady pace as you approach the dragon
  867. >It's definitely looking at you now, slitter pupils moving with the golden irises and all following you
  868. >It cranes its neck down as you get closer, before letting out a blast of soot from its nostrils when you're within a few meters
  869. >You stop in you tracks as it does
  870. >It's not that you weren't afraid of getting killed or eaten, you were just curious to see something that had only existed in myth up close
  871. >Both you and the dragon stand still, just staring for a long time
  872. >The only noises are the flapping of leather wings above and the low rumble of the monster's breathing
  873. >Finally it gives a slow blink and speaks
  874. >”What are you?”
  875. >Its voice is less like a growl and more like an earthquake, it ripples through your bones and leaves you shaken
  876. >You take a deep breath and prepare yourself to answer
  877. “I'm h-human.”
  878. >Of course you stuttered
  879. >”Hyoooooman? Ah yes, I heard tell of your kind from those young ones that ventured North. Great masters of iron oxen with power over fire and lead.”
  880. >The dragon paused and stared on
  881. >You swallow and realize that you've volunteered yourself as an ambassador to a species you'd never seen
  882. >Well, manners should be universal right?
  883. “My name is Ardem, mind if I ask for yours? Got the feeling you wouldn't appreciate me calling you 'monster' or something.”
  884. >The dragon chuffs and exhales a gout of smoke from its nose
  885. >”You may call me Janagni. I am the oldest of the dragons you see here.”
  886. >You nod slowly before answering
  887. “Right about that. You're not planning on attacking or eating us, I hope. That'd really ruin our day.”
  888. >Another chuff, you figure it may be laughter
  889. >”If we had wanted you eaten or dead, I certainly would not have hesitated, nor let you even approach us. We merely wish to nest in these mountains.”
  890. >You scratch your head, confused by her statement
  891. “I thought that dragons nested in the South, around the volcanoes and stuff.”
  892. >This time Janagni nods her head slowly
  893. >”Yes, we usually do. However our old nesting grounds were taken by those feathered beasts and their bullish friends. There were some of your kind as well, and many of your weapons. I lead my den North to find a place to lay our eggs in peace, I hope.”
  894. >Her voice has a slightly feminine timbre, at least for a behemoth of a dragon
  895. >And the motherly concern in the way it spoke would make sense if it were
  896. >You slip your hands behind your back to hide their shaking
  897. >A bead of sweat drips down your face and you lick your lips with a dry tongue
  898. “Well Janagni, we certainly won't disturb you. I do want to let you know, before anything happens, that we are at war with the gryphons occupying Equestria. These mountains are where we hide ourselves away and live when we aren't fighting. I won't tell you to leave, but you do need to know that they'd likely attack with bombardment. And they certainly wouldn't care whether your eggs are here or not.”
  899. >She turns her head to the other dragons, most of whom had landed and were basking in the midday sun
  900. >One of her claws scratches at the dirt, digging long furrows in it
  901. >”I understand your struggle, human. But we must roost here or nowhere. We are tired from the long journey and must take the risk. I only ask that you and the ponies do not interfere with our nests or our hunting. We will accept the potential of attack and take precautions against it.”
  902. >You give her a slight bow
  903. “And we will make sure to keep well away from your eggs. I just have to ask that you not take any of our shiny things. Most are just bullets and guns anyway, and we need all that we can get.”
  904. >She inclines her head towards you
  905. >”A simple enough request. We can take from elsewhere if need be, but you can be certain we won't take from you.”
  906. >With that, Janagni turns and gives a might flap of her wings
  907. >The over pressure forces you down, but you rise in time to see her glide incredibly gently to her kin
  908. >You walk back to the princesses and a cheering crowd of ponies
  909. >Your entire body is shaking, and your legs feel like they're about to give out from under you
  910. >Instead, you force your breath out of your lungs and breathe as normally as possible
  911. >Celestia is staring at you, astounded, while her sister looks on with something bordering on rapture
  912. >You're feeling a bit itchy
  913. “So uh, did I do okay?”
  914. >Twilight suddenly shoves her way to the front of the crowd
  915. >”Okay, OKAY? You just made a treaty between ponies and dragons, Ardem!”
  916. >You look down at her, confused
  917. “But didn't Fluttershy talk that dragon outside Ponyville down?”
  918. >Twilight shakes her head furiously and beams up at you
  919. >”She talked it down, in the sense that she showed herself as a dominant matriarch. Plus that dragon was relatively young. But you just faced down the Scourge of the Blackfyre Pits herself, and lived!”
  920. >You scratch the stubble on your cheeks and click your molars together
  921. “Not to sound racist, speciesist whatever, but they all look the same to me. Some are just bigger or differently coloured.”
  922. >Finally, Celestia comes out of her shock and clears her throat
  923. >”Well that was certainly exciting, but we all have work to get back to. Let us return so that we can be ready for our next strike against the occupiers.”
  924. >A cheer goes up from the crowd and they run back into the caves, then Celestia turns back to you
  925. >”So the plan is done then? Please, Ardem, show us what your ideas are so we can prepare. I want to be ready as soon as we can be.”
  926. >Your smile returns, and most of the shaking disperses from your limbs
  927. >At least you had something to be confident about
  928. “Well then, let's go.”
  929. >And with that, you four head back inside to plot the raid
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