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Manos the Hands of fate (part III)

HumanSuperiority Jan 3rd, 2016 (edited) 3,250 Never
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  1. >you are Sliver Valor
  2. >everything hurts, your legs ache, and your sides have a sheering pain.
  3. >your mind is screaming at you to open your eyes. open your eyes and do something.
  4. >but you cant, you hurt too much. and something is holding you down.
  5. >"CAPTAIN!"
  6. >captain?
  7. >"Shes over here! quickly, give me a hoof with this!"
  8. >you hear the sounds of someone struggling to move something.
  9. >"ok ok everyone, one, two, THREE!"
  10. >some of the pain is gone, and you dont feel pressed down like you did before.
  11. >you let out a small groan as you force your eyes to open.
  12. >everything is black for a while before some of your vision returns.
  13. >but only somewhat, everything is a blur and you can only see vague silhouettes
  14. >"Captain, speak to us."
  15. "my whole body hurts"
  16. >"it will be ok Captain. just hang in there."
  17. "what, what happened?"
  18. >you try to look around the room and see if you can make sense of the situation.
  19. >if it didnt hurt to think you'd panic at the state of your surroundings
  20. >what was once a rather stable and secure building is now ruins.
  21. >the whole left side of the building is simply gone, ruble and dust still hang in the air
  22. >"Im not sure Captain, but the whole city has been completely destroyed."
  23. >you struggle to get to your hooves your legs burn and shake from the weight of your own body  
  24. >a pony quickly helps you up and puts one of your hooves over their shoulder
  25. "thank you... is everyone alright?"
  26. >another voice speaks up, that of a mare
  27. >>"Captain, besides each other, you are the only survivor we have found."
  28. >you try to look at the two ponies and get an idea of who they are, but your vision is too blurred
  29. >the only thing you recognize is the golden armor of the guard, and even that took effort.
  30. >"we should get out of here, try to make our way to find some help."
  31. >>"i agree, but how far could we really go? look at the Captain, she can barely stand."
  32. "dont worry about me, i can travel."
  33. >you do your best to take a step forward on your own before you stumble to the floor
  34. "ah, horse-apples."
  35. >"i got you Captain."
  36. >you are again lifted to your hooves
  37. >"ill help you walk"
  38. >you nod your head
  39. "thank you. lets go."
  40.  
  41. >getting out of the building was the hardest thing you have ever physically done
  42. >the large buildings once solid walls now gone and replaced with mounds of ruble
  43. >finding the exit was easy, climbing down the ruble when you could barely walk?
  44. >that was a challenge unto itself
  45. >with effort and help of your fellow guards you make it down to the streets.
  46. >>"where to now?"
  47. >"im not sure, i wasn't sure how to navigate this place even when it was still a city!"
  48. >you look around, the besieged city now just a large ruin and shadow of what it once was.
  49. >entire streets and buildings are just gone.
  50. >others are all molded into one from collapsing, some just barely standing and looming over seemingly safe walkways.
  51. >a stiff breeze could topple what buildings remain.
  52. "this place is very dangerous, and a lot has changed but i think i can lead us out of here."
  53. >"you sure Captain? not to doubt you, but you can barely see, let alone walk."
  54. "i still have you for walking don't I?"
  55. >you lift a hoof to a side street
  56. "lets head that way. the way out of the city shouldn't be too far"
  57.  
  58. >you are Manos
  59. >"lord manos, Cadence is here and she wishes to see you"
  60. "let her in then, no reason to keep her waiting"
  61. >Comet opens the door and steps inside, followed by Cadence.
  62. "oh Comet, if you could show my little pet here to her own room, and keep it guarded, for her own safety and our own."
  63. >Comet looks to Queenie with a very stern expression.
  64. >"right this way, guest."
  65. >as the two leave you and Cadence are alone in your room
  66. >her horn glows as she closes the door behind her while walking over to take a seat on your bed
  67. "you want to talk about something."
  68. >"yes, quite a few things actually. but those can wait for a moment."
  69. >she pats the bed next her and you walk over laying down next to her
  70. >both of you remain in your uniforms as she lays her head on your chest in silence
  71. >"i just want a moment of peace first. just you and me, no wars, no plans, nothing but us."
  72. >thats cute.
  73. >you gently pet her mane as the two of you sit there in silence
  74. >you know she is dying to talk to you about anything and everything thats going on, but its nice to just sit here
  75. >now that you think about it... when was the last time you weren't doing something?
  76. >you look over to the chest storing the elements.
  77. >so much power held behind a simple box. and so much more still out there needing to be found.
  78. >"Manos"
  79. >Cadence looks up to you
  80. "yes?"
  81. >"will the fighting ever end? it seems to just increase more and more."
  82. >you continue petting her as she speaks to you
  83. >"it used to be just the Changelings, then came Sombra. after that it was the griffons, and now-"
  84. >she sighs stopping her own thought
  85. >you give her a small hug, perhaps it will comfort her a bit.
  86. "It will, eventually."
  87. >you smile softly to the 'former' princess.
  88. "but we need to be strong, our ponies look to us for strength and leadership. we need to be resolute and steadfast in our beliefs or they will break."
  89. >"i understand Manos."
  90. "i know you do."
  91.  
  92. >you are Cadence
  93. >laying next to manos with your head on his chest, you feel more at home here then you have anywhere else.
  94. >he is right, the two of you need to be strong for everyone.
  95. >you relax more as he continues to softly pet your mane, his gloved hands soothing you and seemingly dissolving all of your troubles
  96. >you whisper to yourself, your voice so soft and quiet that even you could barely hear it.
  97. "I love you manos."
  98. >there is a small moment where you could have sworn you felt his hand stop petting you before continuing, but it was hard to tell.
  99. >there is still so much you wanted to talk to him about, so many questions you felt the need to ask.
  100. >but now that you are here and alone with him, all you want to do is be close.
  101. >you close your eyes starting to drift off to sleep in his arms.
  102.  
  103. >you are Manos
  104. >you lay there in your room as Cadence falls asleep on your chest.
  105. >you yourself feel the allure of sleep, but with Cadence here you are even less willing to sleep then when you are alone.
  106. >gently you remove yourself from the bed, making sure to not disturb the pink alicorn, and make your way to your desk
  107. >you take your position and retrieve your cleaning tools from the desks compartment.
  108. >you softly unsnap your holsters safety strap and place your pistol on the desk.
  109. >before you start to begin your normal routine of cleaning until morning a small glow lights up the corner of the room
  110. >its not bright, but its noticeable. a soft red and teal glow emanate from the chest securing the elements.
  111. "whats causing them to glow?"
  112. >you continue to look on at the chest before you finally get yourself to walk over and inspect it.
  113. >taking a knee you lay your hands upon it, giving a quick look back to the sleeping Cadence to be sure she is still undisturbed.
  114. >you undo the locks
  115. >*click*
  116. >*click*
  117. >as you open it up you are now aware that the dark crystal inside is also creating a glow, much harder to see since its a dark violet in comparison to the two much brighter colors.
  118. >you reach inside and take out all three
  119. >you expect them to all give you a rush of different feelings like usual.
  120. >the Dark Crystal, it gives you very little fear..
  121. >the Alicorn Amulet, although you have adjusted to its pull, gives you almost no anger.
  122. >and the Crystal heart...
  123. >you look back to Cadence again.
  124. "i cant tell if its working or not.."
  125. >well.. since two of the three dont its safe to assume this one isnt either.
  126. "I wonder"
  127. >you pick up the Amulet and take a few steps back from the chest.
  128. >the glow of the element inside starts to dim slightly as you become more agitated
  129. >could it be connecting with the others? if united do they become weaker?
  130. >what would happen if you have all six together? there is a possibility they might destroy each other.
  131. >no, the element wouldnt be destroyed, just the vessel.
  132. "I should have Honor bound look into this more"
  133. >even you dont know EVERYTHING about this world.
  134.  
  135. >you are Roselight
  136. >because of your ties to Honor Bound, and your own stubbornness, you were given access to the armor storage area
  137. >you walk inside with a small pouch at your side and a candle held in your mouth
  138. >taking your place in front of your designated suit you set the candle down at its hooves.
  139. >the warm glow the only light in the room illuminating the base of your suit
  140. >you take its intimidating form in, the armor towers over you with its helmet peering down at you with a permanent glare
  141. >a glare you return with a smile of pride.
  142. "this is my armor"
  143. >the other suits are in line along side it each in the same position ready to be worn once again
  144. "there are many like it, but this one. its mine."
  145. >you bow your head to it for a moment and close your eyes
  146. "it was a gift to me. a gift from Manos, a creation of his own mind."
  147. >you move to the small pouch at your side and take out a small rag and a few small cleaning utensils
  148. >you gently take the pure white cloth in your mouth and begin to clean the suit
  149. >your muffled words the only sound in the room
  150. "its an extension of him, as it is an extension of me and should be treated with the respect i give him."
  151. >the dirt, ashes, and grime slowly coming off of the armor
  152. >although the eggheads fixed any issues with its functionality they do a shoddy job of cleaning
  153. "this armor should remain pure..."
  154. >you take a small step back to look at the now clean helmet its eyes piercing gaze directed into your own
  155. "it should the last pure thing that a unbeliever sees"
  156.  
  157. >You are Princess Luna
  158. >night has shrouded equestria in a soft blanket of starlight.
  159. >you look to your sky and arrange a beautiful night for any onlookers and stargazers
  160. >you used to be jealous of the attention your sisters daylight was given...
  161. >used to be?... no, you still are.
  162. >you will never be as appreciated as her will you?
  163. >with a small shake of your head you force those old thoughts away.
  164. "anything is better then continuing to live alone on the moon for another century."
  165. >turning back to your room from your balcony you see your old helmet.
  166. >the slick light blue design sitting peacefully in its place.
  167. >your gaze shifts downward to the breastplate and the crescent moon shard mimicking your cutie mark
  168. "sister is too forgiving... and she has no real stomach for war."
  169. >the crescent moon gives off a slight white glow as you stare into its depths
  170. "she cant do what it necessary to achieve victory."
  171. >in the depths of the moon shard your face stares back at you.
  172. "but, i can."
  173. >the shard glows even brighter and the face inside twists and changes until the face of Nightmare moon looks back at you.
  174. >her laugh echos in your mind as the nightmare stares back--- no, you shouldn't deny it like that.
  175. >as your true reflection stares back.
  176. "if i can save equestria from manos, then ill be adored just like sister."
  177. >you grip a blanket with your magic and place it over the armor blocking it from your view
  178. "but ill have to be very careful about each of my actions."
  179. >the sounds of guards outside your door remind you to be more careful about what you say
  180. >you've seen their dreams, they are HIS ponies.
  181. >but as long as you continue your game, they will have no reason to suspect anything.
  182. >its a good thing you ordered all the Lunar guard to return to their homeland for... 'a holiday'
  183. >a holiday that has kept them from Manos' reach, you hope.
  184.  
  185. >you are Celestia
  186. >you are just starting to settle down for the night.
  187. >'settle down' perhaps not being the best phrase.
  188. >more like laying in your bed with your mind having a thousand thoughts a second.
  189. >why so much death? how many lives were lost in a afternoon? what were those machines you were told of?
  190. >you exhale sadly into your pillow as your flowing mane slows to a stop.
  191. "manos, why are you doing this? and how can you be doing it while still being kind to someone he fights against?"
  192. >Manos' Jacket hangs against your wardrobe each patch, stitch, and fold as uniform as he would have kept it
  193. >is this all just a game it him? does he understand his own actions?... is he evil?
  194. >or, is he like your sister. put in a situation with no easy way out?
  195. >the thought of you banishing your own sister returns to your mind
  196. >the small purple crystal in your chest piece begins to glow slightly
  197. "im sorry luna, i know you still hate me for what ive done... and for how i have let all this chaos happen."
  198. >you feel a tear slowly drip down your face
  199. "what if manos is just like you? would i be able to stop him? COULD i stop him?"
  200. >more tears start to form in your eyes as the lives of all your little ponies who died both from your sisters actions in the past and the actions of manos now.
  201. "i should be stronger than this!"
  202. >as you shout that to yourself while doing your best to hold back your watery eyes from bursting into waterfalls there is a knock
  203. >*knock*
  204. >*knock*
  205. >"Princess? is everything okay in there?"
  206. >you sniffle slightly and regain your composure. you need to be strong for your ponies.
  207. "yes my little pony. im quite alright, just reminded of something from the past."
  208. >there is some mumbling outside the doors for a moment
  209. >"if you are sure princess, remember we are right here if you need anything"
  210. >such kind ponies.
  211. "i know. i thank you."
  212. >you calm your mind as you lay in your bed and close your eyes.
  213. >you still have a long night ahead of you.
  214. >as you drift off to sleep you already hear the voices starting to pour into your mind
  215. "im here for you my ponies..."
  216.  
  217. >you are Manos
  218. >you safely pocket the amulet in your uniform before storing them both away
  219. >you make yourself ready for bed as quietly as you can as to not wake up the pink alicorn already asleep.
  220. >hopefully you wont need magic to rest tonight... and as much as you wish you could avoid sleep, you know you need it.
  221. >you crawl back into bed and take a position gently cradling cadence
  222. >there is a small sigh of relaxation from her as you warp her in your arms.
  223. >you close your eyes.. and are soon fast asleep.
  224.  
  225. >the world is black.
  226. >everything around you is black.
  227. >standing there in the vast emptiness of this distant dream world you wait.
  228. >the small echos in the back of your mind slowly becoming louder.
  229. >"hail manos"
  230. >"the lord of fate!"
  231. >"MANOS WILL MAKE EQUESTRIA GREAT AGAIN!"
  232. >"we are his faithful hands!"
  233. >soon more and more voices start to flood into your mind
  234. >you flinch as the mixed noise becomes more painful to hear
  235. >each one unique, with its own tones and hidden meanings
  236. >all of them speaking directly to you.
  237. >"Create a new world" "unite Equestria under your banner" "hail manos!" "HAIL MANOS"
  238. >unlike before you dont scream, you dont fall to the ground and beg it to stop, it will do you no good.
  239. >the only thing you can do is wait for the voices to stop.
  240. >"well well, looks who is back in my little neck of the mind."
  241. >you snap open your eyes.
  242. >the empty void now twisted with color and various shapes most too complex or simply random to describe
  243. "am i going to have to see you everytime i fall asleep?"
  244. >"perhaps. but only if i feel like it."
  245. "you know, i used to like hearing your voice before i came here. before i became 'this' before i started what i have."
  246. >a strange chair like object slowly morphs in front of you into the god of chaos himself.
  247. >discord calmly takes a seat upon.. something.
  248. >"im flattered. i didnt know you cared about little old me."
  249. "I never said i cared. and why do you keep visiting me anyway?!"
  250. >discords ever present smile grows a little wider before he takes out a pipe and starts to smoke some bubbles.
  251. >"its quite simple really."
  252. >a sherlock-esque hat poofs into existence and takes a seat on discords head.
  253. >"im bored."
  254. "this is still my mind discord.."
  255. >you look to the object he is sitting upon and will its existence away
  256. >rather than falling to the floor like you hoped, discord just floats there as if nothing happened.
  257. >honestly you should have expected that
  258. >"and it is a very chaotic one. meaning I"
  259. >discords head pops out of the collar of your uniform facing you
  260. >"can do almost whatever i like here. you know you really should get more sleep. its bad for your health."
  261. >discord pulls a thermometer out of the air
  262. "i really dont have time for this, creature."
  263. >discords voice becomes more serious
  264. >"no, no you dont. in fact, the longer you spend here with me, the less time you have for.."
  265. >with a quick snap of his fingers a rip in your dream world opens
  266. >revealing the same pathway you saw before when you talked with luna
  267. >"exploring."
  268. >you look to the chaotic being before you, then step inside.
  269. "why would you let me go?"
  270. >his smile already returns as he waves to you from the other side.
  271. >"like i said. im bored"
  272. >the small rip in the dreamscape closes leaving you alone on the trail of dreams you saw before.
  273.  
  274. >you are Silver Valor
  275. >you are sure that your eyes are not going to recover.
  276. >its been hours since you were found in the ruble by the two ponies with you now.
  277. >"Captain. we should rest here for now, and take a closer look at your injuries"
  278. >you feel so tired from walking, and you were even being carried for part of it.
  279. "alright, we can rest here. we shouldnt be too far from canterlot by now."
  280. >the stallion who carried you for part of the way sits down next to you and starts to examine you.
  281. >"Captain Valor, can you see my hoof?"
  282. >you try to focus on the blue blur in front of you, with some effort yo recognize it as a hoof
  283. "yes. i can."
  284. >"alright. keep looking forward for me ok?"
  285. >the hoof moves to the left a bit
  286. >"now?"
  287. >you nod slowly
  288. >again the blur moves more to the left barely in your field of view
  289. >"how about now?"
  290. "just barely, i can see about half of it. the right half."
  291. >"i see, ok one more time."
  292. >the hoof is now gone, you cannot see it without turning your head
  293. >"captain? can you see my hoof?"
  294. "n-..no."
  295. >"can you see anything around it? any colors, or shapes or-"
  296. "no i cant see anything in, near, or around it. nothing..."
  297. >the vague outline of the stallion in front of you seems to look away
  298. >"she has no vision in her left eye.. she couldnt even see my hoof from this close."
  299. >you feel the tip of his hoof touch your head
  300. >>"is there anything we can do? cant you use a spell or something, you are a unicorn."
  301. >hes a unicorn? you thought he was an earth pony.
  302. >you focus more into his outline.
  303. >oh, yup... that a horn on his head.
  304. >"i dont know any medical spells, and even if i did i dont know if i could help--"
  305. >you interrupt their conversation
  306. "then there is nothing to be done about it now, we need to rest up before getting back to canterlot."
  307. >>"but Captain, arnt you worried about your.. you know.. vision?"
  308. "yes, i am worried about it, but im more worried about what happened to ponyville city."
  309. >you feel around your armor, most of it was removed during the travel or destroyed previously
  310. >but your little satchel somehow survived in decent condition.
  311. "and.. even though i hate to say it... i think i know who did it."
  312. >"i already know, i think we all do..."
  313. >you detect a tone of disgust from the stallions voice.
  314. >>"Manos... what kind of evil creature could just level a city with ponies still inside!?"
  315. >the mare makes her feelings about manos much more obvious
  316. >>"i just dont get it, he killed so many, both griffons AND ponies to take back his city.. then he just destroyed it!"
  317. >"Lemon Twist.. maybe there was a reason--"
  318. >>"there isnt a reason Eclipse! not one worth all those lives!"
  319. >the mare named 'Lemon twist' stomps her hoof to add emphasis to her point
  320. >after her little rant the three of you remain quiet.
  321. >>"i-im sorry captain. i shouldnt have let myself get out of line like that."
  322. "its alright. what was your name?.. Lemon Twist?"
  323. >you do your best to locate the mares outline in the darkness
  324. >she positions herself to be within your sight.
  325. >>"yes Captain. and i know, its kinda silly.. especially with my mane and coat both being shades of green"
  326. >the mare forces a small laugh
  327. >>"my friends actually call me Lime because of it. its kinda silly.."
  328. >you smile slightly
  329. "your right, it is kinda silly."
  330. >"alright, lets get some rest. ill take first watch, Lemon, you will take next. the captain needs to get as much rest as she can"
  331. >lemon lays down in the soft grass next to you and does her best to rest
  332. >you rotate your head to the direction of canterlot.
  333. >you cant make out the buildings from the mountain, but you know thats where it is.
  334. >hopefully the princesses will know what to do.
  335. >or at the very least, Manos will somehow be able to explain this...
  336.  
  337. >you are Manos
  338. >each step you take a different wave of emotions come to mind.
  339. >you can feel what those inside the dreams are feeling.
  340. >some are scared, others have courage and pride swelling inside
  341. >but most are aroused...
  342. "i cant believe Luna does this every night."
  343. >you continue your walk doing you best to avoid the more 'exciting' dreams
  344. >one strand connecting to the dream path is coming from the road to canterlot.
  345. >no, not one. two.
  346. >you move in on the two strands of dream and peer down to see the ponies below
  347. >one of them you recognize, silver valor.
  348. >you decide to take a chance, and you let yourself fall into the dream below
  349.  
  350. >your falling suddenly stops, and you are standing upright in canterlot.
  351. >Silver valor is being escorted along with two other ponies to see the princesses.
  352. >you know this, because she knows this.
  353. >being connected to someone in a dream is a strange and unnatural feeling.
  354. >you feel both yourself as being a separate entity as well as an extension of the dreamer.
  355. >silvers voice breaks you from your moment
  356. >"princess Celestia."
  357. >before you Silver bows her head to the sun goddess sitting upon her throne
  358. >>"Captain Valor? are you alright? you look to be in great pain, you should see a doctor immediately"
  359. >"im afraid the doctor will have to wait.. i have news about ponyville"
  360. >Celestia bows her head slightly, not wishing to hear what is to come.
  361. >>"and that is?"
  362. >"ponyville has been completely destroyed"
  363. >all the ponies in the room, even a few guards gasp in shock
  364. >>"destroyed? what do you mean?"
  365. >silver feels conflicted... you are not sure what about, but from what she has said you guess its about how to tell Sunny what happened
  366. >"its been leveled.. as far as i am aware the two ponies with me were the only survivors. and even i just barely made it"
  367. >you take a few steps forward into the room the dream ponies not reacting to you in the slightest
  368. >perhaps Valor has to notice you
  369. >"i believe it was Manos' doing. as to why, im not sure"
  370. "would you like to know..?"
  371. >now that you spoke up all eyes in the room suddenly focus on you.
  372. >Silver valor still keeps her back turned to you
  373. >she feels... scared.
  374. >she fears you now, and she has a good reason for her fear.
  375. "you were right Silver, i am the one who destroyed ponyville."
  376. >your footsteps echo on the tiled floors
  377. >as you get closer her injuries become more clear.
  378. >she is covered in cuts and bruises.
  379. >you can feel her body aching from the stress of standing.
  380. >you make your way in front of her and another wound is exposed.
  381. >one of her eyes seems to be completely ruined.
  382. >blood covers the area around it and what you can see of her eye itself is limited.
  383. >she likely wont be able to see out of it again.
  384. >"Manos, how could you fight for that city, that city you yourself grew from a town with a few residents, that place you should have considered home! and just destroy it!"
  385. >you feel her anger flowing between you.
  386. "i only laid the foundation for a new city to be built on my return.. Ponyville will be brought back."
  387. >"it wont be the same place manos! and what about all those lives?! what about those still trapped inside!"
  388. >you kneel down to the angry and wounded mare
  389. "i gave them a chance. i told them all they would be taken care of in my Reich, they choose to stay."
  390. >you stand up and start to walk away
  391. "i wish i could have prevented all this death, and it could have all been avoided. all i wanted was a chance for peace."
  392. >the small rift in Silvers dream opens up and you step out
  393. "remember that when you report this to celestia, and know that what you tell could cause more unnecessary deaths"
  394. >silver looks back to you as the rift closes
  395. "you trusted me once... i hope you do so again."
  396. >leaving the dream you continue on walking.
  397. >either discord is a master of planning or that was just a fated encounter.
  398. >you chuckle to yourself and turn your attention to canterlot
  399. >a single dream glows brighter than the others.
  400. >a bright golden dream strand coming from the castle.
  401. "luna once said she couldnt enter my dreams.. just like discords."
  402. >"and you will not enter my sisters Manos"
  403. >you really have a bad habit of letting ponies sneak up on you here.
  404. >Luna stands tall over her protected dreams
  405. "good to see you Luna... how is the other side doing?"
  406. >"Manos. i have heard of the atrocities you committed in ponyville. those large machines ripping ponies apart, those machines go against all the rules of combat!"
  407. >>"hm, luna seems angry with you. usually its Celestia getting huffy."
  408. >both you and luna look around.
  409. >discord in his usual fashion is in the last place you look.
  410. >in the open, sitting next to the two of you on a floating couch.
  411. >"and now you side with Discord?!"
  412. >you roll your eyes at her false accusation
  413. "trust me.. i want him gone just as badly as you, if not more. He is a creature of chaos, a beast that stands for everything im out to remove."
  414. >>"funny way of going about that. you know.. searching for the elements of chaos and all."
  415. >you snap a glare to discord.
  416. >so this was his plan.
  417. >Luna gives you a glare, her eyes beaming white contrasting with her coat and dark mane
  418. >"Manos, those elements are too powerful for you to control. i cannot allow you to wield them!"
  419. >>"little late for that moony"
  420. "SHUT UP!"
  421. >out of frustration you draw your sidearm and fire into the creature
  422. >of course, nothing really happens besides a lot of noise.
  423. >it takes you a moment to notice the red glow from your pocket.
  424. >>"hahaha! it seems they are already taking hold."
  425. >discord snaps his fingers and his couch poofs away
  426. >>"well this has been fun, we should do this again sometime. but its time for you to wake up."
  427. "you draconian fuc-"
  428. >you jolt awake in your room
  429. >the speed you awake frightens Cadence awake as well
  430. >"Manos is everything ok?"
  431. >you just keep breathing processing everything that just happened.
  432. >you heard all the voices of your faithful
  433. >you went dream walking
  434. >you learned that Silver is going to report what you did to Celestia
  435. >and the worst of them all, that chaotic deviant Discord revealed your plans to Luna.
  436. "damn it! ill send that bastard to hell myself if i have to!"
  437. >"Manos! whats wrong what happened?"
  438. >cadence positions herself in front of you grabbing your attention
  439. "Discord.. Discord happened."
  440.  
  441.  
  442. >Discord is you.
  443. >you laugh at your best plot yet.
  444. >not only did you get to mess with the head of Anonymous or Manos or whatever he calls himself now
  445. >you gave his best laid plan and goal to moon butt.
  446. "hahahah oh boy, this is getting good now."
  447. >"Discord. i suspect this is your doing somehow."
  448. >oh yeah shes still here.
  449. "oh please little Lulu, even I wouldnt be as crazy as to find all the elements of Chaos... again"
  450. >they are after all how you gained your power to begin with.
  451. >"im sure... either way Discord. If manos becomes like you, just imagine what all of equestria will become."
  452. >you wave your hand to the alicorn dismissively
  453. "in the end ill be here, so it matters little to me really. but he is providing some nice juicy chaos!"
  454. >"we shall see for how long Discord."
  455. "see you soon Lulu! and be sure to keep your little rock safe..."
  456. >you tap the silver moon on her breastplate
  457. >"dont call me Lu-"
  458. >you poof yourself away before she can finish.
  459. >threats dont mean a thing to you.
  460. >besides you have better things to do.
  461.  
  462. >you are Celestia
  463. >you lay in an open field relaxing in the sound of nature.
  464. >but even in your dreams all good things must come to an end.
  465. >taking a breath you let down your mental guard and a slowly growing flow of voices arrive
  466. >you've done this for centuries and have learned a few ways to numb the pain it used to cause
  467. >youve given each of the voices a visual representation, each voice is not just sound, but a being.
  468. >soon you are surrounded by your little ponies in the open field
  469. >"what should i do?"
  470. >"why did he leave me? am i not important?"
  471. >"i hope my family is ok"
  472. >the regular problems of ponies were always the easiest to listen to first.
  473. >but, recently, there have been more dire ones.
  474. >"why did they do it!? why would my own brother leave our family for that monster!"
  475. >"are we still safe in our own homes?"
  476. >"perhaps this manos is right.. i just dont know anymore"
  477. >"why did mommy and daddy have to die?"
  478. >each one of those questions and cries for help eat away at your heart
  479. >but what surprises you the most out of the new prayers, are the ones that come from ponies under manos
  480. >"protect us Celestia" "please help them see he is right" "we know you still care for us, we do this for equestria"
  481. >you give each 'pony' its own turn to speak before eventually they all disperse and dissolve into the void
  482. "its hard to know what the right thing to do is"
  483.  
  484. >you are Manos
  485. >despite Cadences argument that it was all just a dream you know better
  486. "Cadence, its not just a dream and what discord has done will make everything much more difficult"
  487. >Cadence gets off of the bed and walks over next to you
  488. >you have re-dressed yourself and still have the amulet secured in your coat pocket
  489. >your sidearm has been holstered, and your gloves have been tightened so they are skin tight
  490. "Assemble my Hands. ill meet them in the rallying field and all reserves are to be called"
  491.  
  492. >you are Aryanne
  493. >and you are asleep, sleeping peacefully in your own room instead of the barracks for the first time in a long while
  494. >*KNOCK* *KNOCK* KNOCK*
  495. >and now you're not.
  496. "ugggggghh..."
  497. >*KNOCK* *KNOCK*
  498. >>"Commander Aryanne. you are being requested by Head officer Cadence of the Changeling removal Branch"
  499. >you rubs your eyes sleepily before getting out of bed.
  500. >its a shame, you were having the perfect dream. one you are still working to achieve here.
  501. >you walk over to your already laid out and straightened uniform and begin to dress
  502. "she may enter."
  503. >the door to your room opens and two black hands enter and return to attention allowing Cadence to enter
  504. >once she does one of the guards step outside to continue guard while the other closes the door and remains inside
  505. >you start to button up your uniform and readjust the sleeves
  506. "i still had a couple hours of sleep. perhaps you dont know what being in the field is like, but sleep is more valuable than gems"
  507. >Cadence's voice has a lethargic tone
  508. >"trust me, i know the value of sleep."
  509. >you finish getting dressed and turn around to to face Cadence
  510. >you stand proudly in your uniform expectantly
  511. "so ma'am, what did you need to see me for?"
  512. >"i have orders from manos. we are to assemble all units in the rallying field."
  513. "understood. did he say as to why?"
  514. >"no, he did say it had something to do with Discord however. oh and all reserves including the brownshirts are to be rallied too."
  515. >this must be something serious then.
  516. >besides the parade and award ceremony, Manos has never called ALL troops to action.
  517. >and even at the parade, some were still stationed on other duties.
  518. "understood. the crystal ponies should be trained enough to keep everything secure on their own then. ill assemble my ponies ASAP"
  519. >"Thank you, Commander Aryanne. i still have some ponies to inform. ill see you then"
  520. "see you then"
  521. >Cadence leaves the room first before you and the guard exit.
  522. >turning to the hands guarding your door you give them new orders
  523. "inform all crystal guards they are now in charge of defense of their city, supervising black hands are to remain to oversee their actions, but first inform the rest of the hands to meet in the rally field. this is not a drill."
  524. >"yes commander, heil manos!"
  525. "heil manos"
  526. >you turn away and walk to the barracks
  527. "looks like our little vacation has been cut short."
  528.  
  529. >you are Rainbow Dash
  530. >and getting used to your new 'Commander' position
  531. >and really you second guess every moment you have it.
  532. >you haven't slept all night, you've been reading... READING
  533. >thats something you never thought you'd be doing much of, well, besides those Daring Do books.
  534. "heh.. im turning into twilight"
  535. >Twilight...
  536. "wonder how everyone is doing."
  537. >you look down at the papers and books in front of you.
  538. >basic pegasi combat tactics
  539. >files on each of the ponies under your new command
  540. >new plans for reforms to military structure
  541. >advanced tactics based on the success of Manos
  542. "gosh im turning into an egghead.."
  543. >*knock* *knock*
  544. "who is it? dont you know what time it is?"
  545. >you dont.
  546. >"commander Dash, orders from the top. all forces are to be assembled in the yard. ready your forces"
  547. "what? whats going on?"
  548. >"not sure commander, i have orders to pass on orders. i dont question it."
  549. "alright. ill be there soon"
  550.  
  551. >you are Honor Bound
  552. >and there has been news that Manos is starting to rally all troops.
  553. >well.. all troops include your own correct?
  554. >you walk down the halls of your research barracks
  555. >those ponies assigned to night guard duty here stand beside each door
  556. "this is a wake up call. please inform everyone to be ready to meet with the others in the yard."
  557. >each guard gives a salute before turning to the doors to wake those ponies inside the rooms
  558. "oh and make it quick."
  559. >by the time you finished giving your orders you have made it to the door housing your Operators armor
  560. >as you open the door to this room the guards barge in their own respective rooms
  561. >you listen for a moment at the commands being given all at once
  562. >"up and at em! new orders have been given by Commander Bound, get your gear!"
  563. >"suit up! we have orders to assemble!"
  564. >"why are you still in bed! get up! orders from Bound!"
  565. >ahh.. music to your ears.
  566. >walking inside you see something you didnt expect.
  567. "Roselight? who gave you permission to be in here?"
  568. >Your sister stands in front of her armor ignoring you
  569. >"i have my ways Brother and besides, we have orders to be ready dont we?"
  570. >she looks back to you as she begins to ready her suit
  571. >"im just ahead of the game"
  572.  
  573. >you are Manos
  574. >your forces are gathered outside
  575. >Your Hands, the Brownshirts, Operators, Tank drivers. everything.
  576. >not all of them could fit inside the rallying field so they spilled out into some of the streets
  577. >the citizens of the Reich took notice and they too began to gather to try and hear whats going to happen
  578. >"manos, they are ready."
  579. "thank you Cadence."
  580. >you gather yourself once more, taking a breath before walking outside to begin
  581.  
  582. >you are Honor Bound
  583. >you stand on the balcony where Manos will be speaking.
  584. >looking down into the yard you see your Operators in full armor facing the opposite direction of you out to the 'crowd'
  585. >you gave them orders to provide security and over watch just in case.
  586. >not to mention you wanted them to be seen by the troops.
  587. >with luck, enough resources, and time, they could possibly become common front line troops
  588. >"Commander Bound, Manos is on his way."
  589. >you nod to the messenger and take your place on the side of the balcony
  590.  
  591. >you are Emerald shine
  592. >you and your sister Sapphire take positions on both sides of where manos will be standing
  593. >for security of course.
  594. >one the perks of being part of the Gestapo is ponies usually dont question your actions out of fear.
  595. >it makes things so much easier.
  596.  
  597. >You are Rainbow Dash
  598. >you stand behind where manos will be speaking
  599. >along with Aryanne and your former unit of personal guards.
  600. >the amount of ponies he has gathered is awe inspiring, each of them dressed from head to hoof in perfect uniforms
  601. >you gulp slightly at the thought of just how serious being a Commander in Manos' army is.
  602. "i can do this... if i can be brave enough to go into battle, i can be brave enough for this."
  603. >Aryanne gives you a gentle nudge and a smile
  604. >"you'll be ok Rainbow."
  605. >you smile back, somehow feeling better.
  606. >>"here he comes"
  607. >everyone on the balcony snap to attention with a "HEIL"
  608. >soon followed by the voices of everyone gathered speaking almost as one.
  609. >it almost sounded like thunder.
  610.  
  611. >you are Lyra Heartstrings
  612. >you got word that Manos was gathering his ponies in his rallying field
  613. >and while not 'technically' being part of his military you decided to show up too
  614. >after asking a few questions here and there to crystal guards you find your way to where manos will be speaking
  615. >and through out your little excursion in the castle you have been followed
  616. >there isnt any evidence or any real reason that you should think you have been
  617. >but you've had a feeling for some time
  618. >you turn the corner just in time to see Manos step outside to the sound of thousands of voices
  619. >"heil manos!" "heil the Reich!"
  620. "come on Blackout, dont want to be late now do we?"
  621. >you hear the sound of a spell dissipating behind you
  622. >with a smile on your face you and your shadow Blackout walk onto the balcony and find a place to stand with the others
  623. >they all recognize you, and give you no hassle when you stand behind manos and Cadence
  624. >you do wonder why she has a proud smirk on her face standing next to manos
  625. >and why the two mares in the Gestapo have a small glare
  626.  
  627. >you are manos
  628. >you raise your hand and silence your troops
  629. >soon the surrounding area is deathly quiet as they wait for you to speak
  630. >you give a short nod to Honor Bound as he casts the spell to increase the sound of your voice
  631. "My ponies..."
  632.  
  633. >you are Marble Sunset
  634. >you stand in the yard with your brothers and sisters in the black hands
  635. >you feel like something much larger than yourself with all the other gathered around you.
  636. >each of you stand taller and straighter then you thought you could
  637. >and a feeling of pride envelops you
  638. >the voice of manos rings out over the yard and any pony that wasnt listening now has all their attention captured
  639. >"My ponies, as many if not all of you know. we are at war"
  640. >somehow even when addressing the thousands here it feels like he is talking directly to you
  641. >"a war that will end either with the unification of the equestrian people, or the destruction of our livelihoods"
  642.  
  643. >you are Field Day
  644. >you and your Operators stand at the base of the castle watching each of the ponies as best you can
  645. >while each of you are listening to what manos is saying you are also ordered to provide security
  646. >seeing all the black hands here, it seems both crazy and necessary to have protection for Manos
  647. >crazy because of all his solders here. and necessary because of the sheer number.
  648. >you never know what could happen
  649. >the click of your comms open up
  650. "remember ladies, keep your eyes peeled for anything"
  651. >"a-firm Op 1 everything clear on the west side."
  652. >>"east seems to be clear, we will keep you updated."
  653. "understood. remember our priority is the safety of manos anypony else is secondary."
  654. >Roselights voice enters the comms
  655. >"upon my life i swear nothing shall get by me, dead or alive. unless he wills it."
  656. >its moments like this you are glad she is on your side.
  657. >you know she doesnt issue threats without the intent of going through with it.
  658. >honestly she scares you.
  659.  
  660. >you are manos
  661. >you continue to speak.
  662. "and with the loss of our beloved movements capital, i would be lying to you if i wasnt worried."
  663. >although technically it COULD have remained, but thats just details
  664. >you point to the doors behind you waving your finger
  665. "but my worries were squashed!"
  666. >then you do the same to where you stand to add emphasis your point
  667. "once i stepped out here and saw you all standing strong!"
  668. >you jab your finger out to the crowds
  669. "YOU ARE THE SYMBOL OF OUR PEOPLE! OF OUR REICH!"
  670. >your hand raises over your head becoming a fist that smashes down onto your other hand
  671. "you stand strong! you stand tall! and each of you has a burning desire to see victory! you dont fear defeat. because you dont even acknowledge it as a possibility! if we lose a battle you fight harder and we win two more! we lose a city and you will take it back!"
  672. >you take a breath
  673. "you see dying in a battle as an honor. and you see the victory of the Reich as the only greater honor."
  674. >you motion outside the walls of the Reich
  675. "Before us lies Equestria! and she is calling to us. she is crying out for peace and an end to this fight, but she knows the only way it can end is with our victory! with the banners of the Reich over every castle, over every fortress, over every office, and on. top. of. every. mountain!"
  676. >you extend your arm to the ponies up here with you
  677. "we are a force of nature that cannot be denied! we will unite our ponies under our bright banners and we shall show the WORLD our might! the princesses in canterlot right now amass an army to break us, but we are not so easily broken. we will strike back faster and hit harder than anything they have ever seen. and when they fall to our forces. as we speak our scientists are creating new weapons, new armor, and greater machines from the mind of our head researcher Honor Bound. already we have advanced equestrian science by thousands of years in this small nations short life."
  678. >the Operators below all cry out with their enhanced voices
  679. >"we are his faithful hands!"
  680. "before us is not just the fate of equestria... but the fate of the world."
  681. >"he is the hand of fate!"
  682. >>"we are his faithful hands!"
  683. "this city, our Reich, is the hidden jewel of the world. unknown to outsiders that the greatest military, the most advanced technology, and most determined ponies are all gathered."
  684. >you straighten yourself
  685. "and its time the world learns it. report to your respective commanders, they will have your new orders waiting. The rise of the Reich has come. the rise of Equestira has begun!"
  686.  
  687. >you are Celestia
  688. >you sit upon your throne for day court.
  689. >and as usual nobles continue to argue and bicker over trivial matters
  690. >you run almost entirely on auto-pilot
  691. "i am sorry for the issue, and im glad we could get it resolved quickly."
  692. >"thank you princess"
  693. >you didnt even know what the issue was.
  694. >before the next group could enter royal guards quickly enter the room
  695. >"princess! news from ponyville"
  696. >behind the guard is a small group of battered and injured ponies.
  697. >you quickly get off of your throne and meet them
  698. "my little ponies. what has happened?"
  699. >once you get close enough to the three you barely recognize the mare in front.
  700. "c-captain valor?"
  701. >the weak pony sits down and gives a salute
  702. >"yes my princess..."
  703. >you turn to your other guards
  704. "get a doctor here quickly. she looks like shes been through tartartus!"
  705. >>"already on their way, but Captain valor insisted she see you before seeking aid"
  706. >"my princess.. ponyville, its gone."
  707. >gone?
  708. "what do you mean gone captain?"
  709. >silver takes a moment to breathe before continuing
  710. >"Manos.. once he took the city.. he leveled it to the ground. its nothing but a ruin now."
  711. >she turns back to the two other 'survivors' with her
  712. >"we are all that made it out, at least, to our knowledge"
  713. >you take on a much more serious tone.
  714. "Captain.. you are sure it was manos who destroyed ponyville?"
  715. >the captain is silent for a moment before reaching into her pouch removing a small card.
  716. >"yes princess, i know all to well."
  717. >she drops the card revealing a manos' mark on it.
  718. >"i used to be one of his agents... and i know there are a number still here. even in the guard"
  719. >you continue to look at the card. this with her confession more than enough evidence to support her claims.
  720. >"Princess.. in all likelihood. i will not survive the next few months even if i fully recover."
  721. >you know what must be done.
  722. >the actions of your sisters removal of her guard makes much more sense
  723. "find luna. i must speak with her"
  724.  
  725. >you are Manos
  726. >you gather your thoughts atop your balcony overlooking the yard.
  727. >your forces are still gathered in case you continue to speak.
  728. >one of your Operators looks up to you then back to the troops.
  729. >they stomp their hoof once.
  730. >then another joins in for the second stomp.
  731. >then all the operators stomp together
  732. >the soldiers quickly catch on more and more stomping their hooves in one fluid motion
  733. >each canting "heil" as they stomp down creating a very powerful display.
  734. >"heil" "heil" "heil"
  735. >you are lord manos, and its time for you to decide the fate of equestria.
  736. "heil the Reich!"
  737. >"HEIL MANOS"
  738. >you turn away from the troops and salute the banners above you before walking inside
  739. >Honor dispels his magic as you start to walk away
  740. "everyone, meet me in the war room. you will receive your new orders"
  741. >as you walk inside you take notice of Blackout and Lyra giving them a nod as you pass by
  742. "and id like to speak to you too Lyra."
  743.  
  744. >you are Celestia
  745. >you instructed that Captain Valor be treated immediately by your personal doctor.
  746. >you also made it clear that if anything happens to her that the guards will be considered enemies of equestria and treated as such
  747. >as much as you despise total war there are little options remaining.
  748. >but you still give orders for a message to be sent to manos for a diplomatic meeting.
  749. >thats one order you are positive will be carried out.
  750. >"Sister, you have sent for me?"
  751. >looking up from your throne your sister Luna stands before you.
  752. "yes Luna, i must speak with you about something dire."
  753. >"as do i sister. im glad we can get right to it."
  754. >you turn to your 'guards'
  755. "day court will be closed for the rest of the day. inform anyone asking as to why that its a issue of state"
  756. >the guard bows his head and leaves to lock the doors.
  757. "Luna, we should go someplace private to discuss this."
  758. >Luna nods firmly
  759. >"i couldnt agree more sister."
  760. >the two of you ready your magic and teleport to one of the many secret areas of the castle buried deep in the mountain
  761. >inside is an old armory of ancient weaponry and designs
  762. >all of which are completely outdated but add a feeling of deja vu and seriousness to the room
  763. "Sister speak your matters quickly we havnt much time."
  764. >all of your previous thoughts have been pushed aside, and you can only focus on this moment in time
  765. >"Indeed sister, Ive been aware of many things for a long time, but was unable to speak of them for fear of discovery or ill action."
  766. >she must already know about the ponies in the guard. otherwise she would have talked to you sooner.
  767. >"Manos has eyes and ears everywhere, i am most afraid that we have let him dig his claws too deep.. I- Im afraid we trusted him too much for too long"
  768. >you feel the same way, but there isnt much you can do about it now.
  769. "then it is all the more necessary to act quickly. i share the fear that ive been too emotional and forgiving of his actions, but after learning of recent events, i have much more clarity."
  770. >for a moment you think of that jacket in your room.
  771. >you think of how manos offered it to you to keep you warm when you both stood in the Ardennes
  772. >looking back on every interaction you have had with him, its still hard to tell which were genuine and which were ploys
  773. >you feel a tightening in your chest as your blood temperature rise like a fire.
  774. >you remember how he told you he Killed your Captain, and Brother to your personal student
  775. >YOU JUST FORGAVE HIM
  776. >and what worse you helped him hide it! just so he could move one of his pieces into play
  777. >"sister you must relax"
  778. >you stomp your hoof on the ground
  779. "i was foalish luna! i trusted him from the start a few simple words was all it took to sway me"
  780. >Luna takes a step back letting you release your anger
  781. >you rarely get angry, but luna knows to let you have your moment
  782. >you imagine manos standing above canterlot his back to you as your flags and walls fall to the earth
  783. >the city below aflame and in ruin, cries for help from your little ponies coming from below
  784. >the statues to you and your sister defaced with 'false goddess' written on them
  785. >you watch as he turns around to face you as his own banners cover your castle
  786. >he speaks but no voice is heard, but reading his lips you understand what he said.
  787. >I couldnt have done this without you.
  788.  
  789. >you are Luna
  790. >and seeing your sister this angry is something you wouldnt have expected of her.
  791. >you are a few feet away from her watching as her eyes and mane burn like the sun
  792. >she stomps her hooves once more cracking the floor from their impact before taking deep breaths
  793. >her mane and eyes return to normal as she starts to relax.
  794. "Sister, do you feel any better now?"
  795. >Celestia doesnt speak but gives a short nod.
  796. >you walk to her side to calm her down
  797. "there is still time to stop Manos. even with his machines we have the ponies with us. we have the numbers, the resources, and countless other advantages over him."
  798. >"yes.. yes, you are right sister. please forgive my outburst."
  799. >you give Celly a warm smile
  800. "you forgave me for mine right?"
  801. >even though she DID send you to the moon for it.. for a thousand years.
  802. >"thank you Luna. it seems you already know of what i wished to speak with you about.. is there anything else?"
  803. "unfortunately yes, i know what manos' true goal is."
  804. >"to rule equestria?"
  805. "yes, but i was referring to the way he will go about it."
  806. >"how then?"
  807. >you tap your chest piece on the moon.
  808. >Celestia looks at you for a moment in slight confusion before she herself looks to her own.
  809. >slowly she realizes what you are showing her.
  810. >"the elements of chaos.."
  811. "and i know he has at least one already.. wait no, he was in league with sombra, and he is in control of the Crys- the Reich"
  812. >"meaning he is in control of three, leaving one still out there to be found"
  813.  
  814. >you are the head Black Hand training officer
  815. >your name is Dapper Dress
  816. >after Manos' speech all units were told to report to their commanders.
  817. >meaning every single Black Hands recruit is waiting for you to speak with them
  818. >the officers below you all assemble in a line inspecting the recruits and their uniforms
  819. >"collar is too short" "sleeves are unrolled" "well well, looks like someone forgot to bring their scabbard!"
  820. >you look over some of your orders for new training exercises
  821. >one coming straight from command, from Commander Bound.
  822. >advanced weapons training.
  823. "so looks like we have made enough racket to get our own gear. bout time."
  824. >looking over to a group of three crates you inspect the coding and labels
  825. >each crate contains fully operable and tested weapons.
  826. >using your magic you rip open one of the crates lids and look inside
  827. >you feel your eyes light up when you see that you were outfitted with
  828. "Machine guns"
  829. >the same ones you've seen on the tanks, and the same ones you see with the Operators.
  830. "this day cannot be getting any better"
  831. >"Sir! recruits have been inspected and corrected, awaiting orders!"
  832. "its time for advanced weapons training"
  833.  
  834. >moments later all the machine guns have been unpacked and distributed
  835. >the instructions you were given explains that the best way to operate them are in teams of three or four
  836. >as such you have four recruits for each gun with a few groups of three
  837. >as head trainer you have been previously exposed to these weapons before in the event you would need to train recruits
  838. >you never expected to actually get to though
  839. >the training you were given slowly returns to you and you get a basic idea of what to do.
  840. "alright colts and fillies listen up. whats standing before you are possibly the most dangerous weapons in the Reich"
  841. >you see several recruits glace down at the weapons before looking back to you
  842. "these beautiful creations were made by none other than Manos himself so I EXPECT THEY WILL BE TREATED AS SUCH"
  843. >you snap your head over to a recruit who was about to touch it
  844. >he notices you attention and retracts his hoof
  845. >you tighten your gaze on him for a moment before going back to the others
  846. "before i go on, some of you may be wondering. 'hey why isnt there enough for us all to have one?' WELL ILL TELL YOU!"
  847. >your other instructors walk over the the gun you have at the front of the yard set up just to demonstrate what to do
  848. >as they start to set up the weapon you carry on.
  849. "these machines while deadly when used by a single pony, are far more effective when used as a team"
  850. >one of the trainers opens up a box while another readies the gun to fire, and opening the top latch
  851. >the third pony demonstrates removing the barrel and exchanging another
  852. "there is a primary gunner, a dedicated loader, and one or two back up crewman whos job it will be to take over if either of those ponies in incapable to continue"
  853. >you hear the weapons latch click behind you a sign that they have loaded it and its ready
  854. "those in the crew who are back up are not just there to look pretty. they need to be ready with ammo, extra barrels, and keeping each other alive. its a TEAM effort."
  855. >you notice a recruit has their hoof held up in the back
  856. "speak"
  857. >"sir, what if we are outnumbered? how can a team of four so so with only 3 fighters do any good?"
  858. "Im glad you asked!"
  859. >you look over your shoulder to the team set up behind you
  860. "all eyes down range!"
  861. >down the range there is a group of twenty or so targets to demonstrate
  862. "i hope this will answer your question recruit."
  863. >you give a nod to the trainers
  864. >>"weapon ready, loaded, clear the range, live fire."
  865. "fire"
  866. >the sound of the machine bursting into action rings out over the grounds
  867. >each burst only about a second or two long
  868. >most of the recruits jump in surprise, while others are just in awe of the destruction its causing to the targets
  869. >the bursts stop and the weapon is cleared
  870. "any more questions?"
  871.  
  872. >you are Manos
  873. >you lead your entourage of friends and commanders to your war room
  874. >immediately as you enter the ponies stationed there get out of their seats and give a salute
  875. >"heil"
  876. >you give a short one back and quickly look over your maps
  877. "Aryanne, Rainbow, what is the current state of your troops?"
  878. >the two mares had just entered the room and the door hasnt even been shut yet
  879. >and here you are already asking questions
  880. >they must be concerned by you urgency. since they are taken aback by your rush
  881. >"Sir! my forces are all well rested, our ranks are being filled and we should be ready for anything you need"
  882. >as you expected Rainbow spoke fir-- wait what?
  883. >you have to look up from the maps just to confirm that it was indeed her.
  884. >she stands resolute and you glance over to Aryanne who is also surprised by it
  885. "and you aryanne?"
  886. >she gets control of herself quickly
  887. >>"we are always ready sir, and if i may ask, what is the sudden urgency?"
  888. >you bow you head for a moment and take a breath
  889. >honestly there isnt a way to inform them without telling them your goal.
  890. >perhaps you can show them...
  891. >although you have never done this before.
  892. "everyone. look in my eyes"
  893. >everyone is again confused but does so.
  894. >you have never tried to do this on multiple individuals before.
  895. >you focus on each of their eyes one after the other
  896. >you feel... strained. but not tired. like a part of you is pulling with all its might but the rest remains relaxed
  897. >eventually it works, and all of you are surrounded by darkness.
  898. >the ponies in here with you huddle together.
  899. >none of them have been on this plane before. perhaps maybe Cadence.
  900. >but even she seems to not know whats happening
  901. >your voice echos from the surroundings
  902. "relax~"
  903. >you change the perceived world around you slowly twisting it and reshaping it to something familiar.
  904. >the exact same room you were just in.
  905. >you make sure to do a quick headcount
  906. >Lyra, Rainbow, Aryanne, Honor Bound, Cadence, the sisters Shine, and.. Blackout?
  907. >you noticed her before but it didnt really connect until now that she was here.
  908. >there is a sharp pain in your mind.
  909. >the strain to keep everyone here is getting to you. so you must be quick
  910. "i know you must all be concerned about where you are."
  911. >you manifest yourself standing in front of them all.
  912. "ill explain that all later. but for now im going to show you all something that will not be shared unless its absolutely nessisary"
  913. >before you on the table lay three of the elements of chaos.
  914. "what you are looking at you may or may not have seen before. these, are the elements."
  915. >by now everyone has gathered around the table and looks to the gems and crystals.
  916. >Rainbow speaks up.
  917. >"I thought my friends and I had the elements. you know, Loyalty, Kindness, and so on."
  918. >you give a nod
  919. "well that is true, you and your friends are bearers of the elements of harmony, these"
  920. >you point to the ones on the table
  921. "are not those."
  922. >you point to rainbow dash, who now has the element of loyalty around her neck much to her surprise
  923. "no, what lay before you are their counterparts, the elements of Chaos."
  924. >the three crystals rise up from the table and glow their respective colors
  925. "they are what i am seeking, with these elements, and the elements of Harmony working together, we can achieve and end to chaos. we can stop war, plague, starvation, and greed. the world will be in complete balance."
  926. >Lyra, who was previously marveling at the world she is now in, speaks
  927. >"what are these elements?.."
  928. >the amulet, glowing red moves to the center of the table
  929. "this one, as many of you have seen on my person. goes by many names, anger, vengeance, rage. the list goes on."
  930. >you pull it back to you placing it back into your pocket.
  931. "and it was the first i found."
  932. >the dark purple crystal then takes its place to be seen
  933. "next, as im sure you all have seen before. is one of the crystals that sombra could create. it too is a element. this one, is fear or cowardice"
  934. >the crystal shakes and smashes into the table creating a pillar of itself
  935. "its also the most common the most easily spread, and the second one i found."
  936. >this time you look to cadence.
  937. >she looks back at you, perhaps already knowing whats next.
  938. "this next one, is bound to one of you."
  939. >the crystal heart is all that remains glowing its soft teal glow
  940. "this element, is love, lust, desire."
  941. >unlike the amulet that returned to you, and the dark crystals of sombra that stayed in the center.
  942. >the crystal heart moves to cadence. glowing brighter as it reaches her.
  943. "quite fitting, that the princess of love is also a goddess of desire."
  944. >everyone looks to cadence
  945. >both of the sisters giving her a very small grin
  946. >you over hear them whisper
  947. >>"well. i suppose that only makes sense"
  948. >"she is always following manos around like a lost puppy"
  949. >Cadence gives them a glare but still blushes under her pink coat.
  950. >she quickly tries to move the conversation on
  951. >"and what of the others? we only see three. if they are elements shouldnt there be six?"
  952. >Honor Bound cuts in
  953. >"and more importantly, where are they? if our mission is to collect all of the elements we will need to find them!"
  954. "our mission has also become far more complicated. thanks to Discord himself"
  955. >you cant handle the strain of connecting with all these ponies at once.
  956. >already you are developing the worst migraine of your life
  957. >"discord? but isnt he imprisoned in-"
  958. "i dont have much time to explain everything here. connecting with all of you like this is already putting too much strain on me"
  959. >the world around you starts to break little by little.
  960. "ive told you all of this out of confidence, and outside of direct contact like this we shall not speak of it."
  961. >more of the world breaks apart
  962. "when we return no time will have passed. i made sure of it, act like nothing has happened."
  963. >just as you finish speaking you are thrown out of the immaterial world
  964. >you stand just as you did before looking over your maps, and everyone else is back in their original place
  965. "now then, if everyone is alright. i have orders for each of you."
  966.  
  967. >you are Honor Bound
  968. >and this... it brings back memories.
  969. >memories of when you were just a bodyguard for Manos and this reich was but a dream.
  970. >but even dreams need work, and Manos has given each of you your own set of orders
  971. "we select and secret few. just like before."
  972. >you made your way to your labs where your scientists have been working hard on several new inventions.
  973. >one which has been undergoing testing since manos first brought you his weapons from the other world.
  974. >opening the door in front of you and entering inside you are greeted by the sounds of gunfire.
  975. >a noise which you have become very accustomed to.
  976. >"hold fire, Commander on station!"
  977. >the gunfire slows to a halt and the ponies on the range set down their weapons
  978. >a science pony walks over to you holding his notes out to you.
  979. >gripping the notes with your magic you read them taking note of each detail.
  980. >you toss them back to the pony and head out
  981. "very good, have them put into mass production immediately, those that we do have send to officers as personal defense"
  982. >"yes sir, with pleasure."
  983. >you turn back to him as you leave
  984. "oh, and good work."
  985. >well thats one off of the list.
  986. >the other you are much, MUCH more excited about.
  987. >its your crown jewel a project you yourself have been working on
  988. >well.. technically you've been working on all of them, but this one is special
  989. >and you need a lot of open area to test it.
  990. >you pull a guard to your side
  991. "get Eagle ready for testing. ill meet you by the north gates"
  992. >"yes sir."
  993. "oh, and do your best to bring a 'dependable' crew this time"
  994. >last time you had to get replacements because of injuries
  995.  
  996. >you are Aryanne
  997. >you are standing atop the south gate overlooking the road leading to ardennes
  998. >one of the most likely routes to be traveled by an army.
  999. >the other would be a small valley further to the east between the crystal mountains
  1000. >from the natural terrain surrounding the Reich your job is already half done.
  1001. >your fellow personal guards are with you overlooking plans manos has laid out
  1002. "so Cinnamon, what do you think?"
  1003. >Cinnamon Pop continues to look over the designs
  1004. >"well commander, ive never seen something like this before, he hasnt even included walls..."
  1005. >it does seem funny that the 'defenses' manos planned dont call for many sturdy walls.
  1006. >but orders are orders, and you wont question them
  1007. "we are his faithful hands, and his shield, his protection is our top priority. gather as many Hands as you can, and get them digging."
  1008. >Comet Glow and Almond Heart give you a salute and rush off to give out orders to other hands
  1009. >Cinnamon stays with you to oversee the new defense plans.
  1010. >"what kind of name is "bunker" anyway?"
  1011.  
  1012. >you are Cadence
  1013. >first buck those sisters. then carry out your orders.
  1014. >you catch them in the halls after manos has given everyone else orders.
  1015. >Honor Bound leaves in the direction of his little labs while Aryanne and Rainbow leave for the outside of the castle
  1016. >Lyra and blackout are still inside with manos.
  1017. >you cough trying to get their attention. but they keep walking and talking with each other.
  1018. >you catch little bits of what they are talking about as you approach
  1019. >"we will likely have to remove those that.."
  1020. >>"agreed, and a full inspection of.."
  1021. "Excuse me."
  1022. >the two stop and look back to you
  1023. >"OH lust, how are you doing?"
  1024. >Sapphire giggles at Emeralds quip
  1025. >>"no, i think its desire isnt it?"
  1026. >oooh you want to knock their pretty little faces in
  1027. >but its probably not the best idea.. being Gestapo and all.
  1028. "id be careful with that information. Manos said we should only talk about it with him."
  1029. >Emerald takes an aggressive step towards you
  1030. >"are you REALLY going to tell the two ponies in charge of all information in the Reich to be careful with secrets?"
  1031. >>"at least we know she isnt called 'Smarts' or something instead"
  1032. "Remember whos mark you wear Shines. and remember my rank"
  1033. >they both roll their eyes at you
  1034. >>"the only ranks we care about are those inside our own branch. and of course Lyra and Manos."
  1035. >"we are split from YOUR chain of command whorse, now if you excuse us, we have orders to carry out."
  1036. >>"as do you, wouldnt want ponies to think you might betray manos now would you?"
  1037. >"then we would have to question you to find out for sure."
  1038. >the mares flick their tails at you as they leave
  1039. >you really hate those two.
  1040. >but they are right. you have orders.
  1041. "those damn bugs better have got their flanks in gear and made enough armor."
  1042. >you are in no mood for changeling incompetence
  1043. >if they haven't made enough there will be a shortage of workers in your camps.
  1044. >a VAST shortage.
  1045.  
  1046. >you are Rainbow Dash
  1047. >and you need to address your troops. the many.. many.. troops under your command.
  1048. "ok, no pressure. sure, theres probably hundreds of pegasi watching me, and listening to my every word. but least im not being judged right?"
  1049. >right?
  1050. >you take a few breaths before walking into the pegasi yard.
  1051. >as soon as you do a gruff pegasi stallion gives you a salute before turning to the pegasi in the yard
  1052. >"Commander Rainbow on site!"
  1053. >the officers around you give you salutes and the pegasi in the yard snap to attention
  1054. >and all eyes are on you.
  1055. >so, so, many eyes.
  1056. "uhh.. I.."
  1057. >you gulp and think to yourself
  1058. >'come on rainbow, you can do this, Manos believes in you, and he trusted you enough to tell you about the elements'
  1059. >its just like before when you went to Castle manos, you led those ponies well enough right? just. now its more.
  1060. >you find your resolve and look back to the officers.
  1061. "Manos has ordered me to keep constant air patrols, we dont want the royals to get the drop on us, or any griffons that may still be in Equestria"
  1062. >"yes commander"
  1063. "i also want to speak with my officers in private, we have a few new tactics we need to discuss"
  1064. >you turn and start your walk to the command building
  1065. >that wasnt so hard. was it?
  1066.  
  1067. >you are Manos
  1068. >in the war room you are left alone with Lyra and Blackout.
  1069. >and of course the ponies on staff here.
  1070. >while they are not military.. both ponies voices carry weight throughout the troops.
  1071. "come with me, you two are privileged to another secret."
  1072. >Lyra smiles widely and follows you out the door
  1073. >its nice to see she hasn't changed too much.
  1074. >Blackout just remains silent as she follows behind you.
  1075. >you lead them down the halls to a closely guarded room.
  1076. "Blackout"
  1077. >"yes manos?"
  1078. "you have given far more than i can ask of you. and done things that would break other ponies and most.. and most humans."
  1079. >you place your hand on the doorknob and signal the guards at the door to be dismissed
  1080. "you dont have to carry on past this point if you wish, i will hold nothing against you. but if you do continue, ill have another mission for you. another top secret one"
  1081. >your words leave your lips with a hint of hope in them
  1082. >you have two sides pulling you separate directions
  1083. >one side wants her to say 'no i wont go on'
  1084. >the other hopes she continues.
  1085. >you look at her face, the face of Little League and she looks back.
  1086. >perhaps she knows you want her to say no.
  1087. >"what are your orders?"
  1088. >but she doesnt.
  1089. >you give her a soft and very genuine smile.
  1090. "always wanting to be the best.."
  1091. >you open the door and walk inside
  1092. "Queeine. i need to speak with you."
  1093. >the sound of the queens wings giving a slight buzz catches both Lyra and Blackouts attention
  1094. >and from the darkness of the room the queen appears with a little smile on her face
  1095.  
  1096. >you are a Queen
  1097. >and Manos is here to see you about something
  1098. >"queenie i need to speak with you"
  1099. >your wings buzz out of excitement
  1100. >perhaps you'll get to see more of the Reich
  1101. >maybe you will get to start a hive somewhere
  1102. >or..
  1103. >>"A changeling queen? manos are you sure about this?"
  1104. >you look to the pony that poke up.
  1105. >is that a pony? it looks like one. sort of.
  1106. "Manos? whats that thing?"
  1107. >you point to the figure resembling a pony next to a pony mare
  1108. >the armored thing walks inside confronting you
  1109. >>"THIS THING, was a pony, now im a soldier."
  1110. >you look at the black armor on it
  1111. >then you look at your legs, its the same.
  1112. >you chirp a bit at the pony changeling thing and buzz your wings.
  1113. "but, ponies dont have chitin like that. are you sure you're not--"
  1114. >>"Im not one of you"
  1115. >Manos walks in and gently moves you back away from the pony
  1116. >"blackout, im sure you guessed where this queen is from by now."
  1117. >>"one of Coppers old pets?"
  1118. >Lyra walks up to blackout and talks to her softly
  1119. >you cant hear what they are saying
  1120. >"close enough, but not anymore. she belongs to me, and i promise, she isnt going to be harming any innocents"
  1121.  
  1122. >you are Blackout
  1123. >and honestly this was completely unexpected.
  1124. >Copper keeping pets, sure.. but he was crazy.
  1125. >you look over to the creature.
  1126. >she looks back with a childlike curiosity, like a filly..
  1127. >you're still supposed to be a filly.
  1128. >but youre not, and neither is that bug.
  1129. "Manos, what is my next mission?"
  1130. >and when can i get away from this changeling.
  1131.  
  1132. >you are manos
  1133. >and Blackout doesnt like reminders of Copper, but you gave her the choice before entering.
  1134. >and unfortunately, shes stuck with it now.
  1135. "Lyra, i know that you also have had an unfortunate experience with changlings, in fact, i wouldnt be surprised if you disliked them as much as Blackout."
  1136. >you pat the Queens head
  1137. "but this little one is new to the world. AND she is dedicated to me."
  1138. >you stop petting her and gently grip her mane
  1139. "she knows what will happen if she tries to hurt anyone i didnt tell her to."
  1140. >"If you trust her.. so do i."
  1141. >well i wouldnt go that far, but at least this will move things along faster.
  1142. "as i told you before im looking for several important items. items that we simply dont have the manpower to send expeditions for. but this little queen.. she does."
  1143. >you look over to blackout who has seemed to calm down and revert into her 'on duty' mode
  1144. "and Blackout has the training in recon and stealth combat."
  1145. >you pull out a map of Equestria, with several locations marked on it
  1146. "i want you to locate the remaining elements of chaos. by any means nessisary."
  1147. >you hand the map to blackout
  1148. >she takes it calmly without question and looks it over.
  1149. >"these locations are spread pretty far apart. not to mention one of them is Canterlot."
  1150. "i know, but this mission is the most important mission i can give. and i need someone i know i can rely on leading it."
  1151. >Blackout pauses for a moment before looking back to you
  1152. >"you want me to lead changelings?"
  1153. >Lyra and queenie both look at you.
  1154. "yes. i do. and i have complete faith that you can learn what my Gestapo cannot."
  1155. >"ill do it under one condition manos."
  1156. >a condition?
  1157. "and what would that be?"
  1158. >"Lyra stays behind."
  1159.  
  1160. >you are Lyra Heartstrings
  1161. >what?
  1162. "League, im perfectly able to go along with you. besides you might need a unicorn to-"
  1163. >she cuts you off
  1164. >"no. you wont go with me, and no i wont need a unicorn"
  1165. >manos asked this of you, who are you to ignore that just because she asked that you stay behind?
  1166. "Manos asked that we BOTH go League!"
  1167. >League quickly turns to face you with firm resolve.
  1168. >she closes her helmet up, hiding her face behind the black sheen
  1169. >"Its Blackout.. and that is my condition."
  1170. "So im just supposed to stay here and just worry about you then?"
  1171. >you stare at the her helmet as she looks to manos.
  1172. >eventually you follow her gaze to him also.
  1173. >he stands there in a calm contemplation, looking at you and blackout.
  1174. >after a moment of silence he speaks
  1175. >>"i understand your reasoning.. and I accept your condition."
  1176. >you cant help but feel... useless.
  1177. >>"Lyra will remain here with me, under the protection of my own personal guard."
  1178.  
  1179. >you are Manos
  1180. "id suggest you get moving soon, there are many places to search and time is of the essence."
  1181. >with a small nudge you push queenie forward to Blackout
  1182. >"uh.. should, should i try to blend in?"
  1183. "yes, you and any of your changelings you bring along shall remain in disguise the whole time, and you WILL do as Blackout says."
  1184. >Queenie looks to Blackout who just stares at her from behind the cover of her helmet
  1185. >then she looks back giving a nod of understanding
  1186. "good. Blackout, take anything you need. Also stop by the labs, Honors recent project in personal defense should come in handy."
  1187. >you pat your holster
  1188. "trust me"
  1189.  
  1190. >you are Aryanne
  1191. >you have a company of hands outside the walls along with a few hundred or so volunteers and Brownshirts
  1192. >digging and putting up basic defenses
  1193. >'basic' as classified by manos.
  1194. >you'd probably call them 'strange' or 'weird' like the ones that were used in Ardennes.
  1195. "well, least they should be as effective as they were then.."
  1196. >"what was that Commander?"
  1197. >Cinnamon pop walks over to you from the wall
  1198. "nothing, just thinking out loud."
  1199. >the two of you look over the slowly developing field
  1200. >wire is being laid and strung out over long distances
  1201. >long deep and intricate ditches are being dug
  1202. >and outlines of what look to be the 'bunkers' are being built
  1203. >>"excuse me. are you commander Aryanne of Manos' personal guard?"
  1204. >you and Cinnamon turn to see a earth pony in a Brownshirts uniform carrying a crate on his back
  1205. "yes i am. why?"
  1206. >>"ah yes, well. sorry for interrupting you but i have orders from the research division to deliver these to you as soon as possible."
  1207. >he clumsily drops the crate on it side
  1208. >>"horseapples! manos save me if i broke anything."
  1209. >you nod for Cinnamon to open the crate and see whats inside.
  1210. >opening the crate he pulls out a gauntlet looking device
  1211. >he levitates it over to his hoof and attaches it.
  1212. >"looks kinda like the weapon manos carries. only.. different."
  1213. "ill get these to my ponies. leave the crates in my office."
  1214. >>"yes ma'am.. you look really good by the way.. i didnt expect--"
  1215. "NOW, if you please"
  1216. >>"yes ma'am! sir! right away"
  1217. >stallions...
  1218.  
  1219. >you are Silver Valor
  1220. >and you are in a bed.
  1221. >more specifically a hospital bed.
  1222. >you've been laying here for hours with a number of royal guards guarding your bed
  1223. "doc i thought magic was supposed to work fast."
  1224. >a doctor pony checks over a clip board with a look of disappointment
  1225. >"yes, yes, you should be fine and walking around in no time."
  1226. >you start to crawl out of bed
  1227. "alright, if thats it then id like to-"
  1228. >"hey, hey, hey. slow down there. i still need to talk to you about something."
  1229. "what?"
  1230. >the doctor takes a seat at the foot of the bed and sighs.
  1231. >"its about your eye. we tried everything we could, but unfortunately it was just too damaged"
  1232. >oh for the love of, is that all?
  1233. "alright, no left eye. anything else?"
  1234. >the doctor looks at you with a relatively shocked expression
  1235. >"n-nothing else? i dont know if you understand captain, you lost an eye!"
  1236. "and other ponies have lost more. now if you please i have work to do."
  1237. >the doctor gently pushes you back down again
  1238. >"n-n-n-no. with a reaction like that you might just be in shock. ill have to keep you here for a few more days before id feel comfortable letting you go"
  1239. "YOU CANT BE SERIOUS!"
  1240. >"I am indeed serious. and the guards here will make sure you stay in bed!"
  1241. "but-"
  1242. >"and that is all. Captain. now if you excuse me i need to take your file to be sorted."
  1243. >the pony gets up and leaves the room.
  1244. >alone
  1245. >with guards you are not sure you can trust.
  1246.  
  1247. >you are the Doctor
  1248. >the one that left Captain Valor in bed.
  1249. >you leave the room locking the door behind you
  1250. >two royal guards stand outside keeping the Captain 'safe'
  1251. >you are also a member of the Crystal Gestapo.
  1252. "make sure she stays inside, the longer we keep her in that bed the more time we have to remove evidence."
  1253. >"understood sir, do we have any new orders from the Reich?"
  1254. "yes we do."
  1255. >"and what are they?"
  1256. "nothing hard, just to learn and gather any items that can be considered, as the Shines put it 'unique'"
  1257. >"ill have some guards check the archives immediately, whatever we are supposed to find, we shall."
  1258. "of course we will, we are his eyes and ears. heil manos"
  1259. >"heil"
  1260.  
  1261. >you are Manos
  1262. >you sit now alone in your room at your desk waiting.
  1263. >in front of you is the alicorn amulet, its dim red glow illuminating the desk
  1264. "im so close, already half of the pieces are collected, and soon we shall expand our borders"
  1265. >you grip the amulet in your hands.
  1266. >holding it just seems to feel.. right.
  1267. >"lord manos. a message from the Crystal Gestapo head officers."
  1268. >when did they open the door?
  1269. >you go to tighten your grip on the amulet, but its not in your hand.
  1270. >you look back
  1271. >its still on the desk.
  1272. >you grab the amulet again and place it in your pocket before turning back to the black hand
  1273. "what is it?"
  1274. >"they said that they need to speak with you alone. and it concerned something that only you and they are aware of."
  1275. >must be about the elements.
  1276. "yes, right. ill be to their office shortly."
  1277. >"they- they also told me to ask if you preferred Salmon or Chicken.."
  1278. >what?
  1279. "uhm.. either?"
  1280. >"yes sir, i shall inform them right away"
  1281. >the pony leaves the room.
  1282. >what was that about?
  1283. >...
  1284. >oh yeah, you said you would have dinner with them
  1285.  
  1286. >you are Honor Bound
  1287. >you stand in the snow far north of the Reichs walls
  1288. >behind you are several covered containers and several dozen black hands and scientists
  1289. >the wind starts to blow and snow on the nearby mountains start to shift
  1290. "quite a draft.. isnt there?"
  1291. >"yes Sir. may i ask what we are hauling?"
  1292. >you chuckle
  1293. "no. no you may not"
  1294. >you signal your scientists and other crew to unload what they brought
  1295. "first we shall see how sharp the talons are.. then we shall try the wings. hahah"
  1296. >"sir?"
  1297. "Captain, what you are about to witness us testing could very well be the greatest machine i have ever created."
  1298. >"and what should i call this.. thing?"
  1299. >the wind blows swiftly blowing your officers cap off of your head and letting your mane blow in the wind
  1300. "Project Eagle, Captain, Project Eagle."
  1301. >>"Commander Bound, the talons are unloaded, are you ready to set up a test?"
  1302. >you are excited, its been a long process putting all these little pieces together.
  1303. >you had to learn how to produce firearms
  1304. >you had to create them from resources available
  1305. >you had to learn how to make tanks
  1306. >you had to improvise fuel
  1307. >and now you created a new weapon for the finishing touch.
  1308. "yes, i do believe i am ready. have those crystals charged, and be careful dont make direct contact with them!"
  1309. >its really a shame what happened to the last crew.
  1310. >they still have nightmares.
  1311.  
  1312. >you are Luna
  1313. >your sister now knows what Manos is looking for.
  1314. >along with how deep into the guard he has become.. or at least an idea.
  1315. >you picked up on this early on. sending your Lunar guards on 'vacation'
  1316. "send word to all members of the Lunar guard. they are to return to active duty immediately, and they are to replace the Royal guard."
  1317. >your messenger rushes off to inform the others of your orders
  1318. "when my guards arrive, we shall find anypony working for manos in your ranks."
  1319. >wait.. who are you talking to?
  1320.  
  1321. >you are Manos.
  1322. "i expect my report is ready?"
  1323. >you sit in the private offices of the Heads of your Gestapo.
  1324. >each of them sitting on either side of you at a large table.
  1325. >"yes, its right here. you may look it over as we eat."
  1326. >Emerald passes you a folder from her side of the table
  1327. >>"please. enjoy, we do owe you this after all."
  1328. >you grab the folder and open it
  1329. >inside are lines and lines of names and positions of each pony in Canterlot that are part of your Gestapo
  1330. >its pretty impressive honestly...
  1331. "how did you wrap so many ponies into the gestapo?"
  1332. >Sapphire leans over to you and almost whispers to you
  1333. >>"we have our ways"
  1334. >then Emerald joins in
  1335. >"yes we are very good at what we do"
  1336. >even looking at the file and nothing else you can see each of the sisters leaning in
  1337. "yes, and what have you learned about the Elements and thier locations?"
  1338. >the sisters seem to deflate a little
  1339. >"oh yes.. that.."
  1340. >>"we are working on it. turns out there are limited to no records on them besides old legends.."
  1341. >"and absolutely NO descriptions of them"
  1342. "i have faith the two of you will find something on them.
  1343. >and if not, you always have you own team working on this.
  1344. >and these two sisters dont know it.
  1345.  
  1346. >you set down the folder and pick up a fork
  1347. >since you never said that you would prefer chicken or salmon you have both on your plate.
  1348. >you take a small bite of the fresh salmon
  1349. >as it enters your mouth you notices Emeralds eyes light up and a smile form on her face.
  1350. >she hasnt taken a bite of her food yet.
  1351. >"well... how is it?"
  1352. "its quite good. little salty. but still good."
  1353. >you continue to eat the fish and take a sip of your drink.
  1354. >of your... wine?..
  1355. >whatever.
  1356.  
  1357. >you are Emerald Shine
  1358. >DAMN IT i knew i added too much salt!
  1359. >you can see your sister sitting on the other side of manos with a 'i told you so' look on her face
  1360. >whatever, he still said he likes it.
  1361. >she couldn't have done any better.
  1362.  
  1363. >you are Manos
  1364. >you wipe your lips with your napkin and open the file again.
  1365. "any word on if the Princesses have started to clean the ranks?"
  1366. >>"none yet, although we dont know how long it will be."
  1367. >"it could be any day, we are stalling it as best as we can though."
  1368. "ah, you two are Stalin?"
  1369. >ow, that joke hurt. but the sisters clearly missed the joke.
  1370. >>"yes..? for now anyway. Once Silver gets out of the hospital though she will be in charge of clearing out our informants."
  1371. >"most of which she knows of, we could just remove her now-"
  1372. "no. Silver deserves better than that. she may have back stabbed me this time. but shes done plenty of favors for me to get another chance"
  1373. >"are you sure? both Sapphire and I would strongly suggest--"
  1374. "no."
  1375. >...
  1376. >the silence hangs in the air for a moment before Sapphire speaks up
  1377. >>"try the chicken."
  1378. >you look over to her and she immediately covers her mouth and blushes
  1379. >>"I-If you want."
  1380. >you look at the chicken
  1381. >then back to her.
  1382. "alright."
  1383. >you cut yourself a piece off and bite it
  1384. "wow.. thats really good. i didnt know ponies knew how to make chicken"
  1385. >Emerald buts in with a annoyed tone
  1386. >"yeah.. neither did I."
  1387.  
  1388. >you are Sapphire shine
  1389. >you knew you could do better than Emerald.
  1390. >and you'll be sure she doesnt forget it anytime soon
  1391. >oh wait shes looking at you.
  1392. >and so is Manos
  1393. "y-yeah. i made it myself."
  1394. >nailed it.
  1395.  
  1396. >you are Manos
  1397. >so they made dinner for you.
  1398. >when they said they would have dinner with you to pay you back you didnt think they would cook it
  1399. >ah well. could have been worse.
  1400. >not like this is a date or anything.
  1401. "i expect with all those ponies having to be pulled out of canterlot you will have plenty of extra manpower."
  1402. >or is it horsepower?.. stallion power?
  1403. >why are you thinking so strangely?
  1404. >you take another sip of wine
  1405. >its good wine.
  1406. >>"yes. we would. but why would we pull them out now, when we can stall and get more information before we have to leave?"
  1407. "because i have another objective for you."
  1408. >"and what would that be?"
  1409. "well since we are looking for the elements of chaos.. rare and legendary items lost to history and time, and we have almost no knowledge of where or what they are."
  1410. >"we should be looking for anything that is still undiscovered?"
  1411. >you look over to Emerald
  1412. "correct. perhaps have a reward put out for rare items.."
  1413. >you take a drink of wine drinking the last drops
  1414. "many hands do make light work, do you have anymore wine?"
  1415. >the two sisters smile and speak in sync
  1416. >"of course."
  1417.  
  1418. >you are Cadence
  1419. >and unfortunately you have to deal with the Shine sisters again..
  1420. >you were told to deliver to them a list of all the ponies under your command so they might 'inspect' them
  1421. >those whorses probably give very thorough inspections to the stallions..
  1422. >you smile
  1423. >at least you dont need to impress anyone.
  1424. >you have manos. who else would you need?
  1425.  
  1426. >you are Honor Bound
  1427. >your test fire is ready.
  1428. >taking the idea of those 'shotguns' that manos had brought you have been working on a weapon
  1429. >it works similarly to the shotguns but on a larger scale.
  1430. >the barrel is longer and thicker, with a latch on the back that allows you to load ammunition
  1431. >ammunition you have been working very hard to create.
  1432. "load the first shot. and be careful again!"
  1433. >"yes sir!"
  1434. >the large machine has been secured firmly so it wont fall over.
  1435. >hauling it was difficult, but now that it is set-up and ready to fire. its all worth it.
  1436. >"Sir! the talons are ready"
  1437. "set for target 'alpaca' remember to adjust for the wind."
  1438. >you watch as your crew of ponies rotate the mighty gun and aim it with a series of wheels and metal sights
  1439. >"target in sight"
  1440. "fire when ready."
  1441. >"in three.. two... one.. shell is away!"
  1442. >*THOOM*
  1443. >you watch as the large purple projectile launches through the air.
  1444. >it continues on until it hits the side of the mountain in the distance
  1445. >a large purple explosion erupts
  1446. "binoculars! quickly!"
  1447. >a pony rushes over to you holding a pair out for you.
  1448. >you quickly take them with your magic and look at the impact site
  1449. >you grin wide
  1450. >there where the impact was is a crater, and inside the crater is more of those purple crystals.
  1451. "success."
  1452. >you drop the binoculars on the ground. no longer needing them
  1453. "crew. load the regular ammunition!"
  1454. >"did the other work sir?"
  1455. >you ignore the questioning pony as another large round is loaded into the weapon.
  1456. >this one not made of the dark crystal like before. but rather a more violent one.
  1457. "fire on same target. do your best to remove the small pillar thats now there."
  1458. >"yes commander."
  1459. "fire at will"
  1460. >today is a great day to be a man of science
  1461.  
  1462. >you are Cadence
  1463. >as you approach the Gestapo office you hear the sound of laughter coming from inside.
  1464. >not something you'd normally expect from there.
  1465. >"and.. and then i just fell over! right into a bush!"
  1466. >thats manos' voice, whats he doing here?
  1467. >it doesnt really sound like business...
  1468. >the laughter continues for a moment as you stand outside the door listening
  1469. >"and they all thought i disappeared. ah.. yeah.. then i just walked back to Lyras house like no big deal"
  1470. >the sound of Emeralds voice then becomes clear
  1471. >>"that cant be how it happened, no you're totally not being serious."
  1472. >"it is! i swear. honest truth"
  1473. >why hasnt manos told you stories like that?..
  1474. >you feel your face getting red.
  1475. >well fine. you still have a job to do.
  1476. >you raise your hoof and knock on the door and immediately walk in
  1477. "hello Shines, i have that list of-"
  1478. >you leave your words half finished.
  1479. >there is a table set, wine glasses, and the Shines are laying FAR to close to manos for your liking.
  1480. >Sapphire being right on his lap.
  1481. >...
  1482.  
  1483. >you are Manos
  1484. "Hey Cadence, care to join us? i was just telling them about-"
  1485. >Cadence drops the folder on the desk on the other end of the room with her magic
  1486. >"oh no, i wouldnt want to intrude on your date."
  1487. >you can feel the sarcasm.
  1488. >wait.. did she say date?
  1489. "oh ha, this, this isnt a date. i agreed to have dinner with them a while back and just got around to it"
  1490. >Cadence just looks at you, then the sisters.
  1491. >they just smile back at her.
  1492. >"Alright. ill join you then, im sure since it isnt a date Emerald and Sapphire wont mind."
  1493. >>"fine. you can join us.. theres a spot for you just over there~"
  1494. >Emerald points her hoof to the far side of the table.
  1495. >Cadence just smiles and walks up to you and 'gently' moves the two aside and sits close to you
  1496. >"nope, i think here is just fine"
  1497. >by now the dots are starting to connect...
  1498. >oh.. this was a date...
  1499. "im going to need more wine"
  1500. >you pour yourself another glass
  1501. >you're probably going to need it now.
  1502.  
  1503. >you are Cadence
  1504. >you take a glass of wine for yourself and take a large drink
  1505. >so the sisters want to move in on manos, well two can play that game.
  1506. >and you already have a big head start
  1507. "so Manos"
  1508. >you lay your head on his shoulder and eye Sapphire
  1509. "have any other stories?"
  1510. >"well yes.. i have a few"
  1511. >Sapphire takes a sip of wine herself.
  1512. >>"he doesnt have to tell anymore if he doesnt want to you know"
  1513. "im sure he wouldnt mind telling another story"
  1514. >you give manos a small kiss on the cheek
  1515. "for me please?"
  1516. >you give him your best puppy dog eyes
  1517. >>>"There was this one time"
  1518. >Emerald cuts him off
  1519. >"Im sure Manos doesnt have time to sit around all day telling stories to everypony"
  1520. >>"im sure he must be really stressed from all the responsibility of leadership Emerald"
  1521. >"we could help him release some of that stress"
  1522. >>"WITHOUT you here, that is"
  1523.  
  1524. >you are Manos
  1525. >is it getting hot in here?
  1526. >i think its getting hot
  1527. "yes, leadership. speaking of, i think i need to meet with... HONOR! yes honor about something"
  1528. >you start to get up but Cadence just sits on your lap pushing Sapphire aside
  1529. >"Honor is too busy to talk, im sure. but im here for you"
  1530. >Cadence looks to the two sisters both of which look less than thrilled at her actions.
  1531. >"dont you two have a file to read?"
  1532. >Emerald quickly smiles and whispers to her sister
  1533. >the two mares smile at each other then Cadence
  1534. >>"oh yes, thats right"
  1535. >>>"let us go get it then"
  1536. >both sisters turn around to retrieve the file on the desk.
  1537. >the one on the other side of the room
  1538.  
  1539. >you are Cadence
  1540. >you smile triumphantly as the Shines start to walk away.
  1541. >quickly your smile fades when you see that as they walk they are swaying their hips
  1542. >damn them!
  1543. >"this file here?"
  1544. >Sapphire places her hoof on the folder before 'dropping it accidentally' on the floor
  1545. >"shoot"
  1546. >>"ill get it, dont worry."
  1547. >Emerald bends over to pick up the folder with her mouth
  1548. >clearly showing her flank
  1549.  
  1550. >you are manos.
  1551. >yeah its definitely too hot in here
  1552. "i really should be going. there is a lot of work to do and ive used too much time"
  1553. >Cadence does her best to sit you down leaning herself against you
  1554. >but you are too determined this time.
  1555. >you could have pushed her off but instead you pick her up
  1556. >"oh manos~ so forward."
  1557. >you roll your eyes and set her down on the seat, much to her dismay.
  1558. >you start to walk over to the door, which happens to be right by the Shines
  1559. >>"we knew you would see it our way."
  1560. >>>"like we said, we are VERY good at what we do"
  1561. >you ignore them and walk out the door gently shutting it behind you
  1562. >as the door clicks shut you release your held breath
  1563. "god that was a close one.."
  1564. >as you start to walk away from the door to..
  1565. >anywhere
  1566. >you can hear muffled voices
  1567. >"i cant believe you did that!"
  1568. >"me!? you let him walk away!"
  1569. >"oh like you had nothing to do with it"
  1570. "im glad i could get out of there.. im sure it would have turned ugly fast."
  1571. >looking out of the window you can see some Black Hands training in the yard.
  1572. >ah something to do.
  1573.  
  1574. >You are Aryanne
  1575. >things are starting to look good.
  1576. >again the bunkers aren't built, but enough trenches have been dug to give you a very good idea of what it will look like
  1577. >linking each bunker outline are rows and rows of trenches like a spider web of earth
  1578. "you could hide a whole army just under the grass"
  1579. >"perhaps even deeper?"
  1580. "Cinnamon, how would an army be effective under the ground?"
  1581. >Cinnamon Pop shrugs
  1582. >"Dunno. just thinking out loud. since im here observing not much else to do"
  1583. "I wonder what Manos is doing."
  1584. >Again Cinnamon Shrugs
  1585.  
  1586. >you are Manos
  1587. >walking through the yard you observe each of the new recruits go through their screening process
  1588. >while they have been made recruits, they are not yet Black Hands.
  1589. >you watch as large groups of ponies running in position with a official Black Hand watching
  1590. >the blows a whistle and all of the ponies drop down and give a number of push-ups until he blows the whistle again
  1591. >some of them are sweating hard while others seem to be doing just fine
  1592. >"you are trying to be Black Hands right? *whistle blow* if you can even get through basic stuff like this, then you probably arnt even fit to be a Brownshirt!"
  1593. >you continue on, making your way over to the wall on the far side of the yard.
  1594. >you see another group of ponies practicing basic swordplay
  1595. >that training will be considered less important soon.
  1596. >the sound of gunfire then echos further down the yard
  1597. >you soon make it to the noise and see a smaller group of ponies learning to operate your Machine guns.
  1598. >"short controlled bursts! you continue to fire for too long and it will break the barrel"
  1599. >"sir yes sir!"
  1600. >"again!"
  1601. >the sound similar to loud ripping of paper fills the air
  1602. >then a sudden clank
  1603. >"sir, its jammed!"
  1604. >you shout over to the group and start to walk over
  1605. "then clear the jam."
  1606. >the ponies look to see who caused the interruption
  1607. >all besides the trainer who walks over to the weapon
  1608. >"yeah, no shit clear the jam. what do you think im about to"
  1609. >he then notices who spoke up
  1610. >"MANOS SIR!"
  1611. >by now you have made your way to the gun.
  1612. >you flip open the top
  1613. >"i apologize sir, i didnt know it was"
  1614. >you ignore the pony as you pull out a casing and examine it
  1615. >the front of the case is slightly bent along with the back end being pushed in,
  1616. "the weapons are impacting too hard, that being combined with the inconsistent size of the rounds is causing malfunctions"
  1617. >you toss the case
  1618. "probably from changeling manufacturing"
  1619. >there is always a downside to forced labor isnt there?
  1620. >as you kneel down next to the weapon and examine it
  1621. >the handle and trigger that would normally be there for a human is replaced with a lock or rest for a hoof
  1622. >and inside that is a small lever that you can assume acts as the trigger
  1623. >moving to the back side of the gun you get on a knee and position yourself behind it facing the target
  1624. >you ignore the stares from the recruits
  1625. >most have never seen you before in person, besides when you rally all the troops together
  1626. "would you recruits believe ive never fired a weapon larger than the one on my side?"
  1627. >you pat the holster containing your sidearm
  1628. >you turn your head to the ponies watching your every move in a mix of respect and awe.
  1629. >you chuckle a bit
  1630. >it must be strange for them to hear that you havent done something, or dont know something.
  1631. "Officer ready this weapon."
  1632. >you stand up and start to walk down range to the target.
  1633. >you can feel the ponies eyes on you but you've grown used to it.
  1634. >you reach the target and look back to the gun.
  1635. "this is far to close.."
  1636. >"Lord Manos, sir. its basic training... we just want them to be able to aim at the target properly."
  1637. >you look up to some officer pegasi who are watching you from above.
  1638. >probably for your security
  1639. >you snap your fingers to them and point further down range.
  1640. "move this back to the far end of the range."
  1641. >they swoop down next to you and do as you instructed
  1642. >the officer at the gun shouts over to you
  1643. >"sir! thats far to distant for recruits"
  1644. >instead of shouting back you casually walk over to him
  1645. "these machines have a effective range of 2,000 meters, thats well within the range i have provided"
  1646. >you are now close enough to have a normal volume conversation
  1647. >"but sir, that-"
  1648. "isnt what you are training them for. i know, but its what IM training them for. is that understood?"
  1649. >the recruits standing around look far more nervous
  1650. "they look like they can handle it."
  1651. >you walk away from the training area and make your way up the stairs of the wall
  1652. >as you make it to the top of the stairs there is already a small group of Hands waiting for you.
  1653. >as you walk past the form up behind you following you where you walk.
  1654. >you peer into the yard from above as you walk on.
  1655. >you watch as hundreds of ponies are being trained, either as Brownshirts, Black hands, or Crystal guards.
  1656. >Brownshirts getting the most 'relaxed' training of the three.
  1657. >most of their training seems to be calisthenics and basic orders with not much of a combat role.
  1658. >further down there are organized lines of ponies in Crystal armors focusing almost entirely on close quarters fighting
  1659. >most of it focuses on swordsmanship and crowd control.
  1660. >which is perfect for their role of defending the castle itself. but not very useful if they are to fight in other areas outside of the walls.
  1661. >at least.. compared to your Hands.
  1662. >you stop as you stand over the area assigned to Black Hands training.
  1663. >your temporary guards take positions around you as you look down into the yard.
  1664. >Black Hands training is far more extensive.
  1665. >you see basic physical exercises
  1666. >there is hand to hand combat with and without weapons.
  1667. >leadership classes where ponies have to complete certain objectives and alternate leaders
  1668. >and a very select few learning to operate your now issued firearms.
  1669. >but what you appreciate the most out of all the training your Black Hands receive isnt happening in the yards
  1670. >a building on the far end opposite you there are classrooms filled with ponies learning tactics, politics, and of course about you.
  1671. >your hands are to be a model of what a proper pony can be.
  1672. >it brings a smile to your face thinking about it.
  1673. "take me to Aryanne and my guards. i want to see how the defenses are coming along."
  1674. >"yes sir. this way."
  1675. >you take another moment to take everything in
  1676. >you are creating a new society from the ground up.
  1677. >in the Image you wish to.
  1678.  
  1679. >you are Aryanne
  1680. >and this is getting to be really dull.
  1681. >important, but dull.
  1682. "Cinnamon... Cinnamon?"
  1683. >you look to your fellow observer and see him sleeping in a chair.
  1684. "for the love of Manos"
  1685. >you walk over to the chair and buck it out from under him
  1686. >he scrambles to keep himself balanced but falls over with the chair
  1687. >"ah damn, that hurt. what was that for?"
  1688. "that was for sleeping on the job. i know its not as exciting as guarding a door. like we used to be doing."
  1689. >Cinnamon gets up clearly ignoring your sarcastic remarks
  1690. "but its our job for now."
  1691. >another voice you easily recognize comes from behind you
  1692. >>"could be worse. we could be back in a battlefield surrounded by slaves with nothing but sticks and hope."
  1693. "HEIL MANOS!"
  1694. >Cinnamon and yourself both snap to attention and give a salute to Manos
  1695. >>"so, you two are bored with my work?"
  1696. >"i wouldnt say bored with the work sir. id say bored looking at it."
  1697.  
  1698.  
  1699. >you are Manos
  1700. >and they are right, watching ponies dig cant be very entertaining.
  1701. >but someones got to do it.
  1702. "I understand, but we will be needing this in the future."
  1703. >you move to look at the map layout of what will be a decent fortification
  1704. >however it is going to depend on having enough guns.
  1705. >guns that take time and resources to make
  1706. >"Manos, what were those things you had sent out to us?"
  1707. >you reply casually to Aryanne still looking at the layout
  1708. "I didnt, Honor did. he gave me the details about it and i approved. but to answer your question. guns."
  1709. >you pat your holster.
  1710. >you notice you are starting to make a habit out of that
  1711. "sidearms to be exact. they are to be distributed to Officers and my personal guard first, then when enough have been made, to all my black hands."
  1712. >and with enough luck and time, variations in the future.
  1713. >a guard on the wall shouts getting your attention
  1714. >"Royal Guard in the air!"
  1715. >You look up and scan the skies until you see a small group of Royals flying above you
  1716. >one holding a message in his hooves.
  1717. >the royals stay flying above you as a Black Hand pegasi flies up to speak with them
  1718. >they are then escorted to you with the message still in their possession
  1719. >Aryanne and Cinnamon both step in front of you keeping themselves between the royal guards and you
  1720. >the guard with the message lands on the wall and holds the parchment out for you to take
  1721. >"Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have requested peace talks, to perhaps put an end to this conflict before more lives can be lost."
  1722. >Aryanne takes the message herself and begins to read it
  1723. >the royal guard give her stern look
  1724. >"that message was for your leaders eyes only."
  1725. >after she reads it herself she gives it over to you
  1726. >>"it is more or less what he said. this is more from Celestia than Luna, and has us simply letting them in with a small army."
  1727. >the royal guard stomps his hoof
  1728. >"who is this Mare to say such things?! a small army? no. just enough security to be sure that the princess is safe."
  1729. >after a quick read you pocket the message and look to the royal guard messenger
  1730. "you should feel honored. that is the head of the black hands and commander of my personal bodyguard. you're lucky she even let you get this close to me"
  1731. >still you motion for Aryanne and Cinnamon to take a few steps back away from the guard.
  1732. "are you aware of the contents of this letter? have you read it?"
  1733. >"of course not. that would go against both orders and regulations."
  1734. >you nod your head in mock understanding
  1735. "well its been delivered, you may go now. Aryanne, ill need to speak with you about this. im sure Cinnamon can handle observation by himself"
  1736. >the other black hands with you start to slowly move in on the guard pressuring him to leave sooner, rather than later
  1737. >as they do yourself and Aryanne make your way around the wall to the castle
  1738. >you have a meeting to plan
  1739.  
  1740. >you are Silver Valor
  1741. >and this is getting concerning
  1742. >you are healthy enough to walk, and are even encouraged to by the other doctors
  1743. >but whenever you try to leave the room the guards stop you
  1744. >the guards that SHOULD be taking orders from you
  1745. "look, i know that you are trying to keep me safe by waiting until im cleared but im fine"
  1746. >the younger guard stallion shakes his head
  1747. >"im sorry Captain. i really am, but i have orders. im not allowed to let you leave just yet"
  1748. >the guard mare by the window also speaks up
  1749. >>"hes right Captain. orders are orders, and if we break them then we will be in hot water"
  1750. >you huff in anger
  1751. "can you at least tell me who gave you those orders?"
  1752. >"yeah Sharp Wit, our squad leader. and got his orders from Celestia"
  1753. "you KNOW that he got them from Celestia?"
  1754. >the stallion shuffles his hooves a bit nervously
  1755. >"well.. no. we've been here guarding you"
  1756. "so, just to be clear. you are 'guarding' me by keeping me in the one room i cant contact anyone"
  1757. >you look back to the mare
  1758. "you know, the one pony who is trying to out any spies in the Royal guard.. and the orders you received are to make sure i cant leave that room"
  1759. >"yes. those are our orders"
  1760. "but you said you cant even confirm he got them from Celestia! and you cant go and ask because you are not allowed to leave the room either!"
  1761. >each guard looks to the other, hoping they might have an answer that makes sense
  1762. >"it does seem a bit strange, now that you say it like that.."
  1763. "really? does it? now im going to ask you again"
  1764. >the two guards dont seem as determined to keep you here as before.
  1765. "can we please exit the room?"
  1766.  
  1767. >you are Manos
  1768. >you and Aryanne are walking through the yard of trainees to the castle
  1769. >"what do you think she will want to really discuss?"
  1770. >you look around to the troops, and more specifically to the machine gun range
  1771. >they still haven't moved the target back
  1772. "in all honesty Aryanne"
  1773. >you pull out the message again and start to read it more carefully
  1774. "im not sure. After Ponyville, we have had very little interaction with Equestria. The Griffons seem to have just given up on their attacks, and the longer they do nothing the more powerful we become."
  1775. >the letter says what Aryanne has already told you.
  1776. >Celestia would like to meet and discuss 'the future' with Equestria and the Reich.
  1777. >this time she actually calls it the Reich.
  1778. >she also asks to be allowed to provide her own security with no less than a hundred ponies.
  1779. >honestly even with a hundred guards she would be just as safe as coming alone.
  1780. >the guards are not nearly as powerful a threat as she it.
  1781. "why the guards..."
  1782. >you walk for a few more moments before a thought comes to mind
  1783. >you read the letter again.
  1784. >it doesn't say 'Guards' it says 'Security' and 'Ponies'
  1785. >you hand the letter back to Aryanne
  1786. "read this again. tell me when you have finished"
  1787. >by now the two of you have made it to the entrance to the castle
  1788. >you wait for Aryanne to finish reading before you enter,
  1789. >"alright. ive read it again."
  1790. "what didnt you read?"
  1791. >"im sorry? sir?"
  1792. "its a simple question. you read the letter, you may look again if you wish, but in that letter.. what didnt you read"
  1793. >Aryanne gives you a puzzled look and scans the letter again.
  1794. >"uh.. im not sure?"
  1795. "Guards, Aryanne. she never said the word 'Guards'
  1796. >you open the doors and walk inside
  1797. "now, we have a meeting to plan. and i expect we will be provided an example of equestrian military society."
  1798. >you signal for one of your castle workers to come over.
  1799. >the stallion trots over in his perfectly clean and white uniform.
  1800. >a small mark of manos on his collar.
  1801. >>"yes lord?"
  1802. "we will be having guests from Equestria. have the place looking perfect for them."
  1803. >>"yes sir, right away."
  1804. >you stop him before he takes off
  1805. "oh, and... give Celestia the room between the Barracks and my own."
  1806.  
  1807. >You are Silver Valor
  1808. >The guards open the door out of the hospital room
  1809. >The mare leaves first looking around for any other guards.
  1810. >>"This doesnt make sense.. There should be two more guards out here."
  1811. >"Maybe they are changing shifts?"
  1812. >Both the mare and yourself look back to the stallion
  1813. "If they were doing that then the other guards would be here."
  1814. >"Oh.. Yeah.. Sorry."
  1815. >>"Well that is definitely credibility points Captain, are you sure you will be fine to walk?"
  1816. "Ive been walking around that small room all day trying to get out. Yes I think I can walk"
  1817. >You push your way past the guardmare and head for your office
  1818. >"Where are we going captain?"
  1819. "My office, then to the Princess."
  1820. >>"Why your office? Do you have records on the ponies?"
  1821. >You reach the end of the hall
  1822. >You peek around the corners and see some guards down the hall.
  1823. "Well, everything to lose now."
  1824. >You walk around the corner with your two guards behind you
  1825. >You walk right past the other guards who give you a salute as you pass by.
  1826. >Each step you take is a step closer to rooting out any traitors to Equestria.
  1827. "Sorry Manos, but you've done too much harm for me to stand by and do nothing."
  1828.  
  1829. >you are Celestia
  1830. >and you are meeting with several diplomats from surrounding nations.
  1831. >Zebras from the west, Bison from the south, Yaks from the north, and a few of Lunas friends the Batponies
  1832. >and even Griffons from the Griffon Kingdom have came to negotiate a ceasefire with Equestria just in time
  1833. "Im glad we could end this conflict swiftly. While you are all here, there is a bit of a matter i wish to discuss with you all"
  1834. >"why certainly Celestia, what matter are you speaking of?"
  1835. >the Griffon diplomats answer for you
  1836. >>"we suspect this Manos? And his new nation calling itself the Reich correct?"
  1837. >you give them a warm smile and a nod
  1838. "yes"
  1839. >most of the room goes silent
  1840. >"Manos? What manos?"
  1841. >"yes princess tell us what reason you are considered about this 'Manos' "
  1842. >you motion for the dignataries to follow you
  1843. >the rather large group does so with little fuss
  1844. "Manos, he came to Equestria not all to long ago. seemingly he just walked out of Everfree and started to appear when we needed him"
  1845. >you keep up a positive and warm tone with everyone just loud enough for all to hear but not too loud to demand attention
  1846. >"ha ha, well, that doesnt seem to warrant concern. he is helping after all"
  1847. >you nod softly
  1848. "yes, and i thought the same as you for a long time, which is why i never brought this up previously when we met"
  1849. >by now you are walking down the grand hall
  1850. >some of the dignitaries start to wonder where you are leading them
  1851. >you give them reassurances before you continue on with your talks
  1852. "but recently he has become more of a villain than a hero, well... To some ponies anyway."
  1853. >you noticed that a few of your guards start to give side glances or try to listen in.
  1854. >you start to count the ones you notice as you continue walking around the castle
  1855. >one... two... three...
  1856. >it should help give you an idea of how many are.. lost..
  1857. >although some might just be curious guards, its better than nothing.
  1858. "He then proceeded to become a Mayor."
  1859. >you chuckle a bit at the oddity of it
  1860. >this also gets some chuckles out of the visitors
  1861. >always keep them in a good mood.
  1862. "thats when things started to.. lets say change."
  1863. >you look behind you to the Griffons.
  1864. >they seem to be avoiding eye contact.
  1865. >you just smile and walk on telling the others of the events leading up to the situation you now find yourself in
  1866. >Equestria never had a strong army.
  1867. >you never needed one.
  1868. >you had friends for that.
  1869.  
  1870. >you are Manos
  1871. >you have gathered a group of your Officers to meet and discuss the upcoming meeting.
  1872. >so its a meeting.. for a meeting.
  1873. >most of the Officers are members of your Black Hands forces.
  1874. >also included are Cadence, Honor Bound, Aryanne and the Shines.
  1875. >in that order. Cadence and the sisters have been keeping their distance from each other this whole meeting
  1876. >cant really blame them for it though. it must be awkward for them.
  1877. >you smile to yourself while looking over a map of the Reich
  1878. >"lord manos sir, as i was saying..."
  1879. >one of your Commanders points to the south gates
  1880. >"we can greet them by the southern gates, a nice display of proper soldiery waiting for them."
  1881. "agreed. a strong show of our military forces could dissuade any conflicts before the occur. but there is a risk of making ourselves seem imperialistic."
  1882. >the other officers nod in agreement.
  1883. >you point to the main road leading to the Reich Castle
  1884. "but. if its a strong show of military power, civil AND economic power, we might be able to gain allies rather than make enemies."
  1885. >Cadence speaks
  1886. >>"manos. do you know who might be attending? will it just be ponies from equestria?"
  1887. "im not sure, but i doubt it."
  1888. >>"Celestia always kept good relations with the surrounding nations.. we will likely see diplomats from Yakistan and even possibly the Griffons if they have spoke since ponyville"
  1889. >you scratch the back of your head a bit
  1890. "i understand."
  1891. >Emerald coughs getting your attention
  1892. "yes Emerald?"
  1893. >"Manos.. sir. we have recent news from canterlot. at first i thought it was nothing unusual, but after listening to this it may be of concern to you."
  1894. >you lean back in your seat
  1895. "go on..."
  1896. >"well. it seems we know who she is speaking with. and who will most likely come to the Reich."
  1897. >everyone's eyes turn to Emerald and Sapphire
  1898. >Sapphire begins
  1899. >>"right now as we speak there is a gathering of diplomats being held in Canterlot, she does this on a fairly regular basis"
  1900. >"but this time she has called in more than usual. at first we thought it just happened out of convenience, since she was trying to talk with the Griffons about peace"
  1901. >>"but reports from our agents tells us that she is slowly directing the conversation towards the Reich.. and more specifically"
  1902. "myself.."
  1903. >the sisters nod.
  1904. >>"thats correct. this information would have been in our regular report, but now it seems to be a higher priority"
  1905. "indeed it does."
  1906. >you look back to the map again
  1907. >more specifically the distance between Yakistan and the Reich.
  1908. >they are very close together.
  1909. >you look at the surrounding areas of Yakistan and then one important detail become more obvious
  1910. >you grab one of your writing utensils and circle the road leading to Yakistan
  1911. >the one route into the civilized world.
  1912. >the only route out of the frozen north.
  1913. "i want everyone to make sure the yaks have the most pleasant stay out of them all."
  1914. >you tap the area you circled on the map
  1915. "we may have found a new trade partner.."
  1916. >perhaps a nessisary one.
  1917. >for their sake.
  1918.  
  1919. >its the next day
  1920.  
  1921. >you walk the streets of the Reich once again your ponies greet you with smiles and shows of respect
  1922. >Aryanne, Comet, and Almond Heart walk with you.
  1923. >Cinnamon is still overseeing defenses.
  1924. "Aryanne. how goes the Training of my Hands? have you indulged in its inner workings?"
  1925. >Aryanne walks beside you her head always on a swivel
  1926. >"i have, to an extent. why do you ask sir?"
  1927. >you slow your pace to a casual walk enjoying the sights of your city.
  1928. >you really should get out more
  1929. >you feel at ease in the streets of your Reich. all the stress
  1930. "ive been meaning to check in on the more intellectual aspects of training."
  1931. >"are we going to stop by the training center then sir?"
  1932. "it would be nice. to see what they are learning. approving a education plan isnt the same as being there."
  1933. >you and your bodyguards change course for the training yards.
  1934. >you decide to use the public entrance today
  1935. >there are hundreds of ponies rushing back and forth between the school and various locations
  1936. >many ponies come here for their own education, even if they are not in the Black Hands
  1937. >of course they learn in a separate wing of the school, and are not normally allowed into the military section.
  1938. >that section of the school is through several checkpoints and guard posts then further into the yard.
  1939. >its similar to a collage campus, but with actual guards.
  1940. >the students greet you in droves as you ascend the staircase to the doors
  1941. >Aryanne and the others making sure that the larger groups dont get too close, while still allowing ponies to meet you
  1942. >once you finally make it int the building the staff give you the same warm welcome.
  1943. >you shake their hooves casually with a smile on your face
  1944. >making your way down the halls you listen in on classes being taught
  1945. >"with the return of nightmare moon the citizens of equestra finally..."
  1946. >"back before the uniting of the pony tribes.."
  1947. >"he will lead us to the gates of valhalla!"
  1948. >the further you go into the school the more the education level increases.
  1949. >Aryanne smiles all the while
  1950. >and you notice it
  1951. "what has you in such a good mood Commander?"
  1952. >Comet butts in before she can speak
  1953. >>"yes commander. i havent seen you this happy since you overheard a gathering of recruits complementing your... 'figure'"
  1954. >Aryanne snaps a glare back to Comet
  1955. >he smiles back, probably used to it by now from most ponies
  1956. >>"just saying Commander. in fact, they were pretty spot-"
  1957. >"if you want to keep your tongue in your mouth id suggest you close it, Glow."
  1958. >>"yes ma'am, whatever you say"
  1959. "hm, getting a little reckless Comet? perhaps you need to be sent here."
  1960. >Comet laughs loudly
  1961. >>"id probably get kicked out for flirting with the instructors."
  1962. "probably. i could always get you another date with that mare from the royal guard again.."
  1963. >>"understood sir.. ill keep my mouth shut more often"
  1964. "thats a good pony. now, as you were saying Aryanne"
  1965. >you have reached the first Checkpoint leading into the military schooling
  1966. >both of the guards take notice of you and quickly give salutes
  1967. >"S-Sir! Lord Manos! we had no idea to expect you!"
  1968. >>"Sorry for not being prepared sir!"
  1969. "no need to worry. i wasnt expecting it either. now if you please."
  1970. >the two guards quickly open the gate and let you inside
  1971. >you hear them chatting behind you as you walk on
  1972. >"was that really manos?! holy horseapples, i nearly had a heart attack."
  1973. >the gate closes behind you and the voices fade leaving just Aryanne talking
  1974. >"it just brings back memories is all. i wouldnt expect Almond or Comet to remember, but i used to be a teacher at the first one located in Ponyville"
  1975. >thats right. she was a teacher.
  1976. "im sure the education here is in the right hooves."
  1977. >just as you say that you overhear one of the 'biology' classes
  1978. >"and that is one of the many reasons ponies are superior to changlings, but dont be fooled. they are still very dangerous and could disguise themselves as anyone"
  1979. >then another class starts to become clearer as you get closer to the next checkpoint
  1980. >"while Zebras can be considered a sub-species of pony, they are not on the same biological level as"
  1981. >>"Griffons are mighty predators, and are prone to fits of rage quite easily, its important to realize that if you come across one you must not back away or show weakness-"
  1982. >again the guards have Class I heart attacks upon seeing you
  1983. >one even asking for your signature before you walk by
  1984. >you ordered your guards to all sign it too
  1985. >and now you have finally made it to the junior officer and officer training section of the school
  1986. >picking a class at random you listen in from the hallway door looking in the doors window
  1987. >the door is at the back of the classroom with all the students facing away from it
  1988. >a black hands officer stands at the front of the room drawing a map on the board with various scenarios
  1989. >"now, what is one advantage of the terrain used by force 'A' over force 'C'? knowing that how can force 'B' survive an attack from both 'A' and 'C' if they converge?"
  1990. >the students in this class all wear basic Black Hands uniforms
  1991. >they quickly take notes and create plans on the paper
  1992. >you take a step away from the door moving out of the class's  vision
  1993. "Aryanne, please knock at the door for me"
  1994. >she steps forward and knocks loudly
  1995. >some of the students look back but the Officer teaching them grumbles and continues teaching
  1996. >Aryanne looks to you then knocks again
  1997. >the teacher yells to the door
  1998. >>"If you were late for class then you are absent, have a good day!"
  1999. >"and if you dont open the door ill have both your name and rank discarded"
  2000. >there is mumbling from the students and most are now looking at the door
  2001. >you hear a slow and angered walk as the Officer opens the door to see who was knocking
  2002. >>"this better be important or else ill-"
  2003. >he stops talking immediately and snaps to attention
  2004. >>"Commander Aryanne! Heil! im sorry ma'am i was unaware- Class, Commander on site!"
  2005. >you hear the sounds of chairs being pushed out of the way then silence
  2006. >its safe to assume they are all eyes forward to the board
  2007. >"now if you please officer, will you step aside for your superiors?"
  2008. >>"yes ma'am please come in, its a honor to have you visiting our classroom"
  2009. >Aryanne looks to you just out of their sight and you signal for her to be quiet
  2010. >She walks inside and inspects the class the Officer following her to the front of the room.
  2011. >>"Class, this is Commander Aryanne of the Black Hands Personal Guard, and head of the Black Hands. please give her a welcome"
  2012. >>>"heil commander! we are his faithful hands!"
  2013. >you cant tell whats going on but you can hear Aryanne start to talk about what she does as a personal guard.
  2014. >once her story comes to an end you hear
  2015. >"and in fact, im still on duty."
  2016. >>"with Black Hands business?"
  2017. >you can tell from her voice shes smiling
  2018. >"no, guard duty."
  2019. >>"guard duty?.. what do you mean by..?"
  2020. >you walk into the room and the Officers eyes go as wide as the blackboard
  2021. >Aryanne shakes her head herself starting to enjoy the fun of this
  2022. >"as in"
  2023. >she points to you at the back of the room
  2024. >"Guard duty"
  2025. "and shes a damn fine guard at that."
  2026. >the instructor has probably never stood as straight in his life
  2027. >the sound of his hooves clicking together is heard from the other side of the room
  2028. >>"HEIL MANOS!"
  2029. >the students dont look behind them but all give the same response as is drilled into them since the first day
  2030. >>>"HEIL"
  2031. >you stand there with a smile on your face
  2032. >everyone else, Aryanne excluded of course, stands like statues almost too scared to breathe
  2033. >yes.. this was a very good idea.
  2034. >its silent in the room. you can almost hear the heartbeats of the ponies around you
  2035. >you start your slow methodical walk to the front of the room. looking at the notes on each of the desks that you pass
  2036. >you make sure that the students see you looking at the notes.
  2037. "fine work."
  2038. "looks acceptable"
  2039. "remember, you are trying to save lives."
  2040. >>"Lord Manos sir, w-what brings you here. sir?"
  2041. >you lean over one of the desks tacking a interest in a particular students plan
  2042. "do i need a reason to want to see the future of the Reich?"
  2043. >you pat the back of a pegasi mare whose notes you were looking at
  2044. >she jumps slightly at the contact but regains her composure.
  2045. >>"of course not lord, I was just curious. forgive me."
  2046. >you wave the apology away
  2047. "nonsense, im the one who should be apologizing. I interrupted your class."
  2048. >you have made your way to the front of the classroom and are standing just next to the instructor
  2049. >you place your hand on his shoulder.
  2050. "i apologize, and i hope you can forgive my childish intrusion"
  2051. >you have to keep yourself from laughing at his reaction
  2052. >his face is a perfect mix of awe, confusion, and embarrassment
  2053. >you need to do this more often.
  2054. >>"you, uh.. I. of course you are forgiven sir."
  2055. "splendid! oh."
  2056. >you look to the class
  2057. "please, you may sit"
  2058. >the students slowly look around to see who will be the first
  2059. >but eventually they all start to take a seat
  2060. "again sorry for interrupting. please continue, act like im not even here."
  2061. >you smile to the teacher and students before taking a seat at the teachers desk
  2062. >Aryanne stands next to you while the others still remain outside
  2063. >>"uh. y-yes well. uhm. as i was previously uh.. saying."
  2064. >you sit through the whole class.
  2065. >and you are sure it was the hardest class day of both the teacher and the students lives.
  2066. >you are again walking the halls with your guards
  2067. >a thought comes to mind as you make your way to the training yard
  2068. "Aryanne. when does this class graduate?"
  2069. >"im not quite sure.. why do you ask?"
  2070. "im thinking of having the graduation ceremony be the highlight of the upcoming talks."
  2071. >you start to think of the many ways you could implement it
  2072. >perhaps a smaller rally? or a full on ceremony?
  2073. >either way, the dignitaries will of course be there to see the future of your people.
  2074. >strange, you always referred to them as your ponies before.
  2075. >but they are more than that now. perhaps they aren't your people by blood.
  2076. >by they are your people by faith and loyalty.
  2077. "Almond Heart"
  2078. >the quieter of your guards ears perk up and she looks over to you
  2079. >>"yes sir?"
  2080. "you are always quiet around me. any reason for that?"
  2081. >the mare shuffles a bit, slightly embarrassed about the sudden attention.
  2082. >>"no sir, just, when im around you its my job to protect you and follow orders... im just focused is all."
  2083. "no harm done Almond, just curious. could you do me a favor?"
  2084. >>"yes sir, what do you need?"
  2085. "could you get me the day and time graduations are to be held. and bring them to me?"
  2086. >Almond gives you a nod and a salute before returning to the school
  2087. >you watch her as she leaves the group.
  2088. "Aryanne, Comet, do your best to keep a closer eye on her.."
  2089. >your two guards are rather surprised by your orders
  2090. "dont worry. i dont think she is a spy or traitor.. theres just.. something about her im not sure about."
  2091. >a second or two passes then you continue your walk
  2092. "how well do you think an Otah would go over? for the graduations i mean."
  2093.  
  2094. >you are Rainbow Dash
  2095. >and manos has given you more orders.
  2096. >but these ones seem to be much easier to do.
  2097. >you stand in front of your select group of Pegasi
  2098. >each one in a custom uniform that hasn't been distributed amongst the Pegasi yet.
  2099. "alright everyone listen up. we are going to have various nations visiting the Reich within a few days so we need to have this routine down before then!"
  2100. >you stomp your hoof for emphasis
  2101. "so we are going to drill until your wings fall off! there will be no mistakes on the final day is that clear?!"
  2102. >"YES MA'AM!"
  2103. >wow that feels good.
  2104. "perfect. so uh.. lets get to it!"
  2105.  
  2106. >you are Cadence
  2107. >being head of the Changeling Removal Branch its your responsibility to help convince others that what you are doing in the Reich is correct
  2108. >shouldnt be too hard, most creatures hate changelings with a passion anyway.
  2109. >you have gathered a few select ponies of your own who will be attending and representing your command
  2110. >each of them have been provided new uniforms, tailored to their measurements perfectly.
  2111. >you give each pony a folder with various scenarios inside
  2112. "each of you have been selected for your talents of persuasion and charisma.. and loyalty"
  2113. >the group gives small smiles to each other
  2114. "you will have the mission of detailing our plans for cleansing equestria, without giving the more radical details."
  2115. >you point to your folders
  2116. "please. begin reading"
  2117.  
  2118. >you are Sapphire Shine
  2119. >since the meeting with Manos about Canterlot the Reich has been in full swig
  2120. >even your sister and yourself have been suddenly bogged down with work
  2121. >you sit at your desk reading through every report you have received from every member of the Gestapo in canterlot
  2122. >Interrogators, Double Agents, Intelligence gatherers, and even the unpaid 'revolutionaries' who volunteer information.
  2123. >its a lot of work to go through.
  2124. >especially by yourself.
  2125. >but Emerald has her own share of worries and work to deal with.
  2126. >since the unplanned news of diplomats and foreign dignitaries visiting you have split into two main focuses
  2127. >one, continue to gather Intel on the royals and the Elements.
  2128. >which you are currently doing
  2129. >and two, assign Gestapo to specific areas of the city where foreign leaders will be visiting
  2130. >and thats a lot more work than most ponies think.
  2131. >honestly... you prefer this.
  2132.  
  2133. >you are Emerald Shine
  2134. >and somehow this is much more work than you thought.
  2135. >Sapphire must have somehow tricked you into this job.
  2136. >no use complaining about it now though.
  2137. >you sit in a secured room, no noise is able to get in or out.
  2138. >you have special padding and covers to prevent noise as well as magic sound barriers.
  2139. >this is one of the Gestapos most secure operation planning rooms.
  2140. "everypony, you may now open your files."
  2141. >several ponies are in the room with you, each of them having a covered face and body
  2142. >no visual details are shown between them to prevent agents pointing out others if captured or swayed.
  2143. >you yourself are wearing one of these outfits. only yours is labeled with a red circle with a design on your collar to show rank
  2144. "inside you will have your new identities. Family history, characteristics, likes, dislikes, educations, and jobs."
  2145. >the ponies remain silent as they read about 'themselves'
  2146. "you have all been selected by my sister and I for this mission... and its one of the most High value missions we have ever been assigned."
  2147.  
  2148. >you are Roselight
  2149. >you are on your way with Field Day to meet with your brother Honor Bound
  2150. >"what do you think he wants to see us for?"
  2151. >you are the only two in the hall to his personal office
  2152. >at the end of the hall stands a single guard by the door.
  2153. "not sure. perhaps he has a mission for us... or you got yourself bucked and im getting a promotion."
  2154. >the calm sounds of your hooves echo in the long hallway
  2155. >"as far as i know ive stayed in line, you're going to have to wait for that promotion."
  2156. >you only smile and walk on.
  2157. "we'll see Field Day. id be worried if i were you though. ill do anything to prove my loyalty and faith to Manos, and i know you have limitations.."
  2158. >Field Day raises his voice
  2159. >"and those limitations are why IM in charge Rose! we are soldiers, not executioners, not monsters."
  2160. >what a fool.. in the end there is no difference.
  2161. "unlike you, i accept what we are and embrace it as the will of Fate."
  2162. >"blind obedience is different from loyalty, remember that."
  2163. "heretic..."
  2164. >"fanatic.."
  2165. >by the time you both reach the door the guard as already opened it and move aside
  2166. >the two of you enter and see Honor writing notes
  2167. >>"come in.."
  2168. >you already have.
  2169. >the door is then closed behind you.
  2170. >Honor looks up from his desk to the both of you
  2171. >>"i need two volunteers for two missions... and im looking at them."
  2172. >"what are the missions sir?"
  2173. >>"i am going to demonstrate our Armor at the gathering to show our technological might."
  2174. >Honor continues to write his notes
  2175. >>"and ill need a winner and a loser."
  2176. "i dont lose.."
  2177. >"neither do I"
  2178. >the pen is set down gently as Honor has a smile on his face.
  2179. >>"I know."
  2180.  
  2181. >you are Celestia
  2182. >the foreign dignitaries have all agreed to go with you to visit the Reich on a diplomatic mission
  2183. >while you would have preferred they join you in war with Manos right off the bat
  2184. >that would make you come off as power hungry or worse, a Warmonger.
  2185. >both of which you are sure you can show that Manos is.
  2186. >each of the diplomats were given extended time to get ready and have anything they would need sent to Canterlot.
  2187. >they should be ready to go in another day or so.
  2188. >but others have been asking to go.
  2189. >specifically you faithful student and her friends.
  2190. "Twilight, i understand that you wish to join us, and that you miss your friend Rainbow, but im worried this will be too dangerous."
  2191. >your voice falls on deaf ears
  2192. >Twilight stands with her friends determined
  2193. >"Princess. im not one to argue with your judgement.. but Rainbow Dash is our friend! if we go we could convince her to come back.."
  2194. "i know that you think that-"
  2195. >Twilights friend Applejack interrupts you
  2196. >>"now 'ah know you might be worried about our safety, or about what we might see there. But gosh darn it we're goin'!"
  2197. >the rest of the girls all nod their heads in agreement.
  2198. "well.. I suppose you would be safer going with me then heading out on your own.."
  2199. >just as the words leave your lip you are wrapped up in a hug by five happy mares
  2200. >you cant help but chuckle at their determination
  2201. "who knows.. you may be right about bringing Rainbow back"
  2202. >no reason not to try you suppose...
  2203.  
  2204. >you are Manos
  2205. >you look over the education schedule for the graduation date that was provided to you by Almond Heart
  2206. >unfortunately it seems to be a little over a week from now.
  2207. >no matter.
  2208. >you hold the papers out to Comet for him to take
  2209. "tell the school that the exams will need to be pushed forward to tomorrow. Im sure the students will do fine, and it will teach them not everything goes according to plan"
  2210. >with a nod Comet puts the schedule in his bag and walks back to the school
  2211. "Comet wait. take Almond with you."
  2212. >"yes sir, come on Almond, looks like we got demoted to mail ponies."
  2213. >Comet laughs at his own joke before leaving with Almond behind him
  2214. "least he does his job."
  2215. >its now just you and Aryanne walking together in the Main hall where all the 'guests' will be spending most of their time
  2216. >everything seems to be looking quite nice.
  2217. >tables are set, Banners are being hung, musicians are being gathered and asked to preform, and guards are being assigned
  2218. >everything so far seems to be going well.
  2219. >you snap your fingers getting a small jump from Aryanne
  2220. "i almost forgot. Aryanne. you will be receiving a new uniform. Well, you and the others in my personal guard will be receiving a more formal uniform."
  2221. >you wave over one of your servants
  2222. >a mare in a white uniform and a mark of manos on both collars rushes over
  2223. >>"yes lord?"
  2224. "take Aryanne to get her new uniforms, they should be stored and guarded in Black Hands supply."
  2225. >>"yes sir, right this way Commander."
  2226. >you walk away from the two mares and head to your office
  2227. >a stack of paperwork no doubt waiting for you.
  2228.  
  2229. >the next two days pass uneventfully.
  2230. >servants prepared the Reich for visitors from top to bottom
  2231. >there is even going to be a small celebration for the graduating class of the Black Hands
  2232.  
  2233. >you are Manos
  2234. >you dress in your best uniform.
  2235. >one specially tailored to you for this occasion, you look yourself over in the mirror.
  2236. >its strange... you look at your reflection and its hard to believe that its you looking back.
  2237. >you were never one for uniforms or fancy dress back home, they were always too time consuming to seem nessisary.
  2238. >now, here you are. Leader of a nation, wearing uniforms everyday like you were born in one.
  2239. >you look to the scar on your face that Shining Armor left.
  2240. >the pain now long gone, but the scar a constant reminder of it.
  2241. >you hear a knock on your door
  2242. "yes?"
  2243. >"Lord Manos. Cadence is here, she says that the guests could be arriving at the gates any moment now."
  2244. >you put away the black gloves you normally wear and pull out a set of white formal gloves
  2245. >you put the gloves on, making sure they remain tight on your hand
  2246. "ill be right out."
  2247. >you attach your holster to your uniform and give it another check before walking out the door to speak with Cadence
  2248. >she stands waiting for you in the hall with your guards for the evening
  2249. >while Aryanne and the others are helping the students rehearse for the graduating oaths.
  2250. >Cadence dressed in one of her new uniforms and her mane is brushed and pulled back to keep herself looking orderly and attractive
  2251. "lets greet our guests."
  2252.  
  2253. >you are Celestia and company
  2254. >your carriages are stopped at a checkpoint just outside the Reichs walls.
  2255. >and you are told that they are to wait here while the rest of you are allowed inside
  2256. >as you step out of your carriage you take a look at the land around you
  2257. >its definitely not what you expected.
  2258. >you hear one of the Griffon leaders scoff
  2259. >"Why, it looks like a child left sticks and string all around the yard! what use could these defenses be?"
  2260. >once everyone is dropped off and the carriages re-routed you are led by a small group of ponies in uniform to the gate
  2261. >Twilight and her friends standing close by followed by the others in your group
  2262. >"wow, the gates of the-- uh.. the Reich, are really beautiful. ive read so much about them in my books"
  2263. >you just give twilight a nod and continue on to the gates
  2264. >one there the guards turn around to face you and step aside
  2265. >the gates then slowly open and the guards all give a salute.
  2266. >you are first to walk in along with Twilight and her friends
  2267. >a group of your own guards keep a perimeter around you for your own protection
  2268. >what you see when they open is actually impressive, even to you.
  2269. >rows of ponies in uniform stand stone faced while citizens behind them give greetings to you and the others
  2270. >but you do see many of them giving you and the Griffons more glares than welcome.
  2271.  
  2272. >you are Manos
  2273. >you are standing at the far end of the street watching as the visitors start their walk down the streets
  2274. >each group having their own small group of guards with them, though nothing that could cause any issues
  2275. >the gates slowly close behind them as the last group, the bat ponies, enter.
  2276. >you start your walk down to greet them half way there with your own group.
  2277. >you lead the way as Cadence and Honor Bound follow behind you.
  2278. >once you are in full view of the citizens of the Reich they start to sing and salute you
  2279.  
  2280. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmNfQQ6paYg [Embed] - Waffen SS and the Wehrmacht Das Deutschlandlied
  2281.  
  2282. >you smile and wave to your people, a feeling of pride coming over you.
  2283. >you reach Celestia and her guests and give a small bow of your head
  2284. >quite funny considering you never did this when you weren't in charge
  2285. >you extend your hand to her
  2286. "its nice to see you again Princess and my old... 'friends' decided to join you."
  2287. >Celestia places her hoof in your hand with a slight bow of her head
  2288. >"they were very persistent, i couldnt say no."
  2289. >while her tone is kind and welcoming one look in her eyes will tell you another story.
  2290. >you smile back and let her hoof go
  2291. >Cadence then walks up to Celestia
  2292. >>"Auntie."
  2293. >"Cadence."
  2294. >you can feel the venom in their voice, but remain silent
  2295. >>"i hope you enjoy your stay with us."
  2296. >"as do i, in fact i hope you might join us on the return home. you're real home"
  2297. >funny how shes technically the Heir to the place she currently is.
  2298. >but sure, her home.
  2299. "ladies. if you please."
  2300. >you start to walk them to the castle
  2301. >before you reach the doors you are given a small signal to stop.
  2302. >you turn to face the diplomats again
  2303. "if you would all be so kind as to turn your attention to the skies.."
  2304.  
  2305. >you are Rainbow Dash
  2306. >you are taking deep breaths and your heart is racing.
  2307. >but you're not nervous.. or scared like you thought
  2308. >no, you are excited.
  2309. >this is no war zone, you wont be taking any lives, you wont be in harms way, no this is a simple stunt show.
  2310. >you stand on a cloud overlooking the Reich waiting for a signal to be given
  2311. >you smile as a funny thought enters your mind
  2312. "i guess im now the Reich's version of the Wonderbolts.. and the leader."
  2313. >"what was that ma'am?"
  2314. "nothing. theres the signal. go!"
  2315. >your pegasi ready up then as one all dive off of the cloud
  2316. >they keep their wings locked tightly to their bodies and pick up speed as they fall to the earth
  2317. >three... two... one..
  2318. >you take a breath and you yourself jump off the high up cloud
  2319. >your timing will have to be perfect.
  2320.  
  2321. >you are Manos
  2322. >looking up at the sky you see pegasi diving down from a high cloud
  2323. >another group fly straight up trying to meet them half way
  2324. >as they reach the center they group up and quickly form the shape of a hand with a small opening in the center
  2325. >as they start to fly together there is a sudden blast of rainbow
  2326. >a single pegasi shoots through the center of the hand as the rainbow behind gives a large aura around it
  2327. >the crowd cheers at the sight and you notice that Twilight and her friends smiling and cheering too
  2328. >they know who is responsible for that Rainboom no doubt
  2329. >the blue pony continues to fly at a high speed down you and the guests
  2330. >you watch closely as Rainbow suddenly breaks her speed and does a small loop to safely land
  2331.  
  2332. >you are Rainbow
  2333. >you completed everything perfectly time for the landing.
  2334. >you continue your loop focusing solely on lading when the loop finishes
  2335. >you close your eyes just as you hit the ground and quickly gain your balance
  2336. >completed perfectly
  2337. >as soon as you open your eyes you give a salute
  2338. "Heil manos! heil the Reich!"
  2339. >you give a large smile while taking deep breaths
  2340. >you see Twilight and the others standing there with worried smiles on their faces
  2341.  
  2342. >you are Manos
  2343. "Thank you for your show Rainbow. im sure you have much to do but would you care to join us?"
  2344. >you motion for her to follow and you lead your guests inside
  2345. >"Rainbow seems to be very loyal to you manos."
  2346. >Celestia makes her way over to your side, getting a small stare from Cadence
  2347. "that she is Celestia. in fact she is now one of my Commanding officers because of her loyalty and actions"
  2348. >"is that so? and what might those be?"
  2349. >you smile to the princess
  2350. "those would be classified. i cant be giving information out to the enemy now can i?"
  2351. >"perhaps... would you be so kind as to inform me of what will be awaiting us for our stay?"
  2352. "dont worry Celestia. we will have our talks. in fact. our first will be right now."
  2353. >you lead your gathering to an assigned room.
  2354. >guards are positioned outside the doors and the leaders are all welcomed inside.
  2355. >you are the last to enter, the doors closing behind you.
  2356. >everyone finds their seats and their personal bodyguards stand behind them.
  2357. >you sit directly across from Celestia at the head of the table.
  2358. "i suppose you might want a bit more privacy for this meeting"
  2359. >with a wave of your hand the many Black Hands in the room give a salute and step out of the room
  2360. >leaving only you and the other nations guards.
  2361. "so. let us begin."
  2362.  
  2363. >you are Celestia
  2364. >Manos relaxes in his seat and with a nod of his head signals for you to speak first
  2365. >you give a look to all the other dignitaries in the room before speaking
  2366. "Manos, im going to be blunt"
  2367. >"glad to see that hasnt changed"
  2368. "you have done horrible things to the ponies of equestria, you started a war, you allowed an uprising, you started cults following you as some sort of god."
  2369. >Manos gives you a cold stare but remians silent
  2370. what you have done is a crime against harmony, and only welcomes chaos into Equestria"
  2371. >you see nods of agreement from the others
  2372. "and on top of all that, the one place most loyal to you, you simply leveled to the ground when you were done with it"
  2373.  
  2374. >you are Manos
  2375. >no doubt Celestia has a large influence over the parties gathered here.
  2376. >she continues on about the offenses she believes warrant foreign aid in her war.
  2377. >you let her continue, making sure to recall what each 'offense' was.
  2378. >"but the worst thing you have done Manos, and what you are STILL doing."
  2379. >hm?
  2380. >"is you are continuing a search to gather the Elements of Chaos!"
  2381. >Celestia 'slams' her hoof on the table
  2382. >purely for dramatic effect you are sure, if she wanted she could probably break the table in half
  2383. >there are many murmurs from the others in the room.
  2384. >theres no way you will be able to discourage all of them from siding with Celestia
  2385. >she has maintained good relations for possibly thousands of years
  2386. >no, this is her battle. its one you cant win.
  2387. >but you can perhaps salvage bits of it.
  2388. >one of the other leaders speaks up, though you werent paying attention as to whom
  2389. >you were busy giving sun butt a galre
  2390. >>"Manos. we have heard Celestias accusations... lets start with the most, troubling."
  2391. "the elements of Chaos correct?"
  2392. >>"yes. that would be the one. are you indeed questing for these?"
  2393. >you reach into your pocket and hold the Amulet in your hands.
  2394. >you pull it out showing it to the others at the table
  2395. "you tell me."
  2396. >you set it on the table, letting its red glow illuminate the room.
  2397. >"Manos.. i demand you had over all of those elements to Equestria for safe keeping."
  2398. >you place your hand on the Amulet again.
  2399. "if you can give me a good reason.. ill consider it."
  2400.  
  2401. >you are Celestia
  2402. "a good reason?! Manos, those are some of the most powerful artifacts in all of equestria! if they fall into the wrong hands"
  2403. >"ah... there we go. you already said it."
  2404. >you look at manos with a slightly confused expression
  2405. >he stands up at the table and looks around to everyone before he raises his...
  2406. >his hands...
  2407.  
  2408. >you are Manos
  2409. >and Celestia made a small error in her choice of words
  2410. >you hold up your hands.
  2411. >and what makes this so important is one thing
  2412. >you are the only one at the meeting WITH hands.
  2413. "the wrong hands.. how fitting that you would choose those words."
  2414. >one of the Zebras speak
  2415. >>"Manos where are you going with this?"
  2416. >huh.. you thought that they all rhymed when they talk.
  2417. >perhaps Zecora is just a wacko.
  2418. >she does live in a hut in what was the most dangerous area of Equestrian forest.
  2419. "good question, where i am going with this?"
  2420. >you smile
  2421. "i am simply pointing out to everyone here.. that I am the only species with actual hands."
  2422. >you point to Celestia
  2423. "and im sure a pony who has had years and years of experience in diplomacy and relations wouldnt slip up and say 'hands' unless she knew what she was implying"
  2424. >Celestia remains quiet.
  2425. >>"im sure it was just a simple mistake"
  2426. "how often do you say hands Celestia? has it come up in meetings before?"
  2427. >she continues to remain silent just glaring back at you.
  2428. >shes pretty hot when shes angry.
  2429. "but to move on from that. why should you have them?"
  2430. >"I have protected and wielded the Elements of Harmony for centuries. my reputation should speak for itself manos."
  2431. >she smiles back to you
  2432. >"unlike yours which only proves you desire power and chaos."
  2433.  
  2434. >you are Celestia
  2435. >you made a small mistake.
  2436. >thankfully the others still seem to be of the mind that you simply chose the wrong word.
  2437. >a small defeat. but one easily overcome.
  2438.  
  2439. >you are Manos
  2440. "so what you are asking. just so everyone in this room is on the same page."
  2441. >you wait until you have their undivided attention
  2442. "is that you, and your sister, you know, the one that nearly ended all life on your planet by destroying the sun."
  2443. >"she made a mistake manos, one that she has paid for."
  2444. >you raise your voice and jab a finger at her
  2445. "with a punishment you decided! not the world. YOU. and one that you knew wouldnt be a permanent fix"
  2446. >surprisingly you get several nods from some members in the room
  2447. "how long have you and your sister been alive Princess?.."
  2448. >you wait for Celestia to answer.
  2449. >"a great deal of time."
  2450. "indeed, at least a few thousand years if your history is correct. so a thousand years on the moon is her sentence?"
  2451. >you give a shrug
  2452. "seems like you just put misbehaving little sister in a corner for a bit."
  2453. >"Manos, i sent my sister to the moon. THE MOON. for a thousand years! she had no food, contact, or anything. she was in solitude for longer than the lives of some nations!"
  2454. "and how long would those nation's lived if she had succeeded?"
  2455. >you take a seat
  2456. "so you want the nation who not only has tried to take over and destroy the entire world, but forgave the one responsible and let her take her place back on the throne the elements of Chaos.."
  2457. >you pocket the amulet
  2458. "no, i think they are safer here or anyhwere else besides your hooves. I cant even begin to imagine what would happen if you were in control of both sides of the coin."
  2459. >"manos, what you are doing is not in the best interests of the world at large"
  2460. >>"thats not for you to say Celestia.."
  2461. >you smile as the Zebra from before speaks
  2462. >>"that is for all of us to decide."
  2463.  
  2464. >you are Rainbow Dash
  2465. >you stand in the main hall as Celestia and the other guests follow Manos to start talks
  2466. >leaving you with your old friends.
  2467. >Rarity is the first to break the ice.
  2468. >"thats uhm.. a very nice uniform you are wearing Darling. although that really isnt your color."
  2469. >she gives you a forced smile while still looking at your uniform
  2470. >you look at the tailors
  2471. "I think it looks rather good on me. It was made just for the occasion"
  2472. >>"it looks good to me sugar cube"
  2473. "thanks Applejack..."
  2474. >you and the others stand there awkwardly for a moment.
  2475. >you start to scratch the back of your head
  2476. "so, you guys want anything to drink?"
  2477. >you wave to one of the waiters, who then trot over to you
  2478. >"yes Commander Dash?"
  2479. "my friends and I could use some drinks. would you mind?"
  2480. >the pony nods his head before leaving to fetch your refreshments
  2481.  
  2482. >you are Twilight Sparkle
  2483. >Rainbow seems very different from when you last saw her... again.
  2484. >first she hated Manos, then she joins up with him, then she doesnt want to talk about anything to you and the others.
  2485. >but here, in that uniform she seems to be more at ease then she was when she was with you girls in Ponyville
  2486. "So, you're a Commander huh?"
  2487. >Rainbow chuckles a bit
  2488. >"yeah, i guess ive really made a bit of a name for myself here-"
  2489. >another mare cuts rainbow off
  2490. >>"Commander Dash"
  2491. >you and the others all turn to see the one speaking
  2492. >shes a Blonde pony with a white coat, wearing a Black Hands uniform
  2493. >Rainbow cracks a small smile at the sight of the mare
  2494. >"Commander Aryanne, its been a while since i got to see you. How are the others doing? is Comet still acting like a plothole?"
  2495. >the mares laugh and start to create small talk like they have been friends forever
  2496. >you look to the girls and you all share a worried look
  2497.  
  2498. >you are Manos
  2499. >you sit in your chair as Celestia starts to try and convince the others that the elements should be left to her care
  2500. >"I have always looked out for the world at large. who was the one who banished Discord? who was the one who sent her own sister to the moon? who has guarded the elements from countless villains for thousands of years?"
  2501. >Celestia stands there and looks to you
  2502. >"and all my good standing and past is just going to be shoved under the rug.. because he makes a few statements?"
  2503. >the Batpony leader takes their turn to speak
  2504. >>"I for one wont be swayed by a single speech at a table, and i doubt the rest of you will either. that being said this talk isnt about the past, its about the future of this new nation."
  2505. >the batpony looks to you
  2506. >>"one that has caused a lot of destruction already."
  2507. "may i speak again?"
  2508. >>"you may.."
  2509. "that pony i spoke of before. your sister, Luna. the one who nearly killed you all because of her own insecurity."
  2510. >"dont insult my sister manos, she has done more than a few favors for you remember."
  2511. >you nod your head in agreement
  2512. "she has, i cannot deny that, but i must ask. where is she now? is there a reason she has not joined us?"
  2513. >"she is busy trying to maintain Equestria while i am away. i hope you can understand that manos."
  2514. "that i can, how does she do that without her guard?"
  2515. >you turn your head to the batpony
  2516. "i mean, you are her most loyal allies. you even stood by her and helped her try to end all life."
  2517. >>"the actions of our ancestors are well known to us Manos. dont think that we-"
  2518. "so i suppose she has joined us then."
  2519. >you smile to the others.
  2520. "just not in person. her loyal henchmen are here to speak for her."
  2521.  
  2522. >you are Celestia
  2523. >things are going both very well on one point. but very bad on another.
  2524. >Manos has seemed to make it his mission to smear the image of Equestira as much as possible.
  2525. >which to his credit. he has done a nice job of.
  2526. >but there is also a side effect of that, he is making your more loyal friends very uneasy and angry.
  2527. >>"how dare you! we have made no such accusations towards you or your ponies."
  2528. >"my people"
  2529. "im sorry manos? your what?"
  2530. >"my people. I may be a different species than they, so much so that i might be the only one in this world. but those ponies."
  2531. >manos points outside the doors
  2532. >"those ponies out there.. they are my family now, and we are the same. we are a unified people. one that WILL put an end to the chaos that plagues this world."
  2533. >the Griffons now take their stand
  2534. >>"by slaughtering ponies and griffons by the hundreds!?"
  2535. >Manos gives the Griffon a death glare
  2536. >everyone in the room notices it as clear as day
  2537. >"if they harm those who i call friends an family, if they strike out against the peaceful civilians like YOU and that bastard Sombra did in ponyville, then ill gladly put every last one of them in the ground."
  2538. >manos stands up from his seat and leans to the direction of the griffon leader
  2539. >"do you know how many innocent ponies died in ponyville? how many children were crying out for their parents only to be met with talons and beaks?"
  2540. >his voice changes from one of loud anger to a very calm and quiet malice
  2541. >"were you there, when your soldiers were fighting and dying in the streets? no. you were at home, safe in your bed while you let the blood be on someone elses... claws."
  2542. >Manos stands straight up again
  2543. >"i was, i fought and lead my troops in that battle, i walked the streets doing everything i could to keep my people alive."
  2544. >his stare then turns back to you
  2545. >"I was there. when all the others were not... THATS why my people follow me."
  2546. "are you suggesting i did nothing to save ponyville manos?"
  2547.  
  2548. >you are manos
  2549. >you look to celestia as her words hang in the air.
  2550. >the rest of the room maintains their silence
  2551. >for those who were targeted, perhaps out of shame.
  2552. >for those who are just now learning of the events, to hear the truth in the words spoken
  2553. "you sent a army to take ponyville. you sent ponies in golden armor, to die so you could speak those words."
  2554. >Celestias voice roars over yours, dwarfing it in volume.
  2555. >"THE LIVES OF MY PONIES MEANS MORE TO ME THAN ANYTHING! DONT YOU DARE-"
  2556. >but speaking in a high volume does give pointless words more weight
  2557. "then why didnt you come to try and save them?"
  2558. >Celestia stops speaking
  2559. >and everyone's eyes are on her
  2560. >Celestia remains silent, her anger and rage slowly draining from her.
  2561. >even you have lost that previous rage you held not moments ago.
  2562. >the two of you just stare at one another, like you are the only two in the room
  2563. "why didnt you try and save them all?"
  2564. >you reach into your jacket and pull out a small envelope you had stored there when you were getting dressed.
  2565. >inside are reports and notes from ponies in your gestapo
  2566. >you drop the envelope on the table.
  2567. "why did you instead decide to save the lives of five ponies and their families. when you could have saved everyone?.."
  2568. >the Zebra points his hoof to the envelope requesting to see its contents.
  2569. >you give his guard a nod showing its ok to take it.
  2570. >the Zebra opens the letter and reads
  2571. >>"we have been ordered to secure the families of several residents of ponyville city. we have been given no explanation as to why or for what threat. that seems to be secondary, we were also told not to cause panic in the streets and to keep our mission a secret."
  2572. >he reads another report
  2573. >>"we have been ordered to assemble a large force as soon as possible, as ordered by the princesses. they think something big is going to happen soon, but wont tell us what. Celestia protect us if its something big.."
  2574.  
  2575. >Celestias wings droop slightly and her voice turns into a slight plea
  2576. >"manos, i was unaware of what was going to happen in ponyville. but i did know it would be dangerous, i had to keep Twilight and her friends safe, if something were to happen to them then the world would pay a price far greater than-"
  2577. >she stops herself, perhaps noticing what she said.
  2578. "please.. continue, far greater than?"
  2579. >you motion with your hand for her to carry on.
  2580. >"far greater than a city.."
  2581. "im glad you treat ponies who follow another the same as you treat your own. those ponies, you knew they were not yours anymore. they would have followed me to hell and back. you just wanted to save the important ones."
  2582. >"Manos, im a leader, i know you cant save everpony no matter how much you want to. if i could have saved them all i would have!"
  2583. "all you had to do was show up! you are the most powerful one of us all, you move the sun every single day like its nothing. you hold more power in your hoof than the combined magic of all of us in this room multiplied!"
  2584. >you pull the gun from your holster and hold it up showing it to the onlookers
  2585. "this is one of the few weapons i own. and one of the few ways i can protect or harm others."
  2586. >you set it on the table then pat your legs
  2587. "these are my only means of transportation on my own. with your magic you have unlimited means for both. with a mere thought you could have been there in a second. but you didnt, you stayed in your castle and sent others to do the work for you."
  2588. >you make your way over to celestia around the table after picking up your weapon
  2589. >you stop inches from her and look her in the eyes
  2590. "and yet the one without your magic... the one who had to spend time and energy to make his way there.. he showed up."
  2591. >you watch Celestia start to form tears in her eyes your words cutting deep
  2592. "our talks are over for the day.. we continue this tomorrow"
  2593. >you brush past the princess and walk out the doors
  2594. >you still have guests to entertain
  2595.  
  2596. >you are Celestia
  2597. >and no matter what you tell yourself you know his words are right.
  2598. >why didnt you just go..?
  2599. >you take your seat and you can feel the stares of the others
  2600. >the Yaks speak for the first time of the meeting
  2601. >"Yaks not understand Princess choice."
  2602. >you give a soft sigh ans mumble to yourself
  2603. "neither do i.."
  2604.  
  2605. >you are Manos
  2606. >as you re-holster your sidearm and walk out the door one of your guards grabs your attention
  2607. >"sir, there has been a small incident, i wasnt able to tell you because of the meeting but you should come see."
  2608. >you are rushed to the main hall were an argument seems to be going on and has gathered a lot of attention from the guests
  2609. >you make your way to the scene giving small shoves followed by 'excuse me' to those you move aside
  2610. >"We are Rainbows Friends! and we are just tellin' her what we think. no reason to get all huffy with us!"
  2611. >>"you are slandering the name of our leader! how am i supposed to react!?"
  2612. >"your leader is no good, just look at what has happened since he got here"
  2613. >the voices make it clear who is involved clear before you can even see the ponies arguing
  2614. >Aryanne and Applejack stand in the center of a small group
  2615. >on one side are several black hands and various crystal ponies
  2616. >on the other Twilight and the mane 5.
  2617. >Rainbow however stands to the side unsure of what to do.
  2618. >>"name one thing he has done that hasnt improved out lives or prevented some catastrophe?"
  2619. >"how 'bout ponyville fer starters? last i checked our home isnt even there anymore."
  2620. >>"and who showed up to help save it?! you? no. any of you?! no! not even your princess!"
  2621. >Twilight get in on the argument now that Celestia has been brought up in this
  2622. >>>"If it wasnt for celestia we all could have been killed!"
  2623. >"funny how she saves you! but what about the others? no, the Black Hands did!"
  2624. >>>"Celestia sent the guard to help!"
  2625. >"and yet we made it there first, from further away!"
  2626. >this is a good enough point to step in
  2627. "thats enough"
  2628. >you walk to the center of the group
  2629. "Aryanne, i thank you for standing up for me in my absence, but this can be done elsewhere."
  2630. >"understood sir.."
  2631. >Aryanne gives you a salute, as do the other ponies with her.
  2632. >they then walk off to the other side of the hall
  2633. >if you werent in front of so many visitors you would have supported her actions.
  2634. >but now isnt the time.
  2635. >you kneel down to Rainbow, who still is just sitting there not sure how to take what just happened.
  2636. "you ok Rainbow?"
  2637. >she looks up and gives a salute
  2638. >"yes sir. im fine. just.. wasnt expecting that to happen is all."
  2639. >you pat her on the shoulder
  2640. "i understand. could i talk to you in private please?"
  2641. >"of course sir."
  2642.  
  2643. >you are Twilight
  2644. "hold on a second. if Rainbow goes with you so do we!"
  2645. >Manos isnt going to steal your friend away like this
  2646. >you have never felt so angry in your life
  2647. >here he is letting his ponies talk about Celestia like that
  2648. >then he just swoops in and makes you and your friends seem like the bad ponies
  2649. >"no Twilight its ok. I think i need a minute anyway."
  2650. "what? why rainbow? we just started talking. what about catching up?"
  2651. >"i think we have talked enough.. ill see you around"
  2652. >you watch as Manos and Rainbow Dash walk away from you.
  2653. >what happened to your friend?...
  2654. >Fluttershy taps you on the shoulder
  2655. >>"Twilight.. i think we should go.."
  2656. "whys that Fluttershy? the princess said we would be safe."
  2657. >>"well.. yes.. but twilight.. ponies are staring at us."
  2658. >you look around at the crowd, and you are met with glares from most of them
  2659. >maybe fluttershy is right.
  2660. >maybe you should go
  2661.  
  2662. >you are Emerald Shine
  2663. >you stood in the crowd watching everything unfold
  2664. >as manos walks away with Rainbow Dash you see him look over to you
  2665. >you look at him and you are surrounded by darkness
  2666.  
  2667. >...
  2668.  
  2669. >suddenly you are back and Manos continues on his way
  2670. >looking around you see no time has passed.
  2671. >Manos truly must be a god.
  2672. >only a god could manipulate time like this.
  2673. >you smile as you watch the group of five ponies walking away
  2674. >a few other ponies look over to you but dont say a word.
  2675. >with a nod of your head they follow the group
  2676.  
  2677. >you are Fluttershy
  2678. >you feel so much better now that you are leaving the room
  2679. >all those eyes on you makes you nervous.
  2680. >the other girls talk about manos and rainbow
  2681. >but you keep to yourself
  2682. >you notice a pony behind you reading some sort of paper or file of some kind
  2683. >when he looks at you, you feel uneasy and quickly look away.
  2684. >just stay close to your friends and you will be fine.
  2685.  
  2686. >you are Emerald Shine
  2687. >you follow behind the group with several of your ponies.
  2688. >each of you having a small communication crystal in the collars of your clothing
  2689. >as well as a very experimental ear piece allowing only one pony to hear the voices in the crystal
  2690. "follow them closely, i want to know what they are doing and where they are at all times."
  2691. >"yes Shine, our eyes will follow them everywhere."
  2692. "good. keep me updated."
  2693.  
  2694. >you are Twilight Sparkle
  2695. >you and your friends walk outside the castle and look out over the streets of the Reich
  2696. >everything looks very peaceful and happy..
  2697. >its really not what you would expect from Manos' ponies.
  2698. >not after everything that has happened or their attitude towards Equestria
  2699. "it amazes me.. how can ponies so, so similar yet so very different hate Equestria so much?"
  2700. >"maybe.. maybe they dont.. they might just want to be left alone."
  2701. >you look back to Flutterhy who stares at the ground making circles with her hoof
  2702. >"perhaps they just want to have their own place in the world is all.."
  2703. "if they wanted that then they could have just formed a political party and gone through the regulations to become a independent nation. but thye just skipped all that and attacked innocent ponies instead."
  2704. >your thoughts are interrupted by a small group of Black Hands walking over to you
  2705. >>"apologizes Equestrians. but we have orders to escort you to where ever you wish to go."
  2706. >you frown and shake your head
  2707. "we can make our own way thank you."
  2708. >you start to take a step around them but you are cut off
  2709. >>"im sorry. but no, you cant."
  2710. >Applejack moves up to face the Hand
  2711. >"and jus' why not? we have hooves. we can walk on our own jus' fine."
  2712. >the hands give you all stern looks, some even motioning to their weapons
  2713. >>"unless you have forgotten we are at war. and you are considered high values captives because of your connection to the Princess."
  2714. >you gulp slightly
  2715. >>"we cant have you walking around.. unprotected.."
  2716. >you have a feeling that protection isnt what they really meant.
  2717. >>"now.. where would you like to go?"
  2718.  
  2719. >you are Manos
  2720. >you and Rainbow have found a quiet spot alone
  2721. "now. what happened out there?"
  2722. >Rainbow Dash sighs slightly
  2723. >"at first everything was going fine, a little awkward but fine, i started talking to my old friends from ponyville and then Aryanne showed up."
  2724. >you raise and eyebrow
  2725. "did she start something?"
  2726. >"no, no, she wasnt the cause of it. in fact we started talking and joking like we always have, and we even started to mingle a bit with my old friends again. but.."
  2727. "but then someone insulted me?"
  2728. >she chuckles nervously
  2729. >"yeah something like that. it was more of a offhoof remark. but it didnt sit too kindly with the Commander.. or myself really.."
  2730. "can i ask what they said?"
  2731. >"they said that they couldnt understand how nice ponies like us could follow a villain like you."
  2732. >is that so? good to see your past actions are speaking volumes for your reputation
  2733. >"i tried to stop them from saying something like that, but Rarity just continued on then Applejack and then.. you know the rest"
  2734. >you pet rainbow on the head calming her down a bit
  2735. "you're dismissed commander. sorry things didnt work out as you planned."
  2736. >"its alright sir. i hope they start to see things differently after staying here."
  2737. "so do I Rainbow."
  2738. >you are then tapped on the shoulder by a pony in a waiters uniform
  2739. >>"sir if i may speak to you. its important."
  2740. "very well. i hope you will rejoin the guests at the party rainbow."
  2741. >you and the waiter walk away from the blue mare until she is out of hearing range
  2742. >>"Sir, a message from Emerald."
  2743. >the 'waiter' opens his collar a bit exposing a gestapo mark
  2744. >>"the element bearers have left the castle. and she is awaiting orders and what to do next"
  2745. "follow them, and make sure they dont go anywhere unplanned. i assume she has Gestapo on their tail like i ordered?"
  2746. >>"yes sir."
  2747. "dispatch a group of hands to 'guard' them. it will be easier to keep them in check with ponies in direct contact"
  2748. >>"yes sir, right away."
  2749.  
  2750. >you are Celestia
  2751. >even though Manos has gone you and a handful of others still remain
  2752. >'others' Consisting of the Bat ponies and the Zebras
  2753. >currently the two are arguing over what stance to take on Manos' accusations
  2754. >"Manos has brought up very good arguments concerning the safety of the world at large, and while i trust Celestia and her actions of the past i feel that with Luna back in power that we should allow Manos to keep the Elements"
  2755. >the bat pony flares his wings and stands up to shout
  2756. >>"you are a foal if you believe that to be acceptable! you seen his 'diplomacy' its a smear campaign!"
  2757. >the Zebra remains seated but his guards each take a step forward to his sides
  2758. >"a smear campaign that gave only facts. i have nothing against equestrians but i see Manos as being a good balance to their power."
  2759. >>"so thats it then, when Equestria asks you for aid you will show up and deny them! no worse, take the side of their enemies!?"
  2760. >"perhaps he was right about more than just Equestria."
  2761. >>"whats that supposed to mean?"
  2762. >you notice the bat pony showing his fangs to the Zebras
  2763. >you better control this before it gets out of hoof
  2764. "i think thats enough of these talks for today.. the others have all left and i have stayed here for this long by your requests."
  2765. >the two leaders look to you then back to each other
  2766. >grudgingly they both leave their station and are sure to take different doors out
  2767. >now that you re alone you let out a long and loud sigh.
  2768. "this was a mistake..."
  2769.  
  2770. >you are Manos
  2771. >down the hall from the meeting room you hear footsteps.
  2772. >no doubt some of the leaders decided to stay and chat after you left.
  2773. >the first to come into your view is a group of bat ponies
  2774. >they act as one would expect.
  2775. >they walk past you as if you were not even there.
  2776. "i hope you enjoy the remainder of your stay"
  2777. >silence
  2778. >you cant help but smile.
  2779. >from behind you comes the voice of the Zebra
  2780. >"dont worry about them Manos. they are just a little upset about their current situation"
  2781. >you calmly turn around to face him and his guards
  2782. "oh? and what situation might that be?"
  2783. >"nothing to concern yourself with. may i trouble you for a chat?"
  2784. "well that is what we are currently doing. my apologies mr.."
  2785. >you look into the eyes of the Zebra
  2786. "Salicar Barca, if i am correct."
  2787. >Salicar smiles to you.
  2788. >"yes that is indeed my name. i assume your agents did their homework on those gathering here."
  2789. >you extend your hand out to him and shake his hoof
  2790. "some, only on those of note. that being said i know very little about the others excluding Celestia and the Griffons"
  2791. >"id be happy to educate you."
  2792. >>"im sure you would... you two seem to be becoming rather good friends.."
  2793. >looking up from your new acquaintance you see Celestia calmly walk over to the two of you.
  2794. "does that trouble you Celestia."
  2795. >>"perhaps it does.. but we still have time to talk tomorrow."
  2796. "speaking of time. i believe its time for my next event."
  2797. >"oh? and that would be?"
  2798. "well. it may not be a grand event, but its one i plan on attending."
  2799. >Salicar gives a curious look
  2800. "its Graduation day."
  2801.  
  2802. >you and your guests make your way over to the balcony overlooking the rallying field
  2803. >the area has been previously cleared out of any hardware and training necessities
  2804. >instead large areas for seating have been set up and its been cleaned up to look presentable
  2805. >your guests take seats in luxurious chairs positioned just perfectly so they can all see into the yard
  2806. "you must excuse me for a moment, but we are a little early, and i have to be down in the yard for this."
  2807. >you motion to the waiters by the door
  2808. "if you need anything, dont hesitate to ask my staff. they are here to serve you just as much as myself."
  2809. >you bow your head to the foreign leaders
  2810. >and you are sure to lock eyes with Celestia then the Griffons before you leave.
  2811. >the large doors slowly shut behind you and Honor is waiting inside
  2812. "how long until they are ready?"
  2813. >"the graduating class? they will be here momentarily, along with any guest they might have brought."
  2814. "has seating been planned accordingly?"
  2815. >Honor forces a laugh
  2816. >"lord, you know i have planned out every detail. trust me, everything will be perfect."
  2817. "i remember a pony who always spoke as you do. he was a good friend of mine."
  2818. >perhaps Honor feels a sense of pride as a real smile grows on his face.
  2819. "just dont end up too confident in your own reach.. Copper had to learn the hard way."
  2820. >"i understand sir. but worry not, my loyalty is my honor, and my honor is my life."
  2821. >you chuckle and continue to make your way to the yard with Honor
  2822. "i suppose that would explain the name."
  2823.  
  2824. >you are Honor Bound
  2825. >by the time Manos and yourself make it to the yard the students and their families start to arrive
  2826. >at first they arrive in little trickles
  2827. >but those trickles soon become a constant flow of ponies.
  2828. >thousands of ponies take their seats around the edges of the yard while the students gather by class
  2829. >this will be the first class of crystal graduates in the new education system
  2830. "right on schedule my lord."
  2831. >"well then. lets get started. after you Honor Bound."
  2832. >you walk out into the yard of gathered students. making your way up a large stand so you can be seen clearly by everyone
  2833. >for a moment ponies continue on speaking to one another.
  2834. >parents about their kids achievements, siblings about brothers and sisters, and so on.
  2835. >once enough eyes notice you standing there the volume quickly lowers itself
  2836. >besides a few voices here and there its almost silent
  2837. >gathered around you are several other Black Hand officers including Cadence and Aryanne
  2838. >now is your time to talk
  2839. "My comrades.. my friends.. my brothers and sisters. I am both honored and proud to be standing before such a large crowd speaking to you all."
  2840. >you look over the large gathering of graduates with a smile
  2841. "this graduating class, it isnt just another year of students passing their training. No, this class, has had the hardest requirements out of any Black Hands graduation or acceptance. To be sitting here right now, is an honor, an honor that you have all truly earned."
  2842. >the sounds of ponies applauding fills the yard, and a look of pride fills every graduates face
  2843. >you calmly wait for it to die down before continuing on with you introduction
  2844. "and with this great honor, my fellow commanders and I felt that it needs to be special. As many of you know Commander Aryanne would normally give you your graduation speech, and normally it would be in the privacy of your schools auditorium. But not this year"
  2845. >you stiffen yourself up as you look out over the crowds
  2846. "so allow me to let the one who will be giving you your graduation speech take the floor..."
  2847. >you take a few steps back, once you reach your position you along with the other Commanders and Officers give a salute
  2848.  
  2849. >you are Manos
  2850. >as you start to approach a band starts to play the anthem of your Reich
  2851.  
  2852. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZuW-kEFYmw [Embed] National Anthem of Germany - "Deutschlandlied"
  2853.  
  2854. >everyone stands up and gives a salute to the largest banners hanging just behind the stand
  2855. >once you make your way to the top the crowd cheers
  2856. >you return the salute given to you by the graduates below, and you do your best to look at them all
  2857. >after a while of cheering the applause die down and everyone awaits your words.
  2858. >you look over to honor and he casts his spell, once again amplifying your voice
  2859. >you smile to the crowds and wave once more before you speak
  2860. "Citizens of the Reich. I have been given the privilege to speak to this class."
  2861. >you look out over the ponies gathered in the yard.
  2862. >each of them wearing their black hands uniforms proudly with looks of determination.
  2863. "You are what i see as perfection. You stand here not because you were given this opportunity, but because you earned it, you fought for it. While others said, 'this was too hard' or 'i cant make it' you stood tall and shouted 'I CAN! AND I SHALL' and when your brothers and sisters beside you fell you were there to pull them back up and continue forward. not as a individual, but as comrades as brothers and sisters. That is what makes you perfection. That is what makes you strong."
  2864. >you look down at the stand in front of you for a moment to allow your words to sink in
  2865. "all of you standing out there say that you should look up to me as a leader."
  2866. >you wave your hand to dismiss that thought
  2867. "but you are mistaken, It is I who look up to you."
  2868. >you take a moment to straighten your uniform
  2869. "You who were able to make this"
  2870. >you motion to the castle covered in your banners
  2871. "a reality. You who pledge to protect it. You who desire to see it grow. and you! our sons and daughters. you are the future of this Reich."
  2872. >you take a moment to breathe
  2873. "and more than that, you are Black Hands. you are my elite! you are the sword of the Reich and its shield! Each of you having the knowledge of hundreds of years of combat tactics and military training drilled into your mind. and the greatest weaponry in Equestria at your disposal. I know you will all bring glory to the Hands.. and to the Reich. HEIL!"
  2874. >the crowds all stand and cheer for the ponies who are now so close to graduating
  2875. >you cant help but smile to them, the looks they are giving you.. you feel proud of them.
  2876. >you give a nod to Aryanne and she takes the stand
  2877. >the Hands standing below seem to stand taller
  2878. >they all take a breath and prepare themselves for this next part
  2879. >Aryanne clears her throat before beginning
  2880. >"before you are finally given the title you have all earned, there is one final step. one that you all have done before, whether it be to yourself, or in spirit. please.. repeat after me."
  2881. >each of the Black Hands in the yard raise their hoof and await the oath of allegiance
  2882. >you stand next to Aryanne and she, along with all the others look to you again
  2883.  
  2884. >you are Aryanne
  2885. >as you look to manos you ready yourself to recite the oath.
  2886.  
  2887. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF_rzz9Zlq4 [Embed] German Nazi Military Oath to Hitler
  2888.  
  2889. "I swear by Fate my next life in Valhalla, this sacred oath"
  2890. >each student in the yard repeats her words with fervor
  2891. >"I swear by Fate and my next life in Valhalla, this sacred oath!"
  2892. "that I shall render unconditional obedience to lord Manos"
  2893. >"that I shall render unconditional obedience to lord Manos!"
  2894. "Fuhrer and leader of the Reich and its people!"
  2895. >"Fuhrer and leader of the Reich and its people!"
  2896. "Supreme leader of the Black Hands"
  2897. >"Supreme leader of the Black Hands!"
  2898. "and that I shall be at all times ready, as a brave solider."
  2899. >"and that I shall be at all times ready, as a brave solider!"
  2900. "to give my life for this oath"
  2901. >"to give my life for this oath!"
  2902. "Heil Manos"
  2903. >"HEIL MANOS!"
  2904.  
  2905. >you are Celestia
  2906. >it seems the longer you stay here the worse things are getting.
  2907. >first manos discredits Equestrias right to the elements
  2908. >then he starts to slowly chip away at long standing alliances.
  2909. >and NOW he has ponies swearing an oath of allegiance to him.
  2910. >"quite a display isnt it?"
  2911. "yes.. indeed it is.."
  2912. >you look over to Manos standing down below in front of his followers
  2913. "and its quite troubling. if i my be honest with you."
  2914. >the Griffon diplomat nods his head in agreement
  2915. >"it seems he is militarizing more and more. first with weapons, now with lives."
  2916. "i can only assume that you know this from experience?"
  2917. >the griffon chuckles
  2918. >"not personally... but it is how numerous amounts of our own leaders came to power"
  2919. >the large bird looks over to you
  2920. >"if this is what Manos has been doing.. then it wont be long before he makes his first real move"
  2921. "i have been fearing the same thing, already he has caused more death and destruction than most."
  2922. >the diplomat holds out a small scroll to you
  2923. >you take it from him calmly
  2924. >"be sure to execute it properly.. lives will be lost, that is unavoidable. but we might be able to end this before it truly begins"
  2925. >you look down to the scroll in your hooves
  2926. "for the sake of us both.. i hope we succeed"
  2927.  
  2928. >you are Aryanne
  2929. >and after reciting the oath of allegiance in front of so many ponies and directly to manos you feel a strange sense of power come over you
  2930. >not like magic.. but of Faith, you feel as though you can take on the world
  2931. >or rather.. take on the world, and win.
  2932. >with one look at manos, you can already feel the chance for the new hands to prove themselves coming close.
  2933. >you quickly divert your attention back to the yard of newly made official black hands
  2934. >they all remain standing and look to you.
  2935. >the sounds of the crowd eventually dies down and you take your turn to give the final speech
  2936. "My fellow Hands. from this moment forward you are part of a brotherhood. a brotherhood of sweat and blood. I remember when i first was accepted into the Black Hands back in ponyville..."
  2937. >you look up to the diplomats sitting in their chairs on the balcony, and notice that Celestia and the Griffons are sitting next to each other
  2938. "back when ponyville was still there."
  2939. >your stare continues for a short period and you notice a few others looking to the 'special guests'
  2940. >but you get a hold of yourself and return to the task at hand
  2941. "i was part of a small group then. i never expected us to grow as much as we have, even now we have ponies in all reaches of Equestria, who will remain loyal to their dying breaths. I am proud to be counted amongst them. Know that this brotherhood will always be by your side. and remember, if we are to go into battle, that the pony next to you will gladly give their own life to keep you alive. you are the sword and shield of Manos, you are the great soldiers of the Reich! and you cannot, and will not ever break! Seig Heil!"
  2942. >one final chorus of 'Heils; fill the yard before they start to disperse and return to their ecstatic parents and family
  2943. >we Black Hands... we will never break.
  2944.  
  2945. >you are Manos
  2946. >some time has passed since the graduation
  2947. >guests and citizens alike are still talking of it.
  2948. >you make your way out of the gathering and move through the halls of the castle to your own room
  2949. >just as you turn the corner you see Celestia already walking into hers
  2950. >her small group of guards protecting the door.
  2951. >the door across from yours..
  2952. >seems she didnt like the one provided for her next door to your own.
  2953. >your own guards, Comet and Cinnamon are with you for escort.
  2954. "seems you two wont be very lonely on your guard shift tonight."
  2955. >Cinnamon glances over to the royals across from where he will be standing
  2956. >"appears so."
  2957. "i hope you have a feel for those weapons you have been provided."
  2958. >>"oh that i have sir. trust me, if one of them tries anything. the whole castle will know the second it happens."
  2959. "just try to keep collateral to a minimum Comet.. and Cinnamon.."
  2960. >"yes sir?"
  2961. "control Comet."
  2962. >"thats like asking me to fight Celestia.. ill do my best. but i cant make promises."
  2963. "i expect BOTH of you to represent my personal guard exquisitely."
  2964. >"yes sir."
  2965. >you and your small group make it to the door in front of the Royals
  2966. >they stare you down, perhaps they are unaware that you sleep across from them.
  2967. >with a smug grin you walk inside your room and close the door.
  2968. >you're sure this will be an interesting night for them.
  2969.  
  2970. >you are Cinnamon Pop
  2971. >you and Comet stand perfectly aligned with the royal guards
  2972. >the two of you remain silent, probably for the first time in Comets life.
  2973. >the royals eyes are locked with yours
  2974. >you have to stay focused. those ponies in front of you are your enemy.
  2975. >you cant help but smile slightly getting the attention of the guard in front of you
  2976. >they only have swords, you have a sword and a sidearm like manos.
  2977. >and you've seen how effective these tools can be in combat.
  2978.  
  2979.  
  2980. >you are Comet Glow
  2981. >the guard in front of you keeps their eyes locked on yours
  2982. >their golden armor making them seem like statues as they face you.
  2983. >have they even blinked yet?
  2984. >you dont remember.
  2985. >what if they are timing their blinks to match yours?!
  2986. >clever guards, wait.. that guards a mare.
  2987. >you look over the armored figure in front of you slowly.
  2988. >yup definitely a mare.
  2989.  
  2990. >you are a Royal Guardsmare
  2991. >is that Black Hand checking you out?
  2992.  
  2993. >you are Manos
  2994. >you remove your uniform and gloves placing them on the table in front of you.
  2995. >carefully you remove the Amulet from its pocket and walk over to your secure chest
  2996. >you place the amulet inside with the others and seal it shut.
  2997. >before you rise up again a thought comes to mind.
  2998. >should you try to sleep tonight.. or not.
  2999.  
  3000. >you are Cadence
  3001. >Celestia said she wanted to speak with you tonight.
  3002. >and while you're not sure if you should have, you agreed to speak with her.
  3003. >where did she say her room was--
  3004. "damn it..."
  3005. >you suddenly have a really good idea of where her room is.
  3006. >you stand in the hallway overlooking Manos' room
  3007. >and right across from it is a door guarded by two royal guards
  3008. "why cant things be simple.."
  3009. >you will just have to explain things later, manos will understand.
  3010. >a small blush forms on your face.
  3011. >you could always make it up to him later.
  3012. >you walk down the hall to stand between the two sets of guards
  3013. >the Black Hands give you a salute
  3014. >their quick action makes the royal guards jump a bit, but they soon relax.
  3015. >you return the salute to the Hands before turning to the guards.
  3016. "i am here to speak with Princess Celestia, she is expecting me."
  3017. >you dont look back to the hands but you can almost feel their eyes piercing the back of your head
  3018. >the royal guards step aside and open the door.
  3019. >"we were told to expect you"
  3020. >you nod your head and walk inside, the door closing itself behind you.
  3021.  
  3022. >you are Cinnamon Pop
  3023. >you and Comet look to one another
  3024. >with a nod of his head he signals for you to report this to manos
  3025. >you open the door to Manos' room and step inside closing the door behind you.
  3026. >Comet will be fine for a few seconds.
  3027. >your eyes slowly adjust to the dark room.
  3028. >instinctively you look to the bed expecting to find Manos waiting there.
  3029. >you hear a click behind your head
  3030. >"what are you doing in here?"
  3031. >you feel a cold sweat drip down your spine, and you quickly give a salute
  3032. "sorry to enter like this sir, but Cadence has just entered Celestias room. and she said she was expected by them"
  3033. >there is silence.
  3034. >that click from before, was that him readying his weapon...
  3035. >it must have been, nothing else would make that noise at the time.
  3036. >"thank you for informing me. you know you dont have to face away from me though.."
  3037. >you turn your head and look to Manos
  3038. >he is sitting at his desk his weapon disassembled and being cleaned facing you.
  3039. >he loads another cartridge into the magazine
  3040. >*click*
  3041. >"something wrong Cinnamon?"
  3042. "uh, no sir, sorry just had a crazy thought is all."
  3043. >"no problem. might want to check up on Comet, im sure hes keeping a close eye on one guard at least.."
  3044. "yes sir, Heil!"
  3045. >you turn to leave and open the door
  3046. >"oh and Cinnamon."
  3047. "yes sir?"
  3048. >you look over to Manos and he holds up his hand and points a finger at you.
  3049. >"bang"
  3050. >he chuckles at you with a smile then returns to work
  3051. >and you hurriedly walk out the door to assist Comet.
  3052. >that was pretty embarrassing...
  3053.  
  3054. >you are Cadence
  3055. >you stand in the warmly lit room.
  3056. >Celestia sits at a desk on the far side of the room reading some papers
  3057. >is.. is she wearing glasses?
  3058. "Celestia?"
  3059. >you quickly see her horn light up and the glasses disappear along with the scroll
  3060. >"Cadence..."
  3061. "you said you wanted to talk to me. i can only imagine what about."
  3062. >you hear her scoff slightly
  3063. >"a number of things, for starters how can you be here with him instead of in Canterlot?"
  3064. >you roll your eyes
  3065. "i made my decision auntie and i stand by it."
  3066. >you make yourself stand taller as Celestia stands up and walks over to you
  3067. >"Cadence, im going to be completely blunt. because if i try to fake being calm i think i might lose it."
  3068. >this is not like normal auntie.
  3069. >she must be really serious about this, or really angry.
  3070. >both probably
  3071. >"Manos is evil, i used to think differently but now i am sure. I know you have feelings for him but i DEMAND you return to Canterlot when we leave."
  3072. "Celestia if you asked to talk to me just to try and make me abandon all these ponies who look to me and Manos for-"
  3073. >Celestia quickly and harshly cuts you off
  3074. >"just to Manos. they follow, Manos, and they do it blindly. I wont have you harmed because of Manos' actions, so ill say it again Cadence, when WE leave, YOU are coming with us."
  3075. >you cant believe her... all this trouble just to say 'come home?'
  3076. >come home and leave everything you have worked so hard to build behind.
  3077. >just give up!?
  3078. "I made my choice already Celestia. Im a Commanding Black Hand, and head of changeling removal."
  3079. >you and Celestia glare at one another
  3080. "and a proud citizen of the Reich."
  3081. >you give a salute and start to leave the room
  3082. >what a waste of ti--
  3083. >"he killed Shining Armor you know... the day of your wedding."
  3084.  
  3085. >you are Celestia
  3086. >if manos wants to play his games fine.
  3087. >you can play them too.
  3088. >Cadence slowly looks back to you
  3089. >you look at her with a straight and uncaring face
  3090. >"how dare you!"
  3091. >Cadence's voice is full of spite.
  3092. >"HOW, DARE, YOU."
  3093. "how dare I? i didnt do anything, besides speak the truth."
  3094. >Cadence marches over to you stopping inches from you.
  3095. >she might be intimidating to you if you were shorter.
  3096. >but you're not.
  3097. "Manos came to me himself admitting it."
  3098. >Cadence looks caught between pure rage and a mental breakdown
  3099. >tears are forming in her eyes, yet her eyes seem to be able to catch fire any second
  3100. "you are sleeping with your husbands killer.. and he never told you."
  3101. >you hear the words leaving your lips but its hard to believe its you speaking them.
  3102. >whats even worse.. you feel nothing saying them
  3103. >no regrets, no anger, nothing.
  3104. >"even IF he did what you said, you kept it from me.. do you think that makes you any better!?"
  3105. >you dont respond
  3106. >"at least Manos tried to do something. at least he was there afterwords! where were you?"
  3107. >where was I?
  3108. "i was trying to stabilize a capital that was just attacked!"
  3109. >"AND DEFENDED BY MANOS!"
  3110. "defended by ponies.."
  3111. >"ponies who believed in him!"
  3112. "like you did?"
  3113. >Cadence doesnt even bother holding back her sobbing any longer.
  3114. >her legs are shaking as she sobs to herself
  3115. "Cadence, come home.. we can-"
  3116. >suddenly a blast of magic strikes your chest knocking you down
  3117. >it didnt hurt much. but its still a shock to you
  3118. >you look to cadence and her eyes are glowing brightly with tears streaming down her face
  3119. >her horn having a smoky glow of a spell just cast
  3120. >"fuck you Celestia. fuck you and Equestria."
  3121. >there is a sudden burst of light
  3122. >and Cadence is gone
  3123. >just as she disappears your guards break in the room
  3124. >>"Princess! what happened?! where is Cadence?!"
  3125. >you lay on the floor, still shocked at what happened.
  3126. >why did you say those things...
  3127. "shes gone.."
  3128. >>"should we call for help?"
  3129. "no.. its fine."
  3130.  
  3131. >you are Manos
  3132. >you continue to clean your weapon
  3133. >you hear muffled voices outside but pay them little mind.
  3134. >you were right, it must be an interesting night.
  3135. >suddenly there is a bright flash in your room
  3136. >you cover your eyes in a feeble attempt to save your precious retina
  3137. >and fall to the ground not expecting the sun to decide to rise in your room today
  3138. "AH! fuck!"
  3139. >on the ground you try to regain your vision
  3140. >"Manos!"
  3141. >you look up from the ground and see Cadence standing there tears streaming down her face
  3142. >"Manos! tell me the truth! the real truth!"
  3143. >Cadence looks at you unsure of herself
  3144. >she casts a spell in the room, but you are unsure of what it is.
  3145. >you can only assume its a truth spell of some sort.
  3146. "about what cadence?"
  3147. >Cadence glares at you, but deep down her eyes are soft.
  3148. >"did you.."
  3149. >you know the question now.
  3150. >"DID YOU KILL MY HUSBAND!?"
  3151. >you struggle to your feet and turn to look at cadence.
  3152. >you are silent for a moment just the sound of your breathing and Cadences filling the room
  3153. >her horn starts to glow brightly
  3154. >"MANOS! TELL ME!"
  3155. >Cinnamon and Comet both burst into the room
  3156. >they raise their new weapons at Cadence
  3157. >>"Cadence! stop this! if you dont we will be forced to fire!"
  3158. >you raise your hand and motion for them to lower their sidearms
  3159. >"not until Manos answers the question."
  3160. >you look right to cadence
  3161. >and you tell her the honest truth.
  3162. "No. I didnt kill Shining Armor."
  3163. >Cadence looks at you as you utter those words.
  3164. >she quickly rushes to you and wraps you in a tight hug
  3165. >her spell disappears as she lays there crying in your arms
  3166. >you look over to your guards
  3167. "everything's fine, return to your station"
  3168. >Comet and Cinnamon look to one another before slowly leaving, closing the door behind them
  3169. >"I-Im sorry manos. Im sorry i thought you killed Shining Armor"
  3170. >you gently pet her head and lean into her hug
  3171. "its ok.. its ok. Im here Cadence"
  3172. >Cadence gently collapses into your embrace
  3173. >you lift her up and carry her over to the bed and gently set her down as you sit next to her
  3174. >she crawls back up to you and rests her head on your shoulder still sobbing
  3175. "Cadence.. who told you i killed shining armor?"
  3176. >she holds you tightly and leans in closely to your ear
  3177. >her soft and sad voice sounding so sweet as she whispers the name you already know
  3178. >"Celestia"
  3179. >you smile in the direction of Celestias room
  3180. >seems you lost this round too sun-butt, you cannot outwit Fate
  3181. "Cadence.. im sorry, but i do know who killed your husband.."
  3182. >Cadence lifts her head up and looks at you
  3183. "im sorry, i didnt want to tell you because i thought it was for the best.."
  3184. >"who..."
  3185. "Cadence, its going to be hard to hear and you might not want to hear it.."
  3186. >"Manos.. i was already told it was you.. there isnt anyone else that could hurt me more than if it was you"
  3187. >you smile softly
  3188. "alright but you might want to cast that spell"
  3189. >her horn slightly glows again filling the room
  3190. >"alright.."
  3191. >you look at her again
  3192. "Cadence, a Royal Guard killed Shining Armor under orders.."
  3193. >Cadence's eyes fill with anger and pain again.
  3194. >"whos orders Manos?"
  3195. >you cant say that, if you do. you will incriminate yourself
  3196. >you look to the bed, and slowly you rise your hand and point in Celestia direction
  3197. "he was a 'Royal' Guard Cadence"
  3198. >you can feel the room get hotter from Cadences anger.
  3199. >checkmate Celestia
  3200. >Game, Manos
  3201.  
  3202. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO15dAyqt14 [Embed] WE are not your kind of people
  3203.  
  3204. >you are Field Day
  3205. >"AGAIN!"
  3206. "fate damn you honor bound.."
  3207. >you quickly circle back to the start of the course as Honor Bound stands above you on a catwalk
  3208. >Roselight and yourself are running courses side by side
  3209. >sort of.
  3210. >the courses you are running are side by side, you and Roselight are just separated by a large wall
  3211. >you make it back to the start and get ready to run
  3212. >right in front of you is a wall quickly being reformed by magic
  3213. >and anything could be on the other side this time.
  3214. >you look up to the large teams of unicorns and scientists looking down into the course
  3215. >they have been mixing it up with different summoning magics to create familiars of whatever they decide.
  3216. >so far, you have gone up against groups of Yaks, Ponies, Griffons, and even one Alicorn familiar.
  3217. >by far that was the hardest.
  3218. >"five"
  3219. >you power up your armor
  3220. >"four"
  3221. >you take slow breaths
  3222. >"three!"
  3223. >your machine gun raises from the suits magic to point ahead
  3224. >"two, one, begin!"
  3225. >you charge straight ahead at the wall and brace for impact
  3226.  
  3227. >you are Roselight
  3228. >you smash through your wall without effort.
  3229. >before the rubble can hit the ground you focus on your first targets.
  3230. >changelings.
  3231. >they charge you with a ravenous hunger ready to rip away at your armor until they can reach your soft flesh underneath
  3232. >normally changelings wouldn't be this aggressive and would rather hide and attack from behind
  3233. >but these changelings have been starved
  3234. >they cant help themselves
  3235. >you stand over on and crush its skull under your hoof
  3236. >death is more than these beasts deserve
  3237. "I am a child of Fate.. i will not fall prey to mere pests!"
  3238. >you raise your gun and unload a torrent of hot lead into the charging wave
  3239. >you watch as their weak carapace crumbles under the impact of your rounds
  3240. >you smile madly
  3241. >there is no greater test of faith than combat
  3242.  
  3243. >you are Honor Bound
  3244. >both of your test subjects are doing very well.
  3245. >Field Day continues to take out increasingly difficult opponents
  3246. >and your sister Roselight continues to take out larger and larger groups
  3247. >both are improving greatly.
  3248. >you lean over to one of your scientists
  3249. "next room swap opponents.. have Field Day fight numbers and have Rose fight the single target."
  3250. >"what target should we have her face?"
  3251. >you ponder for a moment thinking of what would be an appropriate target for her to combat.
  3252. >you smile when the perfect idea comes to mind.
  3253.  
  3254. >you are Field Day
  3255. "target has been destroyed. several blows to be back of the skull paired with continued fire to the legs and it was easily taken out of play.."
  3256. >you stand over the 'body' of the younger Dragon familiar
  3257. >soon it starts to dispel and you stand on the flat ground looking to the next room ready for the next phase
  3258. >"understood Field Day, proceed to the next room."
  3259. >you move on to the room in front of you.
  3260. >you brace against the door ready to breach inside
  3261. >"three.. two... one.."
  3262. >you smash down the door and scan the room
  3263. >inside is a large group of royal guards, who were sitting around a break room.
  3264. >they all look at you, and you look back
  3265. >they look so real..
  3266. >but they're not.. you can see small trails of smoke peeling off areas of their bodies and armor
  3267. "targets identified.."
  3268. >you ready your gun
  3269. "room clearing and crowd control in effect."
  3270. >you watch on as the guards rush to their weapons as you open fire in the room
  3271.  
  3272. >you are Roselight
  3273. >you take deep breaths exhausted from the constant fighting.
  3274. >even you have your limits.
  3275. >you slowly scan the room your helmet lighting up the darker areas
  3276. "area.. area secured."
  3277. >"very good Rose."
  3278. "Roselight."
  3279. >"... very well. good job Roselight, one last test for you. its in the next room."
  3280. "understood."
  3281. >you can feel your body starting to ache
  3282. >taking on large numbers on your own takes its toll, even if they are weaker than yourself.
  3283. >you approach the door and get ready to breach
  3284. >"breach and eliminate all targets."
  3285. "heil manos and reich"
  3286. >you enter the room in a swift push
  3287. >your weapon is already raised and you look for targets.
  3288. >the room appears clear.
  3289. "no targets identified"
  3290. >you get no response.
  3291. >there must be some in here then. they only close comms when you are being tested
  3292. >you slowly advance inside, your helmet lighting up what it can
  3293. >theres smoke filling the room and shadows are becoming larger.
  3294. >you hear a voice behind you.
  3295. >>"Target located."
  3296. >you quickly turn to face the opponent your weapon ready
  3297. >what you see is both surprising, and very welcome..
  3298. >you grin under your helmet and your eyes harden on the target.
  3299. >standing before you is Field Day, his weapon raised and locked on you.
  3300. >you power up your reserve energy and your armors hum grows louder
  3301. "target acquired"
  3302.  
  3303. >you are Manos
  3304. >you sit in your room with Cadence
  3305. >you gently rub her back between her wings
  3306. "Cadence, i know you are angry. but trust me when i say now is not a time to act.."
  3307. >she remains silent besides the sound of her breathing
  3308. >you gently pull her face to yours
  3309. >anger is pouring out of her.
  3310. "Cadence.. do you trust me?"
  3311. >she finally responds by looking into your eyes
  3312. >you take advantage of this moment to pull both of you into the Immaterial world before Cadence does something irrational
  3313. "i promise Cadence.. we will make things right but i need you to trust me.."
  3314. >Cadence continues her silence for a moment longer
  3315. >"you are the only one i can trust Manos.."
  3316. "then while Celestia and the other leaders are here.. we cannot act against Celestia"
  3317. >Cadence nods her head and very slowly her tears go away
  3318. >"i understand manos.. im sorry that i ever doubted you."
  3319. >before you can respond to her she pulls you in and gives you a deep kiss
  3320. >you pull both of you out of the Immaterial world just as she breaks it
  3321. >"i will follow you to Tartarus and back again."
  3322. >you slowly brush her mane with your hand
  3323. "i know..."
  3324. >its your turn to kiss her now.
  3325. >the two of you sit in the darkness with each other by your sides
  3326. >perhaps one last thing..
  3327. >a few small words to secure her loyalty forever.
  3328. "I love you Cadence."
  3329. >she smiles back to you, her eyes unable to form anymore tears
  3330. >"i love you too Manos."
  3331.  
  3332. >you are Honor Bound
  3333. >you watch both of your subjects carry on with their testing.
  3334. >they preform perfectly
  3335. >Field Day dispensed of the guards quickly, prioritizing targets based on their threat level until he took all of them down
  3336. >but he was the one who was lest enjoyable to watch
  3337. >Your sister.. she is much more entertaining.
  3338. >you watch as Roselight attacks he fellow Operator mercilessly
  3339. >she keeps her distance from Field Day strafing and circling
  3340. >gunfire rings out from her weapon until she is empty, the fake Field Day now remains still waiting for her next move
  3341. >she charges directly at her target
  3342. >Field Day charges back their suits collide with a loud bang
  3343. >the following hoof to hoof combat is brutal
  3344. >Field Day does his best to defend and counter Roselights attacks while tacking attacks of opportunity
  3345. >Roselight however has an all too different approach
  3346. >she pounds on his armor with her hooves, the weight of her blows amplified by her suit acting like large mauls of death
  3347. >you watch his armor bend and break from each blow.
  3348. >with a swift kick to his side he falls to the ground a few feet away
  3349. "make him act in pain. make this as real as possible for her.."
  3350. >"yes sir"
  3351. >you watch the crippled Field Day desperately try to crawl away
  3352. >a long red trail of blood streaking on the floor
  3353. >you listen to his amplified voice
  3354. >>"Rose.. rose please, thats enough. you completed the mission."
  3355. >Roselight calmly walks over to him, her suit humming from its back up power reserves adding to its power
  3356. >>"ROSELIGHT! IM GIVING YOU A DIRECT ORDER! CEASE YOUR ASSAULT"
  3357. >the voice is uncanny, its perfect.
  3358. >she walks to the crippled pony flipping it over on its back to face her.
  3359. >"Real or not.. all heretics deserve death.. you fate has been decided"
  3360. >she rises to her back hooves before dropping down again
  3361. >just a guillotine, she delivers death to her target.
  3362.  
  3363. >you are Manos
  3364. >the night pasted rather quickly, you stayed up all night with Cadence.
  3365. >neither of you got much sleep.
  3366. >you dress yourself in one of your best uniforms
  3367. >"Manos, can i ask you something?"
  3368. >you finish buttoning up your final layer before responding
  3369. "I believe you just did Cadence."
  3370. >"very funny, forgive me if i dont laugh im not exactly in the best of moods.."
  3371. "i understand, go ahead with your question."
  3372. >you walk over to your desk and start to finish reassembling your sidearm
  3373. >"what do you plan to do after these, talks are over?"
  3374. >you finish with your sidearm sliding the magazine inside with a secure click
  3375. >you turn back to Cadence and holster your weapon
  3376. >Cadence flips her mane out of her face looking over to you from the bed
  3377. >you snap the safety strap securely closed then extend your arms outward
  3378. "Expand"
  3379. >Cadence smiles at your behavior
  3380. >"then i can only assume that we have a lot of work to do"
  3381. >Cadence climbs out of bed and using her magic quickly dresses herself and fix her mane while you walk over to the door
  3382. "that we do Cadence, and our opportunity is coming close at hand"
  3383. >you wait before Cadence is ready and at your side before you open the doors
  3384. >your timing must have been perfect, as soon as you open your doors you see Celestia Standing just outside hers
  3385. >your Hands stand there in silence as Celestia and her guards return your sharp stares
  3386. >then Celestias eyes wander to your side where Cadence stands
  3387. >you smile and her as she starts to put two and two together
  3388. >you dont need to look over to Cadence to know she is glaring at her 'auntie'
  3389. "i hope you dont mind Celestia but Cadence will be joining us at the next meeting"
  3390. >>"as a matter of fact Manos i do."
  3391. "thats a shame, because it doesnt matter. Her rank in the Reich allows her to join us anyway"
  3392. >Cadence and your guards start to walk down the hall to the meeting rooms
  3393. >you take another moment to mouth two words to sunbutt
  3394. "clever girl"
  3395.  
  3396. >you are Celestia
  3397. >you cant believe your eyes
  3398. >Cadence is with Manos, she went to HIM!?
  3399. >you watch as she and the two guards walk away leaving Manos behind momentarily
  3400. >he gives you a smile that makes you feel very uneasy.
  3401. >not because its menacing, but because its a knowing smile.
  3402. >your eyes slowly look to his lips as he mouths something to you.
  3403. >clever.. girl?..
  3404. >Manos then walks away to join the others walking away.
  3405. >"Princess.. is everything alright?.."
  3406. >you watch as they make their way down the hall casually
  3407. "im afraid not my little pony, and whats more.. im not sure how bad things are yet."
  3408.  
  3409.  
  3410. >you are Manos
  3411. >you and Cadence are the first to enter the room.
  3412. >you walk to the head of the table and offer the seat there to Cadence.
  3413. >at first she hesitates but eventually she takes a seat in your chair.
  3414. >the other leaders slowly arrive one by one
  3415. >to your surprise Celestia isnt one of the first to arrive.
  3416. >the first to make it are the Yaks
  3417. >followed by both the Griffons and Bat ponies arriving together.
  3418. >finally followed in by Celesita and Salicar
  3419. >Salicar and his guards make his way over to the seat next to yours with a small grin on his face
  3420. >thats a good sign
  3421. >you nod your head to him and give a small grin back
  3422. >now all the seats are filled and talks may begin again.
  3423. >wonder how interesting they will become today.
  3424. >the Yaks speak up
  3425. >"Yaks want to know who pink pony is. why pink pony in Manos seat?!"
  3426. >before you can answer Cadence responds
  3427. >>"my name is Mi Amore Cadenza, former princess of Equestria and head of the Changeling Removal Branch of the Black Hands"
  3428. >"Changeling removal?"
  3429. >>"yes, would you care for me to explain it in more detail?"
  3430. >Salicar chuckles loud enough for everyone to hear.
  3431. >>>"ah manos, your nation has amazed me more and more each day. please.. enlighten us on this 'changeling removal' "
  3432. >you smile to the Zebra
  3433. "very well. however i think its only fair we give credit for this where it is due."
  3434. >you gesture to Celestia sitting across from you and Cadence
  3435. "Princess Celestia was the first to allow me to put my plans into action. without her, well.. none of this would be possible."
  3436. >you give her a coy smile
  3437. >one she returns with a un-amused stare
  3438. "it started back when i was working under the Flag of Equestria, my small group of Black Hands and brownshirts, along with a few volunteer ponies, prevented the fall of Canterlot from a changeling invasion and infestation."
  3439. >you start to walk around the room
  3440. "when we engaged these creatures several things that im sure are well known to us all became even more obvious."
  3441. >you slow your walk and look around the room
  3442. "and much more troubling.. after killing their queen they scattered."
  3443. >>>"that doesnt seem to be too troubling. why would that be cause fr concern? you dispatched the head of the beast"
  3444. "true, but the beast still lives. and without one collective mind controlling them they would scatter and embed themselves in pony society... like ticks, they could slowly suck Equestrian society dry."
  3445. >you motion over to Cadence
  3446. "so i decided to make an effort to uncover as many as possible and..."
  3447. >Cadence smiles and finishes your thought
  3448. >>"remove them. permanently."
  3449. >this gets murmurs from the group of delegates gathered
  3450. "i was given permission by Celestia to construct a facility to store and safely remove the parasites from harming innocents."
  3451. >Salicar gives an interested look
  3452. >>>"you built a storage facility? for changelings?"
  3453. >you smile to Salicar
  3454. "no, i built a camp."
  3455. >>"for the dual purpose of Changelings large labor force and of course, their extermination"
  3456. >the Bat pony leader looks shocked at Cadences words
  3457. >"you built death camps!?"
  3458. "if thats what you wish to call them"
  3459. >"manos, that is completely insane, and not to mention barbaric! how could you even think to implement such things?!"
  3460. "i dont see it that way"
  3461. >you point to Celestia
  3462. "and your Princess of Harmony gave me the go ahead."
  3463. >the Bat pony looks over to Celestia then back to you trying to make some sort of argument
  3464. >he must have realized anything he says about the camps doesnt only effect your status..
  3465. >but Celestias too.
  3466. >eventually he takes a seat, and you return to your explanation
  3467. "im sorry you dont approve of 'our' methods"
  3468. >you make eye contact with Celestia when you say 'our'
  3469. "or perhaps you would rather these evil creatures be set loose? its well within my means to do so.."
  3470. >you stand rather close to the bat pony
  3471. >as close as his guards will allow you anyway
  3472. "just say the word. and every, single, one, of those evil murderous parasites will be back in Equestria killing innocents."
  3473. >another thought comes to mind as those words leave your lips.
  3474. >not only are those camps free labor, and a goal for ponies to aim for.
  3475. >they are also the perfect contingency plan.
  3476. "whats the last count of live changelings in our camps Cadence?"
  3477. >>"i cant recall the exact numbers.. but we currently house several thousands in our largest camp alone"
  3478. "and how many camps do we currently have built?"
  3479. >you continue to stare down the pony
  3480. >>"more than a dozen, some smaller than others."
  3481. >you shrug before walking back to your seat
  3482. "beats having those beasts out harming innocent ponies."
  3483. >>>"do you have one that we could see?"
  3484. >you turn to Salicar
  3485. "im afraid that they are in undisclosed locations for reasons of security.."
  3486. >>>"i see."
  3487. "but our largest isnt that far, im sure i could arrange a visit for you Salicar, another time. but lets get back on topic. what are we discussing today?"
  3488. >you smile calmly while most of the room remains quiet
  3489. >each of them thinking about what to actually bring to attention.
  3490. >or perhaps.. contemplating your methods
  3491. "well.. if you dont have anything to bring up. i shall"
  3492. >you look to the Yaks
  3493. "i want to request a free trade arrangement"
  3494. >"Manos want trade with yakyakistan? what Manos want?"
  3495. "you have several things in your nation ive found very desirable. not to mention, we are essentially neighbors, and the only major route between Yakistan-"
  3496. >"its YakYakistan"
  3497. >you recoil slightly
  3498. "my apologies. but as i was saying, the only major route in and out of yakyakistan"
  3499. >you point to the large map on the table
  3500. "passes right through the territory of the Reich, in other words, one way in, one way out"
  3501.  
  3502. >you are Celestia
  3503. >this isnt good...
  3504. >Manos is securing allies one at a time.
  3505. >you might slap yourself for coming up with this stupid idea, Manos has always had a silver tongue.
  3506. >as you continue to think to yourself about how to somehow recover from this Manos continues on to the Yaks about the benefits of trade with the Reich
  3507. >you need to do something
  3508. "Manos, what do you seek to gain from this?"
  3509. >Manos appears to be surprised by your sudden questioning
  3510. >"im sorry Celestia?"
  3511. "what benefits could you have from trade, i noticed you have been giving plenty of reasons for trade with you, but it seems you are offering to sell more than buy"
  3512. >manos smiles
  3513. >"you got me Celestia, there are several things i wish to gain, besides my vast supply of various gems, ores, and crystals i have very little resources, the Reichs winters are long, and most timber and other resources are in your hooves"
  3514. "indeed, but you still havnt answered the question, what are you asking for?"
  3515. >Manos remains silent for a short time
  3516. >"livestock"
  3517. "what?"
  3518.  
  3519. >you are Manos
  3520. >you cant help but chuckle at the response you received from both Celestia and the Yaks
  3521. "yes, livestock, but not what you are probably thinking of"
  3522. >you wave Celestia away and return to the Yaks
  3523. "im interested in a native creature to your lands.. and i am willing to pay whaver you see as reasonable for them"
  3524. >the yaks look interested
  3525. >possibly, its hard to tell with all that hair in the way
  3526. >"what creature?"
  3527. >you stand up with a wide grin
  3528. "Yetis"
  3529.  
  3530. >you are Honor Bound
  3531. >you lead Roselight and Field day to where they will be showing off your armor
  3532. >your testing has been very informative and you have made several improvements to its design
  3533. >but one of your favorite improvements came to you when you weren't testing the armor, but the Talon.
  3534. >you walk over to the armor sitting on the racks, each one polished to a shine
  3535. >and a large white circle with the mark of manos painted on the chest of each suit
  3536. >"where are the helmets?"
  3537. "they have been removed Field Day, you will be given replacement ones, they might be a little different, but they are improved."
  3538. >Roselight wastes no time and opens up the armor already gearing herself up
  3539. >assistants rush over to help her, while field day calmly waits for his turn
  3540. >the armor is unhooked from its stand and hits the floor with a metallic clank
  3541. >Roselight takes a few steps away from the stand without turning on her suits power.
  3542. >the strength of earth ponies can still amaze you sometimes... that suit weighs a ton.
  3543. "your turn Field day. my assistants will suit you up while i get rose her new helmet."
  3544. >"take your time, i always feel a little camped once i get in that suit."
  3545. "ill remember that."
  3546. >you both share half-assed smiles before you lead rose over to a secured container
  3547. >>"what have you changed on my armor.."
  3548. "the joints should be more responsive, the weight has been altered, and you have been given a thicker outer plate."
  3549. >>"i feel more exposed."
  3550. "thats just the weight adjustment, its lighter. though still heavy."
  3551. >you open the container with your magic and lift out one of the helmets and levitate it over to Roselight quickly securing it.
  3552. >there is a small canister on the side of the helmet filled with your newest project.
  3553. >you smile as Field Day walks over ready for his own helmet.
  3554. "let me explain what this new addition does.."
  3555.  
  3556. >you are Manos
  3557. >you lead your guests outside of the meeting rooms
  3558. >each of them followed by their guards along with a large group of your own
  3559. "ladies and gentlemen.. what you are going to see was a closely guarded secret in the Reich, our testing has near perfected it."
  3560. >"Manos is this going to be one of your creations?"
  3561. >that Zebra is really starting to grow on you
  3562. "yes, indeed it is."
  3563. >the walk is relatively short, the meeting rooms are close to a larger room that was originally used for slave fights
  3564. >Sombra had some brutal tastes in entertainment when he ruled
  3565. >but so does everyone you assume.
  3566. "right inside here."
  3567. >you walk inside and move around the large pit, a layer of glass has been installed over top and a guard rail around the sides for safety
  3568. >Celestia speaks up over the small group getting your attention
  3569. >>"quite an area you have here manos, i can only imagine what you use it for."
  3570. >you roll your eyes and her comment
  3571. "i dont, this is the first use it has had to my knowledge, i thought it would be perfect to demonstrate my Operators."
  3572. >you shoot a glare
  3573. "I hope you pay close attention, if not now, then later."
  3574. >you smile at her, knowing that she caught the underlying meaning.
  3575. "please, take your seats. all we need to do now is wait for Honor--"
  3576. >there is a sudden flash in the pit below and inside you see two of your Operators and Honor Bound standing in the center
  3577. "ah, perfect timing."
  3578.  
  3579. >you are Salicar Barca
  3580. >Grand leader of the Zebranican Republic
  3581. >this Manos is a very interesting leader, he doesnt care for the other nations concern for war.
  3582. >in fact he embraces it, its very admirable.
  3583. >he reminds you much of the old Zebranican leaders of long ago.
  3584. >they gained their power from warfare and conquest, expanding ever further until your republic was established.
  3585. >you do your best to motion Manos over to your side
  3586. >after a moment of small talk with the Yaks he makes his way over to you
  3587. >"yes Salicar?"
  3588. "Manos, would you be interested in a more cooperative and official agreement?"
  3589. >Manos gives you a interested look and takes a look to Celestia on the other side of the group
  3590. >"what did you have in mind Salicar?"
  3591. >you grin and offer a seat to Manos
  3592. >rather funny now that you think of it, offering him his own seat.
  3593. >the two of you sit down while the demonstration begins
  3594. >you are rather interested in whats going on but this is a little more important
  3595. "i know what you are planning to do, build up troops and weapons then expand your borders."
  3596. >Manos clam demeanor remains the same
  3597. >he truly doesn't care, perhaps he even expects everypony to know
  3598. "that is how the birth of my homeland started, I would be honored to assist in this moment of history"
  3599. >Manos chuckles to himself and looks down into the pit
  3600. >"what do you want in exchange? if its my armor, im afraid i wont be giving that up so easily."
  3601. >you look into the pit
  3602. >the first thing you see is two large ponies in some sort of metallic suits
  3603. >the next are several cages of changelings trying to break out.
  3604. "hm they do appear to be impressive what are the per--"
  3605. >your eyes widen as the cages are opened and the two inside are swarmed by those beasts
  3606. >manos just smiles
  3607. >"lets finish this later."
  3608.  
  3609. >you are Field Day
  3610. >all around you are hungry changelings
  3611. >they have their mouths agape and let out long hiss's
  3612. "targets left and right my orders are to pull back into a corner and taking them out as they approach"
  3613. >...
  3614. "Roselight?"
  3615. >you look to your left and see the Mare standing her ground where she started
  3616. >you have moved back slightly and now she is nearly surrounded
  3617. "Roselight? respond."
  3618. >she quickly looks back to you her helmet and armor still deactivated
  3619. >soon it roars to life matching your own armors hum
  3620. >instead of communicating over the comms she speaks from her helmets audio systems
  3621. >"fear is a option Field Day, retreat is not!"
  3622. >she charges into the changeling 'horde' without a care to her own life
  3623. >shes going to get you killed one day..
  3624. >you charge in after her
  3625.  
  3626. >you are Roselight
  3627. >Field Day is a coward. against a group of starving and weakened pests he wants to hide in a corner.
  3628. >disgraceful, how could someone like him be allowed to lead ponies in combat?!
  3629. >how can you possibly take orders from him when things need to be done
  3630. >"Roselight i gave you an order to pull back, im still your superior if i remember correctly"
  3631. >you ignore the pony and strike at another changeling kicking it into the wall with a splat
  3632. >the bugs disgusting green blood paints the wall.
  3633. >these creatures are monstrosities against all ponies.
  3634. >no wonder manos wishes them destroyed
  3635. "I have the armor of my Lord as my shield and my faith as my weapon!"
  3636. >"quit with the religious rhetoric! this isnt a church or a holy war"
  3637. >what an imbecile
  3638. "all wars are holy Field Day, every battlefield a church! we are his chosen ponies, and in death in battle we are awaited in Valhalla!"
  3639.  
  3640. >you are Manos
  3641. >that Operator is rather.. interesting.
  3642. >you approach the side of the pit
  3643. >everyone else is watching the display of the suits in combat but you are watching the one operator
  3644. >you look over to Honor Bound who has joined you up here with the other leaders
  3645. >with a wave of your hand you motion him over
  3646. >he slowly walks over to your side.
  3647. >"yes sir?"
  3648. "who do you have operating those suits?"
  3649. >"the same one who always have, minus three, the one on the right is team leader Field Day, whom i believe you have met."
  3650. >you nod your head
  3651. "and the other.."
  3652. >you point to the one seemingly taking on every changeling in the pit without care for personal safety.
  3653. >"thats Roselight, my sister."
  3654. "you have a sister?"
  3655. >honor does his best to suppress a laugh
  3656. >"yes sir, i do."
  3657. "when this is over, have her speak with me."
  3658. >you step away from the pit and walk back to Salicar giving the occasional glance back at the pony in the armor
  3659. "perhaps we can speak now, please come with me..."
  3660. >while the other leaders are not looking you slip away with Salicar and his guards.
  3661. >dont want a certain mare overhearing your plans.
  3662.  
  3663. >you are Salicar
  3664. >perfect, Manos has taken your offer seriously
  3665. >at first you thought he was just going to humor you
  3666. >but now he seems to be far more interested.
  3667. "im overjoyed that you are considering what i have to say Manos."
  3668. >the two of you continue walking further away, your guards and yourself sticking close by Manos and his Hands
  3669. >"im not just interested in your plan to assist in expansion based on your desire for glory, im interested in what you wish to gain from this material wise."
  3670. >ah, sees right through you.
  3671. >good, it will make it much easier.
  3672. "Im going to be straight forward with you Manos, out of respect to you. Equestria has been the center of the world for too long."
  3673. >finally your small group stops in the hall
  3674. >"and you want it to be the Zebranican Republics turn?"
  3675. "indeed, we have many soldiers Manos, and from what i know of Celestia and her plans.. most of her forces will be concentrated around your little Nation."
  3676. >you motion to one of your guards and he hands you a small scroll
  3677. >which you then in turn pass to Manos
  3678. "just say the word and i can have soldiers wherever you need them, reinforcing fortifications, raiding trade routes, or whatever you need."
  3679. >suddenly manos smiles and soon starts laughing
  3680. "pardon me Manos, but what is so funny?"
  3681.  
  3682. >you are Manos
  3683. >and you cant believe this Zebra
  3684. >you look over the paper he gave you
  3685. >while bodies are definitely something he has plenty of, the weapons and tools they posses are laughable
  3686. "you expect to take on a nation like Equestria.. with twigs and cloth?"
  3687. >you point to the so called 'soldiers arsenal' list
  3688. "not only that, you have little in the way of a Navy, how do you plan on getting those Zebras here on Equestrian soil?"
  3689. >Salicar looks offended at your remarks
  3690. >good, perhaps it might sober him up.
  3691. "Salicar, while i will accept your help in exchange for the lands you 'conquer' you will need more than twigs and a dream to do that."
  3692. >"it has worked well for you."
  3693. "perhaps, but my sticks and twigs shoot hot lead at over a thousand rounds per minute, my forces believe that death in battle is the greatest honor they can receive, and that they are fighting for a cause that is just."
  3694. >you hand the list back to the Zebra
  3695. "what would yours be fighting for?... dirt?"
  3696. >Salicar stands firm on his decision
  3697. >"manos, we Zebras may not be like your Black Hands in many respects, but we are not cowardly and unwilling to fight."
  3698. >you look to the Zebra for a moment
  3699. >perhaps he is right
  3700. >perhaps not.
  3701. >either way, you need allies, allies willing to fight against Equestria if you are going to get anywhere.
  3702. "Salicar, your weaponry, who crafts them?"
  3703. >"each weapon is hand crafted, our greatest blacksmiths shape our weapons and armor"
  3704. >you draw your sidearm again
  3705. >its turning out to be a handy visual aid
  3706. "you see this weapon Salicar? i can make thousands like it within a few weeks. and each one of these would be able to do the job your handcrafted spears and arrow can."
  3707. >you re-holster it
  3708. "if you are going to make the impact you want, and expand the speed you do you are going to need gear."
  3709. >you smile to the Zebra
  3710. "and lucky for you.. i have the means and materials to make those."
  3711. >"what would it take to get those materials and equipment Manos?"
  3712. "time and effort, but from you it will be an influx of troops, allow my Nation a small area of your own lands to train and equip your own forces, and finally ill need you to help me pass a motion in our talks."
  3713. >"is that all? a bit of dirt that will benefit us, and a vote?"
  3714. "from you? yes. so.. is it a deal?"
  3715. >you extend your hand to the Zebra
  3716. >another deal another soul..
  3717. >the same devil.
  3718.  
  3719. >you are Honor Bound
  3720. >most of the changelings have been dispatched
  3721. >and your suits have performed well, nothing more than a few scratches on the paint but nothing too important
  3722. "now for the final demonstration of our advanced armor, you have seen our more direct approaches to combat"
  3723. >the pit is littered with dead changelings scattered about
  3724. "but what about those engagements where we dont want the casualties"
  3725. >you look down into the pit where the last cage full of changelings have been placed
  3726. >with your magic you open the cage and they slowly crawl out eyeing the two Operators
  3727. "now these are changelings, and they dont have the same reactions as ponies but should get the point across."
  3728. >your heart starts to race as your excitement builds
  3729. >you speak into the crystal in your collar
  3730. "release it."
  3731.  
  3732. >you are Roselight
  3733. >in the pit you face the small gathering of pests
  3734. >"release it"
  3735. >you bite on the trigger in your helmet releasing the chemicals
  3736. >soon a dark purple cloud starts to form on the floor in front of you
  3737. >it crawls along the ground like a stalking wolf hunting its prey
  3738. >your eyes scan over to Field Day
  3739. >the same gas is being exposed from his helmet
  3740. >it leaves from small tubes from the canister to just below his eyes and where his mouth it located.
  3741. >you turn back to the changelings and watch as the gas comes into contact with them.
  3742. >their stares of hunger and rage quickly change
  3743. >they start to step away from you slowly.
  3744. >then they panic, some clawing at each other to try to get away from you.
  3745.  
  3746. >you are Celesita
  3747. >you stand up from your seat to get a better look into the pit.
  3748. >the thick cloud of purple smoke is unmistakable.
  3749. >that is definitely made from Sombras crystals.
  3750. >you quickly look back to the Changelings inside
  3751. >they are all backed into a corner and piled up.
  3752. >they continue to panic
  3753. >this is horrible..
  3754. >"as you can see the conflict has been completely avoided and our Operators are unharmed!"
  3755. "stop this immediately, what you have done is made something already dangerous even more so!"
  3756. >the unicorn walks over to you a uneasy smile on his face
  3757. >"please excuse me.. princess.. but this test and demonstration has been run several times over. everything has been perfected."
  3758. >you stomp your hoof
  3759. "and what you have perfected is warfare that is unimaginable!"
  3760. >"then id suggest you try to wrap your head around it. because its here."
  3761. >you glare at the unicorn standing before you..
  3762. >he looks familiar somehow..
  3763. "what is your name?"
  3764. >"My name, princess. is Commander Honor Bound. Head of the Reich's research department."
  3765. "and what else.."
  3766. >the Unicorn remains silent for a moment
  3767. >"and former bodyguard to Manos"
  3768. >thats it.
  3769. >he was the pony with you and Manos when he confessed to killing Shining Armor.
  3770. "you have certainly moved up in the world then Lieutenant.."
  3771. >"so you remember me then. good."
  3772. >Honor Bound walks away from you to continue his showing of the suits.
  3773. >its strange remembering that everypony here with Manos, was once one of your own.
  3774. >you look down to the scroll under your wing
  3775. >..
  3776. "its for the best.."
  3777.  
  3778. >you are Manos
  3779. >you and Salicar finally rejoin the group
  3780. >just in time to catch the end of your suits in action.
  3781. >seems that Honor has finally put some of your stockpile to use.
  3782. >you could recognize that color of purple anywhere.
  3783. "please Salicar, enjoy the last few minutes. i need to speak with someone."
  3784. >you walk over to the edge of the pit.
  3785. >most of the smoke has started to clear away, either sinking into the cracks of the pit or mixing with the air to a safe level
  3786. "honor, take me to those operators."
  3787. >"sir?"
  3788. >you look to honor bound
  3789. "you heard me."
  3790. >"yes lord."
  3791. >there is a quick flash and soon you are in the pit standing ta--
  3792. >you quickly fall to your knees with a pain in your chest and a dizzy head.
  3793. "ugh.. never again.."
  3794. >you quickly make your way to your feet and notice you are standing in front of both of your operators
  3795. >they both give you a salute
  3796. >their voices boom from the voice of the armor
  3797. >>"heil manos!"
  3798. >you direct your attention to Roselight
  3799. "whats your name Operator."
  3800. >"my lord, my name is Roselight, Operator of your power armor, and sister to Honor Bound."
  3801. >you look over to Field Day
  3802. "i can only assume that is Field Day"
  3803. >>"yes sir"
  3804. "remove your helmets Operators, i need to speak to both of you in private"
  3805. >Roselight removes her helmet first followed by Field Day
  3806. >you both of them in the eyes and soon you both are in darkness.
  3807.  
  3808. >you are Roselight
  3809. >one second you are in the large pit
  3810. >the next you are in a nearly empty void.
  3811. >you take a step back and look around for anything recognizable
  3812. "Field Day?... Manos?"
  3813. >soon the empty void starts to fill with various little bits of the pit
  3814. >eventually the pit you stood in before is all around you including Feild Day
  3815. >"Roselight? what just happened?"
  3816. >the two of you stand close to each other and look around for an explanation
  3817. "where is Manos?"
  3818. >>"everywhere."
  3819. >you and Field Day look towards the sudden sound of Manos' voice
  3820. >he stands in the open, like he was always there.
  3821. >a small grin forms on his face
  3822. >>"behind you.."
  3823. >you look behind you and to your surprise there he stands too.
  3824. "my lord.. how?.."
  3825. >both of the Manos' talk in sync sounding like once voice
  3826. >>"this world. this is my own creation. forgive my less than perfect introduction to it. i have a thing for theatrics."
  3827. >"this is a world of your creation? is this that Valhalla you promise those that worship you?"
  3828. >you quickly glare at Field Day
  3829. "Dont question lord Manos!"
  3830. >Manos in his good will must have forgave that heretics doubt
  3831. >he just smiles to him and yourself
  3832. >>"no, this is simply the pit... this.. is Valhalla."
  3833. >the world around you quickly crumbles away and the tree of you stand on the edge of a cliff
  3834. >just on the other side is a large gate leading to a giant city
  3835. >you can only see the tops of the buildings inside the rest carefully shrouded by the gates and wall
  3836. >the wall that seems to float above the empty void below
  3837. "Valhalla.. its.. its beautiful.."
  3838. >you cant help but sit down at the sight before you.
  3839. >its everything you could have imagined and more.
  3840.  
  3841. >you are Manos
  3842. >Roselight seems to be very devoted to you
  3843. >you watch her reaction to the sight of your created afterlife
  3844. >small tears start to form on her face as she smiles at its sight.
  3845. >Field Day doesnt have the same reaction to it.
  3846. >he has one of wonder, but not of desire.
  3847. >perhaps he doesnt crave the afterlife like Roselight, or perhaps he simply doesnt believe.
  3848. "Field Day, do you not care for this paradise?"
  3849. >Field Day gives you a quick salute
  3850. >>"its not that sir, but I care for my current life more than the one following it."
  3851. "really?"
  3852. >>"i also care for the lives of those after my own. i dont fight for the Reich for the reward of a, as you put it 'paradise' after death, i fight for the possibility for a paradise in life."
  3853. >you nod you head in understanding
  3854. "i understand that, i like a pony with a vision and a good head on his shoulders, but showing you this afterlife isnt the reason i brought you here."
  3855. >the world slowly changes again
  3856. >now you are all in a empty room with a table and several chairs
  3857. >you take a seat
  3858. "im currently in the process of making a deal with what could be a very valuable... ally."
  3859. >Roselight takes a moment to wipe the few tears off her face and getting a hold of herself
  3860. >soon she stands straight with a look of steely determination
  3861. "one that will need to be kept in its place.. as well as trained for real combat."
  3862. >before you a zebra begins to form
  3863. >in its hoof it holds a spear and wears some armor made of some undetermined metal
  3864. >"Zebras?.. Zebras want to fight along side us?"
  3865. "not quite, they want to fight against Equestria, we just seem to be the best reason for them to do so."
  3866. >you grin to your Operators
  3867. "so ill need someone willing to spread the word of the Reich. the leaders only value the territory they conquest. and ill value the minds we can sway to our side."
  3868. >poor Salicar, if only he could understand
  3869. >this war isnt Reich against Equestria
  3870. >its the Reich against the World.
  3871. "i understand that you are more warriors than diplomats, so i ask a favor. Note: you may say no."
  3872. >you stand up and walk over to the two ponies placing your hand on each of their soulders
  3873. "i ask that one of you go to train and help win the hearts and minds of those Zebras, of course you wont go alone.. i have a certain Unicorn i plan to send along with you, along with a handful of guards."
  3874. >you gently pat Field Days shoulder
  3875. "however going would mean you will not be here to help in combat"
  3876. >you look to Roselight, obviously she is the one who would volunteer for this, but you have other plans for her.
  3877. >you quietly make a 'shh' gesture
  3878. "so for that reason, Field Day.. i am requesting that you go."
  3879. >there is a short pause
  3880. >>"if i go, who will be leading the other Operators?"
  3881. "Roselight shall. she seems capable."
  3882. >again there is silence
  3883. >Field Day looks over his shoulder to Roselight, a serious look of contemplation on his face
  3884. >>"fine.. ill go."
  3885. "wonderful. now that this is all settled. i expect to see you before you go, and Roselight, you will come to my office, i have different orders for you"
  3886. >just as quickly as you entered the Immaterial world you are back
  3887. >you stand in the pit with Honor Bound and the two ponies
  3888. >they seem a little disoriented from their first time in the Immaterial world
  3889. "Honor, we have finished our talk. please, take me back to our guests."
  3890. >>>"Yes lord"
  3891. >this time you ready yourself for the sudden teleportation
  3892. >the same bright flash occurs and you are again with your guests
  3893. >and again, you get that same sick feeling from the spell.
  3894. >ok, starting now, you will not teleport unless its unavoidable.
  3895. >you get a hold of yourself as quickly as you can and walk over to Celestia
  3896. >she notices your approach and turns to face you
  3897. >as she does you notice a small paper under her wing
  3898. >as you look down at it she grabs your attention
  3899. >"yes manos? is it finally time for our 'last' meeting?"
  3900. >last meeting..
  3901. >you take another look to where the scroll was
  3902. "yes... yes i do believe it is."
  3903. >once everyone has been gathered again you all set off to the same meeting room as before.
  3904. >what did she mean.. last meeting..
  3905.  
  3906. >you are Lyra Heartstrings
  3907. >as you have been for the past few weeks, you sit in your room doing... nothing..
  3908. >aside from going to a few local churches to speak as a guest, or meeting with other religious followers you have done nothing.
  3909. >you look down at your papers and scriptures.
  3910. >you just dont have the zeal that you used to.
  3911. >and you know all to well why.
  3912. "I cant believe she didnt let me go with her.. all i do now is worry!"
  3913. >you stand up from your seat and walk out the doors to your room.
  3914. >two Black Hands escort you as you leave
  3915. >besides Manos, Little League is one of the only old friends you still have, and now you know absolutely nothing about where she is.
  3916. >you walk the halls of the castle
  3917. >perhaps its not just worry that keeps you distracted..
  3918. >perhaps its jealousy.
  3919. >everyone else has in some way had an adventure, or duty to fulfill almost weekly
  3920. >the most you have really done is speak at a few churches and show up for events nothing of real value
  3921. >"Lyra Heartstrings"
  3922. >you look over to see Emerald and Sapphire waiting for you
  3923. "yes?"
  3924. >>"we would like to ask a favor of you."
  3925. >"its of great importance."
  3926. >great importance?
  3927. "what is it?"
  3928. >Emerald hands you a small folder.
  3929. >you open it with your magic and start read whats inside.
  3930. >"how well are you suited for large speeches.."
  3931. >after reading the file you look up to the two sisters with a smile.
  3932. "its what im best at."
  3933.  
  3934. >you are Celestia
  3935. >this might possibly be the last time you are able to speak with Manos or Cadence.
  3936. >even though things are not the way you would like them to be, you need to apologize to Cadence.
  3937. >you wait outside the room for the two of them to come to the meeting
  3938. >Manos and Cadence follow behind the group and stop as you approach them
  3939. "Cadence, id like to speak with you-"
  3940. >"save it Celestia. It can be said in the meeting. and if it has anything to do with anything other than negotiations, i dont want to hear it."
  3941. "Cadence please, i just want to apologize"
  3942. >"im sure you do."
  3943. >Cadence brushes past you into the room with the others leaving you alone in the hall with Manos
  3944. >>"you sure have a way with words Celestia"
  3945. >you scowl at the sound of his voice
  3946. "Manos, i dont know what you have done to fool cadence"
  3947. >>"did i fool cadence? or just you"
  3948. "what is that supposed to mean?"
  3949. >Manos just smiles in silence
  3950. >its aggravating to a level you never thought possible
  3951. "Manos, tell me. what did you do. I deserve to know!"
  3952. >>"thats not how the world works Sunbutt. you dont always get what you deserve by right, you get what you earn with sweat and blood"
  3953. >Manos turns his head exposing the burn that still remains on his face
  3954. >>"it make you wonder.. how long have I been trying to earn this.. and how many truths still need to be uncovered?"
  3955. "enough of your cryptic games manos, just tell me already!"
  3956. >Manos walks past you into the room
  3957. >as he walks by you hear a small whisper
  3958. >>"i lied about Shining Armors death"
  3959.  
  3960. >you are Manos
  3961. >it probably was a bad idea to have that little bit of fun with Celestia
  3962. >but there is little she can do about it now, Cadence wont listen to anything she says anyway
  3963. >you walk over to your chair where Cadence sits and stand behind her you hands on her shoulders
  3964. >Salicar sits next to you two again
  3965. >the Yaks sit in the center, and Celestia and the Bat ponies sit on the opposite side
  3966. >you look over to Salicar
  3967. >he gives you a small nod and you begin
  3968. "this is the last of our talks, as im sure you all are aware. we still have the issue of my being in possession several of the Elements of Chaos."
  3969. >you look around the room to each of the delegates
  3970. "as this is a matter that concerns each of us equally. i propose we put to a vote what should be done about it."
  3971. >Salicar grins understanding what his vote counts for now.
  3972. >you look over to the Yaks who just stare blankly, maybe.
  3973. >again that hair makes it hard to tell
  3974. "i motion that any discovered elements of chaos are to be in the sole possession of the Reich, as a counter measure to Equestrias power."
  3975. >Celestia quickly stands up in protest
  3976. >"now see here Manos, you cannot just simply call this to a vote so suddenly! that would require time to make a safe decision"
  3977. "one that you could bribe others into voting on your side for no doubt. as im sure was your plan for bringing so many delegates here so quickly without any warning."
  3978. >you pull out the note you received from before
  3979. "this was all the warning i was given that anyone would be arriving. how kind of you to leave out almost all mention of foreign nations."
  3980. >you toss the letter to the table for anyone to read.
  3981. "you play the world like this is just a little game, perhaps to you it is."
  3982. >you turn to the Griffons
  3983. "tell me, how much support as Celestia promised you for your attacks on my people?"
  3984. >the griffons shift slightly looking around to the others
  3985. "perhaps it wasnt Celestia, perhaps Luna? heh, wouldnt surprise me that nightmare moon might be more cunning than i thought."
  3986. >you again attract the ire of the Bat ponies
  3987. >>"Stop with your insults Manos"
  3988. "then tell the princesses to stop causing need for it. have they tried to offer me peace? just once since we have gathered has she tried to bring this to a close without the need for blood?"
  3989. >you look over to Cadence
  3990. "no, instead she tries to disrupt my personal relationships away from the eyes of others"
  3991. >>"you have no evidence of that"
  3992. "dont I?"
  3993. >you motion over to Cadence again
  3994. "Cadence here.. you all know her previously from visits to Canterlot. you know she is an honest pony with a passionate heart."
  3995. >you look back to Celestia
  3996. "strange that she would be siding with me then.. unless there was a reason for it."
  3997.  
  3998. >you are Cadence
  3999. >everyone looks over to you
  4000. "Celestia.."
  4001. >Celestia looks to you, almost worriedly
  4002. "you tried to turn me against Manos.. and you lied about something that you knew would hurt me"
  4003. >"Cadence, i didnt-"
  4004. "SHUT UP!"
  4005. >everyone including manos jumps back slightly
  4006. >>"Cadence.. please, try to keep your voice-"
  4007. "Manos, let me speak please."
  4008. >he looks at you for a moment before taking a step back too.
  4009. "i have kept quiet while everyone here carries on.. I let you stick up for Celestia without speaking my own thoughts."
  4010. >>>"why would you object?"
  4011. "Celestia called me to her room last night under the guise of friendship.. when i arrived, she continued to spout lies and tried to convince me that Manos was the one that took someone very close to me away"
  4012. >you start to feel tears form again.
  4013. >everyone in the room is watching you, but you dont care
  4014. "when in actuality she was behind it.. and i found out"
  4015. >>>"she was behind what?"
  4016. "Celestia has her guards kill my husband back when canterlot was attacked.. and she used tried to convince me manos did it."
  4017. >"Cadence, its the truth-"
  4018. "i found out the truth!"
  4019.  
  4020. >you are Manos
  4021. >this isnt going as well as you planned...
  4022. >Cadence is getting too emotional
  4023. >"I went to Manos after our fight, and i interrogated him! he never resisted when i cast my magic, he never lied to me once."
  4024. >Celestia looks over to you slightly shocked at whats happening here
  4025. "and what did you discover Cadence?"
  4026. >Cadence gets up and confronts Celestia
  4027. >everyone in the room eyes follow cadence
  4028. >"you ordered that your Captain of the guard, my Husband, to be killed and the blame placed on Manos."
  4029. >>"Cadence i never-"
  4030. >"if you cant be honest with me, how can you be honest with them."
  4031. >god damn it cadence, you were just supposed to tell them what happened.
  4032. >this whole thing is going down hill.
  4033. "Cadence, i think thats enough.. you have made your point clear."
  4034. >"Shes a liar and a traitor to her own ponies! i cant believe i ever called you my Auntie."
  4035. >Cadence leaves the room before anyone can stop her.
  4036. >everyone including yourself just stare at the door in a mix of confusion and mixed anger.
  4037. >you sit down in your chair and lean into your hand
  4038. "we are done here..."
  4039. >>"Manos, thats hardly a way to end our-"
  4040. "i said we are done. guards please escort our guests out.."
  4041. >that was a fucking mess
  4042. >why did i think it was a good idea to bring an emotionally unstable pony to negotiations..
  4043. >you wait as everyone slowly leaves
  4044. >you look up just as Salicar is about to walk out
  4045. "Salicar, hold on a moment."
  4046. >you motion to your guards to leave
  4047. >the slowly file out of the room leaving you alone with Salicar and his own
  4048. "even though the talks have ended abruptly.. our deal is still on. you will receive what you need.. ill inform you of when and where you are to act."
  4049. >"Im glad that at least our talks ended on a positive note manos, the Zebranican Republic is at your service."
  4050. >Salicar bows his head before leaving you alone in the room
  4051. >you sit in silence for a good amount of time
  4052. >leaning close to the table you speak to the small crystals the Shines installed to listen in
  4053. "keep those five in the Reich, i need time.. and they will make the perfect buffer."
  4054. >a moment of time passes then you get a response
  4055. >"yes sir. where should they be taken?"
  4056. "keep them with the other Prisoners of war.. separate cells, as much distance between them as you can."
  4057. >"understood sir."
  4058. >at least the Shines can follow a simple plan reliably
  4059. >you sit back up in your chair.
  4060. >the whole ordeal playing again in your head
  4061. >you smile.. then start to laugh.
  4062. "that could not have ended in a crazier way.."
  4063. >you look to the paper still on the table
  4064. "but at least it ended without me needing to make any 'real' obligations.."
  4065. >you stand up and start to walk to the door
  4066. "ill give her a day to return home. then the real politics will start."
  4067.  
  4068. >you are Twilight Sparkle
  4069. >you cant see anything, you have a blindfold over your eyes
  4070. >the last thing you remember you were being led by Black Hands to a yard.
  4071. >one you arrived you recall being 'arrested' for entering a secured area of the Reich
  4072. >then you were tied up and taken somewhere..
  4073. >you hope everyone else is safe..
  4074. >"place her in that far one. and keep the others separated by at least three or four cells."
  4075. >>"yes ma'am."
  4076. >before you are lead away you feel a hoof on your shoulder
  4077. >"dont worry, you wont be here long. you are protecting the lives of many ponies by staying here.."
  4078. >as soon as the hoof leaves your shoulder you are then being led away
  4079. >who was that?
  4080.  
  4081. >you are Manos
  4082. >it wont be long before Celestia notices her favorite ponies being absent
  4083. >and now that talks are over, she wont hold herself back.
  4084. >you walk to the main hall and watch as your guests leave
  4085. >Honor Bound joins you at the top of the stairs.
  4086. "as soon as you can, get my forces ready."
  4087. >"expecting something lord?"
  4088. "Honor, i am currently holding the six most important ponies in the world to Celestia hostage, her first action would have been to talk me into giving them back, but after what happened in our talks i feel she will skip to her second."
  4089. >you make your way to the dungeon Honor bound following you a short distance
  4090. >"you think she will just attack?"
  4091. >you dont bother answering him.
  4092. "you have your orders, everyone gets their weapons and get to the new defenses. either she will send an army or she will come alone."
  4093. >you really hope its the first.
  4094. "and tell Cadence to meet me in the dungeons. ill need her soon."
  4095. >"yes sir. right away."
  4096. >you are riding the red line on this one.
  4097. >if Celestia comes with an army, you can hold out and negotiate a release in exchange for precious time
  4098. >but if she comes alone, she will be heading straight for you.
  4099. >you near the castles private entrance to the dungeon
  4100. >the guards open the door for you without question and you step inside
  4101. >Sapphire Shine is already inside waiting for you.
  4102. >"Manos, we have them separated into individual cells just like you asked."
  4103. "take me to Twilight first. and when Cadence arrives. let me know."
  4104. >"Manos is everything ok?"
  4105. "im not sure yet, this is a real gamble Sapphire. it could work out well, or end very badly."
  4106. >Sapphire points you to the cell that Twilight is in and you continue to her on your own
  4107. >she sits in the cells dark corner her mane drooping
  4108. >when she sees you standing in the doorway she quickly rushes to the back of the cell like a frightened cat
  4109. >"wh-what do you want?!"
  4110. >you gently lean on the cell door and look over to her.
  4111. "Twilight, im not going to hurt you, or any of your other friends."
  4112. >she stays in the back of the cell as far away from you as she can
  4113. "heh, i understand why you wouldnt trust me, if i was in your situation i wouldnt trust me."
  4114. >you look into her eyes for a brief moment
  4115. >just long enough to get in her head and take the both of you to the other world.
  4116. >you do everything in your power to prevent it from appearing different from where you were before.
  4117. "but.. if you want out, youre going to have to trust me."
  4118. >you walk through the bars of the cell and take a seat on the bench inside the room
  4119. >again she skitters to the other side of the room staying opposite of you.
  4120. "im sorry about the cell. its only temporary i assure you. you will be going home soon."
  4121. >"no i wont, you destroyed my home Manos, you turned ponyville into a ruin!"
  4122. >you sit still as Twilight gains more courage and continues to insult you
  4123. >"you ruined the lives of hundreds of ponies! for what?!"
  4124. >she steps closer to you her eyes like small daggers.
  4125. >but shes really not that intimidating compared to the sun that will be kicking down your door.
  4126. "so that others may have a better life."
  4127. >"you're insane, how could you possibly be improving the lives of ponies?!"
  4128. "have you ever been poor? ever slept out in the rain? gone hungry for more than a day?"
  4129. >twilight looks confused about your questioning.
  4130. "you havnt, you have lived your life in luxury in the castle of a princess. now take a look if you will."
  4131. >the cell around you disappears Twilight and yourself floating high above the sky of the Reich
  4132. "you see this place below? describe it to me."
  4133. >it takes twilight a few moments to overcome the sudden shock of being high above the ground
  4134. "well?"
  4135. >"uh.. its, its a large city, specifically the Crystal-"
  4136. "incorrect, this is the Reich."
  4137. >"manos, the history behind this place cannot be just ignored. it has been called by that name for thousands of years"
  4138. "lets have a look at that history then"
  4139. >the city below changes in a violent manner.
  4140. >large pillars of billowing purple smoke come from the ground as large pillars of crystals burst from the ground
  4141. >where one there were shops along with clean and orderly homes now they are in ruin
  4142. >a large Castle stands in perfect condition overlooking the desolate city
  4143. "what a lovely place.."
  4144. >"manos what is this?"
  4145. "this? its that history you were talking about. this is the rule of King Sombra"
  4146. >you and twilight now stand on the balcony of the castle
  4147. >down below are legions of slaves, some working, others being equipped with arms and armor for war.
  4148. >the Sombras iconic laugh comes from between twilight and yourself
  4149. >he walks through the two of you like nothing was there and overlooks the armies below
  4150. >suddenly the world freezes in time
  4151. "what a lovely place.."
  4152. >you look over to twilight who is taking in everything she is seeing
  4153. "you know how this was.. 'fixed' right? how harmony won out over chaos?"
  4154. >you dont give her time to answer
  4155. "it didnt. instead the whole city and its inhabitants were banished and cursed."
  4156. >"whats your point Manos..?"
  4157. >you can tell Twilight's natural curiosity getting the better of her
  4158. "my point Twilight, is that this was never fixed because of harmony. it was simply shoved under the rug."
  4159. >"i dont believe that."
  4160. "need more proof? how much did you know of this Crystallized kingdom before it returned?"
  4161. >you give her some time to think
  4162. >"not.. not very much honestly"
  4163. "would you like to see what would have occurred if I wasnt here?"
  4164. >"what do you mean-"
  4165. >suddenly the world around you is blasted with dirt
  4166. >Twilight covers her eyes and the world again is different
  4167. >you stand in a large field with the legions of Sombra facing off against Celestia and her own
  4168. "want to know how this plays out Twilight?"
  4169. >the two sides rush at one another in a furious charge then there is a sudden flash as they make impact
  4170. >the battlefield is littered with bodies and Sombra stands triumphant over the fallen armies
  4171. >below him is the body of Celestia
  4172. >he lets out a billowing laugh and again time stops
  4173. "there you go Twilight. the great Princess Celestia beaten.."
  4174. >"Manos i dont believe this, none of it. not for a second, Princess Celestia wouldnt allow Sombra to rule the way he had, and she Certainly wouldn't have lost to him in a fight."
  4175. >you give her a calm shrug
  4176. "i woudnt believe it either. but believing me wouldnt change anything."
  4177. >you slowly pull the two of you back to the real world.
  4178. >the false reality around you slowly pulling away and being replaced with the damp cell.
  4179. "if you take anything from this experience.. just know what i do, i do for a reason."
  4180. >you take a step away from the cell door.
  4181. "your stay here is only temporary."
  4182. >you walk on to the next of the ponies.
  4183. >further down the line you run into the honest apple..
  4184. >unlike twilight she isnt sulking in her cell
  4185. >instead she just lays back calmly on the bench inside.
  4186. >you smile at the mare, ready to repeat your little process.
  4187.  
  4188. >you are Cadence
  4189. >you watch Celestia as she leaves the castle a look of disgust on your face.
  4190. >no matter how hard you try, you cant forgive her for what she has done to you.
  4191. >Manos may not be perfect.. but at least his actions are for the good of all ponies.
  4192. >"Cadence ma'am."
  4193. >you turn to face the voice
  4194. >standing before you is a Black Hand
  4195. "yes?"
  4196. >"ive been told to inform you that manos requests you meet him in the dungeon. i was not told why."
  4197. >you take a breath
  4198. >it could be many different things, the sudden ending to the talks or your open attitude towards Celestia.
  4199. >the only real hint you have is that he requests you to be in the dungeon
  4200. >you push most of your previous ideas aside
  4201. "alright. take me to him, id rather be with him over being in the same building as her."
  4202.  
  4203. >you are Manos
  4204. >slowly you walk down the line of cells
  4205. >royal guards still held up inside each one.
  4206. >most have been here long enough to not care about anything outside their doors
  4207. >a black hand gets your attention just as you make it to the next of the mane six
  4208. >"lord manos. Cadence is here, she is waiting by the entrance"
  4209. >you peer inside at the sleeping pink mare.
  4210. >you'd probably just be wasting time trying to talk sense into that one.
  4211. >you start making your way back to the entrance of your dungeon
  4212. "better that she hear about them from me now, rather than she find out on her own later"
  4213. >after a few moments you meet with the pink alicorn
  4214. >you just look at her for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to tell her.
  4215. >"Manos im sure that... im sure you want to talk to me about what happened in the talks earlier."
  4216. >ah good, shes apologizing, thats more time for you
  4217. >"i just lost my temper, and im sorry. I wont let it happen again"
  4218. >is she sure about that?
  4219. "Cadence, im holding the elements of harmony captive."
  4220. >Cadence looks at you with a skeptical look
  4221. >"you're... what?"
  4222. "I have twilight sparkle, applejack, pinkie pie, fluttershy, and rarity in the cells behind me."
  4223. >Cadence takes a breath
  4224. >"might i ask.. why, you have taken five innocent ponies and locked them up?"
  4225. >you walk over to Cadence and lead her down the rows of cells
  4226. "i need time.. if i could keep them anywhere else i would."
  4227. >"Manos you are holding INNOCENT ponies here. not soldiers, not criminals, innocent ponies. one of which would have been my sister in law!"
  4228. >you stop in the middle of the dungeon and give Cadence an angry glance
  4229. "Cadence, what have i done do warrant this sudden hostility?"
  4230. >Cadence remains silent and looks a slightly ashamed
  4231. >"nothing.."
  4232. "will you at least listen to me as to why?"
  4233. >she nods her head without speaking
  4234. >you kneel down to Cadence and place your hand on her shoulder
  4235. "i need time to keep Celestia from invading, and to prepare for other enemies."
  4236. >"what other enemies?"
  4237. "Celestia has gained support, as im sure you are aware from several of the other nations. how long until they get dragged into this war?"
  4238. >"you think she would have them attack instead?"
  4239. "not if i have something she wants protected in my hands."
  4240. >Cadence rubs her head with her hoof
  4241. >"so youre not holding them captive.. you're holding them hostage"
  4242. "that.. that is one way to put it."
  4243. >"and what are you going to do IF she doesnt follow your plan, and attacks anyway? will you harm them?"
  4244. >you take a moment to think it over
  4245. "no i wouldnt..."
  4246. >"do you promise Manos?"
  4247. >you nod your head
  4248. "i promise to you Cadence. i wont harm them."
  4249. >Cadence looks into your eyes, perhaps searching for the truth
  4250. >after a few moments of her search she gives a soft smile.
  4251. "but i need your help with them"
  4252. >you look to the rows and rows of cells then back to Cadence
  4253. "like you said, these dont look like appropriate holdings for these girls, but they wouldnt trust me if i said id give them better ones. not to mention they already hate me."
  4254. >you smile to the pony
  4255. "but you, they see you differently im sure."
  4256. >you wave over a small group of guards to you
  4257. "perhaps you can find them a better place to stay. under guard of course."
  4258. >Cadence gives you a small hug catching you off guard
  4259. >you are at war with her aunt,
  4260. >you lock up her would be sister in law,
  4261. >ask her for help in keeping them locked up,
  4262. >and she hugs you.
  4263. "Cadence?"
  4264. >"ill give them their own rooms manos, thank you for being kind enough to give them that"
  4265. >what?...
  4266. "youre welcome Cadence. just remember i need them to be kept under guard at all times. and most importantly. kept out of sight."
  4267. >"i understand, dont worry. ill get them out of here immediately and get them into a secured room."
  4268. "a secured room out of sight Cadence. not in a hallway that can be mistakenly walked into"
  4269. >Cadence already starts to walk to the first cell the guards lead her to
  4270. >"trust me manos. i know"
  4271. >you watch as the small group of guards follow her
  4272. >once she is far enough away you mumble
  4273. "dont mess this up Cadence.."
  4274. >before returning to your castles halls
  4275.  
  4276. >you are Silver Valor
  4277. >ever since Celestia has left you have been hard at work.
  4278. >you have been pulling as many strings as you can
  4279. >gathering as much support as you can
  4280. >and now you are meeting with Princess Luna herself to discuss a very large problem
  4281. >you stand in the night courts hall alone with Luna and her lunar guards
  4282. "princess Luna, im glad i can speak with you on such short notice."
  4283. >"what you have to speak about is more important than the boring troubles of most nobles.. and far more serious"
  4284. "I agree. The royal guard has far too many ponies wrapped under Manos' shroud... and i have a list of what i believe are most of the ponies."
  4285. >Luna walks down from her seat to stand closer to you
  4286. >"you have a list? how did you obtain that?"
  4287. >you reach into your bag and pull out a small card.
  4288. >a card with Manos' mark on it.
  4289. "i used to be one of them. before i saw what manos was really like."
  4290. >the lunar guards each take a small step closer to you
  4291. "now i now where my true loyalties should have been.. i have already spoke to Princess Celestia about this."
  4292. >you take out a very long list from your bag and hold it out to Luna
  4293. >she quickly takes it in her magical grasp and looks it over.
  4294. >as soon at the little string holding it closed comes undone the end of the list falls to the floor
  4295. >and rolls...
  4296. >and rolls...
  4297. >until it finally comes to a stop half way across the room
  4298. >"this.. this is most troubling.."
  4299. >Luna glances to the end of the list at the other end of the room
  4300. >"are you sure you havnt wrote any names twice? or.. five times?"
  4301. >you stand as straight as you can and give her a very serious look
  4302. "im positive. these are just the ponies i KNOW are agents of manos. im sure there are more unlisted ones."
  4303. >Luna quickly rolls up the scroll with her magic and ties it back up before looking back to you.
  4304. >after a moment of her looking you over she smiles
  4305. >"you know, for your crimes against the state you would face the same punishment all these ponies will."
  4306. >you stand firm and keep your eye locked with hers
  4307. >you knew that from the beginning, but this is more important than yourself
  4308. "i understand that princess..."
  4309. >"unless you died. at least on record. not only would that 'clear you' of any punishments i would be forced to give.. any agents left undiscovered would report you as dead."
  4310. "what are you suggesting princess?"
  4311. >the scroll in lunas magical grasp disappears to some, hopefully, protected location
  4312. >with her wing she motions for you to follow her.
  4313. >which you do, without hesitation
  4314. >behind you a few lunar guards follow closely
  4315. >as you and Luna approach a large wall something strange happens
  4316. >a door starts to take shape the closer you get to it
  4317. >once Luna reaches it she casts a spell and the door slowly opens
  4318. >"i offer you not a suggestion, but a choice. on one hoof, you can remain a guard in the royal solar guard and be tried for your crimes after we remove those still inside."
  4319. >Luna looks over her shoulder to you
  4320. >"or.. you can join the lunar guard. and leave your old self behind and help us clean out these traitors.. and i dont use that term lightly"
  4321. >Luna steps aside revealing whats inside the room
  4322. >inside is a large force of bat ponies in armor
  4323. >its a hidden garrison
  4324. >and they are preparing for something.
  4325. >something big
  4326. >"its your choice."
  4327. >you give the princess a smile
  4328. >there really isnt a choice.
  4329. >and you're fine with that.
  4330. >you bow your head to the Moon princess
  4331. "i will do as you command princess. i need to be redeemed for my crimes"
  4332.  
  4333. >you are Blackout
  4334. >you have been traveling with the bug for a long time.
  4335. >traveling. not talking.
  4336. >the large changeling now has an escort of what amounts to a small army of drones.
  4337. >most were gathered from the castle in everfree...
  4338. >after seeing that place filled with a hive of changeling drones you never want to go back.
  4339. >unless of course you are going to clean it out.
  4340. >"SO blackout, where are we going?"
  4341. "the same place i told you the last twelve times you asked.."
  4342. >the queen chirps slightly and gives a short buzzing of her wings
  4343. >"oh yeah..."
  4344. >as you and her walk on you see her eyes keep glancing down at you.
  4345. >you let out a small sigh
  4346. "Canterlot.."
  4347. >"whats that like? i remember seeing the mountain you said it was on. is Canterlot a mountain?!"
  4348. "no"
  4349. >Queenie waits for more information, a small smile on her face
  4350. >you dont give her more however.
  4351. >there is a slight hissing behind you from a changeling drone
  4352. >it creeps closer to you with its fangs out and hissing
  4353. >you stop walking and stare at it.
  4354. "please.. just try it."
  4355. >you stare down the drone and the two of you both wait for the other to move.
  4356. >the drone takes one step forward then suddenly queenie steps between you and the drone
  4357. >she hisses back and flares her wings.
  4358. >to her credit... its pretty intimidating.
  4359. >the drone looks shocked and takes several steps back.
  4360. >queenie keeps staring at it until it gets far enough away.
  4361. >once it does she relaxes again and her wings fold back to normal and she turns back to you.
  4362. >she has a small frown on her face.
  4363. >"im sorry.. they dont like when someone doesnt do as i ask..."
  4364. >you look at her, then the drone.
  4365. "hes lucky you saved him.."
  4366. >you turn away from them both and keep walking.
  4367. >you were given a mission. and you wont let your personal feelings get in the way.
  4368. >if you were ordered to work with these bugs you will..
  4369. >but if they act out of line, you have no issue removing them
  4370.  
  4371. >you are Queenie
  4372. >"hes lucky you saved him"
  4373. >you give the little pony a smile.
  4374. >you're sure she meant that as a compliment
  4375. >looking back at the drone you speak to it in changeling clicks and buzzing
  4376. "dont. touch. pony. only. pony. I. tell."
  4377. >the drone bows his head
  4378. >>"as. command. queen."
  4379. >you suppose you could have just used the connection you share with them to tell him.
  4380. >but speaking it in drone instead of equine or indirectly gives it more meaning.
  4381. >the other drones follow you closely some giving the aggressive one harsh looks
  4382. >its against their nature to go against a queens orders, so naturally they are now suspicious of the lone one.
  4383. >you're sure it will work out.
  4384. >you notice blackout has made it a good distance away from you
  4385. "hey blackout wait up!"
  4386. >you quickly trot up to her
  4387. "so when we get to Canterlot.. what are we going to do there?"
  4388. >"when we get there. you and your bugs are going to disguise yourselves and learn as much as you can about the princesses actions."
  4389. "and what about you?"
  4390. >"im going to look around and see if i can find anything relating to the elements."
  4391. >that sounds like a good plan..
  4392. >except for one thing
  4393. "what if i get lost? how will i find you?"
  4394. >blackout scoffs
  4395. >"IF you get lost, just find the main gate. and when im done with what im doing ill come and get you there."
  4396. "right!"
  4397. >this is so much fun.
  4398. >in the few days you have been with blackout you have learned so much
  4399. >you have seen trees, rocks, waterfalls, mountains, birds, its hard to believe that there is so much to see in the world.
  4400. >and if it wasnt for manos, you wouldnt even be here to see it all.
  4401. "he really is a great leader.."
  4402. >"what was that?"
  4403. >you blush slightly
  4404. "uh nothing. just talking to myself."
  4405.  
  4406. >you are Blackout
  4407. >you heard what she said clearly.
  4408. >but who was she talking about?
  4409. >the only one you could think of would be Manos
  4410. >but why would she like him?
  4411. "whatever, we are getting pretty close. get your drones to change into ponies."
  4412. >"what should they look like?"
  4413. "i just said ponies. any ponies, besides the princesses or any black hands."
  4414. >"uhm ok."
  4415. >you hear a series of flames quickly burn behind you
  4416. >"and who should i look like? i dont know what to really change into.."
  4417. >is she serious? just pick some colors and be a pony!
  4418. "just pick a pony who isnt what i mentioned."
  4419. >you stop your walk and look at her waiting
  4420. >the queen looks around quickly at the other 'ponies'
  4421. >then she bursts into a green flame turning into one.
  4422. "no.."
  4423. >"what?"
  4424. "not that one.."
  4425. >you look at a unarmored version of yourself.
  4426. >the old you.
  4427. >or more specifically the way you would look if you were like this without armor.
  4428. >honestly you dont look to bad.
  4429. >"its all i can think of, everything else is taken."
  4430. >you watch a drone facehoof
  4431. >you sigh and move on
  4432. "alright, it would be a waste of time to make you think of something else. lets just go."
  4433. >the other you trots happily behind you with a smile on her face
  4434. >it isnt long before the city is in sight.
  4435. >taking the off road route has really added time to your travel
  4436. >but it also kept you from being found by royals
  4437. >far to the east you can see what would have been ponyville...
  4438. >now its just a wasteland of rubble and ruin.
  4439. >its funny really. the city once village now ruin has had so many changes to it.
  4440. >some good.. others not so much.
  4441. >but in the end, even now when its nothing but rocks and dust. its still the same place
  4442. >and you can relate to it now more than ever.
  4443. >perhaps its even more your home now then it was..
  4444. >"blackout? are you ok?"
  4445. >you didnt even notice that your helmet was open.
  4446. >the other you looks over your face with a soft expression.
  4447. >and a hint of worry
  4448. >"are you crying?"
  4449. >you rise your hoof you your face and feel under your eyes.
  4450. >its a little damp.
  4451. >you retract your hoof and close your helmet again
  4452. "no. im fine, just some dust from those buildings must still be in the air."
  4453. >"oh.."
  4454. >the worried 'pony' quickly smiles and acts like there isnt a care in the world
  4455. >"thats good. i thought for a second you were sad about something"
  4456. >you redirect your eyes to the city.
  4457. >then to the ruin.
  4458. >suddenly you have a good idea on how to get inside.
  4459. "Queen, we need to go into the ruined city first."
  4460. >"huh? why?"
  4461. >you dont answer her and start walking
  4462. >if you are lucky, they might not have searched the city for survivors yet.
  4463. >even if they have, its still better than just walking up to the gate and knocking.
  4464.  
  4465. >you are Queenie
  4466. >walking with your drones you follow blackout into the city
  4467. >the streets are covered in rubble and dust.
  4468. >occasionally you leave hoof prints where dust has gathered
  4469. "so.. why are we here?"
  4470. >blackout continues walking eventually coming to a small building
  4471. >she pushes the door open and walks inside
  4472. >the small house looks a little strange in the large city, but at the same time it seems like it belongs here.
  4473. >after a moment she returns with various clothes
  4474. >"tell a few of your drones to put those on."
  4475. >you look at the dirty pile of clothes.
  4476. "are you sure? they look a little.. dirty."
  4477. >"yeah, thats the point. what here looks clean to you?"
  4478. "oh, okay. sorry."
  4479. >a quick look to your drones and they walk over to the clothes and start to put them on.
  4480. >only a few of your group get clothing.
  4481. >"that looks god enough. alright now heres how we get inside without being caught."
  4482.  
  4483. >you are Blackout
  4484. "my plan is that we act like we are survivors from Ponyville. that means we need to be scrapped up and bruised a bit."
  4485. >you watch as some of the 'ponies' look to their legs and chest
  4486. >after a moment or two their bodies appear to have various small wounds all over
  4487. "looks good."
  4488. >you direct your attention to the queen and reach to the last piece of clothing you kept
  4489. >a small baseball cap
  4490. >you hoof it over to her, the hat landing at her hooves
  4491. "if you're going to copy me, the least you can do is complete the look."
  4492. >Queenie looks down to the hat gently picking it up with her hoof.
  4493. >"this was yours?"
  4494. >a soft smile comes to her face.
  4495. >"thank you."
  4496. >its not a gift
  4497. >its just to complete the look
  4498. >still you find yourself with a small smile under your helmet.
  4499. "lets go. the sooner we get there the sooner we can move on."
  4500. >"right!"
  4501.  
  4502. >you are Celestia
  4503. >you stand just outside the Reichs castle with your ponies and other dignitaries
  4504. >and you are also in the process of yelling at one of your royal guards
  4505. "What do you mean you cant find them?!"
  4506. >the mare looks to the others who dont make eye contact with either of you
  4507. >"im sorry Princess, but Twilight and her friends are nowhere to be seen. we checked their rooms, we checked the streets, we even tried asking the ponies who live here, but they dont care to help us much."
  4508. >you look around the city
  4509. >they could be anywhere.
  4510. >and you know your welcome is coming to a quick end.
  4511. "where would they have gone?.."
  4512. >Salicar walks over to you.
  4513. >"we could always ask Manos to help us find them."
  4514. >a glare from you and the other leaders is all he receives for his suggestion
  4515. >perhaps the Yaks done glare at him.. its hard to tell
  4516. "I doubt he would be willing to assist me with any issues i may have."
  4517. >obviously
  4518. >wait...
  4519. >you look over to the Griffon
  4520. "you dont think he has them do you? could he have captured them?"
  4521. >>"I wouldnt put it past him... seems like something he would do."
  4522. >"perhaps.. but you have no evidence for that claim, and tacking action on it wouldnt be right if you are uncertain of what happened"
  4523. >>"of course you would say that Salicar. dont think anyone here didnt notice how close you and Manos have been getting."
  4524.  
  4525. >you are Salicar
  4526. "i have nothing to hide, its my job to maintain good relations with other nations is it not?"
  4527. >Griffons have always been a thorn in your side
  4528. >you hope they get what they deserve from Manos
  4529. >and a bit from you of course
  4530. >"be that as it may, you are making friends with the one nation we know is out to disrupt our long time peace!"
  4531. >looks whos talking.
  4532. "peace? coming from a Griffon?! your species has always been the greediest and most aggressive out of all of us. when you arent trying to get us to fight a needless battle, you are starting a civil war with yourselves!"
  4533. >"then take my word for it. Manos is bad news"
  4534.  
  4535. >you are Cadence
  4536. >you know manos has a reason for what he did.
  4537. >why else would he take them captive?
  4538. >you can trust manos, he has always been there for you.
  4539. >he has never lied to you..
  4540. >"Cadence?"
  4541. >you didnt realize you were already standing in front of Twilight
  4542. >she rushes over to the bars with a huge smile on her face
  4543. >"CADENCE! i knew you would find out about this."
  4544. "find out?"
  4545. >"yes, find out! manos locked us all up and has been keeping us here for whatever reason"
  4546. >you smile and unlock the cell door
  4547. >Twilight quickly walks over to the now open door
  4548. "Manos told me he did this."
  4549. >the happy and full of hope unicorn stops in her place
  4550. >she also takes notice of the Black hands with you
  4551. >"wh-what do you mean he told you?"
  4552. "Manos told me he was keeping you here. he brought me here himself"
  4553. >"then.. you knew he was going to lock us up? lock up ME and my friends!?"
  4554. >you take a small step back from twilight
  4555. >you even feel hurt by her words.
  4556. "Twilight, i had no idea Manos was going to lock you away. i just found out! and i talked him into giving you better quarters.."
  4557. >you and the little purple pony look to one another in silence for a time
  4558. "Twilight... trust me... manos doesnt mean to harm you. He has a plan.."
  4559. >"Cadence.. Im not sure.."
  4560. >you have to think of some way to prove it..
  4561. >you look to the cell, then twilight.
  4562. >then over to the guards.
  4563. "it will be fine, i promise, if she or any of the others run ill be held accountable"
  4564. >>"Ma'am, we were ordered to-"
  4565. "to guard them yes.. go to my room and wait outside, they will take the rooms opposite my own."
  4566. >>"Ma'am we-"
  4567. "thats an order!"
  4568. >the guards look to each other unsure
  4569. "I am your superior.. refusing a direct order will be met with punishment"
  4570. >>"yes ma'am, right away. Heil manos"
  4571. >the hands all give you a salute
  4572. "Heil"
  4573. >once they all leave you look back to Twilight with a soft smile
  4574. "i told you Twilight, you can trust me."
  4575.  
  4576. >you are Celestia
  4577. >your stay here in the Reich is over, but Twilight and her friends are still missing.
  4578. >somewhere in this city they are either lost or more likely being held.
  4579. >you make sure to take the longest route you can out of the Reich making sure to look anywhere and everywhere you can for the girls
  4580. >"Princess we are running out of time. Im not sure how many more Hands we can avoid without causing suspicion"
  4581. >you sigh in defeat
  4582. >your guards are right, even if you do keep avoiding Hands eventually you will be forced out.
  4583. >some of the crystal ponies living here have even begun to ask you to leave.
  4584. >'ask' being one way to put it.
  4585. "I understand, but Twilight could be anywhere, I wont leave her and the others behind."
  4586. >"Im sorry Princess but as your personal guards its our duty to think of your safety. we need to leave."
  4587. >your guards give up on searching and wait for you to continue walking
  4588. >you slowly follow them taking as much time as you can
  4589. "please be safe Twilight.."
  4590.  
  4591. >you are Cadence
  4592. >Twilight stays close by your side as you walk her to her friends
  4593. >"Cadence.. how can you be okay with this?"
  4594. >the question catches you off guard.
  4595. >its also rather confusing as to what she means
  4596. "okay with what twilight?"
  4597. >she motions with her hoof to the cells of locked up ponies
  4598. >"with THIS! i mean look at them, each of these ponies have lives and you are just walking by without so much as a glance."
  4599. "Twilight, its a little more complicated then that."
  4600. >one of the stallions in a nearby cell shouts at the two of you
  4601. >>"because shes bucking manos! she doesnt care for anything or anypony else!"
  4602. >>>"yeah! the damn whorse! even after all we have done for her and the princesses!"
  4603. >a few other prisoners make various sounds of agreement from their own locations
  4604. "Thats enough! i will have silence! i gave each of you plenty of chances to be let out and you refused!"
  4605. >>"my loyalty for my freedom?! thats not even a choice!"
  4606. >the other prisoners start to get more rowdy
  4607. >the few Hands on station look to you for orders
  4608. >you motion for them to lockdown the cells
  4609. >within a few moments the cells are sealed by magic barriers from several unicorns stationed in the dungeon
  4610. "i asked you to calm down nicely."
  4611. >"Cadence?... is that true?"
  4612. >looking back to Twilight you see her have a look of concern
  4613. "its.. complicated.."
  4614. >you dont make eye contact with her.
  4615. >you're sure she knows anyway..
  4616. "come on, lets get your friends and take you away from these ponies."
  4617. >the first cell you come to is Pinkies
  4618. >and well... shes taking it a lot better than you expected.
  4619. >her whole cell has been decorated and covered from top to bottom with various party decorations
  4620. >theres even a sign but its blank
  4621. >"pinkie?"
  4622. >>"heya twilight! i was sitting here bored and i thought, what would make me less bored?"
  4623. >pinkie goes on about how she had the idea to throw herself a party
  4624. >but in all honesty you blocked it all out and just continued to look around her cell amazed at all the different party supplies
  4625. >where did they all come from?
  4626.  
  4627. >you are Manos
  4628. >standing from your balcony you can see the Princess and her small entourage of guards going through your city
  4629. >you've been watching them search for the past few minutes.
  4630. "just leave my city."
  4631. >it isnt long before Aryanne and the Shines meet up with you.
  4632. >"Manos. you requested to see us?"
  4633. "yes Aryanne. it seems Celestia is taking her time with leaving my city, so i can only assume she is still looking for.. for a few ponies."
  4634. >the two sisters give a small smile
  4635. "i need her to leave. now."
  4636. >Emerald interrupts you
  4637. >>"i thought you wanted to have more time? isnt it a good thing she is still here then?"
  4638. "the longer she is here the more time i have, yes, but i cant make any moves while she is still here."
  4639. >you look back to the princess in your city.
  4640. "Aryanne, take a group of Hands and remove the princess from our city. after that have every enlisted pony on station. guard posts, patrols, recon elements, forward outposts. i want to be aware of everything moving in out or even near my Reich."
  4641. >"yes sir!"
  4642. >you can hear her quickly trot away
  4643. "and as for you two. i have a mission for you to plan."
  4644. >you look back to the two sisters.
  4645. "one that will be completely off any record."
  4646. >within seconds of you finishing your sentence you have the two of them and yourself in the immaterial world
  4647. >you will need to be sure that only those who are required to know your next plan hear it.
  4648. "how many royal guards do we have held in our dungeon?"
  4649. >sapphire gives you a quick answer
  4650. >"a few hundred or so? im not sure. Cadence would know the exact count."
  4651. "good, so we have at least a companies worth."
  4652. >or more importantly, Equestria has that amount still classified as missing
  4653. "gather a group of the most loyal black hands in service, excluding those in my own guard, and have them fitted with standard Equestrian armor."
  4654. >>"Equestrian armor? any particular reason?"
  4655. >the floor beneath you changes to a smaller version of the Reich
  4656. >slowly it moves to the lands of Yakyakistan
  4657. "i want you to raid any incoming trade routes between Yakyakistan and the Reich."
  4658.  
  4659. >you are Sapphire shine
  4660. >did you hear Manos correctly?
  4661. "you want us to attack our own trade partner?"
  4662. >"what would that accomplish? in the end our own supplies will be cut, and we might lose ponies to caravan guards."
  4663. >Manos takes a seat just as a chair appears under him
  4664. >the landscape below you shifts to the main road where trade routes would be most likely
  4665. >small carts appear and haul various goods
  4666. >including well guarded ones hauling Yetis in chains
  4667. >>"tell me sisters. what do you see here?"
  4668. >the trade routes suddenly get hit from both sides by ponies in golden armor
  4669. >they attack without mercy or pity cutting down anypony or yak in their way
  4670. >a few lucky traders rush away leaving their goods behind
  4671. >and a few others even try to fight back to save their livelihoods.
  4672. "I see a slaughter, one that doesnt seem to serve a purpose."
  4673. >>"then look closer. and look with an outsiders perspective"
  4674. >Emerald begins to laugh slightly
  4675. >"i see... from an outsiders perspective it looks like Equestria is doing everything in their power to stop us from trade"
  4676. >it takes you a moment
  4677. >but soon it sinks in.
  4678. "ah.. and with our ponies acting as Royalists hitting caravans-"
  4679. >>"the Yaks will need to respond. either with force or with diplomacy, and since the troops are our own.."
  4680. >Manos motions for one of the two of you to continue
  4681. "Celestia and Luna will be unable to stop it. only hurting their own reputation."
  4682. >Manos starts a slow clap
  4683. >>"now you are getting it. no matter what Celestia does she will not be able to stop the raids, and with a company conveniently 'Missing' from record it will only make her arguments hold no weight."
  4684. >thats a dirty trick..
  4685. >you love it.
  4686. >you start to smile and nod your head in agreement
  4687. "this could work. it could work very well."
  4688. >"However, it will rely on the believability of the ponies, and their equipment and tactics"
  4689. >>"we have members of our Hands that were once royal guards. they will be right at home in that golden armor"
  4690. "if they are truly loyal to the cause then they would have no issue with this"
  4691. >"the only issue is finding ponies who would be willing to do this... they would be killing both innocent Yaks and Reich ponies."
  4692. >Manos stands up the chair behind him disappearing as he does
  4693. >he makes his way over to the two of you and kneels down
  4694. >>"and we will need someone who will enforce our agenda."
  4695. >the silhouette of a pony appears behind you
  4696. >it slowly walks closer, each step metallic and deliberate
  4697. >>"but she will need a new set of armor."
  4698. >"are you sure of this pony you are thinking of Manos?"
  4699. >>"i would trust her with my kids."
  4700. >the three of you chuckle
  4701. >you all know he doesnt have children.
  4702. >right?
  4703.  
  4704. >you are Emerald Shine
  4705. >the world around you returns to normal
  4706. >Manos stands by his balcony and turns back to the city again
  4707. >>"im sure you are busy."
  4708. >Sapphire bows her head
  4709. >as do you
  4710. >then the two of you walk away
  4711. >after you have left his presence you turn to Sapphire
  4712. "do you have any ponies in mind for this?"
  4713. >she taps her chin for a moment
  4714. >"im not sure yet, i have a list of the more fanatical members, i assume thats as good as anyplace to start"
  4715. "agreed."
  4716. >you look back to the door behind you
  4717. "i like a stallion with a head on his shoulders."
  4718. >"and takes charge."
  4719. >the two of your laugh and walk off to carry out your new orders.
  4720. "heil manos"
  4721. >"heil"
  4722.  
  4723. >you are Cadence
  4724. >you have gathered all of the girls together and have made your way to the dungeons exit
  4725. "im sorry for everything thats happened.. but dont worry. i have the perfect place for you all"
  4726. >the girls remain quiet and follow you to the door
  4727. >just before you get there you turn around
  4728. >Twilight seems conflicted about something
  4729. >the other girls just look determined, or scared
  4730. "Twilight? is everything ok?"
  4731. >"huh? oh, yeah! everythings fine! perfectly, completely fine"
  4732. >she makes a smile that seems a little too wide
  4733. >and she is starting to sweat slightly
  4734. >you just look at her softly
  4735. "Twilight... you know i trust you right?"
  4736. >for a moment it seems like its just the two of you
  4737. >"I-I know.."
  4738. >you wait another moment before turning back to the door.
  4739. "alright. open the doors, these ponies are with me by manos request"
  4740. >the guards nod their heads and open up the exit
  4741. >you dont look back at the group as you walk inside
  4742. >you're not stupid...
  4743. >they are going to run
  4744. >but you hope they dont
  4745. >just as you take a few more steps outside the door it closes behind you
  4746. >its just you and the girls
  4747. >"Cadence im sorry"
  4748. >there is a large flash of light
  4749. >without looking back, you know you are alone.
  4750. >you remain standing where you were for a long time before laying down on the floor.
  4751. >you have a feeling of wetness moving down your face
  4752. >it takes you a few seconds to realize you are crying.
  4753. >after all this time, there was really only one you could trust.
  4754. >your horn glows for a moment then you teleport yourself to Manos room.
  4755. >he stands there on his balcony watching as Twilight and the others race to the gates
  4756. "Manos.."
  4757. >"I know."
  4758. >He turns around to face you, but you cant look at him and instead look at the floor
  4759. >all you see is his approaching feet
  4760. >you close your eyes
  4761. >"you are lucky that Celestia just left."
  4762. >you feel his hand caress your face
  4763. >"otherwise i wouldnt be able to catch them again, and id have to punish you."
  4764. >he gently lets go and walks to the door
  4765.  
  4766. >you are Manos
  4767. >honestly you thought Twilight might listen to Cadence.
  4768. >seems you were wrong.
  4769. >but it always pays to have a backup plan.
  4770. >you leave to room with the Alicorn inside and walk out to alert the guards.
  4771. "it seems my guests have decided that their stay is over. I have not. find them. all five of them."
  4772. >the hands give you a salute before rushing off
  4773. >as they run out you shout to them
  4774. "be sure to alert all surrounding garrisons, they have two unicorns with them so they should be able to teleport short distances!"
  4775. >now your only real hope is that Celestia has made it far enough away for you to find them first.
  4776. >if not, then things are going to get much more violent.
  4777.  
  4778. >you are Blackout
  4779. >your group of 'ponies' have gathered at the edge of town facing Canterlot
  4780. >with them they have a few collections of looted items
  4781. >they look like they can play the part of survivors well enough.
  4782. "alright. once we reach the gates they will likely question us, so here is our story."
  4783. >you start to lead the group towards Canterlot
  4784. "you dont know what happened to destroy the city, but it sounded like thunder and the ground shook, next thing you know you were waking up in the ruble of your own homes"
  4785. >you look back to the group
  4786. "feel free to make it up from there. but remember that we all met up in the center of town and thats how we found eachother"
  4787. >there aren't many responses from the group besides a few nods
  4788. >Queenie continues to walk next to you
  4789. >"and what about yours? how are you going to get in?"
  4790. >you look over to her, her face being the same as yours, but the body being purely pony in appearance
  4791. "you worry about you. ill worry about me."
  4792. >her ears droop and your retort
  4793. >"oh, ok. but... be safe alright?"
  4794. >shes a strange changeling.
  4795. "yeah, alright."
  4796.  
  4797. >you are Queenie
  4798. >its taken a while but eventually you have made it to Canterlot
  4799. >you think..
  4800. >honestly you're not sure what Canterlot is supposed to look like but its on a mountain like blackout said
  4801. >speaking of blackout
  4802. >you look around the group
  4803. "where did she go?"
  4804. >the other dro-- ponies, look around for her.
  4805. >a few give you shrugs unsure as to where she went.
  4806. >"hey you down there! what are you doing?"
  4807. >you quickly turn your attention to the large gate in front of you
  4808. >at the top stand several ponies in gold armor.
  4809. >those must be royal guards.
  4810. >you quickly look around to your drones then back up to them
  4811. "uh.. we, we came from ponyville. its been destroyed and we needed a place to go."
  4812. >you watch as the guards talk to eachother
  4813. >a few nod their heads before looking down to you
  4814. >"Alright, we are going to let you in, but you will need to answer a few questions first."
  4815. "oh okay, what do we need to answer?"
  4816. >the gates slowly open and the guards shout back down
  4817. >"step inside and you'll find out."
  4818. >you smile and quickly trot inside, your gathering of ponies following you
  4819. >it isnt long before a large group of guards have you and the others surrounded
  4820. >they all have weapons close
  4821. >"alright, first question, Who are you?"
  4822. "my name is Que--"
  4823. >shoot... you cant say that.
  4824. >think, think
  4825. >you look up to the bottom of the hat
  4826. >on the rim there is a name written
  4827. "My name is Little league."
  4828. >you give them a quick smile
  4829. >nailed it.
  4830. >"little league?"
  4831. "yup. thats my name!"
  4832. >your smile becomes a little more strained
  4833. >the guard looks at you for a while before shrugging
  4834. >"alright. next question. how did you survive?"
  4835. >you rub your foreleg slightly
  4836. >what did blackout say again?
  4837. "well.. im not quite sure really. one second there were some loud noises then suddenly i woke up and everything was gone"
  4838. >you look back to the group
  4839. "and i was lucky enough to find others in the square who also made it.."
  4840. >"must have been a traumatizing experience, sorry you had to go through that."
  4841. "oh! its fine, im alright."
  4842. >the guard motions for you to pass
  4843. >"alright well come inside, if you have any friends in the group they will be out shortly. just need to ask them questions too."
  4844. "thank you! it will be nice to sleep in a real bed again."
  4845. >"mines always open"
  4846. >the guard gives you a wink, and you blush slightly
  4847. >what a strange thing for a pony to say
  4848. >you walk on past him and into the city limits
  4849. >it really reminds you of the reich, only instead of crystals and factories there is gold and large shops
  4850. >not that the Reich didnt have shops, but they werent as large as these
  4851. "woah.."
  4852. >after a short walk inside you see a figure in an alleyway motion you over
  4853. >you look around making sure they are talking to you
  4854. >when no one else seems to notice you walk over.
  4855. "hello?"
  4856. >the pony walks out of the shadow
  4857. >its blackout
  4858. >>"glad to see you made it inside"
  4859. "Blackout! where did you go?"
  4860. >>"SHH quiet idiot bug!"
  4861. >she looks around making sure no guards are coming
  4862. >>"i came in from the guards tower"
  4863. "the tower?"
  4864. >you look over to a broken down door near a tall stone building
  4865. >>"it wasnt easy. and im sure they will be on guard now, at least for me. you should be fine, but i wont be able to meet with you during the day"
  4866. "then when will we meet?"
  4867. >>"dont worry. ill find you"
  4868. >before you can say anything more blackout vanishes
  4869. >you look around for the pony
  4870. >since when could she do magic?!
  4871.  
  4872. >you are blackout
  4873. >you walk down alleyways and back roads until you make your way to the Castle walls
  4874. >it doesnt take long for you to notice something is off.
  4875. >the guards on the walls are all Lunar guards.
  4876. >not a single royal guard to be seen
  4877. "strange"
  4878. >the gate is relatively low security
  4879. >either there isnt enough lunar guards, or something is keeping them away.
  4880. >you approach the large gate still using basic cloaking magic to keep yourself unseen
  4881. >two guards left side three up top.
  4882. >the right side is clear.
  4883. >you kneel down and wait.
  4884. >it isnt long before a group come to the gate and pass a security check
  4885. >once the doors open you rush inside bypassing the guards
  4886. >hopefully getting out will be just a simple.
  4887. >walking the halls of the castle you notice there are still no royal guards to be found.
  4888. >everywhere there are lunar guards stationed
  4889. >"i want this entire castle on lockdown... no royal guards are allowed in or out until they pass by clearance."
  4890. >>"yes ma'am!"
  4891. >you follow the sounds of the voices
  4892. >"remember to question each of them... thoroughly. those on the list are confirmed for traitors, just get a confession. i dont care how."
  4893. >you spot a mare in a full suit of Lunar guard armor
  4894. >its.. different from the others.
  4895. >its much more armored, covering the whole body besides the head and mane
  4896. >in fact, it resembles that of a knight, only the same shade of blue as the other guards
  4897. >>"Ma'am what about these two?"
  4898. >a lunar guard steps aside and you catch a glimpse of two royals beaten and bloodied
  4899. >>"they resisted questioning, we had to become more violent with them."
  4900. >the armored mare steps closer.
  4901. >"i know these two.. add them to the list."
  4902. >>>"You fucking traitorous pinko.. valhalla will forever deny you entrance!"
  4903. >the armored mare draws her sword and cuts down the offending stallion
  4904. >"your Vallhalla, your afterlife... is Manos' lie. take the other one away to the dungeon."
  4905. >>"understood ma'am"
  4906. >things have become far more complex
  4907. >they leave the body of the royal guard on the floor and haul the other one away
  4908. >the mare remains behind looking it over.
  4909. >she kicks the corpse once hard
  4910. >"i cant believe i was like you. i should have seen the trouble he would cause.."
  4911. >the mare turns around and starts to walk your direction
  4912. >you slowly move into the shadow your spell still active
  4913. >as she walks by you get a good look at her face
  4914. >she is scarred and cut, and keeps one of her eyes tightly closed.
  4915. >she looks strangely familiar.. but you cant put your hoof on it.
  4916. >you accidentally bump a nearby bust
  4917. >it doesnt fall, but the noise gets the mares attention
  4918. >you hold your breath and keep completely still
  4919. >hopefully your spell will keep yourself hidden well enough for now.
  4920. >if not, you will have to fight your way out.
  4921. >you feel your muscles tense up as she takes a few steps closer.
  4922. >you dont move.
  4923. >she comes even closer to you, a mere inches from your face
  4924. >you watch her eyes as she looks around the area you hide
  4925. >her cold stare calm and piercing.
  4926. >you can almost feel her vision
  4927. >>"Judice Lunae, ma'am, is everything ok?"
  4928. >she looks for you a second longer before turning away
  4929. >"yes.. everything is fine. must have been a rat.."
  4930. >she turns away and follows the other guards out
  4931. >you finally exhale and take a moment
  4932. >there is a new player in this game it appears..
  4933. >with a quick strike you knock the first guard to the ground
  4934. >quickly you position yourself over him ready to strike again and silence him
  4935. >>"w-wait!"
  4936. >normally you wouldn't stop your attack
  4937. >but for some reason you hold back and not strike
  4938. >>"please, we wont tell anypony! who would we tell anyway?"
  4939. >"hes right! we need to get out of here. The Lunar guards seem to have gone mad!"
  4940. >you look over to the one you heard was named 'Dust' previously
  4941. "any idea why?"
  4942. >the younger stallion glaces down to his friend
  4943. >"let him go.. ill tell you what i know"
  4944. "you know.. i could just kill you both and find out later"
  4945. >you continue to stare at him with your face covered by your black helmet
  4946. >but 'Dust' apparently finds enough courage to not back down
  4947. >"then you will be taking up more time later, taking time away from whatever you are here to do."
  4948. >you lower your hoof and take a few steps to the side of the guard on his back
  4949. "fine, now talk."
  4950. >>"Dust are you sure about this?"
  4951. >dust ignores the other guard and spills the beans
  4952. >"it started just a day or so ago, at first we were told that it would be a simple changing of the guard."
  4953. >while he talks you keep lookout of anypony else who might show up
  4954. >"and it was, its was nice to have a break actually, but then.. they started asking questions. and they suspected everypony of being traitors."
  4955. >>"they even accused us of working with the Reich. like we would betray the princess like that!"
  4956. >you kick the stallions side enough for him to shut up
  4957. >"they said they had a list, and those on it were already confirmed for being agents of Manos. those ponies were either locked up, or..."
  4958. >Dust rubs his forehoof
  4959. "executed. go on."
  4960. >"thats pretty much all i know.. besides that they have been accusing ponies who are not traitors. but there really isnt a way to clear them unless they go in for questioning."
  4961. "and i assume this 'questioning' isnt just a simple talk?"
  4962. >dust nods
  4963. >"ive heard stories from the ones who came back.."
  4964. >>"they dont really have happy endings."
  4965. >you huff and start to walk away from the two guards
  4966. "the hallway behind me is mostly unguarded, however that pony mare.. Judice Lunae. she just went that way."
  4967. >"Judice Lunae was just here?!"
  4968. "speaking of her, who is she?"
  4969. >>"she just came out of nowhere. no history of her no formal integration into the guard. just out of nowhere she appeared and was Knighted by Luna."
  4970. >that grabs your attention
  4971. "Knighted?"
  4972. >Dust quickly walks over to his friend on the ground and quickly looks him over
  4973. >>"yeah knighted. there hasnt been a knight, at least in the Lunar guard, since the rise of nightmare moon."
  4974. >"there have been a few in the royal guard though, basically they are like guards ponies, but they get to bend the rules as they see fit."
  4975. "like executing enlisted ponies in the field?"
  4976. >the two stallions look over to the dead guard
  4977. >"i guess so.."
  4978. >interesting
  4979. >>"by the way, who are you? and why are you even here?"
  4980. >you look back at the two for a moment
  4981. "i guess you could say it was fate that brought me here."
  4982. >>"you're a pony from the Reich!?"
  4983. >they watch as you look at them and cast your invisibility spell again
  4984. >it takes a few seconds for it to properly form, the time between that looking like liquid air.
  4985. >once you feel comfortable in your appearance, or lack there of, you move on.
  4986. >seems Equestria wasnt ready for being this well infiltrated by the Reich
  4987. >they have to resort to more direct measures.
  4988. >this is very valuable Intel for Manos
  4989. >all you have to do is find someone who can get it to him
  4990.  
  4991. >you are Manos
  4992. >your reports are back
  4993. >in fact they are all around your room
  4994. >papers lay about unorganized and files left open.
  4995. >the last one is in your hands and your eyes slowly read every word on it.
  4996. "we have no sightings of the missing ponies.. however we have reports of small royal guard forces scouting the lines.."
  4997. >you throw the file in the air and glare at Cadence who is sitting in the chair in front of you.
  4998. >you continue the report having it memorized already as you continue to look at the mare
  4999. "the scouting has erupted into small skirmishes.. likely probing our lines for weakness."
  5000. >you stand up and walk around the desk and kneel in front of Cadence
  5001. >she looks up from the floor, her face a sad half frown.
  5002. "the missing ponies have likely made contact with Celetstia.."
  5003. >you point to the papers on your desk
  5004. "how many reports was that?.."
  5005. >"twelve.. twelve full reports.."
  5006. "and how many of those ponies have been found?"
  5007. >"none.."
  5008. >softly you place your hand on her shoulder and pet her softly
  5009. >"Manos.. im sorry... i thought she would believe in me enough to-"
  5010. "enough to not want to run to her second mother? and tell her all the 'awful' things we do?"
  5011. >"I-"
  5012. >you hush Cadence and lower your head.
  5013. "I know, i know. Im just. im in a tough spot"
  5014. >you stand up and walk back to your desk taking a seat
  5015. "Cadence, you tell me.. what should i do?"
  5016. >slowly she looks up to you
  5017. >"what do you mean?"
  5018. "i have one of my highest ranking officers disobeying orders, and there are several guards out there who were given orders from YOU"
  5019. >you point to her for emphasis
  5020. "to go and guard a irrelevant location so you could be alone with five mares who are now missing."
  5021. >you cant help but laugh at the whole situation
  5022. "i mean what can i do? i cant let this go, it could cause more insubordination."
  5023. >you remove your gloves and take out your sidearm
  5024. "you can see the issue here.. cant you?"
  5025. >her eyes go to the weapon on your desk
  5026. >its obvious she has started to hold her breath
  5027. >you let her sit there for a moment, tense, before you start to disassemble the gun.
  5028. "so tell me. What would you do, if you were me?"
  5029.  
  5030. >you are Cadence
  5031. >everything Manos just said is really sinking in
  5032. >why did you even do it?
  5033. >because you felt you could trust Twilight?
  5034. >"well?"
  5035. >you are snapped out of your thoughts and you sigh
  5036. "i would put the accused up for a demotion.. possibly severe punishment."
  5037. >as the words leave your lips a lump forms in your throat
  5038. >you watch as manos meticulously takes the small pieces of the weapon apart and cleans each one with care.
  5039. >"and what would that punishment be?"
  5040. >you suddenly feel your lips become dry, and you even start to find yourself short of breath
  5041. "perhaps.."
  5042. >"no, no 'perhaps'. what would you do?"
  5043. "I would have the officer.. locked up in confinement, solitary confinement. for an extended period of time."
  5044. >Manos stops cleaning his weapon, his fingers clasp together, and he takes a moment to just look at you
  5045. >for a few seconds it just the sound of the both of you breathing
  5046. >they feel like the longest seconds of your life
  5047.  
  5048. >you are Queenie
  5049. >and wow is this a nice city!
  5050. >the other drones have all split up to go their own way besides one or two that are still following you from further away
  5051. >the streets are bustling with different kinds of ponies.
  5052. >shops are open and ponies seem genuinely happy
  5053. >and all the emotions in the air...
  5054. >you could feed here forever and never go hungry!
  5055. >"did you hear about the guard?"
  5056. >oh?
  5057. >you look in the direction of a few chatting mares
  5058. >>"no what about them?"
  5059. >the mare leans in to her friend and lowers her voice
  5060. >you calmly walk over trying your best to look disinterested in them
  5061. >"i heard that the Lunar guard is taking charge since Celestia is worried about spies."
  5062. >>"SPIES? in the royal guard? surely you're joking"
  5063. >the two mare giggle
  5064. >"it does seem a little strange, but its just a rumor. im sure that the royal guard is more than capable--"
  5065. >you notice the mares have stopped talking and have looked over to you
  5066. >>"uh.. hello there, is something wrong?"
  5067. >it takes you a second to realize they are talking to you.
  5068. "huh?"
  5069. >"well it just, you've been standing there looking at my salad for a few minutes now."
  5070. >you stand in front of their table and look at their meal
  5071. >then back to them
  5072. "uhh... uhhh..."
  5073. >quick queenie think!
  5074. "im sorry, i just came from ponyville and-"
  5075. >"OH MY! ponyville?! i heard it was destroyed! you must be starving, here"
  5076. >the mare pushes the Salad over to you
  5077. >"please take my salad, and dont you worry about paying me back!"
  5078. >>"oh and have some of mine too!"
  5079. >the two mares push you in a chair and watch as you sit there staring at the..
  5080. >the food?..
  5081. "uhm.. thank you?"
  5082.  
  5083. >leaning over you sniff the food carefully
  5084. >you have never tasted this "salad" before
  5085. >well really, you havent tasted much of any pony food before
  5086. >changelings can eat food right?
  5087. >it doesnt really look appealing, but it doesnt look bad either.
  5088. >oh well...
  5089. >in a slow motion you start to nibble at the salad
  5090. >the two mares look at you expectantly
  5091. "thank you, you are really kind... im sorry if i interrupted your conversation."
  5092. >"oh dont worry about that, it was just gossip."
  5093. >a smile forms on your face
  5094. "oh? i love gossip. could i ask what it was about?"
  5095. >>"oh she was just talking about some rumors about the royal guard."
  5096. >"did you hear anything about it- oh silly me, you just got here. well apparently.."
  5097. >you take another bite of the tasteless meal in front of you
  5098. >guess you can eat pony food
  5099. >just dont get to taste it
  5100.  
  5101. >you are Manos
  5102. >Cadence should really consider herself lucky
  5103. >very lucky
  5104. >if you didnt have such a fondness of her she would be punished just like any other pony
  5105. >but as it stands, you like her too much to be that severe
  5106. "come with me Cadence."
  5107. >you leave your sidearm on the table a few of the parts still sitting out
  5108. >you hear her walking behind you
  5109. >she has remained quiet since she decided her own punishment
  5110. >you lead her down the long halls of the castle to a more lightly guarded area
  5111. >you point to the doorway
  5112. "go inside."
  5113. >for a moment Cadence looks at you confused wondering why you would send her to a spare servants room
  5114. "Cadence, trust me. I promise if you do exactly as i say you will be fine."
  5115. >"Manos.."
  5116. >you walk over to the door and open it for her
  5117. >the room inside is cramped and dusty
  5118. >"I hope i can."
  5119. >there is another moment of hesitation before she walks inside
  5120. "stay here.."
  5121. >its really a sad sight.
  5122. >she slowly takes a seat in the small dusty room and looks around at everything inside
  5123. "ill be back soon"
  5124. >"Manos, what are you doing?"
  5125. >you rise your hand to silence her
  5126. "im doing you a favor..."
  5127. >as you turn away from her and start to close the door you hesitate and look back
  5128. "if anyone asks.. you have been here for a while."
  5129. >you smile and point at the dusty floor
  5130. >a small chuckle escapes as you leave her some parting words
  5131. "might want to make it seem like you have."
  5132. >and with that you close the door and take a breath
  5133. >you place your hand on the door for a second and finally walk away
  5134. "you are one lucky horse.."
  5135. >the walk back is much slower and more precise
  5136. >you check your own halls for guards
  5137. >if you are seen in this area now this stupid little favor wont be believable
  5138. >it doesnt take you too long before you notice that this area really doesnt have many guards at all
  5139. >in the future you WILL fix that.
  5140. >even if its just an old servants area it should still be just as patrolled as the rest of the halls
  5141. >but you can worry about that later
  5142. >eventually you make your way to a more well traveled area of the castle
  5143. >quickly you check over yourself making sure everything seems normal
  5144. >once you are satisfied you continue on with a normal pace and make your way to your personal guards barracks
  5145. >the guards outside give you a salute and step aside letting you in
  5146. >"Heil manos"
  5147. "heil"
  5148. >immediately after stepping inside the barracks those guards inside snap to attention
  5149. >"HEIL MANOS!"
  5150. >you scan the room for those trusty faces.
  5151. "I need Commander Aryanne, Cinnamon Pop, Comet Glow, and Almond Heart to report to me immediately. Inform them. that is all"
  5152. >"yes lord"
  5153. >all of your hands quickly rush out the door to carry out your orders
  5154.  
  5155. >you are Emerald Shine
  5156. >all around you are various dossiers of former Royal guard ponies now Hands.
  5157. >Sapphire and yourself insisted that this was the first thing you take note of when you became Gestapo
  5158. >knowing who was once with a nation that could be, and ended up being, a foe was obvious
  5159. >but using it for recruitment?
  5160. >that was something you never expected to use it for.
  5161. "Sapphire.. have you made your selections yet?"
  5162. >at her desk Sapphire is carefully going over various lists of deceased Hands
  5163. >likely to confirm that the ponies you are choosing are actually still alive
  5164. >"Yes, my selection is complete, and ive only had to do a few corrections"
  5165. "then i think we are ready. Lets get this "Roselight Bound" and inform her of our Operation"
  5166. >Sapphire closes her files and begins to lock each of them away in their own place
  5167. >you do the same taking only one file with you
  5168. >you stuff it in a unmarked folder and seal it shut
  5169. >before you leave the room with your sister you take a quill and write a single word on the folder
  5170. >Wendigo
  5171. >after writing you take the folder and follow Sapphire out the door
  5172. "Sapphire.. a lot can go wrong if other nations find out about this."
  5173. >"then we simply wont let them find out then wont we?"
  5174. >the two of you share a smile and continue on
  5175.  
  5176. >you are Roselight Bound
  5177. >a number of black hands have escorted you to a secured area.
  5178. >guards are at almost every door, and the halls are completely silent
  5179. >there are no windows or other various ways to see inside any of the rooms around you
  5180. "what is this place?"
  5181. >the hands stop walking and one looks back to you
  5182. >"that is classified. everything you need to know will be told to you."
  5183. >you stare down the Black Hand
  5184. >more to just get a reading on the reason for your sudden change of station
  5185. >one moment you were a member of the research division
  5186. >next you were being escorted by several guards and told you were now temporarily 'unlisted'
  5187. >it isnt long before two crystal pony mares meet up with you and the group
  5188. >they give you and the guards a salute
  5189. >one which you return with fervor
  5190. "Heil Manos"
  5191. >"heil manos"
  5192. >once that moment passes the mares then lead the whole group to a room in the far back
  5193. >nothing differentiating it from any of the other doors not even a number
  5194. >"Please step inside."
  5195. >>"we have much to discuss"
  5196. >they open the door and inside is a single table with a few chairs around it
  5197. >without question you step inside and wait at the table
  5198. >both of the mares follow you inside and close the door tightly shut behind them
  5199. >"each of these rooms have been enchanted to not allow noise to escape"
  5200. >>"so whatever is said here exists here and ONLY here. is that understood?"
  5201. "Yes ma'am."
  5202. >>"very good, please take a seat."
  5203. >you do as instructed.
  5204. >as you walked inside you noticed the marks on their uniforms
  5205. >they were Gestapo.
  5206. >and they didnt try to hide it.
  5207. "May i ask what i am being brought here for?"
  5208. >the two take a seat at the table opposite you
  5209. >"you may ask that. but let us introduce ourselves first. My name is Sapphire shine, this is my sister Emerald."
  5210. >Emerald gives you a short nod
  5211. >>"we already know who you are."
  5212. >"Roselight Bound, sister to Honor Bound, Operator, and you are fanatically loyal to Manos."
  5213. "LORD manos."
  5214. >>"indeed."
  5215. >Emerald drops a folder on the table and slides it over to you
  5216. >>"you are here, Roselight. because you have been chosen by manos."
  5217. >"chosen for something that doesnt exist.."
  5218. >the sisters give you a very cold stare
  5219. >one that could even match yours
  5220. >>"are we clear?"
  5221. "Crystal clear."
  5222. >"cute.."
  5223. >you look down at the folder again and read the word on it
  5224. >Wendigo
  5225.  
  5226. >you are Manos
  5227. >you have been waiting in your room for almost and hour
  5228. "where are those-"
  5229. >"Lord manos sir!"
  5230. >you look over to your door where your guard has assembled
  5231. >Aryanne stands at attention with the others
  5232. >"you called for us?"
  5233. "yes i have, i have orders for each of you. and not one word of this can be let out understood?"
  5234. >"yes sir, understood. what are our orders?"
  5235.  
  5236. >you are Cadence
  5237. >the floor of the room now looks like there was a pony locked in here for weeks
  5238. >dust has been kicked about and small areas are clear where you have laid down
  5239. >unfortunately its now all over your uniform
  5240. >you take a moment to look around the small room and find a small rag.
  5241. >its not much, but its something
  5242. >you sit down and remove your uniform and lay it out on the clean area of the floor
  5243. >slowly and carefully with you magic and the rag you start to clean the dust off
  5244. >and you continue this.. for what seems like hours
  5245. "this is a really odd punishment..."
  5246. >eventually the uniform is clean again just as you are about to put it on the door opens revealing Aryanne and her fellow guards
  5247. "Aryanne? whats going on?"
  5248. >"Im sorry Cadence, but just go with this."
  5249. >the ponies step inside with a blindfold and rope
  5250. "Wait! what is this?! why are you-"
  5251. >Manos steps inside
  5252. >>"Cadence. remember. you need to trust me... Cinnamon. do it."
  5253. >you cant help but panic as the rope starts to tie around you and the blindfold covers your eyes
  5254. >you start to cast a spell in desperation but you feel Manos place his hand on your horn breaking your concentration
  5255. >>"Cadence! relax."
  5256. >suddenly you start to feel very sleepy, and your struggling stops.
  5257.  
  5258. >you are Manos
  5259. >you wait until you are sure Cinnamon's spell has taken effect before letting go of her horn
  5260. "could have done that a bit faster couldn't you?"
  5261. >"im sorry sir, but i wasnt exactly preapred to cast a sleeping spell on a alicorn."
  5262. >no matter. it worked.
  5263. "have her secured and covered up. Aryanne, with me."
  5264. >"where are we going? and why are we kidnapping one of our own?"
  5265. "we aren't we are saving her."
  5266. >"saving her? from what?"
  5267. >Aryanne follows close behind you down the halls
  5268. >this time you take the path leading out of the castle
  5269. "from her own stupidity. and the only way for this to work is if as few ponies know about it as possible."
  5270. >this is a really stupid idea honestly
  5271. >but it can be believed, Cadence has been acting out of character.
  5272. "Since Cadence is currently busy with important matters and most ponies know of certain events that occurred. ill need to get this last piece personally"
  5273.  
  5274. >you are Aryanne
  5275. >what is going on?!
  5276. >so far you have been left in the dark until just seconds before you need to do something
  5277. >and this is hardly the time for that
  5278. >royals have been spotted poking at your defensive lines
  5279. >they could attack at any time.
  5280. >after walking a good distance you are finally outside of the castle
  5281. >in fact you are relatively close to one of the gates leading to one of the camps
  5282. >soon you and Manos are walking to the Camp's entrance
  5283. >what is going on...
  5284.  
  5285. >you are Manos
  5286. >the guards let you pass without a fuss
  5287. >calmly you walk to long paths to the main holding area
  5288. >long barbwire fences hold large groups of changelings inside
  5289. >you peer inside at the clusters looking for one that seems strong enough to still function
  5290. >you point one out
  5291. "perfect"
  5292.  
  5293. >you are Cadence
  5294. >slowly you start to come to.
  5295. >your movements must have attracted the attention of the Hands holding you
  5296. >"dont worry Cadence ma'am. nothings going to happen to you."
  5297. >the blindfold on your face is lifted and you are now in a small cave like area
  5298. "where am I?"
  5299. >Cinnamon takes a seat next to you
  5300. >"we Cadence. are in an old changeling hive that was cleared out when we first started up our lovely camps."
  5301. "and why have i been tied up and taken here?"
  5302. >he shrugs.
  5303. >"cant say, honestly i dont know. just following orders."
  5304. >you hear the voice of Comet from further away
  5305. >>"Could be worse.. could be held by someone who is upset about your little show."
  5306. >this gets Cinnamon's attention
  5307. >"what?"
  5308. >>"didnt you hear? Cadence was the one who let those five ponies escape."
  5309. >"and where did you hear that?"
  5310. >>"i hear things, im a very social pony. i also have a small idea as to whats going on."
  5311. "well then could you tell me then? because im at a loss."
  5312.  
  5313. >you are Manos
  5314. >the changeling you have selected has been brought back to your room.
  5315. >and securely tied down to a very solid chair.
  5316. >you kneel down to the creature and look it over.
  5317. "you recognize me correct? you Changelings know me very well"
  5318. >the bug nods slowly
  5319. >or perhaps weakly
  5320. "then you know my connection to your new queen.. and last i heard, my orders are to be followed to the letter."
  5321. >you point to a folder on your table
  5322. "Aryanne. bring me that folder."
  5323. >you listen to her hooves on the floor and continue to look at the bug
  5324. >"here you are sir."
  5325. >you look back to her and take the folder calmly
  5326. >inside is Cadences file.
  5327. >and a photo of her
  5328. >holding the folder up to the changeling you never break eye contact
  5329. "Disguise, now."
  5330.  
  5331. >you are Aryanne
  5332. >you watch as the changeling stares at the folder
  5333. "Manos could you please--"
  5334. >there is a sudden burst of green flame and sitting in the chair is a perfect copy of Cadence
  5335. >"perfect... im going to undo your restraints. and you will NOT move."
  5336. >>"I understand."
  5337. >even its voice sounds just like hers.
  5338. >its really chilling actually, especially since you just saw it change right in front of you
  5339. >you ready your weapon
  5340. >ever since Manos had those sidearms distributed to officers you have been getting to know yours well
  5341. >you watch on as the last of the restraints are removed, and the changeling remains sitting there in its seat
  5342. >"good.."
  5343. >Manos looks over to you
  5344. >"Aryanne, could you please step outside for a moment."
  5345. "are you sure sir?"
  5346. >he gives you a firm and confident look
  5347. "dont worry ill be quite alright. oh, and be sure to alert the guards the second you hear a noise."
  5348. >just like nothing has happened since you were ordered to meet with manos he takes a seat at his desk
  5349. >and he just starts to reassemble is weapon
  5350. >with a changeling right at his back..
  5351. >"Now, if you please."
  5352. >hesitantly you do so, keeping a close eye on the parasite in the chair
  5353. >slowly you close the door behind you and stand outside the door
  5354.  
  5355. >you are Changeling number 1342
  5356. >hive class, Drone.
  5357. >you remain sitting right where the creature called Manos has ordered.
  5358. >Manos.. the previous queen slayer.
  5359. >and now somehow, having influence over your new queen.
  5360. >you have asked her countless times if you should listen to manos since he has taken you
  5361. >she has said yes
  5362. >such is the life of a drone, work till death, and follow orders.
  5363. >but anything is better then those camps
  5364. >suddenly you feel a wave of emotion
  5365. >you cant resist you feed on it
  5366. >love?
  5367. >no.. its pity
  5368. >you look over to the creature and watch as the object the hold makes a loud snap
  5369. >looks like he made something
  5370. >you remain in your chair
  5371. >perhaps this creature has selected you for a specific job.
  5372. >since he has not given you any other order than to remain in the chair you look over your 'new' body
  5373. >its very pink.
  5374. >you still have a horn, and a pair of wings, you also appear to be female.
  5375. >well at least you get to keep the same gender
  5376. >then something comes to mind
  5377. >this Manos creature, he is male.
  5378. >that pony from before, she was female and you are female.
  5379. >yet her ordered her to leave the room and for you to stay seated in a chair
  5380. >perhaps he desires to breed?
  5381. >you snap from your thoughts as the sound of something metal comes from the Manos
  5382. >looking back over you see that he is leaning back in his chair while holding that object
  5383. >wonder what it does.
  5384. >he smiles at you and slowly stands up keeping the object in his hand
  5385. "Manos, what does that object do?"
  5386. >his smile turns into a small laugh and he holds it up for you to look it
  5387. >"this? well, this just saved the life of a very close friend of mine.. with your help that is."
  5388.  
  5389. >you are Aryanne
  5390. >so far, you haven't heard a noise
  5391. >but you have been ready ever since you closed the door
  5392. >manos said to alert the guards if anything-
  5393. >suddenly there is the sound of something crashing from inside the room
  5394. >your first instinct is to charge in and assist
  5395. >but you stop just as you reach the door.
  5396. "orders..."
  5397. >you hear another crash then quickly you turn and sound an alarm
  5398.  
  5399. >you are Manos
  5400. >standing in your room with the changing in the chair you feel a wave of excitement come over you
  5401. >with the sound of Aryanne running off the get the guards everything SHOULD fall into place
  5402. >the drone still looks at you
  5403. >you have just flipped over your desk and knocked over a dresser
  5404. >"Manos creature. why have you-"
  5405. >you raise your gun to the bug and smile
  5406. "oh my god... you're not Cadence."
  5407. >the changeling has a sudden moment of realization and tries to charge at you
  5408. >just as you pull the trigger
  5409.  
  5410. >you are Roselight Bound
  5411. >and you have been chosen by Manos himself
  5412. >your faith is going to be tested and by fate, you will not fail.
  5413. >the two mares have taken you to an area just outside of the Reichs walls
  5414. >awaiting you is a company of assorted Black Hands
  5415. >"we assume you can take it from here Roselight?"
  5416. >>"the supplies you will require have been left just down the road a ways in the woods just off the road"
  5417. >"the road of course, leading to Yakyakistan... we couldnt have you marching around in royal guards armor already now could we?"
  5418. "understood. by fate and by the will of Manos i will not fail in my task."
  5419. >the mares give you a salute before parting ways with you and your new command
  5420. >when you return to the Hands you have already been made the center of attention
  5421. >with stride you walk down the line of Hands eyeing up each one
  5422. "you have all been selected because of your previous occupation."
  5423. >when you reach the end of the line you look down the road leading to the place called "yakyakistan"
  5424. "that occupation being guards of the royal sisters, and for your loyalty to manos which you have proven be relinquishing their banner and taking up his."
  5425. >several of the Hands have clearly had more training than others
  5426. >you can tell just by their stance and organization
  5427. >its good to know that you will have some experienced and disciplined troops with you
  5428. "this operation does not exist. everything we do, is off record and completely deniable by the Reich and Manos. if you do not follow orders given. there is nothing stopping us from ending your life to keep this mission quiet."
  5429. >there is a silence as your words hang in the air
  5430. "if you are not willing to die, or not willing to follow my orders, stay behind. You will be of no use to me."
  5431. >with that you start to walk on down the road
  5432. >the sound of hoofsteps following behind you
  5433. >Operation Wendigo has officially begun
  5434.  
  5435. >you are Almond Heart
  5436. >outside the entrance to the cave that Cinnamon and Comet have hid Cadence you are on watch
  5437. >you arent feeling too well either..
  5438. >as you keep an eye out for anyone sent to find Cadence you lean against the wall a while, before eventually sitting down
  5439. >this has been happening more and more frequently
  5440. >and you are hoping it isnt what you think it is.
  5441. >there is a snapping twig from somewhere ahead of you
  5442. >quickly getting to your feet you brace yourself for whatever might come
  5443. >there is a rustling in a bush just a few feet away from you
  5444. >you raise your sidearm at the bush ready to fire at whatever might come out
  5445. >a small rabbit hops out and wiggles its nose at you
  5446. >a sigh of relief escapes you and you lower your weapon
  5447. "shoo! get out of here!"
  5448. >the rabbit gives you a somehow angry looking nose wiggle before it hops away
  5449. "well at least is wasnt anything dangerous--"
  5450. >quickly you place your hoof over your mouth and rush a distance away
  5451. >you then proceed to empty your stomach
  5452. "that messenger or whoever better get here soon..."
  5453. >you take a few deep breaths regaining your composure and wiping your lips clean
  5454. "i seriously need to talk to the Commander.."
  5455.  
  5456. >you are Manos
  5457. >a corpse of a dead Cadence lays on the floor
  5458. >the only thing distinguishing it from the real one is its fangs and green eyes.
  5459. >and of course the green ichor all over the floor coming from it
  5460. >at least it doesnt smell
  5461. >your door gets kicked in as several Black Hands including Aryanne enter inside
  5462. >"Manos what happened? are you alright?!"
  5463. >you act tired and defeated taking a seat on the chair beside you
  5464. "yes, im fine. just had an unexpected visitor..."
  5465. >you lazily motion your gun to the dead corpse on the floor
  5466. "seems one of Cadences friends got out.. get a search party looking for her. then alert the rest of the guards"
  5467. >Aryanne looks to the body, then back to you.
  5468. >a knowing smile comes to her face
  5469. >"Yes lord manos, right away. Hands, you have your orders."
  5470. >each of the hands file out of the room to search for the 'missing' pony
  5471. >but Aryanne stays behind
  5472. >"so thats what this was, you planned to kill the changeling and have all those rumors about Cadence be blamed on the bug."
  5473. >reaching down to your waist you wipe off a few splotches of gore off of your uniform
  5474. "i dont know what you mean Aryanne... clearly Cadence is missing and we let a changeling get to close."
  5475. >"you realize this will look bad on my behalf, and it will make the rest of your personal guard also look less than capable of protecting you."
  5476. "Aryanne, you and the others followed my orders to the letter. if the outside world views you as lesser for that then let them. I have the final say on who protects me and who is above whom"
  5477. >"i understand that Manos, but no doubt the news of this failure of my ponies will-"
  5478. >you quickly snap at the mare cutting her sentence short
  5479. "be brushed aside by my personal guards discovery of the missing pony and restoring order in this chaotic time. Aryanne please bring Cadence back. we can discuss this at another time."
  5480. >holstering your sidearm you walk past Aryanne and out the door just as a small group of staff walk in and begin to clean the room
  5481.  
  5482. >you are Roselight
  5483. >the road quickly became covered in snow the further down you went
  5484. >the cold sharp air is just beginning to bite at your hide, but its still tolerable
  5485. >you readjust your forces movement to the hills and forest overlooking the still visible and soon to be well traveled road
  5486. >after a few more hours of traveling you arrive place the supplies would be stored
  5487. "spread out and look for our stash of gear. it will be marked by a series of black flags around it"
  5488. >"yes commander! you heard the mare! split into teams and recover our equipment. If we are lucky there will be nice warm blankets waiting for us!"
  5489. >your Hands soon spread out and begin their search
  5490. >but a few that you have previously selected remain
  5491. >you need to speak with them alone.
  5492. >the small group of less then a dozen ponies form a semi circle around you
  5493. >even with the snow and cold air blowing around them they ignore it and stand firm
  5494. >each of the previous royals standing before you were higher ranking officers in the Royal guard
  5495. >and you plan to make use of that
  5496. "you have more experience in the guard than the rest of the company. i expect you know their tactics rather well."
  5497. >you glance around to keep an eye out for any signal that the supplies were found while still talking
  5498. "we will be needing to use them, no matter how you feel about them compared to the Reichs tactics, this is an operation of both stealth and aggression."
  5499. >"and what exactly is our mission if i may ask?"
  5500. >your eyes quickly snap to his
  5501. "you may ask, but refrain from interrupting me in the future."
  5502. >he quickly shuts his mouth and remains stoic and stone faced
  5503. "our mission will be to attack and destroy trade caravans moving between Yakyakistan and the Reich, under the flag of the Royal guard and the sister princesses"
  5504. >you give them a short pause
  5505. "any questions?"
  5506. >>"yes ma'am. just one, why?"
  5507. "like i said before, this operation does not exist.. but IF it did, it would be to sour the relations between Yakyakistan and Equestria, the Equestrians have a whole company in the Reichs dungeon and are considered 'missing' on paper."
  5508. >not far away you hear shouting from some of your hands
  5509. >then a small blast of magic is shot into the air and starts to fall slowly with a green light
  5510. "thats the signal.. ill explain more as we walk, officers.."
  5511. >it doesnt take long before you have arrived at the supply cache along with the rest of your command
  5512. "open it up and distribute whats inside"
  5513. >"commander. the weapons and armor inside.. its royal guard gear."
  5514. "i am aware. now follow your orders!"
  5515. >"yes ma'am!"
  5516. >quickly the hands get to distributing the supplies giving you more time to speak with your officers
  5517. >each receiving appropriate armor befitting their station
  5518. >and a ornate custom set for you.
  5519. >unlike the rest of the gear yours has no markings to the sisters
  5520. >instead there is a intricately designed rose on the breastplate surrounded by a faint red aura
  5521. >it seems far to flashy..
  5522. >you would have preferred your old armor.
  5523. >but its still a gift from Manos, and it deserves your respect and admiration
  5524. >many of the black hands seem confused or hesitant to don their old uniform after pledging themselves to Manos
  5525. >but it isnt too long before they are all geared up and waiting for an explanation from their superiors
  5526. "as i just finished saying to my officers."
  5527. >you give a small motion the the ponies behind you
  5528. "this operation will be under the flag of Equestria, if orders are followed to the letter, you do your jobs, and Manos wills it, we will be creating a strong alliance between Yakyakistan and the Reich, as well as diminishing the yaks relations with Equestria and hopefully gaining an ally in our war."
  5529. >"what is our objective commander?"
  5530. >the officer you had to bash before for interrupting you steps forward and shouts to the offending pony
  5531. >>"You will speak only when spoken to or allowed by your superiors! when orders are being given you WILL remain silent!"
  5532. >the officer then gives you a nod to continue
  5533. "we will be raiding and attacking anything on this road. be they Yaks.. or ponies. our objective will be to cause as much destruction as possible while still letting survivors tell the tale of Equestrian brutality. but for now.. set up a camp. and get some fires going. im freezing my tail off."
  5534.  
  5535. >you are Aryanne
  5536. >its taken some time but eventually you make it to the cave
  5537. >standing guard outside is Almond Heart
  5538. >'standing' perhaps not being the right word.
  5539. "Almond Heart!"
  5540. >the pegasi quickly stands up from laying against the side of the cave
  5541. >"Commander Aryanne, are we ready to head back?"
  5542. "yes but that can wait.. are you feeling alright Almond?"
  5543. >you turn your head to a small pile of.. lunch.. on the ground not to far away
  5544. >"its fine.. I just.."
  5545. >the mare scratches the back of her head
  5546. >"ill explain it when we get back.."
  5547. "are you sure?"
  5548. >"yes ma'am. we still have our mission."
  5549. >you cant help but smile at her show of determination before making your way inside
  5550. >further in you see Comet glow and Cinnamon doing their best to pass the time the only way they know how.
  5551. >"manos damn it Comet thats the dumbest reason i ever heard!"
  5552. >>"Fuck you! no it isnt!"
  5553. >"why would manos take cadence away like this just so he could have a pet bug?! why would he want one anyway!"
  5554. >>"how should i know?! but ive seen two cadences before! so im sure it has something to do with-"
  5555. "glad to see you two are maintaining the highest of standards for black hands discipline while im away"
  5556. >the two stallions quickly give you a salute and stop their normal arguing
  5557. >"Aryanne ma'am! Cadence is still secure and we are awaiting orders."
  5558. >looking over to Cadence you see the bag and blindfold she once had torn apart and used to create earplugs tied to her head by the rope
  5559. "heh.. smart mare. wish i had done that a few times, alright well tell her its safe to go back. Manos' plan was a success.. for him"
  5560. >>"what do you mean 'for him'?"
  5561. "nothing Comet. forget i said anything. just know that we might have to prove our worth more than usual."
  5562.  
  5563. >you are Honor Bound
  5564. >the past few days you have been going around the Riches factories and making changes to certain designs
  5565. >most have been excited to have new government projects and designs to work with
  5566. >while others needed more... 'incentive' to change their production
  5567. >in the end, everything will be going smoothly
  5568. >looking down at the contracts you have collected excitement starts to fill your heart
  5569. >your Talon artillery will be put into mass production along with Manos' tanks and weaponry
  5570. >"Commander Bound!"
  5571. >your attention is drawn to a black hand running over to you from down the road
  5572. >as he reaches you he takes several breaths of exhaustion
  5573. >"im glad i found you sir. i have news from one of our forward observation posts."
  5574. >quickly you lose interest in the messenger and start to bag up your newly made contracts
  5575. "im afraid that im not the one you should be reporting to, that would be Aryanne."
  5576. >"Manos had her pulled from her post a few hours ago sir, she was sent to search for Cadence."
  5577. >is that so?
  5578. >well if Cadence and Aryanne are missing or not around to take command..
  5579. "then by all means, tell me. Until Cadence is found or Aryanne returns ill be assuming command"
  5580. >the black hand gives you a salute
  5581. >"yes sir, we have a large force of Royalists heading our way. it seems to be an invasion force."
  5582. >a wide grin forms on your face
  5583. "well not a moment to waste then, Have all available forces be ready for battle and defenses ready."
  5584.  
  5585. >you are Lyra Heartstrings
  5586. >its been a few days since you have left the safety of Manos and his walled city
  5587. >the travel so far has been by foot under escort of the Zebra diplomats and their bodyguards
  5588. >the plan is to travel with them both to improve relations and for protection against any hostilities Equestria might take
  5589. >so far, nothing has happened.
  5590. >and soon you will be arriving in VanHoover where a ship will be taking you to the lands of the Zebras
  5591. >with you are several other ponies from the Reich
  5592. >Most are soldiers or officers who will be helping train zebras in the Zebranican Republic
  5593. >there are also a few other members of the church of Manos coming to spread the word of fate
  5594. >you expect to be spending a great deal of time with them
  5595. >"alright, we are going to rest here for a while. after our break VanHoover is just a few hours of travel away"
  5596. >now seems like the best time to start to get to know those ponies from earlier
  5597. >as you turn to meet with them a larger earth pony stands before you
  5598. >"Lyra Heartstrings."
  5599. >the stallion looks like most other Black Hands you have met previously
  5600. >however his mane is shaved shorter than the others and he doesnt seem to be in the usual deep black uniform
  5601. >his is more of an off black or gray
  5602. >"My name is Field Day, and i have orders to both be a military adviser to the Zebranicans and to be in charge of your personal safety"
  5603. >you give a slight nod and a genuine smile to the stallion
  5604. "im sure ill be in good hooves."
  5605. >the two of you shake hooves
  5606. >"if you dont mind miss Heartstrings id like to stick by you for the remainder of our trip. once we arrive ill have a small bodyguard for you"
  5607. "i dont mind at all. i was just about to meet with those other members of the children of fate, you are more than welcome to join me."
  5608. >Field Day looks over to the group of ponies
  5609. >they each have a small book of prayers and lessons with them as they sit together and chat
  5610. >"If you insist.."
  5611. >and with that you make your way over to join them in their talk
  5612. "hello fellow children, mind if i sit with you?"
  5613. >an mare with a similar coat to yours moves over with the others
  5614. >>"of course you may! how could we say no to the chosen voice of manos?"
  5615. >there is a small mumble of annoyance from Field Day
  5616. >perhaps he is not a child of fate?
  5617. >but then.. why would he be a black hand?
  5618. >this could be a chance to get to know him just as well as the others.
  5619.  
  5620. >you are Manos
  5621. >you sit at a large table enjoying a nice meal in peace
  5622. >you rarely get such times with nothing too important to be doing and get a moment for yourself
  5623. >besides the nights.. but those are spent for the most part keeping yourself busy and awake
  5624. >a servant mare walks over to you and refills your glass of crystal wine
  5625. "thank you."
  5626. >"if you need anything lord please just ask."
  5627. >the servant takes a few steps back and places the wine bottle on the table beside her
  5628. >just as you take another bite of your salad there is a distant noise
  5629. >you stop chewing and listen
  5630. >the servants do the same looking around for what it could be
  5631. >the noise is then joined by more
  5632. >it sounds almost like..
  5633. >quickly dropping your fork you stand up knocking your drink to the floor with a crash
  5634. >you rush to the nearest window and look out over your Reich
  5635. >in the distance you can see Black Hands rushing across the walls
  5636. >a Crystal Guard quickly runs in your dining hall
  5637. >"Lord Manos! we are under siege!"
  5638. >strange that a crystal guard is the one who told you and not a hand
  5639. "where are my Hands?"
  5640. >"Commander Bound had to order them to the defense as quickly as he could, we were caught off guard."
  5641. >you check for your sidearm and give a sigh of relief as you feel it in its holster
  5642. >"The crystal guard has been ordered to defend the castle grounds along with other parts of the main city."
  5643. "any news about my guard? Aryanne or any of the others? what of the search for Cadence?"
  5644. >"i-i dont know sir. the black hands would know-"
  5645. >after that whole ordeal you went through to save Cadence the last thing you want is to need to do it again
  5646. >making your way to the doors you shout to the servants and the guard
  5647. "find safety, if there is any word of Aryanne and the others notify me immediately! Guard, send word to the Brownshirts they are called to active duty. get my ponies to the safety of the castle grounds!"
  5648. >"yes lord!"
  5649.  
  5650. >you are a Centurion in the crystal guard.
  5651. >your name is Adamant
  5652. >you look over your century of around eighty guards
  5653. >your more traditional force specializes in melee combat
  5654. >which you have begun to realize, is becoming a thing of the past now that Manos is in charge
  5655. >your numbers before Manos were in the thousands making several legions
  5656. >now, the once great legions are down to no more than three cohorts.
  5657. >"Centurion Adamant!"
  5658. >the guard you sent to manos has returned
  5659. "speak, what are our orders from manos?"
  5660. >"we have orders to secure the castle grounds in case any royals make it past the hands, also we are to rally any and all Brownshirts to active service."
  5661. >you frown and acknowledge the orders
  5662. >its a shame you are no better than a reserve force now
  5663. "very well. as loyal soldiers we shall follow the chain of command."
  5664. >raising your voice you give your orders to your century
  5665. "split to your contuberniums! travel together and carry out Manos' orders. Heil!"
  5666. >>"Heil Manos!"
  5667.  
  5668. >you are Marble Sunset
  5669. >once you were in a recon unit outside of ponyville staying, for the most part, out of the line of fire
  5670. >but not today
  5671. >today you are with your forces out in the field outside of the walls of the Reich
  5672. >the sound of machine guns are filling the air and ponies are rushing crates of ammunition back and forth in the trenches
  5673. >your gaze shifts out to the field where countless Royalist ponies are slowly advancing
  5674. >large magical barriers are formed by unicorns behind the first line of attackers
  5675. >the barriers offer cover for large groups to push on into your lines
  5676. >you grab the pony on the gun next to you
  5677. "concentrate fire on those spells! the more pressure we put on them the more likely they are to fail!"
  5678. >quickly he and the few others in the small fortification with you all fire on the one target
  5679. >it takes time but the spell starts to waver
  5680. >the fear building up inside you dissipates as it finally falls and the ponies behind it get cut down
  5681. "thank manos.."
  5682. >you pat the ponies back again
  5683. "nice job. keep them back"
  5684. >"yes sir, ill do my best."
  5685. >now with the more immediate threat gone he calmly loads a new belt of ammo
  5686. >>"INCOMING!"
  5687. >down in one of the trenches another black hand points to the sky as large boulders are hurled from the tree line
  5688. >most make contact with the ground flinging large blasts of dirt and debris into the air
  5689. >but a few make contact with the small concrete forts like the one you are in
  5690. >you were told that they are to be referred to as 'bunkers'
  5691. >depending on where the boulder struck, the bunkers were either left unharmed, or would collapse in on anyone inside
  5692. >you dont have much time to watch as one strikes the top of your own
  5693. >you pray that yours is one strong enough to withstand the impact
  5694. >for a few very short moments you hold your breath as you can feel the boulders impact and movement along the building
  5695. >as fate would have it, your bunker still stands
  5696. "where are those rocks coming from?!"
  5697. >"somewhere out in the woods sir!"
  5698. >quickly you pull out a detailed map of the area and spread it out on your small table
  5699. >everything else previously sitting on it is knocked to the floor in your rush
  5700. >frantically you search for your position on the map
  5701. "damn it! i knew i should have marked it with something!"
  5702. >another black hand stationed in your bunker joins you in the search on the map
  5703. >"here! right here!"
  5704. >she places her hoof on where she believes you are
  5705. >"and im sure i saw it come from about--"
  5706. >theres another impact close by
  5707. >you look to the opening to see a boulder slowly rolling back a mere feet from your weakest point
  5708. >you felt your heart stop then start up again
  5709. >the mare must have held her breath, she quickly blurts out with a gasp of air
  5710. >"somewhere in here!"
  5711. >on the map she is circling a heavily forested area
  5712. >and you cant see through the treeline from where you are
  5713. >but if you dont stop those boulders... its only a matter of time before you become a pile of rubble
  5714.  
  5715. >you are Honor Bound
  5716. >standing on the walls of the Reich you can see the battle playing out below
  5717. >large formations of royals seem to be closing in using the same technique
  5718. >large shields of magic in front of them and a slow advance behind them
  5719. >very antique...
  5720. "slow moving formations are a thing of the past.."
  5721. >slowly you walk over to the gate and its control mechanism
  5722. "and if you cant evolve and adapt then whats the point in trying?.. open the gates!"
  5723. >hands stationed at the gatehouse quickly get to action scattering all around and getting the large gates to open up
  5724. >just as the gates begin to open up a voice shouts from behind you
  5725. >"Commander! siege artillery incoming!"
  5726. >your head snaps to the field as you witness large projectiles smashing into the fortifications manos himself designed
  5727. >surprisingly they hold up relatively well
  5728. >true, some have collapsed in areas or fallen apart.
  5729. >but most that have been hit still remain standing
  5730. >"over there sir! they came from the forests!"
  5731. >well you have just the thing for those old tools of war
  5732. >you just need a good idea of their position
  5733. "get me some eyes on those siege weapons! i need a better idea of where they are."
  5734. >"yes sir! ill send as many scouts as i can."
  5735. >>"in the sky! behind us!"
  5736.  
  5737. >you are Manos
  5738. >the outer castle grounds are filled with panicking servants and civilians
  5739. >crystal guards and brownshirts are doing everything they can to calm them down and keep them safe
  5740. >the gates look like they are about to burst with the straight flood of citizens inside
  5741. >ponies are screaming for missing family and friends in the panic
  5742. >others are shouting trying to keep order
  5743. >all of it is unnecessary noise and its making it hard to think straight
  5744. >unfortunately Cadence, Aryanne, and the others will have to wait.
  5745. >"Lord manos! it isnt safe for you out here"
  5746. >several crystal guards form up around you and try to motion you back inside
  5747. >you push them back
  5748. "if i was to hide away in my room id be no better than Celestia"
  5749. >"but lord-"
  5750. >you brush the guards aside
  5751. "if you wish to protect me, then come. but i will not hide away when the enemy is at my door"
  5752. >the sound of distant machine gun fire is suddenly much closer
  5753. >the guard positions all around the castle have started to open fire at something
  5754. >you direct your attention to the defenses to see where they are looking
  5755. >the sky
  5756. >you raise your head higher and look to the clouds
  5757. >above the Reich is a large mix of pegasi and griffons engaged in combat
  5758. >theres no time for delay
  5759. >your air forces are not nearly strong enough to win against both Equestria and the griffons
  5760. >at best all they can do is hold them back for a time
  5761. >but once your pegasi fall back and make it t the ground you will lose all control of the air
  5762. >but you will NOT lose the ground
  5763. >loudly so that the guards around you can clearly hear you you bark orders
  5764. "get my brownshirts armed with proper weaponry! i dont care if its swords or machine guns."
  5765. >then you point to the crowds of civilians
  5766. "and get those ponies inside! and i expect my castle will still belong to me when i return!"
  5767. >breaking out into a sprint you head to the gates forcing your way past the panicked ponies
  5768. >many do their best to make room for you
  5769. >others seem to calm at the sight of you
  5770. >your presence must effect them
  5771. >the sight of their leader, their god running toward danger rather than away
  5772. >it must be inspiring
  5773. >to bad you dont get to feel that same sensation
  5774.  
  5775. >you are Cadence
  5776. >Aryanne and the others said its time to return to Manos, and that he has taken care of everything.
  5777. >you're not sure how though.
  5778. >after a short bit of walking aryanne holds up a hoof
  5779. >the others comes to a quick halt
  5780. >"do you hear that?"
  5781. >it takes you a minute but you can hear a slight noise in the distance
  5782. >>"is that what i think it is Commander?"
  5783. >"thats gunfire..."
  5784. >>"thats A LOT of gunfire."
  5785. >everyone quickly checks their weapons
  5786. >each pony draws their sword once or twice to be sure it isnt blocked up in its scabbard
  5787. >they also check to see if their guns are loaded properly
  5788. >Aryanne goes from her more relaxed command to her all business faster than you can blink
  5789. >"Cinnamon take point, Comet you take rear, Almond and I will guard Cadences flanks."
  5790. >Comet opens his mouth to speak
  5791. >"if you make a joke Comet ill put YOU on point instead."
  5792. >he then closes it and takes his place
  5793. "Aryanne, whatever is going on i can handle myself, i dont need you to focus on protecting me."
  5794. >Cinnamon slowly starts to walk ahead keeping low
  5795. >"Cadence, as of right now i am in command, you and I are high ranking members of the Reich. but if something happens to you then manos will have my hide. not to mention you simply know more than i do when it comes to the inner workings of the government and politics"
  5796. "I understand Aryanne but-"
  5797. >"there isnt going to be a debate, you are simply more valuable than any of us. lets go."
  5798. >Almond and Aryanne start to move up and you follow them closely as you in turn are followed by Comet
  5799. >when you and the others make it back to the Reich
  5800. >you will do everything you can to make all this up to Aryanne
  5801.  
  5802. >you are Cinnamon Pop
  5803. >the sounds of gunfire are much louder and clearer now
  5804. >and its not sounding like its going to stop anytime soon
  5805. >you continue on moving slow and as close to the ground as you can
  5806. >just ahead of you there is the sound of voices
  5807. >then the sound of large objects moving
  5808. >you stop moving and motion to Aryanne and the others to stop
  5809. >looking back to them you whisper just loud enough for them to hear
  5810. "hold here, let me get a better look"
  5811. >they all sink lower and keep their heads on a swivel watching for anything in the woods
  5812. >you take in a deep breath
  5813. "ok Cinnamon.. here we go"
  5814. >you come up to a small clearing in the woods
  5815. >inside is a force of Royals
  5816. >and a trebuchet with a stockpile of ammo
  5817.  
  5818. >you are Manos
  5819. >on your way out of the castle grounds you cam across a group of tanks making their way out of the city
  5820. >apparently Honor Bound has been commanding the defense and has ordered a push to force them off balance
  5821. >your tanks being a key component in that push
  5822. >hopping aboard one you ride to the gates with them
  5823. >"lord manos..."
  5824. >you look inside to the driver who called to you
  5825. "yes?"
  5826. >there is a short pause as the others inside all look to the pony
  5827. >he does his best to look back to you while still keeping his eyes pointing ahead
  5828. >"does.. does being scared of dying.."
  5829. >the age of the pony slowly starts to dawn on you
  5830. >you're not the best at guessing a ponies age
  5831. >but even you can tell hes young.
  5832. >young and scared.
  5833. >"does it mean i wont go to valhalla like my father and brother?"
  5834. >he finally takes a moment to look back to you completely
  5835. >and for a moment, it seemed like you were looking at a human not a pony.
  5836. >for a time you remain quiet.
  5837. >this is the first time that you have really thought about the lives of all these ponies.
  5838. >could each of them have lives as vivid and real as yours?
  5839. >you notice the silence and a warm smile forms
  5840. >you reach forward into the tank and place your hand on his shoulder
  5841. "everyone is afraid. dont worry, you're not alone."
  5842. >you pat his shoulder a few times before pulling back
  5843. "and if valhalla doesn't let you in because you are scared.. well ill open the gates myself and make damn sure you get there."
  5844. >the young stallion relaxes enough to give a small laugh, as do the others.
  5845. >"thank you lord manos.."
  5846. "stop here."
  5847. >the tank slowly comes to a stop at the main gates and you climb off
  5848. "tell all my armored units to hold position outside the gates until I give further orders."
  5849. >you need to see whats going on outside your walls
  5850.  
  5851. >you are Marble Sunset
  5852. "we need to take out those machines now!"
  5853. >furiously you shout into one of the communications ponies crystals
  5854. "we have no eyes on and we cant return fire with all these royals charging us!"
  5855. >the voice of a calm collected pony speaks back
  5856. >"i know, we are doing everything we can, just stay where you are. we are sending scouts to get their position"
  5857. >you have to be kidding
  5858. "so you want us to sit here and die while we wait for scouts to find them?"
  5859. >there is a pause on the comms
  5860. >"until we have a better idea of their location we have our hooves tied"
  5861. >this pony cant be in the field
  5862. >if he was he would understand your frustration better
  5863. >you roughly pull the crystal and the pony over to your map table
  5864. "they are in the forest, just south, approximate position..."
  5865. >you run your hoof along the grid of the map
  5866. >suddenly another voice comes over the comms
  5867. >one you remember clearly
  5868. >>"who am i speaking with?"
  5869. >for a second or two you feel the same feeling of unsureness as you did when you were first promoted
  5870. "marble sunset.. lord."
  5871. >>"you say you know where they are.. are you sure?"
  5872. >there's a lump in your throat, but you force it away
  5873. >now there is no time for second guessing
  5874. "yes lord, im sure."
  5875. >there is a sound of movement then the other voice returns
  5876. >"continue with coordinates.."
  5877.  
  5878. >you are Manos
  5879. >you are standing on the walls of the Reich looking out over the battlefield
  5880. >every second you waste here doing nothing is a second closer the griffons get to winning the fight in the skies
  5881. >Honor Bound finishes getting information from Marble and places the crystal in his uniform
  5882. >"are you sure he is reliable Lord manos?"
  5883. >you ignore his concern
  5884. "did he give you a good enough idea of their location?"
  5885. >Honor nods
  5886. >"better than anything i currently have"
  5887. "then perhaps now is the time to show me those 'Talons' you've been hiding from me."
  5888.  
  5889. >you are Aryanne
  5890. >while Cinnamon advances further ahead the rest of you hold back waiting for his return
  5891. >you cant help but notice that Almond seems to be more worried than the others
  5892. >she takes little glances over where Cinnamon was whenever she can
  5893. >she better get herself together
  5894. "Almond, eyes peeled."
  5895. >you look back to Comet and wave him forward
  5896. >he crawls up to your side
  5897. >"whats up Commander. where did Cinnamon head off to?"
  5898. "hes scouting up ahead, get out your map. if theres something ahead i want to be sure to mark it when we get back"
  5899. >Comet goes through his small bag and pulls out his map and opens it up on the ground for you to use
  5900. "keep on watch"
  5901. >"yes commander."
  5902. >with Comet overlooking the area around you Cadence also moves over to get a look at the map
  5903. >>"where are we on here?"
  5904. "oh yeah, i forgot you dont know."
  5905. >you point to a wooded area outside of the Reich and tap your location
  5906. "we are just south of the Reich in the woods here. the cave you were stored in was an old hive that was cleared out"
  5907. >>"how long would it take us to make it back if we walked a straight line?"
  5908. "not long, if its clear."
  5909. >the sound of gunfire however takes that idea out
  5910. "but i have a feeling we need to take a different path.."
  5911.  
  5912. >you are Cinnamon Pop
  5913. "yeah thats a lot of royals"
  5914. >further down you can the the arms of more trebuchets launching their payload
  5915. >this forest is probably being used to lay siege to the Reich from a distance
  5916. "cowards.. as always.."
  5917. >a royal guard patrol walks nearby and you quickly duck lower into the bushes
  5918. >their hoofsteps draw closer
  5919. >making yourself as small as possible you wait for them to pass
  5920. >"you sure you heard something out here?"
  5921. >>"no, im not sure, thats why i didnt sound for more of us to look."
  5922. >"well then why did you make me come along?!"
  5923. >>"because if it IS something im not looking for it alone"
  5924. >you can hear your heart beating in your ears
  5925. >those guards are really close
  5926. >you force yourself to look under the bushes leaves
  5927. >right on the other side are two sets of hooves
  5928. >can they hear your heart beat?
  5929. >is your breathing too loud?
  5930. >you hold your breath and pray to manos they dont move any closer
  5931. >if they do they could step on you
  5932. >"see? nothing... lets get back before the captain has our flanks"
  5933. >>"alright"
  5934. >you keep holding your breath until the hoofsteps fade out in the distance
  5935. >you need to get back to the Commander
  5936.  
  5937. >you are Aryanne
  5938. >there is something coming closer
  5939. "straight ahead at twelve"
  5940. >everyone's body snaps to that direction holding their weapons at the noise
  5941. >hopefully its Cinnamon.. otherwise things are going to get loud
  5942. >"dont shoot, its me."
  5943. >Cinnamon slowly crawls into view
  5944. "about time you showed up. what did you see?"
  5945. >"theres a whole line of siege equipment up ahead, guess you were right commander. there's a fight going on at home"
  5946. "siege equipment?"
  5947. >"trebuchets i saw at least three, but there could be more. along with a lot of royals guarding them"
  5948. >you look down at your map and mark the location ahead
  5949. "alright looks like we are going to take the long way home.."
  5950. >>"Aryanne"
  5951. >you look over to Cadence
  5952. "yes?"
  5953. >"i think i can hear your crystal talking"
  5954. >you lift your collar and listen to the small crystal
  5955. >shes right its saying something
  5956. >you focus in on it and try to understand it
  5957. "its saying.. priority target..."
  5958. >you miss a few words but you catch some numbers
  5959. >your eyes drift to the map as you listen in
  5960. >"priority target?"
  5961. >you raise a hoof silencing her
  5962. "all batteries... fire for effect? what does that mean?"
  5963. >a second or so passes and you hear the sound of thumping
  5964. "not sure what that is, but we should start to move--"
  5965. >suddenly there is a loud boom
  5966. >your eyes dart to the location of the sound
  5967. >a large cloud of dirt smoke and tree shoots up from the ground
  5968. "move back.."
  5969. >theres another one even closer and you see parts of the trebuchets Cinnamon told you about flying up
  5970. >along with screams of ponies in pain
  5971. "move back now!"
  5972. >without another thought you shove Cadence in the direction you start to run
  5973. >you follow close behind her as various areas of the forest begin to explode seemingly out of the blue
  5974. "keep moving! find somewhere to take shelter!"
  5975. >your voice is dwarfed by the sounds of chaos all around you
  5976. >you feel your body being pushed with every explosion
  5977. >theres sharp pains in various areas of your body
  5978. >but you cant stop running
  5979. >if you do, you will be making your way to valhalla sooner than you'd like
  5980. >ahead you see a small ditch
  5981. >it isnt much, but its better than nothing
  5982. "CADENCE! THERE!"
  5983. >she sees the same spot and the two of you hit the dirt making yourselves as small as possible
  5984. >what could be causing this much destruction?
  5985.  
  5986. >you are Manos
  5987. >in the distance you are bearing witness to the new might of the Reich war machine.
  5988. >the forest shakes with each impact, and the royal guards sent to lay siege have taken notice of the chaos
  5989. >you call a communications pony over to you
  5990. "instruct my tanks to advance. cripple anything in their path, any black hands able to support in the advance are required to do so."
  5991. >"yes Lord Manos."
  5992. >before he can send the orders you pull him back
  5993. >your hands gripping his uniform tightly
  5994. "and im not interested in prisoners."
  5995. >"yes sir."
  5996. >you let him go and he obediently relays your word to the nessisary commanders
  5997. "this insult will not be taken lightly."
  5998. >you turn to Honor Bound
  5999. "continue the barrage until my troops get close. im sure you can handle the clean up from there."
  6000. >you have a more dire threat to be concerned with
  6001. "i need to get those birds out of my sky.."
  6002. >or rather, out of your Reich.
  6003.  
  6004. >you are Rainbow Dash
  6005. >an arrow whizzes past your head and hits a griffon in the chest
  6006. >the bird falls like a bag of ricks down to the city below
  6007. >even if the shot didnt kill them then the fall would
  6008. >wait.. that was an arrow
  6009. >you turn back to see another griffon reloading his crossbow
  6010. >or rather, finished loading it
  6011. >hes about to line up another shot when another pegasus in a black hands uniform strikes him
  6012. > the arrow in the crossbow discharging into the air as they start to grapple on another
  6013. >the pegasi bashes the griffon with her hooves
  6014. >the griffon tries to claw back without dropping his weapon
  6015. >even going as far as to start using it as a club
  6016. >she wont last on her own
  6017. "hold on!"
  6018. >you throw yourself into the fray
  6019. >now the griffon has to deal with two on one
  6020. >you start to hit the bird anywhere you can, pulling back and charging back in to get more speed and power
  6021. >he bats you away with one of his large wings and you drop a short distance before you regain your stability
  6022. >as you do the griffon grabs a hold of the black hands wing and holds her in the air as it winds up to claw her
  6023. >but shes strikes first raising her hoof with her sidearm and firing until shes empty
  6024. >the griffon joins the one he shot in falling to the ground
  6025. >the mare looks around at the others in combat
  6026. >"Commander.. we are losing this fight. we need to regroup, get help from the ground"
  6027. >all around you griffons are ripping your forces apart
  6028. >theres just too many, they are too well equipped.
  6029. "you're right. we need to get closer to the ground"
  6030. >but if you do.. then they could start to harm innocents or take the castle..
  6031. >and if you dont, you and the rest of your ponies will just keep getting decimated
  6032. >you're the commander
  6033. >you need to make the call.
  6034. "EVERYONE! get low! we cant win up here we need support from the ground!"
  6035. >the order is followed immediately
  6036. >manos save you if its the wrong call
  6037.  
  6038. >you are an operator in power armor
  6039. >you along with the rest of the growing numbers in your division have been called to the fight
  6040. >one you gladly will participate in
  6041. >your metallic voice echos over the sound of gunfire and distant explosions
  6042. "for the glory of the Reich and Manos! we shall not falter!"
  6043. >while being part of the research division Operators like yourself are not classified as a combat unit
  6044. >instead they are assigned to support groups of ponies on a squad based level
  6045. >"push back to the first line! they are wavering! we can retake our first positions!"
  6046. >you stand over the trench with a banner of manos held up by your armor
  6047. >around the battlefield you can see other operators giving you an idea of where allied squads are
  6048. "you heard the stallion! push forward!"
  6049. >you lead the advance back to the lines with your machine guns unleashing upon anything in front of you
  6050. >occasionally an arrow from a royal guard crossbow might try to strike you
  6051. >but they glance off harmlessly or more commonly just miss
  6052. >you pick up the speed of your charge as you hear the sounds of hooves behind you
  6053. "Valhalla awaits those who die in battle! i have no fear!"
  6054. >you know.. at first you thought the zealous speeches were just for show.
  6055. >but now that you are here in the field. they are far more than that.
  6056. >they are inspiring, and you can feel it in the ponies around you
  6057. >as you reach the trench line previously abandoned you peer down into the eyes of several Royalists
  6058. >they drop their weapons at the sight of your armored form looming over them your shadow casting a blanket of terror
  6059. >the stallions gaze into your helmets eyes
  6060. >with only their reflections to greet them
  6061. "Manos is not interested in prisoners in this fight..."
  6062. >your machine guns raise and you pull the trigger
  6063.  
  6064. >you are Aryanne
  6065. >it has seemed like an eternity, but the explosions have finally stopped.
  6066. >"is it over?"
  6067. >you muster all your willpower to look over the small dirt pocket protecting you
  6068. >large segments of the forest are completely cleared
  6069. >it looks more like a series of toothpicks stuck in the dirt more than a forest
  6070. "i think so."
  6071. >you start to take notice of a sharp pain in your back leg
  6072. >you reposition yourself to see what could be causing it
  6073. >suddenly you wish you hadn't
  6074. >there is a large shard of tree impaled in your leg
  6075. >Cadence notices it too and quickly gets to working her magic
  6076. >"hold still"
  6077. >her horn glows softly and you can feel the foreign object leaving your body
  6078. "son of a bitch that hurts!"
  6079. >your leg twitches from the pain but Cadence holds it still
  6080. >"i said hold still! i dont want any more breaking off inside"
  6081. >you bite your hoof as she quickly pulls it out and any remaining pieces with her magic
  6082. >"alright, it will still be sore-"
  6083. >your wound starts to glow with Cadences magic aura and it heals slowly
  6084. >"but you should be fine"
  6085. >she lets go of your leg and you move it around a bit
  6086. >"better?"
  6087. "much better.."
  6088. >there isnt time to sit around however
  6089. "we need to find the others and regroup"
  6090. >"i agree.. did you see where they went?"
  6091. >you thought you saw them run further to your left
  6092. "i think i did. we better start out this way."
  6093. >you pull yourself up from the ground despite your body and mind both screaming at you to stay low
  6094. "lets go.."
  6095. >each step you take your leg still gives a little flinch of pain
  6096. >Cadence was right, your leg is really sore.
  6097.  
  6098. >you are Comet Glow
  6099. >your head is still ringing as you crawl up from under a fallen tree
  6100. >you dont remember it being there before.
  6101. "what in the name of Manos was tha-AAH!"
  6102. >a sudden wave of pain comes over you starting from the back of your head
  6103. >you feel at the spot with your hoof
  6104. "ah- yup.. thats the spot alright."
  6105. >pulling it back into your view you see its now coated with a small amount of blood
  6106. >it doesnt seem to be bleeding too bad though.
  6107. "one more scar to tell the mares about"
  6108. >speaking of mares
  6109. >where are Cinnamon and Almond?
  6110. >last you knew they were right behind you when Aryanne and Cadence went another direction
  6111. "hey guys! sound off! where are you?"
  6112. >nothing.
  6113. "damn it.."
  6114. >there is no use sitting around and waiting for them to find you.
  6115. >you pull yourself out from under the tree and survey your surroundings
  6116. >most of the trees are shattered and knocked over from whatever caused those blasts
  6117. "i could have sworn this was a forest before, funny how time changes things.."
  6118. >slowly you start to retrace your steps
  6119. >those two should be around here somewhere
  6120. "Cinnamon, Almond, sound off!"
  6121. >you stop walking and listen for any sort of noise
  6122. >you hear something off to your right
  6123. >its quiet but its definitely there
  6124. >walking in that direction you come to a small ditch with trees and rocks tossed about
  6125. >peering inside you see Almond and Cinnamon laying there with Almond on top of him
  6126. >you smirk at the two
  6127. "alright you two. there will be plenty of time for that when we get back.. unless there's room for me too."
  6128. >normally Cinnamon would throw an insult or two at you
  6129. >or Almond might bad mouth your lewd humor
  6130. >but they dont..
  6131. >instead Almond stays there and starts crying
  6132. "hey.. Almond... it was just a joke..."
  6133. >you get closer to the duo
  6134. "arnt you guys going to bash me or something"
  6135. >suddenly you stop where you are as Almond looks up to you tears and blood soaking her coat
  6136. >Almond forces herself to speak her words painful to utter
  6137. >"Hes dead Comet"
  6138. >theres a growing lump in your throat as you take another step forward
  6139. >then another... and another
  6140. >soon you are standing right next to Almond
  6141. "you mean... dead, dead?"
  6142. >she sobs nodding her head slowly
  6143. >you peek around her and get a look to your friend and Kamerad
  6144. >he lays motionless in the dirt a large dart of timber right through his neck
  6145. >for once.. you're at a loss for words.
  6146. >Almond quickly grabs you and pulls you into a tight hug
  6147. >she starts to cry quietly into your shoulder, but it isnt long before she cant hold it all back
  6148. >her hug becomes tighter and her sobbing echos in the quiet surroundings
  6149. >you lift a hoof and hold her, but your attention is still on Cinnamon's corpse
  6150. >even you start to feel tears forming in your eyes
  6151. >you do your best to hold them back
  6152. "you have a lot of nerve going to valhalla before me you bastard.."
  6153. >"Comet.. he.. he was.."
  6154. >Almond tries to speak but her sobs prevent it from coming easily
  6155. >"he was going to be a father.. im pregnant.."
  6156. >you lean your head on the distraught pegasus
  6157. "im sorry Almond.."
  6158.  
  6159. >you are Cadence
  6160. >yourself and Aryanne have been searching for the others for a good while now
  6161. >"im not sure where to look.. they could be anywhere by now."
  6162. >its true
  6163. >by now they could have started making their way back to the Reich, or possibly even captured.
  6164. "what do you think Aryanne.. should we try to make it back on our own?"
  6165. >the mare takes a seat on a fallen tree and rubs at her leg
  6166. >probably trying to take away some of the soreness before continuing on
  6167. >"if we dont find them soon, we wont have a choice.. i hate leaving them behind but--"
  6168. >her ears pick up
  6169. >"do you hear that?"
  6170. >you stop moving around and listen intently
  6171. >it almost sounds like someone is crying.
  6172. "yes, i hear it.. it sounds like Almond!"
  6173. >the two of you look for the direction the noise is coming from
  6174. "they cant be too far away if we can hear them this clearly"
  6175. >Aryanne gets up
  6176. >"alright, let get the others and get home in one piece"
  6177.  
  6178. >you are Rainbow Dash
  6179. >the griffons follow close behind your descending forces
  6180. >the city quickly becomes closer as you pick up speed
  6181. >you look to your side and see the mare from before at your side
  6182. >you didnt notice until now but she bears a remarkable resemblance to your previous commander
  6183. >"pull up commander! we are descending too fast!"
  6184. >she pulls up away from you taking a more level approach to the coming buildings below
  6185. >you've done this before
  6186. >it just like when you dropped from the clouds for the Reichs air show
  6187. >only now theres gunfire and arrows going both directions
  6188. >slowly you start to spread your wings outward doing your best to control your decent
  6189. >the wind is strong against your wings, it takes all your strength to keep them from closing
  6190. >seconds later your legs hit the ground and you tumble with the impact
  6191. >its a trick you learned early on, if you roll when crashing it hurts a lot less
  6192. >once you stop your rolling you take a half second to get your bearings
  6193. >there are crystal guards around the yard and most of the civilians have been pulled back
  6194. "prepare for a fight! we couldn't hold the sky!"
  6195. >"understood ma'am! dont worry. we wont lose the city!"
  6196. >the crystal guard turns to his brothers and sisters in arms
  6197. >"tortoise formation! wait till they come to ground!"
  6198. >>"yes Centurion!"
  6199. >"magic users! create a layer of fog above the perimeter walls!"
  6200. >as commanded the unicorns all start to cast their magic
  6201. >a layer of clouds and fog form a thin wall just thick enough to not see through clearly
  6202. >gunners load new belts of ammunition and ready themselves for the griffons
  6203. "check your targets! my pegasi will come through first!"
  6204. >"one hole!"
  6205. >the clouds in the sky start to swirl creating a small clear circle in the center
  6206. >just as it forms pegasi pour through and land as quickly as they can turning their weapons to the sky
  6207. >there is a sudden and loud birdlike screech and the griffons strike
  6208. >and the sky is filled with lead
  6209.  
  6210. >you are Centurion Adament
  6211. >this is your chance to prove to the Reich that the crystal guard is just as effective as the Black Hands
  6212. >you have formed up with your brothers in the tortoise formation
  6213. >your shields create a box of protection around you
  6214. >inside are guards ready to fight spears at the ready and sidearms loaded
  6215. "steady, hold formation."
  6216. >you peer through the small openings between the shields
  6217. "first strike!"
  6218. >two rows of shields lower from the top as griffons first break through
  6219. >when those shields pull back the ponies holding them fire their weapons into the sky until empty
  6220. >once the weapons stop they return to tortoise formation and reload with the protection of the shields
  6221. >a large group of griffons start to target your group
  6222. "spears out!"
  6223. >you pull your head back from the opening as your soldiers quickly fill them with spear points
  6224. >and just in time.
  6225. >as soon as the spears protrude from your formation griffons made impact
  6226. >the force of them charging along with the spears extending towards them impale deep and clean
  6227. "break tortoise! engage at will!"
  6228. >"aye Centurion!"
  6229. >the shields lower and your group splits into smaller one of two or three working in teams to engage targets
  6230. >the time for the crystal guard to gain honor is now
  6231. >it will not be wasted
  6232.  
  6233. >you are manos
  6234. >in the sky above the Reich you see your forces retreating to the ground
  6235. >the sky now belongs to your foes
  6236. >but the walls and the streets are still yours!
  6237. >the army laying siege is in the process of being pushed back
  6238. >their trebuchets and siege machines in ruin or being abandoned to survive honor bounds counter push
  6239. >you grab your sidearm and check the magazine as well as make a quick count of extra mags you have
  6240. "full magazine, one in the chamber. three extra magazines."
  6241. >plenty of ammunition
  6242. >"heil manos!"
  6243. >turning towards the voice you are greeted by a small group of Brownshirts lead by Harshwhinny
  6244. >her iron hand of manos displayed proudly on her uniform, still in perfect order
  6245. "Harshwhinny"
  6246. >Harshwhinny gives a bow of her head to you
  6247. >"lord manos"
  6248. "is it safe for me to assume my citizens are somewhere protected?"
  6249. >"they are within the castle walls. i split my Brownshirts into groups and had every building and street evacuated"
  6250. >the Brownshirts with her look to you and Harshwhinny in awe
  6251. >its likely this is the first time they have seen you on such a person to pony level as this
  6252. "then you are awaiting new orders then. very well"
  6253. >you point to the inner walls where another battle is raging
  6254. "perhaps you would accompany me in retaking my castle grounds?"
  6255. >you dont need to wait for a response
  6256. >if she is the Harshwhinny you think she is she will undoubtedly make time for your orders
  6257. >as you walk on the sound of hoofsteps behind you confirms your expectation
  6258. >after this assault is repelled both equestria and the griffon kingdom will have much to answer for
  6259.  
  6260. >you are a Royal Guard
  6261. >and the order has been given to fall back and regroup
  6262. >the air around you is filled with the smell of death and smoke
  6263. >this wasnt a siege.. just like you heard in ponyville, this too was a slaughter
  6264. >perhaps this manos really is a god
  6265. >or a demon from the darkest pits of tartarus
  6266. >his forces use weapons that rip through magic and armor
  6267. >they adorn armor that even the bravest of guards flee at the sight of
  6268. "where is everyone!?"
  6269. >you stand alone at one of the rendezvous locations
  6270. >a dark smog covers the ground
  6271. >you can almost feel a weight to it as you walk
  6272. "captain!? lieutenant? anypony!?"
  6273. >the lightly forested area then comes to life
  6274. >forms of other ponies seemingly rise from the smoke
  6275. >each of them turn their heads to one another in a heavy silence
  6276. >one looks to you.
  6277. >its eyes are empty of emotion or color
  6278. >its coat is made of the same smog that flows across the ground
  6279. >a cold chill runs up your spine as the creatures start to shriek and begin a free for all
  6280. >you wont die to whatever these creatures are.
  6281. >you have a family with two foals to go home to.
  6282. >it takes all the bravery you can muster to hold your sword to the charging beast
  6283. >you shout back at the beast and charge.
  6284.  
  6285. >you are a Operator
  6286. >your team of four continue to release your experimental gas into the forested area
  6287. >the royal guards gathered inside screaming and shouting
  6288. >"i have emptied my reserves.."
  6289. >>"as have I"
  6290. "once the gas has cleared we shall move in and clean up the mess.."
  6291. >behind you is a force of Black Hands along with several tanks in support
  6292. "or rather.. you ponies will."
  6293. >your armor can protect you and the operators from its effects.
  6294. >so there is really no reason why you and the other operators have to wait.
  6295. "we will leave some for you..."
  6296. >"we promise."
  6297. >you advance into the gas filled area your weapons ready to cut down any living resistance
  6298. >>"for manos! we deliver death in his name!"
  6299. "HEIL MANOS!"
  6300.  
  6301. >you are Aryanne
  6302. >following the sound you heard you finally meet up with the others.
  6303. >...
  6304. >or rather.. with Comet and Almond
  6305. >you stand with them looking at Cinnamon's body on the ground
  6306. >Cadence has already looked him over
  6307. >there was nothing she could do to save him
  6308. >you take a deep breath and look back to your ponies
  6309. "we need to keep moving. the longer we stay here the more likely we will run into Royalists."
  6310. >"we cant just leave him here. Commander"
  6311. >Comets right, even though you dont like it, someone will have to carry him
  6312. >YOU will have to carry him.
  6313. "he was under my command.."
  6314. >you kneel down and roll his limp body over your back
  6315. >the weight of your fallen soldier putting a strain on your already weak leg
  6316. "alright, lets get moving... Almond.."
  6317. >you look to the mare whose eyes are still filled with tears
  6318. "if what i think is true is.. im sorry."
  6319. >>"its not your fault commander..."
  6320. >so she is then.
  6321. "we still have to get Cadence back to Manos. Cinnamon wouldnt want us to leave a job half finished."
  6322. >the group slowly starts to march on
  6323. >Manos will also want to know what happened to him.
  6324.  
  6325. >you are Manos
  6326. >the grounds are a battlefield, and one far more dangerous than the one outside the walls.
  6327. >in here civilians could get in the way.
  6328. >buildings could be destroyed
  6329. >and secrets could be found and exploited.
  6330. >a griffon lands in front of you and your small guard of Brownshirts plus Harshwhinny
  6331. >"theres a grand reward for the one who brings back your head human.."
  6332. >another lands beside him, and both have their weapons drawn
  6333. >Harshwhinny and her Brownshirts step in front of you making a screen of protection
  6334. >>"its a shame none of you will be receiving it."
  6335. >your ponies ready themselves to enter into the fray with the others.
  6336. >and a small stand off begins between your small groups.
  6337. "i dont have time for this."
  6338. >you raise your weapon and fire five rounds into the two large birds
  6339. >they drop to the ground
  6340. "i hope that reward was worth it"
  6341. >you walk past your Brownshirts to the corpses of the griffons and retrieve a sword
  6342. >it feels rather light in your hands
  6343. >perhaps made that way as to not weigh them down in flight
  6344. >you look to another griffon who is about to strike down one of your hands
  6345. "i heard there's a bounty on my head by your king."
  6346. >you fire two rounds into his unprotected head
  6347. >the pony looks over to you now covered in blood
  6348. >"lord manos! you need get to safety!"
  6349. >the ponies cry doesnt go unnoticed
  6350. >at the sound of your name both your forces and invading griffons focus on you
  6351. >five rounds left in the magazine.
  6352. "any foe slain by my hand this day shall forever denied entrance to Valhalla.."
  6353.  
  6354. >you are Rainbow Dash
  6355. >at the sight of Manos old instinct and training kicks in.
  6356. >you need to get to him and keep griffons at bay
  6357. >the mare from before has been fighting by your side since you both teamed up in the air
  6358. "we need to protect manos. stay close, we will have to fight our way over to him."
  6359. >"yes ma'am!"
  6360. >in the chaos of the fighting you keep losing track of him
  6361. >whenever you get to where you once thought he was he is on another side or just out of reach
  6362. >and the constant gunfire is making it difficult to listen for his voice
  6363. >"over there!"
  6364. >the mare takes off through a crowd of ponies striking down a griffon on the way
  6365. >you charge after her and see manos fighting along side her against a number of griffons
  6366. >what is he doing?
  6367.  
  6368. >you are Manos
  6369. >you fire twice at a griffons head one round entering his eye and the other bouncing off his helmet
  6370. >quickly you close your eyes and focus
  6371. >the world stops and you look around the motionless battlefield
  6372. >one behind you.
  6373. >as you open your eyes again you turn just in time to avoid a strike
  6374. >you stab back at the offender right through his armor like it was paper
  6375. >odd, but no time to think about it
  6376. >you close your eyes again, one left side.
  6377. >open your eyes and rise your sidearm and fire until empty
  6378. >suddenly there is a sharp pain in your stomach
  6379. >looking down there is the end of a spear poking through you
  6380. >its covered in your blood, for a moment you stand there watching the red color drip from its point
  6381. >then its quickly pulled back out
  6382. >"ha, some god!"
  6383. >>"LORD MANOS!"
  6384. >you take another second to look at the wound
  6385. >for a moment you are afraid as you look at the hole in your gut
  6386. >but your fear quickly fades as the wound begins to close on its own
  6387. "fate wont be denied so easily"
  6388. >you turn the sword around and plunge it into your attacker catching him off guard
  6389. >feeling the weight of the body on your blade you let go and let them both drop
  6390. >you fall to your knee as you let your body begin to heal
  6391. >its then you notice Rainbow Dash rush to your aid
  6392. >>"manos, are you-"
  6393. >she goes to check your wound just as the hole closes
  6394. "im fine, it wouldn't be the first time i died."
  6395. >>>"look out!"
  6396. >a white pegasi mare pushes you and Rainbow to the side and fires her weapon into an approaching griffon
  6397. >for a moment you think is Aryanne
  6398. >but Aryanne is a earth pony..
  6399. >and thats not her cutie mark
  6400. >the mares eyes lock with yours
  6401. "You're name is Kyrie.. isnt it?"
  6402. >>>"yes?"
  6403. "move to your left."
  6404. >she takes a step to her side just as a griffon fires a bolt from his crossbow
  6405. >you cough up a bit of blood as the bolt goes right into your chest
  6406. >the griffon looks proud of himself and his marksmanship
  6407. >until you smile back at him and reload your weapon
  6408. >the pain in your chest is incredible, but knowing it wont do any harm makes it bearable
  6409. >with a *click* your weapon is chambered and you stand the bolt sticking out of your chest
  6410. >the would be marksman loads another bolt in a hurried panic
  6411. >you can almost see the sweat through his feathers and fur
  6412. >he aims at you again and fires into your neck
  6413. >the bolt pokes through the back of your neck and you feel blood fill your throat
  6414. >other combatants have taken notice of you
  6415. >your crystal guards and black hands look on with worry while the griffons give sneers
  6416. >you walk on slowly as yet another bolt is loaded to be fired at you
  6417. >you speak, but your voice is bubbly and distorted from the projectile in your throat
  6418. "one.."
  6419. >you point to your chest
  6420. "two.."
  6421. >then to your neck
  6422. >by now you are within arms reach of him
  6423. "whats a third going to do to me?"
  6424. >you hold out your arms leaving yourself exposed to his next shot
  6425. >he doesnt even need to aim at this distance
  6426. >he fires again striking you in the shoulder.
  6427. >the fighting has almost completely stopped as everyone watches you
  6428. >both sides already losing a large number of forces
  6429. >raising your side arm you aim where you were last shot.
  6430. "eins"
  6431. >your weapon fires hitting the griffons shoulder
  6432. >he lets out a screech of pain and drops his crossbow to hold his shoulder
  6433. >kyrie and rainbow walk to your sides
  6434. "zwei"
  6435. >you fire into his exposed neck and his screeching stops
  6436. >coughing loudly he grasps his neck trying to keep himself from drowning in his own fluids
  6437. >reaching down you pull off a segment of his leather chest armor and take a step back and aim
  6438. >but someone else shoots first killing the beast
  6439. >you look to your side and see Kyrie holding her smoking firearm
  6440. >>>"Drei"
  6441. "Drei"
  6442. >you look back to the mass of invaders and defenders and start to remove the bolts
  6443. >you can feel the barbs of the bolts ripping parts inside you
  6444. >as the three are removed your body begins to heal
  6445. "as long as i live, so too will my Reich"
  6446.  
  6447. >you are Centurion Adamant
  6448. >you plunge your blade into your foe
  6449. >blood splatters onto your armor and face as you watch the life leave his eyes
  6450. "Valhalla welcomes you from the edge of my blade"
  6451. >his limp form hits the ground and you retrieve your steel
  6452. >you observe your surroundings, the tide of the battle has shifted.
  6453. >griffons are falling in large numbers or retreating.
  6454. >but why so sudden a shift?
  6455. >you haven't received any reinforcements
  6456. >they have the air, could they be regrouping?
  6457. >no, if they were they all would have pulled back, not just individuals.
  6458. "then why-"
  6459. >"Eins"
  6460. >that voice sounds familiar.
  6461. >"zewi"
  6462. >the second time you hear it you recognize it immediately and turn to face its origin
  6463. >Lord Manos descends upon a griffon bleeding out on the ground
  6464. >your lords body is filled with projectiles and blood freshly pours out of his neck and chest
  6465. >the sounds of battle slowly fade as he finally makes it to the severely wounded griffon
  6466. >>"Centurion, we should find a medical pony! manos is severely injured!"
  6467. "he.. doesnt seem to be"
  6468. >you have heard stories of him before.
  6469. >how he 'died' in Canterlot after fighting a hive of changelings with a few ponies
  6470. >how he was assassinated at his dinner party with a wound to his neck
  6471. >they always seemed so romanticized, something you tell to colts and fillies for their imagination to grow
  6472. "but here he is.."
  6473. >a black hand mare fires her weapon into the griffon as the two speak together
  6474. >"drei"
  6475. >slowly you fall to your knees as exhaustion finally catches up with you
  6476. >or perhaps devotion.
  6477. >you raise your head just high enough to see Manos reach to his neck and remove the bolt
  6478. >then his shoulder.. and finally his chest.
  6479. "he is the true hand of fate"
  6480. >other crystal guards soon follow your lead and fall to their knees in respect and devotion
  6481. >from where you kneel the sun aligns perfectly with his form
  6482. >its silhouetting him in a holy aura as he turns to face you and your guards
  6483. >"as long as i live, so too will my Reich"
  6484.  
  6485. >you are a griffon soldier
  6486. >the creature, the one called manos who calls himself a god..
  6487. >he just removed three bolts from his body like they were a mere annoyance!
  6488. >then all the ponies around him started to bow?!
  6489. >"forget this! no bounty or pay is worth fighting when he can do something like that!"
  6490. >all around you more and more of your friends and comrades are taking to the sky
  6491. >you are about to join them in flight spreading your wings ready to take to the sky
  6492. >but just before you do the ponies on the towers continue to open fire at the now open griffons in the sky
  6493. >they fall in droves..
  6494. >there is nowhere to go, the gates are all closed and the sky is a kill zone.
  6495. >the siege from Equestrias end as failed and you wont be getting and reinforcements from outside
  6496. >looking around at the ponies and the creature calling himself manos you see only one option.
  6497. >lazily you drop your weapons and remove your armor
  6498. >the few griffons remaining watch you, possibly knowing the same as you that all hope is lost.
  6499. >as the last latch of armor is removed you drop it to the ground
  6500. >just in front of you is Manos.
  6501. >his own blood still staining his uniform as he holds his weapon of choice in his hand
  6502. >your eyes slowly move to meet with his
  6503.  
  6504. >you are Manos
  6505. >before you is a hopeless and defeated solider for hire
  6506. >despite his size and strength the way his eyes meet with yours shows weakness and vulnerability
  6507. >even without armor or a weapon.. he could still do considerable damage to any foe if he tried.
  6508. >you place your open hand on the birds shoulder
  6509. >and then look around to the other griffons who have dropped their weapons
  6510. "you can either fight it and die.. or join it."
  6511. >the griffon before you kneels, and the others slowly make their way over to you and kneel
  6512. >you smile at the number of griffons around you
  6513. >these beasts have no true place in your Reich
  6514. >but they will have their use.
  6515.  
  6516. >you are Honor Bound
  6517. >the siege of the Reich has been lifted, and ponies have slowly begun to return to their homes.
  6518. >you have returned to your labs and have been going over your schematics for the Talons
  6519. >while you were very pleased with your Talons performance you have a new problem
  6520. >"what could be wrong with the talons? we have worked them to perfection! easy to load, and they fire quickly"
  6521. "its not the performance i am concerned with."
  6522. >"then what?"
  6523. "moving it."
  6524. >"moving it? well then move it! the fighting is over, you can put it anywhere you like!"
  6525. "no i mean moving it from one place to another easily!"
  6526. >"how hard can it be when you are not getting attacked!?"
  6527. >levitating a clipboard from your scientist you flip to its design and draw a small pony next to it then hold it in front of her face
  6528. "tell me what you see here."
  6529. >the mare removes her safety goggles and scans the page
  6530. >"i see a perfectly functioning design and a pony- AH! you have drawn a pony. very clever."
  6531. "I- what?.. yes i have drawn a pony but its the importance of the pony!"
  6532. >"its just a small pony, absolutely small compared to the Talon. which id like to say is the important part"
  6533. >you see the point you are trying to make finally take shape in her mind
  6534. >"ah.. mobility! i see the issue"
  6535. >her voice starts to become a mumble
  6536. >"perhaps... few adjustments... smaller round? yes.. oh perhaps on a tank? a boat?.. oh! or perhaps!"
  6537. >you tap the mare on the shoulder to get her back on track
  6538. "im still here you know."
  6539. >"oh! Bound sir! when did you arrive?"
  6540. >you can feel your eye twitching
  6541. >if this mare wasnt a genius you'd throw her out
  6542. >but she is.. so unfortunately she stays
  6543. "mobility, remember? the thing i was talking to you about"
  6544. >"yesyesyes dont worry about it, ill have more designs"
  6545. >a group of lab ponies walk past the room grabbing her attention
  6546. >"Hey you!"
  6547. >the ponies look over from the hallway
  6548. >"new project, lots of work no time to talk about it, lets go"
  6549. >quickly she walks out the door to the other ponies and begins to give instructions
  6550. "excuse me. we are not finished talking yet."
  6551. >"im sorry Commander Bound, but i cannot talk right now, i am a very busy mare and i have many projects to work on"
  6552. >before she can walk off again you step in front of her cutting her off
  6553. "Franziska.. i know you are a 'busy mare' but it would serve us both much better if you remember who of us is in charge."
  6554. >"you are in charge, i never said otherwise. in fact im doing what you told me to!"
  6555. >what now?
  6556. >"you said you wanted mobility on the Talons, so i got to work, now you tell me to stop working so you can tell me to work, when i could just be working! so which order should i follow?! the one where i do the work, or the one where i start the work, stop, then do the work again!?"
  6557. >you are at a loss for words
  6558. >"the first then."
  6559. >she steps back and gives you a salute
  6560. >"yes Commander Bound, i shall get to work immediately! now as i was saying to you ponies.."
  6561. >instead of starting an argument with her you turn around and start back to your office.
  6562. >it doesnt matter how good this mare thinks she is, there is a chain of command!
  6563. >she leaves you no choice then to report this incident along with the many others like it to manos..
  6564. >who better to decide punishment than fate?
  6565.  
  6566. >you are Blackout
  6567. >its taken you longer than expected to find any contacts in Canterlot.
  6568. >most have gone into hiding or returned to the Reich for safety and fear of discovery.
  6569. >meaning most likely Manos doesnt have much information on what is happening here.
  6570. >however.. you have finally made contact with one.
  6571. >and you are scheduled to meet him soon
  6572. >you met with Queenie earlier and told her to meet you here...
  6573. "where is that parasite?.."
  6574. >you stand just inside an alleyway enough to hide your silhouette in the night
  6575. >five more minutes..
  6576. >you will wait five more minutes or you will just leave her behind and find her later.
  6577.  
  6578. >you are Queenie
  6579. >what was the same of the street Blackout gave you?!
  6580. >you look at each of the street names on a map you took from a visitors guide
  6581. >unfortunately its not very helpful, only showing you popular locations, stores, and restaurants
  6582. "ugh... im lost.."
  6583. >one of your drones disguised as an earth pony walks to your side and pats your shoulder
  6584. >"dont worry my queen. im sure we will find--"
  6585. "OH there it is!"
  6586. >happy that you were able to find your destination you trot off to the meeting place
  6587. >leaving your drone behind you with his hoof mid air where your shoulder was
  6588. "well come on, we are late as it is!"
  6589. >the other drone laughs a bit at the others attempt at kindness for a moment before the two follow along
  6590.  
  6591. >you are Blackout
  6592. >there she is, she sure took her time getting here.
  6593. >the 'mare' and accompanying 'ponies' walk down the street looking around for you
  6594. >once they get close enough you step out of the shadows
  6595. "about time you showed up. i was about to leave you behind."
  6596. >the other little league gives you a nervous smile, her ears lowering slightly
  6597. >"thanks for waiting, sorry for being late."
  6598. "well what happened to make you late?"
  6599. >Queenie looks to you then the drone next to her
  6600. >"uh.."
  6601. >she points a hoof to him
  6602. >"he got us lost, but we found our way here!"
  6603. >the earth pony drone gives Queenie a deadpan expression at his being blamed
  6604. >the other sinkers quietly trying to avoid the ire of the previous
  6605. "we have only a few minutes before we meet up with the gestapo agent, follow me. ill make sure we dont get lost..."
  6606. >Queenie nods and begins to follow you down the street
  6607. >with luck, you will make it just in time to meet him before he leaves
  6608.  
  6609. >fate is on your side
  6610. >just as you arrive to the meeting point you see a figure approach
  6611. >that must be the contact
  6612. >you look back to Queenie and her drones
  6613. "wait here. if anything goes sour have a escape route planned."
  6614. >you already have a few in mind.
  6615. >mostly your advice is to give her something to think about while you work
  6616. >you turn your attention back to the figure and walk forward slowly to meet them
  6617. >the figures horn begins to glow and they speak with a deep and obviously distorted voice
  6618. >"thats close enough."
  6619. >the two of you stand there for a moment keeping a close eye on eachother
  6620. >"how do i know you are who you say you are?"
  6621. >you reach into your small pouch and pull out your Iron Hand of Manos and toss it to them
  6622. >the small medal is caught in a magic aura and slowly is pulled close to the contact
  6623. >they examine it for a time before tossing it back to you
  6624. >"its genuine, welcome to Canterlot Blackout. you're lucky, i myself just returned."
  6625. "as are you, i was just leaving."
  6626. >"oh? then we dont have time to get to know one another.. a shame."
  6627. "i need several reports delivered to Manos.. his eyes only.. that includes the Shines."
  6628. >the pony cocks its head their face getting a bit of light from a nearby streetlight
  6629. >you see a smile on their face but little else
  6630. >"interesting.. any reason why? i do love gossip, its my job in fact."
  6631. "Classified"
  6632. >"i suppose it would be. such a shame. but keeping this from the Shines will be out of my control. the best i can do is deliver it."
  6633. "be sure that whoever gives it to your superiors know.. its under orders of Manos himself that only he sees this"
  6634. >you take out a small bundle of notes from your pouch and set them down half way between the two of you before walking back
  6635. >the bundle of notes get wrapped up in a magic aura and move to the contact
  6636. "you are being very careful.. have things been tougher since Judice Lunae?"
  6637. >the pony chuckles
  6638. >"they have, but being in my position darling ive always had to play it safe"
  6639.  
  6640. >you are Celestia
  6641. >after returning to Canterlot you have been greeted by several new changes.
  6642. >the most prominent being the lunar guards now protecting the castle
  6643. >what few royal guards that are allowed inside are not permitted into private areas or high security areas
  6644. "Luna, while i have left you in charge of security of Canterlot. i thought you would have taken less drastic steps then this to keep it secure.."
  6645. >"it was a necessity sister. the intelligence brought to us by my new lunar knight as well as other sources left me with little choice."
  6646. >the two of you make your way to the private living area of the castle
  6647. >lunar guards are stationed at every hall and door
  6648. >"and as you and I both know sister, drastic steps must be taken to combat a force like Manos.."
  6649. >you remain silent
  6650. >you dont want to admit it, but shes right.
  6651. >the steps you have taken and the ways you have handled Manos in the past simply haven't worked
  6652. "hopefully with the joint attack with the Griffon Kingdom Manos will be crippled or at the very least, broken in spirit"
  6653. >"indeed, even with his machines we have the numbers and support of our neighbors. his Reich will fall sister."
  6654. >you step inside your meeting room
  6655. >inside are high ranking officers and important contacts
  6656. "for what he tried to do with Twilight and the others.. i hope it happens swiftly."
  6657. >"and what did he try to do sister?"
  6658. "he tried to convince her and her friends that what he is doing is for the good of equestria.. by locking them up and visiting them in his prison"
  6659. >he kidnapped your student from you
  6660. >then he tried to turn her against you
  6661. "he has no morals luna.."
  6662. >Luna nods in agreement as one of your generals slowly walk over to you
  6663. >"Princess, we have news from the front.."
  6664. >you cannot believe what you are hearing!
  6665. "HOW!?"
  6666. >your voice echos in the room getting the attention of everypony inside
  6667. >the General stammers at your sudden outburst
  6668. >>"I-Im sorry princess. but it seems our siege equipment was destroyed by some new weapon.. one that caused the very ground to explode and turned a forest to ash.."
  6669. "and what about the griffons? what of their assault?"
  6670. >the stallion looks over to the others at the table hoping for some help with explaining the situation
  6671. >but they all avert their eyes in shame and fear of another outburst
  6672. >its rare you ever get as upset as you have recently.. its starting to hurt your reputation you are sure.
  6673. >>"well.. they did manage to take the courtyard and small areas inside the city. it kept many troops from engaging our own"
  6674. >at least they had some measure of success..
  6675. >>"but.."
  6676. >you raise your hoof to silence the stallion
  6677. "im sorry. let me take a moment before you continue."
  6678. >you take a deep breath and exhale calming yourself down
  6679. >your voice returns to its motherly tone seemingly putting everyone at ease
  6680. "you may continue my little pony"
  6681. >>"but.. in the end.. since we were unable to breach the walls.."
  6682. >your forces didnt even breach the walls?
  6683. >Luna gives you a side glance
  6684. >you can tell from the look that she thinks she could have done better
  6685. >>"they were enveloped and as far a we know.. were slaughtered."
  6686. >you dont raise your voice
  6687. >you dont get angry or even speak at all
  6688. >instead you walk over to a small table and lift the drinks that your ponies were enjoying with you magic
  6689. >then you finish them
  6690. >one after another
  6691. >>"but there is some good news too.."
  6692. >"is there? it would be a nice change to have something go right"
  6693. >you give a quick glare to your sister as you down another drink
  6694. >>"the Yaks are on their way.. and they said that they wished to speak about current military affairs"
  6695. "the Yaks?"
  6696. >luna smiles at the news
  6697. >"well sister. looks like our luck is finally changing."
  6698. >why do you doubt that?
  6699.  
  6700. >you are Lyra Heartstrings
  6701. >and your ship has finally made port in the Zebra homeland
  6702. >Field Day stands with you as the two of you step off the ship followed by a group of black hands
  6703. >the buildings around you are quite exotic, although a little uneven when compared to Equestrian and Reich buildings
  6704. >but they hold a charm and beauty in their own right
  6705. "so this is the Zebranican Republic, quite a different place from home isnt it?"
  6706. >Field Day looks around at all the onlooking Zebras at the port
  6707. >"i suppose it is"
  6708. >you smile and wave at the crowd earning a few smiles and waves in return
  6709. >however most just mumble to the others and move on with their routine
  6710. "well Commander Day, i must be off. we both have a lot of work to do before i get settled in. Fate be on your side."
  6711. >your escort of black hand bodyguards and of course other religious ponies follow close to you as a Zebra in uniform walks up toy uo
  6712. >>"Heartstrings"
  6713. >the Zebra bows his head in greeting before he continues
  6714. >>"i have been asked to escort you and your entourage to your villa. on the land gifted to the Reich by our great leader Salicar Barca."
  6715. >your own villa on Reich controlled land?
  6716. >already this trip has turned out to be worth it!
  6717. "lead the way then!"
  6718. >with a smile the Zebra turns to lead your group to your new residence
  6719. >once you get there getting ready for your assignment should be a breeze
  6720.  
  6721. >you are Manos
  6722. >for the first time in a long while you stand in the Reich's throne room.
  6723. >you always thought it was flashy and a waste of space
  6724. >something that only leaders who need to feel important rather than just BE important
  6725. "one day, this world shall see no more need of these pointless rooms"
  6726. >despite that there is a slight allure to it.
  6727. >you step forward and take a seat upon the large crystal chair
  6728. >the dark crystals on the top begin to glow as you take your seat
  6729. >the door to the throne room opens before you and Honor Bound walks in
  6730. >"lord manos, i have an issue i would like to discuss"
  6731.  
  6732. >you are Aryanne
  6733. >the weight of Cinnamon on your back has been wearing you down the whole walk
  6734. >despite the others insistence to help you carry him you have adamantly refused
  6735. >Almond has stuck close by and has remained quiet only speaking up to thank you for caring about Cinnamon
  6736. >everyone else, even Comet, have remained rather silent.
  6737. "the Reich should be in sight right over this last hill."
  6738. >seeing all the carnage on the way here though, you are a little worried about what has become of it.
  6739. >Cadence is the first to reach the top of the hill
  6740. >you watch as her walk slowly comes to a stop
  6741. "whats wrong?"
  6742. >soon you reach the hilltop with her and look over the land below
  6743. >there are hands piling up corpses and clearing away debris from destroyed fortifications
  6744. >but the walls are completely unharmed and still have the banners of the Reich flying high
  6745. >"nothing I was just taken back by the sight.. i didnt expect to see it like this"
  6746. >down the hill a ways a small group of black hands and ponies in large suits of armor approach
  6747. >Operators if you remember correctly.
  6748. >as they get closer the wear and tear of battle on their armor becomes clearer
  6749. >>"commander Cadence, commander Aryanne. we, including lord Manos have been worried that you were possibly lost in the conflict. if you please, come with us. Manos will want to see you as soon as possible"
  6750. >with a nod you walk on Cinnamon still on your back
  6751. >>"commander, you can leave him with us, we can assure you he will be taken care of"
  6752. "i doubt there would be much you could do"
  6753. >the hand looks over Cinnamon and quickly realizes what you meant
  6754. >>"ah.. i see. Im sorry commander."
  6755. >Comet walks to your side
  6756. >>>"commander, Manos would want to see you and Cadence as soon as he could.. please, let me carry him the rest of the way, Almond and I can make arrangements"
  6757. >you want to disagree with Comet, but hes right.. your mission isnt over until Cadence is with Manos again.
  6758. >you give Comet a nod, and he takes Cinnamon from you
  6759.  
  6760. >you are Manos
  6761. >Honor Bound escorts you to his research lab while continually talking about the issues a particular mare has caused
  6762. >"she has repeatedly misconstrued my words, started experiments without my approval, or yours, reallocated staff-"
  6763. >the research guards open the door for you and Honor as you continue down the halls
  6764. "if she is such an issue then why haven't you taken care of it yourself?"
  6765. >Honor lifts a folder from his bag with his magic and hands it to you
  6766. >"if she was any other mare i would.. but she happens to be a genius.."
  6767. >you flip through the papers and read her scores on several different tests and trials required to be completed before working in the labs
  6768. "her scores are nearly perfect in every area.. and she was the one to design the Talons?"
  6769. >you give Honor a side glance
  6770. >"yes.. well.. with my assistance of course. she also was a contributor to the engines we use, along with our new gas weapon system for Operators"
  6771. "the engines have been far more successful than my own.. i can see why this would require my attention to handle"
  6772. >the two of you step through the last door where presumably this mare is working
  6773. >in the room there is a modified tank chassis
  6774. >its not that much larger than the others yet you can already tell it isnt finished
  6775. "Honor, who did you say this mare was again?"
  6776. >"Franziska!"
  6777.  
  6778. >you are Franziska
  6779. >your horn is aglow with your magic as you place one piece after another onto your latest child of war
  6780. "yes, this is perfect, Honor wanted mobility? he will get mobility! haha!"
  6781. >really you should have thought of this sooner
  6782. >taking the best parts of both machines and combining them?
  6783. >whats not to like about this idea?!
  6784. "with a few adjustments to the size of the barrel... this machine will be perfectly optimized to fire and move"
  6785. >"Franziska!"
  6786. "yes just one moment!"
  6787. >"no Franziska! now!"
  6788. >you turn your head to the voice and see Honor Bound
  6789. >and Lord Manos
  6790. >wait.. lord Manos?!
  6791. >you nearly fall from your place atop the machine
  6792. >several wrenches and tools fall to the ground below
  6793. "aye, yes sir, ill be right down!"
  6794. >with a quick teleportation spell you are on the ground
  6795. "Lord Manos sir, its a honor to meet you in person--"
  6796. >where did they go?
  6797. >"your aim seems to be a little off Franziska.."
  6798. >Honor is right.
  6799. >in fact he is to your right, about three our four feet.
  6800. "ah yes, forgive me, i was just surprised to see Lord Manos here."
  6801. >you turn to face the duo, and they turn to face you
  6802. >>"Honor Bound. ill take it from here."
  6803. >"eh, but Lord.. i thought that."
  6804. >>"dont worry Honor, ill be sure to talk with her about what we discussed. But i need someone helping clean things up while im away. and you are the most qualified for the task."
  6805. >even you can tell something is going on
  6806. >surely Honor will see--
  6807. >"that is true. As you command sir, I will leave this in your more than capable hands."
  6808. >with that Honor gives you a parting grin and leaves your half lab half workshop
  6809.  
  6810. >you are Manos
  6811. "i hear you are the real one behind the design of those Talons.."
  6812. >the mare smiles brightly
  6813. >"like them? they were really quite simple once i understood how those weapons worked. im actually in the process of creating a new design, one that can keep up with our mobile tanks!"
  6814. "i see, but i see a small issue with your design"
  6815. >you point to the location the gun is to be mounted
  6816. "if its to be used as artillery.. shouldnt it have a larger angle of fire?"
  6817. >the mare walks over to look at her project.
  6818. >"damn it.. i must have been to eager... hmm.."
  6819. >she approaches the machine and looks at the area
  6820. >"ha simple, then it will not be artillery. no need to fix it"
  6821. >you watch as she taps the weapon mount
  6822. >"simply use it for direct fire! as long as i re-RE-adjust the weapon it should still work wonderfully!"
  6823. >as she starts to mutter to herself you make your way to her design table
  6824. >where thrown about are various ideas and plans for weapons
  6825. >you move your hands across the many different drawings and plans
  6826. >each one looking similar to weapons you have seen before.
  6827. >and each of them allowing new possibilities on the battlefield
  6828. >behind you the sound of approaching hoofsteps catches your attention
  6829. >"uh.. Manos, sir?"
  6830. >Fanziskas voice holds a curious yet cautious tone
  6831. >you look back to her and place your finger on the pile
  6832. "are these all your ideas?"
  6833. >quickly she trots over to the table to look at what you are pointing at
  6834. >although you suspect she knows already
  6835. >"yes.. no.. ideas, not anything worth trying as of yet. but, didnt you and Honor have something to talk to me about?"
  6836. >all the complaints Honor listed off to you resurface in your mind as you look between the mare and the designs
  6837. >those designs, if actually completed would make your war go much smoother...
  6838. >you tap the blueprints
  6839. "approved. i expect to see your newest project completed as soon as possible."
  6840. >the mare looks like shes gone even whiter than she already is
  6841. >"I.. uh.. a-approved? whats approved?"
  6842. >you simply smile and make your way out
  6843. "everything. oh, and congratulations, ill be sure to inform Honor Bound about your new position as the new head of research."
  6844.  
  6845. >you are Franziska
  6846. >HEAD OF RESEARCH!?
  6847. >thats Honor Bounds position!
  6848. "ok just breathe for a minute.. dont freak out.."
  6849. >it feels like you could die here and now from excited delirium
  6850. >you watch Manos walk out the doors and remain standing there even after they closed
  6851. >quickly you rush over to your designs and wrap them in a hug
  6852. "i love my brain!"
  6853.  
  6854. >you are Celestia
  6855. "as we have continued to tell you.. my sister and I have no knowledge of the attacks you claim have been happening"
  6856. >several very aggressive and aggravated Yaks have come from Yakyakistan to speak with you about current military affairs
  6857. >you just wish you knew what they were currently talking about
  6858. >"Yaks have been trading with Reich, very quickly becoming friends."
  6859. >the largest of the Yaks snort at you in anger
  6860. >"Reich not evil like Celestia claim, then when Yaks trade, Equestria ponies kill Yak traders!"
  6861. "we have done no such thing! you are free to trade with whoever you please, even with-"
  6862. >"Yaks no listen to Celestias lies!"
  6863. >the other Yaks nod in agreement
  6864. >"Yak lives have been lost, Yak goods been stolen, and by Celestias ponies!"
  6865. >they seem so convinced that it is your troops..
  6866. >but why? you have no troops in that area
  6867. >the only possible one it could be is.
  6868. "Manos..."
  6869. >you feel a great pain in your head
  6870. >how could he stoop so low as to attack his own trade partner?!
  6871. "Im sorry, but i think you have your anger directed at the wrong ponies"
  6872. >"Yaks no listen to liar! Yaks honest, Yaks angry, Yaks declare war!"
  6873. >with that the whole visiting party erupts into a shout
  6874. >>"WAR!"
  6875. >you stand there in slight shock, if you hadn't figured this was Manos' doing you'd be more surprised..
  6876. "i am sorry to hear your decision... you are free to leave and return home."
  6877. >the Yaks make a very loud and destructive exit all the while shouting 'war' over and over as they leave
  6878. >you slouch in your chair and rub your head with your hooves
  6879. "tartarus take you Manos.."
  6880. >you sit up and throw a glass from the table with your magic out of frustration
  6881. "take you and keep you!"
  6882.  
  6883. >you are Manos
  6884. >how to deal with Honor Bound
  6885. >no doubt he will be furious that Franziska has been promoted instead of punished.
  6886. >and to his current station no less
  6887. >without thinking you made your way back to the throne room.
  6888. >standing there you look at the throne, empty and unused.
  6889. >you approach the throne and place your hand on it
  6890. "strange how something as simple as an over sized chair has an allure like this."
  6891. >smiling a rather clever idea comes to mind
  6892. >several crystal guards have taken up station in the room now that the city has begun to settle
  6893. "I request Honor Bounds presence, if you would be so kind as to bring him to my private quarters id be grateful"
  6894. >the guards armor clatters slightly as he gives you a salute
  6895. >"yes lord Manos. right away"
  6896. >as he opens the door to leave you hear him come to a stop and begin to speak
  6897. >"commander Aryanne, commander Cadence! glad to see the two of you are safe. lord manos is right inside"
  6898. >looking over your shoulder you watch as Aryanne and Cadence enter
  6899. >a rather large wave of relief washes over you as Cadence rushes to you and wraps you in a hug
  6900. >perhaps you will have to promote three ponies today
  6901.  
  6902. >you are Cadence
  6903. >you have your forehooves wrapped around Manos tightly
  6904. >after everyone else has either used or abandoned you he goes through all this effort to help you
  6905. >feeling his own arms return the hug makes you relax into his embrace
  6906. >"im glad you are safe Cadence i was worried when i heard you were still outside the walls when we were atacked
  6907. >you want to feel happy, you want to just hug him and tell him that everything is ok.
  6908. >but you cant, at least.. not yet
  6909. "Manos, thank you for protecting me but..."
  6910. >the hug slowly ends as you turn to Aryanne who stands at attention in the doorway
  6911. "i think Aryanne needs to talk to you for right now.. and, id like to get some rest.."
  6912. >"thats understandable.. please, get some rest"
  6913. >its strange feeling helpless...
  6914. >especially when here you are looked up to as a Commander and leader
  6915. >you pause as you reach Aryanne at the door
  6916. >she stands straight and steps aside for you to pass giving a salute
  6917. >>"get some rest Ma'am."
  6918. >you smile at the mare and return the salute
  6919. "I will. Thank you Aryanne"
  6920. >hopefully, you will be back to your normal self after some sleep
  6921.  
  6922. >you are Manos
  6923. >Aryanne steps forward and salutes you again
  6924. >you return with a similar one
  6925. "Thank you Aryanne.. i assume everything went as smoothly as always?"
  6926. >there is a brief but very noticeable silence before she responds
  6927. >"Manos.. i have some news and im not sure how to say it."
  6928. "oh? i assume this is rather serious then."
  6929. >you motion to a table and seating near a window
  6930. >not sure what the intended use for them was since its a throne room..
  6931. >but its better then having the two of you stand there
  6932. "guards you are dismissed until i call for you."
  6933. >>"Yes lord."
  6934. >the remaining crystal guards in the room walk out the door and close it tightly behind them
  6935. >you take a seat at the small table, as does Aryanne.
  6936. >leaning back in your chair you wait for her to speak
  6937. >"Manos.. Cinnamon was killed in action."
  6938. "i see.."
  6939. >your relaxed pose changes into a more serious position
  6940. "how did he die?"
  6941. >"at the time I wasnt sure what it was.. it wasnt until i returned and made my way here to you i found out what caused it."
  6942. >you have a feeling you know
  6943. >"from what i can tell.. its was from an artillery strike from our own forces.. those Talons.."
  6944. >Aryanne reaches into her pouch and pulls out an Iron Hand of Manos and places it on the table
  6945. >slowly you reach forward and take the medal in your hand and wipe the dirt and small spot of blood with your thumb
  6946. >one of your bodyguard killed by friendly fire..
  6947. >one of your Hand Bearers...
  6948. >and whether you realized it or not at the time, a friend too.
  6949. >"Almond has taken it quite hard.."
  6950. >ah.. then your suspicions were well founded.
  6951. "Im sure she isnt the only one"
  6952. >"shes also pregnant with his foal"
  6953. >you take a deep breath and exhale slowly as you look out the nearby window
  6954. >as you think you play with the medal in your hand.
  6955. "Aryanne, have Almond pulled from active duty, as a personal guard any expenses she has or once had will be taken care of by the Reich treasury"
  6956. >you look back to the medal again
  6957. "they both served with honor..."
  6958.  
  6959. >you are Judice Lunae
  6960. >"WAR! WAR! WAR! WAR!"
  6961. >the voices of yaks leaving the castle echo down the halls
  6962. >nearly everyone in the has been made very aware that the yaks have gone to war with Equestria
  6963. >lunar guards stand with you as the yaks begin to approach the exit where you stand
  6964. >somehow they leave a cloud of dust behind them as they continue to jump and shout
  6965. >you stand where you are as they come closer
  6966. >soon you are face to face with a angry yak
  6967. >"ponies in yaks way! ponies move!"
  6968. >the yak snorts in your face trying to intimidate you
  6969. >you lift your hoof and wipe the bits of spittle and discharge from your face
  6970. "Yaks are in ponies way.. if yaks smart, they will move."
  6971. >the lunar guard batponies with you bear their fangs and flare their wings at the large and smelly offenders
  6972. >>"you heard Lunae... we suggest you move.. your welcome here is over."
  6973. >the big yaks seemingly shrink a bit at the display
  6974. >"yaks move this time! but later yaks will return!"
  6975. >they clear the way for you to walk by
  6976. >honestly you never had anywhere to go, but it felt good to put them in their place
  6977. >your group casually walk through the center of the parting yaks and then turn around to make sure they leave
  6978. >with several parting snorts and angered huffs they do, and they continue their chant as they go
  6979. >"war! war! war!"
  6980. >>"Lunae.. with both the Reich and the Yaks going to war with us, what do you think our chances are of winning?"
  6981. >>>"not to mention ive heard rumors of black hands going to the Zebranican Republic escorted by zebras.."
  6982. "odds of winning as we are?.. slim to none.."
  6983. >suddenly you know where you need to be..
  6984. >you need to speak with the mare who could tip the scales
  6985. "but if Equestria changes her leadership and strategy slightly... i think we will have a much better chance.."
  6986. >>"what do you mean?"
  6987. >you walk past the batpony and make your way to the night court
  6988. "if Celestia cannot fight a war... perhaps her sister can"
  6989.  
  6990. >you are a pony in a small equestrian village
  6991. >everyone here has heard of the Reich and its new leader
  6992. >one claiming to be a god
  6993. >why are there always creatures like that trying to lead ponies?
  6994. "if it isnt an Alicorn or some other all power being trying to take over its another"
  6995. >it simply doesnt make sense, do other ponies do it out of fear?
  6996. >do they do it to feel safer having an all powerful leader?
  6997. >your thoughts give a distraction as you continue to plow turning soil in the field
  6998. >here all it takes to lead is hard work and determination
  6999. >you dont need an all powerful leader to guide you
  7000. >looking up from the dirt you notice another pony waving to you from the street
  7001. >"Hey Topsoil, there's a speech going on in town, you coming?"
  7002. "shes giving a speech?"
  7003. >"Yeah, and i think its already started, so you coming or what?"
  7004. >you really need to finish your work
  7005. >looking over the field you do your best to estimate how much time it will take to finish
  7006. >then you look back to the rather excited pony and smile back
  7007. "I can finish this when i get back"
  7008. >"ha! well then come on comrade! dont want to miss everything!"
  7009. >unhooking yourself from the plow you race after him into town where many other ponies have gathered
  7010. >seems you are a bit late, but not too late to miss the whole thing
  7011. >>--"has held off an attack from the Royalists, then why cant we? why cant we be our own nation?!"
  7012. >many ponies shout various agreements to the speaker
  7013. >slowly you make your way further into the crowd to get a better view
  7014. >>"we dont need some all knowing, all powerful, or whatever leader to be successful comrades!"
  7015. >eventually you do, and at a podium your village leader smiles proudly as she talks
  7016. >>"we are all equal here, we have no class system, no royal family living better than the common pony"
  7017. >"and we are not weighed down by false friendships!"
  7018. >Glimmer smiles from her podium her staff held close
  7019. >>"yes comrade! in our society we are all friends, we are all equal."
  7020.  
  7021. >you are Manos
  7022. >Almond stands in your room with you sitting at your desk
  7023. >"im sorry i didnt tell anyone, i wasnt completely sure until recently.."
  7024. >she speaks as you sign several papers before eventually putting your pen down and looking over to her
  7025. "I had my suspicions already."
  7026. >you motion to the chair in front of your desk and she takes a seat
  7027. "and i wont have a member of my personal guard on duty while carrying a child."
  7028. >you take one of the papers on your desk that you signed and hand it to her
  7029. >she takes it and looks it over slowly
  7030. "you have been honorably discharged from service, and since you were previous member of my personal guard as well as Cinnamon serving as one you will continue to receive your pay"
  7031. >"sir.. I.."
  7032. >you take your pen and point it to Almond
  7033. "this is something i chose to do for you... not something i had to."
  7034. >Almond smiles softly and nods
  7035. >"thank you sir."
  7036. >you smile back and return to your work
  7037. >"sir.."
  7038. "yes?"
  7039. >"will you be attending Cinnamon's funeral?"
  7040. >your writing slowly comes to a stop as you think about what to say and do
  7041. >you need to make a move on Equestria while they are still recoiling from such a loss
  7042. >and you still need to have several new designs of Franziskas put into production as quickly as possible
  7043. >not to mention finding an effective way to deal with the griffons
  7044. >Almond must have noticed that you were in thought as she quickly speaks again
  7045. >"its fine if you cant sir, i understand, and so would Cinnamon."
  7046. "no, ill be attending.. not only was he a Iron Hand bearer he was a friend.."
  7047. >"Manos.."
  7048. >when almond says your name you look up from your papers
  7049. >for the first time since she came in you make eye contact with her
  7050. >her eyes are slightly filled with tears as she smiles to you
  7051. >"thank you, i really believe you are the best leader anypony can have."
  7052. >a warm feeling of mixed happiness and gratitude fills your chest
  7053. "thank you Almond."
  7054. >with a nod she takes the paper and slowly leaves the room
  7055. >as the door behind her closes you take a moment to get a better hold of yourself
  7056. >its moments like that you have to think about all the other lives being effected by your actions
  7057. >all the ponies who look to you for leadership
  7058. >and all the choices you will make and have made
  7059. >then there is a knock at your door thankfully distracting you from your thoughts
  7060. "enter."
  7061. >Honor Bound enters the room giving you a salute
  7062. >"Lord Manos, you requested me?"
  7063. >you lean back in your chair and place your hands together
  7064. "yes, i did. please take a seat."
  7065. >he does so, choosing the same seat that Almond previously sat
  7066. "i wished to discuss two things.."
  7067. >Honor gives a rather concerned look
  7068. >"which are, lord?"
  7069. "the first is about Franziska."
  7070. >Honor Bounds concern quickly leaves his face
  7071. >"yes, what have you decided to do about her?"
  7072. >a small smile comes to your face as you imagine his next reaction
  7073. "i have decided promote her to head of research"
  7074. >his eyes go wide and overall just looks completely blindsided at your decision
  7075. >"but lord! thats my position! what will become of me then?! I-"
  7076. >before he can protest further you raise your hand to him and he becomes silent
  7077. "Honor, your loyalty is by far the strongest in the Reich. so much that it rivals the very element of loyalty herself."
  7078. >you stand up from your seat but motion for him to remain seated
  7079. "my Reich is on the verge of a very rapid expansion, with the new machines invented by Franziska Equestria will soon be united under one banner again..."
  7080. >you walk over to a window and look outside
  7081. "do you know what happens when an empire grows rapidly Bound?"
  7082. >"no sir."
  7083. "resistance. sometimes minor, sometimes major. but always resistance, and my Reich will need someone to keep order at all times. both in civil and military affairs."
  7084. >you look over your shoulder to him and toss him two small
  7085. "Congratulations, you are going to be my Reichsmarschall. Commander of all armed services present and future, excluding my personal guard."
  7086.  
  7087. >you are Honor Bound
  7088. >you are at a loss for words as you look over the insignia in your hooves
  7089. >sure, you are upset about losing your old position to the mare you wanted to be rid of
  7090. >but in return for your loyalty and hard work instead of replacing you and moving on, Manos saw fit to reward you.
  7091. >you pick them up with your magic and carefully yet quickly attach them to your uniforms shoulders
  7092. >"i will have an official ceremony when time allows for the public to be aware, until then those who need to know, already do."
  7093. "Lord Manos sir!"
  7094. >you stand up from your seat nearly knocking it over in your rush
  7095. >as your hooves hit the floor you snap into a salute
  7096. "Your faith and continued trust in me will not be forgotten, and I shall not fail in the task you have given me."
  7097. >Manos gives you a nod and starts to walk to his desk again
  7098. >for a moment you stand still saluting your great leader
  7099. >then a urge inside you slowly grows
  7100. >you take a calming breath and begin to speak just as Manos takes his seat
  7101. >the words come back to you as clear as day
  7102. "I swear by Fate my next life in Valhalla, this sacred oath. That i shall render unconditional obedience to Lord Manos. Fuhrer and leader of the Reich and its people, Supreme leader of the Black Hands, and that i shall be at all times ready, as a brave soldier, to give my life for this oath!"
  7103. >as you finish your outburst you end your salute and a renewed sense of fervor and loyalty swells inside you
  7104. >with that you turn to leave and begin preparations for your new duties
  7105. >as you reach the door Manos speaks to you in a calm tone
  7106. >"I expect you above all others to make good on that oath."
  7107. >you give another parting salute before leaving and closing the door behind you
  7108.  
  7109. >you are Judice Lunae
  7110. >you reach the waiting area to the night court
  7111. >inside are several nobles and various other ponies wishing to speak with the princess of the night
  7112. >either for some political reason, or more likely a complaint of some sort.
  7113. >the lunar guards give you salutes as they see you
  7114. >your armor and the recognition from the guards earns you the attention of the nobles waiting for their turn
  7115. >some begin to murmur amongst themselves about you and your connection to the 'changes' in the guard
  7116. >you ignore them, and make your way to the doors where a secretary tries to stop you
  7117. >"uhm, excuse me mrs Lunae, but im afraid that-"
  7118. "Judice Lunae, and no i will not be waiting."
  7119. >you nod to the guards at the door who begin to open it for you.
  7120. >"w-wait! you cant just end a session short for-"
  7121. >the doors close behind you as you step through cutting the mare off
  7122. >again as you enter the guards inside acknowledge you with either salutes or nods
  7123. >ahead of you in the night court a wealthy appearing pony glares back at you
  7124. >>"what is this? who is this mare to just intrude on our meeting? i wait for hours just to speak and she just walks in?!"
  7125. >you brush past the overly aggressive and wealthy stallion and bow before Princess Luna
  7126. "Princess i request an audience with you about current and future events.."
  7127. >Luna smiles
  7128. >"very well, im sorry to say that the court will be ending early tonight."
  7129. >>"this is outrageous! I, I'll inform Celestia about this!"
  7130. >"im sure you shall, but we are both Princesses and have equal standing. so unless she and I come to an agreement nothing will be enforced despite your complaints, have a nice night my little pony"
  7131. >with a wave of her hoof the stallion is escorted out by two lunar guards
  7132. >as the doors close and the stallion is out of sight Luna steps down from her throne and approaches you
  7133. >"what did you wish to discuss knight Lunae?"
  7134. "your position in Equestria"
  7135. >"go on.."
  7136. "Celestia has made all the wrong decisions, everything she has tried has only ended up giving Manos more power."
  7137. >Luna remains silent letting you continue
  7138. >although the smile on her face makes you think she knows where you are already going with this
  7139. "we have lost countless lives due to her inept and half planned decisions!"
  7140. >Luna silences you with a calmly raised hoof
  7141. >"lets take a moment my Knight, and think about things from my position.."
  7142. >Luna returns to her throne and looks to you from her seat
  7143. >"you once wanted to rule Equestria on your own, feeling that your sister would eventually lead it to ruin and you would be forgotten, you return to learn everypony fears you or worse despises you for your decision while your sister is beloved."
  7144. >she looks out the window to the moon high above the sky
  7145. >"and now, a new leader has arisen and has in effect crippled her subjects view of her leadership. With this new threat continuing to grow, who will her ponies turn to to keep Equestria safe?"
  7146. "the only other Princess still loyal to the ponies of Equestria.."
  7147. >"and i wont even need to have another rebellion.. my sister will give me control at my request."
  7148.  
  7149.  
  7150. >you are Celestia
  7151. >everything, absolutely everything you have accomplished is falling apart..
  7152. >and its all because of Manos.
  7153. >your armies are taking losses at a horrendous rate.
  7154. >there are rumors that the Zebras are going to side with the Reich
  7155. >and now the Yaks have gone to war with Equestria
  7156. "how could this have happened.. it seems the whole world has gone mad.."
  7157. >there is knock at your door
  7158. >"princess?..."
  7159. >the voice of Twilight Sparkle calls to you from the door
  7160. "come in Twilight."
  7161. >she does so, a rather upset appearing look to her face.
  7162. >not one of anger or sadness, but of disappointment and confusion
  7163. >"Im sorry to bother you this late, im just in need of advice."
  7164. >after everything happening, you doubt you are the best pony to be giving advice
  7165. >but she still came to you for help, the least you could do is listen
  7166. "whats troubling you?"
  7167. >she scratches the back of her head with her hoof for a moment
  7168. >"its.. its about my friends, recently it seems we have been, well.."
  7169. >she lets out a sigh before letting everything spill out
  7170. >"we haven't been seeing eye to eye. About things that are very important to us."
  7171. "what kind of things?"
  7172. >"some of my friends are starting to think that.."
  7173. >you can see small beads of sweat forming
  7174. >"that, maybe it would be safer for them to move to the Reich.. and become one of Manos' ponies.."
  7175. >your eyes widen briefly at the thought, and Twilight takes notice
  7176. >"I told them its a bad idea, and that you have always protected us, and you and Luna are the only real leaders of Equestria, but like Rainbow Dash.. some are rather adamant about it.."
  7177. "wh-why would they think its safer with Manos then here in Canterlot?"
  7178. >"everypony has heard stories and rumors about the Reich. Its hard to go a few feet without overhearing somepony talk about it, and with less and less ponies coming back from the guard.."
  7179. >you stop her before she continues by interrupting her sentence
  7180. "I see, Twilight.. who told you it would be safer there?"
  7181. >"im sorry, but i promised not to tell anypony.."
  7182. >for the first time in a long time you feel an anger towards your student
  7183. >and your voice starts to show it in your tone
  7184. "Twilight, i know that you made a promise, but i NEED to know. Its important. now tell me, WHO thinks it would be safer with Manos?"
  7185. >Twilight starts to have tears forming in her eyes as you begin to loom over her
  7186. >her voice is but a small whisper compared to what it was
  7187. >"I... I do.."
  7188.  
  7189. >you are Manos
  7190. >and you are dressed in your best suit.
  7191. >before you is a coffin covered in a large banner with your mark across it
  7192. >you can feel the eyes of the ponies around you watching you
  7193. >but here it seems to be more prevalent then any speech, and more intense than any ceremony.
  7194. >here you stand before a large gathering of Family, Friends, and fellow hands at a Funeral for a Iron Hand bearer, and Friend.. Cinnamon
  7195. >you place your hand on the coffin and hold it there as a way to give a final goodbye to your friend and bodyguard
  7196. >as you lift your hand away you leave behind his Iron Hand of Manos now attached to the Banner
  7197. >you take a step back as pole bearers come to lift the casket to its new resting place
  7198. >looking up from the box where Cinnamon lay there is a long row of Black Hands making a clear path to the grave further down
  7199. >just behind them are citizens who have gathered to grieve a fallen hero, and at the grave site, is Almond Heart.
  7200. >the sound of drums and the humming of ponies begin as you lead the casket down the line
  7201.  
  7202. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjmgNeZMp4w [Embed] Ich hatt' einen Kameraden -English Lyrics-
  7203.  
  7204. >as you and the casket pass the hands they give a salute both to you and the fallen
  7205. >finally when you reach the end of the line and make it to the grave you take a step aside and stand next to Almond as she stands there silently
  7206. >as everyone else watches as the casket is slowly set down you look around
  7207. >not too long ago you attended another funeral for a fallen hero.
  7208. >perhaps its fate that you would be here attending another...
  7209. >another life lost because of your decisions..
  7210. >before it was Shining Armor, in a choice to secure your own power
  7211. >now its Cinnamon, for a choice you made while trying to maintain that power you gained.
  7212. >placing your hand on your chest you feel guilt begin to store up inside
  7213. >you have made two ponies heroes in one motion, then taken their lives in the next
  7214. "i suppose that is the job of fate.."
  7215. >as the casket reaches the bottom you give Cinnamon a final salute
  7216.  
  7217. >you are Judice Lunae
  7218. >after your talk with Princess luna you were given very... implied orders.
  7219. >but, you will not disobey. you need to pay equestria back for your crimes against her.
  7220. >the few normal royal guards allowed inside the castle are only allowed in Celestias private area of the castle
  7221. >and even in that area their authority was limited.
  7222. >you have calmly made your way to Celestias room, the royal guards eye you with great malice
  7223. >its well known that you were a major part of the sudden.. retirement of many of their comrades.
  7224. >"traitor.." "shes more a monster than Manos.." and other such mumbling is not uncommon when you are around them
  7225. >but your conscious is clear, what you are doing is to free Equestria of Manos' reach
  7226. >eventually you reach Celestias door where the two royal guards stop you
  7227. >"you will have to wait lunar knight, the Princess is speaking with her student and wishes to be left alone"
  7228. >for now you comply, waiting in the hall outside her room.
  7229. >and for a while its rather quiet but as you wait your ears begin to adjust to the conversation inside
  7230. >>"Twilight.. how could you think that?"
  7231. >your ears pick up at the interesting tone of voice and you step closer to the room
  7232. >the guards stop you again
  7233. >"its a private conversation knight.."
  7234. >quickly you snap back at the guard
  7235. "your authority begins and ends at that door. out here i am still your superior, now be silent."
  7236. >the stallion glares back at you and scowls, but reluctantly complies.
  7237. >you try to listen in more to hear the other end of the conversation, but only the voice of Celestia comes through the door
  7238. >>"How could you think of leaving Equestria?! and to go to the Reich instead?!"
  7239. >a smile starts to form on your face
  7240. >this information could be the key to Luna taking full command without effort.
  7241. >if Celestias own student doesnt trust her to lead, then how can the rest of Equestria?
  7242. >soon the conversation dies down and you step back from the door as the sound of hoofsteps approach
  7243. >the door opens and Twilight Sparkle leaves the room seemingly in.. good spirits?
  7244. >you must have missed what the ending of the conversation was about, but even so what you have heard is more than enough
  7245. >she avoids eye contact with you and continues down the hall
  7246. >you think nothing of it, most ponies do that.
  7247. >besides your here for the Princess, not her student.
  7248. >soon you are the center of Celestias attention
  7249. >she looks at you with a small amount of disapointment in your lunar armor but invites you inside none the less
  7250. >>"come in Judice Lunae."
  7251. "thank you Princess."
  7252. >you step through the door and smile back at the two guards as they close the door behind you
  7253. >you are now alone with the Princess of the Sun, the sister who is slowly ripping Equestria apart
  7254. "its a shame about your students new found taste in leadership..."
  7255. >>"that was a private conversation, and i expect you to keep anything you overheard to yourself.."
  7256. "is that an order Princess?"
  7257. >>"in fact it is."
  7258. >you give a small huff before bowing your head
  7259. >even if you are a lunar knight, Celestia is still a princess
  7260. >>"what is it you wished to speak to me about?"
  7261. >at least she wants to get to the point quickly
  7262. >that should save you some precious time
  7263. "its about our recent losses.. and the new war with Yakyakistan"
  7264. >>"its a very unfortunate situation.. Manos has been tearing down all the bonds we once had with our friends and allies"
  7265. "perhaps its also on account of his many victories recently.. against all odds still coming out on top?"
  7266. >Celestia takes a seat on her bed as you continue to stand in her room
  7267. >>i wish i knew what he would do sooner.. ive lost many ponies to him"
  7268. "perhaps you could have done things differently then.. i would have.. but we must look at now, not then."
  7269. >you take a breath before continuing
  7270. "id like to request that Princess Luna take command of military planning"
  7271. >there is a very loud silence in the room as Celestia continues to lay on her bed
  7272. >eventually Celestias eyes rise from her bed to meet yours
  7273. >with a long breath she gives a nod
  7274. >>"if Luna wishes to try her hoof then she may.. everything else ive tried has failed.."
  7275. >you bow your head to the princess and turn to leave the room
  7276. "thank you Princess, i assure you that Luna will do everything she can to save Equestria"
  7277. >already ideas of what Luna will do begin to flood your mind
  7278. >you have spoke with her in private many times about what needs to be done to rid Manos' prying eyes
  7279. >if everything goes well.. Canterlot will be rid of any ponies loyal to Manos, and soon the rest of Equestria will return to the royal sisters control
  7280.  
  7281.  
  7282. >you are Lyra heartstrings
  7283. "he is the hand of fate.."
  7284. >"and we are his faithful hands"
  7285. >you look up from your small gathering in your Villa in the Zebranican Republic
  7286. >around you are black hands who came for military reasons and numerous other ponies who wished to spread the word of Manos
  7287. >this is only the third or fourth meeting since you have arrived here, and already you are beginning to see a few Zebras come regularly
  7288. >you smile to the group and begin to speak
  7289. "Manos is the guiding hands of fate, he is both the light and the darkness.."
  7290. >"and we fear neither, for we stand with him"
  7291. "some of you know or were even at some of the struggles that Manos has to go through for us"
  7292. >there are a few nods from the black hands in the crowd but most seem to just listen
  7293. "where he predicted the return of Nightmare moon. his first meeting with us, he stands before a group of fearful and curious ponies and warns us of her return."
  7294. >beside you are a large artists rendition of the event, depicting Manos standing in a field with scared ponies around him as a shadow falls from the moon
  7295. "or when he did everything he could to prevent the return of Chaos himself, even telling those who would ultimately defeat him where to find the elements of harmony"
  7296. >most of the zebras look around to the ponies in the group
  7297. >and a few tap the shoulders of ponies next to them, presumably to inquire about the elements
  7298. >even so you continue on still wishing to speak more of Manos and his deeds
  7299. "even with those remarkable events Manos showed us how much he truly was willing to give to protect us all."
  7300. >the memories of the early days swiftly rush back to you
  7301. >the small group meetings in your house
  7302. >the little cards letting ponies get in
  7303. >bonbon complaining about all the ponies staying over..
  7304. >bonbon..
  7305. >there is a tightness in your chest as you remember her and what she had to give for what you accomplished
  7306. >but now is not the time for that.
  7307. "he let his chosen ponies rise up against a threat we could not have taken alone! an army in hiding, right below our noses!"
  7308. >you point to your nose for emphasis
  7309. "and its a threat we still fight today!"
  7310. >"the Changelings!" "disgusting parasites!" "murderers and monsters!"
  7311. "thats right the changelings... an enemy to the world. And he knew when they would strike! he saw when we were all blind!"
  7312. >"hail manos! we are his faithful hands!"
  7313. "but thats not all! in the attack Manos payed the ultimate price.. he gave his own life for us. for all of us! for Zebras, for ponies, for all in this world against the changelings... and in the hospitals of Canterlot his life ended. But then he returned to us, he saw that the world would still need him and he would not allow himself to die."
  7314. >a thought comes to your mind, one that you never would have imagined before.
  7315. >did Manos see Valhalla?
  7316. >did he see that paradise and instead of staying return to help Equestria?
  7317. >without thinking you vocalize your thoughts in a soft tone
  7318. "he saw the gates of valhalla... and instead of entering and enjoying his afterlife.. he came back.."
  7319. >your eyes slowly move down to the tome in front of you that you yourself had written
  7320. >Manos' mark, his hand, across the cover.
  7321. >you place your hoof in his palm and smile softly with a small tear forming in your eye
  7322. "and when he was granted access to the gates a second time, by a savage changeling in his own home, he came back again even when magic was unable to heal his wounds."
  7323. >the ponies and zebras in the crowd are silent as they look to you slowly becoming more emotional in your sermon
  7324. "twice he was allowed to enter Valhalla, the warriors paradise. Twice he returned, that he could be with us. To protect us, to lead us, and to share with us his paradise."
  7325. >you close your eyes and do your best to prevent the slowly forming tears
  7326. "he is the hand of fate"
  7327. >"we are his faithful hands"
  7328. "and we are his children"
  7329.  
  7330. >you are Franziska
  7331. "prepare for test firing!"
  7332. >one of your newest machines slowly roll forward into the testing grounds
  7333. >the tank is easily a third larger than the previous ones and now takes a crew of about four to operate at max effectiveness
  7334. >one gunner, a driver, a loader, and a commander.
  7335. >from your safe observation post you give a nod to the commander of the machine
  7336. >he returns with a nod and lowers himself inside the hatch
  7337. >you hold your breath as you wait for the first firing
  7338. >a second passes...
  7339. >then another, and another.
  7340. >just as you go to release the breath you held the tank fires
  7341. >the barrel of the machine recoils back a ways inside the tank and the projectile makes contact with its target
  7342. >the other scientists inside the observation post have a short celebration of their work before filing out to check the damage
  7343. >you are first to see the target, there is a penetration in the outer layer of brick and stone and the area behind has expanded with a larger exit point
  7344. "haha! it works well. and the accuracy is dead on!"
  7345. >you wave over to the tank commander who is now out of his hatch again
  7346. >he returns the wave satisfied that he was able to hit the target assigned
  7347. "Manos will be pleased with these.. get them into production as soon as possible."
  7348.  
  7349. >you are Rainbow Dash
  7350. >and you have been waiting at manos' office for a couple hours now.
  7351. >the mare outside said that he was busy with a private matter and would return soon
  7352. "GAH! where is he?!"
  7353. >your outburst gets the attention of several of the black hands guarding the area
  7354. >when they see its you there is a mix of eye rolling and shaking of heads
  7355. >they have grown rather used to your... vocal personality
  7356. >"Commander, whatever is keeping him is probably very important.."
  7357. >Kyrie pats your shoulder in an effort to calm you down.
  7358. >or just make you notice you are shouting for nothing
  7359. >either way you tone it down
  7360. "it seems hes never here when i need to speak with him. i have been here four or five times and he is always out on personal business, some diplomatic thing, or something top secret."
  7361. >"heavy is the head Commander, Manos does have a lot to do with everything going on."
  7362. "perhaos you're right.. ill just try again tomor--"
  7363. >you cut your sentence off as you see Manos and Aryanne turn the corner
  7364. >quickly you smile and rush over to them, completely oblivious of their somber expressions
  7365. "Ah manos! just the one i was trying to see. i need to speak with you about Kyrie here."
  7366. >Aryanne and Kyrie look at each other with a mix  of confusion and surprise
  7367. >>"whatever it is it can wait for a moment."
  7368. >Manos walks over to the door and the guards open it for you all to enter
  7369.  
  7370. >you are Manos
  7371. >as you enter your room yo walk right to your desk and take a seat
  7372. >Aryanne walks inside and takes a seat next to your desk casually
  7373. >normally your office would be for strict business, but today is different
  7374. >unless rainbow has her way
  7375. >"Manos about Kyrie here, she has been incredibly helpful in recent--"
  7376. >instead of listening to Rainbow you open a drawer and pull out a small bottle of wine
  7377. >you never bothered to check the name or year, your not much of a drinker anyway
  7378. >you pour five glasses and set them in front of your present company
  7379. >and then one sitting next to an empty chair
  7380. >Rainbow and Kyrie eye the glasses in confusion while Aryanne downs hers without a thought
  7381. >you dont blame her, she saw it happen, you didnt.
  7382. >and you cant let yourself get to upset.. it was one life out of thousands.
  7383. >strange how that works.. without realizing it you can value the life of one far more than another.
  7384. >perhaps it was just because you got used to him being around
  7385. >Kyrie speaks up while giving a side glance now and then to her seemingly identical twin
  7386. >>"why the drinks sir?.."
  7387. "lost a friend, speaking of."
  7388. >you take a small drink and set the glass back down
  7389. "where were you rainbow? i thought you would have been there since he was one of your friends too"
  7390. >"what?.."
  7391. >you look over to Aryanne who is giving a slight glare to Rainbow
  7392. "does she know Aryanne?"
  7393. >>>"she should, ive ordered several reports of what happened sent to her, along with a invitation to his funeral.."
  7394. >"funeral? who- what happened?"
  7395. "Cinnamon is dead. he died getting Cadence back.."
  7396. >you swish the wine around a bit
  7397. "he died following orders.. and because i gave orders.."
  7398. >you finish the glass and decide thats all you should have
  7399. >but you leave the bottle out for the others to enjoy
  7400. >rainbow slowly takes the glass and takes a seat not yet taking a drink
  7401. "but. thats in the past, what did you want to speak with me about?"
  7402. >Rainbow looks to Kyrie then back to the glass
  7403. >"I.. well, Kyrie has been a great help with training new pegasi and helping take command."
  7404. >she takes a quick drink and half returns to business
  7405. >"i wanted to recommend her for a promotion,"
  7406. >you look to the mare and nod your head.
  7407. "ive seen her in action. and if you have that much faith in her, then alright. congratulations Kyrie, you and Rainbow will now share a rank and share command."
  7408.  
  7409. >you are Emerald Shine
  7410. >you are sitting in a room with a single light and dark grey stone walls
  7411. >calmly you shift through your papers while two black hands stand just behind you remaining still
  7412. >you take a breath and set the papers down and lean on the table facing the large Griffon across from you
  7413. >the large bird sits rather uncomfortably on a chair that is obviously too small for a creature of his size
  7414. "Manos may have given you griffons a second chance but that does not mean i have to make it easy..."
  7415. >your voice is harsh and hostile, you make no attempt to hide your intentions from the bird
  7416. "and because of his decision to 'allow' you to 'join' the Reich for whatever reasons he may have, its still my job to remove anypony or griffon i might deem a threat."
  7417. >with you pour two cups of tea, one for you, and one to sit in front of the griffon.
  7418. >the griffons claws are bound in chains for now, and his wings are tied down.
  7419. >you will take no chances with these creatures
  7420. >the large predator eyes the tea placed in front of him before returning his gaze to yours
  7421. "so let me start off with my normal questioning.. what is your name?"
  7422. >"Gabriel.. my name is Gabriel."
  7423. >without looking away from the griffon you see a black hand unicorn in the corner of the room nod
  7424. >he has been instructed to cast a spell that would inform him of lies or false truths.
  7425. >you would cast the spell yourself.. but you and your sister have rarely used magic since you have been heads of the Gestapo
  7426. >why start now?
  7427. >it just makes what you do much more entertaining.
  7428. "so it is.. now for my next question, what do you know of the Reich?"
  7429.  
  7430. >you are Gabriel
  7431. >bound in chains and your wings tied, you sit in a dark room with several ponies around you.
  7432. >you suppose its supposed to intimidate you, but griffons have rather good vision in the dark.
  7433. >and the rope binding your wings isn't tied properly giving you ample room to move and adjust your wings
  7434. >"what do you know of the Reich?"
  7435. >to be honest you know a bit more than most.
  7436. >you have been in Equestria for some time, going back as far as the attack on ponyville.
  7437. >how you have survived this long, and why you have kept coming back, you will never know.
  7438. >"speak Griffon!"
  7439. >you dont even flinch as the crystal mare shouts at you
  7440. "I know that you had roots in ponyville, the Reich, that is. I know that you follow a leader who claims he cannot die, and that he plans to make Equestria his own. That your weapons spit fire and scream with the voices of those they kill, they are monsters in themselves created by your leaders hand.."
  7441. >you smirk at the thought of those weapons
  7442. "its a shame I never got my talons on one."
  7443. >you watch the mare take notes as you speak her face calm and clear of emotion
  7444. >"yes, i imagine hostile nations would want to get their... claws... on our technology."
  7445. >when you remain silent for a long enough time she looks back to you again from her notes
  7446. >"continue"
  7447. "what else is there to tell?"
  7448. >"you said we have a leader who claims he cannot die. what do you know about him?"
  7449. >she sets the pen down and leans on the table to listen closely
  7450. "he goes by the name 'Manos' a beast from the pit of tartarus who manipulates the will of those he speaks to, who in a short time, went from a single being to a leader of what appears to be the most dangerous.. kingdom, in the world."
  7451. >the mare takes a sip of her drink before asking
  7452. >"the most dangerous?.."
  7453. "thats the rumor.. though, from what i have seen, its proven true."
  7454.  
  7455. >you are Emerald Shine
  7456. >so, the Reich has had a large impact even in the griffon kingdom.
  7457. >suppose that makes sense, as hundreds of their warriors sent to fight the power of the Reich have not came home
  7458. "are there other rumors?"
  7459. >you have to give this griffon credit, he has remained remarkably calm
  7460. >with that amount of self control, he must not have much to hide
  7461. >or perhaps... more to hide than the others.
  7462. >and you have plenty of time to learn all he knows
  7463.  
  7464. >you are Kyrie
  7465. >as you take a drink of the wine that lord Manos provided you he speaks
  7466. >"ive seen her in action. and if you have that much faith in her, then alright. congratulations Kyrie, you and Rainbow will now share a rank and share command."
  7467. >suddenly the wine seems much harder to drink.
  7468. >probably because you are choking on it
  7469. >you move the glass aside and cough into your hoof in an attempt to breathe
  7470. >eventually you calm yourself down and take a few breaths
  7471. "sir, did you say SHARE command?"
  7472. >you peer over your hoof still covering your mouth
  7473. >"yes, i did. Rainbow said you are capable and deserve a promotion, she did not say however, to what position."
  7474. >slowly Manos stands up from his seat and walks over to you.
  7475. >once he gets within arms reach he kneels down and looks you in the eyes.
  7476. >its strange, seeing his eyes up close, it almost feels like he can stare right into your soul..
  7477. >its then you realize you have been holding your breath since he has kneeled down to your level
  7478. >his arm reaches forward and pats your shoulder
  7479. >"im sure you will make a exemplary commander."
  7480. >he motions with his head to the other mare who closely resembles yourself.
  7481. >aryanne was it?
  7482. >"just as Aryanne has.."
  7483. >with that he stands up and walks back to his chair
  7484. >you look over to Aryanne as she gives you a nod
  7485. >>"congratulations on the promotion, Kyrie."
  7486. "thank you.."
  7487.  
  7488. >you are Manos
  7489. >as you sit back down you look to each of the mares.
  7490. >each of them model black hands.
  7491. >Rainbow Dash, the element of loyalty.
  7492. >Kyrie, a skilled fighter and excellent flyer.
  7493. >and Aryanne, a leader and dedicated bodyguard.
  7494. >perhaps you should get the mad scientist to join your little circle of friends.
  7495. "Rainbow Dash, i have a favor to ask of you."
  7496.  
  7497. >you are Rainbow Dash
  7498. >and you feel like a Brownshirt again... its not a great feeling.
  7499. >but manos asked you to do this as a favor, and after finding out you missed Cinnamon Pops funeral the is really no way to decline
  7500. >not to mention he is your leader and leader of the Reich.
  7501. >on your way down the halls you pass several mixes of black hands and crystal guards
  7502. >you can hear laughter and talking in the recreational areas of the barracks you pass by
  7503. >perhaps you should find time to meet with a few other hands like you did before in ponyville
  7504. "ouch, still a soft spot.."
  7505. >its hard sometimes to think its gone, but manos did promise to bring it back.
  7506. >you know he will make good on his promise.
  7507. >after a few more minutes of walking you make it to the research area of the castle and eventually to the outside laboratory building.
  7508. "alright, step one is complete. i made it here, now i just have to find this.. Franziska"
  7509. >as you approach the door a mare in uniform stops you from entering
  7510. >"im sorry miss, but this area is restricted"
  7511. >you deadpan at the mare
  7512. "I am commander Rainbow Dash, of the black hands. and leader of lord Manos' pegasi air force.."
  7513. >you motion to your iron hand medal and then to your mane
  7514. "im not that hard to identify."
  7515. >"ma'am its procedure.. im sure you know the rules."
  7516. >you roll your eyes as the mare motions over a nearby unicorn to finish your identification
  7517. >>"alright ma'am, this will only take a moment."
  7518. >the unicorns horn begins to glow and soon you are enveloped in a magical aura
  7519. >>"please state your name and ranking again"
  7520. "I am Commander Rainbow Dash of the black hands"
  7521. >the unicorn in his research and development uniform eventually nods and the aura vanishes
  7522. >>"sorry for the hold up Commander, you are cleared to enter. cant be too careful with Changlings being able to slip by now a days."
  7523. >the two guards open the doors for you and you step inside the laboratory entrance
  7524. >the whole building has that overly clean hospital smell that you hate
  7525. >slowly you approach a guard pony standing in the hallway
  7526. "im looking for a pony named Franziska where is she?"
  7527. >"shes probably in her private lab.. or the workshop.. or the restricted laboratory.. or the bio-lab."
  7528. >the pony taps his chin for a moment before looking down the hall
  7529. >"honestly she could be anywhere, but i heard some shouting coming from the biolabs not too long ago. id check there."
  7530. "well, thats as good a place as any i suppose."
  7531. >after taking a few steps you slowly realize...
  7532. >you have no idea where that is.
  7533. >you scratch the back of your head and look back to the guard.
  7534. "where exactly is that?"
  7535.  
  7536. >you are Franziska
  7537. >frantically you jot down notes as you work on a new experiment.
  7538. >the idea came to you when you were going through classified documents that were previously kept from you.
  7539. >why in all of the Reich Honor Bound would keep such interesting documents from you, you'll never know
  7540. >on a table in front of you a changeling is bound and about to be opened up
  7541. >"Ma'am we are ready to begin, id reccomend this with the subject still alive and without sedatives"
  7542. >you pull out one of the files you found on changeling biology and read over the previous autopsies and dissections
  7543. >there is so much you can learn about these creatures.
  7544. >this 'Copper Coin' must have been a highly respected scientist from looking over his work
  7545. >strange how you haven't heard about him before..
  7546. >or.. or have you?
  7547. >it doesnt matter. Science and discovery waits for nopony!
  7548. >and with these few documents, you have a whole new set of questions to explore
  7549. >just as the ponies in surgical uniform prepare to open the squirming Changlings carapace the door opens
  7550. >and a rainbow colored mare stands in the room getting the attention of your surgeons
  7551. >with a huff you go to tell the intruder off
  7552. "this is a restricted area, i ordered the guards to keep everyone out unless i gave the word!"
  7553.  
  7554. >you are Rainbow Dash
  7555. >"this is a restricted area, i ordered the guards to keep everyone out unless i gave the word!"
  7556. >a unicorn mare approaches you from the other side of the room in a huff
  7557. >is this the pony you were sent for?
  7558. >you cut her off before her rant can continue
  7559. "are you Franziska?"
  7560. >"yes I am, and im in the middle of a very important... its research!"
  7561. >she turns to look at the group of doctors and single changeling at the table
  7562. >even the parasite looks up to see whats going on
  7563. >"research I will complete, bug!"
  7564. >you swear you saw a bead of sweat form on his head before Franziska looks back making bug quickly lay back down on the table in an effort to hide
  7565. "it will have to wait for another time, Manos wanted me to bring you to him"
  7566. >"Manos sent you? well that changes things then."
  7567. >Franziskas horn begins to glow and the surgical tools and equipment hurriedly gets stored away to the surprise of the others in the room
  7568. >>"Doctor Fran-"
  7569. >"we will have to reschedule this experiment. i have been called to see Manos."
  7570.  
  7571. >you are Franziska
  7572. >you walk over to your test subject on the table as it makes litter nervous looks around the room
  7573. "but dont worry my little bug."
  7574. >you reach out with your hoof and boop its nose
  7575. "when i come back we will have a nice long look under that carapace of yours!"
  7576. >you pull back your hoof and begin to walk to the rainbow mare waiting for you at the door
  7577. "have the next date possible scheduled and placed on my desk by the time i return, until then continue with your normal research"
  7578. >the two of you step out the door and begin walking down the halls
  7579. "what did you say your name was again?"
  7580. >"Rainbow Dash... Commander Rainbow Dash"
  7581. >you heard that name before, but you cant place your hoof on where.
  7582. >you step in front of her and look her over closely, eventually your eyes find a Iron Hand of Manos on her uniform
  7583. "ah i have heard of you before, you were at that ceremony."
  7584. >Rainbow gives you a quizzical look
  7585. >"is that all you know about me?"
  7586. "all i need to. unless you are someone i need to know about then i normally dont look into it"
  7587.  
  7588. >you are Rainbow Dash
  7589. >I AM TOTALLY SOMEONE YOU NEED TO KNOW!
  7590. >you can feel your face turning red as you squint at the mare
  7591. >so what if she doesnt now you.
  7592. >you only have been in almost every fight the Black hands have been in
  7593. >and have been loyal to Manos since you joined the brownshirts.
  7594. >not to mention you are a Commander!
  7595. >"well are you coming?"
  7596. >as your thoughts jumbled in your head you didnt even notice you stopped in the middle of the hall
  7597. >Franziska stands at the end of the hall by the door waiting for you
  7598. "yeah, im coming Aryanne.."
  7599. >"who?"
  7600. "sorry... i mean Franziska."
  7601. >why do all these mares start looking the same now?
  7602.  
  7603. >You are Honor Bound
  7604. >and you are the new, and first, Reichsmarschall
  7605. >Meaning you now, according to what Manos has told you outrank everypony in the Reich.
  7606. >perhaps even Lyra.
  7607. >you cant help but smile at that thought
  7608. "loyalty does indeed pay off."
  7609. >"Honor Bound sir."
  7610. "Reichsmarschall"
  7611. >"yes.. right.. We are ready for the final preparations. our forces have gathered all we need is Manos' approval to move on with your plan"
  7612. "well then. all we need to do now. is wait for his word."
  7613. >"as you command Reichsmarschall"
  7614. >as the pony turns you leave you look back to the large map of Equestria you had placed on your wall.
  7615. "if i have learned one thing from Manos.. its that surprise is one of the greatest weapons we have."
  7616. >the plan has a few phases.
  7617. >phase one; the railroad at the edge of the Reich gets "requisitioned" troops and equipment get stored inside and prepare to move.
  7618. >and as much armor as you can manage will tail the train on route to Vanhoover. until the train reaches the mountain range
  7619. >phase two; the train once reaching the mountains will come to a stop and unload a third of their forces.
  7620. >those forces will wait for the armor to arrive before moving on.
  7621. >once armor arrives two smaller groups will head in the direction of canterlot while the others will travel around the mountains to the shorter route to Vanhoover
  7622. >the main force will remain on the train and continue on.
  7623. >Phase three; the forces heading in the direction of Canterlot will need to hit small villages and towns as often as possible to make it seem like a much larger force. thus appearing as the main threat.
  7624. >while the northern force heading around the mountains will be required to avoid all contact unless nessisary until reaching Vanhoover.
  7625. >once they make contact they are to enter the city and wait for the main force to arrive and assist with taking and securing control
  7626. "If the sisters take the bait, then the city will be ours within a matter of hours after reaching it.. and we will have our own gate to the sea."
  7627. >the Zebras will have their opportunity to land on Equestrian soil and help secure territory between Vanhoover and the Reich
  7628. >you have never planned something like this before.
  7629. >Manos has seemed to always take the brute force route when it came to leading his forces in the past
  7630. >hopefully this will be just as successful as his accomplishments.
  7631. "More land, more citizens, more power.."
  7632. >Equestria will be united once again. One conquest at a time."
  7633.  
  7634. >you are Manos
  7635. >you sit in your office with Aryanne and Kyrie as you wait for the third mare, Franziska, to join you.
  7636. >you cant help but smile at the looks the two mares give each other when they think the other isnt looking.
  7637. >eventually you decide to break the ice for them, they will need to start getting used to each other eventually.
  7638. "you two have a very similar appearance dont you?"
  7639. >Aryanne and Kyrie finally have an excuse to look at each other without it seeming odd to them
  7640. >Kyrie walks over to Aryanne and examines her
  7641. >"yes i couldn't help but notice it, and its been bothering me."
  7642. >Aryanne looks over the mare and her eyes catch her cutie mark
  7643. >>"even our cutie marks are rather closely related.."
  7644. >she turns slightly to show Kyrie hers
  7645. >both have the same color scheme and both also have a symbol surrounded by a one or more hearts.
  7646. "just wait until you see the next mare.."
  7647. >the two look back to you again
  7648. >"the next mare?"
  7649. >right on cue there is a knock at the door and Rainbow Dash along with Franziska enter inside
  7650. "Id like you to meet Franziska.. Franziska, these young Commanding mares are Aryanne.."
  7651. >you point to the Earth pony
  7652. "and Kyrie."
  7653. >then to the Pegasus
  7654. >again there is an awkward amount of staring at one another
  7655. >only now its the unicorn looking at the two mares and vise versa
  7656. >>>"my we seem to have a remarkably similar appearance dont we?"
  7657. >you give the three mares a chance to again look at one another as you turn to Rainbow
  7658. "thank you for bringing her Commander.. you are dismissed. please have everything ready for Kyrie to be sharing command."
  7659. >Rainbow gives a final look to the trio of white blonde mares before giving you a salute and departing
  7660. >after you give the mares ample time to get used to each others appearance you cough getting their attention
  7661. "if you all would please have a seat, id like to discuss something with you."
  7662. >they sit back in their chairs, and wait for you to speak while glancing to one another as they wait.
  7663. "the three of you, hold high ranking positions in my Reich.. even if some of you are new to your positions compared to others"
  7664. >you give a nod to Aryanne more so the others take note that she is the most experienced and most proven of the three.
  7665. >she returns the nod with a small smile
  7666. "i wouldnt have promoted any of you to where you are if you were not highly recommended or experienced. and perhaps by fate or by chance, each of you bear a similar appearance"
  7667. >you point to their cutie marks
  7668. "and marks... perhaps even more astounding is that each of the symbols in your marks also relate to one another."
  7669. >perhaps it would be best to start with Aryanne and Franziska, get the two identical ones done first.
  7670. "i am going to share with each of you, a bit of history from the world i come from, history even Lyra doesnt know. Aryanne, Franziska, your symbols are what my people back home would refer to as Swastikas, the symbol of National Socialism, the symbol of an empire, and the mark of a powerful and loyal army, fighting for a man they put all their faith in to restore their homes former glory and honor."
  7671. >taking a moment to catch your breath you stand from your seat again and turn to face one of the banners in your office
  7672. >your hand print now firmly seated at this worlds equivalent
  7673. >history will always repeat itself.. but when and where is always a mystery.
  7674. >you raise your hand to the banner and line up your hand with it
  7675. "your cutie marks would be the ones on the banners back home. which for a long time were seen as a beacon of hope."
  7676. >you hear Franziska speak up over you
  7677. >"then why not simply use the same mark? if it was such a inspirational and loved insignia why use another?"
  7678. "because they took on more enemies then they could handle, eventually it took a nearly united world to bring down the might of that one nation. and they then would be hated for it... and here i am, by some strange chance in a world that needed the guidance of their teachings to remove a threat they saw as being just as dangerous as the Changelings."
  7679. >you turn back to the group
  7680. "and two mares now in high ranking positions bear that mark. its interesting.. isnt it?"
  7681. >Franziska and Aryanne remain quiet as what bit of information you have shared sinks in
  7682. >but Kyrie looks to her mark and then breaks the silence
  7683. >>"but what about mine, you said that all of our symbols shared a connection. mine does not appear to be like theirs."
  7684. "true, it doesnt look the same, and the mark you have is much more accepted in my world than Aryanne or Franziskas. But, your mark, was the mark of the Heer, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and the Kriegsmarine. yours was the mark of the armed forces the Balkenkreuz. all of those serving under the Swastikas political banner."
  7685. >you cant help but laugh a bit at the situation
  7686. >explaining your worlds history to a group of national socialist ponies?
  7687. >you'd think you'd be used to situations like this, yet they still tend to creep up and make you laugh.
  7688. "and since you each are high ranking officers, and your fate seems to have been intertwined with mine since my arrival.. i can only image that it will be that way until the end, If there is one."
  7689. >you take your glass and fill it slightly and with the remaining wine you pour each of them another glass
  7690. "Fate has chosen all of us for a reason. mine to become its vessel, yours.. to become my hands."
  7691. >you raise the glass and the others do the same
  7692. "may the Reich once again rise to greatness, and create a better world. Heil the Reich"
  7693. >they respond more or less as one.
  7694. >"Heil the Reich"
  7695. >just before your glass reaches your lips you mumble softly to yourself that the others don't hear
  7696. "and Heil fuhrer and Deutschland."
  7697. >you then drink the contents of the glass and you have a renewed sense of duty awaken
  7698. >you set the glass down and straighten your uniform with a small cough to clear your throat
  7699. "well. that was a brief look into my own home.. i rarely give out such information and i hope the three of you could keep such knowledge to yourselves?"
  7700. >Aryanne and Kyrie should be fine with that and you doubt they would find any real interest in sharing that with the world.
  7701. >but Franziska on the other hand..
  7702. >you turn to face her and her eyes drift from her glass up to you
  7703. >"that wont be a problem, while i am one who wishes to share knowledge with those that deserve itm and learn where i can. i doubt this bit of history will do much good getting out."
  7704. >what little remained in her glass she now finishes
  7705. >"but i am very interested in learning more"
  7706. "perhaps you will. as for our meeting im afraid that this is only the start. I have had word that Honor Bound wishes to speak with me about our first real offensive against Equestria."
  7707. >Aryanne looks around the room skeptical
  7708. >>>"and when did you hear that? nopony has entered the room since we got here, excluding Rainbow Dash."
  7709. >suddenly there is a knock at the door and the voice of a stallion comes though
  7710. >"Lord Manos, Honor Bound is requesting your approval on a very important matter, and wishes to speak with you immediately"
  7711. >you look to Aryanne and smile before walking to the door
  7712. "come ladies, i think this will be a good learning experience for you. And of course Aryanne, your opinion is always welcomed in my war room."
  7713.  
  7714. >you are Cadence
  7715. >since you have returned you have been resting in your room.
  7716. >one of your many uniforms hang on your door a reminder to always wear it in public
  7717. >you have been staring at it for the past hour...
  7718. >that uniform symbolizes you now. You are seen as an important pony in the Reich, and here you are waiting and letting others do the work..
  7719. >letting other ponies run your camps..
  7720. >besides Manos those are the one thing you still have that Celestia hasn't taken from you.
  7721. >you get off of your bed and dress yourself in uniform, making sure each crease is perfect
  7722. >once you feel you have it right your turn and look in the mirror and examine yourself with a smile
  7723. "dressed to kill.."
  7724. >with that you move to your door and walk out into the halls just in time to catch Manos walking down the hall with a trio of mares.
  7725. >a trio...
  7726. >and all three look about the same!
  7727. >you raise your head a bit thoughts of the twin sisters shine entering you mind.
  7728. >one of the mares look back at you and it takes a moment for you to recognize Aryanne out of the group
  7729. >you see her grab Manos' attention and direct him towards you.
  7730. >well, at least you can trust Aryanne.
  7731. >You give Manos a salute from the hall and begin to approach him
  7732. >but before you can speak Manos does.
  7733. >"Cadence, are you feeling like yourself again?"
  7734. >you stop mid stride and suddenly you forget what you were going to tell him
  7735. "do, do i feel like myself?"
  7736. >yes, you do. more so than ever in fact.
  7737. "yes Manos. i think im feeling better than i have in a long time."
  7738. >he gives you a soft smile and reaches out for you to join him
  7739. >"well then Commander, we have an invasion to plan."
  7740. >you cant help but feel a smile come over you.
  7741. >the thought of getting revenge on your auntie and taking something of hers away is very tempting.
  7742. "lead the way Manos."
  7743.  
  7744. >you are Reichsmarschall Honor Bound
  7745. >standing tall and proud as Manos and his entourage enter you prepare to explain your plan to them all.
  7746. >then your eyes catch Franziska.
  7747. >while she seems to smile back at you the most you can muster is a partially hidden scowl
  7748. >Manos should have removed that whorse from her station, not promoted her to yours.
  7749. >you close your eyes and take a breath
  7750. >it doesnt matter. Lord Manos must simply see something in her you cannot.
  7751. >and you trust him above all others.
  7752. "Lord Manos with your approval, i have the nessisary troops and equipment ready and standing by for this Operation."
  7753. >"confident are we Honor?"
  7754. "indeed i am, and with good reason."
  7755. >Manos continues to look at the details on the map
  7756. >"I hope so, since you have already prepared for this going as far as to mobilize my forces before it has been approved."
  7757. "Lord, i had the utmost confidence that you would approve of this, and i simply wanted our forces ready as soon as possible."
  7758. >Manos nods while moving over to your side and finally looks over to you.
  7759. >"from what ive seen.. and from what i can assume you have planned, you are right to be confident."
  7760. >>"perhaps letting the rest of us know the details would allow us all to share your confidence.."
  7761. "Of course Cadence."
  7762. >your magic draws their attention to the location of your first phase.
  7763. "let me explain..."
  7764.  
  7765. >you are Marble Sunset.
  7766. >on your back is a pack filled with personal equipment and supplies
  7767. >your uniform is as clean and straight as they day it was issued to you
  7768. >though you suspect it wont be that way for long
  7769. >the sound of a whistle blows grabbing your attention from the large gathering of fellow black hands around you
  7770. >a mare in uniform stands leaning out of the train cab
  7771. >"alright everypony, time to board, we will be moving out as soon as everyone is loaded, get to your unit and get situated. Heil Manos!"
  7772. >everyone gives a salute and shouts "Heil!" in response, as do you.
  7773. >you turn back to your smaller command. unlike most others your command hadn't received any new recruits to fill in the losses
  7774. >they said your force had received less than the required amount of casualties.
  7775. >thats easy to say on paper...
  7776. "this is our car, everyone load up and get settled in!"
  7777. >"yes Sir!"
  7778. "where we go the Reich follows!"
  7779. >wherever that is.
  7780. >once your command has completely loaded you take one more look at the Reich
  7781. >your eyes drift to the tall crystal castle in the center before you yourself board the train and take your seat at the front of the car
  7782. >now comes the worst part of any mission..
  7783. >the wait..
  7784.  
  7785. >you sit at the front of the car as the ponies under your command remain silent or whisper quietly to themselves
  7786. >your orders were to wait until the first stop to begin giving out their next orders, supposedly to keep them from getting too tense
  7787. >but waiting for orders while on your way is far worse then knowing them, at least then you can prepare yourself.
  7788. >you stand from your chair and speak up getting the attention of everyone in the car
  7789. "Alright listen up, I know you are all determined to get back at those who took many of our friends from us."
  7790. >there are various nods and sounds of agreement from your black hands
  7791. "well those in high places feel the same way, including Lord Manos and the recently promoted Honor Bound."
  7792. >reaching into your pack you pull out your own map of the area
  7793. >several others do the same just to follow your lead
  7794. "this train will be taking us past cloudsdale and stopping at or just before the Galloping Gorge. Our forces will then split into three groups. each with their own objective, we will be remaining on the train, and unfortunately there wont be any beverages or stewardesses on this ride."
  7795. >here and there are a few chuckles which ease the tension slightly
  7796. >somepony speaks up over the others
  7797. >"and where exactly are we going?"
  7798. "thats the real question isnt it?.. well mares and gentlestallions, we are going to Vanhoover, and we are going to be taking it from under the Princesses nose"
  7799. >"what about when the Princesses find out? how much time will we have to take the city?"
  7800. "If everything goes to plan, they wont find out until its already ours. one of those groups breaking off is going to be making all kinds of noise so they don't expect us.."
  7801.  
  7802. >you are a Reich tank commander
  7803. >the sound of the mighty engine inside your tank sings its wondrous tune.
  7804. >your crew of five ponies are ready to carry out orders
  7805. >around you are other armored tanks, some new to your eyes, carrying a large weapon on their turret rather than the dual mounted machine guns on yours.
  7806. >the things you would do to get to command one of those..
  7807. >ahead of you notice the train starting to come to a stop and ponies begin to unload stopping your daydreaming.
  7808. "alright, get us into position, we are going to be breaking off from this point on."
  7809. >"yes Ma'am"
  7810. >your tank is the first to break off from the group and form up in the rallying position
  7811. >lifting your communication crystal you relay whats happening to the Reich
  7812. "We have begun to unload at the first location and are preparing to break off."
  7813. >you hold the crystal close to your ear to hear it clearly over the engine
  7814. >for a moment there is silence before a voice responds
  7815. >>"understood, once you are ready and able begin your push"
  7816. "Understood command. ill report back once we have made contact"
  7817. >you place the crystal back inside your uniform and smile
  7818. >its about time..
  7819.  
  7820. >you are a guardspony in a small town just north of cloudsdale
  7821. >being this close to the Reich since the beginning of all this has had its effect on the ponies here
  7822. >most citizens want to just let things blow over and hope everything will take care of itself
  7823. >while a few take a more.. hooves on approach.
  7824. >and with the recent failure of a siege the ponies supporting the Reich have grown in number
  7825. "can you believe this Swift?"
  7826. >you turn to your brother and point to a house down the road a ways
  7827. >a large banner to Manos is being put up by a few ponies sporting similar armbands
  7828. "its like they dont even care about all those lives lost because of Manos.."
  7829. >"is it really any better than the ones putting up posters with equal signs?"
  7830. "at least they haven't done anything to earn my distrust."
  7831. >"they are still citizens of Equestria Tree Top, and i dont care what Luna has 'ordered' im not going to help you force them out, or turn them in, or whatever."
  7832. >there is a distant sound of rumbling cutting you off from your conversation
  7833. >and its starting to get louder the longer you listen
  7834. >"you hear that too right?"
  7835. "yeah i do."
  7836. >without another thought you spread your wings and fly above the town to search for the source
  7837. >"do you see anything?!"
  7838. "no I dont maybe its- Oh celestia.... Swift quick! get to the guard house and sound the alarm! get everyone to safety!"
  7839. >Swift, true to his name, doesnt waste a second and flies off to do as he was told
  7840. >but even you know its not going to be any use.
  7841. >you eventually come down from the sky back into the town where the citizens have gathered
  7842. >even though they have all grouped up together you can see a division
  7843. >most of the ponies associated with Manos and his Reich have taken places close to one another on one side
  7844. >and the ponies now sporting equal signs either painted over thier cutie marks or on bands like Manos ones on the other
  7845. >and there are more than a few glares shared between the groups
  7846. >you are going to have to do something to keep them safe without causing much chaos
  7847. "alright, if everyone could please enter the town hall.."
  7848. >>"whats that noise?"
  7849. >>>"is something wrong?"
  7850. >>"whats going on?"
  7851. "please, everyone get inside, its not safe. the town is under-"
  7852. >there is a sudden scream from the crowd as a few of your fellow guards come running as fast as they can from the other side of town
  7853. >"THEY'RE HERE!"
  7854. >the sound of rumbling reaches its peak as a large metal machine turns down the road followed by a large force of Black Hands
  7855. >some of the black hands raise their weapons and fire at the retreating guards
  7856. >one drops to the ground as the others make it to you and the crowd
  7857. >it isnt long before they start to surround the crowd and a pony in a unmarked uniform walks out from the Hands
  7858. >she calmly walks over the body of the dead guard and checks to make sure no blood got on her hooves
  7859. >you can feel a cold chill run down your spine as her eyes move over the crowd
  7860. >the ponies sporting Manos armbands all give salutes while everyone else leers or hides behind one another
  7861. >its your job to protect these ponies
  7862. >you became a guard just for that reason
  7863. >so why are you not doing anything?
  7864. >your brother, Swift steps up to the mare and the remaining guards ponies do the same
  7865. >you feel your legs moving you along with the other guards and your heart is beating faster and faster
  7866. >there are black hands all around, they have better weapons, they have numbers, and they have.. those.. things.
  7867. >the mare speaks up over the sound of the machine
  7868. >"who is in charge here?"
  7869. "I am"
  7870. >why did you say that?
  7871. >she turns her attention to you and the guards around you take a small step back
  7872. >"your town is now going to be under new management. I thank you for simplifying things for us and gathering everypony in one place"
  7873. >the mare nods to the crowd and Black Hands begin to move in and start to secure civilians
  7874. >"any resistance will be dealt with harshly, as ordered from Reichsmarschall Bound, keeping your weapons and armor will also be counted as resistance.."
  7875. >the other guards look to you for orders..
  7876. >as much as your heart wants you to somehow fight and win, your mind tells you there wouldn't be any use.
  7877. >you take your sword out from its sheath and drop it on the ground.
  7878. >soon it is followed by others..
  7879.  
  7880. >you are the mare leading the Black Hands in this town
  7881. >but you have a different mission than they do.
  7882. >you are a Gestapo member, your objective is what the Shines have called R&R operations.
  7883. >Re-educate or Remove.
  7884. >and in the field you have full authority over the lives of the ponies here.
  7885. >the stallion in charge of the guard seems like a good place to start.
  7886. >the hands have already begun to sort through civilians as you walk over to the now pacified guards group
  7887. >they are all lined up and stripped of armor and weapons as they watch you and the Hands go to work
  7888. "you there! Stallion!"
  7889. >the pegasus from before is brought over to you under guard
  7890. "what is your name?"
  7891. >"Tree Top.."
  7892. >you raise one of your eyebrows at him
  7893. >"Ma'am..."
  7894. "good boy. now tell me, as a guard who has been watching over this town for however long, who are the trouble makers here?"
  7895. >after directing his attention to the civilians gathered he looks over the group but doesn't speak up
  7896. >"we, we really dont have many trouble makers here. everypony here follows the law."
  7897. "very well."
  7898. >you call one of the ponies with a Manos armband over to your side
  7899. >excitedly he rushes to your side and gives a rather sloppy salute
  7900. >>"Heil Manos Black Hand!"
  7901. "Indeed."
  7902. >tapping the guard pegasus you speak to the volunteer
  7903. "my new friend Tree Top says everyone here follows the rules and doesnt make trouble.. can you confirm this?"
  7904. >Tree Top looks to the volunteer worriedly, perhaps begging him to agree.
  7905. >>"w-well. yes for the most part-"
  7906. "most part? so there are a few who dont?"
  7907. >"He's just saying that, everypony here will act-"
  7908. >Tree Top gets butted by a Black Hand hitting the back of his skull
  7909. >without taking your eyes off the pony as Tree Top gets knocked to the ground you smile
  7910. "ignore him.. as you were saying?"
  7911.  
  7912. >you are Judice Lunae
  7913. >and you have been requested to meet with the Princesses
  7914. >the sounds of various debates can be heard outside the door
  7915. >and as the guards open it for you the noise only grows louder
  7916. >Luna stands next to Celestia along with several lunar and royal guardsponies
  7917. >"Manos has made his move, I believe he is going to try and cut off Cloudsdale from the rest of equestria.."
  7918. >>"and why would he try and cut them off? what would he do?! sit around the city below and wait? he doesn't have enough pegasi to take cloudsdale."
  7919. >"has that stopped him in the past?"
  7920. "Princesses.. you requested me."
  7921. >Luna turns from Celestia and over to you
  7922. >"Yes Judice. We are in need of your opinion. While my sister has so graciously given me command of her armies she refuses to let me make any moves!"
  7923. >Celestia stomps her hoof in protest
  7924. >>"I simply want to look at all possibilities!"
  7925. "Princess.. i understand your hesitance to take action, but taking NO action is the worst thing we can do."
  7926. >Celestia looks worriedly from you to the table which you can only assume has reports or messages laid out.
  7927. "I would like to know what information you both have so i may give my opinion on what should be done"
  7928.  
  7929. >you are Marble Sunset
  7930. "this is it!"
  7931. >you check your weapon and make sure its loaded as you prepare your ponies for Vanhoover
  7932. >the car has been completely darkened, the windows are all blocked or closed as to not give away the Black Hands inside
  7933. "once the car stops push out hard and fast. There will be civilians waiting outside going about their daily lives.. try to keep those casualties to a minimum.."
  7934. >at least you hope thats the case, if the princesses or even the guards and law enforcement in Vanhoover discovered what would happen then the fight would be considerably harder
  7935. "This isnt ponyville.. this isnt a town or village in the middle of nowhere. this is Vanhoover! its a city and we will need to be striking hard and fast to take as much territory as possible before they can gather enough strength to fight."
  7936. >you hear the sounds of the city getting louder and louder as the train starts to arrive
  7937. >it sounds like the other group that was supposed to strike first hasn't done so yet.
  7938. >there are no sounds of panic...
  7939. >yet.
  7940. >the breaks of the train begin to screech
  7941. >your heart begins to beat faster and you can feel adrenaline start to overtake you.
  7942. >five...
  7943. >four...
  7944. >the train slows drastically
  7945. >three...
  7946. >it comes to a stop and you can hear ponies outside
  7947. >two...
  7948. >you take a breath as the door slowly gets pulled open by a Black Hand inside the car
  7949. >one...
  7950. >you can hear a mare scream as she sees what is waiting behind the train car doors catching the attention of a guardspony
  7951. >the guards eyes go wide as he draws is sword and begins to shout for help
  7952. >You and your Black Hands in the train car push out taking shots at any guards ponies you can see trying to stop you
  7953.  
  7954. >you are a Vanhoovite, a native of Vanhoover.
  7955. >your name is Hard Boiled, and you are a police stallion
  7956. >you are oh so lucky enough to be sent to run an errand for the police chief on the outskirts of the city
  7957. "i dont understand why he gets his uniform pressed and cleaned all the way out here.."
  7958. >and that YOU have to be the one to pick it up.
  7959. "any of the dry cleaners or laundromats near the station will do the same job."
  7960. >finally you can see the place he sent you.
  7961. >"Pressed N' Pretty" sits on the corner of the street, its a small little building, likely a mom and pop type place.
  7962. >those always seem to do a better job than most other stores.
  7963. >you take the uniform in your magical grip and walk inside ready to drop it off
  7964. >the door rings as you enter inside and a small little pink and green filly smiles at you from behind the counter
  7965. >"welcome to Pressed N' Pretty!"
  7966. >the little fillies voice is an adorable kind of squeaky
  7967. >with a smile you walk over and place the uniform on the counter
  7968. "im here to drop off this uniform. I was told you would know what to do?"
  7969. >though this being a filly, you doubt its her who will actually be doing anything.
  7970. >she squints at the uniform for a moment before her cute little smile returns
  7971. >"mhm! i know this uniform, its my uncle Fuzz's uniform!"
  7972. >ah so thats why he does his cleaning out here.
  7973. "do you know how long it will take?"
  7974. >"shouldn't be long, mommy and daddy are in the back taking care of a few other suits im sure they can do uncle Fuzz's pretty quickly!"
  7975. >and with that the little filly takes the clothes and rushes into the back leaving you leaning on the counter in wait.
  7976. >its a nice little place here, there is a atmosphere that feels like you are right at home.
  7977. >you especially like the assortment of potted plants and flowers.
  7978. >its pretty neat how they shake and rattle on their own like that...
  7979. >wait.. what?
  7980.  
  7981. >you are an Operator of a suit of Lord Manos' power armor
  7982. >the sound of the crystallized energy hums its calming hum as you ride on the back of the armored chariots that the Reich and her ponies have called tanks
  7983. >"Vanhoover in sight! ready yourselves, we strike hard and fast! the sooner we take our targeted locations the more time we have to prepare for any counter attacks!"
  7984. >you lower your head and offer a small prayer to Manos to give you guidance
  7985. >as you do your eyes stare at the painted number 3 and the small tank on your armor signifying which group of ponies and tanks you belong to
  7986. "3rd Armor.. breaking backs then leaving tracks.."
  7987. >your squad leader looks to you from his seat on the tank
  7988. >his voice mirrors your own, both distorted and amplified by the magic inside the helmet.
  7989. >"Lets send the sisters a message, when get get struck, we hit back... harder."
  7990. >you look towards the city as the sound of distant Talon Artillery begins to fire
  7991.  
  7992. >you are Manos
  7993. "the first strike will be from artillery fire. then the hands will take the streets block by block. unlike ponyville taking the buildings wont be done until after the streets are cleared."
  7994. >you point your finger down the main roads of Vanhoover
  7995. >locations where guards or law enforcement are likely located such as police stations and royal garrisons.
  7996. "but our main target will be the ports and jetties those will be our most heavily defended locations once we take the city."
  7997. >looking up from the map the eyes of everyone are on you.
  7998. >it isnt until now you notice you have taken complete control over the operation.
  7999. >you are leaning over the map with your fist on one of the ports of Vanhoover
  8000. >Honor Bound lifts up little trinkets and models to represent your forces and begins to move them to the desired locations
  8001. >there are a line of artillery batteries placed just outside the city behind the lines of Tanks and infantry.
  8002. >or would they be cavalry in this situation?
  8003. >"but this change in positioning will throw off our original plans timing.."
  8004. >Honor Bound motions to the train and its destination
  8005. >"the Train loaded with the main force will arrive first in this situation. and the armor behind it will likely get bottled up if the fighting takes place near the train stations and unloading areas"
  8006. >you rise back to a stand and take in this slight oversight.
  8007. "is the rear force numerous enough to secure the city from their end?"
  8008. >Cadence's voice comes from the other end of the table
  8009. >>"Possibly.."
  8010. >she holds up the listings of troops in each of the groups and reads through the compositions
  8011. >>"while this group isnt as mobile or as hard hitting as the one we sent towards cloudsdale, it appears to be more evenly balanced for defensive operations and offensive strikes.."
  8012. >"indeed, its original function at this stage was to strike first, to grab the attention of the city and eventually dig in and prepare for the Sisters once they realize what has happened."
  8013. "then they shall have to change their role for now. at least until enough of the main body enters the city... unless.."
  8014. >you step back from the table slightly and turn your attention to Aryanne
  8015. "Aryanne, how much do you recall of the original recruitment numbers into the Hands?"
  8016. >>>"the original recruitment? i remember bits of details here and there, but Copper Coin took care of most the recruiting and management back then."
  8017. >you cant help but notice Franziskas ears perk up slightly at Aryannes words, and her eyes occasionally glance over from the table to Aryanne
  8018. "perhaps you can recall the places recruits came to us from?"
  8019. >you lean over and point and slowly point to the city
  8020. "If i recall.. this city had a larger than average number of ready and able ponies."
  8021. >>"then why recommend artillery being fired upon the city? wouldnt it be better to maintain a good standing?"
  8022. >the already quiet room seems to fall into a loud silence.
  8023. >to your surprise Honor Bound breaks it before you do
  8024. >"to show the Princesses that we will not take an assault on our city our HOME... lightly."
  8025. >Honor coughs slightly and relaxes himself
  8026. >"im sure i speak for many of our ponies on that"
  8027. >Aryanne and Kyrie both give a nod echoing Honors sentiment
  8028. >>"I understand that.. but there are innocent ponies that will be caught in the crossfire-"
  8029. "that is war the guilty remain and the innocent die"
  8030. >you place your hand on your forehead covering your eyes for a moment before returning it to your side
  8031. "its a nessisary evil.. this city is important. it connects the Reich to the sea, and more importantly.. connects us to our ally."
  8032. >your footsteps echo in the room as you slowly walk over to the larger map of Equestria on the wall
  8033. "I never said this war would be a battle of right or wrong, good and evil"
  8034. >looking over your shoulder your eyes meet Cadences
  8035. "that is just what people.. and ponies, use to justify their actions. my actions, both good and bad will justify themselves in the end. That i am certain"
  8036.  
  8037. >you are Marble Sunset
  8038. >the train station is secured, the guards stationed there and any police ponies have either been neutralized or removed from play
  8039. >any and all civilian ponies that were in the station have been safely secured and are going to be held until its safe for them to be released
  8040. >you walk between two Operators watching over the civilians with removed helmets
  8041. >most likely as a sign that they dont mean harm.
  8042. "everypony please calm down. This station and soon the whole city will be under the protection and security of Lord Manos and the Reich"
  8043. >"why are we being taken prisoner!?" "what do you want?!"
  8044. >you raise your unarmed hoof in an attempt to calm them down
  8045. "you are not prisoners. you will be released once its safe for you to go home, we are not here to harm citizens."
  8046. >you turn to one of the Black Hands guarding the ponies and lean close to him
  8047. "get them medical attention, if anypony is hurt get them as well as we are able, get them food and water any we can spare. make them comfortable."
  8048. >"yes sir."
  8049. >the Hand runs off to carry out your orders and you return to the train cars
  8050. "get that gear unloaded! we need to move as soon as possible!"
  8051. >in the distance you can hear the sound of artillery fire striking the city
  8052. >your head quickly turns to where the sound of the impacts are
  8053. >why are they shelling the city?!
  8054. "Manos damn it.. someone gave the wrong order.."
  8055. >quickly you climb up on the train car and try to find the locations
  8056. >the impacts are clearer but you still dont see them through the buildings
  8057. >they must either be near the sea or at the edge of the city...
  8058. >but.. shouldnt the first wave already be in Vanhoover? or at least engaging in the streets?
  8059. "Hey!"
  8060. >you shout down at a stallion unloading ammunition and supply
  8061. "get me in contact with the Reich command. Somepony changed the plans and we werent told!"
  8062. >the stallion pulls out his crystal and starts to call it in
  8063. >"Marble sir, its 'Reichsmarschall' Bound"
  8064. "who?"
  8065. >the stallion tosses the crystal up to you
  8066. >as you catch it in your hooves you look back to the rest of the train which has already unloaded or is currently in the process
  8067. >tanks are slowly rolling forward from behind and taking position to roll into the city
  8068. >"who am i speaking with?"
  8069. "Marble, Marble Sunset of the Black Hands. if i may ask, who decided to change the plan at the last minute? we have arrived and begun to unload and ready ourselves for our advance into Vanhoover, and from what i can tell the first assault has only JUST started!"
  8070. >"id be careful who you raise your voice to Marble, as for the slightly changed plans it was Lord Manos who decided the change."
  8071. "for what reason?"
  8072. >"carry out your original orders, everything is being taken care of and is going according to plan. push in, and take the port. that is all"
  8073. "understood..."
  8074. >climbing down from the train car you toss the crystal back to the stallion as you walk past him
  8075. >orders are orders
  8076. "alright everyone, lets move out! we have wasted too much time here already!"
  8077. >the Hands under your command quickly finish up whatever they were doing and check their gear again
  8078. >you walk outside the station and into the streets the sounds of your ponies behind you
  8079. >with the artillery slowly beginning to die down you can only assume the other force is beginning to move in from the opposite end
  8080. >"to our right!"
  8081. >you hear a gunshot just as you turn to see a force of royal guards charging from a side street
  8082. >the guard drops to the ground and his comrades rush over him at you and your Hands
  8083. >from the buildings above a group of pegasi dive from the top of the buildings throwing spears and javelins from the sky
  8084. >it seems the garrison here finally woke up.
  8085. >you raise your weapon and fire up at the ranged attackers in the sky
  8086. "get some fire on those pegasi above!"
  8087. >behind you a machine gun team sprays rounds into the air and buildings above doing its best to give cover
  8088. >pegasi drop from the sky behind buildings or smash through windows to avoid being hit
  8089. >"get out of the street! we are in the open here!"
  8090. >Hands continue to fire and slowly move to the edges of the roads and hug the walls of the buildings
  8091. >just as quickly as the fight started its ends
  8092. >there are casualties on both sides but yours seem to be more numerous
  8093. >you can hear ponies reloading their weapons and tending to wounded but your eyes wont let you look away from the windows and alleyways
  8094. >everything is so close together in here, and attacks could come from anywhere.
  8095. >you feel a hoof on your shoulder and hear a mare speaking
  8096. >"marble sir? are you okay?"
  8097. >you nod and take a breath
  8098. "yeah, im fine. we need to keep moving if we stay put for too long they can just hit us again."
  8099. >you pull out your map of Vanhoover and look it over quickly
  8100. "there is a large hotel not three or four blocks away from here, that will be our next stopping point"
  8101. >you take your eyes off the map and wave over a Black Hand messenger.
  8102. >he looks around for a moment checking for any more Royals before rushing over to you from the opposite side street
  8103. >>"yes sir?"
  8104. "get to back to the train station, tell them to watch for ambushes and keep the armor in the center not up front. we will move up three more blocks then wait for support before moving on."
  8105. >"yes sir."
  8106. >the pony bows his head for a moment and mumbles something to himself before again looking around and taking off to the station
  8107. >looking back to the streets you ready your weapon and move up
  8108. >the Hands on the other side of the street do the same each one keeping their eyes out for more Royals
  8109. >here where everyone is close together and they can pick and choose where to hit, they have an advantage.
  8110.  
  8111. >you are Manos
  8112. >Franziska stepped out with Aryanne moments ago mumbling something about "the good of science and discovery"
  8113. >Kyrie however has remained here with you, Cadence, and Honor. Insisting to Franziska that she wouldn't be of any use with whatever she has planned
  8114. >you might have stopped Franziska from leaving, but as it is you have more important things to focus on
  8115. >and whatever she is studying or trying to learn will likely benefit you in the end, so what would be the point?
  8116. >a Crystal guards pony walks over to honor and hands him a crystal
  8117. >>"Honor Bound sir, a Hand wishes to speak with you.."
  8118. >as Honor takes care of whatever business is nessisary you take a seat overlooking your plan
  8119. >something just feels off about this...
  8120. "how far into the city are they, and what resistance have they encountered so far?"
  8121. >Honor Bound places his crystal back into his uniform
  8122. >"they have only just moved out of the train station, as for the other assault they should be entering the outer city soon."
  8123. "any sign of the Royals reacting to the assault? or to our bait force?"
  8124. >"besides local garrisons? nothing Lord."
  8125. >strange
  8126. >Cadence stands by a Black Hand crystal communications pony doing her best to keep everything coordinated and on task
  8127. "Cadence, tell all Hands sent out to bait the Royals to dig in. Any towns and villages they have taken are to be secured and annexed into the Reich. If Celestia is willing to give me her ponies, who am I to refuse?"
  8128. >smiling at you she nods and relays your orders
  8129. >this isnt like you expected.
  8130. >you expected a quick response from sun butt, a fast attempt to save her ponies.
  8131. >but so far, nothing.
  8132. >a smile comes to your face and you begin to laugh softly to yourself
  8133. "very well then Celestia.. ill take your gift. ill be sure to put it to good use."
  8134. >you stand up from your seat and make your way to the door
  8135. "Honor Bound, I am giving you and Cadence complete authority over this until i return. i trust you two can handle it."
  8136.  
  8137. >you are Fanziska
  8138. >and you remember where you heard the name Copper Coin.
  8139. >luckily Manos had no objections to you pulling Aryanne away to speak with her
  8140. >though you could have been a bit more clear on exactly what you would be needing her for.
  8141. >"what could i possibly do to help you? i am no scientist Franziska."
  8142. >you cant help but laugh
  8143. >loudly
  8144. "oh trust me Aryanne, from the short time i have known you i am well aware you are no scientist."
  8145. >you catch a small glare from the rather similar appearing mare
  8146. "but what i need help with isnt the science, its with the.. data, if you will."
  8147. >"i dont follow.."
  8148. >with a grin your horn glows and you teleport to your lab
  8149. "its rather simple you.."
  8150. >you look around and Aryanne is no where to be seen.
  8151. "oops!"
  8152. >quickly you teleport back to her side with a awkward grin then teleport BOTH of you back to the lab again
  8153. "sorry about that, now as i was saying. All i need to do is find out a bit more about a certain subject."
  8154. >walking over to one of your filing cabinets you pull out several folders and close the drawer
  8155. "a subject that i myself am very interested in, that im sure you might now a thing or two about!"
  8156. >you toss the folders on a table and various old, ragged, and scorched documents fall out.
  8157.  
  8158. >you are Aryanne
  8159. >you step around Franziska to look at the papers she got out.
  8160. >at first glance they look like regular science stuff
  8161. >but then you keep reading.. 'test subjects had a very low survival rating.'
  8162. >test subject 'Blackout' the only survivor.
  8163. >reading on you see experiments conducted on various changelings
  8164. >at the bottom of the page you read the name signing as the lead scientist.
  8165. "Copper Coin."
  8166. >"indeed! Copper Coin, is what i wish to know more about."
  8167. >Franziska takes out a note pad and a pen and looks over to you
  8168. >"so if you please could you tell me everything you know about him?"
  8169. "Franziska."
  8170. >you take the papers and place them back in the folder quickly
  8171. "where did you get these?"
  8172. >"Honor Bound kept them classified, but when i took his position i got access."
  8173. "Copper Coin used to be both head of research, leader of the Brownshirts, and eventually the Black Hands."
  8174. >"ah so he was a great pony then! what else?!"
  8175. >you put the files back in the filing cabinet
  8176. "he was publicly executed for his experiments on foals... i think it was well deserved."
  8177. >"but his achievements! from what i have read he was a pioneer of science and biology!"
  8178. "Franziska, Copper Coin was a madpony... dont become like him."
  8179. >Franziska smiles slightly and nods
  8180. >"very well. i shall take your words to heart."
  8181. >the next thing you know you are back in the hallway
  8182. >even if she didnt listen to you, which you are sure she didnt, it shouldn't matter.
  8183. >you take the folder still held with your hoof and smile
  8184.  
  8185. >you are Tree Top
  8186. >after the Black Hands took control over your town you have been held captive
  8187. >they have placed you along with your fellow guards in the one cell in the town halls basement
  8188. >its rarely used..
  8189. >the sound of tanks rolling around above you and the occasional gunshot is all you can hear
  8190. "what are they doing up there!"
  8191. >you kick the cell door in a rage
  8192. >the whole point of you surrendering without a fight was to prevent needless deaths.
  8193. >and now you hear weapons going off?!
  8194. >you are about to kick the door again when a group of Black Hands enter the room
  8195. >the mare from before smiling at you.
  8196. >"im glad that our friends here were so eager to help us remove anypony that might cause trouble, it made my job much easier."
  8197. >she motions for the cell door to be opened and the Hands do so without question
  8198. >"take them out front."
  8199. >before you can act your whole body feels paralyzed
  8200. >you look around and see yourself surrounded by a magical aura as Black Hands place various locks and ropes on each of you
  8201. >once you have yours attached the feeling stops and you can move around again a unicorn smiling at you from the back of the room
  8202. >soon you are being pulled in a line upstairs.
  8203. >the first thing you see is a small pile of bodies piled in a corner.
  8204. "changelings?.."
  8205. >as you stop to loom you feel a weapon push you forward.
  8206. >>"keep moving Royalist!"
  8207. >you do as instructed and walk out the doors to the front of the town hall
  8208. >Black Hands patrol the streets and knock on doors to inspect each dwelling
  8209. >>"stop here."
  8210. >each of you are lined up as the mare from before looks over each of you closely
  8211. >there is a lump in your throat as she gets closer and closer to you moving down the line
  8212. >once she gets to the end she smiles.
  8213. >"well, well, i am surprised not a single on of you are changelings.."
  8214. >then she points to the last guard in the line and a Black Hand shoots him in the back of the head
  8215. >you flinch as his blood splatters on your face and you squeeze your eyes tightly shut and mumble softly to yourself
  8216. "im going to die, im going to die, im going to die."
  8217. >"besides you.. that is."
  8218. >you force your eyes open and look at the body next to you
  8219. >laying next to you tied and chained is a dead changeling.
  8220. >"put his body in with the others.. disgusting creatures.."
  8221. >the body is hauled off and the rest of you are left standing there
  8222. >"well congratulations.. you're not changelings..."
  8223. >there is a glimmer of hope in your eyes as you look to the Black Hands
  8224. "does.. does that mean we can go home?"
  8225. >there is a small laugh behind you from the Hands guarding you
  8226. >the mare looks over to you, her blue eyes like a clear crystal lake
  8227. >"that depends, did you live as a warrior?"
  8228. >the last thing you remember hearing was the sound of a weapon loading
  8229.  
  8230. >you are Roselight
  8231. >the cold north has taken its toll on your now returning Black Hands
  8232. >they have been reduced to a fraction of what they once were, and most of the losses have been from weather and supply
  8233. >despite this, your mission was the will of Manos himself, and that alone makes the costs excusable.
  8234. >down the snow covered road you can see the light of the Reich in the distance
  8235. "only a couple hours of travel left."
  8236. >you wear your ornate armor with pride refusing to cover it from view
  8237. >a gift from Manos should be seen and respected.
  8238. >"Commander... its been so long since we were sent out here, but now that we are returning home i wonder.. was what we accomplished worth it?"
  8239. >you turn your head to the stallion walking beside you a disapproving glare in your eye
  8240. "any task the Hands of Fate gives us is a task worth our lives."
  8241. >the Hand doesnt argue, though if its because he agrees or simply is too cold to respond you are unsure.
  8242. >it doesn't matter.
  8243. >your mission was a success, even here on the roads you have learned of the Yaks and their declaration of war on Equestria
  8244. >it will be only a matter of time before the sisters will see the power of the Reich and her allies
  8245. "dump the armor and weapons... the weight will only slow us down."
  8246. >the sound of ponies disarming themselves behind you begins instantly after your words leave your lips
  8247. >no doubt they are eager to shed the chilled armor keeping them frozen
  8248. "we will be home soon enough."
  8249.  
  8250. >you are Celestia
  8251. >you have left Luna an her Knight to go and clear your head
  8252. >Equestria used to be a peaceful place, there was no war, no fractured loyalties, Just everyone living together in harmony.
  8253. >but now not even the elements of harmony themselves can seem to agree with each other...
  8254. "if this isnt Chaos, then i dont know what is.."
  8255. >you haven't slept in days..
  8256. >perhaps that is what you need to clear your mind?
  8257. >just as you think that rest would be the best course of action you are met by a royal guard.
  8258. >"princess! i have and urgent message for you!"
  8259. >there seems to have been no other kind recently
  8260. "yes my little pony?"
  8261. >the guard quickly opens his bag and pulls out an opened letter giving it to you
  8262. >you take it with your magic
  8263. >"sorry for having the letter already opened princess.. but princess luna gave us orders to check all mail leaving and entering the city."
  8264. "my sister has ordered that?"
  8265. >the guard nods
  8266. >it really shouldn't surprise you.. steps must be taken to ensure the safety of Equestria..
  8267. >even if you dont approve of having everyponys mail being read and privacy taken away
  8268. >you look to the letter, it has no real address besides the words 'to Canterlot'
  8269. >opening it you see a two words written on the page with excellent calligraphy
  8270. >your eyes widen and quickly and you rush off to inform Luna letting the letter drop to the floor behind you
  8271. >it hits the floor face up exposing what it said
  8272. >Manos, Vanhoover
  8273.  
  8274. >you are Marble Sunset
  8275. >ahead of you roll two large tanks their guns ablaze spraying down the streets ahead of you
  8276. >royal guards take cover and hide from the onslaught
  8277. >bursts of magic strike the machines of war from windows and alleyways to little effect.
  8278. >at least, from what you can tell...
  8279. >Hands that get hit from the splash or direct contact however are another story.
  8280. >even now you hear the screams of those who have been hit
  8281. >next to you a Black Hand takes some magic splash to one of his legs as he walks behind the tank
  8282. >the fur begins to smoke and burn, the sound similar to that of frying an egg.
  8283. >you can only imagine how it feels
  8284. >he is quickly pulled back to a safe distance by a fellow Hand who begins to shout for help
  8285. >"medic! oh Manos, we need a medic over here!"
  8286. >you move back to the ponies gathering around the wounded pony and shove them forward
  8287. "keep moving forward! we cant let our armor get too far ahead!"
  8288. >the hands stumble forward from your shove before regrouping with the others
  8289. >for  moment you look back at the wounded pony who once was screaming in agony, now lay silent.
  8290. >you close your eyes for a brief moment and force your eyes away before rushing up with the others
  8291. >as you reach them taking cover and firing from behind the tank its large weapon blares a mighty "boom"
  8292. >the building ahead is struck by its projectile and shakes from the impact, dust and glass spraying from its openings
  8293. >its devastating, to say the least.
  8294. >the machine fires at the building for a second time a large chunk falling out, causing the area above to bend and eventually fall onto the next building
  8295. >you push yourself as close to the tank and the Hands behind it as close as you can as a wave of rubble and dust washes over a good portion of the street
  8296. >just as it settles you poke out and fire your weapon into a group of dazed, and now dirty, Royalists.
  8297. >one drops but you are unsure if it was you who hit the target.
  8298. >one of the Hands climbs onto the rear of the tank and uses the turret to stabilize his machine gun
  8299. >his weapon adds to the constant chorus of gunfire in short controlled bursts
  8300. >what Royalists that remained either fall back or charge forward in a last attempt to halt your advance.
  8301. >the ones who retreated were wiser.
  8302. >the sound of gunfire slowly comes to an end, only a few occasional gunshots remaining.
  8303. >it wasnt until now you notice your leg has a searing pain and the feeling of water on it.
  8304. >you lift your leg slightly to keep pressure off of it
  8305. >even without looking at it you know you have a gash of some sort.
  8306. >you take a moment to look at your back leg and your suspicions are confirmed
  8307. "I wonder when that happened.."
  8308. >hobbling over to the side of the street you take a seat and pull a small kit out of your bag
  8309. >it takes a bit of effort, but eventually you get a decent bandage wrapped tightly around your leg
  8310. "a block or two for a wounded leg, id say that's a good deal"
  8311. >the tanks slow their advance and eventually come to a stop further down the road, Hands start to spread out and create a secure perimeter for the wounded to be seen to.
  8312. >you pull out our map again, now with a few blood stains added to it thanks to your hurried bandaging.
  8313. >a quick look over and you find your position.
  8314. "not far from the port.. if we keep moving it should only take us a few-"
  8315. >the sound of magic fills the air and quickly you look around for its source
  8316. >a large dome begins to appear from the direction you had been advancing
  8317. >as it begins to close at the top it seems to solidify and the sun gleams off of its top
  8318. >you place your hoof over your eyes and sigh in a mix of anger and annoyance
  8319. "why cant they just give up and surrender the damn port? it would save us all a great deal of time.."
  8320. >reaching into your pocket you pull out your crystal and speak into it.
  8321. "this is Marble Sunset.. our advance has been halted.."
  8322.  
  8323. >you are no longer Marble Sunset
  8324. >but what you are, is running
  8325. >your legs feel like they are about to collapse from under you and your heart seems fit to explode
  8326. >a mix of sweat and blood flows down your mane and the salty liquids burn your eyes and wounds as they enter
  8327. >just a few yards away a fellow guardspony waves you over hurriedly
  8328. >"you need to get past here! quickly! the spell is almost cast!"
  8329. >between huffs and exhausted breaths you manage to squeak out personal motivation
  8330. "just.... a bit... further... just a few more steps... and im safe."
  8331. >your vision is cloudy, and your helmet isn't doing much help
  8332. >it seems to get heavier, as does the rest of your armor
  8333. >you throw it to the ground and push on
  8334. >behind you the sound of explosions and what many have started calling "gunfire" echo behind you
  8335. >"you're going to make it! come on!"
  8336. >with your last bit of energy you force yourself into a short sprint and collapse just feet past the pony waiting for you
  8337. >you lay there eyes closed and lungs on fire for a second or two before looking back
  8338. >the guard smiles back at you and walks to your side helping you up
  8339. >"you made it buddy."
  8340. >the guard hoists you onto his back and starts to slowly carry you on
  8341. >even without air in your lungs you manage to laugh.
  8342. >just in front of where the pony originally stood there is a large magical barrier.
  8343. >exactly like the one used in Canterlot before the changeling invasion.
  8344. >your laugh slowly turns into a cry and you shut your eyes tightly
  8345. >your body hurts more than it ever has before, and you have wounds like you never imagined
  8346. >but what hurts more than all that combined, is the thought of all the friends and comrades you have lost.
  8347. >all because some creature fancies himself as a leader, and a God...  
  8348.  
  8349. >you are Manos.
  8350. >the Lord of Fate.
  8351. >you stand on a balcony looking over the Reich and its many faithful citizens below
  8352. >VanHoover will soon be in your hands.
  8353. >and with it the fate of Equestria and her allies, and eventually the world.
  8354. >this is troubling...
  8355. >you tap your fingers on the balcony railing in thought.
  8356. "My entire government, my Religion, and even my friends are driven by two things.."
  8357. >Extermination of the changelings and the chance to earn their place in Valhalla
  8358. "which would require conflict, constant conflict.."
  8359. >you raise your fist and smash it into the railing in frustration
  8360. >as you do a strange familiar feeling comes over you.
  8361. >even without seeing it you know the Amulet is glowing is bright red locked away in your chest.
  8362. >your bit of frustration slowly seems to grow inside you
  8363. >thankfully you notice it and focus on relaxing yourself.
  8364. >your fist uncurls and you relax your muscles.
  8365. >turning around you look back to the door that leads to the hall
  8366. "one problem at a time."
  8367. >right now, you have enemies a plenty, and you have numerous forces eager to combat them.
  8368. >so for now, the stability of the Reich is secure.
  8369. >but those Elements of Chaos, they most certainly are not.
  8370. >while three are safely locked away and in your possession, half of them are still out there somewhere.
  8371. >And to make matters worse, you are not sure what they could even be!
  8372. >Fear, Lust, and Hate were all obvious, much like the emotions they represent.
  8373. >but Sorrow, Deceit, and Knowledge? those are all much easier to hide.
  8374. >your hands make fists again as the sound of gloves struggling under your grip becomes more prevalent
  8375. "and where are my damn reports from Blackout and that parasite!?"
  8376. >you walk forward at a frustrated pace and shove the doors open
  8377. >the sound of their quick closing behind you reminds you that your emotions are not under control
  8378. >as you continue on you make sure to relax yourself again and try to get distance between you and the Amulet as you pass your room
  8379. >The Shines better have a report from Blackout...
  8380. >if not, then odds are likely that either the Royals have someone on the inside, or Blackout has gone AWOL.
  8381. >neither of which are preferable.
  8382.  
  8383. >you are Emerald Shine
  8384. >Sapphire and yourself sit in your offices reading your reports from various regions under your eyes and ears.
  8385. >pushing one of the recently read reports into its folder you look over to your sister
  8386. "what are we going to do with those griffons?"
  8387. >Sapphire continues reading her own reports for a moment before responding
  8388. >"well considering they had very little information to give, even those who we thought would have more, i say we have one of two options."
  8389. "which are?"
  8390. >"well one"
  8391. >Sapphire puts away her pile of folders and begins to clean her desk
  8392. >"we could simply let them go and become a part of the Reich..."
  8393. >you scoff and roll your eyes at the thought
  8394. "no, those beasts are not ponies, and they have actively been fighting against Manos and his hands"
  8395. >"not to mention our own agents. No, i dont much care for that idea either."
  8396. "This Reich under lord Manos is a place for loyal and devoted PONIES. if we start letting beasts of their nature in what would be the cut off? would we start accepting Zebras? Minotaurs? oh perhaps even dragons to be citizens?!"
  8397. >the two of you start to giggle at the idea of citizen dragons
  8398. >Manos has even said, with his Reich we shall not fear the timber wolf, the dragon, or Griffons.
  8399. >"which brings me to our second option. we designate them as a threat to the security of the Reich and remove the threat."
  8400. >you have never been prouder of your sister.
  8401. >it seems she can be just as bad as you at times.
  8402. "you know Sapphire, you must be my sister. even if you act shy or reserved in public you think just like i do."
  8403. >"well then, we have no more need to worry about those inferior beasts anymore. now do we?"
  8404. "i suppose we dont."
  8405. >your smile stays on your face as you look back down at your last report.
  8406. >a town now under the control of the Reich has recently been secured.
  8407. >Black Hands have rounded up both guards and trouble makers and removed any changelings that have gone unnoticed by the locals.
  8408. >the list of names is rather long for a town of its size which may become a concern.
  8409. >at the bottom a side note reads: 'previous occupiers have been neutralized and executed, the Reich now has full control of the town with little to no loss of Reich troops'
  8410. >with that you sign the report and place it in its folder.
  8411. "its the job of the gestapo to remove anything that might cause issue for the Reich."
  8412. >besides, nothing of any real value was lost.
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