“You’re Hex, aren’t you?” asked the young mare who met me when I emerged from the sewers.
I looked her up and down. There was no way she was much older than Lightning Strike. She was a unicorn – yellow – with a twisting orange mane, decorated with a large blue bow that matched her eyes. She also had large scars on either side of her mouth, stretching right up to her eyes and twisting her face into a permanent, grotesque smile.
“That’s me,” I told her after overcoming my initial alarm at her horrific injury.
“Listen,” she said, “Lightning said you were on your way, but we got separated by snipers and he’s trapped in a warehouse up ahead. You’d better hurry; he’s relying on you!”
And without another word, she cantered past me.
But I was finding it a little hard to concentrate as I continued on, and for this perfectly good reason:
I had failed.
Twilight Sparkle was the love of my life. And an Element of Harmony, one of the most powerful, most important ponies in the whole of Equestria. I was supposed to protect her, make sure this smeg-forsaken place could have a future, but instead I had just watched like a mook as the Overwatch dragged her away.
I had watched the ship as it took off. It had headed towards the Citadel.
Not to worry: I was getting pretty close. The streets were getting harder to navigate – there were a lot of soldiers around, and I’d heard the stretched moans of more than one Strider as they stomped their way through the rubble – I have to push on. I’ve got to do something about Twilight’s situation, about Lightning’s situation, about this whole world’s situation!
Oh smeg. I’m in an alley, looking across at a warehouse with half the top two floors blown out, and I can see a scrap of deep blue mane poking up over the remainders of a wall on the top floor, but the blue laser of a sniper is dividing the road in half. I’m gonna have to make a run for it.
You know what they say. If you can’t laugh at yourself... say goodbye to my dignity...
Undelé! Undelé! Ariba! Ariba! Speedy Hex, the fastest pony in all Equestria!
Ha, Looney Toons. That was one weird universe, and smeg was I glad to leave it behind.
Whoa, it’s like the Combine had a competition to see how many zombies they could cram into a single warehouse (a little like my mouth and cheese puffs – my record is 33). Luckily there’s lots of stuff to chuck at them- smeg! I thought that paint tin would slow them down, but all it’s done is paint a couple of them yellow!
Oh well, nothing a good filing cabinet couldn’t fix.
Looks like there’s no way to get to the upper levels from here. Guess I’ll have to go through the basement and see if it leads through to the stairs.
Wow, are there no basements that aren’t flooded? At least this water’s only knee deep, and there aren’t any electrical wires turning it into a gigantic frying pan, but variety is the spice of life.
“Hello? Is-is somepony there?”
Who was that?
There’s a raised pedestal over there, and a pony on it. He’s about the same age as that young mare I met. Pegasus. Creamy yellow coat with a brown mane and eyes to match. And there’s a pair of zombies crawling through the water towards him.
Well, not anymore.
When I got closer, I could see that he was hurt. Badly. As if somepony had torn a chunk out of his abdomen. Luckily there was a canister of nanites just behind him, so I injected them into the wound in his stomach in order to let him heal.
“What’re you doing down here?” I asked as the tiny robots set to work.
“We thought we’d be safer down here,” said the colt. “Little did we know the place was infested. Everypony else headed upstairs to take their chances with the snipers – except for my sister, she tried to find another way out – and I guess they’re still up there. If they’re still alive.”
“Is your sister a yellow unicorn with rather grotesque scars on her face?” I asked him.
“Yeah, that’s Pumpkin.”
“She made it out. I passed her on my way here. Be careful following her; there’s a sniper overlooking the street.”
“Gotcha,” said the pegasus, and he left the way I had come in.
I’m trying hard to remain aloof here. I can’t let my guilt over Twilight’s capture interfere with my actions too much. I’m going to save her. I have to. And I can’t do that if I’m angsting all the time.
So I got to the other side of the basement, and wouldn’t you know it, it led to the stairway! Pretty soon, I found my way up to the penultimate floor of the warehouse, the ceiling of which had been almost completely eliminated, and I could see Lightning Strike huddled in a corner of the upper floor clutching a shotgun to his chest.
“Hex!” he shouted upon seeing me. “Am I ever glad to see you!”
“Are you okay?” I called up to him.
“A little nervous, but apart from that, I’m fine!” he reported. “Listen, Hex, these snipers got me pinned pretty good! You got any grenades?”
I checked my digital stockpile. Luckily I had plenty of explosive devices of that description at my disposal.
“Chuck ‘em in the windows; that should clear ‘em out!” shouted Lightning.
Okay, I’m going to have to be very careful with what I do here. I’m fortunate enough for there to be this huge crate of grenades coincidentally placed about ten feet from my current position, but snipers have their jobs because they rarely, if ever, miss their mark.
With some well utilised telekinesis, I could get this done very quickly.
After sussing out where the nearest sniper was, I pulled out a grenade and removed the pin with my teeth (which, contrary to what you see in the movies, is actually a bit hard and rather painful). Then I wrapped the grenade in my magic and guided it into the window. There were the sounds of alarm from the operator of the gun, followed by a muffled explosion and a sudden lack of laser.
One down, three to go.
The next one was on the other side of the building, and I darted from rubble heap to rubble heap to avoid getting my brains blown onto the concrete. I had a near miss though: one bullet bounced of the grenade crate and ricocheted off the collar of my HEV suit before pinging away to wherever bullets go.
I carefully withdrew a grenade, removed the pin, and lobbed it across at the window. Even before it completed its graceful arc through the air I could tell it wouldn’t make it on its own, so I gave it a small telekinetic nudge and it bounced off the windowsill and into the room where the now ex-sniper was stationed.
Two down, two to go.
Third sniper and I could tell this would be a tricky one. Unlike the others, this one and the next had decided not to play fair and choose a window on an upper floor rather than one nearer to the middle. Rather than a usual clean throw I would have to adopt some kind of weird, snake like route if ever I was going to nail this smegger.
Of course, being telekinetic makes the whole thing a lot easier. Three down, one to go.
Final sniper. This one was directly behind Lightning, and I would have to climb up to where he was huddled if I wanted to succeed.
“Any chance you could help me up?” I asked.
He laid down on his stomach, flat against the concrete, and reached down towards me. It wasn’t long before I was lying next to him. I produced a grenade-
“Wait,” said Lightning. “Let me deal with this dickweed.”
-and passed it to him.
This next bit was just pure awesome. He pulled out the pin and without looking around threw the explosive right into the sniper’s face. Literally, I heard that guy grunt as it bounced off his mask!
“Thanks for that,” said the pegasus as he stood up, as if he did that sort of thing every day. “Any longer huddling there and my legs would have seized up. You okay?”
“Well,” I said, “apart from being angry, in pain, hungry, thirsty, bursting for the dunny and feeling as if I could fall asleep at any minute I’m just peachy!”
Thank smeg having parents like Dash and Soarin’ gave this guy a sense of humour. You know, it’s weird: technically I’m seventeen years older than him, and yet we’re physically the same age. But the same could be said about me and Twilight, and the rest of her friends as well. Biologically they’ve got nearly one and three quarter decades on me, and yet...
“Let’s press on,” said Lightning. “The sooner I join Mom and Dad, the better.”
...and yet he’s physically not that much younger than them. Weirdness to the max.
Rather than leaving the way I had come in, we descended to the next floor down and emerged onto the street via a heap of rubble which had been blocking my way earlier and now provided a helpful ramp down to the cracked tarmac. The road was blocked by another Combine gate up ahead, but luckily we were on the correct side of it, i.e. the one that the Overwatch weren’t watching, and it was easy to take them out.
“Let me get this gate,” said Lightning, and he cantered over to the controls. “My Civil Protection status still gives me limited clearance.”
As he tapped at the panel, I noticed that he had sewn patches onto his CP uniform, and since they were on his flanks, I assumed the image on them was his cutie mark. It was a blood-red peace symbol, laid over a pair of crossed swords. A pretty cool cutie mark, I think you’ll agree.
A Strider moaned somewhere in the distance, and Lightning turned to me with eyes full of horror.
“Did you hear a cat just now?” he asked.
“What?” I was really confused; it sounded nothing like a cat!
“I swear, that damn thing haunts me!”
The gate swung open and we ran onwards, shooting down Overwatch troops on the way. We found a building which must have been some kind of office block once – the pale blue wallpaper was peeling, and there were lots of large spiralling staircases and ruined desks and stuff like that – but Lightning paused when we reached the end of one room, so I did too.
“Listen,” he said. “There’s this big old building up ahead; a bank or a museum or something like that. Whatever the hell it used to be, it’s now some sort of nexus for the Overwatch – in City 17, anyway. Long story short, it’s the main source of pain for this part of town, thanks to this massive suppression device that’s raining down hell from the roof.”
“And we have to stop it?” I asked, even though I knew full well what the answer would be.
“I’m afraid so,” said Lightning, as per my expectations. “We’re the best armed ponies in the area, I expect. Plus a small elite group would stand a better chance than a horde of rookies, don’t you think?”
I cocked an eyebrow at that last statement.
“We’re elite?” I asked with a smile.
“More or less,” said Lightning, and he smiled too.
We proceeded through the nearest door into a corridor, the right side of which had broken windows set into it. Through the holes I could see a massive domed building – think the Capitol building in Washington, only a dirty golden brown colour with part of the dome collapsed, and a good deal smaller too, silhouetted against the darkening sky. I could make out electromagnetic shields barring at least some of the route, so we’d have to be careful where we went.
As I watched, a single pony trotted cautiously out into the open. And as I watched, a laser focused on his position and seconds later he was little more than a pony-shaped scorch mark on the concrete.
“That is something nopony should ever have to see,” I stated simply.
“You’re telling me,” Lightning said grimly.
When we got to the next room, a camera identical to the one in the room where I had first met the pegasus colt flashed several times and retreated into the ceiling. Lightning shot at it, but too late.
“So much for stealth,” I commented. “What now?”
“Now we run like crazy and don’t stop for anything,” said Lightning, “not even to shoot if we can help it.”
And with that, we trotted down to the bottom floor, and paused at the door leading to the outside (more specifically, under some sort of veranda) and here and there I could see an overturned skip and several other means of shelter scattered around.
“Okay, you ready?” asked Lightning.
I shrugged and said “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Right,” said Lightning, “On three.”
The moment he spoke, the two of us ran at top speed to the overturned skip and took shelter underneath. We felt the metal shudder as the suppression device pounded into it again and again, but it was holding for the moment.
“Ready for another go?” I asked when both of us had finished panting.
“Where should we head to?” said Lightning.
I poked my head out the right side of the skip – tentatively for fear of being disintegrated – and I saw a door in a building over to the left. However, to reach this door we would gallop from here into a U-turn around a fence, avoid the electromagnetic barriers and basically cover the entire courtyard area in front of the nexus without getting killed.
“I’ve worked out where we need to go,” I told the colt, “but I’m just wondering if you can keep up with me.”
“Is that a challenge?” asked Lightning with a smirk.
“You know it is,” I said. “Ready?”
I’ve never run so fast in all my life! Mind you, it was the only time I’ve had any motivation to run that fast. The sound of my hooves on the ground was more of a low buzz than anything else, and I didn’t look around (looking round while running? Irresponsible) but I could tell Lightning was flapping his wings to aid his speed. He wasn’t flying, but he was definitely moving quickly.
The suppression device carved small craters in the ground behind us as we sped towards the door, and get this: five feet away from the door, I tripped over my own legs and ended up rolling in like a big ball of pony. I was quick to recover though, and shot the startled Overwatch before they could get over the fact that an orange-and-black-clad nerd had just rolled into their midst.
“You alright?” asked Lightning.
“You want a list of the ways I’m not alright?” I asked him. He nodded in understanding.
“What now?” he inquired. “I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s no other way out of this place.”
“I’m thinking, okay?” I told him. “Let’s just restock on ammunition first.”
We wordlessly set to work reloading as many guns as we had ammo for, and when we were finished, I dared to poke my head above a windowsill and look outside.
“I think I see where we can go,” I told Lightning.
“Are you sure?” asked the pegasus. “Because you’re my friend, and I trust you with my life, but if I die because of you, I’ll kill you.”
It was my turn to nod at him in understanding, and I motioned for him to join me at the window or at least look through the one next to me.
“Do you see the far side of the building?” I asked, pointing.
Lightning squinted and said “Yeah, I think so.”
“On my mark, we run smeg for leather.”
Very carefully, I opened the door once more, and very carefully, we ran even faster than earlier across the courtyard, navigating the maze of electromagnetic fences and the old wrought-iron ones until we reached the wall of the nexus building. I could see the plug powering the smaller shield in front of us, and I wrenched it from its socket.
“I was right to trust you,” said Lightning.
I was too out of breath to reply, so I just smiled.
We entered the building at that side, and I noticed a couple of drain-like grilles in the floor.
“Oh buck, turrets,” Lightning swore. “You’ve got the HEV suit, you can deal with them.”
When I stepped out from over, the grilles rose and there were indeed miniature turrets underneath. I ducked forward, out of their range, before they could shoot me, and they scanned the area with lasers, revealing their rather small firing area.
This is getting boring.
I rolled a grenade into each turret just as they were closing, muffling the explosion that destroyed each one.
Then we moved onward into the main building. Had I been a colt, of around 9 years old, I would have been the type to look up and gaze in wonder at the massive dome which stretched over the roof of the foyer. However, this was slightly ruined since I was 18 and the dome was only half there. Plus there were soldiers coming at me and Lightning from every which way.
“We need to find the rooms with generators in them,” Lightning informed me. “As far as I know there’re three of them, but they’re dotted about the building and I don’t think it’ll be easy to find them.”
“Better get searching then,” I stated, and so we began.
This place must’ve been booming once. I can just imagine it: parents bringing their foals here on the summer holidays, and the foals coincidentally getting bored to death around the same time. I think it’s a museum, because I’ve seen empty plinths where there might once have been exhibits or statues or something, but it isn’t too easy to tell because of all the Overwatch troops.
And you know what? It’s not just the Overwatch anymore. Do you remember when Twilight and I were about to teleport out of Nova Discord, and I said that white-clad ponies with one red eye appeared and shot energy balls at us? They’ve decided to put in another appearance in this place.
Can’t complain. I can hardly blame the Overwatch for trying to protect their base of operations. Never mind that two of the best fighters in the whole city are ploughing through them like a jet plane through a flock of high-altitude hummingbirds.
Oh smeg, was that joke in bad taste?
I hope not.
Did I just run right past one? Apparently so. I about turned and headed back to the fancy and surprisingly well-kept room where Lightning Strike was waiting for me. The generator was directly across from the door, and when I hit it with my magic it did exactly what I thought it would: the energy ball bounced around the room and then exploded against the ceiling.
“Nice work!” Lightning joyfully cried.
“One down, two to go,” I said by way of commentary.
At that moment, we were joined by the Overwatch, but they were nothing that a hail of bullets couldn’t take care of.
“Fifty down, eight hundred to go?” Lightning suggested, and I swear I almost laughed out loud.
We departed that room in higher spirits, felling that we were finally getting somewhere in this battle, and soon encountered a corridor where the door at the end was barred with boards of wood. Not that we wanted to go that way: there were laser traps that would have triggered more turrets.
So instead we turned back, and another corridor led to a room with more laser trips and hopper mines than I had ever seen in my whole life.
“With that kind of security, you know there’s something good in there,” I said to Lightning. “Shall we check it out?”
In another part of the building, something exploded.
“How about you check it out and I cover this corridor for you?” Lightning suggested. “That way only one of us will get blown up by hopper mines and/or shot to pieces.”
It didn’t take me long to realise that something was wrong with that sentence.
“You have just as much chance of getting shot to pieces as me,” I stated.
“Yes, but I won’t get blown up,” Lightning pointed out.
I entered the room, almost walking into a laser, and the door automatically closed behind me.
This room looks like some kind of power generation thing, and I can see the machine guns nestled in the corners of ceiling, just waiting for me to trip on a laser and set them off. And wouldn’t you know it; the deactivation button is on the other side of the room, next to the exit.
I bet the Blue Demon doesn’t have this kind of trouble. By what Braeburn told me, I expect he’d just blow this entire place sky high and never think about it again. Don’t worry; I’m not jealous, just a little nervous about having to navigate a smegging maze of lasers and mines. It looks like if I can climb on the generator thingy and avoid touching the floor, I might just get through this unhurt.
Here I go...
Hmm, I can’t help but feel like I need some theme music. Something to really represent what I’m doing. Dododooo, dododooo, dododooo, bedoodoo. Dada dadadada dada dododooo, dododooo, dododooo, bedoodoo.
Wawa wawawawa wawa-
Nanana, nanana, nanana, banana! Dada dadadada dadada- BADAAAAAAA!
Yes. That was the Mission Impossible theme. I once heard about some guy who hummed it while darting around a K-Mart store, and this among other things (such as leaving a trail of ketchup leading to the toilets and setting all the alarm clocks to go off at five minute intervals) resulted in him and his wife getting barred. Oh smeg, I laughed so hard at that!
Almost slipped. Just managed to catch myself with some handy self telekinesis.
All I have to do now is jump down and push that button, although something tells me I might be coming back here at some point. And strangely enough, it deactivated all the mines and lasers as well as opening the doors, which was all I thought it would do.
“Good work!” cried Lightning happily as he cantered in. “Although don’t you think it would’ve been easier if I’d flown in?”
“Well, yes,” I said, “but-”
“Yeah, I know,” said Lightning, “suppression field and all. Is it annoying or what?”
“You’re telling me,” I commented. “But shall we move on?”
It wasn’t long before we came across a second generator room, and pretty soon that was taken care of too, and we disabled those turrets that had blocked our way earlier and found a bridge which led to another part of the building.
We found a room piled high with ammunition, nanites canisters and inactive hopper mines (plus some quite spacious holes in the walls) but the moment we entered the doors on both sides of the room slammed closed.
“Buck!” Lightning swore. “This is not good.”
Then the sound of Combine communicators came in from outside.
“Ya think?” I asked.
It soon became obvious why we were locked in: the Overwatch were running around outside in the corridors and shooting at us as if we were fish in a barrel. This, funnily enough, is exactly what I felt like.
I whipped around at Lightning’s cry of pain, and saw him clutching his foreleg, blood pouring off his hoof and spilling into a pool on the floor. Without pausing to think I grabbed him, pulled him behind cover and telekinetically pulled over a tube of nanites.
“I can keep going!” he insisted. “It’s only a bullet!”
“Sorry, Lightning,” I said, “but I don’t think your parents would ever forgive me if I let you die.”
Lightning tried to roll his eyes, and got about halfway through before wincing as I jabbed the canister’s needle into his arm through a pore in his armour.
“Do you have to be so rough?” he demanded.
“Unfortunately yes,” I replied, “and, um, you do realise that what you just said would sound terrible out of context?”
Watching Lightning Strike’s face complete the complex journey through confusion, realisation and horror-in-hindsight was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget it in my life. Oh smeg, it’s still funny now!
The moment of hilarity (on my part anyway) ended when the two of us became aware of a strange hissing noise. When we deigned to look – the sudden ceasefire was also cause for question – we saw that the Overwatch had started to cut through the very doors they had closed with a blowtorch.
“Why bother closing the door if they’re just gonna open it again?” asked Lightning.
“Indeed,” I said, “I don’t think they plan their plans very thoroughly.”
“Well, whatever the case, get those mines set up!” Lightning ordered. “But don’t put them all around that door, because they might try to come in through the other one.”
I arranged the five-or-so hopper mines around the two doors, and both of us took cover and waited for the troops to enter.
I’ve heard plenty of things about going out with a bang, but if you ask me, coming in with a bang is so much cooler. However, this coolness can be somewhat tampered when the one entering is trying to kill you.
After the mines had done what they could, Lightning and I leapt out from cover like a jack-in-the-box and started to fire. We ran as we shot, and it wasn’t long before that particular wave of troops had been slaughtered just like the rest of them. And not long after that, we took down the final generator.
“Nice work!” Lightning complimented.
“Couldn’t have done it without your help,” I told him.
“That’ll have disabled all the force fields in and around this place,” said Lightning. “The suppression device on the roof should be deactivated too. If we can get up there, we can use this place to start ferrying refugees out of this city, ‘coz-”
“Nopony has to get hurt that doesn’t need to,” I finished for him. “It’s a song I’ve sung before, I’ll think you’ll find.”
“Take my word for it: I don’t want to go into detail.”
I must say this whole hero thing is a lot easier when I have someone to work with. I see now why all those stereotypical action heroes often come with the stereotypical action sidekick (although some of these aren’t stereotypical): the Doctor and his never-ending stream of companions, Lieutenant McClane and that guy played by Samuel L. Jackson, me and Amber, Batman and Robin, Superman and Supergirl, Tony Stark and Rhodey... shall I end the list there? We’re going to be here all day and you probably get the point.
When we got onto the roof, all hell broke loose if it hadn’t already. It was flooded with Overwatch firing at us non-stop. But the thing about me and Lightning was that we were armed as well, and me? I was armed to the teeth. And all these attackers were just providing me with more ammunition!
But at the same time, it wasn’t like the video game I know, remember and love, because it’s real. Really real. I could die at any moment.
I’m not going to think about this. I’m going to focus on the task I apparently have to complete. I say apparently because I didn’t choose to do this. It’s almost like...
...like it chose me.
Heh, I wonder what I’d be doing right now if I hadn’t decided to go travelling the multiverse with Amber. Probably be getting beaten up by some drunk with eyebrow, nose, lip and dick piercings in an alley somewhere in Melbourne’s darkest corners.
I certainly wouldn’t be attacking alien invaders in a dimension to which I myself am an alien.
And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a gunship!
“Lightning!” I shouted over the deafening gunfire.
“Yeah?” Lightning replied.
“I need you to cover me while I take down this gunship!”
“Shouldn’t be a problem!”
I whipped out my rocket launcher, loaded it up from a coincidentally close crate of ammo – one of many I’d found scattered around in convenient places – took aim and fired, and three minutes later that gunship was no more than rubble.
But then I noticed something else: something that could hinder my progress even more.
Three of them, tearing up the courtyard in front of the nexus.
This day just gets worse and worse...
Lightning’s shout broke me from my stupor and snapped me back into the rooftop battle. As soon as I entered the fray, the tide turned and Lightning and I were able to activate a bridge which ran from this rooftop to another building on the other side of the street (at the back of the nexus, away from the Strider battle) and other resistance ponies joined the fight.
It wasn’t long before the nexus was officially ours, and I heard another familiar voice from the bridge.
“Hex! Sweet Celestia, it’s good ta see yer alright!”
“Good to see you too, Braeburn,” I replied.
“Listen,” said the apple pony, “we dropped a crate o’ rockets on the other side of the courtyard. If y’all c’n get over there, ya can start takin’ out those Striders and make our job a whole lot easier.”
“What is this job?” I asked out of curiosity.
“Evacuatin’ civilians,” said Braeburn. “We gotta get as many ponies ta safety as possible.”
Sounds like a sound plan. To tell the truth, most of the faces I’d seen in the resistance were faces I’d seen in Ponyville at some point. I’m assuming from what Twilight said that Ponyville is safe – she wouldn’t teleport her best friends to the middle of a warzone – and now I’m going to stop thinking about this because I have a job to do.
“I’m going to see if I can find Spike,” Lightning reported. “Chances are he’s torn half the city apart by now.”
“Good idea,” said Braeburn, and then turned to me and said “So, y’all think you’re up to it?”
I winked and said “What do you think?”
Then I ran.
I ran across the bridge, down the fractured stairwell of the other building and out into the courtyard. Once there, I kept running, despite the Striders constantly firing at me and trying to turn me into Swiss cheese. I ran through the holes they had blasted in the ground, and I ran across the broken tarmac until I reached the far side of the courtyard and paused to catch my breath.
You can probably tell by now that the feeling of adrenaline pulsing through my veins is nothing new to me. I’ve had a lot of experience with this kind of thing, but normally there’s someone with me. This time, I’m utterly alone.
I drew my rocket launcher and took as many rockets as I could hold, took careful aim, and fired at the nearest Strider.
Then I fired again.
And twice more, until the Strider let out one final moan and collapsed, its massive legs spilling out all over the ground. I kept doing the same until all three monstrous constructions of metal lay dead on the ground, and paused again for another breather.
Once I had stopped buzzing, I got up and left through a door which I was sure hadn’t been there when Lightning and I first got to this place, and soon found myself in a dark tunnel.
Has night fallen already? It’s hard to tell: maybe the sky is just really, really cloudy and dark-
Okay... okay... I think I got away... I didn’t get away. There’re Overwatch troops in this basement.
Holy smeg, I’m so smegging tired...
Did I just fall asleep? It seems like everything’s slightly lighter and... Holy smeg, I feel like a mess. My brain has turned into a squishy lump of wood pulp.
Might as well press on for as long as possible. That is, until I drop dead, of course.
I made my way out of the basement and onto one of the upper floors. An Overwatch solder fired a shot at me, but I silenced him with a crossbow bolt before he could do any more damage. My greatest enemy at the moment is the floating cameras that I saw floating around when I first entered City 17: their flash is so bright that it has a temporary blinding effect.
My only way to get rid of them is to wait until they’re close enough and then whack them to smeggereens with my trusty crowbar. I don’t want to use a gun: that Strider is still hanging around and I can’t afford to be found right now.
I can see a corridor over there. If I can get to it without being seen, I might just get away scot free. I’ll have to be quick, but quiet at the same time.
Okay, I can do this. It’s just one hoof in front of the other. No biggie, right?
There, made it. Thank smeg.
Now I just have to find a way out of this build- Oh look; a stairwell! How nice! Isn’t it nice how in these kinds of things you get a Deus Ex Machina around every smegging corner?
It’s even worse out this end. So much noise and destruction. The building up ahead is completely surrounded by rubble, and by the looks of the three or so Striders around it it’s rapidly becoming rubble. They’re not just using the machine guns anymore, but they’re using their warp cannons as well. Those things can destroy an entire city if implemented correctly.
The Citadel is closer and more looming than ever, so at least I haven’t got far to go. That’s a plus.
The Striders are erupting out of the ground. Big minus.
“Hex!” somepony shouted. “Head for the memorial on the other side!” I don’t know who it was, but they sounded feminine.
So there’s a memorial on the other side that I have to head for. At least I have a goal now- SMEG! A Strider just erupted out of the road right in front of me! It went right over and didn’t seem to see me, so I darted down the hole and found myself in a large sewerage pipe which led to the doomed building’s basement.
There’s more Overwatch down here and- wait, what’s that bleeping noise?
SMEG! Those soldiers literally blew the floor right out from underneath me! I have to get out of this crater before I get cornered and shot to pieces. But now Overwatch troops are jumping down here to shoot me!
Oh smeg, this feels so wrong. Nopony should ever have to walk on a ramp of dead bodies just to get out of a pit. EVER.
Right. I’m out of the basement and in the building proper. If I want to get a clear shot at the Striders I’m going to have to get up as high as possible. But do you want to know what that means?
That means I’m going to have to run through this building as it’s being torn to pieces around me. Very noisily too. I am going to need so much therapy after this.
Come to think of it, there’re a lot of video game protagonists who’d need help after their experiences. I mean, the experiences they’re put through on a daily basis are nothing short of horrifically traumatising. I’d make a list of all the protagonists who’d need a smegload of counselling, but I seriously don’t have time right now.
Suddenly, everything faded out.
I can’t explain what happened. Maybe it was the combined results of lack of sleep, hunger and thirst that triggered it, but all I could see was what was right in front of me.
I continued climbing through that building in a complete daze. The explosions of the warp cannons meant nothing to me as I finally reached the rapidly disappearing remains of the top floor.
Once there, I inserted a rocket into my launcher, fired at a strider and hit it right on the nose, but it didn’t feel like me doing it. It felt like... I don’t know. A stranger. Somepony with my name and my body, complete with my HEV suit, but not me.
It was almost as if I had no control over my body any more, and was doing these things automatically, like a robot programmed to do its job until it wears out and falls to pieces.
Load and fire, load and fire, load and fire... until the final Strider collapsed with a haunting wail of death, its broken body carving into the rubble, and the remaining resistance members quickly dispatched the Overwatch troops in the neighbouring buildings.
I felt my body slump against what remained of the wall, slide down until my haunches hit the floor, and only then did I regain control of my body.
I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.
Just then, it-it felt like I was in a dream: a terrible dream and I was unable to wake up, no matter how hard I tried.
What if this conflict never ends? What if the Combine can’t be defeated, and everything everypony’s doing comes to no good?
What if I can never stop fighting...?
I feel so exhausted. Not just physically, but mentally as well. I know I can’t keep fighting forever, but I also know that I just might have to. But at least I know what I have to do.
First, I have to save Twilight.
Then find a way to save the rest of the world.
And also, find the source of that incredible crashing noise before I fall asleep right here.
I crossed the beams which were all that remained of the roof, and jumped to the ground in a road which led to a square, the centre of which housed a large column with a stone statue of Celestia on the top. The street at the other end was being rapidly emptied of Overwatch, which probably had something to do with the screaming mass of purple and green scales charging down the street. Also the young blue pegasus following him.
“Spike, you have to stop!” Lightning shouted. “If you carry on like this you’ll tear the entire city to pieces!”
“I WILL tear the city to pieces!” Spike replied. “And I’ll sort through those pieces one by one until I find Twilight!”
He skidded to a halt in the square, sending the column toppling over and sending me flying out of the way to avoid being hit on the head by a stone sun goddess.
“Hex, could you give me some help?” asked Lightning.
“What’s the problem?” I asked, although it was pretty obvious what the problem was.
“Him,” said Lightning, gesturing at Spike. “He’s got it into his head that Twilight’s been captured and she’s in the Citadel.”
I looked up at the towering mass of steel, the pinnacle of which was just visible behind the clouds.
“Probably because she is,” I told him. “I should know: I saw it happen.”
We both turned at the deafening cacophony of dragon claws gouging deep grooves into the massive metal shield surrounding the Citadel.
“Spike, just stop!” Lightning commanded. “There’s no way you’re gonna be able to get...”
He trailed off as the huge dragon (well, huge compared to us) grabbed a section of the wall and lifted it clear out of the ground, revealing a huge hole which looked as though it had a tunnel at the bottom.
It would lead whoever went down there straight to the Citadel.
“...in,” Lightning finished unnecessarily. “Well, I’ve been wrong before.”
“Uh, guys?” said Spike, sweat pouring down his face. “I can’t hold this up for long, so one of you get down there!”
“Right,” I said. By the looks of things, the hole wasn’t very deep, and I had my HEV suit to protect me, so it couldn’t hurt too much, could it? “Wish me luck.”
“Good luck,” said Lightning. “You’re gonna need it.”
I jumped into the hole, landing in the dusty ground, and the pegasus decided to tell me one final thing as Spike dropped the hunk of wall into the ground:
“And if you see Trixie, tell her I said f-” CRASH “-you!”