Disclaimer: I don't own MLP, not will I ever, mostly because, well, damn, how could you ever live up to that awesome? I mean, really.
This is a Bad Place. That's the first thought that flutters through your mind as you feel your eyes drift open. You don't know why, or how, but you just know it. Like a rock in your gut, it sits there, churning about, making you feel uneasy as you lift yourself from the thick, clay-laden mud.
You check yourself. Suit's still sealed. Limbs are intact. Helmet overview is in the green. You're fine. You don't even ache, really, and that's a good sign. Too good, because you know that you should be hurting. Your last memory was of you getting blown out the side of a falling cruiser that just broke atmo over some godforsaken backwater.
You fell out, and you remember the burning sensation of catching fire as you pierced the bottom layers of the upper troposphere, of the massive pressure of having been ejected via tactical micro-missile through a softpoint in the hull, the peppering of shrapnel as it hammered against your kinetic barriers and the distinct feeling of weightlessness as you became one with freefall.
All logic tells you you should be dead. Even at it's best, powered armor was never designed to keep you alive through that, but it did. You're pristine, and even your suit isn't sporting a single scuff or dent, much less a breach or crack in the ceramic plating. You know, things that would happen from impacting the ground at terminal velocity. But there you are, and you're not only alive, but intact. How? You don't know, and none of those thoughts are easing the sinking fear you're feeling in your gut. Something is Wrong Here and you don't know what, and it has you scared in a way that you haven't ever felt.
A glint catches your eye as you look around, wary of the shadows around you. You're in a swamp, a deep one, with puke yellow water and massive trees that blot out the sky, but it sticks out of the muck, clear as day, and you can't be happier. Whatever happened, wherever you are, you aren't alone. Reaching down, you lift it up, and grip it tightly in your hands. It's your Mod-W, your rifle, dirty and grimy, but still fully functional.
It's a godsend. Eight weapons in one, and fed off of a micro-fabrication plant in the gun's stock, it was made as hardy as your power suit, capable of firing frozen, caked in mud, in vacuum or under water, it was designed to outlast you with minimal maintenance. Good thing, too, considering your career over the last twenty two years. That gun had been with you since you graduated the CWA and got shipped off to your first assignment, and has been your most trusted friend ever since.
Good thing you found it, especially considering the fact that not seconds after you picked it up, you feel something hit you in the back hard enough to send you sliding back into the mud and leaving a two meter trail in your wake. Your first thoughts are jumbled, wondering what the hell just hit you, but a flashing red light on your HUD wakes you from that just barely fast enough to roll out of the way of another strike.
Five centimeters from your faceplate you see a massive spine jutting into the ground, attached to a segregated tail that was as thick as a tree trunk. The impact it makes in the ground leaves a crater twice the size of your head, and the stinger at the end is dripping a viscous poison that sizzles when it touches the ground. You don't have a chance to look at what's attached to that tail, though, because it's already risen high. Your eyes focus in on it, and in a panic you do the only thing you can think of.
The thrusters attached to the back of your pack ignites, and you feel it kick hard into your abdomen, enough to leave you breathless and gasping, but the result saves you from being shishkabobbed on the end of that suddenly much larger than you thought stinger. It kicks you across the ground, causing you to skid wildly like a skipping stone across a pond. Luck is still with you, as you miss the nearest tree, giving you precious meters between you and whatever it was that just tried to kill you. Whatever it was was apparently surprised by the sudden burst of life-saving flames, because you hear it roar in shock rather than immediately chase after you. Granted, the roar was enough to deafen you slightly, even through your helmet, but it gives you precious seconds to get to your feet and take your first real glance at what just tried to kill you.
Looking at it, you can't help but struggle to try to understand what you're seeing. It looked like a lion, one of those extinct predator cats from Terra, but it was... wrong. Standing three times higher than you are and outweighing you by a conservative two thousand or so kilos, it's a mass of muscle with a mouth full of seven centimeter long teeth with claws twice that, along with a meter long spike sitting at the end of it's tail and two massive bat wings sitting flush at it's sides.
It's staring at you with hungry eyes, and you know that it wants that chewy man-flesh inside your armored carapace. You'd seen that look before, in a dozen hostile alien species across a hundred worlds that were full of nothing but giant predators and... worse...
You lift your weapon. This isn't the time to be lost in thought, and already that mass of death has covered half the distance between you and it. It doesn't fear you, doesn't hesitate, doesn't stop. It just takes one massive step after another, claws digging into the soft ground below, looking like it wanted nothing more than to gut you with it's stinger and crack you open like a clam.
You won't give it the chance. Dropping to your knee, you open up with your rifle. Point three seconds pass between your first trigger pull and the first muzzle flash, and in those three seconds your weapon's fabricator takes a sliver of mass, converts it into magnetized tungsten, charges it with alpha waves and sends it flying down the magnetic coils of your rifle's barrel. It travels the point six meters of your weapon at roughly four times the speed of sound, leaving a gossamer white puff of discharging neutrons as it passes from the confines of your gun into the open air of the swamp and transverses the eight meter distance between you and the monster in less than a half second. It impacts the creature's left eye with the metric force of five hundred kilos per square micrometer, and the eye pops like a grape under a sledgehammer.
Point three seconds later that round is met with it's brother, repeated over the course of eight seconds.
You let go of the trigger as the creature thrashes and the micro-motors in your arms lose their targeting lock. The creature is still alive, kicking wildly while it's massive paws grip at it's face. You can hear it's roars of pain echoing through the swamplands as it's tail knocks over a tree thicker than you are. The reaction is stunning to watch, like a natural disaster in local format, but you're amazed at the simple fact that the creature is alive. Those rounds could cut through two inches of ceramic plate armor like it was rice paper, and you had scored at least a dozen direct shots to it's face, skull and upper body.
Yes, the bullets left blistering and bloody wounds, but the simple fact that it lived through that has you terrified. It was alive and well, and the simple fact that it was alive meant that as soon as it recovered, it was going to be pissed beyond all recognition. It isn't even a question that this thing needed to die. Just a question of how.
Flamer. It's the only word you need to say as you grip your weapon in hand and lift it to your back. A servo hand grabs the gun, holding it steady as a section of your backpack slides open, revealing well over a dozen separate components. A whir and a snap later and the upper part of your gun is removed and replaced with mechanical precision. You don't even need to let go of the handle as your pack switches out what you have for what you need. A moment later and your HUD is reading a charge percentile instead of a fabrication mass count, and you're ready to rock and roll.
Mankind has always had an intimate relationship with fire. It was our shield from the primitive dark, our forge for our iron, our light in the shadows. As time passed, we refined it, made it burn hotter, made it more flexible, more powerful, more caustic and effective. We mastered it, and in doing so created an ultimate weapon against the horrors of the cosmos.
Horrors like the thrashing beast before you, for example. As such, you have little issue with lining up your weapon to the downed creature and letting loose with a burst of ionized plasma, a sticky napalm derivative made from mixing fabrication mass and purified hydrogen taken straight from the air around you, coating it in what could be described as liquid flame. Hot enough to melt a titanium bulkhead, the plasma napalm does it's job, and the monster screams for only a moment before the fire melts through it's chest and destroys it's inner organs. In a flash, leaving nothing more than an overcooked carcass of blistered meat and bone.
That's when five more of the creatures step out of the shadows behind the dead one. All of them are slightly smaller, two about three fourths the size of the one you just downed, the others around half that size, and all look at you with a disturbing amount of sentient hatred in their eyes. Mates and juveniles, maybe? It doesn't matter. They're hostile and unfortunately for them, you want to live.
You grimace, and take a moment to look at your HUD overview. Seventy-eight percent charge left, and the flamer, as powerful as it was, was neither built for sustained combat or range. You let loose a soft curse.
You have to get away, to get some space between them and you, long enough for you to switch to something better suited and not get ripped apart in the process. A moment passes, and you toggle your thrusters, letting their roar drown out that of the creatures' as you jump high into the air. Your backwards cam is tracking the monsters as they follow you into the sky, already gaining, but for you that isn't an issue. You gun your thrusters a second time, but this time you angle down. A simple maneuver, useful for a shock and awe impact drop, or in your case, to gain some breathing room .
It works well, as your sudden departure leaves the creatures reeling, earning you enough time to switch out your flamer for something with a bit more... kick. As you palm your weapon, a semi-automatic armor piercing combat rifle, you can't help but take a second and let your HUD run a scan over the creatures. Technology being what it was, your suit comes with a full-on tactical analysis AI, one that was designed with the idea that as a soldier, you would be facing into the unknown, and as such, meeting new and dangerous things that find man flesh to be quite delectable. As such, the Powers that Be graced you with the software needed to tag, analyze and break down the things that wanted to kill and eat you so that you might live long enough to not die horribly. The upgrade had increased the average battlefield lifespan of a ground assault trooper by a whole eighteen seconds, from six to twenty four.
Regardless, it takes barely a few seconds for your AI, (which you named Rupert) to designate these creatures as “Manticores”, an old-school mythological man-eater from somewhere called Persia, and start trying to find out the most effective way to kill them. Fire worked well, you noted.
The roar of your battle rifle meets one of the juveniles as it tries to dive bomb you. The heavier rounds hit hard enough for it to knock the creature off course, sending it into one of the trees instead, but you can't stop the other four from almost grinding you into paste as they come in moments behind the first. You roll to the side desperately, letting the power-hardened joint servos jettison you harder and faster than your mortal form would allow, barely avoiding the razor-sharp talons of the rest as they gouge the ground you were just standing on.
You barely recover fast enough to avoid a second and third swipe, and scramble for the trees. Sparse as they were, they're just enough cover to force the manticores to the ground, but at the same time loose enough to avoid boxing you in. Still, the pungent mud of the swamplands slows you more than you'd like, and your kinetic fields flare to life as a set of claws catches you across your back. You stumble, but manage to roll onto your back as you fall, facing the female that struck you down. It roars at you, and you respond by shoving the business end of your weapon into it's mouth before pulling the trigger, sending it's gray matter across the juvenile behind it in a fantastic spray of gore.
You have to roll hard to avoid a set of stingers from all three as they converge on you, escaping the worst of it but still taking one in the shoulder. Your shields hold, barely, but the impact is jarring and pins you in the mud. Your rifle reports again and again as you fire into the segregated tail, ripping it in two as you kick the manticore in the face with your reinforced boot. The hit knocks out some of it's teeth and stuns it long enough for you to empty a few rounds into it's chest, killing it and sending it to the muddy ground with an anticlimactic WHUMP.
The remaining female roars at you, and before you have a chance to right yourself it comes down on you hard, knocking your weapon away into the murkiness. You roll hard, your feet finding it's stomach and pushing with all the force you can muster, flipping it off of you as you use the momentum to right yourself. You look around, and find your weapon, but it's behind the recovering female, who at this point is foaming at the mouth and promising you a very painful death with the glare in it's eyes.
You clutch your right hand into a fist, and from it two blades fold out of your wrist, each three times the length of your hand, the knives opposite one another. The outward blade is razor sharp, made from a folded titanium plate and machine sharpened to a monomolecular edge, the inner blade serrated and notched for superior ripping power, and both begin to glow a molten orange as your suit redirects power into them, heating them to two thousand degrees in a matter of seconds.
You clutch your left and a solid rod extends out, cylindrical, but just as long as the blades on your right. Instead of glowing red, though, it starts to crackle with electrical energy, lightning wrapping around it as it dances across the hundred or so prongs that line the body of the taser as it hums up to fifty thousands volts of straight electrical energy.
Your leg drops back, and your arms come up into a traditional boxer's stance. Silence for just a moment, and then...
In an instant the manticore leaps forward, bringing it's massive tail down at you, venom dripping like acid from the tip. You take the hit, crossing your arms in front of you, but the impact sends you stumbling back. The creature moves in for a swipe as you recover, but you slide your leg back fast enough to not lose it in the crosscut, responding with a slash of your blades. The knife nicks the cheek of the creature as it jumps back, the wound instantly cauterized from the heat, and the manticore lets out a yelp. You try to attack it while it's distracted, but the monster is surprisingly nimble for being twice your size. Nimble enough to parry you, anyway, and counterattack with it's tail again.
You roll in, close to the monster, missing the stinger by millimeters, and instead spin around hard, your blade flashing in air, leaving ozone in it's wake.
The creature screams as it's tail splits in two, the stinger still pinned in the ground as the rest flies into the air, waving frantically as you slam the taser rod into the shoulder of the beast. The sound of a thousand bug zappers fills the air as the monster jerks around wildly, one of it's paws impacting you hard enough to send you skidding across the ground. Your suit locks up for a moment as you recover, so as not to accidentally murder you with your own weapon, before letting go as you fall back into control and roll to your feet.
The manticore is visibly limping, slowed and stunned by the sudden and brutal shock. It looks at you with palpable hatred as it tries to recover, but you notice that the fight has dropped you next to your rifle. With an audible SHINK the rod and blades deactivate and retract into your gauntlets, and you reach down and grab your weapon. The creature is trying to stay standing, but stumbles and falls down, it's nerves fried. You look on dispassionately as it limps up, and stares at you, even as you raise your weapon.
You can see resignation in those eyes. The gun jerks. The manticore falls, dead, like it's mates and it's cubs, And for a moment you feel a flicker of something, before crushing it ruthlessly under your heel. It tried to kill you. It died. You lived.
You let your weapon slip back over your shoulder, the switch engine sliding the mud-caked components off the rifle and flash cleaning them internally, before replacing it with it's assault rifle variant once more. It takes a moment, but in that moment you hear the rustle of leaves behind you.
You spin sharply, and point your weapon at a beaked and feathered face that stares at you in utter shock. It freezes, and you take a moment to examine the creature as it cringes slightly. You notice it's eyes are ringed with a kind of pinkish-purple paint, that it has feathers that hang over it's face dipped in a similar dye, styled, apparently, in that fashion. But what's more, you notice that it's wearing a flimsy looking plate chest piece with sheet metal shoulder guards and chain mail, of all things covering it's arms, which ended in bird like talons that apparently acted as fingers and had opposable thumbs, were clutched around a longsword and punch buckler. It's frozen in a kind of mute shock, it's mouth hanging open and it's eyes wide.
It inches it's sword up, but you put a stop to that by putting a burst of rounds into the tree next to it's head. The sword and shield couldn't have hit the ground faster if they tried.
Congratulations, you've just made first contact.
AN: Well, here we are again. Trying something new this time, as this is the first piece I've ever written in second person format, ever. Depending on the response I get, I might even opt to continue this piece, though I genuinely don't know. I can't tell how well or how poor this one is because, to be honest, I don't have the right frame of reference to work with. Hopefully it wasn't fail.
That said, this piece was intended to be a bit of a breather for me. I've been dancing around with the whole Human in Equestria genre for a few weeks and I'm really enjoying it, which is what spawned this particular abomination. Love it, hate it or generally feel blasé about it, I'd still like to hear back from you. Criticism is always welcome.
Also, this chapter was written without the help of an editor, so please forgive any issues you might find. I'll be looking to do post-release edits as best as I can.
Anyway, I've run out of things to say, so I'll end it here. Hope to see you in the next chapter. You know, if there is one.