“Buckwheat?!” I gasped, falling on my burnt rump. “But Buckwheat is...is...” According to the radio guy, Buckwheat was a battlefield. I didn't want to be in a battlefield, ever. I stared at my hooves, hyperventilating and hoping in vain that if I refused to look at the war zone it wouldn't hurt me.
Ace looked down at me. “Aw hell, don't you start.” She dragged me back to my hooves and shook me. I continued to gibber in panic until the mare smacked me across the face. “Snap out of it!” she shouted in my ear.
I blinked at the leather clad mare. She took her hooves off me and looked out into the small town, watching for where the bullets flying through the air were coming from, tracking each missile's trajectory, and pricking her ears up at every explosion. When had this fight started? It must have been while I was still clutching my burnt rump.
“We're gonna get out of here in one piece,” she finally declared, checking her barding for ammo and grimacing when she found very little. It seemed we were going to have to get out of here using only her machete and my hindlegs. Honestly, with the bandages and burns, I wasn't feeling very confident in my kicks.
Ace stood there, watching the battle play out, deep in thought while all I could manage to do was sit in a corner, wincing at the explosions and gunshots. I wanted out, o-u-t, out. It took me about ten minutes of deep breaths to stop rocking back and forth.
The unicorn mare hummed and finally trotted over to me. “C'mere, I need your opinion,” she said, pulling me up. I shook my head and struggled violently, but that didn't stop the stronger mare from dragging me to an opening in the wall.
“Alright,” she said and pointed down the crater filled street to our left. “That way might be our best option, I think the highway is out that way.” The mare looked down to our right. “Besides,” she muttered. “There's a tank that way.”
I looked down the road and saw the charred remains of a small tank blocking the road with its armoured chassis. The squat beast’s barrel was flayed and smoke rose from the round turret. The side of it had been blasted out and fire billowed out around the wheels and tracks, filling the air around it with a thick black fog.
I looked back down the road and saw a group of six or seven rough looking ponies, all firing down the intersection. Each wore a patch with the head of a blue dog on their upper forelegs and helmets. My view of their target was obstructed by several battle ravaged buildings.
“How?” I asked. It was incredibly clear that we were not going to get through them without one of us getting hurt, and there was no way I could walk through fire to get around the tank. My ass was already toasted, no need to make it worse.
Ace narrowed her eyes and chewed on her lower lip. The buildings around us were too packed together and I didn't think going out the way we came in was the best idea; considering that ants dig, they had probably gotten out already and were looking for us.
“Does your Pipbuck say anything about this area?” Ace finally asked, glancing at my duct taped leg terminal.
I didn't know anything about this thing, so I just fiddled with it, trying to bring up that map I saw before. Instead, something really weird happened, things started appearing in my vision.
First a compass displayed itself neatly in the bottom of my vision, north, south, east, west, all that jazz and apparently I was facing north. The second thing I noticed was the small white tick that appeared when I looked at Ace.
“Fancy,” I nickered before looking back at the Pipbuck. I finally stumbled upon the map I had found earlier and was about to nose to the local maps when I heard a faint thump. I started shaking and looked at the door. “A-Ace?”
“What?” the unicorn asked, still lost in thought.
I shuffled towards her and nodded to the door. “I think somepony is coming.” I watched the door as three red ticks flicked onto my compass and shuffled behind Ace. She levitated out her shotgun and loaded some fresh rounds all the while tutting softly at her diminishing supply of shells.
We waited for what seemed like forever while I fearfully watched the red ticks dart around outside.
“I tell you's, I saw somepony up here!” a cracked voice sounded from behind the old, red door leading into the room.
The door swung open and a blue unicorn stumbled in, rifle raised. He grinned as he laid eyes on Ace and I, “Hey boys! Found 'er!” the unicorn stallion hollered, he looked back at Ace, “Now, little lady, put down the gun and we'll-”
His head was blasted in half from the thunder-crack of Ace's shotgun.
“Nope.” Ace grinned, pumping her shotgun and loading a new shell.
I shuddered and stared at the fresh corpse, the inside of his head spilling out onto the wooden floor. I turned and retched into the corner of the room.
Ace patted my back. “Never seen a dead pony before? Other than your...uh...” Please don’t say it...
I blinked a few times before answering. “Other than Shamrock, yes...” I was starting to drift off into a memory from when I was a foal...
“Hey, wake up Lord ToastyBuns,” Ace ordered, poking my bandaged flank, “No time for day dreams.” She was right, plenty of time to reminisce later, but now two other baddies were heading for the building and I had no plans on being dead or captured.
The red ticks in my vision started to move faster before a pony, the same shade of pink as my barding, sprinted into the room, sledgehammer levitated in front of him. He let out a bloodthirsty roar at the sight of the half-headless pony before charging at me, hammer swinging back.
I froze in complete shock.
I couldn't even scream, nevermind move. The sledgehammer started to arc towards me, a heavy iron slab at the end of a wooden pole swinging gracefully in the air. Of course, so was a machete coming down on the pony's neck with a wet crack of spine being severed. The wall just above me exploded into splinters and rubble as the sledgehammer barely grazed my mane. I managed to squeak as I fell to the floor in a heap.
I jolted to my hooves, my heart beating in my ears, I could barely make out Ace saying “We need to leave!” She shoved the soiled pink barding at me, “Put this on and stay down!”
I wriggled into the barding, eyes still darting from one side of the room to the other. I only snapped out of it by wincing at the squelch the slimy, pink leather made as I set it into place. I breathed heavily and looked at the unicorn Ace had chopped. A long gash had been cut into his neck, the red blood dripping down the pony's pink coat.
Ace grabbed my face and looked into my eyes. “Let's go before we get killed,” the pony said softly, sensing my oncoming panic attack. She levitated her shotgun in front of her before slowly approaching the door. I looked at my hooves and took several deep breaths to steady myself. Stay calm and we'll get through this.
When it finally started working, I fell in behind Ace and her shotgun, looking around for the little red tick I had seen earlier. I found it to my right but it was completely still, I tapped on Ace's shoulder and pointed in the general direction. She gave me a puzzled look before glancing at my new pipbuck and nodded.
She took a deep breath before magically darting her shotgun around the side of the door and taking a blind shot. A buck howled in pain and the red tick disappeared with a thump. The unicorn mare peeked her head out the door before trotting out, I followed and found myself in a hall way almost identical to the one outside my bedroom back on the Plains.
I cringed when I turned and saw two, green, bloody forelegs lying in a puddle beside the door, right where the tick had been, long streaks of blood leading to the nearby stairs. I looked down and saw a bloody pony with the blue dog patch on his armour in a heap, his neck bent unnaturally.
Putting my hooves to my eyes and I tried my best not to breakdown in a quivering heap. Taking several deep breaths, I stumbled down the stairs and tried my best no to look at the mangled corpse. Ace trotted down the stairs a few seconds later with the first pony’s ammo, but not its gun. She started searching through the green, dismembered pony’s barding.
“What are you doing?” I whimpered, trembling in my hooves. She was looting the dead! That was just plain unethical!
The beige unicorn looked up at me, blowing a strand of brown mane from her face. “What do you mean? I’m scavenging.” She glanced back at the pony and growled in frustration. “No shotgun shells, no decent weapons, no healing stuff, no nothin’!” She gave the corpse a swift kick. “Damn Blue Jackals, never got anything good.”
I stood disgusted. You shouldn’t loot from the dead, no matter how barbaric they are! In fact, you shouldn’t kill at all! “Y-you shouldn’t t-take from the dead...” I squeaked.
Ace turned and scowled. “Listen, if you’re gonna survive out here, you have to learn to pick over corpses.” She glared at the dead green pony. “No matter how useless. Now. You.” She looked back up at me. “Don’t be useless and bring that pipbuck here a sec.”
I shuffled over to her, still shaking. Looting corpses was just...no, you just didn’t do it. The unicorn grabbed my Pipbucked hoof and stared at it, prodding at the buttons.
She turned suddenly, tripping me over before grinning, my hoof still in front of her eyes. “Bingo,” she whispered. “Looks like whoever had this device last passed through here. We should be back on the road in no time.” She dropped my hoof, picked up the dead pony’s gun and shoved it at me. “Take this.”
“Why?” I whimpered, backing away.
“Because I can’t be the only one with a gun. I’m gonna need some back-up.”
“I...I...” I backed away more. “I can’t.”
“You’re going to have to learn to kill to survive!” Ace growled.
I extended a hoof to take the gun, but it just slipped out of my fetlock. I couldn’t take it, I just couldn’t.
“Fine,” Ace hissed and clipped the gun to her barding. She moved to the door and peeked out of a crack in the door.
Apparently satisfied it was safe, she opened the door a little. Poking her head out, she looked down the old battered street and grimaced. “But those dudes aren’t going anywhere soon.”
Stooping low and taking a peek out of the crack, I could clearly see the fighting ponies. They all looked tired, scared, and battered, the grey one with the cap seemed to be giving orders to the terrified troops. She yelled and snarled, waving her hooves between the Blue Jackals and pointing down the road to something I couldn’t see.
The leather-clad mare poked her shotgun out of the door before diving into the nearest crater, hunkering down and waving for me to follow. I tried to mimic her movement but I ended up just galloping, tripping, and diving nose first into the crater. Charred gravel is delicious.
Ace failed to stifle a giggle as I dragged myself back up and rubbed my scuffed snout. She composed herself and looked over the crater’s lip, staring at the battling ponies and humming. The unicorn patted her barding, searching for ammo and quietly spewing profanities as most of her pockets turned up empty.
I poked my head over the edge and instantly regretted it. I saw the ponies bleeding and fighting in sheer terror. I was feeling lightheaded. Was this really happening? Was I really sitting in a fucking crater in a fucking warzone? “Any ideas?” I whimpered meekly.
The mare slid down the side and sighed. “I got nothin’. Barely any ammo left and one machete verses a group of ponies is not a good idea.” She tapped the back of her head softly against the crater edge, thinking. “What to do, what to d-”
“Why won’t it die?!” a blue unicorn stallion hollered in sheer terror up ahead. Both of us looked over the side, trying to figure out what was going on. “Fuck this, I’m outta here!” a yellow earth pony mare turned and fled down the road. She was promptly shot by the assault rifle wielding gray mare with the grey and black beret, who I guess was in charge.
“Cowards will be shot on sight! Fight for Blue Jackal pride!” she screamed before firing her assault rifle down the road at the mystery target, my view of it obscured by buildings.
One of the larger gangsters, a red unicorn buck, stopped firing and started to panic. “Here he comes!” The pony started looking between the boss mare in charge and the road behind him. The beret wearing pony glared at him, her eye twitching.
The red pony’s eyes grew to the size of plates as a black blur flew out of the street and into him, sending blood in all directions as the pony hit the floor, the front of his torso crushed like a watermelon.
The Jackals around him screamed and scrambled, the only pony with a cool head was the boss who had shifted her fire but was too late. The dark shape whirled and slammed into her, knocking her out of sight. The only things I could see were the looks of utter horror in the other ponies’ eyes, helpless as their leader shrieked.
“What the hell...” Ace muttered as confused as I was.
The ponies screamed and scrambled to run away as a huge chunk of concrete and wood sailed through the air, crushing three of them and leaving another pinned. The pony, a purple unicorn mare, tried in vain to free her trapped hind leg, frantically shifting her view from the limb to the figure casually walking into view.
The dark assailant wore a jet black suit of armour, punctured by bullet holes all over, leaking blood onto the old cracked street. ‘M1’ had been stencilled in white on its shoulder and the black visored helmet that covered its face. The trapped pony wailed and burst into tears as the black suited stallion strolled to her.
“We have to save her!” I hissed through clenched teeth, feeling an errant surge of adrenaline. All I would have to do is jump over the side of the crater and bury my hooves into the pony’s skull like I did with the ants.
Ace dragged me back down into the crater before I could do anything. “Could you get any stupider?” she growled as she tapped my forehead with a hoof. “Did you not see the bullet holes? How that thing burst that red guy? I’m also fairly certain that chunk of concrete didn’t magically learn to fly!” She ducked down lower. “Best thing we can do is hide ‘till what ever that is moves along.”
I couldn’t help but peek over the edge again, and I nearly retched. The trapped unicorn magically swung a makeshift machete down on the last shreds of sinew that connected her pinned leg to her body. Finally free, the mare tried to scramble away, leaving a nearly solid trail of blood from her gushing stump, while a pool began forming under her still trapped limb. The black pony casually over took her and stopped in her path, looking over her battered body. The purple mare froze, trembling and growing paler by the second.
She tried to scream but it was silenced by the black pony’s hoof slamming into her face, crushing her head under it, with seemingly no effort. It wiped its gory hoof off on the ground before glancing around, without even wincing at the bullet holes. He spotted me retching over the side of the crater and turned to me. I froze solid as ice crawled down my spine and Ace whispered for me to get down but I couldn't hear it. The beast was staring right at me.
I was about to piss myself when the black pony merely nodded and trotted off back out of sight. I collapsed into the crater, breathing heavily and fighting back terrified tears.
My unicorn travelling companion smacked me across the face when I finally composed myself. “Why are you being so fucking stupid?!” she screamed in my face, spittle flying over my muzzle. “When I say to stay down, you stay fucking down! Got it?!” I was shaking when she finally finished her rant and climbed out of the crater. “Now come on, idiot. We have to get out of here before you get yourself killed.”
Taking a deep breath, I pulled myself up and out before falling in line with Ace. I seriously needed to start listening and keep my head on, otherwise I was going to die. I needed to learn how to fight and survive in this hell hole. I needed to be just like Shamrock.
The leather-clad mare turned to me, the scowl on her face loosening at the sight of my twitchy, shaky condition. “Alright, we’re going to try our best to get out of here without a fight, okay?” I nodded slowly. “Okay, we find the highway and get the fuck out of here.” She trotted off down the road once more. I slowly followed.
The town around me was still engulfed in battle, I could barely hold it together with all the gunshots ringing out in the other streets. We sneaked through the street, trying to stay out of the open in case of an ambush. We avoided the street that the black pony had trotted down. We were actually starting to make some headway in our trek back to the highway.
Ace scanned the road ahead, her ears pricking up at each sound. Occasionally, we would hear gunfire and see ponies fighting down small alleys. Most of them wore the same blue barding as the ones we had encountered before, but some had different coloured armor. I never watched them long enough to get details, but I didn’t want to tangle with then.
According to my pipbuck, the last owner had come this way, and we were close to the town square. We just had to cross it and we would be a hop, skip and a jump from the highway and potential freedom.
Ace stopped, her ears swiveled and her eyes darted around. Tendrils of panic stabbed through me as I contemplated what horror gave her pause.
She grabbed me and threw us to the ground as a high pitched whine rang out. A moment later a nearby building was blown apart in a cacophonous explosion.
I coughed violently as debris filled the air in a huge area around the explosion. I strained to see through my teary eyes and the thick dust.
Black silhouettes of ponies started running around the cloud and one trotted towards me. Ace was nowhere to be found by the time the dust settled. In her place stood an earth pony mare in a dark brown uniform, patched heavily with parts that seemed to have been salvaged from other suits of armor and uniforms. She had a a red band tied around her forearms. Her brown helmet was emblazoned with a large white ‘A’ in a white circle. I couldn’t make out her face through her sand blasted goggles and blood red bandanna.
“Well well well,” she purred. “What do we have here?” This mare had a huge machine gun on her battle saddle and the barrel was pointed directly at me. She took another step towards me and I fell to my rump as she shoved her weapon into my belly. “Looks like an itty, bitty, pretty, silly, filly.” She narrowed her eyes and I could tell she was grinning. “You’re going to be fun.”
I gulped heavily as she prodded my belly and lowered her machine gun to my... me. “Fun indeed.”
“I don’t think so.” A pistol appeared beside the scary mare’s head. She froze.
Blood splattered the ground as the mare fell on top of me. Her gun jammed into my sensitive region, making me squeak in pain.
I shoved her lifeless corpse off and got back up, trying not to look at the blood pooling beside me.
“Fuckin’ Seperatists,” Ace sneered, standing over me, her pistol smoking in her magic field. The dust was starting to settle more and I could see silhouettes walking towards us, investigating the shot. My guess was that their ears were still ringing from the explosion.
Ace knocked down the door of a nearby house and beckoned me inside, pistol aiming out into the street. I dove in just as the dust settled enough for the Separatists to see me and start shooting; I barely missed getting a shot in the leg.
I huddled into a corner as Ace shot back. Feeling so useless I covered my ears with my hooves and started to cry. I was going to die and I knew it, there was no way I was getting out of here.
“Clover!” Ace shouted as she reloaded the pistol and slid it across the ground to me. “Take this!” she levitated her shotgun and loaded the last shells she had. “Should be a back door, come on.” She quickly turned to a window and took a shot before turning to me, picking me up, and ramming the pistol into my jaws. I looked through my tears and into her eyes seeing that same determination I had witnessed before.
I sniffed and nodded, running to the back of the building, pistol held tightly between my jaws. I found the back door and waved at Ace.
The tan unicorn was still at the front of the house, waiting for her chance to run over. Sensing a lull in the gunfire, she came galloping at full speed towards me.
Something slammed into the building, filling the upper floors with fire and making my teeth shake around the pistol. Everypony froze and listened to the house groan as the dust settled around us and fire lapped at the roof. Ace took one step before being forced to jump back as the ceiling caved in, separating me from her.
I pounded on the rubble as the fighting broke out again. “Ace! Don’t leave me here!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, dropping the pistol.
“I’ll be fine!” came the muffled voice of Ace. “Get out of here! I’ll meet you in the square, now get going!”
I looked at the rubble. At the door behind me. Back to the rubble. I groaned in frustration and bolted through the door, into the backstreet. I clamped my eyes shut and winced at each gunshot that rang out from behind me as I ran.
Just two more turns until the town square, the fighting seemed to be almost completely behind me now.
What are you doing? the voice I had heard earlier asked, a tone of disappointment in its voice.
“Running!” I cried out, stopping briefly. “What else can I do?”
Running? You really want to run away from all of your troubles? You want to survive out here? I nodded dumbly, tears welling in my eyes. Then stop crying, ya big baby, and get back in there and fight!
“With what?” I whimpered, trying to fight the tears. “I forgot my gun!”
Then get a new one! I’m sure Ace would have taken one or two out by now. You didn’t want her to leave you there, yet you’re leaving her there. Pussy...
“Hey!” I yelled out. “Don’t call me a pussy!”
Then prove me wrong.
“I...I...” I looked back down the alley I was in. “...I can’t.”
Is this what your brother would have done? Leave a mare to be possibly raped then killed?
I felt a spark of rage and a rush of adrenaline surge though my veins. “No,” I seethed tensing up and turning back down the alley to the road the Separatists had jumped us on. “He would not.” I charged back down onto the street a few houses down from where the Separatists had blown the house open. They weren’t on the street anymore. I felt another burst of rage surge through me as I steeled myself for what lay ahead.
I galloped down the street, almost tripping over the corpse of the scary mare, who had either threatened to rape or geld me. I came across a fresh corpse, not six inches from the window of the house where Ace was sheltering. He couldn’t have been more than a year older than me, yet he was dead, and I was alive. I scooped up his SMG and charged at the building.
I was greeted by two corpses and three ponies around Ace, the beige mare was huddled in a corner, waving her machete at the ponies.
“Come any closer, and I’ll fucking cut you!” she screamed at them, cradling her spent shotgun. The determination in her eyes was gone, and was replaced with anger and...I think it was fear.
One of the Separatist ponies shot the machete out of her grip and pointed the barrel of his gun at her face. “Don’t be like that, babe.” The evil stallion moved closer, bringing his face within inches of Ace's. “You and me are gonna have some fun.”
I felt the rage and adrenaline reach a new high as I stood watching, I spat the SMG out at my hooves. “Leave. Her. Alone.”
All the ponies looked at me and started laughing, causing my eye to twitch. Nopony laughed at me.
“You?!” a grey mare laughed. “Mr. Pinkie here thinks he can take us.” She pulled up a shotgun and waved it at me. “Hellooo?”
“I don’t have to.” I grinned staring at the debris. “Any minute now.”
They all went quiet before glancing at the wall of debris, waiting for something awesome to happen. I used the distraction to pick up the SMG and pulled the trigger.
The kick of the SMG rattled my teeth as bullets sprayed out from the snub-nosed barrel. The three ponies shuddered as shots streaked across them; the bullets made them twitch and twist violently like insane ragdolls.
I just kept firing until the gun clicked empty.
The last pony fell into a bloody pile. I stood frozen in place, pulling the trigger of the empty gun. I began to shake.
“You...came back for me?” Ace asked, still crouched in the corner in front of the would be rapist. “Why?”
“I...I...” tears started welling in my eyes as I dropped the SMG. I heard shouts nearby, but I couldn’t move, I just stayed, staring at the corpses of the ponies. The ponies I killed.
The beige mare picked herself, her shotgun, and her machete up before trotting to me. “Thanks.” She smiled. “Are you okay?”
“I-I-I.” I trembled as the shouts got louder.
“Come on, we’ve gotta get out of here,” Ace whispered, looking out the window behind me. She trotted to the door and looked out. “Coast is clear for now; let’s move.”
I stayed put, unable to tear my eyes from the ponies lying dead before me. Ace crept up behind me and tapped my shoulder. “Come on. You can break down later.” She grabbed my head and tore it from the corpses, forcing me to look her in the eye. “Stay strong,” she ordered with a shake and letting go, picking up the SMG in her magical field and attaching it to my pink baring. The unicorn trotted out and beckoned me to follow.
I took several deep breaths before shuffling forward. Unable to stop my shakes and the thousands of thoughts coursing through my mind, I kept moving out of sheer force of will. We turned into the alley where I had talked with my conscience and around the last corner before the town square.
Into a graveyard.
Tens of ponies lay scattered around the square, each as lifeless as the ones I had killed. I looked over them, from building to building, the square was the reaper pony’s playground. Most of them didn’t look any older than me, yet there they were, torn apart and left to rot as their supposed comrades fought over the rubble Ace and I had left.
I crashed. That was it. I fell on my side and curled up, crying. What else could I do? I had just killed three ponies. Three! In the space of a second, they were snuffed out like a candle.
Ace sighed and sat down beside me. “Its okay,” she said in a soft voice, placing a hoof on my shoulder.
“No!” I cried out, “It’s not okay!”
“The first time is always the hardest.” I looked through the tears at her. She smiled, “Think of it as sex. It only gets better through practise.” Great, now I was crying and embarrassed. I think she sensed this and immediately winced.
“It’s just too much!” I wailed. “All this! Everything! Bar-brawls with bounty hunters, giant ants, war...it’s just...” I cried like a little baby and I didn’t care. I felt like just curling up and dying right there and then.
“Oh, come now,” Ace said, scootching a little closer and patting my back. “You saved me; you should be proud. It’s what, uh...Shamrock would have done.”
“Shamrock wouldn’t have killed a pony!” I screamed from under my hooves.
Ace did something I never expected her to do. She hugged me. I felt her strong forelegs wrap around me in a tight, soothing embrace. I couldn’t help but hug back and cry on her shoulder.
“You’ll be okay,” the unicorn mare whispered, patting my back. “I’m sure of it. You know why?”
“Wh-Why?” I snivelled as she pulled away to look me in the eye.
“Because I’m still here.” She smiled at me, regardless of her soaking shoulder. I couldn’t say anything as I kept crying.
“Awww,” a buck’s voice chimed from nearby. “How cute.”
Ace broke the hug and I fell back into my crying fit on the ground. Ace got up and looked around. “Who’s there?”
“Up here,” a the voice whistled.
I looked up from my hooves to see a teal, earth pony sitting on the the heroic looking unicorn statue in the middle of the square. “Such a cute couple, you two. Pity you got wound up in this mess,” the stallion chuckled. He wore the same patchwork, Separatist armor the scary mare had. Ponies started to seemingly come out of the woodwork around him, each wearing matching barding.
“We are not a couple,” Ace growled, levitating her empty shotgun.
“Oh no?” the teal pony asked as he slid down the statue and landed in front of us. “You sure look like it. Kinda romantic, eh? Dying together?”
“We aren’t a couple,” Ace repeated, venomously. “And I ain’t dying.”
The pony trotted around Ace and my heap of babyness before huffing. “You’re completely surrounded.” He swept his front leg around the square, highlighting each individual pony in my mind. Each pony had a weapon and a look of fearlessness, whether it was the ponies with the rifles or the ponies on top of a nearby building with missile launchers on their saddles. They must have shot the house Ace and I were in, making it collapse. They looked downright scary with the red flames somepony had painted on their tubes. Then again, everything was scaring me.
Ace backed up, eyes darting around, looking for a way out. “Clover,” she whispered. “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what we should do.” I started crying a wee bit harder.
The Separatist pony took a deep breath and smiled. “Now then, you’re in our territory and you aren’t one of us? Know what that means?” A clicking noise came from each and every weapon. “Y’all got to be exterminated.” He raised a hoof. “Ready.”
Ace tensed up and took a deep, ragged breath, sweat dripping off her nose.
I curled tighter into my ball. Who was I kidding? A young, farmer boy, who has never handled a gun, or any weapon for that matter. Who has just murdered three ponies in a rage fueled eruption, and was incapacitated in a ball because of it. What were his chances in a world like this? Seeking revenge? I was stupid to even think that I would survive, and now I probably got Ace killed. This was all my fault and I couldn’t do anything but lie there and cry.
An explosion on the building where the ponies with missile launchers had perched filled the air with light and sound, cutting off the teal pony. I looked up to see a giant armoured griffin standing on its hind legs with a long tube on its shoulder.
The whole griffin, except for its wings, was encased in a in an armour of tan and brown camouflage that concealed its gender. It threw off the launcher and jumped down in front of us before spreading its wings and standing on two legs again, swinging a minigun forward in its talons.
“Sit tight!” he called back to us, his voice muffled by the helmet he wore. The armour seemed heavy and had numerous dents and scratches. It seemed to shimmer around the tiny lights near its joints, most prominently around the yellow gem encased between the griffin’s wings.
He looked down at me briefly. His helmet was the same color as the armor except for the black visor that took up most of the face. It had all sorts of things attached to it, and in the brief moment I saw it, I made out a small communications antenna at the griffin’s ear and flashlights on either side of the visor. He turned back to the Separatists.
The griffin hunkered down and spun up the minigun, pointing it at the shocked ponies. They finally snapped out of it as a thunderous roar sounded from the huge weapons, sending casings flying into the air. He started sweeping from right to left, tearing ponies apart.
They tried in vain to shoot the griffin, but every time a bullet hit the beast, it pinged right off, the area around the impact shimmering and the gem on its back pulsing.
More ponies appeared on the roof above us. I could make out six, two unicorns, three earth ponies, and...a pegasus? I had never seen one of them before. The pegasus was barking commands between the other ponies, pointing and shouting as the hopefully friendly ponies started getting into position. The griffin didn’t let up as the unicorns up top covered the earth ponies, as they came down the building on ropes, with assault rifles.
The pegasus extended her wings and took off, swooping down and impacting individual ponies the griffin missed. The Separatists all fell before the pegasus, often with a spray of blood and a scream.
The earth ponies landed next to Ace and I, two of them picking off individuals with bursts from the long rifles attached to their saddles, while the other looked me over, looking for injuries. I let her as I honestly couldn’t bring myself to watch as ponies were ripped apart around me. They were evil, yes, but still ponies.
The griffin grunted as a high pitched ping sounded from the gem and it went dark, allowing a bullet to penetrate the armour and into the griffin’s arm as he finished his sweep.
“You’re going to be okay!” the earth pony medic shouted over the din from the minigun. She handed me a vial of that purple liquid. “Drink this!”
“I...I’m fine!” I yelled back through tears. “I’m not hit.”
“Then quit crying!” she barked back, lightly kicking my belly, more for encouragement than spite. Ace was right beside her, keeping her head down and shaking it.
“We have to get out of here!” a forest green earth pony hollard between bursts. “Where’s Dare?!”
“She’ll be fine!” the medic called out. “She can fly out, dumbass! Call the evac, dammit!”
The green pony ducked behind the heavy weapons griffin and pulled a large, black box from his saddle. He slipped on the headphones and started nosing at the buttons.
“Incoming!” one of the unicorns shouted from above, shifting her fire. A group of separatists turned a corner nearby, each brimming with heavy weapons. Two of the ones with machine guns fired up at the unicorn, suppressing her, as the others aimed at us. The griffin was too slow to react as the Separatist with a missile launcher hunkered down to fire.
A shot rang out above the din like a firecracker, and the missile pony’s head was turned to bloody mush against the dirt. The others in the reinforcements turned their head skywards to see a silhouette against the darkening skies. Another shot rang out and another pony head exploded. The silhouette swooped down and fired twin blasts from a pair of pistols, killing most of the ponies and dodging out of the way just as the heavy griffin opened fire, turning the rest to ribbons.
“Where is our evac, Evergreen?!” the medic asked, firing her dual SMG battle saddle.
“ETA ten seconds!” the forest green pony yelled back after putting the black radio away. The ponies hunkered down as more and more Separatists started flooding the square. The griffin that had gunned down the reinforcements landed beside me, firing into the growing enemies. This griffin wore a set of light armour with huge sniper rifle on her back and two pistols in her talons, firing them with expert precision.
“Here they come!” Evergreen yelled out. The Separatists stopped in their tracks and started retreating. I looked up and saw something coming towards us in the sky, fast. The black, bulbous...thing swooped down low and giant bullets starting flying from jury-rigged, dual auto cannons on each side as it started hovering over the square, slowly turning to give the gunner a better firing angle.
“Vertibuck’s here!” one of the earth ponies yelled and started running towards it as it landed. A door on the back slid open and a unicorn inside started waving to us to get in. I was picked up and dragged to the giant, black thing by Ace. By this point, I was having a panic attack, to the point where I was seeing things. I swore I saw the jet black armoured pony watching us from a side street, but it vanished in a blink.
The heavy weapons griffin jumped onto the beast and pulled me up after him. He plopped me down in a seat as the other ponies climbed aboard.
The inside of the thing looked little different from the outside. I was deposited at the end of a row of five seats, another five opposite me. At the front of the thing was a seat and all sorts of controls in front of a glowing box, wires feeding from it to a compartment on either side, housing a pegasus each. Something about this beast of a machine seemed to soothe me. It could have been the heavy armour or the fact it had huge guns at the front, but it seemed...safe. Safe enough that I stopped panicking.
“Let‘s move!” one of the pegasi yelled back to the boarding ponies. Both of the pegasi in the compartment wore odd, white helmets with a black visors, and matching sets of black barding. The unicorn who waved us in sat back at the front seat with a headset on, working all sorts of levers.
Ace sat down beside me and the heavy, as the earth ponies and sniper griffin sat opposite, looking out the back. The door slid shut, and I felt my stomach reach my throat as the pegasi up front started flapping their wings and the box behind the seat began to glow. The whole machine we sat in lurched forward for a few seconds and stopped in midair at about roof level.
A door in the side of the beast, just before the gem box, slid open and the unicorns from the ground team jumped in, firing behind them. The beast lurched again as we climbed straight up into the air. I looked out one of the armoured glass windows and started panicking again when I saw how far above the ground we were.
We stopped high in the air, out of range of anything the Separatists could fire at us. It was quiet, nothing but the heavy breathing of the ponies and griffins, the hum from the gem box, and the mumbling unicorn at the front as she fiddled with more controls.
The side door slid open again revealing darkening skies. The day was starting to transition into evening and the sun was starting its lazy descent. I couldn’t help myself but get up and walk to the door. Ace was going to object, but the giant griffin stopped her, instead just nodding at me.
I looked out the door and straight at the ground. Now, most ponies would have thought this was a bad idea or freaked out, but me, the distance between me and the ground was...soothing. I had no idea why. Maybe it was the thought that I was further away from that hell hole, or maybe it was the vista laid out before me that I found comforting.
I sat down on the rim of the door, letting my legs dangle from the sides. From here I could see the low buildings of Westwood in the distance and the low mountains separating the Ponave from Fed land. I shifted my attention eastwards; I saw the tall structures of a big city in the distance, the city built into a large hill, almost a mountain. That must be Iron City.
I took a deep breath and looked north, straight ahead of me. In the far, far distance, I could barely make out the northern mountains and their white tips, it took a little less effort to see the giant city set amongst numerous ruins kilometers ahead.
I sighed as I looked back down. Today was the worst fucking day of my life. First, I almost got beaten to death, then a crazy mare kidnapped me and shoved me down an ant nest, where I got stabbed and torched, and then I almost got shot, blown up, raped or gelded, crushed, and shot again. Not to mention the pain in my face from so much crying. Fuck today. Fuck it right in the ass.
“You okay?” Ace asked from behind me, staying well clear from the door. I looked to the others but they were chatting amongst themselves. Why hadn’t they taken off their equipment?
“No,” I replied. “Ace, I almost got killed today. I did kill today.” I felt tears start to run down my cheeks. “I will never be okay” I sobbed into my hooves. “I mean, look at me! I’m a wimp! A pussy! I’ve seen fillies tougher than me!”
The beige mare put a hoof on my shoulder, though she tried to hide it, I think she actually cared. “Yeah, you are.” Oh, well, never mind. “But that’s okay.” Come again? “Killing ponies does not come naturally, neither does living in this shithole.” I sniffed and looked up at her. She was making a real effort to look like she didn't care, but failing miserably. “But, neither does defying your fears, outsmarting a bunch of clowns, and saving me. That took balls, Toasty Buns.”
I gave a small smile. “My name is Clover.”
“I know, Toasty Buns. I know.”
“Incoming!” the unicorn at the front yelled right before an orange blur shot over me, making me fall backwards, and slammed into a wall.
I scrambled to my hooves as the side door slid shut and turned to the blur. An orange coated pegasus stood before me on two hooves, using both her wings and the teal pony in her hooves to stay upright. The teal pony was bloody but alive.
The pegasus was wearing a balaclava under her helmet, with a transmitter strapped to the side. “Looky what we have here, boys,” she chuckled. “Lance Corporal Sawdust, of the Fourth Resistance Cavalry. Except he’s a traitor and a coward.” She threw him between the two seating rows and trotted to his battered body, her bulging metal gauntlets, clanking against the metal floor.
She stood over the quivering body of the teal pony. “Where is he?”
“Who?” the Separatist stallion wheezed.
“The Sarge?” Sawdust laughed. “Why would I tell you?”
The pegasus sighed and rolled her eyes. “Because you are sitting in a Resistance Vertibuck, surrounded by Spec Ops soldiers, several thousand meters in the air.” Several thousand? And I was just inches from falling all the way down without even flinching? That... made little sense.
“Yeah? " the teal pony huffed. "So?”
The pegasus stood over the pony and reared up, using her wings to support her hind legs. I didn’t think pegasi could do that, but this one managed. Probably practised a whole bunch. I staggered back when a blade slid out of each gauntlet, both red with gore.
“So you should tell us where Short Stack is, or I introduce you to Slashy and Smiley. And trust me,” she bent down low, now using her knives as support. “They like to take their time getting to know new people.”
Sawdust blanched and quaked, flinching away from the dripping, twin blades. “Y-you’re bluffing.”
“Wrong answer.” She reared up and dug the knives into Sawdust’s shoulders, right where foreleg met torso, and picked him up. I was both disgusted at the stabbing and amazed at how the pegasus could walk on her hind legs while carrying a writhing, screaming body, using only her wings as support. This mare has had special training, I was sure of it.
The back ramp of the Vertibuck slid open as the pegasus approached, leaving a trail of blood. She was dangling the poor buck over the side with nothing but her knives holding him from the drop.
“Now, tell us where Short Stack is," she barked, twisting the blades in Sawdust's wounds and making him gasp in pain. "And I will get you immediate medical attention. I will even let you live.
The teal buck took one teary look down. “Okay! Okay!” He squealed like a filly, looking back at the pegasus. “He’s set up shop at the old communications relay south of here! Please bring me back in!”
“Thank you,” the mare sighed. “But I don’t deal with traitors.” The mare pulled out Smiley and stabbed it into Sawdust’s chest, straight through his heart, killing him almost instantly. “Sorry, but you betray us, we kill you.” She pulled both Slashy and Smiley out and the poor dead buck started his free-fall back down to the surface.
The flyer turned her midnight-blue eyes to us as her knives retracted and the door closed behind her. She pulled off her helmet and balaclava to reveal a beautiful fiery red mane. “Sorry you civilians had to see that,” she sighed, shaking her head. “But we can’t be lenient on traitors.”
“W-what did he do to deserve that?!” I asked in shock.
“He was responsible for the destruction of a Resistance supported town and countless innocent casualties. I saw it with my own eyes. He would have been killed anyway, I just wanted to make it fast.”
“I...I...” I blanked again before sitting hard. I looked down and realised I was still in my pink barding. “I suppose that makes sense...” I don’t know if it did really, but I was too tired and too rattled to care. I needed sleep desperately.
“So,” the pegasus continued, cheering up. “Now that we have you on board, I’d best introduce myself. I’m Operative Adrenaline “Dare” Rush of the Resistance Special Operations, Team Alpha. Best of the best.” The ponies and griffins in the Vertibuck gave a small cheer.
“I’m Ace,” the leather-clad mare said, a wee bit suspiciously. “And this is Lord Toas- I mean, Clover.”
“Its a pleasure.” The pegasus mare smiled. “Anyhow, meet the team. This is-”
“Ma’am,” one of the pilot pegasi piped up. “We got a destination or what?”
“Oh, Comm Station Foxtrot, south of here.”
“Copy that,” the unicorn operator said before pressing a few buttons. “Flight path planned, lets haul ass. ETA fifteen minutes.”
The pegasus nodded and looked back at me. “Anyway,” she pointed at the heavy griffin. “This is Garry.”
The heavy griffin took off his helmet with a heavy hiss and smiled at me. He was huge, somehow taking off the helmet made him look bigger! He pulled a long, wide cigar from his amour pocket and lit it, letting the noxious smoke curl around his yellow-tipped, head feathers. “You can call me Gaz,” he said with a smile.
She pointed at the next griffin. “This is our sharp shooter, Forsythe.”
The griffin was loading a new magazine into her giant sniper rifle, which I found out was an ‘Anti-Machine Rifle’, with a satisfying snap. She looked up and winked at me. I don’t think it was in a suggestive manner, but more a friendly manner. Wait, was it suggestive? I hoped not, those talons looked sharp.
The pegasus went on to introduce the earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasus pilots, describing their roles. The earth ponies were in a precise assault kinda role and the unicorns took on a support role due to their ability to wield heavy weapons more efficiently, except for the one up front, who worked as navigator and gunner for the Vertibuck.
“Waaaait a minute here,” Ace said, holding up her hoof. “You’re a Spec Ops team, and yet you are introducing yourselves to two complete strangers. Something is going on here, and I wanna know what.”
The orange pegasus mare sighed again. “Well we need to get Short Stack ASAP, and, well, we don’t have time to drop you civies off. So-”
“We have to come with you.”
“What?!” I shouted. “I’ve almost died several times today and you want me to come with you to take on some lunatic?!”
“Uh...You don’t have to fight just, uh...”
“I...Wha...who...” That was it, I had it for the day. My eyes rolled into the back of my head and I passed the fuck out. Fuck consciousness, fuck this place, and fuck everything else that ever was. I’m out.
Footnote: Level Up!
“Gallop 'n Gun”
This perk reduces accuracy penalties with mouth-grip, ranged weapons (Guns or Magical Energy Weapons) while trotting or galloping.
Special thanks to Kashin, Errantindy, Kal, and Julep for editing and art.
Thanks are in order for the great and all powerful Kkat for creating the FoE Universe that I implanted my work into. .
As you are still reading this, you should read Operation Flankorage.