96w, 4dHuman in Equestria
88w, 4dPony Warfare
88w, 4dThe Writer's Group
23w, 5dAction Stories
88w, 2dPonies in the Real World
23w, 5dAuthor Support
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88w, 2dPonies of War
82w, 13hRead Later
81w, 3dHumans Aren't Bastards
56w, 19hBattlefield: Equestria
23w, 5dAuthors Helping Authors
46w, 2dPonies in the Military
44w, 5dWarriors in Equestria
37w, 13hTechnology VS. Magic
5w, 16hMilitary In Equestria
35w, 4dThe Good HiE List
25w, 4dHumans are Superior
20w, 3dHeroes and Allies: The War Room
11w, 6dMy reading list
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Running and Hiding
..."War Sword Three, Black Castle advising. Bogeys coming into the operational zone, bearing 205, Angels fifteen, ten miles from your position. How do you copy?"...
Lieutenant Greene stared out toward the massive ground battle below. "Three here! I've lost contact with the rest of my squadron and I'm running out of munitions! I'm taking fire! Please advise!"
..."Three, put on the burners and fly due south to escape anti-air. War Sword Two is down. War Sword One and Four's signals were lost three minutes ago. We can't get a fix on them and they won't respond to the com. Still attempting to contact. You need to make your escape while you can."....
"Negative, Black Castle! We can't lose this airspace! I can hold out, but I can't take them all at once! If you send support we can keep up the assault!"
..."Attempting to route additional forces in your direction. Be advised, we have a downed airman in your location."...
"Is it Two?!"
..."No, sorry Lieutenant. He was lost to low frequency SAM attacks. No chute. The downed airman is from Moniker Squadron."...
"Three, copy! What's the ETA for search and rescue for that downed pilot?! I can cover for them, but I can't loiter here forever!"
..."We can have Black Hawks on your location in Two minutes. You need to cover their approach."...
"War Sword Three, copy!"
A green circle appeared on Greene's helmet-mounted display.
"Black Castle, I have a contact on radar! Closing fast! Looks like a single fighter! No escorts? Black Castle! Please advise! Where's the rest of them?!"
"Fantastic. Black Castle, If you can hear me, I'm engaging enemy air elements over Pakse!"
Greene pushed the throttle to just under afterburner thrust and armed his last remaining AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, then waited for the radar to lock.
"Solid lock! Solid lock! Fox Three!" Greene pressed the release button on the flight stick.
Greene watched as the missile rocketed away at supersonic speed and waited for the inevitable explosion in the distance.
"Come on... Come on..."
The missile disappeared from view, along with the enemy fighter on the scopes. The enemy lock alarms rang out in the cockpit, but there was no source or contacts to speak of.
"This is Lieutenant Greene of the United States Air Force on all friendly channels! I'm being engaged and I've lost all contact with allied command! Any American forces in the area, please advise!"
Greene began to frantically adjust the radio settings. "Black Castle! I know you're there! Come on! Respond!"
A single black Mig-29 Fulcrum appeared from the jungle canopy directly in front of Greene's fighter, and flew straight toward him.
..."Your armies are dust, and now, so are you."...
"Who are you?! This is an encrypted channel! How did you-"
..."There is nothing you can do to stop this."...
"How'd you get hardware like that?! That's a Russian jet, and I'm pretty sure you're not Russian!"
..."That no longer matters. Nothing does."...
"Then I think I've had just about enough of this conversation then!" Greene unleashed his 25mm cannon at the approaching fighter, which evaded the incoming fire with nearly inhuman speed and agility.
"Who- What are you?!"
..."Who I am does not matter. Your time is over."...
"What are you talking about?!"
..."The time for talk is over."...
Greene looked on in horror as a single missile detached from one of the Fulcrum's wing racks and flew in slow motion straight toward his head. He desperately tugged at the flight stick, but the controls of his own jet fighter remained as frozen as his growing fear. The cockpit went dead, the panels and controls lifeless.
"What?! No! Not like this!"
..."Why fight what you cannot defeat? Rest now, little human."...
The last thing Greene saw was the nose-cone of the missile as it struck the canopy.
Suddenly, there was nothing but a void of black space, and the sensation of falling.
When he opened his eyes, Greene was greeted not by a burning wreck, but by the vaguely familiar setting of his bedroom. Instead of an incoming missile bringing certain death, a model of a Saturn V rocket sat on the table in front of him.
Lenard realized that he was breathing heavily, and clearly had a cold sweat.
"That's definitely a new one," he thought to himself. "Still not as weird as that one with me saving alien horses from a giant flying boat though..."
A green alien horse strolled past his room.
"Morning," Lime Tree mumbled as he trotted by.
"Right. That one was real," Lenard thought to himself. "Got to start remembering to close my door." He looked up. "Morning, uh, Lime. Why are you up so early?"
"It's two in the afternoon," Lime answered. "Do you always wear your flight suit, even at home?"
"Force of habit over the last few weeks. I didn't exactly have a full set of clothes to change into before."
"I forgot. You guys always wear clothes. Probably a good thing I suppose."
"Yeah? Well the day's already half over. What I miss?"
Lime Tree shrugged. "Your president made a most grand speech for the nation and the world and such, I sampled some of your motion pictures, and I discovered just what it is you humans like to eat."
Greene adopted a more serious expression. "Wait. You've seen all of that and you're still here?"
"What do you mean?" Lime Tree copied the look.
"I mean, you're not at all offended by any of that?"
"Should I be? Why do you humans keep treating us like we're all sheltered children?"
"Well I didn't mean to-"
"Some creatures eat meat. It's how things work. We don't, but that doesn't make us any better, or you any worse. It's just how it is. Griffins do, most dragons do, and I'm pretty sure Equestrian pirates do, somehow. Either way, I don't worry about it."
"Oh, well." Lenard pursed his lips in understanding. "Good to clear the air about that then. I guess we all just assume you're all cute, innocent, lovable creatures that make a little squeaking noise when someone squeezes you. You don't have to worry about any of that from me, though. I've seen what you're capable of. Heh, you know that General Rock guy? He definitely doesn't squeak."
"Well, alright then. Good to see someone, gets that." Lime looked down and noticed that Lenard had been sprawled out on the floor during the course of this conversation. "So, rough night?"
"Wasn't a smooth one, that's for sure."
"Wanna talk about it?"
"I thought you weren't lovable creatures that share feelings and hugs."
"Doesn't mean we're heartless."
"Look, we're men. Men don't talk about each other's dreams unless it's about- Well, never mind. Bottom line is-" He paused. "It wasn't important."
"Okay... besides, your mother made pancakes, though they're a bit cold now."
Lenard pulled himself off of the floor. "Heh. That's pretty good news. I was actually starting to get used to war rations, and that's always a sign that something's wrong."
"Yeah, it is good to be away from the fighting, but I still feel... guilty, I guess."
"We'll get back there, man. We have too. Well I have too. Not sure about you."
"I have to do something. I refuse to sit here and watch your motion picture boxes while you and the others are out there getting killed."
"You know what, why bother worrying about that now. Besides, we've still got some time before we need to head back to the dome for Celly's story."
Lime Tree hiked up an eyebrow in shock. "Celly? She's the sovereign princess of our kingdom and you gave her a pet name?"
"One, I helped save her life. Two, this is America. We don't have kings and queens here, so we're not used to talking all formal and such. Sorry about that. I guess the Brits would understand."
"I suppose it's forgivable. Hay, it wouldn't surprise me if she likes that, you know, not being fawned over constantly?"
"I know I would. So, how do you want to kill the next four hours?"
"I don't know. What do humans typically do?"
Fluttershy quietly trotted up to Rarity's section of the refugee center at the Georgia Dome. Rather than the scrap metal and plywood that would be expected of such a facility, and that had been there before, ornate plaster pillars and long flowing lavender drapes held her quarters together. Fluttershy stood in amazement as she noticed the dual front door of the white unicorn's new abode.
After she'd overcome the shock, she timidly knocked on the door. "Um, Rarity? Are you- home?"
"My dear Flutters, is that you?" The sounds of quickly shuffling hooves grew close to the door, and Rarity suddenly appeared behind it. "It is you! Just the mare I needed to see!"
Fluttershy cocked her head to one side. "You were looking for me?"
"Well- no. Not you specifically. But you will do just fine for my new ensemble!"
"Oh, yes! I've been quite busy here as of late, and I need somepony of your modeling experience to prove the brilliance of my work!"
"Oh. So you want me to show off your new clothes?"
"That's a simple way of putting it, but yes!"
"Excellent! Please, come in!"
Rarity led her test subject into her surprisingly well furnished living space. "Um, Rarity?"
"How did you get all of this?"
"So glad you asked! I noticed this human gentleman making his rounds about the place, and I struck up a conversation with him. He recognized me from some document and told me that we, as well as all of the others, have VIP status! Something about being the holders of the Elements of Harmony! We can request just about anything we want!"
"So the couches and the lounge were just given to you?"
Rarity went into a fan-filly fit. "Can you believe it?! I had them fly in some of the most intricate equipment I've ever seen! I've already made dozens of dresses and suits!"
"But- it's not even been two days since we got here!"
"There's always speedy service for VIP's! He said so!"
"Are you sure it's okay to build this here? You won't get in trouble, will you?"
"Of course not. Everything is strictly to code."
"I meant- Oh, well, that's great, I guess."
"Fluttershy, are you alright? You seem a bit down. What's the matter dear?"
"I'm sorry. I miss all of my friends."
"But we're all here," Rarity spoke with caution.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I meant my animal friends."
"But Angel and the others came through with us, didn't they?"
In the distance, Angel Bunny could be seen chasing a small cricket across the stadium floor.
"Yes, but I had to leave so many of them behind. I just hope they're okay."
"I'm sure they are. Now let's get started with my new line! I'm sure it'll take your mind off of things."
"I suppose, but-"
A prismatic streak made its usual entrance, crashing through the ceiling of Rarity's cabin. As the dust settled, a sheepish Rainbow Dash rubbed the back of her neck in embarrassment. "Uh, hi there, Rarity! Nice weather we're having in this... building."
"Four hours! I took me four hours to plaster that ceiling! Why were you above my newly created home anyway?!"
"My hammock is up there! How was I supposed to know you were building a house down here?!"
"You didn't hear the construction?! I know you tend to sleep heavily, but this is all just too much! We're you spying on me!?"
Rainbow pretended to reel in shock. "Now you just wait a minute! Where did you get all of this stuff? How 'bout you answer that! My first cloud apartment wasn't this big! How did you do all of this?!"
"With skill, my dear Dash. With skill."
"Funny. So did you steal it? I mean I didn't think you had that kinda thing in y-"
"No, I did not steal it! There are simply advantages to being one of such stature as I."
"That's horsefeathers!" Rainbow accused.
"Rarity?" Fluttershy meekly offered Rarity a chance to explain herself.
Rarity began to sweat profusely. "Well- Okay, so there may have been a furniture shipment that somehuman left in the underground garage, but it was abandoned! I couldn't leave such beautiful upholstery to go to waste! As for our VIP status, I was telling the truth! That's how I got them to bring all of this up!"
"Whatever. Anyone seen Twi? She's been gone a while."
Pinky Pie burst forth from one of the granite floor tiles, a miner's helmet strapped firmly to her head. "Ooh! Ooh! She's still in that crate thingie downstairs!"
"Uh, Pinkie, why were you in the floor?" Rainbow questioned.
Rarity shrugged. "Somepony had to lay those pipelines. Why not her?"
"Yep, yep!" Pinkie replied. "Can't talk now. Gotta drill four more tunnels before the cold sets in!" With that, she submerged back into the floor tiles. Sounds of a full scale mining operation could be heard from below.
"Uh, she does know the basement is the only thing below us, right?" Rainbow questioned.
"Whaaaaaaaaaaaa!" *Thump* "I'm okay!" Pinkie called out.
"Watch it, Pinkie!" Spike's voice chided from below. "You almost broke the gas line!"
Rainbow rolled her eyes. "Spike's down there too? So I guess that just leaves AJ. What's she up to?"
"Applejack is still trying to figure out how to use her new phone," Rarity answered.
"Really? That long huh? I guess we could call her to find out," Rainbow chuckled "Well, I'm going back up to my hammock. I'll be in the rafters if you need me."
"Wait!" Fluttershy interjected. "None of you are worried about Twilight disappearing?"
"Nah." Rainbow shrugged "If that crate thing is like a library, and I'm pretty sure it is, Twilight could spend days in there."
"So, shouldn't we at least check?" Fluttershy offered.
Rarity nodded. "Why not? Pinkie needs time to finish cementing the foundation anyway."
"Shouldn't you do that before you build the house?" Rainbow asked, scratching her head all the while.
Rarity stuck her head up. "What do I know? I'm just a fashion designer, not an architect. I don't know anything, right!"
"Uh, sorry, Rarity?"
"Either way, a trip to visit our dear bookish friend sounds like a great way to pass the time."
The gang, minus Pinkie and Spike, filed out of Rarity's newly constructed hut.
Applejack trotted by outside, walking on three of her legs, holding a cell phone with the other, and pressing the buttons with her nose. "Dag-blasted dee-vice!"
The phone crackled to life.
..."Atlanta Police Department 911. What is the state of your emergency?"...
"E'mergancy?! I ain't got no e'mergancy!"
...."Ma'am, abuse of the emergency call system is a crime. Do you need emergency help or not?"...
"Uh..." Applejack quickly pressed every button she could until the phone hung up. She sighed to herself. "Where's Twi when ya need her?"
"Hey Applejack!" Rainbow called out to her. "We're gonna go find Twilight! You in?!"
"Whah not? Ah ain't got anythin' else ta do."
The orange mare galloped up to the rest of her friends, her meddlesome device secured under her hat.
Energy tracers streaked over Phalanx, Gilda, and Berhal's head as they made a hasty retreat into the Canterlot underground tunnels.
Phalanx grabbed for his radio. "Vhesk! Please hear me! We are escaping into the caverns and will meet with you as soon as possible. What is your status?!"
..."I must warn you, my lord! These devices will not function very well beneath the surface! I am sorry, praetor. You will be on your own."....
"Just be ready for us! We won't be able to elude them for long!
..."Un.........ood. ....aiting.......r.......urn!.........re.....ents....are on....ay!"...
"What did he say?!" Gilda voice echoed in the hollow catacombs.
Berhal wearily lifted his head, still being carried along by his two comrades. "I believe he said, "Understood. We will await your return." That second part I didn't get."
"How did you know that?" Gilda questioned.
"I've spent a lot of time in the mead halls," the Caprastian solider chuckled. "I've been around quite a lot of patrons that sounded eerily similar to that."
And energy blast arced into the cavern ceiling.
"Keep moving Gilda!" Phalanx shouted as a pack of Hircus-possessed timber wolves lunged toward them from the cave entrance.
Phalanx quickly released the wounded ram, took Gilda's mini-bolt side arm, and shot the lead wooden wolf with his own, shattering the wolf into pieces. "I'll cover your escape! No way we will out-run them otherwise!"
"Don't do this heroic last stand garbage now, Phal! We gotta get out of here in one piece! Just keep running!"
"Who says I want to die?! Just go and I'll cover you!"
"No use arguing with this one, Gilda," Berhal spoke up. "He's way too committed for that. I've known him too long to think otherwise."
"Just-" Gilda's typical bravado faltered. "Just don't be too long. Okay?"
Phalanx duel-wielded the two casters. "I'm always punctual. Now stop worrying and leave!"
Gilda smiled weakly. "I'm not worried." She and the weakened ram soldier hobbled away as more dimensionally possessed creatures flooded through the cave entrance.
Phalanx turned toward the oncoming attackers. "I know you hear me, false king! Speak!"
The seething Hircus soldiers halted.
"You dare address me in such a manner? What have you to say?" a voice reverberated through the stones.
"You are a liar and a thief. Nothing more. I secured your escape back into this world, and I can very well be the one to secure your exit."
"You speak bravely. Perhaps I will let you live, if not for anything else but to amuse myself by breaking you."
"Do what you will, but you will not have that pleasure."
"Ha ha! Your defiance amuses me greatly. Perhaps you are not worth the effort."
"I am finished with this. Attack me or don't, but do not waste my time."
"Very well, ungrateful son. Legions! Tear this impudent fool apart. For liberation from my rule, you will die!"
Spurred on by their master's words, the gathering forces charged toward the lone griffin. An entire pack of timber wolves surged forward, and a squad of various captured Liberation Alliance troops took up a position behind them.
Phalanx turned his head to make sure Gilda and Berhal had gone, then held up the twin mini-bolt casters as energy blasts and fire-bolts rained down around him.
"No. For liberation, I will fight."
A human pilot and an earth pony exited the Greene family's home as the sun began to set, silhouetting the woods behind it.
Lime Tree put a hoof to his chin. "So the whole thing was all in his head?"
"Yep, the entire movie never actually happened," the young pilot spoke as the two made their way toward Lenard's car.
"Isn't that like just like a huge uppercut to the jaw for the viewers?"
Lenard unlocked the car doors. "Yeah, but at least it was tastefully done. It was still a pretty good story."
"But the fact that it didn't exist negates that entirely."
"Meh," Lenard shrugged. "I still thought it was good. Guess that's why I bought it."
"Well I'd get my bits back if I were you, or whatever your money is called," Lime Tree mumbled as he sat down in the passenger seat.
"Speaking of which," Lenard began as he started the car, turning the radio on in the process. "Do you have any money?"
"No. I didn't have the time to take much with me as I desperately galloped for my life, but it's on the list."
Greene backed the car out of the drive way and drove the car down the winding paths until the suburban roads met a more urban multi-lane street. "You know, we've got plenty of time to get to the dome. I could hit up a bank and get some stacks on the way over there."
"I don't want to be late for the princesses. Besides, something tells me that we need to minimize my exposure."
"Okay..." Lenard applied the brakes to stop the car at a red light. "-but I don't think that's an option anymore."
To the left of the car, a man stared in disbelief at the creature sitting in the passenger seat of Lenard's car.
Lime Tree put a hoof to his neck sheepishly. "Uh, hi there?"
His mouth agape, the speechless onlooker floored the pedal of his mini-van and burned his tires as he accelerated away, despite the red light telling him not to.
Lime Tree turned back to Lenard. "That's just perfect."
Lenard handed the stallion a pair of shades, which were comically disproportionate to the earth pony's face, then shrugged. "No worries. No one will believe him anyway. Well, at least until they watch the news. Just enjoy the ride."
"Let's just get out of here," Lime Tree mumbled.
The light turned green.
Lenard turned to the disgruntled stallion. "If you say so. Just stay down in the seat there and no one will notice. Though with that head of yours it might be kind of dif-"
If Lime Tree's glare had been just slightly sharper, it would have bore a hole clean through the pilot's head.
Lime Tree turned to stare at the open road in front of them.
"Just make this thing go already."
Applejack tapped on the metal doors of The Crate. "Twilight? Twilight? You in th'ere?"
"I don't think anypony's home, Applejack," Fluttershy answered.
"Do come out, Twilight!" Rarity added. "I have a simply gorgeous sweater for you to try on!"
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "I don't think that's gonna help, Rarity."
Rarity narrowed her gaze. "Keep talking, Rainbow. I've got one for you too."
Dash backed up without a word.
"Ah, this is ridiculous!" AJ shook her head. "We know yer in there, Twilight! You gotta come out eventu'lly!"
Dash scratched the side of her head in thought. "Didn't that one dude say that this thing is sound proof?"
"Yes, he did," Jake Baxton spoke as he walked up to the Twilight's small crowd of worried friends. "You girls need something?"
"Yeah. Twi's got herself holed up in there, and we're tryin' to get her out." Applejack answered.
"You're sure she's in there?" Jake questioned.
"This was the last place anypony saw her," Rainbow answered. "Can't you pry this thing open?"
"Oh it's really easy. You just pull off the padlock like this, and..." Jake tugged on the door, which did not even give the appearance of budging. "Hmm. Looks like it's been locked from the inside. Anyone got a blow torch?"
Pinkie Pie burst from the concrete floor once more, still wearing her miner's helmet and followed by Spike. "I don't have a torch, but I do have one of my new party poppers! It'll really bring the house down, hopefully not literally, but it's really great stuff, and it'll get any party started, and that's a guarantee from Ponyville's premiere pink party pony! So the question is, who's ready to party!?"
Bags developed under Applejack's eyes. "Pinkie..."
"Oh. Sorry! I'm just so happy and I ate like three energy cakes and then Gummy-"
"Oh, yeah. I call this stuff P4 Party Explosive!" She tossed the pink clay-like substance on the Crate's doors.
"So, how do set it off?" Rainbow questioned cautiously.
"WITH SPARKLERS!" Pinkie yelled as she stuck a lit sparkler into the pink party explosive.
The pink mass detonated, launching a barrage of streamers, inflated balloons, and a sizable kinetic blast. Though the doors were scorched with an almost radioactive pink glow, they remained unopened.
"What if she's running out of air in there?!" Spike yelled.
"Holy hay bales! He's right!" Applejack realized aloud.
Rainbow Dash backed up to get a shot at the door. "We gotta bust that thing down, now!" Rainbow bellowed as she torpedoed into the doors at full speed. After harmlessly crashing into the impenetrable structure, Rainbow slid off of the door with a thud.
"We're, uh, gonna need some better ideas..." Dash muttered with the almost audible sound of tweeting birds echoing around her wobbling head.
Everypony started to beat at the door hysterically.
Fluttershy gingerly put a hoof to her face.
Lenard Greene repeatedly banged his head on the steering wheel.
"Traffic. I've lived here more than twenty years, and I forgot about traffic. What kind of idiot expects to go anywhere during rush hour in a major U.S. city?!"
"I know I don't anymore," Lime Tree muttered. "How much further do we have?"
"Don't you dare start that again!"
"About two miles, and it's already 8:10! Your princesses are going to kill me!"
"Kill? No. Force you into slave labor in some distant geode mine? Maybe."
"I am seriously not in the mood for jokes."
"Who said I was joking? When they captured some of the traitors in Hoofston, nopony ever saw them again."
"You're messing with me."
"Either way, in this kind of gridlock even two miles can take half an hour. We gotta get moving!"
Lime Tree shrugged. "Why don't we just get out and walk?"
"And leave my car?! I know you haven't known us for too long, but a real man never abandons his ride."
"Well- I-" Lenard stared out at the wall of cars in front of him. "Hang on! I'm about to take this into my own hands!"
"Wait. What are you do- Whaaaaaa!"
Lenard tore into the emergency lane of the interstate highway.
"You're going to get us killed!"
"Better that than working in bomb mine!"
"I. Was. Kidding!"
"So am I! Hold on to you hooves, pony boy!" The car accelerated, just clearing the other cars by inches.
"You crazy flying flankin' idiot!"
"Ooh, you learn that in political school?!"
"I knew you were nuts, but-"
"Are those guys, police?!" Lime Tree questioned with an expression of pure disbelief.
"Hmph. They weren't there when those dudes busted into my car, but they're here to catch me the one time I do something crazy?"
"The one time? That's not really being fair-"
..."Slow down and pull over!"... a megaphone filtered voice called out behind them.
"I'm already in the shoulder lane!" Lenard yelled back.
..."Then pull over into the dirt!"...
"Do you know how long I spent cleaning the undercarriage of this thing?! Not happening!"
"Are you serious?" Lime Tree asked with an even more incredulous look.
"I'm stalling. Just go along with it," Lenard answered. "We get to the base then I'll explain things."
"That plan makes no sense whatsoever! At what point do they start shooting at us?!" Lime Tree wondered out loud.
Lenard looked visibly scared.
"Let's just hope we don't get to that part."
Phalanx held fast behind a large protruding stalagmite, his suppressive cover fire being the only thing keeping the attackers at bay. As Hircus's hold became stronger, the soldiers became bolder, throwing themselves out of cover in waves to be quickly struck down by the griffin warrior's dwindling supply of bolts. After firing one last belt clip, Phalanx's casters fell silent.
The eyes of the approaching soldiers began to glow a brighter blue than before. "Ah, so the predator finally looses his teeth," Hircus's voice echoed between the soldiers. "I cannot tell you how long it has been since I encountered an enemy so resilient. I must say, you have earned something that very few have ever seen..."
Phalanx tensed up behind his cover.
"...my respect. Legions, make his death a swift one. That much he has earned."
As the dark, seething troops slowly approached, the lone praetor drew his griffin war knife and took a deep breath.
"Let us be done with this."
The lead solders converged on the other side of Phalanx's position preparing to strike. He tightened his grip on his knife and prepared to make a surprise strike.
Had he peeked his head over his cover in that very moment, he would have noticed a ram soldier at the back of the pack suddenly disappearing into a sink hole.
"Come out, praetor, so that I might give you the death you deserve!"
"Perhaps I do deserve death..." Phalanx paused, then flung himself into the air. "-but it will not be by your hooves imposter!" Phalanx darted upward, disappearing into the shadows above.
"Do not let him escape!"
The ram soldiers began to blind fire into the darkness, while Hircus controlled pandragons and griffins took off after the lone praetor. The timber wolves could only bark and growl. Above, sounds of clashing blades and vicious strikes could be heard, but not seen in the darkness. The soldiers on the cavern floor began to feel the ground shift beneath them.
The ground began to rumble, and an arm burst up from the stone and pulled a timber wolf down with it. "My lord, we are not alone!"
"It would seem another element has become a hindrance to our plans. Do not let it-"
Three more Hircus soldiers sunk into the ground. "Great Hircus! Save us!"
Two more rams disappeared. Above, the air became quiet.
"More have come to dispute my dominion. Repel them!"
"We don't know who-" The last of the rams sunk into the ground.
The defeated forms of several griffin and pandragon minors fell to the cavern floor, followed by a very exhausted, but victorious Praetor Phalanx, who crashed to the ground in a heap. Battered, bruised, and lacerated several times, Phalanx couldn't stand, but he sat up and propped himself against one of the cavern walls. He glanced around, noticing that the enemy soldiers appeared to have gone, and that there was not a single conscious soul to be found, save one whimpering timber wolf, the last of his pack. Desperate, the creature charged toward the wounded griffin praetor with the full intent to avenge his pack. Phalanx lamely lifted his knife in one talon and prepared to do final combat with creature.
The wolf crouched mid run, and leapt into the air for the killing pounce. As it landed just inches away from the praetor's legs, the ground appeared to swallow the hapless creature whole.
Phalanx pushed himself away from the sink hole as it appeared to seal almost immediately.
"Is anyone there? Whose doing is this?"
Another hole opened, and a pair of paws came into view.
"Of course..." Phalanx spoke to himself
The paws grabbed onto the lip of the hole, attached to a grey canine figure holding a small spear.
"Timber wolves," the creature spoke as he sheathed his spear. "Not real dogs."
"Rescued by diamond dogs. I never thought such a thing possible."
"Heh. We hoped griffins and rams would keep their war above the surface, but it has come to our homes too. We prepose..." the diamond dog helped the griffin to his hind legs.
Phalanx offered a pained grin. "I'm sure that will not be a problem."
"Ah, good, good. There are more of us below. We can take you to your friends. They- she, sent us to find you."
As the dog helped the griffin into the tunnel below, Phalanx turned to his rescuer. "You said my friends sent you. How did you know where to find me? The Canterlot Underground cave system is extremely extensive."
"Heh. Who do you think made it?"
"You don't mean-"
"Our work. Ancestors to now. These caves once had so many gems, pack leaders needed sunglasses just to make tunnel checks, or that is what my father taught me."
"Regardless, your tactics we're quite impressive. Hircus's troops didn't know they were under attack until far too late. Just who are you, diamond dog?"
"The other packleaders call me Raleigh, but..." The dog helped the praetor into the main tunnel, filled with loyal diamond dog troops standing at the ready.
"...but everypuppy else calls me Rover."
Anomalous Energy Event Team Research and Development File# 672: Project Intrepid.
With procurement costs for top of the line fifth generation fighters soaring into the stratosphere, (no pun intended,) the U.S. Air Force began to look into ways to improve on more readily available fighters. Their studies were originally intended to work with supermaneuverability, as well as small improvements to decrease radar signatures. The result was Project Intrepid, and the costs were much higher than expected, but so were the rewards. Intrepid F-15 Eagles were given more powerful engines and acute aerodynamic adjustments for increased speed and stealth. Though not as stealthy as a full fledged 5th generation fighter, they are much harder to lock onto with most sensors, such as radar, and can reach a much greater top speed of Mach 2.9 in level flight, (at high altitude.) On a side note, three of these aircraft were further improved on for use for the Anomalous Energy Event Team, and have sacrificed their stealth qualities for an even higher top speed of Mach 3.12.
The other fighter to be improved on by Project Intrepid was the F-16 Fighting Falcon/Viper, which was modified with a very different fighter philosophy than the F-15. Whereas Intrepid F-15's are essentially stealthy high speed interceptors, the Intrepid F-16 are extremely agile dogfighters, capable of even matching wings with the likes of the F-22, thanks to a more conventional looking thrust-vectoring nozzle and small canards set just forward of the main wings. Other improvements include more sturdy landing gear to accompany the aircraft's new short take off and landing (STOL) abilities, and other various equipment from 5th gen-based aircraft designs, such as the "Glass Cockpit" and support for all standard fighter-based air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
Future Project Intrepid plans include advancing other 4th generation aircraft such as the F/A-18 and the A-10 to further optimize Air Force capabilities, and bring cutting-edge advancements to fighters and attackers that have served faithfully for decades. As the new Intrepid models go into mass production, they are expected to support the United States' 5th gen fighter fleet well into this current century.