A crossover/HiE writer whose own distractions with the internet ended up with him running into ponies. And now he's a fanfiction writer.
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Talbot had excused himself from the dinner following his statement. Celestia had affirmed him that they would be allowed to stay for as long as needed. Talbot had felt a pang of distrust at that. If only she knew what kind of work the Ghosts did, then perhaps she wouldn't be so willing to accommodate them... but needs were needs, and they rather needed to have somewhere safe they could be, and what better place than a castle?
He followed the guard as he began to think of how he could break it to his team that not only that they might end up staying in this land, but that there also appeared to be some sort of time dilation between their world and this one. The fact that everyone might just blow themselves into smithereens by the time they got back certainly was a grim thought to entertain. Nonetheless, it was a serious issue, and perhaps getting Harvey's opinion on the subject could also help.
The trek back to the quarters was lost in thought. Night had already fallen, and the light of the moon shone in through the stained glass windows, painting the halls in colorful light as it was joined by the orange glow from the torches nearby. Talbot paid attention to nothing but his own mental searchings, letting his legs follow the guard, helmet in hand. The whole experience so far was like a surreal dream, but one that was just... too real.
Before long, they'd arrived back the the simple double doors that led into their quarters. The guards noticed Talbot's hesitation as his hand hovered over the doorknob. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before opening the door and entering.
"Hey, boss!" Mendoza said, sitting at the circular table in the middle of the room. Talbot could see that he was watching a video on it. "So, it turns out that the crosscom really can do video playback. Awesome, huh?" He almost laughed out loud watching the clip, but caught himself when he realized that Harvey was still sleeping. "Oh, man, these guys are hilarious..."
"Glean anything useful, Shell? Scope?" Talbot asked.
"Nothing but dead public channels and lots of chatter on tactical priority. I didn't get much from that, I was too busy trying to report to SOCOM," Pastor said. "It's really strange, why would they do that? The only other reason they'd use emergency priority is if they had some sort of massive centralized attack. Probably just another battle in Washington DC again, you know how those are."
"I got the plans, sir," Raymond said. "Everything that we need are on my databanks. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be making guns or bullets any time soon. The precision tuning needed for making them is just something that we don't have. We can make do with things like crossbows or other simple projectile weapons."
"Gentlemen, if I could have your attention, please..." Talbot said. Pastor and Raymond looked up from their information browsing, as Mendoza gave another small laugh, before stopping his playback, clearing his throat and putting on his serious face. "I have... bad news. Really bad news."
"Well, it can't be that bad, can it?" said a waking Harvey. "We already know that our chances of getting back are slim to none, what else can top that?" He sat up on his bed and scratched the back of his head.
"You'd be surprised. Gentlemen..." Talbot slowly put his helmet on the table. "...we have a time dilation issue on our hands." The other four men turned their heads towards him. "At my current estimate, a few hours spent here means a few days back in our world.
"Whoa..." Mendoza gave a nervous laugh. "So, you're saying that, uh... the whole damn war could be said and done, totally over with before we even get back? You've got to be kidding, I mean, that's like... television stuff. I don't want to come back to hear that Pastor's daughter is a grand-grand-grand-grand-grandmother."
"Not joking." Talbot pushed a button that uploaded the dossier to all their crosscoms, detailing the happenings of Operation Stormherald.
"Oh, Lord..." Harvey said. "Are they really doing this...?" He pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "And here I thought that Maynard was exaggerating when he spoke of these wars of attrition."
Mendoza scoffed. "Are you fucking serious? Just throwing the 15th Spec-Ops and five whole other battalions into the meat grinder? And trying to meet the Russians in Switzerland, the neutral territory? What the hell is Mitchell thinking?"
"That's easily at least several thousand more dead men, at the very least," Pastor said. "I certainly don't envy them, that's for sure... I think the first loser in this war will be whoever runs out of men first. We're all just too damn evenly matched. And I don't think the Russians are about to lose that one any time soon."
Only Raymond seemed unsurprised. "It was only a matter of time," he said flatly. "We ran out of creative things to use against each other so the only thing we can do in the end is just shoot at each other." He shook his head. "At least when nukes were invented, you could stop a war just from the sheer intimidation factor. Now when everyone has them, we had to build weapons that stopped them. And then from that, we return to square one like the 20th century wars."
Talbot stood in silence, watching the members of his team and the good doctor as the situation began to take hold of them. Mendoza was discussing the idiocy of Mitchell's plans with Pastor, having pulled off his helmet and left it on the table as the attack vectors for the battalions remained on the screen. Raymond had simply left his helmet on his bed, and was standing at the balcony, looking out into the night.
Harvey walked up to Talbot, attempting to say something, but stopped himself.
"Regrets, Doctor?" Talbot simply said, prompting that same bitter laugh from Harvey they'd heard earlier in that day.
"So many like you wouldn't believe, Captain. So many..."
"A little too late to worry about that now."
"I know. A strange situation we've all ended up in... was telling them about the time dilation necessary? Is it even true? Well, I suppose it can only be true since we're all here, and it's a few days later over there."
"I don't lie to my men, Harvey. I never do. Trust and cooperation builds the foundation of a strong team, not lies and backstabbing. Even if the right way means more pain."
"You're certainly taking this well."
"I was a career soldier. Both of my parents are already dead, died in a car crash when I was 24. My only allegiance was to the Army. And with that gone... well... I guess my allegiance is to my own countrymen. Which means that my duty right now is to keep an eye out for my team and you, Doctor Harvey."
Mendoza had scoffed himself into his bed by now, cursing the EndWar in every profanity that he knew. Pastor had continued talking back to him about the legitimacy of the plan, minus the body count. Raymond had deigned to simply examine his weapons.
"A shield that would save us from nuclear annihilation..." Harvey echoed. "That was what they called it. The SLAMS and Freedom Star, that is. God knows that if they didn't have limited ammunition for those, they would have fired them left and right. A global laser weapon that can strike at any time. And another that fires a projectile that can do what a nuke can, but isn't a nuke. No radiation, no fallout. Just one big explosion equivalent to that of a nuke."
"I suppose we have you to thank for that?" Talbot said, his gaze unwavering.
"Unfortunately... yes. I worked on both of the projects. Thankfully, tungsten rods are incredibly expensive to produce, and even more expensive to get into space. And we still manage to kill each other, just in less explosive ways..."
Talbot looked at him. "You worked on both of them? I'd like to hear you opinion on the subject."
Harvey sighed, running a hand through his unkempt white hair. "In the beginning, it was a mission of trust, you know? We worked together alongside European scientists, many of us absolutely ecstatic about finally being able to end the threat of thermonuclear war. But to think that would be as naive to think that one could end war itself. When relations began deteriorating, the United States just simply couldn't trust the Federation to have a new toy in space."
"And then the United States made the Freedom Star..."
"Yes. And with that, they put me on the project, too. I have to tell you, having men in black suits show up at your door is a harrowing experience. Then one thing led to another, that damned attack by Maynard happened, and I was kidnapped to work on his little pet project."
"The Rift Project." Talbot shook his head. "How the hell does a man end up inventing portal technology? And having it actually work? Even I couldn't begin to comprehend the whole insanity of that project..."
Harvey chuckled. "Neither could I, Captain. Neither could I."
"Are we really up against the wall now? Is this what it's essentially going to boil down to? Just throwing men at each other en masse?" Mendoza said, bringing his head up to look at Talbot. "Come on, boss, you've known the General longer than any of us have. He can't possibly just--"
"But he has to. This war's essentially turned into nothing but endless battles with downtimes in between. We can't risk just sitting back for a moment, because the other sides certainly won't. Especially not with the Russians running around with their whole army. Yeah, I know our doctrine, but even playing dirty doesn't work when the enemy just keeps throwing men at you," Pastor said.
"What do we do now, sir?" Raymond asked, ignoring the continuing debate between Pastor and Mendoza. "We're stuck now. No way home. Not even sure if we want to go back home anymore. What do we do?"
"Live," Talbot said. "Live our lives as best as we can. As far as things go now, gentlemen, we're strangers in a strange land. I want to avoid getting into any unneeded fights, especially with our tech. We'll just live our lives out here in peace. Maybe one day if we're all crazy enough, we can try heading home."
"It's very green here. I don't think I'd want to leave. It's a very nice place to look at. Practically a postcard picture from what I can see here." Raymond turned his head to look out over the balcony again. "Never really had a home, I guess. The barracks and the woods are as good a home to me as any other. I'm staying, Captain."
"Hell, I'm not even sure myself anymore, boss," Mendoza said. "I mean, seriously. If we've perfected space travel by the time we get back, I think the whole culture shock is really just going to throw us for a really huge loop. And besides, didn't that other scientist guy tell us that the portal practically requires the whole juice from an entire city's power grid in order to work? Where the hell would we find that here?"
"And not to mention all the sensitive materials that we need. At this point, thinking about building the portal is like trying to build the pyramids using only four men when you're surrounded by nothing but dirt," Pastor said.
"And I apologize, Captain," Harvey said. "But even I don't know what kind of materials were needed to make the portal. Maynard kept everything compartmentalized. I was only in charge of calibrating the jump systems for the portal."
Talbot just sighed. "So, like we already knew, we're stuck. No use dwelling on it now. It's getting late, gentlemen, and we've had a long day. Right now, I think we all could use some sleep."
"Amen to that..." Mendoza said, rolling his eyes.
With no further discussion, the humans decided to go to sleep. The effects of the war had already desensitized most of them to the thought of their homes being blown up, but Pastor was the only one with family still alive when the attack happened. He didn't get much sleep that night.
The Ghosts had stirred early from their sleep that morning. The events of the past night weren't something that they continued to dwell on: trying to understand the whole wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey business was just too intricate. Further attempts to reconnect to the global crosscom network had proven useless. They really were out of the loop for good this time.
Breakfast had arrived early. No doubt that the guards had heard the small commotion they'd set up that morning and arranged for sustenance to be prepared for them. It was a very hearty feast, with eggs, hash browns, and more leafy greens. Much to Mendoza's amusement, they even had quiche.
The spirits of the group of humans were lifted, once they'd cleared the whole never-going-back shock. The morning had brought them a most spectacular view as the sun rose over the valley, the rivers giving off a splendid reflection of light as the rays hit them at the most perfect angle. Mendoza had spent most of the morning in his bed watching WLIIA on his helmet, the sounds of the skits and his laughter loud enough to be heard through the entire room. Pastor was reading a Stephen King book that he never got around to beginning during his time with the Ghosts, trying to take his mind off of the previous night's events. Raymond had stuck to his routine of doing morning pushups and pullups, and was busy cleaning his M107 sniper rifle when breakfast arrived.
Talbot was busy sorting through the various notices, trying to catch up on recent battles and events prior to their disappearance, as the remaining three were eating their breakfast, with the occasional jibe shared between them. Harvey was nowhere to be seen, which was odd, until what appeared to be a really well-decorated wall in the room opened up and the old man walked out fully clothed, with a towel draped over his neck. Steam billowed out from the room behind him.
"What?" he said, responding to the gaze of the eating Ghosts. "I know, I know, you all thought 'oh, it's just a wall', right? Well, it's not a wall, it's the door to the damn bathroom. It's really five-stars in there. Sure, the toilet's a bit small, but that tub is definitely five-star worthy. There was even a bottle of wine in there. Now that's service. Oh, I see breakfast has arrived." He sat down and began to dig in, joining the early morning joviality.
There was a knock on the door. "The Princess wishes to speak with the Captain," came a voice from the other side.
"Er muh guf, wuh duf she warnt ner (Oh, my God, what does she want now) ?" Mendoza said with mouth stuffed with eggs and quiche.
"I got this." Talbot took off his helmet, leaving it on the table as he exchanged a confused look with Pastor. He opened the door to find yet another one of the royal guards waiting for him.
"The Princess wishes for you to attend a lecture given by her on Equestrian history and culture. She deems it fit that she should return the favor given the topic of discussion that you shared last night."
"Oh, this is exciting!" Harvey said. "May I attend? As a fellow researcher, of course."
"You may. Her Majesty has not placed any restrictions on the number that may attend."
"Breakfast and a lecture! It's like college all over again!" Mendoza said cheerily.
As with many events that took place in the castle, the lecture took place in a huge assembly hall that seemed much too large for the five humans and the regal alicorn. There were rows upon rows of seats, seemingly stretching for a good long distance before they actually managed to get close to the table and chalkboards that sat underneath this high arched ceiling.
"Greetings, Captain," Celestia greeted. "I see you have seen fit to bring your companions here. I am Princess Celestia, Royal Princess of the kingdom of Equestria. And you are?"
"Lieutenant Kevin Pastor, Your Majesty."
"Corporal Burt Raymond, Your Majesty."
"Doctor Alan Harvey, Your Majesty,"
"And I'm Corporal Manuel Mendoza! It's an honor to actually meet you personally, Princess!" Mendoza's good moods were practically off the charts today.
Celestia smiled. "It is also an honor to make your acquaintance, Corporal. Now, if you wouldn't mind, I do believe it would be best to fill you in on the matters of Equestrian society."
It turned out to the humans, amazingly enough, that pony society was actually a very peaceful one. They learned about how the alicorns raised the sun and moon using magic ("Like a tractor beam!" said Mendoza.), about crime was usually unheard of outside of a few unsavory elements ("And here I wanted to play Batman!" Mendoza joked.), and how pegasus controlled the weather ("If only we could do that, we could end drought," Harvey had said.). Celestia finally mentioned that she had a sister, Luna, who also controlled the raising of the moon.
Talbot wasn't sure if it was plainly obvious, but the weapons of war that they'd brought along with them had no place in this peaceful society. He dare say that thanks to all this "magic of friendship", Celestia had called it, there was absolutely no need for any military outside of a standing guard force, small enough as it was, for the nobility and royalty. He wondered if there actually was any other nation or sovereignty in this world besides Equestria.
"Is there... any way for us to apply for citizenship within your kingdom?" Harvey asked her.
The question was unexpected. "I... suppose there is, Doctor. You do not intend to return?" She covered her mouth as she began to recall the events of last night's dinner. "I--I'm sorry, I completely forgot."
Harvey looked at Talbot, who simply nodded. So Celestia knew. "It's okay, Your Majesty. We'd just like to see if we can just live out our lives here in peace. I have proficiency in research and the sciences. Perhaps I could help with some matters of research that you may need help with. As for my compatriots here..." He motioned with his hand. "Perhaps they could be integrated into your guard force? I assure you, I know who they are, and they are very well-trained. Having them on your guard force would be a great boon."
"I suppose it can be arranged. And what else would you ask for in return?"
"Aside from the asylum that you have already granted us, a place to stay and permanently call home. As much as we'd like to just go out there and see the world, I doubt that it would do well for your citizens to see aliens walking among them."
"I see." By this time, hours had passed and the sun was high in the sky, visible from the vaulted high stained glass windows. "Very well, I shall put in a word for the five of you. Please enjoy your stay here."
"Thank you, Your Majesty," Talbot said, standing and bowing before her. The rest of them took the cue and did the same.
"Please, such formalities are not needed," she laughed.
"Alright, we've spent enough time here, and the lecture's over. Time to file out," Pastor said. The four humans walked out of the large assembly hall as Mendoza got into an argument with Raymond over proper pony etiquette.
Only Talbot remained, looking at Celestia.
"Do you have a question, Talbot?" she asked.
"I do. Are there any other nations out there besides Equestria?"
"There are. There are the dragons, who reside in the northeast, far from our lands, and bolstered against with our fortress city of Stalliongrad. And then there are the griffons to the west, who are a more militaristic society, not unlike humans. They are, however, very hostile to newcomers. If you wish to travel to meet them, I highly urge you to think against it."
"We wouldn't dream of it, Your Majesty. Your generosity has been far too kind, and we would be loathe to even think about betraying your trust. You've been very kind to us all. I'd like to just say right now that if it was on the other end... aliens showing up in the office of the most important human in the world, that we would have most likely shot first and asked questions later. It was a very risky decision you made for us, Princess, and I want to let you know that we won't let you down."
With a military salute, he gave an about-face and left the room.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Mendoza had taken to playing solitaire with an old deck of cards he'd always had on him, Pastor was still reading his book, and Raymond and Harvey had taken to discussing possible new weapon designs; they agreed upon bows, and specifically, making a compound, composite, or recurve bow for Raymond.
"So we're using bows now?" Mendoza asked, flipping an Ace of Spades upright on his playing field. He frowned when he noticed that none of his cards could be stacked with each other.
"Easy to make, easy to use," Raymond said. "And I have a lot of experience with them. How soon do you think you'll have one ready, Doctor?"
"I'm a weapons engineer and physicist, Corporal. Something as easy as a bow should never be out of my reach. If I can ask for some resources like some wood to craft these things with, and something to tie it all together, I should have one ready as early as tomorrow evening."
"Excellent. Everyone gets one," Raymond said. "We can't risk using bullets, and arrows are easier to make than brass casings."
"Oh, the arrows shouldn't even be that hard to produce. With the right mindset and design schematics, I can most likely crank out arrows at a rate of ten to fifteen an hour. You Ghosts have your combat knives, right? They're made out of very durable steel, and I'll need to borrow one to fashion the arrowheads from the steel I'll most likely get from them. Their guards wear armor, so getting some material to work with shouldn't be too hard." He pulled out a pen and began sketching some basic bow designs on a piece of parchment paper.
"Bows? I think we're going to need a crash course with those, Scope," Pastor said, flipping through another page in his book. "You're a woodsman, right? How good are you with those things?"
"Let's put it like this: I can snipe a squirrel from across a field. While it's running."
"What the hell, Scope? First sniper rifles, and now this? Are you some sort of range junkie or something?" Mendoza asked.
"Former Olympian candidate. Decided to sign up for the military instead." That earned him looks from the rest of the group. "I'm serious! I was a candidate for the American archery team. Come on, you know I don't joke."
"So not only is he a regular Carlos Hathcock, now you're telling me that he's a Robin Hood, too?" Mendoza scoffed, putting down a Queen of Diamonds. "So what does that make us? Doc Harvey's over there some crazy smart weapons genius, I'm the explosives expert, the boss is, uh, the boss, and Shell's... what are you, Shell? Do you have anything special?"
"I babysit your asses while the boss is away," Pastor laughed. "I don't know. I guess I'm just an extra gun? Extra guns never hurt, right? Maybe I should have packed a machinegun or something so I can be our resident Rambo." The conversation continued further into Pastor's self-proclaimed role within the squad, Mendoza offering joke titles and funny quips while Raymond just rolled into a series of serious questions as if it was an aptitude test.
Talbot had moved over to the table, watching Harvey further improve his already detailed sketches of bows. He had an outline of materials, things he would need to put together a basic prototype, mostly things like wood or vines, but tough things that could stand up to the test of time.
"Looks sturdy, Doctor," Talbot said. "Are you so sure they'll have all these things in stock?"
"Hopefully. I know they have wood, and I know they have metal. With any due luck, I can fashion something together, perhaps even layer them on top of each other and create a more pliable material, almost like a composite, creating a tough and strong bow. As for the rope, that's something purely up to chance. I don't think your uniforms will react nicely if I fray them, even if they are kevlar-weaved."
"And you mentioned something about a compound bow earlier... am I correct in assuming that we're going to need wheels of some sort?"
"We do, if we want to make it." Harvey pointed at one of the wheels on his schematic. "There might be a problem, though, and it's usually because anything with wheels on it doesn't keep too well in the field. I'll just try to go for a standard composite bow. Your Corporal has stated that he's had a lot of archery training. Having a composite bow would keep things small and easy to use, perfect for the kinds of missions that you Ghosts do."
"It looks kind of small, don't you think? I know the Corporal likes his punch as much as he likes his range, and it doesn't look like the composite has a lot of punch... or range."
"Really now? Well, that'll require some certain reworking... but nothing that I can't recoup from. Corporal Raymond has been very helpful by providing me with some basic schematics of all these bows. Perhaps I can fashion something from what he has, just give me time."
"That sounds good, Doctor." Talbot patted him on the shoulder. "With any due luck, maybe the use of these bows will prove more fruitful in the long run."
"Don't get your hopes up just yet, this thing's still on the drawing board," Harvey laughed.
Before long, Harvey had ventured off to the forge with Raymond, with Celestia's express permission. They had all agreed upon a specially-designed recurve bow, with a small bowsight and arrow rest at Raymond's behest. The large design schematics had been folded neatly under Harvey's arm as the two men went off to the forge. Raymond was needed because he'd made a bow before and wanted to witness the results himself, while Harvey, in his old age, needed someone to work the forge with him.
Within several tedious hours, however, a plain letter and a thick packet arrived for the Ghosts, the letter explaining their induction into the Royal Guards of Equestria, and the packet containing citizenship papers. The letters had been mostly legible, thankfully, and within the hour, Talbot, Pastor, and Mendoza had already sent theirs off, as well as their acceptance letters for the Royal Guard.
"Royal Guard? That has a nice ring to it," Mendoza said.
"Yeah, that's because they're mostly for protection. Kind of like the Secret Service and the President," Pastor said. "But isn't that kind of crazy? I mean, if things ended up like in the States and we get invaded, what good is having only Secret Service to fight back with?"
"A little too peaceful, I guess," Talbot shrugged. "Don't start hating on them for it, they're just different than we are."
"And we start our patrols tonight? That's a little fishy, if you ask me... oh, look, they included a map. I think I'm speaking for all of us when I say we could really use a damn map." Mendoza unfolded the cloth map and turned it a few times, squinting at it. "So... uh, where are we again? I think we're in this corner... no, no, wait, I think we're in that corner, yeah. Wait, no, I recognize that hallway, so I'm pretty sure we're over here."
"Oh, for fuck's sake, Fuse, just give it to me." Pastor snatched it out of his hands. "Yeah, see, we're right here. You can tell because the assembly hall is here, and that fancy-ass throne room is that huge room right there." He took one of the nearby quills and marked a room in the northeast section of the castle with an X. "See, there, now we won't get lost."
"So, first up on tonight's shift are... Shell and Fuse. Good luck to you both." He tossed two sheets of paper to Pastor and Mendoza. "There's your patrol routines. Hope you remember the time you stood guard at Fort Bragg, because you're going to need that intensive drill experience and unparalleled guard duty training."
"Ha-ha, real funny, sir," Mendoza said, examining the paper. "Oh, that's... in about five hours, if I'm reading this thing correctly. They have time here? They have clocks?" Pastor tapped Mendoza on the shoulder before pointing to a clock on the wall. "Oh... well... I knew that."
"Think this is the place?" Mendoza asked. He and Pastor, decked out in their Ghost armor, stood outside a huge set of ornate double doors, black and blue and decorated with the mark of a crescent moon. "This door's, uh... not really giving off a lot of good vibes..." He nervously moved his hand over to his pistol, MR8 slung over his back.
The rest of the day, again, had been spent doing pointless things, but this time, they actually had a role to respond to, so Mendoza and Pastor checked their equipment and weapons multiple times before leaving for their patrol. Raymond and Harvey had returned only minutes before the two set off with a working prototype recurve bow, plied from wood and reinforced using metal, with an extremely durable rope as the bowstring, used in the armor that the guards wore.
They certainly earned the strange look of lots of guards on their way through the castle. Even scared a few maid and scribes in the process. The general reaction towards them only drove home the assumption that the general populace would probably break into a panic if they ever saw the humans walking on their streets.
"We're on time, so..." Pastor knocked on the door, receiving no response. He knocked again.
They heard the door being unlocked, before it opened and revealed another guard, this one wearing black armor. "Who goes there?"
"Lieutenant Kevin Pastor. This here's Corporal Manuel Mendoza. We were given guard duty for this part of the castle on the Princess's orders."
"Ah, yes, the new arrivals. Princess Luna will want to see you immediately." The guard pulled the door wide open, revealing a large atrium adorned with stained glass windows detailing each moon cycle. "Please, enter."
"Well... they certainly don't lack in style, that's for sure..." Mendoza whispered. The stained glass windows even stretched up to the ceiling, painting the atrium in a moon-lit white glow. The ground was covered in a dark blue carpet, and statuettes wearing lunar guard armor stood against the walls in a circle. "That's a lot of moon-related stuff..." They walked to the center of the room and stared up at the ceiling, itself a representation of the night sky.
Another set of doors on the left side of the atrium opened up. "Greetings. My sister had told me that she would send two capable guards my way, but I admit that I had doubts as to whether she..." Princess Luna walked out but stopped as she noticed the two Ghosts staring back at her. "I... did not expect that she would send nonponies to aid me."
"Uh, hello, Princess Luna," Pastor said. "I'm Lieutenant Kevin Pastor, nicknamed Shell. This here's Corporal Manuel Mendoza, we call him Fuse."
"Just what manner of soldier are you?" Luna asked, walking around them. She was curious about their armor and armaments, especially the strange pack on Mendoza's back.
"We are Ghosts, Your Majesty."
"Ghosts? How did you earn such a title?"
Pastor chuckled. "Swift. Silent. Invisible. That's our motto." He activated his camouflage, earning a gasp from Luna and the guards around the room. "We're the Ghosts." He decloaked several meters away. "I imagine that you probably expected guards instead of soldiers. Are we to continue on our patrols, then?"
"Oh, yes, please do so. You shall be relieved before the morn."
"Well, then, we'll be on our way." Pastor turned to a Mendoza staring up at the ceiling, leaning his head left and right as he tried to make out the fine details in the glass. He slapped Mendoza on the side of the helmet. "Hey, airhead, get your ass moving, we have a job to do."
"Oh, right, right. Man, you see that up there? It's like--whoa, hey, stop dragging me!" Pastor pulled Mendoza away from his stargazing towards the door, earning a laugh from Luna. Their guard shift, accordingly to what the paper had told them, would span the timeslot of six grueling hours.