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Twilight came downstairs to check on Wolf. He was fast asleep, still in the same corner, in the middle of a small lake of tears. She could hear his heavy breathing from across the room. With every breath, in perfect rhythm his chest would slowly rise, then fall...Twilight's horn glowed purple, and an old, worn mop came to life. It was frayed, but it was more than capable of doing it’s task. It wiped up the mess in one fell swoop. Her horn glowed again, and a heavy wool blanket levitated onto Wolf. He shifted, pleased as his body heat would no longer be lost in the cold air that hung in the interior of the library. Twilight sighed disappointedly. She now had to make an extremely hard decision. But in the end, she knew that she had no other choice. And so, she lay down on her desk, levitated her favorite quill out of the ink well and began to write the letter that she did not want to write in the first place.
Dear Princess Celestia...
- - - - -
Planet Gift, July 29th, 2659, 16:39 hrs
Wolf stood above a lone grave on top of a hill, under the shade of a large evergreen tree. On the gravestone was the image of a proud hawk, soaring high above the ground. Below the image, one letter and three numbers. The standard tagging of all PROJECT DEMIGOD subjects.
Wolf could hear footsteps on the soft grass of the hill. Someone was coming. He turned around, and he saw her, her bright green eyes staring at him, her long golden hair dancing in the gentle breeze that staked its claim over the forgotten (?)hill. The leaves of the evergreen rustled slightly, welcoming their new regent.
“Cougar....” Wolf said softly to her. After such a loss, only the voice of a loved one could numb the pain.
“Wolf, I'm so sorry. I know what he meant to you, he was your best friend since the beginning of this hell we live in.” Cougar replied to him. Her voice was overflowing with care for him. Wolf always knew that when the chips were down he could rely on Cougar to back him up. Only this time, he wasn’t sure she could help him this time..
“He died in my arms Cougar...he was staring right at me the whole time.” Wolf said, recalling that fateful day when his dearest friend was taken from him, never to be seen again. From now on, Hawk would live only in his memories. :
“I know, I heard.” Cougar lied. She could see that Wolf was in unbearable pain, and having to explain to her in detail what happened would only cause him more grief.
Both Wolf and Cougar were silent for a moment. Then Cougar gave him a much needed hug. Wolf warmly welcomed the embrace. It was the best thing that had happened to him in a long time. To be in Cougar’s arms, her silky blonde hair gently brushing against his cheeks...Cougar finally broke the long silence, even though she didn’t want to.
“Come on. They need us back at HQ.” She said sorrowfully. Wolf was slightly annoyed at her disturbing the peace atop the hill with their assigned duties.
Wolf didn't answer. He simply stood over Hawk’s grave, and out of Cougar's view, shed a single tear onto the white gravestone. His only wish was that the carefully carved stone would stand the test of time.
“Goodbye Hawk...I’ll miss you.”
Wolf began to turn away, but was interrupted.
All of a sudden, a hawk glided over the tree. It gave off two quick screeches towards Wolf, who could have sworn by all he held dear in this life, that he heard the hawk say:
- - - - -
Wolf woke up a full eight hours later. It was night time, he could tell by the silence in both the library and outside. Of course, the moonlight flooding the room through the window was a dead giveaway. He soon discovered a heavy wool blanket carefully wrapped around him, and that no more of his tears stained the floor.
- - - - -
Of course, who knows how long I've been out?
- - - - -
He got up, and looked out the window. The moon ruled over the night sky, casting it’s glorious light on all below it. Rebelling however against the moon’s hold over the land, a few street lights that were still on, controlled their own smaller territories. Wolf slowly opened the front door, and crept out of the library.
* * * * *
Within minutes, Wolf had walked far outside of town. The moonlight bathed everything in a white glow. Wolf looked up towards the moon, and he saw it.
A hill with a large evergreen on it.
Wolf could not tear his gaze away from it. It looked exactly like the hill that Hawk was buried on. He quickly scrambled up the the hill almost tripping a few times in excitement. Finally reaching the summit, he stood directly above the spot where he remembered the grave to be. Wolf stared at the ground for a few minutes, then reached inside the military turtleneck he was wearing, and with one quick motion pulled out something he had carefully concealed from the rest of the world. It was a golden necklace, with a well crafted depiction howling wolf on one side, and a cougar on the other. They both seemed to vie for control of the bright green gem that lay between them. Wolf tightened his grip on it, nearly breaking it. Then, ever so softly, he whispered into the cool, night air:
He left the hill in total silence. It was obvious that if he stayed any longer, he would begin to cry again.
* * * * *
After a long and arduous climb, Wolf reached the summit of another hill, after leaving the other far behind him. He hadn’t rushed up this one, making the climb more tedious than the last. Wolf looked down on the area below, illuminated under the glorious light of the moon. There, like a massive black mountain, the Red Dawn towered above the flat landscape; waiting for Wolf to return to take control of it once more. After nearly falling over again, he slid down the hill and walked the vast, open space of the plain that was his crash site. After a few minutes passed, he came to the same door where he first emerged. Walking through the empty titanium halls, he could still see the fading silhouettes of his loyal crew, going about their normal tasks. Was it his mind playing tricks on him? His crew sending him a message from the afterlife? Or perhaps they were simply stuck there, in an amalgamation of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Wolf wasn’t sure, but before he could finally grasp the answer, the silhouettes drifted away into nothing. Dismissing the haunting presence of his departed crew, he finally arrived at the bridge. It was in appalling condition. Broken terminals everywhere, seats ripped off their very stands, and wires, yards and yards of wires hanging from almost every inch of the ceiling, sticking out of every broken panel on the floor. While the lower decks had taken the brunt of the impact, the sheer force of it was large enough to cause massive damage to an area in one of the highest areas of the ship.
A voice addressed him out of nowhere.
“Welcome back Major. I was worried that you were lost, or worse.” An electronically synthesized voice sounded over the speakers. Wolf recognized the light British accent of his AI companion.
“I'm fine Samantha.”
“You seem hungry. Shall I prepare a meal for you?” Sam continued. Wolf always appreciated her concern for him, but at times it could get annoying.
The mention of food made Wolf remember the food he ate during the war. While the quality of the food aboard the Red Dawn was much higher than that of the battlefield rations, compared to the Equestrian cuisine, it was nothing short of horrible. In his new home now, he had everything he could ever want. So there was no reason for him to return to the Dawn anymore. But he couldn’t just leave it wide open for anyone to enter. The tools of war hidden within it were far too powerful to fall into the hands, or hooves of anything on this particular planet. The secret cargo of her last mission was easily the most powerful creation hidden away in the deep bowels of the ship. That cargo would have to remain hidden and protected at all costs.
“No. Initiate ship lockdown.” Wolf said, fully recognizing what would happen once the order went through. While being one of the smallest ships in the entire Human armada, that didn’t mean her hull wasn’t brimming with some of the biggest guns in the fleet. While the Red Dawn was designed for stealth and speed, that wouldn’t mean much if she couldn’t protect herself.
“Major?” Sam asked. She hadn’t expected him to bark that order at her. He had never ordered a full lockdown before. While he had enacted multiple extreme-situation protocols, full lockdown had never been one of them.
“You heard me Sam. Initiate lockdown.” Wolf said, slightly annoyed by Sam answering him with a question. She had never questioned his orders before. Make smart-ass comments and wicked jokes about them, as well as outright defy them at times, but question them? Never.
“Affirmative. Initiating lockdown.” Sam said, saddened by the fact that Wolf was effectively ordering her to coup herself up in the ship with no contact with the outside world at all. If she didn’t know what Wolf was trying to protect, what was concealed inside her home, she would have defied this order right then.
Wolf was about to leave the bridge, until something out of place caught his eye. Well, something other then the wires, random pieces of metal and chairs. He looked at it more closely. It was an HP-18, the standard issue sidearm of Human military forces. Chambering the standard 10mm sidearm round, it packed heavy firepower into a compact and sturdy shell. It was regarded as one of the most reliable weapons ever created. Wolf picked it the very weapon that had saved him life time and time again, and took out the magazine to see if it was loaded.
Wolf was greeted with the sight of several steel rounds shining in their slots as the remaining lights above illuminated the exposed rounds. Wolf looked near where he found the pistol, and found the extra magazines he had placed there for safekeeping during the crash. They were still in pristine condition, which Wolf was pleasantly surprised to see. That such a small object could survive a crash like that unscathed was remarkable indeed. Wolf put the initial mag back in and gave it a hard slap to make sure it was secure. With a soft click, the safety was turned on. Now at least there was no risk of blowing his own leg off. With a swift motion, the high powered pistol was placed in it’s respective holster. All uniforms were equipped with a sidearm holster. A Wolf put the extra ammo in the bandolier that was strategically placed next to the holster. Once he was certain that all doors were sealed behind him, he quickly left the ship without taking one look behind him. Sam watched him leave in complete silence. Although she wanted to ask him to stay, she knew that she didn’t have that authority. And so Sam was left alone in the empty warship once more. Finding something to occupy her time with now was going to be a time consuming action in it’s own right.
* * * * *
Practically sprinting all the way there within the hour, Wolf was back at the library. He took out the weapon he had retrieved and slid it under the couch. The extra ammunition followed. Once the two items were safe in their hiding place, Wolf then climbed on top of the couch, and promptly went back to sleep again, hoping that his little secret would remain just that…
The following morning....
Wolf woke up bright and early, at the crack of dawn to be exact. He made sure to make as little noise as possible as he left. The last thing he wanted to do was to wake anyone up. Easy enough. He had his fair share of stealth ops during the war. He left the library without a sound. He shut the door as slowly as he could, making almost no noise at all.
* * * * *
Ponyville hospital. It was the first time Wolf had been a guest within it without being gravely injured. He quickly entered the building, looking for Nurse Redheart. He went through the ward he had stayed in, and he found his old bed, now taken. Big Mac was still in the bed right next to his. He wasn't asleep but wide awake, reading a book. He looked up and saw the human standing right next to him., greeting him with a smile
“Everything alright Mac?”
“Good to hear. Hey, have you seen Nurse Redheart around?”
“Eeyup.” Big Macintosh lifted a hoof and pointed straight to her. Wolf could see she was busy however and decided to stay put. until she was free again
“Need some company?”
And so, Wolf began monologuing without any discouragement from Mac. Big Mac said nothing more than the occasional ‘Eeyup’, much to Wolf’s dismay. He finally got fed up with it and made an annoyed sigh.
“You know, a conversation is two sided. You can chime in anytime here…”
Wolf groaned in sheer annoyance, and soon after his hand met his forehead with a loud slap. While he could relate with the strong, silent type, now things were just getting ridiculous. Wolf hoped that this would be over shortly. While his mind was drifting, by some freak accident, his necklace fell out from his extended collar. He could feel the sudden tug at his neck and knew what it was. He wondered how though. Maybe he jerked his head back too hard. He gripped the necklace and lifted it up in front of his face. The green fluorite shard resting in between the warring animals caught a stray beam of light and radiated/refracted into his eye. As hard as Wolf fought to repress the memory, it still broke through his mental roadblock.
- - - - -
Planet Gift, August 13th, 2659,13:42 hrs.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard from all sides. Large spikes were flying all around him as almost everything around him was trying to kill him. As a low wall was crushed next to him Wolf looked to his right. A large tank rumbled past him, crushing everything in front of it under it’s massive treads. It was definitely a Cerberus heavy assault-tank. The Cerberus's main armament, a 210mm cannon, was easily capable of destroying almost any Spinar vehicles put before it, as well as the various 'heavy' bug classes. It's secondary armament, the standard 24mm machine gun, was always more than enough power to mow down most Spinar infantry. This particular tank was painted gray, the standard urban combat camouflage pattern. What use such a large machine could have for camouflage, Wolf didn’t know, and he didn’t care. The damn thing was there, right next to him, blowing every bug it could find back to whatever hellhole they had crawled out of. Amidst the raging gunfire and cacophony of explosions, Wolf could make out a familiar voice calling for him. He turned, and there she was, in full battle armor, M-72 Assault in her hands, running towards him, taking shots at a bunker a kilometer away, was Cougar.
“Come on Wolf! We have to keep moving! You think the tank's going to wait for us?”
Wolf only shook his head as her words finally registered to him.
“I'm coming!” Wolf said and lifted off the ground, still holding his M-72.
As she saw him get off the ground and dusting himself off, Cougar turned and began to run away.
Wolf looked down at the ground for a moment, recollecting his thoughts. A cry of pain echoed in the air, fighting with the sound of the gunfire around it. Wolf looked up in horror. What he saw there only intensified his dread. Lying in front of him, her blood draining from her body and pooling in between the rubble, was Cougar. To his horror, Wolf could see a large spike protruding from her armor.
“COUGAR!” Wolf desperately screamed at the top of his lungs.
He opened fire and emptied his 72-round magazine at the bunker that was still so far away..Once it was empty, Wolf finally tossed it to the ground. As he neared Cougar, he dived and rolled to avoid the Spinar fire. He knelt above Cougar and he yanked her helmet off, letting it bounce uselessly across the battlefield. Much to Wolf’s panicked relief, Cougar was still alive, but desperately gasping for breath.
"Goddamnit Cougar, don’t you leave me too!" Wolf yelled, anger turning to despair.
"Wolf...I'm so sorry..." Cougar replied to him in a defeated voice.
"No, you're going to make it, you hear me?!" Wolf said, despair giving way to sheer determination to keep her alive as long as he could.
"Wolf..." She weakly muttered his name, intent on drawing his attention away from her bleeding wound.
"Damn it, stay with me!" Wolf yelled for one last time, his determination wearing down to unwilling acceptance.
He gazed into her eyes and she could see the terror in his. Doing the one thing she thought was right at the time, she pressed her finger against his lips.
"You always talked too much..."
With her last ounce of strength, and after withdrawing her finger and grabbing the back of his head Cougar lunged forward and kissed him, like she wanted to do for so long now. Wolf was caught completely off guard. He jerked back a little as his eyes shot open, but they slowly began to close again as he returned the kiss. They remained there, their lips locked together in their first....and last embrace. Cougar broke the kiss, smiled weakly...and let go.
- - - - -
Wolf closed his eyes tightly, in pain. Not physical, but a different kind…
Silence ruled over the ward for a moment. Wolf was left staring at his precious necklace. His shoulder suddenly felt heavier, and he looked at it, to find a large red hoof resting on it. The stallion it belonged to had a look of sympathy on his face, like he could feel the pain Wolf was going through or at least understand it.
Before long, Nurse Redheart arrived to check up on Big Macintosh, and found Wolf sitting beside him, holding a strange necklace.
“Well, this is a surprise. Almost get yourself killed again?” Wolf heard a light chuckle both behind him and beside him. Ignoring the chuckling ponies, he stood up and turned around to face Nurse Redheart.
“I left my armor and my rifle here. I was wondering if I could pick them up.” Wolf said, intent on finding his gear. Nurse Redheart put up no resistance to his request.
“Of course, they're over here.”
Nurse Redheart directed Wolf to the corner of the room. There lay his armor, his M-72, and another HP-18, just like he was told. Wolf made a brief inspection of his armor, and much to his dismay, found a large gaping hole on the right side of it, right below the breastplate. It was going to be a bitch to repair...
“We didn't know if we should try to fix it or not. Hope you don't mind.” Nurse Redheart said, hoping that he was pleased. While Wolf wasn’t satisfied with the state of his battle armor, he didn’t feel comfortable letting these ponies get familiar with it. So, in a successful attempt to reassure her, he simply said:
Shattering the peace of the ward into infinite tiny pieces, an orange stallion burst through the hospital doors. He was almost out of breath. The intruding stallion tried to say something, before he collapsed from utter exhaustion. Both Wolf and Nurse Redheart rushed towards him. He was panting heavily.
“Calm down, just calm down! Tell us what happened?”
The fear just kept growing and growing in his eyes, Wolf was suprised at how this stallion managed to blurt out the next three words the said.
He raised his hoof and pointed out a window. With one large jump, Wolf was beside it. He peered out of it, and saw a large cloud of dust rising. He put his helmet on, and after fiddling with the settings, used the visor to zoom in on the cloud. There Wolf saw what could be the harbinger of doom for this unfortunate town. While he found the sight to be somewhat strange, he acknowledged the threat of what appeared to be an approaching horde of fully armored dogs. Wolf immediately adorned his damaged battle armor. Within a few minutes, Wolf was fully armed and ready for battle once more. To the patients resting in their beds, he was an intimidating sight. With the rifle in his hands, he said one thing before bursting out the door, pretty much riding to meet the horde of foes approaching the unsuspecting town.
“Here we go....”
End chapter 4.