I'm a student at DigiPen with some skills in music, art, programming, and particularly writing. I've written a variety of fanfics, usually involving ponies in some form or another.
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by: Sergeant Buck
Chapter 1: Night Terrors
Smoke trailed from the burning remnants of Ponyville as Applejack and Spitfire crept from building to building. The frontal assault on the Silver Knight platoon went swimmingly until they brought in their tanks. Outgunned and surrounded, the only chance that they stood was to sneak out of the town and into the hills. Their ragtag battalion was either dead or had deserted by now. Applejack had hoped that the Celestial Resistance would be made of tougher stuff.
"How you holdin' up, Spitfire?" Applejack asked the pegasus.
"I'm okay, you?"
"Just glad to be alive."
Heavy metal boots slammed upon the ground as a Silver Knight fire team passed by their hideout. Applejack gripped her shotgun tightly as she waited for them to pass. When the marching passed, she popped up and looked around before spotting an anti-air emplacement on the hill overlooking the square. Last that they heard, the Knights had a bomber inbound to wipe out what remained of the Resistance.
"Spitfire, you think you could make it to that AA cannon if I can distract 'em?"
Applejack stood up from behind the crumbling low wall and let out a holler before opening fire on the enemy infantry. "You want me, buncha dumb Silverheads? Come and get me!"
Spitfire dove out the back door and shot into the sky, raining lead on the AA nest with her assault rifle as her squad mate pelted the infantry with buckshot. As the pegasus rotated the machine gun to face the hostile infantry pinning her friend down, she saw a large aircraft approaching above the horizon, no doubt a low-altitude bomber looking to make a pass over the ruined village.
She aimed the cannon skyward and opened fire, washing the aircraft with high velocity anti-vehicle rounds. The pegasus cheered as one of the aircraft's engine's burst into flame, sending it plummeting to the ground in a ball of blue fire. Applejack let out a happy yell as the bomber's payload detonated, intensifying the explosion.
As the hostile fire team turned to run, Applejack fired at them again. All four of the armored ponies dropped, one still rasping as he began to slowly bleed out.
"Well, it looks like I got y'all," said Applejack to the dying stallion. "Mind tellin' me if there's any other friends of yours runnin' about?"
"You can't win," the Knight coughed. "Lady Millennia will take this land from you and your country ilk, and she will reign supreme over all of ponydom."
She pressed the barrel of the shotgun to his chest. "They teach y'all that in the army, Silverhead? I ain't gonna ask again. Where'd your friends go?"
The knight pointed a shaking hoof off to the east. Applejack's stomach twisted into a knot when she realized the soldier was pointing towards Sweet Apple Acres. Home.
A single shotgun blast penetrated the air and Applejack shouldered her weapon, galloping towards her farm as fast as she could.
They may have taken Ponyville from me and driven my friends away, but I ain't lettin' 'em take my farm.
"AJ, where are you going" Spitfire shouted after her. The orange earth pony didn't stop running. She kept going, her mind racing with everything single thing that those damned Silverheads could be doing to her farm. It wasn't long before Spitfire was flying beside her.
"What's with you all of a sudden?" Spitfire asked.
"They sent some troops to Sweet Apple Acres," Applejack replied. "We gotta stop 'em!"
As she approached the gate to the farm, she slowed down and drew her revolver. Everything seemed too quiet, too perfect. Maybe that Knight gave her that tip to throw her off? Her fears were confirmed when the barn erupted in flames. She made out some figures silhouetted against the light of the fire, a team of Silver Knight firebugs, heading towards the north field of the orchard.
"Spitfire, go up high and give me some air support! They're gonna try torchin' the trees!"
"Aye aye, Sergeant!" the pegasus replied. Applejack moved towards the Knights, pointing her sights at the one in the middle. A pyro should know better than to let his friends surround him, especially while wearing a fuel tank.
The earth pony took careful aim and fired, her shot answered by an explosion and the cries of stallions coated in napalm. As she moved forward, Spitfire finished off the the stragglers with a burst from her assault rifle.
"See any more?" Spitfire called out.
"Nuh-uh," replied Applejack. "But they won't be comin' back anytime soon! Radio the Commander and tell him we got the farm and Ponyville locked down and the rest of the troops can move up."
Applejack surveyed what remained of her farm. The barn was torched, which would be expensive to replace but not impossible. The small house she'd grown up in was still intact, and she was damn lucky that the Silverheads didn't get to her apple orchard. If that went up in smoke, it was all over.
"Uh, Sergeant, I have some bad news," said Spitfire.
"What is now? Reinforcements ain't comin'?" Applejack frowned. Spitfire held up the radio, which was broadcasting a single transmission on loop.
"To all Celestial Resistance soldiers, you are hereby ordered to lay down arms and surrender to the Silver Knights. Canterlot has fallen. I repeat, Canterlot is under the control of Millennia..."
Applejack's heart dropped like a lead weight. No, it can't be over. Not like this.
"It ain't fair!" Applejack shouted "You and I singlehoofedly wiped out the Silverhead battalion and just like that, we're done? It can't be!"
Back towards Ponyville, thunder shook the ground as three more Hurricanes passed over Ponyville, reducing what remained of her home to smoldering ashes. Tears welled up in her eyes as Applejack thought about everything she'd lost. Her family and friends were gone, scattered across Equestrian Space in a now-futile attempt to avoid Millennia's iron hoof.
"What do we do now, Sergeant? Give up?"
"No," said Applejack. "We run."
...Three Years Later...
Applejack leaned against the open cargo bay of her Firesprite-class ship, the Reprisal. Her grassy green eyes scanned the bustling crowd of the Harvest spaceport for the three ponies with her delivery. She'd been waiting on them to arrive for almost an hour now, and if there was one thing she hated it was delayed shipments. Late shipments meant late departures, and late departures meant less money coming to her crew. She went back to her chair and threw on her midnight blue duster.
Spitfire hovered up beside her. "Still waiting on the shipment to come in?"
"Yeah," said Applejack. "Ten minutes and then we're pullin' out. Trixie can find somepony else to deliver her stolen apples."
Stolen apples, Applejack thought. Why in the hay would Trixie need to steal a shipment of apples? I guess the freeze dried stuff that they get on Solstice just ain't cuttin' it.
"With all due respect, Captain, she's paying us a lot just to get these three crates of fruit to her."
She couldn't argue with Spitfire there. It was no secret that they'd been hard up for bits, especially after Twilight had to replace those engine parts.
"Fine then, we'll make that another hour," Applejack said. "Could prob'ly find somepony to fill that spare bunk of ours, make us a little extra money. I'm gonna go out for a mug of cider, so you're in charge 'til I'm back, 'kay? Gimme a holler if somepony takes us up on the bunk."
"Aye aye, ma'am."
Applejack joined the throngs of ponies in the spaceport and wandered for a bit, thinking about how her friends, now the hard-working crew of her ship, had defaulted to calling her "Captain." She never recalled making any decision to be the captain of the Reprisal, but she guessed that Spitfire just got so used to calling her "ma'am" from the war that the title stuck. Rainbow Dash was the pilot, so in her mind it made more sense for Dash to be the captain.
She ducked into a bar and passed a few Silver Knights loitering outside. They gave her duster a look but never went after her. Applejack took a seat at the bar, soon to be greeted by a scruffy looking stallion cleaning out a glass.
"What'll it be, missy?" he asked her in a gruff tone.
"Tall mug o' cider, double."
The stallion went to the end of the bar and filled a mug with cool, foamy cider before sliding it down to her. The earth pony stopped the mug with her hoof and tipped it back, downing the drink in one gulp. Still didn't beat a mug of the stuff she used to make. Behind her, a drunken young colt tapped on his glass.
"Everypony, if I can just git yer 'tenshun pleeze," he slurred around a hiccup or two. "I'd like ta porpoise a toast to da three year ann'versry of Lady Millennia crushing them damn Resistance...uh...losers!"
A hearty round of applause resounded throughout the bar. Applejack ignored the drunk and slid her mug back, motioning for a second drink. As the bartender returned the drink, the colt staggered over and intercepted it. Applejack stared at the bar, trying her best not to buck this foolish colt in the face.
The drunken pony eyed her suspiciously. "Yer wearin' one 'a them jackets. Yer a Nightcoat, ain't ya? A lowlife, scumsuckin' Resistance vet sore over havin' yer flank kicked to Canterlot by a reel milit'ry, right?"
"Do yourself a favor," said Applejack as she took her second drink. "Shut up."
"Why?" he challenged. "Make me shut up, Nightcoat!"
Fair enough. Applejack jumped down from her stool and turned around, presenting her hind end to him as she began to walk away. The inebriated colt began following her.
"Hey lissen, Nightcoat! I'm talkin' ta ya!"
Applejack's legs shot out from beneath her duster, catching him squarely in the jaw. The entire bar fell silent as the colt hit the polished wood floor, out cold from the force of her powerful kick. She placed her tab's worth of bits on the bar and walked out.
"I told you to shut up," she said to the unconscious pony. "It ain't it that hard to listen."
A lone mare, white coat with her powdery pink mane tied into a bun, emerged from the crowd towards the cargo bay of the Reprisal and made her way towards Spitfire, who was happily taking a nap in a folding chair.
"Pardon me," the earth pony said softly. Spitfire opened one eye and let out a yawn as she stretched her wings.
"What can I do for you?" the pegasus asked. "Looking to leave Harvest?"
"Yes, I am," the white mare replied. "I need a large ship to accommodate some precious cargo of mine, then I need to get to Equinox as soon as possible. I can pay whatever the fee is for passage, I just need to get away from here."
Spitfire stood up from her chair. "What size of cargo are we talking?"
"Oh, not large. A few bags and a large crate with some...personal effects."
"Sounds good to me. We're still waiting on a shipment to come in, but we'll be glad to have you aboard, Miss..."
"...Redheart. Nurse Redheart, actually."
Applejack returned to her ship just as the stallions were dropping the crates she'd been waiting all day for.
"Took y'all long enough, didn't it?" she snapped. "I've been here all day and now you show up. What kept y'all?"
"Take it easy, Captain," Spitfire said as she secured the crates of apples. "They only just showed up. Apparently, they had a bit of a hitch with security but the guards laughed at the idea of stolen apples. They're all here, three boxes of a hundred Red Delicious apples vacuum-sealed for delivery to Trixie on Solstice."
"Finally, we can get off this damned rock. I'll give Dash the order to take off. You go check with Twilight to make sure she got those spare parts ordered. We're supposed to get those when we land in the next port."
"Can do, Captain. Oh, and we picked a up a new passenger, a nurse from Ponyville. Does the name 'Redheart' sound familiar to you?"
Applejack stopped, tapping her hoof against her chin. "Name rings a bell, but in any case if she's a refuge from Ponyville she's welcome aboard my ship. Where's she at? I wanna say hi."
"She's in her bunk taking a nap at the moment, but she should be awake later."
"Alrighty, then. I'll be on the bridge. Holler if you need me."
The earth pony made her way to the bridge to find her cyan friend lounging in the pilot's chair.
"Okay then, RD," the Captain said. "We're all set to take off. Crates are loaded and the door's locked up."
"Ugh, finally!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "I've been laying here all day waiting for those bums to bring those boxes in. Solstice, here we come!"
The ship quaked as the jets began to warm. Applejack hoped Twilight had ordered those parts while they were still planetside. The radio always tended to get choppy once they left a planet's orbit. A new comms system probably wouldn't be a bad thing to invest in either.
In a matter of minutes, the Reprisal left Harvest's spaceport, rising up and into the black of space with a course for Solstice. If all went as planned, they'd be there in four days, maybe three if they burned an extra hundred gallons or so of fuel. More money spent that they didn't have, at least not until they had the apples dropped off. It'd be nice to have some bits in the bank for once in a long while.
As the Reprisal broke Harvest's atmosphere, a small blue light began pulsing on the ship's antiquated communications array.
"Incomin' message?" Applejack said aloud. "Who in the hay is callin' us already?"
Applejack queued up the video system to see the smug grin of their employer beaming at her. "Oh, it's you."
"Applejack!" the powder blue unicorn exclaimed as she ran a brush through her mane. "It's been quite a while since we last exchanged words."
"What is it this time, Trixie?" she asked. "We got the shipment you wanted us to pick up, so what's the call for? Forget your magic wand or somethin'?"
"I was just calling to see how soon you'd get here. I'd like those apples as soon as possible, if you wouldn't mind. They don't keep forever, but of course you'd know that. You are the Apple Expert, after all."
"According to the nav it'll be four days before we hit Solstice," Rainbow Dash chimed in. "Good enough for you?"
"No, that's just too long. Could you possibly make the trip in two days? Maybe even tomorrow?"
Applejack rubbed at her temple as Trixie's lilting voice grated on her nerves. "You listen to me now, Trixie. Distance is distance and there ain't no way of gettin' around that. If we're gonna be doublin' our speed, you better have a nice bonus waitin' for us to compensate for fuel."
"Very well, if that's how you're going to play it. How's this for a bonus then? If you're not here in two days maximum, you won't be paid. You know how I am, Applejack. I always get what I want."
Without another word, the video cut into static. Applejack stood silently, staring out into space before giving the console a swift kick and denting the metal plating.
"Hey, careful!" Rainbow Dash said. "You remember how long it took to fix the last panel."
"Stuck up, selfish, no good..." the earth pony mumbled. "Who in Luna's name does she think she is, changin' our schedule like that and makin' us burn more fuel? I hope she chokes on one of the apple cores or gets cyanide poisonin' from the seeds."
"No sweat, AJ!" said Dash. "I can get us to Solstice in two days easy. It's not like I've never pulled an all-nighter before."
"I ain't worried about you," Applejack said. "It's the Reprisal I'm worried 'bout. We've been barely scrapin' by on parts for the last year. Twilight's been doin' her best to keep her fixed up and all, but it ain't gonna be long before somethin' important somewhere burns out."
The earth pony began walking towards the door. "I think I'm gonna go lie down. Call me if somethin' comes up, would you?"
Dash raised her hoof in a mock salute. "You got it, Captain."
Applejack kicked open the hatch to her bunk and tossed her Stetson on the hanger before discarding her duster on the bed. She stared back at herself in the mirror, running a hoof through her blonde mane before rubbing her cheek and laying on her bed, her mind slowly sinking back to the war and how she ended up becoming a smuggler instead of a farmer. A picture of the Apple family sat on her nightstand and she gazed longingly into her lost younger sister's orange eyes. The earth pony let out a sigh and closed her eyes.
Applejack was at home on the family farm, her mother and father sitting beside the fireplace watching her baby sister crawl after the ball she'd be bouncing around for a few minutes now. She couldn't believe that Apple Bloom had been with them for only a month now.
"Mamma," she said. "Where's Mac? Doesn't he wanna come play with Apple Bloom?"
"Jackie, your father had a few chores for him to do."
"But it's gettin' dark out."
"Don't worry," her father said as he hung up his Stetson hat. "He'll be along soon enough."
As the orange filly went back to playing with her little sibling, a hoof tapped on their front door. Her father stood from his chair and went to the door. He froze as the doorway revealed a stallion in a black hat and cape. An eyepatch bearing a skull and crossbones and a black bandana obscured his face.
"Russet Apple," he growled. "We got some business to talk about."
"Autumn, take the fillies upstairs," he said harshly.
"What's going on, dear? Who's at the door?"
"Autumn Gold, do as I say."
As their mother hurried them up the stairs, Applejack couldn't help but wonder what was happening. Their mother herded them into Applejack's bedroom.
"Now listen to me, Applejack," her mother said sternly. "You need to stay here with Apple Bloom, okay? Don't come out until I come and get you two."
"Mamma, what's going on?" she asked. "Who's that strange stallion downstairs?"
"Just stay here," she said. "I love you three very much and I don't want anything to happen to you."
"What about Mac?"
"He'll be okay in the barn, just stay here and keep Apple Bloom safe."
Her mother kissed Applejack on the forehead and gave little Apple Bloom a peck on the cheek before closing the door behind her. Applejack held her sister tight, listening for her mother's hoofsteps on the hardwood floor. She heard three voices arguing about something, picking out the sounds of her mother and father but the third voice sounded unfamiliar. What were they arguing over?
Suddenly, the three voices fell silent and Applejack though she heard a click. A shot echoed from downstairs, causing the filly to grip her sister tighter as her mother let out an ear-piercing shriek. A second crack of thunder later, the scream was cut off. Her stomach twisted into knot as she slowly crept towards the door.
"Stay here, Apple Bloom," she said with a trembling voice. "I'm gonna see what's going on."
Worry was written all over the pony's face as she descended the stairs, her voice no more than a whisper as she called for her mother.
"Mamma? Papa?" she said, voice shaking. Only a breeze through the open door answered her.
She rounded the corner and stopped. Her brother stood in the doorway, jaw agape as he nuzzled the arm of his motionless father. Applejack slowly walked towards her mother and lay beside her. Her vision grew hazy as the room began to blur into a mess of green, yellow, gold, and red. Her muzzle touched the cheek of her lifeless mother, a foreign cold greeting her instead of a warm, soothing feel.
"Mamma," she pleaded between sobs. "Wake up. Please, wake up."