Five miles outside Manehattan
The rocking of the ship from its own firepower unbalanced Michael and Ryan’s speed. When a group of seven changelings attempted to stop them from reaching the stern, they were somewhat excited by an intelligent set of combatants. In total contrast to the timberwolves, the changelings fought in no less than pairs to compensate for their fragile, but agile physique.
At great speeds, three attacked Ryan and four to Michael. Ryan spun with his arms extended and at an upward angle, each spin an axe digging itself into and shattering a changeling ribcage hurling them up and off the ship. Michael had only one sword drawn, but believed it would be enough to dispatch the small group of changelings. He slipped under the first two that charged him in the air and shoulder checked the remaining two. Propelled several yards back, the changelings would be dealt with soon. He returned his attention to the two he avoided. They hissed in frustration.
“Right back at you, assholes.” Michael said, hoping it would egg them on and be reckless.
“You got this right?” Ryan said, stanced to help Michael.
“Yeah, just get to the back of the ship.” Michael drew his second sword to replace Ryan’s absence. “I can handle this.” Ryan gave Michael a nod and leapt upward and climbed to a low overhang jutting from the ship’s command deck. This way Ryan could get to the stern without drawing attention.
Michael twirled the swords in each hand, waiting for the next changeling attack. When they charged, he heard the other two he shouldered now recovered and advancing on his position as well. Mid-twirl, he reversed his grip on the sword in his right hand and spun once quickly. The blades followed through the first changeling from each side only to embed themselves into the shoulder blades of the second. They screeched in pain as a purple ooze dripped from the wounds. They knelt from the inability to use one of their front hooves anymore.
Michael withdrew his swords from their bodies. He almost felt remorseful for them when he saw the path his blades took through the first pair of changelings. A clean cut had been made in between the jaws of their two brethren, lopping the top half of their heads clean off. Michael’s hand twitched for a moment, almost losing his composure. But then one of the changelings spoke.
“If you don't kill me now,” he hissed with a grim smile, “I'm going to kill your friends in worse ways than you killed my brothers.” Without a second more, the changeling was dead before he knew it. Michael had instinctively swiped the changeling’s head from his body with his sword as the divider. With the other changeling in submission, it only hissed as Michael drove the sword under the chin and through the skull. The death of all four were quick. Too quick, some might say. But Michael retained the audacity and kindness to end a life quickly to save them from the suffering and fear if your life draining from the mortal realm.
Pulling the sword from the now deceased changeling, he decided to continue to the stern, not wanting to give too much thought to his actions for the greater good.
Ray and Gavin had split from the group to assist where most of the fighting was. Ray felt out of his element, fighting packs and swarms of changelings at once. Thrusts of his estoc struck many changelings, but never truly did fatal damage. Geoff’s words echoed in his head giving him strength to attack with lethal force and accuracy. Gavin perched himself onto the roof of one of the ship’s cabins, launching arrow after arrow to the many changelings zipping through the skies. Occasionally, he would turn his attention to Ray and offer support to his fight.
Underneath Gavin within the cabin, many of the medical corps on the ship remained behind a slightly ajar door, trying to assist their fallen comrades. Any time a medic attempted run out to pull one of their own back to the door and into sick bay, they would be met by a plethora of magical bullets, suppressing their attempts and thus killing their comrade. Luckily, none had been hit just yet, but their commanding officer has ordered them to remain indoors until the opportunity presented itself.
Ray had already noticed this. He leaned back and used the force to kick a changeling he had been fighting hard and overboard. He sprinted towards the ajar door. Slipping inside, the medical corps were startled, thinking it was a changeling. They sighed relief to realize it was only Ray.
“Hey, I see you guys are trying to help your friends out there.” Ray looked among the grouping of medical ponies to see very collected faces. Behind them, more wounded were being brought in by several medics from the direction of the stern. The commanding officer(CO), a clean looking, tangerine stallion with a deep blue mane, spoke on their behalf.
“Yes, but we have no means of protection. The soldiers are too busy defending the ship to worry about defending us.” Ray could see the desire to assist in all of the medics eyes. They wanted to help all of those maimed and/or dying. He knew what he could do to help, but wasn't sure if it was enough. Ray told the truth so that he may retain confidence but not lose sight to arrogance.
“Look, I can try to protect one of you at a time. I can't guarantee your safety-”
“We know the risks.” A medic said from the group of about fifteen stallions and mares just like her. “Just bring any of them to us and we'll do our best.” The mare’s smile reassured Ray, even though he didn't show it. Her zeal was in perfect balance with her and Ray’s expectations.
“Alright,” Ray said, peeking out to the battle-ridden deck, “who volunteers to go?” The same mare that spoke before raised her hoof immediately. Ray gestured for her to come to him.
“The rest of you,” the medical CO said loudly to his unit, “get the infirmary preped for more incoming wounded on the double!” The remaining medics saluted and proceeded to rush around the sick bay, moving dollies full of supplies and medical instruments to different areas. Cots would be set up for those pulled in last or those who are not severely injured.
Ray took a good look at the mare to remember who he is protecting. A unicorn with a blonde mane in a messy bun with a light cream coat with eyes glazed emerald. Medical scrubs hugged closely to her below average frame.
“Look, uh…” Ray twirled his wrist in a questioning manner trying to get her to reveal her name.
“Corporal Keen Heart, at your service.” The mare said with a salute.
“Right. Keen, if we're going to do this, you can't go out like that. If they see that uniform, they're going to overwhelm me just to kill you.” Keen bit her hoof, thinking of a solution.
“Oh! I know!” she enthused after a few seconds, “I can run down to the armory, get a set of light armor, just enough to look like a soldier. They'll think I'm just some random drone and won't pay special attention to me.” Ray peeked out the door again to assess the situation on the top deck. Many on both sides were injured. Changelings and Equestrian soldiers lay randomly strewn about the deck, blood of red and purple mixing to make an almost black substance. Despite this, no side seemed to be apparently losing.
“Alright,” Ray said, still peeking, “but be real quick. Remember that the more ponies we save the more attention we're going to draw to us so we have to be fast.”
“Yes sir!” She said sternly, like a soldier. She bolted through the large infirmary and into a far door to reach the bowls of the airship where the armory was located.
Gavin had been fruitful in defending the bow with the other soldiers on the large air defense guns. Changelings began to thin in the air as many decided to either land on the Restless or to attack her from the bilge. There were still turrets underneath the Restless, but they have been preoccupied by the umbrum army’s magical attacks from the ground since the assault began. These turrets were not built for air-to-air combat. A skilled gunner, however, can use these weapons effectively against any enemy, on the ground or otherwise.
As straggling changelings regrouped with others from the stern for a second wave against the bow, Gavin glanced down towards the bow’s deck. He saw Ray sidestepping alongside what looked like another soldier, as if shielding her. It was then that a stray changeling dove towards Ray, passing Gavin, and began unloading his ammunition reserve onto Ray and the soldier pony. Many shots missed entirely. Occasionally, one or three shots would find its way towards Ray or the pony. Ray, with small flicks of his estoc, would swat these extremely fast moving projectiles in all directions with exquisite sparks blending their colors with reds and oranges of Celestia’s setting sun.
When the small barrage had ended, Gavin could see that the soldier pony Ray was protecting had thrown an injured Equestrian soldier onto her back. Ray and the pony slowly began to escort the injured soldier back towards the cabin Gavin stood upon. The changeling that had tried to gun them down was surprised, to say the least. Before it could break off and alarm a swarm, Gavin took aim and let fly an arrow. The arrow curved its path behind the changeling, severing the joints that connected its wings to the changeling’s back. The wings gently floated downward now disconnected from its host, while the latter plummeted to the earth.
Ray gave a thumbs up to Gavin’s direction while keeping his eyes to the skies. A few other changelings attempted strafe runs on Ray, only to have their attacks be deflected by Ray and then neutralized entirely by Gavin. This rhythm took hold in their defense of Keen as the process was repeated over and over for her and Ray to keep retrieving more injured. Once all of the alive Equestrian soldiers on the bow were safely below, she insisted to her CO to retrieve the injured changelings. Hesitant, the CO allowed it, but requested these injured to be restrained during the process of treatment.
Accepting the compromise, Keen, Ray, and Gavin repeated the same process as before but for the changelings. At this point, it was much easier to transport changelings since they were lighter than normal ponies, and many less were in the skies thanks to Gavin and the anti air crew. Finally, once all of the changelings were below and secured, Keen sat with an exhale.
“Whoo!” she breathed out, “ now that's my PT for the year.” She laughed, unhooking the armor with her magic. Ray stood next to her, helping her unhook the armor. The infirmary had become more populated now that most if the injured had been brought below. “Now I got to get to my real duties, healing these ponies.” The final leg plate of get armor clanged against the ground. She began to redress into her scrubs.
“Don't you think you've done enough today?” Ray implored. Keen’s amber magic finished tying the final knot in her scrub cap.
“Oh no, Ray.” She testified, “a medic’s job is not done while injured remain. Don't worry about me. Get topside and help your friends and mine. Thank you for all your help.” The airship shook from the onslaught of magical spears from the umbrums, thus strengthening Keen’s advice. “Now go!” She turned quickly and sped off to what may have been her assigned squad who seemed to be working on a cut up Equestrian soldier.
Convincing her seemed to be out of the question, so Ray took her advice and returned to the top deck to continue its defense alongside Gavin.
Geoff and Jack had their work cut out for them. With the center of the boat being the most congested, moving injured out of combat was troublesome. The sick bay entrance was at the bow and they could not risk that trip over and over. Instead, they brought them down through an amidships hatch for the sick bay medics to come and transport them to the infirmary. Jack shielded Geoff as he would carry ponies to the hatch. After handing off injured to the medics, Jack would lower his shield to fend off more changelings alongside Geoff.
Geoff and his sword would cut through anything. The blades that extended from the devices on the changelings’ backs would either break or be sliced like butter by the black and lime claymore, depending on Geoff’s angle. Jack, on the other hand, smashed any changeling’s bones to dust with one swing. Their fragile nature made it easy for him to not kill them outright, but to simply incapacitate them. Even though Geoff said not to go easy on them, Jack only crippled the enemy into submission. If, and only if, his or any of his friends lives were in danger would he kill. Geoff didn't admit it to himself, but he was guilty of the same empathy.
Occasionally, Geoff would look over at the Nightingale to get a sense of its state. It wasn't being overrun, but it wasn't doing any better than the Restless. He knew the Dreamwalker would be safe hidden in the clouds, so he didn't bother trying to look past the zeppelin balloon above him. It was then that he witnessed a soldier be shot off of his anti air gun. Geoff quickly sprinted over, Jack hot on his heels. Geoff kneeled over the soldier to examine his vitals. Jack had already shielded Geoff’s rear from any incoming fire or combatants.
“He's gone.” Geoff said, feeling the wound. The magic inside these devices seemed to have a sort of burning effect, as the afflicted area had been charred. Even then, there was an exit wound, implying that the object acting as a carrier for the heat would pierce through the body like a real bullet. If not careful, these things could be more devastating than the Crew treats it.
“What next, Geoff?” Jack yelled over gunfire and swords, yanking Geoff from his analysis. Geoff blinked several times quickly to reassess the situation. One AA gunner is down, leaving starboard side weaker.
“I'm gonna jump on this gun here. Watch my ass.” Geoff yelled, mounting the gun.
“Do you even know how to use that thing?” Jack said, swatting the occasional changeling backwards with his mace.
Geoff started to get a feel for the controls of the gun. He took note of the several controls and heads-up display(HUD) in front of him. An ammunition counter, a range setting, a temperature meter, core stability meter, and other numbers plagued the HUD. The joystick was very large and steering wheel-like. The triggers were oversized for a pony’s hooves to fit and squeeze them. A lever on Geoff’s right with squeeze handle was in the “35” setting, the lowest setting. He deduced that this was the range setter.
“I have no clue, but I think I'm figuring out how it works.” Then Geoff squeezed the large triggers in the direction of a small group of changelings. The large, magical rounds zipped right to them. About three puffs of smoke and the changelings began to fall to the earth. “Holy shit, I think I can get used to this.” Geoff said with a smile, mainly to himself. His control of the weapon became visibly more confident after that first group of changelings. His ability at range finding and setting the range made him an enormous threat to the changelings still in the air on starboard side. His judgement of range hadn't even occurred to him until this moment.
After several minutes of getting a feel for his new skill, the changelings around both ships began to thin greatly. Many tried to swoop in to fight on deck but were shot down immediately. Geoff remained vigilant on the gun. Jack shielded his rear. Michael and Ryan kept the changelings off of the engine at the stern. Gavin and Ray kept changelings from the bow.
A loud bang could be heard. Geoff, being on starboard side, could see what it was immediately. A white flare shot out from the bow of the Nightingale in the direction of Manehattan. The Crew felt the ship they stood on jerk as it began to move forward in the direction of the flare. The Nightingale remained close to Restless’s starboard. Once between the umbrum army and Manehattan, the Nightingale shot out another flare. This one was purple, ejected away from the Nightingale’s port side. Both ships began to rotate their course until their ports’ broadsides were facing towards the umbrum army, starboard towards Manehattan in a defensive position.
Time seemed to stand still for a minute or two. It was all too quiet. The remaining changelings kept massive distance between them and the airships. The umbrums were out of range of the ships, but continued to launch their spears anyways, hoping to strike the ships. Another bang startled the Crew when another flare flew over the umbrum army. Green.
Geoff’s eyes widened. He quickly jumped off the gun and started to run to where the Crew was when the battle began.
“Come on, Jack!” Geoff ordered, weaving around stallions and mares alike. Jack, again, remained closely behind.
Once back to their original spot, Geoff could see his four others running towards him and Jack to regroup. Geoff sighed in relief to see all of them still alive and standing.
“We saw the thing.” Michael said, slowing his run with Ryan to a stop right in front of Geoff. “What now?” Gavin and Ray joined the group a second later. Geoff turned his attention to the flare and let his gaze fall to the umbrum army.
“Luna said that until the green flare goes off,” Geoff said, leaning over the railing, “We shouldn't engage in ground combat. Meaning…”
“We're supposed to fight those umbrum guys down there?” Ryan questioned.
The Crew moved to the railing to get a view of the army overboard. The Restless and Nightingale had done a huge number onto the forces below. The army seemed to be a third of its original size. Umbrum corpses littered the grasslands below in small black and grey patches. The changelings in the air began to retreat towards the army of umbrums. The Nightingale began firing once again at the retreating changelings. Soon, the Restless joined in the firing.
“Seems that we gotta go then.” Geoff said. Suddenly, without question, Geoff vaulted over the railing.
“What the fuck!?” Michael yelled, rushing to the railing, followed by the rest of them.
“Geoff!” Gavin yelled downward. The rest of them could only look. Geoff fell in a controlled manner, feet first. When he came into contact with the ground, a small shockwave protruded from where his feet planted. He stood from his crouched position, unscathed. Looking up, Geoff waved to his friends to do the same.
“Oh fuck that!” Gavin said, backing up from the railing and losing some of his English accent. “That’ll kill me!”
“Okay,” Michael added with a raised eyebrow and growing smile, “that actually looked pretty fucking cool.” Michael backed up for a running start. He sprinted to the railing, planted a foot on the rail and front flipped once. “Ohhh shiiiiiiit!” He screamed, falling to Geoff’s position. Ryan shrugged. He ambled with his hands now stuffed in his pockets. Once stood on the railing, he stepped off as if there were ground to step on. Ray tried to stand on the railing like Ryan, but when he raised his leg to the rail, his foot caught it. He rolled over the rail in an uncontrolled fit.
“Oh fuck me!” He yelled, going overboard.
“Hey Jack?” Gavin said, under his breath. Jack turned to Gavin, laughing to see him holding tightly to a frustrated looking stallion. “You mind taking my bow and being there for me in spirit, Jack? I'm gonna spend time getting to know my new mate here, uh… wot’s your name then?”
“Sergeant Rusty To-” The stallion began monotonously and obviously annoyed, but was interrupted by Gavin’s frantic voice.
“Rusty! My new pal Rusty. So yeah, I'll catch up with you guys later and-” His speech trailed to laughter and whooping noises. Jack had begun to grab Gavin at his sides, tickling him. Gavin slowly lost grip until fully detached from the stallion. Jack secured Gavin over his own shoulder. Gavin flailed furiously. “Hey! Let go a’ me you fat prick!”
“Call me whatever you want,” Jack said, mocking Gavin’s accent, “but you're not staying here, ya ain't, no siree.” Jack leapt clear over the railing and began to fall. Gavin only screamed and made strange bird noises. He shielded his eyes with his hands as well as closed them.
Once on the ground, Jack continued to hold a screaming Gavin. Mid scream, Gavin stopped to open his eyes and look between his fingers. Michael, Ryan, and Ray were all snickering. When Gavin stopped, the snickering turned into guffaws. Jack let a giggling Gavin down onto the ground.
“Ey, it wasn't that bad, lads.” Gavin casually said with wobbling legs.
“We could hear you scream like a little bitch even before Jack jumped.” Michael wheezed out, clutching his stomach from laughter.
“Hey, well at least I Gavin’d the jump for you, Gavin.” Ray added.
“Guys. Stop.” Geoff barked in. The remaining five did just that. When they did, it immediately reminded them why they had jumped in the first place. “Don't forget what we're dealing with here.”
“Right. Sorry, Geoff.” Michael said, slowly drawing his swords from their sheathes. The rest of the Crew mumbled their apologies together, readying their weapons.
Before the Crew was what remained of the umbrum army. A large portion stood ready for orders. The piercing green lights reached from their eyes like spotlights. Their armor already scratched and stained from the airships’ hail of bullets. From the front of the umbrum unit, Sombra himself lead. His jagged teeth had no fear of showing themselves to the Crew.
“So you are the humans meant to oppose me?” Sombra boasted. The gems that sat on his necklace hummed with extreme instability and power. “Only six jokers with ancient relics? Bah. Don't disrespect my abilities.”
“Yeah?” Geoff said, “I've seen fillies do more damage to their classrooms than you could do to a city. If you could've made it to one, that is.” Geoff flicked his thumb towards Manehattan.
“And you think strength must be exhibited through physical means?” Sombra spat, “Typical, pathetic humans.”
“Hey man,” Michael protested, “you're the one that judged us by our looks right off the get go. So I don't know what place you're in to call us pathetic.” Sombra huffed.
“Good observation.” Sombra said, clearly impressed with their ability to show no fear. “Maybe humans aren't so idiotic as the tales say. This makes them much more of a reward to conquer.” Sombra snarled, showing his teeth once more. “If you six could do this much damage, even with those ponies slowing you down, then I can only wonder what the rest of your species is capable of.” Sombra’s snake-like tongue licked his lips, exhibiting his primal nature.
“That's the thing,” Ryan joined in, “our species can't band together against a common threat until it's too late. That's why we're here: to stop you before you even have a chance to try anything.”
“Hmph,” Sombra scoffed, “Well then, I'd like to see your feeble attempt.” The umbrums readied their magical weapons. Spears, pikes, swords, axes, and many alike were materialized. A single, uniform stomp was made by the army to signal each other that they are ready for a charge. It was intimidating, but the Crew stood firm. “You, Gambler.” Sombra lifted a hoof in their direction. The Crew looked amongst each other to see who he was talking about.
“Me?” Geoff questioned, pointing at himself. He assumed the mustache gave that vibe to the blackened stallion.
“Yes.” Sombra responded, drawing out the ‘s’ with a hiss. “Come. Face me. My rabble can squabble with yours. You, however, have piqued my interest. How strong will your minions stand after you are slain?”
“They're not minions.” Geoff firmly stated. “They're much more than friends, even. They're family.” Sombra huffed in disappointment.
“Whoever they are in relation to you is of no importance to me-”
“Yeah, well how about we make it important?” Ryan interjected with a smirk.
“Please,” Sombra yawned, “do not humor me. I'm in no humorous mood.”
“Then let's cut the bullshit.” Geoff defended Ryan, beginning to prowl in Sombra’s direction, sword drawn. Geoff pulled the flare gun from within his trench coat with the opposite hand and quickly shot the flare towards the heavens without removing his glare from Sombra. The flare soared upwards until it bursted with an echoed bang. He tossed the gun aside. “I just want to get rid of you and go home.” Geoff’s voice grew more and more serious as his grip tightened on his claymore.
“If that is true,” Sombra’s horn and gems around his neck began to glow a ghostly green, “then allow me to alter my form to something more...suitable.” Sombra engulfed himself into a black, green, and crimson sphere of what looked to be smoke. Geoff halted his advance to see the result.
The smoke cleared and the pony they saw moments ago had disappeared, only to be replaced by a man. A man bearing the striking resemblance and armor scheme of Sombra. The teeth, the long, flowing black locks of hair, the green-crimson eyes. If it were not for the devilish smile, the horn extending inhumanly from his forehead, and the intense mana emitting from his person, it may have well been a clone. But no, it was definitely him.
“Thought you said humans were pussies.” Ray egged Sombra on. “I guess you wanted something that matched your personality better?” Sombra snarled in Ray’s direction.
“Silence, you insignificant welp!” Sombra yelled, materializing a greatsword in his right hand. The sword appeared to be transparent, but opaque enough to be seen. Its kris design with a saw blade serration on one side gave it an extremely menacing aesthetic. “I may not believe you are the most intelligent of species, but I will say your kind have the most effective frames for combat. The pony form is too limiting. Too easy to kill. But as you said earlier, Gambler,” Sombra steeled himself, ready to pounce, “talk requires no effort and bears no fruit. Let's play.” Sombra exhibited his smaller, but still just as threatening, teeth.
Ray couldn't help but chuckle once at the inside pun. As quickly as the eye could blink, Sombra and Geoff clashed once. They pushed against each other’s blades, waiting for the other to break. The umbrum army charged around Sombra and Geoff’s duel towards the Crew.
The Crew held their ground, picking their targets carefully. Suddenly, a set of loud hums could be heard from behind them. Ryan and Ray instinctively moved to the rear of their group to eliminate whatever threat closed in on their backs. They were relieved to see small skiffs of recognizable ponies from the Restless hovering, then landing on the ground to backup the Crew. Few pegasi flew in formations above. They donned the changelings weaponry to maintain air superiority. Earth ponies and unicorns charged for the umbrum army to hold the battle from seeping towards Manehattan. The Crew, now reinvigorated by the support, charged along with the ponies.
With combat raging all around them, Sombra and Geoff were locked in a dance of death. When a blade would strike, the opposing party would deflect, parry, or simply block the attack. Sombra’s human form proved to be troublesome for Geoff. Giving himself superhuman speed and strength, Sombra enjoyed their duel. Geoff, on the other hand, was worried that he may not keep up at some point. It was as if every strike Sombra delivered became faster than the last. In contrast to his army of umbrums and changelings, his attacks held form and structure. It may have been due to his royal background to learn how to duel, but something was different. His style was too… modern? Geoff pondered this as much as he could between attacks. One last clash of swords, as they both held their ground. Staring into one another’s eyes, they both had the exact same thought:
Something’s not right here…
Sombra fell too deep into thought while Geoff capitalized. He brought his elbow up to meet Sombra’s nose. It made solid contact as multiple audible cracks could be heard. The hard nasal bone in the bridge of Sombra’s nose had bent inward, sharp and quick. It penetrated upwards and skimmed his skull. Dazed, Sombra stumbled backward trying to regain his composure. Before he could, Geoff advanced while he had momentum in the fight.
At this moment, the Elements arrived to complete the spell alongside Luna. The Crew had been scattered along the battlefield, helping where they could. Once the Elements made their entrance, the Crew retreated one by one to regroup with the Elements. By the time they began their retreat, it was too late. A bellowing of agony could be heard. Each AH member stopped dead in their tracks. They each rerouted their course to the center of the battlefield to see the source of the roar. Once the scene came into view, the sight was one to behold.
The air seemed to swirl around Geoff and Sombra as they stood extremely close to one another. A closer look could show that Sombra had been impaled by Geoff’s claymore. The blade pierced entirely into Sombra, evident with his chest making contact to the claymore’s guard. Sombra’s grip on his sword loosened until it fell with the blade sticking itself into the earth.
“Fuck the spell.” Geoff said, loud enough for only Sombra to hear. The sword had passed through Sombra’s diaphram, leaving him incapable of breathing correctly to speak. He could only make small grunts of pain, ironically shortening his breath. “Just go away from us.”
Geoff placed his left arm to Sombra’s neck for support. He withdrew the blade from Sombra’s chest, blood spilling from both the entry and exit wounds. Sombra, barely conscious from inadequate oxygen intake, slowly clutched his entry wound with one hand. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as he fell forward. Geoff stepped out of his way to allow him to fall in one swoop. When he connected with the earth, Sombra lay still.
Geoff did not let his guard down. With the fight over, he decided it was best to eyeball the humanized corpse of Sombra to be sure that his death was absolute. No rise or fall of the chest. Eye movement was non existent. Geoff knelt to feel for Sombra's pulse on his wrist, which returned unresponsive. As Geoff began to wonder the purpose of the scrolls and their power being in their hands for such a simple battle, he was interrupted by a distant war horn. He stood, taking his eyes off Sombra to locate the horn’s origin.
In the distance, a third airship was making its way into the battlefield’s airspace. Cadence’s cutie mark was made visible on the zepplin as it approached. The reinforcements to Equestria had finally arrived. Sure they arrived late, but they were here nonetheless. The fighting continued to rage around him and the Crew. The umbrums, loyal to Sombra’s will to their dying breath, continued to fight. The ponies without the Crew, however, began gaining the upper hand on their own. The Crew, Mane 6, and Luna crept up to Geoff and the corpse to get a better view.
“Something… does not seem correct.” Luna worried, examining Sombra’s corpse.
“So I wasn't the only one, hunh?” Geoff questioned.
“I-Is he… d-d-dead?” Fluttershy shuttered, almost crying.
“Hmmm,” Luna enclosed the corpse in her magical, starry glow. The glow remained for about a minute, everyone at the edge of their seat waiting for her response. “His vitals have been halted, no brain activity, yet, there is one thing we have yet to conclude.”
“What would that be?” Geoff asked, unable to control his instincts. His head remained on a swivel. Luna’s uncertainty began to trigger short-term memories of the duel that took place only minutes before.
“King Sombra had attained a power greater than any mage in Equestria’s history.” Luna explained, now eyeing the necklace that remained in its normal place. “If this were true, his abilities could have even surpassed that of alicorn capabilities. So why was he slain so easily?”
The Crew and Mane 6 were confused, to say the least. Sombra was confident prior to the fight, so there could be no way he faltered at such a crucial moment. He attacked in a uniform manner with a hint of ferocity, so he obviously intended to win. The confusion begins with that there was no struggle in the final blow dealt by Geoff. Such determination at the beginning, all to just slow himself to die in the end?
The thoughts swirling within all of their heads had come to an abrupt stop when a rip in mid air began to appear over Sombra’s corpse. Geoff recoiled and jumped back in utter surprise. He regrouped with his friends, making their group in full attendence. The rip extended to about twenty feet high before it spread open. The same green and red fog of mana would pour from it as from Sombra’s eyes. Once open, a terrible sight played before them through this rip. A city on a planet foreign to Equus burned in the same manner as Fillydelphia. Changelings zoomed across the rip wreaking havoc on the rather large city. Umbrums marched through the city’s streets, ruthlessly slaying the alien looking people. Then, the unexpected occurred. To all, except Luna and Geoff, the sight seemed to be blatantly impossible.
Sombra had strode into frame of the rip with the same glowing crystals as before around his neck. He stared into the rip straight at the large group with a mischievous smile. The Mane 6 were struck with fear but stood tall while the Crew only gritted their teeth in anger at his deceiving clone. He strode through the rip alone, leaving his armies behind on the other world. As soon as his whole body had passed through, Geoff realized what was bothering him during the fight with Sombra’s double.
“You wish for me to go away from you,” Sombra spoke, mainly to Geoff, “yet you try to kill me by such simple means.” He tsked. “Oh you humans are quite the delight.”
Geoff could feel the energy radiating from Sombra’s direction first. Luna felt it soon after, then Twilight, then everybody else. Geoff felt no fear, despite the crushing gaze Sombra lay on their entire group. The Mane 6 were not so lucky in the strength category however. Fluttershy cowered in the back of the group behind a lightly sweating Applejack, Rarity began to shiver, Rainbow’s forelegs felt weak at Sombra’s sheer presence, and Pinkie’s plastered smile melted into a face of concern for her friends. She taught them many years ago to laugh in the face of danger, but this threat was indeed one to fear.
“That clone of yours,” Geoff pointed, “I could tell it wasn't you. The way it fought was nothing like the history books described your fighting style.” Sombra raised his eyebrow in surprise. Even Michael glanced at Geoff to make sure it was really him. Geoff’s time with Twilight when not on Applejack’s fields, unbeknownst to the Crew, gave him time to study up on their enemy. He learned many things about this universe’s Sombra. Some things outside of Michael’s knowledge even.
“I'm flattered.” Sombra drawled, “You know about my past. Then you of all humans and ponies should understand my pain. To have my subjects ripped from my hooves in my quest for power to protect them is a crime! Mutiny is what the Royal Sisters enacted on my throne!” He began to yell. Luna reeled back in bafflement. Before she could retort, Geoff raised his palm in her direction.
“He’s right, in a way.” Geoff said to Luna, not looking in her direction. “You both did end up putting Cadence to replace him. The crystal ponies were not pleased at first. Generations later, they had forgotten Sombra was their ruler.” He looked Luna dead into her eyes. “And that is how you make a good person into a resentful one.” Luna was wide eyed at Geoff’s venomous words, but then succumbed to the truth of the matter. Her lack of response meant to Geoff that he was correct in his hypothesis.
“Ah haa,” Sombra sighed, “look how the Princess of Night realizes her apathy towards another noblepony.” Geoff interrupted his teasing.
“And if you truly cared for your ponies, you wouldn't be trying to destroy them.”
“Those insolent ponies hold no love for me!” Sombra snarled. He began tracing his eyes upwards, “Which reminds me…”
The crystal empire’s airship hovered opposite the battlefield from the Nightingale and Restless. The battlefield had grown quiet during their exchange. Geoff hadn't noticed until now that the fighting ceased when Sombra made his entrance. The umbrums stopped dead in their tracks to bow to Sombra. The Equestrian soldiers only stood and stared at the sight, confused. Sombra’s eyes directed attention to the airship. The Crew and Mane 6 followed his gaze as the airship named Opal as it began to open fire onto the battlefield, massacring Equestrian soldiers who were not quick enough to raise shields. The larger weapons and broadsides of the Opal fired on the Restless and Nightingale. The airships were pushed in Manehattan’s direction from the force exerted by the Opal. Her firepower was evidently tearing the Restless and Nightingale apart. The Mane 6, Crew, and Luna dropped their jaws in disbelief.
“Now before you think the Crystal Empire had a change of loyalties,” Sombra stepped to his side with a hoof lifted to his fallen human form, “I will let this explain to you, Gambler, why you felt that this combatant wasn't truly me and why the Crystal Empire is under my control once again.”
Black smoke blanketed the corpse in the grass. The smoke swirled and twisted for a moment, until it dissipated. A lone stallion lay in its place. Geoff looked closely at it. The stallion was unfamiliar with its ice white coat to Geoff or the Crew, except Michael. Geoff’s eyes widened, stricken with grief, the next moment when he heard a voice choke from behind him.
“Sh-Shining…?” Twilight whimpered.