From Beyond The Stars

by ThatPonyWithTheFace



I hid behind a maintenance panel in the tunnel wall, holding my breath as the Clicker passed. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest, deafening in the darkness. I needed to escape, get away from this thing. But I couldn’t. The Clicker was right outside my hiding place. I checked my hoofgun for the hundredth time, but it was no less broken than before. As far as I could tell, the plasma spike from that damn Clicker’s rifle had melted through the casing and essentially welded the action closed. I was almost thankful. If the gun hadn’t been there that shot would’ve taken my hoof off.

It did, however, still leave me with the problem of the Clicker outside. Without the hoofgun, I had no way to fight him off. That left me with two options. Make a break for it and try to catch the fucker by surprise, or try and sneak my way out. I decided that I’d wait until he passed in front of me again, and then try to hit him with the door of my hiding spot. While the Clicker recovered, I’d sprint left down the corridor, up the access stairs to the generator level and from there out the same passageway I came in from. I reached up a hoof and pulled my silver crescent moon pendant from the neck of my combat barding and gave it a little kiss. I was going to need all the luck I could get.

I shifted as slowly and silently as I could and placed my rear hooves against the door. I braced my back against the breaker panel behind me, wincing as the sharp metal of a broken switch dug into my already injured wing. I sucked in a breath and held it, gathering my strength, feeling the muscles in my legs tense. There was a moment of absolute silence in the darkness, a split second of calm where even my frantic heart seemed to almost stop.

And that’s when I heard it.

Behind the soft clicks and hisses from the Clicker in front of my hiding place was another sound. It was low, barely audible.

Sssnick-clack... Sssnick-clack…Sssnick-clack.

I let out a shuddering breath and gently pulled my rear hooves back, curling up between the switches and the panel, my heart hammering in my throat like a frightened rabbit. In that moment of quiet, what I had heard was dragging steps of another clicker. There was more than one in the passage now, at least two. The face of my combat trainer drifted up in front of me, solid and oaken, blood-red coat and crew cut mane framing the words from one of the multitude of lessons I’d been forced to endure during training.

Clickers hunt in packs.

I mentally kicked myself. Stupid mistakes in the field can get a pony killed. Everypony knew these fucking lizards traveled in packs. How in Celestia’s name could I have forgotten something so freaking simple? I turned and softly twisted myself around so I was lying with my head against the panel. I needed to know exactly how many I was up against. I knew as long as I didn’t make any noise I’d be fine. Clickers are blind. They hunt by smell and hearing alone. I gently pushed open the door and got my first good look at the Enemy.

I could make out three of them in the dim emergency lighting. They stood tall on two legs, rising a few inches higher than even the largest of the earth ponies. They were slender, narrow, and almost skeletal. Their heads were rectangular, tapering and narrowing to a long muzzle. Where their eyes should have been were only indentations covered over in the same sickly grey scaly hide as the rest of them. A ridge of feathers extended back from above where their eyes should have been, down their necks to the join with their shoulders. They had long, S-shaped necks curving down to strong, muscled shoulders. Their torsos were long, wider at the shoulders and hips. Their legs were long and slender, covered in corded, wiry muscle and bent back like an ostrich’s. They ended in wide, four-taloned feet, with three massive hooked claws at the front and one, longer than the others, in the back for balance. Their arms hung low, ending in long-fingered multi-jointed hands. Their tails stretched behind them and dragged on the floor. They wore strange, almost chitinous armor, and their arms cradled short, ugly plasma rifles. Their jaws moved up and down rapidly, teeth clacking menacingly. The smell of rotten meat clung to them like a second skin.

I slowly pulled the panel back into place. I felt bile rising in my throat and fought to contain my revulsion. I had seen pictures. I had watched the videos. I had heard the stories. But nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for how stunningly ugly these creatures were. I had never before in my life seen something that absolutely screamed “evil” the way these things did. With a start, I realized that I was trapped.

I curled into a ball and sat in the access box silently, listening to the squeaks and chatters from the corridor outside. I was stuck here until they moved on. I had to hope that would be soon. This was supposed to be a simple supply run, a walk in the park. I was due to check in in half an hour. If I missed my detail assembly, they’d send somepony looking for me. They knew where I was. The problem arose from the fact that they didn’t know there were Clickers in the tunnels under the hospital I had been sent to. If I didn’t find a way to get out of here and back to base to report in, ponies would die trying to find me.

That was the rule, after all. Nopony gets left behind. Stallion, mare, or foal, it didn’t matter. All of us would risk our lives to save another. Whether we loved them or hated them, nopony gets left behind. But I simply couldn’t allow others to risk their lives to save me. If I died because of a stupid mistake, it would be no less than I deserved. My only choice was to sit and hope they moved on.

So I sat there and I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, it seemed like the coast was clear. There were no more noises from outside. The only sounds to be heard were the dripping of water and my own breathing. I lifted my head and ever so slowly nosed open the hatch. It was almost open wide enough for me to slip through when suddenly the hinges, stiff from disuse, gave a horrible, rusty shriek.

From the right of me came a very distinctive hiss.

Oh, horseapples.

I planted my rear hooves against the switchboard behind me and pushed off, slamming open the hatch with my shoulder as I leaped from my hiding place. There was a horrible, resounding crunch as the steel panel connected with the nose of the Clicker.

I hit the ground hard at the same time as the Clicker and didn’t slow down. I stumbled to my hooves and galloped down the corridor as fast as I could. Pipes and walls flashed by, other corridors branching away from the one I was in. From behind me came a sound like a cross between a shout and a hoarse cough. It echoed through the maintenance tunnels bouncing and reflecting off the walls. The Clicker behind me was warning its mates that I was escaping.

Ahead of me the tunnel turned sharply. I knew that around the corner was the staircase that would take me up to my escape route. I was still about fifty feet away when one of the other two Clickers rounded the corner and let loose with his plasma rifle. I skidded to a stop as the hallway filled with garish pink light. The heat seared my coat as the projectiles augered through the air, passing close enough to touch. I twisted and ran back down the way I had come, hugging the wall as plasma bolts slammed into the concrete floor. One lucky shot nailed a pipe in front of me, the metal bubbling and dissolving and unleashing a cloud of steam that burned as I passed through it. On the other side of the cloud, I finally spotted one of the side halls I had passed earlier on my dash through the tunnels. I dove around the corner as a shot from the Clicker burrowed into the concrete where I had just been standing.

My heart hammered faster and my breath came in gasps, but I kept going. Adrenaline and fear can be a potent combination. Everything became utterly clear. I could smell the odors of machine oil, steam, and rotting flesh. I could feel the sweat matting my coat beneath my armor, and every little irregularity in the concrete underhoof. Obstacles came at me at half the speed of life. It was exhilarating, and absolutely, unimaginably terrifying. I slid underneath a low-hanging pipe and slingshotted my way around another corner. I had to find another stairwell up to the next level, but I had no time to stop and read the signs. Still I kept hearing the shrieks and cries from all around, the wicked acoustics of the tunnels making it impossible to tell if I was running away from the hunters or right into their arms.

The tunnel ahead of me turned yet again. It was still some distance away, however. I nearly flew down the corridor, my hooves thundering on the cracked and stained concrete. I spotted a sign hanging above the turn in the tunnel. I squinted and saw that it read “STAIRCASE 3-B”. My heart leapt into my throat yet again. I was almost there! I redoubled my efforts, pushing harder.

A Clicker with a crushed and bloodied snout leapt around the corner, slamming into the wall and bouncing off to face me. It cocked its head, and I swear the fucking thing looked at me. It opened its jaws and hissed, revealing row after row of razor-sharp serrated teeth, like a mouth full of daggers. Time seemed to elongate, stretch like taffy. I saw everything in slow motion. I watched as the monster leveled its rifle, saw the terrible pink glow collecting around the tip. I watched as a bead of saliva collected on one of those ivory blades and slowly dripped to the floor. I couldn’t blink, couldn’t look away. I was about to die. I was beaten. I knew it, and the monster knew it to.

Then it’s head exploded into a bloody mist, flecks of flesh and brains splattering against the wall in a grisly mosaic. For a moment I couldn’t breath. Everything stopped as it toppled to the floor, a sickening gurgle coming from the ruin at the end of its neck.. I stood stunned. Then, as if from a dream, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen stepped around the corner.

Moondancer looked at me, her short-cropped silver mane flecked with blue. Her black combat suit contrasted sharply with her startlingly bright white coat, and her horn glowed with a yellow-gold light that matched her eyes as she ejected the spent magical rune from her hoofgun and loaded in another. Her huge amber eyes met mine, and she smiled the most glorious smile I had ever seen. I was flabbergasted, jibbering like a foal. The only coherent thing I got out amounted to:

“Wha... How... Why?!”

Again she smiled. She stepped towards me and looped a hoof around my shoulders, hoisting me to my hooves. Again she looked at me and said softly, “Nopony gets left behind, remember?”

We escaped together. Up the staircase and around to the generator room. I held the grate open for her as we squeezed out into the alley behind Trottingham Hospital. Together we slipped through the streets, past destroyed chariots and wagons, through the piles of bones and the rubble of broken homes.To the east, the shattered, bent, and twisted skyscrapers of downtown Trottingham loomed in menacing silhouette. Above us, the stars glittered softly against the deep blue backdrop, The crescent moon glowing silver in the dark, illuminating our path. Moondancer looked back at me and gave another dazzling smile, lighting up the night far more than any celestial body could hope to. I smiled back, and followed her deeper into the night, back towards the only home I had ever known.

All the while, one thought circled over and over in my mind:

Nopony gets left behind.