Rapid Fire heard the rhythmic cacophony of machine gun fire on the other side of the compound as he darted out the door, away from Cadance's protection. It wasn't something he was used to hearing, but he could guess what the noise was. Despite never having seen the outside world for his entire young life, he was aware of what happened in Equestria thanks to war stories idols of his like Loo reluctantly told the kids about. In the back of his mind, he knew he was risking his life by trying to get to his mom and dad. But if they were going to die today, he didn't want to do so in some stuffy room with panicky kids.
He raced past the critically injured Lockdown, who was being tended to by the only soldier still alive from the defensive line that Commander Derpy had assigned to watch over the kids from the hallway. Even though he had yet to receive a cutie mark despite his age, he had the 'rapid' part down pretty well.
"Kid! Stop! What are you doing?!" the earth pony beside Lockdown cried out. "Sir, will you be OK?"
The tough light green stallion had lost a lot of blood. The pressure being applied wasn't helping as much as Lockdown had hoped. He felt himself slowly going cold, and deep down, he knew it wouldn't be long. But, he was loyal to his commander and to his orders. He was assigned to look after the youngsters, and he couldn't fail now.
"Yeah. Just go. Don't.. let him.. get himself killed," Lockdown mumbled between heavy breaths. With that, the earth pony left the officer on the ground and tried desperately to catch up to the speedy colt. Rapid Fire already had quite a lead on Lockdown's attendant, and he wondered if he'd be able to reach him in time before he got caught in the thick of the battle.
The only thing that slowed the young colt at all was the bodies in his way. He jumped over and dodged around them without taking a second glance. His stomach twisted in knots and he hoped that his parents hadn't met the same fate. Seeing all the carnage around him just made him move faster.
General Tiara's remaining earthbound troops were hugging the walls of the corridor outside the large engineering wing of the facility. Commander Derpy had baited them into a now hopeless situation and Diamond Tiara knew it. Their enemy's forces hid behind the numerous machinery and crates, making it nearly impossible for them to be hit by anything.
At this point, all Derpy really needed to do was either finish picking them off one at a time or wait out their ammunition and simply capture them. The blow to Tiara's ego would be far too great if that were to happen. She'd prefer a quick clean death than to be a prisoner. Even if her pegasus squad made it through whatever defenses the rebels may have and jumped them from behind, considering how few of them there were compared to the rest of Derpy's troops, there was no way left for Tiara to win. Plus, it wouldn't take long for them to readjust to the rear attack.
But, even in defeat, she was determined to make Derpy, or somepony at least, suffer horribly. It was one of the perks that came with having the position of power she did. She even reveled in it when, on occasion, she was forced to assert her authority on one of their own for one reason or another.
A moment later, Applejack and her companions ran into the room and ducked behind what they could the moment they heard more shots being fired. If it weren't for her trademark stetson, she and the others may have accidentally been fired upon by their friends. She crawled on the dirt floor, looking for the commander. She spotted her near the center of the room and made her way over to her as carefully as possible.
Derpy was sitting behind a piece of production equipment with her back against its side when she spotted the cowpony. Other stallions and mares were grouped nearby, also taking refuge from the hail of bullets still flying at them. Occasionally, one or two would pop up from behind the machine and take a few shots before ducking down again.
"Commander, we've got a problem," Applejack shouted. "Those pegasi got through and are on the way here!"
She nodded and looked at the troops beside her. "You all, head to the back and let the others over there know they have incoming. Be ready to take them down."
Without saying a word, Derpy and Applejack were left by the squad, staying low and out of sight.
From behind the couple dozen of Tiara's soldiers currently fighting, a light biege colt appeared from down the hall. Several steps behind him was the stallion chasing him down. Rapid Fire jumped and squealed as the loud gunfire startled him and hurt his ears. He stayed low, almost crawling on the ground between the two rows of nervous stallions and mares who frankly didn't want to die.
None of the troops had noticed him initially. They attention was too focused on the bullets flying past their heads and quickly darting their eyes around the large room in front of them, searching for a potential target and watching to avoid getting killed. The young colt finally reached the enemy stallion at the front of the line and jumped up on his hind legs, jabbing at him weakly and crying.
"Don't hurt my mom and dad! Stop, mister! Stop!"
The earth pony did a double take and stared at the child in shock. He, nor any of the others, knew there were any kids there. Despite Derpy's apprehensions, most of Celestia's soldiers weren't barbarians. One by one, his comrades noticed where his attention was and turned to stare at the youngster as well. Their gunfire eventually came to a halt, Diamond Tiara being the only left that had any desire to shoot, her hoofgun clenched tightly to her chest. With the sudden lack of shots being fired, Derpy's troops slowed their own and eventually stopped as well, figuring the fight was finally over. They held their collective breath as they waited for an answer.
Above the sudden silence, a young pony's desperate pleas didn't go unanswered. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the way he, or anypony else expected.
"What the hell is this?" Diamond Tiara venomously asked to nopony in particular. "Derpy has kids running around here? Oh, this is going to be fun!"
She stepped forward and wrapped her leg around his neck, pulling him away and making him scream. His pursuer finally caught up with the young pony, but too little too late. He was grabbed and yanked back by the enemy soldiers and held at gunpoint. His eyes never left the colt, despite his predicament.
"You did this, didn't you, you little runt?! How dare you! But at least now, I can really make someone pay for all this!"
"Help! Mom! Dad!" he managed to yell.
Pip and Lieutenant Spoon, who had been sitting behind one of the many crates near the front of the barrage, perked up and came out of hiding at the sound of their son's cries. They took a few steps forward into the fray, drawing the attention of the enemy soldiers and a few of their machine guns.
General Tiara looked up quizzically. She thought she recognized one of the voices. She looked around the corner and saw the pair with panicked looks on their faces. The shock hit her hard and changed into a wicked grin in an instant.
"You're Spoon's kid? And she's with Pip?! Hahaha! This is too good!"
The worried couple stepped out cautiously, guns held skyward. Tiara dragged Rapid Fire out from behind the corner and several steps into the open area forcefully. The youth kicked and sobbed. The pink mare held him in front of her and jammed her gun into the colt's temple. Spoon and Pip gasped in horror and took a single step forward.
"Please, Diamond Tiara, if there's anything decent still in you, please don't hurt my son!" Spoon begged her former friend, tears forming in her eyes.
Derpy overheard what her lieutenant said and peaked over the machinery. Her eyes shrank when she saw what was transpiring.
"Oh no! Everypony, hold your fire!" she ordered, waving her hoof to her army. Both sides watched anxiously.
"Your guns. Throw them over here. Now!" Tiara ordered. Without hesitation, Pip and Silver Spoon tossed their assault rifle and sidearm, respectively, near General Tiara.
"There! Now please, give him to us, I'm begging you!" Silver Spoon pleaded.
Tiara tapped the barrel of her gun on her chin as she eyed skyward. Her eyes narrowed and she formed an evil grin.
"Sure!" she said, much to the surprise of everypony there. She removed her leg from around Rapid Fire's neck and kicked him hard in his parent's direction, causing him to fall hard on his chest. The family started to run toward each other before Tiara spoke up again, freezing both parties in their tracks. "Ah ah ah! You two stay put! Go ahead, kid. Go say hi to your mommy and daddy."
General Tiara motioned him away with her hoofgun, leaving him confused but grateful. He slowly, cautiously trotted into the waiting embrace of his parents. The three turned their attention to the stern pink mare. This was the last thing anypony expected her to do. Perhaps Rapid Fire had extinguished a fire that had been raging in her.
Diamond Tiara put that question to bed with a wicked smile and a shot that caught Pip in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground.
"Pip! What the hell's wrong with you, Tiara?!"
As much as Derpy and her forces wanted to unload everything they had into the General, they didn't want to risk accidentally hitting Lieutenant Spoon or her family. She growled under her breath.
"You should be thanking me, Spoon! Now you can die in each others' hooves! Now, who should I kill first? You, my old friend?" Tiara slowly glided her firearm to the large, injured stallion. "Or maybe I should show how little a bullet cares about size or strength?" She pointed the gun at Rapid Fire. "Or maybe I should simply break you both and take away the embodiment of your love for each other. Yeeeeah, that's it. So touchingly tragic. I think I'll do that."
Rapid Fire yelped and started to run, only to stop short by a gunshot and a blast of dirt flying into the air in front of him. Pip gritted his teeth and hoisted himself up. Rapid Fire got the idea immediately and ducked behind his father.
"Stay behind me!"
"Hold still, you little shit!" Tiara yelled mockingly as she fired again, catching Pip in the right hip. He screamed as he felt his pelvic bone shatter. "OK, fine. Congratulations, Pip. You'll be first. Any last words?"
Derpy took quick aim from her hiding spot, but hesitated in her haste, not wanting to miss hitting Diamond Tiara. Throwing caution to the wind, she stood on her hind legs and extended her forelegs out in challenging manner.
"Hey, Tiara! Aren't I a little more important a target?"
Her attention was snatched away. Tiara's eyes ballooned in size when she saw the daring gray pegasus standing in plain sight. She whipped her firearm at the commander.
Several shots went off as the commander ducked back into hiding. Tiara took a step forward and continued shooting blindly, determined to take down the top officer of the rebel army. Her gunfire was cut off suddenly as she was tackled to the ground by a silver blur. Her pristine crown flew off her head.
Spoon straddled her former friend and pummeled her in the face, drawing first blood in their single combat. Tiara lifted her gun up, ready to end the lieutenant's life quickly. Catching General Tiara's wrist at the last moment, the two mares struggled against each other. The gun fired a few shots past Silver Spoon's head. The silver mare twisted Tiara's leg and the gun slipped out of her grip and fell to the dirt floor. Tiara caught Spoon with a sucker punch to the jaw as her left hoof slipped loose, knocking her to the ground and throwing her glasses off.
The general stood up and wrapped her legs around the lieutenant's neck. She aggressively pulled her up and lifted her off the ground, the stranglehold digging in and cutting off her breath. Silver Spoon kicked at the air and tried to pull the surprisingly strong Tiara's forelimbs away, but it wasn't working. She jolted a hard elbow into Tiara's stomach, and then another and another. The grip starting to loosen, Spoon bit down onto her leg, making the general cry out in pain and drop her.
Spoon spun around, putting all her weight behind a powerful right straight into her enemy's stomach. Tiara fell to her hocks with the wind knocked out of her, clenching her eyes tightly.
"You won't hurt them, and you won't hurt anypony else ever again!"
Tiara's nostrils flared. "Oh, shut up with your sentimental garbage!"
Silver Spoon grabbed Tiara's mane and leaned into a quick right cross that was blocked away at the last second. An quick uppercut knocked Spoon away and onto her back. Spoon rolled over and began to stand back up before being yanked to her hind legs by her hair. Tiara arched her ex-friend's back and battered her repeatedly in the kidneys, each blow causing Spoon to shriek. It felt like a few ribs cracked. The general let her go after several strikes and the silver pony fell limply onto her hooves. Gathering what strength she could, she lifted her left hind leg and slammed her hoof into Tiara's shin, bringing her down to three legs.
Running low on breath and her back screaming, Spoon slowly got to her hooves and faced Tiara. Taking both hooves together over her head, Spoon smashed down on the back of the general's skull hard, knocking her to the ground. She stumbled as well, beginning to succumb to pain and exhaustion. Despite managing to stay on her hooves, Spoon was unable to get out of the way as Diamond Tiara weakly planted her forelimbs into the dirt floor and thrusted her head into Spoon's stomach. She fell flat on her back, hitting her head hard on the gravel floor.
Tiara rose slowly and wobbled over to the lieutenant. She took Spoon's neck in her hooves and lifted her spinning head off the ground, choking her once again.
"You could have had it all, Spoon! Why'd you throw away the best opportunity you could ever ask for to slum away with this?" General Tiara asked, breathing heavily.
"I f-figured out.. that the.. w-world doesn't revolve around.. me!" Silver Spoon growled back.
Sneering in rage, Tiara suddenly slammed her old friend's head to the ground, let her go and spat on her. Spoon's head fell limply to the right, her already blurred vision deteriorating even further. She could have sworn she saw something grayish on the floor several feet away. Weakly, her eyes opened as she realized the object.
Through the dizziness she felt, Tiara wiped away the blood on her snout and found her gun laying on the ground a only a couple feet ahead of them. She hobbled over and picked it up, grinning maliciously as she looked closely at it. She turned her attention back to the injured Pip and his sobbing son still hiding behind him.
"Now, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh yes. I was about to kill Pip!" Tiara condescended.
Favoring her left hind leg thanks to Spoon's vicious kick, she moved toward the silver mare's family. She stood up and tried to aim, but was having difficulty due to fatigue. She let off a shot that missed badly.
Spoon mustered the last of her energy and rolled onto her stomach. She silently, painfully crawled to the metal object she saw while General Tiara struggled to stand up straight. Every second she took felt like an eternity. After two more wild shots went off, finally, Spoon reached her gun and stretched for it with a loud grunt. She laid on her side and swung it around as Tiara's attention was taken away from her family and back onto her. Diamond Tiara's eyes widened when she saw her old friend taking careful aim.
The general turned quickly to finish Spoon off, but a loud blast fired out and a bullet found its way into Tiara's stomach. She stumbled back a step and the gun slipped from her grasp. Silver Spoon shot twice more, each bullet landing square in her enemy's chest before she finally fell backwards, dead on impact.
"Nopony kills my husband but me," Spoon muttered to the body. Completely spent, she rolled over onto her back.
Tiara's soldiers stared dumbstruck at the turn of events. Their leader had fallen and they were still badly outnumbered. Derpy's front forces came out from their hiding places, Pinkie and the Party Crashers taking the lead and aiming their weapons at the helpless squad. The commander ran over to the exhausted lieutenant to check on her.
"I suggest you put your weapons down. Now," Pinkie ordered.
They quickly complied and released their prisoner as well. The moment he was free, he galloped up to Rapid Fire and Pip to see how they were. Pinkie stepped back and waved the prisoners of war over to the wall of the large engineering room with the barrel of her machine gun. Without hesitation, they filed out from the hallway and did as they were told. In total, only seventeen remained.
A moment later, the numerous rear guards stepped in front of the approaching pegasi group that hoped to sneak attack them from the back entrance. It didn't take them long to see how many fighters they were up against and quickly surrendered as well without even firing a shot. They joined their brethren against the wall. Another nineteen.
"Belle, go check on Pip," Pinkie said.
With a blink, she appeared next to the injured muscular colt. He had lost quite a bit of blood, but fortunately, the wounds weren't in critical places.
"This is going to hurt, Pip. Just try to relax."
Her horn glowed and she removed the bullet from his hip like she had done numerous times to her teammate and magically cauterized the wound. Just like her lifelong friend, Pip gritted his teeth and tried badly to hold in the immense pain he suddenly felt as Belle worked her magic. She then repeated the process to his shoulder. She had never been able to fix the shattered bones, unfortunately. Twilight was always able to manage such an endeavor, but Belle was just never able to figure out the spell properly, always to her regret.
The resident doctors approached Pip and set their weapons down. Even though they weren't normally fighters, they were still expected to fight if ever necessary. Two of them ran off to recovery room to bring a bed for him.
Derpy rubbed her hoof through the battered silver mare that laid before her on the ground and smiled. She craned her head back to her husband and got an idea. She carefully lifted Spoon off the ground and flew her over to her husband, laying her gently on the ground beside him, Belle and the doctors making room for her. Derpy flew off and found Silver Spoon's trademark blue glasses sitting on the ground, one of the arms slightly bent but otherwise no worse for wear. She returned to their owner and set them back on her snout.
An unusual smell suddenly caught the commander's nose. It smelled like smoke coming from the garden. When she asked Applejack what had happened, the farm pony informed her of the fire that had been inadvertently set. She and several pegasi were ordered to extinguish the flames and flap the thick smoke out of the tunnels. They couldn't exactly risk being choked to death after the day had been won.
As Derpy inspected the damage around her, the lovers on the ground looked at each other, exhausted but happy that this all was finally over, and smiled sweetly. Rapid Fire stayed beside his dad as he was worked on, eyes watering and heart still racing. Silver Spoon reached over and tightly grabbed hold of her husband's hoof.
"How're you feeling, hon?" she whispered.
"Been bettah," he said with a small smirk. She giggled. "T'was a good shot there, baby."
"I couldn't lose you." She felt her eyes wetting as she gazed lovingly into his. She noticed her worried son watching over them. "And you, little mister," she continued lightheartedly, "once we're all better here, we're going to have to have a little talk with you."
His ears slumped and his head dropped with them. Even though she was smiling at him, he still felt horrible. His hasty actions almost got his parents both killed.
Spoon rolled onto her side, still clenching her husband's hoof, and caressed his cheek. "I love you. I love you both."
"Love you too, sweetheart."
"Love you, mom."
Silver Spoon finally gave in to the fatigue and closed her eyes, cuddling up against Pip as they waited for his bed to arrive.
Derpy and Pinkie walked through the compound as the troops cleaned up the engineering area, guns drawn and ready in case they came across any stragglers. Everything was quiet, though. They found bodies from both sides, and the control room was utterly wrecked. The security room fared no better.
Together, they checked on Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Shining Armor. Derpy saw the three would-be intruders laying dead just inside the door and peaked in carefully. The three ponies were sitting on and by Twilight's bed, ready for any attackers. It was a little while since they heard any gunfire, but couldn't let their guard down until they were relieved or killed.
"At ease, guys. It's over."
They sighed collectively and General Armor let his shield down. "How did we do?" he asked.
"Lost some, but they lost more. I'm just making the rounds, checking the place out. Go meet up with the others. They're in the engineering room."
Derpy and Pinkie continued through the base while the others went on ahead. They came upon a pile of corpses that led in the direction of the nursery and barracks. Near the end of the three way stop, they found Lockdown leaning up against the wall, his eyes closed and his chest not moving. They quietly and briefly mourned his and his fellow soldiers' passing as they continued on to see how the children were.
They found a panicking Cadance pacing around the youngsters, her cheeks stained from tears that had been flowing since shortly after Rapid Fire disappeared. She jumped at Derpy when she entered the room.
"Commander! I lost Lieutenant Spoon's son! He must have ran out when I– "
"It's OK, Cadance. He's safe. The fighting's over," Derpy stated.
"Oh, thank Luna. Thank Luna.. " Cadance started crying again upon hearing the good news. "I swear Commander, he must have snuck out when I wasn't looking!"
"It's alright, I promise. I do need you to head to the engineering room and meet with everypony else. I need to figure out our next move right away."