On the Side

by DocDelray

Lost Children

The afternoon sun hung over the city of Canterlot, spreading life-giving rays of warmth across the land. Sounds of laughter filled the air as a pair of young colts chased one another about the lush park near the palace. The pair of nearly identical Unicorns were tiny balls of energy crammed into khaki coats and deep brown manes and tails. Only one detail truly set one apart from the other beyond personality: one possessed a pair of crystal blue eyes and the other deep green.

Their game came to a halt as a soft voice called to them lovingly, “Boys, lunch is ready!”

“C’mon boys, before it gets cold!” a gruff male added.

The pair shared an excited smile before rushing off in the direction the voices came from. As they drew closer their pace began to slow as shadows just out of their sight began to move and dart about. The further they trotted, the more unwelcoming the vestiges of nature started to become as they took on more sinister and contorted forms. It didn’t take long before the need to find anyplace but here became overwhelming to them both as they took off in a dead gallop.

Overhead they could hear the loud rumble of engines as the air became choked with a strange scent that burned their nostrils. In the distance just out of their sight they could hear the sounds of screaming and fighting. Venturing a glance upwards they could see the beams of energy streaking back and forth around them. Drive gave way to panic as their pace became doubled.

“Momma, Pappa!” the green eyed youth yelled out at the top of his lungs as he and his brother continued their frightened search.

Rounding the bend, they came to a screeching halt. Atop a small grassy mound sat a pair of charred skeletal figures with a picnic basket sitting between them. Tears flooded his green orbs as he fought to let out a scream, but nothing would come out; his vocal cords became frozen. His body refused to move, only shiver and tremble as he knew deep down in his heart just who these skeletons were at one point.

A long shadow suddenly rose up around them both. It swirled and shifted till it became a tall gaunt figure that loomed over them. Try as they might, they couldn’t run, they couldn’t move, they couldn’t even scream; just stare at this strange nightmarish creature. As it moved closer, they could hear pleasant words being wormed into their skulls. All will and drive was drained from their tiny bodies as the being stood over top of them reached out to pluck them both up.

Anvil sat up quickly in his bed, his tiny chest rising and falling quickly as beads of sweat rolled down his forehead. In a panic his dark green eyes searched around the room trying to make sense of what he had just seen. A comforting hoof rested on his tiny shoulder bringing his attention to his brother Hammer as concern and worry reflected in his crystal blue eyes.

“It’s okay bro, it was just a nightmare,” Hammer reassured him with a weak smile.

The weak-hearted colt could feel tears pushing against the sides of his eyes as he looked around the room. Metal walls surrounded them on all sides of the sparsely furnished living quarter. A tiny slit of a window gave them a view of black void they drifted through causing his heart to sink even lower. The nightmare was still going.

The colt gave his brother a sad stare. “Hammer… I wanna go home.”

“I know bro, I do too…” His brother stated with a sigh, “You gotta stay strong Anvil, just like dad always said,”

The door to their quarters slid open as an armored figure entered unannounced, “A’ight wee ones, time to rise an’ shine.” He ordered them firmly, “Grab your gear an’ get to the shuttle bay, departure’s in fifteen minutes.”

It had only been a few days since the day they were taken from their home, barely a week since the death of their parents and their induction into the Deathwatch. Now they found themselves hurrying to equip grey uniforms they had been given before being ushered into the halls of the ship. Neither one could find the courage to speak up against their frightening hosts.

Outside the room they found themselves being corralled alongside others clad in a similar uniform fashion. The majority of this crowd looked to be made up of the species known as Human with a few that neither colt had seen just yet. But there was one thing every one of them shared in common: they were all children. The difference in species aside, there was still the same youthful, small frame that even they had, as well as the look of fear, confusion and worry in all of their faces.

“Where are we going now?” a brown-haired child quietly asked to no one in particular. His build was more or less on the thin side with a dark complexion and deep green eyes. Beneath his uniform, the hints of scars along his neck and wrists could be seen.

“I dunno,” Hammer quietly answered him, “we’ve been kept in our room until now; I had no idea there were other kids onboard.” He couldn’t help but note the hint of confusion in the boy’s eyes. “My name’s Hammer, by the way, and this is my brother Anvil,” he added with a motion towards his brother.

The boy nodded in recognition to this. “Zane,” was the uneasy reply, “I know what you mean though; they kept me locked in my room. So were you both bought off the slave market too?”

“No,” he replied with a hint of bitterness in his tone. The stabbing pain of what lead to this moment in time gnawed at him. “They invaded our home and somehow we ended up here.”

Before long, all the children had been lead onto a shuttle that had been waiting in the hangar of the ship. The youngsters had all been packed into the smaller craft’s belly before the doors sealed shut behind them. Several frightened murmurs went up around the crowd as their young minds tried to make sense of what was going on and where they were being taken. The roar of the engines and shifting of gravity silenced them as the trip to the planet surface truly began.

The hull around them began to rumble slightly with the sounds of re-entry before they felt the quick shift from artificial to true gravity. Many found themselves becoming easily disoriented and fighting to stay standing. None of them were prepared for the sight that awaited them when the side doors of the ship suddenly opened. Those able to keep their eyes open against the rushing winds soon found themselves looking out into the wide open blue sky. The bravest of them saw that their craft was now circling high above a sprawling wilderness. Confused and frightened chatter rose up from the crowd as they each fought to keep themselves as far from the opened side doors as possible.

At the rear of the shuttle stood a figure clad in the all-too-familiar armor of the Deathwatch. He found it amusing to watch them scrabble away from the certain danger; if they only knew their potential. But all things need to come to an end. Growing tired of their chattering, the trooper fired several blaster bolts from his wrist mounted weapon over their heads causing them to freeze up and turn their undivided attentions towards him.

“Good ad’ikas, good,” he stated with a hint of approval. “Let me be the first to welcome you to your new home, Harkonna. This vessel will not be landing but all of you are getting off here.”

He could taste the panic rising up from these children, “Behind me are deceleration packs, so don’t worry: you won’t die from the fall.” His words were less than encouraging. “To the east of the clearing we’re above is the training camp where you’ll find food, water, and clean beds; the catch is you have to get there.”

From behind him he produced a few large black bags and dropped them on the ground in front of him, “You won’t be going into the wilds empty handed, though; we’re giving you all at least one of these packs containing a canteen of water, a supply of protein bars and one item you will need to survive with. Now, you can either try to go it alone, work as teams, or just kill each other and take their equipment for yourself. I don’t care, but I suggest you reach the camp before dark.”

“What happens after dark?” Hammer asked taking a step forward bravely.

Behind his mask the trooper smirked happily at the Equestrian, “That’s when the really nasty things come out to feed.”

Taking a drop pack and a duffle bag he tossed it at the foot of the children, “Who’s jumpin’ first?”

From the crowd a boy slightly taller than the rest stepped forward with a look of defiance in his stare. Though at first glance Hammer thought he was another human, there were details about his appearance that just didn’t fit. His skin was a dull grey with short kempt black hair. The eyes of this being were even stranger, sharp golden that seemed to glow brightly in dim light of the shuttle. With no hesitation he took the gear and proceeded to strap it on quickly before stepping up to the edge of the open hatch. He gave the rest of his fellow captives a final look of disgust before letting himself fall from view.

Hammer could feel an angry fire swelling up inside him as this humanoid launched himself from the ship. Like that look was meant for him most of all. When the next pack was dropped in front of them the Equestrian quickly snatched it up in his mouth before glancing at his brother, shocked into silence. “I need one more for my brother.”

“We hand ‘em out one at’a time kiddo,” was his reply. “Strap it on an’ jump.”

He couldn’t let that be an option. “No, I don’t go anywhere without my brother!”

Behind the mask, the far older warrior smirked from ear to ear. He was really starting to like this one. “Fine,” he gave in tossing only one of the gear bags, “then you two get to share the drop pack.” The warrior snarled at him, “Try not to hit any trees.”

Hammer gave the Deathwatch trooper a brief glare before he started strapping the drop pack to his brother and slinging the duffle packs around himself for safe keeping. The far more timid Unicorn squirmed nervously against his brother’s efforts. “Brother, I’ve got a bad feeling about this . . .”

“Don’t worry about it, bro,” he stated calmly with a fake smile, “I just gotta hold on to you; that should be easy.”

His confidence was only skin deep, though. The brash twin was more than a little worried about the prospect of leaping out of a perfectly good metal bird. Let alone putting his faith in their captor’s claim that this backpack thing would keep them from splattering into the ground. But the last thing he was going to do was let himself get separated from his brother. When his work was finished he lead his brother to the edge of the ship’s opening. He could feel his heart punching the inside of his ribcage as he stared out into the vast wilderness below. His mouth went dry and it took all his will to keep his hooves from shaking violently, the young colt couldn’t even imagine how his brother was taking this.

Giving the rest of them a brief glance over his shoulder, he wrapped his fore-hooves tightly around Anvil before putting all his weight forward. Before either of them knew what was going on, they were tumbling through the sky. Wind rushed by as his eyes closed tightly against the velocity. Through the deafening rush of air it was hard to tell his own screams from his brother’s. At this point in time he wished he had been born a Pegasus.

Before either of them knew what was going on, the device equipped to Anvil hissed to life. Panels in the back sprung open letting a sheet of material unfurl against the wide open sky. As it finally expanded to its fullest the pair were jerked as their descent slowed with a sudden tug. Though no longer falling at terminal velocity, they were still moving rather quickly as the ground below rushed up to meet them.

With a few choice words they had heard their father use on occasion, they found themselves entering a sea of leafy arms ready to grab them. The sounds of scream and branches breaking filled the air as the still calm of the woodlands were broken. The cloth that had saved them from a far more gruesome death tore and shredded as they tumbled to the ground.

Finally coming to a stop, Hammer found himself crushed under the weight of both his brother and the supplies he had strapped to himself. “Told ya… easy…”

“I think I’m gonna throw up… again,” Anvil grumbled to him.

As the last of the children took their reluctant leap of faith into the untamed wilderness, the trooper that had forced them to take the trip out of the moving shuttle retrieved a holo-disc from his belt pouch. With the press of a button the holographic image of a stocky, heavily built man came into being at the center of the device. “The last of them are away, sir.” he informed him.

“Good to hear,” his superior replied. “The ‘chaperones’ are already reporting their locations as we speak. Now to see who’s worth keeping and who’s getting sent home. Spot any hopefuls out of the bunch, Corporal?”

“Aye, a few.” He chuckled to himself, “Firstly was that Kage brat someone dropped off with us; kid had a fire in his eyes. Most of all was one of those Equestrian things.”

“One of the quadrupeds?”

“Kid refused to jump and leave his brother behind . . . he’s got promise.”

“I know better than to question your opinion, Corporal, but we’ll just see if he makes it to the camp.” With that, the image vanished from his palm.

The Corporal took a moment to stare out across the sprawling wilds below him. Behind his mask, he smirked from ear to ear. “You’d best not disappoint me blue eyes,” he muttered to himself as the craft drifted across the sky headed towards its landing zone.

After getting himself out from under his brother and their supplies, the twins began going through what they had on hoof. True to their “caretaker’s” words, the packs were stocked well enough with what looked to be dried food bars of some kind, a few containers of water, and a random item. Hammer, much to his surprise, found a knife nestled towards the bottom of his pack. His brother Anvil however found something that neither could figure the use of.

It was a small, disk-like object: its surface had a few buttons and judging from the size, it could fit into the palm of a grown human’s hand. Curiously, the timid colt prodded it with his hoof before accidently hitting a button. Anvil let out a frightened squeak when something sprang to life in a flash of dull blue. The pair looked at the grainy image of what looked to be a forest with a blinking red marker. Hammer cautiously reached a hoof out to test the projection and found he could manipulate the image through motions.

The purpose of this item suddenly dawned on Anvil. “It’s a map!” he exclaimed excitedly.

“That’s a pretty useful thing to have,” snarled a gruff, unfamiliar voice from behind them.

Turning to face it, they found a group of several larger human boys, each wearing a less than friendly sneer on their faces. Their leader was a broad shouldered youth with shorn red hair, “Tell ya what, you two hand over that map an’ we won’t beat the snot out of you.”

Hammer quickly moved to place himself between the bullies and his brother. “Leave us alone,” he snarled at them with a hint of fear in his voice. Though he’d never used a weapon of any kind before, he had taken great pride in helping his father maintain his. The colt’s hoof rested on the hilt of his new knife as he watched them all.

“Hah,” the red haired bully chuckled, “what are ya gonna do small fry, poke us to death? You’ve only got one blade and there are three of us.”

“He’s gonna get some back up,” a familiar voice stated as a new figure joined the fight. Hammer immediately recognized Zane as well as the weapon in his hand. The brown haired human leveled the blaster pistol in his hand with the small group of bullies, “How about you three head off, and maybe we’ll forget this ever happened?”

The red haired thug sneered at Zane before he started to slowly back off, “I’m not gonna forget this, just wait till you get to the camp.”

As their enemies retreated, Zane finally allowed himself to breath. His hands shook uncontrollably as beads of sweat rand down his face. “Oh man, I’m so glad they didn’t call my bluff,” he said with a playful snicker. “I think I’d pee myself before I was able to shoot someone.”

The twins couldn’t help but join in the infectious laughter of their human friend. Before long, the trio were moving cautiously, wandering about the wilderness while Anvil continued to fiddle with his holo-map. “Ugh, I just can’t figure this thing out,” he complained as he continued to swipe his hoof through the hologram. “Zane, do you know how this thing works?”

The human chuckled at the question. “I was raised in a slave pen from birth, I wasn’t really given that much schooling beyond, ‘do this and get whipped, do this and don’t get whipped.’”

“Uhm excuse me,” a soft voice called to them from high above. Craning their necks upwards, they found a human of slighter build than the others they had seen. Her head was topped with blond hair that bordered on being bright silver and her eyes were a deep blue. “I might be able to help you, that is, if you’ll help me first.” It was then that they noticed how she had become tangled in the tree she was hanging from.

Before anyone could make a move Hammer had already begun trying to ascend the wooden giant. “I’ll get her,” he assured them all as he started to climb the tree.

Zane had to admit, it was more than a little impressive to see something without hands or even digits of any kind start to scale the side of a tree. He watched his new friend scramble up to a branch just above the girl. The small colt wrapped his limbs tightly around the branch as he reached for the knife clipped to his side. With a few grunts and muffled choice words he managed to saw through the ropes keeping her suspended.

With a surprised screech she plummeted to the forest ground below. Zane scrambled in shock to try and catch her, but found her form zipping past him and his outstretched arms. Instead, the young lady’s tumbling body slammed into the more than surprised Anvil. The pair toppled across the ground, ending with her finding herself nose to snout with him. Her face turning a bright shade of red and she quickly jumped away from the boy who lay on the ground, frozen in shock.

Zane stood stock still, his arms still out ready to catch her with a look of disappointment on his face. Much to his surprise he felt the weight of something hit him, knocking him to the ground. As he shook his head clear the young human found himself looking into the blue eyes of his Equestrian friend. “My hero,” Hammer snickered sarcastically as he put his fore limbs around the boy’s neck and batted his eyelashes.

“Thanks for the save guys,” the young girl said as she dusted herself off. “I’m Ashley Cal-raan by the way.”

After regaining his composure, the soft-spoken colt pulled himself back to his hooves. “I’m Anvil,” he stated nervously. Glancing over at other two males, he withheld a sigh as he watched Zane try to toss Hammer aside, only to end up in a headlock. “Those two would be my brother, Hammer, and our new friend, Zane.”

The snickering pair stopped mid-wrestle to say, “Hi,” in nearly perfect unison.

“Good to meet some friendly folks finally,” Ashley stated happily. “Last group that passed by only stopped long enough to swipe my supply bag and leave me for dead.”

“Isn’t it great how these kinds of situations can bring us all together like this,” Zane stated sarcastically.

“Yeah, real great,” Hammer stated with a strong hint of disgust in his voice, “So, Ashley, how exactly do you think you can help us with our map problem?”

An impish grin crosses the young girl’s features as she fished a small device from her pocket. “Because those jerks that left me for dead didn’t get this,” she declared proudly as she held it out for them all to see, “my pack came with a compass!”

Their confidence and numbers increased, the children picked up their pace now that they had a set direction to head in. Hammer and Zane, being the only ones out of the four that were now armed, had taken the lead of the small column they had created. In this time, the pair had begun talking at length to kill the time, and had quickly discovered the pair shared quite a lot in common despite having been light years apart until that day. At the center of their formation, Ashley continued to dance her vision across the map saved on the holo-disc that Anvil was lucky enough to find. At the rear, Anvil nervously took in their strange surroundings and circumstances.

Anvil had always been the odd colt out, even back in Canterlot. Hammer had never had any trouble making friends while he was always the awkward one following along quietly. The young stallion always resented his brother’s talent deep down. His musings came to a sudden stop as he noticed how suddenly the company beside him had closed in around him.

“So, Anvil, where exactly are you an’ your brother from anyways?” the human girl walking beside him asked as she kept pace at his side.

He kept his eyes forward while avoiding her gaze. “Our home was in the country of Equestria,” he stated rather quickly. He could feel his heart race with every word he forced out, “The capital city actually, Canterlot.”

Ashley nodded along happily as she listened to him. “I’m from a small colony called Yukta.” She added sadly, “Well, it was, at least.” After a moment, she continued, “So tell me about Equestria; what’s it like there?”

Anvil could feel his cheeks turning a bright red through his fur. The fact that he was having this problem talking to an alien girl frustrated him: was it because she was a girl? “It’s, uh, it’s really nice, lots of trees and uhm, the ponies there are real nice too,” he stammered out as he tried to describe his homeland. “But uh, what kind of place is Yukta?” The colt asked in hopes of shunting the subject away from him.

Ashley’s mood seemed to darken at the question, her friendly smile crumbling into a mournful frown. “It was my home, then Deathwatch came and demanded we give them tribute for protection, and when we refused they wiped out colony and now I’m here.”

The Unicorn stuttered nervously, “I- I mean, I’m so sorry I didn’t-“

He was cut off by a pair of arms tightly hugging him. “It’s alright, not like you knew.” Despite the cream color of his fur he knew he could feel his face turn a bright shade of red under the human’s embrace before being let go just as suddenly, “Com’on, we’d best catch up with the others!” Anvil was relieved to at least hear her happy tone return, yet more than a little confused by her sudden actions.

As the day wore on it was finally agreed that they should give themselves a rest. In a touch of good luck the youths managed to come across a desirable clearing. The food and water was rationed out between them all as they caught their breaths and bearings. Hammer and Anvil filled the majority of the silence with detailed tails about their home world which seemed to enthrall their companions.

“What about you, Zane?” Hammer questioned, “what’s your home like?”

The young man forced a smile for his new friends. “It’s a lovely little dirt clod in space called Tatooine,” he stated with a strong hint of disgust. “A planet that’s nothing but one giant desert from one end to the other that revolves around two suns. Not much to say about it beyond the fact that everyone there is pretty much just as horrible and bloodthirsty as the planet and the nasty creatures that call it home.”

He continued his musings as he took in their surroundings with a bit of tranquility. “Funny thing is, this my first time ever seeing trees or grass, hah, or breathing in air that isn’t choked with sand. It’s all pretty wild but a huge improvement. Probably would’ve lived on that dirt ball till the day I died if I hadn’t started a fight that day.”

All eyes were now curiously watching him as his story continued, “See, there was this slave that kept pushing me around since I was the new guy. One day I’d had enough an’ knocked him down, I knew I was gonna get beat for it, but I didn’t care. Just my luck one of those Deathwatch guys happened to be there an’ saw me start the fight. He decided my ‘talents’ were being wasted as a slave and he took me with him. Now I’m here in the middle of Force only knows, in this big weird forest trying to find some camp.”

With his story finished he finally noticed the dour looks in everyone’s eyes. With a wide smile he shrugged it all off. “On the plus side, no more desert right?” A few chuckles went up from the group, thankfully disarming the sad mood he’d created. “So Ashley, how much further till we find this camp?”

The young girl began manipulating the holographic image of their surroundings. “Well, looks like we’re pretty close now,” she reassured them. “Another good hike and we should be there-” Her eyes lit up. “Wait a second . . .”

Anvil looked into the holographic image in confusion as he tried to make out the topographical mystery that had her currently enthralled. “What is it?”

“There’s something on the map, something it looks like they tried to erase but didn’t get everything,” she stated. “I can only get the very edges of it, but I looks like a fenced-off field.”

“Why would they block some random field off?” the Equestrian beside her asked as he continued to try and understand the image.

“Beats me,” she replied, “but it looks like it’s just a short ways north of the camp.”

Hammer raised a brow at this news. “Really, so it could be on the way then?”

“Well, with a small adjustment, I suppose so,” their appointed navigator replied.

“Hammer, please, let’s just go straight to the camp,” Anvil pleaded. He could tell his brother had something else entirely in mind though.

“Oh come on, bro, I just wanna take a look, that’s all,” he reassured his brother’s fears. “Just a quick look then we’ll go straight to the camp, promise.”

The woods around them were quiet to an uncomfortable pitch as they neared the mystery area on the map. Even the air they breathed seemed to become heavier and thicker around them. An oddly-familiar smell hung in the air and teased at their minds; it felt alien to the fresh clean air of the wilderness and refused to be identified.

As they neared the spot on the map, they found themselves on an out-cropping lined with a tree line. Below them was a large valley that had been cleared and fenced in. A layer of artificial stone had been laid over the forest floor along with a number of structures. Dotting the area was a large number of shuttles and drop-ships scattered about. “It’s an airfield,” Ashley muttered breathlessly.

Movement near one of the shuttles closest to their vantage point drew Hammer’s attention. One of the Deathwatch soldiers was pushing several children onto the craft. Though the distance was far he could make out small distinguishing features about them. He recognized them as having been with them during the trip down. “Where are they taking those kids?”

“Away,” a cold gruff voice answered him. A collective shiver went through everyone’s spines as they turned around to find one of the Deathwatch warriors standing over them. “The same thing that’s going to happen to you lot for straying so far from your mission.”

The group of youths recoiled slightly as he approached. Hammer weighed their options. They could try to run for it, but there were bound to more of them in woods waiting on them. If they tried to fight there was no way they could bring down full grown man with his weapon already trained on them. From the corner of his eye, he could see Zane’s hand shaking with fear as he inched towards the pistol he had strapped to his hip.

Just when it seemed the situation was about to get any further out of hand, something unexpected happened. A snapping twig drew the soldier’s attention away from the children he was busy apprehending to the sound of fast footfalls behind him. Turning on his heel, his vision was filled with an oncoming piece of wood. As the solid cudgel connected with his visor the sound of cracking glass and a pained grunt filled the uncomfortably silent air followed by the clack of armored plates as his body hit the forest floor.

The youngsters stared in disbelief and shock as familiar gray-skinned form stood over the toppled trooper gripping the tree limb used to fell him. For a moment there was silence before he cast a glare towards the other children. It was a small eternity before someone finally spoke up. “Holy crud, you laid him out in one swing!” Zane loudly praised the other boy. “That was freaking awesome!”

As idle chatter and praise went up from the rest of the group, the mysterious boy seemed less than enthused by it and neither was Hammer. The pair seemed dead locked in a battle of wills as they stared one another down for a time being. “Thanks for the save, but who are you and what are you doing following us?” Hammer asked with a hint of disdain in his voice that seemed to catch the rest of his comrades off guard.

“Vorren,” was the response: quick and to the point. “I’ve been following you since you found that map,” he stated motioning towards Anvil. “The four of you are embarrassingly easy to track.”

“More the merrier I say!” Zane happily declared. “With you on the team I bet we could take one of those shuttles right from under their noses.”

“You really think so?” Anvil asked excitedly. “We could get off this planet and go home!?”

“So you’re honestly thinking of stealing one of the shuttles?” Vorren’s attitude seemed to quickly change with this far more interesting subject.

“Zane, you can’t be serious,” Ashley scoffed at his half baked idea.

“Why not?” Zane asked with a wide, confident smile. “They’re just sitting there ripe for the taking. I say we wait till dark and sneak down there, grab a ship, and haul butt off this rock!”

“It’s a simple plan,” Vorren pointed out, “but it seems sound.”

“No way,” Ashley protested. “It’s too risky.”

“But Zane might be onto something here,” Anvil pleaded with her. “We have a chance to escape; we should at least give it some thought.”

As the debate wore on, the young colt, Hammer, remained silent as he weighed all the options laid before them. Zane was right, the ships were right there, ripe for the taking. But something gnawed at him in the back of his mind. It kept his hooves glued to ground as he stared down over the rise at the sprawling airfield below them. He tried to focus on that feeling, that voice in the back of his head, and found what he needed.

“We’re not going down there.” Everyone froze at colt’s sudden interjection. Hammer looked the group over before repeating himself, “We are not going down there.”

Anvil couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “But, brother, we can leave this place, we could go back to Canterlot we-“

“How exactly are we gonna get there, Anvil?” his brother snapped at him. “We don’t even know where our planet is, let alone where this one is!”

The rest of the children around him seemed to flinch at Unicorn’s tirade. “On top of that, does anypony here know how to fly one of those things?” With a hint of anger in his young eyes, he looked them all over, their silence telling him everything he already knew. “Besides that, what happens if we get caught? They have hundreds of armed soldiers down there; between us we have a knife, a pistol, and a tree branch. We’d be better off shooting ourselves with Zane’s pistol.”

His rant came to a sudden halt as he saw the tears welling up in his brother’s eyes. Sighing in defeat he placed a forelimb around his shoulders. “Listen to me, all of you, we have to go to the camp.” He could feel the confusion in their eyes boring into him. “We don’t have the skills or the stuff needed to pull this plan off, but I know where we can get them: from Deathwatch. We’re going to the camp, we’re going to learn everything we can from them and then we’re going to use it to escape them and go home.”

“That’s all well and good for you two,” Zane stated with a bitter tone, “but what about the rest of us? I don’t know about everyone else here but ‘home’ was a slave cage on Tatooine.”

“My home was destroyed . . .” Ashley stated sadly.

“My situation is . . . complicated,” Vorren added.

Hammer looked to his alien companions with a wide smile, “Then come with us.”

“What, you serious?” Zane asked in bewilderment.

He gave Anvil a reassuring hug before turning to face them all. “I’m dead serious; none of you have any place to go, but we do, so come with us to Equestria.”

“Well, you did make it sound like a nice place,” Ashley said with a soft smile.

“Better than going back to Tatooine,” Zane agreed with an impish grin.

“With the way I listened to you both go on and on about it, I might as well see what all the fuss was about,” Vorren relented with a shrug.

“Then it’s settled,” Hammer stated proudly, “We play Deathwatch’s game and then we all leave this place together, we leave and we go home, to Equestria!”