Pounds For Pumpkins
Pound Cake sighed as he turned away from the window. Ponyville slowly shrank away into the distance until it was gone from sight.
Pound sank back in his seat on the train, looking around. The train was fancy enough to actually have somewhat private rooms, six ponies able to sit comfortably across two benches.
At the moment, only four ponies, himself included, filled this particular room.
None of the ponies wanted to talk. Pound and Pipsqueak were on one bench, while a white earth mare with a wild green mane sat on the other, as far away as she could from a large blue pegasus colt, who was looking out the window absentmindedly. His blonde mane was casually swept to the side of his face.
The white mare fiddled around with the red and white striped beanie she had on, pulling it down lower. Her ears disappeared beneath the fabric.
“So...” Pipsqueak finally said, trying to break the silence. “What brings you all here today?”
Three ponies sharing the room with Pip immediately groaned while facehoofing simultaneously.
“Pip, not the time for humor,” Pound moaned.
“But at least he had the balls to try and start a conversation,” the blue pegasus chuckled before turning to face the two other stallions in the room.
“Name is Skyfire, moved to Ponyville a few weeks ago. You two?”
Pound shared a look with Pipsqueak before deciding to answer the pegasus. What else were they going to do, ignore him?
“Pipsqueak, mate,” Pip said as he reached over to Skyfire, offering him a hoof. Skyfire bumped it with his own. “Hail from Trottingham, but was pretty much raised here. Hardly remember the old home, honestly,” Pip admitted.
“And you?” Skyfire asked Pound.
“Pound Cake. Born and raised here. Not really much else you need to know,” he said quietly.
Pip cocked an eyebrow at Pound questioningly, but said nothing. Skyfire nodded and sat back. The three stallions then turned to the mare, who was only slightly smaller than Skyfire. In other words, she was quite the tall mare.
“Care to introduce yourself?” Skyfire asked her.
She didn't respond.
Skyfire shared a look with Pipsqueak. He just shrugged before nodding back at her.
“Hello? Care to introduce yourself?”
Still no response.
Skyfire growled. He didn't like being ignored. He brought a hoof to the white mare, trying to get her attention.
As soon as his hoof brushed her, he had lost.
With a responsive flip over Skyfire, the mare swept both hooves under his front legs, pinning him against the seat.
Pound and Pip watched as she nimbly used a hind leg to scratch out an earpiece from her left ear, letting in dangle out from the seam of her hat.
“What do you want?” she asked, her voice raspy but strong.
“We were doing introductions, your highness,” Skyfire growled. “Care to join in?”
The mare sighed before hopping off Skyfire, swiftly pulling him back into his seat before returning to her own.
“Warden Eldorado. Happy?”
Pip stifled a laugh as he clutched his muzzle, trying to keep from busting up. The mare raised a hoof intimidatingly.
“Got a problem with my name, Pipsqueak?”
“Not in the least,” Pip responded, completely unaware that the mare had said his name as an insult, not knowing that was his actual name.
“Is there... anything shorter we could call you?” Pound asked, trying to avoid the angry mare as much as he could.
“Waldo,” she responded before slipping her ear piece back in.
“She's a complete loon!” Pip cackled, doubling over. Waldo snorted as she waved a circle with her hoof. Pound didn't know exactly what she was doing until he noticed he could now make out the very subtle thumping of bass. She'd turned up the volume with her hoof motion. Cool.
As Pipsqueak composed himself, Pound looked back out of the window to see that they were passing around the final bend of the Everfree forest. Soon they were passing over the Ghastly Gorge.
“So this is it, eh?” Pipsqueak said, having regained himself. “These are our last moments as free ponies.”
Skyfire gave Pipsqueak a slightly confused look.
“I mean after this, we're dogs of the military. I wonder if they make us bark on command during training?”
“Doubtful,” Pound said. “Please Pip, can you... just stop?”
Pound sighed as images of Pumpkin passed through his mind. When would the next time he could see her? He had no idea. That was what was really getting at him; the lack of knowing. He liked knowing; even if it was months, heck even a year, if he had a day to look forward to, it surely would have been better than... not knowing.
“Sorry, mate,” Pip said, realizing he was probably filling Pound with ill thoughts.
Skyfire clapped Pound on the shoulder.
“We'll be back eventually, Pound. Have faith.”
Pound sighed, turning to Skyfire. “Thanks.”
A little time passed before a cart began it's way down the aisle outside the rooms, passing out small meals. The four ponies ate quietly, making absolutely no small-talk.
Not too much longer, they made a short stop in Appleoosa.
A knocking came at the door. Pipsqueak opened it to reveal a young red unicorn mare, her red hide highlighted by her violent purple mane.
“Think this room can take two more ponies?” she asked casually. Pipsqueak looked around.
Pound and Skyfire shrugged. Waldo didn't even notice anything.
“Sure,” Pipsqueak said, scooting over to the side to allow room between him and Pound. The mare nodded politely, trotting in the sit between the two. Another mare followed behind her, a faint teal unicorn with a sharp crop of jet black mane.
“I'm Periwinkle Streak, this here is Shallow Wave.”
Shallow shot Pound and Skyfire a rather crass glare, trying to sidle up between Skyfire and Waldo without actually touching either of them.
Waldo noticed the disturbance next to her and looked Wave over, smirking snidely before closing her eyes, making room for the unicorn.
“I... I can't believe we're actually at war,” Streak said quietly. The freckles splashed across her face were almost cringing along with her voice.
“Yeah, a bit of a surprise,” Skyfire grunted. The conversation pretty much ended there.
The entire room slipped back into an uncomfortable silence as the ponies thought over what they were about to face.
Pipsqueak thought back to Dinky. He was back with her after a three week fight between them, and now he was going off to fight in some fragging war!
And Pound was getting sent away from Pumpkin. His beautiful Pumpkin. He was getting sent away from his mare, his foal. He was going to be a daddy in half a year, and he wasn't even going to be there!
The sky was darkening as the train rumbled past the border of Equestria. As the train rocketed along the tracks, an intercom sounded throughout the cars.
“Please stay in your rooms once the train comes to a stop, you will be sorted into your squads shortly.”
“Squads?” Pipsqueak asked nopony in particular.
The train slowed down until it was quietly creeping along into the forward base.
“Ladies and Gentlecolts, welcome to Forward Operating Base New Hope. Please wait while you are sorted into squads.”
The door to the room was suddenly swung open, a guard pony standing outside.
“Fifth squad of third training platoon, please follow me.”
The six ponies shrugged before following the guard out of the train, lining up in the fifth row of the third formation. All in all, there were ten formations, each with six squads of six ponies each.
As the ponies stood in their rows, barely organized and confused, a rather large purple stallion trotted onto a small podium at the front of the platoons.
“Attention!” he called out loudly, his voice being drowned out by the cries of hundreds of scared ponies.
Pound looked around. There were far more mares than he had initially thought, most likely about a hundred even, or close to it.
The purple stallion growled before grabbing an ornate mallet of office from the officer to his right, smashing the podium before him in one fell swoop.
Immediately, every pony shut their mouths, frightened by the display ahead.
“EVERYPONY! ATTEN-TION!” the stallion barked, now quite audible over the waves of ponies.
Passing the mallet back to the officer, mister purple threw his stance aggressively, scowling at the ponies before him.
“Now listen here, some of you might not know why you are here. I myself just learned the severity of what our country is facing this morning. But listen to me, because what I am telling you is not only of the utmost importance, but it dictates everything you will do for the next two months!
“Equestria has declared war against the Zebraik tribes of the Badlands! I am not at liberty or given permission to tell you the specifics as to why, but I can tell you that we are acting in national defense. We will be under attack. We are out-ponied and severely behind in training.
“Now, Princess Celestia thought it wise to proclaim this law to rapidly increase the standing size of our military. So let me make something very clear, cadets. This isn't a game. You are now a soldier of the Equestrian Guard, whether you like it or not! Now is the time for you to buck up and show what you are made of! Anypony who cannot comply will be met with... motivation.
“I did not want any of you here. If it were my choice, I would have never thought to send in a bunch of children to fight our war, but if that is what the Princess wishes then so be it! I will not stand for any laziness, rebellion, or noncompliance. From here on out...”
He paused. This was almost painful for him to say, despite his rough demeanor.
“From here on out, every day might be your last. Welcome to the Badlands. Squads, dismissed! Squad leaders, take your recruits to their tents.”
Immediately, several guard ponies approached each of the squads, directing them to their tents. Pound and the five others he shared a train room with were led to a tent marked 3-5.
“This is your squad tent. For the next two months, the ponies around you will be your tent mates. There will be no action to be had while in the tent. You will retire to your tents when told to, and leave them when you are called for. Tonight, you have the assignment of choosing this week's team leader. You will have them stay at the bottom bunk to the right of the entrance. He or she will be briefed on reporting statements in the morning.”
The stallion saluted.
Confused, the six ponies made their own attempts at saluting correctly. Skyfire was the only one to salute quickly and professionally.
“Yes, sir!” Skyfire said, dropping his salute after the guard pony.
“Dismissed to rack. Goodnight, cadets.”
The six shrugged before slipping into the tent.
It was, for lack of a better word, clean. Three double-bunks adorned the walls of the small tent, one per wall, with a split locker underneath the bottom bunk. The center of the tent housed a small table and four fold-up chairs, currently left ready to be sat in.
“So who do we 'elect' as squad leader?” Pipsqueak asked.
Him, as well as the four other ponies, all looked to Skyfire. He looked slightly surprised.
“Hey, what makes you think I should be squad leader?” he asked suspiciously.
“Out of all of us, you're the only one who seems to have any idea what he's doing,” Periwinkle Streak said.
Skyfire sighed before nodding.
“Fine, I'll do it,” he said, crawling into the small bottom bunk immediately to their right..
Waldo huffed as she clambered onto the bunk above his, growling when she realized the bunks were far too small for her to stretch out.
Pound and Pipsqueak doubled up on the center bunk while Periwinkle and Wave took the bunk on the left. Pound laid on his top bunk, feeling his heart beating like mad.
Tomorrow, he would start training. Tomorrow, everything was going to become a whole lot more serious.
Rolling onto his side, he let out his breath and slowly drifted into a restless slumber.