Harmony's Warriors: Captain Equestria

by Avenging-Hobbits

Act I - 04 - How Are Wars Won

Act I:
"Smoke on the Horizon"

Chapter Four:
“How Wars Are Won”

Applejack found herself in a stark, open field, a chilling jet black fog clouding around the bottom of her hooves.

"Um...hello?" She called out, only for her voice to seemingly fade into nothingness, deadened by the thick cloud of fog. Setting her jaw and furrowing her brow slightly, she started to trot along at a steady pace, having caught sight of a bright light on the horizon, piercing through the fog. As she walked, the ground beneath her hooves shifted from wet, dew covered grass to what felt somewhat like soggy dirt. She pulled her coat around her tighter, the cold nipping at any exposed areas of her body.

The light it turned out, was actually a lantern, perched atop a tall, spindly lamppost, which loomed out of the fog like a lighthouse. The lamppost was attached to a massive iron gate, with the words 'Graveyard' hanging over it. Applejack felt a shiver of insecurity scamper up her spine. Why was the only sign of civilization a seemingly abandoned graveyard? Applejack was about to turn back to try and find somewhere more inviting when a long, ghostly wail echoed across the moors, causing fear to go piercing right through her chest.

As if on cue, the heavy iron gate swung open, its rusted hinges groaning in protest, and Applejack felt herself forcefully shoved past the threshold and into the graveyard. She stumbled forward slightly, nearly tripping over her spindly legs before regaining her lost balance and returning to a brisk walk. It made sense that this mysterious graveyard would have a groundskeeper, since it seemed that it was incredibly well kept, with every headstone perfectly aligned in neat, ordered rows which went outward from a large, paved circle like spokes in a wheel.

However, even with the seemingly organized and well kept look of the graveyard, something about it felt...off, as if some dark oppressive force was pushing down on her shoulders, trying to weigh her down. Every so often, she would glance behind herself, checking to make sure something wasn't actually perched on her shoulders. So far, it was just an eerie feeling, with nothing physically present anywhere on her body. She found that, during her wandering, she had ended up among a clutch of headstones, which, unlike the other headstones, which were arranged in rows, were arranged in a ring around her.

What the hay? She thought, wondering where these headstones had come from in the first place and why they didn't follow the design scheme of the rest of the graveyard, which had, even more strangely, seemingly disappeared completely, completely engulfed in the thick, black cloud. She heard a low rumble, and looked back at the headstones to find, to her unease, that they had physically moved to close in around her.

"This is gettin' weird..." she said, voicing the very first thought that came to her mind.

"How so?" came a low, whispering female voice.

Applejack felt as if something vicious were slowly moving along the ground by her hooves. She looked down at the ground, fearful for whatever bizarre creature might be lurking at her hooves. She was greeted by simple grass and she narrowed her eyes.

"Where are ya? Show yerself!" she called out, having no patience for whomever it was who was making her feel so uncomfortable.

"You didn't answer my question," came the voice again, this time sounding somewhat disappointed. "What is so strange about home?"

"Home? Strange? This ain't my home, It's a graveyard!" Applejack found herself saying, not quite sure why she felt compelled to answer the disembodied voice. "Now where are ya?! Stop playin' this silly game an' tell me what's goin' on?"

"Game? This isn't a game..." came the voice again, this time sounding bemused. "This, Applejack...this is where you belong."

Applejack stomped a hoof, tired of whomever it was and their mind games.

"I said show yerself ya dirty coward! Stop messin' wit' mah head ya kook!" she shouted.

The voice made a sound that sounded almost like a disappointed sigh.

"You really aren't the least bit fun," the voice chided, and Applejack felt something akin to a tentacle wrap around her neck. "Now just humor me and take a look at this."

Before Applejack had a chance to protest, whatever it was that was wrapped around her neck yanked her head forward towards one of the headstones. Applejack's eyes widened at the words inscribed on it:

Here lies Apple Buck Apple, loving husband and father; 1888-1928

"Daddy?" Applejack said, her voice hushed, not even noticing the fact that she was looking at the headstone of her own volition and not because of the tendril, which had since slithered off her neck. Swallowing, Applejack's eyes drifted to the headstone immediately next to her fathers.

Here lies Apple Blossom Apple, loving wife and mother; 1893-1928

"Mama?" Applejack whispered in fearful confusion.

"Feels horrible to be the reason they're there isn't it?" taunted the mysterious voice. "If you're father and mother hadn't had to spend extra money on your dozens and dozens of doctor visits and expensive medicines, why, they might have been able to pay the rent without all that extra work."

Applejack felt an incredible guilt shoot through her despite her best efforts to ignore the voice. She didn't want to admit, but the voice had reminded her of a long kept secret fear she had had. She had always wondered that maybe, just maybe, if she hadn't always been so sickly and in need of constant medical attention, her family might have been able to have more money, and not be so desperate for extra income. Then maybe her father wouldn't have needed to take that job in those accursed mines. Maybe it really was her fault that they were there-

No. That's not mah fault. She thought, shaking her head to clear away the feelings of doubt. "Listen here you!" She spat, turning towards where she last heard the voice come from. "I ain't gonna take none of that horsefeathers yer spoutin' ya got that? Mah parents were honest ponies, an' they only wanted tha best fer us! An' I ain't gonna let ya insult them like that!"

She searched for where the tormenting voice was hiding. There was a strange disembodied growl and the thick fog began to clump together, quickly forming into a towering pitch black alicorn, garbed in ornate black armor and wings spread wide behind it, it's snake like eyes burning with hatred.

“WHY?!” The alicorn shouted, her voice sending out a blast that caused Applejack stumbling back up against one of the headstones. ”Why must you fight? You know the truth Applejack. You are the cause of all your family’s woes! Just accept that truth and release them from this anguish.”

“End what now ya grass snake?” Applejack growled in defiance as she stood up, noticing that the alicorn’s gaze had shifted to the headstone Applejack had been leaning up against. Following the alicorn’s gaze, Applejack felt her stomach twist at the text engraved on the headstone.

Here lies Applejack Apple, A burden to her family; 1916 - 1941

“No no no no no” Applejack said, stepping back fearfully and shaking her head. “Th-that’s not true...I’m not a burden…” she said, her voice degrading into a sob.

“Oh but you are Applejack. It is quite true,” The alicorn whispered in her ear, floating an ornate, onyx dagger into Applejack’s field of vision. “You have been nothing but a burden to your family since day one, just take this blade and end it.”

The alicorn placed the dagger into Applejack’s hoof with a sick, twisted smile stretching across her muzzle, awaiting for the slice that would end it all. Her smile got more sadistic when Applejack looked down at her hooves, feeling the cold, oily energy radiating off the dagger, slowly and steadily seeping through her body.

Just one little quick slash across the throat and they’ll be free...and you’ll finally cease to be a burden… came a soft, velvety voice from inside Applejack’s head. Trust me…

Applejack closed her eyes tightly, shaking her head and muttering the Apple Family motto under her breath.

“Apples don’t quit and they stick together through thick and thin.” she repeated, before tossing the knife away. She turned to look up at the alicorn, who seemed to be disappointed.

“I’m sorry, but I just won’t do it. Ya’ll think that ya can just scare me inta killin’ maself? Well, ya got ‘nother thin’ comin’.”

And with that, she turned and started to walk away, only to feel the ground suddenly give way underneath her hooves. She felt a sharp pain go through her ankle as she hit the ground, finding herself in a deep, roughly rectangular shaped hole.

“You didn’t think it would be that easy did you?” the alicorn said, looming over the pit, a dominating smile on her face. “Those who stand in my path are crushed.”

As she spoke, her horn began to glow a pale silver and the walls around Applejack began to crumble rapidly.

“But in your case, I think a burial might be appropriate...considering the location.” The alicorn added with a chuckle and Applejack felt the walls of the pit completely collapse around her, sending her into darkness.


Applejack awoke to a splash of water to the face. Sputtering slightly, she bolted up, searching for the pony who had dowsed her with water.

“What in tarnation?!” she shouted, her head whipping around in search of the one who had soaked her. She saw that she was laying on the cot, still at the fair, apparently in another blocked off tented area. Standing next to her, perched on a stool and with an empty bucket held over her head, was Apple Bloom, who looked at Applejack with concern.

“Ya’ll alright AJ?” she asked, dropping the bucket. “Cause ya was actin’ all finicky in yer sleep.”

Applejack wrung her mane, trying get as much water out as she could before it started to frizz in the humidity. “Just a dream ‘Bloom, I’m all right. Howdja get here?”

Applejack looked around to find that they were, in fact, alone in the room.

“Mr. Shinin’ Armor took me here,” Apple Bloom replied, pointing to the outside of the tent. “He’s busy talkin’ wit’ a griffin.” she added.

“Ya’ll just let a random stallion come up an’ take ya someplace ya never been?” Applejack asked angrily, sitting up in her cot and shaking off the last bits of water, looking down at Apple Bloom with disapproval. “How many times ‘ave I told ya not ta talk ta strangers?”

Apple Bloom looked down at the ground, obviously feeling guilty. “He said he knew ya…” she murmured, rubbing her right foreleg as she always did when put on the spot.

Applejack’s face softened slightly. Apple Bloom had always been very trusting of ponies, something that Applejack couldn’t bring herself to really despise. The filly was still very young, and still had a lot to learn about the world. Unlike Applejack, who had had to learn a lot about the world from a very young age. She let out a sigh, giving Apple Bloom a gentle pat on the head to calm her.

“Hey, listen ‘Bloom. Now this time, ya was lucky an’ tha stallion was nice ta ya and took ya here. But not everypony is so nice ‘kay?” said Applejack, her tone gentler as she brought Apple Bloom up for a loving hug. “Somepony could easily lie about that. Don’t be so trustin’ or else somepony might take advantage of ya and hurt ya real bad. If’in something bad happened to you or Purity ah don’t know what ah’d do.”

“Okay AJ,” Apple Bloom replied quietly, and the pair simply sat there for a moment, content on simply hugging.

Applejack glanced over Apple Bloom’s shoulder to see a familiar, tall and very handsome white unicorn stallion standing in the doorway, a warm, if somewhat awkward smile on his face. Applejack was quick to release Apple Bloom from the hug and sit up in a more proper position on the cot.

“Sir,” she said, tipping her head in respect. Apple Bloom meanwhile, broke into a big smile, and waved towards the stallion adimately.

“Howdy Mistah Armor!” she said, and the stallion nodded.

“Hey Apple Bloom,” he said as he stepped into the room.

Applejack felt some relief in the fact that she at least recognized the stallion as the one who saved her life just a few hours before.

“Thank ya Mr. Armor fer bringin’ Apple Bloom ‘ere safe,” she was quick to say, attempting to clamber off her cot to give him a hoofshake.

Mr. Armor nodded somewhat awkwardly, and Applejack could have sworn he was blushing slightly.

“Um..yeah you’re welcome. And please, just call me Shining.” he said, returning the favor and, surprisingly, shaking her hoof.

Applejack smiled. Most of the time, whenever she offered her hoof for a shake to a unicorn, they would often react with visible disdain or disgust, often murmuring some sort of offense under their breath. However, in this stallion’s case, he seemed to totally not even notice her lack of horn, seemingly treating her as an equal. It was incredibly refreshing to say the least. It didn’t hurt that he was very, very handsome.

“Alrighty than Shinin’, an’ ya can call me Applejack,” she said with an awkward smile, “Thank ya fer pickin’ up mah sister. She wasn’t any trouble was she? An’ thanks fer savin’ mah life. I do owe ya a lot.” She then turned towards Apple Bloom, who had been watching the entire time. “An’ I’m sorry to ya ‘Bloom. Didn’t mean ta scare ya.”

“Oh, you’re sister wasn’t any trouble, we mostly talked about pulp comics and the like. Mostly Mare-Do-Well,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck somewhat awkwardly. “And you’re welcome Ms. Apple, you’re a really beaut-I mean nice mare.” he finished, blushing slightly at his misstep.

Applejack couldn’t help but giggle slightly. That was the first time she’d ever been called beautiful. It gave her a jittery, bubbly feeling she couldn’t quite describe, which seemed only heightened by the awkward way that Shining shifted on his hooves.

“Well thank ya kindly Mr. Armor…” she felt a coy smile tug at her lips, and her face flush slightly.

“Er.. well you um... see...” was about all Shining could stammer out before Apple Bloom let out an over dramatic groan of disapproval.

“Eww...sappy…” she said, sticking her tongue out.

Applejack couldn't help but smile at Apple Bloom's behavior. Both her and Shining began to chuckle, but Applejack felt her chest tighten within a few chuckles, and she stopped, taking several deep breaths. She felt a hoof on her shoulder and looked to see Shining and Apple Bloom looking at her with concern.

"Look, if you want, I can take Apple Bloom home. I think you still need some rest. That was a really heavy duty asthma attack you had today." Shining said.

"No, I think I can handle mahself." Applejack replied with a shake of her head.

She then quickly moved towards the exit with Apple Bloom in tow. She didn’t get far however, as a nurse cut across her path and held out a foreleg to stop her.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but you have to stay here.” she said kindly, motioning for Applejack to sit back down.

Applejack furrowed her brow, and angrily said: “But why? I’ma fine.”

“Ms. Apple, you just suffered a rather harsh asthma attack, I suggest it would be best for you to stay here until you’ve recovered.” the nurse stated, her kind veneer weakening somewhat. “We just want to be sure that you aren’t going to suffer one on the way home. It’s just simple protocol ma’am.”

Applejack sighed, narrowing her eyes slightly before leaning in close to the nurse.

“Ma’am, I don’t mean ta cause any unnecessary trouble, but I gotta get mah sistah home. Celestia knows mah older sister is probably worried sick ‘bout her.”

The nurse simply responded with a stern gaze of her own, lowering her eyebrows. “Miss Apple, we will make sure that your younger sister is home safe and sound. I just want you to go and have some rest.”

Applejack was about to come back with a response when Shining stepped between the two mares.

“Whoa, now ladies, let’s not get into a fight,” he said, then he turned towards the nurse. “Nurse, I think Applejack is fine. I mean she’s up and walking right? That’s gotta count for something.”

The nurse looked up at Shining for a moment, before glaring back at Applejack. “Mr. Armor, I’m going to take your honest word on this. But if she shows any signs of an oncoming attack, be sure to bring her here quickly. Celestia knows we don’t need a wrongful death suit on our hooves.”

And with that, the nurse trotted off to another part of the tent. Applejack watched her leave, taking special notice of the horn on the nurse’s head.

That explains a lot… she thought angrily before beckoning for Apple Bloom. “Come on sis’, let’s get ya home.” she then looked at Shining.

“Thank ya fer standin’ up fer me like that.” she said, starting to trot out of the nurses’ tent. Shining followed close behind, apparently wanting to escort them to the door.

“No problem. Nurse Scalpel can be a little too by-the-book sometimes.” he said, “But she means well, trust me.”

“Well, iffin’ it’ll make her feel any better, I’m sorry. Just wanna get home is all.” Applejack replied, not wanting to admit she still felt sore over not being accepted.

Having an asthma attack right in front of at least forty ponies didn’t help matters either. Spending any extra time in a hospital than absolutely necessary would probably only add up to more expenses for Purity to pay. And no matter what guilty thoughts might have skittered around in her head, she wasn’t going to be a burden to her family. Not if she could help it at least.

Just as the trio were about to leave the fair however, a voice called out to them.

“Pardon me, frau!”

Applejack turned to see a griffin walk up next to them, and Shining tipped his head as if he recognized him. Applejack tensed up slightly, however, unsure of how to react to the griffin.

“Um...howdie?” she said, coming to a stop. Apple Bloom looked up at the griffin and waved.

“Howdie, Professor!” she chirped.

“Hello Frau Apple,” The griffin replied warmly, tipping his head. He turned his attention to Applejack. “Frau Applejack I presume?”

Applejack raised an eyebrow slightly. “Um...yeah. Who’s asking?”

“Oh sorry I’ve already introduced myself to Frau Apple I guess I forgot my manners. My name is Professor Hans Wolfgang Christoph Ludwig von Schultz. But most just call me Professor Schultz.”

He extended a talon in greeting with a kind smile to go with it.

Applejack blinked. Why had this professor, a griffin no less, decided to speak with her? She looked down at the extended talon, noticing that the claws, while still present, were noticeably duller than other griffin talons she had seen. Of course, she had only ever seen griffin talons on newsreels, so who was to say that this random griffin really was a professor and not just a spy? Of course, Shining had recognized the griffin, and Apple Bloom seemed to know him as well. With that thought in mind, she tentatively returned the shake.

“Nice ta meet ya Professor...what might ya need?”

“Well, I wish to speak with you if that’s alright with you?” he said, motioning towards a seat nearby.

“Why? I’m kinda needin’ ta get home.” Applejack said, hoping not to get wrapped into another over-long interview session.

The professor nodded. “Of course, I understand. It’ll just take a few moments, I promise, and then you’ll be on your way.” he said, beckoning her to sit.

With a sigh, Applejack turned to Shining while motioning Apple Bloom closer to the attractive stallion.

“Wouldja mind takin’ ‘Bloom home, Shinin’? This’ll probably take a while.” Applejack said reluctantly.

Shining nodded. “Sure thing…” He started towards the door with Apple Bloom only to pause. “Wait, what’s your address?”

“Ya’ll know where Ms. Belle’s mansion is?”

“You mean that massive one with the obnoxious white and purple color scheme?” Shining asked, raising an eyebrow in recognition. “Because I passed by it on the way into town yesterday.”

Applejack nodded. “Yup. That’s the one. Mah house is right down the main road an’ to tha right. If ya get lost, ‘Bloom will help ya find it.”

“Alright then. Thank you Mrs. App-I mean Applejack,” Shining replied, blushing again slightly at his slip up and beckoning for Apple Bloom to follow.

Applejack watched as they left the fair and headed down the road to the edge of town for awhile before she lost sight of them and turned back to the griffin.

“Alright Professor, whadda wanna talk ‘bout?” she asked, following him as he pulled out a nearby chair from a table, beckoning for her to sit, even going as far as to dust it off slightly. Applejack couldn’t help but be thankful for his courteousness, and she sat down.

“Thanks fer the chair.” she said, getting comfortable.

The griffin nodded. “Yes of course Ms. Apple. I am always respectful to a lady,” he said, taking a seat of his own and pulling out a notepad from under his wing.

As he did so, Applejack noticed that he also had the clipboard with her information there as well, and he set both on the small table they had sat at.

“Now, I’m going to ask some simple questions and I want you to answer as honestly as possible. Alright?”

Applejack shifted in her seat slightly, internally grumbling at the idea of another evaluation. “Um..alright then Professor Schultz,” she said, keeping the grumble in her voice to a minimum.

Professor Schultz smiled and nodded, before flipping a page up on the paper. “Alright then Ms. Apple, tell me, what compelled you to attempt and join the armed forces today?” he asked, peering at Applejack over his granny glasses with a slightly raised eyebrow.

Applejack shifted in her chair slightly. As much as she’d been thinking about it, she worried if just up and saying that she came for no reason other then money would seem mean spirited. It wasn’t because she wasn’t patriotic or anything, she loved Equestria just as much as the next pony. But to her, with all the hecticness of life, it seemed that patriotism, while an admirable thing, wouldn’t be the best way to pay bills.

“Ms. Apple, you can be as honest as you wish,” said Professor Schultz, snapping Applejack out of her moral pondering. “In fact, the more honest the better,” he added, giving her a smile.

Applejack let out a sigh. “Well, Professor, an’ I really don’t wanna seem like a jerk or nuthin’, but I came here fer the money. Plain and simple.” she said, subconsciously moving to rub her foreleg.

She looked at Professor Schultz, expecting him to maybe frown and give her a long speech about the wonders of patriotism, and how she was a terrible pony for only being in it for the money when others were doing it for moral reasons. Instead, he simply jotted something down on the notepad and nodded.

“Any other reasons? It says here that you have asthma and are at least twenty pounds below the allowed weight,” he said, looking down at the clipboard with her application. “Are you sure this isn’t so that you can prove the naysayers wrong? Prove your worth something to your family?”

He looked Applejack in the eye, and his tone, while level, had a noticeable flavor of sympathy and understanding to it, as if he wasn’t talking down to her, but rather simply wanting to know more about her.

Applejack bit her lip slightly. “Well…” she trailed off, looking down at the ground embarrassed.

She’d never really thought of it that way before, but his question had struck a chord in her. She’d always been trying to prove her worth around the farm, try to make things easier for Purity to handle or make sure they could afford Apple Bloom’s education. Of course, with her constant health problems, much of that money had gone to pay for hospital visits, doctor appointments and her medications.

“Now that ya mention it...I do feel like a bit of a burden’...” she said quietly, more to herself than anything else. “I mean, ya’ll read the paper I guess. Me an’ Purity wanna get my sister a good education’ an’ all, but we keep spendin’ money on me an’ my medicine. Add ta that the rent we need ta pay Ms. Belle...I guess maybe I justed wanted ta go an’ show them I’m worth somethin’...help keep a roof over our heads or somethin’...” she trailed off, letting out a sigh and adjusting her hat slightly.

“I see Ms. Apple. This Ms. Belle, is she your landlord?” Professor Schultz asked, writing down some more notes.

“Yeah. She’s a real bit-er snob.” Applejack replied, catching the expletive before it left her mouth. Professor Schultz raised an eyebrow slightly.

“You don’t like her do you?” he asked, seemingly already knowing the answer. “Is it because she’s a unicorn?”

Applejack huffed. “No...it ain’t because of that. A snob is a snob, horn or no horn.” she replied. “An’ iffin’ yer wonderin’ if I like them HYDRA folk, rest assured I don’t. I mean, I can understan’ why somepony would want ta be treated tha same, but I figure ya don’t have ta kill somepony ta be equal wit ‘em.” she replied. “Then yer just like the bullies ya wanted ta stop. An’ I hate bullies.”

“So you don’t like bullies?” Professor Schultz asked, jotting down what Applejack said on his notepad. Applejack nodded.

“Sure thin’. Nothin’ but big mean jerks who pick on the little guy. Can’t stand ‘em.” she replied, sitting up slightly.

“Ever been picked on by one?” Professor Schultz asked, looking at Applejack with curiosity.

Applejack nodded slightly, dark memories of constantly being harassed by bullies at school for her size or her lack of horn running through her mind. “Yeah...yeah I was.” She replied quietly.

“I see…” Professor Schultz responded, jotting something else down and then closing his notepad. “Well, Ms. Apple, am I correct in assuming that you attempted to join the military today because you simply wish to provide for your family? Is that the reason?”

Applejack nodded. “In a nutshell yeah...like I said...I don’t wanna be a burden to ‘em. I just want them ta stay safe an’ sound ya know. Any self-respect I get is just a bonus I guess…”

Professor Schultz smiled. “Excellent. That is exactly the kind of honesty I wanted to hear.” As he spoke, he leaned down to pull out another clipboard from his briefcase, which he had left next to his seat. He set it on the table and then, reaching back into his briefcase, he pulled out a stamp, rolled it in some ink and stamped the sign 1A. Applejack’s eyebrows rose ever so slightly.

“Um...what are ya doin’?” Applejack asked, unsure as to why she had been giving a passing grade.

“Ms. Apple, I am proud to announce that you have just been drafted into a very special, very secret project of the Equestrian Government.” He extended a talon for her to shake. “Project Rebirth to be exact.”

Applejack simply blinked, unsure of what to say. After searching her mind for a second, she finally decided what would be the overall best response to such an announcement: