Chapter 17: If they came to hear me beg.
Projectiles and magic alike pinged off of every surface about Shining armour as the combat about him increased in intensity. What must have been about thirty seconds, felt like hours as his body dumped adrenaline into his system, sharpening his senses and sending his fight or flight instincts buzzing. Cherry Twig, one of the night guards, had already been vanquished by the vile alien weaponry. The small orb that had been tossed landed between her hooves, she barely had a moment to move before the device detonated in a wave of hell-fire and debris. There wasn't much left of her except some red mist floating off on the wind. It made Shining want to hurl but he persisted onwards. He would slay the creatures or bring them back to Celestia and Luna himself, he would promise Cherry that much. Any attempts at removing them had thus far been rather ineffective. Their armour must have been centuries ahead as it soaked bolt after bolt and that was only when they hit. The creatures carried a grace about them that was unheard of for animals that size. Luna informed them that they had some hereditary traits similar to that of Equestrian simians but they took the cake as they dove about the place, all the while launching their volleys of death.
Another projectile smashed against Shining's cover and he took that as his chance to return volley. Peaking from cover ever so slightly he released his magically enhanced bolt and quickly sped back into cover as several more projectiles reverberated through the metal plating protecting him. The creatures sure knew how to make sturdy material, it worked in their favour just as much as it did his, but it was only a matter of time before the aliens whittled them down. One by one they would fall as the aliens pressed them against the rocks and rubble. The situation continued to deteriorate as Iron Lance leaned from cover to launch another bolt but met a swift and gruesome end as one of the aliens shot through his left eye, popping it and sending brain-matter flying through the back of his skull. His corpse sunk to the floor slowly as red began to stain his once brilliant white fur. Once more Shining felt his stomach lurch and he had to swallow hard as sweat began to form on his brow. This was the most intense thing he had ever done.
Somewhere off to his right a loud fizzling sound could be heard, quickly met with the agonizing scream of a female batpony. Another one of the Lunar guards had fallen. One minute, three dead guards. The prospects of success continued to remain ever illusive, taunting Shining as it slowly faded into the distance. A dull, yet cheerful hum began to emanate from the vicinity of the last casualty and several heads turned as a small floating orb burbled along, drowning in its own ecstasy. One of the batponies leaped from the shadows, hoof-claws poised to strike but the orb just spun slightly and vaporised the helpless guard in a blinding beam of red light. The orb paid no heed to the falling remains of the charred corpse and simply returned to humming as it floated ever closer towards Shining and the rest of his guards.
“Fall back!” Shouted Shining as he began backing off through various pieces of cover, launching bolt after bolt at the orb all the while, but the orb had stopped paying them any attention by this point. Instead focusing on the sky as the guards slowly pulled back to a better position.
“Reclaimer there appears to be more...” The orb didn't manage to finish its sentence as a another red beam not entirely different for the orbs smashed into the central glowing piece and sent the orb skittering off across the dirt, the bright light in its monocle slowly fading away, leaving a dull, mute grey. Shining had barely a moment to react as a score of beings swooped over head and landed all across the crash site in massive plumes of dirt and ash. Shining and the guards had barely a moment to react before lances of orange and red light began striking them from every direction. In moments the guard had been reduced by a further six ponies, causing the others to scatter into the rubble. As Shining darted through the rubble, towards the hill he couldn't help but realise that he had heard the sound of these weapons before, whatever was attacking them now had to be ones he had heard in the audio stone, but what was attacking them now? Alien reinforcements? Perhaps but they attacked the alien orb, perhaps an opposing faction of aliens, but that didn't help as they seemed to hate ponies just as much as the others did. Shining could begin to feel the ash slowly turn to soil beneath his hooves as he got further and further through the field of debris, toward the hills they had arrived from. His moment of reflection was cut short as a loud squawk emanated from his right. He barely had a moment to turn as a large mass of muscle, feather and metal went careening into him, sending him crashing to the floor.
Trapped beneath the creature, Shining violently lashed out but felt the creature slacken against him as a loud bang could be heard. Finally kicking the creature off of him he could see what had happened. Standing mere metres away from him was the tall blue, giant alien who had its weapon trained directly at what he supposed was his head. Shining could feel his spine go numb with dread as the alien starred him down. The situation remained that way until the alien lowered its weapon, giving a nod before running off towards the sound of battle. Shining, now alone, stared down at the corpse which once trapped him; what greeted him was a very unexpected sight. The unmistakable build of a Gryphon lay mere inches away from him, causing him to claw across the ground and away from the offending avian.
Sitting there for a moment, Shining could hear the familiar trot of another pony approaching turning his head to look down towards the space vessel, he could see Bronze Carapace slowly emerge from behind the rubble, slowly limping as he went. Bronze turned and spotted Shining who meekly waved as his only response. Bronze scurried over as quickly as he could with his limp and stood in front of Shining.
“By Celestia, you're still alive.” Bronze received no response as Shining sat there staring off into the distance. Carapace tried nudging him but received no response. “Come on Shining. Now is no time to develop PTSD on me. We need to go, use your magic.”
“I looked death in the eyes.” Shining slowly whispered out.
“Well he didn't invite you inside so you're good enough for now. Now get up.” Bronze called slowly placing his hooves on Shining's shoulders and rattling him side to side. This continued for several seconds before the sound of battle suddenly became a lot closer, snapping Shining from his trance. Several more Gryphons came vaulting over the rubble, landing on the other end of a corridor of debris housing them and the ponies. One turned and spotted them, hissing and calling to it's comrades to turn as well. The Gryphons brought their weapons up to bear as they stood on their hind legs and began launching a volley of fire at the ponies. Shining reacted faster though and had already grabbed Bronze and the dead Gryphon, linking them into a teleportation spell and sending them off into the ethereal plains before a single energy beam could strike.
42 could feel the heat dissipate over his armour as another energy beam struck him. He refused to flinch however and quickly dropped the last offender with a quick jab of the stock of his rifle, causing the avians head to cave in with a sickening crunch. Bringing his rifle to bear once more he scanned his radar and his surroundings for any more of the new interlopers. Satisfied that he'd killed the last of them he buzzed Katherine on the coms, signalling for her to converge on his position along with their guest. Moments later the red Spartan and mint unicorn emerged from the maze of wreckage and walked over to him.
“Any survivors?” 16 asked as she stepped over the corpse of a previously fallen pony.
“Nothing.” 42 called back, nudging the corpse of the Gryphon with his boot for emphasis, causing Lyra to shudder. “How's transgression?”
16 reached behind her and pulled the monitor from the magnetic clamp on her waist, proceeding to toss him over to 42. “Little bugger is still operational... barely. But I don't think we can fix him. Optics and audio are fried. Processing seems to be a bit inhibited and he seems to have become a bit delusional when I contact him through direct interface, not making and sense about anything.”
“Rampancy?” 42 asked as he spun the heavily damaged construct around in his hands, getting a view from all angels.
“Perhaps, though it's hard to tell with forerunner shit. Hell I don't even know how the damn thing survived two hits like that.” 16 stabbed the barrel of her rifle into the ground and rested her arms upon the stock, using it as a makeshift cane. “What's the plan now then; fortify and repair?”
42 looked off into the distance, towards the smoke plumes in the horizon and the evident source of the avian/mammalian creatures. “No. These things are armed to the teeth with forerunner toys. Sitting in one place is going to just get us swarmed and killed. These weapons were enough to punch right through my shields in two or three bursts. This whole fiasco is getting more cryptic by the minute. We need answers.” 42 finished his speech with a raised arm, pointing in the direction of the smoke plumes.
“What? You want to go where there are more of them? 16 replied. “I've seen a few of these weapons before, on installation 03. Spooks snatched them up for study. I think they called them light and binary rifles.”
“You remember what I told you in the med-bay. This place is a shield world, 100% certain.” We need to get a ride out of here and inform the UNSC of this find and I don't think we're going to be doing that trying to repair a messed up ship in the middle of what appears to be the opening days of an interplanetary war. We move fast and discreet. The bird brains got their weapons from somewhere and I'm sure they'll have some other stuff we could find useful or perhaps even a path deeper into the planet.”
“We're catching a ride from the forerunners?”
“Affirmative. Grab what you can and destroy the rest, place charges along the ship. Make sure we leave nothing for the natives to scavenge. You got thirty minutes while I drop Lyra somewhere out of the way.”
“Wait what...” Was all Lyra managed to stutter before she was knocked over the head by 16, sending her sprawling to the floor unconscious.
“Make it quick.” 16 said as she scooped Lyra up and passed her along to 42. She then turned off and jogged to the ship as 42 began sprinting in the general direction of Ponyville.
Shining Armour could feel the cool air brush against his dirtied fur as he re-emerged from the ethereal plains of teleportation. Never in his entire life had he done such a teleportation, while magically drained and carrying other ponies along to boot. The rush of adrenaline quickly wore off and he collapsed to the floor in a heaving wretch, desperately trying to keep himself from chucking up his guts. This continued for several moments before the dazed coughs of Bronze Carapace caught his attention, causing him to roll onto his back and peer over his stomach towards the nightly individual. It was quite obvious that the teleportation mixed with combat had taken its toll on him too as he hacked and spluttered all over the grass beneath him. A quick jolt of pain sent Bronze Carapace reeling to a standing position as he accidentally turned onto his injured flank. Capitalising on his now standing position, Bronze trudged over to Shining before nudging him in the side with his muzzle.
“Come on. We got to get go.” Bronze tried pulling him up a bit, but Shining was reluctant to return to an upright state. With a little more coaxing he was finally able to rise, albeit on wobbly legs as he adjusted himself over a wider base for better stability.
“Yeah... thanks.” Shining called as Bronze trotted away from him.
“Don’t thank me, you pulled our flanks right out of the fire there. Besides we still have a job to do.” Carapace stood over the corpse of the once hostile Gryphon. Black ichor poured from the open wound – or rather hole – where the creatures ears used to be. The blue giant’s projectile had went straight in one side and out the other; quick and efficient, even if somewhat messy. Shining trotted over and inspected the corpse for himself.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a Gryphon bleed black before.”
“I don’t think it’s his blood.” Bronze Carapace said. Sure enough, despite the black substance flowing freely, there was still hints of the red life source seeping out in small blotches between the surges of foreign liquid. “Something isn’t right here. I don’t think these are normal Gryphon soldiers.”
“Perhaps… but I still doubt even that. Gryphons may be the most scientifically geared species on the planet but even I don’t think they can do this. Any magic on them?”
Shining ignited his horn with the residual amounts that had returned to him since his rest and swiped it along the deceased warrior. “Nothing. Just normal background magic.”
“That can’t be right” Bronze scoffed.
“Well it is. I mean look at this other stuff!” Shining pointed to the small collection of gadgets both carried on and plugged into the Gryphon. There was a weird frame that ran along it’s spinal cord and down its hind legs, probably what allowed it to stand upright for large lengths of time. It also carried several cubes with jutting red spikes and the unmistakable shape of one of those alien projectile launchers, though this one was far more sleek than the known aliens. Where they favoured black and blocky, this weapon was a light silver and ran smoothly end to end with the occasional pointed jutting, the only thing to break away from this style were the rags tied around several areas of the weapon, most likely for the Gryphon’s comfort and grip. Shining picked up the rifle with his front hooves and leaned back slightly on his hind-legs. “Look at this thing I don’t think it’s gah…!”
As the rifle nestled in his grip it, parts of it began to glow a steady orange and within moments the various parts split apart from one another, floating in the air and hovering mere millimetres from its adjacent parts. The weapon hummed with a steady pulsing sound as the orange lights became more and more intense. Finally the top plate of the weapon shot up at the back end like a lever pump handle and a small cylinder turned upwards to face Shining Armour. Leaning closer in to inspect it, he nearly screamed when a smaller tube shot out from the other and clipped his ear. Dropping the rifle in panic it smacked into the floor and quickly returned to its dormant state, the only clue that it had ever been active was the dull glow of the upper weapon slowly fading.
Shining smiled sheepishly at Bronze who merely shrugged and trotted over to where the tube had landed. Picking it up with his teeth he brought it back over and deposited it by the weapon, allowing Shining to have a closer look at the fruits of his labour.
“I would assume that’s how you load it.” Bronze said. “Regardless, we have recuperated long enough. We need to get back to Canterlot.”
“What!? What about the others down there?” Shining peered down the hillside to the crash site nearly three miles in the distance. “We can’t leave them.”
“To be honest Shining. What with the aliens and the Gryphon’s showing up. I doubt there are any left down there. Besides, it is most crucial that we make haste to the princesses and inform them of the Gryphon Kingdom’s possible treachery. These devices may help us in the long run.” Bronze looked down and picked up the alien weapon once more, which once again whirred to life at his touch. Slinging it in his saddle pack he noticed it powered down again. “Huh. Interesting.”
Shining looked down towards the crash site in the distance once more before sighing and hanging his head low. “Very well. For Equestria we shall prevail.” Shining mumbled as he walked over to Bronze and and hoisted the Gryphon over both of their backs before setting off towards the spire like mountain, home of Canterlot, in the horizon. “We'll stop by Ponyville and requisition a train.”