In The Shadows Of Peace

by Veyron

The Gathering Storm: Part II Split the sky

Vex’s hooves pounded rhythmically into the rain soaked soil. The light from the moon filtering through the treetops and the sound of crickets in the distance were his only guides.
I don’t know how long I can keep this up. What am I going to do, I’m out of ammo and I lost my saber in the city. Just as his thought finished, a lance of searing pain shot up his leg and into his shoulder.
“Buck!” Vex cursed to himself as he struggled to keep ahead of his hunters.
I hope Nova’s group is faring better than I am. Looking over his shoulder, Vex took in the sight of his damaged wing; the hole that went through its bat like membrane was still leaking a fair amount of blood onto the forest floor. It was a lucky shot from a mutt who had evaded the first combat team Vex had sent into the besieged city.
Another jolt of lancing pain shot up into his shoulder, this time Vex collapsed into a heap of tumbling limbs that came to rest in a small ditch. Propping himself up against the earthen walls, Vex listened for his hunters. At first he heard the faint sound of breathing, then the chirps and calls of the crickets went quiet. With the pain distracting him, Vex failed to notice the approach of a Diamond Dog until he felt the cold steel of a revolver pressed to his head and the sound of a hammer being cocked back.

20 hours ago

The Eclipse steamed at full speed towards the burning city; her crew filled with a sense of growing unease. For many, this would be the first time they had seen combat, but for a select few, this would be just another notch in the bed post.
“Arcanian, what do you have for me?” Vex shouted over the din of the steam driven turbine.
The dark blue unicorn looked up. “One enemy airship is on station and is currently bombarding the city.” Taking another look over the railing, Arcanian continued. “That’s the least of our worries as it looks like that ship has already dropped off her raiding parties and is only providing support.”
This was not something Vex wanted to hear. An airship was one thing, but an engagement in a heavily populated urban area was something he wanted to avoid but it would seem that fate had other plans.
“Alright, here’s what we are going to do.”

Vex and three other ponies cautiously trotted down another abandoned street. It would seem that the residents of this small town in the badlands had been smart enough to take cover as soon as they had come under attack. Holding up a hoof, Vex signalled his group to stop as he went to check on a small square building who had survived the onslaught. Rearing up on his hind legs and unslinging his rifle from his back, Vex began to inspect the outside. The building was unremarkable; its wood siding and large plate glass windows let him know that this was a place of business or an eating establishment. Vex tried to peer through the windows but the layer of ash on them made this impossible.
With his rifle raised, Vex stalked towards the only entrance he could find which were a set of ornately carved double doors. With his back to the door, Vex delivered a mighty kick sending the door flying open in a shower of glass and splinters. The three militia ponies Vex had brought with him immediately rushed through the breach, ready to end the life of anything foolish enough to open fire on them. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Vex heard three knocks that signalled the all clear and shortly after entered the building himself shortly after. Looking around, Vex was surprised to see that this was in fact a restaurant and it was still in good condition.
Wow, even the food left on the tables is still warm. That thought sent alarm bells blaring in Vex’s head as he leveled his rifle at the door of the only room they had not searched.
“We know you are in there! Come out with your hooves or claws in the air.” Vex nodded for two of the militia ponies to take up positions near the door.
“You have ten seconds to comply! If you do not, we will be force to drag you out by any means necessary.”
Vex swiveled his ears forward at the sound of a lock being turned which was followed by the door swinging open. The four ponies that had locked themselves in slowly made their way out and each had a look of relief on their face as they saw the group of ponies who had ordered them out of the hiding place.
“Thank Celestia.” A dark brown earth pony stallion said, his eyes firmly locked on to Vex’s own and upon further inspection Vex noticed a tag with the name Barley written on it.
“What happened here…? Where are the all the other ponies who live on this street?” Vex asked as he lowered his weapon.
“The dogs came and took them… T-they have my wife and daughter. They said they were taking all those they found to some camp in the center of town.” Barley replied.
“We have a camp set up on the outskirts of town, head there and you will receive food and medical attention.” Vex said as he ushered Barley and his group out of the building.
“Bow Shock, send word to Nova and Arcanian’s groups and tell them to meet us near the center of town.”
With a salute, the off white Pegasus known as Bow Shock took to the air.
“We are going to need all the help we can get.”

The camp was rather small for the amount of ponies and other creatures that called this city home.
“Most of the residents must have fled as soon as the first salvo hit.” Nova said as she and Vex watched as Diamond Dog skirmishers loaded ponies and griffins onto their airship.
“Well this complicates things just a bit.” Vex said with a sigh.
“What do you mean boss?” Nova looked at Vex with a mix of curiosity and concern.
“We can no longer use the Eclipse’s guns without putting innocent lives at risk.” Vex shifted his weight to retrieve a small map from his duster’s pocket.
“Ok new plan! Nova, I want you to take your fire team and surround the camp.” With a nod, Nova took off to relay Vex’s orders.
Reaching back into his pocket, Vex found his small communication device; a small crystal wrapped in copper wire with a small button on one end.
“Arcanian, we have a change of plans so listen closely.”

Night had fallen and Vex was hunkered down in a window of a building overlooking the camp. His breath was steady as he lined up his sights on the dog who looked like he was the one giving orders.
 Any minute now. Soon after that thought crossed Vex’s mind, a bright blue light illuminated the dark evening sky. With a slow, steady pull of his rifle’s trigger, Vex sent a small ball of lead straight into his target’s neck, sending the poor dog flying off of the platform he had been standing on and down onto the cold unforgiving ground. Shortly after his shot, Vex heard the reports of his team’s rifles as they filled the air with smoke and littered the ground with bodies. Vex watched as Nova and her team crept out of the woods, pausing to take an occasional shot at any dog foolish enough to break cover.
This is going well… Almost too well. Just then, Vex caught movement in the corner of his eye but just as he was about to investigate, the roar of a steam engine coming to life grabbed his attention. Turning to look, Vex saw the large airship ripping its anchors from the ground and lifting into the air before disappearing into the clouds.
Buck. Just as Vex was about to take wing to catch the airship, his radio crackled to life.
“Oi Vex, its Rivet and ye are going to be having company soon!”
“Buck!” Vex cursed to himself as he leapt from his perch.
“Nova, Arcanian, take you squads and scatter! This order also applies to all units on the channel! Run back to the evac point the ship will meet you there!”
Vex skidded around a corner only to come face to face with a small group of well-armed Diamond Dogs.
Buck me sideways. Vex thought as he searched for a way out, his eyes finally came to rest on a grove of trees that led into a forest.
Maybe I can lose them in there. Vex thought as he dashed for the tree line with his hunters in tow.