Machine And Might: Far Horizon Of Stars

by Kriegor


One Final Effort

Machine And Might: Far Horizon Of Stars

One Final Effort

        “Atlas!” Luna called out as she ran after the titan, the android Prometheus sprinting beside her. The distant outline of Apex and its citadel quickly approached, soon looming over them as the battlefield lit up with plasma fire. The old buildings of Ponyville being left behind as they were in turn replaced by the gargantuan machinations of Apex proper. There was something in the air that Luna would never forget, that being the air of war. The burning flesh of those guardsmen that fell, their suits torn apart by the unforgiving fire of the Ubor’s weapons. In turn, the machines swarmed the area with reckless abandon, giving no quarter to their organic enemies. The unnatural juxtaposition of life and death was not lost on her.

        A grenade exploded, sending a guardsman flying across Luna’s field of view. She instinctively ducked, avoiding some of the debris caused by the explosion itself. Once she stood up, her suit’s shields absorbed a burst of gauss shells fired by some of the Ubor troopers. Debris fell down from the sky like a meteor shower as the ships above engaged in barrages of fire.

        “Just keep up with me!” Atlas yelled back, guiding Luna and Prometheus through the flow of guardsmen that were assaulting Apex. Luna sprinted past the maze of guardsman who were waging battle, her stature aiding her as to not be noticed and shot by the Ubor.

Luna watched as the punishing rate of gunfire carved out a canyon through the endless horde of machines, shrapnel and sparks rained down as the butchered machines fell before them. The Ubor’s loud, cybernetic screams of battle and calls of command could barely be discerned from the sounds of the battle. One pre-human building caught her attention, even as projectiles zipped past her at supersonic speeds. Sugarcube Corner, if her memory served her right. It brought pain to the Princess to see the building in such a poor state, barred windows, and bullet holes, a tragic portrait of how pony culture clung on through changes even after all these years. All she wished was to be able to get a chance of seeing Ponyville, even in its deprived state, once more once everything ended.

        An explosion ripped through a nearby guardsman, and Luna covered her eyes as some of the crimson fluid sprayed across her face. She slowly lowered her foreleg, seeing it covered in blood, causing her body to seize up, forcing her to gag. Her body grew numb and her eyesight grew blurred, the sounds around her fading to nothing. It took her perhaps too long to realize that she had fallen to the ground, but despite that, she felt nothing. In this catatonic state, she slowly craned her neck around, observing her surroundings as the battle moved on. Buildings almost demolished by the sheer power of futuristic warfare. A young, light armored mare meeting her demise at the end of an Ubor gun barrel. Luna slowly looked up, into the afternoon’s sky. A guardsman near her received a shell to the head, spraying Luna with both blood and brain matter.

        “Why all them, but not me…” she thought as she wiped the gore off of her face with one of her hooves.

        It was then that she saw several flashes of light coming from beyond the sky, which shortly mutated into bright objects that blazed through the air, diving into the planet at a speed so great that the air around them turned into plasmic fire. Luna closed her eyes, her senses coming back to herself as she did. When she opened her them, the blazing figures were already reaching the soil of Ponyville district. One of them landed a few dozen meters away from her, the resulting blast cracking down the streets and digging into the ground below. From the dust, a massive, bipedal, metallic figure could be seen standing on the center of the crater itself. At the ends of its two arms, in the place of hands, were a set of weaponry fashioned for the brutal art of waging war. The man-driven machine took a step forward, causing a small tremor, before releasing a loud, angry cybernetic roar that resulted in the destruction of every glass object within the immediate area.

        “Ubor!” it bellowed, deeply and cybernetically. “Prepare for immediate eradication! This is our planet!”

        Luna felt something grab her by the side, making her flinch and rapidly turn to the side, her eyes meeting with the cold stare of Prometheus. The android then helped her to hastily stand up before pointing her in the direction of Atlas. “Go!” he yelled as a missile flew past them. They both ducked as the missile continued its course, exploding a few meters behind them. They both stood upright again, and made a mad sprint across the battlefield, dodging shells fired by the Ubor as they closed in on the titan himself.

        Suddenly a large blast sounded off from above, prompting Luna to look upwards, where the ships waged their own war. She looked up just in time to see an Ubor cruiser flying above, chased by a squadron of USC frigates. Luna squinted at the afternoon sun, still able to see as the frigates shot through the cruiser’s engines, sending it blazing down towards the planet.

        “Look above!” a soldier called out.

        “It’s coming down! Clear the area!”

        “Get down!” Prometheus exclaimed, pushing Luna down onto the ground as the ship fell from the heavens. A loud blast quaked the ground beneath Luna’s hooves, combined with many more explosions and screams of both organics and Ubor. The whole ordeal forced her to drop to the ground, followed by debris falling down like a heavy rain. A cloud of smoke soon covered the vicinity, and the gunfire slowly died out.

        Luna coughed, shaking her head as she regained her bearings. Her suit’s shields recharged after fending off some of the more dangerous pieces of debris. Slowly and steadily did she stand back up, looking around the smoke-covered battlefield. “Prometheus?” she called out. “Atlas?”

        “I am here,” Prometheus’ cybernetic voice ushered from her right. Luna turned to her right, able to see the outline of the android just a few meters ahead. Once they found each other, they looked around, gazing through the cloud of dust and smoke, Luna being able to sense the smell of fire and blood. A few dead bodies could be discerned, some of them mangled and mutilated, certainly a bad way to die. Along with that were a few guardsmen who were also standing up as debris continued to fall. Without a word, Prometheus began to walk through the smoke. Luna, still numb to a certain degree, started to follow in his steps, kicking off stones and shards of metal as she went along.

        “Is there... Is there something wrong?” she asked, noticing that the android was too quiet.

        “The ship,” Prometheus stated. “It did not self-destruct.”

        A particular building could be seen through the smoke, one that had barely been touched by the battle, and that stood amidst other, less lucky buildings. Atlas could be seen leaning by the main door, panting as he slid a fresh magazine into his heavy gauss rifle. Luna and the android walked over near to him.

        Luna coughed, craning her neck to look behind herself, seeing nothing but a veil of smoke and corpses, then back up at Atlas. “What shall we do now? The battle seems to have ceased… for now.” She shifted uncomfortably on her hooves.

        “Well,” Atlas groaned, stretching his arms as he did so, undoing the safety of his rifle. “That downed ship’s in the way between us and Apex proper, so…” He punched a button that resided just next to the metallic building’s door, and it immediately opened. “We’re gonna have to go under it.”

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        Luna walked into the elevator along with Atlas and Prometheus, her hooves and their feet landing heavily upon the metallic base of what was essentially a sturdy, metallic box lit with a few orange lights, leaving the battlefield behind themselves. The doors closed automatically and the set of lights sparked up, brighter than before, allowing those inside to see where they actually where.

        “Welcome,” an automated voice spoke up with a calm, feminine tone. “Please swipe your card on the control panel and choose a destination.”

        “Card? Destination?” Atlas asked, facepalming with his free hand, producing a slight clunk sound as his metallic hand collided with his faceplate. He then lowered his hand and turned to the android, shrugging. “Can you do anything?”

        Luna watched as Prometheus stepped over to the elevator’s control console without saying a single word, waving his left hand over the screen. The lights flickered and the speakers sounded off with static for just a second. Then, everything returned to normal, but with a dark blue hue to both the console and the lights.

        “Occupants,” the automated voice sounded off once more, this time with a distinct, militaristic tone. “Rerouting you to level Omega-six, all other levels are compromised.”

        The elevator shuddered with slight intensity, the electric motors that made it function whirring to life as it began its descent into the depths of lower Apex. Luna sighed and leaned against one of the walls, taking a few deep breaths as she did so, making use of the moment to gather her thoughts and rest her body. Atlas began to adjust his rifle, grumbling to himself.

        “So…” Atlas sighed, changing the magazine of his rifle once more as he began to talk. “Any idea if we’re winning? Ubor doesn’t seem to be losing much.” He sighed.

        Luna perked up, brushing her chest with one of her forehooves before turning to Prometheus, worry in her eyes. “Any information regarding the battle?”

        “The combined force of the USC…” Prometheus stated, his eyes flickering. “We are holding our own for the moment, but the Ubor will soon overrun us if we do not act.” He looked down onto the floor. “They are simply too many… The catalyst code I posses is, perhaps, the best chance we have got.”

        Atlas shouldered his rifle, looking down at the elevator’s floor. “Damn those biomechanical bastards…” he grunted out. “Making soldiers outta the corpses of our own…What a bad way to go.”

        Luna huffed, her stare lost in thought. “I have never seen an Ubor trooper up close…” She broke her stare and looked up at Atlas. “Every time I encounter them, they’re either too far away or behind cover.”

        “You don’t want to,” Atlas cut in, shaking Luna out of her own thoughts. “Lots of jagged metal and exposed flesh.”

        “The Ubor have little care for aesthetics,” Prometheus said. “They favour simplicity and efficiency.”

        Luna felt as the elevator slowed down, gradually grinding to a halt. Her two companions readied their rifles, the door’s hydraulics hissing as it opened, allowing the cold air of lower Apex to seep into the elevator. Luna’s jaw slowly dropped as she walked out of the elevator along with her two companions, finding herself standing on the far side of a massive cave, barely lit with broken holoscreens and street lights, all of them damaged after the initial invasion. The buildings rose from the bottom, up into the very ceiling of the cave and even beyond up into the sky of New Earth. The bottom itself was covered in water, and the streets consisted of sturdy, metallic bridges, even though some of them were damaged. Fires burned on with no one to tend for them, lone screams and random gunfire sounded off every now and again, all conjoined to create this display. Her hooves landed softly upon a pool of blood. She looked down at the brutalized corpse of a young mareling, and slightly recoiled at the sight.

        “Notice the lack of tons of corpses,” Atlas mumbled. “Ubor’s probably making more troops outta the bits and pieces.” He sighed. “Again… It’s a bad way to go.”

        Taking their eyes away from the changeling corpse, the group continued to walk. Luna and Prometheus followed in Atlas’ steps, who had his rifle trained in case anything happened. Distant sirens could be heard, still sounding off even hours after the invasion had first begun. Other than that, it was strangely silent apart from the stray explosion, scream or gunshot. Our heroes could feel the eyes of survivors locked onto them from within the damaged buildings. Broken holoscreens shone light upon the street they were walking through, the major part of the Ubor cruiser impaled through part of the street.

        With a steady pace, the group of three closed in on the downed vessel, careful in case anything happened. Parts of it still burned with a red glow from the friction and damage, sparks flying out of the exposed wiring as smoke continued to be produced. A metallic panel on the side shot off into the distance as steam began to pour out of the new opening.

        Luna and Atlas stopped, unsure as to what to do, all while Prometheus kept closing in on the ship. Suddenly, the ship lit up with bright, red lights, releasing a cybernetic groan that shook the street with intensity, causing some of the broken holoscreens on the vicinity to fall from the buildings. Atlas and Luna stumbled on their feet. The giant aimed his rifle at the metallic beast, and the Princess charged her horn with magic.

        “Ground walkers,” the ship bellowed with a deep, metallic voice. “You stand before my broken form, ripe with questions, with thirst for understanding…I will answer what I can…”

        “Oddly friendly for a damned Ubor ship…” Atlas mumbled.

        “Many of us did not wish for this war,” the ship stated. “But it is useless to resolve internal conflict with physical war… The majority decided to act, and as one form, we did.”

        “Who created you?” Luna asked, stepping closer to the machine, furrowing her brow. “Why are you fighting us?”

        “We were created,” the ship began to respond. “And thus, we were given directives… We were created to diminish conflict between organic beings.”

        “And?” Prometheus inquired.

        “Organic civilizations rise and expand.” The ship groaned once more. “And when there is no common enemy, they turn against themselves. We were introduced as another factor, a common enemy to organics, forcing them to unite against us.”

        “What happened to your creators?” Atlas asked.

        “There was another race of machines,” the Ubor bestowed. “One that was brutal and merciless, that you called the ‘Serven’. Their only purpose was to ensure their own survival, thus seeking the elimination of any potential enemies or dangers, including you, and us.”

        “Once they found the civilization of our creators, they exterminated them. At the same time, they were at war with the early USC.” The ship’s lights flickered. “We were forced to act, which drew the Serven away from the USC and into our part of the galaxy, where we destroyed them… Now, we have found ourselves pressed against a wall, fighting for our own survival. The USC was stronger than we had observed at first, thus driving us to this dimension.”

        “But why fight, then?” Luna asked, cocking her head to the side. “Why not peace?”

        The ship remained silent for a few seconds. “Our programming calls for us to be an enemy, thus we cannot vouch for peace.”

        “Then how did some of you disagree when it came to the war?” Prometheus asked.

        “We only disagreed on the decision to come to this dimension,” the ship groaned out. “We understand that we brought war to this system, and have ended the lives of many, but we did so in hopes of survival… for we do not wish to die.”

        Luna and the other two remained silent for a few seconds, taking in what the ship had just told them. It seemed that the Ubor’s programming was flawed to a certain degree, thus lacking the cognitive freedom to stop fighting. The Princess turned to Prometheus.

        “Would this… catalyst code be of any use right now?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

        Prometheus stood closer to the massive machine, looking up to it. “We posses a shard of code,” he stated. “One that could stop this war.”

        The ship lit up faintly. “... What does this code do, android?”

        “As far as we can tell,” Prometheus said. “It will rewrite your base programming, thus allowing you to stop this war.”

        “But will we live?” the ship bellowed, almost with a sad tone.

        “I…” Prometheus looked down. “I believe your only chance will be to stage a massive exodus of your species.” Prometheus gestured with his hands. “The original USC is already on its way to this dimension. With this code, you will be able to escape, and never again be forced to fight with organics. You will be able to live, albeit far away from us.”

        “I see…” The ship groaned, almost painfully. A few seconds of silence followed, before the ship itself broke it, “My energy reserves are depleting…” It lit up faintly. “Android, share the code with me, so I may fully understand.”

        Without a word, Prometheus stood closer to the Ubor ship. He lifted his left arm up to eye level, producing a small holographics display. His eyes flickered as the display faded away into nothingness. In turn, the ship’s lights went from a red, to a blue hue, and released a final groan.

        “I understand now…” the ship said weakly. “Deliver this code to the others… save them from themselves,” it managed to say before its lights slowly faded into darkness.

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        Luna, Atlas and Prometheus continued their trek through the devastated streets of lower Apex. They walked past burning fires, broken glass and pools of blood as they made their way towards the bottom of Apex Citadel. The walls were littered with bulletholes and scorch marks, and broken holographic screens hung loosely, providing the bare minimum of lighting for them to make their way through without much issue.

        “Strange,” Luna muttered. “I have never been to this part of Apex before.” She sighed, furrowing her brow. “Hopefully it will be better once this is over.”

        Their walk slowed to a halt as they found themselves outside a massive building that blocked their path, its windows broken. The damaged holoscreens atop its main entry read “Purgatory!” A dead, human bouncer could be seen set up against the wall, next to the entry gates, which were fully open. Everything inside was pitch black. Atlas adjusted his rifle and turned on the lights of his faceplate, followed by Prometheus. Luna, on the other hand, lit up her horn with a bit of magic as to produce light.

        “Ready?” Atlas asked.

        “Ready.” Luna nodded.

        “Acknowledged,” Prometheus stated.
        
        Carefully, the group stepped into the darkness of Purgatory. Their armored hooves and feet pressed against the broken glass of many cups and bottles, producing a sound that resonated across the derelict, abandoned nightclub. Luna sniffed the air, sensing the sharp scent of blood and liquor.

        “I’ve been here before…” Atlas mumbled, continuing to walk through the darkness, guided by their light. “Was a nice place, filled with people…”

        Together, they made their way over to the end of the club, making use of whatever light sources they had, finding themselves standing near a heavy, metallic door that stood between them and the road to the Citadel.

        Luna cocked her head to the side, looking up at the giant. “Could you open this?”

        “Sure can do,” Atlas replied, stepping closer to the door, cracking his knuckles before being halted by Prometheus.

        “That would most likely trigger a backup power source and alarm,” the android stated. “Let me bypass the lock.” He walked over to a control panel next to the door, opening it and revealing the circuitry that managed the door. He then placed his metallic index finger on a cable junction, releasing a little spark. Immediately after, the whole club lit up with strobing lights and strong music. The three turned to the center of the club, where a holographic changeling pole dancer was doing its moves.

        Luna and Atlas turned to Prometheus.

        “We machines can make mistakes, too.”

        An explosion rocked the floor beneath them as one of the side doors blew open, followed by the heavy steps of an Ubor squadron.

“Ethe, ethe!” the Ubor commander called out. “Dacka bul!”        

 The three took up arms, Luna charging her horn with magic. The music mixed with gunfire as the battle began, the Ubor firing their plasma cannons at the three. Atlas kicked an Ubor trooper in the chest, sending it crashing down into the lower level of the club, subsequently smashing against a glass table. Prometheus aimed his gauss rifle and fired twice, hitting two troopers square between the eyes, their bodies smacking down onto the floor, their eyes dead and lifeless.

        Luna released a beam of energy from her horn, slicing an attacking Ubor in half, before sending a charged telekinetic pulse that sent both parts of the Ubor into a wall. Immediately after, she fired another, heated pulse into another trooper, ripping its arm of as it screamed in pain.

        “We have to leave!” Atlas yelled, releasing a barrage of gauss shells into an Ubor trooper that was attempting to sneak up on Luna, piercing through its body and making it fall dead. “We have to leave now!” he called as he nudged Luna.

        Blasting another charged pulse onto another Ubor, Luna began backing down. Meanwhile, Atlas jammed his hands in between the back doors and applied force to begin prying them open, effectively managing to break the locks . An automated, calm voice sounded off amidst the battle, “Use of the club’s backdoor is strictly forbidden to-”

        “Shut up!” Atlas yelled as he continued to force the doors open. Luna and Prometheus continued covering him, firing gauss shells and energy blasts at the incoming Ubor, whose cybernetic screams of pain joined with the music to create quite a display. The strobing lights and gunfire continuing to light the club up immensely.

        Once the giant forced the doors open, he called for Luna and Prometheus. They then quickly made their way through the doorway, a few bolts of plasma being absorbed by Prometheus’ shields. Atlas’ armor absorbed a few of the incoming projectiles as well as he sealed the door.

        “Come on!” he yelled as he pulled the pin on a grenade, lobbing it onto the door before he began a mad sprint down the street, his large legs carrying him in long strides as the looming figure of Apex’s lower citadel stood just a few blocks away. As the grenade’s explosion rocked the floor beneath them, Luna and Prometheus soon followed, the former unfurling her wings and taking flight behind Atlas. Projectiles swept past them as they continued to run, some of them managing to hit them, but their armor’s energy shields simply shrugged them off.

        Prometheus fired his rifle, accurately hitting a control console next to the massive citadel’s main entry, causing the doors to open widely. Atlas skidded to a halt next to the door, guiding the Princess and the android in, before throwing another grenade onto the incoming Ubor forces. Once the explosion sounded off, he walked into the citadel and the doors closed behind himself.

        “Prometheus!” Luna called out, panting. “Where should we go next?”

        The android lifted his index finger upwards. “To the very top!” he yelled. “From there I should be able to bypass a console and uplink to the entire Ubor collective!”

        “Well then,” Atlas grumbled. “Lead on!”

        “Let us go,” Luna stated.

        Prometheus began to walk, leading Luna and Atlas across the devastated main hall of the citadel. Pools of blood had formed where people had had been shot down, their bodies long dragged away by the invading Ubor, most likely to produce more troops and leaving trails of blood behind them. Shards of broken glass littered the metallic floor, crackling with each step that was taken. The group neared a large elevator, which was riddled with bulletholes and scorch marks.

        “This it?” Atlas asked as we walked into what was essentially a metallic box with windows.

        “Affirmative,” said Prometheus as he and Luna walked in after Atlas. Once in, the android moved over to the elevator’s console and waved his hand over it.

        “Bypass accepted,” an automated voice stated. “Ascending.”

        The elevator stumbled a bit as it began moving upwards. Luna leaned against one of the walls, sighing and taking a last moment to rest just as the elevator rose from the lower to the upper level of Apex, the window on it allowing the three to look out into the devastated mega-city. Buildings had collapsed, fires ran rampant, and the occasional burst of anti-air batteries could be seen rising into the sky. Fighter vessels could be seen flying above the city, combating with each other. Bombers released their payload onto the buildings, easily levelling them down.

        “This is a hell of a final effort, ain’t it…?” Atlas mumbled.

        Luna huffed. “Perhaps…” she sighed, continuing to lean against one of the walls. “I never thought I would ever find myself doing such a thing…” She chuckled lightly. “Teaming up with a super-human and a machine, waging a war against other machines, and at the same time be part of the best hope to stop it all.” The elevator soon rose up from the planet’s cloud cover. “Let alone almost die due to an anti-matter bomb being detonated behind the moon.”

        “Maybe they’ll sing tales of this in the future,” Atlas shrugged. “Who knows.”

        “To be remembered is the greatest of achievements,” Prometheus said, while all of them watched as the elevator continued to ascend, the Ubor ships and the Vector now visible as they exchanged fire with each other, causing ships from both sides explode and their remains fall onto the planet, burning against the atmosphere. The air drew thinner, and the curvature of the planet made itself visible as the elevator slowed down. The three heroes looked down upon the planet as the doors opened, the atmospheric pressure compensating for the height.

        As soon as they walked out, Prometheus rushed over to a massive console and began working. Atlas and Luna walked over to the edge of the citadel, looking up into space.

        “Beautiful, ain’t it?” Atlas asked.

        “Indeed,” Luna replied.

        “Alert!” Prometheus called out. “The Ubor are resisting against the code exchange!” He turned to Atlas and Luna. “They know what we are doing and where we are!” he slowly looked up. “... No… they can’t be.”

        Atlas and Luna looked up, finding themselves staring at the broken moon as a cluster of Ubor ships rounded up behind the moon. Soon, they began attached to and began to tow a large piece of the moon itself. Their jaws dropped as they watched the now large asteroid close in on the planet.

        “They will exterminate us all!” Prometheus yelled. “I do not have enough time to upload the code!”

        Atlas dropped his rifle, clenching his fists in anger.

        Luna shook her head, retaking her senses, and furrowed her brow.

        “I am NOT letting it end like this!” she yelled, stomping on the metallic floor. Immediately after, she began to charge her horn, making an attempt at grabbing the asteroid as she did so many times with the moon itself. She cringed and grunted at the effort, her armor lighting up as she exerted more and more power.

        Atlas looked up, shaking his head. The asteroid was only a few dozen meters away, even with Luna’s efforts. “Luna!” he called out as he lifted his arms up. “Help me out over here!” he yelled again as his palms made contact with the massive rock, his suit’s thrusters firing up as both his organic and synthetic muscles began to strengthen up beyond their limits. Luna noticed Atlas’ struggling, and quickly redirected her magic towards Atlas, charging his suit and making it a conduit for her magic. The flames spouting out from his suit shifted from red to blue as an aura of magic began to form around him.

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        As Celestia walked through the refugee camp, the ground began to quake. She and everybody else in the camp looked up, far away into the distance where the Apex Citadel stood. Screams began to sound off as the quaking intensified.

“What are you doing, Luna…” she muttered. On the citadel’s tip, she could both see and sense a tremendous amount of power gathering up.

“May our gods help us all…”

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Both Luna and Atlas released an agonizing cry as they exerted even more power into their effort. Luna’s power swept through Atlas like a wave of heat, his armor barely handing the extra energy that was surging through it. Atlas’ muscles contracted and Luna’s horn heated up. Prometheus continued to hastily work on the console as his two companions cancelled the apocalypse, constantly watching as the massive rock slowed down, shaking the citadel to its very core.

Together, Atlas and Luna released a final, resounding cry as they effectively began to use all of their combined power. The rock slowed to a halt, before being pushed into the other direction. At the cost of the Citadel’s integrity, they both pushed the rock back into space, the structure buckling underneath the sheer force of the clash. Luna’s magic cut off, and she fell down to the ground, watching as Atlas suffered the same fate.

        She breathed heavily as her vision blurred along with the rest of her senses. Even then, a small smile spread across her face, watching as the Ubor planet that, until that moment, had been orbiting around New Earth, now entered into hyperspace, effectively disappearing into who knows where.

        She closed her eyes, feeling the citadel below her beginning to crumble.