No Hero

by CptBrony

No Truth

No Hero

Staff Sergeant Boulder stood statue still and stared into the mirror in front of him. He had been standing there for some time, watching himself, as if waiting for the reflection to make the first move. He had been trained to react fast enough that if an enemy made the first move, he would still be able to make his first. It was a point they had ingrained in his brain early on.

He was trained to kill, and to kill with the absolute highest level of efficiency. Few stallions in the Fourth Earth Brigade could match his skill, which was why he had been selected for the missions he went on in the first place. As one of the best, his skills were in constant demand.

The reflection didn’t move an inch. Staff Sergeant Bouder just kept on watching it, hoping that it would make the first move. He knew it wouldn’t, though. He knew that as long as he stood there, there would never be an attack. So maybe he should just keep standing there, doing absolutely nothing. At least then no one would be trying to kill him.

The last one who tried to kill him died rather unpleasantly. The playback of it still went on in Boulder’s mind, constantly churning up in the storm of thoughts and threatening to sink whatever ship of positive thoughts he had. No matter where he looked, there was something exactly like where it happened, or what happened, or who it happened to. Canterlot was especially bad.

When he was on his last deployment to Zebronia, his platoon came under attack by a hostile Zebra force. They ambushed Staff Sergeant Boulder’s platoon with explosives and fiery crossbow bolts, raining down like a Hellish rain of magnesium fire, lighting up the night like flares punching through anything they strike.

The platoon responded quickly, raising shields and taking the brunt of the first wave of bolts in stride. Some stallions didn’t make it, though, and bolts punched through their hides and stuck in their bodies, fire burning at their insides and blood pouring from the wounds. There was no saving those poor stallions, screaming in agony on the ground while the other soldiers just kept their shields up. They weren’t alone when they died, but they might as well have been.

When the first wave ended, some of the stallions brought up crossbows to look for targets. But the zebras were hiding in brush and trees off the road, and a massive raincloud started releasing its deluge upon the platoon. The zebras couldn’t physically manipulate the weather, but it was known that they had witchcraft that could do it perfectly adequately.

The stallions who raised their crossbows were shot immediately. The TWANG of the enemy crossbows echoed through the beginning storm, and the bolts whizzed through the air, finding their targets like tracking spells. There was a loud SNAP as the bolts hit home, going through the necks of the stallions and sticking out like sideways antennas. The stallions fell to the ground. They couldn’t even scream because their windpipes had been ripped apart by the bolts.

Staff Sergeant Boulder allowed himself to blink. As far as he could see, the image in the mirror hadn’t moved a muscle. He was lucky it hadn’t charged him while he had his eyes closed for that moment. It wasn’t his first time staring down an opponent, and he had taken the lessons of the past to heart.

On the road, Staff Sergeant Boulder started issuing orders to his stallions to keep their shields up and advance on the treeline. As the remainder of the platoon moved forward, bolts THUNKed against their shields, either bouncing off and hitting the ground or being deflected and hitting somepony else’s shield. They had to almost crawl to the trees to avoid losing legs and kept their heads cranked downward to avoid losing those too.

Staff Sergeant Boulder let his eyes move to the body of the image in the mirror before him. It was wearing a dress uniform of the Royal Guard, a black, suit-like outfit with gold stripes along the seams. On its chest, there were numerous medals for merit or valor, and rank insignias on his collar and shoulders. The stallion in the mirror had been good at his job indeed, and someone as fit to recognize how good he was at his job.

When his platoon reached the treeline, they charged into the darkness, battle cries loud and clear and their intentions all too obvious. They were charging in their to kill all the zebras there, to destroy the zebras who had saw fit to kill their platoon mates.

Staff Sergeant Boulder led that charge, encountering his first zebra about ten yards in. The zebra had been running away, and as Staff Sergeant Boulder came up behind him, he tackled the zebra to the ground and then slit his throat with his sword. The zebra never even saw it coming.

Fighting could be heard around Staff Sergeant Boulder, but he was focused on pursuing the enemy attackers. He continued running through the brush, shoving and hacking away at anything in his way. He was going to kill these zebras for what they did, and he was going to do it with unpony-like efficiency.

The image in the mirror appeared to stand proud, but Staff Sergeant Boulder knew better. He could see when a pony was standing tense and battle-ready. It made sense; the pony was obviously at home. The princesses expect their guards to go from Red alert, where everyone is trying to kill them all the time, right to white, where everything is sunshine happiness and love, in the span of a flight. You just can’t do that.

The door behind the pony in the mirror rattled a bit, making a loud noise, and Staff Sergeant Boulder saw the pony tense up and mentally prepare itself for a fight.

“Five minutes!” a voice called, as if alerting him to the ETA of Wonderbolt Close Air Support.

Running through the trees, Staff Sergeant Boulder saw a zebra up ahead. It had been facing his direction, trying to gauge Staff Sergeant Boulder’s progress, and when it saw him, it bolted the other way. Staff Sergeant Boulder felt a rage boil up inside of him. That this zebra thought he could attack and kill ponies and just run away was unacceptable. Staff Sergeant Boulder gave hot pursuit.

When Staff Sergeant Boulder came up on the zebra, they stood just before a terrifyingly deep chasm. They couldn’t see the bottom, though the waterfall on the other side indicated that the fall wouldn’t necessarily be an absolute death sentence. When the zebra saw no other way out, it turned to Staff Sergeant Boulder and drew its makeshift knife.

Staff Sergeant Boulder had his sword in hoof and slowly began to advance. The zebra was at first ready, but its courage slowly ebbed away as it saw the bloodlust in Staff Sergeant Boulder’s eyes. It wanted nothing more than to drop its knife and give up, but it was afraid that Staff Sergeant Boulder wouldn’t stop. It had to keep its knife up.

Staff Sergeant Boulder bared his teeth and rushed forward with a feral roar.

The mirror image had an aggressive grimace on its face that kept getting more severe with each second. Staff Sergeant Boulder had to match it to dissuade the mirror image from attacking, but it kept getting worse, and he had to keep going. The image suddenly twitched, though, and the expression went light, prompting Staff Sergeant Boulder to do the same.

The tension was diffused, and Staff Sergeant Boulder felt that the conflict had been avoided for the moment. But the mirror image was unpredictable, just like any patrol in Zebronia, and he had to be on alert every second for any change.

Staff Sergeant Boulder’s first strike against the zebra was a cut to his forelegs, sending the knife away and bringing the zebra to its knees. It stood back up against the pain, though, and tried to sidestep to get away and recover, but Staff Sergeant Boulder was to have no part of it. Staff Sergeant Boulder jumped back at the zebra and cut his hind legs this time, keeping it from moving too much and escaping.

Staff Sergeant Boulder landed near the makeshift knife and kicked off the side of the canyon to the abyssal waters below. The zebra sat before him, bleeding and exhausted, completely defeated. The hope had faded from its body, its drive shattered to pieces. Staff Sergeant Boulder had succeeded.

Staff Sergeant Boulder looked over the mirror image’s uniform again. It was obviously here for some kind of ceremony. Staff Sergeant Boulder knew that it wasn’t a funeral, this wouldn’t be the place. If the uniform spoke true, the mirror image was here for an award of some kind.

An award for leadership under fire. An award for pursuing the enemy and destroying a future threat. An award for weapons proficiency. It didn’t matter, they were all the same in the end. Pieces of metal and cloth pinned onto the mirror image’s chest. No doubt he had earned those awards. No doubt at all.

Staff Sergeant Boulder sheathed his sword and pulled out a miniaturized crossbow that he always had on him for medium range engagements. With a sneer, Staff Sergeant Boulder stood over the zebra. Staff Sergeant Boulder had joined the royal guard to destroy the enemies of Equestria, to keep harmony in the world where the Elements were unfit to do so. Staff Sergeant Boulder had joined so he could prevent chaos and be a real hero.

The zebra looked up at Staff Sergeant Boulder, the exact opposite emotions prevailing through its eyes. It held a defenseless, sad frown, tears in its eyes and shaking from fear. For a moment, it gave Staff Sergeant Boulder pause. Zebras like this weren’t supposed to have emotions.

“I’m bringing you in for questioning,” Staff Sergeant Boulder stated clearly. “You will be held until you are deemed fit for the region and will no longer contribute to disharmony.”

The zebra looked up at him, confused. Staff Sergeant Boulder didn’t get what was so hard to understand. He was going to be brought, alive, to the base, where he would be made harmonious with the world and could have peace.

The zebra leaned back. “Disharmony?” it asked, surprising Staff Sergeant Boulder with its command of Equish.

“Yes,” Staff Sergeant Boulder responded plainly. The zebra started to look angry, prompting Staff Sergeant Boulder to raise his weapon.

“We did nothing. We hurt no one. Had no dealings with Equestria or our neighbors.” It looked sadly at Staff Sergeant Boulder. “Why are you here?”

Staff Sergeant Boulder as about to answer the question when something struck him. He didn’t know. His commanding officer told him that they were here to defeat the zebra insurgents. That was all Staff Sergeant Boulder ever needed to know to do his job.

Staff Sergeant Boulder stepped forward. “Come peacefully,” he commanded.

The zebra looked at Staff Sergeant Boulder, then behind himself down into the chasm, then back. Slowly, it shook its head. It knew what was to come, and it knew what it was going to be put through.

Without a word, the zebra started leaning back toward the chasm. There was no telling what was down there, where the water was, or even if there was enough water to make the landing soft. It had to get away from the ponies. It wasn’t interested in their way of life. It wasn’t interested in their bizarre systems or trains or carts. It just wanted its simple life.

Staff Sergeant Boulder saw the zebra trying to escape into the chasm below. He didn’t have time to grab it, not that the thought had really crossed his mind. It was better to eliminate enemy combatants than save them.

Before the zebra started to fall, Staff Sergeant Boulder took aim with his crossbow, lining it up with the zebra’s neck.

The mirror image looked like it was lost in its own thoughts. This would have been a perfect time to strike, but Staff Sergeant Boulder decided that it wasn’t the best idea. No telling if he had any friends nearby.

Staff Sergeant Boulder had to wonder what those medals were actually for. Skill doesn’t need recognition, only use. Merit doesn’t need recognition, only a place to be used. Valor needs no recognition, only inner realization. What were the medals for, if not for the bearer?

For the first time in his career, Staff Sergeant Boulder turned away from the mirror image, away from his opponent, and walked away from it to the center of the room. Deep down, he knew it was doing the same for him, even if only temporarily. Eventually, the mirror image would get him, but not on a day where it had other things to do.

He couldn’t argue that they looked similar. Carried themselves similarly. But there was a difference between the mirror image and Staff Sergeant Boulder. It was hard to quantify, but it was there, and its omnipresence was a powerful tool it used against him. Staff Sergeant Boulder couldn’t escape it by running or flying or swimming or hiding. It was just there.

There was a balcony attached to the room Staff Sergeant Boulder was ordered to wait in like he had been ordered to do so many other things. Staff Sergeant Boulder didn’t like this room, nor did he like where he was told to go afterward. Instead, Staff Sergeant Boulder decided to wait on the balcony attached to the room.

As Staff Sergeant Boulder left the room and walked toward the balcony, the mirror image made its way into his sights again, wearing an older uniform this time. He stood there, pointing a crossbow at a young zebra leaning back toward the chasm.

Staff Sergeant Boulder wanted to tell the mirror image to hold fire, but they were of equal rank, so it wouldn’t hold. The mirror image loosed one bolt at the zebra, and everything seemed to move slower than life should. Staff Sergeant Boulder saw the bolt go through the air, watched it contact the zebra’s temple, and watched as the bolt bored its way through the zebra’s head.

Life went back into normal speed, and the zebra listed lifelessly and fell through the balcony railing to the emptiness below. The mirror image looked on for a second, then turned away from the balcony and started walking back to where his platoon would be. He walked coldly from the site, with no emotion or feeling emanating from him at all.

The mirror image left, the final blow had been struck. The zebra was no more, so there was no reason for the mirror image to stay there. He killed what he was supposed to kill, he did what he was supposed to do. That was all.

Staff Sergeant Boulder walked toward the balcony railing to see if he could find the zebra. When he looked down, he saw not the chasm from Zebronia, but a foggy cloud above what was the Everfree Forest butting up to Canterlot’s mountain. It looked just as bottomless as the chasm in Zebronia, and as many ponies had probably gone down and come back up as the chasm.

Staff Sergeant Boulder couldn’t forget that the zebra was gone. Staff Sergeant Boulder couldn’t say why, even if he knew, he had to find it. He felt like he had to bring its body back. Nothing was real right now, it wouldn’t be until he saw the results of his actions.

Slowly, he kept on leaning over the railing, until finally he slipped over the side and fell to the foggy abyss below to search for the zebra he never cared about enough to know.