Trigger stood in silence as his hoof parted the violet drapes that adorned our suite. He had almost immediately migrated to the large panes, their wrought iron borders and thoroughfares attracting the rough and tumble stallion back towards the wild. We had been given an extravagant room considering our circumstances, even for my tastes, so I could barely fathom the processes going on in his head. Suffice it to mention that, once upon a time, after taking a job from a mutual friend, he was told to sleep under a bridge and proceeded to do so without hesitation.
I figured it had to do with the fact that he had been inside for oh so very long. Anypony with a younger unicorn sibling will likely cringe in terror at the mere mention of magical growth spurts. They were particularly prominent in my family, often generated crippling night terrors that shook the house with reverberating cries, and practically put a poor foal on the brink of insanity.
My coltish frame emerged from beneath the warming comforts of my bed. Young ears clung to the whimpers of a distressed filly – a little sister – whose cries had yet to awaken our parents from their slumbers. Sluggish hooves dragged over hardwood as I made my way into her room, and her barrel sprang from the bed the instant I opened the door.
Tears stained her white fur after pouring from her bright blue eyes, and the intimidating sparks that leapt from her horn sent a fearful tremor down my leg. A squeal soon erupted from her throat before her forehooves desperately dug into her blonde mane. The sound had been enough to toss my parents’ warnings aside.
I crawled onto her mattress and held my Laizzy close. Her muzzle pressed against my body while she cried to a pain that I had yet to comprehend. “Unbridled spells are dangerous, Sweety. You just have to keep your distance until she’s ready.” My mother’s words went unheeded. I was being a true big brother. Fearless youth had different plans.
“It hurts, Wing,” she sobbed as her sweat-soaked legs timidly caught me in a needing hug. My wings instinctively stretched out to ensnare my sibling in the soft embrace that only a pegasus could give.
Eventually, those sobs subsided into sniffles, and with each tick of the clock, she drew closer and closer to sleep. The overwhelming heat of pride overpowered my exhaustion. I basked in the glow of victory – until I realized that the glow was not just my own. The tender cuddle and the coziness of Laizzy’s bed had been rapidly replaced with an agonizing ache churned by my sister’s magic and the grain of the floor.
Cries once again flooded my ears while the cadence of scrambling hooves set a jarring beat. The greyscale ceiling dripped shadowy blobs of the blackest night, and consciousness gradually faded away. At least she was out of bed again…
I endured another night of her guilt-ridden face being the last thing I saw before passing out. Months after the incident, she was still sleeping with me. I had told her time and time again that she did not have to keep saying sorry. I told her that she did not have to foalsit her older brother. I would deal with her demons. I would buck up – as Dad often said.
My heart skipped a beat as groans began to meander through the Sandcolt’s darkness. They always started quietly at first. They always started far enough away that I believed I could run. Sure enough, I was galloping – galloping hard – as though nothing in the world could catch me. It did not matter that I could barely see in the dark. This time I’d get away. This time…
I wept as the ground melted into a murky brew that crept up my legs. My wings flapped as I tried to fly, but I could never escape that cold, nightmarish ocean. Still, I struggled. I heaved and tried harder, but my pulse simply raced because I did not budge.
Screams, no longer distant groans, stabbed at me from just beneath the surface. The waters shaped otherworldly horrors that wailed out impossible demands. Their disfigured, incomplete limbs drew nearer and nearer, and my breaths grew more staggered once I surrendered myself to the inevitable. They would reach me this time. I was going to die.
And then, they stopped. A black hoof flew in from the periphery of my vision and bashed the muzzle of the closest terror. I lifted my head until a towering stallion captivated my sights. His dark coat shimmered even in this eerie place, and his amber eyes failed to move from the face of his target. A brown Coltston hat sat perched upon his crown, and an unkempt silver mane and tail accented his heroic figure.
“Pickin’ on a little colt,” the gritty voice of my charger of reverie pushed me back from the encroaching calamity. “That ain’t right.” I watched as he reared up and stomped the monster into the sea from which it came. “Never give up, Kiddo. We’re fighting a war, so I want ya to remember. The only currency in war is life, but…”
The only currency in war is life, I pondered, reflecting upon the words Trigger spoke through the onslaught of our first. They were words I did not forget. How could I forget? He had emerged as a manifestation of my id – an unstoppable idol that obliterated the piercing fragments of Laizzy’s sorcery.
There was a reason why the stallion had combat faculties that surpassed his apparent age. Before he came into this world, he had spent a lifetime battling the psychological unfinished that yearned for my internal devastation every second I slept. For years, the stallion remained a part of me as an aggressive fighter that surfaced when a friend needed protection or when I needed support. He spewed statements of blunt wisdom from my lips that eventually led to the founding of DarkOps, and he was there when I drew up the plans for the A0 rifle.
His words stayed with me when a young filly peered up at us with thoughtfulness covering her glistening wine-red eyes and asked me why the other one couldn’t be free. He had earned that currency, and I had the technical knowhow to at least attempt a return on investment. It took me forever, but with the resources bestowed upon me by the government, the fundamental physics of magic were put to the test, and Trigger was plucked from that sea.
“Kix’s L2 bracer spring needs tightening,” he commented with a flat tone that disguised his interest. While the room was a bit lush, I had managed to convince the hotel staff that I would need a workbench brought up. The request was likely unusual for this establishment, but it was a necessity. The A0 would need maintenance following the last sortie, and the twins, well, the twins were just overdue.
My .50 caliber might have been the pioneering venture of the Equestrian National Armaments program, but that build was relatively simple compared to the devices I constructed for Trigger. The physics involved with packaging and discharging magic was not all that complex either. Magic behaved identically to free-running electricity and magnetism, and the connection was easily made once one accepted the realization that unicorns just possessed a unique coupling with the force carrier. The discovery meant that with an oscilloscope, an adequate variable waveguide, and a properly constructed container, one could study and store magical samples. It also meant that one could fabricate ammunition.
Captains clung to the rumors that touched their ears and dreamt of weapons mass produced for their ranks, specifically for earth ponies whose strength might be overpowered by unicorn prowess or rendered useless by pegasus flight. They took quite the exception when I told them all to hold their proverbial horses because the rumors were completely unfounded. My lies were justified; one cannot just drop machines of destruction into a realm built upon harmony without examining anything.
My inner nurturer struck a closet deal with the sovereigns; there would be only two subjects allowed to investigate this bastardization of science, and we would report our findings through the channels established by DarkOps. It was implicitly understood by the group, however, that those results would never amount to anything other than inconclusive. Certain outcomes of research, no matter how useful they might be, were not worth extinguishing the balance of harmony.
We became apparitions – dedicated to shielding our compatriots without exposing them to the dangers of the spear. Of course, Trigger decided to make things difficult for me; he despised the A0’s bulky design and declared that, as a wanderer, carrying around that large hunk of shit would only attract undue attention. He wanted something compact that could fire multiple rounds with a single load. After repeated failures, I eventually drew up a design that appealed to the rustic stallion. It was a novel layout that seemed to match his penchant for Appleloosa charm.
Six rounds could be loaded into a cylinder that revolved around a central shaft. Since the frame was too small for a loop trigger, a pivoting switch was placed behind the drum that would cycle and discharge a round with a simple flick of a hoof. Sadly, this concept came with its own unique challenge. I could support the A0 by inserting a hoof into the loop trigger. It was a dual purpose part that the revolver model did not have. Without a special mechanism, it would be a challenge to pick up the weapon and use it reliably.
My solution was the implementation of spring-loaded bracers that clung to the user’s leg. As a fallback, the plates could be folded, possessed a shape suitable for muzzle holding, and were connected to a separate bite-based firing system. Trigger had no objections to this decision; he had the strength to stand on his hind legs for protracted periods of time and enjoyed exercising his jaw. In fact, when I finished the blueprints, he casually stared at me with his iridescent amber eyes and demanded two.
The engraved gems slept atop the misplaced workbench as I disassembled the indicated plate and went about fetching a replacement spring from my toolbox. The pair of pistols may have been in need of service, but Trigger knew how to keep his pieces in pristine condition. The metal had been tended with oil and showed zero signs of degradation. Even the part he cued for a swap shone brightly upon inspection, and the stainless steel bodies sparkled beneath the hotel’s ornamental chandelier. “I don’t think any of our friends would believe me if I told them you took this much care of your possessions, Trigs.”
“Tools of the trade get special treatment,” was the brazen reply. He had adopted a more combative stance once my comment flooded his ears – that distrust of luxury once again making its presence known. “Ya shouldn’t focus on that shit anyway. I don’t want to wait around Canterlot for two bucking days. You’re more than capable of getting us on the road tomorrow – especially if the Bandwagon Boys get their shit together.”
It had taken her several days to finally reach the site, but she did not wish to risk an appearance too soon. Members of the order had watched as enemies of the flock had poured over the hallowed ground. They allowed the invaders to go about their business, for Ashen wanted them to know the grisly details of how close they had come to ridding the world of one of the unworthy. With the impure in retreat, the assembled were free to gather in homage of their forgone martyrs.
The rose-colored unicorn took to the field as a gust of wind gently tugged at the collection of white and grey strands that composed her mane. She stood in stillness for several minutes as dozens of her kind drew nearer and nearer. She would address them; that was her duty as leader of Einhorn Vormacht, but she had come to this place with a very different purpose in mind.
“My friends,” she spoke after lifting her head towards the twilight sky. Her vermillion irides caught the reflection of the dying light – setting the perfect stage for her speech. “We have made great strides leading up to this defining age in history. For too long, we have allowed our power and elegance to subside. We have allowed the sermons of false sages to take root in the weak. We have watched in silence as the will of deceitful princesses has cemented the greatness of inferiors while casting aside the superiority of our race.
“We gave this world magic and all of its benefits, yet here we stand, relegated to the outlands because the heads of state deem our beliefs too dangerous. We never needed earth ponies to tend our crops! We never needed pegasi to bring us rain! We – and we alone – possess the unique ability to universally transform our surroundings, but we are the ones who are persecuted for embracing our heritage.
“However, even against this great adversity, we can strike at the hearts of our nemeses. Three of our very own captured a member of the occupiers. They enslaved one of the filth, showed dominance over this animal’s existence, and reeducated this trash with the very creed by which we live. We are the rightful rulers of this domain!” The mare lifted her right foreleg as adrenaline coaxed her very essence. A wave of cheers erupted from her disciples as her melody resonated with their hearts.
“Your poverty, your monotony, your conformity rests upon the hooves of the scuz and the windrats! They have taken the jobs and the prosperities that were your birthrights. They have subjected you to meaningless tasks that do nothing but solidify their agenda of feigned equality. I was but a lucky one! I was but a lucky one who managed to fight and struggle through the game that is Celestia’s lie! We are not all equal. We are better, and we have been brutally punished for it for far too long!”
She gradually lowered her hoof and rode the sweltering quiet the maneuver brewed to the diminished climax of her opus. “We are called to action. We are summoned by the fact that, on this very spot, the three saints that taught each and every one of us that action was possible died in their efforts. They were slaughtered without warning, without a chance to defend themselves, and without dignity. Their lives were taken in the very manner that the facets of their lives were robbed by our oppressors.
“The day has come for us to walk amongst the treachery and fulfill our destinies. We have discussed and planned for countless hours, and I have faith that all of you will execute your duties flawlessly. Tomorrow, we awaken to the New Dawn. Fear not what happens to the fallen. Remember eternally the future your deeds shall bring.”
Fervor flowed through the veins of the EHVM. While the movement had come to a close, the collective pride grasped the aspiration of a promised land. The hounds of the crusade had received their marching orders, and with Ashen Mystic’s backing, they would not fail. Most dispersed into the lurking night – a cloak beneath which their insurrection could mobilize.
The mare remained with her closest lieutenant as her stare scoured the field. She probed the environment for information, and her horn bathed in a cerise glow upon the activation of her special talent. “There is residue here, Kinetic,” she said after shifting her attention to the navy blue stallion. “An incredible sorcerer did this to our forces, but something about how it feels isn’t right. The magic seems … displaced.” She briefly glanced at her cutie mark – a sandy excavation brush atop a white horn – and exhaled in preparation for the coming trance.
A barren glaze of archaeological meditation overtook Mystic’s effervescent visage. Ghastly images took shape on this grotesque landscape, and she could picture the sight of her students being torn asunder by Celestia’s energy. Their muzzles evaporated before her internal oculus and only that crimson mist remained floating above their slumping corpses. Her head snapped, following the arc back towards its source, but all she could see was a lens and a single chocolate iris behind it.
“Kinetic,” she spoke again with a character that flirted with panic and trepidation, “I will be joining the cell in Canterlot instead. Please make the necessary arrangements.” Her eyelids had swiftly retracted, and she promptly hushed the colt with her hoof when he breathed to object. “I cannot yet explain what I saw, Lieutenant. However, I do know that an alicorn is at the heart of this matter.”