• Published 26th Sep 2013
  • 1,384 Views, 63 Comments

PONYHAMMER 40,000. The Warp Incursion. - Duskrunner



Ponies in character (no anthro) vs Humans, Demons and others. Warhammer 40k crossover, origin. Moderate violence, infrequent gore, some drama. NOT mindless violence. Adventure. No lore pre-knowledge required to enjoy.

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Chapter Ten - Ready

REPENTIA POINT
DAY 5

Cheerilee sat naked on the floor of the Inquisitor's office with a blizzard of paper for her blanket and pillows.

Words echoed in from the hallway and the door opened letting in a column of light.
"Twilight, ah ain't happy about this."
Applejack complained as she entered the room a step behind Twilight.

"Applejack... where'd I leave those notes?"
Twilight interrupted herself, looking for a parchment she couldn't find, levitating things from all around her.

"Subject?" Goldwing asked as he hummed to life from his perch beside the Inquisitor Lord's hat rack, responding to his mistress' call.

"The notes Lyra and I made about the nervous system adaptation spells."

"Specification not found."

"She means the spell to replace that black thing under the skin."
Cheerilee said in a muffled voice from the floor, not really asleep but not willing to open her eyes either.

Goldwing began.
"Subject, Black Carapace. A sub dermal layer necessary for Space Marines to fully interface with a suit of Power Armor-"

"Top shelf, by the door, next to the stack with the three candles." Cheerilee interrupted grumpily.
"It's your magic 'to do' list for all the hypotheticals we don't have time to research."

"Thanks Cheerilee. We'll..."
Twilight let her thoughts drag as she saw Cheerilee turn over and stuff some papers in her ears.
"We'll go ahead and let you sleep. Come on Goldwing."

The psyber-eagle flew off its perch and settles on Twilight's back.

When they left turning the lights off after them Cheerilee huffed "Finally."

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"As ah I was saying," Applejack spat back in an angry voice.

Twilight narrowed eyes at her, then gestured her head towards the door they just left.

"As ah I was saying." Applejack continued in an angry whisper.
"Y'all should'a listened to me. If anypony should be starting up test runs on that crazy contraption it ought'a be me!"

"Applejack, I respect your position, I really do. But you're saying the exact same things he did."

"But-"

"Verbatim." She emphasized.

Applejack didn't look like she was going to let it go so Twilight pressed on.
"Furthermore, he said that it was reckless, dangerous, and if anypony was going to put themselves at risk like that-"

"Twilight, as Celestia is my witness-"

"He said that too. Only he finished 'the only way I'm letting Applejack near this is if it's safe and the only way I'm gonna believe it's safe is if I go first.' And there was nothing I could do about it."

"Name one reason you listened to him over me and don't say it was because he told you so first."

"The same reason he said it shouldn't be Rainbow Dash; we can't risk the Elements."

Applejack hung her head in defeat.
"T'aint right, Twi."

"You told him, I told him. He told me 'he knew what he was doing, Princess and thank you' and that was the last word. Twilight got a look at AJ's eyes. She saw a lot of worry there.
"What did he tell you?"

Applejack hesitated. "He pulled me close, hugged me tight and told me he loved me and that everything was gonna be all right because he believed in you. Then he told me to git and go get you."

"He always did have a way with words."

"Always full o' hot air and stubborn as a mule, you mean... Where's he get it from?"

Twilight smiled without a hint of malice or sarcasm. "Where indeed?"

They opened a dark room and stayed out in the hallway. Lyra and Bon Bon were off to the side, watching.
"Do you want me to give you a few more seconds, AJ?" Twilight asked concerned, one last time.

" 's better if you treat it like a band-aid. Just rip the darn thing off." Applejack said, trying to be strong.

Twilight nodded, aimed her horn into the darkness and cast her spell.
Everything glowed a bright pink.

From inside the room the glow died down until there was only the light from the corridor.
Lyra and Bon Bon's heads both peeked in from the side.
Applejack approached and squinted, trying to look in.

Twilight called out.
"Big MacIntosh? You ok?"

A massive body sprung to life; heavy footsteps clanged, echoing across the metal floor.
A huge equine body stepped out into the light garbed in armor of pure raw metal.
The lights of the eyes of its helmet came to life with an electric red glow.

The glow flickered then died out completely. The helmet cracked.
The armored figure shook its head, then brought up its hoof and banged on the side of the helmet until most of it broke off, tearing the pieces off the skull that didn't fall off on their own.

Big MacIntosh' stoic face and gentle eyes were revealed behind the broken pony mask.
"Eeyup."

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"Well now, that didn't go as well as I hoped but I must say to have only suffered a set-back with the helmet is a great success. With a little hard work and a complete redesign I think we can get everything back on track."
Rarity was beaming. Her work reinforcing Twilight's metalwork pushed the boundaries of her art.
The experience was exhilarating.

"Lyra, dear, could you get started on this boot for me?"

"Sorry Rarity." Lyra apologized, looking over her shoulder at Bon Bon for only a second so she'd 'hand' her a specialized tool.
Bon Bon didn't so much as flinch at the mechanical hand that grew out from Lyra's power plant as it reached out to her and grasped perfectly at the device in her hoof.

At the last moment Bon Bon's eyes went wide and she pulled the gizmo from Lyra's reach, offering a common screwdriver in its place.

The wisdom of the maneuver was apparent when an absent-minded Lyra crunched the screwdriver into a tiny ball of metal with her power fist.

"What the hay was that?"
Lyra shouted. Then, seeing Bon Bon's expression and the crushed metal, she apologized profusely.
"Please tell me that wasn't the part I needed."

"I pulled it back just in time."
Bon Bon said in a voice that sounded like whining. Her voice was really high pitched again.

Lyra thanked her and took the device with her levitation field instead.
"I'll get the hang of that. Sorry, what did you say Rarity?"

Rarity nodded a 'no problem' to the apology.
"I was asking if you could perhaps give me a leg up on my next suit and transform this boot for me."

Lyra's face fell for the second time in a row.
"Sorry. It's beyond me. It takes a delicate combination of technical know-how and unicorn magic to change power armor's shape without damaging the internal circuitry. It'll take me a while to figure out how Princess Twilight does it."

"Oh dear. Well, if there's no way then I guess I'll just make do with something else to keep myself busy until the next suit of armor is ready." Rarity said disappointed.

Discolored but not defeated, Rarity stretched out and worked the kinks out of her back. As she did she took in Lyra's progress and the suit of power armor she was in. Once Big MacIntosh' suit was deemed safe Twilight had gone on a spree, modifying Astartes suits. Unfortunately they had hit a snag. They were twenty-one ponies and only twelve suits of power armor recovered from the Vorpal Swords. Since Twilight insisted nopony use Chaos Space Marine parts it meant that teams would have to go out scavenging.

Twilight and Lyra might have been able to duplicate small things like Bolter rounds but creating a second suit of power armor ex nihilo was out of the question.

Unless by some chance they stumbled upon a Space Marine graveyard their prospects looked grim.

Nonetheless Rarity tried to stay cheerful as she smithed ceramite panels into plates to protect ponies' exposed necks.
"Such a shame Twilight couldn't do anything about this flaw but it does give one opportunities to shine."

Lyra cocked her head in agreement as she inserted the device Bon Bon gave her into a mechadendrite.
"I still wish I'd made progress on the helmets. It's my fault your talent's wasted making neckguards, Rarity."

"Oh tosh dear. For starters neck-guards is such a poor description. These armored collars are called 'gorgets'.
That said I am tempted to give them at least a partial jaw, that would be a 'bevor'.
Traditionally one wore a bevor with a 'sallet' or 'basinet' style helmet to protect the entire head."

Lyra made a note, focusing on her power fist to grip a pen delicately and write the words down.
"If you can call this 'wearing' something. If it weren't for all the wiring and mobility I could see Discord's spell summoning Iron Bit or Smith Wesson to do this work for us. No offense Rarity."

"None taken dear."

"But I mean, this is a lot less altering a suit than it is building a pony shaped house."

"Cage would be the word I'd use. Granted this material is a lot lighter than I expected but I still can't believe anypony can move in it."

"We're working on that." Lyra agreed.
Idly she felt an itch on her ear and before Bon Bon could shriek and protest Lyra's power fist extended a finger and scratched her.

Bon Bon exhaled in relief and looked helplessly at Rarity for comfort.

Rarity shrugged, then took the opportunity to ask Lyra further about the complete suit of power armor she was wearing.
"Tell me dear what is it like? I recognize it's like clothing but with all the machinery inside it I imagine it would be like riding a carriage."

Lyra thought about it.
"Maybe a little, for a carriage nestled under your hooves and tummy. It does take some getting used to, once Twilight used that spell on Big Mac she fixed the problem so that the armor moved itself. I dunno. After three days it's like a second coat on me now."

"You know, I just realized something. We haven't made any tests on the suits of armor we retrieved from the women. It seems unwise to overlook that if their population is anything like ours."

Bon Bon considered that.
"I'll add that to the list. Right now we still have so much to work on with the suits we already have."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Coincidences are a rare occurrence.
The reality of things was that when Twilight Sparkle crafted the first set of armor to suit a pony she had no idea what she was doing and given the choice between overdoing or under-compensating Twilight chose to go big.
Meaning she made the interior space slightly larger than she or any of her friends needed.

This was convenient for Big MacIntosh because he was larger than the mares so by default he had a suit of power armor suited to his needs. Twilight would need to practice more to make the dimensions appropriate for her friends.
Of course, that sort of practice was risky, unacceptably risky when one considered how few suits they had available.

Twilight therefore chose to err on the side of caution when she transformed a second suit, making it practically identical to the first.

For that reason it was no coincidence that that particular suit found its way to its current owner.

Prince Blueblood woke from his rest inside his private room and looked about.
He hadn't earned this corner of luxury through any personal merits; Princess Twilight simply decreed that for safety's sake every pony with a suit of power armor should be spread out. Because of the spacial needs and the amount of time it took to suit up, in the event of an attack it was best if everypony wasn't bunched up in one room.

Blueblood ached and tried to shake but failed completely.
He was wearing the chest of the suit thinking to spare himself the time it took to put that most cumbersome of pieces on but all he had managed to do was strain his legs carrying the weight of it and the power plant backpack.

Huffing he made his way to the four 'legs' and slipped his hooves in one by one.
Unfortunately, because the exoskeleton wasn't properly fastened the weight of the armor was still completely on his back and with his legs now stuck within the boots he didn't have the range of motion to simply lie down again.

"Hello? Is anypony out there? I am in need of some assistance!"

look at you, left to your lonesome

exiled

no one can really stand you can they?

Blueblood panicked. Desperately turning around himself, looking for the source of the hissing voices.

All he saw was a metal surface, polished smooth and as reflective as a mirror.
He saw himself in his power armor, pristine white; He hadn't wanted to appear like a commoner in plain metal and, justifying to himself and Amethyst Star that he didn't want to expose the surface to corrosion, he found supplies and painted it himself.

He breathed hard, trying to get his breath back to normal.

There was a knock on the door.

"Who is it?"

"It's Sparkler, prince. I thought I heard you yell. Is everything alright?"

Blueblood wanted to say everything was fine but he was still stuck in place.
Sparkler opened the door and poked her head in. She saw him frozen in place and looked confused.

"I can't move." He said, trying to keep his dignity.

Sparkler nodded and went over to his side, examining his suit's connections.

Blueblood tried to be serene. This was just like a grooming or another session with his tailor. Nothing out of the ordinary.

"These connections didn't seal automatically. It's a hiccup. Try it now."

Blueblood moved his hooves and relaxed as he aligned his body so the armor carried its own weight.
"I... will be out later." He said.

Sparkler bristled at being acknowledged rather than thanked but felt it her duty to finish.
"If it happens again just connect the entire surface of the 'sleeves' with their ports in the groin guard and shoulders.
It's a two-pony job for a pegasus or earth pony but nothing stops a unicorn from doing it himself."

She turned her tail to him and walked out, not noticing how pensive her words left him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Wait, wait. No, no, no!"
Rarity cried out at the top of her lungs.

On the other side of the room Lyra just stared at her.
The hammer on her riveting tool snapped and she was done; a pair of bolts were screwed into the rear of Big MacIntosh' groin guard, fastening the swinging panel of ceramite that covered the base of his tail.

"Lyra, how could you. The design was perfect."

"We've been over this Rarity." Twilight said as she chose that moment to walk in.
"People are going to be shooting at us. It's bad enough they have a clean shot to our heads, I'd rather they didn't also have a target on our flanks. That said, we'd still be better off with short tails for a few weeks."

"Speak for yourself Twi. I think I'm getting the hang of this."
Applejack countered as she swung her tail and cracked a power whip against the training wall.

"You're looking good." Twilight agreed.

"Well, it ain't easy. I've never thought to enter a whip-cracking competition wearing a suit of armor before but I'm a quick study."

"I'm sure you'll win the blue ribbon next year for sure." Twilight beamed.

Applejack nodded and sheathed her back-up weapon; a large machete-shaped combat blade.

"How'd you get that anyway?" Twilight asked.

From its perch on her back Goldwing answered.
"The weapon is an Adepta Sororitas neural whip. It's previous owner was Sister Mistress Penance Lucilia, currently interred within the Imperial mausoleum."

"Mistress?" "Mistress?"
Applejack and Twilight both asked.

"The Adepta Sororitas, in the lower tongue the Sisters of Battle. This site is the location of a traitor siege prior to the planetoid's absorption by the Warp."

Twilight's eyes went wide.
"This was a planet that was stolen?"

"Correct. At that time this location was the site of a monastery.
Despite the planet's corruption the Sisters refused to allow this holy ground to fall.
Despite their failure and the monastery's razing the crusade to reclaim the planet persists. The most recent incursion was led by your predecessor, Inquisitor Lord Arcmillus Hadrian. His army, a combined force of Inquisitorial retainers, Guardsmen, Sisters of the Order of Our Martyred Lady, and a representative force from the Vorpal Swords Space Marine Chapter fought their way to the site and established this beachhead. In recognition to the piety of the Sisters of Battle forces, which were decimated in the fighting, and in memory of the monastery that once stood the site was renamed Repentia Point - after the penitent warriors of the Sororitas who cast off their armor and hurl themselves into battle seeking the Emperor's forgiveness.
At the time of Lord Hadrian's death, thirty of the thirty-five survivors of the Order of Our Martyred Lady had cast off their armor and fought as Repentia. They did so despite not having access to the ceremonial Eviscerator chainswords in the number they required.
They fought with naught but knives and their faith in the Emperor."

"I'm not sure if I want to know whether that got in their way or if it actually helped them here."


Next to Applejack Big Mac was looking busy.
Vinyl presented him with a large storm shield shaped like an eagle's wing.
"Too small. That's what I think I need."
He said, raising a hoof to the massive tower shields the size of small doors.

Rairty tsk'ed and went over to him.
"Big Macintosh, I don't think that's such a good idea. You're not a unicorn so we can't just modify this gear so it can be activated through magic. You won't be able to switch between this monster and a weapon quickly."

Vinyl Scratch chose that moment to fasten one shield to each of his front hooves. Half of his body was completely hidden behind the pair of crusader suppression shields that rose from his shoulders to the top of his head.
As he stepped forward his hind legs sparked to life. The stallion had chosen to accept Lyra's most recent experiment: power hooves, a pair of power fists converted to pony use.

Twilight looked deflated.
"Big MacIntosh, I... respect your choice and appreciate your wanting to focus on physical power but don't you think you could use something for range?"

"I understand, Princess. But carrying ammo and fiddling with reloading for a weapon ah ain't ever used before and I'm likely to miss with every time don't add up."

"This isn't about that gun Lyra shot up the place with is it?"
Twilight asked looking over her shoulder. Lyra just whistled.

Vinyl interjected.
"You know B.M. Princess. He's a pony wall. Those two shields are the biggest and heaviest there are and once we got them turned on we found out they have energy fields that can take hits from the big lasers. As for the power hooves..."

"Y'all sure?" He hesitated.

"Sure, We don't need that wall."

"Vinyl!!"

"Ok, we do need that wall. Do we need that crate?"

Lyra glanced over. "Empty. We scrapped pieces of it for paneling."

Big Mac looked at Twilight and she nodded, giving him permission to do it.

Big MacIntosh walked over to the metal container, turned around and kicked with both legs. His buck activated the power field on both hooves at the moment of impact. The container was knocked over and its head smashed through the wall.

Everypony was left staring. Twilight blinked.

Vinyl was the first to talk.
"Make a note Goldwing: power hooves amplify Big Mac's strength to ungodly proportions."

The psyber-eagle addressed Twilght. "Confirm?"

"What she said."
Twilight sighed looking at the hole in the other wall.

"I can fix that." Lyra said looking over its dimensions.
"We might not be able to re-use every piece of debris but if we use the container's roof itself as a base and weld it all together it should be as strong as it was... -ish."

Twilight chose to ignore the renovations and went back to Big Mac.
"Goldwing doesn't have all the information we need and the documents we found don't have any thorough information about Space Marine equipment aside from 'litanies' and basic maintenance. The only thing I understand for sure is that each suit interfaces with the user and every one of these Space Marines has a lot of wiring grafted into their skin, nerves and muscles.
You've been suited up the longest; I need to know if anything about this power armor is causing you pain or problems Big Mac."

"Everything's perfectly fine."

"Then I guess that's all there is to it. Everypony drop smithing work and take your positions, we're sending ponies out to scavenge."

"Princess Twilight!"

The yell entered the room before its source did.
Amethyst Star galloped into the room, white with fear.

"Sparkler, what is it?"

"It's the Prince. He's gone!"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's brighter than I thought. Blueblood thought to himself as he stepped outside.

That was the only rational thought his brain had. He was haunted by voices, hounded by fears that threatened him with isolation and looming betrayal. It wasn't about minor things like his comfort zone; here he was universally despised and at any moment the group would sacrifice somepony to preserve the rest.

your name is first on the list

He felt the heat of scented breath on his neck, in his ear.
He jumped in his place, turning to the noise paranoid of everything including his own reflection.
Desperately he searched everywhere, instinctively looking for something that would give him a sense of safety.

Blueblood

He heard it, something that called out to him but didn't trigger the insane fear inside him.

Blueblood, I can't find you. I can't hear you. Blueblood where are you?

"P-princess??"

He trotted hesitatingly towards the source of the sound, his hooves crossed the limits of Lyra's sound shield.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PON-3! PON-3! PON-3!

Vinyl Scratch smiled, looked up from her metal workstation and raised a hoof to wave at the cheering crowd.
"Thanks everypony, you've been an awesome crowd-"

"Vinyl? Who are you talking to?"

Vinyl Scratch blinked, shook her head and took off her shades.
Lyra was looking at her, she was the one who spoke obviously. Bon Bon blinked at her once, then went back to her hammering.

Rarity and Princess Twilight Sparkle were gone.

"Oops."
Vinyl said, sticking her tongue out.
"Sorry everypony. I think I just got into it too much.
You know, working at the table too long, producing something awesome.
I must've imagined the cheering crowd."

Lyra gave her a big grin.
"Oh yeah. I guess it might start to feel like working a turntable.
Wait, we can do better than that, we both miss that touch of home too. Hey Bon Bon, let's hear it for DJ PON-3!"

Bon Bon lit up and started cheering. "Woooooooooooo!"
She changed her voice twice and did it again.
"We love you Vinyl!"

"Aww, you guys. Thanks."

Lyra and Bon Bon shared the moment with her and bent down to their work again, a little happier than when they started.

Vinyl shook her head at herself.
Just me missing the stage. I'll be back there soon. She thought.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As soon as changes were made to the sleeping arrangements Rainbow Dash and the other Pegasi called dibs on the former 'sleeping room'. It wasn't the longest room but it was the tallest and Cloudchaser had made the argument that they should prioritize maneuverability and control over quickly flying in a straight line.

Dash agreed and together they started planning a flight regimen to break in their power armor.

At the moment, however, Rainbow seemed to prioritize numbers over individual wingpower.
In other words, she was trying to convince Fluttershy to join them.

"I really don't think this is a good idea Rainbow, I mean, I'm nowhere near your league and I can't help but think I'll be holding you all back."

"Pssh, no chance Fluttershy. I mean look at us, easy as cake right guys?"

"Umm..."

At that moment Twilight charged into the loading bay, sliding the doors open with her magic.

"Rainbow, Prince Blueblood's gone missing. Sparkler said he was in his room and now he's gone. Between him and the scavenging crews I need pegasus support out there right now!"

Twilight stopped in her tracks and blinked while Dash had no choice but to give a nervous smile.
"Guys?" Dash asked to the crowd behind her.

She didn't get an answer.
Rainbow Dash sighed deflated and turned to her crew.

Cloudchaser was huffing heavily, her wings flapping like a hummingbird as she tried to keep a meter off the ground.
Flitter was struggling simply walking, lifting one hoof in front of the other. Without thinking she tried to lift her hoof to wipe the sweat off her forehead and began to tip forward, eyes wide in panic when she realized she'd literally pulled her legs out from under her.

Twilight soon joined them in their worry.
"Any problems girls?"

Rainbow Dash looked over her team.
Derpy smiled awkwardly at her and sat on her flank heavily before Dash got one word out,
I'll sit here and do nothing instead of making things worse. her expression read.

Rainbow Dash sighed.
"I want to say we're good but Fluttershy's right. This is a lot heavier than guard armor and my ponies can't even move right.
Flying's out. Sorry Twilight but for a pegasus these armors aren't worth the wingslits you guys altered in for us."

Twilight focused on Flitter and the way she couldn't even move her legs.
"Hmm, I noticed this problem before, try this."
Twilight's horn glowed as she performed a spell on the pegasi's armor.

Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy both smiled as they began to move freely.
Flitter saw them and her eyes lit up when she got up on all fours.

Then Flitter's hooves reached up to undo her hairbow and she toppled over.
Cloudchaser gave up on her weighted flying and also dropped to the ground although she managed to stay upright.
Derpy looked about, saw that while everypony moved easier there still was no progress flying and sunk her head a little into her neck armor, trying to make herself invisible so she wouldn't be called on to try.

"I don't understand." Fluttershy worded as she went over to help Flitter up again.

"Maybe it's just the two of us?"
Dash dropped to her fours in a push-up position. She did a quick ten with her forehooves. No problem.
She then swapped the weight to her wings, went down once and crashed face-first into the pavement as her wings gave in.

"Ok, it's a start but there's still some bugs."

"I don't understand, everypony should be moving normally now.
The spell worked perfectly for Applejack, Pinkie Pie and... oh there's the problem. I thought I was fixing the backpacks' magic cores but all I really did was empower them with the Elements."

"Big Macintosh didn't seem to have any problems." Fluttershy added quietly.

"I think that says less about the spell and more about Big Macintosh. Lyra's armor works perfectly but I think that's because she has a lot of secondary power sources fueling it and all the devices she's fixing.
If we're going to power this armor we need more magic than just the Elements of Harmony. What to do?"

Derpy stopped sinking her head into her armor and asked: "Aren't we all magical now?"

Twilight arced her brow at Derpy.
"Chaos magic? Discord! You're right, he's in all of us now. If I can fine tune the armor to his magic field, yes, that can work."

"That's great for you guys but what about us? We're still grounded here." Cloudchaser ached out.

"Leave that to the great and powerful Trixie!"

"Trixie? Are you eavesdropping on us?"
Twilight asked suspiciously.

"Of course not. Trixie was simply strolling by when she heard much crashing. Naturally Trixie's curiosity and good nature made her look in to see what was happening and she overheard the rest."

Twilight didn't believe her but held her tongue.
"What did you have in mind?"

"The Great and Powerful Trixie!" she paused for effect to a few rounds of eye-rolling. "...may not be as powerful as she used to be but that doesn't mean she doesn't know the spells she's tried."
Trixie concentrated on Rainbow Dash as her horn glowed to life. Dash yelped with a sense of deja vu and tried to fly away when she realized she was still too heavy.
Trixie's beam hit her. Both of Dash's wings spread and enlarged until they were the same size as an alicorn's. Her feathers' shape and density changed and her wingspan increased.

"Whoa!"
Dash picked up with awkward flaps but found herself airborne.

Cloudchaser ran over to her. "Are you alright Rainbow?"

"Alright? I'm amazing! Wow! I never felt like I was a shortwing before."
Rainbow declared proudly as she lifted off the ground and flew zig-zags all around them.

Trixie smiled and since the test worked perfectly she repeated the spell on the other pegasi.
She leaned over to Twilight.
"Trixie understands you know gravity spells, Twilight Sparkle. A spell to permanently lighten power armor would be most helpful."

Twilight beamed and subtly accepted the suggestion. Soon Flitter, Cloudchaser, Derpy and even Fluttershy were up in the air (despite the fact that Fluttershy wasn't actually in armor).
"I'd better make a note. Goldwing." The psyber-eagle fired up it's pmenoquils.
"Equestria power armor: Wing enchantment required for pegasus use. If we work together we might be able to enchant the armor to do it automatically, don't you think Trixie?"

"It would save us the trouble but there will be time to work on that later."

"Agreed. Rainbow I need your team out there. Rarity's on the roof with her scope. I need you all to assist her and find him."

Rainbow and Cloudchaser saluted while still hovering in mid-air and the four power armored mares sped out of the room.
Twilight followed them out.

they do not trust you

"Trixie does not deserve to be trusted... yet. But she will get this. Nothing is beyond Trixie."
Trixie answered matter-of-fact.
Then she walked out as well.

"Um... ok."
Fluttershy answered to the empty room, not sure why Trixie said what she did out loud.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sparkler turned another corner, looking into yet another room she'd checked twice before.

we're waiting for you

Something in the back of her mind pressured her, forced her to go forward.
Hoping, praying that big sissy was just cowering in another corner like he always did.

"Wait a second."
She said aloud.
"Sissy? Praying? That doesn't sound like me and what the hay is prayer?! Something's not right."

the little sissy is next
we hate him
we should leave him to his fate

They were thought but not her thoughts. They were whispers but she didn't hear them.

we're coming

"Twilight!" She yelled just as she turned a corner and found a cowering figure under a blanket.

Sparkler didn't see her but she heard Rose's voice from under the blanket.
She pulled it off revealing a pony that was fast asleep.
"Celestia, please help me..." Rose sleeptalked.

Sparkler galloped out looking for the princess.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Deep in the guts of Trixie's control room the security footage continued.

The Command Throne hummed to life and the images on the screen switched revealing a series of recordings.
The Inquisitorial Rosette glowed in its space, plugged into the console.

But Trixie was still with Twilight.

"Computer. Search, all records marked 'Assassination'." A female voice said.

{Access restricted. Enter codes. Entering codes. Codes accepted, apologies Inquisitor.
Three folders match criteria.}

"Display. Highlight view screen numericals." Each viewscreen flashed a numeral on is surface in electric light.
"Display folders to screens seven, twelve and eighteen. Read table of contents for the shortest entry."

{Screen eighteen, reading: 'Assassination aspects present on objective.}

"Define objective."

{Target: Code-named 'Miasma'. Warp-space celestial solid body presumed fixed in space. Standard one hundred percent Terran gravity standard. Estimated standard Warp travel twelve days to Imperium Space. Coordinates on X Y Z axis relative within the Eye of Terror. Celestial Body presumed to be Daemonic in origin. Possibility of former Eldar maiden world less than thirteen percent. Celestial Body in conflict. Twelve Fallen Chapters observed referenced Eight Hundred Fifty Six Millennium Forty to present date.}

"List current date."

{Nine Hundred Ninety Nine, Millennium Forty-One.}

"Continue."

{Celestial Body presumed to be under direct Daemonic dominion. Specifically Chaos God of Decay.}

"Confirm name."

{Negative. Safety override. Names of all designated higher Daemons are not recorded.}

"Reason."

{All explicit representations of Daemonic entities possess inherent power. Desecration of equipment inherent to recording process.}

"Continue."

{Definition complete.}

"Folder contents."

{One entry: No evidence of Officio Assassinorum personnel on-planet. Signed Inquisitor Lord Arcmillus Hadrian. Countersigned Major Alastor, acting Commanding Officer Cadian 345th, Imperial Guard.}

words have power
say my name

The pony shook her head and brought a hoof to her eyes, rubbing them free as if the words she imagined and the headache she felt were nothing more than a side-effect of eyestrain.

The screen glowed brightly, reflected in Octavia's eyes.
"Define Officio Assassinorum..."


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Blueblood wasn't far, his armor hadn't been lightened by a gravity spell and his armor would be slow and sluggish until Twilight connected its inert power plant to Discord's magical essence.

He hadn't noticed that the compound was still visible behind him; His ears were full of words he hadn't expected.

It's time you learned where you were born. Up boy, we have six hours of fields to tour and five hours to dusk.

The voice was commanding and powerful. It's tone was impatient and threatening.
Blueblood knew it well.
Despite the passage of the years and its owner's passing he could still imagine he heard the old ... stallion as he said the words almost a decade ago.
He winced. He'd intended to say 'the old goat' but he couldn't, found he couldn't think it.
The stallion he'd grown up 'affectionately' referring to only as 'Sir' still inspired primal reactions.

This is your dominion, these are the lands that will one day bow in your presence and acknowledge you as 'Prince'. This will be your title and it will be your only title. For thousands of years the land has been ruled by the Royal Alicorn sisters and the only title they have ever chosen is 'Princess'. Foals playing childhood games entertain stupid dreams that they are special, that they may one day surpass them and have given themselves other titles, higher titles: Crown Prince, Czar, Dictator, Tyrant, even King. You need only open your eyes to read the stories to see what fate befell them all.

Keep that in mind boy. You are the scion of Unicorn royalty, a bloodline that can be traced back to Princess Platinum herself. Submit, and serve the Princesses. That is the source of your power and authority and do not dare forget it, for the day you do you will find nopony who will submit to and serve you.

Blueblood looked about him, taking in the desolate surroundings and finding something off in the distance. Something that glowed with a light that dimmed into a different color than all the Warp pink.
"Why must I tour the realm?" He asked aloud as if he were still a colt.
He trotted ahead towards the light, unaware that he had echoed his childhood question as he revisited the conversation in his head.

Because you are just a Unicorn. You cannot raise the sun and moon, you're not even aware of them. Nor are you aware of the lands they cover and the ponies that live within them. If your power is so limited how can you expect other ponies to know you and serve you? If your vision is so limited then how do you expect to find them? If you neither hold power over them nor exert influence over them then how can you possibly expect to command them?
You must know they exist, you must know where they are and you must venture to their homes. When they know your crown, your title, your name, your visage, your authority - then you can make them understand that their home is actually your fief, their representatives are actually your adjutants and that their lives are in the hooves of ponies that were born to carry their burden.

"It's my special talent?"

No boy. This isn't your cutie mark, it's your destiny. And it will remain your destiny so long as you do what you're supposed to. Now rise!

"Rise and go discover what it is you're supposed to rule over." Blueblood echoed with a tone of finality completely devoid of mocking or defiance. He wasn't parroting his father's words, he believed them. And it was with that resignation that he rose above the hill, looked over his tail to see he was still within sight of the human compound, and made to explore the patch of earth that had rearranged itself into a grotto.

"I shouldn't be here. I've no wife, no son, no successor. No heir to the royal title. I shouldn't be taking this risk..."

"Blueblood..."

A melodic voice called to him.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Carrot Top bustled nervously. Sparkler ran into her and didn't even notice.

"Oww..."

"Oh. Carrot Top, I'm so sorry."

Carrot Top smiled and dusted herself off.
"It's ok. I'm used to getting run over while I'm at the fridge."

Carrot Top got over to Sparkler and tussled her mane.
"When Dinky was still learning to speak, surprise surprise, some of her first words were muffin."

Despite herself Sparkler smiled.

"And then your momma heard it and she'd come racing into the room and when she didn't see anything on the table there she went to the fridge. And there goes your auntie Carrot Top: over her shoulder, off to a side or just plain trampled underhoof."
Carrot Top stuck her tongue out at Sparkler in a teasing way and despite herself Sparkler laughed.

"Thanks auntie Harvest, I needed that. But now I need to find the Princess."
Sparkler trotted on looking for Twilight more carefully.
She noticed she didn't hear the whispers anymore.

Carrot Top turned back to the larder with a worried expression on her face.
The storage container looked like her cabinets after Derpy came home.

"I do too, precious." Carrot Top said under her breath.
"We're fine for running water, I don't know why. Regardless, the food supplies aren't going to last..."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Blueblood heard something in the distance, the world was a poor artist's landscape of horrors but this sound he heard, this one thing. it beckoned to him.

His heart skipped a beat when he recognized the voice. It was Princess Celestia.

As he galloped towards her light he heard her voice more clearly. She saw him clearly from within a grotto.

-such a long long way... from that very first day...
-might grow... might do... been through...
-me proud of you...

"Wait, Princess what are you-?"

Celestia's horn glowed and a beam struck him. At once Blueblood was back in the Starscape.
His heart leapt for joy, he was free, they had succeeded, they could get away.

His emotions were shattered when he saw Celestia enter and pass him by with no thought to his presence.
Behind him was Twilight Sparkle, still a unicorn.

"What? What's going on?"

He stood, paralyzed, frozen in place, as Celestia sung a complete ballad to her favorite student and he witnessed Twilight Sparkle's ascension to alicorn. After that, proclaiming her 'princess' was just a formality.

The starscape shattered around him, dissolving into billions of pieces, and when he could see again Blueblood found he was still in the grotto.

Celestia did not look at him with anything like the warmth and affection she had shown Twilight Sparkle.

"You call yourself prince, you insist on it. You believe yourself to be part of Canterlot's elite. The food of the poor.
What wealth you must have, to sail through the skies on a yacht.
But you're not really a prince are you? I'm your beloved aunt, despite the fact that neither Luna nor I have ever borne any children and have no other siblings? You're really more of a duke but even that sounds empty doesn't it?
Other princes and princesses have come before.
You let yourself forget, Blueblood. An Equestrian Prince is not who he was born from or what he owns but what he has done.
You. Are. Lacking."

With another beam the same taunting ballad echoed in his ears, replaced by a lifetime of images that represented no lofty accomplishments, no great journey.
And the worst part of it was that the still images of the life they showed were his.

"No, stop it, stop!
I can't take it, I just can't!
Every word is a wound that cuts deep into everything I ever thought and ever hoped to be.
You think I'm not aware, that I didn't notice?
That her journey is one I never started
That I never felt your eyes waiting, watching for something that never happened.
That I've grown in years but not substance, that my actions have been repetitions of the previous pointless minutia, that everything I've lived has been beneath whatever lofty goals you might have set for me. That the only pride in my life is what I feel for myself?"

He was begging for mercy.
Celestia showed him none.

her next beam transported him to a memory where again he was just a colt.

but dad I-

what did you say!?

"I apologize, Sir. What I meant to say was the local children are engaging in sport. I would like your permission to join them."

"Play with common ragamuffins?"

"Not... play per say. Sport. a chance to..." He thought about the word to use "measure," no that wasn't good, he needed something his father would approve of in context. "hone my skills against them. Some of the ponies are rather good."

young colt there is no point in 'testing' yourself against the common folk for one day you will be a prince. Your superiority is not a matter of question, in years time it will be a fact.

The illusion shattered again and again Blueblood stood, weeping and humiliated.

"Is it a 'fact' now, Blueblood?" Celestia's stern voice demanded.

"You're saying I shouldn't be.
Well I am. I am proud. I'm a Prince. I will always be a Prince and nothing anypony can say or do will change that.
I am rich and I'll never be stupid enough to lose it all over anything. I am prestigious, I am desirable, I am privileged,
I am important. I can trace my heritage back fifty generations to the days before when you and Princess Luna bound that brute. My pedigree is unquestionable, proven, and on record to the slightest detail and I am more than capable and talented enough to keep it there. My cutie mark is a compass for good reason. 'Stay the course.' Father always said, and I have.
Nothing I do will ever match up to the legacy I've inherited, anything I try will be overlooked in the face of what better stallions than I have brought to my name. My burden is not to add, it is to preserve, and I've done so. That is my destiny!"

"A proud defect." She said.

It killed him to hear it.

"A proud little unicorn, with a dead weight on his forehead."

Her magic enveloped him and crushed him to the ground. He didn't even try to resist.
"This has been your central conflict, you secret shame. Insisting others serve you, work for you, coddle you.
Because you can't do anything for yourself.
You're a pegasus with defective wings."

"I... I am." He admitted. he was exposed, lay bare for all to see. Nothing was left.

"You've been going at this wrong. All this time you've kept away."
You are beautiful.

Celestia began to radiate warmth, love and beauty again. Several mare mistresses emerged from the air and surrounded him.
Their every scent and appearance was perfect.

Perfection itself awaits you if you let me help you.
"Let me help you."

WORSHIP ME!

"N-no!"

He pushed away from the mirage before him and saw. His eyes burnt with magic as he pushed away at everything surrounding him. The beautiful ponies that he felt surrounding him were revealed, not as thoughts at the edge of his imagination but as real physical beings, equine only superficially. Their beauty, along with their front legs, vanished into the mist along with the rest of their glamour. In each one's place was left a strange bipedal beast of scaly skin, leathery muscular tails, and long reptilian necks pointed by slim flat heads. Long tongues pointed like daggers flicked out of their jawless, flute-shaped mouths.

The monster that had appeared as Celestia changed as well revealing a gruesome monster Blueblood couldn't believe had once managed to disguise itself as beautiful.
It was a centaur mostly: its hind legs ended in claws like dragons' twisted backwards, its front legs were insect-scale covered legs that ended in hooves with very hairy fetlocks.
A tail rose high into the air like a scorpion's. Hidden inside the brush hair tip Blueblood saw the flash of a stinger as it quivered. The pony shoulders gave birth to a human torso layered with pairs of breasts atop one another. Its fleshy arms ended in scaly claws like a crab's. Atop its human shoulders sat the same elongated, flat head the other disgusting beasts had. Its mane was chitinous plates of armor and a pair of antlers swept back from its head.
It's oral cavity opened to the same flicking, stabbing tongue.

Blueblood backed away, out of the grotto, his eyes darting back and forth from the Steeds of Slaanesh and their apparent leader, the Fiend.

He looked over his shoulder and jumped aside just in time: The steeds had surrounded him and one had darted its head forward to lick him.

Ironically Blueblood's disgust at their appearance saved him.
In overreacting to their closeness he avoided the muscle's paralyzing touch.
He got to his feet and drew his weapon from the scabbard on his flank. He pressed the activation stud and the power sword glowed to life.

He swung about him in broad two-hooved strokes but while he discouraged anything from getting too close he knew he wasn't getting anywhere. The beasts were quick and their reflexes were faster than anything he had seen before. His only advantage was the fact that their attacks seemed limited to their tongues. For all that it was clear they were toying with him, prolonging the game to test his reactions. He tried hard not to show fear, not to give these nightmarish beasts that were insinuated their way into his thoughts any satisfaction.
He was beginning to sweat.

The Fiend at last grew tired and bounded forward. It moved slower than the darting steeds but Blueblood recognized that he was hopelessly outmatched against a monster with so many limbs created to kill.
He was at the top of the hill.
Blueblood saw his chance and played his only move: he disengaged the power sword's energy field and shoved with the flat of his blade against the Fiend, catching its claws against its torso and pushed it back with all his might. He grit his teeth: the beast was too heavy for Blueblood to lift off the ground. Instead he engaged in a battle of strength while all four of the Fiend's legs trod into the ground and pushed its way forward.
It was stronger than him, stronger than any stallion he had ever known and at any moment the two steeds would flank him.

He prepared to release and attempt a sidestep. If he was fast and his timing perfect his riposte might eliminate one of the steeds as it pursued him. He had no chance against the larger daemon, it's reach exceeded his own.

A crimson ray of energy pierced the sky and burnt through the Fiend instantly.
The laser burnt right through the Fiend's chest and the unsuspecting daemon vanished in an explosion of glowing smoke just as the plaguebearers had.

"We got you!"

Blueblood turned his head in time to see a rainbow-colored flash barrel into the two steeds.
Dash crossed at full speed, the pair of lightning claws over her front hooves sizzled with a streak like lightning.
She covered ground faster than anything Blueblood had ever seen in Equestria, delivering a clawed right cross at spectacular speed.

He blinked.

The steed of Slaanesh twisted it's body, dropping to the ground even as it angled its head to dart the tongue into Dash's open underbelly. Blueblood realized that even if Dash had the speed these things had the reflexes.

The tongue lapped Dash's armor.

And before she finished her flyby, just as she reckoned the body was beneath her, Dash rolled with her punch in the air and spun sideways into a roundhouse kick that drove her hind leg's close combat hoof into daemon skull. A loud crack filled the air as it vanished into smoke and light.

Her wings flared as she arrested her flight to land in front of the last steed, not even noticing how her power armor had saved her from the Slaaneshi tongue's lethal caress.

Blueblood swung his two-handed blade from behind and the power sword cleaved several inches into the steed's neck until the entire body was vanquished into the Warp.

He panted heavily, unable to hide his exhaustion for the sake of decorum.

"You alright?" Rainbow impulsively asked.

He didn't respond. instead he turned to the distance, to where he believed the first crimson ray of energy had come from.
On top of the compound lay that mare he had first met so long ago at the Grand Galloping Gala; Rarity was looking through laser viewfinder on the side of the massive Lascannon she was levitating. She seemed to dip her head demurely at him.
He half expected her to vanish back into Control but instead she turned her scope about, rotating her body slowly in place as her head turned. Surveying for anything for everypony most likely, for other groups that might be out there the same as he had.

"I'm fine. ...thank you."

"Don't mention it." Dash said.
Then she slugged him on the shoulderpads.
"What the hay did you even come out here for?!"

"It was... it was Princess Celestia. I heard her, saw her. They made me see and hear things that weren't real.
It was her..."

Dash looked scared at his answer.
"Let's get you back. Twilight's gonna want to know about these... whatever they were and me and the other flyers have gotta cover ground before we can say we're clear."

"Yes."

He took a step then turned to her before she flew away.
"You're fast, very fast I mean. I've seen the Wonderbolts race, there's nopony swifter."

He focused on what he noticed, reading the motions, comparing them to his memories dueling Pierce.
Even the fencer had never reacted to his feints or motions like that.

"But those ...things... are faster in other ways."

Dash's shoulders slumped. She recognized the tone, the fear in Blueblood. She answered as softly as she could:
"I know. Those things had some amazing reflexes. Tell Twilight but... tell Twilight. She'll know what to do."

He nodded and began galloping back to Control as Dash took to the sky to get a view of the rest of the land.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Sugarcube, are you alright? I mean, I know he's not your favorite pony in the world after everything we've been through but..."

"What? oh... OH!" Rarity blushed trying to understand the context of what Applejack said.

"He was out there all on his lonesome. If we hadn't spotted him... right in the nick of time."

"Yes. believe me yes, I don't want to think about it."
Rarity realized she'd kept secrets from her friends, secrets she hadn't meant to. She'd done so much in Canterlot that particular week before Twilight's birthday and she hadn't come clean about the social events she had stayed to attend, not completely.

None of her friends knew that she had more than made up for the hurt feelings and bad behaviors of the Gala. She was Princess Celestia's guest, Fancy Pants had all but invested her with his endorsement and patronage.
The two stallions were, if not close friends then at least amicable. Fancy Pants captained the maiden voyage of Blueblood's yacht after all. She was the new darling of high society and an Equestrian heroine. She and the prince had left the past behind them and as far as she was concerned they got along comfortably with each other now.

But she hadn't told her friends about it and it worried her to think her friends might act as if the friction was still there.
"Applejack, please. Everything is quite well. He and I, it's in the past. We're comfortable where we stand. Please don't worry."

"Alright sugarcube. Let's just put it behind us as well then and get to it with that fancy contraption yer playing with."

"Oh my yes."

Rarity detached the targetter while Applejack sat down to tinker with the lascannon and the bucket load of spare parts they'd brought up to the roof with them. Most of AJ's time was spent trying to figure out the gauges on the lascannon's power cell and fixing the ones that didn't so much as move.

Out of the corner of her eye she spied Rarity.
It wasn't as if she was suspicious of her friend, far from it. It was just the fact that, of all of Rarity's friends, Applejack had been the only one to experience a taste of Blueblood's loutish behavior at the Gala.
The only other thing she knew about the stallion were his words to Celestia before they were all dragged into this mess:
a brace of the bravest and mightiest stallions in the land

His first instinct was to throw other ponies at the problem. Applejack was trying to be fair but found herself worried. She and her friends had managed so much together before, what was so different now?

She realized what it was. She trusted her friends unquestioningly. They'd earned it.
The Princess was asking her and her friends to put their faith in and work together with another, larger group of ponies, ponies she knew but had never relied on.
Her Element was Truth; how could she determine the truth when she was so ignorant of everything around them?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Blueblood entered Control and went to Cheerilee. The Princess Twilight Sparkle 'was busy' at the moment.
He felt a pang at his chest and a twitch in his eye but he did not question it.
He wasn't that kind of Prince. The alicorns held true power, true obligation in Equestria.
His obvious question of 'with what?' would be met with the equally obvious answer 'with everything'. Every weapon, every armor, every science, every technology, every foodstuff, every resource, every body, every symbol, every risk, every possibility...
Every course of action was on her shoulders now.

He found he did not envy her burden. Hers was the true leadership.
There was precedent for the situation he found himself in: In the face of harsh realities it was his royal duty to present a unified front and agree with her entirely. Blindly if need be.

He related to Cheerilee the details about the daemons and how they had attempted to seduce him.
He left out no detail, describing how they had appeared to him and attempted to goad him then tempt him with his heart's desire.

Cheerilee blinked and her mouth gaped a little at his speech. She licked her dry lips and hustled to write everything down.
Between the two of them they composed a sketch of the daemon types to add to Twilight's growing beastiary even as Cheerilee looked into his eyes, trying to peer into the heart of the stallion that had confided that his heart's greatest wish was the earn the apparently withheld admiration of his Aunt.

His obligations to Cheerilee finished, Blueblood entered the armory where Lyra and Bon Bon were hard at work.

"Heya Prince, anything we can do for you? How's the gear handling?" Lyra asked.

He dropped the bolter at their hooves and made a show of relinquishing his ammunition as well.
In the heat of the moment he hadn't even remembered to grab it.
"These... do not suit me. I have wasted too much of their reserves needlessly. It is time I admitted this is not within my reach and find another way. Is there anything else you can offer me?"

The two mares blinked at each other before turning back to him.
"Was there anything wrong with the sword?" Bon Bon asked.

"No. It was quite satisfactory."

He explained his fight as well as Rarity and Rainbow Dash's intervention.

Bon Bon looked thoughtful.
"Honestly it sounds perfect. You can fence with it and wield it at range with your magic."
Nopony noticed when Blueblood grimaced,
"I'd rather you not give up on the thought of gunfighting but if you're sure there's not much more we can offer you."

Lyra crooked her head then added "I think I know what you're missing."

She went to a pile and brought out a modified piece she'd packed as 'replacement' weapons for the group in case their first ones were damaged.
"A holdout weapon. You don't have close combat hooves and to be fair I don't think they'd be what you're looking for. But if your sword is up in the air, caught or busy it's good to have an alternative."

Her power fist and a mechadendrite fiddled around with his front right hoof and slid the device over it. Cabling snaked out from the device to the ports on his power armor. Lyra rotated it around his hoof armor a few more times before engaging the devices clamps and soldering it. Blueblood set his hoof down.
"That should do it. You heard me when I was explaining how these work right?"

"Yes. This will serve most satisfactorily. Um, thank you, uh..."

"Lyra. Lyra Heartstrings."

"Miss Heartstrings. My thanks."

He left the room.

"Are you sure you don't want the matched set?" Lyra called after him to no response.

"Lyra-" Bon Bon whined to her, a little annoyed.

Lyra blushed. "I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. Every day at Canterlot there was some new filly that heard rumors or read the news stories and dreamed of meeting the Prince Blueblood. I never thought I'd ever talk to him like an equal."

Bon Bon's eyes narrowed, looking for the tell-tale signs of a crush but no, all Lyra had was the smile and embarrassed blush of a filly who got to meet a real-life celebrity.
"Oh Lyra." Bon Bon rolled her eyes, smiling.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Oh, hello." Blueblood said as he entered the armor storage room.
Derpy and Sparkler were busy but apparently finished. Sparkler looked, strange. Something about her expression looked off.
She turned to look at him.

"That's the last of this one. I'm gonna go bring in another one of those crates, see if we can find more of the stuff we need here." Derpy said.

"Momma let me help you." Sparkler replied, eying the stallion as she did.

Either Derpy was oblivious or she pretended not to notice.
"Don't you worry muffin, this old mare's managed her fair share of shipping crates and this'll be no harder than any old piano."
She hovered over to the doorway, brushing a little too close to Blueblood who hadn't realized he was in the way.

Derpy giggled softly.
"Excuse me" she said and squeezed her way through, still flapping with her new wings to get reacquainted with indoor flight and confined spaces.

She left the two there awkwardly, alone but with the promise that she'd be back in there very soon.

Unusually, Blueblood was the one to attempt to break the silence. "So... anything interesting you found out... about the armor?"

Sparkler looked about her, clearing up the mess, putting packing and storage materials back into containers and crates while sorting out working and damaged spare pieces as she could. "A bit yeah."

He looked around, noticing the particularly damaged sections of what had been registered as the armor belonging to the captain of the Space Marine humans. "It's quite ornate. Beautiful, in its own way."

"Yeah." Sparkler agreed, trying not to look at him directly.
"The... intricate armors, the really ornate ones. All the extra layers and such do more than make them look pretty. Thicker armor, a lot of extra plating, the broader coverage. Some of them of them end up being a lot tougher for it."

He nodded, thinking she wasn't really looking at him. "Would... welding just any scrap of this material do it? In bulk I mean."

"It should. I think the suits can carry a bit more weight before they're overburdened."

He finally decided to comment on the room's other main feature: a panel on the wall had been removed, exposing the magic conduits within it. There was energy, humming and flowing just behind and underneath the surface of every deck and wall around them. Cables had been jury-rigged to a half dozen power plants. Tools and torches and other junk piled up around the area.
Most of it was a glowing sparking mess but a few of the devices showed promise of charging or starting without permanent loss.

Blueblood looked at the panel, seeing his reflection staring at him in the shiny metallic surface.
"This is the same kind of metal... 'plasteel' as the armors use, I think. Do you... need this?"

Sparkler looked at him unsure of what he meant but decided whatever his task or business was it wasn't damaging to her.
"No, not really. We're using this room's power not the metal. Go ahead if you think somepony could use it for scrap or practice or... barricades or whatever. You can take those tools if you want. I've got others, enough I mean."

He nodded and opened the doorway, throwing the tool belt over his back, fitting the torch into one of the pockets and pushing the panel of metal out with both hooves.

Derpy came back pushing a huge crate that only slid across the floor because of how clean it was.
"Sing out sweetie, I can't see from this side."

"That's good momma. We can tear it open and see if there's more we can do now."

"Was the Prince ok, Star?"

"He's fine momma... he's just fine."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In empty room Blueblood finally sat and sulked. It had taken him several tries but he'd finally found a space he could use as his own. He lay the panel at an angle against the wall and produced the largest set of cutters he had with him. Gradually, through cutting, clipping and the occasional softening of an area through the application of superheated prometheum he had transformed a section of wall into several bucket's worth of scrap metal plates.

He took the panel he had been working on, applying the torch liberally to the edges as he melted and cooled the metal. The sharpness of the edges dulled and rounded, at last he set it down to cool and focused his hoof on the bits he had left.
The time passed quickly, he was too motivated, too enraptured in his work to notice.
He took the last material, a length of elastic cord he had retrieved from some articles of clothing, and looped it through the proper locations.

Blueblood stared his reflection in the eyes, forcing himself not to blink.
He set down the metal plate, molded and reshaped into a mask, and set it down over his face securing the straps.
The plasteel shined in the reflected light.
His mane fell over the metal in sections, camouflaging the differences between the mask and the armor, hiding the gap that his horn protruded from.
He raised his right hoof and his magic pressed the activation stud. Four blades shot out from the lightning claw attachment Lyra added to his hoof.

Blueblood stood there for a while, looking at himself, breathing heavily, trying to recover his nerve. He focused on his reflection, not on himself but on the pony in front of him, the armed and armored stallion. His mind turned to the rest of the scrap plasteel. He would be working it, melting it, fusing it. Carefully so as not to damage or block any of the important sockets or device panels he needed to leave access to. Amethyst Star's research into the Marine's power armor suggested the most powerful grade they had was the aegis, or failing that artificer armor. The scriptures suggested that it was only through loving experimentation, repair and aggregate to an existing suit that an armor was elevated to the status of such a relic, so Blueblood decided he should begin the task. He had the time. And he had the need for some great task to keep him from his thoughts.

He spoke at his reflection and his reflection echoed back to him behind a covered face with eyes that seemed very alive, far more alive than he had seen in years.
"You are mighty... I am mighty. I will not serve. I will not serve and I am not afraid."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That night Twilight had a hard time of it.
Everypony was in attendance. She was going to speak.

Ponies had heard the voices, Sparkler in particular had voiced worries.
Everypony was scared.

When they saw Prince Blueblood come out and stand behind Princess Twilight's side like a bodyguard, when they saw his beautiful face hidden completely beneath a silver metal mask with only the narrowest slits for his eyes, everypony trembled.

"Thank you for coming everypony. I think I should get this over with. by now you've all heard rumors. It's best I tell you, they're true.
Something has been whispering at us in the dark."

Twilight waited a few moments for her words to sink in and everypony to calm down again.

"From what I can tell our shield worked. These voices aren't real, or at least not physical. They're mental. Something out there is looking for us, and now it appears they've found us. We're safe for the moment but I can't say for how long. For that reason we're abandoning this planet as soon as possible. Fortunately, not everything is against us."

Pinkie Pie entered the room and shared her haul; a sketch of locations she'd scouted with Imperium casualties.
By her counts they'd have four more Space Marine suits and a dozen Sororitas armors.
Rainbow Dash's team would retrieve them at first light. Between the two Twilight was confident they could outfit the rest of her friends.

"Our only hope for escape involves mastering teleportation spells for interstellar distances, the creation of warp portals, or the remote chance that we can find an Imperial vessel making planetfall. I don't need to tell you all the risks involved with each plan. There is, however, one discussion I think we've been avoiding and we feel alright because we've kept away from the issue. And it's a hard one because despite my brother's protests none of us present are Royal Guard.
We aren't like these Marines. We aren't tyrants, maniacs or monsters. But we're also not soldiers or warriors. We aren't fanatics who defend what we believe in whether it's right or wrong. We aren't even carnivores; it's never been in any pony's nature and I hope it never will be. We should never have to kill anypony else just to survive."

"But there's no denying it. We're not home anymore. We're in a universe where the laws aren't like our own, where people aren't like ours, and where defending everypony else doesn't mean building armor or having spears or even creating a magic shield around everything. It means going out and finding those enemies, and killing them."

Twilight swallowed hard. What was it the others did? That's right, they made euphemisms. 'Frag', 'neutralize'. They focused on the places, positions. 'The area's been secured'.
She could see how the words would be used even as she failed to realize why they would be necessary. Men were meat-eaters: they regularly killed things without a thought in order to ensure their own survival. It was their nature.
Why, then, the need for the oxymorons? Why the need to deny their nature even as great necessity forced them act according to it?
So many things to learn, so much confusion. The princess thought maybe now she was able to emphasize with why so many of these poor humans turned to such extreme selfishness and madness.

"I... I've never killed anything. And I don't want to now. We've always been able to work out a solution, agree to disagree and move our separate ways, and in the worst cases reform, expel or banish the worst of the creatures we've had to face. That isn't going to be an option. Our magic isn't supreme here. Our power isn't enough. And there isn't a single leader we can stop to make it all better. We're going to have to go through a lot of people and some of them are going to be as bad as anything we've ever feared. And we're going to have to shoot. They won't retreat, they won't give up, and we can't intimidate them with an overpowering show of force. We don't have it."

"I never imagined I'd be here asking you to do this. But I am, because I have to. I have only a slight idea about where we're supposed to go and what we'll have to do when we get there, but I know we'll have to do what we never wanted each step of the way. With the pull of every trigger and the push of every hilt. So I'm asking, not as your princess but as a fellow pony: are you with me?"

"Stop saying that!"

The outcry had been so loud, the silence in the room had been as deep as the respect they all bore the princess, that for a moment nopony believed that they had heard it.
Not even Amethist Star believed it.
But she had screamed.

Her heart beat so loudly it filled her ears.

Derpy looked scared and worried at the same time. "Sparkler-".

Hearing Derpy's voice was all the strength she needed to finish speaking her mind.
"Stop saying we have a choice, that you're asking us.

You're not; you're telling us because we're stuck with this. We didn't choose to come here, Discord snapped his fingers and we were here. Heroes of destiny, chosen by fate to fight alongside the legendary Elements of Harmony.

There isn't a choice. We have to be the ones to save Equestria and to do it we have to fight through a lot of people, most of whom are evil there's no arguing that. And we aren't just going to have to fight them, we have to make sure for our safety's sake that we kill them. We have to come with you to the end because we don't know when we're supposed to do whatever it is we're supposed to do. Whatever stupid thing 'destiny' has in mind for us.

And you stand there and tell us we have a choice when there's no way we can go back home, no way we can stay here, and no way to go with you without doing this."

"No Amethyst, you may all be here for a reason but you do have a choice. Fluttershy-"

The yellow pegasus retreated in her place as everypony stared at her. Twilight used her magic to strap a pistol to her belt, plasma by the looks of it, before loading her with the kit of the late medics and apothecaries.

As she finished Goldwing perched on Fluttershy's shoulderplate and started drawing a diagram.
The first picture showed the Narthecium on her right forehoof. All of its 'specialist' functions had been removed; the Reductor was pointless as ponies had no progenoid glands to extract. The Carnifex was torn out: Twilight made it clear that under no circumstances was a pony to ever be euthanized.
In its place the eagle installed a compact lascutter that would serve in a pinch as a hold out weapon.

Twilight continued. "Fluttershy like many of you would rather not be here. And I know she can't bring herself to harm anyone even under the worst circumstances. I don't know that she can kill someone. I don't think so, but I don't know.
And that goes for all of you. I don't know if you can do it and that's why this is so hard."

"It's easy for me to ask, even order Fluttershy to carry medical supplies, for Rarity to fashion armor, for Vinyl to craft sonics and Big Mac to lug shields so heavy they can cave a pony's head in. And you've done it all without asking a word or making one complaint. But I can't order you, I can't even ask you, to use them."

"You are all the bravest, kindest, most loyal ponies I've ever known. You've shown such courage. I know you'd give your lives for your friends. And that's why it's so hard in this world that's so backwards. I'm not asking you to die for your friends, I'm asking you to kill for them. To look another intelligent creature in the eye and do something not for their own good but for ours. Because we can't help them. Because we have to do this. Because we have to save our home because if we don't it'll turn into a world no different than this one. Not 'might', 'will'."

Amethyst grit her teeth, trying to find her words.
"No! It doesn't work like that. It's wrong! This is wrong! You're not some ravenous dragon or monster, you're an alicorn princess! Princesses are about love, kindness, goodness, responsibility... anything but this! You're crossing into another world we don't belong to and have nothing to do with and you're telling us we're not here to help them or save them but to... to... to kill them by the hundreds."

Raindow took issue. "Wait one minute. Are you saying she wants to be here? Or us? Well we don't, none of us do. You didn't see what we did, Sparkler, didn't live it. There's a hundred tough guys put to rest behind those two doors and half of 'em are nightmare versions of the other half. It can happen to ponies. I'm not gonna sit around and let it happen again!"

Amethyst put her muzzle right up to Dash's. "Princess Celestia summons anypony she wants, pulls them away in secret, gives them weapons and armor and ask them to do things nopony would consider even in their worst nightmares, all because some horrible magic will possess them to do exactly that? News flash, you aren't stopping it, from where I stand it's already happening."

Everypony looked aghast at the thought. Twilight turned to her friends.

Cheerilee looked deflated.
"This book... the infantry's primer: it lists prohibitions and punishments for a huge number of 'crimes'.
I didn't understand most of them at first. But the more we see and hear, the more we're forced to consider.
Sparkler thinks this isn't self-defense, what she's describing the humans call 'murder'."

They heard the alien word for the first time in their lives and for reasons they didn't understand it felt familiar, as if pieces to the puzzle that represented life had been missing and they found themselves looking at the full image.
There were things hidden between the everyday actions they took, actions, ideas that required only a tiny leap of understanding. One small jump and they were in a world they never knew, where living things died and the peace or tragedy of it was lost because it was so commonplace it robbed all sense of depth to it. A world where one pony killing another for no reason at all was no different from ripping a dandelion from the earth to eat.

Carrot Top broke the silence. "We... Applejack grows apple trees and the fruit ripens and drops and we eat it. It doesn't hurt the apples, or the tree, it's just how they grow."

"No Golden. They're not fruit, they're not plants, and they're not critters either.
If things were different they wouldn't be our pets, they'd be our equals.
I'm not asking you to pull the trigger yourself if you can't. Cheerilee has done an amazing job translating these tomes; there'll be a lot more we need to read on the fly, I'm sure of it. There's ammo to reload, and armor to fix, and medicines to administer, and maps to read and shields to wield and if nothing else stuff to carry. I'm not implying guilt Amethist. I'm asking you to help however you can; this isn't your responsibility, it's mine. And I'm so, so grateful to all of you for helping me carry this burden any way you can."

The speech ended quickly and everypony dispersed. They spread out into their little groups and tried to decide what to do with each other. Not every pony agreed with Twilight but every pony felt they didn't have an idea what else they could do.

Derpy went over to Sparkler, huddled in a corner.
"Muffin..."

Sparkler exploded into tears and hugged her tight.
"We're stuck here Momma, we're stuck here with monsters. And that's bad enough.
I don't want to become one too."

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"Twilight Sparkle."

"Trixie, I'm sorry but I really do need some sleep. Even an hour..."

In response Trixie put on a brief light show that frankly dazed Twilight for it's detail.
And it's content.

Big Macintosh held up his shields gallantly as he was hammered by a dozen shots that ricocheted off in bright sparks. The stallion held up for a long time before a series of shots impacted with his skull, splitting his head into sections and dropping him. His body stayed upright for a few moments to absorb several more shots but soon enough his body and armor became disfigured by what appeared to be micro-explosions. His corpse fell over exposing the ponies behind him and then these too were mowed down mercilessly by the anonymous fire.

The hologram shifted and this time a helpless Fluttershy was about to be attacked by a hulking figure when Rainbow Dash dove between them and parried its blows, punching it aside like a boxer before turning to deliver a powerful kick with her rear legs that knocked it away. Not far enough apparently, the shape stood up and what was clearly a Chaos Space Marine dove forward and punched a set of lightning claws straight into Rainbow Dash's chest cavity.
She gurgled blood from her mouth before being thrown aside, out of the way. A pair of servo-creatures open fire with miniature lasguns as a trembling, teary Fluttershy reached for her pistol when the Marine swatted the animals aside and stabbed Fluttershy as well.

Twilight turned away even before Trixie allowed the image to dissolve.
"We know evil, you and I. You have studied it, I have lived it. The great and powerful Trixie does not claim the corruption of the Alicorn Amulet to be equal to the depravity that now assails us... but we know this will be the result. If we charge defensively, if we haven't the heart, soul or stomach to make the killing blow... we will be lost. They deserved to know that truth, Twilight Sparkle.
And more than that, they need it."

"I can't do that Trixie. Amethyst is right. If I tell them how horrible everything is and then ask them to fight it to the death I leave them with no choice. I can't leave them open to such hopelessness, despair. This evil isn't a person Trixie, it's a state of mind, a disease. if I let them... if I make them believe they have no choice in this, that this is a part of their destinies, then I yield them to the same despair that created this world, this reality in the first place."

"I can't force them to do this. if they can't be at peace with themselves and what they do here then it's their right to choose not to do it."

"Twilight?"

The two unicorns turned. They hadn't expected an audience but Trixie's light show caught attention anyway.
Cheerilee and Rainbow Dash both stood in the doorway. They had seen it all.

"Trixie, please tell Rainbow what you told me earlier when you prepared that presentation," Cheerilee said.

Rainbow Dash was snorting heavily, not yet angry, but what she had seen got to her.
She barely listened when Trixie spoke.

But she did listen.

"The images I conjured are a slight retooling of a history device on this vessel. The humans in the imagery did not refuse to fight back, they simply were unable to. Most of their... 'ammunition' I think you called it, Cheerilee, had been exhausted. Their weapons are not the same as the ones we have modified to our use. What we have comes from the larger, armored, adapted humans we found here that came after. Those humans fought relentlessly, fearlessly, and they were still slaughtered though they seemed to have taken down their foe with them. I don't mean to be cruel, but Twilight asked me for my opinion on what would happen. This is it."

For a long time Dash was ominously silent. "Bring it up again." Was her only reply.

Trixie replayed the image but this time Rainbow Dash overlapped with her holographic self and countered the Marine personally. This time the real Dash shot out her retractable lightning claws before she attacked.
The other ponies backed away to give the pegasus space but Trixie kept her illusion up.
With incredible speed Dash hopped into the air and drove her claws down onto each of the elbow joints of the Marine.
Trixie estimated on the fly and the limbs fell away to the perfect deep strikes. With a flap of her wings Dash shifted her momentum and performed a backflip that sent her rear hooves up into the Marine's helmet.
The Marine fell to the ground and Dash pounced onto its stomach, keeping her claws unsheathed.

"Is that it?" She asked.

Trixie replied with a stern look in her eye.
"No. I saw several videos and they survived amputations of this type. Some were still able to fight."

Dash put her claw to the chest.

"They've survived those as well. The abdominal armor is very strong and their bodies are resilient. You must go for the head."

With a snort Dash executed the phantasm with a clawed jab to the head.

"Rainbow-" Twilight began.

"I don't know if that's the truth, Twilight, if it's what going to happen. I don't know if that's what everypony needs to see.
I only know it's all I needed to see. If you're not tired and can make more of those I'd appreciate it Trixie.
We need to see how these guys fight."

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Dash and Trixie left the room together, leaving Cheerilee and Twilight to their thoughts.
"Twilight?"

"Yes Cheerilee. Do you have an answer for me?"

"The Emperor protects, but we must protect the Emperor. -Book of the Sororitas.
Every day countless millions are sacrificed so that he may never truly die. -Book of the Astropaths.
He is the ruler of humanity by right of birth and the master of the galaxy by the might of his armies. -Guardsmen.
Without him nothing is possible, the Imperium ceases to be and will be consumed by that which threatens it. -Guardsmen.
Put your faith in the Emperor; beware the alien, the mutant, the heretic, the traitor. -Ecclessiarchy preachings.
Humanity's great reward in this struggle is its continued existence. -Ecclesiarchy preachings.
Men die so that mankind endures. -The Lord Inquisitor's personal journal."

"The Emperor protects." Twilight answered, following the natural progression of Cheerilee's speech to anticipate the next line.

"I could have gone on without repeating that verse."

"But it would follow eventually."

"Yes, I think it would."

"The lesson eventually circles back to the same points."

"If we take what it preaches as truth, yes."

"And at the center of every circle is the Emperor. In the greater scheme of things nothing else matters and everyone who obeys him may or may not receive their reward or feel his protection pursuant to forces completely outside their power to affect or know."

"I think it must follow."

"And is there any way in which this is significantly different from what the chaos gods do and demand?"

Cheerilee looked over her notes, re-read the passages, and giving up and tossing them aside reviewed some parts of the text she had left book markers in. There had been a sense of love, of faith, of trust, of the anticipation and expectation of some sort of reward or peace to be found in adherence to this doctrine. But she found nothing. No words existed to give reassurance even though the text itself was filled with the wording of a story that implied some form of salvation.
Going through the passages she didn't find them.
All she found was a feeling that if she could go back to the right area, find the right page she had obviously misplaced, she would find the promise that would justify such selfless devotion.

As she looked and felt Twilight waiting for her, watching her, Cheerilee stopped herself and wondered: had she really read such words, or was it something she had inserted into the text herself? She had spent hours, she had written the texts as they jumped at her. Nothing she had read suggested what she was looking for, so why was she looking for it?

She put down the tome, looked up at Twilight and answered:
"I don't know."

Twilight gave Cheeriee a warm smile, meaning her best to reassure the schoolteacher not that she had done her best, but that she had done what she asked.
"I know this is hard for you accept Cheerilee, this book is very well written. The words, the imagery, are very powerful. I see a lot of dedication in it, and power, and fear. But there's no love in it, no warmth, no tolerance, and no friendship. And I see no difference between this god or these gods and what happens to those who love them."

She turned to her.
"Do it. Remove the effigies; carve them off or smoothe them into the plate if you have to. Burn off the scrolls, the wax seals and the scented oils. Leave nothing that isn't the machine. Sometimes an armor must be just an armor and we can't march under any banner but our own."

Author's Note:

Thank Celestia for Season 4. This chapter strained my suspension of disbelief but then boom- Castle-mane-ia with its beautiful suits of armor said 'the girls can handle the idea of knights'. And thanks to Bats! Applejack knowing her way with a machete is canon :)