• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 13,639 Views, 959 Comments

Of Steam Gears and Wings - RavensDagger

The CMC go against the Empire that is ruling over Equestria. A la Dieselpunk.

  • ...

Scouting and Quarantine

“You can’t go, it’s stupid!” Apple Bloom whined, her hooves thumping against the corrugated steel of the Furtif’s floor.

Scootaloo sighed, fixing her eyes on the corridor ahead; she couldn’t allow this sort of distraction. As they trotted past a view port, the pegasus caught a blurred view of a midnight-blue vessel floating above the clouds, and a huge city of towering skyscrapers in the distance beyond that. “I have to,” she said.

“Well, Ah won’t let you get yourself killed.” Her friend thumped even harder to no avail. It had been over a week since they had left the camps around Ponyville, and over a week since they started the unending discussion: what should they do?

The Crusaders weren't fighters; at least, not at first, yet they had found themselves on the front line of a massive battlefield. Sweetie Belle had wanted to keep safe while impressing her sister; Apple Bloom wanted nothing to do with the war; Scootaloo had chosen to fight the Imperial threat tooth and nail. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

“If I die, then too bad. I did it for a free Equestria,” Scootaloo said, the words ringing across the hallway in a dull drone, as if she didn’t truly believe it.

Apple Bloom huffed, “Alright, fine. Don’t mean you have to go and off yourself. You’re going to fly into Canterlot. That’s, like, Imp-city. Every other Imperial soldier’s in there and there are more AA guns than you’ve got feathers. It’s silly!” she said as they moved out of the corridor and into the Furtif’s hanger, her high-pitched drawl echoing across the room.

Some ponies turned their way, the stallions watching with vivid interest as the leather-clad Scootaloo’s own gaze locked onto the Expedite. She took a deep breath of the hangar’s air, taking in the smells of grease, sweat and gunpowder as the two twisted around the maze of planes.

“It’s just a scout mission, in and out, check what they’ve got and fly back. If I’m lucky, fire a few zaps towards the Imps.” She glanced over her shoulder at Apple Bloom. “We need this to be done, else the Imps will never die.”

The bow-wearing mare stopped, her perception narrowing until only Scootaloo filled it. “You’re just mad ‘cause they killed that coltfriend of yours,” she barked.

The room, once loud and filled with thumps and clanks and the chatter of ponies, became silent. “What did you say?” Scootaloo asked.

“I said that you ought to pay more attention to yourself, and the friends that you have that are alive, instead of making up the Empire to be some sort of boogie mare.”

The dull collisions of Scootaloo’s hooves on the armoured ground were deafening. “Kami didn’t deserve to die,” she whispered. “But he did. And he did for all of us, and for Equestria. You have no right to doubt him or his purpose. He did his share, now it’s our turn. So back off, or fight by my side. Those are your choices.” The mare spun around and marched on, leaving a distraught Apple Bloom in her wake.

The room was quiet for two beats, then the conversations and noise-making returned with gusto as all tried to forget what they had seen. Scootaloo walked on until her path was blocked.

In her path, and leaning against a shiny new Vanquisher, one coated with chrome plating and enough kill-marks to make the sturdiest blush, was a pegasus. The tall, black-coated and fiery-maned creature gave her a beaming smile, flashing neat rows of pearly white teeth. “Hey sugar,” he said before slicking back his mane. “So, I heard that you’re an ace... want a full deck?”

She stared at him, letting time flow by on its gentle course while his lips twitched and sweat began to pool along his scalp. She sighed, then spoke as her head shook from side to side. “I could have killed you eighteen times over these last three minutes; I chose not to. It would be a waste of fresh meatbags to throw at the Imps. I did notice your plane, though. Modified catalytic converter. Retrofitted exhaust. Quad-prop system and a fuel-inject that’s reinforced for Zap-Apple fuel. Losing that would be a waste.

“Instead of wasting your time with pointless flirting, especially where you don’t stand a chance in Tartarus, how about you get in the damned plane, shut up, and get ready to face a wall of enemies a thousand times your superior.” She shrugged. “Or I could cover you in grease, shove some jam down your throat and toss you over the edge. Your choice.”

The stallion’s smile faded once and for all before he admitted defeat, spun around, and hopped into his fighter-craft. Grunting to herself, Scootaloo moved on, her attention fondly lingering on her Expedite.

Some nearby mechanics began to whisper aloud, trails and bits reaching her, “...Dude, she just shot down Nitro...” “He’s an ace, too, bunch of medals...” “Heard that she was a member of this ship’s crew before we were all thrown in.”

The long, red, and vicious craft sat in the hangar, a fresh coat of maroon making her shine in the artificial light. Along its side, and in equally new paint, were dozens of marks depicting the likes of Imperial planes, and one long mark: the Sol Scorcher. Along the plane’s bottom were two long cannons that ended in a mass of wires and tubes that oozed deadliness.

She hopped onto it, shoving open the cockpit and sliding behind the familiar controls before she buckled herself in and finally relaxed. So much trouble. But this isn’t the easy path. The empire’s going to fall, and I’ll be there to see it crumble. Then... what? she wondered, her gaze lingering over the levers and yoke and the hundreds of dials and knobs.

She waited, hoof lingering over the radio and the ignition until she heard a familiar clunk and the massive outer wall of the hangar began to slide open. Around her, three aircraft roared to life, preparing to take off into the smog-filled azure. Mechanic ponies made some last-second checks then ran off, wary of the great chasm that had opened nearby.

A bitter wind howled into the room, sweeping across and rippling tarps and dragging tools about as the sun’s light illuminated everything, instantly warming the room. Scootaloo flicked on the ignition.

Instantly, Expedite’s engine kicked to life, smoothly purring while its rear-facing prop hummed fiercely. “That’s my baby,” she whispered as she stroked the yoke.

With a tap on her throttle and a flick at the clamp-release, her plane hopped forwards, barreling out of the Furtif’s hangar before nose-diving down. With a terrible screech, the plane tore through the air before Scootaloo gently pulled back on the yoke, evening the aircraft out.

Above her, three more craft shot out of the hangar, all of them forming up behind the silver-painted leader. The radio crackled, and the pegasus who had recently attempted to flirt with her was on air. “This is Nitro, flying in for a recon mission on the—”

“Shut the chatter up, le jeune!” barked Arnaquer’s gruff voice. “No need to tell the adversary that we’re here.... Épais.”

Scootaloo giggled alone in her cockpit as she pulled up with her new-found momentum and rocketed past the formation of scouts. Twisting her vehicle around, she looked down at the Furtif and its long, deadly shape, flanked by two light frigates that paled in comparison.

On her other side was Canterlot.

The capital stretched onwards and upwards, rising to the air with dozens of thousand-hoof-length spires filled with lights that tried to outshine the dawn sun. It was massive, despite the considerable distance between herself and the mountain-side city.

With the tip of her forehoof, the mare played with the controls on her radio, switching it to shortwave frequency. The comm-unit sparked and crackled before settling to the proper place. Satisfied, she turned her attention back to flight, pressing the rudders and controlling the yoke until she dropped down and slipped into place ahead of Nitro’s silver Vanquisher. “Hey, form up on me,” she said.

“High band?” Nitro asked, even as he reluctantly complied.

“Yeah,” was all she said as a reply before pressing down on the throttle.

“Did Arnaquer not tell us to avoid this?” he asked, adding some emphasis on ‘us’.

“Yeah, but he can’t hear us now,” she said, “and it’s Canterlot. Do you know how many ponies fly in and out every day? How many will be chatting to each other? We’re fine, just don’t go off spewing stupid stuff.”

He huffed over the line, but didn’t say any more, allowing them to fly through the puffy white clouds in relative peace.

Her violet eyes surveyed the cityscape ahead of them, from the bridges connecting one building to another, to the columns of smoke rising into the sky above. The structure of the mountain it was built upon was hardly visible, save for a single massive rock jutting out and above the city. Her eyes kept roaming the scene, looking for something that was missing.

She found it.

“Pull up,” she said before doing as she ordered. For a few moments, the four climbed until they reached the edge of their craft’s altitude limit. “I don’t see any Imperial ships.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Nitro scoffed.

“Yeah, except I don’t see any Imperial ships. This is Canterlot. The capital. It should be swarming. And the AA placements look dead. And there’s no major civilian traffic. Something’s really wrong.”

“We should pull back then,” he said as bravely as he could, though a twinge of worry sounded through his voice.

“Yeah, you’re right. Escorts one and two, pull back to the Furtif and stay there. And while you’re at it, tell them what we’ve learnt.” She dismissed them, tapping her rudder controls and realigning her vessel ever so slightly. Behind her, the two escorts peeled off, heading towards their carrier ships with their usual hums.

“Hurry up. If it’s a trap, we’re going to spring it,” she said nonchalantly.

Nitro’s vessel wavered through the air, as if the pilot was uncertain. “Okay, but we meet the mission parameters and get out. I don’t want to stay down there any longer than I have to.”

In silence, the two craft pushed on, cutting through the sky and trailing an equal amount of vaporous lines behind them. Scootaloo fixed her unwavering gaze on the city, noting the complete lack of toxic fumes wafting out of the various factories and the plumes of ash rising out of the city proper.

Radio towers were crumpled over, massive holes having been blown into their sides while some buildings belonging to the Empire had been completely devastated. She spotted a few flashes of polychromatic ponies as they scurried about on the land below, and many more who sat around, unmoving.

They crossed the threshold of the city, flying over the vague lines of defensive stations and battlements. They were alone. No other plane shared the skies, although they were parked by the hundreds along the street edge and in the various parking garages.

The popping of a rifle went off, echoing across the street and making Scootaloo search around madly. Below, two groups of ponies were fighting, bullets slicing through the air as they maneuvered around, struggling for an advantage. Before her plane zipped on, Scootaloo caught sight of a little filly wielding a rifle as large as she. It’s chaotic down there.

“What happened here?” Nitro asked in a whisper, his voice rasping over the air.

“I don’t know. Keep your eyes open for Imperial patrols; it could still be a trap.”

They gently dipped below the tallest buildings, windows and steel structures blurring by both planes. The gigantic billboards along the sides were flickering on failing lights while the crushed forms of civilian airships lay on the roadways below. “I got something,” Nitro said, his voice tinged with fearful excitement. “Find the commercial frequencies on your radio for news and music...”

With an absent forehoof, Scootaloo twisted the knob of her console around until it landed on a channel, one blurting out the same two lines of a song again and again. She moved on, twisting it some more until the voice of a young mare filled the cabin. “—ulander, from the north district. We took shelter in the Caravan radio station when ponies started getting sick. My brother, Sparky Pie, got sick too this weekend, the same day the last of the Empire’s ships left. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this....” The air crackled for a moment, and a chair creaked.

“Guess there’s not much to do here. Mom’s trying to cook something up, but she’s coughing a lot, and she’s run to the bathroom three times already....” She sighed. “She’s sick too. Dad was at work when it really began, but we haven’t seen him since. Mom’s optimistic. I think he’s dead. Sparky's not doing so good either.... Why did they have to leave?”

Scootaloo touched her microphone until the thought came to her that it was a one-way transmission. “Why am I not getting sick?” the mare asked. “Is it ‘cause of the Empathy vaccine? I don’t think so... all I’ve been doing is sitting here, eating canned food and drinking my tea... Mom and Sparky hate the smell.” She barked a laugh. “I guess this is how it ends....” The air went silent for a while, filled only with the sporadic sniffling of a mare, and some distant coughing. Finally, she spoke, “Why did they have to leave?

“My name’s Coo Culander, from the north district. We took shelter in the Caravan radio station when ponies started getting sick. My brother, Spa—” Scootaloo slapped the radio off.

“We’re heading back.”

“Move it, Pip,” Apple Bloom said, pouting behind the reflective glass of her suit. “Ah have to go.” Beyond the young stallion waited a dozen ponies, the great majority wearing similar orange suits as they fiddled with their rifles and cast furtive and amused glances at the feuding couple.

Pipsqueak huffed for all he was worth, forehoof thumping against the metal-plated ground of the secondary hangar. “And I said no. It’s too dangerous and I don’t want to see you get hurt... I can’t.”

They blushed at one another, one part anger, one part barely-restrained love before she took a long step forwards and stared him down. “Pipsqueak, Ah said that Ah’m goin’, and that’s that.” She shifted within the hazmat suit, the rough plastic rubbing against her coat.

He looked over his shoulder and at the gunship sitting there, its side doors opened and waiting, even as a few mechanics checked the thin, long wings. “But, Apple,” he said, his voice becoming softer, a kind whisper that she knew could break her heart. “What if... you know... please just stay with me?”

“Ah want to stay with you too,” she lamented, leaning forwards until the glass of her cold mask touched his forehead. “But Ah have to.” She pushed back, straightening her back and reaffirming her resolve. “We’ll see each other again, tonight. It’s a promise.”

“Aww, it’s so adorable!” squealed a muffled voice from behind Apple Bloom. “Look at these little love-birds. All kissy-kissy and all that,” said a short, red mare that pranced up behind them with a grin as broad as her visage.

Apple Bloom blinked at her, eyes fixated on the red form within the clashing orange suit. Slung over the mare’s back and swinging from side to side was a rifle whose barrel pointed at her rhythmically. “My name's Mira!” she announced loudly. “I’ve been entrusted by Sweetie Belle to lead this here mission!” Mira snapped a hoof to her forehead, thumping iy against her face plate and smushing her face as she did so.

The soldiers stared at her, then at the weapon she had gotten her hoof on, then at the complicated vehicle she was about to pilot with them into a hotbed of danger. It was going to be a long day, they decided.

“Hi, nice to meet ya. Ah’m Apple Bloom.” The young mare extended a clothed hoof and Mira grabbed it, eagerly shaking it and its owner.

“Yup! Sweetie told me all about you,” Mira said before turning her gaze to the awaiting ship and the ponies milling around it. “I’ll be waiting for you in there with the rest. Kiss your coltfriend and come along, all right?” Smiling, the mare pranced past Apple Bloom, her long tail whipping out and snapping at the earth pony’s flank.

That mare’s crazy. And I’ll be with her all day long. Apple Bloom swallowed. “Right, um, Ah’ll see ya later Pip....” Averting her eyes to the ground, the young mare trudged past the colt, heart swelling with a melangé of mixed feelings.

The soldiers began to board into the vessel, making it creak as their weighty boots thumped into it, and found their way to their respective seats. The gunship had been stripped of everything, save for a side-mounted gun that faced Apple Bloom as she marched towards the open door tucked beneath a gull-shaped wing.

“Wait,” Pipsqueak called as he raced up to the mare and touched her shoulder. He spun her around, forcing her to face him. “Why’re you going? Really?”

She twisted away from his grasp and gently pushed his hoof away. “Ah have to. Scootaloo was right, Ah’ve done nothing so far and Ah ought to do my part.” She shook her head, an Apple family smile touching the edge of her lips. “You know how stubborn Ah am, don’t try to change my mind.”

Pipsqueak watched in forlorn silence as Apple Bloom marched away, tail swishing beneath its plastic wrap. She looked back at him, catching a glimpse of the brown-spotted, beige pony before grabbing onto the cold handles of the ship and hopping onboard.

Mira was at the controls, leaning back in the cloth seat as her hooves expertly moved from one set of levers to another, flicking and clicking them as the vessel came to life. Along its side, two props began to spin, sending a vortex of dust and wind billowed through the tiny hangar.

Apple Boom found a seat between two of the soldiers and squeezed herself between the burly stallions before surveying the sparse interior of the dropship. Everything jostled and bounced as flashes of brilliant light splashed across the metallic walls. Then, with another lurch, the aircraft shot out of the hangar, humming as the Sparkle Generator worked against the planet’s magnetism.

The pilot spun around, smiling through her mask as she gestured for Apple Bloom to come forwards while she held the yoke with one hoof.

Gingerly, Apple Bloom stood and navigated through the sea of legs and rifles to the front, keeping her weight low against the constant turbulence. Finally, she reached the front and lowered herself into the co-pilot’s seat. “What’s wrong?” she asked over the din of the engines.

Mira adjusted the controls a little more, eyes focused and filled with a deep determination as she fixed her gaze on the city ahead, then, she turned her attention to Apple Bloom, instantly losing the seriousness and replacing it with glee. “Oh, nothing much! Arnaquer said that this would be a walk in the park, and he looks truthful enough. He’s got a mustache, after all.”

“Uh-huh.” The younger pony scooted away from the pilot and glanced ahead. There, hundreds of towers ripped out of the earth and stood above them, the Furtif and her escorts floating amongst them. They had reached the city the night before, and found nothing but the barest hints of civilisation before Arnaquer ordered the investigation of the surface.

This isn’t that dangerous, right? she wondered. We’re just going on the surface, but we have suits so we should be fine. One of the soldiers coughed. And we have a dozen skilled rebel fighters.... I miss Pipsqueak.

“You know the order of operations?” Mira asked, tapping a few more controls as the vessel shifted and slowed down.

Apple Bloom blinked, her mind slow to process the question. “Oh, yeah. Get in, find out what the hay happened, get out. No biggie.”

“Exactly!” The mare gestured wildly, sending the vehicle skirting across the wide avenue and skimming mere hooflengths from the edge of a few buildings before she righted it. Behind, some of the tough-as-nails soldiers vomited.

“Oi, what’re you doing up front?!” one of the stallions shouted, his blood vessels bulging as he gripped onto the bench.

“Sorry!” Mira piped up before wrestling the ship back to the centre of the lane. Once there, she began to maneuver it for a landing.

Apple Bloom’s ears twitched as she caught a vague sound, one that only a pony who had spent years keeping wrecks in the air could detect: something was wrong with the plane.

A few lights began to flicker a deep red on the dashboard even as the mare detached herself. The engines began to buck and sputter, gouts of flame and sparks flying out of their exhaust and making the craft tremble and lose altitude. “Hang on!” Mira said as she wrestled with the suddenly unresponsive controls.

Apple Bloom bit her lower lip, took a deep breath and slipped beneath the metallic dashboard, her gaze travelling over the sea of levers, wires and struts that made up the vehicle’s controls. “Mira, which warnings are prominent?”

“Um, the... one with a pony shoving its face in a pillow?”

“That’s the airbags!” Apple Bloom shouted as she felt the plane tip forwards and lurch down.

“We’re halfway to E. Is that bad?”

Resisting the urge to sigh, Apple Bloom wedged herself further into the plane’s skeleton, her hazmat suit pulling and tugging on every hook-like edge. Not too far from her face, the mare found a wire dangling back and forth, its end serrated and split. Grunting, she reached out with both forehooves and grabbed the wires with her rubber-covered appendages.

The ship trembled, throwing her to the side and cracking a massive dent into the glass plate of her helmet. Again, she pushed back and grabbed the wires, jamming them together and twisting while rivulets of sweat poured down her mane. This is crazy, what the hay is wrong with thi

The pitch of the engine’s whirling changed and the Sparkle Generator began to hum happily. Apple Bloom leaned against the insides of the vessel, trying her best to face Mira as she shouted, “Mira, bring her in for a landing!”

“Ah, sorry ladies and gentlecolts! This landing’s about to get interesting!”

One of the soldiers grunted from behind. “Define ‘interesting!?’”

“Um,” Mira began tapping her hoof against the controls. “‘Oh Goddess, oh Goddess, we’re all going to die’?”

Apple Bloom squeezed herself out of the hole, duly noting the massive tears in her suit before slumping back into her seat with a huff. “So, what was it?” Mira asked, beaming down at the mare.

“Throttle and clutch controls. Too much fuel without changing the rotation; and the Sparkle Generator runs on the same system. Magical backfeed.” She closed her eyes for a moment, taking her mind off the now and focusing rather on the rhythmic pace and heartbeat of the plane. They’ll have to check this thing out when they bring it in...

“All right folks, Miss Bloom here didn’t feel like seeing us all turn into putrid pony parts, so she fixed the plane. I can now guarantee a safe, boring, and screamless landing. ETA— forty-five seconds.”

Beyond the glass dome that covered the front of the craft, Apple Bloom could see an open square where four corners met. In the centre a majestic statue of Blueblood waited, its horn broken across the plaza while the flowers laid around it, wilted in the lukewarm sun.

The ship twisted, its Sparkle Generator thumping as it slowed the vessel down and kicked up thick puffs of dust and debris as it came to hover above the ground. A few colourful heads poked out of the building’s windows, staring at the lone ship in fear and hope.

One of the soldiers leaned up to Apple Bloom’s side, head low as he talked over the drone of the generator, “Ma’am, you coming down with us?”

The mare swallowed hard, looking at the eerily empty streets beyond. “Yeah, Ah’m comin’.” With a heave, she pushed herself off of the bench and clattered onto all fours.

One of the soldiers grabbed the vehicle’s door and slid it open with a grunt, allowing the door to slam into place for six of them to jump out in a matter of seconds. They fanned out, rifles trained to every nook and cranny while the soldiers took deep, calming breaths.

It was Apple Bloom’s turn to hop out. With an oomph, she landed on the hard ground, flexing her knees to take the majority of the impact. Her eyes scanned ahead, anttention pulled to every billow of dust or stray movement of curtains. She was afraid. This wasn’t her place or the type of situation she was used to. For the upteenth time that morning, the young mare questioned herself, wondering why she hadn't accepted the offer of a weapon, maybe even a bit-operated hoofgun.

A pony tapped her shoulder. “You’re tagging along with group two,” said a lithe stallion with two barrels jutting out of the sides of his uniform. “That’s us,” he pointed at two more, another earth pony, this one a mare, and a massive stallion with a special suit, one that allowed his horn to stick out.

“Oh, okay,” she said, blinking at the suddenness of the change. Three other groups formed, one staying around the ship while the other two began to walk towards the city proper, heads low and weapons held high.

“C’mon, Miss Bloom,” the stallion said before turning around and marching off after his comrades. “I want you in the centre, where it’s safest.”

Alright, she thought, a deep sense of foreboding and an odd perception of the present rising up in her, this is it. Just follow them around and look, try to find out just what happened here...

The three moved in silence, their attention on everything at once as they distanced themselves from the whirring sound of the dropship and slid into the still, eerie silence of Canterlot’s deserted streets. The skyscrapers towered above them, so high that their tops became lost in mist and maze of walkways and bridges interconnecting the city. The distant pop of weapons echoed about, faint and muffled by their suits yet still enough to set the four on edge.

They would just rounded another corner when Apple Bloom coughed lightly and asked the simple question, 'So, what're we s'posed to be doin’?

All three stared at her, either glaring or rolling their eyes before returning to their silent vigil. “We’re looking for information. What exactly happened here to make it,” the stallion gestured around, “like this. The Republic needs to know if we’re going to do anything with the city.... and we need to know what happened to the Imperials. Where they went off to.”

“All right. So why don’t we split up?” she asked aloud, her gritty voice carrying on far ahead of them.

The soldier stallion groaned. “Because that’s a terrible idea. We have no clue how hostile the ponies we meet will be. Best to stick together.”

She nodded and kept walking, staying in the centre of the triangle of armed ponies. The roads remained the same: clean beneath the surface of trash and muck and devoid of any life or the signs of thousands of ponies that were supposed to be there. Above, peeking out of the windows, were mares and stallions that took a glance, then faded away.

So, we need to find out what happened... but how? Again she looked around, searching for signs of anything that would give reason to the chaos to the supposed plague that had taken the city, but she found nothing. Maybe... “Hey! Is anypony home?!” the mare screamed at the top of her lungs.

The stallion-soldier ran up to her, uselessly placing a hoof over the glass face of her mask in an attempt to shush her. “What are you doing?” he asked, eyes wide, angry, yet confused.

She shrugged. “I’m calling for help. Somepony has to be around here, still healthy and all that. They’ll come.”

A door squeaked open with a purposefully loud screech before a single yellow hoof stuck out, touching the ground. Instantly, all four soldiers were aiming at the limb.

“Calm down,” the young mare said, pushing away the soldier’s rifle. “It might be a nice pony, and you’ll never know if you kill him.”

“Thank you, young lady, for your kind consideration. I’d rather not get shot today,” said an older gentlepony as he stepped out, wearily trotted to the middle of the road, and lifted a forehoof in greeting.

The soldiers stared at him, uncertain of what to do. Things weren’t going as they had foreseen. Apple Bloom, on the other hoof, was fine. “Howdy, sir, how’re you doin’ on this mighty fine day?!”

He tipped his Canterlotian bowler hat down. “I’m doing wonderfully. Can’t say as much about my neighbours and the rest of the city. A rather pitiful affair. “

“Uh, yeah. I guess it is.... So, my name’s Apple Bloom, and these here,” she motioned to the soldiers, “are my friends.”

He eyed the group, his humour thinly hiding his calculating gaze. “You and your friends are rather well equipped.”

“Yup, we’re from the Rebellion. We were a tad curious as to why the Imps just up and left like that.”

“It probably has something to do with how you fellows obliterated their fleet, then poisoned our water supplies.”

The mare blinked. “Poisoned your water?”

“Indeed. Every drop of water in this city has been poisoned. And, if we are to believe the Imperial forces, it is you who have done so.”

"What?!" she protested, stomping a hoof on the stone roadway and making a puff of dust rise up. "We'd never do somethin’ like that. It ain't right."

More ponies had appeared, their eyes staring from cracks in the walls and windows as their ears perked. "Oh, don't get me wrong," the gentlestallion said. "I truly believe that the Empire has lied to us all. Although this is a rather odd scenario they have pitched us in. It's a predicament, and one that I'm curious to see the Rebellion crawl out of."

She grunted, brows furrowing as she took a half-step forwards. "We didn’t do a darn thing to this here city. Heck, we’re just a scoutin’ party. We have got no clue what’s goin’ on here,” she said, all the while pushing the soldier’s hoof away as he desperately tried to shush her.

“Yes, well, unfortunately you’ll have to prove that would-be fact to quite a few angry ponies. Several of them were rather fond of the Empire—not so much you.” He shrugged.

“They don’t seem awfully mean to me,” she said, nodding towards those cowering in the buildings.

“They’re afraid and sick.”

Her brows furrowed again. “But you’re not.”

The yellow pony smirked at her and nodded. “Quite right. I happen to own a little wine-pressing industry, so good water was never an issue for me; then I found some Empathy. Quick shot and I was as fine as a... fine thing. But, those that cooked with or drank the city-water, they’re sick. I haven’t seen any dead yet. But with tensions as high as they are.... Little miss, I’d suggest you and your little crew get going. Canterlot has maintained some civility. But it’s on the breaking point.”

“No, Ah ain’t leavin’. There’re too many ponies that need help and Ah intend to help ‘e--” Two gunshots sounded out, the wave of sound blasting through the road and making all flinch.

“That’s coming from the ship,” one of the soldiers murmured before sharing a glance with his comrades. They silently agreed, trading glances that only those who had spent years together understood. “Miss Bloom, we’re going.”

“Aww, but Ah was makin’ headway!”

He ignored her, instead grabbing her and dragging the mare across the street. Behind them, the yellow gentlepony waved a sad good-bye and adjusted his bowler hat. “Whelp, that was counter-productive,” he murmured as the group twisted around a corner. “May Celestia save us all.”

Apple Bloom panted, her legs burning as she tried to keep up with the soldier. They, on the other hoof, didn’t seem affected as their hooves hit the ground in a regular beat. Ahead, the buildings gave way to the intersection they had landed in, one surrounded by throngs of ashen-faced ponies whose eyes darted around and whose pleas overpowered the sound of the twin rotating engines.

The other groups were already back, facing the crowd as they leveled their weapons and sweated as the numbers only grew. What’s going on? the young mare wondered.

One of the braver ponies from within the crowd surged forwards. “Don’t you dare! You did this, now fix it!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, voice harsh and desperate as he stomped the ground passionately.

“Get in the ship, now,” the soldier accompanying her hissed, shoving her ahead while he brought up his weapons.

Wide-eyed and confused, Apple Bloom galloped to the dropship and hopped up, arching through the air only to crash halfway into the vehicle, back legs dangling out. Instantly, one of the soldiers bit the nape of her neck and tossed her into the back with a deep, growling grunt.

Mira’s hooves were flying across the board, as she murmured under her breath—the sound lost in the cacophony of screaming and the thumping of the engines. “We’re about to go guys!” She shouted over her shoulder.

Beyond, the crowd was closing in. Many of them were coughing or moving away from the crowd with a sharp jerk before galloping away, tails between their legs.

One of the soldiers let loose a few rounds, the projectiles smashing into the statue in the road’s centre and tearing massive chunks out of it. The ponies kept hollering and screaming, although fear now dominated the anger in their eyes. They’re sick... they just want help.

The ship began to rise the moment the last of the soldier ponies hopped in.

So many sick ponies, and there’s nothing we can do. The Empire won.

Good news!

Sorren, the melodramatic bugger, wrote a prequel to this story, and it’s pretty good. (We made sure that the canon works).

It’s called Of Aerial Dominance and can be found: Here.

Hit it up if you want more airship pony fix between chapters.

Edited my:
These guys.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention! Somepoy made this:


It's pretty sweet.

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