• Published 20th Oct 2013
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Strange Bedfellows - BRBrony9

MLP/WH40K Crossover- An Imperial Crusade discovers a remote planet and its unusual inhabitants, but it soon becomes clear they are not the only ones whose interests lie in Equestria....

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Under Siege

Muzzle Flash returned somewhat dejectedly to his squad, still crouched behind the sandbags. Firestorm followed him back. As he approached, Thunderchief turned to him.

‘With all due respect, sir, what the buck was that?’ he asked. Muzzle Flash shrugged.

‘I…don’t really know…’

‘Well, did he make it at least?’ the platoon sergeant asked. Muzzle Flash hesitated.

‘Guess not,’ Thunderchief grunted, turning back to survey the battlefield that was still wreathed in smoke. In the few minutes Muzzle Flash had been away, very little seemed to have changed. The surviving tanks were still cracking off rounds into the smoke, and there was still a great deal of noise, but the return fire seemed to have slackened somewhat.

‘Do...do you think we’re winning, sir?’ Sharpshooter asked.

‘I have no idea,’ the Lieutenant replied. He really had no idea what was going on at all, other than in the tiny sector of ground in front of him. His view to the west and to the east were obscured by buildings, and to the south by the invasive smoke.

His questions were answered, however, when Lieutenant Jonas popped up from his trench and made his way over to him, crossing the street almost nonchalantly.

‘Lieutenant,’ he began. ‘They’re falling back. Our aerial observers say they are moving back south to regroup, so that should give us a little breathing space.’

‘Aerial observers?’ Muzzle Flash asked questioningly. Jonas glanced upwards and nodded.

‘Yeah, we put a spotter team on each of your airships,’ he explained. ‘Gave them a vox-set and some magnoculars and they’re keeping tabs on things down below. By the way, that big airship- that’s one hell of a main gun it’s got on it!’

Muzzle Flash smiled proudly, happy to know there was at least one thing in the Equestrian military that drew some respect and admiration from the humans, with their vastly superior technology. Jonas continued talking.

‘We should reorganise our lines and reinforce while we have some downtime. Gonna need to put more heavy weapons inside these buildings, and an observation team on top of the town hall.’ Muzzle Flash nodded.

‘I’ll see what we can do to assist you,’ he said.

‘They will be coming back,’ Jonas said. ‘You can rely on that. We…’

‘Incoming!’ the shout from the trenches cut him short. Muzzle Flash could hear a distant whine, growing steadily louder.

‘Get down!’ Jonas shouted, pushing Muzzle Flash behind the sandbag wall. The whine became a roar and there was a shattering explosion nearby. It was followed by half a dozen more.

‘Artillery!’ Jonas growled. ‘Now they’ve had time to move it into position, they’ll be trying to soften us up for the next attack.’ Shells were now bursting all along the southern edge of the town, blowing craters in the ground and smouldering holes in buildings.

‘Stay down!’ Jonas hissed, as a pair of shells bracketed their barricade, showering them with dirt and fragments of cobblestone. Muzzle Flash could hear somepony screaming, though whether in pain or terror, he could not tell. His ears were slowly going numb, buffeted by the cacophony of the artillery barrage. He lay as low to the ground as he could, covering his head with his hooves, praying it would end soon.

The enemy reached Canterlot just after ten in the morning. The city sirens wailed again, sending ponies scurrying to the shelters. The men and ponies on the battlements stood ready as the enemy column ground its way up the approach road, raising a cloud of dust like a tail. Aircraft buzzed above them, roaring over the mountain peaks, some dipping down and disgorging infantry onto the plateau in front of the city. As they moved into range, the guns of the city’s outlying bunkers and outposts opened up, supplemented by heavy weapons of the human contingent, knocking out the first few dozen vehicles in the column before they were destroyed in turn.

The city’s magical shield prevented any passage through it, but allowed weapons from inside to be fired out. The troops on the battlements opened fire, thousands of guns hurling fire down onto the advancing enemy. One enemy aircraft tried to force its way through the shield, but upon making contact it simply exploded, fire running down the outer face of the shield like a waterfall.

Twilight and her friends watched in shock from Princess Luna’s balcony. Hearing the sirens, they had galloped through the palace back to her quarters. The Princess was nowhere to be seen, presumably attending to far more important matters.

Though she knew she probably shouldn’t touch it without Luna’s permission, Twilight made a few adjustments to the telescope that allowed them to take it in turns observing the battle unfolding outside the shield. Rainbow Dash yelled in exultation as the friendly guns smashed the enemy spearhead. Fluttershy whimpered in fear. Applejack and Rarity could say nothing. Pinkie Pie was her usual self, seeming to not quite grasp the enormity of what was happening.

‘What’s happening now?’ Twilight asked Rainbow Dash, who was currently looking through the telescope.

‘Well, it’s kinda hard to tell…’ she said. ‘There’s so much smoke and stuff, but…I think…we’re winning!’

‘Well that’s a relief,’ Applejack said. ‘Ah guess there’s not much they can do to us if they can’t get through the shield.’

‘Yeah…’ Twilight said. ‘Let’s hope the shield stays up. We don’t want a repeat of the Changeling invasion. Especially not if what the humans say is true…’ She replaced Rainbow at the telescope.

As the Pegasus had explained, visibility was limited by the smoke, and the shield itself, which shimmered in a disorienting fashion every time it was struck by a projectile. From their vantage point, however, Twilight could see the trail of broken, burning vehicles that littered the plateau outside the city. She could also see that, every time one of the enemy fired what seemed to be a magical red beam, it punctured the shield without slowing. She saw several large beams destroy two crenellated guard towers on the city wall.

‘They may not be able to get through the shield,’ she said, ‘but…it looks like they can shoot through it, with some of their weapons at least.’ Fluttershy gulped, and Rainbow Dash put a hoof on her shoulder.

‘Don’t worry, Fluttershy. We’re safe as long as the shield stays up. They can’t get in. you saw what happened to that weird airship of theirs that tried to fly through it, right?’ The timid Pegasus nodded.

‘Well that’s what’ll happen to them all if they try to get through. We’re safe in here.’ Twilight looked again.

The enemy were retreating. They were leaving behind dozens of wrecked vehicles and hundreds of their dead. Unable to get through the shield, they were pulling back, putting distance between themselves and the city. Twilight watched them grind back down the mountain road to the south.

‘They’re leaving,’ she told her friends.

‘They’re giving up? Then we’ve won!’ Rainbow Dash said, pumping the air with a hoof. ‘Aww, yeah!’

That was when something struck the top of the shield.

The orbital strike was but a fraction of the full power of the Chaos fleet, but it was adequate for its intended purposes. The shield had readily absorbed all the firepower that their ground forces could throw at it, but the firepower of the warships in orbit was vastly superior. Lance beams fell from the sky like lightning from the gods, smashing into the top of the shield and setting the whole thing waving and flickering from the energies unleashed upon it.

Twilight and her friends clustered together in fear, the thunderous blows of the strange new weapons echoing across the city. Twilight, Applejack and Rainbow Dash stared upwards in dismay. The others covered their heads with their hooves.
Spike crouched under Twilight’s body, peeking out fearfully every few seconds.

‘W…what the buck is that?’ Applejack asked, her voice shaking.

‘I don’t know, but…it must be some kind of weapon, from the ships in orbit,’ Twilight reasoned.

‘What if it gets through the shield?’ Rainbow Dash shouted, flapping her wings in fear. She shared a glance with Twilight. They both knew what that would mean.

The strange beams continued to streak down from the heavens, evaporating the few scattered clouds that floated in the sky with the heat of their passing. The shield wavered and sputtered like a dying candle, but it held.
For a while.

After twenty seconds of the furious bombardment, the shield began to collapse. It had simply taken too much punishment- the magical feedback into the horns and the minds of the unicorns that were holding it up was simply too great. With each strike, the tremendous energies being transferred to the shield sent lances of intense pain into their skulls. One by one, their nervous systems began to short circuit, the agonising pain proving too much. They fell, one by one, until there was but a single unicorn holding up the shield. Two of the beams struck it in unison. With a final, gurgled scream, she collapsed, and the shield collapsed with her.

Twilight could only stare as the shield quivered like a jelly and then failed completely with a sharp crack. The city was defenceless. The sirens were wailing, their plaintive moan surely the last thing she would ever hear. She held her friends tightly, whimpering, waiting for the end.

At first, Muzzle Flash did not even notice the end of the artillery bombardment. His body had become used to the shaking, and he had forced his mind to focus on something else to stop him going mad under the strain. Half deaf and covered with dirt, he felt something nudging him. Through the ringing in his ears, he heard a distant voice. It sounded like he was underwater.

‘Get up, it’s over!’ He shook his head, wincing.

‘Come on, get up!’ The voice again. He looked around.

The human, Lieutenant Jonas, was shaking him. He rubbed his ears.

‘Get up!’

This time he complied, getting unsteadily to his feet and brushing the dirt from his coat.

‘That’s it, it’s over,’ Jonas was saying. ‘But they made sure not to flatten the town. They only targeted our defensive lines. That means they must want it intact.’ Shaking his head again to try and clear it, Muzzle Flash replied,

‘Why? There’s nothing here of any military value.’ Jonas looked around.

‘Not military value, no. but…there are…other assets.’ The ponies.

‘You mean…they want…the civilians?’ The human nodded in reply.

‘That’s what it seems like. Why else would they leave the town standing?’ Muzzle Flash could think of no other explanation.

‘Why? Why do they want us alive?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know, but whatever their reason, it can’t be good,’ Jonas replied ominously. ‘They don’t usually spare their enemies, unless…they want to enslave them.’ A lump formed in Muzzle Flash’s throat.

He thought back. Ponies had been enslaved before; by Sombra, by Discord a millennia ago. They could not let that happen again.

‘Then we should get to work,’ he said to Jonas. ‘Strengthen our defences. Don’t let them in.’ Jonas nodded.

‘Let us hope we have enough to stop them.’

The humans and ponies toiled side by side to do what they could. They redeployed heavy weapons into the buildings along the southern edge of town, rebuild the sandbag walls that had been damaged, reinforced their trenches. Armoured recovery vehicles towed away the wrecked vehicles, and tanks from the mobile reserve replaced them in the prepared firing positions. Ammunition was restocked and the town’s defenders settled in to await the next attack.

It came after another brief artillery barrage. When they popped their heads up, the defenders saw that the enemy tanks and APCs had already closed much of the distance and were charging fast. The Imperial tanks were already picking them off, and the infantry opened up with their heavy weapons. There were more of the enemy this time, and they had air support.

A half-dozen ground-attack aircraft came roaring in from the southeast, their underwing pylons thick with bombs and rockets like a lethal, blooming fruit tree. The Imperial surface-to-air missile battery knocked one of them down at a considerable range, but the rest kept coming.

The flak tanks began to put up a curtain of fire, but it did not deter the flyers. One broke to engage the EAS Celestia, which swatted it down with an almost contemptuous ease that surprised the humans on board, its anti-air armament proving just as lethal to the slow-moving and heavily laden aircraft as it would have to a flock of seagulls.

Another one of the strike fighters were knocked down by ground fire, leaving the remaining three on an attack run towards the Imperial defensive line. Muzzle Flash saw them coming and shouted a warning to his squad, just as one of the jets ripple-fired a barrage of rockets. He flung himself into cover as the heavy warheads churned up the ground along the line. As it swept by overhead its compatriot released a stick of bombs that added to the carnage below, bringing down several of the smaller houses along the edge of town completely.

One of the bombs detonated worryingly close to Muzzle Flash, but the sandbags protected him, though his eardrums felt like they were going to burst. The jets streaked away at rooftop height as the third began its attack run.

It never got the change to release its ordnance. Shells from the Celestia’s anti-air guns ripped through it and it disintegrated in mid-air, turning into a rapidly expanding fireball that crashed to earth beside the south road.
Muzzle Flash rubbed his ears again. I’ll surely be deaf before this war is over, he thought. Surprised I’m not already.

His squad was unscathed, but the humans in the frontline trenches had taken numerous casualties. Shells from the enemy tanks were finding their range now, and already one of the Imperial vehicles was burning. The hulking Baneblade, away to his left, filled the air in front of it with an impressive variety of projectiles, doing the work of half a dozen of its smaller bretheren.

This time the enemy tanks, obviously aware of its strength, seemed to be focusing on it. Missiles and what looked like various red and whitish-purple magical blasts were being hurled at it, along with shells that simply bounced off its armoured skin. Muzzle Flash wondered what it could be made from to absorb such punishment.

The strike fighters were coming around for another pass. Two hefty missiles sprung from their rails under the wings of the lead aircraft, streaking across the sky and smashing into the side of the Baneblade. Muzzle Flash ducked instinctively as he heard the sound of shrapnel whickering through the air. The massive tank was wreathed in smoke for a moment, but as it cleared he could see that it was still operational, although it was clearly damaged. Several of the guns on its right side were no longer firing, their barrels warped and smashed by the explosions. Its main cannon was still roaring, though, and he watched it pulverise a turretless enemy vehicle.

Again, he felt helpless. The enemy were still not within range of his rifle or his magic, and he could do nothing but crouch behind the sandbags and watch. The Baneblade was being outflanked, a group of four low-slung enemy vehicles bursting from the trees lining the road to its left. They were different from the others; they had no turrets but large cannons lined with what looked like vents protruded from their fronts. They fired in unison.

Four brilliant red streaks crossed the distance in milliseconds and slammed into the left side of the Baneblade, concentrated in almost the same spot. Superheated molten metal hissed as it poured from the side of the tank like water. The four tank destroyers needed a few seconds to charge their capacitors before their heavy lascannon could fire again, and the Baneblade’s main turret rotated ponderously towards them. A similar las-bolt from one of its secondary turrets smashed one of the tank destroyers, and a second later its main gun dispensed with another, but the two surviving vehicles fired again.

This time, it was enough. The shots struck home on the same spot as before and burned right through the thick armour plating. The air inside the tank, superheated by the las-bolts, cooked the lungs of the crewmen from the inside and set everything flammable on fire. The tank burned from the inside for a few minutes before the flames licked their way to the main magazine.

Muzzle Flash found himself ducking yet again as the Baneblade ripped itself apart, shattered by internal explosions that sent lethal fragments flying through the air. Almost immediately, Private Sharpshooter began to panic.

‘If they can take out that monster, what are they going to do to us?’ he whimpered. Muzzle Flash told him to pull himself together, but, inside, he was wondering the same thing.

They waited for the end, but it never came. After holding each other for a minute, Twilight broke away from her friends and looked skyward again. She was expecting another one of the titanic blasts to come stabbing down at them, but the skies were clear. There was nothing happening.

‘Why don’t they finish the job?’ she asked nopony in particular. Rarity shuddered at the thought.

‘Well, Twilight, I for one am glad they are not,’ she said.

‘But…why? Why have they stopped firing?’ Twilight asked again. Rainbow Dash flapped up beside her.

‘Well…’ she said, looking out across the city. ‘I’m guessing those things would take out the whole city if they wanted to. So that means there must be something here they want intact.’

Twilight felt fear shoot through her.

‘What? Do you think they want the Princess? Or…us?’ Rainbow shrugged.

‘I don’t know, but whatever it is, we won’t let ‘em take it! Right, girls?’ The cyan Pegasus received nothing but a few grunts and mutters in reply.

‘Rainbow Dash is right,’ Twilight said. ‘Whatever it is they want, we’re not going to let them have it, especially if they want us!’ Her friends looked at her.

‘But how are we going to stop them?’ Pinkie asked. ‘If they can get rid of our shield just like that?’

‘I don’t know,’ Twilight replied, ‘but we’ll find a way. We always have before, right? If we can defeat Discord, Sombra and Nightmare Moon, we can defeat this enemy too! Right?’ This time the replies were a bit more positive.

‘Hey!’ Rainbow Dash called, floating a few feet above them. ‘They’re coming back!’ She pointed with a hoof out towards the city gate. Beyond it, they could see a cloud of dust rising. The enemy column had retreated to a safe distance and waited out the bombardment, and now they were moving in again. Already gunfire was flickering from the city walls.

‘Look!’ Rarity cried, pointing to the skies again. Above the city, to the west, were a string of black dots. The enemy aircraft had also returned. The cannons of the Equestrian airships began to blaze, knocking down some of their foes. But a wave of them swept in low, over the rooftops, slowing as they approached the city.

‘They’re gonna land!’ Applejack said in dismay. She was not quite right. The enemy dropships hovered a few feet above the rooftops while their human cargo jumped or fast-roped out. The Imperial gunships were on them almost immediately, shooting down several in a blaze of flame, but most of them managed to disgorge their passengers without incident. Now the city’s defenders were fighting a war on three fronts- they had enemies outside the walls, enemies inside the walls, and enemies above the walls.

‘Where’s that one going?’ Rainbow Dash asked, pointing out one aircraft, larger than most of the others, that seemed to be approaching the city on a different vector. Its braking jets flared as it slowed.

‘Oh no…’ Twilight breathed as the aircraft swung round. ‘It’s coming right for us.’

The dropship landed heavily in the palace gardens, its rear ramp already open. Traitor guardsmen began to pour from it, dozens of them, a whole company contained within the craft. Twilight and her friends watched in fear as the few guardsponies posted in the gardens were cut down almost without a fight. The human infantry made their way to the doors of the palace.

‘Maybe you’re right,’ Rarity said. ‘Maybe they are coming for us…’

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