• Published 20th Nov 2013
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FoE: Snippet Story - Windrunner

Set at various points in the Fallout: Equestria universe. Each chapter is intended to be a unique story unto itself. So many references, both ludicrously obscure and blatantly obvious. Even the title. No, not that. You will never figure them all out.

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Crisis Dynamic


Once upon a time, it was formidable. Powerful. Peaceful. A glorious haven of light and love. All this, Equestria supposedly was. No longer. The once fantastically unimaginable array of small arms and heavy weapons, armor, tanks and flying vehicles, even robots never before envisioned until a massive war was thrust upon them had slowly become familiar, commonplace. The conflict driving ponies to research things they never needed before. Unicorns knowledgeable of battle magic were rare before the war, by the end there were many. Ceaselessly, perhaps carelessly, each side drew up ever more powerful combat units until a single encounter was potentially enough to cause massive casualties on either side, and still it did not end.

One division fared so badly during the latter stages of the war it would never have seen full strength again. This single tragedy played out against a catastrophic background of lesser tragedies. The scale would be almost comedic were it not for the sheer loss of life. As with many tragic things it started small, but like an avalanche started by a tiny snowball rolling downhill, these immeasurably insignificant things combined inexorably. For when the light falters, dark must fall. On the surface of things all was as it ever was. Ponies lived, played, danced, laughed..threw parties. They were joyless. All real happiness was slowly draining away under the constant pressure.

For some it was a great time to be alive, amassing their huge fortunes from the sidelines. Others did not fare nearly so well. Certain things were only spoken of in hushed whispers for fear of what might result if a single errant bit of information might be overheard by the wrong ears. Everypony knew something was wrong when the princess stopped sending out gala invitations. It only got worse from there. The downhill spiral into this unreasoned insanity was unstoppable. The quiet pall which hung over every conversation was taking its toll. What would happen next? Who else might silently go missing one day? These questions were the very sort of thing nopony dare ask lest one risk being the next poor soul to slip off to some unknown end, never to be heard from again.

Fear weighed down the populace. Those who knew nothing felt very secure. Ignorance is bliss. Know nothing and say nothing. It was once okay to know things. Now knowing those very same things could be a potential threat to your freedom or life. Equestria did have everything going for it. In the beginning it was merely a small squabble over coal. Nothing at all really. It'll be fine. This was a fabrication. A lie to sooth the masses. Soon enough it turned to a bloody fight over ideology and belief pushed to the forefront by some hidden agenda. Ponies were found willing to risk life and limb, ostensibly for the greater good. At what point does simple caution become paranoia? How does one look up one day only to find the sky tumbling down upon them?

The army which formed as hostilities escalated was by the end mostly hardened veterans able to take on all-comers. This war was finally ending. The unskilled and unlucky were long since gone. Many mowed down in their prime just because they were there. War once begun has a nasty habit of dragging on and on. It lays low both sides, depriving them of hope or security. The zebra war machine was inevitably faltering. Just as expected, but in a world slowly losing connection to sanity or reason only madness can follow. In the end leaders must find a way forward. Luna did not want to compromise or lose. Celestia could not bear to act and the opposing army refused any further attempt at negotiation, rebuffing all requests to talk.

Instead, they chose the flames rather than face defeat. Maybe it was cowardice. Maybe they just did not want to lose either. On this final day did the roots of evil somehow reach forth from that terrible intangible pit wherein it dwells to hold the world in iron grasp, only to find it could not hold on? Did it in finding such machinations already slipping away deem to unleash terror out of spite against all that is good? Or was it just that all power of good was finally sapped away by two decades of unyielding conflict? Whatever the case, the armies on the ground found themselves utterly alone. All would suffer. The pegasi lost their greatest city in an instant.

The princesses grand Canterlot shields which all thought impenetrable were raised against incoming showers of bombs and missiles only for the inhabitants to find themselves attacked by a hidden menace within them. Wicked bilious clouds of acidic pink smoke based in necromantic magic billowed forth across the capital. Because of this the shields were used as containment and held up as long as possible. To do otherwise would have meant flooding the countryside below with it. This day of endless tears could herald only further emptiness and pain. Unbeknownst to those who already closed off stable 1, this set off one plan of several which Scootaloo long ago enacted. Plans forged as a sort of revenge for the various ministries betrayal of public trust.

Today, ponies would look to their beautiful skies and see the final result of their folly. Seeing their long-awaited victory stolen from them. A great many wicked schemes were about to be undone at the same time as more would ultimately be born of this conflagration. Alarms having been raised one too many times in the past did not receive the quick attention they deserved, causing even more casualties. Confusion and chaos ruled the day. The fading light would soon lead only towards a grim and dark future. Having already made every possible mistake that could be made, how did it come to this? The very world itself torn from under their hooves in retribution for what looked to amount to nothing.

Few were prepared to meet their end. The war was by now so long-running there was practically a whole new generation of ponies being thrown into the meat grinder that is battle. Surely they would achieve victory soon. It could never come to something so horrific. They never entertained the possibility of defeat. Now their end was raining down upon them with swift finality. Failure to understand their enemies was a fault deeply engrained in them by nearly a thousand years of mostly uninterrupted peace. The golden age ended. In truth only about four of the great Stable-Tec stables were built entirely according to the original vision behind them. A result of yet more ministry interference.

Their legacy of social experimentation, manipulation and tragedy. Some of these experiments held great promise. Many more could have been deemed insanity in a gentler time. Seeking answers to questions should have been a good thing, but the ceaseless cycle of war forced all cards to be placed upon the table. By this time most ponies just wanted it to end, an end which was now upon them. Not as victory for either side. All warning about the sheer power of the weapons being developed fell on ears unwilling to listen. Through it all daily living also benefited, though improved greatly by the continuous research it felt hollow under the ever-present possibility of being drawn into the conflict.

On ministry walk two good friends were saying their final, tearful farewell. She could only muster enough power to teleport one of them to safety. Outside on a bench along the road a unicorn was sitting in a most peculiar way. She tried very hard before winding up here. She'd had enough, and waited. How she got there is a tale never told. Elsewhere a particularly pink pony was looking out at the incoming destruction. She almost saved the city. Almost does not count when the world is ending. She chose a faster way out. Some battles are forgotten. Fought on the sidelines or overshadowed by the greater conflict at large. How many fell to be remembered by no one, their names and deeds long lost to memory? Just unidentifiable hoofprints left in passing.

Near the beginning of this war names quickly became little more than statistics. Numbers on scroll to be perused then filed away in a neat little package. Little else. Such numbers make no hint of the families torn apart, their sadness and pain relegated to nothing more than scratches upon the parchment. It is just easier that way. All nice and tidy. During the conflict these list counts only grew ever larger. The litany of casualty reports rose until they were unending. If they did make mention of the true toll being taken it would surely have driven those reading them insane. These facts coupled with the quadrupled progress of industry slowly and surely forced the initiation of a secretive doctrine aimed solely at finding solutions to the social problems this presented.

Life was becoming hectic, fast, and far too short. Stress was something ponies barely knew before. Because of all this the need for psychological studies grew at a pace unrivaled. Just more little nudges in the wrong direction. All the lies, half-truths, secret projects and an altogether collapsing order led to a society which let itself be driven to the precipice by the horrors of war. Conflict did exist in Equestria before it all started. Nothing that warranted a standing army. The royal guard were generally sufficient barring certain extraordinary cases. During the course of the war most royal guard members were given the task of training up all the new recruits. Though some remained within Canterlot proper, many were shifted into the quickly evolving military.

Perhaps this was what brought about and allowed for the confusing string of orders that eventually resulted in the construction of the command stable labeled only as Infinity. No record of the construction was kept. The location hidden. The real purpose behind it buried under stacks upon stacks of paperwork. Even the construction crews were brought in blind. Just follow the plan. Everything is good. It would be a great bastion of hope secreted away, but literally hiding something under a mountain is no easy task. What it took to keep it a secret was on a scale defying believability. It was done anyway. They thought it entirely kept from prying eyes and ears. Not quite. On ran the tragedy train.

Amongst other things the Auton Initiative was given over to this place, only another project. Nothing special or so they said. The ultimate purpose of all these ongoing operations was a jumble even the figureheads of the ministries were often unaware of. It was very much the case the ministry mares were treated not as the leaders they were appointed to be but necessary burdens on their respective organizations, public faces to be kept out of the loop. Sometimes this was noticed. Sometimes it was ignored. The few times it was not ignored meant big trouble was coming down on anypony unlucky enough to be caught out. This particular project however was such a well-kept secret not one ministry pony was aware of it.

If the royalty knew they said nothing, leaving the military to its own devices. The royals often said little. The army though battle-hardened by this time was not very experienced in other matters. As the new army was built up the sole purpose in mind at the outset was defense, survival. Using them as an offensive force was far from any thought on the matter until much later. All told, letting them operate in this manner was another in the string of mistakes made and decisions poorly handled. One result: The Infinity stable. A secret military complex built under contract to Stable-Tec. They were good at keeping quiet. It was set deep into the north side of a mountain.

Here, another in this long line of tragedies was about to take place. Outside, nopony yet knew what was coming. To the sleepy little town all was normal. As it should be. Asleep in their beds. Secure in the knowledge the dawn would break as it always had. It was so quiet here, far from the front lines. Apart from anything that is war. The great war that must end soon. This place would not be necessary after all. The perfect place to offload all the unwanted leftovers when all was said and done. Some felt apprehensive about the idea behind this place, but we can all go home soon. It will be great when we can just bury it all here and forget about it.

Little did those saying such things realize how close to the truth this would soon become. Not in any way they imagined. Unlike some of the other stables built by Stable-Tec this place was to serve only the military. It would house and store everything nopony else wanted anymore. Supposedly that was one reason it was so large, and so secret. Under the major's strict direction it was built smoothly in record time. Not even any fatalities this time. The build crews learned quickly not to even try avoiding any scrutiny coming from him. The crews were pushed hard every day to the point some could not continue. The pace was backbreaking. Even the unicorns were burning out. The major drove each crew relentlessly.

Breaks were short and far between. Things that would normally have taken a full year were cut down to a mere 6 months. On this site nopony could really complain. He was given leave to do whatever was necessary to finish it as soon as possible. Nothing should be left to chance. Any conceivable shortcut was denied without hesitation. If he was going to oversee this job it would be done right. The very few times any of the crews attempted to skirt his orders regarding this quickly found themselves off the site permanently. No allowance would be made for anything outside of exacting. This drew both some criticism and some respect.

Due to the nature of the construction those working here were forced to agree never to speak of it after leaving or face serious repercussions. In this climate of information repression they could hardly argue. This also resulted in them demanding higher pay than was the norm. That was something that was conceded. Anything to get it done right. Alone inside the facility the major was just getting ready to finish up for the day. He was by himself in the command room as he alone was to enter the security codes for the new control systems. Sitting at the newly finished console within, the rather bored green-coated unicorn stallion bolted upright as it lit up and klaxons sounded.

"What in the world?" Right as he said this the intercom crackled.

"Major Bright Step, they've gone mad. Missiles are flying!" One of the guards reported. No. This could not be happening. Wake up. He could feel the adrenaline rushing at the words.

"Get everypony from town up in here, we can house 150." He quickly ordered. This complex was not intended as a shelter for general personnel, but what did it matter now? A few moments passed as he viewed the projected missile tracks. Most of them were heading straight for the capital, almost none of which were being intercepted successfully.

The spellfire counter-missiles some pinned their hopes on in case of such a situation were proving ludicrously inaccurate. The intercom gave off a burst of static. The communication system was a bit wonky still. The speaker came back in.

"We can't open any of the stable doors!" He whirled to the console instantly. The outer door lock lights were all lit. Hitting the intercom again he called for the door guards on the first floor. No answer.

"Door guard." Nothing.

"Anypony anywhere respond, open the doors!" Static. Surely more ponies were in here somewhere. No time. The Stable-Tec crew only finished with the final construction phase of this place two weeks prior. A maintenance and detailing team which should have been through already to iron out equipment issues was delayed in being dispatched for one reason or another. The other three consoles in this room covered various systems. Security robotics, maintenance, and life support consoles were set up in a ring around the command console.

If normal operations were underway other ponies would have been here with him. Not many were really assigned here yet. Most were not even inside.

"Why now of all times?" He poked at several controls on the maintenance console. A small army of maintenance bots should make quick work of getting the doors open again. The controls were unresponsive. An apprehensive feeling stole over him as tried to make anything at all do something. Everything was frozen.

"Oh my Celestia, give me strength." He found himself saying. He was losing valuable time with every fruitless action.

On a hunch he tried to activate the security bots. Nothing.

"Ahh." All this only took a moment. It felt like an eternity. Moving back he frantically jammed buttons on the main console. The override controls refused to disengage.

"Open, you piece of junk!" Nothing worked. Slamming it he turned. Tears streaming he ran from the command room into the elevator. Mashing the top floor button, it rose interminably slowly.

"Move, move. Why is everything in here working so badly?" The elevator never took this long before. Even when it was first constructed he was certain it was much faster than this.

He pounded his head on the elevator wall in frustration.

"Faster. Go faster, please..." He was already sweating from the building adrenaline and need to move. The shuddering elevator should have been at the top already.

"I'll get there in time, I'll get there in time." Go. Go. Go. This was intolerable. The elevator lurched upward at full speed only to slow down again. Something was very wrong, there was no way everything just stopped working right at the same time. Although the final team was not yet through to give everything a green light he'd been involved from the start since Stable-Tec did have a bit of a reputation for being slipshod in their work. Each individual system up until this very moment worked well enough.

Finally, the elevator doors swished open. Knowing something was so wrong he should have been more cautious. Time for those outside was ticking by. His hooves clacked off the flooring as he rushed down the hall at a gallop. The main door was in sight. Something brought him skidding to a halt. A bad feeling, an instinct. Then he noticed it. The faintest flickering shimmer off to the side caught his attention. Immediately he dove into a janitorial room as the hall lit up with a hail of bullets. A zebra spy that somehow escaped detection must be in here, now firing upon him. Did they have something to do with the controls malfunctioning?

There was no choice, he must get to the door right now or he would save no one. The very real increasing threat of spies meant every military member was ordered to keep their sidearms with them at all times. With no choice he floated his heavy caliber pistol out to the corner of the door, firing wildly in the general direction where the zebra was standing as he ran for the controls. A stray shot from the zebra automatic sliced through his right shoulder rendering his foreleg useless. It caused him to tumble into the door area, dropping his pistol back in the hall. If he could just get the main door open he would have help.

Striking an emergency panel plate caused two heavy prototype spark incinerator turrets to drop down out of the ceiling which tracked the I.D. badge hanging from his neck, then swiveled to point down the hall. These new turrets drew power directly from a conduit running straight down to the small reactor far below, and should prove more than a match should his assailant try to come after him. Hopefully the rest of the facility would also be locked down, giving the zebra almost nowhere to go. Were there more? Time is ticking. Now he could focus on getting the door open. Looking towards the door he saw the two guards necks were snapped.

No time to consider that as he fumbled at the main door manual controls. It made a deep rumbling sound, but did not budge.

"Why won't it open!?" He screamed in frustration. Looking up he could see everything appeared to be in order. The spy must have done something to the controls or mechanism, but what? Desperately he searched the gigantic screw-like drive that would push the door open. The small side-door controls were obviously rigged by the infiltrator in such a way it could not be opened, maybe even trapped. There was simply no time. Where could it be?

Every second passing was another that could not be spared. Once the base detectors began reading outside radiation of any sort not one of the four entrance doors timer locks could be bypassed. The idea struck that he could ask what the zebra did to them, but it was laughable. He knew by the time he could get a zebra spy to talk, if at all, it would be too late. There was nothing more he could do. The weight and reality of what was happening sank in upon him, and he cried in earnest despair. Reluctantly, quivering he reached for the external intercom button.

"Sergeant." It crackled for a moment. Finally a reply.

"Sir, why aren't the doors open?" A voice buzzed in. There was not much time left.

"A spy has disabled all the doors, possibly even the central elevation platform. I am seriously injured, and cannot open them. I am sorry, son." His voice strained with pain and sadness. The sputtering intercom went dead for a few seconds.

"I'm sure you did your best, sir. It has been an honor serving with you." The reply only made him choke up further.

"Good luck, sergeant." With that he hoisted a medical kit off the far wall. After bandaging himself up as best he was able he paused a moment to take a deep breath.

Hobbling over to the two poor souls laying there he gathered up both of their pistols. In a whisper he spoke under his breath.

"I am truly sorry, boys. You're probably better off. You won't be needing these anymore." Though bandaged, the pain was beginning to cut through as the adrenaline rush wore off. The zebra was suicidal anyway to have come here with balefire bombs, missiles and who knew what else now in the air flying back and forth. He or she would definitely prove a dangerous opponent. There might even be more than one. He knew the stories of their close-quarters fighting style.

Did this zebra even know what was happening outside, or care? Surely their leader must be insane to have ordered the certain destruction of the world. Were they all completely out of their minds? As he pondered this he readied the pistols. He would prefer his personal sidearm. Using the dead guards guns to take down their murderer would be suitably poetic. He knew his wound was serious, and would prove fatal. There were robots of a sort, but no medical bot provisioned here yet and no doctor. Without one to treat it, there could only be one outcome. Knowing they both were effectively dead already there was no real point in confronting the zebra, but having just ensured almost two hundred more would die he felt something in his heart. He wanted this zebra to suffer.

He was on the verge of promotion before this, and this facility was his expected command. He would take vengeance upon this intruder that helped end so many lives. Feeling an unfamiliar cold fury welling up inside him, he stepped into the hall. Nowhere to be seen. Naturally. Any zebra infiltrator would be an absolute master of stealth. Hovering both pistols in front aimed slightly to the sides he limped down the hall cautiously. Watching for any hint of the shimmering telltale sign his quarry was near. Peering into the supply closet as he passed, nothing. This made no sense. Where could the zebra have gone? He looked around to realize in his haste earlier he broke procedure, the elevator was not closed securely behind him.

This would make things much more difficult. The mechanical dial above stopped at floor 16. "Oh, no." He muttered as he strode into the elevator. There were turrets on every level that should hinder his opponents ability to move around freely, but he felt a sinking sensation in his gut. Why that floor? It held something rather important. How would any zebra know what was contained there? He must stop them before even more damage could be done. Slowly sidling up to the elevator door to look around as it opened he could see the turrets on this level were indeed activated. It looked as though they already fired on something, but there was no trace. Did the zebra find a way around the defenses somehow?

This one might be even more skilled than anticipated. Bright Step's thoughts drifted to the sheer size of the stable. This stable was smaller than average, but even being able to support a hundred or so ponies meant the scope of the place was vast. His enemy was doubtlessly going to take advantage of this to elude pursuit. There was one thing going for him, the zebra likely did not know the place was empty which should slow them down. Sheer serendipity is all that allowed them to get in here. It would not take too long before catching on though.

"Alright, stripey.. so you can avoid the turrets somehow. They still fire at you. I have the advantage here." The security badge he wore was magically attuned to match the wearer, it would do them no good to take it from him. Searching the immediate area he could not help but notice the enormous elevation shaft central to the facility. It would never see use now. After all, the world outside was at an end wasn't it? A depressive feeling set in upon the realization that he was utterly alone. He would never see another friendly face again. This emotion only combined with his anger.

"Calm down." He spoke to himself.

"Deal with that later. If there is a later." He limped down the halls towards the place he knew the zebra was trying to reach. One final time he quickly tried an intercom panel.

"Anypony respond?" Static. Far more static than there should be. It would be very difficult to surprise this most dangerous prey. Facing an opponent of unquestionable skill gave him pause. How was he going to stop them? The controls he knew the zebra must be after were protected by their own set of turrets. They were important enough to warrant extra defenses. Judging by how fast he was moving they must be fairly close to each other.

Spotting a wheeled work cart gave him an idea. Hopping on top of it he heaved it down the hallway at a high pace with the pistols in front, speeding towards the swinging doors into the room with the turrets. Through the doors windows, he could see a glimmering shadow dodging around the room as the incinerator turrets fired off. So that was how they were being avoided. Each shot was a wide burst of reactor powered flames, but they were sluggish in aiming and slow to fire. Just enough for a nimble zebra to avoid. No one left to tell about this shortcoming. Slamming into the doors sent them wide as he added his firepower to the turrets.

In either the greatest acrobatics show of all time or simply the best stroke of luck ever, the spy went cartwheeling off behind a reel-to-reel computing device as a strange little metal box was flung directly at the controls. Rolling to a hard stop against the opposite wall he turned to look out upon the auton gallery. Six of the unusual constructs were stored here, and something enormous. The outside of the box that was hurled must have been magnetic as it clamped itself against the controls with a resounding clang. A dull thud echoed throughout the gallery as an odd faint flicker passed through the stark mechanical eyes of each.

"What have you done!?" He yelled and fired several rounds past the machinery where the zebra was now taking cover. The spy was carrying an automatic, in his haste to get here there was no time to stop in at the armory to pick up something heavier for himself. This meant he must keep them pinned down somehow or he would be facing a barrage of bullets. Deftly dodging across to take cover behind another machine the brazen spy barely managed to get off a wild round which ricocheted past his head. Too close. The turrets were just throwing them off enough. Whatever they were after was already done. Jumping on the cart he hurled himself back out the door firing a few rounds behind for cover.

He would go for the armory and come seeking them again with heavier guns if the turrets didn't get them. The cart was proving useful to let him get around easier, but he needed a better solution. Heading straight back to elevator he realized how exhausted he was becoming. The exertion of the fight caused him to bleed quite profusely. He moaned in agony as he undid and re-tightened the bandaging, it worked itself loose during the fight. Floor 4 contained the armory. Agonizingly slowly it rose, finally coming to a stop. This time he locked the staff elevator in place. It would not move without him. This should leave the zebra trapped on floor 16 for a while at least.

Pushing himself along on the cart as he was made him feel pretty pathetic. He entered the code to the armory door. There was a very special medical kit in here.

"This should keep me going a little longer." He was gasping a little. His wound was far too serious for a healing potion alone to do much good. Surgery would have been needed to correct this. Within the box were various drugs and potions not intended to be used lightly. He was dying anyway, this might at least give him enough time.

"So, this is the one." Taking out a particularly nasty looking needle filled with some deep red liquid he popped the cap off and injected the entire contents into himself. The pain let up immediately. His vision also went blurry.

"Now for it, before I drop." Huffing he turned to the various weapons lockers. He didn't want what was in them. Opening a door further in he found what he was after.

"Okay, ya murderous freak. You've killed hundreds of ponies and yourself. Let's see how you deal with this." Pulling a cover off revealed a small armored two-wheeled Mini-Gaitling MK-IV. It was a very uncommon weapon. During the entire war it was deployed very sparingly. Although the firing speed was unrivaled it did have problems. The speed itself caused some of them. It was also very heavy. The recoil was barely held in check by heavy springs which dispersed some of it along with the wheel locks.

"The world is gone. Might as well go out with a bang myself." Painfully he slipped on an armor vest, a grenade belt which held 5 across his back and picked up a PAR-47 assault rifle. Slowly pushing the heavy gun down the hall and into the elevator was time-consuming. Surely it would be worth it. Normally a two-pony team would be required to operate the weapon. He knew the potent drug mixture he injected himself with was really a failed experiment. A last resort intended to keep soldiers fighting if they found themselves injured and cut off from aid. The few times it was tested proved only that using such powerful drugs comes with serious consequences. He probably wouldn't have to worry about that. Time for the show.

"I'm gunning for you, stripey." Bright Step psyched himself up as the elevator went down. Time felt like it stopped until finally the doors opened. His enemy would have found another place to lay in wait by now. Still, this time he was armed to the teeth and a potent mixture of drugs was giving him a false strength. Ordinarily he would never have used it. He was going to get at least this one zebra for their crimes against life. Having ensured so many more would die seemed little more than a ridiculous pointless cruelty only the most black-hearted soul could possibly commit. The elevator doors hissed open.

"Alright, round three. I am going to put an end to you." Pushing the hefty gun out he once more stepped forth from the elevator. He was afforded some protection by the gun itself and two armor plates that stuck up from the sides.

It was by no means a perfect defense. A large gap between the plates allowed the gun to be aimed. It was set quite low to the ground between the wheels. It was after all more of a static emplacement weapon. The strain on his leg was plain to see, even the fresh bandages he only put on moments ago were soaked through with blood. He wouldn't live much longer at this rate. The hunt was on once again. What trickery might be waiting for him now? Only one way to find out. This time he was not trying to be quiet at all, he wanted the zebra to come at him. There was no way the spy would be expecting this. Amped on drugs as he was made him certain it was possible to take them out if only he could catch the slightest glimpse. It would not be as easy to locate them now.

The only reason he could see them before was due to the turrets forcing them to move around so much. The shimmering was very subdued, but a dead giveaway when the intruder was moving fast. He was no stranger to pain and danger, having fought in two of the most prolonged and heated battles of the entire war. The mixture of sadness and anger drove him on. Wishing would not bring back the many who died this day. This small act of retribution was nothing in comparison to the sheer magnitude of it all. Now it was just something he must do, whatever it took. He looked about this empty tomb. The unused offices, working spaces and common areas. In only a week it would have been provisioned, full of life. As it stood the construction crews left only a few days prior.

This was a place meant to protect senior military staff and provide hope for the future. Now it would save nopony. He strapped what was left of the experimentals to the back of his good foreleg. It held one final useful thing. He prayed to whatever good may be left he would not need it. The turrets above were still operating, swiveling to and fro seeking a target. Good. Shoving the heavy weapon would likely have been beyond him at this point if not for the drugs coursing through his veins. With time running out he made as much noise as possible. He wanted a confrontation now. Any outcome would end with his death anyway. Feeling his heart stutter gave renewed determination to end this quickly.

"I gotta focus." If he was able he would of activated the auton contingent housed within the facility. He thought about it. There was no knowing what that strange flash was in their eyes or what the box did to their controls, especially one in particular. Something about that one made him nervous, their big secret. They would have made short work of this. It was not a risk he was willing to take now. The autons were something different, unusual in some way he was not entirely aware of. He only knew the very first was destroyed somehow, and explicitly told never to activate them except under a very specific set of circumstances or outright emergency. Then there was that one.

His orders said never allow that one to be activated without the entire design team present. Shivering he moved on. If there was time to think earlier he would have made several different decisions. It was far too late to do anything about those choices now. No. The surprise and confusion was too much, too fast. He could not have acted any differently. Catching him by surprise and keeping him off-balance were tactics he knew well, tactics which he'd fallen for far too easily. He was still furious with himself. He was probably going to be given command of this base and let it come to this. His thoughts were racing.

"It is not my fault. There should have been more guards. There should have been...These thoughts are stupid. They waltzed right through a whole military camp outside without getting caught." The camp outside for all intents and purposes really was a small town. Another facade should any of the public happen to wander by. Even being supplied by a privately held farm just off to the north to reduce the amount of supplies being shipped in. All in effort to keep this place a secret.

"All the little loose ends of projects nopony cared about anymore wound up stored here. How did they even find out about this place?" It didn't matter now. Nothing truly mattered now.

Surely multitudes of ponies outside were dead or dying by this time.

"Time to step up my game!" Realizing he yelled that out loud made him feel a bit foalish. He let loose a despairing laugh at the insanity of it all which suddenly ceased.

"Oh, these drugs are really doing a number on me. Stop wasting time, move." Goading himself he pushed onwards. Locking down each door as he went along this time was a calculated move. At some point the spy would have to act or be forever trapped in a single room, but he could not use them for cover either.

Not feeling any sort of pain let him move at full speed, but doing so meant he was exacerbating his wound further. His body would not stand up to this abuse for long. Hopefully he would encounter the enemy soon. This was already taking far too long. Perhaps wheeling this heavy weapon along was a mistake after all. Soon enough he might have to abandon it, losing the serious edge it would give him. Deciding it best to keep shoving it forward he stuck with the decision. There were only about six more rooms left. The zebra must be present here somewhere close. The drug was only designed to last about half an hour. His heart felt shuddery and off beat from all the blood loss.

No drug, no matter how potent could sustain this for long. Finally, down to the last three rooms of this floor they met. The entire area lit up with gunfire from both directions, rounds bouncing off the walls and armor plates. Two ricocheting shots struck him directly across the armor vest, breaking a few of his ribs. He did not feel it, yet. The zebra was using the doorway on the right as cover, only firing around it at an angle. At least this left them at a disadvantage. While this exchange went on he was still wheeling the hefty gun forward. At the same time pulling all 5 pins and levitating off the grenade belt, throwing it down the hall. Catching sight of this the spy backpedaled into the corner room.

The grenades were set to detonate on contact. When they hit the floor a massive explosion sent debris everywhere. Being in a confined space the blast smashed into the gun, knocking him down. Immediately getting up again he pressed what was strapped to the back of his leg, emptying a final needle into himself. The world turned red. Screaming he began running forward through the haze and smoke, firing the assault rifle randomly. He'd thrown the grenades a bit too far, the blast would have missed his target. Much of the end of the hallway was just a mess of steel and wiring. The room the zebra ducked into was a lab for this floor. Suddenly a flaming cloak flew past him in the haze.

The zebra must have backed into a gas burner ignited by the explosion. Turning to fire he found his rifle knocked away and a resounding kick across his head. He fell to the floor. Ordinarily this would have knocked him unconscious. The zebra moved in for a final blow.

"Nope." Springing straight up as he smacked a hoof across their head sent them flying into the rear wall, falling onto their face in a heap. Lifting the rifle he moved in. Without thinking he stepped in towards them as a shot rang out cutting through his left hind leg causing him to fire a spray as he dropped, hitting her several times across the body.

He forgot the spy took his pistol which she shot him with. His own pistol, well this was embarrassing. Groaning he fell, slamming into the floor once more. His head landed right beside hers. Barely able to lift his head he looked at her. So it was a female. The drugs were wearing off. His pain would soon be at an end. Gazing at her he could not really imagine they were all that different. She wasn't quite dead yet either. The pistol clicked on an empty chamber as she dropped it. The very last round. He felt it was fitting.

"Good fight, stripey." He huffed. In that accent all zebra speak with she mumbled raggedly.

"Not so bad yourself." If only she knew what she'd put him through.

"Maybe it's just the blood loss speaking or the fact we've killed each other..you are really cute." She blushed softly as they both fell into sleep eternal. The major died here, alone. If he knew some ponies did hear his initial request for response over the intercom he may not have. There were still seven other ponies within the complex, two were guards. For no reason they knew he did not get their reply. The intercom system was garbled, useless. They desperately tried to find him. The place was simply so huge. For so few ponies it could take days to locate him on their own.

They were the final machining crew assigned to building the armor plates for the outsized auton standing on the elevation platform. It was under construction ever since the main platform was finished. How it shined standing there. Awaiting possible use in war. A war that was ending. Each pony was only assigned a specific piece to construct to precise specifications. Specialized spells were cast on every piece, some of the spells even the unicorns casting them did not know the exact purpose of. It would all come together in the end. None knew the real secret behind this construct. To them it was just another albeit rather large robot. It was not like the rest. They felt odd being around it. Something felt cold and off about it somehow, but each auton felt somewhat that way to ponies. Just how it was. No problem. That is normal.

Despite their insistence they felt different than other robots, it was ignored. Nopony heard it, a dull clanking sound coming down the halls. It roamed the empty dim corridors methodically, searching. It was not a thing that should be active. Few were left to hear the slight mechanical sound of its limbs lifting then contacting the flooring to reverberate throughout the stillness. Slowly panning its head left to right the dull ivory auton located the major and the spy through the dusty haze. For a moment it halted, looking at them lying there as if frozen. Its eyes occasionally flickering in and out from the faintest red to a cold steeled blue colour. It reached forward and touched the lifeless form of the major almost gently, stopping for a long time before carefully lifting him. The flicker returned to its eyes as it violently threw his body onto its back.

Doing the same with her corpse, it then proceeded to the elevator where it clicked and clattered staring at the floor buttons. The doors closed. The crew could not know what was happening. They were trying to reach the command room several floors below. The base lockdown was proving a problem for them as well. The staff elevator would not come when called. Some doors they did not have authorization to open, forcing them to find longer paths around. This crew was not really supposed to be here any longer. They were on break between assignments. One of those things easily overlooked, their work finished. They would have been ordered somewhere else eventually. Two weeks passed already.

They'd spent the time resting and recuperating in the 9th floor quarters area. Rest they desperately needed anyway. They couldn't be reprimanded for not receiving orders, so took advantage. The group consisted of two reddish-brown unicorn brothers, a trio of earth pony engineers and the two patrol guards who got them when the alarms went off.

"Can we go up this way?" The colorful yellow mare brushed her auburn mane out of her eyes as she asked the guard. She was the only female amongst them, for all intents and purposes she was one of the guys.

"I think it will take us up to hydroponics. There is a service elevator at the opposite end we can take to floor 6. It will take a while to reach it." The guard was gruff and looked very out of sorts.

They had no idea what was happening and no orders. The frantic crackling call from the major for anypony to respond lent considerable urgency to finding him.

"You're the engineers, why won't the intercoms work right all of a sudden?" He was wearing a full vest and helmet with a visor they managed to get out of a riot locker. The other guard was not so protected.

"We don't know what is causing it, but there seems to be two kinds of magnetic and one tremendous magic field coming from somewhere inside causing problems with the facility systems." The guard grunted as they exited the stairwell onto the hydroponics level. Plants were everywhere in large long planters under venting and recycling shafts.

The air was extremely fresh here, as was the water which was filtered from pipes through various types of plant for near complete recyclability. This place would not rely on a water talisman.

"Is there anything we can do about it? The major might be in trouble somewhere. We cannot possibly search this whole place for him. We can't even open all the doors." The engineers shook their heads forlornly in unison. She went on.

"The complex is hardened against E.M.P. from the outside and has some anti-magic infused plating around key sections, but this is coming from inside continuously and its very intense. We need to get away from it. Constant exposure to this level of unknown magnetism and magic fields together could be dangerous." It took them much too long already to reach this floor.

The dark blue engineer with a gear and crossed wrench as a cutie mark spoke up.

"We don't really know that. We need to get to the command room and find some information about what is happening first." He took a slow breath.

"I have an idea for when we get there." A diminutive white and mottled brown engineer chimed in. He was a bit small for a stallion, very friendly and easygoing. His mark was difficult to guess the meaning of, looking for all the world like a thick balled up mass of wires.

"We can see which of the emergency panels was used to tell where this started and go from there." The group agreed that was a good idea and walked on through this floor they were not familiar with. The guards knew it well enough, but never did they have to find a way through it during lockdown before. If the base were fully staffed there would be personnel on every floor with necessary clearances at any given time. Now it was a frustrating maze with many dead ends and barred doors blocking their way.

"This is impossible! Why didn't they give the guards clearance to move about freely if lockdown was initiated, wouldn't that make more sense?" The guards could only shrug. It would probably have been fixed later.

Their progress was slow. Finding a way to the elevator was confusing.

"We've been here before. All we've done is go in a big complicated circle somehow." One of the brothers mentioned.

"How long has it been since we heard that call, half an hour?" He sighed. The quiet dull orange engineer who never seemed to speak surprised them by doing so. His mark was clear enough, a trigonometry symbol.

"This time, scratch marks into the wall so we know where we've been already." It was a good idea. The directional signs were useless when doors could not be opened. Working their way through like this was tedious.

"Are we the only ponies in this whole place?" The unarmored guard nodded.

"Supposed to be fully provisioned next week, but why isn't this place swarming with the town soldiers? There are plenty of them outside." The situation must be serious. The lighting was very dull.

"Why are the lights so dim?" One of the two brothers was asking more to make conversation than actual curiosity. He just wanted to get out of here.

"Might be a result of those fields. We really need to get to command level. This is so annoying. We need to go up to go back down again because of the stupid lockdown." The mare was usually solid and logical.

She was talking very quickly which was unlike her. Their current plight was making her fidgety. Her nervousness was not helping.

"Hey, relax. We'll just get where we need to go and everything will be fine, alright?" The other brother noticed her rapid speech.

"Take a deep breath, okay?" She did so as they continued to wind their way through the floor. Finally, the elevator.

"Oh, it feels good to finally be making some headway." She appeared calmer as they piled into the service elevator.

It was tight inside, and felt sluggish as it went up three floors.

"Did anypony else.." She was cut off by the others saying yes.

"That sure felt strange. Never did that before." Now they only needed to reach the other end of floor 5. The elevator doors opened oddly slowly as well.

"Say, if this is a lockdown why aren't some of them Protectathingies roaming around?" The diminutive engineer asked.

"There should be, as far as I know. Something is really wrong with all of this. No worries though, your badges will keep you safe if there are." The guards were doing their best to keep the group calm.

It was mostly succeeding since it was only the stress of not knowing what was happening elsewhere that was bothering them.

"Now, if we can just get to the other elevator we can go straight down to command." Things were looking up. This floor was mostly storage areas. It was not taking nearly as long to find their way around. Ten more minutes passed in silence until at last they found a path to the secondary elevator. Weary of the winding route they were forced to take, a direct way would be nice for a change.

"It's about time. Hey wait a sec, look." The eldest of the two unicorns pointed a hoof up at the floor dial.

"I didn't press the button." The doors opened to reveal a dark grey mechanical pony.

"Speaking of robots. My, does this one look a little odd to you?" It spoke in a lifeless deep monotone.

"Present badge." He held up the pass hanging from his neck. It stared at the pass, motionless.

"Guys, what is this thing doing?" He looked back over his shoulder at the rest. They did not know what to say.

"Present badge." Somehow it sounded more insistent, if that were possible.

"This is my badge, ya metal moron." It lowered and raised its head.

"Present badge." This was not getting them anywhere.

"Look robot, the badge is right here." He held it up closer.

"Present badge." Raising and lowering its head in between it kept repeating.

"Present badge. Present badge." His brother was moving up closer beside him.

"Uh, guys?" The auton took a step closer.

"Okay, that is it. This is an emergency. Move aside, robot." For a second none of them could quite comprehend what happened. A very faint white glow enveloped it as the auton swung a leg across his neck sending his still blinking head flying backwards to land in front of the mare while blood sprayed across his brother. She screamed as they all recoiled in horror. The guards were yelling.

"Fall back, fall back!" She just stood there. All of them were so stunned they were not moving. The guard wearing armor shook her.

"What are you doing? Run!" It finally kicked in that they needed to be moving away from this mechanical monstrosity. The other guard took a shot at the crazed auton, hitting it squarely in the left eye which caused its head to turn. The group was finally getting away from it as it slowly turned its head back. Two small plates rotated out of its shoulders and slid back as dual automatics of some sort ejected and opened up. The guard wearing the armor was struck by several rounds as they leapt into the other hallway.

"You alive?" Being struck with a single bullet even wearing a vest hurts considerably. He was struck by five. He moaned in pain from cracked ribs and bruises.

"Good. No time to feel pain. Now, move!" The other guard pulled him to his hooves and moved to help him walk. The auton was coming. The rest of their group was scattered in every direction.

"It's too fast." Unnaturally fast. It swayed side to side as it trampled over the dead unicorns body and galloped down the hall.

"Why is it doing this!?" Somepony yelled as it sprinted down the halls at a pace they could not hope to match. It went right past the guards for some reason, charging straight at the remaining twin.

He looked up to see it heading towards him. There was nowhere to go. Tears streamed as he shut his eyes.

"I'm coming, brother." With that it's head slammed into him with such tremendous power a sickening cracking sound was heard as his body flew into the ceiling to come slamming down against the floor in a heap. The whirring terror turned its head left and right, seeking. It bolted down another hall to find two of the engineers trying to force one of the hall doors closed on it. Too late. A spray of projectiles struck the one in front. He slumped over as the other engineer dropped to the floor. He looked up to see the auton towering over him.

"No, please.." It smashed a metal hoof down through his skull, crushing their bodies as it walked over them. It turned its attention to the remaining guards. They could only go back the way they'd come. He yelled.

"Head for the service lift!" There was no way to tell if anypony was left to hear him. The guard sneered at the insane thing approaching him as he set down his wounded companion.

"Go." He turned back. His pistol would be useless. Earth ponies are known for their sheer physical strength in any line of business which is why at least one was present in every army unit.

He weighed his options and chose the only real one available. As the maniacal machine bore down on him at full speed he braced himself, timing his move as he reared to throw his front hooves up, hitting it directly in what would have been a live ponies chest, denting the armor plating. It was almost enough to slow it down. As it hit he was shoved backwards, he strained against it while sparks were actually flying off his rear hooves against the metal flooring. For a second it appeared he may have a chance. His luck quickly ran out. The impact was proving too much as his legs buckled against the heavy autons relentless onslaught. The other guard jumped atop it.

"I told you to go!" He could barely move after that impact.

"Forget it. We die together." He grunted while the wild machine twisted and turned violently as he grappled with it. Even their strength was rapidly dwindling fighting something with no will to break. The unarmored guard rammed a hoof against the damaged left eye, shattering it. They were not doing enough damage. It sidestepped into the wall with ridiculous force, then again, breaking the armored guards legs. He screamed then fell silent as it threw him off. He was probably dead, if not he soon would be.

"Luna send you to the pits!" He turned and bucked it hard to the face with all his remaining strength. Its head tilted far back to make it look as if contemplating the ceiling. A clacking noise was heard as its head slowly ratcheted back down. He was turning to aim another kick. It was too late. The auton spun with a speed no machine could possibly possess and performed the same move. Its legs struck him mid center, flinging him into the wall as his spine snapped. The final breath of air hissed out of his lungs as he crumpled. The seemingly insane auton stood over him. It remained there tilting its head about, looking at the bodies as if studying a piece of art.

It began gathering up their corpses, taking them to be piled in the elevator. Stepping in on top of them it circled to face the floor now virtually covered in blood. The doors wouldn't close, opening several times. One of their limbs was hanging out. It looked down and casually tore off the leg. She sobbed, crying as she ran. The other engineers told her to run while they tried to rig a door to crush it. She heard gunshots behind her, then somepony yelling about the service lift. It was followed shortly thereafter by a horrible pained yowl and a terrible thud. They must have failed. The guards, their only real hope were nowhere to be seen. Were they all dead? Why?

Practically bounding she nearly flew through the winding halls back to the lift.

"No." Her eyes went wide as she approached the opening doors, setting another of the monsters loose.

"Present badge." She backed away only to stop as she heard heavy steps off to each side. She stopped walking and sat down hard as her mind gave way to what was happening. The world seemed to close in around her. Twitching she looked around. Multicolored eyes moved towards her from the dark. Five of the horrible things were surrounding her. They were all speaking in that awful deep tone.

"Present badge." There were no ponies left to hear her final pained, hopeless scream.


Some ponies somewhere along the line really made a huge mistake, huh?

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