• Published 14th Jan 2015
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A State of Darkness - Wing

An ongoing tale of original characters set in an Equestria with secret branches of the well-known guard corps, A State of Darkness revolves around the Wonderbolt DarkOps unit as it protects Equestria from threats both foreign and domestic.

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A State of Darkness - Installment 0 - Arc I

Above the clouds rests one of the greatest pictures our Universe has to offer. Billions of flickering lights grace her heavens, and while that particular area is not exactly my realm of expertise, I can assure you that I would much rather be studying that vision at this moment. The pleasure of this night is repeatedly interrupted by a cadence of icy raindrops that fall from the clouds above my head. Their sharp timbre is somewhat tempered by the uniform clinging to my coat like needy foal, and their relentless march is detoured by the few generous blades of tall grass that have opted to shield me as I wait prone in the field.

The other pegasi are unable to clear the skies, but it has nothing to do with their skills. No, I roll with the best fliers in all of Equestria. It's because manipulating the weather would alert other, less savory individuals of our presence, and right now, that is something we cannot afford. Ponies tend to think that our land is free from evil, that our beloved princesses will always take care of whatever afflictions rise to reap our souls, or that optimism and hope come freely.

These thoughts are merely delusions passed down to maintain happiness and joy. Even the Royal Guard and the Bolts fill flamboyant posts that turn skill into show. The ignorance regarding the undercurrents of corruption and misery that pervade the places forgotten by the facade is only surpassed by one simple fact. What ponies do not realize is that their majesties have already placed capable shadows in the constant state of darkness.

Right now, I am perched amongst the gentle rolling hills of nowhere. Civilization is quite far away, even for a fast flier, and I'm not even close to the best when it comes to aerial acrobatics. In fact, in my other life, you would probably just brush me aside as a nerdy scientist or an over-exuberant professor. When I mentioned that I would rather be looking at the stars, I meant it. Scopes should be trained on targets that move us forward in life and knowledge. Instead, I am spending time playing hero, taunting the night with a uniform of liberty blue and black that might cause an excited colt to confuse me for one of those showponies. Goggles sit atop my lavender muzzle with lenses that can feed information through my chocolate irides even when all light seems crushed. I have my mission.

I press my forehoof to the chilled bolt-loop of the most devastating weapon I ever invented. I refuse to allow these things to infect my Equestria, and that is the true reason why I have been summoned to this wasteland. Downrange, a member of the guard is set to be executed by a band of unicorn extremists; and through my scope, my scope that should be probing, discovering, I see an earth stallion bound to a post of utter misery.

His colors have been tattered and torn, and while the hue of his fur has been lost, I can tell that his head has been bludgeoned. He is clinging to life as a trio keeps him upright through the desolation. He cannot see what is coming through the blindfold that hides his eyes – that shelters him from the reality of having his forelegs unnaturally bent and tied to a pillar. But I know he is not sheltered from the feel and scent of warm blood as it seeps through his mane and mingles with heaven's tears.

He's been deprived of sight, but his imagination is free to wander, and the agape expression that binds his countenance carries a weight and despair that surpasses whatever physical torture these unicorns have done. I can no longer allow the outcasts to script the future of this soldier. The bolt slides back at the behest of my foreleg, opening a chamber that cries for justice. My ammo of choice has been resting in my muzzle for quite some time – a snippet of Celestia's own magic wrapped into a casing 138 millimeters in length. I have never really considered myself to be what I am in this moment – for another member of the team typically assumes this mantle, this duty – but I have to admit that I just can’t get over the satisfying feel of successfully loading a round.

The three will never see it coming. They will never hear the instrument of their destruction, and yes, one pull of the trigger is more than sufficient when you have weaponized the will of your princess. I will dissect the score they had composed for their prisoner – my comrade – and transpose the chords into a sweet dissonance that preserves our elements of harmony. I will watch their heads turn into a crimson mist, and in that eternal fermata, I will suffer the plight of all those who take lives to save lives. I am merely a physicist – a stallion raised in West Manehattan. But when I don this cloak, I am something else. I am a specialist in the science of survival. I am Wing, colonel of the Wonderbolt DarkOps.

A State of Darkness
Wing T.F. McCallister

I have always found Canterlot to be an obnoxiously noisy place – a fact that seemed to amuse the stallion trotting at my side. He glanced sidelong at me with one of his flickering amber orbs, and I could tell from the smug grin that parted his midnight muzzle that he was thinking about the apparent hypocrisy. I, after all, had a habit of being obnoxiously noisy, and Equestria’s roving mercenary just would not keep it to himself. I leaned to the left and gave him a gentle nudge with my shoulder. “Don’t even start with me. You know we both cannot stand being here.”

He shrugged the bump off with a chuckle that acknowledged our mutual dislike of the pompous capital. We each have our own stories, but for him, it was just a rough fit. Trigger was – for all intents and purposes – a tank. He was gifted physically and had combat experience that put even career veterans to shame. There were times when his jagged demeanor made Royal Guard captains quiver, and they weren’t even aware of his position in the military – and had no damn clue when it came to his origins. They could just … tell … that he was covered in that scent of sin that surpassed the bournes of their frazzled ingenuities, and that only brought scorn from the eyes of the bureaucracy.

“You’re just bucking pissy because ya have to endure another debriefing,” he quipped before taking a short pause to adjust the brown Coltston that sat atop his argent mane, “but that shot ya took…” He methodically drew a proud breath into his lungs. “It was a thing of beauty, Wing.”

“Eye of the beholder,” I retorted calmly, picking up my stride as we approached one of the numerous Canterlot libraries. Trigger had managed to prod my heart again. The two of us had a long history, so his admiration and delight did not necessarily come as a surprise; yet, deep down, he had to remember that I could never define such a thing as beautiful. I didn’t care about the shot; I cared about the pony it saved.

The stone steps leading to the library’s entryway loomed before us when the onyx stallion threw his foreleg over my back. I turned to face him, watching as he lowered his head and closed his eyes in a rare moment of contemplation. “Ya did good. There’s no reason to think stupid shit.” He dragged me closer to his powerful frame and smiled before releasing his grip to resume the triumphant march.

I watched him for a moment, gazing at the seven-pointed silver star that was his mark. The warmth of his unusually affectionate maneuver was still bleeding off my coat. It was an aura of protection that the unicorn had provided since he emerged from the Ocean of Reverie within my mind. He was tough, a bit introverted, and at times abrasive, but there was no other pony that I would trust with the armaments that I had made.

“Look at that, the geezer showed up after all!” A feigned crass greeting met our ears as Trigger and I entered the chamber. The others had picked out a somewhat reclusive spot in the library’s tower. Based on the cobwebs in the corners and the layer of dust that still sat atop the room’s walnut center table, it was unlikely anyone had ventured here in quite some time.

“It’s nice to see you too, Mozy,” I responded to an alabaster mare with a teasing tone laced betwixt the notes. A visible ripple jolted the pony’s spine, and it was hard not to beam to the reaction. She should have seen it coming – and probably did – but there was no way I was going to let that one drift unnoticed.

She scoffed, flicking her yellow and black tail aggressively before kicking the neighboring chair out with a hind leg. I was quite fond of the way her mane palette looked as though a vibrant fire had remorselessly pierced the darkness. It suited her passion amidst the burdens of being a true Bolt. “Just sit down. I don’t want you keeling over on us.” Her jaune irides reflected the ambient light in a manner that made her come off as being more of a hardass than normal. I would simply state that those are the consequences of a lax student-teacher relationship.

There were two others already seated when Trigger and I decided to take up our respective perches. One was the team’s medic: a white, brown-maned unicorn by the name of Amora; and the second was one of the group’s founding members: a burnt-orange pegasus called Defiant Hooves.

The former eyed me with crisp blue cores that drenched my mind with a cascade of tumbling anamneses. Having grown up on the same block, we had known each other since foalhood, attended the same school, and shared our dreams. On several occasions, she had applied bandages to my ruffled fur or attempted some new healing spell she had picked up from her parents. I was with her the day she acquired her winged cobalt cross cutie mark, and the moment I saw it, I knew the mare she was destined to become.

The latter first entered my life as a shaggy, nervous freshman during my second year of A-FAM – otherwise known as advanced flight applications and mechanics. He had read my sophomore research proposal with a classmate, and both had become fascinated by the concepts of barrier manipulation and cloud fragmentation. My professors blew the notions off as pipe dreams, and I was far from the cream of the crop when it came to flying. D.H. and Wick, on the other hoof, were beyond capable. They divvied up the tasks and took to the skies; it wasn’t long after our combined successes brought the royals calling. They wanted their shadows, and we provided.

Defiant tapped the edge of a manila folder against the tabletop’s grain while his free forehoof toyed with sepia locks. They were signs he was growing anxious – tics that had also annoyed Trigger to no end. The tension radiating from the black stallion’s body was palpable. I did not even have to turn to confirm it, and he frankly did not give me the opportunity to observe. “Would ya fucking get on with it already, D.H.?”

Ams and Mozy both stifled chortles as their commander placed the folio flat and opened the cover. Playful banter was common in our exchanges, but the expression Defiant formed rapidly shushed the room. It was different this time. “Einhorn Vormacht,” he replied quietly, forcing us to lean forward as he spoke, “a unicorn supremacist group otherwise known as the EHVM. They’ve been operating out of the Galloping Gorge area for several years under the leadership of a wealthy mare, Ashen Mystic.

“Up until recently, she has dedicated her efforts solely to preaching about unicorn purity. We only kept tabs on that because it raises red flags with regards to windigos and no one wants a repeat of that mythology. Unfortunately, we’re not just reading myths any more. Our policy cannot remain in an idle state against an active threat. The capture, torture, and attempted execution of a member of the guard cannot go unpunished, and the assignment from above was pretty damn clear on this one.”

I cringed at the subsequent wave of dread that stabbed me with its piercing chill. Much like the rain that had perturbed that loathsome picture from several days ago, the currents that brought tomorrow ever closer seemed tainted by the promise of war. “It was inexcusable,” I stated, promptly grabbing the attention of the pegasus to my right, “but you all know my position when I don’t know what I’m dealing with.”

Mozy shifted gears and relaxed her posture. A sigh dribbled from her muzzle as she prepared herself to pick up where I had left off. The mare had an accredited athletic history that made her a solid candidate for the Wonderbolt Corps, but it was the development of her skills as a psychological analyst that generated a DarkOps asset. “Sudden signs of physical aggression are certainly reasons to be alarmed. In this case, we need to consider a several things.

“I think we’re seeing the result of zealotry leading to shit. Ashen Mystic’s followers are being compelled to action through her vitriol, so the question is what do we do about it? We don’t know if the militaristic elements are incorporated into the group, or if it’s just the extreme fanatic fringes attempting to grab power through escalation. We also don’t know how deep their resources go. Our information suggests that her riches run deep, and she has a background in archaeology to boot. Money and intelligence merged with an ability to manipulate masses with fear and hatred creates quite the foe; I’d guess that she’s still got a hoof in all of the decision making.

“Either way, what we’re up against, Wing, is something that the general population cannot touch. Unrest along tribe lines nearly tanked the founding of this nation. EHVM is testing its boundaries. It’s seeing if it can get away with what it tried, and while we stopped them this time, they still managed to capture one of our own. The three combatants killed will likely be proclaimed as martyrs for the cause to serve as inspiration to the ranks, and if we do nothing, they will act again.”

I found myself trapped by Amora’s stare. Sorrow had washed over her as she read my emotions as though they were the ridiculously oversized headlines of a tabloid magazine. We weren’t stupid. It was obvious how this composition was building. A somber piece performed by a torn quintet would be transfigured into something far worse. We were given an extermination mission born of ignorance. It was my nightmare thrust into reality – a universe of despair that tossed reason and compassion on the ground to leave confused hooves with nothing but bloodlust.

“I see…” I could not hide the shame in voice. It was an open wound from which sanguine guilt poured freely – one which everypony present understood. I was not a coward. I would defend my country and my comrades. I would snuff the danger Vormacht posed, but taking a life, no matter how twisted it had become, never felt good to me. I always wondered about the loved ones I did not get to see – the keys of my enemies lost to forgotten clefs and phrases. Shots fired resembled jarring, staccato augmented fourths, and the details that resolved that hideous progression were only found…

D.H. pushed a pair of papers from his collection of parchments until they rested between my hooves. “Luna wanted you to have this,” he explained as an almost cocky grin stretched the corners of his lips. “She mentioned that the colt was pretty persistent about it despite being repeatedly told that the operation was above his security clearance. Needless to say, she caved a bit for the guy.”

I scanned the text of the top sheet and my pulse scurried; it was the summary page of a personnel file from the central Royal Guard office. The soldier’s name was Ground Cover. He was young, just getting started, and had a family filled by the amity of two little ones. The corner of the bottom leaf stood out as it peered at me from the penumbra of its brethren armor. I gently coaxed it from its hiding place and took note of its rough condition. It had definitely seen better days. It was crinkled, and the ink pressed upon its surface was applied with evident difficulty – like a child just learning how to scribble. The vocabulary was too advanced, however, and the manner in which feelings and descriptors fought and charged into my soul proved that these verses belonged to another. It was a thank you – a letter from a devoted protector to me.

“I’ll need two days to prepare our things,” I continued, shifting my gaze to Defiant when the grave resonance of my words perked his ears. “I’m going to assume that you and Wick will be orchestrating the plan on this one, but if you want my input, then I’m in.” I folded the dispatch and passed it to Trigger for safekeeping before swiftly rising. My wings, boosted by the surge of energy that recklessly bounced about my nerves, unfurled. In that message, I had found my resolve … in the hopes bequeathed in the face of all doubts.

Author's Note:

And so it begins! My first post on the site. I realize that this is original character stuff, which can be a huge turnoff to many. Still, I hope all readers can at least find some level of entertainment / enjoyment in the writing.

I will add more when I find the time. Back to science!

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