• 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 2 - Rail to Canterlot

The journey to Vanhoover had been relatively easy for Ashen Mystic and her lieutenant. Again, the prowess of the unicorn reigned supreme, for repeated and interspersed teleportation spells cut a trip through the wilderness that would have taken roughly a day on hoof alone to several hours. The pair arrived relaxed at the town limits, where they were met by another member of the clan – a tan stallion named Wire Wise who carried a beige saddlebag filled to the brim with scholarly articles and papers. “Ma’am,” he uttered in a soft spoken voice saturated with politeness. “I hope your travels went well. Those who came this way in the aftermath informed me that your sermon was inspiring. My apologies for not attending, but…”

Ashen raised her hoof and alleviated the colt’s worry with a gentle smile. “You have no reason to apologize, Wire. I’ll assume from the parchments jammed in your saddlebag that you received my request from Kinetic. Were you able to find anything interesting?”

Wise nodded before proceeding. “I examined publications released within the past five years pertaining to the fundamental properties and storage of magic. There are many interesting pieces, Ma’am, but I believe there are several in particular that stand out. I found a collection of papers written by a professor posted at the University of Las Pegasus regarding magic and its relation to electricity and magnetism.” He paused as Mystic peered at him with an inquisitive stare. “This professor is a pegasus, Ashen. Out of all of the papers I read, his are the only ones not authored by a unicorn.

“I took the liberty of procuring as much material on this pony as I could. The sheets are included for review at your leisure, but I will add that his credentials are a bit unusual.” Wire Wise hushed himself momentarily and spun about to escort the duo to the train station. The preparations had come with a degree of danger – as it seemed as though guards had been placed on high alert following the recent event. “We bought off the tickets of an entire car for your travels. Different agents and cash from the local union were used, so the only suspicion you may need to overcome is the absence of others. However, I expect Kinetic will be able to deal with that issue.”

The navy blue stallion briefly scanned the informant with eyes that appeared ensnared by frost. The frigid leer set its weight upon the back of Wire’s head, causing the data hoarder a sizeable amount of observable unrest. Kinetic snorted under his breath, amused by his own actions as his taupe tail reflexively swirled. The reaction was not uncommon within the ranks of the EHVM. His abilities were known by many ponies with whom he worked, so their fear – or at least apprehension – was understandable.

“Am I freaking you out, Double Dubs?” Kinetic teased in the gruffest manner he could muster. “I know how much it must get under your coat considering what I am capable of doing to that precious data of yours. You have nothing to be concerned about, though. I can assure you that I am going to reserve all my talents to deliver our lady to Canterlot – and to crush the bastard that took down our subordinates.”

Wire Wise nodded again. They were not that far from the station, and luckily, the social scene in Vanhoover was slow compared to the other towns of Equestria. At times, he found it strange that the company even ran a train to Canterlot at this hour. However, there was a sizeable quarrying industry in the area, so in that respect, a red-eye run looked feasible. “Your pranks are notorious, sir,” the stallion replied after briskly attending a rogue cactus green lock.

“Thank you for your dedication, Wire Wise,” Ashen Mystic interjected. “I believe we can all agree that the situation has placed Kinetic’s pranks on an indefinite hiatus. A stern aura rests upon us and the course we have set. Frivolities will have to wait until after our demonstration is complete.” The mare inhaled, taking solace in the rich arboreal smell of the Northwest. It was a required comfort in the rising tides of uncertainty.

The rows of quaint log cabin homes, with their unique wooden carvings and adornments, typically drew out the admiration of visitors; Ashen Mystic only felt the load of the lingering question on her mind and the plethora of consequences that followed. Did those houses contain friends or foes? Would she suffer the same fate as her brave underlings, or would she still be standing tall at the end of this adventure? It doesn’t matter, she thought, keeping stride with the stallions. In the end, we will turn the page one way or another.

Within the span of a few minutes, the trio had arrived at the station – a charming facility that carried signs of recent restoration. The ticket house walls had been painted in a stunning sky blue, and the Mid-Celestian revival elements of the building’s roof had been covered in a complementary pitch of purple. Even under the Moon’s relaxed radiance, the portrait was a rather pleasing one to behold. For an instant, Ashen imagined herself thrown behind the lithograph plate that forever etched the founding of Vanhoover. Her ancestor had leant a hoof in establishing the town’s first mining corporation, and it was from those bits that the mare’s own wealth flourished.

After passing several commuter cars, Wire Wise stopped and gestured towards the door of an ornate, business-class carriage. “Your spot, Ma’am,” he announced, immediately catching the critical countenance of Kinetic. “Yes, Lieutenant, I am well aware that traveling in a standard luxury cabin raises security concerns. However, once our dawn comes, they will be all over freighters looking for stowaways. Now as you know, most of the Canterlot crew has been in place for months, but I have distributed a few friends on this voyage in case things go awry. I do not expect them to. I have built a stage upon which you are free to script whatever story you wish…” His brow descended, and his voice skirted the strange boundary between serious and playful. “You are, after all, Telekinetic Haze.”

Mystic grinned as the stallion disgruntledly boarded the train. “Once again, Wire, thank you for all of your hard work.” She paused to receive the saddlebag from her soldier. “Kinetic will likely be busy preparing our accommodations, so I would like you to please issue the following order to the Las Pegasus branch on my behalf. I want that scientist found and captured unharmed, for I wish to address him muzzle-to-muzzle. There is something that I need to check – something involving the loss of our brothers. Whatever setup he has there, I want it found and infiltrated. If the target is present, apprehend; if he is not, then send a message that gets his attention.”

Groggy was the proper definition for my state the next morning. Trigger assumed correctly that I was more than able to get things ready for our deployment faster than the two day ETC I had declared during the debriefing. Admittedly, I was a bit of a workaholic when confronting a task, and the hourglass grains never gave two shits about my need for sleep. Sunset soon became sunrise, and I missed the memo. I probably should have noticed – considering the ever-growing pile of serviced weapons, specialty rounds, and sorted rations that eventually cluttered my workbench – but the special somepony who typically managed to coax me away from the grasps of labor had her own explorations to attend.

At some point, I had arrived at the juncture where my body would no longer tolerate my persistence. Allowing no opportunity for bedward migration, sleep swiftly anchored my head to the coarse-grained tabletop and enforced my awkward position until the jarring prods of a certain black stallion returned me to reality. I was never much of a morning pony, and I still do not quite remember the origin of those rations or how I arrived on time for this meeting. However, at least I knew that I had Trigger to thank for the latter.

Defiant opted to gather in the palace archives to discuss strategy. It was a definite step up from the dreary confines that hosted our previous engagement. The marble flooring – with its sweeping dunes of sandy night over glassy snow – threw the reflections of candlelight flickers against the exquisitely carved stone walls. The archways extended their gothic crescents in a unified tour de force that I judged to be downright breathtaking.

I watched as Mozy plopped in the chair beside Trigger and immediately motioned to lift the stallion’s hat. Her lips formed a dejected frown when the only thing she saw beneath the accessory was his disheveled silver mane. Since they had met, she had made it a game to catch a glimpse of the mercenary’s legendary horn, but the creature of dream had long ago developed the perfect cloak to hide every bit of his magical essence.

“You’ll see it when the buckin’ time comes,” he grumbled at the mare. Trigger affixed his fiery gaze upon her frame and held it still until his Coltston was safely sitting atop his crown. It flustered him, and I knew it. The stallion never had it easy with anyone. His habits and mannerisms evolved in a world indescribable to the average pony, and his sorcerer abilities followed suit. He hid them as a feeble attempt to fit into a fold – a last-ditch effort to blend into the fabric that was ordinary Equestria.

Of course, these efforts were for naught. Even disguised as a brusque earth pony, Trigger was just one of those guys that others either accepted or did not. For a while, it was just my immediate family and me that put faith in the colt. We understood his history and the protective spirit in his heart, and ultimately, others came to see the colthood hero that I had embraced. Nonetheless, old habits die hard, which is why I found myself still staring at Mozy’s scrunched snout as I descended into my seat.

“Your turnaround is as good as ever, Wing,” Defiant began from his perch at the head of the conference table. “I should have expected Trigger to be pushy, and given the surveillance info we received during the night, it was for the best. Residents tipped off the local guards that a stream of a few dozen outsiders entered both Vanhoover and Tall Tale after dusk. While Ashen Mystic was not spotted, I find it hard to believe that this observed flux into the two cities nearest the Galloping Gorge has nothing to do with the EHVM.

“There have been no reports of violence from those locales, but both have train lines that serve Canterlot, Ponyville, or Las Pegasus directly. Troops and officials in Las Pegasus and Ponyville were alerted at 12:30 AM of the potential threat. Given the high-profile targets in Canterlot, Wick and Amora have been speaking with Celestia since shortly after we received word of the tips. Inbound transit will be subjected to a Shining-type malevolence barrier, and an anti-teleportation field has been erected around the capital.”

“It won’t work,” Trigger blurted. He cut off D.H. and leaned back in his chair. “Shining’s barrier sucks. It’s a princely piece of magical farce that relies on one’s interpretation of evil. These fuckers are doing what they believe is right, so how are they going to set off an alarm if they come? It’s just like the Changeling shit show. Sure, it kept out the bugs that were mindlessly pursuing the greedy digestion of love, but how the fuck did Chrysalis stay inside Canterlot with Lord Armor’s holy defense in action?”

The group fell silent after the stallion’s sarcastic delivery of Shining Armor’s name. Like liquid fire, the burn poured through our ears and spread its message upon our collective cognizance. Trigger looked towards me, hiding from the others the sliver of hesitation that caressed his features, and sought approval.

I returned the glance while the silence held; although, it did not take nearly that long to reach a conclusion. Trigger did not often play the scholarly card, but when it came to tactics, his input was priceless. “He’s right.” The contours of the stone ramparts held onto the dying echoes of my voice, and I inspected the emerging looks of concerned awareness that accompanied the reverberations.

“The red-eye was due in at 6:30 AM,” Defiant Hooves spoke solemnly. “There were no indications at the barrier that things were out of place. Arresting unicorns at random was obviously not an option; such derision would only serve Ashen Mystic’s goal. However, guards conducted a profile of the train’s passengers.”

“I need to check for myself,” Trigger again interrupted. “There’s no evidence that they are here, but if I were calling the shots, then I would sure as shit be sending ponies to Canterlot. What do I do if I’m trying to prove I’m superior? I go show up the top brass. C’mon, ya all know I love making those dumbass captains quake, and that’s just for fun. We’re dealing with psychologically scarred little twits who get wet off their superiority complexes. This is where the decisions get made, so if ya want to make your point and spread fear, then we are in the fucking center of a must-stop destination.”

I coughed to temper Trigger’s emphatic outburst. He sure knew how to put on quite the performance, but the point was utterly lost on Mozy and Defiant. “I believe what you mean to say is that we should assume the EHVM is already here. In that case, it’s worth having Trigs check out the train despite the fact that nothing out of the ordinary was seen. He is the master of concealing magic, after all. There is no one better equipped…”

I picked up the pulse of galloping hooves as a pony approached our location. The cadence was frantic, as evidenced by the hard snaps produced by each rapid step, and I promptly turned my head to the doorway in anticipation of a new arrival. “Wing…” It was Amora’s voice that preceded the pony’s entrance. She breathed heavily, a wary sign that I dared not question. Her expression spoke a thousand tales by this point, and I felt the foreboding pull of future’s horizon through each winded gasp. “Your lab, in Las Pegasus, was bombed.”

Author's Note:

It is certainly fun to be writing frequently again. I hope readers have enjoyed this piece thus far; and of course, OC-apologies freely given. :P For what it's worth, I'm using the term bombed here quite loosely. I debated using it because I didn't particularly want to imply that the EHVM suddenly has bombs. However, the word rolled off the tongue a heck of a lot better than exploded, and I just craved that sound.

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