• Published 8th Apr 2015
  • 1,083 Views, 37 Comments

Wires - Dark Avenger



Shining Armor is sent on a peacekeeping mission to Gueldergrad. The task should have been simple, but things never go smoothly in the Frozen North...

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Pioneers

The first settlers of Novy Rubezh were formerly nomadic capricorns forced to move north by minotaur hordes. The harsh environment helped deter most raids.


“Basalt Five.”

Shining Armor hugged the metal bars and held fast, the freezing winds howling into his ears and penetrating his forehead. The liner thrashed violently underneath as the local blizzard tore into it. Sprays of ice cold water from the ocean were flung up by the storm to barrage him constantly.

“Basalt Five, this is Humpback.” A slight tremor entered his voice. His limbs tensed up as he struggled to hide it. “Do you copy? Respond, Basalt Five.”

No amount of clothing could save his hide from this. It was the kind of weather that either saw you grow fur or lose limbs. Shining gritted his teeth and held fast nonetheless.

“Come in, Basalt Five!”

Even with the higher altitude, the receiver was still awash with static. He pressed the earpiece against his head more firmly and muttered curses. Occasionally, the noise picked up a little in tandem with the wind, but no equine voices came through.

“Captain!” Bonnie shouted over the wind. She winced as the mast lurched again from another powerful wave hitting the ship. “You need to get down from there! Let me d—”

“Wait!” Shining held up a hoof. “Basalt Five?”

The unpleasant glowy orb in his exposed ear finally gave signs of life, giving him more to listen to than the sorrow of the wind:

“...lt Five reporting.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Everything okay over there?”

“We...n the green. Read...nd clear, sir.”

“Affirmative. What do you have to report?” Shining tried to keep his voice calm, feeling an urge to yell out just to hear himself at the very least.

“Not mu... yet, sir. Still a ...ys off. Activity near p...ea is a little...orth. Can see light...ces, yes, two to three, could be...ions. ...ould be bad. C...ing fifteen wh...ly, ...ating contact,” the device fuzzed out.

“Basalt Five, I can barely read you. Any hostiles?”

“Missed th… Repe… ...ur last?”

The captain huffed and placed the mic a bit closer to his mouth. “Dancefloor situation?”

“No tango.”

“That’s a shame...” Shining tried to chuckle from his own joke, but his face had effectively frozen solid. On the bright side, the agony of the frost was replaced by just a mild sting all over. “Copy that, Basalt Five. Confirm area is ready for deployment.”

A powerful wave of noise overcame the voice, making them nearly impossible to hear.

"Uhhh... we might be… h...ing trou... Movem... below, in the pine... Hang on, the whiskeys are… might have to m..."

“Basalt Five? Basalt five, do you copy?”

The voice spoke a bit louder, but it still could not break through properly. "... Wha... ...or crying out l… ...piece is… Sarge...tions?"

“Basalt Five, I say again: confirm if area is secure!”

He winced from a sudden popping sound in his ears, followed by the voice coming through with crystal clarity. “Yes, sir! Green light!” There was even a slight buzz as the volume actually peaked in the headphones.

Shining paused for a moment, his jaw hanging open. “R-roger that, Basalt Five. Uh…” Static overtook the incoming transmission once more. There was an odd “edge” to the noise that made his ears tingle, but he shook his head and focused on the task at hand. “Proceed with recon toward city limits. Report back in two hours. Over.”

There was another burst of static and distorted speech, but before long, the earpiece popped again. The voice that came through felt oddly monotonous, accompanied by the same buzz as before. “Read you loud and clear, sir.”

Shining Armor stood silently under the hail, tortured by icy projectiles and stark gusts of wind blowing through his mane. It was barbarously difficult to even remain in place, but he stood there nonetheless, waiting for several minutes. The sound of the last message echoed in his ears, and he longed for the voice to return and bring relief, but no further transmissions came through.

A grim frown tried to form on his face, but he could barely move it. No matter, he thought. Cursing under his breath, he looked down and nodded to his second-in-command, and the two of them carefully climbed down from the tall mast. If this weather is the worst Novy Rubezh can do, then we’ll take it head on.

Once safely off the mast, they stumbled their way across the empty deck, holding fast as the howling blizzard kept torturing them, although Bonnie seemed a lot less bothered, not requiring much in the way of protective clothing. Nopony else ventured outside, the deep groaning of the ship being the only lifelike sign to accompany them toward the mess hall.

“So how was it?” Bonnie asked as soon as the door closed behind them. “Get a better reception from up there?”

Shining nodded. “Broke through the storm, yes. The team is okay. They gave the go-ahead.”

“Understood.” She paused for a moment. “Sir, you really shouldn’t take risks like this. You’re the one leading this entire mission. If something happens to you… Well, you know...”

“Yeah…” He sighed and gave a small chuckle. “But I got it done, right?”

Bonnie smiled. “That you did. Next time, though, I should do it. I’m made of tougher stuff, after all.” Her hoof tapped her chest proudly, the tough crystal making a sharp clink.

Shining chuckled again and shook his head. “Look, I sent those guys out into this storm.” He nodded his head at the window. “If they have to face it, I’m not gonna let them do it alone.”

“All right.”

They said no more for a while and just looked around, an eerie silence settling on the chamber. Usually, they would find it bustling with activity, but now the only other occupants were the long tables with the benches stacked on top. The floor shimmered from having been recently mopped up. A yellow sign stood in front of them, the words “WET FLOOR” crossed out, replaced underneath by “ICE RINK” in crude letters.

Shining Armor rolled his eyes and marched across the room, Bonnie following close behind. They went behind the counter at the far end, and the captain started up the coffee machine while his subordinate got a pair of mugs.

“Think we’ll run into trouble, sir?”

“Not sure.”

Bonnie gathered some milk and sugar. “I still think the original landing area would be better.”

Shining did not reply, merely gave her a smug smile.

The crystal mare blinked. “What?”

“‘What’ yourself, Lieutenant,” Shining replied. “Why the lack of confidence and vigor? This is our chance to make our country proud.”

Bonnie huffed. “It’s my job as your XO. Besides, if things go bad, I’ll be the one in the frying pan, so I'd rather be sure the heat is off first.”

“Mmhmm…”

The captain placed the carafe under the machine as the water inside roiled loudly. They stayed silent and watched the black liquid ooze out of the opening and fill the container.

“But, to be honest…” Bonnie spoke up. She paused and took the mug of steaming coffee Shining offered her. “Yeah, I’m excited. It will be good to do something that feels worthy of our efforts. Something that makes a difference.”

“Good.” Shining sipped from his own mug. “I’m glad. We need that kind of spirit.”

“Yeah…” The mare took a sip as well, and the two of them sat down on a pair of stools next to the counter. “But still: let’s play it safe.”

The captain frowned a little. “We’ve been ‘playing it safe’ for too long. Equestria can’t sweet-talk its way out of every single battle. It’s time we showed some strength.”

“Don’t tell me this whole thing is a media stunt.”

“I don’t care what the media says. What we do isn’t just symbolic. If we get this port up and running, we’ll have a decent foothold in the region. On top of that, it might help the locals see us in a better light.”

“Yes, sir.”

There was another lengthy pause. “You think we can trust the captain to play along?” she went on.

“No.” Shining took another sip. “His own liver can’t trust him.”

Bonnie chuckled. “So… what? We just throw him overboard?”

The stallion shrugged. “His crew is decent. They can keep him in line, and they’re cooperative enough. No need for anything drastic. Everypony is on edge as it is.”

He looked out the window again, where the Atoll could be seen battling the waves alongside them, the Scylla a bit further back. His foreleg twitched, and he gave a deep sigh.

“I’m more worried about what we don’t know.”

“There’s plenty of that, sir,” Bonnie said. “We haven’t even landed.”

The captain shook his head. “No, I mean... about us.” He nodded his head at the Atoll. “The stuff we’re carrying. This whole mission.”

His companion raised an eyebrow. “You’re still worried about our ‘package’, right?”

“Yeah. It feels like we’re carrying a Pandora’s box… and somepony is expecting us to open it.”

“Sir?”

Shining waved it off. “Never mind.”

The PA gave a loud whine, and the deep voice of the radio operator boomed throughout the chamber. “Captain Shining Armor. Please report to the bridge.”

“Well…” He got up and finished off his coffee in one gulp. “Duty calls…”


“Hold fast!”

Shining threw himself against the railing and gripped it tightly. The deck beneath his hooves groaned, and his gut twisted from the sudden lurch. Although the Humpback anchored herself firmly to the shore by the unfinished dock, the hailstorm still tossed her around like a toy model. It made his job all the more difficult with the stabbing cold and the thick winter gear already weighing him down.

“All right!” He spoke into the mic of his headset, his voice slightly muffled under a full hood. “Hatch is down! Quartz One and Two: take position. All other units stand by. Tread lightly, or else it’s a nice, cool swim, got that?”

“Yes, sir!” Eight distinct voices shot back into his ear in unison, followed by individual transmissions coming one after another. “Quartz One, initiating materialization.”

“Quartz Two, standing by.”

His eyes squinted as he watched his troops at work. Ten unicorns wearing heavy gear stepped forth to face the great white storm, lining up at the edge of the deck to look over the crumbling pier.

"Captain,” he spoke into the mic, “tell the Scylla and Atoll that we're clear. Hold positions until we make the repairs."

"Yes, sir," a shaky voice replied. There was a short pause. "Sir, are you sure we'll be safe here? The storm is picking up, and we just barely made it in withou—"

Shining huffed. “We’ve been over this, captain. Relay the message. Out.” He picked up a moment of the captain arguing with a familiar raspy voice in the background before the transmission cut off, and his gaze wandered over the scene before him.

The docks themselves, while protected by the seawall, were an utter, discombobulated mess. They were robust enough to survive drafts and waves of much higher intensity than any other ports Shining knew, but they were in no condition for them to land there. Not from a ship. Separate earth and crystal pony teams could have descended via zip-line, while pegasi had the obvious aerial advantage, but the real problem was the cargo.

“This is Quartz One. Halfway there, captain!”

“Quartz Two, initiating!”

“Good!” Shining replied. “Keep it up. We still have at least two more to set up, so make sure you got the routine down. Everyone else, final checkup before deployment!”

Their operation was too low-profile to warrant unicorn teams that could just teleport everything ashore. Still, their engineers were worth bragging about, both for their ingenuity and their tenacity. Using such complex magic among conditions like these was beyond difficult - Shining himself had trouble just using his telekinesis with the cold and the constant swaying. His ponies conjuring the so-called “hard light” and backtracking structural damage was something else.

“Quartz One. Pier stabilized,” said one of the two construction officers. There was a slight strain in their voice. “Awaiting your orders.”

“Good job,” the captain said. “Basalt Three, you’re on point! Basic area recon, damage report; Celestite One provides overhead cover if anyone tries anything funny.”

“Affirmative.”

A pegasus squad took off from the deck and headed for the glaring white above, while a heavily armored earth pony squad marched off the ramp and onto the hastily repaired pier. Bright patches of corporeal light wavered under their hooves where the engineers could not reverse the damage, or where the structure was simply unfinished.

“Celestite Four, establish a perimeter around the pier. Quartz Two, investigate the local camp. See if you can provide assistance.” He paused and chuckled. “And be very polite.”

“On it, sir.”

“Quartz One and Onyx Omega, you’re with me to set up our HQ. Ruby Alpha, you take the rear.”

“Got it,” Setterline replied, speaking for Ruby Alpha. Bonnie’s voice came next as she confirmed the order for the Onyx team.

“All right. Get moving...” Shining Armor roughed out as he set hoof into the icy storm outside. “...and let’s get this mess fixed,” he muttered to himself.

For the first time in over a month, the captain was able to step off the accursed ship. Wrapped under an onion’s worth of layers, he felt an unpleasant five to seven degrees of cold at worst, though the local weather still made itself known through its insistence on blowing him off the newly repaired, glowing pier. As he struggled to keep his balance, he barely had time to get a good look at his surroundings, especially with the snow piling up on his goggles. Thankfully, the earpiece kept him up to speed.

“Captain, this is Basalt Three. Got visual on ponies. Civilians. No hostile action. Orders?”

“Quartz Two to command. Local housing extremely poor, inhabited to capacity. Will begin restoration on your order.”

“Basalt Three,” Shining grumbled. He struggled to speak in a level tone as the wind kept shoving him around. “You are cleared to approach. See if anyone requires immediate medical attention. Quartz Two, stand by, hook up with C-Four. Wait until we get a closer look.”

Static washed into his ears as another squad reported in, their broadcast far more noisy. “Command, this is Celest... Four!” a mare’s voice came through. “Local contact. Can’t under… a word they’re s...ng. Might need an interpreter. We’re northwest from the dock, largest ...ture, two big pipes on the front wall.”

“Confirmed. Uh… None of them speak Equestrian?” Shining exhaled into the comm as the dangerous walk ended, and his legs were firmly planted in the snowy earth.

“Uuuhhh…” the mare began. Agitated voices could be heard in the background. “...nothing constructive, sir.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Sergeant?” The captain paused to clean out his goggles.

“Well, they definitely know a lot of Equestrian swear words, sir. They’re… either too displeased to use anything else... or that is all there is.”

“Displeased? What’s going on over there, Celestite Four? Or was it the scouts?” Shining scowled under the full facial cover. The visual non-spectacle of the port was agitating enough. He did not need any further problems.

“Nothing, sir. I just don’t think the natives like… us."

The stallion sighed and kept marching, the crystallites and the medical crew in tow – “Onyx” and “Ruby” respectively. He opened his mouth to respond, but his words got caught in his throat when the thick vapor cleared for a moment, and he caught a glimpse of the scenery.

He sincerely thought, even after what the oculars had shown him, that this sort of thing was restricted to gritty comics only, but as it turned out, crushing bleakness would indeed be the style of choice for Novy Rubezh. The coastline was an endless mess of grays upon grays covered in a thin layer of white snow. Most of it was bare concrete, with the occasional bit of steel or piles of stone thrown in. The piers stretched into the dark water like so many bony limbs, their unfinished tips looking as though they had been cut off. Off to the side, the crane groaned and swayed in the howling wind as one of the engineer teams carefully approached it. Further in, there was a sharp, yet traversable leap in altitude between the shore itself and the mainland. A half dozen warehouses lined up along this blunt edge, their thick metal bodies painted in browns and reds, towering over the concrete roots that held back the waves.

Static buzzed in his earpiece again. “Basalt Three reporting. Health conditions look... dismal.”

Shining blinked and shook his head, stumbling further in as he came back to his senses. “Uh… copy that, Basalt Three. How bad is it?”

“We've got at least three different ailments running wild among them. Gonna have to quarantine this entire block. Few broken legs, some infected cuts, hypothermia... and malnutrition in general.”

He paused. “Is that all?”

A sigh came over the comms, and the voice droned on. “That’s for the pony-populated buildings, sir. C-One and Q-Two are looking into the natives. Things aren’t hot.”

“Understood, Sergeant,” Shining said. “Ruby Alpha, next of rank will lead the squad to help the wounded. Lieutenant, you’re with me.”

“Affirmative, Captain. Coddie, take the rest and run them through. Clean and quick, all right?” Setterline gestured at the warehouses, and one of the pouch-ridden medics led the way for the rest toward them. “I’m guessing I’m our interpreter for today?”

The stallion in command nodded. “Tomorrow and beyond, Lieutenant,” he said. The nod was followed by a huff. “Can’t believe that they sent us in without at least two trained interpreters...”

“Yeah, we should file a complaint when we’re done,” Setter replied. He went off the airwaves, sticking closer to the captain as him and the crystallites advanced through the port. “If I do well, does that add a bonus to my pay?”

Shining jabbed him in the side. “If you do well, I’m maybe not sanctioning you for being a cocky bastard.” He tried to use a playful tone, but most of his voice got lost in the thick cloth wrapped around his snout.

The medical officer chuckled either way. “Hurrah for priorities. Alright…” He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “R. Rrr. R-r-r. R… Rrrrrr!

After a short climb, they found themselves marching among the large structures that dominated the area. Gray and reddish walls lined the way to either side, most of the windows broken and missing, and the insides dark. The wind occasionally stampeded down the passage, forcing the group to halt and brace themselves.

“Rrr. Rrrr! R...Ko-rrro-lev-ska-ja… Strrr… Gah, dammit. RRR, RRR. Straja. No, no, what the hell am I doing, that’s not how it sounds…”

As they passed a few of the smaller buildings wedged in-between the warehouses — some of them collapsed from the storms or half-buried in snow— Bonnie finally spoke up for the first time since they came ashore.

“Captain…” she began. “Forgive me, sir, but… What the hay is Setterline doing?” Her head turned back and forth slowly, eyes keeping track of their surroundings the whole time. The wind gave an eerie howl among the walls and exposed framework, and every once in a while some noise from nearby would keep the team on edge.

“Practicing my rolled consonants,” Setter replied. “Damn, it’s been a while since I spoke Capric.”

“Oh...” The crystal mare sighed and laughed a little. “I thought you were choking on something…”

Their journey through the port came to an abrupt end when they turned a corner, following the other team’s fading hoofprints. In front of the large building with the pipes was a long line in the snow, a loose net of barbed wire strung along it. Staring Shining right in the goggles was a sign with a sharply outlined equine head, the words “FUCK OFF” scribbled underneath. Beyond it, a group of quadrupedal figures could faintly be seen, and a few agitated voices broke through the roar of the wind.

Setterline gave a low whistle at the honest display of hospitality. “Wow…” He poked the sign with his forehoof. “C-Four weren’t kidding.”


The Atoll, the Scylla and the Humpback are long-lasting cargo ships. Of all of them, only the Scylla had previously carried passengers on an official voyage.

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