• Published 8th Apr 2015
  • 1,080 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...

  • ...

Joint Operation

The region had emptied and been resettled multiple times by several different ethnicities, but the dominant population has always been the Caprics.

“There. Through the breach.” Shining pointed at a segment where the wire had been cut and pulled apart, fading hoofprints visible in the snow. “Looks like this was Celestite Four’s way through.”

“Maybe the locals just didn’t like that they messed with their fence?” Bonnie suggested. She gestured to her ponies, leading them through first on the captain’s silent command.

“Let’s hope so,” Shining said. Once they got close enough, he called out to the now distinguishable shapes of armored ponies, which were half-encircled by lankier shapes with curved horns. “Setterline, can you tell what the goats there are yelling at our troops?”

“Just about...” The medic cocked his head to the side while stumbling through the tall snow. “They’re… oh damn.”

“What? Something bad?”

“Nah, just…” Setter winced when a particularly loud yell rang out from the crowd. “Okay, cap, I’ll warn you now. If they say a lot of stuff and I just give a few words, then I’m not pulling your leg. These ruminants are pretty liberal with their swearing.”

“Alright. Be a gentlecolt then, Setter. We’ve got a lady here with us,” Shining said matter-of-factly. It took a few moments before the rest of his followers started snickering, even if nervously and briefly so.

“Multiple, actually,” Bonnie remarked. She gave a nervous chuckle of her own, but it quickly faded once the hateful gaze of the locals landed on them. Taking a deep breath, she marched slightly ahead of the group with her fellow crystallites.

“All according to plan then, sir?” she asked quietly over the radio.

“Yes,” Shining said. “We need to make a good impression.”

“Well, I got my prettiest ones up front…” Her head nodded at the ponies marching beside her. “Let’s just hope it still counts after C-Four already said hello.”

“Captain? Is that you?” the shaky voice rustled in Shining’s ear again. It was Celestite Four’s leader. The captain searched through the ranks and noticed the pony furthest from the surrounding capric crowd wave her hoof in the air.

“Yes,” Shining said. “We’ll take it from here.”

The mare nodded. “Very well, sir.” She gestured at the slowly tightening circle of ponies. Shining noticed them taking up defensive stances, the hooves of the front row tightening around their halberds, while the rest reached for their crossbows.

“This isn’t looking good,” Bonnie said over the whistling wind. Celestite Four’s troops pulled back a little, while her own shimmering ponies took their places. They all wore nothing beyond official insignias and helmets – as well as their weapons – and each of them made sure to put on unintimidating expressions. Their eyes met those of the crowd wherever they could to express that both sides were living, breathing, and feeling creatures.

The agitated voices lowered somewhat, a few of them giving way to murmuring and stares in awe, but the situation was far from defused.

“I can see that much…” Shining muttered. “Setter, tell them to calm down. Ask them what their problem is and how we can fix it.”

“Please be the fence,” the crystallite officer whispered to herself.

The radio crackled again. “This is Quartz Two. Captain… you need to take a look at this.”

The odd tone of his subordinate made his legs tense up a little. “I’ll be there in a minute. Hang tight.”

A gulp came through the airwaves. “Yes, sir…”

Moments after he ended the conversation, Setter jabbed him in the side and turned him away to speak in a hushed tone. “Sir, this isn’t working. These guys are way beyond sweet-talking.”

“And the crystal ponies?”

“Some of the goats like the shiny show, but I think they’ve got bigger problems than our PR attempt.”

“I see…” Shining frowned and turned to look at the crowd. “Hmm… I read that they have respect for strength. Think they’d listen to an inspiring monologue?”

Setter shrugged. “I guess so.”

“Good.” Shining stepped forward and took a deep breath.

His friend blinked. “Wait… you know they don’t speak Equestrian, right?”

“Ugh… I know. Look, just translate it for me, okay?”

Setter nodded. “Gotcha.”

Shining cleared his throat. “This is the Equestrian Royal Guard,” he boomed. The medic next to him repeated his words in the complex tongue of the locals. “Please remain calm. We come in peace and promise of friendship. We are here to assist you. Just remain—”

Somewhere into Setter’s rendition of “We are here to assist you”, one of the dozen locals surrounding C-4 just about exploded. It was a mess of voices before, all of the Capric chatter mixing into a unified sound of concern – now, this particular male stuck out his hoof toward the encircled ponies, and the rest went relatively silent.

“What’s his problem?” Shining Armor whispered to Setterline. The goat was going on a tangent. The captain did not know much of the Capric language, but he could tell the guy was not trying to make peace. His gaze wandered to the goat's outfit, which was rather striking among the others as well. Tattered white suit, blue shirt underneath, a gilded chain hanging on the neck, beard cut short.

“Captain,” Setter began. “That guy… he looks like—”

“I know. Botva.” Shining all but spat that word out. “I recognized the ‘fashion choices’ from one of the articles in the Canterlot Messenger.”

“Perfect… we’re dealing with the local mafia now?” The medic turned interpreter raised a hoof in an attempt to get the goat to stop for a moment, but he ignored it. With a sigh and a shrug, Setter turned back to Shining. “Well, to dilute his… choice of words… He said we should ‘go right back where we came from and take the cocks—’” He stopped and knocked himself on the helmet, to which Shining raised an eyebrow.

“Not so literal, I know…” he went on. “‘Take the miscreants that settled in the docks and get our tattooed flanks off their land.’ They’re in enough of a pickle without us, apparently.”

The rest of the goats stared in shock as the suited one kept yelling at the ponies, visibly motioning for them to back off. Eventually, he switched to the crystallites. Judging by how his expression and tone changed, a predatory grin tugging on his lips, Shining could understand why Setter did not translate much of what he went on to say.

“Aren’t these goats here to get evacuated as well?” the captain nudged the interpreter forward down the conversation. “Why would they be in this harbor if they weren’t? What’s the problem?”

Before either of them could think of a retort, the crowd came back to life when another member stepped forward, the squad locked off in the middle all but forgotten by that point. This time, though, the voice was directed at the first speaker. A nan with a headscarf articulated generously as she engaged in a shout-fight with the bill in the suit.

“Setter,” Shining said. He bumped his friend’s side when he would not respond. “Lieutenant! What are they saying?”

“Uh… it… looks like they’re debating the same thing,” the pegasus said. “From the sound of it, they’ve been doing that for a while.”

The two goats yelled at each other, the male one pointing at the road leading uphill and out of the dock area, while the female one gestured at the ponies. For a while, the ponies and the other goats just stared silently, but soon the elder’s voice compelled the others to join her and speak up against the flashy one.

“He’s… saying they know what happens if they side with us,” Setter went on. “And that they’ll be very sorry.”

Whatever the bill was threatening them with, the rest of the goats were unfazed. A couple of them actually broke away from the crowd and stumbled toward the armed ponies, babbling and pleading with desperate looks in their eyes. In response, the bill cursed at them, spat on the ground, and shoved the nan out of his way, upon which the others pounced on him.

Just a split second before their hooves could come down on his skull, a bright flash and a loud bang resounded through the air, making them freeze while the pony squads merged and sprang into action. Two Celestite soldiers pinned the big-mouthed goat to the snowy ground, while the rest forced the angry crowd back a bit.

“Alright! Everyone calm down!” Shining yelled over the ruckus. Sparks popped from his horn from the spell he used moments ago. “No more fighting! We’ll take it from here.”

Setter quickly repeated the same to the temporarily shocked crowd. Moments later, one of them let out a small cheer, and the rest quickly joined in, applauding the ponies as they dragged the bill away, keeping his face pressed against the snow and dirt.

It turned out, however, that not even a flashbang and a soldier holding him down could keep the bill’s mouth shut. He just chuckled and mumbled something, his head nodding at the nan opposite of him, then at the other goats. Finally, he turned at the medic and captain, and just stared with a grin of partly gilded teeth, hissing out a few words before going silent and just laughing to himself.

The odd tone made a shiver run down Shining’s back. He waited for his friend to translate, only to find him staring at the thug with an odd look on his face.

“Well?” Shining asked.

“He, uh…” Setter cleared his throat. “He says everyone is an idiot. That his friends had the situation under control, and he’s an idiot too for going here. Now his friends – or, well, “brothers” – are going to come and they’ll all regret having been born. And we can just go… do unsavory things with our mouths.”

“Okay… And that lady?”

“Says that he’s the reason they’re all in this mess, that they’ve lost their homes because of his kind, and that now they have to rely on…” Setter sighed deeply. “...on insert-as-many-negative-adjectives-as-you-want ponies to keep their lives.”

He followed up with a short chuckle. “Don’t worry though. She doesn’t hate us, not especially anyway. It’s just how they talk…”

“Glad to hear that,” Shining grumbled to himself. He took a deep breath through the layers obstructing his face. “All right. Everyone stay calm and pay attention. The rest of our unit is on its way. Once we get the port fixed, we can work on helping you. For now, return to your homes.”

The medic repeated the orders, but even before he was done, tensions sparked again among the relatively calm goats. The two officers just stared in confusion, until Shining’s ear twitched when he picked up a faint noise in the distance. At first he ignored it, thinking it was just the wind making something rattle, but it persisted and followed a clear beat.

As the dull, metallic clanging drew a bit closer, the voice of the caprics rose and drowned it out. Before the situation got into an outright brawl, Shining boomed out another order:

“I said stay calm! Do not waste time arguing who does what, keep a cool head, and everything will be fine!”

Setter rattled it off as fast as he could, but the crowd was no longer listening.

“Goddesses dammit…” the captain muttered. He waved his hoof, and the Celestite squad formed a line up front, the Onyx crystallites gathering behind them, getting into a combat stance. The crowd was roiling by then, but they barely paid the squads any heed. They whimpered, shouted at, tugged on, and shoved each other non-stop, many of them twisting their heads left and right, as though some predator were lurking about nearby.

“What the hay is going on?” Shining asked his interpreter. “Did you slip up or something?”

“I have no idea,” Setter replied. “They keep rambling about… something. They’re saying ‘here they come’.”

The unicorn blinked. “Wait… you don’t think—”

“Yeah. Probably.”

Shining was about to open his mouth and speak to them again when a sharp crack rang out in the distance. A collective gasp ran through the crowd, and a couple of them gave panicked screams. Moments later, the pony squads tensed up as the goats burst into motion, only to watch as they scurried back into the large building and scattered among their little hovels.

The captain gave a long sigh and tapped his communicator through his helmet. “Quartz Two, what is your location?”

“Patch behind the big goat building, sir,” came the reply. “Have you managed to sort it out? Because there’s—”

“That’s affirmative, lieutenant,” he closed his eyes for a moment. “Hang tight, we’re coming to you.”

“...understood, sir. Quartz Two, out.

The channel went silent, leaving Shining Armor to his thoughts. His gaze wandered around the scenery, taking note of the slightly mangled fence to their rear.

If these goats decide to rush us… it’s either a quick brawl, or we get pushed all the way back into the sea...

“What’s the plan, sir?” Bonnie said, a slight pressure in her voice.

Shining nodded his head at the building. “Make sure they stay here. And keep your eyes north,” Shining announced. He then turned to Setter. “If they try to come out, make them stay inside for the time being.”

The medic frowned a little. “Look, Captain, I don’t think this is the best—”

“Objection noted, Lieutenant,” the stallion cut his subordinate off. He addressed the other squad next. “Set up a perimeter! Nopony in or out unless I give the word!”

As the troops moved out accordingly, Shining set off toward Quartz Two’s position, only to pause after just a couple of steps.



“That goat… he said something. That last thing before they took him away.”


“What was it?”

Setter gulped. “He said, if I’m literal, that ‘they’ll bury you all’.”

There was a short pause, and Shining gave a nervous chuckle. “Think he was still talking about us?”

Nopony joined the laughter this time.

The path around the large building was not nearly as desolate as the aisles between the warehouses that led them here. Various piles of junk, unused machinery, and even some office furniture littered the passage, showing where the locals dumped the contents of the building to make room for their living quarters.

Shining eventually turned a corner and found himself at the edge of a large courtyard. A stallion of a shorter build in light armor stood at the center of it, head slightly bowed, while the rest of the squad milled about, inspecting the smaller buildings and the thin concrete fence surrounding them. Puzzled by the relative calmness of the situation, the captain slowly marched up to the loner.

“What do you have for me?” Shining asked the engineer. There was no saluting this time, not with potential threats nearby.

“Take a look, sir,” the soldier said in a grim tone. Shining blinked and followed his gaze, only to find a row of rectangular patches in the dirt, the ground freshly disturbed in each one.

“What? Were they trying to hide something here?” He frowned. “Why would they go for such an obvious pattern? Why not—” His eyes widened under the goggles. “No…”

The lieutenant gave a curt nod. “Sixteen so far. No markings. They didn’t want anyone else to know these are here.”

A chill ran down the captain’s spine when he noticed a sharp size difference between some of the disturbances in the soil. Several pairs had one or two smaller ones in between.

“The digging looks hasty and a bit clumsy,” the engineer went on. “Someone wanted to be done quick… but they weren’t exactly professionals.”

“Or maybe they weren’t in the best mood,” Shining said through gritted teeth. “Maybe they were hiding something personal.”

“Yes, sir.”

They stood silently for a while. A small rumbling came from one of the shacks when a squad member opened the door, only to watch the entire doorway collapse.

“You know much about digging?” Shining asked. His eyes never left the ground before him.

“My father was an earth pony,” the other unicorn said. “He owned a farm.”

“I see.”

A minute passed in silence, until the lookout positioned further ahead suddenly galloped back to their position. “Sir…” he blurted out between gasps for breath. “We have a situation.”

Shining gave a low grunt. “They’re coming, aren’t they?”

“Yes, sir.”

Shining cursed silently and looked around. He had a total of five engineers at his disposal, with his ships still forced to stand by, and all the other squads making sure their positions could not be flanked. The troops around him were still soldiers, though he loathed to have to use them in the front line when they were meant to be support units. They did not even carry weapons beyond their emergency sidearms, although the various tools they used, while not meant for combat, could make for an imposing spectacle. In particular, their shoulder-mounted projectors – heavy metal casings built around the crystals that amplified their magic – could easily be improvised as ranged weaponry, and if things got really ugly, their hoofheld tools could be used for melee.

It never goes smoothly, does it? he thought.

Sighing, the captain motioned for the lieutenant, and the two of them followed the soldier back to his vantage point at the edge of the port. They lay on their bellies on top of a pile of debris that was once a small garage, and the lookout retrieved his binoculars, bringing them to his eyes.

“Movement up north,” he said and pointed with his hoof. “Counting at least a dozen.”

“Goats?” Shining asked. He took out his own binoculars and followed the other pony’s gaze. The wind blew up clouds of snow, distorting the view. Just a few hundred meters away, he made out a handful of blurry quadrupedal silhouettes, the shape of some sort of vehicle behind them.

The soldier nodded. “Goats. Loaded, dressed to kill, and heading right for us.”

Shining Armor frowned and did not speak for a few moments. He would have laughed at that second detail, which referred to the goats’ flashy outfits, some of which had all sorts of blatant and mismatched colors. The joke, however, lost its appeal due to how every single one of the approaching figures was armed to the teeth.

Goats like to get confrontational, huh? he thought. What an understatement...

“All right. Keep watching them,” he said and turned to the lieutenant. “Set up defensive positions. Don’t engage unless provoked.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied in unison.

The lookout stayed behind, while the two officers climbed down from the pile and trotted back to the courtyard.

“Radio silence, as of this moment,” Shining said. “I’m going to get some reinforcements.”

“Understood,” the squad leader replied. The captain was the first to salute this time, and he galloped off as soon as his subordinate returned it. Along the way, he heard the beeping in his earpiece as the code for radio silence was transmitted.

While it may have been excessive, this was all part of the mandatory safety precautions. The timing of the group’s arrival was just too convenient. And in a potentially hostile area, the commanding officer could not risk revealing themselves, which would make them a prime target. On top of that, a scouting squad was still out there, their condition unknown. If the enemy got hold of their equipment, they could listen in on the ponies’ radio traffic.

Thus, the captain opted to drop radio altogether, at least until they could make sure the airwaves were secure. As for himself, his outfit was not much different from the rest of his troops, and if the facade was convincing enough, then he was currently just a mere “runner”, carrying messages between the officers of two squads. Still a valuable target, but not nearly as much as a CO.

In no time at all, he made it back around the massive building to where Onyx was stationed. Bonnie’s head sprang up at the sound of his galloping. She turned around and waited for him to get close before speaking quietly. “Radio silence? What’s going on, Captain?” There was no saluting at this point.

“The loud guy’s friends are coming,” Shining said. “Armed and dressed kinda funny, so my bet is that they’re the local mob.” He nodded his head at some of the civilians loitering near the entrance. “Looks like these poor souls owe the big wigs money, or something like that. It’s typical in Capric culture.”

Bonnie nodded. “So what do we do, sir?”

“Bring your squad immediately. Forget the civilians. We’ll worry about them later. Besides, it’s not like we’re supposed to run a prison here.”


Just as the squad moved away from the entrance and formed up again, a loud bang in the distance rattled their surroundings, followed by a series of sharp cracks and what sounded like electric buzzing. The noise came from the direction of Quartz Two, which made Shining’s blood run cold. Forgetting about subtlety, he barked an order at Onyx and galloped toward the source of the commotion.

He was halfway past the structure when he noticed a bit of smoke rise above the piles of junk that blocked his view. Cursing under his breath, heart pounding in his throat, he weaved as fast as he could among the obstacles, the squad of crystallites hot on his heels.

Another sharp crack rang out just as he turned around the corner. Oh, thank heavens... he thought. His pulse managed to calm somewhat as he paused at the edge of the courtyard and took in the scene. Eight goats in extravagant multi-colored clothes lay on the ground, curled up and twitching, the fabric smoldering a bit on some of them. Non-lethal shock spells. Glad the engies can still keep a cool head...

Chuckling from the immense relief, he glanced behind his back for a moment, watching Onyx as they caught up to him, along with a few curious locals. He breathed deeply, the blood still rushing in his head, and was about to plan the next step when he heard Setter’s voice.

“Dammit! Get me a kit, on the double!”

“In the back…” somepony said in a shaky voice. “Screw us, just go to the back and you’ll see… oh, screw all this...”

Shining finally cleared his head enough to realize that the voice belonged to one of the engineers. His gaze returned to the courtyard, where he found the pony lying in the snow, babbling constantly while the medic ran up to him. He had a large dent in his armor, bits of the thick lining underneath torn right off, and the snow beneath him was painted bright red.

Shining glanced at the goat thugs’ weapons, their bulky wooden stocks charred by the shock spells. The designs ranged widely; some of the barrels were shorter and larger, sometimes doubled, while others were long and thin with more elaborate sights and larger boxes for ammunition. He noticed the mechanisms bleeding smoke faintly, while the building behind him had several fresh holes torn in it.

Panicked voices came from the other end of the courtyard, and when Shining turned to look, he saw the remaining thugs limp away as fast as they could into the open field ahead, their weapons either broken or tossed away. Gritting his teeth, the captain ran after them, barking an order as he went.

“Onyx, advance and engage! Don’t let any of them get away!”

The escaping goats yelped as the shimmering troops caught up to them. The ones bringing up the rear tried to buck at the ponies or turn around and headbutt them, but for all their flash and bulky looks, they were blundering children compared to soldiers. The first guard to reach them swung the flat of his halberd's blade at the nearest goat, the blow knocking him off his hooves to land in a heap, motionless. Those next to him panicked, giving the guard time to dispatch a second thug. A third tried to rush him, only to get an armored hoof slammed into his chin from below.

Those thugs that managed to get further away fumbled with their guns and fired wildly into the fray, the recoil making the bulky weapons jerk around in their grip. Several of them lost their balance and got knocked on their flanks, giving their pursuers time to catch up. A guard further back stopped and aimed his horn, firing several bursts of lightning at the shooters. They bleated and thrashed, dropping their weapons and falling over to start convulsing on the ground.

Shining kept his head low, his heart skipping a beat as he heard a sharp hiss mere inches from his head, and he managed to grab the legs of the nearest goat with his telekinesis. The bill thrashed non-stop as the magical pull dragged him back and lifted him into the air. In his fury, he tried to spit at the captain, which earned him a swift punch to the face, breaking several of his gold-plated teeth.

“Round them up!” Shining yelled. He dropped the goat, letting him groan and cradle his face. “We want them alive!” A series of loud bangs came from his right, and he hissed as something glanced off the plating on his side, denting it and setting off a sharp pain. He wheeled around just in time to see a goat charging at him, raising his rifle above his head like a club once he got close enough. Shining barely had time to react, using one foreleg to block while he rammed into the thug to prevent a second strike. The crazed goat thrashed and kicked as hard as he could, one particularly strong headbutt almost knocking the captain off balance. He growled in frustration and shoved his opponent away, and just as the bill tried to bring his weapon to bear, he bleated in surprise as the battered body of his fellow gangster hurtled right at him.

Moments after the pair landed in a heap, an engine rumbled in the distance. Shining cursed again when he turned and saw the truck that brought the thugs speeding away, while the last of the goats screamed after it, moments before a blast of magic knocked them to the ground. His mouth hung open, the order to pursue on the tip of his tongue, but eventually he just let it go. There was enough to deal with already, and he could not spare any troops just yet.

Sighing, he grabbed the thugs with his magical grip and dragged them back to the courtyard, the rest of the squad in tow. Upon seeing the defeated criminals at the ponies' mercy, the civilians who had gathered nearby erupted into cheers. They ran up and hugged some of the troops, danced around them, yelled and laughed at the prisoners, and eventually had to be forced back to maintain order, though that did not dampen their spirits in the slightest.

Shining Armor smiled and waved back at them briefly. He dropped his prisoners off and told Bonnie to hold them for questioning, after which he went back to Setter and the wounded engineer.

“Is it bad?” he asked the medic. Behind them, half the crystallites set up a perimeter, while the other half rounded up the mobsters and marched them further into the port, the civilians tagging along cheerfully.

“Bad? Bad?!” the engineer yelled. “We just fought on a damn graveyard!” He collapsed into a coughing fit, Setterline trying to hold him steady. “I got shot while— ugh! Beating a goat senseless while standing on buried kids! Kids and their parents and—” The unicorn groaned in pain and lay back, breathing heavily.

“I don’t think he’s going to be field-worthy for a day or so, Captain,” Setter remarked. His hooves firmly pressed against the injury to stall the bleeding. “I gave him sedatives, but I can’t really patch up the wound right here. We need to take him somewhere warm and stable.”

Shining nodded. “And them?” He gestured at the thugs limping away.

“They’ll live…” The medic took out a fresh strip of gauze. “I’d say they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but they’ll be fine.” He shook his head dismissively.

Shining said no more. He got up, watched the last of the mafia members get taken away, and walked up to the graves to take one last look. Moments later, his ears twitched when the soldiers around him gasped, and something rammed into his side. Barely flinching, he turned to look and found an old goat in a ragged outfit by his side, shoving and kicking at him as hard as he could while yelling profusely. A pair of crystallites quickly marched up and grabbed him, trying to drag him away while he kept thrashing and screaming.

“Wait!” Shining said. The soldiers froze, the goat doing the same in surprise. “Let him go.”

Without hesitating, they dropped the old lunatic, who immediately went for the captain again. This time he just tried shoving him aside, and Shining obliged by side-stepping. As soon as he did, the goat fell on his knees in front of one of the patches in the ground, shaking and babbling something the pony could not understand. The tears streaming down the goat’s face, however, told him more than enough.

Several foreign voices joined the first one, and a glance at the building made Shining realize that he had drawn a small crowd. The rest of the goats that had sneaked out before now stared at him, and more were peeking from the windows. They were not the same ones as the cheerful group, and the expressions they wore did not bode well.

“Setter!” He waved at the lieutenant, who was busy telling a pair of Onyx soldiers to carry the wounded engineer back to the docks. “Translate for me, will ya?”

“Yeah, gimme a minute…” Setter replied and ran up to him. “Gotta calm some nerves again, right?”

Shining cleared his throat and turned to the crowd. “Listen to me: everything will be okay now. Those maniacs can never hurt you again. We’ve secured the area and will start working on repairs soon. Do not worry. We have everything under control.”

Just as his friend tried to gauge the success of his speech, a deep blare rang out in the distance, sending a chill down Shining Armor’s spine. Ignoring the crowd and a very confused Onyx squad, he sprinted back to where he had a clear view of the docks, where he noticed the signal lights on the Humpback flashing non-stop.

“Goddesses dammit…” he muttered and took out his binoculars. “What now?”

“What the…” Bonnie came to a halt beside him and cocked her head, having noticed the lights as well. “Is that guy crazy?”

“Humpback, this is Shining Armor!” the captain yelled into his headset. Radio silence was useless at this point. “What the hay is going on over there? Why are you—”

“It’s the Atoll, sir!” Captain Driftwood replied.


“The Atoll! They’re moving off-position!”

Shining’s eyes widened, and he visibly jerked, his heart skipping a beat. “Where? How? Who gave the order?!”

“We don’t know!” The signal was bad, but the desperation was still clear in the sailor’s voice. “They’re not responding!”

“Send a team out to them! I want to know what the hell is going on!” Shining yelled. Static consumed the transmission. “Humpback? Humpback, can you hear me?”

He waited for a while, but all he received was static. “Dammit!” He stomped his leg on the thick snow and lifted his binoculars again. Just on the horizon, he found one of his ships’ silhouettes as it moved further and further to his right. Less than a minute later, it disappeared behind the headland that the ships had to maneuver around on the way here.

The channel became filled with the voices of his subordinates, all of them confused and waiting for instructions. Bonnie nudged him in the side. Behind him, the goats started yelling again.

“What the hay is going on here?” Shining muttered.

Above all, ponykind values peace, prosperity, friendship, and harmony.

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