• 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...

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Aground

Capric society is deeply religious. The majority of the population worships Zemlya, the goddess of the earth, in return for being blessed with fertile ground in the harsh North.


“Basalt One, report back to the docks immediately!”

“Yes sir, on our way!”

Shining Armor galloped down the snowy slope that led to the recently repaired piers, his eyes fixed on the ship anchored next to it. The slightest motion it made sent a jolt through him, his mind constantly painting the image of the ship casting off and leaving them behind.

“All squads, disembark from the Humpback!” he shouted into his headset. “Combat readiness, on the double!”

A confused voice replied. “Sir, what about the cargo? We—”

“I don’t care, Lieutenant. I need more troops on the ground right now!

“Yes sir!”

There was a burst of static in his earpiece, and another voice joined in. “...nally...think I got it now. Captain Shining Armor, this is—”

Shining's eyes went wide. “Humpback?” he said. “What the hay is going on? Why weren’t you responding?”

There was a yelp and some rattling on the other end, which sounded like a pony being shoved away from the console. Moments later, he heard the civilian captain’s frantic voice.

“Sir, please, I can explain everything!”

“What are you

“I have no idea how it happened, I swear. But we haven’t moved! We’re not going anywhere! Please don’t—”

Shining huffed. “Calm down, captain. Just… just tell me what happened. I gave strict orders that nopony should

“I don’t know! We relayed what you said word for word, then all of a sudden we lost comms!”

“And the Atoll?”

“They left on their own. We never signaled them or anything, and they never talked to us.”

“Not even light signals?”

“No, sir… They just weighed anchor and circled around that headland.”

“All right. Hold position for now…” Shining paused for a moment. “And tell the Scylla to make their approach.”

“Sir?”

“That ship needs to be in this dock in the next hour,” the stallion said evenly. “You have your orders.”

“Um… The sea is still pretty rough out here. I’m not sure they can—”

“I’m not risking two mutinies here, captain,” he growled. “I want my troops on the shore, is that clear?”

A bit of whimpering came through, and the shaky voice returned. “Understood…”

”Relay my orders. Out.”

Shining removed his hoof from his headset and gave a deep sigh. To his left, the ponies of Basalt One could be seen approaching in the distance, carefully climbing down the icy slope, avoiding flight due to the intense winds. They all had their weapons out, and they kept giving the Humpback suspicious glances, no doubt having heard the conversation over the radio.

Shining’s ear twitched when he heard murmuring and hoofsteps from behind, followed by a nudge against his flank. He turned around and found himself face-to-face with a half-dozen goats. They all smiled at him eagerly, their backs laden with huge loads of luggage and assorted junk.

“The hay?” he muttered.

One of them babbled something in the local tongue and held his hoof out, while the others nodded approvingly.

Bonnie chuckled. “I think they like you.”

“Or maybe they know I’m in charge.” Shining turned to the civvies, one of whom kept babbling while she pointed to their bags, then at the Humpback moments later.

The unicorn held up a hoof to silence her. “Look…” he said. “We can’t take you out of here just yet.” He took a step toward them and waved at the building they came from. “Go back now. Go on. Shoo!”

The goats did not move, merely stared at him in confusion. Shining groaned and tapped his headset again. “Setterline, report to the docks. I need you to translate for me.”

“On my way, Captain.”

While the doe kept babbling at him, the recon team he had summoned finally arrived. The officer leading the group, Lieutenant Osprey, snapped off a quick salute. “Basalt One, reporting for orders.”

Shining turned toward the ocean and pointed to the tall headland to the right, bulging out from the coast and blocking their view of the shore beyond. A group of smaller buildings dotted its surface, no doubt the remains of an unfinished housing project. He even noticed what looked like a tourist center of some sort near the foot of the hill, just a short walk from where any civilian ships would have docked.

“Lieutenant, get your troops up to that peak and give me eyes toward west. Report back what you find. Last I heard, that’s where the Atoll went. We need to find them.”

“Roger that, sir.” The officer gestured to his troops, and they broke into a gallop toward their destination. The lead medic arrived a few moments later.

“All right, I’m here,” Setter grunted. “What’s the message?”

Shining repeated his words, and the pegasus translated it to the small herd. At first, the goats just stared in confusion. Then a few of them started bleating in mixed tones, some of them angry, others just desperate.

“Huh… weird…” Setter remarked.

Shining glanced at him. “What?”

“That old guy…” The medic nodded his head at one of the rambling goats. “He keeps saying ‘I told you so’ to them.”

The goat in question paced back and forth among his kind, waving his hooves at them while speaking in an odd tone, as though he were under a trance.

“Any idea what he’s talking about?” Shining said.

The medic scratched his head. “He keeps quoting some kind of scripture. It’s pretty vague.”

Shining scoffed. “Religious types. Great... Anything specific?”

“Mostly gibberish. ‘Horses of Doom’ and all that. Ask me, it’s just a way of saying they hate us because we’re ponies too, like some of their previous ‘guests’.”

“Yeah…” The captain looked away. “They must have had some brushes before we got here.”

The ground vibrated slightly as a column of soldiers from the Humpback marched past, stepping in rhythm. Upon seeing them, the crowd collectively gasped and scurried away. Shining noticed a group of kids huddle around their mother, hiding among her legs while she gave the ponies concerned looks.

He nudged his subordinate. “Bonnie, tell them to take their helmets off.” His hoof pointed at the column. “Loose formation.”

The mare blinked. “Sir?”

“Do it.”

Bonnie quickly trotted up to the leader of the detachment and relayed the orders. The soldiers were equally confused, but did not object. Soon enough, the column broke up as everyone looked for spots to set down their gear.

“What about protection?” Bonnie said once she returned.

“This isn’t a combat zone.” Shining nodded his head at the nearby civvies. “Enough with the ‘military parade’. We’re scaring these people to death.”

Before Bonnie could say anything else, he walked up to one of the nearby troops, who had just settled down and unearthed a candy bar from her saddlebag. Shining dug into his own bag and retrieved a thermos of coffee, which he then traded with the soldier for the chocolate treat. He had planned to save the coffee for later, but recent events left him in no mood for it.

After the exchange, he walked up to the doe and kneeled in front of her to see her children, who shrank among her hooves even more. He said nothing and held the candy out for them. The kids whimpered and hugged the mother’s leg, and she cooed at them to try and calm them down.

“Shhhh! It’s okay.” Shining gave a friendly smile. “I won’t bite. Come on, just take it.”

One of the kids poked his head out hesitantly and grabbed the wrapper with his teeth. Shining smiled even wider and let go. The child quickly pulled back and took the candy into his hooves, the others huddling around him. Moments later, they erupted into giggling and fidgeting as they fell upon the chocolate, munching away on every little piece they could grab.

The doe looked up, tears streaming down her face. She smiled and said something, her voice barely a whimper.

“You’re welcome,” Shining replied.

He winced when a loud voice broke through the airwaves. “...dammit! I said knock it off! Captain, this is Ruby! We’re… having some trouble with the locals, sir.”

“Dammit. Just what we needed…” he muttered to himself. “Affirmative, Ruby. Is it the goats?”

“No, sir. It’s the ponies.” Muffled yelling could be heard in the background. “One of my medics tried to hand out some pills, and this crazy stallion and his kid attacked her.”

“You’ve got to be—” Shining blurted out into the comm before shutting his eyes tight and continuing. “Any injuries? Can you handle it?”

“Nothing major, sir," the officer replied. "The med— Well, the kid just tried to bite through her parka, so no, I don’t think we can."

“I’ll be right over, keep them from trying anything stupid,” Shining answered in a restrained voice. He gestured at Bonnie to form up some troops and keep the goat quadrant under control.

As he made his way toward Ruby's position, he could not help but think whether his presence would help at all. A kid willing to bite military officers that came to rescue them probably would not be swayed by a candy bar. Then again, neither would the mutinous ship, or the cataclysmic weather, or the presence of organized crime. Despite all that, said candy had proven to be the most effective asset he had employed on the mission so far.


Along the way, he noticed a small group of ponies and guards shouting at each other, almost nose-to-nose. He guessed it was the aftermath of the incident he had heard over the radio. A mare and her colt were shouting at one of the guards, whose limbs shook as he tried to restrain himself. Moments later, the shouting intensified when another pony stumbled into the fray, looking heavily inebriated. He brayed obscenities at the guards and tried to shove them. They shoved him back, the mare and the kid shouted at him to leave them alone, he attacked them instead, the guards restrained him, and the other two turned against the soldiers again, revealing the stallion to be the father.

Shaking his head, the captain moved on from the fray. Just as he got near the more densely built up sector of the docks, he came upon another loud argument. Despite the wind and the layers of cloth over his ears, the odd tension was clearly audible in every word the locals spoke. It was the sound of fear, anger, and even a hint of deception all mingling together.

A couple of Celestite guards crossed the alley between the buildings on either side. They paused to salute Shining, and though their firm stance tried to hide it, the captain could see tension growing among his own troops as well.

“At ease, as you were,” he told them and returned the salute. His head nodded toward the source of the heated argument. “What’s going on over there.”

The guards looked at each other. “You’ll… want to see for yourself, sir,” one of them replied.

“And the lieutenant?”

“She’s the one being shouted at.”

Frowning, the captain sent the guards off with a nod and kept going, eventually coming up to a smaller warehouse with most of the openings boarded up, faint light seeping from the entrance. The moment he stepped in, a wave of thick and warm air hit him, tainted by a putrid scent. The dimly-lit chamber had roughly a dozen sickly ponies strewn about, most of them huddled together in the corners. A thick layer of dirt coated the floor, and numerous piles of junk and debris made it hard to move around.

In one of the corners, just under a dirty oil lamp, he found the source of the argument. A high-pitched, raspy voice fought using lengthy tirades against a pony who was soft and to the point.

“...yeah, right, ‘cause we definitely want to plug ourselves into your plow all over again,” the former barked. “Where do we run to get away from you, huh? Where? Should we just take a ride into Tartarus itself? Or will you follow us there too?”

“If you could just calm down for a second…” the Ruby leader said. She knelt beside a cot made from rags and rotting wood, a thin and rather ill-looking stallion lying on it.

“Calm down? Calm down?! We’ve got you government goons walking all over the place here, and this was our last escape from you! We calm down, and you drag us all to square one, and that’s that.” The stallion paused and squirmed a little on his cot. “Don’t even try it, lady. I can see the syringe.”

“You have frostbite,” the medic replied nonchalantly. Her tone and expression seemed far more calm than anything Shining could have forced upon himself at this point.

“Tell me something I don’t freaking know!”

Shining Armor watched the stallion curiously. His own little corner was a lot better furnished and stocked compared to the others, and everypony around was suspiciously quiet throughout his monologues, few of them daring to even look at him.

Must be an important figure… in one way or another… He prayed silently that he would not end up with another Botva-like thug and walked up to the duo. After dismissing the medic, he knelt next to the bed to take her place. “You alright?” he said to the stallion. “Can you talk?”

“Can you eat sh—” The pony got interrupted by a coughing fit. He took a deep breath and tried again, but Shining held up a hoof to put an end to his obscenities.

“Nice to meet you too.” The captain did his best to look amicable, specifically timing his motions so that they would not look threatening. “Look, whatever you may be thinking, I assure you that we’re here to help. Now, can you tell us anything interesting? What happened here?”

Here’s hoping all those ridiculous lessons in the academy can pay off… he thought. Judging by the patient’s expression, the techniques meant for pacifying foreign civilians just bounced off ponies in a bad mood.

“Shit on a popsicle happened,” was the brief answer.

Shining twitched and gritted his teeth. “Anything else?”

“Go blow yourself.”

“You do know that this isn’t getting you anywhere, right?” Shining kept his voice even, but his eyes bored right into the pale-coated pony. “If you aren’t going to cooperate with us, I’ll just have to go find someone else. I’m sure there’s lots of other cold and sick ponies here who would love to be the first to get a hot meal and a roof over their heads.”

They stared at each other for a while, a tense silence between them. At the other end of the room, the medic sat down to treat a pair of young colts. The mention of food made their ears perk up, and they quickly peeked around the mare at the arguing duo. The stallion on the bed glanced back at them and bit his lip when he noticed the desperation on their faces. He hung his head and succumbed to another coughing fit before speaking again.

“It was going fine,” he said. “We came here, took our shit off the ship, got to the city all in one piece. Our main guy, High Strung, he was in charge of the diplomacy and stuff, so all we knew was that we can all kinda live there. He was reliable, knew what he was doing, better than anyone else anyway. Ran for elections while we were here, actually. His mug’s still on the billboards here and there.”

“And what happened then?”

“I was getting there. Shit seemed okay at the time, maybe even too okay. Didn’t complain though. City was kinda rough, but shit, that’s why we came here. And then…”

Shining waited patiently, glancing to his side at the medic from time to time. Since he broke the ice, maybe she could help extract some more by resuming the local's treatment. The stallion on the bed just rolled his eyes and breathed heavily, at a loss.

“Then… well… shit went down. That’s about that.”

Shining frowned. “No it isn’t. Keep talking.”

“I… well... I can’t tell stuff I don’t know, you know? I’m not a storyteller.” The pony glared and forced his stiff hoof to point at his flank. “According to my butt-mark, I’m a freaking plumber. And you assholes don’t expect us to go beyond what the butt-mark tells us, do you?”

“Things don’t just happen.” The captain gestured at the walls around them. “For all your talk about how much we suck, you certainly didn’t mind settling in right next to the port, right after that broadcast went out. You knew we'd come, and you came here to get rescued. What drove you out of the city?”

“I guess you’re gonna be disappointed, because things do happen just like that. One day we woke up, and there were explosions all throughout the streets, a huge-ass blizzard hit, High Strung went missing, and those ruminant bastards chased us out of our homes, guns fucking blazing. Shit doesn’t always make sense, does it?”

“We’ll see about that,” Shining said under his breath and cleared his throat. “What happened then? How long have you been here for?”

The pale pony grinned with the half of his face that was still able to move. He stared back at Shining, taking quick breaths between coughing fits.

“Want us to admit that we ran to mommy?” he spat. “Well screw you. We’ve been in the wild for over a month. Went from place to place. Ended up here. No going any further.” He looked at the bit of snowy landscape visible through the doorway. “It was fine, too, before those bleaters showed up.”

So the ponies are the original settlers here, Shining thought. It explained why their half of the port was more run down than that of the goats, and why the two were so cut off from each other. The ponies here wanted to prove a point: 'no non-ponies allowed'. The goats just wanted to settle in.

“And how did you end up here?” he asked. “Did they chase you that far away from the city?” Whatever forced them out of Gueldergrad, he doubted it was just a simple hiccup on the ponies’ part.

The stallion shrugged. “Nah, I think they had shit of their own to deal with. A civil war of some kind, I guess. I don’t know. There was definitely a lot of these dicks shooting each other and yelling stuff through the snow. We just… well… kinda skipped places.”

“Skipped places,” Shining repeated in a bemused tone.

“Ugh… okay… we tried these villages on the way here, but the goats wouldn’t let us stay. They just don’t like us. Ruminant racist pricks.”

Great. Love and tolerance in every corner... Shining slowly got back to his hooves. “Okay, that will do for now.” He looked over the pony, who was coughing violently again. With a nod, he signaled the medic the return and give the patient some much needed treatment.

The captain stomped his hind legs on the ground to alleviate the palpable cold in his flank. He quietly left the crumbling structure, making a mental note along the way to never sit down on bare ground again out here.

Outside, he was greeted by the same shoddy conditions, but on a larger scale. Engineers stared in disbelief at the buildings, face-hoofing at times. Some refugees chatted with the troops, the conversations not much different from what Shining himself just went through.

Those goats… he thought. They met us with a “no ponies” sign, even though we don’t speak the same language. But compared to this… that was a warm welcome..

Stepping out onto a small hill that let him view most of the port, he stared at the lonely Humpback anchored to the pier, while the Scylla floated in the distance. Behind him, he could almost feel the desperate ponies and goats breathing down his neck.

With a huff, he tapped his headset and called for his squad leaders to gather at his position.


—Sergeant, the black and red one just called my grandmother’s mother a whore. What do I even say to that?

Don’t say anything, just hold her down and let the medics do their thing.

Affirmative.

Shining Armor sighed and begrudgingly turned the volume down on his radio, which filtered out the regular chatter. This was definitely not the best ambience for looking over the plan of the docks. Based on what his engineers could put together on short notice, they would have to repurpose two large warehouses to accommodate the two groups of refugees. Not a major challenge on its own, but they were also supposed to fix the port for their ships, and they currently lacked a third of their strength.

“Quartz One and Two, begin repairs of the dock. Quartz Three and Four, disembark and get to work on the housing job. We’ve got lives depending on us.”

The officers confirmed his orders in quick succession and fanned out. Shining addressed his regular troops next, moving them to the perimeter of the port to keep any further unwanted visitors far away from the construction workers. Looking over the docks, he noticed Bonnie politely asking a few curious goats to move back, while a column of heavily-laden engineers climbed off the Humpback, followed by another group of crystallites and regular soldiers.

A strange hiss broke through the faint droning of the radio in his ears.

“...ing Armor, this is the Atoll, come in.”

His heart skipped a beat, and his hoof frantically turned the volume up as far as the knob went. “Atoll? Is that you? What the hay is going on?”

“...on course, as or… sir. Heading west. Got visuals on the city. We see a good position just arou… Coast is clear. Any further…”

“Say again, Atoll, you’re breaking up.”

“...epeat your last, Cap…”

Static engulfed the rest of the transmission.

“Dammit!” Shining waved furiously at some technicians nearby. They quickly got up from the power station they have been inspecting and ran up to him. “Look,” he said, “we need to fix the comms once and for all. Set up a proper radio relay. I want clear transmissions to the Atoll two hours ago.

“Yes sir!” The ponies gathered their tools and galloped off, searching for a suitable place to set up.

A few minutes later, Bonnie returned from the docks, having directed most of the fresh troops to their new positions. “I heard it too,” she said. “Looks like we’ve found our ship?”

“More or less,” Shining grumbled. “If they can see the city, they must be a ways off.” His hoof pointed to a darker patch on the map. “All the way around these mountains. If we want to go after them, we’d have to circle around. And that means…” His hoof wandered over a large red square, the word “GUELDERGRAD” underneath it.

“Why not just send a ship?” Bonnie asked.

“Not until we’ve got everything we need on solid ground. I’m not taking any chances. Besides…” He paused to yawn and rub his eyes. “I already tried sending the Scylla to make radio contact at least. They said there’s some kind of reef blocking them.”

The mare blinked. “A reef? But… we never ran into anything like that on the way here. And how did the Atoll—”

“It doesn’t matter for now,” Shining said. “Too much time would be wasted if we went on a pointless chase. From what I’ve heard, they’re planning to land. We’ll just link up with them after we’ve reached the city.”

“Understood,” Bonnie said.

“Good.” Shining turned to her and gave a weak smile. “Get your shiners ready. We’re about to go for a little walk.”

The mare chuckled and gave a quick salute before walking off. Shining yawned again, folded up his map, and looked toward the west where the Atoll vanished behind the headland. Among the various empty structures, he noticed the legs of a half-finished billboard, one of them knocked over by the powerful winds. On the ground next to them was the sign, the familiar outline of an equine head upon it.

Shining could not tell why, but the very sight of it made him cringe. Whoever that pony was supposed to be, Shining wanted to say nasty things to him, maybe followed by a few hard punches to the face.

His hooves twitched, and he shook his head to banish the thoughts. No matter what happened out here, violence isn’t the answer, he thought. Not anymore.


The standard-issue guard plate armor can withstand most conventional melee attacks. With enchantments, it can even resist high-velocity projectiles.

Author's Note:

Apologies for the long delay with this latest release. We've been busy...

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