• 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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Assembly

Novy Rubezh had not seen war in over a century.

Shining trotted back toward the complex near the docks, where the meeting with all squad leaders was meant to take place in a few minutes. Along the way, he paused when he came upon a familiar scene, although the characters were in different shape than previously. A squad of guards stood in a rough semi-circle beside the path that lead back to the docks. The rambling drunkard was now cowering on the ground, curled up as the officer of the squad stood over him with a stern expression.

“You’ve been warned several times,” he said. “None of them raised a hoof against you first. They offered help. In response, you assaulted a member of the Royal Guard.”

The stallion could just whimper and moan in response. His limbs shook as they clutched his head, and Shining noticed a few bloody stains on the snow beside the figure.

“Since you claimed not to be citizens of Equestria any longer, this means you’ve assaulted soldiers of a foreign nation,” the officer went on. The agony of the pony before him did not seem to faze him at all. “Certain officials would interpret that as an act of war against us. I’m sure that’s not what you want, is it?”

Some of the bystanders turned away, taken aback by the words. The officer stepped back and watched the stallion squirm on the ground for a while. Without moving his gaze, he gave a deep sigh and raised his head slightly.

“Corporal Sunshine,” he barked. Shining froze in mid-stride as he approached them.

“Sir?” A bulky stallion emerged from the rest of the squad, his comrades watching with nervous expressions.

“Why did you break ranks and attack this civilian?”

The soldier gulped. “Sir, he… you saw what he did!” He pointed to a large, foul-smelling stain on his chestplate, pockmarked by wet chunks. “He tried to attack me, so I—”

“You were ordered to stand your ground and hold formation.”

“Sir, I—”

“You’re a taller than average stallion in full plate armor, armed with a spear, and in possession of the best training the Royal Guard has to offer.”

“Sir, I just—”

“Yet you chose to attack an unarmed and delirious civilian.”

The guard’s voice got caught in his throat, and he said no more.

The officer sighed again. “You will take the injured pony to the medics, clean off your armor, and do everything you can to remind everypony here what we stand for. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir,” the soldier growled.

Shining watched the stallion help the drunkard up and drag him away, after which the captain waved at the squad leader and gestured to the docks. The lieutenant nodded, told his squad where to set up camp, and galloped off to the meeting position. After a short pause, Shining trotted after him. Along the way, he overheard one of the squad members grumble to himself as they gathered their equipment.

“That damn son of a cock. Who does he think he is?”

“Quiet,” one of his friends replied. “We got off easy, if you ask me.”

“The bastard treats us like worms, yet we’re expected to look like we’re the ‘glorious Royal Guard’ or whatever?”

“It doesn’t matter. We’re soldiers. He could have ordered us to do a lot worse.”

A third one chuckled and joined in. “What? Extra cleaning duty?”

The second guard shrugged. “No idea. I’d rather not even imagine.”

Everypony calmly left the scene. Just before they did, the guard who spoke last paused next to the bloodstains left on the snow. With a few well-placed kicks from his hind legs, he shoveled some snow onto the stains, burying them under the rest of the endless white.


Shining approached the gathering of officers, which was centered around a flagpole set up by the troops disembarking from the Humpback. “All right, boys and girls, this is the situation...” He opened his map on a small crate next to the flagpole. “We have the port more or less secured. All civilians are accounted for, the prisoners are secured, and the engineer teams are already working on repairs.” He glanced to his right at a pair of officers with yellow helmet insignias. “Status?”

“All teams are committed to the effort, sir,” the mare on the right said. “I estimate the docks will be ready for use within two hours.”

“Excellent. Any trouble so far?”

“Structural integrity is uncertain. We’d have to take our time to rule out any accidents.” She glanced at a wall of dark clouds in the distance, the winds making them morph and glide rapidly. “But with this weather, time is already against us.”

Shining nodded. “Then I suggest we favor speed. Make sure your ponies are extra careful.”

“Yes, sir.”

The captain turned to his left next. “Recon teams?”

Lieutenant Osprey stepped forward and cleared his throat. Despite his height and bulk, his motions barely made any noise, mostly thanks to the light barding he wore instead of plate mail. “All have reported back, except for Basalt Five. No hostile activity in our immediate surroundings.”

“Good. Have them prepare for a second flight. We’ll be close behind.”

“Understood.”

Shining turned his attention back to the map. “As soon as the first ship is ready for offloading cargo, I’ll want a standard column at the ready.” He pointed at the path leading from the port to the main road that led to the city. “Have them assemble along here. Engineers will make sure the path is clear for heavy loads.”

He then traced several arcs from the edges of the port, each one moving parallel to the main road. “We’ll send out squads to scout ahead and secure key positions. Forward units make the path, while the column brings supplies and reinforcement.” He glanced at the engineers again. “We meet again in two hours to discuss the next move. Any questions?”

Bonnie raised a hoof. “What about the Atoll, sir?”

Shining huffed and folded up his map. “We’ll figure it out once we can make contact again. So far, all we know is that they didn’t try to bail on us.”

“Understood.”

Another officer raised his hoof. “Sir… didn’t the Atoll carry some… ‘sensitive cargo’?”

A murmuring spread through the circle around the captain. “I’ve heard rumors…” somepony else muttered. “Those crates had a lot of warning signs on them. All locked tight and—”

“That’s classified information, Lieutenant Rosewood,” Shining said, cutting them off. He fixed the stallion with a stern gaze, but eventually just shrugged. “But to be honest, even I don’t know. Every time I asked Command, they wouldn’t say a word. For all I know, it’s a logistics error.”

“Sir, if that’s the case—”

“We have more important things to do, Lieutenant. Focus on your current orders. Understood?”

All the guards nodded.

“Good. Dismissed.”

Just before the group disbanded completely, Shining pointed to a tall grey stallion near the back of the crowd, who was just about to turn away and leave.

“Lieutenant Brand,” he called out.

The officer froze and turned around, snapping to attention. “Sir!”

Shining calmly walked up to him. “I noticed you and your squad had a little… ‘incident’ earlier today.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it must never happen again.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll make sure my subordinates understand.”

Shining frowned a little. “You are meant to lead by example, not pointless discipline, warhawk.” His subordinate winced at how he emphasized that word. “This isn’t a parade. Clean uniforms and good saluting won’t do us any good out here. We need to help those in need, and that’s not going to happen if your soldiers are on edge all the time.”

There was a short pause. “I understand, sir.”

“Good.” The captain sighed. “I’m going to need your squad as one of the forward units. Who knows what’s waiting for us out in that snow.” He gave a weak smile. “But I’m sure you’ll know how to handle it.”

Brand returned the smile, teeth flashing at the edges of his long, slightly curved snout. “You can count on me, sir.”

The officers parted ways, and Shining made his way along the port’s coastline to inspect the deployment. In the distance, he could see that the engineers were still hard at work, which meant the heavy cargo still could not be loaded off the ships and moved around.

Along the way, he passed a couple of squads who had just disembarked from the Humpback. One of the soldiers picked up his bags to start unpacking, upon which he gave a loud groan, stomped his hooves, and tossed his gear aside.

“Damn it all to hell!” he growled. “I got snow in my fucking bags and everything!”

One of his friends turned to him. “You alright?” he asked.

“No, I’m not.” The first guard kicked at the snow angrily. “Why doesn’t Celestia herself come down to this frozen shithole instead of us?” His accent was pure Appleloosan. If Shining closed his eyes, he could almost see the pony adjusting his Stetson to shield his face from the burning sun.

“Hey! Don’t you dare talk like that!” the guard’s friend shouted.

“Screw you!” the first guard replied. “She should bring her precious sun down and thaw this place. I’m sick of it.”

Another guard nearby chuckled. “I bet that would mean we’d all drown. Hope you kids know how to swim.”

“It doesn’t even work that way, you idiot!” the second one poked his friend in the side. “Weather control only works in Equestria because we’ve been doing it since day one. Land like this? Never seen pony magic ever? Try a weather spell here, and you’ll see the End of Days.”

The first guard kept grumbling to himself, but did not say any more to the others. Shining sighed and upped his pace a little, leaving the bickering troops behind.


“Captain? This is Quartz Four. I think we’re ready, sir.”

“Understood. I’m on my way.”

Shining lowered his hoof from the device on his ear. The crystals embedded into the tiny speaker buzzed and flickered for a moment, giving him a tiny zap each time he turned it off after speaking through it. It was a necessary annoyance, as he could not afford to carry around a whole radio set, and the more compact device had to compensate by using much more energy right next to his skull. He was glad they would finally work around this problem.

He galloped off from the docks, heading for the high ground near the warehouses. A tall antenna had been set up at the tallest point, the steel mast stretching far above all the structures in the port. As he got closer, he noticed pair of technicians working at its base. Careful not to slip on the snow, Shining made his way up the slope and ran straight up to them.

“What do you have for me?” he said.

The shorter one put down her tools and gestured at the antenna. “Got the relay installed, sir,” she replied. “About to hook it up to the generator.” Her hoof then pointed to a large metal device sitting next to the base of the antenna. It gave a low hum, and the glow of the gemstones inside could be seen through the seams, their light wavering once the techs coupled the devices.

“All right. Good job, everypony.” Shining took deep breaths after the run. He looked around and noticed the thick layer of snow piled up among the long unused warehouses, the wind adding more to it every hour.

We’re going to need cleaning crews here, or this antenna’s gonna be broadcasting from six feet under...

He paused at that thought and blinked, turning back to the technicians. “Wait… Why do you need me here again?”

The mare wiped her brow and looked up. “We’ll need you to give everyone else the new frequency through the command channel.”

“Why not just link straight to the command channel?”

“Safety reasons, sir. We’ll need a backup channel in case anyone figures out a way to tune into the relay.”

Shining nodded. “Understood. Do it.”

There was a loud click, followed by a low drone as the generator powered up the circuits. A burst of static came from the speaker, followed by garbled sounds. Shining’s ear twitched when a soft voice broke through the noise, singing to a melody that played in the background.

“...And if I ever sail home
I’ll take a rose with its thorns
Carve your name in its leaves
And taste the love that it gives.”

The soldiers milling about nearby all paused and looked around in confusion. The female voice, accompanied by strings, gently streamed out of the speakers, and those who were not close enough could hear it coming from their own radios as well.

“I’ll toss it into the sea
Where my darling shall be
Tell her with my old song
That the wait isn’t long...”

Everypony was puzzled by the music. Some of them cringed at the sappy melody and lyrics, while others dropped everything to pay attention. It took almost half a minute before Shining himself came back to his senses. He turned to the technician again, who looked up at him oddly. His partner had turned away, hiding his face behind a panel on the generator.

“Must be… one of the stations back home, sir…” the techie mumbled. “The antenna’s pretty sensitive, and the signal can bounce off the upper—”

Shining held up a hoof, cutting him off. “Turn that off, sergeant,” he said. “We need an empty channel.”

The technician nodded and quickly fumbled with the controls. The music disappeared in a wash of static, and he gave the captain the new frequency. He quickly transmitted it over the command channel to all units, after which he switched over as well. The static was soon replaced by the radio traffic of the squads, which now came through with much greater clarity. He listened for a while, just to see how much it improved the communication among his troops.

“...aptain,” a voice broke through weakly, “this is Bas… ...ive transmitting — ...post, “Krasnogor?” We have… ...be quick. Do you read?”

Shining’s blood ran cold. He quickly told the other squads to pipe down and spoke directly to the faint voice. “Basalt Five? Report!”

“We ...ve to be qui— There is a prob… some ...sive interf— nothing we can identify. Doesn’t seem ...rmal. Do you read?”

“I can barely read you, Basalt Five. What’s your exact position?” The captain waved his hoof at the technicians, who quickly tuned in while checking the array, trying to home in on the signal.

Say aga… What is going on there?! ...ain!

“Basalt Five? What the hay is going on over there? Do you need help?” He lifted the microphone from his mouth for a moment, and spoke to the techs. “Why can’t I hear them properly?”

“Signal is extremely weak, sir,” the mare replied. “Either their radio is damaged, or there’s some sort of interference.”

Her partner frowned. “From what, exactly? The weather is normal, and we haven’t picked up anything that could disturb the signals in this region.”

Oh f... I think we… ...st the— Cap... hear us - we’re … ASAP.

“Basalt Five, respond!” Shining’s heart pounded in his chest. Despite the interfering noise, he could tell that the voice on the other end was very agitated. He waited for a few seconds, praying that the static would be broken by the officer once more. His wish was granted, and he cringed when the noise cut out completely, and the voice came through again, the same sharp “edge” resonating in it as the last time he had spoken to the squad.

“Command. We have a problem. Come—” The monotone voice cut away as well, and the low hum of static returned.

“Dammit!” Shining turned to the technicians again. “Did you find out where they are?”

The mare looked up from the console and shook her head. “Signal was too weak and distorted. Lots of echoes. Can only give you a vague direction.”

“Wonderful…” The captain tapped his headset. “All units, we have a Broken Wing on our hooves. Squads Celestite, Onyx, Ruby, and Javelin, prepare for immediate deployment.”

The officers in charge of the squads signaled back to confirm the order. Shining turned his radio off and galloped down to the docks, eyes trained on the engineers who were hard at work making it operational again. He bit into his lip, grumbling to himself. “Come on, hurry up.”

As he walked among the busy workers, his tension clearly showing in his gait, he picked up an odd noise being carried by the wind. Looking around, he noticed one of the stallions using his magic to weld a few extra girders to the large crane’s supports. His horn glowed bright yellow from the intense heat of the spell, while the pony just hummed a jolly tune to himself. The others nearby gave him odd looks and tried to ignore it, but he would not let up. As he kept working, the humming got louder and louder, and eventually he started to sing out loud.

“Wake now, my dear, we’ll rise with the sun
Sing for the warmth she gives everyone
With her in the sky, the earth we must roam
Find a good place to make our new home...”

A mare nearby chuckled, and after a bit of hesitation, she joined in. More laughter spread among the bystanders, but the singing was contagious all the same. Before long, the entire squad was singing the tune together, just loud enough to hear each other. And by the time they got to the third verse, a younger stallion took a deep breath and raised his voice enough for everypony to hear.

“Lost we were both, until you I found
Like two little doves, trapped on the cold ground
Wings now alive, we make our own nest
Praise the old sun and lay down to rest...”

Under his mask, Shining smiled and could barely hold back his laughter as the engineer teams joined in one by one. The bulkier earth ponies that worked with heavy tools gave the bass, while the mares let their voices ride high, forming a magnificent choir.

Even the pony stationed at the top of the crane could not resist. He kept to just humming while he made sure the machine could turn safely, and when they got to the end of the next verse, he proudly stood up in his cockpit and held his hooves into the air, gleefully holding the final note. As if the sky itself wanted to join in, the clouds above parted for a moment, letting a ray of sunshine break through.

A sharp crack cut the repertoire short, followed by a deep metallic groan. Panicked shouts came from all over the docks as the crane lurched in the wind and slowly toppled over. The workers nearby scattered as fast as they could, getting out of the way mere moments before impact. A loud roar shook the air, followed by the shrill sound of metal grinding on metal and rock as the crane disintegrated.

Everypony stood frozen in shock for several seconds, staring at the pile of debris on top of the unfinished pier. They collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the stallion who operated the crane emerged from the wreck, waving his hooves to show he was unharmed. A pair of his colleagues escorted him to the medics just to be safe, while the rest of the engineers slowly went back to work, now in dead silence. The cloud cover overhead closed up as well, shrouding the land in gray once more.

A pegasus wearing a medical officer’s uniform descended onto the dock. “Heard you call in the codeword. What’s going on?” Setter asked. He followed the captain’s gaze and found it to be focused on the wreckage nearby. “Damn…”

“Basalt Five,” Shining replied without looking away. “They’re in trouble.”

A small group of unicorns and pegasi set about removing the wreckage piece by piece. A couple of earth ponies joined in as well, helping the others move the pieces too heavy to safely move by air or levitation.

Setterline blinked and turned back to his friend. “What did they say?”

“Transmission was cut short, but it sounded like they were in combat.”

“So we’re going in early to help them?”

“Yes.”

“I see.” Setter glanced around and stepped a bit closer, lowering his voice. “You do realize this could be a trap?”

Shining frowned as he glanced at the medic. “Don’t be ridiculous. How?”

“They’re scouts, who aren’t supposed to engage. Maybe someone attacked them and trapped them somehow to lure us in.”

“There’s no organized military within a hundred miles of this region, Setter.” The captain finally tore his gaze away from the crane and turned to face the other officer. “If they were around, we’d know about them.”

“And do you intend to start a war with them if there were?” his friend asked.

Shining gritted his teeth. “Right now, all I want is my ponies to be safe. They could be wounded, unable to move, and in danger. I’m not going to just sit and wait.” His eyes narrowed. “So are you with me or not?”

Setter gave a tiny snort and looked away. “Ну, авось тогда, хрен знает...”

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Just practicing my consonants…”

One of the engineers ran up to Shining and snapped off a quick salute. “Damage report, sir. No one’s hurt. Docks lightly damaged.” He sighed. “The crane is gone. No chance of repair.”

The captain glanced back at the last pieces of the wreckage, just as a pair of pegasi carried it away. “Will it be a big setback?” he asked.

“We can manage, sir. I’ll appoint a team of unicorns to levitate our gear off the ships.”

“Good, that will do.” Shining nodded and turned to leave, only to pause and glance back. “Lieutenant?”

The officer looked up from his clipboard. “Captain?”

“As soon as you’re done unloading, any of our food reserves that we can spare… I want you to give it to the locals here. We don’t want them to starve.”

The pony gave a smile and saluted. “Roger that, sir.”

Shining turned to Setter. “Let’s go. I’ll lead Celestite One. Bonnie is on our left flank with Onyx, and the warhawk is on our right with the regulars. Your team is our support.”

The medic nodded, and they galloped back up the hill toward the outskirts of the port, where the rest of the teams were gathering. The wind picked up again, howling between the structures and rattling the roof tiles that had come loose due to neglect. In the distance, the Scylla’s horn blared as it made its approach, while its sister ship opened its large cargo bay doors, allowing the unicorns on board to move the first of the crates onto the fixed docks. Within one day, the derelict port had turned into an area bustling with activity. Shining permitted himself a tiny smile under his mask.

Equestria is here.


For several hours after they departed from the port, Shining Armor’s squad just marched silently through the thick snow. The captain checked his map repeatedly, keeping track of their movements in his head at all times. The three forward teams moved in a wide pattern, the ones on the flanks moving in a wide arc that trailed outward. This left individual squads more vulnerable, but also harder to detect, and the element of surprise was key if they needed to fight their way to the city.

Shining glanced up at the gray sky, just as one of the Basalt squads soared above their heads. He had assigned two of the scouting teams to keep constant overwatch while the ground troops advanced, but neither was allowed to linger, as they could be seen from miles away. Stay in one spot for too long, or show any reaction to the squads below, and they would give away everyone’s positions.

None of the guards would speak. An occasional cough or grunt would break the silence, but otherwise they would just put one hoof in front of the other. The calm radio chatter between his squads made a constant drone in Shining’s ears, and he found it oddly soothing in this lifeless, silent wasteland.

The pony on point reached the peak of a hill they were approaching. He held up his hoof, and the rest of the squad halted. After taking one more look just to be safe, he gestured for the captain to come closer. “Up ahead,” he said in a low voice and pointed with his forehoof. “Just on the horizon. They look like farmhouses.”

Shining took cover behind a large boulder and peeked over the top, looking through his binoculars. “Hmm…” Just under a mile away, he spotted a group of four houses, two of them almost completely buried in the snow. The other two were in no better shape, the wooden walls all but collapsed from the teeth of time. But despite the harrowing conditions, he could see smoke rising from their chimneys. “Okay, let’s go take a look.”

The squad moved in loose formation, creating a rough wedge shape as they advanced upon the hamlet in the distance. Once they got close enough, Shining raised his hoof to bring them to a halt. He raised his head, took a deep breath, and called out.

“Hey! Есть там кто?” He waved his forelegs, pointing out himself and his companions. “Мы свои!”

The struggle with the pronunciation made him cringe, but he prayed that any locals would still be able to understand what he said. A few tense moments passed in silence, and the squad tensed up when they heard hoofsteps in the snow, followed by a raspy voice calling out from one of the yards. An old-looking goat emerged from behind the rickety fence.

The guards readied their spears and lit their horns, but Shining held up his hoof. “No, no! Stand down!” he said. “Stay in formation. I’ll talk to them.”

He waited a little to see if anyone would accompany the old goat, after which he slowly approached the houses. “Мы свои,” he said again, repeating it a few more times as he got closer and closer.

The goat sighed. “Pony.” He turned to call back over his shoulder. “Просто кони какие-то.”

The other guards tensed up and aimed their spears again, but Shining glanced back and waved his hoof to calm them down. He came to a halt a few paces away and looked into the eyes of the elder.

“Pony,” the goat said. “Why you here?”

The captain blinked. “You speak Equestrian?”

“Little.” The goat nodded his head to a nearby dirt road, and Shining noticed that it led toward the city. “Trade with pony in gorod. Learn some words.”

“I see.” Shining took a deep breath. “We’re from Equestria. I’m captain Shining Armor of the Royal Guard. We’re here to help.”

“You look for other pony?” the goat asked.

Shining blinked. “Huh?”

“See pony yesterday. Wings. No speak. Fly to vostok.” He pointed toward east.

“They must have been the scouts,” the captain muttered to himself. “Have you seen anything suspicious?” he asked the goat.

It was the elder’s turn to look confused. Shining sighed and tried again. “See anything bad?”

The goat shook his head. “They stay far. No talk. See us, they fly away.”

“Then we better catch up to them,” Shining muttered to himself again. He looked back and nodded to the others, who slowly approached.

“Everything all right, sir?” the lieutenant from the squad asked.

“Looks like we found the trail of Basalt Five,” Shining replied. “We better hurry. City’s not far now.”

“Значит, вот он… конец пришел.”

The stallions blinked and turned to the old goat, who gave a deep sigh and shook his head at them with a somber expression on his face.

The captain leaned a bit closer. “What did you say?”

“Every sign here,” the goat said in an ominous tone. “Just as in scripture. Wings come first. Then Zemlya rise and burn all.”

“Sir, what’s he talking about?” the guard asked. He gripped his spear tightly and chewed on his tongue while he looked at the elder.

“We already see it,” the goat went on. “Her hair everywhere. Head rise from earth next.”

There was a short squeak from a hinge, followed by a loud bang from the other side of the house as the door flew open. Everypony froze and readied their weapons again, looking around in confusion as a gravelly female voice called out, making the old goat wince.

“Эй, ты, хрен старый! Харе с этими лошаками болтать, хули они тебе сдались. Внутрь, быстро, и им скажи чтоб перли отсюда! Приперлись, твари, теперь вообще всем звездец. Еще отморозишь себе все перед концом света.”

Hoofsteps approached from around the corner, and a doe soon emerged, waddling on her old legs while she glared furiously at whom the ponies assumed was her husband.

“What’s wrong with her?” Shining asked.

Ignoring the various weapons that pointed at her, she walked up and tugged on the old goat’s foreleg, who kept staring at them blankly. “You ponies, go!” she spat at them. “Go away, blya!”

The captain noticed how the others held their spears and quickly told them to stand down. He then turned back to the couple, only to find that the old doe had already dragged her husband back inside the house. The door slammed shut moments later.

The guards stared at the house in confusion. One by one, they turned to look at Shining, who sighed and pointed to the dirt road.

“Get back in formation,” he said. “There’s our trail. Let’s move.”


“Captain, this is Onyx Omega,” Bonnie’s voice came over the radio. “We found something. Just off the main road. Need backup as soon as possible.”

“Understood, we’re on our way,” Shining replied. “Ruby Alpha is coming too.” His gaze turned to the sky. “Basalt Two, give us the path to Onyx. Basalt Three, maintain overwatch.”

“Our orders, sir?” Brand joined in.

“Keep heading for the city. Take our position and scout ahead.”

“Understood.”

Shining and his squad double timed it toward Bonnie’s position, with the pegasi of Basalt Two showing the path for them in the sky. Glancing back, he could see the medics and guards in Setter’s team galloping in the same direction. The two teams reached the position within ten minutes, where they found Onyx lined up along the side of a small hill that kept them hidden from whatever lay beyond.

The crystallites were all clad in pure white outfits, which both masked their shimmering features and made for good camouflage in this snow-covered wasteland. Bonnie was on top of the hill, waving her hooves at the captain. He quickly marched up to join him, the other officers following close behind.

“Okay…” Shining said. “What did you find?”

Bonnie crept up to the top of the hill, her own glowy features still visible, and she pointed with her foreleg. “They look like old camping shacks, or… something,” she said. “But those guys in there are clearly not civilians.”

Shining readied his binoculars. He followed Bonnie’s hoof and found a collection of wooden structures. They broke up into a few groups along the sides of several uprising slopes, akin to several flights of stairs. Smaller buildings lay along the curves, and the bigger ones, noticeably lit up, were on plain ground.

Each building in the compound was a simple box made of logs, roughly the size of a small apartment, with tiny windows lining every wall. Smoke rose from the chimneys of all but one, and he could see a few quadrupedal figures moving between the buildings from time to time.

“Military?” he asked.

“No, sir. I’d say they look like the ones we bumped into earlier today.”

“Great…” Shining’s gaze wandered to a blue lump near the leftmost side of the compound, and he gave a huff. “Yeah, it’s them. I even recognize that truck.”

“We could just sneak past them.” Bonnie said. “In this weather, I doubt they’d want to move a muscle, let alone scout around.”

“Whatever we do, we ask the captain for the final word,” Brand said over the radio.

Setterline gritted his teeth. “Why bother asking?” he said in a low voice. “We’re taking them out.”

Shining raised an eyebrow at him. What the hay is your problem? he thought. This isn’t like you.

“Why is that, Setter?” he asked.

“They’re responsible for all those graves we found.”

Bonnie shook her head. “Sir, if we attack, there’s a good chance they’ll raise an alarm. We still have no idea what’s going on in the city.” She frowned at Setter. “And they’re entrenched this time. You’ve seen what their guns do. We back them into a corner, they’re going to fight.”

“I think we’d have a better chance against them than the unarmed civilians did,” the medic growled. “We promised to help these people, and now we"

Shining stomped with his foreleg. “Okay, that’s enough! Both of you!”

Both officers fell silent. Setter hung his head. “I apologize. Won’t happen again, sir.

The captain sighed. “Look, whatever happens, we need to act fast. Our scouts could be in danger, and we still have to secure the city… and find the Atoll, for that matter.”

There was a long pause, and all eyes were trained on him. Bonnie’s foreleg fidgeted slightly, while Setter kept up a demanding glare. Behind them, the white ghosts of Onyx stood motionless amidst the cold winds.

“What are your orders, sir?” Brand asked, breaking the awkward silence.


An oil drum sat near the corner of the compound, the rusty container filled with twigs and broken planks that fueled a steady fire. A pair of goats emerged from the nearest shack and sat down on a log next to the drum. They pulled their coats on a little tighter and moved as close as they could to the flames.

“Вот ну какого мы тут хуя стоим, на?” the larger one said. He ran a hoof over his beard, making it clink against the small bell that hung from his neck. His hooves were decorated with gold bracelets, and when he bared his teeth, several of his incisors were replaced with the metal as well. The scars and bumps on his face gave hints about how he lost said teeth. “Пацантре, вон, лохов бушуют, а мы как козлы отпущения, на, реально.”

“Да харе ныть, бля. Вот что тебе все не так, а?” the other replied. Thick golden rings decorated his modest horns, and a matching golden ring hung from one of his earlobes. His thick coat was left slightly open at the neck, where one could just barely make out a piece of his purple track suit. “Стоим, бля - не так. Шмаляем уродов - не так. Жлобов шибаем - не так. Принцесса, бля, недоделанная.”

The bigger thug tossed a few twigs into the fire and lit himself a cigarette on the flames. “Не, ну а тебе-то что, на?” He took a long drag and blew the smoke out his nostrils while giving his partner a smug grin. “Ты бы сортиры драил как сучара последняя, если бы я б тебя за собой сюда не потащил. Вот тебе-то все все время так. Сидишь, на, и рад землю жевать, пока всякие жлобы корнями давятся.”

“Ой, вот ну будто тебе-то лучше, бля.” The second thug glared at his partner, while his hooves searched his coat pockets. “Все тебе мало. Ты, бля, не в боевике, тут все так не работает. Хули ты с себя героя строишь? Герой, бля - жопа с дырой.”

He retrieved a small flask, opened it with his teeth, and took a hearty swig. A low groan left him moments later, and after a bit of shoving and cursing, his companion convinced him to give a taste.

“Я, на, не герой, я - прогрессивный, на!” He chugged a good dose of the clear fluid and belched loudly. After a good, long snort, he gobbed a mouthful of snot off to the side. “Это ты - жопа с дырой, балбесище. Вот будешь этих рогоебов, который нашу шайку, на, ведут, слушать как пес последний, и точно с дырой будет.”

The smaller goat jabbed him in the side. “Ага, а у тебя ее, бля, тогда не будет уже, жопы этой. Пушо сострелят нахер, и на стену повесят. И все тебе мало будет, глубже, бля, надо, глубже, будто нефть ищешь, нах.”

“Да пошел ты.” The one with the scarred face tossed the flask back to his companion. As he did, his gaze got caught on something over his friend’s shoulder. “Это еще, бля, что?” he muttered, tilting his head to the side.

A pair of white forelegs wrapped around the other mobster’s neck. He only had enough time to give a choked gasp before he got yanked back and thrown to the ground. An armored equine stood above him, who quickly drove his forehoof into the goat’s temple, knocking him out.

The large thug got up and opened his mouth to shout, only to give a painful yelp when something smashed into his joints from behind. He fell to the ground, limbs squirming, and he caught a mere glimpse of his assailant before the spear shaft in their grip came down on his head.

Shining Armor quickly checked the goat in front of him to make sure he was out of action. Confused voices seeped out of the cabin next to him, along with hoofsteps. Turning around, he waved a foreleg at the rest of his squad and dove for cover.

“Now!” he yelled. “Flash ‘em out!”

The leading unicorn charged up a spell and aimed his horn at the window of the building. A white ball of energy shot out from his forehead and flew in through the window. Moments later, there was a bright flash and a powerful bang, and the windows of the cabin all burst outward violently. The occupants howled in panic, a few of them stumbling out the open doorway, as the door had been blown off its hinges. The mobsters clutched at their ears and their eyes, mumbling curses. They could barely compose themselves before the earth ponies of Celestite One charged in and forced them to the ground.

By then, every occupied house in the compound was alerted. The door opened on the cabin adjacent to Shining’s position, and a pair of thugs got out, just before another ball of energy flew in to pulverize the interior. The goats dropped to the ground and fumbled with their weapons, trying to aim them at the attackers. A heartbeat later, they screamed as a trio of pegasi swooped in, tossing them against the wall of the next cabin, which had been reduced to all but a pile of debris by the elements. A couple more disoriented goats stumbled out of the second cabin, but a well-placed bolt of magic was enough to put down each one.

Shining turned his attention to the far end of the compound. Due to the slope it sat on, the buildings on that side were on a higher vantage, allowing those within to get a clear shot at his squads. The occupants yelled at each other and struggled to get the windows open. A few of them opted to simply break the glass so they could stick their crude weapons out through the holes.

“Cover!” Shining yelled. His ponies took shelter behind whatever they could find. Moments later, a series of sharp hisses and cracks tore up the air around them. He could hear the wood splinter and crackle from the impacts. As soon as the barrage ended, a pair of unicorns poked their heads out to fire a volley of their own. Since they had little time to aim, their spells missed the windows and merely scorched the walls of the cabin.

Seeing his comrades get pinned down, a younger earth pony galloped forth, trying to make a rush for the building. The goats fired another salvo, and the pony cried out, dropping like a sack and moaning in pain. Shining cursed and dove out of his cover. “Stay down!” he shouted at the others. His horn lit up, and he quickly projected a shield around himself and his fallen subordinate. The goats fired again, and he hissed, feeling the power of the impacts through his shield. The projectiles could not break through, but it took a great deal of effort to absorb their energy.

He grabbed the wounded guard’s forelegs and dragged him back behind the first cabin. A dull red streak trailed behind the fallen pony.

Shining tapped his headset. “Onyx!” he shouted. “I need that building on top cleared out!”

“Hang tight, we’re on our way!” Bonnie replied.

The goats in the house paused in their firing all of a sudden, and Shining heard them shout in awe and confusion when a strange figure stepped into their view, emitting a blue glow. The crystal pony had tossed away his white outfit and now stood proudly between the houses, which were all riddled with bullet holes. He took a deep breath and calmly advanced upon the slope.

The goats hesitated for a while before they fired again. Shining’s jaw dropped as he watched the bullets strike the pony’s body. Each time, his “skin” wavered slightly around the point of impact, and the glow of his body flared. As he got further up the slope, he increased his pace more and more, while the glow got brighter as well. The goats yelled at each other and fired desperately, but no matter how many shots landed, they did not even slow the guard down. Once he reached the same level as the house, he simply charged straight at its nearest wall.

The goats inside cried out in panic and dove out of the way. Moments later, there was a loud crashing noise as the guard plowed through the wall, making a large hole. The occupants were either knocked down or stunned by debris, and the few who recovered found themselves face to face with a bulky stallion made of glowing crystal. Rather than try to rationalize the sight, they decided to charge at it.

The first goat gave a loud bleat and reared up just as he got within a few feet of the guard, trying to aim a kick with one of his hind legs at the pony’s face. The kick landed spectacularly, and there was a dull crack, after which the goat fell to the ground, whimpering and cradling his leg. A large crack adorned his hooves, and his leg was bent in an odd way. The guard, on the other hand, had not moved an inch.

Shining reached the top of the slope just in time to see the second goat try to beat up the shiner with a broken plank. The pony sidestepped a few times, and when a blow finally landed, the plank shattered harmlessly on his side. He returned the favor with a punch that sent the goat flying out a nearby window. The last thug made a grab for his weapon on the floor, but by the time he reached it, the guard was right on top of him. The two bodies tore through the far wall and tumbled in the snow outside. The crystal pony landed on top of his opponent, who let out a groan and went limp.

A low rumble came from below, and Shining ran up to the edge of the hill to take a look. He gasped in surprise and quickly tapped his headset, while his horn lit up.

“Bonnie!” he yelled into the mic. “The truck! Don’t let them get away!”

“On it!”

The driver of the truck frantically steered on the snow-covered yard, and he narrowly avoided the sizzling purple bolts that came from above. He stomped on the accelerator as soon as the tires were on the nearby dirt path, and the bulky engine roared, billowing a cloud of smoke from the exhaust pipe. The goats inside breathed a sigh of relief, only to bleat in surprise when a shiny figure appeared in their path. Their eyes narrowed, and the driver gasped at the last moment, braking and trying to steer out of the way.

The pony, however, did not try to dodge. Instead, he planted his hooves firmly in the ground and went into a low stance. The guard and the vehicle collided with a loud bang, and the engine block disappeared into the belly of the truck, just after the driver and his companion were tossed out through the front window. They landed in a heap a few yards away, while the wreckage of their ride came to a complete halt where it met its obstacle.

After a bit of fidgeting, the guard managed to remove himself from the crater he had made in the truck. There was no visible damage to his body, he merely glowed a bit brighter than usual.

Shining grinned at the sight. “Secure the area!” he shouted to the others. “Ruby, tend to the wounded. Celestite, check the houses for any stragglers.”

“Understood, captain!”

He chuckled and flicked off the radio before continuing to himself. “And break out the cider. I think we have our first victory…”


The Royal Guard are Equestria’s only military organization, dedicated primarily to police and peacekeeping duties.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the long wait. Hope the action makes up for it. Yes, this is where shit starts to happen... and it didn't even get real just yet.

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