• Published 20th Jun 2013
  • 383 Views, 5 Comments

Sins of a Species - Gremlin Grenade



The greatest discoveries of ponykind's future lie in the darkest secrets of it's past.

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02///_New_Ways

The noise outside the castle bears down on my ears and taunts my sensibilities, reminding me of why I'm standing in front of my idol and mentor, what my dark purpose is today. I want nothing more than to embrace her beautiful, alabaster coat, to be taken in by the warmth of her caring embrace, to call her my teacher again. But that won't happen today, and it won't ever happen again.

There is silence for a moment before she speaks.

"If it comes to this, I'm just glad it was you." Her eyes are cold and piercing, not in disappointment, but in guilt. Even now, when it's all come to this, she's the one who feels guilty. "I don't think you should do this, but I'm not going to stop you. For so long, we have guided your path, but it seems you are mature enough to guide your own destinies. Please understand, though, that everything we did was for a reason. We only wanted to help you, to nurture you, and now it seems that is our undoing."

I fight back the tears, but they're pushing through anyways. "You lied to us, to everypony! You built our trust in you, had us place you on a pedestal and proclaim you as gods! And then you thought you had the right to pick and choose! To let some of us join you and leave the others behind!" I can barely look at her as I feel my heart throb with pain. "To let... to let me join you..."

"...Yes, we did." I can't bear to hear it. I want her to say anything in her defense, to deny her crimes, to proclaim "not guilty" so I can bring my righteous sword down upon her. But she says nothing more. She just sits there, made innocent by her guilt, proven pure by her corruption. Her sister doesn't even do that.

Taking a deep breath, I force out the words I so fiercely recited many times now. "In the name... of the common pony... I... demand... that you step down... from your throne... and await trial... by a jury of your... subjects." The lump in my throat makes it hard to breathe much less talk. I can barely see them through the saltwater pouring from my eyes, my open guilt laid out for them to see, my soul completely naked.

Slowly, she steps down from her throne, quiet and complacent, and all I can do is bite my lip...

***

The harsh sound of an alarm is the first thing I get to hear this morning. It's usually the first thing I hear every morning, except back when the first thing I got to hear was my drill sergeant's booming voice. Even back then, in the days of the "old" Wonderbolts, training was like boot camp. You think becoming a Wonderbolt is all about flying around with celebrities, showing off and attending big events. But for the first 8 weeks, being a Wonderbolt is about waking up at 0400 and doing wing stretches for 3 hours straight.

Back in those days, you'd get chewed out for having an alarm clock, but in space your internal clock gets kind of messed up, so they usually let it slide, especially for such a high-profile organization. I sit up as it continues to go off, my ears twitching to its rhythmic buzzing, scratching my head before I switch it off.

Outside my bunk, I can hear the sound of voices. It sounds like two ponies, non-military by their tone. Probably ship staff, here to tell me about a change in protocol or to bring some special mail or something. As I start to walk up to the door, it opens before me, and I'm a little alarmed to see two of Twilight's aides.

"Sergeant Scootaloo?" One asks me, and I just nod in reply."President Sparkle would like you to act as her escort and representative regarding the incident onHorus. Please be prepared in dress uniform by 0800 hours."

They leave as suddenly as they showed up, and I head over to my closet to get out my neatly-pressed uniform. What about my mission needs a representative? Our mission wasn't so important that it need a council meeting, surely? Unless...

***

I find myself standing next to Twilight Sparkle, my old friend and president of the Equestrian Union, as the council hall fills with senators and representatives. The large round room is divided by various provinces, most of which are several planets large, with their flag hanging behind their particular division. The largest is the province of Greater Equestria, directly in front of us, which is already beginning to fill with familiar faces. Twilight, a small group of her aides, and myself stand in the center, Twilight in front of a large podium. As the room begins to fill with ponies of various nations, the senators converse and whisper to one another, and I can feel many of their judging eyes pulling me apart. It is more than rare for a military pony of my rank to even be in the presence of many of these ponies, though my Wonderbolts status is occasionally the cause for a little special attention. Still, those are only in isolated cases, when preforming a mission for a specific province or providing one of the senators protection. Though some of the faces I know, this is first time I'd been present for something so universally important as an Equestrian Union council meeting, and I was not prepared.

Now, I've been shot at, bull-rushed by ponies twice my size, targeted by all sorts of magical attacks, and taken down all manner of roaring vehicles and machines. I'd stared death in the face on nearly a daily basis, and made split-second decisions that held the lives of me and many others in the balance. But here I am, standing in front of a bunch of stuffy, uptight, frail and feeble politicians, and I'm completely terrified.

Lucky for me, Twilight takes the stage first; hopefully she won't need me for anything other than to stand here and look scary. Scary I can do. The room goes almost completely dark, to help illuminate the holographic projections that are starting to form in between the podium and the stands above, and now I can't see any of their faces, which isn't nearly as relieving as it should be. A spherical hologram appears in front of twilight before she begins to speak.

"This is the planet Horus," she begins, forgoing any sort of formal introduction and instead getting right to the point. "It was discovered a mere three years ago, and was almost immediately the subject of interest for a number of controlling parties. When discovered, the most notable feature of the planet was that it was capable of supporting Equine life without any sort of Equiforming; completely breathable air, drinkable water, and plenty of flora and fauna to go around." The assembly mumbled and discussed with one another before she continued, breaking the humdrum of their voices, "almost immediately, it became an area of contention for several revivalist organizations, who intended to use the fertile world as a sort of second Equestria for their kind. As you all know, this is in direct violation of the Whitefire act, and when the revivalists seized a camp of EU supplies and armaments, a special operations team was sent in to eliminate and investigate them.

However, members of the Wonderbolts team preforming the operation discovered something peculiar about the camp. The revivalists were armed not only with weapons, but excavation equipment, and it was in the excavation site that our team found what was most surprising." Before I know it, the hologram goes dark and the lights go back on, blinding me from the wall of faces peering down on me again. "Sergeant Scootalo was the first to observe the contents of the excavation, and I will leave her to now describe them to you."

WHAT? I can feel the sweat trickling down the back of my neck as I'm suddenly put on the spot like this, but there's not much of an option now. I guess I'll just tell them what I told her. "Uh.... sirs, mada- er... I'm not sure what we found, honestly. It looked like some sort of ruins, or something, except that they hardly looked worn at all. Big, metallic structures that went down into the earth." I just wish I could give a more informative answer, but it seems to have satisfied Twilight.

"These structures," she continues without skipping a beat, "we believe are Alicorn in origin." The very mention of the word "alicorn" causes a stirring humdrum among the crowd, almost like the term is some sort of taboo (which it of course isn't). "That is to say, they have minute details that are only resembled in aspects of ancient Canterlot architecture. The data we extracted from the dig site confirms this, and suggests some sort of connection to the possibility of intelligent life, and possibly some sort of influence on our own history.

This meeting, then, was gathered to request scientific resources from our provinces so that we may study the mysteries that lie on and beneath Horus. We will also require additional military resources to ensure the safety of our research teams, should we encounter any hostile wildlife or remaining revivalist groups." The low ambiance of the various delegates is a little uncomfortable, but as they go on I can tell they're going for it. I'm a little excited, as this feels like some kind of win for me, but I'm also a bit scared. I was excited to get moving before, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I don't really know that I want to go down into whatever those caves were.


A few minutes of delegation more, and Twilight is ready for me to escort her back. I really didn't pay too much attention to the back-and-forth between the politicians, a lot of this stuff would just go over my head anyways. Lucky for me it's not much longer until we start to head out, and I can already see my squad waiting for me. In fact, I guess it's possible that they were here the whole time, and by the look on Firefly's face, it seems pretty likely. Her expression hasn't changed much since I brought this up with Twilight last night, and a small chunk of the pride I was feeling just a second ago is gone. However, it's not long before something, or rather somepony, else catches my eye, somepony I haven't seen for a very long time. Clad in her regal blue dress uniform, and riddled with medals (and scars), Rainbow Dash has her gaze fixed on me, her stare as intense and steely as ever. Even after all this time, she still holds my idolization above anypony else, though for completely different reasons now.

She turns from me for a moment and speaks with Twilight directly "as requested, I've sent the Cerberus to join the excavation fleet."

"That's not enough," Twilight interjects, and I almost cringe at the face Rainbow Dash makes, "I want Alpha squad on this op as well."

"M'am, with all due respect, I think that's a gross misuse of resources. We have multiple terrorist threats on several different colonies, and I think one Wonderbolsts squad is enough."

"Rainbow Dash, you know as well as I do that the secrets in those ruins may be just what we're looking for. Besides, as Commander-in-Chief, I'm ordering you to comply."

I think I hear a quiet grunt of approval before Rainbow Dash gives the President a salute, "yes, m'am." She turns to me before moving on, "This find of yours had better be worth it."

Twilight promptly returns the salute, trying to offer up a slight smile. "You are dismissed, Admiral."

Rainbow Dash and her personal squad proceed down the hall, but they stop in front of my own. Though my squadmates are eschew to the side of the hall, the Admiral still stops to shoot Commander Firefly a glare that sends a shiver down my spine. "Step aside, Captain," her voice is cold, almost angry, and Firefly moves as obviously aside as she can manage. The exaggerated way she moves seems not to be out of defiance, but of submission, almost as though she is plainly guilty for something. On the occasions our squads have met, those two have never gotten along, though honestly it surprises me more than anything. They just seem so alike.

One familiar face, Spitfire, tries to give me a reassuring smile before they move on, but I'm not sure she's even convinced by it. "It was good to see you again, Scootaloo."

"It sounds like we will again soon."

***

My mind starts to clear up when I notice a familiar soft yellow figure, wrapped in elaborate and beautiful white robes, out of the corner of my vision. As I look up, the ambassador for the Equestrian Union is standing there, smiling warmly. "How are you, Scootaloo?"

Despite my nervousness and frustration, her calm face does wonders to cheer me up. "I'm alright, Fluttershy," even though her role in the government is an undoubtedly important one, I feel much more comfortable calling her by her first name than Twilight or Rainbow Dash. That's why she's trusted as a diplomatic ambassador, her caring smile and delicate words have ended more conflicts than my entire squad, maybe than all the Wonderbolts combined. Even though I live for the rush this line of work brings, I can't help but respect that.

"That's good to hear," she turns to face out the window, the radiant glow of the planet shining off her face (or maybe it's the other way around). "I'm very excited for you, Scootaloo. This planet sounds wonderful."

"I'm not so sure. I don't know what's down in those structures, and I'm a little afraid to find out. It could be really dangerous." I don't know why I'm pouring my soul out to her like this when I kept myself reserved even around Rainbow Dash. She was always good with animals, I guess after the change that maternal caring extended to other ponies as well.

"Don't be afraid, Scootaloo. I know God brought you down there for a reason, and I think she still has a lot planned for you yet." Something about that does help me get a little more at ease, even if I'm not wholly conscribed to her beliefs. I guess from the mouth of a lesser pony that could sound preachy and even intimidating, but I can hear the love in Fluttershy's voice. And I have to admit, the idea that I'm protected by some sort of divine intervention does help me feel better, so maybe I'll give God a shot.

I start to turn away when I notice her smile fade a bit. Something's wrong, and that's not usual with her, but I need to be subtle. "So, Fluttershy, how've you been?" When she turns to me, she holds up a smile until she can tell I'm not buying it. Both her smile and shoulders droop down, and though I don't like to see somepony so frail upset like this, I'm glad to know she feels comfortable with me. After all, she helped me with a lot of my fears when I was little, so it's nice to still feel like a friend.

"I'm worried, Scootaloo, about everything. Tensions between the provinces are rising, and I don't know what I can do about it. They all want to have everything, they all want more control, and I can only reason so much with that. Why can't ponies just be happy with what they have? Why can't they see that we're just trying to make things work out for everypony? Why do they need to fight over everything, instead of just accepting what God gave them?" She looks up at me, tears nearly welling up in her eyes, and all I want is to say something to make her feel safe and confident again. But what can I say? I've spent almost all of my life acting, not thinking. I don't have the slightest idea what to tell her, but I can't stand being helpless like this either.

I guess she notices this, because she straightens up pretty quickly, and starts to wipe the tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry, I don't need to bother you with this," she forces a smile as she speaks.

"No, it's fine. But I don't know what to say, Fluttershy, I just don't know about these sort of things," I can feel my ears droop as I give what must be the most unsatisfactory answer I could possibly have. After a moment, I decide to add a bit of condolence, "But I do know this much; if anypony can sort these things out, it's our friends. I've seen you guys accomplish things I didn't know were possible, and I know you can sort this all out."

This gets a more sincere smile out of her and she wipes her eyes again. "Thank you, Scootaloo." She turns her gaze downward, smiling dreamily for a moment, probably recollecting all the obstacles they've overcome already, before her ears perk up and the smile is swept from her face. "Oh, I need to be going!" Come to think of it, I need to meet up with the rest of my squad, so I start to head off too. "But it was nice talking to you, Scootaloo!"

"You too, Fluttershy!"

***

Back at the barracks, I can already see Firefly briefing the rest of the squad, which brings me back to the reality of things. The fact of the matter is, I don't want to know what's down in those caves, or whatever they are, and yet I desperately do at the same time. I can't shake the feeling that there's something wrong with them, like seriously wrong, but I also feel drawn to them in a way that's beyond simple curiosity. Still, it takes a lot to give a seasoned Wonderbolt the heebie-jeebies, so I kind of wish there was some line of defense between me and whatever's down there. If anything's down there.

"Scootaloo, glad you could step out of your spotlight to join us lowly creatures," the commander's biting tongue is actually a kind of welcoming sound; as bitter as she is, I'm much more comfortable with her brutally and honestly chewing me out than having to look through some politician's alterior motives. Still, she seems more bitter than usual about it, but then again she always got antsy around bureaucrats.

"As I was saying," she continues, "we're going to have another combat drop in 1600 hours. We don't know what's down in those caves, and that's why we're going to investigate. We have no intel on what we're up against down there, or if there's even a threat, so be prepared for anything. I know this is a little unusual, but we're Wonderbolts, the best of the best. We're trained to be ready for any situation, and I expect just that out of all of you." The commander's stern words do good to help inspire some more confidence in me, and I can see the same feeling reflected on the rest of my squad. It reminds me of the way Rainbow Dash used to get the best out of me when I was first becoming a Wonderbolt. Just like then, though, it didn't get rid of the butterflies in my stomach outright.

"Still," she adds, almost as if she could read my thoughts, "I have a bad gut feeling about this, so I've requested a little armored support. I asked for the biggest thing they could give me, and here's what we got;" a door leading from the barracks to a large hangar area slides open, and right in front of the door stands our 'armored support.' "Wonderbolts, say hello to the XDA-MkIV."

A massive, but lithe, figure lies sprawled out before us. It's long, curvaceous back end is lined with thick metal spines along the sides and back that go all the way up it's spine. Panels covering a pair of missile launchers lie beneath large folded wings. A sheen black visor spreads across it's thick gridded helmet. Even beneath all this armor and tech, I can recognize an old friend, though.

"Hey, Spike."

"Hello, Scootaloo."

"I figured that doorway was big enough to fit this fella through," Firefly continues. "Even if it turns out he can't get around down there, we could use some support in case those rebels come back with more toys." She gives the lot of us a look over before finishing. "Alright Wonderbolts, get some rest, or get prepped. Drop's in a couple of hours, and I want you at your best. Dismissed!"

Author's Note:

The Equestrian Union currently expands over five star systems, encompassing 32 worlds (in addition, there are four worlds that have been settled by equine life, but have have not been annexed by the Union). These 32 worlds are divided into seven distinct nations, each of which fill a role in the greater Equestrian Union. For example, the largest and most powerful is Greater Equestria, which consists of seven worlds, with the capital world of Equestria at it's heart. Greater Equestria functions as a hub and moderator for the other nations, handling over-arching political disputes and the most high-profile matters. The nation of Apollo consists of five agricultural worlds, which supply the rest of the Equestrian Union in return for relatively relaxed control. The nation of Tartarus consists of three worlds focused on recruitment and training, producing a large portion of the Union's military forces.

While each nation has it's own leaders and interests, they must all pay taxes and provide soldiers for the Union as a whole, and the president of Greater Equestria holds the same powers in each nation as the head of state does for that individual nation.

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