• Published 20th Jun 2013
  • 382 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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 5
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03///_Into_the_Depths

I'm not sure I can process this.

"It's not magic, your majesty, it's genetics," the dull-gray earth pony turns from the tools at his laboratory to face me as he speaks. "Well, I suppose magic is a genetic function technically speaking, but I'm saying that we're all hard wired to become the way you are now. It was just locked away in our genetic code, until now."

"But that doesn't make any sense, I experienced the spell that made me this way first-hoof. It would have to be magically-based, wouldn't it?"

"It's looking like that spell was the key to unlocking your genetic code and bringing out your true form. Of course, we'll be able to do the same with science soon, and then we can mass produce your gift to all of Equestria, Princess," he gives a little informal bow as he addresses me as royalty.

"Please, let's not use those kind of old useless titles anymore."

"Then how about Madame President?"

I rub the back of my neck uneasily, "Let's wait until the elections are over for that one," I force out a quiet laugh as I speak.

The gray pony furrows his brow with a little smirk, running a hoof through his ragged white mane. "I might as well be calling you the President now. Not only are you intelligent, charismatic, and a champion of the ponies, but now supporting you means power, immortality, the next stage of evolution! Who wouldn't want to vote for that?"

***

Not eating before we started our drop was a pretty big mistake. Some food would had helped to quell my jitters... I haven't been this shaky for a long time. Since I was a rookie, I think. I still am a bit embarrassed that I'm so nervous about a pretty routine combat drop, but I can't remember the last time I dropped without any intel on where we were going or what we were up against, either. When every known civilization is either a part of the Equestrian Union or being observed by it, you tend to get a bit spoiled with your intelligence. But even barring the loss of a blueprint, patrol info, or even a concrete attack plan, there's something else that's different this time. During most combat drops, even when things go wrong you still have a basic idea of what you're up against. You can be expecting to be fighting ponies, griffons, or other equines, possibly with some sort of larger backup. You can expect your opponents to be bringing firearms to bear on you, and that they'll have some capacity for flight or magic. You can expect them to be sentient, and therefore susceptible to psychology and reasoning if things go too bad. But not this time. We have no idea what we're up against this time, or if we're even "up against" anything at all. These caves might be completely empty, after all.

Being responsible for babysitting a few scientists doesn't make me feel any easier. That's something I'd like to have known about last night, though I guess it doesn't make any difference. To me, it'd make more sense to let a combat unit clear these caves first, before letting any civilians anywhere near the surface, but Twilight seems convinced that if we run into trouble there'll hardly be any ruins left to study, so she wants a team on the ground as soon as possible. I hardly see how that makes a difference, though, if the bullets do start flying it's not like they'll be able to do some quick researching before they run for cover. She hasn't said anything, but I think the commander feels the same way. She's always been a bit antsy around scientists, though, even more than politicians.

What does make me feel better is the backup we got. Having an XDA (Exo Dragon Armor) unit on your side is no laughing matter, not only are they huge and armed to the teeth, but there's a level of reliability with a dragon you don't get with a tank or even standard air support. Because it's their natural body they're operating and not some sort of complicated vehicle, you can rely on an XDA to give split-second support when needed. What's more is simply the fact that there's a dragon in there; even after we ponies surpassed normal mortality there's a lot of natural wisdom to be learned from their species, and a natural ferocity that really counts for a lot when things get hairy. The added bonus that it's one of my oldest friends in there doesn't hurt, either.

The increasing volume of the rumbling outside means we're starting to break through the atmosphere, and most of my fellow Wonderbolts take it as a sign to start gearing up simply by force of habit. Off in the opposite corner, I can see the scientists preparing their own equipment. The fact that the heat and the noise of atmospheric entry is only as bad as it is for us is a testament to the marvels of modern technology.

Sitting across from the group, a couple of the scientists are joining Lockeye in a quick prayer before preparing their gear. It seems kind of weird to me that scientists, of all ponies, would join in on this whole religion. Their type are supposed to be progressive thinkers, and the thought of some of them joining this kind of bandwagon seems so, I don't know, irrevelant. I'm not saying it's hokey or anything, just that it doesn't really suit them. I guess that it could be considered progressive thinking in a sense, given that this kind of god is a relatively new idea. It just seems kind of off.

"Alright everypony, I want a role call good and early before we drop," Firefly's voice snaps me out of my daydreaming and back to the moment at hoof.

"Bravo 5, standing by," Starwind responds almost immediately.

"Bravo 4, standing by," with Jet still recovering, we actually got a member of Rainbow Dash's Alpha team to take his place. I'd be pretty stoked about that if it didn't always feel like he was watching us.

"Bravo 3, all ready," Lockeye chimes in.

"Bravo 2, standing by," my voice is a bit coarse at not having spoken for a few hours.

"Bravo leader, all systems are go. XDA-IV unit, how are things on your end?"

"All systems are operational, commander," a deep, rough voice responds over the comms.

"Alright, science teams, report in."

The scientists are a bit more nervous and erratic with their response, it's pretty clear this isn't how they do things.

"Um, yes, this Dr. Sunbead, uh, standing by."

"Dr. Moonlight, everything's fine here."

"Dr. Seaside here."

Four or five more chime in in the same haphazard way, but I'm not really listening at that point. I probably should be, but it's not like I'm going to remember their names anyway. I'm more focused on double-checking my armor, and running through combat routines in my head. There's a pretty good chance that those rebels will be back and angry, and this time they'll be be much more ready for a tactical insertion. Which means they'll probably get their flanks whupped by the armored dragon that didn't tag along last time, but it's still important that each Wonderbolt is prepared as well.

"Bravo two and three, you two and the XDA will drop ahead of the team and secure the LZ for the scientists. Bravo four, five, and myself will form a perimeter as soon as this bird hits the ground. Get moving, Wonderbolts!"

The hiss and roar of the rear hatch on the dropship is muffled slightly as I fit my helmet around my snout, the familiar tactical displays filling my vision as my armor systems boot up. Movement tracking systems, aim-assist, an internal compass and sensors on my vitals dot my peripherals as Lockeye's voice directly enters my ear, clear as day over all the external noise.

"Ready, Scootaloo?" He approaches the edge of the hangar bay and readies himself to jump.

"Affirmative. Spike?"

"I'm ready when you are."

"Alright then, we jump on my mark... mark!" Lockeye and I form a criss-cross pattern in the air above Spike, our armored friend heading directly toward the ground, unafraid of anti-air fire. Really, it'd be pretty foolish to shoot at him anyways, but I don't think that'll stop the rebels from trying if they get a chance. I take the opportunity while airborne to survey the area and see if I can find any signs of their return, but from what I can tell, the damage we did seems to have lasted.

I make another circle around the area before swooping down for a touchdown, forming a triangle around the landing area with Spike and Lockeye. As the dropship nears the ground, I switch the automatic sound filters in my helmet to completely block out sound from behind me, so that I can more acutely hear if there is movement up ahead of me. Firefly always tells us not to do this, but I don't really see the point; it's not like an enemy force could attack from an LZ we already cleared.

The hiss-pop of the pistons releasing as the rear hatch of the dropship opens up is still audible, though, and with a quick glance over my shoulder I can see the scientists hauling their equipment down the ramp. Why they thought it was a good idea to bring all these scanners and gauges with them is beyond me, and honestly it'll make them that much harder to protect. I just hope most of that stuff is staying up here, on the surface. I don't know what we're in for, but if bullets start to fly those machines are just going to slow us down.

Forming an arc in front of the scientists Firefly and the Alpha Squad member pan out and more fully cover the radius around the drop zone. "Bravo 2, how's the LZ look?"

I snap my eyes back forward and quickly scan the area in my vision. "All clear, sir. No contacts."

"Alright team, form up. Capricorn pattern." The squad forms a lopsided diamond with the commander in the front, the ponies on the flank ends facing outward to cover our sides. Spike stays towards the back of the formation, giving us a little more protection from behind. "Sunbead, I need you and your team to get into the middle of our formation, and stay with us."

"Just a moment, commander. We just need to attune our instruments and we'll be right with you," the scientist's meek voice feels out of place in my headset, compared to firm, confident tone I'm used to hearing.

"Doctor, we're not lugging that equipment around in the dark with us. We'll come back for it once we've verified the caves are clear."

The scientist sighs under his breath, not realizing we can hear him quite easily through out headsets. "Very well, commander." Seven of the science team form up between us, with the rest staying back to mess with their equipment.

"Alright everypony, let's move!"

***

The excavation site is exactly as we left it, which feels a little weird for me. As a rapid-insertion force, it's not often the Wonderbolts return to the site of a mission. As we pace our way through the camp, the various dents and holes in the walls bring little flashbacks of exactly what happened at that spot in the battle. According to Jet, this is an early sign of PTSD, but it's honestly saved my flank more times than it's hurt, so I haven't really done anything about it.

When we get to the actual dig site, though, the scientists react about how I expected. Audible gasps can be heard through my headset as the knowledge-hungry ponies take in every detail. I have to admit, even I'm taken aback looking at this thing again. As my eyes trace the designs along the mouth of the "cave," I get that weird feeling in my gut again, as though it's calling me inside.

I give the rest of the squad a quick glance to share the sentiment. Sure enough, they're all as startled and impressed as I am (even if they try to hide it), even the commander. Only the pony from Alpha squad doesn't seem to have much of a reaction. Almost as if he had known this would be here...

"Bravo two and three, move up to the mouth of the cave. XDA, I want you to take point." Lockeye and I move to our designated positions with Spike close behind.

As I approach the mouth of the structure, I notice an unusual sound coming from inside. A kind of mix between a low humming and the whirring of gears grows louder as I get closer, as though there is some sort of working machinery inside. What kind of place is this? Regardless, I don't detect any hostiles, so I give the signal for the rest of the squad to approach.

The rest of the squad moves up to my position, and we take our original formation as we move inside. Something about the lighting of the structure made it almost impossible to see what was in the cave from the outside, so this is finally my chance to see what we're dealing with, and the anticipation is killing me.

Still, I'm not even remotely ready for what greets my eyes.

Inside, a vast, carved out tunnel stretches toward a great towering spire. From where I'm standing, it looks like this spire spirals downwards, towards more structures like it. As we get closer, I can see that the caves delve deep downwards int a wide chasm filled with more spires like the first one; almost like a vast, underground city. The architecture of these structures reminds me of something from long ago, but I can't put my hoof on what. Even more than the exterior, these spires, the walls around them, and the carvings that line them all feel like someplace I've seen before.

The echo of everypony's every hoofstep is the only thing disturbing the silence of this empty city, other than the low humming I heard earlier. Nopony says a word as we trek our way down the spiraling staricase of the first spire, down towards the deep underground city. It's almost like we don't want to disturb the sacred silence of the chasm, but speaking for the Wonderbolts I can at least say that we kept silent to more easily pick up on anything unusual. Besides, I don't know if anypony would know what to say about all this if they wanted to.

Eventually the staircase reaches a plateu; it looks like it keeps going down past that, but the commander gives us the signal to stop. Without saying a word, she signals Starwind and the Alpha squad pony towards a strange, well-like outcropping near us. Above the cylindrical base lies a series of intertwined rings. They look like they're supposed to move, but for the time being they're as deathly still as the rest of this place.

"Clear," after briefly scanning the area, Starwind's voice is the first to break the silence, and maybe ease the tension just a bit. A few of the scientists are already moving towards their position to observe the rings, when I suddenly feel a tapping on my shoulder.

"Uh, Sergeant," the scientist sheepishly whispers as he pokes me again.

"What?"

"There's something above us." As I turn to face him, I see his eyes glued to the ceiling.

"If there was any lifeforms near us, above or below, we'd be able to pick them up on our sensors," I whisper harshly back.

"I know, but the ceiling. It's watching us..."

What? I crane my head up to see what's the matter. What on Equestria is he talki-....

What is that? Hundreds, maybe thousands of shining blue dots littered the ceiling above us. As I focused my vision, I could see a few of the lights flickering briefly. No, not flickering. Blinking. Looking at us. Watching us. The ceiling is watching us.

I get into a battle-ready stance, my rifle pointed at the swarms of eyes above, as I open a direct channel with Firefly. "Commander, I think there's something above us. My sensors aren't picking anything up but the ceiling is... looking at us."

Firefly is immediately focused on the eyes as well, and it's not long before the rest of the Wonderbolts and Spike follow in her stead. As we all aim our rifles upwards, the humming I heard earlier gets louder, and i realize that whatever these eyes are, they're moving towards us.

"Wonderbolts," the commander's voice is quiet, but stern. "Fire at will."

We all wait a few moments more to let the eyes get into range before the first shots ring out. A loud crack and a flash of light fill the air as Lockeye's sniper hits one of the eyes dead center, and it's owner lets out a loud screech before spinning to the ground. Only a few moments later, the rest of us are letting loose rapid bursts, filling the black, insectoid creatures with smoking holes. The flaps under Spike's wings open up and let loose a volley of incendiary missiles setting a whole clump of the creatures ablaze.

The dead silence that filled the air only moments ago has been replaced with the crackling of gunfire, the buzzing and screeching of our targets, and the startled screams of the scientists accompanying us. I think we need to get out of here.

"Everypony, full retreat!" the commander shouts as she puts down a trio of enemies. The other Wonderbolts and I instinctively form a triangle around the civillians, but not before one of them is snatched from between us, screaming as he is carried into the darkness above. Starwind starts to follow him, but the commander cuts her off, "Stay in formation!"

It only takes a few yards of fighting towards the entrance to see we'll never make it out like this. "Commander, we need to make a break for it. At this rate we'll be out of ammo before we get halfway out of this place."

The fighting lasts a few moments longer before I get a response. "Alright, everypony break formation and head for the exit on my mark." Everypony tenses up as we get ready to fly out of here, and the remaining scientists put up protective shields around themselves. "Three, two, one... mark!"

Immediately the whole group takes off up the spiral staircase, everypony flying as fast as they can for the exit. I twist myself so that I'm firing backwards down the length of my body once we get up to the hall leading to the mouth of the cave. A few well placed bursts take down our closest pursuers and cause a larger crowd of them to back off a bit, enough so that I can turn back to face where I'm going. Just in time, too, as a huge figure drops in front of me, right on top another one of the scientists. I put up a magical shield as I try my best to come to a stop, the force field dampening the collision with the creature, just before it bats me away.

From behind the monster crashes Spike, knocking it off it's feet before a huge blade springs out from his wrist. With a quick, sweeping motion, he slices the beast in two, before turning around and letting loose a huge wave of green fire on the incoming horde behind us. I scramble to my hooves before making a final break for the entrance.

"Bravo carrier, we need immediate evac! I repeat, evac on my position!" Firefly shouts through the comms.

"Roger Bravo leader, ETA three minutes."

Three minutes. Can we hold out for three minutes? At this rate, I'm about a minute and a half from the door, but I don't know if I have the ammo for thirty seconds of this. I've been in some crazy firefights, but this is something else. I've been shot at, dodged explosives, evaded security and fought giant excavation equipment head on. But I can't remember ever feeling this hopeless.

Right before we reach the mouth of the cave, two pairs of outcroppings on the corners pivot towards us, revealing long, gun-like figures. Are those... gun turrets? Gun turrets? Really?

I throw up a shield and brace for impact, clenching my eyes tight and pushing myself as fast as I can. As the sound of these foreign weapons go off, I feel an immediate sense of... nothing. What? I open my eyes to see the turrets turned on our pursuers, frying entire groups with deadly precision. As Spike and I reach the end of the cave, all I can do is stare in awe at as the guns of the structure itself systematically purge the black wall of creatures. My comrades and I take a few shots to clean up any bugs that get past the guns, but before long they are making a full retreat.

"It looks... it looks like they're gone. Rolecall, everypony! What are our losses?" Firefly's voice snaps me back into focus.

"Bravo two, all systems functional."

"Bravo three, I'm all good here, sir."

"Bravo four, I'm fine."

"Bravo five, all systems online."

"Dr. Sunbeam, I'm alright."

"Dr. Moonlight, I'm good too." I don't recognize the name, but I recognize that voice. Moonlight is the scientist who got pulled away at the start of the fight.

"Moonlight? How did you get out of there?"

"I... I don't know. One moment they're taking me away, and all of a sudden I'm here. Maybe they let me go, or something."

I don't have much time to think about it when the roar of our dropship fills the air around us. "This is Bravo carrier, everypony alright?"

"Yeah... yeah. We're okay." Firefly's voice is quiet and reluctant for the first time today. "Let's go home."

Author's Note:

The XDA-800 series of dragon armor is a military developed and produced exo-suit designed to protect it's wearer and enhance their abilities, turning them into a living tank. Originally based off of the DCA series, a series of armor designed to tame and posses it's wearer by means of remote control, the DCA series was outlawed when Counselor Spike and the Everfree Wildlife Brigade won the case for treatment of wild dragons as sentient creatures. However, the tactical uses of the DCA series were still in great demand, and so the suits were re-fitted to not only allow the wearer to maintain their personal motor control, but to enhance their strength and reflexes considerably.

The current model is outfitted with a number of external weapons and sensors in addition to the natural enhancements, including a pair of back-mounted missile launchers, titanium wrist-slung blades, as well as magic, heat, and electromagnetic sensors. The armor is obviously military-issue only, and restricted from civilian purchase, dragon or otherwise.

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Comments ( 5 )

Huh. No comments, and only two likes? What went wrong? It looks pretty OK to me.

2758621
It's been mathematically proven, the amount of attention a fic gets is inversely proportionate to the amount of work put into it.
Honestly, it's probably the same thing as when I released EoU. People don't want to jump into a story 11k words in :applejackunsure:
If I can get it on EQD (or something of the like), people will hopefully actually read it for it's content rather than ignore it because of some pointless pre-conceived notion.

I faved this immediately, read it later, and you have proven yourself.
IT
WAS
AMAZING.

2770705
You leave the best comments. :heart:
And trust me, it's only going to get better.

Now if only I could find a way to get more folks to read it... :unsuresweetie:

2758713 i disagree , people might not jump in it right away due to leisure constraints but i would much rather have a story to my fics , pretty sure many others are like that too....

i wouldn't say the preconceived notions are pointless , i would say that's just people deciding they don't want to indulge something that's about a particular something , the fic your mentioning here doesn't appeal to me , but this fic kinda does , maybe i'll check it out sometime , maybe after i check out the 300 other fics i have on my read later list.......

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