• Published 10th May 2016
  • 1,948 Views, 422 Comments

The Titan's Orb: Rising Storm - Old Man Dusters

While Callum and the Mane Six continue their quest to find the shards of the Titan's Orb, their path ahead grows only more deadly as they are now stalked by a relentless shadow that will stop at nothing until they are vanquished...

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Chapter Twenty-Nine: Heat Stroke

Author's Note:

So sorry for the long wait on this chapter, I have since moved away from the UK to New Zealand with my newly wedded wife!
Yes, Callum Horncastle is now a married man! :heart:
(Obviously not the Fic Edition :raritywink: )

I've had to spend time sorting stuff out, Visa, Tax, Accommodation, Work, etc...
Thanks for your patience!

“I… *ack* Hate… *ptui!* The desert…” I coughed, spitting out a handful of sand.

“Let’s not charge through portals again.” Twilight murmured.

I looked up at a dazed Pinkie Pie, whom I had collided with upon emerging from the portal; in my defence, she was stood directly in front of it upon my emergence.

“Are you okay Pinks?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s okay, I just got a bit of sand in my ear.” She replied, shaking her head friskily.

Standing up, I brushed myself down and smiled.

“Well, if it comes as any consolation, I’ve got sand in my mouth and in my nose.”

“Guess where I’ve got sand?”

I turned around only to feel a hoof collide with my private parts, howling with agony, I dropped back to the ground and clutched my crotch, now wailing.

“Right, fucking, there!” Rainbow Dash spat.

Ooooooow...!” I moaned.

“That’s what you get for throwing me tail-first into a portal, asshole.”

“Dick punch, I told you so.” Applejack stated, amused.

“Oh, I hit more than that.”

I looked up at Dashie, feeling my stomach turn violently.

“If you throw up on my new cool outfit, I’ll hit you again, harder this time.”

Desperately trying to hold in my breakfast, I clawed my way to a wobbly standing point, where I looked around at the environment around us, we seemed to be in a small ravine, at least Hawnu Rey’eng had the courtesy of putting the beacon somewhere in the shade.

“How do we find the next orb shard?” I wretchedly asked.

“That’s actually a really good point, we haven’t a clue how to find it.” Twilight muttered.

“Why not try your weird new gizmo?” Applejack asked.

Withdrawing the rifle from my back, I looked at the farm pony and chuckled slightly.

“This gizmo, Applejack, is a lethal weapon. I highly doubt it can take us in the right direction.”

{Nope, but you’re literally carrying an Ex Machina, which fits just right on the scope.}

I pulled a confused face, before remembering the Techs Machina actually had some use; upon inspection, there was indeed a beetle shaped groove on the scope. Removing the device from my own bag, I placed it into the groove and it clicked into place flawlessly. Within seconds, the device made a humming noise, and the device’s ‘head’ sprung up an inch, and then leaned towards a particular direction.

“Fascinating.” I murmured.

Turning to my left, the head changed direction to face its original one, clarifying that it was indeed pointing towards a specific location.

“Convenient too.”

While I’d fired various firearms over my adventure, I hadn’t a clue how to work this sniper rifle; I hoped I could figure it out before any problems arose.

“Well, let’s not waste any time, let’s move out.” Twilight announced.

Taking the lead, I moved towards the entrance of the ravine, where a slope led upwards to the sunlight; we’d taken a few steps when we all jumped to the sound of a loud bang!
Whipping around and ready to shoot, I found the portal had closed and the teleport beacon had exploded.

“Fucking Hawnu Rey’eng…” I sighed, loosening my grip on the gun.

At least four of us gasped with awe upon stepping out into the sun, the sheer heat in comparison to the cold mountaintop air in Portugal was a complete shock to our system.

“Well this is certainly a change of scenery.” I said.

“Indeed.” Rarity agreed.

“There is no scenery.” Rainbow Dash scoffed.

She had a point, there was nothing but dunes and rock formations as far as the eye could see, there wasn’t a single plant in sight; we were literally in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, the beetle head continued to direct us towards the sun; it didn’t take long until we started to feel the heat, even with our enchanted clothing.

“How long do you think we’ll be walking?” Pinkie asked.

“Not a clue, so conserve your water, let’s move.” I replied.

For the first time in forever, everyone looked to Twilight for a command; it seemed like she’d finally won over their trust and were ready to start looking to her as a leader again, and myself as a mere guide.

“What he said.” She nodded proudly.

I gave the unicorn a wink and we all moved onwards, our destination unknown…

Hours had gone by, the only source of shade being Rarity’s umbrella, which we had to take in turns to use; within a single day, this desert escapade had already turned into a dull affair.

“This is no adventure, it’s a bloody sand simulator.” I grumbled under my breath.

Up ahead was a large rock formation, it was at least four stories high; we decided to head there and take a quick break in the shade, and trudged towards it with haste.

“Darling, would you pass the brolly?”

“Can I just have it for just a few more moments, Sugarcube? My back’s sweating more than a pat of butter on a hot pancake!” Applejack begged.

“That was an absolutely disgusting thought.” Rarity muttered back.

“The next one getting the shade is me, I’ve waited like twenty minutes.” Rainbow Dash protested.

“You had it no more than five minutes ago!” I chimed in, calling her out.

“Oh piss off, Callum. How are those balls of yours doing?” She sneered back.

“No better than your condition, Sandy Cooch.” I spat.

Fuck you!

The pegasus tackled me to the ground and I dropped the sniper rifle, causing the Techs Machina to fall out of its slot. With quick reactions, I gave Rainbow Dash a powerful smack on the nose, causing her to jump back in shock, now on the verge of sneezing; I stood up and shook myself down, sand now down the back of my neck and causing instant irritation.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I growled.

“You’re wrong with me, that’s what!” She snarled back, wrinkling her nose.

“Well if you don’t back off, I’m going to be a much bigger problem to you!”

We both took a step towards one another, when Twilight barged in between us.

“Cut it out, the both of you! The heat’s already getting to you both, it’s starting to get to me too, so just shut up and let’s get to the shade before I flip my shit.” She commanded.

Shaking my head with shame, I nodded and picked up the rifle, plugging the Techs Machina back into its slot and letting it reactivate; Rainbow Dash approached me and sighed.

“Sorry, asshole.”

“It’s fine, dick-breath.”

She smirked and we continued walking, our attitudes back to normal, both acknowledging the heat was responsible for the outburst, and not ourselves, we just needed to retain more self-control.

{Funny thing is, she does have dick breath.} Stardust remarked.

“Okay, ew!” Twilight shouted, now trying to remove her collar.

“What is it?” Pinkie quizzed.

Shaking her head, Twilight muttered for her to “never mind”, and continued walking alongside me with an absolutely disgusted and disgruntled expression, Stardust laughing maniacally all the while.

“Can I please have the umbrella now?” Rarity begged.

“Ugh, fine!” AJ moaned.

Removing the umbrella from her back, (pony umbrellas were certainly interesting, they were basically attached to a saddle), Applejack passed it to Rarity, who used her magic to put it on.

“Eewww, it’s wet!” She squealed.

Applejack responded by chuckling, and then wiped her brow.

“I’d recommend not using magic out here if you can avoid it.” Twilight advised.

“Why?” I asked, curious.

“The heat, mixed with the rapid dehydration, it drains mana much faster. It’s why our unicorn ancestors settled in the mountains and in other colder regions. I’d say with the current temperatures, Rarity can use about a quarter of her usual magic capabilities without draining her mana well.” She explained.


“Not even I knew that!” Rarity exclaimed.

“Well, you learn something every d-”

I was interrupted by an ear-splitting crack from the rock formation, milliseconds later, a bullet struck the sand only a metre away from me.

GET DOWN!” I boomed.

Removing the Techs Machina from the rifle yet again, I scrambled behind the nearest dune just as the second bullet came whizzing past, nearly hitting Rarity, she screamed and bolted, running back where we’d come, Fluttershy and Pinkie close behind her.

“I really hope I know how to work this bloody thing…” I whispered through gritted teeth.

Who was shooting at us? And why? At this point, it didn’t matter; I rested the rifle on the tip of the dune and looked through the scope, scanning the rock formation, I came across a cave near the top, along with what appeared to be a small encampment.
Another bullet smacked into the sand next to me, causing me to jolt and dip my head in fear of losing it, I looked on the side of the rifle and found three modes, safety, semi-auto, and piercing shot. Flicking it from safety to semi-auto, the rifle made some sort of buzzing noise, and the scope’s lens rotated, zooming in; I looked through the scope again and searched for the gunman, my ability to see now greatly improved. Soon enough, I found the bugger, leaning over a wooden table. His gun’s muzzle flickered before I heard the shot, and then a scream from behind me, had one of the girls just been hit?

Inhaling deeply, and then slowly exhaling, I lined up the crosshair to his chest and slowly squeezed the trigger, bang! The recoil was surprisingly weak, I supposed the futuristic model had some form of countermeasure to reduce it; sure enough, my target had dropped down and showed no indication of getting back up again.
Scanning the area, I noticed a group of other people holding assault rifles, one of them scrambled for the dropped sniper rifle, and I took another shot, missing. They pointed their assault rifle at me and took a few inaccurate shots in return, all of them missing completely. Taking my second shot, my bullet struck true and they dropped just as quickly as the first.

{How many more of them are there?} I thought to myself, frustrated.

{You’re armed with a pegasus that can fly like an arrow, use her!}

“That’s far too dangerous…” I mumbled.

{You’re being shot at, by an unknown number of targets, you need her to identify the threat, now for goodness sake, ask your friend with benefits for some help!}

“Fine… Dashie!” I shouted.

Getting out from behind cover, she swiftly ran over to me and ducked down beside me.

“Ready to do something dangerous?” I asked.

“Always!” She shouted back as more gunfire smacked the dune.

“I’m going to cover you, while you fly over there and scout for me, I need to know how many people we’re dealing with here.” I commanded.

“On it!”

Without fear or hesitation, Rainbow Dash was already flying overhead; it wasn’t long before I heard more gunshots that weren’t followed by pockets of sand bursting up, they were shooting at her.

“Let’s give this a try…” I murmured.

Switching the mode to piercing shot, the scope rotated again, this time I was greeted a much darker view, with the enemies highlighted in yellow to make them easily visible, I could faintly see the outlines of their bodies through the sandbags they were cowering behind. Lining up the crosshair, I aimed at the most well-hidden opponent, whom was entirely obscured by sandbags.


“Fuck me!” I yelped as the gun almost leapt out of my arms.

Looking back down the scope, there was now a fist-sized hole in the sandbags, with the highlighted foe now lying beside them, the yellow light quickly becoming dimmer, until it died out completely. Knowing I was the main threat, the remaining two gunners went back to shooting at me, giving Rainbow Dash the perfect opportunity to swoop in; before I could take another shot, her bright yellow outline met them like a bullet of her own, she really could fly fast. Hooves met skulls and they were both down before they could get a chance to point their weapons at her; I spotted another emerging from the right, attempting to sneak up on Dashie.

“Not on my watch.” I whispered through gritted teeth.

Prepared for the recoil now, I squeezed the trigger and the gun jumped back, taking down the last apparent threat with a spectacular headshot; with a shot of such strength, I imagined there wouldn’t be a head left! I scanned the area for about ten seconds before switching the gun to safety and running over to the girls.

“Is everyone alright?” I called out.

“Fluttershy’s been hit!” Twilight called back.

My eyes now wide with fear, I rushed over the dune and skidded towards them, trying my best not to spray sand at them as I did so. Fluttershy was still standing, a good sign.

“It’s… N-not serious… B-but it really, really huurrts!” She whimpered, crying loudly.

Rushing to her side, I saw a large graze on the pegasus’s shoulder, it was rather deep, but the bullet hadn’t penetrated, it had simply zinged off her, she’d live. Still, it was distressing to see her buttery coat splashed with fresh blood; thankfully the threat had been dealt with and the assailants had paid the price.

“They’re all down, I made sure there weren’t any lurking around in any corners.” Dash informed us, fluttering in and landing beside me.

“Good to know.” I sighed.

“How’s Flutters?”

“She’ll be okay, but we need to wash the sand out of the wound or it’ll go septic.” I told her.

“We can’t waste any water.” Twilight pointed out.

“I’m sorry, but I’d rather go thirsty than let infection get into an injury like that, use my bottle.” I replied.

“Your funeral.” She grumbled.

Rolling my eyes, I took out my bottle and sparingly poured the water onto Fluttershy’s wound, while she cried harder, she remained perfectly still. After I couldn’t see any more sand, I bound it with a rag from her bag and tightened it as much as I could to stem the bleeding.

“We’ll use Kuphila Amanzi when we set up camp, we’ve got to get out of the sun for now.” I instructed.

Nodding, she struggled to her hooves and we trudged towards the rock formation and finally felt the blessing of the shade, we all sighed with relief and Fluttershy even stopped crying.

By the time we’d scaled the spire to find loot, the sun had changed position to the point where we only had about half an hour of shade left.

“AK-Forty-Seven anyone?” I offered jokily, kicking one of the assault rifles aside.

“What were these people even doing out here?” Rarity asked.

Removing their head garbs to inspect the enemy, I was greeted with a group of middle-eastern faces, all with wiry black beards, which looked like they’d never shaved in all their lives, thus resulting in immature hair, which the British like to refer as ‘bum fluff’.

“I don’t know, I’m hardly an expert on eastern nationalities, I could be extremely bigoted and guess these people are Pakistani, perhaps Afghan, but that’s just what I know from stereotypes of such people. All I know is that these people tried to hurt us, and now they’re dead, so does it matter?”

“But why did they just randomly start shooting?” Dashie quizzed.

“Who knows? Perhaps they saw me first and thought they’d try to shoot down a white person, or perhaps they saw you all and thought they were under attack from aliens, or demons, or something I don’t bloody know. They clearly weren’t friendly, and I’m sure the world’s better off without them.”

A few awkward glances were exchanged between everyone, the general consensus being that nobody should wish another dead, but what’s done was done, and nobody was complaining.
Fluttershy sat down and I went over to apply some Kuphila Amanzi, the poor mare could barely keep it together when the substance begun to sting, she remained seated for quite a while until she could regain a hold of herself.

“Huh, I don’t know how they’ve survived with these supplies, they’ve got half a barrel of water between them and some weird looking meat, at least, I think it’s meat.” Applejack hummed.

“That’s jerky, dried meat that lasts a long time without spoiling.” I explained.

Applejack was right, these people were living on very limited rations, they must have been out here for a while, either way, it didn’t matter now.

“Alright everypony, drink as much of their water as you can and then let’s move out.” Twilight ordered.

We did as instructed, I also consumed some of the jerky, it was goat meat for sure.

{You’re aware they probably fucked the goat before butchering it, don’t you?}

“You’re an absolute fucking cretin, Stardust.” I breathed lightly.

{But you know I’m right, right?}

“Yes…” I sighed, rolling my eyes.

We clambered back down the rocky path and I hooked up the Techs Machina to the rifle and continued to venture out into the blistering sands once more.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m cold.” Rainbow Dash moaned.

Nightfall had consumed the desert, and the heat had all but been forgotten as the cold set in to replace it, while the mountain in Portugal was much colder, the rapid contrast had made it more difficult for our bodies to regulate the temperatures, and thus we felt colder than we really were.

The evening had been an interesting one, we had a rather deep conversation about all the people I’d killed, and whether or not they were morally justified; since most of them were drug cartel gangsters, I felt confident that they were. To add to the evening, Rainbow Dash and I finally decided to tell Fluttershy what had happened to Blu, and how he had sacrificed himself to save me; obviously she was extremely upset, but was somewhat able to accept the fact that it was either my life or his. When she’d taken some time to contemplate and further accept the loss, she came back to the group with teary bloodshot eyes, and very quietly said she was also feeling cold.

“Well, just be thankful you’re not dehydrating to death for a while.” I joked.

“At least I can freely use my magic again.” Rarity chirped merrily.

“Makes you appreciate not having it, ey?” Sighed Twilight.

“Indeed, I really feel for you, darling.”

The unicorns exchanged a tender hug, and I turned to Pinkie, whom was doing her best to build a sand castle with dry sand beside our tent.

“Pinks, you know we aren’t at the beach, right?”

Giggling, she simply replied that she just likes playing in sand, and I left her to it.
How Pinkie had survived this planet was an absolute wonder, if I didn’t know the truth about souls and the greater workings of our world, I’d have said it was some sort of divine blessing. I’d never been truly convinced if the group were honest about her ‘short-term negative memory loss’, but I was finding such a concept harder and harder to question as our adventure continually threw shit at us, and yet she always knew how to smile through it all.

{You do a whole lot of wondering, and not an ounce of inquiring. Why don’t you just ask her about it, lad? I’m willing to bet she’s never had a deep conversation in her wee life.} Stardust suggested.

{Ask who about what?} Twilight thought.

“I keep forgetting that I’m wearing this thing…” I murmured under my breath, rubbing my collar.

{Just wondering about Pinkie, how she’s still her old self despite everything.} I thought back.

{I can get that answer for you.}

“Hey Pinkie!” Twilight called.

The pony responded by jumping up and tilting her head on one side like a puppy.

“Why hasn’t anything from this venture brought you down?”

Shaking her head to remove the sand in her fur and mane, she giggled and trotted over to sit beside me.

“Oh, that’s easy! I just completely forget about the bad things that have recently happened for a few days, sometimes weeks. When I eventually remember them, they’re like distant memoires that don’t bother me. I just do my best to think about all the good parts instead!”

{That answer your question?}

{Even through thought, that sounded smug.} I thought teasingly.

“Well, that’s really cool, thanks for sharing Pinks!” I said merrily.

“That’s okay, I’ve often wondered the same about you.”

Now it was my turn to tilt my head, I raised an eyebrow and asked her what she meant.

“Well, you’ve got that illness, the dark cloudy one that makes you feel like you’ve got a big black hole in your chest, and nothing can fill it, not even love. Even though you’ve been having lots of fun on our adventure, and like to smile and laugh with us, there’s something missing for you, always.
I’ve always wondered how you deal with that…”

Silence filled the camp as Pinkie’s innocence once again proved to be the most insightful and understanding of us all, she’d described the feeling perfectly, and it was a tough one to answer.

“Well… Um… I think…”

She’d really caught me off-guard, I had to word it in a way she’d understand.

“I think I deal with it by remembering that the root of my bad feelings is an illness, it’s not who I truly am, it’s like a really thick smoke that sometimes covers up the real me, and I just get a bit lost inside my own brain. The real me has a future, a life to live, and I want to be there to see it. So, I keep going, just in case tomorrow’s a little bit brighter than today, you know what I mean?
I guess it helps that I’ve got all of you, there’s nothing more helpful for depression than a good friend, and I’ve got six of ‘em right here. On top of that, I’m your guide and protector, I’m responsible for you all, so even on my really bad days, I can push through because I’m doing something far greater than myself.”

Twilight was the first one to break, bringing her hooves to her face and weeping quietly, Rarity followed, and then Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash slid a hoof around my waist in her attempt of a comforting hug, despite the fact I was actually feeling quite swell for once.

“Guys, come on…” I sighed, tutting.

Applejack gave me an amused half smile, sensing my discomfort in the sudden shedding of tears; Pinkie reached over and gave me a proper hug, and nuzzled my arm.

“I think you’re very brave.” She said with a warm smile.

Smirking and exhaling from my nose loudly, I patted her on the head and waited for the others to calm down, before talking the night away and eventually drifting off to sleep…

Taking a swig from my last water bottle, I wiped the sweat from my brow and stood up, careful not to hit my head on the ceiling of the small rocky pothole we’d found to avoid the sun’s glare. It had been three days since our arrival to the desert, we’d been beelining for the shard’s location without any detours, and hadn’t much luck in finding it yet, although Twilight and I had been able to roughly calculate the distance, due to the Techs Machina making various noise; the device would emit a high-pitched beep when we’d travelled a kilometre, followed by a number of lower toned beeps to tell us how much further we had to go.

Since our last hostile encounter, we’d seen no other humans, or any life for that matter, everything was but a hot and barren landscape. Hearing the sound of a wingbeat, I looked up to see Rainbow Dash descending from the skies and landing beside me, she’d been scouting ahead for about half an hour.

“Find anything?” Twilight asked.

Puffing from exhaustion, the pegasus took a swig from her water bottle, which was almost empty.

“Sand, sand, and more fuckin’ sand.”

“That’s it? Just sand for miles?”

“Yup, that’s all I can see, even from the air. I don’t know where the shard is, or any kind of landmark where it could be, we’ve got no shade ahead, but definitely no company at least.”

Sighing, I rubbed the back of my neck, which had burned rather badly; but to be honest, every part of me that wasn’t covered had burned. The continuous walking in such tough boots had blistered my feet, just as continually holding the rifle had blistered my hands.

“Well, let’s get moving.” I grumbled.

“There’s something else.”

Tilting my head, I waited for Dashie to finish.

“Not all of that sand is on the ground.”

“Sandstorm…” Twilight breathed.

{You’re fucked now, laddie.}

“I spotted it on the way back, from where we’ve come from.”

“This is a problem.” Rarity pointed out.

“Oh, really? I thought it was a blessing.” Twilight snapped back.

“We need to move, now, we’ve got to find the shard before the storm gets here.” I ordered.

“But it’s in the middle of the day, the heat’s unbearable out there, I can’t handle it! Can’t we just stay in here until the storm’s passed?” Fluttershy whined.

“When the sandstorm arrives, we could get buried in here, we need to move now.” I reiterated.

“But, surely there’s some kind of spell to help us?”

Rarity came forward and placed a hoof on her shoulder.

“Darling, I don’t know as many spells as Twilight, I have only one that but keeps you cool, but that’s designed for a summer afternoon, not a scorching desert hike! I have to actively channel magic to cast it anyway, and in this heat, that mana will simply burn up like a dry leaf in a furnace, I’d be able to cast if for a few minutes and then pass out, using it would be useless.”

“Face it Flutters, we’re all in this together, so buck up and get a move on.” Dashie said sternly.

Sighing, the pegasus got to her hooves and nodded, clearly struggling more than the rest of us.

“Alright everypony, keep a steady pace, don’t walk too fast and use up energy, but don’t walk too slow either, and whatever you do, do not stop walking! Getting started is the hardest part, I assure you that you’ll be too tired to start again out there.” I ordered.

I looked to Twilight for confirmation of my order, whom stood there with her mouth pursed.

{I was going to say that, word for word.}

{Should have spoken faster then.} I thought back to her teasingly.

I raised my eyebrow at her, as the whole group was awaiting her response.

“What he said.” She coughed, looking at me with dull eyes.

We all took our last breath in the shade, before walking out into the blistering heat; the sun’s rays began to sting my already burned skin from the very second I walked out. We made our way down the sandy slope and on to the plain, where the sun had been cooking the sand since it had risen into the sky.

“That sand’s too hot! It’s burning my hooves!” Fluttershy cried out.

{Is nobody going to point out that she’s got wings?} Stardust remarked.

{She’s scared of heights.} I thought back.

{But… She’s… She’s got fucking wings!}

{Don’t overthink it, you won’t win.}

I heard Twilight exhale with amusement at the front of the group. Turning to look at Fluttershy, I frowned at her, also needing to squint my eyes due to the sun’s glare.

“It’s hot, but it won’t kill you, deal with the pain and keep moving!” I barked.

I had no time for sympathy, we were all in pain now, no exceptions would be made for Fluttershy, no exceptions could be made with the sandstorm on our tail. Looking beyond the pegasus, towards where we’d come, I realised exactly what we were dealing with; Dashie hadn’t just seen a bit of sand being blown around, we were being chased by a tsunami of bronze, hellish, ready to consume the little flesh that roamed these uninhabited lands.

“Are we there yet?” Pinkie asked.

“Nearly, Pinks.” I huffed.

Lightly smacking the sniper rifle, I growled as it refused to give any better indication as to where the shard was, we needed to find it, and really fucking fast. It didn’t help that we were approaching a sand dune at an almost vertical angle, it was going to be an evil climb; if I’d discovered anything from this place, it’s that people gravely underestimated the difficulty of climbing mountains of sand. Each stride was like wading through a strong river, constantly pulling you back down to whence you came; every three steps carried me the distance of one. To aid myself, I had tightly strapped the rifle to my back and clambered upwards on all fours, akin to the ponies, but far more stupid in appearance.

“That’s quite a view there, Sugarcube.” Applejack panted from behind me.

“Keep looking at my arse, and I’ll kick sand into your eyes.” I wheezed back.

Chuckling lightly, the farm pony powered forward and overtook me, leaving me to claw at the sand alongside Fluttershy, whom was quietly whimpering to herself with each unforgiving step she was burdened to take.

“It won’t be far now, I promise.”

She couldn’t even look up at me, she was practically eating the sand with how low her head hung; I looked up and saw our other pegasus friend, quite contently soaring a good twenty feet above, simply using the breeze to glide over the dune.

“Why don’t you fly up with Dashie? It’ll be easier on you.”

“Can’t… Too tired… Can’t fly…” She gasped.

The poor thing was about to collapse, and I knew it.

That’s when I felt it.
Lightly stinging my calves, small grains of sand pelted me like tiny horizontal hailstones, I turned around and was met with a wall, at least sixty feet high; the storm had come.

“Everybody… MOVE!” I boomed.

It only took one look behind them before everyone, Fluttershy included, sprinted as hard as possible towards the top of the dune, we needed to reach the top before it devoured us. My muscles began to burn as I raced upwards as hard and fast as my legs could carry me, Rainbow Dash dropped down to assist and grabbed Fluttershy, forcing her upwards to the top. I reached the peak just as the sand wall hit, like an ocean wave, I was scooped up and thrust forward over the top; I practically flew past the rest of the group as I cascaded down the other side of the dune, the sniper rifle detached from its sling and clattered next to me, thankfully I caught myself and clambered back up to the group with the rifle under my arm, using my wrist to cover my eyes as the storm grew stronger and stronger.

{Well, so much for getting to the shard before the storm reaches us!} Twilight shouted in thought.

{You say that like it’s my fault!} I thought back.

{It’s not, I’m just frustrated and the sand’s biting my legs! How far do we have?}

I brought up the rifle only to find the Techs Machina was no longer on the scope, it must have fallen off when I fell over the top of the dune.


Scrambling down to where I’d stopped, I started sifting and patting wildly at the sand around me in attempt to locate it. The storm raged on, tearing at me and creating thousands of small lashes on my wrists and legs; more and more sand drifted down to me and constantly shifted the environment, all marks of where I’d fallen had disappeared, and the device was nowhere to be found.

{Hey, are you going to answer me?}

{Not now, Twilight!}

{What’s the matter?}

{I can’t find the Techs Machina.}


{It fell off the rifle and it’s buried somewhere in the sand!}

{Well, find it!}

{What do you think I’m TRYING to do?}

Rather than berating me further, Twilight decided to slide down and actually assist me with Applejack and Dashie in tow; we got to digging, which was almost impossible in the raging storm, I couldn’t see a foot in front of me and had my eyes squinted to prevent sand getting in them.

“I found it!” Applejack hollered.

We crawled over to her and put my hand in her hooves to grab it.

“This is a rock, Applejack! A fucking rock!”

“Well pardon me, I can’t darn-well see what I’m holding!”

Throwing the rock away, we continued searching for the device, but so much sand had shifted that it was an utterly fruitless attempt, it could be anywhere by now!
After another ten or so minutes of kicking up sand and yelling ‘fuck’ repeatedly, we were left with no other choice than give up the search and huddle together in attempt to shield one another from the storm; Pinkie and Fluttershy were pushed to the middle, with Twilight behind them, Rainbow Dash, Applejack and I stood at the front with our backs to the howling wind.

An hour and forty minutes passed, we were exhausted, parched, coated in sand, and my wrists and legs were stinging like never before, as though they’d been bitten all over by fire ants. The wind died down and we slowly rose up and opened our eyes to see the rear end of the sandstorm speeding away from us.
It was over.

“Is everyone alright?” Applejack asked.

Everyone nodded slowly, and we broke away from our cluster; it didn’t take long for the sun to begin boiling us once more, we took the very last sips from our water bottles and clambered to the top of the dune to gain our bearings.

“No…” Twilight gasped.

Joining her at the peak, I realised what she had seen; the sandstorm had completely shifted the environment, the dunes had all changed shape and size, there was no way of telling where we were now, especially without the Techs Machina. I spun around and looked at all my surroundings, before dropping to my knees and sighing heavily.

“We’re lost…”

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