• Published 26th Jan 2017
  • 4,595 Views, 732 Comments

No Longer Displaced - NoLongerSober

Sass, science, and surviving basic! That seems like the perfect formula for a pegasus professor out of her element, a gruff captain 1,000 years from home, and a clever princess who has probably read too many romance novels. There are pancakes, too!

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Chapter 28 - The Brilliant Inferno

“How much farther?” Crusher grumbled as the latest pair of teleportation spells took the squadmates from the row of residential houses and plopped them into a Canterlot jewelry store.

Alarms rang out, and Styx rapidly warped them from the business before any sort of countermeasures could be deployed. It seemed that his maneuver had placed the unit in the attic of a dance studio—a rather dusty one at that—if the moonlit equinnequins and shelved trophies were any indication.

“I’m in range,” River Styx spoke around deep gasps. Needing to recover from the rapid succession of short-range skips, he and Indar both dropped on their haunches. “I need half a minute. Then, I can send the colt off.” He received a nod from Tail, who moved to gently set A.K. down on the uneven, wood-plank floor.

She stared into the boy’s wide eyes, and she gave him a soft, yet concerned smile. “Lieutenant Styx is going to send you to a place called the Phoenix Fire. There will be a lot of guards there—good ponies who can help you. The owner is a black stallion named Trigger, and I have a lot of faith in him. Find him. Then tell him Tail sent you and that you need help, okay? You’re a big, brave explorer, A.K.”

The colt bobbed his head a few times, and he took a few gulps of air to muster the courage. Finally, he answered, “I’m ready.”

Tail brushed A.K.’s jet-black mane and knelt to bring her head level with that of the youngster. She maintained her kind warmth and drew a breath that plucked the faint, curious scent of apples from the air. “Mm, one more thing before you go. Can you tell me how many were after you?”

“Two unicorns and a pegasus. One of the unicorns is a butt!” A.K. shouted his response before the frosty aura of River Styx’s magic began to envelop his tiny frame.

“Thanks, Kiddo.” She flicked her hoof towards the lieutenant, and before she could blink, the colt was gone. Silence reigned through the wake, giving Tail more than enough time to collect her wits and take check of her squadmates.

Bonecrusher seemed raring to go, despite showing clear distaste for the mode of transport. Her legs appeared twitchy, and that, for once, was a good thing for the rookie commander’s well-being.

Indar had spent the duration of the brief reprieve in a meditative state. His eyes remained closed until Tail set her gaze upon him for several seconds. It was only then that the muscles of his face trembled, and he surrendered the view of those umber hues. “I am better now, Tail, ma’am.”

Her other unicorn stallion was upright also, though his features sagged with the wear of overexertion. He squinted and hung his head low as a ripple of discomfort meandered across his lips.

Tail frowned. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. That was a lot to ask of you in such a short span—”

“No apologies,” he replied quickly, shushing Tail for a moment. “It was the right call to get us off the roads. They had the high terrain. Staying in the open would have been bad news, and the extra time bought us information from the colt. We have their numbers now.”

“Something else is bugging me,” Tail spoke candidly, ending her pause. “I’m not hearing the same commotion from outside. The panic from the alley isn’t trailing us. I just hear partiers now. Did we shake the chasers? And”—she scrunched her muzzle at her latest thought—“where do you think Captain Barrier is? If this is truly unrelated to my exam, then I would expect him to be here. I would appreciate your input, Lieutenant.”

River flinched before he slowly shuffled towards the octagonal window at the end of the attic. He pitched his snout as a sheepish-sounding chuckle slipped out, and he peeked upon the street and its surroundings. “There’s a unit at that store we tripped the alarm in. I’d put money on that keeping our foes at bay. That, or perhaps Captain Barrier intervened on our behalf already. Either way, I doubt we shook ‘em. I only silenced the spell that sent the colt to the bar. Our general whereabouts are definitely traceable.”

“We need to double-back immediately,” Tail barked as her swishing namesake betrayed her rising distaste at a brewing notion. “There is no way we’re going to risk Captain Barrier getting stranded in a fight. I might be calling this sortie, but he’s still our—”

Tail dropped down as a sudden weight plummeted upon her spine through a metallic clamor. She rolled in response and dragged an armor-wearing Barrier to the floor. The flier popped up as quickly as she could, instinct driving her to land a strike with her gauntlet.

The charcoal-coated unicorn parried the blow, despite having been flopped upon his back. “At ease, Commander!”

The pegasus halted her follow-up jab while thick puffs popped from her lungs. She stared down at the stallion, whose mane was utterly drenched in sweat, and after a second or two of cognition, she snatched the captain into a hug. Her face scrunched. She caught the scent of apples again, flicked her ear, and muttered quietly, “What is up with that?”

“It’s good to see my cadets love me so much,” Barrier quipped, not doing anything to break the hug whatsoever.

River Styx twitched from his flanking position and cleared his throat after his sights drifted over the other unicorn’s armor. “You look a bit scuffed up, sir. Were you engaging the enemy?”

At that, the stallion pushed out of Tail’s loose hold and rose to his hooves. “Yeah, I stepped in during your urban escape, but dealing with two unicorns and a pegasus isn’t easy alone when you’re already in the open. Thankfully, the noise drew other guard units to the area and they split, but not before doing a good bit of damage.”

“We’re not letting them get away,” Tail declared after her captain had finished. “They’re after a colt, and we can’t let that go unchecked. We shouldn’t give them the chance to retake the initiative either.”

Both Barrier and Styx beamed smiles while a frustrated Bonecrusher paced in the background. After a few loops, the lime mare slammed her hoof down and scowled at Tail. “Well! What are we going to do?”

The physicist brushed the anger aside and promptly spoke up. “Save it for the baddies, Crusher. First, I need to know if our stallions can get us to the wall or not. You all look exhausted as it is, but I’d like to take this fight away from as much of the population as possible.”

Indar’s posture straightened. “I was stationed at Tower Forty-One. I’m very familiar with its location and layout. It’s not quite where we were before, but if you aim to double-back, then I can get us all there, even from here.” The sand-colored unicorn hesitated as his umber glance graced River Styx and Magic Barrier. “The one who fired from the alley has an exceptional power, and I do not have the raw strength to counter it. Our officers will likely be needed in the endgame, which is why I believe I should handle the teleportation load from here on out.”

“We’ll lose the stealth option if you carry that load, Corporal,” the alabaster unicorn remarked. “Is that something we really want to give up at this juncture?”

A subsequent nod came from the pegasus, and her stoked glare swung towards the waiting fortifications. “They want the colt, and we’re the ones who know where he is. Time to flip the script and make them need to catch us. They’ll come, and when they do, we’ll show them what happens to fuckers who chase foals. Let me tell you what I’m thinking. We’re going to need a few of those equinnequins.”

Tail frowned as she ventured from the protective brick shell of Tower Forty-One. The memory of the automated alert board she had seen inside upon the squad’s arrival sent a chill along her spine, and the fur around her neck consequently bristled. There were warnings posted all the way down to Thirty-Eight, and the assigned guard group at her position was nowhere to be found.

I hope this pays off, she pondered as she walked the wall towards Tower Forty. Her wings fluttered uncomfortably, seemingly more so with every step. The muscles in her legs twitched in anticipation. A feathered pony running a bottom-up mission was the mark of incompetence, but that was the point.

“Found you!” a feminine voice bellowed from the top of the tower, prodding the pegasus to pivot on her hind leg. “One chance! Where is my colt?”

The acting commander lifted her head to gaze upon the unicorn. Even from that altitude, the crisp orange of her eyes carried an intensity that pierced the smaller equine. A cerulean mane spilled over her pinkish coat, and her horn was primed to unload castfire.

To the unicorn’s right, the maroon pegasus hovered. Her navy mane was combed back, though renegade tufts defied repeated constraining attempts. She spat a wad on the top of the tower and snickered audibly before affixing her emerald sights on Tail. “Want me to take her down, Boss?” the mare quipped in a bratty tone. “Bet I can take her out in ten seconds flat.”

“Not yet, Blaze. I’d like to give her a chance to give me the information peacefully. She’s all by herself, after all.” The unicorn tilted her head towards the heavens to cast an arrogant glance upon Tail. “Splitting up to find us was stupid. I could feel those teleport spells from across the city. Your attempt has failed. My stallion will pick your other flank off, and one at a time, we’ll annihilate your mates until one of them tells us where that runt is hiding! Or maybe I’ll just find him inside—”

Tail grimaced, and her brow gradually cut a scowl across her countenance. She pulled her foreleg to her side and clenched her jaw as water vapor swirled towards her hoof. “Like fuck I’d help a bitch hunt down a foal!” With that, she lunged upward and threw her limb at the pony pair. An arc of lightning leapt from the compressed cloud fragment, and the sniper shot barely missed the red-hued braggart.

“Dumbass!” Blaze retorted, quickly darting into a nosedive. “Now I’m going to beat it out of you!”

Behind the descending pony, the unicorn assailant grumbled. Not only had her associate jumped the gun without an order, but each time she shifted her position to try to unleash a spell, Tail hopped along the wall to keep Blaze in the sightline.

Tail’s lip quivered, and her darting movements increased in speed. She had to pull the trigger, but there was no way to know if the others were in position. Trust them! An image of Barrier flashed in her mind. Of course she trusted him. She trusted all of them, and they trusted her. There wasn’t any time left for doubt, and there frankly was no need for doubt here. They had to succeed!

The flier’s wings descended, and she sped towards her attacker as fast as she could. It was showtime.

Inside the lookout, Barrier, Styx, Indar, and Bonecrusher crept to the top of the tower and waited for the moment to strike. The proud declarations of the enemy mage seeped through the stone, and the sizzle of Tail’s signaling shot could be heard during its thundering climb to the sky.

Following the observation, Barrier held up his leg and stared intently at the others. The unicorns charged their horns, and soon after the captain was fairly sure that at least one of the offenders had engaged Tail, he gave the order.

Two beams burst from the spires of the captain and the lieutenant in a demolition display that rivaled the theatrics of the Grand Galloping Gala. Indar’s shields concurrently flashed into existence, pushing the shards of rock and splinters of wood away from his companions, and Bonecrusher vanished in a silent transposition that placed her above the unicorn ringleader.

A shriek arose from the pink mare as she staggered and fell through the obliterated floor. Her head swung wildly while she attempted to collect her still-shifting bearings. However, her focus was thoroughly grabbed by the bulky earth pony that was barrelling towards her face.

“I hate heights! I hate heights! I hate heights you bucking shit!” Crusher slammed both her fetlocks against the unicorn’s head, sending the villain tumbling into the littered floor with a powerful swing that capped the unexpected top-down barrage.

Indar formed another shield plane and rammed the spellcaster’s side with his augury. He drove her opposite flank against the tower’s wall, and his ears twitched to the menacing groan that fled her lungs as a result.

Outside, Tail capitalized on the noisy display and drilled her gauntlet into the ribs of the distracted maroon pegasus. She threw another jab, this time catching Blaze’s wing when the mare regained her senses with enough time to dodge the full brunt of the strike. In the wake of the blow, Barrier’s instruction scrambled to the forefront of Tail’s mind, pushing the lavender flier to press the attack the instant her green-eyed combatant floated away in retreat.

A defensive punch met Tail’s charge, but it was easily blocked. The cadet pulled a move out of her captain’s playbook. She trapped the flung foreleg in the bend of her own and slid one of her hind legs against that of the reeling pegasus right as it touched down upon the wall. Tail kicked it out and built upon her maneuver by swiftly tackling the unbalanced Blaze onto the battlement.

The commanding cadet rolled onto her back, yanked the downed pony onto her barrel, and cinched in a rear naked choke. Flailing forelegs jabbed her sides, but Tail firmly held the submission until the frantic impacts upon Sally’s plates came to a stop. Blaze went limp, and it was only after Tail was sure of her success that she tossed the unconscious deadweight to the side. “Ten seconds flat, my ass.”

On cue, Captain Barrier slammed the magic-bound unicorn onto the stone mere paces from Tail’s current position. A combination of Indar’s shields, the captain’s buffers, and a castform the cadet hadn’t seen before held the cerulean-maned commander in place.

Cut the head off the snake, Tail thought as she clutched Blaze’s mane and began to drag the knocked-out pegasus closer to the mastermind of the whole affair. “I have a real fucking problem with ponies who’d hurt kids. You’re going to signal the third to stand down, or by the time he’s done owning a flank of teleported equinnequins, I’m going to deposit all of my adrenaline into his face.”

The icy tone with which Tail spoke made the captive’s pupils dilate. The orange rings of her irides almost disappeared as she scanned Blaze’s state and looked around as if she were evaluating her own.

It was then that River Styx winked into form in front of Tail. His gaze peered into Tail’s determined fire, and he lightly placed his hoof upon her armored withers. “I think it’s safe to say that you thoroughly exceeded our expectations. Kill the spell, Trigs. Spitfire’s going to need some attention after getting her ass”—he leaned to the side to get a good look at the still-unconscious Blaze before a grin split his muzzle—“thoroughly handed. You really are the best cadet I’ve ever had, so stand down, Colonel.”

Author's Note:

Hello everyone! Thanks to all the readers to sticking with it! And thanks to Word Worthy for his usual editing awesome!

Two chapters left in NLD after today. I can feel the bittersweet.

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