• Published 23rd Jul 2012
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Displacement - hornethead



A Special Operative gets stranded in a strange unfamiliar world and must learn how to cope.

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First Deployment

Chapter 19: First Deployment

Sitting high up on the top of the tree in the middle of the Everfree with a beautiful view for miles around was a happy little watermelon. It was decent size for a watermelon, one you would expect to find at a family picnic, and it enjoyed it's perilous perch. It sat there, soaking up the sun, butterflies flapping about. This went on for a time...... until it exploded into a fine mist for seemingly no reason at all. This was followed shortly by the sound of distant thunder.

Just over a mile away, James grinned up at the pony sitting in the watchtower next to him, sighting through a telescope, mouth agape.

"That'll be ten bits there, Flash."

"No way. Aw, horseapples."

James got up from his prone position and removed the magazine from the M82 then cycled the bolt to ensure it was clear and safe. He had spent all evening yesterday cleaning and oiling it, making sure all the parts moved correctly, and most of this morning zero-ing the sights. The bet was made when Flash had asked him how far he could shoot with the thing.

"Yes way. Now you can either give me the cash now, or pay for my drinks later. Dealer's choice."

"I got it, I got it, here are your stupid bits." Flash produced ten coins and deposited them into James' outstretched hand.

"Thank you kindly sir. Oh, and drinks on me later."

"Whatever."

The two descended down to the ground and walked over to the briefing room. After returning from Canterlot late yesterday, James had made the training grounds their official headquarters. James' back room office was now Sparks' private little workshop and armory while the classroom now functioned as the team's readyroom. James and Sparks had plans to put in lockers and benches an even convert the Barracks into quarters for Feather and Myst. For now, Feather stayed there as it was and Myst was living out of the airship. She rarely left it as it was, always tinkering with it or tweaking the adjustment on engine or control console. Right now, Feather was in town getting information on their AOR for their first op with help from Twilight in the town's library. Sparks had locked himself in his new workshop like the mad scientist James suspected him to be. The engineer had brought back a large bag of goodies from Canterlot and secluded himself in James' old office as soon as he had set it up for his own purposes.

James grabbed a couple waters from the icebox they had muscled in there earlier in the morning and tossed one to Flash before sitting down. He looked over to the corner where he had stacked the crates of weapons and ammunition he'd brought back from Celestia's vault. All in all, they now had a few AK-47s, some old M-16s, an old SPAS 15, a small pile of busted up pistols he could salvage for parts, a P90 that he could only find two mags for, an old MG3, a dusty M249 SAW and the M110. There were two additional crates that held the munitions for all of them and even some explosives, like grenades. There were more, including a flintlock pistol that was somehow in superb condition, but he only took what he thought he could use at the moment. How Celestia had amassed such a collection, James could only speculate, but he had caught hints that she might have been doing so for quite some time. Hell, if he was to believe the snatches of conversation he picked up around the castle while waiting for the firearms to be delivered to the Clipper, Princess Celestia was apparently an immortal that had been around for a few millennia. It was a strange thought.

James didn't know what he was going to do with most of the weapons, but he had thought about training his team on the machine guns and then mounting them on the airship somewhere. He just needed to ask Sparks if he could somehow adapt them for pony use, like he was doing with his NVGs and throat mic. The door opened and closed behind James and he turned his head to see Feather standing there with two heavy looking saddle bags on his back. The pony walked over and deposited them on the table with a solid, heavy clunk.

"What's in there buddy, lead?" James asked quizzically.

"Books, lots and lots of books."

"Twilight got you the information we needed then?"

"And then some. She found the maps and local areas of interest, then the geology of the region, weather patterns, viewable constellations, annual rainfall, snowfall, trade routes, local industries; mostly mines, and even the freaking census for the last three years! She insisted that I take it all with me."

"I really hope you also have just the summary to all that."

"Absolutely, I've whittled it down to just the gems."

"Outstanding job. Flash, could you please go get Myst and bring her in here, she'll need to be present since she's our infil and exfil."

"Sure thing boss."

While Flash went to retrieve the pilot, James walked over and pounded on the back room door.

"Sparks! It's time for the briefing, get your ass out here!"

"Just a minute!" Came a muffled reply.

Flash returned with Myst and they all waited for a moment before Sparks finally emerged from his cave, levitating several objects.

"I've done it! Here are our new comms!"

He levitated one each to the ponies, keeping one for himself. James got his original back. It was the throat mics.

"With these, we should be able to keep in touch easily. James, I know you're a stickler for stealth, so I fine tuned them to be able to pick up even the faintest whisper. I'm still working the bugs out on the first of the NVGs, I'm afraid those will still take some time."

"No worries, I'm surprised you managed to crank these out so fast."

"Oh, these were easy. Just a few simple spells after assembling the components and they were all set."

"Outstanding, what's their range?"

"Only about five or so miles, ten with a clear line of sight. Magical energy dissipates over time and distance. It goes further when there's nothing in the way to block or absorb it."

"Hmm, oddly similar to radio waves."

"Well, some types of magic do have electro magnetic properties."

"Interesting. Anyway, you're just in time for the briefing on the Whitecrest op. Feather?"

"Right," the earth pony extracted a large folded parchment from the saddle bags and pinned it up over the chalkboard after unfolding it. "This is Whitecrest," he said, pointing to a small dot sitting at the base of the eastern mountain range almost directly across the Everfree from Ponyville, only a bit farther south. "It's the main settlement and trade hub of the eastern reaches of Equestria. It's often frequented by merchants from the Griffon Colonies, some of which are situated just on the other side of the mountain range. Often, during the fall and winter months, the area is accessible only by airship due to heavy snow falls."

"How heavy are we talking about?" James inquired.

"Usually about fifteen to twenty feet a year."

James whistled, "Damn, better get some cold weather gear for you guys, it's already starting to cool down here. Please continue."

"Whitecrest does have a small weather service, but they tend to stay within the vicinity of the town due to it's close proximity to both the mountains and the Everfree. Outlying settlements are here, here, here and here," he gestured to four Xs drawn on the map, two north and two south of Whitecrest, "the outer two are just small mining camps, but the two closer to Whitecrest are actually little villages that act as stops between the camps and Whitecrest itself. The vast majority of the incidents have occurred around here." He circled an area between the southern mining camp and Whitecrest and included the village in between.

"Excellent report. Alright, you all know the deal now. Get any affairs you have in order today. We depart early tomorrow morning at zero-five-hundred, so show up dressed out and ready to go. Other than that, meet me at the town square by dusk. Dismissed."

=======================================================================

They all met up at the prescribed time and place James had set for them and headed over to one of the bars. It was Monday evening, so it would be a slow night for the place, but they weren't there to party, just relax a bit before the mission. The five sat down at a table in a dive called The Hoof And Mouth. James liked it because they had a good red draft on tap and a pool table. James loved to play pool with his buds. Fortunately, so did Feather. Soon they were both trying to hustle each other, putting down two bits per game. Myst watched for a time before walking up to them. At this point, James was up six bits and Feather was looking for a way to make it back.

"Hey boys, mind if I play?"

"Sure," Feather answered, "you got two bits?"

She put two on the edge of the table and took a cue with her magic.

"I'm afraid I'm not terribly good, you'll go easy on me, won't you?" She batted her lashes a few times.

"Of course!" Feather replied confidently. He thought this was going to be money in the bank.

James recognized the tactic for what it was, having spent quite a lot of time in pool halls with his grandfather when he was younger, and backed off.

"I'm good, you got this one brother."

Feather racked the billiard balls and chivalrously let Myst break them. It was a mediocre break and she looked a little embarrassed. After a short time, Feather was only two balls away from sinking the eight ball and Myst still had five to go.

"What do you say we go double or nothing?" Myst proposed, putting two more bits on the table.

"You're kidding me! You're on!" Feather slammed two bits to match hers.

James chuckled to himself, it was obvious to him what she was doing, but Feather somehow remained oblivious. It was probably the bedroom eyes she kept giving him. Feather knocked another ball in, but missed his second shot. Myst took advantage of the mostly clear table and sunk all five balls in one go, finishing with the eight ball.

She swept the eight bits off the edge of the table and walked past the stunned dark blue stallion, giving him a light flick in the face with the end of her tail as she passed by on her way to the bar.

"Thanks for the free drinks, stud." She said non-chalantly.

James couldn't hold it in anymore and burst out in laughter. Feather's expression still hadn't changed, his mouth hanging slightly open.

"Ha ha ha ha, you just got hustled, dude! C'mon, you need a drink after that, it's on me."

James was placing their order with the bartender when Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie entered the establishment.

"Howdy! How're y'all doin' James?" Started the hard working farm mare.

"Hey, glad to see you three, what are you guys doing here on a Monday night?"

"We were passing by when Pinkie spotted you all in here through the window and stopped in to see how everypony was doing." Dash explained, Pinkie nodded her head up and down rapidly, ever present grin on her face.

"The team is just here relaxing a bit before tomorrow,"

"What's happening tomorrow, is it a party!?" Pinkie asked enthusiastically, bouncing in place as always.

"No, the princess finally has something for us to do. Gotta head out for a while."

"Aw, why are you always so busy?" Dash pouted.

"Sorry. It comes with being a soldier, nature of the beast. Don't worry though, we'll be back soon. Maybe we'll go sky diving when I get back, how about that?"

"Promise?"

"I promise."

"Make a Pinkie Promise."

"Pinkie Promise?"

"Oh, oh! My turn! Repeat after me!" The party mare instructed.

James repeated her words and mimicked her movements, ".......Hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." He finished, placing a hand over his left eye.

"Perfect!" Pinkie bounced happily away.

"There, now you have to come hang out."

"Don't worry Dash, I'll be there." James assured.

The three mares left shortly after. Soon, it was time for James and his team to leave, they had an early next day. The group finished their drinks and paid off the tab before heading back to their respective residences. It was time to get some sleep. They were finally going to put all they had learned to the test.

======================================================================

Myst informed the team that even with the Clipper's advantages in speed, it was going to be a long ride to Whitecrest so everyone did the best they could to get comfortable and pass the time. Sparks and Flash were teaching Feather the game of Pusoy Dos on the deck while James lay across the benches with his cover over his face and his headphones in. He was just trying to relax, listening to music and getting his mind set right for whatever lay ahead of them. They had all studied every detail of the landscape on the maps for the first two hours of the trip and were now intimately familiar with the surrounding geography of their AOR. Now they just had to get there.

All the ponies were wearing their new com sets and, except for Myst, were suited up in their combat uniforms and armed. Flash and Sparks were carrying thin short swords while Feather simply had just two sheathed daggers on his sides. James wore his own uniform as well as a matching tac vest he'd asked Rarity to make for him some weeks ago. He left his kevlar behind, deciding that he wouldn't need it and it would just add unnecessary weight. His kit consisted of his usual rifle and sidearm, the silencers for which were strapped to the side of his vest. Clipped to a strap that wrapper around him was the shotgun, it's stock folded. It didn't have a silencer, but if he had to use that weapon, stealth would no longer be an issue. Having three different weapons with three different types of ammo posed weight problems as well, so he carried a limited amount of each, although, he had extra stashed under the seats. Strapped to the bulkhead above him was the M110. He probably wouldn't need it, but he always liked having the ability to reach out and touch someone if the need ever arose. He had four clips of it's 7.62mm rounds stashed in a bag under the seats as well. On the forward bulkhead, next to the cockpit door were five numbered parachutes. The Clipper was also stocked with medical supplies and food rations. They were ready.

After a few hours, James felt a tap on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and saw Sparks staring down at him. James sat up and removed his headphones.

"What's up?"

"We're almost there, Myst says she's starting to descend into the town."

"Sweet, let's get a good view, shall we?"

Sparks followed James up the ladder and out onto the upper deck. They were fast approaching a medium sized sprawl of wooden buildings. Most didn't rise above two or three stories. Through all this ran a ribbon of silver that appeared to be a small river. It ran from north to south along the base of the range. A tall half constructed wall was in the process of being erected around the town. It was set up against the side of a large mountain, at the bottom of a cliff, where the most impressive structure was hanging off of. Jutting out from a shear cliff side was a gigantic fan shaped wooden docking platform. Here and there, massive airships could be seen moored to the piers, taking on or off loading cargo and freight. Up and down the face of the cliff, freight elevators ran between the docks and warehouses down at the base. Once again, the tiny Clipper opted to land on the wide main dock platform due to it's small size. the nimble craft touched down and a lone guard trotted out to meet the new arrivals. As soon as the skids came in contact with the deck, James returned to the main cabin, un-dogged the side door and stepped out onto the dock.

"Halt! This is an unauthorized landing, state your name and purpose!"

"At ease there buddy, we were sent here to help with your 'problem'. I need you to take us to your CO, I need to speak with him immediately."

"First you must identify yourself before I do anything."

*sigh* "Fine, I'm Commander Kaughn of the Royal Special Tasks Group and this is my team. Now, if you're done wasting my time..."

The guardspony instantly went to attention and delivered a salute, "Sir! My apologies! We were expecting you to be--"

"A pony, probably. I know, easy mistake. Can we get a move on now? We just completed a long flight and we need to stretch our legs."

"Of course sir, right this way."

James left all his equipment in the airship, except his sidearm which was in his thigh holster, and he and his companions followed the guard to the elevator platforms in the back. Myst elected to stay behind, mumbling about vibrations in the control yoke and some bolt somewhere she had to find and tighten. The group crowded onto a smaller elevator made for personnel that ran beside the larger ones carrying cargo containers and started their descent down the cliff face. After reaching the bottom, they were lead through the warehouses to a low two story with a sign in need of a new paint job that read 'Whitecrest Royal Guard HQ'. They were taken inside and asked to wait while the CO was informed they had arrived. While they did, a familiar stallion happened to walk out of a side room.

"Ira?"

"James, Lieutenant Sparks! What a nice surprise! What are you two doing way out here?"

"We got wind of your little situation here and were sent to check it out. what's the corps doing here, you old dog?"

"We were tasked with beefing up the city's defenses after the attacks down south. So far, we haven't seen any trouble, but it's only a matter of time."

"Agreed. Well, we're gonna to our best to delay that, prevent it entirely if we can."

"Oh, you wouldn't want us working for nothing, would you?"

They both laughed a little at the slightly morbid joke before the were interrupted by the pony that had brought James and his team to the HQ.

"Sir, the Colonel will see you now."

"Alright Ira, I gotta go. Stay safe."

"You too! And continue keeping Sparks safe for me, will ya? Sometimes the kid's to curious for his own good."

"Aye, sir!" James gave off his signature half salute.

The two friends parted and James entered the CO's office, followed by his team. Sitting behind a desk was a grizzled old earth pony with a scar running from the back of his left jaw and across his cheek, almost to his mouth.

"Good morning Colonel, I'm Commander Kaughn of the RSTG and this is my team, we're here to help."

The old dark green stallion examined the patch on James' left breast pocket before speaking in a gravelly voice, "The Fixers, huh? You here to fix our problems?"

"We're here to gather some intel and bust some heads if we have to."

"Ha, good answer. Sounds like you got some gumption. The names' Colonel Rokjaw, how can we assist you in your task?"

"We've read the reports and studied the region. We just need to know if there was anything you haven't included or any changes that may have happened since."

"Well, unfortunately, all I can tell you is there hasn't been an incident for a week and a half and that we've never seen anything like this."

"Thanks Colonel. The only other thing we'll need is a place to stay."

"I'd like to set you up in a barracks, but due to the Princess' increase of forces out here, our quarters are at capacity. There is a small inn, however, that would be glad to have you at half price. The owner is a former guard and an old friend of mine."

"Thank you, Colonel. We'll take you up on your recommendation."

"My pleasure. So if I may ask, what is your plan now?"

"We'll do a couple fly overs of the site this afternoon, but wait until tomorrow morning to put hooves on the ground. It's already noon and I don't want to be running around an unfamiliar area at dusk and we don't know how long we'll be there."

"Sounds excellent. Good luck in your endeavors."

"Same to you, Colonel. Flash, please fly up to the Clipper and tell Myst to get her warmed up, we'll meet you there. I want to get down there and see as much as possible before the sun starts to set."

"Got it!"

The group left the HQ and Flash peeled off to inform the pilot of the situation. It was time to go earn their paychecks.

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