• Published 11th Aug 2018
  • 745 Views, 133 Comments

Virga - Dave Bryant



Canterlot is burning. Enemy troops fan out across the land. Within days—even hours—they may sack Twilight’s tower. What if they discover the portal and, even worse, how to use it? Sunset Shimmer, Cookie Pusher, and Rose Brass can’t let that happen.

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Prologue • The graduate, the chargé, and the captain

“Sunset, slow down,” the masculine baritone interrupted firmly with a mix of exasperation and concern. “Now. Take a deep breath. Start at the beginning and go step by step, okay?”

The voice didn’t break in again through the ensuing explanation, but when the flood of words finally trickled into silence, a sigh was audible. “You’re right; that doesn’t sound good.” After a moment the speaker added with a glint of his normal humor, “You did the right thing getting ahold of me—but then, who else could you call about something like this? Listen, I need to fire off a flash alert and grab a few things, but after that I’ll head right down and meet you there.”


It took Sunset Shimmer’s trembling hand two tries to hit the disconnect button on her phone’s screen; the recipient number and legend Cookie Pusher disappeared. The young woman turned to face the street in front of the high school from which she and her friends recently graduated, just before the summer break now nearing its end. Her shoulders fell back against the stone plinth that, in its opposite face, concealed the magical gateway by which she had returned from another world. She closed her eyes and tried again to master her breathing, still shaken by the glimpse in Princess Twilight’s telescope of distant Canterlot burning under a pall of smoke through which strange airships circled.

Who else could you call about something like this? The words popped back into her head, and her eyes popped open in response. There was one other person she could call. She raised the phone again and, after a moment to will steadiness into her fingers, flicked through her contact list to find a number she’d used only a few times. When the entry labeled Rose Brass scrolled into view, her finger stabbed at it urgently.


“Sunset. It’s been a while.” The feminine voice, possibly a bit deeper even than the previous fellow’s, was warm but noncommittal. “Don’t tell me, let me guess: you’re calling in that favor I promised when we first met.”

This time the account went more smoothly thanks to the previous rehearsals, but took nearly as long thanks to the additional details. “That’s a pretty big favor,” came the response in an even tone. “Are you absolutely sure about this?”

Passion and brevity were as convincing as the reply itself. There was a long pause, then, “All right. I need to make some calls and pick up some gear first. Canterlot High School, right?”


A nondescript white panel van pulled to the curb before the plaza fronting the dome-topped building. From the front passenger seat emerged a figure of imposing height clad in a pouch-festooned military load-carrying vest over T-shirt, BDU pants, and tactical boots, all of them in desert tan. Even this outlandish ensemble, however, was less startling than the woman in her mid-forties who wore it. Buzz-cut platinum blonde hair surmounted a bronze face half-covered with scars, and a dun eyepatch, on the left side. Her six-foot-tall body seemed lean but powerful—aside from her right arm, which was missing entirely. In its place she bore a current-generation prosthetic that made no attempt to hide its artificial nature, opting instead for a sleek, streamlined look.

In a few economical motions she pulled a fully loaded field pack from the van’s rear seat, then leaned in to exchange a few muffled words with the half-visible driver, after which she stood again and shut both curbside doors. Without further ado, it pulled away and headed off down the street.

She turned to survey the suburban block where she’d been deposited before advancing toward the shorter, slighter man who already stood on the public sidewalk in front of the schoolyard. “You must be Cookie Pusher. Sunset said you’re with the Foreign Service.”

“Yes. I don’t know you.” Neither voice nor face betrayed any expression; the thirtyish diplomat’s eyes hid behind a pair of glacier glasses. He too wore a nondescript T-shirt, but everything else came from a high-end outdoor supplier rather than military surplus—cargo vest, rugged khaki pants and boots, and the internal-frame pack leaning against his thigh. His complexion was stone gray and his crisp dark hair was short and neat, parted on the side.

“Army Captain Rose Brass, retired.” The tall woman halted and drew herself up, half at attention, before extending her artificial hand. “Currently a youth social worker with Social Services.”

“Ah.” He reached out to shake the offered hand. “You must have been assigned to work with the Dazzlings.”

A faint smile touched the undamaged lips below the scarring. “You’re a sharp one.”

“So I’ve been told. I gather Sunset called you in on this too. I assume you’ve been as fully briefed as I was.”

“Yes.” The single narrow eye glanced around. “Speaking of Sunset—I don’t see her.”

“I’m sure she’ll be here any time now.”

With the loud, sharp clack of a crash bar, one of the school’s front doors burst open. Sunset Shimmer rocketed out of the building and down the stoop toward them, skidding to a stop at the last moment. “You’re both here!” she panted, relief clear in her tone and her face. “Cook, this is Rose. Rose, Cook.” She tugged nervously with one hand on the leather vest that half-covered the vivid T-shirt emblazoned with her roiling-sun mark; the jeans and high-tops below were worn but presentable. Her other hand clutched the straps of a bulging bookbag slung over that shoulder.

“Yes, we just met,” Cook told her drily. “Where were you, might I ask?”

“I was telling Principal Celestia what’s going on and what we’re gonna do. She was handling some last-minute paperwork in her office before the new school year starts.”

Rose frowned. Cook eyed her sidelong and pointed out, “Ms. Celestia has a need to know. She’s responsible for what happens here. Besides, someone else has to have the story, just in case.”

The frown eased but didn’t disappear. “Fine,” Rose said reluctantly. “Now what?”

Sunset squinted up at the afternoon sky fading into evening. “It’s getting late. We need to get moving.” She trotted back around the plinth, then glanced back expectantly. Cook hefted his pack and followed immediately; after a moment Rose did likewise. Sunset drew a breath and reached out to place her palm against the flat stone. A bluish glow washed across the surface around her hand, accompanied by a faint rippling sound.

“Just a minute.” Rose reached inside an oversize add-on pouch clipped near the shoulder of her vest and pulled out a compact service pistol. With brisk practiced motions she put it through a final check—slide, chamber, magazine, safety—before replacing it in its hidden retention holster.

Sunset stared with huge eyes. Cook’s expression was less surprised. “Captain,” he said carefully, “may I remind you carrying a firearm on school grounds is a crime.”

Rose gave him a level look. “How many laws are we breaking, Mister Diplomat?”

Cook thought a moment before shrugging. “All of them,” he conceded.

“Right, then. Let’s go.” Rose faced front, bracing herself for a jump into the unknown.

Author's Note:

FLASH FLASH FLASH

EYES ONLY PERMUNSEC

JANUS REPORTS CANTERLOT EQUESTRIA UNDER ASSAULT BY UNIDENTIFIED FORCES. AIRSHIPS AND INFANTRY IN UNKNOWN STRENGTH OPERATING ABOVE AND WITHIN CITY. NO FURTHER DETAILS AT THIS TIME.

WILL ACCOMPANY JANUS TO RECONNOITER AND ASSESS SITUATION BUT ASSUME IT TO BE FLUID AND UNSTABLE. MAY REQUIRE INDEPENDENT ACTION AND EXTENDED ABSENCE. RECOMMEND NO RPT NO FOLLOW-UP BE SENT PENDING ADDITIONAL INTELLIGENCE.

COOKIE PUSHER FS-5

ENDIT ENDIT ENDIT

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