• Published 15th Sep 2018
  • 1,167 Views, 84 Comments

Fire & Rain: Applejack and the Queen of Knives - Limbo Theorem



The fate of the world hangs in the balance and its potential savior is a mysterious figure known only as The Queen of Knives. But who is she? That's what Applejack has to find out.

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In the Hall of the Mountain King

BLUEMONT, VIRGINIA
110930RJUL30:

Once, like Rome before it, Washington DC had been the virtual capital of the world. And now, like Rome, Washington had fallen. All that remained were destroyed, smoking buildings, wreckage and craters that were being filled by the Potomac River. Once the capital of the United States, the city, much like other American cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Canterlot, were now memories of what had been in the days before the Others had invaded. Now, the ruined country was nearly split in half by the Others, its people scattered and reeling from the attacks five years ago.

Yet America continued to survive, to plan and work towards throwing off the yoke of its invaders and dispensing out justice in Red, White and Blue. The bald eagle would reach towards the its alien enemy and tear its throat out, and with it, free the world. It would be a matter of time, blood and patience, but if that was what it took, that would be what the United States did.

And the keystone to that was the Mountain.

Originally a weather station built in the 1800s, Mount Weather had, over the years turned into a Civilian Public Service outpost during World War II and then later a command center for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And now, since the destruction of the White House, it was now the home of the President of the United States, as well as the locations for many VIPs in the United States government. Officially just a collection of buildings on a mountain plateau just east of Berryville, Virginia, the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center was in truth a massive geofront, stretching down for a quarter of a mile beneath the surface, housing nearly all that had been lost to the US Government.

Down in Sublevel J, the floor used by the military, Applejack sat in a lobby just outside of an operations center. Across from her, a bored Army private sat, typing away at a computer and wishing she were elsewhere – just like Applejack was. Slightly rested after a couple of days in Spain, she’d had enough time to unwind and prepare while at the base, even going so far as to get herself a new dress white uniform, which she figured she’d need for her trip to “the Mountain”.

And now here she was, in new- and stiffly-starched dress whites, the neck collar choking her. Now she saw why most of her fellow officers preferred to wear the dress blues even on days when it made more sense to wear the whites – these things were murder.

At the desk, the soldier answered the phone, then hung up just as quickly. “You can go in now, Major,” she told Applejack. Applejack briefly thought about correcting the soldier, then changed her mind. The world was already insane; how much more so would it be if the Army actually started to understand naval ranks?


As she entered the room, she figured it for a typical CIC: screens everywhere, military personnel manning the stations or scurrying to and fro and in the center of the whole circus was a large round table where major figures from the government sat. Some she recognized; most she didn’t. But the man at the head of the table she did recognize: Sombra, the current President of the United States, the epitome of a scum-sucking politician if there ever was one, she told herself. He had been a wealthy campaign donor from Louisiana who had backed the election funds of then-President Kibbitz, and for it had been selected to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a cruel irony given that his fortune had been made as a reputed slumlord in his native New Orleans. He’d been out of town when the Others had attacked, and due to his position as an unofficial designated survivor, he had been immediately made the President of the United States despite having been thirteenth in line to the office.

The fact that he’d been reelected to the office two years ago galled the hell out of her, especially given that she’d voted for his opponent, Senator Thorax.

“And here’s the lady of the hour!” Sombra said as he got to his feet and welcomed her. “Welcome to the Presidential Command Center. This is where everything happens for the sake of the world. Welcome back to the Good Ol’ US of A, Commander, and thank you very kindly for your service.”

Applejack kept a smile on her face, though she wanted to scream. Such a bullshit, pat introduction he gave, she could practically smell it rolling off of him. Small wonder the media had nicknamed him “the smoking president” – not just because he was attractive (even Applejack had to admit that for a man in his late fifties, he was, with his dark skin and slicked-back dark hair), but because “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.

She shook his hand. “Thank you, Mr. President. It’s an honor to be here, sir.”

Still with a smile on his face, he said, “You know, anyone ever tell you you’re a horrible liar, Cmdr. Apple? But we’ll talk about that later. For now, I think I have some important people you need to know.”

He gestured around the room, introducing her to various people, mostly politicians, but more than a few general and flag officers as well, finally stopping once he’d circled the table. “Have a seat, Commander,” he told her. “Now, do you know why you’re here?”

“I take it because of Operation PRETZEL DRAGONFLY?”

He grinned and nodded sardonically. “Is that what we’re calling it? Funny, I thought the media referred to it as—” He gestured grandly, “—the Disaster at Rome. Did you know the New York Times referred to it as ‘Sombra’s Folly’, even though the Italians had most of the command on the ground there? Hell, the guys at CNN had even more colorful things to say about it. They called it ‘Sombra’s shitshow’.” He shook his head, chuckling. “I remember when the FCC used to enforce language violations on TV, but that’s neither here nor there, I guess.”

He then looked at Applejack. “Yes, we’re talking about what happened in Rome – and how you got your ass saved by that mysterious figure. Don’t get me wrong; you earned your promotion for everything you’ve done. But, Commander, from your own words you were as helpless as a kitten in a cornfield, and yet this stranger swoops in like she’s a fucking superhero and saves the day.” He looked at a colonel standing by. “Screen Two if you please, Col. Roughrider?”

On the screen in front of them, video clearly taken from a drone showed up onscreen. It showed the figure in the middle of combat against the Octos…and she was winning. “This was taken an hour after all forces were evacuated from Rome. That figure is still engaging the Others – and she’s kicking their asses. I spend all this money on the military budget and fuck knows how many billions more on the black budget and all of that is useless compared to one single person going in there and acting like the Goddamn Batman – a comic book character.” He pointed at the screen. “That person is very much real and very much a threat to the Others.

“You are the first person he or she had personal contact with, Commander,” Sombra told her. “So you want to tell me what you know about the Queen of Knives?”

Applejack looked at him. “The Queen of Knives?”

“That’s what they call her.” Applejack turned to the new speaker – Wind Rider, a USN admiral and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A storied fighter pilot, he’d once been the commanding officer of the Blue Angels. Applejack remembered that Rainbow Dash had once followed his exploits while he led the legendary fighter squadron and it was something that Applejack herself had recalled when she had joined the service. But she never thought she’d meet him.

“I’m sorry, sir?”

“She was given the name two years ago when she first appeared in the provisional Japanese capital of Gifu.” On another screen appeared the same image of a figure in red, throwing knives as she had when she faced off against the Octos in Rome, doing the same amount of damage and saving lives. “The Japanese media called her Naifu no Joō – the Queen of Knives – after one of the comic books there. According to reports, she saved the life of the Japanese crown prince, whose evacuation helicopter had been shot down.”

“Two months later, she appeared in Jakarta during the Octos’ offensive there.” The same person appeared on screen, this time swinging what looked to be an electrical staff, moving like lightning but tearing through the enemy as though they were paper. “She managed to buy time for the Indonesian and Philippine militaries to safely evacuate the town. But she vanished just as quickly as she appeared. Nevertheless, the Indonesian president promised the equivalent of twenty million dollars in US currency to the Queen of Knives as a thank you for saving their people. To this date the money remains unclaimed.

“Mid-last year, while you were involved in the defense of Berlin, there was an Octo assault on the main military base in Brazil. Once again the local forces were overwhelmed, and once again, the Queen of Knives appeared out of nowhere and sporting new abilities.” The screen now showed the Queen, wielding a bow of violet energy, firing energy arrow after energy arrow, shooting what appeared to be Octo aircraft out of the sky. “This comes from Brazilian intelligence, who claimed that the Queen went after their aircraft, doing what the Brazilian Air Force could not. Ultimately they lost the base because of overwhelming numbers, but apparently the Queen made sure it was a pyrrhic victory for the Octos.

“Lastly, back in January, the Octos hit the Russian Pacific Fleet at Vladivostok, clearly intending to take them out. Once again, the Queen appeared, and this time she was playing for keeps.” Video with Russian wording now appeared on the screen, with pictures of the Queen wielding what appeared to be two pistols made from black, smoky energy, and she fired as if she was a gunslinger from the old west, to the point where at one point she even twirled the pistols. Blasts from her pistols felled Octo forces left and right, and she moved like quicksilver, pirouetting around enemy emplacements to the absolute shock of the Spetsnaz troops that had been mounting a previously futile defense. “She managed to rally the Russians and when it was all said and done, they managed to capture one of their gunships. Shortly afterwards, she vanished again. We’re told there’s a Hero of the Russian Federation medal awaiting her in St. Petersburg at Government Center.”

“All those honors and sobriquets and they don’t mean a damn thing to her. She has the whole Goddamn world grateful and ready to kiss her ass and she just vanishes like it’s nothing. And yet after all that, she speaks to you like an old college buddy,” Sombra said. “You, of all people in the world, Commander. Right now, it’s clear that you know something. You are the either the most important woman in the world at this very moment, or someone I should have thrown in the deepest corner of the darkest fucking prison I can find. I’m going to take a bet that it should be the former. So I want answers, Cmdr. Apple, and I want them now.”


Applejack looked around the room at the variety of faces staring at her. All these years. All these years of a secret she’d kept and one she swore she would take to the grave, undone because of a potential coincidence. For all they knew, it wasn’t one Queen of Knives, but something like her platoon – a highly-trained group of women (or maybe men, there was no confirmation on the gender, after all) who was doing the clearly impossible. After all, before her unit had existed, there was the rumor of the White Tights, a mysterious group of highly-trained women that fought against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

But Applejack had once been the Element of Honesty. And the world was headed towards extinction. She hated the man who demanded answers from her. She probably didn’t care for many of those around the table as well, and truth be told, even though she admired Adm. Rider, she felt somewhat betrayed by him at the moment, even though she knew he hadn’t done a thing to deserve that.

Because she was Honesty, she knew that sometimes, telling the truth was the hardest thing in the world. But it still had to be done, even if it would come at a personal cost, because honesty was a valuable currency – and once lost, it was nearly impossible to regain.

So she told the group everything. From the day she first encountered a bratty thirteen-year-old girl attending Canterlot County Junior High, to the days they fought at Canterlot High, to the period Princess Twilight came through the mirror to retrieve her crown and faced off against a girl who had corrupted to the point that she became a demon. That the otherworldly alicorn-turned-human gave five other human girls the magic to defeat the demon and save the world.

“Wait – that video was real?” a woman in the room that Applejack vaguely remembered as being the Attorney General, asked. When they all looked at her, she said, “Look, my kid showed me that thing on YouTube way back when, but I thought it was a commercial for a videogame he wanted, okay? I had no idea!”

“I don’t think anyone who saw that did,” Sombra said, templing his fingers on the table and looking shrewdly at Applejack. “Please continue, Commander.”

Applejack then told them how they left the girl, who turned out to be a delinquent unicorn herself, in their care. About their years of friendship and how she too regained her own honor and courage, and fought to save a world she had grown to love. Protecting it from monsters like the Dazzlings or corrupted individuals like Juniper Montage and Gloriosa Daisy.

And how all that had fallen apart because Applejack and her friends had been too stupid to believe that Sunset had told the truth. That she’d vanished, gone back to Equestria, and that after they had briefly explained their parts to Princess Twilight, that the way to Equestria had been closed for good. That their magic had vanished and they went back to being normal girls, with more regrets than the average teenager and a greater responsibility to keep everything hidden from the world.

And that she hadn’t felt the pull of magic since…until the Queen had touched her.

Once she was done, everyone looked at her, and she felt so small and fragile, like a giant could step on her and crush her under his heels.

“If I had known this and been in politics back then,” Sombra said in a terse tone, “I would have every available force at my disposal crawling through every ass in Colorado probing for this so-called magic. Now, obviously I can see what she can do, Commander, but what do you have to back all this up? What proof do I have that you’re telling the truth?”

“Because I’m Honesty,” Applejack told him.

“Yeah, and I’m a unicorn obsessed with crystals who lives in a palace that looks a jewelry store vomited,” he commented back. “Put up or shut up – isn’t that what you military types say?”

Applejack said, “I can’t do it anymore, sir. I thought I did when the Queen touched me, but…I don’t know. Maybe I was just remembering Sunset and imagined it. Maybe I’ve lost my mind or something like that. Maybe none of that matters.”

“I see.” Sombra was quiet for the longest time, before he finally looked around the room and said, “Okay, NS personnel only. Anyone else, get out, go do your jobs and make sure my country is still running.” The room began to fill out, while only certain people remained in their seats.

Once the room had emptied out, the man glared at Applejack. “I don’t know whether to call you a hero or a traitor, Cmdr. Apple. For over a decade you had secrets that were vital to the United States’ interest. You participated in actions on behalf of a foreign government and you committed actions that you had absolutely no right to. Any sane politician would be willing to execute you right now or throw you in a supermax prison and melt down the fucking key. But right now, I don’t have that luxury.”

He got out of his chair. “I know you don’t like me, Commander. It’s clear on your face. Maybe you think you’re hiding it, but you are what you claim to be: Honesty, which means you’re an incredibly poor liar. Yes, I’m probably not the best politician ever, but keep in mind I never wanted to be one.” He leaned forward. “Do you know what they called me back in Nawlins? ‘King’ Sombra – Lord of the Slums. Yeah, I owned a bunch of rundown tenements and charged too much for rent from poor people, you don’t think I know that? But it got me rich and it got me right where I could get the ear of President Kibbitz. And do you know what I wanted? I wanted my Crystal Empire project to be cleared by the government. My own little fucking playground, where I could build an amusement park that would make me enough money to go piss right in the eyes of Disney and Cedar Park and all that shit!

“But instead, I got offered Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. A fucking joke! How Goddamn important is HUD? I’ll tell you – not fucking much. Look at the fucking stuttering moron I have in that position right now! Readybuild? You think he can run a fucking government? Man can barely tie his Goddamn shoes, much less keep his wife satisfied! And so I left town just before Decimation happened. And next thing I know I have the Secret Service running up to my doorstep on the day I was considering resigning, telling me that Washington no longer exists and that congratu-fucking-lations, I’m now the Goddamn President of the United States.” He laughed bitterly. “Let me tell you, I nearly shit my pants at that moment. I came from a poor Baton Rouge family, don’t even know my real father, and now suddenly I’m in charge of 330 million lives? What the fuck?

“So I’ve done what I’ve had to do. I’ve made deals with the devil in order to get where I am, and I’m going to do so again. Which is why I’m going to give you a personal pardon for whatever you’ve done in the past – and I’m ordering you to go find this Sunset Shimmer bitch, whether or not she’s the Queen of Knives, because 800 million lives depend on your little fucking unicorn.”

Applejack sat in her chair, her arms crossed. Finally, she said, “Permission to speak freely, sir.”

“That’s a negative,” Rider told her.

“No, I want to hear what she has to say,” Sombra told him. “So yes, Commander, you can say your piece.”

“You’re right, sir, I don’t like you. One of the properties you own outside of Louisiana was my family’s farm and you nearly drove us into the poorhouse a dozen times because of the fucking loopholes on the mortgage you had on the grounds,” Applejack hissed. “So for that, you can go fuck yourself. Sir. And no, I didn’t vote for you. In fact, I was hoping that Senator Thorax would stomp your ass in the election.”

Sombra laughed. “Thorax? He’s a good man. He really is. One of the best I’ve ever met, and that’s why he’s vice president now. Because he keeps me honest.”

Applejack blinked at that. “But I thought Nebbish was your vice president.”

Sombra shook his head. “We haven’t made it public yet, but he cracked under the strain. Secret Service found him dead in the underground bunker at the Greenbriar last month. Put a pistol down his throat and pulled the trigger. I asked Speaker Lawpasser to step in, but she turned me down – said she didn’t want to end up like Nebbish. And even though we don’t agree on a single thing, Thorax, as I said, well, he’s an honest man and a true patriot; he put aside our differences to step in. And that’s why he’s vice president now. We’re going to make the announcement next week, once the furor from Rome dies down. Our country – our world – doesn’t need any further chaos than it already has. And believe me, we’re in trouble.”

“I don’t understand, sir.”

“Before you came in this morning, the Indians lost the INS Vishal and her battlegroup,” Rider spoke. “There’s nothing currently in the Indian Ocean and neither the Chinese nor the Thai can get to the Octo base they’re building in Antarctica right now. The lone satellite in the area is North Korean and they have reason to believe that the Octos are trying to destroy the planet’s ozone layer in order to kill every living thing in the world. Now, I have no idea what that scum-fucking little weasel in Pyongyang is up to, but I do know that whatever the Octos are doing in the South Pole? Can’t be good for us.”

“Do the Thai or Chinese even have anything that can dent them? We’ve beaten them before, but it’s taken a lot of hardware and lives,” Applejack commented.

“We were counting on the Vishal and her escorts to nuke the fuck out of them, to be honest – we handed over several glowsticks in order for them to do the job,” Sombra said. “And yes, that’s another secret that the world doesn’t need to know, another deal with the devil that I made. The world doesn’t need to know that the United States is arming its former enemies with nukes that they’re not supposed to have, because it’s either that or we can bend over and wait for our asses to get fucked without the benefit of lube.” Sombra sighed. “I need a Goddamn drink. I really do. Too bad my wife is a saint who won’t let me.”

“So what now, Mr. President?”

“You,” he said, “are going to report to Sublevel P. As of now, you’re permanently off the books. You don’t belong to the Navy, or Special Operations Command or to anyone. You and your little platoon are going completely black – you won’t exist. Your chain of command from now on is me, then Wind here and the subordinate of his special little shindig he’s putting together. Anything you have to add?” When she shook her head, he said, “Okay, get out of here.”

Applejack nodded, saluted and said, “Fuck Six, sir.”

As the woman left, Sombra looked at Rider. “You going to explain that?”

“It’s a…term of art that DEVGRU has, basically ‘can do’.”

“Okay, but fuck?”

Rider couldn’t help but grin. “It’s an adulteration of phoque – the French word for ‘seal’.”


After riding up to the cafeteria briefly on Sublevel D to grab some lunch, she went back to her room to change into her NAVPATs. After spending a torturous time in a dress uniform, it felt great to throw comfortable clothing back on. She then went back to the elevator and rode down to Sublevel P, getting off the elevator and running right into two heavily-armed Marines, both of which checked her IDs and gave her a hard time until they found out she was part of the Rome evacuation, after which she got thorough apologies and was waved through. She walked down the hall, seeing a bunch of blank doors until she hit a cross corridor and the symbol on the floor explained everything: it was the crest of the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Cmdr. Apple?” Applejack turned to look at a man a decade older than her as he approached. Despite his hair having slight tinges of gray, he had a youthful face and a part of her started to think of things that she probably shouldn’t have, especially given that the man wore ACUs and had the rank devices of a US Army colonel.

“Yes, that’s me, sir,” she said, saluting. Normally, Navy personnel didn’t salute while indoors, as it was policy not to do so while not wearing a hat – a cover – indoors, but she thought it was polite.

“No sirs, please,” he said, offering his hand. “I’m probably not much older than you. Col. Shining Armor, Commander of Project FIRE AND RAIN. Have you had anything to eat yet? Heard they had you tied up with POTUS this morning.”

“Thank you, sir, but I already did before coming over.” She relaxed in his presence, feeling better, as he seemed to be the type of easygoing officer – which probably meant he was extremely lethal in combat, the kind of soldier she liked. “Ate at Cafeteria D.”

“You might want to try the small cafeteria on Sublevel M next time,” he told her. “Cook there’s a Canterlot native like both of us, so he knows how to make that famous Canterlot-style BBQ.”

“You were from Canterlot, sir?”

“You can just call me Shining. I guess you’re Applejack?”

“Jackie’s fine, sir – uh, Shining.”

He laughed. “Yeah, I know, I’m not as stuffy as other full birds. Some of my colleagues always wondered if I should’ve been an Air Force colonel instead. Anyway, yeah, I’m originally from Canterlot, like you. Was originally in the National Guard, stationed at the Joint Reserve Center just outside of town until Decimation happened. Lost my wife, daughter, parents and kid sister in that mess.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay – it’s in the past now,” he said with a slight catch in his voice that said it wasn’t entirely in the past for him. “Besides, my current fiancée makes me smile. Anyway, you know why we’re here, and now that you’re onboard, you probably know more than I do about all of this. By the way, good call on chewing out President Sombra.”

“You saw that?”

“I was in the back of the room when it happened. And yeah, I voted for Thorax as well, so I know how you feel.” He gestured towards down the hall. “Anyway, if things are going to happen, we need to head back to Canterlot, which isn’t going to be easy, safe to say. But since you’re a native like me, I will need your advice.”

“Shining, I’m a SEAL, not an OPS officer. I shoot tangos and break things, not come up with battleplans.”

“Trust me, I get you. I’m a field guy myself, but for this Project, everyone’s doublehatting. I’m going to be overall field commander, even though we officially report to the Admiral.” He opened a nondescript door, whose only marking was FAR PLANNING GROUP.

As they entered the room, a woman in a business suit strode up to him; she had long cerulean hair, piercing eyes the same color as Applejack’s own, and skin like dark honey. She handed him a tablet and said, “Okay, here are the current assignments I need you to clear. There’s also something that we just got back from the AO, so you’ll want to look at it. Oh, and lastly, I just came off my period, so we’re going to fuck like rabbits tonight, okay?”

Applejack laughed while Shining groaned. “Seriously, you couldn’t keep that part under wraps?” he asked the newcomer.

“Oh, but honey, you like it when I—” He started turning red from blushing and she grinned. “Oh, my dear, precious little boy scout – don’t ever change,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. She then turned to Applejack, offering her hand. “And you must be our unicorn hunter. Hi, I’m Chrysalis. I’m the CIA liaison for this project, as well as the INTEL officer. I also run – and sometimes run with – the Changelings.”

“Nice to meet you. Jackie Apple,” Applejack said, introducing herself.

“You can just call me Chryssie. Anyway, before you ask, yeah, the Changelings: the CIA’s wetworks group. We’re the nasty bastards, doing everything from spying to assassinations, poisonings to torture and all the stuff our government officially disavows. The President wants to put serious muscle behind this, so guess what? Your folks are the ones who break things, and we’re the ones who people will wish we broke things instead.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Applejack admitted.

“It’s only illegal if you get caught and Congress hasn’t approved it,” Chrysalis stated. “Anyway, now that you’re here, you guys are going to want to watch this. A couple of my Changelings managed to sneak a message out of Canterlot, and this is what we have. We have it onscreen over in the conference room.” She led them over to a small conference room, where she pressed play on a computer.

On the screen was a young man who looked like he’d seen better days. He was carrying an outdated rifle and the look in his eyes was of one who barely trusted authority.

“My name is Button Mash, and I’m speaking on behalf of the Canterlot Militia. Normally I wouldn’t bother with you assholes since you abandoned us, but maybe the thousands of people still trying to survive in the hellhole our city’s become doesn’t mean shit to you jackboots either.”

“What’s he talking about?” Applejack asked Shining.

Chrysalis paused the video. “During the Decimation, any city with a population of over a million people was hit. We had to abandon a lot of people in order to protect the majority of the country, and needless to say, some of those that got left behind got a tiny bit pissed as hell. According to some intel gathering from the Changelings, there’s less than 7,000 left in the ruins of the city.” That said, she continued the video.

“Anyway, the reason I’m contacting you government thugs is because we have reason to believe that the Octos are doing something around the ruins of Canterlot High. I don’t know why, but they seem to think it’s important, and numerous rips have been seen there.”

“Rips?”

“The rifts they cause from their home dimension to get here,” Shining explained. “Technically they’re wormholes, but they look more like bloody rips in the spacetime continuum. I don’t know all the math. My sister was good at that stuff, but she never made it out alive.”

Mash continued. “I don’t know what’s going on there, but we’ve sent my best scout to check it out. Now all I need is for you assholes to come and smash the place before the Octos kill more of us! Also, we want people evacuated out of here for their own safety.” The look in the man’s eyes softened. “Some of the women here are pregnant, like my wife, and I don’t want Sweetie Belle—”

“Sweetie Belle?” Applejack gasped.

“You know her?” Shining asked.

“She’s the younger sister of a girl I used to know in school.” A girl who was once one of my best friends, she silently added. She thought about it for a second, then said, “Request permission to go on this mission.”

“We still have to plan this mission – and frankly, we need to get your people up to speed. The Changelings are already in position.”

“Shining, this is war, not spycraft – they might be good at what they do, but you know there’s violence and then there’s war. Besides, Sweetie Belle knows me. And because of that, I might be able to reason with this Button Mash guy. Show him that the military’s here for everyone, and we’re doing the best we can to protect the nation and the world. We could get in with their leadership, which is the real important thing, I presume. Besides, if this is going down at Canterlot High…that’s where the portal to Equestria is. We need access to that location.”

Shining was silent for the longest time before adding, “This is going down pretty fast, Jackie. Your folks might not be ready.”

“We’re SEALs – we were ready yesterday.”

“Okay, point made. Plus, if we can get this militia on our side, maybe it’ll make things better for us. Lord knows the war can’t get any worse. But if we’re going to do this right, that means we have to do more than just a military operation. This is going to have to be a humanitarian one. Chryssie?”

She smiled as her fingers danced over the keyboard. “Already on it. There’s a combat support hospital – the 10th CSH – seconded to the 4th Infantry Division. They’re down in a small town in Oklahoma by the name of Ponyville. They’re set for that kind of stuff and can probably field a small medical team to help us.”

“The Fourth? That’s Col. Spearhead. I know that guy,” Shining said.

“Bet he doesn’t have as cute a tush as you do,” Chrysalis said absently. “Anyway, they’re our best bet.”

“I’ll make some phone calls and send some emails out to get what we need to get started,” Shining said. “We’re also going to need someone with planning skills out here. You don’t have a problem if I go with an O-5, do you, Jackie?”

“Gotta have someone to argue with,” Applejack said with a grin. “In the meanwhile, anything I can do right now?”

“Yeah, get settled in and then get your folks ready. We got word from the Enterprise that they just left this morning and should be here by mid-next week. If everything pans out, I’m going to want us in the air and on the way to Ponyville by Friday.”

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