• Published 3rd Sep 2012
  • 43,651 Views, 1,031 Comments

Tiberian Eclipse - Material Defender

Equestria is under threat from a crystal from beyond their world, one which earns them the attention of forces both benevolent and malevolent...

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Chapter 1: Entanglement

>Exiting hibernation routines...
>Initiating bootup protocols...
>Running preliminary shakedowns...
>Running interface systems...
>Electronic Video Agent initializing...
>Establishing connection with ISDSS Washington and ISDI CENTCOM...
>Verifying identification...
>Welcome back, Commander Martin Alexandra...

"Skip the pleasantries, EVA, and let's get started," Alexandra said, sitting down at the command console. "I just spent two weeks suffering through endless chair meetings and a lecture by ISDI Intelligence Ops reminding every commander in the Initiative about the Hallman Directive." He sighed and rubbed his forehead, the fatigue of going through days' worth of banal intelligence debriefings. "On a good day, InOps might be able to say that Tiberium is green."

"Affirmative, commander. The Interstellar Defense Initiative believes that all commanders should follow protocol and—"

"No. Stop that, EVA, it's annoying me. Just cut to the chase; I already know about everything you're about to tell me, and I'm not going to suffer through that again. Give me a situation report on the ITC Methuselah and what the hell's been going on here recently."

"Across the Methuselah's numbers of more than three thousand soldiers and crew, morale remains constant, though more veteran soldiers under your command have expressed their dismay at lack of combat time to their commanding officers. Scrin involvement on the frontlines remain at an all-time high, while border colonies are still under heavy protection by individual crawler support groups as dictated by ISDI CENTCOM."

"Any word from Washington about our next deployment?"

"Yes, commander. CENTCOM has directed us to begin controlled expansion over certain frontiers. Extraterrestrial contact has been deemed secondary to stopping the spread of Tiberium across other planets, should it be found. The Methuselah has been directed towards one of these sectors on behalf of your recommendation as an outstanding commander."

Alexandra sighed again. "Being top dog really sucks ass sometimes... do we have any sectors in range at the moment?"

"We are currently in orbit around an unidentified planet, noted to have Earth-like atmosphere. It is currently being ravaged by Tiberium and intensive scans on the planet have proven fruitless due to ion storm interference."

The holographic displays before Alexandra flashed, bringing up the tri-hex symbol of Tiberium and then cut to a data report of the planet they now sat over. "Hmm... sun and moon seem normal... almost reminds me of Earth, actually. What's the data from the Methuselah's InOps team?"

"InOps has speculated that the world is beginning the final stages of Tiberium proliferation. Categorization paints the world as seventy-eight percent Red Zone, twenty percent Yellow Zone, and 3% Blue Zone, the last of which is isolated to small landmasses surrounded by large bodies of water. InOps assumes that indigenous life may have been all but eradicated."

"Any Scrin presence?" he asked. That such a world rife with Tiberium was ignored by the Scrin meant that ISDI pressure on them was substantially more effective than previously thought. Scrin required Tiberium to survive, so being able to starve their enemies at every opportunity was far too great to ignore.

"According to the Hallman Directive, the Methuselah is to immediately reclaim the planet from Tiberium encroachment and defend it against any and all Scrin incursions that may appear when doing so. In the presence of local Scrin forces, the planet is to be taken back and—"

"EVA, directive 0095-XBC November. Please shut up."

"Understood, commander. Deactivating protocol reminders."

"And remind me to find the tech who updated you so I can kick his ass later," he grumbled. "So, Scrin presence?"

"There is no indication of Scrin presence on the planet, as no craft have been detected within the immediate vicinity of the Methuselah. In addition, there are no energy signatures from threshold towers planetside, so it is safe to assume that Scrin activity here is minimal or none at all."

"Why haven't we started landing forces on the planet yet?"

"The planet has heavy Tiberium infestation, and ion storms are present in most of the Red and Yellow Zones. General regions suitable for landing have been blocked off because of this. Further action was denied until your meeting with ISDI CENTCOM was completed and you were able to give a decision on the matter."

"Fantastic. Recommend course of action, EVA," he said. Though actual assessments from EVA were novice at best, it was interesting to Alexandra to see what sort of action EVA would recommend as opposed to his own; a keen reminder of how veteran commanders operated as opposed to ones still getting used to the console.

"Given intelligence and planetary composition, the recommended course of action would be to deploy a small team of elite soldiers to secure a drop zone via beacon. With that, I can plot out an accurate landing trajectory to avoid the worst of the ion storms and alleviate most of the interference for our Orca transports."

"Huh. You actually put together something good this time. Very well, EVA, let's go with that. Grab a squad of soldiers and a commando, and prep them for immediate drop. Notify CENTCOM that we're proceeding with Tiberium abatement protocol and will purge this world as necessary."

"Understood, commander. They will be prepared for drop within ten minutes."

"Lieutenant Anton Viers, you have orders for immediate drop. Prep immediately and meet in the launch bay in ten minutes."

"Fucking finally," Viers muttered, hopping out of his bunk and stretching his muscles. Though all the free time meant that he could work out at his own leisure, it was incredibly stale compared to operating in his own zone armor. At least in combat, you were always on your toes.

He pulled on his combat fatigues, his shirt emblazoned with the flying eagle insignia of the Interstellar Defense Initiative, and headed out the door. Ever since the Ascension Conflict had ended over a century ago, the reverse engineering of Scrin technology presented doorways for humanity that they never would have found quickly otherwise.

Among those of which were terraforming and jump technology, both primary pillars of Scrin technology that the then-named Global Defense Initiative quickly threw scientists at in droves. With the first crafts sent into space and the first colonies established, deep space scans quickly showed that the Scrin held several nearby systems, fully processed worlds that provided their lifeblood in large spades, spreading throughout the surrounding systems, though it was revealed later on that worlds containing life provided much faster growth compared to those without. To find them was easy: Scrin threshold towers emanated massive energy signatures, and GDI scanners could easily pick them up across vast expanses of space.

So to combat the Scrin's ever-increasing presence, the redesign of the GDI's Global Stratospheric Transports began, and resulted in the creation of the Interstellar Troop Carrier, now under the use of commanders throughout all of the ISDI. And each had a contingent of standard troops, battle-hardened soldiers, and as always, one or several of the ISDI's elite commandos.

Viers himself was one: he actually requested to be put under the command of Commander Alexandra given his reputation across several incredible victories on the war front. He was beginning to regret his decision, but now he was called to action. Perhaps this wasn't going to be so stale, after all; commandos were men of deeds, not words, and every single moment they were out in the field was another moment that could be spent helping the ISDI fight back against the Scrin.

Proceeding through the armory, Viers stopped before the armor refit station and entered in his identification. He stepped inside and stood motionless as the machines within went to work, assembling his commando zone trooper armor around him as his objectives appeared on his heads-up display.

"Blind drop into a Red Zone so we can go ahead with abatement operations, huh...?" His suit created a contained environment with a hiss, and his armor was good to go. "Test, test, come in, command," he said, pinging his direct comm link to Commander Alexandra.

"Alexandra here. Viers, you've got your orders. Proceed to launch bay D-7 and prepare for orbital drop." Alexandra was never really one for small talk, and that was something that Viers always appreciated from him.

"Yes, sir," Viers responded. A hatch opened on his right as he walked out of the refit station, and his Guardian heavy machinegun rolled out before him. Though most zone troopers were outfitted with more conventional portable cannons, high-caliber explosive ammunition with a high rate of fire worked just as well against the Scrin as anything else. "Will we have harmonic resonance weapons available to us?"

"Your attached squad will have access to them. They're veterans, don't worry. I know how you commandos hate being paired up with greenhorns, so you'll get some decent soldiers this time around," Alexandra said. "This might be Tiberium at a juvenile stage of evolution, so there's a good chance that they'll work."

"Who's the squad?" he asked, passing by a pair of navy technicians as he exited the armory. He rumbled down the hallways in the bulky suit, barely fitting through most of the bulkheads.

"ISDI infantry that have seen some good combat time, a small four-man zone trooper squad, callsign Yankee. Yankee Lead is already in the launch bay with his squad and awaiting your arrival."

"No worries here, commander, I'm already there." Viers entered the expansive launch bay, the view of the planet hanging just outside the hangar’s shielded doors and wreathed with musty green, to see Yankee Lead waving to him near one of the drop pods.

"Hey, sir! You're the commando, right? Yankee Lead, at your service!" He awkwardly saluted as his suit's hefty hand tapped against his faceplate. "Now that you're here, we just have to wait for the last bastard to show up."

Viers was unaware of extra elements being attached to his deployment. "Who else is there?"

Yankee Lead scoffed. "InOps. The commander wants someone with medical experience down there, since we're deploying blind straight into a Red Zone. So we have an InOps doctor heading down with us."

"What the hell does InOps do with a doctor?" Viers asked.

"Research on the biological effects of Tiberium," came a voice from behind them. They all turned to see another person decked out in zone trooper armor before them. "Since we can't deploy our full force, we'll have to do with just us. And in the case that any of you should fall ill," he said, "you'll receive immediate medical treatment."

Yankee Lead huffed. "With all due respect, sir, we're zone troopers. I think we can handle ourselves out there." He shuffled around on his hydraulics, putting a hand on his Enforcer tri-barreled chaingun. "We don't need a doctor following us around out there."

The doctor shrugged. "Orders are orders. You have a problem with it, talk to the commander."

Viers opened a line with Alexandra, as the droning of machinery echoed in the background as an Orca transport was brought through the area on its way to the engineering bay. "Commander, are you assigning an InOps doctor to us?"

"You'll be blind out there, and I'd rather not chance losing an experienced squad if I can help it. On top of that, intelligence reports that other Tiberium-afflicted planets with indigenous life have proven to be extremely hostile and possibly more than your weapons can deal with. I'm taking no chances. Now stop wasting time and deploy."

He turned to look at Yankee Lead. "Looks like it's legit. The doctor is coming with us."

"Then you'll get no arguments from me," Yankee Lead said, holding up his left hand as an affirmation. "Now let's get in the pod. God knows we've got our work cut out for us. Got that beacon, sir?"

"Yeah." Viers held up the drop zone beacon before placing it back into his pack. "Your squad ready?"

"Ready and raring, sir."

"Excellent. Doctor, you're with me. Stay close to us and try not to get killed."

"I know how to use a gun, you know," the doctor said. "I've been trained, I'm InOps, after all."

"I might be inclined to believe that when InOps can tell the difference between Scrin artillery and our own," Viers said, recalling an unfortunate incident of friendly fire on Avarus IV. "Now get inside."

"Register confirmation for drop pod EP-185, infantry group callsign Yankee. Registration confirmed from Commander Alexandra. Control tower to commando, callsign Dagger, you are clear for launch. Happy hunting down there, and godspeed."

The interior of the pod was lit with a dim red glow as Viers keyed the ready button. "Dagger, ready confirmation. Launching pod now."

Metal shook against metal as the pod was launched from one of the Methuselah's many launch bays, falling towards the planet at extreme speed. Comfort was a secondary concern in the cramped enclosure, as survivability was the primary concern, though their suits could absorb more than enough of the damage to keep their legs still functional after they hit the ground.

"Yeehaw!" Yankee Two shouted. "Now this is what I've been waiting for!"

"Hey, you and me both, man," Yankee Four said. "Finally going to get some real action down here, baby!"

"Shut the fuck up, you retards," Yankee Three said. "Can't you see we've got a commando operating with us? Get your shit together, this mission is going to go from cakewalk to shitstorm the minute we hit the ground, I promise you that."

"Come on, man, why do you have to be such a buzzkill?"

"We're going into a Red Zone blind with a medic as our only support. This has fucking Murphy's Law written all over it."

Yankee Two laughed. "Seriously, man, you should just go hang with the regular infantry bozos down at the mess hall if you want to get all yellow-bellied over it. We look forward to this stuff because we're the ones who get shit done, remember?"

"Yeah, so long as we get some Scrin to shoot at, I'm a happy camper," Four agreed. "But it looks like we're just going to have to clean this planet up bit by bit 'till all that Tiberium's gone."

"No fucking shit," Three said. "That's why I'm worried. The Scrin probably know about this place, they just haven't reached it yet."

"Cut the chatter, all of you," Yankee Lead said. "We're about to break atmosphere, and—" The pod rumbled violently as they made contact with the tiberium-affected skies, flying straight into turbulence. "Shit, what the hell is going on down there?!"

"It's a—fucking hell—class 2 ion storm, Sergeant!" the doctor said. "That means it's—son of a bitch—!" he said, slamming against the wall in front of him, "That means that it's a Yellow Zone about to go full blown Red Zone!"

"What makes you so sure of that, Doc?!" Yankee Three shouted.

"Because if it was a class 1 Red Zone ion storm, this pod wouldn't be here right now!"

Viers made no attempt to express his dismay, for he had none. Drops like these were an everyday occurrence for him, and to see people actually complaining about it was amusing. They should try coming in hot on a pod through anti-orbital Scrin ordnance...

"Ah, shit, you know you can tell when a world's been screwed up by that Tiberium!" Two said. "I can freaking smell it in here!"

"ETA twenty seconds to impact!" Viers called out. "Lock and load and prepare to exit!"

"Yes, sir!" the rest responded.

Viers had been focusing on the drop when he realized that the sound of static was barely discernible through his comms, catching bits and pieces of a voice in the noise. "—Dagger, contact—bzzt—EVA uplink and... cannot track—your own—bzzt—luck."

"We are out of contact with the commander!" Viers said. "We are restricted to local comms! Stay close, stay together, and watch your fields of fire!" A high-pitched whir hissed through the outside as the jet brakes on the pod activated. "We need to find a landing zone for the MCV before we start moving in!"

"What about crawler support?" Yankee Lead shouted. "We could use the guns down there!"

"Unless you want to burn a crawler through an ion storm, MCVs are our only option, Sergeant!"

"Point taken!"

The pod went dark as it impacted into the ground, blacking out Viers' vision.

"...ugh, son of a bitch. Everyone okay?" Viers asked, his vision blurred as his head reeled from the shock.

"That was not one of my better drops, I'll say that much," Yankee Four said, chuckling.

"Cut the chatter and sound off. Yankee Lead, I'm fine."

"Yankee Two, alive and kicking."

"Yankee Three, still here."

"InOps, still alive."

"Pop the hatch and let's get moving." Viers flipped a switch and slammed down the resulting button as it appeared, causing the side hatches of the drop pod to propel with explosive force. The sound of air rushed in through their audio receptors as the sight of the landscape before them appeared in a green haze.

"Oh, shit, this is a Red Zone, alright," Four said, jumping out of the pod as he pulled out his cannon. "Looks like this place got hit bad."

"This place is a lot worse than expected," the doctor said. "The local plant life has already been assimilated into the Tiberium landscape. Whatever life was here is most likely dead by now. We'll be lucky if there's anything here for us to rescue."

"Right, doctor, uh..." Viers said.

"Doctor Wesley is enough, lieutenant. As expected, the entire planet is covered with Tiberium Riparius. And over there in the distance, look: there are several instances of Tiberium Cruentus over there, along with Vinifera and most likely Arboreus, as well. The presence of Vinifera indicates substantial Tiberium incubation..."

"Yeah, that means we're going to need a boatload of reclamation vehicles to clean this place out," Three said. "Unless CENTCOM wants to spare a MARV or twelve. Or a whole fleet of harvesters."

"Doesn't matter. This place has been quaked to hell and back, and there's no suitable ground near here for the MCV to deploy," Yankee Lead said, pulling out a handheld sonic device, and walked over to a small patch of Tiberium. With a high-pitched whine, he directed the device at the Tiberium nearby as they all watched it crumble to bits under the strain of sonic sound waves. "We can check that one off since it looks like it works. Let’s get moving.”

The whir of their suits was the only thing accompanying them as they proceeded through the blasted landscape, passing through field after endless field of Tiberium. The sky cracked with unnatural lightning as the ion storm still raged on around them, the skies shifting in brightness as the bolts struck around them. The ground stood out like a sore patch, broken and cracked everywhere they went.

"Hmm, all these Tiberium glaciers in the distance there... that indicates substantial Tiberium growth. We're going to need more than a few harvesters or a MARV to destroy that thing." He faced leftward and and paused to get a closer look at the gargantuan emerald objects as Viers stopped beside him.

"The Methuselah is equipped with a direct strike ion cannon," Viers said. "When we get that uplink center established, we can begin softening all of this up."

"Hey, sir... look at that," Three said, lowering his chaingun to point at the location in the distance. "That looks like a town. Or what's left of it. Can't see shit through all this green haze. I think we’re in a valley of some sort."

"Well, I'll be damned," Two said, walking up beside him. "It looks like those quaint little European towns back on Earth. Except everything went to shit and now it's all covered in Tiberium and... well, other shit."

"Still not a good place to set up shop," Yankee Lead said. "Haven't seen a Red Zone this bad since the siege of New Oslo several years ago. That was a nightmare, and it was full of Scrin. Here, it's just... all quiet. Really gives me the creeps."

"That's because our boys in purple haven't shown up to the party yet, boss," Four said. "Hey, there looks like a good drop zone over to the right there, let's go check it out—" Several green shards appeared from behind them and clanged off of his armor. "Contact!" Four said, wheeling around with his cannon at the ready.

Yankee Lead opened fire with a steady flow of bullets from his chaingun. "Tiberium lifeforms!"

Wesley fired his own cannon, a shell smashing into the face of one of the snarling creatures. "They certainly look a lot like fiends from the Second Tiberium War! They gave our infantry a hard time back then, but with this technology..." He planted a metal fist into a fiend who treaded too close to him. "It's nice to see we have a substantial advantage this time around!"

"At least it's nice to know that even if InOps can't work worth a damn, you can still hold a gun!" Two said laughing, turning left to fire his cannon at another incoming group of fiends. "Just how many of these assholes are there?!"

"Take the high ground, Yankee! Down this road and up that hill, move, move, move!" Yankee Lead said, laying down a wall of suppressive fire, the fiends hissing as they turned back; the other soldiers rushed past him. Viers' explosive ammunition found refuge in the craniums of several more fiends until the beasts whimpered and began falling back.

As they sat on top of the small hill, Yankee Three gave the fiends a parting gift: a sonic grenade from the Enforcer chaingun's under-slung attachment, watching as more of them were felled by the grenade's resonating effects, shattering parts of their bodies into unrecoverable bits. "So much for no contact," he said. "So, local wildlife might not be all dead, but they're not all normal, either."

"Hey, boss, I think I got a live one over here!" Two shouted.

"If it's a visceroid or a fiend, you kill it, understood?" Viers said.

"It's not a tiberium lifeform, sir, whatever it is."

"Then tell me what it is, Yankee Two."

"It looks like a... uh, a horse thing. It's wearing a hazmat suit."

"That's bullshit, horses can't wear hazmat suits," Yankee Four interjected. "You sure your suit isn't compromised or something?" he asked, as the whole group made their way towards Yankee Two. When they arrived around him, they had to angle their bodies downward to see the creature laying before them.

"I don't know about you," Two said, "but I'm pretty sure horse-ponies don't wear cowboy hats."

"Is it dead?" Wesley said. "We might have to relocate this thing to somewhere safer... wherever safer might be considered." They nearly jumped back when the creature coughed several times and gave a heaving gasp, then returned to breathing quietly on the ground. "Goddamn, this thing is barely alive. The suit has punctures all over it..."

"Whatever the case, we've found our landing zone," Viers said. "This place looks like a farm. Lots of empty space and sufficient amounts of Tiberium for harvesting." He pulled out the beacon and tossed it several lengths away from him, landing with a beep and a flashing blue light.

"Uplink established... sending coordinates to ITC Methuselah..." his HUD AI said. "Reinforcements inbound."

"This thing needs medical treatment immediately," Wesley said, kneeling down as he shined his flashlight on the creature. "The tiberium exposure is still in the early stages; we can still save it. The fact that the indigenous population can wear hazmat suits might mean that there are more that we can help."

"Then this situation just got escalated," Viers said. "The commander's going to want to notify CENTCOM ASAP. Friendly first contact is considered high-priority on their protection list, after Tiberium and Scrin removal."

What few alien species had survived being exposed to the Scrin and the horrors of Tiberium had numbers dwindled down to near nothing until the timely intervention of the ISDI. Most now lived within ISDI territories as protectorates, their people former shells of what they once were. But if they could save the natives here, save their entire species from the Tiberium and the Scrin, it would not only signal a great victory for all of the ISDI, but for species everywhere.

And those victories were what was needed most.

"...and if the Scrin come to take this planet back, ZOCOM better send a hell of a lot more troops..."

Applejack couldn't tell what was going on. Her head was swirling and her mind was in a daze, and she had such a hard time trying to breathe... she couldn't think straight as every breath she took felt like her lungs were lit on fire. There were voices nearby, and she felt the ground shake for a moment, but she couldn't find the energy to pick herself up to look.

Where was she? What had happened? Why did it hurt to move, to think, to breathe? Things shouldn't be like this... what was she doing on the ground, sleeping...? She should be trying to harvest the apples right now... yes, that was what she needed to be doing...

Then she felt a bright light shine in her face and the sound of voices again, echoing in her ears from all directions. The ground shook several times as she saw the strange sky above her. Silly her. The sky shouldn't be green: it was blue, everypony knew that. Then the sound of air rushing around her put her mind to darkness yet again.