• Published 3rd Sep 2012
  • 43,800 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...

  • ...

Chapter 5: Ascent

Aaaaaappplleeeejaaaccckkkkkk!” Rainbow Dash weeped. “My best friend...!” She leaned into Fluttershy’s shoulder as the yellow mare attempted to comfort her. Twilight lit another candle underneath one of the large trees in the garden, stepping back into the line next to Celestia.

“Oh, Applejack...” Rarity said. “We didn’t always see eye to eye on everything, but... she was a good friend... Nay, one of the greatest friends I’ll ever have!” She began bawling, and leaned into Fluttershy’s other free shoulder.

Pinkie Pie was absent for this vigil. Much like Luna, she, too, had been placed into stasis, when the crystal began spreading on her body. The thought of losing two of their friends was horrific to bear, and only brought further sadness into their cries... Pinkie had come back on her own accord with the guards, but Applejack... she refused to endanger anypony else in the castle. She chose to stay.

“It’s okay,” Celestia whispered. Twilight knew what she meant, and before she realized it, tears were streaming down her face. It pained her very much to know that even if Applejack could have been brought back, there was nothing that could have been done to save her. She gave her life to protect other ponies... the Element of Honesty was never one to put herself above others.

The four Elements of Harmony gathered together in an inclusive hug along with Princess Celestia, mourning the loss of their dearest friend and beloved daughter of the Apple family. Not bothering to turn around, they felt hoofsteps approach from behind, and watched as Big Macintosh sat down next to them, without tears, but face still holding sadness.

“Thanks for inviting me, Dash,” he whispered.

“It... was...” Dash paused to wipe away her tears. “It was the least I could do.”

He nodded. “Damnit, AJ... why do you have to do these things? Now Apple Bloom’s goin’ to be alone without you, and Granny Smith is... I don’t know how her heart’s goin’ to take this...”

Dash broke out of their hug, walking up to him and giving him a much-needed hug. “It’s okay, big guy. You don’t have to be alone. We... we all miss her. A lot.”

Twilight looked up at the tree, still green despite everything that had happened recently. “Wherever you are now, Applejack...” she said quietly, but loud enough for all her friends to hear. “...we’ll always be thinking of you.”

Applejack sneezed.

“Oh, my! Do you need a tissue?” Wesley asked.

“I’m okay. I’m fine,” she replied.

“Very well, then, though I think I had one laying around here just in case... oh, it’s right over here.” He wheeled his chair several feet behind him to grab the tissue box from underneath the medical cabinet. “You’ve come all this way now, and it wouldn’t be good for a cold to put you back in bed, now would it?”

“No, Doctor,” she said, smiling. “I’m fine.”

“Just in case,” he repeated, leaving the box on her nightstand. “Right, so where were we?” He held up a fork. “Do you know what this is?”

“Yes. A fork.”

Wesley blinked for a moment, unsure whether or not he was comprehending that correctly. “Could you... repeat that?”


He looked at the fork, then at Applejack’s hooves. “I... how do you even know what this is? More importantly, how do you use it? This is a fork... it’s meant to be used with hands. You know, these things.” He indicated to one hand with the other.

Applejack reached out with her hoof and took the fork from Wesley’s hand. It seemed to stick on to the end of her hoof using... magnetics, or something vaguely similar to it. What mattered was that Applejack was clearly holding the fork in her hoof. She poked at the table next to her bed to show that it was firmly in her grasp, despite the appearance of being stuck to her hoof.

“I... uh...” Wesley stuttered. “How do you do that?”


He began to wonder if it actually was magic, and not just some sort of catch-all term or extremely elaborate prank that she was pulling on him. He’d seen the scans on her body post-surgery: she absolutely did not have any sort of magnets on her body at all. So how on Earth was this even possible? Magic, of course.

“O... kay...” Wesley said. “Sorry if I seem a bit... skeptical. Usually where I’m from, ‘magic’ isn’t really an acceptable answer for most things.”

“It’s fine. Not really magic pony myself.”

“So you’re saying that there are actually ponies that can use magic?”

She nodded. “Yes! Friend Twilight can use magic.”

“Right... Twilight...” Wesley muttered, jotting down another note in his already-expansive list of notes just from this session alone. Applejack held surprising recognition for a wide variety of human objects, from the fork all the way up to books and extremely specific objects like a train or a dress he’d shown her on pictures from the PDA. How ponies used trains or wore a dress, he didn’t know... but it would be interesting to find out. “So, that’s enough of that. It’s your turn to ask questions now.”

Applejack tapped her chin for a moment with her hoof. Wesley smiled; the reaction was so human that it was endearing to see another species do the same thing. “Your home?” she asked.

“Right, well... what do you want to know about it?”


“Okay, so,” Wesley began, “as you may have already guessed, I’m not from here, and neither are my friends. I myself was born on a planet known as Mars. It was nice, quite green most of the time, and the weather tends to be okay most of the year.”


“We had a home; I lived in the city, as did most of the people did when we began colonizing it. Loud, cramped, and pretty annoying... I certainly didn’t miss it when I went off to school on Earth. I prefer the countryside, though... plenty of quiet to be had there.”

“Good planet?”

“Oh, yes, very good. We could grow so many things there, at least after we managed to convert enough of planet’s space to livable conditions. Fruits and vegetables of all kind... and then some. Lots of space means lots of farms, and I don’t really think they ever did much else with Mars. It’s practically an agriculture planet.”

“Agriculture!” Applejack agreed. “I do agriculture, too!”

Wesley laughed. “Yes, I know that, already. You say you used to have a farm here?”

“Yes!” She nodded again. “Sweet Apple Acres! Has barn on it.”

“Oh, a barn...?” That would be a problem. If what he thought was correct, upon landing with Lieutenant Viers and Yankee, they found Applejack nearby a barn... which means that Camp Greenwood might have been built right on top of Sweet Apple Acres. They’ll probably need to clear off the land after all this business is said and done with, since she had claims to it first. And having what he knew of pony society, she probably kept a legal documentation of her rights to the land anyway, and the ISDI always honored those agreements.

He heard a ding and looked at the clock: it had just struck midnight. “Oh! Well, I’m sorry about that, Applejack, but I’m afraid it’s getting late right now. I’m sure both of us could use the sleep. I’ll talk to you some more tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay, Doctor. Good night!”

“Good night, Applejack!”

He exited the room to run straight into the attendant. “Sir, reporting for duty.”

“Right on time. I was told you were busy being tasked with repairing the damage to the barracks. Did you receive my message?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. You’ll be on night watch. Our guest is sleeping, but if she rings, attend to her quickly.”

“Of course, sir. Will that be all?”

“Yes. Now, if you don’t mind, we’ve all had one hell of a day. Good luck with your task!” he said, waving off the attendant as he proceeded past him. Now the only problem he had to deal with was finding his room in the barracks.

Alexandra walked past a pair of navy servicemen as he entered the command center. Hanging in the center of the room was a display of the planet they were now in orbit over, with red covering most of the territory due to Tiberium incursion.

Rubbing the back of his neck, he opened up the bottle of water he carried in his hand and took a long drink from it. Normally, he would have done better with coffee, but there were always rules, and it was mandated that all troopers keep themselves hydrated. Being stuck on an interstellar troop carrier with its own self-sufficiency systems to provide for water, air, and food made people get lazy in their self-maintenance, and CENTCOM didn’t like that.

“EVA, bring up Commander Michelin for me, please,” he said.

The transmission brought up a sleepy Michelin with bed-head hair. “Oh, hey, Commander, what’s going on?” he said, yawning. “Caught me just in time, you know... just woke up.

“Michelin, I need an ion cannon uplink established ASAP.”

Michelin blinked for a moment, before giving a nervous chuckle. “Whoa, sir... where’s the fire? Did the Scrin attack while I was asleep or something?

“Not exactly. But Hampton informed me last night that she found a road leading out from the town and towards the north. We’re going to deploy forces to see where it leads, but first, we need to clear out the Tiberium. I’m going to use a surgical stage two blast to clear the path.”

Roger, sir, just let me grab the pre-fabs now... you do know that the landing zone’s ready, right? The skies don’t look too angry today, maybe you can send in some more soldiers.

“EVA, check weather signatures. What’s the intensity of the ion storms at the moment?”

Storm signatures seem to be at a minimum at the moment, Commander. It is highly suggestible that you deploy forces to reinforce Camp Greenwood.

“Right. I’m sending down more dropships your way, Michelin. Keep an eye out for them.”

Yes, sir.” Alexandra’s console brought up a new window as the ion cannon uplink patched directly into the ITC’s orbital weapons system. “Ion cannon uplink is good to go, sir. Ready to fire whenever you need it. You said the blast is going to be stage two?

“If I were any stupider, I’d paint the whole area in a stage three or four, and watch as the entire damn region turns into a massive Tiberium bomb. Stage two surgical strikes are the best we can do now. I don’t want to rupture any more fault lines and cause the whole base to plunge into the ground.”

Understood, sir. I’ll let Hampton know.

Alexandra keyed in the orders for more units to assemble for immediate drop in the launch bays. “Oh, and also inform Hampton that she’s going to be on an escort operation soon?”

Really? Where to?

“Doctor Wesley from InOps is currently taking care of a special guest in Greenwood’s medical center. From what we’ve learned from it—her, so far, there might be more of her kind around here, specifically, in a city that might be nearby. Let her know to be ready.”

I’ll make sure she knows, sir... good thing, too: she gets pretty antsy when she’s not doing anything. Then again, so do I.

“Good. I’ll be keeping in touch. Right now, I need to get more information from Wesley on the location of this settlement. They probably need help, and they need it soon.”

You’re such a humanitarian, Commander,” Michelin said, chuckling. “Anyway, I’ve noticed some weird energy signatures coming up from the north, though. Chances are it’s probably Tiberium, but I think we should check them out, too. Sending the coordinates your way now. Until then, I still have repairs to look over, so I’ll talk to you later.

Michelin’s upload showed a number of energy signatures spanning the length all the way up north, past the mountain ranges. That region was beyond his jurisdiction at the moment, but Redding might be up to the task when he arrives.

Hello, Commander? I was told you wanted to speak to me,” came Wesley’s voice.

“Yes, I did. Get anything useful? You say there’s a city out there: where is it?”

Well, I’ve only just begun my morning check-up, sir. We’ve only just finished, but get this: she’s completely healed. Her legs are completely functioning again! It’s amazing, I tell you, she’s just walking around the room as if nothing happened just a few days prior!”

“That’s great news, I’m sure. What does matter is that we need to find the rest of her kind. I have no doubt that they’re probably hurting for aid, if all the Tiberium around here is something to go by.”

Yes, of course. I’ll ask her immediately.” There was the sound of a conversation in the distance as Wesley communicated with Applejack. “Er, yes, uh, she says there’s a path that leads north out of the town. She says that if we follow that path, it should lead us directly to the city of Canterlot—at least that’s what I think it’s called—the capital of the sovereign territory she resides in.”

“How far away is it?”

More conversation. “She... says it’s just up the mountain, facing west.

“Behind the mountain or on top of it?”

The conversation again continued, this time fraught with more confusion and questions as he heard Wesley speaking in the background. “She says it’s... on the side of the mountain now, facing west. So, yes, I assume it’s on the mountain.

“Good. Is she ready to step out into the field?”

More than ready, I’d say. She’s walking all over the place and I think she’s itching to get out of this room. Lieutenant Viers has notified me that the power suit built to her specifications has been completed. All they need now is her head’s measurements and they can finish the helmet for her suit.”

ISDI engineers were always busybodies. Figures that they would be able to make a suit on such short notice. “Good. Bring her down to the engineering bays and fix her up. Commander Hampton will be meeting you later today, and you’ll receive transportation through her crawler. Until then, Doctor.”

Of course, Commander.

The line went dead as Wesley turned around, seeing Applejack brushing off her hat before putting it back on her head. “Well, Applejack, you seem perfectly well. The wound had healed up nicely, and I don’t see any sign of scar tissue, strangely enough. Would you like to go for a walk?”

Applejack smiled and nodded. “Yes!”

“Good. Let’s get you down to the engineering bay where we can get your helmet fitted.” He grabbed the PDA off the wall and walked outside, stopping between the two door guards. “Gentlemen, your services will no longer be needed for today. Thank you for your work, sergeant.”

The soldier to his left saluted. “Anytime, Doctor Wesley. If you need us, you’ll know where to find us.” Getting a nod from the other soldier, the sergeant and his comrade departed down the hall and disappeared in the service elevator, as Wesley turned to see Applejack staring through the window.

The skies outside were still much of the environment she had come to expect—and hate—but the place she was in now was astounding. Her look of wonder drifted across all the buildings and the large cranes set up outside the construction yard, followed by a gasp as she saw Orca dropships descend from the skies and park itself at the landing pad built only the day before.

“Amazing...” she said, as the PDA translated. “How long you been here?”

“Several days now.”

“Build all this in days?”

“Yes. We’ve... gotten pretty good at building things really fast.” The Scrin threat necessitated the rapid construction of just about everything, lest they find themselves disadvantaged against a technologically superior alien race. Back in the early days, trying to keep up production was a problem, but with the advent of nano-production and modularity, most of those issues had been solved.

“How many of you here?” she asked.

“Total, and not counting those that haven’t even arrived yet? Several thousand, with more on the way.”

“That’s a lot,” she said simply.

“Yes, it is a lot. But it’s what we need to do to fight back against the... uh, green rocks.” He wasn’t particularly given to calling it Tiberium in her presence, since she was most likely not even aware of the term’s history. Did the ponies even have a name for it? “Say, do you have a name for the green crystal?”

“No,” she said. “Just call green rocks.”

So they hadn’t been quick to label the crystal. That was understandable... he half-expected something cryptic given its consuming nature, or perhaps similar to the Scrin’s label of ‘ichor’ for the substance. “Now, let’s head down to the engineering bay... it should be right next to the barracks, I think.”

They walked down the empty hall and proceeded into the elevator, catching the attendant that Wesley had sent to procure some extra medication to restock the medical cabinets in his office. “Oh, hello, sir. Are you heading out with the patient?”

“Indeed I am. I’ll be leaving my office up to you. I probably won’t be back until the end of tonight, so once you’re done restocking everything here, you’re free, at least until I return.”

The attendant nodded, nearly dropping his box full of glass bottles as he did so. “Whoa! Uh, right, sir, thank you. Have a nice day and, uh, stay safe out there.” He carefully walked off to the office, balancing the large boxes on his arms. Why the boy didn’t have the sense to get a cart was beyond him.

“Downstairs?” Applejack asked, as Wesley pushed the button for the ground floor.

“Yes, we are going downstairs. Let’s just hope you don’t draw too much attention... no offense, but you’re kind of... well, colorful. Very colorful, and that’s not something that’s normal from where we come from. Especially not the color orange.”

“What about orange juice?”

“Well, yes, of course there’s orange juice, but that’s a drink, not an actual pony like you. We’re just not really used to seeing things that can talk that also happen to be very bright in color. And how do you know what an orange is? I’ve only said that word once or twice.”

“Aunt and uncle named after orange.” Of course the rest of her family would be named after some other type of fruit. Naming things after fruit seemed strange. Then again, it was simpler, and Applejack may have held the same view on humans and their naming schemes.

“Mmhmm. Breakfast,” she said. “Like jello, and eggs.”

“Yes, jello.” Among one of the strangest revelations he’d had was that the ponies seemed to be entirely aware of what jello was. Not only what it was really, but how to make it. These ponies were full of surprises every day... like learning that they actually ate eggs. An expected connection, given that ponies seemed to be familiar with things like cake and other such products.

“You try Apple family food sometime.”

“Oh, really? What kind of foods are there?”

“Hmm... apple pie, apple fritter, apple dumpling, apple crisp, apple crumble, candied apples, apple turnover, apple cobbler, app—”

“That’s alright, Applejack, I think I get it... you make lots of... apple-based foods.”

“Try sometime?”

“Yes, I think I’d actually enjoy that. It would be a nice change from the mess hall’s food, if they can call it that.” The elevator dinged as they reached the ground floor of the medical center. Most of the staff didn’t even bat an eye at them, considering that the medical center itself had a barebones staff at the moment, and a good majority of them had spent time helping Wesley tend to Applejack and other officious duties.

“Ah, let’s see, the barracks was... that way,” Wesley said, pointing down the hall marked with a yellow line on the wall labeled ‘barracks’. “Come on, dear Applejack, I know you must be interested in just about everything here, but we’re hard pressed for time.”

“Clean,” she said, following him down the halls.

“Well, of course, it’s a hospital, my dear, what do you think?”

“Cleaner than Ponyville hospital. Well, not there anymore, so...”

They passed through the bulkheads leading into the ISDI barracks, and a multitude of servicemen stopped what they were doing, watching both Wesley and Applejack as they passed through the halls.

“Hey, doc!” A zone trooper walked up to him, still decked out in his power suit. “I see you got our guest fixed up! Oh, I’m Yankee Two. The boss and the rest of the boys are still in the armory getting refitted. What’re you two doing in the barracks?”

“We were on our way to the engineering bay to get Applejack’s suit fitted on to her.”

“Oh, really? Well, hello, there, uh...”

“Miss,” Wesley informed.

“Right. Hello, Miss Applejack,” Two said, leaning his faceplate down from his seemingly gargantuan suit. “I’m Yankee Two. I was with the group who found you.”

“In actuality, Yankee Two is the very one who found you, Applejack,” Wesley said.

“Found me?” she said, eyes lighting up in realization. “Thank you.”

“Well, I’m flattered by such manners,” Two said, his echoing voice chuckling. He pointed down a smaller hall behind them with his free hand, the other hefting his trademark cannon. “The engineering bay’s down that-a-way. Are you two the reason why the troops were ordered to assemble?”

“That’s correct, Two,” Wesley said. “We’re going for a walk.”

“Well, I guess the commando was right, then. The lieutenant is expecting you in the engineering bay.” There was rumbling again, but this one wasn’t caused by quakes. It was short, and the magnitude was far less than what they’d expected. “Oh, boy, looks like the crawler’s here.”

“Yankee, prepare to move,” Yankee Lead said, walking up behind Two. “Oh, hello, doc. Guess we’ll be part of your protection detail today. Best not keep the lieutenant waiting. Alright, Yankee, move out! Keep your heads on a swivel! And the rest of you assholes: stop staring. Didn't your mommies ever tell you that’s rude?” The four troopers shuffled their way towards an airlock on their right side, guarded by indoor defense turrets.

“Now, Applejack, if you would,” Wesley said, gesturing towards the hall that led to the engineering bay. “I believe we have an appointment to keep.”

“There you are. I was wondering when you two would show up,” Viers said, already in his commando armor. He took a more traditional approach this time, it seemed, as he was armed with a portable quad-missile launcher grasped in his left hand with the machinegun in his right. “The engineers are waiting on you now.”

A couple of engineers waved down Wesley as he was ushered into his own power suit. Applejack watched in wonder as the faceplate closed down over the suit and sealed with a hiss, making Wesley seem much larger than he normally did. Grabbing his own cannon, he waved at Applejack with a gauntleted left hand to move forward.

“It’s alright now,” Wesley said. “I’m uploading the PDA into my suit’s systems as I speak.” Within, Wesley simply attached the PDA to a slot located near chest-level, as the suit hooked into the PDA’s systems and transferred the translation program’s receiving audio to the suit’s receivers. “Come on now, Applejack, they won’t hurt you.”

“Okay, doctor,” she said, but stopped to grab her hat. “What about hat?”

“Hmm, yes, that will be a problem. Tell you what: I’ll hold on to it for you until we get up to the city. Is that alright?”

She held onto her hat for a moment longer, pondering about whether giving it up to a stranger; a stranger, or rather strangers, that saved her life, no less, but still strangers. Eventually, she sighed and took it off, holding it out for Wesley to take. “Okay,” she grumbled.

Opening his canopy again, Wesley took the hat and stored it inside his suit for safekeeping. “I’ll be sure to take special care, Applejack, don’t you worry,” he said, as the faceplate lowered down again. Applejack trotted up to the refit station, but found that it did not activate the same way like it did for Wesley. Instead, a number of engineers appeared and floated over to her carrying parts of their own.

Using specially-made nanite construction systems, the engineers quickly assembled Applejack’s power suit, using their own servo-claws to place and affix the parts with machine precision. Her tail and mane couldn’t be left hanging out as a safety precaution, of course, so they managed to tuck them inside the suit... something that Applejack seemed to take offense to when they attempted to move them.

“Hey!” she shouted.

Viers snorted. “No offense, doc, but I think she’s a little bit shy with those things.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Wesley said. “Damn this suit, I can’t take any notes in here. Fine, voice-to-text, please, PDA. Yes, good. Applejack seems to take offense with having her tail or mane handled. Must learn if this is some privacy concern given their parts assumed for reproduction, or whether or not it’s related to cultural upbringing. End note.”

“No offense again, doc, but that’s creepy as hell.”

“The commander said to avoid stepping on toes, and that’s what I’m trying to do. What else do you expect from a species that doesn’t seem to have any problem walking around being what is essentially naked?”

“You make a good point.” Viers stepped aside, walking towards the bulkhead in the engineering bay as the lights over it turned green. “Looks like the crawler just linked up with this bay.”

“Oh? Are we moving equipment onboard?”

“Nope,” Viers said, walking back towards the barracks. “I’m on protection duty. You and the miss are going to be staying onboard the offense crawler Mobius for your own protection. See you later, doc.”

So Alexandra didn’t want Applejack walking out in the open. That was understandable, since keeping her out of harm’s way was paramount if they were going to successfully establish relations with ponykind.

“Ah, damnit, I’m going to have to expand the helmet a little bit,” an engineer grumbled. He grabbed a bunch of spare parts and armor plating from a nearby table with his servo-claw and began adding new attachments to the helmet. “There, that’s better. Should fit her head now.”

Applejack had her mane moved aside and carefully fit into the back of her helmet as it sealed over her with a hiss. Within, a series of words she didn’t understand lighted over her faceplate as the suit’s systems activated, and her eyes followed the lights across her HUD as they turned from red to green as diagnostics completed.

“Ready, Applejack?” she heard Wesley say from her helmet’s speakers. “Let’s head over to the door now. Thank you both, engineers, you’ve done us a great service.”

“No problem, doc,” one of the engineers said. “Better in here than getting shot at out there, I say. Try not to get killed, alright?”

“You won’t find any disagreements from me.” The bulkhead door in the engineering bay opened, revealing a small cargo bay beyond: the crawler’s production bays. “Come on now, Applejack, let’s go see if we can’t find your friends.”

Hampton stood waiting in the control room of her crawler, eyeing the cameras as Wesley and the guest entered. That was strange. She was told to expect two InOps personnel by Alexandra. So where was the second?

Getting out of her seat, she took off her helmet and left it on the dashboard before heading out of the room and downstairs. “Hello there, doc! I was told that there was going to be two of you! So where’s the second?”

Her gaze fell upon the strange quadruped fidgeting with its helmet in her production bays. There was a beep followed by a click as the being pulled its helmet off, and sat it on the ground with its hooves, giving a disapproving glance at the helmet on the ground before looking up at Hampton with her emerald green eyes.

“Oh... my... God. Is that a pony?” She quickly charged down the stairs, and ran up and hugged it. “Did the commander get this for me as a gift? Oh, I’ve always wanted my own little pony!” she cooed, hugging Applejack and rubbing cheeks with her. “She’s so freaking adorable! Does she have a name?”

Applejack’s eyes were absolutely shocked as Hampton continued to pour her love into hugs, and she looked to Wesley for help. She couldn’t see his face behind the green faceplate, but she was sure he noticed given his shrugging reaction that probably meant he was rolling his eyes.

Wesley sighed. “Her name is Applejack. Listen, Commander Hamp—”

“Oh, Applejack! That’s so adorable! And look at her mane, it looks so cute!” Hampton said, running a gloved hand through Applejack’s mane. “And the end of her mane is tied in a knot! Oh, my gosh, that is just so adoraaaableee! Look at her now, all dressed like a soldier ready for war! Did the commander want you to stay close to me to protect you, you poor little thing? Don’t worry! Momma Hampton will absolutely destroy anything that even thinks about trying to hurt you!”

“Commander Hampton!” Wesley shouted, stopping Hampton’s monologue in its track as both she and the pony turned to look at him. “That pony is not a gift from Commander Alexandra. She is the second InOps personnel you were assigned to escort.”

“Huh... what?” Hampton said, moving her head away from Applejack and exchanging a glance with her. “You mean she... isn’t my little pony?”

“No, she’s not, Commander. And I, along with your commander, would appreciate if you would at least maintain some modicum of professionalism on this operation. We’re going to go look for a probable pony settlement, located up north.”

“Up north? You mean the road,” Hampton said, standing up. “So you mean we’re going to find her friends?”


“So you mean there are more of them? More of these adorable little ponies?”

Wesley sighed again. “Yes, Commander Hampton. More of them.”

“Oh, my bleeding heart,” Hampton softly responded, holding a hand over her chest. She closed her eyes for a moment then opened them up, shifting to a confident grin on your face, and looked down at Applejack. “Don’t you worry, Applejack! We’ll find your friends! Ah... she... probably doesn’t understand me, does she? Oh, well! Let’s get down to business!”

It didn’t occur to Wesley that Applejack actually understood her, especially considering that system from his suit and hers were linked, and as such, the translation program extended to Applejack’s audio receivers, as well.

Yeehaw! This is Tiger, ready to move, Mobius! Respond confirmation, over.

“Roger, Tiger, this is Mobius. I read you loud and clear,” Hampton said, disengaging the safety lock on her link with the engineering bays. “All forces, assume defensive convoy positions and prepare to move out. Tiger will be acting as scouts, while Spear and Scimitar units will take the forward and rear positions. The rest of you grunts, try and keep up. Move out!”

Wesley and Applejack watched from behind her as her feed showed a trio of Titans forming up in front of her, as the gates to Camp Greenwood opened. The crawler rumbled to life, moving forward as the infantry assigned to guard it poured out of the gates in platoon-strong numbers.

Got a lot of fresh meat down here,” she heard Viers say to the new arrivals; most were reinforcements sent down from the Methuselah only today. “Get your asses in gear and keep your eyes sharp.”

Tiger to Mobius. Still got that Tiberium glacier blocking our way up.

“Paint the target for Commander Michelin. He’s got the ion cannon uplink, but he needs coordinates. Get yourselves over there and make some magic happen.”

Hell, yeah! Tiger, moving to paint the target.

Hampton turned around to Wesley. “You ready for a light show?”

“As long as we’re not the ones standing in it,” Wesley said. Looking down the Applejack, he attempted to clarify for her. “We have some very powerful tools that can help us get rid of the crystals.” Applejack nodded, and turned to watch the monitors with them.

Smirking, Hampton turned back, watching on her radar as the pair of Talons moved through the radar fog, closing in on the beginning of the northern path as her convoy slowly followed along behind them. Eventually, the Talons stopped, and they saw a small targeting laser stem out from one of them. “Tiger to Aegis, coordinates locked in!

Aegis to Tiger, greenlight on coordinates,” Michelin responded. “Better get your asses out of there ASAP!

Don’t need to remind me twice, Aegis!” Tiger One responded. Hampton watched as Tiger quickly darted away from the target zone, as her own forces parked themselves in the ruins of the town of Ponyville, waiting for the beams to descend from the heavens above. Six small ion beams appeared, and began circling the ground.

What a nice way to start the day off,” Viers said, giving a dry laugh.

The beams closed in on themselves, before a final bright light obscured their vision for but a moment. Then, it suddenly exploded in a wall of blinding light, vaporizing all the Tiberium unlucky enough to be caught within its range as the shockwave fanned out all around it, utterly destroying the glacier and its Tiberium deposits. The sound it produced as it faded away sounded like a faint moaning, the destruction final and absolute.

Road’s clear, ma’am. Gotta love that ion cannon,” Tiger One said.

“Alright, boys, full speed ahead! Let’s see if we can find anything!” Hampton ordered, hammering down a lever and moving the crawler forward at maximum speed.

“Huh? Princess? Princess!” Twilight shouted. “Princess, you have to see this!”

Twilight was joined on Princess Celestia’s balcony as she stared up into the sky. From the view on the tower, they could see as multitudes of other ponies, from below in the gardens, to the inner doors, to the gates outside of the castle, all gathered around in groups, watching the sky as they saw the piercing beams that came from beyond the clouds.

“What... is that?” Twilight muttered, watching the spinning beams close in on themselves.

“I don’t know, Twilight, but I—” As the beams finally joined together, it created an instantaneous bright beam, producing a sound that was louder than the greatest thunder any storm ever managed... followed by a great explosion that produced a bubble of light that could probably be seen all the way from Cloudsdale, if it still existed.

As the light faded, a small plume of smoke rose from where the beam had struck. The ponies below all gathered around, whispering fervently to each other in barely hushed tones.

“Princess... what’s going on?”

“I don’t know, Twilight...” Celestia responded. “But I’m going to find out.” She turned around and walked out of her room, ordering the door guards to maintain their vigil and watch over Twilight. Whatever this was... she was going to investigate. She needed to muster the guards.