• Published 14th Sep 2012
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Star Wars: Republic Commando: Brothers All - TJbrena



Sev and another Commando escape a prison camp with the help of ponies, and struggle to find meaning.

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3. Insects, Interviews, Predictions, and Pursuit

You never have perfect knowledge in combat, gentlemen. It's what we call the fog of war. You can either sit around worrying what's real and what's not, or you can realize that the enemy hasn't got a clue either and fire off a few rounds of psychology. A truly great army is one that only has to rattle its saber to win a war.
- Sergeant Kal Skirata, Cuy'val Dar

***

“State your name please,” The captain of the Royal Guard began formally. He wore his red dress uniform for this investigation, although his armor and spear were ready in the next tent over. The camp was composed of a dozen or so large tents, and was filled with several dozen Royal Guards.

“Octavia Melody.”

“Occupation?”

“She’s a musician,” Twilight Sparkle said to the captain. She was assisting her brother in the interviews, her knowledge of the town and its inhabitants proving invaluable.

“Miss Octavia, could you describe the circumstances under which you were abducted?”

“Last Saturday, I was walking along the edge of the Everfree forest. I do that when I’m looking for inspiration for the music I write myself, and I found it when I was kidnapped.”

“Describe the attackers.”

“Bipedal, reptilian, plantigrade legs. Yellow clothes, strange weapons; one of them hit me and knocked me out. When I regained consciousness, I was in a cell of some sort. After the second day began, they threw in a cellmate, who was unconscious for two days.”

“Ponyville resident?”

“No. He… It was vaguely similar in build to the attackers, but unmistakably different. Silver-white for the most part, with some black parts. It came to in the morning, and after talking to itself, it began to converse with me in perfect Equestrian. No accent whatsoever. It identified my captors as ‘Trandoshans’.”

“Could you spell that?” Twilight requested.

“No, it didn’t bloody write it down.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine. That night, the cell doors opened inexplicably, and after gathering items that seemed to have been confiscated from it, it began to lead me and the other ponies to freedom. It effortlessly killed five attackers with one of its weapons, and took hits from them after placing itself between them and the ponies; it ignored the injuries it should’ve taken as some sort of blue magical field that enveloped its body stopped them less than an inch from its body.”

“A ward maybe?” Twilight noted.

“After killing the attackers, it took us to the end of a hall, and placed an object on it. After fiddling with it, it told us to get back and cover our ears. Not all of us did. The wall disappeared a cacophonous blast unlike anything we knew. It peered out the hole it had made, and instructed us to flee, saying that there were ‘no hostiles’. So we fled. That was the end of it, thank Celestia.”

“Thank you for your time, Miss Octavia.” The mare left the tent.

“That’s everypony who was foalnapped,” Twilight said, checking off her name on a list. She looked up at her brother. “So, what do you make of this?”

Shining Armor slumped backwards and sighed. “I think we’re dealing with beings not of this world.”

Twilight chuckled and punched her brother’s shoulder, prompting a smile from him. “You’re just being melodramatic. They’re probably just from the unexplored parts of the world.”

“Or they came from the world beneath us! Oo-oo-ooh, hollow Equis theory!” Shining began to laugh with his sister.

***

Octavia opened the door to her house to find Coruscant lying on the floor, a smile on his face. Vinyl stood over him, snickering.

“What happened?” Octavia asked. She got no answer, and after recognizing the grin on his face, she facehoofed. “You gave him one of your banana milkshakes didn’t you?”

She smiled and nodded. Not a pony alive could stay on their feet after finishing one of Vinyl’s infamously delicious milkshakes for the first time, with the possible exception of Princess Celestia, and Vinyl was of the opinion that the Princess was afraid to try them for fear of giving an opening for another coup attempt.

Coruscant finally got up and put on his helmet after he heard a familiar sound. The beating of wings. Insectoid wings.

Geonosians?

He peered out the window to check his hunch. It wasn’t Geonosians, but they definitely resembled them. What was more, they seemed to be fighting ponies armed with spears. The commando drew his DC-17/m rifle and turned to look at the ponies cowering behind him.

“Care to tell me what those things are?”

“Changelings!”

He looked back out the window, and saw the Royal Guards being overwhelmed. After sighing, he looked back at Octavia and Vinyl. “Do you have a back door? I’d rather not give away that you two are keeping me here, it probably wouldn’t go over well.”

They shook their heads.

“Side door?”

Vinyl pointed to one, and Coruscant rushed to it, slamming the door shut as he closed it behind him. He was in the space between his hosts’ house and the next house, and he peered out of it. The changelings were focusing on a diverse-looking group of mares, and a few Guards who were still holding out.

The bugs were bunched up, practically begging him to use explosives, but friendly casualties were a possibility if he used thermal detonators or sonic grenades.

Flashbangs it is.

He tossed a flashbang between the two groups of ponies and looked away. A deafening blast was quieted to a mild roar by his helmet, and when he looked back, the subjects were all in disarray.

Coruscant smiled under his helmet and rolled out of cover. He began firing single shots from his rifle, careful to only hit the black insectoids that flittered about, still blinded. Each shot struck its target, the bugs falling from the sky one by one with their carapaces charred by the impact of plasma.

A changeling tackled him, and began to gnash at his armor. He hit his attacker with a right hook, and then shanked it behind the eye with the vibroblade in his left gauntlet. Green blood spattered on his visor, but his shields wiped it away moments later.

By that time, he was back in action, delivering deadly plasma to the swarm. The ponies and changelings were back at each other’s throats, ignoring him for the most part. He continued firing until his first clip had been emptied, and swapped it for a fresh one. The tide had already turned, and victory was in the ponies’ grasp.

Coruscant threw another flashbang, shot a few more changelings with his sidearm, and returned to his residence. The blinded ponies and changelings didn’t see where he went, just as he intended.

Mere minutes after he’d left, he was back in the house, hidden from the public.

***

Hours later the Royal Guards interrogated the surviving changelings in their camp. A tent had been set aside for this purpose, and the interview rooms were separated by small tarps. The Elements of Harmony were present in the camp, a few of them assisting in the interrogation; namely Applejack and Twilight Sparkle assisting Shining Armor, who was interviewing a changeling with a crippled wing and the distinctive iridescent-green coloring of an officer drone.

“Why?” Shining asked.

“Orderss from our Queen,” Came the reply in a sort of vibrating hiss similar to a rattlesnake’s rattle.

“What was your objective? Why attack a small town like Ponyville instead of a big city that could sustain your swarm?”

The insectoid paused, looking down. After a moment of contemplation, it looked back up at him and squinted its eyelids. “If we cooperate, what do we get in return?”

“I will personally put in a good word for any of you that come over to our side, and work to get you more lenient sentences. Are you in or out?”

More silent thinking on the changeling’s part. The ponies observing this interview had a mix of curiosity and confusion, intrigued by the process but confused as to when Shining Armor became so good at interrogations. Perhaps he had always been good at them, or perhaps he’d gained experience from the constabulary work of the Royal Guard.

“We agree. You are familiar with the alienss, yess?”

“I don’t think they’re extra-equestrial beings.”

The bug loosed a chitter that sounded like its own version of a laugh. “Perhapss not. But our scoutss in the Everfree reported aircraft unlike any known to uss, which descended from either an obscenely high altitude or from sspace. Our scoutss judged from the steep trajectory that it descended from a non-orbital position.”

“How do your kind know this? You don’t seem to put a high value on education.”

More of that chittering laugh. “We place more faith in science than you think, pony. You may be building a modern army in secret, but there are no secretss we do not know of.”

“What does he mean, ‘we’re buildin’ an army’?” Applejack asked, suspicious. She wasn’t the best at reading changelings, but she had an innate ability to sense pure honesty, if not deceit, and this bug emitted it when he spoke of an Equestrian army. No answer came.

But Equestria had gone without war since Celestia came to power over a millennium ago, and her foreign allies were more than capable of protecting Equestria from external threats with their own armies. Why would Equestria need anything beyond the Royal Guard and the Elements of Harmony to maintain peace? Diplomacy had always worked for them before. In fact, modern tools of war were practically unknown to the citizens of Equestria, whose weapons were mostly crossbows. Granted, a few of Ponyville’s residents were more familiar with the world at large than the majority of the blissfully ignorant population.

“What is it about these ‘aliens’ that prompted you to attack the town?”

“We have a few infiltratorss in this town, deep-cover agentss who do nothing but report. None of them are to exposse themselvess during attackss, and thuss they are still hidden. I do not know of their identitiess, only the information they gather that iss relevant to my work. A more recent report indicated that citizenss here are harboring alienss. Not the ones who kidnapped your poniess; thesse are considerably more dangerous. I assume you’ve all seen my dead comradess?”

They had. Dozens of changelings, each bearing a single, fatal scorch mark and cauterized wounds. One of the guards, a science buff, noted that it wasn’t consistent with any type of magic-inflicted wound, but rather with a burst of heat. The wounds were disgusting, being an inch in diameter and marked with charred chitin and green blood, sporting an odor of burnt flesh and ozone.

“Yes.”

“Thesse aliens, or rather a single alien, iss responsible for thiss. Few of my comradess saw the alien in action and lived to tell of it. We came for it, to capture it and usse it for ourselvess. With its destructive capabilitiess, we could take and hold entire settlementss with easse.”

“Can you describe it?” Shining had a hunch that it may have been the same ‘alien’ that aided in the ponies’ escape, or perhaps one of their captors.

The insectoid nodded. “Silver-white armor, bipedal. Tall, around six hoovess in height. It threw objectss that burst to release blinding light and thunderouss noisse, stunning uss and you poniess. Itss weapon fired blue magic of some sort, a single hit of which wass capable of killing.”

Sounds like the one that led the ponies’ exodus from their captivity a few days ago. This might be the “Gray Ghost” the prisoners spoke of today. But anything with such killing prowess shouldn’t be trusted. Probably manipulating whomever is housing it, advancing its own agenda. I’ll have to put out a BOLO.

“Sounds like a good guy to me,” Shining lied, smiling.

“Neither good nor evil. The one closest to uss is without a family, the one further away is separated from theirss. The first, who led the poniess to freedom, is more calm, more balanced in its emotionss. The other, who fought not in thiss battle, iss more aggressive.”

“There're two of them!? How would even you know this?” Shining Armor was skeptical.

The insectoid gave the ponies a smug grin. “Our kind has the ability to sensse emotionss, judge their distance. We cannot sensse locationss, directionss or precisse distancess; do not bother attempting to usse uss to hunt them.”

“I think we’re done here,” Shining Armor said as he stood up and walked out.

“You best raisse your army quickly. There are more of them than you know! They’re coming!”

The changelings began to chitter in unison, an intimidating display of their local hivemind, and all of it controlled by the green officer. “THEY’RE COMING, PONIESS! NEW SWARMSS, BEYOND EVEN USS! THEY APPROACH!” The insect-like beings shouted together.

The hiss died down as Shining and his guests left the tent.

“What was it talkin’ about when it said we was ‘buildin’ an army’!?” Applejack demanded.

“AJ, calm down! He was lying; he only means to sow distrust!” Twilight defended him.

“I know when I hear the truth. Ain’t a critter in the world I can’t tell when they’re tellin’ the straight truth. An’ that bug was tellin’ it.”

Shining Armor turned to face them, a stern look on his face as he began to rebuke her. “Miss Applejack, truth is relative. If you believe in something, then it’s the truth. If Lyra believed that Equestria Daily was run by humans, and she told us that, then she’d be telling the truth, even if it wasn’t true. So that means that whatever they believe is the truth to them.

Applejack sighed. “I guess yer right. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Now, I need to prepare a search for these ‘aliens’. If you and your friends would like to help, you’re welcome to.” He smiled as he put his helmet on and rallied a couple dozen Royal Guards.

Twilight and AJ went to talk to their friends, and after telling them of what happened, and the coming search, Rainbow Dash suddenly looked concerned. It seemed the news of the search was what set her off.

“I gotta go, I uh, left the oven on!” She bolted away from them, leaving a rainbow contrail behind her. It was clear to everypony that she wasn’t headed for her cloud-home. Applejack was the first to realize that she was headed to her farm.

“C’mon, everypony! She’s up to somethin’, an’ I don’t like what I’m thinkin’!”

***

Rainbow Dash knocked on the door to the attic Sev was in, although it actually sounded more like pounding. “Sev, I need to talk to you!”

“Then get in here!”

She opened the door and slammed it behind her. “Okay, so changelings attacked Ponyville because they were looking for you, but apparently there’s another alien, that sounds like he might be like you, who helped everypony escape the prison and they call him the ‘Gray Ghost’, and he fought them off without revealing himself for long and he escaped and nopony knows where he went!” Her voice got more strained as her lungs neared emptiness, as she didn’t pause to breathe at all.

She inhaled loudly, filling her lungs with air before she resumed trying to update him. “And somehow the Royal Guards know there’re two aliens that are here, even though all they know is that one is in Ponyville, and one is near Ponyville, and now they’re sending out search teams to find you and the other alien and there isn’t much time because I just realized I probably led them here and you have to run-and-or-hide!”

“Damn!” Sev got to his feet. “Okay, you take care of the books, make sure that Macintosh knows. Clean up any signs of my presence, and I’ll hide in the outskirts of the forest for a few days. Just remember, if anyone asks, you don’t know anything about me.”

“The Everfree forest? You gotta be crazy!”

Sev laughed. “There’s a saying that anything attacking me obviously doesn’t know. Ke nu'jurkadir sha Mando'ad.”

“What the hay does that mean?” Rainbow was quite clearly confused.

“Don’t mess with a Mandolorian.” Sev exited, slid down the ladder, ran out of the barn and sprinted to the forest. He could hear hooves beating the ground following him. They were on his tail.

“Stop! We just want to talk!” A male voice shouted from behind him.

Sev drew his pistol and fired several warning shots. That angered the guards, instead of scaring them off as intended.
“You’re under arrest!” Another male voice shouted. “The Equestrian Royal Guard orders you to stop! If you continue to flee you will be charged with resisting arrest in addition to possession of a weapon!”

Sev continued to run, entering the dense brush of the Everfree forest.

***

The ponies stopped outside the forest, panting. Shining Armor looked at the two guards following him and the Elements of Harmony, who were also following him.

“Do we- Do we go in?” Twilight asked her brother. She got no response for almost a minute.

“No. I’m taking Sergeant Silver Sword and Corporal Copper Cutlass in. The rest of you search for the other. Try not to provoke it.”

***

A knock came at Octavia’s door, and Coruscant hid in a small closet under the stairs, having been on the bottom floor when the knock came. Octavia opened the door and let the guests in.

“And to whom do I owe this visit?”

“The Royal Guard, ma’am. We’re here to search for the ‘Gray Ghost’, whom we believe is hiding in Ponyville. We have to search the entire house from top to bottom, and your assistance would be appreciated. We don’t want to mess up your house, so if you could show us how to impose the least…”

They sounded sincere; they didn’t want to cause trouble at all, and they weren’t threatening her. Coruscant drew his pistol and set it to ‘stun’, just in case.

“My pleasure,” Octavia responded graciously. "Ah, Twilight! Good to see you."