• Published 8th Oct 2012
  • 4,076 Views, 689 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Viva Las Pegasus - S3rb4n



A story of rise and fall set up in the post-apocalyptic city of New Pegasus

  • ...
32
 689
 4,076

Chapter 20: Skyfall

Chapter 20: Skyfall

“Welcome back, mares and gentlecolts, to another hour of radio in your favorite station, New Pegasus Radio, with me, Miss New Pegasus, taking you through the night! I really hope you’ve enjoyed the music as much as I have, folks. Octavia is great on her own, but combined with the vocal power of Sapphire Shores, what you get is a total meltdown! You know, I feel like a filly every time I walk into the archive room and begin searching through the records, with all the classics literally popping out of the shelves. It’s so good to work in a place where there is so much history and quality condensed, believe me!

It’s time for the news, though. I’ve been told through many sources that our interview with the ever so secretive Farsight has caused quite a commotion in the streets! Apparently, the population of New Pegasus was irking to hear their silent leader make things clear, and the work of this station and this humble mare behind the mike has been key to bring his word to the commons! For that, we feel very proud! Also, after having compiled some of the opinions of the ponies in the street, we can say that Farsight’s popularity keeps peaking day after day. The current City Board has been doing things right and that can be felt in everyday life. Let’s hope that they keep it that way.

Now, speaking of commotions, something totally unexpected and out of the blue hit the city of New Pegasus yesterday: a pegasus fallen from the skies! Yes, folks, no matter whether you believe it or not, a winged pony came crashing onto Union Square from beyond the cloud cover. Such an uncanny situation was quickly addressed by the local authorities and, according to the witnesses who were standing close, the members of the City Board themselves took the newcomer under custody. It is not our common practice to question ponies who come to our city, but a pegasus is something out of the ordinary. Further news have not been made public yet, so we keep waiting.

Outside of the walls, the battle rages on between the clashing forces of the New Equestrian Republic and the mysterious Tsardom. The key point of resistance keeps being the narrow ravine that leads to Hoofer Dam, where none of the two armies are being able to amass enough forces to turn the tide of the battle. Can we be witnessing a change in the way that war is being fought in the Wasteland?

Let me elaborate. So far, the way that armies have fought wars in the Wastes has been that of the Republic. Ever since the industry beyond the Divide was able to restart the fabrication of armored chariots and magic-powered engines, the mobile warfare has been the way the NER has employed to expand and recover more and more territory. However, it seems that even all that power and technique has been countered by the less sophisticated ways of the Tsar. This unknown leader uses ponies en masse to drag the combat to a grinding process where mobility is useless, and that is, apparently, what has caused the Republic to suffer terrible defeats in faraway lands.

Also, we have some unconfirmed reports of a third armed force incoming from the north, but we have had no chance to confirm or deny that aspect. The funny thing about these rumours is that they speak about flying vessels! I don’t know about you, but frankly, I had never heard about the possibility of a flying vehicle of any kind beyond the small flying wagons of before the War. Whoever they are, they would require a level of technology that has never been seen in Neighvada in more than two centuries. We will stay alert for further news on the matter.

For now, however, the time for information is up, and we’re moving into entertainment once again! At this time of the night, I think that our best option is to indulge ourselves with another jam session of Vinyl Scratch, don’t you think? Get comfortable, relax, and dance to the beat of the best DJ of old times! I’ll be back in an hour! Remember that you are listening to New Pegasus Radio, and I am your host, Miss New Pegasus, speaking directly to your hearts!”

“Leaders of New Pegasus. This is Comrade Commander Ilyushin of the Communist Pegasus Front. We know that you are harboring an escaped traitor, and we demand that you return it to us. We will give you three days, and if she’s not with us after those 72 hours, our fleet will show no mercy. There will be no negotiation. Our conditions are final. Return miss DeHavilland to our control, or your population will suffer the consequences. Glory to the Red Front!”

The screen flicked back and returned to the map view, where the dots symbolizing the Red Fleet kept advancing at a slow but sure pace towards us. The announcement and the surprising appearance of another enemy above had turned the mood of the meeting from a leveled calmness to a total gloom. Everypony’s face showed a mixture of fear and anger, and even Nadyr’s cheerful self had turned to a dark grimace.

“I knew it!” Rose blasted in rage, walking around stomping the floor. “I knew that she was trouble! Farsight, don’t you tell me to trust her anymore.”

I felt enraged at Rose’s reaction. By not trusting Avro, she was spreading doubts about my own capability to handle the situation, and I really didn’t like it. We had a lot behind us, and I was willing to give her another chance, but Rose would have been nothing without me. I fumed and groaned, but tried to keep as calm as possible.

“Rose, you are not being fair.” I shook my head. “What would you have done if you were in my place? I thought you were a kind soul!”

“A kind soul!” Rose laughed. “Says he who has shown no mercy when it came to fulfilling his plans! Farsight, you are not the one qualified to speak about kindness.”

“Those are technicalities, Rose, and you haven’t answered my question yet. If you were to decide, would you have kicked Avro out of New Pegasus?”

“Maybe not immediately, but I would have definitely not fucked her!” Rose roared. “Now we are three days away of being obliterated because of that bitch!”

“Rose, we don’t know yet if…” Ampera tried to step in.

“No, Ampera, don’t try to defend her. For all that we know, this could actually be a scheme of the Reds to invade New Pegasus with a proper casus belli, just because miss Whitewings here managed to get Farsight to swallow all her words like she did with his…”

Avro flapped her wings and leapt over the table, landing beside Rose and slapping her across the face with her forehoof. I noticed tears in the eyes of the pegasus, as if she had been really hurt by the harsh words coming from the enraged mare’s muzzle.

“How dare you?” Avro cried. “I can take many things, but I won’t stand idle while you call me a whore and a liar!”

“Take your hooves off me!” Rose groaned while backpedaling.

“Easy now, you two!” Nadyr galloped to the middle of the fray, trying to put some sense. “We’re not here to fight, we’re here to debate and decide. I would appreciate if we would put some work to get out of this tight spot together.”

“Exactly.” Saddle groaned. “We won’t get anywhere by picking at each other. All we know is that there is a certain Communist Pegasi Front that is threatening us. What they have to put on the table is something I would really like to know.”

“Very good point, Saddle.” I smiled. “Maybe you can enlighten us, Avro.”

“Well, in terms of ponypower, I hardly think we are a force to be reckoned with. I believe that we are around two hundred pegasi, if you count out the foals and the elders. Assuming that there will be no discards, there shouldn’t be much more than two hundred and twenty, give or take.”

“Two hundred and twenty?” Ampera whistled. “All geared up like you?”

“Most of them, I suppose. I am counting engineers and pilots as well, who wouldn’t be so battle-ready.”

“Still, such a number of power-armored ponies is something we would hardly be able to confront in a one-to-one fight.” Ampera shook her head. “If your armors retain the quality of those of the Enclave, you would need some serious firepower to pierce through them.”

“Do we have the means to obtain that firepower?” Dee asked.

“No, currently we don’t.” Ampera groaned. “Sunset Hills has a weapons facility, but there is no chance that we are getting output in time.”

“Then what should we do?” Dee mumbled.

“Simple.” Rose fumed. “Give the pegasus back to her folk.”

“That should be our last choice, Rose.” Dee flicked her ears. “We have given shelter to Avro, and we’re bound to protect her, as long as our security is not compromised.”

“Compromised? Dee, are you even listening to yourself?” Rose grunted. “There is an army knocking at our gates, not to mention what the NER might do about it. We couldn’t be more compromised!”

“Yes, things are tough.” Dee said coldly. “However, we’ve been through tougher ones. May I remind you that we had the army of the Republic knocking at our gates eight years ago? They didn’t warn us, they came with the clear intention of taking over our city!”

“Do you really think that you’ll be able to talk them away this time?” Rose squinted. “You are a bit too overconfident, aren’t you?”

“No, Rose, I want to try and reason with them.”

“Dee…” Avro mumbled. “I don’t think Ilyushin is of the reasoning kind. I know him from long ago, and he was as stubborn as a pony can get. Besides, what really worries me is the Fleet itself.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Saddle coughed.

“The main purpose of the Fleet was to serve as a home in our exile, so we designed it to require as little pony intervention as possible. This means that most of the Fleet is controlled by computers, both the navigation and the weapon systems.”

“Which implies that they could be bombarding us without even being close, right?” Ampera mumbled.

“More or less, yes.” Avro sighed.

“Crap. That changes the situation.” Ampera facehoofed. “I was expecting to take them out on their airships.”

“How were you expecting to do that, Ampera?” Rose whined. “We don’t have ponies or firepower, you said that yourself!”

“It was just theory, Rose. The Fleet would be a chokepoint for their troops.”

“Exactly, this is all theory!” Rose spoke coldly, but her words cut like knives. “I say that our only chance to solve this problem is to return Avro to the Red Front and just fucking forget about it! This is not our war!”

“You may be right…” Dee sighed.

I had been silent all the time, looking for a way to solve the problem that wouldn’t imply me giving Avro up. I loved her, at least I felt something for her that I had only felt for Stuka, and the loss of the griffin had been a burden that had followed me for eight long years. I wasn’t going to give her up that easily, no matter what my friends said. There had to be another way!

Luckily for me, I had aces up my sleeve. While the argument was taking place, I slid out of the Council Hall and asked for a communication link with the headquarters of the Republic. With a pinch of good fortune, I would be able to get through to somepony who would understand our situation and would help us. Back at the Hall, I pushed a button in a terminal to open the transmitter, and the face of Harpsong Heartstrings appeared on the screen.

“Ah, Farsight. I knew it had to be you.” She smiled.

“Harpsong, it’s good to see you.” I smiled back. “How are things going on the frontlines?”

“Tough. Those Tsardom ponies seem to know the terrain they’re treading. We’re constantly being ambushed and our advances are always countered in the most effective way.”

“I hope that it’s just an appreciation of yours.” I shrugged.

“Did you contact the Republic without telling us?” Dee mumbled.

“Dee Cleff herself, what a pleasant surprise.” The green mare smiled malevolently. “How has life been treating you, my dear?”

“I can cope with it, thank you very much.” Dee smiled back with the same evil look. The two mares didn’t see eye to eye, but that wasn’t something necessary at the moment. “How about you, Harpsong? I hear you’ve been doing a lot of tourism lately. Is there anything worth seeing beyond Hoofer Dam?”

“Just lots and lots of Wastelands, honey. You can’t even imagine how far they stretch.”

“I get the notion, more or less.” Dee grinned.

“Good, good for you.” Harpsong seemed to notice Avro for the first time. “Wait a minute, is that the fallen pegasus?”

“My name is Avro DeHavilland, thank you very much.” Avro stuck her tongue out in defiance.

“Vice-President Harpsong Heartstrings. You and I have a lot to talk about, young lady. To begin with, I would like to know about your relationship with Farsight. You two seem to be very close.”

“How do you even know that?”

“The Republic has eyes and ears everywhere, darling. You can’t even fart without us noticing, and besides, considering the level of commotion you have caused; you shouldn’t be surprised that almost all of Neighvada is looking at your beautiful flanks.”

“My what?” Avro stuttered.

“Your flanks, Avro, your flanks. Frankly, looking at you I’m not even surprised that Farsight welcomed you so quickly. You got on his good side.”

“Harpsong, the relationship between Avro and I is something I would be delighted to discuss with you in another time. Now, we have a far more important matter to attend, and that is exactly why I called you.”

“Really?” Harpsong waved dismissively. “What is it?”

“What do you know about a certain Communist Pegasi Front?”

“Communist Pegasi?” The green mare laughed. “If I didn’t know you, I would have said that you are completely out of your mind.”

“Harpsong, I am serious. Very serious. Do you know about them or not?”

“I do, but frankly, I don’t think they are more than a bunch of lunatics that want to commemorate the times of the Grand Pegasus Enclave. Don’t tell me you’re scared of them.”

“Whenever I am threatened by somepony, at least I consider my options with much care.” I frowned. “The fact that they’re willing to destroy New Pegasus in three days if we don’t comply with their exigences tells me that they might not be bluffing, Harpsong.”

“Sweet Luna, Farsight. There was always a chance of you going paranoid, but I thought that you had enough inner peace to keep your sanity at a normal level. Guess I was wrong.”

“What about the fleet that has appeared in our maps?” I asked, frowning. “Do you think the computer has gone paranoid too?”

“I’ve seen the reports, and I believe that they do have air support, but we have no proof that their ships have indeed firepower. We’ve sent troops to investigate, but for now, they are not our concern.”

“Harpsong, is that your name?” Avro took a step forward.

“Yes. What is it, sweetheart?”

“Listen to me, Harpsong. I know what we have up there, and believe me, it’s not a pair of skiffs. We improved our designs, made them bigger, better and stronger; and if my theory is correct, they will be packing guns from the first to the last deck. How can you say you’re not concerned?”

“Avro, is it?” Harpsong looked away for a second, then focused on the pegasus. “The Republic is a very large nation that has to look after its population, first and foremost. The function of the NER Army is to keep the enemies of our own away from our legitimate territories, and that is our top priority. If you haven’t noticed, the armies of this… Tsar are giving us a bit of a hard time, so we can’t divert all our troops to investigate a possible group of winged gung-ho imperialists who want to relive better times.”

“Fair, Harpsong, I understand that.” I nodded. “The situation over at Hoofer Dam is critical, and you need to keep focused on it. However, keep in mind that New Pegasus is a key transit hub for your troops and your supply lines. We are determined to keep supporting you in your cause, but we need a bit of help right now, or we might be taken over by the Reds. Do you believe that this Front will actually help you like we do?”

“We have no idea, but honestly, hearing you even consider the chance of the Red Front taking over New Pegasus makes me want to laugh. Seriously, Farsight, I’ve seen you play against worse odds and win. Has power actually made you soft?”

“Maybe.” I shrugged. “Maybe I have more to lose and less to win, but mark my words, Harpsong, you have a lot more to lose than I do. A war on two fronts would bleed you dry, and you don’t want that, do you?”

“Of course I don’t.”

“Then give us some support, and we’ll handle the rest.”

“You don’t need support to take care of the situation. Besides, the Republic is in no position of helping you out right now. Farsight, I really believe in your capability of dealing with the Communist Pegasi Front. The New Equestrian Republic is counting on you. Harpsong out.”

The screen faded to black and returned to the battlemap of Neighvada. I felt angry at the Republic for having dropped me at my time of need, but then again, they had their reasons. The war with the Tsardom was no little thing, and it was obvious that it would consume most of their resources. However, I had expected a bit more of help from them. I guess that Praline hadn’t forgotten our bravado.

“Was that your last chance, Farsight?” Rose said calmly. She had left her rage aside and was moving towards a calm smugness. “Did you expect the NER to come and save you?”

“I was expecting more of a deal…” I groaned. “They know that I’m right! They simply have to, they’re not dumb after all!”

“Of course.” Rose grinned. “But they don’t value your offers anymore. They’ve used you, and now you’re worthless to them. Big surprise.”

“Well, that was a possible outcome. It just changes our way of proceeding.” I shook my head.

“Farsight, please, be reasonable. They want Avro, why don’t you just let her go? It’s her life against those of all New Pegasus!”

“I have to agree with Rose on that one, Farsight.” Dee sighed. “I think there is a higher risk if we leave her here, and I don’t want to incur such a cost.”

“Really, Dee? Are you going to give up without considering resisting?” I winced. “I realize that the Reds have done a bombastic presentation, breaking into our meeting and all, but what have they actually made to convince us of giving up? Nothing!”

“Darling, Farsight has got a point there.” Nadyr mumbled. “As far as we know, they’re all bark and no bite, and even with all that Avro has told us, we can’t expect them to be a true superpower; even less considering what the NER thinks about them.”

“So much disinterest worries me, Naddy.” Dee looked doubtful. “It’s just as if they didn’t want to know about the Reds.”

“Maybe they don’t want to know for now. Maybe they want us to do the scouting job for them.”

“And are you up for it?”

“I want to be safe, dammit. If that means that I have to prove that the Red Front is a real issue, I’m willing to do that.”

“Nadyr, please… Think on Atreid and Harko.”

“That’s what I’m doing! I want them to be free; free from the NER, free from the Tsar and free from those Communist motherfuckers!”

“Dee, Rose, I support Farsight as well.” Ampera groaned. “Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t fully trust you, Avro, but I wouldn’t like to be caught in a conflict with the remnants of the Enclave. If possible, I would love to expose them or take the fight to their turf.”

“Ampera, you too?” Rose groaned.

“Of course.” Ampera stomped the floor. “I will not budge to the cowardly menaces of a bunch of malevolent pegasi who want to impose their way for a second time. I was born and trained to do this very thing!”

“Saddle?” I asked. “What’s your point of view?”

“Whoa, easy there.” Saddle blinked and coughed. “Don’t get me into this mess. I’d put the pegasus in a gift box and I’d send it with my best regards to this Ilyushin pony. I don’t want to fight an entire army, I just want to watch my income grow. War is bad for business.”

“I understand. Some of you want to fight, some of you want to accept their demands.” I grinned. “However, I definitely won’t admit to lose Avro, so I am going to do whatever it takes to force the NER to make a move against the Front. Whoever wants to come with me, I will welcome him or her.” I stomped the floor. “Don’t get me wrong, there will be no hard feelings if you decide not to follow me. You have your reasons, they are all very valid, but I have mine too, and I’m standing up for them.”

“Farsight, I know what is to be loved and fearing to lose that special pony.” Dee said calmly. “I understand perfectly that you’re willing to take on the entire Wasteland to protect Avro, but I would ask you to think things coldly before doing anything you can regret.”

“Not doing anything right now, or giving Avro away for that matter, would be the decision I would regret more, Dee.” I sighed. “This is something I have to do for myself, and as long as there is any chance of saving both her and the city, I will push for it.”

“Then, I think there is no way that I’ll be able to convince you.” Dee shook her head in defeat. “May the Goddesses be with you, Farsight, because it will mean that they are with us.”

“Thank you, Dee.” I nodded.

“Farsight…” Rose mumbled. “Maybe I’ve been a bit jealous at her, and that might have caused me to misjudge things. However, I think that it’s too dangerous to confront the Front on our own. I am worried about you, Farsight…”

“I know that you care about me, Rose, there’s no need to clarify that. However, you know me well enough to understand that I can’t back down now.”

“Yes, and that is what scares me. When you’re determined you push forward until the bitter end… for good or bad.”

I gave her a friendly pat on the head. For a moment, I had gotten really mad at her reaction, but in the end, I knew that she cared about all of us in such a great deal that it caused her to act like that. She had to comprehend that I had my own reasons for sticking to my initial idea, though. Such a situation was bound to arrive, after all. Rose wasn’t a filly anymore.

“I’ll be careful, Rose. That I promise.” I turned to the rest of the ponies in the hall and shouted. “All right, everypony, meeting dismissed!”

*** *** ***

“Ampera, may I talk to you for a minute?”

The former Ranger stopped dead on her tracks and turned around to look at me. After the meeting, each one of us had gone separate ways. Even Avro had returned to the Spire to get her armor back on gear, despite having been damaged and disenchanted. On the other hoof, I had stayed on the Council Hall, looking at the moving dots in the map screen and analyzing theories on how to get a grip on the situation. The situation wasn’t good at all, to be bluntly honest, but I had taken a decision and I simply couldn’t back down.

Whatever the outcome was, though, I realized that the overall status of Neighvada wasn’t positive for our interests, and I was starting to consider backup mechanisms for our own survival. For once in a long time, I had the chance and resources to plan ahead on a long term, and one could never be cautious enough in such dire circumstances.

“What do you want, Farsight?”

“I need to discuss certain matters with you.” I said on a low voice.

“Matters that require privacy, I assume.” Ampera grinned.

“Yes, but not in the sense you’re thinking.” I shook my head and looked at her sternly. “I have begun to consider the possibility of a tactical retreat.”

“A tactical retreat? To where exactly?” Ampera squinted. “It’s not like we have a hinterland or something like that.”

“I plan to build a hinterland.” I said calmly. “Whether we like it or not, we’re caught in the dead middle of a conflict between the Republic and the Tsardom, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to be here when the armies clash at our gates. That’s why I need to know if there is a place where we can retreat to.”

“Why are you asking me this?”

“Because you have the background of a Steel Ranger in you. You have trodden the Wasteland, and I am quite convinced that you and your Contingent mapped the territory long before any other force began to expand here. If there is somepony that knows where to build a safe community and how to do it, that’s you.”

“Thanks for the compliments, Farsight, but I am beginning to think that you might be a bit paranoid.”

“Call it whatever you want, I call it having a last resort.”

“Don’t you think that the NER would notice a group of ponies building a settlement?”

“Ampera, I seriously doubt that the Republic has enough ponypower to keep all of Neighvada and the surrounding areas under control. No matter how thoroughly you patrol the Wasteland, there will always be black spots… and I am looking for such a black spot.”

“Well, I can get the idea of what you are asking me.” She scratched her chin and nodded. “There might be a place that fits your needs. The Contingent built a bunker in a valley very close to the Divide, so close that its magic influence clouded any tracking device. Naturally, we resorted to less technological methods, such as compasses and orienteering maps.”

“That would be a very good place, indeed.”

“Do you intend to begin the construction immediately? Right now there are other things we must take care about.”

“I know, the Reds.” I groaned. “No, the construction is not a priority, provided that things keep being as they are now. However, if the situation gets worse, I needed to know where to send a pioneer party.”

“You’re not going?” Ampera blinked.

“A captain never leaves the sinking ship. That’s my principle.”

“Funny that you have principles, Farsight. You never cease to surprise me.”

“I like to walk one step ahead of the world.” I smiled. “That brings me to a second matter I need to talk to you about.”

“A second matter… this gets interesting. What is it.”

“The Stable.”

“Oh, your former life. I was wondering when you would finally decide to do something about them. I thought you were bitter, but you’ve shown a surprising level of restraint so far.”

“It’s not what you’re thinking, Ampera. For now, the Stable Dwellers can do whatever they like. They can keep their stupid Lottery for themselves. After all, what lies outside is far better than the dull life of the inside.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Well, in the event of a takeover, the Stable could work as a viable shelter to stay away from the invader and reorganize. However, I would like to dig a tunnel around it and secure a clear exit to the Wasteland that doesn’t imply traversing New Pegasus.”

“In order to let the inhabitants escape unnoticed from a potential enemy. I see, very cunning. You want to hide beneath the noses of the invaders.”

“When things are too close, you can’t see clearly.” I smiled. “That’s why enemies tend to hide beside you.”

“I agree.” Ampera nodded sternly. “I think that it will be easy to do. Connecting the Stable tunnel to a sewer pipeline would take only a few ponies working a couple of days, and you would be able to redirect the Dwellers to one of the cisterns in the Wasteland; far away from the city walls.”

“Great then. When could you get it done?”

“Don’t even worry about it.” Ampera waved a hoof. “I’ll summon a team of builders in a minute, and I’ll get them on the task. In a couple of days, it should be solved. Also, lend me your PipBuck for a second.”

“OK.” I stretched my hoof to her, and she fiddled around with the device. A little while later, it beeped and Ampera let me go with a smile.

“Done. The coordinates of Fortune’s Loss are here.”

“Fortune’s Loss?”

“The name of the base. Don’t look at me, I wasn’t the one who named it.”

“Of course. Thank you, Ampera.”

“You’re welcome. One more thing, Farsight. If we’re going to fight the Reds, we’d better have a good plan on our side, as well as a lot of firepower. You’ve seen what I can do in a fight, so imagine that multiplied by two hundred.”

“I can see your point.” I sighed. “I count on you to help me, though.”

“To the very end.” Ampera nodded, and turned around. “To the very end.”

The former Ranger walked away, while I smiled comforted by the fact that there was a chance of getting out of a possible lockdown of New Pegasus. The next thing to concentrate on was how to face the threat of the Communist Front, and to do that, I needed the help of Avro.

I galloped to the Spire, longing to see the pegasus once again, to be with her and to feel her body next to mine. I could feel my thoughts drifting away from the matters of war and state, and flowing into images of her beautiful white body moving close to mine, while she whispered soft words into my ear and covered my weary skin with kisses… Maybe Rose had a point. I didn’t think very clearly when she was around.

While the elevator climbed to my topside office, I struggled to keep my mind focused and my body calm, but it was an ordeal like I had never seen before. My relationship with Stuka had never made me suffer that much… was it because she was a griffin and I knew that there was little we could do apart from snuggling a bit every now and then? Or was it because I had changed and I desperately needed the love of a mare?

“Avro, are you ready?” I called her when I walked into the office.

“In your bedroom, hun!”

“What are you doing there?”

“It was the best place to get ready! Now come and help me out, will you?”

“Fine, fine.”

I walked towards the bedroom and opened the door, and my jaw almost fell to the floor. I was expecting to see the pegasus clad in her black and gold armor, but instead I found her lying on the bed, her white fur shining in the electric light, while she looked at me with sultry eyes and smiled. Her Cutie Mark swayed from left to right as if it was a target in a shooting range. Something twitched in me, and I believe that I flushed red.

“A-Avro, weren’t you supposed to be getting ready?”

“I was born ready.” She slowly crept out of the bed, moving in a really seductive way. “Now come and relax with me, will you?”

“I-I hope you remember that there’s an in-incoming army.”

“They’ve given you three days!” Avro smiled and began unbuttoning my suit. “That time is more than enough to deal with them.”

“That means that you know of a way to do it.”

“I might.” She winked. “But I am not too sure about whether I should tell you or not.”

“Avro, please, you must tell me. Our lives depend on it.”

“Don’t be such a drama queen, Farsight.” She kissed me softly, like a warm breeze, making me twitch. “I will tell you, but first things first.”

“I-I-we can’t waste any time!”

“Who says that we’re wasting time?” Avro giggled while she took off my shirt. “Am I a waste of your time?”

“N-no, I never meant that!” I stammered.

“Just kidding!” She laughed, and she sounded like something glorious. “Of course you don’t think that, now relax. You’re always so stressed, Farsight, that you don’t enjoy what you have got.”

“I have too many responsibilities to be able to relax… and more now!”

“Come on, darling, anypony would take a step back and a breather in your situation.” Avro pulled my pants down with a strong tug, making me leap not to fall down. We were on equal terms, equally naked.

“I will do it once I have dealt with the Red menace, Avro. Please tell me how to…”

I couldn’t finish my sentence, as her muzzle and mine fused in a tight kiss. From there on, my mind drifted away and I let myself go, playing with our tongues in a sort of wet wrestling match.

“Hush now, Farsight. Come to bed…”

Avro walked away and stepped onto the bed, laying down seductively. Almost working like clockwork, I got near her and began to caress her softly, rubbing my hooves against her soft white fur and sniffing her beautiful mane, kissing her neck and feeling her warmth close to mine. She kissed me back and whispered in my ear alluringly.

“I want you…”

“I want you too…” I replied.

She shifted and welcomed me inside her, rocking back and forth as we became one momentarily, shaking and enjoying each breath and each second of that instant that appeared to last forever. Our gasps seemed to synchronize and the world ground to a stop for us. Avro cried my name while I cried hers; and for a short period of time, there was no telling where the boundaries between us two were.

“Will… will you be mine, Farsight?” She gasped and panted, her body covered in sweat.

“Always.” I replied, still trying to catch my breath. “Until the end of my life.”

*** *** ***

“How is the world above the clouds?” I asked, looking at the crystal dome that covered the bedroom of the Spire.

“It’s not that much of a big deal.” Avro sighed. “You’ve got clouds below and the sky above, and well, there are buildings here and there, but you wouldn’t be able to live in them.”

“I know…” I mumbled.

We were lying on the bed, held together, naked and all sweaty. The enemy was still there, coming closer, but somehow, that seemed to be a very distant problem. The only thing that mattered to me was to enjoy the time I had to share with Avro, and being beside her was what soothed all my wounds.

“By the way, what happened to your legs?” Avro asked. “They’re made of metal…”

“Not really, the flesh and bone are inside, but one of them is badly damaged. I took… a bullet to the knee eight years ago, few days before becoming the leader of New Pegasus.”

“I remember hearing things about riots… We didn’t get much information up there.” Avro shrugged. “What happened exactly?”

“Well, you could say that I stirred a bit of a revolution in town.” I smiled, remembering the time when I had something to fight for. “I got on the wrong side of the important ponies of New Pegasus, but was able to drive them against each other.”

“Somehow I can picture you doing that.” Avro laughed softly. “That’s when you broke your leg?”

“I got shot, remember?”

“Oh, yes, silly me.”

“Never mind. My scheming caused the two factions to start fighting each other, and once I took over one of them I had to deal with the other. The bullet that crippled me was the gift of the leader of that faction. Of course, he ended up dead.”

“Did you kill him yourself?”

“I was in no condition. Nadyr did.”

“You two seem to get along very well…”

“We go a long way back.” I smiled. “He might be a lot of things, but he is loyal to the bone. Did you know that the first time we met he tried to kill me?”

“Really? And you became friends after that?”

“Well, he had his reasons to do what he did, and I had my reasons to forgive him and bring him to my side. In the end, what began as a commercial agreement ended up in true friendship. You never know where your real friends are, after all.”

“What about the young mare, Rose?” Avro kissed me. “She is quite mad at me… do you think she might be jealous?”

“Rose, jealous?” I laughed. “Maybe, who knows, she’s in that age. Naah, I think she does it out of honest care. You will find very little ponies in this world that are as kind and noble as her.”

“What about you, Farsight? Nadyr is loyal, Rose is kind, what are you?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you!” Avro laughed. “I want to know how you define yourself.”

“I’m just a normal pony. If I had to focus on something, I would say that I am mostly rational. My mind has always been my greatest asset.”

“Do you consider that something good?”

“What is good and what is not, Avro?” I smiled. “I try not to get into such considerations. After all, what benefits me and my close friends might be good for me but evil for others. That’s why I always measure things in terms of profit and cost.”

“Isn’t that a bit too rough?”

“Maybe, but so far it has worked for me. I am on top of a great city, I have good friends and I have you beside me.”

“You might be taking many things for granted, you know.”

“Who knows, you may be right. However, as long as they have an incentive to stay by my side, they will do that.”

“Really?” Avro giggled. “And what is MY incentive?”

“Wasn’t this an incentive to you?” I laughed. “Now seriously, I promised to give you all that I am, and that begins by fighting off Ilyushin’s army. You said you had something we could use, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I do.” Avro stretched and rolled out of the bed. “I think I know how we can bring the fight to their side of the field.”

“I’m all ears, honey.”

“First of all, we have to deal with their cloud cover…”

“How can we do that? All I see up there is clouds, and I have no idea how they’re held together…”

“It’s simple… we build on them. Before the War, we pegasi used to control the climate for the earth ponies and the unicorns. We moved clouds, formed winds, caused rainfall and thunder… However, keeping clouds together required of at least one pegasus watching to avoid those white bastards from drifting away. We found out, though, that by building on top of clouds we were able to stop them from separating, although they could still move as one.”

“I guess that by linking each patch of clouds you could form a consistent layer.”

“Exactly. Mostly, we built cloud hubs that would form a network of patches who would be connected to each other. Every now and then the network has failures and you folks can see a bit of open sky, but we solved it promptly.”

“I see. So, you imply that we should take out those hubs to dismantle the cover, right?”

“Right!” Avro giggled. “I see somepony is a smart pony.”

“And you’re hot for teacher.”

“Shut up!” Avro squeed and kissed me.

“Come on, tell me how are we supposed to do that, taking into account that you’re the only one here who can actually fly.”

“Well, there is a place where we could try…”

“Try what? I still don’t see where you’re going.”

“It’s quite simple, actually. We need to find weapons that could hit us from the ground. Big weapons.”

“Like missiles or something? Where could we find such things in the Wasteland?”

“I can’t say for certain, but some years ago we sent a scouting party to a small abandoned airbase to the North… a place called Neighliss. Does it ring a bell?”

“I remember to have read the name someplace, but that’s all. A name.”

“Well, Neighliss was a tiny air force base in the North of Neighvada, a facility from before the War. Considering that we didn’t care much about what happened beneath the clouds, we sent many scouts to investigate the base, and I would bet my mane that Ilyushin has sent troops to secure it now that they’ve made their move upon us.”

“If I were him, I would have.”

“Me too. I guess that there has to be something that can prove dangerous for the Reds.” Avro began fitting into her jumpsuit. “Most probably, a working missile system in the base, and if we can fire it against the hubs, there will be no cloud cover for them to hide over.”

“I think it’s our best choice.” I nodded while I pulled my pants back up.

“Do you have an army we could use?” Avro smiled.

“An army? No, that would be too risky. We will try to get there unnoticed. The idea is to strike at them without causing a commotion that would bring their entire fleet upon us.”

“I see…” Avro groaned. “I would have preferred to pack some firepower, but I understand why we have to go the sneaky way.”

“Well, I think that packing firepower will not be something we have to worry about…” I smiled cunningly.

“What do you have in mind?”

“We have allies we can resort to, you know…” I tightened my tie and smiled.

“Perfect.” Avro smiled and latched the last part of the armor. I did the same with mine and packed my guns in my saddlebags.

“Shall we go?”

“After you.”

We left our home and walked down the Strip chatting calmly, just as if we weren’t about to confront an army of pegasi by ourselves. The whole situation had something unreal to it, as if we were disconnected from the world; however, we both knew that as soon as we made our move, we would be sucked into a turmoil of chaos and violence. Those moments of relative peace would be the last ones that we had guaranteed.

Our steps took us to the Tesla Bar, where Ampera was waiting for us in the backyard. She had her armor on, except for the helmet, and a whole rainbow of guns was displayed on a table, all of them shiny and ready to go. The former Ranger was moving in her element when handling guns, armor or any kind of machinery, and her face showed that she enjoyed doing it. When we walked in, she greeted us with a smile and a bow.

“Welcome, Farsight. I had the feeling that you would require of me.” She smiled.

“Once a Ranger, always a Ranger, right?” I laughed. “You can smell the battle coming, can’t you?”

“Certainly.” Ampera nodded. “After having seen what happened in the meeting of the Council, I assumed that we were going to fight, so I began to prepare myself.”

“Not a minute too soon.” I grumbled. “You can imagine why we’re here…”

“You want me to go with you.”

“Precisely. We intend to pull a surprise attack on a small facility we believe is being held by the Reds, and we would require your firepower.”

“What sort of foe would we be facing?”

“I doubt it would be a large force.” Avro answered. “Probably a dozen troopers at most. What we should definitely avoid is them calling for reinforcements.”

“Which means that we have to be swift and deadly.” I added. “Your aid would be perfect in this endeavour.”

“Well, I told you I would fight.” Ampera nodded. “I like to stand for my word, so count me in. Also, I see that you have managed to repower your armor, Avro.”

“Yes, I have.” Avro smiled. “It took me some time, but after all, the spell matrix used for this kind of gear is stored in a gem inside the plating. I just had to reactivate it carefully.”

“You pegasi are such clever bastards…”

“We try very hard.” Avro grinned.

“However, I’m seeing that you lack any kind of weapons.”

“Yep. I had to make a quick escape, so there was no time to grab my gear. At least I could retain my armor.”

“Then I guess there’s no problem in lending you some of mine.”

“Thank you.”

Avro began to move up and down the table where the guns were displayed, looking at them with expert eyes and trying them on her battle saddle, balancing them from side to side and considering her options. While she was doing that, Ampera came to me with a couple of boxes floating beside her.

“If we’re going against armored ponies, you might want to switch to this ammunition.” She passed the boxes on to me, and I saw she was giving me enough armor-piercing rounds to take on a whole battalion. It was good to have her by our side.

“That’s quite a lot of ammunition.”

“Honestly, I had been stashing it for a time of need.” Ampera shrugged. “This might be that time after all. Besides, I’ve realized that those are rifle bullets, and I don’t tend to use that kind of guns.”

“Very thoughtful of you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Ampera?” Avro asked. “I think I’ve already decided.”

We turned around and saw the pegasus brandishing a saddle-mounted grenade launcher and shotgun combo. Nothing really subtle, but somehow I could have expected that from her. As far as I knew her, she enjoyed having a wild ride here and there. She looked really imposing with those large cannons at her sides, and her wings, broadly open, countered her small frame giving her a really tough look. If all the Red pegasi were like her, it would be a rough battle.

“A grenade launcher and a shotgun…” Ampera giggled malevolently. “Subtlety is not your game, is it, Avro?”

“I like to get things done properly, and there’s nothing more proper than a grenade to the chest. Besides, we’re fighting armored ponies, so I thought I could use something more punching that a minigun.”

“Ha ha.” Ampera grinned. “Don’t get me wrong, though. I think that some explosive persuasion would be very helpful if we want to ‘convince’ your kin to surrender.”

“I don’t want them to surrender.” Avro clenched her teeth. “I want them destroyed.”

“Whatever, as long as they are no longer a menace for us.” I smiled at both mares. “Shouldn’t we be moving? I would like to have this problem solved as soon as possible.”

“Certainly.” Ampera nodded. “The enemy doesn’t wait!”

We returned to the Strip and walked towards the northern gate of New Pegasus. I had considered calling Nadyr as well, but something inside me told me to leave him behind. There were many chances that the attack on the airbase would go wrong, and somehow I believed that being a father he would not like to put his life on the line for me. Hopefully, I would be able to talk to him about my decision at a later time.

Life, however, doesn’t give you the chance to choose many times, and that was one of those situations in which one had to lower the head and accept what the world had readied for him. The half-zebra was standing in the middle of the street, with his face showing a malicious smile of satisfaction.

“Going somewhere, bro?”

“Nadyr…” I tried to smile.

“Come on, bro, I see you packing heat surrounded by two armored mares… You have to be going somewhere with bad intentions, and I want to know. Don’t keep me waiting.”

“Nadyr, we’re going to assault an airbase that we believe the Red Front is using to hide some missiles.”

“Missiles? And why the hell didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I am worried about you, that’s why.”

“Worried?” Nadyr laughed. “You know that I love going on adventures with you, Farsight, why should you be worried?”

“Atreid and Harko should be a powerful reason for you to stay home.”

“Farsight, I should feel offended for that.” Nadyr frowned in a comic fashion. “You don’t want me to go with you in case I get wounded or something like that?”

“In case you get killed, more precisely. Dee would never forgive me.”

“Bro, you should know that both Dee and my children are perfectly used to death. We know that we keep living in the Wasteland, no matter how civilized we intend to be. They are perfectly capable of defending themselves and know that someday either me or Dee will be gone forever.”

“Still, I don’t feel well bringing you with me.”

“I swear that if you don’t let me follow you, I will make you feel physically bad.”

“You should listen to him.” Ampera laughed, her voice covered in static because of the helmet. “I wouldn’t like to be on his bad side, armor and all.”

“That’s a sensible mare speaking, bro.” Nadyr looked at me in the eyes. “You should pay attention.”

“Fine, Nadyr.” I nodded. “Somehow I have the feeling that I would be getting into some real trouble if I left you behind.”

“Smart as always, bro.” The half-zebra grinned. “Shall we go?”

“Yes…” I sighed, defeated. “Avro, lead the way.”

*** *** ***

Traversing the Wasteland was like playing Stalliongrad Roulette with a gun that had a barrel of almost infinite shots. There was the chance of blowing your head off, which had you on guard, but after some time, things would get tedious. The desert spanned far and wide, with red crags and golden hills here and there, but there was nothing out of the ordinary happening during the most of the time. Of course, when something that would qualify as “extraordinary” happened, it meant gunfire and bloodshed, so in the end, one didn’t know what was best.

Just in case things got ugly, Ampera had provided us with a set of short range radio transmitters. I used the one in my PipBuck and the former Ranger had another encased in her armor, but both Nadyr and Avro had no other chance of staying in touch. We forced ourselves to keep the chatter to a minimum, just in case we came across other radio-equipped ponies that could intercept our communications. One could never be careful enough these days.

We were trying to avoid contact with any living being in the Wasteland, for we didn’t know who could be siding with the Red Front. If the pegasi found out that we were on the move, they would surely deduce that our objective was the airbase. Besides, every Wastelander from New Pegasus to the Divide knew who I was, and the addition of a pegasus and a Ranger to our party didn’t help us going unnoticed. The increasing amount of NER patrols in the territory wasn’t helpful either.

Avro scouted ahead, flying at a short distance above the ground, circling the skies on the lookout for any relevant thing, while Ampera stayed at the rear, protecting us from any possible surprise attacks from behind. Meanwhile, Nadyr and I marched in the middle, with our guns ready and our eyes wide open.

“Avro, watch out.” Ampera warned, suddenly. “Fly lower, life forms inbound at our two.”

“I see them.” Avro confirmed. “Returning to the ground.”

“How many are them?” Nadyr asked.

“It looks like it’s a whole combat group.” Avro replied. “About eight or ten ponies.”

I checked my E.F.S. after hearing Ampera’s warning. It was true that a group of points had appeared in my display, but they were marked as not hostile and far away. It appeared that the Rangers had developed a similar system to that of Stable-Tec, but improved and more reliable. I trotted ahead up to a small hilltop at a safe distance from the incoming ponies and deployed my sniper rifle to take a closer look.

“What the…?” I groaned.

I found myself looking at a group of ponies dressed in strange and ornate armors that looked more visual than functional. The pieces of metal were joint together resembling scales and shone in the daylight, while feathers of green and gold formed makeshift wings and crowns. A motif was constant in the decoration of their gear, and that was the head of a dragon, roaring to the world. It was present in their plating, in their capes, in their flags… but what most worrisome of them was that I had seen those armors before. Long ago, when we were going to Neighorleans, we had an encounter with one of those bucks.

“What’s wrong, Farsight?” Nadyr asked.

“Remember the pony that attacked us when we were going to the teleporter, eight years ago?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, these are his mates.”

“Are you serious?”

“Why shouldn’t I be?” I groaned.

“What is it, darling?” Avro landed close to me. “You seem worried.”

“I don’t know who these ponies are, but we fought one of them eight years ago, here in the Wasteland.”

“That’s impossible. Those are Tsardom soldiers.”

“Tsardom soldiers?” Ampera roared above the static. “At this side of the river? It would mean that they have broken NER lines!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “They don’t look like a real army… I would say they are scouting.”

“Then what should we do?” Avro looked twitchy.

“It’s ten versus four, so I wouldn’t recommend engaging.” Ampera was also close. “It could mean suicide for us.”

“I agree.” I nodded. “Still, I wouldn’t like Tsardom troopers walking close to New Pegasus. As much as I don’t get along with the Republic, at least their ways are known to us. The longer they can hold the Tsar back, the best for us.”

“Are you going to attack them?” Ampera grumbled. “Have you gone crazy?”

“No, I have a plan.” I smiled.

“Then speak up.”

“It’s fairly simple.” I shrugged. “I will pick them up from here, one by one, while you keep them suppressed in that pass down there. Of course, the more you can take out, the better. We rely on our capability of surprising them, so let’s be swift and sure.”

“Very risky, don’t you think?” Nadyr whistled.

“Are you chickening out?” I smiled at the half-zebra.

“No I’m not.”

“Then spread out!” I called. “I’ll give the signal.”

I began to aim my rifle and to calibrate the sights, while Ampera and Nadyr advanced as silently as possible towards the closest end of the pass. Avro was waiting for me to tell her when to take off, and looked at me with eager eyes. To be a simple engineer, she did enjoy the prospect of an upcoming battle, which was quite surprising and a bit off putting, to be honest.

“Are you ready?” I said to her. “When I take the first shot, you begin giving them hell from above. Keep a safe distance and avoid their counterattacks.”

“Easy now, Farsight. I know how to handle myself.” Avro winked.

“Ampera, Nadyr, same goes to you. I’ll shoot first, and then you keep them from advancing, understood?”

“All clear, bro.” Nadyr replied.

“Understood, Farsight. I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Trust me, this will work.” I smiled. “Over.”

I concentrated on the sights of my sniper rifle. The group of Tsardom ponies moved calmly but in fighting order, looking everywhere in the search for possible threats. So far, they hadn’t noticed us, which was basic for our ambush to work. I aimed the crosshairs at the pony with the largest and most ornate armor, which according to Wasteland logic, had to be the leader of the group. I could see his green eyes looking directly at me through the telescopic sights, but I didn’t feel any remorse. I just smiled when I pulled the trigger.

“Bye-bye…” I mumbled.

BLAM!

The head of the pony I was aiming at burst in a cloud of blood and bone, and the rest of the Tsardom ponies jumped to the ground in disarray, just to return to combat stance and begin looking at the place where the bullet had come from. They had good training on their backs, that was certain.

“Now! Go!” I called.

Avro flapped her powerful white wings and leapt to the skies at great speed, while Ampera began shooting a barrage of gunfire against the confused group of scouts. Nadyr ran back and forth, unloading the barrels of his pistols with deadly precision, while I moved on to another target. Suddenly, fire rained from the skies as Avro performed a plummeting descent while unloading her grenade launcher.

“Woooooooooo!!!” She screamed at the top of her lungs. “Take that!”

“Watch the fuck out, Avro!” Nadyr roared. “You almost had my ass burnt!”

“Sorry, Nadyr!” Avro giggled. “I always get a bit carried away with these things.”

“Carried away?” Ampera grumbled. “That was almost reckless.”

“Come on, you two… Spoilsports.” The pegasus whined through the radio. “They’re all gone, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are.” I replied. “But even I have to say that it was a bit too overkill, Avro. Be careful when using that thing of yours next time, OK?”

“You too, Farsight?”

“Avro, please.”

“Aw, all right…” Avro huffed.

“Darling, you’ll have the chance to blow Reds as soon as we get to Neighliss.”

“Fair enough, Farsight.” Avro laughed through the communicator. “You win.”

“Am I glad to hear that.” I replied. “Let’s move, though. I am sure that the chaos we’ve caused here will attract everypony in the vicinity. The sooner we get to our target, the better for us.”

*** *** ***

After almost a whole day trekking north, we finally reached the outskirts of the military base of Neighliss, formerly the pride of the Equestrian Air Force, now home to a group of pegasi that wanted to relive better times. The base wasn’t too big by itself, namely just the remains of a cracked runway, two or three ruined hangars and a control tower. However, the surrounding defences were strong and spanned wide, with long wire fences and pillboxes. In case of an attack, Neighliss was meant to resist.

“How the hell are we going to get through all this?” Nadyr gasped.

“I don’t think any of those pillboxes are full.” I replied calmly. “My E.F.S. shows no activity. How about yours, Ampera?”

“Nothing either. They must be all in the hangars.” Ampera replied.

“If there is anypony here, of course.” Nadyr smirked.

“They will be here. I know it.” Avro said sternly.

“If they are, won’t they see us coming?” I was worried.

“They certainly will, but I doubt that they will come out to engage us. Being so few, the best they can do is ring the alarm, call for reinforcements and entrench themselves.”

“But we’re only four.” I grunted. “They could easily take us out.”

“Ilyushin doesn’t like unnecessary casualties. Our population is quite scarce, you know.”

“Then, the drill is quite clear. Get to them before they can even notice, then blow them up without mercy.” Nadyr grinned. “I can live with that.”

“Me too, but there is a problem.” Ampera replied sternly. “I’m detecting mines around the pillboxes. There’s little chance we’re getting through unnoticed.”

“That will be a problem.” I groaned. “We can’t blow them up to ensure getting wounded or killed, but we can’t risk walking through them either.”

“I think I can solve that.” Avro smiled. “I’ll fly above them. Obviously, my former colleagues didn’t expect a pegasus to be trying to infiltrate their base. I’ll disable their communications and then you’ll be able to come in guns blazing.”

“I can’t say I like the idea of you going alone.” I grunted.

“Come on, Farsight, trust me. I’m well equipped and I know what I’m doing.”

“We don’t have any better options…” I shrugged. “Good luck, my dear.”

“Thank you.” Avro kissed me on the cheek and flew away. “I’m going offline until I get things done, OK?”

“Understood. Farsight out.”

We watched her fly into the base in silence, and something inside me squirmed at the thought of losing her. I knew that our best hope was that, and there was no doubting that she was well equipped and prepared for battle. In the best case scenario, she wouldn’t even have to fire a single shot to get the alarms disabled, but if things went wrong, there was a minefield between her and us.

“I am beginning to grow suspicious of her.” Ampera mumbled. “She seems to know more than she tells.”

“I agree.” Nadyr nodded. “No offence meant, bro, but she’s definitely hiding something from us.”

“None taken.” I replied. “There are some inconsistencies in her story, yes, but I don’t see any bad intentions in them.”

“The day I get to be able to judge intentions…” Ampera laughed softly.

“What do you mean?”

“Farsight, the more we speak with Avro, the less credible her story gets. I don’t find myself capable of reading a pony’s intentions; but then again, you’re the gifted one in that matter. Still, be careful about her. I don’t know what she’s after, but I think that she is more entangled to the Communist Front than what she wants us to know.”

“Ampera has a point, bro.” Nadyr smiled in agreement. “Look, she’s a fine mare and all that, and I am pretty sure that you two have become very close. I’m not saying that you dump her or put her under trial, but at least you should have her clarify her position. We can’t fully trust her if she’s hiding her cards.”

“I agree.” Ampera nodded. “We just need to set things straight and we will be able to carry on.”

“Ampera, Nadyr, I can’t believe I am hearing this from you.” I spoke coldly, although my companions’ words had left me scarred. “By not trusting her you are showing your lack of confidence in my judgment. I consider you my friends, I like you and respect you, and getting this in return hurts me. Avro has my total confidence, and whatever her motives are, I think that getting rid of the Reds will be beneficial for New Pegasus.”

“Farsight, I am trying to speak to your reason.” Ampera replied calmly but sternly. “Avro has a hidden agenda. For now, she’s fine cooperating with us, and there might be some feelings flourishing between her and you, but someday she might turn on you. The sooner you know what her real intentions are, the better it will be for you and for the rest of us.”

“She might just be keeping some things for later, Farsight, but you won’t know unless you ask her.” Nadyr smiled. “Dee and I hold no secrets to each other, that’s the base of a good relationship.”

“Hmm…” I huffed. “I admit that you have a point. I would trust her with my life, but I owe you the same treatment. I will make things clear when this is over. Does that make you feel better?”

“That would be a very wise decision, Farsight.” Ampera nodded.

I smiled, but in the inside, I felt something crumbling. I had to choose between the mare I loved and those who had been and were my friends. If I assumed that Avro was hiding something, why couldn’t I also assume that they were keeping things for themselves? Who was free of secrets in the Wasteland? Who didn’t hide a proverbial skeleton in his closet? Anyway, now that both Ampera and Nadyr were satisfied with my reply, I would ask Avro for answers when I found it fit. For the moment, getting into Neighliss was my top priority.

“Hel-looooo!” Avro’s voice rang through the communicator. “They’re out of the loop, so feel free to come in!”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Absolutely certain! In fact, don’t move, I’ll open up the gates for you!”

“Open up the gates?” I gasped. “Oh holy fuck. Get to cover!” I yelled.

“Coming thruuuuuu!”

Avro had launched herself in another plummet with two armored pegasi on her tail, bombarding the minefield in a maelstrom of fire and shrapnel. My first experience with landmines had not been very pleasant, so I ducked as close to the ground as possible and prayed not to be hit by any of the bits of red hot metal flying through the air.

“OK, road’s open!” Avro laughed. “Now, would you kindly get them off my tail?”

“Count on it.” I replied. “Give them a straight trajectory.”

“Straight? Are you crazy? They’ll mow me down if I don’t keep evading them!”

“Fine, fine, have it your way.” I grunted.

I lifted my sniper rifle and activated S.A.T.S., watching how the frantic dance of the three pegasi crawled to a stop. I enjoyed every instant of that feeling, as time was halted and I had the chance of putting a bullet in a given place. My crosshairs connected with the helmet of one of the pegasi, and I pulled the trigger in a moment of pure joy. Dodge that.

BLAM!

The time shifted back to normal speed and the pegasus I had targeted flinched when the armor piercing bullet went right through his helmet. A blink of an eye later he was falling without control, which made his or her partner disengage the chase for a second. Avro used that edge to make a sharp turn and get the second assailant on her firing range.

“Kiss your wings goodbye!” She laughed and fired her grenade launcher.

The second pegasus exploded in a fountain of blood and gore, spraying all over the area like a cloud of red rain. The effect of explosives in midair was definitely something that caused true awe and shock in anypony watching. Now that the threat was clear and the way was open, we galloped into the base runway, keeping an eye out for more enemies in the vicinity. The E.F.S. showed no trace of activity, but it was not to be trusted when there were close environments nearby. I didn’t really know what could disrupt the magic of the Eyes-Forward Sparkle, but I had the hunch that other spell-powered devices might interfere with its system.

“You two work great as a team, you know?” Nadyr laughed.

“It was just a lucky shot.” I waved a hoof dismissively. “Avro, any idea of how many more Communists we might be facing in the facility?”

“Three or four at most. Now that they’re deaf and hoarse, they won’t be a real problem. What we need to do is find where the missiles are and how to fire them.”

“I would check the main tower. The hangars look too wrecked to hold any valuable equipment.” I shrugged. “Besides, they will be hiding there, most probably.”

“Let’s check it out, then.” I nodded.

As we were moving towards the tower, a sudden barrage of gunfire made us jump and run for cover. Avro leapt and gained altitude while circling around, looking for where the attack had been fired from. I checked my PipBuck but I simply couldn’t find any trace of the enemy… had it been a turret that we couldn’t see?

“Good, good, you’re still quick after that fall.” The voice of a mare echoed in the large open runway. “I thought that you would be hiding under your mattress now that the Fleet is coming for you, Avro!”

“Who is it?” I asked. “Friend of yours?”

“She never was.” Avro sounded pissed. “Grumman, you bitch. Attacking from the shadows, as usual? Come out so I can see you!”

“What fun would it be?” The mare called Grumman laughed. “I’m a single pony against four, and you’ve shown how capable you are. It’s a real disgrace that I couldn’t spot you before you cut our communications. Ilyushin would have been so proud to see you again!”

“Ilyushin can go stick his dick in a meat grinder, Grumman.” Avro roared. “I will deal with him when the time comes, but now you and I have a score to settle. Show yourself!”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Avro!” Grumman giggled.

“Avro, watch out!” Ampera cried. “Behind you!”

The white pegasus plummeted as a sudden burst of flamer fire appeared out of nowhere in midair. How was that even possible? She was hiding in plain sight!

“She’s using stealth technology!” Ampera warned us. “I think I’ll be able to read her heat signature as soon as she fires her guns! Avro, I need you to keep her attacking you!”

“I don’t think that will require much encouragement!” She rolled and gained altitude, dodging a hail of bullets, while Ampera galloped to get Grumman into firing distance.

While the Ranger and the pegasus were fighting an unseen foe, I grabbed Nadyr and galloped into the tower. If Grumman was the only remaining Communist Pegasus, we had a clear way to the control room of the missile systems. Besides, it would mean a proper distraction to that nasty hidden pony.

The control tower was nothing more than an old office building with little more in it than a couple of filing cabinets and some desks, apart from the top of the tower, where a terminal was lit and a microphone was connected to the speaker system of the base; which worked properly, according to the constant hum. Of course, it was locked, so I made myself comfortable and began hacking it carefully.

“Bro, I think your marefriend is having a hard time out there. Maybe you should do something about it…” Nadyr looked worried.

“I’m going to try something out. Keep your head low.” I replied.

“Oh no you won’t…”

“Avro!” I used the microphone instead of the radio. “I’m hacking the missile control system! It should be done soon, give me the coordinates to fire!”

“What the hell?” Grumman roared. “No, you’re not going to do that!”

“Ampera! Look at the heat signatures near the tower!” I called, before a barrage of gunfire burst all the windows open and flamer fire began flooding the room. “And do it quick, dammit!”

“Bro, I don’t like fire! It fucking burns!” Nadyr yelled.

“Never fucking mind!” I replied. “Get down!”

“Signature locked.” Ampera laughed. “Now I’ve got you, miss Grumman.”

A single shot came out of the former Ranger’s miniguns, and it appeared to bounce in midair. Suddenly, a flash of sparks filled the air and where there was nothing, a pegasus in red armor appeared. I couldn’t see her face, but I was quite sure that she had to be in a tight spot. With a malevolent smile, I used my magic to yank her into the control tower. She was too close to us, and if Avro had the idea of pulverizing her with a grenade we would become collateral damage.

“Nadyr, would you do the honors?” I asked with a smile.

“But most certainly.” Nadyr replied, and slammed the pegasus into the ground. “Welcome to your final minutes, miss Grumman. Any last words?”

“Blue and white, accompanied by a zebra. You must be Farsight.” Grumman laughed coarsely. “What a surprise. If I had known you were coming, I would have ordered cake from the mess hall up top.”

“Wrong answer, Grumman.” I used the full strength of my augmented hindlegs to stomp her helmet. Something made a nasty crack, but I couldn’t tell if it was the armor plating or the skull inside. “I was expecting something more in the lines of have mercy or I’ll tell you all you want to know.”

“My duty is my duty, Farsight.” Grumman laughed dryly. “You won’t make me lose my loyalty. The Red Front will prevail!”

“Wrong, wrong, wrong.” I shook my head and stomped again. Crack.

“There is no way… you can win.” The downed pegasus panted. “Avro… will not… get… what she wants.”

“What the fuck do you mean?” I roared.

“Avro… she came to you… for a reason.” Grumman spoke with a gurgling voice. “The Fleet…”

“What about it?” I shook her in despair. “Speak!”

There was no reply. Grumman’s head hung to the side like that of a broken puppet, and she wouldn’t react, no matter how violently I shook her. She had said something about Avro and the Fleet, but she had passed out before we could pry any other information out of her.

“Grumman’s constants have fallen to zero.” Ampera said. “Are you OK?”

“Yes.” I replied. “Nadyr and I are fine, and the missile system is ready for data input. Avro, the coordinates!”

“Direction three-fifteen, elevation forty-seven, distance ten thousand.” Avro chanted. “That should be the first. Then go for two-six-eight, four-four, ninety-five hundred. Last but not least, one-five-five, sixty, three thousand.”

I typed the data she had told me and pressed the button. Something in the bowels of the airbase began to rumble and the ground shook. Out of pure caution, Nadyr and I galloped out of the tower, leaving Grumman’s broken body inside.

“What is going on?” I asked.

“The missile systems were underground.” Avro replied calmly. “The activation and firing order has to lift them into the open. Look!”

Several trapdoors had opened in the runway and missile towers were slowly creeping out of the gaping holes. Artifacts of shiny metal, almost undamaged by the rust and dust of the two centuries of inactivity, stood now in front of us, with long arms full with missiles aimed at the clouded skies. Without a warning, several of them activated their ignition and flew away in a trail of smoke, roaring like the thunderstorms in the Wasteland.

“This is going to be beautiful.” Avro grinned smugly.

“How do you…?”

KA-BOOM!!!!

The explosion that followed almost threw us to the ground, partially deafened and confused. When I looked up to the skies to get a glimpse of what was happening, I witnessed the most amazing of sights. The clouds had turned crimson and gold, as if the very sky was burning in the most virulent of fires. Something was falling from above, probably pieces of the buildings we had destroyed with the attack, and waves of flame seemed to propagate through the cover. Slowly, the clouds began to detach and the sunlight started pouring to the ground, filling the gaps that were forming in the still cloudy sky.

“Hell, that is incredible…” Nadyr gasped.

“The sky… it is blue after all.” Ampera sighed.

“That should leave them with no place to hide above.” I smiled. “Also, Avro, yes. This is beautiful.”

The cover was now nothing more than a bunch of stray clouds in an endless sea of blue, which lifted our spirits and made us smile in the deep of our hearts. Everypony in Neighvada would probably be watching, and that event would be remembered in History. What ponykind wouldn’t keep in mind would be that we had been the ones behind it.

“Very good!” Avro somersaulted. “That’s one hit they will not recover from.”

“I agree, but they will know where the attack has come from.” I mumbled.

“Yes…” Avro scratched her chin. “If I know Ilyushin right, he will have diverted the Fleet towards Neighliss. We must do something before they get here.”

“We could leave the base…” Nadyr suggested.

“No, don’t even think about that. These missiles can be used against anypony in Neighvada.” Ampera groaned. “Us, the Reds, the Republic, the Tsardom… we must ensure that we keep control of this facility. At least, that will give us some tranquility.”

“Avro, why didn’t Grumman use the missiles against New Pegasus directly?” I asked.

“I assume that they didn’t have hacking technology.” Avro shrugged. “That, or they want to capture the city with the least possible damage.”

“That sounds possible.” I nodded. “Ampera, I agree with you, but we must do something against the Fleet.”

“Don’t even worry about that!” Avro smiled. “I have the answer you need. Follow me!”

“Quite convenient, huh?” Nadyr mumbled.

Avro led us to one of the hangars, where a machine different to anything I had seen before was humming. It was sleek and pointy, like a large knife. Its hull was mostly a straight fuselage ending in a pointy “beak” with two thin and triangular wings pointing backwards. Miniguns and missile emplacements were located beneath the mentioned wings and two gunner posts were placed in the loading gates of the gunship; which was floating at a short distance above the ground.

“What the hell is this thing?” I asked.

“You know, I wondered how they could have gotten here with all that heavy equipment and those mines, so I checked the hangars out to see what they had brought with them, and I found this!” Avro giggled. “This is a Mystral class light gunship, the best craft for quick and safe transport of ponies and goods. It’s nimble, it’s strong and it’s reliable.”

“You’re suggesting that we fly in that… Mystral?”

“Yes. We could intercept the Fleet easily before they get here.”

“With this skiff?” Nadyr laughed. “How do you intend to do that?”

“Trust me, I’m a great pilot.” Avro boasted.

“Whatever.” Ampera shrugged. “I’ll stay here and call for a backup team from New Pegasus, OK? You go and keep the Reds entertained.”

“Fair enough, I knew that we would have to take the fight to their terrain.” I shrugged. “Nadyr, are you coming?”

“I don’t like it a bit…” Nadyr grumbled. “But if I have to fight the Reds, I prefer to do it inside an armored vehicle.”

Avro had hopped into the gunship and had steered it out of the hangar. I jumped into the craft and helped Nadyr to climb inside. To be honest, I was feeling very insecure as well, since the air wasn’t my field of expertise, but Avro had a point when she said that we had to hit them instead of waiting for them to hit us.

“Are you ready?” Avro smiled. “Hold tight to something!”

Suddenly, the craft began buzzing and vibrating, and an immense driving force pushed us from behind, making us lose our balance. Hadn’t we been tightly held to the frame of the gunship, we would have rolled to the back end, with a clear risk of falling off, since the Mystral had no side doors. The force began to lift the craft from the floor, and an instant later we were gaining altitude, heading for the infinite blue, where our enemy awaited us. I just hoped that Avro knew what she was doing.

#

Note: Reputation Change
Communist Pegasi Front: Enraged. Your attack has left the pegasi without homes. Expect equivalent retribution from them.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!