• Published 24th Oct 2012
  • 1,701 Views, 206 Comments

Absolution - BlackRoseRaven

A pony begins a journey to find his parents, lost heroes who vanished years ago.

  • ...

The Simple Solution

Chapter Twenty Six: The Simple Solution

Cowlick grumbled under her breath as she tinkered with a tall, gleaming pillar of metal, several panels on it pulled open to reveal the complex insides: wires and crystals were both twinkling in the bright sunlight, and the engineer grumbled to herself and shook her head out quickly before looking down at the open notebook sitting on top of her toolbox, muttering as her eyes flicked over hastily-sketched schematics: “Looks like everything's in order...”

She returned her eyes to the pillar, slamming the panel closed before nodding firmly and picking up a screwdriver. She began to tighten it closed, then groaned as the crystalline orb on top of the pillar lit up red, shouting: “You piece of junk, you couldn't go and have your little breakdown before I started closing your guts up?”

She kicked the pillar bad-temperedly, then frowned after a moment, looking sharply up as the red glow around the orb intensified. The mare glanced back and forth, then gestured quickly at Rustproof, asking sharply as the young earth pony looked up from where he was complacently sitting nearby with a dandelion sandwich: “Hey, hey, do you remember what Greece said this thing was calibrated for?”

“Four 'round Ponyville. Overlapping. Two or three kilometer radius to blanket the area.” Rustproof replied slowly, lowering his half-eaten sandwich. “They light up when they detect heat signatures of a hundred and fifty Celsius or more. Experimental, 'cause Momma, you said-”

“Yeah, yeah, I went over the reports we got about the infected with Celestia and Scarlet Sage, and we locked down that anything touched by Cancer's disease heats up like crazy. Bastard himself must run hot...” Cowlick frowned, then looked up at the pillar, asking sharply: “There any fires today? What about Burning Desire? He might set these sensors off. 'Cept the damn thing's getting brighter and brighter...”

“Yeah, you might want to do something about that.” remarked a voice, and Cowlick winced and stumbled to the side in surprise before she turned and stared in shock at the sight of a Draconequus in a purple, patchwork suit that was leaning on a cane and standing nearby as if he'd always been there. Cowlick's mouth worked stupidly before she looked over at Rustproof, but the large blue colt had returned to eating his sandwich, looking as if nothing was out of the ordinary as he only glanced curiously at Allonym. “High-range thermal scanners, though, that's a pretty cool idea. No... pun intended. Is that really a pun? I think that's a pun. Anyway, the point is that it always amazes me what-”

Cowlick shouted a vulgarity, then flung her screwdriver at him, and Allonym cursed and flailed wildly as it bounced off his chest. “What the jumped-up jackassery are you doing here, and who the hell are you? No, wait, actually, I don't frigging care who the hell you are or who the hell you think you are, either tell me what the hell you're talking about or-”

“I could write you out of existence!” Allonym threatened... and then Cowlick slung her toolbox open, sending her notebook flying and papers scattering before she yanked out several tools, flinging one of them at the Draconequus. Allonym let out a sharp 'ha!' as he managed to swing his cane out and block the little plastic screwdriver... but a moment later, the wrench that had been in Cowlick's other hoof smacked directly into his eye, and he staggered backwards with a yell of frustration, dropping his cane to grab at this. “Oh gods why do you stupid ponies insist on hurting me?”

“Because we don't like being spied on by some patchwork puppet who's got his head crammed up his own ass!” Cowlick snapped, and then she dug in her toolkit before yanking out a knife, flicking it hard to the side to snap the sharp blade into position as she glared at him. “Now talk to me straight, 'cause I ain't as nice as Celestia or Antares, and if that tower ain't malfunctioning you better tell me what the hell is on the way.”

“I was just getting to that.” Allonym muttered, rubbing slowly at his bruised eye before he wrinkled his snout. “You are the most monstrous little pony that ever... okay, okay!” Allonym hurriedly rose his hands when Cowlick made several violent stabbing gestures. “Overreact much?”

“I haven't slept in three days, I've been out here working my flank off alone setting up all these scanners, and just as I think one is picking up something bad heading our way you show up, scare the hell out of me and my boy-” Rustproof was only finishing up his sandwich, calmly surveying the scene. “-and start making those little quips that Antares is always talking about! Hell, I didn't even realize you were real until... like... now.”

“If I pretend to be imaginary, will you put the knife away?” Allonym asked awkwardly, pointing carefully at the weapon, and Cowlick only looked moodily in return to the Draconequus before the chimerical creature cleared his throat. “Alright, alright. I came out here to warn you that... a nasty little something is on its way, yes. But it's not the big attack yet. I came here to tell you specifically, Cowlick, because Cancer's biggest interests in Ponyville are revenge... and getting into your lab facility.”

“My facility? What the hell do you mean, 'my facility?' How much do you know about that freak?” Cowlick asked sharply, then she frowned and stepped moodily forwards, flicking her knife closed even as she narrowed her eyes dangerously at the Draconequus. “And just how much do you know about me?”

“More than I want to, on both counts.” Allonym replied sourly, before he winced and rose his hands again when Cowlick glared at him. “You didn't really get older and wiser, did you? You just got older and angrier.”

Cowlick muttered under her breath, and then Rustproof asked curiously: “Is it 'cause of the poisons? He likes the poisons, right?”

Allonym nodded as the mare engineer looked up in surprise... then frowned before nodding slowly, rubbing at her face as she muttered: “Of course. All those chemicals and everything stored in there, not to mention the locked-down hazmat vault... must tickle that monster's senses like a fine shot of whiskey. So he's on his way, is he? What do you mean, though, this ain't the big show?”

The Draconequus hesitated, then he shook his head and said carefully: “I can't tell you too much. And more importantly, I shouldn't tell you too much. What I'm doing right here, right now, is just to try and give you a fighting chance. If I go telling you everything, it's going to-”

He was cut off as Cowlick flung the thankfully-closed knife at his head, the Draconequus hurriedly ducking under it with a wince as the earth pony engineer snapped: “This ain't a game! Now cough it up, what do you know?”

“I knew I should have stuck to talking to Antares. Look, I've already given you the warning, you figure out how to run with it.” Allonym grumbled, and then he winced when Cowlick began to step forwards before the Draconequus hurriedly swung a loafer-clad foot out, slipping his toe just under the body of his cane and kicking it forwards. It flew upwards on an arc and smacked loudly into Cowlick's face, sending her stumbling backwards in surprise with a barrage of curses when it bounced off her head, and Allonym swiftly raised a hand as the cane flew back towards him to catch it.

He spun the cane once at his side as he raised his other hand and tipped an invisible hat to the engineer, then simply vanished from sight as Cowlick lunged forwards. The mare cursed as she tackled only thin air, skidding through the grasses before grumbling moodily to herself. For a few moments, she only laid there as Rustproof calmly climbed to his hooves and strode over to glance down at his mother, and then the engineer looked up at her son meditatively and asked: “You got any cigarettes on you, kid? This is the one time I won't be mad at you if you do.”

Rustproof hesitated, then he nodded and reached into the front pocket of his overalls, pulling out a few rumpled smokes. Cowlick grumbled, snatching them away and shoving one into her mouth before Rustproof pulled out a box of wooden matches and calmly lit it for her. The mare leaned backwards as the young but enormous male shook the match quickly out and flicked it away, before Cowlick said thoughtfully through an exhale of smoke: “Okay. We got some useful info at least... and you know what? If Cancer's so attracted to our lab, maybe we should invite him on in. Maybe we should set us up a trap for that bastard; hell, let's make it a surprise party and invite all our friends.”

Rustproof only looked nervous as he pulled another cigarette out of his pocket, raising this to his mouth... and Cowlick absently reached up and yanked it away before tucking the cigarettes into the front pocket of her denim vest, nodding thoughtfully. “Just trust your Momma on this, Rusty, she knows her traps. Come on, you and me got some work to do, so let's get at things. Let's go find the others and warn 'em that we might got a bogey on the way.”

The young stallion nodded after a moment, then he headed back to his things as Cowlick turned to quickly toss her tools back into her toolkit, the enormous blue earth pony trying to push away the anxiety twisting and turning all throughout his stomach.

Slowly and sinuously, a shape twisted out of the Everfree Forest long after night had fallen, the mottled white creature chuckling to himself as he licked his lips slowly. His red eyes glowed with feverish delight as he carefully slipped lower in the grasses, shivering in pleasure as he eyed the walls of Ponyville in the distance. “Ooh, yes, yes, yes... there you are, I've been looking forwards to this, oh, yes I have...”

The monster licked his lips slowly, shivering in delight as he stared over the village before rumbling in his throat, feeling hunger, anger, excitement, and a profound, dark joy all mingling together in his maddened mind. He breathed heavily in and out, then giggled and popped up to his hooves as he leaned forwards and cooed: “Oh, sweeties, I hope you're all tucked nice and tight into bed... Big Momma's on the march, but Daddy Cancer couldn't help but come and take a look-see ahead of time...”

Cancer grinned widely, red eyes glowing brighter as he slowly began to walk, swaying back and forth with every step he took as he hummed to himself and salivated at the sight of the village in the distance. He growled in delight, rolling his head on his shoulders as another tremble ran through his body... and then he winced a bit as something a short distance away gave a bright red flash, staggering to the side with a yelp.

He blinked stupidly, staring towards this thing that had turned on, and Cancer growled in disgust, steadying himself: was it some kind of alarm? Some kind of warning system? For a few moments he only stood, shivering, breathing hard as he stared at the red beacon in the distance... and then it flickered violently before going out, and Cancer frowned stupidly before he carefully dropped low and almost crawled forwards, rustling the grasses around him with his slow passage.

The light blinked on again as he drew closer, and Cancer hissed... then snorted in disgust as he stood up and leaned forwards to moodily examine the pillar and the glowing red orb that sat atop it. He poked at it grumpily, then sniffed at it before making a disgusted face, muttering: “Ain't worth peeling this pretzel-stick open. I don't smell nothin' better than copper spaghetti and some kind of magic charge...”

Cancer hesitated for a moment, feeling a tickle on the back of his neck before he glared towards Ponyville as the red light blinked and lit up his mottled white body, making him almost glow red as he studied the village in the distance. There was no alarm going off, no klaxon, no sign of life or movement... and then Cancer snorted in disgust as he realized there were other red lights blinking in the distance in rough time, a grin returning to the monster's face as he muttered: “Oh, how cute! They lit up their village just like a birthday cake for me... either that, or they're trying to wave a big neon sign to something else lookin' for a free meal... stupid idiots...”

Satisfied that the beacon wasn't an alarm system, but just some kind of signal light, he turned his attention back to Ponyville and calmly made his way forwards, rumbling moodily to himself as he licked his teeth slowly. The monster easily shrugged off his former worries, a grin spreading over his features again as he giggled a little and shifted to stand higher, his eyes burning as he whispered: “Yeah. Yeah... getting close now... oh, don't you worry, Griselda, your lover-boy promises he's only going to take a few nips... and he'll make sure he brings you back a doggy bag, wifey-poo. Yeah, I'll bring back something real nice for her... something like... like...”

The mottled monster staggered to a halt, then he gargled, head twisting violently back and forth as his red eyes flashed before he rasped: “Plague. Infection. Death.”

The creature shivered, then fell forwards on his face before giggling into the ground as his red eyes rolled in his head, breathing heavily in and out. For a few moments he only laid there, and then he slowly picked himself up and shook himself briskly, whispering: “Because ooh, don't you know, I wanna give my sweet girl nothing but all the very best, oh yes, yes, yes...”

Cancer looked up, then cursed under his breath as he saw a patrol calmly striding along the top wall: a Nibelung guard, with a Pegasus flying easily beside him. The monster hissed in derision at this, not wanting to be forced to start a confrontation unless he had to: after all, he didn't want these stupid little meatbags having any warning that he was coming for them. No oh no, he wanted it to be the most delicious little surprise ever when he came to their village with Griselda, kicked down their door, and painted the town red with the blood of ponies alongside his gorgeous wife before they turned their sights on Canterlot... and after that, all of Equestria would follow and become his personal playpen until he got bored and it was time to move on.

The monster grinned a little, then laid himself low before he sniffed at the air: there was a hint of something acerbic and tart, and he rumbled curiously at this before murmuring: “Oh my, oh my, what could this be... ooh, it's a strange smell, its intoxicating, it's... oh, honey, ooh, you’re leadin' me on now like a dirty girl!”

Cancer grinned as he turned and hurried along the side wall of the village, breathing a little harder as he kept a short distance away to avoid being seen by the occasional patrol he passed or sensed. A feeling like electricity tingled through his veins as the scent grew closer, and the smell became more tantalizing, lighting up his senses as he whispered: “Have we met? We must have met... oh, you and I are gonna do wonderful things together when I find you, yes, yes, yes we are...”

The monster hurried onwards towards the source... and then his crimson eyes gleamed as he giggled and danced on the spot, prancing towards the wall as his eyes locked on a large hole that had been torn in the surface, shivering in delight as he leaned down and licked the edge of the rotten breech in the wall, unmindful of the splinters that got stuck in his tongue as he whispered: “Oh me oh my oh golly-gosh-yes... acid, the kind that scorches and poisons and burns and worms its way right down into the lucky victim's beating heart...”

He rasped in delight, then hopped through the hole, grinning wider as he found himself in the darkness of an alley. Then he leaned down and nearly shoved his face into the ground, inhaling deeply as he whispered: “Oh, oh yes... oh, I got me the trail now... there's a bad pony in town, ain't there, someone nasty, someone who's gonna give me a hell of a sugar rush when I give 'em my special kiss...”

He giggled insanely, then hurried after the trail, droplets of poison here and there on the ground almost glowing in Cancer's vision. He slipped and twisted back and forth, ducking down beneath windows and grinning as he stayed to the shadows and dark alleys, but the streets were clear and empty, and he giggled in delight: he could parade down the road big as day if he wanted, and no pony or Nibelung would see him! All their defenses seemed to be concentrated around the outer perimeter... it was no wonder whatever he was following had torn its way in so easily!

In his elation and his desire, Cancer failed to sense the invisible Nightmares and demons standing here and there on rooftops, keeping sharp eyes on the monster as it followed the path of poison through Ponyville. Then one of the Nightmares smiled slyly, glancing towards an invisible sibling beside it and as it said softly: “Go and inform Mistress Twilight that the monster approaches. We shall seal the exits, as instructed.”

The second Nightmare bowed its head courteously, then vanished even from the senses of its siblings as it became completely incorporeal. The other creatures turned their eyes back towards Cancer, watching as the monster trotted straight towards the trap that had been laid for it, giggling the whole time and looking as eager and stupid as a gullible and greedy foal that thought it was all alone in a candy store... but if everything went according to plan, soon the monster would learn that not everything was always what it seemed.

For now, Cancer was breathing eagerly as he looked back and forth, following the trail around to the back of a building that smelled... delicious. Of heat, and power, and life... and the monster shivered in joy as he found a half-open shutter over a shattered window, slowly leaning forwards and becoming like liquid as he flowed over the cracked frame, peeling shards of glass with him as he whispered: “Delicious...”

The monster splattered to the floor, and quickly reformed before grinning widely with a mouth full of glass-shard teeth, then it turned and spat these out with a giggle as its ugly, yellowed fangs shoved back up into place, whispering: “Oh, honey, honey, honey. Right where I always wanted to be... can tonight get better?”

The monster grinned as he looked back and forth: this room wasn't very exciting, it only seemed like some kind of office, but oh, oh, the smells... the very feeling that thrummed inside this place! Cancer giggled to himself, then he hurried forwards to the ajar door and slid out into the hall beyond, looking sharply up and down the brightly-lit but empty, sterile-seeming hall before his eyes locked on several dark splotches on the ground ahead. He pranced hurriedly in this direction, his heavy breathing echoing up and down the corridor as he followed the path of the droplets excitedly, snuffling hungrily after them.

He headed down a staircase, grinning widely at the lack of ponies, shivering in delight as other delicious smells surrounded him, made him quiver in anticipation, but for the moment he continued to follow the droplets. The other doors he passed were all closed and locked down, while the droplets... oh, they still sang with such poison, and now they looked fresher, he could already almost taste their source in his drooling jaws...

And then Cancer turned, following the trail through a pair of burnt swinging doors and into a large, elongated room before he looked slowly up, then frowned even as he licked his lips at the sight of several barrels sitting across the room. There was a large, mostly-empty flask sitting on top of them, and he bounced towards this... before freezing halfway across the room when there was a loud clanking behind him a shutter slammed down over the doors, before he slowly, creakily turned his head to stare at the sight of several ponies standing around what the monster instinctively recognized was a weapon from the gleam of metal and the reek of gunpowder and chemical smells that rose up from it.

He snarled, and Cowlick grinned in response at the monster standing in the middle of the long testing tunnel, resting forwards in Parsimony's control seat as Rustproof calmly finished fitting an ammo belt into the side of the gun, and Twilight Sparkle, Burning Desire, and Antares all leaned forwards at the sides of the turret. Avalon, meanwhile, floated overhead with a wide grin beneath the heavy gas-mask and visor she was wearing, crosshatch blades gleaming over her forelimbs and what wasn't covered by armor protected by a thick, clinging bodysuit.

Lastly, Discombobulation was smiling calmly, his arms crossed before he glanced towards Cowlick, saying mildly: “Just remember, if the gun overheats it gives the boss a chance to rush you. Fire in bursts, and aim for the weak points.”

“Don't tell me my job, Bob, I know my damn job.” Cowlick retorted, and then she leaned forwards over the handles of the gun as Cancer breathed hard, growling slowly at the group that was only some twenty feet away even as he gave a nervous twitch. “Nice of you to come by and check out the facilities here, Cancer. Don't you worry, we got a nice smelter here too, and a furnace we use to burn up all the toxic waste like you. If you want one last drink, that acid I splattered everywhere is right over there, you can help yourself before we burn you up.”

“You pathetic pony scum!” Cancer screamed, even as he looked almost desperately back and forth before his head twisted all the way around on his shoulders, staring down roughly forty or so feet of nothing but empty cement tunnel that ended in a solid wall dotted with bullet holes in front of a grated floor. The monster breathed hard in and out, and then he looked forwards, his eyes glowing brighter red as they locked on Antares, and he hissed: “You again... you, you, you, you, why do you keep getting in my way... oh, you stupid little worthless punk, I'm gonna rip you apart limb-from-limb, I'm gonna tear your heart out of your chest, I'm gonna infect every inch of your body with the most painful diseases I can think of...”

“I'm not scared of you.” Antares said coldly, stepping forwards as his breastplate gleamed over his body, coronet securely locked around his head... and beneath his armor, he felt the comfortable weight of his watch, giving him luck. Cancer snarled at him, but Antares met his eyes... and for all the fear, for all the anxiety, for all the disgust and revulsion this godawful monster filled him with, he refused to look away as he said sharply: “It's over, Cancer, make this easy on everyone and give up. Die with dignity... because even if you manage to run away, Prestige and Celestia are waiting for you through the only possible exit with a cadre of demons. This facility is sealed from top-to-bottom. You can't escape, and you can't win.”

“Shut up! You don't know anything, fleshbag pony!” Cancer shrieked, and then he snarled, body rippling and expanding, features growing more monstrous as he howled: “I'll rip you all into pieces! Your skin and armor's nothing but a wrapper to me and how I long for the gooey candy of your flesh, and now I'm gonna get me some of that!”

Cancer charged forwards, but Twilight immediately stepped ahead with a snarl, the Lich flicking her horn to send a fireball rocketing into the monster. Cancer was blasted backwards by it with a shriek, and Antares dropped into a ready position as Avalon snarled, before Cowlick shouted: “Why don't you chew on this!”

She took aim with the vulcan cannon, grinning savagely as she leaned over the controls and depressed one trigger: immediately, the barrels began to revolve, rapidly picking up speed as Cancer picked himself up with a gurgle, then looked up and stared before Cowlick squeezed the trigger on the other control stick's handle, and the whirring of the engine was replaced by a tremendous roar that lasted for several seconds as a stream of bullets fired towards Cancer, the monster shrieking as enormous bullets moving at incredible speeds tore through his body like it was water, sending up thick gouts of white goo-

Something popped loudly, and Rustproof was knocked flying backwards with a cry of pain as the ammo belt snapped and whiplashed into his face. Cowlick's eyes widened as several loud clanks and bangs came from the turret beneath her as steam hissed up from the engine, and then she cursed under her breath before shouting at her shocked allies: “Goddammit, bullet must have jammed... keep that son of a bitch busy and away from us while I fix Parsimony! Rusty, Rusty, up on your hooves, Momma needs all the help she can get!”

Cancer was swaying on the spot, but seemed to slowly be getting his senses back as he looked up, and Antares stared in horror over his shoulder... but even as he registered what was going on, the young stallion felt his body beginning to move on instinct, felt his mouth forming the words before he even processed what he was about to say, as he ordered sharply: “Avalon, Burning Desire, let's get him! Mom, Bob, I need you two to protect the gun!”

Then Antares lunged forwards before he was even fully aware he was doing it, charging straight at Cancer... and for a few moments, the monster only stared at him even as the wounds across its frame closed, before Antares snapped his horn forwards.

A blast of white fire shot from his horn and smashed into Cancer, knocking the creature skidding backwards as it screamed in horror and agony, steam and white goo bursting up from its body from the purifying flame. For a moment it only sat back, rigid, ashes wafting up from the front of its body... and then its eyes glowed neon red as Antares leapt towards the monster. “You dare to hurt me?”

A slimy forelimb smashed into Antares' face, knocking the shocked pony flying backwards before he flapped his wings hard with a curse, flipping his body gracefully and landing on his hooves a good ten feet away as Burning Desire charged by and Avalon shot through the air. Cancer was foaming at the mouth in rage, screaming as his head jerked back and forth, body rippling and distorting as he seemed to temper tantrum without noticing the other ponies closing on him. “No, no, no! No no no! No, no no, no no no! No!”

Burning Desire flicked his horn to the side, sending a blast of red fire surging towards the monster... but Cancer wrenched his head suddenly upwards and vomited a stream of toxic acid in response, quenching the flames rushing at him and making Burning Desire curse as he threw himself to the side. Then Cancer swept a foreleg up as it burst apart into hideous, thorny tentacles that whipped across the demonic stallion, knocking him crashing and rolling backwards. Cancer's rage turned to the demon as he reared back, swinging the mass of tentacles backwards as they thickened and coiled in preparation to strike out again-

Avalon's rear hooves slammed into the back of Cancer's neck, and he howled in frustration as he was knocked sprawling, tentacles snapping like wild snakes in all directions before the tiny Pegasus dropped straight down on the middle of the monster's spine, sending up a short blast of goo. She grinned for a moment before her eyes widened as Cancer screamed beneath her in rage, kicking off him on instinct before flinching backwards as a moment later, enormous, jagged spikes of bone erupted all along the creature's back, Cancer howling: “I'll rip you all to shreds, I'll tear you all to bits, I'll-”

Burning Desire sent a fireball hammering into Cancer's face, and the monster shrieked as his features burst into flame immediately, the fire greedily starting to spread over the volatile monster's mottled flesh... but then, in a strange, rippling movement, Cancer snapped his head upwards and an entire layer of goo splattered through the air, shedding the parts of his body that had been set aflame. In the same moment, the mess of tentacles all curled together, strings of viscous slime forming and merging them into one horrible, mutant arm that ended in grasping, thick digits.

Burning Desire began to lean forwards... and a hard punch from the oversized now-arm of the beast smashed into the demonic stallion, knocking him sprawling before Cancer hammered his fist down on top of him. Burning Desire cried out in agony as Twilight yelled, and then the Lich snarled, snapping her horn outwards as it glowed sharply.

An enormous spike of ice formed in a blue glow, shooting up through the air to slam through the palm of the giant hand as it began to rise, and Cancer yelped as its oversized limb was yanked high as the missile of ice pinned the huge hand to the ceiling above. The monster's digits flexed as Twilight's eyes glowed brighter, cold visibly spilling through the limb even as Cancer's arm began to ripple, before the Lich snapped her horn hard to the side as stitching over her body popped with the strain of her spellwork.

A rumble of force tore through the air... and then the half-frozen limb of the monstrosity simply shattered into fragments of glassy ice. Cancer staggered backwards as the rest of the oversized limb simply tore off at the shoulder from the vibrations traveling through the rippling body of the monster, and Antares winced before he looked sharply to the side, shouting: “Avalon!”

Avalon gave a sharp nod in response, and the two young ponies rushed forwards as Cancer looked stupidly up before Antares smashed a shoulder into the lower body of the enormous, mutant beast, and the tiny Pegasus rammed directly into Cancer's face with a satisfying crunch, knocking his head whiplashing back. And Antares yelled as he forged forwards, lashing his horn sharply back and forth as it glowed with white light, every hard slash sending up a burst of goo and a blast of steam from the monster's body as Avalon floated above, front hooves a blur as she snarled and slammed vicious blow after blow with liquid grace down into Cancer's head and breast.

Cancer could only shriek as he was knocked staggering brokenly on his three remaining limbs before he attempted to yank himself backwards, narrowly pulling away... but immediately, Antares leapt forwards and Avalon dove low, the tiny Pegasus hitting the ground beneath the glossy-black unicorn as he slammed both his front hooves into Cancer's face, before Avalon shot up and lashed both crosshatch blades sideways into the monster's gut.

Cancer leaned forwards, acid beginning to bubble up his throat... and Antares' hoof slammed up under his chin, knocking his head snapping backwards and sending the spray of acid back over Cancer's own body even as Antares balanced on his hind hooves and forged forwards, ignoring the droplets of acid that splattered over him and burnt through his coat, exposing raw flesh as he hammered hoof after hoof into Cancer's breast and body: and below, Avalon's hooves crashed up into the monster's stomach between hard slashes and rips of her blades that sent splatters of white goo in all directions, Antares almost straddling the small Pegasus as she kept her body low and her wings tensed.

And then the monster screamed in fury, and even as Antares saw what was happening, there was no time to react as the monster's body rippled... and horribly, a multitude of new limbs ripped out of the creature's body, ending in bony claws that seized into Antares' chest, face and forelegs and lifted him high as a larger tentacle snapped out of the base of his torn shoulder, snapping down to wrap around Avalon. The Pegasus gargled as she was constricted before she was slammed like a miniature wrecking ball into the glossy black stallion's stomach, then Cancer yanked her above his head, glaring up at her furiously as the monster seized the winded unicorn by the back of the neck with his other foreleg as it became a deadly talon. “Worthless, pathetic crowbait!”

The small claws dug into Antares' breastplate and his exposed flesh, making him curse in pain as Cancer yanked his head up to snarl into his eyes as he jerked the unicorn off to one side, keeping him easily restrained as Avalon gargled in the death-grip of the monster's coiled appendage. The destruction entity opened his mouth, exposing his fangs, but a moment later a metallic fist slammed down into his features, almost crushing the monster's head completely in as he staggered stupidly backwards and lost his grip on both ponies.

Discombobulation seized Antares and Avalon both as they began to fall backwards, then he simply vanished from the spot, reappearing with a loud crackle beside the vulcan cannon that Rustproof and Cowlick were still working madly over. Twilight looked towards them with a wince, Burning Desire breathing hard and laying nearby, infections pulsating sickeningly beneath his shifting coat; but before the Lich could speak or even think, her attention was drawn as Cancer screamed in fury, body rippling as he lurched forwards and snapped his tentacle out to send a missile of goo at the Draconequus and the stunned-looking young ponies.

Twilight cursed, then leapt into the path of the missile and snapped her horn down, creating a solid shield of magic... but the sphere of goo exploded with enough force to shatter the barrier and send her rocketing through the air, the Lich crashing into the back wall behind the turret with a gasp of pain. Cancer grinned, and then he snarled when Cowlick leapt back up into the seat, shouting: “Hit it, Rusty!”

“I don't think so!” Cancer snarled, and the monster's tentacle snapped upwards, hammering into the ceiling and sticking there before it leapt forwards, appendage yanking taut like a bungee cord and sending the creature flying forwards before the tentacle simply tore off as a new, thin arm formed in its place, ending in a bony blade. There was no time to react, there was barely the time for Rustproof to begin to raise his foreleg before Cancer crashed down in front of the young pony and slashed viciously into his half-raised limb, knocking the young pony onto his back with a howl of pain.

Cancer leaned forwards with a cackle, bringing the bony blade back, but then he shrieked when both of Cowlick's rear hooves slammed into his face as she shoved herself out of the turret, shouting furiously: “Don't you touch him, you bastard!”

The engineer tackled the monster back to the ground, rolling with the destruction entity before she managed to roll on top of him, swinging both front hooves viciously down into the mottled monster's features again and again, trying to drive her punches ruthlessly into his oversized eyes and jaw. Cancer howled in frustration more than pain however, before he seized Cowlick by the face with his claw and rolled over, slamming her head-first back into the ground with a crunch; her body went limp as blood burst from her cracked skull, but it wasn't enough for the monster as he leapt to his hooves, hauling her into the air and then bringing her slamming bonelessly down into the ground again.

Cancer grinned as he rose the earth pony mare's limp body again... and then Burning Desire stabbed his horn into the monster's side, Cancer squealing before he screamed as the fiery stallion shoved all the power he could into a blast that knocked the demon rolling backwards with a hiss of agony, but knocked Cowlick out of Cancer's grip and sent the monster flying down the long hall like a comet. The beast tore in half when it struck the ground, its lower half bursting into a bonfire as its upper half shed charred slime in a torrent, before Cancer finally came to a halt, half-melted, facing away from the group as the destruction entity panted roughly in and out.

Then the monster snarled, eyes glowing red as it began to yank itself upwards, body rippling as it began to pull itself back together even as burning and eroded slime melted slowly into the ground... before Cancer's eyes widened at the sound of a click, and it looked over its shoulder as its mouth fell agape as a low hum filled the air.

Rustproof was bleeding heavily, tears leaking down his cheeks as he leaned on the side of the turret, but he had fixed the damage to the machine and loaded a new belt of ammo that snaked down into a seemingly-endless box of munitions. The barrels of the vulcan cannon were already revolving rapidly as Discombobulation leaned over the seat, his eyes sharp and narrowed, aiming down the sights before he shouted: “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!”

He depressed the other trigger, and a roar filled the room that drowned out even Cancer's screams as a stream of bullets tore through the monster's mottled body faster than he could regenerate, sending up fountains of white slime as the creature was driven backwards by the furious barrage. Bone fragments and slime and goo flew in all directions as Discombobulation strafed the vulcan cannon after the monster as it tried to throw itself out of the way, the destruction entity all-but-disintegrating under the hail of bullets.

Steam rose up from the vulcan cannon as countless bullet casings tinkled to the floor in a rain, the Draconequus leaning on both triggers even as the weapon began to hitch slightly, ripping more holes in the all-but-unstoppable monster before Cancer finally shrieked and threw his head back with a look of horror as he burst apart into a waterfall of slime. And finally, the Draconequus dropped backwards with a wince, breathing hard as the gun jittered and the barrels slowly revolved to a stop, the only sound in the air the tinkling of the last few cases as they hit the ground, and the heavy, broken breathing of wounded ponies.

Rustproof closed his eyes, bowing his head forwards... and then they snapped open, and he trembled as Cowlick croaked: “I think that beautiful music just brought me back from the dead. What'd you do, shoot the angels that were coming for me?”

“Momma!” Rustproof almost fell over as he scrambled over to Cowlick, hugging his bloody limb up against his body, and he gave a wide, relieved smile as he reached a trembling hoof forwards, touching her face quietly as tears leaked down his cheeks. He fought for words for a moment, mouth working uselessly... but when Cowlick smiled faintly, the blue earth pony nodded once, shivering as tears dripped down to the floor and he simply gazed down at her with a tremble.

Burning Desire chuckled quietly from where he was laying, and then the fiery stallion groaned as he forced himself up to his hooves, as Avalon grunted and hugged her aching ribs, and Twilight unsteadily climbed to a standing position as well. She swayed a little on the spot with a wince, cursing quietly to herself as a shudder ran through her body, and then she looked up with a lick of her lips as she asked quietly: “Is... is everypony okay?”

“I think so.” Antares murmured, glancing up at Discombobulation, and the Draconequus nodded slowly before the glossy-black stallion looked nervously forwards. The entire hall was splattered with Cancer's goop, and he shivered a little before he asked weakly: “Is... so is that it? Is it over?”

“Not until we burn every trace of him in this room.” Twilight replied quietly, shaking her head briefly before the Lich gritted her teeth and grasped at her chest. Antares looked at her worriedly, but she only shook her head, murmuring: “I'm fine. Just... flayed.”

Antares winced a little as he studied the violet mare: she had chosen a good word for the state she was in, with her body visibly torn open. The young stallion shook himself a bit, then he turned his eyes back down the hall, seeing Cancer standing there-

Antares' eyes widened in horror, staring in shock, breathing hard: and yet around him, everyone else was inspecting their own wounds or each other's. Twilight was saying something in her calm, quiet voice, trying to get things back in order, but it was like a buzz in his ears he stared down the corridor, and Cancer glared back at him with those red, hell-light eyes...

He tried to speak, and couldn't; he tried to move, and he couldn't, as Cancer slowly rose a front leg that formed into a blade, then made a silent cutting gesture not across, but through his own throat. It left a bloodless wound, and Antares stared, trembling, at this monster that seemed almost hollow, that was pale and nearly translucent and watery, but was still alive, still there, and had such hideous vitality in his eyes... and then Cancer simply grinned silently before whispering in a voice that somehow only Antares heard: “You can't destroy destruction, honey. But destruction can destroy you. You mark my words, boy, I'll be back... I'll be back, and when I do come back, my bride and I will rip this village of yours apart before I peel you like an orange, squeeze out your juices, and crunch what remains in my teeth...”

Cancer licked his lips slowly, then he melted down through the grating, chuckling quietly... and Antares shook his head wildly before he broke into a charge that made the other ponies stare in horror, the young stallion yelling in a raw voice: “No! No, you come back here, you come back here and fight! Fight me, I'm right here... right now!”

“Antares!” Twilight shouted... and then her eyes widened in horror as a blast of poisonous gases burst up from the grating at the end of the target hall, the Lich cursing as Antares continued to almost blindly stumble towards this before she shouted again: “Antares!'

The glossy-black stallion didn't stop, and Twilight cursed as her horn glowed violet before she vanished in a flash of light, reappearing a moment later in front of the young stallion, and he plowed into her with a grunt before stumbling and falling back on his haunches. Immediately, Twilight leaned forwards and embraced him fiercely, then she winced over her shoulder as the dense fog of poison rolled towards them before she flicked her horn, a protective bubble of energy forming around them as the Lich shouted: “Hurry, get out of here!”

Burning Desire winced, then the demonic stallion coughed violently several times before he half-stumbled to Cowlick, lowering his horn and touching the side of her neck with it. The earth pony mare moaned in pain, then shivered once before she grinned weakly, eyes fluttering as Rustproof worriedly looked up at the demon. “Oh hell. Maybe you aren't... such a bad guy after all...”

“Yes, well, as beautiful as you are we should probably concentrate on getting out of here for now.” Burning Desire replied with a strained smile, and he reached down to carefully haul Cowlick's weak body up over his, mumbling: “Enjoy the pleasure while it lasts... I don't have much magic left and that spell only works for the short term...”

“Rusty... vents...” Cowlick whispered, and Rustproof nodded before the enormous blue stallion hurriedly staggered around the vulcan cannon and stumbled over to the shutter controls by the sealed doors. Avalon, meanwhile, was back in the air despite how hard she was breathing, and Discombobulation was grimacing at the cloud of poisons rolling towards them before the Draconequus rose a hand and snapped his fingers.

A powerful wind blew across the tunnel, Avalon cursing as she was almost knocked out of the air, shooting a baleful glare at Discombobulation before looking hopefully down the tunnel: but even as the poisonous cloud was blown backwards, it seemed to almost thicken before spreading forwards again, and Discombobulation muttered: “That's bad. I don't think Cancer created this... tell me, what's beneath this facility...”

“He must have broken the pipes that run down to chemical storage and added... something... can't think...” Cowlick mumbled weakly out, and then she managed to just lift her head slightly as the shutters locking down the door slid open, murmuring: “Good... good boy, Rusty... get... vents...”

She slumped, and Burning Desire coughed hard several times before he glanced nervously into the fog, but Discombobulation only shook his head and gestured hurriedly at the demon: Avalon, meanwhile, had already flown ahead, half-chasing after Rustproof. “As anyone who plays survival horror will tell you, don't stick around in the lab facility for very long. Let's get out of here before we all end up turning into zombies; the bioweapon you're dating that we have on our side can handle the rest.”

Burning Desire grunted, but he looked too ill to manage much more of a response, stumbling quickly forwards as Cowlick groaned a little on his back... and in the safe bubble in the poison fog, Antares trembled, his head bowed against the nape of Twilight's neck as she held him silently close, both of them breathing hard as the toxic smog flowed slowly over the glimmering shield. In the poisons, Antares' could feel Cancer's destructive influence, as he whispered: “How... how do we stop him?”

“We... we almost did. We underestimated how strong he's grown, that's all... he must have... the power he must have taken on over winter...” Twilight closed her eyes tightly. “To think he could regenerate so fast after being completely destroyed... we reduced him to nothing but water, and... how did you see him? None of us knew anything was wrong...”

“I didn't just see him, I... I heard him...” Antares trembled, looking down and reaching up to rub at his forehead slowly, shivering as his horn gave a weak spark. “He said he was coming back, with... with his bride, whatever that means. He said he was going back to kill us all, and... Twilight, I don't know if he can be stopped... I... we got so close, but he gets so much stronger every time he gets away...”

“He might not get away, though, not this time. The exits are all sealed down... Celestia, Prestige, Pinkamena and Aphrodisia are all out there, among others, waiting for him just in case.” Twilight said quietly, shaking her head slowly before she shivered as she looked up at the green fog swirling around them, then she grimaced a little. “Look... why don't you wait here, and I'll go open that panel he tried to escape through. Even if he's gone by now, I think I can hear where the gas is coming from, I can close it off and-”

“No, don't!” Antares looked up almost frantically for a moment, and the Lich leaned back in surprise before the young stallion hugged her fiercely around the neck, trembling violently. “I don't want to lose you too. Please... he's... I can feel him, he's still close by. He mixed his poisons into this gas somehow, just... please, Mom. We can't... we can't take risks right now.”

The Lich closed her eyes, reaching up and taking Antares' face into her front hooves as she looked down at him and said quietly: “Antares... I love you. You're my son, and I would never do anything to hurt you on purpose... and I know you're still young. You did so well today, but don't let the fear and the panic take over. Don't let it seep into your emotions... sometimes, you have to use your head over your heart, and over your fears.

“I'm your mother... but I'm also, like you, someone who's fighting to put a stop to the mayhem, and the violence, and Cancer. Who wants to bring Luna and Scrivener back, yes... but knowing full well that if I want them to be proud of me at all, I have to continue to carry out their legacy, and protect you, protect our friends and family, and protect Equestria. I can't not take risks, just because it would put me in danger... because of what may or may not happen. I can't let other ponies suffer in my place... especially not when I'm... I'm hard to kill, Antares.” Twilight Sparkle smiled faintly, closing her eyes before she leaned forwards and kissed his forehead gently, and the young stallion bowed his head silently to her as she reached up and stroked his face quietly. “So I'm going to go and see if I can find where the leak is. You stay here, until the poisons clear.”

“Okay.” Antares said quietly, and he hesitated for a moment before looking up at the Lich, saying quietly: “Mom and Dad would... I just mean... I'm glad you're here, Twilight. Thank you for... being my mother, and being my friend.”

Twilight nodded slowly, then she turned and silently strode through the translucent bubble, the surface of the forcefield rippling quietly with her passage through it but not breaking. The Lich halted with a smile over her shoulder as she looked silently at Antares, green-tinged gases flowing harmlessly around the violet mare before she nodded once to him, then turned and strode quietly off.

She vanished into the thick, toxic smoke, and the glossy-black young stallion swallowed a little as he stared nervously after her. He shivered, breathing quietly in and out as he licked his lips apprehensively, not knowing what to do or say as he hugged himself with his forelegs, then closed his eyes as he felt the watch shift beneath his armor against his body. With how tense he was, he thought that he could feel the minute vibrations of every tick against his skin, and the young stallion shook his head weakly before he reached up and rubbed slowly at his features, whispering: “I feel him... everywhere... why do I feel him everywhere...”

Antares looked down, and then he frowned before reaching a hoof slowly out, stroking over the ground. There were streaks and swirls stained over the cement, like from water... and Antares shivered as he thought of how translucent Cancer had been, the way he'd rippled and transformed, the slick, ugly wetness of his body...

“Oh Horses of Heaven...” Antares whispered, drawing his hoof hurriedly away from the water stains, and he shivered in horror at the thought that occurred: what if Cancer could survive in a liquid state now? It seemed like the only advantage they still boasted over the monster was the fact that whatever else, the creature's volatile chemical makeup meant it was extremely flammable... but how much did that matter if Cancer could develop more ways to shed, more ways to change, more ways to extinguish himself? How were they supposed to fight and put a stop to this monster if he just kept getting stronger and stronger?

“And he scares me... he scares me so goddamn much...” Antares whispered to himself, clenching his eyes shut: in spite of everything he'd said, after all, it was true. Again, he'd looked in the eyes of the destruction entity... again, he'd seen such... such inconceivable... nothingness. Below the chaos and the madness, the screaming and the anger, the worst thing about Cancer was that his red eyes glowed so brightly because they were so empty. So devoid of understanding, or meaning, or love, or real emotion: it was not happy, it did not seek happiness, and it didn't even want to be happy. All it wanted was to destroy... because that was what it was. Destruction, emptiness, the Void given form and shape, masked in chaos...

The young stallion gritted his teeth, clenching his eyes shut... and he could almost see the monster in his mind, with his senses so heightened by adrenaline, with his acuity and his ability to understand things going haywire with his emotions and the awful sense of energy in the air. He could feel Cancer rushing, rushing, rushing onwards... and he wasn't in the vents, he wasn't going to be stupid enough to fight Celestia, he was smelling for demons now and he was sly and careful because beneath the lunacy he was coldly, cruelly rational, clinging to his life so he could fulfill his destiny of destroying the lives of others...

Antares could feel him... as Cancer yanked itself through the piping, rasping, cursing weakly to itself as the semisolid slime shivered. It contorted and spasmed as it forced its way along a pipe, following a trickle of water with a gasp as pain ripped up and down the creature's system.

He had been oh-so-tempted to slide his way into the exhaust pipes, to feed off those delicious poisons and hopefully restore his strength while he made his way to whatever little chemical heaven they came from... except now he was paranoid and terrified, suspicious of every little thing and unable to even keep a coherent form, and what would it matter if he reached some little patch of poisonous paradise if they just immolated it and him? What if it was another lure?

“Oh, oh no, not gonna fall for that again...” Cancer whispered to himself, voice echoing through the pipes before he curved upwards, following the path of strongest flow as shivers racked his body, and he rasped weakly. “No no no... they ain't smarter than me... they ain't better than me... oh... oh, gotta find a way outta here...”

The shapeless slime gurgled, twitching violently and making the pipes around itself rattle before it turned down another offshoot, and Cancer moaned in pain before gargling as he hit something. Some kind of obstruction in the narrow metal tube... and the monster hissed in disgust as the elongated slime shivered back and forth, rattling the pipes louder before the slime shoved itself forwards, ripping through whatever was blocking its route and sending chunks of metal flying in all directions.

The slime burst upwards, then splattered down in a sink and over a counter in an abandoned break room, wheezing weakly. Cancer's head slowly formed from this awful mass, red eyes pushing up into its malformed, goblinoid features as at looked back and forth weakly, then hissed under its breath before licking its lips slowly as it leaned forwards and poured itself out of the sink and off the countertop.

Cancer splattered to the ground, then slowly picked himself up, transforming and shifting back into his ugly, mottled pony imitation shape. He groaned, shivering, clutching at himself: his hide was transparent and flaky, his form seemed half-melted, and while his eyes were glowing like crimson spotlights, everything else about the monster was dull and drab and unstable as water leaked down his body like sweat.

The creature shivered, then stumbled slowly towards a closed door, plowing into it with a quiet thunk and a sickening squelch. Cancer rasped weakly in and out, groaning in pain, and then he clawed at the handle before managing to yank the door open... and snarling in disgust as he saw it led into a storage closet, not the exit. The monster muttered under his breath in disgust, but then he frowned, looking down as his eyes alit on several large bottles of stuff sitting in a plastic pail on the floor, and he whispered: “Chemicals... gonna make me a cocktail.”

Cancer licked his teeth slowly, then hurriedly reached down and tore the tops off the bottles before upending them speedily into the pail. A sick chemical reek filled the air as Cancer wheezed in and out, not caring about the cleaner and solvent he splashed himself with before he picked up the pail and overturned it above him.

Chemicals splashed down over him, and Cancer greedily guzzled down as much as he could as the rest spilled over his form and was absorbed through his thin hide, the monster twitching and gargling for a moment before it dropped its head forwards and rasped: “Oh, that's a little pick me up, stir it all together, go from good to bad and bad to good in my guts and my veins and my... oh yeah...”

The monster shivered, then belched out a thick burst of toxic mist as some of the color restored to it features. “Yeah. That should be enough to get me outta here... oh gonna need to grab some fast food on the way out though, oh gonna have to be sly and careful...”

Cancer shifted, then turned towards the only other door, half-staggering over to this as he breathe unevenly in and out before pressing against it and growling under his breath as he heard something outside in the hall. His eyes flicked back to the sink, but then the monster shook his head as his eyes lingered on the broken faucet, whispering: “No, no, that's too obvious. They'll know what I'm doing, and they'll flush me out... gotta... gotta sneak out another way...”

The monster cursed under his breath... then he slowly looked up before grinning to himself, pressing his hooves against the door as they became sticky. And on the other side, several Nibelung grimaced as the door banged several times, Greece cursing under his breath as he squeezed the round object in one hand slowly before one of the two Nightmares supporting the group asked nervously: “Should we call for help?”

“No, this is just like any chemical spill or magic project gone wrong back at the Academy. We're just the cleaning crew.” Greece replied calmly, and then he stepped forwards, grasping the handle of the door as he took a slow breath before looking over his shoulder, saying curtly to the Nibelung soldiers standing at the ready behind him: “In three, two, one...”

Greece shoved down the handle, shouldering the door partially open as he tossed the object in his other hand forwards, then yanked the door shut. A moment later, there was a loud bang and pulse, before Greece threw the door back open as he shouted: “Go!”

Nibelung soldiers ran forwards with swords and axes at the ready as the Nightmares vanished from sight, and the dwarves stormed the room before simply halting in the center of it. The Nightmares flickered back into sight after a few moments as well, and Greece leaned in with a frown before one of the Nibelung pointed at the sink and said worriedly: “Is not here, boss! Plague-beast fled!”

“Dammit.” Greece hurried over to the broken faucet, stopping a few feet away before he looked down with a frown at the fragments of metal that lay here and there, before he quickly looked over his shoulder. Almost immediately, he saw the shoved-open ceiling tile, and the dwarf shook his head sharply, pointing at this: “No, he must have gone that way! Nightmares, track him if you can, and I need two of you warriors to come with me. You, do you have the oil?”

The last Nibelung warrior nodded quickly, patting a large bottle at his belt as he lowered his sword, and Greece pointed at the slime here and there on the wall and floor. “Pour it down the drain and the faucet, just in case I'm wrong. Valhalla's blessed oil hasn't failed us yet... even if he tries to absorb it somehow, it should just make him all the more flammable. Then head to the barracks and get more help, we'll need all hands on deck.”

“Yes, boss!” The Nibelung saluted sharply, and the Nightmares only hesitated a moment before following the Architect's instructions, vanishing from sight before there was a strange thudding as a bit of dirt shifted around the hole, likely from the Nightmares passing into the narrow passages above.

Greece paused a second longer, then he turned, and the other Nibelung soldiers followed the Architect out. For a few moments, the remaining Nibelung looked out the door after them, and then the wolf-pig grunted before turning to the sink, grumbling a little as he sheathed his sword.

He didn't hear the closet door swing slowly open, as Cancer grinned despite the faint shocks traveling over his body from the anti-magic pulse: luckily for him, he had been protected from the worst of the damage in his little hidey-hole. He licked his lips slowly, then became like liquid, sweeping slowly across the floor as the dwarf pulled the jar of holy oil free from his belt and put it on the counter.

The Nibelung didn't even feel it at first when Cancer's slime began to slither up over his booted feet as the dwarf leaned forwards... and then translucent tendrils and ropes snapped violently up around him, and the dwarf tried to yelp as he was yanked firmly back down into the slimy mass before he gave a muffled shriek of terror as horrible, putrid heat surrounded his body and crushed and constricted him as vile poison flooded into his jaws, his nose, his eyes, his ears...

Then there was silence... before the dwarf giggled, and his eyes gave a brief red glow while he hauled himself up to his feet, breath rasping in and out as he grinned maliciously and licked his lips hungrily. He rolled his shoulders slowly, then turned and hurried towards the doors as Cancer whispered through his mouth: “But I gotta be quick-quick-quick! Ooh, don't worry, stop struggling, honey, I'm shutting down all your mental processes I can, but I still need the skeleton crew working, I still need a bit of your brain runnin', and maybe I'm just in a real bastard of a mood and want to enjoy your suffering a little, too, if you want me to be totally honest.”

Cancer chuckled through the dwarf's jaws, hurrying through the halls of the facility, trying to look busy and intent. He passed several other Nibelung, but they were on their own way out... and it didn't take Cancer long to find an exit, shoving out into the night air of Ponyville even as he felt the dwarf's body beginning to overheat beneath his armor, felt his rampant diseases beginning to mutilate the fleshy mortal body and take hold...

He forced the body to turn down the street, and he gritted his teeth, suppressing every instinct inside of him as he walked past several medical ponies who were tending to the earth ponies he'd wounded in the battle. The butch mare that had tackled him was alive, although she looked a little senseless, while her giant momma's boy kid beside her had his head lowered, wincing in pain as another pony stitched the wound in his foreleg carefully closed.

Cancer growled under his breath, then turned his eyes ahead as he continued quickly down the street, passing by a large demon that studied the dwarf with a frown. But Cancer simply kept himself going, taking the first chance he had to turn and slip into a side alley: it seemed like most of Ponyville was awake, and was working to respond, was trying to hem him in, but oh no, he wouldn't give them that chance...

The monster that had taken over the dwarf's body finally managed to reach the outer wall that surrounded Ponyville, and he looked up with a wince, pressing quickly back against the wall and hiding in the deep shadows as several Pegasi shot by overhead: thankfully, their attention was on the outer perimeter, not inside the walls. But that likely meant there were other patrols as well, and Cancer cursed to himself before he grimaced and rose one of the dwarf's arms, glowering in disgust at the fact that large clumps of fur had started to fall out, and infected blood was leaking steadily through the dwarf's skin like red sweat. “Well... no, no, wait-wait-wait... maybe, just maybe...”

Cancer grinned slowly, and then the dwarf gurgled, hugging himself tightly around the stomach before he leaned forwards as the monster writhed inside of him before shoving his way upwards and out of the body he'd taken over... and less than three minutes later, a passing patrol shouted an alarm, pointing at a bloody, diseased-looking Nibelung that was attempting to climb the wall.

Demons and soldiers converged on the dwarf as it snarled and climbed as quickly as its slippery hands would let it, rasping for breath as it shivered from the infections. It looked both insane and mindless all at once, like some hollow, tormented ghost... but all Ponyville's forces could do was react to the threat, to the sight of this vile thing trying to escape.

And while the Nibelung distracted the soldiers and warriors, Cancer smoothly slid up over the wall, giggling at how effective his decoy had been as he dropped down into the plains outside Ponyville... then winced at the loud bang that tore through the air, followed by yells of pain and horror. He grinned over his shoulder viciously, licking his lips before he mocked: “Gee, if people aren't supposed to explode, then why the hell are they all so volatile, huh? Why does everyone have all those nice gaps and spaces to stuff full of poison gas? Oh honey, you just don't make no sense!”

Cancer laughed as he turned, then he leapt forwards as his body transformed, becoming serpentine as he slithered hurriedly away through the tall grasses, the long, mottled snake almost impossible to see as he twisted towards the Everfree Forest. The living woods seemed to shiver at his approach, trees rustling, roots seeming to subtly try to draw away from the monster as the destruction entity passed into the darkness of the forest canopy.

The monster seemed to sense the forest's revulsion, but Cancer only grinned wider as he twisted upwards, taking back on his mottled, pony-like form as he hopped to his hooves and licked his lips slowly. His red eyes blazed with eerie, unnatural light, and he strutted calmly forwards through the trees, glancing back and forth with a giggle as he whispered: “Yeah, you go ahead and tattle on me if you want, Momma Nature, but it's too late. I'm gonna run all the way back to my sweetie-pie Griselda now, and then me and her are gonna come back in full force and full swing... and oh, oh, oh me and her and my army of little whelps are gonna just have us a hell of a ball...”

Cancer grinned wider, licking his teeth as he hurried through the forest, rasping hungrily as he looked back and forth, murmuring eagerly: “I just gotta find me a snack on the way back... but oh, once I'm with my sweetie, we're gonna make each other feel all better, real fast... and then I'm gonna ride on in, and finally take my revenge on all these scumbag fleshbags... especially that one little meat-sack, that punk kid who keeps trying to get in my way... oh, yeah, I'm gonna take my special time with him...”

The monster growled to himself, then nodded firmly once before he licked his teeth slowly, his red eyes burning like beacons as he vanished through the forest... leaving behind a startled Ponyville that had been warned of the worsening storm to come, but for now could do nothing more than wait for the inevitable attack by the destruction entity and his bride.