• Published 13th Dec 2012
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Skyfall - Dusk Quill

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Chapter 12: September

Hooves thundered in synchronized march as a dozen of the Royal Guard filed into Canterlot Station. Shining Armor stood at the head of the group, leading the unit down the steps into the lobby. Just behind him, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna followed closely. Princess Cadance was due to arrive within the hour from her time abroad, and they wanted to welcome their niece back home personally. But The Sword was still wanted, and safety came before subtlety.

Ponies looked nervously at the guards. Canterlot had become accustomed to the mass presence of soldiers as of late, though they were still unaware of the true danger. Ever since the incident in the market, they were grateful for the extra security.

Celestia glanced up at the timetable board above the ticket booths. The train arriving from Saddle Arabia was right on time. They’d be arriving shortly. Mostly, the sovereign was patiently waiting to see if Cadance was safe or not. They hadn’t received a message other than there had been an attack on Prince Malik’s gala, and no details had been released. She could only hope and wait.

Princess Luna was eager to have her team of ponies back. She missed them, and silently prayed that they had accomplished their mission. Not that there was much doubt, of course. She had the utmost confidence in Skyfall Team. They had proven their merit.

Shining Armor tapped his hooves impatiently against the stone floor, his eyes never leaving the large clock above the timetable. Their train was due in less than thirty minutes. He couldn’t wait to see Cadance again. And Fleethoof. He had to know they were both okay…

“Come. Let us await their arrival on the platform,” Luna said.

Shining Armor nodded, turning to his troops. “Head to the platform, and make sure it’s secure. The last thing we want is any surprises.”

The guards saluted and marched ahead towards the designated platform. Shining hoped the presence of armed guards would deter The Sword from making a blatant attempt on the princesses. But he had to be honest with himself—it hadn’t deterred them in the past.

Swallowing back his worry, he smiled to his rulers, and escorted them behind his soldiers. His lieutenant joined him at his side, nodding to the Captain of the Guard. Ponies rushed to and fro past them, blending together in a blur of color and motion. A unicorn dressed in a Royal Guard cadet uniform bumped into him, moving on without an apology. He brushed it off.

And then Shining Armor froze in place.

He turned slowly, looking back at the pony that had just run into him. He recognized that blue coat. He recognized that cutie mark. And he recognized those burning red eyes as the pony turned to face back at the Captain of the Guard, a cocky smirk across his lips.

Shining drew his pistol, aiming at the pony. “Night Shade! Don’t move!”

The ponies that were walking in between the two quickly dispersed when they saw the gun. Night Shade just continued to face off with Shining Armor. Celestia and Luna had stopped when they heard Shining shout out, both taken by surprise when they noticed his opponent.

Night Shade didn’t say a word. He stared silently at the soldier. It put Shining Armor off. Why would the most wanted pony in Equestria be walking around in public so brashly, especially where he knew he’d be caught? It had to be a trap, one he was determined to end prematurely.

“Night Shade, by order of the Royal Guard, you are under ar— ugh!”

Shining Armor collapsed to the ground as something hard cracked against the back of his head. His gun skidded across the smooth floor, stopped by Night Shade with a hoof. Shining glanced up at his assailant, and found the barrel of a rifle pressed to his forehead. Several ponies gathered around him, forming a circle, each one holding a rifle. Shining’s lieutenant drew his sidearm, making a bold move for one of the ponies, only to have the stock of a gun slam across the side of his head as well. He joined his commanding officer on the ground.

Night Shade picked up the captain’s fallen gun and stepped in with his fellow ponies, firing the pistol once into the air. Ponies all around the station screamed and rushed for cover in panic. Celestia and Luna were frozen in place with shock. The guards had begun to run back into the lobby.

“Attention everypony!” Shade said aloud, his voice echoing around the lobby. “Stay right where you all are, please. If you try to run for the exit, you will be shot.”

A couple of ponies ran for the stairs. They made it halfway up before they were gunned down, two more armed ponies blocking the exit. The guards surrounded the group, covering the princesses as they drew down on the tightly enclosed group. Night Shade pulled Shining Armor up into a seated position, pressing the barrel of the gun to the pony’s head.

Shining’s head was still spinning and his ears ringing from the attack. His muscles felt like they were made of gelatin, and his whole body was heavy and weak. He groaned softly and glared up at Night. All around, ponies looked on in terror, anxiously waiting to see what would unfold.

“Tsk tsk, I warned you, silly ponies,” Night spoke coolly to the crowd, shaking his head in disappointment. “Make yourselves comfortable, everypony. You’re about to be taken for a wild ride!”

“You’re an idiot…” muttered Shining Armor. “The second you kill me, you’ll all be blown away.”

“Isn’t this ironic, Captain? We’re finishing the same way we started!” The pony chuckled, pressing the cold metal gun harder against his hostage’s temple.

“What are you waiting for then?”

“Why, the last few guests of honor! When they arrive, then the party will start!”

Shining Armor’s blue eyes turned toward the clock. Only a few minutes until the train arrived. His friends were walking right into a trap.

Fleethoof sat silently, staring out the window as the train rolled by familiar territory. The green hills and fields of Equestria were a welcome sight to his eyes. Flashbacks of the Griffon War flashed briefly before his eyes. It was hard to believe over a year had passed since the war ended. But now, as the train began its ascent through the mountain tunnels up to Canterlot, he couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.

Princess Cadance sat opposite of him, and just as quietly. She seemed contemplative, and tired. It would be good to bring her back to the comforts of home.

Darkness surrounded the outside of the train car. Only the lights inside provided illumination in the tunnel.

“Thank you, Fleethoof, for looking after me… again,” Cadance said after a while, catching the pony’s attention.

“It was my duty and pleasure. Think nothing of it.” It was a cut-and-dry answer.

“You risk your life for me constantly, and you want me to think of it as nothing?” Cadance chuckled lightly. “I think you might be losing your mind if you think that’s going to happen.”

Fleethoof smirked a little, but didn’t respond. Cadance had grown to know his succinct personality well. He didn’t mince words, or delay, or stall. He spoke his mind when he had something to say. It was admirable.

“It’s September now. It'll be autumn soon.”

“Mmm…”

Another pregnant pause.

“I’m very glad it was you who came to my rescue,” she continued to speak after a while. “I enjoy your company.”

“You mean you enjoy trying to piece me together like a puzzle.”

Cadance laughed again. “You are challenging to read, Fleethoof, but I do like being around you. Only a hoofful of ponies make me feel truly safe with them. You’re one of them.”

Fleethoof smiled. “Thank you, Cadance.”

The train reemerged out into the light of day. The station wouldn’t be more than ten minutes ahead.

“You were saying something to me at the gala.” Fleethoof looked confused. “Just before the attack, when the dance ended.”

“Oh,” he remarked, both surprised, and at the same time not, by her vivid memory. “...Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t important.”

“I’d still like to know.”

Fleethoof hesitated for a moment. Not because he couldn’t remember what he was about to say, but because he wasn’t sure he wanted to say it, or how to say it. He was in the middle of pondering his next course of action when the train came to a stop at the platform. All of a sudden, the train was quiet, and they sat still in place. The two ponies held each others' gazes for a long moment.

“What’s going on?” asked Cadance, looking out the window. “There's guards all over the platform.”

Fleethoof frowned in confusion and looked out the window as well. Half a dozen armed guards blocked the doors into the station, rifles held close to their chests. It did not bode well.

“I don’t know…” Fleethoof muttered. “But we’re gonna find out. Come on.”

In a flash, Fleethoof was out of his seat and heading down the car. The conjoined car was the bunk car, where Skyfall Team was gathering their belongings. Valiant and Cupcake were already in the corridor, making idle conversation while they waited for the others. Sharp Shot joined them momentarily.

“What's wrong, Captain?” Valiant asked his officer, noting the look of concern on his face.

Fleethoof shook his head. “I don’t know. The Guard is blockading the station for some reason.”

“So what is plan?” asked the larger pony amongst them.

“We’re disembarking and finding out what’s going on. Canterlot’s railway system runs like clockwork all day, every day. If there’s a reason they've shut down the station, it can’t be good news.”

“Well, looks like this is our stop!” Sharp Shot grabbed his saddlebags and slung his rifle over his back, eager as ever to get moving.

Fleethoof looked around at the group of ponies, and behind him past Cadance. “Where’s Shield and Lightning?”

The door to the car opened at the other end, and both ponies in question were corralled into the car. A trio of armed guards pushed them in and stepped past, armed to the teeth.

“Everypony stay calm!” one of them said in a loud, commanding voice as they walked by. “There is nothing to be worried about. There’s been a minor delay at the station.”

“A delay that requires armed guards to keep ponies onboard?” Sharp Shot asked, catching the attention of the soldier.

The guard gave him a cold, blank stare. “Just stay in your car until the train continues moving, sir.”

“Look, buddy, we’re military too. You can tell us what’s going on.”

“I said, stay in the car.”

“Hey, pal, if something’s going on, we need to know.”

“I don’t have to tell you anything, sir,” the guard reiterated, placing emphasis on his words. “I don’t answer to you. Now remain in the car.”

“You have to answer to me,” Fleethoof said, his voice firm as he and the guard locked gazes. “I’m Captain Fleethoof, and as much as I hate to do it, I will pull rank on you if I have to. Now, I believe my teammate asked you a question, soldier. I think we’d all like to hear the answer.”

The pony was silent for a moment, sizing up the officer confronting him. Cadance stepped up next to Fleethoof, making her stance very obvious.

“I’d suggest you do what the captain tells you to.”

The guard hesitated, then motioned for the other two to carry on through the train. He stepped closer to the group, his voice low.

“Some ponies have taken over the station. They’re heavily armed, and they have hostages. The princesses are there, trying to defuse the situation. But between you and me, I don’t think it’s doing any good. We’ve been ordered to keep all civilians on their trains until the situation passes, for their own safety.”

“Lucky for you, we aren’t civilians,” Fleethoof said, patting the rifle at his side. “We’re disembarking, now. We’re going to the station. And we’re going to assess the situation ourselves. Any objections?”

The guard silently shook his head. “No, sir. But be careful. I’m pretty sure these are the terrorists we’ve been hunting.”

“Everypony off the train, now!”

Valiant pulled the nearest door open. One by one, each pony jumped out onto the platform. Fleethoof approached the door, and then looked back at Cadance, still right behind him.

“I don’t suppose you’d stay here if I asked you to, would you?” he asked rhetorically.

“Not a chance.”

He pursed his lips and scowled a little. “That’s what I was afraid of… Cadance, this isn’t up for debate this time. You have to stay here. I’m not going to risk your safety. Not this time. This isn’t your fight.”

“It’s been my fight the moment it involved me. I’m coming.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Cadance, I can’t focus on what’s going on if I’m worrying about you. Please, just stay on the train.”

Cadance remained as adamant as ever. “Why would you be worrying about me? I can handle myself.”

Fleethoof dropped his gaze. “Just please stay here.”

He slowly enunciated each syllable for emphasis, and then he disembarked the train as well, leaping down to the platform. Taking the lead, the ponies trotted towards the station hub. All down the various lines, Fleethoof could see trains stopped at a distance, halted by whatever incident had slowed them.

But his greatest concern wasn’t the trains. It was the station. Whatever was going on in there was bad—very, very bad. If The Sword was involved, and Celestia and Luna were there, it could only mean one thing. Night Shade was there. He had something planned.

All the platforms were desolate and quiet. It put Fleethoof on edge. The main station annex was connected to each individual platform, one way in and out. The element of surprise was clearly out of the question.

The ponies approached the doors to the terminal slowly. Their weapons were drawn, locked, and loaded, ready for whatever may come. The guards tensed up as they drew nearer, but they relaxed when Skyfall lowered their weapons with a salute. The flash of Fleethoof's rank insignia didn't hurt either. Fleethoof waited beside the door, Valiant taking to the other side. He glanced back at his team. Everypony looked just as anxious and ready.

“Go fast and hard,” he said lowly to them. “Pick your targets carefully, keep them sighted, wait for my go. Weapons free. If Night Shade's here, we can't let him get away again.”

He nodded to Valiant. Both pegasi tore the doors open, and Skyfall charged into the terminal.

The situation was worse than he feared.

Ponies lay huddled and crouched around the edges of the lobby, taking cover behind counters, potted plants, and whatever else they could find. The Royal Guard had taken position in front of them at the base of the stairs, making a semi circle around a group of ponies clustered in the center of the lobby, and forming a wall between them and the princesses. These ponies all aimed rifles back at the guards, and now back at them too. Fleethoof had his rifle up, already aiming at the group while trying to identify anypony.

The first pony he recognized was his all-too familiar antagonist, wearing that sickeningly welcoming grin. Night Shade stood protected at the center of his posse, his ruby eyes danced wildly, shimmering with deranged delight and excitement at the entire ordeal he had created. Something was going on behind those eyes, in his demented mind, but for the life of him, Fleethoof couldn’t even begin to guess what it was.

What Fleethoof saw next made his blood run cold. Night Shade was holding a gun on two ponies. One was a guard he didn’t recognize. The other was Shining Armor. His friend had blood running down the side of his head from a gash just below his ear. His eyes burned angrily, with the desire to act, but the stallion’s body looked groggy and unsteady.

“Ah, here they come! The final guests to our little soirée!” Night Shade said jubilantly, beaming at the ponies dressed in matching black uniforms as they joined the ranks of the guards. “But you’re missing somepony… You didn’t bring Princess Cadance?”

“I wasn’t going to put her in danger. You should know me better than that, Night Shade,” Fleethoof snapped, training his aim on the ringleader.

“Oh well, a pony can hope...” He sighed. “So did you enjoy your trip, Captain? Have a nice vacation? Did you miss me? I certainly missed you. Our game isn’t over yet, after all.”

“Yes it is. It ends right now.”

“You’re very right, Fleethoof! What a clever pony you are! Your mother would be so proud of you!” Night Shade laughed happily for some reason while ruffling Shining Armor’s mane with his own gun. “Now that everypony is present, we can begin the dawn of our new age.”

Fleethoof shivered and bit back his anger, his grip tightening on his weapon. His hoof flexed across the trigger, just waiting for an excuse. “It’s not gonna happen, Night.”

The pony looked hurt by his words, but it was only momentary. His manic smile returned. “But it will! It will! And you’ll be here to see it! All we need now is… Princess Cadance! So nice of you to join us! Do you like what I’ve done with the place?”

What? Princess Cadance? Fleethoof gasped. His head snapped around quickly, staring in shock and terror as the pink Alicorn stepped slowly into the station behind him. She had followed them. Of course she had. He really shouldn’t have felt as surprised as he was. But now she was in danger too!

Shit! Why can’t she just listen for once?! Fleethoof watched with worry as Celestia and Luna hurried over to embrace their niece.

“Let everypony go,” Cadance demanded of Night Shade. “They mean nothing to you. I know who you are. You want me, and my aunts. These ponies don’t have to suffer for us.”

Night Shade looked shocked. “Suffer? Oh, your highness, you’ve got the wrong idea! These ponies aren’t suffering! We haven’t harmed them in the least. Well, okay, maybe that isn't entirely true... But we mean no harm to our brothers and sisters! They’re here to witness the rebirth of Equestria!”

“What are you talking about?”

Oh shit… She had to ask that question.

“Today is a historic day, Miss Cadenza! Today, Equestria will be free of the shackles of tyranny, and will embrace its own destiny. Today, everypony shall be liberated, and a new day will rise in an era of freedom, abolished from controlling governments and corrupt systems. Today, Equestria enters its golden age!”

“Enough!” Cupcake shouted. “I will snap little pony in two with bare hooves!”

The sergeant took a brash step forward, and Night quickly turned the pistol on him and pulled a small metal remote out of his uniform jacket. He held it up for everypony to see. A single red button sat ominously on its surface.

“Ah ah! Stay where you are, soldier! You don’t want to start to fireworks before it’s time, do you?”

Cupcake stopped instantly, his hoof still held in the air, mid-step. Fleethoof could feel his heart wrench and drop in his chest.

“Night Shade… what is that?”

“This is they key to salvation, my brother,” he said in reply, staring at it and holding it to the light like it was a diamond. “It will send everypony here to their righteous judgment, and birth the new age across the land.”

“Okay, yeah, I get that. But what does it do?”

“Oh, the technical stuff!” Night Shade looked visibly interested again. “Well, you see, it will detonate the charges. I’m quite good with pyrotechnics, after all.”

“Charges?” Fleethoof repeated in disbelief, dread darkening his voice.

“Oh yes! The equivalent of sixteen full barrels of gunpowder, just below the foundation of this station.”

Sixteen barrels full of pure gunpowder. That blast would certainly destroy the train station, along with everypony in it. Night Shade knew what he was doing. His infiltration into the castle hadn’t just been about killing Celestia. He was getting supplies. His plan didn’t rely on precision. It relied on proximity and timing: close, not exact. And they were right on top of it.

“Night, think about what you’re doing. Look around at these ponies. Think about what you’re doing to them for revenge on Celestia,” said Fleethoof, trying to reason with his enemy. “You’re going to hurt a lot of the ponies you’re trying to help. You want to free them, not kill them. This isn’t the way.”

“Progress demands sacrifice, Fleethoof. You should know. How many lives were claimed in the war, all for progress of war alone? Some ponies must die so all may be free.”

“Stop him! He’s going to kill us all!” the guard held hostage beside Shining Armor shouted out. “Stop him!”

No! No,” snapped the deranged pony, pointing the gun at the lieutenant now. “I’m going to save you! I’m going to save you all! Don’t you try to stop me!”

“Night Shade, this isn’t a game anymore. Ponies will die!”

Fleethoof’s shouts fell on deaf ears. Night Shade just continued to stare at the guard before him, eyes glassy and distant, like he was lost in a far off memory.

“Night Shade!”

The unicorn looked up at Fleethoof again. “I’m sorry, Fleethoof. We were so alike, you and I. I had hoped that we could have been friends in this new world. But it looks like we’ll both be judged together… I can put in a good word for you.”

“No! Night Shade, just wait a moment,” he pleaded, trying to stall the madpony from detonating the bombs. "You like talking. Let's just talk. You and me, okay?"

Night Shade contemplated Fleethoof's suggestion for a few moments, then smiled widely. "All right, Fleethoof. I have missed talking with you, after all. Did you have a nice time with the princess?"

"It was wonderful. I got to play dress up," Fleethoof remarked sarcastically. "And we ran into your friends. You're probably not surprised, seeing as we're still standing here now."

"Oh, I planned on them dying. They were nopony important to me anyway. Like I said before, they play their part. It all culminates to this moment." The ponies of The Sword glanced back briefly at their leader. "Oh, don't look so surprised. We're mutual business partners, nothing more. I gave you what you all wanted, and now I get my just rewards."

"Wait, you planned on your own ponies getting killed? You sent them to their deaths?" Fleethoof's tone of voice emphasized his surprise.

Night's smile widened and he nodded vigorously. "Oh yes! I had to let you think you'd won, so you'd come back home, right to this spot. I planned everything, down to everypony being right where they are. And it worked. It worked beautifully! The moment is finally here... This, riiiight here... This is it..."

Fleethoof shifted his weight as he adjusted his grip on his gun. He could feel the conversation—and hope—slipping further and further away.

“It's finally done…” That grin formed across his face again, eyes widening excitedly. “This is your redemption day, everypony!”

An insane, coarse laugh left the pony, echoing around the lobby. It sent chills down Fleethoof’s spine. He couldn’t get a clear enough shot on Night Shade to be confident he’d kill him without risking the bombs going off. They were all at the mercy of this madpony.

Bang! Bang!

Bang!

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Gunfire echoed through the damp, dark tunnels beneath Canterlot Station. The Royal Guard had finally closed in on The Double-Edged Sword’s hideout. They were cornered, but the fight they were putting up had the guards bottlenecked in the tunnels. They could not advance without being gunned down.

At the mouth of the tunnel, a couple of guards pressed themselves against the walls. They leaned out, firing off shots at the terrorists whenever they could. But between dodging bullets and trying to move up, they were hopelessly deadlocked.

“Shit! We can’t get any further up!”

“Return fire! Keep them suppressed back there!”

“I see one! I see—”

The soldier was cut off as a round replaced her eyeball. The body collapsed limply to the ground, and the rest of the soldiers backed off a bit.

“Dammit! We’re stuck!”

“Step aside,” came a voice from the rear, Captain Stratagem pushing her way up to the front. “Somepony give me a sitrep.”

“We’ve got The Sword cornered, but we can’t get in without getting killed,” a solider said, reloading his rifle.

“Is there another way in?” Stratagem asked.

“Not that we’ve found,” a filly replied. “I don’t think there is one.”

“Bull. We’ve had this section of the tunnels locked down for days. If there isn’t another way out, how did they get to the surface to seize the train station?”

Nopony answered the officer. Nopony could. If the enemy had snuck by their defenses, it meant there had to be another way around.

Stratagem nodded sharply, then grabbed a rifle from a dead soldier. “You four, follow me. The rest of you stay here and lay down suppressive fire on them until told otherwise. Hooah?”

“Hooah!” the soldiers chanted, gathering their weapons up.

The ponies Stratagem had designated followed her back out through the tunnels. Working her way back out, she led the group around the network of sewers. The sounds of the firefight disappeared, and were soon lost to the flowing water around them. Now that they knew the general location of The Sword, they began to canvas the surrounding area, looking for anything resembling an entrance.

“Captain! Over there!” A guard pointed to a small hole in the brick walls of the sewer, barely large enough for a pony to slip through.

“I’ll take point,” Stratagem said, making sure a bullet was chambered before squeezing her body through the hole.

It was a tight fit, and shuffling her way to the other side was a slow-going process. Eventually, she popped out on the other side. Lanterns lit the cave-like passage to Celestia-knows-where. Behind her, the four others emerged.

“Wow… You were right, Captain. It looks like another tunnel.”

“Shhh,” she whispered, straining her ears against the silence.

Further down through the passage, faint pops of gunshots could be heard.

“It’s definitely this way! Double time, everypony! Ponies are dying!”

The small group ran through relative darkness in the musty tunnel, navigating mostly by sound and touch. With each step they took, the sounds of combat grew louder and louder. Bright orange light could be seen up ahead.

“That’s the same light we saw in the cave,” a guard said.

“Stay quiet now,” the captain ordered, keeping her body low to the ground. “Wait for my mark.”

Their movements slowing to a near crawl, the group pressed on until they emerged in the back of The Sword’s cave. Gunfire echoed around the large expanse, and the smell of gunpowder choked the air. Stratagem climbed up a rock, getting a better view. Only a few ponies remained in the cave. The rest must have abandoned it to attack Canterlot. But the few that were left had dug in deep, taking cover behind solid rock where the soldiers couldn’t see them from the sewer.

But Stratagem could see them.

Bang!

The familiar feeling of satisfaction filled her chest as she chambered a fresh round and watched a pony drop dead. The Sword turned in shock, facing her.

Bang!

Another pony fell. The rest took aim at her.

A series of gunshots rang out to her side. The three guards opened fire, killing half of the remaining ponies. Stratagem dove down just as bullets struck the rocks around her. Calls came from the sewers as the Guard began to press forward, rushing into the cave. Outnumbered five to one, The Sword was cut down in a matter of seconds.

Stratagem looked up from her position on the ground, a strong, distinct smell filling her nose. She had landed next to a barrel set in the cave wall. It reeked of gunpowder. Her eyes widened as grim realization gripped her mind.

“Captain, they’ve got barrels all over this place.”

Oh hell no…

“Night!” Fleethoof yelled, gritting his teeth in anger. “Put the remote down NOW!”

“No! Get away from me!” Night shouted back, swinging the gun around at every soldier he could see. “Go away!”

The pony appeared to be having some sort of psychotic episode. His psychosis was getting worse. Fleethoof was quickly fearing what might happen if he didn’t take control of the situation soon.

“What do you want, Night? What?!”

He looked up again, glancing back and forth from Captain Fleethoof to the remote in his hoof.

“What I want?” he asked, chuckling weakly. “It’s not about what I want. It’s about what I’m going to do. And you see this button here? I’m gonna press it!”

“Stop!” The cry from Celestia was unexpected by everypony, especially the demented terrorist. “Night Shade, look at me. Talk to me.”

The two ponies locked gazes. The tension in the room became as palpable as the day they had spoken in the prison. Fleethoof flexed his hoof against the trigger again, waiting and anticipating.

"'I have nothing more to say to you, Celestia. Actions speak louder than words."

Celestia was not assuaged. "Spare a few with me."

"There's nothing you could say to ever justify yourself! A tyrant will always find a pretext for their tyranny."

“Night Shade, do you really want to do this? To harm so many innocent lives, just to get to me? You aren’t that kind of pony.”

For a moment, Night Shade just stared blankly back at the princess. He glanced down at the floor for a while. The room was completely silent. Everypony waited. And then he lifted his gun to his imprisoned lieutenant’s head and pulled the trigger. A single gunshot rang out, the explosion reverberating around as the pony fell to the floor with a splattering of blood. Celestia gasped and shrunk backwards. Everypony holding a weapon tensed up. Night turned his gaze to Celestia, eyes dark and smoldering as he peered up through his lashes at the princess.

“You don’t know what kind of pony I am anymore, Celestia…”

Shining Armor looked down in horror at the dead body of his loyal officer. Blood had pooled around his skull. He wanted so badly to just take Night Shade down now, but there were too many lives at stake, and he was still holding all the cards.

Fleethoof stepped up to the plate again. “I know what kind of pony you are, Night.”

Night Shade looked at Fleethoof once more.

“You always say we’re the same. Well, let’s see just how similar we are. What are you going to do now?”

Something in Night Shade’s eyes had broken. The pony wasn’t smiling anymore. His humor had gone. All that remained was the deadly, predatory look in his eyes. But some light still lingered as he looked at the pegasus opposite of him.

“You can’t stop me, Fleethoof. You five ponies won’t be enough to stop it now. Please, leave, before I hurt you. Nothing can stop this retribution. It’s time for Equestria to open its eyes to a bright new dawn, the sins of the land washed away, baptized in fire.”

Fleethoof furrowed his brow. Five ponies? He glanced to his sides, counting the ponies in black uniforms. One, two, three, four… plus himself made five. Somepony was missing. He hadn’t even noticed until now. Who had slipped away?

“Celestia,” Night called out, catching Fleethoof’s attention suddenly. “May the Great Alicorn have mercy on your soul.”

“Night Shade, is there nothing I can do to earn your forgiveness?” Celestia said, begging and desperate to spare the lives of the ponies cowering in the station. Foals were crying, mares whispering silent prayers. “I vow, if there is anything I can do, I shall do it. Anything. Just tell me, and I’ll do it.”

Again, another long pause came from Night Shade. He glanced down at the floor, studying his hooves, and then turned his eyes skyward, up to the glass roof of the train station. Bright sunlight poured in through the large panes of glass. The clear blue sky canvased the heavens, fluffy clouds lazily floating by. It was a beautiful day.

Just like the day after the storm…

Night Shade kicked the rustic wooden door open, the force causing it to rattle on its hinges. The freshly fallen snow crunched beneath his hooves. The cold air bit at his skin. Tears froze to his cheeks as he trudged through the thick blanket of white towards the town’s train station, lugging his supplies on his back. In his hoof, he grasped tightly to the pair of shiny metal dog tags. His friends… they were dead. They were all dead. He had to get back to Canterlot. He had to talk to Princess Celestia. When she knew what had happened, she’d have to send a team to find his friends.

She’d have to help… She wouldn’t turn her back on her own ponies…

She wouldn't betray them...

Fleethoof saw a tear shimmer in the corner of Night’s eye. The pony dropped his hoof holding the remote, pressing against the breast pocket of his uniform, feeling for something that was there. Was Celestia breaking through to him? His heart pounded like a thousand hooves in his chest, and his breathing was quick, shallow, and focused. Night Shade looked as if he was seriously considering the proposal. And then the pony blinked, and the single tear, along with any trace of humanity, was gone. He looked back down at Celestia. He had his answer.

“Liar.”

Night Shade scowled and lifted the remote, glancing for a brief second at the red button. His hoof covered the control.

The sound of a distant crack and glass breaking suddenly filled the lobby. Night Shade’s head jerked backwards, as if he had just been punched in the face. Blood sprayed from behind his skull, and his body recoiled backwards slightly before collapsing to the tile floor on his back.

Shining Armor snatched his pistol and from the ground fired the first shot into a pony’s back. Fleethoof reacted next, opening fire with his friend. His rifle’s barrel flared with each shot, dropping one enemy, and then a second with a quick burst. Skyfall Team fired once their leader had, and the Guard joined in Shining Armor’s retaliation. The Sword tried to shoot back as quickly as they could, taken completely off guard.

A bullet whizzed right by Fleethoof’s ear, making him cringe momentarily as he fought on. The fight was tense, and dangerous. The Guard had to take careful aim. One stray round could end up costing a civilian their life. They had to make sure there would be no innocent casualties.

The train station was filled with combat and the cries of terrified ponies for about thirty seconds, and then there was silence.

The ponies of The Sword lay on the ground, blood covering their coats. Shining Armor slowly got up from a prone position on the floor, breathing heavily as he looked at the bodies around him. Fleethoof quickly stepped up to his friend, checking the bodies as he stepped over them. Most of them had multiple wounds, and were very clearly dead.

Both he and Shining Armor walked over to examine Night Shade. A single bullet wound ran straight through his head, right between his eyes. His characteristic grin lay frozen on his face, ruby eyes dimmed and lifeless as they stared up at the blue sky overhead. His twisted expression would remain eternally on his visage. But for once, Night Shade looked at peace.

Fleethoof put another round in the unicorn’s chest, not taking any chances. Shining Armor picked up the remote detonator, breaking it open and pulling the circuitry out of it with his magic. The threat had been neutralized. Both ponies let out a deep, relieved sigh.

“Clear.” Fleethoof signaled to the others with pride, looking off the way Night Shade had been before.

A single pane of glass from a window behind Celestia was cracked. A lone bullet hole bore through it. He looked back at Skyfall as they examined each body, confirming the kills. He knew who was missing. Looking back out the window, he smirked and nodded approvingly.

Night Shade was staring at Fleethoof. He was talking, saying something the pony couldn’t hear, but he could see his lips moving. He did not look happy in the least. Fleethoof was saying something back, probably trying to assuage the terrorist. There was no reasoning with him…

Suddenly, Celestia stepped forward, closer towards Night. She must have been talking. He couldn’t see her mouth to confirm or deny, but she had the pony's attention, and he wasn’t saying anything.

Night Shade’s expression shifted. It was unrecognizable, something not seen on the deranged pony before. It was odd, but perhaps it meant there was hope for a change of heart. Yeah, as if… The unicorn looked up towards the sky, like he was looking for some divine intervention. He stayed like that for a little while.

Fleethoof looked so on edge. Well, everypony did, but especially the captain. He had been since Princess Cadance had walked into the station. Of course she wasn’t going to stay on the train. He had called that. Everypony was waiting on Night Shade, but the pony just continued to stare up at the sky. Or was he staring at the ceiling? He was certainly odd enough to just be staring at the roof.

And then Night looked back down, staring straight back at Princess Celestia. His expression had twisted, turning dark and sinister. He muttered something, just one word. And then he scowled. Oh no…

Night Shade lifted up the remote again, moving his hoof over it. There was no more time. No second guesses.

Just one shot.

His hoof squeezed the trigger. His rifle kicked slightly on its bipod as the round flew through the air, breaking through the glass with no problem. Night Shade's head was knocked backwards, and a fine red mist painted the air just behind his mane. The body collapsed limply to the floor. Target neutralized.

Gunfire tore through the tense silence in the terminal. Ponies screamed. The Sword dropped like flies, all still clustered in a group. Try as they might, they had already lost, even as they fired wildly in every direction. They just died where they stood.

Shining Armor got back to his hooves. Fleethoof approached him, and they both stood over the body of Night Shade. A burst of muzzle flash appeared between them. Fleethoof must have double-tapped the body, confirming the kill. The rest of Skyfall Team came forward, checking all the corpses. The princesses embraced. Celestia was in tears. Ponies all around the station began to stand up, hugging and helping one another.

Fleethoof glanced at the window, and then his blue eyes looked up at him. His head turned, back towards the team, and then out the window at him again. He smirked and nodded.

Sharp Shot chuckled and snapped the caps back down over his scope. The pony sat up atop the train car he was laying on, letting out a deep breath. The fight was over. They had won.

Author's Note:

Inspiration behind this chapter, and Night Shade's plan: http://youtu.be/MN1zfU2yN6w

A familiar location, used as the model for Canterlot Station (with the exception of an all glass roof): http://tinyurl.com/ar2fsg9