• Published 13th Jan 2012
  • 34,541 Views, 2,187 Comments

Machine And Might - Kriegor



A massive contraption obscures the Equestrian sky. "USS Vector" is engraved on its sides.

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Intermission: The Hunt

Intermission: The Hunt

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A soft breeze meandered through the fringe of the Everfree Forest. Creatures, both large and small, could be seen scurrying amongst the shadows provided by the trees that blotted out the afternoon’s sunlight, preventing it from reaching the depths of the forest. The area, often avoided by ponies, looked as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened; unless one were to notice the large crater left by the object that had fallen from the sky the night before.

A cordon had been set up, preventing access to both the forest and the crash site. Guards stood in groups of three at fifty meter intervals along the metallic fences that had been erected during the night, only a single gate provided to access the site. Corporal Shielded Spirit stood next to the gate, adorned with a golden set of armor. Alongside him was a dual-bladed sword, inset with a ruby, which was bonded with him through an enchantment which allowed for him to wield the sword effortlessly. He stood militantly, silently watching as a lavender unicorn mare and some other worried ponies argued with the guards stationed at the gates. She had been there for more than ten minutes, desperately trying to get through to the other side. Shielded and a few other guards rolled their eyes at every argument she gave, as they were already bored with the whole situation.

“But this could have a significant scientific value! Think about it!” the mare exclaimed, magically opening the saddlebags set on her back and retrieving a parchment from it, then shoving it at the face of one of the guards. “Rarely does a meteor ever reach the ground, and, as Princess Celestia’s student, I demand to be given access!”

The guard frowned and smacked the piece of paper off of his face with one of his armored forehooves. “Lady, this area is locked down by the request of Princess Luna, not Celestia. She strictly ordered us to deny passage to anypony, unless they have permission from Luna herself. I do not care if you are Celestia’s student, so you will stand at at least ten meters from this fence, is that clear?” He stepped towards the mare, an angry expression spread across his face.

After snorting, the mare glared at the guard. “Fine!” She turned around and stomped her way back to the nearby town, followed by the rest of the preoccupied ponies. “But I will tell Celestia about this!”

Once the mare was away from hearing distance, the guard scoffed, looking at Shielded Spirit and the rest of the armored ponies. “ ‘I demand access!’, yeah right... Like we don’t have bigger things to worry about.” Shielded and the other ponies nodded in agreement.

“Alright!” another voice said, this one gruff and loud. Corporal Spirit and the other guards turned to see Captain Burning Arrow trotting up to them, his purple armor shining as it reflected the light of the sun. All of the guards immediately saluted, bringing their hooves down once the Captain returned the gesture.

Shielded Spirit carefully sheathed his dual blade in the sheath on his armor, then turned back to the Captain and adopted the typical stance of a Royal Guard. He was currently fighting his need to close his eyes for a few minutes, having guarded the meteor since it had crashed last night. What he really desired was to return to his home and get a few good hours of sleep. The Captain looked around, as if searching for something. Corporal Spirit raised an eyebrow as he quietly waited for the gruff pony to speak.

“As you all know,” the Captain continued, lowering the volume of his voice. “A meteor crashed down last night. Now, this is a strictly need-to-know basis.” He looked around again, then continued, “It appears that it was not a meteor, but rather some type of vehicle. We suspect that whatever it was that came with it is somewhere inside the Everfree forest, so our orders are to split into teams and comb through it. Be prepared, as we do not know if it is friendly or hostile.”

“Yes sir!” the lower-ranking ponies exclaimed.

“Good.” He pointed at the forest with his left hoof. “We’ve already sent two teams in, and you are the third.” He nodded at Shielded Spirit and the two ponies standing by his side: Private Breaking Kick, an earth pony, and Sergeant Sharpy Senses, a unicorn who wielded the same type of blade as Shielded.

“Sergeant Senses,” the Captain said, “you will lead this team. Twenty minutes tops, then you will rendezvous back here with the others. The other two teams have started combing the south and north ends of the forest, so you will take the middle. Be careful out there.”

“I will take good care of them, sir.” Sergeant Senses brought a hoof to his forehead, saluting.

“I would expect nothing less from you, Sergeant.” The Captain returned the salute. “Now go, the clock is ticking.”

“On me,” the Sergeant said, breaking rank and beginning to trot towards the forest, with the other two guards following suit.

As the trio ventured into the dense forest, Shielded Spirit could not help but gulp at the prospect of having to find a completely unknown creature, and the fact that it was somewhere in the Everfree did not help his anxiety. He knew that the forest was said to contain some of the most dangerous creatures in all of Equestria, such as manticores and hydras, a thought that made him feel uneasy.

Deeper into the forest, the scenery began to change. No longer did the chirping of birds reach the Corporal’s ears, instead replaced by distant howls and roars. He could see creatures scuttling amongst the bushes and trees, their eyes warily watching as he and the other two guards walked through the gloomy forest.

Something in a nearby bush moved, causing the guards to spin around, the two unicorns retrieving their blades from their holsters and readying them in front of themselves with their magic, while Private Kick prepared himself to deliver a swift buck to whatever was hiding inside the vegetation. They stood there for a few seconds, waiting for the creature in question to make the next move.

A rabbit jumped out of the bush, sniffed the air and looked at the ponies before hopping away. Shielded Spirit sighed in relief and lowered the blade, then chuckled to himself. Scared of a rabbit? he thought. Although... what if it hadn't been a rabbit?

He was snapped back to the real world by Sergeant Senses, who motioned for the Corporal and the Private to follow him.

“Did you find something, Sarge?” the Private asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You could say so...” the stallion responded. “There is an odd scent around here... one of death.”

Shielded stopped in his tracks for a moment before continuing after the Sergeant, levitating his blade close to himself. He took a few precautionary sniffs, but the only thing that he could make out was the normal smell of the forest.

Naught but a moment later, a rotten stench crawled into the Corporal’s nostrils. He grimaced and huffed, trying to breathe through his mouth instead in order to avoid the foul odor.

“And here we are....” The Sergeant pushed a few bushes aside. Corporal Spirit’s eyes widened as he found himself looking at the corpse of a large manticore. It was disgusting. Half of it had been shredded, torn to pieces by something. The other half looked as if it had been dipped in acid; much of the muscle, fur and tissue had melted off the bones and pooled on the ground, producing a horrid stench. It’s face was contorted in pure agony, and upon taking a second look, he saw that the wounds on the more intact side of the body seemed to be self-inflicted.

“What in Luna’s name did this?” he asked, covering his muzzle with one of his hooves.

“We’re going to have to find out.” The Sergeant pointed at a trail left by whatever had attacked the manticore. The grass was matted down with dark crimson blood, and a gouge in the earth divided the length of the trail as though something had dragged itself away from the gruesomely slain animal.

After shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Shielded Spirit looked back at the stallion leading the team and nodded, keeping a tight grip on the gem of his blade. “I’m ready.” The private, repressing a gag, nodded his own confirmation.

Sergeant Senses nodded to confirm their responses. “Let’s keep moving, then.”

The three ponies began following the trail, the Sergeant leading the way. Shielded was happy that he was no longer within range of the rotten smell, but that didn’t change the fact that he was worried about what they were tracking. Never before had he imagined that such a way to die could be possible, let alone seeing the aftermath firsthoof. The simple thought of a pony, such as himself, suffering the same fate as the manticore made him shudder.

The path eventually led them into a cave. Nothing could be seen from outside the entrance; the trees all around them blocked the light from the sun, and no light shone from within the cave.

Gritting his teeth, Shielded Spirit followed the Sergeant into the darkness of the cave, along with Private Kick. The gruff stallion lit his horn as they made their way inside, while the Corporal kept a firm grip on his blade.

And then the trail suddenly came to an end. The three confused ponies looked at each other, unsure what to do. Shielded felt his heart start to beat faster, and his grip on the blade tightened even more.

A distorted, maniacal laugh sounded from behind them. They turned around, and saw the outline of a massive creature with glowing, red eyes standing between them and the exit.

The Sergeant drew his sword and took a deep breath as he stepped closer to the monster. “It’s been an honour...”

***
Special Thanks To:
SilentRunning
Salacar
NATOstrike
Meeester
HumanMK2
MenelausRedz
Pissfer

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