• Published 2nd Jan 2013
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Slipping Through A Sideways Door - hornethead



A man accidently follows his friend, who was believed to be dead, to a strange and colorful land mired in conflict.

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Beginning Of A Plan

Chapter 27: Beginning Of A Plan

A group of Lotkin hustled down an alley, weapons cradled in their arms. They were chasing their prey. The leader of the pack ordered a halt in their harsh garbled tongue and for a few minutes they searched about, checking door ways and up turning boxes. When they didn't find what they were hunting, they moved on.

Above, sequestered in the shadows on a fire escape, a pair of glowing yellow eyes watched them go. When they retreated to the street and rounded the corner, the yellow eyes changed to brown and ice blue as Swift Paws silently removed herself from her hiding spot and shimmied down a drainage pipe to the ground. A quick sniff of the air assured her that there were no more hostiles snooping around.

Rags tied around her feet helped muffle her claws as she slunk down the alley, ducking through a now abandoned building to get to the next one. As she passed through, she saw random knick knacks, children's toys, even whole meals left untouched by the civilians that had managed to get out. The smell of some of the fresher food tempted her, but she had a job to complete and it wouldn't do to sit tight and enjoy a repast, making it easier for those hunting her.

Carefully avoiding other patrols, edging past road blocks and generally sneaking around, Swift Paws soon came to a rather dilapidated, sad looking house. All its windows were boarded up and it had a bright red CONDEMNED sticker slapped across the door diagonally. She went around to the back and carefully tapped on the door; three knocks, then four, two and then three more.

The door cracked open just a centimeter and she slowly pushed her way inside. The barrel of a gun was there to greet her, but Mayfield quickly lowered it. "Sorry love, can never be too sure."

Swift Paws gently closed the door behind her, "I understand, and you would be a poor hunter to let yourself be taken by such a deception."

"Any news?"

"Patrols are still heavy. Their main forces still control much of the city's outskirts."

"So the harbor's still the most viable for extract. Iron!" Iron poked his head around the corner from where he was sitting in the kitchen. "Any word from Jackson?"

"He called in ten minutes ago. Said he was still about seven blocks away, but there's still a ton of baddies between them and us."

"What about Howitzer, he still in the area?"

"I had a short conversation with him, but it was cut off. Most I got is that was still with the griffons, he might have made it out."

"At least word'll get around then, if this is the only city in trouble. If not, we're screwed."

"He shouldn't have left, he should have stayed and fought. There are civilians still here." Iron said stubbornly.

Mayfield moved to the dirty kitchen and pulled a oat bar from his pack for a snack, "That's all noble and good mate, but not very bright. We need shift ourselves out of here and consolidate our forces. That way we stand a good chance of pushing the buggers back out. Besides, i don't think they're here just to kill. Well, they're here to kill us, that's painfully obvious, but for the most part they've the innocents alone aside from the occasional cuff about the head. It's an occupation, not a slaughter."

"Still. . ." Iron said under his breath with a pained expression.

Mayfield took a few bites then gave the rest of the bar to Iron, "No worries, mate. I'm sure your lovely little sister is still safe as houses." He went and pulled another bar out of his pack and offered it to Swift.

She turned it down, "I can not."

"C'mon, we'll need our strength."

"I can't have... chocolate."

Mayfield looked at the wrapper, this one contained chocolate chips. "Oh right. Sorry, sometimes I forget you're still a dog, what with the two legs and all." He shoved it back in his pack.

"Should we not be conserving our supplies?"

"We can scrounge, it's a city. Besides, Jackson's getting close and we'll need to help him if trouble knocks. So eat up, we'll need energy."

She nodded and went to her own pack which had rations more suited for her. As she did though, there was a knock at the back door. Three, then four, two and lastly three. They all froze. Mayfield pulled out his pistol, "Speaking of trouble knocking, how far away you say Jackson was?"

"About seven blocks." Iron replied in a hushed tone.

"Right. Swift, ready your pistol, watch my back." Swift Paws pulled her own weapon from its holster, a nice .40 P229 and set herself up on a good angle with the door. Iron pulled out a knife and stood ready, but watched the passage the led to the front of the house, just in case.

Pistol raised to eye level, Mayfield moved up to the door in a crouch. He looked over to Swift, she gave a slight nod. With practiced smoothness, he reached out with his free hand and slowly opened the door, leading with his pistol. Then he suddenly scowled. Violently, he reached through the portal and grabbed what ever was out there. He pulled in a slightly shocked looking stallion by the vest he wore—accidentally knocking a nice looking Stetson to the floor as he did so— kicked the door shut, and shoved the pony up against the wall, jamming the barrel of his gun up against the stallion's forehead. "What in the bloody fuck are you doin' here, you dodgy little shit?"

The stallion raised his hooves, as if in defense, "Whoa, hold on there now." He said in a southern twang. "I ain't lookin' fer trouble now, just tryin' to find some safety."

"Bullshit!" Mayfield spat in his face, "You were at the party, then snoopin' around my mate's house, now you're here, what's your angle, huh?"

"I though that was your hous—"

Mayfield didn't let him finish. He tore the guy off the wall and shoved him to the floor at Swift's feet, pistol still trained on his head. Iron had come over now and was watching with interest. "No fucking games!" Mayfield said angrily. "You have something to do with this? You helping those bastards out there? C'mon bucko, you're gonna have to give me an answer or it's night-night time." He cocked back the hammer on his pistol for emphasis.

The stallion snatched the Stetson from where it fell and brushed it off before placing it back on his head. "Ok, ok, no need to get ornery now, I'll come clean."

"Too right!"

"I'm one of you guys. Well, not really one of you guys, but I'm on the same side. A little off topic, would you mind lowerin' the gun, it's a tad bit distractin'."

"No dice, keep talking."

"K then..." The stallion sighed. "I work closely with one of your more shadowy friends, goes by the name of Howitzer, you heard of 'im?" When Mayfield didn't answer the stallion continued, "I get things for him. Goods, information. . . Well, mostly goods and information. I'm the one that dropped the hint about the caravans for you folks."

"Didn't do us much help, now did it?"

"I'll admit, that piece of Intel was mighty hard for me to get. Somepony seriously wanted this kept under wraps."

Mayfield looked to his teammates for an opinion. Iron shrugged. Swift still had her pistol out, but she lowered it. "Guess we'll have to on the merit that we've still not been found out." He finally said and lowered his own weapon. But he still wasn't too trusting, "Swift, if he tries any monkey business, slot him." Mayfield then picked up their guest and shoved him into the kitchen where he made him sit in one of the chairs. "Name. Now."

"Most folks call me Blackjack. You can do the same if'n it pleases you."

"Ok Blackjack," Mayfield said it like it was an insult, "why exactly are you hear? You must've been watching a while, knowing the knock."

"And listening." He pulled one side of his vest open, revealing a small radio nestled snuggly in an inside pocket. "Thought I might offer a solution to your problems."

"Yeah, at what price?" Mayfield said suspiciously.

"Oh, no price." Blackjack smirked. "Y'see, I'm what most folks call a 'smuggler', a quite unsavory term, really. Now, this occupation business is a great opportunity to ply my craft."

"A hard thing to do with no way in or out of the city." Swift Paws commented. "I see nothing in this, what trickery are you trying to pull?"

"I get it." It was Iron. Swift and Mayfield turned to him, he didn't really speak much. "He's been listening in on our comms. He knows we want to get to the harbor. My bet's that he's got a boat and he'll give us a ride out in exchange for our protection. There's the catch."

"Now there's a smart one!" Blackjack chuckled. "Pretty much on the nose. You get me to my boat, I'll give ya a little ride, how's that sound?"

"Sounds like our only option so far." Mayfield said. He looked up at Iron, "Radio Jackson and the boys from White Raven. Tell 'em we might have a way out."

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Rainbow Dash scratched at her shoulder again, until she did it too much and elicited a sharp pain from the wound under the bandage. She'd never been shot before, it wasn't an experience she ever wanted to repeat. At least it was more or less just a graze. She'd gotten it when she'd squared off for a fight to help Garth, but got six crazy freaks with happy trigger fingers instead. Fluttershy said she was lucky. Fluttershy. She wasn't doing much better. She put up a tough front, something she'd never done before. She wasn't hurt, at least not physically.

When it all went down, Twilight had summoned up her magic and blasted them back out the door, but it didn't do much other than slow them down and make them mad. Still, it gave them time to drag Garth out the back and make their escape. Using a litter Fluttershy made with AJ, they'd all dragged Garth all the way to Myst's place to get help, but Ponyville already had it's own problems.

They all went running into the town in a frenzy, Rarity to fetch her sister, Applejack to her farm, Twilight went to go get Spike and save some of her books. Fluttershy stayed with Garth, she said her home was far enough away that she didn't have to worry too much, Angel would know what to do. They'd all gotten out just in time, before the town was overrun.

Fortunately, the guards reacted quickly and got most of their friends and neighbors out. Most of them. When they got to Myst's she was already spinning up her airship, little Flicker was sitting in the copilot's seat, asking mom what was wrong. She'd taken them aboard and now they were on their way to Canterlot where they hoped was safe. They needed to get the Elements. Then they might be able to do something.

They had to get there first. At the moment, they were still in the airship, flying into Canterlot. Rarity and Applejack were huddled in the corner with their family, trying to calm each other. Twilight was arguing with Spike over priorities. Pinkie just sat in a corner, all the fluff seemed to have fled her usually puffy mane. She didn't even know if James was ok. They hadn't bumped into him in the forest, she worried that he might be hurt somewhere, alone. Then there was Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash was most concerned about her.

Garth was laid out on the deck by the engine compartment, unconscious and breathing abnormally. He'd really taken a beating. Fluttershy was laboring over his many and varied wounds, muttering something under her breath over and over again. Dash couldn't hear exactly what, but she was seriously distraught.

Dash tried to think of what to do. These were her friends, she couldn't let them fall apart now. Something nudged her side and she looked down. It was Scootaloo, she had fallen asleep. The poor little filly, Rainbow Dash had seen her running around in all the confusion. It didn't take much thought, she just swooped down and picked her up.

Still at a loss for what to do, Dash carefully laid Scootaloo's head down so she wouldn't wake and stood up, walking over to the cockpit. Flicker had moved to the back, finding comfort with foals closer to his own age so Dash took the empty seat next to Aria. "'Sup." The unicorn said as she sat down. The gray maned pilot had her helmet on, listening intently to any comms that came through.

"Hey, I was just wondering how close we were."

"To Canterlot? Should just be another moment and it'll be in sight."

"Cool." Dash looked at the instrument panel. "So, how exactly do you fly this thing? I don't think I could handle all these knobs and dials." She wasn't really all that interested, she could fly just fine with her wings, but she wanted to do something to take her mind off what had just happened.

"It's actually a lot less complicated than it looks." Myst tapped a helmet hanging on the seat Dash was sitting in. "Here, put this on." She did. The next thing she knew, Myst's voice was coming in a lot clearer, there were speakers in the helmet. She guessed the little boom thing was the mic. "I listen to comms traffic through the helmet, it's good to know where everypony is, as I'm sure you know. The rest is just maintaining altitude and monitoring the gauges for any signs of engine trouble. For the more fancy stuff though, I tend to rely on sight and feel more."

"You ever crash before?"

"Oh yeah, a couple times. But that was when this baby was still in testing." A burst of static suddenly made them flinch. "Here we go, that'll be Canterlot hailing us now."

A familiar voice spoke through the headsets, "Clipper Class airship inbound, identify yourself immediately."

"This is The Clipper, the original and I'm Aria Myst. Requesting permission to land, we have refugees and wounded on board, repeat, we have wounded aboard, where can I set down?"

The radio was silent for a moment. "Aria Myst you are ordered to turn back now, the area isn't safe. Pegasi are being sent up to guide you into a secure location."

Myst was confused and a little angry, "Who is this? Please identify."

"Aria, it's me, Flash."

"Flash? Flash, what's going on down there?"

"Aria, it's bad, we're fighting for our lives down here. The palace is locked down, somepony let in an army up through the crystal caverns and they raided it. Captain Armor has them isolated to the palace grounds right now, but I don't know how long that'll last. There's another battalion of Renegade Lotkin and ponies at the entrance to the city, we're fighting on two fronts."

"Flash, where's Lectric, I want to speak to Lectric!" Aria demanded, her voice almost shaking.

"Aria... he was in the palace when it was attacked. I don't even know if the Princesses are ok right now. I'm sorry."

Myst almost looked as if she was about to break out into hysterics, but she didn't. No, she held it together, she was a Night Mare, the first. "All right. Flash, tell me where you need me to go. I'll drop off my current load and the help where I can, anything you need."

"There's a camp in the foothills of Unicorn Range, that's where most of the airships we could save are, along with some refugees. Follow the pegasi, they'll guide you in."

"Roger that." Myst said with just the slightest tremble.

Sure enough, two pegasi that looked like they were from the Royal Guard pulled up on either side where they could see them and signaled for them to follow. They peeled off and Myst banked the aircraft away from Canterlot to the new landing spot they would take her to. Beside her, Dash felt a new weight fall down on her, she couldn't believe what she'd just over heard.

Canterlot was under attack, the Princesses were missing and her home had been overrun by a vicious amalgamation of Lotkin and ponies. She didn't know where to go from there. She knew how to do only three things well; they were flying, wrangling the weather and fighting. She thought on the last one, fighting. Yeah, she could do that, maybe they all could. Either way, she wasn't gonna just lay down and let the bastards take everything.

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With a bit of effort and a wet squelch, James pulled his knife from the neck of his latest kill, a stallion that had been foolish enough to charge him with just a pair of short swords. It was almost child's play to him, all he had to do was duck under his guard and it was game over in just one quick strike. He wiped the blood off on the pony's coat before sheathing his knife, no one could say he didn't take care of his equipment.

James stood up and looked around at the rest of the bodies that littered the grass, oh yes there were more. It was just as well, they shouldn't have come here, it was hallowed ground. James had arrived at Myst's little villa and had found the group, comprised of a mix of about twenty ponies and Lotkin, attempting to loot the place. He wasn't going to stand for that.

He picked almost all of them off before they realized where the fire was coming from. The stragglers finally pinpointed him and made a brave, but stupid charge for his position. He dropped four before they even got close. His heart rate didn't even elevate. The last one, well, the last one was still leaking his life's blood into the ground. James looked at the poor thing, still struggling to move, and knew what he should have felt, but it just wasn't there.

He was broken and he knew it, he knew it and he didn't care, not a feeling any one way. It was dangerous, he knew, but of course, he didn't care. They had made the mistake, that one fatal mistake: they could fuck with him all they wanted and that would be that, but they didn't. They attacked his friends, they attacked the one he loved. That could not be ignored, nor could it ever be forgiven.

As James walked among the bodies, making sure they were dead—a few of them weren't and needed that one extra little push—his eyes were drawn to the Lotkin in particular. Most of the one there were of the normal stock; big, robust, butt ugly, but a few were... different. They were smaller, more agile. Their faces smoother and thinner, eyes burning with heightened intelligence. Until he snuffed it out.

His grim task complete, James searched the small compound. No one was there, they would have been hauled out as hostages or worse. With a little detective work, he found the furrows gouged into the ground by the litter. It led right up to a pair of thin troughs that marked where The Clipper had rested on its landing skids. A great many hoof prints, big and small, marked the area round it. So they had gotten away. James found relief in that.

With that knowledge, his mind shifted on to the next thing: Ponyville. It was time to wipe out the bastards and what better place to start than there. He had found his peace, that was all he wanted. He had found his peace at last, but they just had to push it, just couldn't let him have it. Well now this was happening.

With a quick stride, James went into the old RSTG briefing room—now Sparks' personal workshop—and went straight to the back. He knew the unicorn was almost as paranoid as he was and kept his own personal armory on site, the back room. It was heavily locked, but that hadn't stopped the raiders from trying to bash it down, there were numerous scrapes and dents all over the door. James laughed to himself at their pitiful attempt, Sparks always kept a spare key hidden somewhere. After a quick search, he found it, hidden up on one of the rafters above.

He popped the door open and went in. It was an armory alright, an armory befitting the current CO of the RSTG. James refilled his ammo. Then he took a rifle off the wall, he recognized it as the old M110 he'd used before. Good, he could do with a little more range. There were some heavier weapons there, but nothing he would need or could carry in addition to all his equipment—like the MG3 and the M240B that had once been a part of Myst's airship—so he grabbed a few grenades and headed out to the hangar to see if there was any more gear he could find a use for.

The hangar was untouched, the raiders hadn't gotten that far. With a little bit of elbow grease, James got the small side door open and let himself inside. To his surprise, it was mostly empty. Empty, save for a large mound hidden underneath a stark whit dust cover on one side. James walked over and whipped the cover off, instantly delighted by what he found underneath, so much so that he actually smiled.

Oh, he could use this, this magnificent construction of high end armored machinery. Ideas already started zipping through his mind on how to better improve it for his use. James remembered his friend's little armory and spun on a heel. He was sure Sparks wouldn't mind. After all, it wasn't as if he was here to use it right now.

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