• 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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Familial Quarrel

Chapter 28: Familial Quarrel

*THUD*

*THUD*

*THUD*

*THUD*

Sparks stared at the barricaded doors, ready. Ready for whatever tried to get through next. He was holed up in Princess Luna's bed chamber with the princess herself. Her sister, Princess Celestia, was there as well, along with a few of their personal guards and just a couple RSTG recruits. For the third time, he checked his ammo again, just three mags, including the one in his pistol and over half of that was already spent.

He wasn't sure how much longer they could hold out. It had already been a day. They had some food and plenty of water, but even that would run out soon. The more pressing matter was the cycle of the sun and moon. With the palace under the control of the Renegades and the princesses stuck in here, they wouldn't be able to continue the cycle and change night back into day.

"Commander Sparks, if we could have a word with you?" It was Celestia, still full of poise and grace even during a crisis.

Sparks turned to the recruits. One was a unicorn, the other an earth pony. "Starlight and Stalks, stand to. Starlight, I want you on the door, nothing gets in. Stalks, watch the windows." He ordered. The recruits dutifully took up their positions and Sparks went into the back chamber with the princesses. "Your Highnesses, how may I help you?"

"Commander, we have something very important to ask of you." Luna said softly.

"We need to retrieve something of extremely high value."

"Pardon me, your Majesties, but there's not much we can do right now, but sit tight and hope reinforcements come. We don't even know who's behind all this, who let these guys in." Sparks protested. "We can't even set hoof outside right now, they're at the door."

"I know this is not a light thing to ask of you." Celestia stated. "But it is imperative that we recover it."

"This isn't a painting or a personal object, is it?"

Luna spoke next, "You know we would never ask for something so trivial, especially at a time like this."

"Then what is it?"

Luna looked to her sister, troubled by something. Celestia gazed back, then closed her eyes for a moment. Finally, she opened them and turned to Sparks, "It's a weapon. But it is not just any weapon. This is something we've designed to finally stop the source of this madness that plagues us. If we can recover it and get it to one who might wield it, we may yet have hope of restoring our land to harmony."

Sparks mulled this new information over. As the Commander of Equestria's special forces, it was his responsibility to protect his country and his leaders by any means necessary, even if it cost him his life. However, at the moment, even venturing from this room would put both of those responsibilities in jeopardy. Still, the rest of the country was still suffering out there and if he had a chance to end this once and for all... "Ok." He said with finality. "We'll do what we can. Where is this weapon?"

Celestia smiled slightly, as if she had made a bet with herself and she had won, "Commander, we must get to the vault."

"That's a tall order, but I'll see that it gets done."

Sparks left to go brief his two recruits, they had a lot of work and planning ahead of them. He would also have to include the princesses' personal guards in the chaotic equation. He was half way there when he noticed something, it made him stop mid step. It was quiet. Suddenly, awfully quiet. The pounding had stopped on the door, that could mean trouble. In a mad dash, he moved to the windows, Stalks reported all conditions normal, no change. The doors hadn't been breached either.

The Commander got his answer though. It was actually more shocking than having to face a breaching team. "Hello in there!" Said a smooth, pampered voice from the other side of the door that sounded as if it was entitled to most everything. "Would you all please be dears and surrender yourselves already? This Coup business is all so tiring and I'm rather impatient." Sparks recognized that voice, but he almost couldn't believe it. "Auntie Celly, Auntie Lulu, are you still in there? Please come out, I would hate to have these strapping lads break my new doors down."

Celestia galloped up to the door, eyes wild with bewilderment. It was the first time, Sparks thought, that he had ever seen her like this. "Blueblood, is that you!?"

A cultured little chuckle responded, "The one and only, of course!" He said haughtily.

"No. No, please tell me it's a trick. They're making you say it, right?"

"No, I'm afraid I'm here of my own free will and volition." He answered.

Celestia's mouth hung slightly ajar. She was speechless, at a loss for words. She had no idea that a member of her own royal family could—no, would—do such a dastardly thing to her, even Prince Blueblood. Luna moved to fill the gap, quietly striding up next to her sister. "Blueblood, It's Luna. Could you at least tell us why?"

"I suppose I could, like some arch-villian in a story, but that sounds just so tiring and I haven't got all night, as it were."

Sparks really couldn't believe his ears. One of the Royal Family was behind all this suffering and death. He didn't know the prince well. What little he knew mostly came from the Gala he'd attended with James and the girls. That seemed so long ago now, what was it, six years? He remembered the fight. Everypony remembered the fight, the prince had been humiliated. Still, he couldn't figure that as the sole reason for all this, though it could have played a factor. "Tick tock goes the clock, I need an answer from you soon." The prince said from the door. He was still as annoying as Sparks remembered.

"Shove it up your ass!" Sparks yelled at the door. It just kind of slipped out, he hadn't really meant to say it, but it had been said. Now it was time to act.

"Oho, how rude! I really didn't want to do this the hard way, but... Ah, well. . ."

The pounding on the door returned as the hostile force outside resumed their attempt to break through the barricaded door. Sparks took a deep breath and formulated a quick plan in his mind. It was a crazy plan, one that was sure to get them all captured or killed, but it was either that or surrender and he wasn't going to surrender to that inept fool. "Your Highnesses, I think I can get you to that vault. But you have to do everything I tell you. No questions asked, no hesitation."

=================================================



That was it, there was the house. All boarded up and crummy looking, not exactly choice digs. But when you're being hunted in a city full of hostiles, you really didn't have the luxury of choice. Jackson glanced at his watch, 0743. Then he looked at the sky, stars still sparkled on a black back drop. That wasn't right. Something was seriously wrong.

Sun or no sun, his mission didn't change. Link up, bang out and try to find the rest of the Equestrian forces. At least the darkness would afford him some extra cover where there normally wouldn't be any. Jackson looked around. It was dark, but he didn't see any hostiles. Still didn't mean there were none out there. They'd have to risk it.

Cray and Redflare were stacked up behind him. With a quick hand gesture, Jackson ordered Redflare to move across and raised his rifle. He was the fastest and if there was anyone out there to take potshots, he was sure the pegasus could evade them. Jackson covered him as he half sprinted, half flew across the street. Silence. Jackson made another signal and Cray went galloping across, he also made it safely.

Now it was Jackson's turn. Cray posted up on the corner of the house with his weapon ready and nodded to the big human. Jackson got up and sprinted, covering the full distance in just a few seconds. No shouts, no rifle fire. They were lucky. Regrouped, the three went around the side and knocked on the back door in the sequence Mayfield had told them. It creaked open and they were admitted entry.

Mayfield was waiting inside, along with two other stallions Jackson didn't recognize, an injured unicorn and an earth stallion. They all looked ready for a fight. Once they saw who it was though, they all relaxed, Mayfield moved forward and clapped Jackson on the back. "Too good to see you, no trouble?"

"Aside from a few small fire fights, nothing to worry about. We're pretty low on ammo, you got any to spare?"

"Some. We'll consolidate. Here, meet what's left of White Raven. This is Whirl and Strake." The unicorn and earth pony nodded.

"Hey, sorry for what happened guys." Jackson told them, "Don't worry, we'll make 'em pay." He looked back to Mayfield. "So, where is this mystery guy at that says he can get us an extract?"

"Here, in the kitchen."

Mayfield led Jackson into the kitchen. In there, Iron was still going through the radio channels, trying to pick up any other survivors. He was also watching Blackjack—they were still suspicious of him—who was eating through some hay cakes thay'd manage to pilfer from an abandoned bakery near by. Jackson walked up and sat in the chair adjacent to the earth stallion. He recognized him.

"So, first you crashed our house party, now this one." He said, resting his elbows on the table, meshing his fingers and giving the stallion a displeased look. "What are you doing here, exactly?"

Blackjack swallowed what he had been chewing, "Like I told your angry amigo there, I was tryin' to help you fellas out, workin' with one of your bosses. Now, I'm just tryin' to get back to ma boat and was wonderin' if you'd all like a ride out."

Jackson thought about it for a moment, then decided it was probably the only option they had. He didn't like it, there were too many unknowns, but what else can they do? "Fine, we'll take your offer. Try and fuck us though and and you're on your own, get it?"

"Oh yeah, sure." Blackjack responded as if he'd made a casual business deal.

Jackson got back up and went back into the main room where the rest of the team was waiting. "Everyone consolidate ammo and supplies, we're moving out in thirty. Redflare, c'mere, I wanna talk to you real quick."

The pegasus looked a little worried, but followed Jackson into one of the bedrooms. "What is it, I do something wrong?"

Jackson made sure they weren't being listened to and then turned to face the young stallion, "No, you're not in trouble. I just want to talk to you about what happened back there. Is everything all right?"

Redflare's expression went neutral, "Fine, I'm fine." He said with denial.

"That back there wasn't fine, you've got some issues. I need to know what they are so I can help you."

"There's nothing wrong with me, all right! I just wanted to make sure the guy went down!" He replied defensively.

"By stabbing him in the chest twenty times. . . That's not stopping the threat, that's excess. Here's the deal, I can't have you doin' stuff like that again. Not only could you have died, but it also puts the rest of the team at risk, understand?"

"Yeah, I guess so..."

"And you need to work on you military bearing, too. I know we all pal around sometimes, it's a dangerous job in a small community, but I need to know that you'll follow orders and carry them out professionally." Jackson said, not unkindly.

"Yes, Chief." Redflare said with a little more seriousness.

"Good, thank you. I want to talk more about this with you later, but right now we have to get out of the city alive. Go back in there and get with Swift and Whirl, I want you three working together."

"Understood."

Jackson opened the door and watched Redflare trot out to the main room and report to Whirl. The pegasus definitely had potential, steady under fire, intelligent, athletic, but he had some anger issues stemming from somewhere. It was something he'd have to talk him through once they got to safety.

His little counseling session over, Jackson strode out to rejoin the main group. Swift was talking with Redflare and Whirl, no doubt giving them tips on how a to be a good hunter. Iron was with Blackjack, keeping a wary eye on the stallion, and Cray and Strake. He noticed that Iron and Cray had been starting to gel into a partnership. Mayfield was leaning against a wall and checking over his rifle.

Jackson did a quick once over of his own equipment and then walked in to speak, "All right every one." They all stopped and turned their heads to listen. "We have to get to the dockyard, Mr. Blackjack here has graciously offered his vessel for our use. Good news, it's still night so we'll be hard to spot, even as a large group. Bad news, it's sill night and it's a long way. We move quiet and we move fast, don't attack unless you are attacked or are about to be."

Cray raised his hoof, sometimes he was all questions, "What if we're about to be spotted?"

"Good question. We'll take those situations on a case-by-case basis. Any other questions? Good, let's get going. Swift, Red and Whirl you're on point with Blackjack, he knows the city better. Cray, Iron, I want you two to take up the rear with Topher, make sure we don't get run up on."

Every one knew what they were doing now and the room filled with noises of them getting ready to go; bolts cycling, zippers zipping and blades being pulled from sheaths. Even so, the mood remained somber. They were an endangered species being hunted down in an unfriendly city.

With practiced carefulness, the exited the building, eyes darting every which way for any signs of movement or combat indicators. The city was unnaturally quiet. Even at night, business was done and movement abounded, albeit at a much more reduced level. But now, there was just silence. It didn't sit right. There were still civilians here, there should be some level of noise.

The group moved fluidly, through alleys and around obstacles. Occasionally, they'd pass a body, usually one of the Royal Guard. It was all a sad sight to see, but what could they do? Either they left now and lived to make a difference or they tried to fight and almost certainly die. As it was, even if they did make it out, the rest of the Equestrian forces might be too broken to do much of anything.

Up ahead, Swift had stopped. Jackson looked and saw that Blackjack seemed to be arguing with her. He was about to go up there himself and see what the problem was when she suddenly grabbed the stallion by the shoulder and started shoving him back down the alley. He was about to ask why when she hit him up on comms, "Chief Jackson, we must go back now."

"Talk to me Swift, what's going on?"

"We can not go further. I can smell them, a trap has been set."

Jackson caught that loud and clear. There was an ambush for them up ahead. That was bad on its own, but it made something else painfully clear; their location was no longer a secret. Blackjack was in front of him now and complaining. "Hey, what's with all this rough stuff? I ain't tried to lead y'all wrong!"

"Stow it." Jackson sounded a little angrier than he had meant to. "She just saved our asses. Do you know another route to the docks that goes around this area?"

"Sure do, but I wouldn't recommend it."

"Why not?"

"Out in the open, not much cover, tons of bad guys. You guys tend to stay away from those kinds of environments, am I right?"

He wasn't wrong. The last thing they needed was to run head first into trouble. Still, if he had to pick his fight, better one where he had some element of surprise rather than the other way around. "We'll have to go with that. What's the route?"

"There's some good news there, I suppose. We're gonna have to cut through the markets. Real close to the docks."

"At least there's that, lead the way."

Jackson hoped he was making the right decision. It wasn't just his life on the line, it was all of theirs. If he messed up, he'd be responsible for their deaths. It wasn't something they could afford, the stakes high. He suddenly found himself wondering about the others. He Jackson hoped the girls were ok. And James. His buddy seemed almost normal the last time he'd talked with him. Not an easy feat for men like them. Hell, for them, normal was abnormal.

Movement around him caught Jackson's attention. His motley team was moving out, still in the prescribed formation. He'd have to stow the thoughts for later, he could think on them when he was outta here. For now, he would just have to focus on keeping his people alive.

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