• 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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Out Into The Night

Chapter 33: Out Into The Night

The fire crackled softly in the chilly night air, throwing soft light out and making shadows dance in the perpetual night. James sat on a short log with a small mirror, doing his best to clean the cuts and scratches he'd received when the shrapnel had been sprayed in his face during the raid. He was fortunate it had missed his eyes and had not blinded him.

Nearby, Quick Fix lay on the grass with a small square cloth laid out in front of her, tinkering with various parts she had shaped with chunks of metal she had recovered for use on Jame's design. Her brow was scrunched with concentration, every piece had to be just the right size and weight.

James finished dabbing the last shallow wound with disinfectant and got up, moving to their vehicle. It was a little beat up with scuffs and marks all over its previously immaculate frame, evidence of its recent participation in battle. He opened a back door and slid off his armor, letting it flop onto the seat and reached in for something to eat. He came back with a bowl, some water and a couple of compacted pucks of shredded oats. He tossed one over to Quick Fix and then sat down and crumbled the other into the bowl, adding some water and mixing it into a sort of oatmeal paste.

"Thanks." Quick Fix said, ignoring the food and remaining focused on her task.

James mashed the mixture up and licked the excess off his fingers. "You should eat up and catch some sleep. We got a long road ahead of us."

Quick Fix continued her work for a moment before replying, "It's all right, I'm almost finished up anyway. Just a few final touch-ups and this little machine should be good to go. Besides, you're the one that needs the sleep."

James unscrewed his flask and took a long pull, letting the contents burn down his throat. "I'll be fine."

Quick Fix paused and eyed him warily. "You sure? You've been drinking an awful lot of that stuff lately. My pops always said it was never a good thing to try and drown your demons in the bottom of a bottle. You should lay off it."

James grimaced and snorted a laugh, "Can't drown my demons, they know how to swim. Besides, we have an agreement, me and them. We're working together this time."

"Wow, dark." Quick Fix replied uncomfortably. "Really though, you should get some sleep."

"I said I'm fine!" James shot back a little angrily.

"No you're not fine! You've been up for more than two days straight, drinking rum and trying to kill almost anything that moves! We've been stuck out here in the wilderness, roughing it and taking our Celeatia awful time. If we'd taken the road, we could have been at Canterlot by now!" She put impatiently.

James stared at her crossly, but quickly subdued it. "One; I've gone much longer than two days without sleep, hazard of the job. Two;" he held up the flask, "I like rum, I'm gonna drink rum. Regardless. Three; the main roads are too dangerous, you heard what the sergeant said. No, we need to conserve ammo and energy for the fight at the city, not waste it on getting ambushed by random patrols along the roads. Speaking of which, do you know how to use a gun?"

"Well, no, I never really needed, or even wanted to—"

"You're gonna have to learn. Best that you be able to defend yourself, just in case." James shoveled a few more scoops of his meal into his mouth and then got up and went back to their vehicle. He opened the back hatch and rummaged around, pulling out a few small objects before returning to the fire. "This is a Glock," he said, holding up one of the objects for Quick Fix to see, "9mm, ten round mag, doesn't have much kick to it."

Quick Fix stood up and trotted over, intrigued. "A Glock? That's a funny name."

"I didn't name it." He pointed to the back of the grip. "This little lever is part of the safety. You need to make sure that's depressed before you can pull the trigger. Line up these two sights on the top to aim. You load it like this;" James slid the magazine into the well with a satisfying click and racked the slide. "You can shoot it until the ammo runs out then the slide will lock back, that means you have to put another mag in, hit this little button on the side to release the empty one. Then after you've reloaded it, hit the slide release here to feed a round into the chamber. Any questions?"

"Am I really gonna have to use this?"

"Hopefully not. One last thing; do not point this at anything you don't intend to destroy, even when you know it's not loaded." He said gravely. "Understand?"

"Yeah."

"Alright, here you go." James handed her the weapon which she levitated over to her little work space. "Don't use it unless you absolutely have to. I'd set up some targets for you but the noise could give up our position."

"Actually, about that." Quick Fix said with a smile. "I took the liberty of examining that thing you use to make your shots quieter."

"The suppressor?"

"Yup, and I think I made some improvements on it."

"Really?"

"Yeah, made it just for your new weapon over there, wanna try it out? I'm almost done."

James thought it over for a minute then nodded. He didn't want to make too much noise out here, but even if the suppressor wasn't as good as she said, it would still be quieter than a normal gunshot. With a grin, Quick Fix trotted back over to her work area and sat down, horn glowing as she made the final adjustments on the parts.

When she finished, she assembled the contraption in mid air. It was a pistol, chambered for the .45 caliber. The model resembled James' old 1911, but with a few differences. The barrel was slightly longer with a muzzle break capping the end, and a bigger magazine to compensate for the weight. It was completely matte black save for two things; the sights had small luminous red dots for use in low light and etched down the length of both sides of the slide was a lightning bolt shaded with the darkened and subdued hues of red, yellow and blue.

James got up and walked over, taking the weapon into his hands. With a finger, he slowly traced the outlines of the lightning bolt. "I know you must miss her, so I thought I'd throw in a little custom flare." The unicorn said.

James continued to stare at the image. He wondered where she was right now. Hopefully safe. He didn't dare think of the possibilities. All he thought about was how he was going to make who ever was responsible for the attack on his home, his peace and his loved one pay dearly. "Thank you." He whispered softly. Then in a louder tone, "How'd you know? I don't remember telling you."

"C'mon, give me some credit here." Quick Fix said with a derisive smile. "I figured out who you were easily enough, just built a machine I'd never seen before from your crappy drawings and it wasn't exactly hard to put two and two together when I remember all the gossip that used to float around town a few years back. You two were quite the talk of the town back then."

"That so?" James allowed himself another moment of reminiscing before returning back to business. "The weapon's good. What about this suppressor you're talking about?"

"I thought you'd never ask!" Quick Fix replied with gusto. From the square of cloth, she floated up an odd cylindrical device that didn't look like any suppressor James had ever seen. It was short, only about four inches long. Protruding from one end was a small metal tube the same size as the barrel of the gun. When he grabbed it, it was incredibly light.

"You sure this will muffle a shot?" James asked skeptically.

"Try it." Quick Fix dared. "You thread the end with the tube onto the barrel and it locks into the muzzle break so you don't have to take it off. Of course it makes the muzzle break superfluous, but you won't have to keep switching them out, less to carry and accidentally lose."

James did as she instructed and the suppressor locked in with a soft click. "Nice."

"Go ahead, take a shot."

Taking one of the magazines, James filled it up and slid it into the mag well, noting how well balanced the weapon was with the ammunition in place. With a cautious glance around their surroundings, he racked the slide and took aim at a tree nearby. He was hesitant at first, but finally he shrugged and pulled the trigger.

The weapon worked beautifully. The trigger required only the slightest of touch to fire and the recoil didn't kick as hard as he expected. Most wonderfully of all, there was barely even a sound. All he heard was the bullet striking the tree trunk with a crack and the click-clack of slide cycling back and chambering another round. A second later, the brass casing fell onto the grass with a soft rustle.

James lowered the weapon and looked at the unicorn with wide eyes. "That's fuckin' amazing! How'd you do that?"

"Easy. With somewhere for the gases to go and a little bit of magical dampening, it was just a matter of getting the thing to fit properly."

"Thanks! Really, thanks. I love it."

"My pleasure." Quick Fix yawned. "Now if you'll excuse me, I think I will get some shut eye."

Quick Fix grabbed her oats and climbed into Daisy, her fighting vehicle, and got got comfortable. James stayed up and sat back down by the fire, admiring his new weapon in the light. It turned out better than he expected it to. With it, they not only wouldn't see him coming, they would never hear him either.

He grinned, mirroring the amusement of the dark maliciousness that had taken up residence inside him. Yes, they had hurt him, hurt Dash, taken from him everything he had worked for, taken from him his peace. Now he would show them just how bad an idea that had been. His final path was set, poor luck to those that had placed placed themselves in it.

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*CRACK*

The wooden stave broke in half and went tumbling across the pack patch of bare earth. Sumner looked down at the broken half he held and tossed it away. "You definitely have good power behind that swing." He looked up to the pegasus mare panting across from him. "But remember it's not all brute force. You have keep your opponent guessing. Constantly attacking with big powerful swings telegraphs your moves and gives them the chance to get behind your guard."

"I don't think it matters much when I can just break your weapon." Dash said cockily.

Sumner chuckled. "They don't fight with sticks out in the real world. They fight with steel."

Rainbow Dash snorted, "Then I'll just knock it out of their grip, easy peasy."

Sumner sighed, "Fine, I guess I'll just have to show you. Sylver?"

Not far away, Sylver Lyne was sitting on a small rise, cleaning his rifle. At Sumner's call, he levitated one of the many sticks they had lying about and flicked it at Sumner who caught it effortlessly. Without giving any warning, Sumner charged Rainbow Dash, brandishing his thick practice weapon high.

Lazily, Dash took to the air, easily dodging his first blow. Then, altering her direction mid-flight, she shot right back at him, charging up a good swing. When she reached him, she made her strike, aiming for his neck, but found nothing but air. Sumner ducked under her strike, sidestepped and countered. Dash felt a hard thwack against her flank and went tumbling into the dirt.

Over on the small grassy hill, Sylver let out a small chuckle. Angrily, Dash picked herself up from the dirt and shook off the dust. "You better watch it where you put that thing, buddy!" She growled.

"Just having a little fun in proving a point." Sumner mused. "You see what happened there? Your attack was too obvious, I was able to anticipate and counter it. You need to strike unexpectedly at unexpected targets, distract with pain then hit 'em in the sweet spot. Your power and speed is good, you just need to work on your delivery."

"You know what, fine." Dash huffed, "You want it, come get it." She challenged, pawing at the ground.

"All right, let's do it again."

Sumner charged at her once more, but this time, Rainbow Dash also charged at him, galloping with her wings only half opened. As they closed, Rainbow left her guard down and Sumner took the opportunity to jab at head. Before the stick reached it's target, Dash flapped her wings to the left, propelling her out of harms way and within easy reach of Sumner's flank.

With a quick swing, she sent it whistling up between his hind legs, causing them to lift in the air a little and send him sliding into the dirt on his chest. Almost immediately, Sumner balled up and began groaning in pain. On the grass, Sylver erupted into laughter at the spectacle.

"What's the matter?" Rainbow Dash smirked, "I was just having a little fun with it!"

As Rainbow stood triumphantly over her opponent, a pair of ponies trotted up. It was Twilight, with Scootaloo at her side. As they came close Scootaloo's eyes widened with wonder, "Wow, what'd you do?"

"I totally kicked his flank." Rainbow said non-chalantly, holding up a hoof to her face for inspection.

"No way..." Sumner coughed from the ground, "I'm just resting..."

Twilight looked down at the injured pegasus with some concern. "Ooh, that looks painful. Would you like some ice?"

Sumner wave a hoof at her, "No no, I'm fine."

"...ok, suit yourself."

"So Twi', what's up?" Rainbow asked.

"Nothing much, just came to see how your shoulder was doing. Scootaloo wanted to tag along."

Dash rotated her right shoulder, the one the bullet had grazed a few nights before. "Still a little sore, but it healed up good, thanks to you and Fluttershy. How is she doing by the way, she rarely speaks to us anymore and almost never leaves the medical tent."

Twilight's features fell, "I know. I don't like it, sure she was a little anti-social before, but now. . ."

"Is Garth doing better?"

"Yeah, he's out of bed now. He keeps trying to get back into fighting, but Fluttershy scolds him into helping her with the patients. It's still kinda strange," Twilight chuckled emptily, "seeing somepony that big and tough bow to the whims of our timid Fluttershy."

"Well, at least she's keeping herself busy."

"Yeah. Hey, you wanna go get something to eat? AJ said she'd cook something for us in the kitchens."

"Sure, I'm pretty hungry now. Hey Sumner, ok if I go get some grub?"

"Sure, go ahead." He croaked. "We'll pick this up later."

Together; Rainbow, Twilight and Scootaloo made their way through the camp, passing under the many lights and lamps erected to illuminate the area. It was becoming somewhat of a small city now, though the number of new refugees arriving had been reduced to a trickle. It seemed that less and less ponies had been unable to escape from the occupied cities.

Canterlot, only miles away, fared no better. Worse in fact, as reports from recons conducted by the Royal Guard and a scant few RSTG members indicated the once prosperous hub of commerce had been reduced to a blasted war zone as the soldiers still caught inside fought the invaders for every inch of the capitol. It was bad enough that the surviving Guards in the camp were recruiting and training any willing to volunteer, though what they would be able to accomplish was anypony's guess. As it was, anypony caught near the walls of Canterlot was targeted by the Human weapons toting Renegades.

What Rainbow Dash was doing worried Twilight. She had been training with those two RSTG members for the past few night addled days. She didn't want to see one of her closest friends go and fight what she was sure would be a terrible battle. Even worse, she couldn't begin to imagine what Fluttershy would do, she was already distressed enough as it is.

Nearing one of the large mess tents, Twilight struggled to push the morbid thoughts from her mind. Tonight she would try not to worry about what was in store for her country's future. Tonight she would just spend time enjoying whatever time she had with her friends.

They stepped through the entry flap and into the soft light of the lamps strung up about the center poles. In the back by the kitchens was a flurry of activity as the cooks cleaned and and prepped for the next day, dinner having just been finished. They spotted Applebloom and Sweetie Belle coloring at one of the corner tables, Scootaloo rushing over to join her friends.

Watching her go, Rainbow and Twilight continued on towards the back. When they got close, a familiar head poked out from behind one of the flaps separating the kitchen from the eating area. "Hey Twi', Dash, glad you two came. AJ said she'll be ready in a minute, we're still kinda busy back here." The small purple dragon said,

"Spike? What are you doing here?" Twilight cocked an eyebrow in question. "I thought you were busy helping Rarity."

"Well, uh, I was, but then we went to get Fluttershy and things got kind of..." Spike trailed off, looking flustered.

Twilight got concerned, "Kind of what, what happened?"

Spike stepped out into the eating area, twiddling his thumbs and looking down. "Well, you're not gonna like this, but..."

"But what? Tell me Spike!"

"Garth disappeared, nopony knows where he went or saw him leave. We found Fluttershy going nuts and trying to leave the camp to go looking for him."

"What!? Spike, why didn't you come get us immediately?" Twilight said crossly.

Spike dropped his gaze to the ground again, looking shameful, "Well, I kinda accidentally said something I shouldn't 'have which made Fluttershy go hysterical and Rarity told me to come here and help in the kitchens instead because I wasn't much helping there." He blurted out.

"Where are they now?"

"Over by the woods still, I think."

"Ok, Spike, Stay here and watch the girls." Twilight ordered as she frantically made for the exit. "Dash, go to the infirmary and ask around, see if anypony knows where Garth went."

"You got it." She said seriously and took to the night sky.

Twilight took off at a gallop, heading towards the side of the camp that bordered the forest along the foothills of the mountain range, teleporting here and there around obstacles. When she broke away from the camp, it took her a couple times running up and down the tree line before she found them. Fluttershy was staring vehemently at a stubborn Rarity who was blocking her path.

"I don't care how dangerous you say it is, I'm going to go find him!"

"Fluttershy, I can't let you. Besides, he's more than capable than handling himself out there."

"He'll get hurt again and I won't be there to help him!"

"Fluttershy! Rarity!"

"Oh, thank goodness Twilight, you're here!" Rarity said with relief.

"What's going on, is Fluttershy all right?"

"I just want to go find him!" Fluttershy protested with uncharacteristic anger, delicate face flushed.

"I told you, it's too dangerous!" Rarity replied once again.

"I don't care!" The normally shy pegasus shouted back.

Twilight flinched at her firend's unnatural behavior, "Fluttershy, Rarity's right. Garth can take care of himself, but what if you get hurt?" She put as kindly as possible. "Why are you so upset anyway?"

"I just— I just—" Fluttershy looked like she was about to break down.

Twilight stepped forward and pulled her into a hug, "It's ok, just tell us what's wrong, we're your friends, remember?"

"I know, I just don't want—" Fluttershy hiccupped and Twilight felt hot tears splatter onto her shoulder. "I don't want to lose another—" she didn't finish her sentence, her frame wracked by fresh, silent sobs.

A little ways away, Rainbow Dash thumped softly onto the ground, a ragged piece of paper in her mouth. Twilight passed Fluttershy off onto Rarity who took to consoling her and trying to calm her down. Meanwhile, Twilight trotted up to Rainbow Dash and took the paper from her.

"Is she going to be ok?" Dash asked with worry, looking over Twilight's shoulder at her pitiful looking friend.

"She'll be fine, but we should keep an eye on her anyway." Twilight said as she examined the paper. "Where did you find this?"

"It's a note, I found it in Garth's tent. It says he went to get help."

Twilight looked up from the note, her face scrunched up in confusion. "Get help? From where?"

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