• 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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Surprise Party

Chapter 9: Surprise Party

The sun was starting set, hanging low in the sky like a great glowing fruit. Mayfield grunted as he pulled himself up onto a roof top some distance away from the front of town and the stage they had set for the evening. The roof was slightly angular, so he crawled all the way up to the spine and placed his bag on the other side that was facing down range to help even out his spot of choice for more stable shooting.

Still keeping low, he lay his rifle across the roof's spine and his bag, flipping out the bipod and removing the lens covers from his scope. Then he took his pouch of magazines and laid it on the roof's spine within easy reach so he would be able to reload quickly. Once he was done with that, he sighted through his scope to the front of the town entrance below.

In the field in front of the town, Jackson was hard at work with the Fixers, finishing up the patterns of deep trenches and holes they had dug out for the explosives. Currently, all the charges had been placed and they were putting on the finishing touches, affixing the detonators and covering the holes back up with loose dirt and plant matter. Jackson used the shovel he had borrowed and tightly packed the earth down on top of the explosive device. When he was done, he moved on to check up on the others.

"How's it looking over here?" The large man asked as he walked over to Saffron.

"Pretty good, all set and ready." The unicorn answered while he packed the dirt in with his hooves.

"Good to hear, good to hear. Once your finished with that, post up, it's starting to get dark."

"Roger that."

Satisfied that everything was coming together, Jackson started on his own way back to the town. All the ordinance was in place, all that was left were the finishing touches. He went past the make shift barricade and up a ladder to the roof of a house that sat on the border of the town, overlooking the stage they had set up for the play.

Already up there was his weapon and radio. Now instead of a fore grip, his Mk 43 now had a bipod on the front mount, a piece of equipment Jackson had found in the airship. This wasn't going to be an up and close fight and he needed stability for the range. No use in trying to handle it from the hip or shoulder here, spraying rounds everywhere and wasting ammo. Jackson went over his weapon a few times, ensuring it was ready, before picking up an ammo can nearby and loading the firearm. Then he picked up the radio and turned it on.

"Mayfield, you all set?"

"Yeah, jolly as the green giant back here." The green eyed man responded.

"What about Sylver, he doin' his thing?"

"Ha, yeah." Mayfield chuckled. "'Lil bugger's trying to one up me. He set up shop in a bell tower way back there." He thumbed back towards the center of town even though Jackson couldn't see.

"At that distance, let's hope he can. We're good down below, now it's just the waiting game."

"Lovely, my favorite game of all."

While the townsfolk sequestered themselves in their homes, the team known as The Fixers set the finishing touches and manned their stations. Flash occupied another roof top not far from Jackson, on the other side of the road. Down on the road itself, Frosty waited with Saffron behind the wagon/barricade. Above them all, Breeze hid in a cloud, watching the plains all around the town.

All settled into silence. For some time, all that could be heard was the gentle hush of wind through the air, the rustle of a few errant leaves blowing across the dry ground. The whole town seemed to hang on a halting breath as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon in the west. Around their various hideaways, the warriors waited, still as stone statues. One hour passed, then two. Sunset slipped into twilight, then twilight gave way to darkness. At the emergence of night, only one order was given.

"Goggles down gentlecolts, no use fighting what we can't see." Flash whispered into his microphone.

With only the basest of movements, the members of his team complied. Mayfield opted against the goggles in exchange for a specialized optic he pulled from his pack, quickly affixing it to his rifle, in front of the scope. Soon, all of the world before them had transformed into a ghostly green landscape. And they continued waiting, the reserves of their patience not near run dry. Up on his roof, Jackson shifted slightly to give one side of his body some rest and to keep it from stiffening. Time seemed to stretch on and his mind almost began slipping to idle thoughts, until it was interrupted.

Breeze's voice crackled over the comms, "Sir, contacts. Due north by northeast, out maybe ten miles, give or take."

"Size?" Flash asked.

"Hard to tell, could be between fifteen and twenty-five."

"Let's assume the high card. Ok team, wait until they enter the kill zone, Breeze gives the go."

So they waited. In the distance, spectral shapes bobbed and juked in an unorganized mass as they grew closer. Another hour passed while they closed the gap. Soon, Mayfield could pick out details through his scope. He counted twenty-two individuals, all outfitted in a patch work of armor. There was something else he noticed. Something that caused bells to go off in his head. Quickly, the sharpshooter keyed his radio.

"Heads up, Jackie boy, they've got firearms. Rifles by the looks of it."

"Shit, that ain't no good. What kind?"

"Various. Some automatic, some semi."

"Flash, you hear that?"

"Yeah, got it." The pegasus replied over comms.

"All right," Jackson said with an exhale, "let's try to knock 'em out before this turns ugly."

The whole team tensed up, expectant and nervous about a possible firefight. Mayfield made sure his magazine was seated properly before shoving the bolt home and chambering a round. Below him, Jackson pulled back the bolt on his weapon and slid it forward with a satisfying clack. Down on the street, Frosty pulled out a long blade with a slithering scrape while Saffron inspected his own rifle. Above, Breeze kept an eye on the advance.

The cluster of hostiles quickly entered range, drawing nearer to the kill zone. Up in the cloud, Breeze watch intensely. In no time, they had come quite close the trap and the pegasus in his high up hide started the countdown over the radio.

"Thirty yards... twenty... fifteen... ten, five." At this point, the hostiles entered the center of the explosive set up. "Blast 'em!"

Without hesitation, Flash hit the detonator. The charges were timed in sequence, the first to go off were the outer most, followed by the mid-range and finally the close-ups, causing a hefty amount of damage and confusion among the loose ranks. Without another moment's notice, Jackson flipped the safety on his Mk 43 and went to work. A rapid staccato burst from the barrel, bullets tearing into what was left of the marauders.

The Lotkin that weren't immediately cut down or crippled by the shaped charges managed to squeeze of a few rounds before being ventilated, but they went wide and smacked harmlessly into thick wooden walls or flying overhead. Jackson kept firing in bursts until he could no longer see movement in the cloud of dust and dirt created by the initial explosions. All in all, the whole ordeal had lasted only a minute and a half, a perfect ambush. But those that had perished had not been the only attendees to the party.

"Got three more!" Breeze shouted. "They're taking off, moving out of range!"

Mayfield was watching the whole event through his scope, not yet having to fire a shot. He sighted higher, spotting two running at a hurried clip away from the town, only a couple hundred yards out and one more at a much farther distance. It made sense for a few to hang back, in case something exactly like this happened to the main force.

"Mine!" The sharpshooter shouted into his mic.

Acting quickly, he flipped the safety on his rifle and brought the crosshairs to his targets, placing it just a bit above their heads to compensate for distance. Then he thought better, the main force had been completely wiped out and they may need Intel. So he adjusted his aim, moving the sights to the lower back of one and squeezed. His rifle kicked, sending a projectile arcing over the scrub plain and tearing through a leg. He then repeated the act with the other one, taking both to the ground and forcing them to crawl away. Then he tried to sight up on the third, but the warrior was already nearing the limit of his weapon's effective range.

"Fuck! The bloody bastard's getting away!"

"No he's not." Sylver stated matter-of-factly.

Suddenly there was a crack of thunder from the bell tower. Mayfield kept his eye on the fleeing Lotkin. It continued for about fifteen more feet before it suddenly jerked forward, struck by some great force, and crumpled to the ground in a useless heap of torn flesh and broken bone.

"Awww, nice!" Mayfield exclaimed in excitement. "That fucker had to be at least sixteen hundred meters out!"

"Who's a little pup now?" Sylver said snidely.

"Hey, after clean-up, you and me gotta have a little chat." Mayfield shot back with a hint of giddiness in his voice.

"I take it you like my work."

"Oh, that shot was just beau—"

"Cut the chatter!" Flash interrupted. "We're still on the job! Breeze, search the area for any other threats. Frosty, Saff, get out there and check to make sure they're all dead. Jackson and Mayfield, you're coming with me to detain the cripples, Sylver you have overwatch."

"We on it." Jackson quickly replied.

With gumption, the two humans packed up their positions and swiftly moved down to the main street where Frosty on Saffron were already pushing the wagon aside to make an exit. They quickly reached it, Flash joining them a moment later. Once the way was clear, Saffron raised his rifle up with his magic and cautiously moved out with Flash and the two humans following close behind.

First they moved to the kill zone. It was a complete mess. Bodies littered the ground. Some were whole, the victims fortunate enough to have been killed by the concussion of the blast alone. Others, however, had not been so lucky. Here and there, limbs and chunks of flesh lay about, severed by the shrapnel of rocks and earth that had been thrown around by the buried explosives. Everywhere, blood was slowly turning the soil into repugnant, coppery mud. Some bodies twitched a little, a cruel mockery of the vibrant life that had once filled them. With a robotic like routine, Saffron set his rifle to semi and began plugging each one in the head, putting them out of their retched misery.

While the unicorn carried on his grim work, Flash, Mayfield and Jackson moved on, hurriedly walking out to the two raiders Mayfield had wounded. Even at that pace, it took a minute to get out there, especially when they had to slow down and get their weapons to the ready as they neared the spot the hostiles had gone down at. After all, they could still be armed. Flash had his blade and Jackson had his automatic rifle, but with a well practiced motion, Mayfield slung his rifle and pulled out his pistol.

They came to a small ridge, stopping briefly while they got their minds into the right place. Then the exploded over the top, weapons raised and ready. The two Lotkin were on their backs, assault rifles in hand. Instantly they moved to bring them to bear. Without even thinking, Jackson took aim at the one on the left and riddled it with lethal lead.

Mayfield took a more accurate approach with the other. He took careful aim and fired, his pistol barked a rapid report as he nearly emptied his mag, reducing the warrior's right arm into a worthless mass of quivering bloody tissue. It tried to reach its rifle with its still good left arm, but Flash was on him in a second, pressing his blade to the Lotkin's throat. However, he did not slice. This one he wanted alive.

Knowing the drill from experience, Jackson slung his Mk 43 and pulled out a pair restraints he had been given earlier from a pocket on his tac vest. Fluidly, he secured the Lotkin's good arm to its own armor on its back. There was no need to secure the other, the grizzled warrior wouldn't be using it anytime soon. The appendage was just a wet, limp mess.

"Is the other alive?" Flash asked Mayfield, knowing he had watched the long shot by Sylver through his scope.

"No need." The Brit said with a small chuckle. "That bugger's ready for the ice chest."

"We'll leave that one for clean up then, back to town." Flash ordered as Jackson hauled their prize to its gnarled feet.

With that, the ambush was complete and they returned to the town of Galloping Hills, the prisoner hobbling along in front.

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



It was still dark out, only now it was morning. A chill had settled over the region throughout the night, gripping the earth tightly before sun could emerge and loosen its grasp. What was left of the town guard had been rousted, a squad was working on pyre for the bodies. The Fixers were gathered some distance away, now outside the town, waiting by their airship. A junior RSTG team had been called in to watch over the area in case of a follow up attack and The Fixers were waiting for them to arrive and relieve them so they could return to Canterlot and take some much needed R & R.

As they sat waiting, a faint humming could be heard growing in the southwest while the sun sun rose in the east. Jackson looked up to the noise, anticipating the arrival of the source of the sound. An airship, identical to the one he, Mayfield and Flash's team had arrived on appeared, moving with purpose to their position. He was surprised, though, when a second one painted a light haze gray with no markings followed soon after.

"Hey Flash," Jackson said with some concern as he turned to the pegasus, "What's the deal, I thought you called only one team."

"Huh? Yeah I did."

The officer moved from where he was standing near the prisoner and gestured to Breeze to give him something, the other pegasus tossed over a pair of binoculars with a hoof. Flash gazed through the optics at the incoming aircraft, an amused grimace falling onto his face.

"Horseapples..." the winged stallion muttered under his breath, although in a tone of mock annoyance.

"What is it?" Mayfield inquired.

"Just a shadow of the night come to snatch away our guest."

"A what?" Jackson asked with some confusion.

Mayfield leaned over to the man, "I think he means a 'Spook.' He put it quite beautifully actually. Though I never really did like their kind enough to extend that courtesy." He said sourly.

"What's the matter, afraid of ghosts?" Jackson teased.

"No, just what they get up to behind our backs."

They watched as the two airships zoomed in and came gently to the ground near them. The conventional looking one immediately powered down, the side door sliding open to disgorge a team of lightly armed stallions which Sylver moved to intercept and brief on the situation for the town. They would provide security for the settlement until new guards could be sent to relieve the battered company already there.

Meanwhile, the engine of the unmarked airship merely dropped to an idle state. It was to this one that Flash moved to, a slight smile on his lips. The side door of the unexpected arrival slid open and a singular pegasus jumped out, fluttering his wings a bit as he came down. The whole of him was a very deep black, not only his coat, but his mane as well. So intense was it that it was hard to tell where the start and finish were of either. On his face, he wore a sleek pair of equally dark sunglasses, almost indistinguishable against the dark background of his coat.

The only difference on his entire body was the mark on his flank, and even that was hard discern. It appeared to be something of lightning bolt crossed with a magnifying lens, both of which were only a slightly lighter shade than the rest of him. On his upper body, he wore something like a casual suit. It was just a white undershirt, buttoned up to the top three, which were left undone. Over this was just a light overcoat, as black as his own hide. Both he and Flash came together and shook hooves.

"Howitzer, this is a nice surprise." Flash greeted, "What brings you all the way out here, you starting to miss our exciting way of life out here, or are you just getting tired of working behind the scenes?"

"Ha, this job's exciting enough." The newcomer replied with a chuckle. He reached up and removed his shades, stuffing them in a front pocket on his overcoat and exposing a pair of scarlet red eyes. "I'm here for your buddy over there," he nodded to the prisoner they had taken, "not to mention an interest in how those two are doing." He said, meaning the humans.

"Well, our two legged friends definitely didn't fail to please. They've got a little mischievous innovation in them. As for our other guest, you can have him, but I'm surprised you came all the way out here just to pick him up. They usually let us bring them in." Flash said with some speculation.

"Ah, yeah, about that. I didn't come here entirely of my own volition. I'll take the prisoner, you go home."

"Go home?"

"Yep. An order from the Princess herself."

"But why?" Flash asked with a little concern.

"Come on, buddy. You haven't been back in over a month. You need a rest. If your reports are right, and I'm sure they are, then the guys you've got are more than ready for their own teams. Plus, if I were you, I wouldn't be leaving that cute little crazy mare you got waiting like that."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Some leave sounds pretty good right now." Flash conceded

"Oh, and one more thing..."

"What's that?"

"She said take the humans with you."

"What? Why?"

Howitzer shrugged, "Dunno. It's what Princess Luna ordered."

Author's Note:

OC Howitzer created by: Cyber

Sorry this took so long. Been real busy.

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