• Published 23rd Apr 2013
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That Others May Live - CptBrony



Two USAF Pararescuemen must search through an unknown land to find their charge and make it back home alive.

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Charlie Golf India

Charlie Golf India

Duke and Frost woke up early. Not early for them, but early for the whole town. The sun had yet to come out, and there was an eerie silence over the land. The stars were just starting to disappear, replaced by a lambent orange glow, high in the sky. The moon was still visible in the early morning, seemingly painted into the sky like a watercolor art. The pararescuemen were sitting in two of the chairs in the living room, waiting for their host to awaken and come down.

“So what do you think they wanted OGA to do for them?” Frost asked, flicking the lighter open and closed. “Do you think he even clarified that he isn’t a part of this ‘Celestial Intervention Service’?”

“From the sound of it, they think he’s a spy for whoever this Celestia is. With his skills, he probably could help them pretty well. Whether or not he will has yet to be seen.” Duke looked at the flag on his sleeve. “He’s loyal to the United States; but if it means getting home, he might just be forced to help them if it means getting there.”

“I really hope we don’t have to help them. Not our business.”

They went silent again for a while, just looking out the window at the barren landscape just beyond the town. There was a long street before them, leading out into the wilderness and mountains, and the only easily traveled valley in the area. At least, it was that way for horses. The two humans had had little actual difficulty getting through the terrain to this village, something they probably didn’t like. The village, were it not for the arrival of humans, would be very strategically located and hard to attack.

A couple of hours passed, and the sun was beginning to make its rise into the sky. “Here he comes.” Duke said, standing up and dusting himself off, getting Frost to do the same. Hoofsteps could be heard from the staircase. Without looking toward the stairs, Duke asked, “So how did you two sleep last night?”

“Well enough.” Afaf replied flatly.

“Good.” Duke understood; even if they aren’t hostile, no one wants to have real conversation with people who broke into their house.

Afaf walked over to them, his wife alongside him. “We will be departing today. I made sent some messages; a carriage will come by to pick us up at noon, and will take us to the capital. The journey is two days, but we will have food and water.” He turned to his wife and nodded.

“Excuse me,” she said, shying slightly when Frost and Duke looked to her. “But I was wondering if you would like to meet our children? They must have awoken last night in all the commotion, and they really want to see who you are.”

Duke and Frost paused for a moment and convened, hushing their voices and holding up a hand to keep their talking unheard. “Boss, this won’t hurt us, I think. I mean, we have until noon to kill time, basically. And we don’t want to make a bad impression.”

Duke nodded in agreement. “Seems good to me. But watch what you say; we don’t want to reveal anything that might make risk or any more curiosity in the kids.” Frost nodded back to him, then they both nodded to Afaf’s wife.

“Good!” she said, a big smile coming across her face. She walked over to the other staircase. “You may come down!”

The two tiny horses came running down from their room, excited looks on their faces, the clacks of their tiny hooves on the mud floor rattling through the air like a machine gun. They were only about two and a half feet tall, shocking for being able to make that level of noise. “أين هي المخلوقات؟” one asked, the voice being that of a little boy. The mother pointed at Duke and Frost, and when the kids laid eyes on the men, they froze. They looked at their parents, then to the men again. “ما هي؟” the one asked.

The mother was about to speak, but she stopped before starting, a ponderous look on her face. She looked to the men. “What are you?” she asked.

“Humans.”

There was an odd look of recognition on her face, like she had heard the term before. Maybe she had, when OGA was there. While she turned to her kids to tell them, Afaf came over to them, a new smile on his face. “I was unaware that this was the case. It is good to know that you are human.”

Duke and Frost, confused by the reaction of the horses, looked to each other for clarification. There was none to be had. “I’m sorry, are you familiar with humans?” Duke asked.

“Not personally, but there have been stories about your kind here. They tell of a human who did great things. It was around eight years ago that the human was here.”

Duke and Frost nodded, still unclear on what exactly that meant. They let it go, though, since they had a mission to take care of, and turned their attention back to the kids.

“So what are their names?” Frost asked as he kneeled down to get a better look at the tiny foals. His unthreatening stance seemed to put a little more assurance in the the kids, who readily ran up to him to ask him questions he would never understand.

They came rapidfire, in whatever language it was that the kids were speaking. Duke had managed to step back and let Frost take most of it. He handled it fairly well, though, considering. It seemed like he was good with kids.

“Well,” Frost said, standing up and looking at the kids, a bewildered countenance dominating his expression. “I don’t understand a word they just said.”

He turned to Duke and shrugged his shoulders, asking, “Any understanding at all?” Duke shook his head. “Thought not.”

Frost looked to the mother, who immediately began translating. “They ask; What are you?, Who are you?, What are you wearing?, Where are you from?, Why did you come here last night?” Frost counted the questions with his fingers and asked her to repeat the last one. When she did, he turned to Duke, who nodded, giving him the ok to answer.

“We are humans, we are men who look for lost people, we are wearing simple traveling gear, we are from America, and we came here looking for somebody.” The mother translated, taking very little time, and the kids nodded every second, soaking up the information like a dry sponge in a pool.

“Any more questions?” Frost asked. The mother translated again, and the response that came was that they were satisfied.

“Let us go outside, so that the rest of the village can meet you.” Afaf suggested happily. Duke and Frost locked gazes for a moment, considering the possible consequences of this. When they decided that it wouldn’t be too bad, they turned to Afaf and nodded. “Good!” he said excitedly. They walked outside into the blazing sun.

The men had yet to see the village in its busy, awake state. There were dozens of the horses around the street of the main house alone, all going about their day like humans. There were bustling market stands, where the horses were haggling away at various items, like canteens and rugs. Children ran about in the street, and Afaf’s kids ran past the men to go join them. The mares were all wearing very culturally Pakistani garbs, an odd thing, considering they were anywhere but there. Or even on Earth, for that matter. Some were on top of buildings, looking to the mountains with small telescopes, ever vigilant for something.

“What are they looking for?” Duke asked.

Afaf’s face turned grim, looking very serious, the shadows from his features becoming seemingly stronger and darker on the one side of his face. “They are our sentries. They stay on the lookout for the Griffon menace. If they see any coming, we all go into our homes to protect the mares and foals. As long as we stay inside with our blades, they cannot get us, for we have too strong an advantage when they cannot simply fly away.”

Frost absentmindedly scanned the mountains himself, now wary of this clearly present danger, almost expecting an attack at any moment. He had learned back in the Sandbox that attacks could happen any time. “What if they drop ordinance on you? Will the houses hold under it?”

Afaf shook his head. “I know of the ordinance of which you talk. But they have none. It is closely guarded by our military. They will not get their filthy claws on it.” Frost nodded at this, neutral about the response he had received.

Duke wasn’t satisfied, though. “But you can’t guarantee that it can’t happen. If you are attacked with explosives, what will you do? A homemade bomb is easy enough to make. We saw them in Iraq all the time; they’re responsible for most of our military’s casualties in the war.”

Afaf looked at Duke, evidently perturbed by his words. “That cannot be. How can one make a bomb in one’s home?”

Duke shrugged. “Well, all you need is the right chemicals and a det cord or radio trigger. Or they can be timed. Very simple machines can blow up trucks, or I guess...” Duke looked around for a good comparison. He got it when he spotted a large, ornate carriage. “That carriage.”

Afaf looked to the carriage, a look of absolute horror coming across his face. “That carriage could be blown up?” he asked.

Duke nodded. “Yeah. You look troubled.”

“That carriage is the one we will be taking to the capital.” Now Duke understood why he was so scared. He had basically just told him, ‘We might get killed in that thing, even though it seems safe enough!’ He turned to Frost.

“Well, boss, we should probably get going soon.” Frost said, already going towards the carriage. Afaf shouted some word at him, though not in English, and he stopped. “What?”

“We must get supplies for the journey first. Food, water, and weapons.” Frost looked to Duke, who nodded for him to go with it. Free food and water was good for them.

They spent the next hour getting supplies and getting prepared for the two day journey. They went to stands and bought food from shopkeepers, mostly wheat and grain, and had to haggle fiercely in order to get a fair price.

Then, they moved onto the well, a town controlled item that Afaf was able to draw from for free. The guards tried to make Duke and Frost pay up, but Afaf cleared that up quickly, speaking in his native tongue, but using the word ‘Human’. When they heard that, the stallions eased up instantly, eager to help out their new friends.

After that they moved onto weapons, getting spears and crossbows and bolts. “No thanks,” Frost had said. “I got my own.” He showed his FE9 to Afaf, who quickly decided to let them use what they had. In the end, they had several pounds of grain and wheat, close to fifteen gallons of water, and everyone was armed to the teeth.

“You think we have enough?” Frost whispered to Duke, looking to the equipment laden stallions who would apparently be accompanying them. There were three other horses, armored and ready to fight, who would ride in another carriage behind them.

Duke shrugged. “Is that even possible?” he asked. Frost chuckled, and they moved on.

Once they were finally armed and ready to go, it was about half past eleven, and the sun was just starting to beat down on them like a drill instructor to his trainees. It was swelteringly hot, and the crazy amount of things they carried was weighing them down significantly.

One of the horses who would be dragging the carriage came over. “يمكنك وضع كل ذلك في مساحة الأمتعة تحت إذا أردت.” Frost and Duke, still confused about the language, looked to Afaf, who was standing next to them.

“He says, ‘You can put all of that in the baggage space underneath if you like.’” Both men let out a collective “ahh”, and immediately went over to their carriage to dump their battle rattle. For such a simple trip, they might need their weapons and a couple mags at most.

Once everything was in order and they were all set, the caravan headed out into the desert on the only road within miles. Once they were out of the town, a lot of the stallions severely tensed up.

“What’s up, do you think?” Frost asked as he leaned into Duke to whisper.

“You heard them earlier; they’ve been having trouble with an invasion here. They’re probably anticipating an attack.”

Frost groaned. “Ugh, I hope that doesn’t happen.” He looked to the horizon. “That would just be annoying.”

Duke gave his words a curt nod. “Let’s just try to rest. God knows we’re gonna need it.” Frost sighed and complied, and the two men closed their eyes and dozed off for a time.

*********************************************************************************

That night, the caravan had set up a fire, which they all sat around, laughing and telling great stories of the past.

Except for Duke and Frost. They sat off to the side, not particularly unwanted, but not exactly welcome. They hadn’t tried to join in on the fun of the stallions, instead opting to keep their distance. The language barrier was enough, but there was also the weird factor of what exactly they all were. Duke and Frost weren’t interested in making friends either, only in making sure that they completed their mission. The others seemed similar; get the humans to the capital unscathed, get paid, be done. Purely business.

Duke and Frost were laying down in the dirt, staring up at the night sky, thinking to themselves. Frost thought about who they were looking for, what he might be like. Few people actually knew if they had ever met a CIA guy before, and the one that he had met met the criteria for the stereotype; hard, harsh, almost uncaring of those he spoke to. He hadn’t brought up his thoughts to Duke, since they weren’t that important, but they still persisted. He had met many different kinds of people, good and bad, and he wondered where OGA would fall. He hoped that he would be good, or less than bad; he had met too many of the latter.

Duke thought about home, about his family. He had a mother and father who loved him, and a brother who had gone into the private sector for R&D. He remembered their shock when he said he wanted to go Air Force, and chuckled when he remembered his brother’s words; “I’ll design your next plane!” He loved his life before, and he had a lot to go back to at home. Right now, he just hoped that he would get home.

“Hey, Frost.” he said.

“Yah?” The other man threw his voice in a foreign accent, sounding aloof and as if he were home with people he liked.

“I think we should discuss our RoE.” He sat up and moved over to a rock to lean on it for a backrest. “If we’re attacked by these Griffon invaders, I don’t think we should engage.”

Frost sat up quickly, surprised by his partner’s words. “What?” he asked. “Why not?”

“This isn’t our conflict, so we can’t engage. Plus, these things won’t exactly be the Taliban. We wouldn’t be cleared to engage anyway.”

Frost frowned and furrowed his brow, making lines appear all over his face, shadows cast over by the small fire off to their side. “Then what would we do? If we’re attacked, we won’t have a choice.”

Duke nodded. “Yeah. But if THEY’RE attacked, and we’re left out of it, we don’t go in. Unless we absolutely have to to survive and complete the mission, we don’t get involved.”

Frost took a moment to consider. There was the possibility of being attacked, but if THEY weren’t attacked, Duke had a good point. They didn’t want to pick a fight that would be hard to fight with only two people. And it was the horses’ fight, after all. “Alright. We don’t engage unless forced to.” Duke nodded, and the two men laid back down.

A few minutes later, the fire to their side went out and everyone was going to sleep. Except the sentries, of course, who patrolled the perimeter with hawk-like eyes, scanning the horizon like a set of security cameras, never blinking, never stopping. Frost watched them as they went. “You know that we’ll get sucked into this, right?” Duke only grunted, and the two men went to sleep.

*********************************************************************************

The next day, they were quickly on the move again, taking little time to get everything together. The horses didn’t seem particularly intent on staying in one place for too long, but this was understandable. Duke and Frost knew what it was like to be in enemy territory with the possibility of an attack at any moment.

They shipped out at 0600. The sky was changing shades, going from its pitch black and peppering of stars to a blood red and blinding sun over the horizon. The men looked around; nothing of civilization was visible any more, not even the town they came from. The world they were now in was cut off from everything, a barren wasteland of terror and potential ambushes. In the mountains of Afghanistan, the area was often called the Valley of Death. Now, they had a new one to deal with.

After they started moving, the stallions seemed to grow extremely tense. Looking around, Frost noticed that their eyes were darting around to the surrounding hills, ever on the watch for an ambush. He turned and looked to Duke, who was doing the same with his own eyes. He felt just a tad uncomfortable with it.

“Hey,” he said, catching Afaf’s attention in front of him. “Why is everyone so tense?”

Afaf kept his eyes on the move, not looking directly at Frost as he answered. “This area has the worst tendency of ambushes.” he explained. “Almost every time we come through, we are attacked.” Frost blinked in front of him. “Do not worry, though.” he said, helping Frost to relax a bit. “They never attack caravans this big.”

The conversation ended there, with Frost’s fears somewhat alleviated, but not enough to keep him from looking around himself. He and Duke had their hands on their guns and the safeties off. Both men chambered rounds in their weapons, drawing a look from Afaf, but they never spoke. The sky was turning blue again, the sun rising up to its peak in the sky. Though the light was blindingly bright, the men and stallions kept their eyes open and on the expansive landscape. Dust was kicked up by the winds, the dry and coarse particles rubbing hard against the skin.

At 1200 hours, they stopped for a break to eat and drink. Duke and Frost hopped off their carriage, blissful over the opportunity to stretch their legs and get some movement out of their systems. They stretched for a good bit, being followed shortly by Afaf.

“We must hurry. We do not want to stay in any place for too long.” Afaf explained. The two men ended their stretches and looked to Afaf. “Come. We must eat and drink.” The men and stallion walked over to the group of stallions, who were all sitting in a circle, watching every direction. They joined the group and ate silently, no one really wanting to talk at the moment.

It was 1252 hours when a huge dust storm rolled in. It rolled in from the mountains, coming out of nowhere. The cloud moved towards them at a breakneck pace, moving rocks as it passed. “واردة! Incoming!” Afaf yelled, hunkering down. The stallions and men dropped to the ground as quickly as they could, already being buffeted by the intense winds. The dust storm slammed into them, bits of pebble shrapnel sandblasting their faces. Duke and Frost had to cover their faces in order to keep the skin on them.

The dust storm settled on them, falling to pieces on top of them and dying out. The men were the first to stand up, taking in their surroundings in as much detail as possible, ensuring that nothing was missing. Their carriage was still there, which was all that they cared about. They noticed the others, though they were turned over and the items they were carrying had spilled out all over the place. It was only by the virtue of the weight of their battle rattle that their carriage had stayed upright.

“الجميع على ما يرام؟” Afaf asked. There were responses of varying energy from his stallions, some sounding like they were right as rain, others sounding like they had swallowed some gritty sand. The men of course didn’t understand, but from the tones, they figured that everyone was alright. “Are you two okay?” Afaf asked the men. They both nodded. “Good.”

The stallions all got up and looked to their carriages, groaning and whining about having to right them. Still, without a moment’s hesitation, they moved over and got to work.

Duke tapped Frost on the shoulder and motioned for him to follow. “We’ll help!” he shouted to the stallions, running over to them. They all just looked on at him, not understanding, but when Duke and Frost got their hands on the flipped side of the carriage, the stallions understood and moved on, grins sneaking onto their faces. The humans seemed alright.

That was when all Hell broke loose. Loud screeches came from the hillside, prompting everyone to look that way. The humans looked over their in pure confusion, while the stallions looked over in pure terror. They all scrambled for their weapons, leaving the men by the carriage. “What’s going on?” Duke shouted.

Shadows appeared all over the ground under them, strange shapes clearly high above. Duke and Frost looked up at the sight; close to two dozen griffons were directly above them, their figures being blackened by the shadows on their bellies and the shapes distorted by the light. Duke didn’t take any time trying to see these things. “Get Down!” he shouted. The men ran to their carriage and took cover.

The griffons were upon the caravan in less than a moment, landing hard, their talons scraping at the ground like a fork to a chalkboard. From their cover, the men looked on at the hostile creatures; their plumage was collectively a very dark brown, with white on their chests and large feathers on their wings. there was an assortment of body paint, ranging from a little on the wings to it being all over their bodies. One, presumably the leader, had painted around his eyes.

“وسوف تكون حرة!” a female voice shouted from the leader’s mouth. Evidently, he was a she. Without waiting for a response, the griffons went right at the stallions, who had barely managed to arm themselves.

The battle was intense from the very beginning. Swords and spears clashed, metal clangs and sparks flying. The griffons clearly outmatched the stallions in skill, especially with the ability to use their talons like hands. The stallions were struggling to repel the attackers, doing their level best to fight back. They weren’t on the right level, though.

Duke and Frost had been waiting at the sideline as he battle raged, but that didn’t stay true for long. At one point, a griffon stabbed one of the stallions with his short sword, knocking him down, and as he screeched his victory screech, looking around, he spotted the two humans. He froze in an instant, his face somehow growing pale through the feathers on his face. “البشر! قتل البشر!!” he shouted. Several other griffons who were standing around, already victorious, turned and saw them. Time seemed to stop for everyone as the true gravity of the situation came into light.

The griffons all screeched loudly, running and flying forward to engage this other threat. “Engage!” Duke yelled, dropping into a stable firing stance. Frost stayed standing, and before the griffons could get even close, they opened fire, 4.7mm rounds and 5.56mm rounds tearing through the enemy combatants. Feathers exploded into the air and screams higher than any screech pierced all present ears as the griffons fell, riddled with bullet holes. The loud bangs from the guns had brought all attention to the men from the rest of the battlefield, the whole thing stopping to observe what had just happened.

The stallions looked on in shock along with the griffons at the sight of the bodies lying on the ground in varying degrees of evisceration. All had their jaws, or beaks, agape, and some were walking backwards, away from the carnage. “تراجع!” the female voice called out, its source flying away as fast as possible. She was immediately joined by another ten griffons, all flying off to escape the fury of modern weaponry.

The men and stallions watched as the griffons all flew off, none intent on following or continuing the fight. As the griffons disappeared over the hillside, Duke called out to the rest of the caravan, “Is everyone alright?” He received responses, still in the other language, in varying degrees of pain, ranging from simple groans to hurried shouts for what he assumed to be help.

He looked to the stallion that he had seen stabbed and ran over, yelling. As he ran, Frost right behind, the other stallions who were uninjured or relatively so ran over as well. The stallion was lying on the ground, bleeding badly from the wound in his chest. Duke dropped to his knees next to the stallion.

“Frost, wraps, now.” he ordered. Frost ran over to their carriage and rummaged through his pack for bandages and gauze pads.. When he finally got them, he sprinted back over, tossing the items to his partner before he arrived. Duke caught them in the air and immediately unrolled them. “This might hurt.” he warned the stallion as he got ready to apply pressure. Before a reaction could be had, he stuffed the pad on the wound and started wrapping the stallion in the bandage. Surprisingly, the stallion only sucked in air through his teeth, and didn’t flail about in pain. When Duke finished, he helped the stallion to his hooves and got under him. “Frost.” His partner joined him under the stallion, and they carried him over to one of the carriages where they let him down.

Duke looked down at himself; he actually didn’t have any blood on him from the stallion. “Nice.” he said, turning around and leaving the stallion in the carriage. Frost ran up to join him.

“Good going, boss.” he complimented. “Let’s hope he ends up alright.” Duke nodded without responding, and the two simply walked on over to their carriage.

“Duke! Frost!” The men turned around to see Afaf running towards them. Behind him, the rest of the stallions were getting into their carriages and hooking up for the rest of the journey. When Afaf got to the men, he stopped and panted for a moment. “That... that was amazing!” he yelled. “I did not know you had such items with you.”

The men looked to each other for a moment. “Sure.” Duke said, turning his attention back to Afaf. “You never know when you might encounter unfriendly people. Or griffons. Whatever.”

Afaf nodded. “Well, it makes me comfortable to have you here. At least those griffon ولد غير شرعي won’t come after us again on this journey.” He ran past them to the carriage, with the men simply going at a leisurely pace.

“Boss, I think we might be involved now.” Frost warned.

“I know, Frost.” Duke replied darkly. “I know.”

Author's Note:

Thanks a million to my new pre-reader totallynotabrony for editing and advising me for this story!

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