The sun rose in the same fashion as it always has. The same way as multiple generations could remember. Though the day the world all had know was beginning to change, the sun never did so much as waver. As far as my memory remains the day had begun in a normal fashion. Even as I rest in the mud and dirt, the glow of various fires burning and the fluttering of ash that day seemed to be no further than yesterday. In fact it was nearly two years ago. One thing I have learned is patience since I have nothing but time and with a little luck, possibly a hundred years or more of it. I suppose now is as good a time as any to begin the story.
I was born on the hard surface of Equestria. My father was what we classify as being an earth pony. Or a dirt stomper if one wishes to be mean about it. My mother was a pegasus and was the one who gave me the name Sterling. At some point while I was young my mother had received a summons to return to Cloudsdale. There was no option for it since she was a citizen and therefore mandatory. At my father’s urging he persuaded my mother to take me with her and so she did. Being a pegasus myself the officials never made an argument about me being brought along as well. Now it is common knowledge that a pegasus can fly. It is natural for us though when I came of age to do so I struggled. Time after time I was taken in for review and evaluation and time after time they failed me. Once it was found who and what my father was I was listed as a Racial Oddity and never had to show up for review again. At that age I never paid too much attention as to what those words meant but after some time I began to take notice of how both me and my mother were treated. Either with disdain, pity, or something in-between. At school the only relief I could find was with other racial oddities such as myself. Yeah, we were extremely bad at flying but a part of us did not care and still managed to make it to a well grown age. It was on the seemingly normal day that my life changed to the point to where it is now. I left my home that morning for my shift on the cloud assembly line as the chief inspector the streets and all it’s citizens seemed to be in an uproar. More so than usual. Young, old and even foals who should have been making their way to school were all traveling towards the city square. Knowing I still had some time to spare and the square itself was on my route to work, I took it upon myself to see just what was going on. It did not take me to long to reach my destination though I began to take notice of the mass amount of streamers and banners hanging from every window and pole in sight. From where I stood at the back of the huge throng I could see even bigger banners posted at the front. Large black banners lined out in silver trim to match the streamers. A silver shield took up the middle of the cloth flanked by two feathery wings in silver on each side. Though I might have caught a glimpse of such now and then the crowed paid no mind to it as if the large tapestries had been there all along. Most political changes were not very well known with racial oddities. In fact, authority figures and most citizens went out of their way to exclude us but here even the security never so much as gave a second glance to me or any others in the crowd. I had a job, a house and kept out of trouble. What more could I want? Even the automated units performing security never approached me. The ROY G BIV units I mean. Some years ago these machines were developed and even looked like a pegasus. A small number were created to help with limited weather jobs as well as security and patrol. The Defense Force was well known for having short numbers and granted I tried to apply and serve, well, no Racial Oddities allowed. The mechanical beings had a single, yellow glowing eye to see and no voice. Just a device powered by who only knows what and when given an order it does just that. But enough of those clockwork things. By then the crowd had become quiet as a stately looking pegasus appeared upon the largest balcony facing the crowd. His black mane swept back and a white coat of some sort he looked like the picture of intelligence. Once stopped, an even larger banner was unrolled beneath the balcony. Black and silver but this time no shield and wings. Just three rings interlaced as a triangle with a single cog above its apex. A symbol every citizen knew. The ministry f science and welfare. The ones who demanded perfect fliers and the ones who labeled me and many others oddities. It was actually very curious for them to use such fanfare when giving speeches but it was this one speech as the crowd hushed itself that brought me where I am now.
“Citizens of Cloudsdale. I address you today with some sad news. But! With it comes the solution. As you know our society has changed over the course of a few years. We are a proud race and every pony here is a proud pegasus. But, over the years a lax in the system has led to much interbreeding practices and has brought about racial oddities. It could nearly lead to the extinction of a pure blood race. Over thirty percent of Cloudsdale citizens are such oddities. We are a strong race. The masters of the land, weather, and skies. For the oddities, and you know who you may be, we extend to you the opportunity. The opportunity to make a difference and give back to Cloudsdale. I encourage you, volunteer! Give back to the land that still accepted you instead of casting you out. Give back to our people and our cause. Do that, and you shall be oddities no more. Citizens, the time has finally come and you all know what you must do. Work hard! And in short time we shall be pure and whole again. For Cloudsdale! For the cause! For the pegsus race!” The pony’ ended his speech, the crowd now in an uproar over it. Cheers, shouts, chants. I began to notice many of my kind, some I even worked with from the factory break away from the crowd and into the only empty street. One after the other following. Here I thought ‘Finally, I can actually become something and not be put down for even trying’. I made my decision right then and there and too jumped into the long line. As the pony had said, they still kept me and my mother after all was said and done so why not? My mind made up, I found myself in a long line at the Office for Well Being. Though we were generally looked down upon, I swore I could hear cheers and screams of support from citizens for the decision we all made. It felt like being given a second chance and forgiven. The line moved slowly. One at a time we approached and gave our name. Once the schedule was checked we were set aside. When a group of twenty ponies was gathered they were moved into a formation of four across and five deep and immediately marched away by a few guards from the Defense Force. Before long we were led group after group to the destination. It was apparently a new center built not long ago for training new recruits. We were processed once more and briefed before being told to settle in. It never dawned on me until the next morning that there I was, a recruit in training when I was rejected every single time I applied.
Our training lasted an entire week. The standard training period was normally two months with additional training for specific jobs. It was as if they were in a rush and pressing for time. But the instructors would not say anything when asked and gave us plenty of the basics to learn. Using our speed to the advantage, bucking, putting us into shape, even how to use our wings as a weapon and defense. It wasn’t easy work but I was proud to wear the dull grey jacket of a recruit and the matching hat. I never so much as protested when my mane was cut short. The week had gone by in what was almost like a blur and on our last day we were brought out to the training ground early in the morning. We were told we had one last training task to complete the following morning before we graduate and no longer be in training. By that afternoon we were divided. Here I will go ahead and give some insight on how it works. A unit consists of fifty ponies. A squad consists of twenty-five ponies. So, a unit is two squads and two squads is a unit. Each squad had a captain to lead it. A commander takes charge of the whole unit and the two captains. We were eventually split into two whole units. A hundred in all. Once placed we trained for the rest of the day. That evening when dinner was to be eaten we were met with a surprise. Food and drink. Everything and anything was there and we were allowed to eat what out little hearts desired. Granted growing up a lot of us had to struggle to get by, this was like a birthday and all holidays rolled into one big room. I myself was no shy about this. A whole apple pie was a treat for me. It was something my mother would try to get for my birthday once a year. Pickled cabbage was a favorite of mine as well. For awhile I felt rich. A lot of us did. It was something we should try to remember.
Before dawn both units were awoken and told to make ready. I had no trouble with it since I worked a morning shift at a factory. We cleaned ourselves up in a hurried manner without injuring ourselves and donned our jackets and caps before proceeding out to the training ground. Once both units had been separated we began our march from the training center and into the outskirts of the city. No one was awake at this hour but us but I was sure the roar of our hooves crashing in time with the march must have awoken quite a few. I mostly tried to keep focus on my step. I really did not want to mess up on my last day but as the sun began to rise I took notice of our surroundings. We had practically made our way from most f the houses and shops and were headed towards the factory district. The entire group had passed beneath one of the arches before turning to the left. The procession was headed towards the gates of a near desolate factory. One I had seen every day as I walked into work and even from the assembly line. I had never seen a pony enter or exit nor did I know of any pony who worked there. Before long we began to enter through the gate and through a large door on the side of the building. By each opening and door stood at least two ROY G BIV units. Stark still, possibly with orders to let us through. Now that I think about it the gate to the district itself had a few units watching the entrance. Some nervous glances were cast about as we entered the building. It was dimly lit with a yellowish light. The large building seemed to be relatively empty and the only thing taking space was rows and rows of beds lining the walls. Once inside we were ordered to halt and not but a few seconds after we did such were we ordered to take a bed. Not wanting to ask questions and be punished for it we scrambled as ordered and lay upon one of the beds we had picked in our flurry. Once settled a door from the west end of the building opened and one by one a pony entered, each wearing a white coat of sorts. There was quite a few and some unicorns were among them. They spread out, going from bed to bed and place a plastic mask upon our muzzles, the hoses, if I remember correctly, ran to beneath the beds. At this point I was beginning to feel more than nervous. An instinctive fear began to settle within me as the ponies finished up and the room was hushed by our training commander before speaking “Today is your last day as a recruit. This is your last test you will all pass and graduate. Everyone of you shall be flawless citizens. Something we shall all aspire to become in time and the greater Cloudsdale gratefully thanks you as volunteers. For the cause!” I think we were all beyond nervous because we couldn’t even muster the vice to repeat back the slogan. But the silence was short lived as the masks began to emit a sound. Almost hissing, like air escaping a balloon and filled the room. The last thing I could remember before my vision began to blur then go dark as the smell and taste of apple pie.
All I could say is it felt like a dreamless slumber. Something I had never expereienced before. Upon awakening I was assaulted by bright, white light. It was similar to staring into the suns rays without blinking. Though I wanted to move I couldn't. I even wanted to close my eyes but I could not even do that as well. That itself was eventually placed far in the back of my mind as I was focusing all of my thought and energy to try and at least gain some vision. Within a few minutes my vision began to clear thought it still seemed to be fuzzy. Fuzzy was the best way for me to put it for lack of words. For a few moments it felt awkward but when I finally gathered my wits I began to look about my surroundings. I appeared to be within a room, or what seemed to be a room. A small table with trays, vials and various tools sat around the area. A much larger table that had all the looks of a control panel took up one of the entire walls. Before this my job was assembling and inspections so even I was never sure what did what when it came to scientific devices. When my vision began to finally clear and the fuzziness gone was when the images finally sank in. I was not really within a room at all but a small area closed off by four large mirrors with only one way in and one way out of it all. My gaze finally froze and the same feeling of fear and uneasyness had assaulted me.
The same feeling I had felt when we had arrived for our last training exercise and blacking out. The image being reflected back at me was that of a ROY G BIV. Though it was nearly the same body style the color was different than the units I have grown accustomed to. Black, it was all black and trimmed in silver. I remember how ridiculous it seemed and that it could not be real. For a split second I thought of moving my own ear and the image in the mirror did just that. It moved! So was I really one of those units or was it a dream? It was all I could think over as I stared into the mirror. In a way I looked like a Pegasus except for the fact I no longer posessed two eyes. Just a single, yellow tinted lense the machines would view the world from. My ear had twitched again as I caught the sound of hooves upon a metallic surface and the single lense in question moved to my far left without me having to move my head only to see a unicorn enter the mirrored room. Given the white jacket her wore I automatically assumed he was one of the scientists responsible and could possibly get answers from him. Before I could make my voice and questions heard the pony spoke in a soft and sure tone as he approached the table "Well, I see you awoke with no problem. And it would seem everything in terms of mechanical integrity is working just fine. Having to repair four out of a hundred is pretty good statistics. Anyways, I will be brief with this and will start of saying I am only allowed to give you a basic rundown of what you are and function. There are things I am not allowed to breach due to security and private concerns. Now, congratulations on passing the finale test and training phase. As for your physical body, well it is no more except for one part Sterling. The brain. The brain is still intact though now it resides in this special made shell designed from the ROY G BIV units. But, unlike the machines who do just what we tell them because of their programming, you and the others like you still hold rational thought and thinking. Faster, more agile and armored but with flexable thought. In other words you are in all statistics far better than a full fleshed Pegasus within the force. You make up the power for nearly ten of them. Yes you have only one optic for vision but it will allow you to see left and right easily without having to bother turning your own heard. Now, on a side note, you will notice the color. As it stands for your kind regular troopers are painted black. Squad captains are trimmed in silver and units ommanders trimmed in gold."
I let the words sink into my mind with only a simple nod at intervals before letting that single optic move over all the mirrors to get an example of what the scientist spoke of. I indeed had silver trim but on the flank was a large silver shield. A single sword and lightning bolt crossed eachother in the center in yellow. Above the emblem was the numbers '1/2'. Unit number one, squad number two. I gazed over the new body for a few moments longer when the unicorn next to me spoke and caught my attention once more "At any rate Captain Sterling, it will take a bit to get used to your new body. But keep in mind that you still have free thought and emotions and you no longer have the need to eat or drink or even breath. But, the brain is still a living organ and without sleep over long periods of time it will tire out so do take time no and then to rest when needed. Clear? Good. Other answers will possibly come later. As of now you are requested back at the training center for a briefing. All captians and Commanders of the first stike unit are to attend. Take care, return when ordered for maintenance, and do not panic. You will be just fine and I am sure it is a shock but as I told the others, the body is gone but the mind is still you." Granted all the information I was given at once I still had an uneasy feeling. If it was just my brain how was it still alive? How was the machine actually moving or powered? I did not have the courage to ask right away but perhaps once I begin to move around I may work up some and ask at the briefing. Maybe the others had actually asked and recieved.
It goes without saying my trip to the training center and headquarters must have been a comical one. Just getting off the table I was on when I awoke seemed like a chore. I stumbled, I tilted and I slipped trying to get used to my new body. The fact a pair of a ROY G BIV units ecorting me were ordered to do so but they offered no help. By the time I reached my destination I had a pretty decent grasp of how my body worked with my surroundings. The training yard was teeming with a large number of new recruits while a few seasoned troops sat by in the shade and watched the training as if for amusement. I wanted to take at least some time to check around and see just how much had changed here and within the city itself. It was on my way out of the factory district that I leanred how long I had been, I guess you can say, asleep. Six whole days had passed. I lumbered forward into the building with my escorts, passing by and through the staff as they rushed about their duties. They were all over the place and nearly running into each other and not a single one had particularly paid attention to my presence. My guess was that in the six days I was asleep the population had grown used to us by now. Before long we had stopped at the end of a long hallway to a set of large double doors. My all mechanical escorts turned to give a brief salute before walking back down the hall and leaving me to myself. Finally gone, I took one last look aroud before stopping my gaze to the door. I wanted to take in a deep breath and let it all out with a heavy sigh but it was only my memory of being told that it was no longer needed that stopped me from attempting such a thing. Instead I raised a metallic hoof and tapped upon the door before pushing it open and entering.
The center of the large room was taken up by a horseshoe shaped table. Against the wall on the open side of the table stood a presentation board as well as a familiar pegasus. It only took a few moments before I realized who it was. The same pony who gave the speech within the city center that brought me to where I am today. I never got to say a word when the door behind me opened as a few ponies entered followed by three of the new mechanical units such as myself. I exchaned a few words with each of the captains and commanders before the room was finally hushed and the doors to the room had closed. The rooms first occupant stepped towards the table and broke the silence "Good of you all to join me today. And to you as well General Stratosphere and as well as your staff. Let me see, my four Captains and two Commanders of the First Strike Unit. Welcome, welcome indeed. Now as most of you know I have been tasked with all offensive and strategic planning for this operation and I look forward to your cooperation in this for the greater Cloudsdale. Now, phase one of the operation will be thus. The First Strike unit containing the new Pegasus of my design will be making the first move. Squads one and two of unit one will be boarding a cloud barge for Ponyville in twelve hours time. Squads three and four of unit two will do the same, only the destination will be Appaloosa in five hours time as they will need the head start for the longer trip. Now pay attention captains and commanders. It is imperrative we take these two towns first and as fast as possible. As you enter you are to round up each towns respective citizens. Every. Single. Pony. And if you encounter any resistance from those who try to fight back as well you are to eliminate the threat at once. I do not care how you do it. Once this has been done and the towns are under control, noral units from the Defense Force, who will leave out shortly behind your scheduals, will take over control. The object is to use both towns as strategic bases in wich to project our forces on the ground as well as make use of the apple orchards there.
Now once the normal units arrive is when you will recieve your next set of orders. As of now we are still working on increasing the offensive capabilities of the new ROY G BIV units to come and hope to have breakthroughs shortly for the new volunteers." The pagasus took in a deep breath as he turned and approached the board at the end of the room and began to look over the various maps when Stratosphere spoke "So the plan is still the same as on paper. But I must ask, how fast will we really need to move before Canterlot catches on and tries to intervene or set up defenses head minister?" The pony had ran a hoof over a few of the maps before turning and giving a passing smile at the question "Do not worry. That has been taken care of but in order to get our half of the prize we will need to move fast enough to free up the strike units." The general seemed to be pleased with the answer and said nothing more. All in all we were going into battle afterall. And on the offensive at that. It was almost too much for me to take in and more or less it seemed like a grand dream. But I did volunteer for this and was a full citizen now because of that fact. I may as well see what all of this was and how it would play out and keep my end of the bargain "All right, that will be todays briefing. More will come later as Commanders Apple seed and Primrose ready their units. Once you achieve your objectives is when you will recieve your next set of orders. Now go and make ready and make Cloudsdale and the Pegasus race proud. May the fortunes of war be with you. Dismissed."
It would actually be nice if I could feel the wind. With these new bodies nothing in the world could be felt and here I am sitting upon a large cloud wishing I could feel the air and wind in the process. Before embarking on our trip to the first rally point then onwards to the objective I was given instructions on how to fly within my new shell. A few laps around the headquarters while being escorted by a pair of the ROY G BIV units in the process. For the first time in my life I was actually able to fly close to perfect though it took a complete bodily make-over in order to do such. Even then I wish I could have felt the wind but so sense in crying over it now I suppose. Both respective squads had been place on their own clouds for transport and just by the looks of the troops on my barge and the second just a short distance off they were taking everything quite well. A radical change to their bodies and they are already making jokes, jostling eachother around, and talking without a care. Then again they had possibly a week or so to get used to it all. I was the last one awoken and have only been awake only a day.
It did not take long before the others tried to drag me into conversation with them but I only sat quietly and gave a nod or a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer now and then. I was not sure if they came to the conslusion that I may have been defective or not. Hard to tell when there is nothing to show such features like the eyes or mouth would. Either way if they did nothing was said of it either because it was not worth mentioning at thi point or because I was their second ranking officer. After some time of back and forth chatter in the pre dawn hours was when the orders for complete silence was passed through the rank and file. The objective was spotted in the distance though we were closing in on it slowly in the guise of storm clouds so as to not raise suspicion. Or so that was the plan they had decided upon anyways. As we came nearer and nearer a few faint lights could be made out as street lamps. This alone highlighted the contours of the shoppes and houses. Before long the darkness would fade to light and by then we are hopeful to complete the operation by the time the sun rises.
Within the span of an hour we had finally reached the edge of Ponyville and came to a complete stop. We sat and waited. A few troops making short conversation in husehd tones. Now and then a normal Pegasus would take flight from our cloud to a specific height and face our rear, a lantern held in place by a leather strap around the neck. I would watch as he would flash white light for a brief moment before moving a blue and red lense over the light. A purple glow would shine for but a few seconds before it was shut off completely. Behind us in the distance a faint yellow light would be the response. With that the Pegasus would lower his altitude back to our cloud and wait. This was the fifth time we recieved a yellow light as an answer. The Pegasus was kind enough to quietly explain to me what the whole process was about. The quick flash of white light apparently alerts the second party of an incoming message. The purple light shows that all is ready and wanting to proceed. The yellow we got in response to it all was, as I was told, to standby. He had said red usually means no and green for yes and that there was many other variations to it all but he was not able to go into detail before being silenced by the Commander. The best guess I could make of it all was the clouds carrying the normal pegasus troops was a little behind and wanted to be closer that way when we complete our part of the mission we would not have to wait too long for them to take over. All I could do at this point was keep silent even though I had hardly uttered a word. Looking around and taking in the view around me was the next best past-time when the pony with the lamp stood and was getting ready to take flight again when behind us came quick and frantic flashes of green light. I craned my head a ways and let the glass orb that was my eye take over the rest as it moved to the far right to catch a glimpse. Not only was there one green light, but three in total flashing on and off frantically. The Pegasus with the lantern on our barge flashed a green lense over his light a few times as the Commander's from both clouds began to flit about, ordering every pony to stand and make ready.
"Alright captain, all I need you to do right now is follow the rest of the troops and help with their duties. I do not plan to leave the squad anytime soon so there is not need for you to take any command or relay orders on my behalf. Clear? Perfect."
The Commander had taken some of his time to stop and speak with me which was fine and all. I never asked for a leadership position and I am not sure how they came across me as the type to do so but no matter. I stood at the rear of the group while the commander stood at the front and after a few brief words to the front row and to the Pegasus troops who traveled with us moving the cloud along he jumped. The troops followed suit in one hurry as if each and every one was trying to be the second one off the cloud. Within moments I had reached the edge, spread my metallic wings, and leapt from the cloud. My body spiraled downwards once or twice before leveling out into a glide. The entire group had managed to stay together as we continued downwards. According to the plan our squad was to take one end of the town while the first squad took another end. Eventually we would end up meeting in the middle and spread from there if necessary. The houses came closer and closer, the trees nearer and nearer and from what we could tell every pony was still in bed asleep. We would have to go home to home and drag them out but one panice sounded and spread through the town we were sure it would make the job easier in the long run.
The sound of metallic hooves from the first pony to touch the ground echoed through the still air. Many more followed in short order. My hooves touched soil last though I did not take to the first house or shop near me. Instead I took a few moments to watch around me. Some of the troops took to the front doors and rushed inside. Doors that were locked were shattered like dead wood by a single buck. Some even flew straight in through windows on the top or even ground floors. Surprise was to be the element after all. Before long the sound of screams and panic began to fill the streets. Doors would burst open as the homes occupant would rush out followed by one of us. A sleepy citizen would step out his or her door to check and see what the commotion was about only to be kicked or tossed to the dirt before being dragged to the center of town as the rest worked to heard the masses in one spot either by fear or by force. Some began to emerge from the opposite end of the town only to run into our squad while escaping the other. A few would surrender to demands as they realised they were stuck in the middle with no way to go. I myself began to move around a bit though I made a point to stay out of the others way as I watched. Looking around my gaze stopped upon a pair of troops who seemed to be struggling with an earth pony. The citizen itself was not all that big but he was putting up a stout fight while his assailents tried to subdue him. The earth pony struggled and swiped a hoof here and there before finally rearing back and flung himself forward. A hoof made contact full force to the head of one of the troopers. The mechanical pony staggered back in surprise, the ear damaged slightly. His partner racted quickly by crashing a hoof of his own onto the resisting citizen. The metallic hoof mixed with the hollow sound and a crack caused me to take a step back as the pony ceased to resist and flop to the ground in a lifeless state. Shaking my head free of the image I turned in time to see more of the citizens had been ushered to the center of town. By now troopers from the first squad were appearing at the opposite end just as the sky began to take on a lighter glow.
Aside from the light of the oncoming sun a faint and familiar orange glow began to filter out into the street. Catching my attention I turned to the sound of shattering glass and watched as orange and yellow flames began to lap from the broken window. Shadows began to dance as the flames grew more intsense as the commotion around me began to intensify. I turned my head this way and that to take in the scene before me but no sooner had I turned fully around did I catch sigh a charging earth pony. One of the prisioners must have broken away from the group to flee as a pair of ponies from my unit rushed after 'Please no, do not do it. Do not do it.' It was all I could repeat over in my head. Over and over and over as the creature charged headlong, a look of determination on it's face knowing this would go either one or two ways. I move or it plows straight through me. At this point I wish I could have taken a deep breath as the pony drew closer and closer. My mechanical body sprung into action in order to react. I did not move out of the way instead I had raised my right hoof at the last moment and gave one swift and hard swing to the left. The strike connected with the side of the ponies head with a hollow and sharp 'crack'. The best way I could describe it would be like hitting a watermelon as hard as you could. The sound of bone cracking became apparent as th pony's body tumble through the air only to come crashing down to the dirt quite a few paces from me. As I looked closer I could see the head was twisted in a fasion it was never intended to turn. "Darn good punch there Captian,first comfirmed kill. She was quite the handful just trying to round her up."
The voice from one of the troopers snapped me from my own thoughts. I merely gave a nod before looking down to my own hoof, a pice of paint chipped from the metal. I had actually killed some pony, and a mare at that. Maybe if I blink my eyes it would just be a dream? Nothing doing. It was as real as it gets. The suns rays began to peer over the buildings as I stood near the flame engulfed shop and a corpse. As the sound of commotion increased I decided to break the gaze from my hoof in order to see the living, breathing normal troops rushing into the town to take over. I suppose the Commanders would call this a success in its own right. The sun played off the silver armor most of the Pegasus troops were wearing while we began to move towards the train station to regroup. By this point I had to force myself to move with the rest and not to curious as to what we would have to do next.