Sisters in Arms
This is my first attempt at a ponyfic, so go easy on me. I apologize if the characterizations are a bit off, I had to do a bit of shoehorning to get them to fit. As always, I do not own these characters, settings, or technology, just the idea of mashing them up together. I had originally intended this to be a simple one-shot, but with the way I write, it always seems to spiral out of control. Ah well. It shouldn't take more than one or two more chapters. ::winces at the self-jinx::
As Marshal Twilight Sparkle pulled up to the earthen embankment-cum-fortification, she growled in frustration at the distinct lack of artillery support that was supposed to already be in place. Spitting at the ground to clear her mouth of dust, she keyed her mic to the scout's channel. “Ghost-1, this is Tin Star, do you read? Over.”
There was a small delay of static before Rarity's whispered reply broke through, “I read you Tin Star. Over.”
“What's the sitch out there, Ghost-1? How bad does it look? Over.”
Another small delay before, “It's bad, Tin Star. Not only are the parasprites swarming, they're exhibiting behavior counter to their known parameters. They're not touching the plant matter, and instead are going after anything non-living. I've just seen them devour a derelict Wraith in under two minutes. Worst of all, they clash with simply everything out here. We're in for a bad day, Tin Star. Over.”
Twilight tightened her grip on the Vulture's handlebars, and gritted her teeth. “Aw, hay. I knew those bucking maniacs were up to no good in that Everfree Research Installation. What sort of numbers are we looking at here, Ghost-1? Over.”
This time, some nervousness could be heard creeping into Rarity's voice as she replied, “I don't know, Tin Star. Every time my H.U.D. Tries to get a calculation on them, I get an error message. I can tell you this, though: It may be just after noon, but it's dark as midnight here. I think if it weren't for my cloak, I'd be- hold on Tin Star, I think something's about to happen.” Twilight swallowed hard, worrying about her friend. There was a long moment of silence, broken by the White unicorn's shout of terror. “I've been spotted! They're swarming this way! Augh! No, don't eat that! Not my hoof-stitched cloak! It took forever to make! How dare you nibble on my rifle! No do- Don't you dare bite that rad-”
The hiss and crackle of static dropped the bottom out of the marshal's heart. Forgetting radio protocol, she shouted, “Rarity! Rarity, do you read me? Return to base immediately! Do you copy? Rarity, do you copy?” She fought back the tears as she switched over to the command channel. “Adjutant Mare, this is Tin Star, did you copy that last transmission?”
The adjutant's modulated voice came through clearly over the radio link, while her bespectacled image was displayed on the Vulture's tiny screen.. “Affirmative, Marshal.”
Twilight's iron-hoof control almost slipped as she gave the order, “Then send it along with a progress report on to Central Command. I'm sure the Empresses will want to be appraised of the situation.”
“And where the hay is the artillery support that's supposed to be on my position? It should have been in place as soon as the embankment was completed.” Her misdirected anguish gave her a sharp, bitter tone.
“Sergeant Pinkie-Pie is already underway. She should arrive momentarily.” If the gray-haired adjutant was offended, she hid it well behind a calm robotic composure.
The purple unicorn sighed as she placed her face in one of her hooves. “Fine. In the meantime, have the rest of my squad assemble on my position. Oh, and see if you can spare Lieutenant Dash. We're going to need some aerial reconnaissance.”
“Affirmative Marshal.” The adjutant's face was replaced by a blank screen as she signed off to carry out her duties.
Twilight dismounted from her hoverbike, and scaled the embankment overlooking the Everfree forest. She flipped down her goggles, and adjusted the zoom. There. Just above the treeline. It looks like smoke, but that's got to be the swarm. Fiddling with the zoom to bring it into sharper focus was of no help. At this distance, it was like trying to focus on fog. Seeing that was getting her nowhere, she scanned the forest edge for any sign of her missing friend. She was so focused on that task, she failed to hear the approach of her requested back-up personnel.
“How's it lookin', Sugar cube?”
Applejack's question startled her, but she managed to keep herself from jumping. Sighing, she flipped up her goggles and slid down the ponymade hill. “Not good, AJ. Not only is this the largest swarm we've ever seen, it looks like it was engineered to eat inorganic material, rather than organic.”
The orange marine's surprise was written all over her face. “Well, how they hay did that happen? For that matter, how does that even work?” She scratched her head and looked at Fluttershy in her medic's armor beside her, who just shrugged.
“I'll give you three guesses,” Twilight's smirk was short lived. “It gets worse.” She paused to steel her courage. “Rarity was caught up in the swarm.” She cut their gasps short as she plowed on. “Apparently, they caught wind of her or something, but the last I heard from her radio transmission, it sounded like they were stripping her of her gear. Hopefully, they'll leave her alone after that, or she'll get away, but...” She couldn't hold her friends' gaze anymore and dropped her eyes to the ground.
Applejack stepped forward and placed a hoof on her friend's shoulder. “Now don't you fret none, Twilight. Rarity may be many things, but she's a smart filly. If anypony can get out of that mess, I'm sure it's her.”
Fluttershy came closer and gently touched her foreleg. “Yes. Remember that time she was captured by those Diamond Dog rebels who were going to ransom her back to us? By the time we got there, she had them begging us to take her back. Even gave us all the Khaydaran crystals they had mined.”
Twilight's small smile brought some relief to her friend's expressions. “Thanks guys. Did you happen to see Pinkie out there? She was supposed to be here by now with that 'special artillery' she was assembling for me.”
The marine and medic looked at each other, shifting around uncomfortably on their hooves. “Uh, yeah. About that. You see...” Applejack began.
“Pinkie-Pie has made some... um, modifications to your original plans,” Fluttershy finished.
Twilight facehoofed as she groaned. “Ugh. I should have known. What sort of 'modifications' are we talking about here?”
Her two friends again looked at each other before looking at the ground at which they were pawing. However, they were saved from actually answering by the familiar sound of a Siege Tank rolling up. As it rounded the corner of a supply depot, Twilight's jaw dropped. The gargantuan war machine had been painted in a riot of bright, cheery colors and patterns, no two of which matched. Pink and indigo checks butted up against blue and yellow polka-dots, green plaids sidled up to purple swirls, and diagonal red and white stripes ran alongside an orange camouflage pattern. But over it all, the giant yellow smiley face grinning from the front of the tank's turret proudly proclaimed to the world that this tank was here to make you smile.
The “war machine” stopped in the shelter of the embankment, and the hatch on the turret opened up to reveal the pony Twilight had been looking for. “Heyas, Twilight! Do you like the paint job? I know you do because the original design was just so bleagh, and dreary, and 'How is anypony supposed to see it when it's hiding so well?' I thought to myself, so I went to the supply depot and guess what I found! Go on, guess! You're too slow Twilight. Really, I thought you would have guessed by now. Anywho, I found a bunch of paint, but there was only a little of each color, not nearly enough to make it all one color, so I-”
“Pinkie!” Twilight shouted over the pink mare just to be heard. When she had finally ceased talking, Twilight asked, “What did you do to my beautiful tank?”
Pinkie-Pie threw her hooves up in the air like she just didn't care. “Duh, you silly filly, I made it better! Now it's not just a Siege Tank, it's a Party Tank!”
Twilight was ready to tear out her mane in frustration. “Please tell me you didn't mess with the weapon systems!”
Pinkie-Pie rolled her eyes as if it were the silliest question ever uttered. “Of course not, Twilight. What do I look like, a weaponomologist-thingy?” Twilight's exhale of relief at the news was short lived, however. “I just changed the ammo load out!”
The growl of frustration coming out of the marshal was truly terrifying... unless your name was Pinkemena Diane Pie, that is. “Piiinnnkiiieee...”
Pinkie-Pie patted the turret affectionately. “Just wait till those grumpy ole' parasprites get a load of this baby! They'll party their little wings off!”
Once again, Twilight's hoof found it's way to her face as if by homing instinct. “Oh, Pinkie...”
Further conversation was halted by the appearance of a rainbow streak overhead, coming directly from the Ponyville spaceport. It angled down towards the gathered ponies with alarming speed until it halted just short of crashing into the disbelieving marshal. The cyan pegasus in the Wraith power suit saluted her without bothering to land. “Lieutenant Rainbow Dash, reporting for duty, SIR!” The cocky grin on her face negated any of the officialness out of the greeting and the salute.
The unicorn just shook her head at the bravado. They were going to need confidence like that if they were to weather the coming storm. “Dash, I need you to head to grid 7G, cloaked , and see if you can find any trace of Ghost-1. That was her last known position before we lost contact.”
Dash's face fell at this news, all cockiness gone. “You've lost contact with Rarity? MY RARITY?!” she screamed.
Twilight's grim stare instantly stopped her short. “OUR Rarity was out there doing her job. A job, I might add, that she is very, VERY good at. She knew the risks when she signed up, just like all of us. I'm just as worried as you are about her, but if we go off half-cocked, we're not going to last very long against this threat. Now, can I depend on you to keep a cool head about this, or am I going to have to keep you here at base and send out another pony to see about her?”
The implied threat of a grounding behind her words was not lost on the cyan pony, who replied with a salute, serious this time, “No SIR!”
“Good. Now as important as retrieving her is, I need you to do a little scouting from the air, while you're out there,” the marshal continued. “We need an estimate of enemy strength, speed, and bearing. Think you can manage that?” Her half-smile mitigates some of the harshness of her tone.
With a nod, the pegasus says in a gentler tone, “I think I might be able to handle that, sir.”
Sighing, Twilight rests a hoof on her friend's shoulder. “Thank you. I know how much Rarity means to you, ALL of us mean to you. Just... come back to us in one piece, huh? You're kinda special to us as well, you know.”
With a nod, Dash starts to take off, when Twilight stops her again. “And be careful of these parasprites. They seem to have a taste for metal more than plants, so there's no telling how they feel about pony flesh, okay?”
Her cocky grin back in place, the pegasus replies, “Hey, it's me!” Her signature rainbow contrail disappearing as she activates her cloaking field.
“That's what I'm afraid of...” Twilight mumbles to herself
Her voice apparently carried farther than she thought, because Applejack came up behind her and rested a hoof on her shoulder. “Don't worry none. She'll be careful. She knows what's on the line here. That's just Dash's way of showing affection, sugar cube.”
Pinkie-Pie's voice from atop the tank pierced the still air, “Well, that and mind-blowing sex, anyway!” Everyone chuckled, the tension broken, though not without a blush from Fluttershy. It was a well-known secret just how close most of this squad was, not only among themselves, but the settlement in general. Not that such an arrangement was uncommon. The death of two-thirds of all the stallions due to war among any population will have that effect.
“She misses your company, you know,” Applejack continued. “We all do. It's just not the same without you.”
Twilight nodded with a fond smile. “I know, AJ. I miss our more... intimate moments too. But when I promised Cheerilee that I'd be true to her, I meant it.” A goofy grin plastered itself on her face as she thought of the maroon teacher.
“I swear we're gonna have a word with that schoolmarm about sharing,” Applejack slammed her two front hooves together in mock anger.
“You do that and I'll have to tan your hide, filly!” Twilight's passable imitation of Applejack's accent brought snickers from the group. Her face lost most of its mirth as she remembered the situation. “Alright girls, that's enough lollygagging! That swarm will be here sooner than I like, and Pinkie-Pie, what ARE those things you got hanging off the sides of the turret?”
The objects in question had finally drawn Twilight's attention. They were boxy constructions with round circles on the face, which reminded her of- No, they couldn't be. They better NOT be what I think they are! “No. You know what? I don't even want to know. But I'm telling you right now Pinkie, if the modifications you made to this tank affect it's performance detrimentally, I am going to... I... I don't even know WHAT I'm going to do to you!”
The pink mare grinned at her friend and affectionately patted the object she had attached to the tank with a hoof. “Don't worry, Twilight! Ol' Gummy here will take care of those Meany Mean McMeansters!”
Twilight had to resist the urge to facehoof once again.