Tirek had done it. He had finally, truly, done it. Equestria was his.
It had been almost too easy. He laughed, blasting another laser towards a grove of trees, sending wildlife scattering. The Everfree forest, regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the land of Equestria, due to the large amount of monsters living there, fell to ashes in front of him. Even the Everfree could not stand in his way now.
His victory was absolute. From the deserts to the mountains, he was supreme. Only the crystal empire remained outside his control, but that would change soon enough. The Princesses of Equestria, the only beings who could have ever hoped to stop him, had been crushed, sent to Tartarus where they would sit and rot for all eternity, the same punishment they bestowed upon him.
The only hitch in his plan had been the previously unknown small purple alicorn and her friends, the one the Two Heavenly Sisters had bestowed their magic upon, and he had briefly wondered if he would be able to defeat her. After all, one Alicorn with the power of four was a lot more dangerous than four alicorns with the power of one, if said alicorn was properly trained and knew how to control the vast amounts of magic inside them.
The purple alicorn was neither of those things.
She had put up quite a fight though, proving to be more of a challenge than he originally thought. However, she had quickly capitulated when the fate of her “friends”, helpfully rounded up by Discord, was brought into play.
He drained her magic, and she and her friends got to live. For now. He was certain he would see them again soon, trying to put up some pitiful attempt at payback or rebellion against him, at which point he would laugh and then blast them back to whatever god these silly ponies believed in.
No, there would be no more resistance from the ponies. His rule would be unchallenged.
He paused for a moment, swiveling his ears. He looked up towards the deep red sky and dark clouds. He had thought for a moment he had heard thunder in the distance. But just as he heard it, it was gone, washed away by the winds. Well, he reasoned, since there was no one around to control the weather, the weather would run wild, and thunderstorms were bound to happen eventually.
He returned to his trek, thinking nothing of it. Perhaps he would return to Canterlot.
He wanted so badly to see the city crumble.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Raven muttered, looking down at the unfamiliar landscape below them.
“No shit. Welcome to Equestria boys.” Their flight leader, callsign Doomsday, spoke, flying low and fast over the scorched countryside. “Land of the Ponies, home of magic, the United States number two supplier of crude oil.”
“This is Equestria? I thought it was bright and sunny with flowers and trees, not…” His wingman, Nutcracker, said, watching the burnt trees and destroyed ground fly past. “…hellscape.”
Had anypony been in the area and looked up, they would have seen three gray metal birds streak overhead with a mighty roar that sounded like one long continuous thunderclap, leaving smoky trails in the sky.
But these were no natural birds.
They were Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. They had been scrambled at oh-dark-thirty when the alert had gone out that Equestria had come under attack from a large magical threat and needed assistance in dealing with it.
The Thunderbolt, named after the legendary Second World War P-47, was an oddity in a world of high-speed low radar signature aircraft that made up the majority of the United States Air Force. An ugly duckling in a pond of swans. It was slow, bulky, not very maneuverable, impossible to miss on radar, and not a pleasant sight compared to the sexy F-22's, F-15's, and F-16's other squadrons flew. It was also old. First flown in the 70's, aircrew had mocked its looks, calling it "Warthog", or "Hog" for short, and claimed that it had calendars instead of clocks in the cockpit due to its speed. Rolling with the joke, crews painted saber-toothed pig mouths to the side of their aircraft, and nowadays it was impossible to find an A-10 without some kind of animal head emblazoned on the front.
Then the Gulf War happened, where it proved its worth, and gained a fearsome reputation. No one made fun of the Thunderbolt anymore.
Most of the Thunderbolts were stationed overseas, mainly in the middle east, where they supported the Army and Marines in fighting terrorists, providing close air support to those who needed it. It had gained such infamy that rumors had spread that terrorists had upped and surrendered as soon as the Warthog arrived on station. Those that didn’t soon found out why the Warthog was feared.
There was no other aircraft those under fire would rather have above them.
“So what exactly are we looking for?” Raven asked, guiding his aircraft along the patch of upturned trees and scorched earth.
“Something big, if these footprints are anything to go by.” Nutcracker observed.
“Stay on alert, this is Equestria, there is a whole bunch of crazy shit living here. Shit that would eat you alive if it had the chance.”
“You’ve been to Equestria before, Sarge?”
“Once. Was enough to make me not looking forward to coming back.”
His two wingman fell silent, wondering what could have happened to not want him to come back to the land of rainbows and sunshine.
They flew in silence for awhile, watching the scarred landscape roll past.
“Uh… Sarge? You were talking about crazy shit earlier?”
“Would some of that “crazy shit” be a giant centaur?”
The three Warthogs entered a long, slow orbit around the massive creature they had run into. It had stopped in its tracks and was now watching them with two large eyes that seemed to be larger than he was. He shuddered. It was creepy.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Would you look at that? Boys, I think we’ve found our target.”
Tirek watched the three gray… things circle him with curiosity. What were they? The closest thing they seemed to resemble were Dragons, or perhaps some bird of prey, but the resemblance seemed shaky at best. Instead of flapping their wings to propel themselves like all other flying animals, they seemed to be pushed through the air by two cylindrical appendages spewing fire behind them. The large mouth seemed to more resemble that of a pig, with large tusks curled in a nasty snarl. The eye located on the side of its head seemed to indicate it was prey, but they appeared anything but.
But it didn’t matter. He would simply drain the magic from these creatures and they would fall to the earth like everything had before them.
He charged up his magic, but paused, puzzled. These things had no magic, at least, none that he could sense. How was that possible? Everything had magic, from the most complex organisms to simple rocks. Yet these things… didn’t.
As he wondered what to do the three birds sped away with a mighty roar, leaving him alone. He briefly considered simply blasting them out of the sky with a laser, but he decided against it, returning to his trek. He had bigger fish to fry.
His body suddenly spasmed, causing him to double over and roar out as a searing pain snaked its way down his body.
His screams of agony never met his ears, however, as the three birds returned, roaring overhead. Instead, it was something much deeper, terrifying, unholy and unnatural, a sound that embedded itself into his memory.
“Nice hit!” Raven exclaimed, watching Doomsday pull out of his run and the monster stagger, doubling over before whipping around and snarling at the fleeing Thunderbolt II. It wasn’t paying attention to the other aircraft, and Raven lined up his shot. Pulling the trigger, his aircraft rattled and shook as the recoil from the GAU-8 Avenger slowed the plane to a crawl in the sky. The bullets hit the beast even before the sound of the gun firing met his ears. Livid, the beast whirled around towards him, the sphere between his horns glowing.
He threw his aircraft to the left, pulling as tight of a turn as the not-so-maneuverable A-10 would allow. He had played enough video games to know what large glowing energy balls meant.
The laser shook the air and rattled his craft, but its aim was wild, hitting nothing but clouds high above them.
"Alright, here I come!" Nutcracker roared in, spewing fire. But this time the beast was prepared, and easily sidestepped his attack, the bullet sending up harmless puffs of smoke as they hit the ground.
However, they had other weapons than the Avenger. Like, for instance, the Joint Direct Attack Munition.
"Pickle!" He called after a quick course adjustment, sending a JDAM into the side of the monsters head.
It roared, half its face blown away, but still somehow fired another beam in their direction, missing by a country mile. They made a few more attack runs, using guns, missiles, and bombs, blowing off flesh, bone, and muscle, yet every time the monster quickly recovered, continuing trying to shoot them down.
"Hey, guys? We don't seem to be doing anything to this thing," Nutcracker said as he watched an arm regrow from a blasted off stump with a yellow glow.
"We noticed." Doomsday swerved to avoid another blast. “We only seem to be pissing it off.”
"So what do we do? I've expended over half of my ammo."
"Maybe trying shooting that giant glowy thing? If there is something years of video games have taught me, it's that powerful bosses usually have large, obvious, glowing weak spots."
"Is that so?" Doomsday roared in, firing his GAU. The monster had begun to charge up another attack when the bullets hit, sending all the built-up energy exploding outwards in a massive fireball, enveloping Doomsday's aircraft.
"I'm fine! Quit your worrying." His Thunderbolt flew on, though trailing smoke and visibly damaged. "Good thing these things are built like flying tanks." His left wing seemed pretty banged up, you could see right through the wing in some places, and the left tailplane was completely shot off. “Never imagined I would be shot down by a laser-shooting goat….”
As his aircraft fled the scene, he called back. "I'm going to find a place to put her down! Keep this guy off my back!"
Taking his word, the two Warthogs returned to their mission.
Again and again the birds came in, striking him over and over, He was down to half his original size, firing in a combination of blind panic and rage, blood running into his eyes. He toppled to the ground, a near miss causing him to lose his balance. He lay there, helpless, as they pummeled and pounded him into the ground, most of their attacks throwing him into the air. His entire body was numb, and he was certain most of the bones in his body had been broken at least once. He curled himself into a ball and trembled as the world shook around him. Would it never end?
The creature's roar had burned itself into his memory. Even in the lowest depths of Tartarus, he had never heard a sound that terrified him more than that sound did, and he had been terrified more times than he would admit to himself. No, he would never forget that sound.
It stopped. The world went silent, except for a soft ringing in his ears.
He opened his eyes.
Raven sighed, glancing down at the lights and dials in front of him, reading his weapon display on the HUD. “Nutcracker, I’m Winchester, how about you?”
His Warthog made one final pass, pulling up to avoid hitting the trees. “That's it, I’m all out.” He soared back up to meet him, their two-ship formation orbiting the crater where the monster now resided. “How long till Bingo?”
He glanced at his dial. “About twenty minutes. When will that backup arrive?”
He groaned, moving his gaze down to the clearing dust cloud. The monster had shrunk considerably, now only about as tall as the surrounding trees, and he had lost much of his fearsomeness, now looking a lot weaker than when they had begun.
The dust finally cleared. The monster slowly picked itself off the ground, where it had lay sprawled, trembling. It wiped its mouth to get rid of coughed-up blood, and watched them circle overhead. It was bleeding from multiple scrapes and cuts, and multiple black-and-blue bruises covered its body. One of its horns had been cracked, but all those wounds were being healed by the same yellow light as before, just not as fast.
After a while the monster smirked and began limping away, ignoring them. Perhaps it had figured out that they could no longer attack it. Perhaps it was just making a run for it.
“What should we do?”
“Nothing we can do, besides stalk it from a distance, and I don’t think it's going anywhere fast. Besides, I don’t want to get yelled at by the brass for coming back with the tank almost empty.”
“Good point. I could use a shower...”
Both agreeing, they began to make for home, while also scanning the countryside for a crashed A-10.
“Whoa!” Suddenly, off to their right, a bright light rose from the ground, momentarily blinding them. “The hell is that?”
“It looks like a…” He squinted, trying to make it out. A small part of him thought it was a nuclear bomb, but that wouldn’t make any sense. Where would Equestria have gotten nukes from? “...a… rainbow?”
The light hovered over the forest for a moment, and he somehow got the impression it was searching for something, before it shot out a pillar of light at the ground, a familiar yellow beam shooting up to meet it. The resistance lasted only a few moments, the yellow quickly fading and the light surging forward. Everything went white.
He blinked and shook his head in an attempt to clear his vision. Quickly going over his instruments, he found that nothing was wrong. He was still flying over Equestria, all systems nominal. “You good Nutcracker?”
“Nominal over here. The forest seems to have been fixed, too.”
Looking down, he found that his wingman was right. The trees that had been stripped of their leaves had regained their foliage, and the earth scorched by flame was green once again. The sky was blue, and all was peaceful.
Something blue shot past his cockpit.
Following it, he found a Rainbow-Maned pegasus hoving off his left wing, easily keeping pace with the jet. Making eye contact, the pegasus lifted her leg up in a classic salute, one which he returned, nodding his head. She smiled, and did a barrel roll, and flared her wings, letting the jets fly on ahead.
“What was that?”
“Someone giving us a well-deserved thanks.”
“Was that pony keeping up with the jet?”
“Hey, you think anyone back at base will believe any of our story?”
“Honestly, I don’t believe it much myself, and I was there. Now let's get the hell out of here.”