A Forgotten Trooper

by SonicTeam35

First published

A lone Clone Trooper wakes up in the rubble of a Gunship with his brothers dead around him. The Trooper soon realizes that the Gunship has crashed on an unmarked planet in the galaxy, which is full of ponies, unaware of the war just beyond their sky.


A lone Clone Trooper named Strider wakes up in the broken remains of the Republic Gunship he was traveling on with his brothers, now dead around him. He uses the last bit of power in the Gunship to do a scan, quickly realizing that he had crashed on an unmarked planet.

Strider soon also finds out that the planet is populated with colorful ponies, griffins, dragons, but no humans. Then, he discovers a chilling remark. The planet and its inhabitants are unaware of the war above that could come raining down on them, destroying them and there planet.

Featured: 6/29/19, 7/5/19, and 7/19/19! Thank you guys so much!

Chapter 1: Waking Up (R)

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“Uhg… “

A single grunt echoed off the sealed metal walls aligning the confined transport area. It was nearly inaudible compared to the groaning of metal and the occasional spark from some broken wiring. Nevertheless, it was heard loud and clear by the sole occupant currently conscious. Primarily because he’d been the one grunting in the first place.

Lying against one of the far walls was a man clad in snow white armor, sans the helmet. He groaned again as another wave of dull pain flowed through his body, and he felt his teeth and fists clench instinctively.

Slowly, his closed eyelids rose, exposing a set of brown irises to the harsh yet dim red lights that were illuminating the transport area. Those brown irises quickly began moving left and right, each pass making the blurry image more clear in his mind.

“W-What happened?” The man muttered in a semi-raspy voice, lifting up his left arm so his hand could rest atop his aching head.

The first thing the trooper noticed was the fact that the area was engulfed in near pitch black darkness, the occasional spark of electricity offering a split second of fresh light every now and then. There were also streaks of light from apparent cracks in the wall on his left, not nearly enough getting through to offer any clear visibility.

Luckily, his eyes were rapidly adjusting to the red tinted darkness, allowing a faint outlined picture to come into focus. He saw the outlines of the broken hand holding rail that should of been at the top of the bay, along with a couple bodies clad in the same white armor that he was wearing. The walls were also at an angle, making him believe that the ship he’s currently in is either balancing itself on its side somehow, or more likely was propped up against something.

Against his body’s protests, the trooper pushed himself up from the wall and got into a semi-stable standing position. There was a slight twinge of pain in his left leg, but he ignored it for the most part. He advanced towards the closest body before crouching next to it, his left hand reaching over to the fallen troopers neck to check for a pulse.


He moved onto the next body and mimicked his actions from before.

Again, nothing.

He checked two others, pressing his hand more firmly on their necks each time. He was beginning to move more frantically with each lack of a pulse.

”No. No no no, the blasted crash couldn’t have killed them all!”

Yet, each pulse check afterwards proved otherwise. It didn’t take long for the realization to settle in his mind, the realization that he’d somehow been the only survivor within the transportation bay. If he was lucky, then perhaps the pilots of the ship had gotten the better end of the stick and had also survived. But if the crash had been bad enough to kill all but one trooper in the primary transportation bay…

”I’m not getting anywhere just by standing in here. I’ve gotta contact the G.A.R. and get off whatever rock we crashed on. Hopefully there’s a spaceport relatively nearby.” He wished.

Although, there was still a chance. He rose up his left arm, where his rectangular com link was anchored on his armor. He activated it, and to his luck, it glowed green in confirmation that it was working properly.

“Hello? This is CT 3719, nickname Strider. Anyone copy?” ‘Strider’ inquired.

He waited a couple of seconds, but his only reply was silence. He didn’t even get any static, which was worrisome. Wherever he was, it had somehow completely severed his com-link from any satellites and/or outposts on the planet. This meant that getting back to the G.A.R. would be quite a bit more challenging.

With nothing left to do within the confined transportation bay, Strider approached the blast door that was slanted upwards. He knew it would be a long shot, but he tried the manuel override mechanism to open the door. Just as he’d predicted, the door didn’t show any signs of budging. Luckily, there’s a failsafe for these exact situations.

Judging by the fact that he hadn’t suffocated yet, and the vast amount of breaches in the walls. It was safe to assume that wherever the ship had crashed, it at least had oxygen. Still, Strider took a couple extra minutes to search the area for his helmet.

It didn’t take him long to locate it, having been only a couple feet away from his original resting position. He picked up the sideways helmet and straightened it out in his hands, giving the piece of armor a quick but thorough once-over.

Upon seeing it in alright condition, the trooper put it over his head, completing his armor once more. The built in HUD sprung back online almost immediately, illuminating the inside of the helmet with dull neon blue light. Much to his displeasure, the radar in the bottom left corner of his visor didn’t seem to activate fully. Instead the spot was hosting a constant flickering image of an empty circle as if it were being scrambled, completely useless for him right now.

”No use crying over broken tech, time to get a layout of the land.” Strider mentally exclaimed, turning to face his original target.

He approached the panel hosting the manual override switch once again, only this time he pushed a small red button just to the right of it. With the failsafe initiated, Strider quickly backed away from the door. A couple seconds later and the door had quite literally blown itself open, courtesy of a controlled micro-explosion.

The transportation bay was instantly bathed in fresh bright light, and his helmets visor quickly filtered out the sudden rays from the nearby star. It didn’t take long at all before a vast amount of trees and grass covered ground came into focus. There were tons of trees surrounding him, all standing tall and close, giving off a rather dreary and cagy vibe. Their oversized leaves also creating patches of shadows on the ground, offering some cover for any wildlife to bask in and stay cool. There were also a handful of bushes around, some rustling gently in a faint but noticeable breeze.

”A forest, and a healthy one at that.” Strider noted, before hopping down from the transportation bay.

His white and grey boots met the grass rich dirt, remaining still and steady. Strider first looked to his left, immediately noticing a wide trail of destroyed wildlife. A large dirt ditch had been created thanks to the L.A.A.T.’s underbelly grinding against it, and more than a handful of trees seemed to have met the front of it as well.

Knowing that there was nothing of current value that way, Strider turned around and began walking towards the opposite end of the ship. As he walked, he glanced back over at the scenery on his left. Strangely enough, he couldn’t see or hear any sort of wildlife. This meant that either there wasn’t that much animalistic wildlife around, or more likely the crash had scared off whatever had originally been there.

That, or they’d been standing in a rather unfortunate location.

Upon reaching the front of the ship, Strider took notice of a heavily damaged tree that had managed to keep itself from getting uprooted completely by the crashed machine. The trunk was leaning against the ship in a rather unstable way, but luckily it was on the far side of the twin cockpits rather than on top of or to the left of them.

Using the dents and outstretched pieces of torn metal on the wall, Strider managed to climb his way up the side of the ship towards the cockpits. Once he made it to the top, he was momentarily caught off guard by the sight of two empty seats where the pilots should of been. The oval casings over the twin cockpits were also gone, allowing him to notice an incredibly faint glowing light from within the primary flight seat.

”Where’d the pilots go?” Strider wondered, taking a quick glance around the area again just incase they were anywhere in sight. Upon seeing no signs of the two clones, he shifted his attention back towards the cockpits.

Deciding to check out the ship’s systems first, Strider navigated his way towards and eventually into the vacant primary cockpit. He immediately began flicking switches and pressing buttons, resulting in a previously blank screen getting engulfed in green light.

”Good, systems seem operational enough. Hopefully I’m able to figure out where we crashed.” Strider thought, pressing another button that had been flashing yellow.

The monitor flickered for a few seconds, before a long empty bar suddenly appeared across itself. A couple seconds was all it took for the bar to slowly become filled from left to right by a brighter green light, the entire thing collapsing upon reaching the other end.

All that was left on the monitor were three words in bold red galactic basic;


Strider rose an eyebrow at that, knowing fully well that each L.A.A.T. had complete maps of the known galaxy. Those things were constantly updated and distributed throughout the G.A.R. and the C.I.S., so this error wasn’t an easy one to come across.

Still, it could happen if a ship finds itself in unmarked territory. However, he highly doubted that the gunship would have been able to reach that far from its digital map without hyperspace. Thus, Strider drummed it up to the system simply being heavily damaged just like the ship’s hull.

With that answer satisfying his curiosity, the trooper flicked a few other switches and looked over the system as it began preforming a scan of itself. It took less than a minute before the screen was already filled up with messages on broken and damaged things, each one longer than the last. The ship it seems has taken very extreme damage from the crash, and would have likely been decommissioned and scrapped for parts in the hands of the G.A.R. back on Coruscant.

Now knowing what the ship’s status was, Strider exited the cockpit and climbed back down onto solid ground. He took another look at his surroundings, searching for any sort of clues as to where the two pilots might have gone. Yet the scene hadn’t seemed to of changed in the slightest, meaning that he had absolutely no idea as to which way they might have gone.

That was, until he noticed a particularly scrunched up looking bush towards his right. It’s far left quadrant looked different than its right, more depressed towards the ground if only by a couple inches.

”It’s the only lead I’ve got, but I’m gonna need my weapon first. I’ve got no intel of this forest or its inhabitants so I’ll be practically going in blind.” Strider proclaimed mentally.

This thought at the brunt of his mind, the trooper climbed back into the gunship’s transportation bay which was now very well illuminated via the nearby star’s light.

After a bit of rummaging, he found his discarded DC-15A. The long plasma rifle seemed relatively undamaged, with the exception of a chipped stock and a cracked sight. Strider double checked its power pack to see if it had sustained any damage, before shutting it back into place and locking the blaster in place.

Now armed with a weapon, Strider gave one last glance at his dead brothers within the ship, before exiting the damaged vessel and advancing into the forest. He needed to find those pilots as well as an exit from this forest, and he wasn't gonna simply lie in the rubble of a ship until they returned. That was, if they’d return. Who knows what could be lurking in that forest, waiting for him to enter its domain.

As Strider continued walking, the dull ache in his left leg gradually began to grow into a more noticeable throbbing sense. He continued to ignore it for now, more focused on finding the pilots. Yet as he kept navigating through the forest, he couldn’t help but notice the complete lack of wildlife that wasn’t simply plants.

Not only that, but there weren’t any tracks in the stray patches of dirt he came across. No prints of any animals, not even the markings of a pilot’s boot. The dirt was malleable enough for tracks to form, as evident of the boot marks left by himself as he passed through the patches. So why weren’t there any?

After awhile, the trooper ran across a shallow trench, which he carefully went through in an attempt to keep his leg from acting up again. Once he crossed the trench, he spotted a set of white armored legs sticking out of a bush, clearly one of the pilots.

"Pilot? You alright?" Strider questioned as he walked over to the bush with the legs.

When the pilot gave no response, Strider began pushing twigs and leaves out of the way until he spotted their helmet. He rolled the pilot out of the bush and waved a hand above their helmet's visor, still no response. He checked for a pulse, which sealed the deal for the pilot.

Strider mentally grieved for the loss of yet another friend and brother, before something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. His gaze quickly locked onto a part of the pilot's chest piece, one which appeared to have large gash marks slashed into it.

"What the, these claw marks are massive!" Strider mentally emphasized, tracing one of the marks with his pointer finger. What kind of creature could have done this to the poor pilot?

As if the force itself had read his thoughts, an audible snapping noise caught Strider's attention. Slowly, he poked his head out of the bush, DC-15A primed and ready as he advanced towards the source. He took cover behind a large tree trunk, and cautiously peaked around it into a semi open clearing.

What greeted his eyes was a haunting sight that he wouldn't be forgetting any time soon.

A large creature that semi-resembled a loth-wolf stood before him, except it was made out of what seemed like wood and appeared to be chewing on something. Strider narrowed his eyes, trying to see what the wolf was chomping down on, only to realize that it was the helmet of the other pilot.

Strider felt what was left of his last ration meal try and resurface, but he fought the urge to vomit. The wolf bit into the helmet again, this time with enough force that caused it to shatter in its mouth. Strider tried to look for a body nearby, but no signs of the pilot were anywhere else.

"Did that wolf eat the whole pilot!?" Strider questioned in his mind, taking aim at the wolf.

But before he could pull the trigger, two more wooden wolves emerged from the trees behind the first, their yellow eyes scanning the area in search for something else to eat. Strider lowered the blaster at the sudden change in numbers against him, and as quietly as he could, took off in the opposite direction of the newly formed pack.

The trooper ducked below some low hanging branches and vaulted over a couple bushes, trying to find his way either back to the gunship, or some sort of spot to take deep cover. He stopped his rapid pace and frantically looked around, trying to identify anything that he could use as cover. Yet no matter how hard he looked, nothing popped out at him that could be used well. Only tree trunks and bushes far to small to proficiently hide him.

In the distance, he could hear what sounded like howls, most likely from the pack. Either they’d found something to eat, or discovered his trail. Possibly both.

And just when he thought things couldn’t get worse, the light around him caught his eye. It was far darker than it had been when he’d first left the gunship, dark enough to elect turning on his helmet’s headlamp attachments.

He glanced upwards through a small hole in the underbrush, spotting a rapidly darkening sky above.

Night had fallen...

Chapter 2: Dark Forest (R)

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Strider didn’t know exactly how long he’d been walking, nor did he really care at that point. What he did know was that as long as he kept going in a straight line, he was bound to reach the end of this forest as some point. He could still hear the howls of the wolves around him, apparently still hot on his trail.

His soldier instincts had kicked themselves up to eleven, alerting him of every single twig snap or crunch of dry leaves around him. If something was stalking him and had begun closing in, he’d know.

As he walked, his leg continued acting up. He was beginning to develop a limp at this point, which definitely wasn’t a good sign. He did have some bacta on him to treat his leg once he was sure he wouldn’t get ambushed, so he pushed onwards through the increasing pain. He’d been through far worse on the battlefield, so at the most he’d merely grunt quietly every here and there.

Shadows were vanquished by his helmets twin headlamps, which he’d been sure to turn off and back on again whenever the situation called for him to take cover and hide. He hadn’t needed to fire his blaster yet either, but the weapon was still primed and ready for when the time came.

”Wait, what was that?” Strider wondered, halting himself mid step and turning his focus towards a nearby bush.

Now that it was illuminated, the bush looked completely average compared to the others. Yet he could of sworn he’d seen something within it. Not taking any chances, he approached the bush, blaster barrel first, and shoved aside some leaves.

The bush was completely vacant of anything, no signs of there being any creatures hiding within its branches for days. His mind had been playing tricks on him.

”Of all the things to break on me, it just had to be the radar didn’t it?” Strider mentally cursed, followed by a near inaudible sigh before he began walking once more.

Ironically enough, this hadn’t even been the first time he’d found himself lost in a forest. One of his past missions had the squad he’s in positioned on a base on Felucia, one that needed constant patrols from the wildlife, pirates, and droids. His squad had been picked for the western patrol, and due to complications they’d found themselves lost.

However, unlike now, that time they’d had Cosmo, who specialized in wildlife navigation and identification. While he might be clumsy, Cosmo always knew where to go and what to look out for.

But now, he-


Strider stopped dead in his tracks, spinning around a full one-eighty degrees to face the source of the noise. He lowered into a semi-crouched position and rose his blaster towards the underbrush, his helmets lights illuminating only greenery and wildlife.

But the clone wasn’t fooled for a second. He knew for a fact that he’d heard something, more specifically the sound of a rather large twig being snapped if the noise was any correlation. That meant that whatever had broken it, must be big.

No-one could see it because of his helmet, but sweat had begun to develop on his forehead as he scanned the area, eyes unblinking and sharp. He slowly began to back away from the disturbed area, making sure to keep his blaster pointed at the spot he’d heard the noise originate from at all times.

And after a few agonizingly long seconds passed by, Strider finally spotted it. It was hard to see because of all the shadows, but thanks to his helmets lights, he was able to spot a pair of beady black eyes amongst the branches of a bush. They weren’t that large, but they were all the confirmation the trooper needed.

As if it had sensed it’s locations being compromised, the creature lunged out of the bushes at an incredible speed. Right as it left its hiding spot, the moonlight overhead vanquished the shadows surrounding its body, revealing itself fully to Strider.

The creature seemed to somewhat resembled a Zalorian rock-lion, but it had some key differences. For one, it had dark yellow fur and a red mane that was styled like a rock lion, but it also had wings on its back and a much longer and sharper tail. Two intimidatingly sized white fangs stuck out of its mouth, seemingly glittering in the light, and its black irises locked onto Strider's helmet, as if staring right through the visor at his face.

"What in the gods… " Strider commented out loud, not recognising this particular creature at all.

Just before he could fire, the creature sprang forward with another burst of speed, claws outstretched towards him. Strider rolled to his right, just narrowly avoiding the attack by the skin of his armor plating. He rose back up into a crouching position and fired, sending a neon blue bolt of plasma right into the creature’s exposed left shoulder.

It howled in pain, but recovered much quicker than Strider had anticipated. Before he knew it, the creature was pouncing on him again, only this time it hit its target. Strider found himself pinned to the ground, his blaster stuck lying sideways on his stomach against the creature’s body. Claws met plastoid alloy, and luckily the armor plating proved enough to protect the troopers skin from what would have been a deadly slash otherwise.

However, Strider was still pinned and unable to either move or fire as his hands were stuck under the blaster. Only his head was relatively free, able to move as he pleased. But that was all the trooper needed in the moment, and he found himself focusing his helmets lights on one of the creatures eyes. It let out another roar and stumbled back a bit, its sight momentarily lost in a blinding white light.

Because of the creature’s small stumble backwards, he was given just enough room to maneuver his hand back over the blaster’s trigger, which was pulled not a second later. Another plasma bolt struck the creature, this time in its stomach. It stumbled back even harder, giving Strider enough room to crawl backwards a bit and get back on his feet.

The trooper took aim at the creature’s head, but its sharp tail made a sudden slicing motion which caught the blasters barrel. The rifle was flung to the left, before the tail changed targets and shot towards him. He barely had enough time to dodge, the pointy end just grazing his armor.

The creature kept up the pressure, switching from its tail back to its claws halfway through. Strider was forced to continuously weave and dodge, each strike coming closer than the last.

Strider ducked under a right claw swipe, then rolled to his right to avoid the left swipe. But he wasn’t able to recover fast enough, and found himself getting struck by the right claw. The impact sent him flying into a nearby tree, knocking the wind clear out of him. He fell to the ground like a rock, gasping under his helmet for breath.

Strider struggled to get back on his feet, but by then the creature had already gotten back in striking distance. It slashed both its claws against his chest, chipping parts of the plating away. It wasn’t nearly enough to worry about, but it was still damage to his armor.

Strider eyed the DC-15A which was now more than a dozen feet away from his grasp, with a very angry beast standing between himself and the blaster. Luckily, when he crashed into the tree, a broken branch had been knocked free of its spot resting between two other attached branches. It landed next to him, and was immediately grabbed and held like a makeshift spear at the creature, who didn't seem deterred by the troopers actions.

The creature began circling Strider, faint growls escaping its mouth as it took in the sight of the strange creature once more. Strider did the same, making sure to keep his grip on the branch tight in preparation for an attack. Then, the beast pounced onto Strider, the stick getting snapped in half from its weight.

Strider was quickly pinned back on the ground, the beast smiling at the sight of its snack getting trapped. Strider looked around for anything he could use, only for his eyes to lock onto the DC-15A which was now lying right next to him. He made a frantic grab for the blaster, only for his arm to get caught by one of the creature’s paws.

The beast leaned down towards Strider's helmet, its mouth opening in preparation to claim its meal. Instead, it was met with a headbutt that slammed right against one of its fangs. The fang cracked, sending streaks of pain into the creatures mouth. It moved away from Strider and held up a paw to its now broken fang, before it glared at the trooper once more.

Strider scrambled back to his feet, grabbing the blaster rifle and pointing it at the beast. However, before he could fire it again, a rather familiar looking wooden wolf-like creature emerged from the underbrush, its lime green eyes taking in the scene. The wolf spotted the wounded beast, then the trooper, its mind wondering whether or not it would be worth hunting it.

After deciding it wouldn't pass up this meal, it advanced on the trooper, its wooden paws crunching dry leaves below them. Strider squeezed the trigger, and another blue plasma bolt shot through the area. It strike the wooden wolf in the leg, which shattered into several bits and pieces on impact as well as sending the wolf to the ground.

The yellow furred beast quickly vanished into the underbrush, not wanting to lose its other fang, not to mention avoid getting hit again by whatever that blue stuff was. That left Strider to take a moment to let the adrenaline die down a bit. That was, until the wood making up the wolf suddenly got outlined in a lime green aura. Much to his shock, the broken pieces began re-attaching themselves on the wolf's leg, returning it to its original status before getting struck by the plasma bolt.

Strider took aim again at the wolf, ready to blast it to pieces again, but stopped when two more wolves emerged behind the original one. So, he instead took off in the opposite direction of them, taking a few shots at them when he got the chance.

The wolves quickly gave chase, weaving through the trees and around the blue projectiles they now knew were quite lethal. Strider's leg was also working in the wolves favor, aching more and more as the trooper tried to pick up speed in an attempt to get away.

Strider ducked between two arched trees and took a sharp left, before he came across a large patch of blue flowers. He was about to run through them, but halted in his tracks when giving them another once-over. Something about them, just seemed wrong. Wether or not it was the moonlight reflecting off of them, or their icy blue coloring. It felt like a trap. He already didn't have any information on the wolves chasing him, nor these flowers which might be poisonous, even with his armor on. So he scanned the area for a bridge of some sorts.

His eyes rested on a fallen tree whose trunk managed to reach the other side of the field, a perfect natural bridge. He made his way onto the fallen tree and rushed across it, managing to keep his balance up until reaching the other end. Upon landing back on solid ground once more, he quickly took up a defensive position behind a couple large rocks.

His previous assumption proved to be the right call, as the wolves halted their chase upon spotting the patch of blue flowers. They paced back and forth a bit on the other side, possibly looking for a clear path through the field. Upon finding so such path, the trio of wolves turned around and dashed back into the underbrush, vanishing from view.
With the knowledge of his hunters giving up, Strider let out a sigh of relief and stood up from his crouching defensive position. However, his leg once again made itself known by sending streaks of pain throughout itself. The trooper stumbled over towards a tree and leaned against it for a couple seconds, catching his breath and letting his leg settle back down again.

As it turns out, getting chased through a forest by three predatorial beasts isn’t good for a hurting leg. But he still needed to get out of there, so he cut his breaktime short and began walking again.

Strider's body seemingly went into autopilot as he went, his mind wandering to other places as a result of exhaustion. Hopefully that chase had gotten him closer to the edge of this forest, and not farther away from it. He desperately needed to find some civilization now, or at least some place to rest safely and treat his leg. Hopefully there’d be a town somewhere in sight once he got out.

Through pure determination and strength, the clone managed to not only continue walking throughout the entire night, but find the end of the forest. Trees grew further apart, until a massive plain made itself visible that seemed to stretch on for miles. And as luck would have it, he spotted a nearby cottage just a short distance away.

Yet even with his goal in sight, his body was begging for him to stop. He didn’t want to, he really didn’t. But against his own wishes, he found himself lying against one of the farther out trees.

Maybe, just a quick rest wouldn’t hurt.

Strider was out like a light in seconds after that thought, simply letting the cost of his journey steer him into the world of slumber...

Chapter 3: Animal Caretaker (R)

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Strider found himself once again grunting back into the waking world, his aching and sore body reminding him of his current situation. It’s one thing to sleep in uncomfortable armor, but if you add on the chase and skirmish in that forest. Yeah, he was gonna be feeling the effects of that for a bit.

But that wasn’t an excuse to simply lie there all day. So the trooper found himself once again rising to his feet whilst fighting back a couple groans of pain. As he stood back up to his full height, he surveyed the area whilst taking in his surroundings.

The forest had dissipated rather abruptly, leaving a vast open plain with rich green grass and a full view of the blue cloudy skies. Just a bit to his right was the building he’d seen before going under, only now he could see it much clearer thanks to the light.

The building itself seemed to be a two story structure with a handful of windows and a stubby looking chimney. The roof seemed to be composed of heavy leaves and overgrowth, masking whatever its original color had been and replacing it with a dark shade of green. There were several smaller structures spread out and on the building, each one appearing to be small shelters possibly for the wildlife.

Speaking of wildlife, the entire area around the building hosted more animals than he’d seen in the forest. There were winged animals circling the roof, land animals grazing over the lawn, and aquatic animals swimming in a small creak that led back into the forest. Whoever lived in that building must either love animals, or had an incredibly bad infestation on their property.

“Hopefully whoever owns this place has a long ranged transmitter, or at least knows where the nearest town is.” Strider thought to himself, beginning his trek towards the building’s rather small red door.

Using his DC-15A as a makeshift cane a couple times, the trooper found himself crossing over the small creak and walking up the dirt path towards the building. The wildlife upon noticing him had either fled, or gotten themselves into rather weak defensive stances. Whatever these animals were, they didn’t seem nearly as threatening as the creatures from the forest, which was quite a relief.

Strider knocked on the hard wooden door a couple times before pulling his hand away and waited. Not long after did he manage to make out the sounds of something approaching the door from the opposite side, most likely the owner. He heard the muffled sounds of a voice on the other side, before the door moved inwards and exposed the creature who’d opened it.

Strider was about to greet them, but his sentence never left his mouth once he made eye contact with the creature. Whatever it was, he hadn’t seen anything like it before. It seemed to primarily host equine features; a short muzzle, equine-like ears atop its head, four legs, and lots of yellow fur covering its body. It had a very long pink mane which slightly covered one of it's large cyan eyes, along with a matching pink tail that trailed behind it.

As the clone looked over the unknown lifeform, he quickly noticed that it seemed to be doing the exact same with himself. It’s eyes started down at his boots, before rising up to his helmet slowly and methodically. Once they met his visor, they seemed to widen quite a bit and its pupils shrank to the size of screw faces.

The two stood in silence for a bit, neither quite sure if they should make the first move. Once Strider finally found words to say, he was suddenly greeted with the door slamming back into its frame, along with an audible click from most likely a lock on the inside.

Whatever they were, it was obvious that they were scared of him.

”Huh, well that complicates things. If they’re scared of me, then one of two things are possible. Either this place is under C.I.S. control and their propaganda is in full force, or this planet just hasn’t ever seen a CT unit in the flesh.”

Strider looked down at his armor, and then the blaster he was gripping in his right hand. If either of these possibilities were right, then he could somewhat see why they might be scared of him. Still, surely he doesn’t look that scary right?

Deciding to knock again, he waited for a response. When none came, he decided to simply talk as if they were on the other side of the door. Hopefully, they were, and he could calm them down.

"Uh, sorry if the armor startled you… " Strider said, "I promise I have no intentions of harming you. I’d just like to talk with you and possibly get directions to the nearest space port.”

Luckily, his assumption proved to be right and he heard a faint muffled voice on the other side of the door;

"promise? They mumbled.

"Sorry, couldn't hear you. Could you say that louder?" Strider asked.

"Promise?" They repeated a little bit louder. At least it spoke Galactic Basic.

"I promise." Strider claimed, watching as the door clicked and gently moved inwards once again.

Once he was sure the creature was looking at him, he made sure to prove that he’d been honest and set the blaster down on the ground in front of him. That seemed to provide a bit of ease, as the door opened up a tad more, revealing more of their butter yellow face.

"Wh-who are you?" The life form asked, it's tone sounding female and quite shaken up.

"My designation is CT 3719, but I prefer the name Strider. I’m a clone soldier serving in the Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R. for short." Strider explained.

"A-Army?" The pony stuttered, her eyes widening.

"Um, yes? The G.A.R. clashing against the C.I.S.’s battle droid armies? A war involves armies." Strider pointed out.

The life form’s eyes somehow managed to widened even more at the word war, which didn’t exactly make sense. Surely they knew about the war just beyond their skies right? Practically every planet in the galaxy knew for gods sake!

"What's the name of this planet? Where did I crash land?" He asked.

"E-Equus? A-And land you crashed in is Equestria." She exclaimed.

"Equus? Equestria?” Never in his entire time training on Kamino had he heard either of those names. That didn’t bode well for him, but he decided to simply shelve it for the moment. Right now, he needed to deal with the life form before him.

”I’ll worry about it later. For now…” “I’ve got a couple questions for you, uh… “

Realizing what Strider was trying to say, the life form cut in;

“Oh, sorry. I-I’m Fluttershy.”

“Thanks. As I was saying, I’ve got a couple questions for you Fluttershy.” Strider stated.

“Oh, um. Uh, ok. I guess. Would you like to come inside then?” ‘Fluttershy’ asked.

"If it's fine with you, but I'm not sure if it's exactly my height." Strider claimed, putting a finger over the top of the doorway which was easily at eye level.

"Oh, don't worry, it looks smaller on the outside." Fluttershy claimed, before opening the door the rest of the way, allowing him to enter. Strider picked up the DC-15A and ducked below the doorframe, said door being shut behind him rather gently.

The interior of the building seemed to be a standard living quarters, with two couches in the back with bookshelves behind them. There was a stone furnace against the right wall which had a few framed pictures on it and a handful of logs next to it. The place hosted several unlit candles spread throughout the room, unnecessary considering all the windows were open which offered up plenty of natural light. Although the fact that they were candles and not powered lamps sent another trail of worry through Strider’s mind.

There were also several small structures that seemed to serve as places for animals to sleep in, play on, or walk atop. It was like the whole building was some sort of old wildlife jungle gym that younglings played on, except scaled much smaller for tinier creatures.

"Cozy place." Strider said, standing back up fully. The ceiling wasn't as low as he’d thought but it was still low enough that if he jumped, he would likely break into the upper floor.

"I wanted a nice area for all of my animal friends to be able to explore and play in." Fluttershy explained.

"So, are you an animal caretaker? Or just like animals a lot?" Strider asked.

"Both actually. Animals have always helped me out through rough times and I want to help any animals who need it."

"That's quite kind of you." Strider pointed out.

"A little kindness never hurts," Fluttershy claimed. "Um, d-do you want some tea?"

"Sure." Strider stated, eyeing a green chair.

"Do you have a preference for what kind of tea?" Fluttershy asked, halting in front of an empty door frame that most likely led to a kitchen.

"That would be a no, just pick one you're comfortable with." Strider stated, approaching the green chair with interest.

Fluttershy walked through the doorway and into the kitchen, vanishing from sight. Therefore, leaving Strider alone to sit down on the green chair and look over what had happened after the crash.

How did the ship even crash? The last thing he remembered was fleeing with a squad of troopers towards an evacuation point deep in space when they, along with the other Gunships, were shot down by an attacking Separatist command ship. How his L.A.A.T. didn't just explode from being struck by one of those canons was unknown to Strider. Did the ship even get hit? He couldn't tell due to the state the ship was left in after the crash. Yet again, it was still mostly intact, maybe an E.M.P. went off or something and---

Strider halted his trail of thought when he spotted a small snow white bunny watching him from a basket he hadn't noticed before. The bunny was watching him intently, a look of uncertainty across its face.

"Uh… hi?"

The bunny didn't react. Instead, its eyes locked with the DC-15A that was currently lying against the chair Strider was sitting in.

Realizing this, Strider quickly picked the blaster up and switched its safety on, before setting it on the top shelf of a bookshelf behind him. The last thing he needed was a bunny playing with a DC-15A blaster rifle in a house likely full of other animals, not to mention vases and picture frames.

The bunny frowned at his actions, before hopping away into another room. Right as the bunny left Striders sight, Fluttershy returned to the room, a tray with tea cups resting on her back. She set the tray down on a table between the chair Strider was sitting on and a nearby sofa.

"So, what questions do you have?" Fluttershy asked, taking her own seat on the sofa.

“Well, first off I’d like to know if you’ve heard of the Clone Wars.” Strider asked.

Fluttershy shook her head, looking both confused and worried.

"Have you ever contacted anything beyond your planet's atmosphere?"

Another shake.

"Did you even know life existed beyond your stars?"

"There are stories of life on other planets, but not many ponies believe them. They were just bedtime stories to tell foals, or scary stories at camp. I didn't really like the latter stories... " Fluttershy exclaimed.

No communication, no space flight, no knowledge of life beyond their sky. This was turning more and more into a worst possible scenario. If this planet was so far back, then what were the odds of him alerting the Republic that he was even here? He'd crashed on the worst possible status of planet to get stranded on; a backwater planet.

He was gonna be stuck here for far longer than he’d thought...

Chapter 4: The Clone Wars (Revised)

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"Strider? Are you alright?" Fluttershy asked as seconds of silence continued to drag on.

Strider let his thoughts settle back down, allowing him to re-focus on the pony before him.

“Sorry, just... thinking about stuff. Let me explain the Clone Wars for you. When you break it down, it's basically a civil war on a galactic scale between the Grand Republic and the C.I.S.. The Republic is led by the galactic Senate with the Jedi Council serving by its side, while the C.I.S., or Separatists, are led by corrupted business folk and the remaining remnants of the Sith." Strider explained to Fluttershy, who set her tea cup down on the tray in front of her.

"What's a Jedi?" She wondered out loud, not recognizing the word.

"A Jedi is a person who uses the force for peace and justice." Strider said, recalling the Jedi who'd led his battalion into battle. It was so satisfying to look over cover and see that green blade slicing through those B1 battle droids.

"The force?" Fluttershy questioned with a quizzical look.

"They don't even know of the force, do they? Just where in the galaxy have I landed!?"

"Well, the force is like a constant wave of energy that's created by all life and flows through it. Jedi and Sith lords are able to harness this power and use it in battle."

"So the force is everywhere?"

"As far as I know, that’s what all the Jedi generals tell us. But that’s the force, back to the war. The Clone Wars started when the Separatists created an army of battle droids to help them take over the galaxy. The Galactic Republic countered this army with an army of us, clones of a bounty hunter called Jango Fett."

Fluttershy seemed to be shaking a little, her eyes widening once again with fear. "D-Did those droid-things k-kill?" She stuttered.

"Yes, yes they did. They're cold heartless robots programmed to destroy the Galactic Republic and anyone who supported them or were against the Separatists." Strider explained, quickly realizing that this might not have been the best idea to talk about war with a pony who looked right out of a younglings entertainment log.

"W-What happened then?" Fluttershy asked, no longer in the mood for the tea she'd made.

"Us clones were trained from birth to fight against those droids, and die if necessary to protect the Republic and its citizens. My brothers and I spent almost every living day blasting those clankers back to the scrap yard that they crawled out of.” Strider stated proudly with a grin.

"So, you fought with other clones who were your 'brothers' across the galaxy against these, S-Separatists?" Fluttershy simplified. Strider nodded. "S-So, you saw your brothers… die… and kept going?"

Strider's grin vanished. "That's the cost of war." He said coldly.

"That sounds awful, seeing your brothers… and… " Fluttershy never finished, tears forming in her eyes.

Strider wanted to say something, but chose to keep his mouth shut. He was gonna have to be careful here with his words in order to help calm down the distressed pony. He had done this before a few times when having to deal with the citizens of towns he and his brothers had been deployed in. But it didn’t make the sight of them crying any better.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have brought this up. If you want I can leave and let you have some spa- " Strider's words were drowned out as a loud smashing sound emerged from outside the front of the house.

The clone and pegasus both shot their attention towards the front door and windows, which appeared to be where the sound had originated from. After a couple seconds of silence, Strider glanced back at Fluttershy;

"Stay here, i'll check it out." He exclaimed, setting his helmet back down over his head.

Strider stood up and effortlessly grabbed the blaster he'd set on the high bookshelf and primed it, before advancing towards the front door. After a few seconds passed and a mental countdown, the trooper opened the door and barreled his way out of the room and into the outdoors.

Strider executed a flawless combat roll out of the cottage, finishing the maneuver by stopping himself in a crouched position whilst still aiming straight ahead. It didn’t take him long to figure out what had happened, with the newly made crater in the front yard surrounded by a cloud of dust being quite a dead giveaway.

Strider kept the DC-15A aimed at the crater, waiting a few seconds for the dust to dissipate more and give him a better view. It didn't take long for the dust to start dispersing from the crater, and a voice quickly shattered the eerie silence that had overtaken the front yard.

"Ouch, I really need to stop doing that." A female sounding voice muttered to themselves, before movement quickly shot past Strider’s field of vision.

Strider spotted what looked like cyan fur on another pony who was flapping her wings to get rid of the dust. She had a rainbow mane and tail and another strange mark on her flank like Fluttershy, but this one showed a rainbow bolt of lightning from a cloud rather than three pink butterflies.

The pegasus didn't seem to notice him until the dust around him faded away. Her magenta eyes widened as Strider's white armor came into view.

"Who in Equestria are you?!" She asked, before locking eyes with the blaster that was now pointing right between her eyes.

"Another one? Well, Fluttershy did say this planet was called Equus. Guess the main population is ponies." Strider reminded himself. The pony's worried look vanished instantly at the mention of Fluttershy's name.

Strider didn't have time to react as the pegasus shot at him at lightning speeds, followed by a set of hooves smacking the DC-15A out of his hands. The pony slammed against him, sending the trooper to the ground. The pony quickly landed on top of him, staring directly into his visor.

"You better not have done something to Fluttershy, or you're gonna be in a world of pain buster." The pony threatened.

Instead or replying with words, Strider slammed his helmet against the pony's face, knocking her off him. He scrambled back to his feet, scanning the area for his weapon. The pony recovered from the headbutt much quicker than he had anticipated and charged him again. He rolled to the right, narrowly dodging the pony again. He quickly grabbed the pony's multicolored tail with his hands, cutting off her flight.

Strider pulled the pony towards him and locked her in a headlock, increasing pressure around her neck. The pony struggled hard, trying to break free. But Strider was a lot stronger, keeping an iron lock on the pony. Before he could do anything, he heard a voice from the cottage.

Both Strider and the pony stopped fighting and looked up at the cottage door to see Fluttershy standing there, a worried expression across her face.

"Could you two please stop? Your scaring all the animals... and me." Fluttershy exclaimed.

Strider let the rainbow maned pony out of the headlock, before walking over to where his blaster had landed.

"Rainbow Dash, sorry about that. Um, what brings you here?" Fluttershy asked, trotting over to the cyan mare.

"Well, I was gonna remind you about that chorus of birds that you’re gonna be conducting for the Summer Sun Celebration wanted to do a little more practicing," Rainbow Dash said in an annoyed tone. "But that ‘thing’ decided to have a wrestling match instead." She finished, batting an angered eye at the trooper.

"I'm terribly sorry about that Rainbow, he's just not from around here and wanted to know a few things. Your um, landing probably startled him." Fluttershy explained.

"That, was no landing." Strider commented, checking the DC-15A over to see if it had been banged up by the fall.

"No offence Fluttershy, but you need to teach some of your animal friends manners." Rainbow Dash stated.

Strider ignored the mare, his focus still on making sure the blaster was still in working order. The handle was a bit beat up but other than that, it seemed alright.

Fluttershy was about to comment, but Rainbow Dash had already taken off back into the sky and true to her name, dashed into the distance. The yellow mare sighed, before trotting over to Strider.

"Sorry about that, Rainbow can be a bit, short tempered at times. I'm sure she'll come around." Fluttershy assured.

Strider muttered something under his breath, before getting up and looking over in the direction Rainbow Dash had flown off to. Over a few hills were several houses that seemed to form a village.

Strider was to focused on the town that he didn't notice Fluttershy tapping on his armor at first. When he did, he turned around and looked at the mare, his frown masked by his helmet.

"Um, you said you um, came from the Everfree Forest?" Fluttershy asked.

Strider looked over to the forest he had come stumbling out of that night. "Crashed there, but I’m not going back in until I know what's lurking around those trees." Strider stated.

"Well, um, i'm not sure how Ponyville would react seeing you, but I need to practice with some of my animal friends for the celebration. You can stay here until i'm done, or you can come if you want." Fluttershy exclaimed. "B-But if you are gonna come with me, t-then could you please leave your, weapon here? It wouldn't sent great signals to anypony."

As much as Strider wanted to argue, he knew she had a point. If he showed up in the middle of a town where they didn't know what he was with a weapon, they would not exactly think nicely of him. The last thing he needed right now was the population of this planet be scared of him. However, it was also against everything he knew about being on an unknown planet to just leave his weapon.

After a very long and heated debate in his mind, Strider finally sighed and looked over at the cottage. He could defend himself even without the blaster.

"Fine." Strider said, switching the safety on and walking back into Fluttershy's cottage.

He set the blaster down atop a nearby table inside, before shutting the door behind him as he walked side by side with Fluttershy towards the town.

Chapter 5: Ponyville (Revised)

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The dirt path leading to into the village slowly increased in width, forming the streets of the town. Strider had already started seeing other ponies all over the place, some shopping, some talking, and some trotting by. The whole place looked right out of a younglings holovid show.

The standard building seemed to be a simple rustic two story house, with tan walls, wooden support beams, and thatched roofs. Most of the windows were made of stained glass which ranged from pink and magenta to aqua marine and sky blue.

There were a few buildings that weren’t styled the same as the standard home, one of those buildings appeared to look like a house composed of sugary sweats with ice cream on top. They walked past the town library which was built inside a tree, some windows seemed to be supported by the leaves themselves.

Overall, it wasn’t the strangest place the trooper had been, but it wasn’t the most tame either. The population also seemed to be solely ponies of three different races. A unicorn, a pegasus, and a pony that had neither. Each one however had different colored manes, tails, coats, and marks on their flanks. Every here and there a pony would match another almost perfectly, but Strider chalked it up to them being twins.

Fluttershy led the way to what appeared to be a simple outside park which had several trees, bright green grass, and a fountain in the center area. The two had passed several ponies on the way there, each pony who had spotted him either ran in the opposite direction, stared at him, or just simply ignored him. One pony just looked inside a sandwich they were eating, before taking another bite.

Fluttershy halted before a tree which had several birds standing on the branches, each one having brightly lit feathers and small beady eyes. This was probably that chorus of birds Rainbow Dash had been talking about.

"Well, i'm gonna go look around. Good luck with your… singing lessons." Strider said, before continuing on his way down the path.

Overall, the park wasn’t exactly eye catching, so Strider focused more on trying to contact any nearby G.A.R. units. His helmet’s built in comlink struggled to find a signal but all that came through the speakers was static, earning a grumble from the trooper.

“Dang it, no signal. I need a stronger transmitter to reach any ships beyond the planets atmosphere.” Strider exclaimed to himself, ignoring yet another stare from a pair of colts who had been playing with a ball.
The trooper continued on his way down the path while attempting to establish any sort of contact, but something caught his eyes. Outside the park was a nearby market, its streets filled with simple wooden stalls and being managed by tons of ponies. Some were selling fruits and vegetables, while others sold nic nacs and old books. But the big thing Strider took note of was the fact that the place was only full of ponies, no other species from any other planet.

Strider made his way over to a nearby building and took cover behind it, masking himself from view from the streets. He took a quick peak around the corner just in time to see a few ponies trot away from a market stand with smiles upon their faces.

"So these ponies have a marketing system, I wonder if they use galactic credits or something else." Strider thought. It wouldn’t be a stretch if this planet is as isolated as it seems.

He turned around to make his way back into the park, but halted when he heard the sounds of a twig snapping nearby. He stared in the direction the snap had come from, but spotted nothing dangerous or even alive to attack him.

“I really need to keep my head leveled.” Strider muttered to himself, trying to calm down his paranoia.

“HI!” A voice suddenly said from behind, making the trooper jump into the air.

With a startled shout, Strider backed away from the pony that had snuck up on him until he hit the back of the building. Once his breath returned to normal, he glared at the pony.

"What was that for? I know i'm not your kind but do you have to scare me half to death?" Strider emphasized.

"Half to death? Woops, didn't mean to scare you that much! I was just trotting by when I noticed your white armor sticking out like a pink orange and decided to introduce myself. By the way i'm Pinkie Pie!" The pink pony greeted, smiling.

"CT 3719 of strike team indigo, but I prefer Strider. You’re one of the few ponies who isn't scared of or has ignored me." Strider pointed out, now realizing how strange that was. Why was this pony so calm and quick to introdu--

"That's because when I see a new face around here I want to know them! I'm Ponyville's proud party pony! Speaking of parties, I was already planning a welcome to Ponyville party for Twilight Sparkle! She just got here from Canterlot! CANTERLOT! Can you believe that? A unicorn all the way from Canterlot is now going to be staying in the Golden Oaks Library! Now that I think about it, isn't it strange to stay in a library and not a hotel? I mean you have lots of books to read but libraries don't exactly have all the things that could made a house cozy. Ooh! Maybe I could do some remodeling for the library so she feels right at home from Canterlot and----"

"I GET IT! You like parties and want to throw them to new arrivals. But can you please talk normally and not like you’re on a sugar rush?" Strider barked.

"Sure!" Pinkie answered, cutting her rambling off.

"Oh thank the Force… Sorry if that came out more violently than it should have." Strider claimed, putting a hand onto his helmet in relief.

"Don’t worry, I know being new can get on ponies nerves, or whatever you are. Anyways, I think I might be able to squeeze your welcome party into Twilight's but i'm not sure if everypony wouldn't judge you by the cover and..." Pinkie Pie went back into rambling, causing Strider to groan loudly in annoyance.

After what felt like hours, Pinkie Pie finally stopped rambling and outstretched her hoof.
"Welcome to Ponyville Strider!" However, the clone wasn't there.

Strider was currently being as sneaky as he could, couched down low as he shuffled down an alleyway to put even more distance between himself and the mare. He turned around, backing up as he watched the alleyways entrance for any signs of pink.

"That pony could rival Hot Shot with words," Strider muttered to himself, still trying to wrap his brain around what he had been able to take from Pinkie Pie’s one sided conversation.

His thoughts were interrupted when his back made contact with something. Next thing Strider knew, he was on his back in the remains of what appeared to have been an apple cart. Several apples fell right onto his helmet, bouncing across his visor. Some of them fell with enough force to break through their skin and smeared apple juice all over the visor.

"Can't I catch a break?" The trooper questioned to himself.

Turns out this world didn't want to give him one, because a set of emerald green eyes were glaring down at him. Those green eyes belonged to an orange pony with a blond mane and tail. They had white freckles on their cheeks and a brown stetson hat, as well as three apples on their flank.

"Care ta explain ya’ self?" The pony asked in a female accent that he had only heard before from a few Jedi.

"Ok, wait a second. Before you start pointing fingers, I was trying to escape an avalanche of sentences spilling out of a single pony's mouth." Strider exclaimed.

"Well, Ah have a pretty good idea as ta who your talk'n 'bout but ah don't think she pushed ya into mah apple cart." The pony stated. "Also, what the hay are fingers?"

Strider slowly got up from the pile of apples that had fallen around as well as on top of him and looked down at the pony. Due to him being much taller than a pony, several ponies quickly spotted him and began to get curious. Which was probably increased with the fact that his armor was now covered in apple juice.

"It's just an apple cart." Strider emphasized.

"Ah sixty bit cart with fresh ripe Sweet Apple Acres apples on board." The pony corrected.

"Look, i’m sorry but I don’t have any bits or whatever you use. I can help you put the thing back together but that’s all i’ve got.” Strider stated.

The orange pony was about to reply, but a familiar voice caused Strider to turn around. His gaze was met with Pinkie Pie bouncing through the alleyway he had rushed down, her eyes locked onto him.

"WELL I'VE GOT TO GO MA'AM!" Strider shouted, forgetting completely about the car as he took off in a military sprint down the path.

Strider didn't really care anymore if the ponies around him were giving him a weird look, he did NOT want to have to listen to that pony ramble again. The clone trooper dashed through the market, ducking and weaving through unplaced stands and wagons.

Strider had made quite a bit of distance with Pinkie Pie, not stopping to catch his breath. He spotted a wagon full of what appeared to be watermelons being pulled across the path. He didn't have enough time to slow down and no room to go around, so he used his momentum to slide under the wagon, the tip of his helmet scratching the bottom of the wood. He jumped back to his feet on the other side and kept running.

Strider took a sharp turn and rushed down another alleyway, appearing on another path through the town. He took a peek around his back from where he came from, not seeing Pinkie anywhere.

"Whew! That was a close-WHOA!" Strider's sentence broke off as he tripped over a pony and landed hard on the ground. He heard the noise of several items crashing to the ground and the gasp from the pony he had tripped over.

Strider got to his knees and looked over at the pony. The pony appeared to be a unicorn with white fur and a purple mane and tail which seemed to be sparkling somehow. The pony's eyes were blue and seemed to have eye shadow on the eyelids.

"Who do you think you are? Tripping over a lady?" The pony asked, yet another female tone.

"Oh don't even get me started ma'am." Strider said, but quickly froze up as he saw Pinkie Pie bouncing through the alleyway he had come out of. "DOESN'T THAT PONY KNOW WHEN TO STOP?"

Strider took off again in full sprint, leaving the mare with their confusion. That was until Pinkie Pie bounced over her head, still giving chase.

The two ran across Ponyville, both not slowing down in the slightest. Strider ducked through an alleyway and spotted a dumpster, which he quickly jumped behind and tried to catch his breath.

"Huff, That pony is fast..." Strider said between pants.

Slowly, Strider peeked around the dumpster and scanned the area for Pinkie Pie. There was no sign of the energetic pony anywhere, which made Strider sigh with relief. He began making his way through the town, using the back alleyways to stay out of sight until he was back in the open fields.

Strider spotted Fluttershy's cottage on the horizon and decided it would be best to regroup there. He could handle Fluttershy, so the trooper trudged up the hills that led to the cottage and stopped at the front door.

Not knowing if Fluttershy was home, he knocked first. When no reply sounded, he tried to open the door. Strangely enough, it was unlocked.

"Maybe Fluttershy assumed I wouldn't stick around Ponyville. Well she was right in thinking that I-" Strider stopped dead in his tracks.

Two things were wrong when he stepped into the cottage. One was the fact that there were no animal noises. They had been faint when he had first entered, but they were still there. But now, the cottage was as quiet as a deactivated droid. No scurrying of small paws or claws. No quiet noises in the walls. Nothing.

The second thing wrong was the table. The table that was standing between the two green chairs. The table that used to have the DC-15A on it, was now empty.

Strider suddenly felt like he was being watched. He looked around, trying to see if anything was near. But the room was empty with the exception of him.

That was, until Strider spotted it. Standing on top of what appeared to be a resting area for cats, was a familiar looking white bunny, a grin across its small face. In it's paws, was the DC-15A, the barrel pointing directly at him.

Chapter 6: Bunny With A Blaster (Revised)

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Strider’s blood ran cold as his eyes locked onto the barrel of the DC-15A which was being aimed directly at his head. He could see that the safety switch had been turned off, and he was sure that the bunny knew it.

"Ok, we can talk about this. Just put the blaster down and--" Strider couldn't finish as the bunny pulled the trigger, sending a blue bolt of plasma soaring through the air towards him.

Strider grabbed the still open door and pulled it inwards, breaking its golden painted hinges in the process. The plasma bolt struck the door, frying part of the red wood and turning it black.

Strider shut the door and rolled to the left towards the chairs. He took cover behind one just as another bolt was fired. This bolt flew over his head and struck the window behind him, shattering the glass on impact. Shards of said glass rained down onto Strider's back, none being able to make contact with his skin through the armor.

"ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW!?" Strider shouted in anger, processing the situation he was in.

He had been shot by droids, bounty hunters, corrupted creatures, one of his brothers after he barged in on them while they were using the bathroom, but never a bunny. A trigger happy bunny to be exact.

Strider frantically looked around, trying to figure out how to handle the bunny. First, he needed to get it down from its perch. But how? Strider peeked around the chair at the structure the bunny had climbed. It seemed to be exactly what it looked like, a cat climbing structure that he had seen in some residences homes during an inspection.

But something caught his eye. At the top where the bunny was stationed, was what looked like a closed hatch from the second floor.

"Must me multi-layered." Strider told himself, before quickly ducking back behind the chair as a plasma bolt flew right over him.

Strider looked over at the stairs that led to the second floor, and the lack of cover to reach them. He then remembered the table he had set the blaster on, and looked it over. An idea formed in his head. An idea so stupid, it might work.

As quickly as he could, Strider extended his hand out and grabbed the table. He retracted his hand with the table back behind the chair right as a blue bolt struck the ground where the table had originally been standing.

"Sorry Fluttershy." Strider muttered as he broke the top bit of the table off the legs. He examined the surface area of the circular top, before eyeing a leg. He had four chances.

Strider picked up one of the legs and chucked it at the structure, but missed. The leg slammed against the wall behind the structure, splitting in two. Strider threw another leg, this one slamming against the stone fireplace next to the structure.

"Come on!" Strider muttered, before chucking a third leg. This one struck it's target, the base of the structure. The whole thing shook from the impact, causing the bunny to lose focus on its aim.

Strider took this advantage to grab the table top and rush out of his cover, holding the makeshift shield in the direction of the bunny. The bunny saw this and went to fire, but it was still recovering from the shaking tower and ended up spraying a wave of bolts right across the wall and the shield Strider was holding.

Once Strider reached the stairs, he dropped the makeshift shield and ran up the stairs to the second floor. He let out a "Whew!" before looking around. He had never been on the second floor, or any other room of the cottage for that matter. The stairs had led to a little hallway that went to the left and right. Wooden doors lined the walls, including a door right in front of him.

Strider didn't have the time or wanted to go snooping around, so he rushed over to the door he assumed led to the room above the cat structure. His assumption was confirmed correct when he saw a different part of the structure in the room in the same corner.

The structure had been nailed to the wall, with the bottom of it not touching the floorboards. Instead, the mini trap door he had seen before was under it.

Strider did his best to sneak over to the trap door, trying not to alert the bunny below of his plan. Once he reached the trap door, he quickly opened it and made a grab for the bunny. His hand met fur and he tightened his grip as he took the bunny from the structure and into the room he was in.

The bunny put up a fight, but it was much smaller and weaker than him. Strider simply outstretched his arm to avoid it's wild swings while at the same time, keeping his grip on the bunny tight.

With the bunny taken care of, Strider bent down to the trap door again and grabbed the DC-15A, which had nearly fallen out of the structure when the bunny dropped it. He switched the safety back on and shut the trap door with his foot.

"You, are one stubborn trigger happy bunny aren't you?" Strider muttered to the bunny, who had stopped squirming and was simply glaring at him angrily.

Strider took the bunny out of the room and back down the stairs. He went over into what appeared to be a kitchen and eyed a cupboard.

A grin spread across Strider's face as an idea popped into his mind. He set the blaster down on the counter, before walking over to a cupboard and swung it outwards. Inside were a few dishes and a stack of carrots, perfect.

The bunny quickly realized what Strider was doing and resumed squirming and fighting, but was powerless against the clone.

Strider set the bunny down in the cupboard and quickly swung it shut. He kept the door closed with one hand while the other searched a few drawers for something to put between the handles.

His hand found a fork, which he then slid in between the handles just as the bunny kicked the door from the other side. Strider watched the door rustle a little, but it didn’t budge.

"That's one problem taken care of" Strider claimed as he dusted off his hands before leaving the kitchen with the bunny locked in the cupboard.

Strider picked up the broken remains of what was once a table, and sighed. So far he had already broken a stand and a table, already to much damage to a civilians property. The stand had been an accident, but the table was definitely on purpose.

"How does Fluttershy keep that bunny under control?" Strider wondered out loud, eyeing some scorch marks on the circular piece of wood.

He pondered this while grabbing all the broken pieces of the table and setting them down in a pile near the middle of the room, double checking the area to make sure he had indeed found all the pieces. Once he was sure he had, a cold chill ran down his spine which caused him to shiver a little. Strider looked over at the broken window, only now realizing how dark it had gotten outside.

"Wow, unless I spent a lot more time than I thought with that bunny, this planet must have short time cycles." Strider exclaimed to himself, looking at the night sky.

Strider was about to start cleaning up the glass from the shattered window, but stopped when he heard what sounded like screams, several screams. Strider quickly grabbed the DC-15A and rushed out the still wide open front door. It didn’t take long for him to trace where the screams were coming from.

It was coming from Ponyville.

Fearing the worst, Strider took off towards the town at military grade speeds, switching off the blasters safety while he ran. He was to focused on reaching the town to notice the moon, which had previously held a shadowy outline of a unicorn, was now bare white and empty.

Chapter 7: Eternal Night (Revised)

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Dirt on the trail was kicked up by Strider’s boots as he ran towards Ponyville, making sure that the DC-15A was always pointing forwards. He traced the source of the screaming to a tall building in the middle of the town, most likely some sort of capital structure.

Strider rushed over to the double doors that led into the building and tried the handle. But instead of it opening up to him, they were slammed forward into Strider which knocked him backwards and down the small flight of stairs he had climbed to reach the door.

"Ow… " Strider muttered, his sight a little fuzzy.

Through his blurry vision, he spotted a dark blue and purple pile of mist fly through the now wide open doors and into the sky. The trooper shook off the slight daze the impact had put him in just as a wave of ponies ran out of the building in a panic. He dove out of the way just in time, avoiding getting trampled on like a welcome mat.

Strider’s eyes drifted from the panicking crowd to the fleeing mist in the sky, its flying erratic and disobeying any laws of physics he had learned on Kamino.

"Something tells me that's not normal." Strider said out loud, gripping his blaster tightly.

He wanted to run off after it, but as he glanced back into the building, he took note of all the scared civilians inside. Amongst them were what seemed to be armored troopers, each one unarmed and lying across the floor.

Strider entered the building and approached one of the armored ponies, taking note of its golden plating and crested helmet. The pony underneath the armor had a thick coat and light blue mane and tail, their light blue irises hazy.

"Your a trooper?" Strider questioned as he helped the pony get into a sitting position.

"Guard..." The pony corrected, his words traced with pain and fear.

"Guard, what happened?" Strider asked, looking around at the scared crowd.

"Nightmare Moon… She came back.... to bring eternal.......night." The Guard fell into unconsciousness the second he finished that sentence.

Strider did his best to find a pulse, which when found was thankfully still active. He stood back up to his full height and looked around the area, taking note of the chaos surrounding him. Tables were overturned, chairs were abandoned, and several ponies seemed to of either fainted or had locked up from sheer terror.

“Whoever this Nightmare Moon is, they seem to like the element of fear.” Strider told himself, taking another look around the area. Out of the corner of his his eye, he spotted a familiar looking pink tail sticking out from below a cloth covered table.

The trooper made his way through the panicked crowds and towards the table, being completely ignored by any ponies who were still somewhat calm. Strider knelt down next to the table and gently lifted the cloth up, allowing the pony underneath to become visible.

If the tail wasn’t already a giveaway, then the fact that they were a butter yellow pegasus with three pink butterflies on their flanks sold the deal. Fluttershy was shaking with fear violently, her eyes as wide as dinner plates. She looked absolutely terrified, as if she stared down a sith lord advancing towards her who had just burned her home to the ground.

"Hey, Fluttershy? You ok?" Strider knew she wasn't but still, he needed to make small talk somehow.

"N-N-Nightmare M-Moon's b-b-back!?" She stammered, her words shaking as much as her body.

"After this situation is taken care of, you’re gonna have to explain all this to me. But for now, you need to come out from under the table." Strider explained.

Fluttershy shuffled around to face the trooper, but didn't reply. She just kept shaking, seemingly paralyzed with fear. She must have been very close to that mist to shake her up this badly.

"Don't worry, that mist thing left. It’s safe now, you've just got to get back up." Strider said, extending his hand towards the mare.

Fluttershy stared at the outstretched hand for a few seconds, before finally meeting it with a forehoof. Slowly but surely, Strider pulled Fluttershy as gently as he could out from below the table and back on her hooves.

"T-Thanks..." Fluttershy said, before spotting two familiar looking ponies rush over to her side.

"Fluttershy! Are you alright?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"Did this ruffient do something?" The white unicorn questioned, glaring daggers at the trooper.

Fluttershy shook her head, her body stopping it's rapid shaking. "N-No, he just h-helped me from under the t-table."

"Oh hiya again Strider! I was looking for you after you ran off but then I spotted something that looked really sweet in the market and--" She was cut off as Strider put a finger over her muzzle.

"Save it for later, i'm guessing your Miss Shy's friends?" Strider questioned.

The two mares nodded.

"Well then, you two calm her down," Strider instructed, before holding up the DC-15A. "I've got some mist to hunt."

Strider’s boots made audible thumps with each step as he took off down a street in pursuit of his target. It didn’t take long for him to find the mist, which seemed to of halted in front of a poster which had the face of a snow white unicorn with a rather long horn. With a swift slash, the mist chopped the poster in half and let it fall from its spot onto the ground.

Strider took cover against a nearby bale of hay, double checking that the DC-15A was primed incase things got ugly. He took a quick peak around the hay bale just in time to see the mist continue on its way down the road. It Either sensed his watchful gaze, or had seen him take cover behind the bale because it quickly changed directions, charging right at the trooper.

Seeing this, Strider stood up from his cover and aimed at the mist, his finger resting on the trigger. He was ready to shoot, but he knew protocol for these types of situations.

“HALT OR I FIRE!” Strider threatened, a vein attempt to get the mist to stop, but it didn’t falter.

With his warning being completely ignored, Strider pulled the trigger. A blue bolt of plasma launched from the barrel and shot like a rocket towards the mist. It halted, as if not expecting that to of happened. But it quickly snapped out of it and formed a doughnut shape which allowed the bolt to fly right through it. The mist then took off down the road, avoiding a few more fired plasma bolts in the process.

Strider wasted no time rushing after it, firing several more blue plasma bolts at the mist. The bolts either flew past or right through it, so Strider stopped the shower of plasma bolts and picked up the pace.

"How do I hit mist?" Strider wondered out loud, his tone hinted with annoyance.

The mist suddenly stopped flying and changed directions, charging towards the trooper at starship speeds. He rose up his arms in a defensive stance, but the mist simply went through the makeshift barrier and slammed against his chest.

Strider fell to the ground with a hard thud from the attack, the wind completely knocked out of his lungs. The mist used this time to take off down the streets, quickly vanishing from view.

After catching his breath, Strider tried looking around for the mist, but it had already flown the battlefield.

"Dang it." He muttered, grabbing the DC-15A from where he had dropped it and took off to start searching for the mist.

Strider did his best to sweep the area, double checking every alleyway and roof for any signs of his target. He opened a trash can and took a look inside, only to be greeted with nothing but garbage. As he shut the can, he heard the sound of something dropping from the other end of the alleyway. He charged down it and stopped when his eyes spotted a twitching upside down box.

“I’ve gotcha now.” Strider muttered, grabbing the box and lifting it up.

Instead of the mist, he was greeted with the sight of a small grey rat which quickly took off down the alleyway with its cover blown. Strider watching it fade from view, before discarding the box and sighing.

"This is pointless! Even if I find it I can't harm it with simple plasma bolts." Strider told himself.

The trooper did one more sweep, before giving up the chase with the assumption that the mist had left town. He made his way through a few more alleyways before he wound up back on the path leading towards the edge of town and Fluttershy’s cottage which was just beyond.

Strider was currently putting together a makeshift explanation to the rouge mist, but he had zero knowledge of the planet, let alone its inhabitants. What in the universe did that mist want to accomplish with this stunt? All it had done was scare the town, which was probably its goal anyways, but why?

He pondered this as he left town, stopping at the top of a hill where he was able to spot Fluttershy’s cottage just beyond the hills. He was about to continue, but halted when he spotted six ponies standing near what seemed to be an entrance to what Fluttershy had dubbed, the Everfree Forest.

Strider thought nothing of it, until he spotted Fluttershy amongst the group. It didn’t take long for him to recognise the white unicorn from earlier, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, the pony managing the apple stand, and a final one he didn’t recognise at all. The most notable thing he saw, was the fact that they were entering the forest unarmed, none of them having so much as a spear or even a shovel.

"Are those ponies going into that forest without weapons?" Strider questioned out loud, staring at the group.

The ponies suddenly advanced into the forest and vanished from his field of vision. This set alarm bells ringing in Strider's head, especially with the still clear images of that wooden wolf chomping down on that clone pilot’s helmet. Didn't they know what creatures were lurking in that forest? Not to mention the fact that it was night!

"What are those ponies thinking!?” Strider wondered, taking off towards the entrance. These ponies are gonna end up getting him killed, he could count on it.

It didn’t take long for Strider to catch up on the ponies, even with his still injured leg. It had been healing very well, but that fall from the door and down those stairs hadn’t exactly helped.

"HEY! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR DOING!?" Strider shouted out, his voice quickly attracting the group's attention. Rainbow Dash instantly recognized him and glared.

"You again? Can't you mind your own business?" Rainbow questioned.

"Strider? W-What are you doing here?" Fluttershy asked.

"I'm here because this forest is full of all sorts of vicious creatures, and you came waltzing in without any weapons." Strider exclaimed.

"We do have weapons! It's called-" The purple unicorn was cut off as Strider shook his head.

"No, no you don't. This," Strider held out the blaster. "is a weapon."

"That's your kind of weapon. But we do-" This time, the purple unicorn cut herself off as she watched a blue plasma bolt fire off into the sky.

Everypony's eyes widened at the sudden plasma bolt, Rainbow Dash's mouth opened wide in shock.

“Look, if you really want to go in there with no weapons, then I won’t stop you. But I AM coming along. The only pony here who I know and trust to give me correct information about this place is Fluttershy, and i’m not letting civilians march to their death. If she gets hurt, then someone’s gonna have a bad day, understood?” Strider asked.

"Oh the comments are so gonna ship you." Pinkie Pie stated blankly.

"The what?" The orange pony wearing the brown stenson questioned.

"Ok, if you wanna tag along, then fine. But under no circumstances do you lead the way or fire that weapon unless you need to." The purple one instructed.

"I’m not taking orders from a civilian. A civilian whose name I don't even know." Strider stated.

"I'm Twilight Sparkle." Twilight Sparkle claimed.

"Ahm, Applejack. Ya still owe me ah new apple cart." Applejack reminded.

"And i'm Rarity. You also haven't apologized for making me drop all my bags as well as trip over me.”

"Let's just get a move on." Twilight grumbled, before leading the way down the path once more.

Chapter 8: Everfree March (Revised)

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"Are we there yet?" Pinkie Pie asked, bouncing forward alongside Fluttershy and Rarity.

"Not yet Pinkie." Twilight answered, already getting annoyed with the whole situation.

The group of ponies plus Strider were currently walking around a mountainside that rose just above the treeline. There were a few swirling clouds scattered about the night skies, some intertwining in patterns while others simply looked like the tops of large twisters.

"We should be there soon Pink--- AHH!!! Twilight’s original sentence never left her lungs, being replaced by a scream as the ground below the group broke free from the mountain.

"Everypony grab onto someth'n!" Applejack shouted, using her mouth to grab a stray root that was sticking out of the mountain.

Fluttershy grabbed Rarity while Rainbow Dash grabbed Pinkie Pie, using their wings to quickly get them to safety. Strider frantically looked around for something to grab onto and spotted an outstretched branch. His hand gripped the branch, instantly halting his descent down the mountainside.

Twilight wasn’t so lucky, not finding any outstretched roots or branches. She ended up hanging by her forehooves over the edge of the newly formed slope. She tried to pull herself up, but as her back hooves met an overhanging rock, the stone broke free and fell into the valley below.

"HELP!" Twilight cried out, her grip beginning to slip.

Strider glanced down at Twilight, instantly processing the unicorn’s rather dangerous position. He was about to call out to her, but stopped when he saw Applejack slide by towards Twilight. The pony caught Twilight just before she could fall, saving her life as well as impressing the trooper.

"Heh, reminds me of the boys back in the simulations." Strider commented, smiling at the memory under his helmet.

The memory was forced to go on hold when a large snapping noise rang through the trooper’s ears. He looked up just in time to see the branch he was holding onto break free from its spot in the cliff. Strider instantly began tumbling down the slope, soaring right off the cliff and into a nearby tree.

"I, :crash: HATE, :smack: CLIFFS!" Strider shouted, his body getting battered against several branches until he fell out of the tree.

Rainbow Dash couldn't help but chuckle at the scene she had just witnessed, nearly losing her grip on Twilight, who she had just caught after a trust fall from Applejack. She and Fluttershy set the unicorn down next to Pinkie Pie and Rarity, before flying over to the base of the tree where the trooper was quietly muttering under his breath.

"You alright Strider?" Fluttershy asked.

"Yeah, i'm fine, let's just keep going and pretend that never happened." Strider grumbled.

The group made their way down the path, going deeper into the forest. Twilight was currently listening to Rainbow Dash’s boasting over the save she and Fluttershy had done when the cliffside broke free. Strider was bringing up the rear, making sure to watch the group’s back incase of a sneak attack.

The trooper didn’t like how quiet it had gotten, besides Rainbow’s constant talking. Where there once were owls hooting, and crows cawing, now stood eerily quiet. The group soon ended up walking towards a valley between two cliffs, making it the only way through. Before they could enter the valley however, Strider heard movement.

"Wait, I heard something." Strider exclaimed to the group, raising the DC-15A in preparations for a fight.

Right after he said those words, a familiar beast shot out from the underbrush, its eyes locked onto the group.

"A Manticore..." Twilight said, looking at the beast, fear seeping between her words.

So that was what that beast was called. If this was the same one that had attacked him before, then he had a score to settle with it. Strider aimed at the Manticore, but right before he could pull the trigger, a yellow hoof rose in front of him.

"Wait! Don't shoot!" Fluttershy shouted, surprising the whole group at how loud she had said that.

Before Strider could object, Fluttershy advanced alone towards the Manticore, showing no signs of fear as she did.

"What are you doing!? Your walking onto death's doorstep!" Strider claimed. He tried to aim around Fluttershy but he didn't have a clear shot anymore.

Fluttershy trotted right up to the Manticore, who glared down at her. Instead of stopping, she got even closer and began talking. She was actually talking to the thing that had nearly killed Strider just a day earlier.

"Are you kidding me." Strider muttered. Now it really was like that story from the archives that younglings always seemed to enjoy. That was, until something set the Manticore off, causing it to roar right into Fluttershy's face.

"FLUTTERSHY!" The rest of the group shouted, clearly worried for their friends safety.

Strider rose the blaster again, his finger hovering over the trigger. But he lowered the barrel when he noticed that the Manticore was licking Fluttershy's mane like it was ice cream that was given to younglings as a treat.

Seeing an opening, the group made their way past the Manticore, who had stopped licking Fluttershy and walked away into the forest. Strider looked at Fluttershy, amazed at how that pony, who a few hours ago was terrified from dark mist, just faced down a Manticore and somehow managed to befriend it.

True, it was an impressive sight as well as keeping the forests population one Manticore up. But deep down, Strider knew that if Fluttershy tried doing that to all the other beasts in this forest, and possibly beyond, she would end up failing in the worst ways possible.

He looked at the blaster in his hands, before following the group as they made their way down the valley and back into the underbrush.

As the group continued onwards, the trees above the group began to get thicker. Outstretched branches that held massive leaves on then blocked out the moonlight from above, casing the area below in a thick sheet of darkness.

Strider felt around his utility belt for a flashlight attachment, which was quickly grabbed upon finding its location. He attached it to the DC-15A and activated it, allowing the blaster to act as a makeshift flashlight for the time being.

Soon, the group of ponies ahead of him began muttering to themselves about the darkness. He simply ignored them and kept moving, until a strange noise began to fill the area. He stopped in his tracks, along with the rest of the group who had also heard the noise.

Strider scanned the area with the DC-15A’s flashlight, trying to see what had made that noise. He aimed the blaster to the right, only to be greeted with a horrific looking face that had been carved into the tree.

The trooper actually stumbled a little at the sight, but quickly regained his composure. The ponies on the other hand, had already started screaming, and he didn’t blame them. These trees definitely looked the part, but the growing fear in the group slowly began to vanish when they heard something that didn’t sound like screaming.

Strider quickly noticed that Pinkie Pie wasn't screaming, but laughing. How in the world was she laughing at the disturbing images around her? Strider gave a nearby tree a poke with the back of the DC-15A, before focusing back on the laughing pony.

Then, she broke out into a solo musical number. Strider had to hold back a groan of annoyance at the sudden outburst of singing, but he couldn't help but chuckle a little under his breath at the lyrics. He noticed that the other ponies had begun to laugh at the trees, causing the carved faces to vanish and be replaced with normal trunks.

"How did those vanish?" Strider wondered out loud, also taking note that the moonlight had somehow broken free through the trees and leaves, banishing the darkness around them.

Pinkie finished her song, laughing on the ground with her friends. Strider looked at the sight and smiled. It was rare to see these sights because of the war bringing terror to everyone, involved or not. But every here and there, he would stumble across true happiness, a spark of light in this dark war.

"I have no words..." Strider exclaimed, gazing at the sight.

Rarity had just snipped off a large portion of her curly dark purple tail and had given it to a serpent, THAT HAD A MUSTACHE! It made zero sense! Why did he have to crash on a planet that seemed to literally laugh at the laws and rules of the galaxy!

Strider could get behind the fact that some serpents had managed to hide out here, but the fact that this one was crying over facial hair that should of been impossible to grow considering their anatomy was like a punch to the archives he had studied on Kamino. Not only that, but this serpent was completely fluent in galactic basic as well! Able to hold solid conversations with Rarity and actually seemed to show manners!

Strider's avalanche of questions in his mind left him standing there, blankly while the group made their way over the serpents outstretched tail and to the other side. The serpent looked at Strider for a few seconds, before picking him up and setting him on the other side of the river.

Serpents had their own language style which consisted with clicking noises and sometimes slithers from their tongue! They also shouldn't have that much hair on their heads! Bright orange hair to be exact! First talking colorful ponies who have a strong government of some sorts as well as having currency and what seems to be trading posts. But no, the planet just had to have other creatures that can disprove facts that had been standing for ages in the Republic archives!

Strider didn't even notice Fluttershy pulling him by the hand as the group continued on through the forest.

"Are ya sure he's alright?" Applejack asked Fluttershy, looking at the Trooper, who was still mumbling under his breath.

"Well, I thought he might have finished by now, but he's still going." Fluttershy answered.

"If he keeps going then he might get into the top three ponies/people that can talk for hours straight! I'm number one." Pinkie claimed.

Strider's mind slowly began to slow down from his rambling wave of questions and he finished it up for good with a slap to his own face, or helmet.

"Sorry, this planet is just so strange." Strider stated.

"Eh, ya get used ta it." Applejack told the trooper rather blankly.

Strider looked over to see Rainbow Dash trotting over a very rickety rope bridge, a smile on her face.

"Come on! We have some element's to find!" She reminded the group, before flying into the sky and across the bridge.

Once the group was across the rope bridge, they advanced towards what looked like the ruins of an old castle. Cracked walls covered with dust and cobwebs, broken glass and a missing roof, definitely ruins of some sort.

As they entered through a pair of large wooden doors, they failed to notice a midnight blue and purple starred mist squeeze through some cracks in the walls. They reached the other side with ease, blending in with the shadows of the room as they waited for the perfect time to strike.

Chapter 9: Showdown (Revised)

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“Whoa, talk about creepy.” Rainbow Dash stated, taking in the sight of the ruined castle.

“Indeed, this place definitely needs some new decor.” Rarity added.

"We’re not looking to repair the castle, we need to find the elements of harmony.” Twilight exclaimed, eyeing something in the middle of the room.

Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash flew over to the structure and gently removed five stone spheres from their spots on outstretched podiums. They set them down in a makeshift circle, which Twilight trotted over towards and ignited her horn.

"Alright, everypony stand back." Twilight instructed.

"What's she doing?" Strider asked.

"She's trying to ignite a spark to reveal the sixth element." Fluttershy explained.

"Hmm, is mist supposed to surround her when she's doing that?" Strider pointed to the smoke that was gathering around Twilight and the elements.

"Uh oh... " The group muttered, watching as the mist formed into the shape of a pony.

The pony's fur was black as night, while her mane and tail were formed out of the mist that she had been a few seconds earlier. She had dark blue armor on. as well as slitted eyes and pointed teeth. The pony also seemed to not only have a horn, but also a pair of wings that matched her fur in color.

Strider was quick to draw the DC-15A, pointing the barrel at the shadowy mares head. He was ready to pull the trigger, but hesitated when the pony’s shadowy mane and tail began to form a makeshift tornado. Each of what Strider assumed were the elements were sucked into the tornado, making Twilight’s eyes widen.

Right as the tornado seemed to dematerialize, Twilight jumped into it and vanished, along with the elements and what he believed to be the so called Nightmare Moon. The group quickly began looking around the area for any signs of the two ponies or the elements, but they were nowhere to be found.

"Where'd they go?" Rainbow Dash questioned out loud, doing a full loop around the room as she searched for the missing ponies.

Applejack glanced out a broken window to see a light brewing in a tower outside. "Over there! Come on!"

Strider followed the group of ponies out of the main room, doubling their pace until they reached the base of the tower. However, what used to be the entrance was now blocked off by debris from the crumbling walls, keeping them from entering. From above, Strider heard haunting laughter, announcing that time was running low.

“You five find another way inside, i’ll keep that pony busy.” Strider stated, removing the flashlight attachment to his blaster and replaced it with a cable one.

Strider took aim at one of the windows, before pulling the trigger. A steel cable shot from the attachment and struck the area just below the window, anchoring itself in the somewhat stable wall.

Strider gave the cable a quick tug to see if it would stay, and once he was satisfied, he took off the attachment and disconnected the cable. Before the ponies could say anything, Strider took hold of the cable and began climbing up the wall, hooking the blaster to his back so he could use both hands.

“Alright, let’s see what’s going on in there.” Strider muttered to himself, reaching the top of the cable and grabbed onto the window sill.

The trooper hoisted himself through the opening and landed on his feet inside the tower. The room he now stood in looked very similar to the one holding the elements, minus the podium in the middle. There were a few pillars scattered about, each one having various sizes of cracks and moss on them. A few windows were placed around the walls but most of them lacked any glass, letting the outside wind flow freely within.

Nightmare Moon stood proudly atop a small circular area against the back wall, the five stone elements in shattered pieces below her hooves. Twilight Sparkle was laying against the broken remains of a pillar, most likely thrown into it with enough force to break the already brittle stone.

Nightmare Moon broke her gaze away from the defeated unicorn, slitted eyes locking onto Strider who was once again aiming his weapon at her. Instead of the fear Strider had been expecting with a blaster aimed directly at her, the mare laughed again.

“And who ar’t you supposed to be?” Nightmare Moon inquired, her voice cold and dark.

“Clone Trooper Strider of the Galactic Republic, and i’m ordering you to stand down or i’ll be forced to fire.” Strider stated.

“We are Nightmare Moon clone trooper Strider, we don’t take orders from anypony else!” Nightmare Moon stated.

“Then i’ll have to take you down.” That line earned another round of laughter from the shadowy mare.

“You? Take down us? Never, not even in your dreams!”

Strider pulled the trigger, making a blue bolt of plasma launch from the blaster and towards Nightmare. She dodged it easily, a grin spreading across her face.

"Just as foolish as the rest." Nightmare Moon claimed.

Strider fired another two shots, these ones bounced off of a barrier Nightmare Moon created out of thin air. She then charged her horn and fired a bolt of what looked like shadow electricity, which soared towards Strider. He rolled to the right, dodging the attack and fired again.

Nightmare Moon flapped her wings and rose into the air, the bolts flying right under her and striking the back wall. Her mane and tail seemed to engulf her, before a twister of pure mist launched towards the trooper. Strider fired a few times blankly at the twister, not trying to aim. He narrowly avoided the attack, taking cover behind a fallen pillar.

Nightmare Moon disbursed the twister and fired a few more shadowy bolts, each one striking the pillar. Strider poked his head out from the cover to aim, and let loose a wave of blue plasma. The alicorn had to scatter through the air to avoid the attack, but one lucky bolt struck part of her dark blue helmet, leaving part of it scorched.

Nightmare Moon landed on the ground, slightly shocked that she had been hit. But her shock vanished just as quickly as it came, her grin widening and exposing her sharp teeth which glistened in the moonlight.

"So, you are better than we originally assumed. But we don't have the time for games." Nightmare Moon boomed, lifting the pillar Strider was using as cover somehow and chucked it to the side.

Strider went to fire another round, but when he pulled the trigger, he realized that the DC-15A had been engulfed in a blue aura. Suddenly, it flew from his grasp and over to Nightmare Moon, who rotated it before her eyes.

"Strange piece of weaponry, We will have to replicate it for our army." Nightmare Moon muttered to herself, before lifting the blaster higher into the air.

Then, to Strider's horror, the blaster was snapped in half. The exposed Tibanna gas cartridge fell to the ground, it's power leaking onto the stone floor. The broken blaster was quickly discarded to the side, and Nightmare Moon appeared before the trooper in the blink of an eye.

"Let's see how well thou shalt do without their weapon." Nightmare Moon said, before smashing one of her four hooves against Strider's side.

The trooper grunted in pain at the attack, but stood his ground. He gripped his hand into a fist and swung it at Nightmare’s muzzle, only for it to get encased by the same aura from before. Suddenly, he was lifted into the air by his encase hand, the shadowy mare laughing directly in his face.

“Did you really think you had a chance?” Nightmare Moon asked, before chucking the clone into a wall.

Strider fell to the ground hard, the wind completely knocked out of him. He struggled to catch his breath but was greeted instead with a buck from Nightmare Moon. She lifted him up once again in a midnight blue aura, her eyes staring right through the trooper’s visor and into his own eyes.

"EQUESTRIA WILL FINALLY BE CONTROLLED BY IT'S TRUE RULER! ME!!!" Nightmare Moon shouted, before laughing maniacally.

She chucked Strider one last time with the equivalent amount of force from a Jedi’s force push, launching him through a pillar and into another wall. He fell limply to the ground, pain flowing through his entire body like water after a dam broke.

The trooper thought he heard something, but all his senses were beyond scrambled from the skirmish. Through his hazy vision he saw what seemed like a flash of multicolored light, followed by what sounded like Nightmare Moon screaming. He tried to focus on what had caused that light, but everything faded to black before he could make it out.

Chapter 10: Good Memories, and Great Friends (Revised)

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Space is quite a beautiful thing. The quiet, peaceful void all across the galaxy and beyond, filled to the brim with stars and planets. But some things lurk in that void that aren't so beautiful, or easily undisturbed.

Deep in the outer reaches of space, a single Republic attack cruiser was flying through the black sea of stars. On board the cruiser and inside one of the many firing ranges, were five clone troopers. One of those troopers, was currently aiming a DC-15A at a deactivated test droid, which he shot right in the head.

"Ha! Bullseye right on the first try!" The clone who had fired the shot cheered, smiling at his miniature victory.

"Lucky shot Rust," A clone standing behind rust proclaimed, before taking a sip of water from a cup he was holding.

"Yeah yeah you always chalk it up to luck Strider." Rust responded, walking over to a water cooler to get some water for himself.

"Fork over the blaster, it's time to show you how it's really done." A third clone claimed, grabbing the blaster from Rust's hands on his way to the firing line.

"Sure Trigger, like last time when you said that and missed the droid by a foot." A fourth clone commented.

"Shut it Cosmo, last time I checked, you were nearly smashed into paper by a door." Trigger replied, aiming the blaster at a set of droids.

"That was ages ago!" Comso emphasized.

"Yeah, like when you got a face full of door when the motion censors were down for maintenance?" The final clone questioned. That had caused all the other clones on the room to laugh.

"No one told me that the door to the restrooms were being fixed and you had to open it manually Matt!" Comso shouted.

Trigger managed to contain his laughter enough to focus back on aiming. Once he was sure he lined the shot up correctly, he fired. Two bolts launched from the blaster, one flying right over the droid while the other struck its left arm.

That caused the group to burst out laughing again. All except Trigger, who grunted and threw the blaster down on the ground. It clattered against the metallic floor, before coming to a halt at Strider’s feet.

"Alright, let's see," Matt muttered while looking at Triggers helmet, which had been stashed with the rest of the squads helmets.

Triggers helmet however, had a set of tally marks on the front of it. Matt grabbed a marker from his utility belt and put another black tally on the helmet, pocketing the marker shortly after while giving the helmet a quick pat.

"Why do you even have a marker in your belt?" Strider asked.

"For marking down how many times Trigger gets triggered over missing a shot." Matt replied, smirking.

"You guys are the worst." Trigger mumbled, but in his head, he was laughing himself.

Strider smiled, setting his cup down on a table and walking over to his brothers. Rust did the same, clearing his throat to gain the attention of the four men.

"We did good today boy's, every clanker that’s seen us has always been left for the scrap pile afterwards. This war is gonna be over faster than Cosmo tripping over his own foot." Rust exclaimed.

"Hey!" Cosmo barked, before ironically tripping over one of his boots and falling face first to the ground.

"Welp, wars over." Matt said blankly, before the room was engulfed in laughter once more.

The group of troopers quickly returned to target practice, completely unaware of the Separatist ship that had just come out of hyperspace right in front of the attack cruiser...

Strider cracked open his eyes, light instantly filling them. He quickly realized that his helmet and armor had been removed, leaving him in his black body glove. That was probably for the best, considering how uncomfortable his armor was while lying or sitting down.

He glanced around the area, quickly taking notice of the fact that he was no longer in the tower of the castle. He had been laid down on the green couch in Fluttershy’s cottage, the light from earlier emitting from the large open window.

As Strider got himself into a sitting position, he spotted his armor resting in a pile on a nearby chair. He managed to get to his feet and began putting the armor back on, saving the helmet for last. Once each piece of armor was back in its proper position, he picked up his helmet and looked it over.

Most of the helmet seemed to be in tact, but there were a few cracks at the very edges of the visor and the back arrow com-link located on top was banged up beyond repair.

"Dang it, com-link’s busted." Strider muttered, examining the bent arrow style relay.

He had already tried to contact the Republic with his armor, but didn't get anything due to nothing being in range. But with the relay busted, it would be impossible to contact them with his armor’s built in com-link. His only option now was to find a communication station with a strong enough signal to contact Coruscant.

Strider put the helmet over his head and made his way over to the front door. Fluttershy seemed to have repaired it, sparkling new silver hinges replacing the broken gold ones. Strider opened the door, which now swung outwards, and was instantly greeted with the light of the nearby star.

The trooper looked down the path, spotting Fluttershy who was wearing a pair of saddlebags. She had probably gone shopping for supplies or something similar. She trotted faster when she saw Strider standing in the doorway, stopping right before him.

"Hello Strider, it’s good to see you’re up. If you hadn't been wearing that armor then you might of broken a few bones." Fluttershy explained.

"I've taken worse, but thanks for your concerns and giving me shelter. But I am gonna need to make a trip to the L.A.A.T. to get another---" Strider trailed off as he spotted a familiar snow white bunny sitting on top of Fluttershy's head. "You..."

The two exchanged glares, both unhappy about the skirmish that had happened only a day ago.

"Oh, you’ve met each other already? Well that’s great then! This is Angel Bunny. I'm not sure how but he’d been locked up in a cupboard when I returned. He also wanted to throw your helmet in a trash can." Fluttershy stated.

"Yeah, we've met… " Strider grumbled, his stare masked by the visor.

Fluttershy went past the trooper and into the cottage, setting Angel Bunny down on the wooden floorboards of the living room. The bunny quickly bounced off, not wanting to be near Strider at all, who shut the front door behind him.

Strider followed Fluttershy into the kitchen, leaning against the wall as he watched her grab a bag of tea and put a kettle on to boil water. She looked so calm, happy with the peaceful life she had been given. This only nagged at the horrible feeling inside Strider.

Fluttershy, along with everyone on this planet, had zero clue about the war above. They could be dragged into the war and none of them seemed to have proper weapons or soldiers to fight. Their world would be crushed in a few rotations by the Separatists.

"Fluttershy? Does this place have a leader?" Strider asked.

"Yes, we have Princess Celestia and now Princess Luna. You were unconscious when Princess Celestia showed up to help Princess Luna recover from getting freed by the elements." Fluttershy explained.

"Princesses huh? Do they have a castle nearby?"

"Um, in Canterlot. You can actually see the city from Ponyville if you look at the mountain it was built into."

"How can you reach the city?" Strider questioned.

"Well, you can fly there by air ship or winged carriage. Or you can take the Friendship Express, but you need a ticket to get there." Fluttershy claimed. "Why do you want to go there?"

Strider took a deep breath in, before letting it out.

"I need to inform the Princesses about the war that's going on." Strider exclaimed.

"Tickets to Canterlot aren't cheap." Fluttershy claimed, taking two cups down from a cupboard and setting them down on the counter. "But if you want, I might be able to-"

"No, you don't need to use your credits, or whatever you use here. I have a ship, it's just, a little broken." Strider said, remembering the horrible state the Gunship had been left in.

"Didn't you say you crashed in the Everfree Forest?" Fluttershy asked.

"Yeah, but I need that ship. It has weapons and machinery that might still be working, and i’m gonna need all of it in order to contact the G.A.R." Strider emphasized.

Fluttershy put a hoof to her chin, brow furrowing. "How heavy is it?" She questioned.

"Don't know, but it is massive. Even 16 troopers wouldn't be able to move it.”

Fluttershy took the ready kettle off the stove and put it on a tray with the cups. She carried it over to the main room and set it down on the newly made table to replace the one Strider had destroyed.

"Give me a moment." Fluttershy asked, before leaving the cottage.

After what seemed like an hour, Strider opened up the door to the cottage and looked around. The mare was nowhere to be seen, not on the trail to Ponyville, in the sky, or even by the Everfree. Where did she go?

Not only that, but the cottage seemed quiet again. Strider quickly glanced behind himself, half expecting Angel Bunny to be standing there with a knife or something. But the bunny was also gone.

Strider's attention was quickly taken by a scraping noise coming from the Everfree Forest. He took off in the direction of the noise, only to freeze when he spotted something large emerge from the Everfree Forest.

"How… out of all things in the universe… did you get this?" Strider muttered, eyes wide with shock at the sight.

Resting in front of him was the Gunship, as beaten and run down as he had left it. Standing in front of the Gunship, was Fluttershy.

"Oh, I have some friends who were more than willing to help." Fluttershy claimed.

Strider looked around the side of the Gunship, spotting two bears standing behind it, both giving each other fist bumps. A flock of birds above the ship let out a sigh of relief and let go of the massive ship. But what was probably the strangest thing was the pink pony who was sitting in one of the pilot seats.

"Hi Strider! This thing is so much fun!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, before hopping out of the cockpit and bounced away towards Ponyville.

Strider looked through a small gap in the doors at the interior of the ship, seeing that all the bodies of the clones were still there, ready to be buried. He was very thankful that the doors had been shut, sealing the bodies from view. A few boxes full of supplies rested comfortably against the back of the interior.

"W-wow, just… wow, you have no idea how much this is going to help. Thanks Fluttershy." Strider said, looking at the mare.

"Heh, i-it was nothing. Except for a-all the t-terrifying creatures i-in there." Fluttershy stammered, before waving to the animals who had lined up alongside the ship. "T-thank you everyone for the help!"

All the animals gave her their your welcomes, before going their separate ways back towards the cottage. Strider looked back at the Gunship, ideas already forming in his head.

This day just got all sorts of better.

Chapter 11: Gunship Repairs (Revised)

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To say that the L.A.A.T. was broken, would be an understatement worthy of the archives. One of the fuel tanks had been cracked open and any remaining fuel inside had leaked out into the grass. One of the massive wings was hanging on by a set of wires which sparked with every attempt to push power back into them. The power systems had been heavily drained. The whole front including the chin mounted turbo lazers had nearly been torn to shreds from the crash.

Even with the ship in pieces, Strider was happy to have it out of the forest and back into his possession. However, that happiness faded when he had to bury his dead brothers. He chose a quiet area just far enough for Fluttershy to pay it no mind, and dug the graves with a shovel he had found resting against one of the cottage’s walls.

Once they had all been buried, he put their respective helmets he had taken off them earlier on top of their graves, before giving them a salute.

“Rest easy brothers, i’ll make sure to scrap three times as many droids for you." Strider proclaimed as he looked at the graves.

When he finished, the trooper returned to the gunship and began removing any cargo crates in the main hull. Next was the backup storage crates which would of been stored in the cargo hold, which had luckily survived the crash.

Strider opened up the cargo hold and took a look inside, spotting the outlines of three crates near the back. He grabbed the closest one and pulled it out of the hold, the crate’s grey color clashing with the bright green grass.

Strider lowered a crate and popped off the lid, exposing the items inside to the sunlight. What he found within the crate made a grin spread across his face behind his helmet.

Inside were a few DC-15S blasters, a bundle of thermal detonators, and a stack of power packs. A perfect weapons crate. Strider grabbed one of the DC-15S's and examined it, noting the already loaded power pack inside. It wasn't like his DC-15A, but it would do.

Strider set the blaster down next to him on the ground, before grabbing another crate from the cargo hold. This crate had a few medical packs as well as spare gause and some healing stims.

“Medical crate, definitely good to have.” Strider stated, setting the lid back over the crate and pushed it over to the weapons crate.

Strider looked back into the cargo hold and eyed the final crate which was located in the very back. He tried to grab it but it was just out of his reach, forcing him to climb a little ways into the hold for him to get it.

The trooper grabbed the crate and began dragging it towards him, but stopped when something came into view that had previously been hidden behind the crates. He pushed the crate to the side and got a better look at what it was, and once he realized what it was, his grin widened even more.

"No way, what are you doing back there?" Strider questioned out loud, grasping the object with both hands before he pulled it towards himself.

It was about half way from reaching the trooper when he felt a few drops of what he assumed was rain landing on his armor. He let go of the object for a moment and backed out of the cargo hold, his eyes locking onto the massive wave of storm clouds that now filled up the skies.

“This storm came out of nowhere…” Strider muttered to himself, before shrugging the sudden storm off and resumed.

His fingers wrapped around part of the object again and with one sharp tug, dragged the object out of the cargo hold and into the rain. Resting in his hands was a fully loaded Z-6 Chain Gun, the dust around the grey metal quickly getting washed away by the rain.

"Oh this baby is just itching for a fight!" Strider claimed, staring in awe at the weapon.

Strider set the Z-6 down on the ground and went to grab the final crate, grasping it in his hands once more and pulled it out of the cargo hold. Once it was clear of the gunship completely, the rain seemed to stop. He let go of the crate again and looked up at the sky, spotting several ponies with wings pushing the clouds away.

"Huh, guess they control the weather here." Strider commented, watching the ponies work.

Strider went back to looking at the final crate, it's lid practically begging to be taken off. He obliged, removing the lid and peaked into the crate. Inside, were what seemed to be several tools and spare parts, along with a few datapads.

"Maintenance crate, i’m definitely gonna need this." Strider stated.

He looked up at the severely damaged gunship, then back to the maintenance crate. This wasn't going to be anywhere near enough to fix the ship.

Strider set the lid back into place atop the crate and set it aside with the others, shutting the cargo holds door afterwards. He glanced upwards at the twin cockpits, the main piloting seat being the one that had taken the most damage due to it being closer to the front. He would have to fix that area in order to fly, but first he was gonna need to see the extent of the damage.

One thing was for sure though about the ship, it’s gonna be harder to repair than taking on a full battalion of droids with a single DC-17 pistol.

By the time night had rolled by, the trooper was still hard at work unscrewing multiple panels that covered up main components that needed to be checked. He fought back a yawn as he rotated a wrench that was currently fixated on a stray bolt which was the final object keeping him from taking the panel off.

Strider was about to start twisting the wrench, but stopped when he heard a faint voice from the other side of the gunship. He took a peak around the front of the ship, spotting Fluttershy who was currently making her way over to the front door of her home, a shiny rectangular object held in her mouth.

Fluttershy caught a glimpse of the trooper and halted, her gaze quickly locking onto the armored clone. She changed her course, trotting over to the gunship and stopping a few feet away from him.

Fluttershy took the object out of her mouth, before looking up at Strider. "Do you want to come inside for the night?" She asked.

"No, thanks for offering though. I've still got work to do, not to mention I can now use the gunship as a base instead of intruding in your cottage." Strider explained.

"You really are working hard on this machine aren't you?" Fluttershy pointed out.

"It's the only ship I have left, not to mention it could come in handy to get me back to the G.A.R. But that would be the last resort. I only have so much fuel left in this thing." Strider stated, trying not to yawn between sentences.

"Well, if you want to come inside, my door is always open. Good night Strider." Fluttershy said, before putting the object back in her mouth and began trotting back towards the cottage.

"Wait!" Strider called out, causing Fluttershy to freeze.

"esh shomthin ron?" Fluttershy asked, her words slightly restricted due to the object still being in her mouth.

"No, I was just wondering what you've got in your mouth. Is it some sort of currency or-?"

"Oh," Fluttershy said, before removing the object again and smiled at the trooper. "It's a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala. My friends and I are gonna go to it together and i'm looking forward to talking with all the different animals there." She exclaimed.

"Grand Galloping Gala? Is that some sort of festival?" Strider questioned.

"Yes, it's a celebration for when Canterlot was founded. It's one of the most well known celebrations that i've wanted to attend, sort of." Fluttershy stated.

"Are the Princesses are gonna be there?"

"I think so."

"Hmm, alright then, good night Fluttershy." Strider finished, before getting back to work with the gunship

“Good night, Strider.” Fluttershy repeated again, before she resumed trotting towards her home.

Strider watched the pony vanish inside the cottage, the red front door gently shut and locked out the outside world. Not long after did the lights from within go dark, leaving Strider in the darkness of the gunship.

The trooper got back to work, thoughts swirling around in his mind about the knew knowledge he had. He assumed a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala must be hard to get considering that Fluttershy claimed she wanted to go but never got around to it until now with her friends. That means that he can't just simply get a ticket. B

However, if he fixed up the gunship, then he could simply get to the capitol by air and simply ask the princesses for a moment. The place was also likely to have guards, with the building being the home of the rulers of the country. He could simply show up at the front door and let the guards do the rest. And even if the guards don’t, he could use the Gala as the perfect distraction to get in undetected and inform them himself. But that would require figuring out the layout of the building and where all the guards would be stationed, maybe he could--

Strider's thoughts quickly shifted back into reality when the sound of a snapping noise filled his ears. He looked down to see that he had snapped the bolt he was unscrewing, leaving part of it still lodged in the panel.

"This is gonna be difficult." Strider told himself, staring at the broken bolt in annoyance.

Chapter 12: A Party For A Soldier

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The sounds of distant chirping from a group of birds filled Strider’s ears, slowly stirring him from slumber. It didn’t take him long to realize that he’d fallen asleep in the co-pilot’s cockpit, somehow managing to get comfortable enough to sleep, even with all of his armor on.

Even in his drowsy state, Strider located a certain button on one of the control panels and gave it a press. A complete three dimensional hologram of the gunship appeared in front of him, certain parts glowing light blue while others were red, pointing out pieces that needed repairs.

Strider pushed a switch to the right, causing the image to slowly rotate in place which allowed him to see the hologram at all angles. He eyed a patch of red dots near the main fuel line, along with several wires and circuits which linked up to the mainframe. Strider stared at the highlighted sections for a few more seconds, before his mind made a plan of action and he shut the hologram off.

So far the backup power lines were the only thing keeping the consoles active, the main one damaged in several key spots that would be near impossible to fix without the proper equipment. But Strider wasn’t one to give up, even with impossible odds being the only thing on the table.

The trooper hoisted himself out of the secondary cockpit and climbed down the makeshift ladder until his boots made contact with the ground. He trudged over to the transportation bay and opened up an old red rusty tool box that Fluttershy had been kind enough to let him borrow. Inside were some basic tools, along with the ones he found in the maintenance crate, broadening his tool selection.

With the hologram of the gunship painted in his mind, Strider took a pipe wrench from the toolbox and made his way over to one of the inside walls of the transportation bay. He felt around the metal plating for a few seconds, before stopping at a large rectangular panel that had its right edge wedged under a neighboring slab of metal.

Strider used the pipe wrench to strip the panel of its bolts, each one landing with an audible clang against the metal flooring of the bay. Once each bolt was removed, Strider set the pipe wrench down and stared at the wedged area between the two panels.

”This is gonna take more than a simple tug, maybe a crowbar…” Strider wondered out loud, his mind debating on what the right tool would be.

The trooper glanced over at the toolbox to see if any good tools would make themselves present, only to see a crowbar floating in front of him. Strider stumbled back at the sight of the flying tool, but was quick to calm down when he noticed that it wasn’t flying, but being carried by three colorful birds.

One of the birds whistled, motioning with its eyes at Strider’s hand. Slowly, he extended his hand outwards until it was directly below the crowbar. The birds dropped the tool, letting it fall right into Strider’s grasp.

"Uh, thanks?" Strider said, looking at the birds.

They chirped happily at him, before taking off towards Fluttershy’s cottage, each one humming a few musical notes on the way. Strider watched them vanish, before his brain reminded him of what he was originally going to do. He looked the crowbar over, testing its weight as well as how sharp the ends were.

The tool seemed to be in prime condition, so Strider quickly went into action, wedging it in between the two panels. He pushed on the crowbar, the sound of metal scraping against metal ringing through the transportation bay. The second the panel was free of its counterpart, it fell and made a loud clang as it hit the ground.

Where the panel had previously been placed, was a set of large wires that ran up the entire back wall. A power box was in the direct center of all the other wires, the box colored black to contrast all the brightly colored wires.

"So that’s where you were." Strider muttered, staring at the wire.

Strider quickly went to work, opening up the miniature power box and stared at the now exposed flashing lights and snapped wires. He tapped a circular red button, before taking a torn apart wire out of the box and into the light. It was completely disconnected from itself, meaning that he was gonna have to get a new wire or figure out how to keep it linked together.

“Hmm, i’m definitely lacking in the spare parts department. Where could I get some new wires…” Strider wondered out loud.

“Oh! Give me a moment! (Shuffling Intensifies) Here!” A voice said from behind, earning another surprised yelp from the trooper.

Strider spun around just in time to see a familiar pink pony who had a handful, (hoof ful?) of wires dangling from her left forehoof. She presented the trooper with the wires, earning a few seconds of nothing but silence as the clone tried to calm down from the sudden surprise. Once he felt like he was alright, he gently took the wires from Pinkie and set them down next to the nearby toolbox.

“How did you get in here without me hearing it? I can understand the birds, but you?” Strider questioned.

“Well the door was open and I wanted to talk to you so I simply trotted over here. You were probably too focused to hear me.” Pinkie exclaimed, before reaching a hoof up into her puffy pink mane. “Which reminds me, I believe this is long overdue!”

Pinkie Pie shuffled her left forehoof around in her messy mane for a few seconds, before pulling out a pink envelope with the G.A.R.’s logo on it. Strider accepted the envelope and opened it, revealing a folded up piece of paper within. Strider pulled the piece of paper out from the depths of the envelope and unfolded it, exposing a simple message written in a simpler form of Galactic Basic.

“Dear Strider,

I, Ponyville’s designated party pony have invited you to your very own welcome to Ponyville party at Sugar Cube Corner tonight at nine o’clock sharp! I hope to see you there!”

-Pinkie Pie

P.S. What type of cake flavor do you like?

Strider re-read the invitation a second time, before meeting Pinkie’s gaze. “Uh, thanks Miss Pie, but i’ve got lots of work to do still.”

Pinkie Pie’s smile didn’t falter, in fact, she responded almost immediately;

"I haven't missed a welcome party since moving to Ponyville, and I am not stopping today! It's gonna be fun Strider! I Pinkie Promise! Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." Pinkie Pie exclaimed while doing several motions in the air. “Besides, there’s always tomorrow! You aren’t on a time limit silly!”

The trooper glanced down at the invitation again, his mind heavily debating on what actions he should take. Getting back to the G.A.R. was his top priority, and repairing the L.A.A.T. was his best way to do that. In fact, his mind would of already set that as his decision, but…

Pinkie’s face was filled with some sort of energy that seemed ready to explode depending on his answer, her eyes almost as wide as his helmet as she waited patiently. Something in the back of Strider’s brain knew that if he turned this down, then it would probably cause more harm than simply just going.

Eventually, Pinkie’s eyes won him over and he simply nodded. That was all Pinkie needed for her smile to somehow widen even more as happiness flooded her veins. She looked like she was about to take off like a rocket into space, but luckily for both Strider and the Gunship, she didn’t.

“You won’t regret this Strider! I’ll make sure this’ll be the best party you’ve ever been thrown!” Pinkie promised, before zipping out of the transportation bay and down the road towards Ponyville.

Strider watched the pony fade into the distance, before his gaze returned to the torn wires that he needed to replace. He took a single step forward, before stopping when he spotted an object coming towards him at speeds that made hyperspace look like a stroll.

The object turned out to be Pinkie Pie, who had returned with a rather guilty look on her face.

“I never learned what flavored cake you like… “ Pinkie exclaimed.

“Well, i’ve never actually had cake before. So, I guess just do what you think is the right choice.” Strider responded.

Pinkie Pie gave the trooper an ‘alright’ expression, before bouncing out of the gunship yet again and dashed off towards Ponyville for the second time, leaving a very confused trooper in her dust.

Strider set a large box of gears down in front of a newly opened panel on the gunship, multiple pieces of machinery sticking out of the gap in odd angles. He was about to reach for a wrench, but stopped when he noticed Fluttershy staring at him from her cottage’s now open front door.

Once the pegasus knew Strider was looking at him, she slowly trotted towards the trooper with a worried expression. She halted a few feet away from Strider, taking a glance between the gears in the box and the open panel on the ship.

“Hello Strider, I was, um, just wondering if you knew that it’s almost time for your party.” Fluttershy stated.

Strider glanced back and forth between Fluttershy and the open panel, before reluctantly standing up and followed Fluttershy down the path. He double checked the makeshift sling he had made, making sure that he would be keeping his new blaster on him. He was sure Rust would of punched him around a dozen times if he had seen his actions with his previous weapon.

It didn’t take long for the two to end up back in Ponyville, almost everypony who was still out stared at him awkwardly or fearfully. Their gazes were quick to lock onto the DC-15S, some whispering to others with wobbly hooves. Had they even seen a blaster before? Now that he thought about it, Strider hadn’t seen anyone with even the simplest of blasters in the town yet.

Before Strider could ask Fluttershy about it, they arrived at what looked like some sort of two or three story house with baked walls and a frosted roof with a large cupcake on top. Their were a few open windows which allowed faint glows of yellow light to emit from it and into the darkening town.

“We’re here, Sugar Cube Corner.” Fluttershy stated, grimacing slightly as a burst of stray confetti blasted out of a surprisingly quiet window.

As the two opened the large pink front door, loud music suddenly began to play and Pinkie Pie launched into Strider’s face from seemingly nowhere. “You made it! Exactly on the dime too!”

Sure enough, a nearby clock showed that it was exactly nine o’clock sharp. Being a clone trooper of the G.A.R. does make getting somewhere exactly on time a habit. But that wasn’t exactly what Strider was thinking about at the moment.

The main restaurant/shop area was covered head to toe with confetti, streamers, and other colorful objects, along with an old record player which rested in a corner playing a familiar sounding toon. A few white and black bundles of balloons were tied to some exposed support beams and outcroppings in the walls.

There were also several tables, most being set aside to give ponies more room to trot around. Two brown tables with light blue cloth placed on top of them were conjoint against a flight of stairs on the far left. Many basic yet colorful food items were spread across it, some looking exactly, if not better than any holoimages Strider had seen on Coruscant. There were cupcakes, muffins, punch, cookies of all flavors, popcorn, chips, and even a red gumball machine.

Then, there were the ponies. Several ponies had attended, each giving each other some rather confused and worried looks upon realizing who the party had been thrown for. Yet there were a handful that didn’t seem to be taken aback at all at the sight of the trooper. In fact, one seemed to be staring at him with sparkling sun yellow eyes rather intently, like they had just found out that their biggest theory that no-one believed had been correct all along.

To say Strider was taken aback by the sight would be an understatement of the highest order. In all the world's he'd been stationed on, he had never seen so many bright colors splashed together, nor the amount of sweets present at one table.

“Strider? Hello? You in there?” Pinkie asked, starting to worry with the lack of response she was getting from him.

Strider quickly snapped out of his stunned silence and looked down at Pinkie, before gesturing at everything around him. “You threw this entire party, just because I showed up?”

“Yep! Every new face around Ponyville is always given their very own dedicated welcome to Ponyville party! And yours was far overdue, so I did my best to make up for it with more streamers, sweets, and music that I knew you’d enjoy!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, before turning to the crowd. “Alright everypony! Let’s all give a warm welcome to our newest resident and friend, Strider!”

Even though many ponies were confused, slowly but surely, they began stomping their hooves on the wooden floorboards. As more ponies joined in, the more relaxed everypony seemed to get. And in no time, everypony had begun talking and laughing with each other, all the while dancing to the music and helping themselves to the food provided.

Fluttershy gave Strider a slight nudge, causing him to avert his gaze from the party and over to her. “Maybe you could, um, take off your helmet? If you want to.”

Eh, what harm would it do? Strider gripped his helmet and removed it, exposing his face to the public. There were a few more gasps and one pony fainted, but they were back on their hooves in seconds and smiling like they had just won a new starship.

Strider put his helmet under his arm and began walking towards the dessert buffet, his eyes already locked on a rather tasty looking muffin. He took a muffin from its spot on the trey with his free hand and took a bite, his tastebuds instantly taking in the sweetness of the bread.

The muffin was wolfed down in seconds, followed by another. Once he finished the second, Strider spotted something he had somehow managed to miss when he went to the food table. Standing next to the cupcake trey was a purple and green scaled lizard of some sort, its eyes shut as it chewed. It was small, stood on two legs, and had three fingered claws that were currently holding a cupcake with white frosting. Once the lizard was done savoring the taste from the bite they had just taken, their purple eyelids opened, exposing a set of large emerald green eyes which were quick to focus back on the cupcake it was holding. However, it caught a glimpse of Strider’s white armor in the corner of its eye, which quickly led to it turning to the right to face the trooper.

“Whoa, you’re even taller than I thought!” The lizard explained in a low but youngling like voice, making Strider assume it was male. “You’re Strider, right?”

“Correct. CT 3719 of the G.A.R. reporting for duty.” Strider responded, giving the lizard a moc salute.

“I’m Spike, Twilight’s number one assistant. She told me that you took on Nightmare Moon all by yourself!” Spike exclaimed.

“I wouldn’t say I took her on all by myself. I put up a fight but Twilight and her friends were the ones who finished the battle.”

“Well, from what Twilight told me, you still helped return Nightmare Moon back in the story books.” Spike stated, his smile not faltering. “And that’s still a win in my book.”

Strider simply shrugged, but couldn’t resist allowing a faint grin to spread across his face. Knowing that he still proved to do some good even though he was defeated made him feel a bit better at how the battle played out.

“Heh, thanks kid. But in the battles i’ve been in, I can’t let my guard down and underestimate the enemy.” Strider exclaimed, knowing that when he had fought Nightmare Moon, his normal methods had likely been somewhat tamed due to all the pastel colors and non-vicious looking ponies.

“Wait, you’ve been in fights like that before?”

“Plenty, i’ve lost count as to how many droids i’ve… “ Strider eyed the little reptile. “Deactivated.”

“Have you ever saved anyone?” Spike asked.

Strider winced a little bit at that, but did his best to hide it. “Yes. The team i’m on made sure to keep any civilians who are in danger safe. Some of us believing that more than they should of…” He did his best to try and keep that last sentence quiet so it would simply blend into the noises of the party.

“Whoa, you’re like a superhero from the comics!” Spike claimed.

Now that was something Strider hadn’t been called. He had spent a fare amount of time stationed on a G.A.R. trading post, where several parents sometimes brought their kid or kids to purchase action packed stories through illustrations on a datapad or piece of paper. Even some of his brothers read comics in the mess hall or the barracks, so he was aware as to what a ‘superhero’ was. And he knew he wasn’t one.

“I wouldn’t say i’m a superhero. I’m a soldier of the G.A.R., a clone amongst thousands bred for battle. We’re all just… numbers…”

As Strider trailed off, Spike’s smile finally began to fade. The trooper was no longer facing him, simply just staring blankly at his helmet.

“Strider? Are you ok? Strider!?” Spike asked frantically, worried that he had said something wrong.

The trooper snapped out of his trance, quick to set his attention back on the young assistant. “Sorry. I just, got lost in thought.”

Spike seemed to ease up a little at the answer, but still gave him a worried frown. His mouth opened up to let out his words, but they didn’t reach Strider’s ears. He reached over to the table and plucked his helmet from the table and sat down on the bench, his eyes locked on the metallic black T visor.

Chapter 13: Ease Dropper (Revised)

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Strider was sitting on the side of the transportation bay of the gunship, his helmet held tightly in his hand. He remained this way for a while, quietly thinking to himself. He hadn't really thought about the fact that he was just another number, just another clone to get lost in the field. But now that he did think about it, the thought was more than disheartening.

"Uhg, what am I doing? I need to get the gunship online." Strider told himself, setting placing his helmet back over his head as he walked over to the open panel.

After a few final tweaks and twists of wires, a spark flew through the panel, jolting the gunship to life. The transportation bay lit up with green lights, signaling that the doors were ready to open, which they already were.

Seeing the gunship's power restored, quickly shoved the numbers thoughts out of Strider's brain.

"Haha! You bucket of bolts still has some character don't you!" Strider declared, looking at the now working lights.

Strider went over to the power box and put the panel back into place. He screwed the bolts back into the panel and gave it a tap. Good as new.

The trooper went over to the other side of the gunship with the broken wing and looked up at it. That wing was probably the biggest problem with the ship. With it broken, the gunship wouldn't make it four feet above the ground before tumbling to the ground.

"Hmm, i'm gonna need to take the whole wing off to repair it. That's gonna take lot's of new metal, not to mention several all the replacement canons and--" CRASH!!!

Strider locked up, identifying the noise to be the sound of his DC-15S blaster falling from the gunship and hitting the ground. He knew he had set it near the middle of the bay so it couldn't of fallen off by itself. He looked over in the direction of where he had set the blaster, seeing that it was no longer in the gunship.

Slowly and cautiously, Strider tip toed over towards the side of the bay and looked around. He spotted the DC-15S lying on the ground below his feet. He grabbed it and switched off the safety, before taking another look around the area.

After a few seconds of pure silence Strider spotted a hint of yellow fur between two crates. Slowly, Strider advanced towards crates, keeping the barrel pointed at the exposed bit of fur. Once he was right over the crates, he made his presence clear.

"Who's there!? Come out or i'm gonna force you to." Strider exclaimed, pointing the DC-15S at the crates.

Slowly, the pony behind the crates rose up, exposing a filly with a red mane and tail behind them. The pony was wearing a pink bow that was way too big for her head and her sun yellow eyes were looking down at the ground.

Strider lowered the DC-15S at the sight of the filly, sighing under his helmet. "Who are you?"

"Umm.., ah'm Apple Bloom. Sorry for mess'n with your stuff." Apple Bloom apologized, still looking down.

"Why are you even here?" Strider questioned.

Apple Bloom fidgeted with her left forehoof. "Well, ya ended up breaking mah sister's apple cart but she wouldn't tell me who broke it so ah wanted to know who ya were. Ah saw this strange thing and wanted ta know what it was. Ahm very very sorry!"

Strider let out a long but muffled sigh, before answering; "Don't worry, just make sure that you don't sneak up on a soldier."

Apple Bloom's worried look slowly faded and she smiled. "Ah promise it won't happen again!" Apple Bloom promised, before taking off in the direction of Ponyville.

Strider couldn't help but sigh again, switching the blaster back onto its safety mode and went back to looking at the wing. Maybe the town has a store that sells metal, or maybe he could find a way to get it transported to him, or--

Strider's thought's froze up as he spotted Apple Bloom rushing back towards him.

"Ah never caught your name!" Apple Bloom stated.

"Oh, my name's Strider." Strider answered.

"Nice ta meet ya Strider!" Apple Bloom claimed, still smiling.

Strider wasn't sure why, but seeing that filly smile made his day all sorts of better. He felt something he hadn't since the crash.


Strider didn't know why. He shouldn't be feeling happy. Apple Bloom was just eavesdropping and nearly got a plasma bolt to the face. But something felt different about this pony then the others.

He knelt down so he was closer to eye level with the filly, and removed his helmet, letting Apple Bloom see his face.

"Whoa, is that a suit of armor!?" Apple Bloom asked, now looking into Strider's brown eyes.

"Yep, clone armor. I think it would be best if I said this with my helmet off." Strider claimed.


"I'm no Jedi, but I can tell that you're gonna go far kid." Strider exclaimed.

"Really?" Apple Bloom asked, her eyes widening.

"You can bet on it." Strider answered.

Apple Bloom's smile widened, before to Strider's shock, she wrapped her hooves around his chest in a hug. Not really knowing what to do, Strider returned the hug, smiling himself. In all his years of being a trooper for the Republic, he had never ever been given a hug. And it felt amazing.

After the hug, Apple Bloom trotted off back towards Ponyville with a glowing smile. Strider continued to smile himself as he put his helmet back on and returned to the gunship.

The clone trooper quickly returned to work, unscrewing a few bolts from the left wing of the Gunship. However, he was gonna need some sort of pulley system so the wing wouldn't fall and get even more damaged. Maybe Fluttershy had some spare rope.

Strider paused for a moment, realizing that he hadn't seen Fluttershy all day. Where was she?

"Probably getting more animal food at that market." Strider assured himself, before looking back at the wing.

Before he could get back to work however, the pegasus in question appeared in the corner of his eye. Strider looked over to see Fluttershy, but something was definitely wrong.

She completely ignored the trooper, galloping into her cottage in the blink of an eye. The second she was inside, she shut the door with a loud SLAM!

Strider was slightly stunned at what he had just witnessed, both at Fluttershy's impressive speed, and how loud she had shut that door. Being only a few meters away from the cottage, Strider usually saw when Fluttershy left or entered her home, and had seen that she had always shut the front door slowly and carefully in order to not startle any nearby animals.

But today, she had nearly swung the door off its hinges, making a nearby flock of birds scatter from their nest in a tall tree. Strider already knew something was definitely wrong, and before he knew it he was already out of the gunship and at the front door. He knocked a few times, not surprised when she didn't answer.

"Fluttershy? You alright?" Strider asked through the door.

Fluttershy didn't answer, not with words at least. Instead, Strider could faintly hear muffled sobbing from within the main room. That was the green light that something was definitely wrong, and the trooper was quick to try and open the door. However, Fluttershy had still managed to lock the door on her way in, the unmoving doorknob proving that.

Strider didn't give up, that pegasus had already shown him so much kindness and had asked for nothing in return. Now, it was his turn. He did a quick loop around the cottage, looking for any open windows or a backdoor that might be unlocked. On the back of the house was a large window that was probably on the exact opposite side of the main room, and it was wide open.

Strider made his way over to the window and looked inside, instantly spotting Fluttershy, who was face down on a green chair. Even with her mouth covered by a green pillow, he could still hear muffled sobs from the pegasus.

"Fluttershy? What happened?" Strider asked, carefully stepping through the window and into the room.

Fluttershy's cries continued, but she did lower the pillow from her face just enough for him to see her tear filled eyes.

"I-I w-was j-just trying t-to help t-those d-ducks." Fluttershy stammered out, her words equally as muffled as her cries.

Strider wasn't exactly a negotiator, definitely not as good as some of his brothers, but he needed to do something. Slowly, he extended out one of his hands and wiped some tears from Fluttershy's face.

"It's ok, take some deep breaths." Strider instructed, gently removing his helmet while he was talking.

Fluttershy's trembling body seemed to ease up a little, her cries slowly fading into simple yet unstable sniffles. She lowered the pillow some more, letting it glide down onto her chest before clutching it tightly once again.

"Alright, can you tell me what happened?" Strider asked.

"I-I was j-just g-guiding some ducks t-through t-the street a-and s-she s-shouted at m-me." Fluttershy explained.


"A G-Griffon." She finished.

A Griffon? That word sounded somewhat familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Out of the corner of Strider's eye, he spotted Angel Bunny, who for once wasn't glaring at him, but looking worryingly at Fluttershy.

"Hey, do you think you could grab a glass of water for her?" Strider asked.

Angel Bunny stood there for a few seconds, before nodding and hopping off into the kitchen.

"Don't worry Fluttershy, it didn't sound like you did anything wrong." Strider claimed.

Fluttershy's sniffles slowed even more, her watery eyes focused on his exposed face.

Angel Bunny came back into the room with a glass of water in his paws. He passed it over to Strider, who set it down on a table next to the couch. The bunny then hopped up next to Fluttershy and went over to help comfort her.

"Thanks," Strider said to the bunny, who nodded.

Angel Bunny looked at Strider, then to his helmet. The bunny gave him an expression that said exactly what Strider was going to do.

Teach whoever did this a lesson.

Strider grabbed his helmet and put it back on. He looked back to Fluttershy, who was slowly calming down thanks to Angel Bunny. Then, he put his helmet back on and walked out the door.

Strider went over to the gunship and grabbed the DC-15S and primed it. He made sure the safety was still on, before taking off towards Ponyville.

Chapter 14: An Angry Trooper (Revised)

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It didn't take long for Strider to enter in Ponyville, both thanks to the straight dirt path and his military sprint. Now came the hard part, finding that Griffon. Strider didn't know that much about Griffons, but he had remembered what they looked like due to his brother Cosmo reading a book about creatures from the outer rim.

So with that information out of reach, Strider decided to do an old school perimeter check. He began by patrolling the park, then the market, then the alleyways.

After what felt like a whole hour, Strider decided to go with a different approach, one he probably should of done first. He went over to the closest market stand that had a pony working in it. The stand had a few signs showing the image of an orange carrot as well as several crates filled with the vegetable all around the area.

The pony managing the stand had yellow fur as well as an orange mane and tail which curled at the end. Long eyelashes were above green irises, the mark on their flank was a carrot as well which seemed fitting for the job they were doing.

"Excuse me ma'am, but have you seen a Griffon pass by recently?" Strider asked the mare.

"Yep, believe she's an old friend of Rainbow Dash. Saw her heading towards Sugar Cube corner." The mare answered.

Strider thanked the mare before rushing off towards the gingerbread bakery. It didn't take long before he reached said building, arriving just in time to see a strange creature exit the building. The creature had the head of an eagle but the body of a lion that had wings. That matched his description from Cosmo's books.

Without any second thought, Strider rushed towards the Griffon, blaster primed and ready. He quickly made it to the bakery right as the figure soared from the door and into the sky.

"HEY! YOU GET YOUR FEATHER COVERED BEHIND DOWN HERE!" Strider shouted to the figure, who looked down at him for a second, before continuing to fly away.

Strider aimed up at the Griffon, intent on pulling the trigger. However, he knew that he shouldn't fire on an unarmed civilian. All he had against that Griffon was a claim from Fluttershy which he did believe, but still...

So, he went for option two.

Strider grabbed an attachable grappling took which was intended for a DC-15A but still put it on the DC-15S. Once it was in place, he wasted no time triggering it, sending a black cable flying through the air towards the Griffon.

The cable met its mark, wrapping around it's left back paw. The cable locked up, causing the Griffon to halt their flight and hover in mid air. The Griffon looked down at Strider with a snarl, before extending what looked like a yellow talon to cut the cable.

However, before the Griffon could sever the wire, Strider yanked on it. The cable threw the Griffon off balance, causing them to correct themselves instead of cutting it. Strider kept pulling on the cable, the strength he had from the battlefield managed to rival the Griffon's wing power, but neither backed down.

"Let, me, GO!" The Griffon demanded, their voice sounding female.

"Now listen here bud, i've got a few words i'd like to say to you and it is getting harder and harder not to just switch this weapon over to stun and send falling to the ground!" Strider shouted.

The two continued to struggle against each other, quickly drawing a scene from all the ponies trotting by.

"If this is about that clumsy pegasus then I swear to Celestia she bumped into me first!"

"So that gives you the right to scare her off because she was doing her job!?" Strider questioned.

"Why defend that lame pony? You should mind your own business!" The Griffon barked.

"It's my business when someone I know who is the kindest one I know comes running home with tears soaking their face!" Strider shouted back, pulling the cable with all his might towards the ground.

FInally, the Griffon landed back on the ground, her glare met with the blank expression of Strider's helmet.

"So you wanna get involved? Then let me show you what happens when someone gets on my bad side!" The Griffon declared, anger quickly taking over her actions.

The Griffon charged at Strider, front talons shimmering in the sunlight. But Strider was far from intimidated. He simply pulled on the DC-15S, causing the Griffon to trip and fall flat on her face. This caused a few ponies observing to chuckle under their breaths. This only filled the Griffon with more rage, causing her to jump back up and slice through the cord with a talon.

The Griffon charged at Strider again, temper easily shattered as her fire filled eyes stared down the trooper. Strider didn't even flinch. He simply chucked the blaster to the side and waited until the Griffon was right in front of him, front talon curled into a fist.

The Griffon swung at Strider, but the trooper dodged it with ease. She tried again, Strider dodged again. This continued on for a few seconds before Strider just caught the Griffon's fist with his hand mid swing. Strider ignored the strike of pain that went through his hand and grabbed the talon, swinging the Griffon past him and to the ground.

The Griffon recovered much quicker than the first time, quickly swinging back over to Strider, to fast for him to dodge as she slammed against him. The two quickly got back up, ready to continue the fight. But right before they could reach each other, a flash of purple light in between them caused them to stop.

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Twilight shouted.

Twilight looked over at the Griffon, frowning. "I believe you have overstayed your welcome Gilda!"

The Griffon 'Gilda' was about to protest, but decided against it. Instead she just gave Strider one last glare before taking back off into the skies and quickly faded into the distance.

Twilight then turned her attention to Strider, frown still present. She didn't even have to say anything, Strider already knowing what was going through her head.

That goes for you to.

That was what he thought at least.

Strider picked up the DC-15S and began walking back towards Fluttershy's cottage, mind going a thousand miles a minute. Had he, a soldier of the Galactic Republic, just get told off like a youngling for misbehaving, by a purple unicorn!? But, she did have a point. Strider needed to cool down.

As he was walking down the street, Strider suddenly felt like he was being watched. Not like a glance in his direction, but a full on stare at his helmet's visor. Strider stopped in his tracks, looking around the area he was standing in. He had ended up near the market area, a few lone stalls drifting from the massive patch of shops.

Strider didn't spot any of the ponies managing the shops looking at him, just doing their own things. That was, until Strider spotted a set of eyes that were locked on him.

A set of blue eyes were looking at him from an alleyway between two shops. The eyes belonged to what looked like a pony, but their fur and mane were hidden by the darkness of the alleyway.

The two seemed to be locked in a staring contest, both of them not looking away or blinking. This continued for what felt like hours, until a pony pulling a wagon trotted in between the two, covering Strider's view of the alleyway.

Once the wagon had passed, the pony had vanished. Strider quickly rushed over to the alleyway and ran down it. Surely that pony couldn't of gone far.

Strider scanned the whole alleyway high and low, but didn't find a single trace of them. Eventually, Strider gave up and left the alleyway and continued on his way to Fluttershy's cottage. But his mind was already beginning to wonder.

Who was that pony? They didn't act like any pony he had encountered before, any human before! Why were they looking at him that way? Probably because of the brawl with the Gilda. Then why wouldn't they have just walked up to him and told him off.

Maybe they was scared.

That would make sense. After all, he had what was basically a space weapon from an entertainment holoprogram and armor like nothing from this planet. Now that he thought about it. That was exactly what he was to this world, an alien from a space movie.

"Shut up, focus on the gunship." Strider told himself.

It didn't take long before Strider was back at the cottage. He went over to the front door and opened it. But to his shock, it was empty. Empty with the exception of Angel Bunny who came into view from the kitchen.

"Hey, where'd Fluttershy go?" Strider asked.

Angel Bunny went over to a picture frame and pointed at a pony in it. He was pointing at Pinkie Pie, who was smiling to the camera.

"Probably wanted to help her with a party." Strider muttered to himself.

Angel Bunny bounced over to Strider and looked up at him, his expression said it all.

Did you teach them a lesson?

Strider smirked under his helmet before replying. "Let's just say, they won't be wanting to come back to this town anymore." Strider explained, raising the DC-15S in his hand.

The bunny grinned, before bouncing off to do his thing, leaving Strider to exit the cottage and head back over to the gunship. That wing wasn't going to repair itself.

Chapter 15: Magic Tricks (Revised)

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"So, remind me what you wanted exactly?" Fluttershy asked as she and Strider walked through the vastly populated market.

"A rope that needs to be long and tough, tough enough to hold up the wing of the gunship." Strider explained. "Hopefully one of these shops has some."

Right on cue, a nearby cart came into view which had several ropes hanging from the side of it. A large sign on top of the cart read Hardware For Hoofwork.

The two navigated through the wave of ponies and across the street over to the cart with the rope, a stallion with grey fur and a black mane and tail stood behind its counter. He smiled as he spotted Fluttershy trot over to him.

"Hello Miss Shy, what would you like today?" The stallion asked.

"Oh, I don't need anything, but my friend here does." Fluttershy exclaimed before stepping to the side to allow Strider a clear view of him.

"Hello, i'm Strider. I've been working on something that needs a pulley system and was wondering if you had any thirty two foot long ropes?" Strider questioned.

"Well, I do have a thirty two hoof length rope over there." The Stallion stated, pointing a hoof at a brown rope resting on a nail.

Strider picked the rope up and examined it. The rope seemed to be tough and was definitely long enough.

"Perfect, how much?" Strider asked.

"That rope would be around thirty bits." The stallion claimed.

Strider didn't exactly know what a bit was, so Fluttershy stepped back in front of him and put the money on the counter. The money appeared to be small circular golden pieces. The stallion counted them up before putting them away in a wooden box that was set on the far right of the counter.

As the two were walking away from the cart, Strider brought it up.

"Your currency is gold?" Strider asked.

"Some of them are also silver, but most are gold. We call them bits." Fluttershy explained.

"Huh, well I guess I shouldn't of been surprised that this planet doesn't use galactic credits."

"Galactic credits?"

"They're actually quite similar to your currency, ranging from gold to silver and even bronze. But they're shaped like long rectangles instead of circles." Strider stated.

"So, the whole galaxy uses these credits?" Fluttershy questioned.

Strider was about to reply but stopped when he spotted a crowd gathering in front of the town square building. Most of the ponies there didn't look familiar, but there were a few he recognised from the party. In the very front he could swear he spotted Pinkie Pie's mane bouncing up and down as she bounced in place.

"What's going on over there?" Strider wondered out loud.

"I don't know." Fluttershy answered.

"Let's check it out." Strider said, already advancing towards the crowd of ponies.

Fluttershy was a bit hesitant to head towards the crowd, but was relieved a little when she noticed Strider go around the large group of ponies and stop near the far right. She made her way over to Strider, who was already staring at what the crowd of ponies were gathered before.

It turned out that the group of ponies were looking at a rickety wooden wagon that was in front of town square. It had a dark red roof and pale yellow wooden walls which had a few brown windows on each side. A voice echoed through a microphone from inside the wagon, which suddenly opened up.

"Come one! Come all! Come and witness the Great And Powerful TRIXIE!" The female sounding voice proclaimed through the microphone.

The wagon's right wall suddenly sprung out, transforming it into a makeshift stage while several other objects popped out on the roof. This was then followed by a set of fireworks which were launched into the air.

"Wow, a traveling entertainer. I've heard some pretty strange stories about these guys." Strider stated, glancing over at Fluttershy who had ducked behind him when the fireworks exploded.

Strider looked back at the stage, now seeing a female pony with light blue fur and a white and light blue colored mane and tail. She was wearing a star covered purple pointy hat and a matching purple cape, her purple irises gazing out across the crowd.

Strider didn't need to be a jedi to tell that the pony was probably Trixie, who was talking to the crowd before another set of fireworks blasted into the air. Trixie followed up the display of explosions by raising her right forehoof and waved it around. Suddenly, a bouquet of flowers appeared out of nowhere and onto her hoof.

That was when Strider remembered something else about this world that he had forgotten completely. It had unicorns, (yet another mythical creature who was only told in the stories his brother read) who use real magic. Nightmare Moon had used said magic to fight him in that castle, but other than that, Strider hadn't seen magic used before.

"She's got some nice moves." Strider stated to Fluttershy, who had come out from behind his leg and joined him and the crowd at watching the performance.

As Trixie continued her show, a pony in the crowd said something inaudible from Strider's position. Trixie stopped what she was doing and looked down at the pony, eyes narrowing.

"Well well well, it seems we have some neighsayors in the audience." She declared.

It took a moment before the pun registered in Strider's head, before he answered it with a face palm to his helmet. When he removed his hand from the visor, he spotted Rainbow Dash hovering in front of Trixie, frowning at her.

"What makes you so much better than everypony else?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"Why, only the Great And Powerful Trixie has magic strong enough to vanquish the dreaded Ursa Major!" Trixie claimed in a booming voice.

Another set of fireworks went off, but this set was different then the others. This set somehow showed neon glowing images in the sky which took the shape of a bear. A few gasps escaped through the crowd at the sight, while Strider looked up in confusion. What the heck was an Ursa Major?

Trixie continued to talk about the Ursa Major and how she had defeated it. But Strider was more focused on the lights which faded once the story was finished.

"That was a nice light show, huh Fluttershy?" Strider asked.

"U-Ursa, M-Major?" Fluttershy stammered, her mind racing.

"Yeah, what is an Ursa Major?" Strider wondered.

Fluttershy didn't answer, her forehooves visible wobbling. Whatever it was, she seemed terrified of it.

Strider looked back at the stage which once again had fireworks going off above it. Ok, that trick was getting a little repetitive now. Even the machines which launched the fireworks was beginning to lose power.

"That's it. Ah can't stand for no more of this!" Applejack's voice stated as it rang through the crowd.

The orange pony got up onto the stage and grabbed a rope out of seemingly nowhere and tied it to her tail. She then spun the rope around and around like a lasso and launched it over to an apple tree. The rope wrapped around an apple and was yanked back with the rope towards Applejack. The mare ate the whole apple as it came soaring into her mouth and smiled.

The crowd of ponies cheered at the performance, some stomping their hooves together while others whistled. Strider couldn't help but give Applejack a round of applause as well.

That was, until he realized the lack of weight on his shoulder where he had put the rope. Strider quickly realized that the rope was gone.

"Hey! That's my--" Strider trailed off as Trixie took the rope in her magic and did some strange dancing with it.

Applejack had frozen up, her eyes locked with the rope. The rope slowly tied itself around Applejack, before spinning her out and off the stage. Trixie then looked up at the rope and grinned, before twisting it around a few times and into a knotted pony shape.

Trixie then tried to undo the knot but after a few sharp tugs, just simply broke the rope around the knots and put it away in a barrel.

"rope..." Strider finished, quickly realizing that the rope was no longer usable due to Trixie breaking it and shortening its length.

Strider cursed under his breath and clenched his hand into a fist. The small amount of respect Trixie had earned from her show vanished instantly.

Fluttershy spotted Strider's clenched fist and looked up at him.

"Don't worry, we can get another one," Fluttershy said. "But it wasn't very nice for her to do that to Applejack--and Rainbow Dash----and, Rarity."

Strider looked back to the stage to see Rarity rush off with green hair and Rainbow Dash rubbing her head with a hoof. The trooper sighed, before spotting the crowd break away back into town. His hands still clenched in a fist as he and Fluttershy walked back towards the market.

Chapter 16: A Major Problem (Revised)

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Strider flipped a few switches from the gunship, grumbling the entire time. Not only did the shopkeeper not have anymore thirty two foot rope left, but he also didn't have any ropes longer than 32 ft. So the pulley system was no longer an option for the time, so now he had to improvise.

His new plan was to unhook the wing from its spot on the ship and risk it getting damaged by hitting the ground. He did his best to cushion the drop zone with several spare pillows and cushions Fluttershy had given him, but they were probably gonna do as good as a pile of blasters below it.

He was currently in the cockpit, making sure to reroute any stray power from the wing. Once he was sure the wing was properly drained of power, he climbed over the exterior of the cockpit and towards the damaged wing, where a previously placed tool box was waiting.

Strider immediately got to work, unscrewing and bolts he could while also separating as many panels as he could. The job could of probably only lasted about an hour of he had a welding torch, but sadly he didn't have that lugary. He was lucky enough to have the tools provided by the gunship!

By the time he had taken most of the screws out and removed most of the panels, night had rolled around. Strider unscrewed one last bolt and gave the wing a firm shove, causing it to fall onto the ground with a THUD!

"Please don't be badly damaged," Strider muttered as he hopped down to the ground and went over to the wing.

Somehow, whether or not it was because of all the cushions or the general durability of the metal, the wing was mostly still in tact. It was still badly bent due to the crash, and it now had some more oddly bent panels, but it was still salvageable.

"I think i'll deal with that tomorrow." Strider told himself, already exhausted from the job it took just to remove the wing.

The trooper got into the gunship's transportation bay and flipped a homemade switch. The light's inside the bay shut off, letting a sheet of darkness sweep through it. Strider sat down against a wall and looked out at the night sky. Once the wing was repaired, the gunship would be over half way repaired, and he would be back fighting alongside his brothers.

With that thought in Strider's mind, he smiled and let his eyelids close. However, a loud noise caused him to reopen them, his gaze locking onto the source which was coming from the Everfree Forest. He was quick to notice a massive flock of birds take flight from the trees, each one flying erratically as if trying to escape something.

Not two seconds later did a massive creature smash its way out of the Everfree Forest, its dark blue transparent skin hardly suffering a scratch as it pushed over a tree with ease. A single white star sat on its head right above a pair of orange and red eyes that quickly locked onto the town. It somewhat resembled the image Trixie had illustrated, but the real thing looked much more terrifying.

"If that's an Ursa Major," Strider said, staring in disbelief at the creature. "then Ponyville's in for a massive problem."

Strider looked over at the DC-15S that was resting next to him, quietly shaking his head. That wasn't going to be enough to take that beast down. But he did have something that could.

Strider leaped from the transportation bay and over to the cargo hold, opening up the cargo hatch and grabbed the Z-6. With one quick pull, the chain gun was quickly bathed in the moonlight. This thing was going to see some action after all.

Not wasting anymore time, Strider took off down the path towards town with the Z-6 primed and ready.

The Ursa Major didn't take to long in terrorizing the town. It had already torn away at a roof of a house while growling at the ponies rushing to safety. A slight miss-step led its front paw onto Trixie's wagon, crushing it into pieces.

Several screaming ponies ran past Strider as he walked towards the Ursa Major, the chain gun's barrel already beginning to spin. A few ponies spotted him and stopped running, looking at the weapon in confusion.

"HEY! STAR FACE!" Strider shouted, trying to get the attention of the Ursa Major, who turned its head to face him.

The Ursa Major roared at Strider, staring down at the trooper. Finally, Strider thought it was close enough.

"TASTE LASER!" Strider barked, activating the Z-6.

The chamber in the blaster spun around and around, spitting out blue plasma bolts right into the Ursa Major's face. It roared in pain as the bolts made contact. It reached over to a house and pulled the roof off, using it to cover its face from the wave of fire.

Strider spotted a puff of steam emitting from the barrel so he halted the wave of plasma bolts and looked up at the Ursa Major. It growled at him, before chucking the roof it had used as a shield at him. The trooper dove out of the way and shot another wave of bolts at the Ursa Major.

The Ursa Major roared and picked up an empty wooden cart, then chucked it at Strider. He dodged the cart just by a foot, but a pony behind him wasn't as lucky. The yellow furred mare behind him got scraped in the side by a piece of the cart as it flew past her and into a house.

Strider saw this and quickly realized that he needed to get this thing out of town. He shot one more wave of bolts at the Ursa Major, before running away from it towards the outskirts of town.

Just as Strider thought, the Ursa Major chased him down. The two soon ended up in the less populated outskirts of town. Strider turned to fire another round, but the Ursa Major was closer than he thought. It swiped the Z-6 away from him and pounced.

Strider quickly felt pain shoot through his rib cage as the Ursa Major's clawed paw landed on him and slammed him into the ground. Strider looked up at the Ursa Major, whose orange eyes were glaring down at his helmet. It snarled at him, showing a set of fangs that glistened in the moonlight.

The trooper shut his eyes, waiting for the Ursa Major to finish him. However, after a few seconds of silence, he opened his eyes again just in time to see an apple collide with the Ursa Major's head.

Strider looked over to the right and saw a filly with a pink bow looking at them. It was Apple Bloom, who was standing in front of a pile of wood that had the Z-6 resting on it.

Apple Bloom said something that Strider couldn't hear, before she tried to activate the Z-6. When nothing happened, she glared at it and tried again, and again, and again. Finally, she gave the blaster a hard buck which finally triggered a volley of plasma bolts that were quick to make contact with the beast.

The Ursa Major got off of Strider and shielded its face with a paw, managing to let out a snarl as the plasma bolts began to take its toll on its paw. Apple Bloom made sure to keep the pressure on, using her forehooves to pull on the main handle which kept the bolts flying.

The Ursa Major finally decided it had enough and let out a loud roar. It took off towards Apple Bloom, ignoring the pain from each bolt. The Z-6 began to burn up, steam leaking from the barrel as its systems overloaded. However, just before it could reach her, Twilight Sparkle appeared next to the filly, her horn engulfed in a light magenta aura.

Suddenly, a soothing breeze filled the air, causing the Ursa Major to freeze in its tracks. It listened to the calming tune, before wobbling in place as it became drowsy.

Seeing this as a window, Strider got up from where he had been pinned and rushed over to the two ponies positions. He looked back at the Ursa Major right as Twilight levitated what looked like a water tower over to the beast. The Ursa Major grabbed it and began drinking from it.

Strider looked over at Twilight who's horn was sparking and glowing brightly. The unicorn was visibly struggling to keep her magic going, but she persisted.

The Ursa Major was lifted into the air and hovered back to the Everfree forest. Once it was deep within the forest, Twilight let go of her hold on it and wiped some sweat from her brow. Twilight's friends and several ponies were quick to cheer for her while Strider looked over at Apple Bloom.

"That was a very clumsy move Apple Bloom. If Twilight hadn't been there then you would have been in a worse position than me." Strider exclaimed.

Apple Bloom's smile faded and she looked down at the ground.

"Just think about the enemy before you start an attack. You've got guts Apple Bloom, and what you just did proves that you're brave. Thanks for helping me out." Strider said, his smile hidden under his helmet.

Apple Bloom looked up at Strider, her smile returning. However, it once again faded when she spotted a certain orange pony walking towards her. But instead of it turning into a sorry expression, it was replaced with nervousness and worry.

Strider looked behind himself to see Applejack trotting towards Apple Bloom, a frown on her face. Something told him that Applejack was going to have a few words with the filly.

Not wanting to interfere with family matters, he stepped aside and went over to Twilight.

"Nice job taking care of that Ursa Major." Strider stated.

"Oh, that wasn't an Ursa Major. It was an Ursa Minor, a baby." Twilight corrected.

"That massive star creature, was a baby?" Strider questioned, not sure how to process the statement.

"Yeah, that was just a baby who was upset because Snips and Snails disturbed it so Trixie could 'vanquish' it." Twilight exclaimed. "Speaking of which, where did Trixie go?"

Strider looked around, not seeing any trace of the light blue unicorn. Well, if she showed up, she would still owe Strider a rope.

Strider picked up the Z-6 and began walking away, but Twilight stopped him.

"Could I take a look at that? This device is nothing like i've ever seen before!" Twilight claimed, staring at the Z-6.

"Sorry Miss Sparkle, but this is property of the G.A.R. military. It's not leaving my side." Strider stated, before leaving the unicorn with her friends as he began walking towards Fluttershy's cottage, where the transportation bay of the gunship was calling him.

Chapter 17: Another Adventure (Revised)

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"COVER FIRE!" Strider shouted as he unloaded a round of plasma bolts at the advancing droids.

Matt quickly switched targets, firing at the approaching droid force. "Where did they all come from!?"

Cosmo, who was currently reloading his DC-15S was the only one to answer. "Droid transportation pods, caught us off guard just like that Separatist cruiser!"

Rust dodged a red bolt and fired at a closing in Super Battle Droid, blasting it to the ground. "Doesn't matter where they came from, we've got to keep them at bay!"

"Easier said than done!" Trigger stated as he spotted another set of Super Battle Droids approach their position.

The group of clones were currently fending off an army of B2s in the main hanger. Most of the other clones had set up other spots to hold the line, but only a few were still in the hanger. One clone who firing next to Strider got up from their cover and unloaded the full power pack from their blaster at the approaching battalion of droids.

A B2 quickly ended the clone's assault, shooting the clone square in the chest. Strider quickly shot down the droid with his DC-15A, but another replaced it instantly.

"Take cover by those crates!" Rust ordered, diving behind a crate.

Strider abandoned his position and rushed over to a crate. He took cover behind in and began firing again. However, when he looked over his cover, he spotted Cosmo who was holding off a group of B2s in an abandoned gunship. He destroyed the front two, but one had gone around and shot him in the back. The trooper fell to the ground instantly, his blaster tumbling out of his hand.

"COSMO!" Strider shouted, but the trooper didn't move.

He quickly resumed firing at the approaching droids. But he already knew deep in his mind that this fight was already lost. But he also knew that his brothers and himself would not go down without a fight.

With determination flowing through his veins, Strider shot into the group of B2s, sending as many as he could to the scrap yard.

Strider's eyes shot open as the memory flooded through his mind, his breaths coming out erratically. He could still faintly hear his brothers being gunned down as the remnants of his dream faded. Still, with each blaster fire, he could mentally picture another trooper falling.

"Blasted clankers, hopefully the rest of the crew was able to get off the---" Strider trailed off as he spotted a thick black wave of smoke float through the sky, encasing any clouds it touched into darkness.

"What in the world is making that?" Strider muttered under his breath as he looked upwards at the coal black smog.

The trooper went over to a crate and fished out a pair of macro binoculars, flipping them on before aiming them up at the smoke trail. He followed the trail to what seemed to be the source, which was from a cave on top of a rather tall mountain.

Strider lowered the macro binoculars, looking at the mountain normally now. It was much taller than the mountains surrounding it, almost breaking the cloud level.

"Strange, wonder what's up there." Strider said to himself, staring at the mountain.

A rather large bang from behind made Strider turn around towards Fluttershy's cottage. Standing before the front door was Fluttershy, but something was rather strange about her. She was wearing several inflated objects on her hooves, a blue helmet, and what looked like a red vest. She was also slightly trembling in place.

Strider went over to the shaky pegasus, confused as to what she was wearing and why she was wearing it.

"Uh, Fluttershy? What is all that?" Strider asked, looking at the makeshift suit.

"I-It's armor for the journey t-to the m-mountain." Fluttershy claimed.

Strider had to take a few seconds to register what the mare had just said. Once he had, it still rocked a little around his brain.

"Armor, that's supposed to be armor?" Strider questioned.

Fluttershy nodded, looking at her makeshift protection.

"That's not gonna protect you from a pebble. If anything, it's just gonna slow you down." Strider stated.

"O-Oh," Fluttershy mumbled.

"Also, why are you gonna go up to that mountain?" Strider asked.

"W-Well T-Twilight wants us t-to g-go a-and," Strider put a finger over her muzzle, silencing her.

"Twilight wants to figure out what's causing that smoke?" He finished.

Fluttershy nodded.

"Well then, that armor ain't gonna do anything but make it harder to climb." Strider exclaimed.

Fluttershy said something that might have been an ok, but Strider couldn't hear it due to her basically whispering it. Then, she went back into the cottage. After a few minutes, Fluttershy came out with the 'armor' removed. However, her testimony had caused him to start wondering.

Strider was curious about what was causing that smoke, and if Fluttershy was going to go, then he might as well. Not to mention the fact that Fluttershy seemed to be scared stiff about going.

"Tell you what, i'll come with you up the mountain." Strider stated.

"N-No, you h-have y-your ship to w-work on. I shouldn't take away your time." Fluttershy exclaimed.

"The ship isn't going anywhere, besides, i'm interested in what's causing that smoke." Strider insisted.

"O-Oh, the smoke i-is b-being caused by a-a, d-dragon." Fluttershy stammered.

Strider's eyes widened at that statement. Dragons were a rare thing to come by ever since the Great Hyperspace wars. He had also heard stories about Krayt Dragons from a few of his brothers, but he hadn't seen one in the flesh, or scales.

"B-But, if you want to." Fluttershy said quietly.

"Yes, I still do. I just need to grab some supplies for dragon hunting." Strider said bluntly.

Fluttershy's eyes widened at the word hunting. "N-No! Even if it is a d-dragon, it s-shouldn't be hurt because of something it naturally does." She insisted.

Strider wanted to argue, but instead just sighed under his helmet. He had forgotten for a second the fact that this planet has almost zero violence that he knows of.

"I'm at least bringing a blaster." Strider muttered.

Strider and Fluttershy walked through town towards a massive tree, also known as the Golden Oaks Library apparently. The two quickly spotted the rest of the group standing out in the front of the library with saddlebags on. Well, except Rainbow Dash. It didn't take long before the group noticed him and exchanged confused looks at Strider.

"Strider, what are you doing here?" Twilight asked.

"I've been told that a dragon is the cause of all that smoke. I'd like to follow you up there and make sure that you don't end up getting burned up by that--" Strider cut himself off as he noticed Fluttershy trembling rapidly. "and i'll shut up about that."

Twilight looked over to her friends, who returned her confused gaze, then back to Strider.

"Ok, you can follow if you want." Twilight proclaimed.

Strider soon found himself once again marching with the six ponies, only now he wasn't in the middle of a forest which was full of deadly predators. After a few minutes of walking, the group found themselves at the base of the mountain.

A very steep mountain.

"Uh, how are we supposed to get to the top?" Strider questioned, not spotting any path or loose edges.

"We climb." Twilight stated bluntly.

"The surface of the mountain is way to smooth and steep to---" Strider trailed off as he watched Applejack climb up a little bit of smooth rock effortlessly.

Applejack was then followed by Pinkie Pie, then Rarity, then Twilight.

"climb..." Strider finished, before mentally slapping himself in the face.

These creatures were ponies. Ponies have hooves. Hooves can go up steeper slopes and inclines then human feet. Strider was about to fire a cable for him to climb up with, but remembered that the cable had been sliced by Gilda.

Strider looked around the surface of the area for any nooks or crannies for him to climb on. He spotted a chunk of rock sticking out and grabbed it. He used the rock to pull himself up and to a crack, which he used to pull himself up again.

For the ponies next to him, this would be a piece of cake, but for Strider, it was like back on Kamino at the training wall. The only difference was that there were no practice droids shooting at him, so he soon ended up side by side with the group once again.

However, when he went to reach for another ledge, he quickly ran into a problem. The DC-15S he was carrying was badly restricting his climbing. He looked over to see Rainbow Dash, who was using her wings to fly while her empty hooves were crossed.

A small part of him wanted to hand the blaster over to Rainbow Dash, with the safety on and the power pack removed obviously. But he also knew to never let his weapon out of his sight again. So instead, he slung the blaster into the makeshift holster he had made, freeing up his other hand.

However, before he could start climbing again, he noticed that Twilight had stopped and was looking around. It was then that he took notice of an absent Fluttershy. The group looked down to see the pegasus hiding in a bush at the base of the mountain.

"Fluttershy? Come on, we have to get moving!" Twilight exclaimed.

"I-I know, b-but that cliff is so, steep." Fluttershy stated.

Rainbow Dash sighed. "It's a cliff, it's supposed to be steep. Just use your wings."

"O-Ok." Fluttershy mumbled, stepping out of the bush.

Fluttershy outstretched her wings and tried to fly up, but a loud snore from the dragon above, caused her to freeze up. Her wings folded in on themselves, causing Fluttershy to fall back into the bush.

"You alright?" Strider questioned, letting himself slide down the mountain and land back on the ground.

Fluttershy poked her head out from the bush and took a look around, before ducking back into the bush as the dragon snored again.

"Fluttershy?" Strider called out, leaning over the bush.

The pegasus was nowhere to be seen from where he was looking in the bush. Strider put a hand on his helmet, thinking to himself. An idea quickly popped into his head and he leaned down next to the bush.

"I've got an idea, you can just ride on my back until we find a path on the mountain." Strider exclaimed.

Fluttershy poked her head out of the bush again, looking right at Strider's helmet.

"Y-You would do that?" Fluttershy asked.

Strider nodded. With that, she got out of the bush and looked up at the mountain. As gently as she could, Fluttershy got onto his back, wrapping her forehooves around the troopers neck.

Just as Strider assumed, Fluttershy didn't weigh as much as he thought. He could still climb, but it wouldn't be as easy as before.

The trooper went back to the side of the cliff and began climbing once again.

Chapter 18: Mountain Climbing (Revised)

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Strider had been wrong. VERY wrong.

When he had begun climbing, Fluttershy seemed to weigh the same as one of the backpacks that troopers sometimes wore. He hadn't noticed that Fluttershy had been using her wings slightly to make his job easier. But the Dragon above decided to snore again, startling Fluttershy so badly that her wings had locked up again, nearly pulling Strider off the cliff from the sudden weight increase.

Now, Strider felt like he had the Z-6 strapped on his back. Still not bad, but he couldn't do this forever.

After a solid 10 minutes of climbing, Strider finally reached what felt like a path in the cliff. He pulled himself up onto the path, before falling to the ground from exhaustion.

Fluttershy instantly got off of Strider's back and looked down at him.

"S-Sorry." She mumbled.

Strider held up a finger, signalling that he was ok. Once he had done that, Rainbow Dash couldn't help herself but let out a laugh. Strider remained silent, but stuck up another finger towards Rainbow Dash. He had seen a jedi do this to some of his brothers, and due to Matt's information gathering, he figure out what it meant. But Rainbow didn't know that.

It took a few seconds before Strider got up to his feet and stretched out his back, already feeling better with Fluttershy no longer on him. He glanced over at the landscape, noticing that the path they were now on reached just above the Everfree Forests treeline.

"Probably a better view from the cave. No wonder that dragon set up camp here." Strider claimed.

Twilight rolled up the map she was holding in her magic and put it back in her saddlebag. She turned around to face the group, before clearing her throat.

"I've mapped out a quick path up to the top. Let's get a move on, every second waiting is another puff of smoke from that cave." Twilight exclaimed.

"Finally!" Rainbow said in an annoyed tone.

The group started down the path quickly, Twilight at the front with the map ready to use, while Strider took up the rear, DC-15S charged.

After a solid ten minutes of walking, and helping Fluttershy get over a disproportionately small gap between cliff sides. A conversation eventually broke out between the group and the trooper.

"Ya really caught the attention of mah sister," Applejack stated out of the blue.

The memory of Applejack glaring at Apple Bloom after she had used the Z-6 flashed into Strider's mind. "I guess so."

"She, doesn't have that many friends at school. She has also been targeted for bullying due ta her not hav'n her cutie mark." Applejack exclaimed.

"Cutie mark?" Strider asked out loud.

"The image on our flanks, it shows our special talents. Some fillies an' colts tease others because they don't have their cutie marks." Applejack explained.

Now that Strider thought about it, it did sort of make sense. Fluttershy's cutie mark was three butterflies, showing her skill will taking care of animals. Applejack's was of three apples and Fluttershy had told him that she was a farmer on an apple orchard.

"But then, one night at the dinner table, she seemed much happier than before. Next thing mah family knew, she described yer armor and yer conversation. Ta say she was happy about it would be an understatement." Applejack said.

Strider couldn't help but smile as he pictured the filly smiling at their dinner table while describing her little adventure.

"But, I do have ta ask ya somth'n," Applejack stated, her tone changing. "If she ends up hurt because of you, or lost somewhere all alone,"

Strider's smile vanished as the pony turned to face him dead in the eye. "Y'all will have a VERY bad time." She finished.

Now, Strider wasn't planning on ending up in a dangerous situation with Apple Bloom. But he knew that if it somehow ended up happening, and Apple Bloom got injured or lost, then he would most likely end up dead where he'd stand.

"I understand Applejack, and I don't exactly plan on that happening." Strider claimed.

Applejack's blank expression turned into relief, before she turned away from the trooper and continued to look ahead at the trail.

Strider couldn't help but shutter under his armor, Applejack's glare burned into his mind. That was a glare that he wouldn't be forgetting anytime soon. But still, Strider knew that if he was really in danger from these ponies, he had the upper hand in combat and weaponry.

Still, he highly doubted that it would come to that.

After another ten minutes of walking, the group had made their way further up the mountain and were now walking alongside a very steep slope next to the path. Twilight took a look around the area, before halting in front of everyone.

"Alright everypony, and Strider. We're entering an avalanche zone. The slightest of loud noises could cause a rockslide to fall right down onto us, so keep quiet." Twilight instructed.

The group followed the unicorn's instructions, not saying a word as the made their way down the path. Every second of silence dragged on, spreading the feeling of unease across the group.

Rainbow Dash hovered under a low hanging branch from a tree as she flew past it. However, she didn't notice her tail touch part of the branch, freeing a leaf which floated towards the ground. That one leaf landed silently on Fluttershy's back, causing her to scream out in surprise.

"AVALAN-" She was cut off as Strider and Applejack both covered up the mares mouth.

However, the damage had already been done. Fluttershy's yelp echoed throughout the cliff, causing a rock slide to trigger. Several massive boulders flew down the cliff side towards the path, and the group of ponies and Strider who were standing on it.

"RUN!" Strider shouted before taking off running down the path.

The rest of the group followed the trooper, dodging falling rocks as they landing in front of them. A few massive rocks caused Applejack to stop abruptly, narrowly avoiding being crushed by the boulder.

Strider glanced over his shoulder, but even that small glance had caused him to spot a massive boulder falling right towards a frozen in fear Fluttershy.

Strider stopped mid run, aiming the DC-15S at the boulder, and pulled the trigger. A blue bolt shot from the barrel and flew through the air, however it stuck another falling rock. Strider's eyes widened as the boulder got closer to Fluttershy. He pulled the trigger again, sending a few more blue bolts flying towards the boulder.

The first bolt struck another falling rock, the second hit the boulder he was targeting, but only cracked it. The third one however, struck the crack, breaking the boulder into small pieces.

Strider sighed with relief, temporarily forgetting his surroundings. While he stood their, another boulder rolled down the cliff side right towards him.

At the last second, Strider snapped out of his thoughts as Applejack tackled him out of the way. He watched as the boulder shot right through the area he had been standing.

"THAT, was close." Strider muttered, realizing how close he'd been to being a clone pancake.

"Ya don't say." Applejack agreed, getting to her hooves.

Strider did the same, except without hooves. He looked around the area which was now filled with rocks and stones everywhere, as well as a mountain of rocks and dirt that now blocked their path.

The trooper stared at the new road block for a few seconds, before his mind finally processed the situation.

"That's gonna be a problem." Strider stated, looking up at the hill of rock and dirt.

Twilight went over to Strider, glancing at the hill. "Not really, we just need to... climb." She muttered, the last word dragging a little.

Strider slowly made his way down the other side of the dirt hill, his white armor now coated with dust and dirt. Once he had made it back on the path, he dusted off some of his armor and checked his blaster for any damage. When he was sure the weapon was still in working order, he wiped off some dirt on it and grinned.

That grin however of knowing the weapon was still in very good condition faded once he was knocked to the ground as a group of ponies slammed into the bottom of his legs.

Strider stumbled, barely stopping himself from falling. He looked over at the group of ponies that had landed at the base of the hill. Rarity and Applejack were sprawled out on all four hooves while Fluttershy sat on top of them, looking down at the ground in shame.

Strider went over to the three ponies and helped them to their hooves. Fluttershy continued to look at the ground, while Rarity dusted herself off in a huff. Pinkie Pie, who had landed next to the three, decided to shake the dust off instead, causing another wave of dust to cover the unicorn.

The trooper decided to make himself scarce and walked over towards Twilight, who was standing next to Rainbow. "Alright, how much further until we reach the cave?"

"We did." Twilight answered without turning around.

Strider glanced past them, noticing the faint outline of a cave against the rocky walls of the mountain. They had made it to the dragon's lair.

Chapter 19: Heated Stare (Revised)

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When they had been at the base of the mountain, the wave of smoke looked like a large river. Now, it looked like a massive lake of coal black smog. Most of it was flowing right through the ceiling of the cave and into the sky, but a few stray puffs were much lower and caused Rarity to cough a bit.

Twilight trotted in front of the group, her expression focused and determined;

"Alright everypony, we're here. Rainbow Dash, I want you to clear out the smoke with your wings." The unicorn instructed, watching Rainbow take off into the sky before turning to face Rarity and Pinkie.

"Rarity and Pinkie Pie, I need you to create a distraction in case things go badly." Twilight stated. Pinkie quickly grabbed a rubber chicken out of her saddlebags and began waving it around for an example.

Twilight held back her confusion and turned to face Applejack and Strider. "Applejack and Strider, I need you two to be ready to throw apples and, whatever that machine does if the dragon attacks."

Applejack grabbed a pair of apples from her saddlebags and bucked them into a nearby tree with enough force to cause the fruits to shatter on impact. Strider just saluted, questioning why he was following Twilight's orders. It was probably because he didn't exactly have a plan himself.

"But it shouldn't come to that, because Fluttershy will do what she needs to do to wake the dragon up. With me following, both of us should be able to convince him to find another spot. Now, let's go." Twilight declared, walking into the cave.

Strider stood there for a few seconds, before spotting the unicorn coming out of the cave, a confused look across her face. The trooper then looked over to see that Fluttershy hadn't moved an inch since Twilight finished. Not only that, but she had stuck her head into the dirt completely.

"How the heck can she even breath?" Strider questioned, before kneeling down and removing Fluttershy's head from the dirt.

The others just shrugged, but Twilight's patience was wearing thin. "Come on Fluttershy, we need to go, now!"

Twilight tried to push Fluttershy towards the cave, but the pegasus remained planted on the dirt, not budging. The next thing Strider knew, the rest of the ponies joined Twilight in pushing. Yet even with the combined force of five ponies, Fluttershy only went a few inches before she anchored her hooves into the dirt, causing her to stop moving again.

"I-I can't." Fluttershy stuttered, looking at the ground.

"Why?" The group of ponies asked in unison.

"I'm, afraid of dragons." She stated in an apologetic tone.

Strider was about to question why, but quickly remembered that not only was Fluttershy a civilian, but a shy one to be exact. This isn't a place for her. He should of said that before the group began the trip.

"Alright everyone, back it up, give her some space." Strider exclaimed, walking over to Fluttershy.

The group did what Strider asked them, backing up a couple of feet. Strider knelt down next to Fluttershy, setting his blaster aside. Fluttershy looked up at Strider, but only for a few seconds before she went back to staring at the ground.

Strider looked over at the other ponies, before sighing. He put his hands over his helmet, and removed it, exposing his face to the others. Behind them, Twilight had begun to think out loud a new plan, but Strider tuned her out. Instead, he looked right into Fluttershy's eyes.

"Fluttershy, I've been through my fair share of scary things, things that sometimes get my bones rattled. But I had to face them to complete the mission, for the good of the Republic, and for my brothers. You can't shy away from something forever, especially when someone you care about needs you." Strider said.

Fluttershy looked up at the trooper for a few seconds, before shying back to the ground. "I-I- I just, can't."

Strider sighed, before putting his hand on the top of her head. "Alright then," Strider said, before standing back up. "Sorry, but you'll have to finish the mission without her."

Twilight was about to protest, but glanced over at Fluttershy. She nodded.

"Ok then, everypony back to your positions." Twilight instructed.

Strider put his helmet back on and picked up his blaster. "You can take shelter behind that rock if you want." He exclaimed to the yellow pegasus.

Fluttershy looked over at the rock Strider was pointing at, seeing that it was one of the largest on the cliffside. She gave Strider a muffled 'ok' and trotted over towards it. Once she was out of sight, Strider made his way over towards the cave and took cover on the right side of the entrance.

Twilight went back into the cave, the other's watching her until she faded once again into the sea of darkness. Strider made sure the DC-15S was primed, before aiming down the cave into the darkness.

Tension quickly engulfed the area, making some sweat, while others got themselves prepared to fight. What was actually a few minutes felt like an hour, everyone waiting for Twilight to come out with her head held high, or with panic on her face. Then, Twilight came stumbling out, coughing up smoke that had made its way into her lungs.

"Well then. I guess it's my turn." Rarity stated, walking into the cave.

She lasted shorter than Twilight, quickly being pushed out by another wave of smoke. Strider was about to say something, but the words died in his throat when he noticed Pinkie, who was now wearing some sort of party suit. She put on a heartwarming smile, and waddled in her flippered hooves slapping against the stone ground.

Yeah, Strider expected her to last the shortest. She came out of the cave with all the balloons she was holding popped and one of the flippers she was wearing was nowhere to be seen.

"ALRIGHT, ENOUGH MISTER NICE PONY!" Rainbow Dash declared, taking off into the cave.

"Uh oh," Everypony else muttered, while Strider quickly aimed into the darkness.

They heard Rainbow shout something, followed by what might of been a buck. Then, silence. Once again the area was plunged into tension, but it lasted much shorter than before. A loud roar echoed from the cave, followed by Rainbow Dash rolling like a bowling ball right into the group of ponies, knocking them to the ground.

That was Strider's cue. The trooper abandoned his cover and aimed into the darkness, ready to take a shot. However, instead of the cave, he saw a red and yellow scaled dragon looming above him.

"Oh son of a-" Strider couldn't finish his sentence, getting cut off as the dragon smacked his tail against the trooper, sending him flying into a rock.

With a grunt of pain, Strider got back up and aimed his blaster between the dragons eyes. He pulled the trigger, but the blue bolts of plasma didn't make it past the dragons tough scales. All the bolt did was scorch some of the dragons body and make it even more angry.

It sucked in a lungful of smoke free air, and unleashed a wave of fire from its mouth. Strider tried to dodge, but the dragon simply adjusted its aim and struck the trooper. Heat quickly filled his body, his white armor turning grey as parts of it were engulfed in flames.

Before Strider could attempt to put it out, the dragon used its tail to smack the trooper, who was sent flying back into the rock which had been weakened by the previous blow. Strider's impact was so strong, that the entire top bit of the rock broke off with him, causing a chunk of the rock to fly over the edge. Strider was about to join it before he spotted an outcropped ledge and reached for it. His hands met their marks, stopping him from suffering the same fate as the rock and the now falling DC-15S.

Strider glanced downwards, watching as his blaster and the rock faded from view into the forest below. His armor had managed to take most of the heat, but many parts of it were now scorched, turning it a greyish black.

"Uh girls? Someone? Anyone?" Strider called out, noticing that the ledge was beginning to crumble from his weight.

Right before the ledge gave way completely, a yellow hoof extended out towards Strider. The trooper grabbed the hoof with his right hand, using his left to help himself climb up.

Once Strider was back on the cliff, he let out a deep breath. That had been way to close. He looked over at Fluttershy, who smiled warmly at him. Then, the mare turned around, her smile vanishing instantly. She flew away from Strider and right in front of the dragon, who had just launched the rest of her friends into another rock.

"NOW LISTEN HERE MISTER," Fluttershy shouted, landing right on the dragon's face. "Just because you're big doesn't mean you get to be a bully!

Strider, along with the other ponies watched, slack jawed as Fluttershy stared down the dragon, still shouting.

"Just because you have big teeth and sharp scales and snore smoke and breath fire, but you do not, I repeat do NOT HURT MY FRIENDS!" Fluttershy proclaimed. "You got that?"

The dragon lowered his head away from Fluttershy, looking up at her weakly. "But that rainbow one kicked me." He stated.

"And i'm very sorry about that, but you're bigger than she is and you should know better." Fluttershy exclaimed.

Next thing Strider knew, he was watching Fluttershy SCOLD the dragon. She even managed to get the dragon to cry a little. After the talk was done, Fluttershy patted the dragon on the head, before flying down to the ground.

The others quickly recovered from their shock and went over to congratulate and cheer Fluttershy, but Strider was still frozen in place. How, just... how? Strider was expecting them all to try and talk with the dragon, but one single pony managed to not only make it leave, but caused it to tear up and feel bad about what it did.

After awhile, the others noticed Strider's lack of movement and went over to him. Rainbow waved a hoof in front of Strider but no reaction triggered.

"Strider? Hello?" Twilight asked, wondering if this was normal for his species or not.

Finally, he snapped out of his shock and looked down at the ponies. "Let's... just get back."

With those words said and done, the group began their journey back down the mountain. They spotted the dragon taking off into the sky which had begun to clear up, the sunlight breaking through once again.

This was definitely the strangest planet he's been on... He glanced back at the group of ponies who were now cheering for their friend. But it was also one of the more interesting ones.

Chapter 20: Distress Signal (Revised)

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Strider made sure to devote as much time as possible on repairing the L.A.A.T., working clear through multiple rotations to make sure that whatever broken pieces of machinery he found were put back together and secured. An entire week seemed to go by in a snap, yet even with all that work, the ship still didn't look that much better. But Strider was determined and wouldn't give up, not without fighting first.

The trooper twisted the screwdriver he was holding a few times to the right, tightening the loose bolt he'd found. Once he was sure it was heavily secured, he set the tool down and looked at the repairs he'd made to the wing. So far, he'd managed to fill a hole that had been made by a broken tree with some metal from the destroyed chin turrets. He also managed to straighten most of the bent areas and even made some new parts that consisted of wood, some more spare metal, and lots of seriously strong vines from the forest.

"Getting better and better by the day aren't you." Strider proclaimed out loud, giving part of the wing a tap.

It seemed that the piece was much weaker than he'd thought, as his light tap was all it took for the piece to finally snap apart, landing with a loud CLANG on the ground. Strider let loose a sigh and picked up the broken part of the wing, rotating it in his hands as he looked for any damage. Besides the new cracks and a bit of dirt, the piece hadn't taken much damage from the impact, which was quite a relief.

"Why did I have to end up working with suck a hunk of junk." Strider grumbled. He was sure that this L.A.A.T. must of been the weakest one ever made.

Strider set the broken part down on the metal flooring of the transportation bay and reached for a tool box. He still had plenty to do, and each minute spent standing around being agitated by more broken pieces was less time fixing said broken pieces. His hand was shuffling through the box for a wrench when he heard a beeping noise echo throughout the ship. It wasn't unusual for a system in the ship to cry out for maintenance with beeps or sparks, but this one wasn't like the average warning system. It had an alternate pattern with its beeps, and it also seemed to be coming from the cockpit.

He let his grip loosen on the wrench, the tool quickly falling back into the box. Strider hopped out of the bay and climbed up the makeshift ladder he'd made to allow easy access to the cockpit. He sat down in the pilots seat and began flicking switches. With one last press of a button, a small screen built into the console began to flash red. Strider pressed a few buttons and flipped a few more switches until the monitor flicked to a green radar.

"That can't be right... " Strider muttered, fiddling with a few more controls.

When the signal continued to appear, he quickly realized that the gunship wasn't glitching a signal.

"What if it's an escape pod from the cruiser!" Strider wondered, quick to press a symphony of buttons in an attempt to boost the signal.

A clear blue dot appeared on a holographic green radar, just below it were a series of coordinates for the source of the signal. He checked the signal with a few built in programs, leading to the confirmation that it indeed was from a G.A.R. class escape pod.

Strider's mental celebration quickly died down when he realized that the distress signal was originating from the Everfree Forest. If the survivors didn't have working weapons, then then they wouldn't last an hour at night in that forest! He needed to find them and get them out fast.

Strider took a holoprojector from his utility belt and downloaded a path to the signal into it. Once it was done, Strider flipped the piece of equipment over and pulled off a small panel, revealing several miniature wires. He linked the wires up to his helmet, storing the holoprojector itself inside it as well. A blue waypoint flickered to life on his helmets visor, directly pinpointing the crash site of the pod.

"Hmm, seems to be around four thousand meters west. If I leave now I should reach them before nightfall."

Strider climbed out of the cockpit and down the ladder, his boots once again clacking against the dirt as he advanced over to the transportation bay. The trooper picked up his DC-15s and holstered it, before coming to a halt in front of his destination.

Strider opened up the cargo holds panel and removed a crate from within, its contents ratling a bit as he dragged it outside. He popped the crates lid off, exposing a few other DC-15S's which rested against the side of the crate. He withdrew a handful of power packs and dropped them into a backpack, along with a few thermal detonators and some flashlight attachments for both his weapons and his helmet. He didn't want to stay out until dark, but if he did, he was gonna be prepared. He also placed a few more blasters in there just in case the pod lacked firearms.

As he stuffed a few more attachments into the pack, he failed to notice a faint yellow dot appear on his helmets hud. He swung the pack over his back and stood up, his eyes locked on the forest.

"Strider? Where are you going?" Fluttershy's sudden voice rang through his ears, causing him to instinctively raise his blaster and spin around with the barrel facing her.

However, once the trooper realized who had spoken, he lowered the blaster and reupholstered it. "Sorry Fluttershy, I didn't notice you there."

Fluttershy, whose eyes had widened when she saw the end of the blaster, visibly relaxed. "Oh, sorry. I should of said something before getting so close. Sorry..."

"No, I'm sorry. I should of paid more attention to my surroundings. It wasn't your fault."

"Nonono, it was my fault. I saw you were busy but I still just trotted up behind you without making my presence known."

"No it's- never mind. Anyways, I'm going into the Everfree Forest. The gunship picked up a distress signal from inside and it's hopefully transmitting from an escape pod from the Republic Cruiser that I fled from." He stated.

"Y-You're going to go into the E-Everfree Forest? Alone?" She questioned, fear seeping through her words.

"I'm a soldier, I can handle the punishment. But the crashed pod or ship has zero intel on the forest. They'd be sitting Kiros Birds out there." Strider exclaimed.

"But you don't know much about the forest either! What if you get attacked and hurt!?" Fluttershy said.

"I don't have a choice. The gunship still isn't flyable and I can't leave a possibly injured crew in that death trap after dark!" Strider retorted.

The trooper turned away from Fluttershy, considering the conversation over, and began to run towards the forest. But before he could get very far, the pegasus landed in front of him, making his sprint grind to a halt.

"I-I know what i-it's like to w-want to help someone or somepony, b-but the Everfree Forest isn't s-something even you can h-handle alone." Fluttershy claimed.

Strider couldn't help but let out a sigh, staring into Fluttershy's large pleading cyan eyes. He knelt down so he was level with her, before removing his helmet.

"Fluttershy, I can handle it. The first time I went in there I had no idea what creatures were lurking there, and I know I still don't. But I can't just leave whoever sent that signal to die out there." Strider stated. Fluttershy looked like she wanted to say something, but the clone continued. "I'm a soldier, I can take some scratches and bruises. The people in that forest might not be soldiers, just members of the ships crew. If they're going to survive, then they're gonna need me to help guide them out of that forest."

Fluttershy glanced behind Strider at the forest, then to the holstered DC-15S. "O-Ok, just please be careful."

Strider gave the pegasus a nod, before placing his helmet back over his head. He wasted zero time rushing towards the forests entrance, his helmets built in hud already mapping out a path for him. Already the atmosphere darkened around him, with the dwindling light from the star getting blocked by the large trees and overgrown leaves.

Images of that wooden wolf with the pilot's helmet in its mouth plagued Strider's mind, but he pushed past his own fear, determined to locate the escape pod and offer any assistance he could. He unholstered his blaster and primed it, his finger resting on the trigger just incase.

As the clone ran through the forest, several lime green eyes began to lock their gazes on his white armor from the underbrush. Those lime green eyes then had several sets of red eyes next to them, then purple eyes. The whole underbrush appeared like a massive wall of eyes, each one locked onto Strider as he sprinted past them.

Chapter 21: Empty (Revised)

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Strider ran through the forest as fast as he could, his helmets built in H.U.D. keeping him on the right trail. After a few minutes of running, the waypoint began to guide him away from the dirt path that went through the forest. His boots stomped the wild grass down as he abandoned the path and continued forwards through the trees.

Even with the dramatic increase of obstacles, the trooper made good time as he weaved between thorn filled bushes and large chipped trees. He was getting very close now, his marker only a couple yards away. He jumped over some large rocks, ducked under a low hanging branch, and came to a halt behind two large trees that held a small gap between their trunks.

The view through the gap confirmed Strider's suspicions. Resting at the end of a newly formed trench was a G.A.R. escape pod from the Javelin. The hatch located between the four thrusters wasn't open, making him wonder if either the crew had left it and shut the door, or hadn't opened it up yet. It could also mean nobody had boarded the pod before it was jettisoned, but he hoped that wasn't the case.

Strider briefly checked the area around the pod, before advancing into the clearing and towards the piece of machinery. He gripped his fingers around the hatch and pulled at it. The first few tugs didn't seem to faze the latch, but with a few branches and one plasma bolt to the side of the hatch caused its circuits to fry, resulting in it opening up.

The hatch creaked as it moved, rubbing against broken pieces of metal. The interior was quickly showered with light from the sun, giving Strider a clear view at the horrific seen inside.

There were three clone trooper bodies sprawled around the pod, most likely died on impact. Several shards of metal stuck out from the walls as well as a few wires which sparked with energy. One trooper had a large chunk of what used to be a control panel lodged in his abdomen, another's head was resting at an odd angle on the piloting systems.

"Hopefully the crash killed them on impact, rather than let them bleed out."" Strider mentally wished, backing out of the pod.

As the clone shut the hatch, he noticed a set of fresh boot tracks in the dirt. Strider quickly turned around, following the tracks by eye sight until they reached the underbrush.

Someone had survived.

Strider followed the tracks away from the clearing and back into the underbrush. However, after a few minutes of walking, the tracks suddenly stopped. He scanned the area, but he couldn't find any signs of someone going through there, not even a snapped twig.

"Where did they go?" Strider wondered out loud.

Right on cue, the com link on his left wrist gauntlet flashed green, signalling an incoming transmission. Strider quickly pressed a button on the com link and listened for anything on the other end.

"IS ANYONE OUT THERE!? I NEED REINFORCEMENTS!" Another clone trooper's voice frantically shouted through the com link.

"This is CT 3719! Where are you!?" Strider inquired.

"Strider?" The trooper responded, his voice filled with shock.

Even though the trooper was a clone, therefore having the same voice as millions of other clones, Strider instantly recognised it. It was the leader of his squadron, Rust.

"Rust! You're alive! What's your location?!" Strider asked.

"I don't know! Everything looks the same! I'm currently being chased by some sort of wolf! My blaster is running low on power and I can't seem to shake it!" Rust frantically exclaimed.

Strider rubbed his helmet in thought, trying to figure out how to get his brother over to him. He looked down at his own blaster, before an idea formed in his head.

"I'm deploying a flare on my position, it'll lead you back to the pod. I'll take up a defensive position in the trench it formed." Strider instructed, aiming up at the sky.

With a quick lever switch on the blaster, Strider pulled the trigger. A red ball of pulsating light replaced the typical blue plasma bolt as it shot up high into the sky.

"I see it! Get ready to fire on this wolf!" Rust stated.

Strider switched the DC-15S back to its plasma bolt setting and crouched down in the trench, aiming the barrel at the underbrush directly in front of him. It didn't take long before the sound of footsteps invaded his ears. Then, a white shape emerged from the underbrush.

"OVER HERE!" Strider shouted, catching his brothers attention.

Rust quickly altered his course, running towards him at fast as he could. Strider could spot the wolf right on his tail, his pointer finger resting on the trigger as he took aim at the wooden wolf.

The second Rust ran past Strider, the trooper pulled the trigger, sending a blue plasma bolt hurtling towards the wolf. The bolt made contact with the wolf's head, shattering it to pieces. The wolf fell to the ground with a thud, the rest of its body falling apart onto the grass surrounding it.

"Nice shot." Rust complemented, earning a smirk from underneath Strider's helmet.

The clone unhooked a spare power pack from his belt and tossed it to Rust, who caught it with ease and quickly replaced his blasters empty one with the fresh one. With a satisfying click, the DC-15S he was holding was charged back up and ready for action, and not a moment to soon. The scattered remains of the wooden wolf began to glow as a lime green aura surrounded them. They suddenly began piecing themselves back together, restoring the wolf back to its original form.

"That doesn't look good... " Rust muttered.

"Yeah, let's get out of here before it's done reforming." Strider said, his eyes already focusing on the marker he'd placed back at the cottage.

The two clones let the conversation die and took off into the forest, Strider leading the way while Rust kept his eyes moving between his brother and the wolf behind them. The nearby star had set by now, plunging the already shadow plagued forest into complete darkness. Rust activated his helmets lights, whilst Strider switched his helmet to night vision mode to make up for his helmets lack of lights.

"I really should get those attachments for my armor. But I've gotta get back to the G.A.R. first." Strider exclaimed to himself.

The troopers pressed onwards through the underbrush, doubling the pace when they heard the wolf's loud howl. It must of reformed itself by now, and was ready to hunt down its prey again. Strider continuously glanced down at the dropping number next to the marker, signaling that they were getting closer.

"It's good to see you again Rust, I thought those droids might of finished you off." Strider stated.

"It'll take more than a few tin cans to finish me off, but the rest of the crew wasn't so lucky. The Javenin was being evacuated when I entered the pod. I hope the rest of the team was able to get out of there, I'm sure the main reactor was hit."

"So those troopers in the pod?"

"I don't know who those men were, but they looked like shinies. To bad they weren't able to dirty their armor before biting the dust." Rust exclaimed, his words holding traces of sorrow in them. Strider didn't blame him.

But before he could respond, a loud howl echoed just a few yards behind them. The two troopers glanced back, instantly noticing how close the wolf had gotten, its sharp wooden teeth in clear view from the nearby orbiting moons light.

"It's gonna catch us before we reach the border, we're gonna have to fend it off." Strider explained.

"On the count of three, roll to the right. I'll go left and we'll flank it." Rust said, waiting for Strider to nod in affirmation.

Once he did, Rust held up his free hand and began lowering his fingers. Three, two, one, GO! His hand tightened into a fist, signalling the plan into action. Strider rolled to the right while Rust dove to the left, letting the wolf's momentum propel it past them. The two quickly rose their blasters and fired, each blue bolt of plasma striking its timbered backside.

The wolf howled in pain, before pulling a sharp one eighty on its claws and charged at the clones. Strider kept up the pressure, his bolts striking its legs and chest. This caused it to wobble and fall, once again falling apart until it was a mere pile of twigs and leaves.

"Alright, that should buy us enough time to-" Strider cut his sentence off as the sound of blaster fire rang from behind him.

Strider immediately turned around just in time to see Rust get tackled into an overgrown bush by a strange looking creature. His white armor faded from sight through the thick trees and bushes, only two more shots ringing through the air before the blaster went cold.

"Rust!" Strider called out, rushing towards the bush where his brother had been tackled into.

He shoved the growth out of his way as he pushed through the bush, expecting to see Rust on the other side. But as he emerged on the other side, he couldn't see his brother anywhere.

"Rust?" Strider called out, but he didn't receive any reply.

The trooper's eyes shot towards his helmets radar on the display screen, revealing a few nearby red hostile creatures nearby but no yellow ally dots. That could only mean one thing...

"No, no I would of heard him scream or call out to me. He can't be dead."

Yet, neither his eyes or his radar could find the clone anywhere. The only things close was the wolf and whatever had attacked Rust. Speaking of which, a faint rustling could be heard from a nearby bush. Striders gaze was on the bush instantly, his eyes just catching the faint outline of a reptilian-like tail retreat into the wilderness. But something else was quick to catch his attention.

Resting next to a large array of rocks was Rusts DC-15S, lying on its side in the grass. Strider advanced towards the blaster and picked it up, his hands making contact with the weapon finally cementing the idea that his brother was gone. He'd been so close, but that forsaken creature had taken him and was probably dragging his body back to its den for its feast.

A growl from behind caused Strider to turn, his helmets night vision making him notice the wooden wolf immediately. It must of repaired itself and was ready to find its own feast, but it had just make a fatal error. It had just signed its death certificate.

Through rage fueled anger, Strider un-holstered his blaster and fired both weapons right between the wolf's eyes. The barrage of plasma bolts struck its head, causing the wood to splinter and break. Strider kept firing, unloading both blasters power packs into the wolf.

Only when blasters clicked empty and both barrels had steam emerging from them did Strider stop pulling the triggers. The wolf was on the ground, its head completely shattered into thousands of wooden chips along with its neck and parts of its body. It barely resembled anything that was once living, its lime green eyes completely empty and dark.

Even with that, Strider wasn't taking chances. He unhooked a thermal detonator from his utility belt and activated it, dropping the explosive into the pile of timber. The detonator went off, sending wood flying everywhere throughout the area. Into bushes, against trees, and on the ground.

Whatever that wolf was, it was definitely dead.

Strider holstered his blaster, but replaced Rusts power pack with another fresh one and primed it. If anything came across his path, he was gonna give it a real bad time. He eyed the marker on his display screen and the numbers below it, his grip tight on the blaster as he began walking towards it.

Above the trooper, some clouds had begun to develop and blocked out the moonlight. Not long after did drops of water begin to spill from them and onto his armor. Strider wiped some of the droplets off of his visor with a free hand, but kept going towards the marker.

Strider's helmet shielded his face from any creature, therefor hiding the small bits of water that had developed under his right eye. It was definitely not from the rain...

Chapter 22: Rainy Night (Revised)

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The rain came down heavily on Strider, soaking his armor and exposed pieces of his body glove. But his armor being drenched wasn't on his mind, far from it. He'd followed his marker in silence, never having to raise his blaster because no creatures crossed him. Guess they found the wolf and decided to give him space.

Good for them...

The long tredge back to the cottage went by in seconds, with the trooper emerging from the forest just a hill away from the gunship. He walked towards the ship, his movements punctual and emotionless like a soldier. It made sense. Still, it gave off an empty vibe, like the life within the armor had dwindled.

Strider took shelter in the ships open transportation bay, making the harsh assault of water on his armor seize. He tried to close the bays doors, but the button which performs the action only let out a faint buzz and a few puffs of steam. The circuits still needed repairs, meaning the doors were stuck open for another night.

Strider was radio silent as he sat down against one of the bays walls, his brothers blaster resting beside him with an equally wet coating. It would be fine, and so would his armor. They were designed for rough conditions, not to mention the planet both the armor and himself had been made in had near constant rain. Of course they could handle water. But that wasn't the problem going through the clones head.

Strider was piecing together bits of information he'd learned. The escape pod Rust had been in had only now reached the planets surface, and the gunships sensors had been one of the first things he'd repaired which meant that no other pods had snuck past the sensors. Even if they did, they'd automatically transmit distress signals to any G.A.R. ships nearby, and he would of seen them when he'd first discovered Rusts pod.

That meant that no other pods had landed on the planet, and it had been around five to six rotations when he'd crashed. If only one pod found this planet in near six rotations, then it was unlikely anymore would be arriving. That brought with it a terrible conclusion. The Separatists had most likely destroyed most of the pods after they'd been launched, and the crew aboard the Javelin was most likely captured or dead.

Speaking of the Javelin, it probably wasn't a ship anymore. Left a floating junkyard of pieces for scavengers to pick apart for parts to sell. That meant that there wasn't a Republic ship that could rescue him, and no defenses around the planet. If the Separatists sent one single battalion of droids, this planet would most likely be captured, along with the population. If the architecture and technology of this town was anything to go by, they'd be fighting with wooden spears against metal droids with blasters. It would be hardly be classified as a war.

"Well, they've got me." Strider pointed out, but sighed immediately after. "Yeah, one clone trooper against an army of battle droids. If I was smart I'd still only make a dent in their forces, and that's hardly enough to keep those clankers out."

The rain continued to batter down on the gunship, each drop of rain sending a pitter pattering noise through the air. A low rumble of thunder came from the forest, but it hardly mattered. Strider looked over at the rain for a while, pondering about the situation. What was he supposed to do now? The gunship was hardly prepared for space travel, it could barely travel across the planet if Strider fixed it up the best he could.

Their were only a few options left. One was to get the gunship operational and fly to the capitol and inform the Princess of the war. Another would be to simply wait for the G.A.R. to send a ship and look for any survivors. The ladder was probably the most unlikely. Who'd waste a couple ships and manpower just to search for a skeleton crew of clones?

He wasn't going to get rescued anytime soon. He'd be deemed as lost in battle, left to die on this unmarked planet, forgotten...

At least, that's what he thought. But a certain someone helped remind him that he wasn't going to be forgotten anytime soon. Or more accurately, somepony.

Striders helmets radar picked her up before he could hear the clopping of her hooves, so he was fully prepared when he saw the cream colored pegasus trot into the bay. Her long pink mane and tail were drenched in water, causing them to drag a bit on the ground, catching a few weak blades of grass and dirt.

Fluttershy's cyan eyes quickly locked onto the clone, then around the empty transportation bay. She didn't need to guess what had happened.

"Strider? Do you wanna go inside?" Fluttershy asked gently.

Strider looked over at the pegasus, taking a quick glance behind her at all the rain that was beginning to enter the bay thanks to the wind. He simply nodded, maintaining radio silence as he hopped down from the transportation bay and walked with the pegasus over to the cottage. Fluttershy pushed the front door open and let Strider inside, before shutting it behind her after entering herself.

Two birds flew over to Fluttershy with a towel in their talons. They gently set it down on Fluttershy's back before flying off. However, instead of using the towel, Fluttershy held it towards Strider. The trooper held up a hand, shaking is head.

"I don't need it, i've got armor and you don't." Strider exclaimed.

"Please." Fluttershy said, still holding the towel out towards him.

He reluctantly took the towel and have his armor a quick rub down, drying it off the best he could. Strider used the towel as a seat afterwards to keep from staining the wooden floorboards. Fluttershy took a seat next to him, already holding another towel that had probably been brought in by the same birds. She quickly dried herself off, before mimicking Strider and sitting down atop it on the ground.

The two were silent for awhile, the only noise coming from the rain making contact with the windows and the roof as well as the occasional animal scuttering about. Eventually, Fluttershy broke the wordless stalemate.

"Was no one there?" She asked.

"...no. That's what made it worse." Strider answered blankly.

"Oh... " The room faded back into silence, but it didn't long this time.

"Three of my brothers were in the escape pod when I found it. They'd died on impact. But one of its occupants did survive." Strider stated.

Fluttershy looked up at him with a smile at the news, but Strider's blank tone and stillness caused it to rapidly fade away.

"Where are they?" She asked, afraid of the answer.

"He was being chased by one of those wooden wolves," Strider exclaimed.

"A Timber wolf?" Fluttershy questioned.

"I guess, but with a quick signal, he soon ended up with me. I fended off that 'Timber wolf' and set off with him towards the marker I put on the gunship. We were attacked by the wolf again, and another creature jumped him. He was gone right after vanishing from my sight. I never even heard him scream."

Fluttershy remained silent, stunned at what the trooper had said.

"The creature that killed him was gone as well, probably took his body with them back to their cave or hole, or whatever its home is." Strider muttered.

He let his shoulders slump down while recalling what he had done next.

"I unloaded two power pack on that Timber wolf, as well as a thermal detonator. It won't be getting up from that." Strider finished.

After another round of silence, before Fluttershy asked in a sorrowful tone. "What was his name?"

"Rust... He was the leader of my squad, a fantastic soldier, and a great brother." Strider exclaimed.

Strider waited for a reply from Fluttershy, but instead, he was greeted with a hoof on his shoulder. He glanced over to see Fluttershy looking at him sympathetically.

"I'm, I'm sorry. I know this must be painful for you. I've never lost a friend to the great beyond, but I have lost family. I know it's hard, and I promise you that you're not gonna be alone in this." Fluttershy stated.

Strider felt a smile brew under his helmet. "Thanks, for everything."

"That's what friends are for." Fluttershy exclaimed, a small smile returning.

Friends... That was something rarely throughout the clone army from anyone but clones. They were all brothers and stuck together, but the battalion that he was in is led by a Jedi who usually stuck to protocol and was very distant. Strider also wasn't ever stationed in one spot on a planet near its inhabitants. Knowing that Fluttershy saw him as a friend and not just a strange creature helped brighten the mood, if only by a little.

Strider and Fluttershy began talking about things. These ranged from the planets Strider was stationed on, to Fluttershy's years in flight camp.

Unknown to both of them, a set of Blue eyes watched from a window behind them. That set of eyes then vanished as the pony they belonged to turned around and left.

The rain kept falling outside the cottage, battering the building with water, but it no longer gave off a dark ambiance. Instead, it began to fall in rhythm, like a calming beat.

The rain also masked the sound of hoof-steps trotting away from the cottage. A shadowy figure ignored the rain pelting their mane and exposed fur not protected by their cloak as they trotted down a path towards Ponyville. The figure took a few glances back at the cottage, their blue eyes locking onto the yellow light flowing through a closed window.

The figure gave the window one last look, before letting out a sigh and continued to trot towards town. They had other things to do and had plenty of time on hoof.

Chapter 23: Ghost Town (Revised)

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The night Strider spent in the cottage didn't keep him from getting back to work the next morning, not even the faint drizzle of whatever water was left in the clouds. He began working immediately, managed to fix the ships transportation bay doors and getting some of the left wing repaired. He continued for a few more days on the left wing, having Fluttershy as company every here and there. She'd begun to hang around the trooper, often moving some animal classes closer to the gunship so she could keep an eye on him.

Strider didn't mind, and neither did the animals the pegasus was teaching. In fact, a few even began helping him by bringing the correct tools from the toolbox and fetching him cups of water when he was exhausted.

This rotation hadn't been any different at the start, with Strider waking up early and immediately getting back to work. However, Fluttershy wasn't having any lessons that morning which was quite strange. This made him assume she went to town to get supplies and possibly meet up with her friends. Her absence didn't hinder Strider much, but he did miss glancing over his shoulder and seeing her coaching a struggling animal.

Still, that just meant he didn't have any distractions from his work, which was exactly what he was doing. The trooper twisted a screwdriver to the right as far as he could on a stubborn screw, until the tool locked in place for some reason. Strider looked at the screw which was still not completely tightened, before twisting the screwdriver again.

"Come on," Strider muttered, trying to tighten the screw.

After a few firm tugs, the screw finally began to move again. But when Strider turned the screwdriver one more time, the tools face broke off, part of it remaining lodged in the screw.

Strider looked at the broken tool for a second, before sighing in annoyance as he discarded it onto the bays metal floor. He reached down to his utility belt and opened up a pouch, exposing its shiny contents. Inside were a couple golden bits that Fluttershy had given him if he needed something from town.

"Hmm, how much would a screwdriver cost here?" Strider pondered to himself as he stood up and began walking towards town.

It didn't take long for Strider to arrive in Ponyville, even less to find his way towards the market. However, something seemed to be wrong, very wrong. For one thing, it was dead quiet, with not a single pony around. None were tending to gardens, none eating food in front of shops, none managing the market stands, none even roaming the streets.

Strider reached around his utility belt and grabbed the DC-17 blaster pistol he'd strapped to it and unhooked it, raising it up so he could aim down its top. He began walking around the market, checking every nook and cranny for any signs of life. His search of the market only uncovered a single mouse who was nibbling on a piece of discarded cheese.

After Strider was sure he had checked the whole market, he began walking down the street towards the more permanent shops that were in buildings. He made sure to keep both his eyes wide open, trying to find a pony, or a creature, or any sign of life.

Strider finally stopped walking when he spotted a lone hooded figure standing in the middle of the street. The trooper immediately took cover behind a wooden wagon, its large wooden frame hiding his armor from view.

The figure either didn't notice him, or didn't care and continued doing its thing. It patted what appeared to be a hoof into the ground, before letting it rest on the spot. It was walking on four hooves which made Strider assume it might be a pony. However, the towns-folks reactions told him that if it was a pony, then it was a dangerous pony.

Strider watched intently as the figure took one last look around, before trotting over to another spot in the street. They dug at the ground once again, before turning sharply over towards the wooden cart Strider was using as cover. The trooper quickly ducked behind the cart, debating whether or not to make his presence known yet.

When he peeked over the wagon again, his gaze was met by two glowing yellow eyes staring directly at him. He ducked again instictivly, priming the pistol in preparations to confront at the creature. However, when he looked back up again, the figure was gone.

"What the, where'd they go?" Strider wondered, getting up from his spot behind the wagon.

With the pistol still primed and ready, Strider began performing a perimeter check around the area. He checked the nearby alleyways, through old garbage cans, even the backs of wagons. But the figure remained hidden.

Eventually, Strider finished his sweep and went over to a house, holstering the pistol back onto his utility belt, before knocking on the house's door.

"Hello? Anyone home?" Strider called out.

The house remained quiet with nothing stirring within its walls, not even a mouse. Strider waited a few more minutes, before he turned and began walking away from the building. Hopefully Fluttershy had returned by now, and he had quite a few questions for her. As he passed through the town, ponies began emerging from their shelters and started resuming their jobs and tasks. It was yet another strange thing to of happened, and another talley on the invisible board for strange things to occur in that settlement...

Strider looking onwards at the cottage from the base of the hill it was built on, noticing the end of a pink tail flowing through the open doorway before the entrance was closed. He wondered how he'd managed to miss Fluttershy, but he also didn't know if she'd gone to Ponyville or went somewhere else. Still, he considered himself lucky that he'd returned around the same time as the pegasus, and advanced towards the door.

Knock Knock Knock. "Fluttershy? It's me, Strider. Can we talk quickly?" Strider asked through the door.

It didn't take long for Fluttershy to pull the door open and gesturing for him to enter. The trooper obliged, shutting the door behind himself before he sat down on the large green couch. Fluttershy also took a seat, but had chosen one of the green armchairs instead.

"Hello Strider," Fluttershy greeted happily. "what do you wanna talk about?"

"Did you go into town this morning?" Strider inquired.

"Oh, um, yes?"

"Well, I'd gone there a little while after you likely departed to purchase a new screwdriver. But when I got there, the place was deserted. With the exception of a cloaked figure that had glowing yellow eyes. Do you know who that was? Or what had happened?"

Fluttershy's smile faded and began fiddling with her fore-hooves for a few seconds, before looking up at Strider.

"T-That was Z-Zecora, a zebra." Fluttershy claimed.

"A zebra?" Strider questioned.

"She's sort of like a pony, but has unnatural stripes and does strange things to the dirt. She's mysterious, and really creepy." Fluttershy exclaimed.

Strider put a hand to his chin under his helmet, deep in thought. Ok, so there's a mysterious zebra scaring the townsfolk stiff. The zebra also seems to have strange unknown habits and/or abilities, as well as wears a hooded cloak and has glowing yellow eyes.

"Hmm, where does this 'Zecora' live?" Strider asked.

"That's the creepiest part. She lives in the Everfree Forest." Fluttershy stated.

Ok, that WAS strange. Strider hadn't see any weapons on Zecora, but the zebra was also wearing a cloak. Yet, any weapons that were small enough to be hidden under a cloak would probably not be enough to fend off the forest's inhabitants.

"Zecora is either brave, strong, or stupid." Strider muttered, more to himself than Fluttershy.

The pegasus still nodded, before glancing out the window at the setting star. Strider also took note of the lowering star, earning another question in his mind. How long had he been searching that town for Zecora?

"Well, I'll let you get some sleep. Thanks for the info." Strider thanked, standing up from his spot on the couch and began walking towards the front door.

"It wasn't a problem. Have a good night Strider." Fluttershy responded cheerfully.

Strider's hand locked up on the doorknob upon hearing those words. He couldn't help but smile as he turned back to face his friend.

"Good night Fluttershy."

With those words said, the trooper made his exit and shut the door to the cottage. He made his way over to the gunship and knelt down next to the left wing he'd been repairing. He absentmindedly reached for a screwdriver but quickly remembered why he had been in Ponyville.

"I'll need to get another one tomorrow." Strider told himself, hoisting himself into the transportation bay.

With a quick button press, the bays doors swung shut, blocking out the outside world. Strider quickly removed his armor, setting it down next to his makeshift bed he'd made earlier. Strider lied down on the bay's floor, his head on a pillow Fluttershy had generously given him. His black body glove was basically already a blanket that was always around his body, so he just shut his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 24: Back To The Forest (Revised)

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Beams of light leaked through open panels in the metal doors, brightening certain spots in the transportation bay. Strider cracked open his eyelids, blinking away the drowsiness of sleep as well as the dramatic increase in light. He got to his feet and stretched, before putting his phase one armor back over his body-glove. He secured his helmet over his head and opened the doors, letting more light shine into the bay.

The clone dropped onto the grassy hill the gunship was perched on, his eyes locking on the wing that still needed repairs. He dragged the toolbox with him outside and set it down besides the wing, before kneeling down in preparations for another long day of repairs.

However, before he could begin working, Strider was greeted with several different colored birds. They landed peacefully on the wing before him and stared.

"Uh, hi?" Strider greeted.

The birds chirped at him, before using their beaks to point towards Fluttershy's cottage.

"You want me to go to the cottage?" Strider asked. The birds nodded in agreement.

Strider stared at the building in question for a few seconds, his mind filled with confusion and newfound curiosity. He set the tool he'd been holding back in the box and abandoned his spot next to the wing, choosing to do what the birds were asking of him and began walking towards the the cottage. It didn't look any different than it usually did, yet for some reason he could of sworn that it had an aura of uncertainty around it. But that aura didn't keep the trooper from swallowing his unease and knocking on the front door.

It didn't take long for the shy mare to answer, the door cracking open just enough to allow one of Fluttershy's eyes be visible. Once she saw Strider's armor, she pulled the door open the rest of the way. The trooper quickly entered the house, Fluttershy shutting the door behind him.

Inside the main room, Angel appeared to be laughing in a basket next to the couch, their eyes filled with tears from laughing so much. That was something he hadn't seen from the bunny. Usually whenever he was near that animal, they'd glare at him and on occasion would stick their tongue out at him.

"What's got him laughing so badly?" Strider questioned as he advanced towards the couch, all the while watching the bunny roll a little in the basket.

Fluttershy didn't answer as she trotted towards one of the armchairs. She sat down on the one with a table next to it and looked at Strider, her mouth forming a small sad upside-down U.

"Uh, are you feeling ok?" Strider asked.

Fluttershy shook her head.

"Can you elaborate?"

Another shake of disapproval.

"I can't really help you unless you tell me what's wrong Fluttershy."

The pegasus gave the trooper a long drawn out look of embarrassment, before she took in a deep breath. After letting the excess air out of her lungs, she locked her eyes on Strider's visor.

"I... don't really want to talk about it." Fluttershy stated in a very deep voice.

That earned another round of laughter from within Angel's basket, along with a couple of nearby birds who had been watching on an open windowsill. Strider found himself staring, completely dumbfounded the pegasus. What in the universe had he just heard escape from Fluttershy's mouth?

Her voice was completely alien compared to her normal voice, yet she didn't look any different. She showed no signs of illness or tiredness. She didn't even have any bags under her eyes.

After a long few seconds of silence, (with the exception of Angel's laughter) Strider finally managed to form a coherent sentence.

"Do I even want to know?" He asked, mouth completely agape. Luckily, it was completely masked to the pegasus under his helmet.

"....no. Even if you did, I'm just as confused as you are... " Fluttershy answered, her gaze drifting to the floorboards of the room.

"Oh, well, do you have a plan to fix this problem?" Strider inquired.

"I was thinking about going to Twilight's and see if she can help." Fluttershy explained, getting up from the armchair.

"That pony does seem to know her stuff. Good luck with that, and don't be scared to ask me for help. It's the least I could do for everything you've done to help me." Strider stated.

Fluttershy flashed the trooper a smile, before she opened the buildings front door and made her depart. Strider quickly followed suit, abandoning his spot on the couch and began walking towards the still open door. His gaze drew towards the now quiet basket, where Angel bunny was currently sitting and recovering from their massive laughing fit.

The clone turned around and knelt down next to the basket, eyeing the snow white bunny.

"Do you have any idea as to what happened to Fluttershy's voice?" Strider questioned.

Angel gave him a simple shrug, shaking their head.

"Well, i'm gonna go replace some tools. If she comes back before I do, can you tell me what she might have found out?" Strider asked.

Angel put a paw to their chin, appearing as if deep in thought. The bunny remained this way for a few minutes, making Strider sigh in annoyance.

"You're not gonna do anything I ask aren't you?" Strider muttered.

Angel nodded, breaking from their thinking position just long enough to give him a tooth eating grin.

"Never mind then." Strider finished. He stood back up and left the bunny to their business, walking through the doorway and back into the outside world.

Strider made sure to shut the door firmly behind him, before he set off down the path towards Ponyville. While he walked, he checked his utility belt for the pack of bits again. Still satisfied with the amount, he shut the pack and continued on his way.

Hopefully he'd have better luck today in finding an open shot that sold screwdrivers...

"That'll be fourteen bits." The shopkeeper pony stated.

Strider retrieved the named amount of currency and dropped it on the counter, each coin clinking slightly as they made contact with its wooden surface. Next to the newly formed pile was a screwdriver with a black plastic handle and a well forged steel tip.

The shopkeeper tallied up the bits before placing them in a register, nodding to herself at the satisfying cha-ching! "Thank you for your purchase, the tool's all yours."

"Thanks." Strider told the shopkeeper, picking up the tool and hooking it onto his utility belt.

The shopkeeper gave him a friendly wave as he made his departure, the bell above the door chiming as he opened it. He heard the bell chime again as the door touched it while it closed itself, but he wasn't paying much attention to it. Instead, his mind went to forming a plan for repairing the wing. Now that he finally had that replacement screwdriver, he could finish dealing with those stubborn screws and get through to the damaged power lines.

Hopefully if he used his time wisely, the wing should only need one or two rotations more before it's ready to be reunited with the rest of the ship. That begged the biggest question/problem he was gonna encounter. How could he get the wing back on the ship and keep it there? He had a plan, if flimsy, to keep the wing in place. But getting it up there would be almost just as challenging.

But he knew he'd do it somehow. Maybe after Fluttershy figured out what was wrong he could ask her for some assistance from her animal friends. After all, they'd managed to combine their strength enough to drag the whole ship out of the forest.

As the trooper left the outskirts of Ponyville, he couldn't help but notice small yellowish red blob in the corner of his eyes. He switched his gaze away from the trail and towards the shape, noticing just in time to see a small figure gallop into the Everfree Forest.

At first, he thought it might of just been him seeing things. But the more he thought about it, the more something stuck out to him. He'd seen something on the figures head, something that looked very familiar. It had been pink, and appeared to be shaped like a---

"Bow... " Strider muttered, realization hitting him like a speeder bike.

The trooper soon found himself running towards the forests entrance, and the dirt path that he'd seen the filly transverse. Sure enough, far down the path he could once again make out the shape of a small figure. Their coat color matched Apple Blooms, along with their mane and tail. It was definitely the young filly who'd saved him from the Ursa Minor.

"What's with me getting dragged back to this forest?" Strider questioned, more to himself than anyone else.

The forest now held a dark aura for him, knowing that it was the final resting place for so many of his brothers, including his squads leader Rust. Even with those feeling plaguing his mind, Strider sprinted off down the path and into the forest. As he ran, he unholstered his blaster from its spot on his belt and primed it. He was well acquainted with the creatures inside this place, and he wasn't planning on letting it add another victim to its list.

"Come on Apple Bloom, you're smarter than to just run here for fun. What's your plan here?"

"APPLE BLOOM!?" Strider called out, hoping that the filly would stop and explain herself.

The only reply he'd been given was silence.

Strider mumbled a curse and tried to spot Apple Bloom down the path, but something else caught his eye first. His sprint grinded to a halt, followed by him kneeling down until he was only a few feet from the path. Printed in the dirt was a freshly made set of small hoofprints, obviously Apple Blooms.

Strider followed the tracks for awhile on the path, but the tracks suddenly took a hard left directly into the forest. That caught him off guard, that was until he noticed that past a handful of bushes was another path, much smaller than the original and well hidden. The tracks continued down this path up until it changed from dirt to grass. With the trail grown cold, Strider was left with simply continuing forwards whilst calling out for the filly.

After a couple of minutes of walking, Strider came across a strange looking structure built into a large knotted and twisty tree. It was surrounded by more ancient looking trees, but stood out drastically due to it having both a door and windows. It also had several strange bottles filled with liquids dangling via ropes from its branches.

The whole area had an assortment of strange masks scattered throughout it, some leading up the the tree-hut with one final mask hanging above a pale red door which had two windows on either side of it. Thick yellow light leaked out from the glassless windows, giving the structure a feeling of unease.

"Strange place. You better be safe Apple Bloom." Strider thought, making sure to make as little noise as possible as he approached the door.

Before he decided to barge in, he went over to one of the windows and took a peek inside. Their seemed to be three to four rooms, with two having doors while the other two were linked together. The main room was clearly the largest, with several shelves that held bottles, books, and other items on them. There were several more masks skewen about, most hanging on the walls with the occasional one resting on the wooden floor.

A massive black cauldron rested in the middle of the room within a stone circle, supposedly to keep any flames from igniting the tree when in use. However, the the object that caught Strider's attention was the brown cloak that was hanging on a nail in the wall.

"Wait!" A voice shouted from behind Strider, causing him to turn around sharply right as a green staff froze in front of his face.

The creature holding the staff seemed to match the description of the zebra from before that Fluttershy had called Zecora, the brown cloak he'd seen adding onto that as well as their home being in the forest. Strider rose his blaster but the zebra was quick to knock it out of his hands with their staff.

Before the clone could retaliate, Apple Bloom emerged from behind the zebra, a worried expression plastered on her face. Zecora didn't press an attack, choosing to let the filly speak instead.

"Strider what are ya do'n here?" Apple Bloom inquired.

"Better question, what are you doing here?" Strider countered.

"Ahm try'n to fix a mistake ah made." Apple Bloom stated.

"By rushing into a forest filled with creatures that could swallow you up whole!?" Strider pointed out.

"But ah-"

"I've lost brothers in this forest, who were armed and trained! Why in the whole galaxy did yo- "

"If you two could quickly break from your tension, might I be able to ask some questions?" Zecora cut in, her words said in rhyme.

"Yeah, I think we all have some questions." Strider stated, glaring at Apple Bloom.

The zebra opened up the hutt's front door and motioned for the two to enter. Strider scooped up the blaster and holstered it back on his utility belt, before following Apple Bloom inside. Zecora stared at the trooper for a few seconds, before she shut the door.

Chapter 25: Learning Road (Revised)

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It had taken some back and forth explanations between the clone and the filly, but Zecora eventually got the picture of the situation that had quite literally shown up at her doorstep. Yet, she didn't seem mad or even slightly annoyed. But her expression was also expertly hidden, so Strider couldn't really tell if she was mad and simply masking it.

The three had entered the zebra's hut, with Zecora and Apple Bloom standing beside the large cauldron while Strider was leaning against a wall. Luckily for him, the ceiling was much higher than necessary which gave him plenty of room to stand up completely.

"That was definitely not what I first thought, but rest assured Apple Bloom that it wasn't your fault." Zecora exclaimed, her hoof-steps echoing against the wooden floor as she trotted over towards a shelf.

Apple Bloom let a muffled sigh escape her muzzle and set her hooves over a small table. Strider thought about what Apple Bloom had stated about what happened to the others. It appears that Fluttershy wasn't the only one who'd gotten affected by something. But what was that something?

Strider let that thought circle around his mind for a while until Zecora returned to her spot next to the cauldron, a green hardcover book in hoof. She set the book down on the cauldron's removable lid and flipped through the pages before coming to a stop on a page that held a few images of plants.

"As it says in this paragraph below, the reason behind their changes is because of Poison Joke." Zecora stated.

Strider read over the passage, then looked at the illustration of a plant next to it. Surprisingly, he'd seen the plant before. It appeared to match the mental image he had of the blue flowers that had kept him from becoming wolf food. Good to know he'd made the right choice crossing the fallen tree instead of dashing through the field of flowers.

"To reverse the effects of this particular plant, all you need to do is mix up a special bubble bath." Zecora claimed.

Sure enough, another paragraph below exclaimed what to do and what ingredients were necessary for it to work.

"So all ya need ta do is put that stuff into that cauldron and then have mah sister and her friends take a bath with it?" Apple Bloom questioned.

"That is the basics of-" Zecora was cut off by a low sigh that came from Strider, who already knew what was coming.

"Where's the catch?" Strider asked.

Zecora glared at Strider for a few seconds, before continuing.

"-what we could do, but I lack some of the ingredients to start this special brew." She finished.

"Called it." Strider muttered, knowing from past experience that nothing was every that easy.

"So what do ya need?" Apple Bloom questioned.

Zecora grabbed a blank sheet of paper from another shelf and set it down on the table, along with a quill and a bottle of tainted black ink. She then wrote down the names of the items she needed, before showing it to Apple Bloom.

The little filly looked over the names for a few seconds, before passing the paper to Strider. The trooper picked up the newly made list and glanced over the names.

"Hmm, and where would we find these? Half of them don't even sound like real things." Strider asked.

"Some items might catch your suspicion, but most could likely be in your very own kitchen." Zecora exclaimed.

Strider put the paper into a container on his utility belt, before flashing a stern glare at Apple Bloom.

"Come on, I'd like to have a talk with you on our way out of this forest for this stuff." Strider stated.

Apple Bloom simply nodded squeamishly, saying nothing as she followed Strider out of Zecora's hut. The zebra watched the two fade into the underbrush, before she shut the door with a loud clank.

It didn't take long before Strider and Apple Bloom found themselves once again on the trail that would take them out of the forest. Neither of them had said a word for the first few minutes, the ambient noises of the forest only being disturbed by the clopping of Apple Blooms hooves and Striders boots as they made contact with the dirt path.

The silenced wall between the two didn't stand for long.

"Now that we're alone, can you tell me what in Kamino were you thinking!?" Strider questioned.

"Ah was just try'n to fix ah mistake ah made." Apple Bloom claimed in a rather fragile tone, her eyes locked with the path.

"I understand that part. I was talking about rushing into this dangerous place blindingly without any weapons or plan." Strider exclaimed.

"Ah can defend myself! Ahm not a defenseless little filly!" Apple Bloom proclaimed, looking up at Strider with a noticeable trace of anger.

"Your mind might be telling you that, and you did prove that you aren't afraid to fire a Z-6 at that Ursa Minor. But if a group of those wooden wolves sprung up around you and you didn't have a weapon, you're a droid lined up on the shooting range." Strider stated.

Apple Bloom's eyes emptied of anger while she processed the troopers words. Then, she returned her gaze to the ground.

After a few more minutes of walking in silence, Apple Bloom spoke up.

"You sound just like mah sister..." She muttered.

Strider looked down at Apple Bloom for a few seconds, confused at what she'd said.

"What do you mean?"

"Ya tell me that ah need to stay out of the bigger situations, claiming that it's to dangerous for ah little filly. But ah know all that and ah know that some situations would be out of mah hooves. But this ain't one of them, almost none that mah sister states are one." Apple Bloom exclaimed. "Ah just wanna prove that ahm not just a little filly and can handle mah self."

Strider was caught off guard from Apple Bloom's explanation. Yet again, he never really needed to prove himself that he was good enough to handle something.

Well, except for the training on Kamino. Actually... now that he thought about it, Apple Bloom's situation was closer to his training than he'd thought. Strider had wanted to prove to the rest of his squad that he was a good soldier and teammate.

His squad which back then had been simply called the Indigo squad, had managed to run the Citadel Challenge right behind the Bravo Squads set time. That squad had gone to become ARK troopers, but sadly, theirs didn't make that cut.

They weren't nearly as bad as the Domino Squad, but ARK trooper Colt's words were still fully on display in his mind. He doubted he'd forget those words.

"Not bad, but there is room for improvement." Those words had nearly crushed Rust. Their leader had worked so hard to get the squad up to the top, but his efforts fell on deaf and highly judgmental ears.

Strider still remembered that one training session where he had tripped over part of the ground and had accidentally shot Cosmo in the foot with his training DC-15A. And how furious Rust had been with him, even throwing down the YOU'RE NOT EVEN A GOOD TARGET! card.

Strider had managed to prove himself to the squad on the final test when he'd managed to hit every single shot he had fired as well as being the one who grabbed the end pole. But that had only been because of his squad and other troopers encouraging him.

Apple Bloom was just trying to prove herself to be able to handle responsibility, like how he tried to prove to his squad that he was a good soldier.

"Apple Bloom, you might not believe me on this, but I've been in your situation before, to a certain degree anyway." Strider claimed.

Apple Bloom looked up at Strider, surprise and confusion on clear display in her eyes.

"My squad that I fought with had to go through training before we could start fighting for real. During that training, I wanted to prove to everyone that I was capable to do anything needed on the battlefield. But when I focused to much on that, I ended up firing at one of my brothers." Strider stated.

"Your mind might claim that you're ready to try and prove something, but you need to make sure that you don't end up doing something that could end up proving them right or end up with you in danger. If I did that same mistake on the battlefield, my brother would have most likely died by my hands, not the enemy. That is the worst thing you could ever do, endanger someone you care for." Strider exclaimed, trying not to groan in annoyance at how cheesy this was sounding.

"So what you're saying is that if ah try and do something just to prove mah-self then ah might end up causing more damage than proving a point?" Apple Bloom summarized.

"Precisely. No one who cares about you wants you to do something that could end up hurting yourself." Strider said.

Apple Bloom stopped trotting, causing Strider to halt himself. The filly looked up at Strider's helmet, before smiling.

"Thank ya for tell'n me that, you're a great friend, ya know." Apple Bloom claimed.

Strider's helmet hid his expression from Apple Bloom, but he was smiling under it.

"Let's go get that stuff Zecora needs for that antidote." Strider exclaimed, beginning to walk down the path again. Apple Bloom followed with a slight spring in her steps.

Chapter 26: Thoughts (Revised)

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Strider finished putting the last items into Apple Bloom's saddlebags, before shutting the flaps on it. Zecora hadn't been exaggerating when she'd claimed that most of the items would be in a kitchen. The duo had found nearly everything they needed instantly just by looking around in Apple Bloom's family's house.

"That should be it." Strider stated, checking over the list Zecora had made.

"Ok, let's bring this back ta Zecora so she can make that antidote." Apple Bloom said, strapping and securing her saddlebags back onto her back.

The two made haste exiting the farm house and beginning their journey back to Zecora's hut. It didn't take long before the they engaged in some small talk on the way. Apple Bloom talked about her family's farm and business, along with how the farm worked and what her chores were. She also talked about school and her friend Twist.

Strider hadn't ever talked to the local populations of other planets that he'd been stationed on, so it was sort of interesting to hear how these ponies lived and what they did. It was still strange not seeing any war around him. No firefights, no soldiers stationed around the area, not even war propaganda.

The time spent walking back to Zecora's hut seemed to go by much faster with Apple Bloom's commentary, something Strider was grateful for. They soon found themselves once again walking down the hidden trail that would lead to the zebra's humble abode, the hut looking exactly the same as it did when they left. However, something didn't feel right in Apple Bloom's mind.

"Do ya feel that?" Apple Bloom inquired.

Strider looked down at the filly with confusion, not feeling anything. "No? What is it?"

"Ah dunno, something just doesn't feel right."

Strider took another long look at the hut, noticing that the door was open a bit and part of the side seemed splintered, like something had forced its way through. He held Apple Bloom back and rose a single finger to his helmet, giving her a silent shh signal.

Strider unholstered his DC-15s and cautiously advanced towards the hut, his fingers gliding over the safety switch which was quickly pushed down. He leaned against the huts front wall, placing his helmet near the window and quieting his breaths as he listened.

Sure enough, it sounded like a commotion was occurring inside the building. The sounds of hooves against the wooden floor were easy to make out, along with the sound of bottles shattering as they made contact with the ground. There was a bit of talking, some sounding like Zecora but in a strange dialect he hadn't heard before.

He waved Apple Bloom over from where she'd been patiently standing, her hoof-steps barely noticeable against all the conflicting noise from inside. Strider took a glance through the window, his eyes widening at the sight. Apple Bloom tried to get a view of her own, but the window proved to be to tall for her. Strider noticed this and, doing his best to resist grunting, hoisted Apple Bloom up so she could see through the window.

Inside the hut were six ponies along with Zecora, each one having a rather strange abnormality on clear display. But the identities of the six ponies were as clear as crystal regardless. It was Twilight and her friends, ranging from Pinkie Pie to even Fluttershy. Most of them were simply standing off on the sidelines, watching Twilight and Zecora. Rainbow was somehow flying upside down in the hut, banging into walls, bottles, masks, and anything else that happened to be in her way. Twilight herself was currently shoving her head againsts Zecora's head, both growling at each other under their breaths.

The huts state was also quite different than when the two had departed. Smashed bottles riddled the ground, its contents leaking onto the wooden flooring. Masks met a matching fate, yet none had been damaged beyond repair. There were also a few nik-naks and books that had fallen to the ground, including both the stand that held Zecora's cloak and the massive cauldron in the middle of the room. The cauldron seemed to of been holding some strange green liquid, but most of its contents had been spilled, rendering it as useful as an empty power pack.

Apple Bloom and Strider exchanged glances, before they left the window and advanced on the front door. The trooper pushed the wooden door inwards with ease, its squeaky hinges instantly alerting the ponies and zebra inside.

"Are we interrupting something?" Strider asked upon entering.

Everyone's attention quickly shot to him as well as Apple Bloom. Twilight was the one to speak up first.

"Um... maybe?" Twilight said.

"Why are y'all attack'n Zecora?" Apple Bloom questioned, trotting over to the zebra's side.

"Because she's an evil enchantress who was gonna turn you into soup?" Twilight stated, slightly confused.

Silence followed that statement for a few seconds, before Zecora and Apple Bloom began chuckling. Strider couldn't help but chuckle a little himself.

Sadly, his chuckling came to an abrupt halt when he noticed something lying on the ground. Strider let Apple Bloom explain the situation while he walked over to the object. If this was what he thought it was, then he had less time than he'd originally thought. Strider pushed a few pieces of paper off the object, before he let out a sigh of relief.

It was just a strangely shaped broken bottle. From a distance, it had looked an awful lot like the arm of a B1 battle droid. Strider set the bottle down and stood up. He looked over his shoulder to see the group apologizing to Zecora, each having newly plastered smiles on their faces.

The group as well as Zecora began running out of the hut, Strider being the last one out and shutting the door. They began their journey back to Ponyville, where the zebra would help the six mares return to normal.

Unbeknownst to Strider, resting under a pile of books was a banged up B1 battle droid head, its blank robotic eye sockets staring out into the room.

After leaving the Everfree Forest behind him once again, Strider said his goodbyes to the group and diverted his course away from Ponyville. He still had plenty of work to do on the gunship back at Fluttershy's cottage, and he was sure Apple Bloom was now in perfectly safe hands, or hooves. Although, he was sure she'd be in quite a bit of trouble with her family once Applejack was back to normal. He hoped that she'd explain at least a bit of what she'd been told on their walk, but in the end, she'd be the one calling the shots for her life.

The cottage soon came into view, the beat up gunship standing tall to its right. Strider made his way up the dirt path and approached the ship, ready to knock out more problems with it while the day was still young. He glanced up at the star, noticing that it had already passed overhead and was beginning its journey towards the west.

"Yeah, I've got time."

Strider climbed up the ladder that led to the cockpit, placing himself down on the pilots seat before he began pressing buttons. A handful of screens booted up, illuminating the cockpit with yellow and green light.

"Alright, diagnostics scan." Strider muttered, flicking a few switches in a particular order.

The primary monitor displayed the image of a progress bar which quickly began filling up. Once the bar was reached the other side of the box it was in, it faded away and was replaced with some text.

"Hmm, yeah still need to attach the wings. Already knew the front canons are a lost cause. Other then that, you're good to go." Strider stated, patting the monitor.

The gunship was getting closer and closer to being flyable. And once it was, he could fly to that city on the mountainside and inform the Princesses about the war. Then, he could hopefully fly the gunship to the nearest G.A.R. controlled planet or station and return to the frontline.

For some reason, those last words seemed to linger about in his mind for awhile. As if he was in a faint state of consciousness, he heard very faint but present blaster fire. Boots making contact against rocky ground and the metallic clanking of droids in the distance. Then, seven words rang through his ears that he'd never thought he'd even acknowledge in his time in the G.A.R.

"Do I even want to go back?" Strider wondered, but he was quick to lock that thought in a box, eject it through an air-lock, and blast it to smithereens with turbolasers.

Strider, like any other clone trooper, was loyal to the G.A.R. He'd never abandon his brothers as well as the code he lived for. If he just stayed on this planet then he'd be performing treason, and treason was something no clone could afford to do.

With that thought in Strider's mind, he hopped down from the cockpit and went over to the rusty toolbox. He lifted its lid and retrieved a set of tools, grasping them tightly as he made his way over to where the left wing was resting. But against his will, Strider continued to think about it. He began to realize then and there just how kind these ponies had been to him, offering him shelter and a place to work without asking anything in return. They all seemed to kind spirited and free, bright shining lives ahead of them just waiting to be used to their fullest.

His life was already mapped out, and the light at the end of the tunnel was parsecs away from him. Did he really want to return to the battlefield just to line up and be shot down like his brothers? That was what he was made for after all.

Strider took off a bent panel from the wing and set it down besides him, catching a glance at the calm blue sky whilst reverting to the position he'd been in to start repairs. There weren't any gunshots, any loud cannons blasting, no screams of pain from his brothers, no death to plague his mind.

Strider slapped himself on the helmet, forcing his wandering mind to stop dead in its tracks. He had a job to do.

"You are a soldier for the G.A.R., you will fight for it, or die trying. That's the code." Strider told himself, forcing himself to get back to work.

Chapter 27: A Not So Eggcellent Time

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"Alright, this wire goes here, and this goes there, ok. HIT IT STINGRAY!" Strider instructed, calling out to the cockpit.

Inside the primary cockpit, a Blue jay pressed a button with its beak on the console, thus activating a monitor. Then, it used its wings on another panel which began to emit a green glow, signaling that power was being distributed through the L.A.A.T.

Strider took a couple steps back from the gunship, watching in satisfaction as several lights inside the transportation bay flickered to life. A loud whirring noise began to emerge from the ship, rattling the doors a little. It didn't seem like much, but it was already a big milestone for the rickety ship.

"Yes... yes.." Strider said out loud, a grin growing under his helmet.

The rumbling increase, before letting out one last whir. Right afterwards, the entire ship roared to life completely as all the systems came back online.

"YES! WE'VE GOT FULL POWER!" Strider cheered, raising up a fist in triumph.

Stingray flew down from the cockpit and over to Strider's side, tweeting at him happily. The only things left to do now was re-applying the left wing and repairing the right wing. Then, the gunship would be ready to fly.

"Fluttershy was right, you are a great helper." Strider stated to the Blue Jay.

Stingray smiled, before flying off towards Fluttershy's cottage. They had definitely earned whatever they were gonna do.

Strider climbed up to the cockpit and turned off the power, saving the ships limited fuel for later use. The ship quickly went back to its tranquil state, but it could easily be reactivated with the press of a button now. Strider had a smile on his face whilst climbing back down from the cockpit, only noticing Fluttershy when he was back on the ground.

"Strider? Did Stingray help with the repairing?" Fluttershy asked.

"Stingray did their part perfectly, and thanks to the added wing power, the gunship's power network is working again one hundred percent!" Strider exclaimed.

Fluttershy smiled, making a mental note to give the Blue jay a reward for their helpful work today.

"Good to hear he was a great help. By the way, are you getting ready for Princess Celestia's visit?" Fluttershy inquired.

"No, I've gotta stay focused on repairing the wings for the gunship. I'm so close to fix--- did you say Princess Celestia is visiting?" Strider asked.

"Um, yes?" Fluttershy confirmed.

"Oh that's gonna save me so much time! Why didn't you tell me this in advance?" Strider questioned.

"I didn't know until a few days ago, sorry... " Fluttershy stated.

"It's fine. I've just got to make sure that I talk with Princess Celestia and alert her of the war. This can save me both a trip and fuel." Strider exclaimed.

"Ok. Well, I was gonna go help pick out some flowers for the Princess. I came out to tell you incase you wanted to know where I went." Fluttershy stated.

"Thanks for the information. Hopefully I squeeze in a bit more repairwork before Princess Celestia arrives." Strider responded.

Fluttershy gave him a quick nod and one last smile, before she set off down the path towards Ponyville. Strider wasted no time in walking and entering the transportation bay, the still filled toolbox ready and waiting for him. He could probably start brainstorming again on ways for getting the wing back on the ship before he needed to go.

Strider picked up a wrench and rotated it in his hands, making sure it was the right side. After he confirmed that it was the right one, Strider hopped out of the transportation bay and looked up at the area where the left wing should be.

"Hmm, how am I gonna get the wing up there?" Strider wondered to himself.

The pulley system remained out of the equation due to the lack of rope (He'd gone back the next day, but he'd been told that their ropes weren't what he needed and that the next shipment wasn't gonna arrive for another week. Speaking of which, Trixie still owed him a replacement rope the next time he saw her. The wing was to heavy for him to carry so dragging it up wouldn't work.

"Maybe I could use a log to build a makeshift scaffolding system," Strider thought out loud. "or maybe a ramp and put wheels under the wing to move it... "

While Strider thought out loud, he failed to notice an orange pegasus filly with a purple mane and matching purple irises galloping away from a pack of disturbed chickens.

Strider glanced over at the chase for a second absentmindedly, before returning to his thoughts with the wing. It didn't take him long for what he saw to register in his mind, causing him to look back over at the scene. Even with all the things he'd witnessed on this strange planet, it still kept managing to throw unexpected surprises at him.

"Why do I have a feeling that's not normal?" Strider questioned out loud, watching the filly weave between a few trees in an attempt to shake the hoard.

Now, Strider knew from personal experience that Fluttershy's chickens could get a bit violent when they're disturbed. Apparently, even with Fluttershy's constant lessons, they remained easy to agitate. Those suckers, while alone easy to swat away, together packed a rather noticeable punch with their beaks alls descending on a lone target.

Deciding to give the little filly some backup, Strider set down his tools and rushed over towards the chase. He knew his blaster was ready and on standby in its holster, but he knew Fluttershy wouldn't be very happy at him knocking out her chickens... again. Still, he quickly passing the massive mob of chickens and soon found himself running parallel with the filly.

"Why do you have a gang of chickens after you?" Strider inquired, his confused expression masked behind his helmet.

"I don't know! The filly answered immediately, al be it rather sheepishly. "Well, ok I might have crashed my scooter into their hen house while doing an amazing stunt."

"Do you want some help?" Strider questioned.

"No! I can handle things myself! This is nothing!" The filly claimed. However, her eyes widened once she noticed that the mob of chickens were managing to somehow gain ground on her.

Strider stole a glance at the mob himself, before simply shaking his head. "Still don't want help?"

"Um, maybe?" The filly answered, her eyes completely locked on the chickens.

"Ok then, hold on!" Strider instructed, scooping the filly up in his arms and setting her down on his back.

The filly wrapped her fore-hooves around Strider's neck, al be it with uncertainty since Strider was going so slow- "WHOA!" The filly shouted with shock as Strider went into a full on military trooper sprint.

Strider easily dusted the chickens, making a mad dash towards the gunship's transportation bay. With calculated precision, he leaped into the bay and slammed his hand on a red button, causing the doors to close inwards. Right before the doors shut completely, the chickens spotted the filly and began running towards the gunship. But the doors shut on their faces, right in the nic of time. That didn't stop them from smashing into the door, causing several consecutive and loud thuds to ring through the transportation bay.

With the immediate threat securely locked behind a set of solid metal doors, the filly allowed a sigh of relief to escape her mouth. She gave the door one last solid stare, before she looked up at the clone.

"Thanks." The filly said.

"You're welcome, I'm Strider." Strider greeted, extending out a hand.

"I'm Scootaloo!" Scootaloo responded, shaking Strider's hand with a fore-hoof.

With introductions out of the way, Strider decided to take the direct approach;

"So, what was this 'amazing stunt' that sent you crashing into Fluttershy's chicken coop?" Strider inquired.

Scootaloo's eyes seemed to literally light up at his question. She rushed over to an empty crate that originally held a few spare parts, this turned out to be a good thing because she knocked it over and stood on top of it immediately afterwards.

"Ok, imagine that I'm on a scooter right now, and before me is a massive ramp. Beyond that ramp are three big rings that are spread out which can be lit on fire! I've also got rockets strapped to the scooter which I light right before reaching the ramp. The rockets propel me through the rings, and I land perfectly on the other side where another ramp is placed." Scootaloo exclaimed, completely enthusiastic and not at all worried about the dangers of the stunt.

Strider couldn't help but admire the filly's ambitiousness. He knew a handful of men who'd do the same thing but with different scenarios and reasons.

"Sounds interesting, dangerous, but interesting." Strider admitted.

"No stunt is to dangerous for me! I know I'll get my cutie mark for it one day. I've just gotta keep trying different stunts until it appears!" Scootaloo proclaimed.

"Even if it involves a mob of angry chickens chasing you?"

Scootaloo's wide and determined smile faltered at those words. She glanced back over at the massive door that was keeping the animals in question away.

Strider merely shook his head in amusement, before he approached a panel on the back wall. With a few quick button presses, the blast doors opened a bit, allowing some sunlight to enter the bay. Both the clone and the filly did a quick once-over around the area, noticing that the chickens were completely absent.

"We're all clear, you can head back home without having to look over your shoulder for chickens now." Strider said, flipping a final switch which opened the blast doors the rest of the way.

Scootaloo was quick to hop out of the transportation bay, ready to return to Ponyville and practice her stunts somewhere else. However, she halted mid trot towards the dirt path that led to town when she realized something. Strider noticed her sudden hesitation, raising an eyebrow in confusion under his helmet.

"What's wrong?"

"My scooter. It's still in the chicken coop!" Scootaloo stated, the realization quickly dawning on her.

Strider shot a quick glance towards Fluttershy's backyard, where the chicken coop had been built. He stared at Scootaloo for a few seconds, debating whether or not it would be worth the trouble.

The look Scootaloo gave him was all that he needed, but that didn't make it any more annoying. Without saying a word, instead simply raising one finger to signify a minute, Strider left the bay himself and began walking towards the backyard. It couldn't be that hard to retrieve a scooter from a pack of chickens, right?

Scootaloo dangled her back hooves over one of the sides of the transportation bay, her mind drifting whilst her eyes watched a few stray clouds roll by in the baby blue sky. She knew one day, she'd be up in that sky, flying alongside her idol in a performance that would amaze everypony in Equestria.

Her trail of thought faded once she heard the sound of footsteps approaching from Fluttershy's cottage. The orange filly was quick to divert her gaze from the sky, eager to see if Strider had been able to get her scooter back.

"Did you find my-" Scootaloo's sentence faded instantly as her eyes locked on the trooper, or more accurately, the state he was in.

Strider's armor had obtained several splotches of yolk, white feathers sticking to the eggy substance that surrounded it. His helmet's visor had eggs smeared all over it, leaving a sickly yellow taint over the black tinted glass. In his left hand was a blue scooter which was in a similar state to his armor, with egg, yolk, and feathers scattered all over its blue wooden body.

Scootaloo forced back a fit of laughter as Strider set the scooter down on the ground in front of her.

"Thank's Strider. Sorry about the eggs... and feathers." Scootaloo apologized as she mounted the scooter. She cringed as her hooves touched the sticky eggs and feathers which began to stick to her fur as well.

"No, problem... " Strider grumbled, his tone giving away that his statement wasn't exactly true.

The clone watched as Scootaloo took off down the path, becoming a pere speck in the distance compared to the rest of the town. He turned his back on the sight and approached a hose that was hooked up to a barrel next which had been placed against one of the cottages walls. He twisted a metal knob to the left, allowing a faint stream of water to exit through the nozzle of the hose.

"Sometimes I wonder why I help." Strider muttered, before pointing the nozzle right at his face to wash the egg from his helmets visor.

Chapter 28: An Adorable Invasion

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The next morning...

Strider cracked open his eyelids, the drowsiness of sleep quick to vanish from him. He stood up and stretched, making sure to loosen his muscles while he still had the increased maneuverability of only wearing the blackish grey body glove. That wasn't an excuse to waste any time however, and the trooper was quick to re-equip his white clone armor. Much to his annoyance, certain areas still had the lingering stench of eggs on it, but he could only ignore it until he got used to it.

With his armor securely back on his body, finishing up with the helmet, Strider was ready for another rotation of work. He pressed down on a red button, watching as the large blast doors of the transportation bay parted, allowing sunlight to flow through the gunship once again.

Strider picked up the rusty red toolbox from its spot on the bay's floor, gave it a quick shake which rattled the tools inside, and hopped down from the transportation bay. As his boots met dirt, he began walking around the base of the ship towards the starboard side of the ship.

The clone still didn't know how the left wing was gonna get back on the gunship, so he decided that he'd fix the right wing first. However, once he rounded the corner of the ship and the wing came into view, he spotted something alongside it.

"What the heck is that?" Strider questioned out loud, not knowing what he was looking at.

It appeared to be a spherical white creature with exaggerated eyes and four see-through wings, its insect green eyes locking onto him while a smile formed on its body. It didn't look dangerous, but something in the back of Strider's mind, along with protocol, told him to remain on guard and careful.

Strider was tempted to unholster his blaster, but decided against it incase the creature saw it as an attack. Instead, he slowly set the tool box down and grabbed a hammer from within its contents, approaching the creature with extreme caution. If it had fangs, then it didn't show them, content with simply keeping a smile and watching him.

Strider gripped the hammer tightly as he approached the creature. He was ready to take a swing, but decided to take a more peaceful introduction first. Who knows, maybe it'll just leave him alone if he just asked. This place definity radiates that sense of forgiveness, and this creature didn't look like an exception.

"Uh, hey there... What are you doing over here? If you're in the care of Fluttershy than you've gotta stay by the cottage." Strider stated.

The creature looked up at his visor with confusion in its eyes.

"Well, you're sort of in my work area. I don't want to end up hurting you by accident." Strider exclaimed.

The creature stared at him for a few more seconds, before it seemed to get the picture. It flapped its little wings and took off towards Fluttershy's cottage, its smile still on clear display. Clearly the little encounter hadn't dampened its mood in the slightest.

Strider lowered the hammer, glad that the creature left him to work. Deciding to ask Fluttershy about it later, the trooper returned to the spot where he'd left the toolbox and dropped the hammer back into it. He picked the box up and carried it over towards a spot on the gunship he'd picked out last rotation. He'd already fascened a ladder to the wall so he could climb up right to the wing, which is exactly what he did.

It didn't take him long to arrive on the top of the ship, the toolbox being carefully set down on the wing. Yet, before Strider could even so much as touch a tool from the box, the sound of a door being smashed open caused him to spin around and focus on Fluttershy's cottage. Right as his eyes locked on the newly thrown open front door, a massive herd of those creatures he'd just encountered had busted right out of the building.

Strider watched as the massive ball of small creatures barrel its way down the path and slam right into a stunned Fluttershy and her friends. Apparently, they'd been stationed in front of the cottage prior and had chosen a bad spot to stand. They were quickly overrun by the creatures, the entire scene being witnessed due to his vantage point.

"What in Kamino's name have I missed!?" Strider questioned out loud, thoughts about repairing the ship shoehorned onto a mental datapad for later use.

Not wasting any time, Strider slid down the ladder and un-holstered his blaster, priming it as he ran. The creatures had surrounded the group of mares completely, forcing Strider to shoulder charge through a wave of them in order to reach them.

"What's going on?" Strider demanded from the group.

Twilight Sparkle smacked a pink creature away from her tail before stepping forwards; "We might have a Parasprite infestation on our hooves."

"Parasprite?" Strider questioned, looking up at the swarm.

"Don't worry, I'm on it!" Rainbow Dash claimed, setting a pair of goggles over her eyes before taking off into the sky.

The cyan pegasus spun around in the air at serious high speeds, creating a makeshift tornado that sucked the Parasprites into it. However, some Parasprites managed to escape the tornados wrath, taking off towards Ponyville.

Strider spotted this and quickly aimed his blaster up at them, his finger pulling the trigger without remorse. A few blue plasma bolts shot through the air, but the size of the little creatures and their random movements made each one miss its desired target.

The trooper was ready to fire again, but Fluttershy pushed the blasters barrel down at the last second, sending the fired plasma bolt plowing into the ground.

"What are you doing?" Strider asked, breaking Fluttershy's hold on the blaster.

"Even if these creatures are bothersome, you shouldn't hurt them just for being themselves. They don't know what they're doing is wrong." Fluttershy claimed.

Strider grumbled under his breath, but lowered the blaster, semi-content with the answer. That was, until Pinkie Pie trotted up towards the still spinning tornado with a pair of symbols. The symbols broke free of the strings they were attached to and flew into the tornado, disrupting Rainbow's flow and breaking the formation up.

The next thing they all knew, the entire swarm of Parasprites were free and flying towards Ponyville.

Strider and the others quickly took off towards town themselves, some residents already beginning to panic once the Parasprites began eating their crops and food right before their very eyes.

Several ponies watched in abstract horror as the food they were either selling or eating was gobbled up right in front of them by the Parasprites. Some were eaten by a couple of them, whilst others were able to eat while items in one large bite.

Strider and the group stood in the middle of the panic filled street, watching as ponies screamed and hid their food. One stallion however was watching as a group of Parasprites eat up a crate full of pears, a smile upon their face.

"How are we suppose'd ta round up all of these critters before the Princess arrives?" Applejack questioned, watching a few Parasprites eat up a basket of muffins which had been carried by Derpy, who looked down in confusion as to what happened to her food.

Before anyone could answer Applejack, the orange farm pony's eyes widened as she realized something. "Mah apples!" She cried before taking off towards her family's farm.

Twilight frantically looked around, before an idea popped into her mind.

"I know! I'll just cast a spell to make them stop eating all the food!" She claimed, igniting the spell a split second later.

Several slightly transparent pink rings flew through the air, causing each Parasprite that it touched to halt what it was doing completely. Some stopped mid bite, others simply stared at each other in confusion, but they did all stop eating every scrap of food in sight.

Strider glanced down at a basket that had a single apple inside as well as a Parasprite. After a few seconds of sniffing (albeit without a nose), it appeared to of worked.

Before the group could sigh with relief, the Parasprite ate the basket instead, spitting out the apple with content.

Strider face palmed, shaking his head. Turns out Twilight's spell had just made them change their metabolism, a.k.a. raw materials were now on their snack list. But before he could say anything to Twilight, a thought shot through his mind.

The gunship.

"Oh no, oh no no no. If they eat the gunship then my way back to the G.A.R.'s gone!" Strider stated, his hands instantly clenching the DC-15s tightly.

Yet right before Strider could rush off, Fluttershy stopped him by standing in his way.

"Please, don't hurt them." She begged.

"Fluttershy, if they eat that ship, then there will be even worse problems in the future. Sometimes, the only way to keep something away, is to make it." Strider countered, leaving the group of ponies in the dust as he sprinted off down the street.

If Strider was fast enough then he might be able to get a better vantage point. He just had to get back before they ate through the ship's mainframe, then he'd have a fighting chance.

As Strider passed a cart that had been half devoured, he spotted a cowering Apple Bloom. She was desperately trying to shove Parasprites off her bow, the fabric having clear spots that had already been chomped out.

Strider quickly aimed his blaster up, careful to not get Apple Bloom in his line of fire. Then, he pulled the trigger. A blue bolt shot from the chamber and through the air right against one of the Parasprites wings. The Parasprite fell to the ground, clutching its hurt wing with one of its legs, before fleeing with the others down the street.

Strider knelt down next to Apple Bloom and extended out his hand. "You alright?"

"Yeah," Apple Bloom claimed, letting Strider help her to her hooves. "They just went after mah bow."

Strider looked around at the streets which were full of Parasprites. How could Apple Bloom get out of here? Luckily, the answer was quick to arrive, in the form an an entrance to an alleyway.

"Apple Bloom, see if you can hide in there until the Parasprites are out of town. Hopefully they'll just overlook you and search for something else. But if they do, I need you to run as fast as you can to the nearest safe building, understood?" Strider instructed.

Apple Bloom nodded, glancing both ways before bolting towards the alleyway Strider had pointed out. He watched as Apple Bloom faded from his sights before he resumed his sprint towards the gunship. Hopefully he still had time.

Strider reached the top of a hill just in time to see a rather sizable pack of Parasprites advancing towards the L.A.A.T. Strider fired a lone bolt at the pack, causing the creatures to scramble away.

With the new time he'd bought, Strider made a mad dash to the gunship. He holstered his DC-15s, knowing it wouldn't be enough. He needed something bigger.

Strider ripped opened the cargo hold and grabbed the Z-6. He dragged the rotary blaster cannon out of the cargo hold and spun around, ready to unload a round of plasma on any critters that wanted to take a bite out of his hard work.

Right on cue, the massive ball of Parasprites from before emerged from the hills. They approached rapidly, eyeing the gunship with a single purpose in mind. But they also spotted the clone, slowing to a halt before the armored trooper.

Strider didn't know if they were wondering what he was holding, or what he was doing, but he didn't really care. He aimed up at the swarm with the intent of blasting them into the next star system, but Fluttershy's words caused his hand to falter mid press on the handle.

"HEY! LISTEN UP!" Strider shouted out to the Parasprites, whose eyes quickly locked onto him.


When the Parasprites didn't leave, Strider primed the Z-6.

"So be it... "

With those final words said, Strider activated the Z-6, spraying a wave of plasma bolts directly into the swarm.

Chapter 29: Gunship Defense

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The swarm of Parasprites reacted instantly to the attack, quickly scrambling out of the plasma bolts path. Even with their small bodies and quick speed, a few managed to still get skimmed by the unyielding firepower. Strider kept the pressure up, adjusting his aim to keep them from resting and constantly moving.

The parasprites tried to weave their way through another wave of bolts but immediately greeted with another wave of plasma, and another, and another. One parasprite tried to eat one of the plasma bolts, but the bolt went right through it. Strider expected to see a corpse drop to the ground, but the creature seemed to somehow vanish into thin air as if it had never been there in the first place.

As if they were all linked together like a computers coding, the rest of the parasprites immediately turned tail and flew in full retreat. They quickly became a mere speck amongst the rest of Ponyville, disbanding their massive mob and joining their brothers and sisters somewhere out of his line of sight.

Seeing that the threat had been warned off, Strider stopped firing and lowered the Z-6. The rotary cannons six barrels let out a faint stream of steam, showing just how much it had been used just then.

"Yeah you'd better run." Strider muttered, knowing full well that they couldn't hear him. And even if they did, he'd probably still say it.

Before he could return to the ship and deposite his weapon back in the cargo hold, a loud buzzing noise rang through his ears. The trooper turned and was immediately greeted with the sight of another swarm of parasprites. They were flying right towards the gunship, not slowing down like the last batch did upon noticing him.

"Wave two." Strider told himself, raising the Z-6 once more.

That was when he saw the Parasprites expressions. These ones didn't have happy smiles like the previous ones, instead they had ravenous glares and open mouths. Surprisingly, he couldn't see a single trace of teeth on any of them, raising the question as to how they were able to eat through such tough materials. But that wasn't exactly the thing he was focused on. Something deep inside clone told himself that this swarm wasn't exactly gonna be as easy to shoo away as the other one.

That didn't change how Strider was gonna deal with it though. He didn't really have much of a plan, so he open fired on the new pack of parasprites. He did his best to aim the Z-6 at the heart of the swarm, trying to make each plasma bolt take out at least one parasprite each.

This swarm of parasprites either didn't notice that their fellow brothers and sisters were getting sent into oblivion, or they simply didn't care. They pressed onwards through the heavy dropzone, their eyes remaining fixated on the gunship.

Realizing that his previous tactic wasn't working with this new set, Strider fell back until he was mere inches from the ship, making sure to keep the Z-6 live. He counted at least twenty additional casualties on their side before they seemed to finally notice him. Yet, instead of backing off or fleeing, they simply changed their course towards him instead of the ship.

"Don't any of you get the message? BUZZ OFF!" Strider shouted, pressing his attack in an attempt to retake control of the battle.

Then, in one quick motion, every parasprite grouped together in a massive company, before diving at the clone. Strider tried to roll out of the way but the mass of parasprites proved to be to large for him to avoid in time. Strider was quickly engulfed in the company of parasprites, their little legs quickly locking onto his armor.

Strider tried to shake the insect-like creatures off, but every Parasprite that fell was replaced with two more. He tried to fire the Z-6 at them, but the bulky rotary cannon proved ineffective when dealing with small creatures covering him from head to toe. Before he could do anything else, a pack of the parasprites grouped together and managed to force the Z-6 out of the clones hand, letting it fall to the ground, forgotten in favor of focusing on the large gunship first.

Even with his weapon discarded, the clone kept fighting. He tried shaking off the parasprites, swipe them off, bash them with his hands, but their grip on his armor was tight and their numbers kept his efforts on the backburner. Suddenly, Strider felt the ground escape from under his boots. It didn't take him long to figure out that the parasprites had managed to lift him off the ground and were beginning to carry him away from the gunship.

Strider thrashed about, managing to shrug off a couple of parasprites, but not nearly enough to drop him. As he struggled, he noticed the approaching forest, its branches reaching out like droid arms, as if ready to grab him.

"Oh no you don't!" Strider shouted, shoving his left hand into a pouch on his utility belt.

He fumbled with the items inside, but managed to retrieve a circular device from it with relative ease. He pressed down on a red button, causing the object to emit a loud beeping noise which managed to catch the parasprites attentions. The trooper threw the object high into the air, watching as a handful of parasprites broke off from the pack, their eyes widening in confusion and wonder at the noise.

Then, the object exploded, engulfing the small group of parasprites in a thick black cloud of smoke. There were still plenty of parasprites clinging onto the clone, but enough had departed to weaken their combined grip just enough for him to shake his way free from the pack. Strider hit the grassy field like a holoprojector, managing to spring back up on his feet before he could lose his balance and wind up laying on the ground.

Strider wasted no time in running back towards the gunship, unholstering the DC-15s he had on his utility belt along the way. He was back in a defencive position in seconds, blaster once again aimed at the pack of insects who had regrouped and recovered from his surprise detonator.

Blue plasma bolts once again littered the air around the parasprites, but the amount pales in comparison to the Z-6. Each parasprite that got hit was replaced with five more, and they closed the gap between themselves and the gunship once again. Instead of trying to remove the trooper, they flew to the roof of the gunship and landed, leaving Strider's line of sight as well as the blasters firing range.

Realizing this change, Strider halted his assault on the pack and ran towards the gunships ladder. He climbed up in record time, quick to fire two shots at two parasprites that were trying to eat a holographic projection of the gunship. After they were disposed of, he turned his focus on the roof of the ship.

The entirety of the roof was covered with parasprites, several having already eaten through the metal body and towards the wires. Strider fired at the parasprites, startling a few of them and ending a few others lunch breaks forever. But there were just to many of them.

Strider kept firing at the Parasprites until his blaster stopped releasing plasma bolts. He tried to pull the trigger once again, but the only thing to exit the barrel was a faint puff of steam. He'd overheated the blaster.

"Blast it," Strider stated, giving the blaster a few hard pats. "come on, you've still got plenty of fight left in you."

The DC-15s remained locked for a handful of seconds, each one dragged out by the loud munches from the parasprites. He was losing time, and fast. Deciding to act instead of simply standing there with an overheated weapon, Strider charged into the pack of parasprites. He tried to shove them off the gunship, but they kept coming back to their original positions to resume their meal. He smacked a good chunk of parasprites near the edge of the roof off with the blasters body, yet it hardly made a dent in their forces.

Right as the trooper began to lose hope, the alien sound of music filled the area. Both himself and the parasprites halted their actions and changed their viewpoints, hundreds of eyes locking onto the source of the sudden musical number.

Along the dirt path that led into the Everfree Forest was Pinkie Pie, instruments completely covering her body, each being used simultaneously by her. Never before had Strider witnessed such a massive feat of multitasking, even from his Jedi general. And even then, he wasn't sure if they could match the pink pony considering the fact that the music she was playing wasn't even that bad.

Before Strider could let out an audible comment, he noticed the parasprites on the roof had stopped their eating and were beginning to hover in place. The next thing he knew, the entire pack of parasprites were bouncing along in tune with Pinkie's one pony parade down the dirt path and towards the Everfree Forest.

In mere seconds, the gunship was completely absent of the insects. And upon further inspection, the clone realized that to most of the essential wires hadn't been reached in time, meaning that the ship might still be flight-worthy without needing to replace the main power cords. If that had been eaten through, then the gunship would of been grounded until he could fix it. And fixing those wires without the required resources or tools would be impossible.

Somehow, through the power of music and multitasking talent, Pinkie had managed to save his ship as well as the town from the pack of parasprites. Strider was almost completely speechless, but one lone sentence was still able to escape his mouth regardless.

"What did I just witness?"

Well, that was easy to answer. He'd witnessed a pony playing several instruments all at once, the music composed causing the entire swarm of parasprites to dance along and follow her to the Everfree Forest.

As Strider continued to space off as he questioned the legalistics of what just happened, he failed to notice a very tall white alicorn take off in a royal carriage. That was, until the carriage flew right over him, causing Strider's gaze to focus on it as Princess Celestia began to fade into the distance.

Then another thought drifted into Strider's mind, this one being shouted out into the sky.


Chapter 30: War Always Leaves A Cost

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"Can't you at least check?" Strider inquired, his eyes focused on the mare before him from across a well kept counter.

"Sure, just give me a second." The mare responded, before leaving the counter to check her inventory behind the stand.

While she was gone, Strider unhooked the box full of bits from his utility belt and got ready to pay. Surely at least one of these hardware stands would have the correct set of screws. He didn't want to think he'd only wasted his time coming to town instead of working around the screw loose area of the right wing.

The town seemed to of gotten used to him being around, the initial shock factor having done its course and had departed. He rarely saw fear in the towns citizens eyes anymore, and he'd even been given a few welcome smiles from a handful of them. He was still given a few weird glances though, especially from a mint green unicorn. He's still a bit jumpy when opening a crate ever since he'd found that unicorn waiting inside one.

After a few minutes of waiting, the mare finally returned to the counter. However, Strider quickly noticed that the mare had come back empty hooved.

"Sorry sir, but I couldn't any of the screws you described." The mare said apologetically.

Strider resisted the urge to groan in annoyance at yet another delay, instead he just said a simple "Thanks for checking." and walked away.

That had been the sixth stand he'd went to so far and none of them had the right screws. If this continued then he might have to use something else to keep the wing together. But his resources were strained, and he doubted he could find something strong enough to replace the missing components for an extended period of time.

Deciding that he'd wasted enough time and just would check back tomorrow, Strider began the journey back to Fluttershy's cottage. He'd memorized the best route by now for weaving between the crowds of ponies, and was on the outskirts of Ponyville in mere minutes, his target already coming into view.

As he walked, Strider took in his surroundings. There were a few pegasi flying overhead, pushing clouds into clumps or kicking them out of existence. A few grounded ponies were chatting with each other, some eating snacks on a checkered tarp. The whole place seemed so peaceful, so calm, so quiet.

Strider shook those thoughts out of his mind again, he had things to do. He absentmindedly quickened his pace, wanting to return to his work immediately to make up for his lost time. As he broke off from the main trail and approached his gunship, something caught his eye.

Standing in front of the closed transportation bays blast doors, was a familiar looking purple unicorn, her left hoof politely knocking on the solid metal plating. Standing next to her was Spike, who he'd met at Pinkie's party. In his left hand, was a blank piece of parchment, and in his right, a red quill.

Strider approached the two, his boots quick to alert them of his presence. The duo turned around, Twilight Sparkle's eyes immediately locking onto him.

"You need something?" Strider asked.

"No, well, sort of. I was just curious about your metal shed and that blackish grey thing, not to mention your species. I couldn't find anything in all the books in my library, nor from the Canterlot Archives from when I was living there. And I've read lots of books in my spare time." Twilight exclaimed.

"She has been up a whole night now trying to discover information about you and your stuff." Spike claimed, earning him a glare from Twilight.

"Anyways, I was just wondering if you could answer a few questions for me quickly." Twilight said.

"Depends on the questions, but ok, I don't see the harm of it." Strider stated.

Twilight's eyes widened with joy at his response. She looked over at Spike eagerly, already preparing her questions mentally.

"Spike! Get ready to take notes!" She declared.

Spike unrolled a very long and blank scroll before raising up his already dipped quill, ready to write. Something deep in Strider's mind told him that he was gonna be here a while.

"Alright, to start this off, what's your species?" Twilight began.

"Human, although I'm a semi special case. I'm a clone, one amongst thousands with the same genetics from a lone template." Strider answered.

"A clone?"

"Correct, unlike most humans, I was bred in a remote facility for combat. Myself and my brothers are biological copies of another human." Strider stated.

"Fascinating, the ability to create a fully sentient copy of some-creature on a massive scale." Twilight muttered, more to herself than to Spike, who'd written down everything anyways. "Ok, second question; what is this contraption?"

"I'm assuming you mean the gunship?"

"Is that what it's called?" Twilight inquired, glancing over at the metal machine.

"Yes, this bucket of bolts is a Low Altitude Assault Transport, or L.A.A.T. for short. This ship is designed to bring infantry, supplies, and special units in and out of battle. It's got plenty of weapons to keep enemy ships off its tail, and strong reinforced plating to help keep it fighting even after a bad crash." Strider couldn't help but look up at the broken area where a wing should be, the hole hosting an occasional small spark from its damaged components.

"Are there more of these?"

"Yep, thousands of ships like this one are probably in use as we speak, reinforcing the G.A.R. and providing a beacon of hope for wounded soldiers."

"How does it work?"

"That's a rather complicated question." Strider answered truthfully.

"Oh, well how about that thing on your belt? The blackish grey thing that you use as a weapon?"

Strider un-holstered the blaster in question, raising it up and rotating it to the right so the unicorn could get a good view of it.

"This is a DC-15s, a blaster carbine that can fire up to five hundred charged plasma bolts. While I personally prefer a DC-15a, this blaster is reliable most of the time, easy to carry, and simple to use."

"Amazing, the ability to control and use plasma as a source of firepower. We're still working on improving our gunpowder weapons. Could I study that?" Twilight asked.

"Sorry, but these blasters are G.A.R. property, and could easily cause more damage than good. I've already made that mistake, and I don't plan on doing it again." Strider exclaimed. Twilight seemed dejected at that, but didn't press on, choosing another question in the meantime.

"What is this G.A.R.? You said that the blaster was G.A.R. property, is it like a company or something else?" Twilight questioned.

"The G.A.R. is an abbreviation for Grand Army of the Republic. It's what myself and my brothers are fighting for, making sure it doesn't fall to the Separatist Alliance." Strider claimed.

"Separatist Alliance?"

"They also go by Confederacy of Independent Systems, or C.I.S. for short. They broke away from the Republic and are taking actions against us. They wanna destroy the G.A.R. and take the galaxy for themselves." Strider stated.

"That doesn't sound very nice of them." Twilight pointed out.

"It isn't, and it's led to war on a galactic scale between the two sides. Hundreds if not thousands of worlds are under the tyranny of the Separatists, and it's up to the G.A.R. to liberate these worlds and unite the galaxy once again."

"Whoa, that sounds like a comic I once read." Spike proclaimed, halting his writing to say his part.

"If only it was."

"Can you tell me more about this Republic?" Twilight asked.

"Sure, but it's a lot of information filtered through combat."

Twilight didn't look the slightest bit deterged, meaning that they were gonna be here for awhile. Strider took a few steps past Twilight and gestured up towards an all to familiar symbol plastered on the gunship.

"Well, to start this off, here is the galactic symbol of the Galactic Republic... "

Strider didn't know exactly how long it'd been, but he noticed the nearby star was beginning its descent towards the horizon, signifying the approach of nightfall. Yet, to his surprise, Spike hadn't faltered nor complained in the slightest at all the information he'd written in one sitting. Twilight had held onto her smile the entire way through, eager to obtain as much knowledge as she could from him.

Now, Strider didn't know the whole complete picture, but he knew enough to help guide the mare through the basics, which seemed more than enough to satisfy her questions. He'd been sure to filter a couple of things that were classified, like their battle tactics and strategies. But the part about the galactic senate seemed to of taken the brunt of Twilight's questions, so it never became an issue.

By the time he'd finished up, Spike seemed ready to drop the quill in exhaustion, yet his grip on it didn't seem to falter in the slightest. He must of done this quite a bit to have this much stamina. Twilight on the other hand, looked like she was planning five different battle plans at once in her mind.

However, the little break didn't last long, and Twilight was quick to resume her questions. Strider was expecting another question about the senate, mainly due to his lack of full knowledge on it forming blanks in his explanation. But the next question to leave the mares mouth caught him off guard.

"What's it like to be a soldier in a war on a galactic scale?" Twilight asked. "I've read my fair share of books about olden Equus and the wars that took place, but i'm curious as to if they're any different if the war is beyond a single planet."

Strider looked at Twilight, his expression completely masked by his helmet. Both Twilight and Spike noticed the subtle change in his demeanor, but weren't able to ask about it before Strider responded.

"If you want me to answer that question, then follow me." Strider instructed, his feet taking him towards the gunships transportation bay.

With one quick button press, the blast doors opened up, exposing the bays near empty interior. Twilight hopped inside the bay, but before Spike could follow suit, Strider held up his hand.

"Not you Spike, you can rest your claw." Strider said, shutting the blast door before he could respond.

"Hey! Why can't Spike enter? He isn't dangerous." Twilight claimed.

"That's not why I didn't let him in. You don't have to worry about taking notes on this, you'll remember." Strider stated as he walked towards the north wall. He flicked a lone switch, activating a series of lights which illuminated the pitch black bay.

After a few moments of silence, Strider answered the question.

"Terrifying." Strider said blankly.

"What do you mean?" Twilight questioned, breaking the silence for a few seconds. Her tone had changed from excitement and fascination about the new knowledge she was learning, to worry and confusion.

"Imagine landing somewhere you know almost nothing about with a team of people you care about beside you. Your ship lands and you exit right as a round of projectiles are launched towards you from the battlefield. You have no idea about what any of the wildlife could do but you have to take cover behind it to avoid being killed." Strider's words were filled with no emotion, his original tone in answering so many questions completely absent.

"All you can do is fire towards the enemy, hearing the screams of the ones you care about all around you, but you have to ignore them and keep fighting." Strider said, looking directly at Twilight.

"Imagine having to do that every day of your life until the fight is over." Strider finished.

After those final words were spoken, Strider opened the blast doors again, allowing the two to exit back outside. Twilight trotted over to Spike and whispered something into his ear, before turning to face Strider.

"Strider, thanks for the information. I'm.. I'm sorry to know what you had to deal with your entire life. If you ever need something from the library than please ask." Twilight stated.

Strider didn't say anything, instead he just walked over to a tool box and picked it up. He watched as Twilight and Spike began trotting/walking back towards Ponyville in silence, their figures slowly fading in amongst the rest of the town.

Why did Strider even tell Twilight about the war? She along with the inhabitants of Ponyville likely don't think about how rough war is. Yet, he felt like it needed to be said, for both his sake, and theirs.

Strider went back to work on the right wing, not saying a word as his mind began to pry up memories that were better left forgotten.

Chapter 31: A Troubled Mind

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Night had ascended across the world, engulfing everything it touched in darkness. Many saw this as the telltale sign to lock up shop and get some nice sleep, but Strider merely saw it as a reason to switch on his helmets light attachment that he'd found in one of the gunships crates.

The clone was currently still hard at work, his hands gripping a wrench tightly as he twisted it around the final bolt on a piece of metal plating. He removed the bolt and placed it with the others he'd removed, before he took hold of the plate and ripped it from its desired spot. The area that the panel had been covering was filled with wires and buttons.


Strider shoved a couple of wires to the side, determined to find his goal. Once it came into view, he stopped his persistent shoving of the wires, his brown irises locking onto a decently sized relay box near the back of the compartment. It had a few bolts locking it down as well, meaning the wrench wouldn't be getting as much of a rest as it wanted.

Strider pulled the box out of the sea of wires and set it down on the grassy field, resting it on its back so he could unscrew the bolts easier. As he began the job of opening the box, his mind continued to pry up memories. He tried to ignore them, but each memory struck him worse than the others, like a hammer bashing at his helmet. He wasn't completely certain as to why they were just sinking in now, whether it was talking to Twilight or him thinking about them more. But he was positive he wanted them to stop.



Strider pried out a bent bolt from its hole and tossed it to the side. He moved onto another bolt and began twisting the wrench around it. As he did, distant but clear blaster fire filled his ears.

"Super Battle Droids on your right!"

"I've got it!"


Strider grunted as a bolt refused to turn, he applied more force but the bolt remained stuck. It must of been another bent one. Stupid crash...


"He's GONE Strider! We need to keep- ACK!"

Strider snarled under his breath, anger rising as he remembered the horrific battle.




"MATT! NO!!!"

Strider finally couldn't take it anymore.

"RRAH! SHUT UP!" Strider shouted as his anger finally overtook his actions.

Strider shot up from where he was working and chucked the wrench in a random direction, which just so happened to of been at the gunship. It soared like a rocket through the air until it struck a panel and fell into the grass below, hardly leaving a dent, much to Strider's relief. The clone stared at the tool for a few seconds, before his mind began wrapping more images in front of his eyes.


"I'll hold them off, GO!"

"NO! I won't leave you!"

"We don't have any other choice! GO!"

Strider was so subjected to his own mind that he didn't notice Fluttershy exit her cottage, the front door clicking gently back into place. She was about to head off towards Ponyville, but stopped once she spotted him.

Fluttershy's happy expression faded as she saw Strider's frozen figure staring into nothingness. She changed her course and began trotting towards him.

"Strider?" Fluttershy asked, concern clear as day in her voice.

The clone remained quiet, not moving a muscle as she approached him.

"Strider? You ok?" Fluttershy questioned, getting closer and closer to him.

Strider slowly walked over to where the tool had landed and picked it up, remaining silent as stone the entire time. He walked over to where he'd been previously working and knelt down next to the relay box again.

"I-I don't know what you're thinking about, but I can tell that something's wrong." Fluttershy claimed, only a few feet away from him now.

Strider started to twist the wrench at a screw, getting ready to pry open the panel. But before he could unscrew the final bolt, Fluttershy said one last sentence.

"I want to help you." Fluttershy claimed, her words echoing through Strider's mind as if it were an empty corridor.

Strider stopped twisting the wrench, Fluttershy's words repeating through his brain. Then, Rust's words shot like blaster bolts across his eyes.

"We always have each others backs Strider."

"I'm all ears Strider."

"We'll make it through this Strider, and when we do, drinks are on me."

"I've got you!

"Keep fighting Strider! We can beat these clankers!"

"I'm always here to help.

Images of Strider's team flashed before his eyes, each one showing them working together against the toughest odds. Taking down droids, blowing up tanks, defending the wounded against thousands of enemies.



"Hold on tight! We'll get you out of here!

"I can't keep them back!

"I've got your right!

"If we go down, we go down together, and FIGHTING!"

The memories of him fighting with his brothers transitioning to a building collapsing in on itself, Cosmo getting shot by a super battle droid, Trigger getting blown up, Matt holding the line to save him and other clones, Rust turning to stone.

He was the last member of his team, a single trooper on an unmarked planet.

Right as the memories began to get even worse, they began to slow down their attack on Strider's psyche. Finally, one last image flashed in front of Strider.

"Good Soldiers follow orders"

Then, It all stopped. The screaming, the fighting, the blaster fire, everything playing in the back of his head stopped. It was like someone had just hit pause for a simulation.

After what felt like an eternity, the memories began to fade, being sucked away into some part in his brain. Strider didn't hear the screams, didn't feel the anger, like his mind had been refreshed.

It felt wrong...

Strider watched as his vision faded between each battle he had fought in, to Fluttershy's worried expression.

As his mind finally began to process her words again, his ears began picking up what she was saying, now completely devoid of the noises from the battlefield.

"-o you need water? Please tell me if you're ok!" Fluttershy begged, fear leaking with her words.

"I'm alright, i'm alright." Strider muttered, a headache splitting through his skull.

Fluttershy noticed Strider's hands slightly trembling as well as his heavy breathing. She wasn't buying it.

"You're not. Please tell me what's wrong and I can help." Fluttershy said.

Strider looked at Fluttershy, his vision beginning to blur.

"I said, I'm... fine..." Once those words left Strider's mouth, the clone fell to the ground, his whole body locking up.

Strider's thoughts were scrambled once again, words falling on deaf ears. He tried to get up but his muscles refused to cooperate.

Suddenly, Strider's helmet was taken off and tossed aside. He looked up into Fluttershy's scared eyes, her mouth making motions like she was talking but all he could hear was muffled whispers.

Strider tried to say something but nothing seemed to come out. Fluttershy was increasingly becoming more and more panicked by the second, frantically calling out to what he assumed were some animals.

Fluttershy's face suddenly began to fade away, replaced with nothing but darkness. Only then did Strider completely fall unconscious.

Chapter 32: Out Cold (Revised)

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Fluttershy sat alone in relative silence on a chair in lobby of Ponyville's hospital, her patience strong and worry semi-controlled. She took a few glances towards the main desk, where a nurse was currently filing through a hoof-full of papers with an emotionless expression. So far, she hadn't heard anything yet on Strider except for the fact that he'd been stationed in a medical room and was in the process of being scanned.

Fluttershy could only hope that the doctors and nurses knew how to help his species, or at least give it their best. She knew some of the staff here (primarily due to Rainbow Dash's constant crash record) and knew that she could trust them with him. Still, she couldn't help but fear that something was gonna go wrong, leaving Strider in constant pain, or worse.

As the clock struck the hour, Nurse Redheart finally emerged from a set of double doors. She immediately spotted the butter yellow pegasus and trotted towards her.

"Miss Shy?" Nurse Redheart called out, halting before the chair she was sitting on.

"Is Strider gonna be ok Nurse Redheart?" Fluttershy asked, looking up into the white furred mares eyes.

Nurse Redheart looked unsure about something, but she tried to hide it. Sadly it was in vein due to Fluttershy's experiences with stubborn animals that had forced her to read expressions with as much detail as possible. It was a useful skill, but it also meant that she knew something was wrong if Redheart was trying to mask herself.

"We've done as much as we can, but Strider isn't like anything we've seen before. Most of our machines aren't able to work with his biology, and we've had to go old school with unicorn based spells. However, we were able to get some scans through. I could show you them if you want." Nurse Redheart stated.

"Um, if it isn't to much trouble." Fluttershy responded.

"Alright, follow me." Nurse Redheart instructed, before she began trotting towards a different set of double doors than the ones she'd entered through.

Fluttershy as followed the earth pony as they went deeper into the hospital, she couldn't help but stare at the vaste dull walls of the hallway. With such little decoration, it gave off the illusion of it stretching much longer than it truly was. After awhile of walking down these seemingly endless hallways, Nurse Redheart stopped at a simple wooden door no different from any other. With a quick push, the door opened inwards, exposing the room beyond its frame.

The room was no different from a normal hospital patient room, with the exception of an extended bed and the absence of windows due to it being near the middle of the building instead of along the ends. On the bed was Strider, his white armor stripped and set aside on a large table. His body was covered by a black body glove, but the more attention grabbing detail would be all the wires and pipes hooked up around his body. A sizable amount of clear tubes were hooked directly on Strider's head, a whitish red liquid flowing through them at a constant rate.

"W-What's going on? Why a-are so many machines h-hooked up to his head?" Fluttershy asked, her eyes widening in shock at the current state of her friend.

"Well, from what we've learned with the tools we have, something went wrong in Strider's brain, causing several nerve systems to lose certain signals. This included some vital organs which is why those machines are hooked up to him." Nurse Redheart exclaimed.

"What happened with his brain?" Fluttershy questioned.

"We did do a scan of it and due to it being almost identical to a typical pony brain aside from general size, we believe that a tumor of some sorts has erupted in his brain." Nurse Redheart stated.

"A tumor? H-How bad?"

"Worse than any normal tumor. This one had put so much pressure on his brain that several important functions had been completely cut off from the rest of the body. The only other example of a tumor this bad is a rare tumor that could numb or even block off the connection to magic from the horn in a unicorn. But even that didn't end up causing any vital organs to slow down to a life threatening level." Nurse Redheart said, trotting over to a desk.

Nurse Redheart picked up what seemed to be X-ray scans, before bringing them over to Fluttershy for her to see.

"This scan shows the tumor and what is happening to his brain." Nurse Redheart explained.

Fluttershy looked over the scans, instantly spotting the area where the tumor appeared to be. It didn't look good at all.

"Is there anything you can do to help him?" Fluttershy asked, her tone full of concern.

"The only thing we're able to do without the danger of damaging his brain is use those machines to keep his vital organs working. Other than that, all we can do is keep giving him the right medications and wait for his brain to heal on its own." Nurse Redheart proclaimed.

Fluttershy looked over at the unconscious Strider, then to the machines hooked up to him. How badly must Strider be feeling right now? It must be horrible...

Everything was quiet, so quiet that if someone took a single step a couple miles away from some else, they'd still hear it loud and clear. Strider didn't know what that meant, but he knew he'd need to figure it out. Slowly but surely, he opened up his eyelids a bit, exposing a massive white void around him. His eyes instantly shot the rest of the way open, completely caught off guard at the strange sight of nothingness.

"Where in the universe am I?" Strider questioned out loud, his voice stretching thin as it echoed through the vast empty void.

Strider got up from the 'floor' he'd been lying on and looked around, trying to spot anything to act as a landmark. Yet the place was completely empty with the exception of himself. Even then, his armor blended in very well with the area, only sticking out due to the exposed pieces of the body glove under it.

Something also didn't feel right, like he'd loaded a power pack into a blaster wrong but only slightly, just enough for it to not work but enough to not make it obvious. Still, he wasn't getting anywhere by standing there.

"Might as well start walking." Strider muttered to himself, simply choosing a random direction to go.

Fluttershy stared at the unmoving clone on the bed, watching as the machines did their desired jobs to their best abilities. A constant loud beeping noise from a vital monitor only made the situation feel even more drastic, like he was barely clinging onto life.

"How long to you think he'll need to recover?" Fluttershy asked.

"At least four weeks. His whole nervous system needs time to heal. I wouldn't be shocked if he needed to be here until fall." Nurse Redheart claimed.

"Oh, poor Strider. He was so close to finishing his ship as well." Fluttershy stated.

"Even if he gets out before fall, he's gonna need to take things slow until his mind can return to its normal pace." Nurse Redheart stated.

"I understand, thanks for all the help you're giving him." Fluttershy exclaimed.

"It's what we do at the Hospital." Nurse Redheart said.

Fluttershy nodded and decided she'd best get a move on. As much as she wanted to stay by her friends side, she had to tend to the wildlife back at her cottage and make sure they're alright. She did spare one last glance at the clone before leaving the room, but not more than a few seconds.

The trip back to her cottage was for the most part, uneventful. She'd spotted a flock of birds soaring overhead in the direction of Whitetail woods, and there were quite a few ponies out and about on picnic baskets with friends and enjoying the warm sunny day. She'd love to join them in having a nice picnic with her friends, but she knew it would be bittersweet with Strider's situation.

Speaking of her friends, she did spot Twilight and Spike sitting on a lone bench, a scroll being held in the young drakes hands along with a quill. Fluttershy's path already led her to her friend, so she simply continued forwards, managing to catch a bit of Twilight's last sentence as she approached.

"-ght be best for you to look into. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle." Twilight finished, Spikes rapid writing quickly following suit. "Oh, hey Fluttershy! Enjoying the wonderful weather?"

"Not as much as I did this morning." Fluttershy stated truthfully.

"What's wrong?" Spike questioned.

"Last night when I was tucking in some animals, I noticed Strider acting strangely outside my window. He seemed to be angry about something. So I went over to see if I could help, or figure out what was going on. But instead, he ended up falling to the ground. I rushed him to the hospital as quickly as I could with some help from Harry, and Nurse Redheart said that he has a tumor in his brain." Fluttershy explained.

"A tumor? How bad?" Twilight asked, her previous smile now long gone.

"Very bad, Strider's brain can't sent the right signals to keep some of his organs working. A lot of machines are hooked up to him right now and Nurse Redheart thinks he might be stuck the hospital until fall." Fluttershy said.

Twilight and Spike both exchanged glances, before returning their gazes back to the yellow pegasus.

"I hope he gets better, he was working so hard on that ship for so long." Spike stated.

"Yeah, I was actually checking over a report to Princess Celestia about Strider. If anypony knew about his species and how to help him get better, it would be her." Twilight exclaimed.

"That's a good idea! If Princess Celestia offers to help then Strider will be back on his feet in no time." Fluttershy said.

With those words in the air, Twilight quickly got to work on rewriting the report. It didn't take long before she was done and wrapped up the scroll in a red ribbon with a gold royal seal.

"Alright Spike, send the letter." Twilight instructed, hoofing the letter back into his claws.

Spike nodded and lifted the scroll into the air. With one quick puff of green fire, the scroll was turned into a sparkling grey cloud of dust. Immediately after all the paper was turned, the dust took off towards Canterlot, its message completely in-tact for the princesses to read.

Chapter 33: Old Forgotten History

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Canterlots lights were beginning to flicker to life as its residents got prepared for the approaching night. One pony in particular couldn't help but smile upon noticing just how many ponies were still awake and enjoying life, even with the sun long since lowered . Standing proudly atop one of the tallest towers of Canterlots royal castle was a relatively new Princess Luna, her light blue mane and tail only recently beginning to obtain its lost galaxy-like coloration and flouration.

Princess Luna looked back up at the night sky, her horn still alight whilst her magic hoisted the moon higher into the sky. Once it was in its proper location, she halted the spell and began looking over her newly made night. Several well placed stars were sparkling in sync, outlining a few shapes for anypony to spot if they desired. Distant planets and stars were illuminated perfectly, having just enough glow to announce their presence but not enough to draw away from its neighbors.

Overall, it proved one thing that Luna took pride in. Even after so many years of being locked away in the moon, she hadn't lost her touch when it involved sculpting a beautiful night landscape. In fact, many ponies were still debating whether or not the night had gotten less dull ever since she'd resumed control. Celestia's magic could handle the job well enough, but Luna's talent with the night is second to none, and her older sister had made sure to tell her this when she'd rose her first night in a millennium.

Sadly, she couldn't stand outside and watch over Equestria all night, not physically at least. With that in mind, Luna abandoned her post on her towers balcony and entered her room. She'd been surprised to see that her room had not only been left almost completely unchanged, but it had also been dusted and cleaned expertly, leaving zero dust behind to cling onto all her ancient items.

Luna was advancing on her bed, fully intent on getting to work in the dreamscape, but she didn't get past raising the first blanket with her magic. A long stretch of steady and firm knocks rang from the door to the outer stairwell, followed by a masculine voice calling out to her.

"Enter." Luna said statically, watching as the door swung inwards and a royal guard took a single step inside the room.

She instantly recognises the guard was one of Celestia's solar guards, his golden armor sticking out against the dark colors of her room. His light blue irises were focused and fixated straight ahead.

"Your Highness, your sister has requested you in the throne room." The guard exclaimed.

"At this hour? Cans't thou't inform us as to why?" Luna asked as she dropped the blanket back onto her bed.

"Unfortunately no, she only requested for me to take you to her." The guard stated, moving out of the doorway to let the lunar princess through.

"Very well, let us not keep our sister waiting." Luna responded, beginning the long journey of trotting down a rather extensive flight of stairs.

Behind her, the guard couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at Luna's wording. He merely shrugged it off and followed, shutting the door to the stairwell upon arriving at ground level.

It didn't take them long to find themselves before the massive golden doors of the castles main throne room. The guard quickly opened the doors, before standing back and giving the princess a salute. Luna simply nodded to him, before entering the throne room, hearing the doors gently click shut behind her.

Luna immediately spotted her sister, who was currently sitting on her lone throne at the other end of the room. She knew Celestia had ordered another throne to be constructed and placed alongside hers, but it has of yet to be finalized, leaving the throne single in the large hall. But the throne wasn't on her mind right now, Celestia had immediately taken that spot in her mind.

Princess Celestia wasn't smiling like she usually did. This meant one of two things. One, this meeting was right after an incredibly annoying meeting with nobles, or two, there was a serious matter at hoof. The latter seemed the most likely due to the fact that she'd been summoned while her sister should be at the very least getting ready for bed.

"Sister? Thou has't wanted to see us?" Princess Luna asked.

"Yes Luna, sorry about the sudden meeting, but something of grave importance needs to be discussed between us. Twilight Sparkle sent me a report on a creature that is currently living in Ponyville. So far, the creature seems to be peaceful since she didn't say anything about it hurting anypony," Celestia exclaimed.

"A creature? What species?" Luna inquired.

"That's the thing sister. Twilight said that she didn't have any information on the creature, but she did write a description and an illustration. I'm positive it matches that of the ancient ones." Celestia proclaimed, her facial expression expertly hidden with practice.

Luna's thoughts on who the creature could be stopped dead in its tracks. At first, she hadn't been completely sure if she'd heard her sister correctly, but she repeated it, informing her that it indeed was what she'd thought she'd heard. That didn't make it any less impossible.

Celestia got up from her throne and trotted around towards the back wall, motioning for Luna to follow. Behind the throne was a single door, which opened up to expose a long hallway that extended deep into the castle. The two sisters trotted down the long hallway in silence, magical torches igniting on their own as they approached them. It didn't take long before they reached the end of the hall, where a massive metal vault door stood before them.

"Surely it couldn't be the same ones. They went extinct decades ago." Luna pointed out.

"We don't know if they went extinct. We were only told that one day, they seemingly vanished from the planet. But if my assumption is correct, then we might have a very big situation on our hooves. " Celestia exclaimed as she ignited her horn with her magical aura.

Several locks and switches were engulfed in a fluid yellow aura as the alabaster alicorn unlocked the door. Once one last audible click was heard, the door creaked open a little. Celestia opened the vault door the rest of the way with a fore-hoof, letting a thick wave of dust flow out into the hallway. The two quickly entered the room afterwards, the door remaining open for them to leave whenever they pleased.

The room within was completely engulfed in darkness, the thick black sea staying solid even with Luna's super-equine night vision. Celestia fixed this with the quick cast of a spell. Suddenly, the entire room was engulfed in light as several torches were ignited all at once, their orange flames dancing in the air.

The walls were coated with dust and rotting wooden beams, and any wallpaper that had been used had long since deteriorated with age. Several wooden shelves were laid out around the room, some of them broken beyond repair. But the shelves weren't the important things in this room, only the things to keep the 'valuable' objects from simply lying in piles on the floor.

Multiple strange old items were scattered around the room, some simply placed on rotting shelves while others were in boxes or just on the floor. The remains of what once was a grand golden chandelier rested in the middle of the room, cobwebs covering most of it.

Celestia went over to one of the dusty and cluttered corners, the walls lined with several boxes stacked on top of one another as well as a few posters that were so faded that nothing in them could be identifiable. There were also a few torn and burnt flags rolled up and set aside, their colors and meanings were completely unknown to either of the rulers.

Celestia levitated one of the torches off of its spot on the wall and gave it to Luna, who quickly grabbed it in her own magical aura. Celestia then trotted over to a box that rested right in front of a grey poster, a strange black symbol barely visible against the solid grey background. She pushed aside a few stray objects on the box before opening it to check its contents. Once she was sure it was the right box, she levitated it over to where Luna was standing.

Celestia then levitated a scroll out of the box and unraveled it, the yellowing piece of parchment struggling to keep itself together even with the preservation enchantments that had been cast on it. She blew off a bit of dust that was covering some words before turning the scroll around for Luna to see.

After briskly reading a few paragraphs, Luna took the scroll in her magical grasp as well as levitating the scroll Twilight had sent from where Celestia was keeping it on her back. The lunar alicorn compared the two scrolls, focusing on the set of illustrations that they both had.

"These two creatures do seem to line up with each other. But where did this creature come from?" Luna wondered out loud.

"I've got no idea. But if one can return, then others can as well." Princess Celestia claimed.

"What about the mirror?" Luna questioned.

"A guard would of reported seeing it, not to mention how it could get all the way to Ponyville without being seen." Celestia pointed out.

Luna nodded in understatement, but that just rose another question. Where did it come from?

Celestia trotted over to a shelf that had several old books scattered on it. She levitated a red journal with a golden hand print on it and flipped through some pages. When she was done, she put the journal back on the shelf and moved onto another.

Celestia went through several other books and journals before finally coming across a grey journal with a strange symbol on it, both the coloring and symbol matching the old poster hanging above the box she'd retrieved. She flipped through a few pages before stopping on a page that showed an illustration. She looked at the illustration for a few seconds, before giving it to Luna.

The illustration depicted a tall alicorn shaking hooves with a bipedal homo-sapiens who was wearing a set of robes. Several other homo-sapiens and ponies stood behind their respective leaders, each one staring blankly ahead. The ponies wore old armor while the homo-sapiens wore robes and their own armor.

"Almost everything that was written down for that time has been lost from age or destruction. But from what information we have, I think our races came to an agreement about a war." Celestia proclaimed, trotting over to another shelf.

"A war? Every war that has ever taken part on Equus has been archived. No war has ever been fought with these homo-sapiens." Luna exclaimed.

"All the wars on Equus, yes." Celestia agreed, her gaze returning to the old poster depicting the strange black symbol.

The solar alicorn lifted a golden shoe covered hoof and gently set it on the poster. She stared at it for a long dragged out minute, before she removed her hoof from the fabric.

"But not from beyond the stars." Celestia finished.

Luna stared at the poster herself for a few seconds, the words her sister had just said flowing through her mind like a river from a previously clogged up lake. What her sister was claiming was something typically only ever thought of in stories and old myths, yet the pieces she'd been given seemed to fit perfectly with her statement.

"If this 'war' Twilight is telling us about is spreading to our world, then I fear our little ponies won't be able to match their forces and power." Celestia said, turning to face her sister. "But I do know that we won't let any harm come to our subjects without a fight."

"We couldn't agree more" Princess Luna responded, her eyes filled with determination.

The two sisters both silently agreed that their time in the old vault had concluded, and began trotting back towards the entrance/exit. However, before Luna could leave the room, she spotted something out of the corner of her eye. She glanced over at a pile of old books and papers, noticing something shiny reflecting some light from the torches.

She levitated a few books off of the object, revealing a small metallic cylindrical looking device. It was primarily a dusty silver color, but it did have a few spots that seemed to be a black rubbery material. There were a few small switches on one side, along with a single yellow button.

"Luna?" Celestia called out, wondering what had kept her sister so long in the vault.

"Sorry, our eyes caught sight of something. Tis nothing important." Luna responded, fully believing her own words as she said them.

Luna was ready to leave the vault, but couldn't help herself as she levitated the object out of the pile of parchment and books. She slipped it under a wing, before finally exiting the room. The torches distinguished themselves as the vault door swung shut, plunging the room once again in a thick layer of darkness.

Chapter 34: A Strange Door

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Princess Luna sat upright in her royal queen sized bed, rotating the strange cylindrical object in her light blue aura a couple hoof-lengths from her face. She still wasn't quite sure why she'd taken it with her, but it felt important to her for some reason, like an old trinket long forgotten in her closet that she'd once held dear to herself hundreds of years ago. She'd tried to clean off some of the dust and grime from its chrome body, but it remained glued to the object despite her best efforts. She'd fiddled with the switches a few times, but nothing seemed to have happened, not even a creak from within its metal body. All that was left to push, was the lone yellow button.

Luna concentrated her magic on the button, and pressed down on it with force. Suddenly, a large stick of neon green light shot from one end of object, immediately extinguishing the darkness around itself. A low humming noise rang through the object now, making it feel more like a newly activated mechanism than a mere trinket.

Luna's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates at the sight before her, completely caught off guard at what she was seeing. Her levitation spell on it nearly shattered, her concentration more scrambled than the set of scrambled eggs she'd tried making a couple days ago. She wasn't allowed near the stove anymore by royal decree. The neon green light hadn't added any weight to the device, nor did the cylindrical body seem any different than it had prior to its activation.

The lunar princess immediately scanned the device for any sources of magic, yet her own magic came back with nothing. That couldn't be possible, sure she'd been gone for a thousand years, but she'd poured through hundreds of books ever since she'd arrived at her new home. And through all the information she'd both read about and been told by her sister and guards, she'd never heard of anything like this in the slightest. Yet before her was what seemed to be a concentrated blade of pure green light, a feat impressive of it's own let alone with such a small object.

As Princess Luna waved the device around in her magic, the beam of light made a slight whirring sound as it danced through the air. It acted somewhat like a sword that were sometimes used by the Royal Guard, each having a sharp blade and a sturdy guard.

"Hmm, if this is truly a sword, then what happens if-" Luna got out of her bed and pointed the green beam of light at the floor of her room, before slowly poking a single wooden floorboard.

Much to Luna's surprise, the beam of light went right through the floorboard, leaving a hole in the wood when she retracted the device.

Luna knelt down to the floorboard, eyeing the hole in disbelief. How in Equus could a beam of light cut through a solid plank of wood?

With curiosity now flowing through her mind, Luna stood back up on her hooves and trotted over to the balcony doors. She pushed the glass doors open, allowing a faint gust of cool air to blow into the room. She then looked at the wall that separated her room and the outside world.

The castle walls were made out of solid white concrete and were as tough as boulders, although she was sure the old castle's walls were ten times sturdier. Even with the downgrade, the only thing that could break these walls were strong magical blasts or heavy objects like cannon balls. And even those have to take a few tries before a wall would crumble.

Luna stood in the doorway between her room and the balcony, watching closely as her magic slowly inched the green beam towards the wall from her room. Once the beam made contact with the wall, a loud hissing noise began to fill her ears.

The more the lunar princess pushed the blade into the wall, the louder the hissing and amount of steam radiated from the hole. But surely this blade couldn't break through the entire wall, right?

But the more she pushed the blade, the further and further it went into the wall. It surprised her that she almost felt zero force when pushing the blade through the wall. Then, after giving the blade one final shove, the beam of light broke through the wall and emerged from the other side of it.

It didn't take long before the entire beam of light was through the wall and out the other side, leaving only the silver device on the inside of the room. Luna retracted the beam from the wall and looked at it in dismay. This thing cut through the castle walls like a knife through butter.

"Very impressive, we shalt see to it that this is thoroughly examined." Luna stated to herself, pressing the yellow button again, which caused the green beam to vanish back into itself.

Luna trotted back over towards her bed and opened up one of her nightstands drawers. She set the device down inside and shut the drawer, casting a strong locking charm on it just in-case. As she double and triple checked the charm to see if it was working properly, her eyes drifted towards the top of the nightstand. She didn't have much in her room to begin with, what with all her old belongings either destroyed or left forgotten in the old castle, so the nightstand naturally held plenty of spare room.

She had a reading lamp fully charged with lightning bugs, a copy of 'Understanding The Speech Of A Pony', an old beaten up abacus, and an apparently seriously outdated alarm clock. Apparently there were machines now that could activate music to wake ponies up now instead of the classic amplified bell chime. But the built in alarm enchantment wasn't the main thing to focus on with the clock, that lied with the hour and minute hands that were currently positioned at a near perfect ninety degree angle.

"Nine thirty nine?! Oh we should halve started work hours ago!" Luna said, mentally scoulding herself for getting so entranced with the device.

The lunar princess wasted zero time getting into bed, feeling the comfy feather stuffed pillow under her head as she shut her eyes and ignited her horn, ready to hop into the dream realm. Her thoughts on the device faded into the back of her mind, filed away for later usage. She still had her duties to attend to, and her subjects were far more important than a strange laser sword.

Luna lifted her eyelids once again, revealing the familiar sight of a starlit path aligned with thousands upon thousands of doors. Some of these doors had unique designs on them, whilst others were completely plain and failed to stick out at all.

The night princess levitated a small clipboard out of seemingly nowhere with a blank sheet of paper on it as well as a freshly dipped quill. Being the ruler of the dream realm came with quite a few perks, but the job never seemed to get any easier sometimes.

She chose a door at random to begin her normal rounds whilst her magic searched for nightmares, but stopped in her tracks when she noticed another door a quarter mile down she didn't recognise. It was common for new doors to appear and old ones to fade away as new life was born and old life moved on, but this door seemed, strange, compared to the others.

The door itself seemed to be made out of solid white steel metal, with an assortment of scorch marks scattered around it randomly. In the place where a doorknob should of been, was a rectangular looking object with a set of numbers on certain buttons. Plastered in the middle of the door was a strange black symbol that looked like a wheel of some sorts.

Luna set the clipboard down on the door she was originally going to enter as a bookmark to remember which one, before trotting over to the door. She gave the new door a once over, looking for any sort of doorknob or handle to grab. When she found no such thing, her gaze locked onto the strange rectangle with the number buttons. She tried pressing a few in a pattern, but the door didn't open. All she got was a red block of light from the top of the rectangle and an annoying beep.

"Strange..." Luna thought, having only run across locked doors in the dream realm on a couple rare occasions.

Luna tried loosening the door up with some magic, fishing around for some sort of weakness to exploit. Yet her searching came back with nothing. Once again reaching a dead end involving a mysterious object, Luna felt her temper rising as a result.

She gave the door a fierce glare, and stopped her hooves down authoritatively on the starlit path.

"THOU DOOR SHALT LET US PASS FOR WE ARE THE PRINCESS OF THE NIGHT AND PROTECTOR OF DREAMS!!" Luna bellowed, her voice so loud that a few other dream doors were blown open.

Luna glared at the door for a few more seconds, before sighing. She looked around the area at all the open doors. A few objects or creatures from each ponies dream began to exit into the hall. She quickly used her magic to put the objects and creatures back into their respected dreams, shutting the doors after them.

Once each door was shut, she looked back at the strange door in defeat. She had other things to do then just play around with a single door for the entire night, she'd already gotten a late start.

However, when Luna glanced at the strange rectangle again, she noticed that the bar that would turn red now glowed yellow. Suddenly, the metal door slowly slid to the left, letting a crack of light from the dream leak out into the hall.

Luna went over to the door and tried to use her magic to open it the rest of the way, but the door remained solid like a boulder. So instead, she just peeked through the crack into the dream world beyond.

Luna's eyes adjusted to the light from within the dream, revealing a swamp-like area with several crates and machines set up.

It didn't take long before a set of movement caught Luna's eyes. She looked over at the source of the movement, expecting a pony to emerge from the swamp. However, to her shock, a bipedal homo-sapient creature wearing white armor and holding a strange black device emerged from the underbrush.

Luna spotted several other homo-sapiens wearing similar white armor and holding other strange black devices. The group went over to an area that was surrounded by monitors and began fiddling with them.

"Is that bombing strike ready yet? Those droids are getting to close." One said, rotating the object they were holding.

"Not yet Strider. They can't bomb their spot and ours at the same time. We have to hold this line, at all costs." Another said to the one they called Strider.

"Alright then, set up a defensive perimeter around the area. Those tanks are gonna be quite difficult to keep at bay" Strider exclaimed.

The others took off around the area, vanishing from view from where Princess Luna was standing. Strider went over to a large glowing box of some sorts and began fiddling with it, causing some colors to flash across it. He continued doing this for a couple minutes, before he suddenly glanced over in the direction the door Luna was looking from was.

The two found themselves locked in a stare down between each other, both waiting for the other to make the first move. It took awhile, but Luna eventually found the will to make the first move. She rose a hoof and opened her mouth to talk, only to have the door slam shut right on her muzzle.

The lunar princess rubbed her aching muzzle a couple times, before glaring at the door. How dare it shut her out of a dream, the very princess of the night and guardian of dreams!

"OPEN THY DOOR AT ONCE! WE ARE NOT FINISHED WITH THIY WORK!" Luna shouted in the royal canterlot voice at the door, trying her best to mimic what she'd done previously that had caused it to open. But unlike before, the door remained shut, no yellow bar appearing on the side panel.

Luna snarled at the door, before turning around to face the other doors. Fine, if this dream wanted to keep her out, then so be it. She had plenty other dreams to check up on, and she'd already wasted enough time just because of curiosity.

She did give the door an angry buck though in spite, before trotting over to the door she had left the clipboard on.

Chapter 35: Cutie Mark Crusaders Gunship Repairers! (Revised)

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Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle all watched in unison as a large machine pumped air through a tube into Strider's lifeless body. It was definitely an awful sight to oversee, knowing that just a few weeks earlier the clone in the bed had been just as active as them. Resting on one of the nightstands where a lamp had been placed were three get well soon cards, each in the colors of their respective writers.

After a couple more minutes passed, the trio mutually agreed that they were ready to leave, not wanting to look at Strider's still body on the bed any longer. They turned their gazes away from the bed and locked onto Fluttershy's figure, who'd been waiting patiently in a chair by the door.

"When's Strider gonna wake up? He's been like that fer three weeks now an' we're worried 'bout him." Apple Bloom stated. The other two Crusaders nodded in agreement.

Fluttershy averted her gaze from the trio for a couple seconds, debating on the best course of action. Eventually, she chose honestly.

"Sorry girls, but I don't really know. All we can do is wait for him to heal." Fluttershy exclaimed.

The trio felt disheartened at the mares words, turning once again to face Strider. They stared at him for a bit longer, before an idea suddenly struck Apple Bloom's mind. She waved for her friends to follow her as she left the room and took off towards the exit of the building.

"So, what are we gonna do?" Scootaloo questioned as they trotted towards Ponyville.

"While we were in Strider's hospital room, Ah was think'n 'bout how we mite be able ta help work on that ship thingy that he was work'n on!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.

"You mean that weird white box thing in front of Fluttershy's cottage?" Sweetie Belle questioned.

"Oh yeah! That thing. Strider was kind enough to let me hide inside it when... " Scootaloo trailed off as the memory of an angry chicken mob returned with a vengeance.

"When what?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"Nothing!" Scootaloo answered rather quickly.

"Well, except fer you Sweetie Belle, Strider has helped both mah'self an' Scootaloo with someth'n. We should return the favor." Apple Bloom explained.

"Yeah! And maybe we'll get our cutie marks after finishing it for him! How cool would a cutie mark in repairing space stuff look?" Scootaloo said cheerfully.

"Then it's settled! We'll finish Strider's ship fer him so when he wakes up, he doesn't have ta worry 'bout it." Apple Bloom declared.

With those words in mind, the Crusaders quickly dashed off towards Fluttershy's cottage. Little did they know that a set of blue eyes were locked onto them as they ran.

Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo all looked upwards in awe at the sight of the massive L.A.A.T., the machine towering over the little fillies. From where they were standing, it could of been mistaken for a small metal cottage that lacked normal windows, doors, and a thatched roof. It also looked fairly well repaired, with little to no holes in the metal plating or snapped wires dangling inside.

"So, where do we start?" Sweetie Belle questioned, looking over the massive contraption for anything that might appear to need fixing.

"Hmm, that wing!" Scootaloo stated, pointing out a discarded piece of metal that seemed to resemble some sort of wing. A lone red toolbox had been left at its side, its lid firmly shut and slightly rusty.

"Perfect! We'll just pick up where he left off." Apple Bloom exclaimed, trotting over to the toolbox.

With a quick push of her hoof, the top of the toolbox opened, revealing several shiny tools resting within. Apple Bloom grabbed what looked like a wrench and pulled it out of the cluster of tools with relative ease.

Apple Bloom put the tool on the ground next to the toolbox and went to grab another. However, before she could, she noticed that Scootaloo had a wide grin on her face.

The pegasus went over to the toolbox and knocked it over, causing all the tools to roll onto the ground. Now she could grab whatever tools she needed without having to shuffle through them all. Although, several tools didn't even look like they could fix anything.

Sweetie Belle picked up a strange tool that had a silver barrel and a wire that hooked up to a small tank next to the wing.

"So, how do we know which tools to use?" Sweetie Belle asked, trying to figure out what the tool she was holding might do.

"It can't be that hard. Ah've seen mah sister work on things on tha farm all tha time!" Apple Bloom claimed.

Scootaloo fiddled with a switch on the tank as Sweetie Belle set the tool down. She turned the switch forward, then backwards, then to the side.

"Well, we better get to work!" Scootaloo said, twisting the switch to the other side.

A clicking noise sounded from the tank as energy began to whir through it. Suddenly, a blue flame ignited from the tool Sweetie Belle had set down. However, since the tool was so close to her tail, the flame caught the end of her tail on fire.

"Oh, so that's what that does." Scootaloo exclaimed, looking at the flame.

"What does what?" Sweetie Belle asked, turning around to see what had happened.

The unicorn's pale green eyes widened as she noticed the fire on her tail.

"AHH! Somepony get water!" Sweetie Belle cried, frantically beating her tail against the ground in an effort to put out the fire.

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo quickly rushed over to Fluttershy's cottage. Surely she had a hose somewhere! It didn't take long before they found a green hose used for watering the plants outside the building, and quickly turned it on. Water blasted from the nozzle which was then directed at Sweetie Belle's tail.

The water was quick to act, forcing the fire to die down as its flames were showered in the liquid. It didn't take long before the fire had been completely extinguished, allowing the CMC to sigh in relief.

"Ok, with that situation under control, should we start on the repairs?" Scootaloo questioned.

"Yeah, and can we please not use fire?" Sweetie Belle asked, her eyes locked on the scorched end of her tail.

"Hammer?" Apple Bloom requested, raising a hoof.

Scootaloo quickly set a hammer down in her friend's outstretched hoof, earning a thank you from the farm pony. Apple Bloom then started bashing at a metal panel with the hammer, bending it into what she assumed was its correct shape. She'd been tasked with bending all the outstretched metals back into place on the discarded 'wing', and so far, she'd done rather well with her task.

Scootaloo had been tasked with connecting broken wires and replacing broken bits of metal. So far, she'd managed to get the entire wing up and fixed, and it had only cost her a couple electrifying mistakes.

"Alright, this wing is ready to go." Scootaloo declared to her friends.

Sweetie Belle glanced out of the open cockpit of the massive machine, a smile clear as day on her face. Once her gaze met Scootaloo's she waved her hoof a bit.

"Good job!" Sweetie Belle cheered, before resuming her assigned task.

Whatever this machine was, it had tons of cool looking mechanisms in the area she'd found herself sitting in. There were strange black colored glass rectangles surrounded by tons of switches and buttons that seemed to flash with color every here and there. At first, she thought they were flashing in a pattern, but they seemed to be doing it at completely random intervals.

Sweetie Belle pressed a button, seeing if it would do anything. When nothing happened she tried another, and another, and another. Eventually, she found herself trying to press each button as it lit up, which was beginning to feel like a big game of Celestia Says.

She continued to play this game with the contraption until finally, registered happened. She watched as the black rectangle suddenly changed colors, certain portions of it being engulfed in strange symbols she didn't recognise. Two switches below the rectangular panel began glowing, as if signalling the filly to press one of them. She did just that, flicking the left switch upwards which caused some text to change and turn red. Sweetie Belle stared at the red text in an attempt to decipher it, before reeling back in surprise when a rectangular chip popped up from the controls. The unicorn stared at the strange object for a couple seconds, before cautiously grasping it in her hoof and pulling it out.

It gave way easily, now free from its compartment and firmly in Sweetie Belle's grasp. She rotated the chip a couple times in her hooves, examining each side like it was a puzzle box. It seemed to be a simple small grey rectangular object with several silver lines plastered around it along with some circular glowing parts near the edges. She debating whether or not to put it back, but a familiar voice caught her attention before she could decide.

"What are you three doing!?" Twilight inquired, her eyes locking onto the trio of fillies fumbling about with Strider's project.

Upon being alerted to the unicorn's presence, the CMC quickly halted their work and rushed over to their towns librarian. She stared at them with disapproval, but also some curiosity.

"We're fix'n up Strider's ship as ah thanks and ah present fer him when he wakes up." Apple Bloom exclaimed.

Twilight didn't seemed that surprised at this response. "Guess that explains why I couldn't find you. Anyways, you really shouldn't be messing around with this thing. As nice as it seems, none of you know what it's supposed to do, and that means a fixing job won't really be effective."

"Oh." The three Crusaders said in unison, considering what Twilight had said.

"But it was a nice thought, and your hearts were in the right place. I'm sure he'll appreciate some help, especially while he recovers. Which brings me back to why I was searching for you three." Twilight stated. "Apparently Strider woke up a couple hours after you left and is probably finished with his examinations and is on his way back here as we speak."

"Really!?" The Crusaders said at the same time, eyes widening.

"Yep, although i'm still unsure if he's properly recovered or not." Twilight proclaimed under her breath.

Apple Bloom smiled, pride clear as day on her face. Sure, the wing still needed to be attached. But other than that, the machine seemed in tip-top condition and ready for usage. And even if it wasn't she'd be happy to help Strider finish it up.

The filly turned to look over the machine again, admiring the areas that had been fixed up thanks to both herself and her friends. However, her eyes locked onto something strange sitting in the massive opening in the center of the machine. Resting in an open crate were several flashing red lights, each one perfectly in sync with each other.

"Hey Scootaloo? Sweetie Belle? Did either of ya put those flash'n objects there?" Apple Bloom asked, gesturing with a forehoof at the flickering lights.

Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle and Twilight all looked over at where the flashing lights were located. A couple seconds later, both filles simply shrugged.

"No idea. I know I didn't put those there." Scootaloo claimed.

"I didn't either. I was in that control place the whole time." Sweetie Belle insisted.

Twilight stepped forward, looking down at the Crusaders.

"So if none of you put those there, then who did?" Twilight inquired.

The CMC simply shrugged in response, earning more confusion for the four ponies. Twilight stared at the crate with the objects in question, before she began advancing towards them.

As Twilight got closer to the crate, several loud beeping noises began to fill her ears. Once she stepped hoof into the machine, the objects were beeping heavily and increasing in intensity. It made her feel uneasy, but she kept going regardless.

Twilight slowly levitated one of the objects from the crate up into the light for her to see. The object seemed to be a small spherical ball of metal with a flashing red light near the top. Several other objects that looked exactly identical were littered throughout the crate.

As the librarian observed the strange sphere, Apple Bloom felt a sudden chill run down her spine. She stared at the unicorn for a couple seconds, the feeling only increasing as seconds rolled by.

"Do either of ya feel that?" Apple Bloom asked, but her friends merely gave her confused glances.

Suddenly, a streak of dread shot through the farmpony's body, her eyes widening as she locked onto Twilight. She didn't know why, but for some reason, she thought something bad was about to happen.

As the beeping increased even more, the dread continued to spiral out of control. Eventually, Apple Bloom's fear took control of her actions.

"DROP IT TWILIGHT!" She screamed, catching everypony's attention with her loud voice.

Twilight glanced between the filly and the ball a couple times, before she dropped it back into the crate with the others and dove out of the machine. Right as the ball hit the rest, a massive explosion triggered within, sending the entire machine into a fiery blaze.

Chapter 36: Beyond Repair

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Strider still felt dizzy even as he walked with Fluttershy towards her cottage. To say that he had been shocked to be told that he had been out for over three weeks would be an understatement. However, Fluttershy was able to somewhat calm him down.

"So you were dreaming about a b-battlefield?" Fluttershy asked in a weak tone.

"Yep, it felt real though. The only thing that made it different from a real battlefield was how my brothers acted. They were acting more like droids than human, telling me to follow orders. But the strangest thing was when I saw an eye watching me from a door." Strider exclaimed.

"An eye?" Fluttershy questioned.

"Yeah, an eye with a blue iris. But before I could make out the creature, the door shut. When I opened it, the only thing on the other side was the rest of the base." Strider stated.

"Sounds scary." Fluttershy said.

"Not really. I've seen much worse during other battles." Strider claimed, straightening his helmet on his head.

Fluttershy was about to comment when a massive explosion rang through the two's ears. They looked forwards to see a wave of fire and smoke float into the sky.

"That's close to my cottage!" Fluttershy stated, panic rising at the thought of her animal friends being hurt.

"Come on Fluttershy, double time! We need to see what happened!" Strider proclaimed, taking off in a full trooper sprint down the path towards the explosion.

Strider and Fluttershy reached the cottage in minutes, both sighing with relief when it was completely in tact. However, a few seconds after that realization settled in, Strider's blood ran cold.

"No, no no no," Strider repeated, rushing around the cottage and towards the sight.

"no no no NO!!" Strider shouted as he spotted the source of the explosion.

Resting on the burned up grass was an on fire Gunship, pieces falling to the ground with hard thumps and crashes. Standing in front of the scene was Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and a third filly who he didn't recognize.

Strider ran towards them, anger in his eyes. But he quickly realized that they were stunned by the shock. Each one stared, unblinking at the chaos.

"Can any of you three hear me!? What happened!?" Strider questioned, but the fillies remained still.

A loud smashing sound caught Strider's attention, causing him to turn around and gaze at the carnage. He quickly spotted something moving from under a piece of metal.

Something was caught underneath.

Strider quickly dashed over to the shard of metal, his suit offering zero protection to the flames around him. With what strength he had, Strider lifted the shard of metal off the creature and dropped it to the side.

Resting in a heap of broken wires and burned grass was Twilight Sparkle, her mane and tail slightly singed by fire. The Unicorns eyes were shut but her chest rose and fell, signalling that she was still breathing.

Strider tried to move Twilight but quickly realized that a much larger piece of metal had trapped both her hind legs under it. Strider tried to move the piece of metal but halted once Twilight grunted in pain. He was gonna have to lift it off.

Strider went over to the piece of metal and tried to lift it, but the weight proved to be to heavy for him to lift. He looked over at the three fillies who were still staring at the wreckage.


Those words seemed to finally break the fillies from their trances. They quickly rushed over to Strider and with their combined strength, lifted the chunk of metal off of Twilight.

Strider quickly picked up the unicorn and followed the fillies over to a safer part of the area. A strike of pain from Strider's chest caused him to fall, landing hard on the grass with Twilight rolling out of his hands.

Fluttershy emerged from the side of the cottage and instantly spotted the two on the ground. She rushed over to them and let out a gasp in horror at the state Twilight was in.

Fluttershy quickly rushed inside the cottage and came out with a medical kit. She quickly got to work, trying her best to bandage any serious cuts.

As she did that, Strider got back up on his feet and turned to face the destruction of the Gunship. He watched, unable to do anything as the Republic Symbol, a sign of hope and order, broke off of the Gunship's walls and fell into the flames below.

Strider fell to his knees, the hope for him returning to the Republic draining with each crackle of the fire. He had been so close to finishing it, so close, only for it all to be blown to pieces.

"Strider?" A trembling Apple Bloom called out.

Strider clenched his hands into fists, fighting the urge to scream bloody murder into the air. He looked up one last time at the wreckage, his ticket home burning right in front of him, before his anger finally began to leak.

"What were you three THINKING!?" Strider shouted, turning to face the fillies who quickly recoiled in fear.

"W-we were just try'n to f-fix your ship so ya didn't need ta worry 'bout it w-when ya woke up." Apple Bloom stammered.

"I-It was supposed t-to be a gift for helping us." Scootaloo exclaimed.

"W-we didn't know it w-would explode." The final filly who appeared to be a unicorn stated.

"Well, not only did you DESTROY my way home, you seriously INJURED someone else!" Strider barked, pointing at Twilight.

"We're so sorry! We didn't know! If we could change what happened then we absolutely would!" Scootaloo claimed.

Strider wanted to grab a DC-15S and take out all his anger on every single cloud he could see. But instead, he just grabbed the first thing he found from his utility belt which happened to be a spare power pack and chucked it as hard as he could at the wreckage.

The power pack struck part of the right transportation bay door, causing it to break free from the rest of the ship and fall to the ground loudly. Strider didn't care, the ship was already a lost cause, just like any way to get back to the Republic.

Chapter 37: Sorry Doesn't Cut It

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Strider watched as Rainbow Dash shook one last cloud, sending another wave of rain showering down across the wreckage. The final wave of rain extinguished the last remaining flames, allowing the Gunship to be accessible again.

Rainbow Dash bucked the cloud out of existence, before landing in front of him.

"That was a lot of flames, but they're all out." Rainbow Dash claimed.

"Thanks..." Strider said blankly as he walked past her and towards the wreckage.

Strider glanced over his shoulder to see Rainbow Dash fly over to where the rest of her friends were standing. All of them had come rushing once the Gunship exploded, But Rainbow Dash arrived first and managed to wrangle up some clouds to rain on the flames.

Strider weaved through a few outstretched metal shards, making his way over to the cargo hold. He reached the slightly burned panel and tried to open it, but the panel remained stuck. With a groan of annoyance, Strider grabbed the top of the panel and pried it off of its hinges.

The panel fell to the ground with a thump, sending a faint cloud of dust into the air. Strider tried to peek into the cargo hold, but the darkness inside made it near impossible.

Strider flipped on his helmet's headlamp, revealing the interior of the cargo hold. To his dismay, almost every crate had been crushed by fallen panels, or burned up by flames.

However, what did cheer him up was when he saw the Z-6 still in tact. The only damage on it seemed to be some soot on the handle and it was on its side. Strider grabbed the rotary blaster and pulled it out of the cargo hold.

Strider gently set the Z-6 down outside and went back to looking in the cargo hold. He managed to spot two other crates that seemed untouched. He grabbed one of them and set it next to the Z-6, then the other.

Strider popped off the lids of the two crates and looked inside. One of them had two DC-15S's and ammunition which was a score, but the other one only had a few broken wires and a single cable attachment for a DC-15S.

"Well, it's better than nothing." Strider told himself, putting the lids back on the crates and stacking them.

Strider picked up the two crates and carefully balanced the Z-6 on top. Once he was sure it was safe, he left the wreckage and set the stuff down next to Fluttershy's cottage.

Once Strider double checked that everything was alright, he went over to the group of ponies who were all standing over Twilight who had regained conscientiousness.

"Twilight? You think you can stand?" Fluttershy asked.

"Yeah, I think i'm alright." Twilight claimed, getting to her hooves.

"Phew, we were so worried!" Rarity stated.

Applejack was about to agree when Strider pushed past her and towards where the Cutie Mark Crusaders were standing.

Strider grabbed his helmet and ripped it off, carelessly dropping it as he advanced towards the fillies. He wanted them to see him face to face for this.

"Now that everything has been cleared up, can any of you tell me as to what has happened here?" Strider demanded, glaring at them.

"We don't know! One second we were watching Twilight holding a strange object, the next was it blowing up!" Scootaloo claimed.

"An object? What did it look like?" Strider asked.

"Um, it was hard for us to get a good view, but they looked like metal circles with flashing red lights on the top." Scootaloo said.

"But Twilight must've gotten ah better look." Apple Bloom pointed out.

Strider looked over his shoulder at Twilight. A metal circle with a flashing red light huh? Strider might have an idea as to what those were.

Strider fished around in his utility belt, trying to find a certain item. Once he found what he was looking for, he pulled it out of the belt and went over to Twilight.

Strider knelt down next to the Unicorn and held up the object for her to see.

"Twilight, was this the object that you saw in the ship?" Strider asked.

Twilight used her magic to gently pick up the device. She rotated it around a little, before setting it back in Strider's hands.

"Yeah, that's the same one." Twilight proclaimed.

"That would explain how loud that explosion was." Strider muttered to himself.

"What do you mean?" Fluttershy asked, putting away the medical kit.

"This is a thermal detonator, used primarily on the battlefield. Once activated, a countdown begins with a flashing red light. Once that countdown reaches zero, they detonate. But someone has to activate it before it can go off." Strider exclaimed, turning to face the fillies.

Strider got up and walked back over to the three fillies, showing them the thermal detonator.

"Have any of you seen this before?"




Strider gripped the thermal detonator tightly, his anger rising.

"Well one of you did! So quit lying right to my face and tell me." Strider ordered.

"But none of us put them there! Sweetie Belle was in the cockpit, Ah was work'n on ah wing, and Scootaloo was work'n on the other one!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.

"Well one of you must of at least activated them, otherwise they wouldn't of blown up." Strider explained.

The other filly who was apparently called Sweetie Belle stood silent for a few seconds, before her eyes widened.

"Can they be activated remotely?" She asked.

"Yes, if they are hooked up to the right frequency. Why?"

"Um, I might of pressed a few buttons in the cockpit." Sweetie Belle admitted.

Strider glared at Sweetie Belle with fiery eyes.

"Why were you even pressing buttons in the first place!?" Strider questioned.

"Well, we thought the futuristic looking screens might of needed repairing. And since I was the only Crusader who has had experience with monitors and computers, I was the one chosen." Sweetie Belle exclaimed.

"But she didn't know that this would happen!" Scootaloo stated.

Strider's grip on the thermal detonator tightened even more, his knuckles turning white under the body suit.

"The only thing that needed fixing was the left wing! EVERYTHING else was ALREADY done! WHY would you even THINK that you would be able to fix a ship that ISN'T even FROM YOUR PLANET!?" Strider shouted.

The others quickly took notice of the scene and helped Twilight get to her hooves before rushing over to Strider and the CMC.

"We're so so sorry! I promise we are! We'll never do it again!" Apple Bloom promised.

"Sorry won't bring back my ship! I swear if you think you can just do stuff to people's things WITHOUT EVEN ASKING THEM then I SWEAR I--" Strider cut himself off, realizing that he was boiling over.

As much as Strider wanted to shout more, he needed to remember that they were just younglings, young ponies who didn't know what they were doing. But still, they shouldn't of touched his stuff.

Strider put the thermal detonator away in his utility belt and turned around, walking away from the three fillies. The others tried to talk to him but he ignored them. Instead, Strider walked right past them and towards who knows where. He just needed to take a walk. A moment to think about what to do.

Apple Bloom was about to follow but was cut off by Fluttershy. She was then quickly stared down by her sister as well as the rest of her friends.

All Apple Bloom could do was watch as Strider got further and further away into the distance, the only thing left behind was his helmet which still rested in the grass where he had dropped it.

"Y'all have a lot of explain'n ta do." Applejack said coldly.

Chapter 38: A Listening Ear

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The sun began to set, sending waves of color through the sky as it made its decent. It didn't take long before the moon replaced its position, shining down across the land.

The light of the moon reflected off of a small lake that Strider had stopped next to. He walked across a small docking area for row boats and sat down at the end, his eyes drifting across the water as he thought.

What now? His only way home was now destroyed, most of his equipment along with it. He was out of communication range with anything he had and was stuck on a planet that isn't supposed to exist.

"Maybe the Gunship still has enough parts to make a makeshift transmitter." Strider said to himself out loud.

Strider made a mental image of the Gunship's piloting bay and what he might be able to use. There was the Distress Signal, but he would have to make sure that it wouldn't get intercepted by any Separatist flag ships, not to mention hope that it wasn't destroyed completely.

As the Trooper went over the options he had, he began absentmindedly chucking stones that were on the side of the dock into the lake. The stones splashed as they made contact with the water, sending ripples throughout small parts of the lake. That was almost the only noise, besides the chirping of insects that surrounded the dock.

For awhile, that was the only noises that Strider heard as he continued to think. But he quickly made out another sound coming from behind him.

Strider looked over his shoulder to see Fluttershy trotting towards him from the other side of the dock.

The Pegasus halted, quickly realizing that she had been spotted. Fluttershy quickly moved her gaze to the dock, her right eye slightly hidden behind her mane.

"Sorry if I disturbed you. I can come back." Fluttershy said, not making any eye contact before beginning to leave.

"Don't worry, you didn't." Strider answered, looking back at the lake.

"Oh, well I came to tell you that the Cutie Mark Crusaders have been told their punishments. They accepted responsibility very well and have told us that they are deeply sorry and promised to never ever touch your stuff without permission." Fluttershy exclaimed, trotting over to the edge of the dock where Strider was sitting.

Fluttershy sat down at the edge of the dock next to the Trooper. She glanced at Strider, before looking out across the lake. Silence quickly overtook the area besides the occasional splash of stones meeting water.

"Are you ok?" Fluttershy questioned, watching a stone Strider threw splash into the lake.

The Trooper didn't answer, instead he just picked up another stone and got ready to toss it.

"Um, could I ask you a question?" Fluttershy asked, looking over at Strider.

"Fire away." Strider stated.

"What's it like? Traveling in space?" Fluttershy questioned.

Strider chucked another stone into the water, before glancing up at the sky.

"Well, to me it isn't much different then you waiting on a train to go somewhere. Nothing else really to do besides prepare for the battlefield." Strider exclaimed.

"Did you find any animals?" Fluttershy asked.

"Plenty, but almost any creature gets scared off once the battle begins. Heh, once on a mission to ambush a Droid Battalion, my brother Cosmo ended up having a Convor follow him for almost the entire trip." Strider said, grinning at the memory. "He was practically hollering at it the rest of the way to the ambush point."

"Cosmo?" Fluttershy questioned curiously.

"He was one of my brothers as well as one of my comrades in our squad. Cosmo could be a bit clumsy at times but his will always kept him on top." Strider explained, thinking about how Cosmo had never ever backed down from a mission, even when they involved climbing.

But the good memories of Cosmo quickly changed to the sounds of a plasma bolt striking the back of the Trooper and ending the fight for him. Strider's grin quickly faded as he recalled the battle that caused him to end up in the situation he was now in.

"And a good friend..."

Fluttershy quickly picked up on the change in Strider's tone and expression.

"Oh no, sorry if I brought up something uncomfortable." Fluttershy apologized.

"It's ok, you had no idea about what happened." Strider stated.

The Trooper looked out across the lake, watching the moonlight glisten across the water, before cracking a faint smile.

"You have a great team you know." Strider claimed, picking up another stone.

"What do you mean?" Fluttershy asked.

Strider chucked the stone as far as he could, waiting for it to splash and sink into the lake before answering.

"Your friends, Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. They're nice, determined, and seem to have each-other's backs." Strider explained.

The Trooper snickered, before chucking another stone into the lake.

"Reminds me of my squad."

Fluttershy glanced over at Strider; "Is that a good thing?"

"A great thing. It just makes me wonder if anyone else survived." Strider stated, his grin fading.

"If they are like my friends, then i'm sure they're alright and are searching for you right now." Fluttershy said.

Strider chucked one last stone into the water, before looking up at the night sky. Fluttershy also looked up, admiring the beautiful set of stars that had begun to appear within the darkness.

Fluttershy and Strider watched as a shooting star shot across the sky, along with several other stars sparkling and giving off the illusion of shapes forming between them. They were so distracted with the sight that neither of them noticed the filly that was behind them on the dock.

Apple Bloom looked at Strider with sorrowed eyes, mainly due to what she had overheard and how much of a horrible mistake she and the other Crusaders had made.

Not saying a word, Apple Bloom slowly set down Strider's helmet onto the dock. She had picked it up after being told what her punishment was by Applejack, which was a solid four full weeks without hanging out with the other Crusaders as well as doing an increased amount of chores around the farm.

Once Apple Bloom let go of the helmet, she trotted towards the direction of home. Halfway across the dock, she glanced over at Strider and Fluttershy one last time, before mumbling one last thing that was so quiet, even a mouse couldn't hear it.

"Strider...ahm so so sorry..." Apple Bloom whispered, before continuing on her way back home.

Chapter 39: Another Way

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One Week Later...

Strider set a crate down outside of a small wooden shed that was behind Fluttershy's cottage. Strider glanced over the exterior of the shed, seeing what state it was in. Still, as long as it had a roof, it would be better then waking up to another prank that Angel Bunny pulled on him, even with Fluttershy claiming that Angel had claimed to stop.

Strider reached for the door knob and turned it, waiting for a click before he pushed it. The door creaked due to the rusty hinges and wood that scraped across the ground, but the door did fully open.

The interior surrounded in darkness due to the lack of windows, but one flick on Strider's helmet's head lamp sent a wave of light into the shed and brightening it up.

Strider could see a few spare two by fours against the right wall as well as a single rusty gardening tool. A little lamp dangled over a single wooden chair that rested on its side in the middle of the room, most likely due to one of the legs being broken.

Strider picked up the chair and went over to the side of the shed, planing on setting it against the wall.

"Well, this place is better then having to be watched by that--" Strider trailed off as the wall he had leaned the chair on broke, sending the chair and part of the wall falling outside.

"--bunny..." Strider finished.

Strider half expected to see Angel Bunny holding a power tool when he poked his head out of the new hole, but the bunny was nowhere to bee seen.However, he did notice that the leaves on the trees had changed colors, some red, some orange and some yellow.

"How did I not notice that until now?" Strider wondered to himself as he backed away from the hole. One thing was for certain, he needed was another set of tools,

Strider walked over to a crate he had set down and unhitched a rectangular pouch from his utility belt. He set it down on the crate's lid and opened the pouch, letting its content spill out.

Several shiny golden bits clattered across the lid, some nearly falling off the edges. Strider counted the amount of bits that he had which ended up being twenty-seven.

"Hmm, hopefully this should be enough." Strider muttered to himself, scooping the bits back into the rectangular pouch and putting it back on his utility belt.

Strider quickly exited the shed and began walking towards Ponyville. Hopefully someone sells some good tools for the amount of bits he still had.

Strider had maybe set four feet into Ponyville when he noticed a large amount of ponies trotting together towards the end of town.

"What's with the commotion?" Strider wondered, walking over towards the group of ponies.

"Where are you all going?" Strider questioned to a yellow furred pegasus with a blue mane and tail.

"Were heading to Sweet Apple Acres for the Iron Pony competition. This is the first one to happen in years!" The pony claimed happily, quickly rushing away to catch up with the crowd.

Strider watched as the crowd of ponies left town and trotted down a path that had a sign next to it labeled Sweet Apple Acres.

"Hopefully that competition doesn't shut down all the stands." Strider said out loud, noting how quiet the town was and how many ponies were heading towards the farm.

Strider turned away from where the ponies were going and walked towards town square, quickly noticing the lack of ponies around the area. Strider looked around, trying to spot any stand or store that showed any sign of tools. But just as he had feared, most of them had closed signs or were completely empty.

"Come on, give a trooper his weaponry." Strider muttered.

Then, he spotted it. A store that had a sign hanging above the door that showed the image of a hammer and a wrench. Perfect! Surely that store has the correct tools.

Strider quickly rushed over to the store and went to open the door, but it didn't budge. Strider tried again but the door stood its ground.

Only then did Strider notice the Closed sign that was hanging on the other side of the glass part of the door.

"Dang it," Strider muttered under his breath, before walking away from the closed shop. "Surely some shop is still open around here."

Strider looked around the town for a while, not giving up. But to his disappointment, no other stores seemed to sell any tools. He did however spot something else.

Strider walked over to a single story building that rested in front of a set of train tracks. A small deck area stood between the tracks and the building, the only thing on it was a single bench.

Strider hoped onto the deck and walked over to a glass window/booth. The booth was being managed by a stallion with grey fur and a black mane and tail.

The Stallion quickly noticed the Trooper and put down a newspaper he had been reading.

"Hello! You must be that friend of Fluttershy's. What brings you here?" The Stallion asked.

"I was passing by when I spotted this place and a question rolled into my mind. How much would it be for a ticket that takes me to Canterlot and back here?" Strider questioned.

The Stallion reached below the desk he was behind and retrieved a piece of paper. He set it on the outstretched bit of wood on the glass and pushed the paper through the opening.

"That's a list of every station that the Friendship Express takes. The number of bits for each trip is to the side." The Stallion exclaimed.

"Thanks." Strider said as he picked the paper up and walked over to the bench.

Strider sat down on the bench and began looking at the paper, quickly making out the rail to Canterlot as a purple line that went from Ponyville right to the Capitol. Strider then looked over at the information about the line.

"Distance is fifty-k, time estimated to arrive at destination is around five hours, train arrives at Ponyville Station every---" Strider continued to mumble as he read, focusing on finding the key information he needed.

It didn't take long before he finally found how much a ticket would cost.

"twenty bits for a one way trip..." Strider muttered, looking at the number on the paper.

A few seconds rolled by as Strider stared blankly at the numbers.

"Was it really that easy all along!?"

Chapter 40: Cut Short

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Strider set down a spare Com Link on the wooden table in front of Fluttershy. The Pegasus eyed the device for a few seconds, before gently picking it up.

"That's a stander-ed issued Communication Device that is hooked up to my wrist com. If anything bad happens then use that to alert me and i'll try to get back as fast as I can." Strider explained.

Fluttershy rotated the rectangular device in her hooves, before putting it back on the table.

"Um, how does it work?" Fluttershy asked, trying to figure out what did what.

Strider picked up the device and pointed at a few buttons.

"This button activated the Com Link which will send a signal to mine. Once the beeping stops, that means I answered. If this square lights up green then that means i'm trying to contact you. The way to answer it to press the green square once, and to speak to me, just talk out loud and the Com Link will pick it up." Strider stated, setting the Com Link back on the table.

"Ok, good luck at Canterlot Strider." Fluttershy said, giving Strider one last smile before he would leave.

"Thanks," Strider answered, walking over to the door.

Strider pushed the red door open and stepped out into the sunlight. He shut the door and walked around towards the shed behind the cottage.

Strider reached the shed and entered, making his way over to an empty crate which was being used like a table. He set down the pack of bits, a DC-15S, and a holo-projector. Strider looked over the items, checking them off of his mental checklist, before putting them back where they originally were on his utility belt.

Strider finished his checking when he picked the DC-15S up and double checked that it was in working order, before putting it in a makeshift holster on his utility belt that he had found in the wreckage of the Gunship.

"That would of proven useful a while ago." Strider muttered to himself, before taking his focus off the holster and at the door.

The Trooper walked back to the still open door and stepped out of the shed, only for a strange feeling to shoot through his mind. Strider stopped in his tracks, looking around the area for anything out of the ordinary, but everything seemed normal.

That was, until the faint rustle of leaves alerted him of someones presence. Strider looked over towards the source of the rustling only to notice a bunny hopping out of a bush.

Strider reminded himself that he was in the backyard of what was basically an animal shelter, but that feeling still loomed around him.

After a few minutes, Strider let himself calm down. The only creatures around him were harmless critters that Fluttershy took care of every day.

Strider reminded himself of his task, getting to that train station, and took a step forward. Right as his boot landed back on the grass, that feeling spiked up.

"Who's there!?" Strider called out, surveying the area again.

Seconds seemed to drag on as the eerie silence engulfed the yard, until it was shattered when something right behind the Trooper shouted "NOW!"

Strider turned around just in time to see a white furred stallion with gold armor on point a spear right at his chest. The Stallion was quickly backed up by several other ponies that looked almost identical to him, each wearing golden armor and had spears at the ready.

"Put your hands up!" The Stallion in front of him ordered.

Strider tried to reach for the DC-15S, but it was grabbed by another Guard and taken away. His motion to grab the blaster also earned him several more spears aimed at him.

"ALRIGHT ALRIGHT!" Strider shouted, putting his hands on the top of his helmet.

"Don't move or things will get ugly." The Guard in front of him claimed, before glancing over at another Guard.

"Alert the Princess, we've got him." He ordered.

The Guard saluted before taking off towards Fluttershy's cottage.

Fluttershy was in the middle of pouring some bird seed into a bird feeder in the corner of her cottage when a knock at the door alerted her that somepony was there.

Fluttershy quickly finished filling up the bird feeder before setting the bag down against the stone fireplace and trotted over to the front door. She was expecting it to likely be one of her friends who wanted to say hello, or maybe Strider had forgotten something so he came back to get it. But one thing was certain, she wasn't expecting to see Princess Celestia on the other side of the door, her mane and tail flowing in the air.

"Oh, um, y-your M-Magi-sty," Fluttershy stammered, bowing before the Alicorn.

"Hello Fluttershy, it is very nice to see you today." Princess Celestia stated.

Fluttershy slowly stood back up, trying her best to not have her fore-hooves shake uncontrollably. Yes she had seen Princess Celestia before, but that was with her friends who made the whole place seem more calm. But alone, it felt like she was being watched like a hawk for any mistakes she might do.

"Now, as much as it is to see one of my faithful students friends, I do have something I would like to talk to you about." Princess Celestia exclaimed.

"Oh, Right, Strider was just about to go see you in Canterlot actually." Fluttershy said.

"Really? Well I guess I saved them the trip then." Princess Celestia exclaimed.

"Well, i'm not sure. He was just about to leave for the train station and i'm not sure if he made it before you arri--" Fluttershy was cut off when a Guard caught her attention.

The Guard rushed over to Princess Celestia's side before giving a quick bow and standing to attention.

"Your Majesty, we have the creature in our custody." The Guard said boldly.

"Custody? I ordered for them not to be threatened or harmed." Princess Celestia stated.

"Oh," The Guard muttered. "They're around back."

The Guard led the way back around the cottage, Princess Celestia and Fluttershy following. It didn't take long before the Princess and Pegasus noticed the ring of Guards standing around Strider, each one keeping a spear pointed at the Trooper.

The Guard went over to another who was the only one to have a different styled helmet. He whispered something in the other Guard's ear, before standing next to his comrades.

The Other Guard put a hoof to his muzzle, before looking over at the Guards. "Stand down, but stay sharp!"

The Guards quickly backed away from Strider, most of them lowering their spears but still kept their eyes focused on him.

"Ma'am," Strider greeted, saluting to the Alicorn.

"Greetings Strider, it is nice to finally meet you," Princess Celestia exclaimed. "and i'm sure both of us have some questions for each other."

Chapter 41: A New Plan

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Princess Celestia set the tea cup she was holding in her magic down on a coaster on a table, before glancing over at Fluttershy, who was sitting in silence on the green couch in the living room.

"So, that is what awaits us beyond the stars?" Princess Celestia asked, returning her gaze to Strider, who was sitting on a wooden stool on the other side of the small table.

"Correct, the only option the G.A.R. had left was war." Strider proclaimed.

Princess Celestia glanced out the window and towards the blue sky, wondering just how close this war was. The second Strider had said war, the Alicorn knew that the peaceful days of Equis were now possibly numbered.

"I guess she had fought for nothing..." Princess Celestia mumbled, still staring out the window.


Princess Celestia broke her gaze from the window and levitated something from under her left wing. She set down a very old piece of paper with several faded symbols scattered about. But one symbol instantly caught Strider's eye.

The Trooper picked up the piece of paper and looked at the symbol closely. The symbol showed two large wings surrounding a line in the middle which curved slightly at the top, all within a small black circle.

"That's the symbol of the Old Republic..." Strider stated.

"This is a signed agreement between Ancient Equis and your Old Republic. All I could figure out was that some sort of stalemate happened between us and you which led to Equis being shielded off from the Galaxy. The final parts claim that a spell like no other had been casted, making Equis vanish from any forms of Radar or visual sight." Princess Celestia Exclaimed.

"Must be one crazy cloaking spell, this should be impossible. Yet again, I didn't exactly believe in magic but i'm surrounded by-" Strider's words stopped in their tracks when a realization suddenly flashed into his mind. How would the Republic be able to find him if the planet he was on was basically invisible to everything.

Even though his expression was hidden behind his helmet, Princess Celestia seemed to notice the shock flowing through the trooper.


What was he gonna do? The only way for him to notify the Republic on where he was would be by telling them, but he didn't have any type of communicator that would be able to reach them. He didn't have a ship either to break through the atmosphere.


Strider looked down at the paper, the Old Republic symbol sticking out from the others. If this planet had been a war zone for the Republic, then they should have built a base somewhere. Maybe they left a ship behind! Even if they didn't then surely they would have Equipment in the base that he could use to make a new communicator!

"Princess Celestia, do you know about any sort of Old Republic bases that might have been built here?" Strider questioned.

Princess Celestia put a hoof to her chin, going deep into thought. When she was done, she just shook her head.

"Sorry Strider, but this whole war was completely ghosted from any of our history records." Princess Celestia stated. Hmm, guess he'll have to go with plan B.

The rest of the conversation was mainly about the Republic, the Separatists, and the Clone Wars. Princess Celestia was very good at hiding it, but after each battle Strider listed, the more worry came to her mind. Fluttershy had departed from the room, not wanting to hear about the horrific actions going on right above the planet.

Once the seemingly hour long conversation finally came to an end, Princess Celestia stood up, locking eyes with Strider through his helmet's visor.

"Thank you for your answers. I believe Equestria is going to have a lot to think about." Princess Celestia proclaimed.

The Alicorn trotted over to the front door, opened it, and exited the cottage. She gave a nod to the guards standing next to the door and they followed her towards the chariot she had arrived on. As the pegasus guards hooked themselves up to the front of the chariot, Princess Celestia looked back at Strider who had approached her.

"I'm going to bring this up with my sister and the Equestrian Counsel. I trust my faithful student on her word that you will not attack any of my little ponies." Princess Celestia stated.

Strider simply gave the Alicorn a salute, before standing back from the chariot. Princess Celestia waited until he was far enough away before turning to face the Pegasus captain that had accompanied her on this trip.

"Make sure to keep a hoof full of guards on watch. I know I should trust my student with her claim, but I also still have my suspicions on him." Princess Celestia whispered to the Captain, who nodded before trotting over to the group of guards standing by for his command.

It didn't take long after before the guards took off with the chariot and passenger and began the trip back to Canterlot. Several of the other guards followed the chariot, but a few broke off and went towards Ponyville. Strider paid no mind to them, instead focusing on the pile of rubble that used to be the Gunship.

The Trooper went over to the broken ship and began pushing chunks of metal out of the way as he approached the remains of the cockpit. He climbed up into the pilot's seat and began flipping switches, seeing if any sort of power had survived.

After a few minutes of button pressing and flipping switches, a faint green glow emerged from the center monitor. The monitor was flickering badly and half of it was darker than the other, but it was still on, and that was enough for Strider to grin.

With a few pulled switches, the monitor displayed a faint outline of Equis. A single yellow line slowly moved across the screen, passing over the image and causing a few yellow spots to appear around the planet. Once the yellow line reached the other end of the monitor, Strider pressed a button which shut off the monitor and transported the scan to a control panel.

Strider reached into his pocket and retrieved the holoprojector and used a set of wires to attach it to the control panel. He flipped a switch and watched as a faint glow flew through the control panel, through the wires, and into the holoprojector. Once it was done, he retrieved the holoprojector and allowed the rest of the power in the cockpit to drain out.

"Alright, i've got a map of possible locations for a G.A.R. base," Strider told himself as he activated the holoprojector, showing the hologram of Equis and the highlighted spots that had been marked by the Gunship.

"now how do I get there..."

Chapter 42: Winter Contingency

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As it turns out, it was still a good thing that Strider had packed things for Canterlot. This was because he was still going to travel, just not to the city anymore. The holoprojector had pinpointed the closest possible area that a base could of been built. It was up in northern Equestria and the train in Ponyville had a route that led almost directly to the spot!

After bidding Fluttershy farwell and switching tickets, (with the price of a few more bits) Strider was now on the train heading towards the spot.

The train ride was as eventful as it could get, considering the situation. Several ponies were quite shocked to hop on the train only to spot a bipedal homosapien in white armor casually sitting next to a window with a strange device in their hands.

Strider kept his eyes on the holoprojector, seeing the orange dot getting closer and closer to his current position as the train advanced towards it. Strider had never rode on a train before, mainly due to the fact that his main form of transportation would usually be a Gunship, ATTE, Venator Class Cruiser, or just by foot. Trains also weren't very common on the planets he had been stationed at, nor did he need to use them if they were common.

Strider glanced out the window, watching as the train rattled against the tracks that were laid out across a long stretch of open plains. The further the train went down the tracks, the more clouds seemed to appear in the sky. Soon, the train started going through several tall mountains, some having peaks that broke the cloud level.

Not long after, the train was wrapped up in a mini snow storm. It wasn't crazy enough to make an emergency stop, but it wasn't calm enough to go the usual speed. Snow battered against the window Strider was looking out of, now only revealing a few blurry images of what seemed to be even more mountains.

A loud whistle announced that the train had reached its destination. Strider waited for the train to stop before he got up and left the train car he had been in. A blast of cold air hit him like a plasma bolt, his armor not offering much protection against the elements.

"Why did the Republic station a base in this frozen tundra and not in those plains?" Strider questioned out loud, but he already knew why. This weather proved to be a good natural protection against enemy attacks, if they weren't prepared for the cold that is.

Strider checked the holoprojector again, seeing that the location of the base was around 16 kilometers from his current position. He put the holoprojector away in his utility belt and grabbed the DC-15S he had brought with him.

"It's gonna be a long journey..."

Strider's boots crunched the snow below, leaving footprints in the white landscape. Strider's armor was much harder to spot in this weather, further justifying why a base would of been built here.

Strider trudged through the snow, every few minutes he stopped to check the holoprojector to see if he was still going in the right direction. The snow storm hadn't lightened up at all from when it started at the train, snowflakes landing all over his visor, causing him to wipe it clean multiple times just to be able to see in front of him.

"I should of prepared for this type of weather!" Strider said to himself as he continued to battle the storm. His armor wasn't modeled to fit this snow, offering only a little more protection than if he was just wearing his jumpsuit beneath it.

Strider reached the top of a small hill and looked out across the horizon, making out a few mountains in the distance. Then, Strider spotted something against the snow covered landscape. He focused on the spot, barely making out what looked like a strip of silver between the falling snow.

Strider leered at the strip, slowly making out an outline of what seemed to be a snow covered bunker. He found it!

"Haha! YES!" Strider cheered, before making his way down the hill and towards the bunker.

Strider's happiness at finding the base froze, along with his body, as a strange sound filled the air, rivaling the noises of the snowstorm.

Strider heard the sound again, realizing that it sounded like a howl of some sorts. Strider looked around the area, trying to spot the source of the howls, but all he could see was snow, and the storm wasn't making it any easier.

The howls rang out again, sounding much closer than before. Whatever was causing those howls was advancing on him, and it was gonna be near impossible for Strider to fight in this storm. That didn't stop him from aiming the DC-15S in the general area the howls had come from.

Strider crouched down, making it harder for anything to see his already hard to spot armor. The howls got louder and the snowstorm also seemed to pick up, but only slightly.

Another loud howl shot through Strider's ears, this one sounding practically on top of him! Strider looked around the area from all sides, still only seeing the falling snow against the white landscape.

That was, until a thought struck Strider's mind, making his blood run even colder than it already was. Slowly, he focused his gaze up towards the sky, eyes widening at what he saw.

A massive blue transparent creature with glowing blue eyes was glaring down at him, the clouds seemed to be flowing around the creature as well as the snow, which quickly began picking up.

"By all things in the Force..." Strider muttered, slack-jawed at the sight of the creature.

The creature let out a booming howl, shaking Strider to the bone. The Trooper quickly took aim at the creature and pulled the trigger, sending a blue plasma bolt flying from the DC-15S and towards the transparent creature. However, instead of striking the creature's head, it just went right through it, striking a cloud behind it.

Strider took a step back, eyes locked with the creature. But he did spot something out of the corner of his eyes. He needed to get to that bunker.

Strider wasted no more time, taking off from his original position and ran towards the bunker. He wasn't going nearly as fast as he wanted to due to the terrain, but he kept going, firing a few shots blindly behind in hopes that they would at least distract the creature which had begun to chase him.

The snowstorm got even more intense, the snow battering against Strider like water being blasted from a Z-6. Strider looked over his shoulder to see the creature flying towards him, storm clouds following it like a smoke trail.

Strider fired another shot at the creature, before returning his gaze to the bunker which was getting bigger and bigger as he got closer.

Strider reached the bunker, instantly spotting the outline of a door which he rushed over to. Strider tried to open it but the control panel next to the door had been frozen over a long time ago.

With no other options and time running out, Strider just shot the control panel, causing a few sparks to fly from the now fried piece of equipment. The door creaked open a little, before being thrown the rest of the way open by Strider, who frantically shut them the second he was inside.

The last thing Strider saw from the winter tundra was the set of blue eyes from that creature, which had been just a few feet away from him before he shut the door, sealing both the creature and the elements out.

Strider let out a sigh of relief and slumped down against the door, taking in his new surroundings. The bunker was pitch dark due to the lack of power.

Strider flicked on his helmet's lights which quickly illuminated the room. The room looked like a standard control point for the entrance to a bunker. A few dusty counters were lined up on the other side of the room, each one had at least one powered down holo-computer. The entire room was coated with a thin layer of snow as well as all the dust from lack of management.

"Alright, let's see what supplies this place has left." Strider told himself as he advanced over to the only other door in the room.

As Strider went into the next room, he failed to notice a faded frozen over symbol on one of the walls. The symbol held the resemblance to the Grand Army of the Republic's standard symbol, but this one had a hexagon around six arrows pointing outwards.

Chapter 43: Lunar Mission

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Princess Luna didn't know why, but for some reason, something felt wrong. She had woken up from her dream in a cold sweat, but she couldn't remember the dream. This worried her, due to the fact that she had made sure that she would have the same nightmare over and over as punishment for Nightmare Moon, but for some reason, she didn't remember the nightmare at all.

Princess Luna trotted over to the glass doors that led to the balcony, noticing that a storm was being brewed up around Canterlot. Tons of dark grey clouds were clumped together, blocking out most of the blue sky and rays from her sister's sun.

A bolt of lightning suddenly shot through the clouds, followed by the loud boom of thunder. The second the thunder reached the Princess's ears, a cold chill ran down her spine. The feeling that something was wrong had increased dramatically, as if the doors to Tartarus had just been opened.

Pain began to brew in Princess Luna's head, causing her to raise a forehoof to her horn. She shut her eyes, trying to see if she could ease the pain from the sudden headache.

After a few seconds had passed, the headache began to fade and Princess Luna reopened her eyes. That was when she heard something, a voice coming from one side of her room. Alarm bells were ringing in the Princess's mind, the voice being way to clear to of simply been her imagination.

"Who dare's intrude our quarters unannounced!?" Princess Luna called out, igniting her horn in preparation for an attack or a quick teleport.

The room remained silent, the only sounds coming from the steady breaths of the Princess of the Night herself. That was, until she heard the sound again. This time, she focused her gaze onto the spot where the voice seemed to be coming from, only to lock up when she realized what she was looking at.

Princess Luna was staring directly at her nightstand, inside it was the strange weapon from ancient Equis. She cautiously opened the drawer with her magic and withdrew the device, hearing another set of noises that seemed to be whispers that were coming closer.

Her assumption had been right, the whispers were coming from the weapon. She scanned the device with her magic to see if any sort of spell or charm had been casted on it, but just like before, it remained magicless. That only heightened her paranoia.

The whispers continued, becoming more and more clear with each passing second. Soon, Princess Luna began making out dialog from within the whispers.

"Never again."

"We want out of this war!"

"The city is being overrun!"

"This is all your fault..."


"Luna!?" Princess Celestia's voice drowned out the whispers which quickly went silent.

Princess Luna looked over at the door leading into her room, now alert of the knocking from her sister's hoof against the door. She hadn't even noticed that she had dropped the device, which fell to the ground with a loud THUMP.

"Luna are you alright!?" Princess Celestia asked, worry filling her words.

"Y-Yes sister, i'm alright. Come in." Princess Luna replied, staring down the weapon that was now resting on its side on the floor.

The door creaked open, revealing the Princess of the Day who quickly entered, shutting the door behind her.

"I've made contact with are friend here, and it seems that we have much bigger things to worry about." Princess Celestia exclaimed, trotting over to her sister.

"What do you mean?"

"The being that had crashed into Equis has claimed to be a soldier from an intergalactic war that is going on right above us." Princess Celestia stated.

Princess Luna's eyes widened, her sisters words echoing in her mind. "There is a war going on right now that we have been completely ghosted from!?"

"Indeed Sister, I have sent out letters to all the other creatures who rule the lands beyond Equestria which will hopefully be seen soon. We must act quickly to get Equis prepared but at the same time not cause panic amongst our subjects." Princess Celestia exclaimed.

Another crackle of thunder echoed from outside, sending another wave of shivers down Princess Luna's spine. She shuttered, that feeling of dread returning.

"Luna? Are you sure your alright?" Princess Celestia asked, seeing the distress on her sister's face.

"Yes sister, we are't just getting a dark vibe from the storm." Princess Luna answered.

Princess Celestia looked out through the glass doors at the brewing storm. Princess Luna wondered if her sister was also getting the same vibe about it as her, but the solar alicorn's gaze remained unreadable. She had practiced that a lot in their time as rulers of Equestria, making sure to mask emotion if necessary in order to not send off the wrong messages in meetings with nobles or other rulers.

After a few moments of silence, the two sisters bid each other farewell, before Princess Celestia left the room. Once the door clicked shut, Princess Luna levitated the device back up towards her from where she had dropped it, no longer hearing any sort of noises emitting from it whatsoever.

But that didn't stop Princess Luna from feeling something as her aura tightened around the device. She trotted over to the doors that led to the balcony and opened them, instantly being hit by a strey gust of wind that seemed to come from nowhere.

Princess Luna looked over on the horizon, eventually focusing on a set of mountains that kept the chilling weather of the Frozen North at bay. She didn't know why, but something was drawing her towards it.

Princess Luna glanced at the device, then back to the Frozen North, before her mind had been made up. She wasn't sure what exactly was going on, but she had a hunch that this device was connected to something there.

Princess Luna went back inside her room and gathered some supplies which was then thrown into a saddlebag which she put on. She then went over to the door leading into the hall, which was quickly opened with her magic.

"Ready our chariot for immediate departure for the Frozen North." Princess Luna ordered.The two lunar guards gave her a quick salute, before rushing off to do their job.

Princess Luna took one last look into her room, making eye contact with the balcony doors. She could see the storm clouds through the glass and could hear the sounds of thunder, but both doors were firmly shut.

So why did she feel so cold?

Chapter 44: Bad Feelings

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Strider's footsteps echoed throughout the empty halls of the base, the only light coming from his helmet's head lamps. As he had expected, each door he came by was locked and the panel to open it was way beyond repair. It took a solid ten minutes before he finally found a door that opened with a quick whoosh.

Inside was what looked like an armory, with all the weapon racks and everything. Each rack had at least five blasters, each one covered in a thick layer of dust. The weapons didn't match any sort of blaster that Strider knew of, not even the Separatists standard E-5 blaster rifles.

Strider went over to one of the racks and grabbed one of the blasters. It seemed to weigh around the same as his DC-15S, but the shape was different.

The other blaster had a long barrel and a boxy body. The handle was located at the very end of the blaster and two small rectangles were on each side of the body. The right side was hollow, most likely where the power pack would go.

Strider put the blaster back on the rack and made his way towards the back of the room which had several grey crates stacked on top of eachother.

Strider grabbed one crate and took it from its spot on top of the tower of crates and opened it. Inside were a handful of smaller blaster pistols that were silver and black. Once again, they didn't match any pistol Strider knew of.

Strider grabbed one of the pistols and looked it over, seeing a dial which seemed to adjust the power output. He put the blaster pistol in his utility belts empty holster, along with a few power packs that went with it.

Strider shut the crate and moved onto another. This crate proved to have the same weapons from the first, with a pile of blaster pistols filling the crate up to the brim.

After checking five more crates that had only blaster pistols, Strider finally came across a crate that had something else inside. This crate housed what seemed to be a set of armor, which Strider carefully took out.

The chest piece which was designed similar to the armor for Jedi knights, was mostly silver with a single crimson red line down the middle. Two other black lines were next to it, separated by two silver lines. The chest piece was somewhat light, and after Strider knocked on it with his fist, he also knew it was tough.

Strider put the chest piece aside and moved onto what seemed to be controls that were supposed to be strapped to the forearm. Several buttons and switches were all over the piece, along with a few bits of silver which appeared to be the same metal the chest piece was made out of.

Next was a pair of shoulder pads and a utility belt. The shoulder pads were silver with big red shield shaped symbols. On top of the shields was another symbol, this one sort of resembling the G.A.R. standard symbol. The design was the same, but the outer shape was different. This one was a hexagon while the normal symbol is a circle.

Strider felt like he had seen this symbol before, but couldn't figure out where. He looked over at the utility belt which had several empty spots where power packs would of been stored along with an empty holster for a blaster pistol, and some sort of case for a tube like object.

The last piece of the armor that was in the crate was a helmet. This helmet also had the modified mark on it, plastered on top of a red line which ran through the middle of the helmet. The helmet was shaped like a clone Scuba trooper, with its bucket like shape ending with two circles that looked like they would attach to breathing rods. The visor was pitch black and shaped like a V, similar to his helmet's visor.

Strider rotated the helmet a few times in his hands, before putting it and the rest of the armor back in the crate.

"Whatever this place is, it certainly isn't from the G.A.R. or the Seppies." Strider muttered to himself as he shut the crate.

Strider left the small armory and began walking back down the hall in hopes of finding the communication center. There he could finally contact the Republic and get a gunship to pick him up.

Part of his mind slightly cringed at that, but Strider shook that feeling away in seconds, focusing on the mission at hand.

Strider navigated his way down the halls once more, eyes peeled for any type of movement or a sign that pointed to the communication center. Neither of these things happened for the remainder of his time searching, which eventually led him to a large door with a broken neon sign above it.

Strider pressed a few buttons on the control panel, triggering the door which screeched against metal as it opened. Strider went through the doorway and was quickly met with the sight of several control panels and powered down screens.

But what really caught his attention was a control panel with a microphone built into it. He had finally found it. Strider wasted no time as he made his way across the room and over to the panel. He pressed a few buttons which to his luck, sent energy flowing back through the panel.

A screen appeared in front of him, showing a few very old scans of the base, a few launch permits, and of course, com link waves.

Strider matched up the relay with the standard military G.A.R. channel frequency and crossed his fingers.

"Come on, give me a transmission." Strider said out loud, hearing static emerge from the speakers.

After a few seconds, a faint voice began to stand out against the static. Strider pressed a few buttons, trying to boost the signal. But the voice didn't get any clearer.

Strider tried lifting up a few switches, but that only led to a spark developing which shot right into his visor. Strider backed up, startled by the sudden spark, but quickly recovered and went back to focusing on boosting the signal.

However, that lever did more than just let out a spark. A few rooms away, two large dust covered blue robots were suddenly activated. Their empty eye sockets flashed red, before fading away behind their visors.

The two robots looked around the area, doing a quick scan to check the state it was in. Then, they walked over to a table where two blasters were resting, along with two alchemically treated Sith swords.

Once the two were geared up, they went over to the door that led to the hallway, which they soon found to be jammed. But that didn't stop them. Instead, one of the robots smashed its armored fist into the door, sending it flying across the hallway.

Strider heard the sound of crashing metal and immediately turned to face the door, DC-15S primed. The voice on the control panel slowly but surely became louder, eventually sounding like another clone trooper who was questioning if anyone was there.

Strider, without taking his eyes or blaster from the door, reached with one hand over to a button which activated the microphone. But before he could say anything, the sound of heavy metal clanking emerged from the door, before stopping.

"I've got a bad feeling about this..." Strider muttered under his breath, watching as the door slowly opened, revealing two figures.

Both figures were wearing tons of blue armor that covered every square inch of their bodies, making them look like a miniature tank to some extent. Both were armed with the blasters Strider had seen before in the armory, along with what seemed to be two swords that were sheathed on their backs.

"Intruder detected." One said in a robotic voice, aiming the blaster it was holding. The other one did the same, aiming their weapon directly at Strider's chest.

"Why can't I catch a break..." Strider grumbled, right as the two robots open fired.

Chapter 45: First Impressions

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Strider dove out of the way of the blaster fire, ducking behind a few control panels. The droids quickly re-aimed and unleashed another wave of plasma bolts at the trooper. Strider kept his head down as the plasma bolts flew above the control panel, or struck the other side of it.

Strider quickly peaked around the corner of the panel and fired at the droids, but his blue plasma bolts only left their armor singed. That didn't deter him, and he continued to unload his DC-15S on those clankers.

One well aimed shot by Strider struck one of the droids in the head, but the armor around it kept their important mechanical parts from being damaged.

"These clankers have got tough armor!" Strider stated to himself, ducking back behind the control panel to avoid another wave of plasma bolts from the droids.

Strider fired a few more shots at the droids, before reaching into his utility belt and retrieved a thermal detonator. He chucked it at the droids, the spherical device landing right at their mechanical feet. It detonated, causing an explosion which sent both droids flying through the air and into a wall.

Strider took this opportunity to rush over to the communication panel. "This is CT 5162 reporting from an unknown base on the unmarked planet named Equis. I'm a surviving member of the Venator cruiser which had been surprise attacked by Separatist forces. Requesting immediate evac from-" Strider cut himself off when he realized that a plasma bolt had struck the panel, severing the connection with the Republic station he had reached.

Strider was about to start cursing at the situation, but a plasma bolt from one of the droids forced him to abandon that and retreat from the room.

The surviving droid removed itself from the wall and went over to a working control panel. They flipped a few switches before hitting a red alarm button.

"All security forces, intruder alert. Intercept and eliminate!"

"Repeat. All security forces advance on intruder in sector seven!" The droid's voice echoed through a few speakers around the hallway that Strider was running down. The lights flickered on, glowing a dark shade of red.

"CAN'T I EVER CATCH A BREAK!?" Strider shouted in anger at the situation he was in. Turns out that once again, the force had heard him and decided to shoot him in the foot.

Strider turned a corner and spotted several more armored droids advancing towards him, blasters already firing. Strider dove against the wall of the hallways entrance and threw another thermal detonator which promptly landed at the droids feet, before exploding.

Strider once again took off running down the now dimly lit hallways of the base, desperately trying to find the exit. Little did he know that the force wasn't planning on being cruel to him forever...

Princess Luna took a step onto the snow covered lands, feeling a chill instantly run through her hoof. But she trudged on, approaching the strange structure her guards had found during their flight.

"Thou shalt follow behind us." Princess Luna instructed, opening what seemed to be the front door with her magic.

The princess and the four lunar guards were instantly greeted with the noise of an alarm, causing the guards to spring in front of the princess in a protective stance.

After a few minutes of waiting, the princess advanced into the building, much to the shock of her guards.

"Your majesty, we do believe tis not safe within this structure." One guard exclaimed.

Princess Luna looked over at the guard; "Art thou scared of a little alarm?"

"No your highness." The guard answered instantly, giving her a salute.

"Then we shall advance." Princess Luna stated, trotting into the structure with her fear pushed into the back of her mind.

Inside the structure, the only light source was dark red lights that were emitting from glowing rectangular shapes on the ceiling. The whole place seemed to be made out of steel, along with several bits of technology that were much more advanced than anything Princess Luna had seen, even after returning from her banishment.

"What is this place?" One guard questioned, eyeing a flashing panel of some sorts.

"Don't know, but I don't like it." Another guard answered, holding a spear at the ready.

"Both of you silence yourselves, we haven't the faintest clue for what's in store for us." The guard that had talked to Princess Luna earlier exclaimed.

Right as those words left the guard's mouth, an alien sound echoed throughout the halls. It sort of sounded like a blast of magic, but Princess Luna could tell it wasn't. The crimson red rods flying through another hallways backed up her assumption.

"Everypony behind us." Princess Luna ordered, watching the other hallway like a hawk stalking its prey.

That was when several strange looking figures emerged from the hallway, each one decked out in a set of dark blue armor and holding strange looking black devices.

The figures spotted the group of ponies and pointed their black devices at them. "Intruder alert in sector two."

"We meant thou no harm, we are Princess-" Princess Luna couldn't finish her sentence as a red bolt of light shot from the figure's device in their hands.

Princess Luna instantly rose up a shield which blocked the bolt with ease. All four guards scrambled in front of the princess, spears pointed at the figures chests.

"Least let us finish before striking!" Princess Luna barked at the figures, who only responded with more of those red bolts which struck her shield.

Part of her was very annoyed at these creatures for not even giving her the chance to speak. She was a princess of Equestria, and attacking her was treason of the highest order. Besides a few...nevermind that. The other part of her mind was actually controlling her mouth, causing a slight grin to spread across her face. Ever since returning from the moon, she had seen that any type of action seemed to of been resolved, leaving some of her begging for a fight. And now, she had an excuse to do so.

"On ourt mark, through thou's spears." Princess Luna instructed.

Each guard got ready, aiming directly at the figures. Their metal spears were glistening red from the light above them, ready to strike.

"Tis are final waning, stop this merciless act and thou shall be shown mercy." The robots continued firing.

"NOW!" Princess Luna lowered the shield just as the guards threw their spears.

Each spear shot through the air like lightning, each one meeting their designated target. Sparks flew from the figures as they fell to the ground.

One guard went over to one of the fallen creatures, looking it over as he grabbed his spear.

"What in Equestria are these things?"

Princess Luna levitated one up from the ground, trying to see if it looked familiar in any way. She scanned it, shocked to realize that the thing wasn't alive at all. Now she knew that a spear to the chest would be lethal, but the armor these figures were wearing would of at least given her enough time to heal them if necessary. But the figure was completely devoid of any type of life force, not even having a single trace of magic.

The other guards had removed their spears from the fallen figures, resulting in sparks flying from the openings the weapons had made.

One was about to comment on that, but wasn't able to get the words out before a red bolt struck his side. Everypony stared in horror as the guard fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Princess Luna instantly rose up another magical shield, blocking any other bolts.

Another guard rushed over to the injured one, removing their armor that didn't seem to have blocked the bolt at all.

"He's alive, but he needs serious medical attention!" The guard exclaimed.

"Everypony fall back, we shall heal them the second we have time to do so." Princess Luna exclaimed, her magical shield starting to break from all the bolts it was taking.

Two guards abandoned their spears and hoisted the wounded guard onto their backs, before rushing down the hallway in hopes of finding somewhere safe. The final guard and Princess Luna followed, both dodging several more red bolts which narrowly missed them.

Strider heard the sound of plasma fire in a hallway near him. He changed directions and rushed down another hallway. He rounded a corner just in time to see a group of ponies fleeing from several droids.

"HEY! CLANKERS!" Strider shouted, trying to get their attention on him instead of the ponies.

The droids changed targets, firing at Strider who ducked behind the corner. He fired at the droids, managing to destroy a few of them before he had to fall back.

Strider took off running down the hall in the direction the ponies had been running. Droids fired at him from behind, one bolt narrowly missing Strider's head.

Strider rushed over to a set of crates and ducked behind them, before opening fire on the advancing droids. The DC-15S was able to slow them down, but their armor kept most of them from getting destroyed.

Strider abandoned the cover as he ran down another hallway which led him to a large circular room that had several hallways in each direction.

Strider spotted the group of ponies, three of them watching the remaining halls while a tall dark blue one was tending to a wounded one on the ground.

One of the ponies spotted him, shouting to the others before charging at him. Strider dodged the charge, raising his hands in the air.

"Wait wait wait! I'm not a droid!" Strider said, watching as the tall dark blue pony rose from their spot and trotted over to him. For some reason, they looked familiar.

"Thou art the creature my sister informed us about." The tall pony said, their voice sounding female.

Strider quickly took notice to the fact that this pony had both a horn and wings, much like Princess Celestia. Wait, didn't she say something about talking to her sister about the war?"

"Is your sister Princess Celestia?"

"Correct, we are Princess Luna, ruler of the night." Princess Luna exclaimed. "But now is not the time for introductions. One of our guards has been heavily wounded, give us a few moments to heal them."

The princess's horn ignited, casting a green glow around the fallen guard. Strider watched as what looked like a plasma bolt wound get suddenly healed to perfection. This world really is magical isn't it? Topic for another day, right now, they needed to get out of this place.

"Do you have any weapons?" Strider asked.

"We had spears, but we had to leave them to carry are wounded." One guard responded.

"Then take these," Strider instructed, tossing both the blaster pistol he had found in the armory, as well as the DC-17 Pistol he had. "your gonna need them to survive, but give them back once we're out of here."

Two guards caught the weapons, looking them over curiously. Princess Luna finished healing the wounded guard and went over to Strider.

"Does thou't know where thy exit it?"

"I honestly don't know. This place is like a maze with all the halls looking the exact same and no signs pointing anywhere." Strider answered. "But I have an idea."

Strider went over to a panel on the wall and removed it, letting the large piece of metal hit the ground as he began fiddling with a few wires. It didn't take long before he had the right set of wires, which he hooked up to the holoprojector he had.

"If this place is running on emergency power, then if I just wire this into the central system..." After a few tweaks, a projection of the base appeared above the holoprojector, much to the shock of the guards and princess.

"Alright, the exit is that way. We don't have much time, so we better get moving." Strider exclaimed.

The group took off in the direction of the bases exit, narrowly missing a rather large group of droids that had just stormed the room they had been it.

Chapter 46: New Plan

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Strider took cover against a corner, the blaster gripped tightly in his hands. He dared a quick peak around the corner, managing to spot several droids advancing towards him. Strider fired a few shots at the droids, before going back behind the corner.

"How much further?" The guard who had been given the DC-17 pistol asked.

Strider grabbed the holoprojector from his utility belt and quickly brought up the map of the base.

"A few more corridors, but we have to survive to make it there!" Strider exclaimed, before returning fire on the advancing droids.

Princess Luna charged up her mana, before unleashing it in a blast of magic which struck several droids in their robotic chests.

The two guards who were given the trooper's spare blasters, awkwardly rotated them in their hooves. They had no idea what these things even were let alone how to use them, but another had been taking mental notes on how Strider was using his blaster.

"Let me have a go." The guard asked his comrades, who quickly tossed him the two blaster pistols.

The guard grabbed the weapons with his hooves and rushed over to the entrance where the droids were coming from. He took cover against the frame of the entrance and peaked around the corner, one blaster pistol at the ready.

The guard looked over the closest droid, watching it slowly advanced, laying down a wave of bolts which struck the wall that the entrance was parallel to.

"Hmm," The guard muttered to himself, before spotting an exposed piece of metal around what was most likely the droids eyes. "That looks important."

The guard took aim, before managing to squeeze the trigger with his wings. A blue bolt shot from the blaster pistol and struck its target, instantly taking the droid down.

Strider watched the droid hit the ground, shocked. He looked over at the guard who fired a few more shots, each one taking down another droid.

"Their weak spot is the eye." The guard exclaimed, still shooting.

Strider mentally facepalmed, he should of tried that! Strider changed his aim and was able to take down a handful of droids with ease.

"Good find." Strider commented.

"They don't call me Iron Sight for nothing." The guard responded.

Strider and Iron Sight continued to keep the droids at bay, managing to destroy quite a few before falling back down another hallway. This hallway took the group all the way back to the entrance room, which was right behind a closed door.

One guard tried to open the door with their hooves, but the door didn't budge. "It won't budge!"

"Stand back, we'll take care of it." Princess Luna stated, igniting her horn.

The door was quickly encased in a blue aura, before getting forcibly thrown to the side, exposing the dark room behind it. The group was about to file into said room, but Strider stopped them.

Strider slowly reached up to his helmet and turned on it's lights, revealing several different looking droids. These ones were mostly silver, looking sort of like a typical destroyer droid, but it had larger blaster weapons which were attached to their arms.

One of the droids weapons began to glow a little, before a loud whirring sound filled the room. Strider's eyes widened, before he turned back to the group of ponies behind him.


A rocket bolt shot from the droids weapons, narrowly missing the group. The rockets struck the wall behind them, rattling the entire room. Bits of the ceiling came loose, along with a rattling noise that was combined with a cracking sound.

"This room's falling apart! Fall back!" Strider ordered, firing at the new droids.

The group made it out of the room just as the ceiling caved in, filling up the room with debris and snow.

"Well, were not getting out that way anymore." A guard stated.

Princess Luna nodded in agreement, before an idea popped into her mind that made her mentally face-hoof.

"Stand close, we'll teleport us out." Princess Luna declared, already igniting her horn in preparation for the spell.

The group waited a few seconds, but for some reason they didn't teleport. Princess Luna tried the spell again, but to no avail.

"Something's blocking the spell. I can't teleport us out."

Strider activated the holoprojector again and looked over the base for another exit point. It didn't take long before he found a small hangar that was most likely a place to deploy speeders. If he was right, then this trip might of ended up being worth it.

"We've got another exit in that direction, let's move!" Strider instructed, taking the lead with the DC-15S pointing forwards.

The group wasted no time rushing towards the hanger, Iron Sight and Princess Luna keeping the droids chasing them at bay while Strider took out any droids they were approaching.

They ran down several hallways, each one still glowing red and had quite a few droids waiting to engage. But the group kept going, not stopping until they reached the door that separated the hallway they were in and the hangar.

Strider tried the control panel, but once again it wasn't operational. He turned his head to see several droids approaching their position.

"Princess! We've got a door block!" Strider exclaimed, taking a defensive position behind a few outstretched pieces of the wall.

Princess Luna took the door down with ease, exposing a large room with a massive door on the other side. Several different contraptions were spread out across the room, each of them looking sort of like a standard G.A.R. BARC speeder bike.

The group filed into the room, Princess Luna levitating the door back into place, along with several crates. Hopefully that would give Strider enough time to figure out how to open that hangar bay door.

"How did you arrive here?" Strider asked a guard.

"Flew, using Princess Luna's personal carriage. It's at the entrance of this place." The guard explained.

"Alright, here's the plan. The second that massive door opens, you need to run to that carriage as fast as you can." Strider stated and began walking away towards what he hoped was the main control panel.

"But what about you?"

"I'll take one of these speeder bikes. Don't worry about me, I was born for this kind of stuff." Strider said, before focusing completely on the control panel in front of him.

Strider flipped a few switches and pressed a few buttons, each of them showing zero signs of doing anything. But after several seconds of frantic button pressing, the hangar bay door slowly began to rise, allowing snow to swarm through the opening.

"Oh could this thing go any slower!?" Strider shouted, watching as the hangar door went up mere inches every ten seconds.

A large explosion caught the groups attention, which quickly brought them to what was left of the makeshift barricade. One of those elite droids from earlier emerged from the rubble, a sword in its right hand which was engulfed in white energy.

Iron Sight fired at the droid, but it deflected the bolts right back at the guard, who narrowly dodged them. Another guard who still had their spear charged the droid.

The droid's sword sliced the spear in half, followed by a downwards swipe at the guard that would easily end their life. The guard shut their eyes, but when pain never rang through their body, they looked up to see a green beam of light blocking the droid's sword.

"Retreat to our carriage!" Princess Luna ordered, her magic straining as she kept the sword from striking.

"But what about-"

"NOW!!!" Princess Luna bellowed in the royal Canterlot voice.

The guards did what their Princess had ordered, against their better judgement. But Strider didn't budge, to shocked to move. Surely he wasn't witnessing what he was right now? However, the sight before his eyes claimed otherwise.


Princess Luna didn't answer, way to focused on keeping the droid from hitting her with their energized sword. Each strike made the so called Lightsaber shake in her magical grasp, but the Princess of the night didn't back down.

The droid kept the pressure up, reaching with its other hand for the blaster still holstered on its side. Strider spotted this and quickly fired, the bolt striking the blaster which broke away from its holster.

Princess Luna grabbed a nearby crate with her magic and chucked it at the droid, the collision sending both the droid and crate into a wall.

Princess Luna was about to let out a sigh in relief, but was cut off when several red bolts of energy shot past her from the doorway. Several droids were rushing towards her, each shot getting closer to their desired mark.

"PRINCESS! WE'VE GOT TO GO!" Strider shouted, hopping onto a speeder bike which he quickly activated.

Princess Luna deactivated the lightsaber and rushed out of the hangar and towards her carriage, where her guards had already hooked themselves up and were ready for a speedy getaway.

The second the Princess was in the carriage, the guards took off into the sky, quickly making distance from the base. Strider did the same on the speeder bike, but not before dropping all his thermal detonators at the base of the hangers door, which quickly exploded.

The droids were quickly caved in, along with the hangar which fell apart on itself from all the explosives used. Strider kicked the speeder bike into high gear, narrowly avoiding debris as he drove off into the snowy tundra.

Chapter 47: Regrouping

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Strider didn't know how much ground he'd covered, but he was sure that if any of those droids had managed to escape, they wouldn't be reaching him before getting shut down by the snowstorm.

Strider slowed the speeder bike down, before stopping it in front of the landed carriage of Princess Luna. He cut the power from the vehicle and hopped off it, his white boots crunching the snow below.

Princess Luna had also exited her carriage, hooves pushing large clumps of snow out of the way. The two met in the middle between where the two modes of transportation had stopped, both having several thoughts flowing through their minds.

"We believe that proper introductions art in order." Princess Luna exclaimed.

Strider reached up to his helmet, taking it off to expose his face to the Alicorn. "Yeah, i've got a few questions."

"We do as well. Please enlighten us as to what we have just escaped from?"

"I think we just escaped an ancient Sith bunker, the droids models and weaponry seem to suggest that." Strider stated.

"And what is this... Sith you speak of?"

"The Sith, or the Sith Order, is an old religious order who are force users. They seek to destroy the Grand Army of the Republic and conquer the galaxy." Strider claimed.

Princess Luna glanced back in the direction they had come from, any sort of structure would of been impossible to see through the snowstorm.

"Ar't there more of these so called bunkers?" Princess Luna inquired.

Strider reached into a compartment on his utility belt and retrieved the holoprojector. He activated it, allowing the blue hologram of the base to come into existence. He pressed one of the three switches on the side of the holoprojector, making the image change into a hologram of Equestria.

"Any red dot is the location of a possible base that could of been built. I can't be completely sure due to the lack of equipment, but since their was at least one base here, there are most likely others." Strider exclaimed.

Princess Luna eyed the transparent map, noting the half a dozen red dots which were scattered across the country. She motioned for one of her guards to approach, which they did while holding a map of Equestria in one of their wings.

"Mark down all these red dots on this here image to our map." Princess Luna stated.

The guard quickly got to work marking down the red dots onto the paper map, making sure to not leave any out. While they did this, Strider stared at Princess Luna.

"Now, I have one serious question. That device you were using in that base was a lightsaber, weapon of the Jedi Order. Where in this world did you find it?"

Even though the trooper had just saved her guards and had guided her out of that death trap base, she still didn't like the bluntness and demand in Strider's tone. She was the princess of the night, co-ruler of Equestria! Not a cooped up researcher who was only good for learning information.

Still, if this trooper knew what this so called lightsaber was meant to do, then it would probably be best to tell him at least some of the truth.

"It was recovered by us from the royal archives, passed down throughout our history." Princess Luna exclaimed, using what she had learned in her studies as to who had originally been on Equestrian soil before she or her sister were even born.

Strider debated on what to say next. Being a soldier for the G.A.R. meant that if he found property that belonged to the Republic, he would have to make sure that it was licensed and not stolen. However, this planet wasn't on any sort of map that he was aware of, and the fact that the Lightsaber was mainly property of the Jedi Order and apparently was found in an archives of some sort. So he was stuck in between two decisions, take the Lightsaber, or let one of the rulers of Equestria hang onto it and not end up on her bad side.

A part of his brain was stating that this was against protocol, the worst thing a trooper could do, but Strider just ignored it. If he was going to be stuck on this planet, then he should at least stay on their leaders good sides.

The weather was beginning to worsen, snow slamming into Strider's armor. It was starting to get difficult to see through the snow, and both Strider and Princess Luna knew this.

"Strider, we shall have to take this another time, we shal't inform our sister of thou's discovery and send word to you when needed." Princess Luna proclaimed, trotting back into her carriage, the marked map in her magical grasp.

The carriage quickly took off, trying to fly above the storm, leaving Strider to get back onto the captured speeder bike. He restarted the engine and guided the speeder bike through the snowy tundra the best he could.

Back in Ponyville, pegasi were setting up several clumps of clouds that were loaded with snowflakes, ready to be unloaded at the drop of a hat. Derpy Hooves had just finished placing a cloud over Sweet Apple Acres and was about to take off, only for her tail to bump the cloud a little.

"Oops. My bad!" Derpy exclaimed out loud incase anypony had seen what she had accidentally done.

Derpy put the cloud back into position and took off, flying back towards where she normally worked, the post office. If she had stuck around a little longer, she might of been able to catch a single snowflake that had broken free of its restraints in the cloud, slowly drifting towards the ground.

On the snowflakes journey, it fluttered past a closed window, where it was spotted by Apple Bloom. The young filly watched the snowflake drift through the air, dancing around the window before vanishing from sight.

Apple Bloom let out a quiet sigh, before trotting over to the window and gazed out of it at the orchard. She had messed up horribly, destroying Strider's ship that he had worked to hard on, being careless trying to repair it, and hurting Twilight in the crossfire.

Apple Bloom wanted to make this right, she knew that her friends did too. But what could she do?

The filly wondered this for awhile, before her gaze drifted back into her room and onto a small desk that had become hers after finding it abandoned in the attic. An idea began to form in Apple Bloom's mind, making her spring from her position next to the window and over to the desk.

Apple Bloom took out a piece of paper from a drawer and a pencil from her school supplies, setting both down on the desk. Apple Bloom began writing, doing the best she could to make something that could at least show how sorry she and her friends are.

Apple Bloom didn't know how long she had been writing, but once she was done, she put the letter into an envelope and took off out of her room and down the hallway towards the front door.

"Go'n ta Fluttershy's!" Apple Bloom called out, hoping one of her siblings or granny had heard her as she opened the front door and galloped in the direction of the cottage.

It didn't take to long before Apple Bloom arrived at her destination, knocking on the cottages front door. She waited a bit, hearing hoofsteps approaching from the other side of the wood.

The door creaked open, exposing Fluttershy, who smiled when she spotted the filly.

"Heya Fluttershy! Is Strider here?" Apple Bloom questioned.

Fluttershy's smile faded a little, the pegasus glancing out a window, giving her a view of the remains from the gunship.

"Sorry Apple Bloom, but Strider left a while ago. I'm not sure when he's gonna come back." Fluttershy responded.

"Oh... well, once he gets back, can ya give him this?" Apple Bloom asked, giving the pegasus the envelope.

"I will," Fluttershy claimed. "do you want to stay for some tea?"

Apple Bloom pondered this for a few seconds, before nodding. Fluttershy stepped aside, letting the filly enter before she shut the cottage door.