17 At The End
Act 3: Face the Enemy
So basically, just us two, with a pile of conveniently-placed rockets, and Makarov circling in a heavily armed copter.
This was going to end well, I knew it. I wished I'd brought my riot shield after all, it might have at least helped stop a couple extra hits.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): At least he's not fully powered.)
I wish that made me more confident.
"And there is the pair of rats scurrying from shelter! It is unfortunate you should be so high up in this tower, for it shall be a long descent into Tartarus for you both!"
His helicopter swooped up in front of us. Either he'd eaten more pilots or he'd spent a little more of his fate-ignoring powers on making it fly better.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): And his threat was actually menacing that time!)
That may be scarier than the threat!
Then the helicopter started playing over-dramatic music.
"I thought you wanted a showcase of your skills, Makarov! Hardly seems all that skilled to use another flying gold brick to win," I shouted, even as a small part of my mind kept trying to warn me not to annoy the lunatic in the flying death machine.
"And this is one! You have the means to potentially defeat me..."
And I was wracking my brains for an alternative to it.
I scanned the area. The roof of this tower had been fairly wide to accommodate a lot of room to move the mirrors and semaphore paddles, and seemed to have a few more big metal crates scattered around. We had limited cover. The central portion was a glass dome where a large lantern had been, until it had been used as a makeshift firebomb.
"There's nothing but the rockets here," I noted.
"And I bet that we need dozens of rockets to even dent his gold plating," Dima said.
"Seems to be all we have."
"Yes, try to plan. It won't help you and my so-called 'brother'. Though it disgusts me that one such as you shares any lineage with someone as flawless as I, you murderer."
"Murderer? One, who did he kill? Two, have you paid attention to your life so far?!"
"Why, he killed many fine servants of the Hooviet Empire...Including our parents!"
"YES! I just won ten bits!"
"I never agreed to the bet..."
"You dare trivialize my tragedy!?"
"What tragedy? You killed your parents," I shot back.
The helicopter wobbled for a second as he roared in anger.
"Impudent dog! I shall start you on your long fall to Tartarus!"
He then opened fire with the machine guns, strafing over us. We dived, both of us shielded by my magic for now.
"You used that one!" Dima noted as we both fired a rocket each.
Mine naturally missed, but Dima's exploded with a small flash. It didn't seem to do much. Mine that missed also seemed to explode.
"You also overuse impudent! I'd say by now your impudent is impotent!"
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): The sad part? We know he has a thesaurus, you'd think he'd use it.)
"Recycling is good for the environment! Like compost, which is what you soon shall be!" He screamed as he spun back around.
"Compost is made of plants, idiot!"
Makarov then pulled out a dictionary, "Compost noun, decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer. Origin late Middle Equestrian : from Old French "composte" from-"
We had rockets ready. Sadly, I was too close to Dima's rocket tube-rear when he fired, and my shield took the backblast. It threw the deer off his feet, and made me yelp: We missed, and the subsequent volley from Makarov's guns once he recovered from being shot at mid monolog really put the hurt on my shields.
"Watch the backblast!" Dima shouted.
"We don't use these things much in Equestria!"
This naturally amused jerky.
"A lover's tiff? Oh, very clumsy, Sparkle, standing too close to your new coltfriend!"
And now we can check 'being politically incorrect' off the villain cliche checklist.
(Interviewer's Note (Pegasus): Got it.)
You're actually keeping a list?
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yep!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): It gives us something to do while he's monologging.)
"...You're really stooping to that?" Dima sighed.
"There's not anything wrong with single-gender relationships," I noted. "Equestrians are a pretty accepting lot in general."
"Actually I think he's more trying for the inter-racial thing...But, uh, no offense, Captain, but I kind of don't have any interest in that sort of thing, with any gender or species."
"Pity, if I was a mare you'd be kinda cute I bet," I played it for all it was worth.
"UGH, I was JOKING you sick pair of interspecies degenerate."
"While he's angry, shoot him!" I shouted.
Dima and I both managed to hit him! Not only did we hit him but it seemed to do damage while he was in the middle of his temper-tantrum diatribe!
He swooped down out of our sight, but also unable to attack us.
"Somehow I'm not shocked he's a racist hypocrite. And he still thinks he's a good guy?"
"Indeed, the way he's been almost flirtatious with you...Really not the kind of thing he should say," Dima noted.
"Uh, the hypocrite bit I meant was him being half-unicorn," I clarified. "But thank you so much for that mental image and the therapy that will likely come with it."
"Oh. Right. Sometimes I forget he's half-deer, half-unicorn, I just remember he's a hundred percent scumbag."
Makarov then swooped back up, a bit further back, and shouted again.
"You think you may have a plan, well, plan this!"
He then reminded us the helicopter had rockets too, firing a massive volley of them.
"...Oh horseapples," I said.
I managed to block us from being harmed by them, but our secondary cover, including the crates, were torn to shreds. The roof itself also fell in at a few places.
"Let me hear you insult that!"
...Oh well, it would be rude to deny his request.
"How did you miss?!"
We took that tantrum as a chance to fire. He dodged, further away now and able to predict our fire better. He strafed us with the machine gun again then dived back out of our sight.
"Damn, this isn't going to work after all. He's onto us," Dima growled, even as he readied another launcher. Our stray shots seemed to pop in the distance after five seconds or so.
"Yeah, we need to think of something else. I don't suppose there's any parachutes or a glider up here or something?"
"He'd just shoot us down. If we could only just get by that armor."
"We'll need bigger guns...got any embarrassing stories of him as a colt...fawn...whatever he was?"
Dima just gave me a certain look.
"Oh right, he's a fate bending, self obsessed cosmic horror...Hey, these rockets explode when they miss still, right? I mean if they don't hit anything?"
"...I think I have an idea."
"What kind of idea?"
"A crazy one."
"What's new there?"
This was going to hurt a lot though. Especially if it didn't work.
"The trouble is I need to conserve magic. Maybe you should take cover down below..."
Dima did not seem pleased by this. Strange, if I'd been offered a way to hide from the angry nutter in the machine gun and rocket armed giant golden brick while someone else took a shot, I'd be a lot happier.
"...Fine, but shout me back up as soon as you've tried this, I'm not running away!"
"I hope not, he'll probably just shoot the tower to shreds if we're both not visible," I noted.
Dima had just dropped down one of the hoofy new holes Makarov had made, when the moron of the hour flew back into sight.
"Hm, has my brother fled? It does not surprise me, he was always a coward. Questioning the need to kill all the unicorns on his first mission."
"Sounds more like he had principles, but that's probably rare amongst Hooviets anyway!"
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): GAH!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Try your plan first! I'll tell you while he's throwing a tantrum!)
I tried my plan. I fired the rocket...and having made the calculations ahead of time, trying my best to think of moving the object to the right spot, I teleported it away.
With a shield stopping the rocket from leaving the tube. A bright flash inside the rear windows told me I had sent it the right direction.
"What?! How did you-"
The resulting explosion coming from inside seemed to tear out the side of the troop bay, rip off one of the wings his weapons were mounted on, but sadly seemed to not hurt the cockpit much. It did severely affect the flight patterns though.
"GHAAA! CURSE YOU, YOU WRETCHED VERMIN! I WILL GRIND YOU TO DUST!"
He apparently planned to do this with rockets...but I seemed to have got lucky. The remaining launcher wasn't firing.
"Dima, I think it worked." I grinned. In fact, I swear for a second the helicopter flickered. It's a good thing I'm in a near death situation or that would never have work.
Now, what was it about Makarov?
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): When we interviewed him he praised his brother as some kind of amazing paragon of a warrior second only to himself just so when Dima 'died' it'd be more tragic! Now he's saying he was a coward?! Can't this idiot just bucking keep his backstory straight?!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Sorry, we actually interviewed Makarov and his stupidity really got on her nerves.)
You interviewed him? You have my sympathies.
"YOU...YOU CHEATING LITTLE SON OF A WHORE! I will make sure that when I sift the remains of Ponyville, I will find your sister's horn AND USE IT TO PICK MY NOSE! I will find your parents' horns and use them to light the way to the bathroom on the Daedalus II! I will dig up your uncle's corpse-"
"-Seriously? That's the best threat to my family you could think of? I mean I know it should clop me off, but it's hard to take that seriously."
"He's really mad. That's the second flying toy of his you broke from the inside," Dima noted, as it seemed the machine gun was also failing to fire. And even the music started breaking up.
"So that's how it is. Wretched junk has failed me...I will simply slice you both to ribbons!"
He then angled the nose down and flew towards us.
"...Is he completely nuts?!" I wondered. Then again, if he wasn't already, I'd probably annoyed the sanity out of him by now...and proud of it.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Thank you! It's about time somepony gave him a taste of his own medicine!)
"Yes, we've been over this, now shut up and jump down to the level below!"
We did that, hearing Makarov shout an incoherent scream of rage, then the wrenching sound of the rotors hitting the stones. Somehow they tore more roof away, and accidentally must have thrown some debris into the engine intakes or otherwise broke it, cause black smoke began spraying from the rotors.
"Cursed wretches! That was not supposed to happen...Come on, fly, you are meant to fly no matter what...THIS IS NOT OVER, SPARKLE! I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!" He yelled as his helicopter began to spin out of control.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): No self-destruct?)
"He's about to crash in that park, that small pond," Dima noted.
"Yeah. If we can get down to the others we might be able to catch up with..."
...the tower was still seventy floors tall.
"Horseapples. We've got a long climb..."
It was at this point, four Immortals and four Marines toting a mix of heavy weapons burst into the room...well, what was left of it.
"...We ran all that way up...for nothing?" A Marine griped.
"Well, you could help us carry the rest of these rockets and you can watch Makarov crash into that lake throwing a tantrum," I offered.
They looked at the pile of rockets in the crate.
"...I think we will do the latter for the moment," An Immortal noted, then gasped for air.
We'd lost about fifteen of the thirty minutes I'd told Dai Mason we'd take. Still, Makarov had to walk home or call for rescue (knowing him, he'd do the former out of pride) and probably burned up some of his power in the fight, so maybe we could exploit the extra time.
I rode in one of the Columbian troop carriers. I didn't want to hang onto a tank while I was trying to recharge a little. That fight had harmed my mana a lot. Fortunately, someone had smiled upon me and decided to make the birdseed energy bars have mild mana-restorative qualities.
"This won't please him much, I expect he'll throw bigger guns at us. I hope those new rockets are good against Mammoth Tanks..." Sandgriff noted grimly.
"Hopefully we won't have to find out," I tried.
"I doubt it," Frost noted, fiddling with the scope on a captured Hooviet machine gun, one of the APPMa's that we'd first met way back in Columbia.
"Well hopefully since me and Dima are his designated nemesis...es...his ego won't let him stand to see anything but him actually succeed in killing us, so that might help keep anything too powerful off us..." Which I assumed was why the guns missed us when we chased him out of his destroyed ship.
Dima looked grim. "Yes, but you'd be surprised what you can live through."
I gulped at that.
Suddenly, we heard a bang, and the vehicle stopped.
"Bail out, we're under fire!"
"I knew all this traveling without getting shot at was too good to be true!" Grinch complained.
"Oh, so that helicopter didn't count?!" I complained back.
"Wasn't shooting at me, dude! No offense."
We'd exited to a withering and random hail of fire, seemingly muskets and grenades, from the three-floor-apartments around us. They seemed to be conscripts judging by the simple equipment. A couple marines had been wounded, but they were still fit enough to swear at their wounds. Oddly, the windows of most of the structures around us were filling up with smoke.
"Sneaky, they're using smoke grenades to help conceal their own smoke from firing!" One noted.
"...This isn't right, Sergeant Sandgriff, since when did conscripts use tricks like this?" Gilda noted.
"She's got a point, this might be cover for something else," Dima noted.
Natasha was scanning the roofs, then raised her rifle, firing in the direction of a smaller building at the end of the road that apparently didn't have anyone shooting from it...Just as I felt something slam into my chest and knock me off my feet.
"CRUDE! Captain, you okay?!"
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Shining! Are yah ok?!)
"Yeah...Gha, this armor works...sort of..." I groaned.
It was going to bruise, but at least I wasn't dead and it somehow hadn't broken any bones. A normal hit at that angle had a good chance of breaking my shoulders...Or going right through me out the...other...
"You sure you're okay there? Looks like they're pulling back."
The tanks had pointed their guns at the smoke-filled buildings, and a few explosions later there wasn't much firing. However, one building had less smoke, but a hail of automatic fire was coming from it. It was too close to rear elements of our column that were now pinned down, and it was sheer luck a rocket fired bounced off the armor of a troop carrier. The BTRs were adding machine gun fire to the Columbian volleys aimed at that structure as I saw a group forming up to try and enter the building. Before I could even try to shield them, they were charging.
One of our assault units went, in the Immortals at their back, twelve double-barreled assault shotguns and twelve pairs of curved sabers at the ready: not yet drawn so they could sprint with all four limbs. Hails of automatic weapons fire raked at them, the rest of the group tried to provide cover fire over their heads even as the assault squad threw smoke grenades ahead of themselves. One of the Immortals took a hit and stayed down as they all rushed in, while a pair of the Assault marines stumbled but seemed to still be with us just as they disappeared into the smoke and the firing from our lines ceased.
Bright flashes inside came from grenades thrown by the attackers, and the last report of the battle was a set of dull booms from inside the structure.
"Assault team, report," Sandgriff requested.
"We've taken the objective, minimal casualties, two of ours wounded inside and two outside. The Immortals tell us their guy's a goner back outside," A Marine reported.
Someone checked the Immortal: He had indeed been killed instantly.
"Were they Spetsnaz using the conscripts as a diversion?" I wondered.
Sandgriff asked what they'd found.
"They seem to be locals. All the ones in here were unicorns, griffins, and pegasi."
Other squads had gone to clear the buildings the tanks had blown partly up. They reported they'd found Zebras: the muskets had been a type commonly used by equines without horns or wings in the past. They were planted in the ground in a monopod and a flintlock trigger was pulled with the mouth. They functioned more like small artillery in practice than the kind of small arms in use now: Most Earth Pony or Zebras used airguns if they used ranged weapons at all, because if they sound cumbersome there, try firing one! And have a drink handy because the powder tastes HORRIBLE. Nose plugs are also recommended.
"Some local troops joining in...Weird, most of them had been stuck in across the bay," Truck mused.
"I want to check out that building, those ones there were obviously better armed."
"Yeah. The armor took the hit, I want to try find what it took..."
"He dropped it when I shot him..." Natasha noted.
She sounded a little embarrassed, maybe because the other sniper had fired first.
He'd dropped as well. He was on the ground, having fallen from the roof. He was a local unicorn, and apparently part of an elite group of skirmishers I didn't catch the name of.
The scope on his sniper rifle, a Hooviet Dragonoff, was badly damaged. Not from the fall, though. He had a large hole where his eye had been.
"...Did you shoot him through his scope?!" I asked Natasha.
"I didn't mean it, he moved..." She shifted nervously.
Thankfully, we didn't run into any other surprises until we reached the others...Sadly, we ran into surprises the minute we did.
The buildings had started to get shorter. We could see the looming hills ahead and the orange glow of the northern battle better now...though almost everything was still stained in a faint crimson light by the Iron Curtain. We stopped in what seemed to be the middle of some buildings under construction.
"Why are we stopping now?" I wondered.
"Outriders reporting there's a lot of activity up ahead at the city limits. They've got a runner coming back to us," Truck reported.
We waited, and sure enough, the runner came...with a Navy trooper in tow.
"Captain Sparkle, Commander Mason has to fall back. We've got Mammoth Tanks incoming."
My heart stopped. Mammoth Tanks. Plural. One was bad, two was terrible. Three, we were dead. Considering Father Deer had been a myth, I was praying Hooviet propaganda had been at least a little overblown..
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Fighting an existence-eater who can bring the impossible to life.)
"Two, supported by Tankettes and hoof soldiers. They're approaching the rail bridge, we think we have about ten minutes till they cross."
Ok, so we weren't dead, but we're going to have to fight against two tanks' who's schematics actually say 'designed to kill everything.' That was not sarcasm, they literally say that. Except in Roedinian.
I quickly consulted a map, noting the Hooviets would be coming down the railway line, and apparently we were two hundred meters from our allies. Not a huge distance in peacetime but in a warzone a meter can feel like a mile.
"I think we can ambush them," Sandgriff noted.
"We've got six armored vehicles of our own, after all...Yeah, maybe we can manage this," I lied.
Oddball, Shearmane, and Padding, our M-4 Medium Tanks. Liberty, our Rhino Heavy Tank. War Pig and Sledgehammer, our M-5 Tank Destroyers.
I ran to get back on Oddball's tank.
"Can your tank destroy enemy tanks?" I asked.
"Nope!" He said all too cheerfully.
"Nope. Not from the front. Too tough there, We might get lucky but the main gun on this ain't really designed to pop big tanks, and we carried more HE to clear buildings today."
"But it shoots the same shells as the Tank Destroyers!" I protested: I'd remembered that fact!
"Yeah, but we got shorter barrels, less velocity. Gotta go in from the sides."
I was kind of annoyed to hear that for one other reason; if I wasn't still weakened by the Iron Curtain, then I might have actually been able to form a shield to act as a barrel extension to compensate for that.
"So, what, the Tank Destroyers need to take them head on?"
"That or we gotta figure out a way to hit 'em from the rear, or use our own Rhino," he noted.
"Yeah, sure, let's send a Hooviet tank up from the other direction, that'll stop our guys shooting it!"
"We could repaint it really quick or figure out a way to disguise it as a tree."
I looked at the rebel Rhino. True, it was green and the other Hooviet ones were gray but colors were not too easy to tell apart. It also looked very much like the other idea was no good.
"I don't think that tank would fit into the forest. Besides, I imagine the Hooviets will recognize it's the wrong tank."
"Wait, the tanks you're on about, are they perhaps Mammoth Tanks?" Oddball's driver wondered.
"Well, now the good news is I was wrong to say we need to go in from the sides. We pretty much gotta go in the rear and hope we get a mobility kill!" The Driver began giggling nervously.
Oddball just sighed.
"Don't mind him, Sir, he's just a negative fella...Completely right, of course, but a negative fella."
"So, on a scale of one to ten, we're completely screwed?" Sandgriff groaned.
"...Not quite. The tracks of the Mammoth Tank are a major weakness. If we use Tank Destroyers to flank at least one we can try to immobilize it - and light anti-tank may be able to damage tracks. If we can immobilize one or both we can swarm the turret, but we'll sustain heavy casualties," Dima began.
"That's not an option," I said quickly.
"...Sir, we might have to lose some or lose all. Either we fight, or we retreat and that's it. We can't stop," A Marine Sergeant reminded me.
"I've destroyed two superweapons today, if I can do that surely we can take out two Mammoths!" I replied, frantically.
"Captain, you were inside his flagship," said Dima. "You attacked its heart, where its the weakest. Unless we could get you inside one of the Mammoths, that's not going to happen."
"Horseapples, this really is the only way, isn't it?" I sighed. I'll admit it...I'd been trying to tell myself there was another way as much as them.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Just teleport a BOMB inside the bucking thing! Like you did with the mini-flying gold brick!)
Those monsters are built with anti-teleport fields, and teleport isn't a talent I can do on command normally.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): So much for the proud belief teleporting requires a mountain of conscious calculations.)
If I could tell you how I did it, I'd gladly tell you!
I'd been taught that someday I'd need to think of a plan, or rely on a plan, where the troopers I was certain to kill were under my command. I'd paid attention, but it had seemed like something I'd never really do, honestly. I wasn't truly prepared for it, but then again, no one was. So far most plans we'd enacted had risk, of course, and we'd sustained losses. But this was different. The plan couldn't minimize risk or have ways to counter the main threat to our lives because we were simply out of options.
"...Okay, but we need to be able to prepare for this going wrong too," I said after a moment.
"Actually, I gotta idea for us, Captain," Oddball smirked. "It's crazy, but if it works, might cut down the casualties."
Sandgriff sighed. "Is there any other kind of plan?"
We'd left many of the vehicles and a fair few troopers behind. A few of our faster vehicles, Rebel BTRs, had raced up. Outriders had went ahead to ensure no friendly fire - those BTRs were carrying most of our anti-armor capabilities such as they were. Trying to flank around to get the rail from the side, we'd sent the tanks, with a small escort of outriders in case they met any resistance. They had a route that seemed to be mostly covered from sight from the tracks, and we had radios ready for short communications. Hopefully, they'd be in position and so would our cavalry anti-tank screen.
The rest of us went on hoof, following the BTRs. Our plan was, our high capacity transports would wait - and if we had to fall back we'd fall back in them rather than risk the Hooviets destroying them closer to the station.
We reached it, finding that the DOG had started to get anyone without heavy weapons ready to move with their wounded. Lieutenant Commander Dai Mason greeted me without much in the way of pleasantries, but then again, Mammoth Tanks. Taichi was also rather abrupt, which was good enough for me because spending ages saying 'hello' would just lead us to say 'goodbye' to life...
"Captain, I'm sending my wounded back to your vehicles to get them out of here. Runners explained the plan...Seems about the best we'll get."
"It might give us a little more time to think," I admitted.
"Assuming it works. I assume there's a reason the guy is called Oddball?" Taichi then butt in.
"I, er, I don't really know him too well..." I admitted, as every nearby Marine began nodding. "The other Ninjas seem to think it'll work!"
"Never said I didn't, but we have a saying in Neighpan: toranu tanuki no kawa zan'you, 'don't count the skins of badgers you haven't caught'..."
Weird saying for a pony, yes, but I got the point.
I climbed up a stairway that led over the tracks. From here, I could see a fair bit. The bridge, lit by nearby fires. A road bridge beside it collapsed - Taichi and his troops had blown it up before capturing the adjacent rail bridge. And the looming shape of tanks about half a mile from the bridge, trundling along, easy to see even in the gloomy light the nightvision scopes showed that far off because houses didn't move. Usually.
Below, we had sandbags and automatic airgun nests on the platforms, as well as a couple of small captured local cannons, better than nothing. A signal box concealed another anti-tank nest within, a pile of rockets and some griffins hiding in there.
We waited. We received signals from our troops, set up along the probable Hooviet route, saying they were ready. We had to hope the tanks were ready too - their spot was hidden from us too. All we needed to do was wait...
"Looks like...One of the Mammoths has stopped to hold the bridge, the other is crossing. They're sending a screen of Tankettes in first," Mason sighed.
"Okay, we planned for that. The AT we have at the station can handle them," I hoped.
Sure enough, six Tankettes raced down the tracks, three rocket and three tesla variants firing their weapons in our direction. They were wild shots, not really aimed at anything, but as our rockets shot back we still sustained a few casualties. They moved fast, but not fast enough, as our rocket fire took out three. Unfortunately, they'd been covering a fourth pair that raced up with flamethrowers.
"Someone take those things out!" Mason yelled into his radio as they zoomed right into the middle of the tracks.
Rockets slammed down around them, and one was hit. It span out and detonated in a huge fireball...which began to rain down all around the area. Some of our troops had to abandon areas, or were hit by raining flames.
The other was almost right below us, and if it fired it would start incinerating the troopers crewing our main defenses. A cannon shot span past it, and it was nearly in range.
I threw a shield around it, cursing. I'd hoped to spare as much mana as possible, but now I had to trap this tankette. And it needed a big shield. It began firing, then screeched to a halt as the flames fell down an invisible wall.
It tried to reverse. I quickly collapsed the shield inwards, only for a rocket to slam into the tankette while it was trapped. I'd set this shield to let shots in, so the vehicle detonated. I stopped a rain of fire this time, but I couldn't hold it forever. After a few moments I had to let the smoke start rising - and it was in just the right spot to help obscure our vision of the bridge. Holding all the smoke was just going to let it start blocking the troops on the ground. Mason was more worried about the nearer tank.
"Alright, looks like the Mammoth is rolling now...I see a few troopers around it. Hope the tanks are ready."
A moment later the Mammoth was heading down the tracks and in easy sight. It would probably fire any minute. There was a curve in the tracks a few hundred meters off, blocking clear line of sight. A two-floor building just after a level crossing meant the tank had to come around to get a clear shot on the station.
Then a thick cloud of grey smoke popped up around it, followed by a volley of shells slamming into it. We heard the clangs, saw some flashes inside the smoke, then a plume of flame...
"I think we got it!" Someone cheered on the radio.
"Heads up, the hoof troopers are still coming!" Mason yelled.
As they came out of the smoke, the Hooviet conscripts were firing their spring-powered rifles wildly. A few better equipped Airborne troops ran with them, not firing. Pellets rained harmlessly down around us or fell short.
We waited to they were closer and opened fire. The Airborne troopers, as expected, took cover as the conscripts kept charging, a Commissar at their backs.
"Natasha, red head!" Someone shouted.
A loud crack later, there was no Commissar, and the conscripts began to falter in the face of the heavy casualties. The Airborne troopers began to retreat...
And the world exploded. Something had ripped through a half dozen buildings between the cloud of smoke and the signal box beside our vantage point. The signal box was ripped apart, and one of the rockets must have detonated, for the whole thing went up.
And the shells kept going, ripping down part of the station building, collapsing it onto one of our cannons.
"Sweet Celestia, the Mammoth Tank...It's still alive!"
It had just shot through about a dozen different structures and the damn shells hadn't even stopped after it hit the station!
And it got worse. I saw the smoke shift...and the Mammoth began to emerge. We'd managed to do some damage to the armor, but not enough to matter.
"Tanks, you didn't stop it, open fire again!"
It was at that point, I saw a Rhino turret fly into the air on a tail of flames off where our tanks had been...Then I heard exchanges of tank fire.
"Sir, we gotta problem, there's four Rhinos behind it! They're shootin' at us, they knocked out Shearmane, Liberty's got a track out, but it got one!" Someone reported.
A few rockets fired at the Mammoth but bounced off. It kept on advancing, the machine guns firing and keeping heads down. I noted with some shock that it didn't seem to care there were a fair few dead or wounded conscripts in the way as it drove along.
The Mammoth fired again, breaking me out of that sight. This time, it was high explosive shells. The station building pretty much vanished in the huge cloud of dust and flame.
"We need to retreat!" Mason growled.
"...Start falling back. I have an idea."
Mason began moving, pausing for second seeing I wasn't moving myself.
"I need line of sight, get down from here and run!"
I was trying to block the machine-gun fire as much as I could, but the tank was onto me. The turret was swinging my direction.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Oh, gonna use a shield around yourself to draw fire? That's nuts!)
More than you might think. If it fires AT at me I'm dead, if it's high explosive it'd collapse the shield if it was around me.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): What?! RUN!)
My shield wasn't around me though. It was two small orbs just at the end of the tank gun barrels. Enough to detonate the shells inside the barrels...
But still causing me a brief and painful headache that was literally blinding for a second. But when the pain began to fade, the tank guns were trashed, blown open at the end like banana peels...
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Shining...THAT WAS BUCKING INSANE! You could've been killed!)
Thank Celestia it was, otherwise it'd probably have never worked.
"...Did that do it?!" Someone wondered.
Then the rocket pods on the back began to fire, just as the Conscripts and Airborne began to rush past it again.
"Damn it, FIRE AT WILL!" Mason yelled, and the battle began again.
I tried to block the incoming rockets, but there were too many. I couldn't stop them all...so a few of them slammed down around us, and my shield failed.
Then someone shouted out. Not all of the rockets were explosive...
I panicked for a second, throwing a shield around myself as I pulled on my own gas mask. I looked up to see black smoke pouring out of where the rockets had hit...the one that they could use with gas masks around their own troops.
...But not all of us were fast enough. I saw some Marines that had been near the smoke rockets choking and gasping. And the Conscripts attacking us had been in the area of effect too.
The Airborne had masks on already. The Conscripts and our troopers died, or in our case, scrabbled to pull masks on instead of fight.
I was watching people die again...
There were still more rockets, and I was not happy now. I threw shields in the way of the tubes, not big ones - fairly weak. But the next volleys exploded in the launchers.
I then turned attention to the machine guns. I blocked them off too, and with a few pops, they exploded open as well.
Everyone around me seemed to be in awe.
"...Captain...Remind me never to make you mad..." Mason said.
The tank seemed almost surprised for a second, and just started driving right at us. Even though the Airborne troopers had began to pull back...
"Spirits, does this damn thing ever give up?!" Frost groaned.
Then a Rhino tore through a building behind it, and swung the turret to aim point-blank at the rear of the larger tank. A green Rhino.
There was one loud bang, and in a ball of flame, the Mammoth vanished.
The blazing wreck began to shift.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You have GOT to be kidding me!)
"It's just our Rhino moving it aside, guys, don't worry!" I shouted.
Sure enough, our Rhino rolled up. Hatches closed to avoid still-lingering black smoke, I radioed it.
"Thought you lost a track?"
"We lied. Shearmane was taken out, but Liberty only pretended to be immobile, tricked the other two Rhinos into letting the TDs hit 'em, but Liberty lost their radio," Oddball replied for them.
"I am beginning to like this pony," Dima chuckled.
"Enemy tanks gone?"
"Yep. And we just met the Airborne stags, they ain't happy..."
I couldn't hear the automatic airguns on the tanks. But I could hear machine guns.
"Um, Oddball...there were four Rhinos..."
"Well, you told me about three, what about...SWEET CELESTIA!"
A gray Rhino began to push past the Mammoth wreck.
"Ya see it?"
"YOU LET IT GET PAST?!"
The hatch on the turret opened and a gas-masked pony emerged with a megaphone.
"Of course I did, Sir, I'm in it!"
We all just stared in shock for a few moments...
"...I don't like him so much now," Dima sighed, as the other tanks trundled past.
I could swear the vehicles, thirty to forty ton metal death machines, looked embarrassed...
The tanks and tank destroyers took up positions around what remained of the station, and we looked towards the bridge. I blocked some smoke off for a minute, and we could see the looming shape of the other Mammoth.
Unfortunately the captured Rhino was our only fully operational Rhino now - Liberty's main guns had been damaged by the point-blank shooting. They'd rejigged the crews - Liberty could operate with four now it was down to machine-guns (three of Dima's deer took over), and Shearmane's driver had survived unharmed, but the only other survivor was the badly-wounded tank commander, Shermane himself. Oddball had hopped into the new Rhino to help the driver get it, and Shermane, back to us. We'd rushed him off in a BTR back to where most of our medics were, along with the other troopers.
Liberty's crew was in the new tank, but we were still down a tank in practice. The green Rhino was only good for anti-cavalry now.
We sadly didn't have many wounded, but plenty dead. I was startled to learn Gilda's entire squad bar herself hadn't got their gas masks on in time. Three of them had survived, but the other two were gone.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You don't think...)
I wouldn't put it past Makarov to have some sick game for her.
Many others had suffered from the gas even after getting masks on. They'd breathed some in first. Not enough to kill them, but it seemed to have caused their windpipes to swell up, and their eyes begin to bleed. The only real solace was that we'd taken the Mammoth out with fewer casualties than we'd estimated.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Shining...are you alright?)
…Yeah…I'm just scared...we suffered this much damage taking out one Mammoth and we still have another one...I'm just hoping we can do this...
"Alright, one Mammoth down, one to go. Other than getting Captain Sparkle clopped off again, anyone have any ideas?" Sandgriff said.
"...It's moving onto the bridge," Mason reported.
"Wait, where the hell...It's not got a turret."
I looked over with a night vision scope too. I saw some deer hop out of the vehicle and something begin pushing up and down, like a piston. It had stopped just at the edge of the bridge.
Dima took Mason's scope to look, and cursed.
"Damn it, that's a M.A.D tank, not a Mammoth!" Dima cursed.
"Mutually Assured Destruction. It causes a localized earthquake using a huge seismic generator. It was intended to collapse dragon lairs around them, but it's so powerful it shakes the vehicle apart too - they used a mammoth chassis because the generator is huge. It'll probably shake apart everything for a few hundred meters around it. The riverbank may landslip, and the bridge'll collapse..." Mason sighed.
"So...The bridge is out?" Frost sighed.
There was a loud rumble, and we felt the ground shake slightly. In the distance, as predicted, the MAD tank fell apart. So did the bridge's supports, and the riverbanks began to collapse too. The wrecked M.A.D tank began falling into the river as well, the pile of twisted metal and rubble from the bridge a taunting message saying we were stuck.
At least on the bright side, we hadn't lost a ton more lives fighting a second Mammoth.
"...Sandgriff, Frost, Taichi...I'm going to go take a look at the damage," I sighed.
"We might be able to get ourselves across if we swim, but the tanks are all stuck. And it's a long walk to that rear entrance."
"Let's just go check. Dima, you come too."
We looked at the scene. The bridge wasn't all the way down after all. The side supports had fallen, and the central span was cracked. But anything crossing, even a pony, might make it fall. Bridges were designed to take a lot of punishment, including earthquakes, but the M.A.D. Tank had still made it a death trap. Still, at least Makarov had underestimated the durability of the bridge, or was just too weakened.
"What if you could hold it up?" Frost wondered.
"What can we hold it up with though?" Taichi wondered.
I then became aware of something.
"...Why are you all looking at me?"
Ten minutes later, I had a new headache and had run out of profanities to spout. Including Roedinian ones much to the Rebels amusement. The Rhinos sat on the wrong side of the river with me.
Everything else was across, bar a few Columbian Troop Carriers that were back at the station ready to take the wounded to the main Columbian force - Or rather, where a force of Columbians were already guarding plenty of wounded to the point they were pretty much stuck. But the bridge had given way, or rather, my shields couldn't handle the heavy Hooviet tanks, and the bridge had began to crumble below our recently-captured Rhino. And I didn't feel like I should keep trying and expending energy I didn't have.
"We could try going upriver," Liberty's commander suggested.
"No. Just head back to the station, the convoy with the wounded won't have left yet. Join them and escort them," I said.
None of us wanted our wounded stuck with a small defense group, we couldn't bring them, and we couldn't just leave them undefended. Even with the bridge destroyed, there were still helicopters and Makarov's tripods to worry about. We'd been planning to send them back to our lines when we'd reached this bridge anyway. Just now it meant the defenders back there would have more firepower...
We would have less though. In total, our force was down to two tanks, two tank destroyers, and a collection of troop carriers and BTRs that carried about a company-sized force.
Finally, we were heading for the hills, going towards the rear depot of Makarov's hill-fortress...and hopefully, if Mason was right, I'd find at least some of my friends there.
I hoped they weren't in any worse condition by now, but Makarov probably wasn't the most merciful of prison wardens. I was praying Makarov's detours (including his little walk after his helicopter crashed) had kept him from having time to focus on them. I feared the worst but hoped for the best.
However, even as we were riding, we had a diversion. We'd put all the outriders back in vehicles and a six-wheel BTR was scouting. I was in an eight-wheel BTR with Unit Metal, the rebels, and riding on the roof (the Hooviet tactic of desant, riding on the roof when there was no room inside or no troop capacity normally), some Marines, including Gilda the Equestrian and what remained of her squad.
"I don't think we need to worry about the Hooviets counter-attacking us, or seeing us," Nikolai said.
The area around the base was strangely sparse, only a few tripods and Helicopters, who seemed to be guarding the front route to the base and presently fighting with some of our other allies, not all around the base as one would assume.
"Why would his base only be guarded by that many troops?" asked Sandgriff, looking the situation over. "Smells like a trap."
I thought it was too for a moment...then I realized something. "Wait, Makarov's weakened!"
"Uh, yeah, what about it?" Gilda asked.
"Makarov was expecting to have unlimited resources at his command, but..." How did I explain this without sounding insane? Oh screw it, the situation was already insane.
"Without his powers at full strength, he can't replace all of his weapons we've been destroying quick enough to fortify his base," I explained.
"...I'll take your word for it, since everything is insane right now, it's as good an explanation as any."
"True, but he could also be setting us up for his 'grand finale,'" said Dima. "The climax of his story would require us to infiltrate his base."
"Let's just hope it's the former," I said. I noticed a few tripods seemed to pop into existence to support their allies, meaning Makarov was growing stronger...we didn't have much time.
We managed to get around the base towards the depot without problem. Maybe we'd get there without getting shot at.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You sure?)
Oh come on, it's not tha-GODDESSES!
I managed to put up a shield in time to deflect an energy beam fired directly at us. I looked up to see one of Makarov's cyborg Alicorns flying above us.
"We need to take her out before she gets Solomon's entire army on us!" Dima alerted, taking out his gun and firing several times at the fake Alicorn who managed to dodge as we opened fire. I had to deflect several more shots from its beam. Several of our troops took rocket launchers and fired, missing too.
Then it seemed to glow blue...and I swore I saw it recoil in surprise for a second as the rockets that just missed it began to veer back down. Some kind of magnetism-based power that had just backfired.
The cyborg vanished in a cloud of flame and smoke. It may have been too much to hope the Fake Alicorn had been destroyed. It certainly didn't seem to re-appear...in fact I had to shield us from a rain of burning metal, circuits, and...ugh...I don't want to think about it.
All I know is we just stared at it for a few moments in shocked silence.
"What an idiot," Dima muttered.
"Makarov probably programmed them not to think things through all that well," I offered, but even I was stunned it had managed to do that...
"...Which one did it look like?"
I thought back to it.
"...The horn looked natural...ish...I think the...unicorn..." At that point, the previous cyborg's death flashed in my mind.
Dima nodded. "...May Lunabaleta finally be at peace..."
I could only nod and be silent for a few moments. At least this PROVED he wasn't recharged, or his prized victim wouldn't have been taken down that anti-climatically.
We came to a halt about 300 meters from the depot, using a hill to hide ourselves. Beyond it, we were fairly sure we'd be shot at, or trot on mines.
The depot was a set of rail lines, with a road leading in. Watchtowers, sandbags, and fences of razorwire marked the boundary. At the other end of the depot, the bunker that supposedly held the controls for Skyfall...and also the prison.
"...What idiot puts the controls for his superweapon in the prison?!" Gilda asked.
"There's two infinite things, Solomon's cruelty, and his inability to think things through," Dima quipped.
"Or it's a useful supply of power..." Dai reminded us.
I hoped it was poor planning skills rather than the prisoners as a source of power. In the hillside, there was an entrance to the barracks.
"About our only option with the vehicles is to send them around on the rail line there," Mason pointed a hoof.
"Seems good. Assault groups with a few Marines and the spec-ops all move over the hill and mountain, we start pinning down the defenders?" Sandgriff wondered.
"Yeah, I think cavalry over the hills with me shielding, and tanks with some of the others down the road while we're distracting them. We'll hit them, get into the Skyfall command bunker, disable it, then we clear out the anti-air..." I said.
"And messengers fly back to get reinforcements to come in behind us," Dima grinned.
"Sounds like a plan. We hit em hard, we get the prisoners, get the guns, get Skyfall. Woo, we're gonna need a checklist for all this stuff." Oddball mused.
The mention of checklists had me thinking...
"In short guys, if it's Hooviet, blow the Tartarus out of it. If it's anti-air, blow the Tartarus out of it. Rescue the prisoners, then with Skyfall and the prison itself, what do we do?"
"Blow the Tartarus out of it twice for good measure," Gilda suggested.
"Sounds good. Oh, and we need to pin down that barracks, stop anyone coming out but make sure we can still get in."
"Sounds like a job for my little tank," Oddball noted.
"And we need to leave Makarov to me once we're inside," I warned.
"Yep. What he said," Dima backed me up.
"...Honestly still not sure I can believe what you said but you called dibs," Mason nodded.
"Then let's go," Sandgriff said.
I nodded. "...And if any of us don't make it out of this, it's been an honor everycreature."
We all saluted one another one last time. Some Marines talon-bumped.
"Now, let's do this. For Eques-...For the Prince-...Dang it, I don't know any country-neutral battlecries..."
"Screw it, we'll shout something loud when we're charging instead of whispering it out here," Dima noted.
"Like what, 'aaaaargh'?" Frost wondered.
"Everyone just figures it out at the time."
"Why don't we let the bad guys keep 'aargh'?" A Marine Sergeant suggested.
"Just move out already!" Mason said.
We finally charged the compound. As expected, we were met with Hooviet troops...who quickly found out Makarov wasn't the only one who could be one step ahead of the enemy. Sniper shots rang out and those enemies who weren't mowed down quickly had to take cover. The tower gunners prepared to fire...and considering the results, I'm assuming Natasha took care of them.
"Alright, gunners down!" I called, providing some shields to cover our unicorns.
Despite the Iron Curtain, they still managed to get a scanning spell up and check for mines. They gave the go ahead and charged forwards with the Marines, dropping flares to mark a path.
"Alright, go go!" Sandgriff called, the Columbians moving in. I covered them from Hooviet machine guns, letting them get close enough to put their shotguns to good use.
Suddenly, I saw a Hooviet sniper fall off a roof. Our shinobi had apparently managed to sneak up and take out the Hooviet snipers on a roof nearby before a shot could be fired. They then took up the sniper rifles that'd been dropped and provided more cover.
"Showoffs..." I muttered.
Suddenly, amongst the cracks and rattles of gunfire, we heard music.
"Hush now, quiet now..."
Then the sound of a needle scratching.
"Oops, wrong record..." was faintly heard.
"...What the hell are those tanker nutballs doing now?!" Sandgriff wondered.
"All aboard, ha ha ha ha!"
"And here I thought Makarov was the only one who did that..." I muttered, watching our tanks (Oddball's being the source of the music) begin moving up the tracks towards us and began firing at the towers. Admittedly, the music did seem to startle the enemy fairly well.
After a few towers were destroyed, some rocket launchers fired at our tanks, but a quick shield spell from me managed to protect them long enough for Zangief to pick up one of our rocket launchers and fire back at one of the remaining guard towers, blowing it up. "...Was that necessary?"
The moose nodded. "Why let them keep high ground?"
I couldn't argue with that logic as he picked up the second rocket launcher he'd been carrying and blew up the other guard tower.
With that taken care of, me and Dima motioned our tanks forwards to the rail line and we continued our push to the halfway point, using rail cars for cover.
Looking over the situation, I thought occurred to me. "...Zangief, Dima, help me out here!"
Using what telekinesis (and in Zangief's case brute strength as well) we had, we managed to send a rail car flying down the rails...crashing into the rail car being used by some Hooviet troops for cover. Our ninja snipers took them out at that point.
"Looks like we've taken the area," I stated, looking around.
Dima nodded, motioning the tanks forwards to cover the barracks. "Now we take the offense."
So, getting together with the Griffin Assault Marines, Unit Metal, Shinobi, and half of the Immortals we prepared to charge...
"Wait a second!"
Then the music changed.
"...You've got the Touch!"
"...Well...at least the dramatic music is for us this time..." I said, then cleared my throat. "Now, let's do this! For Equestria and the Princesses!"
"For the Mother's Land and Freedom!"
"For Neighpon and the Empresses!"
And we finally took the offensive and charged the prison. The Hooviets on the walls quickly found themselves being pinned down by the other half of the Immortals' arrows and some snipers, and what shots they managed getting blocked by my forcefields or my riot shield.
"The door's going to be locked," I pointed out, hoping someone would have a solution.
Zangief had one. And another rocket launcher.
"What door?" the rebel moose stated one fiery explosion later.
"...I think you're going to like Ellis."
With the troopers on the wall pinned down and the door blown up (I didn't want to think about the deer guarding it, I didn't have TIME to think about that), we were able to get in fairly quickly. It took a few moments for the guards to mobilize (they'd naturally not seen this coming), and lucky for me, the first one I encountered came out of a door a few feet in front of me startled and terrified.
So I bashed him in the face with my shield and knocked him out.
But mostly, I used my shields for their intended purposes and guarded everyone else. The Shinobi did a good job of sneaking up on corners and nailing guards with stun grenades, regular grenades, or using martial arts, before we had to deal with them.
It was bedlam once we actually got involved in the actual all out fight. Knives, revolvers, swords. I mostly just covered ponies or bashed deer over the head with my shield until we got to a point where there was a fork in the hallway, so to speak.
"The control room is this way," said Dima, looking one direction.
"And the cells are this way," I said.
Yes, I know, shutting down Skyfall was important, it was vital to ending this nightmare...but...
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You want to make sure your squad are ok.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): There's nothing wrong with wanting your friends safe.)
Dima put a hoof on my shoulder. "Save your comrades, we'll handle Skyfall."
Deer and Ponies are both herd animals after all.
I gave a slow nod. "Be careful, Dima."
"Same to you, my friend. Kamarov, I have a feeling he'll need your help."
We shook hooves and parted ways. Yes, I was going to the prison area with only the medic, but that was why this was a just plain stupid design choice; the guards had to choose between 'protect superweapon instrumental to our victory' or 'guard the enemy troops', and well, the guards who we hadn't taken down were probably mostly guarding Skyfall if they were smarter than Makarov.
"Sir!" called a voice. Gilda came rushing up next to me. "...Look...I know I'm the rookie here, but can't have the only other Equestrian around here dying, can I?"
"...Alright, but I'm point." Truth be told, I was happy to have another Equestrian to back me up.
I had to bash a few guards over the head or nail them with a stun spell, or let Kamarov take them down. Gilda didn't do much firing with that shotgun of hers, but she did do well in physical combat, considering Griffins did have lion-like strength.
"Dang it!" I exclaimed as we came to a fork in the road. "Now what?"
Gilda gave a sniff down each hallway. "That way."
"...How do you know?" Kamarov asked.
"I smell ponies that way...well, pony blood. I've smelled enough of it today..." she explained, reminding us that Griffins were a predatory species that used to hunt ponies.
"That was probably Gag." And that reminded me why I was so clopped off at Makarov.
We finally made it to the cell block...which of course was guarded. But like I assumed, most of the guards were busy guarding Skyfall.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What?!)
Oh...s-sorry, I thought it was the Wolf...which in retrospect might have been a good thing since I could lead it to Makarov...It was actually what looked like a heavily modified cyborg Diamond Dog standing there...I never thought having to fight a cyborg Diamond Dog would be a relief...or that I'd have to fight one period! Why is that even a thing?!
"Is it just meh, or did yah hear explosions out there?"
"A war's going on right now, Ellis, there's going to be explosions."
"But Ah mean there was a big explosion like it was right outside."
I charged in and glared at the troops. "Out of my way!" I sent a shield out in a shockwave, slamming into the guards and launching them across the room into the walls.
(Interviewer's Note (Pegasus): Wow! Where'd that come from?!)
The power of friendship I guess, which in this world makes perfect sense!
The cyborg managed to get back up and slashed at me several times, forcing me to block with my shield, which thankfully worked.
"Captain!" called Gilda, throwing me a knife, which while not exactly the best weapon was better than nothing and let me parry some blows. Kamarov opened fire on it with his gun, but its armor withstood it. And-
OH CELESTIA! IT HAS A CHAINSAW!
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What?!)
It started cutting through my riot shield with a bucking CHAINSAW that popped out of its back! Who equips a cyborg diamond dog with a chainsaw?!
Gilda charged up and blew the chainsaw off with a point-blank shotgun blast. It turned and pounced on her. Kamarov opened fire, managing to hit an eye and cause it to rear up. I leapt on it's now exposed back and smashed my damaged shield into its back repeatedly. It finally threw me off and tried to dive at Gilda...only for her to blast it point blank in the chest with her now reloaded shotgun, managing to actually drive it back. It swung at her but only managed to cut the barrel of her shotgun.
I took advantage of the hole in its chest and charged forwards, driving my horn into the hole. It gave a yelp of surprise moments before I discharged a Gravity Buster point blank into its chest.
The result was me being covered in oil (I HOPE it was oil) and the cyborg slamming into a cell door with enough force to dent it inward, then crumpling to the ground, apparently dead...or shut down...not sure if there was enough Diamond Dog left to count as dying...
Ok...a chainsaw wielding cyborg diamond dog just tried to kill me...what's left on the 'list of cliche things Makarov can try to kill me with'?
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): falling, in your dreams, the kitchen sink, and a forklift.)
I panted staring at the situation before turning to Gilda. "Thanks..." I offered her a hoof and pulled her up.
"You did pretty good," I complimented and gave her a pat on the back.
"Ok, Ah know that wasn't in mah head!"
I found the door the voices came from, which surprisingly wasn't the one I blew the cyborg into. "Ellis! Is that you?!" I called.
"...Captain?! Is that you?!" Thunderchild's voice asked.
I formed a shield sphere in the lock and expanded it, shattering the lock before kicking the door open.
"Guys!" I called, running in. My blood boiled when I saw them battered and bruised, and I saw red when I saw the bandaged stump where Gag's wing once was. But they weren't twisted into mini-boss monsters like a little me inside had been scared of.
They, however, were staring at me in shock. "...Captain?" Ellis asked, staring at me like I was a mirage. "This ain't one of Makarov's tricks?"
"No. I'm here, Ellis," I said, giving him a smile.
"But...how did you...when did...Makarov said he had you in his ship! How'd you get out?!"
"He blew it up," Kamarov stated, patting me on the back.
Thunderchild's jaw dropped. "You...blew up his ship?"
"Yeah, he threatened Twiley."
My senior NCO blinked. "...Note to self; never threaten your little sister."
"But...how did you get here?" asked Audience, limping over.
"By kicking everyone's flanks that got in my way."
I took a few trots back to allow them to walk out and see the results of my little roaring rampage of rescue. "...So you did..." Audience stated, staring at the cyborg I'd left embedded in a cell door.
"Wow...didn't know you had it in you."
I turned to look at Running Gag as he spoke. His characteristic lightheartedness was still there...but I could see the hurt in his eyes. My eyes went to his stump. "Gag...I...I'm sorry..."
"Hey, you weren't the one who shot it off," he replied, looking back at his severed wing. "...If you want to make me feel better, you can kick that bucker's flank."
I looked at him for a moment, then nodded. "It's on my list already..." I WISHED I could tell him I knew a way to get his wing back, but I didn't want to get his hopes up in case plan B was needed.
"We're behind you," Audience said, looking me in the eye. The others didn't even need a moment to think about it. They just nodded.
I couldn't help smiling. "Thanks guys...But looks like you could use some patching up first."
Garnet finally came forwards. Her eyes were bloodshot and red. I could tell this had been hard on her. "Sir, I managed to patch everypony up as best I could, but...I didn't have many supplies."
I looked over everypony. "...Given what you had to work with, I think you had a good job."
Kamarov stepped forwards. "Perhaps I can be of assistance," he said, pulling out his supplies.
I'll give them both this; getting five beat up ponies back to fighting shape isn't easy. They did it. Kamarov knew some Deer magic that helped Gag recover from the blood loss and now that Garnet had medical supplies and another set of hooves, everypony was at least back in fighting shape. Given Makarov had beaten the Tartarus out of all five of them, blown off Gag's wing, and Thunderchild had been tortured, just getting them standing would be impressive.
Gilda just stood aside, staring at Gag's amputated wing.
"So, sir, what's the situation?" Ellis asked.
"Long story short, I blew up Makarov's flagship, Princess Celestia and the Dragon Gods are kicking Hooviet flank worldwide but if we don't finish things Makarov might be able to reclaim his advantage, I got all the special forces I could find, blew up his helicopter with Dima, stormed the place, took the barracks, stormed the prison, the others are taking out his Skyfall weapon, and we're finally on the offensive."
Ellis stared at me. "Sir, yah can tell us if there's something else."
Apple Family honesty. "It's kind of crazy..."
Gag chuckled, and boy did that feel good. "Sir, look around. This was already crazy!"
I finally laughed at one of Gag's jokes. "When I blew up Makarov’s flagship, the remains of his superweapon formed into that Imagination Spirit from the ruins Audience's mom was excavating who temporarily took away Makarov's 'I'm immune to plot holes' license and Makarov is currently weakened from me destroying said superweapon so we have a chance."
"...What did her wingspread look like?" asked Thunderchild.
"Uh...one was a swan the other was a...butterfly I think. They were pretty average sized though."
"Eh, sounds like about a five for size but an eight for uniqueness."
I blinked. "...You're not shocked?"
"Sir, yer a weirdness magnet, we're used tah this by now," Ellis stated.
"Uh...ok...I'll take yer word for it..." Gilda admitted.
"Oh! Guys, this is Gilda, she's with the Columbians," I introduced. "Gilda, this is my squad."
Did they accept her? We're Equestrians, what do you think?
Garnet gave the fallen cyborg one sad look, and put two bits on his chest to pay his way across the river.
With that out of the way, we hurried to the nearest armory (which, given this was designed by Makarov, was about two feet from the prison) to stock up.
...You have got to be bucking kidding me...
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What?)
We found more of the armor Pandora had made me in the armory!
"How did..." I asked, looking at the armor.
"What is it, sir?" asked Ellis, looking at it.
"Remember the Imagination Goddess? She made me the armor I'm wearing...but why is there more of it here?!"
Garnet blinked, looking down at the armor and shield. "...I'm not sure...The Hooviets don't seem to have it...Did anything...she say anything about it?"
"Just that she made it from my imagination...and I now I remember: I imagined it like in a videogame..." I facehoofed. "Which means I could have replaced my shield at any armory this entire bucking time!"
"Well, best not look a gift horse in the mouth," Garnet stated.
A few minutes later, we all suited up (including Gilda, who upgraded - even grabbing a Hooviet Shotgun that seemed to have some kind of pump-style mechanism to replace hers that was now broken). Fortunately, there were crossbows there (not sure if they were already there or if Pandora did that too) and two riot shields, one of which Audience took and the other I took to replace mine.
Gilda also got the bright idea to pick up some ammo reloads for our other allies trying to take the Skyfall chamber.
"Ready for some payback, everypony?" I asked, putting my hoof in the middle of us.
Thunderchild was first to put his hoof in. Followed by Audience, Garnet, Ellis, and Gag. Gilda even included her claw.
As we headed down the hall to see if we could help destroy Skyfall, Dima and the other squad was outside the room taking cover.
"We ran into a problem..." Dima blinked, looking us over. "...Where did..."
"Pandora stocked the armories with them, what's the problem?" I asked.
"Cyborg Alicorn and a few other borgs are guarding the controls," Sandgriff reported.
Dima looked at me. "Shining...It's Saharnoj Vaty..."
My blood ran cold. "...Yablokovodka's sister."