// Chapter 3// Story: Starcraft: Infestation of Equus.// by ZarPaulek//------------------------------//
"Here they come!" Twilight Sparkle called as she observed a line of guardponies outfitted with the new equipment produced by the salvaged Terran fabricators. Some wore full hardsuits but most simply carried a gauss gun and wore their normal Royal Guard armor, the earth ponies and pegasi supporting their firearms with a shoulder strap and pulling a string tied to the trigger with their teeth. Many of them, particularly the pegasus guards, had to carry smaller AGR-14 rifles rather than the massive C-14s that the marines typically wielded. And all of these guardponies were attempting to aim their cumbersome weapons at a swarm of Zerg that were rushing straight for them.
A couple Zerglings burst apart in a shower of viscera but the vast majority reached the flimsy barricade of sandbags they'd hastily erected and easily vaulted it. Within seconds all of the unarmored stallions were eviscerated, those in hardsuits were able to take a few hits and even slay some more Zerglings before they too fell. While the Zerglings could not reach the flying pegasi they were accompanied by Hydralisks who swiftly downed the airborne ponies with their toxic spines. One unicorn put up a shield and managed to protect himself and a wounded comrade for an additional ten seconds before the swarm overwhelmed him and shattered the shield.
"That's enough." Twilight's horn glowed and unleashed a wave of energy that swept over the battlefield. The Zerg vanished and the guardponies' wounds healed. "That was pathetic! If those were real you would be dead and Equestria would be overrun with those monsters!" The guards fell to their knees and begged the lavender princess for forgiveness.
"Lay off them Twilight, this is the first time they've used this new gear." Applejack said to Twilight as they looked down on the training grounds. "I mean, look at that poor colt over there." She pointed to a guardpony in a hardsuit that was lying facedown on the ground.
"That 'poor colt' as you put it was the third longest to survive the combat simulation spell." Twilight stated in response. "Clearly the Terran equipment provides an advantage to those fools who call themselves Royal Guards but evidently it is not enough."
"Your highness," the unicorn who had thrown up the shield at the last second during the mock battle cautiously approached the princess of dawn and dusk and bowed to her. "If I may point out that it took most of us months to train with the weapons and armor we are accustomed to. You cannot reasonably expect us to learn to use these alien weapons so quickly."
"We do not have months! The second attack on Ponyville was mere days after the first! We need some way to implant the skills to use these directly into your brains or something!" Twilight's tirade was cut short by a belch of flame from Spike, she unfurled the scroll that materialized and read it quickly.
"To my dearest Twilight Sparkle,
I have received word of incidents involving odd pony-like creatures in Fillydelphia and Manehattan. I have gone to Manehattan to investigate while I would much appreciate it if you checked out Fillydelphia. You may want to bring some of your Royal Guard just in case.
Your colleague and former mentor,
P.S. The last word we received from Fillydelphia was a one-word telegraph stating simply, "Zombies!""
Twilight rolled up the piece of parchment again and looked over her loyal guardponies. "Everypony, get one of the barracks ready for takeoff, we leave for Fillydelphia in one hour!"
Four hours later the aerial convoy finally arrived at the outskirts of the city of Fillydelphia, they decided to land and move in on hoof. The bearers were decked out in their personalized hardsuits: Twilight had painted hers royal purple with her cutie mark on the right pauldron, her friends had chosen similar paint schemes, except that Rarity had refused to wear hers until she had figured out a way to make that clunky suit of armor look anywhere close to aesthetically pleasing, Pinkie Pie wore a backpack with a set of tubes going down each arm instead of carrying a gauss rifle, and Rainbow Dash was still recovering so she wasn't present. Approximately a quarter of the ground-borne guards had hardsuits, and as soon as they landed the barracks started fabricating new suits. The pegasus guards, now freed of the burden of the troop carrier coaches, flew overhead, they would scout the city ahead of the others.
In the distance they could see the city's skyscrapers and factories, but no sign of life within the streets. No carts, no ponies walking too and from work or school, no sound of factories milling steel or trains chugging down the rails. Something clearly was not right. As the pegasus scouts flew in to ascertain the situation Rarity noticed Fluttershy attempting to hide underneath the barracks, her pack was catching on one of the support struts. "Oh come now, Fluttershy, it's true that Fillydelphia is no Canterlot or Ponyville. but it's not nearly that ugly."
"It is now." Flutters showed her tear-stained face to her white-coated friend. "Can't you hear them?"
Rarity looked confused, "I can't hear anything but those hideous machines of ours."
"You, you can't?" Seeing Rarity shake her head Fluttershy decided that she should probably attempt to explain. "When I talk to my animal friends it's not like they sound like they're speaking Equestrian, like some of the ponies in town seem to think. In fact they don't really seem like they're saying words at all. But I can usually discern their intent, I just know what they're attempting to tell me. Sometimes I see a picture of what they're thinking of, other times it's some sort of abstract concept." She shuddered as she recalled something that had been truly horrific. "But those monsters that attacked Ponyville last week, I heard a voice, it commanded them all, told them to do terrible, terrible things. And the sensations, Rarity I could feel her hunger!"
"I don't know, but it was like they were nothing but the claws on the ends of her forelegs. She didn't care how many of her children we slew, just so long as she got our essence. By Celestia, not even bees are that callous." Fluttershy slid the gold-plated visor of her helmet down, concealing her features as she wept wordlessly.
"Fluttershy, are you saying that they're here?"
Two of the pegasi scouting the city slipped between a pair of skyscrapers as they searched for signs of life. They scanned the streets and windows with no results for several minutes before one of them spotted what looked like a pony running down an alleyway. One of the guards decided to follow her while the other attempted to work the personal radio transmitter they had all been equipped with.
"Come on, come on," He said as he struggled to push the tiny buttons with hooves, after multiple seconds he managed to hold down the transmit button. "Finally. Reconnaissance team 3 to base, we've spotted a survivor, moving to follow."
Suddenly there came a loud crashing sound and a nearby warehouse exploded, revealing a large pulsating creature with a great singular appendage that stretched higher than the nearby office buildings. It was covered with green sacs of some sickly fluid, which it was currently spraying all over the hapless guardpony that had followed the bait into the trap so eagerly.
"Correction, no survivors and one very big Zerg!"
Four hours earlier
"I can't believe that worked." Rainbow Dash was dressed in the catsuit she had once used to break into the hospital, which this time she had just managed to break out of. "There's no way they're cutting anything else off now."
She tugged the suit off and examined herself, she was still covered with scars, though many of them were now a bit smaller thanks to repeated healing spells, but most noticeable was the fact that her right wing was completely gone. The Hydralisk's venom was slow to spread but was apparently impossible to neutralize, faced with no choice the surgeons had amputated the wing that took the brunt of the spines, leaving nothing but a tiny stump.
"Well, guess now I need to find my friends, they should understand. Wherever they are now." As she was wondering how to find them she heard a loud rumbling noise and saw one of the barracks lift off from the Terran technology grounds and drift lazily off. "That looks promising." She tried to take off after it, remembered that she now had only one wing, and instead trotted off in its general direction.
Over half an hour later Rainbow Dash, panting and heaving, arrived at the camp entrance guarded by a pair of earth ponies that had been left behind to watch things. "This," *pant* "must," *wheeze* "be what Scootaloo feels like." Realizing she was being watched she swiftly straightened up and addressed the two guards, "so, gonna let me in?"
The left guard looked at her like she was stupid or something, "and just who might you be, miss?"
"Come on, don't you recognize me?" The guards looked blankly at her, "I'm Rainbow Dash, one of the reserve Wonderbolts, bearer of the freaking Element of Loyalty. Didn't you at least see me charging the Zerg when they attacked Ponyville a couple of weeks ago?"
"We weren't here at the time." The right guard answered.
As Rainbow was about to voice another loud objection to the guard's treatment of (in her mind) such an awesome pony a young pegasus guard with an injured leg meandered over to the gate. "Dame Rainbow Dash, glad to see you're out of the hospital."
"Finally, somepony who knows who I am." The sentries stood aside as Rainbow entered the camp. "So, guardpony, where's my friends?"
"Princess Twilight and the other Bearers of the Elements of Harmony left for Fillydelphia with most of the unit." He suddenly seemed to realize that Rainbow Dash had just referred to him by a simple job title without bothering to learn his name. "And by the way, dame Dash, I'm corporal Flash Sentry, at your service."
"Yeah, yeah." Rainbow didn't seem to be listening completely. "So where can I get a pegacoach to Fillydelphia? In case you hadn't noticed I'm not exactly about to be flying on my own anytime soon." You pointed with her head to the bandaged stump of her wing.
Flashy Sentry tried to keep his face straight and not betray the feelings of disgust and pity he felt at the sight. "Sorry, they took all the coaches with them."
"Then what about these things?" She pointed at the nearest Terran structure, an engineering lab, There was also the original barracks and command center, as well as a newly constructed set of supply depots with a pony-piloted SCV stomping around and even a factory. "Twilight said that they could fly."
"Well yes," at that Rainbow jumped on top of the lab and started banging on the hull with her hooves. "But they are ridiculously slow, it would take several hours to get to Fillydelphia. And we need all of them here."
"You'd think ponies who could get here all the way from a star would have something faster." Rainbow Dash jumped down, disappointingly. "Don't you have anything faster?"
"Well, the eggheads think that those things might be capable of a couple hundred miles per hour." Flash Sentry gestured towards a few armored hovercycles parked next to the factory.
Rainbow Dash shrugged and started towards them, "it's a start."