Two pink blades of charged particles collided in the darkness of space spraying sparks as they clashed and vied for dominance. With a final flash the two blades parted as the massive war machines wielding the blades broke away from one another and began to square off a short distance from one another.
The least damaged of the two had angular, boxy armour covering its slender legs and remaining arm, its right, while sparks burst from the damaged sections where the head and left arm had previously been. Its upper torso was painted black with red sides while the arm and everything below the waist was painted white save the soles of the feet which where painted red and the remaining shoulder plate which was black.
The other featured a similar, but slightly bulkier design philosophy; however it featured large, ugly, protruding thrusters on the shoulders, knees, chest and back. It too was missing its head along with the right arm from the elbow down and the entire right leg. It was painted the red of autumn leaves and featured an insignia on the left shoulder, a lightning bolt with white wings with a small banner underneath reading 'Wonderbolts.'
The white machine swung its energy sword to its left, then right before thrusting it forward and charging straight at its opponent. The other settled for simply pointing its weapon straight at its opponent and matching its charge.
As the two collided their blades pierced the other's chest, cutting through the armour like a hot knife through butter. For a moment sparks lanced between the two machines before they where both engulfed in a fireball.
Nine Months Earlier
A violet mare with a deep purple mane framing her green eyes and small violet horn on her forehead and a white six pointed star on her flank slowly strolled through one of the colony's many parks. The colony had been her home since before she was born and her family had lived there since her grandfather had helped to build it.
She smiled as she heard a high pitched voice from over the crest of the hill. Making her way over her eyes fell on a filly who was playing by herself among a field of wildflowers. The filly had a pearlescent coat and a white mane along with green eyes and a tiny horn on her forehead.
"Amethyst!" the filly cried out excitedly as she saw the older pony and began to run up towards her.
"How was school today Iridescence?" Amethyst asked as she nuzzled the smaller equine affectionately.
The little filly pawed at the ground, "It was ok, no one was mean today." She replied with a hint of sadness. Every day was hard on the two, being of the rare breed of Earth Pony with horns on their foreheads they where considered freaks of nature and shunned by normal Earth Ponies.
"Well what do we have here?" A burly voice crowed as three muscular forms descended on the two fillies. Within moments Iridescence was held down by the hoof of a brown coated stallion with a jet black mane and a compass Cutie Mark on his flank who grinned cruelly at Amethyst, "A couple of Horn-Freaks!" he laughed in mock-surprise.
The elder filly found herself restrained by the brown stallion's two friends, both Earth Ponies, one with a lime green coat, two-tone blue and white mane and a spanner Cutie Mark while the other was blue with a blonde mane and had a target Cutie Mark.
Iridescence gave a pitiful cry as the stallion's hoof dug into the side of her head causing a wave of panic to flood through Amethyst, "STOP IT!" she cried while vainly struggling against the stallion's cohorts, "You're hurting her Rough Edge!"
"Really?" Edge asking in mock concern before grinding his hoof some and laughed, "Who cares? You're both just Horn-Freaks after all." He chuckled for a moment then blinked before a wide grin crossed his face, "Tell you what… we'll leave you alone if you run a little errand for us."
He leant down and said, "Sneak into the base and bring us back Zero-G saddle."
"You can't be serious?" Amethyst gapped in shock, "If I get caught I'd be imprisoned… and then who would look after Irri?"
"Well then… you had better not get caught." Edge laughed before stroking the terrified little filly's mane, "Don't worry… we'll take good care of your sister while you're busy."
Magenta eyes peered through the lenses of a white mask that covered a cyan pegasus stallion's face. His rainbow mane and tail floated in the lack of gravity inside his Mobile Saddle as the red machine clung to a resource asteroid alongside two purple companions.
The pilot wore no helmet, only a red Zero-G Saddle which was connected to a large harness on the pegasus' back comprised of countless wires and cables that comprised the Magic Interface Relay Network. His hind hooves rested a pair of pedals that where part of a set of three on each side while his fore hooves each had six pedals to work with, as well as two levers. Within reach of his snout where a dozen or so buttons rounding out the machine's controls.
In front of his where nine monitors granting him a field of view of the area in front of, above and on either side of the machine as well as in the diagonals between them, however blind spots remained in the areas of 10 and 2 o'clock high where support struts held the monitors in place.
The Pegasus' machines single large red camera swivelled to its left to look at its companions. All three where almost identical with dome shaped head with a 'coal scuttle' shape and a long slit for the single red optic to swivel within along with a cylindrical 'snout' like structure on the face with pipes leading out and disappearing under the 'coal scuttle' curve, the red one also featured a large, blade like horn.
The chest was of a smooth, angular design with a slight triangular shape, the diagonal ridges leading from the shoulders to the centre of the chest and the vertical ridge running to the waist. On either side, near the shoulder joints, where protruding rectangular structures mounted with vernier thrusters and vents for the machine's reactor along with slanted plates to deflect any shrapnel from getting into the vents.
The back featured four large thruster vents that provided most of the machine's thrust in zero gravity which where mounted on a backpack assembly on the upper back, two facing towards the feet and two towards the head. In addition the backpack mounted hardpoints on which a variety of hand carried munitions could be stored. Presently only one carried anything there, one of the purple machines carried a large cannon obviously meant to be held over its shoulder when in use.
The arms featured the same rounded shaping as the head with a faux muscular accent to both halves of the arm with the elbow being a large cylindrical revolate joint. At the end of each arm was a five-digited appendage, the one on the right arm of two grasped a sculpted protrusion that extended from a large box that ended in a large hollow tube, while the middle machine carried a large weapon with four long tubes at one end and a large box underneath with a belt connecting to the weapon's main frame.
The red and the bazooka carrying machine's shoulders where covered by rounded armour from which struts extended and supported a pair of large shields. The remaining machine, the one wielding the chain gun, lacked the shield on the right side; instead it mounted a massive cannon, even larger then its companion's bazooka, with a large magazine protruding from the top.
The legs where thick and rounded with a defining ridge along the front, the armour designed to use the slope to deflect incoming shells, the armour ending with 'coal scuttles' over the ankles.. On each calf where two openings for vernier thrusters as well as additional thrusters in the 'ball' of each foot. The cockpit was located in the abdominal assembly, appearing as a rather large, boxy protrusion from between the machines legs. Protecting the hips where several large plates forming a skirt, two in front, two on each side and a large one on the rear.
A flashing light drew the pegasus' attention towards a craft drifting from the boulder field towards the colony. The signal was Morse code informing him the operation was beginning in earnest. With a smile he turned his red machine's head towards his teammates and made it nod, soon the fun would begin.
The gas propelled disposable Striker craft floated gradually towards the colony. Its size, weight and speed camouflaged it as little more then a piece of debris to the colony's radar system, one that would theoretically bounce harmlessly off the colony hull. Under the hull seven pegasi had their hooves wrapped around underslung bars while one Pegasus sat within and guided the craft.
As it neared the colony all eight pegasi bailed off and allowed the craft to crash against the massive structure, bouncing off harmlessly. All eight where clad in full body purple space suits with their heads covered by large helmets, their faces obscured by an opaque visor. The suits mounted gas powered verniers to provide mobility in zero-gravity as well as a pair of silenced sub-machineguns.
One Pegasus moved towards the colony hull and opened a panel and pressed a few buttons on the console underneath causing a nearby airlock to slide open. With a nod to the other seven all eight made their way into the colony through the airlock.
"Achoo!" Dust kicked up as Amethyst sneezed forcing her to cover her snout to muffle the sound as the dust caused her to sneeze more. Her inner monologue complained about the fact nopony seemed to take the time to clean the air vents in the Royal Guard base, she was sure the military could afford to hire five or six fillies at a bit an hour to keep the vents sparkly clean and free of dust.
As the sneezing fit passed the mare grumbled quietly one last time before continuing to crawl along slowly and as silently as possible. She had a rough idea of the bases layout from looking at the old blueprints her Grandfather had kept, though several sections had been changed or modified.
A prime example would be the fact the Mobile Saddle Stables had been built after the original plans had been finished and the main construction area had moved on. So naturally when Amethyst realized she was currently crawling through those stables she realized she was well and truly lost.
"Ah… so this is the Saddle?" A baritone voice filtered through a nearby grate as Amethyst crawled by it. Curiously she peered between the grills to see who had spoken.
Her eyes falling on a shockingly tall figure clad in a brown robe emblazoned with a golden lyre on the back. Beside him was another figure in the same kind of robe, however this one appeared normal. Blinking Amethyst recalled what little she knew of the mysterious Church of Lyra and how the highest ranking members apparently took their devotion so seriously they trained their bodies to walk on their hind legs. If that rumour was true it certainly explained the first figures bizarre height.
What really surprised Ame was the third figure, a dark blue Earth Pony stallion with well groomed white mane and a lab coat draped across his strong frame. He was a stallion she knew well, her own father.
"Indeed my friend." Her father replied to the bipedal figure before gesturing with his left hoof towards a Mobile Saddle Amethyst on had only just begun to notice, "This is the rebirth of the legend, a machine that biers the title from your holiest of texts. Its name is Mobile Saddle Gundam Friendship!"
'Gun-dumb?' Amethyst thought, 'Kind of name is 'Gun-dumb' any-'
"Amethyst dear, come out from there and join me would you?" Her father's voice shocked her from her thoughts.
"What?" She squeaked well and truly betraying her presence, "But… how did you know I was here?" She asked as she lifted the grate and crawled out of the air vent. She didn't understand why but her eyes where drawn to the quadruped Lyrian.
Amethyst's father smiled as he noticed his daughters eyes drift and answered, "The young miss here 'felt' you approaching." The Lyrian lowered her head and pawed at the ground shyly at the comment.
The bipedal pony chuckled, "Do excuse Silver Lining, for an Earth Pony she is surprisingly shy." The elder Lyrian pulled off his hood revealing his white coat and lime green mane, along with his emerald eyes and big smile, "Allow me to introduce myself, I am High Bishop Shining Bounty of the Church of Lyra." With that he offered Amethyst a courteous bow, or what the horned pony assumed was a bow from the perspective of a biped. Silver Lining offered her a curtsy as well.
As the two returned to a standing position, Bounty making Amethyst feel slightly dizzy just looking at him, she asked, "So, why Gun-dumb? What kind of name is that?"
"You know of the Cataclysm one thousand years ago that wiped out 70% of pony life correct?" Bounty asked with Amethyst nodding her reply, "Well, in our sacred texts it speaks of four gun-wielding heroes who emerged during Old Equestria's darkest hour and acted as a dam against the evils of the Cataclysm. After a terrible struggle the heroes gave their lives to defeat the evils source, ending the Cataclysm. Collectively they where called Gundam."
"Gun… dam…" Amethyst blinked as she began to comprehend what the weight of meaning the name carried. After a moment she looked back at the White Giant and remarked, "So this… is Gundam?"
"Well that's strange…" a slightly bored looking stallion commented as he looked at the readings displayed on his monitor. He was one of two stallions within a control room of the Colony's docks, both wore the uniform of an Equestrian Empire officer.
"What is it Biggs?" Asked the first stallion's companion who wore a communications headset.
"The sensors are picking up increasing levels of Quarkon Particles around the Colony…" Biggs replied casually before his eyes widened, "Wedge… do you think?"
"An attack?" A third voice asked, "Eyup." Two soft pops rang out in the small room and the two stallions slumped across their consoles, holes in their forehead with blood leaking out.
The purple Zero-G Saddle clad Pegasus pony silently shut the door and methodically set to work tearing the consoles to pieces.
Within the service tunnels of the colony other purple suited Pegasi removed satchels from their saddlebags and stuck them to beams and behind supporting struts before flicking switches on them, the red lights on them switching to green, before floating deeper into the colony.
"One-Eight to One-One, I have control." The lead Pegasi's earpiece crackled. The plan was progressing without a hint of trouble, with Luna's blessings they could pull this off without anypony, on their side, getting killed.
"Acknowledged, the packages have been delivered, open the welcome mat." He ordered over the comlink before switching channels, "One-One to Zero-One, the decorations are set up, awaiting guests." He commented before looking back at the other Pegasi with him and performing a serious of gestures with his hooves.
With a nod his team split into two teams of two and a team of three before heading down different corridors. The operation was moving into its third phase and they would need to be in position before it began.
Four of the same purple machines that had been hiding behind the asteroid emerged from the darkness and raced towards the colony, their thrusters leaving a blue haze in void. Two of them where the duel shield model while the other two where the shield and cannon variant.
The LMS-A13C Cloud Kicker was the mainstay of the Lunar Commonwealth's Mobile Saddle forces and served as a sturdy and reliable general purpose machine. Of the two entering the colony one carried an assault rifle and bazooka like weapon while the other stuck to the standard rifle.
The two other machines where LMS-C13C Cloud Cannons where medium range artillery support units, their shoulder mounted 250mm smoothbore cannons delivering devastating payloads with deadly accuracy over great distances. Both where armed with standard assault rifles.
Inside the cockpit of the lead Saddle a stallion with a green mane and yellow coat smirked as he glanced to his left and saw the signal flare emerge from where the other units where hiding amongst the resource asteroids. The three that had been hiding emerge, visible only by the vapour trails of their thrusters at this distance, alongside eight others. The vapour trails of eight Equestrian Empire EGM-A21AM Applejack Mobile Saddles emerged from the colony on an intercept course with the larger Cloud Kicker force.
"Looks like the party has started, Gentlecolts." Lieutenant Aurora Dawn commented casually, "Let's show the Imps why space belongs to Luna and her Commonwealth!"
Two spherical pods with a pair of arms and machine guns mounted on each wrist flew out of the colony and raced towards the four approaching Mobile Saddles. The two Cloud Cannons reacted by rotating their cannons to aim at the pods before firing their cannons and striking with deadly accuracy, both pods exploded into fiery flowers as the shells struck them dead centre.
The four Mobile Saddles flew past the explosions while maintaining formation as they sped into the cavernous expanse of one of the colonies multiple docks, rocketing past the startled workers as they scrambled to evacuate the area, some scattering their equipment in their haste leaving hammers, spanners and screwdrivers drifting within the gravity-less expanse.
As the Lieutenant neared the middle of the dock a large gate came into focus at the far end of the structure he smirked while shifting his hooves slightly, bringing the Mobile Saddle's right arm up to aim the massive bazooka weapon. Taking the helmet mounted trigger between his teeth he bit down, commanding the machine's index finger to pull the weapon's trigger.
A brilliant emerald stream of particles was discharged from the beam bazooka's emitter and surged into the centre of rear gate of the dock, the stricken section exploding a moment later. As the smoke cleared the four Mobile Saddles ignited their main verniers and flew through the improvised entrance.
All throughout the colony explosions rocked the entire structure sending ponies and debris alike flying as they tore through bulkheads and collapsed supports. Within the residential zones the blasts where felt as little more then tremors that knocked the startled residents off their hooves and filled their hearts with fear, each one realizing it wasn't a simple debris strike.
Within the bowels of the colony a muscular stallion with a grey coat and short cropped mane and tail drifted among the debris of one of the explosions. With a groan he slowly opened his eyes and started glancing around.
The corridor was a wreck, walls had been torn apart and parts of the ceiling and floor had collapsed, the cables powering the lights having been severed along the way. Being a section without gravity the concept of a floor and ceiling was relative to which direction your where heading, like the lanes of a road for an automobile.
Blood leaked out of the bodies of the dead and simply drifted in droplets around them, what little light remained glinted off them. The stallion quickly identified most of the bodies as his commanding officers.
He recalled the reason they had even been in this passage was to get to their ship so they could scramble and fend off the Commonwealth aggressors. His eyes narrowed as he realized whoever had planned this surprise attack knew all too much about the colony and its interior to manage such a precise blow.
A quick glance allowed the stallion to locate his hat and with a swift motion he returned it to its rightful place atop his head. His red uniform was charred and he could burns on several parts of his body, but he was an officer in Imperial Guard and even though his superiors where dead he still had his duty.
With one of his powerful hind legs the Earth Pony kicked off the floor and began to proceed towards the military docks. There was exactly one ship in those docks and if she wasn't destroyed then she needed to launch, with or without its assigned leadership.
Amethyst and Silver Lining stood together, giving each other support by their proximity as the ground shudder every few moments from the heavy footfalls of Mobile Saddles scrambling outside to counter the attacking Commonwealth machines. Amethyst's father was frantically typing away at a computer console even while Shining Bounty fired wrist-mounted submachine guns at the two Commonwealth commandoes that had galloped into the hanger as the explosions started.
"Quickly you two." Amethyst's father shouted over the gunfire, "Onto the lift!" he gestured towards the elevator in front of the Gundam with an urgency she had never seen in him before. The young mare gulped and glanced at Silver Lining who simply nodded to her before the two galloped at full speed onto the lift, her father trigger its ascent as soon as they where on.
As the lift peaked the Gundam's cockpit hatch opened and Amethyst's father yelled up to the two mares, "Get inside, you will be safe there!" Trusting her father Amethyst quickly made her way inside the machine with Silver Lining on her heels. As soon as they where in she heard her father cry out in pain only for the hatch to slam shut, sealing the girls in the cramped cockpit.
"What?" Amethyst muttered as her mind refusing to connect the dots of what she knew must have happened. Her eyes narrowed at the darkened hatch as the soft internal lights of the cockpit flickered on and she screamed, "DADDY!" before pounding on the hatch with her forehooves in desperation to run to her father's side.
Only Lining's soft voice speaking behind her broke her from her blind panic, "Strange…" the Lyrian mare muttered as she straddled the cockpit chair and tested all the controls, "I can't seem to activate this Saddle."
"Why are you wasting you time with that? Help me get to my father!" Amethyst shouted hysterically back at her.
Lining looked the panicking mare in the eye and replied calmly, "If we can activate this Mobile Saddle we can use its weapons to save your father and Father Bounty."
"So…" Amethyst lowered herself and carefully backed up until she was standing to Silver Lining's left side, "Why isn't it working?" She asked.
Lining shook her head and replied, "I don't know… Father Bounty said there was a special requirement to activating it; I had hoped my abilities where what he meant but maybe…" She glanced at Amethyst's horn before looking the mare in the eye, "Maybe it was something your father was more familiar with?" She smiled before removing herself from the chair and gesturing for Amethyst to take her place.
Anxiously the horned mare straddled the chair and gingerly flicked the activation switch. Amethyst winced as she felt energy surge through her horn as the multitude of monitors flickered to life they began to display the boot up coding of the OS while the main monitor displayed the words 'Mobile Spatially Adaptive Dynamic Direction Locomotive Engine' as the entire control structure lifted slightly and part of the ceiling descended and gently press against her back before attaching an emergency use muzzle control unit to her head.
All the while Lining stared in awe at the violet shroud of energy that encased Amethyst's horn.
As the system finished booting up all the screens switched to displaying the area around the massive machine from the perspective of its head. Immediately Amethyst looked towards the Gundam's feet and saw her father's unmoving body in a pool of his own blood. Shining Bounty stood over his body as he continued to fight, one blood soaked forelimb hanging limply at his side. Blood exploded out of the warrior priest's back before he too fell to the ground and ceased moving.
Tears began to blur Lining's vision as a shrill scream burst from Amethyst's lungs.
"Ensign Broadside, Ensign Starboard, I'm glad to see you two alive!" The uniformed stallion declared with a relieved sigh. He gave the two mares a quick once over to check for injuries before asking, "Are you both fit for duty?"
Broadside, a stocky Earth Pony mare a coat the colour of desert sands and a rusty red mane looked at the stallion with vibrant greens before nodding her head. She replied with her strong and slightly deep voice, "Yes Lieutenant North Star, I'm as fit as when I finished Boot Camp."
Starboard, a rather dainty Earth Pony with a gleaming silver coat and well groomed emerald mane cast her sapphire eyes at North Star and nodded her affirmation even as she floated upside down from the perspective of the other two. It was with a wondrously harmonic voice that carried her reply of, "Certainly Darling, I am as fit as a fiddle."
North Star nodded before explaining the situation, "All of our superiors where killed in that explosion. If the Mobile Saddle teams survived they've likely already launched." As he paused the mares nodded in understanding, swallowing their shock at hearing the fates of the higher ranked officers, "If the Aasterinian is still operational then we need to get that thing moving. We have no idea what kind of force the Loonies have deployed out there so we need to get every working weapon out there to provide support."
The larger mare saluted, "Roger L-T! I'll look around and see if any of the other crewmates are in any condition to help." Broadside replied before disappearing down a side corridor.
The shinier mare broke out a beaming smile and eagerly announced, "Alrighty then Darling! Let us be off to the Aster and wake the dear from her beauty sleep!" Starboard promptly started flailing her legs in an elegant trotting motion, somehow managing to set a steady pace towards the dock.
North Star watched her for a moment before pushing off of the ground to drift after the strange, shiny mare with a single thought entering his mind, 'This mare is going to drive me insane…'
Seven blue Applejacks rocketed from the colony to clash with the inbound Lunar Commonwealth Mobile Saddles with one the colour of autumn leaves leading the formation. At a glance the Applejacks appeared different from their Cloud Kicker opponents, however a closer inspection revealed they shared many detail in their functionality.
Their knees and elbows used the same joints as the Cloud Kickers despite the frame being overall more slender and boxy. The Applejacks head had a shape resembling something between a snoutless pony or baby dragon with a single wide visor instead of the swivelling camera of the Cloud Kicker.
On the left shoulder of each and every one of the Applejacks was an insignia depicting a lightning bolt with white wings with a small banner underneath reading 'Wonderbolts.' The elite squadron of the Equestrian Empire, only the best of the best of the best where chosen to even attempt to join their ranks.
The eight Applejacks quickly closed in on the eleven Cloud Kickers when a tracer round flew from the debris field and struck one of the Applejacks directly in the stomach region, right where the cockpit was located.
"Damn it, they got Breakout." The leader grunted from his autumn leaf coloured Applejack, "Sureshot, break away and engage that sniper, Railjumper provide support. Everyone else, break and engage at will."
Sureshot's machine was equipped with a massive 180m 'Dragon's Fangs' sniper rifle as long as the Saddle was tall. Other unique features on the sniper spec Applejack Precision was the large camera on the forehead was half again the size of the rest of the head giving the machine a conehead appearance, also the left shoulder had a swivelling scope attached allowing for triangulation of targets and a much greater degree of accuracy at great distances.
Railjumper's machine was a standard model equipped with a shield in the left hand and a 150mm Linear Rifle in its right. The mare quickly flew her machine ahead of Sureshot, firing a few rounds in the direction of the advancing Cloud Kickers to drive them out of their flight bath.
As the two flew off the remaining Wonderbolts fired at the Cloud Kickers, drawing their attention back to the remaining five Applejacks as they broke formation forcing the Lunar Commonwealth machines to do the same.
One Cloud Kicker accelerated faster then the rest becoming a red blur as it charged straight at autumn leafed Applejack which responded by levelling its standard 120mm assault rifle and firing burst of fire, forcing the red machine to dodge to it's right and return fire. The custom Applejack boosted directly up, using the shield on its left arm to block any stray shots.
The Wonderbolt Captain growled across the radio, "Prism Blitz! Why are the Shadowbolts attacking a civilian colony?" he demanded even as the two whirled around each other, tracer rounds flying between them and the afterglow of their thrusters twisting and turning behind them.
The masked, rainbow maned Pegasus in the red Cloud Kicker smirked as he replied, "Shouldn't I be the one asking why the Wonderbolts are stationed at a 'peaceful and unarmed' civilian colony in direct violation of the Cadence Treaty? Are these the orders of your Empress, Autumn Wind? Or are where you acting alone?"
While all colonies where entitled to a small defence force, declared civilian colonies where prohibited by both sides from stationing any Mobile Saddle forces within their garrisons, ships carrying MS must declare their presence before docking and where forbidden from launching without clearance from the militia. The Wonderbolts had responded far too quickly to be able to claim this was what they had done, making it clear they had been on patrol around the colony.
Autumn growled as he realized his opponent had won the battle of words, which meant he had no choice but to win the battle of force. His custom Applejack slammed feet first into one of the Flim Flam Cylinder type colony's three massive solar panel arms sending shattered pieces of photovoltaic cells everywhere and holstered his assault rifle to the rear waist hardpoint. A panel on the right arm flipped over the hand as he readied his attack.
Prism reacted immediately by holstering his own assault rifle and drawing a Mobile Saddle sized Long Sword from the shield attached to the left shoulder with the right hand. With a flare of the Command-type Cloud Kicker's vernier thrusters the machine launched towards the Applejack as he swung the sword at the opposing machine.
Sword and knuckle clashed, the AppleBucker Knuckles used by the Applejack releasing a cushion of mega-particles that burst into a spinning vortex as they clashed against the Cloud Kickers E-Carbon sword. Neither weapon could overcome the other as the pilots fought for dominance, eventually the clash destabilized the particles resulting in a massive surge that blasted both machines away from each other, the Applejack carving a gouge in the solar panels as the Cloud Kicker was flung away from the arm with its verniers flashing violently in an attempt to stabilize the tumbling machine.
"Captain Wind?" the pilot of an Applejack equipped with external boosters asked, a sense of urgency in his young voice.
"What is it Joyride?" Captain Autumn Dawn replied even as he grunted from the rough treatment the blast had given him, genuinely wondering what could actually have the most aggressive member of the squad hesitating.
"Sir, there are only three, maybe for Shadowbolts on the field… where are the other four?" came other Wonderbolt's reply. The aggressive pilot's machine's verniers being the most obvious on the battlefield thanks to its optional boosters mounted across the modified machine's body
Autumn's lime green eyes widened as the implications of Joyride's statement settled into his thoughts. It wasn't uncommon for large Squads like the Wonderbolts and Shadowbolts to split their forces into four-man squads for certain missions. If only half the Shadowbolts where here then, "Oh horseapples! The colony!"
Aurora found the defences inside the colony to be simply laughable, the AA trucks where old and fired rounds that the last generation of Cloud Kickers would have barely had to worry about and the SAM trucks relied on laser targeting making the weapon easy to dodge in an agile Mobile Saddle and causing more collateral damage then the Shadowbolts.
Aside from that the internal garrison had eight Applejacks which where fighting so poorly the Pegasus had to wonder if the pilots where rent-a-cops. An explosion from behind one of the garrison's structures signalled the destruction of the fifth of those machines.
Surprisingly the combined efforts of those eight machines had lead to one of the Cloud Cannon being crippled and forced to retreat. It had been a lucky shot that struck the magazine of its cannon, blowing off the entire arm and compromising its main boosters and generator.
On the ground the commando team was embroiled in a gunfight with Imperial soldiers around one particular hanger which the Shadowbolt's computer told him was the location of the target. The only thing between him and the hanger was a single Applejack that had only just realized he was there.
With a swift motion Aurora drew the sword stored in his machines right shoulder shield with the left hand and charged the Applejack. The Imperial MS panicked and fired its assault rifle wildly as it turned towards Aurora, seeming to forget it had a shield. Not a single bullet hit Aurora's machine as his sword impaled the Applejack's cockpit, with its CPU destroyed the Imperial machine continued to fire it's rifle until the magazine was depleted.
Then the door to the target hanger exploded outwards from the impact of a red soled foot. The rest of the Mobile Saddle soon followed the foot out of the hanger before turning to look at Aurora Dawn's Cloud Kicker and the impaled Applejack.
The mystery Mobile Saddle had an angular, boxy torso with upper chest section painted blue and the sides and stomach painted red. Instead of the usual vents on the breast it had a pair of twin vernier nozzles surrounded by forced cooling fans, both the fans and nozzles having a border of gold paint on the top and sides.
The shoulder pieces where larger then those of the Applejack and Cloud Kickers, with a slight curve allowing the arms to be both mobile and store more powerful verniers then either mass-produced machine. The rest of the arm was quite similar to the Applejack series but lacked the AppleBuck Knuckles. The arms lacked the revolate elbow joints of the mass-production machines, instead it had an extra piece of armour over the elbow with the internal part of the joint being completely unarmoured, the inner workings of the arm barely visible in the small gap. Both arms and shoulders where painted white.
The movements of the legs made how the knee joint all to obvious, unlike on the revolate jointed machines where it just swivelled back and forth with the aid of hydraulic pistons, the white MS had the entire leg shift, the armour on the thigh being split into front and rear sections, the front piece sliding forward as the knee bent, with the knee cap armour staying in roughly the same approximate position between the two halves of the leg, the movements showing the internal structure of the exposed sections. The pistons that moved the feet could be seen between the plates of armour as well with the heel remaining completely unarmoured. Aside from the red soles on the feet the leg armour was entirely white. Verniers where mounted on the back of the legs, the calves and the balls of the feet.
Where the legs met the torso were a series of armoured plates forming a skirt. The main support structure for the legs to connect formed the central most section of the skirt and featured large codpiece like section with a red panel on the top and a vernier/cooling fan assembly on the lower section. The hips each had a mount to hold a cylinder as well as a vernier nozzle. Both cylinders and the skirt armour where painted white.
Four main thruster nuzzles adorned the backpack of the Mobile Saddle, these large engines could easily be vectored thanks to the nozzles being external thus giving them a greater range of motion. The pack also included a pair of verniers on the ends of a pair of movable pylons that also mounted another pair of cylinders like those on the hips. The cylinders where painted white while the rest of the backpack was painted black.
Dual emerald optics bore into the soul of the Shadowbolt with their unblinking glare; a furious expression permanently etched onto the machines face thanks the faceplates two upside-down v-shaped vents and crimson goatee, emphasizing the crimson armour surrounding the eyes. The machine's brow added to the scowl by seeming to be slightly covering the optics, a large golden V-fin acting as eyebrows as well as a counter point to the large golden horn, where the V-fin and horn joined there was a crimson lens masquerading as a jewel. Embracing the cheeks where a pair of vents which stored a pair of 60mm Vulcan cannons.
Attached to the left arm was a sleeker shield then the chunky variety the Applejacks where equipped with a red outer frame and white panels on the main protective surface. In the centre of the shield was the Sun insignia of the Equestrian Empire.
In the right was a rifle with a white frame and no apparent ammo clip. Near the trigger was a drum like device that gave the weapon a bizarre revolver like appearance. On the top of the rifle was an emerald optic sensor that acted as the weapon's sights.
Aurora tossed the destroyed Applejack to the side and freed his sword before aiming at the white Mobile Saddle and fired what was left of his assault rifle's magazine directly at where he assumed the cockpit was located. As the empty magazine dropped out of the rifle and he sheathed the sword, freeing the hand to grab on of the spare magazines on the Cloud Kicker's hip, he kept his eyes on the white MS to ensure he had killed the pilot.
His breath caught in his throat when he realized he hadn't even scratched the paint. In the back of his mind he realized it wasn't paint at all but nano-pigmentation, however his conscious mind was too busy dealing with the fact his primary weapon was all but useless against this machine.
With a growl he raised his assault rifle to fire again, this time aiming for the head with the thought that if he couldn't penetrate the armour maybe he could blow out the optics and either weaken it by forcing the pilot to switch to the secondary optics or open the cockpit to see better then with the secondary optics. If he got lucky the pilot might panic and even outright bail out.
Aurora never had the chance to level the rifle as the white machine snapped it's own weapon into firing position and a pink bolt of light lanced out and cut into the assault rifle sending molten E-Carbon dripping from the pierced section. The Pegasus reacted immediately by releasing the rifle even as the barrel fell off since the weight couldn't support by the damaged section, he then shifted the right shoulder shield between him and the rifle just before the magazine was cooked off and exploded, showering the shield in shrapnel.
"Ell-Tee? Are you alright, sir?" the pilot of the remaining Cloud Cannon asked over the radio even as it took to the air over the garrison and fired a pair of cannon rounds at the feet of the white machine. Aurora wasted no time in joining it in the air and equipping the beam bazooka he had stored on the back of his machine.
The brightly coated Pegasus grunted his reply in annoyance, "Yeah, fine." Loosing his rifle was just plain insulting, he was a Shadowbolt, one of Luna's finest, the pride of the Commonwealth, the peak of soldiering fitness and he'd just lost a million bit weapon in battle against an untested machine with a pilot of unknown skill. Such humiliations just don't happen.
It was unforgivable! He demonstrated that fact by firing his beam bazooka at the last known position of the Gundam. As the dust from the Cloud Cannon's shots cleared Aurora got a clear few of the melted tarmac his beam shot had gouged but saw no sign of the white Mobile Saddle.
Black smoke could be seen rising from the wreckage of the two Applejacks Aurora's support had been engaging. The other Cloud Kicker flew to rejoin its comrades with its back towards the ground and firing tracer rounds somewhere over the Lieutenant's head. Glancing up he spotted the Gundam in midair, flying as easily as them but seeming to struggle to compensate for the Colony's wind currents.
The door to the bridge slid open as North Star, Broadside and Starboard floated in and immediately flew towards three different chairs. It was painfully obvious to the three they where dreadfully understaffed as they still left seven chairs unmanned in the main bridge as they strapped in. The stallion glanced at the mares from the Captain's chair as he ordered, "Begin the start up sequence."
As Starboard took the helmsmare seat and Broadside occupied the gunnery command chair in an alcove under the raised section the Captain's Chair was on the two began to type frantically at their consoles bringing the various systems online. North Star picked up the phone attached to the Captain's Chair and opened a communications line throughout the ship.
"All surviving personnel aboard the Aasterinian, this is Lieutenant North Star. Due to recent events I will be assuming command as Acting-Captain, all personnel are to prepare for immediate launch and should report to battle stations." With that he replaced the phone and looked at Starboard and asked, "How long until we can launch?"
The shiny mare glanced back at the stallion with half-lidded eyes, the artificial lights of the bridge causing her lashes to glisten as her lips sensually slid from shape to shape as her heavenly voice replied, "Generator is active, but it will take 180 seconds to reach operational levels." The helmsmare shifted her rump in the chair needily.
North Star grunted in annoyance, "That's far too long… jump start using particles from the colony." He hoofed the console in front of him and it displayed the image of Broadside sitting below, "Broadside, prepare to fire the main guns at the bulkheads."
Broadside shouted her reply as both mares set about their work. With particles being drawn directly from the Colony's reactor the ship's start up sequence was greatly accelerated, dropping to ten seconds in an instant. As power was distributed across the ship its four double barrelled 300cm cannons, mounted on the top of the ship along with the two mounted on the underside parallel to the two outer guns on the upper section, swivelled and realigned their barrels towards the sealed bulkheads leading outside the colony.
"Systems all green!" Starboard's enrapturing utterance wafted from her lips and caressed North Star's ear, which gave a flick before the Stallion gave a roar.
"Starboard, prepare to exit the dock at full combat speed as soon as the way is clear." Glancing back to his console he continued, "Broadside… do what you do best."
Suddenly the large mare in the Gunnery Alcove whooped excitedly and placed a battered Stetson hat on her head that she hadn't possessed moments ago and grasped the cannon controls as she belted out, "YIPPEE-YI-YOO-KIA-YEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHH!" before biting the triggers.
A standard military green coloured Lunar Commonwealth Cloud Kicker drifted in front of one of the colony's closed dock bulkheads while the pilot took a breather. As an alarm sounded in the cockpit the pilot spun his machine towards the dock and raised both of the assault rifles his machine had been equipped with.
His eyes widened as he saw the bulkhead turn red, then gold as it began to melt. As the bulkhead burst and unleashed the swarm of pink particle beams that had tormented it the Cloud Kicker's pilot screamed his marefriend's name as his machine was engulfed in the deadly beam and exploded.
Moments later the Aasterinian thundered out from the dock. Preceding the majority of the hull was the duel Mobile Saddle launch catapults, complete with rails on both sides of the thick, sturdy runways, nestled at the between the catapults was an armoured cylinder with a strange turbine on the front and the vents of three other turbine fans along the side. At the base of each catapult was a pair of hanger bay hatches, two above and two on the underside all four where sealed since it had no Saddles to launch. Attached to the top and bottom of the superstructure of the hanger bays, above the turbine cylinder and on a raised part of the hull between and behind the upper hanger bays where the six beam cannon turrets that had blown through the dock that had held the ship.
The rear section of the ship housed a pair of large blocks on either side where two rows of six massive Thermo-Nuclear rocket motors were mounted on each block. Between each block was a dividing superstructure mounted two more beam cannon turrets. Between the Engine blocks and the hangers where covered ports for the 32 missile tubes on both hemispheres of the ship while six similar tubes where positioned on either side of the bridge tower, these six where the ships flare tubes.
The bridge tower was the tallest part of the ship and sat between the engine blocks. As the ship was currently in combat status the bridge itself had large armoured bulkheads covering the Clear-Carbon viewing ports, protecting the crew inside from most weapons fire. Affixed atop the bridge where a pair of communications antennae with a red cone between them. The antennae resembled a large yellow v-shaped fin while the red cone, actually part of the radar equipment, formed the entire upper section of the bridge tower.
One the bottom of the engine blocks and central hull where skid like devices that appeared to serve no purpose. Across the entire hull where over 50 small 80mm Vulcan cannon CIWS systems which could pose a respectable threat to anything dumb enough to get close, be they missile or Mobile Saddle.
As the ship surged out of the dock it quickly altered its pitch so it flew towards the battle between the Wonderbolts and the Lunar Commonwealth forces. Its rapid change of course and acceleration catching both forces off guard as it charge right at them.
Iridescence drew in a ragged breath as Rough Edge and his gang forced her to sprint to keep up with them as they fled towards one of the colony's shelters. Her green eyes glanced towards the skyline where the Gundam still fought the three Shadowbolt MS, pink beams lanced out from the Gundam's rifle that the Commonwealth machines either barely dodged or blocked with their shields. Each time they blocked their shields melted a little more from the bombardment.
Rough Edge and his gang may have been bullies but they where still Earth Ponies, and like all Earth Ponies they prided themselves on their community spirit so it was little wonder they had brought the filly with them as they fled. They may not have liked or even respected her, but leaving her for dead was simply disgraceful.
The little filly caught up to the three young stallions as they reached a shelter that still had room to spare, or so the green light over the access lift told them. As Rough Edge hit the communicator switch to talk to whoever was inside to get them to let the four in Iridescence looked back up just in time to the Gundam fire another pink beam at the assault rifle wielding Cloud Kicker.
This time the Cloud Kicker's shield didn't save it, the badly damaged defensive device failing to block the beam instead the stream of particles cleaved straight through, severing half the arm and splitting the entire machine in two, all three parts careening out of control. The upper section, with the main thrusters still active spiralled out of control into another section of the colony's internal city while the legs crashed into a nearby apartment building where the filly could still see ponies trying to evacuate.
The filly turned her head away in time to see one of her teachers and a few of the foals from her class running towards the shelter, they may not be her friends but a part of her was glad there would be some foals her age down there. Then the Cloud Kicker's severed arm crashed down on top of all but a few that had run ahead of the herd.
Rough Edge and his goons looked back at the devastation before springing into action, the three picking up the four shell shocked foals that hadn't been crushed and Iridescence before galloping to the shelter's lift just as it arrived to take them down. As it lurched downwards the five foals snapped out of their trance and burst into tears, everything they had seen simply being too much for them to handle.
Shock and fury coursed through Aurora Dawn at the sight of the destroyed Cloud Kicker. The Gundam was an impressive, agile and infuriatingly durable machine but it was the rifle that drew the Ace's ire. Such a small weapon shouldn't have that kind of firepower, it was an insulting, intolerable slap in the face that mere Earth Ponies had crafted such a compact weapon that had all the firepower of his Beam Bazooka concentrated into a beam no thicker then a 100mm round.
The source of the weapons devastating power came from having such a compact beam. That level of particle concentration increased the penetrative power of the rifle to roughly three times that of the Beam Bazooka. Combined with its mobility and armour it was like fighting a whole new generation of Mobile Saddle.
'No wonder Princess Luna was so interested in this machine…' Aurora's inner monologue grumbled as he dodged another shot. The Pegasus found himself not only hard pressed to keep dodging since in normal combat his Saddle's armour could be trusted to soak a few hits, where it couldn't against that Beam Rifle, but he was also to think of a time when he had to fight so hard when out numbering an opponent.
Inverting his machine he fired his Beam Bazooka at the Gundam while his comrade in the Cloud Cannon skimmed along the Colony's central pillar and the Artificial Sun panels that lined it. The Gundam reacted by raising it's shield and blocking the bazooka beam, the shield barely melting from the hit, while crossing the beam rifle under its shield arm and firing a shot at the Cloud Cannon, luckily it had stopped just short of being hit by pink beam and began to aim its cannon.
The Gundam spun and moved its shield just in time to deflect the large cannon round sending it hurtling into a deserted park. The white Mobile Saddle then aimed its beam rifle and fired at the Cloud Kicker which was still recovering from the recoil of its own attack had no chance of dodging and was struck directly in the chest.
Immediately red warning signs flashed on Aurora Dawn's monitors causing his eyes to widen in horror as he spun his machine and flew away from his ally at full speed, his doomed comrades screams filling the cockpit before been violently silenced. The Ace braced himself as the Cloud Cannon's Quarkon Nuclear Fusion Reactor overloaded and exploded, the shockwave sending the Ace's Cloud Kicker spiralling.
As he regained control another alarm blared and he easily dodged a pink beam that he noticed was moving away from his machine even before he dodged. Quickly glancing around he gasped in horror as the central pillar flailed violently, a large section having been melted by the Cloud Cannon's meltdown.
The Gundam's misaimed shot made considerably more sense as his own machine lurched and he saw the entire Colony begin to break apart. Debris of all shapes and sizes flew in all directions as the air within the colony was sucked out into space, tearing the colony apart even faster. Doomed ponies unfortunate enough to not have made it to a shelter drifted about in a panic in the sudden loss of gravity as others where sucked out by the vacuum.
The last things Aurora Dawn saw where the sight of the Gundam being sucked into one of the gaps that had formed as on of the colony plates separated, the other being a rather massive piece of the superstructure careening towards his cockpit from the perspective of his machine. A moment later the beam burst through the cockpit and he saw it with his own eyes.
Amethyst's conscious slowly began to seep back into awareness, her mind going over what it could remember to figure out what in the world just happened. The one image that stood out was the image of little Iridescence looking up at the machine she had been pilot with a look of fear as Rough Edge and his gang ran with her towards where the shelters where located.
However that had been only a few minutes before her memory went fuzzy. From what she knew of how Rough Edge and his gang treated her and her sister there was every chance they had abandoned the filly to save themselves.
Slowly she opened her eyes in hopes of seeing a visual reference to jog her memory a bit. Immediately her mind went blank as it refused to process, to understand, what she was seeing.
Directly in front of her was a tattered stuffed pony drifting in the uncaring, unforgiving blackness of space. Behind it was the shattered corpse of the Ponyville colony, now nothing more then a huge debris field.
"Iridescence…?" She wondered aloud, not even paying attention to the unconscious form of Silver Lining next to her, "Iridescence?" Her voice took on a little more urgency as her mind came to the worst case scenario.
That her sister was dead.
To be Continued…
Next Episode: "I am the Last Crusader."