Disclaimer: I do not own My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, or any of the ideas or characters related to it. I am in no way affiliated with Marvel. I am in no way affiliated with Hasbro. I make no money from this writing.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
The Mighty Lancer #1
Lancer stood before the door to his father's room, very studiously examining the whorls and imperfections in the ancient wood. His blue coat was dirty, his red mane and tail limp with drying sweat, his lower lip was swollen and split, he was developing quite the impressive black eye, and he worried that his left foreleg's ankle was sprained. It certainly hurt, at any rate. His wings, long and broad to match his heavily muscled body, seemed the least-injured part of Lancer, resting comfortably tucked at his sides.
"Lancer," said a deep, rumbling voice from the other side of the door, "you may come in now."
Lancer opened the door and went in, gritting his teeth and favoring the hurt ankle. The room beyond the door was ten ponies long, wide, and high, and made completely of the rich timber that grew to the west of Gildedale, save for the stone fireplace two ponies wide in the far wall from the door. A fire blazed in the fireplace, as it always did in the winter, lighting up the whole room in orange and yellow.
In front of this fire and facing toward it stood the largest earth pony Lancer had ever seen and believed he ever would meet, a good head and neck above most others, his coat ashen grey, his tied mane and tail white as snow. The stallion was powerfully built even at such an age, muscles beneath his coat on his legs, along his sides, in his barrel chest. He wore a golden crest around his neck, set with a large ruby. When he turned to look at Lancer, his right eye was covered by a steel plate, and his beard twinkled white as his mane. "My son."
"Alfodr." Lancer crossed the room, kneeling before the wizened stallion and bowing his head. "My father, what do you need of me?"
The enormous stallion placed a hoof on Lancer's shoulder in a familiar sign of affection, and then bade him to stand up. Once Lancer did the Lord and King of Gildedale looked him in the eye. "There is word around the Timber Court, word that you were seen fighting several of your fellow warriors in the far fields. Looking at you know, I can see that it is more than idle chatter."
Lancer ignored the clear disappointment in the older stallion's voice and grinned. "You should see the other five." Five, five strong earth pony warriors he had defeated on his own, with his bare hooves at that! Truly a feat to be proud of!
Alfodr did not look proud, and he did not smile. If anything, his frown deepened. "I do not need to, for the friends of your opponents came to me from their bedsides and described in fair detail the injuries of the hurt."
"Then you know," said Lancer, only at that moment starting to feel concerned about how this conversation was going, "how great a warrior I have become. How, even with the poor training the instructors gave whenever they could, I have become a warrior worthy of being named a Captain of the Dale Guard, or even a Marshal!"
Alfodr huffed and began pacing the length of the fireplace. "Oh yes, you certainly have the strength of a captain, the skill, the force of will of a captain. But no warrior of Gildedale would ever follow you."
The grin slipped from Lancer's face. This wasn't right, this wasn't how things were supposed to go at all. He fought to keep his emotions in check, only allowing himself to frown. "Because I am a pegasus."
"Because you are a bully!"
Lancer staggered back from the force of Alfodr's booming voice, for a moment feeling as if he was being repelled away. Then he stared at his father in shock, realizing that the earth pony was not just sad or disappointed, but angry. Angrier than Lancer had ever seen him before. Fear flittered through the pegasus' heart.
For a moment, even Alfodr seemed surprised by the outburst. But then he gathered himself up and resumed his pacing. His angered gaze never left Lancer. "There are other names I could use for you, but in the end you remain a child, and bully suits you best. You revel in violence, in defeating others to bolster your self-worth."
"You were not there, father! They followed me, they came at me together, I was defending myself!"
"You sought that battle out!" Alfodr's voice boomed again, and again Lancer felt himself being repelled away, as if the earth himself did not want him. "I have ways of knowing what happens in my kingdom, boy, and I have watched you. You goad them, acting the part of the ruler to make them want to fight you. What began as children hurting you for being different as turned to you hurting them back. Petty vengeance!"
No. No, it wasn't fair. Lancer could hardly believe this was happening. He shook where he stood, angry himself now, yet scared to express it too strongly. "I only
I only wish to make you proud, father. I feel constrained here, held back in this archaic land while the rest of the world goes by." He looked up at the larger stallion, pleading with his eyes for understanding.
After a moment, Alfodr stopped his pacing again. He sighed, and suddenly seemed ten years older, the full weight of his kingship settling on him. "Lancer," he said, "when you were found as a babe in the fields, after the stampeding of the komaga, so many in the court called for you to be sent away to Equestria, and some even called for death. But I hoped that, by keeping you and raising you as my own, Gildedale could show itself somehow worthy of the peace and prosperity it has been allowed."
The elder stallion grunted as he sat down, back to the fire. "Many see us as a backward people, Lancer, and I had hoped to show them wrong. With you, my son. But, today and for the longest while before, you have shamed me."
Lancer bowed his head, closing his eyes to keep his tears in. Guilt and shame coursed through him, poisoning the prior pride he had felt for his actions. "I
I did not mean to shame you, father."
"I know, Lancer, I know." Alfodr put a hoof on Lancer's shoulder, that familiar sign of affection giving Lancer hope that he was being forgiven. "I understand. We are a country of earth ponies, settled in our proud ways. It is a simple way of life, but a good one, a way of life we have gained not just through being great warriors, but through a love of and desire for peace and stability."
Standing back up, the king of Gildedale led Lancer slowly back to the door. "But you are a pegasus. It is in your nature to want more, to want greater and grander things. But even then, it does not have to be through violence and brutality. I believe you are better than this."
Lancer, his eyes still swimming with tears, nodded. He turned and hugged his father in all but blood, gave a mumbled apology and goodbye, and then left through the door. Guilt still filled him, but the outright shame had faded. Try as he did not to, Lancer found himself thinking about when next he might fight. Earth ponies had lost their challenge. Perhaps it was time to find someone else
The straight-edged metal hallways of The Vault were as stark and sterile as they had ever been as Lancer went to work there for the last day of his life. It had never been a place he had been particularly fond of, all grey-walled corridors with metal-grated floors that clanged when walked on, low-ceiling offices that looked no different from the equipment rooms or restrooms or cafeterias beyond their contents, and all kept lit twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week by high-yield fluorescent lights that the pegasus was convinced were meant to slowly drive the guards as insane as the prisoners. It was the only reasonable explanation for some of the things he had witnessed in his two years as a guard.
The Vault: other than Tartarus it was the most secure and most secretive maximum-security prison in the world. Buried five miles underground on a remote tropical island two hundred miles southeast from the eastern Equestrian coast, only the elite of the elite knew about it, and even fewer knew how to find it. In The Vault were kept the most dangerous, the most evil, and the most exotic criminals and monsters to be found. A full hundred civilian staff kept the facility clean and operating, while another one hundred and fifty mercenaries working as guards.
Lancer entered the large, grey-scaled locker room where he signed in every morning and signed out every night, walked past the two unicorns putting their armor on, and went to his personal locker near the far end of the room. There he proceeded with the daily exercise of putting his uniform on. First came the dark-blue jumpsuit, both fireproof and acid-proof, and with The Vault's insignia of a white jail cell door emblazoned on the chest. His first day there he had made slits in the sides for his wings, so that was fine.
Next came the armored boots, shin guards, crupper, helmet, and goggles, all white. He'd never win any fashion shows in the uniform, but Lancer felt reasonably protected from most of the dark and bizarre creatures kept apart from normal society by The Vault.
"Hey birdy, think fast!" An empty water bottle hit the back of Lancer's helmet with a soft clunk, and then a louder clunk as it hit the floor. Raucous laughter, followed by "Oops! Guess you can't, haha!"
Most of the dark and bizarre creatures, that was, except the other guards.
"Hey, come on Ace, leave the poor guy alone," spoke up a second voice. "I'm sure he does the best he can with his bird brain!"
Lancer deposited the plastic bottle into the correct recycling bin before turning to face the two cackling unicorns. Ace and Teddy, the two senior-most guards in The Vault, and therefore the guards in charge of everyone else by default. Both were big and burly for unicorns, though not as big as Lancer himself was. Perhaps their cruel and aggressive attitudes were their way of making up for their weak magic. Perhaps it came from them getting expelled from the Canterlot Guard for skipping out on duties one too many times, a secret nobody else at The Vault was supposed to know but everybody did.
Whatever the case, Lancer gave them both his nicest smile. "Bird brain, heh, good one. I hope your mornings have been good? Sleep well, have a good breakfast? Ready to face another day?"
Teddy pushed past Lancer, striding to the door at the back of the room that led to the weapons room. He was followed by Ace, and then, after a moment, by Lancer. The armor and outfits were kept in separate lockers for the individual wearing them, but all weapons were kept in secure storage rooms for safety. There were half a dozen such armories in the facility, and they were all Lancer's least-favorite rooms, for they reminded him most of home.
As Teddy and Ace loaded up with the high-intensity focused beam rifles and fragmentation grenades that were standard issue for Vault guards, Lancer ignored them and went to the back of the armory, taking instead a belt of stun grenades and a large, ancient hammer of silver-grey metal, both handle and head. This he connected to the armor covering his left flank with a small electro-magnetic charge.
Ace noticed this choice of weaponry and shook his head. "Never going to take anything out with those toys, bird brain."
Lancer shrugged and wrapped the belt of stun grenades around his waist, slipped a packet of flares and other sundry items onto his right flank where it could be easily reached into with his right wing, and then started for the exit. "I don't have to kill it to take it down, Ace."
"Yeah, whatever. Just get to your rounds. Level 12 isn't going to patrol itself." The Vault was comprised of forty underground levels, with the first four dedicated to personnel and operations and the lower thirty-six all containment. They were all on the second floor at the moment, which was equipment and supplies.
Lancer grabbed one last bag, slung the strap over his shoulder, and started for the door. "Certainly. Farewell, you two, have a good day."
Before either of the two unicorns could respond, Lancer was out of the armory, then out of the locker room and heading down the hall. His boots went clank-clank-clank on the metal floor and the fluorescent lights continued to burn away. He made a quick detour to the cafeteria to pick up half a dozen sandwiches, three apples, and three water bottles, all of which went into the bag slung on his back. Then Lancer got to an elevator and hit the button for Sector 12.
"I hope she doesn't mind the lack of meat
I'm sure she'll understand."
Level 12 was unique within The Vault. As far as Lancer could tell, the beings kept there were less evil and deadly than they were merely exotic. In one cell, whose walls were covered in seeing-eye orbs, there sat a statue of a gryphon, its claws over its face as if weeping. In another cell there was the mummified body of a pale-coated earth pony, the faded image of three red balloons on his flank. In yet another cell, actually an air-tight tank filled with water, there floated a creature that looked to Lancer like a cross between a pony and a shark. He had tried talking to it many times, but it only glared back.
The elevator rumbled to a stop and the doors opened. Lancer stepped out and started down the corridor. He said hello to the creature in every containment cell he passed, even the ones he wasn't sure how conscious or sapient they were. Mostly he got back growls, roars, or mere silence, but still, he thought it was the nice thing to do.
Several times the corridor split, but Lancer knew the right path now like the back of his hoof. Left corridor, then right, and then left again, until he came to a containment cell different from every other. It was twenty feet by twenty feet, the front of it looking more like a zoo exhibit with its two-inch thick bars of solid steel. The inside of the cell was darkened and full of shadow, but Lancer could still make out the glow of two eagle-like eyes, and the strange mix of padding and hoof-beats that was the contained creature pacing.
Lancer sat down in front of the locked gate into the cell, setting his bag down beside him and digging out several of the sandwiches. "Good morning, Kyrie. I brought you some food. There hasn't been any meat served since those diamond dogs quit, but I'm sure it's still better than the slop they serve you."
The seconds ticked by in silence, and then the world's only known hippogryph hobbled out of the shadows and toward the gate. She wasn't large, just a bit larger than a true gryphon. Instead of a lion's back half she had the legs, rump, and tail of a pony. Her coat, tail, and wings were a rich, vibrant red, while her chest, neck, and head feathers were a dark, smoky shade of grey, except for a tint of blue at the tips of feathers atop her head and blue around her eyes. When she spoke, her voice was deep and husky. "No meat? Well
you're right about the slop, at least."
"I thought as much." Lancer tossed three sandwiches and a bottle of water through a gap in the bars, all of which Kyrie caught in her claws with barely a glance toward them, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Lancer settled down with his own sandwich, took a bite, and talked while he chewed. "It's not as if they can't get better than that slop. Half the things held here I believe don't even need to eat, while the petty guards surely survive merely on hating."
"Teddy and Ace?"
Teddy and Ace."
The hippogryph huffed and consumed her first sandwich in three swift bites, an action Lancer had tried to emulate on multiple occasions but failed. She chased it down with a gulp of water. "I don't get how you can let them get away with that," she said as she unwrapped her next sandwich. "Bullies like that, they talk the toughest when they're the weakest. I'd bet my money on you in a fight."
Lancer swallowed his third bite and shook his head. "I couldn't do that. I don't
hurt ponies. I don't like it. Or hurting anything else, for that matter," he added while looking at Kyrie.
The hippogryph nodded in appreciation of his addendum. "Is that why you left Gildedale, golden land of the earth ponies? Too soft-hearted?"
Lancer froze at the question, eyes going wide, sandwich clutched halfway to his mouth and clutched tightly in his hooves. He looked down at the floor, away from Kyrie, and thought about what she had said. Thought about, in fact, their entire relationship. He had worked as a guard at The Vault for a year and a half year when her cage had been hauled in, her shrieks of rage only a little away from shrieks of despair. He had talked to her as soon as he could, and though she had resisted at first, eventually she had talked back. He was the only one to treat her as more than an animal, she had told him.
They had talked about everything either could think of; where they had come from, what they liked and didn't like, history, stories he had been told as a child in Gildedale and she had been told in the forests of the Gryphon Kingdoms, his daily life. They were friends, or as close as they could get to being friends. But two topics had always been avoided by silent, mutual agreement: the passage of time, and he was there in Equestria, and not in the country he had grown up in.
Now, Lancer decided, was the time to end that.
"Gildedale," said Lancer, "is a country of rolling hills and fields of golden grass, where a pony can gallop for as long as he wants or can manage, without worry of running into city or town. For the longest time only earth ponies lived there, distrustful of unicorns and pegasi, until I was found abandoned and crying in the fields one day by a routine patrol, just after the stampeding of the komaga. Nothing to identify me, nothing to show I'd ever been anywhere else. So the king himself took me in, raised me in the ways of Dale ponies like his own son."
Kyrie had set down her third sandwich and sat with crossed forelegs, listening to his story with her full attention. "I can feel a 'but' coming on."
Lancer closed his eyes and breathed out a deep sigh, then opened them again and continued. "But I wasn't his son, and once they got old enough to get away with it, the other children would not let me forget it. They came up with all kinds of names and insults to call Gildedale's Lone Pegasus, such that Teddy and Ace's insults mean nothing. Then came the physical bullying. There was much
pain, and violence. Along with the substandard military training and smaller meals, and I knew, loved by my adopted father or not, my days there were numbered."
"So what did it then?" Kyrie's eyes had grown soft, filled with a calm, almost caring light that Lancer had never seen in them before. "What made you leave Gildedale for Equestria, for this?"
"What made me leave Gildedale?" Lancer searched for the right way to say what he needed to say. He had never been much of a storyteller, and this was a harder story than most of the stories he'd grown up with; especially the ending. "Well I
it was several years after I'd gotten my fleur de lis cutie mark. I was in a fight, a harder fight than I'd ever been in before, maybe even deadly. And I
" He couldn't do it, Lancer realized. He couldn't tell the truth of his own shame. A lie would have to do. "Have you ever heard of Standing Firm?"
Kyrie nodded after a moment of thought. "I think so. It's when an earth pony draws from the strength of the earth, to become unmovable, right?"
Lancer nodded. "Afterwards, I simply couldn't stay in Gildedale any longer. I left in the dead of night, flying with the lessons taught by a group of gryphons that had passed through in my youth, and made it to Ponyville by morning. From there I wandered, eventually winding up here."
His tale finished, Lancer took a deep swig of his water, and then looked at Kyrie. She looked back, eyes twinkling with gallows amusement. "You're
you're trapped here just as much as I am. Maybe you're not in a cage, maybe you can wander the halls and eat what you want and sleep where you want in your barracks, but the Lone Pegasus of Gildedale is as much a part of this mad collection as I am." This said, she started laughing.
That didn't seem very funny to Lancer. And yet, he had had similar thoughts over the years, try as he had not to. In the dull pacing of the endless halls, in the dark of the night, whenever he could not distract his thoughts, his old childhood fear had come back to him that this was all life would ever be. Stuck where he was, surrounded by hostile companions. It was almost maddening. And yet, it was no more than he deserved.
With this thought in mind, Lancer forced a smile and dug into his bag once more. The three red apples he brought out glinted red and ripe in the hallway light, like three rubies. "Well in any case," he said, "I was hoping we could have a little remembrance. Today, a year ago, you were brought in."
That put a stop to Kyrie's laughing, but not in the way Lancer had hoped. Her eyes widened, her lower jaw dropping slightly, her taloned hand trembling as she held it out for one of the apples. He dropped one into her hand without a word and watched with sudden worry as the hippogryph brought the red fruit up to eye level.
With a start, Lancer realized Kyrie was crying. Her eyes shone, rivulets of tears running down her feathered cheeks to drip only the floor of her cell. A cell, Lancer only just realized, too small for her to really fly and stretch out her wings, causing her to keep them tucked against her sides and weaken.
"No, Kyrie, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"
"A whole year," she managed to say between shuddering sobs. "Locked down here where I can't
bask in the sun or, or feel the wind in my feathers, or
or bathe in the clear str-streams running down from the mountains." Kyrie's claws twitched and the apple was mush, dropping to the floor with a sick plop. "And how
how many years more? Ten
I'll die in here, my body shrunken and feathers greyed in old age, and b-be forgotten just like that
Now Lancer realized that he was crying too. He stood up and looked down at Kyrie lying huddled on the floor, body shaking as her words failed and the tears kept coming. He grit his teeth as his thoughts went back, back to a memory from long ago, and just how much he had lied
Lightning painted the sky and thunder rumbled, the air heavy with the rapidly approaching rain. Lancer stood on shaking limbs in the middle of a field, his mail and boiled leather armor damaged, his body covered in bruises and deep gashes that colored his blue coat purple. In his left hoof, connected to a metal boot by static magnetism, his war hammer quivered and dripped with the blood of the gryphon lying stone-dead at Lancer's hooves. Horror filled Lancer as he gazed into the gryphon's glazed eyes, slowly turning red with blood gushing out from the female's bashed-in skull.
Lightning flashed. At the sound of hoof beats Lancer tore his gaze away from the corpse and looked up, staring numbly as a dozen armed and armored earth ponies rode toward him, Alfodr in the lead with a look on his face that put the storm above to shame. With them flew five gryphons in the military armor of their kingdoms, blotches of red in the darkening sky.
Lancer let his hammer drop from his grip as they neared. "It
it was just a bout, to test myself
One voice out of the many surrounding Lancer boomed, sending many of the earth ponies to their knees. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?" Alfodr stormed forward and grabbed Lancer by the shoulders, shaking him. "What have you done!?"
A single gryphon flew down from the hovering crowd above, a cry of anguish rending the air as he fell beside the corpse and took her into his arms. "Sif! SIF! Ohhh
" He collapsed, sobbing, onto the body, and Lancer had never before heard such a pain-filled cry as that one.
A multitude of other voices began filling the dell, so many that Lancer could only catch snippets of what any pony or gryphon was saying at a time.
"How could he do something like-"
"-plot by New Tambelon?"
-never trusted that winged f-"
"This means war, Dale ponies!"
The dell fell silent. Even the cries of the anguished lessened as that gryphon looked up at Alfodr. The king of Gildedale looked to the leader of the gryphons, the one who had made the declaration of war. He then looked down at Lancer, his one eye filled with more pain and despair than the pegasus could stomach. "Lancer
"Father, please," Lancer backed away from the larger stallion, not knowing what he might do in such a state. "I did not mean to, I only thought of proving myself to-"
Alfodr silenced him with a punch to the face, sending Lancer hurtling back five feet. "And that has always been and always will be your failing!" Murmured gasps rose from the watching ponies and gryphons as the Gildedale king raged, the very ground beneath them quaking with his steps. "A true warrior fights for others! Fights for right, for goodness, for the safety of their loved ones, not for himself! You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!"
Lancer staggered back to his hooves, his better judgment leaving him in terror as he swung his hammer at the king's head. "Then you are an old man and a fool!"
The blow meant nothing. Alfodr caught it with one hoof, ripped it from Lancer's hold, and sent him flying back with it the next moment. Lancer crashed into a hill, kicking up a cloud of dirt that soon began to grow muddy as a rain started. Lancer groaned and lay there in the rain and mud, head ringing from the blow from his own weapon.
Alfodr did not follow for another blow. Instead he dropped the hammer to the ground handle up. Lancer struggled a second time to his hooves, eyes turning left and right for at least one sympathetic face in the watching crowd there were none, and so he looked forward at his father across the hammer from him. He could have taken more anger in that one eye looking at him, even hate; but the sheer sadness in shame Lancer saw struck him like a sword blow, piercing him to the heart.
"Yes," whispered the king, just loud enough for Lancer to hear him. "I was a fool
to think that a pegasus could ever belong in Gildedale."
The gryphon commander moved closer. "Give me his head! I-"
In a blink, Alfodr grabbed the hammer again and aimed it square at the gryphon's chest. "HALT!"
The gryphon halted, looking as terrified as Lancer felt. Alfodr looked back at him as if there was nothing else in the world. "My kingdom. My punishment. Lancer
" At his name, Lancer bowed his head, unable to look the elder stallion in the eye. "My son
you have betrayed the wishes of your king
through your arrogance and stupidity, you've threatened this peaceful land and innocent people with the horror and desolation of war!"
Alfodr slammed the hammer head against the ground, and without warning Lancer felt himself repelled from the earth by some force. He cried out in shock, legs and wings kicking as he struggled to stay even a few feet near to the ground. The lightning crackled and thundered above, as if all of nature was raging.
"I am king of Gildedale, Lord of Earth Ponies and one with the very earth on which we walk! And you, Lancer, are unworthy of these realms!" The Gildedale insignias on Lancer's armor faded. "You are unworthy of this mighty hammer, passed down from time immemorial!" The armor shattered off his body, falling to the muddy earth below. "You are unworthy of being my son! You are unworthy!"
Lancer flew back five more feet and there he hovered, feeling tears streaming down his face, hearing his voice babbling and begging for forgiveness, as if it was all happening to someone else. Father and son locked eyes one final time, and there was only pain now, as the king's voice trembled. "You are unworthy
of the loved ones you've betrayed. And so I, Alfodr, as one with the earth and fields of Gildedale, do cast you out!"
What felt a tidal wave of power rose up from the earth, and Lancer screamed as he was tossed through the air like a fly caught in gale force winds. The world tumbled around him, fields and clouds and snow and mountains, and then he felt the very nature of the world around him changing, and the force pushing him away weakened, then nearly vanished. The last he saw before everything went dark was a forest, dark and endless.
Then the ground welcomed Lancer into darkness and escape from pain.
The next day a group from Ponyville rescued him, battered and broken, from the Everfree Forest, and from that day he had owed the town a debt. He stayed there for a week and then left, eventually finding himself somehow or other in The Vault.
Now he stood there in that lonely section of The Vault, in a poor excuse for warrior's armor, looking down at the closest person he had to a friend in the entire world. A person, not an animal to be locked up in a cage as a pet, or a wild beast that was a danger to society. And for no good reason at all, he had stood by and let her be imprisoned until death; was standing there at that moment and letting her cry.
"No. No friend or innocent will ever despair when I am near. This injustice ends today, by my hoof."
Something in these words made Kyrie pause in her crying and look up at him. "What? What do you mean?"
"I mean that we're both getting out of here. Now." Lancer took a measured step back from the gate and raised his left foreleg up into a throwing position, all while trying not to think about how long it had been since he'd practiced this, and how badly it could go. He could not afford doubt, not now. "Please, back away from the bars. I don't want to accidentally hurt you."
Kyrie backed away. Lancer saw her tears were gone, replaced by disbelief. "You can't
I mean, how are you going to
Lancer allowed himself a grin. As he did the hammer on his left flank flew from it and connected to his raised fore hoof with a clank and spark of electricity. There it began to spin, the air growing thick with the smell of burnt ozone and electricity crackled from the hammer's head. If an observer with keen enough eyes looked hard enough, like Lancer did, he would see wisps of energy flowing from the lights to the hammer, filling it up.
"For as long as I can remember, I have controlled lightning and the weather better than any other pegasus. I control the hammer with lightning and magnetism, and the hammer focuses the power
" He grit his teeth, groaning as the charge in the air grew and grew, the lights down the corridor flickering. He had no access to the outside, to real weather and real power, but there was plenty to be drawn from down there. "It has been so long...but now
I summon the lightning!"
With this cry, Lancer threw the hammer forward, smashing it against the center of the bars separating him from Kyrie. For a split-second the world was whited out by sheer brightness, followed by a boom of thunder that shook Lancer down to the core, the floor creaking beneath him. He almost feared he had put too much power into the blow, and the whole sector was breaking.
Then when sight came back, Lancer saw only charred stumps where the bars had been and Kyrie staring at him not with doubt or hope in her eyes and face, but pure, unbridled awe. Very slowly, as if unsure she could do it, the hippogryph stepped over the smoking stumps sticking out of the floor and left her cell. Lancer smiled as she looked around with eyes wide as saucers, up and down the corridor. "We should get going. That was sure to trigger some alar-"
Lancer was silenced as Kyrie lunged at him, hugging him and crying into his shoulder for all she was worth. "Thank you
for all that you've done, th-thank you
Lancer hugged her back. It occurred to him that this was the first physical contact they had ever made, and it filled his heart with a longing he had ever felt before. He pulled away and looked at her, smiling so that she would smile. "Come on, we need to get going. Guards will surely be waiting for us."
Kyrie did smile, letting go of Lancer and turning to go in the direction Lancer had come from every time he visited. "Fight our way out, eh? Fine then, let's make them wish they'd never captured me."
Lancer frowned and flew to catch up with Kyrie, rushing side by side with her down the corridor to the elevator. "Yes, but one rule: no killing unless absolutely necessary. Understand?"
Kyrie rolled her eyes but nodded to show she understood.
"Good. Now come, I'll lead the way."
They ran, Lancer just a little ahead of Kyrie to lead through the splitting corridors to the elevator. Their hoof beats rang on the floor, mixing with the cries, roars, and shouted words from cells they passed by on their way to escape. It was only urgency and Lancer's uncertainty of the dangerousness of all the other captives that kept him from freeing more. There was simply no time to figure out what was and was not wrongfully there. This sense of urgency was strengthened by the fear that, at every corner they turned, he and Kyrie would be faces with a wall of guards, guns blazing, grenades sailing through the air.
It was a fear made reality just as they turned down the final stretch of corridor to the elevator. A trio of guards in full armor, faces obscured by their helmets, was just exiting the elevator and running toward them.
Lancer recovered from the shock of the sudden encounter first. He tossed his hammer at them, knocking the closely-grouped unicorns off their hooves with one strike. Lancer pulled the hammer back to him with a tug of the electromagnetic chain anchoring it to his armored hooves. As they ran past the fallen ponies a question occurred to him and he looked at Kyrie. "Do you need a weapon?"
Kyrie frowned and gave a nod. "I was kept in that cell for a year with barely any physical exercise. A weapon wouldn't hurt."
Very well. There is no armory on this floor. We'll have to go three up." They got into the elevator, hit the button for Level Nine, waited as the doors slid closed, and started up.
The elevator wasn't being remotely stopped, for reasons Lancer didn't know, so they made it to Level Nine and its armory with no trouble. More soldiers, a full dozen this time, were waiting for them in the weapons room, but Lancer had been expecting this. Before the sliding automatic doors opened more than a few inches he threw two of his stun grenades into the crowded room, followed by two more at a different angle.
Before the blindness and nausea of his enemies faded Lancer burst into the armory, roaring a battle cry, hammer singing as it flew through the air. He batted away guards one after another, rejoicing at every metallic clang of hammer striking helmet. From the corner of his eye he saw Kyrie kicking and backhanding the ones he missed, gladdened at how she did not turn her talons onto them.
When the last guard fell to the floor unconscious, Lancer went back to the door. "Take whatever suits you. I'll guard the door in case more attack."
One minute passed, then two minutes, and then three minutes. Just as Lancer started to worry, imagining he heard the elevator starting up, Kyrie reappeared at his right side. "Got it, ready to do this."
Lancer glanced her way to see what she had taken. On her back sat a quiver of arrows, he couldn't tell how many. In her right hand she held one of the dozen or so recurve bows kept in stock for those guards feeling cocky or stupid. He cocked an eye at her, making the hippogryph shrug and tease the bowstring between two talons. "In the thick trees of the Gryphon Kingdoms, bows are favored because they are quieter and arrows can be retrieved. I learned from the best, and became the best myself. Got the nickname of Hawkeye."
" Lancer tested it and thought the name suiting. "Very well. Come, Hawkeye, let's go."
They left the armory, Hawkeye swinging the bow out as she went and smacking a creeping earth pony guard in the face. Neither paid him any mind as he fell, both taking off at a sprint for the elevator. Somewhere off in the distance came the sound of alarms and clanking boots.
"I don't like this," said Hawkeye as they got back into the elevator and the doors closed. "If they aren't stopping this, they must all be gathering at a higher level, away from the cells, to lessen the chance of another escape. We're heading toward a big fight."
Lancer knew this. The plan forming in his head was counting on it. "My command still stands." He looked imperiously at her. "No killing unless absolutely necessary."
Hawkeye chuckled and slid an arrow from the sheath. "You ever been hit by an arrow? I don't need to kill. Get one of these sticking out of you, good luck doing anything other than lying on the ground and groaning. Also, I noticed we're not moving."
"Give me a moment." The elevators were large enough to hold five average ponies at a time, so with the hippogryph there Lancer had just enough room to swing his hammer. He smashed open the roof of the car, placed the hammer back on his side, and wrapped a hoof Hawkeye's waist. "Are you ready?"
"If you're about to do what I think you are, no. Let's roll."
Lancer laughed at this, rose into the air with a beat of his wings, and then kicked the button for Level Forty-two, the lowest level. Then, as the elevator went screeching down around them, Lancer flew himself and his one surprisingly light passenger up the shaft toward the top level. There were no cameras in the shaft. Guards in the Control Room would think he and Hawkeye were heading down and send guards down in the other elevators to catch them.
"And they said I was dumb muscle in Gildedale. Heh." Hawkeye looked questioningly at him, but Lancer shook his head. "Nothing. Listen, the top level, the only one above ground, will resemble a massive warehouse. High windows, plain concrete floor, towering shelves of fake goods. Be on your guard, as there's still a fight waiting for us."
Lancer expected several things when he reached ground floor and forced the sliding doors open. He expected a hundred or so guards just beginning to disperse, giving him and Hawkeye time to make some headway. He expected harsh resistance, injuries on both sides a given. He even expected, though he didn't mention this to his companion, that they would eventually be stopped, perhaps even killed. The Vault was home to a veritable army, after all, and they were just two.
What Lancer did not expect to find when the elevator doors slid open were three ponies and a gryphon standing a dozen feet from the elevator, and nobody else. Only these were unlike any ponies or gryphons Lancer had ever seen before.
One large earth pony stallion seemed to be made of concrete the same dull grey as the floor. The other stallion, a unicorn, wore a red armored suit, flames leaking from the bottom of the hooves and where the mane would be.
The gryphon, Lancer couldn't tell if male or female, wore a bright yellow and red suit and goggles similar to what the Wonderbolts were. On the gryphon's forearms were extra-thick gauntlets with barrels sticking out, the handles near the palms of the gryphon's hands.
The strangest of them all though looked to Lancer like a full-grown unicorn's head connected to a foal's body, his legs sticking out at awkward angles from the block of armor he seemed to be incased in.
Hawkeye eyed these four figures as Lancer set her on the ground. "Who invited the circus?"
The floating head thing let out a squawk that sounded almost like a computer. "CIRCUS!? I AM M.O.D.O.K.! I AM THE ULTIMATE IN PONY/MACHINE INTERFACE. I AM DESIGNED ONLY FOR CONQUEST!"
Hawkeye rolled her eyes and readied an arrow. "Yeah, whatever, freakshow."
"BE SILENT! YOU DO NOT HAVE THE INTELLECT TO GRASP MY TRUE POWER! MY CAPABILITIES ARE FAR BEHIND YOUR SIMPLE COMPREHENSION! I AM-"
The concrete stallion smacked M.O.D.O.K., sending him tumbling head over hooves through the air. "Yer boring us all to death is what you are!" To Lancer and Hawkeye he turned and grinned. "Ignore the Great and Powerful Windbag over there. We're The Vault's latest acquisitions, for dealing with people that make the regular guards look like a bunch of bargain-rate mall cops. I'm the Absorbing Pony. Whatever I touch, I take on the properties of."
The unicorn stallion stepped forward, shooting out a blast of flame from a hoof that Lancer easily blocked with his hammer. "I'm Firebrand," the unicorn said, voice quaking and laced with giggling. "My special talent was fire-making, so I became an arsonist. Neat suit, right?"
"And I'm Shocker. Now enough talk, let's fight!" The gryphon, and Lancer was pretty sure it was a guy, screeched and aimed his palms at Hawkeye, pressing the triggers on his gauntlets.
Before Lancer knew what was happening a blast of concentrated air slammed into him. He flew back and embedded into the wall above the elevator doors, stunned and unable to focus enough to summon the lightning. His ears rang. He thought he heard Hawkeye cursing, the roar of blazing fire, and the crunch of concrete getting crushed, but it seemed far away.
Shocker landed over Lancer, one arm cannon aimed square at his head. From this distance Lancer could see the pure hate in the gryphon's eyes, and the way the beak curved down into a snarl. "And today's the day I get my revenge, Lancer!"