"I'll sleep when I'm dead"
"Talk to me," the earpiece crackled.
"Looks clear so far," he answered, twisting his head slowly to survey the landscape about him in the dark of the night. Optics in his helmet made that problem trivial, scanning over the small cracks and impact lines that scattered the ground he hovered over, "Looks like this one might've been harmless."
"Don't give me that Widget," the feminine voice over the earpiece shot, "You saw the same readings I did. 'Harmless' wouldn't have spiked the sensors like that."
"Relax Clockwork, I'm not about to leave yet. And we're on site, you're supposed to use the call-signs," he chuckled, and his eyes scanned over the sensor readings, when an amplified sound reached his ear inside the helm. Carefully he shifted, altering the angle of his hooves to adjust the jets slightly, allowing him to turn in mid-air and face the source of the sound.
"Sorry 'Warpony'," she sneered.
"Clockwork, do we have anyone nearby?"
"Negative," came the answer, "Jackrabbit is on her way, but she has a 1 minute ETA still. No reports of unregistered activity in your sector."
"Then I think I have my contact," and the blue-white flare from the jets increased for a moment, then shut off as the armoured pony landed on the ground with a thud. Blue and white armour plates flexed as he moved, hiding his large form within. A flick of a hoof brought his weapon systems online as scanners narrowed in on the source of the noise, focusing in on the creature hiding amidst the jagged edges of burned ground.
"10-4. Passing the info to Jackrabbit. You should see her contrail momentarily," Clockwork said over his earpiece as the unidentified figure looked up sharply, having realized it had been spotted. The thing looked to be made of the night sky itself, silver specks flickering across its midnight blue skin. It flared its bat-like wings and screamed at the armoured pony, pointed beak lined with harsh looking teeth. To Widget it looked like a large skeletal griffon wrapped in the night sky.
"I have contact, an imp. He was hiding from me, might be an ambush."
"10-4. Will Jackrabbit be enough to handle it?"
"I'm not sure. Depends on how much back-up our 'friend' brought," Widget grinned under the helmet, teeth clenching as he swept his eyes over sensor data. Already he could see three more forming up on his flank, as well as a quickly approaching contrail.
Widget didn't have to do anything as the owner of the contrail barreled through the trio on his left flank, much to the screaming fit of the imp before him. Jackrabbit made the party right on time.
"What took you?" Widget asked through his external mic.
"What TOOK me?!?" the filly cried as she zipped to his side, leaning casually against his armour in a way he refused to allow anyone else, "I had to loose those pesky flyers near Whitetail. They're getting bolder all the time, but I tell you they just CANNOT keep up with ."
"Yes, yes, I know. They cannot keep up with The Jackrabbit," Widget chuckled, interrupting her before she got started, pausing to glance at his comrade. She wore a bodysuit of white with purple and black streaks. On her flank was the symbol of a rabbit in mid-dash, covering where a pony's normal cutie-mark would go.
"Hey now, no stealing my lines." She giggled, shaking out her orange mane, yellow and red streaks flying through it.
"Did you see any more?"
"Naw. But if there were, they'd probably be over " and she vanished in a blur of white and orange, careening through the crater. Widget smiled again and leaned back on his hind legs, the propulsion jets on his fore-hooves screaming as he directed them. Sure enough, right where Jackrabbit had gone, a handful of imps leapt into the air. The white-blue beams of his plasma ejectors promptly removed them from this plane of existence.
"Get the leader." He instructed his teammate through the headset.
"On it." Jackrabbit responded as Widget turned around again, his plasma ejectors firing again as he took out another trio of imps leaping into the air in a futile attempt to protect the squad commander from his partner.
"I think that's all of them." Widget noted.
"Leader's down." Jackrabbit added, "But he's got something weird on him in him. Some sort of gem."
"Don't touch it," Clockwork instructed over the line, "Warpony, use your sensors. Quickly, we don't know if it'll dissipate."
"Roger that," the armoured pony responded, and activated all four of the ejectors, using them as jets to carry him quickly to his teammates location. The imp was down, that was for sure. To Widget they didn't look much better dead then alive, they just lacked the shadowy substance that normally enveloped them, and looked like they were all bones wrapped in paper thin black ichor.
"Scanning now," Widget intoned as his optics pout out a thin beam of blue light that played over the dead imp's form, narrowing on the pulsing blue gem imbedded in its chest.
"Alright, I've got the data," Clockwork noted over the headset, "No radiation, nothing harmful but I'm getting crazy spikes on the mystic frequencies. I'm not sure, but this could be a message crystal."
"Magic?" Jackrabbit asked, glancing nervously to Widget.
"Not sure. Hold tight, I'm sending in the expert."
"Oh please, not " Jackrabbit started.
"Sorry Jackrabbit, it is," Clockwork said. Nearby Warpony and Jackrabbit a bright purple flare lit up the sky, and an old unicorn mare proceeded to walk slowly from it. She had a soft lavender pelt and a deep indigo mane streaked with grey, she also wore a cloak of sky blue with a silvery star design on it, but everypony knew who she was even without her trademark cloak.
"Lady Sparkle," Widget intoned, and his teammate groaned.
"What did you need to interrupt my studies for THIS time?" she asked in mock annoyance, but Widget knew it was all bluster and bluff, she loved getting out of the library now and again. She was just getting old, and it showed in how slowly she moved. Regardless of her age she was perhaps the most powerful mage in all of Equestria, and at one time had been trusted by the Princess herself.
"Have a look," he noted, motioning with an armoured hoof to the dead imp. Lady Sparkle made her way over to it, frowning.
"Well, this is new," she considered as her horn began to glow. Widget couldn't help but be fascinated by the magic. He was an Earth pony, and had little access to such wondrous abilities, instead having to fall back on technology. Not that it meant ALL Earth ponies had to, as he glanced at his teammate, who was looking frustrated at just standing around.
"Jackrabbit," He said, getting her attention, "Do a perimeter check."
"Thank Celes er . You got it," She caught herself, and vanished in a white and orange blur. Widget smiled under his helmet, turning up his sensor sensitivity up to simply observe for now, and keep the elder matron of the movement safe. She was the last surviving member of "The Six", and he would never live it down if she was lost on HIS watch.
"She never did like me," Lady Sparkle observed with a thin smile and a sidelong glance.
"No ma'am," Widget answered, not bothering to hide the grin in his voice.
"She reminds me so much of Dash, so impatient " she sighed with a sad smile, "You remind me a bit of AJ's elder brother, Big Macintosh. Did I ever tell you that?"
"Yes ma'am. Every time we meet," he chuckled, "Both in and out of my armour."
"He was such a good Stallion," She said softly, her eyes momentarily filmed over with the memory, and he smiled inwardly. Being compared to the legendary Big Macintosh was one of the highlights of his life; that stallion was practically a legend all by himself.
"Warpony, is Lady Sparkle there?" Clockwork asked on his earpiece.
"Affirmative," He answered, "She's inspecting the gem now."
"I have Ironjaw and Totem on the way. You're going to need them," Clockwork said, her voice dipping.
"What's going on?" Warpony asked, turning deadly serious even as Lady Sparkle bent over the gem, her horn glowing steadily more brightly.
"You've got 3 squadrons of Imps closing in on your position. I think the gem was a trap to lure Lady Sparkle out of hiding," She stated, her voice quavering.
"Lady Sparkle, we need to go " Widget intoned and reached out to touch the elder mare's shoulder, only to find her was unresponsive, her eyes wide and bathed in the same blue glow as the gem.
"Clockwork!! This is an emergency, it's a brain-worm gem! It's got Lady Sparkle!!" he cried into the earpiece, flexing a shoulder to unfold a plasma-launcher from of the armour on his back. He could already hear the screeching of the incoming forces.
"We're... off out there under ." Came the static filled answer before the signal went dead.
"Jackrabbit," Widget said, his voice dipping low.
"I heard it. I'm coming up on your six," She answered, her voice wavering slightly.
"It's up to us."
"Against what, 3 squadrons?" she asked, laughing.
"Three Squadrons of hand-picked warrior imps to take out Lady Sparkle while she's trying to stave off a brain-worm gem single-handedly," He said in a soft voice, the first contacts reaching radar range.
"Oh, is THAT all?" she offered sarcastically, and the blur of her form charged past him, "We'll be done in ten seconds FLAT!"
Warpony lowered his head, eyeing the mass of incoming Imps. His plasma gun roared as he unleashed the first salvo, trying hard to ignore the memory that bubbled to the surface of his mind .
"Daddy, what's that?" the colt asked, pointing up at the night sky. He was a gentle blue color with a golden mane, and quite big for his age.
"That?" a larger stallion answered, smiling from where he stood in the darkness, "That's a shooting star, Widget."
"It's pwetty," said the small khaki colored filly perched on the father's back.
"Yes, it's beautiful. It reminds me a bit of your mother," the stallion said, his eye misting up slightly before he wiped a brown colored foreleg across his eye.
The young colt looked away from the star as he felt his eyes start to burn with tears. Even if the young filly didn't, he remembered his mother. She had a dark blue pelt like the night sky with a silvery mane. Daddy always joked that she was his falling star, but she died soon after his little sister was born.
"Why ith it gettin' tho big?" the filly asked, and the colt found himself drawn to look up again. His father's eyes grew narrow.
"Widget. Take your little sister and get inside HURRY!" he cried, and put the young filly on the colt's back, swatting his backside to make him run.
"DADDY!!!" the filly screamed, and Widget realized with a sudden dread it was much MUCH too late, the star was HUGE! It was about to hit them!!
Widget screamed. His little sister screamed. Daddy screamed. But nothing happened. When they finally managed to open their eyes to look, the star had been enveloped in a fierce lavender glow, hovering mere feet over their heads. To the colt it looked like nothing more then a large chunk of ice and rock.
"Ya'll need to move out!" an orange mare in a cowpony hat ordered them, and promptly started pushing them to one side. She was older then daddy, but she had something in her voice, some authority that the colt couldn't deny. The trio of ponies were moved aside, rounding the fallen star, which still seemed to struggle against the glow enveloping it to plunge at them.
That was the first time he saw "her". The lavender unicorn, slender and beautiful against the night sky, her indigo hair fluttering about her as her horn glowed with such intensity it hurt to look at.
"Yer clear Twilight!!" the orange pony shouted, and with a grunt the lavender unicorn let the falling star hit the ground with a thud.
"Who who would have thought we'd have to take falling stars literally?" the unicorn joked between puffs of breath, "Is everpony alright?"
"Y-yes ma'am," Daddy answered, "Thank you." The colt's eyes could only stare in wide eyed awe at the pony who just saved his family .
The Imps were just toying with him, and he knew it. He launched a volley from the plasma gun as they made yet another swooping attack at Lady Sparkle, but he knew it was futile. The air was filled with so many enemy blips he couldn't even begin to count. This wasn't three squadrons, this was SIX, each squad had double-stacked to hide their true numbers from radar. Warpony and Jackrabbit were horribly outnumbered, and help was no where to be found. Static was the only response he got from his comlink.
"Widget if we don't make it " Jackrabbit coughed over the headset.
"We'll make it," he answered darkly.
"YOU make it. I'm I'm done, I think. I'm I'm coughing up blood." She choked, "Damn Dude, I wish you'd been more open. *cough* I always liked you We coul could've been s-so good t'geth... er ." she faded off, and he saw her blip fade from his heads up display.
"Jackrabbit?" he prompted, swallowing the lump forming in his throat, "JACKRABBIT!!"
His head tipped back, the sky blackened from dark wings overhead, but he barely saw them. His eyes and heart burned, tears streaming forth from his eyes as he realized he wouldn't walk out of this himself. They could take their time, and eliminate Lady Sparkle at their leisure, and retrieve the brain-worm gem. Who knew what information the gem was getting from her about the Agency?
"Celestia forgive me " he sighed, shifting his protective stance by the elder mage's paralyzed body. He reared back and swiftly brought his fore-hoof down on the gem, shattering it beneath his hoof, fully aware what the result of this act would be. The magic contracted, then suddenly released with an explosion that launched himself and Lady Sparkle into the air. The scream from the imps told him he was successful, thankfully drowning out Lady Sparkle's dying scream, as he looked at the hoof he'd stomped the gem with. He felt a weird disconnection to it, the hoof he was looking at was blackened, burned beyond all recognition all the way to the shoulder by mystic energies that had ripped the armour right off it. He thought it would hurt more
It barely registered when the ground rushed up to meet him again. Some small part of him screamed at him to get up, not to just roll over and die, Warpony will NOT go out on his back!! He fought the sudden waves of exhaustion to roll onto his stomach, but with his left front leg totally unresponsive, it took multiple attempts to climb to his hooves before he looked to the sky.
"When you get to hell " he growled over his speaker, and flexed his back, causing mechanical wings to unfold from the armour. The mechanized wings spread widely, easily twice the size of the armour itself, glowing yellow panels of pure energy between the skeletal mechanized struts began to glow so brightly it hurt to stare at them.
" tell 'em Warpony sent you."
Then the world exploded with light.