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Storm Ponies by Flyest

By SlavePonyGeneral
Created: 20th December 2020 07:23:06 PM

  1. [Copied from pastebin.com/UfJuXdhh]
  2.  
  3. >October, 1941.
  4. >It was your birthday coming up this month.
  5. >At least you think it is.
  6. >You've lost track of time since Obedience Training, along with a few other things.
  7. >Like your name, or your actual age.
  8. >That was all taken away when Herr Hitler decided all ponies pulled from the Wolf's Mouth portal were property of the German state.
  9. >At first you thought the Princesses would rescue you.
  10. >But Nazi propaganda on the radio keeps saying you're not wanted back home.
  11. >That in fact Princess Celestia's sending over more unwanted ponies every day.
  12. >You're starting to believe it.
  13. >You're Storm Pony Zwanzig-Vier, of the 1st Eisenhuf Division attached to the 9th Army.
  14. >Ignore the fancy German designations, they don't translate into Equestrian well.
  15. >A Storm Pony only has one job in the Wehrmacht.
  16. >The human soldiers joke that Storm Ponies only get taught one command in Obedience Training.
  17. >Charge.
  18. >It's basically true. Storm Ponies are supposed to spearhead the attack and use their own lives to make the way safe for the humans.
  19. >You've seen your friends blown to pieces by mines, cut clean in half by machine gun fire, and crushed as some careless Stuka pilot brings down a building with ponies still inside.
  20. >The Wehrmacht has tried building a few creative, if impractical designs for pony-operated guns. A lot of them are only tested for the first time by ponies in combat.
  21. >Very few ponies survive weapons-test duty.
  22. >Usually you're expected to use your hooves and teeth if you ever get close enough to Ivan.
  23. >Ponies are weak next to humans. You only come up to about waist-height. The idea of actually killing a human fills you with dread.
  24. >But you're more afraid of your masters than the enemy.
  25. >That's what it is to be a slave.
  26. >You're each assigned a handler, and you got Hauptmann Anon.
  27. >All these human names start to sound the same after a while.
  28. >Anon's hard to figure out. He keeps telling you to 'be careful out there' and he fondles your ears when you get back. You thought he liked you, at first.
  29. >Like he even cares about his new slave.
  30. >You hear things sometimes, at night. Other ponies get it worse. You're the lucky one, you keep reminding yourself. Anon doesn't want you for that.
  31. >You made the mistake of trusting Anon. You thought he'd keep you safe.
  32. >Then he promotes you to flag-carrier.
  33. >He's so fucking happy about it too. He pins a badge to your dirty grey tunic and gives you an extra ration of oats.
  34. >"You're gonna make me so proud, Zwanzig-Vier. You've been such a good Storm Pony."
  35. >You're muzzle-deep into the oats, with no shame. This stuff isn't fit to feed pigs, but it might as well be flakes of gold out here.
  36. >It's only when you're alone you look at the badge. It's a cross with four stumpy arms. It isn't even a proper Iron Cross. Ponies don't get real medals.
  37. >The flag-carrier carries a short pole mounted on your barrel.
  38. >It's got the German flag on it. The bright red one with the ugly black cross thing.
  39. >You've always though it looked like an abstract crosshair. Appropriate seeing as that's probably what the snipers will use it for.
  40. >It's visible for fucking miles. It's supposed to be a rallying point for ponies when you get into close-quarters with Ivan.
  41. >The average life expectancy of a flag-carrier is 12 hours.
  42. >Some of the other Storm Ponies see you toying with your badge.
  43. >Their ears fall as they see what it is, a death warrant pinned to your lapel.
  44. >One looks at you numbly. You feel like you knew her, a long time ago.
  45. >"Good luck, dead pony."
  46. >You don't sleep that night.
  47. >He smiles at you a lot, but Anon's just the same as the rest of the humans.
  48. >He must really hate your guts.
  49. >You're lining up for the morning inspection.
  50. >Anon smiles at you as you stand stiffly to attention. You've tried brushing yourself down, but your hooves are still dark with ingrained dirt.
  51. >Nopony gets much water around here, and none of it is wasted on washing Storm Ponies.
  52. >He's kind enough to hold your leash loose, only tightening it when the officers walk past.
  53. >Most handlers on parade yank their pony's head up till they're nearly strangling them.
  54. >He pets your head and adjusts your field cap as ponies start moving into position.
  55. >They don't give Storm Ponies helmets. The steel is needed for more important things.
  56. >They can just keep pulling more ponies through the portal to replace you.
  57. >Anon's walking you to the very front of the formation, flag strapped firmly to your side.
  58. >"I'm so proud of you, Zwanzig-Vier."
  59. >Stare straight ahead, feeling everypony's gaze on you.
  60. >Feel humiliated by the sadistic bastard leading you calmly to your death.
  61. >Why does he keep acting so fucking nice?
  62. >"I know it's been hard for us, but…"
  63. >You stamp to a halt at the front of the formation. Your guts feel twisted in knots.
  64. >Anon leans down and takes the leash off your collar.
  65. >"…you're the best friend I've ever had."
  66. >Your heart crumbles, and you stiffen. You're about to die, and he's going to make it all about him.
  67. >You're tempted to spit in his face, but you've seen ponies shot for less.
  68. >You know what you have to say.
  69. "I love you too, Master."
  70. >His face crumples. You feel nothing as he hugs you, except that it's a little colder when he lets go.
  71. >"Be careful out there, Zwanzig-Vier."'
  72. One of the human officers blows a whistle. You break out into a trot, and the formation of sombre Storm Ponies follows the flag whipping in the freezing morning air.
  73. >You're not thinking of Anon when you break out into a gallop. Not even when the first bullet cracks overhead and puts a hole in the flag.
  74. >You're just a Storm Pony.
  75. >You're nothing at all.
  76. >Celestia fucking bless the Luftwaffe and whatever son of a bitch invented the Stuka.
  77. >You're about fifty yards down the bombed-out street when the shots started ringing out.
  78. >The handlers never tell their ponies much about the tactical situation. It's assumed that you'd break and run if you knew just how bad things are.
  79. >You could have sworn you saw the glint of a sniper's scope from a gaping black window as you charge the brick warehouse.
  80. >Then the heart-stopping scream of a Stuka in a full dive starts to ring in your ears.
  81. >Everypony forgets the formation and ducks behind walls and into the earthy blast craters dug into the street.
  82. >Most human pilots don't care if Storm Ponies get caught in their crossfire.
  83. >This beautiful motherfucker though.
  84. >You wish you'd been born a pegasus just so you could fly up there and kiss him.
  85. >The bombs come whistling down as the Stuka's engine bellows its victory roar.
  86. >You close your eyes instinctively as the blast shakes the ground.
  87. >Auf Wiedersehen, Ivan.
  88. >You can't linger for long. Storm Pony stragglers are liable to be shot for cowardice.
  89. >Besides, you've got a plan.
  90. >You've heard of ponies escaping to the Soviet Union, where they're treated a lot better.
  91. >You don't know that's true, but at least you've never seen Soviet Storm Ponies.
  92. >The deserters are either discussed in hushed voices amongst your fellow ponies, or with tones of absolute disgust by the handlers.
  93. >You've never had the guts to make such a dangerous move before today.
  94. >Your hoof touches the stubby metal cross on your lapel. Your flag is already dusty, and has a hole in it.
  95. >You grind it up against a pile of rubble to get it looking even dustier.
  96. >You've got to make your move before any of the others try to regroup with you.
  97. >There's a manhole in the street down to the sewers that got blown open by the bombs.
  98. "Sorry, Anon. I don't have friends."
  99. >Wading through sewage.
  100. >There's not much actual sewage, it's mostly just stinking stormwater.
  101. >And blood. And bodies. A lot of pony bodies too now you think about it.
  102. >Hurl up your morning hay into the shit juice. Why not add a little colour to your day, since it was going so well.
  103. >Stop pinning your ears to your head so you can hear properly. There's faint voices up ahead.
  104. >You wade forward some more. There's human silhouettes creeping about, but they haven't seen your head barely keeping above the waterline.
  105. >You freeze up as they pass by, shoving aside the bodies in the water.
  106. >They're speaking Russian, and suddenly you start to think maybe this was a bad idea.
  107. >How do you tell them you want to surrender?
  108. >Half the time they shoot their human prisoners anyway, why should they listen to a cowardly little pony slave?
  109. >Discreetly follow behind, your steps and breaths masked by the echoing noises the bigger humans are making.
  110. >Once of them holds up a hand, and the rest take up positions.
  111. >They seem to be waiting for something. You can hear familiar voices speaking German now. Footsteps, and the clopping of hooves.
  112. >Feel your stomach drop.
  113. >Shit. Shit shit shit.
  114. >The Germans are sending a Storm Pony ambush through the sewers. They're coming this way, right into Ivan's waiting submachine guns.
  115. >If the Soviets win, they're not going to suddenly turn around and smilingly accept a pony defector.
  116. >If the Germans win, you're fucked.
  117. >Then you hear Anon's voice.
  118. >"Go, go, go! I'm right with you!"
  119. >Your blood freezes. They're about to die. Anon is about to die.
  120. >Scream at the top of your lungs.
  121. "ANON! IT'S AN AMBUSH!"
  122. >The Soviets yell and turn around to face you, one shining a flashlight right in your face.
  123. >You hear the scuffle of boots and hooves quicken. You see a familiar human silhouette round the corner, face lit by the pilot light of a flamethrower.
  124. >Grin sheepishly at the Soviets.
  125. "Uh… Da svidanya, comrades?"
  126. >It's a good thing you're up to your chin in water.
  127. >Take a breath and take a nice swim in the shit juice as Anon plays the hero.
  128. >Somehow, even though you're shivering in this turgid, icy water, you feel a little warmer thinking of him.
  129. >Sure, he basically sentenced you to die and he's going to burn you right after he's done with Ivan.
  130. >But you feel good about warning him.
  131. >You feel strong hands wrap around your barrel, pushing the air from your lungs.
  132. >Sweet Celestia, is he planning to drown you instead?
  133. >Feel yourself being pulled up out of the muck, and pressed tightly against Anon's chest.
  134. >Is he… sobbing?
  135. >"You're okay. You're okay. You're so brave, my strong, brilliant Zwanzig-Vier."
  136. >Awkwardly put your front hooves around his neck.
  137. >He's never held you like this before. You've always kept your distance, as friendly as he's been.
  138. >Doesn't he get that he should be punishing you?
  139. >You were a bad slave. You tried to run away.
  140. >You see the other ponies watching. A few flashlights are fixed on your face. You hope your expression of guilt is obscured by the filth covering you from head to tail.
  141. >"Take a good look, everyone. This is one of the best Storm Ponies in the entire Wehrmacht!"
  142. >What.
  143. >Anon smiles at you.
  144. >"You risked everything to go behind enemy lines alone. Exactly what more Storm Ponies should do. My Zwanzig-Vier's got nerves of pure German steel!"
  145. >Awkward cheering from your fellow ponies. Somehow you didn't think this was winning you any new friends.
  146. >At least you still had one friend though.
  147. >The firefight's pretty much over by the time you get out of the sewers.
  148. >Anon lets you bathe after him. He feeds you some extra oats, and dries out your stinking uniform.
  149. >He smiles as he pets your ears.
  150. >"Shame you lost the flag. Ah well, you won't be needing it after today's stunt."
  151. >Blink up at him, confused. He leans down, smiling, and holds out something in his hand. It's small, and metal.
  152. >"I've got you another promotion!"
  153. >Motherfucker.
  154. >Anon is taking you to Headquarters.
  155. >He spends all morning scrubbing you with a rough old shoebrush.
  156. >You try to enjoy spending time with Anon, but you're nervous about what he has planned.
  157. >"Stop scrunching your face at me, Zwanzig-Vier. You'll find out what's going on soon enough."
  158. >Anon boops your nose with the brush.
  159. >You're getting fond of the bastard, even if he's still a mystery to you.
  160. >He's fierce as hell protecting you from the human soldiers that kick at Storm Ponies as they're passing by for laughs.
  161. >You saw them make a game of throwing stones at somepony yesterday to score points.
  162. >Sometimes you think you mean more to Anon than just a slave, or a favourite pet.
  163. >The way he holds you sometimes, to keep you both warm.
  164. >Other times, like today, he seems to take perverse pleasure in giving you the run-around.
  165. >Anon clips the leash to your collar and trots you smartly away from the forward outpost.
  166. >This section is more or less clear, though occasionally there's Soviet lone wolves on the prowl.
  167. >Headquarters is way back, out of range of Ivan's artillery.
  168. >Huh. It's kind of nice on the city's outskirts. Easy to forget that there's a war on.
  169. >It's a small hotel, a roadside inn really. The picturesque view is spoiled by the red flags adorning the walls.
  170. >You feel uneasy as you recognise the two lightning-strikes of the SS on the uniforms of the humans at the door.
  171. >The Wehrmacht was bad enough to ponies, but you'd heard Herr Himmler were taking a special interest in the Wolf's Mouth portal, and the ponies that they were kidnapping from Equestria.
  172. >The nutcase probably thinks it's a portal to Valhalla or something.
  173. >Anon doesn't have to give you a tight leash, you're basically brushing up against his leg as he shows his papers and gets waved past the guards.
  174. >"Settle down, girl. You're not in trouble."
  175. >You're surrounded by the SS. That's trouble enough for you.
  176. >You step into the front hall, flicking your ears as you recognise the sound of hooves on the floor.
  177. >Your jaw drops as you see a light blue unicorn stallion with a neatly clipped white mane approach.
  178. >He's clean, his fur is glossy, and he's wearing a little bow tie.
  179. >"Good morning, Hauptmann Anon. I see you've brought the Storm Pony. The Oberführer will be delighted. If you would follow me, please."
  180. >Nopony talks like that to a human. He's making eye contact with Anon –YOUR Anon! You got beaten in Obedience Training for daring to look up at a superior's face.
  181. >Who the fuck is this? The house slave? Ponies are house slaves now?
  182. >You give him the evil eye.
  183. >Dude must suck cocks like Goering at a sausage buffet.
  184. >it's the only way you can imagine this stallion avoided getting stuffed into a uniform and shipped to the front like everypony else.
  185. >You know you shouldn't hate ponies for getting it easier than you do. At least somepony isn't getting broken on the wheel.
  186. >You hate him anyway. You're getting good at hating. The humans teach you well.
  187. >The house slave leads you to some kind of officer's day room. There's a few officers smoking and chatting loudly, until Anon walks in with you.
  188. >You're not the only Storm Pony in the room.
  189. >There's a bulky, blood-red stallion with a tangled orange mane that's lapping at a bowl of some gruelish substance set on the floor.
  190. >His collar identifies him as Sieben-Hundert-Acht-und-Neunzig. 798. You feel grateful for the stitched '24' on your collar.
  191. >"Ah, Hauptmann Anon. You may leave us, Special Service."
  192. >The house slave bows his head and grovels out the room. He has a name. His initials are SS, so you suspect it's a human invention.
  193. >Still, your hate intensifies.
  194. >The room goes quiet. The man that spoke rises, and takes the floor.
  195. >He's got greying hair, and a chest of ribbons on his uniform. His eager gaze locks onto you. You hastily stare down at the floor.
  196. >You don't like where this is going.
  197. >"Do you know who I am, Zwanzig-Vier?"
  198. >Look up in astonishment. Nobody with that many stripes and silver patterns ever talks to you, much less call you by name.
  199. >Anon nudges you to speak. The room is horribly silent. Even the red stallion is looking at you with curiosity.
  200. "N-No, sir."
  201. >"My name is Oberführer Wulfhorst. We are going to get to know each other very well soon."
  202. >Celestia help you, this guy looks like he eats foals and drinks puppy tears.
  203. >"Gentlemen, as you know, we have been seeking two ponies like this for months. Storm Ponies that have displayed superior fighting skills, and total loyalty and obedience to their masters."
  204. >He looks down at you, and though you dare not look back, you can see the curve of his smile from the corner of your eye. It sends a chill through your body.
  205. >"We now have two such ponies. At last, the SS has what it needs to develop its own core of ideologically perfect Storm Ponies."
  206. >You haven't felt this numb since the sewers. They're all looking at you, and it's not the usual judging stare of disgust.
  207. >They're looking at you like tender, fresh meat.
  208. >"Today marks the beginning of the SS Storm Pony breeding program."
  209. >Huh. Funny, you don't remember Wulfhorst punching you in the face. But your snout feels sore and your face is suddenly pressed against the floor.
  210. >You fainted. You've bucked live grenades back at the enemy, but apparently this is worse.
  211. >You hear Anon's voice speaking in respectful tones.
  212. >"Herr Oberführer, perhaps we should continue the briefing with the Storm Ponies secured in another room? I'm… sure they have a lot to digest already."
  213. >You hear a soft, polite laugh.
  214. >"Very well, I'll humour you, Hauptmann. Such concern! You should have been a vet."
  215. >You feel yourself being lifted in Anon's arms, and gently nestled on a chair. The door closes, and you're alone.
  216. >Actually, not quite alone. Two green eyes are starting at you with a mixture of curiosity and alarm.
  217. >"M-miss? You okay?"
  218. >Say nothing.
  219. >What the hell do you say? Wulfhorst just casually announced you'd be getting fucked by this pony to breed a slave race.
  220. >And Anon knew. Great fucking surprise, Anon. Maybe he thinks you wanted company.
  221. >"Ah'm called Shaun."
  222. >Raise your head, stare at him.
  223. "No, you're not."
  224. >That bowing and scraping house slave might get a pet name, but you two are numbers, and that's all. Basic rules of Obedience Training.
  225. >The red stallion chuckles, scratching behind one filthy ear with his hoof.
  226. >"Naw, see? Sieben-Hundert-Acht-und-Neunzig. S.H.A.U.N. It's easier."
  227. >Smile, despite your piss-poor mood. Okay, that was kind of clever. Now you feel kind of cheated by your own number.
  228. "I'm Zwanzig-Vier."
  229. >No shit, it's on your collar.
  230. >Look down at yourself awkwardly. Anon always said your scars and chipped ear were endearing, but you know to a stallion you must be an ugly scrap of a mare.
  231. >That's why you prefer Anon's company. He lies to you a lot, but he does it so sweetly.
  232. >"Ah reckon we got a little time before… y'know. Wanna talk about it?"
  233. >Take a deep breath.
  234. "Yeah. How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit?"
  235. >He laughs again.
  236. >"Ah heard this program is Wulfhorst's baby. Gonna be hard taking it out of his hands."
  237. >You think real hard. You need to make a move now, while you're in Headquarters. You might not be able to put a bullet in Wulfhorst, but there's smarter ways to do this.
  238. >Your thoughts lead back to that pale blue unicorn you hate so much. He must have the full run of the place. He still has his horn too, so Wulfhorst must let him use magic. Somehow, Special Service is the key to all this.
  239. >You grin at Shaun.
  240. "I have an idea."
  241. >His ears prick up, and he looks at you with a worried frown. You probably look completely deranged as you rub your hooves together.
  242. "You ever heard of the Führer Principle?"
  243. >Creeping out the room is the easy part. The meeting's still in session, and it looks like most of the Headquarters staff is being briefed on the breeding program.
  244. >The hard part will be dealing with Special Service.
  245. >You pray to Celestia the humans can't hear your hoofsteps over the sound of Wulfhorst pontificating.
  246. >He's getting really into it to, this guy's already imagining himself parading triumphant back to Berlin flanked by your SS-brainwashed foals.
  247. >You head back to the entrance hall, and poke your head into the other rooms.
  248. >Boring offices mostly. Typewriters, a few maps.
  249. >"Ah still don't see why-…"
  250. "Can you work a human typewriter?"
  251. >"Eeenope."
  252. >You spot the house slave's slender blue butt as you peer cautiously around a filing cabinet.
  253. >He's dusting a portrait of Hitler.
  254. >Your grin is almost ear-to ear. Bingo.
  255. >Stalk your prey like a wild animal. He sees nothing until Shaun's shadow looms over him. He turns. That's when your hoof connects with his mouth.
  256. >Mmf!"
  257. >Your feel a tingling sensation as his horn flickers with silvery sparks.
  258. >Shaun wrestles him down and squeezes the slim stallion like an insect. Special Service makes a choking noise, and the magic dies.
  259. >You get up in his face, muzzle-to-muzzle.
  260. "There's a telegram for Wulfhorst from the Führer. You're gonna type it up and deliver it."
  261. >His eyes widen, and he goes still in Shaun's hooves.
  262. >"O-Of course! Surely y-you don't think I approve of this breeding nonsense, right?"
  263. "I dunno. Do you, house slave?"
  264. >You jab Special Service in the chest.
  265. "What kind of succulent blow-job did you give to get called 'Special Service', anyway?"
  266. >His face is almost going purple as he blushes in shame. Either that, or Shaun's restricting his airflow too much.
  267. >"Is this really the time?" Shaun grunts.
  268. >Point taken.
  269. >You set up the officious document paper in a typewriter. At a nod from you, the unicorn nervously lights up his horn, and the keys start to glow.
  270. "Okay. To Oberführer Wulfhorst…"
  271. >"Cancelled!?"
  272. >You stand smartly at attention alongside Anon as you watch Wulfhorst splutter at the 'telegram' from Berlin.
  273. >Special Service cringes, and backs away from his master as if he's about to explode.
  274. >Anon looks genuinely surprised. Why shouldn't he be? He found you and Shaun where he left you, quietly getting to know each other.
  275. >Shaun's not a big talker, and you don't want to say much about your exploits either. You've both seen and done enough to feel a bond without words.
  276. >You are curious as to how he ended up in this program though. You want to know if his 'loyalty' has been inflated as much as yours.
  277. >Unsurprisingly, he's good at lifting and moving things. Saved a few ponies, even dragged his master back from the front after he caught shrapnel.
  278. >The humans ignore the fact he was leashed to his master, and assume he did it out of love.
  279. >Shaun neither confirms nor denies it. He has to have some secrets. It's about all you slaves can have to yourselves. You don't say much about Anon either.
  280. >Suddenly, you find yourself face to face with the cold, seething eyes of Wulfhorst.
  281. >"We'll see each other again soon, I promise, little Zwanzig-Vier." His voice is sickly sweet. He's trying to mask that raging fit.
  282. >Say nothing. Slaves do not speak unless ordered, or asked a question.
  283. >The meeting is dismissed very quickly. You see Special Service slink surreptitiously out of the room to avoid Wulfhorst's wrath.
  284. >Maybe he is as helpless as he seems. You figured he'd tattle as soon as Shaun let him go.
  285. >You try to look grateful as Anon leads you past him. You don't think he's cool with you yet, but he did choose you over Wulfhorst. Maybe he's trying to prove to himself he's not become one of them.
  286. >"Sorry that didn't turn out so good, Zwanzig-Vier."
  287. >Anon looks apologetic as you both trot briskly away from the building. You need to be back before dark, and besides, you don't want to linger around here.
  288. >"Still, at least you made a friend."
  289. >You smile.
  290.  
  291. >December, 1941.
  292. >Winter was your favourite season in Equestria.
  293. >You miss sipping hot cocoa by the fire. You remember snowball fights, and opening presents on Hearth's Warming Eve.
  294. >Winter in Russia is mainly about breaking into cellars for anything combustible, or alcoholic. Or both.
  295. >The ponies in your division are getting thin, but at least low grade hay isn't too hard to get.
  296. >It's the soldiers with permanent hungry looks that worry you. Rations are getting sparse, and horror stories are circling the ranks about humans carving up and cooking pony casualties for dinner.
  297. >Anon tells you that Hitler has declared war on the United States of America.
  298. >You don't know much about them, except that they're 'undisciplined, decadent and bourgeois.'
  299. >Not sure what the last one means, it doesn't even sound German. All you know is most of the human world is now at war.
  300. >The good news is the Wehrmacht is on the defensive, which means no more Storm Pony suicide charges for now.
  301. >Cuddle with Anon under his overcoat.
  302. >The handlers don't mind getting closer to their ponies now the temperature's so low.
  303. >You're an obedient, portable little heater, a guard dog, and a vodka thief all in one fuzzy package.
  304. >Anon's been taking special care of you lately. He gets upset if you get muddy, or too wet in the snow. He says frostbite will be your death sentence if you're not careful.
  305. >Nice of him to care about one thing that could kill you.
  306. >Someone's shouting for Anon. A man in a sodden leather coat stumbles into his sparse quarters.
  307. >"Hauptmann Anon! Special orders from Headquarters!"
  308. >You wince as Anon's warmth leaves you. Your handler takes the sealed orders, and dismisses the messenger. Anon reads the paper, then looks at you with a grimace.
  309. >Here it fucking comes.
  310. >"Hey, Zwanzig-Vier. You up for disobeying orders?"
  311. >Well, this got interesting.
  312. > Your orders are to infiltrate enemy territory and assassinate a rogue Storm Pony.
  313. >Apparently, Oberführer Wulfhorst is still really keen on exploiting the Wehrmacht's ponies for his own projects.
  314. >He stole some ponies from the 1st Eisenhuf Division and trained them to be spies for the SS.
  315. >Their last mission botched badly, and now there's some doomed mare trapped behind enemy lines. Storm Ponies aren't worth human lives to rescue, but the SS can't let this one live. So, you're the expendable assassin.
  316. >Anon has other ideas. He's pissed that Wulfhorst and the SS keep interfering with the running of the 1st Eisenhuf.
  317. >You agree, though it has more to do with nearly being forced into a creepy breeding experiment.
  318. >"You're gonna rescue her instead, Zwanzig-Vier. I'm not risking you to clean up Wulfhorst's mess. You bring the spy back, we give her a new number, and she's just another Storm Pony."
  319. >Anon paces the room, rubbing the stubble on his chin. He's laid out the aerial surveillance photos that came with your orders. Headquarters thinks the spy's holed up in the city museum. Plenty of places to hide.
  320. "I understand, Master."
  321. >You feel a touch warmer knowing that Anon is worried about the risks you're facing. You can't help but wonder if he's started to see ponies as more than expendable animals. He's taking a big risk himself just to score a point against Wulfhorst.
  322. >Anon fidgets with his hands, looking you up and down. He's scared for you.
  323. >Try and find something reassuring to say. To be honest, you'd be lucky to even reach the museum. There's a big stretch of no-man's-land to cross, and moving in the dark and cold of winter is going to suck hard.
  324. "I'll be as careful as I can, Master."
  325. >Anon smiles, and bends down to give your ears a warming rub.
  326. >"Look after yourself first, my girl. And try to keep Shaun in one piece."
  327. >You sit up, ears perked in surprise. Anon laughs.
  328. >"You didn't think you were going alone, did you?"
  329. >Darkness falls quickly.
  330. >It's a clear night, and the pale, distant moon of the human world lights your way.
  331. >You and Shaun cautiously slip from cover to cover. You're both bundled up as warm as possible, roughly woven scarves covering your sensitive muzzles, and an extra blanket for your mark. You've got ragged socks covering your hooves that quickly get wet in the snow, but at least they muffle your hoofsteps.
  332. >You don't know how Anon convinced Shaun's handler to turn him over for this mission. Maybe he pulled rank, but that doesn't seem like Anon's style.
  333. >In any case, you're fervently glad he seems so keen on you two being friends.
  334. "So, you know we're disobeying orders, right?"
  335. >The big stallion was cool with the trick you pulled at Headquarters, but this is bigger than just forging some papers. You're not sure he appreciates getting sucked into Anon's crazy schemes along with you.
  336. >"Reckon that comes with bein' your friend, Zeevee."
  337. >Try not to stumble in the dark as he throws your concentration. Zeevee? Not even Anon's thought of giving you a nickname.
  338. >Think of a witty retort. Say… say something.
  339. "Ah… um… right. Heh."
  340. >Celestia, he must think you're a drooling idiot.
  341. >Feel him nudge you gently, and realise you've stopped moving.
  342. >"C'mon now. Lotta ground to cover."
  343. >You quicken your trot, and catch a glimpse of the museum roof in the distance. The architecture reminds you of the pegasus cloud cities back home.
  344. >Between you and the museum is an uncomfortably open space. You think it used to be a park or something, judging from the dead trees and the statue of Lenin.
  345. >Scan the museum for any signs of movement. There shouldn't be too many troops in this section, but you know there's Soviet agents already looking for the pony spy. You see nothing, but this place makes you jumpy, and you've learned to trust that instinct.
  346. >You hear a distant whooshing sound, like someone's let off fireworks.
  347. >A shit load of fireworks.
  348. "Fuck."
  349. >Your instincts scream to finding cover, but Shaun puts a hoof on you before you can scarper.
  350. >"Wait. This is our chance."
  351. >What.
  352. "I choose life, Shaun!"
  353. >He's not listening to you. The whistling is getting louder.
  354. >"Get ready to run."
  355. "No shi-"
  356. >The first rockets obliterate the snow-covered ground, showering you with hot water and mud. Shrapnel and rubble pings off the walls of the buildings, and you hear them groan as the ruins threaten collapse.
  357. >"Now!"
  358. >Shaun shoves you forward, and before your brain can catch up with your shaky legs, you're galloping straight towards the steaming craters. You think you're screaming, but that might just be the sound of the rockets.
  359. >Your ears are ringing. The next blast from behind is just a dull thump you feel through the ground, and a blast of hot air at your back. You're scrambling across uneven soil, the pounding of your heart matching the pace of your hooves.
  360. >You don't realise you've made it to the great stone columns of the museum's front façade until there's literally nowhere else to run. You feel a reassuring, heavy hoof touch your quivering withers.
  361. >"Easy, easy."
  362. >Your hearing's coming back gradually, you can hear yourself panting, and the distant thuds of rockets grinding the city to dust. You're hidden in the shadow of one of the columns, for which you're grateful as you hear swift footsteps.
  363. >Nestle by the foot of the column as Soviet soldiers rush past the museum steps, not even a whisper between them. They must have some kind of night raid planned, and you have no way of alerting anyone this time. Anon will have to face it without you.
  364. >You wait side by side, keeping each other warm until you're sure the streets are empty again.
  365. >The museum's doors have long since been destroyed, leaving a pitch-black archway.
  366. >Pull out Anon's flashlight from your saddlebag. The moon won't shine down in the museum's vaults, so you'll have to risk being seen.
  367. >Enter the museum, and hope you're not too late.
  368. >The exhibits have been looted, or destroyed. The gift shop is empty, and all the remaining posters on the walls are beyond your limited understanding of Russian.
  369. >You can't risk calling out for the pony. You still have that twitch in your tail that tells you there's trouble coming. You don't even know the name they gave her, since your orders just to kill her.
  370. >Sweep the upper floors, then start to work your way down. Stop when you come across a spatter of dark red droplets on the marble tiles.
  371. >You must have hesitated for too long, because Shaun nudges you.
  372. >"Ain't enough blood to be fatal yet. Reckon she headed down and hid in the vault."
  373. >Begin to notice specks of blood reflecting in the light, and scuff marks on the dusty floor as you descend the stairs, past the public displays and into the private, secret parts of the museum.
  374. >You feel claustrophobic, especially since some of the vault has collapsed from bombing. The only light is the jittering circle shining from the flashlight in your mouth.
  375. >Shine the flashlight down rows of shelves. Files, boxes, scrolls, all a jumbled mess to your eyes. Some of the shelves have fallen over. You strain to hear anypony over your own nervous, shallow breaths.
  376. >"Uh, Zeevee?"
  377. >Shaun points out a distinct trail of blood down one of the aisles.
  378. >Of course you've got to go first, you've got the flashlight. Good. This is fine. You're fine.
  379. >You hear somepony groaning as you head down the aisle.
  380. >Slowly raise the flashlight.
  381. >A mare stares up at the light like you're death itself come to claim her.
  382. >Reasonable assumption.
  383. >She's curled up against the wall, hooves wrapped around her barrel as she shivers. Her blood's clotted dark against her off-white coat, but she looks ready to faint. Strands of her mane are plastered across her face and neck in blue and violet tangles. There's dry mucus on her snout.
  384. >Looks like the big damn heroes arrived in the nick of time.
  385. "Aw. Hewo."
  386. >Your mouth is full.
  387. >Smooth.
  388. >The mare recoils as you step towards her. Shaun fishes for the first-aid kit in your saddlebag.
  389. >Set the flashlight down so you can talk, and not blind her with it.
  390. "Hey, it's okay. We're here to get you out. What's your name?"
  391. >She still looks terrified out of her mind.
  392. >"Y-you're going to kill me. It's cyanide. I know you've got cyanide."
  393. >Oh. Looks like she guessed what the humans had in mind for her already.
  394. "No, no cyanide. I promise, we're here to rescue you. Wulfhorst wants you dead, yeah, but we don't answer to that cun-"
  395. >She gasps when she hears his name, and starts to sob. You feel woefully unequipped to deal with this. This isn't some superspy for the SS, they just dumped a frightened pony in the deep end.
  396. >Exchange a look with Shaun. You thought he might be able to calm her down, but in the dark, he just looks like an even bigger menace than yourself.
  397. >Shuffle beside the sobbing mare and think of some way to console her.
  398. >Kiss her cheek and softly shush her.
  399. >Well, that stops the sobbing. You guess she needed a connection with another pony.
  400. "I'm Zwanzig-Vier. Uh, you can call me Zeevee. This is Shaun."
  401. >Awkward pause.
  402. >"'m called Silent Night."
  403. >Not bad, you were expecting something stupid with the SS initials again.
  404. >"Can Ah have a look at your injury, Silent Night?"
  405. >You feel her stiffen even at Shaun's gentle tone. She winces, then nods reluctantly. You help pry her hoof away from her barrel. It looks like a bullet found her, though she's lucky it didn't pierce any major blood vessels.
  406. >Shaun coaxes her into taking some epinephrine, and bandages her up. She'll need a human surgeon to get the bullet out, and soon. You feed her some oats, but she looks so starved you're worried she'll hurl if you give her too much.
  407. >Her attempts to stand are pitiful, so you help hoist her up onto Shaun's back. It's time to go.
  408. >That's when you hear the gun being cocked.
  409. >Fuck! With both of you focused on Silent Night, you weren't keeping an ear out for trouble.
  410. >"Well, well. Ugly beasts in fascist uniforms. Really, it was too obvious to guess the vermin would be hiding in the darkest pit they could find."
  411. >The glare of a bigger flashlight makes you wince and avert your eyes. You can't see your captor, but your sensitive ears tell you there's only one. Either Ivan's really stretching his forces thin, or they've correctly determined that there's not much a couple of underfed Storm Ponies can do against one good commissar.
  412. >"If you've got any more friends hiding back there, I'll make the female one suffer if they don't reveal themselves."
  413. >He speaks German fluently. You guess he must be a spy himself.
  414. >"Ain't nopony but us, Ivan."
  415. >You hear his footsteps approach. The flashlight is focused on Shaun, or more accurately, on the crumpled figure on his back.
  416. >"The little sneak. I might have use for her, if she lives. Put her down."
  417. >Think! This guy doesn't want anything from you two. You're going to die, and Anon is never even going to find your bodies.
  418. >"Ah can carry her for you, sir."
  419. >Brilliant, Shaun. Now it's just you that's the third wheel.
  420. >"Hmm. Turn around. You will walk ahead of me. Don't look around."
  421. >The human gestures with the flashlight, and Shaun obediently turns. Then the light is focused on you.
  422. >"I only have patience for so many dirty animals. I hope it's warm in hell for you, fascist."
  423. >You realise two things at this moment. One, ponies have better peripheral vision than humans. Two, this human obviously has never worked with horses before.
  424. >Feel deep satisfaction at the loud crack of Shaun's hooves shattering both the human's legs.
  425. >There's a pained scream, and the ear-ringing retort of the revolver going off. You're already moving, guided by sound, smell and touch in the pitch blackness.
  426. >It feels like forever until Shaun pulls you away from stomping on the human's face.
  427. >The museum is still silent as you emerge from the vault.
  428. >You must have been deep enough that the shot went unheard. You guess the human won't be missed for a while. You retrace your steps out of the dark ruin.
  429. >The Soviet raid is over, you can hear the familiar thunder of German artillery. You take cover in one of the muddy craters in the park as an enemy squad passes you, two men bearing a stretcher.
  430. >It takes the rest of the night to creep your way back to German lines. The sky grows lighter as you make it past the forward lookouts, who watch the ragged band of Storm Ponies with indifference.
  431. >Have a panic attack as you see an SS guard outside Anon's quarters. Quickly duck out of sight, waving at Shaun to join you with Silent Night.
  432. >That slimy shit Wulfhorst must be personally overseeing this. You can't let Silent Night be seen.
  433. >Take a deep breath and hold her hoof for a moment to stop her trembling. You smile with false bravado.
  434. "You two get cozy. I've got this."
  435. >March back out towards Anon's quarters. You feel the eyes of the SS guards on you, but they don't stop you. You've got business with the boss.
  436. >Anon is pacing the room. Wulfhorst is smoking. They both look up at the sound of your hooves, and you stomp to attention.
  437. >"Zwanzig-Vier!"
  438. >Anon starts forward, but straightens up, thinking better of it.
  439. >"Did you…?"
  440. "It's done, Master."
  441. >Wulfhorst smirks. His leather coat creaks as he leans over and pets your head with a gloved hand.
  442. >"Goodness, you're as fearless as they say, little Zwanzig-Vier. Did she talk before you killed her?"
  443. >Open your mouth to answer, but stop as he cups your chin and jerks your head up so you're eye-to-eye.
  444. >Muster up the tears, and avert your gaze. Stutter.
  445. "Sh-she just screamed, sir. Just screamed."
  446. >You're fucking good at the what-have-I-done act. He buys it with every Reichsmark he's got.
  447. >"I knew I'd find a use for you one way or the other."
  448. >Wulfhorst swaggers from the room.
  449. >Collapse into Anon's arms.
  450. >A few days after recovering from surgery, a new Storm Pony joins the ranks of your division.
  451. >Sieben-und-Neunzig doesn't talk much. She's small, but sturdy and battle-scarred.
  452. >Silent Night slips into her new role easily, you can see why she was pick out as a spy. You still call her by name when you're in private. She has the same handler as Shaun, to avoid drawing any suspicion towards Anon.
  453. >You don't mind keeping Anon to yourself though. You let him hold you, as you tell him everything that happened. You try to keep your tears hidden, but you can't fool him. He wipes them away, and says that he's never been gladder to have a pony like you. You feel worth more than dirt for the first time in ages.
  454. >There's a lot between you that has to be kept secret, and now there's things you can't let Anon know about.
  455. >Silent Night has a lot of secrets to share, and not just about the Eastern Front.
  456. >She's heard things about the Wolf's Mouth, the portal to Equestria you were first pulled through. The SS is expanding the project, pouring more resources into what they see as a potentially war-winning resource.
  457. >She's heard they've been having some trouble with it too. Freak accidents, sudden bursts of magical energy. Some of the humans there are going mad, plagued by hallucinations and nightmares.
  458. >The propaganda on the radio insists the future of the pony race is under the heel of the human masters.
  459. >But Silent Night rekindles your hope that Equestria hasn't turned its back on you yet.
  460. >Anon is getting friendly with Bruno, the handler for your two pony friends.
  461. >You get to see them more often now, you spend every moment you can huddled together, talking in hushed voices.
  462. >Winter gets colder every day. The wind bites at you, Ivan shoots at you, German soldiers kick at you out of boredom, and every day it seems you're surrounded by more enemies than before.
  463. >But you've got Shaun, and Silent Night. You're Anon's Storm Pony. That counts for something.
  464.  
  465. >January, 1942
  466. >Every step of this retreat is an absolute bitch.
  467. >You've seen entire battalions of Storm Ponies mowed down just to capture a few miles of this ground.
  468. >Now the humans are running back across it to set up defensive lines.
  469. >Your job is to cover their asses and delay Ivan, even if it costs the whole division.
  470. >There's talk of massing the ponies for a big counter-push. The loss of the city is a big stinging blow for the Wehrmacht.
  471. >Whilst Headquarters works out how to not shit the bed, you spend your days setting up traps for Ivan. Ponies can get where humans can't, and where a pony can go, she can carry saddlebags laden with explosives.
  472. >Anon trained you himself. It's fiddly work with your mouth and hooves. He cuffed your ear a couple of times for making careless mistakes.
  473. >His patience is on a knife edge, and you're in a pretty foul mood yourself. You haven't seen your friends all week, and that's a long time out here.
  474. >Shaun's with a team of bulky stallions hauling around wagons and artillery pieces.
  475. >Desertion is at an all-time high. The Soviets are starting to catch on that ponies aren't mindless fascist drones, and their propaganda is now being directed at you.
  476. >They air-dropped leaflets of absurdly happy ponies working on sun-drenched collective farms. The defectors must have taught Ivan a little Equestrian, the leaflets are written in your own language.
  477. >The Wehrmacht came up with their own plan over Christmas to keep you loyal, though. When you stumble back across friendly territory today, Anon grabs you by the collar and drags you to his tent.
  478. >He holds up a small brown tube, and holds it close for you to see. It's filled with little white pellets.
  479. >"Headquarters has ordered all Storm Ponies be given Pervitin before combat duty."
  480. >Stare at the little pellets. Okay? What are these, pony treats?
  481. >"Zwanzig-Vier, promise me you will never take any of these."
  482. >Okay. Not treats then.
  483. >You're helping Silent Night set an explosive charge under a small stone bridge.
  484. >The stream it crosses is freezing cold, but only a trickle. It's a clear day, so the Luftwaffe is overhead in force.
  485. >This keeps distracting Silent Night, and she nearly killed you both when a plane passed directly overhead.
  486. >Now you're placing the explosives at load-bearing points while she's keeping a lookout.
  487. >Except she's not. She's gone down the embankment and started splashing in the shallows.
  488. >Those fucking pills have been screwing with your friends. This isn't Silent Night. She's giggling at a fucking butterfly.
  489. >While Anon seems determined to confiscate every Pervitin container he sees, most of the other handlers give out the little pills for any reason at all. It's a reward for good behaviour, a cure for bad performance, a pick-me-up in the morning and a painkiller in the evening.
  490. >Ponies are getting addicted, and the humans just seem to find it either cute or downright funny when their slaves start begging them for more pills. You didn't think a slave could get any lower.
  491. >Headquarters' plan is working, there's almost no talk of deserting among the ranks now.
  492. > You haven't even had one pill. Sometimes you resent Anon for it, even if he knows what's best for you. You wish you could forget all the pain and fear, just for a little while.
  493. >Also you now have a reputation for being a miserable killjoy, as well as a master's pet.
  494. >Snap out of your thoughts as you hear the puttering of an engine approaching the bridge from the other side. Definitely not German engineering from the noise it's making.
  495. "Silent Night, hide!"
  496. >Dash out from under the bridge, splash into the shallow stream and drag her back under by your teeth, just as a vehicle rumbles overhead. Hear the creak of its brakes, and the slam of a door. Footsteps approach your hiding spot.
  497. >"Hello, little ponies. I see you!"
  498. >Freeze. He's speaking Equestrian.
  499. >Full stealth mode. Blend into the shadows. Maybe he'll think he was mistaken.
  500. >Silent Night bursts out laughing.
  501. >Smooth. The one pony whose talent revolves around being sneaky is dosed up to the eyeballs. You're going to dump her pills in a sewer if you survive this.
  502. >You see a pair of boots tread down the embankment, and a mustachioed face with bright blue eyes appear as the man leans down to look into your crawlspace under the bridge.
  503. >"Is my Equestrian that bad?"
  504. >He looks amused. He's armed, but he isn't pointing his rifle at you yet. He's got a fluffy hat on with the communist red star, in case you couldn't tell he was a Soviet.
  505. >The fuck do you do? Charge him? Get close and buck his legs in? There could be a whole gang of them waiting just behind him.
  506. >"Please do not be thinking of violence, poor souls. I know they have you in chains. My name is Kolya. What are you called?"
  507. >You're not sure if you would prefer him to be more hostile or not. This is just getting weird.
  508. "Zwanzig-Vier. Lead Storm Pony."
  509. >"I'm Silent Night! You've got a big moustache, Kolya. Like Stalin's!"
  510. >You have your hoof over the smaller mare in case she's thinking of going up and hugging the guy. He chuckles, and beckons at you.
  511. >"I would be most grateful if you were not blowing up the bridge, yes? I borrowed truck from Igor, would be bad to get scratch on it."
  512. >The bomb's a mess of wires that isn't even connected to the detonator. Not that you would want it to blow, you've got plans for the future. Like living.
  513. >Cautiously squirm your way out into the open. Squint in the light as you check for enemy backup.
  514. >One guy by the truck with a submachine gun. Less than you expected, but more than you'd hoped.
  515. >Kolya smiles down at you.
  516. >"Do not frown so, Zwanzig-Vier… am I saying it right?"
  517. "Yes."
  518. >"It is good day for you. You will not be slave to fascists anymore."
  519. >A couple of months ago you might have bought it.
  520. >Now all you're thinking is how to get back to Anon.
  521.  
  522. >Sit in the back of the truck and devise escape plans.
  523. >Silent Night has crashed off her high. She's whimpering and burying her head between her hooves.
  524. >You don't think Kolya's a bad human. Unfortunately, the Soviets know next to nothing about Storm Ponies. Most of them think the Germans are breeding you through in an insane and unethical medical experiment.
  525. >Reasonable assumption.
  526. >If the Kremlin knows anything about the Wolf's Mouth portal, they haven't told the rank and file of the Red Army.
  527. >The truck winds its way back through territory you'd just evacuated. You notice a few new blast craters and piles of rubble here and there. A lot of that is your doing. There's a smoking tank where you were laying mines only a few days ago.
  528. >Better keep that to yourself. A lot of enemy soldiers are giving you two dirty looks as they see you pass by. You bet a few of them would prefer to see ponies being dragged behind the truck instead of riding it.
  529. >The truck pulls up in a depot, there's an office, and a courtyard with trucks and blocky little Soviet cars all parked haphazardly together.
  530. >Kolya comes to let you two off. It feels strange not being leashed around so many humans. Even Anon has to keep you leashed when he's taking a walk with you. There's nowhere you could run, though.
  531. >"Come, my friends. Someone is waiting to meet you."
  532. >You're expecting a political officer to come and demand you renounce your fascist ways and cleanse yourself of evil ideological wrongthink.
  533. >Kolya walks you two to the depot office, but the door opens before you reach it.
  534. >Gape as a pony steps out and smiles at you. Her dark grey coat is clean and smooth, her mane falls in long, brushed blonde and white locks. She's well-fed, out of uniform, and smiling at you brightly.
  535. >You know her.
  536. >You thought she was dead. She went missing one night, after a close-quarters scuffle in the streets. She hasn't got her collar, but you don't need it to remember her number.
  537. "Neunzig-Sieben?"
  538. >Watch awkwardly as the mare laughs at you.
  539. >"Oh, Celestia! I'd almost forgotten that ridiculous numbering system. It isn't even right in German!"
  540. >Roll your eyes. You know it isn't right. A lot of the first ponies to be numbered couldn't understand German very well. The Wehrmacht has bigger problems than teaching a bunch of slaves better grammar.
  541. >She prances over to you, and before you can recoil, pulls you into a hug and kisses both your cheeks.
  542. >"It's Natasha now. They gave me a real name! I'm so glad you escaped the Germans, Zwanzig-Vier. And who is this?"
  543. >Tune her out as she turns to a morose looking Silent Night, who refuses to make eye contact. Kolya is still standing beside you. While he's here, you don't buy 'Natasha' and her optimism. You didn't escape Anon, you've been captured.
  544. >"Always such faces you pull, little Tatyana."
  545. >Blink up at Kolya's grinning face.
  546. >The fuck did he just call you? You actually ask him that in German, but he just looks bewildered. You made sure to be as rude as possible, so you don't think he's faking ignorance. You keep that in mind for later. Natasha titters awkwardly.
  547. >Ask again a little nicer, in Equestrian.
  548. "Sorry. I mean, why did you call me that, Kolya?"
  549. >The human shrugs, and pets the back of your head. You don't react.
  550. >"We can't keep calling you a number, can we? You're a free pony now."
  551. >Are you?
  552. >Pretty sure you're not free to walk out of this compound.
  553. >You don't want a new name. You didn't like your number before, but now it makes you think of the nickname Shaun gave you. It makes you think of Anon calling for you, and rushing into his arms. You're fine with your name.
  554. >"Come inside, you two! It's time to break those fascist chains holding you down."
  555. >Follow Natasha inside reluctantly. Your ears perk up as you spot a bottle and shot glasses on a table.
  556. >Okay, one point to Soviet defection.
  557. >Whisper to Silent.
  558. "I have a plan."
  559. >Barely hear her reply.
  560. >"Me too."
  561.  
  562. >Listen to Natasha deliver a speech on how like Equestria the Soviet Union is.
  563. >They've fed you sweet tinned fruits, fresh oats and even blocks of real chocolate. There's a small radio playing.
  564. >They're deceiving you. Plying you with food and flowing vodka to make you believe all their bullshit about being happy and free.
  565. >Gotta get back to Anon. You have to escape… after another drink or two.
  566. >You excuse yourself to take a piss, and head out the office to do your business discreetly against the wall.
  567. >Natasha hasn't shut up the whole time. She seems genuine in her love for the Soviets. Maybe there is a paradise out east somewhere for you.
  568. >No Anon, and no portal back to Equestria though. You'd rather not settle for a fake communist version of home.
  569. >You get back to find your glass refilled. Take another shot. A toast for that imminent escape.
  570. >Man, you feel good about escaping. Suddenly, it feels like all the fragments of your half-formed plans are coming together to form a crystal-clear vision.
  571. "Hey, Silent Night."
  572. >You grin at Silent Night. She looks great. Greater than great. She's smart and pretty too.
  573. "We should steal Kolya's truck."
  574. >Natasha stops, and stares at you. You look at her, then back to Silent Night. Neither of you can help it. You both burst out laughing. Kolya just looks politely confused as he refills his glass. He thinks you're telling a joke in German.
  575. >"W-We can't steal Kolya's truck, Z-Zeevee!"
  576. >Silent Night is really cute when she's drunk. Her face is all flushed and her ears are twitching erratically. You snort and chuckle.
  577. "Why not?"
  578. >Silent Night looks like she's about to die of laughter.
  579. >"Because he borrowed it from Igor!"
  580. >Bend over double from cackling too hard. Something in the back of your mind wonders why this is so hilarious.
  581. >Giggle as you work out why you suddenly feel like you could take on the whole Red Army yourself.
  582. "Heheheh. You slipped it in my fucking drink, didn't you?"
  583. >Anon is gonna be pissed.
  584. >Learn how to drive.
  585. >It's not something Storm Ponies are trained for, no human wants to put several tons of speeding metal in the hooves of a slave.
  586. >Silent Night knows the basics though, from her SS spy training.
  587. >It helps that you feel totally confident in your skills. Even though you've been drinking. And you're dosed with methamphetamine.
  588. >You should be angry at Silent Night, but really, you're too close to her to be mad for long.
  589. >Scold her, but do it gently. Just a smack on the hoof to show you're not condoning this behaviour.
  590. "You're a bad pony."
  591. >Silent nods sincerely.
  592. >"I acknowledge I did wrong. I will not apologise. You deserve not to be scared every moment of your life."
  593. >Nod like she just said something truly deep. Now concentrate on how stick shift works.
  594. >You've got this. You've totally got this. You sit on the driver's seat, operate the wheel with one hoof and the gear lever with the other. Silent Night's on the floor with the clutch, accelerator and brake.
  595. >You feel a little guilty as you turn Kolya's keys in the ignition. You smacked him out cold with one hoof before Natasha could work out that you weren't joking. She went down without a fight. You hope she's happy with her lot, anyway.
  596. >The rickety motor coughs to life. You fumble for the headlights switch. You can see the guard by the gate look over at the truck curiously.
  597. "Shit. I think he sees me."
  598. >Shift to first gear. The gearbox shrieks and the lever shakes in your hoof. You both swear loudly. The guard unlimbers his rifle and heads toward the truck.
  599. "Clutch, Silent!"
  600. >She steps on it, and you shift to first.
  601. "Go, go, go!"
  602. >The truck lurches forward as she stamps on the pedal. The soldier raises his rifle.
  603. >The shot aimed at your head goes wide as you swerve, the soldier diving to one side. You weren't prepared for how stiff this thing steers.
  604. >Smash through the wooden barrier at the gate, and try to find second gear.
  605. >Adjust the radio you stole from Kolya. You need some music.
  606. >This is the most fun you've had while in mortal peril.
  607. >You've got about fifty feet of visibility on a cloudy night, barreling down unsealed roads, and the brakes are controlled by somepony who can't see ahead.
  608. >Also your sense of self-preservation is numbed by drugs and vodka.
  609. >Typical Russian driving, you figure.
  610. >To top it off, you managed to find a German propaganda broadcast, and you now have Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries urging you to try and run over as many Reds as you can.
  611. >You plough through a fence as you try to skirt around the lights of a Soviet outpost.
  612. >Silent Night is whistling along with the music, so you assume she's fine. She hasn't touched the brake once.
  613. >You've got a good sense of direction, you've come this way a few times. Kolya should have blindfolded you before he knew if you would agree to defect or not.
  614. >See distant headlights in your rear-view mirror. The guard must alerted them you were escaping.
  615. >Recognise the bridge you're driving over, and yell for Silent to hit the brakes.
  616. "Hold on! I got another idea."
  617. >You can't believe how well your mind is forming these ideas. You're starting to see why so many ponies are addicted to this stuff. It's kind of scary.
  618. >Leap from the cab and dash for the crawlspace where you left the explosives. You just need to connect up the detonator, and roll the wire out to blow it from a safe distance.
  619. >Hear engines approaching. A bead of sweat rolls down your forehead. Fuck. Faster, but careful. You swear the drugs are slowing down time. Your concentration drowns everything else out.
  620. >Scrape your way out with the wire and detonator in your mouth, and roll it out back to the truck.
  621. >A burst of machinegun fire rings out as a truck rolls over the bridge.
  622. >Connect up the final wire and stomp the trigger.
  623. >Nothing.
  624. >Click the trigger again. Click it harder and harder.
  625. >What the fuck? The truck's getting closer, soldiers leaping off the back and readying their weapons. Silent Night is screaming at you.
  626. >"Zeevee, get back!"
  627. >Feel the ground quake.
  628. >The slow-motion effect of the drug makes this moment beautiful.
  629. >The bridge stonework heaves up, pulverizing into dust. The enemy truck flips, and falls out of sight along with the soldiers. An orange-yellow fireball blooms before you and melts the frost on the ground.
  630. >Grin stupidly.
  631. "Thanks for dinner."
  632. >Pretty lame, but you don't care.
  633. >Drive back to German lines. Your haphazard steering and Silent Night's sharp braking leaves you both with a few bruises.
  634. >Luckily the German lookouts realise one erratic Soviet truck is not the beginning of an enemy assault.
  635. >You're hauled from the truck and escorted to Anon once you tell the soldiers who you belong to.
  636. >Anon rushes to hold you when he first sees you. Then he pulls back, and sniffs you. Looks deep into your eyes, and frowns.
  637. >Uh-oh.
  638. >Scream as Anon twists your ear and scolds you loudly.
  639. >"Where have you been? And what have you been doing? I thought you'd died, and you've been spending the night drinking?"
  640. >Oh, right. From his perspective that totally looks like what you've done.
  641. "I-I was captured master! There was a pony defector and they tried to make us abandon you but we stole the truck and came back I'm sorry-y-yyy!"
  642. >You're not sorry, you'd do all that again. You curl up and rub your one good ear, staring at Anon's boots.
  643. >Tell the story again, from the beginning. Anon's angry, but at least he's willing to listen to your explanation first. You do tell a little lie though. You say Silent Night shared her pills with you.
  644. >Anon's calm when you're finished. He pets your ear, and you risk leaning in for a hug.
  645. >"Okay. I'm sorry I assumed the worst, Zwanzig-Vier."
  646. "Master… can you help Silent Night?"
  647. >Anon nods, and you smile gratefully back. He'll look after you both.
  648.  
  649.  
  650. >February, 1942.
  651. >Anon brushes your coat and trims your hooves.
  652. >Feel uncomfortable at the attention. He only does this when he wants to impress someone.
  653. >Tells you he wants you to look nice for your 'admirer'.
  654. >Nopony admires you. You're just either useful, or dangerous.
  655. >It isn't long before you hear a familiar motor pulling up outside the little farmhouse you've been quartered in.
  656. >Oberführer Wulfhorst of the SS, the creepiest human you know, has arrived to ruin your day.
  657. >Look uninterested as he strides into the room. Stand to attention as Anon salutes.
  658. >You weren't expecting the pale blue unicorn with a bow tie to follow him in. You narrow your eyes at Special Service, the SS house slave and presumed champion marathon cocksucker.
  659. >Oh fuck, they're not trying that ridiculous breeding program idea again, are they? Not that you have much to worry about from this stallion.
  660. > Admittedly your fake telegram from the Führer wasn't that convincing. You just assumed Wulfhorst was really stupid to have believed it this long.
  661. >"Hauptmann Anon, I see you are well. Ah, and my favourite little Storm Pony. I hope your master kept this meeting a surprise for you."
  662. >Glance up at Anon beaming. He seems to think whatever's going on here is just fucking dandy. Thanks, Anon. You thought he hated Wulfhorst.
  663. >Wulfhorst nudges Special Service forward. The stallion is refusing to meet your eyes, and he's blushing.
  664. >"On occasion, I reward my slaves for exemplary behaviour. Special Service has been so diligently lately, he felt bold enough to request a favour of me."
  665. >Feel the hairs on your neck prickle. Wulfhorst's shit-eating grin could clear every sewer in Moscow.
  666. >"He asked to spend the afternoon with the most beautiful mare he's ever seen."
  667. >Try to hold a straight face.
  668. >Anon is looking at you like you've scored. He's even giving you a discreet thumbs up.
  669. >"I'll be outside if you need me, Zwanzig-Vier."
  670. >Watch the humans leave. You're alone with him.
  671. >Awkward.
  672. >Wind up the sheltered house slave.
  673. "You've put on weight."
  674. >Go for the low blows immediately. You don't know what this guy wants, but he's sure not after your charming company.
  675. >Special Service scowls, and you swear he sucks in a bit. You should be a sniper the way you're hitting nerves.
  676. >"Look, I know you don't like me-…"
  677. "Skip the foreplay. What do you want? Don't know what I can give the stallion that has everything, but try me."
  678. >He's going to blow up soon. This is too easy. Cruel? Maybe. But you've been wiring bombs with your teeth while this guy sleeps by the fireside at Headquarters. He'll get over your jibes once he's had a few pony treats and a cuddle from Wulfhorst.
  679. >Ech. Cuddles with Wulfhorst. You think you just threw up in your mouth a little.
  680. >"I have a job for you."
  681. >Your ears prick up. Special takes a deep breath, and ploughs through his sentences like he thinks you're going to knock him out before he finishes.
  682. >"You have talents for thievery and violence. You take big stupid risks, follow the first insane plan that comes into your head, and you get lucky. And you owe me, because I risked my life for you. Isn't that how it works with you Storm Ponies?"
  683. >Stare at him with cold, unfeeling eyes. Yeah, you might owe him a favour. The hell you're going to let him compare himself to a Storm Pony though. He sucks in a deep breath.
  684. >"There's a train coming. Official SS business, supposed to be transporting some officials. I did some snooping. I know where Wulfhorst hides his secret files and ledgers. He's been paying off a lot of rail personnel and high-ranking officers to get this train through without any inspections."
  685. >Shrug. Wulfhorst's weird. So what? He's wining and dining a few higher ups so he can climb the grease pole.
  686. >"It's gold. The SS is looting captured Russian territory, and they move stolen valuables by train."
  687. >You raise your eyebrow. Curious, but you're not surprised that Wulfhorst is a crook.
  688. >"You're going to rob it."
  689. >Lose patience with Special Service. The stallion is leaning forward, ears flicking every way as if he's expecting Wulfhorst to burst through a wall.
  690. "You'd better have thought this out more than that, or you've been wasting your time. I'm a slave. I don't own anything. What the fuck am I going to buy with stolen gold? From who?"
  691. >The stallion holds up a hoof to shush you, ears pinning as you raise your voice. You roll your eyes. You're not the one that's going to get a beating if Wulfhorst finds out what his obedient little house slave has been up to.
  692. >"You might think I'm sheltered, but you're the most naïve pony I've ever met. This war isn't going to last forever. What do you think's going to happen to you Storm Ponies? You'll still be slaves no matter who wins, but gold is gold, and there's humans that will trade with anypony. You could at least make your captivity a little more comfortable."
  693. >Snort, and pace the room. You take enough risks already without heaping criminal activity on the side. You should resent that Special thought of you first when contemplating stupid plans, but the stallion's got a point.
  694. >You figured you'd find a way back to the Wolf's Mouth portal before the war ended. You've always been vague on how.
  695. "You had my curiosity. Now you have my attention. You have a plan?"
  696. >Special's ears perk up, and he puffs out his chest proudly.
  697. >"Of course I do! You don't need to do any thinking. My plan is foolproof."
  698. >Roll your eyes. The Germans have already proved to you repeatedly how fragile foolproof plans are.
  699. >"The train will be unloading at the train station at sunset, three days from now. That's when the gold will be itemized. Stop the train before it reaches the station. Steal as much as you can, then swap the real itinerary for a forgery. Wulfhorst won't even know anything is missing."
  700. >Oh yeah. That's foolproof. Can't see any gaping holes in that. Pretend to think it over.
  701. "Fine. We're in business."
  702. >Recruit your friends into a dangerous train robbery.
  703. >Fidget as Shaun chews on a wheat stem and thinks it over. You're really counting on him as one of the few ponies you can trust. You can't do this alone.
  704. >"Sounds a might foolish, Zeevee."
  705. >Scowl and grudgingly nod. It is foolish. But now more than ever, as the Army Group Centre seems to be digging in for a long war of attrition, you've got escape on your mind. Only this time, you don't just want it for yourself.
  706. "I know. It stinks. But if this war turns for the worse, we might be grateful for some insurance. There's bound to be humans willing to help if there's gold involved. Otherwise we're either going to be freezing our flanks off in Siberia for the rest of our lives, or the Wehrmacht is going to liquidate the whole division once they don't need us anymore."
  707. >Special Service didn't say that exactly, but it didn't take you long to work it out yourself. After the war, nobody's going to want a Storm Pony as a domestic slave. You'll just be a loose end in Hitler's new world. Easier to train new ponies than rehabilitate old, broken ones.
  708. >"And ya reckon you can smuggle your way back home through the portal? Might be all sorts of complicated."
  709. >Level with Shaun, pony to pony. Time to pour out your heart, in a moving, eloquent manner to convince him of the righteousness of your cause.
  710. "This planet sucks donkey cock. It's a never ending train wreck, and I want off the ride."
  711. >Nailed it. Used metaphors and everything.
  712. >Shaun heaves a sigh. Feel a twinge of guilt – you're pestering him at a rare time that he isn't hauling huge pieces of machinery through mushy snow. He's got new sores and cuts from his neck to his withers. They must have been driving him hard.
  713. >Touch his shoulder with your hoof. You're better at reassuring ponies without using words anyway.
  714. >"Reckon there might be somethin' you said there that Ah can agree with."
  715. >Man, you're a pro at persuasive speaking.
  716. >Wave your signal flag and urgently as the train comes chuffing around the bend.
  717. >Wince as the steam whistle shrieks, and the train's brakes squeal.
  718. >Gallop after the engine as it passes you. The driver leans out of the cab to swear at you in three different languages.
  719. "Bomb on the tracks ahead! Bomb on the tracks! Stop the train, sir!"
  720. >The train eventually shudders to a halt. Right on cue, Shaun comes cantering up along the tracks, throwing you a hasty salute.
  721. >Hope he remembers his lines as the human driver jumps from the cab and heads for you, face red beneath a layer of soot.
  722. >"Beg pardon, Lead Storm Pony ma'am, but the colts say that the bomb's a might sensitive. She'll definitely blow if the train rolls by."
  723. >Talk really loudly so the train driver gets it.
  724. "Good work, pony. How long till we can defuse it and let the train pass?"
  725. >Shaun draws a breath through his teeth, and hums awkwardly. He's doing a good job of playing up his expert opinion.
  726. >"Might take us an hour to square this one away, ma'am."
  727. >The train driver throws his cap on the ground and points his finger at you.
  728. >"Hey! You fucking animals better not be slacking off. This is an official SS transport vehicle. You're gonna piss off a lot of very important people if you're wasting my time. I'll make sure it gets back to you!"
  729. >Turn and bow respectfully to the human, like you didn't see him there. Shaun does too.
  730. "My humble apologies, sir. We will do our best to ensure your safety, as quick as we are able."
  731. >Your fluency in ass-kissing pays off, the man storms back to his cab.
  732. >You nod at Shaun, and you both set off down the tracks. Special Service said the gold would be stashed in the rearmost carriage.
  733. >Miss a step and nearly trip over as armed SS guards start disembarking from the train, stretching their legs and looking around in mild confusion.
  734. >Go ahead with the contingency plan. Special Service might think he's smart, but you know how to plan for failure.
  735.  
  736. >Whistle loudly as the sun dips below the horizon. You pick a nice Equestrian tune that makes you nostalgic.
  737. >It's also the signal for Silent Night. You've been shuffling closer and closer to the rear of the train. Most humans ignore you as beneath their notice, but a few officers have been making inquiries about the supposed bomb being defused down the line.
  738. >That excuse isn't going to hold forever, and you need these humans distracted.
  739. >A loud blast shakes all the snow from the trees, and red flares burst over the train. The humans go nuts, scrambling for cover and unlimbering their weapons.
  740. >"It's a Soviet ambush!"
  741. >Shaun calls out, and you hope they mistake his voice in the dark for one of their comrades. The rattle of submachine guns covers the sound of you hauling the carriage door open and clambering in. Shaun keeps lookout as the Germans engage the enemy.
  742. >Except there isn't an enemy. Silent Night's hidden in the forest, chucking grenades and setting off flares. You just hope she picked a good hiding spot.
  743. >Buck open a few crate lids. Clothes, rations, vodka. You're starting to panic. Maybe Special Service was full of shit? Is this some elaborate revenge plan?
  744. >The next crate you bust open is packed with perfect rows of gold bars. Freshly cast, each stamped with a swastika. They must have melted it all down. There's an itinerary, which you quickly swap for Special's forgery.
  745. >Drool over how perfect they are. No wonder humans get so excited about this stuff.
  746. >Urgent whispering from Shaun brings you back to reality.
  747. >"Looks like they're headin' into the forest. They're gonna figure the ruse soon, Zeevee!"
  748. >Load up your saddlebags with gold. You drag the first two to the carriage door for Shaun. He grunts as he takes the load. Gold is heavy, you're only going to be able to carry a few bars between you.
  749. >Find a small package as you root around the crate. It's sealed, and addressed to Wulfhorst personally.
  750. >Pocket it, close the lid and run.
  751. >You both make it back to the farmhouse panting. Silent Night should be coming soon. You'll hide the gold under the floorboards while Anon is sleeping. Then you can give Special Service his cut next time Wulfhorst brings him over for a date.
  752. >You know, maybe he's not such a bad pony, if you can get over your judgments about him. Maybe this could be the start of another friendship. Celestia knows you need more of those.
  753. "C'mon. Step quietly."
  754. >You're about halfway across the dark room when an oil lantern burns into life.
  755. >Freeze. Anon's sitting in a chair by the lantern, a frown on his face.
  756. >Oh, so busted. You've never been caught this deep in the shit. You feel like your stomach's plummeting to hell.
  757. >He beckons to you with one finger. Your face is burning as you slowly approach him. Shaun dumps his heavy saddlebags behind you. No point in hiding you two have been up to something.
  758. >"Zwanzig-Vier. What's in those saddlebags?"
  759. >Ah, fuck, you hate it when he's calmly angry. The anticipation is worse than getting your ears twisted.
  760. >Come clean.
  761. "About half a million Reichsmarks worth of gold, master."
  762. >Anon stand up, and opens the saddlebag Shaun was carrying. He gasps. You guess he didn't believe you.
  763. >He leans down in front of you, and makes you look him in the eye.
  764. >"Do you have any idea what you've done? How dare you, Zwanzig-Vier? Sneaking behind my back, and robbing the SS from the looks of it! You could have been shot. I could be shot for not keeping you under control! Do you have a death wish for us all?"
  765. >Tear up. Keep in control. Don't let it out. Don't screw this up. Anon could shoot you himself for what you've done.
  766. "M-Master…"
  767. >Anon slaps your face hard. Your cheeks stings, and the tears start to flow. Celestia damn it you hate being weak in front of him.
  768. "I did it for you too, Anon!"
  769. >Oops. Even Shaun looks shocked. You never call Anon by his name.
  770. >Before Anon can answer, the door opens again. Silent Night creeps through, then goes still when she sees him.
  771. >Awkward pause.
  772. >"Oh, is he in on this too?"
  773. >Apply your hoof to your face. Subtle, Silent Night.
  774. >Anon throws up his hands and for a moment you think he's going to scream. Eventually, he just points at you.
  775. >"You are going to stop pushing your luck with me, Zwanzig-Vier. You better have a fucking good reason to be stealing SS gold for me."
  776. >Take a deep breath and wipe the tears away. You don't bother with flattery. Anon wants to hear it from you straight.
  777. "You're not rich, master. I own nothing. If we live through this, I'll be put down and you'll be out of the army. I'm just trying to protect us both."
  778. >There's a long silence as Anon seems to mull over what you're saying. He walks over to you, and you're sure he's about to start beating you in front of your friends.
  779. >Anon pulls the saddlebags off your back. He knows where the loose floorboard is. He pries it open, and dumps them in there. He didn't hit you again, and in a way, that makes you feel worse. You deserve it.
  780. >"Get out of here, Shaun, Silent Night. Stay out of sight."
  781. >They leave wordlessly. Anon doesn't look at you as he speaks.
  782. >"We'll talk more about this tomorrow. Don't even try to touch this gold again."
  783. >Curl up on the floor once Anon has gone back to bed. You're in for a world of hurt tomorrow. Special Service is going to have to wait for his cut, if he gets one at all.
  784. >Something crinkles in your pocket. You pull out that package from earlier, and check Anon is really asleep.
  785. >Open it. There's a black velvet bag inside, with a drawstring. You loosen it, and slowly tip its contents out onto your hoof.
  786. >A few tiny, bright stones trickle out.
  787. >You smile as the moonlight reflects off your hoofful of diamonds.
  788. >Not a total loss after all.
  789.  
  790. >Thwack.
  791. >Scrunch your face up harder.
  792. >Thwack.
  793. >Don't you dare squeak. Don't you dare make a single fucking noise.
  794. >Thwack.
  795. >C'mon. Take it like a mare. Is he finished already? You hadn't noticed, because this doesn't hurt at all.
  796. >Squint open one eye.
  797. >Thwack.
  798. "Mnnhh!"
  799. >Son of a bitch, he planned that.
  800. >Feel your face flush. You might be a slave, but it's been a while since you've been paddled on the flanks like a naughty filly stealing candy.
  801. >"Get up, Zwanzig-Vier."
  802. >A firm tap on your sore rump. You hop off Anon's lap and grit your teeth. The hell you're gonna let him see you limping. You've had worse. You've been cut into, shot, bludgeoned, bucked and straight up punched in the eye. Stupid Anon, and his 'punishment'.
  803. >Still, be glad he's going easy on you. He could have used a belt. He could have used the butt of his rifle.
  804. >Worst part is not getting to make eye contact. You're too afraid to look up at him and see his disappointment.
  805. >Feel more ashamed of yourself, even if you did the right thing.
  806. >You're a slave. What right do you have to choose to do anything, right or wrong? You're only supposed to obey.
  807. >"If you want to get your hay today, you better get your flank moving. I want my boots polished, my rifle oiled, and go to the quartermaster early to get more cartridges and explosives. I swear if you bring back a single bullet that isn't signed for, you'll be hauling artillery for the rest of the war. Understood?"
  808. "Understood, master."
  809. >Your stomach growls loudly, which just about completes your humiliation. Hungry, sore, and saddled with Anon's chores.
  810. >March out the room, tail between your legs.
  811. >Sit in the snow outside the farmhouse.
  812. >Sigh in relief. That feels way better. You have to plonk your butt in a few different patches though, the mush is melting away quick.
  813. >"You okay, Zeevee?"
  814. >Wipe that dopey grin off your face.
  815. >Stand corrected. Now your humiliation is complete.
  816. >Leap to all fours.
  817. "Hnng!"
  818. >That FUCKING hurt you stupid little-
  819. "H-hey Silent! Uh, lots to do actually, you better come with me."
  820. >Trot away from the farmhouse, quick but unhurried. You don't look back in case Anon is watching out of the window.
  821. >Silent Night matches your pace. You can tell she's discreetly looking you over for cuts or bruises.
  822. >"So, uh… was it bad?"
  823. >Scoff.
  824. "Naw, barely gave me a tap. You know Anon."
  825. >Silence, except the rhythm of your hooves. The quartermaster is stationed in what looks like an old truck depot, only now it's filled with the Wehrmacht's vehicles and crates of supplies.
  826. >"Our handler doesn't know, so I guess we're in the clear. Uh… sorry. I guess all the punishment's falling on you."
  827. >Wave your hoof nonchalantly as you stop by the doors.
  828. "Really, don't worry about it, you guys. Tell Shaun everything's fine."
  829. >Wilt a little at Silent Night's worried look. Aw jeez, she looks like she's about to shed a tear for your bruised buttcheeks.
  830. >Not on your watch she isn't, damnit. That's between you and Anon.
  831. "Hey."
  832. >Put a hoof on her shoulder.
  833. "Seriously, it's okay. My dumb idea, my thieving ass on the line. I'm just glad we all got away okay."
  834. >She leans a little closer, hushing her voice as a few soldiers walk past.
  835. >"You didn't tell us you were doing it for Anon too. That was very brave of you, Zeevee."
  836. >Suddenly today doesn't seem like the pits.
  837. >Puff out your chest and throw Silent Night a mock salute as her handler starts calling for her. She grins as she canters off.
  838. >Hold your head a bit higher as you walk into the supply depot.
  839. >Ammunition is treated like gold around here, not that you'd know anything about that.
  840. >Every bullet and shell has to count against Ivan if the Wehrmacht is digging in for a war of attrition.
  841. >Some handlers don't mind if their Storm Ponies return with more ammunition, food or even cigarettes than they were technically rationed.
  842. >Try to keep your delinquency under control.
  843. >Get filthy cleaning Anon's boots and rifle.
  844. >Boot polish and your mouth do not mix, so you have to keep the boot still and polish it with your hoof covered in a rag.
  845. >It's working about as well as you'd expect. There's polish on the floor, your hooves and you're pretty sure there's a streak of it on your forehead from when you carelessly tried to brush your mane from your eyes.
  846. >Disassemble a rifle with your teeth. Clean your spit off, oil the working parts, and clean the barrel so it doesn't jam.
  847. >Now there's oil in your coat, and you have no idea when Anon might let you wash again.
  848. >The mood he's in, he could have you marching around covered in polish and oil for a month.
  849. >Finish assembling the rifle as Anon walks back in. You're sat on your haunches, awkwardly cradling the heavy weapon in your front hooves.
  850. >Cringe a little as he looks at you with one eyebrow raised.
  851. >"You're a mess."
  852. >Venture a response. You've finished, so it's time to fill your aching belly.
  853. "Pony's a mess, master. Rifle's clean."
  854. >Anon takes it from your hooves and inspects it thoroughly. His expression tells you nothing.
  855. >"So, you've managed to behave for half the day. The quartermaster was surprised to find he wasn't missing any Juno boxes when you left his depot."
  856. >Storm Ponies are allowed as much methamphetamine as they like before combat, but you're banned from cigarettes after a day's fight against Ivan.
  857. >You don't smoke, but lots of ponies like that shitty Juno brand as a special treat after winning a sortie against Ivan. Lately though they're more for consolation after a defeat. So, you nick them from the humans sometimes and trade them with other ponies.
  858. >No, it isn't good for ponies any more than for humans. Neither are bullets. You figure it's okay for them to enjoy a few vices before they die.
  859. >Anon checks his boots, and beckons you to follow him.
  860. >"Alright. Looks like you earned dinner."
  861. >Resist rubbing against Anon's leg like a starved cat.
  862. >Survive a week of Anon's frosty attitude.
  863. >Today you're sewing a patch on your uniform. Anon says no slave of his will be seen walking around in rags.
  864. >Pull the needle through with your teeth. Not as high-risk as wiring explosives, but still annoying and fiddly.
  865. >Being on a tight leash isn't so bad. At least you're learning more about Anon.
  866. >He's been writing more letters to his parents. He never talks about his family with you of course, but that just makes you more curious.
  867. >Sneak a peek at Anon's letter while he's preoccupied in the outhouse.
  868. >His writing is so squiggly you have to mouth out the syllables you can recognise to guess the rest of the sentence.
  869. >Something something next month… look forward to seeing something again...
  870. >Wait. Look forward to seeing… Wizbug? Wiz... No. Würzburg. Anon's from Würzburg?
  871. >Frantically search the desk for a map of Germany.
  872. >Fuck. Würzburg, Würzburg, where the fuck is it?
  873. >Got it! A hundred klicks northwest of Nuremberg. And just to the west of…
  874. >Hear the outhouse door slam.
  875. >Quickly shuffle the map under some papers and return to the corner with your crumpled uniform.
  876. >Feel your heart jump as Anon stride back into the room, glancing at you, then at his desk.
  877. >Focus really, really hard on the sewing. He didn't see anything. You didn't touch the letter. He didn't say not to look anyway.
  878. >"Zwanzig-Vier."
  879. >Ah, shit. Look up. Innocent eyes.
  880. >Anon looks sad as he makes eye contact with you for the first time this week.
  881. >"I have applied for a leave of absence. My mother is not well, so… I may be permitted to travel back to Germany."
  882. >Stifle that panic. Anon's leaving you?
  883. >"I want to make sure you're not going to get into trouble. I have spoken with my superiors, and explained to them that you are a special case."
  884. >He's putting you on the artillery team, isn't he? That son of a bitch, you behaved yourself! Tuck your tail and pin your ears.
  885. >"So, you will be coming with me."
  886.  
  887. >Stand smartly beside Anon on your leash. The stationmaster looks critically at you while examining Anon's papers.
  888. >You can't help but flick your tail; you're excited! This train will take you to the airfield. You're going on a plane to Germany with Anon.
  889. >Board the train, and get to sit in a compartment with Anon. Only humans are supposed to be in here, Storm Ponies usually get stuffed into livestock carriages.
  890. >Stand up on your hind legs and watch through the window as familiar territory slides past.
  891. >Goodbye, Russia! And goodbye, to your friends. Your gut twists a little at the thought of leaving them. They better keep safe until you get back.
  892. >An officer opens the compartment door and peers in. He takes one look at you and nopes right the fuck back out again.
  893. >Anon snorts, and ruffles your mane.
  894. >"See that? You're ruining my social life, girl."
  895. >Grin sheepishly. You think Anon's easing up after the whole gold robbery thing. Then again, the only reason you're on this trip is he thinks you're going to get caught and killed in his absence.
  896. >Spend the trip in silence, looking out the window. Apart from a few Luftwaffe planes passing by as you near the airfield, this place seems peaceful.
  897. >Sit like a human on the plane so the seat belt works. If a pony on a train was weird, a flying pony's unheard of.
  898. >Scream internally as the plane barrels down the runway and jerks up into the air.
  899. >You're over Poland when Anon finally talks.
  900. >"When were you last in Germany?"
  901. >Blink. Odd question. Not since Obedience Training, you guess.
  902. "Uh… May? May last year, before Operation Barbarossa, master. That was the final phase of training the 1st Eisenhuf."
  903. >"At the Wolf's Mouth base, right? Where they have the portal."
  904. >Nod, confused. Anon's never talked about the portal before. He didn't tell you he lived and grew up down the road from where you were first broken and enslaved.
  905. >"Then I may have a surprise for you, when we get home."
  906. >You can't wait.
  907. >Meet Anon's parents.
  908. >It's super awkward for you. They don't seem to understand you're Anon's slave, or they choose not to believe it.
  909. >Propaganda about Storm Ponies aimed at the civilians paints you as willing fanatics bred for war.
  910. >Anon's mother seems pretty out of it anyway. She's stuck in bed while Anon Senior does his German peasant thing.
  911. >Anon's mother smiles at you when he beckons you into her bedroom. She holds out her hand weakly.
  912. >Look for an approving, if solemn nod from Anon, and let her hold your hood. She leans over the bed and speaks in hoarse tones.
  913. >"Thank you. Thank you for keeping my son safe."
  914. >Swallow, don't choke on your words.
  915. "It's my privilege to serve, Ma'am."
  916. >She pets your ears, comfortable with your presence. She falls asleep soon as her medicine kicks in.
  917. >Anon has taken off your leash, and you hid your collar under your ragged red scarf. You won't take it off though. That's a line neither you nor Anon are willing to cross.
  918. >Anon's house is at the edge of town, so you've got green fields to exercise in.
  919. >Graze outside and come for oats when Anon calls. You're not allowed in the house without supervision.
  920. >Even Anon's dad seems to understand that your place is outside.
  921. >Anon kneels, and brushes your mane back.
  922. >"You've really tried to make it up for me this week, huh?"
  923. >Say nothing. Your embarrassment must be obvious. Anon smiles.
  924. >"You've earned the surprise. Come on, before the sun sets."
  925. >Anon heads to the shed, and a few seconds later pulls out a bike.
  926. >"This should still hold up. Come on, it's not too far."
  927. >Canter alongside Anon as he cycles down the winding road. For the first time in half a year, you're not running in fear.
  928. >The territory here is growing more familiar.
  929. >Cocnrete walls and bunkers make ugly blots amongst the trees.
  930. >You nearly trip and fall.
  931. >This is the Wolf's Mouth. This is where Storm Ponies are born.
  932.  
  933. >Stand on the hill overlooking the Wolf's Mouth.
  934. >See the scars in the land where they cleared trees to build concrete walls. Even though the portal is deep in the centre of the base itself, you swear your neck hairs are prickling. This is the closest you've been to Equestria in months.
  935. >Anon beckons you closer.
  936. >"This was grazing land, for the farmers. I came here when I was a kid. Sometimes played in the forest."
  937. >Swallow nervously. Anon's lip curls as he watches a truck pull into the base through the heavily guarded gate.
  938. >"Had my first kiss in that forest. She's dead now. The forest is gone."
  939. >Comfort him? Say nothing? Whatever you do here, you're either being insubordinate or an emotionless asshole.
  940. >Might as well go with what you're good at.
  941. >Gently place a hoof on Anon's hand as it hangs by his side. He looks down, but doesn't move away.
  942. "Um… I know. Er… what it's like, I mean. To… to lose stuff. Lose home."
  943. >Nailed that speech check. You didn't even put any points in that. Anon kneels beside you and puts an arm over your withers.
  944. >"Zwanzig-Vier, do you know why we fight?"
  945. >Trick question?
  946. >Open your mouth to form the standard sort of 'for our Führer and Fatherland' response, but you catch the look in Anon's eye. He's not an officer looking for a Storm Pony's trained parroting. He's a man that's been alone a long time, and right now, could use some real company.
  947. >Friendship's another one of your strengths, with all the trouble it brings.
  948. "For each other."
  949. >Anon kneels beside you, but you're not done.
  950. "After training I was nopony. Didn't know anypony long enough to care about them. Didn't want to, the rate we were going through the grinder. I was a number, forgot my old name. Then… you started caring, even if you hid it. So I started caring too. Made friends. Stopped hoping for a quick death, because you wanted me to come back. You wanted your Zwanzig-Vier. It's not a number anymore, is it? It's my name."
  951. >Anon holds you.
  952. >Treasure the moment with Anon.
  953. >Your inner asshole is just waiting for this embrace to last long enough to be awkward. You hate your own mind sometimes.
  954. >The moment's actually broken by a high-pitched wail that sets your hooves trembling. Anon pulls back from you, looking up at the darkening sky as powerful spotlights beam from the base.
  955. >Your sensitive hearing can already pick up the drone of aero-engines.
  956. "They're early tonight."
  957. >Anon swears, and hurries to pick up his bike. The guards at the gates of the Wolf's Mouth are scrambling for shelter, while the tall, monolithic flak tower at the centre of the base is suddenly crawling with artillery crews.
  958. >Notice the gate's been left open and unguarded in the panic.
  959. >No time to think now. Canter back home with Anon peddling for his life.
  960. >Anon's dad is already carrying his wife to the cellar. Anon dumps the bike and hurries down the narrow steps after them. You're last, cautiously picking your way down in the darkness.
  961. >Listen for the sound of falling bombs. It's cold in the cellar, though after a Russian winter, it hardly bothers you.
  962. >Mrs. Anon isn't doing so great though. She's shivering now she's away from her bedcovers and fireplace.
  963. >Mr. Anon holds her, rubbing her frail hands in his meaty lumberjack ones.
  964. >Start as you feel an arm wrapping around your barrel. Anon ruffles your mane.
  965. >Wait together for your fate. If you had to guess, it's the Wolf's Mouth that's taking a hammering. You can hear the blasts even through the thick cellar walls.
  966. >When the all-clear blares out after an age of waiting, Anon helps his dad get Mrs. Anon back to bed. You've lost track of time, but you feel exhausted.
  967. >Anon stops you as you head for the door to the yard. He whispers in your ear, and guides you back to the living room.
  968. >"We'll visit the base tomorrow to get a full report. I'll need you well-rested. Sleep on the couch tonight, Zwanzig-Vier."
  969. >Hop up on the couch uncertainly, then tuck your hooves under you.
  970. >Things are worse at the Wolf's Mouth than you remember.
  971. >Reminisce about your time here while Anon checks in with the base commander.
  972. >Except not because half the pony barracks are just fucking missing after last night's raid. There's chunks of concrete and twisted steel littering the parade ground in front of the flak tower, and the pony mess hall is burned out.
  973. >The humans don't care much about the loss of slaves. They haven't noticed how the new Storm Pony recruits are going about their daily routines with glazed over expressions and quivering hooves.
  974. >Guess this is their first bombing. Welcome to Earth, fillies and colts.
  975. >A few ponies steal glances at you when they think you aren't looking. One colt's brave enough to actually speak to you.
  976. >"Excuse me, miss? A-Are you okay? You've got cuts all over you."
  977. >Raise an eyebrow. You forgot just how naïve your kind is the first few months here.
  978. "That's just how I look."
  979. >He folds his ears and pats your shoulder.
  980. >"Hey, don't worry about it. These human guys can be rough, b-but I think they'll ease up if we just do as they say. We'll make it through this, I promise. What's your name? And I don't mean that stupid number they gave us."
  981. >Great. He thinks you're a recruit too, and the scars are from being disciplined for disobedience.
  982. "Lead Storm Pony Zwanzig-Vier. First Eisenhuf Division, attached to the 9th Army."
  983. >The comforting hoof is slowly retracted. He takes in your appearance properly, and whimpers.
  984. >Roll your eyes. Yes, he'll probably be as ugly as you in a few months.
  985. "They won't ease up. And I can't promise you'll make it. Do yourself a favour though, and answer to your number."
  986. >He nods rapidly, scrunching his snout like he's swallowed a lemon. He wants to bail out of this conversation, but he's not moving.
  987. >Oh.
  988. "Dismissed."
  989. >He scarpers with a frightened whinny just as Anon reappears from the tower. His face is even grimmer than usual.
  990. >Back to business, then.
  991.  
  992. >"A small group of Storm Ponies escaped last night during the raid. The new guards are a little green, and the gate was left open during the bombing. Since we're the only experienced troops on hand, he wants us to track them down."
  993. >Wince. This is not a pretty mission profile. Scared, lost ponies in a new and terrifying world. And you're the monster chasing them.
  994. >At least you look scary enough for the part. Anon slings his rifle over his back, and sighs.
  995. >"He didn't specify if we were to keep them alive, and I don't think he cares. The leader of the escapees has a lot of obedience problems, they were going to shoot her soon anyway."
  996. >Exchange a look with Anon. Neither of you need to say it. Shooting them is the last resort.
  997. >But it's still an option.
  998. >"So, uh, can you… scent them?"
  999. >Realise Anon agreed to this whole tracking bullshit without really knowing much about it.
  1000. "No, master."
  1001. >Unhelpful, but you can't be short with Anon now you're finally starting to get to know him better. You sigh as you note there's a small herd's worth of tracks leading into the forest.
  1002. "We can follow these while they last, but this will be easier if we focus on the psychology of the average pony."
  1003. >Anon nods, and lets you take the lead.
  1004. "These escapees will know very little about your world. They'll assume it's like home. You're bad humans, so there must be good humans. The base commander is a tyrant, so there must be benevolent human princesses fighting him. They'll equopomorphise you into Equestrian terms."
  1005. >"Are there good humans?"
  1006. >Look back at Anon in surprise. He's keeping up with your trot easily, a small smile on his lips.
  1007. "The ones with pony treats are alright."
  1008. >Anon chuckles. Distract yourself from seriously answering the question with the task at hand.
  1009. >There's good humans. You just don't think Equestria's definition of good applies to this world. You're a good pony, you think.
  1010. >Back home though, you'd be a very, very bad pony.
  1011. >Hunt down the escapees.
  1012. >Peek out at the barn from your cover, eyes narrowed. Scan the terrain.
  1013. >"In there?"
  1014. >Anon looks doubtful. You know ponies though. This is not the carefully controlled environment of Equestria. Here be monsters. They'll seek a familiar setting, trying to orient themselves.
  1015. >Spot a colt sneaking from the barn to the farmhouse. Muddied grey coat, clipped teal mane.
  1016. "That's a bingo, master."
  1017. >Anon pats your withers. You don't feel too proud of a job well done. Even if he doesn't shoot them today, chances are most of them will be dead tomorrow.
  1018. >The colt's heading out the farmhouse fast, a jar in his mouth. You guess jam. That pony sweet tooth needs to be satisfied. Jar Colt skitters into the barn.
  1019. "They're probably holed up in the barn's loft, stealing from the farmer while he's out."
  1020. >"Can you talk them out?"
  1021. >Can you? It's impressive how many situations you've talked your way out of, but these ponies are going to be in a panic when they see you.
  1022. "I could use a plan B."
  1023. >Anon nudges you. Turn to look. He's holding out your plan B with a mischievous grin on his face.
  1024. >"I can trust you with this, right?"
  1025. >Oh yeah. This'll work.
  1026. >Trot stealthily towards the barn, plan B clenched in between your teeth. Anon's got you covered with the rifle. He trusted you with this, you can trust his aim. You make it to the barn doors, gently set plan B on the ground, and start twisting the cap off with your teeth. That's when the lookout sees you.
  1027. >"H-Hey! You escape too?"
  1028. >Look up. It's Jar Colt. He looks at what you have on the ground, and his eyes bulge.
  1029. >There's a steilhandgranate top-down between you and the barn doors, the pull-cord poking from the top of the handle. You've got a 10 second fuse to pull it, turn around, and buck it indoors. Confined space, unarmoured little ponies.
  1030. >Grin.
  1031. "Wanna talk?"
  1032. >Jar Colt calls his friends over, keeping the quaver out of his voice.
  1033. >Time for negotiations.
  1034.  
  1035. >There's not much to negotiate over.
  1036. >Explain the war to them. They haven't been told much. Tell them the world thinks Storm Ponies are German-bred fanatics.
  1037. >There's nowhere to run. You know, you've tried already. The Soviet Union keeps their captives slaves on collective farms. There's no country that wants ponies.
  1038. >Four of the five escapees agree to return. Their leader, a beefy mare called Cinnamon Dust, refuses.
  1039. >"They'll spare you guys. Blame herd mentality. You just did what I told you."
  1040. >Jar Colt pleads with her, nuzzling her face. She nuzzles back, but stands her ground.
  1041. >"I'll be dead in that stinking prison. If not, I'll be dead in this war. Might as well try to live a bit longer. I don't mind being shot a free pony so much."
  1042. >By this time, Anon's decided to approach. The escapees cluster together nervously as they spot his rifle. They relax a little when he ruffles your mane.
  1043. "These ponies are coming, master. Cinnamon Dust is not."
  1044. >Anon understands. Her name was on the list to be killed.
  1045. >Jar Colt speaks up as you're leading the herd back to the Wolf's Mouth.
  1046. >"W-What will you tell them about Cinnamon Dust?"
  1047. >Anon looks to you to explain. These ponies still don't get German too well.
  1048. "We shot her. If she's caught and shot, the humans won't care enough to identify her."
  1049. >Jar Colt swallows loudly, and hangs his head.
  1050. >Nudge his shoulder.
  1051. "She's got a better chance this way, Jar Colt."
  1052. >"Uh, who?"
  1053. >Oops.
  1054. "Er, that's a Storm Pony nickname, don't worry."
  1055. >Smooth. You're glad Anon's not listening.
  1056. >The base has quietened down when you get back.
  1057. >Wait by the flak tower as Anon hands the ponies back over.
  1058. >The portal room is less than fifty metres from you, buried under tonnes of concrete and soil.
  1059. >You're only steps away from home, until Anon calls you. Your heart aches, and your hooves feel heavy cantering beside him back to his house.
  1060. >Think of Cinnamon Dust that night.
  1061. >Think of being free.
  1062.  
  1063. >Tonight's nightmares are weird.
  1064. >There's no blood or staring eyes. Instead, you're somewhere in Equestria. The details are fuzzy, but you can see the alicorn in front of you, clear as if you were awake.
  1065. >It's been a long time, but you wouldn't forget the Princess of the Night.
  1066. >Luna regards you solemnly.
  1067. >"Greetings to you, my little pony."
  1068. >Act casual.
  1069. "Hey."
  1070. >Too casual.
  1071. "Er… good evening, my Princess?"
  1072. >You thought she'd project some kind of aura of reverence. You're not feeling it though.
  1073. >"I know not if I am still your Princess. I think your heart is loyal to another. The ruler of this land, perhaps?"
  1074. >Shudder.
  1075. "Ugh. No. Definitely not. Megalomaniacs aren't my type."
  1076. >Luna tilts her head, and you sense something behind you.
  1077. >Feel Anon's warm hand on your withers.
  1078. >"Truly? This Anon creature holds no tenderness from you?"
  1079. >Scrunch up your snout and blush. Oh. She knows.
  1080. "He is my master. I'm a slave here."
  1081. >Luna's expression, and in fact the whole dream darkens. You swear you can hear thunder in the distance.
  1082. "It not his fault! I mean, he's alright, for a human. We're slaves in Hitler's army. Storm Ponies, they call us. Anon's just a soldier too. He looks out for me."
  1083. >Luna stares into your eyes like she's reading your soul.
  1084. >"You are a slave that loves her master. You steal for him. Kill for him."
  1085. >Your legs are shaking. That's weird, you're not scared. You're angry.
  1086. "Following orders. On pain of death."
  1087. >Luna narrows her eyes, and a pile of gold ingots materializes beside you.
  1088. >Scowl. Okay, that's it. For once, you're not the biggest asshole in the room.
  1089. "Fuck you."
  1090. >Luna's eyes go wide. It reminds you of the guard you nearly ran over with a truck.
  1091. >Good.
  1092. "You left us. Didn't want us back. No rescue, no Twilight Sparkle saving the day. Now you come to me in the middle of the biggest fucking war in the universe and tell me to get MY shit sorted? No. Fuck you, traitor."
  1093. >She looks hurt. Too far?
  1094. >Nah.
  1095. >"You were not forgotten. Let me explain."
  1096.  
  1097. >Calm yourself from yelling at Luna.
  1098. >Be kind of shocked at yourself. You used to worship the Princesses.
  1099. >Leader worship really isn't your thing anymore. Thanks, Hitler.
  1100. >"Ponies have been going missing all over Equestria. Whilst these… human creatures have stabilised the anomaly to a single location, there are many such anomalies opening and closing on our side. It's actually a relief that these many paths lead to the same place. We thought perhaps our lost ponies were being scattered across thousands of worlds."
  1101. >Appreciate for a second one of the most powerful magic users in Equestria is dumbing this down for your earth pony brain.
  1102. >Then go back to resenting her.
  1103. "Okay? So German engineering beats your magic. Figures."
  1104. >Luna looks very tempted to give you a painful demonstration of her magic.
  1105. >"Ahem. I see I must be brief. I'll skip the months of sleepless nights and nervous breakdowns Twilight and her assistants went through trying to find a spell to reach you."
  1106. >Oh, we're playing this game, are we?
  1107. "That's okay, I can imagine for myself. Soviet artillery has the same effect on my sleep schedule."
  1108. >Sad thing is, it's true. You've been cherishing every undisturbed minute of rest since Anon took you from the front.
  1109. >"Suffice to say, we have something workable. Not enough to transport a pony, or an army to rescue you. I can only reach you in your dreams."
  1110. >Hold the phone.
  1111. "Uh, army? What, you're going to charge Panzer divisions with spears?"
  1112. >Luna bristles at your tone.
  1113. >"Surely you do not expect us to treat with these slavers? We shall wrest back our ponies with force, the only language humans understand."
  1114. >You're done humouring this shit.
  1115. "No. You'll die. I know you have powerful magic, but no. I'm not saying this to piss you off either. Fun as that is, I don't want my rescuers getting their friendship problems resolved at 500 rounds a minute. If you want to help us, you need to be smarter."
  1116. >Luna purses her lip.
  1117. >"Then what do we do?"
  1118.  
  1119. >Listen to Anon's breath as you drift back to reality.
  1120. >You're pretty sure Anon wouldn't fit on the couch with you.
  1121. >Blearily open your eyes. It's only first light.
  1122. >Feel Anon's warm arm curled around you.
  1123. "Mnnh?"
  1124. >Are you still dreaming? Is Luna fucking with you? Last you remember, you were coming up with a plan to not get every pony in the Wolf's Mouth killed.
  1125. >Anon's arm closes tighter around you.
  1126. >Sigh happily. Maybe this is her way of apologising instead. It feels pretty nice.
  1127. >"Morning, Zwanzig."
  1128. >Or not. Relaxed feeling going away now.
  1129. "M-Master?"
  1130. >Anon's hand brushes the hair from your eyes.
  1131. >"You were having a nightmare last night. I heard you crying, so I carried you up here."
  1132. >Aww. He felt sorry for you.
  1133. "I-I'm sorry, master…"
  1134. >Slink off the bed, you don't deserve to be on it, with what you're planning.
  1135. >Only Anon's arm firmly keeps you from moving. He doesn't say anything, but this command you understand without words.
  1136. >Snuggle with your master for a while. After all, he might not be your master much longer if Luna pulls through.
  1137. >Feel happy. You guess. You're never going to have to see Anon again. You'll be free of the Wehrmacht, of Germany, of this whole bloodstained planet. A free pony.
  1138. >It's not like you'd miss this.
  1139. >Did Anon just fall back asleep? His breathing's grown heavy again, and his hand has stopped idly brushing your mane.
  1140. >Tread carefully as you leave him. He's even hung up your uniform for you.
  1141. >Shuffle your hooves into the sleeves and button it up with your mouth. It's awkward, but to you it's just routine now. Adjust the cap over your mane.
  1142. >Watch him sleep as the sun rises. Luna said there wouldn't be much delay before they stabilise their portal to reach the Wolf's Mouth.
  1143. >This could be your last moment with Anon.
  1144. >Put your front hooves back up on the bed and lean over. You've got lanky, long legs. You're grateful for the extra reach.
  1145. >Kiss Anon goodbye.
  1146. >Hear him mutter in his sleep as you leave.
  1147. >Sit on the hill overlooking the Wolf's Mouth again.
  1148. >It's a cold, and lonely wait.
  1149. >You're keeping one ear out for the sound of Anon's bike, but it doesn't come.
  1150. >Maybe he thinks you're out exercising again.
  1151. >Think of Equestria. Soon you'll be home. You should be grinning from ear to ear, thinking of what you'll do first. Eat real cupcakes? Sleep late? Party? Try to teach ponies how to distil vodka?
  1152. >Tuck your tail around your haunches.
  1153. >Who are you kidding? Nothing like that means half as much to you as Anon, or your friends.
  1154. >Maybe you should just go back.
  1155. >Jump up as a loud bang echoes out of the base. Then, the sirens begin to wind up.
  1156. "I said SUBTLE, Luna!"
  1157. >Bunch of amateurs. You'd better get down there before the big damn heroes decide to march on Berlin.
  1158. >Once again, the gate's guard posts have been abandoned, letting you access the base without being on Anon's leash.
  1159. >To be fair, the guards have an excuse. There's a rampaging alicorn turning them into frozen statues. Storm Pony recruits are either hiding from the guards, or cheering as Luna's troops pour from the flak tower.
  1160. >Head to the smoking hole in the tower. You skid to halt as Princess Luna herself flies overhead, another blast of magic stopping a group of guards in their tracks.
  1161. >Feel deep regret about yelling at Luna last night. Maybe she'll forgive that.
  1162. >"Aha! The rude little Storm Pony!"
  1163. >Or not. The Princess of the Night lands before you. Might as well make your last words count.
  1164. "I see you're mastering the art of the Blitzkrieg."
  1165. >Luna ruffles her feathers proudly.
  1166. >She took it as a compliment. Nailed another speech check.
  1167. >"We have cracked the secrets of the portal. We can close it once all our subjects are safely through. Rally to me, little ponies! It is time to go home!"
  1168. >Storm Ponies are rushing for the flak tower. There's a stair still intact that leads them down to the portal deep inside the base.
  1169. >Luna looks at you expectantly. Take a deep breath.
  1170. "I'm not ready to go."
  1171.  
  1172. >Flick your ear as you hear the familiar squeak of bicycle brakes.
  1173. >Luna grimaces, but doesn't move to attack. You know she recognises this human.
  1174. "Master."
  1175. >Anon's gawking at the frozen soldiers. They're stuck in time or something, mouths open in permanent surprise.
  1176. >He turns to regard you, then Luna.
  1177. >"Zwanzig-Vier, I don't know how, but I'm guessing this is your fault."
  1178. >Trot towards him, ears pinned.
  1179. "I can't choose, Master."
  1180. >Anon watches as the last of the Storm Pony recruits scarper into the broken tower. You can only imagine the scene on the other side as hundreds of slaves step into freedom.
  1181. >He's always been perceptive. He can see what's going on. The Storm Pony project is coming to an end.
  1182. >"You're one of the boldest sla-… soldiers I've ever known, girl. You can choose."
  1183. >Shake your head.
  1184. "I can't. Tell me what to do, Master. Give me orders."
  1185. >Anon is silent. You feel your frustration building. Why can't he make this easy for you?
  1186. "Order me to stay! Or… order me to go. I'll obey. Please, Anon?"
  1187. >Hearing his name from you makes him smile. You smile back weakly.
  1188. >A slave can't call her master by name. You guess you've made your choice.
  1189. >"Zwanzig-Vier, you've never been good at obeying orders. That's what I liked about you, first time we met. That, and your stupid, reckless bravery."
  1190. >Rear up on your hind legs, and let Anon hold you.
  1191. >Luna clears her throat. You think her eyes are glistening.
  1192. >Hell, yours are probably too.
  1193. >"There is… another option, my little pony. Now we have control of this portal, we can close it, and open another to rescue the rest of the slaves."
  1194. >Anon frowns and looks at you, confused. He doesn't speak much Equestrian. To be honest, you're not sure you understood either.
  1195. "You're going to close the Wolf's Mouth? And open another portal to the Eastern Front? How will you know where you're opening it to?"
  1196. >Luna smiles for the first time.
  1197. >"That is where you may be of help to us, Zwanzig-Vier."
  1198.  
  1199. >Anon ruffles your mane as Luna disappears back into the portal. The deep humming noise coming from the base is silenced.
  1200. "You're… okay with this?"
  1201. >"It's time I started fighting for the right cause for once."
  1202. >Make a hasty exit before the guards unfreeze. Gallop back to Anon's house, as he pedals as hard as he can. You collapse by the shed, your legs shaking. You're exhausted, and not just physically.
  1203. >Look again at the crystal Luna gave you, hanging from your neck by a chain.
  1204. >Anon leans his bike against he shed, and sits cross-legged beside you.
  1205. >"So, I may have missed something in the translation back there. What are we doing with that, again?"
  1206. "It's a homing crystal, she said. The unicorns in Equestria can open a portal to its location. So, we can use it to guide the portals where there's Storm Ponies."
  1207. >Anon sighs.
  1208. >"A typical Zwanzig-Vier plan, I see. Aiming to misbehave."
  1209. >Concede the point. Anon still looks skeptical.
  1210. >"Word is going to get out that the Wolf's Mouth was attacked. How the hell are we going to get back to the Eastern Front and start… trafficking Storm Ponies from under the Wehrmacht's nose? Not to mention the SS! Can you imagine what they'll be planning now their supply of slaves is gone?"
  1211. >Scrunch your nose. You hadn't thought that far ahead. Usually you just make things up on the fly. The train heist only worked because of Special Service's planning.
  1212. "Well. I know I have a few friends that can help us with that. A trained SS spy, an inside pony, and one hell of a brave stallion."
  1213. >Anon boops your nose, exasperated.
  1214. >"Unless your friends own a plane, I don't think we're getting back to Russia in a hurry. Some help your gold was, in the end. It's still in the farmhouse."
  1215. >Chuckle with Anon, then stop. Frown.
  1216. >Reach into your pocket and pull out the velvet bag. Anon goes quiet as you tip a few diamonds into your hoof.
  1217. >He stares.
  1218. >"I fucking love you, you little thief."
  1219. >Your grin is ear to ear.
  1220. "I love you too, Anon."
  1221.  
  1222. >October 1942.
  1223. >It's your birthday this month. You're not exactly sure when, but Anon decided on the 21st.
  1224. >You celebrated with vodka and tinned fruit. The next best thing from birthday cake, you guess.
  1225. >It's a quiet party. Shaun and Silent Night aren't big talkers.
  1226. >Your little team isn't even close to finishing the job you set out to do.
  1227. >You've freed thousands of Storm Ponies, setting up portals in hidden places for them to escape their masters.
  1228. >The diamonds ran out a while back, in bribes for transport and for officials to look the other way.
  1229. >Luna sends gems through the portal whenever she can. Sometimes you get care packages from Storm Ponies grateful for what you've done.
  1230. >You still like stealing from the SS, much to Anon's annoyance. You've got to have some fun after all.
  1231. >The Wehrmacht is dropping the Storm Ponies as frontline troops, now there isn't an unending supply of them. Most of the ponies still enslaved work in hauling cargo.
  1232. >The SS still tries its projects every now and again, but Special Service always has a sabotage mission to counter them.
  1233. >There's a long way to go, and you're not sure you'll be able to get every pony back to Equestria. So many have fled to the Soviet Union, or even further away.
  1234. >But as long as you're alive, you'll keep the door open for them. You always thought your cutie mark was telling you that you were destined to be a slave.
  1235. >It took a talk with Shaun one of these frigid Russian nights to make you realise what it really meant.
  1236. >"It's open manacles. It don't mean you're gonna live in chains. Means you're gonna free ponies from them."
  1237. >You've told your friends they're free to go back to Equestria at any time. Instead, they stuck with you. Shaun says he'll stay where he's needed most. Silent Night insists she owes you, though you both know the debt's been repaid many times over.
  1238. >Life's hard, and often unfair. You're not always good, or right.
  1239. >But you have your friends. You have Anon.
  1240. >You'll be okay.
/spg/

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