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XPONI: A Helping Hoof Under the Table

By Tsar_Anon_I
Created: 12th May 2021 01:57:33 AM
Tsar Anon I XPONI Reverse Gender Roles Equestria RGRE /rgre/

  1. >Your hoofsteps echoed in the empty, dimly-lit hallway, the only sound apart from your tired grumbling.
  2. >You didn't even know what hour it was, and yet, some Council representative just showed up, and they needed to meet with you ASAP.
  3. >Because whatever country they're from just can't wait a couple more hours.
  4. >In between being a rather grumpy, drowsy mare, a restless sigh escaped your lips.
  5. >As Spokesmare of the Council of Nations, you supposed that you needed to be alert at all times for new developments.
  6. >There was no rest to be had when fighting such an unprecedented and ruthless foe as the aliens.
  7. >You may not be out there, on the ground, but you still had a job to do.
  8. >After rounding a bend, the doors to the meeting room stood before you.
  9. >No time like the present.
  10. >Pressing forward, you resolved to see through whatever one of the other Council members requested an audience for.
  11. >At the very least, you wouldn't be dealing with the enormity of the entire Council's desires, demands, and requests.
  12. >Sitting at one end of the table was Councilor Naqimum, representative for the Kingdom of Mulam.
  13. >That might explain why you were required at such an un-princessly hour...
  14. >Noticing your entry, the donkey waved you over to the table, quite eager to get started.
  15. >"There's the pony I have been looking for! Come, there is much we need to discuss."
  16. >You obliged the colt, taking your usual seat for these kinds of negotiations.
  17. "To...what, exactly, do I owe the visit tonight?"
  18. >You asked while attempting to suppress a yawn.
  19. >The question felt rhetorical, given the focus and nature of your organization.
  20. >His hazel eyes met yours as that coltish grin faded.
  21. >"An intelligence report, regarding action in the field between conventional forces of our Kingdom and the alien threat."
  22. >Naqimum said, to-the-point as ever.
  23. >From his saddlebag, he procured what must be the documents in question.
  24. >Your horn lit up with the faint glow of your magic, levitating the thick folder into view.
  25. >Sifting through the reports, you at first didn't discover anything too interesting.
  26. >In any case, it seemed more of the same story.
  27. >High casualties, lack of preparedness or tactical know-how against the invaders...
  28. >Something you invariably got whenever stallions ran your country and led your armies, you mused.
  29. >It did appear that they succeeded in this operation, however.
  30. >No doubt without a helping hoof from the mares in the group.
  31. >The first thing that struck you as odd was the location of the op.
  32. "Do you mind telling me why this operation took place in Mareidu? Without their knowledge? They sit on the Council, too, you know."
  33. >Perhaps it wasn't surprising for a stallion to be up to something behind a mare's flank.
  34. >But by Celestia's swaying, gold-tinted teats, did they have to be so brazen?
  35. >And to somepony in the same camp, too?
  36. >"Because this threat needed to be dealt with immediately, not debated by SOMEPONY who only serves to question OUR motives."
  37. >He emphasized his point with a smack of his hoof upon the table.
  38. >"Because those Saddle Arabian mares can't let old grudges sit for five minutes in the face of an enemy greater than ourselves,"
  39. >Princesses, why was he raising his voice at you?
  40. >It was way too early for you to be dealing with an upset stallion...
  41. >"And we most certainly do not have the time to worry about how the Sultana will feel, or whether she thinks we're starting another war!"
  42. >You had no intention of setting off some colt like so, and yet, here you go doing exactly that without even trying.
  43. >Exactly what you needed to start your day off with.
  44. >"We had to do what was necessary, not politically-convenient, because we can't keep playing that old game in times like these..."
  45. >Taking a deep breath, the Mulamite councilor took a moment to collect himself after his little outburst.
  46. >"...We also believe these particular aliens were responsible for the loss of one of XPONI's Freerangers following Operation Swashbuckler."
  47. >You sat up straight, any lingering sleepiness you may have had was swept away at the news.
  48. >The Strike 11 Incident?
  49. "While I don't doubt the aliens were behind it...what makes you so certain that these in particular were responsible for it?"
  50. >He had your attention now, but as you kept sifting through the report, you weren't seeing anything to corroborate his claim.
  51. >"Take a look at page twelve. It should have the specifics on what the soldiers found there."
  52. >As you flipped to the bookmark given, a captured materials manifest from the site of the undeclared battle greeted you.
  53. >So far, it seemed to be more of the same.
  54. >A dozen or so Goblin corpses.
  55. >The occasional Terror's interspersed.
  56. >Shattered bits of what used to be incredibly advanced, lethally-effective weapons.
  57. >At the bottom of the catalog was a list of creatively-named objects recovered that didn't quite fit into the other lot.
  58. >The only one with a picture accompanying it was "Device 08."
  59. >More specifically, a black-and-white image of...
  60. >Something.
  61. >Something large and quite broken.
  62. >Tearing your attention away from the records, you prod the donkey for more information.
  63. "Can you fill in the blanks and tell me what exactly it is I'm looking at, here, Councilor?"
  64. >You ask, willing the document to face him as you pointed at the photo with your hoof.
  65. >Ceasing his slouching, Naqimum focused on the image.
  66. >"That...would be what our analysts say shot down your aircraft. As with most of the aliens' technology, it couldn't be recovered intact."
  67. "And why do they think that's the case? That this thing brought them down?"
  68. >You pressed for further information to put to rest some unanswered questions.
  69. >"Telemetric calculations based on where the Freeranger was likely hit, the angle, et cetera."
  70. >He shrugged as he ran a hoof along his sandy beard.
  71. >"That, and field observations of the device being utilized in a fire support role during the operation."
  72. >You would not envy anypony in that position.
  73. >Still, this was unwelcome news.
  74. >Some at XPONI believed a UFO might have been the culprit.
  75. >But if what the Councilor was saying happened to be true, it could mean they were changing their overall strategy.
  76. >A more offensive approach to XPONI?
  77. >Perhaps, in time, even against standard military units?
  78. >The loss of a Freeranger in its operating theater was still an isolated incident, though.
  79. >Was it merely the testing of a new weapons system, then?
  80. >As these questions rebounded in your mind, Naqimum took note of your lack of a response.
  81. >"Whatever the invaders have in store for the future remains to be seen, but a sitrep isn't the only reason I requested you here."
  82. >Tossing a quizzical glance his direction, you wondered what other business he happened to have.
  83. >"We understand that XPONI's resources are spread thin enough as it is, and it is remarkable the Project has accomplished as much as it has within those constraints."
  84. >You weren't the pony to be praising there, but you'd be sure to pass that along.
  85. >"They have fought the invaders far more effectively than numerous, uncoordinated militaries could have, and achieved victory where it would be improbable."
  86. >The donkey in front of you tapped his hoof against the table slowly as he continued.
  87. >"Those victories ring hollow for the peoples that only see some shadowy, unstoppable enemy that their government can barely hope to protect them from."
  88. >You had an inkling of where he was going with this line of discussion.
  89. >"We also understand that XPONI can't be everywhere at once, and being based where they are, it is only logical they put out the fires closest to home."
  90. >Naqimum leaned in closer, keeping a firm gaze locked on you as he made his point perfectly clear.
  91. >"Mulam cannot remain a part of the Council for much longer if this pattern continues."
  92. >That was a bit of a heavier drop than you were expecting.
  93. >It would hurt like Tartarus if any Council Nation left, without a doubt.
  94. >If that kingdom of ass left, though...
  95. >Well, that wasn't a message you wanted to deliver the Commander anytime soon.
  96. >Exhaling as you took in this additional bit of undesirable information, you spoke up after he had said his piece.
  97. "Do you have...anything in mind to prevent that from happening?"
  98. >"I'm surprised you're even asking the 'what' of it, but I'll state it clearly for you: we need XPONI to focus their latest efforts on the Mulamite Plateau."
  99. >The Councilor then waved a hoof dismissively in that way stallions do.
  100. >"...and possibly give some aid to the Saddle Arabians in Maresopotamia, if their operatives have time to spare."
  101. "Would that be all you want me to forward along on Mulam's behalf, Councilor Naqimum?"
  102. >This was, by far, the most common request of the Council Nations.
  103. >A request you often had no real ability to fulfill beyond advising what the Commander ought to do.
  104. >The donkey in front of you clopped both his hooves against the table as he shook his head.
  105. >"Of course not; our Kingdom wouldn't make an offer with nothing to make it worth your time."
  106. >You gestured for him to continue, of which he was only too happy to oblige.
  107. >"Mulam will double its monetary contribution to the XPONI Project; whatever staff you need, we can make available. There should also be some reservists we can divert as potential recruits."
  108. >He then pointed at the collection of documents that sparked this whole conversation.
  109. >"As a show of good faith, we will be turning over the spoils of that operation and sending additional personnel to further our cooperation with the Project."
  110. >The light-brown donkey raised a hoof, declaring the catch to it all.
  111. >"Keep in mind; our more significant contribution plans are contingent on whether or not XPONI takes any action against the invaders within our sphere."
  112. >Naqimum was really putting his cards on the table with a move like that.
  113. >Tartarus, it was a damn-good deal, especially considering the alternative.
  114. "I'll make sure this gets to who needs to hear it, then. Is there anything else you would like to mention?"
  115. >You asked, uncertain if the colt felt the need to continue his yammering, as they were wont to do.
  116. >"Our discussion is concluded here. We will be watching what happens next very closely."
  117. >As he got up to leave, Naqimum parted with one final suggestion.
  118. >"As a final recommendation…I would keep the finer details of this conversation quiet in regards to the Mareidui Councilor. She doesn't need to understand the why, just the how."
  119. >With that, he turned and trotted out of the meeting room to wherever else he might be needed.
  120. >Giving you plenty of time to eye up those sturdy, elegant legs of his...
  121. >…
  122. >Up until he was out of sight.
  123. >He was lucky he was kinda cute.
  124. >Otherwise, you wouldn't stand for his decidedly mareish outbursts.
  125. >Stallions aren't supposed to be that uppity, or assertive.
  126. >They're already hard enough to wrap your head around as it is, and here come these foreign colts, strutting about like mares...
  127. >A mare didn't need that kind of complicated in her life.
  128. >You shook your head, trying to clear your mind of those particular notions.
  129. >Now wasn't the time your mind locked between those le- thoughts.
  130. >There was a job that needed doing, after all.
  131. >Shutting the doors with a flash of your horn, you faced the inactive screen that took up the majority of the wall.
  132. >You had to give a mare a call.
  133. >And if you knew her well enough, she wasn't getting any sleep either.

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