My Dearest, Most Faithful Student
It pleases me to hear that you and your friends are having such a wonderful time with the University of Electrical Engineering's newest invention, and learning many great lessons about friendship along the way. As such, I have deemed fit to send you any and all of the school's prototypes once they have finished what the development teams call 'beta testing.'
Think of it as 'privileged access' to both the console and copies before they are released to the Equestrian public.
I am enclosing their next finished product with this letter for your friends' perusal. If the box art is anything to go by, it seems to be quite similar to the previous one that you had been sent alongside the Xbox 360 - I do believe your friends Rainbow Dash and Applejack in particular will enjoy this one. Do send them my warmest regards.
Twilight looked up from the letter she was reading to the other box that she was holding in her hoof, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, this does look pretty grim..." said the purple unicorn with a hint of skepticism, giving Spike a sidelong glance. "I don't see why Dash or Applejack wouldn't enjoy this."
Next to her, her number one assistant had his eyes deeply rooted to the box. He seemed more than a little intrigued as he stroked his chin rather thoughtfully at the image of four huge, armored stallions adorning the front cover. Armed to the teeth, rippling with muscles... and was that one in the front carrying a chainsaw or a gun?
"Gears of War, huh?" The young dragon remarked, biting back a snicker. "If that doesn't scream 'flank-kicking' awesome', I don't know what does. How much d'ya wanna bet Rainbow Dash and Applejack will be all over this like Pinkie on Cupcakes?"
"Reaaaaaaaaal smooth, Spike." drawled Twilight, her voice literally oozing with sarcasm at every single word.
Regardless, she smiled it off and prompted him to hop on. "C'mon, number one assistant. We've got a game to play."
A hop, skip and a jump later, Spike was on Twilight's back as the duo headed to their destination: the rolling orchards of Sweet Apple Acres.
"Geahs of War?" Said Applejack, reading the title off the box. Her eyebrow gave an arch but came up short at hiding the anticipatory glimmer twinkling in her eyes - somehow, she just couldn't stop staring at the stallions adorning the box's cover.
"Man, them engineers over at that fancy University sure got some imagination, don't they Twi'?"
As a graduate of the Canterlot University for Magical Arts, Twilight had quite a number of run-ins with the undergraduates of the University of Electrical Engineering. Calling them "eccentric" would be like saying Fluttershy was louder than Photo Finish by a mile.
"Well, you could say they're a very... erm... inspired bunch of ponies." She replied, shrugging her shoulders and giving Applejack a rather sheepish grin that almost looked like it was plastered on.
Applejack raised an eyebrow at Twilight's reaction, but ultimately decided that prodding the issue any further might not be the best course of action.
"So uh, who's joinin' us fer this here testin' session, Twilight?"
"Well, I invited Rarity and Fluttershy, but apparently Rarity has a massive order to fill for Hoity Toity that's due at the Canterlot Fashion Expo tomorrow afternoon. Fluttershy can't come either because apparently she's babysitting Opalescence to keep Rarity's outfits scratch-free."
"And the rest...?"
"Rainbow's taking off from the weather patrol today, so she'll definitely be joining us to play. Pinkie Pie was supposed to fill an order of sweet-and-sour cupcakes, but since it's not urgent, Mr. and Ms. Cake decided to give her the day off to join us."
Applejack was, to say the least, skeptical. "Pinkie Pie? Ya sure 'bout her Twi? Ah mean, she's don't quite look like the type that might take too nice to this sorta game."
"I never turn away a friend who's offered to help, Applejack. She's welcome to leave anytime she feels uncomfortable, though."
"Well... if ya say so. But ah won't say 'ah told ya so' if ah have to say 'ah told ya so', sugarcube."
Before Twilight could utter a word in response, a rainbow-colored streak soared down from the clouds above, impacting the ground between the two ponies with the force of a tiny explosion and kicking up a sizable dust cloud.
Coughing as she waved aside the offending dirt, Twilight squinted through the dust cloud to find Rainbow Dash mounted atop Applejack in a rather awkward position.
"Oops! Heheh..." Rainbow Dash giggled sheepishly as she shot to her feet quicker than a speeding bullet, leaving a slightly battered Applejack to pick herself up from the dirt. "'Scuse me, Applejack?"
"Darnit Rainbow, ain't you had enough of droppin' in on Ponies like that?" Yelled a visibly annoyed Applejack.
"Oh 'cmon Applejack, what's the point of havin' wings if you're not gonna use 'em!"
"Ya could darn well learn how to use 'em right! Just look at what ya did to Twilight an' Spike over there."
Looking over confusedly, Rainbow Dash couldn't help but give a little grin and look down at her hooves when she realized just how dust-caked her two friends were.
"Heheh... Sorry guys."
Twilight, despite the immense amount of dirt and dust caking her face, seemed rather unfazed, if a little peeved.
"That's... quite alright, Rainbow Dash." The lavender unicorn muttered, wiping off what dust she could with a hoof. "C'mon, let's not waste any more time and get started on the testing session."
Realizing something was amiss, Applejack tapped her best friend on the shoulder. "Hey uh... Twi', ah thought ya said Pinkie was joinin' us fer this here testin' session."
"Oh yes, I told her to go ahead and wait for us at my laboratory. She lives closer to me than most of you do, so I thought it'd be more convenient for her to-"
Whizzing past Twilight with a gust of wind that whipped her friend's coiffure sideways, Rainbow Dash was already well on her way to her friend's underground lab.
"Time's a wastin' guys! Race ya, Applejack!"
"OH NO ya didn't just do that, Rainbow!" Yelled Applejack as she took off at breakneck speed, trying to catch up to the blue-coated pegasus before she got too far ahead.
"Oh my... here we go again," snickered Twilight, smiling to herself before she set off after her two best friends.
Rainbow Dash and Applejack's immediate reactions upon seeing the game's introduction were to go wide-eyed with excitement - the logo saying "Epic Games" only served to heighten their anticipation.
"Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, ohman, ohman!" Rainbow Dash rattled on excitedly, practically shaking in her seat. "This is gonna be the most awesomest awesome game in the history of awesome ever!"
"Hey guys! What's up?" A familiar sugary high-pitched voice floated into the lab, and suddenly Rainbow Dash and Applejack found Pinkie Pie's face sandwiched between their shoulders, her eyes staring widely at the screen.
"Oooooooohhh... That's a LOT of red!" Squealed the pink earth pony, staring transfixed at the main screen's blood-red tinge as a short, melancholy tune began to play from the basement's speakers.
"By golly, she's right." Applejack mused, arching an eyebrow at the game's questionable aesthetic design. "That looks an awful lot like blood? Just what in tarnation kinda game is this anyway?"
"Uhh... the box's details refer to it as a 'Third-person shooter', whatever that means." Twilight said uncertainly, the video game's box suspended in the air before her by her horn's magic.
"But gosh, I never really noticed the pictures on the other side... they're awfully violent and bloody. I mean, you gotta have a little suspension of disbelief when you're playing a game, but this looks a little more graphic than I care to stomach."
"Bah, I can handle a little blood no problem!" Proclaimed Rainbow Dash with great bravado. "I've seen like, tons of blood! More blood than you can even imagine!"
"Are you suuuure, Dashie?" Pinkie Pie said in a suddenly low, sinister voice, a creepy grin creeping over her face. "I'd like to take you up on that claim..."
"Eh...heheheheh..." Applejack laughed nervously, inching away from the pink earth pony next to her as the former began to lean in uncomfortably close to Rainbow Dash. "Well, why don't we all just get started here, yeah? Time's a' wastin'!"
Before anypony could react, Applejack had snatched up both her controller and Rainbow Dash's, and had selected split-screen co-op, heading straight to normal difficulty this time - she didn't need to risk bursting another blood vessel in her brain from the stress of repeatedly dying thanks to a harder-than-normal difficulty.
She quickly handed the controller back to Rainbow Dash, who was now visibly edging away from Pinkie Pie with a nervous grin.
"Well, Pinkie Pie, you're uh, about to uh.. find out... for Celestia's sake, Pinkie, stop doing that! You're creeping me out!"
Abruptly, the pink earth pony lost the slasher smile that was making her look like a deranged serial killer, and she burst out into peals of laughter, flopping onto her back while pointing a hoof at Rainbow Dash.
"Aw c'mon Dashie, I'm just playin'!" Pinkie said in between bursts of laughter as she struggled to regain control of herself, giving her friend a jovial hug. "Man, you really lose it easily, don'tcha Dashie?"
"Only around you, I do..." Rainbow Dash muttered under her breath before turning her attention back onto the screen before her.
Soon enough, the introductory cutscene began to play, and as the story of the game unfurled, the ponies watched in awed horror as a cold, detached voice narrated the history of the ponies of Sera.
Unlike the idyllic land of Equestria, the denizens of the fictional world before them were ponies beleaguered by endless war. The surface of their planet was nothing save for bloodied ashes and ghost towns as demonic creatures called the Locust emerged from the depths of the earth to cut a bloody swathe through all who stood in their way.
Whether it was the pegasi, unicorn or even simple earth ponies, every single stallion, mare and foal fell to the bloody onslaught that burned countless cities and sunk hundreds more, their deaths displayed in a plethora of blood and viscera that seemed almost too brutal to be real.
As the voice narrated the war's final days, it spoke of a horrific final solution to put an end to the Locust rampage: they would rather burn their lands to the ground than let the Locust have them.
Without warning, colossal orange beams of rippling energy descended from the sky, igniting the pony-built cities with enormous explosions, and reducing them to burnt-out, withered husks, mere shadows of their former selves.
"Oh, Celestia... This... this is horrible!" Twilight had her forehooves covering her mouth in horror as the introduction played out before her.
This was completely unlike Halo Reach before it; while the former had been beautiful and majestic, if somewhat melancholy, Twilight Sparkle found herself completely taken aback by the sheer horror and brutality of what Gears of War presented them with.
"Oh, those Locust buzzards are going to pay!" Rainbow Dash said through gritted teeth, her hooves twitching on her controller, already itching to deliver some lead-filled death to the ones responsible for all the bloodshed laid out before her.
Applejack was watching the visual display before her with eyes as wide as saucers as she turned to Twilight. "Twi', ah stand by what ah said earlier, them engineers over at the university have one HAY of an imagination!"
"... Are the Locust related to Parasprites?" Pinkie Pie absently wondered, attracting odd looks from her friends.
"I... don't think so, Pinkie." Twilight answered. "At least the Parasprites didn't go about murdering and slaughtering everything they came across!"
"Oh, I can't wait to get my hooves on those darned Locust!" Rainbow Dash practically ground out, already ready and raring to go, her eyes utterly focused on the screen.
As the introduction faded to black, and the first level started, all the gathered ponies immediately had their eyes riveted on the screen, waiting for what would happen next.
At first Twilight thought there was something wrong with the video feed, as the words "Ashes (4 Days after E-Day)"appeared on the screen but the image remained dark. Barely anything was visible, when suddenly a grey, scampering silhouette flitted across the screen.
The maddened gibbering of several rabid animals suddenly burst out from the speakers, and Twilight started before realizing it was part of the game - thank Celestia Fluttershy wasn't here. The poor pegasus would've probably just suffered from a heart attack!
Paneling downwards, the screen revealed nothing but an impenetrable darkness, save for a single slit of light through what appeared to be a door to the outside world.
As the sound of heavy gunfire and the sickening squelch of blood drew closer, the room flooded with searing light as a heavily armored pony kicked down the door.
"What are you doing here?" Muttered a gruff voice from within the rank depths of what appeared to be a prison cell - obviously not the pony who was standing in the light.
"Getting you out!" Though the pony's face was barely visible in the darkness, his level, calm voice immediately marked him as a friendly. "Here, put this on. You'll need it."
The stallion threw a large bag into the cell, cocking his head towards it. Panning towards the inmate, armor that had long not seen battle gave a creaking rustle as it was thrown over the shoulders of a bulky stallion, once more called into service.
"You could get into a loooot of trouble for doin' this." As the stallion finally stepped forward into the light, everypony could finally see his face.
Sporting a countenance scarred by the horrors of war, his eyes were dark and beady with the cold, calculated effectiveness of a seasoned killer. Sporting a do-rag that covered his mane as his heavily muscled body tensed and rippled beneath his armor, he was clearly no stranger to conflict.
"Whoa..." Rainbow Dash's jaw had gone slack upon seeing the stallion in the light, and Applejack could've sworn that the cyan pegasus was practically drooling at the sight of his muscles.
"Not anymore. Things have changed. We better go." The second soldierpony stated, a hint of urgency in his voice.
"Aww, he's so sweet, such a great guy!" Pinkie Pie gushed. "He's breaking his friend out of prison!"
"Um, Pinkie Pie, I don't think that's how it works..." Twilight laughed.
"What about the other prisoners?" The first stallion asked, pausing for a moment as he stepped out of his cell. "We can't just leave them here."
"They're gone. Hoofman pardoned everybody."
"Is that right?" The resentful sarcasm in the stallion's voice couldn't have been plainer than the blood staining his cell's wall.
"Darn right he did. Welcome back to the army, soldier." The second stallion's tone was meant to be welcoming and comforting, but it failed to instill any of said feelings in his comrade. If anything, it did just the opposite.
Rainbow Dash barked out a laugh, slapping her thigh. "Oh, I like this stallion's style already!"
As control was finally returned to them, Applejack and Rainbow Dash moved their characters forward, and an option eventually presented itself on screen in the form of a two-way choice.
"All right, we've got two options."As the ponies spoke to one another, the ponies assembled could make out two names. Apparently the inmate was an earth pony by the name of "Marcus", while his friend was a pegasus by the name of "Dominic."
"We can go back the way I came, through the guards' quarters: it's gonna take some time, but it's safe. Or we can go through the prison blocks and get right into the fight. Your choice."
Brooding over the choice a little, Applejack weighed her options. "Whaddya' think Rainbow, maybe we should like, y'know, git ourselves a hang of this here game before-"
"What are ya, SCARED?" sneered Rainbow Dash, forcibly yanking Applejack's controller out from between her hooves and slamming down on the left trigger. "Of course we're headed straight into the fight!"
"Let's take the prison blocks. I'm ready to kick some flank." Marcus said once Rainbow Dash had slammed her hoof down on the left trigger, and the cyan pegasus let out a loud whoop.
"Yeah! Kick some flank, baby!"
Yet in spite of her admirable enthusiasm, the next thirty minutes were spent in a haze of rage, virtual blood, and multiple deaths as Rainbow Dash's bravado and haste ended up backfiring on her yet again.
"How the hay do you aim this darned thing!" Applejack almost yelled as she blind-fired again and again at a Locust not more than five metres in front of her, failing to hit her enemy not more than a few times. She had thought that Gears of War was similar enough to Halo Reach that the control schemes would be rather similar, but she could not have been more wrong.
"Left trigger! Left trigger!" Yelled Pinkie Pie from behind them, her face buried in the instruction manual. "Honestly Dashie, you should've known better than to force Applejack along without going through the tutorial first! Everypony knows you gotta crawl before you can gallop!"
"I'm... Kinda... Busy now, Pinkie Pie!" Dash ground out from behind clenched teeth yet again as the three Locust drones in front of her started raining bullets on her once again.
The pegasus yanked the analog stick left and right as she mashed the right trigger in a wild frenzy, but her character somehow couldn't move any faster than a slow waddle as her shots kept soaring overhead, missing time and time again.
Meanwhile, the Locust seemed to have no problem hitting her at all - if anything, it seemed as though they were having the time of their lives, shooting at fish in a barrel.
"What in Celestia's name is this! We were moving way faster in Halo Reach!" Moaned Rainbow Dash in frustration as Dom collapsed to the floor again. Applejack immediately sent Marcus sprinting over through the open to revive him, but was rewarded by a relentless hail of bullets that ended up sending him to the floor as well.
"You guys gotta take cover! It says here on the manual, 'Press 'A' to take cover'!" As Pinkie Pie's voice rang insistently in their heads, the two deigned to heed her advice rather than argue.
"Gimme that manual!" grumbled Rainbow Dash, her mane frazzled and her face contorted by a frown as she rudely snatched the manual out of Pinkie Pie's hooves.
"Blah Blah Blah, Press A to cover...blah blah blah Directional-Pad to swap... yadda yadda yadda... Left Trigger to aim, Press B to melee... All right, I got it! NOW it's time to kick some flank!"
"Hold on ya'll, lemme get a look at this here first..." With a deft snatch, Applejack stole the manual out from Rainbow Dash's hooves before the pegasus could once more callously toss it aside.
"Aw gosh darnit Rainbow, you've gone an' skipped over the whole section on reloadin' this here weapon! Says here we're supposed to wait until this here bar reaches a clear zone to reload proper."
"Reload Shmeeload!" said Rainbow Dash, brushing aside her friend's advice and ploughing headfirst into battle yet again. "I'll reload when I'm out of bullets!"
Thankfully, Dash had at least deigned to take cover and aim this time, her shots actually somewhat hitting the Locust as they charged in coverless and vulnerable.
"OH YEAH!" Bellowed Rainbow Dash, giving an ecstatic whoop that mirrored her own avatar's victory cry as the Locust began to die in droves. "See that? That's what happens when you've got Ponyville's number one flier on your side! You Locust are SO in for a flank-kickin'!"
As the two friends moved forward, a veritable warzone greeted them as the two soldierponies found themselves engaged on all fronts by a swarm of Locust.
"Quick, find someplace ta hide, Dash!" Yelled Applejack, quickly sliding Marcus into a crouching stance behind a piece of loose rubble as gunfire soared over her head.
Unfortunately, Rainbow Dash wasn't nearly as lucky. Three shots hit her head on as she failed to react in time to Applejack's warning.
"Ah, horseapples!" Dash cursed as she blindly sprayed gunfire from the hip, sending Dominic into a frenzied backpedal as he emptied his magazine in the general direction of whatever Locust soldiers she could see.
"Dashie! You're wasting your bullet thingies! You won't be able to-"
Dash cut Pinkie Pie off mid-sentence. "It's all right, Pinkie, just gimme a second and I've got this!"
As the gun clicked empty, the game automatically started reloading Dash's weapon. As the reload bar appeared right below her weapon's portrait indicator, she knew she just had to time a second press just at the right... holy horseapples, that white region was SMALL!
"Whoa whoa wait wait wait no no NO!" Rainbow Dash cried out in grief as her attempt at an active reload failed, her second press of the Right Bumper flying way off the mark, and Dominic began smacking his magazine in frustration, desperately attempting to clear the jam in his rifle.
With no fire to keep the Locust off-balance, shot after shot slammed again and again into Dash's character, sending him spiralling to the floor in defeat once again.
In the meantime, Applejack was hanging back behind cover, smartly popping up only every now and then as the Locust revealed themselves, peppering them from afar with bursts of fire that came within inches of their heads.
"YOU COULD HELP ME UP HERE, AJ," yelled Rainbow Dash over the steadily quickening thrum of her character's heartbeat. Indeed, Dom was visibly panicking as the pool of blood surrounding him grew larger inch by inch. "Somepony... help!"
"Well if ya hadn't-"
"Yeah, yeah I know, so get your flank over here and help me before I bleed out!"
"Ah can't! If ah go out there, the Locust will get me too! Then we're gonna have tah restart all over again!"
"Better than sitting there and letting me bleed out, right!" Rainbow Dash hollered. "Throw a grenade or something!"
Growling, Applejack immediately hit 'up' on her D-pad before arcing her vision skyward and hitting the right trigger, blindly tossing a grenade in the general direction of the Locust soldiers. But she didn't even wait to see the results of her toss. Instead, her hoof immediately hit 'A', and Marcus hurled himself over the piece of rubble he had been taking cover behind, coming up right next to the downed Dominic.
"Don't worry Rainbow, ah gotcha!" Applejack exclaimed fervently as she mashed on 'X' in a panic the moment the prompt appeared on screen. Marcus immediately lowered himself to a crouch, yanking Dominic to his feet, and the encroaching red completely disappeared from Rainbow Dash's side of the screen.
"All right, RD's back in the action!" Rainbow Dash whooped triumphantly as Dominic got back onto his feet. Almost instantly, she hit 'A', and Dominic smoothly slid himself down behind another piece of cover right in front of Marcus, while Applejack sent Marcus hurtling back to where he came from in a mantle maneuver over the rubble.
Coming back up to where she was before, Applejack steadied her aim once more, popping Marcus back up out of cover to rain fire upon the Locust again... only to find Rainbow Dash's avatar right smack in front of hers, blocking off her line of fire.
"Arh, consarnit Rainbow, yer blockin' mah shots!" Applejack tried to move Marcus to the side to shift around Rainbow Dash, but Dominic seemed to mirror her movements perfectly, almost as though she was intentionallypreventing her from taking any shots at all.
"Sorry, can't hear ya!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed ecstatically, too caught up in the rush of battle to even register what Applejack was saying. "Busy killing Locust!"
"Would you kindly get the buck out of the way please!" Marcus suddenly shouted.
It was enough of a surprise that Rainbow Dash's hoof went slack, releasing the left trigger and sending Dominic ducking back down under cover. The two players stared at the screen for several moments, before Applejack hit the pause button and burst into laughter.
"Ahahahaha! Oh man, that was priceless! Them engineers sure think'a everythin', don't they? It's almost as if they know someone like you's gonna be playin', Rainbow!" The orange earth pony was practically in stitches as she tried to catch her breath amidst her laughter.
"Yeah, yeah, keep rubbing it in, AJ..." Rainbow Dash scowled as she quickly reached over and hit the Start button again, unpausing the game and throwing the duo back into the thick of the fray. "C'mon, we've got some flank to kick!"
The remainder of the level progressed rather well, seeing that Rainbow Dash and Applejack were finally learning from their mistakes and playing the game properly.
Yet for all their improvement, the two ponies were both rushers in every sense of the word, Rainbow Dash had a propensity for charging ahead of Applejack, while her blond-maned friend had the rather bad habit of always trying to settle every battle up close and personal with the butt of her rifle.
That didn't stop Applejack from killing any less Locust than Rainbow Dash, though.
"YEE-HAW! Get along, lil' doggies!" Applejack crowed, the satisfying "cha-click" of her fifth successful active reload music to her ears. Soon enough, she was cutting down Locust like there was no tomorrow, quickly catching up with Rainbow Dash's body count.
The cyan pegasus, despite her successes with her rather straightforward strategy of charging forward and killing as many Locust as she could, was somewhat dampened by every failed active reload she attempted whenever her magazine ran dry.
"Aww c'mon, why can't I get this darned thing down?" Rainbow Dash groaned as Dominic began smacking his magazine again, attempting to get his gun to work. "Arghhh! The hay with this!"
In a little hissy fit rather out of character for the normally overconfident pegasus, Rainbow Dash threw Dominic over the piece of rubble he had been hiding behind, and began charging him in the general direction of the last Locust alive in the courtyard.
The Locust drone barely had time to react before Rainbow Dash's avatar was right up in its face. As soon as the cyan pegasus's character had reached her mark, she began mashing away at the 'B' button, smashing the drone's face in repeatedly with the butt of her rifle in a maddened frenzy, sending her enemy face-forward into the dirt.
"AHA! Take THAT, you stinkin' Locust!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed in triumph as the screen faded to black, and the subsequent cutscene began playing.
"Delta, there's something moving below ground, over!"
"I see it too... what are we lookin' at?"
"Hay if I know..."
"Marcus! We've gotta get to the Raven, now!"
As the gathered mares watched, the two soldierponies sprinted across the courtyard's exit to the awaiting helicopter... when the very ground they once stood on came apart.
Roaring like a maddened Ursa Major, a gigantic armored spider burst forth from the ground, roaring at the two as they scrambled on board the helicopter.
In an attempt to drag the two to their death, the spider lashed out, attempting to impale the helicopter upon its humongous claws, but the strikes went wide and the two ponies made their escape, leaving the enraged beast far behind them.
"Woo!" Exclaimed Rainbow Dash, dizzy with excitement as she high-hoofed Applejack on a job well done. "We kicked serious flank on that one!"
"Ooh, Ooh, Ooh! Can I have a turn next, Dashie?" Asked Pinkie Pie, bounding up and down over her two friends as she eagerly awaited her turn at the game.
"Eh, I think I've saved the world enough for now. You play next, Pinkie Pie!" Said Rainbow Dash, passing the controller over to her over-excited companion.
"Alllllllllllllllll-right!" Yelled Pinkie Pie, giving a backflip and landing right smack in Rainbow Dash's seat.
Soon enough, the next level was underway. Dropping both Marcus and Dom in a courtyard, Applejack and Pinkie Pie found their location was under siege as Locust rained bullets all around their position.
Fairly experienced by now, Applejack immediately threw herself behind cover as the first salvo of bullets flew over her head.
"Pinkie!" She yelled, "find some cover 'fore ya become filled with more holes than swiss cheese faster than y'all know it!"
Surprisingly, Pinkie had turned out to be a rather competent player, quickly ducking behind an aqueduct as she narrowly missed getting hit by a few stray projectiles.
Applejack immediately popped Marcus up out of cover to give Pinkie some support. Yet much to her shock, unlike the previous rifle she had been holding, this one neglected short bursts of fire like her previous rifle, and instead opted for a steady stream of red-hot death.
After a moment, a steely grin spread over her face, and then she held down the left trigger, sighting down on the leftmost Locust she could see, before pressing her hoof down on the right trigger, and not letting go.
"SAY HELLO TO MAH LIL' FRIEND!" Applejack yelled out enthusiastically as she stitched her fire over the Locust line one by one, felling her foes in short, systematic order. Bullets from the Locust line slammed into Marcus in response, sending small bursts of blood flying from his body and causing a crimson cog to appear in the centre of Applejack's screen.
The orange mare ignored this however, and kept on firing, her eyes steeled in determination. Only the repeated 'cha-click!' sound that she heard every time she was about to run out of ammunition gave her any warning, and she quickly ducked Marcus back behind cover just as his magazine ran dry.
Soon enough, Applejack had managed to whittle the crowd down to little more than a single locust, cowering behind a lone section of wall in front of the orange mare.
"Pinkie! This one's all yers! Go get 'im!"
"Okie Dokie Lokie!" Came Pinkie Pie's confident cry of affirmation as she narrowed her own character into a roadie run, charging straight for the last enemy standing.
As she reached her foe, Pinkie vaguely recalling something in her book about a "melee attack," which frankly sounded quite tasty and felt like it would go well with some vanilla. Not fully knowing what she was about to do, Pinkie Pie held down the "B" button and watched with eager anticipation for what would happen next.
What she had NOT expected to hear, however, was a low, guttural roar as the contraption affixed to the bottom of her rifle came to shocking life, its blades revving in mechanical fury as they gnashed together with an almost sickening, metallic whine.
And then in a flash, Pinkie's character immediately bore down on the hunched Locust with his full weight, shoving the front end of his weapon into the pale creature's torso, the chainsaw roaring.
The chainsaw's spinning blades ripped right through flesh and sinew like a hot knife through butter, sending a fountain of blood flying everywhere. Some of it even splattered right over the camera's viewpoint, and at the end of the terribly messy ordeal, the Locust had toppled to the floor in two messily severed halves.
With a sickening, wet splat!, blood splattered all over the floor, the camera's view, and Pinkie Pie's character.
Throughout the entire display, Pinkie Pie's eyes had remained glued to what was happening on-screen, her mouth utterly agape at the sheer display of brutality.
"Ugh, that smells bad. What are these guys made of, shit?"Pinkie Pie's character muttered as the blood slowly disappeared from the camera's view, but not from his body or the ground around him.
Twilight felt as though she was going to lose it right then and there. The purple-maned unicorn hurriedly excused both herself and her faithful assistant to the nearby restroom, which was quickly accompanied by loud sounds of lunch being forced back up an unwilling gullet.
Applejack's face had gone a color of similar shade of sickly green as the earth pony set her controller aside and rushed for the bathroom with with her front hoof over her mouth, clearly struggling to hold back the bile that was threatening to spill over.
Dash, equally sickened by this display, tried to reach the bathroom ahead of Applejack but was too late. The door slammed shut in her face as she was forced to stay outside with her vomit slowly forcing its way out of her stomach and into her throat. It took almost all of her willpower to hold the slowly mounting wave of nausea back.
"Guys! Blurgh- let me- Oogh- in! Please!" She begged, her eyes watering with the effort now.
"Hey Dashie..." came a low, menacing voice from behind the Rainbow-maned Pegasus. "Why don't you come over here and finish this part with me, hmmmmmmmm?"
"Bleugh- No thanks, Pinkie... I'd much rather... Urk-take a break right about now..."
"Awww, c'mon Dashie..." said Pinkie Pie, her voice sounding much closer now. Dash could almost swear she felt something hot around her neck...
As Dash's eyes darted side to side in nervousness, she suddenly felt the light touch of two hooves descend upon her wings. "Best friends stick together forever, right?"
"S-stop it, Pinkie..." Dash couldn't stop her voice from quavering this time, barely able to hold back the tide of rising bile. Normally she was brave and overconfident, but Celestia darn it, Pinkie was creeping the hay out of her like this! "You're... ulp, oh Celestia!"
"Dashie, Dashie, Dashie... don't you wanna- HEY!" Pinkie Pie gave a shout of surprise as she soon found herself being showered by a brownish, stinky liquid that stuck to her mane, slowly running off her hair with the gooey stickiness of fresh maple syrup.
"Ewwwww, Dashie! What did you do thatfor!" Pinkie whined and pouted in protest, abruptly backing off. "I was only joking!"
"What's going on out here?" Came Twilight's voice as she dragged herself out of the toilet, a still groggy Applejack at her side.
"Dashie here thought it would be a good idea to show me what she ate for lunch!" Moaned Pinkie Pie, still trying to wipe her mane free of whatever it was Rainbow Dash had just retched all over her.
"Serves you right for trying to scare me!" Rainbow Dash gasped as she dry heaved one more time before shoving her way past Twilight and Applejack and into the bathroom, followed by the sound of more forced retching as Rainbow Dash tried to empty the remaining contents of her now-vacant stomach.
"Um, girls, I think we'd better call it a day here... I don't think I can stomach any more of this..." Twilight said weakly as she quickly trotted over to the console before hitting the power button, abruptly shutting it off.
"Aww, but we were just getting to the good part!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, much to the chagrin and ticked-off stare of an otherwise sickened Twilight Sparkle. "Can I at least stay over to play the rest of it? Huh, Twilight? Can I can I can I?"
"Ugh..." The lavender unicorn felt her hoof pressing into her forehead in exasperation, dearly hoping she wouldn't regret what she would say next.
"All right, fine. But keep the volume on the TV down, please; I would like to still be able to sleep peacefully at night."
Still, she wondered whether she would even be able to get any sleep at all - the visceral images of the scene she had just witnessed would be sure to replay themselves over and over again in her dreams for this night and surely the next.
"YAAAAAAYYY!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, clearly overjoyed, and before anypony could protest, she had already started up the Xbox 360 again, continuing on from where they had left off with nary a pause, this time on Single Player.
"Oh, boy... c'mon, girls. Let's get out of here. I don't think I can watch any more of this... especially if she revs that thing up again!" Twilight quickly trotted out of her basement, Rainbow Dash and Applejack quickly following in tow after they bade Pinkie Pie a few brief farewells.
Not that the pink earth pony even heard them to begin with - she was too fixated on the screen, already eagerly revving up her chainsaw bayonet for its next kill.
Twilight tossed and turned about in her bed, trying to ignore the ticking clock that now read 2:03am. She had been trying her best to get to sleep for the past several hours, but apparently Pinkie Pie had forgotten her instructions to turn the volume down, because she could still hear the distinct rat-tat-tat-tat of machine guns firing through her basement floor, and the even more horrifying sound of that... that barbaric contraption!
Each time she heard that sound, images of that scene where Pinkie's character had so brutally eviscerated the Locust drone would flood her mind, prompting an even fresher wave of nausea as she would then fight to keep her dinner down, shutting her eyes tightly in an attempt to dispel the images.
Ugh... I'm never going to get any sleep at this rate if Pinkie keeps playing that game! Twilight thought frustratedly to herself as she threw her pillow over her ears to shut the sound out, but failed to do so.
Just as she was on the verge of simply throwing herself out of bed to go downstairs and tell Pinkie it was time to stop playing, the noises abruptly stopped, and the light from downstairs went out.
Huh... well, I guess I might be getting some sleep after all! The lavender unicorn thought to herself, satisfied, and turned over in her bed, finally letting a peaceful smile settle over her features. Peace and quiet had come at last...
Twilight froze, her eyes snapping open, wide in horror. Her eyes darted to the left, in the direction of the door, but she dared not even move a muscle. As the door slowly creaked open, she heard hoofsteps gradually draw ever-closer to her bed, the blood-curdling thump of each one growing louder and louder by the second.
Just as the hoofsteps were right behind her, they suddenly stopped, and Twilight simply just lay there, frozen in terror - she dared not even breathe, or even let out the slightest squeak of terror no matter how badly she wanted to.
"Hey, Twiliiiiight..." Rang a familiar voice, echoing from the inky darkness behind her. While every bone in her body begged her not to, the lavender unicorn found herself turning around, to face whatever awaited her.
When she saw it, her pupils shrank to the size of pinpricks; her eyes widening with gut-wrenching terror.
Right behind her, silhouetted in the moonlight, stood Pinkie Pie... but not the Pinkie that Twilight knew and cherished as the best of friends.
Her eyes were hollow and empty, dotted only by pupils even tinier than Twilight's own. In place of her normally warm, cheery smile was a deranged, nigh-bloodthirsty grin that literally made Twilight's heart skip a beat... or two.
"I think the chainsaw bayonet on the Lancer is a pretty interesting invention!" Pinkie said in an extremely creepy, strangled voice that sent every hair on Twilight's body standing ramrod straight. "Y'know, I think it'd be pretty popular if I invented it, but I first need some test subjects... FOR MY PROTOTYPE."
Pinkie Pie reached over to pull the ignition cord on the contraption she held in her hoof, and almost immediately it gave a mighty roar as it shuddered to life.
Twilight Sparkle's terrified scream rang throughout the entire library that night, followed by peals of high, deranged laughter that echoed for yards throughout.
"Man, Twilight, you're no fun!" Pinkie Pie groaned through the mass of bandages that covered her head as she walked through the streets of Ponyville the next morning, to which the worn-out, sleep-deprived unicorn walking next to her groaned.
"Pinkie, you ambushed me in the middle of the night, made me think you'd decided to go completely loco on us, and that you were going to kill me! Did you think I was going to do anything less than smash you over the head with a crowbar in self-defence? You even had that prank item that sounded just like a chainsaw, for Celestia's sake! I thought I was going to die!" Twilight ranted, her eyes wide and bloodshot from the lack of sleep. "If I were Gilda, I'd have murdered you for that prank! Please, for the sake of all that is good and holy, don't do that to me again!"
"All right, all right, geez!" Pinkie Pie relented, giving her friend a comforting hug and a pat on the shoulder as she apologized.
"I'm sorry about last night, all right? If anything... you should be wishing that Applejack and Dashie were there too! Oh Celestia, that would've been the best prank ever! I wish I could've seen the looks on their faces, your expression was priceless, Twilight!"
The pink earth pony burst out into peals of laughter again, practically rolling on the ground in stitches, and Twilight simply shook her head, exasperated. If anything, she decided not to point out the fact that if Applejack and Rainbow Dash had been there, Pinkie Pie would've probably ended up with a lot more than just a bloody bump on her head.
Some things about Pinkie Pie just never changed.
Back in the royal palace, Princess Celestia allowed herself a impish grin as she twirled a small piece of parchment with her right hoof.
By right, Twilight SHOULD have received this note alongside her testing copy, but due to otherwise... mysterious circumstances, it had somehow not been included in the packaging.
Emblazoned in enormous red text and further bolded for posterity, was a simple warning notice.
THIS GAME HAS NOT YET BEEN IMPLEMENTED WITH THE "FILTER MATURE CONTENT" OPTION AS OF THIS BUILD, AND AS THUS, IS CONSIDERED TO HAVE VIOLENT IMAGERY THAT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR PONIES OF ALL AGES.
IF YOU SO DESIRE, YOU MAY REQUEST FOR A MORE COMPLETE BUILD COPY AT A LATER DATE, OR ANOTHER TITLE TO TEST.
THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE.
THE CANTERLOT UNIVERSITY FOR ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING.
Giggling to herself, Celestia set aside her mirth and focused on the newest package that had just arrived on her desk from the Canterlot University for Computer Science.
Enclosed with an official letter from the University's school board, a sleek, black package had been shipped under priority order to the royal palace.
Celestia had not bothered to look inside yet, but enclosed with said package was a rectangular, metallic container that bore a picture of a maneless, bearded Pony on the front cover, extending an inviting hoof forward.
While his face may not have been wholly visible, his twin orbs could still be seen. Framed inside the black depths of his eyes were two, seemingly suspended crystal lattices that shimmered with an unearthly green.
In his outstretched hoof, eerily beautiful, yet subtly haunting crystals pulsed with a fluorescent emerald glow. They may have looked like any other piece of raw jewelry, but something about them just felt alien enough to be disturbingly unnatural. If one looked closely enough, it would seem as if they were actually growing.
If anything, this new game would be just the thing that her dear student would enjoy so much, and sending it to her tomorrow would at least make up for the heart attack she'd probably given the poor filly today by sending her Gears of War withoutthe mature content filter.
With a warm smile, the royal monarch stamped her personal seal upon the letter she had addressed to Twilight Sparkle with the package, and awaited the coming of a new day.