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Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

by CrossroadsPony

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21

Chapter 19: Black Dog

Morning came quietly to the dusty corner of Timae, in spite of the rather exciting activities of the previous twelve hours. Doc had decided to stay at the Red base, mostly because he wasn't sure what else he could do. He wasn't willing to draw the attention of the House by calling in the alien presence, especially after Graceful Melody had made it rather clear what he would consider doing to someone who sold them out.

That and after spending some quiet time with Riffraff while patching up his arm, Doc was finally feeling a little less like he needed to run screaming from the off-worlders. He was still wary around the tiny, angry pony...and mindful of his physical presence around the all-too-friendly wolf...but the strangers treated him with considerable fairness, despite his obvious edginess around them. Even Amdusias extended a metaphorical peace offering with a long conversation about the moralistic quandaries of serving as a medical officer in a war with such a...unique impetus behind it, which at least convinced Doc that perhaps the demon wasn't so bad, even if he'd almost given the chupadore a mental breakdown.

Donut had thoughtfully showed Doc where he kept his 'shareable' tea bags before retiring to do...whatever he did with the wolf for a few hours. The medic was grateful for something familiar as he clutched his mug of steaming green tea and wandered up to the top of the base just as the sun began gliding over the top of the surrounding canyon wall. He assumed he'd be alone, since everyone else had retreated to some comfortable place or another after several hours of socializing.

...Alas, the glint of silver in the early sunlight was an immediate indication he was not the first to stir. The chupadore covered his eyes with a frown before staring in mild horror at the sight of Mahihko neatly balanced against one of the battlements, body inverted with his hands planted beneath his head while his long, toned legs stretched out in a neat, almost-lazy split above him.

It took Doc a moment to recognize that the light glancing off the wolf's body was not, in fact, from the multiple piercings in his muzzle and ears...but rather from his crotch, which was all-too-exposed considering Mahihko sported little more than a small, comfortable smile. The chupadore attempted to be quiet as he muffled his surprised gasp, quickly turning around and staring morbidly in the opposite direction. Maybe Mahihko hadn't heard him -- he looked rather focused in whatever he was--

"Mornin', Doc!"

Doc sighed and looked down at his mug of tea before slowly turning around and covering his eyes modestly. "Erm. Good morning, uh. M. Mah-hee-ko..."

"Y'know, normally I make a joke about how I know I'm a mouthful, but you genuinely seem the type who ain't interested," the wolf commented, speaking so casually that Doc almost forgot he was holding a complex pose while upside-down. In the nude. "So I'll cut to the case -- just Hiko's a'right if ya like. An', uh. Sorry 'bout the whole naked thing, 's how I'm used to doin' my mornin' workouts."

"It's...fine," Doc replied awkwardly. "I am a medic, after all. I've given plenty of physicals."

"Yeah but usually with that ugly-ass gown, eh?" Mahihko teased, noting the way the chupadore refused to even peek through his fingers. "I'm almost done, but I c'n wrap it up if ya wanted to hang out up here without me...y'know. Hangin' out."

Doc sighed but shook his head politely. "No, no, it's okay. I just appreciate a quiet sunrise, I um. I didn't mean to disturb you."

"Yer too nice for ya own good," Mahihko chuckled while slowly bringing his legs back together, then gracefully arching his spine and pushing himself off his hands to seemingly defy gravity and land neatly atop the waist-high battlement. "But I ain't gonna complain, cute, friendly guy lettin' me finish my silly li'l routine." His body moved like shaped water, one leg shifting smoothly as his paw settled neatly into the inside of the opposite thigh while he lifted his arms above his head and then slowly, slowly lowered them to either side.

Doc lifted his hand and caught the end of Mahihko's silky movement, admittedly impressed by the alien's flexibility. He was now left with a view of Mahihko's back...and of course, his unencumbered rump, which made it impossible to not notice the massive tattoo inked across it. But his eyes moved easily away, not distracted by the sexual aura oozing from the wolf and more curious about the various other tattoos marking his two-toned form, and his general physique. He continued to clutch his mug in both hands and walked up to the edge of the roof so he no longer had to stare at Mahihko's hips, helpfully placed at eye-level thanks to the way he continued his routine perched on the concrete block.

"Is that yoga?" he asked curiously, glancing up at the wolf and then taking a sip from his tea while looking out over the canyon. "I've thought about trying it sometime, myself. They say it's good for your body as much as it is for your mind. And apparently can help lower stress, too..."

Mahihko half-smiled as he brought his palms together before lowering his leg and then switching to bring the other paw up and against his thigh, repeating the pose with a mirrored stance. "Man, 'skinda funny the random shit we seem to share 'tween our worlds. Yeah, sure is, Doc. I'm a big fan. Insert my usual jokes 'bout how it makes me super-flexible and just plain amazin' in the sack, but those'd be lost on you." He looked down at the medic with an amused expression."Y'ain't inta fellas. But you ain't straight, neither, huh?"

Doc looked away uncomfortably. "Uh."

"Hey, 'sall good by me, Doc, I know when I'm runnin' a losin' race, you ain't gotta worry 'bout me chasin' yer tail." He laughed quietly as his hands once again came together in front of his chest. "Adorable as it is." He lowered his leg and then bent over to touch his toes with ridiculous ease, nearly eye-to-eye with Doc when he peered over at him again. "But yeah, it's real nice for clearin' your head. Lets ya forget yer problems for a li'l bit, opens up yer mind. Plus...ain't a bad way to stay in shape!"

"You do seem to have a better physical condition than even most of the soldiers I've examined," Doc admitted while taking another drink from the mug. "I've only seen one or two people with more tattoos than you, too. And I'm pretty sure you definitely have the record for number of least from what I've seen."

"Then you definitely gotta let Donut take you out sometime, he's got some stories to tell," Mahihko chuckled as he let his limber body straighten, smiling down at the medic. Doc was still gazing out over the canyon and Mahihko dropped down to sit neatly on the concrete block, crossing his legs primly and glancing at the chupadore. "So, tell me, Doc -- how many times ya think 'bout runnin' away after we all split up last night, huh?"

Doc blinked and then cleared his throat as he shifted slightly and looked away from the casually-undressed alien. "Ah. It's my, um. Job to provide assistance where I'm sent. And I was sent here, so."

"Nice dodge," Mahihko laughed, his tail flicking in entertainment. "It's all good if you were thinkin' it, hon. Honestly, yer takin' this whole thing better'n most might. Meetin' aliens ain't on most folk's to-do list."

The chupadore rubbed at an arm slowly before sipping from the tea again. "Well, of course. This is all very strange and, um. I'm still confused why you're all still alive. I know this war is all about shooting the other side, but all the same, everyone is usually so trigger-happy and armed at all times, so, know."

"Hey, man, them other boys gave it a damn fine freshman try!" Mahihko replied cheerfully. "At least one'a us shoulda ended up toast! But one side had shitty aim, the other side had to deal with...well, me, so we came out a-okay!!" He beamed and reached out to shake Doc's shoulder lightly.

The chupadore shifted awkwardly again but gave a small smile. "And to be fair, this must be strange for you, too. Unless, uh. Unless you all travel to other worlds regularly or something..."

"Hoo, boy -- travelin', sure, me'n the missus do plenty'a that." The confused look from Doc brought a crooked grin to the wolf. "What, you don't think I'm the girl 'tween me'n Lone, do ya?"

"I haven't met him, I just know the stories you told last night," Doc mumbled before adding into his mug, "and I would have thought neither of you would be the girl, since. You're both guys."

"I like yer lack of prejudice!" Mahihko chortled. "Or at least yer damn fine job of hidin' it! But not to get side-tracked...we been all over the world we came from. But we're pretty new to the' thing. In fact, this is only the third new one we been to!"

"Yeah, you were saying how you went to Graceful Melody's world --"

"It is so cute that you use his full name."

Doc sighed. "--and then ended up on the strange world where everyone was trying to shoot you before you all showed up here, on Sirca."

"Where everyone tried to shoot us!" Mahihko concluded with a chuckle. "So yeah, we don't know what the hell we're doin', Doc. But we ain't just gonna sit around with a thumb up our asses, neither."

"I'm still confused by that," the medic noted, shaking his head a bit. "It doesn't seem like you'll be able to focus on getting home if you're spending all your time 'helping' us here."

Mahihko half-smiled. "Don't seem that way, huh?" He shrugged amiably, then hopped up to his paws before dropping back down to the roof so he was once more peering up at the chupadore. "I'm gonna go whip up some grub. You want anything?"

Doc wasn't sure...but then again, the food from last night had been more much nicer than the usual fare. "Uh. Sure, I guess. I'm gonna finish my tea up here, though. If that's okay."

The wolf shook his head in amusement. "Like I said -- too nice for yer own good." He laughed and headed for the stairs. "But tell ya what -- I'll even get dressed, just for you."

"Will it be more than just an oversized t-shirt?" Doc called after him in his attempt for a joke.

Mahihko grinned back over a shoulder. "The hell's the point of datin' bigger guys if not for all the giant t-shirts, Doc?!" He wiggled his fingers in an impromptu farewell before disappearing down the ramp.

Doc huffed quietly before cradling his mug in both hands again. "He must have a lot of big t-shirts, then," he mumbled to himself before blinking at the implication and then sighing into his tea. This was going to be a strange assignment.

"I'm tellin' you, it don't feel quiet," Graceful growled around the toast in his jaws. "Air's all...fuzzy."

"Well, to be fair, almost all of us here are all fuzzy!" Donut added helpfully before beaming up at Amdusias. "Except Mr. Dusey!"

"One day, you will cease imparting your infernal abbreviated nomenclatures and I will be able to regain some semblance of my nobility as none of you despicable mortals will refer to me by 'Dusey' or 'Ammy' or 'Duse-bag'." The demon crossed his arms with a scowl.

"Kinda proud'a that last one," Graceful chortled.

Mahihko gave an amused smile before nodding toward the medic. "So Doc -- you got the most experience with y'all's fancy...'House'. If some crazy shit goes down that flags the radar or...whatever y'all got that fits the turn'a phrase...what do they do? They send more folks like you or somethin' more serious?"

Doc frowned deeply. "I really don't know why you keep trying to make me sound like some kind of House operative or something. I'm just a medic!" He sighed and then looked awkward as he scratched at his shoulder a bit. "Uh. But, well. I guess I can tell you that if there's something like a report of, er, 'heretical' activity, then yes. They send in air-drops of what we call the HADES units."

"Oooh, those are the scary guys that wear all-black, right?" Donut inquired. Doc seemed slightly surprised and began to nod...only to sigh when Donut added: "Such a gauche fashion choice!"

Mahihko flashed a grin. "Hey, I was wearin' all black when we first met."

"Yeah, but you've got all those fun splashes of colors built right into you!" Donut cooed, making the wolfs smile stretch even wider. "You get a pass!"

"Aww, shucks," Mahihko replied with a cheerful flick of his tail. He then turned back to Doc, propping his jaw up in his elbow while leaning on the table. "So HADES is bad, eh?"

"Very bad," Doc replied quickly. "You don't wanna mess with them. They're the most elite of Sirca's troops and they aren't Red or Blue -- they work directly for Omega."

"So the king fuckbag got his own personal secret police," Graceful grumbled. "Color me as fuckin' shocked as the day Riff got his first --"

"Grace, please," Riffraff quickly interrupted with a sheepish cough as all eyes turned to him. He rubbed the back of his neck, then shifted his own gaze to Mahihko. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinkin' that if Grace is so sure our ugly-ass friends with the flat faces are gonna show up again...why not let the big bads on this ol' ring do our fightin' for us?" the thief suggested, shrugging easily. "Seems like a much smaller chance of gettin' our asses lined in chalk."

"Sure, except then no matter who wins, there's gonna be a well-trained squadron of jacked-up jarheads lookin' for blood, and we ain't exactly what I'd call the most defensible spot," Graceful retorted with a gesture to the base around them.

"Actually, you might be surprised! These guys were in this canyon for like a couple years before I got here and they never managed to get each other's flags," Donut noted while tapping the end of his muzzle.

The pony rolled his eyes. "Incompetence ain't the same as a well-fortified position," he muttered. He shot a look up to Amdusias, then to Riffraff. "We'd be better off takin' on these assholes before they c'n multiply, shut off their jump-point to this canyon for good. We'll deal with whoever your fuckin' weak-kneed 'god' sends out afterward."

Amdusias frowned slightly but shifted his weight with a sigh. "The little one is correct. Brash, but correct. From what we have seen of these creatures, they favor numbers over strategy and skill. It would be wise to face them directly and sever the connection to their place of origin."

Doc gave his own deep frown and slowly rubbed a hand through his mane. "I'm sure I'm not following all this correctly, but...didn't you say you guys Opened a gateway or whatever from your world? How do you stop someone else from doing it?"

Graceful Melody offered a tiny smile as his eyes locked with Donut's. "You were the one who wanted to see my powers, yeah? Might just get that chance after all..."

It did little to lessen Doc's confusion, but Donut at least seemed excited. Riffraff and Amdusias, on the other hand, looked far more discomforted by Graceful Melody's words. And Mahihko's face simply appeared entertained as he observed the others for a moment before tilting his head a bit and asking casually: "Aight, then -- so what's the plan, pony-boy?"

Graceful glowered at him, but then snorted dismissively and looked around the table. "Start simple. I know what I'm doin', of course, the lynchpin of the goddamn plan as always."

"Your stunning self-efficacy continues to motivate us all," Amdusias interjected dryly. "I suppose I am to serve as the shield as per the usual."

"Wouldn't hurt if you put a few bullets in a few skulls too instead of leanin' on the wall to blow yer horn," Graceful shot back coolly. "Riff, you stay back, keep an eye out for any asshole tries to come 'round from the flank." His eyes shifted to Doc, who immediately raised both hands. "Doc, what kinda hardware you most comfortable with?"

"Um...a stethoscope and bandages?" the medic answered awkwardly.

Graceful's eyes narrowed. "Guns, Doc, I mean guns."

"I, um. I don't like them," Doc replied sheepishly. "I never carry one."

Graceful seemed genuinely confused. "I get you're a medic, but you're in the middle of a goddamn war! We'll get you a pistol, you can stay close to Riff and --"

"No, I mean...I'm a pacifist. So um. I don't use guns."

The pony opened his muzzle wordlessly, his jaws moving silently for a moment before he hissed through his teeth: "You fuckin' pullin' my leg right now?"

"Why do you think I became a medic?!?"

"I don't fuckin' know, 'cause you flunked outta medical school and decided that being a fake doctor was the next best thing?" Graceful spat out. "That's just fuckin' dandy."

"Hey, that's. Not the only reason," Doc stammered before sighing and dropping his shoulders.

But Mahihko was quick to slide a supportive arm around the chupadore while responding to Graceful in a smooth, silky tone. "C'mon, now, knee-high private eye! If you're really so sure we're 'bout to get into a shoot-out, then ain't it a good idea to have someone standin' by with a first-aid kit 'n a nice bedside manner?"

Graceful offered a dour look at the wolf. "Fine, Doc's on field support. And I suppose you wanna be somewhere hoggin' the spotlight, grave-robber?"

"Actually, figured me'n Donut got speed on our side, we could cut 'round through the woods, catch 'em from the side," Mahihko replied easily as he squeezed one of Doc's shoulders, then moved to casually thrown an arm around Donut's waist.

"This ain't a time for no fuckin' backwoods do-si-do," Graceful growled before settling his stare on the soldier. "You actually know how to use that damn cannon of a pistol?"

"I can actually attest to the fair-haired one's skill," Amdusias admitted with a grimace. "Both his accuracy and grouping even in a...surprised state were above average."

Graceful snorted quietly. "So you were the one who shot my demon."

"He was after my tea, can you blame me?" Donut put his hands on his hips with an expectant look.

Graceful blinked and then looked at the demon pointedly.

Amdusias groaned and threw his arms up. "I was after nobody's tea!" He wrinkled his muzzle distastefully. "That orange one caused the confusion."

Graceful smiled despite himself and shrugged easily. "Dusey says you can shoot, you can shoot. Guess you fruitcakes got the sneak attack."

"Sweet, my favorite," Mahihko chirped before reaching out and tapping Graceful's muzzle lightly, causing the pony to glower at him. "One li'l question, though -- what if yer magical supernatural sniffer's broke as shit and ain't no bad guys showin' up to the party?"

"Then I guess we'll have a fuckin' laugh and sing songs 'round the piano again tonight," Graceful muttered while pushing himself away from the table. "That's all I got. If you jokers got half a brain, you'll start gatherin' bullets. These assholes ain't exactly much for keepin' prisoners." He grunted and gestured to Riffraff and Amdusias. "Let's check your gear, boys."

Doc remained seated with a strained expression as the trio wandered out of the kitchen, looking like he would perhaps prefer curling into a ball and pretending he was anywhere else. So much for the aliens growing on him. He slowly looked over at Mahihko when the wolf poked his arm a few times. "I...I'm really not comfortable with hurting anyone, so --"

"Aw, shit, Doc, I ain't thinkin' of askin' you to change yer mind," Mahihko reassured with a wave of a hand. "'Sides, ain't nothin' as stressful in a firefight than someone tryin' to help who can't shoot for shit." Doc gave him a confused frown and the wolf half-smiled in return. "Just wanted to ask if you wanted to like...y'know. Sneak out or somethin'. I'm kinda good at that if you want me to getcha outta here."

Donut pouted on Mahihko's other side. "Aww, but I hope you don't! It's been so nice having someone around that isn't an alien!" He immediately patted Mahihko between the ears. "No offense, Hiko! You've gotta be one of the cutest and most talented aliens I've ever met! But I was starting to forget what chupadores looked like, which would be awful -- what if I forgot how to style my mane or started using the wrong mix of conditioners??"

"Gee...thanks, I guess," Doc mumbled. He looked down at his empty plate. Breakfast had been good, at least until the pony's gloom and doom speech. "But. No, no I'm not going to run away. I was sent here to do a job, so. The last thing I want to do is get in trouble with the House."

"'Cause helpin' some gay-ass aliens fight other aliens sure ain't gonna rile them up none," Mahihko deadpanned as he picked up Doc's plate along with the others around the table. "I'll clean up in here. I got my stuff ready to roll -- Donut, sweetie, you need to go grab some extra ammo or anythin' for yourself?" He looked up at the soldier as he brushed past him on the way to the sink, letting his tail glide along Donut's thigh. "And just so y'know, same offer stands for you." He winked. "I did sorta volunteer ya."

"Gosh no, Sarge said my job was to protect the base. If some mean, not-cute aliens are gonna show up and try to attack Red Base...or any of my new friends...then that's a good reason to get some action!!"

"Couldn'ta said it no better myself," Mahihko chuckled as he started rinsing the dishes. "You two go on, then. Got no idea if the angry pony got some kinda mystical hourglass that says when his 'bad feeling' gonna come 'round, but guess we should assume sooner rather'n later."

"'d rather spend your time washing dishes?" Doc asked, coming across a bit more incredulously than he intended.

But Mahihko only grinned over a shoulder. "I been in plenty'a fights, Doc. I know what works for me before the shit hits the fan, an' it ain't sittin' around preparin'. I'll be ready to roll."

Donut smiled and nodded a few times, as if the seventy-some hours (and handful of encounters behind closed doors) gave him some great insight into the thief. "Yup, that sounds about right. C'mon, Doc -- I can show you the medical supplies we have here! I think I got most of the crumbs from Grif's snack stash cleaned out of the gauze...maybe there'll be somethings you can add to your own kit, though!"

Doc blinked a few times. "Snack...stash? In the medical...oh geez. Y-yeah, okay. I guess that would be a good idea." He let Donut lead him out of the kitchen, and the medic glanced back one more time at Mahihko. The wolf caught his look and winked back at him before giving a thumbs up and returning to the sink. It wasn't necessarily reassuring...but at least something about the odd creature's unbearably easy demeanor made it a little bit less stressful to think about whatever was coming next.

Doc fidgeted with his armor as he stood by the front entrance to the base. Donut had dug up a partial set from the storage room while grabbing several clips of ammunition for himself. It was only the chest plate and a few random bits for his limbs, though he'd only bothered with the former. He'd been near firefights before, and he found the armor more cumbersome than anything despite the very real possibility of being hit by a stray bullet thanks to the lack of precision that tended to blossom in most Red versus Blue conflicts.

He felt a bit awkward having the additional protection while the horse at his side wore only a battered dress shirt and torn slacks. It felt even worse considering Riffraff was fairly massive even by chupadore standards...and his crimson hide only helped paint him as a larger target. "Don' maybe at least want to take cover behind the wall or on the roof or something?" he asked sheepishly.

Riffraff blinked and then gave a lame smile down to the medic. "Eh. I should be okay. I'm not bulletproof, but I guess you can consider me bullet...resistant."

"That wound I sewed up on your arm seemed real enough," Doc replied quietly, his lower jaw jutting out ever so slightly. "I just think it would be silly for you to get hit, like. As soon as the bullets start flying. Weird...confusing powers or not."

"Fair enough," the horse replied with a soft laugh. "Don't worry, if things get bad enough, we can duck inside easily. But I'm sure Grace and Amdusias will take care of...whatever shows up before it even gets back to us."

His eyes naturally locked onto the pony and the demon, who were stationed near a large rock and lonely tree in the middle of the canyon. Doc frowned and traced the horse's gaze to study Riffraff's companions wordlessly. Riffraff certainly seemed at ease despite the fact that the air felt thick now. The very atmosphere seemed to weigh down on the chupadore's shoulders; he wanted to blame Graceful Melody, point a finger at the fact that all his talk of doom and a fateful battle with some other aliens was simply putting them all on edge and merely making it seem like this was some calm before a non-existent storm.

Doc tried to swallow, a motion suddenly difficult. He almost wished the grabby little wolf was there to make some effortless joke and it was then he realized how truly severe the moment felt. That wasn't exactly the kind of company he normally sought. He grumbled softly under his breath and squinted at the treeline of the box canyon. Mahihko and Donut had pranced off toward the woods together after Graceful's final brief rehash of the 'battle plan'. Doc almost hadn't recognized the other chupadore, considering just how much ammunition he'd managed to strap across his armor and the intense face he'd worn leaving the least right until Mahihko had told him how nice his butt looked even in all that armor, which promptly sent the soldier into a flurry of giggles and effeminate hand-waves.

He couldn't make them out now, however; he guessed that was a good thing if they were supposed to be the surprise force. Yet even the thought of that made him uncomfortable. What were they doing? Not just Donut and Mahihko, but all of them. Why weren't they just leaving if whatever was coming was supposedly so threatening? Was there really no chance they could find someone sympathetic to their situation? Sure, the aliens were...well, aliens. But as eccentric as they each were, none were so different from some of the chupadores Doc had encountered in his travels to be considered all that different. They just didn't look normal. Weird and extreme personalities certainly weren't foreign to Sirca. Doc hardly had to look any further than Donut for proof of that, after all...

He tried to swallow again but the dry air clamped around his throat and his tongue felt too thick for his jaws. "You''re sure you don't come from a world that's engulfed in a constant war?" he croaked, drawing Riffraff's curious eyes. "You all seem so calm."

"Well, actually...the world Grace and I are from did recently experience a war that spread over a good part of the planet, but I wasn't a part of it, personally. Graceful served at the end, after his, um. After his brief time as a police officer." Riffraff shuffled his hooves uncomfortably. "He doesn't talk about it much. I think Amdusias was with him, but.." He shrugged and then looked out to the middle of the canyon again. "I guess I've just gotten used to this tension -- and the action that usually follows -- after spending a couple of years with those two. They've done some amazing but terrifying things..."

Doc frowned quietly but nodded as he gazed out at the duo once more, silently hoping this really was just some paranoid delusion.

"That boy better not panic, odds're shit enough already," Graceful growled as he turned the sub-machine gun over in his grip, checking it for the umpteenth time.

"I am disturbed by the fact I know not which 'boy' you refer to," Amdusias muttered around the reed of his saxophone. The demon leaned against the tree and continued to play softly for a few moments, unfettered by his companion's compulsive behavior. A large machine gun was slung over his shoulder to rest across his back while several drums of ammunition hung from an assortment of straps and bandoliers.

Graceful snorted quietly and rested the barrel of the automatic weapon against his shoulder. "I ain't concerned about Mahihko. Might not be able to keep his mouth shut, but I trust he can handle himself. 'N the fairy flouncin' along with him ain't as weak-kneed as he comes across."

Amdusias's saxophone trailed off and he pulled it from his muzzle with a thoughtful grumble. "Ah, yes. The medic has very likely only seen the worst of combat without any great degree of participation. However, I believe the gambler will ground him."

"Riff does have a way with the lily-livered," Graceful remarked. "Birds of a feather."

The demon smiled despite his admonishing tone. "He possesses far greater strength and bravery than you are willing to admit."

Graceful gave his own wry smile, otherwise responding with silence. His periwinkle eyes betrayed a hint of concern as he glanced back to see Riffraff chatting with the nervous chupadore.

A sharp crackle of energy instantly hardened his features and he turned back to face the Blue base. The sub-machine gun was cradled under one arm as the other hand clutched his heavy pistol loosely. He almost missed the gentle thrum that coursed over his gaunt frame and he smirked up at Amdusias. "Guess I won't complain 'bout a little pick-me-up. Glad to have ya back, Dusey."

The demon looked wistful as he glanced down at his saxophone one more time before watching as it dissipated into motes of amber energy to disappear from reality. "Do not squander it, little one. The local denizens have at least some form of armor -- you have only your ridiculous long coat and your absurd bravado." He reached over a shoulder to haul the machine gun to his front, holding it easily in the crook of one muscular arm despite its size. "Perhaps we would do well to give these visitors a moment to contemplate a negotiation rather than resorting immediately to violence?"

"Nah, I like my way better," Graceful muttered, taking a step forward as the first figure stumbled through the portal, which still seemed unstable and was only wide enough for one body to pass through. The figure wore fatigues and had some sort of soft armor covering its chest. It clutched an assault rifle and wore a helmet upon its head, leaving its odd, smooth features visible to the world. Graceful spent only enough time studying it to confirm it looked like the same species as the others they'd encountered before he raised his handgun and pulled the trigger once.

The resulting crack reverberated through the quiet canyon and all eyes looked to the top of the Blue base to watch the alien soldier stumble backward, blood spraying from its face before it crumpled into a lifeless heap.

"Somethin' tells me they aren't lookin' for a negotiation," Graceful spat out, keeping his weapon leveled at the portal while moving to one side to find a better angle.

"They certainly will not be now," Amdusias remarked while walking forward at an adjacent angle to the pony. "Let us focus on the source of the doorway so we may close it more firmly."

Three more soldiers rushed in afterward, their weapons already drawn but Graceful fired five more shots toward them, each bullet striking home into one of the aliens. Two of them collapsed almost instantly, but the third dropped to its knees with a cry of pain while struggling to shift its weapon toward the pony. "You son-of-a--"

Graceful frowned and yanked the trigger to send the last bullet in the magazine ripping into the intruder's neck. "You got anything yet, Dusey?" he shouted over to the demon, who shook his head and then snarled as the portal began to stretch wider. The demon gripped calmly into the machine gun and with the smallest show of grit teeth, started to unload a barrage of automatic fire at the cluster of soldiers who emerged already blindly firing their own rifles.

Graceful Melody cursed and quickly reloaded his pistol as he joined the demon in mercilessly mowing down the small platoon. "If this is all they got, this ain't gonna be no big deal!" he yelled.

Amdusias snorted before widening his eyes slightly as the doorway continued expanding even further. The rumble of a massive engine was suddenly audible and a moment later, an armored vehicle roared through the gateway and carelessly across the corpses of the fallen soldiers. "Here is your 'big deal'!" Amdusias hissed as he adjusted his aim to pound several short bursts of ammunition into the tires of the large truck. His bullets bounced off, however, and he growled in frustration. "The wheels are protected, little one!"

"No shit!" Grace yelled back, his own pistol once again empty following the stream of rounds he'd poured uselessly into the opposite tire. "Fuckin' material's armored or somethin'!"

The driver of the vehicle paused for a moment as if getting its bearings; the fact it was on the roof of the structure apparently was not an obstacle, however, as it simply accelerated directly toward the edge to drop heavily onto the dusty earth below. Graceful glowered at it, then flicked his eyes back to the portal as several more soldiers came pouring through to quickly move to defensive positions around the roof of the base. "I got the fuckin' truck, get on the portal!" he snarled as he jammed another magazine into his pistol and took two quick shots at one of the aliens that poked its head over a battlement to peer down in his direction.

Amdusias nodded and complied without hesitation, breaking into a brisk jog toward the other side of the circular structure while firing quick bursts from his large weapon whenever one of the attackers took a shot at him.

Graceful holstered his pistol and spun around to face the truck just as a hatch opened atop the vehicle to allow a soldier to pop out and take hold of the mounted artillery. Graceful's eyes widened slightly and he reached into his coat to produce the sub-machine gun while quickly holstering his pistol. He grasped the customized grip at the front and grit his teeth as he fired a barrage at the half-exposed creature.

But it raised the hatch with its free hand just in time, and Graceful's bullets slammed into the armored metal, some embedding into the surface as others glanced off with piercing screams. The pony ground his teeth furiously before cursing under his breath as the soldier swung the mounted gun around toward him and started firing it as the armored vehicle drove in a steady arc back to his position.

He spun around and raced back to the cover of the rock and tree as the bullets tore into the cracked ground behind him, throwing up a spray of dust and debris that at least gave him a tiny bit of additional concealment. He dove behind the boulder and winced as several rounds pounded into the other side before they gave a brief reprieve as the truck's driver slammed on the brakes to reorient itself. Poking his head around one side to watch it, he was distracted by a second engine joining the cacophony of gunfire and squealing tires. He stared up to the portal in time to see a much larger vehicle come tearing into this dimension...a troop transport this time.

"Fuck! Amdusias!"

The demon was crouched behind the ramp to the roof of the Blue base while loading a fresh drum of ammunition into his machine gun. "I see it! I sense a larger force gathering on the other side...but this portal is not purely technological!" He paused to shout angrily as a stray bullet slammed into his shoulder, and the reptile's eyes flashed before he stood up and unleashed a deafening burst of bullets into the remaining soldiers attempting to relocate to new cover on the roof. "Something supernatural is providing it additional power!"

Graceful blinked in surprise, barely registering as the transport drove off the roof to land with a scream of an overburdened suspension in front of the concrete structure. "That ain't good!" he snarled before his attention was jerked back to the firefight when the first truck raced toward his hiding place with the mounted gun spitting several more bullets into the boulder as it strafed around and toward him.

"These fuckers ain't supposed to have no magical connections," Graceful muttered to himself as he quickly slid to the opposite side of the rock. He could hear Amdusias's weapon still snarling from the top of the base but the approaching roar of the armored truck was more pressing than determining what his companion was fighting. The pony grimaced as he crouched low and waited for the growl of the engine to almost be upon his hiding spot before suddenly vaulting over the rock with a wild shout.

He kicked off the surface of the boulder to launch himself onto the hood of the truck and the driver instinctively twisted the wheel to try and shake the pegasus off the vehicle. The motion caused the gunner to swing its weapon wildly to one side and Graceful moved without hesitation to clamber over the windshield and grab the hot barrel of the mounted gun with one hand as the other shoved the tip of his own automatic into the soldier's chest. His eyes were ruthless as he fired a burst at point-blank, and the armor of the creature was no match as its body spasmed wildly before slumping back down into the interior of the vehicle.

Graceful grunted in satisfaction and leaned forward to maneuver his sub-machine gun into the hatch to let free into whoever else was inside, only for the truck to suddenly swerve. He lost his grip this time with a loud curse as he was flung off the windshield to tumble down to the hard-packed ground with a bounce. He yelled in frustration and shoved his fist into the dirt to stop himself from sliding before squaring his hooves and immediately raising the barrel of the automatic to fire the rest of the drum into the side of the armored truck while it turned back toward him. "Come on then, motherfuckers!"

Behind him, he heard the sound of the troop transport screeching to a halt...which he imagined could only mean one thing. He stole a glance over a shoulder just as the back doors were thrown open. "God-fuckin'-dammit, could really use that distraction right about now..."

Graceful's frustration was apparently the catalyst Mahihko and Donut needed, as the sharp, distinctive crack of a magnum pistol echoed from the treeline on the other side of the transport truck. He caught a glimpse of lightish-red armor between two trees before a flash of black and white fur burst out from the underbrush to rapidly zigzag toward the disembarking soldiers. The pony snorted but nodded once before turning his attention back to the smaller vehicle bearing down on him.

He was still formulating some kind of half-assed plan when a wedge of amber energy suddenly materialized in front of him. The driver had no time to react and hit the ramp with one front tire as the left side of the truck lurched into the air, its momentum too much to prevent from continuing forward at full speed. Graceful watched coolly as the vehicle twisted just over his head, airborne for a half-instant before it dropped onto its side and ground to a halt despite the squealing protest of the madly-spinning tires. He glanced back and gave Amdusias a curt nod as the demon returned the gesture and then continued with his assault on the individual soldiers emerging from the portal.

Graceful sprinted forward and hauled himself up and over the side of the truck to drop down directly in front of the hatch. He lowered himself into a crouch and glowered into the upended vehicle. The soldiers inside were all scrabbling at each other in an attempt to escape, too late staring with horror as the pegasus calmly leveled his gun. Their screams were barely audible over the lout chatter of the automatic fire, the dark interior of the truck illuminated with a series of rapid flashes from the gun's barrel. The rumble of the engine was the only sound left when Graceful's weapon finally gave a dry click.

Mahihko grinned despite the unfavorable odds, racing fearlessly toward the alien soldiers with erratic dips and weaves to make hitting his already-compact frame an even greater challenge. Behind him, Donut continued to fire the massive pistol with unexpected ease, several of the powerful rounds slamming home into the armored soldiers to send them toppling backward, even when the impact was non-lethal. It sowed the perfect frenzy for the wolf as he leaped into the fray with a whoop.

He jumped onto the nearest soldier while yanking his own handgun from the holster at the base of his tail, swinging it around and jamming it down into the alien's exposed neck to send a round tearing through its flesh and deep into its chest. The wolf kicked off its body before it could collapse to throw himself at the next target, wrapping an arm around the neck of the shocked soldier to swing himself neatly around to its back while two of its comrades fired in a panic at him. Their bullets drove into their companion as the helpless soldier played Mahihko's shield long enough for the thief to nimbly dash away and toward another alien in the midst of raising its rifle to line up a shot.

Mahihko's body slid to the side just as the soldier released a short burst, and the bullets whispered harmlessly past his arm. The creature attempt to realigned its weapon, but the wolf had already moved inside the range of his assault rifle. A sly grin parted his muzzle as he smoothly grabbed a shoulder plate while sweeping a paw around one of the soldier's legs, using the momentum of the alien to twist it around so that several rounds from its compatriots smashed cruelly into its back. Its eyes were wide with a mix of anger and horror as the armor protected it from the friendly fire...only for it to stare down mutely to find Mahihko's pistol shoved against the bottom of its jaw.

The gun gave a muffled pop and the soldier stumbled backward a few steps before crumpling into a boneless heap. The wolf was nowhere to be seen, and the surrounding aliens realized too late that the only thing he'd left behind was a grenade with a missing pin.

Mahihko flicked his tail smugly as he pranced along the side of the armored transport, the hop in his step only amplified when the ground shook from the explosion at the back end of the vehicle; the impact from the grenade was enough to make the whole truck quiver. He yanked open the passenger door to find the driver leaning out of its window to gawk back at the carnage. The soldier whipped its head around in shock as Mahihko pulled himself up and into the cabin with a wink. "Hey there, buddy! How ya doin'??"

The creature cursed and reached for the pistol holstered at its hip, but Mahihko was already straddling its lap, one hand gripping the soldier's wrist as the other arm shoved up against its windpipe and forced its head to slam against the back of the driver's seat. "Ah ah ah! Le's jus' talk a minute, mmm?" He grinned again as he leaned in close to examine the alien's smooth features, its distinctive lack of a muzzle and the small but prominent nose making the wolf tilt his head in fascination. The much-larger creature struggled, but Mahihko simply locked his knees down on either side of the alien and pushed his forearm into its neck with a bit more force. "Geez, ya ain't a fan of foreplay, are ya?" he purred before he let his glistening fangs show teasingly, removing the arm from the soldier's neck just long enough to draw his own handgun again and place it almost tenderly against its temple. "'Kay, how 'bout just one li'l question for now, eh?"

The soldier's eyes bulged as the warm tip of Mahihko's gun pushed softly into its flesh. The wolf leaned closer still, his nose nearly bumping into the soldier's. "What the hell are y'all called, huh? 'Cause there are way too many 'aliens' 'n this shit is gettin' confusin'."

The soldier blinked stupidly before frowning as if offended by the question. "What are we? We're humans, what the fuck are you?"

Mahihko shrugged amicably. "I'm the last chance yer gonna get to have gay sex with an alien."

There was a pause before the driver made a horrible face. "I'm a girl, asshole!"

"Well how the fuck am I supposed to tell with all this armor?!?" Mahihko whined before making an exaggerated gagging sound and reaching over to quickly open the door. "Enjoy your trip!"

She looked confused for a moment before Mahihko smoothly twisted to the side and shoved both paws against her center of mass to kick her gracelessly from the cab. The soldier tumbled down to the ground with a surprised shout and Mahihko slammed the door shut before quickly glancing over the console before him. Steering wheel, pedals, shifter knob -- it all looked normal enough to him. He reached down to jerk it into reverse and then suddenly ducked when his instincts screamed at him.

Several bullets pounded into the armored door as the soldier he'd kicked out unloaded her sidearm at him. "Yo, hon, I was tryna be nice!" he shouted through the cracked window before wincing as the rest of her magazine slammed into the glass and managed to shatter the reinforced material. "Holy shit, calm yer tits!"

He shoved the truck into gear and then awkwardly stood up to reach the pedal so he could mash the accelerator and whip the truck around in a slow circle. But she leaped onto the running board of the vehicle, grabbing the mirror with one hand as she started to bash away the rest of the destroyed window with the butt of her weapon. "What the fuck they feedin' y'all, raw cocaine'?" he exclaimed, shielding himself from bits of thick glass that rained over him while spinning the wheel around as he lined the truck up with the ramp that led back to the roof of the Blue base.

But before she could reach through to try and grab him, a harsh snarl of automatic fire from behind her send a spray of bullets into her back. The human's eyes widened in shock before they glazed over, her body slumping over the top of the broken window. Mahihko made a face and then peered past the corpse to see Graceful Melody calmly reloading another drum of ammunition into his sub-machine gun. "Yo, you just shot up a lady! That's fucked up!"

"I don't discriminate," Graceful muttered.

"Fair 'nuff," Mahihko replied before wrinkling his muzzle and using his arm to haul the front of the soldier's body up high enough so it fell back down to the ground. He then jammed the gas pedal to the floorboard again and maneuvered the enormous truck onto the roof once more, waving cheerfully at Amdusias before twisting the wheel to whip the transport into place directly in front of the humming portal. And not an instant later, something rammed into it and made the truck rock to one side as the reinforced frame screamed in protest.

Mahihko regarded the portal with a disdainful sniff and then quickly slid back across the cab to hop down from the passenger door while slowly backing away from the blocked gateway. "I ain't normally one to cock-block but fuck, these assholes're playin' for keeps!" he quipped while reloading his pistol. He glanced first over at Amdusias to find the demon approaching, his own heavy assault weapon slung across his back once more. "You good, Duses Wild?"

"Yet another hilarious moniker," the reptile remarked ironically before frowning as something collided with the truck again and sent it screeching a few more inches to the side. "I fear we are not yet out of danger, however. Closing this portal will not be as simple as I originally presumed."

"What a shock," Graceful Melody growled from the ground as he glowered up at the two, then past them to the sparking gateway. It had grown nearly wide enough to accommodate two eighteen wheelers, and was more than tall enough for them, too. "How do we close it?"

"I have not yet ascertained that. Whatever is on the other is rallying their strength, however. This measure is temporary at best." Amdusias gestured to the truck as it was rammed a third time. Graceful climbed onto the roof to reach a hand out and place it against the truck as if sensing something about the portal behind it, his face screwed up into a moody grimace.

Mahihko left the two to their grumbling and jumped back down to the ground to find himself in front of Donut. "Ayyy, my favorite local snack!" Mahihko chirped, making the soldier giggle and flip a wrist sheepishly. "You all good, sweetie? No holes or nothin'?"

"Nope! Just the ones you already know about! Did we get 'em all?"

Mahihko scratched his throat with the barrel of his gun idly. "So far. 'Cept sounds like there's a boatload more behind that truck."

"Would this help?" From behind his back, Donut produced what looked like a rocket launcher with a beaming smile. "One of those weird aliens dropped it!"

The grin that spread over Mahihko's face probably qualified as 'unstable'. "Oh hell yeah it will! D'ya mind?" he cooed while holstering his pistol and offering both his hands.

"You seem like you're great at handling oversized things, it's all yours!" the chupadore replied brightly, placing it into the wolf's hands as Mahihko cackled.

"Aw, yer a gat-damn peach!" He slapped Donut's rump firmly, which had little effect thanks to his armor...but the sound was worth it, at least. He spun around to face Graceful and Amdusias while examining the launcher. "Yo, old guys! Er...guys-from-olden-times!"

Amdusias was the first to look back down from the roof with a disapproving scowl. "What is it, now, cricket? We are...oh, burning pits, where did you acquire that?!"

Graceful glanced up as well before smirking in amusement. "Little fruit-basket nicked himself a knock-knock." He grunted and tapped Amdusias's arm as the truck slid backward another six or seven inches. "Pull back. If this don't shake the gateway, we'll improvise."

The demon muttered something in his supernatural tongue but nodded and joined Graceful in hopping down from the roof. The two regrouped with Donut and Mahihko, the quartet retreating from the base while all eyes remained on the transport that continued to be rocked to the side as the distinctive growl of another engine became audible from behind it.

They moved back to the lonely tree and boulder, and Mahihko easily hopped up to perch on the rock while licking his lips and bringing the tube up to rest on his shoulder. It had a crude but effective sight and he took his time lining up the center of the transport while stabilizing himself and steadying the large weapon. He waited for the next impact, which hit with enough force that the front end of the truck was forced back by a few feet. And as soon as he saw the sun glinting off the hood of the encroaching vehicle, he slipped his finger into the simplistic trigger mechanism and pulled it in a way best described as 'lovingly'.

The rocket-propelled grenade exploded from the launcher with a hollow thump and the four watched as the projectile soared toward the portal, leaving behind an off-white trail of smoke. With a satisfying crunch, it impacted the side of the truck before exploding an instant later with a shockwave that nearly knocked Mahihko backward despite the distance. The scream of metal was interwoven with multiple smaller explosions as one fuel tank went off, followed by the second one of the truck still only partially-emerged from the gateway.

Mahihko winced but grinned again, slowly lowering the smoking launcher to admire his handiwork. Bits of armored frame were still raining down and it was impossible to tell what belonged to which truck...what mattered more was the fact that the gateway was flickering now as it started to shrink and collapse on itself.

The wolf laughed victoriously, pumping the used launcher into the air as Donut whooped and hopped up and down excitedly next to the boulder. "You did it! Look at that hole clench!!"

But Graceful wasn't celebrating yet as he felt more than heard a low hum. The hairs on his neck slowly stood on end and his muzzle curled into a dark snarl. "That definitely ain't good," he whispered, not having to look at Amdusias to feel the demon tensing up beside him.

And just before the portal shrunk down to the size of a single soldier again, it stopped. Mahihko and Donut fell silent, watching with confusion as they saw the edges contort strangely, like something was gripping into the ethereal doorway and pulling it steadily to one side.

Graceful's eyes widened as he and Amdusias observed what the others could not. The long, scaled fingers. The jet-black claws, each the size of a man, each ending in a wicked, honed point. The digits continued to tear the portal wider despite the inferno of scorched fuel and black smoke, immune to the heat they could feel even from their distance. As the gateway was forced apart, a powerful malevolence swept into the canyon and Graceful grit his teeth as a glowing green light became visible through the portal.

Mahihko let the launcher hang down loosely at his side, frowning at the odd distortion of the portal before noticing the look on Graceful's face. "What? What is it?"

The pony was silent as he watched the viridian gleam materialize into a single massive eye, reptilian in nature. It flicked from side-to-side for a moment, then instantly locked onto the pegasus halfway across the canyon, the slit pupil narrowing dangerously. "Everyone get back," Graceful ordered hoarsely, his voice hardly above a whisper. "Get back now..."

Mahihko blinked in shock, sliding down from the boulder as Donut took a few nervous steps backward. "What? Hey, I ain't seein' there somethin' there?"

Even Amdusias couldn't hide his nervous expression as he held out an arm blindly to push Mahihko back toward the other end of the canyon. "Do as the little one says."

Graceful Melody tightened his grip around his gun as Mahihko and Donut began to warily retreat with their eyes still locked onto the distended portal. Amdusias silently shifted his oversized machine gun back to his front while the pony at his side finally broke his gaze from whatever he was staring at to look at Mahihko when the wolf inquired again: "Seriously...why're we retreatin'?"

Graceful continued to hold his weapon in one hand while rifling through his coat for the hand-rolled cigarettes to jam one into his muzzle, growling around it: "Because they brought a Wyrm."

Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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