I could barely make out the noise of Davos shouting over the hail of gunfire tearing through the shelf over my head. Another pile of books cascaded down from above, their covers and pages torn apart by the constant stream of bullets. One particularly heavy volume―a text on advanced integral calculus, I noted with dry amusement― thumped down at my side, eliciting a small yelp from Sonata. I gritted my teeth as the wood next to my right ear splintered, lacing my neck with shrapnel, and turned to face her. The pretty pink mare was on her side, quivering in the fetal position with her long, dark mane pulled over her eyes.
“Sonny!” I shouted, shaking her with a hoof. She turned her head, fixing me with purple eyes that had gone as wide as saucers. I snapped one of my revolvers out of its hoof brace and slid it towards her on the floor. She eyed it like it was an alien. “Take this!” I screamed. “Anypony rounds that corner,” I pointed at the end of the aisle we were hiding in, “you put one between his eyes.”
I didn’t think it was possible for her eyes to go any wider. “Are you serious?” she gasped. “I’m a pianist. I play with the Fillydelphia Philharmonic. I’ve never shot someone before!”
I grasped her by the shoulders, shaking her lightly and wincing as another bullet grazed the top of my mane. “No time like the present!” I shouted, trying to keep my voice steady. I kicked the gun closer to her. “Besides, it’s easy. Just hold it between your teeth, point, and shoot!”
“Roulette! Get over here!”
I could hear Davos shouting again, could just see his silvery mane bouncing around from behind another bookshelf on the other side of the library’s second floor. I turned back to Sonata. “Now stay here and keep your head down!”
She looked up at me in horror, the gun still at her hooves. “What? Don’t leave me here!”
“Just stay down!” I roared. Before she could protest, I spun around and slid towards the end of the aisle, staying low with my back pressed firmly against the long bookshelf. I checked the load on my other revolver as I hit the end. Four bullets left. This was not going to be fun.
All at once, the gunfire stopped. I could see Davos frantically waving at me from across the small bridge that arched over the ground floor. The dark blue stallion didn’t seemed fazed in the least by the entire ordeal.
“Watch your fire, you idiots!” A rumbling baritone called from below. I peeked my head out from behind the shelf, just barely. There were more than half a dozen of them on the ground floor: unicorn soldiers in sleek, armored body suits that masked their faces. Fully-automatic weapons floated at their sides. The Magus Circle certainly didn’t skimp when it came to arming their assassins.
“We need the wizard alive. Kill the merc stallion and the girl,” the voice continued. It was coming from a larger, more imposing figure behind the others―obviously a commander of sorts. Good to know Sonny and I were expendable.
I took my chances and ran while they were distracted, my hooves pounding on the hardwood floor as I galloped full-tilt across the bridge. I dove the last few feet, gasping as the gunfire resumed. It tore apart the railing and cut through the bottom of the bridge like it was made of cloth. I rolled as my shoulder struck the ground, the force of the dive carrying me behind another bookshelf and bringing me to a stop right at Davos’ hooves.
“Ah, Roulette, you made it!” Davos shouted. I promptly leapt to my hooves and punched him across the face.
“I asked for an armory, jackass!” I screamed. It was true, I had. But instead of an armory, I had gotten a library. A massive, multi-tiered library with plenty of cover and hiding spots, yes, but still just a library. No racks of rifles, pistols, or shotguns. No boxes of grenades. Just row upon row of useless, boring books.
Davos reeled from the blow, shaking his head and turning to face me again. He was smiling. “Alright, perhaps I deserved that,” he said, grinning. “But this is an armory!” He spun around, gesturing to the books around us with a flourish that would make any stagepony jealous. “For any practitioner of the arcane arts, a library such as this is the greatest armory of them all!”
I grasped his throat between my forehooves. “Sonny and I. Are not. Unicorns. You dumbass,” I spat. “I need guns. I need ammo!” I could hear the soldiers moving now, their hooves thundering as they crossed the ground floor leading toward the stairs. They would be in our faces in no time.
“But I don’t,” Davos said, beaming with delight. “And I’ve found it!” He levitated a book toward me. It was a large, cloth-bound volume with an ornate cover. “It was under ‘D’ this whole time,” Davos continued, “Destructive Spells and Enchantments: Expert’s Edition!”
If I couldn’t get bullet’s, I’d take whatever I could. “Then let’s move!” I shouted, spinning around and pulling Davos behind me.
“It should be in here somewhere,” Davos stammered, flipping the book open and pouring over the pages with aplomb. “Oh, and you and Sonny are going to want to be close when I do this, so we probably shouldn’t leave her over there,” he said, smiling hesitantly. Oh for heaven’s sake.
“Gallop and read at the same time, then!” I shouted. I dashed out into the open once more with Davos at my heels. By the grace of the Goddesses I somehow had one grenade left on my belt. I reached down, pinching off its stem with my teeth and letting it fly just as the first of the MC agents crested the top of the staircase. It bounced and skittered across the wood, popping up into the air just in front of his face. If I could have seen his eyes, I imagine they would have been very, very wide.
The explosion was blinding, ripping apart the staircase and sending the soldier’s armored corpse tumbling back down into his comrades. They would have to take the second staircase now—the one at the other end of the bridge.
Any triumphant thoughts I may have been entertaining were rudely interrupted as the other soldiers opened fire again. A stray bullet tore into my left shoulder just as I reached the other side of the second floor. I roared, clenching my teeth in agony as the impact tripped me up. I hit the ground hard, thankfully landing in the aisle where I had been hiding before. Sonny was there, still huddled close to the floor, but this time with my other revolver held firmly between her forehooves. Seeing as how she didn’t have any braces to hoof-fire it like I did, she was doing it completely wrong. But hey, it was a start.
Davos sprinted past me, dragging me the last few feet with his magic while still maintaining a hold on the textbook. I struggled back to my hooves, trying to ignore the pain. The crimson of my coat did a good job of masking the blood, but I’d be damned if it didn’t still hurt like hell. Another thundering of hooves made it evident that the MC troopers were now ascending the second flight of stairs. Given their armor, they would have to funnel into the aisle one by one. Not much of a comfort, but it was something.
“Davos!” I turned to the unicorn at my side, his ridiculous, star-studded cape still unscathed and draped over his shoulders. “Do it!”
Davos nodded, puffing out his chest and dropping the book to the floor in front of him. A series of unintelligible runes were scrawled across the page he had chosen. Whatever he was about to do, I could only hope that it would work.
“Now,” Davos said, “Get behind me! And when I give you the signal, grab Sonny and hold on to my flank!”
“What?” I shouted, an incredulous look crossing my face. There was no time to argue. I spun around just as an assault rifle peeked around the corner of the aisle and let loose a spray of bullets over our heads. I took it out of the air with two, well-placed revolver rounds.
“Davos!” I shouted again, panic rising in my chest. “Do it now!”
Davos’ horn was enveloped by a brilliant aura, innumerable motes of light suddenly apparating around it and gathering at its tip. The ground at his hooves crackled and seethed with energy.
“It’s ready!” Davos yelled. “Grab! My! Flank!”
Putting aside any notions of just how stupid that sounded, I dove behind him, wrapped one hoof around Sonny, and slapped Davo’s flank as hard as I could. Hoof met behind, and just as the first of the MC soldiers rounded the corner, the world exploded.
*** *** ***
The library was in ruins, blackened and burned. The arcane energy from Davos’ spell had consumed its interior like an inferno. I staggered around on the ground floor, stepping over the scorched bones of one of the Magus Circle assassins, ignoring the ever-present pain from the bullet still lodged in my shoulder. The flank grab had saved Sonny and I. Making contact with the caster was apparently the only way not to end up a smoking corpse.
Sonny stood a few feet away, her mouth agape. “Davos,” she muttered, “how did you-”
“I told you I was a wizard of some repute!” he said, throwing us a smug grin. “If only Grandma Lulamoon could see me today. She’d be so proud!”
“This her?” I cautiously brushed aside a pile of ashes to reveal a half-scorched picture frame lying on the floor. The magical blast had left it intact enough for me to make out the image of a light-blue mare with a silvery mane. Her cutie mark was a crescent moon crossed with a star-topped wand. With a wizard’s hat upon her head, a purple cape on her back, and a familiar, smug look on her face, the familial resemblance to Davos was uncanny.
“Indeed!” Davos shouted, raising the picture to eye level. “She was a great mare, she was. Strange propensity to refer to herself in the third-person, but her skill with magic was brilliant. Taught me everything I know!”
I chuckled and turned away, my eyes scanning for another exit. “I’m sure. Now come on. We need to get moving again. They’re not gonna let us rest for long.”
Norse Pony’s comments: I like your writing style. You handle action well, and the science fiction vibe is right up my alley. You’re stretching a little on the “standalone stories” rule, but that’s new as of today, so no harm done. :D However, you’re pretty clearly running over the time limit by quite a lot, so consider this a wrist slap.