Slipping Through A Sideways Door

by hornethead

Chapter 38: Climb And Descent

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Chapter 38: Climb And Descent

James grasped the next hand hold and pulled himself up. On all sides, the wind was buffeting him, threatening to throw him from the rock face. On his back, the ammo bag and few weapons he had brought bounced as he kicked off the foot hold below him and launched up to another hand hold, just barely hooking on to it.

He was about half-way up now, the airship docks in the cliffs under the Palace close at hand. That was his current goal, making the long climb up to the one place in Canterlot they wouldn't expect an attack from. He had his old personal radio, if he was lucky, he'd be able to make some kind of contact with friendlies once he made it inside. He would need all the help he could get from the forces still in the city to get into the Palace with minimal resistance.

Of course, he had to make it to the docks first. Even with his newfound strength, already his arms ached and his legs burned. The rests he took to take in his surroundings and check he progress only served to remind him of how far of a drop it was if he made a mistake, or his arms gave out. Despite his durability and quick healing wounds, he doubted he would survive that last plunge.

Pushing such thoughts from his mind, James carried on, hand and foot, careful to maintain three points of contact when he could help it. A few more times, he had to brace as the wind picked up, clawing at his body and flinging detritus into his face. Still, he would not allow the shaking of his limbs and the grit in his eyes to dissuade him and pushed on.

Thirty minutes later, he was nearing the docks. Just a scant few meters below the southern most pier, he paused and listened. He couldn't hear much of anything over the wind, but he did detect the faint sweep of a light around the top of the pier. It was what he expected, even if they didn't see anyone trying to get in this route, they would still post sentries. Fortunately, they didn't post enough.

From what he could see, James counted one, maybe two, per pier and probably more along the docks. No matter, he would do what he had to. With a subdued grunt, he hefted himself up and made for a stack of crates lined up by the edge of the dock. Making sure he was covered, he pulled himself up, swinging a leg onto the ledge and rolled onto the cold, hard stone. He lay there for a moment and caught his breath, allowing his limbs to rest.

When he was ready, James got up quietly and peeked around the corner of the crates. He saw very few ponies milling around, mostly Lotkin, only a couple of those were of the weird human-like ones he encountered in Ponyville, but they were a far ways off. From the pier, one of the Lotkin sentries began making another round, angling towards his position.

James waited until he was closer, coming nearer by the step. When the warrior was within a couple yards, he stopped and looked around. Bending down, James placed his bag and weapons at the base of the crate stack he was hiding behind, picking up a loose piece of wood as he stood back up. Then slowly unsheathing his knife, he tossed the wood and let it clatter against the stone deck.

Almost immediately, he got the desired effect. He heard the stomp of heavy boots coming his way, the light playing all around in search of the source of the noise.when the Lotkin reached the corner of the crate, James reached around and grabbed him by the front of his armor, shoving his knife into the soft flesh of his neck. The Lotkin gurgled past the blood streaming out of his mouth, but not for long. James ripped the flashlight from his grip and, extracting his own knife, kicked the unfortunate sentry over the lip of the deck, sending him plummeting below.

James quickly shut off the light and listened. There didn't seem to be any notice of his actions. Shoving the light into his pocket, James swapped his knife for his sidearm and slung his bag and weapons over his shoulder. Then, taking another look to ensure there was nobody around to catch him, he crept from cover and towards a small utility shack set into the side of the mountain. Quietly ducking inside and shutting the door, James put his gear down and extracted his radio.

It took him a few tries, fiddling with the frequency, but eventually he found a channel with voices on it. With caution, he listened to it for a bit before trying anything, figuring out what they were saying. From what he could gather, he'd stumbled onto the channel the RSTG forces in the city were using. He was about to make a call when a familiar and unexpected voice popped on.

"This is Lieutenant Commander Flash, attention to all callsigns, there is a platoon's worth of Limas heading for the south gate, I need bodies to head them of. We've almost taken it."

"Lieutenant Almen here with the Sky Darts, I have a few Royal Guards here with me, we're free."

"Thanks Lieutenant, give 'em your worst."

James hadn't heard Flash's voice in years. He missed his old friend, one of the best he had in Equestria. In this instance, he couldn't hold his tongue and pressed the transmit button, "Glad to see you've gotten it all under control here."

"Who was that?" Flash's voice demanded. "Sergeant Drumm, is that you?"

"No, this is someone else." James responded.

"If you're civilian," Flash's voice took on a warning tone, "I advise you to get off this channel now, I'm trying to run an operation here!"

"I'm not civilian and I'm here to help. I just infil-ed the docks and I need an opening to get to my objective."

There was a pause. Then, "You sound familiar, identify yourself."

"Let's just say I'm a friend of Jackson's."

"Jackson? Chief Jackson, he's here, mounting an assault?"

"Not quite." James said. "Listen Flash, I'm trying to get into the Palace. If I can take down the big boss, we can push the Renegades in the city into fighting on two fronts, eventually that will wipe 'em out for sure."

"And what do you need me to do?" Flash questioned.

"Simple, I just need you guys to be the rabbit."

The line went silent for a minute while Flash considered James' plan. Then after a few long minutes, "Be ready to move in ten minutes."


"Should be around here!" Aria shouted back from the cockpit to the five occupants in her airship's cabin. "I see a wide enough ledge, I'm setting her down."

In the back, Twilight got up and went to the open side door to watch their descent onto the high mountain crag. With her were Applejack and Rainbow Dash, as well as Sylver and Sumner who insisted on coming along. After hours of going over maps and going over information Aria and Sylver had compiled from various patrols, they might have found a way in.

Long ago, there had been many mine shafts weaving through the old mountain top like a den of worms from the days it was used to pull vast reserves of diamonds, rubies and other precious gems from its bones. They knew that at least some of the shafts had to empty into Canterlot. If they were lucky, they'd find one that led to the Palace. Of course, if they did find one, it was sure to be blocked, but Twilight was confident in her magical abilities to break through.

As the ship came down, Sylver and Sumner insisted on taking position in the side door, just in case they weren't the only ones to think of this and they had a party of Hostiles waiting. Fortunately, as the craft settled down and the two of them hopped out and swept the area, their fears appeared to be unjustified. Returning to the ship, Sylver informed the three mares that it was safe to disembark and sent them over to Sumner. Then he hopped inside to gather some equipment.

"Aria," he said, calling up to the cockpit, "I'm leaving Big Ben with you, so don't let anything bad happen to her, ok?" He lovingly patted the old M82 in its rack with a hoof.

"You got it, Sylver. Happy hunting and keep those girls safe."

"Count on it."

"Oh, and Sylver? Do me a favor."

"Anything." He told her.

"Keep an eye out for Sparks in there. I need to know if he's ok..."

"You'll be the first to know." Sylver promised. Then gathering up a smaller carbine with a few pouches of extra ammo, he hopped out onto the rocky ledge. He started to go when Aria leaned out one of the cockpit windows and banged on the side of the ship to get his attention.

"And when you see James, tell him he owes me a beer and an explanation!" She shouted at him.

"Roger that!"

With that, Sylver trotted over to his group as Aria powered up and away into the cold night sky. When Sylver reached his partner and the three mares they were escorting, he could see that Sumner was already handing out equipment. "But I can just light our way with a spell!" Twilight protested as she received a pair of clunky looking goggles.

"Too dangerous." Sylver said as he joined them. "We want to keep as low a profile as possible, so NODs it is. Sumner will show you how to use them."

"If you say so..."

"Also, there's this." Sylver opened a flap in his pack with his magic and levitated a small pistol out to her. "This is chambered for the 9mm, so you shouldn't have much problems with recoil. The safety is here—"

"No thanks." Twilight refused. "If it comes to that, my magic is more than enough."

Sylver shrugged, "Suit yourself," and placed the weapon back in his pack.

It was then that Rainbow Dash approached him, "I want a knife."

Sylver regarded her for a moment. The look on her face was one of sheer determination. "Are you sure?" He said. "A gun is one thing, but trust me when I say that fighting with knives is way more personal. And a lot messier."

"I don't care. I've trained enough with you guys to know how to use one and I'm not letting anything stop me from seeing him. Ask Sumner, I'm ready." She said defiantly.

"Ok, but don't say I didn't warn you." Opening a pouch in his bag again, he lifted out a small eight inch combat knife and floated it over to her. She snatched it out of the air and pulled it out the sheath a little to inspect it, then put it back and slung it over her shoulder by its lanyard, satisfied.

Sylver then looked to Applejack, but she just shook her head and backed away, "Ah'm good. A kick from ma self is good enough ta knock out most critters and Ah don't fancy killin' much."

"I don't blame you. Ok, let's go. Sumner, you're on point. Miss Twilight, if you could please lead the way."

"O-ok." The unicorn mare said as she stepped tentatively forward after the pegasus that had gone to scout ahead.

The ledge they were on wound a ways around the north side of the mountain. They followed its path through the biting cold wind, looking for any evidence of an old shaft or a cave. It took some searching, but finally they came to a small crevice in the rocks, a narrow passage that was more a crack in the side of the mountain than anything else.

Still, it was the only prospect they'd found by far, so they squeezed through. Inside, they found themselves in a tight passage, all rough rock and loose dirt. They followed it a ways, the vein of the earth glowing green in their eyes through their optics. Then suddenly, Sumner cursed as he disappeared, abruptly dropping through a hole in the ground.

The others rushed forward, careful around the edge of the hole, lest they follow him through. Sylver pushed the three mares from the edge, making them press up against the rough sides of the walls and aimed the muzzle of his weapon down into the hole. "Sumner, you alright?" He shouted down into the hole as even with his NODs, beyond it was nothing but darkness.

After a tense moment, he could hear some faint coughing and then the rustle and scrape of someone pulling himself to his hooves. "Yeah, I'm good down here. Found the shaft!" He coughed through the dust. "I think its what we're looking for, angles down west."

"Ok," Sylver said down into the hole. "I'm gonna start sending the girls down, keep an eye out."

"Got it! Oh, hey, be careful, it's a pretty long drop!"

Sylver took a bundle of rope from his pack and tied it off to a promising looking stalagmite, giving it a few tugs for good measure. He handed the rope first to Applejack and had her tie it around her waist, gently lowering her down when she was secure. When she reached the bottom, she un-tied herself and gave the rope a tug, letting Sylver reel it back up.

Next he offered it to Rainbow Dash. "Nope, I'm good." She said and darted into the hole with a flap of her wings. He then turned to Twilight, who suddenly disappeared in a flash of light, momentarily blinding him.

Sylver cursed and removed his goggles and rubbed his eyes, trying to get the spots to fade. From to hole he heard Twilight call out, "Waiting on you!"

"Ha ha, very funny!" Sylver replied sarcastically as he ran the rope through his harness.

One quick repel down the line later, they were all assembled in the passageway below. The ceiling was high in the old mine shaft, the air cool and musty. Evidence of excavation was everywhere, even some old picks and shovels left to rot in the innards of the mountain.

Twilight walked around, examining the walls of the shaft like it was an old and dear history book. "Originally, Canterlot was founded as a mining town up on the side of the mountain. But once its vast reserves of gems and diamonds was found, the capitol in what was then a young Equestria was moved here."

Sumner wasn't so impressed with her history lesson. "Fascinating, but we really should be getting a move on."

"I only mention it because some of the shafts that were dug started out around the area the Palace now sits. If we're lucky, this particular one could lead us right to it."

"Well, there's only one way to find out." Sylver interjected. "Sumner, up front with me. The rest of you stay close and stay quiet. I don't know if the Renegades know about this place, but if I tell you to run, you run. Take the rope up behind you and call Aria for a pick up, you understand?" The three mares behind him nodded. "Good. Let's go."

Next Chapter: Confliction Estimated time remaining: 3 Hours, 49 Minutes
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