20 September 2017. 09:00 hours.
While The squadron was waiting for Tex to come in and Moonstone's feed to start, they chatted about their favorite game "Pony Fortress 2".
"You ponies play video games?" Maverick asked.
"Oh yeah. You're never too old for those!' replied Angel.
"Yeah, you should try it Maverick. It's a free download", Ice added. "Though you better hope Sunfire doesn't get placed on the opposing team. She's the top rated sniper on the server we play on."
"Maybe one of these days", he replied.
"Jeez what does it take to make you loosen up?" Angel asked.
"OK pilots cut the chatter, it's meeting time."
"Oh terrific, we've got another Carrot Top, snapped Angel."
Tex just ignored her and started the feed. Soon she was on.
"OK Moonstone. Whadya' all have for us today?"
"A bit of retaliation for the Empire interrupting our operation against Discord's army."
"Awesome", replied Sunfire.
"We are going to level one of the Empire's largest army bases. You, and Venom squadron will be escorting 5, C-130's that will be carrying Daisy Cutters. This base is located 24 miles Southeast of Neighagra Falls, in between Canterlot and Trottingham. Our goal is to completely destroy the base. It will deal a major blow to their army."
"Oh yeah!. That many Daisy Cutters will level that base in ten seconds flat!" exclaimed Angel.
"It is vital the transports are safe, so you will go in first and sanitize the area of fighters, then escort them to the target and back."
"Understood", replied Maverick.
"OK, that's all I've got. Good luck."
"Alright, are you ready to go guys?" Tex asked.
"Yeah!" replied Glory as the group started to leave.
"Let's do it!"
"Now it's coward keeling time!"
"Last one alive lock the hangar door!"
Northwest of Hollow Shades, NLR Equestria
The group met up with Venom squadron near the border. Soon Carrot Top was on with an update.
"Sentry 2 to all fighters: The transports are now in a holding pattern near Hollow Shades, and we're picking up 10 fighters in the area of the base.
"That's it?" a puzzled Ice asked. "Considering the importance of the base and being near 2 airbases, plus the capitol of the Solar Empire, I'd think they would have more up."
"I'm just telling you what we see. There may be more out of range."
"I guess we'll find out", replied Maverick. "Venom one is your squadron ready?"
"Yes we are", he replied.
"Let's go then. All planes engage!" And they dumped their drop tanks and sped off.
The Empire planes soon picked them up.
"All planes this is Fury one. 6 bandits 17 miles out. Let's get them." And the dogfight was on.
Both sides fired missiles at each other in a head on encounter, though none hit. Soon the planes were identified.
"Damn, Flankers like ours. This will be easy", replied replied a member of Venom squadron.
Maverick did a reverse dive and got on the tail of one. The bandit's wingpony tried to get a lock on him, but soon Glory was on his tail and he had to break off. Both were shot down.
"I've got two on me", yelled Sunfire as she evaded some cannon fire.
"I'm on them. Follow me Dahlia", replied Angel. And the two reversed their turn and dropped in behind the Empire planes.
"Fury 3 break!", the other pilot yelled. Though they split up, neither could get away from them. Angel got Fury 3, and before Dahlia could get the other one another bandit dropped behind them.
"Behind us! Dahlia yelled, and they broke off. Venom 1 got the Flanker Dahlia was chasing.
In Canterlot, Celestia received word of the fight.
"Your highness, we have an air battle going on Northeast of here."
"Is it just an incursion or is there something else to it?" she asked.
"There are 12 fighters, and we're picking up 5 larger aircraft just flying across the border. It's possible they're bombers, and their target might be the Neighagra Army base."
Celestia seemed to be fairly calm about it. "Are these fighters in range of the sword yet?"
"Yes they are. We've lost 4 planes to them so far."
"If we get down to 3 planes have them retreat, and we will introduce those Republic pests to it."
"Yes your highness."
Back at the battle, 2 more Empire planes had been shot down by Venom squadron, and Sunfire took out Fury one.
"We've lost the commander! What do we do?" one Empire pilot asked their controller franticly.
"All planes retreat. Head West to Canterlot. We're firing up Excalibur."
"Oh ok. You heard him. Let's get out of here pilots."
"They're running away!" Glory announced.
"That's it. Run cowarrrrrds!", yelled Angel.
Maverick managed to get one last missile off and took out one of the bandits as they left.
"Sentry 2 to Ironpony squadron. The airspace is sanitized. Head for the base."
"Roger we're coming", replied the lead transport. 10 minutes later they were in formation with Lunar on the left, and Venom on the right.
"I can't wait to see this. That base is going to get vaporized", exclaimed Sunfire.
"It's going to be a boring flight until then", replied Angel.
"Hey what's that light to the Northwest?" Glory pointed out. No sooner than she said that a huge laser beam shot through the middle of the formation, destroying 3 of the transports instantly.
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!?" Ice yelled.
"Sentry 2 what's going on?" shouted Maverick.
"All planes, the enemy appears to be attacking with a long range laser. It came from somewhere North of Canterlot."
"Let's get the hell out of here!, Venom 1 yelled. All of the planes began turning in opposite directions to retreat. The laser fired again, striking two more planes.
"Venom 2 and 3 are down!"
"Split up and gun it everypony!" yelled Maverick.
"All planes, we are sending data to your computers that will give you a few seconds of warning before it strikes again. Stay out of the red when it appears on your screen."
"Roger Sentry", replied Maverick. "Venom one tell...." a red band appeared on his radar.
The laser fired again, striking the last two transports and Venom 6.
"Dammit we lost 3 more!" yelled Glory.
"All planes. Head for the mountain range 8 miles to the South. If you can drop behind them you'll be safe."
"You heard her. Dump your fuel into the afterburners and head for them."
The laser fired again, narrowly missing Glory who banked hard to the left in front of Venom 1. He had to turn to avoid her and flew straight into the laser. It cut his right wing completely off.
"I'm hit! I'm ejecting!"
"Dammit Celestia you piece of crap!" cussed Angel.
"Our squadron leader is gone! What do we do?"
"Keep flying!" replied Maverick.
All of the planes continued to change course to avoid the laser, but soon Venom squadron was down to one plane. The inexperienced pilots, plus the Flanker's lower mobility made it harder to evade it.
"3 miles. Keep digging!", said Carrot Top.
"We're gonna make it!" yelled Dahlia.
The laser fired again, hitting a mountain ahead and blowing rocks and dirt everywhere.
"Come on. One more mile..." Ice said to himself.
"All planes climb up over them and dive!" yelled Maverick. Just as they climbed up, the laser fired again and clipped the last Venom plane.
"Eject!", Glory yelled. The plane hit the mountain before the pilot could.
"Venom squadron has been wiped out!", shouted Maverick.
Carrot Top sighed. "Roger Lunar one. Keep below the mountain line. You'll be completely out of range in 6 more miles."
"Roger Sentry." .
"When the hell did the empire get that weapon? And why didn't we know about it until now?" Sunfire asked angrily.
"I don't know, but now we know why Discord hasn't been able to get anywhere near Canterlot", Maverick replied.
"So why didn't our spy satellite catch them firing it at them?" Asked Glory.
"I'm pretty sure they know exactly when it or our recon aircraft are over them."
"I hope most of those pilots bailed out." Dahlia said weakly.
"We'll find out when we get home", replied Ice.
Maverick and the others were sitting in the lounge, thinking about how many ponies they had just saw die.
"You seem to be pretty calm about it", Sunfire said to Maverick.
"It's not the first time I've seen it", he replied.
"When did you see it?"
"During the short war the Crystal Empire had with the Griffin Empire a year before Discord took over. Including in my own wing. It's just something you have to put behind you until the war is over."
Then Tex walked into the lounge.
"Just got off the phone with Moonstone. You're going to be taking part in the mission to destroy this weapon."
"Let's go!" replied Angel enthusiastically.
"Calm down Tiger. It won't be for another day. They want to get as much info about it as they can first."
"Any word on recovered pilots?", inquired Maverick.
"They found 3. And that's it so far."
"I'm gonna be sick", replied Ice.
"Don't think about it too much" replied Tex. "Use this day off to rest up, get yourselves ready for this mission. I'll let you know if they find anymore pilots."
"We'll try", said Angel.