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The Marksmare

        Brown. She hated brown. It was the only color that seemed to stick anymore. Her coat, the coats of her comrades, the machines and tools of their trade, all smeared and saturated in brown. At least with such a monochromatic world, everything matched. It made her wonder what hair-brained foal came up with the color scheme on her cloak.

        Her attire more or less matched the scene. She was wearing a khaki scout cap, perched firmly upon her head to prevent falling off. Various small gear was strapped around her torso, including ammunition and a backup blade, as well as survival gear for long periods of being stationary. Her back was draped in a camocloak, consisting of a repeating brown and green pattern. Slung alongside the cloak was her rifle, the very instrument of her  occupation. It had been over a year since she became a marksmare.

        The rain cratered the mud lining the top of the overhang, dripping down into the crevice where the two slabs of earth met. A metallic sewer line, long since made useless by the conflict, jetted out of the muddy wall and gushed with rainwater that managed to leak through the ground into the fractured pipe, adding to the already tremendous torrent of muddy water running through the bottom. The marksmare made her way along side the overhang, making sure not to poke her head up too high over the parapet. She was alone out here, as far as she knew, although the marksmare was certain that she was closer to the enemy lines. Peering around the edge where the ground and the shattered overhang met, she galloped  across the scorched earth into a crater where an abandoned, decrepit landship lay sunk partially into the mud. As with the rest of the world, it was painted brown.

        The landship had a rhomboid shape, with two long, steel track links straddling the superstructure. It was flanked on each sides by sponsons, mysteriously missing the small caliber guns they usually carried. A hatch was open on the bottom of one sponson, and the marksmare wiggled her way through the opening, thrusting her rifle up first so that she could fit through more easily. Grabbing her rifle once more, the marksmare used the central engine mountings as a climbing surface to make her way to the upper sponson, which peered across the reaches of the horizon towards the enemy line.

        Steadying her rifle upon the empty gun mount, she glimpsed through her optics and scanned the horizon. The remains of an ancient cobblestone road was just barely visible underneath the vast amount of mud and debris. Lining the area the street presumably ran were shattered remnants of places that were one familiar to her, although she was completely positive she had never been to this edge of Equestria before. A burnt out, hollowed tree which appeared to once have been a house. The low lying remains of a fortress wall, at the end of which stood a collapsed stone keep, nothing more than a slightly bigger pile of rubble. The twisted skeletons of vendor carts, carriages, and park benches were strewn haphazardly in seemingly meaningless places. Once a sleepy little village, no more imposing than the gatehouse which controlled it's traffic, where the little fillies and young lovers played and laughed in the summer sun, reduced to a smouldering pile of masonry and iron.

        She was just a filly herself. Older than one might reckon, exemplified by the fact that the tides of war had held back her cutie mark's formation to this day.

        Nothing here. The marksmare sighs and climbs down from the upper sponson, sliding from the rainslick interior into the ever-consuming mud. Crawling prone to the edge of the crater, she begins to work her way towards the pile of ruin. Reaching the edge of what used to be the village, the marksmare picks her way over the rubble in a low crouch, her rifle strapped over her back. She comes to a rest in a bombed-out window sill, resting her weapon against the edge.

        That was definitely the line. She could tell by the long, uniform mound of dirt lining the horizon, as well as the numerous strands of barbed wire sewn between bits of blasted trees and stakes planted by night crews. A little closer, and a vantage point...

A noise.

        Bracing herself against the rubble, the marksmare bucks her legs backwards towards the disturbance. A shrieking neigh pierces the still air as she braces for combat. She grabs a malformed brick out of the rubble, only to have it knocked from her hooves by a vicious parry and she turns around to meet her foe. A drab-gray male earth pony, slightly older than her, was preparing to lash out while she was cornered against the wall. The marksmare ducks to the side, her enemy regaining his balance before the punch could carry all the way through. Reaching to her belt, she draws a gruesome looking trench spike, once again throwing herself to the side to avoid the stallion's wrath. She ends up on the ground, staring up at her impending doom, grinning above her comparatively small body. Without a moment's notice, the marksmare bucks her legs towards her enemy's kneecaps, rolling to the side as he falls forward in tremendous pain. Realizing her only opening has come, the marksmare throws herself on top of the large figure and stabs the trench spike through his neck, grunting and whining, repeating the blow over and over.

        Gaining control of herself once more,  she gathers her rifle and tries to steady her shaking hands. Deep, controlled breaths, just like they taught her. Deep, controlled breaths. Adjust for range. Account for wind. Account for bullet drop. Deep, controlled breaths.

        She hated this, it was so impersonal. Far from the days of her early childhood.

        Checking for signs of activity, the marksmare begins to gallop once more across the shell-shocked landscape. Her destination was made clear to her in a moment of observation. A dense wooded area, flanking the enemy trench line. Usually a very bad thing to have in the vicinity, the wood happened to branch from the direction behind the enemy lines, which probably lead the defense planners to adopt a very false sense of security around it. She galloped from crater to crater, tree to tree, ruin to ruin, trying to stay hidden from the sentries peering over the walls of the trenches, looking for ponies just like her.

        She came to the edge of the wood, and through the cracks of the half-ruined treeline she could see the enemy trench lines, clear as day. Inching her way up to the trees closest to the edge, she scanned the canopy for the perfect candidate. Coming across a tall, stout tree at a relatively opportune angle of observation, the marksmare wraps her hooves around the trunk and starts to climb upwards. Special armbands embedded with dewclaw shaped spikes dig into the wood, helping her grip as the marksmare ascends to the upper branches.

        From this height, they looked like peculiar vermin squandering around in small ditches. At the same time, her optics were able to magnify her vision to the point where she seemed to be standing along side them. She was going to be here for quite awhile, as part of the quota. She decided to rest for a short while, still gazing through her scope, trying to account for parallax and letting the equations run through her mind for precisely where her strikes were going to land.

        Marksmanship wasn't a bad ordeal at all, in it's base form. There was an art to it. It required grace, patience, precision.

        It required a great knowledge of the enemy's personal traits. Their personality. She just wish it didn't have to be used like this.

        The sun, in her eternal vigilance, started to drop from the sky. Granted, it was still light, but only for a few more hours. The time seemed as good as ever. The marksmare scanned the trench line, accessing the situation to her greatest ability, looking for the perfect target for her first rounds. She scanned through artillery pits, communication trenches, pillboxes, bunkers, machine gun nests, and infantry groupings. She came across a group of stallions, all earth ponies and unicorns, standing guard at a corner intersection of two trenches. They all had gray coats, and wore light combat kit including  steel helmets that swept back just behind the eyes. The proximity of the area and the relative openness made it a prime target.

        The marksmare could tell, just by the dirt on their uniforms and miscare of their equipment, that they had been here a very long time. Veterans. One stood out, however. His mane was still relatively well kept, and you could see a tint of the original color of his coat below the standard gray dye. He looked anxious, but high spirited. A replacement, no doubt. He was conversing with the others, who seemed to take little interest in what he had to say. A light machine gun position was set up nearby. It was unmanned, the thick waterjacketed barrel sticking up towards the sky.

        The marksmare took aim. Deep, controlled breaths.

        The first shot whizzed through the cracks in the trees, over the trench wall and slamming into one of the veteran's center mass. He fell, waving a hoof at his wound and flapping his jaw as if calling for help. The range was too large to tell. Naturally, the other ponies scrambled along the trench wall, not making much of an effort to discover the source of the shot.

        Another cracked over the forest branches, hitting another veteran's head so hard that the helmet flew over the trench parapet as he collapsed against the firing step. One of the veterans tried fleeing down the trench linking the area farther down the line, but he was stopped short as a round severed his spine and left him slumped over in a pool of muddy water and blood. His companion, following close behind, stumbled over an unknown object and smacked his head against one of the wooden sections lining the trench wall, collapsing face first into the red and brown liquid that filled what was now his grave. Another shot finished him off.

        All that was left now was the replacement, whose cry of fear could he heard from even the vantage point occupied by the marksmare. He didn't seem to know how to react, fumbling around the corner pocket in a seemingly nonsense manner. Finally, he took hold of the machine gun. The marksmare's hoof squeezed the trigger ever so slightly...

        He started firing, in a direction completely opposite her own. She let go of the trigger and watched. The rookie appeared to still be howling as he kept hold of the firing trigger, spitting rounds into oblivion, completely unaware of her presence.

        There was no point in firing. She was tired of this. The marksmare sighed once more, and lay in position, staring through her scope across the wastes of no pony's land.


        "What about you? What was your favorite game as a filly?" The pink pony asked in her usual upbeat manner.

        The marksmare starred into the wall, memories of her past occupation always making themselves known at the very mention of her childhood.

        "Well, Rarity?"

        The unicorn pondered for a moment.

        "Hide and seek."

Author’s note: I’m well aware that hooves don’t work that way.