... intel inbound.
You may have seen my latest fanfiction project, Paladin, on both FiMFiction.net and Canterlot.com's fanfiction section. Now I know what you're thinking; not ANOTHER human in Equestria story! Not ANOTHER blatantly obvious, poorly-written self-insert!
Stigma is always a problem, but I assure you that's not my intent. Paladin is meant to be a continuation of an epic I've been intending to write for MLP since before FiM was a thing. The adventure will span two worlds and involve both humans and ponies. I aim to both tell a story and craft characters, good characters, giving them the loving attention they deserve. These are living, breathing characters and I hope to tell their story rather than simply using them as playthings. It is an ambitious project for me, as I have done more one-shots than anything else, but I want to at least use it to stimulate my creativity and force myself to write well.
But enough of that. I'm here to give you a preview of sorts of the setting for Paladin, at least the side that takes place on earth. As a world-builder, I love this sort of stuff and I hope you will, too.
Mystery of Bal-Khaled
Located between Mazar-i-Sharif and the Uzbek border, Bal-Khaled is a sleepy, riverside farming town in northern Afghanistan. The presence of a large river tributary and favorable climate have made it a hot spot for opium farms and heroin labs. Its proximity to both the Uzbek and Iranian borders also make it a prime area for illegal crossings and a way station for foreign fighters entering Afghanistan. Thus, Bal-Khaled is a hotbed of insurgent activity in an otherwise secure area of operations.
Three companies from US Army 3rd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment (Stryker) of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division have been assigned to the region, patrolling for border activity, sweeping for IEDs, destroying opium fields, and searching compounds for insurgents and their assets. The Stryker battalion is supplemented by ODA 739 from the US Army Special Forces and their compliment of both direct action operators and psychological operations professionals. A number of support assets from the US Air Force and ISAF member nations are also on hand.
In recent days, the intensity and frequency of attacks on both civilians and ISAF units in the area of operations has increased markedly. With the pending withdrawal of all US combat forces from Afghanistan, ISAF commanders are understandably concerned for the region's security. Cordon and search missions as well as drug stings occur now on an almost nightly basis, with Alpha Company of 3/17 Stryker spearheading the operation. Morale is high, as each night brings newly captured insurgents, better intelligence, and perhaps even a glimpse the operators of ODA 739 in action.
But something isn't quite right about 739's operations. The operators seem to have little interest in drug busts and apprehended insurgents. They are searching for something, something that does not belong. But as always, their exact target is classified, leaving the "regular joe" soldiers of 3/17 Styker to scratch their heads and speculate wildly.