This is a timeline of the events that occur throughout the history of the world. It is separated into non-canon eras indicative of the state of affairs in society during that time. As there is no known calendar system in Equestrian history, nor any denotation regarding the number of years that have passed between the various eras, each era has its own origin year based on the most important event of that era.
The Pre-War Era refers to the entirety of history prior to the beginning of the Great War.
- Second Nightmare Moon Conflict
Nightmare Moon returned to Equestria and imprisoned Princess Celestia as well as relocating to the Princess' former home in the Everfree Forest. Twilight Sparkle and the other five future Ministry Mares recovered the Elements of harmony and defeated Nightmare Moon. In the process, they saved Princess Celestia, redeemed Princess Luna, and restored the Princesses to the throne: ending the conflict.
- Second Nightmare Moon Conflict
Great War Era
Place on the Timeline --
Celestia having a friendly relationship with the Caesar strongly implies that this is the earliest point in Fallout: Equestria’s history.
Brief Summary --
A newspaper article that says four Wonderbolts died in a battle against zebra pirates.
Text from the Story --
Wonderbolts’ Heroic Attempt to Free Zebra Captives Leaves Four Dead
This morning, Princess Celestia announced the successful rescue of the seventeen ponies held captive for two weeks by Zebra gem pirates. The Wonderbolts, Equestria’s greatest fliers, volunteered for the secret mission that sent them into Zebra waters. However, success came at a grave cost as four members of the elite pegasi team were killed in the ensuing battle. Thankfully, none of the captives were killed and only one received serious injury.
Throughout this two-week crisis, the Zebra Caesar repeatedly denounced the actions of the pirates and offered support to Princess Celestia; but He denied permission for Equestrian ponies to enter Zebra territories, claiming it would “increase existing tensions” and insisting that His army’s intelligence indicated that the pirates were operating in international seas. The Zebra Caesar continues to disavow any knowledge of where the pirates’ ship had anchored. Princess Celestia claims that the Wonderbolts’ operation in Zebra territory was the result of a “happy miscommunication” and apologized personally to the Caesar…
Rumors of War
Place on the Timeline --
Rarity mentions the Wonderbolt Massacre in this scene, which means that it takes place after it.
Brief Summary --
In Ponyville, Rainbow Dash has left her friends to join Equestria’s new Skyguard, Applejack mentions that guns are a new invention, and the Mane Six are sent to negotiate with the buffalo.
Text from the Story -- It was a particularly beautiful day in Ponyville. The sun was shining, pouring a warmth down on the Equestrian village that cheered both the land and the soul. Only a few clouds spotted the sky, and a mint-green pegasus flew about overhead, belatedly kicking them away. Below, brightly-colored ponies trotted about their daily business, often stopping to give a neighborly hello to those they passed on the street. A trio of bunnies darted between bushes, carrying radishes pilfered from somepony’s garden. “Oh my…” Fluttershy said, watching through strands of solid pink mane as the bunnies darted between her legs. For a moment, she seemed ready to break away from the other ponies she was walking with to fly after them. “New feller’s doin’ all right,” Applejack commented, looking up into the sky. “But it just ain’t the same without Rainbow Dash.” “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Twilight Sparkle told her, floating a letter out of her saddlepack. “I got a letter from the Princess today. She says that Rainbow Dash isn’t just on a vacation. She’s signed up for the new Equestrian Skyguard.” “Poor dear took what happened to the Wonderbolts really hard,” Rarity commented, adjusting her newest hat creation so the feathers all flowed with the gentle summer breeze. “I can’t say that I blame her.” “Yes, well, the Princess doesn’t want to see her get put in harm’s way, but it wouldn’t be right for Her to tell Dash no. So…” Twilight opened the letter as the others gathered around her, listening intently, “…Princess Celestia has given us a mission. We’re to travel to the buffalo and try to strengthen diplomatic ties with them. Given Rainbow Dash’s previous experience with them, the Princess feels that she would be the ideal envoy.” “Oh goodie!” Pinkie Pie bounced. “I’ve been working on my song and I think…” “Oh hay no,” moaned Applejack. “Oh dear,” winced Rarity. “umm…” umm’ed Fluttershy. “No singing!” Twilight Sparkle said sternly. “But…” “No singing,” she repeated. “Princess’s orders.” “Awwwww.” “Twilight, Darling,” Rarity asked, concerned. “Did Princess Celestia say why exactly we are strengthening diplomatic ties with the buffalo? I mean, other than to keep Rainbow Dash occupied?” Twilight shook her head. A heavy silence fell over the group of friends that was distinctly at odds with the cheery brightness of the day. Applejack was the one who broke it. “Ah heard talk from some o’ the folk at the farmer’s expo last week. They’re sayin’…” She paused, as if scared of the words she was thinking and what would happen if she said them out loud. “…we might be a’headin’ t’ war.” Fluttershy gasped and disappeared behind a stump. “Th-that’s impossible, Applejack. Equestria has never had a real war in…” Twilight Sparkle paused, clearly running through her vast studies of Equestrian history. And finding nothing. “…I don’t think Equestria has ever had a war. At least, not in over a thousand years.” “Yeah, well, we all know how mighty stubborn ponies c’n get when their livelihoods are bein’ threatened. Only this time, Ah fear it ain’t gonna be pies they’re throwin’. Big Mac brought home one o’ them new-fangled firearms t’ take care o’ the cockatrice that’s been attackin’ our pigs…”
Applejack was interrupted by an upset squeak from Fluttershy, who had finally managed to come back out from behind her stump. “He wouldn’t!”
“Sorry, Fluttershy,” Applejack said apologetically. “But that thing was killin’ our pigs. Sometimes, ya just gotta take care o’ dangerous predators the hard way.”
“You should have told me! I could have stopped him for you,” Fluttershy said, uncharacteristically raising her voice just a smidgen. “Now your pigs will stay dead forever, you know. Only a cockatrice can reverse its own magic. And he would have if I’d had the chance to tell him to.”
“What?” Applejack moaned. “Nuts and shrews.”
Fluttershy turned meekly to Twilight Sparkle. “There’s not really going to be a…” Her voice faltered on the word ‘war’, becoming barely a squeak, “…will there?”
“I hope not,” Twilight said. “I don’t know what we’d do if there was.”
“But… people would get hurt. And animals.” Fluttershy was trembling just at the thought. “We can’t let that happen. We just can’t.”
“I think that’s why the Princess wants us to start talking to the buffalo,” Twilight said unsurely.
“Well, whatever the reason, we’ll do this together,” Rarity asserted. “Give me a few days to close up my shop, and I’ll be ready for the trip.”
The others nodded. “Yer right. Ain’t nothin’ we can’t handle together,” Applejack said, smiling at Rarity.
“Right,” Twilight Sparkle said, back on firmer ground. “Whatever the cause, Princess Celestia has given us this mission and we will not fail.” This was familiar to her. She’d done this before, and she could do it again. “Everypony, make whatever arrangements you need to. We may be gone from Ponyville for a while. I’m going to go get Rainbow Dash. Let’s meet back here in less than two days.” The faith she had in her friends virtually radiated from her.
All her friends nodded, Fluttershy looking both exceptionally nervous and particularly determined. Then everypony galloped off, leaving the yellow pegasus standing on the path alone.
“Oh, so much to do. But we must not fail. We must not, must not, must not.” She fretted. “Who will take care of my animals?”
“Can I help?” my host asked, flying up to the distraught yellow pegasus.
“Oh!” Fluttershy jumped. Then crouched meekly, looking around until she spotted me. “Oh, hello Ditzy Doo. I didn’t see you there.” She looked away shyly. “Um… sure, if you would like?”
I felt my host smile happily. Today was a good day.
Fillydelphia News Article One
Place on the Timeline --
First sign of an energy crisis, plus Celestia’s promise to resolve the situation with the zebras amiably, places this after the Wonderbolt Massacre but before the war actually began.
Hippocampus Energy Plant #12 Opens Amidst Controversy
Pegasus and Unicorn Protesters Decry Environmental Impact
The story dominated the page, pushing aside lesser stories (“Fillydelphia’s prestigious Alpha-Omega Hotel to host this year’s Summer Sun Celebration” and “Coal prices continue to rise as relations with zebra nation remain strained. Princess Celestia promises amiable resolution soon”) to make room.
For Want of a Joke...
Place on the Timeline --
Apple Bloom’s age, Celestia’s comment about ‘friendly zebras’ (which ties in with Celestia’s statement in the news article above), and the fact that Luna’s Academy is still just a model (although ponies might be able to build things faster than us) places this an early (but not too early) position in the timeline.
Brief Summary --
Apple Bloom, with her Uncle Orange, present a model of Luna’s future academy to Celestia and Luna.
Text from the Story --
“Do ya think She’ll like it?” Apple Bloom asked, fretting over an exquisite model of an almost monastic walled village. The design looked familiar; I had seen the remains of this model on display outside of Elder Blueberry Sabre’s chambers.
“She’ll love it,” I felt and heard myself say. The voice was not immediately familiar, and completely lacked the country drawl of the younger mare. This Apple Bloom, dressed in the manner of formal attire that she had not yet grown comfortable with, was no older than me.
“Do you think She’ll like the crenulations?”
“She’ll love the crenellations,” my host assured her gently. “The crenellations are fine.”
“How about the moon in the center courtyard? Maybe I should have gone with a full moon rather than a crescent moon…”
“She’ll love the moon. The moon is fine.”
Apple Bloom trotted nervously around the table, eyeing the model from every angle. The room we stood in was a glowing white marble with flowing curtains and golden filigree in all the accents. If we weren’t in a palace, then somepony had gone to great lengths to give the impression of one.
“How about the tower? Is it too short? Or maybe it’s too tall?” Apple Bloom hoofed her ears in frustration. “Arrrugh! I don’t even know if Princess Luna likes towers! Why didn’t I ask that earlier?”
My host let out a long-suffering whinny. “She’ll love the towers. The towers are very nice.”
Apple Bloom reacted like she’d been struck. “Nice? But they need to be perfect!” Apple Bloom’s agitation was strong enough that she nearly hovered. I thought the young mare could spontaneously combust from stress.
“Calm down, child. I’m sure Princess Luna will love all of it.” I felt myself smile as soothing words came from my muzzle. “Princess Celestia wanted the greatest architect in all of Equestria for this project, and She made sure She got it.”
Apple Bloom quaked a moment, then calmed with a breath. “Thank ya again, Uncle Orange, fer accompanying me t’ meet with the Princess. Ah don’t think Ah coulda done this on my own.”
“You’re doing a far sight better than your sister ever managed. But try to watch the country drawl. Remember, sound sophisticated and you show everypony that you are sophisticated.”
“Yes, Uncle Orange. Ah’ll… I’ll remember.” Apple Bloom returned to fretting, but a more subdued fretting.
“You should be proud,” Uncle Orange said encouragingly. “This is the sort of project that will make you renowned across all of Equestria.”
Apple Bloom simply nodded. The fame didn’t seem to interest her. However, “With the bits I get from this, Ah’ll… sorry, I’ll be able to expand muh… my business. Hire more help. Maybe start looking into other sorts of designs.” She looked up with a smile. “Scootaloo says she’d like to invest now that Red Racer is doin’ so well. Maybe build a company together…”
Apple Bloom’s voice fell away. Another presence entered the room. An exalted one. My host dropped gracefully into a bow. Apple Bloom swiftly followed his example.
I was in the company of a Goddess!
Not one of those blasphemous pseudo-goddess alicorn monsters. I found myself kneeling before the Goddess of the Sun whom I had prayed to since I was a little filly: Celestia Herself!
She was majestic beyond description: a tall, white, proper alicorn whose mane and tail flowed with color, Her flank emblazoned with the symbol of the sun itself. She was graceful, kind and altogether sovereign.
“Please,” She addressed us graciously, “Rise, my little ponies. It is a joy to see you.”
As my host stood, Princess Celestia (squee! squee! squee!) moved around the table, eyeing the model favorably. “So, this is to be Luna’s new academy?”
Apple Bloom nodded nervously, unable to speak.
“It looks lovely.”
Apple Bloom squeaked, “Thank you, Your Majesty!”
Celestia’s ears perked. “Ah, and here she comes. If you would be so kind as to let me speak first?”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” my host said quickly. Celestia turned and both Apple Bloom and her uncle followed the glorious Princess’s gaze.
Princess Luna walked in between two curtains. Her dark blue colors looked striking yet starkly out-of-place in the rest of the palace. She was much smaller than Her regal older sister (or, for that matter, than the pseudo-goddesses)… almost the size of a normal pony. While Princess Celestia was resplendent, Princess Luna struck me as… cute.
The sort of cute that I would have impure thoughts about if the pony in my head wasn’t already too busy bouncing around Pinkie Pie Style and letting off a barrage of squee-ing noises.
“Sister? You called for me?”
“Yes, Luna dear. I’d been thinking about that school of magic you have been proposing. And I’ve decided to send all your students to the moon.”
Luna froze. Her mouth hung open. Then closed slowly. “You wouldn’t…” I could see the gears in Her head start spinning again. “And you couldn’t. Without the Elements of Harmony, you don’t have anywhere near that kind of power, dear sister.”
What was going on here?
Apple Bloom, apparently either not quite in on the joke, or simply unable to see Luna made uncomfortable, quickly spoke up. “She means Crescent Moon Canyon.”
Princess Celestia smiled but tilted Her head towards Apple Bloom with a look that suggested the regal Princess hadn’t wanted the young architect to spill that quite yet.
Princess Luna shot her sister a Look then moved to the table, Her eyes going wide. “This…?” She looked up with tears in Her eyes. “This is going to be the Luna Academy for Young Unicorns? A magical school of my very own? Just like yours?”
Princess Celestia smiled and nuzzled Her younger sister. “Happy birthday, little sister.”
Apple Bloom’s mouth hung open until my host tapped his own with a hoof. Blushing, she waved a hoof over the model. “Princess Celestia has given…” She paused, looking up at the Princess to make sure it was okay to speak. Princess Celestia smiled with a nod and softness in her eyes. “…us Littlehorn Valley in the Crescent Moon Canyon t’ build on. It’s isolated, far away from any dangers…”
“Or any villages,” Princess Luna noted, giving Her sister a gentler look, but a look nonetheless. “And far away from Canterlot and your own school.”
Princess Celestia nodded. “I want you to have this fairly, without ponies making the comparisons they would if the schools were side-by-side, and without the students being distracted by rivalry.” The Princess flicked Her gaze to Apple Bloom as she added, “And I know you were considering Ponyville, but I didn’t want young colts and fillies wandering off into the Everfree Forest.”
Luna rolled her eyes. “Come on, big sister. No filly is foalish enough to go wandering around that place. Have faith in my students...”
Apple Bloom was making the sort of face that suggested she really wanted to be someplace else.
“…the only thing within a day’s wagon ride of Littlehorn are some zebra jungles.”
“Yes,” Princess Celestia nodded. “There will be friendly zebras not far away if they need assistance. And soon several of your students will have baby dragons of their own; so if anypony needs to contact you, you will only be a sneeze away.”
Place on the Timeline -- This event definitely occurred after Apple Bloom made the designs for the school, and is stated to have happened when the war was still ongoing (although we don’t truly know when and how the war was declared/started).
Brief Description -- A convoy of zebras fleeing from their homeland are killed by the guards outside of Luna’s Academy. In retaliation for the death of his children, a zebra soldier (armed with the Pink Cloud) bombs the school and kills everypony in it.
Text from the Story --
Littlehorn. It was a name I had heard before in several contexts. But Watcher’s words stood out:
‘The Massacre at Littlehorn broke Princess Celestia’s heart. After that, nearly midway through the war, Princess Celestia decided She wasn’t the right pony to lead Equestria anymore. So She stepped down, abdicated Her position to Her sister, Princess Luna.’
I looked around. Velvet Remedy was lost inside the Fluttershy memory orb once more. Pyrelight, her aura merely twice her size, had cradled herself against Velvet’s left shoulder and was snoring loftily. I shared the Sky Bandit with SteelHooves and Xenith. Calamity was ahead, pulling us.
Well, if there was any pony who would know, it was SteelHooves.
“What happened at Littlehorn?”
SteelHooves and Xenith both started at the question. They looked at each other before SteelHooves answered me simply, “Disaster.”
I shivered, knowing I didn’t really want to hear this. But part of me needed to. “Tell me.”
“Littlehorn was a school. Unicorn fillies and colts, many of whom were too young to even have their cutie marks, lived there, being trained by some of the best of Equestria’s magicians,” SteelHooves started slowly. “One evening, around twilight, a little over nine years into the war, a zebra convoy rolled into Littlehorn Valley. Two dozen Zebra legionnaires and three large covered wagons. When they didn’t respond to peaceful overtures, the matron of the school activated the school’s defenses…”
“They didn’t know your language,” Xenith abruptly interrupted. “They weren’t front-line soldiers. It was a refugee convoy. Mares and small zebra children just trying to get out of the killing zone!”
“I know that!” SteelHooves shot back harshly. “They realized that when the first wagon was struck and they saw the dead! But by then it was too late.” He turned to me. “It was too late. The zebra convoy had assassins wearing zebra stealth cloaks…”
“They had one.” Xenith corrected. “A father whose family was killed in your school’s surprise attack.”
“They only needed one,” SteelHooves growled. “The school was full of children. And the zebras set off a gas bomb inside. It was Canterlot in miniature. The striped bastards killed… every… pony in Littlehorn!”
I felt myself crying. “Okay… please… I don’t want to hear anymore.”
Luna Becomes Head of the State
Place on the Timeline --
Shortly after the massacre at Littlehorn, Celestia abdicated the throne and gave it to Luna.
Text from the Story --
“Did you or did you not choose to follow the champion of the evil stars, Nightmare Moon?”
“What? Are you… what!?” SteelHooves turned stomping and pacing until Calamity once again threatened to land the Sky Bandit and give us all a talking to.
“Wait…” I said slowly. “Are you saying… that the reason the war got so bad… is because zebras couldn’t tell the difference between Princess Luna and Nightmare Moon?”
From a struggle over resources to holy war in ten seconds flat.
Creation of the Ministries
Place on the Timeline --
This is stated by Spike to have occurred after Celestia abdicated the throne, after the massacre at Littlehorn, and after Luna became Head of the State.
Brief Description --
Spike tells Littlepip how Luna assigned the Mane Six to assist her in the war effort by creating ‘Ministries’ that would control different aspects of Equestria.
Text from the Story --
“What were the Ministries?” I had seen enough references to Ministries scattered in the artifacts of the past that I suspected such information would be helpful for context. I didn’t realize that I had just asked what was arguably the most important question of my life. (It was, at least, Celestia Tier.)
Watcher was silent for a while. Long enough that I thought our strange pseudo-companion might have winked away again. Watcher’s words came slowly, deliberately. “Remember when I told you that you should search for your virtue? And I told you about the greatest heroes of Equestria?”
I nodded. “You mentioned them, yes.”
“Well...” Watcher’s words came slowly, as if they were painful. “The Massacre at Littlehorn broke Princess Celestia’s heart. After that, nearly midway through the war, Princess Celestia decided She wasn’t the right pony to lead Equestria anymore. So She stepped down, abdicated Her position to Her sister, Princess Luna...”
I listened in awe. I had never heard the Goddesses spoken about in this way before.
“The war had been devastating, both abroad and at home. Equestria was in severe distress, suffering from troubles within as well as from the enemy armies. You can’t imagine what it was like back then.
“Those heroes I told you about? They were six amazing ponies with true hearts and virtuous souls, whose friendship held the power to change the world. Princess Celestia had always been like a mother to them. She saw them, one in particular, as Her children. She loved them and wanted to protect them. So Princess Celestia shielded them from the worst of the war, finding quests for them that kept them, mostly, out of harm’s reach, or at least away from the battlefields. Sending them on diplomatic missions to the griffins and the buffalo -- things like that.
“Princess Luna met them for the first time in a much different circumstance. Princess Luna respected them and saw them as Her equals. And, I really think, as Her saviors. And so when Princess Luna ascended to rule Equestria and fight the war, She called Equestria’s most valuable heroes to serve as Her personal advisors. She called for the creation of new offices of government, one under each of them, whose job would be to take their advice and find ways to implement it.”
“And those were the Ministries?”
I looked around at the bleak, ruined wasteland that had once been the beautiful nation of Equestria. “Doesn’t look like that went so well.”
Silence. Then Watcher spoke again. “Have you ever heard the old saying ‘The portal to hell is opened with the incantation of good intentions’? If there was a moral to their story, I guess that would be it.”
Place on the Timeline --
This event depicts the origin of the Megaspell program and must take place at some point between the founding of the ministries and the deployment of the first megaspell.
Brief Summary --
Fluttershy and the Ministry of Peace are commissioned by Princess Luna to find a way to peacefully end the war. Through her idea of C.A.R.E., Fluttershy decides design and give the zebras the ability to create megaspells, believing that when neither side could kill the other, both sides would stop fighting.
Text from the Story --
I was standing on a stage, or more precisely the pony whose eyes I was seeing through and ears I was hearing through had stood on a stage.
It was strangely like being paralyzed; I could feel what she (?) felt, but I couldn’t move on my own. I suddenly had the urgent desire to bite my lower lip, a desire followed by a flash of panic when I couldn’t.
I was looking out over a crowded auditorium in a large and rather nice indoor theatre. Many ponies in the crowd were engaged in conversation, and a low storm of overlapping voices filled the room. Everything was slightly muted and out of focus, but I could still make out the faces of each individual pony – a level of detail that defined this as a raw recording of the events by the brain of the pony I was, for lack of a better word, “riding” rather than what the pony could have naturally recalled on her own. I wanted to take a closer look at the walls of the auditorium -- I had the distinct impression that they were not wood paneled but rather actually formed from growing trees, much like the Ponyville Library. But, of course, I could only watch what this pony had watched.
She concentrated on an elder (yet adorably cute) yellow pegasus with a flowing pink mane falling over much of her face, and a matching pink tail, who walked reluctantly past her towards a podium standing front and center on the stage. The yellow pony stared at the floor as she walked, as if afraid to make eye contact with the crowd before she had the podium between her and them like a shield.
I was struck by the distinct similarity between this pony and the one on the billboard I had seen a week ago, although what string of fortunes could take a pony from being the spokesmodel for carrot-flavored cola to serving as one of the most powerful mares in government was beyond me.
“um… h-hello? Can I have your attention, please? If you don’t mind?”
The massive speaker system of the auditorium magnified the pony’s voice, boosting it up to what nearly reached the volume of normal conversation. And yet, the crowd hushed instantly. Every buck and mare in the crowd turned their attention fully to the yellow mare with the three pink butterflies as her cutie mark. I immediately recognized the pattern. Velvet Remedy had hung the medical boxes in her Appleloosa boxcar so their butterflies would look exactly like that.
“Thank you,” the pegasus squeaked, seeming surprised at being so abruptly the focus of so much attention. It dawned on me that she didn’t have the assertiveness to command their attention like this. The ponies in the crowd didn’t listen out of obedience, much less fear, of the mare on the stage. No, in fact, this wasn’t even respect that I was seeing. This was love.
“Now…um… I know everypony is really, really busy. So I’ll try not to take too much of your time.”
I got it, but I didn’t think she got it. Fluttershy was worried about offending them, or inconveniencing them. From their expressions, I doubted that was even possible.
“Princess Luna has given us… that is… she’s allowed us to… We have a new project.”
I heard a few nickers and neighs rippling through the crowd. No matter how much they loved the mare on the stage, this was clearly not welcome news.
The yellow pegasus eeped, cringing slightly. “Please… it’s okay. I know we’re all overworked, and everypony has so much to do already… and you’re all doing just wonderful.” As she added that last statement, she smiled warmly at all of them. If all the water in Stable Two had frozen, that smile could have melted it.
“But… this is really important. I’ve been talking with Princess Luna, and.... I really, really want to do this project. I’m behind it completely, and I really hope you will be too.”
The dissenting sounds stopped. Everypony listened.
“This horrible, terrible war has gone on far, far too long and hurt so many people.” I could hear the sadness and hurt in her voice. Sweet, merciful Celestia… I wanted to gallop over and give her a hug. I wanted to lie to her and tell her things would be all right. “So Luna says the Ministry of Peace should work on a way to end the war, and bring everyone, pony and zebra alike, back to the table of diplomacy.”
Some pony (whom I had the distinct urge to buck in the face) actually asked, “If the war ends, won’t we all be out of a job?”
I heard Fluttershy whisper the prayer, “From your lips to Celestia’s ears.”
The First Megaspell
Place on the Timeline --
This appears to be after Luna was coronated, since Fluttershy has Ministry of Peace medkits (not to mention a megaspell, which must have taken a Ministry’s worth of resources to build). Also, since Big Mac is still alive in the memory, it definitely happened before the Battle of Shattered Hoof Ridge.
Brief Description --
Fluttershy has completed the world’s first megaspell. And in an unnamed battlefield (Kkat says that her headcanon is that this takes place near Stalliongrad), she uses it to heal the wounded.
Text from the Story --
The battlefield was strewn with bloody corpses under a charcoal-grey sky that heaved and threatened rain.
I was dying. Or, more precisely, my host was dying. And, trapped in his memory, I was along for the ride. Part of my mind remained coherent enough to wonder about that. I could feel the press of metal against my host’s head, a helmet which could easily hold a recollector. Was I going to experience death?
The rest of my mind was overloaded by the pain that tore at my abdomen. My host had fallen against the wall of the trench, head propped up just enough to see that most of his body below the stomach was no longer as attached as it should be. I could see his intestines and internal organs spilling out onto the recently dug dirt. Mercifully, I couldn’t feel that… my host had lost all feeling below the top of the wound.
He was already dead. He must have known it, but his body just hadn’t gotten the message yet.
Who was I? I had assumed this was Applesnack’s memory, since it came from one of the orbs in his memory case. But that seemed unlikely now. Between the armored barding and the blood, I couldn’t be sure.
Several pegasi flew back and forth over the battlefield, searching, relaying messages or calling out names. For a moment, a familiar sky-blue mare with her shockingly brilliant rainbow mane and tail swooped over my trench. She hovered, looking about frantically. Her blood-stained purple suit looked nearly black in the light and her battle saddle was scorched. Her eyes fell on me and she winced. Then she was off again.
“Hey!” The large form of a particularly statuesque red stallion in similar military barding slid down into the trench next to me. His eyes went wide as he took in the morbid reality of my wounds.
“So… Sarge… we drive those striped bastards back?” I felt my muzzle move, and the words came out in a low, masculine voice.
I felt a drop of wetness hit our cheek. At first, I thought the other pony was crying. But then another raindrop fell out of the sky, and another, and another.
“Ayep,” the red pony nodded, wisps of orange mane fell from under his helmet, caked a dark red by blood. He spoke slowly, “Ya did good, soldier. Mighty good. They’ll make ya Sergeant after this.” Rain was beginning to soak into his coat, washing caked blood out of it.
My host choked, coughing up blood. The taste was warm and coppery in our mouth. “Post mortem, I’m afraid, Sarge.” My host’s voice was eerily calm and even. He had minutes left to live, if that. And he seemed… at peace with it. “I’m afraid I won’t be joining you when you go after all.”
We felt cold. A chill deeper than that from the rain. I felt drops of rain kissing the searingly painful wound. I was thankful I couldn’t feel drops landing inside me.
“Don’t talk,” the big one said, looking deeply wounded. “Ah ain’t ready t’ let ya go, buck.”
“Think the zebras had different to say.” My god, my host actually chuckled. He was in utter agony… I hadn’t felt pain like this since the dragon set me on fire; I was sure that my own body was screaming… and he just chuckled. Like it was nothing. “Don’t worry, Sarge. We won the day, right? No regrets…”
The big red stallion looked like he was fighting tears. My host just grinned, his muzzle full of his own blood. “…Well, one regret. Never did get to meet that hot sister of yours.”
The stallion frowned dangerously, and I suddenly realized that his mane was the same color as Applejack’s coat. And they had similar freckles. Big Macintosh bristled, then burst into a gruff laugh. “Now ya got t’ pull through,” he grinned, “So’s Ah c’n buck yer backside, boy!”
It was too late. Darkness was already creeping into the edges of my host’s vision. The reaper pony had come to take him home. Wherever home was before Celestia and Luna were goddesses. My host tilted his head back, staring into the darkening sky, feeling the rain on his face for one last time…
A flock of pegasi soared in from overhead, two of them pulling a passenger wagon full of other ponies, mostly unicorns. All the newcomers wore barding of yellow and pink and carried saddleboxes with little butterflies on them, just like Velvet Remedy’s. All except the lead pony. She didn’t need the uniform… Fluttershy already was the uniform.
“um… oh…. Oh dear!” The shy pegasus pony looked out over the hills and trenches full of dead and dying. Her eyes filled with tears and she began to tremble. But she stomped a hoof down, and forced herself to find her voice. “Oh… okay. Everypony, everyone… please be calm. We’re going to help.”
Fluttershy turned and called out to her team, “Please, if you would, take your positions. And hurry. Thank you.”
Seeping shadows had nearly engulfed my host’s vision, and his other senses were fading fast. I was looking at the world from the bottom of a deep, dark well. Thankfully, the pain was at the top of the well, far away from us. We closed our eyes.
It was hard to open them again. Our eyelids were heavy, like they were made of gold. When we did, there wasn’t much to see. Just clouds and rain. Barely visible. We were in a much deeper well.
Fluttershy’s head moved between us and the clouds, looking strangely upside-down, cringing at the sight of my host. “Ooooh… Oh no.” She dashed up to us. “I… we… I think we can help. Just, please, hold on!”
We strained to speak. It only came out as a whisper. “…bit beyond you. Go help the… ponies who can...” Our words trailed off. There was no more energy to put behind them. That was enough, hopefully, to get the point across.
A unicorn in a yellow and pink dress stepped into view. “Fluttershy,” she said, her voice the whisper of a whisper, “We’re ready for the test run…”
The world faded to black. A black that was all-encompassing. No sight. No sound. Nothing to smell or feel. Even the taste of blood was gone from our mouth.
We were dead.
We should have been dead.
But a pleasant warmth was spreading through us. I could feel it all the way to my host’s tail. The world came rushing back like we were being released from a memory orb. There was no pain. It was replaced by the bone-deep chill. Our body was soaked in rain. The trench had become squishy with mud.
We opened our eyes. Our body was healed. Complete.
It was a miracle. It was impossible!
“What did you do?!” I heard a mare’s voice cry out from above. I looked up to see the rainbow-maned mare dive out of the sky, a rainbow-colored wake stretching out behind her. “Fluttershy! What. Did. You. Do?!”
Rainbow Dash stopped, hovering in the air, staring in utter shock at her fellow pegasus.
“We healed them,” Fluttershy said graciously, her voice somehow filled with happiness but not a hint of pride. Several of her unicorns were trotting up to stand by her side.
“I know that,” Rainbow Dash assured her. “But… how?”
Fluttershy blushed, looking pleased. “We call it a ‘megaspell’.”
Rainbow Dash blinked. “A what now?”
One of the unicorns cleared her throat and Fluttershy took a meek step back, allowing the mare to explain. “It’s a new, underlying spell framework that allows smaller spells to be augmented in scope and intensity.”
The blue pegasus looked lost. And worried.
“This way,” Fluttershy claimed, “We can heal everyone on the battlefield with a single spell. No one has to die because we couldn’t get to them in time.”
“Every…” Rainbow Dash turned her stare over the battlefield. My host did too. Everywhere, ponies were getting to their feet with expressions of awe and bewilderment. Only the dead remained dead, their corpses strewn across the hills and filling the trenches. The wounded, even those at the very brink of death from impossible wounds, were healthy and whole.
Like my host.
“…all of them?...”
And like the zebra who was pulling herself from amongst the bodies, a zebra sword clutched in her mouth, crackling with electrical fire.
Rainbow Dash shouted at Fluttershy, “You healed everyone!? Indiscriminately? Even the zebras!?!”
“Do you know what you’ve done!??”
“Do you know how many ponies died here today?” Rainbow Dash bellowed. “And now we have to fight the damn battle all over again!”
I could hear the yellow pegasus squeak, beginning to cry. My heart broke at the sound. I wanted Applesnack to turn towards her… I wanted him to comfort the mare who had just saved his life. But he didn’t even spare her a glance. Instead, my host lowered his head, sinking his teeth into mud to pull up his rifle, ignoring the slimy texture and earthy taste.
Shots began to sound across the battlefield outside the trench.
“Fluttershy, get down!” Rainbow Dash cried out a moment before the blue pegasus tackled the yellow one, sending them both rolling into the trench next to me, her wing catching the wake of a missile as it shot over the trench and exploded, raining dirt down on us.
The battle was engaged. Again
Shattered Hoof Ridge
Place on the Timeline --
Since this is where Big Mac died, all appearances or mentions of him when he was alive happened before this.
“The invitation to Shattered Hoof Ridge for peace talks… there were never going to be any peace talks, were there?”
Xenith’s ears flattened. She tried to be reasonable, apparently realizing that this was no longer even an unfriendly argument. “I wasn’t there. Please remember that these were other people, zebras and ponies alike. Not us.”
“Answer the question.”
Xenith looked away. “From the tales I have been told,” she sighed sadly, “Peace was what was hoped, but there could only be peace if Nightmare Moon was removed. Unfortunately, the ponies sent the wrong Princess to Shattered Hoof Ridge.”
The night turned infinitely colder.
Big Macintosh’s Funeral
Place on the Timeline --
Since Big Mac died at Shattered Hoof, his funeral must have happened shortly afterwards.
All of Equestria Mourns Big Macintosh, Hero of Shattered Hoof Ridge
Two weeks ago, we didn’t even know his name. But when Big Macintosh leapt in front of a zebra assassin’s bullet meant for Princess Celestia, dying instantly, he also leapt into the hearts and minds of every loving and patriotic pony, becoming a paragon of courage, bravery and self-sacrifice to all of Equestria.
Funeral services were held this afternoon in the western courtyard of Ministry Walk. By decree of Princess Luna, pegasus ponies arranged for a light snow...
Place on the Timeline --
Happens after Shattered Hoof Ridge and before the zebra assassin attempts to kill Rarity.
Brief Summary -- Rarity, who is being followed by a zebra assassin, meets Applejack to discuss the potential of the Black Book. Applejack rejects the idea of using black magic for the war effort, and tells Rarity to destroy the book. As a side-note, Rarity’s proposal for enchanting armor to be invincible is likely where Applejack got the idea for power armor.
Text from the Story --
I felt odd.
The body I was in was different… but I couldn’t really put my finger on how. I had been in earth ponies before; the lack of a horn was no longer startling to me. And the body was less alien than that of a horny male, much less my exceptionally freaky experience as Spike. But I still felt wrong somehow. And it was like an itch that wouldn’t go away.
My host was standing in a bed of hay, watching as two familiar mares walked into the barn. They ambled right past me without so much as a glance.
“Now what’s this ya wanted t’ talk about, Rarity, that we needed t’ hide out in the barn fer?”
“Well,” the elegant white unicorn said, looking at her freckled friend with the frazzled blonde mane, “Rainbow Dash said that last week at the Summer Sun Celebration, she came on to you, and you didn’t mind…”
I wanted to snicker. Rarity had managed to strike a perfect tone between gossip and suggestiveness. Yet I could tell, without a doubt, that she was only playing with the orange mare with the three-apple cutie mark. Call it intuition, but I just knew that Rarity only had eyes for the stallions. And that made Applejack’s expression all the funnier.
“Oh hay no!” Applejack nearly shouted, backpedaling. “Gauldangit, not you too! Rainbow Dash was drunk. Again. An’ I told ‘er…”
I really wished my host would laugh, because it was hard to be in stitches when your body wouldn’t cooperate. But in the very least, I could tell Applesnack that whatever he had been afraid I might find in here was rubbish.
Applejack regained her composure as Rarity fluttered her eyes but failed to stifle a ladylike snicker quite fast enough.
“Oh for the love’a…” Applejack stomped. “Didja drag me all the way back here jus’ t’ mess w’ me.” She put a hoof to her freckled face. “Aw hell… did Rainbow Dash put ya up to this? This is one of her practical jokes, ain’t it?”
“Actually… well yes,” Rarity admitted. “It was her idea…”
“Ah knew it!” Applejack huffed, stomping again.
“…but I really do have something I need to talk to you about,” the graceful unicorn said, abruptly turning quite serious.
Applejack could tell the mood had changed. Fun, even that at her expense, was over. “What is it?”
“I’ve… come across some new magic,” Rarity said cautiously. “Zebra magic.” She stopped, measuring the country mare’s reaction.
“Ya mean, like the things Zecora used t’ brew?”
“Not exactly, no.” Rarity lowered her voice. “Have you ever heard of a soul jar?”
Applejack stared at her purple-maned friend. “No. An’ Ah ain’t sure Ah want to.”
But Rarity wasn’t ready to stop. “A soul jar is an item… it can be any item really, it doesn’t actually have to be a jar… that you put a soul into.”
Applejack looked taken aback, but the unicorn continued. It was as if, now that she had started talking, she couldn’t stop until it was all out. “Putting a soul into a soul jar changes the object. It becomes effectively indestructible, for one. And you can use the soul to hang other enchantments on…” The unicorn stopped at a thought, then added, “It becomes a foundation. Not unlike a megaspell framework, I suppose.”
“Rarity!” Applejack gasped. “What the hell has gotten into you, girl! Where did you even get this magic? This is…” The orange mare’s voice lowered to a hiss. “This is necromancy!”
Rarity looked to her friend and nodded, her own eyes wide. “I know.” Then, in answer, “It’s from a zebra book called The Black Book.” Again she paused, thinking, “Well, the Black Book of… something I can’t pronounce. A name, but it doesn’t have vowels in the places it ought to. It has all manner of extremely icky things in it. Soul jars. Bypass Spells. Magic to tear souls apart…”
With each word, Applejack’s expression became more horrified. Rarity seemed not to quite notice. She gave a smirk like she was revealing a particularly juicy bit of gossip, “If you buy into the more colorful background of the book, they say that it was written by a mad zebra alchemist who communicated with the stars through dreams.”
“Who is ‘they’?” Applejack asked, but never got an answer.
“Now, I know all of this is perfectly dreadful, and my first instinct was to burn the book and be rid of it,” Rarity said. For the first time since the conversation turned dire, Applejack looked a little relieved. That relief was short lived.
“But the top magician in my Ministry says that he ought to be able to take that soul-shredding magic and rework it, turning it into a precision spell that would allow him to cut off just a small portion of a pony’s soul. Enough to create a soul jar without doing any real damage to the subject of the spell.”
“And… why would you want to do that?”
“Think of it, Applejack! What soldier wouldn’t be willing to give up just a small bit of her soul to be put into her own armor, making it completely impervious to any bullet? Any weapon?” Rarity was positively glowing in the rapture of her idea. “And it wouldn’t have to be those ugly metal things your Ministry has been working on. We could make perfect, impenetrable armor out of dresses. Beautiful dresses!”
Applejack was reeling.
“And not only would our soldiers look absolutely fabulous, and be immune to the weapons of the enemy,” Rarity continued, “They wouldn’t be weighed down, encumbered. Until now, armored barding has always come at the price of mobility, but now...”
The unicorn stopped, putting her hooves on Applejack’s shoulders. “Applejack, just think. None of our family would have to die in battle anymore. If Big Macintosh had…”
Rarity dropped back, stunned by Applejack’s sudden outburst. But the orange earth pony wasn’t done. She advanced on her friend, jabbing a hoof at her breast. “Don’t you dare bring my brother inta this blackness!”
Rarity gasped, eyes wide.
”This talk stops now!” Applejack demanded. “Ah don’t wanna hear another word. This is… vile. No soldier would give what yer suggestin’. An’ even if they were willin’, how could we let ‘em? Some prices are just too high! Don’t ya think, if there weren’t horrific consequences t’ playin’ wi’ these things, we’d already be facin’ zebras with impenetrable armor? Or bullets what could shoot through anything? Or worse?”
“I…” Rarity stopped. She turned her gaze away from Applejack, a flush of embarrassment on her cheeks. “Oh… you’re so right. I… I don’t know what I was thinking!”
Applejack let out breath in deep relief. “It’s okay, sugarcube. Ya got wrapped up in a notion an’ didn’t really think it through. Happens t’ alla us now an’ again.”
The unicorn looked up to Applejack, smiling weakly. “Well, then… I’m lucky I have a good friend who can slap me out of it.”
Applejack gave a chuckle. “No harm done then. Now Ah want ya t’ go back t’ Canterlot and continue workin’ on your designs. Ya have a heap o’ work on yer plate as it is. An’ neither o’ us will mention this ever again.”
“Like it never happened,” Rarity said, genuine thankfulness in her voice.
“Like it ne’er happened,” Applejack agreed.
Rarity and Applejack embraced each other in a hug. Then the unicorn slipped elegantly away and started back for the barn door.
“Hey,” Applejack called out. Her friend stopped, looking back. “An’ when ya get back, burn that book. Or better yet, have somepony else do it fer ya,” the orange pony suggested. “Ah get the suspicion that even readin’ it was messin’ with yer head.”
Rarity lifted a hoof to her chin in thought, then nodded. “Yes, I do think you are right, Applejack.” She gave a lady-like frown. “That book is dangerous.”
Applejack watched Rarity push the barn door open with a hoof and walk out. Finally, my host moved, stepping lightly so as not to make any noise, following the beautiful white unicorn.
“Hey!” Applejack called again, galloping past me fast enough to make my cloak flutter. She stopped at the door, calling out, “An’ fer whatever nonsense Rainbow Dash put ya up to, that hug does not count!
Equestria Gets Stealthbucks
Place on the Timeline -- Since the zebra in the invisibility cloak is the one who was spying on Applejack and Rarity, this must have happened shortly afterwards.
Brief Summary --
As a zebra spy lurks in Rarity’s Ministry of Image office, Prince Blueblood attempts to propose to Rarity (he fails, bad). After Blueblood is escorted off the premises, the zebra attempts to kill Rarity. Rarity stuns the assassin and takes the gem that activates the zebra invisibility cloak.
Text from the Story --
I wasn’t even a pony. This was a familiar strangeness. And I could feel the cloak draped about me, the hood over my mane and ears (as well as a saddle-pouch and something strapped to my side). This too was familiar. I was invisible again. A fact all too easy to glean as I watched a stallion admiring himself in a mirror -- a mirror which should also reflect my host from this angle, but did not. My host was a zebra in a stealth cloak. Possibly the same one as before.
“If you won’t accept my offer, then you should at least consider availing yourself of your good fortune that I am willing to pose for your new publication,” the stallion suggested as he preened himself. He was a regal, haughty white unicorn, quite handsome in his elder years. “I am, after all, the best pony.”
“Hardly,” intoned an elegant voice which could only belong to Rarity. If the stallion had noticed the slightly disparaging tone, he showed no indication of comprehending it. “There is no place for grandstanding or glory-hounds in the Ministry of Image. Our purpose here is to help the client shine all across Equestria, not ourselves. And our client is all of Equestria itself. We should remain invisible.”
With a politely sweet tone, she encouraged, “Perhaps you should try the Ministry of Awesome.”
We were in an office. A rather nice one at that, with elegant curtains and golden trim on the wainscoting. It certainly lacked the humbleness I had come to expect from a Ministry of Image building, which told me this was no M.I. hub, but the Ministry’s headquarters on Ministry Walk in Canterlot -- the one place where even the Ministry of Image would have to maintain an image.
“That’s easy for you to say,” the stallion frowned. “You’re already in charge of one of the most important branches of Princess Luna’s new government. You’re already in a position far beyond your wildest peasant dreams.”
Wow. I was quickly forming a rather strong dislike for this buck.
Rarity’s riposte was controlled, calm, even charming. “Humility was a lesson hard learned, in fact. It’s called maturing. Something which, sadly, you seem to have little acquaintance.”
“This is some sort of revenge, isn’t it?” Amazingly, the stallion still hadn’t bothered to glance at the beautiful mare he was talking to. If he was the subject of my host’s surveillance, then the magical cloak seemed superfluous.
“A lady is not vengeful,” Rarity informed him with a refined tone.
“But you are not a lady,” the stallion replied thoughtlessly. “You are a government official.”
I wanted to deck him.
“You are quite fortunate that I am a lady,” Rarity responded, her voice lowering. “And that I do not have a nearby cake.”
I had no idea what cake had to do with the conversation. But at least my host finally turned her attention to the gorgeous white unicorn. Again, she looked younger than I would have expected, and there was no grey in her hair.
She really knows how to take good care of herself, I thought admiringly. I bet she dyes her mane.
“And I am a prince,” the stallion informed her, finally deigning to turn his gaze away from himself and towards the mare he was addressing.
“Really?” Rarity rolled her eyes. “I have long operated under the assumption that your lineage was a joke perpetrated by Princess Celestia on…” She paused thoughtfully before concluding, “…anypony who ever met you.”
Rarity’s horn glowed.
“If you were to accept my proposal, then you would be a princess,” the prince continued obliviously.
Oh Goddesses fuck me in a three-way, this jerk actually proposed to Rarity? That’s what he meant by accepting his offer? A proposal isn’t an offer, it’s a request.
Rarity glanced around, then sighed. “Yes, and you would gain a hoof in one of the most powerful Ministries in Equestria. Or, at least, that would be what you seem to think.” She looked askance. “I cannot imagine any world where that would be worth it.”
The prince huffed. “You speak as if I am not sacrificing greatly myself in this arrangement. As your husband, I would almost certainly be expected to have relations with you.”
Un. Be. Lievable!
I focused, trying to make my host run over and buck him through sheer force of will.
Rarity stared silently. Her eyes slowly narrowed. Her horn glowed briefly again. “This conversation is over. Prince Blueblood, it is time for you to leave. If you have any further business, please address it to anypony other than me. Your presence causes me physical pain.”
“I am a prince, and a member in high standing in the courts of Canterlot. You would do well to…”
“But I don’t want to,” Rarity interrupted. “I don’t like you. In fact, I find you quite horrid. I despise that my position requires me to acknowledge your existence, and much worse, give you the occasional time of day. But that time had come to a close. Goodbye.”
Prince Blueblood huffed, standing tall. “You have no place to complain. It is I who should…”
“Oh, I’m not complaining,” Rarity’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “I’m whining. If I was complaining, it would suggest there is a higher authority to complain to. But there is not; I am the highest authority within this Ministry. Observe.”
Rarity trotted to her desk and pushed a button with her hoof. “Oooh guards!”
She turned to smile at the unicorn stallion as the double doors at the end of the room swung open and two guard ponies appeared. Prince Blueblood backpedaled, startled. “Please escort the prince off the property. If he resists, arrest him.”
I would have enjoyed the show had my host not backed away, heart beating slightly faster. She turned our head and I felt my teeth biting down on the object strapped to her side. It was the hilt of a sheathed blade, and the zebra silently drew it.
The guards did as the Ministry Mare requested. Prince Blueblood showed enough intelligence to not resist. I had hoped that once they were gone, my host would re-sheath her blade, but the zebra clearly had other plans.
We were alone with Rarity in her office. And she couldn’t see us.
“Unbelievable!” she nickered, echoing my previous thought. The elder unicorn had her back to us, her head lowered as she focused on something on her desk as my host began to creep closer.
No! I tried to shout a warning.
The zebra turned her head, aiming the blade for the back of Rarity’s neck, right in the lush of her mane. I could feel my host tense for the strike. Rarity shifted slightly, her horn glowing as one of the gems on the front of her desk slid aside, revealing a secret lock that demanded her attention.
I felt something shift in the zebra’s saddle-pouch. A new weight. Suddenly, frantically, my host backed up. I heard the detonation, felt a brutal pressure and a searing pain, then nothing. My host fell. Unmoving save for a twitching she could barely feel. It was as if her entire body had gone numb.
“Simply unbelievable,” reiterated Rarity as she elegantly turned, staring at where we had collapsed invisibly on the floor.
I heard more than felt the cloak being pulled off of my host, glowing in a blue magical field that mirrored the soft light tracing the spirals around Rarity’s horn. The moment it was removed, both the cloak and my host became visible. Rarity paid us no attention, floating the cloak to her and flipping the rough fabric about until she found the gemstone clasp.
“There you are, my pretty,” she said, telekinetically ripping the gemstone free, breaking the clasp in the process. “Oh don’t you have some interesting magic,” she said as she appraised the gem, tossing the rest of the cloak aside. “Twi will love taking a closer look at you!”
I realized I was seeing the inception of StealthBucks.
I recalled a message I had found in a recruitment center: ‘Intelligence suggested that the zebras had developed invisibility spell fetishes, but this looks like something designed by the Ministry of Magic.’ In the pervading paranoia of late wartime Equestria, somepony had feared the worst, not knowing what Twilight Sparkle knew. But the zebra’s hadn’t gotten this magic from us; we had gotten it from them.
The long, wicked blade lay on the carpet where it had fallen, close yet impossibly out of reach. My host tried to move towards it, but her body wouldn’t respond.
“I slipped a stun grenade into your saddle-pouch,” Rarity informed us, moving the gemstone out of sight. “I like to think I’m rather expert at manipulating cloth. Even if I can’t see it.”
The zebra shuffled closer to the blade.
“Really?” Rarity said with a lady-like scoff. She floated the blade away, turning a disdainful gaze on us. “A zebra assassin attempted to infiltrate my office and murder me concealed under a cloak with an enchanted gemstone?”
She leaned closer, “I’d explain how I got my cutie mark, but it wouldn’t do you any good where you’re going.”
Another cocoon of blue light wrapped around a headset on her desk and floated it over her head, gently sliding it into place around her ears and muzzle.
“Although I do have to wonder, were you trying to assassinate one of ‘Nightmare Moon’s’ cabinet?” she asked, turning her tail to us as she slid open the hidden compartment in her desk. “Or were you after this?”
Rarity cantered to face us. Floating in front of her was a powerful, dark tome bound in twisted black hide.
The moment I saw the book, I knew it held so many secrets. So many things just waiting for me to unlock if I could only look at the pages.
“Well, I suppose we’ll find out, won’t we?” Rarity promised.
She lifted a hoof to the headset, her expression instantly changing to one of barely-bridled joy. “Oooh, Piiiinkie Pie! This is Rarity. I’ve got a present for you!” She smiled. “You’ll love this one.”
From the Journal of Midnight Shower
Place on the Timeline --
Day Thirteen of Midnight Shower’s journal says that Shattered Hoof has recently occurred, and SteelHooves indifferent attitude towards going on an assignment for the MWT implies that this is before he entered a relationship with Applejack.
Brief Summary --
Luna’s Astronomer, Midnight Shower, is sent to Zebratown -- a ghetto at the foot of Canterlot for zebras -- to learn about all of their folklore involving the stars. There, Midnight Shower meets SteelHooves, and then learns that a prisoner who was carrying the Black Book had it confiscated by the Ministry of Image (placing Rarity’s acquisition of both the Black Book and the invisibility fetish before this). At the end, Midnight Shower is implied to have been lynched by a group of angry zebras because she had a piece of Nightmare Moon’s armor.
Text from the Story --
Today is the first day of my mission-imposed exile from the refined walls of Canterlot. I arrived in Zebratown at the stroke of eight, the royal guards dropping me and my bags off a small trot from the city limits. I did not blame them for not wishing to travel closer. And with Celestia’s sun shining above and a cool breeze coming off the mountains, the day invited a walk. My levitation spell is enough to care for my possessions for such a short distance and prevent the walk from being a burden. Although I admit I was a little concerned for the safety of the priceless heirloom with which I have been entrusted.
I would say that this is a fair town by Equestria’s standards, but Zebratown does not hold itself to such standards at all, now does it? Still, it is far better than the complete hovel I expected. I had heard that there was a town somewhere out in the dirtier parts of Equestria that the earth ponies had built in merely a year. Well, if that is true, then maybe there is a little earth pony in the zebras (and I do not mean that in an offensive or seditious manner), for in just a few years they have turned a poverty-riddled shantytown at the very foot of Canterlot into something rather impressive. Most impressive, I must say, is the elevated aqueduct that runs up the mountain and directly under Canterlot, catching the water which spills continuously from our glorious capital’s moat and distributing it not only through the town but the farmland beyond.
And to think that this entire place was not even a concept not so long ago. But then, there was no real need for segregation until the zebras massacred our children at Little Horn. Not that I believe the zebras who are upstanding Equestrian citizens should all be moved here, mind you. There are plenty of zebras in Canterlot. I even have a friend who is a zebra. But in the more backward, bumpkin parts of the kingdom, with the increasing anti-zebra war sentiment, it simply isn’t safe for them to be amongst normal ponies. It really is better this way.
That said, I was pleased to learn that the hut which Princess Luna has provided for the duration of my research here is actually a few miles outside of the town proper. As for the hut itself, it is… cozy. Far from the refinements and luxuries I have been accustomed to in the castle; but I am a scholar, not a noble, and so I have it in my blood to make do, being unburdened as I am with the nobility’s allergy to anything plebeian.
I have spent this afternoon getting settled in, including the task of troubleshooting the new terminal. Why is it that any new piece of arcano-technology always seems to come with more headaches than the one that it replaces? Of course, a fair part of the difficulties may have arisen from the installation of the security spell sub-matrix, but considering the sensitive nature of my research, it would simply not do to have one of the striped with an unhealthy sense of curiosity go poking around in my affairs, now would it?
Tomorrow, I shall trot back up to Zebratown and try to get acquainted with the town and its citizenry. Being able to establish a degree of good relations will be critical before pursuing avenues of inquiry.
My first attempts to befriend the residents of Zebratown were met with suspicion and guarded politeness, but no hostility. And, considering the state of things here, I regard that as a small triumph on my part.
Aside from differences in architecture, and of course the glaring striped-ness of the inhabitants, I could almost have believed I was in some extremely poor backwater pony town. Ponyville perhaps. Of the two things that stood out to me the most, the reluctant geniality of the population was something I could expect to find in almost any hub of civilization that has not yet ascended to the heights of society where the thinness and chill of the air requires an extra coat of snobbery.
The other matter was altogether more telling and more jarring, and that was how the war has left its hoofprint on Zebratown. Aside, that is, from the mere existence of this place. First, I found none of the patriotic posters or billboards that are beginning to dominate Canterlot. I hardly expected signs reminding the residents how much better and more virtuous they are than zebras, nor encouragements to join the war effort, but I was surprised not to find a single poster relating to any of the Ministries. In fact, the only hoofprint of the Ministries in all of Zebraville is the occasional patriotic song belted out by one of those new sprite-bots. There are a few of them bobbing around town. And just like the ponies of Canterlot, the zebras pay them little attention. Honestly, a song that inspires patriotism the first one hundred times you hear it will inevitably stop doing so within the first one thousand.
The other hoofprint is the presence of soldier ponies here. This, I am given to understand, is a very new development. Ever since the assassination attempt on Princess Celestia, the residents of Zebratown have been subject to harassment from ponies in nearby towns. Princess Luna has put Her hoof down, stationing some of Equestria’s Finest in Zebratown for the residents’ protection and safety.
I spent another day in Zebratown, acquainting myself with the proprietors of several of the businesses where I may make later inquiries, as well as presenting myself to the zebra constabulary within the Zebratown Police Station. The local law was quick to inform me that Zebratown operates under the same laws as the rest of Equestria and that the zebras are more than capable and willing to police their own. They offered to show me their vault of confiscated items and contraband if I doubted their efforts.
Believing I had gotten off on the wrong hoof, I swiftly assured them that I was not here on any matter of the Ministries or military, and that I was just conducting personal research for a thesis. I received even more suspicious looks at that, as well as a rather rude inquiry as to whether I was researching “inherent zebra inferiority”. As if anypony would want or need to do such a thing! No, I reassured them, confiding instead that I was doing a study on zebra astrology.
To my dismay, this produced an even worse reaction than the notion I was researching zebra inferiority, and it took all my not-inconsiderable charisma and social graces to assure them that my studies were benign. Still, I left the encounter feeling a little shaken and slightly alarmed at the task before me.
The thoughts I find most particularly disquieting are the images my mind conjures of the locals’ reaction should they learn the truth behind my research.
Bearing in mind the extreme security on this terminal and the sensitive nature of the charts and documents already stored within, I have decided that it should be safe to record the particulars of my assignment and the discussion which led to my being thrust into the cultural wasteland. (And by that, of course, I mean anyplace that is not Canterlot.) I wish to do so now, while the words of the Princess are still fresh in my head, before time and events further mar the memory. I suppose I could have a memory orb treatment, but such objects are terrifyingly lacking in proper security. Any unicorn could get into them.
I should first note that I took this assignment willingly, even eagerly. There are some things that are simply more important to a pony than proper surroundings, proper meals and proper company. And for every pony, the foremost of those things is their special talent, as magically emblazoned on their flank by their cutie mark. Sadly, there are ponies whose only talent in life is to be a stuck-up bore, or a rock farmer, or something equally as awful. But I had the unique misfortune of having the cutie mark of an event that would never occur within my lifetime.
The last centennial meteor shower occurred over Ponyville ten years before I was even born, and the next is not scheduled to occur until decades after I am likely to have passed away. So the ability to not only see but actually touch that very thing my cutie mark represents, to hold it in my hooves, was too overwhelming a gift to possibly turn away.
Being the Royal Astronomer comes with many benefits, not the least of which is being within the same orbit as the Princesses. I have been in the position to observe Them in less than entirely formal company, and had even had occasion to speak to Princess Luna or Princess Celestia in years prior at Their beckoning. As such, I believe I have constructed a better assessment of the character of each of the Princesses than most anypony other than perhaps Their Royal Guard, each other and some of the castle staff.
For example, Princess Luna is the younger sister. She is also the smaller and the cuter sister. As a result of these traits, I have seen many ponies fall prey to the notion that She must also be the weaker and the more innocent of the two. It is a misconception I have seen the Princess Herself play to on more than one occasion, usually with devastating precision. If anything can be said of the Night Princess, it is that She is the darker of the two.
In my personal estimation, ponies are often inclined to suspect Princess Celestia is capable of acts that our benevolent Princess could never commit, and equally inclined to underestimate what Princess Luna is capable of.
It was with these things in mind that many within the castle were fearful of what was to come after the zebras attempted to assassinate Princess Celestia. For days, Princess Luna locked Herself away in Her chambers, refusing meetings with every pony save Her Sister. On the fourth day, She called Her cabinet to Her and the Six Mares met with the Princesses for most of that day and the fifth. After they left, I was summoned.
To my surprise, Princess Luna was neither wrathful nor cold nor overcome with remorse. She was, if I had to put a word to it, contemplative. She invited me in, offered refreshment, and made sure I was comfortable. (Which I was, aside from being dreadfully nervous.) And then She opened up to me, telling me things I do not believe She has likely shared with any other pony outside of Her inner circle, if only because it is a subject matter She chooses not to discuss.
I shall endeavor to transcribe the words of Her Majesty, Princess Luna, as best I can recall.
“If you were to listen to the old pony tales, they would have you believe that the conflict between Celestia and Myself happened over the course of an evening… which, after a fashion, I suppose it did. But it was not a typical evening. The way it is told, one would think I threw a tantrum. Or that My Sister hurled me to a lunar prison at the climax of a breakfast squabble. Celestia did not choose to harness the most powerful magical energies in all of Equestria and turn them against Me either lightly or swiftly. In my insanity, I gave Her no other choice, and She still tried every avenue to reason with Me. Nor was the attack unexpected and unprepared for.
“What the history books gloss over and the myths leave out entirely is that the morning I rebelled lasted longer than what would normally be considered a week. There are also those who mistakenly believe that because Celestia raised and lowered My moon for a thousand years that She is more powerful and that Her banishment of Me was petty and unnecessary as She could have just taken control and lowered My moon Herself. That is not the case. She could only raise My moon all those centuries because I was not there, as I would be able to raise Her sun in Her absence. When it comes to the night, to use an ancient term, My power trumps Hers. I held my moon high and forced Her sun to stay down for over a week’s time, and She could do nothing about it.”
I cannot properly convey the sense of sorrow, bitterness and remorse that hid behind Princess Luna’s voice. Yet regardless of how much private pain this revisiting inflicted, the Night Princess persevered.
“By the end of it, Equestria had entered a deep winter, the freezing cold was killing plants and wildlife alike, and ponies everywhere were suffering and facing death from cold or starvation. I did not care. I was in a great rage, and I wanted to punish.
“My wrath did not just spill out onto our lands. Before the end, both the griffins and the zebras had sent agents to assassinate me. But between my power and the protection of my armor, they stood no chance and I laid them low.
“Celestia did what She had to do. And even She could not break Me of My madness. Even My Sister was not powerful enough or pure enough of heart to save Me. It took others to do that. There is a… spark that is required to power the Elements of Harmony to their fullest, and it is hard to generate that spark if One is acting alone.”
Words cannot express the depth of emotion I felt at these revelations. The wonder and the horror of them was beyond expression. Princess Luna gave me time to digest these things and finally to dare ask why She had chosen to confide them in such a lowly pony as myself. To be honest, there was a part of me that feared for my life. Such secrets were not for the likes of mere astronomers, royal or otherwise.
“I wish you to understand the context that I suspect surrounds the task I must ask you to undertake,” She told me.
“You must understand two things. First, that the conflict between Celestia and Myself did not happen, dare I say it, ‘overnight’. I had planned. Made preparations. I had anticipated that Celestia would use the Elements against Me eventually, and that others would try to stop me even sooner. So I had mystical armor fashioned for myself out of the rarest and most magically stalwart of all metals. What I did not foresee is that My Sister would banish Me. I had expected Her to attempt to strike Me down, and my defenses were designed around such an assumption. I had expected My Sister to be as cruel as I had become, and thus I lost.”
With that she produced a small, plain lockbox. She used Her levitation, floating the box at a distance as if loathe to touch it. Setting the lockbox before me, She opened it with yet another spell, revealing a charred and twisted scrap of metal.
“This is a piece of Nightmare Moon’s armor.” She bade me to take it, examine it. The metal was light and cool to the touch, pale blue with an extraordinary sheen that put silver to shame. I asked Her where in Equestria had She found such metal.
“The metal is not native to Equestria. In fact, it is not native to this world at all. Every one hundred years, the skies of our world are graced with a meteor shower. There was one in the year Nightmare Moon was set free and I was saved… on the longest day of the one thousandth anniversary of my incarceration.
“I can see you have done the math. It is worth noting that on rare occasions, perhaps once every dozen showers, not all of the meteors burn up in the sky. There have been impacts. During the meteor shower which occurred in the year I was banished, there was one such impact in the Everfree Forest, not far from… the old castle.
“I believe the zebras’ name for this is starmetal, and they have considerably more myths about it than we do. I want you to go to Zebratown… you may take this with you… and learn all you can of those myths.
“The zebras’ reaction to My position has been more extreme than We had anticipated. For the sake of all of Equestria, I need to understand why.”
Today, I availed myself of one of the more unique buildings in Zebratown. The zebras have made an interesting effort to blend their cultural heritage with a more proper Equestrian aesthetic. One of the results is the (in)famous bath houses of Zebratown. Water is piped in from the aqueduct, and several of the pools are boiler-heated. Patrons move between hot baths and cool as they mingle and discuss the matters of the day, or enjoy a poolside brunch at the provided tables. As utterly uncouth as bathing publicly is, I must admit that the experience provided by these bath houses is luxurious, both physically and socially.
I was astonished to discover there were ponies living in Zebratown. Only a hoof-full, I am told, but there are ponies who have chosen to live their lives in this place. On purpose. I had the opportunity to converse with one such pony at the bath house, a delightful peasant mare named Daisy. It is Daisy’s assertion that she chose to live here because the zebras need to be reminded that not all ponies are, in her words, “xenophobic bigots.”
And on the matter of irrational fears, I found myself the subject of just such sentiments when a zebra mother screamed and pulled her foal from the bath (and soon the bath house entirely) upon the mere sight of me. When I endeavored to determine what I had done to provoke this rather extreme response, most of the zebras would not meet my eyes out of embarrassment. One finally explained, her face reddened with shame, that the mark of the three streaking meteors on my flank was the source of the zebra’s terror. It would appear that the myths of the zebras have such a hold on the psyche of some that my cutie mark alone is cause for such reaction.
Upon leaving the bath house, I noticed several zebra colts quickly attempting to hide an inhaler, looking for all the land like they had been caught by their parents reading an issue of Wingboner Magazine. I am hardly a pony to know about such things, but I suspect they were using illegal zebra-imported pharmaceuticals. Perhaps the constables need to be keeping a better watch.
Inquiries are proceeding at an abysmal pace. Very few zebras seem to know much of their homeland’s folklore. (And I have received more than one admonishment for using that phraseology, the zebras insisting that Equestria is their homeland.) It would seem that a large portion of the town’s population are either unschooled in their heritage or have chosen to abandon anything that would tie them to the zebras we are fighting, including an adamantly feigned ignorance about any aspects of their homeland’s culture and religion.
I cannot blame them. There have been a number of small incidents since I have arrived. These have mostly been spray-painting, broken flower pots, trampled gardens and other minor harassments. But I do understand that a constant air of intolerance, perpetrated by an insignificant few, can have an impact on the general psyche.
The soldiers who are charged with protecting the residents from such incursions are more worrisome than the hooligans themselves. I have come to learn that a few of the newly assigned mares and bucks served at Shattered Hoof Ridge. I will be writing a correspondence before the week is out, suggesting that perhaps it would be better to rotate out any member of our military recently involved in battle with the striped.
My research is beginning to bear fruit. Apparently, the most knowledgeable zebra in town regarding the old tales is currently being held prisoner in the Zebratown Police Station, although the shopkeeper I spoke to was either unable or unwilling to comment on the crimes for which he is being held. I will be attempting to gain an audience with the prisoner tomorrow.
Nearly a month into my exile and as much as I miss the castle, there is something about this strange, dirty little peasant town that is growing on me, albeit not in an altogether pleasant way. The shopkeepers no longer look at me with suspicion, and I enjoyed a crisp hay lunch with Daisy this afternoon.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that, despite the constables’ insistence to the contrary, this town has a deeply embedded contraband problem. There have been three deaths in the outlying farmlands within the last three weeks that can be connected to a newly-banned drug called Dash. The deaths involve one overdose and two shootings, the latter both by the same individual who was high on the drug at the time she committed the murders. Combine this with a few of my own observations within the town, and I am becoming confident that Zebratown has its hooves deep in either the distribution or possibly even manufacturing of this dangerous substance.
On the way home, I noticed a couple ponies trying to sneak into town carrying what looked like bottles of liquor. Their behavior was suspicious enough that I stopped them and began asking their business in town loudly enough that one of the nearby soldiers couldn’t help but take note. Unsurprisingly, the ponies quickly remembered an appointment elsewhere.
I was on my way to meet with the local constabulary when I was forced to alter my normal approach due to several large, pony-drawn wagons blocking the street. Not being in a rush, I decided to take the scenic way around, taking the opportunity to locate and browse a store I had heard of, nestled in a back corner of Zebratown, which reputedly sells replica ceremonial zebra masks. I believe the proprietor of such a store would naturally possess a wealth of knowledge about zebra customs and, by extension, beliefs.
My plans for the afternoon were disrupted by a quickly muffled call for help. Apparently, a few of “Equestria’s Finest” decided to have their way with a rather comely zebra mare. By the time I arrived on the scene, the bucks were on the ground, sprawling before their very angry commanding officer -- a sergeant by the name of Applesnack whom I later learned was one of the soldiers transferred here after Shattered Hoof Ridge.
From the way one of the soldier bucks held his ribs as he limped away, it was clear the sergeant had chosen a non-vocal means of intervening in the would-be assault, although he certainly had some choice words for them after he had bucked them flat.
What had the greatest impact on me, however, was what happened after. I was taking note of the sergeant’s name with intention of recommending some manner of commendation when the zebra mare, shaken and sobbing, reached out a hoof to thank him. Sergeant Applesnack rounded, pushing her away and informing her that he stopped those bastards because they were a disgrace to Equestria and most emphatically not for the likes of her.
I feel another letter is in order, this time addressed directly to the Princess Herself.
My correspondence to Princess Luna continue to go unanswered.
I took the starmetal into one of the town’s jewelers for their appraisal, only to find myself kicked out of her shop and told never to return. This, from the same mare who swore not six days again that she neither knew nor cared a thing about the old zebra tales.
I was just leaving when a chariot raced by, drawn by a very familiar-looking pony as two others hurled burning bottles and shouted anti-zebra epitaphs too foul to sully myself repeating. One of the bottles crashed through the window of the jewelry shop, setting it ablaze. Doing what any good pony would have done, I tried to gallop to the shopkeeper’s aid, but she fought me off, tossing a silver tea set at me before fleeing out a back entrance.
I suffered smoke inhalation and some minor burns, but nothing serious. The shopkeeper likewise was relatively unharmed. Not all were so lucky. A small zebra filly was caught in one of the fires and remains in the hospital, badly burned. The hospital here is poorly equipped and sparsely staffed, but they are doing what they can with healing poultices from zebra recipes you likely won’t find in the books of the Athenaeums of the Ministry of Arcane Sciences.
The zebra filly shares the hospital with one of her attackers. Two of the ponies are being held in the Zebratown Police Station until a transfer wagon arrives. Again we have Sergeant SteelHooves to thank; the sergeant responded to the attack by drawing his sidearm and shooting the mare pulling the chariot in the leg.
I must take a moment to praise Zebratown’s firefighting force who had the flames under control before the fires could spread to nearby buildings.
I spent most of the evening with the local constabulary, repeating endlessly my account of events. I attempted to use the opportunity to learn more about the zebra prisoner they have sealed in isolation, my efforts at gaining an actual audience having come to naught. This evening, one of the zebra constables designed to inform me that the prisoner was charged with smuggling contraband into Equestria as well as another charge that I believe can best be translated as “heresy.”
When I questioned whether the contraband was related to the increasing number of Dash-related incidents, the constable abruptly denied any connection between Zebratown and the local drug problem, proclaiming the influx of Dash was almost certainly coming from someone associated with the nearby veterinary pharmaceuticals company.
Instead, the constable insisted that the contraband, in this case, amounted to a book. When I asked if I might see the book in question, stating that it might shed some light on my research, the zebra informed me that he would be more than happy to oblige me were it not for the unfortunate fact that the Ministry of Image confiscated the book, removing it from their contraband vault a scant few days before.
My efforts to find the little shop that sells zebra ceremonial masks have again been thwarted by a combination of obscure local and conflicting directions. To an extent, I can understand and forgive the zebras for the aggravation. Any business steeped in the heritage of their native land would increase the negative perception of Equestrian zebras and likely become a magnet for attacks like the one yesterday.
I was able to encourage a young buck to speak with me in return for my discretion regarding a transaction between himself and several foals wherein inhalers were exchanged for bits. Not only do I have a possibly more accurate description of the store’s locale, but the buck divulged a few slippery tenets of the striped’s mindset regarding Princess Luna. For example, according to zebra folklore, the Princess Luna’s madness and “depths of evil” could only be explained by (and he said this in a derisive tone, clearly scoffing at such superstitions) “external forces”.
When I queried him further, asking what he meant by “external forces”, he laughed and responded, “The stars, you silly pony. The stars!”
In an attempt to engender camaraderie, I suggested that if he really wished to rebel against the foolishness of his elders, he could always get a star-shaped tattoo. To my surprise, he grew upset. His words, minus the unnecessary and rather crude epithets, amounted to “I mock their old religion because I am smarter than they are, not because I am stupid.”
After that, I could get nothing further from him.
This brings to mind a tangentially related bit of local gossip. The mare who took a bullet to the leg died last night. The official statement claimed ill-defined “complications.” If the rumor is true, she went into Dash withdrawal during surgery. In a small way, the attack was the zebras’ own fault.
And on that topic, I passed Sergeant SteelHooves on my way to the markets. The stallion was busily scrubbing down his combat armor. Some pony had vandalized it most egregiously by painting stripes on the protective plates and scrawling “Zebra Lover” on one of the boots.
I offered my commiseration. It was completely unfair that he should be suffering ridicule for the stalwart performance of his duties, something I feel the majority of the soldiers here neglect more often than not.
Tossing the scrub brush, he spat and told me, “I hate this town and I’ll be happy to leave it. Place like this makes it hard to simply hate zebras and love ponies.” We conversed a short while, and during the course of the discussion, I found myself proclaiming the belief that these zebras were Equestrian citizens like any pony and deserved no less love and friendship. After all, it is not their fault that they were born with stripes. They had no choice in the matter. (If they did, I am sure they would have chosen to be ponies; it is not as if they are making a fashion statement.)
I have always been a very open-minded and egalitarian pony, after all.
He replied, “True. But I’m a soldier.” He spoke as if it behooves a soldier to only think of zebras as the enemy and nothing more. Perhaps there is wisdom in that, but if so, it makes me thankful that I am not a military pony.
“This is the last you’ll see of me. I’ve volunteered for a special assignment with the Ministry of Wartime Technology. My wagon pulls out this weekend, and I will never set hoof in this wretched town again. Equestria willing, I’ll never have to play pleasant with a zebra again either.”
Zebratown, I suspect, will be worse off for his absence.
Today was an amazing day.
After two more store owners refused to speak to me about the starmetal, I finally located the ceremonial mask shop and met with the proprietor. This time, I was cautious not to produce or even mention knowledge of the metal, instead asking about zebra legends surrounding the meteor showers, explaining away my curiosity with my cutie mark.
In return, the old zebra mare told me plenty, albeit in hushed tones and only after pulling me into a back room and closing up her store.
She spoke of how the zebras believe that the stars themselves are the visible avatars of unholy entities so unfathomable that our minds would crack should we perceive more than a notion of them. Beings of such primordial and loathsome will that all the evils of our world are no match for their vileness and cruelty.
Much of this I had heard before, but not in so chilling a fashion nor with such utter conviction.
Amongst the most interesting of her tales was the story thousands of years old, telling of one of the first zebra cities and how it was destroyed by several meteor impacts during the earliest recorded meteor shower. The city had been the zebra’s hub of trade and politics, and its destruction plunged the nation into hundreds of years of tribal civil wars.
I do believe that the events of this tale, if true, represent the historical roots of what has become the dominant zebra mythology.
I had settled down on a park bench near the Celestia fountain (a zebra’s rather hoof-forward way of saying “we’re Equestrians too”, I suspect) when one of those huge, new-model whirligigs -- a Griffinchaser V -- descended out of Canterlot, landing on the far side of the Zebratown commons. Now despite my position as Royal Astronomer, I had never actually seen one of the Ministry Mares. Today, I saw two. Fluttershy, Mare of the Ministry of Peace emerged from the passenger compartment along with eight other ponies, five of whom were carrying pink suitcases.
Pinkie Pie, Mare of the Ministry of Morale, stepped down from one of the six pedal positions, and ordered the heavily laden ponies to follow her as she marched through the front gate leading to one of the zebra huts, opened the door and went inside. Fluttershy politely requested the company of the remaining three and departed straight for the hospital.
Half an hour later, Pinkie Pie’s five ponies emerged from the house, stowed their suitcases in the Griffinchaser, and began going door-to-door throughout the neighborhood. Not long after, Pinkie Pie herself emerged from the house, closing the door behind her, trotting up to the front gate, and planting something at the base of the gate underneath netting designed to look like dirt. Then kicked dirt onto it for good measure.
Then, the Mare of the Ministry of Morale proceeded to disguise herself as a trash can… with a fake beard. I must admit that it was amusing.
I will admit that I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me. I sat on that bench for over an hour, watching the bearded trash can watch the empty and apparently booby-trapped hut. My patience was rewarded when Fluttershy and her ponies returned, escorting a happily stunned zebra couple as their little filly dodged about their legs. I had not seen the filly until after she had been horribly burned, and it is doubtful that I would have recognized her even if I had, as zebras all tend to look alike. But it was not difficult to deduce who the filly must be.
Likewise, it became swiftly evident that the hut invaded by the Ministry of Morale earlier was her home. Even then, I was not ready for the explosion triggered when the little filly stepped onto Pinkie Pie’s concealed pressure plate.
I suspect they will be cleaning up confetti from the Zebratown commons for weeks. Not to mention streamers from several of the rooftops. The little filly was utterly delighted… after she crawled out from behind her parents’ hooves. (The blast of trumpets nearly had me cowering under the bench.)
Zebras poured out of nearby huts, although I was not sure how many did so on account of the invitation and how many were just trying to make sure the town wasn’t being bombed. But the vast majority of them joined in the festivities regardless.
It all brought a smile to my face. Even if zebra fillies have a very different preference for party music than a proper Canterlot pony. The only one, in fact, who was not smiling was Pinkie Pie herself. But I suspect that may have been because she had thrown such an amazing party and didn’t have the time to stay and enjoy it. The two Ministry Mares and their company were lifting into the air on that six-peddle-pony flyer before the filly had even gotten to cut the cake.
I received an official decree from Princess Luna today in response to my latest reports. By this document of authority, signed by the Princess Herself, the local constabulary is required to let me interview any prisoner in its custody.
I noticed an oddness about the town. It was as if the entire place was abandoned. All the stores were mysteriously closed. I proceeded directly to the Zebratown Police Station, only to find the doors shut and locked from the inside. It occurred to me that today must be some zebra holiday. Considering the dark and ominous tones to most of their mythology, it does stand to reason that their holidays would be somber and fearful affairs. Although even then, the closing of the police offices seems exceptional. Ponies would never shut down vital services just because of a date on a calendar.
This is no holiday. For three days, Zebratown has been like a ghost town for me. For three days I have sought audience with the constabulary, and for three days I have been denied.
I know there are zebras here. I can see their shadows moving behind their windows. I spotted one zebra mare pulling her welcome mat inside before slamming and locking the door at my approach. Another hurried her filly indoors, her expression aghast as the foal attempted to smile at me. The horror. The horror.
Enough is enough. I have an official decree from Princess Luna herself, and I am going to wait outside this door until I am recognized.
I waylaid one of the constables as she attempted to sneak home after her shift. Cornered, the zebra mare admitted that word had spread throughout town. Every zebra now knew that I was in possession of starmetal; worse, they had somehow surmised that it was a fragment of Nightmare Moon’s armor which I had brought with me from Canterlot.
I was immediately anxious, knowing that the proliferation of this information would put the valuable heirloom entrusted to me in great danger of theft! The next words of the striped constable, however, revealed that the reverse was true. No zebra would be willing to venture close to the “accursed” chunk of meteor metal, nor would they abide my presence due to my association with the heirloom. Insanely, in the zebra mind, my “prolonged exposure” means that I am somehow contaminated, as if I have contracted a dangerously communicable disease. No stores will do business with me. I am unofficially but quite effectively shunned.
It is just a damned piece of metal!
Thrusting my papers into the zebra’s face, I dragged her back to the station and demanded that she facilitate my access to the prisoner. I will admit to having been perhaps excessively loud and more physically forceful than is befitting a pony of breeding, but my efforts did provoke a response. Finally, the head of the constabulary opened the door, if only enough to poke out his head between the heavy chains that prevented me from forcing the door open farther. He took one look at my papers, agreed to the authority they provided me, but “regretfully” informed me that the prisoner had slain himself two nights before and would not be speaking with anyone, pony or zebra.
I was not satisfied. I demanded to see the body for myself. I suspected that the zebra was lying. Or worse, I suspected foul play to prevent me from speaking with the captive zebra.
To my surprise, the head of the constabulary capitulated. He withdrew and closed the door. I could hear the chains being removed. When he opened it again, all the constables had left the room. I saw them watching from adjacent rooms like nervous foals peering into the darkness under their bed.
The head constable led me through the Zebratown Police Station, unlocking the door into the dimly lit stairwell. We descended, passing by the floor containing the normal cell blocks and plunging farther down until we were in a sub-basement where the iron behemoth of their boiler was held. Beyond it, across from the coal room, was a small room, no bigger than a closet, with a heavy iron door. Inset into the door was a small, barred window of thick glass through which I could look into the shadowed chamber.
I could see the prisoner. They zebras had not moved him. They had, I am inclined to assume, been unwilling to even open the door, much less share a space with the body of the striped inside. I could not make out the writing on the wall but I immediately knew he had painted the scrawling letters in his own blood. I recoiled as my gaze fell upon him, certain without doubt that the zebra had taking his own life in a fit of insanity. He had chewed through his own forehooves, continuing to gnaw, muzzle pressed into his own blood, until they were attached to his forelegs by only thin strips of meat. I have no idea what unholy drive allowed him to survive long enough to do the same to both of them.
Day Thirty-Six, addendum:
I am almost finished packing. There is no point pursuing my research here. I will get no more cooperation from the zebras of Zebratown. To my dismay, not even Daisy will respond to my knocking, although I suppose she could legitimately be out of town. It does not matter.
I have sent a message ahead to Princess Luna, informing her of my failure and my imminent return. I have ordered a royal chariot to pick me up in just under two hours. That should be enough to pack up this terminal and the last of my possessions. I want to be rid of this place and back in my own bed before midnight.
And there is the knock on the door. It would appear my ride is early. Well, they will have to wait. But I will not make them wait long.
And now they have upgraded their knocking to banging. Now I worry that Princess Luna is disappointed with me and wishes to see me before I have time to pack. Or perhaps they have invitations to a soirée in Canterlot and fear I will make them unfashionably late. Doesn’t matter. I’ve decided that I don’t really need a lot of this junk anyway. I can always buy new things once I am back in the lap of a society of reasonable ponies. Actually, all I really need are those things already in my bags, as well as the heirloom’s lockbox and this terminal. I will be ready to go as soon as I have finished writing this entry and I have shut...
Two Hundred Years Later:
I’d seen enough of the ravages of time and the scattered refuse that was left behind after generations of scavengers. This wasn’t it. Pictures were slashed apart, furniture was smashed under hooves, small treasures were defiled.
I’d also seen the malicious destruction of raiders. The wreckage in the cottage was much closer to that, but this wreckage was old, bearing all the signs of predating the apocalypse. The torn pictures were so faded with age they were unintelligible. The furniture was rotting. The stuffing in the ripped pillows had turned to dust, presuming they were not stuffed with dust to begin with.
“It gets worse,” SteelHooves warned. I stepped farther inside, and the turn of a corner revealed the collapsed remains of a skeleton on the floor beneath a hanging noose. Any physical clue as to whether the owner of that skeleton had hung himself or been lynched had been obliterated by the past.
Buckfriend for Applejack
Place on the Timeline --
This happens after Applejack gets into a relationship with SteelHooves (which probably started after he left Zebratown).
Brief Summary --
Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie talk to Applejack about her new boyfriend, and Pinkie mentions that she has a connection with Littlepip.
Text from the Story --
Everything shot into almost brutal sharpness. Colors were more colorful. The lines around objects almost vibrant. The sunlight was sunnier than I had ever imagined it could be. Bright and warm and glorious beyond belief. I could smell the bush I was standing behind, the flowers nearby, the grass. I could smell the two ponies I was watching. The sweat on Applejack would have made me stir in recently wounded places if this had been my own body.
It was not, however -- a fact to which I was hyper-aware. I could feel a slight burning on my left forehoof, as if I’d recently touched a hot stove. I had an itch on my cheek, an odd pain in my hind legs that was barely noticeable, a tingle along my back. There was a familiar and delicious peppermint taste on my tongue.
With dawning horror, I realized that my pony host was high on Mint-als.
Oh please no! I can’t take this!
The effects were nowhere near as pronounced. I was getting the heightened perceptions, but none of the other effects. Still, it was too comfortable, too alluring.
“Howdy, Fluttershy,” Applejack said, greeting her friend with a smile as the yellow pegasus landed gently on the grass as if worried about hurting it.
“Hello, Applejack,” the pegasus said meekly.
“So, what brings ya about these parts?”
“Well…” The shy pegasus looked down, crossing one leg over the other. “I… um… that is…”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Good gravy, girl. Spit it out, already. Is something wrong?”
The pegasus took a deep breath and then said in a rush, “Are you looking for a close marefriend? Because, if you are, we could… um… you know?” She paused, all too obviously having no clue what good marefriends did in the privacy of their own beds.
My host stifled a giggle as Applejack’s eyes went wide. Then she scowled, trotting past the deeply blushing pegasus to slam her head repeatedly against a tree.
When she finished, she turned on Fluttershy. “All right. That’s enough. What is it with all muh friends hittin’ on me, pretendin’ Ah’m a fillyfooler? Y’all know better. And y’all are straight.” She took a step forward. Fluttershy eeped and took one back. “Fluttershy, Ah know you. So be straight with me.”
The pun was probably not intended.
“Did Rainbow Dash put ya up to this?” Applejack demanded.
“oh!” Fluttershy squeaked but shook her head. “No.”
Applejack looked dubious. “So yer sayin’ ya just thought this up all by yer lonesome?”
Fluttershy shook her head.
“So Rainbow Dash did put ya up t’ it!”
“No,” she insisted softly. My host began to move, silently creeping out from behind the bush.
“But… somepony did?” Applejack sussed out. Her yellow friend nodded. “Who?”
My host had moved up behind Applejack so quickly and stealthily even I hadn’t seen it happen. Still, it bewildered me how we could be standing this close and neither of the ponies seemed to notice us. Were we invisible? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I had found myself in a magically hidden being who was spying on the Ministry Mares. But I was clearly in an earth pony…
Applejack turned around only to find herself nose-to-nose with my host. Spooked, she jumped away so fast she toppled onto her back. “Pinkie Pie!”
“Hiya!” I felt my muzzle say, hearing the words in a high-pitched but pretty voice. “Aww! Ya caught me!”
“What in tarnation are…” The blonde-maned orange pony stopped. Then facehoofed while still lying on her back in a most undignified position. “You! This has all been one of yer and Rainbow’s practical jokes, ain’t it?”
“Yep!” I heard myself say happily as I began to bounce. Bounce!?
Applejack pulled herself back onto her hooves, staring at me and my host crossly. “Care if Ah ask why?”
“Well, you’ve been totally a mopey-pony since the funeral…”
“Of course Ah have!” Applejack shot. “Ah buried muh brother!”
“…and you’ve been working really, really hard,” Pinkie Pie plowed on. “An’ ya haven’t been getting out, or going to parties, or seeing your friends. And you haven’t even talked to a buck in, like, for-ev-er!...”
Applejack huffed. “How would ya know if Ah’ve…” She stopped abruptly, realizing just how stupid a question that was considering who she was asking. Fluttershy had slipped back a ways, almost hiding.
“…and you’re all worked up and stressed and you’re gonna burn yourself out if you aren’t careful, and you really, really need to get laid!”
Applejack hung her head. Pinkie Pie was… incorrigible at best. “This ain’t gonna end until Ah get myself a buckfriend, is it?”
“Nope!” Pinkie Pie announced bouncily. How the hell could she bounce on all hooves like that? I was inside her, and I still couldn’t figure it out.
“Well, would it help if Ah said there is a buck Ah’ve had muh eye on?”
Pinkie Pie stopped bouncing and stared off into space. The itch on the side of her cheek migrated to her chin. She looked back to Applejack, “Yep, that’s the truth. But itchy chin means you haven’t told him yet. You gotta talk to him!”
Applejack sighed. “An’ if Ah do, this nonsense stops?” I watched the world rock as Pinkie Pie nodded enthusiastically.
My host started chanting “Do it!” rambunctiously as she bounced in circles around Applejack.
“Fine.” Applejack reached out a hoof and stopped Pinkie Pie. “On one condition!”
“Y’all got ta swear…” Applejack turned to look at Fluttershy. “…Both o’ ya, that Rainbow Dash don’t hear a word o’ this!”
“But…” Pinkie Pie started, “If Rainbow Dash doesn’t know, how will she know that it’s time t’ stop the prank, silly?”
“Ah can deal with it from Rainbow,” Applejack said sternly. “Least, now that Ah know where it’s comin’ from. But this possible buckfriend o’ mine?… well, he’s got a kinda funny name… an’ Ah think Rainbow might not be able t’ keep herself from messin’ things up.”
Wow, that came out badly. Applejack seemed to realize it too. “Look, Ah’ll tell her muhself when Ah’m ready. Not b’fore.” She looked at her two friends. “Now y’all Pinkie Pie Swear it!”
Pinkie Pie Swear?
My host’s reaction was immediate. I struggled to keep track of the odd motions (which ended with sticking a hoof in my eye!) that accompanied the little singsong that Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy managed to do in perfect synchronicity.
“Cross my heart and hope to fly. Stick a cupcake in my eye!”
Applejack breathed a sigh of relief. The three friends began to walk, my host falling slowly behind.
“Oh… there it is again.”
Applejack and Fluttershy both stopped, looking back. “There what is?”
“Burning hoof means Littlepip’s watching me,” Pinkie Pie blurted out impossibly. “Or will be watching me. I’m not sure yet.” She bounced after her friends. “Who’s Littlepip?”
Unveiling of the Steel Rangers
Place on the Timeline --
Brief Summary --
Applesnack/SteelHooves wears his new Steel Ranger armor which Applejack presents to the Ministry of Wartime Technology for the first time.
Text from the Story --
I was harnessed to something.
We were standing offstage, concealed in darkness by a heavy curtain. Applejack stood next to me, staring out at the dark stone stage, the podium with microphone and speakers, the mumbling throng filling the auditorium in front of it, the huge brass MWT logo on the wall behind it.
I (or at least the pony whose memory I was riding) only had eyes for her. She looked nervous, not to mention uncomfortable in her formal business dress.
“Ah can’t do this.”
I felt myself speak, heard the words coming from my mouth, “You’ll be fine.” The voice was deep and strong, like SteelHooves’ but not nearly so gravelly.
“They hate me. Half of ‘em already been saddlesore cuz Ah started puttin’ all my hooves inta the Ministry ‘stead o’ jus’ lettin’ ‘em do what they wanted. But bringin’ in Twilight’s ponies?” From her tone, that had apparently not gone over well at all.
I wrapped a foreleg around her neck (allowing me to glimpse the apple green color of my coat) and nuzzled her gently, a sensation that I found quite pleasant. “And after today, they’ll all understand it, and they’ll admire you for it.”
I (or more precisely, the pony I was “riding”) leaned close and whispered into her ear. “Now go on out there and make history. Or I’ll be forced to spank you.”
Oh goddess Celestia!
The orange pony blushed and gave her encourager a look that I would have paid almost anything to have a mare give me. “Later, loverboy.” She smiled, at least more cheerful now, and strode out before the crowd. The pony I was riding watched her stride, his eyes straying repeatedly to her flanks, taking my gaze with his. As much as I couldn’t blame him, it was making me feel distinctly uncomfortable. This was an odd memory to be sharing.
Then I noticed that she had a holster strapped to one leg, mostly hidden beneath her formal attire. The ivory handle flashed three red apples as she walked.
The reception was not the respectful and admiring silence which Fluttershy received. But Applejack stood up straight at the podium, cleared her throat, and spoke slowly and clearly.
“Now listen up. Ah know y’all been a bit sore ‘bout havin’ ponies from the Ministry of Arcane Sciences workin’ with us. Ah know y’all are dedicated t’ improvin’ Equestria the earth pony way, an’ magic kinda flies in the face of alla that. But there are some things that’re jus’ too important t’ let stubborn pride get in the way o’ askin’ for help. Trust me. Ah know.
“An’ Ah want y’all t’ know how proud Ah am t’ be standin’ here today, able t’ finally show ya the fruits of yer efforts. Most of ya don’t know whatcha been workin’ on. T’was important t’ keep things…” The next word did not seem to come naturally to her, “…compartmentalized t’ keep this project outta zebra hooves. What y’all have accomplished in just one year… ain’t been a buncha earth ponies do more good work in less time than when we built Appleloosa.”
Until this point, her words were undercut by resentful rumbles of whispered opinion. Now, her voice dropped into a tone both somber and deadly serious. The ponies in the audience began to hush. Not for her, but out of reverence for what she spoke of.
“When Ah was young, my big brother, Big Macintosh, was always there fer me. He was muh closest kin, an’ he never let me down. And when Equestria needed him, he didn’t let us down neither. He served heroically in our army, fighting for our way o’ life for three years. And then, when we needed him most, he made the ultimate sacrifice.
“When that zebra bullet punched through muh brother’s armor an’ pierced his heart, it broke muh heart too.” I could see Applejack’s eyes start to tear. Her voice trembled, but she pressed on. The room was now dead silent except for her.
“One year ago, we buried muh brother, Big Macintosh. And that day, Ah swore an oath that no one other pony would die needlessly in battle. They’re riskin’ their lives out there fer us. We owe them better. An’ now, startin’ today, we give ‘em better.”
My memory escort started walking onto the stage. I felt the ropes trailing from me lift and pull taut, the harness digging into my flesh. I felt the resistance and heard the wheels of the wagon I was pulling begin to move.
“Ponies of the Ministry o’ Technology, Ah give t’ y’all the Steel Ranger!”
Raising Stable Two
Place on the Timeline --
SteelHooves is wearing his power armor, which means that this takes place after the Steel Ranger’s are unveiled.
Brief Summary --
To help fund the Steel Ranger project, Applejack sells her farm to Stable-Tec. Apple Bloom then decides to build Stable Two in Sweet Apple Acres.
Text from the Story --
“This isn’t fair!”
I recognized the voice of Rainbow Dash almost a full minute before I heard her.
I was SteelHooves. Not Applesnack this time, not with the heavy armor pressing all around me. My vision beyond the inside of the helmet was limited to the view out my visor, but I was graced with an exceptionally complex and sophisticated Eyes-Forward Sparkle. Within the helmet, I seemed to have access to everything my E.F.S. and PipBuck provided… and more.
Breathing inside the armor was unpleasant. My muzzle was pressed into a rebreather. The air was cool and fresh, likely supplied by a minor air talisman, but the mouthpiece was simply uncomfortable.
The armor itself was bulky and weighed down on me, but I felt strong. Stronger than in any memory I had experienced before. The weight, however heavy, felt no more taxing than carrying a light pack.
My hoofsteps were heavy, like my hooves were… well, encased in steel armor exactly as they were. It was, all in all, an enlightening look into SteelHooves’ existence. And while I could see the advantages, I did not envy him for it.
I trod down a hallway, focused on the wooden double doors at the end. This, I guessed, was an office building of some sort. Not, mercifully, a battlefield. There seemed to be no imminent threats.
I felt myself raise an armored hoof and push open the door with measured gentleness.
Inside was a barely-furnished office that looked almost unused. A few shelves and a desk. And this was where Rainbow Dash and Applejack seemed to be having an argument. Applejack was standing behind the desk, dressed in a suit that she looked distinctly uncomfortable in. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, was wearing that same purple and black uniform I had seen her in earlier today and years ago. Or, rather, a pristine new version of the same basic design. It had a jagged yellow neckline and a skull-shaped cloud on the flank shooting a rainbow-colored lightning bolt, covering where Dash’s actual cutie mark would be.
Both mares turned to look at me. Applejack nodded, giving SteelHooves a smile of gratitude. Rainbow Dash only seemed to size up the metal warrior, clearly unable to recognize the pony beneath. I recalled that the pegasus wouldn’t learn about Applejack and Applesnack until a party that, I suspected, was still a year or two away. Her attention returned to her orange-coated friend.
“It’s just not right!” the blue pegasus spat with righteous indignation. “The Ministry of Awesome is putting up almost fifty towers -- as tall as the clouds -- all over Equestria and here you are having to sell Sweet Apple Acres just to get a suit of armor built? How does that make sense?”
Okay, maybe not an argument.
“That’s cuz buildin’ those towers is all y’all seem t’ be doin’,” Applejack explained patiently. “Meanwhile, muh Ministry is helpin’ fund over four dozen industries, givin’ them the subsidies they need t’ keep runnin’ until they c’n pull a solid profit. An’ next year, there’ll be twelve more.”
Rainbow Dash gaped. Then cocked her head. “Don’t you sometimes think the Ministry of Technology is a little too successful?”
Applejack nudged her cowpony hat and smiled.
“No, seriously,” the blue pegasus claimed, spreading her wings. “It’s gotten so sometimes I can’t even recognize Equestria anymore.”
The orange pony with the graying blond mane gave her friend a look. I hadn’t noticed the grey in the other memories, although the difference in age was at best a few years. I realized with amusement that, at some point, Applejack had started dying her hair. I wondered if, at that age, I’d feel the urge to. But then, I’d be a lucky mare to live that long in the Equestrian Wasteland.
“For example, do you really need all those roads?” the rainbow-maned pegasus asked.
“Some ‘o us ain’t got wings, remember.”
There was a clop at the door. SteelHooves trotted to Applejack’s side like a bodyguard. Rainbow Dash scowled but moved to the side.
“Come on in!” Applejack called out.
The door pushed open and Apple Bloom walked into the room. She was beautifully groomed and wore a business dress of mahogany and rose that went well with her mane. She looked infinitely more comfortable in her dress than her older sister did in the suit. There was a business bag strapped to her side.
“Wait…” Rainbow Dash said, looking between the two sisters. “You’re selling your farm… to your own sister?”
“Technically,” Apple Bloom said in a politely professional voice. “She’s sellin’ Sweet Apple Acres to Stable-Tec.” The younger sister turned her head, pulling open her business bag and pulling out a clipboard with her teeth. She offered it to Applejack, who took the other end, then set it on the desk between them.
“Ah think you’ll find everything is just as we promised,” Apple Bloom told her sister. I noticed her voice was a touch more urbane than her older sister’s, the country accent not as strong.
SteelHooves moved towards Apple Bloom, leaning close and whispering into her ear, “You’re not going to plow the place and build a mall, are you?”
“Oh heavens no,” Apple Bloom whispered back, looking uncomfortable. Almost… guilty. Her older sister caught the look.
“Hold on. Yer not gonna kick me an’ granny off the farm, are ya?”
Apple Bloom looked wounded. “How can you even ask that? Ah’m your sister!”
“Cuz Ah know that look,” Applejack said sternly. “An’ it’s cuz Ah’m yer sister that Ah do. Now spill it.”
Apple Bloom sighed, then pulled out a set of blueprints, unfurling them on the desk in front of her older sister and the two (three, really) guests.
“You’ll still have rights to the trees an’ the apples, jus’ like we promised. Stable-Tec is only buyin’ rights to the land. But you’ll have t’ move all these apple trees in this section here. And you won’t be able to use the barn until next spring.”
“What?” Applejack cocked an eyebrow at her younger sister. “Why?”
“Cuz we’re gonna be buildin’ a Stable there.”
Dissent in the Ministry of Wartime Technology
Place on the Timeline --
This definitely happens before the attempted assassination of Applejack.
Brief Summary --
Applejack publicly meets with Zecora in an MWT building. After that, a group consisting of high ranking M.W.T. members plots to kill Applejack.
Text from the Story --
The memory held within it something amazing, wondrous, inspiring. Sunlight!
Pure, radiant sunlight. Unfiltered and unmolested by a cover of clouds. The ball of fire in the sky was at once terrifying and majestic. The living symbol of the Goddess Celestia herself. Its light was powerful, capable of slashing through darkness and shadows, revealing and cleansing. It was warm and compassionate, and it brought with it a sense of peace and hope.
Sunlight was as miraculous to me as a PipBuck was to the ponies of the Equestrian Wasteland. And, likewise, it was as pedestrian to the pony I was riding as my PipBuck was to me.
I was standing on a balcony with several smartly-dressed gentlestallions, staring down into a huge sunlit foyer lined with clear windows of glass that rose at least three stories high. The scene outside was idyllic. Colorful ponies, finely dressed, went about their business along cobblestone sidewalks bordering a boulevard of grass – a geometrically perfect field of green divided into precision shapes by cobblestone paths and a huge reflective pool. The buildings on the other side were largely obscured by trees, but I could tell they were as regal and impressive as the one I was in.
Balconies and mezzanines arced around the airy open atrium. Large gardening boxes held full-grown apple trees. And everywhere, ponies moved about busily. After looking about briefly, my host focused on the light-colored marble floor below, where a throng of ponies were causing a disturbance.
It was a small mob, pressing in towards the single figure in the center. A zebra.
“Go back where you came from!”
“Did you think you could just trot into a Ministry?”
“Better wiped than striped!”
“What are you doing here? Are you a spy?”
A voice rang out over the crowd as a familiar orange pony with blond mane and tail came trotting down an arching stairway. "Simmer down, sallie. Zecora ain't no spy!"
Applejack reached the throng and quickly dispersed the ponies, who grumbled as they went back to work. In just over a minute, it was just her standing alone with the extremely out-of-place zebra. Other ponies were giving them a wide berth, shooting stares. Applejack shot even better stares back, causing several to shy away, picking up their pace.
Finally, she turned to the zebra, looking deeply apologetic. "Zecora, ya really ought not t' be walkin' 'round like that. T'ain't safe these days."
"I thought I could visit a friend,” the zebra replied in an exotic and strangely poetic voice. “I should have known how it would end."
"Well, there is a war on," Applejack said reasonably. She lifted a hoof to scratch beneath her ear, looking embarrassed.
"Ponies hate and fear me still, no better than in Ponyville.” The zebra’s voice was deep with disappointment. “To you folk zebras may seem strange, but ponies... ponies never change."
"Gee, thanks,” Applejack frowned, bristling a little. Then she let out a sigh. “Let's jus' get ya outta sight, okay? Come with me…” Applejack paused, looking around the huge atrium. “Ah should have an office in here somewhere."
This is her Ministry, and she doesn’t even know where her office is?
"Lady Applejack, how good to...” a gentlestallion called out, approaching from a different stairwell. He stopped as he spotted the zebra. “Oh my!"
"ugh,” Applejack grimaced, facehoofing. "Not you too, Starshine. Ain't nothin' wrong with Zecora. She's muh friend."
"Oh, of course!” the gentlestallion said gracefully. “I have nothing against zebras. In fact, my company is one of the only in Canterlot who make a practice of hiring zebras.” Well wasn’t he a smarmy buck. “Let the Ministry of Propaganda say what it will..."
"Ministry of Image," Applejack corrected.
"I believe that's what I said,” Starshine stated dismissively, turning his attention fully to the zebra.
“Anyway... Zecora, is it? Should you ever find yourself looking for work, look me up. Anyone who has Lady Applejack's hoofprint of approval..."
"Was there somethin' you wanted, Starshine?" Applejack interrupted impatiently.
"Oh yes. I just wanted to pass on a little thank you for M.W.T.'s support for our Stalliongrad and Manehattan expansions. Everything's working smoothly, and I expect nothing short of a stellar success."
"uh... Ah told ya before, Starshine. We don't take buckbacks. Ain't how we operate here."
"Of course, of course. Banish the thought!” the gentlestallion said in genial apology. “No, this is just a friendly gift. But never you mind then.” He didn’t want to offend, of course. Greasy git. Absolutely everything about this pony was striking a negative note with me. From the look on her face, Applejack didn’t seem to like him much either.
“Now, Zecora...” he said, turning back to the zebra woman. “How do you feel about public transportation?"
The stallion standing on the balcony next to me spoke in a quiet voice, drawing my attention away from the scene below:
"Now she's trotting around publicly announcing friendships with zebras. The publicity alone could sink us."
I felt my host nodding along with the others.
"Gentlecolts, I think it's time we discussed Applejack's retirement."
Assassination Attempt on Applejack
Place on the Timeline: According to evidence Applesnack found, an employee was paid to kill Applejack three weeks before her ‘accident’, meaning that the events of Dissent in the MWT happened at least three weeks before this; Applejack explicitly states that the Steel Rangers have been active for one year; and Applejack also mentions that she had to sell her farm (which was bought by Apple Bloom).
Applejack tells SteelHooves that an anti-machine rifle, that can pierce through Steel Ranger armor, has been built by Ironshod (this is probably what cause the rift between her and Braeburn). When Applejack leaves, the elevator she is in crashes and nearly kills her.
Text from the Story --
Applejack was looking at me like I had lost my mind.
“And just what the hay d’ya think yer wearin’ that fer?”
I had really hoped to learn more about the past… and, with any luck, the Mares of the Ministries. But to find one of them addressing me, up close and personal? This seemed beyond the stroke of fortune.
The room around us looked very much like the suites in Tenpony Tower must have in their prime. This was a Ministry Hub, perhaps? There was a song playing in the background that I had heard before:
“I want to calm the storm, but the war is in your eyes.
How can I shield you from the horror and the lies?
When all that once held meaning is shattered, ruined, bleeding
And the whispers in the darkness tell me we won’t survive?”
It took me a moment to place it, but I had once seen SteelHooves virtually entranced by the song.
“To remember tonight,” I felt my mouth say. The words came out in a smooth, low rumble. Oh Luna… it was SteelHooves’ voice! More urbane and not nearly as gravelly as the ghoul’s we knew, but it was definitely him.
How the hell had this memory ended up here? In this bank? It only now occurred to me that maybe SteelHooves had known what the building next door had been not because he had noticed it today but because he remembered it.
“Ah hell no. Ah ain’t doing nothin’ with ya while yer wearing that ridiculous recollector, Applesnack!” Applejack put her hoof down. “Now take it off.”
Wait, what? Oh no. I really, really shouldn’t be here. This was… private. And…
“I’ll tie you up. With your own lasso.”
Applejack’s eyes went wide, a blush forming on her freckled cheeks.
Oh sweet Celestia have mercy. Not only was I invading SteelHooves’ private memories, but the buck was aroused. I could feel a hot hardness that I fought to escape from. I prayed to the Goddesses to pull me out of this memory, spare me this. And my ghoul companion too. He didn’t deserve to have me here. And I very much didn’t want to be here.
Eyes narrowing dangerously, “An’ jus’ what makes ya think ya have what it takes t’ best me w’ muh own lasso, soldier-buck?”
(Part of my brain paused to marvel that the country filly turned major political figure had fallen for a city buck turned soldier.)
SteelHooves… no, Applesnack leaned forward (that hot pressure in his groin becoming unbearable to me) and whispered huskily, “Because I know it turns you on.”
Way too much information! Please, Celestia, Luna, anypony… stop the memory… need to get off now! Aaaah! I mean leave. Need to leave now!
I almost felt my prayers were answered when a loud chiming sound rang out from a nearby, glowing terminal. Applejack shook off her deer-caught-in-sleigh’s-lights expression. “Still no,” she decided, turning away towards the terminal. “Now, Ah gots t’ take this. And ya best not be wearin’ that thing when Ah’m done. Y’look ridiculous!”
I felt my host sigh, then trot slowly towards what I recognized as the bathroom door. A sudden shot of horror went through me. Applesnack was still sporting his… hardness. Goddess, please don’t let them have a full-length mirror in there!
A cry of dismay from the orange-coated older mare solved my concerns with startling quickness. “What’s wrong?” I felt myself say in Applesnack’s voice.
The mare of the Ministry of Technology was scrolling through information on the terminal’s screen as fast as her hoof would let her. “No…” she moaned. “No, they wouldn’t!” Her voice was becoming louder and more strained. “No! They… they… How could they?!”
Again, more firmly, “AJ, love, what’s wrong.”
Applejack turned towards her soldier-buck with the start of tears in her eyes and a frightening edge in her voice. “Ironshod’s what’s wrong!” She spit as the other emotions struggling behind her face lost out to fury. “One year! The Steel Rangers ‘ave been around for one year, and Ironshod Firearms has gone an’ built a gun designed t’ punch through their armor! They’ve built a gun to kill our own!”
I felt Applesnack go rigid at the news.
The blond-maned mare was strutting back and forth in barely contained outrage. “They’re callin’ it the anti-machine rifle. But what it really is… is the anti-magical-power-armor rifle!” She spun, tears in her eyes. “How long before the zebras get ‘hold o’ this? They’ve just killed our own!”
I felt my host swallow. He was doing amazingly well at keeping his heart rate down, but while I couldn’t sense Applesnack’s emotions, I could feel the physical toll.
“Ah put everythin’ Ah had inta findin’ a better way t’ keep our soldier ponies safe,” Applejack raged. “Ah sold muh farm! Ah fought the ponies of muh own Ministry t’ get this done.”
She turned, her wide eyes filled with tears. “Ah. Sold. Muh. Farm!”
A lump formed in my throat. My heart hurt for the mare, and my hooves wanted to lash out at the evil ponies who could be so thoughtless.
The orange pony spun and bucked her bureau so hard it shattered into splinters and piles of clothing. “This is a betrayal! They can’t do this!” My host watched as his mare looked around for something else to buck; then she seemed to have a better idea.
“Ah’m goin’ down there!” Applejack decided abruptly. “Ah got family down in Ironshod. Braeburn will listen…”
I felt a sinking sensation in my heart.
“SteelHooves,” Applejack barked, addressing my host not by her lover’s name but by his military designation. “Call Wingright. Tell him t’ be on the roof in two minutes an’ t’ have my personal chariot ready. If Ah leave now, Ah c’n make it t’ Ironshod b’fore mornin’. Maybe Ah c’n head this whole thing off b’fore…”
“AJ, love…” Applesnack offered slowly, trying to be reasonable, “If they’ve already invented it, then you can’t put that apple back on the tree.” I knew he was right. The other item in the safe had been proof enough of that.
Applejack shot us both a look (or, at least, it sure felt that way). “Well, somepony ain’t gettin’ any fer a good bit.” If I could speak, I would have told her that such expectations had long passed.
“Now make that call!”
The orange pony turned back to gaze at the scattered fragments of wood and dresses. “Great. Now Ah’ve got t’ find somethin’ official-lookin’ t’ wear.”
Less than three minutes later, SteelHooves was saying goodbye to Applejack as she stepped into the elevator outside their suite. The call to Wingright had been made and the Ministry Mare’s chariot was waiting on the pegasus landing platform.
“Ah’ll be back b’fore ya know it,” Applejack insisted, dressed in a stiff, formal suit-dress (that did not appear to get much use) and looking slightly less murderous but no less determined. “Ah’m sorry this night ain’t gone like ya was hopin’ fer. Ah’ll make it up t’ ya. Promise.”
She turned and raised a hoof, touching the button for the landing platform. As the ornate doors slid closed, she cocked her head. “An’ take that recollector off. Ya look…”
The doors closed. A soft whirr could be heard as the elevator began to ascend. My host looked up, watching the arrow above the elevator doors slowly glide across the numbers. Floor four. Five. Six…
Applesnack turned back towards the door of his and Applejack’s suite. The recollector was actually starting to itch.
A loud TWANG sounded from inside the elevator shaft behind him. He spun back towards those ornate doors as he heard Applejack’s elevator carriage rumble downward past his floor, gaining speed.
Then there was a loud, horrendous, metal-twisting THUD.
Place on the Timeline --
This happened shortly after Applejack was nearly killed and concurrently with Rarity’s Decision.
Brief Summary --
A pony (presumably working for Four Stars) is spying on the Cutie Mark Crusaders as they talk about Applejack’s near-death experience.
Text from the Story --
I was sitting before banks of terminals, between two other ponies that I paid absolutely no attention to. There was an earbloom buzzing softly in my ear. The screen on the terminal was nothing but a little balloon icon expanding until it popped, then filling again.
The pony I was riding was achy from sitting in the same position for too long. Her mane itched, as did…
Yikes! Okay, his mane itched. As well as other places. And I suddenly very, very much wanted to be back in the Manehattan Ruins feeling rebar being yanked through my leg instead.
The little balloon popped again and then was replaced by text.
> Audio transmission intercepted.
> Transmission Originates: Orange Residence, Horseshoe Tower, Manehattan
> Transmission Received: 
> Transmission Destination Encrypted. Logging call. Operation Oversight Required.
“Perfect,” I heard and felt the buck say through my mouth in an utterly bored voice. I felt my hoof punch a button without looking at it. The static in my ear was replaced by voices.
“…staying with mah Uncle and Auntie Orange.”
I immediately recognized Apple Bloom’s voice. There was an odd timbre and hoarseness to it, like she had been crying a lot, but was now all cried out.
My host picked up a pencil in his mouth and started doodling on a notepad. I could taste the eraser, and feel the little bite marks on the wooden shaft. I tried to focus on taste and sight and sound, ignoring other senses sternly.
“Is there any word?” The other voice was that of Sweetie Belle. She sounded nervous? Worried?
More words materialized on the screen before me.
> Illegal Encryption Broken.
> Transmission Received: Pony Perfection, Canterlot
> Proceed with voice analysis?
The buck I was riding sighed loudly and hit another button. Then went back to doodling, only half-watching the screen.
> Voice Analysis in progress.
“No,” Apple Bloom claimed dourly. “The doctor ponies say sis will pull through, but…”
“…But?” Sweetie Belle sounded like she was afraid to hear the answer. “I mean, that’s wonderful news, right? Why don’t you sound happy?”
Apple Bloom’s voice dropped low. I felt myself sitting up a little. Apparently, ponies who were trying to be quiet warranted at least a little attention.
“There’s… a rumor,” Apple Bloom confided to her friend. “Some folks ‘re sayin’ that maybe t’wasn’t so much of an accident.”
“What?” Sweetie Belle gasped, her voice dropping to a whisper even in her shock. “Who would want to hurt Applejack?”
The screen flashed as new information spilled out rapidly. Somewhere, a maneframe had just figured out who was talking, and about what. Now the screen and the earbloom had my host’s full attention.
“They say… that maybe t’was somepony within ‘er own Ministry.”
Sweetie Belle was silent on the other end. In the background, I could hear somepony crying, a soft, heartbreaking weeping; but I couldn’t tell whether it was from the unicorn’s end or the earth pony’s. I didn’t have to wonder long.
“What the hay’s goin’ on over there? Sweetie Belle, where are ya calling from? Is everything alright?” And then, as a darker thought seemed to hit the mare, “Did yer sister have an ‘accident’ too?”
“What? Oh, oh no. My sister is fine. We’re… we’re at that spa on Leaf Fall Lane. Rarity’s been here all afternoon trying to get Fluttershy to stop crying.”
“What… about Applejack?”
Sweetie Belle sounded guilty. “uh… no. I don’t think they even know about what happened yet. Rarity called me over a few hours ago. Apparently, when Fluttershy missed their weekly treatment, Rarity went looking for her. She found Fluttershy curled up in a corner in her office at the Ministry of Peace. I don’t really know what happened, but…”
And now it was Apple Bloom’s turn. “But?”
“Fluttershy says that Rainbow Dash called her a traitor!”
“What?!” Apple Bloom wasn’t able to keep her voice down like Sweetie Belle could. I heard someone in the background call out questioningly.
Apple Bloom’s voice became murky as she called back, “No, nothin’s wrong, Uncle Orange. It’s not the hospital. Ah’m just talkin’ t’ Sweetie Belle.” Then, after a pause, she thoughtfully added,
“Sounds like Rarity an’ Fluttershy ain’t gonna make it up right away.”
Apple Bloom spoke clearly once again, addressing Sweetie Belle.
“Uh… I ought t’ go. Twilight Sparkle’s s’posed t’ be ‘porting in any minute now. She’ll be staying with us until Applejack’s outta critical,” Apple Bloom explained, “An’ you know how those teleports wreak havoc with these here terminals. Ah really think I could design one better in mah sleep… ‘Sides, Scootaloo would have a right fit if she knew Ah was talkin’ on an unsecured line.”
“A traitor?! Apple Bloom, can you imagine? Rainbow Dash is her oldest friend. And even worse, she’s the bearer of the Element of Loyalty!” Sweetie Belle sounded deeply pained.
“That’s kinda like… having loyalty itself call you a traitor!”
“Wonder how she’d like it if somepony called her a traitor,” Apple Bloom seethed gloomily.
“How could Rainbow Dash say something like that?”
“I dunno,” Apple Bloom replied, sounding offended. “Ah’ve given up tryin’ t’ understand anymore. Ah just want all this to be over.”
“I know. It… everything… Sometimes I just want to dig a hole in the ground and hide until this whole stupid war is over.”
The screen flashed.
> Transmission Terminated on Receiving End.
> Content Analysis proceeding.
> Content Tagged Alpha Priority.
> Oversight Memory Confirmation Required.
> Please Report to your Supervisor.
I felt myself get up and shake loose the earbud. “Dammit. I hate memory extraction,” I heard him grump from what felt like my mouth. “Hope those mares die in a fire.”
Place on the Timeline --
This occurs directly after the attempted assassination attempt on Applejack’s life.
Brief Summary --
Rarity comforts Fluttershy after Fluttershy tells her that Rainbow Dash called her a traitor. When asked why Rainbow Dash called her this, Fluttershy answers that it’s because she gave megaspells to the zebras. Rarity forgives her, but then they hear that Applejack has nearly been killed. Rarity calls her Ministry to tell them that she has decided to do ‘something’.
Text from the Story --
The world smelled of scented lotions and effervescent fragrances. The floor beneath me was comfortable; my flanks lounged into plush carpeting. I felt warmth and weight pressed against me from the mare wrapped in my forelegs. Her tears soaked into my coat over my breast.
I could hear the pony crying. And behind that, soft, tinkling music from somewhere up above. And in the other room a familiar mare’s voice was saying, “I mean, that’s wonderful news, right? Why don’t you sound happy?”
The pony in my forelegs had the gentlest yellow coat, a flowing pink mane, and was Fluttershy.
“…but I do deserve it,” Fluttershy mumbled against my breast, her body hitching with sobs. “I…”
The legs holding Fluttershy had an elegant white coat that was getting mussed, and I was Rarity.
Rarity felt weak from barely contained sadness, an exhaustion I knew all too well. Her eyes burned on the edge of tears, but she was holding them back, remaining strong for the yellow pegasus in her embrace.
Fluttershy wailed meekly, “I am a traitor!”
“I don’t believe that,” I heard my host say gently. “Rainbow Dash was…”
Fluttershy turned her face up to me, her eyes overflowing with tears. “Rarity. I gave megaspells to the zebras.”
I felt my host tense, her eyes growing wide. But still she didn’t let Fluttershy go. She held her, her voice shocked but her tone non-judgmental as she asked, “Why would you do that?”
Fluttershy gave a wretched squeak as she felt Rarity tense. Her expression told me she expected to be rejected. Pushed away. Maybe worse. But there was a tone of resolve in her voice when she answered.
“To stop the war.”
Rarity shook her head. “How?”
“You remember the test. I have healing spells that megaspells will heal almost anything. Zebras have potions that allow them to regenerate wounds, and a megaspell will make their whole army like that. Have you seen Twilight’s new shield spell? A megaspell shield could protect a whole city.”
Fluttershy looked at her unicorn friend, fierce determination shining behind those large eyes that were swimming in tears. “If both sides had megaspells, we wouldn’t be able to kill each other anymore. They’d have to stop fighting.”
I felt Rarity shudder, a knot forming in her throat. The tears she had been holding back began to flow. She knew, I could tell, that such was not the way either side would use this gift. “Oh Fluttershy…” As the first tear raced down her right cheek, Rarity leaned forward, brushing aside the flowing pink mane that obscured most of Fluttershy’s face, and planted a kiss on the pegasus pony’s forehead. “…You always were the best of us.”
She hugged the pegasus tighter. “Never, ever regret what you’ve done, darling.” She held Fluttershy’s head against her breast so the pegasus could not see her weeping.
In the background, I could hear the other voice saying, “What? Oh, oh no. My sister is fine. We’re…” I recognized the voice of Sweetie Belle now. “We’re at that spa on Leaf Fall Lane. Rarity’s been here all afternoon trying to get Fluttershy to stop crying.”
Fluttershy shuddered, whimpering, “Rarity? I… I can’t breathe.” Her meek, hesitant tone suggested that she’d accept it if Rarity just kept squeezing her.
Rarity let go quickly. “Oh… Fluttershy, I’m so sorry.” She got up, quickly turning away before the pegasus could see her tears. “I need to freshen up a bit. Will you be okay until I get back?”
Fluttershy squeaked but nodded.
My host trotted quickly for the little mare’s room. On the way, she passed an anxious-looking spa pony. Stopping, Rarity whispered, “Remember, you’re closed. I’m very sorry, and the Ministry of Image will pay you triple your lost earnings, but we really can’t be disturbed right now.”
Before the spa pony could respond, Rarity nearly galloped the rest of the way, pushing through the door to the ladies restroom. As the door swung shut behind her, I could hear Sweetie Belle saying, “Fluttershy says that Rainbow Dash called her a traitor!”
Rarity’s nerves felt fried. She was shedding tears, and it was making it difficult to see, but the sight of her in the mirror looked sad and terrified. Her horn was glowing, and something floated out of her side-purse. She wiped her eyes with a forehoof to better see the framed picture.
It was the Ministry Mares. All together, looking much younger… maybe my age. They were looking disheveled but happy, wearing once-elegant dresses that appeared to have been worn through a wrestling match. There was Spike too, but not Spike as I had ever known or imagined him. Baby Spike! They were all gathered around a round table covered in what looked like donut crumbs.
“I… I don’t think I can take this anymore. I was n-nothing before you. You’re th-the best friends a p-pony could h-have. The best ponies ever…” Rarity choked up. “A-and it feels like I’m l-losing all of you!”
Rarity’s whole body shuddered. She looked up at the mirror and was shocked by what she saw. Turning on the sink, she splashed water onto her face and tried to wash away any trace of her sadness. Looking back up, she drew herself up tall. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Rarity! Fluttershy needs you!”
Her horn glowed again, opening her purse and lifting up the picture.
The door pushed open. Rarity turned, a natural-looking smile already forced onto her muzzle. Her eyes widened upon seeing Sweetie Belle looking mournful.
“Sis, I’m sorry to interrupt but…”
“Yes?” Rarity said with hopeful cheer I know she didn’t feel.
“Applejack’s been in an… accident.”
I could feel Rarity’s body tense. “An accident? Is she all right?”
“She’s in a coma, but the doctors say she’ll recover,” Sweetie Belle told her sister regretfully.
At the word coma, Rarity’s magic imploded, the framed picture dropping to the floor with a clatter.
“Apple Bloom says Twilight Sparkle’s on her way to see them. She wants to know if you and Fluttershy can come see Applejack too.”
Rarity swayed. Forcing her voice to not waver, she informed her little sister, “Of course we will! Fluttershy and I will head to Manehattan right away.” She gave her sister a smile, “And will you be coming too?”
Sweetie Belle nodded. “I’ve already made arrangements. There’s a train leaving in an hour.” The younger unicorn slipped back out, closing the door behind her. “I’ll see you there.”
The moment Rarity was alone again, the usually elegant unicorn swayed on the verge of fainting. As she braced herself against the sink, her eyes fell to the picture on the floor. A slight crack now ran down the glass, separating Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy from Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle.
The unicorn mare whimpered softly. Her magic wrapped around the picture and tucked it back into her purse, then drew out a familiar headset. She touched her hoof to the earbloom.
Rarity turned to the mirror, looking at herself. A look of sad determination crossed her face.
A voice crackled over the earbloom. “Hello? Ministry of Image, Mistress Rarity’s office.
“This is Rarity. Contact the Ministry’s top magician. Tell him I’ve changed my mind and I will need his services on that special project after all.”
The Diamond Orb
Place on the Timeline --
This probably happens immediately after Rarity made the call at the end of Rarity’s Decision.
Brief Summary --
Rarity uses a spell from the Black Book to cut her soul into forty-three pieces and put the pieces in small figurines that are shaped like her friends.
Text from the Story --
The wash from the landing Griffinchaser IV tugged at my hood and flapped my cloak behind me. I watched as Rarity stepped off the flying machine, her head bundled in a fashionable scarf to protect her mane from the wind.
She trotted towards me as the pony-peddled whirligig lifted back into the brilliant blue sky. I basked in the light and warmth of the midday sun, such a rare and precious gift, as my host watched the beautiful white unicorn approach.
“There you are!” she smiled as if my host had been lost. “Is everything ready?”
“Yes, Mistress Rarity,” my host said in a naturally husky voice. “If I may ask, who will be the victim of this spell?”
Rarity cocked her head, looking at my host oddly. “Why me, of course.” I felt my host’s jaw drop. “I wouldn’t dream of doing something like this to any other pony.”
“O-of course,” my host said, clearly taken aback. “Then, if I may ask, how many?” The Griffinchaser IV was now far enough away that the wind had died. The squeaking sound of the machine was fading into the distance.
Rarity motioned with a hoof for my host to follow, walking towards a set of glass doors on a quaintly non-descript building. My host galloped forward and tipped his head. I felt the casual flow of magic as he opened the door for the Ministry Mare.
“Why thank you!” she beamed at him. “Such manners.” Rarity gave my host a kiss on the horn.
He turned and followed her inside, watching her reverently. She was gorgeous, sexy in a way that transcended her age, regal… and my host was male, yet the only stirring was in his heart. He was a perfect gentlestallion, and not just in appearance. I found he was a male I didn’t mind having as my host in the slightest. And I felt ashamed, remembering what I had done weeks ago while sick in SteelHooves’ shack. My host was a better pony than I.
“Forty-two,” Rarity announced.
My host stopped dead, his heart skipping a beat, and not in a good way. His muzzle gaped, his eyes widening in shock, if not outright horror. “F-f-f-forty-two!?” My own mind was reeling.
“Well, actually forty-three,” she said whimsically. “I do wish to keep a small part for myself.”
“You...” My host stood there, shaking. “You want me to cut your soul into forty-two pieces?” he said weakly. “I mean… forty-three?”
“Yes,” she nodded primly. Rarity smiled, walking up to my host and putting a hoof on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I know you can do this.”
“I-I…” My host blinked.
“I’m always telling ponies that my top magician is the absolute master when it comes to magic and cutting things,” she said encouragingly. “And that, Snips, is you.”
My host, Snips, swallowed nervously and nodded.
“Now, is the chamber ready? You’ve had enough time with the Black Book?”
Snips nodded again. “But… Mistress Rarity, forty-three? I can’t be sure you’ll survive! Or what you’ll be like afterwards.”
Rarity’s smile faltered, revealing a deep sadness behind her mask. “I’ll survive. We all will.” She pulled her warm, confident demeanor back on. “Now, I’ve sent Snails the soul jars. He’ll be doing the guidance, so don’t you worry about that. From what I’ve read, the shards will seek out the vessels themselves, so it’s practically idiot-proof.” She patted me on the shoulder. “Just worry about the cutting.”
“Shards of your soul,” my host said softly.
Pieces, a lot of pieces, began to fall into place.
“Yes.” Rarity took a deep breath. “Now, I’ll be right down. I need to freshen up a bit first.”
She began to trot off, then turned and looked beseechingly at my host. All pretense of being happy or worry-free had evaporated. She looked scared. “Snips? Will it hurt?” Her voice was almost like that of a filly.
Snips swallowed hard, frowned, and admitted, “Mistress Rarity, it will probably re-define torture.”
Rarity gave a little shake and strangled back a soft whimper. Then pulled herself together, lifting her head high. “Well, at least it will be quick.”
She disappeared down the hall.
My host watched her go until the shadows of the hallway enveloped her. Then he turned, using his magic to push a block high in the wall. A grating sound filled the hallway as stones slid into stones, revealing a hidden stairwell that descended into blackness.
Minutes later, my host was standing in a darkened ritual chamber. The only light was from a few glowing gemstones set within a set of strange glyphs that shimmered with crimson liquid, and a single candle. The candle illuminated a stand upon which the Black Book rested.
The air in the room was exceedingly chilly. I could see my host’s breath.
“Forty-three, Snails,” my host moaned. “Rarity wants me to cut her soul into forty-three pieces! I… I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Forty-three?” the other, taller robed unicorn asked slowly. “But… there’s only forty two soul jars. I counted. Twice, just in case I messed up the first time.”
“Yeah. She says she wants to keep one piece for herself.”
“What? Is she givin’ the rest away as gifts or somethin’?”
Snips shook his head. “I don’t know.” He looked up. “Hey, Snails, you okay?”
“Yeah,” the other unicorn said slowly. “I just hope I won’t mess anything up.”
I felt Snips sigh. “Hey, you won’t mess it up. Mistress Rarity wouldn’t entrust something this big to ponies she thought would mess it up.” He gave Snails an encouraging smile. “Remember what Rarity always says about you.”
“That I’m tall?”
“No, the other thing,” Snips urged.
“That I may be slow, but I always get there event-u-ally,” Snails said, his voice building in confidence. “And that’s better than she can say for most ponies.”
“That’s right!” Snips clapped. “Now go to the soul jars and be ready. This… this is really going to happen.”
“Well, we always wanted to see awesome magic,” Snails reminisced. “And this is the most awesomest.”
“Yeah,” Snips said, sounding a little nervous again.
The room was dark and cold and still.
The light of the candle flickered as the candle slowly burnt down.
It felt like forever before Rarity came down the stairs. When she did, she was wrapped in a black, hooded robe, like she was attending her own funeral. Without a word, she walked into the center of the chamber, standing in the midst of all the softly glowing gems.
Snips turned towards her, levitating the Black Book in front of him. Carefully, he read the alien words, words from a long dead zebra tongue, born of madness or possibly born of the stars. I felt my host concentrate, pouring all his focus into the spell. I felt power wash over me, not only from within but from without. Power drawn from strange, black places.
The magic was vile and repulsive. I felt violated.
Rarity lifted from the floor, beginning to float upwards as a small magical vortex pooled beneath her. The vortex of eldritch energy rose up and began to wrap itself about the unicorn mare, curling around her like a cocoon or a constricting snake. Her expression was one of mounting worry, edging swiftly toward panic… but never getting there. Instead, the screaming began.
I wanted to pull out of the memory orb. I couldn’t bear to hear those screams. Not just of pain but of nightmarish mental anguish. I remembered my hellish ride in the autonomous healing booth. What the spell was doing to Rarity was orders of magnitude worse!
The black magic washed over Snips, pooling at the tip of his horn, then taking flight. A sphere of pure void, blacker than absolute darkness, took flight from our horn and collided with the eldritch energies spinning about Rarity.
There was an explosion as darkness turned to light, and the eldritch energies transformed into a prismatic legion of shattered lights, streaking over Snips’ head, leaving bright plasma trails behind them as they homed in on their receptacles.
Snips never turned to watch. He never even looked at the soul jars. The unicorn buck only had eyes for Rarity, and he dashed to catch her as she fell, unconscious, to the floor.
But then, he didn’t have to. I already knew what they were.
Place on the Timeline --
This definitely happened a few days after the attempted assassination of Applejack.
Brief Summary --
SteelHooves finds the pony that tried to kill Applejack, and murders him.
Text from the Story --
I was wet. Rain was coming down in sheets from the blackness of the night sky. I was wearing a rain-slicker, but the wind buffeted at it, pulling it away. Only the top of my mane was remotely dry under the hood.
Lightning flashed, illuminating the pegasus landing platform, over two dozen floors above the bustling lights of the city below. I recognized the form of a giant scooter hovering over a well-lit building in the distance. This was Manehattan.
“Sure ya want ta be flyin’ on a night like this, Applesnack, sir?” a dapperly-dressed grey pegasus buck asked as he shimmied himself into the harness of a sky chariot. It was a particularly beautiful chariot, adorned with a very familiar three-apples design.
“Very important business,” I heard myself say in Applesnack’s voice. “Has to be tonight.”
“Well, that’s whatcha pay me for, right?” the pegasus smiled. “Although it’s likely ta be a beastly ride.”
“I’ll survive,” Applesnack said as lightning flashed across the sky.
The pegasus gripped the harness strap in his teeth and pulled, drawing it tight. “An’ how’s Miss Applejack? I was really sorry ta hear ‘bout her accident. The ponies who were supposed ta be keeping those elevators in top shape ought ta be sent ta jail.”
I felt my jaw tighten. But Applesnack kept his voice pleasantly even. “Strapped in tight, Wingright?” I both felt and heard him ask. “Don’t want you slipping free in the rain now.”
“Yeah,” the pegasus laughed. “That would be one unpleasant fall.”
Applesnack stepped into the chariot, pressing as far forward as he could as if afraid he might slip out the back the moment the pegasus launched forward. The grey pegasus spread his wings, rain dripping off of the feathers.
Applesnack moved with alarming speed. I felt myself lurch forward, biting down, grasping the pegasus’ wing in my teeth. My host drew back, pulling, drawing the wing back over the metal front edge of the chariot as he raised up a hoof.
“Applesnack! Whatcha…?” the pegasus squeaked in surprise before I felt my hoof come down on that pulled wing with a bone-crunching blow. The pegasus screamed!
Spitting out the feathers of Wingright’s now-crippled wing, SteelHooves growled, his low voice like thunder. “Only three ponies knew exactly when Applejack was going to be riding up that elevator!”
“Aaaah! My wing! My wing! What the hell…?!”
“I checked your finances. Your account got a sudden influx of coins three weeks ago. And an even bigger one less than eight hours after Applejack’s accident!” I was staring into the widening eyes of the blubbering pegasus. My voice was dangerously low. My heartbeat wasn’t raised at all. “Really, you should choose something other than your filly’s middle name as a password.”
“I-I can explain!” the pegasus wailed, cradling his shattered wing. “My sister died in the war. That was an inheritance!”
“I don’t think so.” Applesnack turned and stepped down off the chariot. Then I felt as my host lifted his back hooves and planted them against the rear of the chariot. Slowly, he began to shove, pushing it across the rain-slicked rooftop and the hapless pegasus along with it.
“What?! No! What are you doing? Don’t!” the pegasus cried out, trying feebly to push back as he was shoved closer and closer to the edge.
“Please! I have a family!”
SteelHooves grunted, stopping. “Maybe you should have thought of them before you made your choice.” He gave a final, hard buck to the back end of the chariot, sending it toppling over the lip of the roof, pegasus and all.
I could hear the winged pony scream right up until the chariot bounced off the first outcropping on its way down to the streets below.
I felt utterly stunned, numb, as my host’s legs carried me towards the nearest door at a casual, splashing trot. I felt him rehearsing under his breath,
“There’s been a terrible accident. No, I have no idea where he was flying in from. I could tell he was coming in too low, but I expected him to pull up before he hit the building. It was horrible. I feel it was my fault; I shouldn’t have asked Wingright to fly in this weather. I should have known that the windsheer would be too much for him.”
Place on the Timeline --
Brief Summary --
Zecora is arrested for trying to steal the schematics for the anti-machine rifle and taken to Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash reveals that Zecora is being trained to become a spy and to complete her cover, they stage Zecora’s escape from a prison transport.
Flashes of light burst across the night -- scores of cameras capturing the moment for a mob of news-ponies and paparazzi. They mixed with a throng of ponies shouting protests and holding signs in their mouths. My host was standing on a set of marbled steps, looking down on them and watching a quartet of armored police ponies push their way through.
I was encased in armor, but unlike my experience in the mind of Applesnack, this armor did not feel heavy or claustrophobic. I could, in fact, barely feel it at all. The limited vision, the Eyes-Forward Sparkle that played behind the visor and the smell of trapped pony sweat were the swiftest indications of how I was clad. (A very nice scent of mare-sweat, I could not help myself from thinking.) With an unpleasant shock, I realized I could feel my wings. I was in a pegasus pony.
To each side of me stood more pegasi wearing the sleek, black carapace armor I had come to associate with the Enclave.
As the police ponies broke through the front of the crowd below and started up the steps, I could see they were escorting a zebra, bound in chains and encircled by the armored ponies.
One of them stepped forward, speaking to somepony just behind me. "We caught her in Ironshod Firearms, red-hoofed, trying to steal the schematics for the anti-machine rifle."
The zebra protested her mistreatment. "I haven't broken any rule; I was invited there, you fool!" Her exotic accent was like Xenith’s, and I recognized the odd rhyming that seemed to flow in all her speech. Lowering her voice loudly, Zecora asked the lead pony, "So are you always such a tool?"
"I knew it!” cried an equally familiar voice from behind me. The pink party pony advanced into view, glaring daggers at the zebra. “And to think I let you trick us into trusting you! You... you trickster!"
Zecora looked hurt. Pinkie Pie didn’t relent, breaking into furious sing-song. "She's an evil enchantress and she does evil dances..."
"Pinkie Pie, you have me wrong. I am not like your foalish song."
"Don't even try to entrance me, Zecora. I... Never again." Pinkie Pie turned from her, scowling. It was the first time I had really seen the Mare of the Ministry of Morale angry, and it was terrifying.
In a low voice, she grumbled, "I hope you really like rocks!"
Pinkie Pie looked up at me, then jabbed a hoof towards two of the armored pegasi on my right. “You and you, help escort my old friend...” Pinkie Pie hissed the words between clenched teeth, “…to the convoy. Zecora will be spending the rest of her life as a guest of Shattered Hoof. Tell them that I want all of that zebra’s memories. And don’t. Be. Too. Gentle.”
The two pegasi on my right rushed to obey. Pinkie Pie pointed her hoof at me. “You, with me.”
The pink earth pony stomped back up the steps and into what I assumed was a Ministry building. My host turned and trotted after her, following behind Pinkie Pie as she crossed the darkened, spacious lobby towards the elevators. Under her breath, Pinkie Pie continued to sing venomously, “…she’ll mix up an evil brew, and swallow you up in a big, tasty stew!...”
She stopped singing in the elevator. Which was good, since the song would have clashed unpleasantly with the lullaby version of March of the Parasprites that was playing inside the lift. Pinkie Pie turned and pushed all the buttons simultaneous with her rump.
The elevator took us directly to a large office with a huge plate-glass window that looked out over… Canterlot.
Pinkie Pie strode dangerously into the middle of the room, then turned, fixing me with the sort of malevolent expression that made me think she might carve me up and bake me into a cupcake. Then in a magical instant, she broke into a huge smile that seemed to light up the room. She waved a hoof in a sweeping bow, her voice bursting with joy: “ACTING!”
The aging pink earth pony collapsed onto the floor in a fit of giggles. “Best! Prank! Ever!”
My host humphed and trotted over to the window, looking down below. The Eyes-Forward Sparkle started identifying ponies and wagons in the street below. The convoy carrying Zecora to Shattered Hoof was already rolling out under a light guard supplemented by the two pegasi in magically-powered armor.
I felt myself lift the visor. In the window, my reflected face was blue, with magenta eyes and a shock of rainbow-colored hair matted between them. Pinkie Pie’s reflection appeared on the window next to me. “Zecora’s gonna be all right,” she asked, a note of true concern in her voice. “Won’t she Dashie?”
I saw and felt my host nod. “She’s been with the best trainers the Ministry of Awesome has. I wouldn’t let this move forward if it were otherwise.”
Pinkie Pie nodded and turned her stare to the convoy below. It was already two blocks away. Pinkie Pie paused, lifting her left forehoof and wiggling it. “Huh.”
Rainbow Dash ignored this, eyes narrowing. “Extraction by traitorous zebra sympathizers in three…”
“Two!” Pinkie Pie looked back down, excited. “Ooooh, Zecora’s gonna make such a good spy!”
There was a flash down below as the first wagon in the prisoner convoy exploded. Dark figures rushed in from all sides amidst flashes of muzzle-fire.
Rainbow Dash pushed down the visor. “And here. We. Go.”
The Lightning Cloud Orb
Place on the Timeline --
Brief Summary --
Text from the Story --
I felt my host swallow nervously as she walked into the darkened, circular chamber. Huge, arched windows stretched upwards, giving a breathtaking view of a brilliantly starry night. A circular window above the arches perfectly framed the moon.
Moonlight fell through the chamber to illuminate a large, round table. There were seven chairs -- six with emblems emblazoned on their backs, one which was taller than the others and inlaid with obsidian and lapis lazuli. My host strode up between the chairs, looking at the table. The chairs were cushioned in red. The same emblem from the back of each chair was also inlaid in the table before them where a dinner plate might be set.
To my host’s left was the image of gears and sparks, bisected with a blade: the symbol of the Steel Rangers and the Ministry of Wartime Technology. To her right was the image of a large star ringed with smaller ones, a tall horn above them and wings to each side: the symbol of the Ministry of Arcane Sciences. Directly across the table, I could see a cross overlaid with a butterfly. My host didn’t look at the others.
The rest of the table was taken up with a map of Equestria. There were markings indicating battle lines where the zebras had managed to push into the country. Most of the war, however, was being waged in the zebra’s homeland, and in the seas and lands between. My host’s gaze lingered on a small part of Equestria that had been lost, including a crescent-shaped canyon.
All over the map of Equestria, tall mushroom-shaped models had been placed. At first, I thought they marked balefire bombs, but then I realized they were white, and their stalks were tall and needle-thin. Towers.
Somepony flew overhead, picking up one of the towers in her teeth and moving it half an inch. “The Fillydelphia Tower should be on that side of the city,” Rainbow Dash said as she landed on the opposite side of the table, sitting down in one of the chairs. The symbol in front of it was almost identical to her cutie mark, but with purple wings lined in black. I had seen that symbol on one of her Shadowbolts uniforms.
“Where should Ah sit?” my host asked, her voice holding a reserved country twang.
Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Why not sit in your sister’s chair? I’m sure AJ wouldn’t mind.”
Apple Bloom’s eyes widened. “Ah couldn’t do that!”
A door opened, and Princess Luna strode into the room. I felt a javelin skewer my heart. Apple Bloom and Rainbow Dash both bowed as the Princess took Her chair at the head of the table.
“Good night, Rainbow Dash. Welcome back, Apple Bloom.”
Apple Bloom gulped.
I didn’t want her to stand back up. This was… painful. I was in the presence of Luna, my Goddess, living and well, not an hour after having burned Her bones. After having seen Her defiled by an alicorn! I wished for Apple Bloom to remain bowed. Or at least, look away.
Apple Bloom stood back up, realizing Rainbow Dash had already been standing, and turned her attention to the Princess.
“It is good to hear you are finally doing something with the Ministry that I gave you, Rainbow Dash,” the Princess said, chiding a little. “Now, tell me about this new project. It seems…vast.”
“Oh yeah!” Rainbow Dash grinned, flapping her wings. It seemed she couldn’t remain seated long. “Remember how you told me you wanted my help building the Equestrian Skyguard? Well, here’s my answer: the Single Pegasus Project!”
“Sounds… impressive,” Princess Luna said patiently. “What is it?”
“In a word: weather control!”
“That’s two words,” Apple Bloom whispered to the cyan pegasus, who shot her a look.
The Single Pegasus Project was… weather control? Well, I guessed that made some sense, if the Enclave was able to alter the towers so that they could plant crops in the clouds.
“Weather control?” Luna said, tilting her head curiously, echoing my thoughts, then taking them in a whole different direction. “So this project will allow us to rain lightning down on enemy positions? Mire their convoys with torrential downpours? Drive them back with hurricanes and hail?”
Rainbow Dash’s jaw nearly hit the floor.
She closed it, zipping around the room. “Oooh yeah! This is even more awesome than I thought! I mean, I knew it would be awesome. But I never even realized just how awesome it would be!”
Princess Luna chuckled. Oh Goddess, I loved that chuckle. I was in awe of it. “Then what were you thinking of using it for?”
Rainbow Dash stopped in mid-loop, and hovered, turning back to the Princess as she shook off a blush. “Well, way I see it, this war will be won through air superiority. No offense to Twilight. I mean, we have it. They don’t.”
She flew up to the table. “Problem is: we don’t have enough combat fliers. Especially now that the zebras are using dragons. There simply aren’t enough pegasi because they’re all too busy already keeping control of the weather. And the ones we do have often have to leave for other obligations. Hell, even I have to abandon the war once a year to help Ponyville wrap-up winter!”
“Surely some other pegasus…” Princess Luna started to say, but Rainbow Dash interrupted (!) Her.
“Not a chance. They need me. I won’t leave Ponyville hanging.”
Princess Luna looked cross for just a moment, then smiled and nodded. “Of course.” Looking back at the map, She bid, “Continue.”
“Well, with the Single Pegasus Project, we’re gonna finally automate all of our weather making and weather control systems. The towers you see here will control the weather over each area,” the wild, rainbow-maned pegasus grinned broadly, almost dancing with anticipation. “Check this out!”
Rainbow Dash pulled out a little switch and tossed it. Both Apple Bloom and Princess Luna jumped as a crack of thunder roared over the table, and black rings of smoke expanded out from each of the model towers, crackling with energy.
“That would start rain!” Having seen a downpour from Princess Luna’s ceiling, I was mildly surprised when miniature clouds didn’t form and start flooding the table.
“I designed it after the contrails of the Wonderbolts!” Rainbow Dash boasted. “Everything about the Single Pegasus Project goes through me, and it doesn’t get my hoof of approval unless it’s cool!...”
I felt my host roll her eyes.
“…And it will all be under the management of one single pegasus in the Rainbow Dash Hub of Pure Awesome!...”
“We’re still decidin’ on a name,” Apple Bloom quickly interjected at Princess Luna’s chagrined expression.
Rainbow Dash looked a little put out. “Hey, it’s my project, and my Ministry…”
“Anyway,” Apple Bloom said, taking over, “The pony in the central hub will be placed into a sort of… induced coma.”
“Induced coma?” Princess Luna said, sounding shocked.
“We haven’t ‘xactly worked that part out yet either,” Apple Bloom admitted.
“But we’re really close!” Rainbow Dash interjected swiftly. “Apple Bloom’s company is working on modifying a life support pod, and I’m gonna be talking to Twilight and Rarity to see if they have any ideas that could help.”
“I see.” The Princess didn’t sound fully convinced.
“And hooked up to one of our new Crusader computers,” Apple Bloom continued only to have Rainbow Dash interrupt again.
“Yeah. But none of that download-your-brain nonsense. I had them disconnect all that stuff. I want a living pony running Equestria’s weather, not some machine that thinks it’s a pony.”
Apple Bloom sighed. Then continued once more, “The pony in the life support pod will be mentally linked into the Crusader, which will allow her to manage running all of Equestria’s weather.”
“Does it have to be a pegasus?” the Princess asked.
“Yes!” Rainbow Dash proclaimed. “Well, no. Not technically. But it should be.”
Princess Luna looked over the map and all its towers, at least four dozen in all. “You have given me a lot to think about. This would be a massive expenditure of resources…”
“But totally worth it!” Rainbow Dash pushed, sounding hopeful.
Princess Luna nodded. “Most likely,” She agreed with a smile. “And I believe the Ministries of Morale and Image each have proposals that could be integrated into this.” The Princess stood. “And the central hub will be a prime target for assault, so it will need the best defenses that the Ministries of Arcane Sciences and Wartime Technology can devise.”
“But… it will still be my project, right?” Rainbow Dash asked. “It will still be the Ministry of Awesome?
Root of the Enclave
Place on the Timeline --
A pegasus mentions the Battle of Hoofington which places this after that, and it happens at around the same time as the Lightning Cloud Orb, but I cannot tell if this happened before the pegasus armor was created. Also, Rarity mentions Zecora’s betrayal, but not her death.
Brief Summary --
Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Rarity meet at the lobby of a ministry building. There, they discuss Rainbow Dash’s new Ministry project (the S.P.P.) before they are harassed by a group of three pegasi. The pegasi spout anti-Equestria rhetoric which echoed the sentiments of many pegasi at that point in the war (which led to the Grand Pegasus Enclave’s ability to take power). However, the pegasi are interrupted by an assassin that throws a grenade at the Ministry Mares (possibly a zebra, zebra sympathizer, or Grand Pegasus Enclave agent). Rarity, much to Applejack’s disappointment, uses the Black Book to stop the blast.
Text from the Story --
I was in a large foyer marbled in grey. Large vertical windows let in the grey light of a rainy day. Outside, a dozen ponies were protesting, chanting and waving signs in the rain. Inside, ponies trotted about on personal business, or stood conversing in clumps. Many wore long raincoats still slick with a wet sheen. A few were hauling small wagons filled with boxes.
My host was an earth pony mare sitting behind a long counter, gazing languidly at the text on a terminal. From the stirring warmth in certain parts of her body, the story she was fixated on was of a cloppy nature and probably not safe for work.
A familiar voice echoed from somewhere above and safely distant enough that my host was able to change the screen (to a memo on Wartime Stress Disorder) without rushing suspiciously. She looked back and up, her eyes moving to a spiraling set of wrought-iron stairs that descended from a mezzanine level above. The whole lobby gave me the impression of Ministry architecture.
A flash of light erupted about four yards from my host’s counter, wrenching her attention away from the stairwell before she could spot who she was looking for. Rarity stood in the lobby, wobbling slightly. Her dress, mane and the large satchel on her side all hissed up wisps of smoke. She blinked, wide-eyed, seeming disoriented. But in an eye-blink, she had gathered herself together and was trotting up to my host with an urgent expression.
“Hello. Welcome to…” my host began politely. But Rarity was in too much of a hurry for niceties.
“Yes, yes. I know where I am, and I know who you are,” she said, waving a hoof. “I need to know if Rainbow Dash is still here. Please tell me I haven’t missed her.”
Before my host could answer, that familiar voice answered for her. Hovering about halfway down the spiral staircase, Rainbow Dash exclaimed loudly, “Whoa! Rarity, did you just teleport here?”
Standing on the steps behind Rainbow Dash, Applejack was looking equally impressed. Her orange coat and blonde mane made for a welcome splash of warm colors in the stark, cool room.
Rarity paused, seeing the two of them, then smiled with a soft whinny. “Yes, well, I have been trading spells with Twilight for years now… and let me tell you, it is not as easy as she makes it look.” With a wince, she added, “How’s my mane?”
Rainbow Dash swooped down to greet her. “It’s fine.” Descending the stairs, Applejack added, “It’s gorgeous.” It looked like she’d run a few laps around a burning house.
“So what’s up?” Rainbow Dash asked cheerfully.
Rarity glanced behind her and up towards Applejack, a brief look of unease passing over her face, and then turned to Rainbow Dash. “I had some… things to talk to you about. But it can wait. Until you’re alone.”
Rainbow Dash blinked. Then her eyes opened wide. She whispered, “Oh… about the new…” then glanced back towards Applejack too. “…armor?”
Rarity nodded. “That and the other thing. I’ve been having a lot of trouble trying to perfect that spell, and I wanted to see the device you want it embedded into.”
“Oh!” Rainbow Dash reached back and scratched at her rainbow mane with a forehoof. “Well, Apple Bloom’s all set to procure a life support capsule from the Ministry of Peace. We should have it by next week, but… well, she’s going to be modifying it a lot. Do you need to wait until it’s finished?”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Apple Bloom’s part of this too?”
“Yeah. Why… is that a problem?”
“Well,” Rarity said, brushing her left forehoof in circles against the marble floor. “I really don’t want my little sister anywhere near this research of mine. And she and Apple Bloom are best of friends…”
“Did Ah hear muh little sister’s name?” Applejack said, trotting up from the bottom of the stairs.
Rainbow Dash turned and smiled. “Yeah. She’s helping me on a project.”
“Ah thought the Ministry of Awesome didn’t actually do anything?”
Dash snorted and puffed herself up, “They don’t do anything that isn’t awesome, you mean.”
Rarity and Applejack exchanged looks of doubt.
“Anyway,” Rarity said a little too hastily. “I really should be going…”
“Wait,” Applejack said. “Y’mean ya teleported all the way over here jus’ t’ go?” She frowned. “How come Ah get the feelin’ Ah’m undesired company?”
“Unwanted?” Rarity gasped. “Oh heavens no! If anything, I want more Applejack.” I snickered inwardly and was glad my eavesdropping host didn’t do the same. “We don’t see nearly enough of each other anymore. It feels like it’s been ages since…” She paused, then chimed up, “I-deee-ah! We’re together right now. Let’s do lunch.”
Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”
Applejack chimed in, “Well, Ah’ve got ‘bout an hour b’fore Ah gotta be at a meeting fer alla the governors of the Ministry o’ Technology. And there is a new apple fritter place that Caramel Apple’s kids ‘ave just opened up which Ah’ve been meanin’ t’ try…”
“Sounds perfect.” Rarity clapped her forehooves with a demure squee. “Wait… aren’t those the same brutes who tried to kill you with an elevator?”
Applejack’s eyes narrowed. “That ain’t never been proven.”
“Still, the idea of you spending time in a room with that lot…”
“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash jumped in. “Want me to come with you? If they’re planning anything funny, I’ll make them think twice.”
“Ah c’n handle muhself ju’ fine, Dash. But Ah do thank y’all kindly for the offer.” Seeing her two friends still frowning, unconvinced, she sighed and added, “Besides, Sergeant SteelHooves has already offered t’ be muh personal escort.”
“Have I met this guy?” Rainbow Dash asked suspiciously. “Are you sure you can trust him?”
Applejack sighed. “Ah don’t think ya have, but he served wi’ muh brother. He trusted him, an’ so do Ah.” A smirk scrawled across her muzzle. “’Sides, Ah don’t plan on bein’ there too long. Just ‘nuf t’ give muh speech. Ah’ve been practicin’ it all day. Wanna hear it?”
Rarity’s eyes widened at the thought of listening through an entire speech by Applejack, or perhaps just alarmed at having to do so in a public lobby while her mane was frizzy. “Maybe… over lunch?” she suggested.
“Sure,” Rainbow Dash encouraged Applejack with considerably more volume. “Let’s hear it.”
“Okay…” Applejack paused. Stood straight and tall. Cleared her throat. Closed her eyes.
“Y’all are fired.”
Rarity and Rainbow Dash stared. Applejack opened one eye and blushed. “Well, how was it?”
“Ayep.” She blushed some more, looking a bit proud of herself and yet a touch worried.
“Awesome! You tell them, AJ!” Rainbow Dash grinned wildly as Rarity stomped on the floor with applause. “Dang, now I want to go just to see their faces.”
“Hey, Rainbow Dash!” a voice called out from the doorway, causing her head to whip around. Three elderly pegasi trotted into the lobby. One of them, a light grey buck with a short-cropped age-greyed mane that fell over his eyes, hadn’t been wearing a rain slicker and shook himself, spraying water everywhere to the shouts and grumbles of the ponies in the lobby around him.
“Hello! Welcome…” my host began to say, but her words trailed off as the three pegasus pushed their way up to Rainbow Dash, ignoring everypony else including her friends.
“Hey, Rainbow, remember me?” a mustard-colored buck asked, stepping forward in front of the others. He was an unusually large buck, his rainslicker covering only half of his flank, revealing most of a large orange basketball for a cutie mark. I wondered idly if he had one ball or two… then immediately wanted to jab my hoof in my eye to kill the mental image that followed.
Rainbow looked them over then narrowed her eyes and shook her head. “Sorry. No. I’m rather busy and only have time to remember important ponies.”
The three all scowled. The mustard one growled, shoving a hoof into Rainbow’s breast. “Well then, maybe you remember my little brother. He was one of the pegasi you got killed fighting that dragon over Hoofington.”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes went wide. Her demeanor changed immediately. “Oh… I’m so sorry. Several brave ponies died valiantly that day…”
“Yeah,” said the third, a pegasus the color of dark dust with piercing blue eyes and a few remaining strands of a sandy mane on his bald-coated head. “Seems like an awful lot of pegasi die valiantly these days. In fact, seems like we do the bulk of the dying. I don’t know anypony in Cloudsdayle who ain’t lost family.”
Rainbow Dash nodded sadly. “The war…”
“The war,” the dark-dust pony scoffed. “The war is on the ground. Against zebras…”
“And dragons,” Rainbow Dash reminded him. “They’re using dragons now, in case you somehow forgot. Not to mention griffin mercs.”
“And some of them have magic fetishes that can allow them to fly,” Rarity chimed in knowingly. “If you think it’s impossible for an earth-bound mare to fly her way into Cloudsdayle with the right magic, you have tragically short memories.”
The mustard-colored one spat, “Well, they wouldn’t be bringing in dragons if the pegasi had just stayed out of the war. Now I hear you’re pushing Luna’s new initiative to put even more pegasi on the front lines? You won’t be satisfied until every one of us is facing down zebra guns.”
“If the… had just…” Rainbow Dash sputtered. “What!?”
“And we ain’t the only ones who think that neither,” the balding one informed Rainbow Dash coldly. “And while we might not be important, my sister is the mayor of Clousdayle, and she…”
“Now jus’ one apple-buckin’ minute,” Applejack interrupted loudly. “Now Ah know y’all have lost kin, an’ Ah know how much that hurts.” She strode up to the mustard-colored buck. “Ah lost muh own brother in this war. His name was Big Macintosh. Y’all may ‘ave heard o’ him!”
The mustard-colored pony had the dignity to look abashed.
I heard a click and a whirr from above. My host turned away from the argument as the text on her screen disappeared, replaced by a flashing warning.
>>LIVE GRENADE DETECTED<<
At seemingly the same instant, Rarity gasped. “Grenade!”
Ponies began to scatter, running into each other, not knowing where to go.
Rarity’s magic flared around her satchel, opening it.
Beams of colored light shot out from the twin magical energy turrets which had descended from the ceiling. They struck a pony in the crowd, turning her into a burning pink silhouette of whomever she had been.
My host looked down, scanning the floor, her actions seeming unbearably slow. I mentally shouted for her to duck for cover, but she seemed transfixed. Her eyes fell on the metal apple not two yards from her desk. The dark bulk of a large, open book fell down over it, and four white hooves jumped on top.
In an instant:
A flash of fire and swirling magical energy underneath the book,
A cracking sound that left a buzzing silence in its wake,
A rippling of explosive force that threw Rarity back.
My host stumbled, disoriented, a ringing in her ears. Everypony was shouting, but their voices seemed muffled and far away.
I spotted The Black Book. It had landed next to Rarity, smoking but undamaged.
I felt conflicting waves of horror and relief. How could any book survive smothering a magical energy grenade? What kind of book was this? And yet… thank the stars that it wasn’t hurt. That book was dangerous, but it was valuable! Just looking at it, I knew how useful it must be…
Rainbow Dash was fast. She flew up to my host, breaking her out of her fear-induced paralysis with a clop of her forehooves. “Lock this place down!” she shouted over the ringing in my ears. “Gather the witnesses and call the Ministry of Morale. Somepony saw something, even if they don’t know it.”
Applejack was trotting around, calling out, “Is everypony okay? Anypony hurt?” She turned to my host and lifted a hoof as she shouted, her voice sounding like it was coming to me through yards of thick cotton, but at least the buzzing was quickly fading. “Call up the Ministry of Peace. Have ‘em send counselors.” My host nodded.
Rarity groaned, getting shakily to her hooves and rubbing her ears. “Quick thinkin’, Rarity,” Applejack said, dashing over to help her up. “Ah reckon ya just saved a mess o’ lives with…”
Applejack froze, staring at The Black Book. “Is that… what Ah think it is?”
Turning to Rarity, a dark scowl crossing her face, Applejack said, “Ya said ya were gonna get rid o’ that cursed thing!”
Dusting herself off, Rarity stared back. “I said I would burn It,” Rarity said calmly. “And I tried. But as you can see, It doesn’t burn.” Lowering her voice, she whispered something to Applejack that made the earth pony’s ears shoot up in alarm. Then, raising her voice again, she added, “I even tried to have Spike burn it. All that did was send it to Princess Celestia.”
I winced. Even my host winced, realizing that couldn’t have led to pleasant conversations.
Applejack frowned, clearly wanting to believe her friend, but having doubts all the same. Rarity’s guilty look wasn’t helping. “Well… ya still shoulda gotten rid o’ it!”
“How?” Rarity retorted stubbornly. “I doubt anything short of a megaspell could destroy It. And I certainly don’t want to dispose of The Book where It could find Its way into the wrong hooves.”
“Dammit!” Rainbow Dash piped up, unknowingly interrupting her friends before their fierce discussion could grow into an argument. Dash had flown over to the pile of ash which had once been a pony. “Whose idea was it to use magical energy defenses in here? A pile of ash isn’t going to conveniently tell you who it was or offer up its former possessions for an investigation.”
“Zebra sympathizers, I would suspect,” intoned Rarity dourly, turning towards the very upset blue-coated pegasus.
“Shouldn’t jump t’ that conclusion, Rarity,” Applejack warned. “Ah don’t like this blamin’ zebras fer everything that goes wrong.”
“It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve taken a shot at me,” Rarity bristled. She looked at Applejack with surprise. “After Zecora’s betrayal, I’m surprised you still defend them.”
“Jus’ cuz Zecora turned out t’ be a bad apple don’t mean alla them are,” Applejack insisted.
Even though my host was paying more attention to the earth pony and the unicorn, I was able to catch a brief guilty look cross Rainbow Dash’s face. I realized suddenly that Rarity and Applejack didn’t know the truth about their zebra friend. The reality behind Zecora’s defection was a carefully guarded secret held by only two Mares and probably only the tiniest fraction of ponies within their respective Ministries.
“Ain’t like there ain’t other ponyfolk who might want t’ take a shot at one o’ us.”
Rarity met Applejack’s statement with wide eyes. “Oh dear… You’re right.”
“Well, if it was them who was behind it, they sure as sugar ain’t stopped me from gettin’ t’ that meetin’.”
“Hell,” Rainbow Dash blurted out, flying up. “For all we know, the target may have been that lot.” She pointed a hindhoof towards the three pegasi cowering in a corner. “What they were speakin’ amounts pretty much t’ sedition.” Her expression was cross and grim. “I’m beginning to think Cloudsdayle needs a Ministry of Morale hub.”
Rarity looked around desperately. “Oh dear, oh dear. Lunch is off, I’m afraid. I need to get back to Image. We don’t have much time to figure out what to tell the newsponies to say about this. Three Ministry Mares… oh, this is bad. We have to move on this now.”
As Rarity magically scooped up the Black Book and vanished in another flash, my host finally began actually doing her job.
Place on the Timeline --
The S.P.P. is now being built, but Rainbow Dash is still wearing the old Shadowbolt uniform, which means that the pegasi armor has not yet been created.
Brief Summary --
Text from the Story --
I was staring at the spikes that adorned the top of a wrought-iron gate. They were ugly things, painful looking. I nodded my horn towards one of them, and the metal glowed with beautiful blue magic, reshaping itself instantly into a happily prancing mare.
I sent up a prayer of thanks to Celestia and Luna. I was in a unicorn mare. It felt good and right.
Even better, I was in sunlight. Perhaps the brightest, cleanest sunlight yet. The air was dusty but clean, reminding me yet again of how odd the air in the real world was.
I turned my eyes to the next one and wove the magical spell over it. This one became a prancing unicorn stallion. I was struck by how much it resembled Prince Blueblood. Almost a perfect likeness. The next spike glowed and transformed into a unicorn mare, head bent as if she was mid-charge, her horn aimed dangerously close to Prince Blueblood’s…
“Behave yourself, Rarity,” I heard myself whisper in Rarity’s lovely voice. The blue glow of magic surrounded the two figures again and they were transformed into entirely different, happy and generic pegasi.
I felt a strange thrill as I realized who I was. Followed by a flash of guilt.
“That old spell, huh?” came a voice from directly behind me.
I turned, the blue pegasus with the shockingly rainbow-colored mane moving into view. “It’s not polite to sneak up on ponies, Rainbow Dash.”
“I wasn’t sneaking,” the pegasus said defensively. “I was just flying. It’s not my fault flying is quiet.” Rainbow Dash was wearing the purple and black uniform I had seen her in before. “So, what have they got you all the way out in this dustbin for?”
Rarity looked around, and I was treated to the sight of Old Olneigh, intact and well maintained and bustling with ponies. I was able to see the shops and homes that I had only known as ruins.
And yet, as glorious as this look into the past was, I was clearly not seeing Old Olneigh in its heyday. Most of the shops were boarded up. There was a sense of disuse hanging over much of the town. And the bulk of the ponies were clearly either military or associated with the Ministry of Arcane Sciences.
“Apparently,” Rarity said ruefully, “They’re having trouble with the Diamond Dogs again. Fluttershy has tried to talk to them, but it didn’t work. So somepony thought they might pay more attention if I were to talk to them.”
“Gee,” Rainbow Dash snickered, “I wonder why.”
“Did Fluttershy try to tell them that this wasn’t their home anymore?” Rainbow Dash asked, hovering in the air in front of me. “Or, you know, that it’s dangerous?”
“Of course she did,” Rarity said. “Fluttershy even tried to compromise…”
“Oh brother,” Rainbow dash facehoofed.
“But that was when they discovered that Twilight’s magical…” my host searched for the best word. “…byproducts, shall we say, have started eating through the barrels. Sunny lost a pony trying to move them when several tore open like they were made of nothing but the covering paint.” I watched us look Rainbow Dash up and down. “You know, I still can’t believe you are wearing that.”
“Hey, we’re Luna’s elite aerial force. What else were we going to call ourselves?”
“How about anything other than the Shadowbolts?” Rarity suggested primly.
“Way I see it, why not play into the zebra’s crazy Nightmare Moon phobia. The original Shadowbolts were all just Nightmare Moon, right?” Rainbow Dash grinned conspiratorially. “Why not use that to our advantage. Every zebra who sees us coming and flees the battlefield is one less zebra we’ll have to kill. Or who might kill one of us.”
“Still, I can never get used to seeing you look like that.”
“Actually,” Rainbow Dash put a hoof behind her head, brushing her mane. “I had an idea about that. Do you think your old dressmaking skills are up to working with armor?” the pegasus ribbed.
“Rainbow Dash! You wound me!”
“Oh!” came a shout from somewhere on my host’s left. A moment later a dusty pony in a military uniform galloped to a stop and offered a salute to Rainbow Dash. Rarity stepped back.
“At ease, uh…” Dash looked at the pony’s uniform. “…tank commander…?”
“Torchwood, Ma’am. Big fan. Followed your career since the Wonderbolts.”
Rainbow Dash’s face brightened. “Oh really? Did you see me at the GALLoPS last year?…”
My host shook her head. “I see you’re going to be busy for a while, Dash. I’ll catch up with you later,” she said graciously, even though it was the pegasus who had sought her out. “Do you think you’ll be free by dinner?”
Rainbow Dash turned back. “Oh, yeah, no problem. I want to throw some ideas past you.”
I could feel Rarity smiling.
“Also,” Rainbow Dash added, swooping close and whispering, “I heard rumor that you’re working on a new spell with the Ministry of Peace? Something about keeping a pony alive and awake indefinitely?”
“Suspended animation, yes, although that’s a very poor description of it” Rarity replied, nodding. “And I’m working on it for them, not with them. Part of a… private line of research that has finally borne some fruit. But it still needs some fine tuning.”
Dash grinned. “Great. Cuz that sounds like just what I’ve been looking for.”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Dare I ask?”
“Oh, just part of the Single Pegasus Project.”
I could feel Rarity frown. “You mean that thing that has you putting those dreadful eyesores all over our lovely Equestria?” she snorted.
“They’ll look better once they’re done. I promise. Apple Bloom says they’ll be ‘elegant’. You like elegant, right?”
“Indeed I do. But I’ll wait until I’ve seen them.”
Rainbow Dash muzzle broke into a big grin. “Just wait until you see the main hub. Actually, you can glimpse its construction if you stand up on the roof of the hospital. Just face towards the water tower and look about a hundred miles up and out.” Rainbow Dash paused. “You, uh, might need binoculars.”
“Or a telescope,” Rarity retorted.
“Heh. Yeah. Anyway, it’s not named yet. They wouldn’t let me name it what I wanted to, even though it’s my damned project and my Ministry. So…”
“You wanted to name it Rainbow Dash’s Megacool Center of Awesomeness, didn’t you?” Rarity asked, ribbing back.
“Noooo!” Rainbow Dash hovered indignantly. Then admitted, “Not exactly.”
Rarity laughed a charming and happy laugh. “Go tend to your fan, Dash. I’ll meet with you later.”
Rainbow Dash grinned, waved and swooped back to Tank Commander Torchwood. In seconds, they were deep into gushing over the aerial acrobatics of Rainbow Dash. A pegasus who could apparently do sonic rainbooms in her sleep.
Rarity turned and trotted away, humming a joyful tune.
Spike’s Black Opal
Place on the Timeline --
This happens after the Root of the Enclave section.
Brief Summary --
Spike records the last time the Mane Six were all together in one place, which was at the unveiling of the pegasi armor that the Grand Pegasus Enclave would adopt for their own purposes.
Text from the Story --
I felt strangely wrong.
We were in a darkened hallway, wide and elaborately decorated, walking towards a brightly lit room with a decorative, curtained partition hiding half of it. There were four ponies walking in front of me, a fifth leading them. The Mares of the Ministries.
The first pony I recognized was Pinkie Pie. While every other pony was walking sedately through the hall, she was bouncing like a fanfilly on her way to her idol’s next performance. The pony was a little younger than I’d seen her before. The candy-cane look was still going strong though.
I felt a pang of deep embarrassment as my gaze fell on the lead pony, the beautiful white unicorn I had… fantasized about. And the pony I was riding just wouldn’t stop staring…
Celestia’s solar-flaring mareheat!
The creature I was riding wasn’t a pony. He (and he was most definitely and unbearably a he!) was as big as a stallion! I felt… things that were not hooves at the ends of my legs. And wings folded to my back. And a tail!....
“Spike,” Fluttershy asked timidly, turning around and looking at me. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
My attention was drawn to something tight and metal squeezing my head. The recollector, I assumed. It did not seem to be designed for… whatever I was.
I opened my mouth (which felt all wrong) and answered, “Naw. Barely feel a thing. Besides, Rarity wanted a memory of this.”
“She could have worn it herself,” Twilight Sparkle muttered under her breath from directly in front of me. I saw my eyes go once again to the white unicorn with the perfect purple mane. She didn’t seem to hear it, being engaged in conversation with the pony I knew to be Applejack. The orange pony with the three-apple cutie mark looked a little younger and not as weary as she had at Pinkie Pie’s last party.
“Ah sure hope this ain’t nothin’ t’ do with… that… thing we never talked about,” Applejack was saying with nervous caution.
“Oh no, darling. I gave that project up ages ago,” Rarity replied with graceful dictation.
“Oh,” the orange pony sighed with clear relief. “Good.”
As we approached, we walked across a fancy carpet woven with gemstones. I felt a cold shock as the creature I was riding stepped over it. Twilight Sparkle had stopped just ahead and turned to eye the carpet, as Rarity and Applejack talked. But her attention was drawn by Rarity loudly clearing her throat.
Fluidly, Rarity shifted the subject, speaking up to address all four of the ponies she was leading. “Now this really is just a first design. But I think you’ll all be impressed.”
“Always thrilled to see one of your designs, Rarity,” Twilight Sparkle encouraged.
Rarity smiled with businesslike thankfulness. “And this is just the light suit, not the fully powered version.” She turned to Applejack and smiled demurely, “And I do want to make it clear that I’m not trying to step on your hooves here. This armor isn’t as strong as your Steel Ranger suits, and doesn’t offer quite the protection…”
“Then what’s the point?” Applejack interrupted. “Ah don’t see the use in creatin’ armor that is less protective!”
The group had reached the ending of the hallway. There was a large mirror to one side of the room, and the other was filled with sewing machines, bolts of cloth and dress ponies. Designs and schematics covered the walls. At Rarity’s motion, they stopped, each turning her attention towards the partition. (Except for my alien ride, who only had eyes for the white unicorn.)
“Well, because there is more to an outfit than just how well it stops bullets, of course!”
Applejack looked ready to disagree strongly, but bit back her comment.
“Okay, Rainbow Dash!” Rarity called out. “They’re ready for you!”
Around the curtained partition stepped the shadow out of a nightmare. A blue pegasus pony who was encased in a black, insectoid carapace, with only the front of her muzzle and the undersides of her wings showing. Her tail was hidden within a scorpion-like sheath with a vicious, barbed stinger. The ebony suit of armor was sleek and wicked. Yellow-orange protective goggles with a bug-like compound eye-pattern completed the look. Built into the sides of the suit were antenna-like protrusions; the crystals that tipped those magical-energy weapons shimmered with shifting rainbow light.
The reactions of the other ponies were immediate.
“That looks… demonic.”
“Oooooh. Dashie, you look scary!”
The creature I was riding turned to watch Rarity suddenly take off. “Fluttershy! Come back! It’s only Rainbow Dash!”
I (we?) turned back in time to see Rainbow Dash push up the goggles with one armored hoof. Her eyes narrowed, a smirk running across her muzzle as she lowered her body into a menacing battle stance in front of the mirror. She growled menacingly, the armor making her look positively sinister.
“Oh yeah!” she said. “This is cool!”
Place on the Timeline --
Zecora is mentioned as just having betrayed Equestria in the last one, but she isn’t said to have died yet.
Brief Summary --
Zecora accidentally her handler’s throat before she can try to sneak into Ironshod. SteelHooves finds them and he murders Zecora in cold blood.
Text from the Story --
My host was checking his watch. The little hoof pointed to seven, the big one just a few minutes past the hour. It was either late morning, or less than an hour from midnight. I had no way of knowing -- the hallway was a cold, grey metal with no windows -- yet it felt like night.
A soft chime from behind drew my host’s attention. He turned as the elevator doors opened, party music playing over the speaker in the room. The elevator seemed empty.
My host stepped away, watching cautiously. The elevator doors closed, cutting off the sound of music. I could barely hear the soft hum as the elevator began to descend.
My host looked to his left. Empty hallway, no doors, ending with the heavy steel door of a vault. He looked to his right. A magical field of blue light shimmered in front of an iron gate. The room beyond was filled with humming maneframes.
“I apologize for running late,” an exotic voice said from the nothingness, sounding slightly muffled. First the head of the zebra appeared as she pulled her hood back, then the rest of her. “I did not mean to make you wait.”
I felt my host press his lips together. “That’s all right, Zecora. But you’ll have to hurry. Security will cycle any minute now. When it does, we’ve arranged for the shield to drop, but it will only be down for four minutes. You’ll have to get in, get the data, and get out.” I saw my head turn away as I fished a key out of the pocket of my security uniform. “This will get you through the gate. You know which system you are looking for, right?
Zecora nodded. A sad look formed on her face. “I ask if this is worth the cost? The lives of ponies will be lost.”
I felt a frown etch across my host’s muzzle. “We have to be willing to make sacrifices if we are going to end this war. Your success here will get you the Caesar’s trust, and that will allow you to get close to him.”
My host stepped back. “But, if it helps, I’m sure they will arrange for the weapons factories in those schematics to have minimal staff when the zebras hit them.” My host’s frown turned into a grimace. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a small complication.”
Zecora raised an eyebrow.
“They’ve installed some sort of new gemstone detector. Something from the Ministry of Image, of all places. It is designed to detect zebra talismans like your cloak, and it’s not part of the normal security system, so we can’t shut it down without raising alarms. You’ll have to remove your cloak before going in.”
“I will not need it once in there, so I will leave it in your care.” Zecora slipped out of her cloak, now wearing only a satchel. She looked strangely naked without the jewelry I had seen her wearing before.
The shield of blue energy suddenly went down.
My host sucked in a breath. “Quickly. Strike me down. Hard!”
Zecora spun and bucked at my host. One hoof caught him squarely in the chest, cracking at least one rib. The other sank hard into the soft flesh of his neck.
Zecora’s eyes widen as I collapsed, choking, fighting for air. She had clearly not intended to land a possibly fatal blow.
My host waved her on, coughing and fighting to remain conscious. Zecora galloped down the hall. I heard her unlock the gate and pull it open, but my vision was blurring.
I sat there, fighting harder and harder, trying to breathe, air struggling to get through my throat and into my chest.
I heard the chime behind me. The door opened and an apple-green stallion in tuxedo barding stepped out, looking around. Applesnack.
The moment he saw me, his eyes widened. Then narrowed, taking in the discarded zebra cloak nearby. “Dammit! I knew something felt wrong!” He looked up, observing the open gate and the disabled magical shield. “Hold on, buck! I’ll get…”
Applesnack froze, his voice silencing abruptly, as Zecora rounded the maneframes, heading back.
Applesnack stepped into a battle stance as Zecora stopped short.
“You!!” Applesnack called out, fury in his voice.
“Applesnack…?” Zecora said, failing to rhyme, her eyes growing wider.
“She trusted you! She let you into our house! And you betrayed her!” Applesnack was striding slowly forward. “I opened my heart to you because she wanted me to. I even began to trust you, to like you… azebra! How could I have been. So. Stupid!”
“Ap… Apple…” my host wheezed, holding up a hoof. “Don’t…” But there was almost no sound to my voice. I, we struggled to get up, but our hooves wouldn’t work. I realized we really were dying.
“She thought you were a friend. You broke her heart!” Applesnack was roaring. I suddenly knew. This was what was hurting him. I remembered SteelHooves’ denial when I told him the truth about Zecora, and the painful resignation that seemed to follow.
‘I would prefer she had killed these monsters with cold-blooded calculation,’ SteelHooves had told Calamity, regarding my rampage in Arbu. It wasn’t the killing he thought was bad. It was the blind rage.
“And now, you come back, tonight of all nights, to hurt her again!??”
Zecora crouched down submissively. “You have caught me, I do not fight,” she intoned. “I am your prisoner tonight.”
Applesnack stooped, shaking. Then screamed, bellowing, “No! Zecora, that is not how you say died. Resisting. Arrest!”
No. Oh no, SteelHooves. Don’t do this.
He charged, turning and bucking at Zecora. She didn’t try to dodge. At least, not the first time. She did the second. And the third. And the fourth.
My host flailed as darkness began to seep into the edges of his vision. The fight for breath was getting harder, and he was losing. His whole body felt weak and distant. I didn’t feel the hum of the elevator at all. But we heard the chime. As the doors slid open, an oddly familiar song floated into the hallway.
“…How can I shield you from the horror and the lies?
When all that once held meaning is shattered, ruined, bleeding
And the whispers in the darkness tell me we won’t survive?”
It was the song that had played in SteelHooves shack the morning I first really met him. The song he became strangely lost to.
My host struggled again, trying to get up, trying to make any part of his body work now. We weren’t getting any air anymore.
Down the hall, I saw Zecora strike out, trying to defend herself. Applesnack ducked under the kick and brought up one of his own, striking her underneath and sending her body flying against the wall. Zecora hit the wall with a meaty smack, leaving a splash of blood as she fell to the floor.
From within the elevator came a horribly familiar voice. “Nuts n’ shrews. Ah know the boy is plannin’ on proposin’ tonight, but if we’re missin’ our song cuz Sergeant SteelHooves has become Sergeant Cold Hooves…”
Oh no! Oh nononononononoNO!
Don’t come out here Applejack! Don’t see this! It will hurt you if you see this.
‘We had been trying to repair our relationship,’ SteelHooves had told me, ‘ever since the night she had seen the darkness in me.’ Not learned about. Seen.
Applejack, wearing a little black dress that was clearly a Rarity original, stepped out of the elevator. She looked to her right, seeing an empty hall ending in a vault door. She looked left.
Her eyes widened, pupils dilating to pinpoints as she saw Applesnack, bloodied, his torso heaving with each breath, standing over the very bloody corpse of Zecora.
Rarity Speaks to Luna
Place on the Timeline --
Rarity mentions Zecora’s death and her lack of knowledge regarding its details, means this takes place shortly after it.
Rarity’s voice asked in my earbloom as I started looking through the terminals and notes that filled the lab. It swiftly became clear that I was getting only one side of a conversation.
“Oh, hello, Your Majesty! How delightful of you to call!
“Oh, same as always. So much to do, so many projects, and so little time! Honestly, half the time I feel the same about running a Ministry as Fluttershy felt about being a model! But the other half, I absolutely love it! Of course, I still find the time to create new dresses. And to get my beauty sleep. I think I’d go insane if I didn’t… Oh, no no no. A few missed meals never hurt anypony. And it helps me keep my figure.
“Yes. Yes I did hear what happened to Zecora, and I’m as enraged by it as anypony. I’ve already promised Pinkie Pie any resources my Ministry has to offer to help hers hunt down the brutes responsible and bring them to justice. …On the plus side, you have to admit, the new poster line is really effective.”
Rarity sounded legitimately upset about Zecora, and only thinly pleased about the effectiveness of her propaganda. The name was familiar. Oh yes, the zebra who was Applejack’s friend, possibly a friend of all of them. I could see why Rarity would draw the connection.
“…Pinkie Pie? She’s always eccentric darling! …No, not any more than usual… No, Princess Luna, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Strange and Pinkie Pie go hoof-in-hoof. You just learn to accept that about her and love her all the more for it.”
I recalled how Twilight Sparkle, in the Vinyl Scratch orb, had commented on everyone covering for Pinkie Pie and her addiction. I was immediately thankful I’d resisted the urge to make more Party-Time Mint-als.
“I will admit, however, that I am getting a bit worried about a few of my other friends. …Well, I’ve heard a rumor, just a rumor mind you, that Applejack is having some… trouble within her own Ministry. …No, I really couldn’t say.
“…And Twilight… Have you seen her recently? She’s just exhausted! And terribly stressed out. The poor dear has taken on so much responsibility and so much work… Well, you have to admit, other than me of course, Twilight Sparkle is the only one who has really tried to run her Ministry, rather than just tossing ideas at them like horseshoes… And the less said about Rainbow Dash’s ‘Ministry’, the better. …and with the big move underway; and Spike’s started his draconic adolescence, so you just know he’s a real saddle-full right now… No, no. But Princess Luna, I really think Twilight Sparkle needs a vacation…
“No, everypony else is fine. At least, they were the last time I saw them. Fluttershy’s doing brilliantly. I see her every week… I do wish I could see the others more often. They were my first real friends… my only ones, to be honest. And I miss them all terribly. But there’s just always so much to do. I can’t remember the last time we were all together… Oh, wait, I can. It was Pinkie Pie’s birthday party. No, not this year’s. Last year, I think. …Or was it the year before?
For the first time in the conversation Rarity’s voice faltered. I could feel the sadness she was trying to hide. It resonated deeply. Maybe because my heart held a similar ache.
“Oh no, I’m fine. It’s just… sometimes it feels like we’re pulling apart. And I can’t stand to see that happen. I really must do something about it.”
I needed my friends. I was trembling from more than just pain as the audio recording drew to a close.
“No, Princess Luna, the pleasure was all mine! Thank you so much for calling!”
Place on the Timeline --
I placed this after the Mane Six’s last meeting because Twilight seems to be worse for wear, which lines up with how she was acting in Pinkie’s Last Party. However, since the Celestia One was still in it’s early stages, and I believe that megaspells take time to create, I placed this a little earlier than I usually would have.
Text from the Story --
“That was beautiful, Lyra. Next, let’s try…”
But an argument in the background, at first almost too quiet to hear, was quickly growing louder. From inside the recording chamber, the voice of a mare whom I assumed to by Lyra, spoke up. “What’s going on?”
“um… You didn’t hear this from me, but Twilight Sparkle’s gone the last three days without sleep, trying to prepare for the Princess’s inspection, and has been in supreme bitchy mode all day today. I suggest steering clear. Don’t worry. I don’t think she’ll come in here.”
The arguing voices outside the recording studio were getting loud enough and close enough to make out the words.
“…Well that’s just great, Twilight. Now she’s in the bathroom sobbing her eyes out.”
“Well, I’m sorry. But those results are just unacceptable. I can’t go to the Princess and tell her that we’ve put her name on a megaspell that’s… that’s useless!”
The ponies in the recording studio had fallen completely silent. The argument was just outside their door. Twilight Sparkle and a male voice that sounded vaguely familiar.
“There’s better ways of handling it than grabbing a pony, pointing and saying ‘Look, there are all the thousands and thousands of bodies of ponies who are dead because your spell sucks. Explain it to them.’ Just how the hell was that supposed to help?”
“Don’t you get it, Spike? The zebras have megaspell-tipped missiles. Hundreds of them. If they launch them, those missiles will reach Equestria from the zebra homeland within minutes. And this Celestia One, or Celestia Prime, or whatever they’re calling it can’t even be cast unless it’s sunny. I can’t tell the Princess that the only defense we have against those missiles can be defeated by a cloudy day. What if the zebras decide to attack us at night?”
“You know what? Forget it, Twilight. I’m going to take a nap. And frankly, you should too.”
“You’re always taking a nap. There’s work to be done”
“Whatever. Wake me when the Twilight I know and love has decided to visit. Until then, I don’t even want to speak to you.”
Villain of the Piece
Place on the Timeline --
This happens shortly before Sweetie Belle talks to herself about the Rock of Destiny, which happens after Zecora dies.
Brief Summary --
Scootaloo reveals to the Cutie Mark Crusaders that she wants to run experiments on the ponies living in Stables. She also mentions that she’s been putting people in Stables before the Omega-Level Protocols have been activated.
Text from the Story --
…replaced by a luxurious office. Trophies lined the shelves. A much smaller oversized model of a Red Racer scooter hung from the ceiling. Everything had an odd reddish tint to it, and my view kept bobbing and tilting, making me seasick.
Behind a large desk crafted from dark wood stood an older mare with an orange coat and purple hair that showed the first solid streaks of grey. “Anything yet?” The voice was damningly familiar.
“Just one so far,” came a voice not from me but from near me. I suddenly realized that this memory was distinctly and terrifyingly different. I could see and hear, but I couldn’t feel or smell or taste. I had no sense of a body at all.
My perspective suddenly tilted crazily, leaving me looking at the ceiling. Then it righted itself again. Much more of this and I would vomit, possibly giving away my position. But I was locked in the memory until it was over. I realized I had made a grievous tactical error.
I was bobbing towards a bookshelf. Then I was staring at the wall above it through the haze of red. Slowly, my view pivoted until I was looking into the face of a stern white unicorn with scarlet hair and a matching scarlet glow around her horn. She stared right into me. Then her horn stopped glowing and the red haze vanished, leaving the room in sharp and perfect color. The unicorn trotted across the room, her horn beginning to glow again as she scanned over the furniture on the far side. When her horn passed near one of the lamps, there was a gleam of brilliant pink from it. The pink gleam flashed with the sound of a popping balloon and was gone.
“This is the last one, Miss Scootaloo. Your room is clean of any Ministry of Morale snooping,” the unicorn said. “Shall I send them in now?”
Scootaloo nodded, grimacing. “Please. My friends have been waiting long enough.” She watched the unicorn walk out of the office then looked around with a sigh. Her gaze caught me.
“Oh, Peek-a-Boo!” she called out after the unicorn. “You left your…” Her voice trailed off with a sigh, “…Sparkle~Cola.”
I was a Sparkle~Cola?
No, wait… I was a spy device planted inside a bottle of Sparkle~Cola.
Scootaloo trotted over to me, leaning up and grasping what I now assumed was the top of a cola bottle, lifted it, and carried me over to her waste basket. My vision twisted weirdly as I fell, landing face up amongst her trash. She stared at me through the circle of the waste basket, then trotted out of sight.
I heard the door open. All I could see was the ceiling.
“Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, it’s so good to see you two. I mean, you have no idea!” Scootaloo said, sounding relieved. Then a tenseness crept into her voice. “You weren’t followed, were you? Nopony saw you?”
“Good to see ya too,” Apple Bloom said with a bit of cheer. “And no, we were careful. But do ya really think it’s a good idea to have a secret meeting a block away from the Ministry of Morale?”
“You know, I chose this place thinking they would never expect anypony to plan something right under their noses. But Peek-a-Boo found two more Ministry bugs in my office just before you got here.”
“Who’s Peek-a-Boo?” asked the sweet voice of Sweetie Belle.
“Head Pony of my personal security,” Scootaloo answered. Then stomped, “I hate this!”
Scootaloo growled with frustration. “I hate all this hiding and sneaking around. It’s not fun anymore!”
“It was never fun,” commented Apple Bloom.
“No. You’re right. It’s sick.” Scootaloo stomped partially into view, waving her hoof towards her office window. “We’re having clandestine meetings, creating new types of dual encryption, lurking about in unfinished Stables just to be able to talk freely to each other. These are the ponies I respect the most, two of them are your sisters, and we have to hide from them to get anything done!”
“Hey now, nothin’ wrong with Applejack!”
“Rarity’s… just under pressure.”
Scootaloo sounded like she spit her bit. “Okay, granted, Applejack hasn’t really done anything bad. And I’m proud to say that Rainbow Dash is still good too. But the others? Pinkie Pie? And really, Sweetie Belle… the Ministry of Image? What. The. FUCK!”
“Stop talking about my sister like that,” Sweetie Belle asked with an edge of warning in her voice.
“Yeah. We all know the score. No need t’ rub it.” Apple Bloom suggested, “Let’s talk ‘bout somethin’ else.”
“Like the Manehattan Stables,” Sweetie Belle prompted. “I hear you’ve started sending ponies into them already…”
“Yeah, or why you keep changin’ the designs t’ my Stables.”
Scootaloo sighed. “We’ve been over this, Apple Bloom. We have to sometimes change the Stable layout and features to accommodate the Experiments.”
“But my designs were perfect!” complained Apple Bloom.
“Exactly,” retorted the purple-haired orange pony. “Your designs are always perfect. That’s why everypony uses them. Your designs have single-hoofedly put terminals in every household…”
“pfft. The terminals were an early design. PipBucks are much better.”
“…But,” Scootaloo persisted, “Every Stable can’t be perfect. Not for the Experiments to work.”
“But why not?”
Scootaloo groaned, walking out of sight. Apple Bloom followed her, moving into view. I only saw part of her head, but she was a pretty, pale yellow pony with a brilliant rose mane. I guessed she was the same age as the orange mare.
“I mean, I know that if we ever have to use the Stables, it’s important t’ make sure ponies don’t jus’ make the same mistakes after they get out. But it’s just as important t’ make sure they get out, right? So why change a design meant t’ optimize the chances of that? I just… I don’t get why…” Apple Bloom glanced down at me. “…hey, when didja started drinkin’ Sparkle~Cola again?”
I couldn’t tell if Scootaloo was annoyed or thankful for the change of topic. “I haven’t. You know I can’t touch the stuff after hearing about that accident at the plant. That was Peek-a-Boo’s.”
“oh,” Apple Bloom said, looking away. “An’ what is this ‘bout you callin’ ponies into the Manehattan Stables already. The Omega Protocols ain’t been activated yet.”
“I… well, you know how things are headed. Do you really think that we’ll get much warning when they do? Enough for an evacuation?”
Sweetie Belle answered. “No.”
“And… okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve begun to have second thoughts about some of the Experiments, especially in the Manehattan Stables. They’re… risky,” Scootaloo admitted heavily. “I’d like to do a dry run, just to make sure there aren’t any problems before the real thing.”
Apple Bloom cocked her head. “But… won’t that tell everypony what we’re up to? That will ruin the Experiments.” She didn’t sound like she wanted that any more than Scootaloo did.
“I know,” Scootaloo stomped morosely. “So we’ll keep the Manehattan ponies in their Stables until the threat of this war is over. After that, it won’t matter anymore.”
“I… don’t think I can spin that,” said Sweetie Belle cautiously. “They’ll see us as evil ponies experimenting on helpless captives. How can we justify that if it turns out it wasn’t needed after all?”
“Don’t worry,” Scootaloo said solemnly. “I’ve arranged things so you two are in the clear. It will all look like my idea.” With a humorless chuckle, she noted, “Really, it kinda was anyway.”
“Yeah, we can’t let you do that.”
A hoof hit the desk with enough force to shake the trash basket. (I was now staring at a wrapper from Cupcake Emporium.)
“Yes you can. Because you have to,” Scootaloo’s tone was fierce and, I suspected, on the verge of crying. “We can’t let this happen again. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie… all of them. I love them too. But this thing they’ve created is out of control. And it’s hurting everypony. And I can’t let it happen again. Ever!
“This isn’t our Equestria anymore! It’s not the happy, safe, pleasant world any of us grew up in. I don’t understand how it could have gotten this way. H-how… how it c-c-could have gotten this bad! Somepony needs to figure it out! And fix it! And…and… and…
“And if I have to become the villain of the piece to do that, then I will.”
Sweetie Belle and the Rock of Destiny
Place on the Timeline --
This happens shortly after Zecora’s death.
Brief Summary --
Sweetie Belle goes to Zecora’s Hut (after Zecora died) and reminisces about how the Rock of Destiny was created.
Text from the Story --
“Um… hello?” a sweet, familiar voice sounded in my ear.
“This feels weird. I know you can’t actually hear me, Zecora. But Apple Bloom says that you were always a good person to talk to. And I really needed to talk. I can’t bring this stuff to Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, and I don’t really talk with my sister anymore, so…I hope you don’t mind.
“This is Sweetie Belle, by the way. Not that you can hear me. But if you can, and didn’t know…
“I’ve been thinking about things. And I know this is going to sound silly, but one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is…
“I can’t believe this whole war has been about rocks. Gems. Coal. Rarity said something about a meteorite, but she got all evasive when she realized I had overheard. Whatever. (Like it was hard to figure out. Sometimes I’m slow, but I’m not stupid.)
“I used to think rocks were cool. I mean, my big sister has gems for a cutie mark. And Pinkie Pie once lived on a rock farm. We even used to play a game, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom and me. We found the rock that Rarity had gotten her cutie mark from, and I made Twilight Sparkle enchant it so that we can make it open and close (she kinda owed us for that whole Smarty Pants thing). We called it the Rock of Destiny, and we’d pretend that when it opened up, it would give us our cutie marks. Twilight made it so each of us could set a pass phrase to open it. Mine was ‘Dumb Rock’ so I could pretend I was just like my sister. (I changed it to ‘Apple Pie’ for a while, but then changed it back. Just as well. My sis and I haven’t been apple pie in a long time. Not since the Ministries.)
“I hope you don’t mind me using your place. I mean, of course you can’t mind, but I hope you don’t anyway. Sometimes, I just have to get away from all the noise. It’s so nice and peaceful here. And I really love your flowers.
“Anyway, I guess I’m thinking about rocks because we found chunks of that meteorite when we dug into Luna’s old foundry under the castle last week. It was all broken up because they’d taken all the ore out of it, and they’d sealed up the pieces. I felt kinda sorry for it. Ponies and zebras blame it for all sorts of stupid stuff. It’s not the rock’s fault. It’s just a rock. And I kinda know what it’s like, being blamed for stuff. (Seems, sometimes, everything I do just makes things worse.) So I had them make one of the bigger chunks into a cornerstone. As an apology or something, I dunno. Make it feel useful. Yes, I know that’s stupid; it’s just a rock.
“So… I guess not dumb rocks. Just dumb ponies and zebras.
“I came up here yesterday. Building the last Stable in Everfree was my idea, so I wanted to be here. Especially after we started having problems. (Rarity said that Everfree Forest is the one place she was sure the zebra’s wouldn’t attack; so I thought, ‘Why are we putting all the Stables in places we think they will attack? Doesn’t it make sense to put at least one somewhere they won’t?’ Yes, the forest is dangerous, but it can’t be that dangerous -- you lived here, and my sister and her friends used to go into it all the time. Well… just another of my ideas that ended up a mess.)
Apple Bloom had warned me about the poison joke, but was it always this… aggressive? It’s been really bad the last three days. Moonbeam said it’s like the excavation is attracting it. He thinks that either it’s vibrosensitive (which isn’t even a word) or it wants to be near people, but that doesn’t make any sense. It’s a plant, right? But then, Apple Bloom says you told her the plants want a laugh. How can a plant want something?
“I’m sorry. I know I’m rambling. I guess my thoughts aren’t too coherent. I’m just trying to work things out.
“I think we’ve lost our faith.
“Does that make any sense? It’s like everything we’re supposed to believe in has gotten dark and crumbled. Like the air is heavy. No… that doesn’t make any sense. Like… I dunno. Like everything is too real. You know, like when you’re just a filly and you look up to someone and they’re your idol? But then you learn they’re not perfect like you imagined? That they’re flawed, just like everypony else? Maybe that’s just growing up though.
“It’s like we’ve forgotten how to have heroes. Only worse. We’ve forgotten how to believe in each other. In ponies. Even Scootaloo… she’s trying to fix ponies with all these experiments.
“I once told Scootaloo I thought she was trying to make ponies like they were when we were kids. You know what she said? She said, ‘Nostalgia is mostly just make-believe.’ Isn’t that horrible?
“I’ve started having second thoughts. Maybe we should just stick to saving ponies. Maybe it’s not right for us to try to fix things. But then, won’t it all be for nothing, like Scootaloo says?
“I don’t know anymore. Sometimes these experiments feel…. I dunno… wrong. I know they’re not dangerous. We’ve made extra, extra sure. But I still don’t feel right doing experiments on ponies who are just trying to survive. Isn’t that wrong? It’s not like it’s their fault… not most of them, anyway. (The ones in Stable One, maybe.) I just want to save them and give them a chance. Kinda like the rocks, I guess.
“I even almost told Rarity about the experiments. But I didn’t. Because… well… I’d be betraying Scootaloo and Apple Bloom if I told. And I’m not sure Rarity would do the right thing if I told her. I really don’t like the Ministry of Image. And if that’s what she is now…
“…Like I said before, we haven’t been apple pie in a long time. Sometimes, the little statue of Rarity that my sister gave me feels more like my sister than she does.
“Today, I did ask Scootaloo if Stable 101 could be made a ‘control’ Stable instead, but she and Apple Bloom both insisted the experiment here was too important.
“And part of me still thinks Scootaloo’s right. Like maybe we really do have to fix ponies. To figure out what went wrong so everything doesn’t get so… so… bad again. But how many times do we have to try before we get it right? And what happens when we fail? This time, the cost can be so much more than tree sap and pine needles.
“Scootaloo has been looking at me funny. I think maybe she knows I’m having second thoughts.
“Anyway… sorry for all the rambling. Thanks for letting me use your place. And thanks for listening. Apple Bloom is right. You really are a good person to talk to, Zecora.
“We’re all very, very sad about what happened to you. I hope you’re at peace.”
Trixie’s Letter to Whitelip
Place on the Timeline: This is basically a prelude to the Star Orb.
“Whitelip, I’m sorry to miss you this week. You know that seeing you is one of the high points of my week, but I just got the most amazing call. Twilight Sparkle, yes the Twilight Sparkle, called me. Right out of the blue. Isn’t that amazing? I mean, I knew her back when she was nothing and I was…
Nevermind. I’m just so surprised she even remembers me. But no, she invited me to Manehattan this weekend to talk about a proposal. Can you imagine? Me, working for the Ministry of Magic! And when the Mare of the Ministry herself personally calls you up to pitch the offer, you know it has to be important.
I… I hesitate to say it, but I’m back. Oh yes, Trixie’s life is about to finally turn around!
Um… I don’t know how long I’ll be in Manehattan; but just to be safe, go ahead and leave my usual order on the doorstep: three bottles of milk and a carton of butter. I’ll pay you next week. I promise.”
The Star Orb
Place on the Timeline --
Since Trixie is told to meet Twilight at Maripony, and the Last Day happened when they were there, I placed this near the end of the timeline.
Brief Summary --
Trixie shows Twilight Sparkle that she can cast an invisibility spell. Since this spell has eluded the MAS, Twilight offers Trixie the chance to turn into an alicorn at the Maripony facility.
Text from the Story --
I was locked into what seemed like the longest, most boring memory ever. My host was skimming over sheets of paperwork: non-disclosure contracts, agreements to drug and loyalty testing, acceptance of possible mandatory relocation, and so on. Each sheet bore an emblem of a large star ringed by smaller ones and circumscribed by a horn and wings. Each had the header of an official Ministry of Arcane Technologies document.
My host was either a speed reader or she wasn’t really reading that closely. Occasionally, she would look up, glancing sheepishly at the bored mare sitting behind her desk, or watching the door beside the desk. The first time she did so, I realized I knew where we were by the fanciful design of the door and the ornate lighting. This was Tenpony Tower. My host never looked up long though before returning to the clipboard filled with paperwork.
Every so often, she would levitate a quill, dipping it in ink, and sign her name.
We looked up, Trixie and I, when the door opened and a smiling Twilight Sparkle stepped out. “Trixie, I’m very happy you could make it!”
“I… I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity.” We quickly signed the last page and floated the clipboard to the mare at the desk (who was now sitting at the sort of alert attention that only comes from ponies who were slacking just before their boss walked in).
“Please, come in,” Twilight said, standing aside. Slowly, almost humbly, Trixie stepped through the doorway.
Inside was a nice office, not ostentatious in the slightest, mostly filled with shelves holding books and various knick-knacks of magical or personal importance. As Trixie’s eyes wandered over the room, I spotted a jar with several delicate purple-spotted lavender shards floating in preserving liquid. The jar was labeled “Spike’s Egg”.
Twilight Sparkle walked in behind us, closing the door, and moved around to sit at her desk. She looked over her desk with a slight frown and, apparently deciding it seemed too formal, walked back around the desk and sat on a floor cushion, offering another to Trixie.
“Miss Sparkle...” Trixie began. I could feel her nervousness.
“Oh please, call me Twilight,” she beamed. “So, tell me, been working on any new tricks lately?”
I felt my host stammer a moment, then draw herself up, breathing deeply. With a prideful voice, she boasted, “Why yes! In fact, just the other day, I invented an invisibility spell! Would you like to see?”
Twilight Sparkle blinked. “You. Invented. An invisibility spell?”
“Indeed! Have you ever known another unicorn who could do this?” I felt the surge of magic as my host cast her spell. Twilight Sparkle gasped.
“You… Trixie, you’re actually invisible!” Twilight reached out, prodding us with a hoof, making sure we were actually still there and hadn’t teleported away. “That’s… amazing!”
I felt the spell ebb then collapse. It clearly wasn’t long lasting. Still, Trixie sat up, smiling broadly. “See? Am I not still the Great and Powerful Trixie?”
Twilight gazed at her. As seconds ticked by, I could feel sweat bead on my host’s forehead. “And you invented this spell yourself?”
“Why yes! I…” All at once, Trixie seemed to deflate. “No.” She stared at the floor, scuffing it with her hoof. “I mean, yes, I created the spell. But only after I got ahold of one of those new StealthBucks and figured out how to cast the magic myself.”
Twilight’s expression softened. “Thank you for being honest with me.”
Trixie nodded. “I’ll… see myself out.”
“No!” Twilight said swiftly. “No… it’s all right. I’m still really impressed. Those StealthBucks were created by my Ministry…”
“…and we reverse-engineered them from zebra magic. But none of my unicorns have been able to re-create it in spell form. I have a whole division in Canterlot who have spent years trying to do what you just did and failing.”
Trixie looked up again, surprised. I felt a burning in her eyes. She was holding back tears.
“What you have done is incredible. You should be proud. And don’t be nervous. You’ve already got the job,” Twilight Sparkle smiled. “That is, if you still want it. I hope all that out there didn’t put you off.”
“Oh no! Not at all,” Trixie said hurriedly. “I really want to work for the Ministry, your Ministry.” Then in a softer voice, “And I need this job.”
“Oh dear.” Twilight’s eyes widened. “Trixie, what happened?”
“Well… you know...” She sighed. “Things did not go well for me after Ponyville. I’d lost my home. Word spread about how you defeated that Ursa Minor and how I…” She shook her head. “I was a laughingstock, only I was too proud and blind to see it. My shows starting bringing jeers instead of cheers. And then they stopped bringing anypony at all. Money ran out. Nopony would hire the ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie. I had to take… unpleasant jobs…”
Trixie looked aside. “Things actually got better for me when the war started. Ponies stopped caring about my reputation. It was long enough ago, and they had other things to hate.”
“Oh… oh Trixie, I never knew.”
Trixie looked into Twilight’s concerned expression, then at the floor. “Honestly, I’m surprised you would want me here.”
Twilight smiled. “Well, I remember you as a skilled and talented unicorn with an impressive repertoire of spells. And I’m happy to have you with us. I have a new project, and I need volunteers.” She paused. “There is one thing. You will have to allow us to record one of your memories.”
Trixie’s eyes widened. “You… you want to see my memories?”
Twilight Sparkle shook her head. “Just one of them. And the memory of this meeting will do just fine.”
Trixie looked askance, “This one? Well… that’s not so bad then. But…why?”
“This war,” Twilight Sparkle explained, “Will be won by the side with superior magic. We’re working on a potion that will transform a normal pony into…”
She paused, then spit it out, “Into an alicorn.”
“And no, I’m not joking. We’re ready to test it. And I wanted to ask you to be the first.” Twilight Sparkle looked nervous. She understood the gravity of what she was asking of my host, even if Trixie really did not.
“An… alicorn? You mean like Princess Celestia?”
“And Princess Luna, yes.” Twilight’s tone was very serious. “This is transformation magic of the highest order. We need a memory of yours for comparison. Before and after. We don’t think that being changed into an alicorn will affect your psyche, but we can’t be sure.”
With that, she put a gently hoof on Trixie. “We’ve taken every precaution. I wouldn’t ask anypony to do this if I wasn’t absolutely sure it would work and that it would be safe. But still… I know it is asking a lot. Too much. This potion would change who you are. What you are.”
“If you don’t want to do this, you can back out at any time.” Twilight Sparkle smiled. “And I promise you’ll still have a job with the Ministry. I’ll make sure of it.”
Trixie was silent for a long time. I could feel a tremor pass through her. But then, slowly and softly, she said, “I’ll do it. I don’t mind being changed. I’m not the greatest fan of who I am anymore. Haven’t been for a long time. Maybe... this way I’ll actually be able to be who I thought I was.”
Twilight Sparkle’s eyes danced with joy. “Then welcome to the Ministry of Arcane Sciences, Trixie! If you don’t mind, I’d like to get started right away.” Twilight Sparkle stood up abruptly, moving towards the door.
“Are you free for the rest of the weekend? I’d like you to come out to Maripony with me. I’ve got a couple ponies who I really want you to meet.” She let out a little squee. “Oh, I can’t wait to see their faces when you turn invisible!”
“Who?” Trixie asked as my host got up, trotting after her.
Twilight turned back with a smile. “Gestalt and Mosaic. They’re my head researchers. Twins and some of the most amazing spellcasters you’ll ever meet.” With a sheepish grin, “Next to you and I, of course. I normally leave them in charge at my Ministry Hub in Canterlot, but they’re at Maripony now, overseeing final preparations.
“You’ll like them. They have a cute way of finishing each other’s sentences,” Twilight grinned. “And you want to hear something really impressive? I’ve seen them finish each other’s spells too!”
Finish each other’s thoughts and each other’s spells. The foundations for telepathy and spell-sharing. An epiphany washed over me. I suddenly understood why there were three breeds of alicorn, why they had the abilities they did… even why all the alicorns were female!
Dozens of ponies were absorbed into what became the Goddess, but it was Trixie’s mind which became dominant. The behavior of my host wasn’t much like that of the Goddess, but there were shadows of her there. The Goddess was lurking in some part of her psyche, waiting to be tapped.
But, it wasn’t just Trixie who held power. There were four ponies within the amalgam that formed the Goddess who were powerful enough to exert influence over the alicorn creation process.
Blue is invisibility. Purple can teleport. The greens are telepathic and can work together to create greater effects with their shields.
Four ponies, all mares.
I wondered, if the Goddess consumed me, would a new breed of alicorns begin with extra-powerful telekinetics?
Would Red Eye only be able to create alicorn stallions?
My thoughts were interrupted as Trixie stopped, asking nervously. “And… they’ll be impressed… with me?”
“Oh, I guarantee it!”
Shattered Hoof Employee’s Journal
Place on the Timeline --
It mentions that Sweetie Bell has gone off the face of the map, which might mean that the Omega-Level Protocols were activated and the Last Day was about to begin.
Just got word that Shattered Hoof will be closing down the Visitor’s Center portion of this facility. The Ministry of Morale has decreed that the friends and family of ponies who have been determined guilty of sedition or treason will no longer have the right to visit our guests until rehabilitation is deemed complete, for fear that our guests might spread their poison to their loved ones. As such, this is going to be my last entry.
Fortunately, the severance package will be generous. I plan to take my family and move to Cloudsdayle. The world below is just a little too ugly for me to be raising my foals in.
We’ve done our best to contact ponies with items still in the Lost & Found, and most of what remains will be mailed out today. Unfortunately, we’ve had no luck reaching our recent guest entertainer. Sweetie Belle has apparently fallen off the face of Equestria. I’ve taken care to store her belongings in the safe.
It amuses me that we shut this office down just after we repainted. If somepony had said something sooner, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble. (Not to mention Tiara’s new dress, although the rest of us are upset about that. That mare is unbearable.)
Place on the Timeline --
All of Scootaloo’s messages to the Stables take place when the “Omega-Level Threat Protocols” have been activated. Now, I can’t exactly say when that was, but common sense dictates that Scootaloo’s recordings took place before the bombs actually fell. On a slightly related note, Sweetie Belle is mentioned as having gone off the map in the Shattered Hoof Employee’s journal, which might be when the Omega-Level Threat Protocols were activated.
Brief Summary --
Scootaloo’s messages to the Overmare’s (or Overstallion) of the Stables dictating their goals.
Text from the Story --
The directives will be listed in the numerical order of the Stable’s numbers.
Stable One’s Directive
“Hello. And goodbye.
“My name is Scootaloo. You probably know me as the vice-president of Stable-Tec, the company who designed and built the Stable you have taken refuge in. But right now, I’m talking to you as one of the very, very many ponies you fuckers have murdered.
“You. The Ministries, the heads of Equestria, the Princesses if you’re in here. You killed us all with your stupid, senseless war. And now I’m returning the favor.
“I’ll admit, I gave a lot of serious thought to just keeping the door of Stable One from sealing properly and letting you all die from whatever horror you hid yourselves from while the rest of Canterlot’s ponies, and all the rest of Equestria, perished. All…
“All the ponies that we were unable to save.
“But that’s the whole point of the Stables. Above and beyond everything else, the Stables are meant to save people. (Yes, ‘people’. I’m happy to report that one of the Stables has been built to save as many of Equestria’s zebras as possible, the ones that you fuckers shoved into a dump and tried to forget about. And Stable Fourteen is currently housing many of Equestria’s griffins… But the Stables were mostly built to save ponies. Even ponies like you.) It is for that reason alone that you’re all going to live out the rest of your natural lives in Stable One, as will your children. Regardless of the conditions existing outside.
“I have seen to it that Stable One will not open so long as even one of you is still alive. (Which, if the Princesses are in there, might be a very long time.) No matter how fast Equestria heals, not a single damn one of you is going to get to profit from what you have done. Equestria is something you ponies don’t deserve.”
“I hope your souls rot for eternity.”
Stable Twenty-Four’s Directive
“Hello! My name is Scootaloo. You probably know me (since I am pretty famous) for my awesome performances at events like last year’s GALLoPS, or maybe just as the founder of Red Racer.
None of which means a damn anymore, of course. If you’re hearing this, that means Omega-Level Threat Protocols have been enacted and you are... are now... aww, dammit!!
Okay... right now, I’m talking to you as vice-president of Stable-Tec. You have been appointed as Overmare (or, in the case of Stable Twenty-Four, Overstallion) of a Stable-Tec life-preserving Stable. You have been chosen for your sense of loyalty and duty, both to the ponies around you and to this company. And while the Stable-Tec HQ might be... probably is... nothing but blasted rubble now, our ideals live on.
Your Stable has been selected to participate in a vital social project. The first goal of your Stable, like all others, is to save the lives of the ponies inside. But you also have a higher purpose beyond saving the lives of individual ponies. We here at Stable-Tec understand that it doesn’t do ponykind any good to save ourselves now only to annihilate each other later. We must figure out where we went wrong. We must find a better way. And we must be ready to implement it as soon as possible once the Stable doors open. ...And survive what our current leaders have managed to do to Equestria...
...dammit! I-I really hope no pony ever has to h-hear this. Can’t this all just be for nothing? They’re really going to destroy us all, aren’t they?...
...I’m sorry. Again, I’m totally off script. Where was I? Oh, yeah. In short, Stable-Tec is working to ensure a more... a more Stable society for future generations.
Inside the safe in your office, you will find a set of special instructions and objectives, as well as details on how your specific Stable has been fitted to carry out your part. If at any point, you believe that your part in the project is threatening the safety and security of the ponies in your charge... as a whole... you are to cease participation and take any necessary steps to rectify the situation. In any other circumstances, however, it is crucial that you keep to the directives provided, and keep Stable-Tec appraised of all results as per your sealed instructions.
Thank you. From all of us. From all of Equestria...
Thank you, and may somepony up there have pity on us all.”
Stable Twenty-Nine’s Directive
“Hello, Shadowhorn! The following is for your ears only. I am speaking to you because you have been selected for a very important job, due to your sense of loyalty and duty both to this company and the ponies around you.
My name is Scootaloo. You probably know me… oh who cares. I’m sick of these things…
…try that again…
Hello, my name is Scootaloo, and I’m the vice-president of Stable-Tec. If you’re hearing this, that means that the Omega-Level Threat Protocols have been enacted and the citizens of Equestria chosen for Stable Twenty-Nine have been safely sealed inside the most state-of-the-art apocalypse-survival facility ever created.
I’m very sorry. I wish there was more we could do.
Hell, I wish this whole thing could have been prevented…
…But instead, it falls to us to save who we can, and try to prevent it from happening ever again. To that end, your Stable has been selected to participate in a vital social project. The first goal of Stable Twenty-Nine, like any other, is to save the lives of the ponies inside. But…
…but there is a higher purpose to your Stable, beyond saving individual ponies. We here at Stable-Tec understand that it doesn’t do ponykind any good to save ourselves now only to annihilate each other later. We must figure out where we went wrong. We must find a better way. And we must be ready to implement it as soon as possible once the Stable doors open. And survive what our current leaders have managed to do to Equestria...
…dammit. How did we come to this? Dammit, dammit, dammit!...
We… I guess we came to this… maybe… because we’re ponies. We try our best. We have the best intentions. But when things go wrong, we get flustered or confused. Or upset. Or angry. Our ability to make smart decisions is impaired the most when we need it the most.
Bad decisions, emotional decisions… they’ve dragged us into a war nopony wanted. They’ve pushed us to the brink of extinction… and if you’re listening to this…
…dammit all to hell. Damn us all to hell.
Sorry. I hate this whole thing. I wish the world was the way it was back when I was a filly. But
wishes are just wishes.
…dammit, I can’t seem to get through one of these without going wildly off-track. I’m sure you’re wondering what, if anything, does this have to do with you? Why am I telling you this? Don’t worry, there’s actually a point; this isn’t just the rantings of some Stable-Tec pony who has… already died… haven’t I?
Your Stable has a very exceptional design. Despite the official documents, this Stable has no remote connection to Stable-Tec whatsoever. Instead, replacing the normal Overmare position, we have fitted Stable Twenty-Nine with a Crusader-class computer system.
The Crusader-class Maneframe is the most advanced supercomputer ever created by ponykind, using the greatest available improvements in arcano-technology. The Crusader is capable of independent thought, creativity and learning. We’ve only built three of these, and the other two are currently in the possession of the Ministry of Arcane Sciences and the Ministry of Awesome respectively.
The goal of this social experiment it to remove the emotional, fallible pony from the equation. To see if we can do better through a pragmatic and logical system of government that is not subject to our own faults.
As always, just in case something goes wrong, there is a backup. And that backup is you. Provided with this recording are the codes to shut down the Crusader Maneframe in case of emergency. Doing so will unfortunately also shut down all the automated systems, so this should only be done in a matter of life and death for the general population of the Stable. There is an access junction between the Security station and the V.I.P. rooms through which you can access the Crusader Maneframe.
As a last resort, the programming of the Crusader Maneframe can also be entirely overwritten via magically transfer-mapping the brain of a pony into the Maneframe itself. This would allow you to effectively become the Crusader, taking control of the automated systems yourself. However, this is untested and the effects on the pony initiating this transfer are unknown, so I really, really don’t suggest it.
In any other circumstances, however, it is crucial that you keep to the ruse, as per the directives provided.
Thank you. From all of us. From all of Equestria. Best of luck, and may Stable Twenty-Nine and all its ponies live long and well.”
Applejack’s Letter to Braeburn
Place on the Timeline --
Since Applejack wasn’t able to send Li’l Macintosh over to Braeburn, this probably happened very close to the end of the war. Applejack also mentions that the war effort has taken a turn for the worst, which possibly ties in with the activation of the Omega-Threat Level Protocols.
Text from the Story --
“Cousin Braeburn, Ah know we ain’t talked in some time, but the war effort’s takin’ a twist for the scary, and Ah might not have a chance t’ see ya again. Ah want t’ mend fences. Now, Ah ain’t gonna muck this up with words. We all know how well that went last time. Instead, Ah’m sendin’ ya Lil’ Macintosh as a gift and as an apology. T’show you I’m sincere. Keep ‘im safe for me, will ya?”
Pinkie’s Last Party
Place on the Timeline --
This happens directly before the events of the Balloon Orb.
Brief Summary --
Applejack introduces Rainbow Dash to Applesnack and Twilight Sparkle threatens to end her friendship with Pinkie Pie if Pinkie does not give up her addiction to Party-Time Mint-als.
Text from the Story --
All around me spanned a massive party. Colored lights, festive decoration, and a dance beat that grasped hold of your soul and made you want to move. I was at the turntables, bobbing my head to the beat. And everywhere, ponies. Ponies dancing, ponies eating, ponies doing things in corners and behind potted plants that would make their parents blush and faint.
A gracefully aging, light blue pegasus pony with rainbow-colored hair fluttered towards the turntables with a slight swagger and looking a bit sloshed.
“Awesome beat, Vinyl Scratch!” she grinned, “Your rhythms always makes for the best parties!” She wore her years well, and must have been a damn cutie in her youth. I wanted her hair!
And, whoa, was Vinyl Scratch checking her out? She had my gaze going up and down… No, wait, that’s just headbobbing.
“Yeah,” said a familiar looking orange pony with a cowpony hat on her yellow mane, and red ribbons in her tail that matched her three-apple cutie mark. She was significantly older than her statuette portrayed; she looked even older than in the news article, and had not aged quite so gracefully. I wondered if her looks were more from stress than years. “Fluttershy an’ Rarity are gonna be hatin’ they missed this.”
Her accent reminded me a lot of Calamity.
The orange earth pony sauntered up to the turntables, looking at the blue pegasus who swayed slightly as she smiled back. “Are ya safe t’ fly home, Rainbow?”
“Aw hell no!” the rainbow-maned pegasus clopped the orange one on the shoulder. “I haven’t left one of Pinkie Pie’s parties safe to fly in… nearly twenty years now!”
The orange pony gave her an odd look. “Ya ain’t tried any of the… harder stuff… ‘ave you?”
“Hell no,” Rainbow stomped a hoof as she repeated herself. “You know…” She dropped her voice, which had been getting loud, “…I don’t touch any of that stuff.” She held a hoof to her breast with slightly wobbly pride. “Rainbow Dash doesn’t need enhancements!”
The orange pony looked relieved. I realized I was looking at the mysterious mare of the Ministry of Awesome, the one whose rebellion gave Calamity his title of Dashite. I didn’t know what to think; although I had to admit, she certainly had the right hair.
“I heard they’ve got stuff back there called dash!” Rainbow Dash said conspiratorially. “Which Pinkie says would make me even faster.” She landed with a heroic stance, her voice filling with extra bravado. “Of course I don’t do that stuff, AJ. Dash on dash? That wouldn’t just break the laws of Equestria. That would break the laws of physics!”
An apple-green coated stallion trotted up and whispered something in the ear of the orange pony (apparently named AJ). Rainbow Dash stopped with a stare. “Sooooo AJ, who’s the new buck?”
“Ya don’t have t’ ask it like that,” AJ bristled.
“Aw, if you wanted some company,” Rainbow Dash clopped the orange pony on her cutie mark, “You could have just asked me.”
The earth pony fixed Rainbow Dash with a look. “My barn door don’t swing that way.” Something stirred in me. “An’ neither does yours.” The stirring died. “Yer drunk,” the orange pony added unnecessarily but accurately, stepping out of the way of a green mare whose plate was loaded with cakes.
Rainbow Dash just giggled. “So, are you gonna introduce your new buckfriend or not?”
AJ rolled her eyes before introducing him. “This here’s Sergeant ‘SteelHooves’ Applesnack. Served with Big Macintosh. Apples, dear, this is Rainbow Dash, the old friend Ah war… told ya about.”
“No way!” Rainbow Dash echoed my thoughts. Then proceeded to derail them. “You’re dating a buck named Applesnack?” The pegasus, who had just begun to fly again, collapsed onto the floor, rolling in laughter.
The elderly orange earth pony rolled her eyes. Not looking at her laughing companion, she nickered, “Don’t hurt yerself.” Somewhere else in the room, an argument had broken out.
“Applejack and Applesnack!” Rainbow Dash tried to get up again, but broke down in a fresh wave of laughter. “Oh it hurts too much!”
I was thinking that his title had to be a coincidence. I’d know for sure from his voice, but so far he hadn’t said anything. He was watching his date’s old friend with a gracious wry amusement.
My sight was torn away from the two as Vinyl Scratch looked up to the balcony, where the argument I’d barely noticed earlier was beginning to draw everypony’s attention. I immediately recognized Pinkie Pie, although the purple unicorn who was trotting determinedly away from her was not familiar.
“Not this again,” said Pinkie Pie, bouncing after her. “You wouldn’t expect me to bake a cupcake without tasting it to make sure it’s goooood would you?”
“I’m leaving,” she said. “I shouldn’t have come.” She was barely audible through the clamor of the party.
Pinkie Pie’s voice however could somehow be heard clearly over the intense rock music. “Oh, don’t be like that, Twilight! It’s a paaaar-teee! Have fun!” She sang it like a mantra.
The unicorn glared forward, ignoring her until the surprisingly bouncy pony dropped herself right in front of the purple unicorn. “Have fun! Have fun! Have fun! Have fun!” She sang it like a mantra.
The unicorn stopped, one forehoof off the ground, and stared. She seemed to struggle with an inner urge. For a moment, events could have gone either way. But then she stomped the hoof down.
“I’m not having fun, Pinkie Pie,” she said, her voice dangerous and loud. “And do you want to know a secret? Neither. Are. You!”
Pinkie Pie giggled. “Of course I’m having fun! There’s cake and ice cream and cupcakes and the best party music and drinks and party favors and…”
“And these?” The unicorn floated a tin off a nearby table. I knew immediately what they were.
“Yep! Especially those!” The pink pony was nearly beaming. I heard Applejack groan next to me.
Twilight opened the tin. Then turned it over, spilling Party-Time Mint-als all over the floor. Some bounced over the side of the balcony, some down the stairs. The pink pony gasped and jumped for them, scooping them up. Part of me wanted to join her, but I was just along for the ride.
“I’m sick of lying for you,” Twilight scolded loudly. “For covering for you with the Princess. Everypony is. And I’m not going to do it anymore.”
Pinkie looked up with a glare as she picked up her Party-Time Mint-als. “You didn’t have to do that, you witchy-twitchy-rhymes-with-itchy.”
“You’re not a party pony anymore, Pinkie; you’re just an addict. Like half the ponies at your parties.” The purple unicorn stared at the pink pony, unleashing a level of mad that had clearly been building up for some time. “Well this is it. I want my old friend back. I want my Pinkie Pie. You are not her. But if you should happen to find her, have her give me a call.”
The song ended. The beat stopped. The whole room fell into silence.
“No, don’t ‘Twi’ me. It won’t work this time. Either clean up and fess up...” The unicorn took a deep breath clinching her own eyes against what she was about to say.
“…or this friendship is over!”
Twilight turned and walked away. The pink pony seemed to deflate. Even her hair fell limp.
Beside me, Applejack moaned again. “Oh gosh, Twi.”
Rainbow Dash, who had long stopped laughing, flapped her wings. “She’s kinda right.” And then the blue pegasus slowly flew towards the exit. She still beat Twilight out the door.
Twilight turned back, looking not quite at Pinkie Pie. In a voice I’m not sure reached the balcony, she said, “If you decide to be my Pinkie Pie again… really do… and need help, you know where to call.” Then she walked out the door into what looked like a rainy Manehattan night. It swung shut behind her.
The Balloon Orb
Place on the Timeline --
Pinkie Pie mentions that she’s going to attack Four Stars, which places this very close to the end of the Great War. However, it was not on the Last Day, because the Balloon Orb would have had to have to have been delivered to the Ministry of Awesome’s hub in Canterlot, and the enchanted mirror would have had to have time to be installed in the Fillydelphia FunFarm.
Brief Summary --
Pinkie Pie has a mental break in her office and begins speaking to inanimate objects that encourage her self destructive behaviour. Pinkie then notices a mirror sent from Rarity. Pinkie asks for her secretary to move it to the Fillydelphia FunFarm. Before it can be moved (and it does get moved there eventually) the mirror takes a picture of Pinkie’s soul and the picture begins talking to both her and Littlepip. Pinkie, realizing that she has a problem, decides to send a message to Twilight.
Text from the Story --
Pinkie Pie’s office. Ministry of Morale. Manehattan.
As I pushed open the door with a pink hoof, everything seemed off. Distorted. It was as if the normal color scheme of the world had become a twisted painting of grotesque pastels.
I felt awful, and yet I felt horribly alive. A buzz ran through my nerves and up my spine. My ears itched. There was a tremor in the back of my right hindleg and an odd burning sensation was growing in my left forehoof.
I knew this feeling. My host was riding the razor cliff of a Party-Time Mint-als high. The edge before the awful crash. But it was more than that. This was… wrong.
The world tasted funny. Smelled funny. Like peppermint and rotted cabbage.
“Stupid, bitchy-witchy Twilight. I’m fine! I’ll show her…” My host looked around, scowling. It was as if even she realized something was terribly out of place, but couldn’t put her hoof on what.
“..I know. I’ll record my memory and send it to her. A nice long one. She’ll see there is nothing wrong with me. And she won’t be able to leave until she’s done seeing…”
No. No Pinkie. You are not fine. Nothing about this is fine.
“Pfft, leave her be,” a voice whispered from beside me. “If she wants to throw you away because she doesn’t like your parties anymore, then good riddance!” The voice was female and it was coming from… the plant? Yes, one of the potted plants in Pinkie Pie’s room was actually talking to her. I saw the plant move, the leaves rustle as the voice drifted up from it. “You don’t need her. You don’t need any of them!”
My host barely gave her… it… a glance. “I thought she was my friend.”
“Indeed,” came another voice from a marbled paperweight on Pinkie Pie’s desk. “None of them see what you can see. They don’t understand the pressure you’re under.”
“No,” Pinkie Pie agreed. “No, they don’t.”
Oh Goddesses. Pinkie Pie was having a mental break. I was seeing what she was seeing in her head.
Pinkie Pie continued to look around, then stopped, staring at a tall, thin object concealed by a sheet. “Where did you come from?” She plodded over and grasped the sheet in her teeth, pulling it free.
Before her stood a mirror. I saw my host staring back at me. Pinkie Pie, but not as I was used to seeing her. Her coat’s color was off. Her mane hung straight and limp. Her expression was cross and dour. This was Pinkie Pie right after her last party.
There was a ribbon wrapped around the mirror with a note on it:
Thought this might help you find your way.
Pinkie Pie scowled as she read the note. “I’m. Not. Lost.” She grasped the ribbon in her teeth and tore it away. Then stared at herself in the mirror.
“You too, Rarity?” she mumbled. “Are all my friends going to abandon me?”
“Can’t trust anypony anymore,” the paperweight grumbled.
Pinkie Pie trotted to a nearby intercom, pressing her hoof against a button. “Hey. There’s a mirror in my office that isn’t supposed to be here. Call somepony to pick it up.”
“Yes ma’am,” a mare’s voice crackled over the intercom, sounding oddly distant. “Where is it supposed to be?”
“I don’t care. Take it to one of the FunFarms or something,” Pinkie grumbled. “Just get rid of it!”
My host trotted backup to the mirror, staring. She reached out a hoof, touching the surface…
…and jumped back at the shock of cold. The image in the mirror changed abruptly. Now, looking back at us, was Pinkie Pie. Smiling, cheery, objectionably pink, poofy-haired Pinkie Pie.
“Oh! Hey!” the Pinkie Pie in the mirror called out happily. “Hello, Pinkamina! Ooh, you don’t look so good. Which is bad because you’re me, and that means I don’t look so good!”
She had enchanted a small mirror. To look in it, you would see your reflection, just as with any mirror. But if you touched it, or focused your magic on it, then a spell within the mirror… took a picture of your soul. Then a second enchantment allowed the mirror to show that image.
The mirror Pinkie Pie looked at my host with concern. “What’s wrong with us?”
“Who the hell are you?” Pinkie Pie, my host, grumbled.
Goddesses, this was bizarre, if not downright creepy. I decided to think of them in different names just to keep my thoughts straight. Although part of me worried that was buying into this insanity.
“Why, I’m you, of course!” Pinkie Pie giggled. “I’m the real you… Which is weird, since I’m totally high too.” The reflection was high on PTMs? Or was that Pinkamina’s high warping… the reflection that can’t really be having this conversation in the first place since reflections. Can’t. Talk! Just like paperweights and potted plants!
“This is a trick,” Pinkamina hissed.
“You mean like a practical joke? See, they really do still care about you.” Pinkie Pie paused. Then brightened. “Oh! Hello, Littlepip.”
Uh… hello? The conversation had taken a left turn into weirdsville
“Littlepip says ‘uh, hello’.” Pinkie Pie proclaimed, beaming.
“Now Littlepip says ‘wait, what?’.” Pinkie Pie giggled.
This was impossible!
“You remind me of our friend Twilight Sparkle, Littlepip!”
“She’s not our friend,” Pinkamina sighed. “Not anymore.”
Pinkie Pie’s eyes widened. “She is SO our friend. If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t be trying to help us!” Pinkamina opened her mouth but Pinkie Pie shook her head. “And don’t try telling yourself you don’t need help. I know better. And that means you know better.”
“I… I’m just trying to make ponies happy.”
Make them happy?
“Littlepip has a point,” Pinkie Pie said seriously. “You can’t make somepony happy. You can only help them find happiness.” Pinkie Pie pointed at the window. “Look out there. Do they look happy?”
“No,” Pinkamina mumbled, looking anyplace but the window.
“They’re not happy,” Pinkie Pie admitted sadly. “I think… I think they’re actually… scared of us.”
This was... this was what led to Pinkie Pie realizing she needed help. This conversation, that somehow, insanely, I was a part of, was what pushed Pinkie to…
“Shussssh!” Pinkie Pie scowled at me from the mirror. “You have to keep secrets, Littlepip!”
What? No! If… if there was any chance that I was somehow… communicating… then there were things that Pinkie Pie needed to know! I could warn her! I could save…
“Nooooooot list-en-ing!” Pinkie Pie said, covering her ears theatrically. “You. Can’t. Tell. Littlepip!”
But… but everything ends so horribly!
“No. No it doesn’t.” Pinkie Pie shook her head fervently. Then, suddenly, she was smiling again. “Everything will end in sunshine and rainbows!” she announced gleefully. I was struck by the strangest sense of déjà vu.
She pointed a hoof at me, or was it at Pinkamina. “As long as you’re willing to face the fire, that is.”
“What fire?” Pinkamina asked.
“Don’t listen to her!” the potted plant insisted. “She just wants you to fail.”
“No,” Pinkie Pie insisted. “We have to do what is most important first. We have to save the other ponies before we save ourselves. You know what I mean, with those bad, bad ponies at Four Stars. But then…” Pinkie Pie smiled sadly. “Then we do have to save us, don’t we?”
Sunshine and rainbows. I wanted to tell her how absolutely impossible that was. Hell, the two things this world didn’t have anymore were…
Pinkie Pie grew very cross, glaring at me through the mirror. “Sunshine. And. Rainbows.”
Pinkamina dropped to the carpet. “We… I…” She began to cry. “How? How can I fix this? How can I giggle at the ghostie when I’m the ghostie?”
If a hug could heal pain, then laughter could heal fear. But the Ministries cast a big shadow. There were many, many ponies who needed to giggle.
“We need to stop,” Pinkie Pie said solemnly. “The whole Ministry of Morale isn’t helping. It’s hurting ponies, and we need to stop.
“We need to get clean. Then record this memory for Littlepip. Then…”
“The whole Ministry,” Pinkamina moaned. “We need to tear it all down. A big going away party. The biggest ever.”
Pinkie’s Last Message
Place on the Timeline --
This is concurrently with Four Star’s activation of the balefire bomb in Manehattan, which started the Last Day.
Brief Summary --
Pinkie Pie writes a letter begging Twilight to forgive her for her addiction, all the while directing a raid to stop Four Stars from detonating a balefire megaspell in Manehattan (unfortunately, they still detonated it, kickstarting the events of the Last Day).
Text from the Story --
“Hi, Twilight. It’s me…
I’ve tried sending messages to you at both your Canterlot office and the one here. Everypony says that you are in Splendid Valley again, so now I’m trying you there too. I really hope you’re not just avoiding me. I… I wouldn’t blame you if you were.
I went to the get-together at Spike’s place and brought It just like you asked. All of my friends were there but you… Spike said it was because you couldn’t get away from your work, but…
Was it because I was gonna be there?
Twilight, I’m so sorry. You were right. Totally right. I’ve known it for a long time. I just…
I mean, I couldn’t. But I will. I’ve made an appointment at the Helpinghoof Clinic. For tomorrow. They’re supposed to have stuff there… medicine that can help make… addictions… go away.
Do you think they might be able to bake the medicine into a cake? Or maybe a pie? I like pie!”
On the recording I heard the sound of a knock and a door opening. A second voice interrupted.
“Miss Pinkie Pie? The Ministry of Wartime Technology has sent us a dozen Steel Rangers. They’re in position with our agents.”
Again Pinkie Pie spoke, but addressing the intruding pony. She didn’t bother to edit the recorder; she just let it keep recording.
“oooh, those Four Stars ponies are some bad ponies! They need to be banished. Then locked up in the place they were banished to. But first we need to get their secrets from their bad, bad pony heads to make sure there aren’t any more of them. So tell my ponies that we want them alive…
“OH! I know! Have them go in with one of my Pinkie Balloons!”
“Miss? You want us to raid Four Stars using a… giant blimp shaped like your head?”
“Uh huh! I want them to know I’m coming for them!”
“Sorry about that. You… wouldn’t believe what’s been going on. But don’t worry. If we get through today, everything will be okay.
After today, I can do what you wanted me to do. I can try to be your Pinkie Pie again. I’m sorry I haven’t before… but I just couldn’t. I know you won’t believe me but… try to remember the parasprites.
I’ve done bad things, Twilight. Awful things. And I’ve let the ponies in my Ministry do even worse things. And I’m really, really sorry. I don’t know if I can be your Pinkie Pie again. But I’ll try. That’s a Pinkie Pie Promise!
Party-Time Mint-als are bad. They mess ponies up. I know I’m messed up. More than ever. But I’ve needed them. Normal old Pinkie Pie is smart and she can sense when things are coming. But Party-Time Mint-als make me… more. Not better. I know that now. But… more. And we need more. Equestria needs more.
On Party-Time Mint-als, my Pinkie Sense is way, way more Sense-y. And it’s the only thing keeping us a hoof ahead of really, really bad things. My nose has been burning all day. It’s like an itchy nose only way, way worse. There are bad ponies, Twilight, and they mean to hurt us. To hurt all of Equestria. And just normal Pinkie Pie can’t stop them…
But after today, it’ll all be okay again. I just know it. Just have to get through today…
…And tomorrow, I’ve got that appointment. And… and…
And Twilight? Do you think… maybe… you could go with me? I’m… kinda scared. And it isn’t the sort of scared that goes away with giggling.
I mean, I have you with me now, so you’ll kinda be with me anyway. But it’s not the same. I want the real Twilight Sparkle. I…
I want my friend back.
I’ll do anything…”
Birth of the Goddess
Place on the Timeline --
Happened when the Last Day began.
Brief Summary --
This is what was happening when Pinkie Pie was sending a message to Twilight. Twilight tried to run her alicorn experiment with Trixie, but a megaspell hit Maripony and threw Trixie into the I.M.P., turning her into the Goddess.
Text from the Story --
The security monitors flickered to life under the dust. One of them displayed colorful ponies in lab coats milling about a much bigger version of this room, full of monitors and maneframes and banks of blinking lights. “Ready when you are,” a chartreuse pony with a cutie mark of a flask filled with bubbling green liquid said, glancing up at us through the monitor.
“These images are of the far past,” Xenith intoned.
The second monitor looked down on a vast factory floor. The factory was filled with six huge, interconnected vats full of churning luminescent stews that rippled with lavender and green beneath glass coverings, the light casting colored shadows over everything. Arcane apparati hung down from the ceiling. Catwalks ringed the vats and another hung suspended from the ceiling above and between them, stopping midway across the room with some manner of control panel at the end.
“Again with the catwalks-over-factory-floors aesthetic of wartime Equestria,” I groused.
“Is that…?” Velvet Remedy began to ask as a single pony appeared on the third monitor. An elderly lavender pony with grey streaking her purple mane. The room behind her was about the size of this one, filled with identical monitoring equipment. But where we saw only a metal wall, her picture window looked out onto the factory floor in monitor two.
“Twilight Sparkle,” I nodded.
“uh, yer goddess-ness,” Calamity said to the air, tapping on the last monitor. “Ah hope yer aware this one is broken?” The monitor had a large crack running through it and was displaying only rainbow splotches.
The little sub-voices continued to telepathically echo the last two words for several seconds after the Goddess had “spoken”.
“Lovely,” Velvet Remedy said snidely.
“Ready to begin pony testing,” Twilight Sparkle said, sounding just a hint nervous. “Send her in.”
“Sending in Test Subject One,” the pony on monitor one announced.
“Don’t call her that!” Twilight warned. She trotted over to look out the window, floating a coffee cup filled with what looked like tea to her lips, sipping primly. She set the cup aside and leaned her muzzle over a microphone. On monitor two, a lovely blue unicorn with a mane that had aged to a luxurious silver slowly made her way out onto the suspended catwalk.
She turned and looked up to the window. “Twilight Sparkle, I just wanted to thank you again for giving me this opportunity. It means so much to me.”
“You’re welcome, Trixie,” Twilight Sparkle said kindly. The name rang a bell, but it took a moment to place it. Trixie: the mare from the cottage outside Fetlock. She went to Manehattan for a meeting with Twilight Sparkle and never returned.
The lavender pony hit a button with her hoof and an ornate golden cup rose out of the console at the end of the walkway. Purple and green liquid rose through tubes running from the vats to the apparatus above. Then a thin stream poured into the cup.
Trixie walked across the platform and sniffed at the cup. “Is that roses?”
Twilight chuckled softly. “Yes. I added the scent. Hopefully, it will taste like roses too.”
“Really?” Trixie looked up towards Twilight Sparkle with astonishment.
Twilight’s ears drooped. “Unfortunately, probably not.” She hesitated. “Trixie, you know you don’t have to do this…”
“Oh, I want to,” the blue unicorn insisted. “I want to help. And… this will make me more powerful? Like Luna and Celestia?”
“Well, not that powerful. But more powerful, yes.”
“Like you then?”
Twilight Sparkle looked uncomfortable. “We’re hoping for more than that.”
“And… it’s safe, right?”
“Absolutely,” Twilight Sparkle assured the blue unicorn on the catwalk below her. “All the tests have come back looking spectacular. The only variable is, well, dosage. And for that we need to do testing with pony volunteers like you. With luck, we’ll get it right the first time, and you’ll be the first new alicorn since Luna was born.”
The unicorn at the end of the catwalk nodded. And mumbled something that sounded like “great and powerful smells like roses”, then looked up with wide eyes. “You sure I shouldn’t start with a little more, then?”
Twilight Sparkle stifled a chuckle. “No, I-“
On the monitors, everything happened at once.
From the broken one, I could hear a terrible roar and the rainbow sprays turned to a flaring light.
On the other three, the world shook.
On the first, chunks of ceiling came down, some killing ponies outright, one blocking the door. A maneframe toppled in a spray of sparks.
On monitor two, the entire factory floor shook. I could hear the loud twangs as several of the cables holding the suspended platform snapped out of the ceiling. Sections of catwalk fell. Two of the vats were ruptured as a third of the ceiling came down, spilling their glowing contents onto the factory floor. I could see automatic systems severing and sealing the connections with the other vats. Trixie cried out as half the cables holding up her section of the catwalk gave way, turning it into a freely-swinging platform.
On the third monitor, alarms were blaring: “Radiation surge detected!” “Seismic activity detected!” “Toxic contamination warning!” “Safe rooms sealing!”
“No!” shouted Twilight Sparkle as a huge armored plate slid down over the door to her room. She turned to the window as massive armored shutters swung down from above.
On monitor two, Trixie’s platform tipped, swinging in a low arc. The unicorn slid down the inclined surface, trying to find purchase, as the lower end of the catwalk segment impacted the glass roof of one of the vats, shattering it. The blue unicorn plunged into the vat.
The Butterfly Orb
Place in the Timeline --
This occurs at the exact moment that the Last Day started.
Brief Summary --
Rarity, in an effort to stop the Pink Cloud from entering the building she and Fluttershy are in, blocks a hole in a broken window with her hoof. The Pink Cloud fuses her hoof to the window and she is trapped. Rarity teleports Fluttershy to Everfree Forest (where she ran into killing joke and was turned into a tree), and uses Angel to record a message asking Twilight Sparkle to use the Black Book to undo the effects of the Pink Cloud. After that, she sends Angel Bunny to Fluttershy, and Rarity dies.
The yellow carpeted floor raced under my feet. I could feel my nerves on edge. I found myself trapped in a small, utterly alien body as it darted between the hooves of scrambling, panicking ponies. A constant rumbling thunder filled the air, mingling with cries and shouts from the ponies I was scampering through as I raced down the aisles between a city of cubicles. A magenta pony spilled a shower of papers in front of me as she fled the room. One of the sheets slapped me in the face as I barreled through them.
I made it through the offices and found myself charging down a huge, curving hallway, my little heart pounding in my chest. I heard a mare screaming from beyond a set of mahogany double doors. The voice was filled with rage and tears.
“HOW COULD THEY?! HOW COULD THEY DO THIS?!?”
I dashed for the little door built into the bottom of the larger one, a little door just my size.
“TH-THEY’VE RUINED EVERYTHING! THEY’VE K-K-KILLED EVERYONE!”
The meeting room looked like it had been hit by a tornado. And it really had, a yellow and pink tornado in the form of Fluttershy. I burst into the room just in time to see her hurl a terminal through the glass of the seemingly gigantic picture window, shattering a large hole in it. The sound of impossible thunder amplified. Outside the window, I could see the sky shimmering and rippling with explosions as zebra missiles pounded against the Princesses’ shield. Each impact brought a flash of fiery light splashing against the shield, the surface rippling outward like water around a dropped rock.
Fluttershy stood on the table, shaking, stomping, her face streamed with tears and contorted in rage. She looked around for something else to throw, something else to break.
“I…. I GAVE THEM LIFE! AND… AND THEY… And they…”
I knew this room. I had just been here.
The window had already begun to repair itself, the shattered hole growing smaller as the spiderweb of cracks thinned and shrunk. Ministry magic. The building was alive. It healed.
I leapt up onto a chair, and from there onto the table, rushing to Fluttershy’s side.
“They… I…” The poor pegasus sobbed horribly, trembling on the verge of collapse.
“I did this! This is all MY fault!”
I reached Fluttershy, wrapping myself around a forehoof, hugging her tight, trying to comfort her.
“Oh!” She looked down at me and I felt her tears splash onto my forehead. “Oh… oh Angel, what have I done? Everypony… all the helpless little critters… they’re all going to die. And it’s ALL. MY. FAULT!”
Fluttershy toppled onto the table, burying her face, wailing.
Beyond her, I saw that fateful writing: Communally Assured Reciprocal Existence.
I held Fluttershy, stroking her anxiously, trying to help, feeling terrible. She didn’t deserve this. This wasn’t her fault.
Outside, the pounding thunder and violent lightshow continued.
With a bang, the second set of mahogany doors at the front of the meeting room slammed open as a white unicorn burst into the room. Her gorgeous purple mane and tail looked frazzled, and a beautiful saddle-purse hung next to the three diamonds of her cutie mark.
“Fluttershy!” Rarity called out, looking around and spotting the crumpled, weeping pegasus. “Oh… oh goodness.”
Rarity trotted up hurriedly. “Fluttershy, darling, we have to go!” She prodded at the sobbing, broken pegasus. “We only have half an hour before they’re supposed to seal up Stable One. We need to get inside!”
I couldn’t tell her that it was probably already too late.
“Leave m-me,” Fluttershy whimpered. “You g-g-go, Rarity. Save yourself. I… I d-deserve to die!”
“Rubbish!” Rarity put her forehooves under Fluttershy’s head, lifting her tear-streaked face. “You deserve to live. Probably more than most of us. I won’t let you die here.”
A tear dripped down one of Rarity’s cheeks. “I love you, Fluttershy. And I am not going to let you stay.” Rarity smiled softly but her voice brooked no argument. “Now pull yourself up and come with me, or I’ll drag you all the way with my teeth.”
I looked between Fluttershy and Rarity, one paw still petting the yellow pegasus gently.
All three of us turned towards the window. It had almost repaired itself, the hole now the size of a baseball. Outside, the shield continued to fluctuate under the massive, fiery barrage.
Then we saw it. A thick pink mist rolling over the city. It consumed block after block, flooding down alleys and boiling over the tops of buildings. Rarity let out a gasp as the thick pink mist splashed against the towering Ministry of Image, breaking around it as the same wave of pink rolled over the Ministry of Arcane Technology, drowning it completely. I blinked, and the Ministries on the opposite end of Ministry Walk were gone.
Then the trees were gone. The pink cloud washed over the grassy park, the reflecting pool and all the panicked, terrified ponies below.
The wall of pink rushed at us. The park was gone.
Rarity gasped again, this time spotting the hole in the window. She threw herself towards it.
The trees were gone.
Rarity slammed a forehoof over the hole.
The wall of pink hit the Ministry of Peace. There was nothing outside the window anymore. The cracks that remained in the window began to warp and melt, fusing together. Rarity groaned in pain, but she held her hoof firm against the hole, not letting the Cloud get inside.
Rarity’s eyes opened wide. She gazed at the window, whispering with a low tone of comprehension. “This… is necromantic.”
Rarity turned to Fluttershy, who was staring at the window in horror. “Forget Stable One, Fluttershy. I’m getting you to safety!” With that, she focused, her horn glowing. A flash of light burst around Fluttershy and the yellow pegasus was gone.
I felt the worry and anger etch across my face. I scampered up to Rarity and kicked at her.
She looked down at me, her horn glowing again as she opened her saddle-purse. “Don’t worry, Angel. I’ve sent her someplace safe.”
I kicked at her impatiently.
“Ow. Okay, I have sent her to Zecora’s old hut in the Everfree Forest. Well, at least I got her very close to it. The zebras are attacking pony population centers. There are no ponies in that forest, so it is the only place I am sure they will not attack.” She smiled as she drew out a memory orb. “Don’t worry, Angel. I will send you to her. But first, I need to leave a message for Twilight…”
Rarity stared down at me. “Twilight, darling, I’ve sent Fluttershy away. And if I can, I’ll be going too. I don’t want you teleporting around town, looking for… ugh! Oh… oh this is bad…” Rarity faltered. I could see even this small contact with the Pink Cloud was beginning to kill her.
“…Don’t look for us. Don’t stay in Canterlot. But… but there is… oooooough!” Rarity thudded against the window weakly. Her hoof would have dropped away, but it couldn’t anymore. It had become part of the glass. “Listen, Twilight. In my desk, in my office, there is a very special Book. It’s hidden in a secret compartment. You may have to tear the desk apart to get it, but… AAAAGH! …but don’t worry. I won’t mind. Twilight, it’s a spell book. And…” Rarity began to cough violently.
“…and I believe it has a spell that can be used to… to defeat this necromancy! You… you must get that Book…”
Rarity leaned against the glass, her hoof supporting her weight now. Still, she floated the memory orb close to me. I realized suddenly why she had been talking to me like I was Twilight Sparkle. My memory was going to be the message.
Her horn glowed. “Don’t worry, Angel. This won’t hurt. And as soon as I’m done, I’ll send you to Flu…”
Apple Bloom’s Farewell
Place in the Timeline --
This takes place slightly after the bombs fell, but Apple Bloom probably did not survive for a significant amount of time since she was in Stable 0 -- a prototype in the Stable-Tec HQ that was not able to keep the radiation out.
“Ah don’t really know what ta say. Or, for that matter, whom Ah’m sayin’ it to. The good news is that Sweetie Belle’s got muh family safe an’ sound in Stable Two. Ah dunno where Scootaloo’s at, but Ah’m glad she’s not…”
A particularly loud roar drowned out everything else, followed by the sounds of metal and concrete collapsing within the unfinished Stable as a maelstrom devoured the city above.
“…Fillydelphia was just hit. That’s it then… it’s all over. Everypony’s dead… except for the ones we could save. Celestia dammit, Applejack, couldn’t ya have stopped this from happening? Couldn’t anypony have stopped this?”
I heard a furious clicking. I checked my PipBuck, but the radiation meter was safely in the green.
“No, no, no! Ah didn’t mean that! Ain’t Applejack’s fault. Hay, it’s more muh fault than hers. An’ Ah know Ah ain’t s’posed ta feel that way, but Ah do sometimes. An’ Ah guess it don’t really matter anymore. Everypony’s dead now. Ah’m dead now. Ah didn’t survive the megaspell just cuz Ah lived through the blast. We never even got the door on. Radiation will kill me.”
The clicking was coming from the recording.
“Ah just wanted t’ tell anypony listenin’ that Ah’m sorry. Even if it’s not muh fault all those kids are dead. Ah’m still sorry. Ah tried t’ make up for it. Ah really did.”
Place on the Timeline --
While it would be fitting for this to be at the last part of the timeline (poetic, really), the truth is is that this event probably occurred across a matter of hours. And thus, it is one of the earliest events that happened during the Last Day.
Brief Summary --
After Luna died from the Pink Cloud in Canterlot, Celestia, in a fit of rage, took the megaspell missiles that were aimed at the city, and threw them into Whitetail Woods -- making it the most irradiated place in the Wasteland. After that, Celestia uploaded her soul into the S.P.P. to try and salvage the situation. It didn’t work, and she was trapped in the machine for two hundred years. Also, Celestia says that she hired a dragoness (Mouse) to teach her dragon magic, guard Canterlot’s treasury, and give her student an hatchling to raise (Spike).
Text from the Story --
“When the zebra’s struck, Luna and I worked together, holding up the shield, giving all our subjects time to get to their Stables, even though the Cloud was killing Us. We took shifts, at first, each of Us holding the shield while the Other gathered healing supplies, then while the Other just rested…”
“…but My Sister,” Celestia’s voice trembled, “was younger. Weaker. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t prevent Her from dying in My arms.” Tears streamed down from Her quivering lavender eyes. I held Luna until Her body grew cold…”
Oh Goddesses… Goddess. Luna have mercy on Your Sister.
“…and then, stricken with grief, I flew away. I abandoned dead Canterlot, letting the shield fall, unleashing a fatal flood on the poor towns below.”
Applesnack died, I recalled painfully, in the seconds that followed. He hadn’t seen Celestia’s flight from the Royal Castle, but that could be forgiven. He was focused on the horrific wave of pink coming to consume him.
As terrible and painful as Her confessions were, Celestia was not finished. “I… I was blind with grief, with the loss of My Sister. But as I flew over Whitetail Woods, I saw zebra megaspell missiles, three of them, heading towards Canterlot. The zebras were not content to murder Luna; they intended to obliterate the city that had become Her grave. To wipe the entire mountain off the map. To utterly erase Her…”
I remembered the words of SteelHooves: I heard rumors in the days after the apocalypse that after the shield fell, the zebras launched megaspells to finally obliterate the city. But if that is true, then those missiles never reached their destination.
‘Kage used t’ call it the most poisoned place in Equestria.’
Timidly, I heard myself squeak, “What did you do?”
“I destroyed them,” Celestia said, her sad voice taking on a hard edge, “My grief turned to rage, and I tore them apart. Reduced them to dust as I flew between them.”
‘Good for You!’ the little pony in my head said with an angry stomp.
The blade of anger evaporated from her voice, leaving only regret. “The winds carried the radiation and poison of those weapons across all of Whitetail Wood, covering Equestria’s once beautiful forest and poisoning the reservoir. All the way to the edge of Ponyville.”
As Celestia spoke, my thoughts traveled back to my first minutes outside the Stable -- to just how sick and poisoned Sweet Apple Acres had been, the very ground making my PipBuck click.
“My rage…” Celestia bemoaned. “When it left me, I felt like I had been stripped of My flesh, My heart. My soul was raw. And… I was afraid.” The expression on Celestia’s face was unfathomable. “I was dying, and I was afraid.”
I wanted to hug Her. To bury my head in Her royal white coat and weep. For Her. For Luna. For everything.
“I should have let Myself die,” Celestia said. “That way, at least, I could have been with Luna. But I didn’t. I was selfish. I’ve lived so long that death, ending, was alien and horrifying to me. So instead, I let my cowardice bring Me here...”
Here. The Single Pegasus Project.
“That’s not cowardice,” I offered earnestly. “That’s… normal.” The idea of anything about the Goddesses being normal was jarring to me. “We all fear death. That’s part of being a pony.” With a second thought, I added, “It’s part of being alive.”
Celestia seemed mildly thankful for my effort. “...and as a reward, I have been trapped here, in My prison, My purgatory. Listening to the victims of My sins, unable to act. Unable to help.” She seemed to look past me, Her gaze shifting across the bones. “I’ve done what I could to prevent anypony from becoming like me. And to prevent those camped outside from gaining access to this place.”
“What... what did happen to You?” I finally asked, my voice cautious. I tried to brace myself for whatever answer would come. I needed to know, but I didn’t think I could bear hearing of even more of my Celestia’s pain. “How is it that You are here? Like this?”
My first assumption would have been that Celestia had entered the control pod Herself. But if She had, wouldn’t She have done a long time ago what I intended to do now? And hadn’t the Ministry of Awesome’s systems confirmed that the Central Hub was empty?
“I came here,” Celestia told me. “I knew My body was dying. But I knew of the Crusader Maneframes, of the chance for continued life they offered. So I came here.” She looked askance. “Part of Me had hoped that, in taking control of this place, I would be able to help all my little ponies. That I could still do some good to try to make up for my failures. But when I downloaded Myself into the Maneframe, I found Myself trapped. Helpless. I have control over a few security systems, but that is all. I can only listen and watch.”
My forehooves raised to my muzzle as I gasped.
None of that download-your-brain nonsense, Rainbow Dash had explained to Luna. I had them disconnect all that stuff. I want a living pony running Equestria’s weather, not some machine that thinks it’s a pony!
“Rainbow Dash… Apple Bloom…” I said weakly. “Celestia… they disconnected the mental download system from the controls. That was part of the design.” I had known this, but I had imagined they would have removed that part of the Crusader Maneframe completely, not left it intact but severed.
Spike had once asked me: Have you ever heard the old saying ‘The portal to hell is opened with the incantation of good intentions’? If there was a moral to their story, I guess that would be it.
“I know that now,” Celestia said mournfully. She had made a mistake. A simple, understandable mistake with numbingly tragic consequences.
It was the story of Equestria’s fall in miniature. DJ Pon3’s words rang in my head. The one great reality of the Wasteland, the truth of the matter: every pony has done something they regret.
The rational part of my mind reared up. If that was what had happened, then this wasn’t really Celestia I was talking to. It was just a program. Just the illusion of memories. Downloading your mind into a Crusader Maneframe doesn’t actually put you into the computer. It just makes a copy of your brain. The only way that…
I thought of Elder Cottage Cheese and his unholy intentions. He had planned to truly live forever by not only turning the Crusader Maneframe into a duplicate of his mind, but then transferring his very soul into the machine. Using it as a soul jar.
My face rose towards Celestia, my eyes opening in terrible realization as Rarity’s words once again whispered through my mind.
‘I even tried to have Spike burn it. All that did was send it to Princess Celestia.’
Princess Celestia had, for a limited time, been in possession of the Black Book.
“You…” I stared, aghast.
“Yes,” Celestia confirmed regretfully, not even needing to hear the question. “The spells were so easy to learn that I knew them the moment I opened those pages. And how could I have resisted just a look?”
I felt a black chill.
“When you live as long as I have, boredom becomes an enemy,” She explained. “In its own way, as dangerous to me as Discord. Especially when I was alone.”
Celestia sighed. “In the centuries after I banished Nightmare Moon, I turned to learning everything I could about the mysterious, the secret and the forbidden. I even learned tidbits of zebra alchemy and dragon magic -- those few things which a pony such as Myself could possibly perform. Later, I even built a school to teach the things I had learned which were safe.”
Dragon magic? Was that how She sent scrolls back to Spike? I couldn’t help but ask.
“Yes,” She told me with a nostalgic smile. “I learned that from the dragon you now know as Mouse.” She continued, “The secrets of the Black Book were a temptation that played on centuries of habit.”
No wonder the shield around the S.P.P. Central Hub was so invulnerable. No wonder it had lasted so long. It was being powered by Celestia’s soul.
Diamond Tiara’s Final Audio Log
Place on the Timeline --
While the beginning of this audio log takes place when the megaspells fall, the rest stretches into the first few days of the Wasteland.
Brief Summary --
Diamond Tiara is trapped at Shattered Hoof and talks to a recorder as she dies. Of note, she says that Manehattan was the first target hit by megaspells (which makes sense since the zebra’s had agents in the city).
Text from the Story --
Everypony in Manehattan is just... gone. I-I was talking with my best friend, Silver Spoon, over terminal chat when the connection went dead. My... my best friend is dead. Only she’s... she’s not... laying dead somewhere. One minute she was talking to me, telling me about the concert she went to last night at Hoofbeats, and then she was just gone. Erased.
Th-they say the ponies in a few of the Ministries’ buildings might have survived... but that doesn’t sound real. Shattered Hoof is more than two days trot from Manehattan, and some of the guards said they could hear the megaspell go off. It was unnatural, alien... not like a real sound. A few of the guards ventured up the highest ridge. They came back describing a huge pillar of perverted green fire with a strange rainbow sheen, wrapped with rings of black smoke, lifting up into the clouds from just over the horizon where Manehattan is supposed to be.
Now they’re saying Cloudsdayle was hit too. And that Equestria’s own megaspells have already been cast back at the zebras. Oh... oh no... will the zebras hit Ponyville? It’s so small! They wouldn’t, would they? I... I’ve got to warn mom and dad!
Maybe they can get into the Stable at Sweet Apple Acres. Oh please, oh please, it’s got to still be open! Last week, Silver Spoon told me that Stable-Tec was filing ponies into the Stables around Manehattan, but that was only as some sort of test run. Nothing for ponies to panic about. It’s not like they knew...
The communication web is down. I tried and tried to reach mom and dad, but I couldn’t get through. At first, it seemed that the web was flooded, and my calls kept getting bounced. Then it just died completely.
We can’t reach any of the Ministry of Morale hubs either. No pony was expecting the one in Manehattan to respond, but not even Canterlot? Could... the zebras couldn’t possibly have destroyed Canterlot! Could they? What... what happened to Princess Luna??”
It’s starting to rain outside; it was bright and sunny less than an hour ago. I think the pegasus ponies are mourning Cloudsdayle.
Most of the guards are gone now. They’ve left me the codes to open the cells. Scoops said it was up to me. Nopony else was going to risk setting our guests free. Why me? I-I’m not the one who’s supposed to be in charge!
If I don’t, these ponies will starve to death in here! But if I do... some of them are Really Bad Ponies. Some have even confessed to helping the zebras at Shattered Hoof Ridge when they tried to assassinate Princess Celestia. If I let them go... who knows what harm they might do? What is worse? Letting them die here? Or inflicting them on a wounded, suffering Equestria?
No, no, no! I’m just an inspector. I’m not supposed to make these kinds of decisions!
Mom? Dad? Silver Spoon? What should I do?
I wasn't fast enough. I should have known better. No wonder the rest of the staff fled so quickly. I should have known that Shattered Hoof would go into lockdown as soon as the mainframe realized we were cut off from the outside. Assisted jailbreak prevention protocols. By the time I made my decision and released the guests from their cells, we were already all trapped inside.
I know how the weaker ones fare. I can only imagine what they will do to me when they find a member of the staff got locked in with them.
I took the food from the guardhouse fridge and locked myself into this bathroom. I locked several other doors too. With luck, they will think it's normal for this door to be locked as well. Because if they really try to break it down, I'm sure they can.
I've got maybe three days of food. Plenty of water. A little bit of medicine. I only hope it will last me long enough for them to find a way out of Shattered Hoof. My only chance is if they leave before they realize I'm here.
Out of food. Made what I had stretch... I think. No real way to tell time in here, but I think its been a week. At least four days. After the food was gone, I raided the garbage can. Some old apple cores... they were brown, mushy and tasted horrid.
The guests outside are doing much worse. There was less than two days food in the pantry when we went into lockdown. Now they’re starving. I-I can hear them outside... arguing about who they’re going to eat first! Oh nonono. They can’t! It’s beyond horrific--
NO! Oh nonononono! Don’t make me hear this! Celestia, Luna, please! I can’t hear this!...”
I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in!
I hear you... yeah, I hear you. wow... I just realized I’ve got all these diaries and the only ponies that will ever hear them are you fuckers. Fuck you all! Every last one of you!
Oh wow... dizzy... What was I...?
Y’know, I kind of think red is my color... Splish splash, clop clop! Hey, Silver Spoon... let’s paint the town red! Or... you know... at least the bathroom...
Oh keep knocking, you bastards!
...doesn’t go with my cutie mark though. That’s okay, it’s a stupid cutie mark anyway. Really, a crown of diamonds? What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?
I mean, I get the diamonds. Celestia knows I’ve inspected enough of ‘em... Sent the best ones below for years now. Ha! There’s something else you’re never gonna get! Ha... ha ha... Just like you’re not going to get me!
My... my name is Diamond Tiara and you fuckers didn’t get me! I got... I got away!
I mean... really, though... a crown? What was that supposed to mean?
He heee hee! You can’t geeeeet meeeeee!
Place on the Timeline --
While this may be a vision, and it can be argued that this truly didn’t happen, I find this to be a very interesting piece of information about how Rainbow Dash viewed the end of the world, and I’ll put it right before the other Rainbow Dash related memories.
Brief Summary --
Littlepip has a vision of what Rainbow Dash saw and felt when the megaspells fell.
Text from the Story --
I was Rainbow Dash.
The clouds were a beautiful white, fluffy and soft under my hooves. And they stretched out forever beneath the warm glow of Celestia’s sun. I could see colorful pegasi flitting and flying about. There was a town nearby, but I wasn’t looking at it. I didn’t want to.
Instead, I looked at the ocean of white that rolled out beneath a canopy of brightest blue.
I was Rainbow Dash, and I was not a happy pony.
Everywhere under those clouds was Equestria. Or what was left of it. Everywhere beneath was a nightmarish hell where those ponies unfortunate enough to not be in Stables and not be killed in the onslaught were struggling and dying.
And I was watching ponies fly about, happily ignoring what was out of sight beneath what some ponies were beginning to call “the Cloud Curtain”.
It wasn’t right.
Nevermind that all my friends, all of them, were somewhere down there, and I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. I couldn’t just live up here and pretend Equestria didn’t exist anymore. I could understand the temptation, true. But I wasn’t that kind of pony. And it hurt more than my heart could bear that apparently the rest of the pegasi were willing to be.
I wanted to be disgusted with all of them. Instead, I just felt sad.
I was Rainbow Dash, and I was ashamed to be a pegasus.
If this was what being a pegasus meant now… well, maybe it was time for me to go.
I felt my wings flap, slowly lifting my hooves off the clouds. I loved flying, but today I could barely find the inspiration to lift myself. My head drooped low, my body hanging from my wings like dead weight. My hooves brushed against the clouds as I began to move.
I turned around, my back to the colorful flying ponies. I took one last glance backwards before flying away…
The First Dashite
Place on the Timeline --
I’m placing this before Rainbow Dash’s duel. Even if it didn’t happen before, it probably occurred at the around the same time.
Brief Summary --
Scootaloo says that she had her cutie-mark taken out once she was labeled as a traitor by the Grand Pegasus Enclave for supporting Rainbow Dash’s decision to leave. Scootaloo calls herself a Dash-ite and looks for any sign of Rainbow Dash below the clouds.
Text from the Story --
“You know what irony is?”
I recognized the voice of Scootaloo. Even though it was raspy. Even through all her coughing, and the mad clicking, and the roar of the wind all around her.
“Irony is that it feels I spent my whole damned childhood trying to get my cutie mark, and I don’t have it anymore.
“Irony is that I spent most of the last decade working to save Equestria from a megaspell end-of-the-world…” Scootaloo’s voice cracked, followed by a barrage of wet, raspy coughs. “...and then it happened and I wasn’t even fucking here. Broke my damn wing in a stupid damn accident while practicing a new routine for the damn GALLoPS. By the time I got out of the Hanovaerian pegasus clinic, it was all over.
“Irony is that I’m the one who made Sweetie Belle the Overmare of Stable Two. I was beginning to worry about her. Now, she’s probably the only one of us who has survived. I…”
The recording was interrupted by another fit of coughing.
“…Apple Bloom was s’posed to be in Fillydelphia. Can’t even get near that place. A pony would die from the radiation in minutes. I actually considered banging a hoof on Stable Two’s door… but then I saw all the bodies. Sweetie Belle did right. Didn’t open the door for anypony. Can’t let this poison in. Contaminate that whole Stable. If I knocked, Sweetie Belle just might open the door for me. And I can’t let that happen.
“I’m giving up my PipBuck. Leaving it here with this message. I figure, if Apple Bloom survived, she’ll come looking here. If not, somepony else will. Besides, I’m sick of it clicking. I don’t need it yelling at me that the snow is radioactive and that I’m breathing poison. The air is fucking green…” More coughing. “’Cept for those weird pink swirls comin’ off of Canterlot. When you can see the air, you know it’s bad…
This time, the coughing fit lasted minutes.
”Fuck. That’s blood. That’s so not good.
“They kept telling us the cloud curtain was for our own protection. Keeping the radiation and megaspell pollution from getting into pegasi cities. Who knew that they were telling the truth? Fuckers said the brand is to mark me as somepony who’s been below. Contaminated. Now I know that’s horseapples. Told them… heh. Told them I was proud of what Rainbow Dash did. Called myself a Dash-ite. Boy, that got their feathers in a bunch.
“Irony is… I worked really hard to find a better way. Some kinda society or government or something that would be better. Wouldn’t make the same damn mistakes that killed everypony. And I get trapped up there with a whole slew of ponies who seem dedicated to finding the worst way ever. Even I wouldn’t have tried an experiment like the ‘Enclave’… the Stables aren’t set up to fail. Hell, I give the Enclave a few months at most.”
Scootaloo’s voice stopped. But no cough this time. Just harsh breathing. After a moment, she continued.
“If you find this… before I’m gone…”
She was cut off by an explosive cough, followed by several moments of silence. Then a groan.
“If you find this… there’s a shack marked on it. I traced Rainbow Dash to there. I think she’s living there… or was recently. Wasn’t there when I looked. But I’m headed back. Going to wait there… hope she returns.
“I should be there for her. Like she’s with me. Somepony should be there…”
Scootaloo coughed one final time.
“Just want Dash to know… we didn’t all…
“She’s not alone.”
Rainbow Dash’s Duel
Place on the Timeline --
This happens at least a day after the Last Day
Brief Summary --
Rainbow Dash, on the run from the Grand Pegasus Enclave, goes to Spike’s cave for assistance in fighting off Gilda (who has been hired by the Enclave to kill Rainbow Dash). Rainbow Dash decides against waking Spike, and prepares to fight Gilda alone.
Text from the Story --
“Well, this was a bust.
“Spike’s asleep. I could wake him, but why would I do that to the poor guy. To wake up to all of this? Better to let him sleep. Have good dreams for just a while longer.
“Hey, dragons can sleep for up to a hundred years, right? Maybe Spike will get lucky and not wake up until Equestria’s had time to heal. Although I don’t know if a hundred years will be enough…”
“Seeing the sun like this, I can almost believe it never happened. Clouds hide the view below. I’m beginning to think that’s the idea.
“They call me a traitor now. Me! After all I did for them! They turn their backs on Equestria and they have the nerve to call ME a traitor!
“They’ve even hired a mercenary now to hunt me down. Bring them back my head. Neck need not be attached, of course.
“She’s good. The best. I’m better. And she knows it…”
A second voice sounded on the audio recording, gruffer than the mare’s, “Sure. Which leaves a gal to wonder why you’re just sitting up here letting me find you.”
“Hello, Gilda,” the mare’s voice replied, sounding tired.
“Sorry it had to end this way, Dash.”
“No you’re not. Not really.”
“Naw. Not really.”
“Gilda… can I make one request?”
“Can we sing it? One more time?”
“Huh? Sing what…? oh you can’t be serious.”
The second voice let out a long-suffering sigh. “Ugh. Why?”
“Because, just for a moment, I want to remember an earlier, happier time. A time when the world didn’t suck.”
“Fine. …Only for you, Dash.” The voice paused. “One final time. But after that, you know I’m going to kill you.”
The two voices blended into an odd harmony:
“Junior Speedsters are our lives. Sky-bound soars and dare…”
Place on the Timeline --
This takes place a few days after the Last Day.
Brief Summary --
Twilight is consumed by Trixie, now known as the Goddess.
Text from the Story --
“Dear anypony. This is the Mare of the Ministry of Magic, Twilight Sparkle,” a weakened Twilight said. “It’s been two days now since the megaspell strike on Maripony. I can only assume by the lack of rescue that this was not an isolated strike.”
“I’m leaving this record in case somepony does come. I’m trapped in Safe Room Three on the Maripony Vats Level.” The elderly lavender pony addressed the camera. “The safeguards that should allow me to open it aren’t working; and unfortunately for me, I designed these rooms to withstand a nearby megaspell strike, so the room is more than a match for my own magic.”
Calamity, Velvet Remedy, Xenith and I watched the monitor, realizing we were watching Twilight Sparkle’s goodbye letter. My vision began to blur wetly. I tried to force myself not to cry. I’d cried too much this week already. But the tears rolled down my cheeks anyway.
“I’m out of food, and the safe room’s water talisman seems to have been corrupted.” She gave a wry smile as she said, “At least, I’m fairly confident that pure water isn’t supposed to be that color. I’m also beginning to suffer hallucinations. I think that I’m hearing the screams of the ponies in Maripony, like something horrible is happening to them. But I know that’s impossible. These walls are soundproof.
“I keep hearing Trixie’s voice in my head, screaming. Sometimes, it gets so bad...”
The lavender pony waved it off. “Not important. What’s important is that we tried. We tried, and we came so very close. Another week, maybe even just a few more days, and the work we did here would have not only changed the war, I believe we could have forced a peaceful resolution.
”What’s important now is that we still have one more chance. Find Spike. He’s my most loyal assistant… my number one assistant. …Find him...”
Twilight Sparkle seemed to fall to sleep. The Monitor flickered out again.
“Spike?” Xenith asked.
The monitor burst back to life. Twilight Sparkle’s haggard face was pressed close to the camera. She looked atrophied, crazy. “Something’s going on here. I… I don’t know what. But it’s bad. If you’re in Maripony, get out. Get out while you can and drop a zebra missile on this place…”
Suddenly, there was a loud, metallic grinding from the speaker below monitor two. On the monitor, we watched as the metal plate over the door lifted up, the metal shutters over the windows lifted.
Monitor two sprang to life. The vats room was a disaster. The floor was waist thick in mixed fluids. Something swam in the water. No, not swam… the body of a light red unicorn pony was being dragged through the liquid by a telekinetic tendril. We watched as the tendril hauled the body out of the pool and up the side of one of the vats. A moment later, the body disappeared over the lip and into the vat.
Streaks of blood rose up several of the vats.
On monitor three, Twilight Sparkle was crawling towards the door, too weak from hunger and dehydration to stand. Unable to stand, she couldn’t see what was just outside her window.
Light flared in the room. A blue light that took the form of Trixie. The blue unicorn stood, shimmering, in front of Twilight Sparkle. From this angle, we could clearly make out her face as she spoke to the lavender unicorn who once bore the Element of Magic. The Trixie illusion spoke, but no words came out.
“I’m sorry, Trixie,” Twilight Sparkle whimpered.
As the Trixie illusion’s mouth continued to move, Xenith pushed past me and leaned close. Our zebra began to read the movement of the illusion’s mouth.
“…to be sorry for. Your experiment worked, after all. It worked more wonderfully than we ever dreamed it would. Don’t be sorry. Be happy. We’re going to live forever, you in I.”
I felt a deep, dark chill and prayed that Xenith had mistranslated that.
“What?” asked a startled Twilight.
“I’m sorry it took so long for me to be strong enough to save you, Twilight Sparkle.”
Velvet Remedy gasped as light blue tendrils of telekinetic energy snaked into the room and wrapped around each of Twilight’s hooves.
“No!” Twilight Sparkle struggled with more strength than should have been possible.
“It’s time to save you now, Twilight Sparkle,” Xenith continued to speak for illusion-Trixie. “We’re going to be very close now, you and I.”
“Oh Goddesses,” Velvet moaned and buried her face in Calamity’s mane as the tendrils slowly dragged Twilight Sparkle, kicking and screaming, towards one of the vats.
I was shaking. I wanted -- so desperately wanted -- to turn away. But I couldn’t.
Twilight Sparkle let out a last cry as she was dragged over the lip of the farthest vat. One word, a name I think, but I couldn’t make out what it was.
Stuff That I Can’t Quite Place on the Timeline
Appeloosa Computer Note
Had a surprise inspection from the Ministry of Morale yesterday. We pretty well knew it was coming, and I’d been given instructions on what to do; but I couldn’t believe how smoothly it went! We slip them a small percentage of the special product, and they give us clean marks? Even if they were dirty, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t bring the cage down on us and impound all of it for themselves. Seemed too good to be true. So I did a little digging, and a friend of a friend working over at Ironshod who claims to have an inside peek gave me this apple to chew on: according to him, the head mare of MoM herself actually loathes the new contraband laws. And since MoM enforces those laws, that means all sorts of tasty zebra treats are slipping into Equestria right under the Princess’s nose. I figure this means as long as she says golden delicious, we’re golden delicious. And even if the Princess suspects her (and how dense would she have to be not to?), she really is the one pony the MoM can’t bring up on sedition charges!
Equestrian Army Letter
Place on the Timeline: This letter was obviously written after the Battle of Shattered Hoof Ridge, but the comment about invisibility tech makes it tricky to place.
“I’m sending you one of the devices recovered from Shattered Hoof Ridge. Intelligence suggested that the zebras had developed invisibility spell fetishes, but this looks like something designed by the Ministry of Magic. It’s even PipBuck compatible. I hate to say it, but it looks like we’ve got traitors in our midst. If somepony in M.A.S. is leaking arcane technology to the zebras, the Princess will need to take action.”
“Mining Officer Torchwood to all concerned personnel:
“First order of business: We will be having a surprise inspection in two days. Everypony needs to be well rested and at the top of their game. Maripony operations Overmare Sunny Days has authorized a half day tomorrow so that everypony can get plenty of rest and have their uniforms cleaned and starched. Anypony who uses this time to go to Ponyville and get drunk will not be allowed back into the Maripony facility or any operations building within Old Olneigh, and will be docked one week’s pay. Baskets, make sure you have proper headgear this time or you will find yourself no longer employed by Maripony Mining Co.
“Second order of business: Maripony Mining Co. has increased demand for productivity. This means you can expect an increase in work hours of twenty percent with a corresponding fifteen percent increase in your paychecks. Officers whose teams exceed the new quotas will receive a bonus. I cannot say what the bonus is, but I can let you know that the bonus will include ice cream. Likewise, we will be opening up several previously restricted tunnels to mining operations. The Maripony Mining Co. assures you that these tunnels meet and exceed our minimum safety standards.
“Third order of business: There have been increased reports of trespass by relocated Diamond Dogs. Now I don’t know if this is a territorial pack-mind thing or if they’re just stupid, but if you find a Diamond Dog on Maripony property, you are to instruct the Dog to leave. If the Diamond Dog refuses, use of sonic deterrents are permitted. Ask your team Officers for the newest line in D4 (Diamond Dog Deterrent Device) whistles, now with convenient neck-wrapping loops.
“Fourth order of business: Thanks to Brickbane, we have had to reset our Days Without Serious Injury board back to zero. Thankfully, Brickbane will recover the use of most of her limbs. Remember, D4 neck wrapping loops should be kept short so that your whistle cannot dangle into mining machinery.
“Keep up the good work, everypony.”
Effects of Taint
“This is Sunny Days, Maripony consultant to the Ministry of Arcane Science. It is now two days since the accident that ended Peachy Pie’s life as we knew it. Eighteen hours since I had to order the brainstem of… this thing severed. Previous attempts to put the creature down through lethal injection proved futile. Even now, we are still reading life signs; this thing just does not want to die. But there is no brain function anymore and hopefully the rest of the body will get the hint. I’ve ordered the autopsy halted until then.
“I take comfort in knowing that my childhood friend died two days ago, and that there was nothing of her in this… abomination.
“I finally managed to get an audience with Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle. I have learned that the Ministry of Arcane Science is using my old facility to craft something called the Impelled Metamorphosis Potion. According to Twilight Sparkle, this IMP will likely become the deciding factor in the war. It is clearly her hope that through magical augmentation, we can bring the war to a swift conclusion. The zebras have been engaging in mystical and alchemical augmentations for years now, and it sounds to me like the Ministry of Arcane Science is determined to beat them at their own game.
“I questioned Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle about the contents of the barrels now being stored in the caverns underneath Splendid Valley. She revealed that these barrels contain effectively the very same transformative magical brew that the Ministry of Arcane Science is testing for use on pony volunteers.
“According to the Ministry Mare, the process for creating IMP is extremely delicate and demanding. And apparently, her standards are even more so. Any batch that is flawed in any way, any batch that is not absolutely optimal, is sealed up and discarded. In Twilight Sparkle’s own words, if she is going to ask ponies to trust their bodies to IMP-induced transformation, how could she dare give them anything but the most perfect version of the potion possible?
“The Ministry Mare was absolutely horrified to hear of the accident, and appalled as I told her what had happened to Peachy Pie. She put a strict moratorium on any further attempts to move the barrels. It looks like Ministry Mare Fluttershy is going to have to find a different avenue of negotiation with the Diamond Dogs.
“Personally, at this point, I’m tempted to just start shooting them. I know that’s horrible of me, but I’ve just spent two days seeing the best friend I ever knew reduced to… something worse than any nightmare. And all because we’re trying to appease a bunch of Dogs.
“The worst part is that part of me blames Peachy Pie. She shouldn’t have been down there. She’d come to work sick the last four mornings. I told her to take sick leave. Practically ordered her to. But she never could stand to be doing nothing. Part of me wonders if she slipped, or if her judgment was slightly impaired. And I hate myself for asking that. She deserves better.
“Peachy Pie was the best friend anypony could ever have.
“Her husband is outside. He wants to see the body. I have no idea what to tell him. All I know is that I can’t, absolutely can’t, let him see this.”
Twilight and the Black Book
This could have happened at a few points in time after Rarity found the book, and I’m not exactly sure where to put it.
“Dear Miss Periwinkle,” the voice began. I found it very odd to hear an audio message addressed like it was a letter.
“It was a pleasure to hear from you again. The new posters for the libraries are absolutely perfect. I hope it will not be a burden to have two hundred produced by next week?
“I also have a… more delicate matter to ask you about.
“Let me preface this by saying that for decades now, ever since she taught me her gem-finding spell, Rarity and I have gotten together at irregular intervals to swap magical spells.
“I must admit, and please believe I do not say this to brag, it has been a long time since she brought anything that I hadn’t already learned myself. That is, until three days ago.
“I was thrilled to see that she had learned a trick I had never seen before. She had enchanted a small mirror. To look in it, you would see your reflection, just as with any mirror. But if you touched it, or focused your magic on it, then a spell within the mirror took… well, the way she put it, the mirror took a picture of your soul. Then a second enchantment allowed the mirror to show that image. As Rarity told me, the mirror could show you what you looked like on the outside… or on the inside.
“I must admit... I wasn’t ready for what I saw. And I’m still not sure about it. But that’s… personal. Rather, I wanted to ask you if you could give me any clue as to where Rarity may have learned enchantments like that. I know Rarity would re-fashion any magical spell until it was customized to her wishes; but honestly, I’ve been scouring my books, but I’ve found nothing that even remotely resembles these spells. I know you have worked closely with her the last few months, so I hoped you would have an idea.
“Also, it’s hardly worth mentioning, but the spell felt… cold. Not like Rarity’s spells at all.
“Anyway, this is mostly just a matter of rampant curiosity, and I ask that you please not mention this to her. But if you have any idea, I really would appreciate it if you let me know.
Mall Security Guard Diary
“Third time this month I’ve had to break up a yelling match between Mr. Beans and Jamocha Joe. Ever since Joe opened that new Starbucked across from Mr. Beans’ Java’s Cup. First it was just the two of them trying to undercut each other’s prices. Then that shipment of coffee beans went missing and Jamocha Joe started throwing some nasty accusations. Totally groundless, as it turned out. Shipment got rerouted to Fillydelphia because of some ‘glitch’ in the Starbucked terminal system. Can’t stand those things. They seem downright un-pony.
“Yesterday, though, Jamocha Joe unveiled a new ad for Starbucked Steamy Coffee, and hoo-wee. Never felt more like buying a cup of coffee in my life, just to show my appreciation. Now I don’t know what makes ‘steamed’ coffee so different from any other type, but Mr. Beans was sure steamed about the ads. Called it ‘blatant use of sex to sell coffee’, and I reckon he was pretty on the nose about that. Mr. Beans rallied together a flock of local ponies to stand in front of Joe’s place decrying the poor guy as immoral and degenerate -- the whole think-of-the-children routine -- and harassing customers. When I arrived to break it up, one of the old mares hit me with her protest sign. Jamocha Joe came out to help, and before I knew it, Mr. Beans and Jamocha Joe were in each other’s muzzles, and it looked like it was going to come to bucks. Didn’t help that Mrs. Weather’s stupid, yappy poodle got loose and was adding its own head-splitting noise to the ruckus.
“Got them settled, and went right to Qwik-Kare for some stitches. I can’t believe I quit my job in Manehattan for this crap.”
“I was just starting to soak in a luxurious bath when I got an emergency call from the mall. Mrs. Weather was reporting a robbery. I get there, soaking wet, my uniform clinging to my coat, only to hear that the thief was the Sunny Suds’ new Sparkle~Cola machine, and the theft was a single bit. Apparently, she’d hit the button for one of those new Sparkle~Cola Rads, and the machine dispensed a normal Sparkle~Cola. Oh, the horror.
“The operator at Sunny Suds naturally had no way of getting into the machine. I could probably do it with a crowbar, but then I’d probably be fined for the damages. I instead just gave her one of my bits. Which she promptly put into the machine, hitting the same button and getting the same damned result. I feel I should receive an award for refraining from using the cattle prod on the old hag.”
“Spent the day at my niece’s birthday party. First time I actually wanted to be called away, so naturally nopony had any problems. I was tempted to feign a call anyway. I know that is awful and selfish of me, but Darling is suffering from Wartime Stress Disorder, and there’s really nothing I can do to help. I hated just standing there feeling useless, sharing worried looks with my sister as Darling went on and on, muttering things like 'So what if it's my birthday? We could all be dead tomorrow. I hate this war! Why does it have to be like this? Is it really too late to come to a peaceful resolution? I'm sure not all zebras are bad.' Nopony was enjoying the party.
“According to sis, Darling has been depressed for months now and nothing she does seems to pull her out of it. She was really hoping the birthday party would raise the girl’s spirits, but if anything, it seems to have made her even more withdrawn. Sis is at her wit’s end. I advised her that it was time to call the Ministry of Peace. Darling needs help that we can’t give her.”
“Today has been the latest chapter in the continuing war between Mr. Beans and Jamocha Joe, and I must say, I really don’t like where this is headed. Jamocha Joe is threatening to sue Mr. Beans over his latest advertising campaign, which features the assertion that ‘all our beans are Equestrian grown’. According to Jamocha, the ads are trying to paint Starbucked as unpatriotic, suggesting that some of their beans might come from zebra lands. I tried to point out that the ads said no such thing, but he wouldn’t listen.
”I talked to Mr. Beans about the new ads, and he said (and I quote), ‘Hey, I’m not sayin’ his beans are zebra beans. I’m just sayin’, y’know, do you know where his beans come from? Cuz I don’t. But our beans are pure, 100% patriotic pony beans. That’s all I’m sayin’, okay?’
“Just awesome. Mr. Beans reminded me that winter was almost here and that winter makes or breaks a pony in the coffee business. He needed every edge he could get against Starbucked. I told him that maybe he should instead try to make coffee that didn’t taste like it was filtered through something used to wipe a mule’s backside.
“’But that’s how coffee’s s’posed t’ taste!’ he told me.”
“A mare from the Ministry of Peace took Darling away yesterday. Apparently, she’s being held at a WSD treatment facility in Manehattan. I’ve picked up a renewable one-month pass on the Luna Line so that I can visit her regularly.
“Had our first snow today. Winter brings its own set of problems to the mall. Now I’m in charge of shoveling snow from the sidewalks and rooftops, keeping the lot salted so nopony has an accident. Business is picking up for the coffee shops, but most of the other stores are suffering the normal drop in customers. Only the regulars are up to braving the snow.
“Caught a couple hoodlums spray-painting disparaging things about Princess Luna on the backside of Sunny Suds. One of the delinquents tried claiming WSD as a defense for his actions. That pissed me right off. Having a family member who is really suffering, I’m sick of seeing ponies use WSD as an excuse for what’s really just bad behavior. Then the other little bastard turned his spray can towards me and I finally got a chance to use this cattle prod. He was still shaking when the police ponies arrived.
“Spent the afternoon giving statements. Mrs. Weather’s damned poodle peed on my leg while I was talking to the officer. I really wanted to club that little monster with the prod as well.”
“Spent time with sis today filling out applications for a place in one of the Stable-Tec war shelters. The non-refundable deposit took most of my paycheck, but it will be worth it just to take one worry off of my sister’s head. Ever since Darling was taken, she’s been slipping from me. I think she’s been drinking, although I can never smell it on her breath when I’m over.
“I’ve been to visit Darling twice this month. She is definitely looking better and has some of her cheer back. Whatever the Ministry of Peace is doing to treat her, it seems to be working. She’s almost like her old self now. Only thing I’ve noticed that seems a bit off is that she seems to have forgotten things. I asked her about her birthday party and she got strangely quiet, then told me she doesn’t remember having one this year. The mare I spoke to at the hospital says that temporary memory loss is a side effect of her therapy.
“Honestly, it was just so good to see Darling smile again that I was fine with that.
“Saw one of those little hoodlums that I caught spray-painting a couple months ago. He was dressed up fine, mane combed, looking presentable. He stopped on the street to thank me for helping put him on the right path. I was so stunned I told him it was my pleasure. Asked him how that other buck was doing, and he looked away, saying something about trying not to think about bad influences.
“Things at the strip mall have been interesting. Mr. Beans and Jamocha Joe have stepped up their advertising war. I fully expected to get an earful from Mr. Beans last week when Jamocha erected (no pun intended) that huge “hot and steamy” Starbucked sign with the twins Espresso and Latte laying all over each other surrounded by steaming cups of Starbucked. But he seemed almost cheerful about it.
“Found out why yesterday when the new Java’s Cup sign went up. Not as much sex appeal, but the billboard was huge! Easily twenty-percent larger than the Starbucked billboard. And the whole thing is done in patriotic colors with an image of Princess Luna in the corner endorsing it as ‘The best thing to keep you up all night!’ I have to wonder if he had permission to use her image like that.
“Jamocha Joe spent most of today trying to persuade me that the Java’s Cup billboard was too big, against regulations, and a hazard come the next windstorm. I told him to file his complaints with the zoning office.”
“Responses came back from Stable-Tec today. Sis found them in the mail. She was weeping over them when I got home from work. I’ve been accepted. She has not.
“I’ve been given a special broadcaster. When the call comes, I’m to make my way to Stable Thirty-Four. The broadcaster will be my proof of acceptance according to the letter, which warned me not to lose it. I offered to give my sister the broadcaster and thus my place in Stable Thirty-Four. But she refused. She says she should be out here anyway. If the warning comes, she’ll try to make it to Darling.
“I spent most of the evening pleading with her as she drank herself into a stupor. The rest I spent crying and trying to convince myself that it doesn’t matter anyway. The Stables will never be used, after all. There’s no way the zebras would dare use weaponized megaspells. It would mean their destruction as surely as ours. I have to believe that.
“It’s bad when work has become the high point of my day. But I’m not sure how long that will last. Java’s Cup is still losing a lot of business to Starbucked, and Mr. Beans is getting desperate. Today, Mr. Beans added a new vending machine to his coffee shop, an Ironshod’s Ammo Emporium vendor. Now you can buy your caffeine and your bullets in one easy stop.
“No good can come of this.”
“I woke up in the hospital this afternoon. Apparently, I’ve been in and out of surgery for two days. Fortunately, the company is paying for most of the costs, seeing as I was injured on the job. I’d gotten a frantic call from Mrs. Weather who was screaming about murder. I rushed to the mall as fast as I could, telling her to send a terminal message to the police.
“We had had a doozy of a storm the night before. And when I got there, Sunny Suds’ Laundromat was a complete disaster. Turns out Jamocha Joe was right about that fucking huge-ass billboard of Mr. Beans. Damn thing came crashing down this morning, a good three hours after the storm had passed, tearing through Sunny Suds’ roof. The ‘murder’ victim, turns out, was Mrs. Weather’s fucking poodle. She was screaming and hollering at Mr. Beans, so red-faced I thought she would explode, claiming that he murdered her poor little walking piss-dispenser. Like he was the one who left her damn dog in the laundromat while she popped out for a cake. I can’t say I didn’t laugh.
“I didn’t even see the batty old unicorn produce the firearm. I still don’t know whether she was actually trying to shoot me, or if the bullet was meant for Mr. Beans and her aim is just that bad. I’m told the police have her in custody.
“While I was in surgery, my Stable-Tec broadcaster went off. I missed the call, but that’s okay. According to the message, this is just some sort of test run, like those fire drills they used to make us do in school. I’ve decided not to mention it to my sister. She’s already too much of a mess.
“Sis is here, looking more depressed and anxious than ever. I don’t think she’s been sleeping. I told her the doctors all say I will be fine, I’ll be up and about, good as new, by the end of the week, but I don’t think she was really listening. I’ve been shot, and that’s all she seemed to be able to focus on.
“Well, that and the other thing. Apparently, while I was in surgery, ponies from the Ministry of Morale paid her a visit. According to Sis, they were asking all sorts of questions about Darling. Weird things, like what she’d said at her birthday party and about her internship last year with Four Stars. Sis was freaking out. I think… I think she’s losing it.
“I’ve seen this sort of thing before. As much as I hate it, I think it’s time to call the Ministry of Peace. They’re the only ones who seem to be able to deal with Wartime Stress Disorder.”
MAS Researcher’s Journal
Mosaic (or was it Gestalt?) passed down a new project for Alpha today. Apparently, after over three years of pure failure from the mares up in spellcrafting, the Ministry Mare has given up on the Ministry’s effort to reverse-engineer zebra invisibility magic into spell form. Given our success with the StealthBuck, she’s passed the project onto us, requesting that we design a sustainable magical device capable of indefinite invisibility: our own version of the zebra’s stealth cloak.
This new project comes right on top of losing a member of the Alpha Herd; although from what I understand, that may make things easier on us. Officially, all I know is that Beaker has been suspended without pay. Unofficially, word had leaked down that Beaker is under investigation for accepting “contributions” from somepony within the Ministry of Technology in exchange for hampering the development of magical energy weapons. Sounds to me like there’s a pony or two in the building next door who is more concerned with Ironshod Firearm’s market dominance than what’s best for all the good ponies of Equestria.
Another day, another pointless daily report that nopony ever reads.
The shipment of drugs finally arrived from the Ministry of Morale, three weeks late and accompanied by two of their pink suitcase ponies who insisted on monitoring how the restricted drugs were used. I hear there were some hard words between one of the magic twins and the Morale officials. (You’d think, after all the work we put in on talismans for their ridiculous balloons, they’d be more cooperative!) End result: even though the shipment is actually in the building, we are going to have to wait at least three days while administration pushes through new paperwork before the drugs will be cleared and we can finally start the next round of tests on our prototype Steel Ranger medical dispenser.
Continued efforts in improving the design and duration of StealthBucks seems to have hit a wall. The MG StealthBuck II is the most advanced design we have managed, taking advantage of the same recharging magical properties we have introduced into some of the newer lines of magical energy weapons and possessing four times the duration of our original design. However, recharging takes hours, and the duration still falls far short of our goal marks.
Gestalt (or was it Mosaic?) visited Alpha today to review our progress. After explaining our difficulties, she suggested we pursue a new avenue of experimentation: a stealth suit which takes advantage of a multiple StealthBuck array. While one StealthBuck was providing invisibility, the others could be recharging.
I’ve passed her idea on to the rest of the Alpha Herd, and we’ve started some preliminary sketches. This looks promising.
Today was a good day to be in Alpha Labs. Or, more precisely, to not be two floors above. Somehow, the Mare of the Ministry of Peace got wind of the sorts of megaspell ritual chambers the ponies in spellcrafting have been designing. For such a soft-spoken and pleasant old girl, she’s apparently a right terror when she gets angry. And there aren’t enough bits in the royal treasury to make it worth facing an angry Ministry Mare.
After spending a month calibrating the new array, the Ghostmare Suit is ready for its first live test. As well as the test turrets, I’ve brought Wonder into the office today. I figure, if the Ghostmare Suit can get by my cat, we have a winner.
Twinkle and Daybreak have been particularly snippy with each other again today for no apparent reason. I suspect those two bucks are having an affair. If so, I hope they keep it quiet. Personally, I think they would make a cute couple. But we have fraternization rules for a reason, and the last thing I want is to lose one of them because the magic twins decide to put them on separate floors.
Wonder was a big hit in the office. Every member of Alpha Herd gathered around and utterly spoiled her with attention. A few are even insisting that I bring her back again. I’ll run it past the magic twins. Maybe I can spin having a lab cat as being good for morale.
Sadly, the Ghostmare Suit was not as impressive. Not only did the suit fail to pass the “Wonder test” but we discovered that the array was draining power from all the StealthBucks while just one of them was running. The latter is technical design problem, I’m sure of it. The former is more worrying. We ran three members of the Herd through the test gauntlet with just StealthBucks alone, and Wonder didn’t catch any of them. Something in the suit, or maybe something in the array, is weakening the invisibility spell somehow.
Fortunately, we have time to try to fix this before the next review. Nobody is paying attention to us down here with that big mess upstairs. Apparently, Fluttershy went to Twilight Sparkle, and now the magic twins are cleaning house. I don’t get the politics involved here, but I do get that two dozen unicorns have been fired already, and this is just the first day. Another dozen have actually quit, taking up an offer from the Ministry of Peace.
I have even heard rumors that they might be planning to dismantle some of the chambers, or redesign them for purely defensive spells like the Ministry of Peace is demanding. But I don’t put any stock in that gossip. Equestria isn’t going to disarm itself in the middle of a war. Especially not after the zebras successfully tested a megaspell of their own last week.
Thanks to Wonder, we have finally gotten insight into the one of the issues plaguing the Ghostmare Suit Project. Apparently, the magic of zebra stealth cloaks is also designed to mitigate sound and smell. During the development of the StealthBuck, we had noticed the difference in the muffling effect between the zebra’s artifacts and our own devices. We had written this off as it an acceptable loss, particularly since the cloaks’ original sound dampening effect was relatively minor to begin with.
We had not, however, noticed the olfactory effect. This was apparently of greater concern to the zebras, possibly on account of the plethora of dangerous wildlife rumored to exist in their homeland. (Further proof that the zebras are innately crazy. Could you imagine living in Equestria if it was full of roaming monsters?)
While the original StealthBuck still retains at least a fraction of this effect, the MG StealthBuck II does not. Or, more precisely, does not after its first use. For reasons still a mystery to us, this element of the spell refuses to function after the StealthBuck II recharges.
Twinkle let something slip today about he and Daybreak getting a cat. I made a seemingly off-hoofed comment about cats having a tendency to reveal things that should be kept secret. I hope he got the hint.
The Ghostmare Suit Project suffered another setback today. I am amazed at how something so simple in concept can be so resistant to proper execution. I spent all last month solving the mutual-depletion problem only to find that the new array can’t pass the stress tests. The Ghostmare Suit isn’t worth anything if it can’t sustain invisibility after a one-yard fall.
A few of the other researchers in the Alpha Herd have begun referring to this as Project Frustration. With other projects beginning to pile up, I’m going to have to take most of my ponies off of this one, down-prioritizing it until things look a little more promising.
Fortunately, Gestalt and Mosaic are out of Canterlot today, having an on-site meeting with Twilight Sparkle at a new facility out in Splendid Valley. (Honestly, I breathe a little easier when they aren’t around. I personally find the magic twins a little creepy, particularly the way they finish each other’s sentences. Doesn’t anypony else get the shivers when they do that? It’s as if Mosaic and Gestalt always know exactly what the other sister is thinking -- like they are not so much twins as one mare stuck in two bodies.)
Okay, no more reading Ghosts, Goblins and Ghoulish Figures on my break time.
Twilight Sparkle paid a surprise visit to the Alpha Lab today. To my dismay, she asked for an update on the Ghostmare Suit Project. She had apparently hoped we were much further along, and had wanted to bring in Rarity, the Mare of the Ministry of Image (what the hell?), for a consultation on the suit’s aesthetic design. Seriously, the suit’s supposed to be invisible. Who the hell cares what it looks like?
Twilight Sparkle asked me to put up with the nuisance anyway and give Rarity our full attention and respect. Afterwards, Daybreak suggested Twilight Sparkle was looking for a way to cheer up her friend, saying something afterwards about Rarity having been a dressmaker. Honestly, I have no idea how dumping more work on somepony in that position, particularly if it is pointless work, could possibly cheer a pony up. On the other hoof, the idea that one of the Ministry Mares might be suffering Wartime Stress Disorder is terrifying, so I told Daybreak to keep that opinion carefully under wraps.
While Twilight Sparkle was clearly disappointed with our progress on that particular project, at least she was understanding. And she was considerably more pleased with our other projects, such as the multi-gem heavy infantry battle saddle. Alpha Labs has continued to show a great deal of success in other projects, so I don’t think we’ll face any serious repercussions.
She did, however, ask if there was anypony I believed we could spare to join the spellcrafting lab above us. Apparently, they are researching something called a “Bypass Spell” and have reached the point where they need a fresh mind. I told her I would get back to her on that. Tomorrow, I’m going to have a talk with Daybreak and Twinkle. I’d prefer to keep both of them as they are excellent members of the Herd. But if I’m going to end up losing one of them, I would rather it be done this way.
Ministry of Image Notes
Media Oversight, Intraoffice Memo #057
Just a reminder and clarification for ponies new to Media Oversight’s division of Imagery:
All pictures of ponies including multiple, non-specific individuals are required to have at least a two-to-one ratio of ponies with bold or pastel palettes to ponies whose coat and mane bear neutral colors such as brown, grey or tan. A three-to-one ratio is preferable. The only exception to this is for ponies with white coats. White is Celestia’s color and is always permissible in any amount.
Likewise, be sure that any planned photography be coordinated with at least one of Imagery’s pegasi. We want the image of Equestria to be one of glorious sunny days and bright starry nights. Overcast skies are to be strictly avoided unless required for Effect. Color correction may be employed to make the sky over Equestria an even deeper blue.
In addition, remember that all images of zebras are to be monochromatic. Color photography should be rendered black and white or passed through a desaturation and palette correction spell. Attached is a list of appropriate tints for zebra imagery, but a good rule of hoof is any coloration that gives the image a demonic or sickly appearance.
While I do appreciate your artistic thinking, and I agree that a “bright and beautiful” Equestria is a most desirable aesthetic, I must decline your proposal that all imagery of Equestria display a sunny day. Please remember that Princess Luna sits on the throne now. Let us not set policy designed to wound Her.
Media Oversight, Intraoffice Memo #162
All ponies with Media Oversight are required to attend the mandatory employee meeting tomorrow, starting promptly at eight. In this meeting, we will be giving you an overview of our new Radio Override System. Thanks to assistance from the Ministry of Awesome, we have been able to establish an Equestria-wide system for emergency interruption or enhancement of radio broadcasts. All ponies in Media Oversight will need to be familiar with the basics of this new system and how to access the ROS from either the Media Oversight office or the Base Station of any of the MAw Towers.
The meeting is expected to last two hours. Lemon cakes and tea will be served.
Thoughts on the dress:
The goal is to create elegant yet functional armor of a moderate weight and classic style. I’ve chosen a color scheme of amaranth and gold that harkens back to the dress that my beloved friends created for me for that first Gala so long ago. In honor of my dearest and closest friend, I am drawing on my best skills at haute couture. The armored plating, particularly over the breast, will draw inspiration from the armor worn by the royal guards.
I have woven a little magic into the dress. Although only the metal plating will stop bullets, cloth should hold well up against bladed weapons, as well as being resistant to the wear and tear and general dirtying that I have come to expect from a battlefield or a Gala. (I jested that I might make the final version indestructible, but it was only a joke. I did, after all, tell Applejack that I would do no such thing. And besides, the reaction from my top magician would have been enough to put me off the idea even if I had been serious. He was right, of course. With what I have done, I most likely do not have enough of a soul left to spare even a little of it.)
Anyway, I am very pleased with my first pass. But the final dress needs to be even better, beyond mere perfection. The Grand Galloping Gala is still months away, so even with all the insanity here, I do have plenty of time. It is my most sincere hope that most, if not all, of my friends will be at the event this year. If so, I hope to convince them to allow me the honor of fashioning each one of them a similar-yet-unique, elegant “Ministry Mare” armored dress.
Normally, the Gala would not be the venue I would choose to show off the first in what I hope will be a new line of fashionable armor. But this year, Pinkie Pie is finally living her dream and has been put in charge of the event. So really, all bets are off.
Second Fillydelphia Article
Dragon Over Hoofington
The Shadowbolts, lead by Rainbow Dash, engaged the dragon Brimstone over the skies of Hoofington last weekend as zebra forces managed their deepest strike into Equestria in the War’s thirteen year history. All rumors that the zebras have enlisted the aid of the dragons native to their homeland have been confirmed. Princess Luna vows to expand Equestria’s pegasus…
The Post-War Era refers to the two hundred-year time period between the end of the Great War and the beginning of the Wasteland Conflict. Even less is known of the events during this period compared to that of the Pre-War and Great War Eras, due to the lack of significant record-keeping taking place in the post-war environment.