"Hey, wouldn't it be neat if we went by our first two initials?" wondered Pinkie Pie in her usual over-exited-school-girl voice. "All the super-duper-cool kids do it, like JJ Haybrams, or AA Mulene, or MA Larson, or, umm..."
"I only have two initials," said Twilight Sparkle.
"Me, too," said Rainbow Dash.
"I don't! My name is Pinkie Responsibility Pie!" said the pink one, echoing a past episode of their TV show.
"But I thought it was Pinkamena Diane Pie?" said Twilight, making another reference to their TV show.
"Don't. Ever. Call me that," said Pinkie with a suddenly grave tone, as if the little school girl in her head had just had a period-induced mood swing.
"Okay... PR Pie," said Rainbow Dash, noting that PR's new name was totally un-rainbow.
PR spoke up about a past comment. "Rainbow, you have a middle name, remember? Rainbow Danger Dash," said she, echoing yet another episode of their TV show with creepy accuracy.
"That was a joke!" said Dash. "Then again... RD Dash. I like the sound of that," she said, noting that her new name was very rainbow.
"Okay, girls," said Twilight. The three of them were walking on the outskirts of the possessed ghost village they had once called home, toward a yellow road that snaked up an increasingly steep, but still manageable throughout, slope, culminating into the main street of Canterlot. "Pinkie, did you stock up on supplies?"
There was no answer.
"Umm, Pinkie?" said Twilight. Still no answer. "Oh! Uh, PR?"
"Yes, Twilight?" PR said.
"Did you get any medical supplies or anything else of use?"
"I found a couple first aid kits, several of them so we could put it all together into one big first aid kit!" PR shouted enthusiastically. "And I found this tube sock!" she added, slipping the tube sock onto her head so as to vaguely have the appearance of a ski mask. She began crawling around (a strategy she had learned from playing way too many Metal Gear Sparkle games), taking out her rifle playfully and sneaking out of sight.
"Pinkie, get back here!" shouted Twilight. There was no answer. "Pink-- ghugh, PR!"
She turned back toward the road she and Rainbow-- er, RD, sorry - were on and was greeted by an eyeful of Pin-- gah, PR, sorry - with a tube sock over her head, rifle trained on Twilight's head. "Stay right where you are, Sparkle Snake!"
RD had played her fair share of Metal Gear Sparkle and noted, "Heheh, you know, Twi, you do look a bit like Sparkle Snake." She attempted to reserve a snicker.
Twilight was unfazed and snatched the tube sock off of PR's head. "Gimme that. I... I like socks," she said as she levitated it into RD's newly-scavenged saddle bags. With a quick shake of her head, she said monotonously, "Girls," noting that they had made way too many pop culture references for now and were running low on jokes. "We need to get our bearings and head to Canterlot now. Let's go."
They began walking silently toward Canterlot. "PR?"
"Who the hay is MA Larson?"
"Well, you see, he's... uh..." She shook her head and looked in front of her. "You wouldn't understand."
PR was the first one into the shack. Twilight came second and waited by the door, closing it and barricading it with her body after RD had flown into the wooden hovel. The door was then suddenly bombarded with frantic, clawing, pounding, blood-thirsty hooves. Twilight struggled to keep the door in place. "Do you know how to use a gun, Rainbow?"
"No," said RD, not bothering to correct Twilight.
"Oh, it's easy," said PR. She took Twilight's pistol out of RD's saddle bags and aimed through a raggedy, unnatural vertical hole in the wall. "Ya jush poin dish shing an den purr da chrigguh," she said with the pistol in her teeth before firing and getting one of the possessed flush in the eye.
"Reig dish?" RD said as she put a rifle round into the wooden siding.
Putting the pistol in her shoulder holster and adjusting the neck of her jumpsuit, PR said "Umm, not quite. Try walking up closer to the hole."
"I've a better idea," said RD as she flew up the chimney of the cottage and into the confined space of the air above.
"What's she doing?" said Twilight, uncertain what RD was doing.
"She's thinking inside the chimney," said PR.
The entire frantic scene seemed to quiet down for a second and allow Twilight to deliver a flat "What?"
"You wouldn't understand."
A light black contrail whipped behind RD Dash as she flew out of the chimney and through the air above the shack being put under siege by a horde of the possessed. Keeping her friends hostage. She did a quick barrel roll to shake the soot and ash off of her coat and mane. Now, instead of being a smoking black harbinger of destruction (though that was pretty awesome), she was a heroic blue blur streaked with rainbow.
She aimed at the middle of the scintillating crowd of pastel-colored demon-possessed freaks and fired the rifle. One went down as the ones adjacent to it where lightly sprinkled with blood. They didn't seem to notice, or at least care. They just wanted to eat some Twilight Sparkle and get a healthy recommended daily amount of PR Pie.
"Jush reig dag," she said with a rifle in her mouth to nopony in particular. She swooped over the horrid phalanx and reloaded the rifle with her left forehoof. She U-turned and aimed at another, this time aiming on a specific one, a rather small yellow one with a pretty, red, bombshell-like mane.
With a big pink bow in it. And no cutie mark.
This was Applejack's little sister, Apple Bloom. She couldn't bring herself to shoot. She passed the horde again. She turned around to aim her gun at a different one. She saw one, an adult with a purple coat and a pink mane with a style somewhat reminiscent of Apple Bloom's. This was Ponyville's local school house teacher, Cheerilee. RD passed again and steeled herself to fire on the next fly-by, no matter what. Her friends were in that shack. Their rescue didn't need to be put on the brink of failure.
On the next pass, she decided to aim at none of them individually and instead train her foresight on the pulsating mass that was the middle of the group. She got one. She didn't look into her kill any further and fired again, seeing if, and finding out that, she could get two on one pass.
The next time around, she managed to get three of them. PR was also racking up kills through the hole in the wall. RD thought to herself that she needed to thank Twilight for keeping the door closed after this was all over.
The minutes passed as the lifeless bodies on the ground began to outnumber the oblivious possessed still banging at the door. RD had fired indiscriminately, at one point wincing slightly as she hit what used to be Cheerilee in the shoulder, but unconsciously kept her aim away from where she had seen what used to be Apple Bloom. Now she could clearly see the body of Apple Bloom amidst the other surviving possessed. Still animated, still alive, but no longer herself. Now a possessed zombie-like cretin. Those awful glowing black eyes. RD made sure to get the other ones.
She began to think about which possessed might have been avoided had she been somepony else. What if it were Fluttershy up here, shooting at these beasts? Did she used to know some of the ponies in this crowd? RD wasn't sure. Then she realized that Fluttershy wouldn't be shooting at anything. That was a bad comparison. But she got what she was trying to think. Or something.
Apple Bloom was the last one left. RD landed on the bloodied yellow road. She waited for PR to do what she couldn't bring herself to.
Nothing happened for a while. The thing just stood there for a little while and began trudging off, its limited mental capacity figuring that it was not going to get a delicious taste of its former friends. It didn't even bother to look at the pegasus with the rifle strapped to her shoulder a few meters behind it. It just shuffled off to nowhere in particular.
The door to the shack opened and Twilight trotted out.
The last remaining possessed one turned around and ran toward her. RD wanted to shoot, needed to shoot, but she couldn't, and she didn't know why. She just couldn't. She got a pained expression on her face and was about to slouch her head to the ground when Twilight unflinchingly pumped Zombie Bloom full of pistol rounds. It collapsed to the ground with a pitiful plomp.
RD's pained grief was swiped off of her face and replaced with a pained shock. Twilight's expression hadn't changed at all. She knew Twilight had done the best thing to do given the situation, even the right thing to do, but she just couldn't fully comprehend it for the time being.
"That thing isn't Apple Bloom," Twilight said just after that thought had crossed RD's mind. She turned her head to indicate that she was talking to somepony in particular this time. "It's a monster. Apple Bloom died three days ago."
"Then what's wrong?"
"It's... it's just that... I mean, we... she didn't deserve this! Why did this happen?"
Twilight knew the answer to that all too well. "Because I wasn't listening."
"To Fluttershy. But most of all, to myself. I was so caught up with the fact that my future self was even there in front of me, that... that I didn't listen. I didn't listen, and then this whole thing happened."
"Well, no use crying over spilled milk, I guess."
"That's what I'm trying to say to you! Apple Bloom's gone. I don't want you thinking she isn't."
Remembering the whole motive that was keeping their quest going, RD said, "But we can reverse this?"
"Yes. If my plan works--"
In reality, it was all Twilight's idea, but she relented to keep her friend calm. "If that's what you want to call it. Our plan. Sorry."
There was a pause before Twilight continued. "If our plan works, then this whole thing will have never happened and we'll live happily ever after."
"You've said that a kajillion times before," RD said with a more playful tone.
Twilight sighed. "Yeah, I know, but as an addendum--"
"What the hay is an addendum?"
"... To add on to what I've said a kajillion times before..."
Twilight cleared her throat. "If our plan works, then this whole thing will have never happened and we live happily ever after. So our situation isn't exactly spilled milk. We just have to hit the reset button. But until then, we needn't worry about anything. I'm willing to do just about anything lesser than death if it means I get to use that spell and fix all of this."
RD thought for a second. She didn't usually think about quantum physics, but she tried to sound as inquiring as possible. "What if I suddenly changed allegiances and tried to stop you from getting to Canterlot?"
"Then I would defeat you," Twilight said, trying to avoid using the word "kill".
"What if I tried to kill you?"
Twilight mentally face-hoofed. Then she became a bit more somber as she said, "I... then I would kill you."
There was a pause.
Twilight spoke again. "You understand, right?"
"Yeah, I think I do." Dash was surprised that she was able to understand this much quantum physics. She wondered if her old college had awarded quantum physics degrees. Then she wondered if her old room mate was still alive.
"Okay. As long as you know what's going on."
There was a pause. Twilight looked at Apple Bloom's body and began to get rickety. She looked at Rainbow Dash with foggy eyes and said, "I need to use the little filly's room."
"Just go use those bushes over there."
Twilight trotted behind a green shrub.
She cried for three minutes.
PR was still in the shed while Twilight and RD talked. She was rooting through the cupboards and drawers for useful items. She had found some granola bars and things like that. She was trying to get rid of the memory of not bringing herself to shoot the zombified Apple Bloom from her vantage point looking through the hole in the wall. She had the same sense of confusion and inferiority as her friend RD Dash.
She found a collection of framed photographs on a shelf at eye level to her, having to look up slightly to see the pictures. They were of a wine-colored earth pony with a curly lime green mane and her orange colt. At the park, at the beach, at school, in Canterlot. On the ground by PR's hooves was a camera, complete with large flash bulb. There was still a photo in the slot at the front. PR pulled it out to find a blurry photo of a dank, desolate road. Some locks of white hair that the photographer's green mane was interspersed with had unfabulously found its way into the view of the camera lens. In the foreground was the colt running toward the camera, away from what appeared to be a large, impending black fog. She knew what it was, but she hoped it was something else as she nudged the camera aside with her hoof.
She looked around the house some more and found a telephone. The headpiece was laying just next to the console. PR held it to her ear to be met with a bland tone, the noise it made when somepony hung up. She put the headpiece back onto its perch atop the console and walked off to find some more stuff.
She didn't know what she was going to find in the master bed room, but she looked there anyway. It was a small room, just about as private as one could get in a small cottage. PR found some vanity items next to a mirror. She wondered briefly if she could use those, but decided against it. She didn't dare open up the bath room. She knew that if she opened the door to the bath room, some horrible eldritch abomination would jump out at her for no other reason than to scare her and call for a change of jumpsuits. She'd seen way too many horror movies to not know that. She left the bed room and went back to the main room.
In the main room, PR stepped on a piece of parchment she hadn't noticed the first time she was in the room. She lifted her hoof and it tumbled in the wind blowing through the open door of the shack. She turned it over and a head line in large black letters read "A MESSAGE FROM THE PRINCESS".
Dearest denizens of Canterlot and Ponyville,
Yesterday, a large black fog of unknown origin suddenly sprouted into being in Ponyville. It caught us by surprise quickly enough that Canterlot had to be evacuated. I am writing this from Cloudsdale's city hall.
I have sent this message from as many messengers still in the post offices, or elsewhere, of and in Ponyville and Canterlot. If you are reading this, it means a protective barrier has been put up around you. Do not worry, my friends. The Equestrian Hazmat Force has been deployed and are finding an answer to the questions that the Equestria outside of the pink border you see around you are asking.
If you are still in there, make yourself known. Make yourself visible. Draw attention to yourself, so that the hazmats can take you to safety. If you see a team of ponies wearing yellow quarantine suits, gallop up to them and let them bring you outside of the closed-off zone you are currently in, to the nearest emergency shelter.
We are not trying to isolate you. We are only trying to save as many ponies as possible. Closing off the area already consumed by this strange fog was the best thing to do, and we only hope that you understand this decision.
When we become certain that it is safe, we will deploy special operations soldiers to go into Canterlot and reclaim some items that are of importance to the government. That is all they will be doing, trust me. Just some spells and technologies and such that we as the government would like back in our possession. They'll be more than willing to bring you to safety if you happen to come across them.
Please do not be afraid. What has happened here is tragic, yes, but we aren't going to wallow in the past for any longer. For now, we save innocent ponies such as yourself before they fall victim to whatever it is the fog does. We can mourn when this is all over.
PR felt tears welling up in her eyes as she wondered how many ponies had died because they tried to "draw attention to themselves".
She also realized she had to tell Twilight about the "special operations soldiers" and wondered if the time travel spells were one of their objectives. She didn't see why. They couldn't pin-point an exact cause to the problem at hoof, as far as she was aware. Twilight and her two friends were the only ponies who knew the reason this all happened and how to prevent it. Because Twilight wouldn't listen.
The first voice she had heard in about fifteen minutes called her name. "PR! You okay in there?"
PR hung her head low as she trotted out of the cottage and into the street to meet her friend without saying a word. Standing in the yellow street was Rainbow Dash.
"She's using the little filly's room."
"There was a letter in that shack." She only occasionally cast sparing glances at the unicorn she was talking to, most of the time keeping her gaze fixed on the road just in front of her hooves. "It said that the government was gonna try to deploy some special ops, or something. To, uh, to take stuff of interest to them. Or something like that."
"So I guess we're in a race to get to the spells now?"
"Well, they didn't say what they were gonna bring out of the zone. Or when they were gonna come into Canterlot."
"I see." Twilight looked ahead of her, toward the image of Canterlot on the mountains in the distance. She noticed her friend's normally poofy hair seemed a bit straighter and less bouncy.
There was no answer.