“Crush humanity out of shape once more… And it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to it’s kind.” –Charles Dickens
Five ponies found themselves anxiously waiting for their unicorn friend in a parked chariot, ready to whisk them off to Ponyville for their final days of carelessly going about their lives.
“Jeez, what’s taking Twilight so long?” Rainbow Dash tapped her hoof impatiently.
“She’s saying goodbye to the princess, possibly even forever. Give her some time,” Rarity assured.
The distinct crackle of gunfire rattled off in the distance.
“That wasn’t what I think it was, was it?” Rainbow Dash lept out the the chariot, her heard pointing towards the direction of the distant .40 discharge.
“It did sound an awful lot like-“ Applejack stopped. “-Oh no…”
“NO!” Twilight dashed to Celestia’s side. Rivers of tears began to flow down the young unicorn’s face, mixing with the blood flowing out of the gaping mortal wound that ended Celestia’s life.
“Princess! Don’t worry! I’ll- I’ll-“ she desperately tried healing spells, even the revival spell she had been trying to learn. But nothing was bringing life back into the slain alicorn, whose coat had once been the cleanest, whitest bright you’d ever seen. Instead, it was now a tainted crimson, red mixture. Her mane, once flowing with magic had reverted to plain, pink locks.
Twilight let out an ear-shattering cry, burying her face in her hooves after feeling so helpless. It was all her fault. She saved Patrick’s life. She brought him back to Ponyville. She housed, him and fed him. She told them Patrick was dead, so they’d let their guard down. It was her fault that Celestia was now dead.
It was as if the entire world stood still. One moment, somehow, there was still some reassuring feeling that everything was going to be alright. That no matter how bad things got, the world wasn’t really going to end. There were still reasons to live, to carry on. Because even though they were dying by the thousands everyday now, ponies could still look to Celestia for guidance.
Twilight Sparkle faded in and out of reality, still staring at the dead body of her mentor.
She blinked. She did it again, refusing to believe the corpse in front of her was the sun princess, her mentor; murdered in cold blood, and that she’d wake up any second from a bad dream.
She tried to scream; to scream at the top of her lungs, to try and cast a spell; ANY spell. But the complete and utter distress of being within inches of her mentor’s assassination was too much to bear. She lost control of herself and vomited, kneeling on the grass and making no attempt to look Patrick in the eye.
While Twilight continued dry-heaving, Patrick nonchalantly inhaled another drag and approached the body. Twilight inched backwards, whether it was in fear, shock, or disbelief, Twilight didn’t know. The only thing the small, purple unicorn could do was simply stare, jaw agape, tears flowing and unable to utter a single word. She stared up at Patrick as he raised his weapon to Celestia’s body again.
“This is for my friends!"
“This is for my parents!”
“This is for my life!”
“This is for my race!”
“AND THIS IS FOR MY FUCKING BIKE!”
Patrick breathed heavily, feeling as if a giant burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He finally got his revenge. It was finally over.
And yet, it didn't change anything.
The human assassin took a knee, his smile reduced to a subtle curl of his lips, and swiftly faded, as if the sheer enjoyment he was supposed to contract from finally getting even was over now. He swept his hand across Celestia’s face, closing her eyes respectfully.
Twilight saw his lips move, but her ears rang from the close discharge of gunfire, making her unable to make out what Patrick was mumbling to himself.
He stood and turned to Twilight expectantly, awaiting her reaction.
“How… How could you?” Twilight choked out. “You’re a monster.”
“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. “But she made me one.”
Patrick threw the cigarette he’d been smoking away.
Twilight said nothing, her face shifting from a reflection of grief and denial, to an angry scowl. She wanted to hurl an attack at Patrick, to telekinetically cave his head in. But maybe she wouldn’t have to.
The bustling and clanging of armor plating indicated the royal guard was responding. Patrick had the pleasure of meeting nearly all the Canterlot Castle guardponies at some point or another, and the distinct “bang!” of his weapon was heard the last time he tried to kill Celestia. But she wasn’t here to protect him from being killed by her own guard forces anymore.
There were hundreds of guards within the vicinity, and Patrick only had six rounds in the magazine currently loaded in his Glock 23, and only four in his spare. If the Royal Guard saw his crime, they’d kill him on the spot.
“There he his!” a Pegasi guard on overwatch swooped overhead “The human has assassinated the Princess! Attack! Attack!”
Dozens of pegasi guards began to swoop down from overhead, as the stampeding of hooves began to grow louder and closer in proximity.
This wide, open area of the Royal Gardens offered no places to hide, and no cover.
Dozens of earth pony, unicorn, and pegasi were descending on him, like rabid dogs on a defenseless squirrel.
Unless they’d all line up shoulder to shoulder and let him execute them all at once, ten .40 caliber rounds in two separate magazines would not be enough to take down an army. It was enough, however, for intimidation. Luna did not tell him the guard would respond this quickly. He needed something to buy him some time, and fast. A desperate idea found its way into Patrick’s head, and he acted.
Patrick lunged forward and grabbed the small, purple unicorn as the guards were merely twenty feet from him. Dozens of horns began to illuminate, ready to attack the human. He spun around, making the unicorn guards immediately hold their fire.
In one arm, he cradled a kicking and struggling unicorn mare. In the other, his weapon, pressed firmly up against the side of her head.
Twilight ceased her struggles, realizing it wouldn’t do her any good. As if the death of her mentor wasn’t enough, she was now Patrick’s hostage.
“You’ve got until the count of five to let her go, before we turn you into a pile of meat!” Lieutenant Black Sword barked.
“Surrender now and drop your weapon!”
Patrick defiantly stood his ground.
Twilight’s ear was pressed right up against Patrick’s chest.
His beating heart was like a drum being struck furiously a mile a minute. He took a deep breath, and whispered in Twilight’s ears.
“If you want to save Equestria, teleport us both to the throne room, now.”
“And just how do you expect me to focus enough for a teleportation spell, after you just murdered Princess Celestia and desecrated her remains right in front of my eyes?!”
“Fine, don’t save Equestria. That’s all I’m saying.”
Twilight’s horn sparked, but she still failed to incite any spells.
As soon as the guard uttered that word, Patrick changed the focus of his handgun’s barrel from Twilight’s temple, to the guards in front of him.
The Glock 23 fired a slug into Lieutenant Black Sword’s shoulder.
He non-lethally fired at any guards posing an immediate threat to him, trying to buy Twilight more time. Whether she’d decide to listen to him, or kill him, that was up to her.
It was then that Patrick’s sight was obstructed by a flash of light right in front of his face. A burst of colors overloaded his vision, and suddenly he felt weightless.
It was over in an instant. He and Twilight dropped into a disoriented pile of tangled limbs right in front of the throne.
Princess Luna sat at the top of it, looking as though she’d been expecting them.
“Princess Luna!” Twilight cried.
“Twilight Sparkle,” Luna stood and began to walk towards them. “I-“
She was interrupted by Twilight’s horn glowing furiously, her eyes filled with fiery rage for what she felt was justice. She turned directly at Patrick, surprising him.
“YOU BETTER HAVE A GOOD REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T TURN YOU INTO A CHAMBER POT RIGHT NOW!”
He drew his weapon, still loaded with one round, and aimed it directly at Twilight’s head. As the two had a standoff, Luna gripped them both in a magic hold, gently taking Patrick’s weapon out of his grip, and preventing Twilight from casting any spells.
“Break it up, you two,” Princess Luna cooed.
“WHAT?!” Twilight began to go absolutely ballistic. “How can you say that?! He just killed your sister, and you’re just going to stand by?”
“I know what Patrick has done, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna sighed. “But it was a necessary sacrifice to be able to see tomorrow.”
Twilight’s face went pale.
“You-“ Twilight grimaced with disgust. “You let Patrick kill your own sister?”
Twilight nearly dropped dead at this point.
“Princess!” Rainbow Dash burst through the large double doors of the throne room as the rest of her friends followed in suit.
“Patrick’s back! We heard the gunshot in the courtya-“ Rainbow Dash froze as Patrick stood right before her in the flesh.
“Patrick!” Rainbow Dash flew right in front of him. “So, you really are alive!”
“But does that mean, that thunder we just heard,” Rarity glanced at Patrick.
“Patrick, please tell me you didn’t.”
Suddenly, he felt himself full of shame, finding himself unable to answer the ponies that saved his life three weeks ago.
He didn’t think about this. He only wanted to hurt Celestia for all the heartbreak she had caused him. But now… How were the only ponies that ever showed him a single act of kindness going to react to hearing that he killed Celestia?
“Oh my Cele-“ Fluttershy stopped.
“The princess is really, like, really, really, for no-take backs… Gone?” Pinkie Pie blubbered.
“Everypony, calm down,” Luna addressed the six ponies. “I understand that this is one of the worst possible things that could have happened. But it was necessary. As much as it pains me to say it-“
Luna herself was using magic to mask the fact that she was going to burst into tears any second.
“An Equestria without Celestia is better than no Equestria at all.”
The six ponies just stared at Patrick with disgust.
“I don’t ever expect you all to understand why I did what I did,” Patrick collected himself, forcing himself to speak clearly.
“But after everything I’ve been through, I needed some closure. I’m willing to help you now.”
“Yes,” Luna nodded. “And the Nightmare will be freed soon, in retaliation of Patrick. It is time for you six, who share such a close bond of friendship, to wield the Elements of Harmony again.”
“Wait, now?” Pinkie Pie cocked her head to one side.
“Like, now, now?”
“Use the Elements again?” Twilight shook her head. “I thought Celestia said we weren’t powerful enough to defeat the pure Nightmare! I thought that was the whole point of Patrick and his friends, to do that for us!”
“It is,” Luna replied. “But we still have work to do. Come, we must retrieve the Elements. I will explain when we arrive at the Royal Vault. The Nightmare could attack at any given moment. And once it discovers that Celestia is now longer able to protect us, it’s going to do so in full force. We haven’t much time!”
A brisk march through the marble-floored castle hallways led them to the massive Royal Vault, only able to be opened by Celestia or Luna’s horn.
Luna inserted her horn into a gold-plated slot, disengaging the magic lock and retrieving an elegantly decorated chest.
She opened it and laid it before the six ponies responsible for saving Luna herself from the Nightmare’s evil clutches.
“Reclaim your element, and stand with me,” Luna ordered.
Twilight, Fluttershy, Rarity, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash all reclaimed their respective elements, slipping the necklaces around their neck, while Twilight affixed her tiara on her head.
“Wait, those are the Elements of Harmony?” Patrick crossed his arms.
“Yes,” Twilight growled. “You have a problem with that?”
“…Am I going to have to wear the tiara?”
“The Elements reflect those who use them. In their neutral form, they exist as mere stones.”
“Fascinating. But the Nightmare could show up and blow us all up any minute now,” Patrick replied anxiously. “We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“Right, so uh,” Rainbow Dash scratched the back of her head. “What exactly are we doing?”
“We’re about to take a little trip through time,” Luna said. “Patrick, stand right-“
Luna positioned Patrick so that he was surrounded by the Elements, and then took a few steps back.
“Right there, perfect.”
“Wait, you didn’t tell me what’s going on here, either,” Patrick began to feel uneasy.
“Yeah, when you say we’re goin’ back in time,” Applejack added. “Where-When exactly are going ta’?”
“The only way to save Equestria is for Patrick and his friends to use the Elements of Harmony to stop the Nightmare,” Luna explained.
“But Patrick’s friends died in a war thousands of years ago,” Twilight argued.
All eyes were on Patrick now.
“Yes, they did. But, we’ve been doing some talking lately. Still though,” Patrick asked Luna. “Why are we going back in time?”
“We’re bringing your friends back from the dead.”
That hit Patrick like a freight train.
“What?!” Patrick gasped for breath. “Y-You can do that? For real?”
“Yes,” Luna calmly stated.
“That’s great! That’s absolutely great news!” Patrick laughed. “Why didn’t you tell me, though?”
“Because,” Luna answered. “We’re about to explore a very dark memory of yours. Specifically, the worst day of your life.”
Patrick thought for a moment, until he realized what she meant.
“No,” Patrick shook his head. “Please tell me you don’t mean-“
“Yes,” Luna’s voice became firm. “The ambush. And you are not backing out now.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time studying time traveling spells,” Twilight argued. “Celestia herself said going back in time took her a thousand years. So how can we just do it on the fly?”
“The difference is that Patrick is already right here, and I’ll know exactly where to go without spending hundreds of years meditating and searching for just the right human.”
Luna placed her horn on Patrick’s head, freezing him in place. He could feel her infiltrating his mind, just as the Nightmare did, but her presence was just a mere discomfort, and not an ice-cold, searing sensation of agony.
“But Patrick, ain’t your friends… ya’ know… dead?” Applejack asked.
“They’re still around,” Patrick shrugged.
“The spirit world is complicated to explain,” Luna sighed, still reaching into Patrick’s mind to find the correct memory.
“In order to revive your friends, Patrick, they’re going to need bodies. And I’m afraid I don’t have any human bodies to spare, so we have to go collect some.”
Patrick closed his eyes, regretting now that he killed Celestia. Zecora was right: In the end, he really never got any joy out of it. It didn’t change anything, everything she made happen to him still happened. He was still living in the past. And now, everyone in this crazy future hated him.
"And Twilight," Luna leaned in, whispering only so the unicorn could hear. "As regrettable as this is, under no circumstances should you harm Patrick. If he dies, then the Nightmare has won. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes," Twilight sniffled. She was riding an emotional roller coaster at the moment, and having to help the very being that killed her mentor wasn't helping anything.
The reality surrounding Patrick, Luna, and the Elements began to blur, distorting space-time itself. Everything was fading into a black void, devouring the world around them all until there was nothing but all-encompassing darkness and nothingness.
It was the same place Patrick went to when he was struck by lightning. Maybe there was something more to this black void, but to him, it was just nothingness. And in an instant, there was something; a distant bright light, like a single star in the night sky. It began approaching rapidly, until the blackness of the void was engulfed by hot white.
He felt the ground beneath his feet. And a high pitched whine temporarily deafened him. The lights became so bright, not even Patrick’s hands over his eyes could dim them. Finally, in a split second, it ended.
Patrick, Luna, and the Elements of Harmony opened their eyes, and took in their new surroundings.
“It can’t be…” Patrick gaped.
The sun beat down on a hot, scorching landscape of loose shrubbery clinging to life. Dirt, sand, and rock faces breached by a giant cliff were surrounded by a mountainous landscape of gently rolling hills just beyond the horizon. A deep trail of tire tracks a stone’s was stone’s throw away was the only sign of activity in this remote region of barren countryside. It was the Korangal Valley, one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, and where Patrick spent the last several months of his military service. Today was the last day of his active combat duty.
Everypony and Patrick took a moment to recovering from blipping through space-time.
“Ugh,” Rainbow Dash rubbed her head. “Where in Equestria are we?”
“Um, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity stammered. “I don’t think we’re in Equestria anymore.”
“Princess Luna, just where are we?”
“Why don’t you ask Patrick?” Luna motioned to him, taking a few steps forward onto the dirt road, gazing at the tops of the Afghani canyons.
“Patrick?” Rarity broke his train of thought.
“Sorry,” Patrick murmured.
“This is where I fought my war. We’re in my time, when I was nineteen years old. This is the day that all my friends died…”
Right on cue, a hasty line of armored vehicles and light tanks scuttled across the dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.
“Can they see us?” Patrick asked solemnly.
“No,” Luna shook her head. “We’re merely spectators, and cannot exist directly. We don’t belong here, and you don’t- anymore.”
Patrick stepped back off the dirt road and rejoined the others, waiting to watch his worst nightmare in third-person.
The hum and chatter of diesel engines cranked to a stop, where they sat motionless for some time.
Rarity looked at these heavily armored, four wheeled carriages. In front of them all was an obviously a mobile piece of artillery to protect the human convoy. But directly behind it, in the passenger window, clutching the same weapon that Patrick threw before Celestia just before his first attempted assassination, was Patrick himself.
“Look,” Rarity pointed a hoof for everypony to see. “Patrick, do you see that?”
“Yep” Patrick sighed. He looked younger, but not by much. His head was mostly obscured by window glare, as well as his helmet and sunglasses, but it was unmistakably a one and a half year younger Private First Class Patrick Wilcox.
“Are you ready, Patrick?” Luna asked. Everypony looking longingly to Patrick as he watched the M3A3 Bradley probe the ground for IED’s.
He remembered every detail about this day. What he had for breakfast. Which cheek he cut shaving that morning. The weird mole that the Afghani doctor had on his nose that treated him after the MEDEVAC airlifted him to Kabul.
Patrick sighed, ready to relive his worst nightmare as a spectator.
A glob of fire rained down from the cliff face adjacent to the M3A3, striking it and making it burst into flames.
“Get out!” a voice screamed inside the HMMWV just behind the wreckage of the M3A3. “GO, GO, GO!”
All of the doors swung open, as the soldiers inside scrambled away for safety. Patrick was able to get one last good look at his friends’ faces, and himself, before a rocket propelled grenade tore into the Humvee yet again.
The younger, body-armor clad Patrick was thrown to the ground and struck by flying debris. He lifted himself off the ground, obliviously running mere feet from his future-self, and dove behind a pillar of a rocks.
Patrick dropped to his knees, trying to look away, but he couldn’t. His eyes were rooted to the five young men screaming in agony, clothing catching on fire and setting them all ablaze.
Twilight’s jaw dropped as she watched Patrick’s best friends, whom he maintained were killed by Celestia’s doing, burn alive.
She never believed him when he said it was this bad. She never believed Celestia was capable of causing such a gruesome streak of deaths. She glanced over to her friends, watching in absolute awe as Patrick’s comrades tried to throw sand on each other to snuff out the flames, to douse themselves with water from their canteens, but they cooked in their own skins. One by one, they collapsed to the ground.
Patrick shifted his gaze to himself firing his rifle and the crackling gunfire off to the north, while the rest of his convoy frantically piled out of flaming vehicles hailed by RPG fire.
“That’s enough,” Luna said. And then, everything stopped. It was as if someone had the remote control to the world, and just pushed the pause button. The soldiers froze in combat positions, the flames stopped dancing, the smoke stopped rising, and bullets stopped in mid-air.
“It’s time to finally end this Nightmare,” Luna led the elements to a burning HMMWV surrounded by five burning corpses, the fires frozen in time as well. Luna’s horn glowed a faint blue, and extinguished the flames that were fueled off these young men’s flesh.
“So,” Patrick looked into vacant eyes of Jose, clutching Ryan. “This is how Celestia manipulated my life.”
Luna encased them all in a bubble of magic, and reality flickered for a moment.
Lightning began to streak through the sky, until Patrick felt static electricity in his hair. It was incredibly bright, a familiar high pitched whine enveloped them all. But then it got dark. Very dark. And nothing happened.
In another instant, they were thrust back into the throne room. The electricity grounded itself, as bolts of energy bounced across the marble floors until they dissipated. A giant scorch mark had burned itself into the floor surrounding the ponies and human that were just thrust back into Equestria. But they had picked up some extra baggage.
“Is everypony alright?” Luna was the first to recover from such a disorienting ordeal.
“Ah think Ah’m gonna need a minute,” Applejack huffed.
“You’re fine,” Luna helped Twilight and Fluttershy to their hooves. “It’ll wear off soon, you’re just going to be a little dizzy. Patrick, where are you?”
Luna spun around until she could see him standing among the bodies of his closest friends: Jose, Louis, Spencer, Ryan, and Joe.
“Patrick,” Luna proceeded to put a hoof on his shoulder. “It’s time to bring them back. Are you truly certain that you are willing to do this?”
He took one last look at charred, gnarled faces of his friends after burning to death.
“So be it then,” Luna faced Twilight and her friends, forming a circle around the bodies of an extinct race laying on her throne room floor.”
Luna’s horn glowed a vibrant pink, and in the faintest corners of his hearing, Patrick could swear he started to hear the beating of a heart. It grew louder, and louder, until it was apparent that’s what it was: The sound of life.
It became very dark, the only source of illumination was Luna’s horn, and the glowing Elements of Harmony worn by the ponies who had used them before. A spiraling windstorm began to rip through the castle, tossing over statues and anything else not rooted to the ground.
The five human corpses levitated into the air; their wounds, burns, and mangled limbs all being restored. Patrick looked on longingly, anxious for something to happen.
Slowly, the bodies, still clad in desert-ACU body armor, helmets, and other assorted equipment on their vests, regenerated the flesh lost in battle. The blood that stained their clothes seeped back into their bodies, but the burns and tears their clothing suffered remained. Patrick held his breathe, and what he saw next made his chest grow cold.
Through all the noise of the wind and all the disorienting lights, their efforts were not in vain. Jose was the first to open his eyes. But something captured Patrick’s attention; it was that Jose’s eyes seemed to shine a bright white for a moment. He blinked, and his eyes were no longer glowing.
Jose drew in a deep breath, while the rest of his comrades began to awaken from death as well.
Ryan was next, his eyes darting open and flashing a bright pink. Joe slowly lifted his eyelids, his pupils flickering a rich purple before fading into his natural eye color. Spencer’s eyes rolled back in his head, and then stared forward, glowing a blue as radiant as the midday sky before dimming. Louis was the last to be revived. He awoke calmly, but then frantically flicked his eyes across the room. They glimmered a soft flare of orange, and then faded just as his comrades’ did before.
Their boots touched the ground, and the young soldiers that had been brought back from the face of death stood together; perfectly healthy in the burnt, torn combat fatigues that they died in.
The indoor windstorm calmed, and there was a gripping silence that overcame the throne room. On one side were five members of an extinct race that died out thousands of years ago; living, breathing, just as much as any healthy young adult would be.
On the other side, Patrick and the Elements of Harmony stood in disbelief as they stared back.
“Guys!” Patrick broke into a run.
“I can’t believe it, you’re alive!” Patrick cried.
Jose squeezed his hands open and shut for a moment, giving himself a cursory inspection. Most of his jacket had burned off, and the front of his body armor was torn open. The patches that carried his platoon’s symbol and a color-blind American flag had singed away, along with his entire left sleeve.
However, the patch symbolizing his rank and his name were still embroidered on his uniform. His dog tags, carrying Jose’s identity and medical information, hung from his neck. The tags themselves were blackened from the fire once eating away his flesh.
The IOTV tactical vest that covered him still held several damaged magazines for an M4A1. The utility flashlight on his belt had melted to a radio handset hanging next to it.
He looked up, to see Patrick walking towards him, his arms wide. Immediately, Jose was filled with rage.
“Good to see you, too,” he rasped.
Patrick reached forward to embrace Jose, but he pushed him backwards and let his fist collide directly with Patrick’s face. It made Patrick hit the floor hard.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’VE DONE?” Jose’s voice thundered across the throne room, making Fluttershy cringe.
“Ow!” Patrick nursed a fresh bruise to his cheek. “What the hell was that? You’ve been dead! You’re all alive again, and you just come back and deck me? What did I do?!”
“Listen, Patrick, I love you like a brother, man,” Jose stood over him as the Elements and Luna looked on.
“But you just couldn’t control your anger! We sent you so many signs to tell you what to do! But you just had to avenge our death and get your so-called ‘closure’ by killing her!”
“What’s the big deal? Why are you so mad I killed Celestia?"
“Because!” Jose retorted. “You just fucked up any chance we had at saving the human race!”
The noisy, recently crowded streets of Ponyville did not help the throbbing of Nurse Redheart’s head. The nurse had spent so long inside the infirmary, tending to the endless waves of refugees burned, blinded, or suffering from radiation sickness, that she had to squint her eyes to adjust to the sunlight.
More aid had just recently arrived, which left them with a full, capable nursing staff, as well as experienced unicorn healers from all around Equestria. Nurse Tenderheart had finally convinced Redheart to take a day off from the madness of tending to the victims of Manehattan’s destruction, and now Fillydelphia’s.
And Ponyville, like the rest of Equestria, had begun a slow descent into anarchy. While most ponies stuck to their good-natured ways, robberies, looting, and other forms of crime began to skyrocket. Since the Royal Guard was too busy protecting areas with higher populations, the fallout from the burning cities of Fillydelphia and Manehattan spreading radiation sickness laced with anti-magic particles, there was not much to lose nowadays. It was everypony for themselves.
The streets in this small town, now crowded with shantytowns of refugees, proved that. It was so overcrowded, some had even sprouted up in the outskirts of the town. But the sudden overpopulation the humble village faced had literally starved it. Food, basic medical supplies, and other necessities were being consumed faster than they could be produced.
Nurse Redheart sighed wearily as a group of colts and fillies dashed across her path. The white earth pony spotted a group of orphaned fillies begging for scraps of food. It tugged at her heart strings to see her hometown transformed into such a depressing scene in only a few days.
But something else caught the Nurse’s eye. A large group of ponies had assembled in the middle of the town square. She walked closer to get a better view.
A swirling, dark cloud had appeared out of nowhere and hung in the air. But it wasn’t a raincloud, it was much too low. And it seemed to acknowledge everypony’s presence. Whatever it was, it was alive and aware of its surroundings.
Without warning, the black cloud ripped a hole in reality itself, snapping everypony to attention.
“It’s the Nightmare!” one pony in the crowd yelled.
The crowd scattered. Most of the onlooking ponies fled the scene, but some merely retreated to a safe distance to observe what the legendary Nightmare was doing in their town.
Fearful ponies looked on as a vast assortment of metal canisters, were neatly assembled before them. There was a flash of light, and they became encased in a sphere of white magic, crackling with energy.
What Royal Guard that was still stationed in Ponyville charged through the crowds, horns glowing and weapons drawn. The Nightmare effortlessly struck them all with bolts of black lightning, throwing them to the ground and disabling them.
“Citizens of Equestria!” The Nightmare boomed, its gaseous body swirling as it rose high into the air. “I give you this, the most powerful assembly of Nuclear Weaponry ever conceived! Its range will encompass all of Ponyville and Canterlot in its entirety!”
Colts and fillies cowered with their respective parents as the Nightmare’s threatening voice held their attentions. The Nightmare hovered just above the glowing orb containing more than a dozen advanced, metal canisters.
“The time has come for you to realize your full potential, to shake off the shackles of ignorance the Royal Sisters have instilled in you all! It is time to create a new Equestria unhindered by the old ways of the Monarchy! Together, we can discover the secrets of the universe! We can create technology to rival the legendary ancient human race, who created the very weapons that destroyed Fillydelphia and Manehattan in the blink of an eye!”
One of the guards the Nightmare struck struggled to his hooves, limping towards his sword. The Nightmare hit him with another bolt of dark magic, this time, ending his life. As much as every pony, especially Nurse Redheart, wanted to run to his side, the fear of the same thing happening to any one of them rooted everypony to the spot.
“Unless Celestia, Luna, and their human puppet surrender to me within 24 hours, by noon tomorrow, both Ponyville, Canterlot, and its surrounding areas will be annihilated! Any ponies that renounce their loyalty to the Royal Sisters and bow to me will be spared!”
“Now, hold on just a second!” Nurse Redheart shouted defiantly.
The black cloud froze, seemingly focusing on the white earth pony standing up to it.
“Yessss?” the Nightmare responded provocatively.
“You expect us to follow you like we follow Celestia and Luna, to worship you, when you strike down anyone who opposes you?” she gestured to the guard the Nightmare had just killed.
For a moment, nothing happened. And then, the nurse was lifted high into the air, feeling as if somepony was choking her.
“Yes,” the Nightmare replied. “If you wish to be enlightened, you must follow me. Those who are not worthy will not survive the journey.”
Nurse Redheart struggled and kicked in mid-air, but she still couldn’t force any air into her lungs. Finally, the Nightmare released her, and she crumpled back on the ground.
“Is there anything else you’d like to ask me, miss?” The Nightmare snarled.
“N-no,” Nurse Redheart coughed. “That will do.
“Very good,” the Nightmare rose into the air where everypony could see it.
The Nightmare leviated one of the fallen soldiers, a pegasus guard, into the air, shaking him awake.
“Fly to Canterlot and inform the royalty of my demands. Now, go,” the Nightmare flung the guard across the sky, the pegasus awkwardly flapped its wings in a daze, and collected himself. He took a look back in fear, and then shot off towards Canterlot.
“My offer still stands. Serve me, and you shall be spared. Twenty four hours, noon tomorrow.”
The Nightmare ripped another hole in existence and disappeared into it. Now that the threat of being stuck by the Nightmare was over, several ponies came to Nurse Redheart’s aid, helping her up.
“Will you be alright, Nurse?” a stallion asked with concern.
“Yes,” she managed to choke out. “Thank you.”
Her head turned toward the crackling, pulsating orb of magic encasing a cluster of colossal nuclear warheads.
“I wish I could say the same for us.”
June 12, 2042
District of Columbia, United States
United States President Stephen Grant
A bouquet of red roses sat in a golden pitcher just in front of the windowsill of this iconic room. Flanked by two flags; one with broad stars and stripes. The other featured an eagle spreading its wings wide, clutching an olive branch in one talon, with thirteen arrows in the other.
An elderly man, his hair grayed from experience, spoke from a desk, the official seal of the United States President carved prominently into the side facing the camera.
"The United Nations has determined that constant nuclear warfare across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia has increased the Earth’s natural radiation to dangerous levels. The nuclear contamination zone is expected to include every Sovereign State within 72 hours. The UN has informed me that in less than thirty days, Earth will no longer be able to sustain life."
“The United States has already begun preservation efforts of our remaining nuclear stockpile. I am calling out to all other nuclear nations to safely dispose of their nuclear materials, so that any future life that may survive the coming days, will not be hindered by its decay.”
“I hereby resign as Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and incumbent President of the United States.”
“It has been an honor serving as your president for two terms,” the President sighed.
President Grant stared into the lens of one of the many news cameras recording him, feeling his face slouching with despair. According to the digital stopwatch just above his teleprompter, he needed to be strong for just six more seconds, and then it would cut to the emergency broadcast system.
The wise, aged leader cracked a salute to the millions of anguishing Americans watching as he disbanded the union.
“God bless America.”
After a few seconds of holding his salute, the camera crew disengaged the “on air” light.
President Grant let out a sigh of emotional fatigue. Delivering such terrible news to an audience that was expecting him to save them from the terrors of nuclear war was an incredibly exhausting feat.
The defense secretary held his hands behind his back, watching the Whitehouse news crew pack up the camera equipment.
Mr. Richman approached the President, staring at a picture frame on his desk, as the clear signs of grief began to show though.
“It’s what she would have wanted, sir,” Mr. Richman put a hand on the President’s shoulder.
“Linda just had to go to that fundraiser,” Grant ran a finger across the framed picture of his wife. “It just had to be in Los Angeles…”
“It’s what she would have wanted,” Allen licked his lips. “It’s not giving up to stop the senseless bloodshed when there’s not even a point anymore.
“It just boggles my mind, Allen,” Grant spoke solemnly. “That we, as a race, could come to this. I’m seventy-two years old now, Mister Richman. I’ve had a full life, and I’ve seen quite a few things.”
“Like what, sir?”
“I’ve seen men crying out to their mommas on the battlefield. I’ve seen people in our country become victims of our own judiciary system. I’ve seen regimes fall, and then even more bloodthirsty ones take their place. I’ve seen a humble, poor old man run for president and win; twice.”
“You’ve had the highest approval rating of any president in years, sir,” Mr. Richman chuckled.
“It’s because I stuck to my morals,” Grant shook his head. “But it was never enough. I never thought I’d see the end of the world. I-It’s just really unsettling, Allen, that we- not as Americans- but as humans, became this efficient, this powerful.”
“I don’t believe this is our extinction event, Mr. President,” Allen said optimistically. “There are fallout shelters. As long as some human beings somewhere are able to eat, breathe, and reproduce, we’ll eventually make a comeback.”
“You realize how ill-equipped these shelters are,” Grant raised. “Starvation, disease, mutiny, anything could happen. We can’t prevent deadly particles from circulating in the atmosphere and making our planet uninhabitable. This world’s just too big.”
“We’re not the only country on the face of the Earth, Mr. President. Regardless of what the UN Scientific Committee has determined, all I’m saying is that somewhere on this planet, there is a fallout shelter that will withstand this, and humanity will be repopulated.”
“Geneva is supposedly able to survive fifty people for a hundred years, but where exactly are they supposed to get their power grid from now? The air is toxic, and food couldn’t be grown normally. No power, no life support systems.”
“Well, what about the International Space Station? The Tiangong? Surely-”
“Our space program is what would have saved us, but we cut it because the public wanted less discovery, more financial security. Hell, we haven’t made any more progress putting humans in space than we did in 2010, we just have sharper images of distant galaxies. The astronauts we got up there now ain’t gonna’ last more than five years, and even if a baby’s born up there, it’s just going to be a miscarriage like all the others. We threw away our entire existence and murdered our potential descendants because we wouldn’t stop fighting over what little remained. Because we refused to get over our stupid greed, sit down and talk.”
“Mister President, I hate to interrupt,” Mr. Richman held his hand up to an earpiece subtly hanging on the side of his head. “But the radioactivity of the Whitehouse is rising. We need to get you to safety.”
“Please, call me Stephen,” Grant rose from his chair with a grunt, and waddled out the door.
“Uh-Mr. Pres-Stephen! Where are you going? The radiation outside is becoming too dangerous!”
“I have a villa just outside of D.C.,” Grant approached a coat rack and affixed an Alabama State University ball cap to his head.
He disrobed the jacket to his suit and loosened his tie, hanging them both on the coat rack. He unhooked a textile, US Air Force flight jacket with his name sewn to the front. It was thirty years ago that he last wore it; that he responded to an ambushed convoy in tribal Afghanistan. He remembered it like it was yesterday.
“Sir?” Allen snapped Grant out of his daze.
“Sorry,” Grant blinked, slipping his flight jacket on one arm at a time. He withdrew the keys to a vintage ’14 Camaro out of a side pocket.
“I’m going to go see if there’s still any power. Maybe drink a cold one and hit a few golf balls off my back porch ‘till I drop dead.”
Grant purposefully strode out of the oval office.
“There are some things that are perhaps too dangerous for anyone to have knowledge of, Allen. Sometimes, I believe we’d have been better off forsaking the pursuit of knowledge in the name of being fat, dumb, and happy."