Some say that his chest hair is actually steel wool, and that his natural prey are vegetarians. All we know is, he's called Rust.
88w, 3dHuman in Equestria
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46w, 17hCompleted Story Compendium
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6d, 21h[Untitled] 23 comments · 192 views
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22w, 4d"...Ha! Good 'ole fimfic." 32 comments · 414 views
25w, 6dActually Sorry This Time 15 comments · 218 views
DARWIN BE DAMNED
Where am I?
I was drifting, that much could be certain.
There was only a deep blackness, soft as silk and as encompassing as a lover's embrace. It went in all directions; up, down, left, right. I turned to see if it extended behind me as well, when I realized that I had not actually moved, and yet the sensation of motion was felt.
My body had been left behind. Wherever I was, whatever I was, it seemed that matter had no purpose. I had no heart nor brain, yet I lived and thought. I simply was. Unbounded consciousness.
Is this death? I wondered to myself. The silent dark made no reply. Is this the next life? Only my own thoughts provided the singular source of a disturbance.
It was very peaceful, to say the least.
The feeling was akin to floating on one's back in water. Not so much the touch of the water on one's skin, but the sensation of being carried and held in suspension. If this is death, it's not really that bad. A bit lonely, perhaps. And a tad boring. Spending long periods of time with only your mind for company could also result in...interesting psychological effects.
Still, there wasn't much I could do about it, adrift in a sea of shadow as I was. Nothing but time on my hands, now. For however long of a time I would be here. Hmmm...if this is death, then I expect I'll be like this till the end of time.
Eternity never looked so vast. Even more so with the absence of liquor.
Why is the rum always gone?
The darkness was apathetic to my plight. If it knew my thoughts, it kept them to itself. I mentally sighed to myself and began to ponder how long I was going to last before I snapped. A week? A year? Or did time have any meaning here, at the edge of reality?
I'm not sure how long I spent like that. I am sure of when I snapped out of it, though; when the light first appeared.
It didn't burst into existence. No. It sort of...faded into being, as if that makes sense. It was like the darkness slowly melted away in one little section, leaving only an absence of itself. If there had been a great basket over my non-existent head, someone had just poked a hole in it.
A small, distant light, a pinprick in the black. That's all it really was. A star. The last star, maybe. Was this the end of the universe? When that star went out, would it all be over? I didn't want that. The star shouldn't be allowed to wither away.
The star flickered, and pulsed. The increase of light revealed a sort of sloping cone that it was perched on, long and narrow, spiraling grooves running down it like a screw, trailing off into the abyss. It was a black as its surroundings, and the only reason I could see it was that the star illuminated its ebony surface.
The shape moved closer, and closer, and closer still. I felt like it was traveling a vast distance, in such a short amount of time...and yet the brightness seemed to dim. Finally, the tiny star drew to a halt some ways away.
Whatever it was, the shape below it was enormous.
It moved. The entire mass moved again, and I felt like an entire planet's worth of matter had shifted in the process. The star rose upwards, and the spiraled shape followed smoothly, like an immense, slender tower, rising out of the deep.
Wait...that's no tower...
The realization hit me like a semi doing eighty on the freeway. In short, it completely shattered me.
It's a horn.
Far, far above, the star flickered once more. But before me, colors began to seep into existence, deep blues and geens and reds and yellows and pinks, swirling and waving in a non-existent wind. Other small stars flashed to life within the ether, twinkling and blinking in the language of the cosmos.
The horn thickened out, suddenly stopping. Then, the monolithic head it was attached to rose out of the darkness, impossibly huge,and the only reason I could discern its shape was that it blocked out the lights behind it. Two massive eyes opened, filled with colors I had no name for, and a terrible knowledge contained within blazing white pupils.
It saw me.
I felt completely insignificant at that moment, as if in the water, swimming alongside a great whale. Whatever this thing was...the sheer size of it alone was enough to make even the most arrogant consider themselves nothing but ants. And the rippling nebula trailing behind it seemed to contain entire stars systems, if not all of space and time.
The eyes blinked. It took them a full ten seconds to fully open and close, despite the eyelids moving at unnaturally fast speeds.
A mouth opened.
A warm breeze issued forth, filling my being with energy and life. I hadn't realized it before, but I'd been so cold, so empty...I could feel my body again, though it faint.
The wind carried a noise, as well.
"HOLD HIM DOWN!"
"Gauze, get another restraint!"
Unbearable agony burned, concentrated on my arms and chest. I smelled smoke. My lungs heaved wildly, my eyes uncomprehending of what they saw. Bright lights flashed everywhere. Something was trying to tie me down!
"Hold him, damnit!"
"What's going on in here!?"
I struggled and lashed frantically, attempting to release myself. I had to get out! I have to be...somewhere!
"Agh! Celestia's mane, he bit me!"
"He woke up under the knife! We have to get him back under!"
"Wow, look at those burns..."
No! This can't be happening! I won't let you take me!
"Somepony bring her in, he listens to her, right?"
"GET A MUZZLE ON HIM, FOR LUNA'S SAKE!"
"He bucking bit me!"
"Shut up, Gauze, and hold his head down! You're lucky you aren't taking this end - these claws can cut through stone, I hear."
"Where the buck is she?"
"Doctor Triage went to get her, shouldn't be too lon~!"
I heaved with all my might, but was slammed back down, cracking my head and disorientating myself.
"What's happening here?" Who was that? Was that Daring? NO! They got her, too!
"Gauze, prep an anesthetic. Quadruple the dosage, I'm not having him up again, do you hear me! I don't care if he ends up comatose, we've got other lives to save here and we can't do it if he cuts us to ribbons! Miss Do, we need you to calm him down, he listens to you. We can't operate if he's conscious, and especially like this."
"Echo. Stop." I felt something press softly onto my neck, just below my scar.
"Holy buck...his eyes changed back. Look at the pupils, they're round again."
"Beauty tames the savage beast, eh?"
"How did she...?"
"Nevermind that, get that anesthetic in him while he's not moving!"
"Echo. Just relax, okay? You're all right. Everything's going to be all right...just relax, okay?" Daring's voice whispered in my ear, the pressure on my throat constant, and almost reassuring. My breaths lengthen, and I sucked in a long gasp of air. Immediately, the fire brewed up in my chest again, and screamed into my arms. I whined piteously and struggled.
"No, no, don't worry. Shhhh...it's okay, I'm here, I won't let anything bad happen...just stop fighting it. You've done enough. You can let go. Let go..."
With a mighty effort, I held myself still, my brain still roaring at me to get up, to resist and cling to wakefulness, to claw and tear and maim whatever was holding me down.
There was a nip on the center of my chest. I violently flinched, whimpering.
I felt heavy all of a sudden, sinking back down into nothingness.
I surrendered myself to the void once more.
The tray hit the picnic table with a bit too much force, causing the small box of fries to rattle and tip over. I hastily retrieved the fallen brothers as I sat down and gave them a proper funeral - in my stomach. The main course was mercifully unmolested, the sesame seeds on its bun glistening under the cheap parking lot lighting. A small trail of grease trickled out from in between two hand-crafted all-beef patties, which were delicately nestled between respective layers of bacon and cheese. The bun was lightly toasted. Just the way I like it.
Delicately, I wrapped my hands around the delectable sandwich, my mouth already watering in anticipation. I licked my lips in a manner that was almost nervous. I closed my eye and inhaled through my nose, blasting my brain with the most teasing of food related sensory input. Oh, Gods, yes! I haven't had one of these babies in over a month! So gooooooood...
Slowly, so very slowly, as if giving a kiss to a lover, I raised the feast from its wrapping, my jaws widening. I promised myself that I was going to savor it, to feel the emotion of every bite. Such a meal comes only a rarely in a lifetime. This was going to be one for the history books.
"Ahem. Excuse me, Romeo, but are you going to eat that, or make out with it?'
My eyes flew open. I whirled about to the source of the voice. Whoever it was, I was going to stomp my foot up their ass so hard that when I pull it out, their colon will be wrapped around my leg like an ankle-bracelet. I summoned every single combative move known to me, ready to slam this poor, unlucky son of a bitch into a gibbering, hopeless wreck of a human being. Nobody gets between me and my fast food! I focused on him in with murderous intentions...
...And promptly froze in shock. I struggled to make some kind of coherent statement, but for a moment, I'd actually forgotten how to speak, thanks to the lack of use of my throat.
"Buh," I managed to squeak out. It was raspy and strained, as if I'd been sick.
"Buh?" said Discord. "That's a new one. No, 'YOU,' spoken in a growling, threatening undertone, or perhaps a verbal assault no doubt intended to make me feel terrible about myself?" He snorted. "Honestly. Your kind never ceases to surprise me. Just when I thought I've got you down to nuts and bolts..."
He looked the almost the same way I'd seen him previously, back in the coffee shop. A tan short-sleeve shirt in place of a tracksuit, covered by a grease-stained apron, an obnoxiously scraggly fu-manchu, those beady, mismatched eyes...
Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute!
I glanced down. Green sweatshirt. Grey jeans. Boots. Different leg structure. I lifted an arm and pulled the sleeve back. Skin. Hands. Five fingers. No claws. The hand went to my face, trembling a little. More skin. Pathetic excuse for a beard. Nose. Ears on the side of my head. Short hair. The hand came down and rested limply on my lap. I slumped into my seat.
I'm a human!?
But if I'm human again, where in seven hells am I?
For the first time, I glanced about, becoming aware of my surroundings. It was night, and I was outside what appeared to be a small, old school diner. Crazy Dee's Drive-in Diner, screamed a nearby sign with cheap neon. We were on a hill somewhere, a lonely mountain road. I was sitting on a picnic table some ways away, looking out over a great valley. Below me, the lights of a human city twinkled and glittered, organized in neat rows of squares, chased with flowing veins of red and and gold that could only be roads and highways.
Where had I been before? There had been...bright lights...and yelling. I had been in so much pain...
I turned back to Discord, and took a deep breath. "I'm...home?" I lamely concluded, taking much more effort to talk than normal. How had I even gotten here?
"I'm not sure, are you?" he replied, smoothly sinking down onto the bench across from me. He untied the apron around his chest and tossed it onto the end of the table. "'Home' is such a relative concept."
"So...I'm asleep," I deduced after a moment of thought, my speech already coming back to me. "I didn't die. This is just a dream." My reasoning seemed solid enough. How else could I have got to wherever the hell I am from the coffee shop back in my city?
"Is it?" he smirked.
I glanced around again. A small metal fork rested on the tray. Without a second of hesitation, I scooped it up and slammed it down into my leg as hard as I possibly could.
Discord winced at the sight of a utensil buried in my thigh. "And the point of that was what, pray tell?"
I moaned piteously, sucking in pained breaths. "Not supposed. To feel pain. When you're dreaming. Supposed to wake you up."
"Couldn't you have just, I don't know, flick yourself?" Discord pinched the brow of his nose and shook his head. "No. You go straight for the stabbing with the forks." He began to mockingly applaud me. "Bravo. Bra-vo, I say."
My fingers reflexively clenched from a fresh wave of pain as I gripped the table. "So I'm not dreaming?" I muttered through a clenched jaw. That fork was going to have to come out.
Discord merely reached over and popped a fry into his mouth. "Well. That depends. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Regardless of which, you're caught in a landslide. No escape from reality." He took a bite out of another fry, a meditative look on his face as he chewed. "Why can't this and Equestria be real? And, for that matter, why can't they both be imaginary? If you really want to know, might I suggest looking at that peculiar necklace you have on."
Necklace...? I lifted a hand from where it was applying pressure to my thigh and placed it to my chest. Sure enough, I felt something press against me, about the size of a pocket-watch. Giving Discord a suspicious glance, I dug into my sweat shirt and pulled the object out. The familiar sight of the object caused be to suck in a breath of surprise. My pain was completely forgotten.
It was Daring's compass.
Even weirder was the fact that it didn't seem to be attached to me by anything, and yet, when I tried to pull it away, a pressure tightened around my neck, almost like an invisible rope of some sort. I flipped it open. The needle was still spinning wildly, one second rock steady, the next, moving as fast as a propeller. My fingers trembled a little as I closed it and let it dangle, as if hanging in mid air.
"Some things run deeper than reality," Discord cryptically stated. "It's all a matter of perspective."
I was stunned for a moment. How could this be possible? If I was truly back on Earth, than how did I have the compass? And if I was dreaming, how could I truly feel pain? The two questions ricocheted around the inside of my skull like two rocks in a trash can, banging and crashing with exponentially increasing volume.
I responded by gritting my teeth and yanking the fork out of my leg, hissing as I did so. I threw it at him. He ducked away and rebounded, cackling. "Ho-ho! Ha! You throw like an armless cripple." Discord wiped a few tears of mirth away and flicked them to the side, where they transformed into a couple of birds that flew off into the night. "Hmm," he said. "I was going for bats that time. Oh, well. Chaos is as chaos does, I suppose."
"What -ach!- do you want from me?" I managed to gasp as I took off my sweatshirt to apply pressure to the four small holes in my leg.
Discord leaned back on thin air and put his arms behind his head. "Entertainment. Plain and simple. It's boring being frozen. On top of this, you see, I am a draconequus. I live, breathe, and eat chaos. I need it to survive, human. And I don't want to die. Death is so...permanent. No doubt you've already had a taste for it, yes?"
"How exactly -ow!- do I fit into keeping you alive? And how are you not currently petrified in the Canterlot Gardens?" I said, as I tightened my makeshift bandage.
"While my body may be imprisoned, my mind is free to roam," he replied evasively. "As for how you fit into my continued existence - just keep doing what you're doing. You've already had a central role in one of the biggest battles Equestria has seen for the past... Oh, I don't know, three-or-four hundred years? Time keeps on slipping into the future, more so when you're stuck in one position." He paused and scratched his nose. "Ugh! That's the stuff right there. Feels good to scratch again."
"I'm not killing anything for you, if that's what your asking. I've no love for -agh!- bloodshed."
"Killing? Heavens above! I'm not asking you to kill! How anti-chaotic. Life is chaos, you see, and the more life there is, the more chaos! Why do you think I protected my subjects so well during my brief reign? And I'd imagine your so tired of killing already, aren't you, soldier boy?"
I felt myself grow still, an uncomfortable sensation creeping over my skin. How did he know about that? I'd thought I'd outrun this long ago... "You protected them from everything but yourself," I smoothly retorted. "As for what I've done, that's none of your business."
"It is my business, because you're my business."
Memories of a wind-blasted desert landscape flickered through my mind. Guns chattered back and forth over the dunes and around cracked stone walls. Thwip-thwip-thwap! Bullets striking flesh. Ears ringing from an explosion. Roaring orders. Shrill screams. Small bodies, half-buried in the sand. So it goes.
I crushed the images like ants under a boot. It wasn't your fault, they'd said.
"I don't know how you found out about what happened there," I slowly told him, "but it doesn't matter. I left that behind. Came home. Started -ugh!- over. There were...deaths I was responsible for," I grudgingly admitted. "Never again. What makes you any different? You were a tyrant."
"I never killed anypony." He actually looked offended. "In fact, more often than not, I saved lives! I just had a little fun on the side, is all. What I am asking you to do is keep shaking things up. Your actions have already caused so many upsets of power...I won't lie to you - I'm finding it delectably sustaining."
I sighed, rubbing my temples with a hand. Weird how I managed to do that so easily; this body fits me like an old glove. It's like I never left it. "What's in this for me?" I asked him. "it's not like I'm not going to start wreaking havoc without a good reason. And even then..." I drifted off.
He snorted. "You're so noble, aren't you? It doesn't matter what you want, though. You are, for better or worse, a human. Chaos flocks to you like little children to an ice-cream van. That is not something you will ever be able to control. Wherever you will go, interesting events will occur. Of course, they won't all be as significant as what happened in Wethoof, but they will happen nonetheless. You are bound to set many a gear in motion. Change is in your very nature, just as mine is of disharmony and chaos."
Those three concepts were eerily similar. Too much so for my liking. "So why bother asking me if I'll keep doing it?" I said, finally succumbing to my hunger and picking up the cheeseburger. "If I don't have any choice in the matter, what's the point?" I licked my lips.
"This may come as a shock to you, human, but I am a believer in the right of free will." Discord grabbed another handful of fries. "And it is one thing to resist your identity, and another thing entirely to accept and strive for it. You will make history, whether or not you're aware of doing so. I suppose I'm not really asking you to consciously go out and cause an uproar, but more like when you do - and you will - don't fight it. Go with the flow, as they say."
He closed his eyes and thought to himself for a few seconds. "Embrace your nature," he eventually said. "Wear it like a badge. Wield it like a weapon. Spend it like coin. Drink it like wine. Love it, if you wish. Hate it, if you prefer. But do not hide from it. Because in the end, you're only hiding from yourself."
I sat still for a moment, stunned by the weight of his words. "I suppose you found that out from personal experience?"
"No," he sadly stated. "My son taught me that."
"Oh." I set the burger down. Suddenly, I wasn't very hungry anymore. I felt...strange. "Here," I told him, pushing the sandwich away. "You can have that. If you want, I guess."
He cocked an eyebrow. "How...generous of you."
I felt it again, a jabbing sensation on my chest, right over my heart. I placed a hand over myself, suddenly feeling much weaker.
"Take my word, human. Don't fight it." Discord picked up the burger and took a big mouthful, a dreamy look crossing his face.
I glanced at him, bent over the table now. "Fight...what?" I managed to wheeze. The jabbing continued. It was so hard to talk again.
"Fate," he simply replied.
There was an almighty yank, and suddenly I was hurling upwards.
"Poke, poke, poke!"
"Disarray, would you stop that already!? Honestly, it's bad enough I'm cooped up in here again, but you aren't making it any easier for me or him. You've been doing that for ten minutes straight, cut it out already! He'll wake up when he wakes up!"
That was...Ginger's voice? Then I'm back in Equestria again. Good. At least I didn't get punted here again. I came on my own terms. Or maybe I never left? Agh! I feel a headache coming on!
There was that feeling on my forehead again.
"I swear to Celestia, if you do that one more time..."
"Oh, poo. You're such a grinch. 'As cuddly as a cactus, and as slippery as an eel,' as the saying goes. Have fun being all alone with the comatose mute, then. I have more important things to do as it is."
Disarray. That had to be Disarray. Where am I now? I feel...heavy. And tired. And sunburned.
"Like what? All you've been doing the past couple of days is randomly jumping out from hiding places and going 'Aboogaboogabooga!' to try and scare somepony!" Ginger again.
I heard Disarray sniff. "It worked on Tythus."
"Yeah, it worked once. The next time you tried it, you ended up in the tiny box of shame." Ginger sounded extremely vexed.
"...That pony really knows how to make a prison," Disarray grudgingly admitted. "Now, if you'll excuse me." There was a crack, and then a merciful silence.
"Ugh. Thank the Sun he's gone." There was a rustling noise, and a faint squeaking.
I tried mightily to open my eyes, but they wouldn't respond right. I was sluggish, and so damn heavy...this was like when I first woke up in Equestria. Hmmm. Just keep working on it, the muscles should work eventually. Become aware of myself. Yes. That's how I did it originally, wasn't it?
Come on, man. It's like riding bike. You never forget how to ride a bike.
But this isn't a bike...it's a little more complex than that.
Bah! To hell with logic. For now.
I began concentrating on different areas of my body, trying to feel them out, running an organic version of a computer restart. I started with the basics. Can I feel my toes? Check. I worked my way up my legs, twitching a sluggish muscle every once and a while. My tail shifted after a good few minutes of concentration. The pressure on my back told me that I was lying face-up, on a soft surface, possibly a mattress.
When I got to my chest, I gave pause. It felt different somehow. It felt...tight, and sensitive, as if I'd suffered a sunburn. The muscles refused to respond. I gave up after a while, and moved onto my shoulders. Check! Now down my arms. My biceps quivered as I regained conscious control. But when I moved past my elbows...
My forearms were strangely numb, and yet tingly, and cool. Like someone had shaved off my fur and rubbed me with spearmint soap. Past that, my paws. I flexed each finger, and they resisted me at every movement. I attempted to extend the claw in my right pointer finger, but could feel nothing occur. I mentally grumbled to myself and abandoned that part of my body.
Head, now. Face, first? Mouth. Let's see. Lips work, check. Eyebrows? Wiggle-wiggle-wiggle. Oh, hell yeah, those work. Nose. Sniff-sniff. Hmmm. I smell antiseptic, freshly washed sheets, soap, Ginger, faintly Daring, Disarray, and a plethora of other unfamiliar scents. Okay. Eyes, now. Time to wake up, man.
I concentrated, and directed my consciousness towards my eyelids. It felt like they were welded shut, such was their weight. I focused as hard as I could, and, like Atlas lifting the globe, the burden was slowly brought upwards. A bright crack of light filled my gaze, white at first, but then fading to a creamy sort of golden-yellow. I was staring at a ceiling. There was a stream of light on it, coming in from a window that was out of my view. It looked like sunlight, of an orange-ish quality that signaled the end of the day.
...System check complete.
...Standby for reboot in: 3...
...All systems online. Reboot complete!
I inhaled deeply through my mouth, feeling the strange tightness in my chest increase, and then fade, as I exhaled a powerful, long blast of air from my nose. I rolled my neck, and the joints popped loudly. Oh, yeah. That's the goods, right there.
I'm back, bitches.
The rustling noise to my side occurred again. "Echo?" I heard Ginger asked. I turned my head to the sound of her voice, and finally observed where I was.
This was the infirmary at the barracks, I recalled. I was lying on one of those nice beds kept there, Ginger was on another one next to me, on her side. There were a few bandages around the left part of her face, as well as a heavy wrapping around her midsection. Her horn was shrouded with a bag of ice, of all things.
"You're awake," she said dourly. "Took you long enough. It's almost been four days, now."
F-four whole days!?
I attempted to raise my arms up to respond. A sudden stinging sensation erupted in my forearms, and aloud clunk was heard as they met an abrupt resistance only a few inches up. I looked down at myself.
My chest was wrapped in layers of gauze down to my belly, and wet, pale azure stains seeped through the material. My arms, were encased in similar tubes of blue liquid completely past the elbow. I gazed in them so see my forearms completely devoid of fur, instead covered in a thick layer of warped scar tissue. Yeesh. The tubes were bolted to bed, for some reason. I strained against them, trying to get out somehow, frustrated that I'd been bound. They barely moved, so weak I was.
"Hey-hey-hey! Stop that!" barked Ginger. "What do you think you're doing?'
I froze, glancing down at the tubes again and looked at her imploringly as I jerked at them again. "You want the tanks off?"
I nodded. I couldn't communicate if my arms and paws were bound. I may be mute, but I have a way to speak, damnit, and I want it back!
"Too bad," said Ginger. "Doctor's orders. You got roasted, Echo. First, second, and third degree burns to your chest and arms. They had to operate on your paws, or something. Those tanks you're wearing have been repairing the damage as fast as medically possible. Taking 'em off would be a pretty stupid move, Echo. You aren't stupid. Leave them."
I glared at her. Weren't you the one doing the burning? I thought to myself.
She seemed to get the message, and had the decency to look somewhat guilty. "Don't give me that. You asked me for it. Look. Those tanks are filled with an aloe healing salve. Your arm burns should be better in another few days, and the ones on your chest have been getting regular treatments with more of the same. Doc said the bandages come off tomorrow morning."
Doc? We had a doctor at the barracks? Must be one of the reinforcements - there weren't any really qualified physicians among the Wethoof group. Basic medical knowledge was a requisite to join the guard (me being the exclusion - I didn't volunteer), but anything besides a battlefield patch-up was out of their league.
Wonderful. So that meant I was trapped here for my own good. I was bound to a bed, at that. I mentally chuckled. Wasn't the first time I'd woken up like this. With my luck, wouldn't be the last.
Las Vegas. An explanation in itself. Shit happens there.
There was nothing to do now but try and keep still. If it was the waiting game that had to be played, then the waiting game will be played. I closed my eyes and sank my head back down into a pillow I hadn't noticed before. At the soft caress of the bedding, I reminded myself that I'd just been sleeping. For four whole days, apparently. My body still felt exhausted, but my brain was working overtime.
"What happened on the ship..." Ginger was saying. When had I gone off on a tangent? Not important now. "Did you have any idea what you were doing?"
I nodded as best as I could.
Mosspaw had said it himself. One did not have to kill an alpha to take their place, merely defeat them. I had surrendered, forfeiting my claim, and leaving Ahuitzotl (who'd taken the role from Frost) as sole leader of the pack...which consisted of myself, him, and Ginger, due to her bloodline. When she had picked up the spear, she'd issued her own challenge - and won.
Technically, this meant that she was my alpha. I didn't know exactly what that entailed due to my unfamiliarity with diamond dog culture, but nevertheless, she was in charge of our pack...all of its two members.
Ginger sighed and closed her eye. "I never wanted this," she said. "This, of all things. I still hate your kind, Echo, do you know that? Every time I see you, I just..." she trailed off. Ginger didn't say anything for a good while.
"When Mosspaw showed up, for a brief second, I almost lost it." Ouch. Well, at least she's being honest. "I don't hate you, though. You're all right, I guess. You're different. I just hate what you are. So, don't take it personally, I guess." She snorted with derision. "And now, thanks to you, I'm the bucking alpha of the pack that was responsible for destroying my family." Her eye flicked open, her gaze as sharp and biting as a razor. "You've all but forced me to become the very thing I hate. I will never forgive you for this," she hissed softly. "But...I should thank you, as well."
My ears, formerly laid back flush to my skull, perked up in curiosity.
"I'm going to lead this pack, Echo. But I'm going to do it better than any diamond dog ever has. I'm going to do it my way. I'm going to take us all the way to the top, where the real alphas are. Canius. Rover. Tauro Rex. Blakwulf. Fenrir. Dottedheart. Shazza. The Great Dane. I'm going to take them down. All of them. And when there's nopony left, it'll just be me, the alpha of alphas. A Sirius. I'm going to change the packs forever, Echo, so that what happened to me will never happen again. And as my beta, you're going to help me. You owe me that much for putting me in this role."
...It really sucks when a good plan backfires in your face, doesn't it. And more importantly, what the fuck is a beta?
Ginger must have seen my confusion. She rolled her eyes. "What? There's only two of us, so by default, you're second in command."
It wasn't your fault, they'd said.
Just when I think I'm out...they pull me back in.
Ginger snickered, somewhat spitefully. "Don't get your tail in a twist. This won't be for a long time. We need to get far more members in this pack, and we've got nothing but time. I'm in no rush for this." She grimaced. "Neither are you, if your reaction is anything to go by. And besides, we've got Equestria to explore before we find a place for a den."
My eyes widened at this, and I gave a her a suspicious look. Since when was she coming with? How did she even know about that? I don't remember telling her.
"Daring Do gave me the go-ahead, after I explained our situation. We've been in here for a few days, you know. Had some time to chat about...some things." Ginger pointed a hoof around her head to the cot behind her. "She was in here while her wing was healing. Released yesterday afternoon, actually. Said something about going back to her treehouse for supplies and stuff. Doc was overjoyed - that mare has a tongue sharper than arcanite." Ginger snorted. "Probably why we've gotten along so well."
I continued to suspiciously glare at her.
Ginger let her head sink into her pillow. "A pack sticks together, Echo. I'm coming with, and it's your own damn fault. Besides, there's nothing for me here anymore, now that..." she trailed off, her eye clouding over for a moment. She suddenly shook herself, as if shaking off water. When she spoke again, her voice was tight and controlled. "Now that I've got nopony to take care of here in Wethoof. I resigned from the guard, as well. Coconut, too, so I heard. You've...missed a lot."
I rolled my eyes. Of course I missed a lot - I've been comatose for days!
Ginger didn't say much after that. I didn't blame her. She'd lost...well, pretty much everything. And it wasn't like I could ask her any questions, incapacitated as I was.
But just lying there...it was kind of nice. Nobody asking me for help, nobody bothering me. I enjoyed solitude and the peace it brought. Call me an introvert, but I'd take being alone over being at a party any day.
Of course, when one isn't doing anything else, one begins to think.
The dream (or whatever it was) was still vivid to me. My leg still throbbed where the fork had gone in, although there was no injury. Daring's compass was actually on a bedside table, not around my neck. The bootlace that had bound it to me had been burned away.
I wasn't sure how I felt about that. The bootlace had saved my life. It was partially responsible for introducing Daring Do and myself.
Ah...and there it is. Daring Do...
The events on the ship were still somewhat muddled. But the instant I'd spent with her on the icy decks were still quite vivid. I fancied that I could still feel the sensation of her lips pressed against my forehead if I tried hard enough. And yet...what had been in that kiss? I wasn't sure. But I'd liked it.
Maybe. Maybe there was something that could happen between us.
Maybe there already was?
The sunlight eventually faded away. Ginger fell asleep almost as soon as it did so. With the rising of the moon, a different sort of light bled into the infirmary. I had nothing to do but lie there and think.
My body was a wreck. Even with the absurdly effective Equestrian health care, I doubted if I would ever be as strong as before. My arms...well, let's just say skin isn't supposed to look like that.
Tomorrow was going to be eventful indeed...no doubt I'd end up hearing what happened after the battle. There'd be ponies coming in to speak with me, now that I was awake. Somehow, I'd have to talk to Daring. But I'd find a way. I knew I would. But things would be different from now on. Very different.
Despite my best intentions, everypony seemed to want a piece of me. Discord, Daring Do, Ginger Snap, Captain Tythus...I hoped I wouldn't end up pulled to pieces.
Just go with the flow.
When I finally fell asleep, Luna's moon had almost finished sailing across the sea of stars.
That night, I did not dream. There was only floating in a deep, blissful void.
...But I couldn't help but shake the feeling that something was there with me.
Author: Just when I thought I'd seen it all... this happens.