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22w, 6dTales of Chicacolt 0 comments · 26 views
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36w, 6dChapter 22 Off to the Brushies! 0 comments · 44 views
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Death. Death is the end of life, and the beginning of something new. Death is just another part of the eternal cycle. But to be truthful… death hurts. It hurts a fucking lot. Watching Lucky die right before my eyes broke my spirit in ways I couldn’t even fathom. I kept seeing it in my mind, seeing the ghoul take her life. Every part of me hurt and I felt like hurting things in turn. I wanted to see the world burn and I didn’t care how or why.
I think about the past once more. Ponies died all the time during the war. Twilight watched her own brother die in front of her very eyes. In the end, she hurt so much that she put every effort into creating this spell that in the long run… changed me. But what am I changing into? And why?
When does all of this end? And why do I get the feeling that it will only end… in death?
“We need to seal this room back up, now.” I said angrily at the cream colored stallion. The giant steel acorn sat silently in the room as if it were some form of monolith. Danish rubbed his head and groaned.
“Look, there’s a lot of choice stuff here. We’re supposed to take what we can carry and bring back the big boys for the bigger stuff,” He replied nonchalantly.
“No. We’re sealing it up right now. Do you even know what that is?” I said, pointing a hoof at the giant steel acorn. The pink substance inside flowed endlessly. It caught my eye for a moment and I wondered just how the zebras ever managed to contain the substance. Nopony had ever seen the bomb that had infiltrated Canterlot. How did Twilight even get her hooves on such a device? The damn thing raised too many questions and provided no answers. As well, the presence of an undetonated megaspell… if the Steel Rangers got their hands on such a device it would be the end of everything all over again. This time however, there would be no Princesses holding in the cloud. It would spread everywhere, either ghoulifying the rest of the population of Equestria or outright killing them. There was suddenly something a lot bigger for me to worry about for the moment. A headache scratched at the back of my mind as I tried to make sense of the past few days.
“Why don’t you explain it to me?” Danish asked, looking confused. I sighed. I was sorry to say that I actually liked this buck, but if I had to… I would do what I needed to make sure the bomb never left this room. Even if it meant killing him. Surprisingly, that thought didn’t seem all that bad to me at that moment in time. I was angry and hurt. This entire expedition had ended in pain, and left us with the threat of even more pain to come if the wrong ponies got their hooves on the megaspell.
“Have you ever seen Canterlot?” I replied coldly. The unicorn shook his head. I sighed. A long time ago, before the Day of Sunshine and Rainbows and before the Goddess was destroyed, the alicorn race was sent in trios to the ancient capital of Equestria in order to search out the infamous Black Book. Pink Cloud in its gaseous form wouldn’t kill an alicorn. It would do worse than that. The pink substance would get into the alicorn’s head and screw with their mind. Many tales came back into Unity of sisters of ours that had made the journey to Canterlot only to be driven insane and cut off after spending prolonged time in the Pink Cloud. Their screams were horrific. “That thing over there? That destroyed Canterlot, and it’s only because of the Princesses that it didn’t spread any farther. It’s Pink Cloud. If this were to detonate… you wouldn’t just be killing us and this city, but all of Equestria would suffer.”
Danish groaned and put a hoof to his forehead. He looked over at Steeljack, who nodded calmly. The cream colored stallion sighed and began to pace. “I… I dunno… I could get in a lot of trouble if I don’t return with something. I’m not saying I don’ts disagree with yas, that sounds really bad and all… but youse guys gotta understand my situation here. We’re sitting on a veritable gold mine.”
“And if anypony else gets a look at that thing, the war it will start in this city will be far worse than any other war you have seen yet,” I said coldly. “If you won’t help us, then stay out of our way. And if you get in our way…” I glared at him with death in my eyes. The stallion’s eyes widened as he caught my drift.
“Whoah there now… I didn’t say I was going to stop you. But what about taking even just a few of these choice relics?” He said, waving a hoof over the rest of the room’s treasures. I shook my head, drawing a confused stare from the buck.
“If we bring anything back, it will only prompt others to come back here and see if there’s more,” Steeljack said. “We need to seal up the room and fast.” Danish sighed.
“I am sooo dead…” He whined for a second, before turning serious. “Alright look. I guess… I guess I’ll help you. I’m gonna be shitkicked from here to next Sunday over this, but I’m not going to be responsible for destroyin’ all of Equestria. I like this place.” I breathed a sigh of relief at this. I started towards the door, when a glimmer of orange caught my eye to my right. I stopped and turned, searching for where the glimmer came from. There was something else here, something else that Twilight wanted me to find. Something…
“Star?” Steeljack said as I stared. “You… you alright?” I scanned the room, searching for that hint of orange, ignoring my friend completely as I stepped towards the right side of the circular room. Where is it? Where? I thought as my mind drove me forward. The glint of orange became overpowering now as my eyes traced it to a locker on the far end of the room. I galloped full speed at it, ripping the door apart with telekinesis. I skidded to a stop in front of it, panting hard as I gazed upon the contents.
The two items sitting on the shelf inside the locker were a pleasant surprise. One of them was a memory orb, orange in color and swirling madly. The other… the other was a figurine of an orange mare with blonde hair. Three apples graced her flank. She was positioned in such a way that it appeared that she was in the middle of a powerful applebuck. Applejack… I thought as I reached out to the statue. As I took up in the statue in my magic, I felt strong enough to take on any obstacle. I lifted the statue and read the inscription on the base. Be Strong! It said. I smiled and deposited Applejack into my saddlebag, knowing that the tiny mare was safe next to her friends there. I swept the memory orb into my bag as well, intending on watching this particular one at my earliest convenience. I glared back at the device in the room. I knew instinctively somehow that the memory orb had something to do with it. I stepped away from the locker and started back towards my friends standing at the entrance. Danish gave me a look of pure confusion.
“Umm… I thought you said we wasn’t takin’ nothin’?” He asked. I glared at him.
“That was mine,” I said harshly, perhaps a little more than necessary.
“So does that mean --?” The stallion began to say.
“No,” I said, cutting him off. He shut up immediately and just sort of nodded. I passed through the entrance back into the maintenance corridor, followed by the two stallions. Turning to the terminal, I began to peck at the keys to try and close the door. Nothing I tried would work though. I snarled, beating on the keyboard with my hooves. “Fuck!” I shouted, watching as the terminal kept flashing *ERROR* at me over and over. I lashed out with my magic, hoping that it would spur the terminal and door into closing as it had before when it opened. The terminal continued to flash at me. Anger rose in my throat as I let out a guttural snarl and ripped the box completely from the wall with my telekinesis. I felt a hoof on my shoulder. I turned and shouted at whoever was standing there. “What?!”
There was nopony there. Steeljack and Danish were still standing in the corridor, looking at me with concern in their eyes.
“Star?” Steeljack began. “You alright? What’s wrong?” I looked back at the pile of ruins on the ground that was once the wall terminal. I huffed and turned to the door. Alright then, you want to do this the hard way, let’s do this hard way! I thought as I grabbed the two parts of the door with my magic and began trying to force them together. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t budge. I groaned and pushed harder. The door sat there, laughing at me it seemed. At least I thought I heard laughter. A soft giggle echoed through my ears. I groaned. Steeljack, I started to think, before realizing that Steeljack didn’t have a soft giggle. In fact, I’d never heard him giggle at all. I turned around, seeing nothing but the other two stallions standing there.
“Did one of you say something?” I asked. Both of the stallions shook their head. I glared at them and went to turn back around to the door. When I turned back, I was met with two wide purple eyes and a green face. Connected to said face was the rest of a particular green mare that I thought to be quite dead.
“Hi Star!” A high pitched voice shouted. Truth be told, I screamed. I screamed loudly. Standing in front of me… was Lucky. The green mare looked at me quizzically as Steeljack and Danish rushed up to me.
“Star! What’s wrong?!” Steeljack yelled. I shuddered. No, no, no… you’re dead, I thought as my screaming finally stopped, my voice caught in my throat as I stared at the mare in front of me. I lifted a hoof and pointed. Danish looked past me and snorted.
“There’s nothing there.” He said. “Geez, you sure know how to pick em bud.” Steeljack glared at the cream colored stallion, who promptly stepped back. My earth pony friend put a hoof on my now shaking shoulder. I turned and looked at him, eyes wide with panic.
“Star… there’s nothing there. What’s wrong? Are you alright?” He said quietly. I looked from him to the green mare in front of me and then back to him. Lucky grinned furiously trying to get my attention. I paused for a moment, and then nodded.
“Can… I get a moment by myself here for a second?” I cautiously asked. “I just… need some time to get my head straight.” Steeljack nodded, motioning to Danish to follow him. The two bucks walked back into the vault, seeing as how I still had been unable to close the damn door, in order to give me some privacy. I turned back around, and Lucky was still standing there looking very confused at me. I stared at the mare for several minutes before I finally had the courage to speak without screaming.
“How…? How are you here?” I said, my voice shaking with fear and hurt. The mare cocked her head at me.
“What do you mean? I was right behind you, and then I guess I got knocked out or something…” She said. I stared at her and tears began to form in my eyes. I cried hard, slumping to my haunches. The Wasteland hated me. It very truly did. I could feel the pain rushing back that I had tried so hard to suppress as the memory of watching the mare’s death played over and over. I felt something pass through my shoulder as I heard the mare speak.
“Well that’s not right,” I heard her say. I looked up through my tears to see the mare’s hoof stuck deep into my shoulder. My eyes widened as I pushed myself away from the green mare. The hoof slid out with ease, leaving no trace of any intrusion as if it had never been there to begin with.
“Wha… What…? What are you?” I stammered, looking upwards at her.
“It’s just me Star… What’s wrong?” Lucky said softly, looking more confused by the minute. I pushed myself back more, fear taking over as I struggled to get to my hooves and away from the green mare. I needed to see her body, needed to know that I wasn’t seeing things and that I wasn’t crazy. I didn’t care about anything else at that moment. I scrambled down the corridor where her body had been stored. The familiar covering came into view as I hit the ground and ripped it off. The lifeless body of the mare greeted my eyes. Her eyes had been closed and her body was cold. I pounded the ground next to her. No. No No No! This can’t be happening, this isn’t real! I shouted inside my head. I began to cry again as I stopped hitting the ground and let my head drop, sobbing into the cold concrete of the flooring.
“Why…? Why…? I killed you… It was my fault… why?” I bawled as I heard hoofsteps behind me. I turned around faster than I think I ever have in my entire life, seeing Lucky standing there. Her eyes had turned wide as she stared past me, seeing her own body lying there in a pool of dried blood. I wanted to stop it all right then and there. I couldn’t take anymore. But I also couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it either. So I sat there, staring at a mare that was supposed to be dead… but somehow wasn’t.
“Star… why I am over there?” Lucky said quietly. I turned my head to the side, trying not to catch the mare’s eye. Out of the corner of my vision, I saw realization dawn on the mare’s face.
“Star… Am I… am I dead?” She said. I couldn’t speak as I just nodded my head. I started shaking as I turned around and closed my eyes. I can’t do it. I can’t face her. Not now. Not –
“Star?” Her timid voice rang out from behind me. “What happened to me?” I shook harder and harder at the softness of her voice, trying to keep myself from breaking down inside. I finally spoke, my voice choking with tears.
“I… I messed up. It’s all my fault.”
“What? What do you mean?” Lucky said, her voice soft and comforting. I started to turn and then stopped. No! Don’t look at her… I can’t… I can’t do it, I thought. My mind was swirling with pain and hurt. I couldn’t bear to look at her, knowing that she was somehow there and somehow not dead. The pain was too much. I felt a sensation pass through me and suddenly the mare’s face was right in front of mine. I jumped back a bit, moving to turn away. The other mare lifted a hoof to try and stop me as it passed through my shoulder.
“Get away from me!” I shrieked as I tried to push myself backward. “Why are you being so nice to me? I did it. I killed you. I let that thing… I let that… that thing…” I trailed off as my thoughts began to break down. Why me? Why am I being punished like this? I accepted the fact that it was my fault… right? So why… why is she here? WHY?!!! I screamed inside as I stared blankly back at Lucky. The unicorn/pegasus stopped for a moment and sat down next to me. We sat there for a good long time, saying nothing. Finally, Lucky looked over at me and smiled weakly.
“You… you think I blame you for it?” She said. “It was a ghoul wasn’t it? I don’t remember anything from what happened.” I nodded silently. The mare looked to the ground and let out a soft “Oh… I see.” She sat there for a moment longer and lifter her head.
“Star… snap out it. I don’t know what’s going on anymore than you do, but I don’t blame you for it. I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” She said. Her smile went a little wider. “I just wish I could you know… hug you and stuff.” Silence filled the air once again as I sat there, unable to move. Finally, I looked up at the mare and sighed. I groaned and let my gaze fall back to the ground. Lucky stood up and moved around to my front, staring me straight in the eyes.
“Look. Sooner or later you’re going to have to talk to me, because apparently only you can see me,” She said sternly. I still had to admit, that even as a ghost (could you call her a ghost? I wasn’t really sure what she was) she was still really damn cute.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. Lucky cocked her head.
“What?” She replied, a confused expression on her face.
“I said I’m sorry. I… I screwed up, I shouldn’t have given you that gun, and I should have been there. I should have been stronger,” I said, staring hard at the green mare. She smiled and shook her head.
“It’s not your fault. I should have done what you told me. I should have –“ She started to say before I cut her off.
“That’s it then,” I said. “It’s finally bucking happened. I’ve gone crazy. That’s it right? That’s why you’re here. You’re here to torment me, to make me go insane. Well guess what? It’s working!” I stared wide eyed and crazy-like at the ghostly mare. Was she a ghost? I didn’t really know what she was, other than some other form of my own crazy. I was lost in my own mind so much that I didn’t even hear the hooves striking the concrete down the corridor to my right until they were loudly echoing off the walls around me. Lucky’s eyes went wide as she stepped back and I looked up. A massive brahmin stood in the center of the corridor. I blinked at his method of dress. He was wearing a pinstripe suit with a fedora hat on each head. Flanking the Brahmin on each side were two earth ponies, each of them wearing battle saddles with long barreled rifles. Both of them were also wearing suits similar to the brahmin.
“Well well well,” The left head of the brahmin said. Wait… brahmin could talk? I thought they were all… well you know, dumb and speechless. Was there some special breed here in Chicacolt or something? “Look at what we got here boys.”
“Looks like an alicorn, boss,” The pony on the right of the brahmin said.
“Indeed it is,” The left head of the brahmin replied. “Looks like little miss wing and horns led us right to the prize.”
“Right you are boss,” The other earth pony said, grinning widely. What was it with ponies with rifles and grinning? It was just downright creepy sometimes!
“Who…?” I said, my voice weak from the strain of dealing with my current emotional state. I struggled to process my current predicament.
“Ah so you are with us then,” The right head said. “You’ve been talking to yourself for some time now. Was wondering when you would get around to noticing us.”
“Allow me to introduce myself,” The left head continued. “I’m – “
“The Bullfather,” A voice to my left shouted. Danish and Steeljack were standing there, towering over me. Danish had a look of anger on his face.
“And the MMMM flunkie shows his ugly face. Did you really think you weren’t being followed here?” The right head chortled. Danish scowled.
“So, the Bully himself, eh? What got your panties all knotted up that you had to come down here to see little old me?” The cream unicorn confidently replied. I could have sworn I heard Steeljack snigger in the background.
“You found something of value obviously, you pastry chef wannabe,” The left head said. I have to admit, it was getting really confusing trying to remember what each head was saying. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Lucky standing next to me. I sighed as I pushed myself up from the concrete, startling Rifle Pony number one (for distinction’s sake, let’s just call him Number One) on the brahmin’s left as he went to go bite down onto his battle saddle bit. The Bullfather’s hoof stomped in time, striking the earth pony in the leg and causing him to drop the bit.
“Moron. You don’t shoot until I tells you to, you got me?” The right head said angrily. Number One rubbed his leg a bit and nodded.
“Sorry boss,” He said. I turned to my left, glaring at the brahmin.
“Leave. I won’t tell you again. There is nothing here that you could ever want,” I said.
“Oh? But I think that’s where you’re wrong. You see, I’m many things, but I’m not stupid. If I was, I wouldn’t be the leader of the one of the city’s more prominent gangs,” The right head continued. Danish snorted at this.
“The Cowpones? Bullshit. You’re just a bunch of retard brahmin and earth ponies. Hardly a real gang,” The cream unicorn responded.
“While it’s true that some of my brethren are limited in the intelligence area, I am reasonably certain that I am correct in my assumption that there is something here, something of great value. Otherwise, why would the MMMM be so interested in this place? You’ve been throwing enforcers at it for ages now,” The left head said. I glared over at Danish, who merely nodded. I reminded myself to have a little talk with the unicorn if we got out of this alive. The Bullfather’s heads grinned in perfect time together. It was sort of creepy. “That’s right my dear alicorn friend. We’ve been watching these rotten cupcakes for some time now. They’re the real threat here.” I glared back at the brahmin and snarled.
“You’re not getting past me or my friends. You can’t have what’s down there. It will only cause more pain and suffering for everypony in this entire world,” I said, readying Stargazer in the air. The Bullfather’s heads sighed at the same time. Again, the simultaneous action creeped me out.
“That’s unfortunate that you feel that way. I had quite hoped we could be friendly about all of this. Looks like we have to do this the hard way,” The left head replied. “Boys? Show the filly and the two colts what we mean by the hard way.” Behind the brahmin leader, several other earth ponies with various weapons including mouth-grip knives and long-barrel rifles appeared. A few brahmin, lacking the intelligent look of the Bullfather, accompanied theml. Dangerous looking spiked clubs hung out of the sides of their mouths. The Bullfather sunk back behind the crowd of angry looking ponies and brahmin, disguising himself before we could respond. His two enforcers, Number One and Number Two, started in towards us with their rifles cocked and ready. Danish grinned as he lifted his semi-automatic.
“Fine, you want it that way Bully? I got a joke for you that you’ll really love then,” The cream colored stallion echoed. “An alicorn and an earth pony walk into a bar ---“ *BLAM*
A shot erupted from Danish’s rifle, zooming across the corridor and slamming home in the head of Number Two. The earth pony’s head exploded in a shower of gore and bone, splattering all over his companion. Number One grimaced and took a shot, that deflected itself off of Steeljack’s right leg, as the grey buck opened fire as well. Steeljack’s shot tore into the group of brahmin and earth ponies. The corridor itself was wide enough for the gang members to push forward, trying to flank us against the pressure of Steeljack’s rifle fire. I looked down and saw Lucky cowering in the center of the room, flinching as brahmin and earth ponies stepped right through her. I sighed. Regardless of whether she was my crazy or a ghost that now was haunting me, I felt bad for the poor mare that had yet to totally accept what she was now and continued to try and exist in the world of the living. I stepped out and moved to the center, standing over her as I opened up on a group of brahmin swinging those deadly spiked clubs at me. Leathery skin gave way to bone as shot after shot tore through them. I barely had time to finish firing before a shot struck the ground in front of me. I looked up and saw Number One, still covered in his dead compatriot’s gory details, leaping through the air at me. Several more rounds burst from his rifle, going wide and striking the ground. I spun around and kicked backwards hard, just like the little orange mare on the statue, imploring me to Be Strong. My hooves connected with the chest of Number One, sending the earth pony flying through the air and back into a crowd of brahmin. A snapping noise echoed across the corridor as the stallion’s back struck. He didn’t get back up. I grinned as another round of bullets was sent flying through the air. One shot struck true, a burst of pain ripping into my leg. I screamed, spinning around and letting Stargazer spit hot lead in the direction that the bullet had come from.
“Star!” Steeljack shouted as he tried to reach me. He was beset by two brahmin and an earth pony, each wielding gruesome melee weapons. I snarled, flaring my horn up and casting my spell. Steeljack’s body glowed with purple light as he disappeared and reappeared next to me with a *pop*. The group he was fighting stood and stared at the spot where the grey buck had been standing. A *crack* to my right indicated Steeljack’s return to the fight as the earth pony fell to the ground below.
“You alright?” He said as he issued another shot from his rifle, punching a hole in a brahmin that was rushing at us. I nodded weakly. Despite the pain I felt, the real issue at hand was the fact that I was breaking down mentally at the same time. Steeljack grimaced as he yanked out a vial of Med-X with his teeth. He pressed the vial into my side and I felt the painkiller begin to do its dirty work. As he moved away I thought I saw him step on his hoof gingerly, almost as if it were hurt.
“What about you, everything okay?” I shouted as Danish joined up with us finally. The cream colored stallion was covered in blood and had a wild grin on his face. Steeljack looked away for a moment and back to me.
“I’m fine,” He said gruffly. I nodded as I looked to Danish and then around us. Despite the carnage we had wrought, there was still more of the gang surrounding us. A hearty laugh echoed from behind the crowd. Why did the gunfire stop? I thought. I looked down once more to see Lucky, still cowering below us. The bottoms of Danish’s legs were sticking through her side. She looked up at me for a brief moment with fear in her eyes. That’s it then, I thought as I glared at the group of earth ponies and brahmin, which was now parting for the Bullfather to make his entrance again.
“You three put up a good fight, but your efforts are wasted. My ponies are securing the vault as we speak. So, here’s the deal. I’m going to make you an offer you won’t refuse. You leave us to our prize, and we won’t ‘accidentally’ set off that little goodie inside that vault,” The left head said. The right head chortled a bit at the other’s joke. I blinked. Had we missed something? How had they managed to sneak around us? I realized I had been partly responsible. I had spent my time in the fight protecting Lucky, a mare who couldn’t even have been touched in the first place. I snarled.
“No!” I shouted. “You don’t know what you’re doing! That thing in there, it will kill all of you once any of the other gangs get a whiff of what was in there.” The left head chuckled a bit.
“Now, don’t you worry or fret about that. We’ll keep that little prize safe and sound,” It replied. “Now. About our little deal.”
“You’re bluffing. If you detonate that thing here it will just float up to the city and beyond. You’ll die too,” I said angrily.
“Who said anything about surviving?” The right head said, staring intently at me. I glowered at the brahmin, realizing that he was indeed not bluffing about his deal. I could see it in his eyes. I realized there was no winning situation here. I was going to have to let it go for the moment. It would have to be recovered later. I still needed to know after all why Twilight stored the damn thing here to begin with.
“Fine,” I said after pausing for a few seconds. Danish and Steeljack looked at me with incredulous faces. Lucky’s eyes below me went wide as well.
“Star, you said that we had to seal that up. Why are we just letting them have it?” Steeljack said. I glared at him.
“Because he’s not bluffing. He really will detonate it if he has to,” I said, staring hard at the brahmin leader. “What do you want with it? It’s no good to you.” The right head snorted.
“Power. With this thing in our hooves, we will have power over the entire city. We’ll even be able to force the Minotaur out of commission with it! Everypony will be afraid of us! Everypony will ---“ The Bullfather began as he was cut off by one of his enforcers. I guess since Numbers One and Two were dead, that would make him Number Three.
“Boss! We got a problem!” Number Three yelled. The left head of the brahmin glared at the earth pony.
“What is it now you moron?” The left head replied. The stallion chuckled nervously.
“Well, you see… that big bomb thing in the vault… it’s sort of… gone,” Number Three said. Everypony’s eyes widened at the news.
“What?!” The right head of the Bullfather exclaimed. “Whaddya mean it’s gone?!”
“Well, one minute it was there… and the next, it was just gone,” The stallion replied. I stared at the brahmin and snarled. As I started forward at the leader, a form appeared in front of me. Several unicorns in black appeared out of nowhere, leveling combat shotguns at the gang surrounding us.
“Well, I was wondering when the Lotus bitches would show up,” The right head of the brahmin leader said. “You broads have been nosing in on our business for too long now.” I glanced down at the black covered unicorns.
“You’re from the Lotus Triad?” I asked. One of the unicorns nodded.
“We’ve been tracking you using your PipBuck tag. We’ve been following you for some time, to make sure you kept your part of the bargain,” The lead unicorn, a pale white mare, said.
“And what about the bomb? Was that you too?” I asked. The unicorn nodded.
“The device of which you speak is secured,” She replied. I groaned. All I had wanted to do was to seal that damn thing up so nopony could ever get it, and I had inadvertently led two of the city’s most notorious gangs right to it. Sure, one might say I couldn’t have known that there would be an undetonated megaspell in this M.W.T. Hub, but it was still my fault. If you coupled that with the fact that it had all been for nothing, and that I had gotten Lucky killed while doing it meant that my mind was close to shattering completely. I could only stare at the unicorn and wonder what plans the Lotus Triad had for such a device. I still wasn’t sure about their intentions.
“Hey. If you broads are done talkin’, you took something that belongs to me,” The left head of the brahmin leader called out. The lead Lotus unicorn turned back to the Cowpone’s heads of operation.
“That belongs to the Lotus Triad now, as does this location,” She said. Danish snarled at the mare.
“Hey now, this was an MMMM operation to begin with. This place belongs to us,” He shouted. The three began to argue amongst themselves, turning the so-called fight into nothing more than a pissing match. A very childish pissing match. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Lucky, once again trying to get my attention. I sighed and slumped to my haunches, the pain in my side flaring back up as I realized once again that I had been shot and hadn’t taken any healing potion just yet for it. The argument got louder and louder as I sat there trying to figure out what to do. For the first time in my life, I felt completely helpless. It was a frightening feeling. I had always had some semblance of control over my life, but as I watched the brahmin and the two unicorns argue I felt like I couldn’t do anything to stop it. A green hoof zoomed through my head as I looked to my right side, seeing Lucky there once again.
“What?” I said aloud, not caring anymore who thought I was crazy.
“If you would listen to me from the get go, I think I have an idea on how to get out of this mess,” The green mare said, grinning.
“But I’m crazy. You’re crazy. You’re not even scientifically possible!” I said, drawing a confused stare from Steeljack.
“Star?” He said softly. I waved him off and returned to Lucky, who groaned.
“You know… like it or not, I’m stuck to you. And I can see all sorts of interesting things now that I’m like this. For instance, they haven’t actually moved the bomb yet. I peeked in earlier while you were talking. It’s still there, just cloaked. We can still seal up the room,” She said. I blinked. What? The megaspell? It hasn’t been moved yet? I facehooved as I realized the truth. The Lotus Triad didn’t have the capability to move the device, but I did. I knew what had to be done. A memory floated to my head of a tower and a room where I spoke to an emotion known as Depression. I focused my horn, letting the magic flow through me. A feeling of calm washed over me as I reached out and touched the device in the vault. I could feel it calling to me. A soft *pop* emanated from my horn as I reappeared inside the vault above the device, dispelling its cloaking spell as I did. The pink substance inside swirled about violently as I rested my hooves on the top of it. A quick scan of the room revealed that nopony had noticed me yet. I only had mere seconds to begin to try what I planned to do. Lucky was next to me in an instant. I smiled at the ghostly mare.
“If it goes wrong… I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “No matter what… I’ll find a way to make it up to you.” I gritted my teeth and began soaking up the radiation emanating from the device. My horn ignited, glowing with blazing light as I turned my focus onto the bomb. The noise from the magic combined with my sudden disappearance must have been just enough to alert everypony to what was happening. The two gangs and Danish rushed into the vault, staring wide at my glowing form.
“STAND BACK,” I shouted, amplifying my voice magically. “THIS DEVICE MUST BE SENT AWAY WHERE NOPONY CAN GET TO IT.” With that, my horn ignited once more, latching onto the bomb. I knew that if I did anything wrong I could cause this thing to detonate, but if I could do it, it would keep this thing out of the wrong hooves for good. I glowed with purple fire as the magic took hold and the device and I disappeared into nothingness.
This is quite odd, I thought as I stared down the hallway once more. I didn’t even get knocked unconscious did I? Why am I here? The hallway with the doors extended down and I could now see that there was an ending to it. A large circular room lay at the far end. I stepped cautiously down towards the darkened room, wondering why it was there in the first place. There had never been anything more than endless hallway with endless doors. In the center of the room was a single pedestal with a torch sitting on top of it. Six doors ringed the perimeter of the room, each marked with a different symbol. I recognized these symbols as the cutie marks of the Ministry Mares. As I stepped into the circular room, the torch in the center burst and sent forth a fireball at the door marked with the cutie mark of the Ministry Mare of Image, Rarity. The fire lined the door frame for a moment and then dissipated as the door opened. I blinked. That’s… new, I thought as I stepped into the doorway.
A lovely smell of perfume greeted my nostrils as I stepped out of the dark room and into a brightly lit storefront. It appeared to be a boutique of some sort. A white cat sat in the windowsill, looking out into a bright and sunny day outside. A humming sound drifted from the stairs at the far end of the room. As I got closer I could make out the whirring noise of a sewing machine along with a demure mare’s voice singing.
“Stitch by stitch… stitching it together…”
I took a step forward, hearing the telltale *creak* of the steps. The humming and whirring stopped almost instantly and I could hear the mare’s voice from wherever she was.
“Opal? Is that you darling?” She called out. I shook my head for a moment as the whirring noise began once again. What is going on here? Is this some sort of dream? I thought as I cautiously continued up the stairs. The top of the stairs led immediately to a large open room where in the center was the Ministry Mare herself. Rarity. I smiled as I watched the mare working with a particularly beautiful piece of blue fabric on her sewing machine. Her horn glowed a soft blue as she hummed her little song. I took a step forward and the sewing machine stopped.
“I was quite wondering when you were going to get here darling,” She said, turning around and staring straight at me. I swallowed under the gaze of the beautiful mare.
“Ummm… hello? I… My name is…” I said, trailing off in front of the unicorn, who smiled warmly.
“Radiant Star. Yes, I know. I dare say it was about time we met,” She said. I blinked for a moment.
“But… you’re dead. You’ve been dead for over two hundred years,” I said, pointing out the elephant in the room. Rarity tittered for a moment.
“Yes of course. You would assume that I actually was Rarity. I’m merely wearing the form of my last bearer of course. You may call me Generosity dear. I am one of the six Virtues,” The mare responded.
“Virtues?” I asked with a confused expression.
“Yes. Specifically, I represent one of your virtues. You see, everypony has a connection to the six Virtues: Honesty, Kindness, Generosity, Laughter, Loyalty, and Magic. However, some ponies form a greater bond to one of the Virtues, becoming its champion,” The mare said. “Take Rarity for instance, she was so giving that she bonded to me in a way no other pony ever could.”
“But Rarity eventually stopped being generous didn’t she? Once the Ministries began, she became a Ministry Mare and her giving stopped,” I replied casually, drawing a sad look from the white mare.
“Indeed. It is rather unfortunate, but our virtues can become so easily corrupted that we become twisted versions of our own selves,” She said, almost to herself than to me.
“So… why am I here? I’ve been expecting Twilight’s emotions now every time I end up in that damn hallway. Why you?” I said.
“Because you made a choice to accept your feelings, even accepting that your friend’s death was your fault. You unlocked this connection,” Generosity said. “The emotions are no longer trying to fight for control now that you’ve accepted all of them.”
“That’s not what I wanted…” I said, anger rising in my voice until I was practically screaming at the mare. “I want my emotions back. My memories! I want to be me again! I don’t want to be her! Her life was painful, and she never once… never ONCE saw fit to help us while we were in Unity! It’s her fault we’re here, and she never cared! Not once did she ever care…” I trailed off, sighing. Generosity smiled and sat down in the middle of the sewing room. She motioned to the floor in front of her. I groaned as I plopped down, staring down at the demure mare.
“Twilight was many things, but she was not uncaring. Having been in your mind, I know that Unity was an unpleasant thing for you. However, Twilight couldn’t help any of you. Trixie had her subdued, shuffled off into the corner as a mere plaything to her,” She said. “Twilight cared for many things; she just never had enough time to care for all of them at once.”
“She cared enough about Shining Armor to put him at the top of the list. Enough to create an entire spell for the purpose of resurrecting him,” I responded flatly. “A spell that conveniently ended up in me. Know anything about that?”
“I only know that Twilight pulled from every area of knowledge she had to create it. She even went as far as to inquire into the properties of zebra necromancy,” The white unicorn replied.
“Tell me something I don’t know. Rarity rebuffed her too. She didn’t want Twilight to have the Black Book. But the Book’s gone now, the Destroyer saw to that. That’s the piece I’ve been missing this whole time. How did Twilight’s spell get finished without the final piece of the puzzle?” I said. Generosity shrugged.
“I don’t know the answer to that… however, I can tell you there is some place in the city that might provide some answers. A Ministry of Image secret hub is in the downtown district. It’s dangerous territory, but Rarity spent much of her time there during her trips to Chicacolt,” She said.
“Maybe I will… but right now… there’s too much going on. My friends are in danger, and I need to… oh… the bomb!” I said, quickly realizing that if I’ve been out this long that I was somehow still alive and hopefully the megaspell was intact. “How do I wake up from this? I need to make sure that thing is sealed away where nopony can find it ever.” The white mare put a hoof out and rested it on my shoulder.
“You don’t need to worry about that, but if you would prefer to wake up now, then wake up,” She said as everything around me faded to black.
My eyes fluttered open to darkness. Where am I? I thought as I pushed myself up. A dark room extended before me, ending in a series of television monitors that were emitting a soft focused glow on a chair sitting before them. Beeping noises came from the monitors and terminals. I groaned as the headache set in. I had experienced magic burnout before, but this was intense. I put a hoof to my forehead as I tried to focus through the pain. The last thing I remembered was trying to teleport the --- the bomb. Where is it? I thought frantically as I looked around me. I didn’t see the megaspell. Did it work? I scrambled to my hooves and began to step towards the terminals at the end of the room. A harsh voice cut through the still air, one that was deathly familiar but for some reason escaped my memory at that moment.
“Hold it right there missy,” The brash and loud voice said. “I’m sure you’ve got some questions.”
“Who are you? Where am I?” I asked, stopping like the voice had asked me to. It cackled a bit and then I realized where I had heard it before. I was in the home of the Minotaur.
“You’ve got the right of it now I think,” The voice said. “So you’re the Ministry Mare eh? I pictured you a bit bigger.”
“How do you know who I am?” I said warily.
“I’ve got eyes in every part of this city. Nothing, and I mean nothing escapes me,” The voice continued. The terminals flickered, showing visions of streets and buildings around the city. Surveillance cameras of the highest quality must have been installed all throughout Chicacolt.
“What about the megaspell? What did you do with it?” I said sternly, prompting another chuckle from the voice. I wanted desperately to rush up and ask him all the questions I had. I took a step forward, chancing it.
“Don’t come any closer Ministry Mare. I’ve got two turrets trained on you ready to blast you into next Sunday. Now, about your bomb you showed up in my building with. Plain and simply I have locked the device away. Nopony will ever find it, not even you,” The gruff voice said. I stopped.
“So… you’re the Minotaur then? No bad jokes or puns for me?” I said. Another laugh came from behind the chair.
“Haven’t you ever heard of a stage voice? I use that when I go on air,” The voice said.
“If you can see everything that’s going on, can you see Steeljack? What about Violet and Patch?” I asked, forgetting for a second the real question I needed to ask him. One of the monitors flickered, showing Steeljack and Danish. They were in chains, captured it appeared by the looks of it. They were surrounded by brahmin and earth ponies. The Cowpones. Another terminal flickered to life, showing a completely different scene. Violet and Patch were in the middle of a room, lying down on long massage tables. They looked serene and happy and both of them had their eyes (or in the case of Patch, eye) closed.
“So the Triad, they weren’t lying about keeping my friends safe?” I said, looking confused.
“The Lotus Triad is one of the few gangs in this city who treat their prisoners with pleasure,” The Minotaur’s voice echoed from behind the chair. “I assure you, they are still in just as much danger as your other two friends are.” I looked closer at the image, noting that there were guards at each of the entrances to the spa. Violet cracked an eye open for a moment. I could see genuine fear there before she closed it again.
“I have no choice then but to save them,” I said with a determined grimace. The voice chuckled once more.
“You just pissed off two of the most ruthless gangs in the entire city. Think you can really get to your friends in time?” The Minotaur said.
“I have to try. They’re my friends after all. They would do the same for me,” I said.
“Amusing. Friendship. Not something you see in the Wasteland too often,” The rough voice replied. “Well, if you’re gonna do this, there’s some ponies you need to meet then Ministry Mare.”
“Who?” I asked. Another chuckle erupted from the chair.
“I’ll send you the address on your PipBuck. If you want your friends to live, you’re going to need some help,” The voice responded. A beeping on my PipBuck indicated a file transfer had begun.
“Why are you helping me? This doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
“What fun is there in making sense?” The voice quipped. “This city’s needed a shake up for as long as I can remember, and you’re just the mare to do it.” I mulled on this for a moment, before remembering I had other questions for the mysterious Minotaur.
“Oh. About Cotton Candy…” I began. A squealing laughter erupted from the chair.
“Heeeedoggy I love that buck. He’s a ton of fun to fuck with you know? Yes, I know all about your little deal with him, too. He seemed rather pleased to tell me what was coming,” He said. I blinked. Was there anything this… thing didn’t know? I guess I wasn’t sure what he was since I couldn’t get close enough to see. All I knew was that he knew a lot about me, and everything else and I couldn’t really piece together how or why.
“So if you know, why aren’t you blasting me to pieces already?” I asked. A snort came from the chair area.
“Cuz it won’t do me any good. Here, take the stupid thing. It’s broke anyways,” He said. A small circular object popped off of one of the terminals and bounced my direction. “Of course, he doesn’t know that. Nor does he need to, if you get my drift.” I grinned and deposited the item into my saddlebag. At the very least Arlington would be safe, and I wouldn’t have another senseless violent act to be responsible for.
“Minotaur… I came here originally seeking something else. I’m also looking for an alicorn named Pride. Do you know where I can find her?” I asked, my confidence creeping back as I developed a plan.
“Pride?” The voice said hesitantly. “No… doesn’t ring any bells. However, I might be able to point you in the right direction. At the old Colter Field Stadium is where the Cult of Iron Will makes their base. They’re a pseudo-gang responsible for fighting arenas around the city. Their leader is a minotaur named Wrath.”
“Wrath?” I echoed the name. Is it possible? Is there some connection? I thought as I pondered the name of the minotaur leader. There had to be some connection there.
“Yes. If any would know of this Pride you speak of, it would be him,” The voice continued. “Now then, with our business concluded you can leave me in peace.”
“It will be my pleasure,” I said, turning away from the terminals. I stopped. “Umm… how do I get out?”
“How did you get here in the first place?” The voice replied.
“I… I teleported, but I had to suck up a ton of radiation to get here in the first place,” I said, thinking about how I managed to find my way to the one place that I could get some answers to what was going on in this crazy city. I tried to focus on where I had come from, but found it difficult to remember the corridors beneath the M.W.T. Hub. Eventually the corridor began to coalesce in my mind and a soft *pop* indicated that I was there once more. A soft giggle echoed across my ears. Lucky? I thought as the ghostly green mare appeared before my eyes. I sighed.
“So you’re still with me then?” I said aloud. The mare giggled (STILL CUTE!) and nodded.
“Figured you might need some help. I don’t know why but it seems like I’m stuck to you,” She said. I sighed once more.
“That’s because you’re my new kind of crazy,” I replied, groaning. “Look. I don’t know what’s going on, and why you’re here but I’m glad you’re alright. I meant what I said. I’m going to find a way to fix all of this.” Lucky smiled warmly. I looked down the corridor at the bloody carnage we had wrought. My PipBuck beeped, indicating that I had a new message. I hit the play button and began to receive a set of instructions pointing to the address of an old Ministry of Arcane Sciences Hub in the nearby vicinity. This must be the location the Minotaur wanted me to go to, I thought as I looked up at Lucky.
“First things first, we need to save Steeljack and my other friends,” I said sternly, drawing a friendly nod from the ghostly mare.
“After you disappeared the Cowpones took Steeljack hostage along with Danish,” She stated as I began trotting back towards the elevators. Steam hissed from the pipes as the ghostly unicorn pegasus followed me. The maintenance level was eerily quiet as I passed by Lucky’s body. I stopped for a moment, and looked down at it.
“Star?” The soft voice of the apparition came from behind me. I sighed. Keep it together, I thought. Keep. It. Together.
“You alright?” Lucky said.
“I’m fine. Just thinking,” I replied.
“I really wouldn’t blame you if you hated me,” I said quietly. “I got you into this mess, and got you killed. Why stay with me?”
“I don’t think I really have a choice. Something is drawing me towards you. Besides… how could I hate you?” She replied.
“Because I could have done better!” I shouted back at her. “I should have been… been… stronger. But I wasn’t. I’m not. I’m just… weak.”
“Somepony once told me that valuing life wasn’t weak,” Lucky mused, stepping through me (boy is that ever a weird feeling!) and trotting ahead. I looked between the ghostly form and her lifeless body before me and sighed. If she was real, I owed it to her to save her. Plans began to formulate in my mind as I forced myself to look up and move forward. It was insane really. There I was, fully believing that this crazy manifestation of my own cracked psyche was really the ghost of a mare I barely knew. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was real, that she really was Lucky. As I stepped into the elevator, I thought about the spell and the Black Book. Could I use it? Could I bring Lucky back if I used Twilight’s spell? No, stop thinking like that. That’s crazy talk, I thought as the elevator hummed and rose towards the ground level. A nagging voice in the back of my head told me to ignore the logic of it, that it was possible and that if only I could find the second Book that I could bring Lucky back to life.
“It’s certainly possible,” A familiar voice echoed.
It’s crazy. I don’t even know why I’m considering it, I thought back at the voice of Magic. Spark had been relatively quiet lately all things considering.
“Because you feel guilty,” Spark replied. “It was your fault she died after all.”
Shut up. I… I don’t want to talk about that, I said back. The elevator door opened and I stepped out into the main lobby of the M.W.T. Hub. Pieces of broken Ponitron robots scattered the floor, remnants of our battle against the hated robots. Lucky trailed behind me, a curious look on her face.
“But it’s true. You killed her,” Spark said with a hint of venom in her voice. “That’s why she’s here now… to remind you of your failure.”
Stop it! I didn’t… It wasn’t… I didn’t mean to… I sputtered in my thoughts at the voice. I held back my tears as best as I could, trying not to let Lucky see that I was at war with my own mind.
“Oh but you did. And now… your other friends will end up just as dead,” Spark said. Why all of a sudden was she being so vicious? I could feel her sitting there in the back of my mind, her cackles gleeful and hate-filled.
No! I’m going to save them! I shouted inside my mind back at the spirit. The doorway to the outside loomed just ahead.
“Just like you saved Lucky?” The voice responded. “Oh wait… you didn’t. You let her die.”
“Star…?” A soft voice cut through my inner battle, forcing me back to the waking world as I turned to regard its owner. Lucky had tears in her eyes. “Don’t listen to her. Please… I don’t like her.” My eyes widened.
“You… you can hear Spark?” I asked. Lucky nodded.
“I can see her too. She scares me, Star.” She said.
“You can… see her?” I said, eyes widening further. Lucky nodded once more and pointed past me. I turned in the direction she was pointing and gasped. Standing across from me was a deep purple unicorn. Her mane and tail were black as night with a thick pink streak blazing through them. Twilight’s own cutie mark graced her flanks and a shiny silver tiara rested on top of her head. She had a wicked grin across her face.
“About time you saw me,” She cooed. “I’ve been itching to drop that whole mind speak act for some time now.” I shuddered at the sound of her voice.
“How… how did you?” I stammered. Spark grinned wider.
“I don’t know, perhaps it has something to do with your dead friend there. She’s the first one to be able to see me,” The purple mare replied. “I’m disappointed in you little Star. I thought you were better than this.”
“Star, don’t listen to her… just ignore her,” Lucky pleaded with me. My two crazies were at war within my mind. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.
“Shut it greenie. You sure know how to pick ‘em Star. What is it with you and green mares anyways?” Spark said, clicking her tongue at me. I blushed for a moment (Still cute, dammit!) and glared at the spirit.
“Leave her alone. Your business is with me. So what do you want from me?” I said angrily.
“Moi? Gee, I suppose there are lots of things I want,” She mused, putting a hoof up to her chin. “I guess I’d like to see you buck up and stand up for yourself first. I mean look at you for Celestia’s sake. You’re a mess.”
“I’d be fine if it weren’t for you and Twilight’s emotions!” I shouted. In retrospect, I’m sure that this looked really bad to anypony who could potentially pass by, what with me screaming at my crazy and looking like I’m talking to myself. Spark snorted.
“Please. We’re helping you, if you haven’t noticed,” She said. I snorted back at her.
“Whatever. I have things to take care of, like saving my friends,” I said, moving past the purple mare. She grinned as I passed her.
“Be seeing you then, Radiant Star,” She said as I pushed by and out the doorway into the street beyond. The street was calm and serene, leaving no sign of anypony around. I marched forward, checking the arrow on my E.F.S. to make sure I was headed the right way, ignoring the fact that Lucky was now walking beside me. I didn’t need to hear what she had to say. This is just insane, right? I thought as a cool wind blew across my coat. I had a pretty good idea by that time why they called it the Blustery City. The wind was cold and frequent as I trudged forward. By the time I reached the street the M.A.S. Hub was supposed to be on, I was bucking freezing. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky and the familiar purple tones and tower-like structure of a typical M.A.S. Hub loomed in the distance. I wondered who I would find there that was supposed to help me save my friends. The Minotaur had made it sound like I would need them if I were to succeed.
I moved ever closer to the structure in silence. Lucky followed, but she had been silent too since the encounter with Spark. I wondered how much she had heard of our conversation. I was still considering Spark’s words about the spell being a possibility, but that would mean I would have to doom some innocent pony to transform into her. Was bringing Lucky back to life really worth that price? My thoughts jumbled and twirled about, preventing me from really getting a good grasp on the situation as I stepped into the courtyard of the M.A.S. Hub. It was pretty much just like any other Ministry Hub. The massive courtyard in front of the building acted as a place for the workers to file in and out, as well as meeting places and tables set aside for lunches and picnics. Now however, it was a place filled with death. Skeletons of balefire-burned ponies lay strewn about the courtyard. The familiar smell of rotting flesh filled my nostrils as I moved closer towards the front doors of the Hub. If there were ghouls here, they should show themselves soon enough. I relished the chance to deliver payback to the foul beasts. If they showed, I would be ready. Thankfully, nothing popped out me as I arrived on the front doorstep. I breathed a sigh of relief and pushed the door open.
If there were other ponies here, I couldn’t particularly believe it. Except for the stench of death and the sight of skeletons, there was nopony else living in sight. The lobby was filled with the bones of the dead, almost as if the protective wards of the building hadn’t prevented the radiation from getting in. I trotted along, lifting Stargazer out just in case there was any trouble. There was nothing showing on my E.F.S., but I hadn’t really been able to trust that lately at all. I stepped into the office area expecting something, anything at all, to be there. Nothing but more bones and dead terminals. I groaned. Why would the Minotaur send me here? I thought as I pressed deeper into the ruined building. I was about to turn back when something caught my eye. The stylized cutie mark of Twilight Sparkle adorned a simple door at the far end of the office area. Navigating my way through the maze of cubicles, I stopped in front of it and inspected it closely. There was no doorknob or anything that would suggest that the door could be opened other than the fact that it was sitting in a door frame. Even the cutie mark itself was faded and would have missed normal inspection had I not been deathly familiar with it.
I placed a hoof on the door, continuing to ignore Lucky behind me. I hadn’t decided yet what I was going to do about the mare, and I still wasn’t sure if she would understand what I would hope to achieve. Would she hate me for it? I couldn’t say. I let my hoof trace the subtle outline of Twilight’s cutie mark and sighed. This has to be something important, I thought. I lifted my hoof from the door and lowered it again in a slow knock. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but I hoped something would happen at least.
Nothing did. I sighed and began to turn around to leave when I heard a sliding noise come from the door. The door lay open, revealing a young pink unicorn mare wearing dark brown robes. Her eyes lit up at the sight of me.
“Goddess!” She cried out, catching my attention.
“What? What did you call me?” I asked, confusion setting in. The mare smiled.
“Come, we will explain everything. You have done well oh Goddess in getting this far. Welcome to the new home of the Twilight Society,” She replied. I fainted right then and there, letting the weight of my overexertion take me into the bleak void.
I groaned as my eyes opened. My head felt like it had been run through a wringer several times. As my vision began to focus, I took in the details of the room I was in. A plush bed lay beneath me, surrounded by a lovely room with delicate flowered carpet. Granted, it was dirty and the pillow was shredded a bit, but it was still quite nice. However, it was not the décor that caught my interest immediately, but rather the ponies that filled it. Two unicorns, one of them the mare from earlier and the other a tall blue unicorn stallion, stood in the center of the room hovering over my bed. They were both wearing the same dark brown robes.
“Yes… The same coloration and the same cutie mark. The signs we have been given have proved true after all,” The stallion remarked as he looked me over. “Add to that, to be carrying such a significant piece of weaponry... it seems that our journey here was not in vain.”
“Who… who are you?” I asked weakly as I tried to push myself up and failed. The stallion made a bit of a tsk sound at me.
“In due time. You need to rest now. Your body has undergone a lot of physical exertion and it appears magical burnout as well,” He said calmly. “I admit Sunshine here probably didn’t help when she greeted you.” He indicated the pink unicorn next to him, who merely smiled nervously.
“Sorry about that, Goddess.” She said meekly.
“Why are you calling me that? I’m no Goddess,” I asked.
“You are an alicorn, and the one who carries the spirit of Twilight within her,” The stallion replied. “You are closer to a real Goddess as anypony else in the Wasteland.”
“How… how do you know about that?” I said cautiously.
“Before we get into that, I believe some introductions are in order. My name is Dusk Blue. My comrade here is Sunshine Sky. We are members of the organization you know as the Twilight Society,” The stallion responded, moving a few chairs over with a flick of his horn as he and Sunshine sat down.
“But… what are you doing, here of all places?” I said. A brief scan of the room indicated that Lucky wasn’t with me. Where did she go? I thought as I returned my attention to the blue unicorn.
“It’s… rather unfortunate really that we had to temporarily leave our brethren in Tenpony Tower, but it was of utmost importance. It all had to do with… you,” He said.
“Me? Why? Why am I so bucking important?” I said angrily. “I’m tired of not getting any answers from anypony!”
“Calm down Goddess, it’s okay,” Sunshine said with a warm smile on her face.
“Stop calling me that! My name is Star okay? Radiant Star. Learn it and love it sister,” I exclaimed. “Now tell me why I’m so important.” I huffed. The stallion sighed.
“A few months ago we unearthed a set of instructions that were written down by Twilight. We followed them to the letter and part of it involved the casting of a spell. We had no idea what it did; we were only given a name. Your name,” Dusk said. My eyes widened.
“What,” I said flatly. “What did you say?”
“I said we cast a spell. Per her instructions,” The blue unicorn replied. “But, now that I see you here… I have a pretty good idea of what it did.”
“Yeah… Let me give you a pretty good idea. Your spell put her thoughts, her emotions, and her memories right into my fucking brain is what it did!” I yelled at the two unicorns. “Do you mean to say, that I ended up like this because of some fucking piece of paper that you just blindly followed?!”
“Not blindly. The instructions were very explicit as to when the spell should have been cast. It’s almost like Twilight knew what was going to happen before it did,” Dusk said. I couldn’t believe my ears. The Twilight Society was responsible for casting Twilight’s spell? But how did they do it? Without the necromantic component… how did they do it? My thoughts swirled with fear and doubt. Answers were right there within my reach, but my encounter with Spark left me wondering. Was it Twilight that was taking over or Spark? All of my emotional encounters thus far had been with Twilight’s emotions, but any encounter with the element of Magic was always… combative, if not downright angry. And now that she had finally shown her face… I was terrified.
“How did you cast it?” I asked quietly, drawing a stare from the blue unicorn.
“What?” He asked, his eyes wide with confusion.
“There was a necromantic component to the spell. How did you do it? Was there a book?” I said desperately. I needed to know if the book existed. It was my only shot at understanding what was going on… and the only shot at maybe being able to revive Lucky. I couldn’t really believe I was still considering that. I briefly wondered where the green mare had gone off to. Part of me considered the fact that she was hiding in the M.A.S. Hub still. Dusk looked to Sunshine and back to me.
“What book? We just followed the instructions on the scroll,” He said nervously. I glared at him.
“Can I see this scroll? I need to see it. I need to know,” I replied. “Because something’s not right. Something else is in there, and I don’t know if it’s Twilight or not.”
“We can provide you the scroll…” Dusk said, nodding to Sunshine. The pink mare nodded in return and left the room, leaving only myself and the blue stallion.
“Thank you,” I said, sighing. I pushed myself up, feeling a bit better.
“Now then. Part of the instructions given to us was that one day you would come to us, and you would be in this city. So we picked up from Tenpony and left,” Dusk said.
“And you left Homage and Life Bloom wondering where you all went,” I said.
“Life Bloom wouldn’t have understood our intentions. We kept him in the dark intentionally. His association with the Stable Dweller left us no choice but to do so,” Dusk said sternly.
“So instead of sticking around and I dunno… maybe helping the ponies of the Wasteland, you just picked up and left because of some two hundred year old scroll written by a dead mare?!” I shouted at him. I was so angry at these ponies I could barely see straight. It felt like I was some big joke in the cosmic scheme of life. I wanted to scream so much.
“That’s the thing. The scroll wasn’t two hundred years old. It came from a few months ago. Just appeared one day in our possession,” Dusk said. “It was a message. We don’t know how it came to be, or why, but it very clearly indicated that you were important. That you were something to be protected. It didn’t say why.”
“What did it say about helping me? Because I sure could use some bucking help right about now,” I said, angrily.
“It said that no matter what, we were to help you,” Dusk replied.
“Good. I have some friends in danger that need my help, and I was told by someone that you would help me,” I said, pushing myself off the bed completely. “My friends have been captured. One by the Cowpones and the others by the Lotus Triad. I need to save them.”
“That’s a pretty tall order. Both gangs are among the most dangerous ones in the entire city,” The blue stallion said. “I will have to consult with the Elders on this course of action.”
“The Elders? I think I’d like to meet them. I have a few words for them,” I snarled at the deep blue unicorn. “Look, you said you were supposed to help me. You keep calling me your Goddess. I don’t really care about that. I just want my friends back, safe and sound. And if anything happens to them, Luna help you because I will hold you responsible for it.” Dusk’s eyes widened.
“I… I will see what I can do,” He replied.
“What about the memory orbs?” I asked, drawing another confused expression from the stallion.
“Memory orbs?” He replied.
“When I was in Tenpony, there was a chest in the Inner Sanctum of the Society. It held six memory orbs. They’re in my saddlebag over there,” I said, pointing at my bags. Dusk poked through the bag for a moment and looked them over.
“Interesting. I do not remember any such chest to be honest with you,” He said. If that was to be believed, then how did those orbs get there in the first place? I thought, glaring at the stallion.
“Why should I believe you? You’ve been very secretive about being here after all,” I said. Dusk sighed.
“I realize the implications of your current situation Star, I truly do. We were only seeking to fulfill her wishes. Even we are not privy to the whims of a Goddess,” He said. “I pray to Luna that you do not hate us for what we have done to you.” His last statement caught me off guard for a moment. Did I hate the Twilight Society for what they did? I mean… I was pretty angry at finding out that the reason Twilight was in my head was because of a few ponies just following orders… but hate? I sighed. I had been through so much since we had arrived in the city that the only thing I could focus on was getting Violet and the others back. I decided that I didn’t really hate them. The one pulling the strings behind it all though? Whoever that was, sure. They were the ones ultimately responsible anyways for orchestrating this whole mess of a life I now had.
“No… I suppose I do not hate you, but I am angry,” I said finally. “I just wish I knew what was happening to me.”
“Sunshine should be back any moment now with the scroll. I’m sure together we can unravel this mystery,” Dusk said, smiling. The door opened behind him and a very nervous looking Sunshine appeared. Dusk turned to regard his companion.
“What’s the matter?” He said. Sunshine’s face went white immediately. I hadn’t ever seen a more pale shade of pink in my life.
“The… the scroll… it’s… it’s gone,” She stammered.
“What?!” Both Dusk and I shouted. Great, I thought angrily. Finally some answers and they’re gone.
“I went to go check where it was stored and it was just gone,” Sunshine continued to say. Dusk shook his head.
“We must bring this matter to the attention of the Elders immediately,” He replied. As he moved to leave, I stepped forward to follow him prompting him to pause for a second. “Where are you going?”
“You’re going to meet the Elders then I am coming with you,” I said forcefully. “I’ve had enough of searching for answers and not getting them.” Dusk sighed.
“I can see that there isn’t much I can do to stop you,” He said. “Fine then, follow me.” The door opened and we stepped out into the hallway. The hall appeared to be part of some form of underground cavern that was carved out into tunnels. Torches lined the walls as we trotted along. Dusk led me through the twisting maze until we arrived at a large open cavern that was situated like an amphitheater. Dusk motioned to me to stop for a moment as he entered. Several ponies in dark brown robes appeared in the ring around the center of the room, which had been embellished with a carved marking of Twilight’s cutie mark.
“Speak, Dusk Blue.” The congregation of Elders spoke.
“My brethren, I fear something terrible has occurred. We have just discovered that the great Twilight’s scroll has gone missing!” Dusk said to the gathered Elders. I heard murmuring throughout them. “As you aware, she who is the Goddess appeared to us. She wishes to address you.” The murmuring stopped and a single voice echoed out.
“Let her come forward,” It said. Dusk looked back at me and motioned for me to come forth. I stepped into the room, taking in the gasps and murmuring that had begun immediately. I stopped in the center of the room.
“Ponies of the Twilight Society.” I started to say. “Dusk has made me aware that you are responsible for my current condition. The scroll of which has been spoken about is extremely important to me. However, there are pressing matters that I must attend to first. My friends are in danger. They need my help, and I don’t know if I can do it alone. Will you help me, as the scroll instructed you to do?” More murmurs erupted once I had finished as the gathered Elders discussed what I had just said amongst themselves.
“Assistance in your mission shall be provided on one condition,” The voice spoke again. “Recover the scroll, and we shall aid you in freeing your friends.” My gaze narrowed at the Elders.
“Agreed. I have one further request then. When all is said and done, you will return to Tenpony Tower. The ponies of the Wasteland need the Twilight Society. You need to be leaders now, and not followers of old ways,” I said, echoing words once spoken to me by Life Bloom and Homage.
“We shall deliberate on your request. This audience is now adjourned,” The voice responded immediately. I nodded and returned to Dusk Blue, who was standing at the entrance of the amphitheater.
“That went well it seemed,” He said as we walked down the cavernous hallway.
“Well enough. Now, about that scroll and my friends,” I said.
The plan was sound enough. At least, it seemed like it was. After explaining the situation and what happened with the Triad and the Cowpones, Dusk agreed that a simple stealth mission would suffice to get Steeljack and Danish out from under the hold of the gang. As much as I hated to admit it, I had gotten Danish into that situation and intended to make good on my promises. As for Violet and Patch, we hoped a diplomatic solution could be found. The Twilight Society had a small cache of spark batteries they were willing to part with. The plan there was to go in and negotiate. Dusk explained that based on the Society’s dealings with the gangs, that the Triad was one of the few factions that were most willing to bargain besides the MMMM. The Cowpones, as I had witnessed earlier, were brutal thugs who believed in shows of power as a means to cause others to fear them. Based on the danger of the two situations, it was determined we would try and rescue Violet and Patch first.
The scroll had gone missing from the Twilight Society’s vault. There was no evidence of its disappearance that indicated any foul play had occurred. Dusk had returned to the Elders and explained the situation. Still, it was another piece of the puzzle that I needed to find now. Another set of answers just out of my reach, I thought as I narrowed my gaze at the ponies in the room. They were going over maps of the city and kept giving me nervous looks every so often. I figured that having somepony who looked like your supposed Goddess hanging over your shoulder would be pretty nerve-wracking.
My thoughts turned to the days past and all I had been through. Lucky’s death felt so far away now, but I couldn’t stop the playback of that memory as well as the pain that came with it. Spark’s appearance also hung in the back of my mind, and although I didn’t want to think about it I ended up coming back to it at some point anyways. What is Spark aiming for? I thought. What does she want with me? My thoughts swirled about, lost in the sea of memories as more history drifted up into the forefront of my thoughts. Memories of Twilight at various stages of her life filled my eyes. Moments of happiness, such as when her brother was married to the beautiful Cadance. Other moments were less than happy, such as when the news about Littlehorn was first broken.
I distinctly remembered Twilight crying hard into her pillow that night, facing an uncertain future under the rule of Princess Luna and the Ministries. Thought grew fuzzy, fiction and fact smearing together, and I had trouble determining what was real and what wasn’t. My mind had finally become so fractured with all of the emotions and knowledge there that I wasn’t even sure if it was my own anymore. Yet I had to keep going, to plow on. It’s no surprise then, that I found myself starting to cry. Thankfully nopony else saw me as I turned around and left for my room. Once there I sat on the bed and sobbed, letting the tears flow freely.
“Star?” A soft voice said above me. I looked up and saw Lucky once more, hovering there to the left of me. I sniffled and smiled.
“Hi,” I said through the tears.
“You alright?” The ghostly green mare asked. I shook my head.
“Of course I’m not alright, can’t you tell? I’m seeing memories in my head that don’t even belong to me, my friends could be dead for all I know, and then there’s still you…” I replied. “Why? Why am I so important? I just want to know…” Lucky sighed, and pointed her right hoof in my direction. The tip of the hoof passed into my shoulder and the mare sighed once more. She retracted it and stared at me.
“Sorry, forgot I can’t do that still I guess,” She said weakly. I smiled.
“It’s alright,” I said, pushing back my tears with all of my strength. “Where did you go after I fainted?”
“I hung around up in the M.A.S. Hub for a few hours. I thought you might be coming out at some point, but when you didn’t I went down looking for you. Took me a while,” The green mare replied. I chuckled at this. The thought of her just randomly looking around for me was disturbingly cute, despite the fact that I still hadn’t figured out if I was crazy or if she was real. “What about you?” I took a deep breath.
“Well… apparently the Twilight Society is responsible for putting this thing into my head in the first place, we’re going to go get my friends back, there’s a scroll that had all these instructions that’s now missing, and here I am looking like I’m talking to myself to anypony who might walk by,” I said, groaning as I flopped back into the bed, falling through Lucky’s body as I did. The green mare squeaked and jumped off.
“Watch it!” She exclaimed.
“It’s not like you can feel it you goof ball,” I said, chuckling a bit. I’m sure if anypony who was passing by heard me, I probably sounded certifiable. Hell, I’m sure I am certifiable, I thought as I lay there, trying to process my next plans: Save Violet and Patch, Save Steeljack, Wrath, The Ministry of Image, Lucky, and finally Pride. The blue alicorn had yet to reveal herself. I was concerned at this only because I knew how sneaky she was. I realized then how much I missed Violet. I really needed her. She always knew the right things to say, and how best to calm me down. Without her… I felt like my mind was cracking faster and faster by the hour. I pondered how I was going to explain Lucky to my friends, but thought better of it almost immediately. I was pretty sure even Violet would think I was nuts if I told her I was seeing the ghost of a cute but albeit pretty dead unicorn/pegasus.
A knock at my door roused me from my thoughts. I looked up and called out.
“Come in,” I said. A blue hoof pushed the door open and I smiled. Dusk Blue stood there, now wearing a deep black cloak embroidered with Twilight’s cutie mark on the side.
“It’s time,” He said. I nodded and pushed myself off the bed. Following him out of the door into the hallway I took one last look at Lucky as she hopped along behind me, gleefully humming a happy tune.
Time to deal. Time to fly.
Radiant Star: Level Up!
Quests! You got a lot of em now, how are you ever going to keep track of them all?
Lucky’s Lament: Find out what happened to Lucky, if you’re sure you’re not crazy that is.
The Lost Scroll: Locate the Scroll that belonged to the Twilight Society.
Lotus Spa Follies: Save Violet and Patch from the Lotus Triad.
Ride Em Cowpony: Save Steeljack and Danish from the Cowpones.
Quest Perk: This Time it’s for Real: You know now that the Twilight Society is responsible for your change. Your acceptance of this fact has hardened your resolve to find out what is inside you and why. You now have a base DR of 10% regardless of armor. This perk overrides any previous DR.
Spell Upgrade: Teleport (Rank 4) Your teleportation skills are now Twilight Sparkle legendary. You can now teleport massive objects long distances and multiple targets. You still require a bit of a radiation boost to do so, but it’s definitely worth it.
You are now revered with the Twilight Society. While the Elders don’t trust you yet, normal members of the group revere you as a Goddess. This opens up special conversation options with members of the Twilight Society.
You are now hated with the Cowpones. Be wary of the Bullfather, for he is mighty.
You are now disliked with the Lotus Triad. However, offer the right trinket and you just might get your friends back.
You are still neutral with the MMMM.
Spark Level: 75%. This is how much Spark controls of your body. Spark can now manifest as an image instead of as just a voice in your head. While Spark is manifesting herself, your mental resistance is reduced to 0% regardless of any perks or magic affecting it. Remember, Spark can manifest any time she decides to, not when you want her to.
Violet Iris and Patch: Level Status Unknown.
Steeljack: Level Up!
New Companion! (At least to you) Lucky
Lucky has no S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats and is completely useless in combat, being that she’s either a figment of your cracked psyche or a ghost. You decide which is which.
So… you’re probably wondering why this says Part 1. Well that’s because when I originally envisioned this chapter, I had planned to have Violet and Patch at least be saved by the end of it. However, bringing Lucky back in, and the Minotaur and everything else would have pushed the entire thing to probably close to 30K words, and I realized it would work better as a two-parter than as one giant humongous chapter. Also, since I am pretty much a week late anyways (thanks to a procrastinated start in this chapter as well as being out of town for a weekend), in the interests of providing new chapter for you all to read making it a two-parter really helps me get back into the swing of things.
The idea behind this chapter was to show more of Star and her mental state since it is so fragile at this point in the story. As well, the other part was to finally reveal the Twilight Society and their role in all of this, which is further pushing Star deeper into her mind.
Also, I received messages from some of you who were immensely distressed about the death of Lucky. For me, it was a difficult decision to kill her, but in the end it was necessary. Her return is the product of the concept that it isn’t really known if she is real or not, causing Star further psychological damage. As much as I love my little Star, the story she is telling is not always happy, and bad things do happen.
Time for the shameless plugging then! Of course, once more I have my tumblr page for Star. http://askradiantstar.tumblr.com
Also, if you haven’t noticed by now, but Starlight now has a brand new cover image! It was created by Miranda Heath over at http://mirandasaurus-rex.deviantart.com/. Everyone go over there and tell Miranda what a great job she did! Thank you again so much from the bottom of my heart!
My plug for the week goes out to Mister_Clacky and his story “Fallout Equestria: Homecoming”. I’m sure many of you have heard the hubbub over this one. It’s a fantastic horror themed story with great characterization and a great setup. Definitely keep an eye on it, it’s a great story.
Once again, I thank my pre-reader Cadmium for his efforts in keeping up with my insanity as well as Wirepony for his editing and brushie work. I seriously could not ask for a better pair of ponies to help me out with this crazy thing.
I also want to point out that I’ve been making corrections here and there on older chapters thanks to fantastic feedback provided by Nyerguds. Nothing crazy or game changing going on, just simple grammatical and spelling issues that he has been so kind to help point out.
Major thanks go out to the folk of the IRC Chat. Julep, Ilushia, McMesser, Rivet_Bolt, Nyerguds, Spiffy (even you Spiffy!), Snipehamster, and everyone else there. You are all so cool and have been so good to me since I started this.
Also, the going plan for right now is to be heading to Canterlot Gardens in September! With any hope, my wife and I will be there and hopefully in the Artist Alley, so if you’re around and want to stop by to say hello, feel free to!
All my love and thanks go to Kkat, for the world that she created. You are great, and I am highly enjoying playing in the sandbox of this world.