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Before The Fall
Equestria; Five years after Luna's return.
A single tear fell from Twilight's cheek as she watched Equestria burn.
From every point around her resonated the cacophony of chaos and fear, ponies screaming to each other, others openly weeping, some were pillars of silence, unable to think or contemplate what they were seeing. Beside Twilight, Luna had turned away, incapable of watching the last moments of so many sentient beings. Neither pony, Princess or Advisor, paid attention to the dull repetitive thuds that would resonate through the chamber, briefly overpowering all other noise before fading away.
No, not Advisor, Twilight corrected herself, not any more.
"Manehatten's shield has failed," reported a cool expressionless voice behind Twilight. "Casualties estimated within the ninety-ninth percentile."
Acknowledging the report with a single nod, Twilight took a steadying breath. On the tall view screen that curved around three quarters of the room several flashes lit the dark eastern coast, banishing the night and leaving ruin in their wake. Further to the west Equestria's unprotected heartland had been turned into a glass desert only an hour earlier.
Her heart felt like it was being ripped in twine. She just wanted to lay down right there and cry, letting the tears flow until there were none left to shed.
But she couldn't. She, Twilight Sparkle, had to be strong. Every other pony was looking to her now that Celestia had fallen. That thought hurt almost more than any other; even the idea of Ponyville being turned into a mile wide crater and Canterlot crashing from the side of a crumbling mountain. Only the sight of the Chrystal Spire shattering left a deeper ache. Can't think of that, can't think of Shiny and Cadance, Twilight silently berated herself. Strength, she had to show it when her mentor couldn't, or all those who remained would fall apart.
Snapping her head to the right she barked an order to one of the few ponies not paralysed watching the events unfolding so far below.
Twilight's voice held an unwavering steel that stabbed into the senses of all those nearby. At once a dozen ponies returned to their duties trying to decipher unfamiliar read-outs and screens. None of them had been trained for this, not even the few royal guards who sped around the room, the gold armour they wore tarnished with dirt, and, in a couple cases, dried blood.
Twilight had to be their pillar.
She didn't want to think about how those guards had gotten blood on their armour, about the riots that had broken out at the evacuation sites in the final hour.
Strength, she repeated the word over and over. For Luna. For Celestia. For the survivors. For herself.
"Shields are at seventy percent. Or they are down seventy percent. It's hard to make out this bucking language."
"Weapons are still firing free, I think."
"Engine Two is acting up again and is shutting down. Having to lower the output of Engines Three and Four to compensate."
Twilight nodded slowly. She didn't fully understand what was being reported, but had the impression that it was bad. If only Cerulean was there to help her. But she wasn't, and Twilight had to manage on her own.
Turning she faced the first speaker, one that was, in his cold toneless voice, reporting the mountain housing the Gryphon capitol had been struck with an eighty megaton explosion. The mathematical part of Twilight winced at the number. There would be nothing but a smoldering hill left of the once mighty mountain peak.
"What are our options?" she asked, hoping for something positive, but expecting the worst.
The speaker slowly looked down at the unicorn, his eyes going from a distant far-seeing gaze to focusing on her face. He paused for a few critical seconds, more dull thuds ringing throughout the room.
"We won't reach the edge of the gravity well to make the jump to FTL. The Lagrange Points are being protected by over a dozen vessels. In our condition we cannot run that blockade. Suggestion; initiate FTL now."
Pinching her eyebrows together Twilight said, "I thought creating an FTL bubble this close to a planetary body was a, what did you call it, 'very bad idea, one only a juvenile race would contemplate'?"
"I did. It is, however, the only option remaining, unless you want the last of your species to perish."
"Right," Twilight muttered. She hated how insufferable he could be. A real condescending wanker, as Cerulean would say in her colourful language.
Twilight didn't hesitate to give the order, however. If there was any chance to save those that remained, she would grasp it with both hooves gratefully.
"Navigation, jump us to FTL. A short jump, I don't care where, just far enough to get us out of here."
The navigation officer, a tall stallion from Phillydelphia with a compass cutie mark on his white coat didn't respond to the order verbally as he should, but instead began flicking and punching dials and buttons. His hooves were clumsy on the small board in front of him, a board designed for beings with far finer motor control.
"Ready!" he shouted just as one of the ponies monitoring the tactical displays screamed, "Shields are seconds from total collapse!"
"Do it!" Twilight bellowed, her throat scratching at the force of her order.
Without hesitation the stallion smashed his hoof on a large red button. For a half second nothing happened, and then Twilight felt like her naval had decided it was a great idea to visit her nose and the end of her tail at the same time. There was a moment complete confusion as every molecule of her body was distorted then restored. Around her dozens of ponies sighed in relief.
None of them could see what remained of their former home.
Twilight didn't have to see. She knew that they had just done more damage than the enemy to Equestria. In the wake of the hole ripped through space-time an infusion of exotic particles would have ignited the atmosphere and cracked the mantle.
Twilight let a second tear fall to the cold deck plating.