A dim, dingy ceiling, the warmth of being cocooned in a layer of blankets, and the fresh scent of warm maple enticed Beck's waking senses. She groaned and tried to sit up, but found she lacked the strength. "Mmnnn..."
"Hey, you're awake," DD said softly. She blinked crusty, sleep-blurred eyes and looked to her right. DD's unshaven face swam slowly into view. "I was getting pretty worried, kiddo."
Beck groaned and lifted a hand to her head. "Ugh..."
"Yeah, I'll get the nurse to bring you something," DD said.
"Nurse?" Beck said, brow wrinkling in confusion.
"You're in the hospital," DD said. "You've been asleep with a high fever for three days."
Beck grimaced. "Three days?"
"Here, drink some water," DD insisted. "Slowly." He pressed a cup to her lips, Beck drank slowly, thirstily.
"Thanks," Beck said when she had drunk her fill. She slowly struggled to sit up, looking around as her vision slowly focused. "Three days...ugh. Seriously?"
"Yeah," DD said. "It hit you the worst of all, I guess." He shook his head. "Everyone else they admitted from the Camp is already awake." He sighed, then added, "Everyone that survived, anyway."
"Survived?" Beck rasped. "What...?"
"Ice storm," DD said. "It hit out of nowhere. Buried the camp. Half the camp suffered frostbite and hypothermia. Those of us who were awake when it hit busted our asses to get everybody else out. Sugar Belle called emergency services and told them where the Camp was, they sent an army in to get us all out." He chuckled. "First time I've seen people care that much about the homeless in years."
"Who...who died?" Beck asked.
DD sighed. "Too many. We lost Night Glider and Party Favor, for one."
Beck closed her eyes and hissed. "Damn."
"Yeah...the camp's a total loss," DD said. "Even when the weather settles, we're all being relocated." In a bright tone, he added, "There's some good news, though! We're all getting steady work and a place to sleep in town. New construction project needs workers. Soon as we're out of the hospital, those of us who can still work are all headed out to the site. It's a six month job..." He stretched and popped his back. "Might be a way up for some of us."
"Sounds nice," Beck said distractedly. As she woke up and took in her surroundings, memories began flooding back to her.
She winced and held her head.
"Beck? You okay?" DD asked, reaching for the nurse call button.
"I woke up...in a room like this," she said. She looked around. "It was cold..."
DD frowned. "Beck? You okay?"
At that moment, the nurse entered, along with Sugar Belle. "She's awake?" Belle asked.
"Yeah," DD said. "She seems a little out of it."
"That's no surprise," the nurse said. "The only ones who had it worse than her were the ones we had to operate on for frostbite...or the ones who died." She set to work checking Beck's vitals, giving her two pills to swallow. "Here," she said.
Beck took the pills and swallowed them with water, grimacing. She looked out the window and saw white, white, and more white. "It's really coming down, huh?" she asked.
"It's been doing this all week," Belle said. She leaned against the bed, smiling gently. "How are you feeling, Beck? Did DD tell you...tell you about the camp?"
"Yeah," she said. She frowned. Beck...
That's not my name.
The nurse coughed. "Miss?" she said. "I'm sorry to ask this, but we're having trouble finding any records on you in our system. We've managed to identify just about everyone else, but...you understand, we need to—"
"She doesn't know who she is," DD said. "She's had amnesia since she was—"
"Sunset Shimmer," Beck interrupted, her teal eyes sharp and clear. "My name is Sunset Shimmer."
DD and Belle stared at her, jaws slack. She looked at them and smiled.
"I remember," she said. Then, her smile fading, she looked out the window again. "I remember everything."
* * * * *
The next several hours were a wild ride. DD and Belle questioned Beck at length about what exactly she remembered, and how. Two doctors had been in to visit her. One of them had posited that the high fever and prolonged illness might have triggered her lost memories. A police detective and a few officials had been through; she'd told them—with great reluctance—the tale of her parents' death. She recognized the third doctor who came in—he was old and grey, but he remembered treating her when she was small.
"But shouldn't you have been in an orphanage?" Belle asked.
Beck grimaced. "I still have some blank spots in my memory," she said. "Most of them after the crash. I think maybe I was in an orphanage, but then I snuck out and wandered off? I've been fending for myself on the streets as long as I can remember."
"Maybe you were looking for your parents," DD suggested. "Maybe...maybe some part of you thought they were still..." He trailed off.
Beck sighed. "Maybe." She shook her head.
"But this is good, right?" Belle asked. "Now you have an identity! You can live again! There's bound to be assets, things that belong to you—you exist again, legally, so you can get real work, a real home!"
Beck smiled wistfully. "That'd be nice," she said. "It's all I ever wanted..."
It was late in the evening when the police detective returned, along with a severe-looking woman in a dark suit and the kindly grey-haired doctor. All of them looked grave and confused.
"Excuse me, Ms...Shimmer?" the police detective said.
He looked at the woman, then nodded. She sat down at the foot of the bed. "You allege to be one Sunset Shimmer, age sixteen, presumed dead eleven years ago, parents Desert Sunrise and Sunset Satin of Hoofston?"
"That's right," Beck said.
The woman frowned, shuffling through some papers and tapping away one-handed at a tablet. "Can you confirm that you have had no reconstructive surgery or Internet access?" she asked.
The group looked at each other, confused.
"Lady, I'm homeless," Beck said. "Every dollar I make on the work site goes into buying blankets, clothes, and food for the Camp. The only time I have Internet access is when Belle shows us news or weather on her phone at the soup kitchen."
The woman nodded. "I see..." She pursed her lips. "And you can verify that you have not, at any point in the past eleven years, had access to any accounts, property, real estate, contact with surviving family members...?"
"I didn't know who I even was until I woke up this morning," Beck said. "It took nearly freezing to death and almost dying of a high fever for me to even remember my name and...and how my parents died."
The woman's face twinged in sympathy, but she maintained her calm, professional demeanor. She flipped through her papers and tapped at her tablet some more.
"What's this about, ma'am?" DD asked.
The woman glanced at him briefly, then looked up at the police detective, who frowned sternly.
"There's a...discrepancy," he said. "You see, well..." He looked at the concerned, kind face of the old doctor, then at the two people seated by the bed, then at Beck. "There appears to be one young woman, a legally emancipated sixteen-year-old, by the name of Sunset Shimmer living in Canterlot City."
Beck frowned. "What...?"
The woman turned her tablet to face Beck. Her friends leaned in.
The video showed a group of girls performing on a stage. In the middle, next to a blue-skinned girl with wild rainbow hair, stood a girl with bright teal eyes, long, wavy copper-and-gold hair, and a bright, happy smile. She strummed away at a guitar as she sang into a microphone, sashaying her hips back and forth to the beat.
DD, Belle, and Beck stared at the video.
"Umm...Beck? I mean, Sunset?" DD said uncertainly. "That...that's you, right? Except..."
Belle's gaze turned from Beck to the girl in the video in confusion.
The woman closed the video and opened a MyStable page, which showed the same smiling, confident girl in new clothes, full of excited, upbeat status updates about hanging out with friends and things going on at her school.
A girl identical to Beck.
Beck looked up at the detective. "What...what's going on?" she asked softly.
"We're frankly not sure," he said. "There are a lot of things about this situation that are confusing. And, frankly, there's nothing we can do about it."
"What do you mean, nothing you can do about it?" DD asked.
The detective frowned. "Ms. Shimmer is a legal citizen of Cavallonia. If this young woman in this bed is Sunset Shimmer, she's not a Caneighdian citizen. We can't investigate this any further unless we contact the Cavallonian embassy. If you are Sunset Shimmer." He nodded toward the tablet. "Right now, this young woman seems to have the greater claim toward that identity."
Beck pursed her lips. "Who is she?"
The severe woman adjusted her glasses. "According to every file we have access to, she is Sunset Shimmer, surviving daughter of Desert Sunrise and Sunset Satin. Presumed dead from age five, reappeared three years ago. Reunited with maternal grandfather who passed away eight months later, left everything to her. She has legal emancipation status, financial assets to sustain herself in comfort, a driver's licence..." She shrugged. "She exists. You don't."
"Now just a minute!" Belle said hotly. "Beck is one of the most earnest, hardworking people I know! She's been through hell and deserves to have a real life! If she remembers her life, if she's Sunset Shimmer, then whoever that is is stealing her life!"
"I am so confused," DD said.
"Frankly, so are we," the detective said. "It gets worse. Your fingerprints are identical to hers. We ran them five times." He looked squarely at Beck. "You are Sunset Shimmer. But so is she."
Beck put a hand to her forehead. "But...that doesn't make any sense..."
"No, it doesn't," the severe woman said.
"So what does all this mean?" DD asked.
The detective and the severe woman looked at each other. "Well," the detective said, "for one thing, it means Ms. Shimmer needs to be moved to the embassy as soon as she's able. She's a Cavallonian citizen. From there, it's up to the Cavallonian authorities to sort this out—"
"No," Beck said. She looked around at everyone. "I'm going to sort this out. Myself."
"Miss, you don't understand—"
"No, you don't understand," Beck said. "I just got my memory back. For the first time in over a decade, I know who I am. And now you tell me there's some other girl living my life? That I have some kind of identical twin out there? And you expect me to just sit around and let a bunch of cops and suits try to figure it out?" She shook her head. "No. I've learned the hard way that the only way you get anything done in this world is to do it yourself." She squared her jaw. "I'm going there. I'm going to find her, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this." She glanced out the window and shivered. "Besides, I...I need to get out of here. I need to get out of this frozen hell." She rubbed her arms for warmth. "After what I just remembered...I need to be someplace warm."
Everyone fell silent, looking at each other.
"But...but Beck," Belle said, "You...you don't have any money. And—and even if you do, I mean, even if Sunset Shimmer does, how are you going to—"
"I am Sunset Shimmer," Beck snapped forcefully. "I don't know who the hell that girl is."
"Please, calm down," the kindly doctor said. He leaned forward and put a hand on Beck's shoulder.
"Sorry," Beck said after taking a deep breath. "I'm sorry. This is all just so..."
"We should let her rest for now," Belle suggested. "We can tackle this problem fresh first thing in the morning."
The detective nodded. "Agreed. I'm sure once you've slept on it, you'll understand that going through the embassy and the Cavallonian law enforcement agencies is the best way to handle this."
With that, everyone except DD cleared out. As she left, Belle smiled and patted Beck on the knee. "We'll get you your life back, Sunset. Don't worry."
* * * * *
After a night full of dreams that were a jumble of forgotten memories, flashbacks to a life of hardship, and confusing nightmare images about a girl with her face, Beck woke with a headache in a sour mood. Her mood only grew worse when she turned on the news and learned that a second ice storm was approaching, one that promised to put much of the region in danger.
*I need to get out of here.*
There was a knock at the door. It opened, and Sugar Belle leaned in. "You awake?" she asked.
"Yeah," Beck said.
Belle walked in with a wrapped parcel under one arm, closing the door behind her. She walked over to the bed and disconnected Beck from her IV, expertly bandaging her hand, then cut off her hospital bracelet. "Get dressed," she said, laying her parcel on the bed and hurrying to the door. "Double Diamond is keeping watch outside."
Beck frowned. She hadn't heard anyone call DD by his full name in ages... She opened the parcel and found thermal underwear, thick cargo pants, lined winter boots, a thick sweater, a heavy winter coat, and a fleece-lined hat with ear warmers. All of it was new—or at least, very well-washed second-hand. She shoved off the bed, stripped off her hospital gown, and quickly dressed in the warm clothes. "What's going on?" she asked.
Belle glanced nervously back at her. "We're leaving," she said.
"We?" Beck asked.
"All of us. You, me, DD." As Beck pulled on her boots, Belle hurried over and explained in a rush, "I cashed out my savings, bought enough cold weather and warm weather clothes to last the three of us a week without washing, and three one-way bus tickets to Whinnyapolis. From there, we can make our way south to Canterlot. We'll rent a car or take another bus or whatever. I have enough."
Beck blinked, pausing in pulling on her sweater. "Belle, no—"
"Beck," Belle began. She paused. "Sunset. I want to do this. I..." She sighed. "You and Double Diamond are my closest friends. I don't have anything tying me down except my job and the kitchen, and the kitchen's closed. Things are getting...bad out there. Not just the weather, but in general." She took a deep breath. "I have a feeling if we stay here, if we play it their way, you'll never get a chance to know what's really going on. You want to meet this girl, this other Sunset Shimmer, right? You want some answers?" At Beck's hesitant nod, Belle nodded with grim determination. "Then that's what we're going to do. The three of us. We're going to Canterlot and we're going to find your answers."
The door opened and DD peeked in. "You done yet?" he hissed. "If we're gonna go, we've gotta go now!"
Beck sighed, looking at both of them. "Are you sure about this?"
"Damn sure," Belle said.
"Where else am I gonna go?" DD asked, grinning cheekily. "Besides, heading south seems like a really good idea right now."
Beck smiled at them both and put on her hat, being careful to tuck all of her long, wavy hair up into it. "Right," she said. "Thanks, guys. You're the best." She shrugged on her coat and buttoned it up. "Let's go."
They swiftly, silently made their way through the halls, to the parking lot, out to Sugar Belle's car. Five minutes later, they were coasting down the icy, deserted road towards the bus station.