Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Mandatory Perspective

“Wow, are you a sight for sore eyes!” Twilight exchanged a hoof bump with Babs, a Special Agent for the Royal Police. “I can't believe I let them get the jump on me like that. For that matter, how did they even know I was coming here?”

“Maybe the same way we found you. Followed ya after ya left the tower. Or if you discussed gettin’ gear, this is the best place. Perfect for an ambush.”

“Damn.” Twilight looked over to the bodies. She didn't even need her sight to see the miasma growing on the floor. More concerning, though, was the high-grade gear on their bodies. These ponies were professionals, not random goons. “At least you're here now. Not a great idea to take on the Royal Police, so we might be safe.”

Babs tilted down her stetson. “This is San Palomino. You're nevah safe. Evah. Also, da simple fact that you are here means you’re is gonna to be in da crosshairs a lot. Yer a pain in da flank to a lot of ponies, and dey all have connections here. Remember, Badlands is a moron, but he's a useful moron, and to all da wrong ponies. Dat means he's way more dangerous than youse’ll ever guess.”

“Uuuugh…” Rose groaned and flopped to the floor while her wings twitched and flapped.

“Boss!” The stallion whipped out another syringe and pushed it in her. “The serum isn't working!”

“She musta swallowed a lot more than she thought. Let's get her in a cell back at HQ.”

“A cell?” Twilight stood up between them and undeployed Aurora. “She's not a part of this. She's a bounty hunter I hired, and she's been with me the entire time. Unless she's able to be in two places at once, she's done nothing wrong.”

“I ain't charging her with nothin’. It's just safer for her if she sleeps it out someplace she can't get out. She might try to fly while she's outta of her mind, and that ain't good for anypony. Cob, pick her up.”

Twilight's eyes locked on the stallion. She'd heard that name before. He had a green coat and yellow mane, and looked like as normal an earth pony as one could otherwise guess, save for the badge around his neck. “Cob, was it? What exactly was that serum you gave her?”

“Oof!” Cob tossed the draft mare over his back. “Neutralizes the Elixir, or at least it should. I've no idea what they make it with. Empties are in my left coat pocket.”

Twilight took one out with the implicit permission and held it in her magic before switching to her thaumic sight. After a quick detection spell the traces left glowed white and grey, but there wasn't much to go on. The latter could have been any number of potions or substances, while the former was usually just alcohol. Neither registered as red, black, or blue, all of which could have told of something far more sinister. With such a small sample, though, even the reading she was getting could be woefully inaccurate.

“Lady Sparkle? You coming?”

Twilight pocketed the syringe and followed them back into the storm, and this time, with only earth ponies leading the way, it was much worse. The sand was tearing at her eyes and punching right through her coat. She might as well have shaved herself naked and jumped in front of a firehose.

Shall I deploy again?”

Let me try something first. She pushed out with her pegasus magic, but that only built up a larger cloud to punch her in the face with a second later. “Gah!” Argh! Why’d I open my mouth? That just makes it worse!

This time, she didn't just push forward with her wind, but out to the sides as well. The sand still struck her, but a large portion moved around her instead. Ha! I’m getting the hang of this! At this rate I'll already know how to fly by the time I actually get wings.

They kept up a march for longer than any sane pony would have liked in such weather, and eventually arrived at a building that had no business in the San Palomino skyline. It was only three stories tall, and was solidly and competently made of brick. The expensive air conditioning units and lack of haphazard wires attached to the building spoke of an internal solidified magic generator, and for all Twilight knew, a shield generator as well.

“It figures the Crown wouldn't accept having one of their offices in a tower ready to fall down,” Twilight said after they had made their way inside. There was a guarded front desk with a stallion secretary and two mares with heavy mounted cannons protecting the entrance.

The two agents went inside with the unconscious, twitchy Rose while Twilight waited at the front to get a VIP visitor pass. She didn't technically have to, but it was easier on everypony to follow their set procedure. At least the lanyard ID she received meant the other agents wouldn't be wondering if she was an intruder.

Five minutes later, Rose was tucked into a bed in a secure cell, and Twilight was sipping slightly stale coffee in the corner of a squad room. Scrambling wards similar to those in the Canterlot War Room were in place, so they could speak privately even in the open office.

The surroundings were actually nicer than even the Duke's building, probably because who ever built it actually imported good materials instead of using scrap. Short but comfortable carpet covered the floor, the desks were modern, and they even had fancy magnetic chalkboards to display case materials. The walls had carpeting creeping up on their lower half, while the tops were painted a nice, warm brown.

Even the coffee wasn't that bad. She'd certainly had worse.

“So, now that we're all here, why the code blue request? Ya gotta be in some kind big thing to send a telegraph like that.”

Twilight perked up at that. They got my message! But then why… Signals might have gotten crossed in the bureaucracy. “Yeah, I've got a lot to get done here. Before we get to that, though, I want to say that I appreciate you coming to my rescue back there. I also appreciate responding to my request for aid. I know that, being stationed here, you have to be insanely busy.”

“Busy doesn't even begin to describe it. If Cob hadn't been paying attention, everypony here would have missed the message,” a new pony said, this one a mare even shorter than Twilight. She was a neutral grey with a white mane and a black blouse. The only actual colour on her was her cyan eyes and purple lipstick. “Got the report done, boss. Long story short, it's another negative. He slipped away again.”

“Damn.” Babs sighed through a sip of coffee. “Lady Sparkle, meet Squeakers. Best dang forensic scientist in the west.”

“Pleasure!” Squeakers bowed.

“Likewise!” Twilight gave one back. “Is this your whole team? The three of you?”

“Yep! If you’re is good at yer job, ya get sent here. ’Cause we gotta do miracles with nothin’.”

Cob stirred some cream into his own coffee. “That or you're terrible at it and they want to punish you by throwing you down into this hellhole. Either way, you find yourself on a train.”

“Sounds about right, knowing what I do about the situation. Speaking of, things are… Complicated.” Twilight eyed a side meeting room. “Babs, I'm going to have to talk to you alone first.”

Babs shook her head. “Anything ya can say to me, ya can say to all of us. We're a team here. Have been for years.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Not a—” She cut herself off as her mind raced. She was about to say it wasn't a request, but now her thoughts were clamouring over what to do afterwards. “Okay then, we'll do it your way.

“Agent Cob, your name was mentioned by Captain Farriér while I was spying on him. He said you were his informant.”

To say he was stunned was an understatement. He was wide eyed with shock, and the sounds he made were of a pony whose tongue had been tied in knots. “Um, huh?”

“You're sure?” Babs stood up from her chair. “Dat’s one hell of an accusation, Sparkle. Like I said, we're a team here. Not sure I like where this is going’.

Twilight sighed. “I’m sorry, Babs. I must assume the worst until the truth comes out - no matter what it is. However, I can accept that Farriér might be leading me on a changeling hunt. In fact, I'd bet he's just trying to get you off his case for a while. But there's a protocol here, and if I don't follow it, I'll catch all kinds of Tartarus from the Council and probably from Celestia herself, and then other ponies will follow through on this anyway.

“I'm very sorry, Babs, but there's no choice for me here. So, here's what's going to happen. I'm going to send for an RGIS team from Fort Earthborne. I need all three of you to stay here until they arrive. You will then accompany them to the Fort, where they will investigate this possibility.

“If you're innocent, you should look at it as easy bits - I'm not suspending your pay or putting you in a cell since I only have the one piece of evidence. Therefore, RGIS will watch you until you are formally cleared. In such a circumstance, no negative mark will be put on your record.

“However, if you're not innocent… Well, I'll leave that to RGIS. Everypony clear?”

“Hmph.” Squeakers turned up her nose and spun around. “See how out of my way I go to help you, team breaker!”

“Can it, Squeakers!” Babs swatted her on the back of her head.


Babs sighed. “This is well within protocol. In fact, it's freakin’ lenient. If dis was from HQ, we'd probably be hauled into Canterlot in shackles on suspicion of treason.” Babs crushed hey empty paper coffee cup under a hoof. “Not that I like dis, you understand. You comin’ in here, sayin’ we're dirty.”

Well, Cob certainly doesn't look dirty. Twilight thought, watching him get even more shocked. “Unfortunately, I have evidence that requires further investigation. Understand, I don't like this, and I don't think you're actually in cahoots with them. I trust you. But the rules can't be broken this time. For the time being, there's no other choice but to be relieved of duty.”

“Yeah,” Cob said, smacking his lips. “Yeah, guess you gotta do what you gotta do.”

A Scottish brogue broke into the conversation. “Exactly.”

Twilight and the others turned to the newcomers, three stallions in RGIS uniforms. The leader’s Scottish accent could only have belonged to one of two ponies.

“Feint.” Twilight tilted her head. “Or are you Double Blind?”

“It's Feint.” He took off his sunglasses and pocketed them. “I was sent to Fort Earthborne behind ye to offer intel analysis assistance, seeing as Intelligentsia just promoted me to her old spot. When I got there, the RGIS agents there were having a fit over your previous telegraph. We're gonnae be thoroughly investigating the allegations. Agents Cob, Squeakers, and Seed are hereby relieved of duty by order of Princess Celestia and are to accompany us to Fort Earthborne. How you three got assigned to meet Twilight at all is also going to be investigated.”

“You'll never take us alive, copper!” Squeakers stuck out her tongue, which only earned her another whack. “Ow! Dammit…”

Cob sighed, putting his light back-mounted gun and badge on his desk. The other two followed suit shortly thereafter.

Babs pulled him in with a foreleg. “Stay strong, Cob. This ain't the end. Like Lady Sparkle said, easy bits. Answer some questions, snark at RGIS types, it'll be… Well, it won't be fun, but again, not the end.”

“Yeah. Thanks boss.” Cob slinked off next to the RGIS agents. When Squeakers was done glaring, she joined him, along with Babs.

“Are you sure ya want to do this?” Babs took off her hat. “I thought we were friends.”

“We are.” Twilight put her ears back. “In fact, I could really use your help. If it was up to me, we'd all be working together on this right now. I need to find where—”

“Ahem.” Feint’s look screamed disapproval.

Babs shook her head. “If you can't trust my team, you can’t trust me.” She turned and left with the agents minus Feint.

“But ye can trust me,” Feint said, stepping up. “What's been happening?”

Rainbow licked her lips and thought, Wait for it… Wait for it…


Her hooves landed right on the neck and back of the unfortunate pirate that had wandered under her section of the air duct, and didn't notice the missing grate. Sorry about that. But you probably should have realized that going hoof to hoof with soldiers is a risk when you became a scumbag pirate.

She grabbed the body and hauled it over to the closet she had originally hidden in and stuffed it into an empty barrel. They'd start wondering eventually, but he was the only pony blocking her way for the past three hours, and some things just had to be done.

She poked her head out of the doorway, and silently hovered her way through the now empty hall. The wind she made with her magic returned in short order, sending her wobbling about the corridor. She tilted back and forth, side to side, moving about more like a flying top than, say, Fluttershy.

Part of it was her wings. They were great for power and good for turning, and could even let her hover in one place easy enough, but hyper-precise hovering? She could do it well enough, given how much practice she'd had, but she needed some space for it. Her wing type just didn't take to it, especially in such narrow confinements. If the hall was wider, she would just zoom through.

The random objects strewn about wouldn't let that happen, though. First was a barrel of some kind of grease, followed by a large number of tools resting against the wall. There were even sparking, hot exposed wires dangling from light fixtures.

Even if this wasn't a pirate ship, I think they'd be in jail just from the safety hazards.

At the hallway intersection was a number spray painted on the bulkhead. N92? Isn't that like a… Oh… The particular piece of hull was off-colour from the rest, and was welded into place. As she looked farther down, more such pieces filled the corridor. This is like Twilight's old doll after she tried repairing it without Rarity's help. It's put together with just… random parts. ‘N92’ must be a section number from an old cargo ship they cannibalized.

She looked down both empty halls. Question is, what can I use to get me where I need to go?

Several seconds went by.

Bored. Can't think of anything. Time to guess. She turned right, floating down the next hall, and the next, checking each for ponies that might see her. The end of her path came soon enough, which meant the ship wasn't as large as the Bellerophon. It also meant the ladder to her right was the best option.

Down one level, and it was more of the same. Yet, there was something different. Something that tickled her nose, and punched her stomach. Worse yet, it reminded her of Boot camp. Food.

She picked up her pace through the corridor, turning into a mess hall the size of a luxury kitchen. In fact, the kitchen and dining area was literally a luxury kitchen and dining room from somepony’s house, but torn out and slapped onto the ship. How wasn't something Rainbow wanted to contemplate. It was just too stupid.

What wasn't stupid was the giant walk-in fridge where a normal fridge would be. Actually, it was stupid, but at least it might have food. She tip-hoofed inside, checking each angle for hostiles before opening up the door.

There was food, yes. Technically. Most of it, though, was surplus military rations, also known as “meals ready-to-eat,” or MREs. A small section was the good stuff, though. Fruits, vegetables, grains; everything a pony could want.

Rainbow took a good, longing look at the feast in front of her, then tore right into the military rations. They were bland, unappetizing, and not something a sane pony would normally choose. But they were also extremely calorie dense, and balanced for a soldier to have plenty of long-term energy while feeling full. If a pony didn't know where their next meal would be, military MREs were the best possible thing to have, taste notwithstanding.

Never thought I'd be thankful for these things… Mleh. She scarfed down the last of her second one, and started on the third, though her stomach was telling her to stop and her tongue was just about ready to hop out of her skull and slap her around.

“Is somepony here?”

Crap. Rainbow jumped back, hiding under the small window of the refrigerator's door. A pony walked closer, each hoof lightly clopping on the hardwood flooring, and making Rainbow’s ear twitch.


She kicked out as hard as she could into the door, smashing it into the pony’s muzzle. She rolled out of the doorway as he staggered, and delivered an uppercut to the unicorn’s jaw. A lunge to his throat aimed to end it, but pain punched into her shoulders as the stallion dodged, his hooves raising up and connecting, knocking her back.

She slid on her own rear hooves, standing upright with wings spread and forehooves ready to bring the pain.

That's when the first knife came.

Time slowed slightly as she watched the orange-enveloped blade aim for her head and fly. The steel was all but invisible until she tilted her head at the last second. Pieces of her coat sloughed off, separated by the flying edge. Then the pain came from her foreleg as the second knife flew too slow to trigger the armor’s emergency shield, but plenty fast enough to score a hit in the joint of her armor.

Rainbow dove to her left and heaved up a cutting board, holding it aloft in front of her in time for a half-dozen thunks to sink into the wood. Never, ever fight a unicorn in a kitchen…

The next hit knocked it away, and the stallion had pulled open two more drawers filled with unnecessarily sharp, pointy objects.

How many knives does this kitchen even have?! The blades all lined up on her at once, and Rainbow wrapped her wings around her torso and pulled hard on her heart. Wind ripped through the air, sewing seams of water into the fabric of reality. The knives flew at her, and her wings flew open.

Her magic whipped at the blades, washing them away with air and water as fierce as any storm. A steel hail exploded away from her, puncturing cabinets and scraping other metal.


Rainbow dove forward, landing a left hook at over a hundred klicks an hour and coming to a stop on top of the stallion. Blow after blow sunk into him, crushing bone and flesh, until at long last he stopped moving. Her lungs heaved almost as hard as her stomach wanted to from the MREs, and there was a cut on her lip that she had no idea where it had come from.

She put an ear up to his chest. Nothing. “It's been awhile since I've had to kill in the line of duty. Even longer since I've had to do it twice in one day.” Grabbing him by the jacket, she hauled him into the walk-in freezer and closed the door. “Maybe one day you'll get a real burial. But right now, I have things to do.” She spun the dial next to the door, cranking the cooling unit to maximum. “And top of my list is protecting other ponies from pirates like you.”

“So that's the situation. I don't know where she is, or where Farriér is. I need to rectify that, then rectify Farriér’s existence.” Twilight said, finishing her coffee. “Any thoughts?”

“Good luck.” Feint poured himself a fresh cup. “We've been after him forever. A Wonderbolt SAR will help, but I can't help but wonder what you're going to do that we couldn't.”

“I'm going to go rattle the cage of a pony who you likely couldn't; one who most certainly knows something one way or another.”